North Carolina-born, Florida-raised and currently Colorado-based singer/songwriter John Common has been writing songs since he was a teenager. Obviously, traveling the country isn’t that big a deal for him. In tandem with his band, The Blinding Flashes Of Light, Common’s music (their latest album, Beautiful Empty, was released earlier this year,) has garnered critical acclaim for successfully combining elements of folk, pop and country.
Common’s list of Desert Island Discs is a potpourri of sounds; drawing from divergent genres of music. We’ll shut up now and let him talk.
I try very hard to avoid being stranded on desert islands, but it happens sometimes, despite one’s best intentions. So this is a reasonable question. My current five D.I.D.’s are:
Mambo Sinuendo by Ry Cooder & Manuel Galban. This record makes me want to drink rum endlessly while playing a pawn shop hollowbody through a vintage fender amp in a dank, stucco room. Nickel wound strings, please.
Somethin’ Else by Cannonball Adderly, Miles Davis, Hank Jones, Sam Jones, Art Blakey. Drive all night from the Holland Tunnel to Tallahassee, Florida while listening to this record on repeat and tell me you haven’t been permanently transformed. I defy you.
Dvorak’s 9th Symphony (New World Symphony). The backstory is what sucked me in. He wrote it while doing a kind of artist residency in the United States from 1892 to 1895. He (a Czech composer) was attempting to write the quintessential American symphony/story. And the process he used as “research” was deeply flawed and fundamentally shallow — tourist dilettantism. And yet, on some level, his cultural mashup nailed it. It strikes me as particularly American in that way… how myth and fact get totally conflated and confused but somehow hit the mark. Grab the Chicago Symphony Orchestra version.
Rain Dogs by Tom Waits. I could write forever about this, but I shan’t. Suffice to say, I’ve fallen in and out of love once (each) to this record. It now stands as a lyrical bar for me to somehow reach, maybe just once, before I die. This record also excels as a soundtrack for drinking alone late at night.
Songs From A Room / Songs Of… by Leonard Cohen (a tie, I’m cheating). This bastard was/is a poet first and a songwriter second. Actually, I think he was a womanizer first and a poet second. Or maybe a Buddhist second. Shit, I dunno. These songs remind of the first time I heard them: sitting alone in a cabin in Vermont in front of a hardwood fire that was absolutely not keeping me warm. I slept in a sleeping bag back then.
Ask me tomorrow and I’ll probably give different answers. Talk to you tomorrow. Love, John