Some thoughts on things I’ve been hearing on the radio:
The Ceiling, the new single from The Wild Feathers, sounds like a long-lost Eagles masterpiece from the Take it Easy era. The story, to the extent that one can decipher the cryptic lyrics, also owes something to the Take it Easy adolescent male fantasy. Clearly, there’s a relationship problem at the heart of things, which is punctuated by the monster hook “I did what I did and I didn’t mean anything.” Anyone who has ventured to say something remotely like that in a relationship knows that those are serious fighting words. The narrator has clearly crossed a line, whether it’s stolen kisses, a hookup, or just consoling the little girl “crying all over me.” But he’s standing his ground and she’s going to have to deal with it.
He may not have “seven women on my mind,” but there’s probably more than one. Perhaps it’s like Joni Mitchell’s portrait of Coyote “who picks up my scent on his fingers while he’s watching the waitresses legs.” As Mitchell’s song suggests, under some circumstances that might even be almost attractive. But the video makes it clear that the woman was definitely hurt. All the while, the music is carrying us along like a mighty river, almost oblivious of any meaning.
A propulsive flat pick country riff anchors the verses. The choruses soar with just the right sweet blend of voices, though the words are an opaque kaleidoscope of images – sunrise and smokestacks and driving and this inscrutable gem: “and I don’t know how I got this far down with the ceiling.” The music makes you feel you understand it, whether you do or not. The meaning becomes somewhat clearer with the second half of the song.
The song is in two parts and the first part ends somewhat inconclusively. There’s movement, but no real resolution of the underlying tensions. The last line is changed slightly to “I did what I did and I’d do it all over again.” The second part sort of comes out of nowhere, like the sun breaking out after a night of hard rain. It’s just the simple phrase, “we should be easy,” repeated over a pounding beat and soaring guitars. There are various harmonies and overlays executed to perfection. It’s about pure transcendence and freedom. If we can just break through everything will be great.
Looking back to the first part of the song, the ceiling is about the limitations and petty squabbling of our everyday lives. We need to break through all of that to get back to nature and the open sky. It’s not a solution to the sometimes hard problems of relationships and it certainly has nothing to do with personal responsibility. It’s a very seductive ride and that’s rock n’ roll.
I’m looking forward to listening to the rest of the album, which based on some U tube sampling rocks pretty hard for the most part.
Three of the four main partners in the group hail from Texas, the other from Oklahoma. They have Austin connections and now are hanging out in Nashville.
New is the new single and album (not yet released) from Paul McCartney. Not exactly roots music, though it certainly goes back to my musical roots. As one might expect, it is an engaging piece of music, all very professional and clocks in at just under 3 minutes, making it radio friendly. It’s about a new relationship blossoming, but the emphasis on the word “new” throughout the song suggests something deeper that the song really doesn’t deliver on and that’s a new sound, or a new message, or perhaps even a new persona. The chorus hints at the expectation that we should have:
We can do what we want,
We can live as we choose.
You see there’s no guarantee,
We got nothing to lose.
Unfortunately, Paul the rock star is one of the biggest brands in the world. And that seems to get in the way of this whole “nothing to lose” sentiment. The music recycles Sgt Peppers/Magical Mystery Tour Beatles, with hints of When I’m 64, Penny Lane, and Hello/Goodbye. The persona, somewhat shy and self doubting, suggest the “will you still need me, will you still feed me” persona in When I’m 64. This is all fine. If you are going to recycle musical ideas from your back catalog, this is prime real estate. But it’s also a bit of fluff. Then again Hello/Goodbye was also a piece of fluff, but the execution, energy and musical invention on display makes it so much more.
And I, for one, wish this was a little more. Sir Paul has indeed done some interesting and different music not that long ago on Electric Arguments in 2008. Of course, he didn’t put it out as a Paul McCartney album. Perhaps he thought it was too experimental for the fans or for the brand. Still, something between the two styles, with some genuine risk taking would be a lot more interesting.
Delta Rae is a folk rock band from North Carolina. Their single If I Loved You featuring Lindsay Buckingham (on guitar presumably) is all over the radio right now. It plays on a fairly common theme: a girl is in a relationship with a great, sensitive guy and things would be perfect, but she doesn’t really love him. She feels really bad about it and she thinks that he knows.
The music and the voices are great. The verses are a little generic and don’t really tell us very much specific about the guy or the relationship. He’s considerate and brings her flowers I guess. Then, comes the chorus (note: all the choruses, aside from the first phrase are different), which the singer really belts out at the top of her lungs:
But I don’t love you, not like I want to
I don’t love you and that makes it hard
And every morning, I see how you watch me
And each night I know you feel it and it just breaks your heart
She even wishes to God that she could change things. My problem with the song is that there’s an inherent contradiction here. There’s a little too much passion in the execution of “I don’t love you.” Does she really want it that badly? And if she did, wouldn’t it make a difference. Maybe it’s a guy thing, but it almost sounds by the second or third time like, “WTF is wrong with you that I can’t love you.” Blaming the victim. The lady doth protest too much. Much too much.
Personal advice: admit to him that you don’t love him and break it off. If you can’t, suck it up and have those babies. There’s a lot of talent here, but it could be put to much better use.
Jim Heald is a singer-songwriter located in Alexandria, VA. He hopes to have a new CD out by the end of the year. He’s also written a book on the lyrics and music of Bruce Cockburn called World of Wonders, which is available from Amazon.com.