Music is a huge part of my life, though not being able to play any instrument I've always relied on the work of others to bring to me the necessities of expression I find in music. As such I like a variety of artists and musical styles. I do however have a distinct preference for the uniqueness of singer/songwriter combo's across genre's - I find myself more appreciative of the singers who are songwriters and the work they have to offer. Somewhere, one of them, has captured something that at least begins to resemble my mood at the time or the one I am looking to create. Being a poet, I appreciate that the originality of the writing of many of these artists regularly surpasses that of the song-writing coming fro the record labels pop-mill writing think-tanks.
Among my favorite of these singer-songwriter-eccentrics is Nick Cave. An Aussie noted for his darkness and challenging material, Cave doesnt always rub me quite the right way - some of his stylings leave me cold at times - when he does strike a chord with me, he strikes it quite well. A large bit of his work, both with his bands the Bad Seeds and Grinderman and as a solo artist, is quite important to me. In a lot of ways for its darkness - This in an area in which I am more comfortable than many - but also because he has an ability to see both darkness and light as indivorcable parts of the same whole. That, more than many things, is important to me in art. But Cave is not all darkness and foul-mouthed, blood stained, rants at the world. he has a depth of understanding and lyrical ability beyond just darkness, or just the contrast of dark to light.
On top of this, Cave is a talented musician, a unique vocalist and a fantastic songwriter. His lyrical ability as a writer is often second to none - No one else I have heard writes song's like Nick Cave. Very few other writers of any ilk are as deep, and draw on such diverse influences as Cave. who can draw on the Bible, Milton, American folk traditions and modern crime reports all in the space of a refrain.
Lyrically and musically this is one of my favorite Cave songs - It is powerfully evocative, a strong image of place is conveyed in bot the lyrics and the music, and it features some of the best Cave writing around - "My piano crouched in the corner of the room wit all its teeth bared"
Cave also has a small obsession/inspirational attachment to American folk and blues music and does some very nice renditions (covers is a stretch, as he tends to take the raw thing and make it his own) of these songs. Although his version of Stagger Lee leaves a lot to be desired, his 500 Miles is one of my favorite versions.
So lonesome I Could Cry
Cave has also worked with a variety of major and influential musicians, singers and writers. He appeared on Johnny Cash's American IV album, after having covered Cash's The Folk Singer previously.
Cave, for all his debauchery, violence and drunken revelry offers up some surprises from time to time as well. For example, his introduction to the British publisher Canongate's single volumn copy of the Gospel of Mark. An odd turn from the surface impression of the man via some of his lyrics, this introduction only further confirms Cave's depth of knowledge and vision behind his songwriting.
Introduction to the Gospel of Mark, by Nick Cave