What is Love?

It is February, which to many means the celebration of Valentine’s Day. I am not and have never been much of a fan of this “Hallmark” holiday. It is not that love isn’t important, its just that I know that love is not chocolate hearts, sugary sweet cards or flowers. I could wax poetic on love, but I will resist. I have a liberal interpretation of love songs. Love includes heartbreak and sadness. Love also means joy and comfort. Here is a selection of “love” songs that hit one (or more) of those marks for me.

The first song is a more traditional “love” song with a pinch of sadness and an understanding of mortality. Jason Isbell is a master songwriter. He is also madly in love with his wife and fellow artist Amanda Shires. Here is “If We Were Vampires” off of Nashville Sound.

The National Parks are one of my favorite bands of recent. Their songs are a bit more poppy and happy than much of the music I listen to. “Birds Eye” from their first record Young is no exception, though it may be a bit more melancholy as it is story of a lost love.

On a more somber note, “Empty” from Ray LaMontagne tells the story of the loss of love in a different way. His haunting tale has a way of filling up the quiet spaces.

It may seem at times that I do not enjoy good old fashioned pop music. I like a sing along as much as the next person. One of my favorite pop bands over the last few years has been Royal Teeth. Their songs are catchy as hell and have that sweet male/female harmony that I cannot get enough of (probably doesn’t hurt that the two singers just got married – to each other). Their first record Glow is a go-to album for good ol’ fashioned pop love songs. Here is “Vagabonds” from that record.

I believe that we only know the best that love has to offer when we understand it at its worst. I’ve heard some sad songs, but sometimes they do not seem to capture that feeling. “Play that One Again” by Greg Laswell is one of the few that captures that heartbreak and despair. Laswell wrote his newest record Everyone Thinks I Dodged a Bullet after his divorce from fellow singer Ingrid Michaelson. The entire record is amazing, and will hopefully be featured in a post about records made after a divorce or ending of a relationship.

In an unusual fashion, I will end on a high note. Now, I don’t love the String Cheese Incident. I am not a huge fan of jam bands (even ones from Colorado), but this song is a such a beautiful exception. “My One and Only” features Bonnie Paine, the lead singer of Elephant Revival (which makes this a Colorado Collaboration, if you will). The song is a mix of bluegrass, folk, and delightful harmonies.

Harvest Fest Is Happening Right Meow

Just down a couple of hills from me, there is a music festival happening. I am missing it because I just couldn’t take more time off work. The Yonder Mountain String Band’s Harvest Music Festival (aka Harvest Fest) just happened to be sandwiched between my California break and the upcoming Life Is Beautiful festival. BUT my dear friend @IronsidePhoto is on the Mulberry Mountain capturing all the action. I’ve invited him to post some of his photos when he comes back, just to see what I missed.

Yesterday, I sent him some suggestions on what bands not-to-miss:

Beats Antique has awesome visuals and dancers. I know @IronsidePhoto will enjoy the visuals.

JJ Grey & Mofro got a lot of soul. This is his latest, “Brighter Days.” They have played at both, Harvest and Wakarusa several times before. And always sell out the show when they plan in Fayetteville, AR. You could say they are a local favorite.

I’ve wanted to be at an Elephant Revival show for a while. But I always miss them for one reason or another. The last show I tried to catch in town was sold out before I even got a chance to get a ticket. This is their video for “Quill Pen Feather.”

The first time I heard Andy Frasco and the UN they were all about the Blues (see this), but his style has grown into Bluegrass. Whatever he’s playing, Andy Frasco and The UN is a guaranteed great time. So I sent my friend and his dancing chacos this way.

It seems to me that Ha Ha Tonka should get more credit than it does. They put out clean and strong productions. Here’s one of my favorites, “Unusual Suspects.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EvRW8APIsaQ

Before looking at the Harvest Fest lineup, I had never heard of She’s a Keeper. They remind me a lot of The Lumineers. Here’s their song, “Stupid Heart.”

And last, but definitely not least, Delhi 2 Dublin. If I had to pick just one set to watch at Harvest Fest, this would be it. Because of their awesomeness, you get two videos.