Tag Archives: Ryan Adams

The Unsung: Latest and Greatest

26 Jan

Hey Unsungers (yes, congratulations, you are now a noun, a Collective, a Hive, a Movement, a Way of Life):

Long time no speak. I’ve been busy just like i’m sure you have been. Life moves like a jet these days, past your field of view and gone. I’m now a father and enjoying everything that comes with it. In those fleeting moments, when i get a chance to think about music, i think about songs that evoke memories of youth, when life was free and easy.  Or I think about what songs my son should hear in his early days (admittedly this is an overthink, but if all the good willing western parents of the world can arrange for their newborns to fill their bellys with organic sugar free purees, shouldn’t they conspire to have the best of music for their souls? More on that in another post). Songs are always gateways to feelings for me – the happy, the sad, the nostalgic, the introspective. More than ever, i seek out songs to take me to a certain place when i have a minute to escape.

So we keep on moving forward. There are still soundtracks to our lives, songs that still grab hold. Here are my favorites at the moment and a few thoughts, all captured in a Latest and Greatest© playlist on spotify 

Michael Kiwanuka “Love and Hate” and “May This Be Love” The more I listen to Michael, the more i believe he is the true talent of our age. His album is so….deep. Get into him, please. 

Bahamas “Way With Words” A way with words is so important. A welcome return to the chillest man in rock. 

House of Pain “Top O’ the Morning to Ya” Retro throwback. My cousin Konrad and i use to roll around the mean streets of Calgary listening to white boy rap on our way to the courts to hoop it up. Yeah it doesn’t work with the rest of this playlist but…..Go Celtics.

The Vaccines “I Can’t Quit” I loved the first Vaccines album, ‘What Did You Expect From the Vaccines’. It was the perfect mix of the Strokes, stories about models, British classicism, and west coast cool. They have largely sucked since then, but this song seems like a return to form…

Ryan Adams “Where Will You Run” – A b-side to the excellent Prisoner. Here at Unsung, we’ve been long time fans of Ryan and he can do no wrong. Especially when he is doing his best Nirvana meets 80s power pop. When he starts yelping at 2:12, i believe in rock again.

Greta Van Fleet – “Black Smoke Rising” and “Highway Tune” shameless Led Zep guitar noodling and aping? Robert Plant howling? An album cover with allusions to mythical dark forest fires that summon the fellowship in your soul? Check, check and Triple Check. Should you care when it’s such a good rip-off? No. Let’s hope they don’t meet the same fate as Wolfmother.

The Sheepdogs “Nobody” The current Flagbearers of Canadian Classic Rock. Long live our shaggy friends. New album out now….this is an album track which i can picture drinking patio pilsners to. 

“Stardust” by Willie Nelson and Harry Connick, Jr. This song is my current earworm. I was a huge Harry Connick fan in the early 90s – i thought he was going to be the second coming of Frank Sinatra, with actual songwriting and instrumentation chops. Then he went and starred in a bad romcom with Sandra Bullock. But before the corruption, he recorded a cover album on his 25th birthday. Just him, a piano, a dark studio, and some of his favorite musicians. His version of Stardust, especially the piano at 3:50, haunts me. In my humble opinion, it is simply the saddest and the most soothing melody, a song about a song about love. And then we have Willie’s version, from the excellent 1978 album of the same name. It resurrected his career and offers a completely different interpretation, warm and fuzzy like only Willie can be. I mean, just check out the album backcover:

Kudos to my record store and whisky drinking sidekick Shaun for encouraging that vinyl purchase. I haven’t regretted one moment of listening to it with a bourbon in hand.

So, all in all, that’s the beauty of Stardust. An absolute classic, almost 100 years old.

The Weavers “Wimoweh” you should immediately recognize this rhythm if you are Lion King fan, a king of the Jungle, or a past guest at my wedding 🙂  The story behind this song is fascinating. This version, by Pete Seeger and the Weavers from the 50s, is considered the evolutionary bridge between the magnificent original, and the big hit The Tokens had in the 60s. (And the version my wife perfected live and in concert, in full marital bliss, in 2015)

Happy Weekend!


Back by Popular Demand: Timmy T’s Top Ten of Twenty Fourteen

22 Jan
Music super fan Timmy T is back again with his take on the year that was. Without further adieu, and presented without comment by Unsung  (ok, 2 comments:  Where is Hozier??? How about Sturgill?? 🙂  here’s your chance to catch up on all the great music you may have missed!
1.)  alt-J  –  This Is All Yours
Best Song:  “Every Other Freckle”
Why It’s On The List: Very different yet easy listening stuff; kind of like if someone took the Drive soundtrack and put it in a blender with some heavy riffs and lyrics for extra flavour.

2.)  Bruce Springsteen  –  High Hopes  &  American Beauty (EP)

Best Songs:  “American Skin (41 Shots)” from High Hopes  &  “Mary Mary” from American Beauty (EP)

Why They’re On The List: Look, he’s called the Boss for a reason; it’s not like the name was awarded for half-assed music. This time out, he’s done another collection of cover songs, outtakes and re-imagined tracks. It’s done with contributions from both the E Street Band and Tom Morello and nearly every song sounds amazing! If you like Bruuuuuuuccceee, do yourself a favour and give both of these a listen.

3.)  Paolo Nutini – Caustic Love

Best Song:  “Scream (Funk My Life Up)”
Why It’s On The List: Just a great contemporary take on soul and R&B and a tiny little bit of funky funk. The first track is really a great leading track (for almost any playlist) and everything that follows is mellow and soothing while thought-provoking. A great album for a quiet night in, along with some great drinks.

4.)  Sam Roberts Band  –  Lo-Fantasy

Best Song:  “We’re All In This Together”
Why It’s On The List: I was a little worried he might never have another great album, that he “might never be the same again”. Well, I was wrong on both counts. Not only is this album fantastic, it’s also a re-invention of Sam Roberts. Take what you think you know about him and his band, stomp on it with your foot, and kick it across the room. Then pull it apart and crumple it back together. Then paint it with a combination of groovy colours. That’s what this album is!

5.)  Ryan Adams  –  Ryan Adams

Best Song:  “I Just Might”
Why It’s On The List: Personally, I think if you have to ask, then you haven’t obviously ever been listening to any of his work to begin with. And shame on you then. Setting aside a dismal concert performance in E-dot (in my humble opinion), this album is quite possibly his best work yet, and that’s saying something. The guy has already done a ton of amazing work. If you have listened to him, then you know what I’m talking about. And, you’ll agree with me if you know what’s good for you.

6.)  SomeKindaWonderful  –  SomeKindaWonderful

Best Song:  “Devilish Man”
Why It’s On The List: A combination of nearly all genres, somehow it works. Initially, I didn’t think it did. But, on the second listen, there’s quite a bit of complexity to this album. One of the main cases in point is “Devilish Man”; it’s got a catchy but also throwback attitude. The whole thing is quite enjoyable.

7.)  Spoon  –  They Want My Soul

Best Song:  “Inside Out”
Why It’s On The List: Just when you think this album might be trying to be Brit-pop, it veers off into some pretty interesting melodic territory. If you’re familiar with Spoon already, this is their best work so far, in my opinion. And, I think the future is even more promising for this band than ever before, based on this album.

8.)  John Hiatt  –  Terms of My Surrender

Best Song:  “Nobody Knew His Name”
Why It’s On The List: If you like slow Blues, without it sauntering up to you and being all up in your face, then this is a great album for you. It’s not fancy, but that’s a good thing. This is the kind of album I see myself listening to by the fire pit with a beer, and howling at the moon in angelic harmony with the album. I have an angelic voice, you know.

9.)  Vance Joy  –  Dream Your Life Away

Best Song:  “Mess Is Mine”
Why It’s On The List: I like fast-paced Folk riffs. So does everyone else apparently! This album is kind of like if only one guy from Mumford & Sons decided to go solo.

10.)  Royal Blood  –  Royal Blood

Best Song:  “Figure It Out”
Why It’s On The List: Well, NME‘s readers voted it number ‘1’, and that’s worth something, right Unsung? 😉 It’s also a total rebel assault on rock n’ roll itself. Don’t listen to this if you don’t like meat & potatoes rock n’ roll. By the way, based on this, the genre (i.e. ‘rock n’ roll’) is alive and well.

Honourable Mentions

  • U2’s Songs of Innocence had its detractors for obvious reasons, but all in all, it’s a pretty good U2 album. Just not good enough for the main list. Sorry, Bono. But, also congrats for being on my Honourable Mentions list.
  • Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack has awesome songs from the seventies. A great playlist unto its own and just awesome homage. FYI reminder, not to be a downer, but “Spirit in the Sky” gets played at my funeral and/or at O’Byrne’s for my wake.
  • Walking Dead soundtrack EP has some phenomenal tracks I’ve never heard of before, especially Sharon Van Etten’s “Serpents (Basement)”; if you like music, you should listen to that track. The track is not from 2014, but the soundtrack is. So, that’s why it’s in Honourable Mentions.
  • Death from Above 1979’s “Trainwreck 1979” is a rip-roaring track!
  • Robert Plant’s lullaby and . . . The Ceaseless Roar has some great tunes on it, if you’ve enjoyed his latter year mellowing melancholy tunes. A little Celtic flavour underlying this one too, which is an interesting juxtaposition to what is an otherwise ordinarily rock-blues-country vocal.
  • Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers’ Hypnotic Eye; after years of not being on charts, that this one made it, and is worth the nod, is worth the nod. Honourable Mention, but not a top 10. Good going, Tom. Maybe a TT Top 10 is in your sights yet. 😉 Keep at it. You’ll make it someday.
  • I only happened to discover The Killers’ “Shot At the Night” during 2014. Yes, it’s a 2013 track from a Greatest Hits compilation. But holy cow! Magnificent track!! I remember being absolutely paralyzed when I first heard it (and that was a good reaction; it’s the reaction to have to music – when it’s soooo good, you can’t move; literally). I have to mention it because I don’t have an Unsung website so, this is my only opportunity for this plug. Yes, I’m a year late. But, if you have only one song you can download this month, this is my absolute 100% foolproof recommendation.
    • Your life will thank you.

Jordie Lane

10 Mar


The (Man) in the Band:  Jordie Lane

What’s the story? On Saturday night, I convinced some of my best friends to travel 300 km, and along with my girl and my family, to take a leap of faith and come join me at Festival Hall to see someone i had barely heard and someone we had never seen. I can’t explain what compelled me to do so, other than some strange intuition and a certain desire: every once in while, fleetingly so, live music does form a union, where something is so brilliant in its beauty, its craft, its tenderness, or its energy that you look at the person you are with and just have that incredulous/happy ‘i can’t believe we are witnessing this’ moment.  That’s all you can hope for from a live show – sometimes those moments flicker and sometimes they don’t appear, and the thrill can be hard to replicate. Any prior doubts or uncertainties i had on Saturday were quickly put to rest in about half of one of Jordie Lane’s songs; we became mesmerized by his voice, his charm, and his songwriting ability. Another Aussie gem largely unheralded in our vast continent.

Sounds Like: Ryan Adams’ Aussie storytellin’ cousin

The gateway song: “Lost in You”

….and you might not hear a better story song this year than “Black Diamond”

Other songs:   

“Feet Fall”

“Die Looking at You”

 If you liked this, check out these bands/songs:

Townes Van Zandt “Waiting Around to Die”

Ryan Adams “Love is Hell” Albums (Part 1 and 2)

Paul Kelly

Mary Gauthier “Last of the Hobo Kings”

Badly Drawn Boy “A Minor Incident”


Coffee Cup Reading: Attack of the Bryan Adams EarWorm

30 Aug


So I was in Greece last week:  amazing sunsets, salty water, hot dance clubs til 5am, sweet fruit, feta, and veg that will make you wonder what the hell Canadians are eating – you get the picture, i won’t belabor it to the point of jealousy.  Among the many revelations one has on a trip like this, came a startling discovery about international trade and music: Bryan Adams is big in Greece. I know, right? How the hell did the pride of Kingston end up endearing himself to a nation a million miles from the Great Lakes? Your guess is as good as mine, I’ve always preferred his misspelled doppleganger. Although I will confess to waiting for slow songs in Grade 8, and when his Robin Hood oeuvre came on, you found the prettiest girl who would say yes and made your way to the centre of the gym. And who hasn’t been Cut Like A Knife? (probably shortly after said dance)…..

…so we were on a rooftop, drinking vodka, coke and sour cherry. The DJ was spinning cool ambient music, the kind of stuff that is perfect for a certain place like a rooftop bar, but that you never think to download after the fact. The brilliant Greek Sun had set, and we admired the Acropolis in the near distance. Perfectly chill. Then out of nowhere comes “Have you Ever Really Loved A Woman”:

Well have you? Bryan Adams wants to know, and he wants to know while he salsas to a latin beat. I mean, really really really ever loved a woman. What in the hell just happened? Why did the cool Greek DJ think that this song was a perfect capper for our perfect greek night? Nothing can explain it. Or maybe two things can explain it…..

Like many things on UnSung, there are those artists and bands that amount to nothing on a global scale or are underrated; then, by the grace of God or chord progression, they shoot up the charts with a firecracker and are shared by the world. Until they disappear from consciousness again, only to resurface years later in Greece, a place where (presumably), they were always in fashion, and you are reminded of being a teenager, and the Summer of ’69, and how three men of vastly different backgrounds somehow made sense as the musical Muskateers:

Isn’t music so great?

I returned home from Greece. Days later, time after time, whether it was in the shower, cooking, walking, working – “Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman” played back on the soundtrack in my brain. Inescapable. Irritating, confounding, but somehow addictive. Why does a song stick in your head? Let me drop some science on you, the doctors are on it and they are calling it an EarWorm. Adams’ declarations of love, at first so banal, now seemed profound. “to really love a woman, you let her hold you…..give her wings so she can fly…….and when you can see your unborn children in her eyes, you know you really(really really) love a woman”. Puke. But still, somehow…..sweet. I thought about it. Maybe it has to do with love in your own life; if you’ve been there, you know, and you want to be there again with the girl/boy by your side. Schmaltz is the soundtrack for lovers, but love songs only seem silly when you’re not in love or don’t want to be in love.

So thank you, Bryan Adams EarWorm. Thanks for being a Canadian ambassador to the land of honey and seaside sunsets. Thanks for letting Kevin Costner be a Prince of Thieves. Thanks for the catalogue of music that I begrudgingly get into every once in a while. And thanks for distilling the notion of love into 4 minutes and 57 seconds, so I know it the next time I see it.

Laura Marling

3 Jun


The (Lady in the) Band:  Laura Marling

What’s the story? At the ripe old age of 23, the old soul that is Laura Marling has the grace of a medieval Eowyn warrior princess, channelling the spirits and sounds of centuries of heartbreak. The already prolific  singer-songwriter has released 4 albums, and is heralded as the English Rose of UK folk.

Sounds Like:  Joni Mitchell singing along to Led Zeppelin III while making rainy day tea

The gateway song: There are two sides to Miss Marling. The pensive wounded robin:

“Blues Run The Game”

And the increasingly prevalent predatory bird of prey:

“Master Hunter”

Other songs:   

“Rambling Man”

 “Devil’s Spoke”

“Where Can I Go?”

Listen to her new album ‘Once I Was An Eagle’ for a limited time here! Especially the suite of the first 5 songs. Special.

 If you liked this band, check out these bands/songs:

Sandy Denny “Who Knows Where The Time Goes”

Sheryl Crow “It Don’t Hurt” (a real hidden gem if you’ve never heard it)

Ryan Adams “Ashes and Fire” album

Joni Mitchell “I Could Drink A Case of You”

Paul Kelly

7 May

The (Man in the) Band:  Paul Kelly 

What’s the story? There are national treasures in every country, and poet laureates who capture character and culture like no one else can; those that are cherished by young and old alike. Here in Canada, we have Cohen, Lightfoot, and Downie – most other places don’t appreciate them like we do because our stories aren’t theirs; but in a way, that’s why we love them even more.  And our commonwealth cousins to the far southwest of Australia are no different, for they have Paul Kelly. He’s an effortless songwriter, crafting tunes and melodies that are personal, profound and sometimes political. Last Friday at the Palamino, amidst a slightly incredulous and jubilant crowd made up of mostly countrymen and fortunate Canadians, Kelly shone with his usual country folk charm. And as the night drew to a close, and we joined in to sing along with his special encore cover of “Four Strong Winds”, the story had come full circle; we had reveled in the traditions and songs of someone who was no longer a stranger, but our voice –  and the crowd, from all walks of life, descending from many corners of the globe, became united.

Sounds Like:  Dylan and Morrison troubadouring ‘cross the red earth Outback with nothing but harmonicas and guitars.

The gateway song:   “For the Ages”

Other songs:   

“Love Never Runs on Time”

“(The) Oldest Story in the Book”

“Before Too Long”

“Madeline’s Song”

Get the best versions of most of these on iTunes – Paul Kelly “The A to Z Recordings”

If You Like this, check out these bands/songs: 

Crowded House ‘Recurring Dream’ best of album (you need to own this album!)

Gordon Lightfoot “Canadian Railroad Trilogy”

John Prine “Souvenirs”

Ryan Adams “Tears of Gold” or anything off of the ‘Heartbreaker’ or ‘Gold’ albums

Stone Roses “10 Story Love Song”