Shine A Light: Norah Jones

Several years ago, I was at the Ryman auditorium in Nashville for a Willie Nelson TV special. The show included many greats from Sheryl Crow to Keith Richards to Ray Price. Ryan Adams to Emmylou Harris. The show called Willie Nelson and Friends; Stars and Guitars was being taped for television. During commercial breaks there would be stage changes to be ready for the next act. So during one such change, the crew brings out a little wurlitzer keyboard. Then comes a pretty dark haired girl who sits at the keyboard. She is smiling and staring at Willie like she needs to pinch herself to believe she is there. When she opened her mouth to sing “Lonestar” with Willie, that Ryman audience took a collective breath at this beautiful unknown voice. She wouldn’t be unknown however for long. She soon would go on to win 5 Grammies. She is Norah Jones.

Ever grateful, but having moved long past the need for big radio airplay to feel successful, Jones has been one wonderful CD after another. she has even bucked  label advice and made a record under the band name “The Little Willies” covering many great standards such Willie Nelson’s “I gotta get drunk”, and Gram Parson’s version of the Harland Howard classic “Streets of Baltimore”. In other words Norah Jones is carving her own musical road.

Many before her including Christopher Cross and Shawn Mullins, who scored big from out of nowhere, Norah was almost force fed upon us. Now that the rage has subsided we can let her stretch as an artist, and enjoy the journey with her music. It’s good stuff. Give it a shot if she has been on your back burner for a while.

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Shine A Light: Amos Lee

With a name like Amos Lee, you might think Amos is an 80 year old blues singer from New Orleans. The richness and texture of his voice would confirm your thoughts. Wrong, wrong and wrong.

Prodded and produced by Norah Jones bassist Lee Alexander, Lee released his first project in 2005. Lee has toured with Dave Matthews, Bob Dylan and Merle Haggard. Drawn to Thelonious Monk as well as John Prine, his diversity is what helps make him a unique voice and artist in today’s world.  No easy feat.

I really like his stuff. If you are drawn to stylists and good songwriting, check Amos Lee. He may be a jewel that is here to stay among a short shelf life of many other passing artists on todays musical landscape.

I’d love to know what you think if you check him out. Happy discovering and listening !

Shine A Light: John Prine

I think John Prine may have skipped away with one of the sweetest careers in the music business. Here is a guy that never had his sights on being a “star”, or a household name. At his core, John Prine is a storyteller to me. One of the finest writers we have. Everyone has covered his songs. Bonnie Raitt had a great hit on “Angel From Montgomery”, and its been covered numerous times. He also co wrote “Love is on a Roll” for Don Williams and the big big David Allen Coe hit “You don’t have to call me by my name”.

Johns voice is like life worn, tattered, and full of soul. It has an optimism and a humor not found in most songs. He has been able to make a good living and  keep his art and soul. That ain’t easy to do !

If you find yourself distanced from music because you don’t feel like it speaks to your life anymore or you just want a break from what your listening to, give John Prine a listen. There is a saddness, a slice of life most of us might wish to turn a blind eye to. John sings for the misfits, the ones outside looking in, the old and forgotten folks. He sings stories for us all.

So hats off to a guy that has had a good deal. Lives his life wrapped around his art. Writes and sings what he wants and gets paid for it ! That’s hard to beat !