Heart music

Posted By on May 14, 2008

I’m beginning to grasp a new kind of music, what I call heart music. It doesn’t fall into any particular category or niche; rather, it encompasses many. Two shows I saw recently stirred me so, all I could come up with was that description.

The first was on April 25 in New Orleans. I was there on a press trip, checking out a gang of Marriott hotels. Part of the PR effort involved Marriott giving the participating journalists a ticket to the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Fest, an extravaganza that must have drawn over 50,000 to one great whoopdedoo on fairgrounds somewhere in that city. Marriott gave each of us $40, too. My job has its perks.

What knocked me out was a show by Robert Plant, Alison Krauss and T Bone Burnett’s band; delivering material off their fine “Raising Sand” album, the former leader of Led Zeppelin and bluegrass (and then some) virtuoso Krauss served up an hour and a half of heart music, including remakes of various Zep songs. Damn, was I moved. The kicker came toward the end, when Plant delivered a “When the Levee Breaks” as a ballsy affirmation of a city where Katrina broke the levees nearly three years ago. I’d toured New Orleans’ Ninth Ward the day before and seen what Katrina had done. Hearing Plant revitalize that Zep tune (itself a cover of a 1929 Memphis Minnie blues) was fantastic. Not only did it rock with point and passion, it signified Plant’s respect for a city that has contributed so much to this country’s musical character. The show was so good it seemed to stave off the rain that threatened throughout the set, breaking only for a few drops (Billy Joel capped the following day’s show, when it rained and rained and rained. Not sorry I missed that one).

The other heart music show was on Mother’s Day at the Allen Theatre in Cleveland. The Swell Season, featuring Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova and members of the Frames, delivered great tunes of their own, classics-to-be from “Once,” the fine film they starred in, and, to bring down the house, a furious solo Hansard cover of Van Morrison’s “Astral Weeks.” Hansard has been around a while; Irglova’s a kid, and, clearly, his lover (wonder if Krauss is Plant’s?). Each can separately command a stage, and together make gorgeous music.

This is the kind of sound I hanker for. It makes the planet seem less desperate.


One Response to “Heart music”

  1. Thanks for the post. Very informative. My siblings and I take a trip to Memphis every summer. We go to Graceland, Beale Street, the Sun Studio, and then to the blues clubs for the evening. Always a good time!

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About the author

I'm a veteran critic and business writer who reads and listens and writes about music, books, hotels and travel. I've been in the business for many years and still enjoy it. My pride and joy is my book, Cleveland Rock & Roll Memories. Follow me on Twitter: http://twitter.com/CarloWolff