After last week’s set of British favourites I thought I’d redress the balance with some favourites of mine from North America. Five of these are American, one is Canadian, one is mixed American and Canadian, and the final one is mixed American and British, so I’m sneaking in my homeland a bit! I’m trying to give you a feel for my tastes beyond the big names and usual suspects as well as including a few of those. You’ll probably know at least five of these names, and may have seen the others here before, though one verges on the downright obscure.
Let’s get straight into it with one of my two Canadians, though this is far from being his best known song:
Neil Young released Tell Me Why as the opening track on his third album, After The Goldrush, in September 1970 and I was interested to see him starting a concert with it six years later, so I thought I’d play it as my first tune today too. This was his first album to crack the UK Albums chart, getting to #7 here, as well as #8 in the US and #5 in Canada. In retrospect the album has rather played second fiddle to the blockbuster that followed it – Harvest – but it is a great album in its own right, with some superb tracks on it. I Believe In You is another favourite of mine, and ran this one a close second as my choice for today.
I played a song by this next band as recently as four weeks ago but as I’ve always loved them I’m indulging myself by doing it again:
As the video shows, that was a track on America’s second album, Homecoming, released in November 1972: just after I started at uni and destined to become one of the most played albums in my time there. It didn’t do as well in chart terms as their first, but still achieved pretty respectable placings of #9 in the US and #21 in the UK. Head And Heart was written by John Martyn, another favourite of mine, and his version of this is equally lovely. But he is Scottish, so comes from the wrong side of the pond to be included today!
I almost played this next one as part of my recent tribute to the late, great Tina Turner, but decided to omit her collaborations from that. This is her with today’s other Canadian:
That was originally a track on Bryan Adams’ fourth album, Reckless, which was released in November 1984, making #1 in both the US and Canada, and getting to #7 in the UK. It’s Only Love was the sixth single taken from it, in October 1985, peaking at #15 in the US and #29 in the UK. The official video for it is from a concert in Birmingham (the UK one) at the time of release, but it is a little bit grainy so I went for this one from the Canadian Juno Awards that same year. Either way, it’s a great song with two wonderful performers giving it their best.
This next one is another duet, though the two aren’t on the same stage, or even in the same country. I used to call Taylor Swift my guilty pleasure, but as she has made so many great records I’m not feeling so guilty these days. This is her putting in a guest appearance on one of her own songs:
Long Live was the closing track on Taylor’s third album, Speak Now, which was released in October 2010 and got to #1 in the US and a number of other countries, though it only reached #6 in the UK. Paula Fernandes, whose show she joined here, is a very popular singer in her native Brazil, who has shared other guest collaborations with the likes of Shania Twain and Michael Bolton, and has toured many other countries, including the UK, the US, and across Europe and South America. And in case you didn’t notice, she can sing a bit herself, and is drop dead gorgeous.
The next two tracks are from lesser known names, though I have played their music before as I’m a big fan of both. They are both singer-songwriters who make great records. First up is Sarah Darling:
Where Cowboys Ride was a track on Sarah’s third album, Dream Country, which was released in February 2017. It didn’t make any charts but it is a lovely record. She has had very little chart success, which I think is a real shame, but her strength lies in touring and gaining steady sales on the back of that. She has played concerts in many countries, and for her – and us – the UK is a particular favourite: she speaks of this as being like her second home, and this was perhaps reflected in her 2019 album Wonderland reaching #1 in the UK Country chart. She was one of the artists who maintained a presence during the pandemic lockdown days, with regular shows from her home accompanied on occasion by Welly, her adorable dog. Those Sunday afternoons were a highlight of my weeks.
Coincidentally, this next artist also did a lot of shows from home during the pandemic, and they were an absolute delight. She is another country singer who mostly writes her own songs, and this is one of my favourites of hers – though there are many:
Two videos in a row which show the beauty of the American landscape and their horses – not a coincidence! Caroline Jones self-released four albums in 2011/2, but Rise was a track on her first album with a record label, Bare Feet, which was released in March 2018 and made #11 in the US Country Albums chart. Amongst other interests she was a music teacher before going into performing full time. She has opened shows for Jimmy Buffett, who helped her get her record deal, and for the Zac Brown Band, who have taken to her so much that she became an official band member last year. I hope she – and Sarah – both get the wider recognition I think they deserve.
I said at the outset that one of these songs is in the downright obscure category. Unless you remember me playing it before, back in November 2020, I think it will be a new one for you:
Fishbaugh Fishbaugh and Zorn were an American folk-rock band who made two albums over here, only one of which was ever released in its original form. It came out in 1971: I bought it after hearing Hint Of A Freeze on the radio, and played it to death. Unfortunately, it also appears to have represented the death of the band, too, as their record company dropped them before the second album could be released. Apparently this song was released as a single but fared no better than the album. The two Fishbaughs were a married couple, Gary and Paula, and Zorn was Pete Zorn: Gary and Pete met whilst both were playing with the New Christy Minstrels. Pete was a multi-instrumentalist who enjoyed a long career as part of Richard Thompson’s backing band, as well as being a member of the Albion Band and Steeleye Span – the latter until his death in 2016. He was much in demand, having also played with Gerry Rafferty, Show Of Hands, Elaine Paige and Barbara Dickson, to name just a few. In view of the band’s short-lived career and almost instant obscurity I’ll admit to being a little surprised to have found this on YouTube, but I’m glad I could share it with you – I always thought those lovely harmony vocals deserved a wider audience.
Having travelled down a few paths that may not have been very well trodden I thought I’d leave you today with a bunch of guys who genuinely deserve the accolade of being a ‘supergroup’:
The previous video has had just over 400 views. This one, on the other hand, has more than 124m! The Traveling Wilburys were, as I’m sure you know, comprised of Jeff Lynne, George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty and Roy Orbison. Sadly, only two of them are still with us but they left us with a couple of fun albums. End Of The Line was the closing track on their first album, Traveling Wilburys Vol.1, which was released in October 1988 and reached #3 in the US and #16 in the UK, though it did make #1 in Australia and Canada. Sadly, Roy Orbison passed away in December 1988, and the band gave him a poignant tribute in this video.
That’s it for this week. I hope you’ve enjoyed the mix of known and unknown: it would have been easy for me to fill this up with the likes of Springsteen and Mellencamp, but I wanted to do something a little different, whilst still managing to drop in some tunes you might recognise. I’ll be back again with a little piece in a couple of days, and will return as usual for Song Lyric Sunday. Until then, have fun 😊