The Lagniappe Sessions :: Johanna Samuels

Lagniappe (la ·gniappe) noun ‘lan-ˌyap,’ — 1. An extra or unexpected gift or benefit. 2. Something given or obtained as a gratuity or bonus.

Johanna Samuels was born into a breadth of music and musicianship, a household awash in Dylan, Petty, Neil, and the Fab Four. Parents who shared favorite bands, but for different reasons (mom: McCartney, dad: Lennon). The prophetic view of Dylan’s storytelling was front and center, and his Blonde on Blonde epic is responsible for her forename. Samuels emerged from the blend a hyper-creative, culminating last year in her Sam Evian-produced debut full length, Excelsior! For her Lagniappe Session, Samuels looks back, calling on nostalgic childhood sounds. There’s Dylan’s “Simple Twist of Fate”, the Beatles’ “Yes It Is”, Randy Newman’s “Real Emotional Girl”, and The Only Ones (by way of Yo La Tengo) “The Whole of The Law”. All careful, attuned, and respectful interpretations, Samuels notes on her selections, below…

Johanna Samuels :: The Whole of the Law (The Only Ones)

I fell in love with this song thinking it was a Yo La Tengo tune, they’re in my top ten favorite bands of all time. Only recently did I find out it was originally and song by The Only Ones. I love that recording as well. It’s just a real gooey, sad love song – especially Ira and Georgia’s version. It feels like you’re swimming through that longing and you can only open your hand to it and hope the other hand meets yours. Mega pure. I love that Yo la Tengo is a love story in itself. There’s such a potency to whatever they’re trying to get across sonically… always.

Johanna Samuels :: Yes it Is (The Beatles)

I was obsessed with this song after finding the double disc Apple Anthology Part 2 CD set when I was six. Hard to make calls like this, but I think it remains one of my favorite Beatles songs. Something about the way that John is singing. I’m a sucker for those early era harmonies, there’s a youthful sweetness there. The chord changes really feel like the song could have been written 200 years ago or in the ’40s or sung by the first heartbroken homosapien. The chorus is a perfect lift melodically. It’s a perfectly crafted song.

Johanna Samuels :: Simple Twist of Fate (Bob Dylan)

This is one of my favorite story songs – one of those musical, lyrical journeys that plays like a movie in your mind. There was definitely a period in my late teens and early twenties when I was only listening to Blood on The Tracks. I love how much pathos it has. It’s easy to go there with him. The record is chock full of those mind-movies with that overarching narrative. This track in particular sounds so lonely, like he’s really lost himself in that love. He’s got this memory looping and he has nothing left to do but say it out loud.

Johanna Samuels :: Real Emotional Girl (Randy Newman)

I was left speechless the first time I heard this one, like my heart had been hit in its bullseye. Randy Newman has that singular way of writing lyrics that are so humorous and sophisticated while so being dark. There are a few of his songs though that cut straight through, and are about pure tenderness and loneliness. I love those ones most. This is one of them. He paints such a vivid picture of someone using so little. Real emotionality and vulnerability are characteristics I possess that I’ve spent a lifetime feeling ashamed of. They’re not really truly encouraged socially, it’s uncomfortable for people. I love that the capacity to feel and love hard is what makes the woman in this song so beautiful. You can tell he loves her – that she is precious to him, “…Gotta hold on tight to her…” What a gem of a song.

Lagniappe Sessions Archives / imagery via d norsen

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