Favorites bands and favorite chord progressions

My favorite band is the Old 97’s. However, Freakwater would also be an honest answer (as would Gillian Welch). I can thank a super cool friend from high school for introducing me to the Old 97’s, a Bloodshot compilation for introducing me to Freakwater, while one of my college roommates properly introduced me to Gillian Welch.1  

A (not very good) photo of Catherine Irwin & Janet Bean from a Freakwater show in Atlanta (November 2005, I don't remember the venue)

A (not very good) photo of Catherine Irwin & Janet Bean from a Freakwater show in Atlanta (November 2005, I don’t remember the venue)

Freakwater appeared on Bloodshot’s first compilation album (way back in 1994), and subsequently was on Thrill Jockey for years. BUT coming in February 2016, according to the Freakwater Facebook page, “We will be releasing our eighth studio album this fall with our dear friends Bloodshot Records!!” So… since I wrote a dissertation on Bloodshot Records and all, and what with loving Freakwater, I’m really, really, REALLY excited about this.2   As Bloodshot noted today, you may have thought that Freakwater was already on Bloodshot, but this upcoming studio album is, in fact, the band’s first with the record label. You can hear the first single from the album here, and you can pre-order the album and/or get the 7″ single here.

The announcement of this single inspired me to listen to pretty much the entire Freakwater catalogue throughout the day today. As I listened to the song “Cricket Versus Ant” (Thinking of You, 2005), I was reminded of my most favorite chord progression, which is in this song: V/vi – vi, or III – vi, or a major three chord to the minor six. This song is in D Major, so the chord progression is F-sharp major to b minor. The first time it happens, the lyrics are “If it all goes terribly wrong” at 1:27 in the video below.

I have done absolutely no research on this progression; I just know that I always love it when it happens. I think I first noticed it when I had to play chord progression for a piano proficiency exam or something equally dorky, but I remember first LOVING when I heard it in a Dixie Chicks song, “Tonight the Heartache’s on Me” (Wide Open Spaces, 1998).3   This song is in F Major, and in this case, the magical chords are A major to d minor in the chorus. The first time it happens, the lyrics are “Bartender, pour the wine” at 0:47 in the video below.

Isn’t it great? Sure, there are other secondary dominants that are nice, but this one is by far my favorite (and the best). Hooray for a new Freakwater album & hooray for V/vi – vi! Feel free to share examples with me!

1. The same high school friend likely introduced me to Bloodshot, or at least I was with her at CD Central (a fantastic record store in Lexington, KY) when I bought that compilation album.

2. At this point, I’m probably more excited about the album, rather than the research possibilities, but that’s a topic for another post.

3. This is the first song I look for if/when I ever karaoke. Seriously. Feel free to judge me.


Happy Friday Music Fun: Play it again!

For as long as I can remember, I have listened to songs over and over and over and over again. From taping (yes, taping) a song off the radio, and then taping it on to another tape, and then taping it back to the first tape again and again; to that first glorious moment when I discovered the repeat button on my CD player, I have listened to a lot of different songs many, many times in a row. Songs have attained Repeat Status for various reasons, and some have been on repeat for no good reason at all.

When I started using iTunes, I made a point of buying and/or adding select Repeated Songs and making various playlists of these songs. And since iTunes keeps track of how many times a song has been played, well, I can see my obsessive compulsive behavior in numeric form. While sharing the entire list or even the numbers for some of these songs on the blog seems unseemly, I’ll at least share a few of the songs that I’ve heard MANY times in my life here on the blog every now and again.

The song for this post is “Haphazardly” by the ever-dreamy Mr. Rhett Miller. I could talk about the lyrics of this song and its narrative arc, or the instrumentation and the lovely lead guitar work, or the effective build. Or how much I love Rhett Miller. Or how I subjected a former roommate to listening to this song way more times than she may have wanted. But I believe the song speaks for itself. So go ahead. Listen to it a few times in a row; I promise, you won’t regret it.

Happy Friday Fun Music: Making the (Conference) Rounds!

Last semester, I had a flurry of travel in a relatively short period of time. This month is turning out to be somewhat similar… except that my travel is taking me out of the country! I’m currently in Chicago for a conference (hooray! even if it’s way too cold outside), will leave next week for Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, and will return and head out for Charlotte, NC. The last conference that I’ll be presenting at this season is in Spartanburg, SC in April. Nothing against Spartanburg or the fine Palmetto State, but it hardly seems worth a mention at the end of that list!

I’m staying (yet again) with Fabulous Chicago Actor and her Amazingly Talented Husband, and I’m so, SO thankful for their hospitality! As I was riding into the city from the airport last night, I got to do one of my favorite things: ride the train and listen to great music. So, here’s an Old 97’s (former Bloodshot band)* song that mentions a Chicago location (the Empty Bottle) and a song for the train… I don’t know of any songs devoted to the CTA, so Justin Townes Earle (Bloodshot artist!) singing about the MTA will have to do for now.

Happy Friday, y’all!

*Please note that you have been previously warned about the dreamy Mr. Miller.

Guitar Slide Wednesday: Old 97’s version, take 2

The Old 97’s are one of my favorite bands (if not my favorite), and have been featured here before. I saw them at the 40 Watt this past weekend, so I decided to bring them back to the blog for Guitar Slide Wednesday. If you haven’t seen this band live, they pretty much rock, and it’s a great live show.

The following song isn’t my favorite, but when I saw Ken do this slide live, I knew this was the song for today! The audio on the video below leaves much to be desired (I assume this was filmed on a phone), but you can see the slide at 0:12. You also can see a nice, little, rock and roll kick from the long-haired (ever dreamy) Mr. Miller at 1:35. This is obviously early in the set/evening, as he is not dripping with sweat.

One other thing about this song that I really like–the usage of nonsense syllables. I’m a fan of nonsense syllables in songs, so long as they’re either catchy, clever, fun, and/or funny, and I think the ones in this song fit the bill. If you’d like to hear the song, here’s a spotify link: Old 97’s – Smokers* On this track you can hear what a great electric guitar song this is!

Enjoy, y’all!

*Spotify says that this track is from Drag It Up (2004), but it’s actually a live version from Alive and Wired (2005). Also, I have no idea what happens when I link to spotify. If you feel like it, click on it and let me know for future reference? K. Thanks.

Guitar Slide Wednesday: Old 97’s version

Rhett Miller has a new album that came out yesterday. I haven’t purchased it yet, but I most certainly will purchase it very soon. This reminded me that although I pre-ordered the Old 97’s Grand Theatre, Vol. 2, I still haven’t spent much time listening to it. However, there is one particular song on that album, “The Actor,” that would be great for Guitar Slide Wednesday, but there’s no video that I can post for it. Here’s the Spotify link: Old 97’s – The Actor, but of course, that’s not exactly the way we do things around here for GSW. So, I’m posting another Old 97’s song that isn’t quite as fitting for Guitar Slide Wednesday. There is a guitar slide in this song, maybe a couple, but it’s not much compared to the previously mentioned song…

The video is a funny little story, and the song’s most prominent guitar slide is at the beginning of the song at 1:04.*

*The highlight of this video is easily the ever-dreamy Mr. Miller and his trademark windmill guitar strumming at 3:33 or so….