Acoustics! Assemble.

By Gaurav Gujar

The magic of a single instrument or just an acoustic song escorted with mild percussion beats can be seen as a perfect, simple slight version of perfect music. In an era of up-beat, funk, pop, techno, house, hip-hop and giant music labels with extraordinary musical arrangements, edits and symphonies many of us often tend to find that quietude in this parred back music. Explore great acoustic tracks with Acoustics! Assemble.

Here is a curated catalogue of the 10 acoustics tracks which might make you fall in love with simplicity again, and allows the artist to play with the power of lyrics and melody alone with their voices as the cherry on the top.

Left picture: Pixabay (stuarthamptom)

Crossroad BluesRobert Johnson (1936)

Often tagged as a man of mystery, this artist was one of the pioneer contributors to the ‘Blues’ genre for what it has become today. This particular song had so many stories and theories around it which kept it in the limelight. The song talks about asking the Lord for mercy and the singer’s voice with the guitar’s constant high note melody makes you understand the true essence of the ‘blues’. The song does haunt you for a while when listened carefully, and theories of Robert Johnson selling his soul to the devil for the success drips in subconsciously.

Freight TrainElizabeth Cotten (1950s)

Elizabeth Cotten was 11 years old when she wrote this song but was released in the 1950s with her impeccable finger-picking style. Being left-handed, flipping right-handed guitar to play with her fingers and thumb in unison for bass and lead notes made people call the style “cotten picking” which became really popular. Cotten won Grammy in 1985 at the age of 92. The song is lively yet gentle and her music embeds her individuality really well and her benevolent musical enigma is felt thoroughly.

Blowin’ In The WindBob Dylan (1963)

This song was considered one of the main anthems of anti-war and civil rights movements. It speaks about humanity, peace and the consequences of war and seems to have penetrated more hearts than shrapnel. Blowin’ In The Wind pairs plaintive lyrics with a perfectly minimal guitar accompaniment. Questioning the society with the lyrics at the age of 21, Dylan and his music were always way ahead of their time. Still a classic song of peace.

Heart of GoldNeil Young (1972)

The song is a quest. Search for the right one, is very relatable to today’s dilemma of finding love and living up to the expectations set by own self, society, partner and of course peer pressure. It depicts the way a person is crushed by the weight of expectations and the losing the charm of the journey just thinking about the destination which is not clear. Neil Young, in general never sounded young when it came to his music and songwriting and his music has links to old folk, country and rock music.

Redemption SongBob Marley (1980)

Bob Marley needs no introduction and no matter how much you praise this artist; it won’t be enough. This song is a timeless inspiration to so many for decades and is relatable even today. Bob Marley’s last song, his last gift and boy does it give you goosebumps every time you hear it. The reality hits you hard and leaves you with a train of thoughts which questions the existence of literally everything you thought to be necessary and paramount to your life.

Fast CarTracy Chapman (1988)

Brilliant songwriting, and absolutely engaging and entrapping compared to the up-tempo chorus of nowadays. The song is narrated by a young woman dropping out of school merely out of compulsion and to help her alcoholic father whilst dreaming of eloping with her partner in a fast car. At the Nelson Mandela 70th birthday tribute concert, Wembley, London, 1988, Tracy Chapman came onto a vast stage in front of 74,000 people with just her guitar and blew away the audience.

HurtJohnny Cash (2002)

Entering the 21st century and still having the roots of acoustics from the 19th century makes us acknowledge the way the heart and soul desire simplicity. Johnny Cash’s hurt is emotionally epic and soul-tearing. This song actually is a cover of ‘Nine Inch Nails – Hurt’ but it is Cash’s voice which is magical. Johnny Cash always believed in the record producer Rick Rubin’s vision of recreating this terrific song under his label and agreed to record it in 2002. If you can watch the video for Hurt and remain unmoved, you might be made of concrete. In Cash’s hands, Trent Reznor’s tortured song about addiction becomes a powerful meditation on life and death. 

When I Was Your ManBruno Mars (2012)

For so many, the lyrics of this song may make them feel as if it’s them speaking their heart out. As Sam Lanksy said, “an emotional ballad that shows off Mars”. The sweet vocals and the name of the song, pierced through every layer of inhibitions and made so many believe in love even more. A man, a piano, a melody and the voice – that’s it. Nothing else is needed.

All of MeJohn Legend (2013)

Speaking about love songs and acoustics chartbusters, this had to be a part of this list. The heartfelt romanticism with a melody making you sing your heart out is the artist’s triumph.

Inspired by John Legend’s then-fiancée, now wife, model Chrissy Teigen. He later told Fuse: “The song is saying things that balance each other out: even when I lose, I’m winning; my head’s underwater, but I’m breathing fine; I give you all of me, you give me all of you.”

John Legend wrote this song with Toby Gad and there isn’t any debate about how real and relatable the lyrics are. Surely, a timeless love song played with utter genius simplicity on the piano.

Another BirthAndrea Abrami (2022)

A name known to some, an artist discovered by some, a gem found hopefully for all. Andrea Abrami who calls herself Sad Mafioso’ is an Italian musician, who grew up in Mexico. ‘Another Birth’ is her latest release with a soothing melody and a voice which bleeds sorrow and the powerful lyrics escorted by a bijou percussion section makes you want to listen to this masterpiece on loop. Another Birth is the third single from The Sad Mafioso, in which she tells us about codependent relationships taking as an example the dynamic between a snail and the parasite that inhabits it, using it to survive, modifying its body and manipulating its behaviour.

If you enjoyed listening to these wonderful acoustic tracks, do read Man Cave.

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