Friday, August 29, 2014

I'm Your Teenage Prayer

Random notes:
  • Ryan tickets are down to $76 on Stubhub.  Tempting. 
  • Listening to Geeshie Wiley now (Skinny Legs Blues) as I cycle through playlists.  And thinking of this amazing story.  What did that cold Wisconsin studio feel like to her?  Look like?   
  •  Pitchfork has collected some surreal highlights from the Basement Tapes.  There are so many more, but Teenage Prayer is particularly silly:

That, for now, is all.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Lost Time is Not Found Again

Wow.  So it's officially coming out!  The full Basement Tapes in all their ragged glory..

I first heard the tapes on some cassette boots in the late 90's..  And those scattered tracks on Jesse's copy of Great White Wonder.  Then my own copy of GWW, from a record store in Ann Arbor (which I still have).  Then a dub of the Genuine Basement Tapes then later the remastered Tree With Roots on CD-R (now on grooveshark, of course).  I remember playing it for hours in that Toledo apartment - about the time I fell into the Anthology of American Folk Music. And things changed. 

There are some amazing moments.  The sheer, indescribable "I'm Not There (1956)" - a song that contains worlds.  The giddiness, the bawdiness, the openness..  I can't wait to dive back in.. Deep.

Friday, August 22, 2014


So Ryan Adams is playing the 9:30 on Monday, Sept. 8th.  I found out too late.  Sold out.  And the cheapest tickets on StubHub are $101.  Blerg. 

But his bio / resume on the listing is priceless.  A sampling:

  • September 2000 (what is it with September?) - Heartbreaker released, solo debut on Bloodshot Records. Produced, like Gold would be, by Ethan Johns. Includes “My Winding Wheel,” “Oh My Sweet Carolina” (featuring Emmylou Harris), “Come Pick Me Up.” You know you could.
  •  September 2001 to February 2002 - Gold released, major label (Lost Highway) debut that goes on to sell nearly a million copies worldwide to date. Features “When Stars Go Blue,” quoted in Stephen King’s Lisey’s Story and likely known to your friends and family as "that Tim Graw song the kid did on American Idol” or “the song the Corrs did with Bono.” Also features unintentional post-9/11 anthem "New York, New York” as well as "The Rescue Blues," "Answering Bell” and at least one or two others you’d recognize from a movie or TV show.
  • November 2003 to May 2004 - Produced with John Porter and recorded in New York and New Orleans, Love Is Hell is originally released as two EPs in late 2003 due to Lost Highway’s concerns about the full album’s commercial viability. They apparently do not have the same reservations about Rock N Roll, released in full around the same time. Love Is Hell ultimately released as full album, “Political Scientist,” Please Do Not Let Me Go,” “This House Is Not For Sale" still kill it, so whatever.

Blue Country / Tomorrow Night

Blue Country (Joe Dassin)

There are some albums that just sneak up on me.  Lately I've been listening to this Joe Dassin record that I picked up in a thrift store in Vernon a few months ago. A lot.

It's a fairly standard late-70's country record - just in French (mostly - except, oddly, for a cover of Tony Joe White's Polk Salad Annie).  The musicians are great (Nashville vets mostly - Kenneth Buttrey et al).  The song selection is great.  The whole thing is warm and delicious and kind of cheesy.  But so fun to listen to..  particularly on grey, rainy, muggy late-summer mornings.  Here's the title track from the Johnny Cash show:

Tomorrow Night (Lonnie Johnson)

In Cinci last week I made it to Shake It records - and it was a summer weekday (as opposed to a post-Christmas weekend when I usually go), so I had the store to myself more or less.  Thumbing through the Blues records I found an interesting-looking double album of Lonnie Johnson stuff, with minimal liner notes or context, just a lot of music.  Cheap.  So I picked it up and it's been wrestling with Blue Country for turntable time.

He has a polish, a sophistication (particularly compared to Patton / Skip James / et. al.), but a depth of feeling and an amazing ability to put a song across.  There are echoes of Emmett Miller or Furry Lewis or Django or Gershwin here - the blurry lines between blues and jazz and pop.  It's just good.  So very good.

A taste:

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Mixed Up Shook Up [Boy]

Driving back today, 10 hours across misty Ohio farmland, through the wilds of West Virginia, the majesty of the Sideling Cut then the ever thickening arteries of traffic funneling into suburban Maryland, I worked my way through the same CD stack with a few variations.
  •  Morning Phase (Beck) - 2x - Perfect for 6a misty morning driving.
  • Wrecking Ball (Emmylou) - I still prefer Red Dirt Girl - but there's some great stuff here.  Every Grain of Sand and Deeper Well and Lucinda's Sweet Old World and Gillian's Orphan Girl and.. 
  • Bob Dylan: Artist's Choice  (Various) - Unlike Joni he didn't pick any of his own songs.  But a lot of great stuff on here.
  • What's on Your Mind (Eric B. & Rakim):  This belongs on a mix..  

Dylan's Artist Choice CD which I picked up at Starbucks (apparently in 2008) and hadn't listened to in years has some great stuff (of course) and Chronicles-esque liner notes which are fun to read.  Standouts:

Wanda Jackson - I Gotta Know:  Rockabilly meets country meets Elvis:

Pee Wee Crayton - Do Unto Others:  Revolution before the revolution.

Patty and the Emblems - Mixed Up Shook Up Girl:  2 minutes of bliss.  That feeling..

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Cincinnati Kid

Now in lovely Cincinnati for a few days..  I do love Ohio in the late summer.

Drive soundtrack:
  •  Dylan - Love and Theft - My first full listen in at least a year.  And it's amazing to me how well it holds up (and holds together).
  •  PJ Harvey - To Bring You My Love / Dry - Because I'm on a PJ Harvey kick.  And I couldn't find Stories from the City.. this morning
  • Blueprint (Jay-Z) / Good Kid M.A.A.D City (Kendrick Lamar) / Watch the Throne (Jay / Kanye) - Made the miles fly by
  • Jack White - Lazaretto / White Stripes Icky Thump - Lazaretto is growing on me.  Particularly "Willing and Able."  Icky Thump hasn't aged as well as I'd hoped.  There's some filler. 
  • Jessica Lea Mayfield - Tell Me.  Ohio stories on Ohio roads.
And thinking about music in this city..  King Records, Shake It's Anthology of Cincinnati Blues, the Afghan Whigs..

Monday, August 11, 2014

Anil's Ghost

So yesterday, after finishing most of the second half of the book on the plane back from Paris, I read the last 40-ish pages on the sands of Rehoboth, profiter-ing de soleil.

There's a lot in the book to unpack, and I liked the way the story built and unfolded. It was less episodic and fractured than Divisadero, but a lot messier in other ways.  The elusive, elliptical, emotional prose was rich and powerful - but like reading in a bit of dream.  I like the way he feels his way through a narrative, and the way he has the characters navigate the inherent uncertainty and shades of grey between experience and reality.  Between thought and expression.  Between emotion and surface. It made me think of Bolano (in 2666) in terms of grappling with unspeakable horror - but Bolano does something quite different (more in line with his visceral realism) and less intuitive with it.  

Now on to Angle of Repose.  Supplemented by Handwriting and some short stories (Dubliners 100) and my New Yorker backlog. 

Paris, Texas

He's uh ... he would introduce Mama as the girl he met in Paris. Then he'd waited uh ... before he said "Texas" till everybody thought that ... he meant ...  he would wait before he said "Texas" till everybody though t ...  after everyone thought he was talking about Paris, France. He always laughed real hard about it.
 So Friday night, my last night in Paris for the foreseeable future (though the future always has strange curves), I took Line 1 to Gare de Lyon (perhaps my favorite Gare) then wandered up to the Marche d'Aligre and through the Marais to Pompidou.  A Lebanese snack, then south, across the Ile de la Cite, past Notre Dame to Shakespeare & Co.  Ondaatje poems in the bargain bin out front, endless new novels of interest inside.  Then up to the Reflet Medici to see Paris, Texas (they've been moving the print around between the revival theaters down there..  and I was tempted to see The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance at the Champo instead, but..).

And oh, what a film.  It starts slow.  And the dialogue is subtle, but rich.  Sam Shepard at his best.  And the camerawork - the shots of the desert, then LA, then Houston.  And the story.  He leaves large holes and slowly fills them in around the edges, obliquely.  The scenes where Travis is showing Hunter photos from the family album.  The way each person in the room reacts to the super-8 from the past.  And then that ending.  The monologue.  And oh, the soundtrack - which is both simpler and richer than I'd imagined.  And yes, it's Dark Was the Night - but it's more than that.  And pulls everything together quite nicely. 

I walked back to Porte Maillot, late.  Misty.  Through Saint-Germaine, then the quai d'Orsay, to Alma.  Those final images rambling around my head as I listened to the river..

Friday, August 8, 2014

Zadie Smith - Big Week

So there's a new Zadie story in the Paris Review this summer, and available online (for now), here.

At first I wasn't sure what to make of it.  The dialogue seemed a bit stilted for Zadie (particularly the bartender), the main character wasn't terribly interesting - until quite quickly he was.  And then there's an abrupt POV switch at the end and a final monologue that is simply incredible, ending the whole thing somewhere deeper and richer than I thought possible at the beginning.

Breaking it down in my head, there's really only four scenes:  (1) the bar, (2) the drive from the airport, (3) the library, (4) the move-out.  And the information you need along the way, to hook them all together, is nicely doled out in bits and pieces.  He lays out his schedule (for the "big week") in scene 1 (setting up 2-4), gives out key information in scene 2, which puts scenes 3 and 4 in context.  But the twist at the end is the killer.  Each piece seems so simple, but is so hard to do in practice..  

Thursday, August 7, 2014

FNAC in the Afternoon

So I finally decided to head over to the FNAC on Avenue Ternes and check out their music selection..  And this is what I came away with (click for full picture).  For far less than I expected. 

 So much good stuff is out of copyright here and the re-issues are _cheap_.  

Elvis Presley Blues (Gillian Welch)

I've been listening to a fair amount of Gillian Welch lately.  And swear there used to be an amazing official video of her and David performing Elvis Presley Blues in B&W in a studio.  But maybe it was another song.  Or something else entirely.. 

Anyway, there's a sweet simplicity to the song.  But a complexity as well.  And it's fascinating how Elvis has become a myth.  Like John Henry.  Unknowable, but standing in for so many strands of being.  A defiance tied to midnight ramblers and holy rollers - shaking it with his soul at stake.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Uptown A to 207

Dusting off some old fiction.  This is from, oh, 2005-ish.  It could use some polishing and perhaps another ending. 

Monday, August 4, 2014

Paris Playlist

Back in Paris.  Making a playlist for afternoon background music while type-type-typing.  Starting to feel a bit of jetlag (as Mike would say, feeling like someone shoved a croissant in my face at 3am), but happy.  Renewed my Velib membership and discovered Paris, Texas is playing at the Champo (which I've never seen, but Ry Cooder used perhaps the greatest song of all time for the soundtrack - Blind Willie Johnson's Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground).   

Just found out about this record store / coffee shop called Walrus by Gare du Nord which will warrant a visit (hopefully soon)... 

Now playing: Paris in August.

Beck - Merriweather Post - 7/24/2014

I picked up Trevor in Silver Spring, at the Exxon station at 410 and Colesville, and we hit the road north.  Easy traffic, easy parking, a welcome change from my Merriweather norm.  Ready to celebrate my new job offer.. 

Plenty early, we stayed on the lawn for Sean Lennon's Ghost of the Sabretooth Tiger.  An interesting mix of downtown feedback (Sonic Youth, Blonde Redhead) and Sean's voice which uncannily sounds like his dad's - sometimes jarringly so.  He had a presence - hat, curls, suit - which was charming, but it was too early.  The sun was still up.  People were filtering in. And any energy built quickly dissipated.  His partner, Charlotte Kemp, was stunning though and her voice cut through the noise quite nicely.. 

Then down to the floor in front of the stage..  meeting up with J.S. and her friend, a pre-K teacher in NoVa.  Middle, front-ish.  The crowd swelling.  As the sun starts to go down Beck slides out and launches into Devil's Haircut.  He's electric and propulsive.  Present.  Alive.  And it's exhilarating.  From there the depth is astounding.  He swerves from K Records era material (One Foot in the Grave) to the pure funk-sex-magic of Midnight Vultures (Sexxlaws, Debra) to a slow set of Sea Change / Morning Phase songs.  New Pollution.  Loser.  Que Onda Guero.  Short Circuit jokes and an uncanny awareness of his audience and band.  James Brown imitations, flourishes, and smiles.  So close, so real, so exciting. 

In fine form.  But he's always been incredible live.  I first saw him in Detroit in 1998 as part of the 89x Christmas show (hosted by the then-not-famous Kid Rock, also starring Garbage and Everlast), then the Midnight Vultures tour in Ann Arbor (pure funk sweat deliciousness) in February 2000.  A Lincoln Theater show previewing Sea Change (which I remember mostly for a piano cover of Hank Williams' Long Gone Lonesome Blues and the Velvet's Sunday Morning and a stunning Guess I'm Doing Fine) in 2002.  And this show had pieces of all of those.. 

I walked out to the parking lot smiling.  Energized.  Rejuvenated.  Alive.  Ready to celebrate a transition.