41 Favorites: #5
The look at some of my favorite things begun last year after my 40th birthday is finally continuing. Now, though, it's 41 Favorites, since I took over a year off after my last post; I'm going to try to wrap it up before I turn 42.
My fifth favorite thing in alphabetical order of the bunch that I spitballed last October is the music of Edie Brickell.
I came home for winter break my first year at college in December 1988 and while standing in the kitchen of my mother's house one day was entranced by music coming from the television in the den. MTV still lived by the words that gave the channel its name back then — Music Television — and it was playing the debut video of Edie Brickell and New Bohemians, for a song called "What I Am". The very next day that I was able, I went out to Sam Goody and bought the group's record, Shooting Rubberbands at the Stars (yes, record; it was vinyl).
Now, I'm not going to pretend that "What I Am" is the greatest song ever written, but it struck me at a time when I was discovering great old music thanks to friends and dorm-mates at Oberlin yet inspired by precious little new music. And the album as a whole really got under my skin, from that first cut to the dreamily romantic "Air of December" to the driving "Beat the Time" to the closing number "I Do" — originally an unlisted track, a fact that's always made it all the more haunting to me. It didn't hurt that I had the album in heavy rotation the next summer as I corresponded with a lovely young woman between semesters, nor that whenever I set the needle down on the record my beloved cat Fef would trot into the room and jump up on my bed.
Edie Brickell is not just some generic hippie-chick singer/songwriter, and only a so-called "one-hit wonder" by the literal metrics of the pop charts. She hasn't put out an album that I haven't played almost incessantly, under her own name or with New Bohemians or as part of another ensemble, helped along surely by the way I so internalized Rubberbands but due also to the voice and craft that drove me to put that first album on constantly in the first place. The 2006 release Stranger Things, which reunited Brickell with guitarist/co-founder Kenny Withrow and other New Bohemians, might actually be a better album than Rubberbands by more objective measures (keeping in mind, of course, that we're still talking about the highly subjective, um, subject of music), and her 2003 "solo" album Volcano is probably her best overall, so if you're curious about her work or all you know is "What I Am" I'd start there.
Volcano featured late Bohemians member Carter Albrecht and the great bassist Pino Palladino, the latter also a member of The Gaddabouts — a new band whose name is a play on that of drummer Steve Gadd; they premiered with an eponymous album back in January of this year and (I've just discovered) are set for another in early 2012. Brickell released her own eponymous album the week before The Gaddabouts came out, recorded over several years, again featuring the work of Albrecht and Volcano producer/musician Charlie Sexton. Many of the songs had earlier been made available to fans through Brickell's website, at which you'll currently find some video clips of demos and songs from 2011's Edie Brickell.
Brickell's versatility is really on display on the 2008 album The Heavy Circles, named after her project with Harper Simon — son of Brickell's husband Paul Simon, who co-produced her 1994 non-Bohemians debut Picture Perfect Morning. Circles has a different kind of indie-rock vibe than New Bohemians' output and features contributions from Sean Lennon, Martha Wainwright, and Cibo Matto's Yuka Honda.
While Rubberbands was one of the last vinyl records I bought, in the days when the format was being phased out in favor of compact discs (before its resurgence in popularity among hipsters and audiophiles), New Bohemians' 1990 excellent but darker follow-up Ghost of a Dog was one of the first — and very few — albums that I bought on tape, when CDs were still a little rich for my blood. The band's discography is rounded out by 2000's rare The Live Montauk Sessions and the 2002 Ultimate Collection (a hodgepodge of greatest hits, non-album singles, collaborations, and previously unreleased material).
I didn't mean for this post to be little more than a recital of Brickell's body of work, but if I really delved into an album-by-album excavation we'd be here forever and I suppose that I can't write concisely about the overall feeling her music, in all its variations, gives me — something that, from the moment I first heard it, has felt like it's been a part of me forever.
Edie's 2011 releases Edie Brickell and The Gaddabouts, among other albums, are currently available at Amazon. If you buy them or anything else through the preceding link, Blam's Blog gets a small cut of the sale. You can avoid buying used and/or collectible-priced copies of New Bohemians' The Live Montauk Sessions at that link by going to The Connextion; Blam's Blog doesn't get a cut of that sale, but I think the band does, so, y'know, it's cool.
Volcano cover © 2003 Universal Music Group. You can see a chronological gallery of album covers from Edie Brickell projects in my Picasa album; it's taking too long to finesse them into this post.