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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Last Week’s Good Things

Feb15Pickles! I need to get this blog post done before the name becomes obsolete! Just to put you in the right place, the last week that I am talking about is the week of February 15. I know! That seems like longer ago than a week to me too! Maybe it is the waning days of winter that seem to adjust the speed of time or something. Anyway, before it expires, here are a few of the good things that brightened my last week.

BirdieBirdie Arrives – Okay. I am going to cheat here a little bit. On February 20 a little girl arrived into this world who was anticipated to be adored to such a level that she would likely always have a sunshine aura around her. Birdie has a mom and dad who have waited so patiently for her and who will probably be some of the best parents a girl could have. She has grandmas and a grandpa who will be there for her always. She has aunts and an uncle ready to embrace her as a new part of their lives, and that just can’t help but make them better. She has cousins who will be friends and playmates. She has extended family that are all so excited to meet her and fall for her too. And she has people like Dan and me who, though we share no blood, we feel as much a part of her family as genetic boundaries allow. The cheating part of this is that even though Birdie arrived last week, I did not meet her until this week. And she is perfect, and she is loved well.

JasonAnother Gushy Review of Jason Isbell – On Tuesday we went to see Jason Isbell and his band play at the Uptown Theater. This was #6 Jason Isbell show for us. I would say it was probably the best yet. His band is so good, he was so engaged and seemed to be having so much fun. There was something else about seeing him this time. This is weird coming from someone who has never met the guy, but I felt so proud of him. When we first saw him in 2009 he was a different man from the one he is today. You see it in pictures from the time – talent out the wazoo, but hazy from drinking. On Tuesday, along with all of the fabulous musical moments, was his presence as a healthy and happy man. It has been his journey, but as a person who loves the music he makes and the persona that he shares with the world through social media, I feel like I have had some read into where he is now. He and the band encored with the Rolling Stones’ Can’t You Hear Me Knocking which was rocking good fun. After that, this part of his tour ended and he went home to be with his wife. A couple days later on Instagram he posted a picture of his hand on Amanda’s slightly rounded tummy. Happy and healthy.

A Saturday Walk – The weather has been super weird. One minute they say it will snow, but then it doesn’t. Last Thursday, I heard nothing about snow, but I left work (minus my boots) in a real dilly of a snowstorm that kept me crawling through the downtown streets, but as soon as I got a couple miles south the sun was shining and the inches of snow on my car looked very out of place. Weird. Last Saturday was supposed to be weathery, but it turned out to be beautiful. Dan and I are still working hard on getting our steps in, so we used the opportunity to take a walk to Waldo Pizza for lunch. We were extraordinarily good and had salad bar and no pizza. We rewarded our goodness by chasing our salad with one of the best deals in beer flights (and a great selection) in the city.

raylan-boydFinal Season of Justified Started – Raylan Givens is a bad ass, and Boyd Crowder is too. I will be sad when this program ends. In the meantime, I will savor every moment of this show and be so happy every time there is a scene where Raylan and Boyd talk to each other. It is tv brilliance.

Movie Night – We have not been very good with keeping our monthly movie date with our friends. This month, however, we got it done. It’s a good way to end the day to leave work and sit down with people that you want to catch up with and fill in the gaps since the last time you did that. We did that and then we went to see American Sniper (not a huge fan, but, oh, that Bradley Cooper!) and then we went and had some more catchup over a nightcap.

Wishing everyone a wonderful week as March rolls in!

I Love You, Honeybear by Father John Misty (Album of the Week)

fjm-iloveyouhoneybear-2400Album: I Love You Honeybear

Artist: Father John Misty

About: 11 Songs; 45 minutes

Year: 2015

Choice: Deliberate Obfuscation

The narrative in our head that accompanies our life is usually much harsher than what comes out of our mouth, or even, out of our pen. I would not want anyone tracking my thoughts. People who irritate you, situations that drive you crazy, not nice things you might want to do – you keep those bottled up because they wouldn’t necessarily show you to be a good or nice person. On his album, I Love You, Honeybear, Father John Misty doesn’t abide by those usual conventions.

I read that in his first go at putting together this album, his wife (aka Honeybear) told him that it wasn’t honest. As a good husband, he took her advice, and the final product seems pretty darn honest. If you listen to this as background music, you can get swept away by the beauty of it. There are layers of gorgeous sound throughout the album, and Josh Tillman’s voice is mellow and soothing. Think Fleet Foxes (of which he used to be a part of), Bon Iver, or any other bearded troubadour.

And then you come to the content, and it is raw and uncomfortable and you aren’t sure at all how to take it. Is it funny or sad or despairing or misogynistic or romantic? Yes. 

The opening track of the album is the title song. A song with Honeybear in the title is probably cute, right? The song is as lush musically as any 1970s Elton John ballad, but amidst the beauty is darkness. You get a taste of it with the first visual – “the Rorschach sheets where we make love” – and he gets more vivid than that. He moves on to describe love in the time of chaos. But, in the midst of crashing economies, dead in the street, and mental illness, his stated end game is to not give into despair because there is love. Not your standard love song, but he is obviously not your standard lover.

The Night Josh Tillman Came to Our Apt. is a brutal takedown of a girlfriend who drives him crazy with her affectations and pseudo-intellectualisms. It is harsh and hilarious. He makes a point even with the use of quotation marks.

And we sang “Silent Night” in three parts which was fun

Until she said she sounds “just like” Sarah Vaughn

I hate that soulful affectation white girls put on

Why don’t you move to the Delta?

Before the album came out, Tillman performed Bored in the USA on The David Letterman Show. Just listening to this song on the album, it seems a performance piece with a brilliantly inserted laugh track that kills. On Letterman, he goes full boat with the performance. He opens playing a piano that turns out to be a player piano, he kneels on the piano praying to white Jesus, a string orchestra backs him gorgeously, and the laugh track taunts just as it does on the album.

Oh they gave me a useless education {laugh}

And a subprime loan {laugh}

On a craftsman home {laugh}

Keep my prescriptions filled {laugh}

And now I can’t get off {laugh}

But I can kind of deal {laugh)

Oh, with being bored in the USA {applause}

When he finishes and puts down the microphone, the audience remains quiet and then tentatively begins to applaud. They seem to be struck with the “what the hell was that?” phenomena.

Dan also has a little bit of the “what the hell” after listening to this album. He likes the sound and appreciates his antics, but wonders who this Misty/Tillman guy really is. I get the feeling that he feels a little taken for a ride on this one.

This album doesn’t want to give you a chance to ignore it. I appreciate that it plays with honesty in a way that stirs discomfort, but also some recognition. Like I said, I  don’t want anyone reading my mind at all times, but I am glad that Josh Tillman lets us into his for this one.

Next up:  Tangier Sessions, by Sir Richard Bishop

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Last Week’s Good Things

weekThere have been some pretty incredibly great things this week, so it is a little hard to think back to the previous one. Thankfully, I took some notes and can share a few of the good things that happened last week.

Outpouring of love for David Carr – David Carr was a journalist who worked for the New York Times. Last week, he died suddenly after collapsing in the newsroom. I read David Carr’s work in the Times and had seen him on television. He wrote thoughtfully and insightfully about media and society. His background included a period of his life where addictions controlled it. He wrote about that period and his rise from it.  What came out after his death was stories of the person David Carr, and how he gave so much to those around him. He did not forget friends. He helped other writers. He was a great father and husband. Each piece written about him seemed to reflect on the gift it was to have David Carr as part of your life. Journalism can seem like a pretty rough business with plenty of ego. It was touching to get to understand what David Carr meant to so many.

Items in my closet – Since the beginning of the year, Dan and I have been trying to eat more Paleo and move more. It has been a good program for us and we are both seeing positive results from it. Last week, I was able to pull a few things out of my closet that I had 86ed because they were wickedly too small. I wore my jeans that a few weeks ago I would only wear when I wanted to torment myself, and I wore a dress that I bought quite a bit ago but never wore because it was too small. I still have miles to go, but small victories are incentive to continue on the journey.

Good wisdom – There were a few things going on last wee that required me to seek assistance from others. When you have people in your life who you know will listen and understand and support, you are a lucky person. I am a lucky person in that way. The person that I turned to last week has a characteristic that I would call rational empathy. She sees things as they are. She won’t sugar coat things or skirt the reality. She is there and present when needed. As we worked through the situation, she said something that sticks with me and think always will. She said that our calling is to show up for our fellow humans. I’ll go with that.

Mashed Cauliflower – With this diet we are on, there are all sorts of hacks to replicate things you shouldn’t have. There are some misses. Spaghetti squash in no way, shape, or form reminds me of pasta. One that I tried that did work last week was mashed cauliflower. Goodness it was tasty. I want to eat it every day. It is super simple too.

StellaMeeting Stella – Our friends John and Tracy have a new puppy and we got to meet her last week. She is an itsy bitsy darling jolt of energy (notice the blurred tail in this photo). Watching her run around and discover was very fun!

Here’s hoping that your days each hold good things that you add to your own list.

Fear and Saturday Night by Ryan Bingham (Album of the Week)

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Album: Fear and Saturday Night

Artist: Ryan Bingham

About: 12 songs; 53 Minutes

Year: 2015

Choice: DJR Blogging

Dan and I didn’t exchange Valentine’s gifts this year, but this week’s album felt like a romantic exchange. Dan writes his own love letter to this album over on his blog and talks some about our introduction to this musician. This album feels different from our first meeting, but it feels as real with the grit of life as ever.

We saw Ryan Bingham in 2009 in a basement bar in Breckinridge where we danced and fell in love with a new act which we had serendipitously came upon. The second time we saw Ryan Bingham was after he won his Academy Award for the song The Weary Kind and he was opening for Willie Nelson at Red Rocks. Between then and now, I haven’t lost my pleasure in listening to Ryan Bingham, but it hasn’t really been stoked. Listening to his new album, Fear and Saturday Night, stoked the Ryan Bingham flame for me. I think a lot of it has to do with how honest all of this felt.

I have a thing for gravelly voiced singers with drawls, and, lordy me!, does Ryan Bingham epitomize that genre. There are a couple songs on this album where you might be afraid that his voice will not make it through. But it does, and he has himself an excellent album that is personal and real, and he shows up as a found man.

The album opens with Nobody Knows My Trouble. When Dan shared this album with me, the songs weren’t in order. I tried to figure out what song would open it, and I correctly picked this one. The song’s message is a great dichotomy of happily saying he is living the good life, but everyone needs to back off, and don’t go thinking they have him and his path figured out. And he does it in the style of a bouncy cowboy song. That line where he tells people to just stay away couldn’t sound more friendly!

As an album that we listened to during the week leading up to Valentine’s Day, this seemed a perfect choice. Were I Mrs. Bingham, there is much here that would make me swoon, but his way of doing it is to maintain the heart of a bad boy. In Fear and Saturday Night he almost mournfully sings of what he can’t escape from: But I don’t fear nothing except for myself /  So I’m gonna go out to raise me some hell/ I’ll take my chances, I was born to run wild / Hell, it’s Saturday night, I’m going to town. And he counters that need to run wild with his good intentions on Darlin where he sings let’s dance on top of the wire / I’ll try to keep myself in line.

There is a lot of mellowness on this album, but he is such a good poet that you can’t cast them off as sappy songs of a dude in love and about to have a baby. Each song gives you something different. There is love and struggle and hope and happiness. And there are songs that bring back that rocking sound that he pounded out in that bar in Breckinridge. Top Shelf Drug is one of those – nasty guitar licks and lots of cymbal crashing.

This was a great reintroduction to an artist that I had pushed in the back of my listening line. His life has obviously taken many turns since we claimed him as a find back in 2009, and where he seems settled now feels balanced and creative. Well done!

Next up: Father John Misty’s I Love You, Honeybear

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Good Things – Special Wedding Edition

wedding weelI am still getting used to the fact that Sam is married. A couple weeks ago, over the course of a few days in New York City, we had a whirlwind of activity, but the actual wedding was over in a few blinks of the eye. That was perfect for Sam and Jean. It felt like who they are and what they wanted. And now they enter into their new phase of life as do Dan and I. We have a new daughter that we love dearly. We work to find ways to show our love and support for them as individuals and as a couple. What a dear thing a happy wedding is. While this is titled “Good Things,” I think that there should be another made up word for when something happens that seems better than good; happier than happy. Whatever that is, that was our time in New York City. Here are a few highlights

Having Ali and Jose there – We have kind of a little, but geographically spread-out family. Having all of us together is infrequent and special. We got into NYC on Thursday afternoon from KC, and Ali and Jose came in from NOLA. We pulled up to our hotel in our cab and literally, right behind us, pulled a cab with Ali and Jose. Their being there during their own wedding prep time was so wonderful. And, Jose showing up to the wedding in pink pants and bowtie – all southern gentlemanly – is a memory that I won’t forget.

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Meeting Jean’s parents – Meeting your almost daughter-in-law’s parents hours before a wedding could make for some nervousness, but that did not feel like the case at all. Despite all of the weather that threatened, the Adamoski’s from Chicago and the Ryan’s from Kansas City arrived in New York City and got to see their children get married. We met Jean’s mom and dad at the very cool, Jimmy’s No. 43 in the East Village. The basement bar was cozy and fantastically cool. The bartender was memorable. And Jean’s parents arrived with hugs and welcome. It’s hard not to like people who are behind the woman that my son adores, and people who also seem to think that Sam is pretty great.

Parent dinner – The night before the wedding, the couple and the parents had dinner at Momofuku Ssam. Our meal was the rib-eye dinner which was comprised of a cow-size ribeye steak, done perfectly and sliced on a platter, french fries that seemed to be fried to a ethereal crispness and Caeser salad that we found pleasure in just picking up dressed leaves and eating. Of course, our meal went beyond the stated meal. There was a platter of multiple different kinds of hams, veggies, bubblies, and we finished off with a cake that was covered with popcorn. For part of the night, Sam came over and sat next to me. I told him how happy I was. He told me how happy he is. Yep.

The Wedding – Everyone should spend a day or two hanging out at the NYC marriage bureau. In the amount of time that we were there, we saw such a variety of couples come through that I just wanted more! Some came in bridal gowns and tuxes, some looked like they weren’t sure why they were there. Couples take a number and are called to different stages – completing the certificate, in the staging room, the ceremony itself. Sam and Jean arrived carrying doughnuts. Both had gold shoes and new wedding clothes. Jean’s was actually a combination of a lace top of her grandma’s and a skirt made by a best friend. They looked adorable and happy. The ceremony itself lasted less than five minutes but it included all of the necessary elements: vows, I do’s, rings, and a kiss. And just like that, our family has a new member.

Cooper-Hewitt – After the ceremony, most in attendance hopped on the subway up to upper Manhattan to go to the Cooper-Hewitt museum. This was probably my doings since there is a Maira Kalman exhibit that I wanted to see. It was my first time at this museum that is housed in a building that in itself is a museum. The Kalman exhibit was a room curated with unusual objects, beautifully displayed, and annotated in Maira Kalman’s distinctive style. The rest of the museum was full of curious tools, hands on design opportunities, fascinating videos, and so much more.

Wedding Dinner at Roberta’s – The staff at Roberta’s presented us with such delicious pizza and sides. Sitting at a long table watching the combined friends and family of the couple was heart-warming.

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Kinokuniya Bookstore – I had read about this bookstore a few months ago and did not let it go far from my radar. It is a Japanese bookstore located near Bryant Park and it is a wonderland for someone like me who love paper, pens, and fun stationary items. Dan’s enthusiasm to go was not as great as mine, but when he hit the door, he was sold. It was just so fun! There is a great selection of books – many with an art focus, but the downstairs level that is devoted to all things paper goods plus, was candy! I think we browsed for at least two hours. So fun!

The Party – The place was called Reciprocal Skateboards. It is in Greenwich Village. You enter into a shopspace lined with brightly colored skateboards. Around the corner in the other room are pinball machines. This was the party site on Saturday night and it was so much fun. There was beer and champagne that was cooled in a borrowed newspaper box from the street. There was a big bowl of quarters that Sam had to restock a few times. There were new people to talk to and get to see how Sam and Jean have been good friends and important people to many. There were toasts and tears and laughs. There were amazing steamed buns with pork belly from Momofuku. My heart garlands worked well and provided a good backdrop for the love that was abounding all night.

As I said, it was a whirlwind (I didn’t even mention going to the Natural History Museum for the first time, the guys in the wine store who gave us three free bottles of wine, or the poutine with smoked meat!) and I feel like I am still getting resettled. Our trip home was delayed a day so my plan for my off day did not work last week, so this is my off day to write and take care of some of these things that I have been thinking on.

Next month we will make a trip and do this in a different way with Ali and Jose. I know how lucky we are.

No Cities to Love by Sleater-Kinney (Album of the Week)

sleaterAlbum: No Cities to Love

Artist: Sleater-Kinney

About: 10 songs; 33 minutes

Year: 2015

Choice: Deliberate Obfuscation

Dan thought I was choosing a hyphenated husband-wife duo when I chose Sleater-Kinney for our album this week. He soon realized that this band is anything but that. I admit that I came into this album with prejudice. I wanted to like this album a lot because my son, Sam loves Sleater-Kinney so much. Sam likes things that are cool, and I listened to it during the week that Sam married a very cool woman in a very cool way. It seemed like a good AND cool motherly thing to do if I, too really loved this album. So, if you are the dubious sort, you may chalk this up to me just glad handing. I really do love this album.

The first song I listened to was S-K’s David Letterman Show performance of A New Wave. That performance is indicative of the whole of the album. Songs that go from 0 to 60 immediately, and have a catchy hook that nails it. At the end of that performance, you hear Letterman say, “That’s right! That’s exactly right!” Here you have three women – each of the forty years old – rocking like no one’s business. I heart that. It is exactly right.

The ten tracks on this album are 3-minutes nuggets of beat poet energy. As I listened more and more, I caught the lyrics that make up the energy. Seeing them written down in the booklet that comes with the CD, is a visual of the song style. Short clips of ideas and notions:

I’ll take God when I’m ready

I’ll choose sin till I leave /

Where’s the evidence

The scars, the dents

That I was ever here? /

Wanna walk to, walk off

The edge of my own life /

We speak in circles

We dance in code

Untame and hungry

On fire in the cold

Those are lines from four of the songs, but I could have put examples from each that exemplify that same kind of staccato energy. They converge messages of injustice, identity finding, life’s hard knocks and girl power. Put to music, the message is blasted out.

This fun YouTube video of the title track, No Cities to Love starts out with Fred Armisen playing a keyboard on a city street and then cuts to a bunch of notables belting out the song. You have your Sarah Silverman being licked by her dog while she belts it out; Miranda July dancing awkwardly, Andy Samberg botching the lyrics … It is a perfect representation of what this whole album is. It makes you want to shout along, jump up and down, and bop your head to the crazy drum line that anchors each song. 

I am not cool enough to say that this version of Sleater-Kinney that comes 10 years after their last album is a different send up of the band. I honestly don’t know.  I have one other Sleater-Kinney album in my Itunes and it is their third album, Dig Me Out from 1997. I can tell you that 1997 was a time of my music listening that I wasn’t seeking much outside of my singer-songwriter world. Probably, if one of those songs came up in my shuffle, I would have skipped forward for something calmer. I am not a much different person from who I was back in 1997, but one of the areas that I think that I am very different is the flavors of music that now fill my music loving heart. There is now a place in there for Dwight Yokum, and even, Run the Jewels. And, the piece of my heart that housed punk in the 1980s but had shrunk in the 1990s, is now opening housing for rockers like Sleater-Kinney. I think that’s cool.

Next Up: Ryan Bingham’s Fear and Saturday Night

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The Beautiful Bones by Kelley Hunt (Album of the Week)

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Album: The Beautiful Bones

Artist: Kelley Hunt

Released: 2014

About: 12 songs; 50 minutes

Choice: DJR Blogging

Dan’s choice this week, Kelley Hunt’s, The Beautiful Bones is tricky for me to write about. I listened to it several times, but had a hard time forming an opinion about it. Kelley Hunt has a nice voice and the instrumentation is well done on this album. There is just nothing that grabbed me and made me want to discover more.

A couple artists came to mind as I was listening to this album this week. Bonnie Raitt with her smokey, bluesy voice, and Sharon Jones with her high energy, give-em-hell soul. Kelley’s style is scaled down than Sharon’s, but there are a few tracks like Release and Be Free where she comes close to bringing the passion that I really love in Sharon. The Sweet Goodbye and Let it Rain have a Bonnie Raitt-y closing-the-bar-sad-song quality. But despite being very much in line with some artists that I do like very much, she doesn’t nail it for me. This one isn’t going to be one that I come back to with enthusiasm.

Somewhere between gospel, soul, and blues captures the spirit of the songs that make up this album. It loses me both in not being a genre that I love, but also I didn’t find any of the songs really captivating.

This is where hearing an artist live may help in my listening. I expect that if I went into a Kelley Hunt live performance cold – having never heard her music to any extent prior – I would come out of it a fan wanting to buy her cd. Not having her performance presence in my mind, and not being a big fan of the kind of music that she does, makes my review an unenthusiastic one.

Bill Shapiro, the host of the local music radio program, Cypruss Avenue, recently did a whole program on the music of Kelley Hunt. She was the first local artist that he has ever done this for. I only heard a little bit of the broadcast, but what I did hear was gushy outpouring of her talent. I agree that she has a strong vocals and instrumentation, but I am not onboard with Shapiro on this one. I also am not sure why he has not been able to find other Kansas City artists to highlight on his show. There certainly are others out there who warrant his attention.

Dan has some reservations about the album, but his review more positively capture what this album has going on. While everything that he writes is true, I’m sticking with my opinion.

Next Up: Sleater-Kinney’s No Cities To Love

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Last Week’s Good Things

weekLast week was birthday week. I am still a person who likes the idea of birthday celebrations, so I enjoyed the special things that came my way as part of that. Here are some of the good things that happened during birthday fest week.

Resolution making – I always give myself until my birthday to put together resolutions. I got help this year from a posting that went up on Brain Pickings at the beginning of the year that offered guidance on resolutions. In fact, I kind of lifted my resolutions directly from it. Thanks to Popforms and their Spark Notebook plan, I also worked on a theme for a year. My resolutions are rather broad and my theme is a good daily guide. For my new year, I resolve to walk and be more present, make my life wide, keep a diary, cultivate true friendship, and define myself. My theme is to create myself daily. Every day is a new adventure, and my theme is a good reminder.

my fathers dragonBaby Shower Book Club – I have written about our book club before, but last week was a first for our group. We had a book club baby shower! Everyone brought a favorite read aloud as a gift for Jim and Micaela. As they opened each gift, the giver explained why they made the choice. It was so much fun to see some old favorites and also to be introduced to some new ones. Dan picked Redwall which is a great adventure book that  Dan read to the kids. I picked the My Father’s Dragon Series. This series is one of my all time favorites that I read to the kids. If you haven’t read these books, I would highly recommend them. They recount the adventures of Elmer Elevator and a baby dragon that he runs away to rescue. It is all very fantastical and fun.

bugNew Bumper Sticker – I have had my cute little beetle for about eight years now, and it still makes me smile. Shortly after we bought it, we were in Arkansas and I bought a bumper sticker. It was Bob Marley with the quotation “Emancipate yourself from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds.” While I still love that sentiment, Bob had gotten pretty faded over the years. As part of my birthday fest, Dan took me to the fun It’s A Beautiful Day shop and I picked out a new sticker. On Saturday, I washed that dirty car and put on its new message. It is a quotation from the Dalai Lama – “Choose to be optimistic … it feels better.”

jjBirthday celebration – The messages on Facebook, calls from the kids, a birthday card with sweet messages from my work team, tulips left on my porch all went into making my day a very nice one. Aside from from very pretty cologne, Dan also got me the world best ice scraper. I am very excited about that as I have never been happy with any ice scraper. If it pans out, it will probably show up as its own “good thing.” We also had a great dinner at the new JJs, where a Restaurant Week deal got me Mushroom toast, Chicken Marsala, and Chocolate Mousse for $33. I started my new year well.

bob mankoffHow About Never, Is Never Good for You? – I got this book for Christmas and got it finished last week. If you like New Yorker cartoons, this book is a must read. Bob Mankoff, who is the cartoon editor there, is a funny guy, and this book is a charming journey through the history of New Yorker cartoon, and how and why cartoons get selected.

That was my week. I hope that your week was also filled with good things.

Absent Fathers by Justin Townes Earle (Album of the Week)

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Album: Absent Father

Artist: Justin Townes Earle

About: 10 songs, 32 minutes

Released: 2015

Who’s Choice: Deliberate Obfuscation

Justin Townes Earle claims that his album, Absent Fathers is not solely directed at his own father, Steve Earle. In an interview with Esquire magazine, he claims “I’ve yet to use just one single person or situation as a basis for my music. It’s always a composite.I don’t necessarily buy that. This feels to be a totally personal album filled with heartbreak and working on hope. It is quiet and spare and his heart is exposed for everyone to see. The mom in me wants to just to give him a hug and tell him it will be okay (but that would be an incredibly awkward hug since he is about 6’6” and I can’t even claim 5’2”).

We saw Justin perform live a few years ago when he opened for Jason Isbell at Knuckleheads. That began my love affair with Jason, and even though my attachment to Justin hasn’t been as strong, since then I have very much enjoyed what he creates.

Absent Fathers is companion to Justin’s Single Mothers, which was released last year. Like that one, despite some really poignant subject matter, this album is really easy to listen to. Justin has a honky-tonk country kind of drawl that fits beautifully with the way he has produced this album. It is really reserved, personal, and thematic – as if he and a couple friends just sat in a circle playing their instruments and kicked this one out. By the sounds of it, that is pretty much what they did.

I have to say, if you are pressed for time, you should click away to Dan’s posting about this album. He has written a stunningly beautiful review that I can’t come close to, even though we both love this album.

The songs on the album are probably some of the shortest that we have come across in our listens. There are 10 songs and the whole album is only 32 minutes long. Five of them are two and a half minutes or less. He gets in, tells his story and gets out.

A song like Round the Bend has an upbeat boogie woogie tempo, but within it are killer lines lines like. You know it’s hard to explainThere’s things a man’s gotta learn to contain/ Sweet now it just ain’t the same/And you’re momma’s only boy/your daddy’s only shame. Ouch – tell me that isn’t personal.

It is not just dad issues that he is dealing with here. There is also alot about his love life. When The One You Love Loses Faith in You is a beautiful slow dance, but the content is anything but lovey dovey. He gives you lyrics like: Oh then you start to see the doubt/When she covers her mouth to tell a lie/She covers her mouth but she don’t cover her eyes/ Oh and that’s where you’ll see the doubt. It really is some great imagery that he can pull into these songs.

There is a nice variety of styles and tempos on this album, and the use of the pedal steel guitar is brilliance! That unique twangy sound is perfect for the theme that runs through this album. I gotta think that seeing the album performed live, it would be hard to keep your eyes off of that unique instrument being played.

Dan will cringe when I say this, but Justin Townes Earle does Americana as well as anyone, and I think Absent Fathers is a great first 2015 release for us to listen to.

Next Up: Kelley Hunt’s The Beautiful Bones

kelley hunt