Song of the Day, March 20: I Want to Be Here by case/lang/veirs

clvwanthereToday’s song is a magical celebration. When k.d. lang, Laura Veirs, and Neko Case combined forces as case/lang/veirs, they brough three compatible but distinct approaches to music into a lovely whole. Most of the songs are led by one of the trio, but the moments of full collaboration are even more special.

I Want to Be Here is a sort of quirky lullaby, a charming acoustic number with resonant background sounds. The three singers fuse their voices into a single instrument. It’s an amazing accomplishment, reminiscent of the finer moments of the Roches. Promising to live in the moment rather than be distracted by what might come, they offer a wonderful celebration of hope.

Enjoy this lovely song today.

Song of the Day, February 6: Atomic Number by case/lang/veirs

clvatomicToday’s song is a delightful collaboration. Singer k.d. lang was considering retiring from performing, but decided she wanted to “be part of a band, a real collaborative effort.” She emailed Neko Case and Laura Veirs about working together, and both responded quickly and enthusiastically. Their shared alt-country/folk/quirky pop approaches blended nicely — as did their voices. After some time touring together, the trio recorded the album case/lang/veirs.

The opening track sets the stage perfectly. Atomic Number feels a bit like a Neko Case track with its natural imagery, elliptical lyrics, and surging musical energy. The use of each vocalist in sequence on the opening lines, however, makes it clear that this is something special. That pattern repeats, with the trio offering magical harmonies on the chorus. Pondering “why are the wholesome things the ones we make obscene?” over beautiful strings, case/lang/veirs promises a great musical journey, a promise fulfilled over the course of the album.

Enjoy this lovely song today.

Song of the Day, July 2: Constant Craving by k.d. lang

LangCravingToday’s song is Constant Craving by k.d. lang. Over the years, lang has become as known for her social activism and strong personality as for her amazing voice. That voice, however, makes her a distinctive presence in the musical world. After emerging as a clever, quirky pioneer in the early alt-country movement, lang quickly built a reputation as a singer of great nuance and power. Her early fixation with Patsy Cline fueled her transition from more traditional country to sophisticated, lush pop, best exemplified by her transitional masterpiece, 1992’s Ingénue. The centerpiece of that album is Constant Craving, a rich, smoky ballad of need. Showing off her voice in ways only hinted at on earlier recordings, lang moves from a hushed, aching whisper to a cry of pent-up yearning.

Enjoy this powerful song today.

Song of the Day, July 21: Hallelujah written by Leonard Cohen (John Cale performance)

Today’s song is Hallelujah, written by Leonard Cohen. Originally included on his 1984 album Various Positions, the song struck a chord with the musical community and has been covered dozens of times by a wide variety of artists. Cohen has stated that “many different hallelujahs exist” referring to the amazing diversity of interpretation the deceptively simple song has received. There are also a number of lyrical variations performed.

Ironically most of the famous versions use lyrics that differ noticeably from Cohen’s original recording. When John Cale decided to perform the song for the 1991 Cohen tribute album I’m Your Fan, he asked Cohen for the lyrics and was promptly faxed 15 pages. He picked out what he considered the “cheeky” bits and recorded the version that is the basis for most later covers.

This is one of my very favorite songs, one I’ve loved since long before the glut of Hallelujahs over the past decade. I have wonderful versions in my collection by Cale, Cohen, Jeff Buckley, Alison Crowe, k.d. lang, Justin Timberlake, Rufus Wainwright, and Kathryn Williams. Buckleys’ is famously sublime and Wainwright’s is beautifully sneaky. My favorite, however is the stark, elegant reading by John Cale. Enjoy his masterful interpretation of this enduring song today.

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