Saturday, October 29, 2011

There isn't a damn thing I wouldn't do for Aldina Duarte when she's doing this.

Aldina Duarte distilling fado to its essence and stirring my soul.

Fado at the source

Carminho tarting up and singing about Mouraria, wellspring of fado. I need to trod those steps again. Carminho needs to put out another CD.

Future muse

So I don't know if Bjork's iPad album/app Biophilia is the future of pay-for music, but I do know listening to, watching, playing with it would be hell on wheels if I still knew where to get a hit of Thai stick in 2011, if they even have Thai stick in 2011.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Esperanza Spalding, Esperanza, Heads Up

I saw her Chamber Music Society for the second time this week and it was wonderful just like the first time. The most accessible Third Stream-style mix of jazz and classical forms in some time and I may be doing it something of an injustice characterizing it that way. In many respects, it is pathbreaking music. You gotta be doing something unusual to derail the Bieber juggernaut for a Grammy.

As much as I appreciate Chamber Music Society, the performances and the CD, this is my favorite Esparanza set so far (I mean, we only have three CDs and she should have a long way to go being, basically, a kid). From 2008, the focus is on her considerable ability as a jazz musician, singing, and even more importantly, as a magnificent bassist. If tunes like Espera don't get your heart going pitter-patter, you may be dead. Art Blakey would have been down with hard-bopper If That's True, which works Donald Harrison in on alto sax. Mingus would have dug it all.

Friday, October 07, 2011


Whenever I hear John Coltrane play Giant Steps I think, he had to be an extraterrestrial who dropped in for a visit, heard Charle Parker play, became enamored of jazz and stuck around to blow for the love of it until the extraterrestrial bigwigs made him come home.

Kind of like that X-Files episode The Unnatural with the Negro Leagues baseball player from outer space.

Monday, October 03, 2011

The end

Finishing the Wabash Heritage Trail 15K on Sunday, Oct. 2, 2011.

I felt kind of bad about passing the guy behind me near the end.

But if I hadn't, then he would have been the top dude in the 50-59 age group, not me. That's why they call it a race, I guess.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Running just as fast as we can

Time for first 15k on Aug. 6, 2:02:33

Time for 15k today, 1:34:41. Slow but headed in the right direction, more or less quickly. I even passed a guy at the end to finish first in my age group. Then I felt kind of bad about it, although I kept the medal.

The pleasure is in the run, not the finish, and both runs were a pleasure. (I have to say the cool October run was a little more pleasurable for my body than the hot and humid August run, however.)

Next up, Monumental Half Marathon in Indianapolis Nov. 5.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Gigi Gryce, Doin' the Gigi, Uptown

George General Grice, Jr., AKA Gigi Gryce and Basheer Qusim, got sick of the music business early in the 1960s and went into teaching disadvantaged and troubled kids using music as a tool. When he died in 1983, too young at 57, they named a school after him. So he left a heck of a legacy.

What he didn't leave was a big recorded legacy and while his students are richer for the career change, those of us who appreciate the music of a gifted alto sax player, composer and arranger admired by his peers could be excused for ruing it, if just a little. However, we're richer now, too, thanks to this collection of never-before-released cuts from studio demos and live radio and TV sessions (with good sound throughout).

We get some of Gryce's compositions, but what I really like about it is his rearranging of some well-chewed standards, which renders, for instance, Take the A Train and Stompin' at the Savoy in a way that retains the essence of the originals while sounding like almost entirely new songs. Gryce is in excellent form on both those cuts, and most of the others as well, making me think of Charlie Parker and Sonny Stitt (on alto) here and Benny Carter or Johnny Hodges there, while nonetheless always being Gigi.

The other revelation to me is trumpeter Richard Williams, who appears on most of the tracks. He's every bit of Kenny Dorham and Donald Byrd (another bandmate of Gryce's) and also died too young, of cancer at 54 (this I do not like).

Ranges from classic bebop to sophisticated stuff akin to the modal productions of Miles Davis around the same time, all of it good for many listens right out of the box.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Nothing to fear, but fear

"Fear. It's the oldest tool of power. If you're distracted by the fear of those around you, it keeps you from seeing the actions of those above."

-- Fox Mulder

Gee, why didn't the Koch brothers think of that?

Never mind.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

What Pops said

"What's money anyhow? You make it and you might eat a little better than the next cat. You might buy a little better booze. But you get sick just like the next cat, and when you die you're just as graveyard dead as he is."

-- Louis Armstrong

Amen daddy!

Ana Popovic, Unconditional, Eclecto Groove

Ana Popovic sings a little like Big Mama Thornton (and Helen Reddy) and plays the guitar a little like Stevie Ray Vaughan (and Robert Cray), which is kind of weird when you consider she's from Belgrade, and I don't mean the one near St. Louis, or even the ones in Maine and Montana. Still, you know it's true, music is a universal language and I might say the blues is universal, too.

In any event, Count Me In and Soulful Dress are going into the running playlist Mix 26.2 because you hear them and the feet must move. Sonny Landreth adds a second slide on one tune and there's some b-a-d bad organ and harp playing in the bargain. It's all good.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Danielle Ate the Sandwich sings her excellent song American Dream with some kids/fans from North Carolina.

Amusing Danielle Ate the Sandwich video. They blew her off in Kentucky so I got to see her in Indianapolis. Her voice is even more wonderful in person. The CD is her latest, Two Bedroom Apartment, and it's boffo.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Townes Van Zandt, Live at the Old Quarter, Fat Possum Records

Townes Van Zandt wasn't a stunning guitar player and his singing voice wasn't all that great but, man, he could play and sing. And write lyrics that melt your heart and stir your soul and can feel so sad even when they're funny, like Talking Thunderbird Blues.

Country blues, maybe not officially, although I'm not uncomfortable classifying it that way given tunes such as Chauffer's Blues, which could have come right from the Delta. Call it Country and Western Folk meets the Blues Folk, and a copacetic meeting it is.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

And I don't mean in a Halloween way

The Way the Whole Thing Ends on Gillian Welch's The Harrow & The Harvest, Acony, is about the most haunting (new) tune I've heard in a good long while. She may be a folkie, but I hear some Bessie Smith and Billie Holiday in there, not to mention some Woody Guthrie and Mississippi John Hurt, with a nicer voice but no less emotive.

Really good guitar playing as well.

The murder of Troy Davis by Georgia got me thinking

"Whether the trial witnesses against him were lying then or are lying now, by fighting against his requested relief Georgia is saying that its interest in the finality of its capital judgments is more important than the accuracy of its capital verdicts."

-- From a thoughtful Atlantic piece by Andrew Cohen.

So if government is "bad" when it taxes you, what about when it kills you, and with more than a "reasonable doubt" that you did the thing for which you're being killed? Why aren't John Boehner, Michele Bachmann, Ron Paul, et al, stepping up to the plate on that issue?

Of course, we know where Rick "Serial Executionier" Perry stands.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Saudade on Sept. 11

This evening I am listening to Portuguese fado music. The fado is rooted in the concept of saudade, loosely translated an intense longing for things lost. Lives, for instance, thousands on this day 10 years ago, hundreds of thousands since, mostly without purpose. Or the rule of law that says one may not be held indefinitely without a trial by a jury of one's peers, or even without being charged with any crime at all. Or the idea that a person should be judged on content of character, not choice of church or of headdress. Or the right to communicate and/or travel freely without being surveilled by the CIA and the New York City police and strip searched, virtually or literally. Or the notion that state-sanctioned assassination inevitably leads to more problems than it solves. These, and an economy devastated by 10 years of ill-advised and ineffective war, are the wages of 9/11, or, rather, our reaction to it. Celebrate that.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Like The Mule was sayin'

"You can't know too much. It ain't no shame if you know a whole lot. But it's a shame if you don't know nothing."

Good advice from Henry Townsend on Last of the Great Mississippi Delta Bluesmen. Just before he gets down to killing on If I Asked You.

I can think of several congresspersons who should apply the lesson.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

But of course


How iTunes classifies Last of the Great Mississippi Delta Bluesmen, a live show CD featuring Robert Lockwood Jr., David "Honeyboy" Edwards, Willie "Pinetop" Perkins and Henry Townsend.

It is for me.

Monday, April 18, 2011

What he said

"In this world of sin and sorrow there is always something to be thankful for; as for me, I rejoice that I am not a Republican."

-- H. L. Mencken

Nor a tea bagging wingnut.

Monday, April 04, 2011


No other word need be said.

(OK, it also could be "fucked," but I didn't want to put that in the heading. Actually, I like fucked better.)

There are days I feel exactly like the seal.

But there are other days…

More pictures and a report on a study showing how the whales cleverly, and frighteningly, work together to "get some."

Friday, March 25, 2011

Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right

Dear Mrs. Laura Bush

I was thrilled to receive your invitation yesterday asking me to contribute to the development of the George W. Bush presidential center and library. Let me wade right in and make a contribution.

I know you and the president have a deep appreciation for symbolism. Who can forget president Bush landing on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln and declaring an end to our successful operations in Iraq under that rousing red, white and blue “Mission Accomplished” banner. The scene still makes me shudder.

I have a wonderful idea for a symbolic work of art in the entry foyer to the George W. Bush presidential center and library, a work of art that will capture the essence of your husband’s presidency perfectly – a colorful, life-sized portrait of president Bush dressed as a clown, to be painted on black velvet, like those marvelous paintings of dogs playing poker or Elvis.

I myself enjoy dressing like a clown occasionally (strictly at Halloween, those other rumors are not true) and I happen to own a pair of big red shoes that I would be pleased to loan to the president while he poses for the painting. I also have some funny hats he might wish to use and I am sure other Americans like me would be happy to contribute necessary items. In fact, I will get the ball rolling by asking my friends what they might be able to lend for this project.

Former vice president Cheney undoubtedly has some baggy orange pants the president could borrow, as Mr. Cheney enjoys hunting and bright orange attire is standard equipment in this hobby for safety reasons. (It makes it easier to identify your hunting partner in the brush, so as not to mistake him for a deer, which refuse to wear bright orange attire, and accidently shoot him.)

I do not mean to imply that former vice president Cheney is fat in saying that his hunting pants are baggy. Hunters often don quilted underwear against the cold and need extra room in their outer garments to accommodate this. In the case of Mr. Cheney, he also needs room for his colostomy bag and diaper, although the small size of his “package” (if you know what I mean, and I think you do) mitigates this need somewhat.

I have many other exciting ideas for the George W. Bush presidential center and library. I think we can do an entire wing on president Bush’s decisive response to Hurricane Katrina, while his capture of the terrorist Osama bin Laden deserves at least a display case. On the other hand, his response to the Great Recession can be covered with a small shelf, I believe. I say this only because economics bores most people and they know little about the subject, like your husband.

I would be pleased to discuss my ideas further. Perhaps you, president Bush and I could talk over a few Shiner Bocks when I next visit Austin. You buy, and I’ll bring my big red shoes.

Greg Kline, American

P.S. Thank you for including a postage-paid return envelope.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Ana Moura, Coliseu, World Village

I really like this compilation from two of her live concerts in Portugal because it captures, naturally, her voice and her singing style as is, at least on those nights. She's a wonderful fadista in the studio, too, but studio recordings are always attempts at near perfection, depending on the number of takes allowed in a session. This is the fado of fado clubs, or the streets, and she delivers it in a tougher, more husky way, on Porque Teimas Nesta Dor (Why do you dwell on this pain?), for instance, or the rousing O Fado da Procura (Fado of searching). The a cappella opening of Lavava no Rio Lavava (I went to the river to wash) is haunting, while E Viemos Nascidos do Mar (And we came born of the sea) is jaunty, which is by way of saying there's a nice mix of music here.

I have a ticket to see her in concert in San Francisco in June, which will make me one happy man who loves fado, and Ana Moura. To hear her speak Portuguese to the audience and laugh are music as well.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

The truth? You can't handle the truth!

I am very disappointed with NPR for failing to defend its people against the smear tactics of rightwingnuts like James O'Keefe, but I'm even more disappointed with what's left of the legitimate news business.

What this O'Keefe guy does should be objectionable to almost any news organization out there (Fox excepted, of course). Cub reporters learn from the get-go that you never misrepresent yourself. People get fired for it. People get sued for it. A prime example I always think of is the fake bar (called the Mirage, hah, hah) the old Sun-Times set up in the '70s to secretly film Chicago officials demanding payola. (Wow, who knew?) They lost a Pulitzer Prize for using deception to get the story. You can still generate a debate by bringing it up at industry gatherings today, 30 plus years later. Yet, legitimate news organizations cover this O'Keefe's "revelations" like they were, well, Revelations.

O'Keefe isn't a reporter any more than Abbie Hoffman was in the '60s. He is engaging in guerrilla political theater. Rightwingnuts like to cite Michael Moore and say, hey, liberals do it, too. But evidently they've never actually watched Moore's movies. Whatever you think of him, he identifies himself and states his purpose in the process of getting people to make asses of themselves on camera. He doesn't create fake identities to coax people into saying things they wouldn't in the given situation otherwise. Likewise, his cameras are right out in the open.

I don't question O'Keefe's right to do what he's doing. Like I said, it's political theater, protest, and the First Amendment protects it. But any news organization covering this as real news, as opposed to a blatant political stunt by a discredited hack with a record of making stuff up, is doing its audience, and the country, a disservice. Ditto the tack taken by NPR leadership.

Good take on the situation by Scott Rosenberg at Slate.

I like this part:

"Sting operations conducted by law enforcement officials have a dubious record themselves, but at least they require oversight and must meet court standards of evidence. For public actors like James O'Keefe, the oversight, we assume, is performed by the media. The press prides itself for serving as truth's first line of defense, democracy's bullshit filter. This week it failed in a big way."

And, I would add sadly, lost a little more relevance in the process.

Note: Had these been NPR news people like, say, Juan Williams I'd of let them go, too. The way the situation was instigated still would have distressed me. But reporters are supposed to learn not to hang their opinions out there willy-nilly about as soon as they learn not to misrepresent themselves. You think there's a point to be made? You do the legwork and make it in a story with good sources and hard facts and only if your reporting supports it.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Teach this!

I spent 26 years covering lots of local schools off and on as a newspaper reporter. Yeah, some teachers in large, wealthy school districts did OK. But none were getting rich. And many, especially in smaller, less well-heeled districts, were working at damn near poverty level. Those summers they had "off" they generally worked, non-school jobs if not teaching, to try to make ends meet.

I knew more than one really good teacher who went into another profession entirely so they could support families and put kids through college.

From an NYT story on how a lot of teachers must be feeling about those targets on their backs in Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, and on and on:

"Ms. Parker, a second-year teacher making $36,000, fears that under the proposed legislation class sizes would rise and higher contributions to her benefits would knock her out of the middle class. 'I love teaching, but I have $26,000 of student debt,' she said. 'I’m 30 years old, and I can’t save up enough for a down payment' for a house. Nor does she own a car. She is making plans to move to Colorado, where she could afford to keep teaching by living with her parents."

Meanwhile, "Chester E. Finn Jr., president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a conservative-leaning education policy group, said the decline in teachers’ status traced to the success of unions in PAYING (my caps) teachers and granting job security based on their years of service, not ability. 'They are reaping a bitter harvest that they didn’t individually plant but their profession has planted over 50 years, going from a respected profession to a mass work force in which everyone is treated as if they are interchangeable, as in the steel mills of yesteryear,' Mr. Finn said."

How do you even talk to a guy with such a disconnect from reality?

I like this from Gene Lyons in his column posted at Salon today:

"Even if they don't often think about it, most people do understand that government employees do much of the basic grunt work that keeps a civilized society functioning. Think of it this way: Every hedge fund manager, investment banker, oil industry lobbyist and political consultant in the USA could be raptured to that great Republican country club in the sky to spend eternity golfing with Speaker John Boehner and the brothers Koch, and weeks might pass before anybody noticed. Newspaper columnists, too. There's raw sewage in your basement? Well, don't call me. None of us is keen to take on a class of 35 9-year-olds, let alone, heaven forbid, teenagers. Try some lazy, overpaid, unionized government worker."

We shouldn't be talking about how to pay teachers less. We should be talking about how to pay them commensurate with their integral role in the well-being of our society, and how to best make the profession attractive to a cadre of the brightest and most skilled among us.

You want to adjust the tenure system, to consider merit in hiring and retaining teachers? Fine by me. As long as it is really merit you want to consider, not the fact that somebody in town doesn't like somebody else's politics, or the church they attend, or that they don't attend any church at all, or a book they're seen checking out of the library, or their support, heavens, for organized labor--because that kind of thing, which happened routinely in the American history conservatives are happy to ignore (and still happens in some communities), is why tenure was fought for and won.

"Merit" also doesn't include pandering rightwingnut politicians getting rid of old teachers just because they cost more than young teachers. In teaching, experience counts. Yesterday, a teacher spent part of his busy afternoon explaining to me how he mapped the molecular structure of a common cold virus. It was exciting, educational and fun and that's the assessment of a writer who's certainly no rocket scientist, let alone a biology PhD. Don't yawn, we might get a cure out of this yet for those miserable colds that afflict even the piggishly wealthy, their Chamber of Commerce priesthood and their Tea Partying acolytes.

My teacher in this instance is 81.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Wynton Marsalis, Vitoria Suite. EmArcy

Look, if you question the importance of Wynton Marsalis in the history of jazz, you're just wrong. This CD is exhibit A. It is where Wynton the composer and his big band the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra position themselves alongside, that's right, Ellington and Basie (and also Kenton). I heard them play portions of this in Chicago's Orchestra Hall earlier this month and I was blown away. I feel the same way about this CD, where they do all of the suite he wrote in homage to, and melding rhythms from jazz and its blues roots with, the Basque region of Spain, where they play regularly.

It makes for sophisticated, intricate stuff executed with an amazingly high level of musicianship. Sean Jones, Ryan Kisor and Marcus Printup on trumpet, for example, plus Wynton. Now that's a lineup. I think it is difficult to argue that there is a better baritone sax player working today than the Scotsman Joe Temperley, nor a more versatile reedman than Victor Goines. Duke would have salivated at the prospect of playing this band.

Fred Anderson, Hamid Drake, Back Together Again, Thrill Jockey Records

So there are many, many great Fred Anderson CDs, but I might suggest this one to anyone who's wondering whether to join the Church of Fred. Why? Because this is Fred with the guy he maybe dug playing with above all others and who happens to be one of the world's great percussionists. That is, you get Fred with lots of room to be Fred, and Hamid Drake with lots of room to be Hamid Drake and, buddy, there's nothing better.

The DVD with this actually hurts me, watching Fred hunched over that tenor and making it talk with such eloquence and thinking I'll never see that again. The interviews could be used as a recipe for living a righteous life.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Fado Tradicional, addendum

When I wrote about Mariza's new CD Fado Tradicional I should have said this: It is the least-produced Mariza CD and hence the best look at just how good a fadista she has become. Elegant amid the simplicity and, amazingly, even more powerful in the emotional responses she can conjure with her singing. I can't get this out of my playing rotation.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Aldina Duarte, Apenas o Amor, EMI

Aldina Duarte makes me think of the late Koko Taylor not because their voices sound anything alike. Rather it is because as Taylor's singing was the very essence of Chicago blues, almost organically so, Duarte's is the essence of Lisbon fado.

You might call her voice pretty but for the world weariness, the miles and miles of bad road, sadness, loss and longing she packs inside the fetching wrapper. A Voz e o Silêncio, The Voice of Silence, is one of the saddest songs I have ever heard, in Portuguese or any other language. (The CD title means Only Love.)

In addition to how she sounds and the emotion she conveys, I just like what she does with her voice in a technical sense, as a tool, so to speak. She understands the value of space the way Miles Davis did and there are places where she pauses leaving the music, and me, hanging and in a state of tension before pulling us back from the precipice. Which is to say she sometimes sings like Thelonious Monk played the piano. Listening carefully, and repeatedly, pays dividends.

This kind of fado singing demands the traditional, spare accompaniment by two guitars (Portuguese and classical) and it is executed perfectly here by José Manuel Neto and Carlos Manuel Proença. A cherished CD that I recommend to anyone wishing to explore fado.

Friday, February 04, 2011

What Wynton and the gang make me think

Playing in an "orchestra" hall. The difference is that an orchestra plays the notes perfectly, or as perfectly as possible. It is bad not to do so. A jazz orchestra must willfully play the notes imperfectly, yet still logically in the context of the music and of the group.

If you swing like hell, it ain't bad either.

Sent from Mr. Greg's iPhone.


I know there is something fundamentally screwed up about the global climate system when it is warmer in Ely, Minn., than where I am sitting in the lower Midwest. Hell, I've been in Ely in late May when it was about as cold (warm) there as it is now.

Sent from Mr. Greg's iPhone.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

I am in love with Carminho...

…and this is why. Translation: Jesus, you sing fado that makes me hurt, smile, want to do whatever I can to make you feel better--all with no guitars or anything else supporting you. I mean, damn, girl, where's that come from?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Sonny picks 5 soundtracks

The master on his Top 5 movie soundtracks. To hear Mr. Rollins live making this kind of material into something you've never heard before--and never will again--is the definition of bliss.

On record (or CD as the case may be), I never cease to be blown away when I hear him play Cabin In The Sky on Sonny Rollins +3, which also includes wonderful versions of I've Never Been In Love Before, They Say It's Wonderful and, another personal favorite, Mona Lisa.

Then there's A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square on This is What I Do.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Violent political rhetoric and violence

A link between violent rhetoric and some propensity for inciting violence in the aggression prone as shown by one study, which is certainly fodder for more point-missing conversation.

The problem isn't that the violent rhetoric characterizing American political discussion of late "caused" the Arizona incident, nor that it is likely to be the cause when the next wingnut shoots a public official or blows up a government building, although it certainly doesn't make such occurrences less likely.

The problem is that it does nothing, I think it should be obvious, to encourage honest, rational discussion and collaboration on how to get folks back to work, educate kids effectively, repair a crumbling infrastructure, develop military hardware (as long as we're going to pay so much for it) that actually reflects the realities of the 21st Century, and a whole lot of other pretty important things.

If you're screaming, you're not talking. It isn't physically possible (and is psychologically unlikely).

Compare and contrast

"We may not be able to stop all evil in the world, but I know that how we treat one another is entirely up to us," Mr. Obama said. "I believe that for all our imperfections, we are full of decency and goodness, and that the forces that divide us are not as strong as those that unite us."

"There are those who claim political rhetoric is to blame for the despicable act of this deranged, apparently apolitical criminal. And they claim political debate has somehow gotten more heated just recently," Ms. Palin said. "But when was it less heated? Back in those calm days when political figures literally settled their differences with dueling pistols?"

Source: New York Times

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The gun

A reasoned piece from Gail Collins in the New York Times about how the unjustifiable--constitutionally and morally--legal availability of almost any kind of firearm in the U.S., especially in states such as Arizona, plays into tragedies like the Giffords incident.

Key point: Loughner’s gun, a 9-millimeter Glock, is extremely easy to fire over and over, and it can carry a 30-bullet clip. It is “not suited for hunting or personal protection,” said Paul Helmke, the president of the Brady Campaign. “What it’s good for is killing and injuring a lot of people quickly.”

I would dearly like to see a more Paul Simon- and Dick Lugar-like approach to political discourse in this country, one focused on stating a case rationally without the need to demonize, let alone threaten with violent rhetoric, those who disagree.

But even more, I would like to see us come to grips with the reality that not everyone should be able to own a gun, just as not everyone is qualified to have a driver's license, and that some guns shouldn't be "street legal" and readily available at all, just as we don't allow even people with driver's licenses to tool down the highway in Indy 500 racers.

Monday, January 10, 2011

The shooting of Rep. Giffords

Measured responses I think are spot on from James Fallows in the Atlantic and from George Packer in The New Yorker. The violent rhetoric characterizing our current political climate--and let's face it, that rhetoric is almost exclusive to the right--encourages this sort of tragedy, even, and perhaps especially, in a case where the assassin may be so mentally ill as to be beyond coherent thinking about the politics of the victim(s).

Likewise, the ready availability of firearms, even to someone who is mentally ill, nationally and in states like Arizona in particular.

Alex Pareene on Salon may be a little less measured, but his case is well constructed and, I think, correct in its elemental point: if you make a bed with violent rhetoric (and insanely easy access to firearms) you can't expect that everyone will lie peacefully in it.

Additionally, some sensible words from Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik and Peter King, a football writer, for gosh sakes (alebit it a good one).

Dupnik: "The anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on this country is getting to be outrageous. The vitriolic rhetoric that we hear day in and day out from people in the radio business and some people in the TV business (Editor's note: This is you, FOX!) ... This has not become the nice United States that most of us grew up in. It's not unusual for all public officials to get threats constantly, myself included. That's the sad thing about what's going on in America: Pretty soon we're not going to be able to find reasonable decent people willing to subject themselves to serve in public office."

King: "I'm not blaming guns, I'm not blaming the right or the left. Time will sort out all of the issues about why Jared Loughner apparently targeted Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords for death. Whatever the reason for Loughner's actions, I don't know how we can continue to listen to the incredible public fury we hear in politics and the political media without it having serious consequences for society."

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Natalie Merchant, Leave Your Sleep, Nonesuch

The U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are a war on terrorism. You believe that if you are like the blind man who touched the tail of an elephant and said it was clear that the elephant was like a rope. Which is why I love the parable of the Blind Men and the Elephant, and Natalie Merchant. WTF you say?

The story of the Blind Men and the Elephant is one, like Stone Soup and Edwin Markham's epigram Outwitted, I have carried with me, and tried to apply in my life, from my very early years. It is, in essence, about keeping an open mind and trying to look at the larger picture (it's about more than that, OK, but if you carry a lesson away from it, that would be a good one).

So what does Natalie Merchant have to do with this? Well, among the children's poems she renders in song on Leave Your Sleep is The Blind Men and the Elephant, which as good as it is as a parable is even better rendered in a voice that I find immeasurably more diverse in its employment and interesting than her 10,000 Maniacs Days, especially given the world-jazzy arrangement of it here and the stellar instrumentals in support (true of every song on both disks, both her singing and the vast cast on the axes behind her).

And that's the program, a bunch of classic children's verses many of us heard as kids that Natalie Merchant was reading to her daughter and sometimes, quite naturally in the case of Natalie Merchant, singing, which possessed her somewhere along the way to think the stuff could become something like Leave Your Sleep. The result is, to me, an incredibly impressive and marvelously diverse collection, from Bleezer's Ice-Cream, which could be a Beatle's tune, to The Dancing Bear, which I could see, with only some slight adjustment, Gogol Bordello doing. The Peppery Man sounds like it's right out of the Delta, The Adventures of Isabel right out the bayou and Topsy-turvey-World right out of Kingston. The show don't end there either, mon. Griselda makes me think Janis Joplin working with Barry Gordy. This stuff doesn't need to be sold, it sells itself.

I'd add that while some of it is just fun, a lot of those verses we, people my age anyway, heard as kids had, like The Blind Men and the Elephant, a point worth packing in your kit. Besides the music, you get a mini book with all the poems and bios and pictures of all the poets. Shipped off to the proverbial desert island, I'd take this with me. Instead, I might go to sleep listening to The Land of Nod tonight, and dream sweetly.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Eden Brent, Ain't Got No Troubles, Yellow Dog Records

Delta gal whose singing makes me think combination of Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday and Janis Joplin, who plays a blues piano almost as tasty as Leroy Carr or Pinetop Perkins and who composed most of her program here. What's not to like? Nothing.

Her writing always feels like today but also feels like yesterday, meaning songs such as the Brent original Blues All Over make you think she's covering a blues classic, albeit with her own modern touches. I can just hear Bessie Smith, or Big Mama Thornton, doing In Love with Your Wallet. A lot of New Orleans jazzy spicing in this set, too. Let's Boogie-Woogie is a foot-stomping romp Albert Ammons and Pete Johnson would be down with.

Really good stuff. I'll be watching for Eden Brent releases and performances henceforth.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Danielle Ate the Sandwich, Two Bedroom Apartment

I have Danielle Ate the Sandwich’s Two Bedroom Apartment going around in my head this morning and if I try to switch it out I get Danielle Ate the Sandwich’s El Paso and that is about what I want to say about Danielle (real last name Anderson). Her songs, her singing and her ukulele and guitar playing are catchy and, I might even say, captivating.

Two Bedroom Apartment is the title song of her first professionally done CD, which I got two weeks ago and have listened to about every day since. First time through, I thought, well, that’s pretty good ukulele but I was doing other things and not really paying attention to the lyrics.

Now, having listened to the words and connected them to the music numerous times, I am struck by how a lot of these songs are fun and upbeat (or at least not somnolent), poignant and pointed at the same time (Two Bedroom Apartment and American Dream come to mind). In any event, the lyrics and instrumentals are so good you will probably want to listen to this a lot, which makes for a great value.

Danielle is all over YouTube and she maintains a nice blog that’s as smile-inducing as her music. I would like to see her in concert, which has to be a real hoot.