Archive for September, 2009

in performance: tim easton

tim easton. photo by paul moore.

tim easton. photo by paul moore.

As the few stragglers not glued to the airwaves this afternoon for the UK-U of L football game were gathering beers and brats for breakfast, Tim Easton plugged in and gave his literate Americana storysongs something of an electric overhaul as the Christ the King Oktoberfest geared up for day two.

Easton has performed at the event for the past several years in a solo acoustic setting, which neatly suits the folky narrative structure of his songs as well as the scratchy conversational voice he employs to bring those yarns to life. Even within the deep electric recesses of Stormy and the as-yet-unrecorded Maid of the Mist (one of several tunes Easton and a youthful three member band were set to beginning recording sessions on this weekend), echoes of master songsmiths like Bob Dylan and Neil Young emerged.

But Easton’s ace-in-the-hole remains his seemingly endless vocabulary of song hooks. Sure, the detail adorning his tunes during this 85 minute set, drawn mostly from the to-be-recorded album and last spring’s Porcupine, screamed folk. But the backbeat churning under Northbound, the faux-pedal steel suggestions on Beat the Band (the best of the unrecorded works) and the Byrds-like guitar chiming on The Weight of Changing Everything were as pop as could be.

Those still devoted to Easton’s folkier fare were rewarded with the set-closing solo acoustic oldies Next to You and Rewind. Both were performed as Easton’s band tore down the stage equipment and loaded their van for a hasty departure for Nashville and the beckoning recording sessions. A quick thank you from the stage and an engulfed brat from the van later, Easton and band were on the road. Another Oktoberfest snapshot was complete.

in performance: the minus 5, the baseball project and the steve wynn IV/paul burch

steve wynn. photo by guy kokken.

steve wynn. photo by guy kokken.

This was one of those outings that couldn’t help but plant a big grin on your face. Take four world class rockers with extensive and storied recording histories, a core repertoire from three underappreciated bands – The Minus 5, The Baseball Project and The Steve Wynn IV, although the music was hardly limited to those ensembles –  and a stage sound full of enough collar-grabbing guitar hooks to make the show very dance hall savvy. But then add in the fact the foursome – guitarist/vocalists Scott McCaughey and Steve Wynn, bassist/guitarist Peter Buck and drummer Linda Pitmon – were playing full tilt for free in a church parking lot – specifically, the one at Christ the King’s annual Oktoberfest – and the whole event suddenly took on the unassuming charm of a garage rock block party.

scott mccaughey

scott mccaughey

The bulk of the 90 minute set shifted between crunchy combo rockers from Wynn’s ‘80s days with The Dream Syndicate (a merry, sing-a-long version of The Medicine Show) and the broader pop sweep of newer works (Love Me Anyway) to McCaughey’s Minus 5 material which electrified the pop content within I’m Not Bitter and the more Americana-directed material from the new Killingsworth album (highlighted by the lean, melodic drive of Ambulance Dancehall).

peter buck

peter buck

Fleshing out the program were songs the foursome released earlier this year under the banner name of The Baseball Project. The mix of pop smarts and baseball reverence blended right in with the show’s loose-fitting groove, from the crash and rumble of Wynn’s Harvey Haddix to the boozy Kinks-style bashing of McCaughey’s The Death of Big Ed Delahanty. Throughout, Pitmon fueled the show’s spirited and at times combustible drive, even as eyes and ears were drawn centerstage to R.E.M. mainstay Buck, who played bass with poker-faced glee.

linda pitmon

linda pitmon

As a bonus, the show boiled over at the end with encore covers of Neil Young’s Revolution Blues and The Sonics’ Strychnine. And let’s not forgot all of this came to us in a Oktoberfest tent on one of the last calendar nights of the summer. Honestly, now. How much more fun can rock ‘n’ roll get than this?

Nashville songsmith Burch, an Oktoberfest regular, preceded the three-bands-in-one show with a 45 minute one-man-band set drenched in a naturally retro pop accent. The fun shifted from the vintage Buddy Holly-style stride of Little Bells to a modest country blues groove that recalled comparatively recent pop henchmen like Dave Edmunds in Down in the Black Market. Though he only had his own sketchy electric guitar outlines as accompaniment, Burch’s songs continually sounded soulful, sleek and complete.

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three bands in one

which band is it? the minus 5? the baseball project? the steve wynn IV? it's all three. from left, peter buck, steve wynn, linda pitmon and scott mccaughey.

the minus 5? the baseball project? the steve wynn IV? why, it's all three. from left: peter buck, steve wynn, linda pitmon and scott mccaughey.

The late night lineup tonight at the annual Christ the King Oktoberfest suggests something of a triple play.

Leading off will be The Minus 5, the revolving door pop collective fronted by guitarist, songsmith and part time R.E.M.-er Scott McCaughey. Then we have The Baseball Project, a unique rock enterprise that designs original songs about the Great American Pastime. Rounding out the roster will be The Steve Wynn IV, a band that brings Dream Syndicate maestro and longtime solo artist Wynn to Lexington for the first time.

That’s a quite a team for 10 o’clock at night – at a church.

Ah, but there is an appealing catch that should streamline the bill. All three bands are the same band. McCaughey’s Minus 5 – still with R.E.M. mainstay Peter Buck on guitar and bass – will double as The Steve Wynn IV and triple as The Baseball Project, a band spearheaded equally by McCaughey and Wynn. Longtime Wynn percussionist and drummer Linda Pitmon rounds out all three units.

“As a musician and also as a music fan, I like being in a situation where things change constantly, where it’s not just a whole lot of one thing and then the curtain drops,” Wynn said. “I like surprise. I like the random element. And there will be plenty of both in this show.”

All four players in the three bands have collaborated and crossed musical paths numerous times. McCaughey (an auxiliary member of R.E.M. since the mid ‘90s) and Buck (one of R.E.M.’s founders) have been pals for years. In addition to R.E.M. and The Minus 5, they perform with British pop stylist Robyn Hitchcock while McCaughey is also a co-founder of the 28 year old Seattle-bred pop band The Young Fresh Fellows. McCaughey and Buck also played Oktoberfest as a duo in 2007 during a weekend break from recording sessions for R.E.M.’s Accelerate album

Wynn’s career has revolved around a series of critically lauded pop, rock and psychedelic folk flavored solo albums and band projects, many of which included Pitmon. But his music took root in the early ‘80s with The Dream Syndicate, a band at the forefront of the West Coast’s so-called “Paisley Underground” pop movement. That was roughly the same time that Buck and R.E.M. broke through to international acclaim.

“The Dream Syndicate actually toured with R.E.M. in 1984,” McCaughey said. “That was the first time I ever saw R.E.M. Even then, Peter was known to get out onstage and play songs with Steve. They’ve even played a few of those songs on this trip.”

McCaughey and Wynn both have new albums to showcase during tonight’s “three bands-in-one” performance. McCaughey’s newest Minus 5 record, Killingsworth, downplays the electric pop accents of past recordings in favor of heavily acoustic Americana tunes with undercurrents of pedal steel guitar that color the alert though somewhat overcast storylines of his songs.

As with most Minus 5 records, McCaughey enlists his friends for Killingsworth. Along with Buck, the guest list features local musicians from McCaughey’s newly adopted hometown of Portland, Oregon, including the entire lineup of The Decemberists.

“I wanted the record to be really stripped down and fairly acoustic,” McCaughey said. “There’s barely an electric guitar on the record – just lots of acoustic guitar, fiddle, banjo, accordion and, of course, the ubiquitous pedal steel guitar.”

While McCaughey was whittling his sound down, Wynn was building his up. His 2008 album Crossing Dragon Bridge departs from the double guitar/bass/drums sound of the Paisley Underground days and embraces orchestral pop with strings underscoring spacious and surprisingly personal narratives.

“These songs have room for variety,” Wynn said. “But the sound we gave them… that’s something I’ve wanted to do, really, for my whole career – just that big Technicolor, wide screen, evocative type sound.”

But the band that levels the playing field for Wynn and McCaughey is The Baseball Project. Its debut album, Vol. 1: Frozen Ropes and Dying Quails (cut as a quartet record with Buck and Pitmon) blends yarns about such baseball icons as Ted Williams, Satchel Paige and Willie Mays with immensely infectious pop and rock melodies.

Among the highlights is Wynn’s Jackie’s Lament, a spiritual, bittersweet and quite moving meditation on the great Jackie Robinson. On the flip side of such ball park faith is McCaughey’s The Yankee Flipper, the story of the music-loving New York Yankee pitcher Black Jack McDowell and the infamous hand gesture he awarded a home crowd after being booed off the field in 1995.

“It’s not a gratuitous type of record,” Wynn said. “We’re fans. You can hear that in the songs. Hopefully we found that fine line between knowing what we’re talking about and being absolute baseball geeks.”

One Baseball Project tune that should earn a vocal Lexington reception tonight is Wynn’s Harvey Haddix. Its verses include a check list of players who pitched perfect games (which Haddix fell just short of after losing in a 13 inning bout in 1959). Among the champs mentioned is Jim Bunning. Wynn and McCaughey know all about Bunning’s current tenure as a two term United States senator from Kentucky and the turbulence within the Republican Party that recently caused Bunning to bow out of campaigning for a third Senatorial stay.

“Man, he was a great pitcher,” McCaughey said. “But I have to admit I got a sort of perverse joy out of watching him be a bit of a pain to his fellow Republicans.”

“I admired what Jim Bunning did on the field,” Wynn added. “Let’s just leave it at that.”

The Minus 5/The Baseball Project/The Steve Wynn IV perform at 10 p.m Friday as part of the Christ the King Oktoberfest, 299 Colony Blvd. Admission is free. Call: (859) 268-2861 or go to www.ctkoktoberfest.com.

greater circulation

circulatory system. photo by kelly ruberto.

circulatory system. clockwise from bottom left: bassist/organist peter erchick, guitarist nesey gallons, cellist heather mcintosh, drummer derek almstead, violinist/clarinetist/bassist john fernandes, guitarist/vocalist will cullen hart. photo by kelly ruberto.

Now here is a happy surprise. The last we heard from the Athens, Ga. psychedelic pop brigade Circulatory System – in recorded form, at least – was when its fine self-titled debut album was issued some eight years ago.

That record, cut by leader/founder Will Cullen Hart and remains of the then-recently demised Olivia Tremor Control, was a scrapbook of retro and indie pop inspirations tossed together and shaken vigorously. On the album-opening Yesterday’s World, you heard a dizzying sing-a-long that swam back to the late ‘60s folk of the Incredible String Band with a touch of Revolver-era John Lennon as channeled by Robyn Hitchcock. Then animated, Frank Zappa-esque reeds start bouncing about. In short, this was music that made the rounds.

So now, at long last, we have a followup called Signal Morning – a record where Hart and his pals, quite remarkably, stray little from the sort of psychedelia that sprouted from the first album. On This Morning, We Remembered Everything, a beefy T. Rex-style groove is thrown into the fun until the ensemble sound fractures into XTC-like frenzy.

Hart, for those familiar with the regenerative spirit of indie rock during the ‘90s, was also a co-founding member of Elephant 6, a pop collective that also gave rise to, among other bands, The Apples in Stereo (the band’s Lexington-based chieftain Robert Schneider is also a founder). Signal Morning is very much in keeping with the collective’s practice of formulating new music out of solid pop melodies, pronounced psychedelic accents and considerable sonic experimentation.

Though diagnosed with multiple sclerosis while making Signal Morning, Hart works steadily as a visual artist and oversees his Cloud Recordings label. He also takes on considerable roadwork. As such, Hart and Circulatory System perform at Al’s Bar this weekend to serve up the pop quilt tunes from Signal Morning on Saturday night.

Two other Circulatory System mainstays will open the show. Guitarist Nesey Gallons will likely spotlight solo acoustic works while keyboardist/bassist Peter Erchick will perform with his band, Pipes You See, Pipes You Don’t.

Circulatory System performs at 9 p.m. Saturday at Al’s Bar, 601 N. Limestone. Cover charge is $5. Call (859) 309-2901.

a final night of soul power

a 50 year old b.b. king performing in "soul power."

a 50 year old b.b. king performing in "soul power."

The trick with great art films is that they usually leave Lexington before you even know they have arrived.  That’s essentially the case with Soul Power, the extraordinary time capsule account of music that lit up Zaire in 1974. Unless the good folks at the Kentucky Theatre hold it over for another week, which is highly unlikely, you have exactly one more chance to catch a screening: tonight at 9:40 at the Kentucky.

The importance of a film like Soul Power, a documentary by director Jeffrey Levy-Hinte, isn’t all that removed from the recent anniversary hoopla surrounding the 40th anniversary of Woodstock – or, at least the 1970 film that chronicled it.

Admittedly, there is strong continental cultural significance to the latter. Zaire ’74, on the other hand is the little known three day festival at the heart of Soul Power. It features epic blues, R&B, funk, all kinds of world music, jazz, salsa and, of course soul. The festival is historically viewed – when it’s viewed at all – as a minor footnote to the Muhammed Ali-George Foreman heavyweight bout that was to have simultaneously taken place in Zaire (the African nation known, since 1997, as the Democratic Republic of the Congo). After Foreman injured his eye, the fight was postponed, but not the festival.

Like the Woodstock film, however, Soul Power is an incredible musical timepiece. Yet Soul Power has discovery in its favor because the very existence of these filmed performances – outside of brief glimpses offered in the 1996 documentary of the Ali/Foreman bout When We Were Kings – has received so little notice until now.

But what a find it is. We have B.B. King, nearing 50 at the time, playing with youthful blues-soul vigor. We have the sublime South African singer Miriam Makeba in full majesty. We have a James Brown performance with an almost combustible level of intensity. The Latin, African and American summits peppered throughout are just as arresting.

Here are two New York Times pieces on Soul Power. One is a Jon Pareles feature on the history of Soul Power; the second is A.O. Scott’s review of the film. Both are great reads that should justly make you all the more Power hungry.

Soul Power will be shown again at 9:40 tonight at the Kentucky Theatre. The film is rated PG-13.

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fleck/hussain/meyer: the melody of rhythm

fleck/hussain/meyer: the melody of rhythm

Considering a new collaborative album featuring banjo journeyman Bela Fleck, veteran Indian percussionist Zakir Hussain and pioneering bassist Edgar Meyer alongside an unaccompanied piano concert recording of vast spiritual depth by veteran jazzman McCoy Tyner might seem something of stylistic leap. After all, The Melody of Rhythm, the Fleck/Hussain/Meyer summit, skips heartily through fields of classical, folk, world music and more while Tyner’s Solo: Live in San Francisco is a grand portrait of bop, blues and learned jazz reflection.

On The Melody of Rhythm, the trio’s conversational lightness isn’t so much the product of some East-meets-West lexicon as it is a field trip across cultural common ground.

Remember, Fleck last spring released a stunning album of collaborations with African musicians that explored the banjo’s heritage while Hussain, a protégé of India’s most cherished classical masters, has long collaborated with British and American players. Meyer, in the meantime, still leapfrogs between classical and new acoustic projects. Last fall, he played the Kentucky Center of the Arts with the Louisville Orchestra but was here in Lexington weeks later performing acoustic duos with mandolinist Chris Thile.

mccoy tyner: solo

mccoy tyner: solo, live in san francisco

Even Tyner, who shifts between effortless delicacy and the brute strength of a prizefighter on Solo, embraced the craftiness that sparks frequently during The Melody of the Rhythm on his 2008 Guitars album. That project teamed the one-time John Coltrane protégé with such modern-minded string men as Derek Trucks, John Scofield, Marc Ribot, Bill Frisell and, quite fittingly, Fleck.

In short, these albums are adventures. For Fleck, Hussain and Meyer, the daring behind The Melody of Rhythm revolves around the triple concerto title piece (commissioned by the Nashville Symphony in 2004 but presented here on a recording with the Detroit Symphony). Much of it sounds like a movie score, with orchestral colors tempered at times by Hussain, whose playing on the resonating Indian hand drum known as the tabla gives the music not so much as a beat as a pulse. By the time strings and reeds match the percolating pace established by Fleck and Hussain, the orchestration’s calm center dissolves. The piece then moves through Frank Zappa-like fancy into stormy crescendos.

The remaining five pieces are shorter trio exercises with an attractive spaciousness. Out of the Blue, for instance, offers numerous thrills in the ways its pace and mood shift between the three instruments – particularly from the tabla’s spiritual punctuation to the banjo’s inherent giddiness. The concerto is dynamite. But these trio pieces sparkle with even greater immediacy, invention and depth.

Such traits also run rampant through Solo, which Tyner cut in 2007 (he was 69 at the time). And, yes, the playing is fearsome in places, as in the blasts of typhoon-like intensity during the finale of Sweet and Lovely. Even the Duke Ellington standard In a Mellow Tone is beefed up with modal-style gospel at points. It’s like swing on steroids.

But listen to Ballad for Aisha and the long-heralded Coltrane hymn Naima – tunes that have been in Tyner’s repertoire for ages – and you hear a more sage-like spirituality. There are no bandmates about, but the music’s deep bedded soulfulness remains contemplative and, above all, complete.

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the sounds of fall

The Herald-Leader published its mighty Falls Arts Calendar today. So let’s use the occasion to roundup nine seasonal shows that will make autumn anyone’s favorite time of year.

More concerts will undoubtedly be announced as autumn progresses. But here is the pick of the fall performance harvest so far.

bettye lavette

bettye lavette

+ Sept. 26: Bettye LaVette at the Singletary Center for the Arts:  A true soul music diva that, at age 63, can turn songs by such disparate artists as Dolly Parton, The Who and Lucinda Williams into R&B oratories as elegant as they are urgent.

mary-chapin carpenter

mary-chapin carpenter

+ Oct. 2: Mary-Chapin Carpenter at Equus Run Vineyards: Like the performances by LaVette and The Decemberists, the first local outing by folk and Americana songstress Carpenter in ages is part of the Alltech Fortnight Festival.

mark o'connor

mark o'connor

+ Oct. 5: Mark O’Connor at the Kentucky Theatre: A leading composer and violinist known for classical works soaked in Americana inspiration, O’Connor now brings his Appalachian Waltz Trio to the WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour.

the decemberists

the decemberists

+ Oct. 6: The Decemberists at the Singletary Center for the Arts- Their songs can take place in the belly of a whale or the presence of a forest witch. Their music shifts from British folk to prog rock. Expect anything at the Lexington debut of The Decemberists.

os mutantes

os mutantes

+ Oct. 9-11: Boomslang – Billed as a “celebration of music and art,” Boomslang will take over a half dozen venues around town with performances by The Black Angels, Faust and Os Mutantes as well as “a circus themed fashion show.”

kings of leon

kings of leon

+ Oct. 10: Kings of Leon at Rupp Arena – Who could have predicted that Only By the Night, the fourth album by Kings of Leon would still be a Top 10 hit a year after its release? Guess that’s why it took to so long to get the Followill clan to perform in Lexington.

leo kottke

leo kottke

+ Oct. 29: Leo Kottke at the Kentucky Theatre – A guitarist of playful and unspoiled majesty and a storyteller full of deliciously warped spontaneity. How lucky we are to get Leo back in town every few years.

robert earl keen

robert earl keen

+ Nov. 5: Robert Earl Keen/Todd Snider/Bruce Robison at the Opera House: Texas troubadour Keen, fresh off the release of The Rose Hotel, his first album of new songs in over four years, returns to the Opera House with misfit folkie Snider and country songsmith Robison.

jean-luc ponty

jean-luc ponty

+ Nov. 14: Jean-Luc Ponty at the Singletary Center for the Arts – Another Lexington debut, which is remarkable given how this jazz violinist versed in everything from fusion to world music has been performing in the U.S. for over 40 years.

No Bill of Lading.(“Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation: The End of Slavery in America”)(Book Review)

First Things: A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life June 1, 2004 | McKenna, George LINCOLN’S EMANCIPATION PROCLAMATION: THE END OF SLAVERY IN AMERICA. By ALLEN C. GUELZO. Simon & Schuster 332 pp. $26.

ABRAHAM LINCOLN freed the slaves. Or so I was taught in grade school. Later, of course, I became much more knowledgeable and sophisticated. I learned that Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation applied only to areas in actual rebellion against the Union–places not in control of federal forces. I learned that William Seward, Lincoln’s own Secretary of State, had dismissed the Emancipation Proclamation as “a puff of wind … emancipating slaves where we cannot reach them and holding them in bondage where we can set them free.” I read historian Richard Hofstadter’s famous observation that the Proclamation “had all the moral grandeur of a bill of lading” and “did not in fact free any slaves.” Now, as the subtitle of his study of the Emancipation Proclamation suggests, Allen C. Guelzo seems ready to affirm that my boyhood understanding was right after all.

Guelzo lays out his case methodically in Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation: The End of Slavery in America, first showing us Lincoln’s underlying principles, then the way he applied them in the rapidly shifting landscape between 1861 and 1865. What was fixed and unalterable in Lincoln was his conviction that slavery was a grave moral evil that should be put “in the course of ultimate extinction.” This is platitudinous today (except in parts of Africa) but it certainly was not in antebellum America. Probably only a minority accepted the argument of slavery apologists such as George Fitzhugh and John C. Calhoun that slavery was a positive good, but a more common view was that slavery as a moral issue ought to be kept out of national public debate. In his famous 1858 debates with Lincoln, Stephen A. Douglas played to this view, charging that it was fatuous, if not mischievous, for Lincoln to drag this moral issue (he also called it a “religious” issue) into the national public arena: “I do not discuss the morals of the people of Missouri, but let them settle the matter for themselves.” Lincoln not only stuck to his position but put it at the very center of the debate. “The real issue in this controversy,” he said, is “the sentiment on the part of one class that looks upon the institution of slavery as a wrong, and another class that does not look upon it as a wrong.” Throughout his public career, Lincoln never left any doubt about where he stood on the issue. In 1837, as a young Illinois legislator, he and another member denounced slavery as an institution “founded on injustice and bad policy.” In 1849, as a one-term congressman, he proposed abolishing it in the District of Columbia, and in 1854 he began publicly honing the moral case against slavery that he used against Douglas in 1858. web site bill of lading

IF HE FELT SO STRONGLY about slavery, why didn’t he abolish it at once when he took office, instead of waiting two years and then abolishing it only in the areas of actual rebellion? Guelzo offers a number of reasons, including Lincoln’s modest view of presidential authority in civil affairs (as opposed to his plenary concept of “war powers”), and his concern that the Supreme Court of Roger Taney–author of the Dred Scott decision–would pounce on any presidential proclamation freeing slaves that was not very narrowly tailored. But the most persuasive reason Guelzo offers is that an immediate, sweeping proclamation would have cost Lincoln the support of the border states–and thus the Union. Seven slaveowning states had already seceded by the time Lincoln was sworn into office on March 4, 1861, and in April another four followed. Four slaveowning states, Missouri, Delaware, Maryland, and Kentucky, still remained in the Union, but Kentucky declared itself to be in a “position of strict neutrality” and two of the other three were very shaky. (Legislation affirming loyalty to the Union had passed in the Maryland legislature very narrowly, and in Missouri the governor and legislature were divided.) If these loyal, or semi-loyal, states ever heard that Lincoln was planning to free “their” slaves by decree, the game would have been up. Kentucky would have tipped first, Lincoln thought, then Missouri, and then Maryland, which bordered on the District of Columbia.

“These all against us, and the job on our hands is too large for us,” Lincoln said. “We would as well consent to separation at once, including the surrender of this capitol.” These were not imaginary fears. Already in Maryland, slaves were escaping into Union camps, and when their outraged Unionist owners showed up to demand their return under the Fugitive Slave Law, Union soldiers, “practicing a little of the abolition system,” as one complainant put it, rudely turned them away. If you are going to treat us like rebels, the Marylanders threatened, we might as well be rebels. The same complaints were surfacing in other loyal slaveholding states, and Lincoln was forced to assure Senator Garrett Davis of Kentucky that he would do nothing to threaten “the institutions or property” of any loyal state. “Professed Unionists,” Lincoln confessed, gave him “more trouble than rebels.” Whatever his desires about the future of slavery, Lincoln had taken an oath on March 4, 1861, to “preserve, defend, and protect the Constitution of the United States.” By that day, seven slaveowning states of the Deep South had torn up the Constitution; in the next month another four would do the same. Lincoln’s “paramount” duty, he wrote to New York Tribune editor Horace Greeley, was to restore it. “If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that.” Lincoln’s focus on saving the Union was in no way incompatible with his desire to end slavery. First of all, if the Union were not preserved, if the South were allowed to go its own way and do its own thing, all hopes for ending slavery in the foreseeable future would be ended. Second, Lincoln left open a radical option (“if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it”) while hinting at what he was then planning to do in his Emancipation Proclamation (“freeing some and leaving others alone”). Third, Lincoln had never given up the idea, which he had first broached in 1855, of voluntary and compensated emancipation. He brought it up again in the fall of 1861, hoping to make tiny Delaware a laboratory to demonstrate its success and encourage other states to try it, and in 1862 he persuaded Congress to pass legislation extending the offer to all loyal states, but even this voluntary proposal produced a storm of indignation over interference in “states’ rights.” Its Delaware sponsors dropped it when the votes weren’t there for final passage, and none of the other border states showed any interest in it. At his most cautious, then, Lincoln was still far ahead of most other white Americans in moving toward the abolition of slavery. website bill of lading

What Lincoln could do unilaterally, as he understood it, was to use his military power as commander-in-chief to deprive the rebels of the slaves they were using to grow their crops. Yet he wanted to give the rebel areas an opportunity to return to the Union on their own. On September 22, 1862, he issued a Preliminary Proclamation, setting a deadline of January 1, 1863, for a return to the Union. If the areas in rebellion failed to comply by that date, their slaves would be “thenceforward and forever free.” The armed services were ordered to protect and maintain “the freedom of such persons” and to do nothing to repress them “in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom.” This last phrase set off a new uproar, even in the North, because it was viewed as an incitement to bloody slave rebellions. According to one Boston “moderate,” it would make the slaves think that they “should be made free by killing or poisoning their masters and mistresses.” In the Final Proclamation of January 1, 1863, Lincoln enjoined the slaves “to abstain from all violence, unless in necessary self-defense”; but this tacitly left open other means of self-liberation, including simply running away, which is what Lincoln hoped they would do.

The Final Proclamation made good on the ultimatum Lincoln had delivered in his Preliminary Proclamation one hundred days earlier: “I do order and declare that all persons held as slaves within said designated States, and parts of States, are, and henceforward shall be, free; and that the Executive government of the United States, including the military and naval authorities thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of said persons.” The night before issuing it, Lincoln was getting last-minute telegraphic reports on the “parts of states” that had come under federal control. Referring to them, the Proclamation said, “These excepted parts are, for the present, left precisely as if this proclamation were not issued.” Hence Seward’s jibe about Lincoln’s “emancipating slaves where we cannot reach them and holding them in bondage where we can set them free.” (An editorialist in the London Times compared it to “a Chinaman beating his two swords together to frighten his enemy.”) But Guelzo gives us reason to believe that this was no empty gesture. He quotes a Union officer in Virginia who saw slaves running into his camp from as far away as North Carolina; this officer said they “know all about the Proclamation and they started on the belief in it.” Many slaves themselves later named the Proclamation as the instrument that motivated them to escape. “When the Proclamation was issued,” one told a congressional committee, that was when he decided to flee his master. Another said, “I have been a slave from my childhood up to the time I was set free by the emancipation proclamation.” In the summer of 1863, a Union officer noticed among “the negroes” a very different attitude from former times. He attributed it to the Proclamation: “a spirit of independence–a feeling they are no longer slaves.” It is hard to keep people in slavery when they no longer think of themselves as slaves.

THERE IS MUCH MORE about Lincoln in Guelzo’s book, including his promotion of the Thirteenth Amendment, his use of black troops in the war, and his support for at least selective black suffrage at its conclusion. Indeed, we probably learn more about Lincoln in this book than we need to, given its limited scope. Guelzo reprises his earlier speculations about Lincoln’s religiosity (Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President, 1999; reviewed in FT August 2000), portraying him as “a kind of secularized Calvinist” who feigned religiosity for political reasons until the summer of 1862, when the deepening crisis finally caused him to think seriously about God’s purposes. (For a different and better supported view, see Joseph R. Fornieri, Abraham Lincoln’s Political Faith, 2003). Even within its scope one finds some rhetorical overkill in a few places. In one passage, for example, Guelzo replies to Richard Hofstadter’s wisecrack about the Emancipation Proclamation having “all the moral grandeur of a bill of lading”–by defending bills of lading. Wisely, he consigns that to a footnote.

Nevertheless, Guelzo presents a well-documented account of a president who stretched his powers as far as the Constitution and the climate of the times permitted in order to set the nation on a course leading to what he had hoped for many years earlier: the “ultimate extinction” of slavery. I do not know whether that is still taught in our public schools. Guelzo makes a persuasive case that it should be.

GEORGE MCKENNA is Professor of Political Science at City College of New York and author of The Drama of Democracy (1994).

McKenna, George

bonus tracks with derek trucks

derek trucks

derek trucks

We offered the bulk of our recent interview with guitarist Derek Trucks over the last two days. But there were many insightful comments that didn’t make their way, mostly for space limitations, into the story. Here is the best of what got left behind:

On the 40th anniversary of The Allman Brothers Band and the group’s most recent string of spring concerts at New York’s Beacon Theatre: “It was great. We had Levon Helm, Taj Mahal, Buddy Guy, Johnny Winter, Eric Clapton, Chuck Leavell, Bonnie Bramblett – just some amazing guests. It was nice also that the band dedicated the whole Beacon run – this whole anniversary, really – to Duane (Allman, the band’s founding guitarist, who died in 1971). That’s fitting. I think he’d be pretty happy with the fact that his band has made it this long with so much integrity.”

On other Allman-related anniversaries this year: “It’s my 10th year in the Allman Brothers and the 20th anniversary of the 1989 reunion (the band had dissolved in 1982). It’s also been 20 years now for the band at the Beacon. And I turned 30 this year. Lots of anniversaries; lots of serendipity.

On the influence of vintage soul music on his new “Already Free” album: “I listened to as much Sly Stone and Bobby Womack as I did rock. That’s the music I grew up loving. Whether it was Otis Redding or Sam Cooke, it was all a huge influence. And so, it all comes out. I really think this record, more than any other I’ve done, is the most true to where we’re from. It really feels like an American record. Even further than that, it feels like a Deep South record. You can feel the moss on the trees and the tea colored water out back. The record has that vibe. It’s got all of the influences that are in our blood.

On recording with jazz piano great McCoy Tyner: “Within a few months I got to record with Richie Havens, Buddy Guy and McCoy Tyner. Three different worlds – but these are guys I respect immensely.  McCoy was really a trip, because in recording with him I was also stepping into a studio with (veteran jazz drummer) Jack DeJohnette and (equally esteemed bassist) Ron Carter. I felt like I was in that Sesame Street skit – you know, ‘one of these things is not like the other.’ But it was great. A few months after the recording session, I was playing a jazz festival with my band. McCoy was playing down the street at another venue at the festival, so I got to sit in for the last half of his set. That was just as much fun as the record. And I got the jazz treatment where you rehearse three tunes and go up onstage only to have the guys call three different tunes. It was still great – kind of a trial by fire, though.”

On his performance history in Lexington: “We had a lot of fun there for awhile. We were playing a club called Lynagh’s every year and had some great shows and great times there. We’re looking forward to coming back.”

from duane to derek, part 2

The Derek Trucks Band: Count M'Butu (percussion), Todd Smallie (bass), Mike Mattison (vocals), Derek Trucks (guitar), Yonrico Scott (drums), Kofi Burbridge (keyboards and flute). photo by michael schmelling.

The Derek Trucks Band: Count M'Butu (percussion), Todd Smallie (bass), Mike Mattison (vocals), Derek Trucks (guitar), Yonrico Scott (drums) and Kofi Burbridge (keyboards and flute). photo by michael schmelling.

This is the second of a two-part feature on guitarist Derek Trucks, who performs with The Derek Trucks Band on Saturday at Buster’s Billiards and Ballroom.

To infer the late Duane Allman’s playing dominates the styles promoted by Derek Trucks, as many critics and fans have, is misleading. Trucks is also immensely versed in jazz and world music. Aside from recording and gigging with players like McCoy Tyner, he also is versed in the music pioneered by the pianist’s one time employer, the iconic saxophonist John Coltrane. In fact, a stunning new concert EP disc by The Derek Trucks Band released last spring as a companion piece to Already Free (titled Already Live) features a 17 minute variation of Coltrane’s arrangement of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s My Favorite Things.

“We love playing those tunes and stretching out,” Trucks said. “But it’s hard to make something like that fit thematically on a studio record. Our last three or four albums have been introductions to the band for a lot of people. Putting a 20 minute instrumental on there isn’t really the way to gain new fans. So it’s great to be able to have a live EP and throw any crazy stuff you want on there. Songs like My Favorite Things make for some of my favorite moments in a live setting.”

Today the sense of family that has long pervaded Trucks’ music with the Allmans spills over into his own work. He is married to Susan Tedeschi, the popular guitarist/vocalist with a similar affection for blues and soul tradition. They maintain separate recording careers but frequently pool their band resources to tour together as the Soul Stew Revival.

Trucks and Tedeschi also have two children, which make juggling their respective careers, not to mention the former’s commitment to performances with his band, the Allmans and one-off projects like the Clapton tour, a continually difficult challenge. While Trucks appreciates the opportunities that have come his way, he is already making his work life more complimentary to his home life. The first step was building a full recording studio in the couple’s Jacksonville residence. But more changes may be in the offing.

“The last three or four years have been… well, not overwhelming, but whatever the step below that is,” Trucks said. “We’ve had a really insane schedule. Everybody is on the same page and working toward the same thing – whether it’s family, band or management. And I’m very fortunate to be married to somebody who absolutely understands the world I run in because she’s running in it herself.

“But in saying that, part of the reason in building the studio was the realization that I don’t want to be on tour 300 days a year with 10 different bands for the rest of my life. I love touring and performing live. But I really think within this next year or so, it will seriously be time to shift gears, go home, write and start a band with my wife – you know, really, in a way, clean the slate and just kind of start from scratch. You need to just hit the reset button every once in awhile.”

The Derek Trucks Band perform at 8 p.m. Saturday at Buster’s Billiards and Backroom, 899 Manchester St. Van Ghost will open. Tickets are $25. For info, go to www.bustersbb.com.

from derek to duane, part 1

derek trucks. photo by michael schmelling.

derek trucks. photo by rob schmelling.

This is the first of a two-part feature on on guitarist Derek Trucks, who performs with The Derek Trucks Band on Saturday at Buster’s Billiards and Backroom. The story will conclude on Friday.

There is an attitude – a vision, almost – that emerges from the grooves of The Derek Trucks Band’s recent Already Free album. It’s been brewing throughout a recording career that began when the lauded Florida guitarist was still in his teens. You hear it also, in slightly modified form, during the performances he has delivered over the past decade with his “other” group, The Allman Brothers Band.

But on Trucks’ new tunes, that feeling is inescapable. It is born of the blues, borrows from deep Southern soul and remains, at heart, powerfully uplifting. In a word, it’s almost righteous.

“We’ve always made it a point, as a band, to be aware of the overarching theme of things,” said Trucks, 30, last weekend by phone following an Allmans concert in Boston. “My band has records titled Joyful Noise, Soul Serenade and, now, Already Free. It’s all part of a theme where I think music should be a medicine. It should release you from your day-to-day life. It is supposed to help you dig a little deeper.

“A lot of the music I hear nowadays is just too self-serving, too demeaning to people. It’s everybody’s choice. It’s your music. Do what you want to with it. But I do think when you have a certain platform it’s kind of your duty to put the right things out there.

“My favorite records are always the ones that change your life for the better, whether it’s Eat a Peach (the seminal Allmans album of studio and concert material released in 1972) or the great records by Stevie Wonder, Curtis Mayfield and Marvin Gaye. You know, a lot of times when there is great social change, there is music right there with it that is a catalyst for that change or, at the very least, a snapshot of the times.”   

As traditional as it may sound, much of the faith and joy inherent in Trucks’ music has its roots in family. His involvement with the Allmans, in fact, is practically a birthright. He is the nephew of founding (and still current) Allmans drummer Butch Trucks. The younger Trucks has also been frequently compared to the great Duane Allman, the band’s founding guitarist who died in a 1971 motorcycle accident.

Like the late Allman, Trucks possesses an arresting slide guitar sound. Similarly, both players explored soul connections outside of the Allmans. Brother Duane recorded with such R&B legends as Wilson Pickett, King Curtis and Aretha Franklin. Brother Derek has cut sessions with Buddy Guy and Junior Wells, but has also been featured on more jazz-inclined albums by Bela Fleck, David Sanborn and the landmark pianist McCoy Tyner.

“Certainly Duane’s legacy and his presence remain large around this (the Allman Brothers) camp,” Trucks said. “He lit a fire here 40 years ago that keeps everything rolling with a lot of musical integrity today.”

Perhaps the greatest link to Duane Allman came from outside the “camp.” In 2006, Eric Clapton designed a world tour to re-highlight music from the classic 1970 Derek and the Dominos album Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs. His co-guitarist of choice for the recording: Duane Allman. Clapton’s pick for the 2006 tour was the young player named after his then-current band: Derek Trucks.

“Listening to the Dominos music again, to dig in and decipher which parts were Eric’s and which were Duane’s, was great. There was some tremendous music on that album, obviously. But Eric also had some great stories to share about how those sessions went down. That whole tour was a true honor to be part of.”

The Derek Trucks Band perform at 8 p.m. Saturday at Buster’s Billiards and Backroom, 899 Manchester St. Van Ghost will open. Tickets are $25. For info, go to www.bustersbb.com.

FOUNDATION AUCTION OPEN FOR BIDDING.

States News Service July 13, 2011 WASHINGTON, DC — The following information was released by the Destination Marketing Association International (DMAI):

Blog: DMAI Connections | By: James Duda More than US$250,000 in business advertising, sporting events, trips and other items are up for grabs in this year’s Destination and Travel Foundation’s Summer Live Auction. site bidding for travel

Online bidding is only open for a week, ending this coming Monday, 18 July. Once online bidding comes to a close the auction moves to a live bidding format on Wednesday, 20 July (immediately following the Foundation’s annual golf tournament). Bidders don’t have to be present at the live auction to win an item. Using the proxy bidding tool, you can place your best offer on a particular item and a representative will take your proxy to the live event on your behalf. this web site bidding for travel

Just a few items in this year’s lineup:

A Pittsburgh Steelers Weekend This package includes two tickets for a Pittsburgh Steelers football game during the 2011 season and one night accommodations.

Sonoma County Wine Four bottles of your favorite Sonoma County varietal, shipped to your home for your enjoyment!

Full Page Ad in USA Today One full page black and white ad in USA Today’s West, Southeast or Midwest region paper with estimated circulation ranging from 513,000 to 750,000.

Place your bid, or peruse the online catalogue at www.biddingforgood.com/dmaiauction.

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