Archive for the ‘Death’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: FEDE GRAÑA Y LOS PROLIJOS-“”El Gigante” (Field Recordings, May 5, 2015).

Fede Graña Y Los Prolijos are from Uruguay and play a stomping bluegrass (which is why this is called A Bluegrass Ditty By Way Of Uruguay).

Every year SXSW hosts a night of music from Uruguay.

Nestled between Argentina and Brazil way down on the southern tip of the Americas, Uruguay spends way too much time in the shadows of its better-known neighbors.

But a closer listen reveals something for just about everyone: rockeros, sure, but also fans of hip-hop, folk-influenced downtempo music and singer-songwriters with distinct voices and stories to tell.

With an electric bass and a small hand drum laying down the thumping rhythm and an accordion adding to the flair, the fascination comes from the very American-sounding guitar solo that introduces the song.  But once you comfortably know that this is bluegrass, it’s even more surprising when they all sing in Spanish.

After a couple of verses, there’s an accordion solo followed by an acoustic guitar solo (from the other guitarist).  There’s a slow down that seems like an ending but it’s a fake out as the song takes off once more,.

There’s some great guitar fingerwork by he singer as the song races to an end

What a fun song, although I never heard the word “Gigante” once..

[READ: January 5, 2017] “Chicken Hill”

Joy Williams’ stories never do what I expect them to do–for better and worse.

This is the story of Ruth.

It begins with Ruth going to a memorial fundrasier at the Barbed Wire, a biker bar “in a somewhat alarming part of town.”  She had donated $30 to the memorial of a boy, Hector, who has been run over by a sheriff’s deputy.

Ruth was pleased that the father was suing the sheriff–then she found out it was the boy’s fault–he had run in to traffic against the light.

The transition is a strange one: “It was probably just a coincidence that a child appeared not long after that.”  This was a girl who lived in a house nearby.  She was the daughter of a doctor and rather than introducing herself she said to Ruth “I would like to draw you in plein air.” (more…)


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SOUNDTRACK: THE DJANGO FESTIVAL ALL-STARS-“Them There Eyes” (Field Recordings, October 23, 2014).

This Field Recording was done under what looks like an old bridge outside of the Newport Jazz Festival.

Every year for the last decade and a half, select groups of hot swing musicians have come from Europe to tour the U.S. The exact lineups change, but they all feature masters of the “gypsy jazz” — or jazz manouche — style pioneered by guitarist Django Reinhardt. In fact, they’re billed under the banner of New York’s Django Reinhardt Festival.

After the last set of the Festival, done by the All-Stars, they asked the band, who had little time to spare, to play one last song.  Soon fingers were flying [The Fastest Fingers At The Festival, For Django Reinhardt]  The video there doesn’t work, but you can watch it on YouTube.

They chose the standard “Them There Eyes,” and to paraphrase its lyrics: They sparkled, they bubbled, and they got up to a whole lot of trouble.

Samson Schmitt, plays an amazing lead guitar–his soloing is blinding. The rhythm guitar from DouDou Cuillerier keeps up a great shuffle and Brian Torff on bass keeps the pace as everyone else gets a chance to solo wildly.

First up is Ludovic Beier, accordion and as a bystander observed: “He has the fastest fingers I’ve ever seen.”  And he does, it’s amazing.  His solo is followed by Pierre Blanchard, violin.  And Peter hits notes that seem like they might not actually exist on the violin.

There’s no vocals in the version which is just as well. No one would be able to keep up.

[READ: January 28, 2018] “Little Deaths”

Félix Fénéon was born in 1861.  In 1906 he wrote 1,220 brief items under the rubric “News in Three Lives” for the Paris newspaper Le Matin.  They were collected in a book and translated by Luc Sante

Seeing that these were written over time makes a lot more sense than having them all printed in a book–I mean, 1,220 deaths would be a lot to do all at once.  It’s still hard to believe that these would be printed in a newspaper at all.

Some examples in their entirety: (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE McCRARY SISTERS AND THE FAIRFIELD FOUR-“Rock My Soul” (Field Recordings, September 20, 2015).

Hearing these eight voices intertwine so beautifully is wonderful (I especially love the bass voice).  Knowing how the voices are connected is pretty cool, too.

The original Fairfield Four was founded nearly 95 years ago in Nashville, and has remained relevant into the present day; many current listeners know the group from its appearance in the Coen Brothers’ 2000 film O, Brother, Where Art Thou? The McCrary Sisters are the daughters of the now-deceased longtime Fairfield Four lead voice, Samuel McCrary; together, they’ve made a major impact as that rare thing in a mostly masculine preserve, a female gospel quartet. To hear these voices perform “Rock My Soul” together is to feel the power of living history and the timelessness of family connection.

“Rock My Soul,” powered by their persistent clapping is just wonderful.  Their voices sound amazing, their harmonies are wonderful. It’s a joyful three minutes.

[READ: August 29, 2018] “The Wind Cave”

This is a somber story from Murakami.

It concerns a boy and the death of his younger sister when she was 12.  She was born with a malfunctioning heart valve and although she was never robust, it was still a surprise that she died so young.

His parents told him to watch over her, to look after her because she was so delicate.  The fact hat he couldn’t save her from death (no one could) has hung over him.

He hated seeing her in the coffin and he grew claustrophobic even thinking about her in that tiny box.  The symptoms didn’t start right away but occurred after he had been locked in a box truck.  He was working a part time job and was accidentally locked into the back of the truck when people wanted to leave early.  (Frankly I would think that might trigger claustrophobia more than anything having to do with his sister).

But now he can no longer ride in elevators or watch movies about submarines. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: JESSE BOYKINS III-“4 U 2 B Free” (Field Recordings, October 8, 2014).

This Field Recording [Jesse Boykins III Breaks It Down] starts with a lot of ambient noise–a giant overhead fan–which I thought might be an interesting component to the song.  But once Boykins starts singing, it’s just his voice. And that’s all–it’s a lovely a capella performance.

The day after playing a set at the Superdome during the Essence Music Festival this summer, eclectic R&B singer Jesse Boykins III wandered into Mardi Gras World — an expansive, airy warehouse packed wall to wall with floats used in New Orleans’ infamous parades. The floats are built from the ground up in-house, so Boykins found himself surrounded by unfinished works and spare parts.

It’s creepy and unsettling to see these giant heads–eyeballs at eyeball height, but just a head–staring at you.  It’s also surreal with the various colors and shapes and the head of Abraham Lincoln looking on as Jesse sings.

He sang one of the most emotional tracks from his latest album a cappella. While singing “4 U 2 B Free,” Boykins pulled back the layers of his own creation, matching his performance to the exposed, oddly vulnerable characters surrounding him.

But Boykins’ performance is really powerful especially at the end as his wonderful high notes as if no no one is watching.

[READ: October 4, 2017] “Enter the Ford: Lost Chapters from A Death in the Family”

I knew nothing about this book, so I had to look it up.

The first chapter sees a young by, Rufus, waking up wearily with his dad.  The boy is very excited and the father seems pretty delighted to be awake with his son so early.  They try their best not to wake the baby girl or the mom.  Of course the mom wakes up and asks for the dad to do some things before he leaves.  The dad makes breakfast–with stern admonitions to the boy not get burnt by the coffee pot, bacon or stove–and then he helps the boy with the difficult buttons.

We don’t know too much about the dad yet, but this exchange is interesting:

“You’re getting pretty good, buttoning yourself.” he said.  Rufus said nothing.
His father thought damn fool thing to tell a child; dumb as a fish.

In the second chapter they head out to Chilhowee Park and the entire chapter is given over to the most exquisite descriptions of this amusement park through the eyes of Rufus.  Everything is amazing and wonderful and the language is of a person taking everything in–from the color of the lake to the swans on the water to the roller coaster and the fairy’s wheel.

And then came the merry-go-round.  We learn how first Rufus rode only on the bench.  And then was allowed to ride the horses that did not go up and down.  And then on the up and down horses only if his dad was holding on.  And finally, today, to ride the up and down one by himself.  The amount of detail about the merry-go round is wonderful.

The only thing more wonderful than the merry-go-round was the little train.  We hear his father’s kind words about how amazing the train is.

Then things go sour a little because there’s also the arcades–where adults play games of chance.  There’s games that one never won–like the seventeen jewel watch.  But the worst was a place where there was “a darky with his head through a hole.”  And the people were meant to, as the carny said, “hit the nigger in the head and you get a cigar.”

Rufus’ mom hated this game.  And Jay wasn’t too keen on it either.  The one time they were there, Jay conceded that the man’s got to make money some way.  Jay tried to ease his wife’s concerns by showing her that the ball wasn’t that hard.  He lifted it up but she refused to even touch it.  The carny got mad at him for touching the ball. And Jay got huffy back.  She calmed him and he walked away.

But on this visit, he did not back down. the carny did. And that made Jay’s day even better.

Chapter 3

This chapter opens with Jay and his wife, Laura, talking about something extravagant.  She wants it, he doesn’t seem to want it and he seems to twist her words against her.

It comes out that he wants to get a car so that they can visit the in-laws once in a while.  She is nervous that cars are dangerous.  He admits they are but sometimes living in a house is dangerous.  But he says that having a wife and kids means he will be even more careful than everyone else out there who has nothing to be careful about.

She agrees to the car.  But in the middle of the night she has a premonition of something bad happening to the family in the car.  He says that they won’t get one.  Then later she gets over the premonition and agrees that they should go ahead and get one.

Chapter Four.

And then daddy drove home in a gas buggy–a new ford  Rufus is thrilled.  Laura can’t believe he drove it there all by himself.  And the neighbors all come out to gawk.

“Course they got an awful name for breaking down… But where Ford’s ahead, he supplies you the parts.”

They go for a before-dinner ride.  Jay drives very well and everyone is enjoying themselves.  Laura is nervous and says so, but he is careful and considerate of them.  He pulls over when another car comes by and he is very cautious around a horse and buggy–the horse is not spooked at all.  But their joy ridge is somewhat ruined by a speed demon who comes buzzing by them scaring them all half to death.

As the excerpt ends, Jay and Rufus take the car out for a spin and Jay really lets the speed fly.  They almost have an accident but Jay is able to handle it and he confides in the boy that they must never tell their mom that they went fast.  He agrees.

I don’t actually know much else about this story.  Between the title and what kind of tension a scene like this builds I expected something bad to happen.  It never did (hooray), but i assume it does),

The writing in this story was exceptional.

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SOUNDTRACK: STEVE GUNN-Plays Between the Ties of an Abandoned Railroad (Field Recordings, October 12, 2016).

I don’t know Steve Gunn and I am surprised to see that he has released fourteen albums and has worked with Kurt Vile.

For this Field Recording, Gunn headed out to the woods to play three beautiful songs.

 In Forest Park, Queens, N.Y., an old relic suits Gunn’s sound. The Long Island Railroad’s Rockaway Beach Branch used to run through the park. It’s been abandoned for over a half-century, and trees have grown between the ties, skewing the rails and jarring the lines. Late this past summer, Gunn stood on the tracks of this worn American symbol and sang three songs off his latest album — songs about meandering, home and the crooked paths that take us wherever we’re meant to be.

Once again I am really impressed by the quality of the sound.  His guitar is absolutely clear and his voice is perfectly mic’d, but you can also hear ambient sounds–birds and such–making this recording unique.

Gunn has a pretty picking style (using thumb and fingers independently to get strums and picked notes simultaneously).  This enables him to keep the song moving forward while he plays the pretty guitar melodies.

“Full Moon Tide” has a great melody and a delightful chorus.

He walks further into the woods to play “Night Wander.”  It has a kind of circular feel in which the chorus feels like a part of the verse.  I’d say that Gunn’s voice is nothing special, but I like the deeper resonances he gets on this song.

For the final song, “Ark” he walks further down the tracks to a bridge.  Whether it is having the surface above him or just the style of his playing, this song feels warmer, and quite different from the others.

It’s a great introduction to this excellent guitarist.

[READ: January 9, 2017] “The Apartment”

This story is a fascinating look at a woman convincing herself that something must be true.

The apartment across from hers has been vacant for sometime–since the woman living there died.  But recently there was movement inside.  The person’s last name was Jahani.

Louise knew a man named Jahani when she was studying at Stockholm University.  Arman Jahani was the second man she’d slept with (her husband Martin was the first).  Martin, did not know about Arman.

While she is having lunch (sushi) with her adult son Jonas, she intersperses his conversation with memories of Arman.  The two most resonating thoughts are that he died in the early nineties and was survived by a son and a daughter.  Or so she believed.

She tells Jonas that the vacant apartment has been filled.  Jonas hasn’t lived at home for quite some time.  He wasn’t there when the woman died.  “You can;t imagine the smell” she tells him.  It was actually her husband who discovered her and was shocked that no one has mentioned the smell. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MUMU FRESH Feat. Black Thought & DJ Dummy-Tiny Desk Concert #765 (July 11, 2018).

I recognized Mumu Fresh from when she appeared at a Tiny Desk with August Greene a few months ago.  Mumu Fresh was a true highlight of that show–her rap was political and personal and powerful.

Here she’s got her own concert (and DJ Dummy is back with her for this as well).

A regal combination of black power and Native American pride, Mumu Fresh — also known by her birth name Maimouna Youssef — is an abundantly gifted singer and emcee who prances between genres and styles. The Baltimore native fuses her rich multi-octave range and ferocious rap delivery with spiritually inclined lyrics so potent and mindful they precipitated a wellspring of emotion throughout the room.

Mumu began her own Tiny Desk in her native Lakota tongue with “Ink Pata,” signaling a call to prayer in a sacred ritual. Looped tribal chants of her own harmonies set the mood as delivered a stirring spoken word performance that journeyed through her ancestral lineage to the struggles of the present day.

Her looping is outstanding–she harmonized with herself perfectly.  After a minute and a half she speak/raps/reads a lengthy piece that is really powerful.

With a buoyant and thoughtful spirit, Mumu and her band transitioned into the classic-sounding “Miracles” from Vintage Babies, her collaborative album with group mate DJ Dummy. Declaring it a celebration of soul music, she mixed sweet tender melodies with lyrics to empower those devoid of hope.

She introduces “Miracles” by saying, we are always waiting for something to happen.  But what if your miracle is waiting for you to be prepared: “the teacher arrives when the student is ready.”  It was great having live strings on this track: Chelsey Green (violin), Monique Brooks-Roberts (violin), Kevin Jones (cello) and the backing singers (Amber Harmon) gave an excellent soul sound.

This song segued into the awesome “Work in Progress.”  Accented by the feel-good chords of The Roots keyboardist Ray Angry, and Chris Dave (drums) and Romier Mendez (bass), Mumu speaks t he truth.  With some of my favorite lyrics:

I wanna be a good role model to girls coming after
but sometimes I slip up and say some shit that’s wretched
Forgive me, I’m a work in progress

I don’t give a fuck about what you’re saying to me.
If I’m too big for my britches then give me a sheet.
I need room to grow I’m still figuring it out,
If you say you ain’t, you lying–what you talking about?

and my personal favorite

I’ve been through so much shit I’m surprised I’m still standing
so every time I see a mirror I pose dammit!

The set concludes with a new version of “Say My Name,” a song Mumu wrote about Sandra Bland, who died in police custody in 2015, and the impact it had on her. Starting off with a 1950s doo-wop circle, she blends traditional soul elements with politically relevant lyrics.

It opens with doo wop vocals and lovely pizzicato strings:

If I should die tomorrow at the hands of the policeman
and the papers say, hey, we’re going to call it as suicide
would you even question why?

We watched a woman get drug out and beaten
filmed on a highway
and all y’all could say was black women too mouthy
I’m vexed searching my timeline
See if people find time to criticize and villainize, call that shit a suicide.
What if Sandra Bland was your child

Audacity of hope
to believe you can succeed when everybody and their momma say no
Well fuck y’all. I’m different descendant of the fittest
I’ve been reincarnated just so i can handle business.

Black Thought comes out for a final verse, but it’s hard to hold a candle to what Mumu just laid down.  His flow is great though.  And she even tacks on an extra verse after the credits.

[READ: February 1, 2018] “The Requirement”

I rather enjoyed this simple story, told simply.  It begins with the narrator talking about how when you get older, you lose people.  You don’t care about people who have died until people your own age start leaving.

He says that when people who mattered to him died, he began to feel something was required of him. If he could do it, he did, but sometimes he didn’t know what the requirement was.

When his good friend Bog Ellis got sick he felt a requirement but had no idea what it could be or how to do it.

She tells us some great Big Ellis stories. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DUA LIPA-“Thinking ‘Bout You” (Field Recordings, August 31, 2016). 

The title “Field Recordings” seems to be a catchall for videos that they’re not really sure what to do with.  This video clip is from a show called Noteworthy (which ran all of ten episodes from July 2016-September 2016).

Dua does sing from the balcony [Watch Dua Lipa Perform ‘Thinking Bout You’ On A Balcony In New York City] and the sound is pretty great (I like t hat you can hear sirens at one point).   But the video is apparently clips from the documentary because there’s scenes of her walking around the city.

A day after performing “Hotter Than Hell” on The Tonight Show, rising pop star Dua Lipa performed another one of her songs, “Thinking Bout You,” for a much smaller audience: our Noteworthy video crew. Enjoy this extra from our Noteworthy documentary on Dua Lipa and be sure to watch the entire documentary here.

I can’t imagine why this particular singer whom I have never heard of in any other place has a documentary made about her.

Her voice is fine, a rough edged pop singer. And the song is pleasant enough.

[READ: January 31, 2018] “The Revisionist”

This is an excerpt from Mellis’ novel The Revisionist. And boy what a gloomy depressing book this sounds like.

The narrator’s last assignment was to conduct surveillance of the weather and report that everything was fine.  She was set up outside of the city in a lighthouse. She was tempted to take her own observations, so she did.

Now how about this for a paragraph

I saw a family driving to the country on vacation. Behind them, a bomb went off. Through my headphones, I noted the rushing sound of radiation cruising low across the land. The father, who was driving, saw the mushroom cloud in his rearview mirror. The others didn’t turn around, so they never noticed.

What? (more…)

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