Matthew Ryan: “(I Just Died) Like an Aviator”

Matthew Ryan Hustle Matthew Ryan, one of our favorite artists, is releasing a new album called Hustle Up Starlings.  And a new video features the album’s first single, “(I Just Died) Like an Aviator.”

Ryan tells Diffuser that the songs are about “hope and perseverance.” The songs try to capture the spirit of our national moment of being in “a world that feels like it might catch fire with all its uncertainty and friction, the ugly politics and rising impulses.”

Popdust calls the 10-track album Ryan’s “most poetic, gnawing and adventurous album of this career.”  And Ryan writes of the album: “We invested all the heart, smarts and honest cinema we were capable of. I feel strongly these songs will become great companions.”

To highlight the “perseverance” aspect of “(I Just Died) Like an Aviator,” Ryan chose to have young women projecting his voice in the video.  It’s a powerful statement in “our post-Trump world.” But it also is a lot of fun.

Check out “(I Just Died) Like an Aviator,” where the singer pleads, “Don’t die, don’t disappear/ I swear to God we need you/ here.”

Ryan’s last full-length album was 2014’s Boxers, although he released an 8-track instrumental digital album, Current Events, in Fall 2016.  Hustle Up Starlings, which was produced by The Gaslight Anthem’s Brian Fallon, hits the Internet and stores on May 12, 2017.

Leave your two cents in the comments.

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    Pete Seeger: Down By the Riverside

    Seeger McGhee Terry

    The great Pete Seeger was born in Manhattan on May 3, 1919. People have used a number of terms to describe the late Seeger, “folk singer,” “songwriter,” “Civil Rights activist,” “environmentalist,” “communist,” “defender of free speech,” etc. But whenever he had his banjo and an audience, he was simply wonderful.

    In this video, he plays “Down By the Riverside,” a spiritual that goes back to before the Civil War. During the Vietnam War era, the song often appeared at anti-war rallies because of its refrain, “Ain’t gonna study war no more.”

    Here, Seeger plays “Down by the Riverside” with two other legends, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee. The two blues and folk musicians achieved some fame playing together. And Terry, who passed away in 1986, appeared in some films (The Color Purple (1985), Steve Martin’s The Jerk (1979)). McGhee, who passed away in 1996, similarly appeared in some movies and TV shows (The Jerk (1979), Angel Heart (1987)).

    Check out Seeger, Terry, and McGhee singing “Down By the Riverside.”

    The video is taken from a segment of Seeger’s television show Rainbow Quest, which ran on a UHF New York City channel from 1965-1966. You may watch the entire episode with Terry and McGhee below.

    What is your favorite Pete Seeger song? Leave your two cents in the comments.

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    Willie Nelson Is “Still Not Dead”

    Willie Nelson God's Problem

    Willie Nelson celebrates his birthday with the release of a new album, God’s Problem Child.   One of the new tracks on the album is “Still Not Dead.”

    Nelson was born in Abbott, Texas on April 29, 1933 (although his birth certificate lists April 30 as his birth date).  Now in his 80’s, Nelson’s voice, phrasing, and guitar playing still combine for some wonderful songs.

    God’s Problem Child includes songs like “He Won’t Ever Be Gone,” a tribute to Merle Haggard written by Gary Nicholson.  The first single, “Still Not Dead,” is a fun laugh at mortality by a man often rumored to be dead.  Below is the official video for “Still Not Dead.”

    The album is full of solid songs that sound like classic Willie. NPR describes the new album as Willie Nelson reflecting “on this season of his life with a mischievousness and equanimity that already feels familiar coming from him.” God’s Problem Child hits stores and the Internet on April 28, 2017.

    What is your favorite Willie Nelson song? Leave your two cents in the comments.

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    John Mellencamp’s “Ain’t Even Done With the Night”

    John Mellencamp
    I remember going to a John Mellencamp concert back in the late 1980s, when he already had a long catalog of classic songs. As the opening notes of “Ain’t Even Done With the Night” began that night, it reminded me that Mellencamp had hit songs even before “Jack & Diane” swamped the radio airwaves.

    “Ain’t Even Done with the Night” appeared on the 1980 album Nothin Matters & What If It Did.  Back then, we knew the singer-songwriter as “John Cougar.”

    Mellencamp has said some disparaging things about the creation of some of his early albums.  But when I first heard him play this song live in the 1980s, he seemed to have a special fondness for this song, one of first hits.

    He told a story about how he wrote the song for a girl he knew in high school.  Then, when he went back to his high school reunion, he took her to his car to play the song for her. But his old flame continued to talk through the song, so he never got to tell her how the song was for her.

    I do not know if his story about the song is true, and I cannot find any verification on the Internet.  But I always thing of that story when I hear “Ain’t Even Done With the Night.”

    It is one of those songs that seem like they have been around forever. And “Ain’t Even Done” even seems like it is from another era than most of Mellencamp’s other iconic songs, like “Pink Houses.”

    Another thing that seems from a different era is this video of “John Cougar” giving a live television performance of “Ain’t Even Done With the Night.” From his band members dancing in pink tuxes, Mellencamp’s own awkward dancing, and the finale that pays homage to James Brown, this video should leave you with a smile.

    Were we ever this young?

    Leave your two cents in the comments.

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    Little Steven is Releasing “Soulfire”

    Little Steven

    Steven Van Zandt rose to fame as “Miami Steve” during his work with Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band.  But on a hiatus from that band, the guitarist and singer released several outstanding albums as a lead singer in the 1980s under the name “Little Steven.”  Now, after 18 years, Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul are returning with a new album, Soulfire.

    Soulfire features a collection of songs written for various purposes throughout the years.  The album features some of Little Steven’s versions of songs he helped write for Southside Johnny, such as “I Don’t Want to Go Home” and “Love on the Wrong Side of Town,” the latter of which Van Zandt wrote with Springsteen.

    The music sounds like the rock and soul of his earlier albums. Van Zandt explained to Rolling Stone:  “I tried to pick material that when you added it all up, really represented me. So there are a couple of covers, a couple of new songs, and some of what I feel are the best songs I’ve written and co-written over the years. This record is me doing me.”

    I have always been a big fan of Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul. I first listened to his work because of his association with Springsteen.  But one listen to his first album made me a Little Steven fan.

    Little Steven’s 1982 album Men Without Women was a great debut. Yet, 1984’s Voice of America is one of my all-time favorite albums. Voice of America included fantastic songs like “Out of the Darkness,” which appeared as a video on MTV, and “I am a Patriot,” later covered by Jackson Browne and by Pearl Jam.

    I also liked Little Steven’s Freedom – No Compromise (1987), which  continued building upon Van Zandt’s political voice with songs like “Trail of Broken Treaties” and “Bitter Fruit.”  His 1989 album Revolution flew below my radar.  Perhaps folks paid less attention because it digressed from the sound of his earlier albums, embracing even more of the electronic sound of the era.  Similarly, when Little Steven finally returned in 1999 with a new album,  Born Again Savage, the garage-rock sound disappointed me a bit.

    Soulfire, however, finds Little Steven returning to the soul sounds of his early great albums. So, I cannot wait for the release.

    The first single from Soulfire is “St. Valentine’s Day.” Van Zandt originally wrote the song for Nancy Sinatra but she never got to record it so he helped The Cocktail Slippers record it originally. Check out the version on Little Steven’s new album.

    Soulfire will hit the Internet stores on May 19, 2017.

    What is your favorite Little Steven song? Leave your two cents in the comments.