You've heard it all before (read, throughout 2020). "We are never going back to the ways things used to be." And, "Little by little things will get better." Then along comes 2021 and the gradual getting better runs head first into the proverbial Mack truck of reality.
Thankfully stories, songs, and images can provide moments of escape, clarity, solace, reflection, and joy. Following is my list for 2021. This is something other than a favorites or a "best of" list. Some of my mentions will be frequently recalled for the lessons learned and encouragement discovered. Others will soon be forgotten, but in the moment they were a gracious gift. Maybe you'll find a few for your journey.
Leslie Jordan, Company's Comin' - Hoping to bring some respite in the midst of the pandemic Jordan goes to their roots resulting in an album of traditional hymns. The supporting cast is a bonus, think Dolly and Brandi (Carlile) for starters. I love the sense of timelessness. Jordan has lived a many faceted life and now in the dark days of a pandemic and national upheaval he returns to the music of his childhood and family.
Mary Chapin Carpenter, One Night Lonely - In November of 2020 Carpenter performed a live, retrospective, acoustic set at the legendary Wolf Trap Theater in Maryland, to an empty house. "...a stunning performance. Thoughtful, thought-provoking, consoling, and utterly involving." Liz Thomson, theartsdesk.com
Shelby Lynne, The Servant - With her mix of swagger and soul Lynne released an album perfect for the pandemic moment (it was recorded before Covid arrived). Further proof that less can be more. Lynne says that this album, "..saved her soul." It might be interesting to see what it does for us.
Sara Watkins, Under the Pepper Tree - Watkins continues to expand her reach in style and context resulting in music that fits the moment in her life and maybe our cultural moments as well. Under the Pepper Tree is a sharing of music from her childhood with her daughter. Another opportunity for pandemic comfort hearing music from times past from a new voice.
Willie Nelson, That's life - Willie does what only Willie can do. He takes songs associated with Frank Sinatra makes them new all over again. Another opportunity to breath deep, rest, remember and hope.
Grace Pettis and Nobody's Girl - Grace is the daughter of one of my longtime favorite singer songwriters, Pierce Pettis. Her career has been blossoming in recent years, including her collaboration with Nobody's Girl. They display a healthy sense of respect and adventure in taking on Tracy Chapman's Fast Car, resulting in a version that I have listened to over and over. Also, Grace released Working Woman in 2021 to strong reviews.
The Milk Carton Kids and Haley Heynderickx - Finally a live concert, September 5 at the Mount Baker Theater. Heynderickx opening was fresh and inviting. We had seen the Milk Carton years ago as an opening act in Seattle. The show was a perfect mix of great music and refreshing banter and presence. An oasis in the continuing storm.
Nanci Griffith 1953 - 2021. I have long been captivated by the music and life of Nanci Griffith. We saw her once in concert on the Pier in Seattle. Her music provided a comforting presence over the years and her death brings a great sadness.