Jump to Content

Welcome! You’re browsing the No Depression Archives

No Depression has been the foremost journalistic authority on roots music for well over a decade, publishing 75 issues from 1995 to 2008. No Depression ceased publishing magazines in 2008 and took to the web. We have made the contents of those issues accessible online via this extensive archive and also feature a robust community website with blogs, photos, videos, music, news, discussion and more.

Close This

Record Review from web archive December 2, 2008

Randy Newman

Harps And Angels (Nonesuch)

Back when he was a callow young man, Randy Newman wore his youth uneasily, like clothes that never quite fit. But he was smart enough to turn that into an advantage. An all-too-human awkwardness was the saving grace of Good Old Boys, 12 Songs and other long-ago landmarks. There’s just no way that anyone overly concerned with self-conscious cool could have gotten away with humanizing creepy stalkers, racist blowhards, self-righteous yuppie scum, and the other denizens of Newman’s rogues gallery.

At 65, Newman doesn’t just inhabit his cranky-curmudgeon role, he has become it. He still does character sketches better than just about anyone else. But he can make those sketches be about himself now, more convincingly than ever before.

Of course, he can still bring the snark. Harps And Angels, the pianist’s third non-soundtrack album of new songs in twenty years, gets off withering broadsides about America’s declining fortunes, class warfare, contemporary parenting dilemmas and other topics of modern-day import. The album has earned most of its attention for “A Few Words In Defense Of Our Country”, and rightly so. The lyrics of “A Few Words” appeared on the op-ed page of The New York Times in 2007 as Newman’s alternative State of the Union address, drolly likening the Bush administration to various dictators and the Spanish Inquisition. The recorded version adds a verse about the Supreme Court, and it’s hilarious.


“A Few Words In Defense Of Our Country”

At its best, however, Harps And Angels finds Newman turning down his wry raconteur tendencies to get deeply personal. “Losing You” is simply amazing, lovely and understated late-night solitary pathos worthy of Frank Sinatra at his world-weariest. When those minor-key strings waft up, it feels like Newman has composed a soundtrack to a movie based on Sinatra’s 1959 masterpiece No One Cares.

Even better, there’s a happy ending with the closing track “Feels Like Home”, a beautiful devotional song that has been covered by Bonnie Raitt, Linda Ronstadt and many others. Newman takes it back to the point where it’s hard to imagine anyone else singing it. Doesn’t get much righter than that.

Enjoy the ND archives? Consider making a donation with PayPal or send a check to:
No Depression, 460 Bush St., San Francisco, CA 94108

Discuss

Did you enjoy this article? Start a discussion about it, or find out what others are saying in the No Depression Community forum.

Join the Discussion »

Find out what's going on in roots music. Share concert photos and videos, learn about new artists, blog about the music you love.

Join the No Depression Community »

Buy our history before it’s gone!

Each issue is artfully designed and packed full of great photos that you don‘t get online. Visit the No Depression store to own a piece of history.

Visit the No Depression Store »


From the Blogs

  • The Post-Newport Earthquake: Watkins Family Hour
    Did you feel it? That's what everybody in Los Angeles asks each other whenever a shake or quake rattles and rolls through the valleys and flatlands. Sometimes there's just a release of pressure beneath the crust, and other times it's an up and down jolt that lasts only a second. And then you forget about it. Until the next time.  Sunday night […]
  • Chris Isaak's Life Beyond the Sun
    In 2011, Chris Isaak took the long overdue step of recording an album at Sun Studios in Memphis, Tenn. It wasn't just any album, it was faithful interpretations of classic songs by his musical mentors and heroes: Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Carl Perkins. It didn’t take much of a leap of imagination to predict that the album would be […]
  • Celebrating 40 Years of Schoolkids Records: An Interview with Owner Stephen Judge
    This year marks the 40th anniversary of Watergate. That's not really anything to celebrate, it's not an accomplishment, and what's that got to do with music? Nothing. It simply marks the inevitable passage of time. But, 2014 also marks the 40th anniversary of Raleigh, N.C.'s Schoolkids Records, which is an accomplishment and is definitely […]
  • Ray LaMontagne at the Woods at Fontanel (Nashville, Tenn. – July 25, 2014)
    Ray LaMontagne writes great songs and makes great records. And that's certainly no small feat. His live shows, though, while being technically and musically superlative, really don't leave the audience with a whole lot to hang on to other than the technique and the music. There's no personal engagement on LaMontagne's part. It's as i […]
  • Vancouver International Folk Festival Day Two (Jericho Beach, Vancouver, BC - July 19th, 2014)
    While Friday night at the Vancouver Folk Festival focuses on main stage performances, the rest of the weekend on the sprawling festival grounds of Jericho Beach is as notable for its smaller workshop performances. This was especially true this year. This particular Saturday started with the official public announcement of Joan Baez's cancellation. Perha […]
  • Freight Train Boogie Show #264 features new music from Old Crow Medicine Show, Carolina Story, Yvette Landry and The Sweet Potatoes
    FTB Show #264 features the new album by Old Crow Medicine Show called Remedy.  Also new music from Carolina Story, Yvette Landry and The Sweet Potatoes. Here's the iTunes link to subscribe to the FTB podcasts.  Here's the direct link to … […]

Shop Amazon by clicking through this logo to support NoDepression.com. We get a percentage of every purchase you make!


Subscribe To the No Depression Newsletter

Subscribe to the No Depression Newsletter