What’s Current On My Playlists?

Back in the early 1990s, when I was writing for the newspaper in Eden Prairie – a good-sized suburb on the southwestern corner of Minnesota’s Twin Cities – I spent a great deal of time at Eden Prairie High School. The stories I found there ranged from the standard menu of sports, drama, music, the prom and more to stuff that only comes along when both the reporter and the sources – the school administration, faculty and the students – are generally comfortable with one another. I may write about some of those less-standard stories sometimes, but what I was going to mention today was that as I covered events and people at the high school, I became friends with a wide range of people – staff, faculty and students alike. And one of the students, a kid named Matt, learned of my interest in music and began to tip me off to new and cool things coming into the music store where he worked.

It was through Matt that I first learned of Hootie & the Blowfish’s Cracked Rear View, which isn’t in my playlists much anymore but remains a marker that tags some of the better years in my professional life.

Well, all that was fifteen years or more in the past, and Matt’s not a kid anymore, of course. I ran into him on Facebook a little while ago – a husband and father now in his mid-thirties – and sent him a birthday greeting, mentioning Hootie and asking who he was listening to these days. He said Jack Johnson, Luka Bloom and Nickel Creek. And he asked what I was listening to. I had to think for a second. What – beyond the music of my youth and the following years – do I listen to now? What’s current in my collection?

The first name that came to mind was that of Georgia-born Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings. Recording on the Brooklyn-based Daptone label, Jones puts out current records that sound like they’ve been waiting since 1968 to be discovered. She and the Dap-Kings – one of the tightest backing groups around – have released four albums in the past few years, the most recent being I Learned the Hard Way, which came out earlier this year. And there have been a few other bits and pieces here and there, one of which I found when I did a little bit of digging at YouTube. Here’s a scorching cover from 2005 of the First Edition’s No. 5 hit from 1968, “Just Dropped In To See What Condition My Condition Was In.”

Also current on my playlist is the music from Grace Potter and The Nocturnals, a Vermont-based band that performs well-written and well-played rock, much of it built on the foundation of Potters’ work on the Hammond B-3 (as well as her alternately supple and powerful vocals). The group put out self-released albums in 2004 and 2005 before signing with Hollywood Records; since then, This Is Somewhere came out in 2007 and Grace Potter & The Nocturnals was released earlier this year. Here’s the band’s take on the classic “Mystery Train” from 2006 at The 8X10 in Baltimore, Maryland.

As to other new stuff, I’ve listened very recently to bits of Tom Petty’s new release, Mojo, and I’ve dug a little bit into Cyndi Lauper’s very new exploration of the blues, Memphis Blues (it’s not bad at all). I’m waiting for new work from the Dukhs, from the Wailin’ Jennys and from Ollabelle. And I’m still winding my way through the catalog of a group I found utterly by accident as I got lost clicking around on YouTube one day. I found myself watching and listening to a large choir of young women performing the Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.”

Intrigued, I dug a little further, and I learned that the choir – Scala & Kolacny Brothers – is a Belgium-based organization, a girls choir conducted by Stijn Kolacny with the music arranged by Steven Kolacny, who provides piano accompaniment. The choir mostly performs covers of well-known songs; Wikipedia mentions groups like Radiohead, U2, Nirvana, Depeche Mode and more as the sources for the group’s repertoire.

I began clicking and wound up watching a video for the group’s performance of “Respire,” the title of the group’s third album, released in 2004. There have been six more releases since then, including this year’s Circle. I’ve listened to a few of them, but I always keep coming back to “Respire.”

(If you’re interested, here’s a link to a subtitled video of the original version of “Respire,” performed by French group Mickey 3D.)

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One Response to “What’s Current On My Playlists?”

  1. Dane says:

    I stumbled on Grace Potter & the Nocturnals’ cover of Blondie’s Heart of Glass last month and fell in love. I’m also liking “Respire,”so thanks for posting that.

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