Top Ten Books I’d Give a Theme Song To

Top Ten TuesdayThis is an interesting topic. I’ll try to do it justice.

  1. The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald: “Uninvited” by Alanis Morissette. This is perhaps kind of an odd choice, given the song has no connection to the 1920’s or jazz, but if you listen to the lyrics, they essentially describe how Daisy seems to feel about Gatsby.
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  2. Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad: “Head Like a Hole” by NIN. OK, this song is really aggressive and may not jump out at you when you think of Heart of Darkness, but again, the lyrics seem to speak to the book’s themes. My favorite is comparing Kurtz’s last words, “The horror!” to the last line of the song, “You know what you are.” Isn’t that the horror Kurtz was talking about? The horror of realizing what he was? Of course that line is whispered on the recording, and I didn’t hear it in this video. But still.
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  3. Revolution, Jennifer Donnelly: “Shine on You Crazy Diamond” by Pink Floyd. I chose this song mainly because it is a motif in the story itself. The song becomes important to Andi both for its message and music.
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  4. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, Ransom Riggs: “People are Strange” by The Doors. I am not a huge fan of The Doors. I liked them a lot more when I was in high school. However, I can’t deny there are some strange people in Riggs’s book.
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  5. The Secret History, Donna Tartt: “The Killing Moon” by Echo and the Bunnymen. Any list like this is better for an Echo and the Bunnymen song. Plus I think the sort of gothic nature of the song (and the fact that it was recently featured in a commercial with vampires) goes with the book’s atmosphere. “Fate… up against your will” describes Richard Papen’s complicated feelings about Bunny’s murder. Plus, “killing.”
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  6. Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë: “Wuthering Heights” by Kate Bush. Kind of a no-brainer. This video is nearly as weird as Catherine Earnshaw.
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  7. Much Ado About Nothing, William Shakespeare: “Sigh No More” by Mumford & Sons. Maybe because the song just alludes to a song in the play and quotes pieces of the play, but it fits anyway.
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  8. Beowulf, Anonymous: “The Immigrant Song” by Led Zeppelin. Because VIKINGS! That’s why.
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  9. Interview with the Vampire, Anne Rice: “Moon Over Bourbon Street” by Sting. Yes, he actually was inspired to write the song because of Rice’s book. Fitting.
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  10. The Catcher in the Rye, J. D. Salinger: “How Soon is Now?” by The Smiths. The song’s narrator is an angry, misunderstood loner, just like Holden Caulfield. And honestly, I think what Holden really does want is to be loved. Just like everybody else does.
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Sunday Salon—October 16, 2011

:: آخر لقانا في الخريف..تذكّر الثوب الخفيف ::

It’s been pretty and cool today. Perfect tea weather. I finished up reading The Man with Two Left Feet by P. G. Wodehouse via DailyLit last night (review). I started up with Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. I’m not going to be able to finish it for the read-a-long at Unputdownables, but it seems like an appropriate time to finally read. Come on Russians: don’t disappoint me this time. Anna Karenina is yet another classic I’m not sure I’d pick up if not for DailyLit.

I’m still reading The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. You might recall my daughter and I were arguing over it. My daughter won, mainly because I downloaded the iBook sample that Starbucks provided as their first e-book Pick of the Week. I was able to read up to about page 91, so it’s a pretty substantial sample. If you can’t tell that far in whether to continue or not, then the sample size just doesn’t matter.

I’m still listening to Juliet Stevenson’s recording of Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen. My poll results indicate that both of the two people who voted think I should read Willoughby’s Return by Jane Odiwe for my other book for the Sense and Sensibility Bicentenary Challenge. Only problem is I don’t have it. Yet. The wait list for it on PaperBackSwap is long, too.

This Sunday I also watched the final episode of season 3 of The Tudors. Did they ever cast a perfect vapid teenager for Catherine Howard, or what? I find it hard to believe Joss Stone as a “Flanders mare,” though.

I’ve been listening to this Austin City Limits playlist (Facebook app) that’s available for free on iTunes. It’s a great playlist. My favorites are “You Are Not Alone” by Mavis Staples, “Devil Knows You’re Dead” by Delta Spirit, “Don’t Gotta Work it Out” by Fitz and the Tantrums, and “Lost in My Mind” by The Head and the Heart. I have say that “WHALE” by Yellow Ostrich is pretty catchy once it gets going, though I thought it was kind of odd at the start. I’ve actually been listening to Spotify quite a bit and made this playlist full of great women artists.

We saw Toy Story 3 at movie night at my kids’ school on Friday. Dylan was especially entranced. My favorite comment? When Dylan said Ken’s hair looked like Justin Bieber’s. He so rarely makes references to pop culture, and we don’t often get such a window into what he’s thinking. Saturday was the Taste of Roswell in the town square. We ate lots of great food, and the weather was gorgeous. The music was too loud. I think I’d be just as happy if the organizers left music out of the event altogether. Last night I stayed up too late watching The Shining, which was dumb because that movie scares the bejesus out of me, and then I was the only one awake and scared in the dark. All told, we’ve had a great weekend. I’m not ready for it to be over. Unfortunately, today means laundry and getting ready for the week ahead. It’s my last short week due to Jewish holidays, but I’m going to a conference on Tuesday and Wednesday that I’m not thrilled about attending.

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Clave de sol

I was going to do Musing Mondays, but this meme Jenners wrote about piqued my interest a little bit more today.

  1. What’s the most annoying song in the world?
    Probably the “It’s a Small World” song that you hear on the theme park ride. Man I have annoyed my parents with that tune.
  2. What’s the saddest song in the world?
    This is a little obscure, but I think it’s a piece by Aram Khachaturian that appears in 2001: A Space Odyssey. It’s the Adagio from Gayane. The violins are inexpressibly sad.
  3. What’s the sexiest song in the world?
    Perhaps “Europa” by Carlos Santana. I think a lot of babies have been made to that song. Weirdly enough, I think “Stranglehold” by Ted Nugent is a close second, but not because of the lyrics, which are decidedly un-sexy.
  4. Name a new to you band or music artist you can’t get enough of.
    Jack White. No contest. I saw him in It Might Get Loud, mainly because I’m a huge fan of Led Zeppelin and U2 and Jimmy Page and the Edge were in that flick. Well, it made me a Jack White fan, too. I love this video of him making a guitar out of odds and ends. A still from this scene is currently my desktop.
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  5. Have you met any famous musicians?
    I had to think about this. Not really, but sort of. I went to high school with Tony Kanal, and I have a vague memory that he interviewed me for an article in the school paper (he was the editor of our school paper), but does it count if he wasn’t famous yet? He was two years ahead of me at Anaheim High school. If you don’t know who he is—he plays bass for No Doubt.
  6. What song best describes your life?
    I cannot pick one. I will say “Marble Halls,” which is an old song most recently (as far as I know) recorded by Enya. To me, it’s about a dreamer who loves someone very much.
  7. How important is your partner’s taste in music to you?
    It’s pretty important. We don’t have to like all the same stuff, but it’s important that we have some interests in common. I have to be able to talk about music with my partner. I have actually dated guys because we liked the same music. It’s not enough to sustain a relationship on, but it’s a start.
  8. Do you sing in the shower?
    Not really, but I do sing in the car.
  9. What was the last live music show you attended? Did you buy a tee-shirt?
    If operas count, then it was the Atlanta Opera Company’s production of Madama Butterfly, which my husband sang in. You knew he is a tenor, right? He was in the chorus and also sang a line as Butterfly’s drunken uncle. If you are asking about a rock concert (or other form of popular music), it was actually quite a long time ago, and it was the Wallflowers and Counting Crows. That had to be something like 1996 or 1997 though. I think I bought a shirt. I don’t have it anymore if I did.
  10. What’s the sweetest song in the world?
    OK, I am either stealing Jenners’s response of “Tupelo Honey” by Van Morrison or else “Lips Like Sugar” by Echo and the Bunnymen.
  11. Can you play a musical instrument?
    Actually, yes. I have picked up several instruments and made noise with them that resembles music. I could probably still play flute and guitar, though I’m out of practice. In the past, I’ve picked up French horn, violin, and clarinet. Piccolo, but that’s just a small flute. I was in band and guitar classes in high school. I also played classical guitar some in college. I have a guitar, but I haven’t played it in a long time.
  12. Are you in a band or are you a performing solo music artist?  If yes, what kind of music do you play?
    Nope. At least not anymore. I have been. I haven’t ever been in a rock band, though, which is a regret.
  13. Have you ever dated a musician?
    Yes, actually, every guy I have dated has been a musician. I know, I know. See number 14. But! There is a pretty cool bonus: songs about me may have been written.
  14. Are you a groupie?
    No, I’m a Band Aid! And if you get that, you’re probably my kind of person. In all seriousness, every guy I have ever dated or had a serious crush on in high school and college has been a musician. And they’re the worst! Ugh. I wish they weren’t so damned attractive.

Bonus: If you listen to the radio, what station and type of music are you tuned to the most?
Probably a rock station, though I haven’t listened to the radio for music in a long time. I usually use Spotify or Pandora. I create stations or playlists based on whatever I feel like listening to.

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Crazy Week

Fall Sampler

I didn’t post much this week. I didn’t read much, even though I am enjoying the book I am reading—The Ballad of Tom Dooley by Sharon McCrumb. The prompts from some of the weekly memes I usually participate in didn’t appeal me much last week, and I didn’t write about today’s Musing Monday because I recently wrote on the topic already.

Another reason for the silence is that I commute to work on the bus, and Wednesday afternoon, a pedestrian was killed on my bus route. I didn’t see it happen, but I did see the police clean up afterward. It was horrible. I had some trouble concentrating on reading for a couple of days afterward, and I still keep thinking about his poor family. The driver who hit the pedestrian was not at fault, but we all make stupid mistakes, and it is a pity when we have to pay with our lives. He was just eighteen years old.

I spent the weekend making playlists in Spotify. If you have Spotify (and it’s now open for signups with no invitations necessary), then feel free to subscribe to them. They are all classical music. I decided to disconnect my Spotify account from Facebook because I don’t really want everyone knowing everything I’m listening to. Besides, isn’t it annoying to receive updates for each song someone listens to in your Facebook feed? Anyway, my Spotify profile is here, so feel free to connect to me (if you can figure out how to do that).

I am so glad fall is coming at last. The leaves are beginning to turn here in Georgia, so I imagine they are really pretty up north right now.

Update: I put the Fall Classical list on Ping, too. You have to buy the music on iTunes, but if that’s your preference over Spotify, then you can check it out there, too.

Creative Commons License photo credit: *Micky

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The Songcatcher, Sharyn McCrumb

Sharyn McCrumb’s novel The Songcatcher is part of her series of ballad novels, based on Appalachian ballads (which I still maintain is one of the cleverest ideas I’ve ever heard of). The novel is the story of a family who settles in the mountain border of North Carolina and Tennessee and passes down an old Scottish ballad through the family from the eighteenth century to the modern day. The story begins as Lark McCourry, a country music singer born Linda Walker, tries to recall an old song she heard relatives sing at a gathering when she was young. John Walker, her elderly father, with whom she has a contentious relationship, becomes sick and is expected to die soon, so his housekeeper and surrogate daughter Becky Tilden calls Lark home. The story flashes back through some of Lark and John’s ancestors, starting with Malcolm McCourry, who was kidnapped and conscripted by a sailing ship at the age of nine, never to see his home on the Isle of Islay in Scotland again. Once he nears the age of twenty, he apprentices to a lawyer in Morristown, NJ. Many years later, he abandons his family and heads south with his daughter Jane and her husband to settle in the North Carolina mountains, where he establishes a second family. Before the end of the novel, Malcolm’s great-grandson Pinckney McCourry, a prisoner of war during the Civil War; Pinckney’s nephew Zebulon, an orphaned boy; Ellender McCourry, Zebulon’s daughter; and John Walker, Lark’s father and Ellender’s son, all have the opportunity to tell a part of their story and to explain how they received their family’s ballad, “The Rowan Stave.”

I absolutely adored this book from start to finish. It was so good that I didn’t want it to end. I loved Sharyn Crumb’s characters, most of whom are based on her own ancestors and retain their own names. Zebulon McCourry was her real great-grandfather, and Malcolm McCourry was her real four-times great grandfather. One of the things I loved best about this novel is the way it tackled the issue of northerners and other outsiders coming into Appalachia and making all sorts of erroneous assumptions about the intellect, culture, and beliefs of the people who settled there. McCrumb manages to touch on everything from why the Civil War led to feuds, such as the Hatfield and McCoy feud, all the way to how songcatchers came through Appalachia and took advantage of the people by collecting their folk songs, then copyrighting them for profit. Some of the writing is quite lyrical, and it is clear that McCrumb hails from a long line of born storytellers. I particularly liked Malcolm McCourry, though his decision to abandon his family in New Jersey caused friction and hurt his older children, particularly when he married a second time and supplanted his new family for his first one. I absolutely loved Zebulon’s story of tangling with a couple of condescending women from Boston. Pinckney was an intriguing figure, too. I also liked Baird Christopher, owner of a hostel in the mountains, especially as he explains how to pronounce Appalachia to a New Yorker.

The ballad itself is catchy, and it would be interesting to hear the tune, which McCrumb says in her Afterword was set to music by Shelley Stevens. It looks like you can purchase it from her website. It is the story of the mother of the Brahan seer, and explains how she found a stone that gave her son the Sight—a worthy old Scottish story.

The respect that McCrumb shows for Appalachia is, unfortunately, rare and is perfectly rendered through various encounters her characters have with outsiders. The book could, in many ways, be considered a love letter to that region and to the stories that are passed down through the generations. I am very interested in my own family history (some of which does have roots in Appalachia), so I found that element of the book particularly fascinating. Our ancestors anchor us in the world, I believe. They show us how we fit into this great chain of being and give us a sense of belonging and, in some ways, importance, which is another element McCrumb touches on when one of her characters describes the slim chance that brings any one of us into existence. If you really think about how close you have come to not ever being, your head will spin. I know I can’t help but feel grateful to my ancestors for all the choices they made that ensured I could be born one day.

If you are interested in family history, you will surely find this book as captivating as I did. Even if you aren’t interested in that sort of thing, The Songcatcher is an intriguing read and manages to maintain the feel of a mystery even without being a mystery proper. It’s a truly wonderful read. It may be hard to find, but you can order new or used copies from Amazon through associated sellers. I obtained my copy via PaperBackSwap.

Rating: ★★★★★

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Music and Reading

Clave de sol

This week’s Booking Through Thursday prompt asked about music—”What, if any, kind of music do you listen to when you’re reading? (Given a choice, of course!).”

I missed writing about it on Thursday because I posted a review of The Paris Wife, and I didn’t want to post twice that day, but I’ve been thinking about it since then and decided I still want to write about it, even if I’m late to the party.

Music is really important to me—as important as books are. I love music, all kinds. I have been a musician, but it is true that I haven’t picked up an instrument in years. Picking up instruments usually wasn’t too hard for me, but I never became a master at any of them. The two I played most were flute and guitar, but I tried out French horn, clarinet, and violin.

This topic is kind of timely for me. I have always been a music fan, and I will not say I am always on the cutting edge. I have pretty much always “discovered” artists long after their bands have broken up, or at least long after they started making music. So I cannot claim to have any sort of pulse on the modern music industry. However, I did recently go through a dry spell, listening to the same stuff I had listened to forever, it seems. I hadn’t listened to anything new, and I had decided that it was my age—I’ll be 40 in September—and that after a certain point, pretty much everyone just stops seeking out new music. I never thought I would do it, but I did. I was even listening more to podcasts or books than music when I drove. Then I watched It Might Get Loud, mainly because I am huge fan of Led Zeppelin and U2. But the movie opens like this:

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Which made me a fan of Jack White. I have been discovering his catalogue, which has prompted me to listen to other artists like him. Pandora Radio is great for discovering new artists. Through my Jack White Pandora station, I’ve discovered the Black Keys, Patrick Sweany, and many others. I rediscovered Leo Kottke; my guitar teacher used to play his song “Vaseline Machine Gun” and would teach it to you if you would sit with him and watch, but I had trouble learning music that way—I needed either tablature or sheet music.

My point in bringing all of this up is that I might have answered the prompt differently a few months ago, but I’m listening to music again after not doing it as much for quite a while, and I’m listening to it while I read (sometimes). The answer to what I listen to is that it depends. Sometimes I just let Pandora take care of it for me. Other times, I listen to whatever is in my iTunes. Lately, that mostly means Jack White, but I do get in moods for other things, such as St. Vincent or T. Rex or Led Zeppelin, or the Black Crowes.

Another impetus for all the new music in my life was Jennifer Donnelly’s book Revolution (review). Andi, one of the protagonists, is a music omnivore. She loves everything. All the music references prompted me to check out some of Andi’s favorite music. And Donnelly was kind enough to share Andi’s playlist on her website.

When I study, which I haven’t had to do since I graduated from VA Tech (master’s in Instructional Technology last December), I listen to classical music, like Mozart. I actually downloaded this album (iTunes link) for the purpose of studying. It may have been psychosomatic, but it seemed to work.

I’m always listening to a lot of music as I write, which is really something I’ve always done, but the soundtrack has changed a bit. It’s a lot of fun to feel like I at least have an idea about modern music, which isn’t something I’ve felt for a while.

Some things never change, though. I still don’t care much for pop music (such as Lady Gaga, although she’s a shrewd marketer, and I do admire that about her). I think music was constantly going in my teenage years, and it’s fun to feel that I am in some way recapturing that. I missed it.

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So I may be one of the last people on the Web to discover  On the off chance that you are, too, I decided to share it with you.  It is a great place to discover new artists and music you likely would never have heard about otherwise.  You will find music in all types of genres from all over the world.  You can search by artist, location, or musical sub-genre.

I have only been poking around the site for a couple of days.  I initially found it through the Facebook application iLike.   When you activate that application on your Facebook profile, you can choose to display short clips from your favorite musical artists.  I happened to select Kelly Richey as one of mine.  If you select an artist that has mp3’s available for download at, a button appears on the application that allows you to download the song.  I clicked through to discover the site.

Now playing: Driftwood Groove – Old Susquehanna
via FoxyTunes

[tags], iLike, facebook[/tags]

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Peanuts/Outkast Mashup

Steve showed me this video last night. I have to say that the mashup’s creators, Ryan King and Dan Hess, did a really good job syncing up the video with the music.

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Year in Review

In 2007, I didn’t have enough time to do all that I wanted, and that includes reading, but I read the following books (links will take you to my reviews):

That’s a little more than a book a month, which I suppose isn’t too bad. My favorite book was obviously Harry Potter, but aside from that one, the ones I am still thinking about are A Thousand Acres, Ahab’s Wife, and, surprisingly, The Myth of You and Me, which I wasn’t sure would stay with me at the time I finished it.

I also made two great musical discoveries this year: Kelly Richey and Tony Steidler-Dennison’s weekly Roadhouse Podcast. I am finding as I get older that I don’t keep up with musical trends, and I barely ever listened to music on the radio this year. I bought few CD’s. My favorite new CD is by an old band — the Eagles’ Long Road Out of Eden (only available from third party sellers at Amazon because the album is a Wal-Mart exclusive — and incidentally, I thought that was odd given Don Henley’s politics).

My favorite movie this year was Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, but I also enjoyed viewing Possession. I do like movies, but despite instituting a weekly movie night here at the Huff household, I have not found that too many I’ve seen this year really stuck with me.

I did a small amount of traveling in January, when I had the opportunity to accompany the juniors on a class trip through Birmingham, Tupelo, MS., and Memphis. I absolutely loved Memphis, and I can hardly wait to go back. During the trip, a colleague and I accompanied one of the students to ER when he broke his nose. Some of the most interesting places I saw were Elvis’s birthplace and Graceland, the Rum Boogie Café, the Rock and Soul Museum, and Sun Studio. Actually, the Rock and Soul museum didn’t so much have interesting exhibits to look at, but their musical exhibits were amazing.

Happy New Year, everyone.

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Wendy mentioned this meme, and I love the music ones, so here goes.

What is your ringtone?  Right now, it’s Jeff Buckley’s “Last Goodbye.”

What’s the most incongruous song on your mp3 player?  I don’t have one, but of the mp3 collection on my computer, I guess it would be some of the 1920’s tunes I downloaded for use with a Great Gatsby unit I teach, or maybe recordings of Zora Neale Hurston singing African-American folk songs for a WPA project in the 1930’s.

What is the one genre of music you can’t stand?  Rap, hip-hop, whatever you want to call it.

What’s your desert island disk?  I really don’t think I can pick only one.  That’s not fair.  Maybe Jeff Buckley’s Grace.

What’s your secret musical weakness?  Something with violins.  Stick a violin in it, and I love it.

Do you play a musical instrument?  Not anymore, but I played flute for about 15 years or so, guitar for about five, and French horn for one year in middle school.  Of course, if you play flute, you can play piccolo, too.

Best makeout song:  Eh, I’ll pass on this one.

Best driving song: A toss-up between “Wiser Time” by the Black Crowes or “Take it Easy” by the Eagles.  Actually, the whole albums Amorica and Greatest Hits, Volume 1 (by each band respectively) are awesome driving CD’s.

Song everyone should read the lyrics to:  I just put a colon after a preposition, which is making me twitch a little, but I’ll be fine.  Um, I would say “Suzanne” by Leonard Cohen or “Forever Young” by Bob Dylan or “Lover, You Should Have Come Over” by Jeff Buckley.

Is downloading music for free a sin?  Is it different from taping mix tapes from friends?  I don’t know.  It depends on a few factors, I think.

Do you do karaoke?  I have tried it.  “She’s a superfreak… superfreak!”  Not regularly.

One musician you would happily whore yourself to: Oh come on.  My parents and students read this thing.

First album you ever bought:  I think it was two at the same time, and if I remember right it was Unchain the Night by Dokken and Theatre of Pain by Mötley Crüe.

Most recent album you bought: Gosh, I am not sure I can remember.  Oh, yes I do.  It was a Chopin CD.  One of those cheapie “greatest hits” things.

Favorite Beatles song:  It’s hard to pick one.  I have always liked “Eight Days a Week” and “Norwegian Wood.”  “Yesterday” is awesome.  So is “Across the Universe.”  How can anyone pick one Beatles song?

Song that represents your teenage years:  I am tempted to say “Back in Black,” but it depends on the intention of the question.  If it means the song that represents my personality, I don’t know, but if it’s the one that I listened to incessantly, it’s either the entire Led Zeppelin catalog or “Living on a Prayer” by Bon Jovi.

Song that represents your twenties:  Maybe “Blue” by the Jayhawks.  Or “Sixth Avenue Heartache” by the Wallflowers.

Song that represents where you are right now:  Either “Bad Luck, Blue Eyes” by the Black Crowes or something bluesy you probably never heard of.

Song that represents your blog: Just because of the look, I’m thinking “No Rain” by Blind Melon.  That’s the quintessential sunny day song, isn’t it?

So tag yourself if you feel up to it.

[tags]music, meme[/tags]

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