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‘I want to make of my life something that is straight and simple, a hollow reed, so that God may fill it with music.’
Ida Presti, 1924-1967, pioneering female classical guitarist
Urgent! Help Augie Myers!
(In early January a note was posted online and we reprint it here in hopes of helping one of our favorite musicians of all time. If you’ve ever cued up a Sir Douglas Quintet album, or loved the Texas Tornadoes, or checked one of your favorite records and found Augie Meyers playing on it, you’ll know why we want to see him get through this crisis. Heck, the Vox Continental organ doesn’t even exist without Augie working out on it on all those Sir Doug records! But then a whole lot of wonderful, soulful music doesn’t exist without Augie’s contributions. Read on, and reach out if you can help or know someone who can.)
Dear Fans and Friends,
Our friend, legendary Texas musician Augie Meyers, has been in need of a transplant kidney for some time now. He is on a regular dialysis schedule that has kept him going but time is of the essence for someone to step forward and donate a kidney for Augie.
On May 30th, 2010 Augie turns a young 70 years of age and is working on some of the greatest music of his career for all of us to enjoy. Sadly, when he turns 70 he will not be able to be on the kidney donor list unless someone donates one specifically for him. There will be no financial cost to the donor; all of the expense would be covered under Augie's insurance plan. We just need someone to step forward, willing to donate a kidney to help our friend. Please help.
Interested parties and all inquiries please call:
Methodist Specialty and Transplant Hospital
San Antonio, Texas
As this issue goes online, it has been more than two weeks since Haiti was devastated by an earthquake of 7.0 magnitude—the New York Times headline of January 14 says it all: "Haiti Lies In Ruins." On January 11, we learned of the death of 100-year-old Miep Gies, who, along with three others, hid Anne Frank, her family and another Jewish family in an attic in Amsterdam for 25 months, before someone turned them in to the Nazis. Mrs. Gies retrieved the young Miss Frank's diary and other writings and later turned them over to her father, Otto Frank, the only member of the family to survive the concentration camps. What do these two events have to do with each other?
Well, on January 13, as the full extent of the devastation in Haiti was being broadcast all over the world, extremist par excellence Pat Robertson went on television to declare that Haiti was being punished because it “swore a pact to the Devil” in order to be freed from French rule. This from the man who once denounced Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism and other religions as "mostly demonic powers. Sure, they're demons."
That same day brought more racist demagoguery from an expert at it, Rush Limbaugh, who told his audience of dittoheads that the Obama administration would use the crisis in Haiti to “burnish their—shall we say—credibility with the black community, in the both light-skinned and dark-skinned black community, in this country. It's made-to-order for 'em.” In that same broadcast, he discouraged his listeners from sending aid to the Haiti recovery effort through www.whitehouse.gov, claiming, with his usual disregard for the truth, that visitors to the website would automatically be put on the Obama mailing list, and later said that 28 cents of every dollar would go to the Obama campaign. “Besides,” he scoffed, “we’ve already donated to Haiti. It’s called the U.S. income tax.”
This is where Mrs. Gies comes into the story, with sentiments we wish had emanated from the mouths of Robertson and Limbaugh, but, well, we can dream, can we not? In a 1997 interview with students now posted on the Scholastic website (http://teacher.scholastic.com/frank/tscripts/miep.htm), Mrs. Gies was asked, "What message should the young people of today pass on about Anne's story?" Her answer in full:
"The message to take from Anne's story is to stop prejudice and discrimination right at its beginning. Prejudice starts when we speak about THE Jews, THE Arabs, THE Asians, THE Mexicans, THE Blacks, THE Whites. This leads to the feeling that all members of each such group think and act the same. That results in prejudice. Lumping entire groups of people together is RACISM, because it denies the fact that everyone is an individual. Even our own brothers and sisters or parents are not exactly like we are. So how do we dare to lump entire groups of people together? If any German had ever asked Anne to tell something about herself, I think she would be still with us today. However, nobody asked: she was just a Jew! Therefore, never base your opinion about anybody else on the color of that person's skin, or on the passport that a person carries, or on the family that person comes from, but only on what the person says and does and on NOTHING ELSE."
We honor Mrs. Gies elsewhere in this issue. We also recognize that Americans have bigger hearts and more common sense than they are given credit for by the religious extremists in our midst and the hate-mongers on right wing talk radio. For more information on how to help the victims of the Haiti earthquake disaster, and of other disasters, visit the Red Cross website at http://www.redcross.org/, or the White House website, http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2010/01/13/help-haiti. It’s never too late, the need is dire, so please give generously.
COVER STORY: SHARON ISBIN: The Journey Inward, And Forward
By David McGee
As we were getting the February issue ready to launch, we saw, via Internet, that Sharon Isbin has claimed her third Grammy, for the album that is the focus of our cover story, Journey To the New World (for Best Instrumental Solo without Orchestra). Congratulations to Ms. Isbin on an honor well deserved. Herein we chat up one of the world’s preeminent classical guitarists on a number of topics, not the least being her Grammy winning Journey To the New World album, on which Joan Baez and Mark O’Connor make vivid guest appearances. ‘I’m very gratified when women write to me or meet me after a concert and say how much I’ve inspired them to play the guitar,’ says the now-three-time Grammy winner. ‘It means I’m having some kind of impact.’ In a related article, TONY CORNWELL examines the art of the first great female classical guitarist, IDA PRESTI, who with her guitar partner ALEXANDRE LAGOYA, formed the greatest classical guitar duet ever.
MELODY GARDOT: ‘Music is my love, men are just my lovers’
By Chrissy Iley
If you’ve been following the entertainment news at all in the past couple of months, you have been hearing the name and the music of MELODY GARDOT quite a bit. She’s a superstar in the making, on a Norah Jones-like trajectory, and boasting a backstory like few others. Six years ago she was bicycling in her native Philadelphia when she was smacked by a Cherokee Jeep that had run a red light. Suffering near-fatal injuries, she was bedridden for a year, and during that time she used music as therapy, and became Melody Gardot. Now on Verve, and the toast of all Europe, with America not far behind, Gardot, who rarely knows a pain-free day and must walk with a cane, is poised for a breakout year behind her second album, My One and Only Thrill, a tour de force of personal songwriting, seductive, jazzy rhythms and breathy, mesmerizing vocals. In a frank interview with CHRISSY ILEY, Gardot recounts the long, arduous path she took to get here, and in an excerpt from an earlier interview with PETE LEWIS of www.BluesandSoul.com she discusses the story behind her acclaimed debut album, Worrisome Heart.
BUDDY MERRIAM: Lightning Strikes!
By David McGee
30 years after being cooked by a bolt out of the blue (shortly after meeting Bill Monroe), bluegrass mandolin master BUDDY MERRIAM celebrates an anniversary with his first all-instrumental album and a clear sense of purpose.
Artists On the Verge 2010
The Jim Jones Revue, In The Blazing Offense
By David McGee
A cotton-pickin’ worldwide exclusive! The first feature story anywhere with the world’s most incendiary rock band, England’s JIM JONES REVUE. They’re on their way, America, getting ready to descend on SXSW next month. Fronted by Jim Jones, formerly of Thee Hypnotics, the JJR are leading what one on-scene observer in London calls a ‘secret revolution,’ in which ‘the best of old school traditional forms appear to be melding with the fire of punk to create an exciting hybrid which is rocking clubs from Euston to Houston.’ And the group’s eponymous debut album? One Amazon reader claims it’s ‘almost unlistenable…so oversaturated that it is painful to listen to.’ Which elicits from the group’s namesake a bemused chuckle as he acknowledges, with no small measure of pride, ‘in parts it goes into complete white noise.’ And in a related story, we look into the strange case of a fellow who called himself BUNKER HILL when cutting three wild-eyed singles for Mala in the early ‘60s, but was better known as David Walker of the Mighty Clouds of Joy. But it was Bunker Hill, not David Walker, who lit a fire under one Jim Jones, the best white clone of Little Richard since the young Paul McCartney.
by Laura Fissinger
In ‘Whither Pants? Whither Shirts? Whither Brains,’ our columnist Laura Fissinger tries to figure out the pants-on-the-ground exploits of certain males currently in the news for all the wrong reasons. She also refuses her editor’s request that she include Devendra Banhart in her column, and we have the voicemail transcript to prove it.
BORDER CROSSINGS: Mariam Matossian
Born of Armenian heritage in Canada, and now living in South Carolina, Mariam Matossian is bringing the music of her family’s roots to a new audience, and blending it with other styles that have influenced her. As Alli Marshall points out in this profile, 'The end result, instead of an Armenian cultural program, is more of a jaunt through world cultures with an emphasis on the songs Matossian has collected from her mother and from the Armenian orphans she met. At a radio performance, a Chinese musician told Matossian how much her music sounded like traditional Chinese tunes; Setian points out that Irish listeners recognize a commonality to Celtic songs.’
Matossian herself also contributes a timely piece on her first visit to Armenia a few years after the country's devastating earthquake of 1988. She was the first in her immediate family to set foot in the homeland. What she saw has stayed with her: years had passed since the quake, but people were still living in metal gas containers on the side of the road, and vital supplies to sustain life were in short supply, thanks to profiteers stealing the goods that were meant for those in distress. Early this month Ms. Matossian is participating in a Haiti fundraiser in South Carolina. Her reminiscences here are a useful reminder that the Haiti recovery is a long way from being complete and we best be diligent.
THE GOSPEL SET
For, And Against, The Case For God
Karen Armstrong provides an accessible history and a compelling if flawed analysis of the uneasy state of science/religion in the West.
By Michael Sigman
Keeping track of the religion vs. science industry—the studies, the books, the blogs, the papers, the TV and radio series—is enough to make you crave the silence of a monastery. Rebecca Goldstein's new satirical novel, 36 Arguments for the Existence of God, and Barbara Herrnstein Smith's weighty tome, Natural Reflections: Human Cognition at the Nexus of Science and Religion, are just the latest additions to my must-at-least-peruse list. So it's tempting to thank the Lord—or trillions of random sub-atomic particles—for Karen Armstrong's ambitious The Case for God, which provides an accessible history and a compelling if flawed analysis of the uneasy state of science/religion in the West.
LESSONS IN SOUL, TAUGHT BY MASTERS: REMEMBERING WILLIE MITCHELL AND TEDDY PENDERGRASS by Billy Altman— Two true titans who between them not only spanned soul music's 1960s/'70s heyday but also helped define the distinctive sounds of their respective hometowns, Memphis and Philadelphia.
NEWS & NOTES
DAILEY & VINCENT, who have a fabulous new tribute album of Statler Brothers songs reviewed elsewhere in this month’s issue, have added CHRISTIAN DAVIS and JESSE STOCKMAN to their band. Here are the details.
What was that about April being the cruelest month? From late December through January we lost far too many people who had made a difference during their time with us. We pay tribute to:
Album Spotlight: Dailey & Vincent Sing The Statler Brothers
By David McGee
Once scorned by hoity-toity pop critics for their patriotic and sentimental fare, the Statler Brothers have long had the last laugh—and a hearty one at that. Now, with bluegrass superstars Jamie Dailey and Darrin Vincent accompanied by a stellar supporting band in a tour de force exhibition of stunning interpretive singing and emotionally riveting musicianship, the Statlers have found a most formidable ally in song. Dailey & Vincent don’t sing the Statler Brothers, though—the title is misleading. They fully inhabit this material, building on touchstones familiar to Statlers fans then bringing their own passion for this material to bear on what are, arguably, the most intense performances the duo has yet put on record.
BILL EMERSON and SWEET DIXIE, Southern—If you don’t know it’s Bill Emerson on banjo you will about a minute into the first song, Tompall Glaser’s effusive kissoff, “Don’t Care Anymore,” when he steps out from behind Tom Adams’s spiteful vocal with a rolling, tumbling solo that can’t help but cause jaws to drop. Wayne Lanham on mandolin and Frank Solivan on fiddle get their turns to ante up the hostilities, too, and they don’t disappoint. This new long player from Emerson and Sweet Dixie begins on that high note and never lets up.
JOHN COWAN, 8,745 Feet: Live at Telluride—When John Cowan first played Telluride, he and his mates were the little-known progressive bluegrass pioneers calling themselves New Grass Revival. After New Grass broke some barriers, made some enduring music and its members moved on to new triumphs, Cowan returned to Telluride, singing and playing bass with a who’s who of roots music. This live album, which came out last year shortly before Cowan’s superb Christmas album (Comfort & Joy), is a typically genre-busting effort by Cowan and an amazing group of musicians whose numbers include WPA’s Luke Bulla, Bela Fleck, Kenny Greenberg, Barbara Lamb, Darrell Scott, Scott Vestal, Wendy Waldman, Reese Wynans and others.
BEYOND THE BLUE
Album Spotlight: The Persuasions, Live at McCabe’s Guitar Shop
By David McGee
Got the Beyonce blues? Tired of auto-tune? Can’t figure out what Ke$sha has done to merit a feature story in the NY Times Arts section? Curious as to whether the Times is in fact on Taylor Swift’s payroll? Falling asleep to that Antlers album, are you? Well, friends, the Persuasions are here to save your soul. Salvation is nigh.
JAMES BLACKSHAW, The Glass Bead Game
CHARLIE HUNTER, Gentlemen, I Neglected to Inform You You Will Not Be Getting Paid
JIM CAMPILONGO, Orange
Two veterans and, by comparison, a relative newcomer (despite having released eight albums now) are sporting new long players that demonstrate the continued vitality of instrumental music, specifically instrumental guitar music, that is both technically admirable and abundant in the human touch. Yes, we know about the uncategorizable and brilliant Bill Frissell, but the trio represented here works a different side of the street than Frissell, or even, say, Bryan Sutton on the rootsier branch. Each has his own territory mapped out, the twain never meets, and to hear these albums consecutively is to take a trip through a wondrous and varied musical landscape.