I  started singing for real when I was eight. Someone has the digital evidence of my first lead performance where I must have forgotten that there was an audience as I constantly (there is no tactful or nice version of this) picked a wedgie. No idea if I sang well. My classmates Elizabeth Lacey and Cindy Langmack were off the chain that day.

Since then, I’ve sung a great deal and music is in every way part of my various celebrations and coping mechanism. And the last couple of years have connected me to a series of musicians who have become critical to my appreciation, admiration, and love of music.

To wit, and I encourage you to listen to and see these whenever possible, here are some bands and albums that you must experience:

Ben Folds / Nick Hornby – Lonely Avenue
When excellent lyricists partner with stellar instrumentalists and vocalists, magic happens. From Fever Pitch through About A Boy, Nick Hornby has a way with the written word that is clever, arch, and emotional. Ben Folds is a composer and vocalist who is ideal to bring to life Hornby’s reality, sadness, honesty, and hope. “A Working Day” is a song that I tap into any day when, as you’d expect, I work.

Adele – 21
I pre-ordered “21,” Adele’s second amazing album, four months before it was released. Before I heard the entire album – which is genuine, moving, warm, sultry, and ass-kicking – I began working on “Rolling in the Deep” for my demo reel. I never thought I could empathize with what she sings and earlier this year, I had no story to be told and I finally saw someone crystal clear (lyrics altered from Adele Adkins’s and Paul Epworth’s original). I can no longer hear or sing the song without getting tears in my eyes. And the truth of this song keeps me focused on my belief that love is possible always, regardless of the challenges in life’s journey.

The Bloodsugars – I Can’t Go On, I’ll Go On
The women responsible for one of the best stores in the five boroughs – Tiburon in Brooklyn- are to be commended for introducing me to The Bloodsugars when I was in their store before an excellent cooking program with A Razor, A Shiny Knife buying a present for my nephew. I asked them if they sold any CDs by local bands and Amy showed me this album. The four guys who make up this exceptional band vocalize and play instruments. “Form/Function” and “Light At The End Of The Tunnel” could be theme songs for different times in my life. I must see this crew live.

Over The Rhine – The Long Surrender
I will always be grateful to Andy Kohler, guitarist and vocalist of Vox Voronet, for reminding me about Over The Rhine. While described as Alt-Country, Linford Detweiler, Karin Bergquist, and the exceptional musicians who join them onstage and in studio are so much more. They are truth and anger and love and observation and lust and fun and history. Having seen them in two cities and three different venues reinforces my notion that we can make anywhere our home so long as we create community and surround ourselves with great people. OTR does this consistently and Joe Henry’s production of their latest album is evidence of his talent and strength.

My friends know how much I love going to shows and within the last year or so I’ve been blessed to see Jamie Lidell (twice), Mayer Hawthorne and the County (twice), Over the Rhine (three times and believe me, I considered writing “thrice”), The ones I’m looking forward to seeing this year (more to come, I’m sure) are Teddy Thompson, Martin Sexton, A Perfect Circle, and Bebel Gilberto. And if I can possibly find tickets to Adele and Bruno Mars/Janelle Monae, my cheeks will hurt because I’ll be smiling so much.

Have a beautiful weekend. Support local and undiscovered musicians.

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