Tucked in at the end of Justin Townes Earle’s Harlem River Blues, one of the best albums of 2010 is a rousing heart-wrenching ballad “Rogers Park”. While most of the songs on the album have a celebratory jaunt in the music to contrast the lyrical mood, “Rogers Park” is a restrained mood, with an absolutely beautiful piano melody motif, and some of the best lyrics Justin Townes Earle has ever written in his career. It’s a somber pick-up from Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run tramp, starting off with the echoing words “This town’s dead tonight. I’ve got no place to be.”. An absolute profound recording with some beautiful slide guitar work.
I became a thin blue flame Polished on a mountain range And over hills and fields I flew Wrapped up in a royal blue I flew over Royal City last night A bullfighter on the horns of a new moon’s light Caesar’s ghost I saw the war-time tides The prince of Denmark’s father still and quiet And the whole world was looking to get drowned Trees were a fist shaking themselves at the clouds I looked over curtains and it was then that I knew Only a full house gonna make it through
Few songs will ever come close to Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” a brilliant ode to the problems within religion. Josh Ritter’s “Thin Blue Flame” becomes all that and more, the hushed tone in front of a live audience, the simple rhythm guitar, and the words. At times elegant and at times blunt, the prose is poetic not with a sense of cynicism, but reverence. Not many people could dot their lyrical stanzas with as many purposeful Shakespeare references as Ritter does here, as if to tell us underneath it all the world is our stage, and we the only players. The song is a long one at around 10 minutes but its a sermon that doesn’t patronize or drag, its got a ghostly power to it, and it is well worth your time.
The National are usually more for reserved fare, their arrangements wide, the tone hushed, punctuated by articulate bursts of energy in their melodies. The mood is usually kept in perfect syncopation by Berninger’s baritone musings, his lyrics styling a postmodern bent while channeling a Jack Kerouac muse. However “Wake Up Your Saints” finds The National in a completely different mode. The melody is bursting with a hopeful enthusiasm from the outset, with a bright piano punctuated by a fat baritone sax sound, and a upbeat back-beat. Even Berninger is on the up and up, staying at the higher end of his register for the entirety. This song is a wonderful addition to the National catalog, a sound that i had been quick to write them off of ever attempting.
This dapper, Mos Def lookalike is a little known commodity over here in the US, but he’s gotten big over in England. Blessed with a vocal delivery that is equal parts Bill Withers and Ray Lamontange, he is an outstanding talent and his band is as soulful and funky to match. Check out his hit I Need A Dollar on the flipside, along with some nice bonuses. As always, just right click the songs to download, but this is an artist that you should definitely support