I thought we could use a break from all the downer news out of Connecticut. If you’ve never heard an angel sing, well here you go. Mindy Smith is a true treasure. Enjoy and peace out.
Category Archives: music
Enjoy. This chick is something of an internet sensation for her acid flashback videos. Some might say they are best enjoyed with the sound off.
Our ribbon of highway hit a few bumps ….
… so we roamed and rambled a road less traveled …
… from the Redwood Forest …
… to the Gulf Stream Waters … (well … almost! I’m still boycotting Florida!)
… the sun was shining …
.. and a voice came chanting …
This land was made for you and me!
And the final verse of that song which we didn’t sing in summer camp:
In the squares of the city – In the shadow of the steeple
Near the relief office – I see my people
And some are grumblin’ and some are wonderin’
If this land’s still made for you and me.
I always thought that Woody Guthrie wrote that song during the height of the Great Depression, but wikipedia tells me no, the lyrics were written in 1940 and the song recorded in 1944. That’s at the height of the World War II, a time when we’re all trained to believe the entire nation was uniformly pro-war, pro-America, the “greatest generation” of patriots sacrificing for the cause of freedom, etc. That Guthrie would record such a cynical message in 1944 (or be allowed to record it, I should say) is amazing to me.
It’s also interesting that the song went on to become such an iconic American tune, though I concede it’s primarily the first two politically correct verses which have been seared into the national consciousness and I suspect that all came later during the ’60s folk revival, anyway.
Still, this reminds me of the distorted view of history we all have.
More travels tomorrow ….
One of my biggest regrets is that I never got to see Etta James perform live. She played Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium five years ago, played Arrington Vineyards outside of Nashville two years ago, and I didn’t see either show.
I have a bunch of Etta James CDs, I think I loved every single song she did. Yes, Mr. Beale and I played “At Last” at our wedding. I don’t care if it’s cliche, it’s an amazing song and an amazing performance.
A lot of folks don’t know that James recorded a country album back in the 90s. It was, in my view, one of the finest recordings of her career. It’s called Love’s Been Rough On Me, and it contains one of my all-time favorite Etta James songs: “Cry Like A Rainy Day.” Oh, man. That song slays me every time. And I do mean every time.
That said, in this Rolling Stone interview from 1997, James didn’t seem to have the same high regard for her foray into Nashville as I did. She said:
Well … I’d been dying to make a country record. I love the women in country ‑ Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, Kitty Wells ‑ and I wanted to be the first black woman to do the Grand Ole Opry, if just to say it’s the same fucking thing as rhythm & blues! So I did Love’s Been Rough on Me with Barry Beckett [James' longtime producer], and when it was done, the label heard it and said, “You gotta pizazz this up or it won’t get played. [Growls) Needs some of that ass‑kicking shit." Uh, OK. So they put all these horns on it and remixed it. Even the cover photo ‑ they wouldn't use the one I wanted. That record has nothing to do with me ‑ looking like some old woman with a leopard scarf around my neck, getting ready to go make some spaghetti!
But I wasn't gonna fight it, 'cause I wasn't gonna win. Nowadays, when you get past 35, it seems like you can't get a record going. I never hear my stuff played on the air, unless it's an oldies station and somebody goes [mock DJ voice], “Now we’re gonna go waaaay back.” But I’ll make that country record yet. I’ll be on the cover standing by an old wagon wheel, with my foot propped up on a cactus or something, with a cowboy hat on and one of those shingle leather jackets. Etta Goes Country
God love her! RIP, Miss Etta. The world will miss your talent. I know I will, for sure.
Here’s “Cry Like A Rainy Day,” pulled off the YouTube. Don’t arrest me, internet police; I’m just sharing something I found on the internet. Go buy the record, peeps:
I have this story I tell people about Charlie Daniels and me, and it goes back to when I first arrived in Nashville, over 25 years ago. My first job was as a lowly little editorial assistant at a weekly entertainment trade magazine. I’d been on the job all of one week when for some reason they asked me to cover a press conference for Volunteer Jam, which some folks may remember as the big annual multi-artist music event Daniels staged in Nashville every year. It was a really big deal, and I’m not sure why I was sent to the press conference, except probably no one else was available and no doubt they just expected me to pick up the press kit with the list of that year’s artist lineup and sponsors, and then come back to the office to hand it over to one of the “real” reporters.
But of course this was my first press conference of any kind, ever. And what do reporters do at press conferences? They shout questions! Of course they do, that’s what they do in the movies, right? So instead of keeping my yap shut I shouted out to Charlies Daniels what I thought was an appropriate “question” for my entertainment trade magazine. With TV cameras rolling, and radio reporters holding up their mics, I shouted out to Charlie Daniels, “who is the promoter?!”
I mean hey, sounded like a good question to me, right?
And swear to God, Charlie Daniels looked at me, sneered, and said: “Yer not from around here, are ya?”
Swear. To. God. Could we be a bigger cliche of a Southern redneck asshole?
In my one week on the job I hadn’t yet learned that Charlie Daniels had an in-house promoter which produced every Volunteer Jam, and had been doing so for years. Ah well, then there is such a thing as a dumb question. My bad. But you didn’t have to be such a jerk about it, dude.
So fast forward a couple decades and I’m no longer a lowly editorial assistant, I’m writing for some bigger magazines and somehow they got my address and now I’m one of the thousands getting a Christmas card from the guy who so graciously welcomed me to Nashville so many years ago. Ain’t that a laugh.
Daniels’ Christmas cards have gotten more Jesus-y every year. This year, if you can read the message, he ends with, “May the peace of Almighty God rest on your home and family as we celebrate the Birthday of the Savior of Mankind.” It closes with a hearty, “Happy Birthday, Jesus!”
This is a huge pet peeve of mine, because December 25 is not Jesus’ birthday. The date is nowhere in the Bible, and such as the historical person Jesus existed, there is no record of his birth date. But December 25 is conveniently located on the calendar near the winter solstice and the Roman Feast of Saturnalia, so it’s pretty much accepted that December 25 was picked by the early Christian church to make it easier to convert pagans.
Mr. Beale says I’m being pedantic: no one knows Jesus’ actual birth date, so December 25 is the day we have picked to commemorate the event. But I certainly didn’t pick it. Why December 25? Why not March, that’s a month that really needs a holiday! Or, what about August? August really sucks, it’s insufferably hot and boring. It’s my least favorite month of the year. August could use a nice holiday, too.
Before you scoff, the magazine Biblical Archaeology Review says the early church actually suggested August or March as plausible dates for Jesus’ birth:
Finally, in about 200 C.E., a Christian teacher in Egypt makes reference to the date Jesus was born. According to Clement of Alexandria, several different days had been proposed by various Christian groups. Surprising as it may seem, Clement doesn’t mention December 25 at all. Clement writes: “There are those who have determined not only the year of our Lord’s birth, but also the day; and they say that it took place in the 28th year of Augustus, and in the 25th day of [the Egyptian month] Pachon [May 20 in our calendar]…And treating of His Passion, with very great accuracy, some say that it took place in the 16th year of Tiberius, on the 25th of Phamenoth [March 21]; and others on the 25th of Pharmuthi [April 21] and others say that on the 19th of Pharmuthi [April 15] the Savior suffered. Further, others say that He was born on the 24th or 25th of Pharmuthi [April 20 or 21].”2
The fact that the Bible and the early church record is not at all specific about the date of Jesus’ birth just shows you how unimportant the event was. The big day was always, always Easter. You know, the Resurrection? The Passion? The Bible is very specific about when Easter is celebrated, it’s tied to the Jewish holiday of Passover. For hundreds of years the Christian church could care less about when Jesus was born; it was when he died that mattered. The American Protestant church holds a similar tradition: I have friends born and raised in the Church of Christ (a very conservative Southern Protestant denomination) who tell me when they were growing up, things like Christmas trees were a no-no. You might have a small acknowledgment of the day, but really the Big Deal was always Easter.
So what happened? Well, of course, America’s True Religion – consumerism – asserted its primacy over the faith tradition. It’s kinda hard to consumerize torture and a crucifixion (though lord knows they are doing a masterful job of changing that over at Free Market Jesus Central.) But all of those pagan traditions associated with the solstice — lights, trees, gift-giving, etc. — well let’s just lump those in with Christmas and call it a holiday, shall we? And now we even have a War On Christmas, because if consumerism is our first religion, then surely war is our second. It’s just all so perfect. Or, as the good folks at the Christian Left put it:
And if this seems sacrilegious, well don’t get me started on that whole myth of the “virgin birth” thing. That is a product of a translation error, which turned the Hebrew word for “young woman” into the Greek word for “virgin.” Woopsies.
So with that, I wish everyone a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, glorious Solstice, wonderful Kwanzaa or just have a good, relaxing weekend. Whatever floats your boat, because life’s too short to worry about which December holiday is the baddest ass on the block.
I’m kind of busy this week, so blogging may be lighter than usual … or not, you know me. I can’t quit you. Just keep it merry, everyone!
>Man, how I miss Chris Whitley. He knew that all which ain’t all good is yet all God.
She goes, make my presence felt by
By all the innocence you destroy
She know, angels even devils too
Await to show how far we come to joy
How far we come
>I’ve never done this before but folks everywhere are compiling their year-end lists of favorites, so I thought what the hell. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. First item listed is my favorite, others are honorable mentions.
I have to qualify my list by saying a couple things mentioned here were released at the end of 2009 — notably the One EskimO album and the Margaret Atwood book. Both came out in September 2009, but they didn’t cross my radar until 2010 so I’m including them here. They’re just that good and fuckit, it’s my list, dammit.
Anyway, tell me what cool music/movies/books/TV crossed your radar this year. I’m always looking for good recommendations.
1- Ray LaMontagne & The Pariah Dogs, God Willing & The Creek Don’t Rise. If he doesn’t win a Grammy for this I’m gonna cry.
1-The Passage, Justin Cronin. OMG clearly the best vampire novel ever written, bar none. Do not pick up this book if you haven’t cleared your schedule because you literally will be unable to put it down.
It’s purely coincidental that both of my pics are music-related (on my to-read list is the Patti Smith memoir, which won the National Book Award. I’m sure I’ll love that, too). Oh, and if you’re wondering why the number of eff-bombs has escalated on my blog in recent weeks, blame Keith Richards.
1- Composed, Rosanne Cash. Loved this book, despite her infatuation with the word “elegiac.” For anyone wanting gossip about her marriage to Rodney Crowell or other kiss-and-tell subjects, you’re barking up the wrong tree. But if you want to know about how music can move a soul, well, this is the book for you.
• Life, Keith Richards
This was a tough call because we haven’t seen a few biggies yet: “Black Swan” and “Winter’s Bone,” for example. And I’m trying to think if a movie really astonished me this year, in the same way that “District 9” and “Up In The Air” really moved me last year. I loved the three “The Girl…” movies, but the first one didn’t really make sense without the second, and the third was a throw-away. I didn’t love “Inception,” I thought it was an FX movie without any real story or character development. We tend to see documentaries but I missed a couple of the biggies as well. So my list is definitely incomplete.
1- Casino Jack & The United States of Money. Damn. To think we went from this to the fucking Tea Party. Amazing.
TV really sucked this year. I was disappointed in “Mad Men,” which seemed to kinda run out of steam. “Boardwalk Empire” was promising but I can’t really say it was the best thing I saw all year. Probably the most interesting new show I saw was Bravo’s “Work of Art: The Next Great Artist,” which actually gave the contest reality show concept a little class. But really for this category I’ve got nuthin’.
1- Time Stands Still. Heartbreaking story about two war correspondents dealing with the horrors of Iraq. Absolutely superbly acted. Will probably get ruined when someone inevitably turns it into a movie.
1- Harper’s, my perennial favorite. If you aren’t reading Harper’s you’re just wasting your time.
• Cook’s Illustrated. I know they’re derided as cooking Nazis but I love the recipes and the information.
>So much bad news, so many depressing pictures: sometimes you need to hear something positive.
Macy Gray’s newest did the trick for me. She says she wrote the song during a really difficult time, but she got pulled out of her funk when she heard her daughter’s laughter. Good reminder to us all. So shake your booties, boys and girls.
>This week the enormously talented Christian singer/songwriter Jennifer Knapp came out.
I have interviewed Knapp many, many times over the years. I’ve always admired her as a songwriter and performer. She’s been nominated for Grammy Awards, won Dove Awards, had major Christian radio hits, you name it. And now, of course, her Christian music career is over.
Seriously, if Amy Grant’s albums could be yanked off store shelves for getting a divorce, I’m not holding out much hope that the Christian music industry will continue to play Knapp’s music or sell her CDs. Hey, they could surprise me, but I’m a realist.
Knapp’s decision to come out was extraordinarily brave; already I’ve seen so-called Christians label her “an example of hellbound Christianity.” I’m sure the next few weeks will be un-fun for Knapp as the intolerant freak show rears its head. So I just wanted to send a cyber-hug to Knapp for having the courage and faith to step out of the closet in which so many of her fellow Christian music artists remain–you know who you are, people! And guess what: so does everyone else!
This is the dirty little secret of the Christian music industry, of course. There are loads of gay artists, and I daresay most of them suffer with the psychological trauma of feeling there is something wrong with them, of having to live a lie or live in the shadows. How screwed up is that: make someone choose between a career and living an authentic life, just so we can maintain the comfortable status quo? That was the exact opposite of what Jesus was about.
And here’s another thing: everyone knows who these gay artists are and they are happy to ignore it because they are all making loads of money off of these artists. Until someone has the courage to step out and say, “enough. I’m not going to live like that anymore.” And then they’re gay-listed from the radio playlists and their CDs are pulled off the shelves of the Family Christian bookstore. That’s pretty hypocritical, if you ask me. And it also just proves how wrong your worldview is and how intolerant and anti-Christian your brand of religion is.
So here’s one of Jennifer Knapp’s songs, performed on Live From Studio B. It’s a Christian music TV program, so watch it before they yank it to purge themselves of teh gaiii. If you like her style of music, consider checking out her new CD, “Letting Go,” which releases in May.
>I love this song from The Heavy. The video’s a little trippy but the song will get you moving.