The Proprietor’s Favorite Music of 2007

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Music sinks into me differently than books or movies. I’m very picky with it, and prone to listen to one thing over and over again rather than gobbling up lots of different music. I treat music like I treat menus: if I know I’m going to like the chicken chimichanga, why order something else?

So rather than provide you with a straight-up list of favorite albums (I doubt I could come up with ten new albums that I’ve listened to this year), I’m going to list some of my favorite musical moments of 2007, in no particular order.

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James Taylor, One Man Band.

James Taylor is one of the Great Ones in the world of songwriting. I’ve seen him live one other time, and I’ve watched his DVDs with awe, not just at how good he is at what he does, but how good his band is. He’s played with basically the same band for years and years, and they sound like it. When I heard that he’d be at the Ryman with naught but his guitar and a piano player, I bought tickets immediately. I wanted to see how well one of the Great Ones could pull off a show without all the bells and whistles. It was remarkable. His playing is so nuanced and solid, and of course his voice is nearly flawless live–but to my surprise there were still bells and whistles, and they were part of what made the show so good.

During the songs movies played on a screen behind him, old films from his childhood with pumpkins and bicycles and images that fit the nostalgic vibe of songs like “Copperline” and “Walking Man”; he told stories about old songs and showed pictures of some of the people who inspired them; once he played along with a pre-recorded virtual choir. Brilliant. I walked out of there humbled and fired up about finding ways to make my own shows better.

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Playing the Waterdeep song on the Christmas tour

Don and Lori Chaffer of Waterdeep fame came to our Christmas show in Kansas City and we surprised them with a cover of a song called “I’m Still Here”. It reminded me how good Waterdeep was/is, and was a sweet-spirited way for everyone on the tour to honor Don and Lori.

Hearing Allen Levi play

Again, on the Christmas tour this year. When we were in Birmingham a kind southern gentleman named Allen Levi, who’s written more songs than I’ve eaten cheeseburgers, obliged our request to join us in the round. He played a song about Santa being set up at the mall right next to Victoria’s Secret, how they’re both dressed in their best red and white, making promises of endless delight that they can’t keep. It was nothing short of amazing to see the way he took that adult topic and charmed the audience (and all of us on the stage) in a way that not only got a lot of laughs but warmed us and reminded us of the truth. Thank you, Allan.

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The Weepies, Say I Am You

My favorite discovery of last year. I first heard the Weepies during a game of WePod, in which everybody in the van takes turns picking a song that matches the chosen topic. I don’t remember what the topic was, but Ben’s friend Emmett played “Take It From Me” and I was a goner. Great songs, and a sweet, happy sound. Favorite songs, in case you want to take my word for it on iTunes: “Take It From Me”, “Stars”, “Gotta Have You”.

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Hem

Ben’s been listening to this band for years, so I had heard bits and pieces. I finally bought Rabbit Songs and am glad I did. My favorite songs: “Sailor” and “Leave Me Here”. Oh, man.

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Fernando Ortega, In the Shadow of Your Wings

I can’t recommend this record highly enough. Fernando’s put out a lot of excellent records, but something special happened with this one. Recorded by the great Gary Paczosa (Alison Krauss, Mindy Smith, Nickel Creek–ahem–Andrew Peterson), this album is intimate, grand, and beautiful. It’s the first thing I play on Sunday mornings, and just yesterday I jogged to it (which I realize is weird in light of its mellowness) at sunset here at the Warren and was so moved that my eyes watered. Every song is a winner, so just go ahead and get the whole thing.

The Door, Jill Phillips

Jill’s Nobody’s Got it all Together came out last year. It’s an excellent album, and I’m not just saying that because of the stellar BGVs on the song “Square Peg”. The last song on the record, “The Door”, has long been one of my favorites, but I remember listening to it on a long drive with my family a few weeks ago and being nearly overcome by it. Hearing Jill’s voice belt out that last chorus knocks me out every time. But don’t stop there. The whole record is great.

Randall Goodgame at the Army base

I had a very patriotic year. We got to see the shuttle take off (did I mention that Pat Forrester, the mission specialist, brought some of my records up with him? I will never stop finding ways to insert that fact into conversations), Ben and I played for the White House Christian Fellowship, and Goodgame and I played at a U.S. Army base in the Carolinas. I loved having the opportunity to play for the troops, but I found out pretty quickly that without a band, my music doesn’t exactly…groove. Goodgame on the other hand? He’s not afraid to channel his inner soul singer. The troops listened with barely disguised apathy to my songs, but when Goodgame stepped up to the mic to sing “Army of Angels”, or “Susan Coats’s Pants”, or “Sweet Aileen”, the crowd basically went nuts. His music brought such light and joy into these weary soldiers’ faces I just stood there in awe. I’m so thankful to have had the chance to play for those men and women, and thankful that they didn’t heckle me off the stage. I’m also thankful to call Goodgame a friend, what with that inner jive daddy knocking around inside him.

Skye singing “Over the Rainbow”

My daughter fell in love with Dorothy this year. Here’s a link to a YouTube video of her being all cutesy.

41ufhapnrel_aa240_.jpgAlison Krauss and Union Station Live

Thanks to Ron Block my wife and I were able to see one of the best bands of our time play at the arena here in Nashville. They’re a remarkable band, equally talented across the board, and you’ll love them whether or not you’re a country/bluegrass fan. Great music is great music. Alison sings a song on her newest record called “Country Boy” that makes me convulse every time I hear it.

Ben Shive Concert

Jill and Andy Gullahorn planned a special Ben Shive Solo Concert for the last day of the Christmas tour. After soundcheck the whole tour sat on the front pews of the empty auditorium and forced Ben to play a sampling of his songs. It was staggering to hear how many great–great–songs he’s written. One after another he played, and we kept thinking of and requesting more. Hopefully this is the year his record will be finished.

Erik Tilling

We had a great tour in Sweden last Spring, accompanied by Erik Tilling and a rascally pianist named Hektor. Erik’s gentle spirit and great musicianship was a huge relief to us, because we knew we would be doing a week of shows that would’ve felt like a month had his music been lame. At one show someone translated his songs to me quietly as he sang, and the lyrics were potent and simple and full of truth.

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The Finn Brothers/Neil Finn

I’ve been told by basically all my friends that I should listen to Neil Finn (of Crowded House fame). Finally I succumbed, and was glad. Two songs, in case you’re visiting iTunes: “Won’t Give In” by the Finn Brothers, and “She Will Have Her Way” by Neil Finn.

The Innocence Mission

Their hymns record is beautiful. It plays right after Fernando on Sunday mornings. Their new record, which I don’t know nearly as well yet, was reviewed in the Rabbit Room here.

Jeremy Casella, RCVRY

I was so proud of Jeremy when I heard this record. It sounds like he came into his own on this melodic, artful album.

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Paul Simon, Surprise

In the liner notes it says, “Produced by Paul Simon. Sonic Landscape by Brian Eno.” When I read that I rolled my eyes. “What the heck is a ‘sonic landscape’?” I grumbled. But then I listened to the album and had to admit that, well, there was a sonic landscape. I hope I’m making music half this cool and thoughtful when I’m 107 years old. Seriously, though, whether or not you agree with Simon’s take on things, he has made another musically beautiful album full of songs that actually say something.

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Pink Floyd, A Momentary Lapse of Reason

I’m just including this one because I recently found it in a bargain bin and listened to it for the first time since high school. I loved, loved this album–long, beautiful, guitar solos, creepy-cool sounds, and one of the best album covers, ever. I distinctly remember listening to this record while lying on my bed with the shelf speakers on either side of my head, geeking out at the, uh, sonic landscape.

Andy Gullahorn, Reinventing the Wheel

Of course I have to include the other Captain Courageous. Andy G’s best record to date, with songs that make me seriously consider quitting this whole songwriting sham I have going.

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Jason Gray, All the Lovely Losers

Jason is great at what he does. He tells a whopper of a story, is gentle of spirit and wise, has a great singing voice, and thinks deeply and carefully about his ministry. It has been a thrill seeing my kids singing his music in our house lately, right along with George Harrison and Rich Mullins. If you haven’t yet listened to Jason’s music, be sure and check out his newest record.

I’m running out of steam here. But I have to also mention Sara Groves’s huge part in the Christmas tour this year, and how moving her songs were to me every night. The same could be said of Andrew Osenga. Not to mention the great times I had on the road with Michael Card, or playing “The Howling” at the Rich Mullins tribute concert.

Profile photo of Andrew Peterson

As a singer-songwriter and recording artist, Andrew has released more than ten records over the past fifteen years. His music has earned him a reputation for writing songs that connect with his listeners in ways equally powerful, poetic, and intimate. He has also followed his gifts into the realm of publishing. His books include the four volumes of the award-winning Wingfeather Saga.


18 Comments

  1. Profile photo of Curt McLey

    Curt McLey

    @curtmcley

    “Country Boy.” I hear you on that Brother Andy. Great call. At the risk of embarrassing myself, I’ve loved the music of Don Williams since back in the 70s, and his version tears me up every time I hear it. Having listened to that song for so many years, it never occurred to me the impact it might have when delivered by a female voice, especially one like Alison’s. It’s such a sweet, simple, yet powerful song. I wonder if Alison Krauss is a Don Williams fan? One of the duets she sings with John Waite is another Don WIlliams hit, “Lay Down Beside Me.”

    I haven’t put together a top list for music, but if I had, Say I Am You would make my top five for 2007. This CD–like most of your recent work, by the way–is best appreciated as an entire work, I think. These young artists (The Weepies) hit me just right. Lyrically, the songs seem encouraging, but not in a patronizing sort of way (I love the line, “This is a ride, not a fight” from “Citywide Rodeo,” among so many others).

    Early on the songs struck me as simple, but they in fact deceptively wise. Most of the songs sort of reframe a thing and in so doing provide a better way of thinking about it. Their take and tone is often hopeful and encouraging.

    I’ll second your “Take It from Me” and “Gotta Have You” favorites. I do suggest getting the whole thing because one would miss the collective vibe of the entire project if songs were only cherry-picked, but if any of our readers wish to dig a little deeper without buying the whole thing, consider “The World Spins Madly On” (brilliant), and “Painting by Chagall.”

    I bought Try Whistling This last year, which has one of the songs you referenced on it. I listened to the CD twice and it didn’t reel me in, so I set it aside. Maybe it’s worth a second chance.

    Surprise is an amazing piece of work.

    Biggest surprise on your list? Pink Floyd. That one caught me off guard. 🙂

  2. Chris Hubbs

    Ben was already my hero – and now he’s a Hem fan, too? Amazing. I started with Rabbit Songs and have eventually filled in most of the rest of their discography. Good, good stuff.

    I haven’t bought much new stuff this year, and the stuff I have bought has been by guys named Webb, Osenga, Peterson, and Caedmon, so that’s not much new to add here.

    My happiest finds in recent memory have been some old jazz recordings – Dave Brubeck’s Take Five, the fantastic Monk/Coltrane at Carnegie Hall recording that came out a few years ago… musically inspiring in a different way than, say, Hem or Feist (another I forgot to mention) or Casella, but unbelievably good stuff.

    Oh, and my pastor loaned me JT’s One Man Band a couple of weeks ago. Guess I should take some time to give it a listen.

  3. Ron Davis

    Thoughts on your thoughts:
    1. Hearing Randall Goodgame sing anything, anywhere is a treat.

    2. Jill’s “The Door” is a special song. I heard her sing “I Am” (with you, I think) at New City a while back. It left me speechless, though I had heard it many, many times before. “The Door” is a song like that.

    3. Gullahorn’s new CD is definitely his best so far.

    My thoughts:
    I picked up a lot of CDs in 2007, but the one that really blew me away was Jeremy Casella’s “Recovery.” Lyrically and musically, that one is a masterpiece. Nobody holds you like the hand of God.

    And my favorite new artist/band find for 2007 was The Cardigans, courtesy of Andy Osenga’s incessant recommendations. The guy just wouldn’t shut up about them, so I figured I’d give them a try. I bought “Long Gone Before Daylight” just before I left to spend 2 weeks in Australia. I literally couldn’t stop listening.

  4. Marc

    Wow- Waterdeep! Thanks, they are sweet. I have that albumn but have not listened to it in years. I am listening right now to ‘sweet river roll’- amazing! Good pick Andy!

  5. Profile photo of Ron Block

    Ron Block

    @ronblock

    Curt,

    Alison is indeed a large Don Williams fan – me, too. We played a co-bill with him at the West Virginia Stage Fair several years ago. His voice, even during MC work, was huge. I remember listening to him on the radio as a kid (the Judds were another favorite, alongside all my bluegrass influences).

    AP, Shadow of Your Wings is my favorite Fernando record and one of my favorites of all time. To me it seems to capture the heart at a deep level – one gets sucked immediately into the worship vortex.

  6. Profile photo of Andrew Peterson

    Andrew Peterson

    @andrew

    Oh!

    How could I have left out Ron Block’s new record Doorway? Great sounds, amazing playing, a roster of world-class musicians, and a record that presents the Gospel as only Ron could. Ron was a highlight for my kids this year at the Ryman Christmas show.

  7. d patton

    glad to hear you were jogging!! keep it up!

    i’ve seen JT approx. a dozen times & i’ll concur that the One Man Band tour was the best yet.

  8. Michael Terry

    Hey AP,

    My dad is a big James Taylor fan. He used to work for the Campus Police department @ the University of Arkansas. His job allowed him to see several shows, albeit limitedly, in the 80’s and 90’s. He often speaks of The Taylor Concert he got to hear/see as the highlight of his tenure. He said the stage had a single spotlight and two stools. One stool (the one just outside the spot) had a reel to reel on it while the other one was empty waiting for James. James walked out and sat down. He pushed play on the reel to reel and without a word launched into his set. the reel to reel contained BGV’s and very sparse accompaniment. My dad said that he may have said “thank you once durring the show but that was it. It was just the music. At the end he said “Thank You” and walked off the stage. Magical!

  9. Roger Wagner

    If Alison Krauss’s version of “Country Boy” makes you convulse, wait till you hear the late Richard Manuel’s aching take on the same song, recorded in 1985 and released posthumously on The Band’s 1993 Jericho album. Wow. Then listen to Rick Danko sing about his dead friend in “Too Soon Gone.” If that don’t make you weep, you’re made of stone. And now Rick’s gone too. RW

  10. Profile photo of Jason Gray

    Jason Gray

    @jasongray

    I was with you until that last record you mentioned, that loser one. When I saw that record, you lost all credibility for me.

    Just kiddin’. Grateful to be mentioned on your list. (However, you and I both know that it’s the BGVs on track 12 that make the record anything worth listening to 😉

  11. Janna Barber

    Andrew,

    I feel like I’m in jr. high, asking you to pass a note to the boy I like. I just wanted to get a link to Sara of the blog post I have up about her newest album. I can’t get the guestbook to work on her website.

    Waterdeep has long been a favorite, and I posted about Randall’s CD back in ’05. One day I’ll get something up about you, although I mentioned you briefly back before the Rich Mullins tribute. My son and husband met you that night. That was truly one of the most beautiful musical moments of my life, not to mention 2007.

  12. Kara

    One of the things that I respect about you as an artist is that you would buy that Pink Floyd album, and believe me, if it had “Wish You Were Here”, or “Comfortably Numb”, I would have too.
    I had only been following the Lord for about two years when I began attending a Bible college where, to my dismay, I was influenced to get rid of all of my music that wasn’t from a Christian artist. Being rather naive, I sheepishly tried to defend my love for the only music I knew. On the other hand, I wanted to follow Christ and these were Christians, right? So several years of the soundtrack to my life hit the garbage can. Now, over seven years later I still mourn the loss for my music, Aretha Franklin (Long live the Queen) Al Green, Van Morrison, Cowboy Junkies and the like.

    All of this to say that now I know why I listen to all kinds of music and my devotion to Christ doesn’t have to be compromised by it. However, it most certainly can be compromised without discernment. “…bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” 2 Cor. 10:5. Ideas aren’t neutral and consequently there is a battle for our minds.

    While were on the subject of great music, my mom says that James Taylor is the only artist she’d walk across the street to see. He is undoubtedly worthy of such a compliment.
    Also, I think it was Paul Simon’s greatest hits that has “St. Jude’s Comet”; his own version of a lullaby for his son.

  13. Jacob T

    “Sonic Landscape”- It’s interesting how so much good music has a sense of motion, like you really should be driving or running to enjoy it. So many times I’ll buy a new album knowing that the first time that I’ll really enjoy this is when I’m on another road trip.

    That’s actually the exact term that Mr. Bruce Springsteen used in his speech to before U2 was inducted into the RNR Hall of Fame to describe their music, and I think more specifically, Edge’s contribution. The whole tribute by The Boss was really great.

  14. Jeff Cruz

    Andrew is so right on when he talks about Allen Levi. Allen’s music, especially heard LIVE, is such a refreshing, fun, educational, emotional, and entertaining experience. I just love that he has chosen to share that with us instead of being a lawyer (which he was) I know many different singer songwriters I like… but I do not know any lawyers I like. 🙂 If you have not checked out Allen Levi, or seen him before, you should check out http://www.AllenLevi.com

  15. Emmett

    WAHOO !!! The Weepies made the list! I am STILL listening to their disc . . . I love it, AND, they have a new one dropping this spring (i think). I have heard it is great from a reliable source – I am pretty excited about it!

    I always seem to behind the curve when it comes to ‘new music’. I picked up Keane’s first disc, and love it! just good simple chill music.

    Deathc Cab for Cutie’s “plans” still sits well with me, as does snow patrol’s “eyes open”. a good disc, especialyl as a whole. I love listening to it –

  16. Jennifer

    Man, I was just thinking the other day that I needed new music. I was going to demand, or beg, friends to make suggestions to me but then my friends and I don’t always go for the same sort of stuff. I am very excited to see this list.

    I’m bummed I missed out on the Waterdeep cover. I love that album. It’s got to be one of my favorites… ever

    And…Allen Levi…he’s one of my favorite people in the world that I don’t actually know. I can’t listen to him and not feel the love of Jesus. I was so excited to see/hear him sing a song at the Bham show.

    i already have several of those albums but not all. I think I’ll check out the weepies first. I remember hearing a holiday song of theirs that I liked. Itunes… here I come.

    You should get a commission on Itune sales. 🙂

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