Music to make me cry?
November 28, 2007 7:48 PM   Subscribe

I've been listening to Johnny Cash's American V and it is breaking my heart. I'm in a wallowing mood and looking for other such raw emotional songs that are relatively simple (not a lot of instruments). Any genre.

Please suggest anything even if you think it is obvious as I do not listen to much music (I own three albums: Tom Waits, Henry Rollins and a CBC radio play of Jacob Two Two and the Hooded Fang if that helps any.). I also enjoy his version of Hurt and would love more like that type. I really can't be more specific as I know nothing about music. Crying in your beer type but not necessarily about broken love. More about broken lives.
posted by beautifulcheese to Media & Arts (57 answers total) 50 users marked this as a favorite
This thread has a ton of excellent recommendations. Wichita Lineman by Glen Campbell, and most anything by Leonard Cohen, are the first things that come to mind.
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:58 PM on November 28, 2007

Best answer: In a similar vein, you might enjoy Porter Wagoner's Wagonmaster. Some uptempo stuff too, but Committed to Parkview (A Johnny Cash number) and The Agony of Waiting might be right up that alley for you.
posted by pupdog at 7:58 PM on November 28, 2007

Best answer: Dust Bowl Ballads by Woody Guthrie is amazing.
posted by kitty teeth at 8:00 PM on November 28, 2007

The Handsome Family is a contemporary duo that you might really like, too.
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:02 PM on November 28, 2007

Best answer: Red House Painters are for you. Mark Kozalek in general. People seem to love Jeff Buckley for stuff like this. Uh, some of Will Oldham/Bonnie Prince Billy's stuff (see his I See a Darkness).

Ooh! Check out Cast King. Very similar to Johnny Cash's later stuff, and he's got an interest a href="">story all his own.
posted by electric_counterpoint at 8:06 PM on November 28, 2007

I don't know what pushes your buttons, but these push mine.

Four in the Morning by Jesse Colin Young
Home is Where the Hatred Is by Gil Scott Heron
Our Mother The Mountain by Townes Van Zandt (or Joel RL Phelps and the Downer Trio)
House Carpenter by pretty much anyone, Dylan does a good version so does Dave Van Ronk
Monsters by Something for Kate (maybe too cheesy/poppy)
You Stay Here by Richard Shindell
posted by jessamyn at 8:07 PM on November 28, 2007

Blue Horizon, Sydney Bechet
posted by tdischino at 8:14 PM on November 28, 2007

Best answer: Ooh what a fun question. Not even joking.

Ani DiFranco - You Had Time, Dilate

Van Morrison - Sweet Thing, Astral Weeks

Jeff Buckley - Hallelujah (Leonard Cohen cover, I like Buckley's better..that link has three versions of it)

Bright Eyes - No Lies, Just Love (this one is not simple musically but it's very raw)

Cat Power - I Found a Reason

Damien Rice - Delicate

Fiona Apple - Never is a Promise

Imogen Heap - Hide & Seek

Rilo Kiley - I Never

Rolling Stones - Moonlight Mile

Robert Plant - Song to the Siren

Tori Amos - A Case of You (the Joni Mitchell original works too but I like the cover better)

Elliott Smith - Between the Bars (I think that's his most popular song, I'm sure other people will have more to say about him, but he's definitely what you're looking for)

That's what I could find on Feel better, or worse, which I suppose is what you're going for.
posted by tatiana wishbone at 8:20 PM on November 28, 2007 [1 favorite]

John Prine - Sam Stone
posted by a.mosquito at 8:28 PM on November 28, 2007

Anything by Nick Cave, Leonard Cohen, and The Decemberists should make your head feel as heavy as the world seems.
posted by iamkimiam at 8:28 PM on November 28, 2007

Edith Piaf
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 8:29 PM on November 28, 2007

Response by poster: Thank you. Keep 'em coming. From what I've heard I'll be weary for days which is great. Also Boo! to sites that don't let you listen if you are not in the US.
posted by beautifulcheese at 8:32 PM on November 28, 2007

Best answer: Willie Nelson: the Crazy Demo Sessions. Just him and a guitar.
posted by Nelson at 8:34 PM on November 28, 2007

Best answer: The Mountain Goats. Get "The Sunset Tree" (which is about growing up with an abusive stepfather) and "Tallahassee" (about a self-destructive, alcoholic couple) to start.
posted by contraption at 9:02 PM on November 28, 2007

Lyle Lovett's album Joshua Judges Ruth is excellent for wallowing in.
posted by Quonab at 9:04 PM on November 28, 2007

Seconding Willie Nelson. Damn, but I love that man.

Not in the same country vein, but some of the most haunting music you'll ever hear: Chet Baker -- start out with either Chet Baker Sings or Deep in a Dream. You'll thank me between tears.

others that occur to me randomly:
- Billie Holliday (needs no explanation, I think)
- Nina Simone (a goddess on earth, for real)
- Grant Lee Buffalo (poignant '90s alt-country)
- The Pogues (spectacular Irish/punk hybrid with some of the most heartbreaking lyrics you'll ever hear)
- Califone (current moody alt-country electronica hybrid)
posted by scody at 9:06 PM on November 28, 2007

Best answer: Here are a couple of albums I use for just these sort of moods.

Okkervil River - Black Sheep Boy
Ryan Adams - Easy Tiger
Beck - Sea Change
Drive-By Truckers - A Blessing And a Curse
posted by nulledge at 9:17 PM on November 28, 2007

Best answer: There's a lot of Elvis Costello that is great wallowing music. Among others: Brutal Youth (song), All the Rage, Any King's Shilling, Indoor Fireworks, Baby Plays Around, Last Boat Leaving. Those are just the first that come to mind.
Oh god, and his cover of "Good Year for the Roses" will tear your heart out.
The Chieftains' duet album, "Long Black Veil", has a good bit of music that makes me cry -- the title track, sung by Mick Jagger, Tennessee Waltz sung by Tom Jones, Foggy Dew sung by Sinead O'Connor.
My mom can't listen to Stagger Lee because the lyrics make her cry ("I've got three little children and a very sickly wife").
Somebody once made fun of me because I had an iPod playlist called "sad music". Glad to see I'm not the only one who enjoys a bit of melancholy once in a while.
posted by katemonster at 9:21 PM on November 28, 2007

Neil Young's On The Beach. Side two is sparse , bleak and is guaranteed to break your heart.
posted by Neiltupper at 9:25 PM on November 28, 2007

Bob Dylan - Most of the Time (High Fidelity Soundtrack)

Beth Orton - I Wish I Never Saw The Sunshine

This Mortal Coil - Song To The Siren

For an instrumental, try REM's "New Orleans Instrumental No. 1," the lonesomest song with no words I've ever heard. Pretty spare.
posted by kookoobirdz at 9:30 PM on November 28, 2007

Best answer: I 2nd Okkervil River's Black Sheep Boy.

I find a lot of Wilco's Sky Blue Sky to be that perfectly sad, sort of beautiful thing that you're looking for (especially Impossible Germany).
posted by Flamingo at 9:36 PM on November 28, 2007

Best answer: Willard Grant Conspiracy,

Elliot Smith - New Moon is a double album of demo versions and simple acoustic songs. Music to drink a bottle bourbon and slit your wrists to.

Micah P Hinson and the Gospel of Progress is also very melancholy, particularly the song "The day Texas Sank To the Bottom Of the Sea"

and nthing Black Sheep Boy by Okkervil River. They have a few mp3s available for free from their website.
posted by robotot at 9:56 PM on November 28, 2007

Best answer: Slaid Cleaves - Lydia

have tissues handy, do not listen while driving
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 9:57 PM on November 28, 2007

I love that CD,, heartbreakingly wonderful. Nth Willie Nelson and Leonard Cohen. The artist who came to mind first when I read this, though, is a guy called Scott Miller (and the Commonwealth)-he does a song on his album Thus ALways to Tyrants called Room on the Cross for Me (listen here) -heartbreaking and raw. Saw him perform it live in a tiny local bar right after I went through a horrible break up and it stopped my heart.
posted by purenitrous at 9:57 PM on November 28, 2007

Harry Chapin- Cat's in the Cradle.

Mentioned in the earlier thread, but it bears repeating here. No other song so sad that can bring a tear to my eye every time.
posted by Saydur at 10:00 PM on November 28, 2007

Best answer: He's been mentioned already but I have to bring him up again: Elliott Smith, Elliott Smith, Elliott Smith, Elliott Smith! He wrote such sad, beautiful songs and then one day he was gone.

Xiu Xiu has a lot of sparse, sad songs, too. The line "He said it did not cost me anything" ends up being one of the saddest lines I know of based on the context and the overall feel of the song.

Sparklehorse has more of a surreal slant, but a lot of the songs are low key and have the kind of vibe you're looking for.
posted by burnmp3s at 10:10 PM on November 28, 2007

Seconding the Handsome Family (really, can't recommend them strongly enough). In that same vein, try Jim White's Drill A Hole in That Substrate...

And I'll also recommend Springsteen's folk/acoustic album Nebraska (and, to a lesser extent, The Ghost of Tom Joad and Devils & Dust)
posted by mullacc at 10:15 PM on November 28, 2007

Disc three of Unearthed is pretty damn good--esp Redemption Song.
posted by jeffamaphone at 10:44 PM on November 28, 2007

Best answer: Jeff Buckley is a great call by electric_counterpoint, as are the mentions of Elliott Smith.

Explosions in the Sky's The Earth is not a Cold Dead Place and All of a Sudden, I Miss Everyone can certainly bring the sad if you're in the right mood. Also, look into the song "Safe and Broken" by Styrofoam.

And, just because it's obvious: emo, emo, and more emo. Specifically, The Juliana Theory.
posted by phaded at 10:56 PM on November 28, 2007

You can listen to "Safe and Broken" here.
posted by phaded at 10:59 PM on November 28, 2007

No one has mentioned George Jones! George Jones must be represented!

The Handsome Family is a definite must-have in this category.

Nick Drake, particularly Pink Moon.
posted by winna at 11:17 PM on November 28, 2007

Response by poster: What would be a good place to start with The Handsome Family? They have quite the list on iTunes and I'm at a loss of where to dig in.
posted by beautifulcheese at 11:28 PM on November 28, 2007

The album Trouble by Ray LaMontagne (raw). Pink Moon my Nick Drake seconded (sparse).
posted by |n$eCur3 at 11:34 PM on November 28, 2007

Best answer: Smog is the one thing not mentioned that came to mind.

What would be a good place to start with The Handsome Family?

The only song I know by them that I really love is "Weightless Again", so FWIW I'd go with whatever album that's on.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 12:02 AM on November 29, 2007

Best answer: I second electric_counterpoint's suggestion for Bonnie 'Prince' Billy / Will Oldham. Especially 'I See A Darkness', which is one of the few records i know that really gives me goosebumps. If you want to hear one song from that record try 'Nomadic Revery (All Around)', the climax of that song is simply..indescribable. Another song you might like is 'New Partner' from Oldham's 'Viva Last Blues' album.
posted by husky at 2:42 AM on November 29, 2007

Best answer: Definitely Bonnie Prince Billy (a.k.a.) Will Oldham. I See a Darkness was covered by Johnny Cash on American III.
posted by tallus at 2:58 AM on November 29, 2007

Have a peek at this recent FPP. "Beeswing" in particular always makes me cry.
posted by Daily Alice at 3:52 AM on November 29, 2007

Totally second the Smog. You could try Roy Harper's "Another Day," too.
posted by DenOfSizer at 4:12 AM on November 29, 2007

Banjo music by Roscoe Holcomb or Dock Boggs. Country blues at its best.
posted by OmieWise at 5:31 AM on November 29, 2007

Tori Amos
Gold Dust (as well as much of the rest of Scarlet's Walk. Not exactly minimalist, but it's simple.)

Bright Eyes
If the Brakeman Turns My Way
Make a Plan to Love Me
No One Would Riot for Less
Land Locked Blues
Poison Oak


We Never Change
The Scientist

Sixpence None the Richer
Much of their self-titles CD but particularly:
We Have Forgotten
Easy to Ignore
The Lines of My Earth
I Won't Stay Long


Love is Blindness
Sometimes You Can't Make It on Your Own
The Hands That Built America
Running to Stand Still
Love Rescue Me

10,000 Maniacs
Noah's Dove
(The MTV Unplugged versions for the above 2 songs are preferred)
How You've Grown

Anna Nalick

Breathe (2 AM)

Bruce Springsteen
My Hometown
Streets of Philadelphia
Secret Garden (maybe - it has that effect on me anyway)

Elton John
Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word
Someone's Final Song
posted by The Deej at 5:39 AM on November 29, 2007

Best answer: Daniel Johnston. He had a movie about him and everything.

His most accessible stuff is on Late Great Daniel Johnston: Discovered Covered which is sort of a Greatest Hits meets Covers album. It's two discs - one is all his stuff, the other is all covers of his stuff, much of it by people mentioned above (Bright Eyes, Tom Waits, Beck, etc).
posted by robocop is bleeding at 6:02 AM on November 29, 2007

Aaaaargh, Nelson beat me to the Willie Nelson (Crazt Demo Sessions) recommendation.

Also nth-ing Handsome Family, Nick Drake, Leonard Cohen, and Woody Guthrie.

Damn, this is what I get for sleeping at night instead of keeping up with AskMe.
posted by Rykey at 6:34 AM on November 29, 2007

Skip James and Son House. Son House's recordings from the mid-60s in particular contain some real gut-punchers (e.g. "Death Letter" and "Grinning in Your Face".)

Good music to sit in the dark and have a drink to.
posted by ryanshepard at 7:17 AM on November 29, 2007

Best answer: Nthing many of the popular suggestions (Jeff Buckley, Elliot Smith, Nick Drake, Smog, Wilco, etc. etc...)

Just so you don't get too hung up on guys with guitars, might I suggest Arvo Pärt?

He's an Estonian composer who makes some hauntingly beautiful downer music. Don't let the fact that you haven't heard of him scare you off. I've heard many stories of his music bringing comfort to people with terminal diseases.

The article above mentions Tabula Rasa. I would also suggest Spiegel im Spiegel.
posted by SpiffyRob at 7:23 AM on November 29, 2007

Where Did You Sleep Last Night? by Lead Belly
posted by drezdn at 7:31 AM on November 29, 2007

Which apparently is on that album...but is here.
posted by drezdn at 7:33 AM on November 29, 2007

Best answer: The more recent Solomon Burke is really tight (his voice cuts deep).
posted by subajestad at 8:00 AM on November 29, 2007

Best answer: Some great suggestions so far. And some that made me say "Huh". But I suppose that is the result when you ask for suggestions that are based on personal taste. I need to use this thread to try out some new stuff myself.

I second Nick Cave. I've found "The Boatman's Call" to contain at least a few songs that are emotionally raw in the way you seem to like.

A song that fits the bill, in my opinion, is "Cold Missouri Water" by James Keelaghan (also done by Cry Cry Cry). It's a song about a fire crew chief who had 13 kids working under him killed fighting the Mann Gulch fire in Montana in 1949 (chronicled in Young Men and Fire by Norman Maclean. He also (purportedly) conceived on that day of using backfiring as a forest fire survival tactic.

Jason Webley is another great artist. One of my favorite introductory lines by a musician before playing a song, "This is the happiest song I know...about death."
Try "Against the Night", "It's Not Time to Go Yet", "Goodbye Forever Once Again", and "Counterpoint".
Though a dislike for the accordion may make this suggestion moot.

Also possibly "Hobroken Dreams" by the US Bombs
posted by Seamus at 8:28 AM on November 29, 2007

Best answer: Straightaways by Son Volt.

Much closer to the tone and feeling of the Johnny Cash "American" albums than the majority listed above.
posted by dbolll at 9:44 AM on November 29, 2007

Best answer: Lots of good suggestions on here.

Time by Tom Waits, though Tori Amos does a version that is lovely as well. Also, 1000 Oceans by Tori Amos is good and so so sad.

Sad and Beautiful World by Sparklehorse

The Blower's Daughter by Damien Rice

Fade Into You by Mazzy Star

Anything by Elliott Smith but especially Angeles, Between the Bars, Say Yes and Miss Misery

Forgiven and Two Points by Deb Talan are both gorgeous songs.

Another Lonely Day and Waiting on an Angel by Ben Harper

Also seconding Ani DiFranco's You Had Time, but she also sings a great (and sad) song called Both Hands
posted by triggerfinger at 11:57 AM on November 29, 2007

Love Ridden by Fiona Apple.
posted by howiamdifferent at 1:36 PM on November 29, 2007

Tomorrow by U2
posted by Bearman at 4:12 PM on November 29, 2007

Response by poster: Okay, well obviously every one gets best answer. I just marked things that i've had the chance to listen too so far.

Ones that are destroying me in such a good way:

Most everything by Richard Shindell
Jeff Buckley's Hallelujah (who I always mixed up with some blind canadian musician with the name of jeff so almost didn't grab it)
Damien Rice
Townes Van Zandt
and that Lydia song. Oh jeez. all of it powerful great soul searing stuff. Thanks askmefi.
posted by beautifulcheese at 7:04 PM on November 29, 2007

Okkervil River's "The War Criminal Rises and Speaks" brings tears to my eyes every time I hear it, and I'm not one to be affected by pop songs. It's one that's worth following along with the lyrics (under Media / Down the River of Golden Dreams) at least once to really let yourself get into it. That album, incidentally, isn't as dark as Black Sheep Boy, but is still full of sadness and death.

Handsome Family's "Sad Milkman" I once heard described as the saddest song ever written. Sally Timms said that, and I think her rendition of the song is the one I would recommend.

Elvis Perkins' "Ash Wednesday" is almost unbearably sad once you discover what the song is/is about. Be fair and give it a listen or two before seeking that information out.

"No One Called You a Failure" from Kamikaze Hearts probably fits the general mood of what you're looking for, but it's not necessarily a tear jerker.

And if you need some comic relief after emptying your ducts, Flight of the Conchords' "I'm Not Cryin" should certainly be in the mix.
posted by pokermonk at 10:50 PM on November 29, 2007

I second the rumblings about Nick Cave and Leonard Cohen. Lesser known, but nonetheless amazing, is Cisco Houston.
posted by jdruk at 7:10 AM on November 30, 2007

Golden by My Morning Jacket.
posted by changeling at 1:47 PM on November 30, 2007

I accidentally found this thread, and of course I love it. The entire thing would sem to be a sham if no one ever mentioned Counting Crows, and specifically their album "August and Everything After". Adam Duritz, the lead singer, once described the album as "mopey". Beyond that description, it's probably my favorite album of all time.
posted by sanka at 9:58 PM on January 4, 2008

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