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Soundtrack: All Over the Musical Map — Finding New England; Part 1/5

Yay! I finally finished programming the soundtrack so it shows up exactly the way I want it to, complete with art.

Due to the size of the full post, however, LiveJournal keeps giving me "post is too large" warnings. I have to break this whole thing up into 5 posts.  Apologies in advance.

This is a soundtrack of songs about New England or artists from New England (the "from" is interpreted very broadly here). I ended up with something on the order of 69 (no snickering!) songs, many of them from people you've actually heard about.

For a brief overview of New England's unique culture and heritage, here's a good overview from Wikipedia. Upon reading the page and confirming that it's all true — yeah, I guess I can see why the rest of the U.S. thinks we're a bunch of weirdos. I like to think that it isn't us who are weird so much as it's all of you.

We are, if nothing else, an arrogant lot. (I'm joking about that last part. Sort of.)

While it's true that when someone goes through the list of U.S. regions with a strong musical tradition, New England is not the first place anyone would pick. I'm very sure that the Mississippi Delta (Blues), Austin (Americana), Nashville (Music City U.S.A. for the Country set), Chicago (Jazz), Seattle (Grunge), Orlando (Boy Bands), L.A. (Metal and Rap), and New York City (Punk and Rap) would all be vying for a spot on the list.

New England, by contrast, wouldn't even see the list, let alone be on it. There really isn't a typical "New England" sound. Hell, there isn't even a typical Boston sound. Fair enough. But what New England lacks in a cohesive, identifiable musical style, it makes up for it in variety.

Other sections of this soundtrack can be found in:
Track listing is under the cut and, where appropriate, a brief description of what makes the song fit in the soundtrack. Download for Tracks 1 through 15 is at the end of listing. Tracks have to be downloaded on an individual basis because of SaveFile's weird hiccups.

Please comment if you download...or even if you just feel like it.

Danny Boy — Vox One
from Chameleon
[Support the Artist]

Vox One is an a cappella jazz quartet that performs a fusion of jazz, pop, gospel, folk...you name it, they use it. They began performing together as students at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. They're still associated with Berklee, only now they're faculty instead of students. They've earned international acclaim as a group. As for domestically, well, they're big in the Boston-area a cappella circuit. Outside of a cappella fandom (yes, it is a fandom), they're not well known at all. A small bit of trivia: back during their student days, they were a quintet. The fifth member was Paula Cole. Gee, wonder what ever happened to her.


Fast Car — Tracy Chapman
from Tracy Chapman
[Support the Artist]

Tracy Chapman got her start performing in the Boston area (most notably, Harvard Square in Cambridge and area coffee houses) while a student at Tufts University in Medford. In fact, it was a fellow student at Tufts that hooked her up with the music business. The rest, as they say, is history.


C'Mon — Guster
from Ganging Up On the Sun
[Support the Artist]

What is it with Tufts University students? Seriously? We're now two for two on this front. It could be because Tufts has a very strong musical tradition itself, even though it technically is not a school of the performing arts like Berklee. This Boston-based trio met as students at Tufts and have slowly built up a strong local following through frequent live performances. Even though they've hit the big time, they still perform an awful lot of free shows around the area, many of which are for charity.


Birdhouse in Your Soul — They Might Be Giants
from Dial-A-Song
[Support the Artist]

Am I surprised that John Flansburgh and John Linnell started writing songs while they were still high school students in Lincoln, Massachusetts? Oh. Okay. You got me. I actually kind of am surprised, especially since I know what Lincoln is like. Sure, as soon as they decided to get serious (well, as serious as they ever get) about making a living at music, they went to New York City, but they did start here.


Shambala — Rockapella
from Smile
[Support the Artist]

Another a capella group that fuses pop, jazz, and doo-wop. The original members of Rockapella met as students at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island.


Christmas in Nevada — Willard Grant Conspiracy
from Everything's Fine
[Support the Artist]

It's hard to describe the musical style of this group. I've heard it described as everything from dark-Americana, to alt-country,  to goth-folk (that was kurukami's description), to punk (?!?). The music is hard to describe, but I just call it "awesome" and leave it at that. The band only has one permanent member, singer Robert Fischer. Otherwise, the band is an international collective of musicians that come and go as they are available or feel like playing. The end result is a unique sound unlike anything you've ever heard. The band was founded in 1995 in Boston while testing a friend's in-home recording studio.  Since then, the profile of the WGC has slowly grown by word-of-mouth (and not much else). Although Fischer no longer lives in the area, the original core of the WGC started here.


Stay Up All Night — Catie Curtis
from Crash Course in Roses
[Support the Artist]

Catie Curtis is one of the leading lights in the Boston folk-music scene and is fairly well known in the national folk music circles.


Stuck in the Middle — The Snow Leopards
from Debut
[Support the Artist]

No, you haven't heard about them. Yes, they are very new. They are so new, that I can only find a MySpace page for them. Technically speaking, this CD hasn't even been released yet. The reason why I have it is because  kurukami couldn't resist telling the lead singer how much he enjoyed their set. The lead singer returned with two freshly pressed CDs from the trunk of her car so we could get our hands on them. Wicked awesome!


Linger — Jonatha Brooke
from Steady Pull
[Support the Artist]

She got her start performing while still a student at Amherst College in Amherst, Massachusetts as part of the folk-pop duo, The Story.



Discovering the Truth About Oz — Averi
from Direction of Motion
[Support the Artist]

I keep seeing this Boston-based band show up on all kinds of lists titled "The Best Indie Band You're Not Hearing" and "The Next Big Thing." I suspect it's a matter of time before they do break out. Another band that puts on a great live performance. I know when I heard them open for the Goo Goo Dolls, I ended up spending money on their CDs and turning my nose up at the Goo Goo Dolls stuff.


Where In the World Is Carmen San Diego (Live) — Rockapella
from In Concert
[Support the Artist]

If you have kids of a certain age — or if you're a shameless trivia buff/armchair traveler — I really don't have to say anything about this song, do I? Rockapella reached the height of their U.S. fame as the in-house "band" for Where In the World Is Carmen San Diego, an educational game show that aired on PBS and was co-produced by WGBH–Boston (they produce quite a few of PBS's national programs, including NOVA, Frontline, and The American Experience). These days they do the music for quite a few commercials. Basically, if the commercial uses a cappella music, it's probably Rockapella.


M.T.A. — The Kingston Trio
from Greatest Hits
[Support the Artist]

The Kingston Trio are actually from Palo Alto, California, but 'M.T.A.' is all about what is now the MBTA (Short for Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, but because Bostonians never met a word they couldn't make shorter, is simply called "the T"). The T has embraced this song so much, that Charlie now adorns the T passes (now called "the Charlie Pass"). Ironically, the song was written in 1948 as a protest against exit fares that had been instituted as a hidden fare increase and to support Progressive Party candidate Walter O'Brien (the Kingston Trio renamed him George O'Brien when they recorded it in 1954 for fear of landing on the Hollywood Blacklist of Communist sympathizers).

The tune itself was stolen from two earlier songs. The earliest known song with this tune was called 'The Ship That Never Returned.' It was later adapted for 'Wreck of the Old 97.' However, it has now been indelibly associated with M.T.A., also called 'The M.T.A. Song' and 'Charlie on the M.T.A.' For more information about the song's history and the places mentioned in the song, you can read Jonathan D. Reed's extensive history on the song or you can visit the Wikipedia page about it.


Skinhead on the MBTA (Live) — Dropkick Murphys
from The Singles Collection
[Support the Artist]

The Dropkick Murphys are hardcore punkers from Southie (the "Irish ghetto" in South Boston). Proudly Irish, Catholic, working class liberals, their music is a pretty good encapsulation of the 'tude. They liberally mix into their punk the British Oi!, Irish folk, and hard rock genres. Although the Dropkick Murphys have plenty of original tunes to their name, where they uniquely shine is doing "sort-of remakes" of traditional songs and updating them for modern ears. This is one of their sort-of remakes, only this time, Charlie is a random skinhead who, when asked to pay an exit fee, hits the conductor, steals the train, and never returns. The band then cheekily adds that the good people of Boston shouldn't be all that scandalized, especially since Skinhead will work for an uninterrupted beer supply.

As an interesting sidenote, the source of the name "Dropkick Murphys" is shrouded in a little bit of a mystery. According to the band members, they've been told different stories at different times. The original Dropkick Murphy was one (or all) of the following: the nickname of a local boxer; a rehab center in Connecticut; an enforcer for a local drunk tank who'd go out into the streets after midnight, pick up people who were too drunk to go home, and would drag them back to "the box" until they sobered up; or a boogie man the grandparents used to scare misbehaving children into the straight and narrow. Even the band members aren't entirely sure which of these misty origin stories is true.


Amsterdam — Guster

from Keep It Together
[Support the Artist]

For notes on Guster, see above.


Closer to Me — Dar Williams
from The Beauty of the Rain
[Support the Artist]

Currently a resident of Northampton, Massachusetts, Dar Williams is a graduate of Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut. Prior to heading off to quieter life in Western Massachusetts, Williams was active in the Boston performing arts community and even did a turn as a performer for the Opera Company of Boston. Aside from finally achieving wide acclaim as a folk-pop singer, she continues to be a leading light in the regional folk movement.




To download Tracks 1 through 15, go to the SaveFile Project Page All Over the Musical Map: Finding New England, Part 1.

Other sections of this soundtrack can be found in:
Tags: music: download, soundtrack: 2007, soundtrack: all over the musical map, soundtrack: general
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