I first encountered Robert Deeble‘s music on Seattle alt-rock radio, and I was immediately taken with his hushed delivery, his haunting lyrics. Think Leonard Cohen meets Sparklehorse. Earthside Down was my first Deeble album.
Then I saw him live — he opened for Over the Rhine at the Paradox on February 18, 2000. (He’s also shared a bill with Sam Phillips, Pedro the Lion, Victoria Williams, and Low, so clearly I was destined to be a big fan, right? Great musicians gravitate toward one another, and they often inspire a shared audience.)
Little did I know that, though various mutual friends in the Seattle arts scene, we’d become friends and end up collaborating on a Kindlings Muse Christmas show, hanging out at The Glen Workshop (where he was a guest musician and worship leader), and more. It was a joy to support his Kickstarter campaign for his most recent (and, in my opinion, strongest) album — Heart Like Feathers.
It has also been inspiring to see what a large heart he has for artists; in the Seattle community, he serves as a mentor and counselor to many artists who are wrestling with questions of vocation, direction, and vision.
You’ll learn a lot more about him here.
And if you act quickly, you can be one of the last to grab one of the quickly disappearing boxed sets of his entire discography.
If you know Robert, you know that today — December 22, 2014 — was a big day for him, his wife Anastasia. So I’m glad that today’s the day I welcome him as a guest DJ at Looking Closer with a Christmas playlist of his own.
But first, I encourage you to listen to some of Robert’s own Christmas music: “Veni Emmanuel,” featuring Tara Ward.
(Wow. Was that concert with Over the Rhine really fourteen years ago, Robert?)
“Take the Long Way Around the Sea” – Low
“Here for us, A humble birth, The son of God, Descends to earth…. Take the long way around the sea”
I love Alan and Mimi for the intrigue they evoke together in their recordings and in particular the tension they hold towards spiritually while writing to, and living within, a very human audience. The song itself equally highlights a fascinating part of the Christmas story as it is these astrological Persian priests, the very outsiders of the Judeo-Christian tradition, who are first celebrate the mysterious child of Bethlehem.
Lord of the Starfields
“Voice of the nova, Smile of the dew, All of our yearning, Only comes home to you”
Another beautiful work of wonder as Cockburn that takes delight in the expansive wonders of the created world. Recorded in 1976, before our hearts became cynical and when our minds still dared to bask in the questions that science only furthered. While Cockburn’s version is masterful I still fondly recall the experience of being led in this song by Brian Moss under a star filled night on Orcas Island following the Woodsong Festival.
3.“Jesus” – The Velvet Underground
Jesus, help me find my proper place…
With the passing of Lou Reed in 2013 I was reminded how this one had always stood out for me with its human longing and brokenness. Myself and few good friends had the honor of covering this at several Lou Reed tributes following his death and it remains one of my favorites.
“Blood Oranges in the Snow” – Over the Rhine
“Who Made The Lilies? On The Jericho Road, Let The Lower Lights Be Burning, Be Still My Soul”
By God this title alone is enough to simply make you just gasp with the beauty of an image. This song seems to capture how the magic of the holiday that winds itself into each of our own personal stories… while I can’t say what is behind this particular narrative that Karen and Linford so beautifully crafted I can say that it immediately takes me to my own.
“What a Wonderful World” – Victoria Williams
“I see skies of blue, And clouds of white. The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night”
Victoria’s rendition of this Bob Thiele/Louie Armstrong’s song brings out all the childlike joy that those of us who have ever encountered Victoria Williams know and love about her. For those of you who have not had such an encounter this is a good and joyful place to start.
I include the next two recordings not as songs but soundtracks, as they run on continuous play in my home during the season and we never get tired of them…
So simple, so very, very simple
A Charlie Brown Christmas – Vince Guaraldi Trio
Joy, pure joy… nothing makes me clown around the house more than this album. Perhaps it is the fluidity in which Vince plays and the blue note like response of a live recording that we rarely encounter anymore. Or, perhaps it is the spirit conjured by Charles Schulz’s moody cartoon creations that inspire playful hearts of any adult who longs to be a child again. Strange to think but I wrote Mr. Schulz when I was just a kid, and by golly he wrote back with a few drawings all of which probably still exist somewhere in my family’s attic.