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Archive for the ‘Tiny Desk Concert’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: DANIEL CAESAR-Tiny Desk Concert #750 (June 4, 2018).

Boy I did not like this Tiny Desk Concert at all.  I don;t like Caesar’s voice, I don’t like his lyrics and I don’t care for the backing singers.

This would be why his three most-streamed songs have a combined 249,000,000 plays on Spotify alone.  I just do not like this kind of music.

And of course it went on for nearly 17 minutes. So I’ll let the blurb say nice things

Daniel Caesar [real name Ashton Simmonds] and his band had a clear vision for their Tiny Desk performance. While already confined to a small space, they opted to congregate at the piano, where producer and music director Matthew Burnett sat to create what feels like a fly-on-the-wall moment. We’re presented a purity that’s nearly impossible to capture on an album.

The years of training in church, fused with natural talent, is on full display. Supporting vocalists Camille Harrison, Danah Martin and Nevon Sinclair are in tow for the whole ride, providing some of the richest harmonies we’ve heard at the Tiny Desk. I found myself fixated on the playful manner in which the band members interacted with each other.

I will agree with the intimate nature of the show.  He’s leaning on the piano, largely unaware of the surroundings.  And the piano sounds good. I also won’t leave out Adrian Bent on drums.

They play three songs.

“Japanese Denim”  I hate the opening lyrics: “I don’t stand in line / I don’t pay for clothes; fuck that yeas.  But I would for you.”  Good grief.

“Get You” I like the acoustic bass by Saya Gray on this track.

“Best Part (feat. H.E.R.)” H.E.R. (Gabriella Wilson) has a nice voice and they sing well together: “You’re my water when I’m, stuck in the desert / You’re the Tylenol I take when my head hurts.”

[READ: January 12, 2017] “Seven People Dancing”

Langston Hughes died in 1967.  This story was written in 1961.  It’s fascinating how a word can change in 50 years.

The story begins by telling us that “It was Marcel’s apartment and he was a fairy.”  Given my daughter’s age and the prevalence of magic-related stories out there, and the fact that no one uses that word anymore, I certainly never thought he meant that Marcel was gay.

Also telling about the fairy: “Nobody esle was unusual in that regard.”  Also, that he had inserted a “de la” in his named Marcel de la Smith as an indication of French Creole origin.  Although he had never be to new Orleans.

So it was Marcel’s apartment and seven people were dancing–three couples and Marcel.  Six of these people were colored and one was white.  “Marcel was colored, a muddy brown and not good-looking…. His dancing was too fanciful to be masculine and too grotesque to be feminine.  But everything he did was like that, so it was very easy to tell that he was a fairy.”

Marcel gave parties to mixed couples which many places would not do.  And why?  He was an old fairy who had lost interest in uniforms.  In fact, his interest now was money. That was why he gave parties primarily for people who did not touch his heart.

A few paragraphs in and a narrator enters the story who comments “the reason I say ‘perhaps’ about the white girls is that I do not know the ultimate why of anything.”  Her name was Joan and Claude had brought her.  He had introduced her to Harlem in the first place.

Hughes has a fascinating way with words.

The other couples laughed and the laughter bounced, like very hard rubber balls, around the room, not like tennis balls but like solid hard rubber balls, and Marcel laughed, too. Marcel’s laughter was like a painter’s ground cloth that protects the furniture and anything else under a ceiling being painted.

One of the men was a very dark, very handsome hard-rubber-ball man of indefinite age, maybe young, maybe fifty, but too dark to tell. (I know that he was thirty-eight). The woman with whom he was dancing was the color of green tea in an off-white cup.

But he also repeats information a lot:

Seven people were dancing, three couples and Marcel. Midnight.

It was Marcel’s apartment, and seven people were dancing. Six were colored and one was white. Marcel himself was colored, a muddy brown and not good-looking. It was he who danced alone.

Marcel’s laughter somehow cleared the air of evil and left only the music and the seven people dancing, including himself.

Otherwise, why did the laughter ring out again, louder than the music, and bounce, like a dozen hard rubber balls, around the room after 2 a.m.,

And why did Marcel’s laughter stop being a ground cloth and start bouncing like a rubber ball, too, and a very hard one at that?

The “Oh, but” identified her as having been around at least a little in Harlem, and therefore the laughter bounced like rubber balls.

This story nears its end with the dark man saying how much he wanted to dance with the white woman.  And then there’s this paragraph which I don’t understand at all.

It was a Dizzy Gillespie record, and what it said without words summed up the situation pretty well. It was not that room but the world in that room that was in the record. The music was uranium, and those seven people, had they been super-duper spies, could not have known more about atomic energy—that is, its reason for being a mighty way of dying, “Oh, but I do” being a component.

Being fifty years old and startlingly out of date, this story was hard for me to parse.  Surely the mixture of dark and white people and a gay man must speak to something–I love how progressive it is.  But why the repeated rubber balls and why keep telling us it was seven people?  This was a short piece and there was so much was repeated.

The ending was comical but serious and again, it seemed really spare.

I’m not really familiar with Hughes, so I can’t even say anything by comparison to his other work.

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SOUNDTRACK: TOM MISCH-Tiny Desk Concert #749 (June 1, 2018).

Tom Misch sings music that I would classify as boring.  It’s kind of lite-jazz.

Misch has said before that he isn’t a jazz purist intrinsically, but the way he opens up a guitar solo or jams with saxophonist Braxton Cook, jazz music certainly runs through him.

His voice is interesting but “that soothing timbre of his voice” is more soporific than anything else.

The blurb certainly raves about him:

I first caught wind of this UK wunderkind in 2014. Crafting his own instrumental projects and remixing tracks by artists ranging from Busta Rhymes to Lianne La Havas, Misch steadily garnered a dedicated following on SoundCloud. From there, he collaborated with other London artists and released EPs of original music on the platform. Misch’s style doesn’t revel in what’s going on in pop music today; like a handful of other artists from the UK, his interpretation of hip-hop and R&B is a continuation of what the greats who came before him started.  In 2016, Misch — still just 21 years old at the time — decided to dabble more in songwriting.

He plays three songs (totaling 17 minutes) and I genuinely thought the second song was the same as the first.

“It Runs Through Me” has an enjoyable guitar solo and a long sax solo (Braxton Cook).  Although “I Wish” sounds like the first song at first, there is an interesting moment  midway through the song where they thrown in a riff and change the tempo a bit.  There’s also a long wah wah solo which is neat.

The final song “Movie” is a total smoky nightclub jazz song.  There’s a piano solo (the pianist (Joseph Price) even has a jazz hat on).  It’s got all the elements.  But I would never go into a smokey jazzy nightclub.

The rest of the band includes: Tobias Tripp (guitar/violin/vocals), James Creswick (bass), and Jamie Houghton (drums).

[READ: February 7, 2018] “Borscht”

Sergey has been living in the US for about a year.  His plan was to go to the States to work for a year and send money home to his wife.  But it had been a year and she felt that maybe he should stay longer and make more money.  They had enough for a house, but they’d need more for furnishings and the like.

He was sick of installing carpets.  He hated the feel and the smell and the stupid names of colors for ugly carpets : Morning Fog, Bay Fog, Autumn Leaves, he decided they should be called Moldy Bread or a A Pile Of Cow Dung On A Warm Day

He woke one morning with an erection and a headache.  He looked at the picture of his wife–he had only the one.  She didn’t look happy, and he no longer remembered what she looked like aside from the picture.

His roommate Pavel had a woman over.  She wasn’t Sergey’s type, but she was wearing next to nothing and she smelled good.

He found the paper under the couch and in the back were personal ads.  There was one that caught his eye : “A warm, sexy woman will tend to your needs. Affordable.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: TROUBLE FUNK-Tiny Desk Concert #748 (May 30, 2018).

If Tiny Desk was set anywhere other than Washington D.C. I would never have heard of go-go.  It is a regional funk style that seems to have never left the area and of which the DC crowd is very proud.

Go-go — Washington D.C.’s regional twist on funk — reigned in the DMV during the 1980s, and one of the scene’s signature acts was Trouble Funk. More than 30 years later, the collective — led by Big Tony Fisher — still fills sold-out venues with heavyweight percussion and call-and-response lyrics. Trouble Funk concerts are bona fide jam sessions, so I was determined to squeeze their unrelenting rhythms behind the Tiny Desk. While the late Chuck Brown is often acknowledged as the godfather of go-go, Trouble Funk was a key part of the sound’s second wave.

And considering that the band is decked out in matching Trouble Funk baseball uniforms, it seems like they have no intention of going anywhere (clearly not all of the members are original).

How do you fit 12 members behind a Tiny Desk?  Put the horns: (Dean Harris (trumpet), Eric Silvan (saxophone), Paul Phifer (trombone)) on the right.  Put the drummer (Tony Edwards) on the left and the hugely important percussionists (Chris Allen and Larry Blake) back and center, anchoring everything.

Then you have the keyboardists (Allyson Johnson and James Avery) and the guitarist/vocalist David Gussom (only one guitar in the whole band of 12 people!).

Right up front you have the two singers Derrick Ward and Keith White and orchestrating the whole thing is Big Tony Fisher (bass/vocals).

They begin with the 1982 banger, “Pump Me Up”, which has a great watery funky bass sound (from the keys) and tremendous percussion.  All of the verses are rapped in a 35-year-old-style–rhythmic more than rapping (with lyrics about Calvin Klein and other jeans, Superman, Studio 54 and Fat Albert).  Four of them take a verse, but the show is all about Big Tony Fisher, who has got this great deep voice.

Incidentally, this song was

sampled in Public Enemy’s protest anthem “Fight the Power” and M/A/R/R/S’s dance classic “Pump Up The Volume.”

I need to hear the original to figure out what was sampled.

The drums breaks here are definitive go-go and it was hard to discern who was having more fun: the band or the audience.

As they shift to “Grip It,” you can hear the change of style but not intensity as the song shifts and “buoyant and staccato horn melodies propelled the song forward.”

It segues to “Let’s Get Small” through a funky bass line.  It features Trouble Funk’s classic call-and-response chants of “I like it!”

The music stops but the rhythm continues as they segue into “Drop the Bomb,” “another notable gem from their lengthy discography which keeps the energy level high.”

“Don’t Touch That Stereo” was the first song where I couldn’t hear much of a difference between it and the preceding song.  And I realized that they’d been playing nonstop for nearly 14 minutes–all in a similar funky style.  It’s a great fun party even if the individual songs are kind of beside the point.

They did take a short break as Tony introduced their first hit from 1979 “E Flat Boogie.”

I’m rather surprised that go-go never took off anywhere else, since, as the blurb says, the music “inspires a spirit of dance, rhythm and sheer joy.”

[READ: July 7, 2016] “Fable”

This was another story that I found strangely unsatisfying.

I feel like this story was almost perfect but that there were elements that prevented it from being so.

Since it is called “Fable,” it begins with “once upon a time.”  But we know that it is not a real fable exactly because the next part is “there was a man whose therapist thought it would be a good idea for the man to work though some stuff by telling a story about that stuff.”

His first attempt is short and dull: “one day the man woke up and realized that this was pretty much it for him.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THIRD COAST PERCUSSION-Tiny Desk Concert #747 (May 29, 2018).

I have always been taken with percussion.  I especially love vibes and marimba.  But I love it even more when bands make music using unusual items.  Third Coast Percussion does both of those.  And the songs are beautiful as well.

The quartet of gentlemen who form the Chicago-based Third Coast Percussion [will] play their sophisticated, modern marimbas and vibraphones, but be on the lookout for the subtleties of tuned cowbells and 3/4″ galvanized steel pipes, like those found at the local hardware store. Add to that a glockenspiel, a MIDI synth, a melodica, a drum kit, children’s deskbells, crotales, a Thai gong and a singing bowl, and you’ve got significant noise-making potential behind Bob Boilen’s desk.

They play three beautiful pieces.  And the blurb sums them up quite well:

The mesmerizing opening number, “Niagara,” written by the group, is from the band’s latest album, the aqua-centric Paddle to the Sea. This water is fast-moving, with pulsing, repeating patterns in the vibraphone, punctuated by drum beats and a bed of low synth.

David Skidmore behind the drum kit is also playing the synth while Sean Connors has the main up and down melody on the marimba. The other two (Robert Dillon and Peter Martin) are playing the same glockenspiel until Rob starts with some drum hits (while David behind the kit plays accents of that main drum beat).  There is just so much going on!

There’s a wonderful moment about half way in when the marimba starts playing a slightly different melody and it’s really quite enchanting.  I am quite taken with the song.

The Third Coasters follow with another from the album, their own arrangement of a slowly rippling ode to the Amazon River by Philip Glass. Beginning with droplets on the glockenspiel and evocative bowing of both vibraphone and crotales (small bronze discs), the music flows softly, taking its time to fan out in all its quiet beauty.

The group busts out the children’s desk bells on the second song, a cover pf Philip Glass’ “Amazon River.”  Sean plays them while also hitting the glockenspiel.  David is bowing the crotales (which he later hits with mallets) while also playing a melodica.  Rob plays a four mallet marimba while Peter plays a four mallet glockenspiel melody.  Sean gets to hit the Thai gong before it almost stops and then he goes behind the marimba to join Rob with three mallets.  Meanwhile for thee second half of the song, David is hitting some small bell-like instrument and Peter has the singing bowl.  As the song ends, David gets to conclude with the Thai gong.

The final song is completely intense.

Torched and Wrecked is, as David Skidmore mentions, something that once happened to his band mate Sean Connors’ automobile. It’s also a butt-kicking ride that includes those steel conduit pipes, which the band cuts to specific lengths to get the desired pitches. Skidmore wrote the piece, but it’s Connors who appears to achieve a kind of cathartic glee pounding on the metal tubes.

There’s no funky instruments om this, but the song is great.  David (2 mallets) goes behind the marimba with Rob (4 mallets).  Peter is at the glockenspiel (4 mallets) and yes Sean has the metal tubes.  The song is fast and intense and I get lost with just who is playing what sounds by the end.  It’s really cool.

It’s also fun to see them all pop up at the end when they all finish at the same time.

[READ: January 14, 2018] “Six More Considerations”

Lydia Davis writes short, short pieces.  Flash fiction, they call them. Sometimes I think they are great. Other times they just irritate me.

This group falls into the irritation camp.

Anyhow, the six stories are

(more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ILL CAMILLE-Tiny Desk Concert #746 (May 25, 2018).

I don’t know if Ill Camille’s style is West Coast, but it definitely differs from a lot of rappers.  Her style is smooth, almost gentle.  “Her voice is like a cool drink on a summer’s day: smooth, clear and replenishing.”

But her lyrics are powerful and thoughtful:

Her refreshing self-awareness and raw honesty are inherent in each song, pairing nicely with the jazzy, melodic rhythms provided by her close knit crew of musicians.

Ill Camille strays a bit from the hip-hop zeitgeist. She raps about love and family serving as the source of her strength, the importance of self-worth as a woman, and the necessity to nurture oneself from within. That core keeps her secure even when confronted by the despair of poverty and the difficult grind of a young artist. And you can hear all that front and center in her music.

She plays 4 songs with a live band.

The first two songs, “Spider’s Jam” and “Live it Up,” feature long time collaborators of Camille’s, Iman Omari on keys and drummer Greg Paul of Inglewood collective The Katalyst.

“Spider’s Jam” is about her uncle.  She sounds almost casual in her delivery, like she;s just speaking not rapping (which is why it’s so cool that it works so well).  The chorus of “handed it down” is pretty cool–very different from pop hip hop.

On “Live It Up,” Greg Paul plays a kind of lite jazz drums style.  Camille says, “This is my version of trap.”  Iman Omari on keys sings the chorus and adds a Jamaican flair to the song.

“Fight On” features guest vocals from emcee Damani Nkosi, who’s been rocking with Camille since her debut album.

Aneesa Strings, a bassist from the Bay Area, provided the low end foundation while also lending her rich vocals to “Fight On.”

I like the shout outs to everyone to fight on.

 “Again,” is an ode to happiness and self-actualization.  It’s got a cool funky bass line.  The break it down section is pretty great and when it comes back out to that great bass line, the song is very cool.

[READ: May 22, 2018] “Stay Down and Take It”

This is a story about an older couple fleeing a storm and something else.

James is home early and he says “goddammit we seriously need to pack.”  They are to “pack light and pack smart.”  Despite the clear skies, something mean and serious is barreling down on them.

James is very stressed and prefers that she not speak on the phone while they are evacuating.  She is annoyed by this but also realizes she is the passenger and the driver should not be stressed out–for her own sake.

She admits “I guess I want James to die.  I don’t want this actively.  Or with malice.  But in a dim and distant way I gently root for James’ absence so that I can proceed to the other side of the years I have left.”

(more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: JUANES AND MON LAFERTE-Tiny Desk Concert #746 (May 23, 2018).

Juanes did a solo Tiny Desk Concert back in 2011.  Amusingly, seven years ago the blurb said: The blurb says that “he usually plays arenas and large venues, so it’s a treat to see him up close like this,” (see the third quoted paragraph below).

Colombian pop star Juanes and Chilean singer Mon Laferte recently wrapped up a sold-out tour of the United States, which (lucky for us) included a stop at the Tiny Desk.

Laferte began the concert solo with the torch song “Pa’ Dónde Se Fue” (Where Did You Go?). She sang the break-up story with a smirk that belied the heartache hiding in her poignant lyrics. Then… Juanes joined her to perform the duo’s sultry single, “Amárrame” (Tie Me Up).

It’s rare to see Juanes in such an intimate setting. After almost two decades of performing solo, the Latin pop star is more of a stadium and arena kind of guy. It’s a treat to hear his voice unencumbered by loud speakers or crowd noise, and to see his facial expressions as he sings lyrics that many of us know by heart. This marked a return to the intimacy that fueled his earliest days and that’s still present in the personal lyrics that have sold millions of records.

That intimacy was heightened by the presence of Laferte. The duo performed a PG-13 version of “Amárrame,” a passionate pop song with lyrics reminiscent of 50 Shades Of Grey. You can sense an obvious chemistry between the two during that song, as well as on the Juanes classic “Fotografia” (which originally featured Nelly Furtado).

Juanes closed out the concert solo with a stripped-down version of “Es Tarde” from his last album, Mis Planes Son AmarteThe performance demonstrates why Juanes and Laferte’s duet tour sold out across the U.S. this year. There is a magic here that makes for repeated viewing. It’s that much fun to watch.

SET LIST

  • “Pa’ Dónde Se Fue” (Where Did You Go?) by Mon Laferte. She sings and plays guitar and has a beautiful, powerful voice.
  • “Amárrame {Tie Me Up} [feat. Juanes]” by Mon Laferte.  An additional guitarist plays the cool funky riff while Mon Laferte sings (and rolls her r’s beautifully).  Juanes sings (and makes some asides, “Mon Dios!”) the (beautiful, soaring) chorus and alternating verses.  They sound fantastic together, with his voice being particularly sultry and steamy.
  • “Fotografía [feat. Mon Laferte]” by Juanes.  This is a sweet ballad, with again both singers playing off of each other and joking with each other (there’s a phone gag that is pretty funny).  It’s delightful.  And their voices meld perfectly once again.
  • “Es Tarde” by Juanes.  It’s just him singing on this one (with the guitarist on accompaniment).  His voice has a slight gravel to it but is mostly smooth and delightful.  The middle of the song has a kind of whispered spoken word.  It’s quite obvious why he is a megastar.

[READ: January 22, 2017] “The End of the End of the World”

This is an essay about birding in the Antarctic and the death of Franzen’s Uncle Walt.  Both of these stories were fascinating.

Two year earlier, Franzen’s Uncle Walt died and left hims $78,000.  Wow.  (My uncle left me a pitchfork and sheep shears).  He wasn’t expecting it, so he decided to do something special with it in honor of his Uncle.  He had been planning a big vacation with his longtime girlfriend, so this seemed like the thing to us it for.  When he suggested a deluxe cruise to Antarctica, she was puzzled but agreed.

After booking the cruise, he was filled with reservations, and so was she.  Her concerns were more serious–an ailing parent–and his were just nerves.

He intersperses this trip with memories of his Uncle.  Like in August of 1976 when he found out that Walt’s daughter had died in a car crash.  Walt and his wife Irma were his godparents, although his mother couldn’t stand Irma (Franzen’s father’s sister).  She said that Irma had been spoiled at the expense of his father.  Walt was far more likable anyhow. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE BAND’S VISIT-Tiny Desk Concert #745 (May 21, 2018).

After nearly 800 Tiny Desk concerts, The Band’s Visit is the first Broadway musical ever to play the series.

The show opens with four men in powder blue uniforms (the Alexandria Ceremonial Police Orchestra–Garo Yellin-cello; Sam Sadigursky-clarinet; Harvey Valdes-oud; Ossama Farouk-darbouka) playing “Soraya,” a lively instrumental.

From the first note strummed on the oud, Yazbek’s nominated score transports the Tiny Desk to the Middle East with traditional instrumentation and melodies, and weaves in beautiful theatrical ballads.

The Band’s Visit insists that it’s OK, even essential, to get “stuck” with strangers who have different perspectives. It serves as a poignant reminder that our common connection to music can rise above the noise of intolerance

The composer David Yazbek comes out to explain the scene:

The story of The Band’s Visit,  told the Tiny Desk audience, “is about hope and faith and silence and music.” It tells the tale of Egyptian musicians stranded in a small Israeli village. The townspeople have no choice but to take them in. Eventually, the love of music allows the characters to see past their differences and form an unlikely bond in a single night. The musical was adapted from the 2007 film and has been nominated for 11 Tony Awards.

He introduces Katrina Lenk (nominated for a Tony Award).  For this song, she is reminiscing about her childhood growing up in the middle of nowhere in Israel.  The main cultural delight was through her mothers radio and TV via Arabic music and movie stars like Umm Kulthum and Omar Sharif.

“Omar Sharif” is a beautiful song with a wonderful really compelling melody.  It’s noy musical-like at all.  It is very passionate with one big moment but never over the top.  Her accent as she sings is wonderful.  I love the lyric

honey in my ears / spice in my mouth

The song features Andrea Grody on piano and Alexandra Eckhart on bass.

Although it’s a Broadway smash hit, it lacks the opulent, bring-down-the-house song and dance numbers. It’s a more intimate show with some universal messages that fit the up, close and personal space of the Tiny Desk.

Dina interacts with Tewfiq the leader of the orchestra, “the swarthy, handsome Tony Award nominated Tony Shaloub.”

She asks him to sing something and he offers an Arabic poem (a capella).

Yazbek’s poem Itgara’a, translated here from Arabic and sung a cappella by Tony Shalhoub, sums up the show’s philosophy:

When you drink, drink deeply / Drink deeply of the moonlight / drink deeply of the dark / of the loneliness / of the joy.
You will never drain the moonlight / you can never end the dark. /  In your eyes, the flash of joy / in your mouth, the sweet shock of honey.
You are the joy / you are the loneliness. / Drink deep.

It’s followed by a wild and fun instrumental “Haj-Butrus” with pizzicato violin, some wild oud work and an amazing darbouka solo.

For the final song he tells us about a character.  The telephone guy.  He’s off at the side of the stage at a pay phone waiting for it to ring–for… days? weeks?  He’s waiting for his girlfriend to call.  The last song is a culmination of everyone yearning for human connection and something deeper.

“Answer Me” features “telephone guy” who is Adam Kantor.  Kristen Sieh (who plays Iris) representing the cast of thousands and George Abud who plays Camal (and the violin solo earlier) plays some oud in this song.

Kantor has a lovely high voice.  After a brief instrumental break, Lenk sings and then with the backing players as a chorus Shaloub joins in as well.  Although of all of the songs played, this is my least favorite.

The crew from the show, which opened last November at the Ethel Barrymore Theater, descended on NPR at 8:30 a.m. — seven musicians, five actors, a wardrobe department, a make-up artist, a publicist, a music director, the composer and even a vlogger. We started early so they could hustle back to Manhattan for a 7 p.m. curtain.

The musical sounds wonderful and I’d like to hear the rest of the soundtrack.

[READ: July 7, 2016] “The Midnight Zone”

I found this story to be mostly good but there was something that didn’t resonate with me.  The whole story is told in a very detached, first-person style.

The story opens with a family staying in an old hunting camp.  They are told that a Florida panther was seen in the camp a few days earlier, but things were pretty quiet for them.

“we had lunch, then the elder boy tried to make a fire by rubbing sticks together, his little brother attending solemnly….  Then dinner, singing songs, a bath in the galvanized-steel horse trough…and that was it for the day.”

The father/husband gets a call that he has to return home for an emergency.  He said he’d be back in two days.  And so it was just the wife and her two (very) young sons. (more…)

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