“Carry Me Ohio” – Sun Kil Moon
At once gentle and intense, “Carry Me Ohio” casts a spell, its recycling melody urged on and on by Mark Kozelek’s haunting, weary tenor. Kozelek is something of an indie-rock legend, gathering a devoted (if limited) following as the beguiling leader of the introspective (if not downright languid) ’90s band Red House Painters. This song, comfortably reminiscent of his old band’s sound, can be found on the CD Ghosts of the Great Highway, released in November. Yeah, it’s a long one–more than six and a half minutes–but by Red House Painters’ standards actually medium-lengthed.
“Underdog” – Lisa Loeb
Lisa Loeb is the only musician ever to have a number-one hit as an unsigned artist–it was that song “Stay,” recorded for the Reality Bites soundtrack, in 1994. And she may well have been single-handedly responsible for the retro eyewear look that remains with us to this day. But musically she has slipped off the radar screen since then, even asÂ she continues to write literate, well-crafted songs and perform them with engaging flair. “Underdog” comes from her 2002 CD, Hello Lisa, which was a tweaked re-release of the CD Cake and Pie. That one was released earlier that same year but sunk with no support from A&M, her previous record company. So she packed her bags, fiddled with the album a bit, and put it out again on Artemis Records. I hope persistence will pay off, but me, I think there are larger forces at work here. I mean, “Stay” was a decent song, but was it worthy of its historic achievement? Or could it be that her sound has now lost its pop-music place in as out-of-proportion a way as it had once found it? Just a theory. But heck, she doesn’t even get a break these days from the so-called “adult alternative” stations that should be loving this stuff. They champion the likes of Aimee Mann while inexplicably ignoring Loeb. Underdog, indeed…
“Wrecking Ball” – Mark Cutler
No, it’s not the Emmylou Harris-covered Neil Young song; instead it’s a better Tom Petty song than Petty himself has recorded since maybe the 1980s, only it’s not Petty at all but a Providence-based singer/songwriter named Mark Cutler. Cutler headed the Raindogs in the ’90s and currently fronts an outfit called the Dino Club. This song comes from a 2000 CD he recorded as Mark Cutler and the Lexington 1-2-5 and it’s a brisk, insinuating piece of pitch-perfect guitar pop, recalling Petty at his zenith with a bit of Graham Parker around the edges. Providence has long had a vibrant music scene, even as relatively few bands from the area have broken out nationally; this MP3 arrives courtesy of the Providence Journal’s online collection of local music–a worthy resource blighted by a registration process requiring way too much personal information. But once found, the MP3s are downloadable directly, so you can grab this one through the link above without (I hope) difficulty.