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Archive for the ‘Josh Ritter’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: JOSH RITTER with AMANDA SHIRES and JASON ISBELL-Tiny Desk Concert #895 (September 27, 2019).

I enjoyed Josh Ritter’s previous Tiny Desk Concert.  I liked his voice and found his lyrics to be quite thoughtful.

For this Tiny Desk he is accompanied by “musical soulmates,” Amanda Shires on fiddle and Jason Isbell on acoustic guitar who both play on Josh’s 2019 album Fever Breaks.

The three songs he plays in this concert are even more thoughtful, they are also pointed, powerful and painful.  The songs are not enjoyable, exactly.  They are accomplishing something other than joy.

As the blurb says

Honestly, it was a draining concert with challenges to who we are and who, as a country and a people, we wish to be.

The music is quiet and subdued and are there to lift up the lyrics, which are clearly the most important part of these songs.

“All Some Kind of Dream” is

filled with frustrations regarding the treatment of refugees, immigration, politics and our hearts…. He sings, “There was a time when we were them / Just as now they all are we / Was there an hour when we took them in? / Or was it all some kind of dream?”

Every word his sings is one that should change the way Americans view what is going on, and yet some will never be convinced by lyrics like

I saw the children in the holding pens
I saw the families ripped apart
And though I try I cannot begin
To know what it did inside their hearts
There was a time when we held them close
And weren’t so cruel, low, and mean
And we did good unto the least of those
Or was it all some kind of dream?

Ritter took a moment to encourage everyone to fight back

When the song ended, Josh stared into the NPR crowd. “I feel like the big thing that we all have to fight against is this notion that we’re not all human beings,” he said. “And they’re trying to break us in every number of ways, all different little groups, and that we have no power, but we have power!”

The next song “The Torch Committee,” is slightly more cryptic in construction but hardly cryptic in intent

Wait, suppose that we untie
Your hands to sign upon this line
To pledge that you have always been
A patriot and citizen
Please ignore the legalese
Lawyers are my right now see
Why we’re so happy that you came
Appendix three and list of names

It features a nice solo from Isbell and a raw violin solo from Shires.

They ended the set with a new song,”The Gospel of Mary.”

This is a long song ().  Like the other two it is something of a story song which “imagines Joseph, Mary and their child as refugees.”  The verses are interspersed with solos from Isbell and Shires.

As the applause faded Josh hugged his bandmates, thanked the crowd, smiled and said, “America, we love you, but you’ve gotta change!”

Ritter is an amazing songwriter and I hope that these songs hit the ears of those who need to hear them.

[READ: August 9, 2019] Labor Days Volume 2

Book 2 picks up a little over a month after Book 1.

Bags and Vanessa are still on a quest for the Face of History (which suspiciously keeps leading them to bars).  But they know that the Face of History is a leader of a vast conspiracy.  And of course Rick Stryker is hanging about being rather useless and hilarious as always.

Vanessa is annoyed with Bags for dawdling and wasting their time.  Bags is annoyed at Vanessa because she keeps hurting people in extraordinarily violent ways.  She seems to have no compunction about doing the violence she does.

A chance discovery sets them aboard a ship.  The captain makes Bags do grunt work and makes Vanessa something of a captain’s aide (much to Bags’ dismay). (more…)

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boilenSOUNDTRACK: ANGEL OLSEN-Tiny Desk Concert #333 (January 27, 2014).

angelBob Boilen has liked Angel Olsen for some time, so when she did her Tiny Desk and most of us had never heard of her, he was already a fan.

Olsen plays a long set but with four songs.

She sits very still, strumming with her thumb and singing kind of low–not unlike Sharon van Etten.  The first song, “Unfucktheworld” is only two ans a half minutes.  The second song, “Iota,” is a little longer.  She sings in an affected almost falsetto style, although the guitar remains very spare.

Between these songs, she is coy about the title of the new record although she is quick to say the first word of the title “burn.”  Later she admits that the final song contains the title of the album, if we wanted to spend time figuring it out.

I marvelled at how high the chords were that she played on “Enemy,”  She seems to eschew any bass for this song.  This one is five and a half minutes long and is just as slow as the others.

Before the final song they talk about whether this is the most awkward show she has done.  She says everyone is very alert–and indeed you can hear utter silence between songs.  But then they talk about the storm outside (and potential tornado) and how this show may never air if the storm is really bad.

“White Fire” is an 8 minute story song.  She does use the whole guitar for this one, which has many many verses.   Since I don’t really know Olsen’s stuff that well, I don’t know if this was a good example of her show or a fun treat to hear her in such an intimate way.

[READ: May 10, 2016] Your Song Changed My Life

This site is all about music and books, but you may be surprised to know that I don’t really like books about music all that much.  I have read a number of them—biographies, autobiography or whatever, and I don’t love them wholesale. Some are fine, but in general musicians aren’t really as interesting as they may seem.

What I do like however, is hearing a decent interview with musicians to find out some details about them–something that will flesh out my interest in them or perhaps make me interested in someone I previously wasn’t.  Not a whole book, maybe just an article, I guess.

I also really like Bob Boilen. I think he’s a great advocate of music and new bands.  I have been listening to his shows on NPR for years and obvious I have been talking about hundreds of the Tiny Desk Concerts that he originated.  I also really like his taste in music.  So I was pretty psyched when Sarah got me this book for my birthday.

I read it really quickly–just devoured the whole thing.  And it was really enjoyable. (more…)

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holmes4SOUNDTRACK: BOB AND ROBIN’S EXCELLENT HOLIDAY ADVENTURE, NPR, December 19, 2013 (2013).

bobrobinEvery year NPR airs a holiday music special (I’ve been posting from them for the last few days).  Initially, they were like any of the episodes, with descriptions of the songs.  Then they became a music only playlist (which was kind of nice).  Then they added some guests.  Last year they did a very enjoyable story of Bob and Robin together having a party that no one came to.  This year, today, they have released the 2013 edition.

In this story, Bob and Robin are driving to Kansas in a huge snowstorm.  They listen to some carols on the radio.  And then when the snow gets too bad they pull over into a small hotel.  Then Bob falls asleep and is visited in his dream by Annie Clark (St. Vincent), John Vanderslice, Wayne Coyne (Flaming Lips), Josh Ritter and Jess Wolf (Lucius) who tell some great memories of Christmas.

The songs they play are wonderfully diverse as usual (although there’s no Hanukkah songs this year, as Hanukkah was last month).  They range from standard favorites (Burl Ives’ “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer,” “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch”) to very traditional songs (“Coventry Carol” an instrumental “sleigh Ride”) to funny songs (“Christmastime for the Jews”) to a brand new one: The Flaming Lips playing “Silent Night/Lord Can You Hear Me” (which completely makes up for their dreadful “White Christmas” from several years ago).

This is a wonderfully enjoyable story/holiday special.  Listen and enjoy.

[READ: December 7, 2013] Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Dancing Men

Since I’m going to write about a few of these, I’ll keep up this little intro bit so I don’t have to re-write the general ideas/criticisms.

These are indeed the actual Arthur Conan Doyle stories just severely edited and truncated.  In other words, a lot of the story is cut out and yet the original language is still in place (at least I hope it is, I hope contemporary writers didn’t write the dialogue), so for young kids I think the wording is a little confusing.  The drawings are a little too simple for my liking as well.  They do effectively convey the story, but I didn’t like the very basicness of them.  I feel they make the stories seems a little more childlike than they actually are.

Having said all that however, I found the graphic novels to be a compelling introduction to Sherlock Holmes’ shorter stories (although not for my 8-year-old apparently).

This story features the fascinating name of Hilton Cubitt.  He comes to Holmes with a confounding problem. He has discovered a slip of paper with stick figured men drawn on it.  When he showed it to his wife, she absolutely freaked out.  But she won’t tell him why.  So he brings the paper to Holmes to figure out what the heck is going on.

Since I haven’t read the original of this story,  I feel like the graphic novel is a better medium for this story because of the titular dancing men.  Perhaps the original has drawings in it, but if not, the graphic novel’s version which contains the stick figures corresponding to letters is a very successful way of quickly showing the trick.  (Even if, again, I don’t love the illustrations).

Holmes can’t do much with one slip of paper–he can’t even decode the pattern because there’s so little to go on.  But then more dancing men appear, and Cubitt brings more evidence to Holmes.  Holmes is able to crack the code (I couldn’t, but I wonder if there was more information given in the real story?).  Anyhow, Holmes has cracked the code, but that still doesn’t really solve the problem, which is the message within the code.

This may have been another case where more information would have made the story a bit more compelling.  It seems a little too easy that the “bad guy” is spotted, giving Holmes a pretty easy capture. Nevertheless, I do love a good puzzle and I’m curious to read how well the dancing men are described in the original.

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