september 2011

Change 'Hunt' to 'Koch,' and It’s 2011
Now it is true that I believe this country is following a dangerous trend when it permits too great a degree of centralization of governmental functions. I oppose this--in some instances the fight is a rather desperate one. But to attain any success it is quite clear that the Federal government cannot avoid or escape responsibilities which the mass of the people firmly believe should be undertaken by it. The political processes of our country are such that if a rule of reason is not applied in this effort, we will lose everything--even to a possible and drastic change in the Constitution. This is what I mean by my constant insistence upon "moderation" in government. Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. Among them are H. L. Hunt (you possibly know his background), a few other Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or business man from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid. --President Dwight D. Eisenhower in a letter to his brother Edgar Newton Eisenhower, November 8, 1954, posted online at The Presidential Papers of Dwight David Eisenhower.

Use It or Lose It
As we were still fuming over the jugheads from Top Gear being allowed to tear up the sand dunes in Death Valley National Park with their four-wheelers, all for the sake of bad television, New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristoff returned from backpacking with his family along a stretch of the Pacific Coast Trail, which extends from Mexico to Canada, and reported on his adventures in a September 10 column headlined “We’re Rich! (In Nature.).” Noting that “gaps between rich and poor have been growing, but our national lands are a rare space of utter democracy: the poorest citizen gets resplendent views that even a billionaire is not allowed to buy,” Mr. Kristoff sounded a disturbing alarm that cannot be repeated too often:

“Yet if these national lands are one of America’s greatest triumphs, two additional points must be noted.

“First, they are under threat. Republicans have proposed opening more than 50 million acres of federal lands to logging, grazing and other uses. They argue that this would allow responsible “multiple use” of lands now locked up as wilderness. Bruce Babbitt, the interior secretary under President Bill Clinton, has described the Republican bill as “the most radical, overreaching attempt to dismantle the architecture of our public land laws that has been proposed in my lifetime.” He said it would be “nothing more than a giveaway of our great outdoors.”

It’s painful to see the G.O.P. take this stance because it was a great Republican—Theodore Roosevelt—who helped preserve America’s natural treasures. The writer Wallace Stegner called our parks America’s “best idea,” and it’s a legacy that Republicans should embrace, not undermine.

The second challenge is more complicated. It is that Americans love their national parks, but they sometimes love video games more.

 “Fewer and fewer youth are heading outdoors each year,” the Outdoor Foundation concluded in a “special report on youth.” It added that “the American childhood has rapidly moved indoors, leading to epidemic levels of childhood obesity and inactivity.”

Read the full column here.


We Couldn’t Have Said It Better…


A Really Bad Idea


T-Bone Burnett keeps making the same album with different artists. This time he screwed the pooch--13,000 sales as of late August. With good reason, nobody cares.




By David McGee

Our friends from the Dutch Delta, CHAMPAGNE CHARLIE, are back with a new album, Hobo Signs & Railroad Lines, in which they plumb the history of American song to find those tunes written during the heyday of the hobo, in the ‘30s and ‘40s, that most vividly illuminate how these “gentlemen of the road” lived and even policed themselves in their own thriving subculture. In a worldwide exclusive, the band’s lead singer SJEF HERMANS discusses the voluminous research he and his mates engaged in in order to understand the hobo subculture and to find those songs that best illustrated the hobo lifestyle and point of view.

Jeff Golub loses eyesight, plays on
By David McGee

Shortly after completing one of his finest albums, The Three Kings, ace guitarist JEFF GOLUB lost his eyesight. Pressing on with his touring schedule, he is embracing the advice he offered his children--‘prepare for the worst, hope for the best’--as he holds out hope doctors can reverse his condition. Also, a fund has been established in hopes of defraying Golub’s medical expenses. Click on the link indicated in the margin of the Contents page and please give generously.

By David McGee

At 23, Kansas City’s SAMANTHA FISH is on a fast track with her ambitious blues. Her new album, the Mike Zito-produced Runaway, shows a fast developing artist in fine form on nine strong originals and an impressive cover of Tom Petty's 'Louisiana Rain.' 'I'm a workhorse,' she says. 'I'll work my butt off to make it happen.'




Ricky Skaggs: ‘That’s My Lifeline, That Sound And That Music’
By David McGee

In this month’s Bill Monroe Centennial Month, we celebrate the 100th birthday month of the father of bluegrass with an exclusive interview with a contemporary bluegrass great who knew the man well—RICKY SKAGGS discusses his near-lifelong friendship with Mr. Bill, and the impact the man’s music continues to exert on his own.


By David McGee

In 1956 Elvis’s guitarist, Scotty Moore, asked the question. ELVIS PRESLEY supplied the resounding answer. A new box set chronicles a momentous year for the man who would be King.

bb king

By David McGee

Celebrating his 86th birthday on September 16, B.B. KING is the undisputed King of the Blues, recognized and beloved the world over. But in 1969, going into his seventh year on the ABC label, he was still looking for a crossover hit that would pay off artistically and financially. He was about to rebel against his label’s career guidance when he was teamed in a young, in-house producer named Bill Szymczyk who had a vision of how to modernize B.B. King without losing the essence of what had made him one of the most important blues artists of the 20th Century. In an excerpt from his book B.B. King: There Is Always One More Time, David McGee chronicles how Szymczyk and B.B. arrived at ‘The Thrill Is Gone’ and forever altered the artist’s career arc.


Remembering OTIS REDDING, the brightest star in the Southern soul firmament, on the 70th anniversary month of his birth, in words and videos.


By David McGee

In their own way--because both of these towering artists must always be considered 'in their own way'—FRANK SINATRA’s  Ring-A-Ding-Ding Reprise debut and TONY BENNETT’s single-disc anthology The Best of the Improv Recordings reflect a certain sense of both artists feeling unshackled, free, fully the artists they wanted to be. Two masters at pivotal points, both delivering the goods on their own terms. They won. We win.


By Michael Sigman

VAN DYKE PARKS—the man who’s been producing his own first-rate work since the '60s--and has played a key role in the careers of too many iconic musicians to name--is releasing his first new solo recordings in thirteen years. Roving contributor MICHAEL SIGMAN offers 15 facts about VDP that should whet anyone’s appetite for the artist’s new music.


‘I Can’t Imagine Myself Without Music’

‘Music is not only a profession, but also a reflection of life,’ says the highly regarded South Korean classical pianist KLARA MIN, whose new album, Pa-Mun, Ripples On Water (Piano Music by Korean Composers), explores some hidden gems from a select group of 20th Century Korean composers little known in the U.S. but celebrated in their native land.


Palestrina & Michelangelo

‘In both we find the same simplicity, the same humility in the use of materials, the same absence of concern with effect, the same disdain for what might appeal.’
By Charles Gounod
French composer Charles Gounod heard the music of Palestrina and found his muse, thereafter composing primarily sacred music. Gounod's thoughts on Palestrina’s likeness to Michelangelo were published posthumously in his Les Mémoires d'un artiste (1896).


By David McGee

A personal reminiscence of the man who, with his partner Mike Stoller, incited a cultural revolution by fashioning the language of rock ‘n’ roll out of the language of the blues and rhythm and blues they loved above all other music.


By David McGee

From Robert Johnson’s last night alive to Barack Obama being elected President, blues great DAVID ‘HONEYBOY’ EDWARDS was a witness to history, and made a lasting contribution with his own indelible blues.


By David McGee

NICK ASHFORD, who died last month at age 70, and his wife of 38 years, Valerie Simpson, clarified, energized and elevated love to an exalted plane, and practiced what they preached—and did they ever preach…


The Gospel Set


By Bob Marovich

The only female gospel singer who plays trumpet and sings, SYREETA is turning heads and moving spirits with her new album, In His Presence. The Black Gospel Blog’s Bob Marovich chats with one of gospel music’s rising stars.


robinsonEDDIE ROBINSON, This Is My Story, This Is My Song--Eddie Robinson and his combo on This is My Story, This is My Song take us back to church for real, with toe-tapping Zion songs that evoke church mothers in their finery, hats perched high on their 'dos, fans waving in time to the music, shouting their troubles over on a Sunday morning.

giGI, The Next Dimension--GI's new CD, The Next Dimension, contains a baker's dozen of songs with spit-polished harmonies and passionate vocals atop friendly pop melodies and hard-hitting electronic arrangements. The music and lyrics are aimed primarily, but not exclusively, at a young church-going demographic.

deitrickDEITRICK HADDON, Anthology: The Writer And His Music--Deitrick Haddon's urgent rhythms and R&B fusion produce praise and worship with attitude.



frazeJ. FRAZE, Brighter Days--On his CD Brighter Days, Johnathan Frazier (aka J. Fraze--the Minister of Praise) provides the first gospel house version of "Amazing Grace" that TBGB has ever heard. But it's an appropriate selection, since the grace of God turning bad days into brighter days is a running theme on the album.

thomasNORMAN THOMAS, Overture (EP)--From Hamden, Connecticut, Norman Thomas is in the category of earnest young male gospel singers (Jack Yates and Todd Dulaney also come to mind) whose genuine feelings for God are audible in the authenticity of their crystal-clear voices and lyric delivery. On his EP Overture, released mid-June, Thomas teamed with co-producers Tye Brown and Cameron Fletcher to combine jazzy instrumentals with electronically-fueled jams.



monroeVARIOUS ARTISTS, Bill Monroe Centennial Celebration: A Classic Bluegrass Tribute--In the same manner that Monroe’s music reached beyond the boundaries of what became known as bluegrass, the multiple generations of artists represented on the 28 tracks here underscore the degree to which Monroe’s songs continue to speak to musicians who grew up in times and circumstances quite different from the rural, isolated, close-knit family life Monroe knew in his childhood and which informed his view of the world and the values he advanced as a songwriter—values that clearly have not gone out of style, as these performances prove, ranging as they do from the 1970s to the present day.

highwayBLUE HIGHWAY, Sounds of Home--A good year for bluegrass music from new and established bands and solo artists alike is heading into its final quarter in grand style with the release of Blue Highway’s Sounds of Home, the celebrated band’s first album of all-original material in a decade.


bradleyDALE ANN BRADLEY, Somewhere South of Crazy--The home you cultivate in your heart and in your memory, and draw strength from thereafter--through “the mystery of strange million-visaged time that haunts us with the briefness of our days,” as Thomas Wolfe observed in Of Time and The River--is the place we belong. Martin Sloan learned this at the end of The Twilight Zone episode titled “Walking Distance,” and Dale Ann Bradley is perfectly attuned to its truth in Somewhere South of Crazy.

nu bluNU-BLU, The Blu-Disc--The band’s sophomore album advances the strengths of its first album and then some, albeit minus any new original songs from group founders Daniel and Carolyn Routh. On the other hand, when a band can draw from a pool of tunes by the likes of Tim Stafford, Jon Weisberger (in collaboration with each other and with other writers), Mark Brinkman, Marc Rossi and Donna Ulisse, et al., well, go for it.

ulisseDONNA ULISSE, An Easy Climb--Arguably her most personal album, An Easy Climb is indisputably the most impressive showcase yet of Ms. Ulisse’s continuing development as a first-rank contemporary songwriter and singer.


giviing treeTHE GIVING TREE BAND, The Joke, The Threat And The Obvious--This is the Giving Tree Band, and The Joke, The Threat And The Obvious is but another chapter in an unfolding saga ever more compelling with each installment. Something special is going on here, and the wheel’s still in spin.


Beyond The Blue

brombergDAVID BROMBERG, Use MeFor those who may have only been introduced to Bromberg as the weary voiced country bluesman on his stirring (and Grammy nominated) 2007 comeback CD, Try Me One More Time, the bright-voiced, even youthful sounding singer on Use Me not only is really and truly David Bromberg, it’s a David Bromberg who sounds uncannily like his frizzy-maned ‘70s self while also playing some emotionally riveting blues guitar along the way and getting an injection of rockin’ pneumonia from the likes of Dr. John and Levon Helm. Verily, for a guy who put his recording career on ice for 17 years prior to releasing Try Me One More Time, it’s like he never left. Use Me is the finest album of his long and distinguished career.

golubJEFF GOLUB, The Three Kings—On his previous album, Blues for You, guitarist extraordinaire Jeff Golub broke away from the smooth jazz that has made him a household name in that world and dived into a harder-edged, classic urban blues sound. With his tribute to B.B., Freddie and Albert, The Three Kings, he completes a thoroughly successful artistic evolution and does right by the blues giants he and his mates honor herein.

lloyd jonesLLOYD JONES, Highway Bound--Highway Bound, Lloyd Jones’s first new long player since 2003’s barnburning Triple Double cage match electric blues mayhem with Tommy Castro, Jimmy Hal and the Double Trouble nucleus of Chris Layton, Tommy Shannon and Reese Wynans, is a real treat for Jones’s fans and for the blues world in general.

james justinJAMES JUSTIN & CO., Dark Country—The second communiqué from Folly Beach, SC’s James Justin Burke (billed with his band as James Justin & Co.), Dark Country only enhances the impression Burke made on last year’s debut album, Southern Son So Far, of being a songwriter scarily in tune with his own feelings and the turning of the earth.

kaneCANDYE KANE, Sister Vagabond--Given all the hurdles she’s jumped and her good works offstage, it’s especially pleasing to report that Sister Vagabond, her 11th CD is simply her best yet, and at that one of the top big band blues albums of the year.


Christine Santelli’s Video Of The Month

‘Spider On the Wall,’ from the artist’s 100 Videos in 100 Days project. For the latest Christine Santelli news and live performance schedule, visit her website. Check her out live--seeing is believing.

Meaningful Matters


Enduring Truths from 9/11 in Three Parts

This month we welcome the return of DUNCAN STRAUSS and his Talking Animals column (a spinoff of his like-titled NPR show) as part our post-9/11 perspective. His contribution is an interview with MICHAEL HINGSON, a blind man led to safety from one of the burning towers by his guide dog who has since chronicled his experience in a book. Also, a 13-minute video, The Man In The Red Bandanna, tells the moving story of WELLES CROWTHER, a former Boston College lacrosse player who worked as an equities trader at Sandler O’Neill and Partners on the 104th floor of the South Tower of the World Trade Center. On September 11, 2001, after the tower was struck, Crowther, who was going to leave his job to become a New York City firefighter, escorted 12 people to safety before the tower collapsed as he was on his way back up the stairs to help more victims escape. And in ‘Ground Zero: An Exercise In Humanity,’ David McGee recounts the larger lessons emerging from his five months of volunteer work at Ground Zero.


A SEMI-CENTENNIAL TRIBUTE TO BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S: 25 Ways Blake Edwards’ Classic Film Differs From Truman Capote’s Elegant Novella
By David McGee

On this 50th anniversary month of the release of the Blake Edwards-directed film version of Breakfast at Tiffany’s, we consider all the ways—25 by our count—in which the classic film departs from the text of Truman Capote’s elegant novella. If you didn’t know that Holly Golightly was a proponent of same-sex marriage in the novella—written in 1957-58—you might want to check out what else you’re missing while you swoon over an authentic film gem. Our Breakfast at Tiffany’s 50th anniversary coverage is rounded out by ‘Moon River: Anatomy of a Song,’ a look at how one of the great American pop classics emerged from the collaboration between HENRY MANCINI and JOHNNY MERCER.


By Jules

The fourteenth title—yes, fourteenth—from JENNI and MATT HOLM again chronicles the exploits of Babymouse, whereas the Holms duo’s other new book, Squish, Super Amoeba details what Kirkus called ‘the hilarious misadventures of a hapless young everylad who happens to be an amoeba.’ Jules makes sense of it all ahead of cluing us into some of her favorite things literary, musical and otherwise.

blogging farmer

Alex Tiller’s Blog About Agriculture and Farming

Agricultural Subsidies: Time To Start Phasing Out Historically Harmful Policies: A look back at the history and deleterious economic effects of farm subsidies, and a call for a plan to phase out government subsidies in a staged approach to assure the well being of our existing farmers, while protecting U.S. farm markets from those countries that subsidize their agricultural sectors. Also: a report on ‘How Beekeeping Programs Are Reshaping Hawaiian Agriculture.’

wild apples

The History of the Apple-Tree
By Henry David Thoreau

Of all the subjects he investigated in the natural world, few engaged Thoreau’s heart and mind as the fate of indigenous and wild apple species. In his 1862 essay “Wild Apples,” Thoreau voiced his lament for the destruction of the wild apple most vividly. From that essay comes this opening salvo, the introduction, “The History of the Apple-Tree.” It was one of Thoreau’s last stands, as he died shortly after the publication of “Wild Apples.”


Astronomers Discover Planet Made of Diamond

In this new department, we take a look at the strange and marvelous goings-on in our universe. This first installment of Away Out There features a report from NOLA TAYLOR REDD of about the discovery of a planet formed from a dead star that ‘is a real diamond in the rough’—that is, the super-high pressure of the planet, which orbits a rapidly pulsing neutron star, has caused the carbon within it to crystallize into an actual diamond.


By Chip Stern

Our irascible contributor Chip Stern, fulminating in uptown Manhattan against the undeserved obscurity of early 20th Century baseball immortal Smoky Joe Wood, fired off a letter to veteran sports writer Bill Madden at the New York Daily News, demanding the Veterans Committee redress a great wrong and install the lamented Mr. Wood into the Baseball Hall of Fame. We don’t know if Stern received an answer, but we do support him in his outrage and publish his findings here in hopes of inspiring a great hue and cry throughout the land for Smoky to get his just due. Come on—the guy won 35 games one year with an arm that was barely attached to his shoulder.


The End Zone

As the NFL season kicks off, the game mourns the loss of four of its greats: LEE ROY SELMON, JOHN MACKEY, BUBBA SMITH and DON CHANDLER.


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.

Recent Issues

(For all back issues go to the Archive)

Video File





After finishing recording his new album, The Three Kings, guitarist Jeff Golub lost the sight in both of his eyes due to collapsed optic nerves. A fund has been set up to help defray his daunting medical expenses. Donations are accepted via PayPal, check or credit card. If you wish to donate, click here:

Founder/Publisher/Editor: David McGee
Contributing Editors: Billy Altman, Laura Fissinger, Christopher Hill, Derk Richardson
Logo Design: John Mendelsohn (
Website Design: Kieran McGee (
Staff Photographers: Audrey Harrod (Louisville, KY;, Alicia Zappier (New York)
Mailing Address: David McGee, 201 W. 85 St.—5B, New York, NY 10024