Friday, June 8, 2007

I Prefer Fords

A singer I have become overly enamored with lately is Frazey Ford of the Be Good Tanyas. Her breathy/breathless vocals possess a casual, almost careless sensuality, and an oft-slurred precision that is at times vocalese, at times jazz, yet always girded with the underpinings of lonesome, Appalachian, old-timey music. Ford prefers minor keys, and her best performances, to my mind, songs like "Scattered Leaves," "Rain and Snow," or her own "The Junkie Song" all contain predominent minor tonality. This is a band, that in an age gone blitzy with humor and prozac, are not afraid to confront human fraility and despair. One of their most amazing songs, not sung by Frazey Ford but by Jolie Holland, who has since left the band for a solo career, is Townes van Zandt's "Waiting Around to Die." The depth and emotional power in a song like this is terrain we typically steer away from. It does not laugh-track well in a culture gone silly with flip cynicism or raw anger. Yet it is the underbelly of Iraq, the failing of our health care, the pain that is rampant worldwide. Last night I watched Stephen Colbert hack out "Smoke on the Water" on a V-neck guitar and realized that more people were watching him than would ever watch the Be Good Tanyas. There might have even been a few who thought it was music. And then I thought of Paris Hilton alone in her jail cell and I put on "Waiting Around to Die" again. Just something about that song I guess.

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