As regular readers of this blog know, I am blessed with friends and family who are generous about giving me music, so I don't buy as much new music as I once did. But I still buy some, especially before long trips, and am listening to more books on audio, since so much of my reading time these days seems to be work-related.
So these are five recent acquisitions that show up in the "Recently Added" list of my iTunes library.
1. Rosanne Cash, The List. I don't know how I missed this when it came out last fall. A friend recommended it over dinner a couple of weeks ago (thanks, Laura!), and I'm listening to it again right now, for maybe the tenth time since buying it. Rosanne's father, Johnny Cash, gave her a list of 100 essential country music songs when she was 18, and she records 13 of them here. It's hard to pick favorites, but the cover of "Sea of Heartbreak" she sings with Bruce Springsteen is mind-boggling, and her version of "Take These Chains from My Heart" is a new standard.
2. Midlake, The Courage of Others. It's been four years since Midlake released its last album, The Trials of Van Occupanther, but this was worth the wait. It's just gorgeous: moody, melodic music that lives somewhere in the middle ground between folk and rock, and gets labeled "alternative" for want of a better description. Midlake sounds like no other band, although they owe a lot to Nick Drake, Neil Young, and the 1970s-era wall-of-sound. You can listen to the whole album here.
3. Louise Penny, THE BRUTAL TELLING. Yes, an audiobook. I started listening to this on the way home from DC last week, and it's a long enough book that it lasted for a few days after that, as well. I love Louise Penny's Three Pines series, traditional mysteries set in a village in southern Quebec, and this book is her most ambitious so far. That said, I struggled with this one, though not because of the audio narration (Ralph Cosham, pronouncing the French-Canadian names beautifully.) Penny's loving attention to detail gets almost too leisurely here, and major shifts in tone and points of view wind up being not only distracting but ultimately — I felt — a little unfair. The end of the book finds Three Pines facing some major changes, which made me wonder whether Penny planned to take a break from the series, until I visited her website and saw the announcement that her next book, BURY YOUR DEAD, will be another book about Chief Inspector Armand Gamache. Whatever she writes next, I'm eager to read. (If you're new to the series, don't start with this one; the book assumes a familiarity with the residents of Three Pines and Chief Inspector Gamache. Go back and start with the first book, STILL LIFE. You'll be glad you did.)
4. Drink Up Buttercup, "Young Ladies." A friend sent me this link to a free — and legal! — music download site, which focuses on new, genre-crossing music. These guys sing 1960s-style psychedelic pop, and are most frequently compared to the Beatles. That's a valid comparison, but this song reminds me even more of Donovan, whom I think is due for a revival. The free download is available here. The album comes out in March, and I'll be buying it then.
5. Beverly Cleary, RAMONA THE PEST, read by Stockard Channing. I read the Ramona books to tatters, but had not revisited them in years. This audiobook download was another recommendation, from the same friend who told me about The List (so I really owe you, Laura). It's hard to imagine a better match of reader and material. Stockard Channing brings Ramona, Howie, Beezus and Henry to life, and I'll be listening to Channing's versions of the other Ramona books on future long drives. Highly, highly recommended for parents; shut off the DVD players, and let the kids listen to this instead.