Gravelly Full-Hearted Thunderous Power Ballad Playlist



  • Playlist of thunderous gravelly full-hearted songs that will rattle your bones.

"O Children" -- Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds. From The Lyre of Orpheus. Nobody does violence and grace as artfully as Nick Cave. Elegiac. Thrilling. The song seems to be contingent (what are those strange reversed sounds at the back? is the song falling apart?) even as it gathers itself into a hymn. One of the best moments of the Harry Potter movies -- intimate and expansive at the same time. How is it done.

"My Body is a Cage" -- Peter Gabriel. If the John Carter of Mars movie is good (it's Andrew Stanton, people) it'll still have to go some distance to outpace this cover of an Arcade Fire song which builds to a thunderous climax. Again and again. The god of war.

"O Mary Don't You Weep" -- Bruce. From We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions. First heard this over the closing credits somewhere in the third season of Deadwood, this rambunctious spiritual somehow serving as a response to David Milch's excoriating portrait of capitalist rapacity in George Hearst. It's all muscle and throat.

Do not mess with George Hearst

Do not mess with George Hearst

"Dolphins" -- Beth Orton featuring Terry Callier. Why don't more people know this song? From an EP that came out in 1997 and was one of the best things she's ever done. It's a Tim Buckley song. Terry Callier's voice is like an ocean liner.

"Everybody's Gotta Learn Sometime" -- Beck. From Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

"Just Like a Woman" and "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" -- Joe Cocker. Both from 1969's With a Little Help From My Friends. One of the warmest, most soulful albums ever recorded. Up there with Lewis Taylor's debut and Dusty in Memphis and McKay as one of the great, great British R&B albums.

"Loved Boy" featuring Lou Rawls, and "The Little Children" featuring Ras Kass, by David Axelrod, from 2001's Mo'Wax album David Axelrod. I should write something longer about this album, it's been haunting my collection for years. One of those great projects that Mo'Wax kicked out. I still remember hearing "The Little Children" in a bar in Oxford on Little Clarendon Street in 2001. Who the hell would play this in a bar? It's like a symphony with a brawl in the middle of it. In "Loved Boy" Rawls is all stately and measured above drunken trumpets.

"This Strange Affair" -- The Peddlers, from 1972's Suite London. I write about this album in the book, a distinct influence on Dummy. I can't improve much on what Tim Saul told me about it: "a very strange kind of mixture of almost working man's club crooning over really interesting arrangements with the London Philharmonic."


Some Tom Waits, obviously. I can't decide. "Way Down in the Hole," but it's a bit over-familiar because of The Wire. Maybe "Cold Cold Ground": very accessible but still somehow unstable. Or "Clap Hands": an arrangement that seems to float a few feet off the ground and drag you through the song even while Waits follows just behind your ear. Bizarre. I must pick up David Smay's book again.

Buck 65. Where to start. "Roses and Blue Jays"; absolutely gorgeous songcraft. Or "Cries a Girl."I've written about these songs before and I'm still right:

Terfry’s various story-telling influences—including Waits, Johnny Cash, Woody Guthrie, Jack Kerouac—have by now been so thoroughly absorbed into a developed and individual style that it is next to impossible to pick them out... There’s a perfect confidence to his writing, a confidence that allows a song as personal as “Roses and Bluejays”—about his relationship with his father since his mother’s death—to be conducted entirely at the level of surface observations. The details themselves, and their juxtaposition, perfectly conjure a sense of drift and directionlessness, and, somehow, a deep-rooted belonging. The image of his father clearing snow with a flamethrower encapsulates a moment of rage, loneliness, of silent futility.

A few of these would fit on a Suttree playlist. To follow.

Couldn't find YouTube links to the Axelrod or Peddlers -- apologies. Trust me, they're good. Please buy the music if you like it. Musicians need to eat too.