This week has been tough. A bunch of things have been piling up. And now I’ve got the blues…

A whole bunch of *stuff* piled up on me this week. Most of the stuff is minor, though when it all piles up at once, it can feel like a big load. Often, when I’m feeling depressed, I like to listen to music. Historically, I would choose music from James Taylor, whose voice somehow manages to console me. As my tastes have evolved, so have my musical choices. Though I’m not quite as blue this morning as I’ve been at other times, I thought I’d take a look at some of the songs that soothe me when I’ve got the blues. Note that these songs are not “blues” songs per se, though I may sneak one or two in.

Eric Clapton sings “Lonely Stranger” from his 1992 Unplugged album.

I don’t know why, but this song “Lonely Stranger” has been on my mind for the past couple of days. There’s something elegantly beautiful about this sad song, all about being a lonely stranger without a love in the world. That doesn’t describe me today, but it has in the past… or at least it seemed like it did. It’s nice to listen to this, even as I realize it’s been 22 years since Clapton’s Unplugged was released. Man, I feel old.

James Taylor’s classic song, “Bartender’s Blues”, certainly was a comfort when I worked in the restaurant industry. Anyone who has been a bartender or server can relate. Check out Linda Ronstadt’s searing backup.

Lots of artists have covered “Bartender’s Blues”. I found a very cool clip of Elvis Costello and Laura Cantrell teaming up on it. Vince Gill, Bonnie Raitt, and George Jones did it. Hell, even Amy Grant sang it!

This is weird. I never thought I’d hear Amy Grant singing about being a bartender.

I’ve found Jackson Browne is great when I’m in a low mood. There’s something about his dark piano chords and bitter vocals that just touches me at the core. Some of his melodies are just beautiful. And when he goes for those diminished chords, I just sigh.

Supposedly, this song is about Jackson Browne’s brief relationship with Joni Mitchell…

If “Fountain of Sorrow” was really about Joni Mitchell, she’s got to be one of the most inspirational people on the planet.

Joni Mitchell sings “Blue” in concert.

Speaking of Joni Mitchell, she’s pretty good for a melancholy song or two herself. I discovered her 1970 album Blue in 1999, when I was recovering from clinical depression. This song seems to be about the druggy culture of the early 70s, but there’s something about the melody that speaks to me when I’ve got the blues.

Keb’ Mo plays his gorgeous song, “Henry”.

Just listening to Keb’ Mo’ play “Henry” is enough to bring a lump to my throat. It’s not so much the words that do it as it is the hauntingly gorgeous melody and the sound of Keb’ Mo’s rich vocals.

Bonnie Raitt sings “Louise”, a song by Paul Siebel.

“Louise” is the sad ballad of a low class woman of who didn’t have a lot of friends, but was a friend to a lot of lonely men. Bonnie Raitt sings this with so much heart and appreciation as she recalls how Louise died alone and went home alone.

The Corrs have done an amazing version of REM’s “Everybody Hurts”.

While I like REM as much as anyone my age does, it’s The Corrs’ heartbreakingly beautiful cover of “Everybody Hurts” that makes me want to pour out the blues with a good cry. There’s something so moving about this rendition, especially given that suicide is a big problem in Ireland. The first time I heard it, I had to have the album it came from, even though it’s out of print.

Linda Ronstadt sings “Blue Bayou”…

And finally, here’s Linda Ronstadt in her prime, singing a soaring version of “Blue Bayou”, a song written by the late Roy Orbison. I love to sing this one myself, but no one does it quite how Linda does. And this melancholy song with its hopeful lyrics are helpful when I need to get over the blues.