Thursday, December 3, 2009

Americana 101

Category: 50 Songs to Hear

SONG: Starting Tomorrow
ARTIST: Marshall Crenshaw
SONGWRITER: Marshall Crenshaw
ALBUM: Life's Too Short

I guess that, if I had to explain my stuff, one thing I'd say about it is that what I usually present on my records is a guitar-dominated soundscape.
(Marshall Crenshaw)

When Marshall Crenshaw first burst onto the scene in 1982 people were doing a lot of physical comparisons. He had played John Lennon in a production of Beatlemania and also had a Buddy Holly look about him (he later would play Holly in the film La Bamba). Musically, however,
the only person Marshall Crenshaw could be compared to was Marshall Crenshaw.

His first album yielded a minor hit ("Someday, Someway") and songs for others to cover (blues singer Lou Ann Barton covered "Brand New Lover" on her 1982 album that was produced by Glenn Frey).
Most importantly, it produced some of the absolute best music of the early 80s and ushered in a "roots-rock" sound that relied more on guitars and less on synthesizers. It also introduced the world to one of the best performers in American rock and roll.

Crenshaw quickly faded into "cult star" status, which is too bad for those who have yet to discover his talents. He popped out album after album of music that was good, great, or memorable. Falling in the latter category: 1991's exceptional Life's Too Short album. Shining as a gem from that album is the mid-tempo ballad "Starting Tomorrow."

The song begins with a marvelous line: "Starting tomorrow, if this night ever ends." That line evokes something everyone can relate to, from students to people sitting in the waiting room of a hospital. In this case Crenshaw is waiting for the new day so he can get off the road and go home to his family. "All night long it seems like time was running slow," he complains, and the listener empathizes completely. The wait that never seems to conclude has a pay-off: "I'll feel more alive as soon as I'm not alone." Crenshaw is torn between being a touring musician ("the feeling in my heart that won't let me settle down") and a family man ("it only comes around and bothers me when I'm away from you"). He's not the first performer to feel these conflicting feelings and he won't be the last; however, he did one of the greatest jobs of articulating the pain.

The world needs more rockers like Marshall Crenshaw. Thankfully, we have Crenshaw himself.


The entire Life's Too Short album
-- great music from start to finish with warnings about consuming too much ("Stop Doing That," "Better Back Off") highlighting the album.

The entire Marshall Crenshaw album -- the debut album that nearly everyone wishes they could make as their opening statement. "Rockin' Around in NYC" should have been a major hit.

"I'm Sorry (But So is Brenda Lee)" (from Downtown) -- with a title like that, one would expect something from the Homer & Jethro discography, but the cover of a Ben Vaughn song is actually a break-up tune that is as good as the title is clever.

"You Should've Been There" (from Good Evening) -- this song that is thematically similar to Porter Wagoner's "I Thought I Heard You Calling My Name" features backing vocals by the BoDeans (who co-wrote "Radio Girl" on the same album).


Rock of Ages, Hide Thou Me
Our Town
Old Memories Mean Nothing to Me
Not That I Care
Nobody Eats at Linebaugh's Anymore
My Book of Memories
Lost to a Stranger
A Little Bitty Heart
Life Has Its Little Ups and Downs
Life is Too Short
I Want a Home in Dixie
I Lost Today
Down to the River to Pray
Don't Let the Stars Get in Your Eyeballs
A Death in the Family
Dark as a Dungeon
Bottomless Well

Sleep's Dark and Silent Gate
She's a Runaway
Painted Bells
Out to Sea
One More Song
New Delhi Freight Train
Long Way Home
Heart of Rome
Harriet Tubman's Gonna Carry Me Home
Entella Hotel
Desperados Under the Eaves
Crossing Muddy Waters
Cliffs of Dooneen
Bruised Orange (Chain of Sorrow)
Baby Mine

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