Wednesday, December 19, 2007

32. Rosie Thomas - These Friends of Mine

My co-worker and I were discussing the divergence in our respective tastes in music. We do have fairly similar taste, but she really dislikes what she considers to be pretentious sounding singers. I made a reluctant comparison that I'm more emo than she is. She agreed, but cut me some slack by re-phrasing my description to say I like sentimental music more than she does. This album, and one track in particular, perfectly embodies the feeling that I'm a sucker for sentimentality.

That track is "Songbird", Rosie Thomas' interpretation of the Fleetwood Mac original. I have to admit to not being that familiar with Christine McVie's version before I heard this one. That's probably why it really hit me. Then, to be able to listen to it back-to-back with the Fleetwood Mac version, and to realize the latter is even better, is really amazing. But, that doesn't detract from the beauty of Thomas' version. Hers is played to acoustic guitar backed by subtle strings, while the Fleetwood Mac song is a piano ballad, and Rosie's voice adds a certain down-home folky charm to the song.

But, the rest of the album, although only 33 minutes in total, is really special as well. In my regular frequent spins entry in my myspace blog, I called March the best month of 2007 to that point...which isn't really saying much, but it probably hangs onto that distinction even at year end. I ranked These Friends of Mine in a three-way tie with two other female singer-songwriter albums for 5th best album of the month. As it turns out, Rosie's effort is the only of those three to have the staying power to secure a spot in my top 40.

31. Mark Olson - The Salvation Blues

Depending on your interpretation, there may be a slight factual error in my post of December 17. I've been a fan of The Jayhawks a little longer than Dinosaur Jr. Of course, The Jayhawks didn't put out an album in 2007, but co-founder Mark Olson did.

Just as I favored Jay Farrar over Jeff Tweedy in Uncle Tupelo, and J Mascis over Lou Barlow in Dinosaur Jr., I initially was a bigger fan of Mark Olson than his co-leader in The Jayhawks, Gary Louris. This changed when Olson left the band and Louris proved to be a more talented songwriter who really stood out when fronting the band on his own. Olson clearly has his niche, and that niche is in straight-up country-rock and, sometimes old-timey, folk.

The Salvation Blues is technically his first truly solo record, after several albums with his now ex-wife Victoria Williams as The Original Harmony Ridge Creekdippers, Mark Olson & The Creekdippers, and just the Creek Dippers. It's also the first album since their divorce. I'm not sure why, but I was more saddened to hear of their breakup than I would have thought possible.

I have no knowledge of their relationship, but for some reason I pictured them the perfect couple, living a simple life in the California desert, barely making a living from their music, and Mark taking care of Victoria when she had setbacks due to her M.S. But, I was wrong. She filed for divorce when she found out he was shacking up with an old girlfriend. Then, the old girlfriend dumped him too. It was a rough year for Mark, so I guess this is a bit of a different kind of comeback, and a good one at that.

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