Monday, November 30, 2009

TOTR 67: Peace, Food, & Anticipation



Moby – What's Going On
Voices Of East Harlem – For What It's Worth
Sweet Honey In The Rock – Stranger Blues
Jessie Mae Hemphill – Lord, Help the Poor and Needy
Stephen Stills – Feed The People
Paul Simon – Homeless
Paul Simon – Peace Like A River
Yusuf Islam – Peace Train
Moxy Fruvous – Gulf War Song
Keb Mo – (What's So Funny About) Peace, Love And Understanding
A Perfect Circle – Imagine
Street Drum Corps – Happy Christmas (War Is Over)
Oliver Schott – Give Peace A Chance
Kerry Gulbranson – The Rebel Jesus
Sufjan Stevens – The Winter Solstice
Sarah Mclachlan – River
Tori Amos – Holly, Ivy and Rose
Sting – Soul Cake
Bob Dylan – Little Drummer Boy
U2 – I Believe In Father Christmas
Johnny Cash – Children Go Where I Send Thee
The Staple Singers – No Room At The Inn
Aaron Neville – Go Tell It On The Mountain
Sugarland – O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
The Roches – The Hallelujah Chorus
Over The Rhine – Silent Night

Monday, November 23, 2009

TOTR 66: Grub & Gratitude

In anticipation of the Thanksgiving holiday, I've adopted the theme “Grub & Gratitude” for this program. As always, holidays can be stressful or controversial, but for this musical journey, I've decided to avoid some of the social, historical, or political aspects associated with the problematic relationship between the so-named pilgrims & Indians. Still, even food & friendship can be examined with a cultural lens, & any light we shine honestly on pop culture reveals thematic insight—which might sometimes be challenging but will hopefully, always be accompanied by auditory delight.

Hank Williams – Hey, Good Lookin'

Hank Williams – Jambalaya (On The Bayou)

Doc Watson – Keep My Skillet Good And Greasy

With “Hey, Good Lookin'” and “Jambalaya (On The Bayou),” Hank Williams offers up the invocation of number one songs from the early 1950s, immediately followed by Doc Watson's “Keep My Skillet Good And Greasy.” Immediately, we're reminded that the verb “cookin” has carnal as well as culinary implications. In classic folk, country, or blues, the poetics of the kitchen inevitably invite romantic antics in the bedroom.

With the Watson number, the allusions resist the subtle, & the adjectives approach the amorous or scandalous suggestions of the song; surely, some would read this to be as sexist as any modern day hip hop misogyny. At the same time, these tracks set a regional mood rooted in the south where food & family connect to community, where the physicality of blues/folk/rock/country/pop are forever in tension with the spirituality of gospel music. Watson hailed from North Carolina and Williams from Alabama, with the latter dying before he turned 30—on the road from Knoxville, Tennessee, with the requisite mystery & morphine to add to the myth.

The B-52s – Cake

As we enter the season of “Dessert First,” this party of a song was suggested for this playlist by my friend & colleague Tony Baker. Take what we learned about baking innuendo from Doc Watson & put it in the able vocalization of singers Cindy Wilson and Kate Pierson, & we’re sure to have some icing on the pineapple upside-down cake, chocolate devil's food cake, an angel cake.

Louis Jordan – Beans and Cornbread

When I first moved to the south in the middle of the last decade of the last century, one of the first skills I learned was how to make cornbread. A few secrets I’ve learned over the last decade of my cornbread career include making it in a cast-iron pan, preheating the pan in the oven & melting real butter in the pan while I prepare the batter, & being generous with baking powder & organic sugar in the recipe. The preheated butter helps form the perfect golden crust on the cornbread & the extra pinches of sugar & baking powder keep the cornbread fluffy. Hailing from Arkansas, known as “King of the Jukebox,” & having once played in a band called Rabbit Foot Minstrels, Louis Jordan was one of the most popular African-American musicians of the twentieth century. “Beans and Cornbread” was recorded in 1949.

Don Cherry – Brown Rice

Avant-garde jazz musician Don Cherry was a contemporary of John Coltrane’s, & this track comes from 1975. It’s about as “out there” as this mix gets.

Booker T & The MG's – Burnt Biscuits

Booker T & The MG's – Red Beans And Rice

Keeping us fueled with funk, Booker T & the MG’s make it magic with the infectious sound of Memphis soul. On the culinary tip, they keep it to the basic staples, just as their music was the staple at Stax Records in the 1960s.

Otis Grand – Cheese & Crackers

Carole King – Chicken Soup With Rice

This singable ditty about an always sippable delicacy was born as part of a made-for-TV special called Really Rosie from 1975—with ideas & lyrics by none other than Maurice Sendak.

Lyle Lovett – Church

My colleague, friend, & mentor Kurt Eisen added this to the playlist when I sought suggestions & requests on Facebook. My friend Justina seconded the nomination. After listening, I knew that this song had a lot of “something” for me—my kind of hymn to dance-in-the-aisles, wave-my-arms-in –a-testifyin’-of-way. To match the night’s lyrical theme, just check the lyrics:

To the Lord let praises be

It's time for dinner now let's go eat

We've got some beans and some good cornbread

And I listened to what the preacher said

Arlo Guthrie – Alice's Restaurant Massacre

I am not sure when I first heard Arlo Guthrie’s Thanksgiving classic or why its legendary blend of stand-up commentary has forever secured its place in pop-rock-cultural mythology. I did hear that when some radio stations play the song around this time of year, it’s not uncommon to cut the mix from its full 18-minute-form, leaving out some of the anti-war commentary.

Ryan Adams – Thank You Louise

My good musical friends & regular listeners to this program know how I feel about Ryan Adams. These lyrics nail the mood I’ve sought for this show:

Mother of three

Waiting in the check-out line

The supermarket, Christmas time

She eyes someone who doesn't have the change

Takes a dollar from her purse

She pays and doesn't say a word

She winks and grins and ‘Merry Christmas, friend!'

Thank you Louise

Dan Fogelberg – Illinois

While I remember listening to the light rock of Dan Fogelberg in middle school, I don’t think I ever heard this song. My friend Cerulean from Chattanooga suggested it for the lyrics: “I may miss the harvest, but I won't miss the feast.”

Natalie Merchant – Kind And Generous

In the 1980s, I was mad for 10,000 Maniacs, logging “Almost Famous” fanboy memories about Natalie Merchant as I did with Maria McKee, even more memorable, personal, & vivid than when I followed REM & U2. While not as familiar with her later solo work, this song embodies the mood of gratitude with so much sweetness, intimacy, & grace. I am looking forward to a new solo record by Natalie in 2010!

Foscoe Jones – Thanksgiving

I’d never heard of Foscoe Jones of Austin, Texas before compiling this mix, but this song grabbed me among many with the title “Thanksgiving” as perfect for tonight’s mix—perhaps because of what I perceive as its sundry, ironic, bittersweet emotions about family, about America, about everything.

John Mellencamp – Thank You

Of all the populist, rust-belt anthemic Americana singers to emerge from the Reagan & Bush years, to endure through the Clinton & Bush years, to still be with us with choruses as wide & cheap & believable as biblical metaphors ready-made for American car commercials, John Mellencamp can still make the hair on your arms tingle. Mellencamp can be the man, never as revered by the rock intelligentsia as Springsteen but still kicking it anyways.

My Morning Jacket – Thank You Too!

While not my favorite song from last year’s Evil Urges, the tender & heartfelt “Thank You Too!” is one Jim James’ best ventures into softer rock balladry.

Sly & The Family Stone – Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)

Who doesn’t want a little Sly Stone? This song says it all!

Sarah Vaughan – If Not For You

Led Zeppelin – Thank You

We all have many, many things to give thanks for in the world—just this life, just food to eat, just shelter over our heads, just something meaningful to do with our time. But love itself is perhaps the greatest thing we give thanks for, & these songs, one by Dylan interpreted by Sarah Vaughan, & the other by Led Zeppelin, really do this & do it well.

“If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.”

(Meister Eckhart, 1260–1328, a German theologian, philosopher and mystic)

The Annotated Mixtape Project!

“The Annotated Mixtape!”

  1. Design a playlist or mixtape of roughly 5 to 15 (really, no limit in either direction is required) songs that represent you or a theme that interests you: you as a person, you as a student/professor/activist/writer/parent/child [fill in the blank with word or vocation that embodies you], you in relationship to this time in your life, you as you interpret the changing of the seasons, you as a consumer of pop culture, or some other theme that you can articulate.
  2. Create an “annotated playlist” document to accompany this mix. To do this, don’t just choose your favorite songs; explain how the songs develop or represent a theme, supporting that explanation through reflection about yourself and your relationship with music.
  3. Document formats for your playlist’s commentary may vary, but at minimum will include a title, an introduction, & a complete list of songs chosen, with artist’s names & comprehensive or selected comments for each song or section of songs.
  4. Share this mix or playlist with your friends as a gift (mix CD with handmade booklet containing your annotated commentary/liner notes, Facebook ‘note,’ playlist distributed using various interactive websites or music programs created for this purpose, etc.)

I've been mixing music & making playlists for as long as I can remember. Before my first days as a DJ on 88.3 FM in Southfield, Michigan back in 1985, my family made mixtapes for long roadtrips, taking votes from each of the Smiths about which songs to include. Even as a preteen, I was obsessed with consuming music, buying albums, & making amateur mixes with my mock radio commentary recorded on one of those hand-held cassette players with the built-in microphone.

All semester, I've dreamed of designing the “Annotated Playlist” assignment as an alternative (or addition) to the reflective letter required of writers to be included with their Final Portfolios in English 1010 or English 1020. To teach this idea, I've decided to annotate a playlist of my own, in this case the songs planned for the sixty-sixth edition of the Teacher On The Radio program, which airs each Monday night on 88.5 FM in Cookeville, Tennessee.

Monday, November 16, 2009

TOTR 65: Blood Is Life

Gorillaz –Dracula

Slightly Stoopid – Blood of My Blood

Suzanne Vega – Blood Makes Noise

Frightened Rabbit – Fast Blood

Doug Burr – Blood Runs Downhill

Peter Gabriel – Blood Of Eden

Eels – Fresh Blood

Queens Of The Stone Age – The Blood Is Love

Death Cab For Cutie – Meet Me On The Equinox

Editors – Blood

Editors – No Sound But The Wind

Thom Yorke – Hearing Damage

Lykke Li – Possibility

Bon Iver – Blood Bank

Bon Iver & St. Vincent – Rosyln

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – Done All Wrong

Grizzly Bear – Slow Life

Urbantramper – Eucharist

Jars of Clay – Nothing But the Blood

Coldplay – A Rush Of Blood To The Head

Norah Jones – Young Blood

Annie Lennox – Love Song For A Vampire

Monday, November 9, 2009

TOTR 64: Movin' On


U2 – Disappearing Act

U2 – Sixty Seconds in Kingdom Come

Blk Jks – Standby

Blk Jks – Skeleton

The Dynamites and Charles Walker – Do The Right Thing

The Dynamites and Charles Walker – Can’t Have Enough

The Dynamites and Charles Walker –The Real Deal

Rickie Lee Jones – Wild Girl

Rickie Lee Jones – Old Enough

Rickie Lee Jones – Eucalyptus Trail

Rickie Lee Jones – The Gospel of Carlos, Norman and Smith

Rain Machine – New Last Name

Rain Machine – Driftwood Heart

The Flaming Lips – I Can Be A Frog

The Flaming Lips – Silver Trembling Hands

The Rural Alberta Advantage – Sleep All Day

The Rural Alberta Advantage – Four Night Rider

The Rural Alberta Advantage – In the Summertime

Kris Kristofferson – Holy Woman

Kris Kristofferson – Let The Walls Come Down

Kris Kristofferson – Good Morning John

Rosanne Cash – I’m Movin’ On

Rosanne Cash – 500 Miles

Rosanne Cash – Long Black Veil (Feat_ Jeff Tweedy)

R.E.M. – Until The Day Is Done [Live At The Olympia]

R.E.M. – Little America [Live At The Olympia]

R.E.M. – Harborcoat [Live At The Olympia]

Monday, November 2, 2009

TOTR 63: Breathe!

First Breath - first breath

Pink Floyd - Speak To Me / Breathe

Pink Floyd - Breathe (Breathe In The Air)

The Police - Every Breath You Take

Pearl Jam - Breath And A Scream

Pearl Jam - Just Breathe

R.E.M - Try Not to Breathe

Black Moth Super Rainbow - Fields Are Breathing

Telepopmusik - Breathe

The Prodigy - Breathe

U2 – Breathe

Jimmy Buffett - Breathe In, Breathe Out, Move On

Leaves – Breathe

Mat Kearney - Breathe In Breathe Out

Mike Peters - Breathe

Alexi Murdoch - Breathe

Sarah Brightman - You Take My Breath Away

Melissa Etheridge – Breathe

k.d. lang - The Air That I Breathe

Anna Nalick - Breathe (2 AM)

Tony Sims - One Breath

Tony Sims - Last Breath (Tunnel of Light)