But you gotta hear these.
Given how popular The Weepies have been, I fully expected someone else to have posted this song. Guess Deb Talan's previous work as a solo singer-songwriter artist is more obscure. Shame, that. I fell in love with Talan's sweet, innocent voice and perceptive songwriting long ago, and am happy to share both versions: a live acoustic cut from Sincerely, and the original produced version from Songs Inspired by Literacy, Volume 1.
The Songs Inspired by Literature Project is a product of Artists for Literacy, a not-for-profit that "engages artists in the issue of literacy and channels their contributions into effective tools for teachers and students." SIBL has produced two CDs to date; they are comprised of award-winning songs from their songwriting contest, plus tracks donated by famous artists including Suzanne Vega (Calypso), Springsteen (the previously-posted Ghost of Tom Joad), and Aimee Mann (Ghost World).
This award-winning song is based on Jonathan Lethem's Motherless Brooklyn, a hard-boiled detective story told from the perspective of a man with Tourette's syndrome. All four -- the book, the song, the artist and the album -- are highly recommended.
It's tempting to suggest that this song is actually based on West Side Story as much as Shakespeare's original -- after all, like that venerable musical, it casts our star-crossed lovestory into a modern urban environment. Whether its relationship to the original story is direct or indirect is not the point. The melody and sentiment are powerful and poignant, and the Indigo Girls bring a rough acoustic touch to Knopfler's original which only deepens the effect. From Rite of Passage.
The Bible as literature? Hell, I got a B+ in that course the year I dropped out of college. Dylan gets an A for turning Chapter 21 of the Book of Isaiah into a framing device for a discussion between a joker and thief on the margins of an apocalyptic scene far too much like our modern world. Canadian celtic rockers Tom Landa and the Paperboys get bonus points for finding a wonderful, high-energy midrange between Dylan and Hendrix, and contributing it to relatively recent folk tribute album A Nod To Bob. "One Toke Over the Line" icons Brewer & Shipley come across a bit earnest, vocally speaking, but a light, early Grateful Dead-esque instrumentation and a touch of filkfolk make this version, off their early folk album Weeds, worth the download.
Finally, as a parent, folkfan, and music blogger, I've always got my eye out for a few good songs for my next installment of Covered in Kidfolk, a regular feature at Cover Lay Down. Here's a few past favorites from that series which spring from the pages of my favorite kiddie lit.
A hilarious romp through this Dr. Seuss classic, in drum-and-a-capella rap form, chock full of pop culture references and liberal worldchanging ideals. Out of print, but get yer Moxy here.
Irish folk icons The Chieftains do this Milne-via-Disney classic as a sprightly tradfolk frolic through the Ten Acre Woods. From the Disney compilation Take My Hand: Songs from the Hundred Acre Wood.
As always, all artist and purchase links go direct to artist and label websites, that we might best channel our resources towards those who make music, and away from those who are only in it for the profit. Please, folks: if you like what you hear, buy it.
And don't forget to stop by Cover Lay Down for two bonus coversongs inspired by literature, recent features on Celtic Folk, Sinead O'Connor, Spring, KT Tunstall, Neil Young, and more covers from the folk world!