Mix Six: “Old Rockers, New(ish) Songs”

Written by Mix Six, Music

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If there’s a not-so-subtle subtext to this mix, it would be singers who have raspy voices.  And if there was a disclaimer, it would be this: “Some of these songs aren’t new at all.” But I can’t fit all of that into the subject heading, so, well, there.

I don’t know what it is about the world-weariness of singers like Mark Knopfler, Marianne Faithfull, and Lucinda Williams, but their voices convey such longing and sadness that I’m surprised David Medsker didn’t include their songs in his now-defunct “Mope Like Me” series.

In a way, it must be tough to be an old codger in rock music since the genre is generally marketed to the young.  At what point do you call it a career? It’s hard to say. Maybe you take the attitude of Keith Richards who, when asked if he was too old for rock ‘n’ roll, said something like: “Hey, if B.B. King can get out there night after night and play, I’m gonna do the same thing.” God bless you, Keith.  And so it goes with this week’s lineup. Yeah, these cats are old, but they still make music — or, in the case of Leonard Cohen and Marianne Faithfull, perform music — that has depth, maturity, and substance.

“Down from Dover,” Marianne Faithfull (download)

This is clearly not the Marianne Faithfull that sang “As Tears Go By,” but what she does with this Dolly Parton song is quite amazing.   I said at the outset that there’s a world-weariness to singers like Faithfull, and she sings this tune with the right amount of regret and loss that makes a sad song even sadder.

“Behind with the Rent,” Mark Knopfler (download)

A few week’s ago, Jeff Giles wrote a really powerful post about how we experience music in this age of the instant download.  Getting “lost in the song” by listening to music without other distractions is something that’s becoming a rarity.  What happens is that the subtleties of a song often get glossed over because there are other things clamoring for attention (i.e., e-mail, the Internet, Twitter, texting, or your iPhone). But if there’s a musician whose music is a lot like discerning the subtleties of good French wine in a distraction-free setting, it’s Mark Knopfler.

“Beyond Here Lies Nothin,” Bob Dylan (download)

When I first heard this song late last month, I instantly loved how Dylan’s voice was raspier and less nasally. But moreover, the song’s arrangement is really quite invigorating and has a great wonderful sense of groove. If this single foreshadows what’s on the rest of the album, then I think we, as listeners, are in for a treat on April 28th.

“Suzanne,” Leonard Cohen (download)

Back in the mid-’80s I watched the film The Second Coming of Suzanne, which was based on Cohen’s song.  I gotta say that was one trippy movie that had Sondra Locke and Richard Dreyfuss walking around looking confused and reciting really stupid dialogue. In short, the film was crap, but Cohen’s latest (live) recording of “Suzanne” has a real haunting quality to it that conjures up many cinematic images that almost make me forget The Second Coming of Suzanne.

“Real Love (Alternate Early Version),” Lucinda Williams (download)

This version is less polished than the single, but Lucinda’s singing has a greater clarity to it, and with a more spare musical arrangement, also a greater vulnerability.

“My Lucky Day,” Bruce Springsteen (download)

If there’s a “Classic Coke” sound for Springsteen, he has certainly found it on “My Lucky Day.” So it shouldn’t be surprising that Springsteen has included this song on the setlist for his current tour.  What does surprise me is that “Outlaw Pete” is being performed — but when you’re Bruce Springsteen, you have the right to indulge yourself.