Nancy Falkow is a doting mother, loving wife, accomplished musician and excellent mix tape compiler.
with Nancy Falkow
Our introduction to this week’s artist was meta-theatrical, an essential element of a mix that parlayed into a mix of essential elements.
There we were, rocking out to a disk left stuffed in a batch of daisies on our doorstep by one of various suitors circa autumn, 2005. After fast forwarding through several tracks we have since christened “Muppet music” because of the embarrassing piano-driven jammy parts, a song appeared that reversed the entire direction of my evening.
Though at the time we were convinced it was a somehow-overlooked early girlie-garage-soul basic, turns out it was Invisible by one Nancy Falkow. Foremost a vocalist and accomplished songwriter, Falkow is a Philly girl by way of South Jersey who now resides with her husband and baby daughter in Dublin, Ireland. She’s leant that huge, multi-dimensional voice of hers to tracks for artists such as Astrud Gilberto, G. Love, Slo-Mo and Marah.
On paper, the credits just keep rolling. Highlights include touring as a vocalist with producer/artist Daniel Lanois (U2, Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson), winning a best female performer contest that resulted in a performance slot at the 25,000-audience strong Lilith Fair, and accolades for her albums Smitten and Clear View. (As it happens, the single Invisible that we kept on repeat is from Falkow’s eponymous first EP.)
Seeing as there’s not enough space to mine the rest of Falkow territory, we’ll get into why it matters right now. Falkow’s jetting in from Ireland to run her annual songwriter’s workshop as part of the 14th Annual Winter Poetry & Prose Workshop in Cape May soon. While in town, she’ll be appearing as part of Philadelphia Songwriter’s Project at MilkBoy Coffee in Ardmore on Jan. 27th, where she’ll be joined onstage by frequent cohorts Amber deLaurentis and Christine Havrilla in-the-round style.
Come on out for Falkow’s first local show in two and a half years, and we’ll see you there. Meanwhile, Nancy put together a mix that she sees as a gift to her new baby Hannah, an introduction to the essentials of all that is good.
The Banana Foster Child Mix
• Life on Mars by David Bowie (Hunky Dory)
One of my favourite Bowie tunes off one of the best albums ever, so if I had to pick just one song with a knife held to my neck, it’s this one. Melodically, perfect. I watched Joe Jackson do this at a sound check once and cried a little.
• Ebony Eyes by Stevie Wonder (Songs in the Key of Life)
I sang this to my baby in the womb, assuming she was going to have big brown eyes like her mother. She proved me wrong with her baby blues. I don’t care. I still sing it to her.
• The Maker by Daniel Lanois (Acadie)
Exquisite guitars, beautiful cinematic lyrics and Lanois’ smoky vocal is like icing on the cake.
• If You Want Me To Stay by Sly & the Family Stone (Fresh)
One of the first bass lines I ever learned. I love the idea of knowing he would hold the mic and sit on the couch when he recorded vocals, I read that somewhere.
• Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey by The Beatles (White Album)
So many Beatles songs, so little space. This is one of my favourites to ask a band when the lead singer says, “Any requests?” But if you’re really reading this you’ll notice I’m squeezing in “I Dig a Pony”, “She Said She Said,” “Here Comes the Sun” & “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”
• Back Seat of My Car by Paul McCartney (Ram)
This album officially changed my life and how I listened to music. I was a budding songwriter when someone turned me onto it. This is the last track on it, very emotive vocal from Sir Macca, always one of my favourite songs.
• A Case Of You by Joni Mitchell (Blue)
A friend of mine (the same one who turned me onto Ram) placed the headphones on my head, the CD cover in my hands and said, “See you in 45 minutes.” I couldn’t believe I had gotten that far in life without having heard this record. Every song on it is a gem, but A Case of You... lump in the throat.
• Where It’s At by Beck (Odelay)
He hasn’t released a record I haven’t loved (ok Midnight Vultures wasn’t the best, but it wasn’t the worst) but this song still holds it’s own after all these years.
• Tony by Patty Griffin (Flaming Red)
No road trip is complete without this record. Again, hard to pick one song, so I’m going to close my eyes and put my finger on one… Tony. Yeah, that’s a good one, but they all are.
• I Can Hear Music by Beach Boys (I Can Hear Music)
Ok, please buy the album Pet Sounds if you don’t own it. I decided not to choose any songs off of that record because the entire record is just plain essential. Instead I chose I Can Hear Music. It was a contender for my wedding song and the vocal breakdown at the end is classic Beach Boy perfection.
• Dearly Departed by Fran King (Beautification)
I love the combination of his haunting melody and lyrics and gorgeous strings. One of those songs you listen to and just think I wish I wrote that one myself. The album is one of the best Irish releases of 2006.
• The Neverending by Wood (Songs from Stamford Hill)
This is a song by a British band (lead by James Maddock) that recorded in Philadelphia in a studio I was managing. I was happy to be called in and sing on a bunch of songs. It was a really special experience with some amazing people. This song was my favourite one to record. Four of us around one good mic, spaced perfectly to create a gorgeous mix of ooohs (and ooh la la las). The whole album, every damn song is brilliant.
• Deathly by Aimee Mann (Magnolia Soundtrack)
Again having to pick just one song from an album of gems is difficult. I love her voice, I love her melodies, I love her chord progressions and I love her always cleverly clichéd lyrics.
• Last Night I Nearly Died by Duke Special (Songs from the Deep Forest)
I’ve heard several different recorded versions of this, but the latest, off this elegantly executed new album is beautiful. America needs to discover the good Duke Special, have they yet? He has a sense of melody and lyrics that paint portraits. It sets him apart as a truly unique artist, plus I’m a sucker for a Northern Irish accent.
• Freedom Of ’76 by Ween (Chocolate and Cheese)
This song includes everything you need to know about Philly — now-defunct Woolworths, cheese steaks and Boyz II Men. If you can get past the giant boobs on the album cover, you’re in for a real treat, one of Ween’s best releases.
To continue your flirtation with Nancy Falkow, go to www.myspace.com/nancyfalkow and www.nancyfalkow.com