Everyone who knows me knows I'm a huge fan of singer/songwriters, though my passion is fairly well-centered on the newer artists of the genre: there's the gang that emerged in the late '80s -- Shawn Colvin, Indigo Girls, and Edie Brickell -- along with the group that has come into their own in the past five years or so -- including Ray LaMontagne, Brandi Carlile, and Katie Herzig.
What my knowledge and fan-dom is light on is the generation that largely set the stage, those who made their mark beginning in the late '60s. I have a deep affection for Joni Mitchell, and that's about it. I've even been so fortunate as to meet and hang out with her a few times, including when she did an unannounced set at a club I used to book in Los Angeles.
Actually, I've long-favored James Taylor, too, though I've never seen JT in concert despite knowing a couple of his band members. Maybe this is the year I remedy that. In fact, I could kill two classic birds with one ticket because James Taylor and Carole King are touring together. From Portland to Boston, the charismatic, though not entirely dynamic duo will make the rounds. Hmm....
A few of my favorite contemporary singer/songwriters, guys like Robby Hecht and Steven Delopoulous, draw unapologetically and directly from JT, Paul Simon, Cat Stevens, and Jackson Browne. That's how I sometimes find my way into those back catalogs.
As for other oldies but goodies, I've decided lately to dig more into that realm. Classic Elton John, Neil Young, and Bob Dylan now claim their rightful spots in my collection, though I'm still in the courtship phase of our relationship as they try to woo me with Tumbleweed Connection, After the Gold Rush, and Blood on the Tracks.
Don't hate, but I have always loved some of the Paul McCartney and Wings stuff. I have a very specific and happy memory attached to tunes like “Uncle Albert” and “Listen to What the Man Said.” That helps, certainly.
You see, I grew up in a house filled with Dionne Warwick, Bread, and Barry Manilow. The edgiest of our family LPs was maybe the Fifth Dimension. Joni Mitchell and Elton John were nowhere to be found, so it's a wonder my tastes and collection are as developed as they are.
Hippie parents may have given their kids some strange names, but they also gave them some great musical heritage... certainly something more substantial than "Mandy."