Musick has Charms to sooth a savage Breast, To soften Rocks, or bend a knotted Oak.” – Walrus.


The title is a quote from a play by Congreve (1697). Despite their politics, which I think go with the territory, there are wonderful American singers and musicians that the whole world has grown to love and I would like to hope that their music may indeed sooth rather than inflame current politics.

“Go with the territory“ is the subject of countless essays and thesis since popular music derives from the poor and dispossessed. I do not expect many artists to identify as conservatives. Country music and perhaps religious works being the possible exception but I am not even sure about that; the hymn “Jerusalem” is not conservative.

Anyhow, despite politics, some music sticks in your brain and reminds you of time, place, feeling. Reminds you of your embarrassing crass stupidity, to the time when you discovered something new and wonderful, to the time everything went right.

I still recall my sense of wonder, delight and perhaps homecoming when I made my first business trip to L. A. circa 1979 to attend an Aviation conference, hosted by Lockheed, I think. What I remember most was the “West Coast Sound” at the time, Jackson Brown, etc. I was coming from a protected, inward looking, Australian economy and the coast just blew me away. Anyone remember Chesneys? I bought a second suitcase for the records and Levi’s, but I digress.

A not particularly good recording of the genre but not of that time is Sheryl Crows rendition of Dylan’s “Mississippi” which just gets into my brain as does Tom Petty and many, many others.

The Canadian warblers? They seem to sing songs of depression and loss. Sarah Mclachlan being the chief mourner.

P.S. Like most five year olds I was very proud when my mother taught me to spell “Mississippi “.

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16 Responses to Musick has Charms to sooth a savage Breast, To soften Rocks, or bend a knotted Oak.” – Walrus.

  1. Fred says:

    Don’t be so hard on Canadians. Why that great thespian and singer, William Shatner, has just the song for our times.

  2. Per/Norway says:

    i prefer real music, like Earl Scruggs and Lester Flatt.
    woah mule woah, a 100 years from now, what a change and false hearted lover are my favorites in this vid.
    And i my opinion this music is THE greatest gift the US have given the world.

  3. james says:

    walrus – check out gordon lightfoot.. he is probably the most endearing canadian songwriter canada has produced in the past 50 years, looking at folk and contemporary canuck music… if you are unfamiliar with him, it is only because he is a national treasure not taken up by the rest of the world in the same way..

  4. Diana Croissant says:

    It took me some time to have time to read your post and take the link. I always enjoy your posts, as they give some respite from politics.
    First, I can also spell Mississippi: m i crooked letter crooked letter i humpback humback i.
    I do remember the music of that time and place, though I didn’t get to experience it there. I had only my records at the time. (Remember those?). When I downsized recently to live in a smaller place, my records were surprisingly the first things that sold at the garage sale.
    I’ve always wondered why Sheryl Crowe ever got involved with Lance Armstrong. I glad she broke it off. In any case, thanks!

  5. Diana Croissant says:

    Oops! I left an “i” out in the spelling of Mississippi.

  6. Fourth and Long says:

    Enjoy Stringbean – he used an earlier method of banjo playing.
    Here Rattler:

  7. Fourth and Long says:

    Here’s one with Stringbean and Earl Scruggs playing together – he even teases Earl a bit:
    Herdin’ Cattle (in a Cadillac Coupe de Ville)
    Pretty Little Widow
    Earl Scruggs’ playing actually drove me to learn 5 string banjo years ago. I found Stringbean’s frailing technique nearly impossible to master.

  8. turcopolier says:

    I heard Flat and Scruggs perform in the VMI field house when I was a cadet. It had been rented out for a concert and cadets were admitted free. It was great, the music and the company of the country people who had come to the performance.

  9. Bird Lives says:

    Walrus, Thank you !
    Slow Dance:
    Ask Me Now:
    More times than the laws allow
    You asked me could I care
    My attention was elsewhere
    How I wish you’d ask me now

    In looking back we just peek through the cracks between what’s real and false
    In this eternal waltz meanwhile we just keep dancing

  10. james says:

    pat – seeing lester flat and earl scruggs is like seeing bluegrass royalty!! lucky you! i saw david grisman band which would have been strongly influenced by them… i saw them at bumbershoot back in the late 80’s or thereabouts… bumbershoot is a music festival in seattle…

  11. JerseyJeffersonian says:

    Here are a few favorites of mine from Canadians.
    Joni Mitchell – Urge for Going
    In Oz your seasons are inverted, too, but up here in the Northern Hemisphere, we are headed toward winter.
    Here is Tom Rush’s version. Not a Canadian, but I have always loved this arrangement.
    One more from Joni.
    Neil Young, Cinnamon Girl.
    While we are rockin’, Rush, Spirit of Radio. RIP, Neil Peart, drummer extraordinaire.
    Rush meets Samuel Taylor Coleridge…Xanadu. Literate, and contemporary tone poets following their muse.
    Next, this great song from Gordon Lightfoot, The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. It gripped me when I first heard it as a young man, and it grips me still.
    Now I conclude with this lovely song by the Crash Test Dummies, their Winter Song.
    Thanks for this post and the opportunity to share a little beauty and light during these times so out of joint.

  12. turcopolier says:

    I realized that at the time.

  13. Walrus,
    Thanks for this welcome diversion. I thought that was an interesting time in music, as well. Actually it was the early 70s, in my college days, when I was first aware of this genre or something related. More specifically it was Gordon Lightfoot, Cat Stevens, Neil Diamond and John Denver… a lot of John Denver. My future SWMBO and I went to a few of his concerts at the nearby Saratoga Performing Arts Center. You’ll be proud to know that we also listened to a lot of Olivia Newton John. My frat brothers and I would carry on in an exaggerated infatuation just to annoy my future SWMBO. Once, four of us were heading back from Vermont in my VW Bug in a snowstorm. The four of us broke into a falsetto sing-along when “Have you never been mellow” came on the radio. Those were good times. One song that is still stuck in my mind from that time is Dylan’s “Jack of Hearts.”
    In the later 70s, I was stationed in Hawaii. The local Hawaiian music was everywhere. I grew to love that stuff. In the 80s, my team adopted Pat Benetar as the patron saint of ODA 334. An Italian team from the 9th Parachute Assault Regiment who found this quite amusing. Later I found that my team was listening to the same Warren Zevon tunes in the Lebanese mountains when some Marines were doing the same down at Beirut Airport. We all ended up in spook school at “The Farm.” Both Zevon and Meatloaf were staples through the 90s in Germany and CONUS. I still have a fondness for all this music and the memories it stirs.

  14. akaPatience says:

    I love guitar music of all sorts. When it comes to rock, the sound of a Fender Stratocaster is very appealing. Tom Petty often played one, along with David Gilmour, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Jimi Hendrix, George Harrison and so many others, but I may be fondest of Mark Knopfler. “Oh yeah, the boy can play…”
    Ranking very high among my favorite types of music though is Renaissance lute music. In some songs, it’s easy to sense the genesis of bluegrass, and the challenging musicianship it can require. This beautiful piece, Daniel Batchelar’s “Monsieurs Almaine”, is a variation on a theme that begins simply but becomes increasingly intricate, showcasing the lutenist’s brilliant technique up to its awesome finale:

  15. Per/Norway says:

    Fourth and Long
    Thanks for the links, i did not know about Stringbean before now. I thought that was Hr Scrugg`s nickname. Beautiful music.
    I almost envy the host of the site for seeing them live😳

  16. optimax says:

    CCR is still one of my favorite rock groups. They were a blue collar band that sang the about the average man and woman.

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