I’ll say this on the show this weekend, but our favorite dine-in restaurants have menu items that are off the beaten path, and sometimes because of that cost a little more than the standard plate. This is especially true at nicer restaurants or at steakhouses. It’s that idea that we’re going to dive into in the next few hours of The Appetizer radio program, airing this weekend across Texas on KACU, KTRL, and KVLU.
For me, I’m a fan of steak, but not the regular cut of meat. I think sirloin is a good piece of steak, and if prepared right can make a great meal. But depending on where I am (and if my pocketbook agrees with me or not), I like to try a nicer and deeper cut, something along the lines of a filet mignon or prime rib. If we’re at a place that serves a different kind of meat, like lamb or elk, it’s an even bigger treat. Now I’m not a chef in the culinary arts, so anything done to the steak beyond cooking it medium-rare or medium and adding a little seasoning is beyond me. Instead, I’m a chef of the musical arts, and I will be serving some deep cuts of music from artists you are probably quite familiar with by name, but have not ever heard the tracks prepared for you on our show. At least you haven’t heard them on the radio before. This weekend, I’ll present some Deep Cuts, and here’s some information about these fine selected pieces of musical flavor. Enjoy!
Storytellers are a dime a dozen, but great ones are diamonds amongst much rough. Such is the career of Springsteen, who emerged from a few auditions for rock bands in the 70s. I was privileged to get to experience the special collection of his work and pieces of his story at the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame in Cleveland a few years ago. Apparently, he auditioned to be the frontman for a small band in New Jersey in the early 70s. He was rejected, told that his voice wasn’t good enough and he needed to work on his guitar skills. My guess is either this startup band got it all wrong, or Bruce went back to his apartment and crafted his talents to improve on what he was told he lacked. Possibly it ended up being a combination of the two, but chances are that the band he auditioned for was totally wrong, which is why no one knows their name. We’ll sample 2 tracks from an older album and a more recent release that showcase his prowess with a pen, a guitar, and a microphone. From 2007’s Magic release which contained the hit “Radio Nowhere” we’ll feast on a song about the tragedy of falling off pedestals and being elevated to high positions for weak reasons called “You’ll Be Coming Down.” When I think of people I either know or have had contact with who have promising careers or futures, but is such because of their outward beauty and not the quality of their heart or character, this song comes to mind. It’s quite powerful. Also, we’ll taste a track from The Boss’ 1987 album called Tunnel Of Love, which featured a reflective imagery on the love lost and love gained. It presaged the breakup of his marriage to Julianne Phillips and described some of his unhappiness in the relationship. We’ll hear the track “When You’re Alone,” which deals directly with this loss of love.
Iron and Wine
Representing a newer generation of powerful storytellers, Iron & Wine uses poetic imagery with soft folk stylings to describe life and people in very unique ways. Though his newer material crosses more platforms in musical style, his older work kept more in the folk realm. Two albums from his repetiore will represent his ability to transcend traditional styles and rules of songwriting, especially in the standard verse-chorus-verse song structure found in most recorded compositions, as illustrated in the song Passing Afternoon from his album Our Endless Numbered Days. Another great song we’ll heard from Around The Well includes Communion Cups & Someone Else’s Coat, a track about a girl with a rough past and an unknown future who only wants to focus on the present. It’s an incredible song.
This is the part of the show where we move from having 2 songs represent the artist and lessen it to one song. I love Otis Redding, and not for the Sittin’ On The Dock Of The Bay that he’s most famous for. Chances are that’s the only song that most people recognize him for, if they know his name at all. In the 70s and 80s he was quite popular amongst songwriters. Like most things, you’re famous for a little while for one or two things of that day or era. Beyond that you’re only recognized for the sparse memories people have of a success long ago. Pick up a Best Of Otis Redding album and you’ll find that he accomplished much more than he’s remembered for today. One song you’ll probably find on a Best Of… album includes the track I’ve Got Dreams To Remember, a soulful song that is quite prophetic in a modern application.
Like Iron & Wine, Ray is a leader amongst the current generation of folk singer-songwriters, though his style and sound contrast with I&W quite a bit. His rusky deeper vocal tones are iconic, and the subject matter of his tracks veer off the beaten path on most occasions. For me, his latest album accomplishes a lot in just presentation, in taking the landscape of traditional folk music and adding a modern lite bluegrass or folk-rock band to the mix. There’s a sound that’s classic blended well with a modern feel that just works in the arrangement. We’ll taste a piece of God Willin’ & The Creek Don’t Rise called Devil’s In The Jukebox.
There is hardly a person who has heard recorded music in the last 30 years or more in any style or genre that is not at least somewhat familiar with The Man In Black. He’s covered music from just about every genre, and sometimes made songs famous that were already well-known (ie Hurt originally by Nine Inch Nails). But there are also some tracks he’s covered that might seem like originals if not for a little research. One of them is my all-time favorite recording of his titled I See A Darkness, originally by Bonnie ‘Prince Billy. You can see the original author of the song perform it I See A Darkness Original. Cash’s version is so much more deeper and powerful, at least to me. Another great deep cut is For The Good Times
Not only is she lyrically honest, but she dives into subject matter and issues with a purity and almost aggressive love that’s incomparable to most others in music, especially female singer songwriters. Made famous with hits like Fast Car and Give Me One Reason, her career has contained the standard ups and downs of fame and success. But her music has so many more layers and greater depth than the run of the mill. Let It Rain as an album is worth listening to in its entirety, should you afford the time. Dive in and discover a cultural exposition and conquest you might not ever have. Love, loss, greatness, and brokenness are all subjects in the album. We’ll sample the tastes of loss and bring Broken, in our presentation this weekend.
Indie songwriter Feist is growing in not just her fan base, but also in acclaim from the movers and shakers of the music industry. I keep talking to people who are just discovering her and are blown away with her music. It’s not just her voice, which is great. It’s the rhythm of her songs, the melodies and the presentation of each track that stands on its own, not relying on one or two songs to carry the album as a whole. I love that about her. One of my favorite tracks from her album The Reminder is called The Limit To Your Love, which I’ll showcase.
Hootie and the Blowfish
Darius Rucker is now a well-known country music star. Before his success on that stage he was the frontman for a band some might not remember as well as others called Hootie and the Blowfish. Their debut album Cracked Rearview had several songs that were commercially successful including Hold My Hand, Let Her Cry, Only Wanna Be With You, and Time. These songs made Hootie a staple in rock music in the 1990s. But the song that closes the album is one of the most beautifully written of them all, and probably the saddest as well. Let Her Cry is a pretty sad song, dealing with a woman who continues to make poor decisions and finds herself always in the drudges of life. Goodbye is the album closer, and it might be one of the best relationship ending songs out there (comparable to Pearl Jam‘s Black in my mind). Piano driven and featuring only a vocal from Rucker who anguishes over the end of the love he had, it’s a tragic yet poetic tune that’s too great to miss.
I admit that I had not known too much of Apple’s music prior to a few years ago, other than her hit song Criminal. Fortunately my wife and a few friends are quite taken with her songwriting, so I was introduced to some amazing pieces of music from her. Her sophomore release is called When The Pawn….., which is the shortened version of the actual title (When When the Pawn Hits the Conflicts He Thinks like a King What He Knows Throws the Blows When He Goes to the Fight and He’ll Win the Whole Thing Fore He Enters the Ring There’s No Body to Batter When Your Mind Is Your Might So When You Go Solo, You Hold Your Own Hand and Remember That Depth Is the Greatest of Heights and If You Know Where You Stand, Then You’ll Know Where to Land and If You Fall It Won’t Matter, Cuz You Know That You’re Right). The title is a poem Apple wrote after reading letters that appeared in Spin regarding an article that had cast her in a negative light in an earlier issue. The title’s length earned it a spot in the Guinness Book of Records for 2001. One track on the release that did not receive commercial coverage is called Love Ridden, and that’s our deep cut for Mrs. Apple.
She’s by far my favorite female artist in music. Her songs are amazing, her writing style and presentation are moving in each track. I love the storytelling and one day we will bring her to Abilene for a performance. I’m actually working quite hard on that. In the mean time, The Appetizer will continue to present a variety of her amazing songs, including one from her album The Story that only her die-hard fans know called Downpour. I love how her songs feel like a book you’re reading, sometimes a tragedy of love and sometimes something different. In this song, she describes the places of a relationship separated by time and distance, using imagery of nature to express feelings that words have a hard time with.
For many people, Mayer is too commercial. I know some of you might feel that way, especially if you’re driven to listen to the show because of our regular features in indie and emerging artists. I understand that. And yes, there’s a lot of Mayer’s work that I don’t like in his songbook, mostly stuff that commercial radio has overplayed into the ground (tracks like Daughter, My Stupid Mouth, Waiting On The World To Change, and Heartbreak Warfare come to mind). But let’s face it, he’s an incredible songwriter, and a phenomenal guitarist. I love his version of Jimi Hendrix‘ Bold As Love on Continuum. But I really enjoy his older stuff, work that’s now forgotten in pop culture except for his fans and those who love tracking artists’ beginnings like myself. Room For Squares was his starting point, and if you get a chance to listen to that album you’ll find some great tracks including St. Patrick’s Day, which illustrate his teeth cutting on songwriting and guitar work.
Along with Jack Johnson, the folk stylings of Hawaiian and surf music have taken a more prominent role in pop culture. Mraz and Johnson have a lot in common with their compositions, but there are some stark contrasts as well. One of my favorite albums from him is Waiting For My Rocket To Come from 2002, his debut release. Before his hit tracks like Wordplay, Jason Mraz was a Curbside Prophet, laying down both solid lyrics and rhymes with a cool guitar track.