"I've escaped it, a life wasted/And I'm never going back again." - Pearl Jam, "Life Wasted"

Monday, April 25, 2005

Top 5 Country, Top 5 Blues

Old-fashioned country and too-simple blues. Yet, rock would not have been born without these two parent genre. So, if you consider yourself a music fan, do yourself a favour, and listen to these picks. Consider this your rock history 101. =p


5 Screamin' Jay Hawkins - I Put A Spell On You
Wild, drunken fit of inspired madness. Hawkins complements one of the best blues vocal performances recorded with - no other way to put this - grunts, howls and maniacal laughter. The result? He was mentioned in the same breath back in the 1950s as we do to Marilyn Manson. But it's a total gas - I've seldom laughed so hard at a song. Spine-tingling moment: The guttural additions will give you giggling fits.

4 Muddy Waters - Rollin' Stone
Another great blues vocalist, Waters projects an image of a mighty man who refuses to wallow in blues. His sly boasts lay the foundation of gangsta rap, and transcend the blues genre in their proud simplicity. Listen to him complement his lyrics with sweet guitar licks. He will get his mojo working on you. Spine-tingling moment: The lurching, swaggering beat of this classic.

3 Albert King - Born Under A Bad Sign
Possibly the most groovy blues riff I've heard. Swinging, yet with an addictive thump. King is massively influential to some of the best guitarists ever, like Clapton, Beck and Vaughan. His solo here is simple, but so cutting, it will leave shards in your memory. Spine-tingling moment: The immortal riff. Raw and unnerving.

2 Robert Johnson - Hellhound On My Trail
Blues can be divided as pre-Johnson blues and post-Johnson blues. Prior to this wildly-gifted bluesman, the genre is rote and unimaginative, using the basic tools and singing familiar laments. After he appeared, all rules are broken. Blues guitar became improvisational, and lyrical topics became more ominous. This is his most famous track, a desperate call for help amid crushing despair. A shattering listen for the power of blues. Spine-tingling moment: The opening lines: "I gotta keep on moving, gotta keep on moving/The blues keep falling down like hail."

1 Stevie Ray Vaughan - Texas Flood
The culmination of modern blues can be heard through this excellent cut from this unparalleled blues guitarist. He tears off solo after solo with aplomb, and sings as if he is forever cut off by the flood. Best of all, the whole song sounds relevant to modern times, a quality hard to find in this most traditional genre. Spine-tingling moment: Rip away, Steve Ray. His solos are flights of wonder.


5 The Eagles - New Kid In Town
"Hotel California" is more classic rock than country, but this song from the same album is an exquisite country ballad. The tale about a stranger in a small town is rendered unbearably beautiful by the vocal harmonies of Glenn Frey and Don Henley. Add some tasteful guitar licks, and voila, it's a standard that no other country ballad that came after this has managed to top. Spine-tingling moment: The sly change in key at the bridge lifts the song to memorable heights.

4 Glen Campbell - Wichita Lineman
So languid, so rural is this enchanting song. Campbell paints a portrait of the loneliness amid the beauty of the countryside with such assuredness, you'll be transported to another world with the first listen. Spine-tingling moment: Campbell soars at the last line of the chorus, and you will too.

3 Hank Williams - I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry
The quinessential track from the father of modern country music. Four mournful verses of simple grace, Williams wisely keeps his emotions in check and sings the shattering lyrics with matter-of-fact tone. It's a powerful song, proof that under the right hands, country music can be as chilling as the best punk music. Spine-tingling moment: The final weepy verse: "The silence of a falling star, lights up a purple sky/And as I wonder where you are, I'm so lonesome I could cry."

2 The Eagles - Desperado
This holds a special place in my heart. Reason 1: It reminded me of a good relationship with a girl. (I won't say more.) Reason 2: It's the bonding song of my army platoon. I remember singing this in the middle of the Brunei forest. Awesome. Back story aside, this ballad is so stately, so beautiful, so aching, it deserves to be sung till eternity, at any lounge or karaoke bar. Spine-tingling moment: The opening piano line announces four minutes of unparalleled beauty.

1 Johnny Cash - Hurt
The Man in Black's final statement. Nine Inch Nails' most self-loathing song is transformed into a bitter, weary reflection on a life of rebellion. In Cash's inimitable voice, the haunting song sums up his wondrous career - full of deathless songs, sung with attitude and authority. My favourite artiste in a genre which I dislike. Spine-tingling moment: The thudding piano stabs almost overpower a tired Cash in the chorus. Yet he manages to pull through.


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