Archive for October, 2008

west africa calling

the song and dance ensemble of west africa performs tonight at the singletary center for the arts.

the song and dance ensemble of west africa performs tonight at the singletary center for the arts.

The region commonly referred to as West Africa is a land of living history. Within its mountains, coastlines and deserts live the people of 16 countries representing countless ethnic groups. Look deep into the region’s past and you will discover empires, some dating back to the sixth century.

Defining that history through the years has been music, whether its was delivered by storytelling nomads known as Griots or through the mix of traditional and contemporary voices that have given rise to such esteemed West African artists as Youssou N’Dour, Baaba Maal, Angelique Kidjo and the late Ali Farka Toure. Those performers have not only demystified cultures that can’t help but seem foreign to American artists. They also awakened interest worldwide the music of Mali, Senegal, Benin, Guinea, the Ivory Coast and the other lands that make up West Africa.

Add to that list the name of Bamba Dembele, artistic director for the Song and Dance Ensemble of West Africa, which performs at the Singletary Center for the Arts tonight as part of the Alltech Festival. For 28 years, the group has taken the rhythms and traditions of West Africa across the globe.

“The music is a combination of many traditions from many ethnic groups,” Dembele said. “The dance represents the rhythm of the music. In one piece, a man dances with scarves to imitate a bird. The piece is called Sinkola, meaning the Bird of Power.

“This music has enjoyed a very warm reception. Every night the audience is on its feet.”

A conversation with Dembele underscored, quite expectedly, the immediate difference in African and American cultures – namely, language. Dembele’s first language is Bambara. Spoken primarily in Mali, where most of the ensemble members hail from, Bambara is also the native tongue of a West African ethnic group of the same name. For this story, Dembele spoke through a French interpreter. His comments where then relayed through an American representative of the group.

Estimating how accurately questions and answers were expressed in this kind of party line communication is difficult. But language, Dembele asserted, is no boundary when it comes to expressing the heritage behind the ensemble’s music.

“Even if audiences don’t understand the exact words, the music is still a good means to communicate. It gives a sense of Mali and West Africa to audiences that are curious.”

Dembele is a veteran of the Super Rail Band, a popular Malian music group with a history similar to that of The Song and Dance Ensemble of West Africa.

The Super Rail Band gave rise to such West African artists as singer Salif Keita. The Song and Dance Ensemble at one time included vocalist Oumou Sangare and the celebrated kora instrumentalist Toumani Diabete.

Both bands were formed in 1970 with government support to revive, perform and promote Malian and West African culture. In many ways, its means of delivering music is similar to that of the Griots, the tribal elders who, generations earlier, were given the responsibility of preserving oral history and traditions through stories, songs and poems.

“The Griot is the man who keeps the tradition, who keeps it alive,” Dembele said. “He is the storyteller, the keeper of the oral communication. Many of the songs we do come from the tradition of the Griot.”

For Thursday’s Singletary Center performance, Dembele and the ensemble will perform Mandingo music on the harp-like kora, the lute-like ngoni and the marimba-like balafon as well as on the more familiar djembe hand drum. Also planned are Griot songs performed by a female trio that outline women’s roles in Malian society.

“Instruments like the kora and balafon are all part of the Mandingo tradition,” Dembele said. “All of these instruments compliment each other. The kora (a 21 stringed instrument with a hollow gourd at its base) is an especially important in the ensemble to create the more melodious sounds. But you need the balafon, the ngoni – all of the other instruments – to make the full sound of the music.”

That resulting music is the essence of West Africa’s living history. It is the means that will provide a home in the Bluegrass, at least for an evening, for the musical traditions of Mali.

“Music brings the world together,” Dembele said. “It is the best communication.”

The Song and Dance Ensemble of West Africa performs at 7:30 tonight at the Singletary Center for the Arts. Tickets: $25, $28 and $32. Call (859) 257-4929.

in performance: david byrne

david byrne

david byrne. photo by chris buck.

“Nothing has changed, nothing is the same,” sang David Byrne near the conclusion of his streamlined, youthful and thoroughly absorbing performance last night at the Louisville Palace. Pulled from the lovely affirmation that serves as the title tune to his new album with Brian Eno, Everything That Happens Will Happen Today, the lyric proved more than a little a prophetic.

As the concert was designed as a celebration of the music Byrne and Eno have created over the last three decades, the repertoire was split almost evenly between the warm and extremely melodious flow of the Everything Will Happen material and vintage Talking Heads songs cut with Eno as producer between 1978 and 1980.

On that level alone, the performance was a feast. The new songs are among some of the least ironic and most openly poppish tunes Byrne has ever performed, from the promise of change offered in The River to the bright, rolling rhythms propelling Home. Only I Feel My Stuff broke the contentment. Though still affirmative lyrically, its meatier funk drive recalled the early ‘80s Heads.

Armed with a 10 member performance troupe – four instrumentalists, three singers and three highly gymnastic dancers that, at various times, slid between Byrne’s legs, leap-frogged over his head and spun him like a top – the makeup, arrangements and repertoire for the Heads material approximated the band line-up captured on film in 1984 for Jonathan Demme’s Stop Making Sense.

Clad entirely in white (as was the entire ensemble), looking cheery and very fit and singing with a voice utterly unblemished from his youth (his singing, if anything, is stronger know), Byrne seemed to be having a blast with the Talking Heads fare. The highlights: a Byrds-like, neo-country version of Heaven, a dense and slippery Houses in Motion and a hip-swiveling, near aerobic-style Crosseyed and Painless.

Byrne warned at the onset of the performance that he might “deviate” from the Eno music. He did so only twice. The first was a light but still layered delivery of My Big Hands that sounded considerably less ominous than the studio version designed in 1981 for The Catherine Wheel. The second, of course, was the biggest Head hit of all, Burning Down the House, which was joyous without bounds.

The big surprises: Help Me Somebody, from the 1981 Byrne/Eno album My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, which was transformed from a sound collage with found (as in sampled) vocals to a seething and very live sermonette. The other was the Fear in Music relic Air. In keeping with the more inviting feel of Everything Must Happen, this 1979 gem shed its scarier skin, joined the show’s celebratory sprit and proved just as how jubilant music can become when two old Heads put their brains together.

Minnesota Timberwolves v Denver Nuggets

Getty Images November 3, 2006 | Doug Pensinger

Getty Images 11-03-2006

DENVER – NOVEMBER 03: Head coach George Karl of the Denver Nuggets directs his team against the Minnesota Timberwolves as the Timberwolves defeated the Denver Nuggets 112-109 on November 3, 2006 at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** George Karl web site denver nuggets schedule site denver nuggets schedule

Dateline: Denver, CO, United States

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?© 2006 Getty Images, Inc.

Doug Pensinger

critics pick 42

lucinda williams: little honey

On paper, little seems to bind the music of Lucinda Williams, Chrissie Hynde and Jolie Holland. But on their newest albums, the three escape to the country to take stock of the cracks in their respective worlds. What results are songs of hard knocks, heavier hearts and surprising senses of salvation.

Americana queen Williams shakes off the melancholy reserve of her last three albums on Little Honey. The opening Real Love sets the pace with a blunt electric fire she hasn’t summoned in years. The grind gets good and nasty on Honey Bee (“all up in my hair, honey bee I swear, we make quite a pair”). But the song’s redemptive spirit is as bright as its cowpunk gusto.

A 66 minute opus, Little Honey is best listened to as a whole. That’s because the charge simmers to a cool on the more contemplative Knowing, cranks back up for a spit-and-spat country punk duet with Elvis Costello on Jailhouse Tears and retreats again during the gospel meditation Heaven Blues. The album finishes with an outrageous testimony of life on the road called It’s a Long Way to the Top

“You think it’s easy doin’ one night stands? Try playin’ in a rock ‘n’ roll band,” sings Williams on the latter against a fervent rock/soul chorus. The mood is boozier and more world weary than on Little Honey‘s more overt romantic encounters. Yet Williams remains, even when love is on her side, a scrappy fighter. Rapture remains the prize. But it sure is cool to hear her throwing some solid electric punches again as she seeks it.

pretenders: break up the concrete

pretenders: break up the concrete

Hynde still wears her heart on her sleeve at times on her new Pretenders outing, Break Up the Concrete. But lighter fare like Love’s a Mystery and You Didn’t Have To are more arresting because they match Hynde’s proven pop smarts with alt-country accents. Longtime Son Volt sideman Eric Heywood colors the former with pedal steel guitar while new Pretenders guitarist James Walbourne adds accordion to the latter.

Still, this all-new Pretenders lineup (founding drummer Martin Chambers still performs with the band live, although Jim Keltner mans the kit on Concrete) is at its best when Hynde kicks up some metaphysical dirt on the rockabilly album opener Boots of Chinese Plastic. She later re-embraces her Ohio homeland (“what kind of club opens its gates to sinners like me?”) to make The Last Ride sound like a happy sequel to 1983’s disparaging My City Was Gone. But the killer is the Bo Diddley boogie of Rosalee, where Hynde stops Pretend-ing and approximates the roots charge of Los Lobos. A cool move.

jolie holland: the living and the dead

jolie holland: the living and the dead

Once a darling of the indie pop set, Holland’s songs have reached plenty of ears over the past five years. For instance, don’t tell me iPod priestesses like Feist hasn’t picked up more than a few ideas from Holland’s records. But the Canadian songstress still makes the combination of a sullen sentiment, a light but downturned vocal inflection and a melody of steady-handed pop sound all her own. There are country currents as well on her new The Living and the Dead. But they turn suitably creepy during Fox in its Hole, where chiming, nocturnal guitars and the mix of reverb, Tom Waits-style percussion and see-saw vocals bring Williams to mind.

But Holland is at her graceful best when she expresses uneasy release during You Paint Yourself In. The melody is deceptively summery, even as Holland’s vocals fade to whistling. It’s almost as if a bird was fleeing. “What burns is torn away, and what remains is beautiful promise,” Holland sings. “You have no choice but to fly.” The Living and The Dead doesn’t just fly. It soars with learned but wary confidence.

edgar meyer: bass investment

edgar meyer performs duets with chris thile for the woodsongs old-time radio hour.

edgar meyer performs tonight with chris thile for the woodsongs old-time radio hour.

Many artists possess a recognition factor specific enough that when their name appears on a concert bill or recording, you know in an instant the type of music that is at hand.

AC/DC? Jay-Z? George Strait? You know what you’re in for with those guys. Someone like Edgar Meyer is another story entirely.

Last month, the Grammy winning bassist was in Kentucky for a performance with the Louisville Orchestra. His repertoire: Giovanni Bottesini’s Concerto for Bass No. 2 and Meyer’s own Double Bass Concerto No. 1.

But on Monday, when Meyer is in Lexington as a guest of the WoodSongs Old Time Radio Hour, only one collaborator will be at his side – mandolin ace Chris Thile. Like Meyer, Thile grew up on bluegrass but ventured into new acoustic terrain after the dissolve of Nickel Creek, the band he essentially grew up in. Also, classically inclined works will be held in check on Monday in favor of jointly composed works and improvisations for bass and mandolin.

Concertos and improvs. Orchestras and duos. Classical and bluegrass. What are the links and where do they fit in for a player like Meyer who might play with a symphony one week, a chamber music society the next and a bluegrass buddy after that?

For his music with Thile, Meyer insists the answer begins in a place where audiences, as well as the artists, can provide the music their full, active attention.

“I think the thing you have to remember is that the music we’re doing doesn’t really fit in anywhere anyway,” Meyers said. “There’s not a natural place for it unless everywhere is a natural place. And even that isn’t true. Its natural place is probably in places where we can play in more of a concert format. It’s not music for clubs. It’s not that great for festivals. It’s concert music.

“But it’s concert music that is way in the cracks. At best, one hopes it appeals to people who enjoy chamber music and to people who enjoy jazz and bluegrass. What you have to do, and this is easier said than done, is instead of compromising standards on all fronts is to at least get to the gate on all fronts.

“That means it’s our job to have the playing be that refined and have the compositions be that interesting and not just have everything sound like chamber music because it’s soft and sweet. And if people like improvised music, then the improvising ideas need to be good. I can’t promise you we deliver on all fronts. But that’s the ambition.”

The music on a new album of duets by Meyer and Thile, titled simply Edgar Meyer & Chris Thile, bears an intimacy and melodic delicacy that approximates chamber music, as in the attractive, patient stride of I Wasn’t Talking to You. Here, Meyer’s bowed playing on double bass counters Thile’s gentler flourishes on mandolin. Of course, the tune soon erupts into a playfulness that falls far outside chamber boundaries.

Later, the record offers a brief (as in 27 second) duet abstraction titled This is Not the Pig. That eases into a brittle barnyard bounce that suggests bluegrass without fully surrendering to it. Its title? This is the Pig.

At its best, however, Edgar Meyer & Chris Thile adheres to an acoustic music lexicon that uses bluegrass as a starting point for jazz-directed adventures. String players like Bela Fleck, Darol Anger, Jerry Douglas and Meyer were at the forefront of such stylistic advancement over 25 years ago. Thile is easily among the boldest of a new generation of string band players to further those ideas.

“I know that working with Chris there is a going to be a feeling of unlimited possibilities. It makes me feel that I can work on the very essence of how I write and play, not some kind specialized sub niche. It’s a chance for me to get to the heart of the music.”

While Meyer admits to being “proud” of the duets album, he seldom showers much praise on his own playing. Of the album, he says “it was the best we could do at the point we were at.” Of the duo’s recent tour of the Northwest, Meyer relies on an admission he has often used to describe his performance work: “I always wish that I had played better.”

But in listening to Edgar Meyer & Chris Thile, the only thing shadowing the duo’s world class musicianship is the highly intuitive communication that exists within the music itself. Together, both traits provide the album’s 12 compositions with heart, humor, precision and warmth.

“A lot of the communication is instantaneous,” Meyer said. “And if it’s not, you work on it. Like a marriage. The essence needs to be there. There needs to be something special that explains why you would do this and not something else.

“But at the same time, I suppose everything you do requires some degree of investment.”

Edgar Meyer and Chris Thile perform at 6:30 Monday for the WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hours at the Kentucky Theatre, 214 E. Main St. Tickets are $20. Call: (859) 252-8888.

levi stubbs, 1936-2008

levi stubbs in 2000, near the end of tenure with the four tops. upi photo by bill greenblatt.

levi stubbs in 2000, near the end of tenure with the four tops. upi photo by bill greenblatt.

Levi Stubbs may not immediately lead the lists of all-time R&B greats. But add in the name of the group he devoted his life and career to and you gain better appreciation for Stubbs’ lasting pop-soul importance: The Four Tops.

From the time the group scored its first hit in 1964 until he was physically unable to maintain a touring schedule in 2000, Stubbs was the Tops’ rock solid lead vocalist. He died in his sleep yesterday at the age of 72.

The Four Tops were a true anomaly among vocal groups. While they were unable to capitalize on the same commercial longevity enjoyed by fellow Motown acts like Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye and, to a lesser extent, its friendly rival ensemble The Temptations, the Tops never altered its personnel until the late ‘90s. In short, the same four guys were – for over 40 years – the same Four Tops.

The 1997 death of singer Lawrence Payton from liver cancer forced the group’s first lineup change. Diagnosed with his own cancer in 1995, Stubbs retired from touring after suffering a stroke in 2000. A third Top, Renaldo “Obie” Benson died of lung cancer in 2005. The group’s lone surviving member is Abdul “Duke” Fakir.

But it was always Stubbs’ singing that steered the group. Of all the Motown acts that breathed life into the Holland-Dozier-Holland song catalog, few displayed a more consistent tenacity than The Four Tops. And that was largely the product of Stubbs’ muscular tone. It provided an air of open, honest drama – almost desperation, at times – to songs like Baby I Need Your Loving, I Can’t Help Myself, It’s the Same Old Song, Bernadette, Standing in the Shadows of Love and what is arguably the top of the Tops hit parade, 1966’s Reach Out I’ll Be There.

The time span of this remarkable string of pop-soul singles: roughly three years.

Stubbs consistently resisted the tug of a solo career. Aside from providing the singing voice of Audrey II, the man-eating plant in the 1986 film version of Little Shop of Horrors, he preferred singing with the same Detroit pals he knew since high school. Such was life with the Tops for this unassuming soul music giant.

While The Four Tops became a respectable album act, any recommended recording has to include all of their vintage singles. As such, the best cumulative (and best engineered) listen to Stubbs’ legacy is offered the 2004, two disc 50th Anniversary Anthology.

woods songs

the wood brothers: bassist chris wood and guitarist oliver wood. photo by christian lantry.

the wood brothers: bassist chris wood and guitarist oliver wood. photo by christian lantry.

To say family figures into the music of The Wood Brothers is to somewhat state the obvious. But to view the full extent of the personal and professional family ties that bind the songs of guitarist/vocalist Oliver Wood and his bassist brother Chris is anything but a scripted story.

Let’s begin with the music at hand. On Loaded, their second and newest studio album as a duo, the Woods expand on the rustic pop-folk-blues-and-more sensibility of their 2006 debut album, Ways Not to Lose. The former work presented the brothers’ guitar/bass makeup in essentially unadorned fashion with a comfortable, open melodic flow that suggested the siblings have been playing together all their lives.

But the thing is they haven’t.

Oliver Wood migrated to Atlanta from the brothers’ hometown of Boulder, Colorado to pursue songwriting. He eventually landed in a blues-infused group called King Johnson. Chris relocated to New York, fell in with a progressive jazz and improvising music crowd and became one third of the instrumental avant jazz/funk trio Medeski Martin & Wood (cq – no commas). The brothers’ first public concert as a duo didn’t occur until March 2005. It was chronicled on the indie EP Live at Tonic.

“Communication is a huge part of what we do now,” said Oliver Wood, who makes his Lexington debut with The Wood Brothers on Monday as part of two back-to-back tapings of the WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour.

“A good part of that communication is just the sibling thing. We noticed that after having not played music together for almost 20 years. We got together and immediately felt this thing that normally takes musicians awhile – years of playing together, sometimes – to develop. That intuitive connection is almost a sort of musicians’ ESP. We found that right off the bat.”

Loaded, however, is exactly that. It brings a number of musical pals to the table. Kenny Wolleson, who added very discreet drum touches to Ways Not to Lose, is back. Also, pop songsmith Amos Lee shares vocal duties with Oliver on an update of the Jimi Hendrix staple Angel while Frazey Ford of The Be Good Tanyas assists Chris with the singing on Don’t Look Back.

The most notable addition, though, is the Woods’ second family – namely, the rest of Medeski Martin & Wood. Louisville native John Medeski serves as producer on Loaded, as he did on Ways Not to Lose. In addition, he adds melodica to the folky soul sway of Lovin’ Arms and churchy organ colors to the Southern steeped Pray Enough. Drummer Billy Martin is a guest throughout the record but is most keenly felt when he adds a simple but soulful sweep of brushes to the otherwise unadorned Woods duo on the instantly infectious Walk Away.

In turn, Oliver Wood helped out last winter on the MMW children’s album, Let’s Go Everywhere. That was also the trio’s first recording to include vocals.

“It’s a nice, happy family,” Oliver Wood said. “Having John produce the records has really been fantastic. He is such a trusted musical compadre and friend. Chris and I have plenty of respect for him.

“On the first album, John took a really hands off approach and just let us do our real spare duo thing. But we really wanted to get him more involved on the second one. So it was really neat that he not only did some playing but helped us out with the arrangements and decisions about who else could play on the record and where, So we really felt a big part of this record is his, too.”

But Loaded‘s deepest family inspiration was also its most unexpected one. As the brothers were writing the music for the album (8 of its 11 songs are originals), their mother was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease. She died while the album was being recorded.

“Chris and I had the unique experience of being in a time where we were both grieving, of going through this bittersweet process of saying goodbye to our mom, while we were having to finish songs for the new record. Obviously, all of those things got tangled together. But the writing wound up being really therapeutic.”

The music on Loaded certainly doesn’t scream its sense of loss. Even the lyrics on Lovin’ Arms (“cryin’ into your sleeve ‘cause you miss those lovin’ arms”) are countered by a glow both rootsy and poppish that envelops the entire album.

“Those feelings, certainly in the lyrics, are maybe more subtle. But I know, from a subconscious point of view, there was no way that what was happening could not help but seep into the songs.”

But life, as always, runs in cycles. Two weeks ago, Oliver Wood became a father. So expect the family inspiration to shift by the time the next Wood Brothers album rolls around.

“It always seems that when something big happens in your life – whether it comes when someone dies or, in the most recent case for me, when somebody is born – the inspiration really becomes powerful. It doesn’t matter if you’re writing a sad song, a love song or anything, really. As the years go by, I just find myself getting more and more excited about the music.”

The Wood Brothers will share the first of Monday’s two tapings of the WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour at the Kentucky Theatre, 214 E. Main, with the bluegrass inspired jam band Railroad Earth. Classical/bluegrass composer/bassist Edgar Meyer with perform duets with former Nickel Creek and current Punch Brother mandolinist Chris Thile for the second taping. On Monday, check back into The Musical Box where Meyer will discuss his collaborations with Thile and how their new acoustic music sits with chamber audiences and bluegrass crowds. Tickets for Monday’s WoodSongs tapings are $20. Showtime is 6:30 p.m. Call (859) 252-8888.

Groupon IPO plans stir dot-com memories.

New Zealand Herald (Auckland, New Zealand) June 4, 2011 Online coupon seller Groupon is dangling its most tantalising deal yet _ an initial public offering of stock.

The prospect is likely to intensify debate about whether an investment bubble is forming around promising but unproven internet companies.

Groupon took the first step toward selling its stock on Wall St by filing its IPO papers on Thursday with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The much-anticipated filing comes just two weeks after LinkedIn, a popular internet service for professional networking, saw its shares double in their first day of trading. That surge evoked memories of the early stages of the dot-com boom in the 1990s. this web site groupon nyc

Groupon, based in Chicago, offers its subscribers the chance to purchase daily discounts targeted to their city and preferences.

For example, a subscriber might pay US$20 ($24.50) for a US$40 ($49.00) gift certificate to a spa, restaurant, car wash or yoga studio.

The initial price of Groupon’s shares and the number of shares won’t be set until the company gets closer to going public. That process typically takes three to four months.

The shares probably won’t be cheap, based on the confidence that Groupon showed last year when it rejected a US$6 billion takeover offer from internet search leader Google.

Groupon said in its filing it hopes to raise up to US$750 million in the IPO, but that figure often changes as investment bankers get a better idea of the demand for the stock.

The banks handling Groupon’s IPO are Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs and Credit Suisse.

A wide variety of internet companies are getting ready to offer their stocks to investors hoping to get rich off the next big thing. Zynga, the maker of popular web games such as FarmVille, could be next in the IPO line with plenty of others, such as online message service Twitter, waiting in the wings.

“The party has started,” said John Fitzgibbon, founder of IPOscoop.com.

Facebook, perhaps the most anticipated internet IPO-in-waiting, has indicated it probably won’t file its IPO papers until next April at the earliest.

Groupon’s filing indicated some of the company’s early investors intended to sell some of their holdings in the IPO but didn’t provide further details.

Venture capitalists and other investors have already poured US$1.1 billion into Groupon, a huge amount for a service founded just 2 years ago by Andrew Mason and Eric Lefkofsky.

Groupon started as a side project to another website called The Point that helped raise funds for various causes.

Mason, 30, remains Groupon’s CEO and one its largest stockholders with more than 23 million shares.

That puts him in line to be a billionaire if investors like Groupon’s stock as much as consumers seem to like its daily deals.

Groupon has created a new marketing phenomenon catering to people’s hunger for bargains. see here groupon nyc

The service has become so popular that it now offers more than 1000 daily deals to 83 million subscribers in 43 countries, a work load handled by 7100 employees.

It’s bringing in lots of money, but not enough so far to defray the costs of its rapid expansion.

Last year, Groupon lost US$413 million on revenue of US$713 million.

By comparison, Google earned US$106 million on revenue of US$1.5 billion in the last full year before it went public in 2004.

Groupon, though, is growing much faster than Google when it went public.

In the first quarter of this year, Groupon’s revenue rose more than 14-fold from the same time last year to US$644 million. Google’s revenue had tripled to US$652 million in the first quarter of the year it went public.

AP

current listening 10/16

mike keneally: wine and pickles

mike keneally: wine and pickles

Mike Keneally: Wine and Pickles – It was 10 years ago this Halloween that guitarist Keneally first played Lexington. Fittingly, Wine and Pickles in a collection of previously unreleased works from the past decade. The menu: guitar excursions that frequently recall the invention and patient deliberation of his one-time employer, Frank Zappa. Keneally also displays a pop intellect as keen and arresting as his instrumental prowess.

ebony rhythm band: soul heart transplant

ebony rhythm band: soul heart transplant

Ebony Rhythm Band: Soul Heart Transplant (The Lamp Sessions) – Wrap up the psychedelic soul of early Funkadelic, the B3 organ cool of Booker T. and the MGs and a huge, earthy rhythm that hailed out of (of all places) Indianapolis, and you have the session ensemble-turned-progressive soul brigade known as the Ebony Rhythm Band. Cut in 1969 and 1970, these gloriously dated grooves still sound fabulous.

ron wood: i've got my own album to do

ron wood: i've got my own album to do

Ron Wood: I’ve Got My Own Album to Do – One of my favorite fall rock albums, Wood released this solo debut in late 1974, between his tenures in the Faces and the Rolling Stones. Naturally, members of both bands help out on the very loose fitting sessions. But the coolest moments are also the quietest: Mystify Me (a pop-soul nugget covered decades later by Son Volt) and the serene George Harrison collaboration, Far East Man.

john martyn/danny thompson: germany 1986

john martyn/danny thompson: germany 1986

John Martyn/Danny Thompson: Germany 1986 – Hearing of Martyn’s recent but brief surfacing in New York sent me scrambling for this 2001 archival release. The concert is saturated in Martyn’s peculiar ambience – specifically, sleepy (boozy?) vocal moans and echoplex driven guitar colors that reach a zenith during 17 delirious minutes of Outside In and One World. But Thompson’s Mingus-like bass work steals the show.

john cale: eat/kiss

john cale: eat/kiss

John Cale: Eat/Kiss, Music for the Films of Andy Warhol – The Warhol films honored by Cale on this 1997 album date back to the mid ‘60s. But the music, first performed by three-quarters of the Velvet Underground in 1994 (Lou Reed was absent) was expanded for large ensemble performances in Lille, France with layers of twilight synths, B.J. Cole’s provocative pedal steel guitar and haunting vocal wails. Disturbingly beautiful.

The body politic; Wonks and average Joes sign on to Tony Horton’s gut-busting plan

The Washington Post April 30, 2010 | Monica Hesse There are push-ups and then there are Tony Horton’s push-ups, which might involve medicine balls, might involve balance balls, might involve scuttling from sphinx pose to plank pose then back again, summoning your muscular reserves as if they were flagging troops in battle. There are enough push-ups for every day of the week, month of the year, dead character on “Lost”; there are push- ups that go fast, go slow and one that goes literally up the wall, as Horton walks his feet toward the sky while keeping his arms in push-up position.

“There was one,” Horton says, “that I called the Impossible Push- Up.” The Impossible Push-Up looked like this: Position each hand on a basketball. Position feet on a balance ball. Push up. “When I first invented it, I couldn’t do a single one. But now,” he says, spreading out his hands as if envisioning a title on a marquee, “I call it the Possible.” Tony Horton is intimately familiar to those who spend too much time watching television at odd hours of the night, surfing fitness infomercials while eating Doritos and thinking, Man, I need to do something about this flab. There they have seen Horton’s fitness system, P90X, which he sells with a mix of charisma, charm and chiseled man-pecs.

Horton was in Washington recently to whip into shape congressmen in their private gym.

“It’s probably the most bipartisan thing we do in this place,” jokes Kevin McCarthy in a phone interview. McCarthy is a Republican congressman from California who participated in Horton’s private workout along with about 20 other lawmakers. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), Heath Shuler (D-N.C.) and Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) are also reportedly members of the Tony tribe, which hovers around a dozen.

“Even during [the] health-care [debate],” McCarthy says, many would come together for a morning workout.

When McCarthy can’t make it to the congressional gym, he travels with his own set of DVDs. “I keep [P90X] in my suitcase wherever I go,” he says. “Then [the hotel staff] knocks on my door and says I’m being too loud.” The P90X charge was led by Ryan, who learned about it from a Navy SEAL buddy. “I asked him, ‘How on earth do you stay in shape and hang with those younger guys?’ [He] said P90X.” While in Washington, Horton also swung by the Results on G Street SE to lead a workout for about 140 average blokes.

“When I first started the leg workouts,” says Results workout attendee David Shahoulian, a Hill staffer who has been doing the X for a few months. “It made me want to puke at the middle.” One woman here has flown in from New York just for Tony; she’s lost 73 pounds on the DVDs and speaks beatifically of P90X’s signature muscle confusion exercise theory, the way the converted are prone to do.

At Results, Horton finishes up one workout while the next class waits outside. A beefy guy with a wrestler build stops a woman who has just left the first session. “How bad was it?” he whimpers. “Seriously, how bad?” Inside the gym, Horton had earlier adjusted the volume on his headset.

“Hello, this is God,” he says playfully. “Do push-ups.” America wants fitness to be effortless. America wants to just take the stairs, get off the bus one stop early, skip the soda. America wants workout DVDs that will fit into the commercial breaks, that are described as “Easy” or better yet, “EZ.” Therefore, the success of P90X, which has sold more than 2 million sets at a steep $119.85 a pop, is counterintuitive. Its selling point is that it is really, really hard.

You have seen the high-octane infomercials, yes? In their “Before” pictures the participants are pale and fleshy, like the dough that explodes out of a Pillsbury Crescent Roll tube. In their “Afters” they are ripped: rolling pectorals and half-moon buttocks. P90X is the workout for studs — which doesn’t mean it’s not for women, it’s just that the women are also studs, like that mom in the DVDs who has six kids and is probably the studliest of them all. here does p90x work go to website does p90x work

The 12 DVDs are only a portion of P90X. The Nutrition Plan tells Xers what to eat and how much and when. The message boards teem with people who speak the P90X language, which is a language of “Bringing it,” the phrase that can be affixed to the end of any declaration: Even my eyeballs hurt today. Bring it!

“I think a lot of companies that have made fitness products have underestimated people’s desire to work hard,” Horton says. He’s sitting in a French restaurant near Eastern Market after the Results workout, avoiding the bread basket, requesting that his salad be made without cheese and his fish without cream.

At 52, he looks 32, with dark wavy hair, an unlined face and biceps that are ads for the proverbial gun show.

Horton grew up in Connecticut and Rhode Island. After studying theater and communications at the University of Rhode Island, a then- waifish Horton moved to Los Angeles, where he still lives. The wannabe actor got work as a mime and as an assistant on movie sets until his agent told him he might get more acting jobs if he bulked up. The options at his gym were boring, so he joined three additional ones for variety, cobbling together his own homemade workouts. In the late ’80s, an exec at one of his jobs noticed his physical transformation and asked Horton to train him as well.

The exec later ran into Tom Petty, who remarked that he was looking newly buff; Horton soon became the rocker’s trainer.

“He said, ‘Hey, Tony, can you get me in shape? I got a tour in three months,’ ” Horton says.

Three months. The groundwork for a 90-day body revolution. Horton’s initial workout program was called Power 90; P90X came in 2004 after a year of consulting with fitness experts in various fields.

Petty, Horton says, led to Annie Lennox and Bruce Springsteen.

“I introduced Bruce,” Horton says modestly, “to an early version of muscle confusion.” Ah, yes, “muscle confusion,” the cornerstone term of P90X, referring to the varying workouts that he says are necessary to combat workout plateaus.

Muscle confusion contains “absolutely nothing new in it whatsoever,” says Todd Miller, an associate professor of exercise science at George Washington University, who is an expert in strength and conditioning. P90X “is very high-intensity exercises that you’re doing for an hour a day. That’s a lot of freaking exercise. If you do any high-enough-intensity workout and couple it with a [healthy] diet, you’re probably going to get pretty much the same results.” What Horton calls “muscle confusion” exercise scientists call “periodization,” and they’ve been calling it that for decades.

“Maybe the videos are well produced, or fun,” Miller says. “But the reason the program works is ultimately because people do it.” That’s not a slam — the hardest part of any exercise program is getting people to keep at it. And Horton manages to do that, despite the fact that . . .

“It’s awful,” says Richard Burr. “It doesn’t matter how many times you do it, it still makes you cry.” Burr is a U.S. senator, a Republican from North Carolina, and one of the members of Congress who have embraced the gut-busting doctrine of Tony. He is speaking of the dread Ab Ripper X, the supplemental abdominal workout that is the topic of many a P90X discussion board. (Do it before the workout. Do it after. Do it after, but first drink some Recovery Formula. Do it occasionally. Do it often, but only if you can then pass out on the carpet.) The legislative grunt sessions are perhaps the most illustrative examples of the bonding power of the X, the camaraderie that comes through sweat. P90X speaks to something primal, a return to a time when there were no at-home elliptical machines, when all you had was gravity and your own body.

Many of P90X’s legislative followers say they got into it to reclaim old levels of fitness, or because the program’s portability fit their travel-heavy schedules. McCarthy says he sleeps better; Shuler says he’s had fewer exercise-related injuries. Burr says he hasn’t been in such good shape since college football more than 30 years ago.

Shuler, a former Redskins quarterback, recently went to a Colorado Rockies baseball game to catch up with Todd Helton, an old buddy who plays first base. Helton noticed that Shuler had slimmed down; Shuler told him why. Helton replied, “I love P90X!,” and pretty soon several men were huddled in the clubhouse, bonding over Tony.

Horton swings by the congressional gym whenever he’s in Washington. He’s no lobbyist, but he hopes that by teaching lawmakers about exercise, he might persuade them to support legislation that supports health.

“We did one-legged dip jumps,” says Shuler of a workout held one morning. “Thirty reps on each leg, 40 minutes into the workout. . . . I certainly got my workout.” “Today I got a ‘Perfection’ from Tony,” McCarthy says proudly. “Not just a ‘Good Job,’ but a ‘Perfection.’ ” Back at Results, Horton is leading his class through a final round of squats, offering encouragement to pull them to the end.

“The lower you go, the more pert your [butt] is later in life!” he calls out to one struggling participant. “You see that back there?” he says to another, gesturing toward the exerciser’s posterior. “You need to squeeze that!” The last set completed, he beckons everyone to the ground for a post-workout stretch before dismissing the class, which responds with applause.

“Tony is the man,” says one attendee, whose shirt is sopping. He staggers out through the door and toward the showers. “Tony is the man.” hessem@washpost.com Monica Hesse

time flies

john michael montgomery: time flies

john michael montgomery: time flies

The title of John Michael Montgomery’s new album could be viewed as a comment on the four years that have passed since the Central Kentucky country hero last issued an album. But the instant the wiry steel guitar licks and brassy bravado on the opening What Did I Do kick the honky tonk fervor into gear, you sense Montgomery’s music has not changed a fraction as much as the marketing behind it. That’s to say that Time Flies is Montgomery’s first recording as a free agent after 12 years of hit major label recordings for Warner Bros. and Atlantic. As the inaugural release on Montgomery’s own Stringtown label, what sits in the grooves is familiar, welcoming country-pop from the electric barroom twang of Mad Cowboy Disease to All in a Day, a ballad that sports one of Montgomery’s most honestly plaintive vocal performances in ages. Only With My Shirt On, a yarn about encountering romance with a middle age spread, falls flat – and that’s due more to the low aim of the lyrics than Montgomery’s singing. Longtime ally Byron Gallimore remains at the production helm with Montgomery, giving Time Flies a confident sheen that is radio friendly and then some. But making an imprint on country radio as an indie act is always a tough task. Add to that radio’s increasing indifference to many veteran artists and the road back to the country Top 10 may be a long one for Montgomery. But commercial estimations aside, Time Flies is a confident, consistent work that stands up to anything the airwaves currently have to offer.

Josephine Clay Ford

The Herald June 3, 2005 JOSEPHINE Clay Ford, a philanthropist and the only granddaughter of car pioneer Henry Ford, has died. She was 81.

She had been ill for several weeks. “Throughout her life, she embodied the spirit of giving and family loyalty, ” Ford Motor Co chairman Bill Ford Jr, a nephew, said. here ford motor stock

“She was an inspiration. Her love for Ford Motor Company was unsurpassed.” Ford owned more than 13 million shares of Ford Motor stock – about 18-per cent of the stock held exclusively by Ford family members. In 2001, Time magazine estimated her fortune at dollars- 416m (pounds-340m).

The Detroit Institute of Arts, the Josephine Ford Cancer Center and the College for Creative Studies, an art and design college in Detroit, were among recipients of millions from “Dody” Ford and the foundation she established.

“What else is there for a girl who wasn’t competitive to do but try to escape all that Ford stuff?” she once said. website ford motor stock

She was born in 1923, the third of Edsel and Eleanor Ford’s four children. Edsel was Henry Ford’s only son.

Coincidentally, in 1943 she married a man named Ford – Walter Buhl Ford II, who began his career with rival General Motors Corp. He died in 1991.

The couple had two sons and two daughters.

Their younger son, Alfred Brush Ford, was active in Ford corporate charities but otherwise shunned the family business and joined the Hare Krishna religious sect, renaming himself Ambarish Das.

critic’s pick 41

bob dylan: "tell tale signs"

bob dylan: "tell tale signs"

Through Tell Tale Signs‘ two discs, their two-plus hour running times and the nearly two decades its music is drawn from, Bob Dylan sounds as confounding and fascinating as ever. Three unissued versions of Mississippi? Two rootsier reapplications of Dignity? A leaner Series of Dreams, a song that debuted on an earlier edition of Dylan’s archival Bootleg Series?

Well, why not? Tell Tale Signs proves, if nothing else, a Dylan song is never cast in stone – not even a rolling one. Aside from an alternate take of Everything is Broken, which still sports the same spry groove (but with a sparser design) as its original 1989 version, the anthology warps, complicates and, at times, even streamlines Dylan’s most recent music.

The most immediate insight is offered on demo-like versions of songs from Dylan’s best albums of the ‘80s (1989’s Oh Mercy) and ‘90s (1997’s Time Out of Mind). Both recordings were produced by Canadian sound sculpturer Daniel Lanois, whose atmospheric enhancements made the albums among the most distinctive entries in the Dylan catalog. The original versions are still preferable to the blueprints on Tell Tale Signs. But the fascinating intimacy in a solo acoustic reading of Oh Mercy‘s Most of the Time is both a throwback to the Blood on the Tracks folk renewal of the mid ‘70s and a forecast of the Americana slant to come on Dylan’s more recent Love and Theft and Modern Times albums.

In Tell Tale Signs‘ bravest moment, Dylan offers a 2003 concert version of Love and Theft‘s High Water full of scrappy electric fire. Now, if Dylan really wanted to shake things up, he could issue a full live album of a recent performance. The folk faithful would likely burst into flames upon hearing how a Dylan chestnut is treated onstage these days. The rest of us would rejoice at his sense of relentless reinvention.

But the true highlight is saved for last. Recorded for a TV film on the Civil War called Gods and Generals, Dylan penned an eight minute meditation of unending loss called ‘Cross the Green Mountain. Though previously issued on the film’s soundtrack in 2002, the tune has been largely forgotten. On Tell Tale Signs, it is a chilling epilogue created by Dylan’s road band, then with guitarist Larry Campbell doubling on violin, and augmented by Tom Petty keyboardist Benmont Tench. Echoes of the spiritual and political fire that have long fueled Dylan’s most dramatic music abound. But so do human elements of death, remembrance and almost unconquerable fear. “It’s the last day’s last hour of the last happy year,” Dylan’s sings over the twilight cast of Tench’s organ orchestration.

That this regal view of doom is preceded by a 1998 summit with bluegrass patriarch Ralph Stanley on The Lonesome River (a tune originally issued on Stanley’s Clinch Mountain Country) might suggest a hearty stylistic leap. But the cheery string serenade of Stanley’s Clinch Mountain Boys band is Tell Tale Signs‘ ultimate deception. Upon hearing these two sagely voices in curiously effective harmony (Dylan? Harmonizing?) the pain becomes as great as the loss pervading Green Mountain. But the solitude the song conveys from a riverbank at midnight is simply more singular. A tell tale sign of the modern day Dylan indeed.

john martyn: still living on solid air

john martyn

john martyn. photo from the cover 2007's "solid air live at the roundhouse"

What a nice surprise to thumb through the New York Times over the weekend and discover Jon Pareles’ review of a performance by the great but (in this country, anyway) forgotton British/Scottish songsmith John Martyn An extraordinary writer and a pioneering guitarist whose use of Echoplex effects gave his recordings an often otherworldly ambience, Martyn seldom performs on these shores anymore. Last week, though, he played two nights at Joe’s Pub in New York accompanied by longtime compadre Danny Thompson. The latter has performed in Lexington several times in a similar accompanist capacity for Richard Thompson, although the two are not related.

A singer who was a contemporary of Pentangle (which Danny Thompson co-founded) and Fairport Convention, Martyn was also hideously self-destructive. Stories of his heavier drinking days, chronicled in books like 2006’s Grace and Danger, are not pretty. He has been confined to a wheelchair ever since the amputation of his right leg below the knee due to an infection. But just seeing mention of Martyn in a national newspaper that wasn’t an obituary is cause for a celebration.

Martyn’s music is still essentially undiscovered on these shores, although his songs served as minor hits for Eric Clapton (May You Never) and America (Head and Heart) in the ‘70s.

So the purpose of this little entry is to suggest checking out something new by checking out something old – namely, Martyn’s early recordings. While his inferior ‘80s material has been repackaged to death, his initial albums for the Island label were re-mastered and re-released in 2005. Though available only as imports, they cost little more than the average domestic CD – about $15 or so.

Die-hard fans, if there are indeed any around Kentucky, should note a four-disc box set of Martyn’s Island music was released as recently as last week. Titled Ain’t No Saint, it is available only as an import and includes a wealth of unreleased demos, outtakes and live material.

Early albums like London Conversation and The Tumbler emphasize Martyn’s folkish side. But the killers are 1971’s Bless the Weather and the 1973 recordings Inside Out and Solid Air. The latter, judging by the Times review, provided the bulk of the repertoire for the New York show.

Along with 1977’s One World, Martyn’s music relied far less on traditional British folk inspiration than his Island Records contemporaries. Instead, his music offered a jagged, pouting, confessional, desperate, atmospheric sound all his own.

Here, in the grooves of these shiny Island remasters, remains his finest work. Do yourself a huge favor and give them a shot and a spin.

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