Monday, 26 November 2012

10 Great River Songs

I'm going to ease myself back into the blog with a rather rudimentary post. Sometimes in music you see some themes develop amongst the songs. Whether they are lyrical themes, trends in style and dress or a new instrument or device artists use to create their sounds, it's undeniable. Rivers are used often in songs to convey something mystical or insurmountable. Perhaps it's because they are natural borders and can symbolize the boundaries and walls we deal with in our every day lives. Here are 10 great songs about rivers.

1. "Many Rivers To Cross" - Jimmy Cliff

A popular song used at funerals and memorials, Jimmy Cliff wrote this song when he was struggling to gain some kind of recognition through grueling tours. He was touring Europe and crossed the English Channel when he wondered what more he had to do to gain acceptance. This song was enough to launch his acting career and cement his position as being one of the best known Reggae artists.

2. "St. Lawrence River" - David Usher

David Usher first gained fame in his native Canada as the front man for the alt-rock group Moist. He released his first solo artist in 1998 named Little Songs. The songs on his debut album were more introspective and had a slower, more pensive pace than what Moist fans were used to. Moist would later disband in 2000 as Usher continues to record as a solo artist. The St. Lawrence River is known to Canadians in Ontario and Quebec as well as Americans in the North Eastern States as being one of the natural indicators of the Canada/USA border.

3. "Find The River" - REM

Automatic For The People was as close as REM came to releasing a perfect album. "Find The River" is the final haunting track and is one of my personal favourites. It features an odd vocal harmonization from bass player Mike Mills and Drummer Bill Berry. They each listened to the song and added the backing vocals that felt fit the song, but didn't listen to each other's tracks. The result is quite interesting.

4. "River Of Styx" - High Holy Days

One of the only musical exports from North Bay, Ontario that ever made a ripple was High Holy Days who were Christened by The Tea Party's Jeff Martin. The first song released off their debut All My Real Friends was "River of Styx" which stood out from other songs that mainstream was playing, but sadly never got the push or promotion other High Holy Days singles received. The band would re-release "River of Styx" a few years later remixed and over-produced to even less interest. Sorry about the's the only one on Youtube I could find of it...

5. "River Of Dreams" - Billy Joel

Billy Joel often gets overlooked when talking about great pop artists from the 80's and 90's. River Of Dreams  was his last album of contemporary music. If only more artists knew when to bow out gracefully instead of releasing terrible albums and becoming imitations of themselves. And if only more artists would release albums as magical as River Of Dreams. Seriously, if you haven't heard the whole thing I strongly recommend it.

6. "The Humbling River" - Puscifer

Puscifer is Maynard Keenan's side project from his other groups Tool and A Perfect Circle. There is no real common vein in Puscifer's songs, it's merely a channel Maynard feels he can use to get his creativity out in ways that wouldn't fit with the other 2. Again, the theme in this song is being able to conquer anything except the metaphorical river.

7. "Somewhere Down The Crazy River" - Robbie Robertson

Legendary Canadian producer Daniel Lanois was working with Robertson on his up and coming album when Robbie started telling stories about hanging with Levon Helm in Arkansas. Lanois thankfully was recording and fiddling with a chill musical bed Robbie had laid down earlier. That's when they came up with the idea for "Somewhere Down The Crazy River" one of Robbie Robertson's biggest hits as a solo artist.

8. "Rivers Of Babylon" - Sublime

Originally written by Jamaican Reggae group The Melodians "Rivers of Babylon" was also recorded by Boney M in the late 70's.  Sublime's version was recorded live and featured as on an acoustic album of past performances released after singer Bradley Nowell's death. It's a sweet song and great reminder that Sublime's main influence was Reggae music.

9. "River Man" - Nick Drake

Haunting and enigmatic like all Nick Drake songs, "River Man" comes off of his debut Five Leaves Left. Drake used complicated timing and chord structure to ensure he could achieve the exact sound he wanted for his songs. Sadly it wasn't very marketable in the late 60's and Drake died nearly 20 years before his songs ever gained any kind of success.

10. "Meet Me By The River's Edge" - The Gaslight Anthem

This song is pure New Jersey rock. Borne out of warm nights in fast cars and Bruce Springsteen songs. Gaslight Anthem's whole album The 59 Sound is all like that actually. A perfect album from cover to cover, rare for this day and age. If you're looking for an album to harken back to your younger days of being free and stupid, pick this one up and give it a listen.

Hey that wasn't so bad



  1. Although I am very pleased to see Puscifer make an appearance, I cannot believe there is no "take me to the river"... You could have chosen either Al Green OR the Talking Heads.... Tsk tsk...

  2. Even though this song doesn't have the word "river" in its title, I love love love Aqueous Transmission by Incubus Brings me to a calm place! Cheers!