Wednesday, July 12, 2006


Telephone Pole In The Rain - Duane Keiser
Telephone Pole In The Rain, Duane Keiser

Save It For A Rainy Day - The Jayhawks

Hope - The Submarines

Famous Blue Raincoat - Marissa Nadler

Cheick Oumar Bah - Toumani Diabate

I grew up on the edge of a desert where rain doesn't fall so much as kiss its pinkie and tap the ground with it. Mostly, the thunder bellows and the lightening sparks and the rain is absorbed into a desiccated atmosphere hundreds of feet up. So when it rains in Chicago--my home for more than a decade--I'm like a little kid, I want to go outside and dance, arms to the sky! So far, this summer hasn't been very cooperative raindance-wise. But yesterday I left work early and waltzed smack into a brief afternoon tempest. When you're standing off Lake Shore Drive and the wind's blowing water laterally, no mere $10 Walgreen's nylon and aluminum umbrella is gonna protect you anyway. Might as well get wet. By the time I reached home, my summer sundress and strappy sandals were sodden and mascara dribbled down my cheeks. I stripped off my clothes and climbed into bed still damp and slightly feverish. Napping, I dreamt of rain.

"Save It For A Rainy Day" is self-explanatory; you know this song. Though I still want to explain that it fills me with strange, irrational hope even when hope is the last appropriate emotion. Some voices glow, Gary Louris' is one of those.

And "Hope" is my new crush, something the Beach Boys might have written trapped inside on a stormy day with a game of Scrabble. The Submarines are a good, engaging band--but there are plenty of good, engaging bands. What makes them a special band is their talent for detailed vocal arrangements, an attention to cascades and echoes.

What do you call any cover of Leonard Cohen's "Famous Blue Raincoat," if not brave? Though two things trouble me about the original and I'm just going to say it: 1) Those backing vocals (egads!) and 2) that deep, oblivious misogyny. Marissa Nadler seems to have come up with her own creepy chorus of harpies (oh well), but she does make Jane feel like less an article of exchange, a mere conduit in one of the doomiest doomed relationships on record, and more of a person.

"Cheick Oumar Bah" is not about rain (it's a traditional Malian tribute to a spiritual leader), though it is entirely expressive of the sound of water gently falling. Diabate plays the kora, a stringed instrument that sort of blends a harp and lute and sounds like a more-fluid harpsichord.

Rainy Day Music, The Jayhawks
(US, UK)
Declare A New State, The Submarines (US, UK, eMusic)
Folk Off!, compiled by Rob da Bank (eMusic)
Djelika, Toumani Diabate (US, UK, eMusic)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Famous Blue Raincoat? the best version ever is Judy Collins' on her "Living" album. Better than Cohen's original and full of irony and sadness... this version is just quirky, it doesn't seem like a real person is singing it

12:30 PM  
Blogger Amy said...

Don't remember hearing the Collins version, though my parents seemed to have a lot of her records when I was growing up, so it's possible I have anyway. I bet ol' Judy could do a gutsy revision. Will look for it.

8:08 PM  
Blogger Jon said...

Not even a mention of the Beatles? Oh boy. The best song on rain, and up there as one of the best songs on anything.

Where has my Amy gone?

7:05 PM  
Blogger Amy said...

Wha? You're pimping the Beatles??? I must still be dreaming.

8:47 PM  

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