Second Hand Hearts by Dwight Yoakam (Album of the Week)

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Album: Second Hand Heart

Artist: Dwight Yoakam

About: 10 songs; 41 Minutes

Year: 2015

Choice: DJR Blogging

Sitting in the car while Dan belts out Dwight Yoakam tunes is a delight in my life. The odes to dudes done wrong are perfect fodder for car singing. And, while I never considered myself a Dwight Yoakum fan, I understood the appeal. When we were at the Forecastle Festival last year, my unexpected enjoyment was the Dwight Yoakum performance. The guy comes out all hat and bejeweled and he played his ever-living mind out. He also appeared to be having a whole lot of fun doing it. It isn’t hard to get onboard with that.

So, listening to Dwight over the week has been fun. This new album, Second Hand Heart is full of musical reference points – from Grand Ol’ Oprey, to Elvis, to early Rock n Roll. He honky tonks his way through the 10 songs on this album with gusto. The first song of the album, In Another World, bursts with this guitar line I discovered is called tremolo picking – a rapid picking of a couple of notes. That underlies the entirely, while three sweet electric guitar notes pierce it throughout. And on top of that is Dwight singing about lost love. Guy can’t catch a break in the love department, it seems.

The next song, She makes me hear Elvis’ Suspicious Minds every time I hear it. Elvis comes back later in the album on The Big Time where he throws in some uh-huhs that are totally Presley-esque.

It’s the third song on the album that I expect that I will be hearing on car trips. Dwight’s baby has done him wrong again, and the dreams he had have shown themselves to be Dreams of Clay. Poor Dwight will “forget about plans we had for me and you and dwell on thoughts lonely lives pursue.” I must say that a song like this, that is so honky tonk, would have been scoffed at by me a few years ago. Here is where my music taste has expanded enough to be able to enjoy this. I can even get on board with a song like Off Your Mind which sounds like Buck Owens on Hee Haw. On this one you have the hillbilly guitar line, the exaggerated backwoods drawl, and lines like “If you have dreams about someone like me, just take those pills of yours and get some sleep.” Yep, he even had me with this.

His songwriting is killer. The title song of the albums opens with the line, “She said when I trusted love I dreamed in color too.” What must the feeling be when you come up with a line like that? He turned that line into a back and forth conversation between two losers in love who are thinking about trusting that they could give love another try. It wraps up with that same line. It is standout among some really great tracks.

Naturally, Dan is a fan of this album. He is more of a student of Yoakam so he allows for his tales of love woe to be as expected, he also notes that even though the theme is the same, the freshness is something that delights even the seasoned listener.

The rockabilly song, Liar opens up with Dwight saying “we ought record this one just for kicks” and it jolts forward with sing-a-long, hand clapping, whooping, harmonica bending joy. You hear the kick they are getting.

There are two songs on the album that are not his creations. Both get fine Yoakam treatment. The first one is a blazing version of Man of Constant Sorrow that is much more Oh Brother Where Art Thou? than Joan Baez (the two versions of this song that I am familiar with). The album ends on Anthony Crawford’s V’s of Birds. This one could be a lullaby. It is a lovely sendoff for a barrel full of fun album.

As of this week, I am a Dwight Yoakam fan, and I may be warbling along with Dan in our traveling days to come.

Next Up: Steve Gunn, Way Out Weather

Ivy Tripp by Waxahatchee (Album of the Week)

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Album: Ivy Tripp

Artist: Waxahatchee

About: 13 songs; 38 Minutes

Released: 2015

Choice: Deliberate Obfuscation

Waxahatchee is the name of a creek in Alabama. Katie Crutchfield grew up near that creek and chose its name for the name of her band. “Band” is a little vague when it comes to the music of Waxahatchee. The music is mostly her voice with other sounds layered onto it. It makes for more interesting listening than would be the case if she just relied on her pretty voice and moody, reflective lyrics. This is a quick 38 minute album that features 13 bursts of musical creativity.

Many of the songs of Ivy Tripp have a do-it-yourself vibe that I loved. Summer of Love sounds like she is approaching that creek, swollen by rains, and racing by. She plops her recorder down on a rock while a dog barks nearby. She picks up her guitar and sings a melancholy song to a picture of her and a summer love. This is just one example how other sounds make the raspy sweetness of her voice more. On this one, the listener can imagine the scene – and wonder whose dog that is.

Stale by Noon is another single instrument song – this time a keyboard. On this one, she echos her own lyrics while an nursery rhyme songlike notes follow along. Again, on this one, the lyrics reflect loss and trying to figure things out – I could stop praying for everybody; I’m wasting my time. I’ll read your philosophy and get a new lease on life.”

Most of the other songs are denser than these two. My favorite of the album is Air which combines electric guitar and a cymbal/drum line that fits well with the mood of the song. Here her voice lifts and almost cries out “you were patiently giving me everything that I will never need.”

When she brings in the electric guitars and drumline, her voice can take on an edge that make you think that you don’t want to be on the wrong side of her. On a song like Under a Rock she almost snarls,

Your ravenous, insatiable

Appetite for the expendable

Will leave you just as hollow as your requiem

I like what Katie does throughout this album, and for me it works well. Dan, however, finds what she is doing on some of her songs sloppy and amateur. I disagree with him, but I understand where one could think that. Dan does see the talent here, however. For me, I like that there is something new to listen for in each track. It could be that the experimentation that she brings may not be to everyone’s liking, but no one can say all of her stuff sounds alike. Opening the album with a song that has dirge-y organ chords that rattle through its entirety is pretty bold. That low hum makes the song uncomfortable, but the lyrics are uncomfortable too – You take what you want / you wear it out / I’m not trying to be a rose / You see me how / I wish I was / But I’m not trying to be seen.

Ivy Tripp is a tour through Katie Crutchfield’s creative soul that can at times be lovely and melodic and at other times be discordant and bitter – and for me, that makes for a great and interesting listen.

Next up: Second Hand Heart by Dwight Yokum

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Good Things

weekI won’t even attempt to put a timeframe on this post. I have not had a typical good things post in so long, I have forgotten how I had even had that habit. These are busy days, I know, but I can’t believe that they have been so busy that I can’t sit myself down and rattle off what has made me happy, impressed me, inspired me, or in some way or the other made me take positive notice. I need to do that. It revs my engine. It balances me. It makes me accountable. It makes me a better world citizen when I make myself be more aware of goodness.

So, I will do my best to bring the habit back into my life. Here, I give you a recap of some of the things that I have taken note of during the last several weeks. Maybe you have noticed some of these too!

ypl_woodson_Brown_Girl_DreamingBrown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson – We had our annual Poetry Night Book Club last night. This is the night we all bring a poem or two to read aloud and say why we like it. My choice this year may have been my easiest choice ever. A few weeks ago I read Jacqueline Woodson’s National Book Award Winning Brown Girl Dreaming. Jacqueline’s book tells the story of her life – all in verse! She was born in Ohio in the 1960s, but did her growing up in South Carolina and Brooklyn. The pieces that she put together in this book weave a beautiful story of her family and the time during our country’s history when being a brown girl could sometimes be dangerous. The book is marketed as a young reader, but I think there is no age limit to love this book. Here is just a snippet.

sometimes,

no words are needed

Deep winter and the night air is cold. So still,

it feels like the world goes on forever in the darkness

until you look up and the earth stops

in a ceiling of stars. My head against

my grandfather’s arm.,

a blanket around us as we sit on the front porch swing.

Its whine like a song.

You don’t need words

on a night like this. Just the warmth

of your grandfather’s arm, Just the silent promise

that the world as we know it

will always be here.

bugNew Art

Dan and I went down to the Brookside Art Fair last weekend and I was taken by the art of Kreg Yingst, an artist from Florida. He does super cool block prints that are music themed. There were several that I could have been very happy with, but I decided on one with a vintage bug and Beatles lyrics. Everytime I walk past it hanging in our dining room it makes me smile!

Rotary073368_2219861926312520772_nWaldo-Brookside Rotary – For a few years, Dan has wanted to start a Rotary Club in our neighborhood. While he loves his current Rotary Club, he had the feeling that there was a niche for an evening club in our area where there lots of new businesses and active neighbors. It is now a real thing. Through his work and the support of the Plaza Rotary over fifty people have committed to being a charter member of the new club. I am one of them. I have already met some wonderful people – all with a commitment to make our city, nation, and world a better place. It is a great thing to be a part of from the very beginning, and I hope that Dan knows what a wonderful thing he was instrumental in bringing about! If you are in the area, we would love to join us at 5:30 at The Well in Waldo.

EdEThe 100 Day Project – There is an Internet challenge that started back at the beginning of April called the 100 Day Project. The goal is to pick something that you want to try to do for 100 days and go for it and document it. In my quest to be a little more creative, I decided to do this, but I had a little trouble coming up with what it was that my challenge could be. I kind of wanted to draw, and I came up with the best solution for someone who wants to draw but needs a lot of help with it. My project is #100Daysof EdEmberley. Since April 5, I have been drawing and posting an Ed Emberley inspired drawing on my Instagram feed. It has been fun, and there are so many creative things coming out of this challenge. I think I can make it until July 14!

zucchiniZucchini Noodle Maker – In our continuing quest to eat more Paleo, Dan and I happened onto a new gadget that has made our list of great things. This little device when scraped across a zucchini created noodley pieces of zucchini that can substitute for pasta when paired with things like shrimp scampi or beef stroganoff. I could eat them every day!

As I was going through my logbook pages for the last several weeks, there are a number of little things that bear mentioning since they too were great! Things such as: visiting Powell Gardens on a beautiful Saturday in Spring, cleaning out my utensil drawers, watching the Kentucky Derby with juleps and friends, Birdie snuggling on Dan, buying tickets for Pitchfork festival in Chicago and Jason Isbell at the Ryman Theater, Season 1 of the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Dan reading me Lake Isle of Innisfree in his William Butler Yeats voice, seeing the Drive By Truckers, peonies in bloom, them Royals!

That does it for this one. I hope there are many good things ahead for everyone!

Tracker by Mark Knopfler (Album of the Week)

tracker_coverAlbum: Tracker

Artist: Mark Knopfler

Year: 2015

About: 15 songs; 1 hour and 15 minutes

Choice: DJR blogging

Appropriately, the liner notes of Mark Knopfler’s new album, Tracker, contains a mini-essay by the novelist, Richard Ford. Ford is known for the beauty of the language of his stories, and the precision of his words. In the essay, he recounts that he pridefully told Knopfler about an offer he had to co-write some songs with a well-known musician. He asked Knopfler if he had any advice. Knopfler tells him to stick to his novel writing. The ability to pare down a story to a few verses and choruses was not, he advised, as easy as it may seem.

It appears to come abundantly easy to the seasoned song-writer who for many years headed the band, Dire Straits. Over a long one hour and 15 minutes, Knopfler tell fifteen stories. There are poets and boxers and truckers and lovers. This is an album full of the workers and oftentimes what the toll of that work bequeaths. None of this album is Sultans of Swing or Money for Nothing. This is more Mark Knopfler as Van Morrison or any other of the Celtic singers who bring a cultural sound to their craft that is unmistakable.

The album’s opening track is a kick. It starts with the familiar Brubeck Take Five line and then Celtic fiddles and then whistles come in. It works brilliantly. And here comes  Knopfler’s familiar voice, and you can picture yourself swaying and singing along to this in an pub as you lift your mug of Guinness. “Oh, laughs and jokes and drinks and smokes and no  light on the stairs. We were so young, so young, and always broke, not that we ever cared.” He nails it on that one.

The rest is a mixed bag for me. I think part of it is its length. I like to get the album as a whole in, but I don’t really have over an hour to spend listening to a single album (unless of course we have had a dinner with guests and multiple forms of beverage in multiple types of glassware are consumed. Then, my dishwashing/music listening time can certainly accommodate such a task). Many of the songs sounded so similar to me, and when they both sound similar and there are multiple, that can get a little tedious. I can’t say anything bad about his musicianship (so wonderful still is his guitar work), or his singing and harmonizing which are really great too. I just would have liked a shorter album with the strongest of these songs.

One of those for me was one of the album’s simplest. Beryl is a song tribute to the celebrated British writer, Beryl Bainbridge, who only received a Booker Prize for literature after she was dead. The sum of the song is:

Beryl was on another level / when she won a Booker medal / She was dead in her grave / after all that she gave

Beryl, everytime they overlook her / When they gave her a Booker / she was dead in her grave / after all that she gave

Beryl, the tobacco overtook her / When they gave her a Booker / she was dead in her grave / after all that she gave

It’s all too late now

This is one of the songs on the album that lets Knopfler’s familiar Dire Straits guitar work shines. 

Dan got much more out of this than I did, and I can possibly attribute it to the fact that I did not spend as much time with it. He finds a soul here that the early Dire Straights certainly did not have. He writes that what he finds is “warm, generous and comfortable.” I do not disagree with that. I am glad that Dan brought this one into my library, and if only for that first song, I would recommend it for a listen.

Next up: Ivy Tripp by Waxahatchee

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sometimes i sit and think, and sometimes i just sit. by Courtney Barnett (Album of the Week)

SIJS-2400Album: sometimes i sit and think, and sometimes i just sit.

Artist: Courtney Barnett

Released: 2015

About: 11 songs; 44 minutes

Choice: Deliberate Obfuscation

How can I not give the highest of  praise to an album that has the line “give me all your money, and I’ll make some origami, honey?” Courtney Barnett’s cleverness with lyrics continues in her new album, sometimes i sit and think, and sometimes i just sit. More than any other album this year, this is the one I have most looked forward to listening to. In 2013, I named Courtney Barnett’s double EP release as one of my top ten albums for that year (it was a stretch since it wasn’t truly an album, and several of the songs had been released prior to 2012). But, I loved the songs so much that I felt that they needed to be on my list. Unless something unheard of happens between now and year’s end, this one will be high up on my 2015 list.

The album combines her oh-so-cleverly-wonderful lyrics with a garage rock noise factory and a languid vocal style that is perfect for her Australian accent. I ate this one up, just as I expected that I would.

The album opens with Elevator Operator – a song about a twenty year old who chucks off his tie and work responsibilities and heads to a rooftop at the same time a woman whose “heels are high and her bag is snakeskin; hair pulled so tight you can see her skeleton.” She challenges him not to jump (especially since he has such great skin that she would give anything for), but he comes back at her by saying she seems to be the one there to jump; he is only there because it provides him a real life SimCity vantage point. She tells the tale to a thumping drum and twanging guitars. She rocks it out. She is kind of Lucinda Williams melting into Chrissie Hynde to create the next generation of women rockstars.

Not all of the songs give you the full throttle rock sound. Some have more of a dreamy slowed-down sound. My favorite song from her first EP was Avant Gardener which detailed having a panic asthma attack and the ambulance coming to rescue her. On this album, An Illustration of Loneliness (Sleepless in New York) has a very similar vibe and also has that quieter sound. There is still a grungey guitar line that backs her as she narrates not being able to sleep and finding the cracks in the ceiling as metaphor for the lines in her own palm. She then scares herself by what she sees:

I lay awake at four, staring at the wall

Counting all the cracks backwards in my best French

Reminds me of a book I skim-read in a surgery

All about palmistry, I wonder what’s in store for me

I pretend the plaster is the skin on my palms

And the cracks are representative of what is going on

I lose a breath… my love-line seems intertwined with death

As expected, this album makes me want to pay as much of attention to the words as I do the music. Each of the eleven songs on the album gives the listener a narrative – some silly; some serious. There is a girl trying to impress a boy in a public swimming pool only to end up losing consciousness by trying to hold her breath too long, then, coming to with the boy and his towel gone. Depreston follows her as she takes a look at a suburban home for sale and is overwhelmed by thinking about who lived in the space before. Dead Fox is a take on environmentalism.

Dan did not get as gushy as I did, but he agrees that this is a good listen and Courtney has it going on as a rock-n-roll gal. I could go on and on snipping and pasting lyrics, but I will just cut it here. There are just so many good ones! My advice is to listen to this one!

Next up: Tracker by Mark Knopfler

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Good Things – Special Wedding Edition #2

weddingFriday was the one week anniversary of Ali and Jose’s wedding. After spending the pre-wedding week in New Orleans and then driving back home last Sunday, my life still feels pretty much in post-wonderful-trip-scatteredness. My goal over last weekend was to figure out where I left off on everything pre-trip. Getting back to this blog and recapping our most excellent time feels like an important piece of this.

The wedding was, of course, the second in our family in 56 days. Back in January, we gathered in New York City January to celebrate Sam and Jean. This time we headed to New Orleans to make our family members number six! As we felt with Jean and Sam, Jose makes Ali even more than she already was – and that is a feat! Their combination of love and friendship and partnership is strong. I still remember driving them from the airport the first time we met Jose and them laughing together in the back seat. That is the best sound ever – to hear your child’s happiness.

Now, to try to encapsulate the doings is going to be a little tough. There were an incredible number of good things that went down during the days leading up to and following the ceremony. I am going to give it a try, and I hope I  convey the wonderfulness of it all. Here are some of those good things:

New Orleans – When Ali and Jose were picking a wedding date there were things that they did not want. They didn’t want hurricane threats or Mardi Gras interference. The last week of March turned out to be a spectacular choice. Making the drive down South, we could visually see Spring deepening. Everything was greener and more alive. As always, the city of New Orleans welcomed us with friendly people and beautiful surroundings. I don’t think I have been in the city when the azaleas are at their peak. This time I was. The beauty of the city was enhanced even moreso.

The Southern Gentleman – One of the memorable moments from Sam and Jean’s wedding was Jose’s  outfit. On a brutally cold day in New York City, he sported pink pants, dress shirt, bow tie, and blue blazer. He noted that that his look was the mark of a Southern Gentleman. Dan got it in mind to return the dapperness. He bought a bow tie before we left, and with the help of YouTube he managed to somewhat get the thing tied. He also bought some pink pants to complete his own version of the look. The reveal was when we met up with Ali and Jose at Cochon for a family dinner. The look on Jose’s face when he got a load of Dan was the best!

Avery Island – Through a series of fortuitous events, Ali did not have to work at all during our week there. On Monday, she picked us up and we went to Avery Island – the home of the McIlhenny family and the home of Tabasco sauce. The place is about 2 hours southwest of New Orleans and the drive takes you through some amazing Louisiana realness. Along the way we stopped in a little po-boy shop that served up an amazing fried shrimp sandwich. Getting out of the car at Avery Island, you immediately get the smell of Tabasco sauce, which was quite great! The factory tour was short and sweet, and the gift shop had quite the array of Tabasco products – special versions of the sauce, Tabasco Slim Jims, Tabasco pralines, Tabasco ice cream … Dan got so excited he bought the guy in front of him’s purchase. All got sorted out and we then drove and walked through the Jungle Gardens which is on the property. It was a stunning habitat of flowers and huge live oak trees with Spanish moss and egrets and a snake that tried and succeeded in scaring me.

Crawfish Boil – On Wednesday, we went to see the NBA New Orleans Pelicans with the happy couple, Jose’s dad, and Jim, Micaela and Birdie who had just made it in. Before the game, Ali and Jose invited us to their house for crawfish boil. Laid out on the table went 25 pounds of the little mudbugs along with corn and potatoes. It really was one of the prettiest meals I have ever seen! Standing around shelling the leftovers with Ali, Sam and Jean was also lovely.

Family – I was going to call this part “Family and Friends,” but as I considered it, everyone that I am going to talk about is really a member of our family – even if genetics would tell you otherwise. We pulled into New Orleans late on a Saturday night and got welcomed by Dan’s sister and brother-in-law who kindly offered us accomodations for the duration of our trip. Over the next several days, we had arrivals of people who have filled our lives with happiness over the years and who wanted to be there when Ali brought Jose into the family. Dan’s brother and his family and his sister showered their kindness over all. Our nephew and niece Ryan and Diane got a little NOLA vacation with the festivities. Jim and Micaela ventured with 1 month old Birdie who charmed everyone! Tom and Julie – who we have not seen for too long – showed up at the rehearsal after party and my heart leapt out of my chest with joy! Tracy, John, Rik and Teresa and Enid all could share memories of Ali as a wee one as they observed the beautiful bride she now is. Jose’s family showered us with kindness and their expressions of their love for Ali. The night of the wedding – looking around and seeing these people scattered throughout the room was the best!

Sam and Jean – When we last saw Sam and Jean, we were leaving their wedding reception on a cold night in Greenwich Village. Having five days to hang out with them in New Orleans was so wonderful. They came, of course, with an itinerary of places to eat and drink, and we did a pretty damn good job of working through a portion of that list. We also got to play at the Zoo one day which offered a number of cats for Jean to swoon over!

The Wedding – It could not have been better. I was lucky and got to spend the late afternoon with Ali and her friends as she got ready and then headed to Rosy’s where the wedding and reception would be. Ali was the most chill bride I could have imagined. She just exuded happiness. And, she was stunningly beautiful. Getting her into that dress and standing back to see her took my breath away. When it was time for the ceremony, I walked to my seat, past the Army officers who would make an arch of sabres that Ali would walk through on her way to Jose’s side (and on their way out, one of the officers – per tradition – whacked her on the butt and welcomed her to the army). The ceremony was beautiful and joyful. The reception afterward continued the joy, but amped up! There was not a song that did not fill the dance floor with young and old. Dan, Carly, and Marlin toasted the couple with words that made me cry a little as I raised my glass. And to end the evening, a brass band entered the venue and played about 45 minutes of New Orleans jazz that had napkins waving and feet a dancing like crazy. It was an amazing end to a perfect day.

The hardest thing of the whole trip was leaving. Hugging Sam and Jean that last night was so sad. Saying good bye to Ali right before we left town and seeing Banjo looking sadly out the window as we pulled away got my boo boo tears going. I just read a quotation by the author Elizabeth Stone who wrote: “Making the decision to have a child – it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” That sums it up so well. While I would love to have them walking closer in proximity to me, I am lucky to have four people in this world who every moment of every day can be sure that they have me supporting their lives.

New Orleans Brass Bands: Through the Streets of the City (Album of the Week)

SOR_NOLABrassBands New Orleans Brass Bands: Through the Streets of the City

Artists: Liberty Brass Band, Treme Brass Band, Hot 8 Brass Band

About: 15 tracks; 1 hour and 10 minutes

Year: 2015

Choice: DJR Blogging

Because of our traveling to New Orleans for Ali and Jose’s wedding and all of the doings around that, our album review is delayed. Dan did, however, give us pretty easy duty with his pick.

New Orleans Brass Bands: Through the Streets of the City is just that – a musical journey through that city and through time. In listening to it, you can imagine yourself transported to the unique city that is New Orleans. The album includes fifteen pieces played by three different brass bands: Liberty Brass Band, The Hot 8 Brass Band, and Treme Brass Band. It is released by the Smithsonian Folkways collection whose mission is to document the cultural diversity of, and understanding of, our world’s sounds. Of course New Orleans brass bands belong in such a mission, but it is easy to understand this music. It sounds like good times and joy.

The cool part of this collection is that the three bands chosen represent old school classic brass bands (Liberty), a more modern version of the old (Treme), and a band that is combining the old with modern rap and bounce (Hot 8). New Orleans (After the City) by The Hot 8 Brass Band is a great example of that convergence and is one of my favorites in this compilation. It has a traditional bouncing sousaphone, call and response, and a rapping line that culminates in a screeching trumpet line. The lyrics include shout-outs to places around the city and the sentiment that this home is the only place they want to be. That there are young bands like the Hot 8 making the tradition of the New Orleans Brass Band in a new image but maintaining the roots is important. The link below takes you to a good introduction to this group.

http://www.folkways.si.edu/hot-8-brass-band-overcoming-adversity-through-music/african-american-music-jazz/music/video/smithsonian

While in New Orleans last month, we made our second visit to the Backstreet Cultural Museum. Our guide gave an amazing recounting of both the New Orleans Indian culture, and the Social Aid and Pleasure Club parades that happen most of 52 Sundays of the year in New Orleans. The format of the parade includes the first line – the members of the club sporting similar snazzy outfits and sashes; the brass band, and, finally, the second line – people who just fall in behind to parade and dance with the club. The route includes stops at businesses where the club and band members can catch a sit down and a drink of water before then move on. This goes on for hours.

For this review, I am not going to pick through the tracks of the album any more extensively than I already have. Apparently there is a great liner note booklet that came with the album, but I have not seen that yet. I am sure it can provide me with more of the history and what I should be listening for. What I want to leave with in this review is that the spirit of the music represented on this album is universal. There are second lines because people can’t help but want to dance along with the band, and the fact that everyone is invited to do so makes it wonderful!

Next Up: Courtney Barnett, Sometimes I Sit and Think & Sometimes I Just Sit

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Then Came the Morning by the Lone Bellow (Album of the Week)

thelonebellow_cvrAlbum: Then Came the Morning

Artist: The Lone Bellow

Year: 2015

About: 13 songs; 45 Minutes

Choice: Deliberate Obfuscation

I chose The Lone Bellow’s new album, Then Came the Morning as our album of the week because I knew I had some Lone Bellow in my collection, I thought I liked them, but I couldn’t really remember what they sounded like. From their website, they state that their sound “mixes folk sincerity, gospel fervor, even heavy metal thunder, but the heart of the band is harmony: three voices united in a lone bellow.” I can go along with that, but I am not sure that it helped me define this band. That description of themselves set them up for DJR Blogging to go to town on them in a pretty harsh fashion. Personally, I think they would have gotten better treatment if they hadn’t included a song that rhymed hell you ride with Telluride. That really got his goat!

The album has the format that I like best. Lots of 3 minute songs that comes in at about 45 minutes of listening. I tend to have a good feel at the end of those 45 minutes as to what a band is about. After listening to their new album for two weeks, I understand that the Lone Bellow members are fantastic at mixing their voices in harmonies. That’s about it.

This album has so many different flavors. A descriptor that comes up often in write-ups about them is “Brooklyn country.” There is that Mumford/Lumineers/Edward Sharpe-iness to them on several cuts, but there are songs that you would totally feel were straight out of the church missive, or a down home honky tonk collection. As an example of the former, there is the lovely, Watch Over Us. It is a beautiful hymn that highlights how well the three members of this band can meld their sounds as if in a unison prayer.

Sometimes I’m up

Sometimes I’m down

Sometimes I’m almost

Leveled to the ground

But my baby’s sleeping

Sleeping in peace

So watch over us

From there you can find yourself in more of a southern-rock, Drive By Truckers feel with the song, If You Don’t Love Me. Drum punches, cymbal crashes, and a bunch of bass. Or you can have a honky-tonk jive with Diner with the requisite coin in a jukebox motif. The album’s final song begins with just a guitar and solo voice. For me, there is a sound to this song that makes me picture it being sung around a Civil War campfire, but from the solo voice it moves into more of a honky tonk country band, harmonies. Here is an example of where I don’t even know what to feel about a single song, let alone the whole album!

My favorite of the album’s tracks is Marietta – one of the album’s ballads. The music is beautiful and their swelling sound works magically to make the remorse projected by the lyrics feel soul-crushing.

The worry of what couldn’t be,

the love for the lust of your name,

of losing, of winning, of striving, of leaving, of stealing

and breaking and shame,

of fighting and failing and lying and telling yourself

that you’re clean of the blame.

I let you in again, I let you in again,

you sleep with the lights on,

what you call your family are gone

I let you in again

and patiently wait for your storm.

The songs fronted by Kanene Pipkin, the woman in the trio, are an even different story. She has a throaty, beautiful voice with a little bit of a rasp. On Call to War you get a taste of that talent, but, for me, it fits in even less than some of the others. 

My final thought on this album is that I am glad to have songs of the Lone Bellow in my collection, but I may still struggle in identifying them. 

Next Up: New Orleans Brass Bands – Through the Streets of the City

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Last Weeks’ Good Things

Marc1We lost an hour to Daylight Savings and I lost a week in noting some good things. Time to regroup and get this done! I am seeing that many of the things that I am sharing today have a media bent, but so be it. They are all pretty great! Here are a few of the good things that came my way lately.

How the New York Times is Made – If you show me a production line, I will be mesmerized. Whether it is making crayons, cars, or candy bars, the travel down conveyor belts from pieces to completion is something I love watching. I also love the New York Times. I like how it looks and feels and reads. A little bit ago, Reeves Wiedeman wrote an article for Popular Mechanics that details how the New York Times is made. While he does not include any videos of production lines, he does a great job of giving a picture of a day in the life of the paper. Another very fun part of this is that Reeves is a Kansas City guy and a grade school friend of my son!

Taking Apart an Adding Machine – Hank Green is the brother of John Green, the author of The Fault in Our Stars. The two do this weekly video series where they talk to each other about a crazy variety of topics. I don’t always watch them, but when I do they make me laugh, or smile, or think harder. I did watch a recent one that was amazing. Hank found an old adding machine in a shop. He bought it and when he got it home, he wanted to find out how it worked. That week’s video was him taking it apart and figuring out how the innards worked to put the numbers on the roll of paper and do the math functions that were punched into it. I could watch this thing over and over! Several years ago, Sam found a machine almost exactly like it in a thrift store and bought it. It is sitting up in his bedroom. Hmmm.

Maira Kalman video on the Cooper-Hewitt My Favorite Things exhibit – I wrote in my wedding post about going to the Cooper-Hewitt and seeing the wonderful Maira Kalman exhibit. I so love everything that woman does and want to be her friend so badly! Anyway – I came across this video of her talking about the exhibit which made me so happy. She talks about the duality of our lives – sorrow/joy, love/hate, awake/asleep… and how we all live in a state of duality. Her message, her art, and her curation are so good!

Encouraging Words – It is sometimes lost on me what power encouraging words can have. I try to do a good job with it with my family, friends, and people I work with. But sometimes, it can be the encouraging words of a stranger that can have the most profound impact. They don’t have to talk to you, but they decide to enter your life and do so by telling you something that makes you feel good about yourself. I had an example of that at the gym the other day. I was trudging along on the treadmill reading my book when a man got on the bike beside me. He was there for a physical therapy appointment and when getting on the bike he was obviously in pain. As he peddled he also looked pretty darn uncomfortable. As a person who has been in his shoes, I understood and I looked over at him and smiled. He returned the smile. A few minutes later he looked over at me and said “hey, you are doing a really good job at that!” That just made my day.

Darwin had crappy days too – One of my workmates had a bad day a couple weeks ago. It wasn’t one thing or another – it was just a combination of things that made it just a bad day. Shortly after that, I came across a portion of a letter that Charles Darwin wrote. Reading it made me think about my work friend and I copied it down and gave her a copy of it the next time I saw her. I think it is a good reminder that we all of some pretty rotten days, but we can go to bed at night and wake up the next day to new opportunities. Sometimes we just need to get it out. Charles Darwin’s getting it out kind of delighted me! 

But I am very poorly today & very stupid & hate everybody & everything. One lives only to make blunders.— I am going to write a little Book for Murray on orchidsf8 & today I hate them worse than everything so farewell & in a sweet frame of mind, I am | Ever yours | C. Darwin

So that is it! Hope many good things happened to you, and like Kansas City, your spring has sprung!

Tangier Sessions by Sir Richard Bishop (Album of the Week)

tangierAlbum: Tangier Sessions

Artist: Sir Richard Bishop

About: 7 songs; 40 Minutes

Released: 2015

Choice: DJR Blogging

First, some housekeeping. Last week’s artist, Father John Misty is in no way, shape, or form a religious leader. This week’s artist, Sir Richard Bishop has not, at this writing, ever been knighted. 

This review will be brief as there are no lyrics to parse or multiple elements to explain. Tangiers Session is a man and his guitar. Albeit, it is a special guitar – a small, antique traveling guitar found in a shop in Geneva. A guitar that, although too expensive, would not leave the guitarist’s mind. A guitar that Sir Richard Bishop bought and  took with him to Morocco. Over the week of his stay in that country, the songs of this album fell out of that instrument.

My advice is that if you enjoy music; if you appreciate the guitar; if you ever are seeking music that will let your mind wander to another place, spend some time with Sir Richard Bishop’s Tangier Sessions. In his review, Dan praises the transporting quality of this album as well. He writes that it makes me want to go to Tangier and write in a notebook with a fountain pen.” Me, I want to sit on the rooftop atop that building in Tangiers and hear that special guitar play. I imagine closing my eyes to try to create that world and then opening them to take it in the reality. Listen to this, and I think that you will want that too. In the songs, you can almost see the colors and the movement. You can appreciate the mood. There is excitement and calm. All of this is accomplished with one instrument that he seems to be master of.

There are talents that I don’t really understand, and Bishop’s is one of those. I don’t know how you get into your head the sound of a country or the sound of a culture and then put it into play. Going over to his website, I listened to clips of a bunch of his other albums. There are a myriad of sounds that he creates ranging from techno fluttering to blue-grassy wholesomeness. This man is obviously not a one trick pony. My other question is, how do you replicate these songs? Does he write them down or is the major melody memorized and then played around each time he goes to perform it? I really don’t know. I do know that this album is beauty.

This is not a record that I would have come to without our marriage music challenge. Again, it makes me happy that we do this. Maybe because of this of this album, we will one day take that trip to Tangiers – Dan with his fountain pen, me with my felt tips and glue sticks. We will sit in a coffee shop and hear this music in our memory.

Next Up: Then Came the Morning by The Lone Bellow

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