Last Sunday, as we performed my only country song, Crossroads of Love, I allowed myself a sly inward chuckle at the misheard lyric (well, I mishear it): “So I look for directions in the stars high above’’.
It’s the kind of misheard line you’d expect of a 70-year-old bloke, but I’m not about to elaborate. This is a family show.
My songwriter friend Kelly Cork likes the song; he thinks it is a sin of omission that is has not caught the attention of a Kasey Chambers or a Garth Brooks. I always thought it was a bit corny, but it seems you can get away with corny in the country genre.
You will have to permit me a sentimental wallow this week, as I sit here at a bare desk with the laptop (and the dog) – literally the last things to be packed away. I dismantled all of my music-playing technology weeks ago, so now all I have is a tiny IPod with 1700 songs plugged into the car.
Music was uppermost on our minds last Sunday when, against common sense, we held a full-house farewell house concert with just two days remaining to finish packing.
We invited hinterland musician friends to perform: Jevan Cole, Karen and Murray Law, Tommy Leonard, Noel Gardner and Alex Bridge and Kelly Cork. A sumptuous afternoon tea was provided by the audience (Laurel had packed away her baking trays).
The Goodwills Trio ended the day with a set culminating in a medley of well-known travel songs. Not a dry eye in the house! Thanks to Helen Rowe for going the extra mile to get to rehearsals. Thanks also to Woodfordia Inc for sponsoring our concerts over the years.
In the fullness of time, we’ll be producing a history of our house concert series – the first one in Brisbane in 1996, when Margret RoadKnight agreed to be our guest. We held 40 or 50 concerts at Fairfield when we lived there and another 90 or so from the first one in Maleny in 2003 (Margret RoadKnight featured once again).
If you missed out leaving a comment in the guest book that was passed around, you could join the many people who have emailed us with comments about our house concerts. The plan is to print them out and paste them into the book.
This week, I decided to answer the question I get asked a lot about my (songwriting) influences. They are too many to count, although most will be appalled by the omission of Dylan, Springsteen and other mainstream songwriters from this top 20 Spotify list.
Bob’s Spotify Playlist (courtesy of Frankie’s Dad) There are Spotify instructions below, but if you’d rather, FD has also compiled a YouTube playlist
1/ White Winos – LWIII (Last Man on Earth)
Loudon Wainwright’s ever-so slightly wrong tribute to his mother with the last line of every verse left hanging;
2/ Disembodied Voices – Neil and Tim Finn (Everybody’s Here)
New Zealand’s best songwriters reminisce about their childhood growing up in a musical household.
3/ Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner – Warren Zevon (Genius), the title of the song says it all, the ultimate ballad about mercenaries.
4/ A Case of You– (k.d. lang’s version of Joni’s classic song), from Hymns of the 49th Parallel, a magnificently produced album of contemporary Canadian songs;
5/ Clare to Here (Ralph McTell) – poignant tale from Ralph’s early days as a builder’s labourer, as told here in this 2007 live performance;
6/ It’s Raining – Stephen Cummings – from the album Spiritual Bum, a beautiful album of songs from the former lead singer of The Sports (and hopefully an omen);
7/ They Thought I Was Asleep – Paul Kelly – classic story song from Australia’s best – and we’ll never know what happened!
8/ Our Sunshine – Paul Kelly – included here for its brilliant first line ‘So there came a man on a stolen horse and he rode right onto the page.’
(Ed: And as what I think is an interesting aside, Ned Kelly’s horse was named ‘Mirth’.)
9/ Who Know Where the Time Goes – Sandy Denny.
The story is that a young Sandy Denny had the words to this beautiful ballad in her guitar case and it had to be prised from her by Fairport Convention band members who immediately saw its potential;
10 Cold Kisses – Richard Thompson.
This sly story about an insecure man in a new relationship is only bettered by a guitar hook no-one I know has ever been able to reproduce;
11 Took the Children Away – Archie Roach
Seriously, this should be taught at schools;
12 Cry you a Waterfall – Kristina Olsen
Kristina Olsen typically tells a hilarious story before she sings this tribute to a friend taken in an automobile accident. It’s a fine performance technique when you catch people at their most vulnerable;
13/ Say a Prayer – Fred Smith
A tragic love story woven into a snippet of Australian history of war in the Pacific;
14/ Cat’s in the Cradle – Harry Chapin
My song Watching as You Sleep has a similar theme to Harry’s lament about not having enough time for your kids when they are growing up and then the worm turns (‘he turned out a lot like me’)
15/ Lives in the Balance – Jackson Brown
It was always a wonder to me how this stinging critique of American interference in other countries’ politics is not better-known.
16/ The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down – The Band
Robbie Robertson’s well-researched story about the American Civil War, told from a Southern family’s point of view. It has a peculiar but effective rhythmic structure, as explained in the link below.
17/ Hello in There – John Prine
The master of brevity and nuance tells a Cat’s in the Cradle type story about a lonely old couple: ‘We had an apartment in the city – me and Loretta liked living there.’
18/ Sailing to Philadelphia – Mark Knopfler and James Taylor
The story behind the Mason Dixon line, splendidly rendered by two of the world’s best songwriters;
19/ Soldiers’ Things – Tom Waits – the growling poet of life on skid row at his best here: ‘Everything’s a dollar, in this box.’
20/ Paradise – John Prine
Prine’s anti-fossil fuel anthem from a childhood in western Kentucky.
Here’s an extra song, but it’s not on Spotify. It fits well with Paradise – “If you’ve got money in your pocket and a switch on the wall, we’ll keep your dirty lights on.”. Watch and listen here:
Keep your dirty lights on – Tim O’Brien and Darrell Scott.
The refrains of both songs deserve to be sung out loud at next Friday’s Strike 4 Climate rallies.
So, while the homeless Goodwills wander off to the south-western plains, let it be known that you will never find our music on Spotify. Not until they lift the streaming royalties by a respectable margin. Despite its reputation as a music distributer that short-changes musicians, Spotify is an incredibly user-friendly, massive musical database. No wonder at last count they had 217 million subscribers (including the free accounts).
Next week: Expect FOMM late next Friday as I will be attending the Strike 4 Climate rally in Brisbane – an eyewitness report!