Marisa Anderson may be the most unassuming guitar wizard I’ve ever seen. There’s nothing flashy about her or her look, but man can she make those guitars sound great. And she plays an old-timey bluegrass style of guitar with slides and lots of picking.
For this set she plays 5 songs (on four different guitars). She doesn’t sing, she just lets the music do all the work.
“Hard Times Come Again No More” is done on a hollow-bodied electric guitar. It’s noisy, and fuzzy. She plays finger-picks the main melody in the high notes and then in the middle of the song she plays big open string chords–buzzy and noisy–while still playing the melody. She says the song “gets stuck in my head if I’m driving through snow.”
“Sinks and Rises” is about a swimming hole in Kentucky. She went there in a car, but she wasn’t driving and she’s never been there since but it was the best swimming day of her life. For this song she plays a lap steel guitar that looks to be made of ivory. It’s so much fun to watch her slowly moving that slide up and down the neck (sometimes only playing one note) while her picking hand goes like crazy.
For the third song she plays a different hollow body guitar. “Hesitation Theme and Variation Blues” was inspired by her favorite guitar player Rev. Gary Davis. She says this is a deconstruction of his “Hesitation Blues.” She doesn’t sing so she took it apart and put it back together. It begins with an almost classical theme before launching into a very cool blues.
Then she switches back to guitar #1. She says she plays in settings didn’t allow cover songs, she didn’t want to do just originals so she played songs from public domain–like the national parks if we don’t use them we’ll lose them. In 2013, she released an album that was all songs in the public domain. “Canaan’s Land Medley” is a medley of three gospel songs. She plays the melodies with her fingers and a slide on her pinky–which adds some cool textures to the song.
For the final song, “Galax,” she brings out guitar #4, a Fender Strat (or knock off). She says she went to a bluegrass festival and was overwhelmed by all of the good songs being played in the parking lot–she’s not even sure if she got to the show. This song is about all those songs being played at once. There’s some really fast guitar playing and slide at the same time. It sounds great and is even more fun to watch.
Anderson is really a marvel–totally soft-spoken and seemingly shy, but main is she amazing to listen to.
[READ: July 13, 2016] “Call Me Crazy”
The May 16, 2016 issue of the New Yorker had a series called “Univent This” in which six authors imagine something that they could make go away. Since I knew many of them, I decided to write about them all. I have to wonder how much these writers had to think about their answers, or if they’d imagined this all along.
Of the six articles, Brownstein’s was certainly the funniest. It’s also the most contemporary and almost the most obvious thing to complain about. But it suits her comic style very well.
She wants to uninvent the conference call. She assumes that we all agree that the conference call is a bad idea, but in case we need convincing she offers this example.
After an initial email to set up a call, about 30 to 1,000 emails later a time is set (with obvious time zone problems, of course). I have been in many conference calls, although I have never had to dial in a PIN (the next item on her complaint list)–although this is apparently common and complicated.
Then comes “the audio version of your passport photo.” You say your name and it never sounds correct. She has entered calls as “RRie” along with “Ephen,” “Ob,” “Nfer,” “Sbrfmewnlkk” and “RICK!!!” But after this there’s no way of knowing who is who so you have to guess until it’s all straightened out.
Before business can even commence there is the “tangent orgy” of various pleasantries and vacation updates and weather discussions and everything else.
I especially enjoyed this description of the phone [the same one that I have had at my past two j0bs]. Everyone is “gathered around a special speakerphone that resembles the Star Trek insignia. … This plastic spaceship pretending to be a cool invention when it’s really just a landline phone in a Halloween costume.”
After 8 minutes of pleasantries the call begins but no one can hear anyone clearly because no one is talking in clipped stentorian voices like they did at the beginning. You get hisses, delays and the sound of ailing robots.
Eventually someone decides the call is over when someone realizes it would be easier for everyone to put their thoughts in writing.
The only thing she missed in this excellent summary is the feeling of exceeding boredom you get when you are in a conference call with others in the room and are trying desperately not to yawn in front of your boss who is listening intently to something you have no idea about.