Thursday, August 28, 2008


Well, the mandolin deal is done.  I am the proud owner of a Morgan Monroe mandolin.  It's a beautiful little thing.  Sounds great.  Now, if I could only play it!  

I managed to squeeze some melodious sounds out of it last night, and I am looking forward to spending a long time tonight with it.

Really enjoying the new BB King CD one kind favor, old-time sounds produced by T-Bone Burnett.  Glen Campbell does a bit of a Johnny Cash by covering new songs in his old style on Meet Glen Campbell.  Not a bad album.

That's it for today! 

Saturday, August 23, 2008


What's a "kijiji"?  
I don't really know, except my wife told me she advertised our couch on there.  So, I was looking around this on-line community to see the ad, when I thought, "Hmmm, why don't I see if anyone's selling a left-handed mandolin?"  Sure enough, somebody was!  But his ad said "$250...firm" and that was the top limit of my cash so I signed off.
Next day I thought I'd have a 2nd look just for fun.  Check out the model number and so on.  He had changed his ad to $200 and added the following note, "Will trade for lap-steel guitar."  Well, I have a lap-steel guitar I rarely play.  Gloria gave it to me for Christmas after Bob Moody found it in the attic of his store when he was cleaning up!  It's a Gibson, circa 1958!  And, it's in decent shape, although it has no case.  So I offered it up, and lo and behold, it's a deal.  So I will be trying to learn to play the mandolin this time next week, and right now I'm saying good-bye to my lap-steel.
Just thought that was an interesting little tale.
Oh, and the couch?
It's still for sale...make us an offer!  

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Bob Dylan...

Last night marked the first time I have ever seen Bob Dylan live!  After more than 40 years of buying Bob Dylan records, books, CDs, and playing his songs myself...I finally went to catch a live show.  And how was it?

When I was in university I used to go with a couple of friends to stand in the parking lot behind the downtown YMCA to listen to the band on Friday nights.  They had some great bands, Whiskey Howl, Flapping, Luke & the Apostles, even John Lee Hooker one night!  But there was a cover charge, and I was the only one of the three of us who was working (part-time at a large Canadian dept. store) so we would pick up a bottle of muscatel, and stand by the ventilation unit, drinking from a paper bag, and dancing to the sounds of music that came from the room downstairs!No...really!  

The sound was echoey, deep, raw, primitive.  I haven't heard sound like that for years.  Modern sound systems have improved audio to the point where Steely Dan or the Eagles can play live and sound exactly like they do on record!  Well, last night I heard that sound again.  The raw, primitive, rockin' sound of a hot band...Tony Garnier on bass, George Recile on drums, guitarists Stu Kimball (rhythm), Denny Freeman (lead) and Donnie Herron (pedal steel, lap steel, banjo, fiddle) and the man himself on keyboards and harp.  They sounded fine.  Loud, but warm. Maybe a little harsh on the first tune, but they managed to sort that out by the end of "Cat's In the Well" except for Dylan's vocals.  Bob's voice has gone through a lot of changes over the years. First a young Minnesotan's take on Woody Guthrie, then a warm country croon, it has grown into an elder bluesman's growl.  Is it shot?  I don't think so.  He plays new games with his phrasing, and once in a while slips back into the Woody-sound for a line or two.  Or a syllable here and a syllable there.  The lyrics are broken up like free verse.  The band chugs along like there's no tomorrow, and people expecting to hear the classics delivered just the way they appeared on the original albums are in for a disappoinment.  But you should know that going in. Take a listen to 1979's Live at Budokan, he's been reworking the classics for years!   

On the news at 11 last night the reviewer complained that he didn't do any old songs.  Even a quick look at the set list proves that this joker just isn't familiar with Bob's material.  

Cat's in the Well (from 1990's Under a Blood Red Sky); It Ain't Me Babe (Another Side of Bob Dylan '64); Stuck Inside of Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again (Blonde on Blonde '66); Girl From the North Country (The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan '63 & Nashville Skyline '69); High Water (for Charlie Patton) (Love and Theft 2001); Just Like a Woman (Blonde on Blonde '66); Rollin' and Tumblin' (Modern Times 2006); Tryin' to Get to Heaven (Time Out of Mind '97); Highway 61 Revisited (from Highway 61 Revisited '65); Moonlight (again from Love and Theft '01); It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding) (Bringing It All Back Home '65); When the Deal Goes Down and Thunder on the Mountain and Keep Talkin' (all from Modern Times '06); and as an encore Highway 61's Like a Rolling Stone and from John Wesley Harding (1967) All Along the Watchtower.  

Some clown wrote into Dylan's website that he couldn't even recognize Blowin' in the Wind!Well...that's because HE DIDN'T PLAY IT!  The only arrangement I didn't get right off was High Water.  The rest were dandy rockin' versions of great songs.  The band was perfectly loose and strategically tight.  At times they reminded me of The Band, except for the distinct lack of rootsy harmonies.  I had the best view in the place, off to the side of the stage, but directly in Dylan's line of sight as he was setup at an angle behind the keyboard.  Lighting was a problem since he kept his wide-brimmed hat on for the whole show.  

After an hour and fifty minutes of this, he was gone.  From my vantage point I could see him exit the arena.  And still people applauded til they turned on the houselights.  Assessments from people I overheard ranged from 'fabulous' to'who told him he could sing' but for was exactly what I expected.  Now I can exclaim, "Bob Dylan...been the T-shirt!" and wear it with pride!    


Monday, August 11, 2008

Festival of Friends...

Friday night I went down to Gage Park for the 33rd annual Festival of Friends.  They changed it from an all-Canadian festival a couple years back, and this time the headliners were Allison Moorer and Steve Earle.  Now Steve has produced one of my choices for album of the year with his washington square serenade, and Allison has a hot new album called Mockingbird produced by Buddy Miller, so I had been looking forward to this for some time.  It has been raining, and thunderstorming almost every day for a few weeks  and sure enough, on Friday at suppertime it seemed like the Festival was doomed, but by the time 7pm rolled around the sun was shining and I decided to risk it.  Drove down, found a good free parking spot on Gage Ave. and went to the bandshell.  This bandshell was substantially expanded, with a big, covered stage attached to the front of it.  I used to come over on Sunday afternoons and play in the bandshell with Mil, singing our folksongs for the fun of it.  But Friday it was all-pro!  Danny Michel was finishing his set playing a shiny red Gibson 335 and looping solos over his rhythm work.  Then it was time for Allison Moorer.  Just Allison and a small bodied Martin with lots of sound.  She ran through some of the cover versions from Mockingbird, and a few of her own oldies too.  She has a great voice, plays adequate rhythm guitar (if a bit samey) and is "not hard on the eyes" as the guy sitting next to me noticed.   Husband Steve Earle came out to join her for a moving version of "Where Have All the Flowers Gone" which they promised to keep singing til the war is over!  Steve left the stage and Allison finished her set.  Quite impressive for the 2,000 or so folks who watched.  

Then a 20 minute wait for the closer and 8,000 people came out of nowhere.  Steve Earle did not disappoint.  But some of those 8,000 people must have been drinking through the earlier music.  As Steve came on stage they started shouting immediately for "Copperhead Road".  "Do you think I'm not gonna sing that song?" Steve queried, "When I sing that one, I head for the #$%^' bus!" And still they called for it, again and again.  I was reminded of an earlier show, back in 1969 when some drunk yelled out at The Band, "PLAY 'CRIPPLE CREEK'!" after every tune.  And when they did eventually play it, he yelled, "PLAY IT AGAIN!"  Anyway, Steve played a lot of songs from his long career, switching from acoustic guitar to banjo ("I play banjo just well enough to scare sheep!"), bouzouki, mandolin, and Dobro.  And then it was time for the songs from the new album, accompanied by a DJ who provided rhythms, and harmony, Earle did almost the whole album.  It was superb.  When Allison came out to add harmony to a few, it was even better.  By then the losers in the mosh pit were drunk enough to be fighting with one another.  A girl with her hip-huggers riding low had her tongue down the throat of a couple different guys, and that led to fisticuffs.  Steve asked them to cool it a couple of times.  Somebody threw a lit joint up on-stage and hit Steve in the shoulder.  Steve finished the song, and picked up the butt, tossed it away and casually gave the culprit the finger.  You know which finger.  Then I turned away for a second, and heard Earle call someone "#$%^&*!"  The guy next to me told me, "Somebody threw a water bottle at him!"  Did the audience forget where they were?  Canada's oldest free festival?  Three days of peace, love and music, well...friendship anyway!  It seemed like the Festival of Friends has turned into the Festival of Frenzy.  I walked to the car past a couple more fights, some people swearing at each other, and I heard tell that the screaming and arguing went on through the night.  At half past midnight a friend of mine who lives across from the park was awakened to the sound of arguing and screaming.

It rained again Saturday night.  A set by Air Supply was all but rained out.  They played to only a handful of fans.  Woodstock night was a washout too.  Country Joe, John Sebastian and Canned Heat played as the thunder rolled and lightning flashed and the rain came down in buckets.  But Friday night could've been beautiful.  If only...   

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The Dark Knight

I went to see The Dark Knight on Thursday evening.  Got held up at work, rushed home, cleaned the carpet on the stairs, ate dinner, returned the carpet cleaner to the store, and still made it to the theatre before the trailers began.   The film was good, not great.  I prefered Iron Man actually. But Dark Knight was an exciting, well made film, and Heath Ledger's performance was certainly creepy, if not Oscar worthy.  Tell me honestly...would he be receiving so much acclaim if he was still around?  When someone takes on the role for The Dark Knight Returns will they be forced to do the same lip-licking schtick?  Ya gotta wonder.  And why kill off Harvey Dent?  Sure, he went crazy way too fast...but he had the beginnings of a good villain, and the FX were amazing.  Who can match the combined creepiness of Joker and Two-Face?  Penguin and Riddler?  I think not.  Unless the next film is a comedy.  Danny DeVito managed to capture the evil inherent in the Penguin...but who would do it now?  

Music?  Fred Eaglesmith's new Tinderbox gives fundamentalist Christians a hard time but it's a beautifully written and played record, for fans of earthy, Americana ('s Canadiana!) The new Buddy Guy is probably Buddy's best album.  Good songs, great performances, and even with all the guests, Buddy still owns the show.  Janis Ian?  Haven't thought much about her for a long time...well...since I read a touching article she wrote in Performing Songwriter magazine about her mother's struggle with MS.  But she has just released a new autobiography and accompanying 2 CD set of The Best of.  And...after a long career...she's has plenty to offer.  The book is called Society's Child, the CDs The Autobiography Collection.  Don't miss 'em.  

Bought a book on Laurie Anderson on eBay.  The shipping cost more than the book.  I guess those padded envelopes are REALLY expensive south of the border.  And I'm reading With by a Southern writer named Donald Harington, it begins with the abuse of a dog, and quickly moves into creepier territory from there.  But wonderfully written.