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Archive for the ‘Cowboy Junkies’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: KATIE VON SCHLEICHER-“Mary” NPR’S SOUTH X LULLABY (March 29, 2018).

I had never heard of Katie Von Schleicher.  I don’t know what the rest of her music sounds like.  But this ballad sounded a lot like Cowboy Junkies.

This is a pretty, sad song.  her voice is lovely, but the thing that I enjoyed the most was watching her guitarist Adam Brisbin play high notes and then a cool tumbling style of playing low notes.

This was recorded at the Spire Studio Tour Bus (basically a camper trailer, parked on Cheer Up Charlie’s lot, with brilliant recording gear, amps guitars) It’s the quietest song from Katie Von Schleicher’s magnificent 2017 album, Shitty Hits.

Katie Von Schleicher wrote to me just after this filming to tell me more about “Mary.” “I’ve been teaching a songwriting class and it’s funny now to break these things down into craft and intention,” she says via email, “but I do feel that writing to a person’s name is a really tender practice, one that can unlock kindness and a conversational tone. If speaking to a part of yourself, personifying it, singing warmly, you can spare your faults and self-criticisms by speaking as if to another person [and] maybe even take your own advice. As much as they’re personal, I’m also trying to get close to some of my favorite things, which also include Randy Newman’s ‘Marie’ and Raymond Carver’s short stories (so full of conversation). For me, ‘Mary’ is a place and time rather than a person, childhood and youth and the strange space I’ve found in going back to the house where I grew up in Maryland to make records now.”

[READ: March 28, 2018] “The Intermediate Class”

I really enjoyed the way this story used the set up of the foreign language class as a way to explore feelings and sentiments that are too hard to express.

Kiril’s mother wondered why he would want to take a German class now, why spend his time with “lazy old American housewives.”  His mother didn’t approve of his taking German back in college either.  He majored in computer science and had no time to waste.  Plus, he was a native English speaker (unlike her who was til trying to learn it).

Kiril has shown up to the Intermediate German class a little late, but the class was welcoming.  There were four people in the room: a woman with an Afro, Wanda; a pale thin woman, Morgan; a Latino man, Alejandro; a sunburned, angry white man, Arthur.  There was piano playing from behind a wall in the class.   It stopped and a man and a young woman came out.  The woman was Claire, a student in the class.  The man was the teacher.

He said he would ring a bell and they would only speak in German afterward.  When the bell rang the atmosphere changed.  (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE WEATHER STATION-Tiny Desk Concert #689 (January 8, 2017).

The Weather Station played a show in Philly a while back.  I knew that Bob Boilen really liked the album, and I thought about checking them out live.  But things came up and I didn’t.  And now here they are at a Tiny Desk.

It was the first song here, that Bob especially liked:

It’s called “Thirty” and in less than four minutes and nearly 400 words, singer Tamara Lindeman paints images of joy intertwined with the awaking jolt of turning thirty.

The dollar was down
But my friends opened businesses
There were new children
And again, I didn’t get married
I wasn’t close to my family
And my dad was raising a child in Nairobi
She was three now, he told me

The song is a pretty, shuffling song (spare drums from Ian Kehoewith a speedy rhythm guitar (from Lindeman), a roaming bassline (Ben Whiteleyand some cool guitar licks (William Kidman) over the top (both of which are really lovely).

The musicians in The Weather Station underpin these words with delicate playing and by sitting quietly but poignantly under Tamara Lindeman’s beautiful voice. Her soft voice shifts pitch with a rapid flow in a Joni Mitchell-sort of way, never coming up in volume more than a quiet, table conversation level.

There’s a great (relatively) wailing solo that really pushes the song forward and which ends perfectly when Tamara starts singing again.

“You and I (On the Other Side of the World)” has a slow slinkiness that I rather like.  There’s also some nice, understated backing vocals (deep male voices under Tamara’s higher register).  I love the bass work at the end of the song, too.

Tamara’s voice sounds very much like someone else or maybe a number of people: I hear Laura Marling and yes, Joni Mitchell, but maybe Margo Timmins as well.  In other words, all good benchmarks.

In fact, the final song, “Free” has a real Cowboy Junkies feel with the big slow echoing rhythm guitar that opens it.

On “Free,” there’s some great lead guitar work once again as well as a wonderful bass line.

a song Lindeman describes as about being both free and not free at the same time, there’s restraint in the voice and a release in the powerful guitar chords. That tension and release is an essential element to The Weather Station’s sound and one of the joys I’ve found listening to their enchanting music.

Initially I wasn’t blown away by this concert, but I found myself hitting replay over and over, enjoying it more each time.

[READ: August 20, 2017] Fierce Kingdom

I read about this story on Skimm, a daily news digest that I have since read is geared to women (and according to some criticism, treats women like they are dumb.  I have recently stopped subscribing to it because I do find it rather dumb and subtly right-wing (how could a site for women not be pissed that Hillary lost? #RESIST).  But whatever, the book sounded interesting so I put it on hold.

The premise is fairly simple: a woman and her young child (4 perhaps), are in a zoo.  Right around closing time two gunmen enter the zoo and start killing people.  What will she do?

For some reason, the blurbs didn’t reveal that there were gunmen, just that “something” happened. Well, honestly what else could it have been but gunmen. So, perhaps I spoiled that part but it came out pretty early anyway.

The story begins with a time stamp 4:55 PM. The zoo closes at 5:30 and Joan and her boy Lincoln are sitting in their favorite spot waiting to leave the zoo.  As they head toward the exit around 5:30, she notices bodies on the ground.  She had heard explosions earlier but didn’t think much of it,  But when she sees the bodies, she quickly puts things together and takes off.

Now the blurb for the book on the inside cover says “an electrifying novel about the primal and unyielding bond between a mother and her son, and the lengths she’ll go to protect him.”  That’s not wrong exactly but I feel like that puts a weird focus on it being about mother hood instead of survival.  Must be some kind of marketing thing.  I didn’t get the sense in the book that it has anything to do with motherhood–I mean frankly any parent would do that for his or her child and I’m sure any person would do the same for anyone they loved.  The fact that the child is younger and doesn’t have the same cognitive skills make the story more compelling.

Because, frankly, as she hides in an abandoned animal enclosure, there’s no reason she would ever have to leave such an enclosure–she can’t be seen, she is well protected, and it is dark.  She even has her cell phone and she talks to her husband (I find it a bit hard to believe that the police wouldn’t listen to him if he has a text from his wife in the zoo, but that’s what happens).  The bad guys even come into where she is and don’t see her.

So, end of story right?  At least I couldn’t imagine why there would be more story when she is safe and the police are coming. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKJULIA JACKLIN-Tiny Desk Concert #622 (May 22, 2017).

I’d never heard of Julia Jacklin, an Australian singer-songwriter.  But I found her music to be almost painfully slow and laconic–very much like Cowboy Junkies.  It’s quite pretty, but I need a little more pep.

The blurb notes:

Julia Jacklin doesn’t need much accompaniment. Jacklin’s full-length debut, last year’s Don’t Let The Kids Win, knows just when and how to lean in to this simplicity, surrounding her with spare instrumentation that keeps that voice in the center of the frame.

For her Tiny Desk debut, Jacklin reproduces three of that album’s drowsily beautiful ballads with the aid of a backing band so restrained, you can read the effort to keep quiet on their faces.

That’s all very true.  Her music is slow and sometimes it’s so quiet that it’s all about her voice which is pretty (but drowsy).

“Don’t Let The Kids Win” is slow and quiet.  The guitar is so quiet you can hear her pick hitting the strings as she strums.  It’s unclear that Julia is Australian until she sings  “don’t want them growing up thinking three years olds are good at playing basketball” and her accent comes through on basketball).  The song eventually starts to grow a little louder with backing vocals by the end.  And I believe one climactic note from bassist Ben Whiteley (from Toronto)

“Lead Light” has considerably more pep.  The drums (from Ian Kehoe also from Toronto) are quiet but sound like gun shots in this quiet setting.  The song swings slowly with some pretty guitar lines from Eddie Boyd from Australia).

Never has a song sounded less like a pool party than “Pool Party.”  What’s interesting about singers who sing like this is that I love listening to lyrics, and yet when people sing so slowly like this I lose all forward momentum of the lyrics.  So even if they are good, I’m lost them after a verse.

[READ: April 4, 2017] “Northeast Regional”

I feel like the cover to Cline’s book The Girls was iconic in 2016.  I don’t know anything about the book, but that cover was everywhere.  So this is my first exposure to her writing.  And I rather liked it.

The story started a little clunky I thought–it took me a few paragraphs to get the flow.  But once it got going I couldn’t stop.

The story begins with Richard on a train.  He has been riding for close to five hours.  He is heading to his on Rowan’s school and we know that something bad has happened.  He keeps checking his phone.  He gets messages about his son, but nothing from Ana.

Richard has been divorced for 16 years.  His wife has primary and majority custody of their son Rowan who is now at a private school “out in the middle of nowhere.”

Richard has been seeing Ana (part a succession of married women) for some time (the divorce was over a decade ago).  He and Ana had a weekend planned together (it was the first time they would spend the night together), but nothing seemed to be going right.  Everything seemed significant to her, from groceries to clothes to movie choices.  Richard was in a mood; he hated the movie she chose (black and white?  He was only fifty.  Or fifty-one).

And then he got the phone call. (more…)

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2016-12-05-21-06-09SOUNDTRACK: COWBOY JUNKIES-Tiny Desk Concert #211 (April 26, 2012).

I’d published these posts without Soundtracks while I was reading the calendars.  But I decided to add Tiny Desk Concerts to them when I realized that I’d love to post about all of the remaining 100 or shows and this was a good way to knock out 25 of them.

cowboyAfter all of these years there’s not much to say about Cowboy Junkies that hasn’t been said.  They sound a certain way and only ever sound that way.  Their songs are slow, “mournful and thoughtful,” relatively long (because they are so slow) and Margo Timmins has a beautiful voice which hasn’t changed in 25 yeas.

There are no surprises in this set.  (Well, except for the fact that in the two years from 2010 to 2012, the band released four albums).

This concert features Michael and Peter Timmins on guitar and mandolin accompanying their sister Margo.

They play three songs, two new ones “Angels In The Wilderness” and “Fairytale” and an oldie “Misguided Angel.”  “Angel” is the only song I knew already and it seems so much louder tan the other two because there’s a surprisingly loud harmonica to open the track.

I think that Timmins’ voice is lovely and I like a few of their songs, but I simply can’t listen to more than a song at a time—it’s just too depressing.

[READ: December 7, 2016] “Deep Wells, USA”

Near the end of November, I found out about The Short Story Advent Calendar.  Which is what exactly?  Well…

The Short Story Advent Calendar returns, not a moment too soon, to spice up your holidays with another collection of 24 stories that readers open one by one on the mornings leading up to Christmas.  This year’s stories once again come from some of your favourite writers across the continent—plus a couple of new crushes you haven’t met yet. Most of the stories have never appeared in a book before. Some have never been published, period.

I already had plans for what to post about in December, but since this arrived (a few days late for advent, but that was my fault for ordering so late) I’ve decided to post about every story on each day.

I have had a mixed reader relationship with Chris Bachelder.  I either find his stuff pretty funny or just weird and kind of pointless.

This is a weird one.

The premise of this story is about babies in well and the kind of media sensation they can create.

It is set up in XXI sections (and an epilogue) in which we get to hear input from dozens of people involved directly or not with this issue. But the crux here is that no one is even sure if there is a baby in a well–they just all sort of hope there is.

It is set up like a play, sort of, with “characters” speaking dialogue.  It begins with a Celebrity saying there is an unconfirmed report of a baby in a well.  Consumer: “Hot damn. I love well babies.”  And off we go.

Professors, students, experts, pollsters, historians, and even Flannery O’Connor all weigh in.

Eyewitnesses are deemed unreliable: “That’s not a baby in a well.  That’s a wino in a sandbox.

And then of course there is the Mayor, who tries to calm everyone during this excitement.

But the main voices seem to come Celebrity–asking if this story harms the sheriff or proposing that certain people who have come forth are the baby’s parents.  Celebrity lists all of the previous well-babies and what has happened to them since (it’s not promising).

Even the news of a murder (of adults only) is dismissed for this potential well-baby story.

So do we ever find out if there was a baby in the well?  Sort of.

As this story ends we see the sheriff and his wife heading home, remembering back to Baby Finkerton.

I didn’t realize that I had read this before (in McSweeney’s 14, back in 2013).  I didn’t remember it, obviously.  But this story is not really something that would stick with me.

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