It doesn't get better than this Bonnie Raitt version of John Prine's Angel from Montgomery.
Years ago I volunteered at a music festival in the Appalachian town of Bristol, which lies on the border of Virginia and Tennessee. Working at the festival was a great gig because I only had a few shifts slinging beers at the beer tent, and when I was off I could walk around and see the performances for free. The entire town was taken over by the festival; every restaurant, parking lot, lawn, theater and church was converted into a music venue for the weekend. If you dug roots music, this place was heaven.
At one point I wandered into a small church, inside which was a man sitting solo on a platform with nothing but a fiddle and, what was to me at the time, the most enormous mustache I had ever seen. He was stomping his shoe on the floor to keep a beat and sang with a booming, quivering voice. People wandered in and out, some seeming uninterested in his wild and rustic sound. I sat alone in the back pew totally captivated by this man, by his bizarre way of talking, singing and being. His music and the moment felt timeless. It didn’t belong anywhere in particular, and he didn't seem to mind much of anything besides just playing freely. It was perfect. It was Frank Fairfield!
Here he is, albeit sans mustache, playing the fiddle and singing. His voice starts a few minutes in.
This has always been one of my favorite songs.
The video above captures the opening track from the album Island Songs, Olafur Arnalds' 7-week musical journey across Iceland. Of all his music, this album has been the most touching to me as a listener. I always imagined different things Einar Georg could be saying in the poem. One day it occurred to me to search the internet for a translation. I couldn't find a translation for the poem, which was not upsetting. Somehow it seemed appropriate. All I could find was this:
"The poem... Whatever translation me or my team could make could never do Einar's beautiful words justice, so we decided against translating it. But it's about this river close to the farm where Einar grew up. As a kid he used to go sit by the river and just listen to the sound. Apparently this river is quite well known for how beautiful it sounds...like it's playing music."
Sheku Kanneh-Mason and Plinio Fernandes' version of Scarborough Fair is touching, tender and strong. It is amazing to hear a familiar song done in such an unfamiliar way. The old truly becomes new.
Townes' music is romantic in such a relaxed, intimate way. I really loved his albums as a teenager. Looking back I don't remember exactly why I felt so connected to it. Now I can appreciate the simplicity and directness of his lyrics. They are honest and beautiful.
This video of Taj Mahal puts a smile on my face every time.