Road Music: Driving Texas’ Highways, 2009

by Jeff Siegel

Freelance assignments took me to Wichita Falls and Houston recently, which meant driving more than 800 miles over a five-day period. And, given the pathetic state of radio (well-documented here on the iVoryTowerz blog), that meant I had to tune myself up.

What I listened to (and played very loudly once again):

The Clash, London Calling: Still hip, still relevant, still political and still angry, and as much fun to listen to today as it was when it came out 30 years ago. This may be the most mature and sophisticated record any punk band made, and that’s a compliment. The Clash believed they could change the world with rock ‘n roll, and London Calling was their weapon.

Emmylou Harris, All I Intended to Be: Dark, brooding and almost brilliant, this 2009 release is a look at aging and death and whether we’ve done as much as we could with our time on this earth. Harris cuts Tracy Chapman cold on “All That You Have is Your Soul,” which is not easy to do, and her duet with Billy Joe Shaver on “Old Five and Dimers Like Me” is spooky. (For a complementary take on this Emmylou Harris release, please see: "Music: The Best of 2008, So Far," and "Music: The Best of 2008, Rick's List.")

Rockpile, Seconds of Pleasure. In 1980, this was supposed to be the seminal New Wave album, featuring Nick Lowe, New Wave’s poet laureate, and Dave Edmunds, its guitar hero. Which it wasn’t, and which disappointed those of us who were paying attention. It was too poppy and too pretty. Oddly enough, those qualities have helped the record age well, though I still prefer Lowe’s Labour of Lust and Edmund’s Repeat When Necessary.

Van Morrison, Down the Road: Morrison wrote Tupelo Honey in 1971, and few songs captured the time’s hippie, flannel shirt ethos better. Most musicians never recover from a hit like that. But Morrison did, and has done some of his best work at a time when his contemporaries are retired or playing casino lounges. This 2002 release is introspective, as much of Morrison’s work is, but it also rocks. How many others can do that?

(For an earlier trip down Texas' highways with inspirational driving music, please see: "Road Music: Driving Texas' Interstate Highways.")

(The photo is by ajsmith227 of McKinney, TX via Flickr, using a Creative Commons license. To see Emmylou Harris play "Shores of White Sand" from All I Intended to Be on The Late Show with David Letterman, please check below.)

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