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Neal Copperman(neal @ swcp . com)
Seems like I've loved music for ages. I don't really have any musical capabilities myself (though I did enough high school music so that I can read music and understand basic structure) and my parents have even less. There must be some dormant gene in us though, since my sister is an excellent musician. My parents always appreciated music though, and they played plenty when I was a kid.
From my favorite childhood records (Pete Seeger sings Woody Guthrie Road Songs and anything by the Clancy Brothers) I became a total Top 40 nut. Casey Kasum was a constant companion. Each week I eagerly tuned in as he counted down all the music that was new and fresh in the world (little did I know!). I think my tastes bobbled around through high school with whatever drek was popular, before I finally stumbled across some music that seemed really different--early '80s New Wave. Within a year, I was out of my parents' house and on my own at college, which was a ripe environment for hearing music ignored by the radio I was familiar with. People came from California with record collections I was in awe of. That, and unlimited freedom to spend however much time (and money!) I could at local record stores started me on a journey of music that seems neverending.
Somewhere in there, I got a tape from my sister that had Kate Bush's The Dreaming on one side with Treasure by Cocteau Twins on the other, and I was a confirmed ectophile, though it'd be years before the name could be given to me. My pantheon from those college years remains somewhat the same: Kate Bush, Cocteau Twins, Jane Siberry, Laurie Anderson, and the seemingly standard male sidebar of Peter Gabriel. And one of my all time favorite bands is going to always be The Pogues (at least, in the early days). There are many newer artists that I am wild about, but few who have the kind of broad catalog the above have. Happy has such a catalog, as does Veda Hille, who only seems to get more and more exciting with each album.
While a string of great albums might be needed to merit elevation to my personal pantheon, it doesn't seem right to overlook some singularly exceptional albums. Ingrid Karklins' Red Hand is one of the most exciting albums I've heard in years--passionate and earthy, the music throbs and dances across my living room. And Cindy Lee Berryhill's albums are quite good, but it's her live shows (of which I've seen dozens) that elevate her far above the masses. Her shows are such unabashed fun that it's hard to imagine her songs being nailed down in a definitive album version. Despite seeing her week after week one summer, I never grew bored as Cindy Lee would bring out some new bit or turn an old song on its head.
I like my music in all flavors, from folk to experimental to world music to edgy rock, but I still tend to like the general tone and sound of the female voice best. I do like there to be a sharp edge somewhere though, in the music, the vocals, the lyrics or the arrangements, which tends to include lots of stuff in beautiful & fierce category, and much of the evocative/eclectic.
At some point I guess I have to stop writing, though it seems so unfair to neglect to mention so much wonderful music. Well, I guess that's why there is the guide, so I don't have to mention them all myself :) Hope it leads you to lots of great new music.
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