“The North Star Grassman and the Ravens” by Sandy Denny

In September 1971, Sandy Denny — on the heels of an incendiary contribution to “Battle of Evermore” from Led Zeppelin‘s upcoming fourth album — released her first solo record, The North Star Grassman and the Ravens.  It carried with it the strength and grace of her previous efforts, and featured many of the musicians with whom she … Continue reading “The North Star Grassman and the Ravens” by Sandy Denny

“Lean on Me” by Bill Withers

Where Randy Newman and John Prine brought hyper-literate character study to the singer-songwriter genre, often inhabiting in the first person the figures they constructed in song, Bill Withers went for the emotional jugular, unabashed, and if there was any character being studied it was him.  Withers’ warm, supple voice, steeped in rhythm and blues and country, was his … Continue reading “Lean on Me” by Bill Withers

“Cowboy” by Randy Newman

Randy Newman makes diamonds.  You can feel the pressure and time and heat that go into his songs, creating the effect of lush spaciousness in tunes typically clocking in under three minutes.  His eagerness towards satire is a product of his style, immersive first-person character sketches delivering broad social commentary and comedy in lines simply … Continue reading “Cowboy” by Randy Newman

“Midnight Feast” by Lal Waterson and Oliver Knight

One of the few individuals who could lay any real claim to being essential to the British folk revival, Elaine “Lal” Waterson lent her unique voice — absolutely beautiful and instantly recognizable — to the records she and her brother Mike and sister Norma made as The Watersons, defining the passion and respect necessary to performing … Continue reading “Midnight Feast” by Lal Waterson and Oliver Knight