Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Lyricists That Inspire

      Bob Dylan, Jim Morrison, John Lennon.  As a songwriter these are three names that tend to pop into my brain when thinking about legendary lyricists.  Many of us could (and do) argue for days about who the best is, but this is completely subjective and we all know it.  Different lyrics and words affect us as individuals for different reasons.  Whether its Fleetwood Mac’s “Never Going Back Again” or Nirvana’s “Heart Shaped Box,” these words will take us to a familiar place that only these songs can describe.

            I believe that a true understanding of good song lyrics comes with age, experience and wisdom.  When we are younger we tend to be influenced by what is popular instead of what we really appreciate, as was the case with Vanilla Ice or Gerardo.  Being the lyricist and lead singer for my first High School rock band (Crabapple Sedan), Bob Dylan would constantly blast into my radar as the all time great.  When hearing songs like “Hurricane” or “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35,” I would always appreciate them because I was supposed to but never really understood what all the fuss was about.  Sure the songs sound great, but how could someone with such a terrible voice be looked at in this way?  It wasn’t until a few years ago when I actually “listened” to “The Times They Are A-Changin” and could finally understand what people meant.  Words eloquently pieced together evoking a timeless message that pierces directly to the core of you.  His words force you to have understanding when your ears are open.  Regardless of what he was thinking when he wrote his songs, his lyrics have the ability to create something personal for you.  To me, that is the tell tale sign of an accomplished lyricist.

            When writing songs it always helps to have a little bit of inspiration.  There is of course always the greats from days gone by, but who is out there now?  I tried to think of people that are currently putting out new songs, from well recognized to almost unknown, and came up with seven artists (in no particular order) that stood out in my mind.

1.      Ben Gibbard:  The Death Cab for Cutie front man is an obvious pick for me.  This indie band has hit it pretty big in the last few years, but it was their first commercial success with the album “Plans” that got me listening.  My wife and I danced to the song, “I Will Follow You Into The Dark,” at our wedding to confused eyes.  To some this is a dark, somber song about death, incredibly inappropriate for a wedding dance.  But if you truly listen to his wonderfully descriptive words there can be no other song that expresses the endless love that you have for another being. “If Heaven and Hell decide that they both are satisfied, illuminate the no’s on their vacancy signs.  If there’s no one beside you when your soul embarks, then I’ll follow you into the dark.”
            Listen to: Brothers on a Hotel Bed, You are a Tourist  or Summer Skin

Ben Gibbard
2.      Jeff Klein: The band, My Jerusalem, is the greatest band that you don’t know about right now.  Jeff Klein, the mastermind behind them, is talented beyond all imagination.  His sense of humor blends beautifully with an ability to understand the world around us.  Sometimes he makes us laugh and sometimes he makes us feel as though we’ve been hit in the chest and had our heart ripped out.  “There’s a taste I can’t spit out, his cigarettes on your mouth.  The love you couldn’t live without, it will finally destroy you.”

            Listen to: Hit the Lights, Sleepwalking or Shatter Together
Jeff Klein

3.      Chino Moreno: Here’s a guy that has been around for quite some time now.  I first heard The Deftones front man screaming in 1995 with the song “7 Words.”  This band quickly became one of my all time favorites and continue to evolve with each passing year.  Chino’s lyrics have also come a long way, from 95’s Adrenaline to this years’ Koi No Yokan.  He is a poet at heart, angry and complicated.  Telling us his view of the world and expressing it in a way that you can get several different meanings past his initial intention.  “Our minds bend and our fingers fold.  Entwined, we dream I know.”

            Listen to: Rosemary, Change (In the House of Flies) or Lhabia 

Chino Moreno
4.      Karen O: Once you get past Karen O from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ fashion sense you will find her to be one of the greats.  Her ethereal vocals compliment her subject matter harmoniously.  She will take you on a journey that at times feels much like a fantasy film, which is probably why her then boyfriend, Spike Jonze, chose her to do the soundtrack for “Where the Wild Things Are.”  “I got a date with the night, putting out my finger.  Gonna catch the kids dry, gonna walk on water.  Buying out the fight, we’re sweating in the winter.  Both thighs squeeze tight.”

            Listen to: Date With The Night, Gold Lion, Zero
Karen O

5.      Marcus Mumford: Grammy winning band, Mumford & Sons, is probably the most popular example on this list right now.  Front man Marcus helps bring us back to the days of sitting in a barn for a hoedown while adding a new age spin.  The most popular example would be adding an expletive into an introspective folk song, jarring listeners into realizing it’s 2010 and not 1810.  He offers us a glimpse at a simpler life and reminds us what truly living is all about.  “We’ll be washed and buried one day my girl, and the time we were given will be left for the world.  The flesh that lived and loved will be eaten by plague, so let the memories be good for those who stay.”

            Listen to: Winter Winds, Ghosts That We Knew, Little Lion Man

Marcus Mumford

6.      Dana Falconberry: This indie singer/songwriter from Austin, TX uses her sweet voice to deliver a powerful message of how to find and know ones self. Her words will linger in your mind for several days with a haunting excellence.  “And the children came and laid me on my bed and the paper said the people cried and the pastor read words that Jesus said but nobody knows that I was singing when I died and I was peaceful, yeah, I said all my goodbyes.”

   Listen to: Singing Lullabies, Crooked River, Love Will Never Leave You Alone

Dana Falconberry
7.      Trent Reznor: Definitely the biggest name on this list, but for good reason.  At least for me anyway.  There is no one out there that thinks the way that Trent Reznor does, which leads to some exceptional music and twisted lyrics.  Often tackling subjects of suicide, drug addiction and depression, he forces you to experience it all with him.  All of his pain and torture is poured into his work, which doesn’t exactly leave us with a sunny feeling inside.  Instead we feel it like a powerhouse drop kick to the chin.  Lyrics don’t always have to inspire us to feel better or happy, sometimes they just show us that we are not alone.  “The me that you know used to have feelings, but the blood has stopped pumping and he's left to decay.  The me that you know is now made up of wires, and even when I’m right with you I’m so far away.”

            Listen to: The Becoming, The Warning, Somewhat Damaged
Trent Reznor
Written By Kevin O


Friday, March 8, 2013

The Big Three

      Every musician has a certain something that makes them unique. It starts with your brain and flows through your body to your instrument.  Whether its guitar, bass, drums, keyboard, sax or vocals. It doesn’t matter how technically proficient you are or are not.
     Now for guitarists, your tone truly is flowing through your brain’s thought process and to your fingers. You’ve heard it all before, BB King can hit one note and you know it’s him.  Same with all of the iconic players we love from Jimi, Eric (choose one Clapton or Johnson), Slash, Eddie, Beck, Brad Paisley, Joe B (not me Bonamassa).
     They all at one point or another have reached for the big three.  Which three guitars am I talking about?  The Tele, Strat & Les Paul.  These are the big three because they all have a certain tone any player can get if they know how to work them for all they’re worth! 

Jimi Hendrix playing a  Fender Stratocaster

Bruce Springsteen with  a Fender Telecaster

Joe Perry playing a Les Paul

    Each overall design from the start has had relatively small changes over the years. They are iconic. What is it about these guitars that have made it so difficult for most manufactures to improve upon? Which guitars would you consider to be the big three? 

    Let us know what you think of these three iconic models.  Check out other Fender Guitars at

Written By Joe B