31st December 2020
As restrictions have prevented many Old Year’s Eve celebrations (not that I really had any) I have decided to end 2020 with some of my favourite songs that I have shared over the year. This isn’t a top-ten pick of songs released this year, but rather a selection of personal favourites.
In January I shared some songs from the Waterboys 2019 album Where the Action Is. I had tickets to see The Waterboys at CasaLinga in Johannesburg but unfortunately, the show was cancelled due to you know what. There was word that the concert would be rescheduled for November but it wasn’t meant to be. Hopefully, 2021 will see the culmination of my dream of seeing one of my favourite groups perform live. In the meantime here’s my top track from the album, ‘Ladbroke Grove Symphony’.
My second end-of-year choice comes from a musician I first heard thanks to Radio Caroline, Zac Wilkerson. His third album, Evergreen, was released on Valentine’s Day. I really like his style, and the song ‘Give Your Heart to Love’ is catchy, well written and has found itself onto my regular playlist.
When James Taylor released his American Standard album in February it ticked all of my boxes. I have always loved his voice and consider him among the top songwriters of my generation and this release cheered up the early days of the COVID lockdown for me. Here’s James Taylor’s take the Gene De Paul / Sammy Cahn 1953 classic, ‘Teach Me Tonight’
I fell in love with the Indigo Girls back in the ‘90’s when their album Closer to Fine rocked my world. When it comes to word-crafting these two sisters hold a special place in my heart. I pounced on their Look Long album (released in May) and found that Amy and Emily have lost none of their cleverness and skill. Here’s my favourite from the album, ‘When We Were Writers’
When I first heard this track from The Texas Gentlemen’ I thought I was listening to a forgotten track from Little Feat. I didn’t know anything about the band but with a bit of research I found out that they had spent most of their career following the footsteps of The Band and The Wrecking Crew’, that is, being a support group for some of the greats. Hopefully their second album, Floor It, gives them the recognition that they rightfully deserve as major players in the industry. Here’s one of my favourite tracks ‘Ain’t Nothin’ New’.
For me, one of the best ‘mash-ups’ I came across this year was from a very talented YouTuber, Laurence Mason, who managed to perfectly cut, loop and splice two classics into a seamless mix that seems to be made for each other; Dave Brubeck’s Take Five and The Stranglers ‘Golden Brown’. You can read exactly how he managed this clever witchery on the YouTube clip.
One of my absolute top picks for 2020 has to be the wonderful collaboration between Msaki and Prince Kaybee, with their uplifting masterpiece ‘Fetch Your Life’. I featured both Prince Kaybee and Msaki regularly during the year and the more I listen to both of them, the more impressed I am. Prince Kaybee’s feel for dance music is sophisticated and smooth and purely home-grown, while (in my humble opinion) Msaki is South Africa’s answer to Sade, and her silky voice and songwriting talent are perfectly matched to Prince Kaybee’s arrangement. If you missed this track during there year, here’s your chance to catch up.
There have been a few ‘Got Talent’ performers that have truly impressed me over the years, and Courtney Hadwin, the gawky teenage girl who was born with the voice of Janis Joplin completely blew me away. Although she didn’t win the series my sincere hope was that someone would get her into a studio and give her some coaching on controlling the power of her voice. My hopes were realised when a few live studio tracks were released during the year. Now managed by Larry Rudolph and signed to Syco and Arista Records, Courtney is carving her own path working in the studio on her forthcoming album. Here’s Courtney Hadwin’s cover of the Harry Styles classic, ‘Sign of the Times’
Happily, this track features two of my favourites from 2020 wrapped up into one glorious performance of serious Jazz; Snarky Puppy, and the phenomenally talented young man being dubbed the new ‘Jazz Messiah’, Jacob Collier. This is mesmerising listening and I would have loved to have been a part of the studio audience. This track, ‘Don’t You Know’ is the epitome of ‘tight’ playing.
One of the great joys of hosting this group is the discovery of talent that has been sitting on my doorstep and I had never heard of. Zoë Modiga is a case in point. She sings mainly in isi-Zulu, and although I didn’t understand little of the lyrics, it didn’t matter at all. The sheer beauty of the album makes it a spiritual experience that combines undertones of traditional rhythms with Jazz, but there is nothing jarring at all. I highly recommend following this remarkable local talent. This track, ‘Umdali’, is from Inganekwane, her second album that was released this year.
As I said at the beginning of this selection, this isn’t a top-ten, but rather just some of the tracks and artists that we featured during the year. I hope you have enjoyed revisiting them.
My New Year wish for everyone is that this pandemic releases its grip on our lives and that those who still don’t realise that they play a part in reaching this goal wake up to the fact and start behaving responsibly – including individuals and those in power.
May 2021 be a better year for us all. Catch you then.
The Loving the Music mini-features are written and compiled by me to support Loving the Music Facebook page and group. Join the community for regular themed three-part posts that do do more than just share a song.
The Author owns no copyright on the images or videos in this article. All images and links sourced from YouTube and Google and within the public domain.
Words © Andrew Knapp 2020