On the eve of her Jazz Fest appearance and a house concert, Kristin Diable discusses the songs that define her musical universe.

kristin diable photo by greg miles
Kristin Diable, by Greg Miles

The title Create Your Own Mythology is a clear signal that Kristin Diable means business. It carries weight, and she sings the songs aware that there are fundamental truths that need to be shared. Her voice doesn’t show a hint of strain, but Diable has a clear sense of purpose on the album.

As has been the case with all of her recordings, Diable locates herself in a broadly familiar, evocative historical musical space. Create Your Own Mythology brings to mind Dusty in Memphis-era Dusty Springfield—a sound partly created by the songs, Diable’s slightly husky, late night voice and producer Dave Cobb's sonic palate. The lead track, “I’ll Make Time for You,” is going to a go-go, while “Deepest Blue” creates a warm, clear space for Diable to share a secret with the listener.

Diablo will perform a house party concert tonight, and she’ll be at Jazz Fest Friday, May 1, when she’ll perform on the Acura Stage at 11:20 a.m. She has shared with us her musical Milky Way—the eight songs that chart her musical galaxy. When Pluto becomes a planet again, Diable and other musicians will get a ninth choice.

1. “A Change is Gonna Come”—Sam Cooke: It does all the things: the melody is incredible, it hooks you from the start. The lyrics are for everyman. It’s not too precious. It’s salt of the earth, but poignant. It is profound, epic, cinematic, tremendous in its sound, which gives light to the possibility of getting through the muck of life. The juxtaposition of grandiosity in the production/arrangement against the lyrical content of the stark tribulations of life is brilliant. It’s a triumph of an anthem for civil rights and to human capacity. And that voice! Few hold a candle to the purity in his.

2. “I Would Die 4 U”—Prince: Recently picked up Purple Rain on vinyl (from Domino Sound Record Shack, a great shop in Mid-City) and I just can't take it off the turntable. I like how he managed to take what is essentially a ballad and make it danceable. Yes.

3. “How It Feels to be Free”—Nina Simone: Nina is just from another universe. Her music has so much beauty in it, and her ability to channel longing is unlike any other. She breaks my heart. She's such an exceptionally gifted pianist and singer; it's amazing to consider that she initially didn't sing at all. She only started singing because she could get more gigs that way. Her ability to channel such intense emotion is just incredible. I know she was a real troubled soul, and it seems to me that because she was such a true, brilliant, untainted spirit, that's what gave her trouble bridging the gap between that infinite place where she came from, where she created from and regular old everyday living. She made such a tremendous contribution to our world while she was in it.

4. “Life on Mars?”—David Bowie: He's such a melodic genius. I like that the lyrics leave it up to you to interpret as if you may be from another planet. Life on Mars fees like life to me a lot these days. 

5. “Cajun Moon”—J.J. Cale: It's hard to just pick one song from J.J. He's on my playlists more often than not. I love how swampy and sexy this song is, but in such an understated way. J.J. is a master of this. This track always brings me back to the summer in South Louisiana, no matter how far my body may be from it. "Magnolia" is another essential. 

6. “Hallelujah”—Leonard Cohen: I hate throwing superlatives at anything, but god damn, I'm pretty sure this is the most poignant love song ever written. Cohen bridges the gap between mind and heart for me time and time again. This song is mastery of the heart-break and heart-make that love brings us. I've never heard it better than this. His writing and sentiments on the highs and lows of life really resonate with me. When Book of Longing came out, I read the whole thing in one sitting. And then read it again. He is an old friend I'm glad to have.

7. “I Won’t Back Down”—Tom Petty: Everybody needs an anthem to get them through some days. We need someone to confirm that yes, sometimes the world is shit, but yes, this is okay. Better keep chugging along to get to the other side of it. Petty know's how to make you feel good without you even thinking he ever tried to. One of the tightest, most in-the-pocket rock bands ever. 

8. “Black, Brown and White”—Big Bill Broonzy: Delta blues the music of the earth. Where we all started and where we're all going. It's so simpatico to me. Big Bill is my favorite of the many great delta bluesmen. A fantastic guitar player, great storyteller, and his voice—. As strong and commanding as it is, it also has a real vulnerability and sweetness to it. This particular tune is a powerful statement of the times. I believe this one was released in 1951, and in those times of such racial unrest, for an artist to write this kind of song was really brave. A true protest by simply telling the story. The gross inequality becomes so clearly wrong, just by telling the story and channeling the feeling of being in that place. You can hear his heart in this tune. It seems to me that no matter what your race, socio-economic background, religion or any other differentiation, you can't help but recognize your own heart, soul, and struggles in his. The way he shines the light on the fact that all our hearts are essentially the same is as relevant now as it was 60 years ago.