Tuesday, December 30, 2014


Flying back across the middle-western lands last night I finished both Leaving Atocha Station and Roseanne Cash's Composed. Then looked out the window as the light pockets of cities grew denser and we descended..

I've cooled a bit on Ben Lerner, though the end of Atocha still resonated.. There's something both compelling and off-putting about his micro-observations and interior narration. On one hand it's incredibly acute and picks up on pieces of experience that are so rarely articulated, but at times it gets claustrophobic and limited and self-referential / self-aware to the point of stagnation.

Similar thoughts on Composed. It's fragmented and despite touching on incredibly powerful experiences (her brain surgery, her relationship with her parents), skims the surface. Everyone she mentions is a "good friend" or "great influence" or "love of her life" - and the slices she presents never really go that deep. Lots of discussion of who the various session musician were on each record. She's clearly in awe of her father - but you don't learn anything about him, really. And the language was stilted and oddly distant.

Back in the office today, leaning towards seeing Wild tonight at E Street after work.. Perhaps I should also read the book. I read "Into the Wild" last spring and there seems to be some sort of thread..

Now onto Crossing to Safety..

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Twist & Shout

There's snow in the mountains and on the ground here in Denver. Cookies and candy and chipped teeth in the land of cookie cutter suburbs. But there are dogs and kids playing together and nothing of any importance to do..

Last night I went into the city and visited Twist & Shout and Tattered Cover again. Great records at good prices. I picked up physical copies of St. Vincent and D'Angelo's Black Messiah. Some Eric Anderson records. And the biggest coup of all - a copy of the 6 CD Anthology of American Folk Music - without book or box. Since I bought the set in late-97, I've lost most of the original discs.. and it's great to have them all back.

And then, in a truly surreal moment, at a Buffalo Exchange on South Broadway, picking up a handbag labeled "Grillot / 10 rue Cambon / Paris" (and a nice pair of Clarks). Some googling now has me intrigued.. Who were these Grillot's? Based on this, it seems they were active in the 50'-60's.

Today a solo escape to the Denver Art Museum (they seem to have some old favorites from DC on view). But for now, watching some videos from last week at Mavericks.

Monday, December 22, 2014

As if Seurat painted the Rio Grande..

I know I'm late to the party, but the new (to me) St. Vincent album is knocking me out. 

It's all I've been listening to the past few days.

There's an intensity, a richness, a depth that is just what I need on these grey late-December days. Flying to the mountains and the land of ticky-tacky on Thursday. Listening to "Little Boxes" just now (to find that link) I realized just how similar that sentiment is to Courtney's Rock Star ("I went to school / in Olympia / and everyone's the same").

Enough mid-morning rambles. Now back to work.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Les lettres

So I learned the other day that letters sent to Main Justice are x-rayed and irradiated and only slowly, slowly, make their way to our building... 

When I first moved to NYC in January of 2005, I started listening to WFUV, of course, but also WFMU where I ran across Laura Cantrell's Radio Thrift Shop (now, sadly, long defunct).  She was warm and charming and played just the music I wanted and needed...  Kitty Wells, Bob Wills, Ray Charles, and Neko Case all in one big wonderful mix.  Streaming her show at that large art table turned into a desk in the Vidipax video processing room.  Huge plate-glass windows looking down on W. 31st street and the WNET building. 

I later learned that she made her own albums and played around town a bit (I remember one night in the back of Barb├Ęs particularly well).  And it was from her that I first heard this Lucinda Williams song that Lucinda hadn't recorded (or at least hadn't released):

It captures that feeling nicely - of anticipation. Of tangible connection.

And, in heavy rotation lately, Time out of Mind, World Gone Wrong, and John Fahey.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Where the winds hit heavy on the borderline...

So I've limited this blog to two things: (i) music and (ii) books. Which makes sense. A diary is uninteresting except to the diarist (though I've tried it before).

But there are a lot of things that fall in between the cracks of those two things. Scrambling the billy goat trail on cold December Sunday afternoons with a five-year old setting the pace. The first night of French class in a balmy church office on Thomas circle, following the discussion and holding my own in conversation. The rituals of work and bike rides and records.   Endings, beginnings, circles.  Memories.

A few random music notes / links to justify this post:
  • Aquarium Drunkard has two great, monthly themed, playlists up now:  November & December.
As I said before, the reason for the new versions is that I've changed. You meet new people in your life, you're involved on different levels with people. Love is a force, so when a force comes in your life – and there's love surrounding you – you can do anything.
  • Ariel Pink and Ryan Bingham and Parquet Courts and Lydia Loveless and so much more coming soon..  

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Falling Down Blues

Riley Puckett (center).  Mid-20's.  Georgia.

A wonderful trip to Joe Bussard's today.  Met NP and JP at the Glenmont metro around 9a, breakfast at the Sunshine General Store then on to Joe's up misty Georgia Avenue towards Frederick in the light rain.  Relaxed, easy conversation - music, life, good times..

It's been a few years since I last saw Joe.  Small changes.  He's definitely getting older..  no talk of politics.  Fewer rambling stories..  We started with some new stuff he'd just picked up.  A Jabbo Smith record led to more hot jazz.  Then JP wanted to hear some bluegrass which led to a lot of great Stanley Brothers..

I asked for Henry Thomas and he obliged with Old Country Stomp / Bull Doze blues (Vocalion 1230).  Then, without asking, he slipped into Furry Lewis.  I took off my glasses as he played Falling Down Blues.  Eyes closed, the room transformed and it felt like Furry was in the corner.  Playing.  Alive.  Out of time.   Then more blues.  Jim Jackson singing about his old dog blue (and almost choking up).

Towards the end he pulled out the old Martin to show off his fingerpicking slide work with a screwdriver before we ducked back into the rain.

I'm ready to go back...  soon.   

This blog's namesake label..

The records.  And that speaker - which is the source of most of the magic.

The one and only Charlie Poole.  That look.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Sweet Tejas Music

So I picked up the new Oxford American Music issue yesterday, featuring the one and only Texas.  An incredible set - stretching from Buddy Holly to Ornette Coleman to Ray Price and Bob Wills. 

And then learned this morning that the one and only Ian McLagen died in Austin last night.  Though British he was a big part of Austin's musical soul..

 More thoughts on the OA disc as I dive deeper.  And read.  There's a promising article by Amanda Petruisch (of "Don't Sell at Any Price" fame) on DJ Screw.  Who should be on the CD.  Along with Blind Willie Johnson and Lefty Frizzell and so many others they no doubt had trouble licensing..

A trip to Joe Bussard's is in the works for Saturday...  I can't wait. 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Bob Dylan (DAR Constitution Hall - 11/25/2014)

It was my first time at Constitution Hall, and it's an impressive venue.  Not as beautiful as the ornately re-done Lincoln Theater, or the Warner, but stately in its way.  Good seats, chill crowd. 

I remember the sense of restless, rapturous anticipation I used to feel before Bob shows.  This sense of infinite possibility.  The thrill of seeing him, present and alive.   Maybe it's age, maybe it's perspective, maybe things have changed but that electricity wasn't there this time, at least not in the same way.

The lights went down, the stage was set with some gorgeous 30's-era movie-set lights.  And suddenly I felt it all again.  He was there.  The setlist, though static now, flowed like two separate - new -albums split by an intermission but thematically linked.  And there was this gorgeous sense of loss, yet hope, bubbling underneath.
And the fact that he sings the same songs every night gives them a tautness, a power, that the more ramshackle one-off arrangements lacked on previous tours.  He was performing these songs.  Like a play.  Like a story-teller.  And present in a way he wasn't in Delaware last year or at the Verizon Center in 2012..

The standouts were the remarkable ballads - Simple Twist of Fate (Maybe she’ll pick him out again, how long must he wait), Forgetful Heart, and of course Love Sick.  The intensity of High Water (for Charley Patton) (Things are breakin' up out there).  And the hymn at the end, Sinatra's "Stay With Me."  There's something fitting (from a long-standing country tradition) of ending on a hymn.
Lots of stuff from Together Through Life and Modern Times, which made me dust off those albums.  I wish there'd been more from "Love and Theft" - like, say, Floater (Too Much to Ask), but that's just wishing.

More soon, including thoughts on Serial.