Thursday, December 31, 2009
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Caterwaul Albums 2009
Albums of the Year
Elliott Brood - Mountain Meadows (Six Shooter)
Loudon Wainwright III and Dick Connette- High Wide and Handsome: The Charlie Poole Project (2nd Story Sounds)
Avett Brothers - I and Love and You (Anti)
Buddy and Julie Miller – Written in Chalk (New West)
Gourds – Haymaker (Yep Roc)
Levon Helm – Electric Dirt (Vanguard)
Todd Snider – The Excitement Plan (Yep Roc)
Wilco – Wilco (The Album) (Nonesuch)
Elvis Costello – Secret, Profane & Sugarcane (Hear)
Neko Case - Middle Cyclone (Anti)
Low Anthem – Oh My God, Charlie Darwin (Nonesuch)
Vic Chestnutt – Skitter on Takeoff (Vapor)
Tim Easton – Porcupine (New West)
The Sweetback Sisters – Chicken Ain’t Chicken (Signature Sounds)
Putnam Smith – Goldrush (Itchy Sabot)
Lyle Lovett – Natural Forces (Lost Highway)
Red Stick Ramblers – My Suitcase is Always Packed (Sugar Hill)
Kendal Carson – Allright Dynamite (Train Wreck)
Felice Brothers – Yonder is the Clock (Team Love)
David Greely - Sud du Sud (davidgreely.com)
Dave Rawlings Machine – A Friend of a Friend (Acony)
Chuck Prophet – Let Freedom Ring (Yep Roc)
Caroline Herring – Golden Apples of the Sun (Signature Sounds)
Deer Tick – Born on Flag Day (Partisan)
Linzay Young and Joel Savoy (Valcour)Vince Bell – One Man’s Music (vincebell.com)
Amy Speace - The Killer in Me (Wildflower)
Sunday, December 27, 2009
Hot off of his outrageous, mercurial performance as the enemy of universal health care, our junior, and I do mean junior, ructious Senator has found new hope in an attempted act of terrorism.
On Sunday, while the White House tried mightily to prevent panic, Creepy Joe™ Lieberman stoked the fires of fear, and beat the drums of war suggesting that we establish a new front in Yemen. Yeah, man.
Lieberman spared no time moving from the limelight as "health spoiler" to the bellicose beast of bombing preemptively. All right, (creepy) Joe, let's make yemenade out of Yemen!
Never was a bigger chickenhawk ever hatched.
And as the head of the Homeland Security committee, might it be presumptuous to suggest that Lieberman had failed in his duties because a Nigerian with an explosive dildo almost brought a jetliner down. If it wasn't for a brave lad from the land of licentiousness, Amsterdam, one would say that the Senate Homeland Security committee might have had some blood on its hands.
But that's okay with Lieberman. A little blood bath, just like too little health care, is a good thing for his benefactors.
Saturday, December 26, 2009
It's unfortunate that our vaunted health care system was failing him in a time of great need. A page to help his family pay for medical bills has been set up for donations.
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Sunday, December 6, 2009
President Barack Obama went to the US Senate Sunday to address the Democratic caucus on the topic of passing a health care bill, and the disastrous results of failing to do so.
When he was done with his 30 minute speech, which neither mentioned the public option, nor restrictions on abortions, our own Senator Creepy Joe™ Lieberman apparently could not contain his glee.
He trotted over to Harry Reid and gloated, dancing, pointing his finger (okay that's my version), and chanting in a schoolyard singsong: "He didn't mention the public option; he didn't mention the public option, and you stink too."
Reid asked Lieberman if he had seen where the horse bit him.
Saturday, November 21, 2009
But none of that seems to affect his curdled narcissism.
Still, in a flash of inspiration that he borrowed from George Bush and his homeland security chiefs, Lieberman has raised the specter of terrorism as a distraction.
If the world is hailing our junior senator from Connecticut as the biggest egotistical turncoat since Benedict Arnold for opposing the public option, Lieberman thinks he has a way to divert attention, and make his far-right supporters hail him as a patriot by discovering a new "terrorist threat" in the tragedy at Fort Hood. He's wielding the committee chairmanship from which he should have been toppled, as the bully pulpit for his self-serving nonsense.
Maybe Creepy Joe™ ought to acknowledge his own role as terrorist. How much time will he be spending scrubbing the blood from his hands for his active support of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? How many bodies of innocent children need to be placed on the doorstep of his swanky Stamford digs before he stops his anti-Muslim yowling? And how many sick mother's, daughters, sons and husbands can look to the Senator from Connecticut and see the thick, brutish impediment that stands between them and decent health care?
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
I've been meaning to make it down to Tapas on Ann St. in Hartford for months to catch the Monday night stand with the Shinolas, an erstwhile band consisting of great session players.
Local guitar slinger, producer, film scorer and friend, Jim Chapdelaine, and also-local percussion, multi-instrumentalist, producer and friend Lorne Entress recruited bassist Paul Kochanski and talented pedal steel player Ed Iarusso to form the Shinolas.
Every Monday they gather in the Asylum Street window of the modest eatery and turn it into the kind of joint you only find in Nashville or Austin. Great players having a great time singing and playing originals and covers, mostly of the rootsy rock, rockin' country or pumped-up traditional variety.
Last night they were joined onstage by acclaimed Boston singer-songwriter Mark Erelli, who enjoyed a sabbatical from being the "folksinger" so that he could trade leads on rockers with Chapdelaine, and so he could share band versions of some of his great tunes including "Compass and Companion," and his tragic take on the Hartford circus fire he calls "Hartfordtown." In between the band moved easily between Jimmie Rodgers, Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard and Warren Zevon. During two extended jams, it was difficult to tell who was having more fun - the band or the audience.
This regular gig has turned an off night for the Hartford eatery into a a busy night that has become an important staple of their week's income. On Monday the restaurant was fully booked out, with standing room only for latecomers.
The Shinolas have made it a practice to invite friends onto their stage. Besides Erelli, they've hosted Al Anderson, John Pousette-Dart and Daisy Mayhem fiddler Rani Arbo. Chapdelaine hinted of a few surprise guests to come.
While the wind whistled through the rest of Hartford's empty streets Monday, the joyful noise was warm and welcome inside Tapas.
Sunday, November 15, 2009
"I haven't seen you since the big burn...."
One of the new ones.
Saturday, November 14, 2009
Thanks to Bruce Zimmerman for the custom score, and to Glenn Orkin, Paul Nelson, Crystal Place and Todd Sanderson for production assistance.
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Simultaneously shameless and shameful, Creepy Joe™ Lieberman, who thumbed his nose at Connecticut Democrats, and all Democrats, including candidate Barack Obama, and who was saved from ignominy by President Barack Obama, has taken the thumb from his nose and jammed it in our collective eyes.
Lieberman has stated that he will join with Republicans in filibustering against the public option.
Which health insurance company's water is he carrying now?
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Yesterday when I was raising money at WWUH, I thought about how great the radio I grew up with was, and how sad that it doesn't exist anymore.
Thanks to everyone who called and helped me surpass my goal for the show. Here's a song I know you'll understand.
H/T (for many reasons) to Susan Forbes Hansen.
Monday, October 12, 2009
I'm just back from being out of town for a few days doing some film production in Mobile, Alabama and Natchez, Mississippi. I found Mobile less charming than expected, and on the contrary, despite the ghosts of slavery which loom over Natchez, it's a beautiful little town on a broad stretch of the Mississippi River crammed full of interesting architecture, most of which are stately antebellum structures.
I took the opportunity for a side trip of a couple of days to a place that inexplicably feels like a second home to me, Louisiana.
Never fully jettisoning its status as a French territory (and Spanish before that), it's the only place in the world where the Napoleonic code is still the basis for law. It's also one of the most exotic places in the United States.
It's a bundle of contradictions. Deeply embedded racism, and some of the deepest racial harmony I've ever witnessed. Flag-waving patriotism living elbow-to-elbow with a proud French culture which fairly spits the word "americaine" as the curse which rained down highways and McDonalds and nearly ravaged a culture where neighborliness and home cooked food are almost a religion. Broad fertile prairies bump up against dank foreboding swamplands. Nature perseveres with a vengeance on wide acres where oil derricks pump endlessly into the night.
New Orleans is a part of this, but that's another story altogether.
I wanted to visit several of my friends who live in the Acadian - Cajun- and Creole corridor that runs from Henderson Swamp to Eunice and beyond.
I stay in Breaux Bridge, an old farming town bisected by the Bayou Teche. There are half a dozen lovely bed and breakfast accommodations in a town which is now a magnet for artists, musicians and antique merchants.
On my first night in, I stopped at Nunu's in Arnaudville where fiddler David Greely assembled a congress of fellow fiddlers, many of them young, who played ancient music filtered through young fingers. Nunu's is a cafe/concert hall/arts space/educational facility which attempts to present a few concerts each month featuring the traditional music of the area, rooted undeniably in the predominant French culture of the Acadians (from Britanny and other parts of France, via Nova Scotia), and the Creoles who are influenced by African, Caribbean and Spanish roots.
After a restful night, despite a wicked head cold, at the lovely Isabelle Inn, I headed to New Iberia to walk the streets made famous by detective novelist James Lee Burke and his rogue detective Dave Robichaux. New Iberia was abuzz with preparation for a gumbo cook-off which would feature music, local food, and of course, a gumbo-cooking contest. I didn't make it back to sample the gumbo, but I had my share at other stops on the trip.
A quick stop in Lafayette to hear a bit of music by zydeco artist Corey Ledet, and young Cajun band Feufollet to kick off the weekend Festivale Acadien in Lafayette, then it was back to Breaux Bridge for lunch with Susan and Carl, both of who are from Louisiana, but who have called Connecticut home, and now have adopted Breaux Bridge. We ate at Cafe des Amis (I had catfish and machoux). They introduced me to the owner of the Cafe, Dickie Breaux, who among other things, spent his life in Louisiana politics and kept me fascinated with tales of institutionalized corruption, and the difficulties of being a very liberal Democrat in a deeply conservative Southern state.
That evening I made my way to the Blue Moon Saloon and guesthouse where Cedric Watson and his band Bijou Creole were to play. I sat next to Ken Doucet who complete my day with more tales of Louisiana politics, the role of the Mafia in the state, and sordid tales of cousins, and uncles and women. By his telling, his uncle contributed to the death of Huey Long after he was shot in the state Capitol building in Baton Rouge. Ken's uncle was a trusted general practitioner to Long, and Long insisted that he perform surgery to remove the bullets from his gut. The uncle was not a practiced surgeon, and, well, the Huey Long shooting is now called an assassination.
Cedric Watson filled the dance floor with a sweaty, enthusiastic crowd, and though I swore to leave in time to hear Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys play a rare gig at La Poussiere in Breaux Bridge, I couldn't tear myself away, and spent the rest of the evening at the Blue Moon.
The next morning I rose early to get a good spot for the Zydeco breakfast at Cafe des Amis. When I got to the cafe on Bridge Street at 7:20, there was already a line of thirty ahead of me. When the doors opened, I found a place at the bar and ordered a coffee, while many in the tiny restaurant pulled on strong Bloody Mary's as they downed cheese grits and boudin balls. The crowd filtered in as Corey Ledet and his band arrived and set up, and by 8:30 AM on a Saturday morning the dance floor was filled with bobbing bodies swinging to Ledet's throbbing Zydeco beat. As I left, the line to get in ran halfway down the block.
I made an early retreat to visit Marc Savoy's Music Store in Eunice, northwest of Lafayette, where a regular Saturday morning jam session draws wizened veterans grasping delicate fiddles in muscular paws, mixed with up-and-comers hoping to steal a lick from the oldtimers. I stopped on the way to pick up a typical Saturday morning visiting treat on the prairie - hot boudin and crackers - at Ray's Boudin and Cracklins shop in Opelousas. I bought a small bag of cracklins for the short drive to Eunice. Cracklins are knows as a perfect food. Pig fat cooked to a hardy crispness in, pig fat, and then seasoned with salt and a variety of peppers. Boudin is pork and rice sausage which is cooked twice. The mix is cooked before being stuffed in sausage casings, then cooked again in broth or in oil.
As Marc Savoy said as he pulled took a bite of the spicy sausage, "Yum."
I caught up with Marc and Ann Savoy, and then headed back down to Lafayette for the already-underway Festivale Acadien. One of the most popular regional music festivals, Festival Acadien is completely free, and features music of the local French culture, very reasonably-priced delicacies from a variety of the local restaurants, and crafts from around the region.
A night of rain left Girard Park, located adjacent to the University of Louisiana, a soup of mud puddles and slick bogs. The locals wore colorful rubber boots that did not impair dancing a wit. And on whatever of the four stages featured music, there was dancing. In fact, at one point I walked past four different acts, on four different stages and the dance floor (the muddy patch in front of the stage) was filled at each one.
I scouted the food booths before deciding what to try. It was a difficult decision considering the choices, jambalya, gumbo, etouffe (spelled, frequently "A-2-fay"), fricasse, pistollettes, boudin, po boys, tasso, catfish in many incarnations, crab, crawfish, shrimp, red beans & rice, and a variety of mouth-watering pastries, bread puddings and cobblers.
Throughout the day I had some jambalaya, boudin, catfish, etouffe and some crawfish enchiladas. My eyes longed for more, but alas.
As for the music, it would be difficult to say what I enjoyed most - Jesse Lege (who lives part time in Connecticut and makes his living as a carpenter here) transformed at home by an all-star band with members of several local combo providing him the kind of backup he could never find in the Nutmeg State, Balfa Toujours (who recently peformed in Middletown) calling the amazing Horace Trahan in to substitute on accordion for the absent Dirk Powell, the Pine Leaf Boys roaring across the stage as the light faded from the sky, or Feufollet bringing the legendary Zachary Richard onstage to sing the classic "J'ete Au Bal."
As the last notes filtered through the branches of the live oaks in Girard Park, I had to decide whether to spend another evening at the Blue Moon Saloon with the Pine Leaf Boys, or make the prudent escape to my B&B for a very early morning trip to the airport. I chose the prudent Yankee route.
Had I know my flight was going to be canceled, and that I would sit for four hours in the Lafayette Airport, I might have made the decision to swallow a few more Abitas and sway a few more hours with my Acadian friends.
The respite in the airport allowed me to write this, and to reflect on a culture which many thought would disappear in Louisiana. But despite attempts to drive the French Culture out, the resulting counter-attack to preserve it, has created a culture that is as diverse as it is united, and as spectacular as it is homespun.
Any culture that can weave eating, playing music, taking a sip, telling stories and hanging out with neighbors, is likely to survive as long as we love doing all those things.
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Any of us who saw Dave Alvin touring this summer with his Guilty Women tour were likely as impressed by the band as we were by Dave.
Sad news today, then, that fiddler, songwriter and wonderful musician Amy Farris has died. I met her in Los Angeles at a gig with I See Hawks In LA, and she was as charming and nice as she was musically talented.
Here's what her family posted on FB:
AMY FARRIS (violin, viola and harmony vocals for Dave Alvin & The Guilty
Women) passed away Saturday, Sept 26th after battling a long illness. A native
of Austin, Texas, Amy started playing violin at age ten. She is a vet of the
Austin music scene, playing with artists such as Ray Price, Alejandro
Escovedo, Kelly Willis, Bruce Robison and Ray Wylie Hubbard. Amy moved to
Los Angeles when Dave offered to produce her first solo CD Anyway, released
by Yep Roc in 2004. Along with Dave Alvin and Kelly Willis, Miss Farris has
also performed and/or recorded with Brian Wilson, John Doe, Exene Cervenka,
Stan Ridgway, Greg Dulli, Peter Case, and many others.
In leui of flowers, the family encourages you to send a donation in her
honor to Hungry For Music, Inc, a nonprofit effort to provide free musical
instruments to underprivileged children with a hunger to play.
Or send checks to:
Hungry for Music
6 Grant Ave. Suite 3
Takoma Park, MD 20912
Thursday, September 24, 2009
I found this essay by Russell Mokhiber via Susan Campbell's website at about the same time I finished reading Nick Reding's amazing book Methland, which describes how the crank epidemic has ravaged the country.
Mokhiber asks why a non-profit organization like ACORN is being punished for the wrongdoing of a few bad employees, and why major corporations with legions of rogue employees are left unharmed.
Interestingly, filmaker James O'Keefe who made the now infamous ACORN pimp/whore videos, has apparently lied about his "investigation."
Reding posits that America's meth epidemic was abetted by huge agricultural companies which bought small meatpacking and agricultural firms, cut wages drastically, and knowingly employed illegal aliens, and large pharmaceutical companies which fought the DEA to salvage the production of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine, the main component of meth.
In both cases the power of corporate money, and the need to make a profit, twisted the laws for its own, bottom line, purposes.
The golden rule, rules. He who has the gold makes the rules.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Sarah Palin went to a Hong Kong and bashed the president. When the Dixie Chicks did this to W, they got death threats and were blacklisted from radio stations and concert venues. The wingnut bloviators went ballistic (How dare she criticize the commander-in-chief at at time of war?) Don't hold your breath waiting for the right-wing commenters to slam their very own centerfold.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Monday, September 21, 2009
It shouldn't be a charge one cascades as a facile rejoinder to every wrong the lunkheaded rightwingers unleash.
But there's plenty of evidence, specific evidence, that racism is at the heart of a good many of the attacks on Barack Obama.
So when conservative shoutcasters, like our local watt-sucker, Jim Vicevich, express outrage at being called "racist," one merely has to point out how. Last week Vicevich was in the middle of a rant, during which he saw himself and his listeners ("my little mobsters" he calls them) as victims of a false charge of bigotry. In the same sentence he decried the charge, and implicated himself.
"Is it racist to challenge the policies of the 'young president," he screamed into the mic.
The "young president," is it? Once again, Jim Bob, you may as well call Obama, "boy."
He's black, and he's president. And he's a grown man. And for some people that just doesn't add up, does it, Jim?
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
The Hartford Courant today printed an editorial about several incidents which indicate a loss of civility in the public discourse. Say the editors:
The health care issue has seen incivility raised to a tactic — premeditated rudeness — in town hall meetings across the country, driven by hate radio and vituperate bloggers.
Local crackpot broadcaster, WTIC-AM's Jim Vicevich took that sentence personally, excoriating editors for not including a list of uncivil incidents during the Bush administration.
I, for one, am glad that Vicevich self-identifed with "hate radio," because the first step in recovery is recognizing that you have a problem.
Now Jim, if we could only convince you to admit that your undergrad degree in economics does not put you on par with Paul Krugman. Your 15 watt notion of the free-market is nothing more than a rehashing of the cribbed talking points of think-tanks, bloggers, pundits and lobbyists for the corporate giants who need nincompoops like you to do their bidding.
Monday, September 14, 2009
Hey Vicevich. We'll stop calling you a teabagger when you stop calling it, "the Democrat Party" and stop calling him "the young president." (By the way, do you take one lump, or two?)
A march on Washington as pure, and white, as the driven snow.
The irrepressible Max Blumenthal with another object lesson.
Friday, September 11, 2009
Thursday, September 10, 2009
The boors are winning.
At the town hall meetings mob rule has prevented meaningful discussion and debate on health care.
And now, South Carolina's representative Joe Wilson decided to shout down President Barack Obama with a angry, "You lie."
So much for Southern gentility.
Where was Wilson when George Bush was standing in the same place and actually lying. Oh, that's right, George Bush isn't black.
Wilson has apologized to the President. And the President has wisely, graciously, if unsatisfyingly, accepted Wilson's apology, and wants to move on.
I feel as incomplete as Inigo Montoya (from the Princess Bride). As incomplete as when Obama allowed Creepy Joe™ Lieberman back into the fold.
The problem is not Wilson's accusation. If we were to ask ever elected official in the room last night to stand and clap if they had ever offered a political lie to the public, we would have witnessed a standing ovation. Politicians lie. All politicians lie. (In fact, we all lie, Joe.)
And, for me, it's not about the loss of protocol. I, for one, would have been happy if one spineless Democrat had occasionally stood up to George Bush or Dick Cheney.
No, Wilson could have shouted, "you're ugly" or "you're a socialist" or "you were born in Kenya," and they all would have had the same effect. Guys like Wilson seem to think it's okay to shout at President Barack Obama because he's considered an impostor. To them, he's a black man in a white man's office. And a lot of folks don't give him the respect that they've given other men, in the same office, who deserved far less respect.
What Wilson did was send a signal to the racists, and the gun nuts, and the whack jobs, and the crack pots, and the birthers, and the deathers, that the man sitting in the President's chair is doing so illegitimately.
What Wilson did is give these creeps one more reason to believe that Barack Obama is somehow not their president.
"He must be a liar," they repeat. "Joe Wilson said so, and he's a Congressman."
Right here in Connecticut this morning, WTIC wingnut radio host Jim Vicevich, who hilariously called himself "the voice of moderation" today, played the Wilson accusation 6 or 7 times in the short time I was listening. And then he argued himself that the president was not being truthful, but was using "weasel words." And then he entertained at least three callers who called Barack Obama a liar, and each time he amplified the accusation by "proving" that the President was not being completely upfront about the proposed health care bill (Vicevich claims he has had some really "smart people" with "advanced degrees" who read and really understand the bill - a former Assistant U.S. Attorney General, Vicevich's sister, and the RadioVice blogmaster Steve McGough, who happens to work for health insurance giant UnitedHealthcare).
ASIDE: Just for the record, Vicevich hung up on two people who disagreed with him and, then, only after they were safely off the phone, he spent two or three minutes berating them. Bully=coward. The "voice of moderation" indeed.
The echo is deafening, and the crackpots are soaking it up. Listen to them repeat the chants "liar, socialist, nazi, racist (yes, can you believe? "racist")." Vicevich is leading the chorus of malcontents, and goes so far as to continue to remind them of their constitutional right to bear arms. I think any broadcaster with an ounce of sense and responsibility has to understand that lighting a match while standing in a puddle of gasoline, is not a good or gracious or democratic idea.
BTW, Jim, lay off the "young president" bit unless you really want to commit to the racist intent of calling him "boy."
Tonight, Jim Vicevich is the "guest of honor" at a fundraiser for Republican candidates for mayor and common council in my hometown of Middletown CT. I can only say, that any of those candidates who attend the fundraiser have lost my respect, and likely my vote.
As for Wilson, "sorry" is just not good enough.
And perhaps the only satisfaction is knowing that his Democratic opponent for the seat raised more than $300,000 for his campaign in the hours after Wilson's outburst.
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
For weeks I've been hearing the ads. Rudy Giuliano bragging (what else is new?) about his "friends" like Colin Powell and Laura Bush and Joe Montana coming to Hartford to electrify, for $19.95 you during this terrible recession.
My years of watching late-night infomercials nudged my bullshit detector to the "on" position.
Well, it turns out that the only way these folks are coming to Hartford is "via Satellite." So, you are one of the great unwashed who has shelled out $19.95 to be in the same room with the motivators only to find you'll be watching them on a big TV screen.
But don't worry, because you'll also be able to enjoy the traffic gridlock that the promoters are predicting.
But my bullshit detectors are humming again, and I think that every editor in Hartford has switched theirs off, preferring to believe the press release that gridlock could actually happen in our lovely little Insurance City.
I think it's hype. Just the promoters trying to get a little more attention for their claim that the event has sold out.
I smell sell-out, all right. It's just of a different brand.
By the way, just who is Tamara Lowe?
Sunday, September 6, 2009
The lovely late-summer weather drove a huge crowd to the gates of the Rhythm and Roots Festival on Friday and Saturday. It seems as if today promises more of the same.
I've been emceeing, as I have all of the twelve years the festival has been held here, and the music is as good as it's ever been.
Highlights: The Lee Brothers and the Travellin' McCoury's doing a gospel jam to end Friday night's festivities. Member of the Frank family jamming in the workshop tent. Cedric Watson and Bijou Creole on the main stage, and Keith Frank insisting with his irresistible music that the crowd dance and sweat.
Friday, September 4, 2009
Thursday, September 3, 2009
I don't know which has made me laugh more in the past two days, Jonathan Ligon's Facebook collection of Morons With Signs (Facebook membership required) or the discovery (thanks to Pete Lehndorff), of Awkward Family Photos.
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
When I rolled out of bed at 4 AM this morning in preparation for the radio show I had some dark thoughts. Am I too old to be doing this? Couldn't I use the extra few hours of sleep? Was I really excited about getting back to spinning the music?
These thoughts haunted me the entire ride to the radio station, and I thought, really thought, maybe it's the time to retire.
When I arrived, after two weeks of vacation, there were at least 80 new CDs waiting to be logged in. I was able to manage doing the data base log-in for forty of them, which means printing 40 labels, and affixing all of them, plus at least two other stickers, to the CDs and cases. That's well over 120 stickers.
Out of necessity, some of this busy work leaked over into the beginning of the show, so I decided to spin new music until I got the job done.
It took me 40 minutes, and in that time, my dark mood was blown clear out of the studio by the quality of music by groups and musicians I had never heard before - Elliott Brood, Cara Dillon, Madison Violet, Allen Thompson and The Hobo Nephews of Uncle Frank.
I was smiling, and filled with the hope that only new music can generate.
I won't be retiring soon. I want to spin more of these songs.
Monday, August 31, 2009
Four years ago this week I was sitting at a cottage in Narragansett, Rhode Island, where I was emceeing at the Rhythm and Roots Festival, and I was on the phone trying to figure out how to get a video crew into Alabama, Mississippi or Louisiana after Katrina had ripped apart the Gulf coast. I was on assignment for a local insurance company which wanted to document their handling of claims during the crisis.
I managed to get an advanced team into Mississippi a few days after Katrina. A week later I was in New Orleans the day it was first opened to insurance adjusters, contractors and some business owners.
We landed in Alabama, and drove to Louisiana. The towering commercial signs advertising fast food and gasoline were all absent their messages, and treetops along the highway were shorn. We gassed up in Mandeville, unsure that we'd find fuel in New Orleans, and filled the back seat with water, candy bars, jerky and peanut butter.
That first trip over the Lake Pontchartrain causeway was eerie, and the damage to the city was apparent immediately. I had contracted with a crew from the city to take me around. The camera operator had already spent days with network producers scouring New Orleans when it was still flooded. With his NBC credentials, he got me into Lakeview and the Ninth Ward to see the extent of the hurricane damage.
That night, we stayed in a chain hotel on St. Peters with TV crews, security personnel, National Guard members and Fats Domino. We grilled hot dogs on the sidewalk, because the hotel restaurant was not open for business, and traded the frankfurters for National Guard MRE's (ready-to-eat meals).
I love New Orleans, but was only able to walk after the sun rose, and before it set. The city was closed otherwise, and since I worked all day, these morning and evening walks allowed me to see a major American city empty, and on the skids.
A major memory, beyond the damage, were the refrigerators, duct-taped shut, lining the sidewalks and stinking to high heavens. Many marked with a mysterious graffiti message "Voodoo Today Here Now 5." I don't know if anyone has ever figured that one out.
While New Orleans has made significant strides back, it's still not, and may never be, the city it was. A lot of the anniversary reports dwell on the work still remaining to be done.
But native New Orleanians have not given up on the city, and after four years, that's the best one can say about this one-of-a-kind, exotic non-american, American city.
Saturday, August 29, 2009
It's been a puzzle to me how the major AM radio station in the state has given itself over completely to right-wing blather (and the Red Sox and UCONN Huskies) when it neither reflects the feelings or attitudes of a majority of the population, nor any relation to the truth.
Yet, WTIC-AM becomes more strident with every passing day, and from it's morning drive-time jock, a right-winger who declares himself a libertarian, to the show which follows, in which a shallow, vacuous, feeble-minded host parrots the day's wingnut talking points for his tiny, but dedicated audience, to the national feeds of hate-mongering bloviators, the station panders to the fears of the uninformed to define a focused audience for advertisers. Some would say it all comes down to money. But is there something more?
Is the corporate-owned radio giant a megaphone for conservative corporate talking points aimed at perpetuating a free-market, small-government myth. One has to begin to think so, otherwise this boil on the bum of broadcasting wouldn't make sense in a state which is largely liberal and Democratic.
And because WTIC neither owns the airwaves over which it broadcasts, nor is any longer peforming a service to the public, it's up to us to begin to ask why it should retain its license.
This is something we can do locally to fight a surge in fascist thought that's flooding America. Sara Robinson has written thoughtfully on the topic, and now she has more to say.
Back to our local conservative radio station which has failed in its mission to serve the public. It calls itself "new talk" radio, but "news" is a gathering of fact, and fact no longer is the basis for the "talk" on the station. Time to listen carefully, take notes, and report to the FCC anytime you feel the station is promoting hate, racism, homophobia and particularly incitement to treason.
Friday, August 28, 2009
Colin McEnroe will be back on the air, Monday at WNPR, otherwise known as Connecticut Public Radio, and his sidekick will be Chion Wolf, whose inbetweenies, have held weekends at WNPR together for these past many months.
According to all reports, McEnroe's show will be a pastiche of cultural, topical and philosophical issues, all of which he is capable of handling with his hyperdrive wit, and his almost unbelievable grasp of the issues.
We're all hoping for the best as McEnroe settles into an otherwise staid (with the exception of the weekend's Car Talk and Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me) format with his fully-automatic fire humor.
The other bit of good news is that the announcement declares that McEnroe won't be taking calls from the usual cast of shut-ins, a real drag on his former AM show, and that he apparently won't be talking sports, an event which unfortunately coincided with my drive home, and led me to tune to All Things Considered.
The bad news is that McEnroe plans to eschew politics, which is where he is always the most brilliant, and on point. Sure, he is no longer in the thrall of an evil AM giant which broadcasts nothing but right-wing blather, which left him to be the white knight who leaned left on his charging steed, but he is still broadcasting in a state where that AM station is a peculiar power, which needs the balance of good-sense talk from somewhere.
Let's hope the months ahead lead to the abandonment of silly debate sequences about the likes of the Archie-Veronica wedding, for the adoption of sequences on the foibles and failures of politics.
Thursday, August 27, 2009
Read the New York Times and find out that one of your Senatorial representatives, Creepy Joe™ Lieberman, has decided to come out against health care reform.
Lieberman says reform will have to wait until the recession ends.
His critics are already refuting his flimsy argument.
I wonder if Barack Obama, also on vacation, read the NY Times yesterday, and had a similar blood boiling reaction after reading about the Senator whose fat he pulled out of the fire.
Friday, August 21, 2009
It's difficult to believe that our week at Shobac is nearly over.
The rugged beauty of this spit of land which pokes out into the Atlantic is breathtaking, particularly the way in which the view changes with the tide, and the angle of the sun, and the shift of the wind which will envelope us with a fog bank one moment, and sweep it over the drumlin hills the next.
This morning, the owner of Shobac, Brian MacKay-Lyons, sat with his wife in a circle of Adirondack chairs talking to Myles, the local lumber operator who is clearing a field so that it can be planted with grass for the cows which graze the hillside. MacKay-Lyons is an internationally-acclaimed architect, but you wouldn't know it by his friendly humility. He sat with Myles, a native of the area who is part Micmac Indian, sipping coffee and grape juice. And for this meeting, MacKay-Lyons was dressed in green bathrobe and baseball cap. We talked about the beauty of the land, and he laughed at my description of the hills as "mountains." I told him that in Connecticut, these were considered to be mountains. He told me about his childhood days when, on the way to school, he put out a fishing line attached to a stake so that he'd have fish for supper after school.
Myles told us about fishing for eels when the tide pushed the eels upstream where they swam below the gravel in the stream bed, trapped by reeds Myles would push into the bed. He and his friends wore gloves when eel fishing, "because they are so slimy, you can't get a hold of them."
I told him that's why they didn't seem so appetizing for that very reason.
"I love them," he confessed. "To skin them, we'd stick a nail on a wall, hook the head of the eel, and make a slice around his neck, then just pull the skin down, like a snake."
While it didn't make the thought of eating eel any more appetizing, the image will remain indelible.
Sunday, August 16, 2009
I'm sitting in the sitting area of one of the amazing amazing, spare, beautiful and functional cottages architect Bryan MacKay-Lyons has built on the site of an ancient village, and working farm in Upper Kingsburgh, Nova Scotia, awed by the spectacular view of the LeHave estuary, and the Atlantic, dotted with islands.
MacKay-Lyons greeted us upon arrival, and pointed to the nearest salt pond for a welcoming dip, and then told us about the features of the property - a newly restored "round" barn (actually octagonal) rescued from destruction and shipped here for reconstruction, wilderness pathways, a stocked trout pond, and a variety of ocean-front beaches.
I'm closing the laptop to enjoy the view.
Thursday, August 13, 2009
Those of you who fell into despair after reading Sara Robinson's essay on fascism, as I did, can take heart that the same author has responded to the many people who responded to her original essay with some commonsense advice about fighting the fascist threat.
Interestingly, one of her ideas is to think nationally but act locally.
It's been on my mind that the people of central Connecticut need to confront the owners and managers of WTIC-AM about the irresponsible broadcasting that's been going on there. By listening carefully, and cataloguing incitment, racism, threats, we may be able to back the bully down.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Monday, August 10, 2009
Sunday, August 9, 2009
I've been troubled this week by the denouncements by liberal commentators and the Democratic party of the troublemakers who have shown up at town meetings to disrupt the work of politicians pushing a national health plan.
The First Amendment guarantees free speech, and so it bothers me when any progressive makes the argument that free speech is okay for me when I want to denounce George Bush, but it's not okay for my fellow American who wants to denounce Barack Obama and the Democrats.
The First Amendment does not legislate decorum or politeness. It consecrates free speech, and sometimes free speech has to be shouted. And sometimes it's shouted by people we don't like, and don't agree with.
That means we might not always like what we hear, whether its an obscene word, a homophobic slur, a blasphemy or a racist remark. The First Amendment doesn't guarantee that we won't hear from assholes. We will hear free speech from assholes, and we must tolerate the speech.
But we don't have to stand by idly and tolerate the ideas. That's what free speech is about too. Standing up against racists, homophobes, idealogues, hatemongers, anti-intellectuals, demagogues and bullies of any stripe. They shout. We shout louder.
(A slight digression. One of the first Supreme Court cases newly-sworn-in Judge Sotomayor will hear is a free speech case. In this case, Citizens United vs. FEC, was a narrow argument, that has broadened and will be argued before the SCOTUS as an argument to allow corporations to provide unfettered donations to political candidates as an act of free speech. Here's what one conservative commentator argues, in, ahem, Capitalist Magazine, where they seem to conflate free speech with free market. The DNC has filed a briefing against corporate interests - and union interests, interestingly enough, and Sotomayor, an elections reform proponent, is expected to side with the FEC. But treating a corporation as an "individual" with the rights of the individual, and assigning free speech rights to campaign dollars is far more ridiculous than defending a lap dance as free speech. And I can assure you that there are thousands of conservative Republicans who would fight for lap dances - though probably not publicly.)
The Democrats, and the Obama administration have to own up to a bit of this mess. The health care plan they offer is so watered-down by compromises to corporate interests, and so complex, that it is nearly impossible to sell to anyone as a good thing. And Democratic legislators are doing a horrible job of selling the weak-kneed plan. The strategy is to pass something-anything as a national health plan as a first step to get something on the books and to demonstrate Obama's effectiveness. I say, President Obama, step backwards and remember your campaign of hope and progress and give us a brave and effective plan, and not this mess.
So, Obama and the Democrats gifted something to the conservative commentators to latch onto. A thousand-page plan with give-backs to pharmaceuticals, insurance companies, hospitals and established health-care providers, while stripping it of a public option, and a universal payer. And hanging on it a scary, and probably inevitable, price tag.
Now, a good, simple, universal plan could be sold on its advantages. This Rube Goldberg bill has to be sold, really sold, as if it were a Hummer with spinning rims, gold-plated bumpers and a hybrid gasoline-gin engine.
And so we have the Glenn Becks, the Rush Limbaughs and locally the Jim Vicevich's denouncing the plan and urging the blockheads who listen to them to attend meetings and scream. These teabaggers, most of whom don't have an independent thought in their heads, follow the scripts of guys trying to make ratings, and lobbyists who are working against the plan. Ladle on top of that Republican political leaders who are searching for support and a new base, and you get meetings where ineffectual Democratic leaders are drowned out by the shrill talking points of talk-radio and C Street zealots coming out of the mouths of conspiracy theorists, flat-earthers, birthers and racists.
And we can dismiss them all as "wing-nuts," but I'm afraid my suspicion that something darker is happening has just been confirmed by Sara Robinon's insightful analysis of Robert Paxton's essay, The Five Stages of Fascism. Both Paxton's original essay, and Robinson's update are essential reading.
Robinson's thesis is this: we are at the point where a disenfranchised conservative movement is grasping at the last straws of racism, purity and patriotism, to engage a core base, who in their fear is willing to rise up to destroy what they see as threats to their country, their religion, their morality and their way of life. Intellectually, of course, these screaming idiots are easy to dismiss, but what's impossible to dismiss is the fact that a movement is afoot, and its being abetted by the demagoguery of ratings-hungry broadcasters, desperate politicians, and corporations willing to do anything to preserve their bottom line. And it is, Paxton's third stage of the rise of the tide of fascism, a tide he sees as nearly impossible to turn back.
So, it's time to stand up and call out the birthers and the racists, and the liars and the homophobes and the sanctimonious and the charlatans and the broadcasters and politicians who would destroy democracy to consolidate money and power. It's no time to be timid.
Saturday, August 8, 2009
When Ramblin' Jack Elliot sent dedicated a song to an ailing Mike Seeger at the recent Newport Folk Festival, it was the first that I heard that he was sick. Mike Seeger, Pete Seeger's half-brother, was profoundly influential in the preservation of folk music, particularly in saving the traditional music of the South from obscurity. He was a well-loved performer and co-founder of the New Lost City Ramblers. I met Seeger once, at a tribute concert I co-produced to honor the late Cajun fiddler Dewey Balfa, who himself was close to death at the time. Seeger came to Eunice Louisiana to honor Balfa, and to assist his friend, and fellow member of the New Lost City Ramblers, Tracy Schwarz, in a final tribute to a great musician. Seeger died Friday, at age 75, of cancer.
Thursday, August 6, 2009
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
Monday, August 3, 2009
I was anticipating the performance of Sam Beam (Iron and Wine) perhaps more than any other at Saturday's Folk Festival 50 (Newport Folk Festival). The glowing reviews, the profile in the New York Times Magazine, the adulation of his followers.
So immediately after Mavis Staples and her marvelous band had the entire audience at the Harbor Tent standing and grooving to I'll Take You There, Lucy and I grabbed a few seats from some sweating advocates of old-fashioned soul. And it was lucky we did. Because the Iron and Wine fans descended on the tent, and empty seats disappeared quickly. We looked around to see the tent filled with mostly young people, and the crowd outside the tent appeared impenetrable (we would find out so, soon).
Sam Beam came out to a thunderous ovation, and after complaining about having to follow Mavis Staples (a legitimate gripe), he set into a sedate cover of Such Great Heights, which was made famous and made Iron and Wine famous, when it was used on the soundtrack for the much-overpraised indy film Garden State. It has since been co-opted for TV and movie theater commercials. The gathered young people sang along, quietly and reverently, and Lucy whispered "I feel like I'm in the middle of a cult."
Another thunderous ovation followed. I raised an eyebrow to Lucy, and she winced back. I was completely underwhelmed by the performance (though I will admit, the playback on NPR sounds, somehow less grating). Beam is a slightly pudgy, hirsute, average looking soul, with absolutely no charisma, that I could detect. He sings with a rather mundane, sometimes whispered, occasionally falsettoed bleat. And his lyrics are charmless and banal and way too precious. All the more mysterious that the gathered crowd hung on every word, cheered his rather souless guitar work, and cheered lustily when he made his way through one of his meandering songs.
Lucy and I gave up after three songs. I wondered, as I struggled to wend my way through the huge crowd (there must have been 3000 young, wide-eyed people crammed around the Harborside Stage), with all the talent I had witnessed at the festival, how it was that this particular mediocre talent had cultivated and captivated this fervent and worshipful mass. Beam has been compared to Nick Drake, Paul Simon and Elliott Smith, all particularly unfair comparisons, unless those comparisons mention how his talent pales in comparison. I wondered further if it is proof that bland, unchallenging music, propped up by commercial marketing, will always find its way to success when the real talent of say, a Nick Drake or Elliot Smith, goes unrecognized until the musician is long in the grave.
Good on Sam Beam. He's figured a way to make a living on music. Good for the adoring masses, they've found someone on whom to project their search for individuality. Good on me, I got out while the getting was good.
One note on the young crowd at the festival. The most frequent reaction to a good song played by any of the favored acts was not for they young fans to stand and cheer, but to pick up their phones and text or twitter a friend. I saw it happen fifty times, if I saw it once.
And to forestall the comments which are sure to question my judgment. Yes, I'm old. But I've been to hundreds of concerts. I've seen Dylan, and Paul Simon, and Elliot Smith. I saw, and loved the Avett Brothers six years ago. I've witnessed Jimi, and the Kinks, Townes van Zandt and Andrew Bird, Bill Monroe and Johnny Cash. I have a sense of what's good, and what's not, and I'm afraid I don't get Iron and Wine at all.