This week’s Summer Tune-up column comes courtesy of Assistant Editor and music lover, Jil McIntosh.

My taste in music is all over the map: I have season’s tickets to the opera, but I’m just as likely to be listening to 1970s pop music on my iPod. Thanks to many trips to New Orleans, I’ve become a fan of zydeco and Cajun music; I have a soft spot for “real” country music (yes, the twangy type); and I’d sell my soul if I could travel back in time to Vegas to see Frank, Dean and Sammy up on stage.

Still, for all my love of classical music, the sounds of summer are those great tunes that just make you want to tap your foot and sing along.

King of New Orleans – Better Than Ezra

A friend in New Orleans recommended this band, which hails from the Crescent City. The song was a hit for them off their 1996 album Friction, Baby. The lyrics aren’t all that upbeat, but the song’s energy perfectly captures the incredible vibe of a sticky summer night in that enigmatic place. If you’ve ever been there, you’ll know it immediately, and if you haven’t, you’ll want to go.
Buy: iTunes |

Walking In Memphis – Marc Cohn

This was Marc Cohn’s biggest hit, released in 1991, written about his visit to Memphis in the 1980s. It’s an ode to some of America’s greatest music and in addition to remembering Elvis, it mentions W.C. Handy, often called the “Father of the Blues.” The song also commemorates Muriel Wilkins, a deeply religious woman who indeed played piano every Friday at the Hollywood Café. She asked Cohn, who is Jewish, if he was a Christian. His answer, immortalized in the song, is one of the greatest lines in music.
Buy: iTunes |

Tear-Stained Letter – Jo-El Sonnier

Known as the “King of Cajun,” Jo-El Sonnier started playing the accordion when he was three years old. The song was written by a British musician, but Sonnier turned it into a Louisiana legend. I saw him perform it at a New Orleans festival and wrote about it for a magazine; I sent it to Sonnier and got a lovely handwritten letter in return. But it would be on my playlist even without his note!
Buy: iTunes

Maybe It Was Memphis – Pam Tillis

Are we seeing a Memphis theme here? Maybe, but this song is more about connecting with a person than with a place. Tillis remembers a lover through a “misty moonlight,” and you can feel the breeze on the porch swing on that hot summer evening. Yeah, I know. But even we crusty types have moonlit nights with special people that we remember with mysterious little smiles.
Buy: iTunes |

One More Summer – The Rainmakers

You’re on a beach. You find a magic lantern. You rub it, and a genie appears. Do you ask her for gold, or diamonds, or the lottery numbers? Not a chance – you ask for one more summer. Based in Kansas City, Missouri, The Rainmakers released this on their 1987 album Tornado. It makes you want summer to go on forever.
Buy: iTunes

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