november 2010 header

Reality Check
‘The Whole Situation’s Running Way In The Red’

rodneyExcuse us if the election results from Nov. 2 do not have us delirious with joy. Regardless of the outcome, we were skeptical from the start that anyone in Washington is truly invested in improving the lots of average Americans if such would be contingent upon alienating their Wall Street and corporate benefactors. RODNEY CROWELL, one of our greatest songwriters, nailed the problem dead on in his brilliant, politically charged 2005 album, The Outsider, specifically in his song “Don’t Get Me Started.” We can’t assess the current malaise any better than Crowell did in that song. Below is a live performance of it from the Philadelphia Folk Festival (that’s Will Kimbrough playing the bruising guitar). And here are the lyrics in case anyone has trouble following along. Truly a reality check:

We ran into trouble scamming for oil
The whole Middle East is coming to a boil
It’s the Muslims and Kurds, Bedouin herds
Palestinians and Arabs and Jews in the news

It’s too much to keep up with, it’ll jangle your head
The whole situation’s running way in the red
I said, don’t get me started
I’ll like as not bend your ear
Don’t get me started
I just wanna make one thing clear

I was born in America and I'm proud of that fact
I wish the rest of the world would get off our back
But these slick politicians, man, you've got to admit
Seems as crazy as bedbugs and they don't give one whit

About the man on the street with his back to the wall
Who can't find a quarter for to make a phone call
Meanwhile back in Washington, the champagne will flow
Tell that to the homeless man with nowhere to go

I said, don't get me started
I came into this bar to unwind
Don't get me started
I'll like as not speak my mind

The rich corporations have turned a deaf ear
They don't care who goes hungry, they’ve made that much clear
You see the trouble with people is we wanna believe
But they can't turn a profit without tricks up their sleeve

It's the roofers and truckers, the working class suckers
The firemen and teachers, the soldiers and preachers
Who shoulder the blows, it comes and it goes
A six trillion dollar debt, you pay through the nose

I said, don't get me started
I'm a drag when I've had a few drinks
And don't get me started
I don't care what anyone thinks
'Cause it makes me angry

East Timor's genocide to the core
The Indonesian legions come and give 'em what for
When the Coalition Army doesn't come to your aid
You might as well face it, there's no money to be made

I had a dream last night, I was secretary of defense
And I came to the conclusion, war doesn't make any sense, yeah
But nobody heard me when I tried to rescind it
There were too many people that just didn't want to end it

I said, don't get me started
You never know when I might stop
Don't get me started
We both need to just let this thing drop

Don't get me started
Don't get me started, not now
Don't get me started
'Cause it make me angry


Cover Story: Raul Malo TheBluegrassSpecial.Com Interview: ‘The Point Is, You Can Go On A Musical Journey’
by David McGee

Raul Malo returns with Saints & Sinners, taking the measure of the heart and of our times, and taking chances with his art.

Marshall Chapman: The Spirit Abides, The Prodigal Returns
by David McGee
Marshall Chapman honors her late friend Tim Krekel with Big Lonesome, her strongest set of songs yet. Not bad, considering she was never going to make another record.


Jefferson Airplane: The Odyssey Of Their FlightBy David McGee
It appears the Jefferson Airplane has yet again taken off. Four new live albums from Collectors’ Choice (the RCA/Legacy Setlist title being not a single show but a collection of essential tracks culled from shows during the band’s prime, 1967-1972) largely tell the story of the onstage Airplane’s evolution from a time when it was one of San Francisco’s most popular bands to the moment it reigned the finest American rock ‘n’ roll band extant. Theirs was, while it lasted, a glorious run, with truly timeless music left in the wake of a shabby final chapter all too common to rock ‘n’ roll lore. But oh how they flew.

Will The Real Keith Please Stand Up?
By Michael Sigman

The Rolling Stones, ‘Get Off Of My Cloud,’ 1967 (note the bespectacled Keef)

Our roving contributor Michael Sigman exclusively obtained an entry from the diary of KEITH RICHARDS on the day the Rolling Stones’ guitarist awoke to find TV and the Interwebs trumpeting the news that “Keith” had been suspended. A case of mistaken identity, perhaps? Read on.

DVD Spotlight: The Mississippi Sheiks Tribute Concert—Live In Vancouver
With the release of A Tribute To The Mississippi Sheiks—Things About Comin’ My Way, producer/guitarist STEVE DAWSON was only beginning to honor the legendary Chatmon brothers and their enduring musical legacy. God bless him for keepin’ on believin’. This past March, over two nights as the last event of the 2010 Vancouver Cultural Olympiad (during the Winter Olympics), Dawson called on some of the same musicians who made the album project a total triumph, added some new faces to the lineup, regrouped the same band that played on the CD (himself on guitar, Matt Chamberlain on drums, Wayne Horvitz on keyboards, Keith Lowe on bass and Daniel Lapp on fiddle and trumpet), and wrecked the house. Thirteen of those performances are preserved for posterity on this DVD release of the tribute concert. Your eyes and ears don’t lie: the intensity and love infusing each of these performances makes you wish for a second disc and most certainly will send you back to your Mississippi Sheiks records (or online to buy some) so you can hear the masters in their own voices, suddenly with fresh ears.

Bruce, Nilsson, And Those Ever Tightening Heartstrings
By Michael Sigman

Upon screening new documentaries about the making of BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN’s classic Darkness On the Edge of Town album and the life and music of HARRY NILSSON, our roving contributor Michael Sigman reflects on careers that began on similar trajectories before veering off into drastically dissimilar arcs. ‘In his terrific new memoir Life,’ Sigman writes, ‘Rolling Stone Keith Richards, miraculous survivor of countless drug-related brushes with death, describes songwriting as ‘tightening the heartstrings as much as possible without bringing on a heart attack.’ Both Bruce Springsteen and Harry Nilsson have tightened our heartstrings for four decades. Harry, sadly, brought on his own heart attack, which breaks our hearts.’

Classical Perspectives:
Alison Balsom,
Italian Concertos

Brass players have long had a reputation as beer-swilling, raucous good old boys that give the back row of the symphony orchestra an air of a locker room. That is slowly changing, but even so, the young English trumpeter ALISON BALSOM remains a singular figure. It's not just that she's blonde, slim and stylish; it's the depth of her musicianship that makes her stand out along with the ability to make the solo trumpet seem as natural as a solo violin or cello. Those qualities emerge on Balsom's new album, Italian Concertos, which focuses on concertos originally composed for violin or oboe by Vivaldi, Albinoni, Tartini, Cimarosa and Marcello.

Fathers And Sons
By David McGee


A couple of memorable father-son encounters: between songwriter GERALD MARKS (“All of Me”) and the father who abandoned his family; and GEORGE GERSHWIN (above) and his father Moische, the first to hear “Rhapsody in Blue.”

Border Crossings

iran flag

Niyaz: A 21st Century Global Trance Tradition
On Nine Heavens, NIYAZ—a trio headed by Iranian-born Azam Ali and Loga Ramin Torkian—doesn't just cross cultural and stylistic boundaries, but the centuries as well. Drawing on medieval Persian poetry and 300-year old Persian folk songs, Niyaz has created a 21st century global trance tradition.

Leo Tolstoy

tolstoy study

‘Get out of the medieval witted sepulchers, and face your fears. I know very well it is not easy.’
Leo Tolstoy died one hundred years ago this month. The moral and religious questions he was pondering in his later years resonate still. Herewith, in remembrance, his timeless short story, ‘The Three Hermits’

The Blogging Farmer
Alex Tiller’s Blog on Agriculture and Farming

spitzenburgTwo timely topics this month from ALEX TILLER, The Blogging Farmer. In ‘The Ancient Rites,’ he puts Halloween ‘as well as a lot of other fall traditions,’ into proper historical perspective, writing: ‘The only ‘magic’ these fall festivals were celebrating was the ‘magic’ that happened when someone put seeds into the ground and a few months later, came back to find they had produced something edible and tasty. And in ‘Where The Jobs Are,’ Tiller observes: ‘Yes, U.S. corporations have shipped almost 14 million jobs to China and India over the past nine years. The rate at which America is hemorrhaging jobs has slowed up considerably over the past eighteen months—but it hasn't stopped, and employment prospects for many Americans are looking pretty dismal. Except for one industry. So far, American agriculture has literally had to go begging to fill jobs. Despite all the rhetoric about how ‘illegals’ are taking jobs away from American workers, the fact is that farmers and ranchers across the country have been bending over backwards in recent months to give those Americans first dibs on the jobs their offering.’ CNN’s Aaron Smith backs up Tiller’s argument in ‘Farm Workers: Take Our Jobs, Please!,” a report on how the United Farm Workers union ‘is challenging Americans to take their labor-intensive, low-paying farm jobs.’
Exactly where are those jobs? Check our Employment Resources: Farm Jobs section for links to Stateside farms now hiring, as well as one in Spain, for those with a taste for the exotic.


This month our kid’s lit blogger JULES waxes euphoric over A Family of Readers: The Book Lover's Guide to Children's and Young Adult Literature, by Horn Book editor Roger Sutton and executive editor Martha V. Parravano. ‘It's a wonderful read,’ Jules writes, ‘and the book's very premise was a smart one: As Roger writes in the introduction, ‘your passion for reading isn't necessarily accompanied by a knowledge of children's books, and that's where we come in.’’ As a sidebar to Mr. Sutton’s recommendations of new children’s books, we offer a report from our friends at The Guardian about the controversy stirred up by novelist Sharon Dogar’s ‘sexed up’ Anne Frank novel, Annexed. The executive director of the Anne Frank Trust says Ms. Dogar’s reimagining of the relationship between Anne and a Peter van Pels, a boy who hid from the Nazis in the same Amsterdam building as the Frank family, was ‘not fair on someone who was a living person.’ This despite Frank’s only living relative, Buddy Elias, read the manuscript prior to publication and sent the author his best wishes for its success.

Talking Animals

talking animals
For Alec Baldwin, A Lesser-Known But Hardly Lesser Role: Animal Rights Advocate
By Duncan Strauss

alecHaving recently interviewed ALEC BALDWIN on his NPR show ‘Talking Animals,’ DUNCAN STRAUSS reports: ‘While he went on in our interview to discuss a number of complex issues, like meat consumption in this country, his explanation of what the celebrity quotient can mean sounded like a no-name savvy politico analyzing the impact of having an Alec Baldwin on board, not Baldwin himself. That's miles from the more common entertainment figure who briefly steps into the spotlight for an event to quickly rack up the brownie points that his publicist will be pitching hours later.’

A Thanksgiving Celebration


This being the season of Thanksgiving, we offer the following perspectives on the event in question:

*’Now Our Minds Are One’
A Native American Thanksgiving liturgy. A meaningful call-and-response prayer from the Haudenosaunee native tradition to give some perspective on thanks and providence this Thanksgiving Day.


*Native American Storytellers Weave Their Own Thanksgiving Memories
By Kara Briggs

November is a busy month for Native American storytellers. Schools, libraries and museums everywhere want storytellers to speak during the prelude or immediate aftermath of Thanksgiving. These gifted Native storytellers venture into classrooms of children dressed in paper feathers , into rooms decorated with images that bear little resemblance to what really happened. It's this story, which separated from the Wampanoag, exaggerated and made idyllic, can give many Native peoples pause about this holiday. I wondered what traditions Native families are building now around Thanksgiving. I decided to ask three keepers of our oral traditions what Thanksgiving meant to them.

*The Thanksgiving Music—By Allegra Goodman
To me, Thanksgiving means listening to all sorts of American music. Old and new. Copland and Krauss. Foster and the funky Carolina Chocolate Drops with their pristine fiddling and earthy vocals. Thanksgiving means listening to my children sing, correct one another's lyrics, and then belt louder. Once again, I can hear the KitchenAid hum in the background, but it's my eldest son baking, and rolling out piecrusts for dessert.

*Understanding Thanksgiving


The Origins of a Tradition, from 1621 to 1863
The history of Thanksgiving, from the ‘First Thanksgiving’ in November 1621, based on the only known written accounts of the day, by Governor William Bradford and Master Edward Winslow; the story of how a House of Representatives resolution introduced by Elias Boudinot of New Jersey urged President George Washington to “recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging, with grateful hearts, the many signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a Constitution of government for their safety and happiness."; and finally, the story of the origins of Abraham Lincoln’s Proclamation of Thanksgiving, October 3, 1863 (written by his Sec. of State William Seward), urged on the President by magazine editor Sarah Josepha Hale (the unsung heroine of Thanksgiving) and declaring the last Thursday of November "as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise."

“While his Thanksgiving Proclamation has neither the philosophical profundity nor the rhetorical precision of what he said at Gettysburg it has something else: a faith in what he termed ‘one heart and voice by the whole American people.’ Abraham Lincoln had the ability to foresee a day when all Americans gathered with friends and family to enjoy each others’ company and give simple thanks for their blessings. In Lincoln’s words, Thanksgiving becomes the most American of holidays—even more than the Fourth of July and all the rest—a national day of unity when all the disparate strands of this diverse nation knit together not to celebrate, but to simply be thankful.”

The Gospel Set


*Beverly Crawford: Dreams Do Come True, Twice Over
Interview by Bob Marovich

Beverly Crawford revisits Los Angeles and comes away with another powerhouse live gospel album. ‘Live in Los Angeles, Vol. 1 was a dream come true for me,’ says the gospel star. ‘The opportunity to do it again was a double blessing.’

Clefs of Calvary founder JAMES PHELPS dies; personnel change in TRIN-I-TEE 5:7 as Adrian Anderson departs, Chanelle Haynes and Angel Taylor move on as a duo; HEAVENS HIGHWAY adds Holly Nash to lineup; GOLD CITY adds Brent Mitchell as new tenor.

Bob Marovich, founder/editor of The Black Gospel Blog, has four new gospel album recommendations: Pressing On by MARY ALESSI; QuarTemporary by TOTALLY DEDICATED; Nothing Missing, Nothing Broken by CATINA ROSEMOND; and the deluxe edition of Just Love by BRIAN COURTNEY WILSON.

News & Notes

*Brazil Can Do It. Why Can’t We?
The Brazilian government is investing $5.5 billion in renewable energy resources by 2013. How the country did it is fascinating, it bolsters private enterprise and its success confirms, says Brazil’s National Electricity Regulatory Agency director Nelson Hübner, that “it is possible to produce wind energy at a price that is competitive with those of thermal plants, which are more polluting.”

Theodore "Ted" Sorsensen
—presidential advisor, lawyer, writer, special counsel and adviser to President John F. Kennedy who called him his "intellectual blood bank"—died on October 30 following a stroke. During his years in the White House, Sorensen was not only a witness to history, his speeches helped shape it, as did his counsel during the Cuban missile crisis, when he helped tailor the President's correspondence with Russian premier Nikita Khrushchev and worked on Kennedy's initial address to the nation about the crisis. From The Guardian, Ed Vilade remembers Sorensen and marks his death as an occasion that “provides us with a melancholy, yet valuable, occasion to appraise and appreciate the qualities of intellect and character that made him John F Kennedy's indispensable man, and the speechwriter's patron saint.” In an interview with Jane Greer from the Unitarian church website, Sorensen discusses the issue of JFK’s Catholicism in the 1960 Presidential race with Richard Nixon, the role of the Unitarian faith in Sorensen’s own life and how Unitarian values influenced his speechwriting for Kennedy. Finally, in “On the Cuban Missile Crisis,” a Q&A session with an interviewer from George Washington University, Sorensen discusses the critical 13-day standoff with the Soviet Union over the latter’s installation of missiles in Cuba, when JFK was being pressed by some in the government to launch an all-out strike on Cuba, which would have precipitated a nuclear war, and the President’s determination to stand firm on his decision to institute a naval blockade as a means to start a dialogue with the Russians, ‘and President Kennedy wanted a dialogue to accompany his use of deterrents,’ Sorensen recalls. A fascinating inside look at the wisdom of JFK displayed under pressure that saved the world from possible nuclear annihilation in 1962.

rocky*Those Were The Days, My Friend: Three significant artists who worked in television and made an indelible mark on our pop cultural history have passed away. This month we honor the lives and work of: BARBARA BILLINGSLEY, the unflappable mother of the Cleaver clan in Leave It To Beaver (and famous later for her small but unforgettable role in Airplane! Hint: ‘I speak jive.’); ALEX ANDERSON, the illustrator who created Rocky the Flying Squirrel, Bullwinkle (‘Fan mail from some flounder?’), and Boris and Natasha; JAMES MACARTHUR, (‘Book ‘em, Dan-o!’) of Hawaii Five-O fame.


BLACK TWIG PICKERS, Ironto SpecialThough not as self-consciously mysterious as the Earl Brothers, Ironto, Virginia’s Black Twig Pickers (chiefly Nathan Bowles, Isak Howell and Mike Gangloff) are equally artful in occupying a place where time stopped around 1930 or 1940, or somewhere in between or thereabouts. They’re no more interested in being pretty or proper than are the Earls, but they do play with the same precision, passion and mystery and create something awesome and wondrous out of the songs of yore, which burst forth from their instruments with grace and intensity alike.

PAT ANDERSON, Magnolia Road—Pat Anderson another in a long line of American artists with solid groundings in folk, country and traditional rock ‘n’ roll and unafraid to take the measure of their times, even as they plumb their own hearts. In doing so Anderson joins a select group of troubadours who attempt to shed a little more light on, and with it more understanding of, what the heck is going on within us and without us. You can’t have too many Pat Andersons in the world, but this particular Pat Anderson may be on to something, so take heed.

JAMES JUSTIN BURKE, Count On Me—A little bluegrass, a smidgen of traditional country, a dash of folk, the tiniest sprinkling of rock ‘n’ roll, a voice arising from the very earth he stands on and revealing a heart full of soul—thus James Justin Burke, native Virginian transplanted to Folly Beach, SC.

RODNEY DILLARD, I Wish Life Was Like Mayberry—Reliable sources report that a major and much honored bluegrass band is preparing its own tribute album honoring The Andy Griffith Show’s 50th anniversary year, but no musician can claim the higher ground of Mayberry with more authority than Rodney Dillard, a founding member of the legendary Dillards—and hence the Darlings—who appeared on only six episodes during the show’s lifespan, but became welcome guest stars on an unprecedented scale. This disc reprises a few of the Darlings’ Andy Griffith Show classics and fleshes out the remainder of its time with new songs in the pocket with the earlier selections.

MOUNTAIN HEART, That Just Happened—Welcome to the new Mountain Heart, not like the old Mountain Heart, but hardly unrecognizable either. Seeds planted upon Josh Shilling’s arrival have yielded a bountiful crop.

KASI PARDUE, This Is Me—Outside of family and a few friends who have heard her sing, and the musicians she worked with on this, her first album (or EP—it contains only seven songs), hardly anyone knows or has heard of Kasi Pardue. With a little work on her part, and the requisite luck that is either the residue of design or a matter of fortuitous timing, that could all change, and in a big way.

LOU REID & CAROLINA, Sounds Like Heaven To Me—Coming off 2009’s powerful contemporary bluegrass gem My Own Set of Rules, Lou Reid & Carolina now marshal their instrumental and vocal strengths in service to a rich collection of 14 southern gospel songs of praise, salvation, redemption and jubilation. How to get to Heaven is the overarching theme of the collection, and the songs seem chosen to reflect the multitude of ways one can find the proper path homeward.

Beyond The Blue


KIRSTEN THIEN, Delicious—The past few years have seen the rise of a powerful generation of young female blues and blues-inspired artists who do it all—sing, write, play—and comprise a new and burgeoning second golden era who are making this music seem as vital as ever, and more honest, less contrived than anything the pop mainstream has to offer. With Delicious having nary a false note on it, Kirsten Thien joins the front ranks of that generation—it, and she, will not be denied.

JOE LOUIS WALKER, Live On The Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise— The legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise just got a bit more legendary with the release of this red-hot document of Joe Louis Walker’s Blues Conspiracy’s performance on board earlier this year. Those who weren’t on the cruise will lament what they missed by not seeing all these displays up close and personal, but the emotional wallop of the live performances has been faithfully transferred to disc.

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