Tag Archives: outdoors

#MondayMixtape – Songs to Get You Out-of-Doors

take on the worldThis past weekend was glorious. Saturday was particularly so. A few of us headed up to Stage Fort Park in Gloucester for a midday barbecue and the conditions were perfect. Not too warm,  not too cold, with blue skies all around and nary a cloud in the sky.

After a nice leisurely lunch, we headed down to the beach and took a walk along the rocky shoreline. It was incredibly therapeutic to see everything in such vibrant, brilliant color and so full of life after all those months of cold. The leaves on the trees looked fuller and greener, the water in the bay looked even fresher and even bluer, and the whitewashed seaside chapels further off in the distance seemed to give off a warm, radiant glow. And to think all this lay just one hour from Boston. Beautiful. Gorgeous. Excellent.

It got me thinking about songs that sing lovingly of the great outdoors. Songs whose verses could compel even the laziest of Johns to get outside and smell the roses. Songs that speak fondly of good times had out in nature and of the promise of more good times ahead.

These are a few such songs, summarized in five lines or less (because hey, this list isn’t about you sinking in more to your seat– it’s about getting you outside to enjoy everything the great outdoors has to offer!).

1. John Denver – Rocky Mountain High

Ask anyone– if you’re making a list of songs made for exploring and extolling the wonders of the natural world, this song is going to be on it. It’s one of John Denver’s greatest hits, and for good reason: feel that leisurely, zen-like tempo, dig that lightly twangy, tangy flatpicking– that gentle, buttery voice!– it’s no wonder this song recently became one of Colorado’s official state songs. And with its underlying message of man’s responsibility to be good, mindful stewards of the earth’s natural treasures, it’s not just an ode to the Rockies– it’s a song of love and appreciate of the great outdoors everywhere.

2. James Taylor – Copperline

From a song that looks with immense fondness and love at all natural palaces and sanctuaries to song that focuses on a fondness and love of one place in particular: the strange, wonderful parkland just a short distance from the narrator’s boyhood home. It was the sort of place that would have always captured his imagination even if he hadn’t spied his father dancing in a drunken display of bliss and inhibition or got the  “first kiss I ever took” there. But ah, so it was, and so it is, and so it shall ever be. “Day breaks and the boy wakes up and the / Dog barks and the bird sings / And the sap rises– and the angel sighs..” Such powerful, lasting memories can be made out there, even just a few miles from home.

3. Jakob Dylan – Something Good This Way Comes

As it happens, four of the five songs selected this week are written in the key of E. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that, on the guitar, an open E chord is one of the lucky few that uses all six strings. It gives the chord a particularly fresh and open tone, a quality that each song really embodies. And this one, from the Wallflowers frontman, is no different. A talented, prolific songwriter in his own right, the younger Dylan also knows how to take it easy and play a simple, breezy tune, and this is a great example of that. A good tune to accompany you on any adventure  you so choose.

4. Nickel Creek – Ode to a Butterfly

Continuing on our secondary theme of Songs in the Key of E, here’s one to really get you up and at’em. The title lends itself beautifully to the sort of imagery that it conjures up: a butterfly flitting and floating about a wide open field with corn and buckwheat swaying in the breeze. But it’s just as suitable for getting you up the side of a mountain, exploring the hidden spaces of a forest, or simply sitting around a campfire roasting marshmallows. It’s a reminder that even the smallest things are full of some of the coolest, most intricate and wondrous stuff in the world.

5. Special Consensus – Carolina in the Pines

Our little tour of song and nature now complete, we return east to the land of green Appalachian hills (and whaddayaknow– there’s a key change too!). It’s the perfect mix of sweeping instrumental breakdowns and simple but deeply affectionate lines about the comfort that comes from just being out there among the mountains, the forests, and all of nature’s splendor. “There’s no guesswork in the clockwork / On the world’s part or mine / There are nights I only feel right / With Carolina in the pines.” With all the uncertainty in life, it’s nice to know that whatever happens, we can always find time to get back to basics, with earth, wind, and sky.

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#MondayMixtape – Spring Colors in Bloom

springing to life..
springing to life..

Ah, May. Springtime at its best. In New England the season’s only just gotten started. After a few early wisps of warmth in the first weeks of the season followed by a few of erratic, unapologetic chill and general gloominess, we seem to be on the right track.

As if caught off guard by this mellowing and subsequent gradual swell of warmer weather, trees, plants, and the rest of the natural world appeared to sprout, bud, and bloom all at once last week. On Saturday things appeared to be pretty calm, with all things holding steady in a chipper, seasonably appropriate green color. By Sunday, however, everything was awash in reds, pinks, and whites, and by Monday my allergies had reached their fullest expression as well.

All the watery, itchy sinuses aside, this past week has been gleaming and gorgeous. So good on yehs, New England. Let’s keep it going on this nice, gradual pace. No need to jump into July all at once. Cool? Cool.

As the flora and fauna blossom so too do the people and places about town. It’s marvelous to walk along the Common in downtown and see all the folks out and about. They’ve shed their dark, heavy winter layers in favor of lighter, sunnier fabrics in all colors of the rainbow. Aside from the occasional achy, sneezy allergies, this season is excellent for the senses.

It’s with the sights, sounds, smells, and general colorful character of the season that these five songs were chosen (you might say handpicked). Songs that remind us to be present and to appreciate the people, places, feelings, and things around us.

1. The Temptations – My Girl

An instant classic when it first came on the scene in 1965, and it still does the trick today. Maybe I’m just a sentimental fool (I am), but this song hits all the right spots, making you lean and sway like a tree in a warm breeze. From that faithful heartbeat of bass and snare to the cool, syrupy harmonic vocals o’er top of guitar and sweeping, skipping violin fills… perfection in music confection. It’s the sort of tune that melts your worries like the sun on an ice cream sundae but does it in kinder, gentler, and more pleasing, aww-shucks way than any of the more contemporary pop trifles can. A classic then, now, and forever.

2. Wild Belle – Shine

And now for something grittier and flashier but just as fun and well meaning. I first heard of these guys a few months ago from my friend Cynthia “Dancing in the Seats” Almansi but forgot about them completely until I was doing some spring cleaning the other day and heard this track  while listening to Spotify’s delightful “The Happy Hipster” playlist.

It tickles your ear with those first bouncy, head-bobbing beats, piques your interest with those playful first verses, hooks you with a killer chorus line, and finally seals the deal with that delicious saxophone solo (easily making the case for its inclusion on my nascent Saxy Perfection in Modern Pop playlist).

This one’ll get you through anything you’re up to: chores, traffic, studying… whatever. Just don’t be surprised if you start grooving along with it where you sit/stand. You’ve been warned.

3. Dogs Die In Hot Cars – Apples & Oranges

This band’s debut album spent a good deal of the 2004 – 2005 on my iPod and in my ears, and I’m glad to know that it still holds up today (even if it appears the band itself has been in a constant state of transition since then). This song in particular, with its energetic pacing and softened New Wave sensibilities, continues to please. The lyrics are simple and sweet, most of the things that give us happiness and fulfillment in life can also be boiled down into just a few words, and that’s really what this song’s about.

Here is the apples and the oranges and plums
The dandelions in the sun
The salt and sugar and the raisin and the rum
And still there’s room for everyone

There’s so much out there to be experienced and enjoyed out there. The important thing is just to get out there and do it.

4. Amos Lee – Flower

Keeping the theme of gratitude and appreciation going… this song sounds like a Saturday afternoon picnic near a picturesque lake. Spread out the blanket, put the cooler at one end, your shoes and a few books at the other, lay back and just take it all in. Catch some rays, maybe a few z’s, and just enjoy it. Sometimes it’s hard to take a break from the rush of the maddening week, but this song reminds us that we all deserve some time once in a while– a moment at least– to do just that. Put on this song and let it guide you to that moment.

5. Drew Holcomb – Can’t Take It With You

This song takes an admittedly different approach but gets at the point all the same. Sure we’ve all got a lot to do everyday, things aren’t usually easy or plainly laid out for us, but as long as we keep track of what’s really important and do all we can to make the best of every opportunity, we’ll be all right. But we only have the time we have here to do so.

It’s a heavy idea, a difficult proposition, but spring is a good time to think about it:

Is it possible to be happy and be human?
Certainly but not without the pain

Life’s not black and white and spring proves it with its fantastic display of color and warmth. And we’re here, we’re alive, and there’s a fantastically cool world out there. So we may as well enjoy it.

What songs are springing you into action these days? Hope all’s well.

 

Songs About Rain (Part 2): Grand All Over

God willing and the creek didn’t rise. The show went off without a hitch, and neither the one and a half hour drive / crawl down, nor the labyrinthine parking situation, nor the slightly more-than-damp lawn seats and humid night air were enough to deter or detract from the fun that lay before us.

Indeed, just as I wrapped up the writing of my previous post, the rain reduced to a slight, cough-and-sputter-style sprinkling. By the time we arrived at the grounds the rain had all but gone away, leaving patches of setting azure-to-sandstone colored sky behind as it went.

Stepping through the gates at the Comcast Center grounds I was immediately reminded of the entrance to a giant amusement park. Save for relative lack of ambient screeching and screaming of both the human and high-speed mechanical sort and the obvious absence of any large and looming, bobblehead-ish mascots that lumber up and down the main drag of such places, it made for an appropriate comparison (Just add much more Coors Light at Fenway-park-style prices and you’re golden).

If “amusing” was one of the keywords of the evening, then “entertaining” was another, and none of the three acts failed to delight or impress.

Maroon 5 themselves certainly did not disappoint, putting on a show that was enjoyable both on a base entertainment level and on a technical, musically complex level as well. Continue reading Songs About Rain (Part 2): Grand All Over

Songs About Jane

Songs About Rain (Part 1): Gearing Up

Today I’m home early, having taken half the day off work to get ready for a concert I’m attending this evening with Chelley. It’s a Maroon 5 show at the Comcast Center in Mansfield, MA,  a large outdoor amphitheater thirty miles south of Boston where pop acts come to play during the summer months. With southbound traffic on I-95 already treacherous on usual evening, and with fans descending en masse to clog not only the streets but also the acres of rolling parking space around the park, I thought it wise to take some extra time off to come home and cool down before gearing up and getting out there tonight.

There’s just one issue: we’ve got lawn seats and it’s currently coming down in sheets outside. With the windows in the apartment open behind me and in adjacent rooms it sounds like a typical day in a south Asian jungle during the rainy season. Forecasters expect the deluge to continue all afternoon, warning as well of the distinct possibility of thunderstorms. And by golly if I didn’t just hear the first rumblings of such ominous nature now.

So what are we going to do? We’re going to press on and go on to the show, just as I’m sure the band will also go on with the show (though I do wonder what do performers do when a show is threatened by inclement weather…) Continue reading Songs About Rain (Part 1): Gearing Up