learning love songs

est. 2008




This is my new favorite performance to watch,and rewatch and rewatch….

Everything about it is pretty much perfect, and that is a word I do not like to use, but from the depth of the song, to this particular staging, to the absolute angel throat of Clare Bowen, this performance is stunning and captivating on every possible level. Last night, after listening to it probably a dozen times throughout the day, I showed it to a friend who, like me, has a deep love and reverence for artistry. “You will love this,” I said. I handed her my phone and she watched it speechless.

“Wow,” she said, and I nodded. “Yeah, I know.”

So this is from “Nashville,” a show I watch partly because I get to hear Clare Bowen’s superb voice and also because it’s a great hour-long reminder to pick up the guitar. I also love the idea of a show that creates its own original songs, because it’s given talented songwriters like Lucy Schwartz a chance to shine. Some of them are really country, really dumb or really country and dumb but some – like “Black Roses” – cut to the quick in the most sophisticated,contemporary kind of way. What a razor-tongued ballad, what a difficult dynamic to strike. To write a song about someone hurting you isn’t exactly unique – in fact, it’s pretty much the key ingredient – but there is a resiliency here  that adds a twist. Metaphors are tricky things, because they could become cliche, and roses of all things are overused. But they’ve been overused so much that using them right feels original and comfortable somehow – can’t you just feel the falling petals? The spell, cast and broken, the love, given and forsaken, these are real feelings and familiar tales to anyone whose heart has felt the magnetic pull of someone else’s only to have to tear themselves away. The battlefield, the knife, the burning bridges, – the first verse into the pre-chorus are six lines that immediately draw the listener into this really visible, danger-filled place. That’s arguably the strongest part of the whole, some context and wordplay in the second verse deepen the narrative before a powerful finale.

The recorded version of this is striking, adorned with military drums, but this live version is something else. Bowen’s expressions are not over-dramatic in the pop star sense, and on the demure side for her, but she is still so, so expressive, from the tops of her eyes to the joints of her fingers down to her apparently bare feet. I love how delicate her voice can be while still commanding so much sound and fullness and breath. Other than the sheer beauty of this staging (Those lights! Those gowns! Those crowd shots!), the intimacy of songwriter and performer here is such an interesting interplay to observe. There’s Schwartz, playing her song and watching her words and feeling come to life, she is laser-focused and half-smiling before the final verse and those just-high-enough-to-be-hard notes of the song, and I wonder if it pride or nerves for her, for Bowen, or simply sheer anticipation. The final chorus swells, the final grace notes and chords diminish with sadness and solemnity and poise, and then, the crowd is on its feet. Just perfect. Replay.

“I can see your eyes staring into mine,
But it’s a battlefield and you’re on the other side.
You can throw your words, sharper than a knife,
And leave me cold in another house on fire.

I lay low, lay low and watch the bridges burn
I lay low, lay low. What more could I have done?

Now you only bring me black roses,
And they crumble into dust when they’re held
Now you only bring me black roses,
Under your spell.

She told me twice all her good advice,
But I couldn’t see I was clouded by your lies.
Up in smoke, a vision she foretold,
She said, ‘Stay away ’cause that boy’s a warning sign.’

I lay low, lay low and watch the bridges burn.

And I’m done trying to be the one picking up the broken pieces,
And I’m done trying to be the one who says, ‘I love you dear but I’m leaving.’

Now you only bring me black roses
And they crumble into dust when they’re held
Now you only bring me black roses
But I’m not under your spell,

I’m not under your spell, 

I’m not under your spell,
I’m not under your spell,
I’m not under your spell.”
~Black Roses, 
Clare Bowen/Lucy Schwartz, Nashville On the Record


I don’t want to go home.

New find. How come music from Canada always sounds like something I want to hear in a bar, while making sad eyes across the room with a sad stranger? And dim lighting. And Coors light.

“If ever you want to
See how much I want you
I’ll give you everything
If ever you need to
See how much I need you too
Tell me that you think about me
Thinking of you
Wondering just how much I love you
I will show you once you let me through

If ever you seem to
Admit that you need me too
I’ll hang on every word
If ever you start to
See how slowly you’re killing me
And how deep a man can hurt
I’m falling further under every spell
You’ve put me under
Don’t release me
Make me cry for you

Cause’ every time you do
I don’t want to go home
I don’t want to go home
I don’t want to go home

~I Don’t Want To Go Home,
Todd Hunter Band


I heard Straylight Run’s “Hands in the Sky” on t.v. tonight. I liked that song and it worked soo well for the scene. It was on “Sons of Anarchy,” an FX show that, according to their wiki, has a sick soundtrack.


Maybe it’s the piano lessons, but I’ve been throwing some Tori Amos on during the afternoon/evening while I’m in my apartment. And that’s been good–something I listened to when I was 12, and sounds totally different now that I’m “all grown’d….ish up?”

On an unrelated not:
Look up Treeman: Search for the Cure (a documentary) and you will flip the fuck out.


What career will they NOT do a reality TV show about?

The search for the subway superstar?

Kind of fascinating, kind of weird. I really don’t know who is going to watch this show other than me. It’s appeal to musicians seems redundant–why would they want to watch a competition of people just like them? Some might even say it’s hypocrisy since the winner gets a chance to perform at an MSG event, a far cry from an underground subway.

One performed said he loved the opportunity because it was like a “Woodstock of subway musicians” while they were all auditioning for the competition.

There is a lot of cool music on it–just everything, every style, all kinds of people who look all different ways. Some of the musicians who performed at the open call seemed like normal, crazy musicians, others are fantastically unrealistic. Take, for example, the folk duo Dagmar–the woman performed with dragon wings and a pilot helmet a la Amelia Earhart. Sweet.

Then there was the ukulele player who called a stuffed leopard his production manager, and said he loves it when women smile at him. “I like smiles more than money, they last longer.” Right on, dude.

Lots of old blues guys too(my personal fave). I especially enjoyed the metal-looking dude who played an electric violin, he was jumpin around all crazy-like.

Lots of cross-eyed lookin’ folks as well.

It’s interesting, though, to hear the perspective of New York from the eyes of the subway musician. They just love performing, so they perform. An honest lifestyle. Many of them noted the difference between performing in the subways or on a stage–and how the underground setting can make for a better performance.


Roger on ‘American Dad’ is a pretty swell character–so many quirks, so many good lines. On this one episode he has an obsession with Dolly Parton, and they way he sang to her in his car reminded me of me far too much–simply because the look on Steve’s face was so confused and that’s how most people look when they see me getting into really weird music in my car.

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