Paste magazine’s Best Living Songwriters list
When Paste magazine published its list of the Best Living Songwriters in 2006, I felt compelled to print it out and highlight the ones I’ve seen perform live. While procrastinating something much more important tonight, I decided to commit this list to a digital format. Forgive my bad memory for dates. I’ll update as time permits searches of Google and my ticket stub collection.
100. T Bone Burnett
99. Andre Benjamin & Antwan Patton (Outkast)
Jay Farrar (Son Volt, Uncle Tupelo) Son Volt at Flamingo’s on the Strip circa 1995; Bijou Theatre circa 1997.
Josh Ritter Bijou Theatre in July 23, 2011.
96. Jimmy Cliff
95. Patti Smith
94. Sam Phillips
oseph Arthur Opened for TK at The Orange Peel.
Alejandro Escovedo Played Tennessee Shines at the Bijou Theatre in 2009 or 201.
Drive By Truckers (Patterson Hood, Mike Cooley, Jason Isbell) Played Blue Cats in The Old City sometime between 2001 and 2003. Loudest freakin’ show I’ve ever been to.
90. Nick Cave
Victoria Williams The Pilot Light, part of the Harmony Ridge Creekdippers; early 2000s.
88. Parliament (George Clinton, Bootsy Collins, Bernie Worrell)
Lyle Lovett Multiple times in Knoxville; Tennessee Theatre with Large Band; part of singer-songwriter show with John Hiatt, etc.
Sam Beam (Iron & Wine) Atlanta & Bonnaroo
85. David Bazan (Pedro the Lion, Headphones)
84. John Linnel & John Flansburgh (They Might Be Giants)
Fleetwood Mac (Lindsey Buckingham, Stevie Nicks, Christine McVie) Fleetwood Mac at Thompson Boling Arena circa 1990; Lindsey Buckingham solo at Bijou Theatre circa 2007; Stevie Nicks with Tom Petty at Bonnaroo 2004
John Darnielle (Mountain Goats) Nashville circa 2002
Wayne Coyne & Steven Drozd (Flaming Lips) Bonnaroo 2005?
80. Pink Floyd (Syd Barrett, Roger Waters, David Gilmour, Richard Wright, Nick Mason)
79. Stephen Malkmus (Pavement, Silver Jews)
78. Robert Pollard (Guided By Voices)
Bruce Cockburn Songwriter night anti-landmines fundraiser at Tennessee Theatre with Emmylou Harris and Patty Griffin (?)
76. Will Oldham (aka Bonnie “Prince” Billy, Palace Music, etc.)
75. Ron Sexsmith
Linford Detweiler & Karin Bergquist (Over the Rhine) Pilot Light, 2003; first date with Greg Horne
Julie Miller With Buddy Miller, opening act for TK at Neighborhood Theatre in Charlotte, NC, circa 1998-99. Same at Be Here Now in Asheville, year ?
72. Michael Jackson *
71. Vic Chesnutt *
70. Alex Chilton (Big Star, The Box Tops)*
Merle Haggard Tennessee Theatre circa 2004 with Bob Dylan.
Allen Tousaint Bonnaroo 2006? performing with Elvis Costello
67. Conor Oberst (Bright Eyes)
66. Charles Thompson (aka Frank Black, Black Francis) (Pixies)
Bill Mallonee (Vigilantes of Love) Solo at Amsterdam Cafe in Knoxville’s Old City circa 2003?
64. Andy Partridge (XTC, Dukes of Stratosphear)
Richard Thompson (Fairport Convention) So many times, including The Grey Eagle in Asheville, Bijou Theatre in Knoxville, and Bonnaroo.
Sting (The Police) Bonnaroo 2008?
John Hiatt Part of a singer-songwriter night at Tennessee Theatre with Lyle Lovett, Joe Ely, etc. Circa 2005.
60. Jimmy Webb
59. Jack White (White Stripes, Raconteurs)
58. Sly Stone (Sly & the Family Stone)
Morrissey (The Smiths) Grand Ole Opry House Nashville circa 1992; Tennessee Theatre, 2007?
56. James Brown
Dolly Parton Thompson Boling Arena, 2012?
Aimee Mann Orange Peel, Bijou Theatre
53. James Taylor
52. Paul Westerberg (The Replacements)
51. Dan Penn & Spooner Oldham
50. Public Enemy (Chuck D, Flavor Flav, Hank Shocklee, Eric Sadler, et al)
49. Cat Stevens
Gillian Welch & David Rawlings So many times it feels imposible to count.
Sufjan Stevens bijou Theatre w/ Big Ears Festival, Clogs performance 2010; solo band Bijou Theatre, 2011.
David Byrne (Talking Heads) Tennessee Theatre circa 2008; Bonnaroo same year.
45. Jackson Browne
Al Green Tennessee Theatre Stars on Stage Fundraiser 2010?
Ryan Adams (Whiskeytown) Whiskeytown on The STrip circa 1995; Ryan Adams at the Exit/In in Nashville circa 2000 and The Bijou Theatre in Knoxville.
42. Loretta Lynn
41. Ray Davies (The Kinks)
40. Burt Bacharach & Hal David
39. Led Zeppelin (Jimmy Page,
Robert Plant, John Paul Jones, John Bonham) Robert Plant at Bonnaroo 2007? and Americana Music Festival circa 2009?
38. Kris Kristofferson
37. Smokey Robinson
36. Beck Hansen
Steve Earle Be Here Now, Asheville, NC circa 2005; Bijou Theatre? same tour?; Tennessee Theatre (with Del McCoury Band) circa 1998? Tennessee Theatre?
John Fogerty (Creedence Clearwater Revival) Americana Music Festival, solo, 2009?
33. Pete Townshend (The Who)
32. Jerry Leiber & Mike Stoller
31. Carole King
John Prine Tennessee Theatre
Tom Petty Bonnaroo 2006
28. Robbie Robertson (The Band)
Radiohead (Thom Yorke, Jonny Greenwood, Colin Greenwood, Ed O’Brien, Phil Selway)
R.E.M. (Peter Buck, Bill Berry, Mike Mills, Michael Stipe)
25. Chuck Berry
Jeff Tweedy (Wilco, Uncle Tupelo, Golden Smog, Loose Fur, etc.) Jeff Tweedy, solo, Bijou Theatre, circa 2005; Wilco,
23. Elton John & Bernie Taupin
Lou Reed (Velvet Underground)
20. Van Morrison
U2 (Bono, The Edge, Larry Mullen Jr., Adam Clayton)
16. David Bowie
14. Stevie Wonder
13. Paul Simon
12. Mick Jagger & Keith Richards (The Rolling Stones)
Randy Newman Bijou Theatre, circa
Prince In Los Angeles circa 1993.
9. Joni Mitchell
Elvis Costello Tennessee Theatre circa 2003; Bonnaroo 2006?
7. Brian Wilson (The Beach Boys)
Leonard Cohen Asheville’s Thomas Wolfe Auditorium, December 2009?
5. Paul McCartney (The Beatles, Wings)
Tom Waits & Kathleen Brennan Thomas Wolfe Auditorium 2010? Palace Theatre, Louisville, KY; Knoxville Civic Auditorium
Bruce Springsteen Nashville coliseum 2001?
Neil Young (Buffalo Springfield, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young) Knoxville Civic Auditorium, circa 2010-11?
* Deceased since the list was created.
10 things that made me happy in 2012
In no particular order:
1. NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast
I started listening to podcasts to distract myself from the drudgery of exercise and chores. Both are necessary and satisfying, but there’s always that element that’s tiring, boring, obligatory, unfun. Ever since I was a kid, playing Disney records while cleaning my bedroom, I’ve needed incentive in the form of entertainment. NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast is so much more than mere diversion. PCHH is like a conversation with people I don’t know and can’t see but love like BFFs. I’ve been known to (but hopefully not seen) laugh or disagree out loud while listening to the show while on a run around the neighborhood. (I may also recall fist pumps upon the mention of Slings & Arrows.) This sense of connection with media personalities isn’t new, of course. It’s that old witchcraft of radio that makes me feel like Linda Holmes, Stephen Thompson, Glen Weldon and Trey Graham (like the cracker) are my gang of smart, witty and media-savvy pals who meet once a week to talk about the things we care about most—movies, music, TV shows, books, theater and the inside jokes that make us so freakin’ awesome. That I think of myself as a “we” with four NPR writers/editors should scare me more than it does.
2. The Hairpin website
The vibe of the website The Hairpin is much the same as PCHH: friendly insider, chummy, knowing, helpful, funny as all get-out. Like so many things to love on the Internet, I have no idea how I found The Hairpin, but my gateway article was Anne Helen Petersen’s look at the dramatic rise and fall of Montgomery Clift. I was hooked—not just on Anne’s dishy fangirl approach to classic Hollywood, but also on the site’s advice column. Their tips on relationships, etiquette, and fashion strike the perfect pitch. It’s what your girlfriends would tell you if you talked to your girlfriends about these things.
3. Tramp by Sharon Van Etten
If I could go back in time to 1987, I’d put this LP on the turntable, place the giant airplane pilot headphones on my ears and lie on the beige carpet, soaking in the sweet lilting melancholy. Desperately, nakedly wistful, Tramp’s tone recalls PJ Harvey’s Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea; Yo La Tengo’s Painful; Midlake’s Tales of Van Occupanther; Jeff Buckley’s Grace; and Jane Siberry’s “Summer Kisses Winter Tears” from the Until the End of the World soundtrack. When Van Etten sings/beseeches, “Serpents in my mind…looking for your crimes…everything changes in time…,” I could just weep, and I don’t even know why. It’s something to do with the doubled vocals and the drawn out melodies and the plaintiff undulations of her voice. “I’m Wrong” slays me beyond words. It hurts. I just love it.
4. Tennessee Shines Radio Show
Booking, producing, writing and co-hosting this weekly live-performance radio show on WDVX is a job, but it’s also some of the most fun I’ve ever had. If this is show business, I’ve got the bug.
5. Beets & turnips & parsley & ginger
Four foods I started eating with great fervor and passion this year. Perhaps parsnips in 2013.
6. The Grapes of Wrath
John Steinbeck’s 1939 novel (which I bought at City Lights bookstore in San Francisco four years ago during my honeymoon) is remarkably—devastatingly—beautiful and so, so prescient. In the weeks leading up to the presidential election, during the hottest summer on record, during a drought that kicked up dust storms and closed the Mississippi River in two places, I read it in gulps like fresh air, hated when it was over, and cried and cried during the final pages, which remain shocking and brilliant after all these years. Many, many books will pale in comparison for the rest of my life.
7. Cuisinart hand blender
I love making soup, and I have a good blender, but [insert exaggerated as-seen-on-TV product tone of voice here] it’s such a mess! I bought a $35 no-frills immersion blender at Bed Bath & Beyond, and it’s a revelation of convenience and cleanliness. I almost feel guilty, like making soup used to be more difficult, and now it’s easier. Cynic: What karmic trade-off will the universe put in my way?! Optimist: I deserve a cleaner kitchen. And lots of soup.
8. Tift Merritt & Andrew Bird on David Letterman after Super Storm Sandy
The day after Superstorm Sandy hit the Atlantic Coast, leaving thousands of people without power or homeless and looking ahead at millions of dollars of damage, David Letterman held his regular show taping without a studio audience. Whoever the musical guest was supposed to have been became totally irrelevant when Tift Merritt and Andrew Bird and a bassist performed Townes Van Zandt’s “If I Needed You.” Props to my husband for setting the DVR because I watched this over and over again, overwhelmed by the power, immediacy and authenticity of their performance. So rare and magical.
9. 30 Rock’s Wedding Episode
Criss: “Liz, it’s OK to be a human woman!”
Liz: “No, it’s not! It’s the worst, because society!”
Upon that line, I laughed and burst into tears simultaneously (is there a word for that? A guffob?) I completely understand, Liz Lemon. I can’t express why this episode rocks any better than Judy Berman does in her Flavorwire blog post. I’ll be sad when 30 Rock ends in January, but I’m happy they seem to be going out with a bang.
10. Beth Meadows’ Mason Jar
After stalking Knoxville artist Beth Meadows’ mason jar paintings for a couple of years, I finally picked one I love and bought it for myself as a kind of 39th birthday present.
What I wrote to President Obama per MoveOn.org
Dear President Obama,
I would like you to ask Congress to extend the the assistance given to borrowers with Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae loans to other homeowners who have high- to mid-interest mortgages. These widespread changes will allow people to keep paying their loans and other bills while managing loss of work and higher food and energy costs.
My friend and neighbor bought her home during the bubble and, after some job losses, is now behind on her mortgage by several thousand dollars. As a responsible person, she is working with her mortgage company to repay that debt in full. However, they will not renegotiate the terms of her mortgage nor the rate in order to allow her to continue paying her mortgage at a more reasonable and sustainable pace.
Would she be better off going into bankruptcy? So many other opportunities for herself and her two daughters are going unmet because of this extraordinary debt that the mortgage company will not amend.
I also bought my house during the bubble in 2006 and lost my job in 2010. I’ve been lucky that my husband has kept his jobs and that I’ve put together a living piecemeal. We haven’t even pursued refinancing our home loan because we doubt we’ll qualify for a loan because we’re both mostly self employed.
I’m afraid that many U.S. citizens will decide that defaulting on their loans and leaving properties vacant for cities to deal with will be the best decisions they can make to manage a variety of challenges. I encourage you to read this article in The New Yorker: http://www.newyorker.com/talk/financial/2011/12/19/111219ta_talk_surowiecki.
If you believe home ownership is a significant element of strong communities and the American dream, I hope you will hold banks accountable and allow homeowners to not pay for their mistakes.
Mexican paradise lost & found
A Mexican resort is weird & awesome. It takes a person unaccustomed to luxury and entitlement a few days to get settled in, so I suggest at least a 5- to 7-day stay to maximize the skills of personalized gluttony you will adapt in the first few days. After mere days, you will figure out how to tweak & nudge an all-you-can-eat buffet into a unique plate, individually curated for your precise DNA as dictated by your tongue. Lest I sound overly cynical, let me be clear: a large part of me wants to stay here forever, bringing work under this tropical umbrella. I could work here. Work would be easy in this clime. Work would be mild. Everything in Maya Riviera Resortland is mild: the weather, water, food, expectations. This is not real life. Real life contains extremes. Resortland is so mild, I have not even accomplished full-on inebriation here. Such a state would require trying, which is something hidden, unavailable, in Resortland. Trying takes effort. Effort is discouraged. After five days away from home, I definitely miss things. I miss familiar things, which in many ways are easier than easy things. I miss known things. What I would like to experience some day is getting past the point of missing into the place where you can distinguish needing from wanting. It’s difficult to do that experiment on your own—discipline being what it is. In this place where trying takes no effort, and getting something is so easy, perhaps after some time you could determine what you merely miss and what you truly need. Of course, I guess that’s the role of the desert island. Maybe next time. This one’s a peninsula, and it’s too crowded to inspire self reflection.
It’s 10:55 a.m. I’m already thinking about treats.
Actually, what I think about first is how much everyone and everything in this office is driving me crazy.
Coughing. Tapping. Heels clicking on hardwood floor.
Male co-worker using the women’s restroom. “These are unisex,” he says, gesturing dismissively to the Men and Women signs. “The bosses said so.”
Said bosses pacing and looking at their watches.
Band members pacing in and out of the building. At least they don’t smell like cigarette smoke.
Problems with the live stream. Problems that don’t matter because no one is watching the live stream.
The band is playing during the intro. Bands aren’t supposed to play during the intro.
How do I tell my body and brain to stop reacting to everything like it’s the end of the world?
And that what will make me feel better is a baked good that I’ll regret later?
Letter to a drummer
I know you don’t hear what I hear. You are dumb as a bag of hammers and half-deaf. But if you don’t stop that infernal tapping, I’m going to cut you.