- A Kitty in the Henhouse
- Chicken Scratches and Other Writing Tips
- Eye Candy
- Happenings at the Henhouse
- Music of the Coop
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- Squawk Authors: Latest and Greatest Books
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- Squawk's Favorite Books
- Stranger Than Fiction (Real Life)
- Teresa Reveals the CONFESSIONS OF A TRUE ROMANTIC
- CHRISTINA DODD HAS A TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE, NO GOOD, VERY BAD DAY
- Christina Dodd Exposes the Glamour of Booktour
- Christina Dodd Treats You to an Extra Excerpt of IN BED WITH THE DUKE!
- GIRLFRIENDS JUST WANT TO HAVE FUN Contest!
- Connie Brockway Posts Incriminating New Video
- SPOIL ME! BY CELEBRATING THE GOLDEN SEASON’S PUB DATE, TODAY!
- Teresa Says It Loud and Says It Proud: I WRITE ROMANCE NOVELS!!!
- CHRISTINA DODD SAYS “IT’S CHRISTMAS! DUCK!”
- Teresa Needs Your Help to Choose the SEXIEST MAN DEAD!
Carla Bruni is a woman of many talents. And also many languages. First noted for being an Italian supermodel, she’s now making her name as a French chanteuse, but you can read her web site in English. (She was born in Turin but moved to Paris when she was seven.) “Quelqu’un Ma Dit” (“Somebody Told Me”) is her first album, and I sincerely hope it’s the first of many. Not only does she sing and play guitar beautifully, but she’s the author or co-author of the majority of songs on the album, and they’re all excellent.
I’ve been adding a lot of French music to my iPod lately, thanks to a brief, brilliant scene in “Talladega Nights” (yes, there were many such scenes in that movie) where the French driver is in his race car with a French version of “Paint It Black” playing in the background. And I’ve discovered via iTunes that the French have created A LOT of really cool music. Carla Bruni is just the latest installment.
I guess you could classify “Quelqu’un Ma Dit” as Folk, or maybe French Pop, but to me, it’s more a matter of A Woman and Her Guitar. There’s so much intimacy in the music, it’s almost as if you’re reading the paper in your living room while the woman who lives in the apartment upstairs is practicing her guitar--and sounding fabulous doing it. Bruni is just that comfortable with the instrument and the music. Not to mention enormously talented.
There’s a definite jazzy feel to some of the songs, and some are just fun and playful. Like “Raphael,” in which Bruni sings the praises of the letters in her lover’s/husband’s name. And the last song in the collection, “La Derniere Minute” (“The Last Minute”), which is a minute in length, has a quick, desperate feel to it, just as a last minute should. “Le Toi du Moi” is peppered with some Spanish-sounding guitar, while “L’Excessive” has a distinctive ‘60s feel to it.
Alas, with the songs sung in French, I’m not always clear on what Bruni is singing about, even with what’s left of my high school and college French. But I love what I read on her web site about her lyrics: “The expression of the female libido is not something that Bruni will shy away from. Perhaps more important than her candour is a desire to reverse sexual archetypes. Woman can behold man. Woman can appreciate man’s beauty. Woman can be subject.”
Sounds good to me.
Overall, “Quelqu’un Ma Dit” is a leisurely, mellow, acoustic walk through Paris. Listening to it, you feel like you’re sipping espresso in a sidewalk cafe, probably wearing a beret and talking to someone named Didier. Hey, with my limited vacation budget, I’ll take it.
Joe Purdy is another one of those artists who are hard to classify. Kinda rocky, kinda folky, a bit country in places, even a little bluesy here and there. I first heard him when one of his songs, “Wash Away” from the album “Julie Blue,” was used to close an episode of “Lost” rather poignantly. Ultimately, I downloaded both “Julie Blue” and “Only Four Seasons” after sampling each on iTunes. I chose “Only Four Seasons” for the blog because A) it’s the newer of the two, and B) it’s more complicated and varied. (Interestingly, this was the first time I downloaded complete albums from iTunes. It will also be the last. Belatedly, I realize I have no liner notes or lyrics to consult when I do that.)
The best way to describe this CD, I think, is to say it’s what would probably result if you took a little Springsteen during his “Nebraska” phase and mixed it with a little bit of The Band, then sprinkled it with some Robert Cray and dipped it in Nick Drake. (And “Julie Blue” reminds me a lot of Nick Drake’s “Pink Moon,” on which I blogged some time back.)
Much of the album consists of slow slongs, contemplative numbers like “Suitcase” and “Andrea,” and others that are more straightforward like “Look at You Now” and “Falling Down.” My favorite, though, is probably “Why Do I,” a strangely intimate song that showcases Purdy’s papery voice beautifully. And yeah, okay, because there are lyrics like, “Why do I stay out drinkin’/When I should just get back home/I got some company with strangers/It’s better than drinkin’ alone,” which speak to the bartender in me. And I like “Why You” a lot, too, because of the bluesy guitar on that one.
There are more upbeat numbers, too, however, like “The City,” which opens the CD and captures the feel of the city nicely, and “Cinderella and The A Train,” which sounds urban but actually has more of a country feel to it, right down to the harmonica riffs. In fact, every song has something notable to recommend it, and each is different from the one before while still maintaining a specific, and very nice, mood throughout.
Lyrically, the collection is lovely. Even poetic in places. There are songs of heartbreak and loneliness, songs of anger and bitterness, others that are melancholy, and some that are hopeful. And, of course, there are songs of love--both lost and found.
It’s a great CD for driving during the fall (it was one I listened to yesterday as I drove to a booksigning that was ninety minutes away), or for firelit evenings, or for sipping wine on the deck on a cool night. Mellow, moody, and moving. (I’d recommend investigating “Julie Blue,” too.)
I’ve wanted to blog on the Pogues for a long time, but it was really, really, really hard to narrow it down to one album, because everything this band has done has been phenomenally good. So I finally settled on one of several “best of” CDs that they’ve released. And the reason I chose this one is because it includes my two favorite songs by them, “Sally McLennane” and “Sick Bed of Cuchulain.” The fact that “Fairy Tale of New York” (on which the amazing Kirsty MacColl joins them) also appears, is an excellent bonus.
The collection starts off deceptively, with “Dirty Old Town,” a slow, sad-sounding number that might lead the listener to believe s/he’d purchased an album of traditional Irish folk music. But the beauty of the Pogues is that singer/songwriter/poet Shane MacGowan turns tradition on its ear with his in-your-face, often very angry lyrics. The second song, “The Irish Rover,” picks up the pace nicely, but still doesn’t quite capture what is the truest sound of the band. That comes next with “Sally McLenane,” which combines this joyful, danceable music with lyrics about death and alienation, and then comes to fruition with “Sick Bed of Cuchulain,” whose lyrics are much more graphic: “When you pissed yourself in Frankfurt and got syph down in Cologne/And you heard the rattling death trains as you lay there all alone...”
And that, really, is the Pogues. You have music that is centuries old, the purest kind of acoustic folk ever produced in Ireland, right down to the fifes and drums. And then you have the lyrics. Yeah, Irish music can be sad and angry. But the Pogues don’t even try to romanticize the bleakness and ugliness that life can bring. “The Old Main Drag” depicts a grim world of junkies, and “Hell’s Ditch” shows us a side of prison life nobody wants to talk about.
But not all of it is hopeless, and not all of it is ugly. Some of the songs, like “Misty Morning, Albert Bridge” and “London Girl” have music and lyrics are genuinely beautiful and melancholy. And much of their oeuvre is representative of not just the Irish experience, but the human experience. (Though certainly the band is a strong voice for what its countrymen and -women have survived.) The CD is a bit uneven in the way it moves from slow to fast, so that you never quite feel like you get a rhythm going, but then, that would probably suit the Pogues just fine. I’m thinkin’ they wouldn’t want listeners to get too comfortable.