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Monday Mixtape: ‘Tis the Season for Ballads and Slowjams

love - it's right in front of you
it’s right in front of you.

Valentine’s Day may have come and gone, but love is always in the air. At the very least it smells better than the old snow and rock salt combination that’s been so prolific these last few days and weeks. Just like with any other special occasion  Valentine’s Day shouldn’t be the only time to celebrate love and appreciation for someone else. It’s something to be acted upon often and appreciated always.

When words fail, as they conveniently seem to do when you’re saddling up close with that special someone, music has a remarkable way of filling in the gaps and saying it all for you. It doesn’t really require a lot of breath to say the “right” thing anyhow. A few lines will do it.

With this in mind, here are a few songs to help you carry that Valentine’s Day flavor throughout the week and feed into the moments that come after, each song’s individual merits described… in 5 lines or less.

1. Bill Withers – Lovely Day

Timeless, thy name is surely Bill Withers. This breezy ballad has the power to transform even the most mundane task into the most euphoric and blissful experience of one’s waking hours. Trust me. You will never look at shoveling the driveway or cleaning the bathroom the same way after giving this song permanent residency on your daily chores playlist. Go forth in good spirits.

2. John Splithoff – Love Affair

And after the working day’s done… a helpful, healthy little attitude adjustment. Something to use while you’re fluffing the pillows, lighting the candles, creating the after-hours ambience, and setting the mood for an intimate little evening (while maintaining some pep in your step). Have some fun, go all out, and put it all on the tab of this up-and-coming music maker’s debonaire baritone. You’ll be glad you did.

3. Tedeschi Trucks Band – That Did It

No denying it: TTB does a phenomenal job with their cover of the sultry 60s blues/soul classic, selling it on every possible level, from horns to high hats, guitar licks and tantalizing vocal tricks. This one goes out as much to the single people as it does to those non-single people… and perhaps even more so. It shivers and shakes, beckons– but never begs– you to get good and close so you can know it’s every last breath. It clocks in at just under 8 minutes, which might be just enough for some. But don’t be surprised if you find yourself wanting more.

4. Al Green – I’m Still In Love With You

Ain’t nothing like the real thing, and Mr. Green is the genuine article when it comes to the genre of soulful love songs and slowjams. This one hits all the quintessential bases (not to mention high notes): an airy, heavenly high tenor and falsetto accompanied by a faithful, complimentary cacophony of horns, backing female vocals, and groovin’, happ’nin’ beat. This puts the delicious strawberry jam topper on your three-day weekend toast of wholesome wheat goodness. Play on, Mr. Green, play on.

5. Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings – Slow Down Love

Days get hectic, people get crazy. Put this one on and do as the lady says. Slow it down, keep it cool, count your blessings, and reconnect with what really matters: making time for intimate moments with the ones you love. The rest of the world can wait. Get yourself back in the moment you’re in right now.

Now doesn’t that feel good? Doesn’t that feel right?

photo by Robert Egger

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Monday Mixtape – 5 Songs for January

Headphones-blondi227

Behold the power of positive thinking. It’s the best way I know to start of a new year, or, at the very least, a new week. I’ve been thinking a lot about resolutions since writing about my music resolutions for 2014, and I’ve thought of a few others as well (I can relate to quite a few of the ones on this list), but one that transcends music and all other experiences is to stay optimistic. When I really think about it, keeping a positive outlook can be as big a help as coffee for starting and sustaining me through the tougher days.

And it just so happens that the same 5 songs below that have been rattling around in my head lately all seem to tread on similar themes like persevering when things are tough keeping that positive outlook. Maybe it can come from within as in the case of the spurned lover in the killer blues track from Tedeschi Trucks Band, but often we need the help of others to support us or help us to keep our heads up, as in the selections by folk Americana prodigies Jason Isbell and Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers. Sometimes you gotta get real spiritual about finding the strength a la the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, and sometimes… sometimes you just gotta embrace the dips and pitfalls to get the perspective in the first place (enter the wonderfully retro, dancy-schmancy pop sounds of Haim).

The holidays having come and gone, there’s no getting around the fact that winter has definitely set in, and many people consider today to be the most depressing day of the year. With all this negativity around, it’s good to know that, if all else fails, music is there to restore your faith, or, at the very least, help keep you on the right track during the winter doldrums.

*artwork by blondi227