Song of the Day, July 20: I Thought That We Said Goodbye by Teddy Thompson and Kelly Jones

ThompsonJonesGoodbyeToday’s song is standout on a charming mini-masterpiece. After a couple of years of occasional harmonizing at each other’s shows, Teddy Thompson and Kelly Jones got together to record an album. The result, Little Windows, is a delightful half hour of country-tinged pop. The pair’s harmonies are flawless and their pop approaches blend nicely.

The songs are a mix of romantic joy and heartbreak. Landing on the darker side between the two is one of the best, I Thought That We Said Goodbye. The couple telling the tale both know that the romance is over, but somehow they can’t manage to bring things to a close. Quietly intoned over an aching acoustic guitar, it’s a perfect package.

Enjoy this sad gem today.


Song of the Day, July 19: She Thinks I Still Care

StillCareJonesToday’s song is a country classic. Dickey Lee and Steve Duffy wrote She Thinks I Still Care in 1961 when they were under contract to producer Jack Clement. He was working closely with George Jones, and thought the song was a perfect fit. Jones disagreed, put off by “the number of ‘just becauses'” in it. Clement persevered, and in the end Jones relented. The result was a #1 Country smash that became a standard.

StillCareJTOver the years, dozens of artists have covered the song. Many female singers have transformed it into He Thinks I Still Care, including Connie Francis and Anne Murray, who both had chart success with it. Elvis gained airplay when he chose it as the B-side of his country hit Moody Blue. Other covers include versions by artists as diverse as Merle Haggard, Michael Nesmith, Kirsty MacColl, and Patty Loveless. James Taylor frequently performed the song in concert and included a flawlessly aching version on his delightful 1993 live album.

TeddyUpFrontMy favorite version was recorded by Teddy Thompson. His 2007 album Upfront & Down Low is set of classic country covers, a smart choice for his wistful vocals and musical inclinations. He makes the most of the pretending-not-to-care lyrics, using his vocal range to nice effect and investing an old classic with charming new energy.

Enjoy this recent addition to an amazing array of versions today.

Song of the Day, June 30: Never Knew You Loved Me Too by Teddy Thompson & Kelly Jones

ThompsonJonesToday’s song kicks off a delightful pop partnership. Musicians Teddy Thompson and Kelly Jones struck up a friendship built on their shared love of classic pop-country music, especially the short bursts of joy and passion that filled the airwaves in the late 50s through mid 60s. They sang together at a few events and decided to record an album. The result, Little Windows, is a flawless half hour of infectious, emotive music.

The disc opens with one of its strongest moments, Never Knew You Loved Me Too. The singers launch the track with an a cappella recitation of the title, a perfect blast of pop joy. It’s a deceptively simple friends-finding-love song, with smart playing and gorgeous harmonies. Thompson and Jones convey the wonderful surprise of two people discovering that they share deeper feelings, making the emotion clear with every note.

Enjoy this delightful song today.

Album of the Week, June 5: Little Windows by Teddy Thompson & Kelly Jones

ThompsonJonesTwo great sounds that sound great together! After a decade of steady, strong releases, second-generation folk-pop singer Teddy Thompson slowed his output and focused on supporting his mother’s comeback and producing a family collaboration. Power pop songstress Kelly Jones heard Thompson on the radio in 2011, then ran into him around L.A. She thought they might sound good as a team, so they tried out classic George Jones on stage. The result was magical, and the pair began writing together. With the support of regular Jones collaborator Mike Viola and Nashville musician Bill DeMain, they assembled a burst of pure country-pop delight.

Album Little Windows
Act Teddy Thompson & Kelly Jones
Label Cooking Vinyl Release Date April 1, 2016
Producer Mike Viola
U.S. Chart  n/c U.K. Chart  n/c
  1. Never Knew You Loved Me Too
  2. Make A Wish On Me
  3. Better At Lying
  4. Wondering
  5. I Thought That We Said Goodbye
  6. Don’t Remind Me
  7. As You Were
  8. Only Fooling
  9. You Can’t Call Me Baby
  10. You Took My Future

In an interview with Rolling Stone, Thompson outlined the mission statement for the project.

We wanted to write an album of timeless songs with universal themes. Songs that could stand next to those of Felice and Boudleaux Bryant or Doc Pomus. Songs that can be sung alone at a piano or with a band or maybe even with an orchestra.

That will come as no surprise to fans of Thompson, who frequently cites the countrypolitan gems of the late 50s as his favorite music. Jones’ modern take on the Brill Building sound is a perfect match. Their muscial temperaments are nicely aligned as well: Thompson’s happiest songs have a wistful tone and Jones adds sparkle to her saddest moments. Their harmonies are tight and goreous in a way that usually only families can achieve. Recorded quickly, live in the studio, their warm and engaging colloaboration is magical.

Viola mans the boards for ten tracks, mostly written by Thompson, Jones, and DeMain. A crack band — Attraction Pete Thomas on drums, Davey Faraghar on bass, Daniel Clarke on piano and organ, and Stevie Elliot on electric guitar — support the sublime vocals, with acoustic guitar from Thompson.

Things open with a joyful vocal burst. Never Knew You Loved Me Too is a perfect love-as-surprise pop number. Make A Wish On Me blends a series of wishing metaphors with sparkling vocals and a wonderful organ line. It’s a standout of the disc, and this live version shows off the pair’s harmonies in fine style. With Better at Lying things get a bit darker. Thomas’ drumming is flawless as the singers ponder romance gone wrong. Wondering features Jones’ strongest lead with a great honky-tonk guitar on a do-we-feel-the-same gem. The pondering gets more serious on I Thought That We Said Goodbye. The romance is over, but somehow the couple can’t quite let go. The track is a smart, dark masterpiece.

Don’t Remind Me flows perfectly from there, keeping the sorroful groove running. A swaying rhythm section and lovely piano line anchor the wistful As You Were with the singers showcasing their full harmonic range. A buzzing bass provides the foundation for Only Fooling, a sauntering is-it-really-over song. You Can’t Call Me Baby is a nice kiss-off, a cheerful reminder that the one who leaves must “use my proper name.” The disc wraps up with the pensive You Took My Future, a sweet sad goodbye.

Clocking in at barely 28 minutes, Little Windows does what pop does best. It hooks you, delights you, and leaves you wanting more.

Song of the Day, December 21: That’s Enough by Thompson

ThompsonFamilyEnoughToday’s song is a great piece of protest folk from an unexpected family reunion. Teddy Thompson asked all the members of his musical family to contribute a couple of songs to a shared project. He assembled all the pieces, building a remarkably cohesive album that he aptly named Family.

One of the strongest moments is a track written and sung by his father, Richard Thompson. That’s Enough is a straightforward protest song, a call to action for the 99% who “still keep falling for the same old lies.” Richard gets things rolling with an urgent verse, then the whole family joins in for the chorus. It’s a wonderful delivery of a powerful message.

Enjoy this amazing song today, both in its original version and in a stirring live performance.

Song of the Day, July 6: Perhaps We Can Sleep by Thompson

Linda_Thompson_photographer_Annabel_VereToday’s song is a standout track from the Thompson family’s 2014 collaboration. Teddy Thompson curated the ten tracks submitted by his parents, siblings, and nephew, building a wonderful testament to their diverse talents. Aptly titled Family, it features some of the strongest songs in their impressive catalogs.

Teddy wrote this song with his mother, Linda. She turns in one of her finest vocals ever, quite an accomplishment. Fragile but strong, it’s a quietly moving track, driven by Teddy’s sympathetic piano. In a family that’s had its share of public drama, the song is cautiously optimistic, hoping for a resolution to past troubles and dreaming of a brighter future.

Enjoy this beautiful song today.

Song of the Day, April 9: What’s This?!! by Teddy Thompson

TeddyWhatsThisToday’s song is a snapshot of a cynic’s comeuppance. After two albums of solid folky pop and a smart set of country covers, Teddy Thompson presented his most rock-oriented set on his fourth album, A Piece of What You Need. Lyrically, he maintains his familiar territory, dissecting the highs and lows of personal politics. The music is more energetic, however, with a great pop polish that enhances the delivery without dulling the edges.

The sound is more upbeat, and in this case the lyrics follow suit. The singer is clearly startled to discover himself experiencing domestic bliss.

What’s this, what’s this, am I happy or something?
Oh shit, oh shit, am I happy or something?
Is it you, is it me, is it us, is it we?
Uh oh

The internal monologue races round and round as he ponders the risks of commitment, recognizes his instinct to bolt, and urges himself to stick it out. Thompson’s delivery is delightful and he’s in fine voice, making the most of his range to emphasize the mental journey. It’s a fun, smart track and a highlight of the singer’s career so far.

Enjoy this great song today.

My Favorite Albums of 2014

Last year was a good one for music, producing more truly enjoyable albums than I’ve heard in a while. Here are the seven discs that rose above the pack for me — a nice mix of veterans, newcomers, and acts settled into a solid groove.

OysterDiamondThe champ of the year was Oysterband with their stunning Diamonds On the Water. Together in various forms for over 35 years, the Oysters released their 25th album early in the year. I was delighted to hear its energy and power. Maybe reuniting with June Tabor a couple of years ago gave them a shot in the arm; it certainly gave her some great new energy too. Whatever the case, this is the band’s finest work in 20 years. Smart lyrics, tight playing, social commentary, and music with real heart all combine over 12 tracks without anything close to a dull moment. Highlights include the moving Steal Away, the anthemic Spirit of Dust and the haunting Palace of Memory.

The other six offer very different musical approaches, each with its own distinctive charm.

ColeStandardsLloyd Cole – Standards: Another long-time favorite resurfaces with his best album in many years. Cole has turned out a steady stream of quality albums; his more recent offerings have been more acoustic, folky discs. For this ironically titled disc (all but one song are originals), he plugs back in, reuniting with collaborators Fred Maher, Matthew Sweet, and Blair Cowan. The result is a fresh, inspired set that finds the acerbic sage at his witty finest. Highlights include the John Hartford / Mama Cass cover California Earthquake, Myrtle and Rose and Opposites Day.

GEzraVoyageGeorge Ezra – Wanted On Voyage: A fresh new talent from England, George Ezra Bennett moved to Bristol, dropped his surname, and launched a promising career. He landed on the BBC Introducing stage at Glastonbury and parlayed that success into a record deal. After two promising EPs, he assembled a team that helped him pursue his musical vision. Gifted with an almost surreally deep voice, he knows how to use it to great effect, exploring his range while presenting a nice set of pop songs. Highlights include the frustration ode Cassy O’, the gospel-tinged Did You Hear the Rain? and the clever pop gem Blame It On Me.

IngridLightsIngrid Michaelson – Lights Out: Michaelson has been turning out charming, often quirky folk-pop for a decade, working hard to maintain her independence while receiving signficant airplay through TV and other venues. Her sixth album sees her take a quantum leap, with stronger lyrics, more varied soundscapes, and more confident vocals. She invited a number of friends to the party, and the half-dozen co-credits enhance rather than distract. Kicking off the release with the brilliant Robert Palmer inspired video for her best song ever, Girls Chase Boys, Michaelson has emerged as a unique, mature artist. Other highlights are the wistful Stick and the boisterous regret anthem Time Machine.

PerfumeGeniusTooBrightPerfume Genius – Too Bright: Mike Hadreas’ first album was the quietly promising Learning, followed by the stunning Put Your Back N 2 It. For his third release as Perfume Genius, he really diversifies the sound. The result is much more uneven than the previous discs, and that inconsistency almost kept Too Bright off my list. When it’s on, however, it’s a powerhouse, and he deserves praise for stepping out of his comfort zone and experimenting with his sound. It’s also much less introspective, a nice evolution in writing and perspective. Highlights include the bold, angry anthem Queen; the eerie worldbeat tale Longpig; and the stirring, jarring Grid.

RailsWarningThe Rails – Fair Warning: Kami Thompson and James Walbourne have two impressive but very different resumes. She’s the daughter of folk rock legends Richard and Linda Thompson who has eased into her own impressive career. He’s a talented guitarist and songwriter who has been a member of Son Volt and the Pernice Brothers. Each performer released a fine solo album before they began collaborating. They got married and started a band, and their debut joint effort is stunning, a powerful mix of folk-pop, traditional songs, and grim rock. Highlights include the gripping Panic Attack Blues, an enchanting version of the traditional William Taylor, and the quietly urgent Breakneck Speed.

ThompsonFamilyThompson – Family: Thompson and Walbourne had a busy year, also participating in this aptly named project. Curated by Kami’s brother, Teddy, the album features contributions from all three talented performers as well as parents Richard and Linda (sharing their first full album credit in over 30 years), brother Jack, and nephew Zak Hobbs, plus James’ brother Rob on percussion and occasional moments from other family members. The result is a delightful assortment that is remarkably cohesive. Highlights include Teddy’s rave-up Right, Linda’s fragile Perhaps We Can Sleep, Kami and James’ Careful (which sounds like a brilliant Rails outtake with extra energy from the family), and Richard’s rousing protest number That’s Enough which features a nice singalong chorus from the extended family.

Song of the Day, September 11: Pink Moon by Nick Drake

DrakePinkSingleToday’s song unexpectedly launched a massive posthumous career. After Nick Drake recorded his stark, brilliant third album, Pink Moon, he retreated further than ever from the public eye. He died two years later, leaving behind a beautiful, fragile legacy that influenced many 80s alternative musicians but sold in the low thousands. His catalog gained some traction when the Dream Academy released their hit single Life In A Northern Town [#7, 1986], dedicated to him. A dozen years later, however, everything broke loose.

In 1999, Volkswagen boldly introduced an ad for the Cabriolet on the Internet, one of the first major ad campaigns so launched. The campaign was called “Milky Way” and the first ad featured a simple, haunting soundtrack — the title track from Drake’s final album. The mashup was flawless and demand for Drake’s work went through the roof. Since then, his albums have received nice repackagings, attained much better sales, and appeared on numerous best-of lists.

A plain guitar-and-vocal track with naturalistic imagery and a whisper-sung lyric, it’s a perfect introduction to Drake’s work, catchy and mysterious all at once. Enjoy this lovely song today.

Ten years later, producer Joe Boyd and arranger Robert Kirby — who worked on Drake’s first two albums — staged a tribute concert and tour with a number of musicians. This resulted in a solid album of Drake covers entitled Way to Blue. While Drake’s songs are very personal, they lend themselves to good covers when sensitively handled. Teddy Thompson and Krystle Warren turned in a stunning reworking of Pink Moon. Their vocals blend seamlessly and Thompson’s guitar work is wonderful. Enjoy this loving tribute as well.

Song of the Day, August 5: Tell Me What You Want by Teddy Thompson and Jenni Muldaur

TeddyJenniWantToday’s song is Tell Me What You Want. Teddy Thompson wrote it for his charming fifth album, Bella. It’s a call-and-response duet, with one singer pledging true love while the other is skeptical of those promises. For the female vocal, Thompson picked long-time friend Jenni Muldaur. Like him, she’s a next-generation singer, the daughter of Maria Muldaur of Midnight At the Oasis fame. Their voices flow together seamlessly and their interplay is flawless.

Baby, tell me what you want
I’ll do anything you want
I want a love that can be true
Someone who’ll love me through and throughBaby, I can give you that
No problem, oh, I can give you that
Well yeah, you said that once before
And then you walked right out my door

Enjoy this perfect pop gem today.

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