in performance: mark olson and gary louris/lori lieberman

mark olson and gary louris

mark olson and gary louris

A curious dichotomy was at work at last night’s taping of the WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour.

On one hand, we had Mark Olson and Gary Louris, former chieftains of the Jayhawks, deconstructing their roles as Americana bandleaders. Instead, they worked as unaccompanied sketch artists designing generous but unglamorous folk-pop portraits.

Then there was California-born, Swiss-raised songwriter Lori Lieberman. Her newer coffeehouse-friendly songs seemed to have been designed for sparse, intimate accompaniment but were augmented last night by a full pick up band of local musicians.

The four tunes Olson and Louris presented from their fine new Ready for the Flood album certainly recalled the harmony rich music they fashioned together in the Jayhawks during the ‘90s. But harmony is a largely misleading tag for their new music. The two delivered nearly every verse of every song together with Olson’s deeper, more sobering singing balancing Louris’ higher, more plaintively pop-inclined vocals.

At times, the results were quietly stunning, as on Saturday Morning on Sunday Street. To say the song brought to mind the more hollowed pop-folk of early Simon and Garfunkel is not an exaggeration. It wasn’t until the end of the beautifully bittersweet Turn Your Pretty Name Around that the two voices, briefly, split apart. Louris then took the lead on a scrappy but soulful encore of Two Hearts, the evening’s only Jayhawks entry.

Lieberman has been making records for over 35 years, although raising a family put her career largely on hold during the ‘80s and early ‘90s. Her four songs from the just released (as in last week) Gun Metal Sky album summoned a very different set of references, specifically the Joni Mitchell-style intonation that highlighted Every Wednesday Morning.

While it was very cool to have local players at Lieberman’s side, their talents weren’t terribly well utilized. Sentimental narratives like He Needs You didn’t really require much by way of window dressing. Neither did her other songs, for that matter. That might explain why a cellist and percussionist seemed to sit out a sizable chunk of the show.

Guitarist Phillip High added a modest and efficient Spanish flair to solos during Killing Me Softly (the Roberta Flack hit inspired by a Lieberman poem) and The Opposite of Love. But the band arrangement derailed during an encore of Emmylou Harris’ My Baby Needs a Shepherd. Were the amped up guitar colors supposed to sound like an ambient seascape or a cloudburst of distortion? Both impressions were conveyed. Both were distractions.

Whether scaling down or dressing up, simpler is always better for a show like WoodSongs. On that score, we’ll call Olson and Louris, along with their low-fi folk sketches, the evening’s clear winners.


The Cincinnati Post (Cincinnati, OH) October 10, 1997 Byline: Sara Voorhees Scripps Howard News Service It’s no mystery why Brad Pitt was cast as an ex-Nazi in Jean-Jacques Annaud’s adventure odyssey ”Seven Years in Tibet.” Who better to bring in the crucial 18- to 24-year-old audience than the star of ”Seven,” ”Legends of the Fall” and ”Interview with the Vampire”? Who better to play a perfect blond Aryan? Who better to make us care about a thoroughly unattractive young man than the current most attractive young man in Hollywood?

As it turns out, Pitt also brings some impressive acting talent to the role of Heinrich Harrer, a selfish and unlikable Austrian mountain climber who left his pregnant wife and the flourishing Nazi party behind in 1939 and set out to conquer the Himalayan Nanga Parbat peak.

Armed with an understated German accent, platinum-blond hair and an assortment of facial-hair styles and khaki costumes, Pitt takes us on a journey through several years in a British POW camp, across the frozen Himalayan mountains with his reluctant friend Peter Aufschnaiter (David Thewlis) and into the ancient Tibetan city of Lhasa. There he is befriended by the young Dalai Lama (played with extraordinary charm by 14-year-old Jamyang Wangchuk, the son of a Bhutanese diplomat).

Harrer’s story is so fantastic it would be almost unbelievable if it weren’t true. We are asked to accept that, although Harrer begins his journey in the Himalayas as a ruthlessly self-absorbed Nazi, he is transformed into a compassionate, selfless man by the tranquillity and spiritual charisma of the Dalai Lama. here facial hair styles

It’s not as if this is difficult to understand, since director Jean-Jacques Annaud has drawn a picture of the young Dalai Lama and the Tibetan people that is reverent and respectful, with a touch of humor that underscores the Dalai Lama’s profound humanity and wisdom.

The cinematography is magnificent – long sweeping shots of the Himalayas that make you marvel at the folly and arrogance of trying to climb such inhospitable heights – and no one is Annaud’s equal in telling a story without dialogue (remember ”The Bear” and ”Quest for Fire”?).

John Williams’ score is gentle and unobtrusive, and production designer At Hoang very cleverly substituted Argentine locales and the foothills of the Andes when filming was prohibited in Tibet.

Annaud has been careful with details in telling of the sweeping cultural changes Harrer experienced in his years in Tibet. He cast the real Dalai Lama’s sister, Jetsun Pema, in the role of His Holiness’ mother, and Lhakpa Tsamchoe as Aufschnaiter’s strong Tibetan wife delivers some marvelous Buddhist philosophy that makes mincemeat of Western egoism and competition.

What is missing here is a sense of the sweeping internal drama that is unfolding in Harrer’s soul, turning him from the man he was into the man he became.

There is a delicate moment, when the Dalai Lama awakens in tears from a nightmare in which he saw his people slaughtered by the Chinese (a dream which is to come true in all its horror). Harrer, who has been told in no uncertain terms that etiquette forbids him from ever touching the Dalai Lama, struggles with his newly evolved desire to comfort someone in pain, and finally sits next to him and does the only thing in his humble Western repertoire: He puts his arm around his friend.

There should have been more moments like that one, but, since there is no narration and no dialogue to tell us what is happening inside Harrer – a pleasant change from the heavy-hitting obviousness of the average Hollywood movie – the burden falls entirely on Pitt to reveal to us Harrer’s hidden emotional drama. here facial hair styles

Unfortunately, there is no way he could let us in on the intricacies of his spiritual journey without breaking the subtle atmosphere that Annaud has carefully created. In the end, the evolved Harrer seems almost as cold and one-dimensional to us as he did when he was selfish.

”Seven Years in Tibet” is still a beautiful story about one man’s spiritual salvation, but what audiences are most likely to come away with is an understanding of the grace of the Tibetan people and a sense of outrage at the abominable wrongs inflicted upon them by the Chinese government.

That in itself is enough to make ”Seven Years in Tibet” worth seeing.


Photo (2) Brad Pitt, right, runs into trouble in this scene from ”Seven Years in Tibet.” Traveling with him are David Thewlis, left, and Lhakpa Tsamchoe.

Brad Pitt as Heinrich Harrer and Jamyang Wangchuk as the young Dalai Lama become friends in ”Seven Years in Tibet.”

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