Monday, May 25, 2015

Weekly Playlist: Current Faves

A couple, or 5, tunes soundtracking the parade which is my life this week:

1. Hard Wire--Shakey Graves
I saw Shakey Graves back in March in one of my favorite shows this year. If you have been to enough concerts with me, you know that I tend to bite my bottom lip to try to keep inside all my fangirl glee, and the glee was so strong that March night, that I am completely surprised that I didn't bite right through my lip. Hard Wired, off of his 2014 album, And the War Come,  was one of the last songs performed that night.  It turned into a beautiful sing-a-long with the crowd and it was just the perfect moment. And when you find a song that brings a perfect moment, you kinda have keep playing it.  

2. Strangers--Langhorne Slim & The Law
I've been a fan of Langhorne Slim since I heard his song "My Future," which is a cover of the old Blues "Future Blues", I mean you have to love a guy that has an appreciation of the Blues.  His new album, The Spirit Moves, doesn't come out until August, but the first single, "Strangers" was released last week, and I have played it so much, that I am pretty sure that all my neighbors now know it by heart. And that is what I call community service. 

3. Things Happen-Dawes
Dawes' songs always seem to have the perfect combination of sadness, introspective and truth in them, that makes you just want to shout AMEN, at the end of each performance.  Their new album, All Your Favorite Bands, comes out next week, but is streaming this week over at NPR. SPOILER ALERT: they will be making an appearance shortly in my Adventures in Audio series!

4.  One Last Look--Tom Waits
Did you catch Tom Waits on one of the last shows of David Letterman? Now, I know that he can be an acquired taste. I have a friend who swears he sounds like Cookie Monster, which I can never tell if that is an insult or a compliment, but I always response declaration with, "Well, then Cookie Monster is cooler then us all."  I love pretty much every note that Mr. Waits has ever sang, and holy cow, his performance of a new song, "One Last Look," on Letterman brought tears to my eyes. 

5. Mr. Tambourine Man--Bob Dylan
This past Sunday was Bob Dylan's birthday, so I spent a little bit of the long weekend listening to his greatest hits and watching some footage of his 1964 performance at the Newport Folk Festival. So great. So. Great. I can barely stand it. And there is a bonus in this clip: a young Pete Seeger!

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Sunday Inspiration

Do one thing every day that scares you.
--Eleanor Roosevelt

In the Del Ray Neighborhood of Alexandria, VA there is a huge chalkboard and in big letters across the top of the board reads: I wish I had the courage to:

The rest of the board, called The Courage Wall, is filled with declarations from the public of things that they fear. It seems like such a simple thing, picking up a piece of chalk and writing a couple of words. But giving light to the things that we hide in the dark can be a pretty powerful.  

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Adventures in Audio-Catch Up: Part III: 14-18

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

Adventures in Audio 14: Parquet Courts at The Black Cat. Stupid fun. U Street at midnight on a Saturday night may be becoming one of my favorite things. A city so alive

Adventures in Audio 15: A community dance party in the courtyard of the American Art Museum/National Portrait Gallery. A live band brought the funk and DJs spinned Soul music from the 60's and 70's and so, so, many people danced their feet off. Gosh, I sure love this city.

Adventures in Audio 16: My Morning Jacket at the Global Citizens 2015 Earth Day Concert at this rad new venue called The National Mall. See also, my first sunburn on the season.

Adventures in Audio 17: Local bluegrass/roots band Dead Man's Hollow at my neighbor public library. I love that libraries are becoming more and more community art centers.

Adventures in Audio 18: DC Funk Parade down U Street. That's right. Funk. Parade. In addition to the parade led by this awesome all woman percussion band, there were street musicians and performances a plenty and many of the clubs along U Street opened their doors for free shows.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Weekly Playlist: Lady Sings the Blues

I have always thought and felt that there is something powerful  about a woman singing the blues.  In his book, “The Land where the Blues Began,” the great American music folklorist Alan Lomax recounts his travels collecting stories and recordings of and  from some of this country’s earliest blues singers  in the Mississippi Delta region. It is both a beautiful and heartbreaking book, showcasing  the rich cultural history of this country, alongside some the harshest and most horrible pages of that same history.  I don’t have any thing close to answers, but I find it interesting to think about why and how beauty can come from deep suffering, and why art can be a survival mechanism.  Huh. But, circling back to the Lomax’s book, in one of my favorite passages, he talks about how The Blues were a popular form of worship in the poor rural churches, and it was the women in the audience that would spontaneously start singing when they were moved to. There are just some sorrows that you can’t keep inside. They are just some pains that you have to sing, lone words just can’t reach some depths.  Then the idea of organized gospel choirs and their mostly male choir leaders came into fashion, and well, women singing The Blues from the pews faded out.  But women singing The Blues didn’t die out. In fact, in many cases, they got moved into the national spotlight. In the first half the 20th century, there was a whole slew of amazing women Blues singers, singing of all the complexities of life, aka, not all women are saints sitting in church pews. Here is just a few of my favorites: 

  1. St Louis Blues—Bessie Smith. This is actually one of favorite all time ever Blues songs. Bessie's  sad, deep roar, matched by the moan of the trumpet, it all gets me every time.

  2. Crazy Blues—Mamie Smith. If you ever been in love with someone who is bad for you--your heart has beat to this song.

  3. Lady Sings the Blues--Billie Holiday. This song is pretty much flawless. THE END. 

  4. Crazy Cryin' Blues--Memphis Minnie. Not only could she sing like the best of them, but she could also play the guitar like the barn was on fire!

    5. Deep Moaning Blues--Ma Rainey. Ma Rainey was one of the earliest Blues singers and is often referred to as the Mother of the Blues. Her booming voice and dynamic stage presence really set the stage for so many after her and also the foundation for so much of our modern music. 

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Sunday Inspiration

"for whatever we lose (like a you or a me),
it's always our self we find in the sea."
--e.e. Cummins

The first 12 years of my life were spent in the sunny land of Southern California. Every summer my family would spend a long weekend or maybe even a week camping on the beach. I still hold these simple sand filled vacations as some of the happiness moments of my childhood.  I can remember lying on the beach and closing my eyes, listening to the waves coming and going and believing those tides were the earth's deep breathes, in and out, in and out, and it so calming and so deep. 

My beach umbrella and beach chairs are already packed in the trunk of my car, but it might be a little while before beach days get penciled onto my calendar.  But that hasn't stopped me from searching out the peacefulness of bodies of water.  I started to take walks down to the Potomac River on Sundays mornings and it has become a favorite and needed weekly routine.