Friday, January 21, 2011

Country Bumpkins?

The unthinkable is happening this weekend - my six best friends and I are going to attempt to man the country and cottage life, out in the wilderness, on our own. Now, we all love the escapism aspect of this little weekend getaway and the country - but nonetheless, we also like the city, dressing up, and central heat, to name a few. Lord help us.

In light of my venturing deep into the woods, and even deeper into Quebec, I thought a few country strums might send me off properly. I love nothing more than the long overdue alternative country trend these days - it's a comforting sound that's homegrown, meaningfully worded and beautifully decorated with instruments. Here are some of the songs I am going to force onto the ladies this weekend, hoping that it will provide the same sort of rural tranquility I know it gives me.

1. Empty Shell - Cat Power: This song has beautifully heartbreaking lyrics, and it's a theme we can all relate to in some way. I remember listening to this song during a fairly unpleasant time in my life, and only recently have I been able to revisit it with ease and happiness. Because, at the end of the day, the pleasure of Chan Marshall's sweet and pining "ooo's" and back-up vocals, topped with pretty acoustic guitar and saloon violin are all that matter.

2. My Winding Wheel - Ryan Adams: My favourite guy, country or no country. This track off Adams' brilliant solo album Heartbreaker (2000) recorded in Nashville, Tennessee, is a cascading acoustic plea made by his wholesome and picturesque vocals. Other absolutely golden tracks off this album that you need to hear? "Come Pick Me Up" (my personal favourite), "Oh My Sweet Carolina", and "To Be Young" should be enough to hook you on all of Ryan's country glory.

3. Blue Ridge Mountains - Fleet Foxes: They just don't make music like this anymore. Breathaking choral harmonies, an uppity mid-song transition, harp, and a rustic winter theme - it really has every one of the ingredients to re-create the sound of spiritual 1970s folk-rock.

4. Harvest Moon - Neil Young: One of the most beautiful songs ever written. Naturally, it's meant to be heard in a place where the city lights aren't hiding a full moon blanketed in twinkling stars.

5. Remember the Mountain Bed - Wilco and Billy Bragg: Someone who I consider to be musically intelligent - in that he understands composition, songwriting and progression better than most - once told me that this was one of the most ingenious songs he had ever heard. I agree. The simple acoustic thread and soft percussion aren't meant to steal the show - a reminiscent and full circle story of real love, beautifully descriptive passages, and Wilco's simplistic hum are what do.

6. Luscious Life - Patrick Watson: This song is a sparkling piano-driven piece that is exactly about the title - life and all of it's sweet and luscious greatness. This song is meant to be played when you look out the window to see the sun's sharp rays peaking through a crowd of trees. Watson's lovely, soothing storytelling is perfection when he sings, "Sweet ol' luscious life/ Celebrate your day when you are awake/ Doesn't it taste so sweet/ Like it's growing on the trees."

7. General Specific - Band of Horses: The ultimate bike-riding, dirt road exploring, laughing like kids country jam. The stomping clap beat, square-dance piano and Ben Bridwell's screeching twang is meant for a happy and healthy celebration in the country stretch.

8. Live and Learn - The Cardigans: Hop in the car and put this reflective girl-empowered tune on as you drive down the highway and into the bush - it's a cleverly put together anthem for moving on and moving up. Nina Persson's careless howl dictates exactly what the benefit is of making big mistakes. "Cause no senses remain/ But an ache in my body and regret on my mind/ But I’ll be fine/ Cause I live and I learn."


9. Come Home Loaded Roadie - Amy Millan:  Millan, also the female co-lead of Stars, scored big time with this sentimental country hymn that features only two kinds of pipes: Millan's and a calming organ. In this track off her solo album Honey from the Tombs (2006), she whispers about missing a lover during the lonely and cold Ontario nights, even looking to find a friend in their tired dog by the fire. "It's all wrong while you're gone," she sings.

10. Shuffle Your Feet - Black Rebel Motorcycle Club: A scorching country jig that reminds me of many roadtrips past. Sexy vocals and kickback countryside guitar make this song fit for any party in the woods.

11. Hey Hey What Can I Do - Led Zeppelin: Easily one of my favourite Zeppelin gems of all time, this song off 1970's Immigrant Song is absolutely everything a wild drive down the country road should be. Robert Plant's sultry shriek, Jimmy Page's heavy strokes of the acoustic, and some sexual connotation - it's a great backdrop for roughing it in the great outdoors. Roughing it in in style, of course.

12. Your Rocky Spine - Great Lake Swimmers: A song written by Canadian boys, comparing a woman's body and the desire for her to a country terrain? That's about as nature-themed as it gets. Lead singer Tony Dekker's flawless milky vocals sing steamy words like, "The mountains said I could find you here/ They whispered the snow and the leaves in my ear/ I traced my finger along your trails/ Your body was the map, I was lost in it", while the energetic banjo picks up in the background.

1 comment:

  1. eee you're so cute! I cannot wait for this weekend. And if you ride in my car, I'll let you play each and every one of these songs, as I'm sure they're wonderfully selected. Your writing is impeccable <3