Plug in your earbuds and take a ride with me!
1. "Passing Through" / Marshall Crenshaw
From Jaggedland (2009)
One of the great neglected albums of the past year. I love how the twangy guitar line weaves around, while Marshall's reverbed vocals gently meditate on the passage of time. When I saw him last fall, he mentioned that he wrote it while stuck at an airport in Alaska, but its sense of life's transience is bigger than that.
2. "Dream Baby" / Waylon Jennings
From Phase One: The Early Years 1958-1964
Waylon's outlaw country persona dominates his image, but he's been around a lot longer than that. Here's a blast from Waylon's rockbilly past -- and what a great vehicle for his voice!
3. "Where Will You Go" / The Minus 5
From Down With Wilco (2003)
At least part of the Minus 5 (Peter Buck and Scott McCaughey) are in the Venus 3, Robyn Hitchcock's frequent collaborators. There's a genial goofiness to some of their stuff that I find appealing, though the songs (usually written by McCaughey) don't make a hundred percent sense. I dig the unspooling guitar riff that stitches this song together.
4. "Tears in Heaven" / Eric Clapton
From Unplugged (1992)
Oh, I know it's the big sappy hit, written about his son's early accidental death, and I've considered deleting it a dozen times. But here it still is, tugging on the heartstrings. Absolutely nothing that makes Eric Clapton a major musical figure makes an appearance in this song (okay, there is that one deft little guitar twiddle). The soporific pace is putting me to zzzzzzzzz....
5. "Breakfast at Tiffany's" / The Testotertones
From Singing in Hormony
A CD by the a capella group at my kids' high school, which was our constant road trip accompaniment for a couple summers when the kids were younger. I've never heard the original, but it sounds like something they'd sing on Glee. Nice harmonies, though, which was kinda the point.
6. "Seein' Her" / Paul Westerberg
Now this is more like it. Replacements-style crunchy garage rock, with a frantic beat, tapping right into the uncritical exuberance of new love. "Everything about her, I like everything about her / I like everything about her" -- sometimes it really is that simple.
7. "Love Me Dead" / Ludo
From You're Awful, I Love You (2009)
This funny, snarky indie track is a perfect follow-up to "Seein' Her" -- this is what happens when the teen love goes sour.
8. "Birthday" / The Beatles
From the White Album
I want this song sung to me every birthday. Those doubled guitars just spank the hell out of that riff, and Ringo's drumming is insane. "I would like you to dance / Birthday! / Take a ch-ch-chance" -- wild and crazy.
9. "I Got the Love" / Nick Lowe
From Pinker and Prouder Than Previous (1988)
What a boppy little gem! Such a light touch, just a perky loping bass line and few exhalations of organ, a tinkle of piano keys here and there. It's like the rockabilly lovechild of reggae and bluegrass, with fantastically simple lyrics ("I've got the love / And I want to shout it / I've got the love / The rain has gone...And if it don't stop / I'm-a gonna pop!") It's entirely possible that this is Nick Lowe's worst album ever, but I have to admit, I kinda love it.
10. "I'm A Fool for Loving Her" / George Jones
From I Am What I Am (1980)
You want extravagant emotions? George Jones is the master of love triangles, infidelity, and every other brand of misplaced affections, and he knows just how to wring it out, with deft yelps and yodels. There's a lot of country music I don't like, but George Jones? Brilliant.