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Archive for the ‘Nell Zink’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: RARE ESSENCE-Tiny Desk Concert #637 (July 19, 2017).

I have learned of go-go music exclusively from Tiny Desk Concerts:

Dominated by drive and momentum, heavy on percussion and bass, go-go music is all about the beat. Live, “songs” can continue on for half an hour, as the percussion continues to simmer and punctuate between and across different pieces. “That’s why we call it go-go, because it goes on and goes on and goes on,” as guitarist Andre Johnson put it in a documentary film.

This visit by Rare Essence perfectly encapsulated the genre’s incomparable meld of soul, R&B and, most importantly, funk (with a dash of Afro-Cuban influence).

So that’s go-go.  What about this band?

Rare Essence emerged not long after go-go itself did, beginning as a group in 1976 in Washington D.C. Ever since the group has kept a steady schedule playing around town and around the world.

The band plays seven–SEVEN–songs in sixteen minutes.  Many of them are just riffs that go on for a minute or so like “Down for My Niggas.”  Whereas “Rock This Party” is a bit more of a call and response piece–with some good congas.  “Freaky Deak” is pretty much a riff or two before they start talking to the audience.

They thank Suraya for arranging the show and there’s a lot of shouts outs and hand waving.  And then they start with one of their favorites, “One on One.”

All of the songs more or less flow into each other as one long jam.  There are multiple lead singers and everyone participates in the responses.

After a spell of their name (R-A-R, Double E, S-S-E-N, C-E) the lead guitarist sings lead on “Bad Bad” (he’s the oldest looking guy but he still has the power in his voice).

As they segue into “Lock It,” We apologize we could play this song for ever but I know everyone got to go back to work.  We’re gonna play the short version  We could play this for at least an hour.  They keys plays a nice Cuban sounding melody–almost like xylophones.

“After three minutes, he says this ant even the first part of the song–we still got about fifty more minutes.” Then they segue into “Overnight Scenario” which everyone sings along t o.

Anthony Andre “Whiteboy” Johnson (guitar, vocals); James “Funk” Thomas (vocals); Charles “Shorty Corleone” Garris (vocals); Leroy “RB” Battle, Jr. (keyboards); Calvin “Killer Cal” Henry (vocals); Michael Baker (bass); Kenneth “Quick” Gross (drums); Samuel “Smoke” Dews (congas); Kym Clarke (trumpet); Derryle Valentine (sax, flute)

[READ: July 23, 2017] “Bonebreaker”

I find Nell Zink’s stories to be weird but compelling.  She writes about strange things in unusual ways.  The people are often peculiar but compelling.

But this story was especially odd to me because the two characters seem really stupid

Both Jed and Laurie are fleeing the States.  As the story begins they go to the airport with a lot of cash.  But they knew that the TSA would be suspicious of that.  So when they see the “money sniffing” dogs, they know the TSA is on to them.  They leave their stuff at the airport and return home–which puts them on the no-fly list.

After a few more aborted attempts, they decide to take a barge–a real refugee situation. Not only do they not get where they are going, they lose a lot of money and are mostly miserable.

Why are they fleeing? (more…)

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ttydwymSOUNDTRACK: THE HOLMES BROTHERS-Tiny Desk Concert #71 (August 2, 2010).

brosI’ve never heard of The Holmes Brothers.  So I was a little surprised to hear that they have been playing together for 30 years.

The trio consists of Sherman Holmes on bass, Wendell Holmes on guitar and Popsy Dixon on drums (in this case, just a snare and a lot of rim shots).

They play soul music steeped in Baptist hymns, blues and spirituals.  Wendell is a great guitarist, playing effortless solos–playing with the volume and creating interesting effects.  Sherman plays a fun bass with some cool bass lines (although felt he may have been a tad too loud in the mix).  And Dixon keeps the beat–nothing fancy, but he propels the song along and it would never sound as good without him.

They play three songs from their then new album.  Sherman sings lead on “Dark Cloud” while Wendell sings lead on “Pledging My Love” and “Feed My Soul.”  Especially noteworthy on the latter two tracks is Dixon’s falsetto which is really amazing (I thought they had a female backing vocalist hidden somewhere).  In fact, the three of them sound like there might be four or five people in the band.

They put on quite a show.

[READ: August 7, 2015] That Thing You Do with Your Mouth

I often don’t know what McSweeney’s books are about before I read them.  I had a vague inkling that this book was about sex (I’d read that Matthews did voice over for Italian porn), but I didn’t know that this was going to be a kind of biography of Matthews and her history of sexual abuse.

According to the introduction, Matthews told her story to David Shields (author and also Matthews’ cousin) who says that the interview garnered 700 pages worth of material.  Thank goodness he edited it.  I felt this book (which comes in at 113 large print pages) was way too long as it is.

Despite all of the accolades on the cover, Matthews is not a very compelling individual.  It’s strange to read personal incidents from a person that you’ve never heard of or, for that matter, was someone who hadn’t done anything terribly interesting. (more…)

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zinkSOUNDTRACK: PAUL WELLER-Tiny Desk Concert #457 (July 28, 2015).

wellerPaul Weller is a highly regarded and well respected elder statesman of rock.  Some of his songs with The Jam are my favorite songs from the 80s.  Weller hops from genre to genre quite a lot, and I did not care for The Style Council at all.  So even though he’s been making music forever, I haven’t really paid him much attention.  In this tiny Desk, he brings a fairly large band (6 people (4 guitars!)) to sing an acoustic collection of songs. There’s a drums (just a snare) and a percussionist too. And everyone sings.

His voice sounds fantastic—older but still really strong.

They play four songs. Three are from his new album Saturns Pattern.  Like “Dusk Til Dawn” which is a delightful folk song.  The band sounds really loud, or not loud but big, like there are really 6 people out there.   This is especially true on “I’m Where I Should Be” which also has some great harmony vocals and percussive guitar techniques.  I love how much the harmonies contribute to the song and the general song structure is great.

“Out of the Sinking” goes back to Weller’s most popular album Stanley Road (which I don’t know). It’s a wonderful song.  It showcases Weller’s gruffer vocals and nice finger picking. There’s some more great harmonies from the bongo player.  And the song has a real nice campfire song feel (it reminds me a bit of Van Morrison’s folkier songs).

For “Going My Way” Weller switches to piano. It’s a simple song with some great backing vocals and harmonies, (and hand claps), although I prefer the middle two songs.

I hadn’t really given much thought to Weller in the last few decades, but this set was really enjoyable.

[READ: August 7, 2015] The Wallcreeper

This is Nell Zink’s first published novel (she has another novel, 1998’s Sailing Towards the Sunset by Avner Shats) which I read about that I would love to find, but I don’t think it has ever been published).

I really enjoyed Zink’s Mislaid and wanted to see what her earlier work was about.  There was an article in the New Yorker which gave an interesting background to this story which involved a long correspondence with Jonathan Franzen and resulted in a book that I would suggest is not completely unlike something he might create–expect that it is way shorter and slightly more erratic.

Zink does not follow conventional story structure exactly.  This is not to say that the story is weird or avant garde, not at all.  She just doesn’t like to set things up conventionally.  For instance, the first sentence of the story is: “I was looking at the map when Stephen swerved, hit the rock, and occasioned the miscarriage.” (more…)

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harp marchSOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Ted’s Wrecking Yard Toronto, ON, (March 25, 2000).

tedsThis was the sixth and final night of Green Sprouts Music Week–the band’s annual residency at Ted’s Wrecking Yard.  Sadly this is the only night that is up on the site, but man, is it a good one.  The band played for over two and a half hours and they cover nearly every album.  There are guests galore, there’s on stage hijinks and a great sense of fun for band and fans alike.

 I don’t know what they played on other nights but there is a still a focus on Harmelodia. Things are a little different this night from previous shows on the tour.  “Song of the Garden” and “Sweet Rich Beautiful Mine” are really rocking. When they call in a female vocalist up, a fans shouts out “we could use a little estrogen” and they get it with her lead vocals.

Kevin Hearn joins them on keyboards.  He ges a verse in “Four Little Songs.”  He also adds piano to “Queer” which sounds extra jaunty  And he puts accordion in “I Fab Thee.”  There’s even the unexpected Kevin song “Yellow Days Under a Lemon Sun” which originally appears on the Group of 7 disc.

The most fun is had during “My First Rock Show, in which several “guests” appear during the song.  Meatloaf (Kevin) plays a bit of “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad,” Geddy, Alex and Neil (Martin) show up to play a verse of “Closer to the Heart” with Martin screeching “salesmen!” There’s a brief jam of Walk This Way (although no one can remember the words).  And there’s some fun with Joe Jackson’s “Is She Really Goin Out with Him.”  Look over there.  Where?  That’s called a hook.  There’s also a funny joke about playing “Harvest X-1, Rush Never Sleeps.”

There’s some real guests too, Karmen from Sheks? sings “One More Colour” and sounds awful, like she can’t hear what the band is doing.  Julia Pietrus guests on “Home Again.”  She sings her verse in Polish (and is part of a Polish Rheos tribute band!).

There’s a drum solo (!) on “Dope Fiends and Booze Hounds.”  The set and the night ends with “A Midwinter Nights Dream.”  Martin sounds in great voice even if he cant hit all th ehigh notes which is undetsnable after nearly 2 and a half hours of playing

They also mention that their next show is Canada Day and that is our next show as well

[READ: March 4, 2015] “Make Me Live”

I am always intrigued by the fiction that appears in the front section of each Harper’s issue.  It is typically not an author I have heard of and is often a translation.  It’s also usually really short (often excerpted) so that if it’s not so good, you’re not stuck with a long read and if it is good it whets your appetite for a longer piece.

This excerpt is a definite appetite whetter.

I genuinely can’t imagine how long Mislaid (the full novel) is, because this story just seems to fly through time in a real hurry 9and feels rather complete).

It opens with Peggy Vaillancourt’s birth in 1948 in Virginia.  Her family was educated and rather reserved.  Her mother had hoped to send her to Bryn Mawr, but Peggy wanted to go to Stillwater, a former plantation and current finishing school.  It was considered a mecca for lesbians.

I’m confused about the transformative event in Peggy’s life in which a gym teacher, Miss Miller,  readjusts her gym shorts and Peggy assumes she was meant to be a boy.  The story seems to bulldoze forward whether you can keep up or not.  So I have no idea if an average female reader would “get” what happened here (it doesn’t seem to be sexual to me). It also seems odd that one incident should affect her so profoundly, but there ya go. (more…)

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