Magpies' album confirms rumors that Cleveland does, in fact, rock

The Magpies website proclaims them to be indiefolkrockrevivalist in genre, and since I find that to be a pretty apt description, I’m not going to bother to think up another. True, these guys will rock your face off if given half a chance, but their musicality keeps them from being swept neatly into the “rock” category. More than anything, they are deft storytellers and as such, they neatly sidestep the cliché traps of the indie rock and singer/songwriter genres to create something wholly their own. Between the solid rhythm section, the maniacal genius of Justin Gorski’s piano playing, and the soulful, whiskey-rough edge of Roger Hoover’s vocals, you aren’t given much of a choice but to sit up and pay attention. The Magpies are one of those rare bands that are both musically and lyrically brilliant, and their newest album, Eastern Standard Time showcases this beautifully.

Because the music itself is so immediately likable, it’s easy to enjoy the album immensely without actually stopping to listen to the lyrics, which I did on my first several times through it. When I did start to focus on the lyrics, the experience was akin to being engrossed in a really good book– you come out of it feeling a little dazed at having to return to the real world. [I still haven’t decided if I want to come out of it. I could stay happy in a Magpies daze for a long time.—Cricket]

Each song tells its own story, the full and complex sound coupled with concise, well-crafted lyrics serve to create vivid mental images to go along with the musical narrative with little effort on the listener’s part. As with any good collection of short stories, there are layers of subtext and themes throughout the album that are sure to please the more active listener. (I’m not going to lie, this album appeals to my inner English major in a serious way. I have notes here about the story structures and the intense desire to write a five-paragraph essay… It’s fantastic!)

The opening track, “Picture Me in a Love Song,” has a joyful and infectious melody juxtaposed with lyrics like, “Time has been standing since last I laid hands on you/ We’ve got no history/ No place to go back to.” The result is a feeling of euphoric wistfulness that you get with having a shiny, new crush on someone completely unattainable– that visceral giddy feeling tempered with the knowledge that it’s always going to be unrequited. This song always gives me said happy-achy feeling, but without the unfortunate side-effect of me acting like a moron. So, y’know. Bonus!

“Hotel Receipt” is an anti-love song about a one night stand that doesn’t try to romanticize it. The waltz feeling of the music underscores the idea that this is a dance the narrator’s familiar with. Yet, with lines like, “Yesterday was a coal mine/ and you the only light” and the delightfully dirty, “My mind was stuck in your fishnets the rest of the day,” it manages to capture a lingering sweetness that keeps it from being something tawdry. The story here is past tense, subtly highlighting the theme of loneliness that is threaded throughout the album. [There is melancholy and vague sense of loss throughout and yet, damn, this album makes me happy.—Cric]

There is a vaguely eerie, timelessness to “Girl on the Hill.” Perhaps saying that it is a gothic romance is going too far. My initial instinct was to make a comparison to A Rose For Emily, not because the song is anywhere near that creepy, but because both the lyrics and the music are so evocative that you find yourself dwelling in the story long after it is over. The twinkly piano has the effect of a mental blue lens, from its opening notes it gives the song a sort of stark, compelling sadness that carries through to the reveal at the end.

My favorite song off EST is “Umbrella Skeleton & the Olds 442.” There’s an old-timeyness to it– the sense of a bygone era–that just fills my heart with glee. The protagonist dressed in a shirt, tie and vest. Perhaps a dapper cap? Everything about it just works, though I think it’s ultimately a combination of the lyrics and Roger Hoover’s vocals and phrasing that make it stand out to me:

Smoke the rest of last night’s cigarette
Pull the razor cross his face careful not to cut his lip
Got a pocket full of silver dollars his red shoes out of pawn
Pomade curling in his hair
He turns the radio off
His door opens to the dark
He’s cutting through the fog
He’s looking razor sharp
Puts his keys in his Olds 442

While I hate to quote such a large chunk of the song, the first verse here appeals so much to my love of language that I have to (particularly, “He’s cutting through the fog/ He’s looking razor sharp,” sofa king good that I had to go and quote it twice).

“Elizah Jane”, like “Girl on the Hill” is musical storytelling at its best. The opening verse, with just the guitar and Hoover’s vocals, sets a darkly atmospheric, vaguely ominous tone that is carried out in lyrics as the tragedy of the story unfolds. There’s also a feeling of the supernatural intertwined with the South that’s reflected in lines like, “Tried faith healers and forceps/ Gypsy medicine and night.” You can almost feel the swampy heat of a southern summer night.

“Tomorrow Wears a Thorny Crown” serves as just one more reminder of what brilliant musicians these guys are. Part one starts out slow and contemplative (indeed, I often find myself contemplating, “How is Roger Hoover’s voice so ridiculously sexy?”), and then they go and dial it up to eleven. With alternating vocals and time signatures, this part just rocks in a way that few bands seem to manage these days.

Whether you’re listening to one of the infectious, toe-tapping dance numbers or the epic tragedies, Eastern Standard Time is crafted with an ear for melody, language, and rhythm that makes me giddy and weak in the knees. In their current incarnation (Gorski’s addition and their name change from The Whiskeyhounds), these boys are just getting started, so I foresee much more knee weakening goodness to come.

Knowing now how I feel about this album, you can imagine my overwhelming delight at this past Friday night’s Magpies show in Nashville with special last-minute guest Cory Branan. Because here at HCT HQ we occasionally have weekends that make me think the universe is trying to atone for all the things we complain about having to do in the daily grind to support our rock-chick lifestyle.

Really, I had been looking forward to this show since the last time they were here, and while my expectations tend to get a tad bit unrealistic when I’m that excited about something, the Magpies were able to exceed them, not even factoring in Mr. Branan’s charming and delightful presence. A regular HCT reader might recall that Cory was the one who originally brought the Magpies to our attention, and for that I feel we owe him a debt of gratitude.

This is our fourth time seeing the Magpies live, and there are three things that I invariably want to do post-show. The first is my brief but serious contemplation of the logistics of following them to the next town to see them play again, which is of course foiled by my utter exhaustion (and, in this instance, the Great Nashville Gas Crisis of 2008). The second is to rehash with Cricket how awesome the show was, and how much I freakin’ love these guys, quite often in the form of questions like, “Remember when the Magpies were here, and they played ‘Blueberry Wine?’ That was awesome!” à la The Chris Farley Show.

The third thing I want to do, with all the zeal of a convert, is find new people to… well, convert. As with Lucero and Cory Branan before them (perhaps even more so), this is one of those bands where I feel that it’s not enough to just say, “Hey, check these guys out!” I want to personally put the album in someone’s hand, have them listen to it with their undivided attention, and then come back to me and say, “You’re totally right! Best band ever!!!” Partially because I love being told I’m right, but mostly because they are just that good (Confession: This is totally why I offer to drive places, so that I can make people listen to the music I think they ought to love). Unfortunately, this is perhaps not the most efficient way to go about things– if only I had some platform to get my absurdly effusive message out to the masses… [If only…–Cricket]

I’m sure that more than a few people walked away from Friday night’s Nashville show with a new favorite band. Unfortunately, unless you’re living somewhere around Cleveland, you probably aren’t going to get the chance to see them live until sometime next year. So go ahead and get Eastern Standard Time (and then kick yourself if you had the opportunity to see them and you didn’t). Then come back and tell me how much you love them.

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Lucero Family Picnic version 2.0, the revenge of Arkansas

Daisy and I boldly braved predictions of flash flooding to drive the long, desolate hours to Batesville, Arkansas for the Lucero Family Picnic. It was worth it. So worth it. First off, before I tell you about the show, let me fill you in on the news we gleaned while there:

As many of you maybe know already, Lucero’s Brian Venable is expecting his first child any day now. He was primed to leave, even mid-show, should his lovely lady, Sam, have gone into labor. We saw ultrasound pictures of Henry, the boy they are expecting to join their family soon. So everyone keep them in your thoughts for an easy delivery. I know Brian can’t wait to meet Henry (we can’t either!). Seriously, if every expectant father was as happy as Brian appears to be, the world would be a much, much better place. [It really is just about the sweetest thing ever how excited he is.—Daisy]

There is a Ben Nichols solo EP, The Last Pale Light in the West, arriving soon to the internet near you. Like the most recent Lucero release, this will be available for digital download, with a CD to follow later in the mail (with purchase of the download). What’s that? You didn’t know Nichols’ was making a solo album? Well, neither did we. Apparently it came together very fast. And if what I hear is true, it’s a somewhat thematic album, based loosely around characters from Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian. So exciting, I mean, you all know I live for shit like this, right? [The unexpected gift of new Ben Nichols songs? It’s like our reward for having to do, like, work and stuff.—Daisy] Hooray! There will be an extensive solo Ben tour this fall as well. No excuses people, even the West Coast gets some play this time. I have no firm date on the EP release, but I hear tell it could be as soon as this week.

I did not get any confirmation on the new Lucero album, which many folks were hoping for this fall. I do know they signed an excellent four album deal with Republic/Universal. I know the new album has songs already (anyone who saw the last tour heard a couple of them) and the boys are looking forward to making it. I don’t have details on when they are going into the studio, but I’m guessing they will probably hold off at least Brian’s baby arrives and everyone gets settled in after Ben’s solo tour.

So! Picnic! Rockin’ awesome! Oh yes. The line-up was great. We sadly missed The Good Fear and Dan Montgomery (it’s long drive from Nashville and we had to stop to eat). I heard from many folks I trust that we definitely missed some good music. I have since checked out the sites for both acts and, well, goddamn our refusal to speed through rural Arkansas, I wish we’d seen them!

Cory Branan was up next. He was/is/always awesome. [By the way, we love Cory. In case you didn’t know.—Daisy] His set was short. I heard “technical difficulties” which might have meant broken guitar strings, or might have meant ‘oh shit, hurricane Ike really is headed here, should we keep playing?’ The five or so songs he played were certainly crowd pleasers, and he was joined by the lovely Amanda Shires on fiddle and the superlative Rick Steff on accordion. [We love them, too.—Daisy] Also I spent the last two hours of the drive talking about how I wanted a cheeseburger. Got to the show and FREE CHEESEBURGERS! Which I ate while watching Cory. So I’m gonna go on record as saying it was the best Cory Branan show ever. Even if it is just the cheeseburger love talking.

Cory cleared off to make way for Justin Townes Earle. You know, we’ve been incredibly remiss in not talking about Justin here before. He is, I’m sure you’ve heard, ♥Steve’s♥ son. He is incredibly talented in his own right and has no need to trail on his father’s career (which he is definitely not doing). I have had his EP, Yuma, on heavy rotation for months. His recent release, The Good Life, is so exactly the kind of troubadouring that we are always seeking out here. Seeing him live is a treat. There’s a pervasive sense of real Americana– real roots music in his sound that translates to his show. He is touring the rest of the month, you should try an hit up a show if you can. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.

The line-up for the Picnic seemed to be all excellent and sort of just getting better and better and better. After Justin, Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit played a lovely long set. The weather was starting to get iffy, rain, though light, was coming in and the sky was getting more threatening. Jason played right through it. You’ll recall maybe that, last summer, I wasn’t as impressed as I’d hoped to be with Isbell’s Sirens of the Ditch release. It is a great album and it has grown on me. The thing about Jason is that some people are going love him no matter what because of the Drive-By Truckers connection. Some people are really going to get how good he is just from listening to his album. Some people, like me, need to see him live to fall in love. His is still touring, so if you don’t fall into the first two categories of Jason love, you have chance to redeem yourself like I did. Also, girls, I am not going to lie. He is cute. [True story.—Daisy] We met him briefly backstage and, yes, I confess I have known weakness for Alabama boys, but he is also charming and friendly. So, go see him, there are at least four reasons why you should.

What could possibly follow this goodness? Why Lucero of course! [Hooray! —Daisy] The usual suspects were joined by the stupendous, wonderful, ticklish, cheerful, sweet, alluring, winsome Rick Steff (who we ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥) on keyboards and accordion [Double hooray!—Daisy], and by that mythical creature, Todd Beene, on pedal steel. (If you don’t know, Todd Beenes are native to the mid-south, though found all over the world. They are characterized by mischievousness and incredible musical talent. There have only been sightings of the one, but if you encounter him, be careful! He’s as likely to tease you mercilessly as he is to play awesome music for you.)

It was a Lucero show, a good one. Ike was seriously rolling by that time, the wind whipping Roy’s hair around as he played, making it hard for anyone to smoke a cigarette and making me worry that the lights would fall and kill crew. The fanboys sang along and screamed for Ben’s attention. Brian rocked despite surely spending every second wondering if his baby was going to arrive right then. John C. spoke nearly incoherently into the mic about how grateful the band is for their fans. New songs were played, old favorites could have been sung by the audience, and I decided one of my preferred parts of Lucero shows is watching Roy play (he looks like he’s made of rubber!!). I’m pretty sure a good time was had by all, and the oncoming hurricane added strange, but wholly pleasant sense of melancholy to the entire show.

There was an after party and the club by the park, just like last year. This is a more intimate gathering, like a Ben and Cory acoustic tour, with periodic appearances by any of the cast of characters that played the rest of the picnic. I drank, talked to tons of people and had mostly a good time. The stage is badly placed and hard to see, unless you are in the insane crushing crowd in front of the stage. The audience is so drunk as to be more interested in yelling requests than actually listening to them. It’s kind of a clusterfuck. [Though slightly less clusterfuckish than last year.—Daisy] I’m glad we went. I had fun (and lots of beer which leads gives one the idea of fun, even if it isn’t being had). I’m glad they do that afterparty, but I’m not sure we’ll go again next year. Picnic, yes, afterparty, maybe not. [Yeah, we feel that way now…—Daisy]

So there it is. We wish you were there. We encourage you to go see everyone who played if they ever come near you. And now we have to go rest up, Arkansas can take a lot out of girls like us.

They make us giggle like school girls

In anticipation of all the exciting new changes coming up here at HCT, Cricket and I decided to get our rock chick on and go see some shows a few weeks ago. Yes, Lucero was passing through at the time (they are on tour right now!). Shockingly, they aren’t the point of this post, because the Magpies were here the next night, and I am smitten. Seriously, we’re talking intense new band love affair. I can’t stop listening to their entire catalog and doodling “Daisy ♥ Magpies” on everything. (Note to Cricket: I wouldn’t pass out on the couch any time soon. I have Sharpies…) So forgive me if this is a little effusive and disjointed, and not the calm, rational post that you’re used to seeing on these pages.

I would write about Lucero, but I really can’t even bring myself to focus on them long enough to do so (do I have your attention yet?). I’ll let Crics fill you in if she so chooses. [Um, why would we do that? Remember, I drink, embarrass myself and you remember things. Plus all the stories I have from that night incriminate other people so I can’t tell them anyway. Boo.—Cricket] Besides, I kind of feel like if we haven’t sold you on Lucero at this point, nothing I say here is going to change that, so let me sum up:

Lucero came to town on a Friday night, rocked as per usual, played some new songs, and we had such a good time that we woke up Saturday kind of wanting to die. Cricket perhaps more than myself, but that’s what she gets for diverting from the “One whiskey drink and then only beer” plan. [In my defense it’s hard to refusing raving Lucero fanboys when they won’t let you leave the bar without buying you a shot. Plus it’s bad form to refuse free shots.—Cricket]

Unfortunately for us, we didn’t really have a chance to recover on Saturday, and I would like to take a moment to emphasize what a huge pile of suck Saturday day was in order for you to appreciate just how much the Magpies rock, because they rendered all that did suck meaningless with their awesomeness.

On top of the Lucero-hangover and the intense sleep-deprivation, Cricket had to work for part of the evening (because we do not yet rule the world, and thus must have jobs that pay us cash money). Meaning that I had to go to the show alone, and she would join me as soon as she could. My non-love of going to shows alone was enhanced this particular evening by the fact that, en route to the venue, the skies opened to unleash apocalyptic rain. Upon my arrival, the rain did not stop and after spending a good ten minutes in my car, I realized it wasn’t about to.

You know what I love more than going to a show alone? Arriving at the show soaking wet, looking like a drowned rat. Alone. I walked into the bar to a chorus of, “Oh you poor thing!” But that was just from the staff, because there was no one else there. Except for the band, of course. Rock on. You know what else is awesome when you’re drenched and alone at a venue with the staff and the band? Air conditioning. Sooooo many snaps on me.

That was the start of my night.

Eventually, however, I started to dry off, Cricket arrived and the Magpies got on stage and opened with “The Waiting,” my favorite song off of the new album. As you may recall, we were introduced to this band last October by Mr. Branan and loved them immediately. Their live performance is unspeakably good. I actually cannot overstate how good they are. It is, perhaps, even more impressive considering the fact that the small venue kept them from rocking out to their full potential. Specifically, keyboard player Justin Gorski, who rocked so hard at the 3 Crow Bar, was this time around confined to the accordion for most of the set. Which he rocked. There’s really no holding these guys back.

I’ve been trying to articulate to anyone who will listen (a.k.a. Cricket) what it is about the Magpies live show that sets them apart from the rest. It may be that they bring it. Despite the fact that Cricket and I accounted for about 70% of the audience, they played like it was a (much larger) packed house. They even, for the most part, valiantly ignored the loud, drunk sorority girls at the bar. It could be that they sound live like they do recorded in the best possible way. Lead singer Roger Hoover’s voice is incredibly smooth, with that perfect rough-edge rasp that we at HCT adore so much. It’s perfectly suited to the songs he sings and, let’s face it, sexy as hell. [Also, he has the twinkly-eyed charm of a sexier Robert Downey Jr. Although I don’t think Hoover shares RDJ’s problems… Maybe we need to come up with a better comparison.—Cric] [[I think anyone who knows of our truly deep and abiding love for RDJ would take this as the compliment it was intended to be. Twinkly-eyed charm, indeed – Daisy]]

It certainly doesn’t hurt that the songs they play are the musical equivalent of meeting someone you feel like you’ve known for years—energizing and infectious, but familiar and comfortable in some indefinable way. They have a new album out, Eastern Standard Time, which we will be reviewing once Cricket and I stop fighting over who gets to do it. [I love the album, but I am amused that you think I would do work when you are perfectly willing to do it.—Cric] [[Well played, Crics. Well played. – Daisy]]

Before I get started on that, I thought I’d share some of my favorites from their Whiskeyhounds era (all of which are available on CDBaby and Amazon):

“Blueberry Wine” — Got drunk early on blueberry wine/ sugar-sweet Mexican cigars
I can’t speak for Cricket, but I’m going to anyway. I believe this is the song that sold us completely and irrevocably on the Magpies. It was the day after the show they played with Cory and we were out running errands, listening to our newly acquired CD. It is a great song overall, but what got us specifically were the lyrics:

I’m a long way from East Texas, but I’ll be there unless these two-dollar girls finish my three-dollar wine

You had us at “two-dollar girls”. Well, really you had us at “got drunk early”, but it was all sewn up with “two-dollar girls”.

“Inside His Devil Grin” — There’s a man standing outside my door with a bible like a gun/ That way of life might work for him but I don’t bow to anyone
This song comes close to the frenetic energy of seeing them live. It has a furious drive and rhythm that makes sitting still impossible. That coupled with the controlled intensity of Hoover’s vocals is a perfect example of what makes this band so compelling.

“Roger Hoover’s Dream” — Daughter’s all in pigtails/ She never cries/ She’s got here mother’s hair/ She’s got her father’s eyes
This song has that slow, easy feeling of sepia-toned memories of lazy summer afternoons. It’s also got that perfect twangy edge that makes me think that the “mother” and “father” in the above lyrics should really be “momma” and “daddy”. I do, in fact, thus change said lyrics when I’m singing along in my car. FYI.

“Caroline Street Stomp” — You say I drink too much and now that it’s over, had to keep on drinking whiskey ’cause I couldn’t stand to tell you I loved you sober
If there were no other reason, this song would get honorable mention for the above lyrics. Especially with the follow up – If you ever got to hear yourself speak you’d know just why you’re alone. So many snaps in one song, it must might be my new favorite “eff off and die” breakup song.

“Sweet Angelyne” — I did you wrong, babe, these things are better left unsaid/ No use pulling stitches from a healing wound again
This is, perhaps, my favorite song ever. The rhythm of the lyrics fills me with joy, so much so that I am rendered fairly inarticulate. So maybe you just go download this song? You won’t be sorry.

What I’m saying is this. The Magpies are going on tour again starting in September, so if they are playing anywhere near you, take the chance to go see them. Tell them we sent you.

In the meantime, I’ll go start my review of Eastern Standard Time and you go check out the songs on their Myspace. And if you’re still not convinced? Here’s a video of Roger Hoover covering Cory Branan’s “White-T Girls”:

"She has unrealistic expectation for love"

Well, Valentine’s Day is once again upon us, and we here at HCT headquarters had a few days there where we were undecided as to whether we would take the opportunity to be bitter single girls, sitting around the house watching Lifetime and listening to Jagged Little Pill over and over again [This is surely hyperbole, it’s never been so bad that we have to listen to Alanis for salvation.—Cric] [Nor will it ever be that bad.—Daisy]. But then we remembered that we’re awesome. Also, we hate to be so stereotypically lame. Anyway, everyone knows that the suckiest holiday for a single girl is Arbor Day. Nobody wants to celebrate trees alone. [Except tree perverts. Yikes.—Cricket]

So, instead of eating our weight in peppermint nougats, we thought we’d share some songs about love and relationships that we dig. It’s what we do. [In the grand tradition of Valentine’s Day, we give you this present which is something you neither need nor want, is completely last minute and yet, it’s the thought that counts, right? We love y’all.—Cricket]

Lucero, “Nights Like These” — You’re surprised the first song is Lucero? This is what I like to call an “Oh, Ben” song, because after the lyrics:

I’ve only got this one wish
That I was good enough to make you forget
The only boy who ever broke your heart

you can’t help but sigh and say, “Oh, Ben.” Though I think I speak for the majority of Lucero fans (I’m looking at you, too, fanboys) when I say that Ben is more than sexypants enough to make a girl forget her own name, let alone whatshisface. But I suspend my disbelief, because this song speaks to the tortured unicorns of my soul.

Cory Branan, “The Walkaround (Amnesia)” — Speaking of unicorns! Unfortunately, Cory doesn’t have this song up on his MySpace at the moment. But, it is on YouTube, so there you go. This is a song about unrealistic expectations, amnesia, Soultrain, walkin’ around and… other things. What’s not to love? This is my bad mood song. No bad mood can withstand magic flowers and a fucking golden unicorn. But really, for all its clever lyrics and upbeat tune, it’s a song about being lonely, and just wanting someone to go out and do stuff with. To which I can certainly relate.

Chris Milam, “Maria, Maria” — This song makes me ridiculously happy, maybe even more so than the last one. Not that it’s happy-go-lucky content-wise, but every time I hear it, I just want to hear it more, as is the case with all music I really love (much, I think, to Cricket’s chagrin when driver picks the music…) [We all know shotgun shuts his cakehole when driver picks the music, so I keep it to myself.—Cric]. I could go on for awhile about how great this song is, but instead, I’m just going to post the intro Chris tells when he plays it live, because it makes me almost as happy as the song does. In Chris’s own words:

I’m writing a book. It’s a how-to guide. It’s called ‘How To Successfully Navigate the Dysfunctional Relationship.’ I’ve done about ten years worth of research on the subject.

I think any good, meaty, ridiculously dysfunctional relationship has four stages.

Stage One is Attraction. Pretty self-explanatory. Upon meeting the person, do you think, “Oh, they’re pretty,” or “Oh, I’d like to see them naked,” or “I wonder what they’d look like in my t-shirt at four a.m.,” etc.

Stage Two is Infatuation. In this stage, your significant other can do no wrong. They have faults, but you don’t see them because you’re infatuated. Listen to Lisa Loeb a little too much? Doesn’t matter, you’re infatuated. Laugh too hard at a racist joke? Yep, still infatuated. Never miss a Zac Braff movie? Well, that MATTERS, but you get the idea.

Stage Three is Stagnation. This is the moment when the honeymoon’s over and all the faults you overlooked before are now impossible to ignore. You’re not in love, you can’t imagine that you ever were in love, and the only thought that ever goes through your head is, “If I move to Greenland, how long until she finds me?” It’s the great part of any Hemingway story, where the girl bats her eyes and plaintively asks our hero, “Isn’t love fun anymore, darling?” and he says, “No. No it isn’t.” And then goes trout-fishing for six weeks.

Stage Four is Damnation. Here, you make a list of three million ways you can sabotage the relationship and go through them one-by-one. “Step 3,407: Accidentally poison cat.” And so on. Stage Four is my favorite.

I usually write a song about one of these four stages, but this song’s about all four of them, in order, start to finish. It’s called “Maria, Maria”.

And yeah, it’s a true story.

If you’re in town, check Mr. Milam out live Wednesday, February 27th at Christopher’s Pizza and Thursday, March 13th at the Rutledge. (In the meantime, if you missed it, Chris did a HCT podcast over a year ago, which is almost as good as a live show.)

Tommy Womack, “I Couldn’t Care Less” — When I first got a copy of There, I Said It, I didn’t make it through the entire album before I hit the ‘repeat’ button on this song. It is, quite possibly, the best fuck-off song ever. And not just because of he grammatical correctness of the sentiment. It’s fantastically cheerful and upbeat in its message of apathy. To me this song that unequivocally states, “You’re not even close to worth my angst.” It really doesn’t get any better.

The Jayhawks, “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me” — I’ll never be all you want me to/ But that’s all right/ I’m gonna make you love me. I love this song for all it’s cheerfully aggressive optimism. Because who hasn’t had that Wayne Campbell moment of, “Oh, yes, (s)he will be mine.”? And sometimes it’s nice to think that love is something you have any sort of control over. Much like The Pretender’s “Brass in Pocket,” actually. Really, I just love the message of, “You don’t love me now? Just wait.” (Whoa, there was some evil laughter bubbling up inside me as I typed that…) [It’s also got a nice bit of that stalkery love that Steve Earle does so well.—Cricket]

Dolly Parton, “I Will Always Love You” — There are about a million and a half reasons to love this song. It’s the quintessential love song, for all it’s wonderfully teary-eyed inducing sappiness! It’s in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas! Lorelai sang it to Luke! But most of all, it’s Dolly! Need I say more? (Fail if you answered “yes” to that). [Dolly is love. Perhaps all one needs for V-Day is Dolly singing this song. Too bad about that other version, Dolly doesn’t get the play she deserves.—Cric]

Dave Matthews Band, “Two Step” — A friend of ours once expressed surprise to hear Dave Matthews playing in “the car of a Troubadour”. And I’ll admit that I’ve been mocked for my Dave love, but you know what? This is the band that made me love music in a way I just hadn’t before. And this is the song that made me love the band. It’s been over ten years since the first time I heard it, but the lyrics, Hey, my love, you came to me like wine comes to this mouth/ Grown tired of water all the time/ You quench my heart and you quench my mind still makes me sigh and feel a little swoony. I’m hard-pressed to find someone better with the dead sexy lyrics than Dave.

And, on that note, I’ll turn it over to Cricket!

The hardest thing for me here was not picking a bazillion songs about hideous, horrible, gut-wrenching heartbreak. [For me it was not picking all Lucero songs, which is kind of the same thing…—Daisy] Partly because I hate Valentine’s Day and partly, well, you know, if you ever read the site before, I love the gut-wrenching heartbreak songs. I tried to get some joy in here for y’all, but bear with me through the heartbreak, yeah?

Tom Waits, “I Hope I Don’t Fall in Love with You” — The first time I heard this song was twenty years ago (oh fuck me, really? that long?) in the midst of some teenage angst. I’d long since worn out my copy of the Violent Femmes self-titled album and was feeling around for something else to reflect my inner teenage heartbreak, loneliness and suffering. Digging through my dad’s vinyl collection I came up with big daddy Tom Waits. I was completely sold. Even today the song pulls emotions out of the dark parts of me I have been ignoring for so long. The song’s character who would rather suffer than risk rejection, who seems so hopeful at the beginning and so pathetically lonely at the end. You can’t help but fall into his fantasy and his emptiness at the end. If Tom Waits isn’t your thing (and really if you don’t dig this old Tom Waits, don’t tell, ’cause I’d hate to have to cut you), Amy Rigby’s “Knapsack” and Hayes Carll’s “Love at First Sight” both do an incredible job telling an original, new version of the same story.

Todd Snider, “Lonely Girl” — This song is like the antithesis to Wait’s, “Hope I Don’t Fall in Love with You.” We start the story with the lonely girl, alone, smoking, but wait!! There’s a lonely boy looking for a girl just like her! He thinks she’s the only girl for him. Oh joy! Rapture! They can run off and make lonely little babies who smoke cigarettes and are full of their own regrets!! It’s a beautiful love story. Okay, I confess, I know this was flip, but in fact this is one of my favorite songs ever. It strikes just the right tone in the music to make you feel the ache and longing of the characters in the song. And I can’t speak for everyone, but for me, yeah, I am lonely sometimes and waiting for that someone to come along and think I’m perfect. It’s almost as if the song was written as a hopeful poem just for me. Of course I feel that way about 90% of the songs I review here.

Amy Rigby, “Wait ‘Til I Get You Home” — This song is about sex. Yay! But it really is perfect love song. It’s perfectly that moment when you are settled and comfortable with someone but still so in love that you can’t keep your hands off each other. She paints a detailed picture of that swoony feeling of watching your lover and not yet being able to put your hands on them because of silly impediments like being in public. The song is so well balanced with a bouncy, clean bit of rock and roll behind it. You can feel in the music that hopped up, heart beating a little faster feeling of the anticipation of being alone with your own sweet baby. (Also, check it, Amy is blogging!)

Steve Earle, “I Thought You Should Know” — “I won’t tell you I don’t need you tonight.” Oh ♥Steve♥. I think we’ve all been there. Can’t even go there for more than a night because your heart is still so broken. It’s a love song and heart break song, and dirty one night stand, and romantic bit of new love all wrapped up in one. The part here that completely kills me is the:

I promise that I’ll do my best
To give you everything I got to give
And keep your secrets for as long as I live

It’s so sadly hopeful, it just breaks me every time. ♥Steve♥ is the master of the break-up song. It was a huge toss up between this song and “More Than I Can Do” (the ultimate stalker song, “just because you won’t unlock your door…”). [Yes, I almost picked this song, too, but I figured I could count on you for some Steve love.—Daisy]

Doug Sahm, “Talk to Me” — This song is a sweet, end of the night dance with the person you know you want to spend the rest of your life with. It’s looking beautiful, having the perfect dinner, a long slow dance by candle light and walking home, warm, in the moonlight. The song is Valentine’s Day, or at least what on would hope for it, if they were going to have ridiculously high expectations. As far as I am concerned Sahm is one of the original hardcore troubadours. Indeed, now that I’m thinking about it, maybe I’ll spend the entirety of V-Day listing to the man. “Talk to Me” is the perfect timeless, bit of romance for the day, for sure, so if you only listen to one song from this whole list, make it this one.

Johnny Cash & June Carter, “Pack Up Your Sorrows” — Right, like I was going to let love songs go by with out pulling out my man Johnny. And Johnny & June? Is there anything more romantic in country music? [Or the world?—Daisy] I have equal love for this version of the song, and the original by Richard & Mimi Farina, but the J&J version is happier some how. The instrumentation perhaps, being more country and less folky? Hard to pin down why. I so wholly embrace the sentiment here, lifting your lover’s burdens. It’s impossible and surely never works, but the idea of loving someone so much that you want to save them like that is romance.

Merle Haggard, “Wouldn’t That Be Something” — I can’t decide if I want the version from the recent Bluegrass Sessions or the one off 5:01 Blues. I’ve listened to them both back to back a couple times and I love the twangy, brilliant, albeit dated sound of the latter one, as it has a roughness, sort of an incredulousness to the lyrics, like he can’t quite believe the possibilities of lasting love, of changing love, of lost love found again. The newer version is musically more beautiful, but lacks the sense of surprise, it’s almost like Merle is singing it now knowing that all the possibilities are out there and all contain both pain and joy and he’s waiting to hear about you discovering it for yourself. So go on, listen to both and then go out and discover the possibilities for yourself on this day of love. So what if it could all fall apart, without love there’d be no country music and then where would we be? [Vancouver?—Daisy]