May 24, 2020

Dear Hope Nation,

It’s a beautiful day! So beautiful that as soon as I’m done with this I’m going outside to turn some of this pasty white skin of mine into a shining lobster-like red. You can see the results tonight at Derryfield Park from 5 to 6 for a Pop-Up All-Recovery meeting.

This time away from people has reminded me how much I love music, or at least the music I’ve loved and somehow forgotten. In no particular order, here are five of my favorite singers or singer/songwriters, along with three or four favorite songs and an album to welcome you into the fold.

  • I really like Sam Phillips (no, not that Sam Phillips, not the music producer responsible for the early work of Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis and Roy Orbison). I really like Sam Phillips, the criminally underrated singer/songwriter. If you’re not familiar with her, shame on you.  You’ve likely never heard of her—except maybe as T-Bone Burnett’s ex-wife. (I laughed out loud when I read that last sentence. In my Private Idaho, T-Bone Burnett is a real celebrity.)

Sam Phillips Album to Start With: “The Indescribable Wow”
Three or Four Songs:
“What Do I Do”
“River of Love”
“I Dreamed I Stopped Dreaming”

  • For the last 20 years, Ani DiFranco has been my go-to artist when I’m both angry and sad at the same time, an odd combination, but one that commonly floats through me. The first album I was exposed to was “Living in Clip,” a live album that sears with sadness and collapses into anger.

Ani DiFranco Album to Start With: “Little Plastic Castle”
Three or Four Songs:
“Angry Any More”
“Not a Pretty Girl”

  • I’ve loved Jill Sobule since the mid-90’s when she had a minor hit with her song “I Kissed a Girl.” No, not THAT “I Kissed a Girl” by Katy Perry, the one 15 years earlier and, honestly, way better. Sobule is much more than a novelty-song writer, and each of the songs below demonstrates that clearly.

Jill Sobule Album to Start With: “Jill Sobule”
Three or Four (or Five) Songs:
“Don’t Let Us Get Sick”
“Somewhere in New Mexico”
“Resistance Song”
“Now that I Don’t Have You”
“Nothing to Prove”

  • Certain albums have kept me alive during very dark days indeed. After my 12-year marriage broke up in 2000, two particular albums became water wings to keep my head above water. One was Tonio K’s “Yugoslavia,” about which and about whom I’ve written a lot elsewhere. The other was Dar Williams’ “End of the Summer.”

Dar Williams Album to Start With: “End of the Summer”
Three or Four (or Five) Songs:
“The Christians and the Pagans”
“What Do You Hear in these Sounds?”
“The End of the Summer”
“When I was a Boy”
“I am the One Who Will Remember Everything”

  • I don’t remember when Bettye LaVette came into my life, probably because her voice and her intelligent delivery seem like they must have been here all along. She is, and I know this is heresy, the absolute best interpreter of Bob Dylan’s catalog. Her versions of anything she sings have become my definitive, canonical recordings.

Bettye LaVette Album to Start With: “Things Have Changed”
Three or Four Songs:
“Until the Money Came”
“Don’t Fall apart on Me Tonight”
“Going, Going Gone”
or any song she chooses to sing any time and any place.

Maybe I’ll see you tonight, and we can swap some singers and songs that have meant a lot to us. I’d like that. If not tonight, please check Facebook or the Hope web site for other Pop-Up All-Recovery Meetings. No matter what, please remember

You matter. I matter. We matter.


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