march 2011

Reality Check

friedmanFarewell To Geronimo
By Thomas Friedman
New York Times, May 4, 2011
There is only one good thing about the fact that Osama bin Laden survived for nearly 10 years after the mass murder at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon that he organized. And that is that he lived long enough to see so many young Arabs repudiate his ideology. He lived long enough to see Arabs from Tunisia to Egypt to Yemen to Syria rise up peacefully to gain the dignity, justice and self-rule that Bin Laden claimed could be obtained only by murderous violence and a return to puritanical Islam.

We did our part. We killed Bin Laden with a bullet. Now the Arab and Muslim people have a chance to do their part — kill Bin Ladenism with a ballot — that is, with real elections, with real constitutions, real political parties and real progressive politics.

Yes, the bad guys have been dealt a blow across the Arab world in the last few months — not only Al Qaeda, but the whole rogues’ gallery of dictators, whose soft bigotry of low expectations for their people had kept the Arab world behind. The question now, though, is: Can the forces of decency get organized, elected and start building a different Arab future? That is the most important question. Everything else is noise.

Read Thomas Friedman’s complete column here.

Reality Check II

Duckman on the human condition



From Love, Janis to Across the Universe to her second studio album, Love to Beg, Dana Fuchs has grown and matured as a singer and songwriter. With one of the most powerful live shows on the road, she now stands on the cusp of a major breakthrough. She’s lived a lot of life to get here, in only 34 years on the planet, but she’s put the hard times behind her and is pummeling audiences here and abroad with a blues-rock assault of impressive magnitude and deep roots in blues, gospel, southern soul and punishing rock ‘n’ roll. The whole story of who she is and how she got to this point is told here for the first time. And yes, she can sound like Janis Joplin if she wants to.


The Fortuitous Pairing of Ralph Rinzler and Bill Monroe

In the early ‘60s folk music legend Ralph Rinzler put his own musical career on hold and assumed the job of managing Bill Monroe, whose career was on a dowward arc and who had became extremely bitter towards the music business. Rinzler changed all that. As his biographer Richard Gagné noted: “Ralph Rinzler worked with Monroe from 1962 to 1966,During those years, Monroe released ten albums. Another 27 albums followed between 1967 and 1991. In the case of Bill Monroe, Ralph Rinzler revived the career of the founder of an entire musical genre. He helped bring bluegrass, as well as old-time music, into the fold of the folk music revival.”

Border Crossings


PORTUGAL’s DEOLINDA Keeps It In the Family, But Doesn’t Keep Quiet
This past January, at four concerts in Lisbon and Porto, the dynamic young Portugese band DEOLINDA premiered a new song, "Parva que Sou," even before it was released as a CD or video. The lyrics criticize modern Portugal as a place where young people study and earn university degrees but are unable to find meaningful employment. The song's catch line translates as "What a foolish world, where in order to be a slave, it's necessary to study." The title translates as "What a Fool I Am."

"Parva que Sou" gained immediate acclaim as an anthem of Portugal's economically dislocated young generation. Deolinda didn't need the song to put it on the cultural map in its native land--its two albums have topped the charts--but "Parva que Sou" is part and parcel of the band's daring approach to all things musical that is attracting attention in parts of the world far away from the musicians’ home turf. The band’s latest album, Dois Selos e um Carimbo, is a daring work that marks it as one of the most exciting and most promising young aggregates in contemporary music.

Deolinda, ‘Clandestino’: the song ‘recreates the atmosphere of Old Portugal under the dictator Salazar, before the Revolution. Explains lead singer Ana Bacalhau: ‘It's about a couple; the woman has been persecuted by the police and doesn't know if her lover is coming back that night or not. He comes and brings a gift for her and their baby, but the police arrive and she defiantly sings, 'I kissed him and took him in my arms...'’


Constantinople’s Early Dreams: The Start Of a New Cycle
By Kiya Tabbasian

The co-founder/artistic director/setar player of the early music group Constantinople contributes an essay explaining the fascinating origins and conception of the group and its intriguing new album, Early Dreams.Mr. Tabassian relates the album’s backstory, and offers a biographical sketch of the fascinating Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz [1648-1695, the self-taught scholar, poet, social activist, nun and major intellectual figure of her time, whose poetry forms the text of the songs on Early Dreams.

Johann Sebastian Bach: ‘Blessed Thunderbolt of Power!’
By Romain Rolland

A short, evocative hosanna by a Nobel Prize for Literature winner who ‘could hear the thunders of Johann Sebastian Bach’s oceanic soul: the winds and storms, the gusts and scudding clouds, the peoples intoxicated with joy, fury, or pain; he could hear Christ, the Prince of Peace, soaring above them, his heart full of pity…’


By David McGee

On Robert Johnson’s 100th birthday anniversary, we have arrived at a point where, though much of the mystery of his life remains unsolved, we know enough about the man to be able to enjoy the myth as an entertaining sideshow and hear the music as the real story of a gifted artist. No one has summed up the situation better than Ted Gioia, one of the preeminent music writers of our time, who closes his eloquent, informed, heartfelt essay in a new Johnson box set from Columbia/Legacy (The Complete Original Masters Centennial Edition) with this: “…one certainty emerges, amidst this mist and haze, namely that, a century after his birth, Johnson remains the defining artist of American roots music, the most celebrated exponent of the blues, and the progenitor of countless later guitarists and singers.”

By David McGee

An expanded live album from 1964, finally available on CD, captures Ray Charles, his orchestra and the Raelets in peak form. What was a good album in its vinyl incarnation is now an essential document in its longer form, capturing as it does a comprehensive picture of one of the greatest artists America has ever produced on a very good night for him and his orchestra. In a live setting, in his prime, this is what Brother Ray was all about.


By David McGee

Django Reinhardt, briefly but memorably a Parisian in America, and Eartha Kitt, briefly but memorably an American in Paris, considered anew.


The Gospel Set

By Bob Marovich, The Black Gospel Blog

Our gospel editor interviews Bishop J.C. Williams on the occasion of his new album release, The Encounter Live, recorded with the Voices of New Life. "I'm my own worst critic," Williams laughs, "and I absolutely love the project!"

The Search for Blind Willie Johnson and The Texas Gospel Searches For Funding-
-a Kickstarter campaign is underway to fund The Search for "Blind" Willie Johnson and the Texas Gospel, a documentary that will explore Texas gospel music and its antecedents. Details herein.

Tornado Flattens Malaco Records Complex In Missisissippi; Owners Uncertain About Rebuilding; Master Tapes Lost--A piece of Mississippi history and American music history both was virtually blown away by the destructive storms that tore through the state on April 15. When the twister subsided, the legendary Malaco Records complex was reduced to rubble, including the room that housed the master tapes chronicling decades of recording by giants on the order of Little Milton, Bobby Blue Bland and ZZ Hill.

*Bob Marovich’s Gospel Picks

madelynMADELYN BERRY, Madelyn--On her eponymously-titled third CD, Madelyn Berry continues to demonstrate that she can hold her own vocally against better-known urban gospel female singers such as Damita Haddon and Kiki Sheard.


hostyleHOSTYLE GOSPEL, Five Star Generals--This holy hip hop group from Champaign, Illinois does more than stomp. On their mixtape, Five Star Generals, the trio unpacks an entire arsenal of anti-devil weaponry. They break demons’ necks, drive stakes into them and even toss their ol' sorry evil selves into trash cans and roll them.

blessidBLESSID UNION OF SOULS, The Mission Field--Blessid Union of Souls’ seventh album, but first for Salvation Road Records, contains smart, socially aware lyrics with bright and accessible melodies. Not just tangentially inspirational, the songs on The Mission Field give honor to God and Jesus. Not only is lead singer Eliot Sloan unafraid to proclaim his faith, but he uses it as a lens with which to view the world and its complexities.

unleashedCONNECTION!, Unleashed--Apostle Kareem Jackson, who is an associate minister at Deliverance Rock Ministries in Houston, serves as lead vocalist on the quartet’s third CD, Unleashed. Lyrically and musically, Jackson and Connection! ladle out the comfortable and familiar old-time religion for which gospel quartets are renowned and revered.



eclipseBILL EMERSON, EclipseLast year’s Southern was so on the mark that Bill Emerson could be forgiven if Eclipse had not lived up to its predecessor’s high standard, but in fact the man and his mates have succeeded in taking a different route while honoring the spirit that made Southern so memorable. You get the feeling Bill Emerson’s onto something special here.

grasstowneGRASSTOWNE, Kickin’ Up Dust--In being able to move fluidly and convincingly across the bluegrass spectrum, exploring matters of faith, of the heart, and of history with bracing conviction and a winning balance of serious and feel-good moments, Grasstowne is moving into the front rank of the current scene. They’ve got the whole package together.

scottMIKE SCOTT, Take Me Lord and Use Me--No matter the high-powered guests on board, Mike Scott’s approach is right down the middle, explaining without over-emoting what it is about his faith that inspires him and keeps him focused on the final reward. The music itself is so fine and so focused it could stand on its own as a spiritual statement. Any way you consider it, Mike Scott has produced the most persuasive sort of testimony.

newfoundNEWFOUND ROAD, Live At The Down Home--Like greatest hits albums, live albums are often seen as holding patterns, buying a band in transition or on hiatus some time to regroup ahead of another studio project. But Live At The Down Home sounds like the work of a band ready to flex its collective muscles in making a statement about its own vitality. No holding pattern in evidence here; only a gifted quartet fully in command of its art and ready to move forward.

foxI LOVE: TOM T. HALL’S SONGS OF FOX HOLLOWCo-producers Peter Cooper and Eric Brace put together a wish list of artists they hoped to persuade to participate in a tribute album to Tom T. Hall, but a tribute of a different sort: a revisiting of Tom T.’s wonderful children’s album from 1974, Songs of Fox Hollow. They came, they sang, and wonders ensued. No one makes a false move or hits a false note, and much love goes out to the master songwriter, who even shows up for his own cameo.

Beyond The Blue

andyANDY FRIEDMAN, Laserbeams And DreamsIf Andy Friedman keeps making records as compelling as Laserbeams and Dreams, his third, being identified as a New Yorker cartoonist will soon become the last mentioned of his accomplishments.


speerD. CHARLES SPEER & THE HELIX, Leaving The Commonwealth--I’m not sure what it all means, but I know Leaving the Commonwealth has a monster quality, with Shuford/Speer juggling multiple ideas at once in his narratives, reaching back in time and then into some hazy future in trying to say something about the way we live today.

quiettTERRY QUIETT BAND, Just My LuckIn the spirit of Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble, but emanating from the Kansas plains instead of Austin, guitarist Terry Quiett and his solid rhythm section of bassist Aaron Underwood and drummer Rodney Baker serve notice on this, their third studio release, of being ready to step into the front rank of contemporary blues bands.

nelsonTRACY NELSON, Victim Of the Blues--Victim of the Blues is a highwater mark for this beloved roots artist, as she uses the occasion to revisit some blues fundamentals in song. In doing so she proves the degree to which time has been on her side. Victim of the Blues exudes life, sounds lived and lived in, and makes of the heart a home. Her message is clear, unambiguous and sounds like nothing less than the truth.


Video File

An Idiot Wind By Any Other Name
By David McGee
Happy 70th birthday, BOB DYLAN, but why is Maureen Dowd saying all those nasty things about you? Herein, another reality check, and some Dylan music to soothe the savage breast.

Christine Santelli's Video Of The Month

‘Butterfly,’ from her Any Better Time album, live at WEXT Albany. For the latest Christine Santelli news and live performance schedule, visit her website.

Meaningful Matters



On the 75th anniversary of the publication of Gone With the Wind, authors John Wiley Jr. and Ellen F. Brown craft the definitive story of a literary phenomenon in their new book, Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind: A Bestseller’s Odyssey from Atlanta to Hollywood. In Interview, DAVID MCGEE engages Mr. Wiley and Ms. Brown on the topic of their own amazing journey into Mitchell’s world and what they discovered and uncovered in tracing the amazing journey of Ms. Mitchell’s manuscript from propping up an uneven leg on her living room couch to being the best selling novel of all time.

‘MISS MITCHELL, 49, DEAD OF INJURIES’: Our Gone With the Wind 75th anniversary coverage includes the August 17, 1949 New York Times obituary announcing her death from injuries suffered when she was struck by a car on Atlanta’s Peachtree Street


by John Muir

From an essay the great naturalist penned in 1902 centered on his experience exploring the breathtaking wonders of the Grand Canyon, we begin a new monthly series, Nature’s Temple, devoted to meditations on our natural world. Cherish it. Nurture it.



It’s a 7-Imp trifecta this month, as JULES finds three wonderful new books to rave about: These Hands, by Margaret H. Mason with illustrations by FLOYD COOPER; My Cold Went On Vacation, by MOLLY RAUSCH with illustrations by NORA KRUG, the first book project for both author and illustrator and a fine first effort indeed; and from Italy, via a French publisher, the wonderful, rich illustrations of NICOLETTA CECCOLI in her book Beautiful Nightmares. This is Jules at her best, with three books you can really sink your teeth into and enjoy at any age.


Alex Tiller's Blog about Agriculture & Farming
Farming on the Bubble: Have Farmers and Investors Fallen Down the Rabbit Hole?

Speculative bubbles have long been a staple of market economies. As one Wall Street investor pithily said, “if a price is free to move, it is free to move stupidly.” Investors sometimes decide that a boom in one sector of the economy is a permanent feature of the landscape, that growth will never end, that double and triple-digit returns on investment are normal and to be expected. Prices will keep going up forever, and it makes good sense to borrow cash in order to invest in a market that endlessly repays investors. Naturally, none of that is realistic. This month, ALEX TILLER wonders whether we are seeing early warning signs that farmers and investors are losing sight of the underlying value of the land. Also this month: an informative video about SOLAR IN AMERICA’S HEARTLAND, courtesy TheSolarIndustry, which follows the sun across the nation to show first-hand how solar is working for America and to meet today’s solar generation.


Roving contributor MICHAEL SIGMAN starts priming the pump for the May 15, 2014 “International Day of Laughter” being promoted by a group formed in part by the son of HARPO MARX, BILL MARX and music publishing icon HOWIE RICHMOND. The day designated to chuckle, guffaw and bellow will mark the centennial of the Marx Brothers’ first performance under their “O” names. You read it here first.


The man even WOODY ALLEN and MARTIN SCORSESE bow to as the quintessential New York filmmaker died on April 9. This month, a tribute to the director who gave us Dog Day Afternooon, 12 Angry Men, Serpico, Prince of the City and, of course, Network.


Remembering Greta Waitz, The Greatest—At Everything

With her blonde pigtails bouncing on the back of her head, Norway’s GRETE WAITZ won nine New York City Marathons, dominating the 26.2 mile rack like no other runner has ever dominated marathoning, and she did with style and with class. Along the way she became one of the most beloved figures in New York City, which adopted her as one of its own and mourned as one when word came of her death from cancer on April 19. We pay tribute to one of the great champions and most inspiring figures of our time.


When an actress friend found her mummified remains in her cluttered Los Angeles home on Cielo Drive, YVETTE VICKERS had been dead possibly for as long as a year. While the mystery of the actress’s demise continues to be investigated, the star of ATTACK OF THE 50 FOOT WOMAN and ATTACK OF THE GIANT LEECHES(who also had bit parts in BEACH PARTY and alongside PAUL NEWMAN in HUD) and Playboy’s June 1959 Playmate of the Month (photographed by Russ Meyer, a man who could appreciate her 35-22-35 measurements), generated more publicity, and more accolades, in death than she ever did when she was alive. A look back at Ms. Vickers’s laudable resume.


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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