Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Sam Shepard’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: JIM JAMES-Tiny Desk Concert #799 (October 26, 2018).

Jim James is the singer of My Morning Jacket.  And I think he’s pretty great.

Although I like his band work more than his solo work, i was happy to see him in this Tiny Desk Concert.

Especially since he started with “I’m Amazed,” the terrific song from MMJ’s Evil Urges.  I think what’s most striking about this version is how stripped down the music is.  The song has become mostly about the words.  And, reading the blurb, that seems to be the point lately for James.

A single voice can send a powerful message – and that’s just what Jim James did at the Tiny Desk, with just his voice and an acoustic guitar. His lead-off song, “I’m Amazed,” comes from My Morning Jacket’s 2008 album Evil Urges. It’s a prophetic song in many ways – it speaks not only of a divided nation and the need for justice but also to the beauty in the life and plight of others. It’s something Jim James would find greater appreciation for after he fell from a stage at a My Morning Jacket concert, just three days before Evil Urges was to be released, sustaining life-threatening injuries. It would be a life-changing event and the inspiration for his first solo album years later, in 2013, Regions of Light and Sound of God.

Jim James’ second song at the Tiny Desk, “Same Old Lie,” comes from an album he released just days before the 2016 Presidential election.

This is a much darker song musically and lyrically.  Once again the (fingerpicked) guitar is lovely, almost all the higher strings.  But the lyrics are pointed:

The lyrics take on a deeper meaning now, just days before the 2018 elections. “It’s the same old lie you been reading about / Bleeding out – now who’s getting cheated out? / You best believe it’s the silent majority / If you don’t vote it’s on you, not me.”

James’ voice sounds a little off.  Not terribly, but perhaps it’s a little strained (these early morning shows are tough for musicians).  He also doesn’t say anything.  He’s just right there to start the third song, the strummed “Over and Over”

We fight the same fights / we drop the same bombs / put up the same walls, over and over again.

His closing tune, in what I think of as a purposeful trilogy for these political times, is from two albums he’s released this year, Uniform Distortion and Uniform Clarity. The albums contain the same songs, performed with his blistering electric guitar on one and on the other, as here, acoustically.

It’s a message of exasperation and hope, all set to a pretty melody.

After 20-some odd years of putting out music, Jim James is full of fervor and compassion for others as he sings, “How can we make / The same mistakes / and still carry on / Living the same we did yesterday / Have we learned nothing at all?”

[READ: January 12, 2017] “Tiny Man”

I have really been enjoying the Sam Shepard stories in the New Yorker.  They are surprisingly raw and gritty and feel a bit like a throwback (Shepard is 73 after all) to a more blunt storytelling style.

This one has two main sections, the Tiny Man part and the Felicity part.

The Tiny Man sections start like this: They deliver my father’s corpse in the trunk of a ’49 Mercury coupe.  His body is wrapped up tight in see-through plastic…   He’s become very small in the course of things–maybe eight inches tall.  In fact, I’m holding him now, in the palm of my hand.

Woah, what’s going on there? (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: CLOUD CULT-“That Man Jumped Out the Window” (Field Recordings, September 12, 2012).

I feel like I know the name Cloud Cult, but this song sounded entirely alien to me.  This was an other Field Recording [Cloud Cult: A Moment Of Serenity] set backstage at Sasquatch! Music Festival.

I love the drama that they set up with this blurb

We were about to call it. The band was running late, our phone service wasn’t working well backstage in the remoteness of the Sasquatch Music Festival in rural Washington state, and the next band was about to begin on the main stage nearby — thus making the prospect of a Field Recording impossible. Then, suddenly, a white van rolled up, straight from the main gate, and out popped six musicians with stringed and brass instruments. Within minutes, they’d set up, sound-checked and performed a jaw-dropping rendition of “That Man Jumped Out the Window” (from 2005’s Advice From the Happy Hippopotamus) with no practice whatsoever.

I enjoy the orchestral nature of this song–reminding me of many other bigger bands that I like quite a lot.

It took me a couple of listens to “get” this song–there’s a lot of different vocal parts, almost as responses to the main part.

It opens with an acoustic guitar and is accompanied by strings and a French horn.  But the main verse is all acoustic guitar and cello (with stark backing vocals–the vocals are not really pretty exactly (they’re not un-pretty either), just powerful).

I’m not sure that this song is all that memorable for me, but I love reading this about the band:

More a family than a band, the Minneapolis collective does everything with purpose, talent and conviction, from its environmentally conscious lifestyle — in which it self-produces and releases albums from its geothermal-powered organic farm — to its charitable efforts to its emotive, even cathartic songwriting.

The song is quite pretty–although I wonder if it would be more so in a fuller setting.  But as It ended, I found myself enjoying it and wanting to hear it again.  Someone asks if they should do another take.

Then, just as the song ended and the band members finally had a chance to view the majestic natural scenery around them — and as we prepared to record another take, just in case — the festival roared back to life. But for those few minutes, we were able to stop, breathe and take in the emotional significance of a moment of serenity. At which point Cloud Cult piled back into the van and rode off to its next gig.

[READ: April 7, 2016] “Indianapolis (Highway 74)”

This story was published in the New Yorker just eight weeks after the previous Sam Shepard story.  I had to look him up and it is the same Shepard who has been writing since forever.  But he is not especially known for his noir books.  His style has changed over the years although he does often write about rootless characters and absurdist ideas.

So this story is about a rootless character, “I’ve been crisscrossing the country again, without much reason.”  This character drives all over the place for long stretches of time.  On this particular night with a blizzard heading into town, he pulls into a Holiday Inn (more for its familiar green logo and predictability than anything else).

But when he asks for a room, they are booked.  There is some kind of hot rod convention in town–which he thinks is odd for the winter, but whatever.

The concierge tells him that there is one room that might be available–the people haven’t shown up and are going to call to confirm whether the weather will prevent them from showing up.

So he waits. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: BRIAN BLADE AND THE FELLOWSHIP BAND-“Landmarks” (Field Recordings, August 14, 2014).

Here’s yet another Field Recording at the Newport Jazz Festival [Chorale For Horns And iPad App, In The Pouring Rain].

The 2014 Festival must have been a rainy one, because some of the other Recordings seem wet as well.  The blurb explains

We had hoped to get the great drummer Brian Blade to give us a little private exhibition after his set at the Newport Jazz Festival this year. The weather, however, was proving much less generous than he and his band were. Early that morning, a steady all-day rain settled in over coastal Rhode Island, making it difficult to transport dry instruments anywhere. On top of that, a last-minute change to travel plans meant that Blade needed to get out of town quickly — to an airport over four hours away.

But he and the Fellowship Band — the group of guys Blade has been making music with for the better part of two decades or more — were game to figure out something for us. So we herded them into the shelter of a quiet tunnel in Fort Adams State Park.

Despite Blade being a drummer, they are unable to use drums or even bass.  So they decide to play a composition of the keyboardist.  Chris Thomas, the bassist, suggests that he could do an interpretive dance (but he does not).

As they get set up, Jon Cowherd starts tinkering on his iPad.  He gets a synth up and starts playing the opening to Van Halen;s “Jump” which gets everyone excited.  Then he starts playing a cool keyboard sound on the app and the two horns join in on the serene melody.

First Myron Walden starts playing the bass clarinet.  Then he is joined beautifully by Melvin Butler on soprano sax.  The song unfolds simply.  I love the way it just seems to grow and grow–slowly revealing more and more of itself.  But it’s over pretty quickly, with the notes fading in the tunnel.

So even though the featured performer, Brian Blades is not playing–and I still have never heard his drums, this was a nifty little piece.

[READ: April 17, 2016] “Land of the Living”

I had it in my head that Sam Shepard was a noir writer from the 1950s.

Well this story (and the surprising fact that the New Yorker published a second of his stories just a few weeks later) led to something entirely different.  This story is about a man who is going on vacation with his family.

It begins with a very funny exchange between the man and his wife,  She tells him, “It’s just amazing how friendly you become when you’re on Xanax”  And he agrees, “I feel this friendly person coming out in me and I wonder if maybe that’s my real nature.”

The family is currently waiting on a customs line in Cancun.  The heat is unbearable, especially since they have just come from Minnesota.

Their conversation is full of things that he says which she is surprised by: (more…)

Read Full Post »