Wednesday, June 27, 2007

a couple of things...

I received two books in the mail in the last 24 hours. One is as close to a biography of Kate & Anna McGarrigle as we're ever likely to see. It's called Kate and Anna McGarrigle: songs & stories (published by Penumbra Press) and it's a lovely thing. Sort of a scrapbook covering their whole life (lives?) with photos and clippings from their career, and the lyrics to their songs. But that's not all. It comes with another book which is a songbook containing more than 30 of those songs, with music and guitar chords. Excellent.
I'm only counting this as one book though. The second book is entitled Goodbye Gutenberg, written (and designed) by Valerie Kirschenbaum. Ms Kirschenbaum is a teacher who was asked one day, "Why aren't our books in colour like these old books were?" They were looking at The Canterbury Tales at the time. She didn't know, so she researched it. Novels, poetry and the like (literature, if you will) was published in black print on white pages, but cookbooks and other genres were heavily illustrated, and coloured. And the price was comparable! So it wasn't a question of cost! She wrote this book to describe the potential for a revolution in publishing, and as a call to others to write/design books that would utilize all the tools at hand. Her book is illustrated on every page, with clippings from olde volumes, she even designed her own font (she calls it booklady). It is apparently the first font designed by a female writer in 500 years! There's a section on the need for female fonts!
Anyway...both books (or all three, I guess) state a very clear message about creativity. And they are wonderful things to behold in their own right.
Check out Penumbra Press and have a look at Goodbye Gutenburg here:

Monday, June 25, 2007

another word about Gene Autry...

There was a tribute concert a few years ago celebrating the singing cowboy which was hosted by the Gene Autry Museum. Dwight Yoakam played, accompanied by RPC, among others. This show was released on VHS but has never appeared on DVD (to my knowledge) which is too bad. The Dwight tunes were available on YouTube (I saw them there last week) but RPC has been carefully cleaning anything connected with him off he might have already got there.
The Autry Museum is a cool place, and their web site is well worth visiting. I had a penpal who lived a block or two away from the Museum. She went to the Gift Shop and bought me a couple of nifty souvenirs. so I have an oversized Gene Autry mug on my desk, and a Gene Autry magnet on the fridge. Still trying to get a Gene Autry autograph though. Prices are going up on eBay as more folks start to appreciate the man.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Thursday, June 21st...

Just listening to some Rosanne Cash, after Shorty's Ghost (by David Rea), and trying to read some documents about "teaching and learning" for a meeting tomorrow. We have to try to explain to other people just what it is we do. Have you ever tried to do that? It's not easy. Sure you can list all the things you might do in an 8 hour shift, but whatever you ends up not sounding like very much.
Just received a Gene Autry Tribute CD (by the Riders In the Sky) called Public Cowboy #1. I used to love watching Gene Autry on TV when I was a kid. And I still am a fan, after buying a box of DVDs (for $5 at the grocery store!) I listened to a new collection of Gene's music (The Essential Gene Autry, I think it is) and was really pleasantly surprised at how good he was. It wasn't just my young mind being impressed by a cowboy. Very Jimmie Rodgers-esque!
Still trying to compile a library of songs for my mp3 player (which hasn't yet arrived, I might add). It's not easy. What do you leave out? What has to be there? Quite a challenge.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Captain Beefheart's 10 Commandments for Guitarists:

1. LISTEN TO THE BIRDS: That's where all the music comes from. Birds know everything about how it should sound and where that sound should come from. And watch hummingbirds. They fly really fast, but a lot of times they aren't going anywhere.
2. YOUR GUITAR IS NOT REALLY A GUITAR: Your guitar is a divining rod. Use it to find spirits in the other world and bring them over. A guitar is also a fishing rod. If you're good, you'll land a big one.
3. PRACTICE IN FRONT OF A BUSH: Wait until the moon is out, then go outside, eat a multi-grained bread and play your guitar to a bush. If the bush doesn't shake, eat another piece of bread.
4. WALK WITH THE DEVIL: Old delta blues players referred to amplifiers as the "devil box." And they were right. You have to be an equal opportunity employer in terms of who you're bringing over from the other side. Electricity attracts demons and devils. Other instruments attract other spirits. An acoustic guitar attracts Casper. A mandolin attracts Wendy. But an electric guitar attracts Beelzebub.
5. IF YOU'RE GUILTY OF THINKING, YOU'RE OUT: If your brain is part of the process, you're missing it. You should play like a drowning man, struggling to reach shore. If you can trap that feeling, then you have something that is fur bearing.
6. NEVER POINT YOUR GUITAR AT ANYONE: Your instrument has more power than lightning. Just hit a big chord, then run outside to hear it. But make sure you are not standing in an open field.
7. ALWAYS CARRY YOUR CHURCH KEY: You must carry your key and use it when called upon. That's your part of the bargain. Like One String Sam. He was a Detroit street musician in the fifties who played a homemade instrument. His song "I Need A Hundred Dollars" is warm pie. Another church key holder is Hubert Sumlin, Howlin' Wolf's guitar player. He just stands there like the Statue of Liberty making you want to look up her dress to see how he's doing it.
8. DON'T WIPE THE SWEAT OFF YOUR INSTRUMENT: You need that stink on there. Then you have to get that stink onto your music.
9. KEEP YOUR GUITAR IN A DARK PLACE: When you're not playing your guitar, cover it and keep it in a dark place. If you don't play your guitar for more than a day, be sure to put a saucer of water in with it.
10. YOU GOTTA HAVE A HOOD FOR YOUR ENGINE: Wear a hat when you play and keep that hat on. A hat is a pressure cooker. If you have a roof on your house the hot air can't escape. Even a lima bean has to have a wet paper towel around it to make it grow.

Hmmm. Please note that Mr. Van Vliet does not play the guitar...and yet...some of this is just plain good advice! Now listening to Brian Auger's Oblivion Express, live at the Baked Potato. No guitar at all.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Thinking about that last review...

I don't know, but I think I'm tired of reading about what a musical archivist RPC is. In essence he isn't that different from many people I know who play music. We're all shaped by the things we heard when we were growing up. My dad listened to a lot of country and western music. So around the house we had Merle Haggard, Jimmie Rodgers, even Tex Ritter playing a lot. My mom, on the other hand, like big band music, pop singers like the Ames Brothers, and maybe some BB King too! And then as teenagers, my brother Al and I were deeply into the British Invasion! The Beatles, the Who, the Searchers, and some American stuff too, surf guitar from the Trashmen, the Beach Boys.
One day I came home and my dad was sitting on the porch, listening to records. He had stacked ten albums, and they were Merle, Tex, Bob Dylan, The Beatles, a million selling singles collection of my mom's (which featured "The Naughty Lady From Shady Lane" among others)...well, you get the idea. Music was whatever we felt like putting on the turntable...and I believe we've kept that freedom into our separate families, my brothers and I. My sons listen to rap, hip-hop, Johnny Cash, Oasis, the White Stripes, you name it...and they also riffle through my CD collection from time to time. For instance I wasn't been able to find my copy of the Mothers of Invention's Freak Out CD for a while (it was in Jesse's CD shelf!)
I am trying to organize my own personal listening collection, in preparation for uploading to my new MP3 player. After looking at iPod (both shuffle and larger models) I was talked into getting the Cowon iAudio U3...mainly because it has 2GB of storage, a screen, and it's possible to record on it! I'll review it later, when it actually arrives. But the big question now is...what music do I put on-board? Do I think thematically? Do I make it artist driven? Should it be like sitting in front of the stereo, with your record collection and playing whatever you feel like...2 songs from that one, a b-side here, an album track there? It's a challenge.
And as we all become musical archivists, dumping the songs of our life onto personal storage is that any different from what RPC does? Except, he takes all that he's heard, and learned, and re-channels it through his own consciousness, and makes something that is at once old and new. More power to him! And one thing that's going on the MP3 player for sure is...My Name is Buddy...and...Chavez Ravine...maybe some Mambo Sinuendo...the Pahinui Brothers...

Monday, June 18, 2007

Buddy Review from SING OUT!

"Ry Cooder is at his musicological best in this conceptual song-cycle inspired by old-left politics and a musical palette encompassing strains of old-time Appalachian music, blues, country, Tex-Mex, bluegrass, gospel and jazz. The songs are based on three anthropomorphic characters: Buddy Red Cat, Lefty Mouse and the Reverend Tom Toad. They're a trio of fellow-travelers who overcome their differences and bond in ways that previous generations of cats, mice and toads wouldn't understand or accept as they ride the rails and observe an American society whose ideals and realities are still far apart. The Great Depression of the 1930s is the backdrop for many of these songs but Cooder freely makes historical and musical references that freely draw on the entire 20th century while subtly offering lessons for our own times.
The songs are all quite wonderful as they describe scenes that could have come out of books like Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath or Woody Guthrie's Bound For Glory. We hear about riding the rails, labor strikes, the meaning of solidarity and the animals' encounters with such iconic figures from folk music history as Joe Hill, Hank Williams, Paul Robeson and Pete Seeger. While some of the events referenced in the songs may be fictionalized, and while Cooder doesn't use a factual timeline, we also hear about real labor and civil rights struggles and such historic events as the Peekskill riots.
Cooder is a master musician and he surrounds himself with such collaborators as Mike Seeger on fiddle and banjo, legendary accordionist Flaco Jimenez and mandolinist Roland White. Pete Seeger's presence often seems to be felt in these songs and Pete himself sits playing banjo on one song. This is one of the greatest folk albums of recent years." (reviewed by Mike Regenstreif for Sing Out!)

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Happpy Father's Day!

I hope everyone is having a great day! The sun is shining and both my sons are home for supper. I'm looking for the pictures I have of Ry and Joachim. I'll post them tomorrow. Time to go barbecue. See ya!

Friday, June 15, 2007

sad news...

I just received some sad news indeed. Keyboard wizard Richard Bell passed away today. This guy was Canadian, and every bit the equal of the legendary Garth Hudson in adding "honey" to the tracks he worked on. I saw him a little while ago playing with the Pork Belly Futures with Paul Quarrington and Danny Weis. They opened a reading by Ian Rankin (creator of the Rebus series), and quite rocked the Scottish Rite. Bell had been a member of the electric Blackie & the Rodeo Kings, he had filled Richard Manuel's considerable shoes in The Band for a while, he formed part of Janis Joplin's Full Tilt Boogie Band, but I think the track that really opened my eyes to his talents was on the long piano introduction he added to King Biscuit Boy's "Playhouse"! Awesome! Richard...we'll miss you!

Listening to some Marvin Gaye right now, getting ready for the weekend. Happy Father's Day to all the Pops out there!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Dylanesque Live...

Bryan Ferry. Remember him? King of the lounge lizards. Mister suave. Vocalist for Roxy Music, the band with the sexiest album cover art anywhere. Well, in the early 70s he released his first solo album, and it was a strange, but infectious collection of covers, all done up in Ferry's own inimitable style. I loved it. And the centrepiece was his rendition of Bob Dylan's "A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall". Followup solo records followed a similar format, and were always enjoyable. There was something about the juxtaposition of Ferry's louche persona and traditional, or familiar songs. He has just released a new CD called Dylanesque wherein he covers a dozen Dylan tunes. As an addendum he has put together a DVD called Dylanesque Live: the London Sessions which shows his band in the studio playing the tunes (and a couple extras) from the CD. On first viewing I was struck by the lack of visual interest. OK the girl backing singers are attractive, but Ferry sits on a stool, with the lyrics on a music stand in front of him; he sort of wiggles his shoulders and delivers the text in a whispery croon. The band is hot though. Colin Good is bandleader & pianist, Chris Spedding, Leo Abraham and Oliver Thompson play guitars, Guy Pratt is the bassist, and Andy Newmark drums. Ferry adds a touch of harmonica and noodles on the Farfisa. The girls are Me'sha Bryan, Sarah Brown, Anna McDonald and Tara McDonald. It's all to do with style, I guess. And Ferry has more than his share of that! The interplay of the 3 guitars is cool.
Anyway...I'm listening to my favourite album of the past year...Vince Gill's extraordinary 4 disc set These Days...and it still works for me. I don't think I've listened to anything as much as this album in a long time. There is such a breadth of material, styles and such solid playing and singing. I hear Vince filmed his shows at the Ryman for an upcoming DVD. I sat in the third row for his show at Niagara Fallsview in January, and if the Ryman set is anything like that show...the DVD will be fantastic.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Rylander 7.2

I've been working on the next hard copy edition of The Rylander. I have some new subscribers and am planning on making a big issue this time. There'll be lots to talk about. The international reaction to My Name is Buddy, some reviews of Mavis Staples CD, pictures from Vincent Valdez (the artist who illustrated Buddy and provided drawings for Chavez Ravine) and lots of other stuff too. I may include a review of Ron Sexsmith live, and some recommendations for new DVDs. If there are any Paul Rodgers fans out there...his Live in Glasgow is a good one. Rodgers has one of rock's finest voices, and a masterful stage presence. His band is hot, led by ex-Heart guitarist Howard Leese.
I've been listening to Richard Thompson's Sweet Warrior CD again, and to T Bone Burnett's Proof Through the Night. Enjoying both of them. I'm surprised at how much I'm enjoying Corey Harris's forthcoming reggae album, Zion Crossroads. Neat title...note how it captures both the reggae and blues aspects of Harris ouevre! Why, it even hints at some African roots!
There's a new series of collections issued by Universal Music called Number 1's. All different editions, but I have '70s SOUL, which features one of my favourite tracks of all time. Marvin Gaye's "Got to Give It Up, part 1" is a song which I love to play in the car, cranked up loud. It's sexy and funky, and makes me want to drive with the wind blowing through my hair. Unfortunately this is impossible for me so wind blowing over my scalp just has to do!
The rest of the tracks on the album are not bad either. Parliament, James Brown, Dianna Ross, Rick James, Rufus, Peaches & Herb. A nice bunch of Number 1's indeed.
Oh, and that Bachman-Cummings CD is another good one for the car!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Wilburys and guess who else...

Up to Future Shop today to pick up the deluxe editions of the Traveling Wilburys Collection and Bachman-Cummings Jukebox. Both of these albums contain a DVD, as well as the music that one expects to find on a CD. Where to start?
George Harrison, Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, Jeff Lynne and Roy Orbison combined for one song, and stayed together long enough to create the first classic Wilburys album. It's included here on the first disc, along with two, relatively forgettable unreleased tracks. The sound is fine, everything has been done to present this stuff in the best light. The second album was called Volume 3 (just because) and it is expanded with "Nobody's Child" and "Runaway" two tracks which saw limited release. The third disc is the DVD which has all the Wilburys' videos (5 songs) along with a 25 minute documentary called "The True History of the Traveling Wilburys". It exists mainly as a tribute to the friendly nature of this project, and as a tribute to the lives of Roy Orbison and George Harrison. Excellent stuff. All of this is available in the standard edition, but the deluxe version has a linen box, and a hardcover book filled with pictures, original liner notes and an article by Anthony DeCurtis. Oh, and there's an envelope of memorabilia too. Wilbury pictures and a sticker, and a certificate of authentication with an official number. I have #11128. Not sure how big the edition is! My guess is...BIG!
The other album, by Canadian idols (real idols...not the TV kind) Randy Bachman and Burton Cummings is their take on some of their favourite songs from fifty years of rock'n'roll. They cover Elvis, Fats Domino, the Beatles, Georgie Fame, John Fred & his Playboy Band (whoda-thunkit?), Cliff Richard, Chuck Berry, The Equals and more (it's a jukebox, get it)...they even cover themselves. They polish up their shuffle rendition of "American Woman" with which they opened their 2006 tour. These two guys couldn't stand the sight of each other for a long time, and on the DVD they're so chummy it's almost sickening..."Oh Burton sings so great on this track...Randy lays down a super guitar part on that track..." I guess I should be happy for them, but it seems almost TOO friendly. The album, though, is good listening. Special props to slide guitar soloist Michael "Mickey Zee" Zweig for his work throughout.

Monday, June 11, 2007

where did that weekend go?

Friday night we fed both sons and their girlfriends, my mother-in-law, the neighbor from across the street, and ourselves, and then rushed everyone away so we could drive for an hour to Ball's Falls to a wedding rehearsal at 8pm. Ooops! It was scheduled for 7pm! Oh well! They had everything pretty much sorted when I got there. Then a nice leisurely drive home, along backroads instead of the QEW. Saturday started with swimming (need exercise to manage the diabetes y'know) then the market, groceries, gardening, dog-walking, collapsing in a heap and watching a chick flick (The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants) YIKES! Sunday, the usual morning stuff, then a quick lunch and get dressed for another wedding. The one we rehearsed on Friday. Mark & Sharon (the other 2/3's of the band I play in). This time I arrived ahead of schedule. It was in a little white wooden chruch at the Ball's Falls conservation area, and it was a beautiful spot for a wedding. Nice weather too. Musically? Mark's sister-in-law played the pump organ. Sharon's daughter sang a solo. And at the reception? Sharon's brothers did their country hit parade thing. Great singers both, they each played a black guitar, and sang some Dwight Yoakam, a little Van Morrison, some Don Gibson and more. A good time was had by all. By the time we got home we again collapsed. I read a page of the newest Peter Robinson novel and dropped off...and it's back to work. Good thing too, I need a break! Tomorrow...Bachman-Cummings Jukebox and...the Traveling Wilburys deluxe edition! Maybe some Rolling Stones?

Friday, June 8, 2007

Tuesday's coming...

Friday morning and after a cool week the heat and humidity are back. Whew! I think I'll do my best to stay inside today. Listening to some music, and reading a magazine. Maybe surfin' the interweb. My friend Michael just dropped off some burned CDs for me. Alfie Smith a local bluesman who played at the Sgt. Pepper's 40th Anniversary celebration last weekend. He bluesed-up "Fixin' a Hole". This one is full of trad-blues like "Nobody's Fault But Mine," "St.James Infirmary," "Amazing Grace," and "Soul of a Man." Very Bukka White I'd say! The other discs are mix-tapes, and while I know that term dates me...the fact is that that's exactly what these are. Blur, Okkervil River, Ane Brun with Ron Sexsmith, Xavier Rudd, Matthew Good, the Skydiggers, Bright Eyes, Arcade Fire, Damien Rice, and more. Geez, I feel like Michael is trying to drag me into the 21st Century! Oh, wait a minute...U2 with Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, there we go.
I've been listening more to that McCartney memory almost full CD, and enjoying it much more. I have found the melodies just as contagious as the best Macca albums of the past. Sure, some of it seems unnecessary, even redundant. And he does have a tendency toward coyness...but Sir Paul knows his way around the studio, and around vocal arrangements. Speaking of harmonies, I listened to The Definitive America for fun, and found that I was appreciating some of the stuff they did, even though I have spent the last 35 years mocking them. "The heat was hot..." indeed! And The Thorns do they same sort of thing. I have the 2 disc set wherein they recorded the album on acoustic instruments. Tasty but too much of a sweet thing.
I'm about to review a handful of new blues albums. Jimmy Thackery, Tab Benoit and Paul Reddick. Been listening to them for a couple of weeks in order to get a handle on them. Gotta love that Reddick! And he's Canadian!
Oh...and why did I say Tuesday's coming? Because the Traveling Wilburys package comes out Tuesday! Finally! I have the two original albums on cassette, and then bought a CD version on a Russian bootleg! But now I'll get them in remastered glory, with a DVD and souvenir memorabilia! Oh boy!
Also coming Tuesday...Randy Bachman and Burton Cummings Jukebox. The core of the Guess Who doing cover versions! They were dynamite live last fall...this album should be fun.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Fretboard Journal...

There are guitar magazines, and there are guitar magazines. A friend loaned me a copy of a recent Guitar World with the Beatles on the cover. Mainly so I could read about Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. But I was struck by the ads. Clearly this mag was aimed at a different generation of guitar players. A fellow named John 5 appeared in a couple of ads for different guitar products. He wore lipstick that made his mouth looked about eight inches wide. Nothing wrong with that but...I'm not the makeup wearing kind of guitar player, myself. I wondered if the same people who knew John 5's work well enough to take his advice on which strings to buy would be interested in the Fab Faux (a bunch of session musicians who play Beatles' songs 'just like the record'). Lots of heavy metal, grunge, etc. players in the ads in this mag. You can buy custom made picks with pictures from Pirates of the Caribbean! Steve Morse explains how to play double-stops. People playing the guitar in contortions that I simply can't get into at this stage of my life. And there's tab for five songs. And that's all well and good. Different strokes for different folks.
There's Acoustic Guitar which has changed its format a few times but always has something of interest, like how best to setup your amplifier for the kind of small gigs I do, and how to play passing chords. AG really covers just about everything you need to know about acoustic guitar, and the interviews are based both on gear and technique.
There's the old stand-by Guitar Player which has always had a fine balance between interviews with players and gear tests. BUT as far as a guitar magazine is concerned...the ultimate for my taste is Fretboard Journal. This quarterly is pricey but worth it. It's like a full colour book that comes out four times a year. And I find I keep it close at hand for all of the three months til the next one arrives, and read each article at least a couple of times. The new one just came out and features BB King on the cover, resplendent in a gold tux, holding on tightly to the latest version of Lucille. There are stories on David Grisman, Z.Vex Pedals and the First Martin OM and some gorgeous photos, and the ads...are beautiful. It's a pleasure to browse through Fretboard Journal, and to revel in the beauty of these instruments both old and new.
Hey, I downloaded a couple of nifty albums from e-music today. Gerry Rafferty's Another World and Gurf Morlix's Toad of Titicaca, both of which are excellent albums. But I noticed that Sir Paul's new one is available for download there too! Imagine! Downloading Macca's music. What's the world coming too! E-music has a dandy selection of Americana and folk it's worth checking out! I've had a subscription there for a year and a half.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Paul McCartney...and...the Boss

The newest album by Sir Paul arrived today, in a special edition, looking almost like a DVD package. But unfold it and amidst all the folds sits two discs, and some typical B&W photos of a smug multi-millionaire sitting on (or is it perched on) a big old chair. Story goes he was working on this album before he put it aside to do Chaos & Creation. Memory Almost Full seems like a continuation of that album in some ways. It's mainly a solo record. The touring band shows up on a couple of songs (and you can hear the difference when they do). It's all produced by David Kahne, and it sounds lush, with snappy and bright acoustic guitars, and Paul's amazing self-harmonies. The guy can still sing.'s quite simply another Paul McCartney album, without a really memorable song. I'll listen to it for a couple of weeks and then file it with the rest of his stuff. Abbey Road will be played much more regularly!
I also picked up Bruce Springsteen's multi-disc Live in Dublin. Two CDs and a DVD of a live show (drawn from 3 consecutive nights in Ireland at The Point in November 2006) all packaged in a digipack. It's a bit hard to get the DVD out of the centre panel, and the picture book seems a bit thin but I really like all these old songs from the Seeger Sessions. Bruce mixes in some classic originals that haven't been played on stage, and it's pretty enthusiastically delivered. Next week...the re-release of The Traveling Wilburys! Can't wait!

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Richard Thompson

Well, the new Richard Thompson album arrived, with an extra insert, autographed by RT himself. Very nice. I have been busy with a conference I was hosting at work, so I've only had time to give it one quick cursory listen, but my feeling so far is...I like it! It's called Sweet Warrior and is filled with the electric guitar wizardry for which Thompson is best known. It's an electric, band album. And RT is in top form. He's not showy like Steve Vai (f'rinstance) and he definietly has his own sound. Man does this guy know his way around the fretboard. The lyrical content is suitably doomy and gloomy, some of it about the war, some if it about the people responsioble for the war. I'm going to spend a couple more days listening and will report back.
Picnic today, out in the heat. They're calling for possible thunderstorms. Oh, that'd be too bad!