Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Women of Heart & Mind

Is there anything better than singing? Some would say, yes, but to me, to sing is a gift we far too often forget we were given. In the car, on long road trips, on the karaoke stage or just alone (or not!) in my living space - there's nothing like belting out a tune. Sometimes I don't even know the words - but I just make them up or sing no words - only sounds. It's a lot like chanting Kirtan in yoga - we don't know all the words (hey, I barely know what it means!) but it feels amazing to express yourself in such a way. So healing, so therapeutic, so empowering.

There's no such thing as a bad voice. Some would say Bob Dylan or Joanna Newsom have a bad voice. Unique? yes, bad? no. When I think of my friends and the people in my life who I love, it makes me smile to think of them singing. Go ahead, try it.

I love singing to everything from Led Zeppelin to Krishna Das to Rogers & Hammerstein musicals - Do Rei Me, anyone? But my favorite songs to sing are those sung by those women of rock, folk and country who sit down with nothing but their instrument and tell it true. The best is when I'm listening to them and it feels like the first time I ever did (I'm sure we all remember when we first heard Joni Mitchell) - but to know the words, to know what comes next, to sing along - that is when I'm happiest.

Call it a re-awakening - the obsession has always been there, but there's always something new to hear - oh, that's what she was saying!? Here are some of the singer/songwriters I've particularly been loving to sing along to lately, along with my album and song of choice.

Joni Mitchell
album - For the Roses
song - "Electricity"
(every song on this album kills me)

Joan Baez
album - Diamonds and Rust
song "Fountain of Sorrow"
(her voice is luminous, then and now -
she was the highlight of the Bluegrass festival)

Emmylou Harris
album Wrecking Ball
song "Where Will I Be"
(this album/song is my latest obsession)

Kate Bush
album - Hounds of Love
song - "Running up that Hill"
(I always think of this song when I walk/run
up the hills of San Francisco)

Neko Case
album - Middle Cyclone
song - "This Tornado Loves You"
(this song has such energy, I can barely keep up!)

Patty Griffin
album - 1,000 Kisses
song - "Long Ride Home"
(Such a sad song, and so beautiful)

Gillian Welch
album - Soul Journey
song - "Wayside/Back in Time"
(when she played this at the Bluegrass Festival I felt like I was home)

Joanna Newsom
album - Have One On Me
song - "Have One On Me"
(It's epic is all)

Thanks for indulging me. I'd love to hear what some of your favorite songs are to sing. Until then, Sing Sing Sing!


  1. I think I'd also add Kate Melua to that list, with her song "Nine Million Bicycles." If you haven't heard it, you must hear it. It's a fantastic song. Other really great female artists (some of my favorites): Catpower, A Girl Called Eddy, and Alison Krauss, especially her song "This Time the Dream's On Me" which is a jazz standard from the movie soundtrack "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil." As far songs I personally love to sing...well, my favorites are all the Gospel songs I sing at my church -- one of my favorites is the Irish hymn "Be Thou My Vision." The words are amazing. My church is a pentecostal type church, so people sing in tongues (which isn't a recognizable language, but it's not pure gibberish; linguists have studied it and have recognized the same complexities and patterns in it as they find in known languages). It's so beautiful to hear a room full of people singing in tongues acapella. It's other-worldy and haunting, but unforgettable.

    Great post! I wish everyone would sing more often instead of being so shy about their voices.

  2. Listen to Mountain Man immediately:

    I've also been hung up on Josephine Foster, and Sharon Van Etten of late.

  3. omg sissy! you're kiling me with this!

  4. This is a lovely soundtrack for this Friday evening. Thank you for the hint (:

    Happy weekend greetings from Finland!

  5. This is a really great list! I agree with every choice! I might add a Cat Power album in there somewhere though...