Every now and then, an artist or an album emerges that is of such fine quality, that touches such an important part of who you are, that you know you have made a friend for life. Rather than becoming tiresome, it becomes more dear with each listen. And you revisit it over and over, threading it into the soundtrack of your years. And when it plays, a whole cinema of images rolls across your mind and you are in a thousand place at once. And nothing is quite so affective at setting the world to rights as these familiar friends. Here are a few of mine:
Beautiful Things Gungor For its artistry. For its whimsy. And for its reminder that God persistently transforms my folly and my filth into something radiant.
Come Away With Me Norah Jones Her resonant voice and her restrained, elegant piano sing peace into me. When my soul is restless, this album is very good company.
Downtown Church Patty Griffin I grew up singing most of these songs. The inimitable Ms. Griffin renders them with passion and grace. I’ve listened to it dozens and dozens of times, but I still tear up every time she sings Never Grow Old.
Greatest Hits James Taylor I have fond memories of a soft summer night on the grass as Starwood with Mr. Taylor. I also remember him all dressed up with the Nashville Symphony and a performance of Steamroller that almost lit me on fire. But mostly, I remember him singing into, and around, and over and under all that has been my life thus far. Playing his music is like coffee with a friend. Comfortable and good.
How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb U2 For their superb musicianship. For driving rhythms that have secured them a position on all my running playlists. For lyrics that mean something.
If On a Winter’s Night Sting I listen to it while washing dishes or folding laundry, and I am transported. I sit before a crackling fire, wrapped in a heavy woolen blanket. Outside the wind howls, swirling the falling snow hither and yon. Inside the tea kettle whistles and someone picks up a guitar. Echoes of Christmas past. Lyrical incense.
O Brother Where Art Thou (Soundtrack) This is the music of my childhood. It is story. It is heartache and hope. As sustaining as biscuits and gravy. And just as satisfying. And I always, always sing along.
The Outsiders NeedToBreathe A rockabilly good time with wailing vocals and infectious rhythms. Some of the songs are just plain fun. But some of them pierce the heart, helping me find my better self. And I need all the help I can get.
Songs of Joy and Peace Yo Yo Ma and Friends My favorite cellist teams up with artists like Dave Brubeck, Chris Botti, Diana Krall, and Alison Krauss, among others, for a delicious compilation of carols, meditations, and jigs. Exquisite artistry in an infinitude of incarnations. It makes me happy. Every time.
Unplugged Eric Clapton Rhythm and Blues by a master of the genre. Clean. Uncluttered. Kinda like having Eric Clapton in your living room. Brilliant!
Why Should the Fire Die Nickel Creek The harmonies. The flawless instrumental interchanges. The poetry. The consummate storytelling. And a couple of tunes that wreck me. Still. Marvelous.
For the record, this was extremely difficult. My original list, which I already believed to be conservative, had 27 items. Axing the final 4 or 5 made me want to throw up. I’m nothing if not loyal. SO, although I accommodated my 11 item limit, just know my for-real list is much, much longer.
How bout you? Are there albums that you love more and more with each listen? Music that is an integral part of your life?
*Fourth in a series of eleven posts of elevens; one for each of the first eleven days of the eleventh month of 2011.
**Props to Karissa who suggested this topic.