There have been a lot of new releases in the past few weeks. What tracks are resonating with you the most?
Here are three of my current favorites, all of which have been recorded before:
Carlene Carter, “Me and the Wildwood Rose”
from the album Carter Girl
“Me and the Wildwood Rose” was always one of my favorite Carlene Carter tracks. Back when the original recording was released in 1990, it had a wistful nostalgia for the grandmother that she had lost. In 2014, all of the other folks mentioned in the song, including her little sister “the Wildwood Rose”, have also passed on. The new version is so heavy with grief, it is only Carter’s effervescent spirit that keeps it from being too heavy.
Rodney Crowell, “God I’m Missing You”
from the album Tarpaper Sky
Speaking of grief, Rodney Crowell’s “God I’m Missing You” is a gut-wrencher. Widows don’t often get the chance to speak in pure poetry: “Time stretches to shape you right out of thin air. But it can’t hold the image. If I blink, you’re not there. God I’m missing you.” For me, it’s the highlight of an excellent album, with his best songwriting since The Outsider. Lucinda Williams recorded it before him, and she does it well.
Dolly Parton, “Banks of the Ohio”
from the album Blue Smoke
Parton’s latest set is a welcome return to form, and it features compelling covers of songs by Bob Dylan and Bon Jovi. But the highlight for me is “Banks of the Ohio”, an oft-recorded standard that she breathes new life into by framing it with a narrative device that has her retelling the story being told to her. This allows for Parton to speak in the male voice of the murderer, and still infuse the song with her trademark empathy. (She’s never shied away from a suicide number, but homicide really isn’t her style.)
So we still have to wait from some country lady besides Olivia Newton-John to fully embrace the murderess within her, but until then, the stunning harmonies and heartfelt vocal of Parton has newly minted this treasured classic.
That’s what I’m listening to. What are you listening to?