Sunday, May 30, 2010

Sweet as an Iris

Welcome to Sundays at the Sanctuary, wherein we hand our blogospheric pen and headphones to friends and followers who share our love of music and provide inspiration and support for Club SSS. Consider them Guest DJs, if you will, and feel free to comment as always on the perspectives offered.

By Jim Reck

Every song tells a story. At least that’s what most artists will swear to, with maybe the exception of Gary Glitter’s “Rock and Roll, Part 2.” But most are just plain lyrics while only a small percentage actually transcend to meaningful stories that evoke your senses in a four to five minute span.

Among the best is Iris DeMent. The best example of her deep storytelling talent is “Our Town.” From beginning to end of this melancholy song ( one can’t help but smile at times, while wiping a tear or getting a lump in the throat that seem to demonstrate her talent on much of her work. All hymns aside (and mom singing along), Iris can take you to the party with “Sweet is the Melody” or provoke deep introspection with “Let the Mystery Be.” If you have a chance, see her live. It’s a hell of an experience.

Though Iris is my favorite (for now), there are others out there that strike me as being possessed by the same talent for telling the story with melodies as sweet as an Iris. My top-of-mind list includes:

Iris DeMent, Our Town
Iris DeMent, Sweet is the Melody
Leonard Cohen, The Sisters of Mercy
Robert Earl Keen, Feelin’ Good Again
Paul Thorn, Where Was I When You Stopped Loving Me?
John Prine, Lake Marie
Ian Tyson and Tom Russell, Canadian Whiskey
Bob Dylan, Tangled up in Blue
Gordon Lightfoot, Canadian Railroad Trilogy
Woody Guthrie, Deportee (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos)

(And a hell of a lot more if it weren’t for lists stopping at ten.)

Jim Reck taught Strumbum how to play "Go Now" on the piano outside the guidance counselor's office at Whitehall High School. It's not his fault the guy never learned another song. "The Recker" is a retired PR/marketing guy who loves non-mainstream music, dabbles in guitar, mandolin and ukulele and plays in a jam band. He is not a music critic but knows what he likes.


  1. I think it's cool that you and Jim have kept in touch all these years.
    Go now, was a nice song, but not one of my favs, but I did play my Moody Blues, Search of the lost cord alot, my fav was Ride my see saw, which by the way is inclued in my collection of music on my Ipod.
    I really like to listen to piano songs, do u do a little Elton John or Billy Joel?????

  2. Paul Thorn once fought Roberto Duran at Madison Square Garden, losing a bloody sixth-round TKO that convinced him songwriting was safer than boxing.

  3. Didn't get an answer about your piano playing.....what do u like to play....soft rock, clasical, blues........does a voice go along as u play???????

  4. I'm actually not a piano player...chord a little but stick to strings. No Joel or Elton with those. Dylan, Young, Nancy Griffith, Emmylou, Stan Rogers, Roger McGuinn, Ian Tyson, etc. More of a folk and folk rock kind of performer. If you're familiar with Gillian Welch's, "I Want To Sing That Rock And Roll," that's my story.

  5. I just assumed when I saw the picture of the Baldwin Baby Grand , that you have a picture of on the left hand side of screen, you said it had alot of fond memories,and you said your friend Jim taught you how to play Go Now on the piano in high school, so I guess from that I thought you did.