It was hard for me to find a favorite album for the year especially an album that was released in 2013. I mostly invest in older vinyl but this year I have begun to buy more current artists. Although no matter the circumstances, the older generation of musical greats will always hold my heart.
So my current album of the year is…(imagine drum rolls)…“Mother” by Natalie Maines. I consider this to be as prestigious as a Grammy.
I had not been a huge fan of the Dixie Chicks and couldn’t care less about the controversy that was stirred around them (I firmly believe in First Amendment rights), but when they released Taking the Long Way I was hooked on Maines voice. Agree or disagree, she encompasses a passion and conviction that is hard to find in most modern day artists.
Maines switch over into the rock genre was a no brainer. Her voice fits this style brilliantly and her southern twang often adds a modern Rockabilly feel. Although I am a huge fan of real country music, I feel her home is more set in this rock style. There’s a comfort that covers the record that I don’t remember from the early Dixie Chicks days.
Maines main collaborator and co producer on this record was Ben Harper. Harper is a solo artist himself who has earned 2 Grammys. Maines is also credited for writing 3 out of the 10 tracks, 2 of which are my top favorites on this record. I hope her next record contains more of her own writing.
The biggest standout track for me is Maines’ cover of Pink Floyd’s “Mother.” Now I know many classic rockers will shoot me, but I think she performs and interprets this song better then the original. “Mother” is a song written for a man to perform so it struck me as odd that Maines would choose to cover the song and then name her album after it.
“Mother” takes on a new perspective when sung by Maines. She is a mother of two children and I feel this song serves as a message for them on two grounds. She is showing how she will protect them, but she also warns them of investing themselves to deep in their mother. In this sense mother can translate to foundation. If one likes it or not, their life is founded in their upbringing and who they consider parents. Maine’s portrays this divine relationship with embattled vocals through a lens of experience, which in the end portrays truth.
Other standouts for me are “Free Life.” “Lover, You Should Have Come Over (Jeff Buckley cover),” and “Take it on Faith.” Although to be honest, there isn’t a song on this album I don’t enjoy.
A true vocal is one that is rare and is not the slightest bit forced, which is just one of many ways I would describe Maines’ vocals. I find Maines’ voice complex yet simple, trained but raw, hard and soft, restricted yet unlimited. She is able to knock on the doors of emotions that one may not remember, and if the door doesn’t open, she will just sneak through the cracks. I’ve read she was hard headed, this must be what it sounds like musically.
While pondering on this album I began to wish there were a few more for I have spun this one many times. If this is going to be the “Mother” of her solo career then we have some extraordinary children to look forward to.
Spinnin’ till the year end,
Maines and Harper performing “Mother” at the Grammy Museum.