the Buzz for November 2010


Lee DeWyze — “Me and My Jealousy” (from Live It Up) — Me and My Jealousy - Live It Up

In terms of pure unrefined talent, Mr. DeWyze was the strongest Idol winner to come down the pike since Carrie (if not Kelly, and please don’t send me letters trying to sway me toward Jordin or Taylor!). So it crushes me, verily, to see that talent being largely squandered on Lee’s major label debut Live It Up, the first few songs of which force their performer to shamelessly (and, clearly, uncomfortably) ape Sherry Ann’s boho hero Jason Mraz (as though, at one, the world doesn’t already have enough of those!), even though, practically to a performance, all of DeWyze’s standout moments on the show last season — his riveting riff on Snow Patrol’s “Chasing Cars,” or his soul-shaking take on Paul Simon’s “The Boxer,” or his epic, electrifying showdown with Crystal on “Falling Slowly,” the magically magnificent title theme from Once — found him in full-on angst-ridden, get-on-that-stage-and-bleed mode. Live blessedly picks up around its midpoint, as Lee stumbles toward his comfort zone with tunes like “Jealousy,” a mournful ode to the one that he regrets he let slip away.


Cowboy Junkies — “Hollow as a Bone”
(from Miles From Our Home) — Hollow As a Bone - Miles from Our Home

Sherry Ann — as estimable a judge of talent as I’ve ever met in my lifetime — once opined that nothing falls out of the mouth of Margo Timmins — this band’s fabulous frontwoman — unless it’s brilliant. Get a load of this and then tell me you don’t agree.


the cast of Glee (featuring Gwyneth Paltrow) — “Forget You”
(from Glee, The Music: Volume 4) — Forget You (Glee Cast Version) [feat. Gwyneth Paltrow] - Forget You (Glee Cast Version) [feat. Gwyneth Paltrow] - Single

Over the past several weeks, A and I have fallen into a pattern of behavior which we both find mutually beneficial: on Tuesday nights, he retires to the bedroom to watch Glee alone (which is to say, without me at his side exasperating him with an endless barrage of snide, snippy comments), and then he leaves each episode on the DVR so that I can access it at my leisure and watch the interesting moments without having to slog through all the irritating ones in real time. This week’s installment, which guest starred Oscar-winning actress Paltrow as an overly eager substitute teacher, was a fun, frothy romp, highlighted by Gwyneth’s fabulously funky (and, of course, tamed for television) take on Cee-Lo’s recent smash.
(If you saw her film Duets a decade ago, you know without doubt the girl’s got some decent pipes, but what a revelation to learn that she’s also got some pretty fine moves as well.)


Joni Mitchell — “If I Had a Heart” (from Shine) — If I Had a Heart - Shine

Four decades in, and still rousing the rabble, in her own inimitably elegant fashion, from both sides now: in a terrific, brilliantly bare-bones track from her 2007 comeback smash, Joni takes on the holy hatemongers and the enviro-terrorists, but is also keen enough to turn the mirror upon herself, questioning — and, perhaps, even confounded by — her own complicity, whatever the size, in maintaining the madness by which she feels inextricably engulfed.


“See, that’s already startin’ to look mighty fine. There’s
no way you can mess up if you start with three cups of sugar
and two sticks of butter, y’all!”

— famed television chef Paula Deen, evidently pleased as punch at how her Mississippi Mud Cake recipe is coming to fruition, on her weekly cooking series Paula’s Best Dishes


Patrice Pike and the Black Box Rebellion — “Miss Ramona”
(from Fencing Under Fire) — Ms. Ramona - fencing Under Fire

I reckon if Pat Benatar and Mick Jagger ever conceived a child, the bew-tee-full baby’d grow up to be something jus’ like Pike, a beautifully brusque vocalist steeped in old-school soul but laced through and through with the badass bravado of the rockers she must have grown up admiring. Pike is best known for her wicked work as the leader of Sister 7, an astoundingly fine Austin band which was headed for the big leagues at the turn of the century until they got lost in the chaos of an executive shuffle at their record company, Arista, and I was heartbroken to discover that my three favorite Sister songs are still not available on iTunes (what gives, Steve?!). So the hive is forced (twist my arm!) to go with “Ramona,” a brilliant, balls-out standout jam from Pike’s first post-Sister project. I dare you to be disappointed.


Jerrod Niemann — “What Do You Want”
(from Judge Jerrod and the Hung Jury) — What Do You Want - Judge Jerrod & The Hung Jury

It’s certainly not paint-by-numbers country: after writing tunes for the likes of Garth Brooks, Jamey Johnson, and Blake Shelton, Niemann suddenly finds himself holding a hot hand of his own at country radio with a simmering epic about a man laying his heart bare, pleading with a former flame to snap the vicious circle of rage, regret, and overpowering lust that has them both stuck hopelessly in neutral. From Nashville’s new class of upstarts,
one of the year’s most powerful singles.


If you missed any of last week’s tunes, below is a quick recap. (PS: Did I ever tell you that, once upon a time, I’d have killed for a t-shirt with the above phrase emblazoned on it? Miss Tori is a world-class kook, there’s no doubt about it, but I just love that gal!)

MONDAY: Shania Twain — “Don’t Be Stupid (You Know I Love You)”
(from Come On Over [International Version]) — Don't Be Stupid (You Know I Love You) - Come On Over (International Version)

TUESDAY: Katie Melua — “Just Like Heaven”
(from Piece By Piece) — Just Like Heaven - Piece By Piece

WEDNESDAY: Tori Amos — “The Waitress” (from Under the Pink) — The Waitress - Under the Pink

THURSDAY: Reba McEntire — “If I Were a Boy”
(from All the Women I Am) — If I Were a Boy - All the Women I Am

FRIDAY: Dar Williams — “Closer to Me”
(from The Beauty of the Rain) — Closer to Me - The Beauty of the Rain

SATURDAY: Barenaked Ladies — “Theme from The Big Bang Theory
(from Theme from The Big Bang Theory [single]) — Big Bang Theory Theme - Big Bang Theory Theme - Single

SUNDAY: Damien Rice (with Lisa Hannigan) — “Nine Crimes”
(from 9) — 9 Crimes - 9


Damien Rice (with Lisa Hannigan) — “Nine Crimes” (from 9) — 9 Crimes - 9

I’ve never been a great fan of Rice and the overblown pomposity of his music (indeed, the more I hear of it, the more I become convinced that its composer would forever relinquish custody of his left nut in exchange for a tenth of his fellow Irishman David Gray’s talent for just half a day). But every now and again, even strident is capable of becoming stunning, and so it does here, with this raw, righteously eerie portrait of a man fighting his own fading will to stay faithful. If the taut, tense vocal interplay between Rice and his right hand Hannigan doesn’t give you gooseflesh by the end of the tune, consider yourself officially impervious to the inherent power of drama in song.



Barenaked Ladies — “Theme from The Big Bang Theory
(from Theme from The Big Bang Theory [single]) — Big Bang Theory Theme - Big Bang Theory Theme - Single

This one is for my beloved, who generally believes that television is Satan’s handpuppet, but who will crawl buck naked over thirty yards of sizzling coals to watch two programs: Glee, and this amusing CBS situation comedy about socially inept research scientists stumbling through life and love in the agonizing minefield of academia. (I love you, A!)


Dar Williams — “Closer to Me”
(from The Beauty of the Rain) — Closer to Me - The Beauty of the Rain

I spent much of the morning and afternoon lollygagging around San Antonio with A, and had not the foresight to schedule a dispatch from the hive before I left, which is why this is getting so posted so late this evening. (Dreadful sorry!) Sherry Ann introduced me to Williams thirteen years ago — she literally called me up and insisted that I go buy her latest record (which is one of those things that is cute when I do it, but a little mystifying when I’m on the receiving end), and my obedience resulted in the discovery of one of modern folk’s true, unique talents. Most of Dar’s material consists of inward reflections of her own tortured spirit, but here, she turns her gaze to a lover, daring him to dream big, and to set foot outside the invisible confines of his own settled soul.


Reba McEntire — “If I Were a Boy” (from All the Women I Am) — If I Were a Boy - All the Women I Am

A micro-review of last night’s Country Music Association awards telecast, with bullet points arranged in no particular order:

  • co-host (and, apparently, the Entertainer of the Year, though you’d play hell proving that by me) Brad Paisley continues to irk me incessantly and utterly (although, alarmingly if not surprisingly, he forever stole A’s heart when he grabbed his guitar during the stilted monologue and ripped into eight bars of Lady GaGa’s “Alejandro” (aka A’s favorite single of the new millenium, for reasons that are no doubt obvious.))
  • The Band Perry got genuinely gypped for having to split a performance of their powerful smash “If I Die Young” with the presentation of the radio station awards. (Was I just imagining things, or did poor Kimberly Perry seem silently livid to have to stop herself halfway through the song and deliver a rough, tritely written valentine to country radio? The sharp knife of a short, uh, CMA performance, indeed.)
  • Brava, Taylor, for staying solidly on key throughout your bold, brilliantly stark take on “Back to December,” which I assume is going to be Speak Now‘s second single and whose virtues I extolled in this here space last week.
  • The hilarious look of pure pulsing befuddlement on Sheryl Crow’s face immediately following Sugarland’s slightly overbaked take on “Stuck Like Glue” really said it all.
  • The night’s most surprising performance? Give it to Miss Reba, still a knockout at 55 and still towering over a passel of churren half her age, takin’ ’em all to school with a flawlessly crunchified, fabulously captivating rendition of Beyonce’s gender-jangled instant classic.


Tori Amos — “The Waitress” (from Under the Pink) — The Waitress - Under the Pink

Amos is eternally at her best when she is chronicling those with their noses pressed to the glass — outsiders looking in — and keenly surveying the universality of the pain associated with such a status. The story here — one server in a slapdash greasy spoon envies another for her seemingly effortless charm and cheery ways — is tightly observed, simple but hardly threadbare, and Tori scores one for all the average girls who, no matter the milieu, have had their sack lunches eaten time and again by the pretty bitch on the block.