Wednesday, May 22, 2024

My Ten Favorite Songs

I created a Spotify playlist to listen to while driving across the country from Virginia to Oregon. I don't know how many songs it has on it, but the playlist is over 38 hours long! This large collection of favorite songs by my favorite artists got me to thinking about what my ten favorite songs might be. So I went through the playlist and jotted down the names of songs that I thought might be candidates for the top ten. This initial run-thru came out to over 30 songs. So then I whittled it away to these final ten.

Half Moon Rising by Yonder Mountain String Band, from the album Elevation.

Brown Eyed Women by The Grateful Dead. Pretty much any version, but I guess the Europe '72 version is the standard.

Windfall by Son Volt from the album Trace. It could have also been Tear Stained Eye from the same CD.

Tangled Up in Blue. This is a Bob Dylan song, but I'm specifically thinking of the Jerry Garcia Band version from the 1991 live album entitled Jerry Garcia Band.

Galway Girl by Steve Earle from the album Transcendental Blues

What Deaner was Talking About by Ween from the Ween album Chocolate and Cheese.

To Live is to Fly. This is a Townes Van Zandt song, but I'm thinking of the Cowboy Junkies cover of this song found on their Black Eyed Man CD.

Good Guys and Bad Guys by Camper Van Beethoven from the album Camper Van Beethoven.

Ginseng Sullivan. This is a Norman Blake song and I love Norman's version from his album Back Home in Sulphur Springs. Of equal status is the Tony Rice take found on Manzanita. However, I would be omitting a primary booster of this song if didn't give Mike Gordon from Phish credit. I first heard Phish do it on a bootleg CD of their 12/31/93 show from Worcester, MA. I was already familiar with Norman Blake's music at the time and this connection sealed the deal!

Paradise by John Prine from his album John Prine. Honorable mention to every single other song from that same LP!

I must also list these five runner ups: A Horse in the Country by Cowboy Junkies, Golden by My Morning Jacket, Just Before the Evening by Leftover Salmon (Drew Emmitt), Truck Stop Girl by Little Feat (Lowell George), Desolation Row by Bob Dylan (as played by the Grateful Dead with Bobby spewing out the lyrics!), and In Tall Buildings by John Hartford.

Back to the ten favorite...I didn’t want to repeat artists, however the Grateful Dead/Jerry Garcia could have easily had a couple more besides Brown Eyed Women. Ship of Fools or Mission in the Rain, for example. 

Lastly, my favorite band is Phish. Phish is known for jamming more than songwriting, so I didn't want to fluff the list or undermine its credibility by arbitrarily including a Phish song in my list of ten favorite songs. But it wouldn't have been arbitrary. Evening Song, Friday, and All of These Dreams were all strong contenders. Yes, even Friday! Last word.

The Five Oregon Jambands I'm Most Excited About Seeing

Before I list the five Oregon bands that I'm most excited about seeing, I'd like to list ten bands that I would have been excited about seeing almost 25 years ago.

In 1999 I moved from Richmond, VA to Longmont, CO. Longmont is near Boulder and also not far away from Denver or Fort Collins. Music was thriving in Colorado at that time, and I'm sure it still is. At any point during the year 2000, my list of ten favorite bands to see live would have likely been these ten acts:

Phish, moe., String Cheese Incident, Yonder Mountain String Band, Leftover Salmon, Dark Star Orchestra, Sound Tribe Sector 9 (or just Sector 9 back then), The Big Wu, Strangefolk, and Ween.

This is still a few years before I would learn about My Morning Jacket. Anyway, except for Ween this is a pretty jamband-centric list. Before long I ended up moving back to Virginia and have the spent the last 20+ years here.

Of the above mentioned groups, the only local-to-Colorado bands were Leftover Salmon, String Cheese Incident and Yonder Mountain String Band, with YMSB being the most local of the three. When I first began seeing the Jeff Austin-led Yonder in October 1999, the jamgrass quartet was only about a year old and still playing small local venues such as Wolf Tongue in Nederland, Mountain Sun in Boulder, and Oskar Blues in Lyons. Good times. 

Now it's now all over again, and with a move to the PDX metro area just a few weeks away, these are the five young Oregon bands I am most excited about seeing!:

Spunj -
To me Spunj sounds like they are at Eggy or Magic Beans level. Maybe even better! Spunj kicks ass and I can't wait to see them live.

Bodhi Mojo - Earthy and hippie with an emphasis on song structure. Their annual campout festival looks great!

Yak Attack - Instrumental organic jam. Might take me back to the days of seeing Sector 9 at Tulagi in Boulder.

Lost Ox - Maybe the most psychedelic of this bunch.

Shafty - Portland's own Phish cover band.

These five are all different breeds of jambands, and most seem to embrace that identity. Spunj is actually from Eugene but I'm willing to make an overnight out of it if necessary. 

Things are different now than they were 25 years ago. For one thing I'm 50 years old and much less likely to stay out late on a weeknight, much less a weekend. A couple beers at a walking distance from home brewery and in bed by 9pm is more my style now. But I'm hoping to find some of that same youthful energy that I had back in Colorado all those years ago so that I can check out these bands in their natural environments. 

Being near Portland will also offer the opportunity to see touring acts in a brand new setting. For example, Jake Xerxes Fussell at Mississippi Studios in Portland. Other music-oriented hangouts include The Goodfoot, The Get Down, Laurelthirst Public House, The Landmark Saloon, various McMenamins branded places, and the Phish-themed Tomorrow's Verse brewery. 

Lots to check out!