With great delight, I share my favorite music tracks downloaded over the past three months. If you have been following previous articles, you know about my proclivity for down- to midtempo folk, Americana, singer-songwriters, blues, newgrass, and progressive rock genres, especially if the tracks are adorned with electronic and improvisational nuances.
Most songs on this list were released in 2023, with a few from earlier years. Each track sparkles with special qualities that sweetly linger and haunt my memories. Some artists are well-established (Peter Gabriel, Phillip Phillips, Sarah Jarosz, and Blue October). Others are seasoned performers who are still rising in recognition (Anya Hinkle, Christopher, Joy Oladokun, and Melanie De Biasio).
“Dancing With Your Shadows” by Phillip Phillips. Phillips, who won American Idol in 2012, possesses a musical style similar to Dave Matthews. On this 2023 song, Phillips brings his talents to get us up and dancing.
“Road to Joy (Bright-Side Mix)” by Peter Gabriel. It’s great to hear new music from the famous, outspoken humanitarian and social activist who originally sang for Genesis. On this track, we hear classic Gabriel groove style with wisps of Sly Stone funk and soul. The song is characterized by funkified bass and tremolo waves of electronics that periodically spring into verse and then become sculpted into rounds of choral responses playing off melodic lines. As Sly would urge, “Dance to the music!”
“A Better Man (Brooklyn Mix)” by Blue October. From the 2023 CD Spinning The Truth Around, Part II, this Houston-based alternative rock band has had 19 top 40 singles since 1995. Singer-guitarist Justin Furstenfeld’s voice has a special quality that makes the listener stop —and then follow the inward path to one’s own bare soul. This song of transcendence is accompanied by lush strings to complement Justin’s doubled harmonies. Just sit quietly, close your eyes, and sink into the inner realm.
“Paradise (Universal Sound Version)” by Stick Figure. Talented self-taught multi-instrumentalist Scott Woodruff is the frontman for Stick Figure, a reggae and dub band now based in Southern California. This minor-key song initially simmers, then soars, as well-served vocal effects magnify a sense of joyous freedom all the way to the grand chorus. The lyrics portray a picture of the road to redemption and loving acceptance:
Out of the darkness, show me the way
We all get lost, we’ve all been astray
Hold me close and tell me everything’s alright
The world keeps turnin’, the sun goes down
A moment of silence is the greatest sound
Still I wonder, where’s my paradise?
“Hope This Song Is For You” by Christopher Lund Nissen (a.k.a. Christopher). The 31-year-old Danish singer-songwriter starred in and sang his own compositions in the 2023 film A Beautiful Life. He also plays piano and guitar.
“Carolina Rolling By” by Mipso. This song is from the 2023 CD Book of Fools by the Chapel Hill, North Carolina, quartet that combines traditional bluegrass and string-band formats while performing close harmonies. “Carolina” is an homage to uncluttered life in rural America: fields of green, friends and family . . . the sweetest way to live life and music.
“Fortuna” and “Hills of Swannanoa” by Anya Hinkle. The Asheville, North Carolina-based Hinkle is recognized as a growing force in Appalachian roots music revivals. “Fortuna,” a flamenco-inspired driving celebration, honors the wandering Gypsy life within each of us. “Hills” is pure Appalachian bluegrass joy with banjo pickin’, guitar strummin’, and fiddlin’. It could have been on the soundtrack for the 2000 movie O Brother, Where Art Thou? My wife and I were fortunate to see Anya’s trio play in a small venue in Brevard, NC, in October 2023. Every single song captivated us.
“You Can’t Go Home Again” by Sarah Jarosz. Sarah is one of the few singers who artfully uses vocal slides and plays of pitch in a blues style. On this Nanci Griffith cover, the descending bass line and chordal figures provide structure for the wailing triad harmonies from a steel guitar that sweep our hearts away.
“In Another Life” by Beth Whitney. Enjoy the delightfully slow, triplet-based tempo and perfect engineering. Beth’s airy voice soothes us initially. Later, when she soars on melodic lines, she belts it out in controlled pitches. So much color, so well produced, and excellent, intriguing chord changes.
“Changes” by Joy Oladokun. For a special treat, check out the live YouTube version of this song with five musicians backing Joy’s acoustic strumming. The tenor sax, bass, and electric guitar add delicious flavors.
“Your Freedom Is the End of Me” by Melanie De Biasio. Melanie is a 45-year-old award-winning Belgian jazz singer, flutist, and composer. Piano, soft percussion, and strings lay the foundation on this melancholy song that is enhanced by superb production, including slightly reverbed lead vocals and a haunting double layer of subtle backing vocals. Check out her deep song book. Melanie is a true gem!
Enjoy these freely shared full songs on Spotify under DJ Andy Bargerstock as 2023 Winter Playlist.