04/18/2008 07:51 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Dog Ears Music: Volume Eighteen


Richard Swift
Songwriter-rocker Richard Swift was born in California, but grew up on a desolate "music-less" Minnesota farm singing since he was a kid. His MySpace page says he's from "Nowhere, United States." He is definitely from somewhere deep, with just the right amount of distortion, melody, and heart. There are twenty tracks on his 2008 release Richard Swift As Onasis. Choosing only one title is very difficult, as all the tracks seem to need each other. He is a Ouija board of sound channeling great rock 'n' roll. Check out "SM60" from Richard Swift As Onasis.

Buy: iTunes
Genre: Rock
Artist: Richard Swift
Song: SM60
Album: Richard Swift As Onasis

Fleet Foxes
Fleet Foxes are five gentlemen (Robin Pecknold, Casey Wescott, Skyler Skjelset, Christian Wargo, and Nicholas Peterson) from Seattle who grew up appreciating their parents' excellent taste in music--the music of the '60s and '70s: Buffalo Springfield, The Beach Boys, Simon & Garfunkel, Marvin Gaye, Crosby, Stills & Nash. It's great to hear old-school influence from new faces. The track "Mykonos," from their 2008 EP Sun Giant, has some retro greatness going on.

Genre: Rock
Artist: Fleet Foxes
Song: Mykonos
Album: Sun Giant

Max Steiner & The National Philharmonic Orchestra
Conductor-arranger-composer and "the Father of Film Music" Max Steiner was born Maximilian Raoul Walter Steiner in 1888, in Vienna, to an artistic family. His godfather was Richard Strauss. The young Max actually took piano lessons from Brahms and studied under Gustav Mahler. In 1929, Max Steiner headed west, to Hollywood, where he scored over 250 films. His credits include Of Human Bondage, The Garden of Allah, The Letter, Dark Victory, The Big Sleep, The Fountainhead, A Star Is Born, The Life of Emile Zola, Gone With the Wind, A Summer Place, The Glass Menagerie, Casablanca, and The Caine Mutiny. Steiner received 26 Academy Award nominations, taking home three Oscars, for The Informer, Now Voyager, and Since You Went Away. When Max Steiner died in 1971 at the age of 83, he'd set the standard for film scoring with King Kong. The title "Sea at Night," composed by Max Steiner and performed by the National Philharmonic Orchestra, is important, magnificent, and haunting.

Buy: iTunes
Genre: Classic Soundtrack
Artist: Max Steiner & The National Philharmonic Orchestra
Song: Sea at Night
Album: King Kong (Original 1933 Motion Picture Score)

Maria McKee
Artist, composer, singer, and playwright Maria McKee has always been ahead of her time. Recently had dinner with her: She ordered a chop and a side of pasta and told us the best stories. Born in California (fourth generation). Her family roots are rich in old Hollywood lore. Her aunt Dolly had a low-wire act appearing several times on The Ed Sullivan Show. McKee's grandfather was an artist who worked in the atelier of Tony Duquette in the 1940s. McKee's older brother (eighteen years her senior) was Bryan MacLean, a co-founder of the band Love. McKee recounts, "My brother ran away from home to Judy Garland's house when he was 13 to be with his girlfriend Liza." McKee's father, Jack, ran a beatnik bar frequented by Clint Eastwood and Lana Turner's boyfriend Johnny Stompanato, who came in for a beer the night before he was stabbed to death.

McKee's career began in the theater department in high school along with fellow students Nicolas Cage and Crispin Glover. A year later, McKee became the front woman for the critically acclaimed band Lone Justice. Her songs have been covered by The Dixie Chicks and Bette Midler. She toured extensively with U2. She was on the Pulp Fiction and Days of Thunder soundtracks. Currently writing a play about her life, she's a gospel-glam-country-rock opera about to explode. "Absolutely Barking Stars," from the 1996 release Life Is Sweet, will thrill you. Please play it loud.

Genre: Rock
Artist: Maria McKee
Song: Absolutely Barking Stars
Album: Life Is Sweet

Ibrahim Ferrer
Born in 1927, the legendary Cuban vocalist Ibrahim Ferrer was known for his elegance as much as his son and bolero stylings. In the mid-'90s, he was living close to poverty, shining shoes in Havana, when Ry Cooder enlisted him for the Buena Vista Social Club project, which went on to win the 1998 Grammy Award for best tropical Latin performance. Ferrer was literally born in a social club. His mother went into labor on a night out at a dance in the southeastern city of Santiago de Cuba. At the age of 12, Ferrer sadly became an orphan, and a year later he joined the band Los Jovenes del Son and thus began his professional career. The Buena Vista Social Club brought him unexpected, late-in-life success, earning him the first Latin Grammy for best new artist in 2000. Buenos Hermanos, another collaboration with Ry Cooder, won a Grammy for traditional tropical Latin album in 2004. At the age of 78, Ferrer died in Havana. "Aquellos Ojos Verdes (Son)," from the 1999 album Buena Vista Social Club Presents Ibrahim Ferrer, is glorious, romantic, and a classic.

Buy: iTunes
Genre: Latin
Artist: Ibrahim Ferrer
Song: Aquellos Ojos Verdes (Son)
Album: Buena Vista Social Club Presents Ibrahim Ferrer

Solomon Burke
Solomon Burke, a.k.a. "the King of Rock 'n' Soul," is a legend as an entrepreneur (with a chain of mortuaries), the bishop of the House of God for All People, and the father of 21 children. Born in Philadelphia, during the Great Depression, he was heir to the church his family established. It is said the young Solomon was giving sermons by the age of 7 and, at 12, was a preacher and the host of a gospel radio show. Burke was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001 and won the Grammy Award in 2003 for Don't Give Up on Me. "None of Us Are Free," from 2002 album Don't Give Up on Me, is a soulful listen.

Genre: Gospel Soul
Artist: Solomon Burke
Song: None of Us Are Free
Album: Don't Give Up on Me