march 2011

Reality Check

obamaThe New York Times’s makeover of its Sunday Week in Review section has been a hit-and-miss affair that has made it something less than an essential read, but Emory University professor of psychology Drew Westen, writing in the August 6 edition, struck a classic Review chord in pursuit of answers to the question “What Happened to Obama?” Although Professor Weston fails to give the Obama administration any credit for its significant achievements, even the most ardent Obama supporter has to acknowledge the truth of the professor’s appraisal of an audacious failure of hope. “The arc of history can bend only so far before it breaks,” Professor Westen concludes, and alas, he makes a good argument. The current online update of the piece includes corrections to two factual errors in the original article.



By David McGee

On a new installment of his Cowboy Songs series, Michael Martin Murphey considers the land, a lone man on it and the metaphysical link between the two. Ever the activist, the Texas Cowboy also discusses his recent support for an effort to preserve the cabin in which Brewster Higley wrote ‘Home On the Range’ and updates us on the situation in Wisconsin pitting a group of family farmers against a state government attempting to assert eminent domain to seize their heritage farms for commercial purposes.

A Personal Reflection by Michael Martin Murphey

A spirited defense of cowboy culture and western art by one who knows it inside out and has had enough of intellectual assaults on it. Says he: ‘The cowboy and his experiences have been reflected in an overwhelming body of work that confounds those who think culture is related to the more refined endeavors of those who write about refinement in a refined way. Does this sound redundant? Of course it does, and that's the problem. It's all about the ever-tightening inner-circle of those who think their degrees qualify them in the ranks of the Art-and-Culture Police.’


Border Crossings: PORTUGAL

Bluegrass, Portuguese Style
By David McGee

Checking in with THE STONEBONES & BAD SPAGHETTI, which purports to be the only bluegrass band in Portugal. The band’s banjo player, ANDRE LENTILHAS, writes: ‘I hope some day we'll have more musicians and more bands, but for now, there's not. I wish I could have someone to keep teaching me how to improve my technique, but there's no one in Portugal.’


Video File


A tribute to one of the greatest artists who ever walked the Earth on the occasion of his 100th birthday month. (Painting by Leonid Afremov available for sale as a print or reproduction or on greeting cards at Fine Art America.)


Beyond All Mortal Dreams
The Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge, conducted by Stephen Layton

Is there a contemporary American choral music sound? A growing number of American composers have banded around a style based on rich harmonies, luxurious textures and a spare expressive ethos. Led by figures like Eric Whitacre and Stephen Paulus, these composers have arisen from a nexus of skilled American choirs, largely outside the realm of academic modernism or downtown styles. They have begun to make an impact globally too, as demonstrated in Beyond All Mortal Dreams, a new recording of American choral music by the Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge under the direction of Stephen Layton.


Pleasures Of Music

The Idea of a Song
By Philip Heseltine

Known as a composer under the pseudonym Peter Warlock, Philip Heseltine (1892-1930) managed in his short life to endow English music with some magnificent songs, to write two scholarly works and to edit a lively periodical, The Sackbut (it published but nine issues between May 1920 and March 1921). Herein Heseltine explains why music critics must, inevitably, become obsolete. On December 17, 1930, after demand for his songs had diminished, along with, apparently, his will to compose new works, Warlock/Heseltine put his cat outdoors and gassed himself to death.


Play Ball!

In the late ‘40s, a way of ‘resting his mind from music,’ Bill Monroe assembled and funded two crack baseball teams--one that traveled with him on the road, one based in Nashville. It was the Father of Bluegrass’s way of keeping baseball from interfering with his music--by taking it with him--but it made life hectic for his musicians. ‘He liked to kill me playing ball,’ Don Reno said. But to Mr. Bill, bluegrass, like baseball, was a way for a man to test himself against other men. Bluegrass, like baseball, was competition.


By Bob Marovich

Up from the mean streets of Milwaukee and out of a dissolute lifestyle, Christian hip-hop artist F1 DIAMOND is focused on saving souls. ‘I don't write to music, I write to inspiration,’ he says, ‘I only record when I'm completely inspired. I'm not rapping. These are sermons, and I approach recording the way I approach a sermon. It starts by communicating with God and letting God inspire you. The point is not to make a song or a dance, but to have a conversation with people.’



Delois Barrett Campbell, a gospel giant as a member of the award-winning Barrett Sisters trio (Delores is in the center in the photo above) that electrified audiences worldwide with their powerful gospel harmonies, died on August 2 following a long illness. She was 85. In remembrance we offer four perspectives on a legendary voice of faith and the work she did with her siblings that changed lives.



On July 11 ROB GRILL, lead singer of the Grass Roots, nestled in the arms of his wife Nancy, died in an Orlando hospital. Herein a tribute to a great rock ‘n’ roll singer who fronted one of the finest of all ‘60s bands.


The Gospel Set

Following his mother’s death in 2005, gospel legend RICHARD SMALLWOOD found himself barren of musical ideas. But now the muse has returned, and on the occasion of a new album release, Promises, the multi-award winning artist spoke to Gospel editor Bob Marovich about the reasons for his hiatus from recording, reflected on his musical influences and his inspiration for writing, and discussed some of the songs on his new long-player.

Keeping The Programs Going. Amen!

In October 2010, several renowned stars came to celebrate and help raise operating revenue for the Black Academy of Arts and Letters that was founded by Curtis King 34 years ago. ‘In a bad economy the first thing that gets cut is arts funding," says King, whose 250,000 square foot complex is adjacent to the Dallas City Hall, in a news release. "However, it's the plays, concerts, poetry readings and other inspiring programming we offer that helps people get through rough times like these. So, we're thrilled that these artists came together to make a CD that will raise money to help keep these programs going.’ Now, a new hard hitting gospel CD brings American Idol champion Ruben Studdard and other stars together to raise funds for the Academy. Also in this month’s Gospel News & Notes: Bass vocalist MIKE JENNINGS has joined the DIXIE ECHOES; a review of THE KINGSMEN’s new album, Grace Says.


medicineVARIOUS ARTISTS, Medicine--Live At The Black Academy Of Arts And Letters-- In October 2010, artists a-plenty participated in a concert to raise operating support for Dallas's Black Academy of Arts and Letters, a nonprofit organization founded by Curtis King in 1977 that is now the largest multi-discipline black cultural institution in the United States. In the process of delivering some much-needed financial medicine, the collection of singers, actors and musicians provided no small amount of spiritual medicine in the live program, captured for posterity on Medicine.

yrmDONALD LAWRENCE & CO., YRM (Your Righteous Mind)-- On this, his third solo CD, Lawrence uses his authoritative voice to teach lessons, declare simple truths, send audibles to the choir, and explain the stories behind some of the songs, which are often inspired by teachings of favorite pastors (one appears here: Bishop Tudor Bismark of South Africa). Though its messages are diverse, a unifying element of YRM is the belief that you are what you, in your mind, declare yourself to be. When you affirm your personal "I Am," God will move in your life accordingly.

journeyCYNTHIA JAMES, Journey of Soul-- Journey of Soul maintains the smooth jazz vibe that Jones established on her 2008 Kingdom Records CD, Gotta Soul. The North Carolina-based singer sounds like she was raised in New York or L.A., her music nurtured by smart vocalists such as Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, Lisa McClendon and Lauryn Hill. Jones' snappy repartee on "Unconditional" suggests she even picked up a couple of vocal tips along the way from the late Michael Jackson. The album lyrics are part praise, part honest conversations with God, and part life lessons imparted with an intimacy, as if it's just you and Miss Jones, hanging out on a shaggy-carpeted living room.

lovetonesLOVETONES, Standing On The Rock-- Standing on the Rock is a much finer example of the LoveTones musical "lay ministry of hope and comfort" than their previous recorded examples. One can only hope the ensemble continues to hone its craft because traditional gospel classics and vocal group harmony are worth preserving.

treTRE' THOMAS, A Natural Contrast-- Born in New Orleans and a former member of the Howard University Gospel Choir, Tre' Thomas grew up in church but prefers laid-back R&B to express his religious conviction. The ten tracks on Thomas' debut album, A Natural Contrast, find him immersed in the quiet storm groove as he lays bare his soul to the listener.



(or, There Goes Summer)

The big finish of our summer celebration finds us surfin’ and lovin’, two popular seasonal pastimes.

In 1953, a teacher from Los Angeles delivered surf movies to the world and changed everything. BUD ‘BARRACUDA’ BROWNE recorded it all, chronicling what was then an obscure sport and inspiring legions of followers. Browne's movies, followed by those of others, became the primary form of communication among early surf culture. They inspired kids to become surfers and turned surfers into stars. He combined a waterman's savvy with a gentleman's demeanor, while maintaining the eye of a professional witness.’ This month we honor the achievements of surfing’s pioneering filmmaker.

Before--long before--Gidget put female surfing on the international cultural map, MARY ANN HAWKINS was constructing a resume of competitive wins to rival those of her male counterparts in southern California. Contemporary with Gidget in the mid-1950s, EVE FLETCHER was a Disney animator (she worked on Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland and The Little Mermaid, among other Disney classics) who took to the waves in 1957 and at age 84 still rides the wild surf. These were and are some kind of women!

This month’s surfing poetry selections include: Surfing
By Sasha Walker/Mills; You Lost Me By Claudio Borges; Ocean Lines By Andy Harney; Surfing By Sarah Martin. Plus the trailer for the film Lines From a Poem by Nathan Oldfield, about an overlooked and underappreciated niche of the surfing experience: classical waveriding using traditional equipment.


We got to wondering about how folks were remembering their summer loves, and sure enough there is a wealth of such stories posted on the Internet. We sought simple, heartfelt accounts of what really happened and what the writers were feeling at the time, and how they view their summer loves from the vantagepoint of time. To cap it all off, and to cap off our summer coverage, we offer our own simple, heartfelt coda to the season in the form of ‘Summer Song,’ a poignant tune written by Dave and Lola Brubeck and rendered with tender poignance by Louis Armstrong. We’ve also given each of our stories its own ‘soundtrack’ of vintage summer fare that captures and often comments on the spirit of each piece.

By Stephen Winbaum

Teachers warn kids to hold off for a while, and camp directors talk about the risks of peer pressure to find a summer steady. The general wisdom about summer camp romance is: Don't try too hard. Make new friends. Keep the old ones. Remember to have fun. You will be more appealing to others when you are happy.  Soundtrack: THE BEACH BOYS: ‘The Warmth of the Sun,’ ‘Girl Don’t Tell Me,’ ‘All Summer Long’

Cupid At the Tetherball Court
By Jessica Ann

So life went on at summer camp as usual. I made friends easily and I'm sure an enemy or two also. I hung with the popular girls, the cute girls, the girls the boys would tease and follow. Unfortunately for them, I had my eye on something else. Here I was not old enough to drive, but already flirting with an older man. Yes, that's right, he was older. He was attending camp that summer for the first time and he was too cute for words with big bedroom eyes (no, I didn't know what that meant then--I believe we called them puppy dog eyes at that age), shoulder length straight brown hair (shoulder-length hair=a parents' worse nightmare in the late ‘70s) and an athletic build. Soundtrack: BRYAN HYLAND, ‘Sealed With a Kiss,’ GARY LEWIS & THE PLAYBOYS, ‘Save Your Heart For Me,’

By Maria Coscia

My summer romance was everything you could imagine at 16. It was fun, it was thrilling, and every summer I would look forward to reuniting with my Greek boyfriend. For years, we went back and forth, dating for the summer while I was visiting Greece and breaking up when I left to go back home. Despite our best efforts to make it work long distance, it became harder and harder to stay together. But even when it seemed like there was no hope of us working out as a couple, something kept us connected. Soundtrack: THE SEEKERS, ‘I’ll Never Find Another You,’ CHAD & JEREMY, ‘A Summer Song' and ‘Yesterday’s Gone’

By Alex Stevens

It was an enchanting, magical summer as I found myself falling head over heels in love with him. I had never felt so alive and so happy. Every day was filled with exciting things to do, places to explore, and new events to look forward to. Perhaps it is true that love is blind because where I once found Doug unattractive and unappealing, I now perceived him as good-looking and incredibly sexy. Soundtrack: NAT KING COLE, ‘Those Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer,’ ’Summer Is a Comin’ In,’ ‘That Sunday, That Summer,’ ‘In the Good Old Summertime’

By Dave and Lola Brubeck

The song is the story—a splendid seasonal reflection with winsome overtones penned by Dave and Lola Brubeck and realized with touching poignancy on disc by Louis Armstrong. That’s the story. This is the performance.



As this issue was in production for its August launch word came of the death of BILLY GRAMMER. His million selling 1959 pop and country crossover hit “Gotta Travel On”—far and away his biggest single—is a timeless end-of-summer song (and thus eminently appropriate for this issue); his one other Top 20 single, 1963’s “I Wanna Go Home,” was the first version of the Mel Tillis song that became better known as “Detroit City” when Bobby Bare recorded it that same year. Grammer had great success offstage designing and manufacturing the Grammer guitar from 1965 to 1970 (first with partners in his own company, RG&G; in 1968, after he lost his factory to a fire, he sold the company to Ampeg, which continued to produce the guitar until 1970. A Grammer guitar owned by Johnny Cash sold for more than $100,000 at a Sotheby’s auction). Grammer’s other notable biographical entry centers on an appearance he and his Travel On Boys band made at a rally for Presidential candidate George Wallace in Laurel, Maryland, on May 15, 1972. Grammer played “Under the Double Eagle,” Wallace took the stage for his stump speech and then was shot by Arthur Bremer as he mingled with the crowd. Oddly enough, Grammer’s “Gotta Travel On” was a favorite of Buddy Holly’s, who performed it as his set opener on his final tour in January and February 1959. Born in Benton, IL, the youngest of nine children, Grammer died 18 days short of his 86th birthday in his home town’s Benton Hospital, where he was being treated for a long-term illness exacerbated by a heart attack he had suffered this past January. In this live clip, check out the lead guitarist’s wild fills—those aren’t on the record.



audieAUDIE BLAYLOCK, I’m Going Back To Old Kentucky-- Much verbiage has poured forth in this publication in 2011 in honor of Mr. Bill Monroe’s centennial birth year, but in the end the ever-reliable Audie Blaylock and Redline have got it right: the music speaks most profoundly of the man.

cumberlandCUMBERLAND RIVER, The Life We Live-- Talk about walking like you talk it. On “Harlan Man,” the intense, driving treatise opening The Life We Live, the quintet Cumberland River describes in vivid detail the destructive, soul crushing routine the coal miner endures each day, with conviction that comes from experience. Indeed, two of this impressive young band’s musicians are in fact coal miners when they’re offstage, which doubtless accounts for the performance being fully imbued with a sense of the tragic, an understanding rooted in real life of how the steady paycheck hardly makes up for the inexorable, incessant physical and emotional toll the mines take.

greencardsGREENCARDS, The Brick Album -- Clearly on the upward arc of their career, Australia’s Greencards follow their solid 2009 Fascination long player with a new variation on the band’s formula bluegrass-folk-country hybrid, with two new members on board joining mainstays Carol Young and mandolinist extraordinaire Kim Warner (the only remaining native Aussies in the lineup). The personnel change seems to have been seamless, with the band picking up and moving forward from where Fascination left off, more mellow, perhaps, but deeper too. Welcome to the new Greencards, better than the old Greencards, working on an exalted plateau. The Brick Album is a complete stunner.

Beyond The Blue

dalaDALA, Girls From the North Country: Live in Concert-- Well established, even beloved, in their native Canada, the duo of Amanda Walther and Sheila Carabine, collectively known as Dala, made a move toward greater North American recognition last summer with the PBS airing of their concert Girls From the North Country, from which this CD is drawn. (This is the duo’s fifth album, but its first with a U.S.-based label.) Dala writes terrific original songs and approaches its intelligent covers with respect for the originals and an understanding of how to bring a fresh perspective to the time-honored texts of great songwriters.

jackieJACKIE JOHNSON, Memphis Jewel-- Readers are hereby ordered to add Jackie Johnson to the list of formidable female blues singers emerging with pleasing regularity these days. More so than many of her contemporaries, though, Ms. Johnson’s every phrase resonates with the spirit of the church. Memphis already knows all about her, and has for some time. That Memphis Jewel, her debut album, is a knockout will come as no surprise to anyone at all presently residing in the Bluff City. The tip in this review is to get hip to an artist destined to find her way into the top ranks of the ongoing soul music resurgence. Memphis jewel Jackie Johnson is the real deal.

malcolmLIGHTNIN’ MALCOLM, Renegade-- Blues fans know Malcolm from his work with Cedric Burnside (two albums—Juke Joint Duo, 2 Man Wrecking Crew-- a lot of touring), but Renegade ought to enlarge his following to include those traditional rock ‘n’ roll die-hards who remember when the music was actually blues based and far meatier, lyrically and musically, than what passes for rock ‘n’ roll nowadays, which has abandoned both its blues and gospel roots.

wyldeSUSAN WYLDE, In The Light-- With a classic pop singer’s voice informed by a blues babe’s sensibility, Canada’s Susan Wylde presents intriguing musical possibilities and no small number of persuasive performances of her original songs and well-chosen covers on In The Light. The past couple of years have seen the emergence of big-voiced blues women, but Wylde has a lighter, airier tone with a wistful shadow about it; though she works in a blues style, you can easily here some of her songs reconfigured as cabaret tunes. Or, if you’ve heard her two previous albums (Shambhala and Evolution), you can hear them as jazz or, indeed, pop numbers. This is an artist who works the blues from many sides.


Christine Santelli’s Video Of The Month

‘Find My Way Home,’ a terrific piano ballad soulfully rendered. For the latest Christine Santelli news and live performance schedule, visit her website. Check her out live--seeing is believing.


Meaningful Matters


Fear, Desire And Experience
By Bhuddini

Over and over, saints and sages have used the metaphor of water--the spring, the lake, the river and the ocean--to express the challenges to, and potential for, transcendental experience of our higher being. Jesus walked on water, the Buddha crossed over to the far shore. The lotus flower is rooted in the muddy bottom of a lake and blooms on its surface. Rumi's flutes are fashioned from the reeds that grow along the river's shores, already singing plaintively for the divine breath that will loose the music they hold within themselves.


Seven Crazy Realities Everyone Should Know about
By Jules

I feel like I should say something dramatic here, such as, if you read any one 7-Imp post this year, let it be this one. And that's because today I'm shining the spotlight on the folks at, a bi-weekly magazine connecting literacy and the visual arts. They came to my attention months ago, and gracious knows they've been ever-so patient with me, since I told them about that long ago that I wanted to post about what they do. I'm finally getting to it. Ahem, better late than never, yes?

blogging farmer

Alex Tiller’s Blog on Agriculture and Farming

AN ORGANIC FARM DEMONSTRATES A VIABLE BUSINESS MODEL--Organic farming has been around in the United States for a while. It began in the 1940s but in recent years it has risen in popularity. The safety of organic food is appealing to many people, as well as the more environmentally sound practices used on these farms. Climate change and global warming are still hot topics of the day--and farmers are leading the way in showing how we can adapt our economy and our technology to new environmental realities. One thing that keeps some traditional farmers from moving to an organic approach has been the age-old question--can we make money at it? More evidence that organic farms can be profitable has been provided by the success of Full Circle Farm, which is now a multi-state organic-produce business. Also: LIVING OFF THE LAND: FARMERS PROFIT OVER HOUSING INDUSTRY BOOM AND BUST--One key to success is to be in the right place at the right time. That is especially true in business, as being in the wrong place at the wrong time can lead to a total loss. Farmers in the past have found themselves on the wrong end of this equation--for example, when land prices are high but commodity prices are low. Other times, farmers have ended up with the sweet end of the stick, Before the housing crisis of 2008, big-name companies took opportunities to buy Chicago area farmland for residential and commercial development. But in 2011, homebuilders cannot profit on land that there is no demand for, so farmers are buying it back at much lower prices than it went for 10 years ago.

troublemaker‘60S MEMOIR SPEAKS TO US NOW
By Michael Sigman
Veteran political activist Bill Zimmerman's new book, Troublemaker: A Memoir From the Front Lines of the Sixties, is more than a compelling read. This vivid tale of the author's participation in the civil rights and anti-Vietnam war movements not only sets the record straight on a frequently misunderstoodera, it also helps us re-examine contemporary issues.


blue heaven

In The Evening by John Henry Newman

O Lord, support us all the day long, until the shadows lengthen, and the evening comes, and the busy world is hushed, and the fever of life is over, and our work is done. Then in thy mercy, grant us a safe lodging, and a holy rest and peace at last. Amen.

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