Christopher Paul Stelling: 5 Albums That Changed My Life

Christopher Paul Stelling: 5 Albums That Changed My Life

With 5 Albums That Changed My Life, we ask artists to gush about the records that affected the way they listen to and make music. In this edition, Christopher Paul Stelling writes about five records (he would have listed more of we let him) that he keeps close to his heart.

The fingerpicking singer-songwriter recently released his excellent third album, Labor Against Waste. After self-releasing his first two LPs, Stelling cut his latest before decided to send it off to ANTI- Records, home to Wilco, Calexico, Milk Carton Kids and one of his favorites, Tom Waits. The label liked what they heard, and signed .

With occasional flairs of strings, banjo, percussion and harmonica, Labor Against Waste is a rustic yet elegant album from an earnest and hard-traveling troubadour with serious musical and literary chops. You can also catch Christopher Paul Stelling at this weekend’s Newport Folk Festival, and on tour through the summer and fall.

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Dirty Three: Ocean Songs

This is my go-to album. I’ve kept it close in the best of times and the worst of times. It reveals itself more and more with every listen. It’s perfect for laying awake to in the dark. The musicianship and atmosphere created when these three get in a room together is something I will always aspire to.

 

Tom Waits: Bone Machine

Amongst Tom Waits fans is the perpetual conversation about one’s favorite Waits album – and after many years of constant deliberation, this is my final answer. It has everything I look for from the master himself. Its dark roomy tones and loose haunting arrangements have carried me through many days and nights.

 

John Fahey: The Dance of Death and Other Plantation Favorites

When I first discovered my tendency towards fingerpicking, those more in the know than I had one name on their lips: John Fahey. His story is as eclectic and strange as those of the great country blues masters he sought out, and he started an entire genre of his own. Though I’m not an instrumental guitarists in any sense these days, Fahey and the “American Primitive” movement of guitarists, as they have been called, have been very important to me.

 

Malcolm Holcombe: To Drink the Rain

Malcom is the real thing, man. It’s scary and beautiful. He’s lived it, and he’s lived to play it. An obscure musician to many who know the more mainstream singer-songwriters, it’s always amazing to see someones face light up at the mention of his name. The first time I met Malcolm, back some years ago in Memphis, this is the CD he gave me. He’s a master songwriter, and a fierce guitarist.

 

Hamza El Din: Escalay (The Water Wheel)

Often words to me are secondary to the spell they cast in their soundings. Hamza El Din was a musician from the Nubian region of Egypt who played the mysterious fretless lute called the Oud. The first time I heard one of his songs I wept uncontrollably. It was the saddest thing I had ever heard, and though I couldn’t understand the words, it hit me hard.

[Image by Jenn Sweeney]

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