Walkingbirds

I love hearing new music. I love hearing a new song and falling in love with it. And I especially love hearing about a new group and discovering that I’m going to love everything they ever do.Walkingbirds are that group today, thanks to a tip from Meryl. 64 kbps MP3s of eight of their songs are available free at their site; that totals about 34 minutes of music, which is almost as much as a Chris Isaak album.

Martin 12-string headstock

I love hearing new music. I love hearing a new song and falling in love with it. And I especially love hearing about a new group and discovering that I’m going to love everything they ever do.

Walkingbirds are that group today, thanks to a tip from Meryl. 64 kbps MP3s of eight of their songs are available free at their site; that totals about 34 minutes of music, which is almost as much as a Chris Isaak album.

Composed almost entirely of Scott Andrew LePera, the “group” oft includes some Laurie Hallal guitars and vocals, and occasionally sports an additional Derek Poindexter on bass. Somehow, it all manages to sound like acoustic Dishwalla or Better Than Ezra, tinged with Sonvolt. Some first impressions (okay, third impressions) about each of the songs:

  • “Cast the Net Wide” Sounding ever so Celtic, a gentle folky number turns partly rock via one of the few occurances of electric guitar. A tender request for love. I think I’ll take this one home with me . . .
  • “Wasted” Trying desperately to sound sad and dejected, it still sounds hopeful and happy to me. Spare and folky; nice percussive punctuation.
  • “One Sure Thing” Reminds me so much of Dishwalla’s acoustic version of “Counting Blue Cars” but with lyrics I can actually enjoy (and understand. Sorry.) Poppy and brisk. Probably excellent with a nice zinfandel or Scotch ale.
  • “Stay the Same” Briefly sounding more like very (very) early Kenny Loggins, a warm and pensive piece.
  • “Back Around” Definitely worthy of airtime, nice percussion and more ambitious vocals make this stand out, even in this distinguished company.
  • “Hello You” A sunny Sunday afternoon, languid, paced but not actually slow. Interesting electric guitar work. More nice harmonies.
  • “Brickyard Bend” Another one for the airwaves, this reminds me of the small town in Texas where I used to live. You could see the line of teenagers just waiting to get out of town. Again, what should feel dismal ends up feeling bright and sunny. Maybe that’s what I like about it. Nice strong rhythym, layers and layers of vocals, and snappy percussion.
  • “Gravel Road Requiem” This should be the last song on the album. Good driving song (as in, song to listen to while driving, not song that drives – that would be John Fogerty’s “Walking In A Hurricane.”) Makes me want to get around to the road trip I didn’t take last year. Well-done harmonies, pleasing interplay of acoustic and electric guitars, and some real live drumming. One of the more complex tunes, and one of my favorites.

While I’m already a fan and appreciate the free MP3s, I hope Scott gets around to producing a real full-length CD. The Walkingbirds website is a fun and informative read, and I suspect the album’s liner notes would soon be as tattered as those from my copy of Loreen McKennit’s “Book of Secrets.” (Note to music moguls: liner notes sell albums. Intelligent informative liner notes sell bands.)

Stardust

“And now the purple dusk of twilight timesteals across the meadows of my heart . . . “Although I\’m much given to hyperbole, it\’s safe to say that Nat King Cole\’s recording of this is my very favorite song of all time. Wistful lyrics, beautifully understated orchestration, and deliberate, almost casual vocal phrasing combine to embody the sadness of a lost love. (Not the delirious “I can win her back” kind, but the heavyhearted “What do I do now?”)

And now the purple dusk of twilight time
steals across the meadows of my heart . . .

Although I’m much given to hyperbole, it’s safe to say that Nat King Cole’s recording of this is my very favorite song of all time. Wistful lyrics, beautifully understated orchestration, and deliberate, almost casual vocal phrasing combine to embody the sadness of a lost love. (Not the delirious “I can win her back” kind, but the heavyhearted “What do I do now?”)

Written in 1927 and 1929, it was recorded many times before Nat took his turn in 1957. Originally an instrumental by the great Hoagy Carmichael, two years later Mitchell Parish (“Sophisticated Lady”, “Stars Fell On Alabama”) added the brooding lyrics. Bing Crosby, Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, and Frank Sinatra all had turns at it, but according to Parish’s obituary in The New York Times, April 2, 1993, Cole’s version was his favorite. (Not even remotely related – Avery Parrish recorded the classic blues instrumental “After Hours” with the Erskine Hawkins Orchestra in 1940.)

The orchestration by Gordon Jenkins is critical to this version’s appeal. A brilliant arranger, Jenkins was largely responsible for Harry Nilsson’s very special “A Little Touch of Schmilsson in the Night“, featuring a dozen standards wrapped in the velvet of Harry’s voice and Gordon’s orchestration.

The first time I heard “Stars Fell On Alabama” was on Jimmy Buffet’s 1981 Album “Coconut Telegraph.” Jimmy seems to get the mood right. The album also features the flip-side of the wistfulness embodied in “Stardust” in the song “The Weather Is Here, Wish You Were Beautiful.” The story of a man who’s had enough, he takes off on vacation alone when his girlfriend can’t make the time to join him and ends up making the vacation permanent. By the end, you’re pretty sure there’s nothing wistful happening here.

Another of my personal favorites, the album also contains the song “Little Miss Magic” written for Savannah Jane Buffet just two years before the birth of my own daughter. For a crusty old pirate, Jimmy does all right as a tender, loving father.

Overture

‘Hothouse Flowers’ has long been one of my favorite bands. From the eponymous ‘Thing Of Beauty’ to their moving cover of ‘I Can See Clearly Now’ I am always captivated by their grasp of the emotional power of music.

Hothouse Flowers has long been one of my favorite bands. From the eponymous ‘Thing Of Beauty to their moving cover of ‘I Can See Clearly Now I am always captivated by their grasp of the emotional power of music. Continue reading “Overture”