Dolly Parton, “New Harvest…First Gathering:” Live Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a bittersweet holiday for me. At one time I had a tight-knit family that willfully and joyously spent the day together. Unfortunately, that family has dispersed and disappeared. Cousins start having their own kids, grandparents start going downhill, and bonds break. Sadly nobody has acknowledged what has been left behind.

I have come to a realization in my life that Thanksgiving is more than just turkey, stuffing, and Grandma’s peach cobbler. Instead I am chosing this time to focus on the life I live. It’s easy to ignore the good things in life, things we should thank God for everyday.

600x600srThe other night I came home and was extremely angry and upset. It’s never easy fighting with someone you are close with. So I did what I always do, I threw on a record. I’m not sure what prompted my choice, but I decided to give Dolly Parton’s 1977 album, New Harvest-First Gathering a spin.

The album opens with “Light of a Clear Blue Morning.” This was the only single from this album and it climbed its way to eleven on the Hot Country Charts. The message of this song immediately impacted my emotions. Parton sings, “Cause I can see the light of a clear blue morning. I can see the light of a brand new day….It’s gonna be ok.”

The lyrics resonated with my exact situation and how I was feeling. Parton showed me that there was still tomorrow and she assured me through her brisk and sweet, yet potent voice, that it was all going to be ok, even if I could not see it now. With its gospel infringed instrumentation and backing vocals, this song is nothing but inspiring.

Following this hit comes “Applejack.” A classic Parton story tune where she tells stories of a man who was once called Applejack. He also happened to make the best applejack in town, but he could play the banjo too. We all know Parton can’t give good strumming of a banjo. The song ends with her remembrance of good ol’Applejack and how she is thankful for the lessons she learned on his porch. I cannot count the number of people who fit this exact impact Parton speaks of in my life.

Dolly-Parton-1970s-4Parton then gives Motown a twist with Smokey Robinson’s “My Girl.” She changes the
lyrics to “my love” while giving this song a complete new image. She sings this song almost as a whisper which chimes of her own story and romance. Parton’s husband is much more reclusive then Parton, and there is barely ever a sighting of him. She has a quiet, but strong love, and she doesn’t need to scream that into the world to validate what she has. She was simply contemplating her thanks.

She ends side A with a ballad she wrote both the music and words to, “You Are.” She expressed her love for her husband by stated that he is her inspiration, what makes her happy, and everything she would ever want. If you take this song and mix it with “My Love,” I am convinced that if clouds could sing this is what they would sound like. Her voice is heavenly.

She opens side B with “How Does it Feel.” I was expecting a heart wrenching break up Parton song that she can so generously write, but instead she simply had one question. How does it feel knowing that there’s someone who loves you? It made me think and identify those I am thankful for in my life.

This song is followed by “Where Beauty Lies in Memory.” The song tells the story of a woman that remembers her life as it once was in which Parton concludes “When beauty lives in memory, it lives forevermore.” That’s where my Thanksgiving is. My memories will always live in my mind. I have just not decided exactly what to do with them yet.

Parton then turns “(Your Love Is Taking Me Higher) Higher and Higher,” a number one for Jackie Wilson in 1967, into a gospel medley that you can see any choir swaying to. A good song never dies and ten years later when this album was made, it was resurrected into a new being. This sentiment ties right into Parton’s closing song “There.”

b7569341a49066f8b4179e8af8f97b17“There” is a song of hope that ensures us of a clear blue morning. She sings of what is to become when push comes to shove, when weapons are set down, and peace is resonated among God’s people. She wants to be taken where “lambs lie with lions,” “the meadows grow greener,” and “where there is complete love.” She incases this in a powerful composition that will leave you in goosebumps. The song’s beginnings are chilling, but you can’t utter any other word but Hallelujah when it ends.

She gives the message everybody wants to hear and be a part of, an eternity of love. There is no damnation in her voice; she is simply reminding everybody of God’s promise of eternal life and love.

So in the end there is no need for Thanksgiving, or this time of year, to be bittersweet for me. I am thankful for the memories I have, the people who have impacted my life, and a God that promises me eternal love. I will eventually live a life of Thanksgiving with Him, but for now I must make the best of it on this earth.

It amazes me that Parton nearly wrote the lyrics and music to every song on this album. This record is a testament of her love for family, friends, and Savior. For me it was not just a collection of tunes, it was a reminder.

A reminder of blessings and a God of love that has a place for me. I will see the light of a clear blue morning. I will remember all the blessings in my life and give thanks for what was then and now. I will be taken there.

This album also reminded me that everybody needs to listen to a Dolly Parton album every now and then. I highly suggest it. It’s rejuvenating. As I approach this Thanksgiving, I plan to live it, and I am prepared for a new harvest and who knows what its first gathering will provide.

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Thanks Dolly.

 

Adele’s 25: Nevermind, I’ve Found Something Like Hope

One lone morning around a month or so ago, I opened my Vevo app to much jubilation. There was a new Adele song and video! It was love at first listen. At first I was a little taken aback. I thought she was going to do a remake of Lionel Richie’s classic song and the beginning almost had me fooled.

So Adele is back. I was met with excitement and hesitation. I had been a huge fan of her record-breaking album 21. The Grammys that year were like the Superbowl for me. I nearly screamed at the top of my lungs when she won album of the year. If she had not won, I was prepared to organize a campaign to boycott the Grammys. I had a Facebook page ready to go live at any moment.

81q0mwIoc0L._SX522_But I couldn’t help being nervous and hesitant over new music from Adele. I didn’t know how she could ever top 21 or come close. I was afraid she was going to have gone “commercial” and that the songs would not be sung or written from her heart and soul like the rest. I had faith in Adele. The Adele of 21 would always be there, but I have also witnessed record companies ruin artists.

I was met with the complete opposite. As Adele has stated, “if 21 was a break-up album, then 25 is a make up album.” This is essential in understanding the themes and concepts of this album as a whole. She truly makes up with past and who she is within the walls of this album

When I first heard “Hello,” I knew we were in for another extraordinary album. I love the build up of this song. It starts out with just Adele’s vocals and simple piano chords. The song steadily goes up a mountain of trials and regrets. Then you have the chorus and climax that take this song off the cliff. This song proves that true belters still exist. This is a perfect first single as it promises Adele’s loyal fans that she has not lost her center.

“Send My Love (To Your New Lover)” is an outlier in this album. It does not fit into the album musically, but the song adheres to the concept of the “make up” album. As I was looking over the liner notes, I noticed that this song was produced by the famed Max Martin. That explains the extreme rhythmic dance feel to this song, as well as the slight over production. He is the man behind such classics as “…Baby One More Time” and more recently “Shake it Off.” In the end, it’s rhythmic, almost reggae feel is addicting, but I just don’t find this truly Adele. The words get lost in translation.

adele-hello-video-xavier-dolan-tristan-wildsNext we have “I Miss You.” The opening percussion of this song sets the song for a
dramatic console for Adele’s vocals. She contemplates on how she misses someone even though they are gone. She also gives us a taste of her beautiful head voice in the lines leading up to the chorus. I like how this song is stripped of heavy piano elements like much of her music. The percussion gives Adele’s vocals a new back drop that they thrive under.

The next stand out of the album and now the apparent second single, “When We Were Young” is the sequel to “Someone Like You.” Whereas “Someone Like You” hinged on the immediate emotions of the breakup and the finding of someone new, this song focus on an encounter years later. The song returns with strong piano riffs and melodies, and also mirrors “”One and Only” in its gospel vibe. Then there is that one note…..everybody who has heard this knows what I’m talking about. I won’t ruin it for you.

The piano keeps coming with “Remedy.” Adele’s vocals effortlessly combine with the piano into a stand alone instrument. The repetition of the piano riffs mirrors “Turning Tables,” which is due to Ryan Tedder (an Okie!) being the cowriter on this song as well. This song has many more highs and lows. Adele offers herself like she never has before in a song. She wants to comfort the one she loves by being her partner’s remedy. She is offering her love with no regret. This is something new we haven’t seen from her lyrically.

Adele-adele-29997410-500-375The first song on side B is “Water Under The Bridge.” This song now shows a strong Adele, basically asking what the hell? She asked to be let down gently, because the love she feels isn’t over, yet he still seems to be playing her on with different actions and emotions. The song again ventures off Adele’s typical style with more percussion and replacing the piano with more synthesiser vibes. Lyrically, this song is the prequel to “Set Fire to The Rain.” She still wants to rescue what her and her partner have, but needs to know the direction. She does not have anymore time to waste.

One of my favorite things I love about Adele is the way she intertwines themes in her albums over time. You watch her mature with her music. “River Lea” is today’s “Hometown Glory.” The River Lea is a real place located next to where Adele grew up in the United Kingdom. In “Hometown Glory,” Adele talks about the strength of a small town and what she learned from it, but in “River Lea” she is showing how that story now finds itself in her relationships. She is simply an extension of her roots. This song has a strong bass beat that really flavors up Adele’s vocals into something mystical. “River Lea” is a collaboration of Adele and the producer, Danger Mouse. An odd pairing that created a stirring art work.

“Love in The Dark” finds Adele with a full-scale orchestra. This is a song of strength. It can almost be the levelheaded, mature answer to the full album 21. She explains how she can’t act anymore within a relationship, but she can’t deny that it has had a profound impact on her life. She shows strength with heart. She is not coming from just her own borken heart, yet she wants to end any future or current pain for her partner as well. This song’s orchestral arrangement lifts Adele’s vocals into a hard, yet sentimental place.

photoNext there is “Million Years Ago.” Instrumentally this song is simple, consisting of an
acoustic guitar and bass. The song gives off a folk vibe with a tip of a Spanish tango and some eerie chanting. This song personifies a soul lost. She is trying to put the pieces of her life back together by returning to her roots, yet she seems to be ashamed of what she’s become.

“All I Ask” is a stirring and contemplative piano ballad. Although many of Adele’s songs may be considered ballads, I find this to be the true stripped down, full on emotional ballad of the entire album. She is simply asking that if this has to be the last night she is with someone, she wants to end it romantically just in case she never loves again. This song clearly shows a heart deep in the ocean of love and she does not see herself finding air again.

“Sweetest Devotion” ties the whole album together and is the perfect conclusion. In the previous songs, you find happiness, regret, strength, hardness, vulnerability, and pure heartache, yet this song isn’t about any of that. She explains how she finally has found the face she has been looking for all her life and it is that of her son. This song shows how love  can overcome anything. Although she reminds us, the journey matters. Adele’s vocals take on another image. You can sense the journey of life within her vocals, yet more prominently, she sounds full of contentment and happiness.

adele_2013-650-430d-1That is the message I walk away from this album with, hope. That torn up man, who was comforted by the lyrics from 21, is still here and there is no denying that Adele still deals with her own hurtful past. That hurt person is still inside her, but she is surviving and overcoming. She’s made up with life.

Since 21 Adele has gained a new title, mother. I feel terrible saying this, but I was almost afraid we would have an album of “Because You Loved Me” moments. I was wrong in every sense of the word. She is a different person, yet she is still in tune to where she is from, where she has been, and now where she is going.

Adele leaves her audience with hope in 25. She reminds me to never forget my origins and to learn from my past. She also reminds me that life is not going to be easy, it will continue to ebb and flow, but that my best days are ahead of me. Through strength, ambition, and courage, I will never be defeated.

This album is what happens when you truly set fire to the rain.

Don’t Complain, Be The Change

Some of us were born with an extremely ambitious personality. It is both a curse and a blessing. An ambitious person finds themselves striving for something that they can accomplish, but in many instances it also leaves them speechless when they realize their dreams will never come to fruition.

Along with ambition comes rebellion. One is not ok with how they see the world. They are not okay with the norms of society and they are bound to make a stand against them in any way they can. This is how I am. I have strived to be a musician my whole life with the goal of giving people an escape into a world where all their shortcomings and emotions make sense. I hold this dream to this day. Now that I have become involved in civic matters, I find myself feeling this same strife for social and governmental issues. I often find solace in this frustration and rebellion, that comes with being overly ambitious in the phonography of music.

the-young-and-the-hopeless-4e805d91a9b63Now this is not something new. I have been doing this for years since high school. The first record I completely found peace in was Good Charlotte’s The Young and The Hopeless. They did not accept the norms, yet they had the courage to stand up for a voice that is often not heard. From high school feeling like a jail cell to family problems, each song on this album makes a declaration of ambition.

The album starts out with the holy grail of high school rebellion songs, “The Anthem.” The song is simple, I don’t want to grow up to be just like you. It’s about looking at the adults in your life as a young man or woman and realizing that isn’t what you want to be, that there has to be more to life then what they have alluded to. Life is not about making straight A’s, going to college, and just “doing your time.” Just because that is the way it has always been doesn’t make it correct. With a more than anthem feel musically, this song makes its point clearly.

Then we have “Lifestyles of The Rich & Famous.” This song basically rebukes all those with money who have everything, yet still seem to complain about countless troubles and woes. This is all set to the tune of what I would call dance/punk/pop. How about they take a walk in our shoes for once? Are these the kind of people we want to be or is it exact opposite?

Good-CharlotteFinishing out side A, I have to make note of “The Story of My Old Man” and “My Bloody
Valentine.” We all have problems with our family with some having more drastic problems then others, but we always feel a rebellion to the norm that our family wants us to achieve. This is also a song of comfort for those of us who are victims of having divorced parents. It makes you realize you will eventually stand up and see things for what they are, and with a loud screw you, you will be able to deal.

Lastly, I just love “My Bloody Valentine.” It’s a great story song. It tells the story of falling in love hard. With its more metal feel, this makes a point of hard love and gives light to a thought I think we have all had. This is definitely a “don’t try this at home,” or ever, contemplation.

Side B starts out with “Hold On.” This song assures us that although you feel nobody is there for you, there is always a reason to hold on. It will get better. This is the depression that comes when your ambition is not coming in your time. This is a soft rock/punk/pop tune if you will. It is followed by the pure punk, “Riot Girl.” I have always found myself jamming out to this song. It’s a fun medley of “Christina you don’t want to meet her, Britney you better run for cover,” and something all of us guys wish for in a girl, yet we just don’t always admit it.

4c1694e8Moving over a few songs we come to “The Young And The Hopeless.” This song portrays how all of us have felt, especially when we don’t follow the path that society and our families have laid for us. It’s accepting the fact that yes I’m troublesome, I’m bothered, I’m lost, and that I’m going nowhere, but in the end it’s me against this world. I am responsible for my actions. If I fall, let me. If I succeed, praise me. In the end I’m going to do what my soul is comfortable with.

Then there is the ballad of the entire album “Emotionless,” another ode to those of us ridden with the wreckage of divorce. Although the song projects the abandonment of the Madden brothers’ father, I think it is one that each of us can relate to. Coming from a similar situation, this song strikes almost every emotional cord I have. This song has a twist that normal divorce songs don’t have. Under all the hatred and anger, you still miss your father or in a larger case your family as it was. I am always amazed at how Joel Madden can take his vocals down to such an emotional level.

The last song “Moving On,” declares what we all have to do, those of us who are super ambitious and those that are breathing. This song is about learning from each experience and emotion, and making something of it. You may make the wrong idea of it, but in the end it’s yours and you have to move on. It has a chant like chorus that exclaims emotions from lust and love to hope and truth. “Moving On” isn’t about getting over the injustices you see and feel; it’s about making the most of them.

Madden-BrothersThis album came out in 2002. I was just trying to figure out who I was at that time, yet to this day I still think this album speaks truths, not only to high school me, but also to young adult me and beyond. I still haven’t figured out who I am and this album tells me that’s ok. It’s a journey and I may never figure out, but realizing that it’s a hopeless cause reassures me I have to move on.

This album also holds other beliefs I still find true. I still believe that girls don’t like boys, that they like cars and money and I am still happy about wondering what my girlfriend or dog is exactly thinking, but I really don’t want to know the day that I die.

In retrospect, this album has taught me to be the change I want to see in the world. Although my actions may not change the world, it’s my soul I am living with. It is essential that I share with others what I have gone through in life, for it not only releases my pinned up emotions, but it helps those going through the same thing. We are all survivors. It’s a question of what we survived that remains un-answered.

Now I know I left my Level Twenty Seven Shirt somewhere in my dresser. It’s going to look great with my Made hoody I finally found.