Sunday, September 27, 2009

Title Tracks: Sail Away

Randy Newman: Sail Away


As a budding teen audiophile, I spent a good portion of my adolescent summer nights camped out on the hardwood floor of my parents' living room, where a low custom-built cabinet held a lovingly catalogued sequence of sixties and seventies songwriters and old blues records, spinning disks one by one, trying to find my own musical sense and sensibility among that of my father's.

It was there that I found a well-worn, well-loved copy Randy Newman's Sail Away nestled among the Paul Simon and Chris Smither, the Joni and Loudon and Emmylou. More used than most in that sweet-smelling hardwood cabinet, its ragged-haired, glasses-sporting, close-cropped headshot cover called to me like a ghost of my father, and the music it held did too: sonically delicate and lyrically wry, with the swelling of soft horns and strings playing an anthem behind the title track like nobody's business. It would be years before I was mature enough to fully appreciate the sarcastic, caustic underbelly of these deceptively light-hearted tunes, but that the songs stuck in my head long enough to matter speaks pages about the pure emotive power of this singer-songwriter's singer-songwriter.

Over 30 years later, of course, the same title was used for a solid roots-and-bluegrass Randy Newman tribute album; here's one of my favorite mellow newgrass musicians crooning the equally gentle if slightly more rounded-out title track to that album, as befits both the week's theme and this coverblogger's bent.

Tim O'Brien: Sail Away


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