4 Songs that Tell Stories for World Book Day

There’s nothing like a good book to pull you out of life and transport you to another reality. Whether it be Twilight, Ready Player One, Pride and Prejudice or the Handmaid’s Tale, there’s a story out there for everyone. But did you ever realize that some of the best songs also tell a story? I don’t know about you but when I was growing up listening to country music, that was my favorite part—the ability to learn about someone’s life story in the short span of just a few minutes. Well, today, in honor of World Book Day, celebrate on April 23rd, we’re bringing you four songs that tell some really resonating stories. 

Tracy Chapman – Fast Car

This is a gritty, realistic story of a woman trying to escape from the vicious cycle of poverty. The protagonist’s mother left the family, and her father is an alcoholic, so she quit school to take care of him. One day, the narrator hopes that she and her lover will drive away in a fast car, just ‘cross the border and into the city. She imagines a whole different life for them: you and I can both get jobs and finally see what it means to be living. This poignant 1988 folk-rock song conveys a sense of hope and optimism towards the future. 

Randy Travis – Three Wooden Crosses

“Three Wooden Crosses” is the tragic story four passengers—a farmer on vacation, a teacher seeking higher education, a sex worker and a preacher, all of whom were searing for lost souls on a late-night bus trip from the U.S. to Mexico. There’s a fatal accident when the bus is hit by an 18-wheeler, and three of the passengers are killed. And that’s all I’m going to tell you for now—you’ll have to listen to the rest of the song to find out what happened to the person who survived… and there’s a few surprising plot twists!

Bobbie Gentry – Fancy

This Southern Gothic style song is a narrative told from the perspective of a woman in her thirties named Fancy, who is looking back on the summer she turned 18. It’s a memorable story about a woman using sex work to overcome childhood poverty. Bobbie Gentry, the country star from small town Mississippi, wrote and recorded the song in 1969. 

Gentry sings that Fancy grew up in “a one room, rundown shack on the outskirts of New Orleans.” Fancy’s mother spends her last penny on a dancing dress and tells her daughter to “start sleeping uptown” and “just be nice to the gentlemen, Fancy, and they’ll be nice to you.” Eventually, from her relationships with wealthy, powerful men, Fancy comes to own a Georgia mansion and a New York City townhouse. 

Janis Siegel, John Di Martino & Lonnie Plaxico – Where Do I Put His Memory?

There’s no sadder story than the story of losing a loved one. With its poignant lyrics, this country song, written by Jim Weatherly and first released by Charlie Pride in 1979, touches on the human condition and the persistence of memory. And now, the story is being retold in this new rendition from the 2021 album “Cryin’ In My Whiskey.” In this version, John Di Martino arranged the song in a Venezuelan joropo rhythm, and New York City guitarist Jesse Lewis is also featured! 

If you’re looking for more jazzy retellings of classic country stories, look no further than the album “Cryin’ In My Whiskey,” which is available in our story right now!

4 Country Jazz Tunes to Celebrate National Beer Day

We all know about Oktoberfest in Germany, but did you know that the U.S. celebrates National Beer Day on April 7th? It commemorates the day in 1933 that the prohibition on selling beer was lifted. “I think this would be a good time for a beer,” President Roosevelt famously said upon signing the legislation.

A man in Virginia named Justin Smith first unofficially celebrated Beer Day in 2009 and since then it has gained official recognition by the state of Virginia and is toasted to by brew aficionados all over the country. 

Who wants to miss out on an excuse to drink and be merry? This Wednesday, go to the brewery or beer store nearest to you and pick up a growler of your favorite beer—whether that be an IPA, ale, lager or pilsner—and kick back with some friends in the backyard while listening to these folksy jazz tunes! 

Ray Charles – Oh, Lonesome Me

Partly inspired by his small southern hometown, Charles came out with the album Modern Sounds in Country Music in 1962, which was a groundbreaking fusion of genres. It was so successful that Charles came out with a second volume of country jazz music, from which comes this song, “Oh, Lonesome Me.” 

First written and recorded in 1957, this song is a fun, lighthearted lament of unrequited love that’ll pair well with a fruity, full-bodied amber ale! 

Willie Nelson – Georgia On My Mind

From his 1978 album, Stardust, comes this brilliant reinvention of the popular Ray Charles song, “Georgia On My Mind.” Nelson’s rendition features harmonica solos, which really adds that country flavor. Grab a piney IPA and enjoy that hop flavor while you get lost in Nelson’s weather-beaten voice. 

Chet Atkins & Mark Knopfler – There’ll Be Some Changes Made

In 1990, Chet Atkins, also known as “Mr. Guitar” and “The Country Gentleman,” joined forces with Dire Straits guitarist Mark Knopfler to create the Grammy-award-winning album Neck and Neck. From this album comes the song “There’ll Be Some Changes Made,” which is a country version of the jazz standard originally published in 1921. Listen to this friendly tune while drinking a classic long neck lager!

Janis Siegel, John Di Martino & Lonnie Plaxico – He Stopped Loving Her Today

Named in several surveys as the greatest country song of all time, “He Stopped Loving Her Today” was released in 1980 by George Jones. When vocalist Janis Siegel first heard the song, she was struck—the story simply grabbed her and inspired her to collaborate with John Di Martino and Lonnie Plaxico on this new jazzy rendition, featured in their 2021 album, “Cryin’ In My Whiskey.” The ambiguous lyrics and Siegel’s lovely voice make it a perfect song to pair with a smooth, golden pilsner!

If you’re looking for some more country jazz tunes to create the best beer-drinking ambience, look no further. “Cryin’ In My Whiskey,” the newest release from Night Is Alive, features many country classics, like “Always On My Mind,” “Break it to Me Gently” and “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue,” all with a funky jazz twist. “There’s nothing out there like this,” said Kathy Salem, the Producer and Managing Director. “I wanted this music to be accessible by all.”

“Cryin’ In My Whiskey” is available in our store right now and on all major music platforms! 

Friday Feature Janis Siegel #2

What are your plans this weekend? Hopefully it includes getting to know the remarkably talented Janis Siegel! 

You would probably recognize Siegel’s silky voice from the swinging hits of The Manhattan Transfer, like “Boy From New York City” and “Operator,” but did you know that she also has a widely successful solo career and a reputation as a vocal arranger?

Siegel wrote five of the charts for The Manhattan Transfer’s acclaimed masterwork, “Vocalese” and seven charts for the group’s Grammy-winning album “Brasil.” And in 1980, Siegel won a Grammy for her arrangement of “Birdland”! All of this creative work led to Siegel receiving an honorary doctorate from the Berklee School of Music in 1993 and induction into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 1999. 

But Siegel didn’t stop there! She also branched out on her own to release multiple solo albums, including “An Experiment in White” and “At Home,” which earned her a Grammy nomination in 1987 for the Best Female Jazz Vocal. And over the years, Siegel has been adventurous in her collaborations with a diverse array of musicians, such as jazz pianist Fred Hersch, Turkish modern classical composer Ilhan Mimaroglu and Indonesian guitarist Dewa Budjana. 

Now, Night is Alive is proud to release Janis Siegel’s latest genre-bending collaboration with pianist John di Martino, bassist Lonnie Plaxico and saxophonist Harry Allen. “Cryin’ In My Whiskey” is an album that fuses country western and jazz music to create a delightful twist on many classics, like “He Stopped Loving Her Today” and “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue.” Whether you turn on this album during a backyard barbeque, dinner party with friends or a relaxed evening alone on the front porch, these tunes will imbue your life with a soothing, yet energetic sweetness. 

“Cryin’ In My Whiskey” is available at https://nightisalive.com/portfolio/cryin-in-my-whiskey/

and all major online music platforms. 

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We were lucky enough to sit down with this accomplished musician and ask her a few questions about her career. If you’re an aspiring musician, artist or performer, you’ll definitely want to read what Siegel has to say. 

  • Do you have any advice or words of wisdom for young musicians?
    • LISTEN. Learn the business aspect of music, work every day on something related to your craft and be persistent. 
  • What are you most looking forward to in the coming months?
    • Getting back to travel and a vibrant work schedule.
  • What is your favorite tune from “Cryin’ In My Whiskey”?
    • This week, it is “Where Do I Put His Memory.”

And what about you? What are you looking forward to doing most in the coming months? Comment below!

Friday Feature Janis Siegel #1

Happy Friday! 🥳  Kick back and relax this weekend by reading our Friday Feature about the lovely Grammy-award-winning vocalist Janis Siegel. 

Siegel’s smooth and unmistakable voice can be heard on Night is Alive’s brand new album “Cryin’ In My Whiskey,” which is a unique cross-genre collaboration that brings together the very best of country western and jazz music. Featuring modern renditions of classics like Willie Nelson’s “Always On My Mind” and “I Fall to Pieces,” this album is a perfect way to welcome the sunny weather and enjoy the many social gatherings to come! You won’t want to miss it! 

“Cryin’ In My Whiskey” is available at https://nightisalive.com/portfolio/cryin-in-my-whiskey/ and all major online music platforms. 

Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Siegel was exposed to the music business at a young age, singing with an all-girl pop trio and releasing two singles by the time she was 12! Siegel lived and breathed pop, country and folk music, that is until 1975 when she joined the Manhattan Transfer and was introduced to swing, which opened her eyes to more musical possibilities. The Manhattan Transfer went on to explore many different genres during their 35-year-long career, including a cappella, vocalese, standards, Brazilian jazz, R&B and pop. And in 1981, The Manhattan Transfer was also the first group ever to win Grammy Awards in both Pop and Jazz categories in the same year! 

Night Is Alive was lucky enough to sit down with this world-famous, genre-blending star and ask her a few questions about her taste in music:

  • Besides jazz, what genres of music do you like to listen to?
    • I listen to everything: classical, modern classical, opera, world music, country, bluegrass, alternative, blues, Yiddish music, funk, pop, R&B and gospel. What did I miss… ? I guess disco and rap… I do like some rap, too! 
  • Who are some other musicians that inspire you?
    • John Coltrane, Cecile McLorin Salvant, Ella Fitzgerald
  • What is your favorite tune from “Cryin’ In My Whiskey”?
    • This week it is “Where Do I Put His Memory.” (Originally released by Gladys Knight & the Pips in 1975)

Wow, Siegel has quite an eclectic taste in music! How about you?

What are your favorite genres and musicians? Comment below!