There’s so much going on in the world right now, I find myself feeling somewhat unhinged at times. For me, the best remedy for fighting that feeling is writing, playing, and listening to music. In September, I released a new album, Flames for the Heart, which was written on themes of hopefulness, resilience, and discovering how to keep yourself inspired to move through this life with joy. Here’s a selection of songs that help do that for me. — Lydia Ramsey
Chris Staples – “Walking With a Stranger”
Chris is a dear friend I met in Seattle, Washington. I’m always impressed with his simple and poignant arrangements, there’s an understated sweetness to his voice and cathartic messages in his songs. In most of his songs he’s playing all the instruments and he often also records everything himself in his garage.
Kevin Morby – “Aboard My Train”
Kevin Morby is another one for me who’s able to bring a sweet vocal tone with hopeful lyricism through fun musical ‘60s rock vibes. He’s been putting out so much great music, I like this tune in particular on a gloomy day.
Laura Veirs – “I Can See Your Tracks”
I love the fingerpicking in this one and the soft, makes-you-feel-like-floating arrangement she has worked out — with the reverb on her voice and background vocals creating lovely, layered textures. The lyrics have a theme of forgiveness I like to reflect on when I think about the difficult people in my life.
Lydia Ramsey – “Things Get Better”
I wrote this song thinking about all the good things happening around us every day. Good people helping each other out, and calling each other out when things aren’t right. I believe keeping hope in our hearts is paramount in keeping ourselves intact through the troubles we face.
Fruit Bats – “My Sweet Midwest”
I love the pace of this song, it feels like getting rocked in a hammock in the breeze. It always puts me in a good mood and it’s sweet thinking about all the beautiful parts of this vast country, and people everywhere celebrating the place they call home.
Julie Byrne – “Sleepwalker”
I fell in love with Julie through her record Not Even Happiness when I filled in for her on a show opening for Steve Gunn. The vocal stylings on this are so dreamy and that clear guitar tone is so gorgeous I could listen to this song for days.
Becca Mancari – “Golden”
I met Becca at a show she opened in Seattle when I sang backing vocals with the band Joseph. Her record Good Woman has this rad pedal steel all over it and I just love the swoony, warm tones of this song especially.
Adrianne Lenker – “symbol”
I love Adrianne’s sort of stream of consciousness lyricism, quick rhymes, and hypnotic melodies that later break free with the guitar into this little chorus. Her work with Big Thief is also great, but I often lean into these tender songs of hers a bit more.
Neko Case – “I Wish I Was the Moon”
You know how when you watch someone just shred on the guitar you think, “Oh, that’s how you play a guitar”? When I hear Neko sing I’m like, “Oh, THAT’S how you sing.” I think we all wish we could be the moon sometimes, where we can’t help but shine, high up above it all.
Lydia Ramsey – “Take My Only Heart”
A few years ago, two friends of mine sold their house and everything they owned to travel the world together. I wrote this song loving the idea that all we need is each other to face and embrace the unknown depths of the world.
Photo credit: Kendall Rock