Acoustic & Organic

04 Oct

In an excellent dialogue recently posted at, Taylor Hicks again verifies that his next compilation will be more acoustic and organic. So, that begs the question, just what IS acoustic and organic. Well, in the simplest form, acoustic is defined as “music that is not electronically enhanced” and generally refers to guitars. The organic part, to me, simply means natural and not contrived.

Got me to thinking about my favorite acoustic/organic performers. After a discussion of the topic with my buddy, Shrew, we came up with a few examples of what we think epitomize acoustic/organic.

First, there are songs that have been done with heavy instrumentation and tempo and then re-done acoustically. One of the best examples of this, is Eric “god” Clapton’s Layla. Here is the original (written with Patti Harrison as the muse):

and then, there’s the much more palatable “unplugged” version:

See? Acoustic/Organic?

Perhaps the most prolific acoustic/organic artist, ever, is James Taylor. James’ sweet tones and heartfelt lyrics have influenced many of today’s artists. One of my favorite James Taylor CDs is In the Pocket, and includes Daddy’s All Gone:

But, I can’t mention James Taylor without thinking of dear, Dan Fogelberg and his mellow tunes:

Leader of the Band

Additionally, many of today’s artists often mention Cat Stevens as an influence, as well:

Wild World

Many acoustic/organic artists arose out of the 60s and 70s with music that was not only pleasing to the ear, but had a significant message, as well. Joni Mitchell provided several songs that encapsulated some of the feelings of the changing world in the early 70s. Big Yellow Taxi is just one:

The songwriting duo of Kenny Loggins and Jim Messina provided many hits, but Danny’s Song really hit home about what the important things in life are:

And, Gordon Lightfoot brought new meaning to the traditional “love” song:

If You Could Read My Mind

The influence of these early acoustic/organic pioneers is evident in today’s performances. For example:

Thank You, Alanis Morrisette

Keep it Loose, Keep it Tight, Amos Lee

Forever My Friend, Ray LaMontagne

Heart of Life, John Mayer

Even though Johnny Boy’s music has some “electronic” infusion, the acoustical certainly overrides. Basically, the acoustical sound is sharper without multiple instruments competing. It’s simple in melody and showcases the voice.

Perhaps, a little like Jim Croce:

Alabama Rain

or Bill Withers:

Ain’t No Sunshine

Much of the blues is acoustic/organic, as well, like this tasty sample of Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks:

Old Friend

and the sweet stylings of Leon Redbone:

Harvest Moon

While I could go on and on regarding acoustic/organic, I figured it would be appropriate to finish up with a couple of acoustic/organic samples from a couple of Beatles.

Mull of Kintyre, Paul McCartney (a Mr. D. favorite!)

My Sweet Lord, George Harrison

There are ample examples of viable acoustic/organic performances to emulate, but I’m pretty sure that Taylor Hicks knows how to “make it do what it do”.


Posted by on October 4, 2007 in acoustic


15 responses to “Acoustic & Organic

  1. jenfera

    October 4, 2007 at 8:52 am

    I’m taking issue with calling the acoustic version of Layla more “palatable.” I like them both. They are different, but I don’t think one is better than the other. Sometimes, a screaming electric guitar really makes a point, doesn’t it? In the original version of Layla, the pain of his desire for this woman is not only sung in words, but echoed by that guitar riff.

    By comparison, the acoustic version, recorded years after when the real pain wasn’t so raw, is practically plodding. It is still enjoyable to listen to, but for me, doesn’t have as much emotion as the fully electrified version.

  2. music maven

    October 4, 2007 at 9:15 am

    I can see what you’re saying but I absolutely HATED the first Layla. (Almost as much as I despise Hung on Top Chef.) I dislike the drug induced “frenziness” and manic-ness out of the song. For a control freak, it is WAAAYYY out of my comfort level. The acoustic displays the song and communicates the longing of the unrequited love — you can actually make out what he’s saying. (Did I just sound like my mother?)

    “…plodding” — sheesh. Your breakin’ my heart, there, kid.

  3. brc

    October 4, 2007 at 11:53 am

    Great post MM and Shrew. I love music that is “acoustic and organic.” It puts the focus completely on the melody and the message rather than electronic gymnastics and synthesized sound. There is a purity about it that I find highly appealing.

    IMHO I think Taylor’s voice and style are much better suited to “organic” sound than the overproduced music on his most recent CD. I am really looking forward to seeing what he puts together for his next CD and tour.

    You gave some great examples (both old and new). Here are a few of my acoustic and organic favorites:

    Here Comes the Sun – George Harrison

    Yesterday – Paul McCartney

    Georgia on my Mind — Willie Nelson

    Taylor’s version of Georgia from In Your Time is frickin’ AMAZING, organic and acoustic! In fact that whole album qualifies. I couldn’t embed it here.

    Hello Lonely — Taylor Hicks
    [audio src="" /]

    And lastly I have to agree with MM on Layla. I find the unplugged version to be much more emotional and genuine.

  4. jenfera

    October 4, 2007 at 12:07 pm

    We can agree to disagree! I am feeling way too proud of myself right now for actually contributing a thoughtful, decently written comment to this blog for a change. (As opposed to my usual – “cool, MM! I like that song too!” or, no comment at all because I don’t feel smart enough on the topic.)

    Here’s what I hear on the original – the emotion is raw – he is angry with passion, screaming out her name – LAYLA! Don’t you see what you are doing to me? You are making me crazy here!!

    Where, on the acoustic version, it is 25 years later, he’s about had it with this Layla chick, he’s sick of begging, and this is the last time he’s gonna do it.

    Two different sides of the same emotion, on the same song, by the same guy. Which is really very cool.

  5. morewines

    October 4, 2007 at 12:18 pm

    I think had been testing the waters with his
    acoustic, organic style towards the end of his
    tour. Such as when he sang “Happier With Him”.
    I remember seeing a video on a message board that I don’t visit anymore. Here is a link to the video.

    I think he got such a good response from anything he does acoustically that his next CD will be full of acoustic music.

  6. shrewspeaks

    October 4, 2007 at 1:10 pm

    Doh”’I forgot Neil Young!

  7. brc

    October 4, 2007 at 1:58 pm

    Jenfera your posts are always thoughtful and decently written. I feel like you do… sometimes I don’t have much to contribute myself but want to acknowledge my appreciation for what others say. Sometimes I have something to say. What I love about this and other communities that we all participate in is that we can agree to disagree… even if you are a Red Sox fan 🙂

  8. brc

    October 4, 2007 at 2:20 pm

    I was just thinking about “acoustic” songs that are piano rather than guitar… does that count?

    John Ondrasik – World (I like this version better than the Five For Fighting version)

    Billy Joel & Ray Charles — Baby Grand
    There is a lot of accompaniment, but I think it still applies

  9. Colette

    October 4, 2007 at 2:28 pm

    I think the “unplugged” series on MTV was a great contribution to pop because it showed how the best talents (including even rockers like Kurt Cobain) have the goods to sit on your front porch with an acoustic guitar and make wonderful music.
    I’ve often heard that one of the big problems these days in pop music, is that there’s so much electronic augmentation on recordings that it’s hard to tell if many of the big, younger artists can actually perform well in public. Often they can’t, which leads to lip-sync debacles and audience disappointment.
    I love electrified music at its best. But when I hear Amos Lee or Ray Lamontagne play acoustically, I know they’re the real deal.

    PS I agree about “Layla”! There’s a tune that benefited from screaming guitars. And the edge is truly off in the lilting acoustic version….

  10. shrewspeaks

    October 4, 2007 at 9:46 pm

    So…no arguments…I mean discussions about old Gordon?

    Ah the question of Layla…
    There are often times when the grind of salty fingers on the frets and the out of control vocals of the electric version are exactly what I need to hear…especially with the sweet sweet relief of the piano and guitar instrumental epilogue; although Martin Scorsese has altered my visual perception of that ending with his use of it in Goodfellows.

    But I remember it was Clapton’s Unplugged cd that made me respect MTV once again for a breif and shiny moment in the 90’s. I was really surprised how the folksy homespun version of Layla felt good…really good. It was familiar with small surprising twists. It did provide me with a new found respect for turns of phrases like:

    “Let’s make the best of the situation
    Before I finally go insane.
    Please don’t say we’ll never find a way
    And tell me all my love’s in vain. ”

    Funny that the sentiment stayed so true whether sung with the heat of a man in his 20’s or the ironic naked honesty of a man in his 40s.

  11. RedRoseSpeedway

    October 6, 2007 at 8:08 am

    I am enjoying the music on this blog immensely. I just discovered this place and I’ll be returning regularly.

  12. mamaforpeace

    October 6, 2007 at 8:27 pm

    Dang! That’s a lot of great music to listen to. Leon Redbone, yes I remember Leon from a long time ago, very retro even then. Whatever happened to him.
    I’m just going to have to quit my job and then I’ll have time to dig into all this wonderful stuff! Ha!!!

  13. mamaforpeace

    October 6, 2007 at 8:32 pm

    I’ve been listening a lot to john Boutte lately. I think this qualifies as acoustic and organic:

  14. Colette

    October 7, 2007 at 8:33 pm

    Thanks for the John Boutte link — what an interesting singer! Where’s he from?

    Made me think of this remarkable jazz singer, Jimmy Scott — now 82 and still amazing, just squeezes more meaning from a song than practically anyone — take a listen:

  15. music maven

    October 7, 2007 at 10:09 pm


    John Boutte is one of those New Orleans guys whose been under the radar outside of the Southeast.

    The guy playing with him, Paul Sanchez, is a member of Cowboy Mouth. Vance Degeneres, Ellen’s brother,is the guitarist for this group.

    While Cowboy Mouth is certainly NOT acoustic, John Boutte definitely is.

    Oh, and mamaforpeace…Leon Redbone is still around.


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