Friday, August 04, 2006

Top 5: Reading Music

This week's Top 5 is intended to call your attention to the best music reads I've come across this week, in no particular order. And here we go.

Two of the best posts I've read online this week have to do with important, but not necessarily well-known, figures in country music. First up, at the inestimable Living in Stereo, David Cantwell republishes an obituary he wrote last year for Sammi Smith, who would be turning 63 this weekend. The post, titled "Girl Hero: Sammi Smith", features several tracks, including Sammi's 1971 crossover standard, "Help Me Make it Through the Night." It's a more important record than you might imagine. Cantwell and Bill Friskics-Warren, in their 2003 book Heartaches by the Number: Country Music's 500 Greatest Singles, put it at Number One. People who know only the in-your-face mixture of beat and attitude that passes for country music today, or who dismiss all country music as "twang," know little if anything about the quiet, powerful sort of country Sammi Smith did so well. That style never dominated the charts back in the day, but at least it crept through now and then. Cantwell provides a generous helping of Sammi's best that you should sample in its entirety. If you can keep from getting goosebumps on "Help Me Make It," or fail to be moved by "Today I Started Loving You Again," you're a harder case than I.

The other country-themed post is by Tony Tost at Moistworks. He writes about three very different country songs, all written by the same interesting and controversial singer/songwriter: David Allan Coe.

One thing that's clear to a rock fan on the cusp of geezerhood--the kids just don't seem to be having much fun these days. The hottest bands right now all seem either dark and brooding or aggressively pissed off. Thom Jurek (who is not necessarily on the cusp of geezerhood himself--I have no idea) traces the rise and fall of hedonistic, good-time rock and roll, from the 1950s to its 80s resurgence and its 90s disappearance, in "Is Rock & Roll Really Dying? A Case Against Dourist Rockism". It's at

AK, who runs Soul Shower, is in the midst of relocating from Wisconsin to Indiana, so his latest post is one that's been up since last week--but it's a good one. It's a guest post by a reader writing about "a mournful longing for the only person who could ever make us feel whole," as expressed in two familiar soul records by Gladys Knight and the Pips and the Chi-Lites.

The Onion has recently expanded its "AV Club" section with some new features. Amelie Gillette's "The Hater" is one of my new favorite sources for snark, but also worth reading is "The Inventory," which features a music-and-movies list of some sort each week. This week's list is "14 Classic Tom Petty Opening Lines," a unique way to appreciate a guy whose reputation grows with every new record he makes.

Bonus Read: At Take Em as They Come, there's a post that has nothing to do with music, but go and read it anyway. Danny Alexander writes about the ghosts in his house this summer, and in his life more broadly. Damn, I wish I could write like that.


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