Category Archives: Lyrics

With every lesson learned a line upon your beautiful face

A summary of people I observed at last night’s Indigo Girls concert:

  • A preppy-looking girl in the rear balcony who swayed wildly in time with the music and blew rapid-fire air kisses the first time Amy Ray turned her direction.
  • A man who danced and swayed to a song no one else was moving to (not even the air kiss girl)—until he persuaded the two women he was with to join him.
  • A front row trio who danced wildly whenever one of their favorite songs was played
  • Band members struggling not to giggle at the exuberant flailing in the front row.
  • A singer seeking out one of those dancing fans, then giving her guitar pick over.
  • An opening act who stood in the wings, singing along with every word, whenever she wasn’t on stage with a band she clearly idolizes.
  • A young couple on my row that clearly came just for the opening act.
  • 60+-year-old men beaming at said opener’s performance.
  • A 60+-year-old woman clearly loving the concert, and her smile expressing that… behind the blinking red clown nose on her face.
  • A middle-aged woman in her Talbots-type clothes throwing the rock symbol during the encore. (Jamie said, “Whatever, one day you’ll be the woman who shops at Talbots.” I don’t think they carry my size, I said. Sometimes I’m a little obnoxious. “Fine—you’ll be the middle-aged woman in Ann Taylor, throwing rock at a Ryan Adams show.” That sounds about right.)

Music is for everyone, and I think that’s a beautiful thing

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You better hurry up if you don’t wanna be alone

After scrolling through 110 Grammy categories, I’ve re-established one of the (many) reasons I don’t watch award shows. Of 110 winners, only two are in my CD collection. (My personal taste didn’t fare much better in nominations, either; I think I own maybe five of the albums that got nods. I will point out, though, that Patty Griffin’s Children Running Through obviously should have won for best contemporary folk album.)

I spent my Sunday night doing better things, anyway. Like cooking. And reading. And talking to my cat.

Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals
“Gone, Gone, Gone (Done Moved On)” – Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, Raising Sand (Rounder Records)

Best Recording Package
Zachary Nipper, art director – Bright Eyes, Cassadaga (Saddle Creek)

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Filed under Bits & Pieces, Lyrics

I don’t wanna waste your time with music you don’t need

By some happy (or unhappy, depending on your perspective) miracle, tonight I’ll attend a concert for the first time in 2008.

I say happy because I spent way, way too much on concert tickets in 2007. (Despite my list-making tendencies, and my memory for ridiculous details, I have refused to add up just how much I spent. Which probably tells me everything I need to know.) I can’t say I plan to spend any less in 2008; I certainly won’t if there’s as many great shows coming through town as there were last year. But last year, I also had to cut myself off in early November. Enough is enough, even when your favorite band is playing their final two shows, ever, only three hours away from you.

(Leave me alone. I wanted to go. They were both on weeknights, and I saw them here just two weeks earlier.)

So tonight begins the year in music, a new list I would be quickly adding to Wednesday had I bought Band of Horses tickets in time. (I’m still mad at myself for that one.) Next week, the Indigo Girls. Next month? Well, let’s just say that 2008 could quickly rival my spending total for 2007.

Top five concerts I’ve ever attended (in no particular order):

  • Nickel Creek, Auburn University, April 2003
    This was my first Nickel Creek show (I think I wrapped up with show nine or 10 last year), and the magic was almost unparalleled by each subsequent show. (You’ll see why I say almost.) Outdoor concerts are my very favorite, even if they’re held on Auburn’s campus. The weather was perfect and I was within five or ten feet of the stage. Never mind that I drove from Auburn straight to Tallahassee. Never mind that I didn’t leave Auburn (and the bus-side after show) until well after midnight. Never mind that I found myself wrapped in the arms of Aubie the Tiger. It was worth every second.
  • Counting Crows, Oak Mountain Ampitheatre, September 2006
    Some bands are so amazing live that I’m compelled to see them again and again. (See previous concert.) Others are so amazing that I can never see them again. Everything was right when the Counting Crows came to town. It was early September, but the temperature dropped into the high 60s that night. I met up with a dear friend at our coffee shop beforehand, and we kept up the banter all night. Adam Duritz was in a strangely good mood, and so I was I. It’s hard to listen to the band now without remembering how perfect the evening was–not that I’m complaining.
  • Chris Thile and the How to Grow a Band, WorkPlay Theatre, May 2007
    I was devestated when I heard that Nickel Creek was breaking up–until I saw Chris play with his new band. The group, now calling themselves the Punch Brothers, played on Chris’s last album. As they played those tunes at WorkPlay, they brought back the magic I worried Nickel Creek had lost. As talented as Sean and Sara Watkins are, Chris has always been the stand-out of the group. Not so anymore. Look for the Punch Brothers’ debut CD, Punch, on Feb. 26. (It is amazing, but I’ll warn you now–it’s also insanely depressing and emotionally exhausting.)
  • Josh Ritter and Jamie Cullum, Alabama Theatre, October 2006
    This show came in the middle of a week of concerts; it kicked off with John Mayer on Monday, then these guys on Wednesday and Chris Thile on Sunday. All three shows were amazing, but somehow Josh and Jamie stood above the other acts. (That’s saying a lot! Johnny and Chris are two of my favorites.) These guys are fantastic performers, and everything’s better inside the Alabama Theatre.
  • Nickel Creek and Fiona Apple, Central Park, August 2007
    I was nervous about this show; I’d heard negative reports from Nickel Creek concerts all year. Something was lacking, and friends reported that the band’s upcoming hiatus was well-needed. But combining their talents with Fiona Apple brought the Creek back to life. The show was a blend of their songs and Fiona’s; when she was on stage, they served as her backing band. The crowd wasn’t great (more Fiona fans than Nickel Creek, and they let that be known), but the music and enthusiasm catapulted this concert into the top five, instantly.

Right now, there’s only one show on my calendar that I expect to challenge these for the top spots. Robert Plant and Alison Krauss come to town on April 26.

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A broken soul finds refuge

I’m sitting in the afterglow of a Christmas Eve dinner, attempting to write some pithy introduction to my favorite CDs of 2007. The truth, though? This list isn’t all that different from the eleventy billion others you’ve read, and I really don’t care. I’m writing it anyway.

These may not be the best CDs of ’07. (That’s the beauty of music reviewing, anyway: It’s almost totally subjective.) But they’re the ones that I’ve played over, and over, and over again, with the songs I sing to myself as I walk into the grocery store. (Yeah, I really do that. No, it does not sound good.)

Derek Webb, The Ringing Bell
There’s got to be a love
That’s stronger than our fear
Of everything

“A Love That’s Stronger Than Our Fear”

Great Lake Swimmers, Ongiara
I was moving across your frozen veneer
The sky was dark but you were clear
Could you feel my footsteps
And would you shatter, would you shatter, would you

“Your Rocky Spine”

Iron and Wine, The Shepherd’s Dog
(I can’t choose favorite lyrics for this one. You just have to listen to the entire CD. Obsessively.)

The Pierces, Thirteen Tales of Love and Revenge
I asked you please to leave my heart
But you refused to go
I can’t take this pain much longer
You insist on teaching me what I already know
Absence made this heart grow fonder

“Kill! Kill! Kill!”

Maddy Wyatt, Backdive
I will give you all the elbow room you need
I require it myself most every day

“Habits We Keep”

Maria Taylor, Lynn Teeter Flower
I finally made it, I made a clean getaway
And I miss you, I miss you every single day
“Clean Getaway”

Patty Griffin, Children Running Through
I’m gonna find me a man, love him so well
Love him so strong, love him so slow
We’re going to go way beyond the walls of this fortress
And we won’t be afraid, we won’t be afraid
And though the darkness may come our way
We won’t be afraid to be in love anymore
And we’ll grow kindness in our hearts for all the strangers among us
Till there aren’t any strangers anymore
“No Bad News”

Band of Horses, Cease to Begin
I could sleep when I lived alone
Is there a ghost in my house?

“Is There A Ghost”

Josh Ritter, The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter
There’s a friend that I have
And for her I’ll go back
You see all of these empties that I’m holding
They’re too much for a man
Empty arms, empty hands
And she’ll know me by the sound of my hoping
Singing don’t let me into this year with an empty heart

“Empty Heart”

Red Mountain Church, This Breaks My Heart of Stone
Had I the guilt of all the world,
He’s able to forgive:
Why should I fear? The debt is paid.
If only I believe.

“Why Should I Fear?”

Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, Raising Sand
Too late, too late
A fool could read the signs
Maybe baby
You’d better check between the lines
Please read the letter, I
Wrote it in my sleep
With help and consultation from
The angels of the deep

“Please Read the Letter”

Ryan Adams, Easy Tiger
He says her name, it echoes in my head like it was a canyon
He says her name, he says it and I know what’s up
You come to me sometimes when I’m thinking like a cannonball shooting out a cannon
And I forget whatever it was I was thinking about

“Everybody Knows”

Bonus tracks:

Holler, Wild Rose! – Holler, Wild Rose!
Naked Ground – The Dexateens
Wonderful World – James Morrison
Walken – Wilco (Yeah, I left Sky Blue Sky off. I haven’t been obsessing over it. But this song crawled into my head a few weeks ago.)
Killing Him – Amy LaVere
Not A Love Like This – Kim Richey
How Will You Meet Your End – A.A. Bondy
Brand New Bass Guitar – Jamie P.
Apologies – Grace Potter and the Nocturnals
Videotape – Radiohead
Refuge – Matthew Perryman Jones
Take me to a place where love can mend these wounds
Where mystery can dance with truth
And a broken soul finds refuge

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It’s hard to be reciprocating

Some friends of mine are circulating their top 10 albums of 2007 lists, which frankly I find far more interesting than the countless lists I’ve read over on stereogum (and elsewhere). I may or may not come up with my own, but since I bought my iPod in January, it’s easy to list the 25 songs I listened to most in 2007. (And really, you can pick out at least a few of my favorite albums this way.)

25. The Heart of Life – John Mayer, from Continuum (2006)

24. Let Your Love Be Strong – Switchfoot, from Oh! Gravity. (2006)

23. Rain – Patty Griffin, from 1,000 Kisses (2002)

22. Wedding Day – Rosie Thomas, from When We Were Small (2002)

21. Three More Days – Ray LaMontagne, from Till the Sun Turns Black (2006)

20. I’m Nowhere and You’re Everything – Chris Thile, from Deceiver (2004)

19. Breathe (2 a.m.) – Anna Nalick, from Wreck of the Day (2005)

18. No Bad News – Patty Griffin, from Children Running Through (2007)

17. These Girls – Ryan Adams, from Easy Tiger (2007)

16. You Give Me Something – James Morrison, from Undiscovered (2007)

15. A Love That’s Stronger Than Our Fear – Derek Webb, from The Ringing Bell (2007)

14. I Wanna Marry You All Over Again – Derek Webb, from The Ringing Bell (2007)

13. If the Rain Must Fall – James Morrison, from Undiscovered (2007)

12. Pearls on a String – Ryan Adams, from Easy Tiger (2007)

11. One Last Chance – James Morrison, from Undiscovered (2007)

10. My Winding Wheel – Ryan Adams, from Heartbreaker (2000)

9. Goodnight, Rose – Ryan Adams, from Easy Tiger (2007)

8. Tears of Gold – Ryan Adams, from Easy Tiger (2007)

7. Call the Police – James Morrison, from Undiscovered (2007)

6. Oh My God, Whatever, Etc. – Ryan Adams, from Easy Tiger (2007)

5. Wonderful World – James Morrison, from Undiscovered (2007)

4. I Don’t Ever Give Up – Patty Griffin, from Children Running Through (2007)

3. Two – Ryan Adams, from Easy Tiger (2007)

2. The Sun Also Sets – Ryan Adams, from Easy Tiger (2007)

1. Everybody Knows – Ryan Adams, from Easy Tiger (2007)

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Soon this will change just like the seasons

I know become especially obnoxious as July approaches each year. But birthdays are a big deal to me. My first memory is of my fourth birthday (when my parents gave me the Care Bear movie stoundtrack). I remember planning my birthday parties in elementary school so the maximum number of friends would be able to attend. (Anyone whose birthday falls near or on a holiday can relate to that, I’m sure.) As I drove across town this week, I got to thinking about my favorite birthdays. I’ll just share two, both from recent years.

I celebrated my 23rd birthday with 45 people I’d known for only four weeks, plus my best friend who was briefly visitng the town I worked in that summer. Because no one knew me all that well at that point, I organized my own small birthday shindig. Probably 15 or 20 people came to a cook out by my apartment, and my sweet roommates gave me a jewelry box I still use and cards I’ve still saved.

A canoe trip I’d planned for after the cook out fell through. Instead I played volleyball, went swimming and got ice cream with a smaller group (which is generally my preference anyway). We were laid-back, without the noise of a large crowd or the stress of detailed plans. We simply enjoyed each other, and that’s one of the best gifts I could receive.

Last year was, unexpectedly, one of my favorite birthdays. I had been “dumped” (for lack of a more specific descriptor) a week before, and my original plan had been to spend the weekend in Florida with him.

Instead, I spent the night of my birthday at a concert where the singer dedicated the best song to me. (“I’m the icing on the cake/I’m the secret ingredient you’re missing”) My sister and several of my girl friends rallied around me.

Since my weekend plans had been destroyed, one of my best guy friends insisted on arranging a small gathering instead. Without me even needing to ask if she would come, a new girl friend insisted on driving an hour to join in (even though she had already celebrated my birthday once). We went with a handful of friends to dinner and out for a drink afterward. It was a low-key birthday, and one of few times I felt that someone cared enough and got me enough to make me feel cared for on my birthday.

Here’s to another year (and to one that doesn’t utilize a song about a break up for as its theme!).

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Filed under Autobiography, Love letters, Lyrics

I miss those days, they won’t be coming back again

I’ve had a busier-than-usual social schedule here lately. (I’ve actually started joking that I need fewer friends!) But in the midst of the parties, football games and meals out, you know what I would really rather be doing?

Playing a board game.

A friend asked last year what I wanted to do for my 24th birthday, and that was my response. She laughed and said that was lame. I ended up spending that birthday watching TV alone on my couch.

Maybe it is lame. But playing those games is one of my favorite memories from college. It seems like life was simpler then. We’d gather around my dining room table, consuming way too much coffee and popcorn, and play Clue, or a card game, but almost always Clue. (I love Clue.)

Those nights weren’t really about playing the game, although everyone knows I love figuring out who dunnit. I think it was more about friendship, and enjoying each other while listening to good music, and living in a circle of friends.

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I could spit on a stranger

I’m a little late jumping on this bandwagon …

1.Choose a band / artist and answer ONLY in lyrics of THEIR songs:
Nickel Creek

2. Are you male or female:
You’re trying on a brand new dress
But you haven’t worn the old one yet

3. Describe yourself:
Standing on a darkened stage
Stumbling through the lines
Others have excuses, I have my reasons why

4. How do some people feel about you:
Gray is the color I see around her
She’s just a blur

5. How do you feel about yourself:
Hey what did I do?
I’ve spoken too soon

6. Describe your ex boyfriend / girlfriend:
Honey, I’m a prize and you’re a catch and we’re a perfect match
Like two bitter strangers

7. Describe current boyfriend / girlfriend *or lack thereof*:
Nobody’s happy while feeling alone

8. Describe where you want to be:
It’s foreign on this side but it feels like I’m home again
There’s no place to hide, but I don’t think I’m scared

9. Describe how you live:
You’ve got to chase a dream
One that’s all your own
Before it slips away

10. Describe how you love:
It’s not like I want to get married
I never asked you to kiss me
I just don’t want you to be sorry
You didn’t try

11. What would you ask for if you had just one wish:
I’m just happier being confused beside the fire, as long as it’s with you

12. Share a few words of wisdom:
Where can a dead man go?
A question with an answer only dead men know
But I’m gonna bet they never really feel at home
If they spent a lifetime learning how to live in Rome

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Keep me responsible, be it a light or heavy load

I have been thinking about some big words lately … words like redemption, and freedom, and community, and sanctification. And love, and sin. I could define them for you, and I think I’d probably do an OK job. (Words are my business, after all.) But when it comes down to reality, to life, I’m not always sure what they really mean.

I’ve only been a Christian for six years (just passed my anniversary this week — yes, I am the kind of person who keeps track of such things). But in my limited experience, it seems that the older I get, the more sinful I realize myself to be.

I don’t know whether that means I am more sinful than I was in college or if I’m just more realistic and honest. I tend to think it’s the latter, but it could be both, I don’t know. But it seems to be happening all around me — with my friends, with people I don’t really keep in touch with, with my co-workers.

Sometimes I’ll see someone else’s sin and recoil. I wonder how they could do that, and what’s gone wrong that led them to this point. I wonder how their walk with God is.

And then I look at my own life and realize how completely hypocritical I am.

I guess I always thought I was doing pretty well because so many of my pet sins are socially acceptable. I’m a workaholic in the making — many people would probably see that as an admirable thing. 😉 I’m a bit vain and totally self-centered. (I wish I weren’t self-centered.) But I don’t drink too much, I don’t steal, I don’t murder, I don’t sleep around, and somehow I think this makes me better.

One thing I love about my church (both here and in Birmingham) is that I’m repeatedly reminded of how fallen I am. I always have to laugh that the moment of silent confession is so short, because I have so, so much to confess.

But I am also reminded of Jesus’ grace.

We sang “Come Thou Fount” in church this morning, and it’s one of those that always gets me a little emotional. This verse is my favorite, and only increasingly so with each passing year.

Oh to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter
Bind my wandering heart to Thee
Prone to wander, Lord I feel it
Prone to leave the God I love
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it
Seal it for Thy courts above

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Wake me up when September ends

I’m kind of a nostalgic girl anyway, but three random memories hit me today …

1. I’ve had a serious hankering to work in downtown Birmingham lately. I miss the thrill I got from walking down those busy streets on my lunch break. I always felt so metropolitan (OK, or like a little girl playing dress up) when I crossed to the AmSouth-Harbert Plaza for lunch and coffee. I loved browsing the library’s new books, arriving at the check-out counter with arms so heavy laden that I had to carry my loot back to work in a grocery bag.

And well, I miss the work too. I loved that magazine, loved my editor, loved the designers, loved the location, loved what I wrote about, loved getting to write …

Mmmm yeah. Getting to write.

2. The temperature has dropped slightly tonight. It’s not much, given that it’s still September and I live in Alabama, but it’s enough to build anticipation for the coming autumn. I left work for dinner tonight and walked through the parking lot with my eyes closed, inhaling the nearly-crisp air and imagining the trees changing colors.

(My executive editor walked by as I was doing this. I think he thought me a bit strange.)

As I circled through an off-ramp on my way back to work, I had a sudden flashback to an end-of-the-semester hayride and bonfire during my Florida State days. I can’t recall whether it was the end of my senior year or my last semester at FSU, when I was a grad student. All I can tell you is that it was deliciously cold and I was in a loner sort of mood.

I brought my roommate’s dog with me to the bonfire, providing a handy defense mechanism for those introverted moments. (When you’re busy chasing a dog, it’s easy to slip out of conversations unnoticed, or to avoid getting terribly deep with anyone.)

Come to think of it, I believe it was my last semester at FSU. I’m not sure why I was feeling so anti-social — I probably should have been soaking in all the people-time I could get. But maybe my departure was the cause of my melancholy.

3. As I neared the office, “Please” by The Kinleys came on the mixed tape I was playing. Every time I hear that song (which is, well, not terribly often) I recall the night I broke up with my first boyfriend.

We were sitting in my 1990 Honda Accord parked outside his house. I don’t remember why we got in the car, exactly, I only remember thinking that his mother probably thought we were making out instead of breaking up.

I don’t remember what was said or really much of how he reacted (though I know I was bawling and he tried to comfort me, even though he was the one being dumped). What stands out in my mind is “Please” trickling through the speakers … and although it’s a song about trying not to break up, it still reminds me of that night.

I think it’s kind of amazing that I still have a mixed tape from that long ago.

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