Emmylou Harris: For No One

So after writing up the Paul McCartney – Loma Mar Quartet connection the other day, there he was on the tube last night, as part of the WGBH “Beatle Month” of programming.  Last night was a re-airing of the 2010 Gershwin Prize Concert for McCartney, held at the East Room of the White House in 2010 – with an additional concert at the famed (and tiny) Coolidge Auditorium at the Library of Congress, which administers the prize on behalf of the Gershwin estate.  (That’s where the footage of “Yesterday” was shot.)

A dizzying (and somewhat baffling) array of special guests sang and played Macca tunes before the honoree and the First Family, including Stevie Wonder, the Jonas Brothers, Faith Hill, Elvis Costello, Dave Grohl (an uncanny ability to channel McCartney’s high tenor in “Band on the Run”), and even pianist Lang Lang.

But my hands-down favorite interpretation of the night came from Emmylou Harris, who managed to turn “For No One” into a convincing Appalachian ballad:


Stumbled across a fascinating, if bizarre, new music-recommendation service today, along the lines of Pandora, Last.fm, and (look over to the left of the page) Fine Tune. Only this one, “Musicovery,” is based on moods – when you log on, a little “mood-o-meter” pops up, and you can pop your cursor down somewhere in a four-coordinate “Axis of Angst” – “Dark,” “Calm,” “Positive,” and “Energetic.” And then plug in your genre of choice – Country, Classical, Pop, Electronica, whatever.
So, just for grins, (and being a Goth-Nihilist kinda guy), I thought I’d try out some “Dark Vocal Pop” and see what popped up. Check it out:

So there you have it. Nanci Griffith singing a Richard Thompson song is the Dame of Dark Pop. Okay, the song’s called “Wall of Death” – fair enough, I suppose. But my, what company she keeps: The Carter Family’s “Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” a old stoner song from Arlo Guthrie, and….who exactly IS Eros Rammazzotti? Okay, they win….the site’s about music discovery, and today I discovered this Roman hearthrob is “especially popular in in Chile, Germany,Bolivia, Peru, Argentina and most Spanish-speaking countries and has sold over 36 million records worldwide. He has one daughter, Aurora Sophie (born December 5, 1996), with his ex-wife, Michelle Hunziker, a Swiss model and television host.” Oh, and sings exclusively in Spanish and Italian. My bad, Eros – though I love the name, dude.

It gets progressively funnier/weirder/oddly mesmerizing when you try a few more categories. Here’s what slightly calmer darkness looks like in pop music:

Feelings? That late-unlamented make-out music from the ’70s ranked as one of the Worst Songs of All Time? Yeah, verily, dark and brooding. Always On My Mind?

Okay, let’s switch gears and try out some shiny happy “Positive” music – and let’s open it up to a few more genres, shall we?

So there you have it, folks, nothing says “positive energy” like Mars, the God of War, ready to kick some celestial butt and take names. Sheesh.

Interesting to note that they do offer a subscription service for a higher bit-rate audio. In Euros, to boot. Though I can’t imagine who’d sign up for this service just yet. Their catalog looks a little thin – I’m already noting a lot of artists popping up a lot (hello Eric Burdon and the Animals & Stevie Wonder) in a lot of different catergories.