Sure, the rain is back and we’re hunkering down for months of gray skies here in Seattle, but I’m still buoyed by the several rainless weeks that eased us into autumn. I’ve found a simple way to tap back into that sunny time–revisiting some of the outstanding music I heard at Bumbershoot, Seattle’s annual music and arts festival.
Here are three songs that take me right back there, downloaded from Freegal, The Library’s free downloadable music service.*
1. “Codeine” by Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, from Here We Rest
I hadn’t heard of Jason Isbell before Bumbershoot, but I should have because he used to be a member of the great alt-country/Southern rock band, Drive-By Truckers. What a show! Hailing from the Muscle Shoals area of Alabama, Isbell exuded an earthy, country-soul sound. And that band! They inhabited the songs with a rich, melodic twang that made me think of Gram Parsons and “Sweetheart of the Radio”-era Byrds more than once.
2. “Got to Have Rock and Roll” by Heartless Bastards, from Arrow
The Heartless Bastards were included as part of a special Americana lineup at Bumbershoot, but don’t let that tag fool you–this band ROCKED. Lead singer Erika Wennerstrom is a triple threat–huge voice, impressive guitar-playing chops, and strong song-writing skills. This song is like a dream combination of a T. Rex song with a female lead singer and a touch of Led Zeppelin thrown in.
This is sort of a cheat. I didn’t see Mott the Hoople at Bumbershoot, but I saw the next best thing: Ian Hunter, former lead singer of Mott the Hoople, performing one of my all-time favorite songs live. And it was glorious. Like, tears-streaming-down-my-face-feeling-nothing-but-love-and-optimism-and-connection-with-all-of-the-other-people-there-as-we-all-sang-along-with-every-word glorious. One of those moments.
I stood directly in front of the stage with all the other über-fans and marveled. Here was this 73-year-old hero of mine, playing keyboard or guitar, still giving everything he had. At the end of the set, though, he and his band left the stage without playing Mott the Hoople’s biggest hit. Would Ian Hunter actually leave without playing that song? Of course not! He and his band came back onstage, played a few more songs and ended with “All the Young Dudes.” And it was glorious.
*Freegal is a downloadable music service that offers access to approximately three million songs, including the Sony Music catalog. The collection changes daily and covers thousands of artists on over 10,000 labels with music that originates in over 60 countries. Library cardholders can download up to three songs per week on their computer, flash drive or mobile device (via the Freegal app). There is no software to download and song files can be transferred to multiple devices, burned to disc and will never expire. You must have a Seattle Public Library card and PIN in order to access the service.