The Show’n'Tell 15, with Joanna Barker: Part 15 of 15

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I’ve got two. I can’t make my mind up. I love them both so much.

“Been Wanting to Show” by Jake Nicoll

“On the Other Hand” by Steve Maloney

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I sold all my CDs years ago, but some publicists — the good ones — still send hard-copy review copies to my mailbox. All these review copies end up in my car. The new Burning Hell album has been hogging my car stereo for a long time now. Mathias Kom is as witty, whipsmart, and original as ever, but there’s a nice summery pop feel shining on this album. I can’t wrap my head around how the band puts these songs together, structurally. They’re Goddamn brilliant. They might be a European band now, but, they were plunked here long enough to call them a local band. And this video: how great is this video?

The Show’n'Tell 15, With Joanna Barker: Part 13 of 15

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Joanna: “Acrobat” by Angel Olsen

To be fair, this wasn’t the first track off the album I had heard. I friend showed me The Waiting. I loved it. Bought the record. But one tune in I knew I made the right decision.

Sean Rowesean_rowe-magic

Chad: “Surprise” by Sean Rowe

I was blown away by the originality and booming voice, and while I don’t expect all songwriters to be poets, when they are it stands out. Rowe is like Cohen for the hipster generation: a killer poet and potent songwriter, but with more jangle and verve than Lenny. Magic boasts some seriously sophisticated songwriting and a truly unique sound. He recorded this album in a studio above an old Italian restaurant his grandfather used to run. And there’s lines like “I want to bottle the night, use it on you when the sun goes down.”

The Show’n'Tell 15, with Joanna Barker, Part 13 of 15

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Joanna: “Palaces of Montezuma” by Grinderman

This song was used in a final scene of an episode of Luther (a BBC detective show that I’m pretty in to. I love Idris Elba). I recognized Nick Cave’s voice but I didn’t know the song. Looked it up, turns out this project is called Grinderman and now! I am a Grinderman fan.

Gregory Alan Isakovthis-empty-northern-hemisphere

Chad: “If I Go, I’m Going” by Gregory Alan Isakov

This is one of my favourite songs, off one of my favourite albums, which I found because of the scene below, from Showtime’s Californication. For such a crass show, it’s one of the most piercingly human, and realistically romantic shows on television, and the soundtrack is always just right. Gist of the show, and scene below: every man needs a Karen; every Karen deserves better than the Hank she’s been dealt.

The Show’n’Tell 15, With Joanna Barker: Part 12 of 15

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Stereo: Ease Down the Road by Bonnie Prince Billy.
Sample song, “Mrs. William”

Record: Starlite Walker by Silver Jews.
Sample Song, “Trains Across The Sea”

iPod: Soundtrack to The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys.
Sample Song, “Hangin (AKA Ramble Off, by Joshua Homme)

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Stereo: Evil Friends by Portugal. The Man.
Sample song, “Hip Hop Kids”

Record: Cynic’s New Year by Horse Feathers.
Sample Song, “Bird on a Leash”

iPod: Haw by Hiss Golden Messenger.
Sample Song, “Red Rose Nantahala”

The Show’n’Tell 15, With Joanna Barker: Part 11 of 15

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Nick_drake_Time_of_No_Reply Nick+Drake

Joanna: “Black-eyed Dog” by Nick Drake

Damian-Jurado rehersals for Departure

Chad: “Ohio” by Damien Jurado

Most days, I’m fine calling Damien my favourite songwriter. Because of this album in particular.

The Show’n'Tell 15, With Joanna Barker: Part 10 of 15

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The+WaterboysThe Waterboys Fisherman's Blues

Joanna: “Fisherman’s Blues” by The Waterboys

I’ve been singing this song for a while now and I kind of play a cover of a cover. There’s this great version of it by Great Aunt Ida. She slows it way down and approaches it from a much more tender place. When I sing it, I am definitely influenced by Ida’s version but I still try to bring elements of the original.

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Chad: “Kiss Me Again” by Jessica Lea Mayfield

I want to record a cover album this summer called, Chad Pelley Doing Ladies. The album title is meant to be witty homage to terrific female songwriters, not a crass joke. I’m not much of a singer, so the idea of me tackling songs by stunning songstresses is in itself a fun concept. The first time I heard this song, the very first time, I was in love with it before she struck the second chord. So much, mood, ache, and sway.

The Show’n'Tell 15, with Joanna Barker: Part 9, “A Great Cover Song”

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Joanna: Roberta Fleck’s “Hey, That’s No Way to Say Goodbye”
Originally by Leonard Cohen

This is from her debut album First Take. My parents had it on vinyl when I was growing up. I love Cohen. I love his original recording of this tune but seriously. Roberta nails it.


Chad: Sun Kil Moon’s “Ocean Breathes Salty”
Originally by Modest Mouse

This is off Sun Kil Moon’s Tiny Cities, a full album of Modest Mouse covers. Kozelek is a king among acoustic singer-songwriters, and stripping Isaac Brock’s wildly original songs down to quiet gems torques them into an equally stunning space.

The Show’n’Tell 15, With Joanna Barker, Part 8 of 15

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Joanna: “All Alight” by Sigur Rós

This one moves me to tears every time I listen to it. It makes me breathe deeper.

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Chad: “Get Out Get Out Get Out” by Jason Molina

Joanna’s Answer, Sigur Rós: 95% of the time I’m writing fiction I’m listening to Sigur Rós. The other 5% of the time I’m probably listening to Jason Molina’s Let Me Go, Let Me Go, Let Me Go. Molina fronted Songs: Ohia and Magnolia Electric Co., but this solo album is the most haunting, stunning acoustic album I own. There’s barely any instrumentation, yet it’ll ring your bones with melancholy. Molina was one of our generation’s most potent songwriters, and died way too young this year. I quoted some lyrics of his in my first novel, and it resulted in some email correspondence. It was the first and only time I felt awkward about my gushing admiration of another artist, and that’s something coming from me. Jason was the very best: passionate, productive, and pure.

The Show’n'Tell 15, With Joanna Barker, Round 7: “A Ridiculously Fun Song.”

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mack-richkidsbrandThe Heist Album Macklemore & Ryan Lewis

Joanna: “Thrift Shop” by Macklemore & Lewis

I’d heard parts of this song play at like, the grocery store, or in a cab or somewhere and never really paid attention to it. While on the road last weekend to play some shows, my touring partner and dear darling friend Michael Dalton made me listen to it. And! I love it. So funny. It is a ridiculously fun song. The video’s pretty great too.

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Chad: “I Wasn’t Made for Fighting” by Woodhands

These guys are a blast: Dance music with with musical integrity and phat-ass instrumentation. It should be noted that this is a fan video. But even a 10-million dollar budget wouldn’t yield a video this awesome.

The Show’n’Tell 15, with Joanna Barker: Part 6 of 15

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Joanna: Chavela Vargas

Sample song, “Paloma Negra.”

She’s brilliant. She was born in Costa Rica but moved to Mexico and was known as a Mexican musician. She was friends with Frida Kahlo & Diego Rivera. I believe she actually had an affair with Frida at one point. She passed away last year. Chavela Vargas should be in your music collection with whomever you call The Greats.


Chad: Barna Howard

Sample Song, “Promise, I Won’t Laugh”

Barna’s 2012 debut is the best folk album of the new millennium: no exaggeration. It is. I may as well glue it into my record player. He might be the greatest folk musician I’ve heard: pure, sincere, and authentic. He’s a great, fluid guitarist to boot.

The Show’n'Tell 15, with Joanna Barker: Part 5

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gillian_welch1_1925670cThe Harrow and the Harvest

Joanna: “The Way The Whole Thing Ends” by Gillian Welch
off The Harrow & The Harvest


Chad “Remember Me” by Steve Earle
off The Low Highway

I’ve never understood how Steve Earle is so undersung, relative to Dylan or Young: his albums show more range of sound and genre, and unlike Young and Dylan, Earle is still writing his best work. The Low Highway (2013), is first-rate, and the album closer is a bit of heartbreaker: he had a baby three years ago, and he knows he’ll be dead by the time his son graduates high school. A weird thing to think about, so he put it into song for the kid. It’s a beautiful, slow-building song with a simple sentiment, “Remember me on some sunny day, when everything’s going your way. Remember me on a stormy night, when there ain’t no shelter in sight.”

The Show’n'Tell 15: with Joanna Barker, Part 4

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Joanna: Al Tuck’s Under Your Shadow

Sample Track: “Slapping the Make on You”

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Chad: Erich Bachmann’s To the Races

Sample Track: “Man’o'War”

This is my favourite album, period. Eric fronts The Crooked Fingers, and fronted Archers of Loaf. Somewhere in between he recorded this distinct solo album, while living out of his van under a bridge, or so the story goes. It’s the kind of spare, affecting take on the singer-songwriter schtick that does it for me — he doesn’t just sound like everyone else. Every song on  the album is different than the one before it, but subtly so, and if I could sit and write the perfect album ,it would sound like To the Races, song for song.