tom mcrae

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When I was listening to last week’s podcast of “This American Life,” I was privileged to hear to a beautiful talk by Anne Lamott; she spoke of her love for Jesus Christ, and the people around her, and music. She told a story of a man in her church who was dying of AIDS. He came to the meeting but he was so weak he could not stand to sing when everyone else was standing. A woman in the same congregation who had always been sort of standoffish to him was watching him sing and she got up and went over to him and lifted him so he could sing as well. Here is what Lamott said:

… and they sang, and it pierced me. I can’t imagine anything else but music that could have brought about this alchemy. How is it that you have a chord here, and then another chord there, and then your heart breaks open? I don’t know the answer. Maybe it’s that music is about as physical as it gets. Your essential rhythm is your heartbeat; your essential sound a breath. We’re walking temples of noise. And when you add the human heart to this mix, it somehow lets us meet on a bridge we couldn’t get to any other way.

In these times of chaos and this year of dissonance, I am comforted by simple musical harmony. The following are not religious songs, just songs in harmony. And if you choose to listen — friend, I’ll meet you on the bridge.

01. Mady Mesplé & Danielle Millet — The Flower Duet (from the opera “Lakmé,” written by Léo Delibes in 1881)
02. October Project — Bury My Lovely (acoustic)
03. The Cox Family — I Am Weary (Let Me Rest)
04. Peter & the Wolf — Silent Movies
05. The Mountain Goats & Kaki King — Thank You Mario But Our Princess Is In Another Castle
06. Ben Kweller — Wait (Beatles Cover)
07. Vienna Teng — Between
08. Paul Simon — Under African Skies
09. Tom McRae — Ghost Of A Shark
10. Alice In Chains — Heaven Beside You

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“Where Any Of Us”
by Maxine Kumin
(Ploughshares, winter 2004-5)

Where any of us is
going in tomorrow’s reckless Lexus is
the elemental mystery: despite

instructions he left behind, Houdin-
i, who could outwit
ropes and chains, padlocks and steam-

er trunks, could extricate
himself from underwater metal crates,
could send forth, he was certain,

a message from the other side,
never cracked the curtain
and Mary Baker Eddy’s telephone

said to be hooked up in her crypt —
would it have been
innocence or arrogance,

such trust in the beyond? —
has, mythic, failed to ring. If
they knew the script

these two (God may be love
or not) they left, tightlipped
and unfulfilled.

As we will.


The Postmarks – You Drift Away

Tom McRae – Border Song

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(Tech note: uploading songs is very frustrating. I hesitate to use a “free service” like sendspace, and there’s just not much else for me. So I’m going to upload them to my own site and keep them up for a week or so and then take them down. If you guys blow out my bandwidth, then I guess you blow it out.)

I’ve been a fan of Tom McRae for three years, ever since “Just Like Blood” came out, and I was pleased as punch to hear of a new album coming out at the end of April. McRae has a signature voice and a real talent for putting phrases together — he can be melancholy by turns, but also has a pop sensibility. His music never sounds canned; it’s always sincere. Think of a pop, English, Rocky Votolato (though he doesn’t reach for those high-flying & often useless metaphors like Rocky).

On the whole, I don’t think “King of Cards” is as good as McRae’s third album, “All Maps Welcome,” but it’s quality fare. The subject matter ranges like it should, from “Houdini and the Girl” to “The Ballad of Amelia Earhart,” to “Got A Suitcase, Got Regrets.” McRae’s voice soars on “Bright Lights,” and the straight-up harmony on “Lord, How Long” is enough to make an American Idol contestant weep.

I recommend that you buy the album, and then that you rectify your ignorance, if you are ignorant, by purchasing “Maps,” and “Just Like Blood,” and “Karaoke Soul,” and if you’re hooked by then, and you will be, get his self-titled album. Do it! For your own good. I promise.

Tom McRae – Site | Myspace | Label (V2 UK)

[links removed. contact me for a copy.]:

Tom McRae – Lord, How Long
Tom McRae – The Ballad of Amelia Earhart