Archive for the ‘Richard Ford’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: PINEGROVE-Live at the Newport Folk Festival (July 30, 2017).

Every year, NPR goes to the Newport Folk Festival so we don’t have to.  A little while afterwards, they post some streams of the shows (you used to be able to download them, but now it’s just a stream).  Here’s a link to the Pinegrove set; stream it while it’s still active.

I was pretty excited to hear what Pinegrove did at a big venue like this.  And, true to form, they sound great and are kind and generous to the people helping them out as well as all the fans who are there: “thanks for taking a chance on us.”

What’s particularly fun about Pinegrove is that their songs are mostly pretty short–but they feel fully complete.  But that means you can get 11 songs in a 45 minute set.

The band is in the process of writing and recording new music but this set is all older stuff (1/2 from Cardinal and the rest older).  But this is such a clear recording (with occasionally pops from the bass), that it’s great to be able to hear these songs live and to hear what they do differently with them.

The first song, “Old Friends,” Evan Stephens Hall seems a little less voice-cracking than usual (as if he’s trying to sing pretty for the Festival), but when he gets into the middle of “Aphasia” he sings “But if I don’t have you by me then I’ll go underground” with reckless abandon and the crowd goes nuts.

To me the most notable difference in these songs is the louder harmony vocals of Nandi Rose Plunkett.  And they sound terrific (Plunkett has her own band Half Waif who I’ve been interested in seeing, although i hope it doesn’t distract her from Pinegrove).

They run through several of the songs and they all sound great–the band really transcends when they play live. (and the rabid fans certainly help).

He introduces the band and has a problem getting Plunkett’s name out (I’ve got an avocado in my mouth).  Then he runs through everyone else: Samuel Skinner on guitar, Joshua Fairbanks Marre on the guitar and vocals, Adan Carlo on the bass guitar, Zachary Levine on the drum kit and vocals (he gets a big response).  And then they introduce Lincoln their newly acquired trusty stuffed sloth.

They dedicate “Angelina” to Lincoln, (he ends by saying “just a tiny little song”)

Okay we’re gonna quickly play two more songs.  After a quick “The Metronome” Hall introduces the final song by saying

Most of these songs are about love whether it be romantic, platonic, or familial and when they began they were about how to love the people we knew the best we could, but a more important initiative is loving the people we don’t know as well as we can.  It’s a localized sentiment but also a very public sentiment.

This works as a wonderful introduction to “New Friends” which sounds tremendous with all of the harmony vocals firing on all cylinders.

[READ: June 20, 2017] “Brush Clearing with the Teen-Age Boys in Arkansas”

This issue has a section of essays called “On the Job,” with essays about working written by several different authors.

Richard Ford writes of working in the summer of 1967.  He worked for the Neighborhood Youth Corps in Little Rock.  It was not a job he wanted, just one he could get.  He had always had jobs and wasn’t about to not have one during the summer while living with his mother.

So he enrolled in this program which “summons images of clean cut boys standing at attention, but was really about low income (black) kids getting work experience.”  And he realizes now it was designed to keep them in school and out of the State’s hair. (more…)


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2008_03_03-400SOUNDTRACK: FOREIGN EXCHANGE-Tiny Desk Concert #370 (July 5, 2014).

FeIt’s amusing how “religious” lead singer Phonte Coleman comes across in this set given how profane his language is.  He begins the set by telling us what a “church clap” is: a church clap is when you clap for someone when they sing in church but they suck.  It’s a slow clap that says keep trying, baby.

Foreign Exchange is Phonte on vocals, guitarist Nicolay, keyboardist Zo! and percussionist Boogie.  Their music (in this setting anyhow) is a kind of mellow stripped down soul pop.

“On A Day Like Today” is a kind of acoustic r&b with acoustic guitar and gentle keyboards. Phonte is an engaging and fun performer enticing people to clap and singing that he’s gonna wipe the sweat off his face as he does so.

He says he’s “sweating like a preacher here.”  After the first song he hits the gong ans says “when you hear this sound, that means turn the motherfuckin’ page.”   he describes the second song, “Listen to the Rain” as when you need to wind down and things ain’t going right.  It is a delicate ballad full of nice percussion.

Before the final song he says, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression so I hope this is a good motherfuckin impression.”  Then as he is ramping up the song, he tells everyone to turn to your neighbor and say “‘Neighbor, put home in your heart,’ goddamn right.” “Call It Home” is a pretty, smooth rocker.  Phonte has a good solid voice and these songs are all pretty enjoyable.

Phonte is a great front man having fun right up to the end as he jokes about how he “felt it” and was overcome during the final song.

[READ: January 29, 2016] “Leaving for Kenosha”

Richard Ford is a famous writer whom I have never read.  I think of him as writing very large books, so I’m surprised to see this short story here.

I have this image of what Ford writes, but I was rather surprised that this was set in New Orleans soon after the flood.  Interestingly, the main character is not the one leaving for Kenosha.

Walter Hobbes (which is the name of the dad in Elf, by the way) is a lawyer.  He is picking up his daughter from school before taking her to the dentist.  His daughter, Louise, is thirteen and trying to be independent.

I really enjoyed the way the Ford set up the family dysfunction–Louise needs a sleep guard to keep her from grinding her teeth–which she has only started doing since her parents got divorced.  There’s some back story about Walter’s wife leaving him and the fact that she still lives in town.  (more…)

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fivedials_no29SOUNDTRACK: BOB & DOUG McKENZIE-“The 12 Days of Christmas” (1981).

bob & dougThis is my preferred old school version of “The 12 Days of Christmas.”  It was one of the first parodies of the song that I had heard (and I was big in parodies back in 1981).

I loved how stupid they were (on the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…a beer).  I loved trying to figure out what a two-four was, and it cracked me up that they skipped a whole bunch of days.

I also enjoyed how they continued to snipe at each other throughout the song.  Not comedy gold perhaps (that would be “Take Off” recorded with Geddy Lee, but a nice way to start, or end, the season on these “mystery days.”

Evidently, decades after SCTV went off the air, Bob & Doug got an animated TV show (without Rick Moranis).  And they made a video of the song. Hosers.


[READ: December 3, 2013] Five Dials #29

Five Dials Number 29 was the first issue I had read in a while.  (I read this before going back to 26-28).  And it really reminded me of how great Five Dials is.  I don’t know why this isn’t Part 2 after Number 28’s Part 1 (there was no 28b either), but that’s irrelevant.  This is an independent collection of great writing.  I was instantly surprised and delighted to see that César Aria was included in this issue (I didn’t even know he had made inroads in England).

CRAIG TAYLOR-Letter from the Editor: In Swedes and Open Letters
Taylor’s usually chipper introduction is saddened by the contents of this one.  The discussion centers on Sweden and the city of Malmo, where integration is proving to be tougher than they’d hoped.  Black skinned people are profiled pretty explicitly.  Taylor talks about meeting the writer Jonas Hassen Khemiri (who they subsequently published in issue 21) who deals with issues of race.  In March of 2013, Khemiri wrote an open letter to Swedish Minister for Justice Beatrice Ask after she brushed off concerns about racial profiling. The letter went viral including getting translated into 15 languages.  So I guess there is some positivity after all. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DR. DOG-Tiny Desk Concert #7 (October 20, 2008).


I have been hearing a lot about Dr. Dog lately (they are from Philly and the radio station we listen to is from Philly, so that makes sense).  But I had assumed they were a new band.  So imagine my surprise to see that they were the 7th Tiny Desk Concert and the first full band to play the Tiny Desk.  (Their first album came out in 2005!).

It’s fun to watch a five piece band squeeze into the Tiny Desk (the drummer is playing a small pink suitcase) and the fifth member of the band is playing some various percussions (I wonder if he does more in the band).  It’s also funny when one of the guitars breaks a string and the singer says “son of a bitch.”

Dr. Dog proves to be quite interesting.  Their first song is “The Beach.”  It’s a rocking awesome track–the guitar is great and bassist Toby Leaman’s move is raspy and powerful.  I really like this song a lot.  The second song is quite different, it’s a bouncy boppy song that sounds a bit like a more rocking Grateful Dead (that bass).  This song has a different singer–Scott McMicken, who plays lead guitar on “The Beach,” but acoustic guitar here.  (The other guitarist, Frank McElroy  played acoustic on The Beach and electric on this one).

After a lengthy discussion they play the third song (in a different version from the record) “How Dare.”  This song opens with their great harmonies (a wonderful feature of the band).  It also has a jam band quality (Toby’s back on vocals but less raspy and powerful, and more bluesy)/on this track.

The band seemed to think they were only to play two songs, and frankly it’s a shame they only play 3. At 12 minutes it one of the shorter Tiny Desk concerts.  But I am a convert to Dr. Dog, and I need to hear more from them.

[READ: November 10, 2013] “Reunion”

After listening to Richard Ford in yesterday’s podcast, I decided I wanted to read his take on the Cheever story “Reunion.”  And while I can definitely see that it was inspired by a kernel of an idea in Cheever’s story, I probably never would have put the two together had I not known.

Ford’s story opens the same way as Cheever’s with someone waiting in Grand Central Station.  It turns out that the person is Mack Bolger.  Bolger is waiting intently for someone.  We quickly learn that the narrator who spies Bolger had had an affair with Bolger’s wife, Beth about a  year and a half prior to this meeting.  It ended abruptly when Mack confronted them in their hotel room (in St. Louis).  Mack (who is a large man) boxed the narrator’s ears a bit and sent him running from the room in varying stages of dress (and without a precious scarf which his mother had given him).

He had not seen Mack again, although he did see Beth on one final instance–a sort of final closure.  They met in a bar and tied up loose ends, and that was that.

So when the narrator sees Mack he gets this sudden urge to speak to him:

just as you might speak to anyone you casually knew and had unexpectedly but not unhappily encountered. And not to impart anything, or to set in motion any particular action (to clarify history, for instance, or make amends), but just to speak and create an event where before there was none.  (more…)

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[LISTENED TO: November 19, 2013] “Reunions” podcast

podcastIn the very first New Yorker fiction podcast, Richard Ford reads a story by John Cheever from 1962.  This is an especially apt pairing because Ford explains that when he does author appearances, he often reads Cheever’s story “Reunion” before reading his own story “Reunion.”  The reason, he explains, is that the Cheever story inspired his own.  [I haven’t read the Ford story although it too appears in the New Yorker, but from the way he describes it, it doesn’t sound like it’s all that similar, just “inspired” by the Cheever piece].

I don’t know a lot of Cheever (which Ford says is a common and sad problem for American readers), but I have always loved his story “The Swimmer,” which I think is fantastic.

“Reunion” (the Cheever story) is very simple and yet it speaks a lot about family. (Both Ford and the New Yorker host talk about how remarkably short (about 1,000 words) and yet how powerfully concise it is.)  In the story, a young man has time to kill between trains in Gran Central Station.  He is en route from school and had about 90 minutes before his next train arrives. So he contacts his father to see about having lunch.  He hasn’t seen his father in about three years and he thinks this will be nice. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PHISH-Live Bait Vol 6 (2011).

Yesterday was my coworker Jay’s last day here, so I’m writing about this Phish bootleg set in his honor.

So these Live Bootleg Series are fun in that they’re a free sample of live songs–warts and all–from various shows in the band’s touring history.  These shows are primarily 1993-1996, with a 1988 song and two from 2003 thrown in for good measure.  The opening of “The Curtain” into “Tweezer” is from Red Rocks.  In fact, the first 8 songs are from Red Rocks at different times in their career (I like that they meld the shows together like this).  From 1996, “The Curtain” sounds amazing, so it’s really surprising how badly Trey messes up the opening guitar riff of “Tweezer.”  It’s so bad I would have thought he might have considered starting over!  But after an ugly beginning the band settles in for a 17 minute version.  “Split Open and Melt” also comes 1994.  The band sounds great on this song.  This is one of my favorite jam sections–it goes in a really weird direction.  And, there’s great bass and a guitar solo.  “It’s Ice” and “The Wedge” are from 1993 (touring their 4th official release!).  They sound really on for these songs.

Next comes a trio of songs from 1995 that always go together: “Mike’s Song” (everybody’s favorite), “I am Hydrogen” and “Weekapaug Groove.”  The middle of the “Mike’s Song” jam gets a little weird (some of their slow sections can sound very strange especially if people overhear them out of context), but they bring it back very nicely.

“The MOMA Dance’ and “Limb by Limb” are from 2003.  And they are fantastic.  “McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters” actually comes from the Colorado ’88 CD, but it’s a fun addition within this set.  It certainly sounds older than the others, but not radically out of place.  It’s followed by “Ghost” from 1997.   “David Bowie” has a lot of fun in the intro–the begin playing several different songs, including “Mike’s Song” and several other intros before finally settling into “DB.”  The jam also gets pretty dark, but I love at the end when the conventional shredding solo keeps getting interrupted by a strange minor key riff.  Similarly, “Wilson” takes a really long time to get going, including a nice little nod to “The Simpsons” in the intro.  And then there’s a really long pause before the “blap boom” part comes in.  It’s a fun version of the song.  The disc ends with a wild version of “Run Like an Antelope” from 1993.

It’s a pretty great set, and not bad for free.  You can download it here.

[READ: May 25, 2012] “The Bank Robbery”

I’ve never read Richard Ford.  I have a copy of Independence Day but I never read it. I hear it’s great.

So, here’s this excerpt from Ford’ new novel called Canada.  As has been said before, you can’t really write a review of  an excerpt.  However, a excerpt can get you excited about a book.

And that’s what this did.  It doesn’t make me want to pre-order Canada or anything, indeed, I’m not even sure how this excerpt can relate to the rest of the story as it’s pretty self-contained, but I loved the way it was written and the tone and pacing that Ford employs.

This excerpt opens with the narrator recollecting what he knows about the bank robbery.  The one that his parents committed.  His parents are pretty normal people, except for one thing—they actually thought they could pull of a bank robbery.  I love this section:

Conceivably many of us think of robbing a bank the same way we lie in bed at night and delicately plot to murder our lifelong enemy….  [details excised].  After which we conclude that though it’s satisfying to think we could murder our enemy in ambush…only a deranged person would carry out such a plan.  That is because the world is set against such acts…At which point we forget about our plan and go to sleep….  But for my parents this kind of thinking didn’t occur. (more…)

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