Influences

I just updated my “About” page and thought I’d excerpt this part about music I love. Who are my influences, you ask? I came of age listening to The Beatles, Bob Dylan, and yes, Phil Collins, and through my friends I got into various 80s alternative groups, especially R.E.M., The Cure, and The Smiths. Later on, I fell in love with several artists specializing in quirky character studies: Freedy Johnston, on the roots-rock side, and The Magnetic Fields, on the lo-fi, orchestrated, indie-pop side. Let’s not forget Jack Logan’s masterpiece of tape hiss and novelistic comic book detail, Bulk, either. High school jazz band gave me a whole new genre to explore, and I was on the Columbia House jazz plan for awhile.

Jeff Buckley was huge for me, and I was lucky enough to find much of Tim Buckley’s catalogue in the bargain bin when they reissued it around ’94, including his best rock record, “Greetings From LA,” though I prefer his chamber-jazz-folk and experimental stuff. I’m a big Joseph Campbell fan and Tori Amos’s first two records document an entire self-contained mythological universe, as do most of Prince’s. Liz Phair’s “Exile In Guyville” is all kinds of playful, sexy, sad, open-ended inspiration, and “Whip Smart” ain’t bad either. A college DJ job interview resulting in rejection did have the positive outcome of turning me on to John Fahey, and I basically learned how to fingerpick from his first few records. Also Ani DiFranco. I got into Hawaiian slack key guitar from George Winston’s liner notes to “The Transfiguration of Blind Joe Death.” Also Leo Kottke. An aborted Rykodisc internship netted me several Nick Drake albums, and I found an amazing Nick songbook in Ireland while studying DADGAD accompaniment of trad fiddle tunes. Warren Zevon’s first two albums are my favorites of his. While studying abroad, I collected used copies of Serge Gainsbourg and Joni Mitchell CDs.

In recent years, my big discoveries have been Kelly Joe Phelps and Richard Thompson, plus Southeast regional folk inspirations Don Conoscenti, Jonathan Byrd, and Daniel Lee. Oh, and David Garza is totally jive and totally heartfelt at the same time, and combines Paul Simon, Prince, and David Bowie into one 130-pound Mexican troubadour. He also does that thing of creating an entire universe within his ridiculously extensive body of work. Pre-war blues from folks like Robert Johnson (of course), Charley Patton, Skip James, Blind Willie McTell, and Bukka White have also been revelatory to me, and appeal simultaneously to my folk tastes, my inner guitar geek, and to that lo-fi-indie-snob inside me who finds validation in these recordings for the idea that tape hiss does indeed convey mystery and authenticity.

You read all the way down here? Wow. Thanks :)

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