Thursday, August 19, 2010

Remembering Warren Zevon Learning to Flinch

My iTunes Library has gotten pretty bloated with several decades of music, the vast majority of which I haven't heard in a really long time. Today I busted out my favorite Warren Zevon album.

I got my first real taste of Warren Zevon's genius around Christmas of 1993. Learning to Flinch was a gift from urban family friend and occasional music mentor Wayne and, honestly, I wasn't sure what to expect. Sure, I had heard, and liked, "Werewolves of London" - who hasn't - but a full album from the novelty song guy? Hmm.

Still, Wayne had never failed me and after the excitement of Christmas and New Years died down, I dropped the disc in to the stereo for a listen. Few things prepared me for the connection I was about to make or the impact that Warren Zevon would leave on me. It redefined the way I thought about live music, acoustic guitar and piano.

Sample Three Songs from the Album:

Full of starkly honest, witty, humorous and occasionally bleak songs that showcase his genius, Learning to Flinch was recorded live during the summer and fall of 1992 at various locations in the U.S., Europe and Australia. After listening to it again, I can't help but feel the same way I did all those years ago.

Warren Zevon is able to remain emotionally naked and genuine, while producing a rich and effortless sound. Fatally flawed and deeply passionate, his unique, sardonic style sets him apart from other singer-songwriters.

I'm not going to lie and say I understand the meaning of every song, but there is a blue collar simplicity to each of them. These are uncommon songs for common people, mere observations, tainted only by the eyes of the observer. Whether he's making a vaguely political statement, telling a really good story or touching upon something deeply personal, he weaves complex tales into easily digestible four minute bites.

"I'll play Claire de Lune in a quiet
saloon, Steady work for a change."
- Warren Zevon from "Piano Fighter"

The critical acclaim he received from contemporaries like Jackson Browne, Bruce Springsteen, Don Henley and Tom Petty suggests he was a true songwriter's songwriter, but I can't help but feel like he's just another barroom player, a modern troubadour playing the beer hall and juke joint circuit for the love of music, not money.

Purchase Warren Zevon's Learning to Flinch on iTunes.

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