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Old New Borrowed Blue #12: NYC


Having been to New York City for the first time in my life earlier this month, I feel it’s necessary to fill a blog post with some music from such an inspirational place.  Obviously this is one miniscule sample of the amazing music that has come out of NYC during the past century, but like the city itself, we cannot possibly cover it all in only one day, never mind one post.  Without further ado…

Something Old:

A truly underrated and underplayed doo-wop oldie from 1965, “The Boy from New York City” was the biggest hit (and might as well have been the only single) for The Ad Libs.  It may not be as internationally recognizable as Sinatra’s “New York, New York“, or Simon & Garfunkel’s “59th Street Bridge Song (Feeling Groovy)“, but it’s just as inspired by and reminiscent of that great American city.

Something New:

IMG_0078Ok, so this isn’t meant to be a brag, but I was introduced to this new Talib Kweli track live, with Rapsody at The Blue Note in Greenwich Village.  If that was my only NYC experience, I think I could die happy.  We’re still waiting for Kweli to release his new album, but luckily this New York shot video showed up online a couple of days ago.  And don’t get me started on my new favourite female MC, Rapsody, although she’s from North Carolina, so that will have to wait for another blog post.

Something Borrowed:

It’s easy to find one New Yorker borrowing from another, but this is one that brings such a smile to my face.  KRS-One of Boogie Down Productions is a legendary rapper from Brooklyn that really got his start in hip hop when staying at a homeless shelter in the Bronx.  “The Bridge is Over” is basically a dis-track against Marley Marl’s “The Bridge” and its suggestion that the borough of Queens is the birthplace of hip hop.  To emphasize his point, he references a Bronx-born piano man, Billy Joel, not with an official sample, but with with lyrics, rhythm and vocal inflection.  Since it dropped in 1987, it’s been made a clear classic having been sampled or referenced by more than 80 other tracks.

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Something Blue:

Bob Dylan famously moved to NYC to be near his idol, Woody Guthrie, and has been labeled by some as the original New York hipster (although I think that might have meant something different in the 1960’s).  Dylan has plenty of New York songs and references, but “Hard Times in New York” seems the most appropriate Blues song to close this blog post as a tribute to both New York living, as well as the musical stylistics of Dylan’s hero.  See if you can spot Dylan’s reference to the (perhaps over-played) classic, “This Land is Your Land“…


Old New Borrowed Blue #10: Brit(ta)n(e)ys

ThunderbitchAlthough all of today’s songs will have something in common, I can’t think of a more diverse and eclectic Old New Borrowed Blue before today.  The inspiration for using the name Brittany/Britney as a theme came from the release of Alabama Shakes’ Brittany Howard’s new punk solo project, Thunderbitch.  But we’ll get to that in a minute.  First up is a slightly more familiar Britney.


Something Old: It already feels odd to call this 2000 track old, and yet when I watch the video for “Stronger,” it’s impossible not to notice how dated the entire thing is.  What is happening?  Did she transform her cheating ex-boyfriend into a chair that she starts pointing at and dancing/jumping upon?  And why is it that no matter how many times I watch this video, I always hold out hope that she will transform into a werewolf during the bridge, when she ends up in a thunderstorm?  Despite my constant disappointment, “Stronger” is in my opinion Britney Spears’ strongest single from Oops, I Did It Again, or maybe any of her 8 albums.

Something New: And this is where it’s time for some Thunderbitch.  Brittany Howard takes a half-step out of Blues to make a slightly louder, angrier album.  The standout track to me is “Wild Child”, and if you like that, you can stream the whole album for free at

Something Borrowed: I think that “Toxic” was meant to be covered and sampled; I tend to love songs that borrow from “Toxic” far more than the original.  Is it just me, or do Childish Gambino and Danny Brown make Britney Spears sound more eerie and fierce than ever?

Something Blue:  Instead of fishing for another Brit(ta)n(e)y, let’s stick with the music that had me fall in love with Howard’s bluesy vocal and guitar performances from the Alabama Shakes’ debut album, Boys & Girls.  Here they are performing “Hang Loose” for a Seattle radio station.

Old New Borrowed Blue #9

I don’t have any exciting theme for this week, but here are some tunes I’ve been listening to in these last few lazy days of August.

Something Old:  Bill Withers often makes for great summer music, and this is certainly not an exception.

Something New:  If only I listened to the new Snoop Dogg album before last week, “I Knew That” might have been my song of the summer.  Well, now it can be our song of September.

Something Borrowed:  Here’s a great example of a sample that is not in hip hop, lest you think borrowing is a genre-specific technique.  Here we have one of the most innovative bands around sampling one of the most innovative albums ever made, so if that’s not epic, I don’t know what is.

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Something Blue: Remember that myth where a musician sells his soul to the devil for success?  Well it’s attached to a particular guy, and that guy is Robert Leroy Johnson, considered the king of Mississippi Delta blues, and “Crossroads” is about as classic as singing the blues itself.

Old New Borrowed Blue #8

Happy Monday!  And happy birthday, Donnie Wahlberg!  Let’s take a quick look at how far he’s come…DonnieMulletDonnieNow

Something Old:  You guessed it – I’d like us to watch one of the more flattering videos that Donnie made with NKOTB.  He may have a mullet, but the ripped jeans and hat make him the coolest cat in the crew, amirite?

Something New:  I can’t remember who first shared this on twitter, but I am in their debt.  Eryn Allen Kane hails from Chicago and has worked with plenty of local talent like the Social Experiment and BJ the Chicago, but here she is with her own track and I cannot get enough of it.

Something Borrowed:  Kanye West’s opening track off of Graduation is one of my favourite Monday songs.  I guess that I find it kicks off a week as well as it kicks off an album or a day.  One of the many reasons I love this track is for the Elton John sample that creates the optimistic, anything-is-possible sounding hook.  Who knew that Elton and Kanye would make such a beautiful pairing?  #Eltye4eva

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Something Blue:  I am in a far more hopeful state of mind than a lot of blues music will allow me, but I am certainly on a protest-song kick right now.  I get so stoked for music that can move people to make change, and it seems there is a lot of that going around lately.  Anyway, here is a classic protest blues from the smooth Sam Cooke.

Hope these help to get you at least through hump-day.  I’ll be back Thursday with another Old New Borrowed Blue – see you then!

Old New Borrowed Blue #6: Nina Themed

If you’re not already a fan of Nina Simone, I think you will be by the time you’re finished reading this blog post.  Although I have yet to watch it, Netflix has recently released a documentary called, “What Happened, Miss Simone,” that’s been reviewed over at LittleByListen, where you can watch the trailer.  In connection with the film’s soundtrack, various artists have been releasing covers of Nina’s songs, and since some of those covers could actually represent any of the categories here, I thought I’d might as well use it as an excuse to post all Nina tracks.

Something Old:  Apparently Nina hated that she had to sing standards all the time, so I’ll begin with her original, “I Ain’t Got No… I Got Life,” in which Nina is upfront about her poverty, but lays proud claim on what she does have.  In this song, I have found my life motto: when all else fails, I got my boobies.

Something New:  Last week Lauryn Hill showed up on the Jimmy Fallon show to perform one of her covers for “What Happened, Miss Simone,” and I nearly died of happiness.  “Feeling Good” was an obscure show-tune until Nina recorded it for I Put A Spell On You, turning it into the popular standard it is now, covered by everyone from Michael Bublé to Muse.  Ms. Hill gives it yet another distinct flavour, while paying obvious tribute to Nina’s version.lauryn-ninaSomething Borrowed:  Nina’s piano tracks are some of the most sample-worthy recordings out there, and her profile on WhoSampled is appropriately long – I’m positive that I’ll be posting others here in the future.  Today, however, I’d like to share Reflection Eternal’s “For Women,” a rap remake of Simone’s “Four Women”.

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Something Blue:  As you might be thinking by now, pretty much everything Nina ever recorded was “blue” in some way.  She was a master of turning deep sorrow into meaningful, soul-filled hope, and sometimes some righteous anger.  Written in 1964, “Mississippi Goddam” is her response to multiple violent acts against black people in the southern states, particularly the Alabama Baptist Church bombing and the assassination of civil rights activist, Medgar Evers.  The protest song begins almost playfully, but you can hear Simone’s outrage grow until there’s no other response than to join in her angry song.