Let me be completely honest here: I’m a total and utter music nut, but I’m picky too. Not in the sense that I’ll only listen to high art or classical, but in the sense that I love loud, wild, raucous music, the louder and wilder the better. And I love live music. I would rather go see a bad live band than listen to a great album. Within reason anyway.
So now you know where I’m coming from, here are a list of some of my favorite musicians, in no particular order.
Probably one of the most underestimated singer and songwriters there are. His work has been covered by countless other artists such as Bob Dylan, Bonny Raitt and Hughey Lewis.
This man can perform live. I was lucky to catch him a few years ago at the Hammersmith Apollo. He appeared with Sonny Landreth (one of the world’s best slide guitarists) when he performed an outstanding set over two hours at the end of which, to a standing ovation, he said “I’d like to thank you for letting us come here and play for you. If we weren’t here we’d be home playing the same stuff, but it wouldn’t be half as much fun.”
Favorite album: Hiatt comes Alive at Budokan
This is cheating a bit, because the album is a kind of super-compilation of his best work. It’s also amazing to listen to the live tracks on this and compare them to the studio recordings and, in every single case, the live tracks knock the studio work into a cocked hat. Unfortunately it looks like this is no longer in print. Lobby your senator. Kick up a fuss. This is one of the great live records of all time!
A gentleman and a genius. I love him.
Of the bands and musicians listed here, Joni is the only one I have never seem play live, much to my great regret. But I guess there’s still time.
Favorite album: Blue
This was a tough pick (but not as tough as my next band). However, I feel Blue is just one of the most perfect records ever made, when Joni was at the height of her powers. Mesmerising and wonderful.
I discovered Counting Crows by accident in 1994 when I heard Mr Jones on the radio. They toured the UK soon afterwards and I went to see them in Wolverhampton and was utterly knocked out. Since then I’ve seen them more than any other band, in venues from large festivals to tiny venues where you could reach out and touch them. On CD their music is wonderful, live they bring it out and extend it like no other band I know of.
Last time I saw them was eighteen months ago in Bournemouth, at the third time of asking (cancellations of one kind or another). They started off playing Round Here, track one off their first album. Then they segued into Omaha. It was only when Mr Jones started up – this was maybe twenty minutes and two songs in, you really have to see them live to understand the magic of that statement – that we all looked at each other in the audience with giant grins on our faces because without saying it they were going to play their entire first album which they proceeded to do over a two hour plus concert. The original CD is a little over 40 minutes, and they played all the songs in the exact same order, but nothing like the same. I love the fact they never play a song the same way twice. That’s what live music is about, and the Crows epitomise live music.
Favorite Album: Recovering the Satellites
This choice was hard. Anyone who knows anything about the Crows would normally pick their first album, August and Everything After, and indeed I was very, very tempted to go with that, because it too is a work of genius. However, I love music on the edge, music that feels out of control so I have picked RTS because it’s raucous and rough, and it’s got Dan Vickery on guitar and as much as I love Adam Duritz, when you see the Crows live and Dan goes into a guitar solo, steps to the edge of the stage and pushes out his left leg I simple swoon! Play for me, Dan, as long as you like…
I don’t know if there’s any truth to it, but my feelings about Neil Young is he has always, and always will be, his own man. He’s an ornery bastard who does what he wants when he wants, and I love him all the more for that. A true genius with a wild and inquisitive mind.
I saw Neil play several years ago at a large open air festival. He came on stage last and many people were flocking away from the stage as I elbowed my way to the front. Standing ten rows back, with a seventy year old in front of me and two sixteen year olds behind, each of us was completely mesmerised as he started playing with the sun setting behind the stage. Magical. Wonderful. Amazing. I’ve seen him a couple of times since and each time he gives himself completely.
Favorite album: Ragged Glory
God – another real toughie, because picking this means I miss out on Like a Hurrican, Cinammon Girl as well as a dozen other outstanding tracks. The reason for choosing Ragged Glory is because it has a couple of completely wild Young tracks. I love Neil when he’s wigging out, standing on the edge of the abyss and you don’t know if he’s going over or not. I am blown away by his passion and commitment, and the way he presents us with a fifteen minute song where each guitar solo is longer than three minutes. How can you not love the guy for that?
And I’m sorry, Neil, but I don’t even own a copy of Harvest or Harvest Moon. Plug in and go over the top, every time.
Heard Blue Horse and fell in love with these girls right off. They are not loud and raucous in the same way as Neil Young or the Crows, but inside you know they’re getting there, they’re on that edge between here and somewhere else.
Saw the band play in the tiny Courtyard Theatre in Hereford, and again in Bristol Colston Hall and on both occasions they charmed the entire audience with their music, their sweetness and their humor. They never quite matched that first album, but I live in constant hope.
Favorite album: Blue Horse
This is a tough one, because Kate is not with us anymore, and without her things are not the same. Kate is ex-wife of Loudon Wainright and mother to Martha and Rufus. What a family!
I was lucky enough to see them both (in Wolverhampton again – dire town, wonderful convert hall) when they arrived in a minbus driven by Kate and came on with Martha doing a turn and adding harmonies. They were both at the height of their powers. No other harmonies hit that same sweet spot as these two did.
Favorite album: The McGarrigle Hour
This was the hardest pick of all, because they have made so many great records and any one of them could be classed as a favorite. I chose this one because it shows them relaxed, together with their family and friends, and contains some outstanding tracks.