Our May/June 2013 “On My Deathbed” Winner Explains His Picks

May/June 2013 “On My Deathbed” winner Joe Holt reveals his prize picks. From Queen to The Civil Wars, read Joe’s ruminations on the picks that helped him win the Martin CPCPA1 Plus Acoustic/Electric Guitar. And enter the July/August “On My Deathbed” contest for your chance to win a Martin CEO-6 Black Guitar.

Videos by American Songwriter


A Day At The Races – Queen
While A Night at the Opera was the first Queen album I heard (and the most famous one) this album is my favourite one by the band. “You Take My Breath Away” is my favourite Queen song, with all the harmony parts sung by Freddie for a wall of sound. Classics like “Somebody to Love” and “Good Old Fashioned Lover Boy” make this perhaps the overall strongest album by them.


Helplessness Blues – Fleet Foxes
I bought this album a few months ago and listened to it on repeat for weeks. Again, the partnership between Robin Pecknold’s lyrics with the music from the band is incredible. With thoughtfully retrospective lyrics and a strong undercurrent of soul-searching, this album touches places that many other bands cannot. Also it gives me lots of hipster street cred.


The Wild Hunt – Tallest Man On Earth
I’ve recently gotten into The Tallest Man on Earth, and this album inspired a lot of the songs I’ve been writing recently. His guitar playing is astounding, with notable tracks being “Troubles Will Be Gone” and “Love is All.” The lyrical depth and vocal acrobatics don’t hurt, either.


Boys And Girls – Alabama Shakes
I saw the Alabama Shakes play the House of Blues in Boston and they were incredible. Singer Brittany Howard is full of energy and sounds even better live than she does on the album. They’re one of the few bands that became successful purely based on the quality of the music, which is of course something to admire.


Barton Hollow – The Civil Wars
Joy Williams and John Paul White have scarily good chemistry together. When you watch videos of them singing, they look completely at ease with one another – it’s almost as if they share one body’s emotions. Smart songwriting and emotional harmonies make this album one of my top 10.


Radio Music Society – Esperanza Spalding
Esperanza is a genius. I have no idea how she does what she does – the composition of the music for her huge band, the way she can play arrhythmic, complex bass lines while singing the melody – she’s amazing. I saw her play in New York and she tried to do a sing along, but her music was too complicated for the audience! We couldn’t sing that many notes.


Permission To Land – The Darkness

This album is just fun. The Darkness have the best live show I’ve ever seen, with singer Justin Hawkins stage-diving and crowd-surfing his way through their old classics and their newer material. The songs are full of energy and life and never take themselves too seriously, which is something that should be appreciated. There’s something admirable about a mustachioed 38  year old jumping around in a leather catsuit, screaming the C-word in a piercing falsetto.


Absolution – Muse
I remember sitting on the bus listening to “Thoughts of a Dying Atheist” and suddenly thinking about becoming a musician. Something about that song clicked for me and made me want to do this for a living. Also, this album ranges from the most beautiful ballads (“Endlessly”) to straight-ahead hard rock (“The Small Print”) and never gets boring. It’s one of the most thoughtful albums by a rock band in the last 20 years.


Foxy Shazam – Foxy Shazam
I heard of Foxy Shazam when I saw them open for the Darkness in Webster Hall, NYC. Things I remember from the concert: the singer pelvic thrusting so hard he knocked his mic over, the keyboardist standing on the piano and turning in circles during his solo, the singer eating a box of cigarettes, the singer eating his mic – and they were just opening. This is a great modern rock band that, like The Darkness, isn’t afraid to have fun with their music.


Astral Weeks – Van Morrison
I bought this album after reading Lester Bang’s incredible collection of music reviews, “Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung.” The album is fantastic. Unlike the poppy, almost predictable later work of Van Morrison, “Astral Weeks” is a complex, meditative piece of work. He’ll sing the same word fifteen times in a row, turning it over in his mouth and spitting it out again, a different sounding entity each time. There was no format to the songs – session musicians simply improvised over Van’s melody and chords, and the album sounds fresh and original.

To enter the July/August “On My Deathbed” contest, simply click here and tell us the “ten albums you’d take to the other side” and you’ll be entered to win a Martin CEO-6 Black Guitar.


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