Music I Dug & You Should Hear week of Jan 17: St. Paul & the Broken Bones, Debbie Neigher

A few words on the Music I Dug Most & You Should Hear in the past week:

St. Paul and the Broken Bones are the real deal: true, gritty, tonsil-shredding, toe-tapping, booty-shaking, and tear jerking soul.  Listening brings me back decades to the “wow” and the sense of commitment and energy I felt hearing early Springsteen.  (Plus there’s the surprise factor of expecting the lead singer ought to look like the late great Clarence Clemons and discovering instead that he’s kind of  a bookish white dude.)  The spirit of Motown lives on in these guy: we ought to thank them for keeping it real.  And even if that’s not your thing you owe it to yourself to check them out.

I’m way behind the times on this one: I only recently discovered Debbie Neigher’s music; so far I’m only in a position to comment on her 2011 self-titled debut.  But what a debut:  I’m pretty obsessive about lyrics, so if an artist is going to hang his or her hat on a  piano and clever turns of phrase odds are I’m not going to be wowed (unless you’re Regina Spektor, in which case I worship at your feet/pedals).  But I’m wowed: so many smart, surprising lines (“I’m lying on a bed of evergreens in my head” in Evergreens;  “There’s static on the radio but I can sing without the music anyway…. I can feel you without remembering your face anyway” in Frames). For me it calls to mind the estimable voice of Natalie Merchant plus that extra edge of more-than-just-pop creativity like Spektor delivers.

And now a word from our sponsor (that would be me).  Pride of place in the last week out of all the music I’ve been working on goes to Down to Our Last Dollar.  I constantly ask myself “what’s the first 30 seconds of music I want people to hear?”  (This is a fraught question, since the simple but epic first 30 seconds of Nebraska are why I learned to make music…)  There’s nothing fancy here: a piano riff that I wouldn’t add a note to, and declarative lyrics that sum up the story of the photo from the Great Depression that inspired it:

In our rusty old truck alongside of the highway
In the Devil’s own corner of the USA
It’s down to fuel or food with our last dollar:
Darling I don’t think we’re having supper today
No darling I don’t think we’re having supper today

Kudos paid to great artists in 2015 to date: 2