strangers almanac

Volume 40: Courtney Jaye

In a little play called Hamlet (maybe you’ve heard of it), Shakespeare writes: “To thine own self be true.” It’s a pretty sentiment, and I’d like to believe that any remotely self-aware human being at least tries to subscribe to this piece of advice. But, sometimes, it’s really hard to gauge to what degree our attempts at authenticity prove successful. I mean, how do you measure that? How can you be sure?

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Volume 39: Sam Quinn

When Sam Quinn was 19, he met Jill Andrews at a summer camp. Quinn played the guitar, and Andrews sang Gram Parsons with him; little did they know, it was the beginning of the everybodyfields, the band Quinn and Andrews built up from glorious dreams of hot summer days

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Volume 38: The Dutchess & the Duke

Here at Strangers Almanac, Jason and I frequently pen columns that spotlight our favorite singer-songwriters, artists who long ago carved our a distinct place in our hearts and who have continued to live with us – in us – for years, decades even. We write about memories of road tripping cross-country to catch our umpteenth live show or of falling in love with the latest installment of an already gigantic and classic catalogue. Simply put: we go waaaay back.

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Volume 37: Jay Farrar

“What I’d give for that hat to be medicine.” To me, that is the quintessential Jay Farrar lyric. It’s poetic. It’s direct. It’s something that could mean anything.

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Volume 34: The Swell Season

The first time I saw the film Once, starring the duo that comprises The Swell Season, I went alone on a random, rainy Thursday afternoon. Given that my boyfriend of six years and I were officially participating in the cliché is the “temporary break,” it is safe to say that my movie selection was not the smartest choice I’d ever made.

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Volume 33: Annie Stela

“Give it up, or lose it completely,” sings Annie Stela on “Clean It Up,” my favorite track off Hard City, one of two EPs that Stela is releasing this year.  For most of Stela’s career as a musician, she’s chosen to give up plenty of things, but not what she was born to do: write songs. It’s this Annie Stela that makes me smile—the independent champion who refuses to quit.

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Volume 32: The Avett Brothers

I admit it: I came late to the game.  Only a couple of years ago, a friend suggested The Avett Brothers’ Emotionalism as the next album I should buy.  Priority number one.  And when I say “suggested,” I mean threatened my life if I did not obey.  He, like all newly won Avett disciples, was eager to spread the good word about the trio’s inimitable cocktail of musical genres propped up by poignant lyrics and the ability to flat out jam.  Despite arriving to the party seven years late, I fell hard and fast for Seth Avett, Scott Avett, and Bob Crawford (and frequent touring fourth member, Joe Kwon).

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Volume 31: Jeff Tweedy

“Once I thought, without a doubt, I had it all figured out,” Jeff Tweedy of Wilco sings on “Solitaire,” a standout track off Wilco (the album). Yeah, I could have picked a hundred or so other lines by Tweedy to highlight here—that’s what makes writing about his words so difficult. But, that’s the one that speaks loud and clear to me today. Because about eight years ago, Jeff Tweedy taught me that, when it comes to music, you never have it all figured out.

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Volume 30: The Mysterious Gravity of Creativity: Guest Artist Columnist: Matthew Ryan

I was listening to M. Ward's version of Daniel Johnston's “Story of an Artist” today and it got me thinking about what motivates me to do this. Over and over again, I've put my mining helmet on and went with glowing eyes into that great unknown. The process is no fun for me. I'll be honest with you about this. It's hell. I can never quite put a finger on what draws me in. It's an irresistible urge for me. Almost as if my chest fills with reverb and my mind offers a conversation in words fit for a postcard. But that's only half of it—that's a rush.

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Volume 29: The Low Anthem

A sign broadcasting this word hung on the studio wall while Ben Knox Miller, Jeff Prystowsky, and Jocie Adams, the three members of The Low Anthem, recorded Oh My God, Charlie Darwin. A Hebrew expression taken from John Steinbeck’s East of Eden, the word literally means “thou mayest.” The translation implies that there is some choice involved in whatever matter is at hand: thou may or thou may not. The Low Anthem’s speedy evolution from a local Providence, Rhode Island band with a grassroots attitude to international critical darlings hints that a lot of people have collectively decided The Low Anthem may.

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