Here in Cincinnati we have been blessed with three major snowstorms over the last two weeks or so. The third storm dropped nearly a foot of snow over an area that was already blanketed with the white stuff. Many of us were fortunate enough to get a few days off work as a result. But a few days cooped up in the house can make a person start to go stir crazy. I turned to my record collection for relief of the Winter Blahs and a number of circadian patterns developed over those few days of captivity.
Steam rising from my coffee cup, I stared blankly out the window at the falling snow while I listened to Maria McKee for the first time in many years. Formerly the lead singer for the 80s band Lone Justice, she has released several solo albums. Her Peddlin’ Dreams CD from 2003 is an exemplary showcase of the musings of a misplaced country girl with an artsy spin on Roots Rock. McKee’s voice is a breathy and elastic marvel, her melacholy meditations delivered with passion and grace. This record includes some her most emotional work and a moving rendition of Neil Young’s “Barstool Blues”. When McKee’s voice leaps into the stratospheric realms of her upper register it’ll make the hair stand up on your arms. Beautiful stuff by an underrated American artist.
Tom Waits was another trusty companion during my recent bout with cabin fever. Fans know that his music has gone through a lot of changes over the years. But you can put on pretty much anything from his catalog and it’s like warming yourself in front of the fireplace. With their somber blues grooves, aching ballads, and howling confessional feel, Heart Attack And Vine and Blue Valentine did the trick for me.
Some other stuff that made my home crackle and glow with warmth last week included some vintage Jazz and classic Reggae. Specifically on the Jazz front it was Eric Dolphy and Sun Ra. Ingenius outsiders both, their respective spins on traditional Jazz cleared the cobwebs from my mind and made the perfect soundtrack for clearing real cobwebs from my apartment when it was desperately in need of cleaning.
I turned to my Reggae collection when it was time to prepare dinner. A big pot of hot stew seems to carry a lot of spicy karma when the sound of Peter Tosh fills my kitchen during its preparation! Buju Banton’s Rasta Got Soul from last year is a more recent addition to the playlist and another favorite. Modern recording techniques are not particularly conducive to creating the murky organic Reggae sounds of old. But Buju swims effortlessly against the current, keeping a lot of traditional Jamaican tribal drumming and Rastafarian folklore in the mix.
Trapped in my own home with time to kill, I went trolling on the internet for something new to listen to. My happiest discovery was a free iTunes download of a Philip Glass collection called The Orange Mountain Music Sampler Vol. 1. Previously unfamiliar with his work, I found this to be an enjoyable and engaging crash course in his music, including excerpts from a number of film soundtracks that he composed. Check it out here: Philip Glass – The Orange Mountain Music Sampler Vol. 1
Lastly, I have to say that an iPod on “shuffle” has a mind of its own! Sure, I uploaded all the music therein, but the damn thing seems to know my moods, what I wanna hear, and when I need to hear it! When the cabin fever was at its worst, I had returned every phone call and e-mail on my docket, I’d watched every last bonus feature on the DVDs I’d gotten from the library, my apartment had been cleaned and all the chores were done, I stood at the sink washing the last remaining dirty dishes of the day while my iPod regaled me with one Iron Maiden song after another. This is not the first time my iPod – on “shuffle”, mind you – did this exact same thing. I swear that little thing loves Maiden more than I do. Weird how that tiny device can sometimes provide hilarious and therapeutic companionship.