Feels like rain

Featured image John Hiatt is the talented singer/songwriter who is a native of Indianapolis. In his frankly autobiographical song “Real Fine Love,” Hiatt captures some of the blue-collar bitterness he felt as he headed out to Memphis Nashville at age 18 to make a living as a professional songwriter: Well I never went to college, I did not have the luck. Stole out of Indiana In the back of a pickup truck. »

When he’s 72

Featured image It was of course the team of John Lennon and Paul McCartney — as singers, songwriters, and instinctive harmonists — that constituted the organic entity at the heart of the Beatles. McCartney was the yang to Lennon’s yin. Today McCartney turns 72. One of McCartney’s earliest songwriting motifs was the projection of himself into the future looking back. It was a device he used to great effect in songs such »

For Memorial Day, The Battle Hymn of the Republic

Featured image Mark Steyn wrote yesterday (actually, it’s an excerpt from his book A Song For the Season) about “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” its history and its unique connection with Memorial Day. Which reminded me of a post I did in 2007. My youngest daughter, eleven years old at the time, participated in a little kids’ choir drawn from all of the elementary schools in our school district, which performed »

Chris and Herb: Way Out Midwest

Featured image Chris Hillman and Herb Pedersen return to town this coming Sunday for a 7:00 p.m. show at the Dakota Jazz Club and Restaurant in downtown Minneapolis. The Dakota has posted this page to preview the show. The chance to see these guys play is a rare privilege. I’m going to be there. If you are in the vicinity, I hope you will join me. Who are Chris Hillman and Herb »

How high the moon?

Featured image Today is the anniversary of the birth of Ella Fitzgerald, the First Lady of Song. The lady was a remarkable artist. Each period of her long career is rewarding, though she deepened her art as she got older. She excelled in a wide variety of material and in every musical setting. There is an emotional reserve or detachment in her singing, but there is also joy and an irrepressible sense »

Wave bye bye

Featured image I saw singer-songwriter Jesse Winchester perform on the St. Paul campus of the University of Minnesota more than 20 years ago and he bowled me over. There couldn’t have been more than a hundred people in the audience. Accompanying himself on guitar, he turned in a beautiful performance concluding with “Yankee Lady.” Although Winchester had famously evaded the draft by decamping to Canada in 1967, returning only after the Carter »

Jonatha Brooke gets it down

Featured image Jonatha Brooke is a gifted singer-songwriter. On our last night in New York yesterday, we took a family group to see Jonatha’s one-woman musical My Mother Has Four Noses, now playing at the Duke Theater on 42nd Street. It is an intensely personal and intimate show, ripped from the past few years of Brooke’s life. Brooke wrote the show’s book, the words and the music. You want to connect with »

A tour de megaforce

Featured image Terry Teachout traces his interest in Louis Armstrong to the time his mother called him in from outdoors to see Armstrong sing (probably “Hello, Dolly”) on the Ed Sullivan Show. His mother beckoned him with the sage admonition, “He won’t be around forever.” By the same token, if you are in the vicinity of New York City, or visiting some time soon, I urge you to come in and see »

Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most

Featured image There are a few torch songs that lament the coming of Spring. This time of year, if you’re tuned to one of the right stations, you may well find yourself listening to Ella Fitzgerald’s unforgettable rendition of “Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most.” The song is a buried treasure on Ella’s 1961 quartet-backed jazz set Clap Hands, Here Comes Charlie! (I love the Amazon review that rates it »

Sunday morning coming down

Featured image We went to see the second set of Manhattan Transfer at the Dakota Jazz Club and Restaurant in downtown Minneapolis this past Monday and the first set on Tuesday. The two sets provided a rounded picture of their musical interests and inspirations. From their first fame in pop, they seem to have moved in the direction of jazz. I found their music to be something like an unadulterated expression of »

Manhattan Transfer at the Dakota

Featured image Three weeks ago Dakota Jazz Club and Restaurant proprietor Lowell Pickett jumped at the opportunity to book the Manhattan Transfer to perform at the club on Monday and Tuesday nights this week. Jazz is Lowell’s first love and the MT are world-class artists. The Dakota has set up this page to tout their appearance. I didn’t know about the shows until we picked up an email from the Dakota yesterday »

Sunday morning coming down

Featured image Tony Rice might be the best guitarist you’ve never heard of. He’s made a name for himself with his wildly inventive and beautiful playing in the bluegrass/newgrass/folk world. The audience for the music is small, but the music and its players are up there with the best in the world. This past September, Rice was inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Association Hall of Fame. The New York Times Magazine »

The Circle Game

Featured image Tom Rush is a giant of the sixties folk revival; today he turns 73. As a stalwart of the sixties folk revival he is a peer of Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Eric Andersen, and Judy Collins. Performing at the legendary Club 47 coffeehouse, Rush emerged from the vibrant Cambridge folk scene around Harvard. Having recorded two folk albums on Prestige in the early sixties, he moved on to establish himself »

Annals of layering and nullity

Featured image An observant friend draws my attention to the classic New York Times article by Philip Lutz: “Art meets environmental activism in ‘The Crossroads Project.’” Lutz reports on a performance piece that is to have its New York debut next month, and he’s pretty excited about it: This month’s blast of arctic air may have roused climate-change skeptics. But the composer Laura Kaminsky and the painter Rebecca Allan were unfazed. Holed »

Fifty Years On: Still the Best [With Comments by John]

Featured image It was fifty years ago that The Beatles took the U.S. by storm, culminating in their February 9 appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show (supposedly the most watched TV show in American history at that point).  Here’s a short highlight reel And here’s “The Rutles” spoof (and if you’ve never seen The Rutles, well, order it on Netflix tonight.  I’m convinced The Rutles was the Inspiration for This Is Spinal »

Maybe tomorrow

Featured image Phil Everly — the younger of the Everly Brothers — died yesterday of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease at the age of 74. The Associated Press obituary does not traffic in understatement: “There is no more beautiful sound than the voices of siblings swirled together in high harmony, and when Phil and Don Everly combined their voices with songs about yearning, angst and loss, it changed the world.” Phil Everly’s death »

From Gaga to Obama

Featured image Reading Maureen Callahan’s New York Post column “What happened to Lady Gaga?” and watching the meticulously edited video below, I started wondering if Barack Obama might be to politics what Lady Gaga is to music. Wouldn’t it be pretty to think so? I can’t make the case for the proposition, at least not yet. Instead, I’m filing this one under Laughter Is the Best Medicine. »