Johnny Cash, At Folsom Prison (Columbia, 1968, 1999 reissue)
Oh, c'mon. I've never met anyone who doesn't appreciate the haunting tragedy of this song. A man, executed for a murder he didn't commit, sent to his grave for refusing to admit he'd slept with his best friend's wife, with his forbidden love visiting the narrator's grave when the "night wind wails."
THE WESTERN ASH [MP3]
Pinetop Seven, Beneath Confederate Lake (Empyrean Sky, 2006)
Calexico, Feast of Wire (cityslang/Quarterstick, 2003)
So...riddle me this... Why is it that nearly every woman I've been involved with since, well, 2004, has wanted to either steal this CD or to "borrow" an Mp3 version of this track?
UNCLE TOM'S CABIN
Warrant, Cherry Pie (Epic/Sony, 1990)
I do indeed have my guilty pleasures when it comes to 80s hair bands. I've always dug this song - it's the Deliverance-esque narrative.
EXETER, RHODE ISLAND [MP3]
Jennifer O'Connor, Over The Mountain, Across The Valley, and Back To The Stars (Matador, Aug. 22, 2006)
A very talented NYC-based singer/songwriter. I've had a "leaked" version of this song for a few months now, but, wow! And I'm a sucker for songs about random-ass places in the middle of nowhere. The buzz surrounding O'Connor? She could very well be the next Elliot Smith. And, trust me, college campuses need another Elliot Smith, but without the pre-emo whining of a lot of Smith's work.
MOMENT OF CLARITY
Danger Mouse, The Grey Album, (Shaolin, 2004)
The Tim Berners-Lee of Hip-Hop, this album launched Danger Mouse into the musical stratosphere and struck a blow for intellectual and artistic freedom heard 'round the world. Gnarls Barkley? There would be no Gnarls without this album. BTW, I'm proud to admit that I was an active participant in 2004's Grey Tuesday protests.
WHERE THE WILD ROSES GROW
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, f. Kylie Minogue, Murder Ballads (Mute, 1995)
Urge Overkill, Saturation (Geffen, 1993)
For some reason, this song always reminds me of a kid I tutored in California, back in my undergrad days. She'd been kicked out by her parents, was living on the streets of San Luis Obispo, and had dropped out of high school at 16. I burned a mix CD for her that included this song.
And, well, she passed her GED.
WHERE HAVE ALL THE GOOD TIMES GONE
The Kinks, The Kink Kontroversy (1965)
One of the best rock songs of all time.
MEMORIAL DAY [MP3]
The Perceptionists, Black Dialogue (Definitive Jux, 2005)
For the Iraq War vets out there, the ones back from the Clusterfuck in the Desert. Boston's two best known emcees - Akrobatik and Mr. Lif - team up with Fakts One to create an amazing hip-hop track, a story told from the perspective of soldiers frustrated by the lack of a coherent mission or, well, plan.
The Rolling Stones, Goats Head Soup (Atlantic/Virgin, 1973)
No reason. But this is one of my three favorite Stones songs. I think it may be impossible to have less than three favorite Stones songs, considering the band's age and, well, the abundance of music they've recorded. Carbon-dating may be required to determine the age of Keith Richards and Mick Jagger.
Jedi Mind Tricks, Visions of Gandhi (Babygrande, 2003)
Okay, so it's an extremely violent, brutal track. But, man, the sampling of Latin guitar and the bass! Damn. There are days I wish I still had a heavy bag, some boxing tape, and the bad attitude. I had (and probably still have) a rather brutal right hook and a nasty left jab...