Blessed [new from Lucinda Williams]

March 1st is not only day one of my favorite month (I’m in Arizona, so that means Spring Training games, a beer festival, and ideal weather), but it’s also release day for Blessed, the great new album from Lucinda Williams.

Lucinda’s 10th studio album has many folks likening it to a return to form of her stellar ’98 album Car Wheels on a Gravel Road. I’ve had a few runs through it, and – as always, it seems – I’ve gravitated to the more slow burning, wistful tracks. “I Don’t Know How You’re Living”, “Born to be Loved”, “Convince Me”…

But the true stunner of a tune that stops me in my tracks is the album finale: “Kiss Like Your Kiss”. This love’s done and gone, Jack, and nothing will ever be the same…

There’ll never be a spring so perfect again
We’ll never see a yellow so rich
The grass will never be quite as green
And there’ll never be a kiss like your kiss

That’s only the first verse. It’s a thing of beauty, and may be one of the best songs I’ve ever heard Lucinda sing (right there with “Blue” for me). This song alone is worth the price of admission.

A version of the song actually appears on an episode of True Blood, and includes Elvis Costello on vocals. You can find this version on True Blood: Music From The HBO® Original Series Volume 2

The Blessed version doesn’t include Costello’s co-vocals, and as much as I admire and respect Elvis, the song rises even higher without him. This is Lucinda’s moment, and Costello only dilutes the exquisiteness of it, in my opinion. Just wait till you hear the Blessed version, that’s all I gotta say.

Blessed is another strong collection from a tried and true original still at the top of her game. Top to bottom, it can’t top Car Wheels, but moments like “Kiss Like Your Kiss” elevate it to a level that’s damn close.

Sham-a-Ling-Dong-Ding

The beautiful thing about music – and I’ve said it many times before – is there’s always something new to discover. The act of hearing a song for the first time, and having it make that instant connection right to the soul – that is why I am obsessed with music, and always on the search for that next gem – regardless of era or genre.

This song came to my attention from a Twitter update from Popdose’s Jason Hare – okay okay, his tweet! He had just watched Elvis Costello’s Spectacle show on Sundance, and one of the special guests was Jesse Winchester. Jesse is a Canadian folk artist (an American expatriate actually) who started out in the business over 40 years ago.

“Sham-A-Ling-Dong-Ding” is the song. It’s a newer one from Jesse actually, from his latest album – last year’s Love Filling Station. The song is a sentimental and nostalgic love song from the 65 year old , looking back through the years to the beginning of a love affair, and to the music that accompanied and nurtured them – and still does to this day.

Oh to have the talent to write a song like this. (watch Neko Case tear up next to him).

The boys were singing shing-a-ling
The summer night we met
You were tan and seventeen
O how could I forget
When every star from near and far
Was watching from above
Watching two teenagers fall in love

The way we danced was not a dance
But more a long embrace
We held on to each other and
We floated there in space
And I was shy to kiss you while
The whole wide world could see
So shing-a-ling said everything for me

And O the poor old old folks
They thought we’d lost our minds
They could not make heads or tails
Of the young folks’ funny rhymes
But you and I knew all the words
And we always sang along to
O sham-a-ling-dong-ding
Sham-a-ling-dang-dong

So after years and after tears
And after summers past
The old folks tried to warn us
How our love would never last
And all we’d get was soaking wet
From walking in the rain
And singing sham-a-shing-a-ling again

And O the poor old old folks
They smile and walk away
But I bet they did some
Sham-a-lama-ding-dong in their day
I bet that they still close their eyes
And I bet they sing along to
O sham-a-ling-dong-ding
Sham-a-ling-dang-dong

O those sweet old love songs
Every word rings true
Sham-a-ling-dong-ding means sweetheart
Sham-a-ling-dang-dong does too
And it means that right here in my arms
That’s where you belong
And it means sham-a-ling-dong-ding
Sham-a-ling-dang-dong