Archive for the ‘Abigail Washburn’ Category

SOUNDTRACK BELA FLECK & ABIGAIL WASHBURN-Tiny Desk Concert #741 (May 11, 2018).

I know and like Bela Fleck.  I know and like Abigail Washburn.  I had no idea they were married.

A very pregnant Abigail Washburn points to Bela Fleck at the Tiny Desk and says “and just so you know, this is his fault.” I won’t spoil the video by telling you his response.

Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn are two American musical treasures. This husband-and-wife banjo duo write original tunes steeped in the roots of folk music. Their playing is sweetly paced with melodies interweaving through their intricate, percussive picking all while Abigail soars above it all with her discerning, yearning voice.

I also had no idea how political they are.

Their first tune, “Over the Divide,” was written at the height of the Syrian Refugee Crisis. They’d read a story about a Jewish, yodeling, Austrian sheep herder who helped Syrians out of Hungary, through the backroads that likely only sheep herders know.

Lyrical content aside, the music is just stunning.  The banjo is oft-mocked for its twang, but these two play such beautiful intertwining lines, it is just magical.   The opening melody is just jaw-droppingly lovely.

They each switch banjos to rather different-looking ones–deeper more resonating sounds

The second tune, “Bloomin’ Rose,” is a response to Standing Rock and the Dakota pipeline that is seen as a threat to water and ancient burial grounds. The intensity and thoughtfulness in Bela Fleck’s and Abigail Washburn’s music is why it will shine for a good long while, the way great folk tunes stay relevant over the ages.

But Abigail isn’t just banjo and vocals,

For the third tune, Abigail waddled over to a clogging board. And before she began her rhythmic patter, told us all that “my doctor said that what I’m about to do is ok! I have compression belts and tights on that you can’t see.” [Bela: so do I].  They then launched into “Take Me To Harlan,” another one of their songs from their 2017 album Echo In The Valley.

She says that they met at a square dance in Nashville, and she loves dancing and movement.  Bela plays and Abigail sings and taps for this jazzy number.  The middle of the song features a call and response with Bela on banjo and Abigail tapping [“Eight month?  No problem.”].

For the final song, “My Home’s Across the Blue Ridge Mountains,” Abigail says it’s usually done in a perky bluegrass country style but they listened to the lyrics and decided it was not perky at all.  So they turned it into a different thing.  It’s a somber song with Bela on a relatively slow banjo (with a slide that he sneaks on near the end) and Abigail singing mournfully (she can really belt out a tune).

Although as Steve Martin pointed out, with a banjo almost everything is upbeat.

The parties at their house must be a hoot.

[READ: January 21, 2018] “Active Metaphors” and “Death By Icicle”

“Active Metaphors” is one of Saunders’ funniest pieces that I’ve read.  And whats strange about that is that it was an essay published in the Guardian newspaper.

There are two headings: “Realistic Fiction” and “Experimental Fiction”

“Realistic Fiction” begins with the narrator in a biker bar.  He overheard two bikers, Duke and StudAss discussing these two types of fiction. –they’d purchased their “hogs” with royalties from their co-written book Feminine Desire in Jane Austen.  There was some verbal sparring during which they threw Saunders out a window “while asking questions about F. Scott Fitzgerald’s fallen American utopia.”

The narrator explained his theory of realism to them–everything happens the way it actually would and then suggests that maybe a central metaphor would help define things.  There’s an impotent farmer and every time he walks past the field, the corn droops.  An active metaphor like this helps the reader sense the deeper meaning of the story.

As they ride off with him on their hog, the bikers use some great professorial language–the end is hilarious. (more…)

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19893 SOUNDTRACK: TEDDY ABRAMS-Tiny Desk Concert #491 (November 30, 2015).

teddyTeddy Abrams is a young piano player (he was 28 in 2015) and he was recently made conductor of the Louisville Orchestra.  Here’s some fun details from the Tiny Desk blurb:

For his first week on the job in Louisville, Abrams played jazz piano in the streets and took his orchestra players into nightclubs and African-American churches. PBS made a web series on his first season.  Earlier this year, he put two first symphonies on the same program — Brahms’ First and a debut symphony by Sebastian Chang, a composer still in his 20s — just to gauge audience reaction. Abrams filled the hall by giving out free tickets to first-time symphonygoers. He was happy to hear that many of them liked the new piece best, saying they appreciated hearing the composer introduce it onstage.

Abrams plays three pieces.  Two originals and one from Beethoven.  The first, “Big Band,” [from the blurb: swirls with jazz history. Hints of Thelonious Monk fly by, along with tips of the hat to the stride style from the early 20th century] is a fun and fast piece with Abrams playing fun and bouncy rhythms and very fast solo runs.  It’s infectious.

Abrams decided to begin the opening movement of Beethoven: Sonata No. 30 in E, Op. 109, I. Vivace, ma non troppo with a short improvisation, noting that the great composer was known for riffing at the piano for hours on end and was often getting into improvisation battles.  At he end, he says that we shouldn’t have been able to tell where the improv ended and the song properly began (although fans of the song could probably tell).  By the end of his life Beethoven was experimenting and some of his later stuff is pretty out there and modern.  That may be true if you know classical music, but it just sounded pretty to me.

He ends the set with a bluesy number, “The Long Goodbye,” [from the blurb: describing it as a slow ballad halfway between “My Funny Valentine” and “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”].  It is indeed a wonderful conglomeration of jazzy melodies.  A lovely and fun piece that is familiar but new at the same time.

[READ: July 26, 2016] The Complete Peanuts 1983-1984

As 1983 opens, Schroeder finally goes on the attack against Lucy “I have resolved not to be so serious..I’m going to try to laugh more” and then he pulls the piano out from under her and laughs like crazy.

For the past few books there have been a lot of jokes with Schroeder’s musical staves like Snoopy crawling through them.  Most have invoked Woodstock interacting with them.  As Schulz tends to do he will go on tears were he makes similar jokes every day for a week and then drops the joke for a while.  There’s also been some strips with Woodstock singing .  In one of my favorite, he is singing and the rain comes and actually washes the notes away from the stave. Even funnier is in Nov 1984 whee the rain comes and makes the notes droop really low.

For Valentine’s Day this year, Linus did not send Sally a card and she is very upset. Charlie says he should punch Linus in the nose.  But he says instead that Linus should just walk into his fist.  Charlie holds out his fist but Lucy walks into it instead.  That’s pretty funny.

More abuse for Lucy comes from Linus.  he gets a small bit of revenge by using Snoopy as a strange catapult and launching a snowball at her.

In the summer of 1983 while Snoopy is on a hike with the troops, the birds Bill and Harriet run off and get married and they stay in Point Lobos. (more…)

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1969  SOUNDTRACK: ABIGAIL WASHBURN-Tiny Desk Concert #101 (January 3, 2011).

abigailAbigail Washburn had plans to study law at Beijing University in China.   Before she left, she bought a banjo—she wanted to take something to China that was American.  Then Washburn went on a road trip to study the banjo and to learn some tunes. She found her way to the Augusta Heritage Center in West Virginia, then to North Carolina and then Kentucky to the International Bluegrass Association. It was there that she sat down with a few women to play music, and right then and there was offered a record deal. She blew off China ans has made a career as a banjo player–typical story.

In the ten years since then, she has been to China (with her banjo) where she learned Chinese folk music.  She now mixes American bluegrass and folk with Chinese folk music.  For this Tiny Desk, she plays three songs with her band Rob Hecht on fiddle, Jared Engel on bass, Jamie Dick on drums and Kai Welch on keyboards and trumpet.  She uses two different banjos, a normal sized one and, om the final track, a great big-bottomed one.

The first song “City of Refuge” she says is done in hop high tuning (in case you were interested).  It’s fun seeing how fast her right hand is moving while her left hand is fairly still and her vocals are fairly slow.

“Taiyang Chulai” is a traditional Chinese song meaning “The Sun Has Come Out and We Are So Happy.”  She sings in Chinese (and plays no banjo).  Her Chinese sounds amazing (and it’s really funny to see her speaking/singing it).  She says that taught American folk music in China and learned that she needed to do arm gestures since all Chinese folk songs have accompanying arm movements.  She also wore armbands which her grandma made for her.

“Bring Me My Queen” is the final song.  I found it interesting that her songs are rather slower than the Chinese song, at least in tempo.  This song is even slow for a banjo song.  But it’s quite beautiful.  In addition to being a great banjo player, Washburn has a lovely voice, too.

[READ: December 8, 2015] The Complete Peanuts 1969-1970

I was excited to get to this book to see which strip was published on my birthday (it’s sort of like seeing the headlines from the New York Times on your birthday).

Well, sadly, my strip was kind of boring–part of an annual be kind to animals or national dog week or something like that.  Nothing life-changing or earth-shattering.   Good grief.

I also decided that I’m taking a break from Peanuts for a time.  I have really enjoyed what I’ve read, but I need a breather.  I have read twenty some years of the strips over the last few months and, even if Schulz never rested, he didn’t condense twenty years into a few months either.  So sometime later in 2016 I’ll resume the books.

This book is notable for revealing Woodstock’s name!  I feel like that was the last big revelation that we’ll see for a while.  I am curious to see if the 70s added any new characters. (Well, there is Marcie.  I wonder when she comes along).

1969 starts out with Lucy saying that this is her year, “it’s all mine.”  Although a few days later she asks for a refund.  Lucy finally gets fed up with Schroeder and not only kicks his piano but throws it into the kite eating tree.  In March of 1970, Lucy says “I’m a new feminist.”

There’s a lot of Lucy/Snoopy rivalries.  In May 1969 we see the first an only reference so far to tether ball–Lucy is great at it (until Snoopy beats her).  There has been a somewhat recurring joke about Lucy beeping Snoopy on the nose (which he hates).  She does it in April and says it has been 384 days since she did it last (I wonder if anyone confirmed that).  In June, Charlie and his family go on vacation and Lucy is in charge of Snoopy (and she is particularly harsh).

Los of things happen to Snoopy this year.  As is per usual, Snoopy is skating in the winter time.  He is planning to win trophies (skating with Peppermint Patty–although she has to break the news that she is not interested).  He is also in preparation (in March 1969) to be the first beagle on the moon (wearing an astronaut helmet).  Surprisingly, there is no acknowledgement when the first man does land on the moon.

In April 1969, Snoopy goes on a two-week journey looking for his mom (but doesn’t find her).  In July of 1969 Snoopy takes up roller derby (for a very brief time).  In September of 1969 Snoopy finishes his first novel and submits it for publication. But he is rejected!  In Sept 1969 there are a lot of football jokes involving Snoopy and the little bird (the bird being too small to move a football of course).  March 1970 shows the return of the Easter beagle.

1969 sees a lot of talk of “Head Beagle.”  First Frieda reports Snoopy to the Head Beagle for not chasing rabbits.  Later Snoopy is appointed Head Beagle but can’t handle the workload.

In the summer of 1970, Snoopy goes to give a speech at the Daisy Hill puppy farm and a riot breaks out with tear gas!  And in September 1970 Snoopy wears a cooper bracelet to cure his arthritis.

In July 1970 Snoopy reveals a good truism “If you think about something at three o clock in the morning and then again at noon the next day you get different answers.”  Also in July is the first mention of “The Six Bunny-wunnies” fictional series of books.

For a few weeks in August of 1970 Snoopy pretends to be a grocery clerk (butter 28¢, bread 39¢, eggs 59¢, tea 79¢).

Lots of things seem to happen on the baseball field this year.

And in April 1969 Charlie Brown’s team wins two games in a row–neither team could make it so they both forfeit (Franklin is on one of those teams).  Later in June of 1969 Snoopy wins the Rookie of the year award for the baseball team.

In March of 1969 Linus make a sports drink which “replaces the body stores and prevents and diminution of vitally needed electrolytes and nutrients.”  (Gatorade was invented in 1965 and became popular with athletes in 1967).

Some great moments in this book:

In May of 1969 (on the baseball mound, of course) the team is talking about the costs of college “it can cost almost sixteen thousand dollars to go to college.”  The joke comes that Charlie is hoping for a baseball scholarship and every one busts out laughing.

In May of 1969 the school nurse is going to weigh them and Linus says he’s going to as about his hurting shoulder, “never pass up a chance to get a little free medical advice.”

In August, Linus’ gramma says she’ll donate $10 to his favorite charity, “ten dollars is a lot of money.”  (He ultimately decides not to accept).

In July of 1969 the little red-haired girl moves from Charlie’s street!  And Charlie never says anything to her.  Later in December 1969 Linus Charlie and Snoopy go skiing (on a school ski trip).   Charlie sees the little red-haired girl and falls off the ski lift.

Charlie makes a funny joke when he offers to shovel Lucy’s snow.  He asks for a quarter and she says “What if it snows tomorrow and covers up our walk again.  Do we get our quarter back?”  He replies, “No by then I will have spent it on riotous living.”

Peppermint Patty gets a lot of strips in these two years.  In Nov 1969 she talks about school: “I signed up for Folk Guitar, computer programming, stained glass art, shoemaking and a natural foods workshop.  I got spelling, history, arithmetic and two study periods.  I learned that what you sign up for and what you get are two different things.”  (I would TOTALLY sign up for those classes too).

She returns a lot in 1970–she’s a great character allowing Schulz to explore all different kinds of kids and ideas.  In the beginning of 1970 she is called to the principals’ office because she’s not allowed to wear sandals to school any more.  She cries and calls Charlie Brown for advice.  It takes Snoopy to kiss away her tear to snap her out of it.  The strip series ends with Franklin saying, “All I know is any rule that makes a little girl cry has to be a bad rule.”

Patty also says that she got an F on a test because she has a big nose–if a teacher doesn’t like your looks there’s nothing you can do.  Franklin looks at the paper and says “you turned in a blank test paper.”  She sighs, “there’s nothing you can do.”

In December 1970 Peppermint Patty invites Snoopy to a “turn about dance” (where the girls ask the boys).  They have a good time until a boy asks who her weird-looking friend is.  She punches him out and feels guilty about it until Snoopy says he had a great time and he’s the one who bit the chaperone.  Their friendship is great.

In Sept 1970 Patty has a crisis–thinking she’s not beautiful  (then Snoopy gives her a kiss).  The following week her dad gives her a dozen roses and says that the boys will be calling on her when she grows up and he wants to be the fist one in her life to give her a dozen roses.  It brought tears to my eyes.

In June of 1970, Peppermint Patty asks to borrow Charlie Brown’s glove for a kid on her team named “Thibault.”  Which leads to Charlie asking “Thibault?” at least twice.  Then Thibault (who has sideburns), refuses to give the glove back.  But Charlie Brown is happy by this because Thibault accuses him of “thinking you’re better than us.” And Charlie gleefully says “Me?  Better than someone else?”

1969 ends for Charlie when he buys a ticket to a sports awards dinner.  He gets a seat right next to Joe Shlabotnik…who never shows up.

This strip really sums up why Charlie Brown is so likable.  On October 26 in which Linus describes an amazing football game in which a team makes an amazing come from behind victory with seconds left in the game .  He describes the great plays and then Charlie’s response is “How did the other team feel?”

Sally is starting to become a more fully developed character–opinionated but often horribly wrong.  In May of 1970 she buys a fish tank saying “This is the age of aquariums.”  And she has no tolerance for school.  In Sept 1970 she asks why they have to learn all of these things in school.  Why does she have to learn the names of rivers?  “I’ve never even seen a river!  They could at least take me to see a river.”  Later she writes a theme for school, “If I had a pony:”  “If I had a pony I’d saddle up and ride so far from this school it would make your head swim.”  Then she crumples it up and says “That’ a good way to get a D-minus.”  In Nov she shows the class a document that is written by “an actual caveman.”  The punch line: “Show and Lie is my best subject.”

The best Great pumpkin joke comes in Oct 1970 when Lucy says “Santa Claus has elves to help him…what does the great pumpkin have, oranges?”

There are a couple of topical jokes.  In July 1970, when it rains during a game Lucy starts singing “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” (which was a hit in early 1970).  And in December 1970, the kids use a Ouija board which had been released as a game earlier that year.

And then on June 22, 1970 the little bird reveals his name to be Woodstock!  (strangely it was a year after the concert).  With a name he acts no differently.  In Nov 1970 Woodstock tries to fly south but gets lost.  So Snoopy walks with him.  After a week they get grabbed by a girl who say “Ma, I found a stray dog!”  Then Snoopy is tied up for a few days while Woodstock tries to rescue him.

The year ends with Sally doubting whether you really have to be good for Santa to bring you presents “the old rascal is bluffing…I know that [he] will bring me presents whether I am good or not.”  Then on Christmas Day, ”I was right!”

This was a great book, with some excellent strips and character developments.

Mo Willems, beloved children’s author, wrote the foreword.  Mo says he started his career by selling black market drawings of Snoopy and Charlie Brown in second grade.  He learned that even bullies liked Charlie Brown.  He says he could utterly relate to Charlie’s world, “For me, an immigrants kid, recently plopped into the middle of a small school in the insular world of uptown New Orleans, Charlie Brown was the only one who understood how confused and unhappy I felt.”

He says he aspired to Linus-ness: to be wise and kind and highly skilled at making gigantic structures of playing cards.  But he knew he was always a Charlie brown.  “Sometimes when I am in a deep funk and feel like my life if is an uphill battle…I try to stop and imagine someone reading the comic strip of my frustrated life and laughing.”

All of his characters are an homage to Schulz in some way.  And the greatest lesson her learned from Schulz, is “never let the characters know they are funny.”

He concludes by saying that Peanuts isn’t Art… it’s better.  He toured the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center and held an original comic but he found it anti-climatic.  They were too precious to be enjoyed…they became Art.  The magic that you get from having them in a book or newspaper was missing.

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