As winter storm “Virgil” continues to dump its share of white death on the Midwest and my disdain for all things winter increases, I began to think about the things we do to make these kinds of days comfortable. Find that broken in sweatshirt that you have had since your college days and light the fireplace. Next, go into the kitchen and look for some comfort food, perhaps a giant bowl of hot chilli. All of these things do nothing to change the conditions outside, but we suddenly feel warm and content. Maybe that shirt isn’t your Sunday best and that chilli is not your favorite meal, but they go a long way to making you feel better when mother nature is is busy kicking your ass.
Eventually I began to think of the musical equivalent of comfort food. Those records that no matter when or where you hear them you feel like you are home. They may not be the best records that a particular artist or band has ever made, or even your favorite but, when they come on they just fit.
Most of these records for me are ones that I have listened to over and over again. I know every song on them by heart and never skip a track on them. I love them all for different reasons but, every one of them is like an old friend. Below is five of the albums that fall in to the category of comfort records for me.
Here is the list, as always in no particular order:
Grateful Dead : American Beauty (1970)
Many of my friends were Dead Heads in high school and that was all they ever listened to. I love the Dead but, after awhile I got a little burnt out on them. Over time I have noticed that I always gravitate back to the Dead. A band rightfully known for their live performance, American Beauty is their studio masterpiece. I think this record really captures the best of what they had to offer and I love every song on it. Highlights on this one are “Operator”, “Box of Rain”, and “Ripple”
Bob Dylan : Desire (1976)
Time Out of Mind is my favorite Dylan record and Blood on the Tracks is his most accessible, but for Desire is the one that feels the most at home. As a young Dylan fan, a friend and I were completely obsessed with this album, and to this day I feel the same about it. From the fiddle to EmmyLou Harris’s harmonies the sound is different from every other Dylan record and really makes it stand out among his discography. The standouts are “Joey”, “Sara”, and “One More Cup of Coffee”.
Greg Brown & Bill Morrissey : Friend of Mine (1993)
When I first was introduced to Greg Brown someone gave me this album, thus introducing me to Bill Morrissey at the same time. I was immediately taken by the way they traded vocals on many of the songs and their smooth baritones make this collections of covers a cohesive album. My favorites on it include “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”, “Ain’t life a Brook”, and “Duncan and Brady”
Guy Clark : Dublin Blues (1995)
I Believe that Guy Clark writes perfect songs and this is the Clark record I first began listening to over and over again. Clark never has a wasted word in a song and that to me makes everything he releases worthy of this list, but I had to choose one and Dublin Blues is definitely it. If I had to pick favorites for this one I’d start with the title track, “Black Diamond Strings” and “The Randall Knife”
Tom Waits : Heart of Saturday Night (1974)
This Waits record perfectly bridges the gap between the smooth folky crooner on his debut and the grizzled drunken hobo that would inhabit his next few releases. Every song on this one is great to sing along to as you drive down the street or sit near a nice glass of something on ice. The best tracks on this one include, “Fumblin’ With the Blues”, “Please Call Me Baby” and “New Coat of Paint”