Not Dylan (Friday Gold #17)

There are some artists whose songs will never be as good when performed by someone else. The Beatles and Leonard Cohen come immediately to mind. (Sorry to everyone who’s covered Hallelujah, your versions aren’t as good as Leonard’s.)

Bob Dylan is not one of those artists. His performances are always unique, but his songs are often as good (or better?) when performed by others.

Here are 10 of my favorite Dylan covers.

1. If Not for You – George Harrison

2. You Ain’t Goin Nowhere – The Byrds

3. The Ballad of Hollis Brown – Nina Simone

4. Blowin’ in the Wind – Sam Cooke

5. Goin to Acapulco – Jim James and Calexico

6. One More Cup of Coffee – The White Stripes

7. Wanted Man – Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

8. Every Grain of Sand – Emmylou Harris

9. If You Gotta Go – The Flying Burrito Brothers

10. With God On Our Side – Buddy Miller

A Battle of Puebla (aka Cinco de Mayo) Playlist (Friday Gold #16)

On May 5, 1862, the Mexican army defeated French forces at the Battle of Puebla, thus ensuring every American’s right to get wasted and eat tacos on that day henceforth.
OK, maybe there’s a lot more to it than that. Before you dive in to that first margarita (or maybe while you drink the first one), check out this short but informative article that Time Magazine ran last year: The Surprising True History Behind Cinco de Mayo. Then fire up the blender (and this playlist).


1. The Crystal Frontier – Calexico

2. Mexico – Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass

3. Sabor a Mi – Los Panchos

4. Tico Tico – Grant Green

5. Baby Let’s Go to Mexico – Doug Sahm

6. Ou Es-Tu, Mon Amour? – Willie Nelson

7. El Matador – Los Fabulosos Cadillacs

8. The Sun Belongs to You – Giant Giant Sand

9. All the Pretty Horses – Friends of Dean Martinez

10. Mexicali Blues – The Grateful Dead

Running Behind – A Howe Gelb Playlist (Friday Gold #15)

I’ve seen Howe Gelb play to hundreds of people and I’ve seen him play to a room empty except for myself and a few friends. His approach was the same in both scenarios. Put on a show, but let that show take whatever direction the moment calls for. Sometimes that might mean he plays cds for a while during the set. In other cases, maybe he’ll take requests.

That’s part of the fun of seeing Howe live. The only thing that you can predict is that it will be memorable and entertaining.

Howe makes albums under his own name, Gant Sand, Arizona Amp and Alternator, Band of Blacky Ranchette and others. They’re pretty much all worth listening to.

It’s not possible to capture Howe in a 10-song playlist. So I’m going to break this up into parts. First up, Howe the solo artist. In a few weeks, we’ll come back with a Giant Sand playlist and a playlist of songs under some of Howe’s other band names.

Happy listening!

1. Running Behind

2. Windblown Waltz

3. Every Now and Then

4. Lying There

5. 4 Door Maverick

6. Saint Conformity

7. (There Were) Always Horses Coming

8. That’s How Things Get Done

9. Pedal Steel and She’ll

10. Left (featuring Jason Lytle)

One Year Gone – Remembering Prince (Friday Gold #14)

One year ago today I was sitting at my computer when I got an email from a friend. It simply said “RIP Prince.”

It’s sad to say, but I’ve listened to Prince’s music more in the past year than at any point when he was alive. I was an appreciator before. I’m a fan now.

Better late than never I guess.

1. My Name is Prince

2. Sign ‘O’ The Times

3. She’s Always in My Hair

4. I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man

5. Nothing Compares 2 U

6. I Would Die 4 U

7. How Come You Don’t Call Me Anymore

8. I Wanna Be Your Lover

9. Cream

10. While My Guitar Gently Weeps

Good Friday Gospel (Friday Gold #13)

Whether you’re version of Easter weekend involves coloring eggs, going to brunch, a church service or all of the above, it should also involve music. There’s so much great gospel music out there to listen to that narrowing down to just 10 songs for this playlist would have been impossible if not for the fact that many of my favorite tracks aren’t available on Spotify to share with you.

If you’re interested in making a deeper exploration of gospel music, these compilations of black gospel songs are a great place to start. As far as I can tell, none of them are currently available to stream:

Fortunately, there is plenty of great gospel music that is available on YouTube and Spotify. I’ve tried to create a mix of classic gospel numbers and newer, nontraditional songs.
I hope you enjoy. Happy Good Friday to you.

1. How Great – Chance the Rapper

2. When the Saints Go Marching In – Lighting Hopkins

3. It’s Me O Lord, Standing in the Need of Prayer – Charlie Haden and Hank Jones

4. The Lord’s Prayer – The Abyssinian Baptist Gospel Choir

5. Must Jesus Bear This Cross Alone – Sam Cooke and the Soul Stirrers

6. He Decided to Die – Rev. James Cleveland

7. Oh Mary Don’t You Weep – The Swan Silvertones

8. The Cross – Prince

9. The Violinaires – What He Done for Me

10. How Great Thou Art – Elvis Presley

10 great songs by Portland bands (Friday Gold #12)

I moved to Portland in January, 1999. It was a great music town back then. It still is today.

Here, in no particular order or rank, are 10 of my favorite songs by 10 of my favorite Portland artists.

1. Hey Mr. Smalltown – Pete Krebs and the Gossamer Wings
The first concert I went to after moving to Portland was a Pete Krebs show. Elliott Smith was standing beside me. I was a small town kid who had dreamt of being able to go see live music without driving for hours and I was in heaven. I don’t remember if Pete played this song that night but it seems likely as it was about to be released on the album Sweet Ona Rose. While this isn’t the best—or even my favorite—song on the album, it still speaks to me.

2. Needle in the Hay – Elliott Smith
It’s really difficult to choose just one song from Elliott Smith for a playlist like this. For me, this track, from his self-titled 1995 album, has a special place because of the full-band version he played the last time I saw him in concert—at the Roseland Theater in November, 2000. I somehow ended up with a bootleg copy of the show and it’s one of my favorite live recordings. I’m embedding a recording of the whole show here. Needle in the Hay is the opening track, but I bet you’ll end up listening to the whole set.

3. Coward’s Luck – Hip Hatchet
I love going to a concert to see one band and discovering another one. That’s how I stumbled upon Hip Hatchet. They were opening (along with my band) for American Aquarium at Mississippi Studios and their set was unexpected and captivating. This track is from their most recent album, 2015’s Hold You Like a Harness.

4. Violence in the Snowy Fields – Dolorean
The title track from Dolorean’s 2004 album has a Harvest-era Neil Young vibe. For me it’s a total earworm. Dolorean called it quits in 2014 and the Portland alt-country scene hasn’t been the same since.

5. It’s Raining – Quasi
If I got to choose a theme song for Portland, this would be it. From the 2001 album The Sword of God, this song has picked me up on many days when I wanted to moan about the weather.

6. The Late Great Libido – Menomena
I Am the Fun Blame Monster has my favorite cd packaging ever (check it out). (Back in 2003, when this came out, cds were still relevant.) The packaging is fun, the music is smart and catchy. What happened to this band?

7. One for Jimmy Mak – Mel Brown Quartet
Some of my favorite Portland memories are of watching the Mel Brown Quartet on Thursday evenings at Jimmy Mak’s. The band’s Thursday night run started before I moved to town and ended in December, 2016 when Jimmy Mak’s closed to make way for condominiums. This is one part of old Portland that those of us who experienced it will never get over losing. The 2006 album, Live: An Evening With the Mel Brown Quartet that this song appears on along with the 2004 album Live at Jimmy Mak’s don’t totally recapture the experience of a Thursday night show, but they’re still a great listen.

8. You Can Move Back Here – Richmond Fontaine
Richmond Fontaine released 11 albums between 1996 and 2016 and defined the sound of the Portland alt-country scene during that time. All of that music is worth listening to. But, if you’re new to the band, this song from 2009’s We Used to Think the Freeway Sounded Like a River is a great place to start. Like Jimmy Mak’s, they’re another piece of old Portland that went away in 2016.

9. Deep Politics – Grails
Grails is the only band on this list that I’ve never seen live. For some reason, they don’t really seem to play Portland. Come on fellas, don’t make me fly to Germany to see you when we live in the same town.
I don’t think there’s a bad album in the Grails discography, but 2011’s Deep Politics was my introduction to the band, so that’s what I’m going with here.

10. Texaco – Blitzen Trapper
I’m the kind of person who feels a little bit sad when one of my favorite bands becomes too big to play small venues any more. But, in Blitzen Trapper’s case, I’m confused as to why they aren’t insanely popular. They’ve opened for Wilco, but I think they should be headlining at those same types of venues.
The band has released eight studio albums, all of which are exceptional. Maybe the ninth album (coming in 2017) will be the one that finally brings them to the massive audience they deserve. In the meantime, I’ll enjoy seeing them at small venues.
This is the first Blitzen Trapper song I ever heard and it’s still one of my favorites. It comes from their self-titled debut album, which came out in 2003.

Songs my kids play on repeat (Friday Gold #11)

One of the many great things about being a parent is introducing your children to music. My kids develop occasional obsessions with songs I play them. In some cases, (I’m looking at you Bicycle Race) I have a sense of what they’re going to love. In other cases, the songs they want to hear over and over (and over) aren’t what I would have expected.

1. My Girl 2 – Madness

2. Blue Rondo a la Turk – The Dave Brubek Quartet

3. Love Me Do – The Beatles

4. Lewis and Clark – Fess Parker

5. The Lottery Song – Harry Nilsson

6. A Slow Drag With Josephine – Elvis Costello

7. Firebug – JD McPherson

8. The Cage – Elton John

9. Bicycle Race – Queen

10. Purple Rain – Prince