Last Thanksgiving morn a friend said he was listening to his annual Thanksgiving playlist, and my record “TAW” was on it(!) (Little big victories.) Others there included The Band “Music from Big Pink” and Fairport Convention “Unhalfbricking.” Why these records? Well, HE knows why. I felt some vindication- even relief- that I wasn’t the only music geek who embraced these musical traditions like others might… hang a wreath, or shoot a bottle rocket.
On Easter morn it's Lyle Lovett’s “Joshua Judges Ruth”- is my church service. 4th of July? Beck- “Guero.” (Loud.) Last day of summer, slight evening chill, flowers fading- melancholy & uncertainty- Joe Henry’s “Civilians.” Halloween? Phoebe Bridger’s “Punisher,” featuring the haunting “Halloween.” (“Baby it’s Halloween… we can be anything.”)
Seasons have their own soundtracks & go-to's, which began unconsciously & organically as a wee lad addicted to Top 40 radio. Spring now brings out “Springtime” from Freakwater, The Bad Livers “Blood & Mood,” The Gourds “Ghosts of Hallelujah.” Fall evokes plenty of Tom Waits- the dark, beautiful menace of “Alice,” “Bone Machine,” “Black Rider” & “Orphans.” Winter? Perhaps Ben Weaver “Mirepoix and Smoke,” Sixteen Horsepower “Sackcloth ‘n’ Ashes,” Emmylou Harris “Wrecking Ball.”
But now it’s Summertime time. A month+ ago- as our beautiful, tragic friend Summer was fixing to squeeze outta spring for his shift in the mine, with his intoxicating smells & sounds and palpable ghosts never far, I had a songwriter festival to play a few hours downstate. The last third of the ride (and first third the next bleary, satisfied morning) is 2-lane rural road, and the summer ridin weather was ideal, windows rolled open. Summer listens were considered and relished (good ‘ol tactile CDs), including John Hiatt’s “Crossing Muddy Waters,” Chris Whitley “Living with the Law,” Freedy Johnston “Can You Fly,” Joni Mitchell “Court and Spark.” Summer musts also include Uncle Tupelo “Anodyne,” Jim White “Wrong-Eyed Jesus,” Daniel Lanois “For the Beauty of Winona,” Mark Lanegan “Whisky for the Holy Ghost.” Some of these are sunny day fare, others… dark lightning bug nights, while people sleep and
Summer is at its vibey-est.
No doubt some of these choices & “traditions” stem from the simple fact that the records were first absorbed- covertly- during these corresponding time periods, seeping into the day or season like a crab blossom, spider web or frozen river, taking on and reflecting the time’s essence. And if I desperately need to visit Summer in January, I can throw on, say, Noah Gabriel's “Summers Gone,” and have a visit. In fact, I have the luxury to time travel to summers past through my own songs, those steeped in summery imagery, and when I sings 'em the feels flood back. For better or worse, though a bad trip is still a trip. Meanwhile, “Orange” only gets sung in Fall, “$5 Song” evokes Winter-into-Spring, “Valentine’s Day,” well, you get it.
So… what’s on your Summer playlist…?