Sunday, March 15, 2015

Sunday Inspiration

Poetry knew where hope lived and could elicit that lump in the throat that reminds me it’s all worth it. 
This quote is from this beautiful article about how a mother used poetry to reach out to her struggling daughter.   Poetry, and well, almost all forms of art, might just be some of the truest of storytellers, letting us know that hope can spring from even the darkest pain. 

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Lend Me Your Ears: The Local Strangers

Around these parts, Winter has been a pretty fierce beast. Brutal temperatures, streets covered in snow and ice, people covered in layer after layer of hats and scarves and there even seems to be a little coating of  weariness settling over people, places and things.  Days and nights turn into scavenger hunts for warmth: steamy beverages, thick wool socks and even music to warm the bones as we all pray for hibernation and the hope that maybe one day soon our  bare feet will be buried deep in warm beach sand.  

Today, Seattle, Washington’s The Local Strangers, released their newest album, Take What You Can Carry, breathing warmth into  these frosty days. The album includes 2 discs  filled with new, carefully crafted songs showcasing Aubrey Zoli's and Matt Hart's signature soulful harmonies. The first disc finds the duo backed up by a full band,  and the second disc shares acoustic and live versions of many of the same songs from the first disc, testifying that there are many  ways to tell a story, even while using the same words.  Music is based on emotion, often times emotion in conflict- brokenness and forgiveness, lost and found, hurting and healing. I love having two versions of a song and I think it plays well into highlighting the emotional complexities of life; sometimes we live life out loud and shake our tambourines like we just don’t care, and other quieter times  we yearn for a more stripped down life that  scrapes at our mortal rawness.

All the songs on Take What You Can Carry are strong stand alones but together they weave together a rich and passionate story full of all those messy things in life that makes us human; love, betrayal, longing, and those dread good-byes , all while cementing Matt and Aubrey’s  talents as  strong storytellers and powerful performers.  The lead single off the new album, Gasoline, caught my ear upon first listen, and has been happily stuck in my head for the last little bit.  The imagery in the song is vivid and striking, “Got a heart filled with gasoline, it  burns so long, but it don’t burn clean,”  and the haunting repetition of “You already forgave me,”  tenderly tugs at long past personal memories . And that my friends,  is a sure sign of a good song,  it has its own strong story, but it also has the ability to grab a hold of something in the listener’s own story. The layering of captivating lyrics,  dynamic vocals and impressive accompaniment  from the band makes for a  song that sparks the heart, no matter the temperature outside.

More information about Take What You Can Carry and The Local Strangers, including upcoming nationwide tour dates, can be found on their website.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Adventures in Audio - Catch Up: Part II : Adventures 11-13

Continuing on my quest to catch live music at 50 different venues:

On the top of the list of things that I have learned to appreciate about the music community in DC is its use of space. Shows and concerts are not  restricted to clubs, bars, and venues that charge service and handling fees.   From libraries to museums, house basements and churches, all kinds of spaces around the District open up their doors to community events, especially musical performance of all tastes and flavors. I have especially been moved by the amount of churches that exemplify community by becoming welcoming, safe and unique venues, even for music that  falls outside of the realm of so called churchy music . No proselyting, no guilt ridden sermons, not even a needed pronouncement of faith when you walk through the doors, just a heart and ear for some really good music, which at times is the perfect solace for the soul.  It just goes to show that something is sacred because you make it sacred.

Adventures in Audio #11: Jazz Night @ Westminister Church, SW (The Jazz Church), Washington DC
Started over a decade ago, Jazz Night at the Westminster Church in Southwest, known by the locals simply as the Jazz Church, has become a most beloved tradition. Every Friday night local and nationally known Jazz groups play in the main sancutary area and Soul Food is served in the basement, and if you don't think listening to a trumpet player so good it makes you want to cry while eating red beans and rice and pie is the greatest thing, then I don't think we can ever be friends. The night that I went with a friend, we ended up sitting by a couple who have been coming to Jazz Night since the beginning. They were both in their 80's, married for over 60 years and have been living in DC since the 1950's. In between sets, they shared with us stories of living under segregation, traveling to all 7 continent, raising 6 kids and all the secrets of a happy life. I honestly felted honored to be hearing their story. 

Adventures in Audio #12: Punk Rock Show @ St. Stephen & the Incarnation Episcopal Church, Washington, DC
“So I went to this punk rock show at a church on Saturday . . .  It sounds like the set up for a joke, but in reality it is the beginning a great true story.  Actually, St. Stephen's has been hosting all kinds of community events for decades:  country square dancing, breakdance contests, punk rock shows. If lost souls need somewhere to go, the doors of this church up in Columbia Heights, will always be open. On the night that I went, the first band that played, the Black Sparks are young kids, like high schoolers, but when the singer grabbed the microphone he ROARED. This was the first time I saw this local band, so I was a little taken back, but then I just had to smile. If this the future of America, we are all going to just fine. 
Bands played: Black Sparks, The Rememberables, Radiator Hospital, Max Levine Ensemble 

Adventures in Audio #13: John C. Reilly and Friends at Sixth and I Synagogue, Washington DC
Picture this: Oscar nominated actor John C. Reilly and friends playing old tymey American folk songs in the sanctuary of a synagogue, makes perfect sense, right? Totally.  The friends Mr. Reilly brought included vocalist Becky Stark and singer-songwriter Tom Brosseau I’ve been to several events at this historical synagogue, from musical performances to community events and each time has been a wonderful experience in such a lovely peaceful place. During their DC visit the group also stopped by NPR to tape a Tiny Desk Concert of their sad cowboy songs. 

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Sunday Inspiration

"Everybody has the blues. Everybody longs for meaning. Everybody needs to love and be loved. Everybody needs to clap their hands and be happy. Everybody longs for faith. In music there is a stepping stone towards all of these."

Martin Luther King Jr.