This Seattle barman’s playlist will definitely shock, and delight.
“Well it doesn’t get much more disparate than this,” Chris Elford says, when I press him about two musical artists he’s kept around in his life since childhood.
“The first would be Mariah Carey. I’ve loved her music since I was a kid, and I still wake up to Always Be My Baby as my alarm clock.”
I will pause now for your appreciative laughter, dear reader.
“The other artist would be a Boston Metalcore band called Converge,” he continues. “I’ve been listening to them (and going to see them live) since I was 18, but they’ve been a band for over 30 years now. They put out what many consider the perfect metal album when I was a freshman in college … and it is just a frenetic, powerful, jarring, thrashed-out masterpiece. I will say that if you don’t like this album already, you are unlikely to enjoy it. But it’s worth knowing what it is, as art. If normal Metal is Halloween, this band is House of 1000 Corpses. We don’t choose what grabs us.”
We don’t indeed. However, Elford’s career as a bartender and his playlist is both highly worthy of attention. He’s grabbed a lot of headlines over the years, for opening several awarded, exceptional cocktail bars, being a well-versed beer nerd and creating a killer wine shop, to top it all off.
He has had a large hand in crafting Seattle’s exceptional food and beverage scene over the last many years, and he’s spending some much-needed downtime in this pandemic working on his own musical skills. You might find him with his Fender Princeton Reverb ‘65 Reissue, or actually drinking his drink that he made for this project. It is a funky-but-delicious, modified Midori Sour using Jim Beam White Label. “Beam, Midori, fresh pineapple, and lime. It’s a disco renegade cowboy freak,” Elford laughs. “Like a lot of music on this soundtrack, it doesn’t feel like it belongs in a specific decade or place, but it does feel like it belongs.”
What belongs in your life is some time to sit down and enjoy this playlist. It will likely bring a lot of new and international songs to your own collection. It’s a particularly good one for laying on the sofa, in a sunlight slice, just reminding yourself of the restorative power of great music.
You start off with a track called Worry, by a group called Songhoy Blues.
Let’s call this one an anthem for 2020 and 2021; a mantra of sorts.
“I have always had a soft spot for West African Psych Rock,” Elford says. “There was an explosion of bands in the genre in the ‘60s and ‘70s, right around when a lot of African countries were gaining their independence. A lot of them sing in English, and the instrumentation is familiar. They’re usually a couple of guitars, bass, and drums. Maybe a keyboard. They work with unique song structures, have a powerful social and political voice, and they absolutely rip on their instruments. This song is a shot of espresso mixed with a shot of mezcal. It gives me life from the first note.”
From there you move into Havana Maestros’ AmeriCuba, which is a collaboration effort by Cuban musicians, including a few from the famed Buena Vista Social Club.
“It was produced by these guys the Berman Brothers, who are actually best known for producing Who Let The Dogs Out by the Baja Men,” Elford adds.
From there, his choices mellow a bit, before closing strong with a groove by Farhot––a German / Afghan producer.
“I wanted this playlist to do a few things. I wanted it to give me (and others) life. I wanted it to celebrate diverse voices and cultures. I wanted it to be healing. And I wanted it to be a voyage of discovery for those that might not know so many of these artists. It skips genres like every song but I think it flows really well,” Elford says.
Title and Cocktail Photos by Luke McKinley