Entertainment and Sports

For The Road, Girls

If you were going to be on a deserted island and could only bring ten CDs, what would they be?

By Kevin Somers
Published March 18, 2006

If you were going to be on a deserted island and could only bring ten CDs, what would they be? It's a question I was asked once but didn't think merited a lot of attention. The odds of being deserted with audio options is googol to one, so I never bothered.

I do think, however, about the music I'll give my daughters when they move out. They're still wee, as Granny would say, but I'm already mourning the day they leave the nest. It's inevitable they find their own path, of course, so when they do, I've begun preparing a parting present of indispensable accessories to help guide their way.

They'll get nothing hollow (and expensive) from their old man, like a car or rent cheques, but they will have a few CDs to turn those frowns upside down. The only rule is one disc per artist; so, in no particular order, here's the list so far; tentative and subject to change, as it is.

Dwight Yoakam's Dwight Live is a keeper. It's well over an hour of Yoakam and his band playing San Francisco's Warfield Theatre in 1994. The songs change speed, emotion, and delicacy with the same intriguing fluctuations of Yokam's voice. Two Doors Down is the beautiful, sad lament of a broken-hearted man crying into his spirits, but it's followed by the absolutely rockin' Fast as You, where Dwight snarls, Maybe I'll break hearts, too, like a guy bouncing back good and angry. The finale, Suspicious Minds, is seven and a half delirious minutes. It's hard, it's fast, and it goes and goes. Beth Anderson, singing background, sounds like choir unto herself. The audience is mindless with approval throughout, which makes it better.

My kids have been to several concerts and camping weekends, so a CD from Port Dover's Fred Eaglesmith goes without saying. Hopefully, the songs will bring pleasant memories of good music, Daddy drinking beer and playing Bocci Ball, and Mommy working around the campsite; I certainly enjoy it. There are a few Eaglesmith CDs worthy of the list, so picking one is tough. From the Paradise Motel is a live recording with lots of defiant farmer songs. Drive-In Movie is pretty remarkable; lyrically, it's a gem. Good Enough, for example, is the comical whine of heart-sick hood pining for a girl who has changed her ways, I stole myself a car last week / Drove it up to Willis peaks / Covered it in gasoline / But it's not the same when she's not with me.

Tracy Chapman's self-titled first album keeps getting better. Chapman beautifully, eloquently, provocatively poured her soul and life experience into a debut that details the despair of society's uncelebrated. As a poor, young, black lesbian, Chapman surely felt the desolation Brittney et al. could never imagine. The album sold millions and lifted Chapman out of the ghetto. It's a great story of perseverance and overcoming obstacles.

For more than 20 years I've been a fan of Paul Weller, first with The Jam, then The Style Council, and finally as a solo artist. He's better known and more revered in his native England than anywhere else and just received a lifetime achievement award from the British music industry. Weller writes the words and music to all his songs, plays several instruments, and sings. He's dabbled in punk, rap, jazz, classical, soul, gospel, and does it all well. Although heavily maligned, I think 1988's Confessions of a Pop Group is Paul Weller at his best. I drove around the Australian Outback that year with two friends and Confessions was one of four cassettes in the car. Eventually, we realized the album had to be heard about 70 times to be truly appreciated.

Life wouldn't be the same without Johnny Cash's At Folsom Prison. The music is great and listening to the banter between Johnny and the convicts is priceless. The haunting ballad, The Long Black Veil, is the first-person singular story of a man convicted and hung for a crime he didn't commit. Singing from the grave, in his most solemn baritone, Johnny recounts, The judge said, 'Son, what is your alibi? / If you were somewhere else then you don't have to die / I spoke not a word / Though it meant my life / I had been in the arms of best friend's wife, then he stops, laughs, and says, “Did I hear somebody applaud?” Recorded in 1968 in the prison's cafeteria, it's difficult to imagine a more misogynistic environment, but Cash brings out his young bride, June Carter, and she blows the doors off the prison accompanying her husband on Jackson, a kick-ass tune for the ages. Johnny and June recently died within a month of each other.

There's a racing, roaring version of John Henry on the CD, just as there is on Harry Belafonte's Greatest Hits, another disc the girls won't leave the house without. I like greatest hits and Harry's countryman, Bob Marley's Greatest Hits is also on the list of take-away CDs; there are times when everyone needs to hear, Don't worry 'bout a thing / Every little thing's gonna be alright. For a number of reasons, they'll get a copy of Diana Ross and The Supreme's Greatest Hits. The Tragically Hip have a few beauties, but Fully Completely is my favourite, so that's what I'll give them. Finally, you couldn't leave The Hammer without Junkhouse's Strays, so the girls can expect a copy. It's a great album synonymous with their hometown. When Tom Wilson sings, Now this Hamilton life never looked so alive / This old man's too drunk to drive, he says it all.

Of course, by the time my girls move out, the list will be different and CDs will be slightly less redundant than vinyl, but they'll get the point. Redundancy is part of the charm.

Kevin Somers is a Hamilton writer.


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