Posts Tagged ‘I’m on Fire’

“Tucson Train,” the latest tune released from Bruce Springsteen’s forthcoming Western Stars album, is another trek through the windswept sounds of a distant era. Like “Hello Sunshine,” it conjures the Jimmy Webb-penned classics of Glen Campbell, this time while spinning the tale of a man who fled his life in San Francisco in order to save himself from himself: “I come here looking for a new life/one I wouldn’t have to explain/to that voice that keeps me awake at night/when a little peace would make everything right.”

And, with that, here’s today’s Top 5: Boss Sounds.

1) Caroline Spence – “Racing in the Streets.” Caroline Spence’s Mint Condition (which, due to time constraints, I’ve yet to review) is as stunning and strong an album as I’ve heard all year. Here she is, two years back…

2) Nichole Wagner – “Tougher Than the Rest.” The Austin-based singer-songwriter recently released last year’s and the sky caught fire on vinyl – it comes with a cool baseball card, and is well worth the investment. Likewise, this understated performance of the Tunnel of Love tune is well worth a listen:

3) Steve Earle & the Dukes – “State Trooper.” Is this the greatest cover of a Bruce song? Perhaps not, but it definitely ranks near the top. (That said, if Jade Bird ever covers this Nebraska song, that rendition is sure bet to become the best ever.) 

4) LeAnn Rimes – “Secret Garden.” LeAnn is anything but blue during this mesmerizing spin on the oft-forgotten (at least be me) Springsteen song.

5) Soccer Mommy – “I’m on Fire.” Although not as mesmerizing a performance as the Staves’, this is a solid cover that’s grown on me.

 

Every so often, I stumble upon an artist who just blows me away. Such is the case with Dutch singer-songwriter Jane Willow, who relocated to Dublin some seven years ago. She reached out to me a few weeks back – and wow. Just wow. One listen to her first single “On My Mind,” which was released in November of 2017, floored me. She counts Nick Drake, Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen as influences, and they’re all evident, but I also hear strains of Van Morrison and Sandy Denny.

Her cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m on Fire,” which she posted to her YouTube channel late last year as part of an effort to fund her debut E.P., is likewise hypnotic. (If all goes according to plan, that E.P. should see the light of day this November. Visit her website for more information.) Of “I’m on Fire”: Check out the moment, at a little past two minutes in, when her voice trails off. It’s riveting.

Today sees the release of her sophomore single, “Onward Still.” It’s about pursuing one’s dreams and destiny, aka self-made fate, and is deceptively profound: “The future had no shape/before you made it take its form…” Like “On My Mind,” it’s mesmerizing. Check it out:

Me being me, after listening to both of those tracks, “I’m on Fire” and other clips, I couldn’t help but to ask Jane a few questions…

Did you grow up in a musical household?

Yes my dad plays the guitar and my mom sings in a choir. My grandfather wrote poems in 

English, while my uncle would turn these poems into songs. My music taste in my childhood left much to be desired, though. It wasn’t until I was 17 and discovered the Beatles and the American YouTube musician Terra Naomi that my music taste started changing – her songwriting was so genuine and her voice was so amazing. I recall I wanted to be like her at the time. But it wasn’t until I was 21 that I discovered Nick Drake, Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen, all of whom really shaped my sound.

How old were you when you began singing?

I’m told I started singing before I could talk at age 2. As a child I also used to present fake radio shows on my Sony cassette recorder. (Thank God I stopped doing that.) 

When I was 18 I applied for rock school as a singer but was told I couldn’t sing and should pursue songwriting. Then, at age 19, I got into rock school as a songwriter and got some lovely grades for my songwriting. Truth be told, I think my English lyrics were appalling and my singing was hit and miss. 

But I think all that changed once I realized I could express real emotion in my music, and that it could transport me to a place where I felt safe and understood. It took another few years, but I think I’ve now “fallen into” a voice and songwriting style that sounds like me. It still doesn’t mean I’m a great singer or songwriter, it just means I do what I feel I should be doing. I think people somehow gravitate to people that are real and honest in their music. I have to say I have been very moved by the response to my music now.

You took up songwriting and playing the guitar at age 17. What inspired you to do so? (Some singers never think of doing either.)

The YouTube musician Terra Naomi and the Beatles inspired me to write songs and play the guitar. Back then, I heard my dad play this version of the Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby” on the guitar. I loved the way he played it and wanted to learn it on the guitar, too. I think I learned this book full of Beatles songs in a few months time. But long before I even knew how to play the guitar, I would write songs. I enjoyed it.

What led you to move to Ireland to pursue a music career?

To be honest, I think I needed a change. I was in rock school and I was told I was a great songwriter but not allowed to continue to the next year. I was heartbroken. Then I found out about Dublin, that people busk on the streets there, that people play music in Whelan’s until six in the morning. I thought I’d give music another go, but instead of sitting in music college all day, I’d actually play gigs as much as I could. It was by far the roughest year in my life, dealing with depression, while having no friends, no money and no real plan other than to play music. But I’m so glad I moved to Ireland. I think fear is the catharsis of courage and strength. You just have walk through it.

You cite Nick Drake, Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen as influences. What draws you to their music? 

Their music feels real to me. Sometimes they hide behind some lyrical and melodic intellect, but they always reveal enough about themselves to keep me connected. When you listen to their music it feels like as if you know them personally. That’s a rare quality in songwriting.

What is the first album you purchased?

Hilary Duff. This is the part of my life I was hoping not to discuss – ha!

What is the last album you bought?

I don’t buy albums anymore. I prefer to go to gigs and support the artists in that way. 

What album(s) would you call your North Star and why? (Something that you never tire of, and turn to in both good and bad times.)

Anything Nick Drake. His music always managed to uplift my spirit. I so wish I’d known him.

Do you prefer digital/streaming, CDs or vinyl?

 I stream. But recently I got really into listening to the radio. There’s a few late night radio shows I’m hooked on.

Do you get a chance to go to concerts? What are a few of the more memorable ones you’ve been to?

I’ve never seen Leonard Cohen, but I did get to see Paul Simon and Paul McCartney. They were lovely. Most memorable was recently when I saw Bedouine. Just her, her guitar and her incredible songs. Stunning.

It’s early morn on Thanksgiving Day as I write and, all through the house, not a creature is stirring – aside from the feline who’s stalked me since his breakfast at dawn. Just now, he poked his head up beside me and bellowed a mew. It’s his version of “please, sir, may I have some more?” but instead of “sir” it’s “serf,” and he’s added and subtracted a few other words, too. “Serf, I want seconds. Now!”

I jest, of course.

Thanksgiving is, as its name makes clear, a time for giving thanks, and there’s much to be thankful for this year, as there is every year, even though – as a whole – 2017 will go down in the history books as one of the all-time worst. It sometimes feels as if horrors from a parallel universe are bleeding into ours.

But here’s one reason (of many) to give thanks: Tomorrow, sisters Jessica, Camilla and Emily Staveley-Taylor, aka the Staves, release a new album, a collaboration with the chamber sextet yMusic titled The Way Is Read. The three tracks they’ve released to promote the project are breathtaking. “Silent Side,” which they shared last week, is aural beauty personified:

Their show at the World Cafe Live in March, I should mention, was a highlight not just of this year’s concert slate, but of all my years’ concerts. It was akin to stepping through a portal to a magical, mystical land where everything’s groovy and everything’s alright. In other words, it’s in the running for the Old Grey Cat’s esteemed Concert of the Year Honors.

One of the things I like about them, aside from their songs and vocals, is their knowledge of music past, which they obviously use to inform their music present. One can hear it in the borrowed tunes they sometimes sing – as I’ve written before, a well-chosen cover song is like a glimpse into the soul of the singer(s); and the sisters’ picks, which range from the sublime to silly, are illuminating.

Here’s today’s Top 5: The Staves – Borrowed Tunes.

1) “After the Gold Rush” (Neil Young)

2) “These Days” (Jackson Browne)

3) “A Case of You” (Joni Mitchell)

4) “I’m on Fire” (Bruce Springsteen)

5) “Long Time Gone” (Dixie Chicks)

And two bonuses…

6) “Helplessly Hoping” (Crosby, Stills & Nash)

7) “Afternoon Delight” (Starland Vocal Band)

5) Suzi Quatro & Chris Norman – “Stumblin’ In”

This was posted to a Facebook group I belong to – NHA, No-Hipsters Allowed. Great group. I remember the song fairly well from its time on the charts in 1979. Back then, I only knew Quatro as Leather Tuscadero on Happy Days, so it was something of a surprise to hear her in this cheesy context. According to Wikipedia, “Stumblin’ In” went to No. 4 on the Billboard charts – her lone Top 40 hit in the U.S. Obviously, she and Norman are having a blast lip-syncing to it, which adds to the flavor of what is, was and will always be a fluffy gem.

4) Paul McCartney & Wings – “Letting Go”

We picked up McCartney tickets this week – decent first-level seats at an exorbitant price. Which got me to thinking of the songs I hope he does when we see him. This is one (originally from Venus & Mars.)

3) The Staves – “I’m on Fire”

I’d never heard of the Staves until earlier this year, when I read a review of their new If I Was album in Mojo. I looked them up on YouTube, liked what I heard and bought it. It’s very good – they’re akin to a distaff CSN. And this cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m on Fire” is a pure, harmony-laden delight.

2) Diane Birch – “Heavy Cross”

Diane Birch tweeted this week that she’d like to release an album of Bible Belt “demos and rejects.” I’d love to see it happen. I’d love, even more, for this to be included – her take on Gossip’s “Heavy Cross” (with a little bit of Screaming’ Jay Hawkins’ “I Put a Spell on You” thrown in for good measure).

1) Paul Simon – “American Tune”

One of my favorite Paul Simon songs. A timeless metaphor for the American experience. (It’s also a song that I think Rumer should cover, as she’d do wonders with it.)