Archive for October, 2009

in performance: faust/mission of burma

mission of burma: bob weston, clint cowley, peter prescott and roger miller. photo by kelly davidson.

mission of burma: bob weston, clint cowley, peter prescott, roger miller. photo by kelly davidson.

Among the final snapshots offered from the first night of the first Boomslang festival was that of Zappi Diermaier, drummer and co-founder of the German psychedelic industrial band Faust, taking a welding saw to a weathered sheet of metal above his percussion riser while the dwindling audience faithful near the front of the stage at Buster’s (thinned not from the decidedly abstract stance of the music, but by the simple fact that the clock has spun past 2 a.m.) leapt in pogo-like fashion to the drone like groove. Sadly, this was as experimental as Faust got.

zappi diermaier and jean-harve peron of faust.

zappi diermaier, jean-harve peron of faust.

For a band known for fashioning wondrous collages of rhythm, noise, spoken dialogue and electronic mischief, Faust’s 75 minute Boomslang outing was a sort of self-involved bit of exhibitionism. That was especially the true of the very odd rock star postering of British guitarist James Johnson. Bassist/co-founder Jean-Herve Peron, however, nicely summoned a bit of the band’s old krautrock magic by setting 1971’s It’s a Rainy Day, Sunshine Girl to a sort of hippy happy drone.

Sure, it was fascinating to watch a living bit of prog rock and psychedelic history in action, especially since Faust so seldom tours North America, much less Kentucky. Other than that, though, Faust’s sense of musical invention was disappointingly static.

The evening’s big surprise, though, was the veteran Boston post-punk trio Mission of Burma. The set understandably focused on fine new material from what is only the band’s fourth studio album in 30 years, The Sound The Speed The Light. Though the punkish Burma spirit was still bounteous enough to make you think the band was from Britain instead of Boston, there was also a muscular precision to the musicianship. It was largely defined through the tireless drum fills of Peter Prescott, although guitarist Roger Miller and bassist Clint Conley provided ample rhythmic and vocal crunch on new tunes like Possessed and Blunder.

As usual, a forth member, Bob Weston was back at the soundboard manipulating mixes. But aside from a few intriguing washes and effects, his work was largely lost in the rugged, rockish charge the Burma trio summoned onstage in decades-old rockers like That’s When I Reach for My Revolver and This is Not a Photograph.

While expectations were huge for Faust, night one of Boomslang clearly went to the Burma boys.

sonic boomslang

eric meyers and joe harbison of the ford ftheatre reunion and model katie stillwell of the lexington collaborative fashion group. herald-leader staff photo by mark cornelison.

eric meyers and joe harbison of the ford theatre reunion with model katie stillwell of the lexington collaborative fashion group will be part of saturday's boomslang lineup. staff photo by mark cornelison.

Sitting on the patio of a Knoxville restaurant last winter, Saraya Brewer took notice of what was unfolding around her. The streets were alive with something called Big Ears, a festival that championed concerts by new and veteran underground acts, performance works and interactive exhibits.

Then the idea clicked. Something like this could happen in Lexington. As a WRFL disc jockey for over five years, Brewer was already tuned into the music she wanted to bring in, not to mention a source of funding. Big Ears, in turn, triggered ideas for using multiple performance venues and offering bills that mixed prominent (though decidedly non-mainstream) artists with local performers.

And, to top it all off, there would room for a carnival.

Thus Boomslang was born. The inaugural three-day local festival gets into full swing today. By the time it concludes Sunday evening with the regional debut of the groundbreaking Brazilian tropicalia ensemble Os Mutantes, Boomslang will have played host to over 50 acts and performers at five venues.

“We started by putting together a list of bands we would love to bring to Lexington,” Brewer said. “Since RFL had the funding in the place to put on shows, we found it was actually possible to bring in bands like Os Mutantes. From there, more and more bands began contacting us. So it mushroomed into a much bigger baby than we first thought.”

Already interested in playing Lexington before Boomslang was solidified was Faust, the immensely influential “krautrock” ensemble known for mixing psychedelic and prog rock styles.

“I think a lot of people aren’t that familiar with these bands,” Brewer said. “But it is possible to be legendary and still be underground. Faust actually contacted us. Their agent really liked Lexington and wanted them to play here as opposed to any other cities that are close by. So that was the first big band that we secured.

“But we wanted to also include bands that were more up-and-coming and more popular with the younger indie scene. We wanted to introduce a lot of the younger crowds to the bands that are the predecessors but, at the same time, introduce crowds more familiar with Faust and Os Mutantes to some of the newer bands that are doing stuff that could be seen as being very similar.”

Peruse the full Boomslang lineup and you will quickly come to an event that perhaps defines the festival’s sense of artistic adventure, not mention its temperament. It’s called, quiet aptly, the Boomslang Carnival. It’s part music, part fashion show and part side show. Playing in the Buster’s parking lot on Saturday, the carnival stems from a project that teamed the Lexington band The Ford Theatre Reunion – a sort of vaudevillian punk ensemble that dabbles in, among other genres, gypsy jazz and brutish, brittle folk – with the Lexington Collaborative Fashion Group.

“We’ve been working for awhile with Sarah Jane Estes  from the Lexington Collaborative Fashion Group,” said Ford Theatre Reunion guitarist Eric Myers. “We started planning in the late spring to put on some kind of carnival in Triangle Park. Then Boomslang wanted to bring us on board, so all of this kind of grew from there.”

The carnival will unfold with music performances mingled with models donning displays of circus-style attire. But the real fun comes after dark. That’s when the sideshow cranks up with displays of fire eating, snake charming and blockheading.

The latter is the correct carnival term for the act of hammering nails into one’s nasal cavities. And what lucky soul has been assigned that task?

“Oh, that’s me,” Myers replied. “I love the aesthetic of all these performances – specifically the ones that are not illusion – like eating fire and swallowing swords. The reality is what fascinates me.”

“They haven’t needed much direction from me,” Brewer said of the carnival crew. “We just showed them the space they could use and they took off with it.”

Most everything else lands in Brewer’s lap. She said a mammoth volunteer crew helps. But logistics, schedules, last minute cancellations and, in a few joyful cases, last minute sponsors (like the Alltech Fortnight Festival, which signed on to co-present Faust) and band announcements (like the addition of the Boston post-punk band Mission of Burma to tonight’s bill at Buster’s), falls to her.

“I’ve been multi-tasking like I never have been in my life. On any given day, I’m dealing with 16 different aspects of the festival. But I think it will be so neat if Lexington can pull something off like this.”

Boomslang will be presented at various venues through Sunday. Single days tickets are $20; weekend passes are $50. For a complete schedule go to

tropicalia en regaila

os mutantes will close out the inaugural boomslang festival on sunday at buster's.

os mutantes will close out the inaugural boomslang festival on sunday.

Notions of a lasting reunion were fleeting when Os Mutantes reconvened in 2006. Dormant for 28 years, the fabled Brazilian tropicalia ensemble began a second life with a sort of re-awakening performance at London’s Barbican Arts Centre.

For Sergio Dias, resurrecting the band meant bring able enlist a brigade of younger collaborators. His brother, bassist/keyboardist Arnaldo Baptista, was equally eager but would eventually leave the realigned unit in 2007. Singer Rita Lee, the third of the band’s original members, opted not to participate in the reunion at all.

So it fell to Dias to keep alive Os Mutantes’ brand of tropicalia – a mix of animated pop, indigenous stylistic inspiration, politically streaked storylines and improvisation that surfaced as an artistic movement in Brazil during the late ‘60s.

“When we first agreed to play for the Barbican, we thought it was going to be for one concert,” Dias said. “Then a small but very solid tour lined up. In America, we were getting booked at all of these important places, like opening for The Flaming Lips at the Hollywood Bowl, playing the Pitchfork Festival in Seattle and eventually playing at the Fillmore, which was a dream for me. And this was all before we had played one note. We weren’t even a band again yet, but all these people were eager to hear us. I couldn’t understand it.”

Even at the height of the tropicalia movement, Os Mutantes were sailing well under the artistic radar mostly because its records never received wide distribution in the United States. It nonetheless garnered a modest but devout following on these shores. Among Os Mutantes’ American fans were Kurt Cobain (who tried, unsuccessfully, to initiate a reunion concert in 1993) and David Byrne (who oversaw the band’s 1999 compilation album, Everything is Possible).

Curiously, veteran fans aren’t making the biggest fuss over the new Os Mutantes lineup Dias has assembled or Haih…Ou Amortecedor…, the first full album of new studio material under the band’s name in three decades. Instead, far younger audiences – like the one expected for Sunday night’s Boomslang finale performance at Buster’s – are tuning in to the band’s often playful experimentation.

“It’s a beautiful thing to put out a record sung entirely in Portuguese and have these kids accepting it and enjoying it. To have the freedom to do whatever we wanted, that’s the beauty of these times. I don’t think we could have done something like this in the ‘80s or ‘90s.”

But that’s fine with Dias. Freedom, in his book, does not translate into nostalgia. Despite his band’s extensive history, he views Os Mutantes very much as artistic voice of the here and now.

“Even at the first date back together at the Barbican, the first thing I said was, ‘Let’s do a new album.’ We didn’t want to conceive a band that lives on through some music we did 30 or 40 years ago.

“Music is not about thinking. It’s about feeling. We understand music as a free concept, an open canvas. You’re allowed to do whatever you want.”

Os Mutantes performs at 9:30 p.m. Sunday at Buster’s Billiards and Backroom as part of the Boomslang festival. Tickets are $20. For more information, go to

It’s July: Time for Christmas shopping? Some stores push very early sales; Retailers divided over strategy from recession.(Business) shoe buy coupon code

The Seattle Times (Seattle, WA) July 20, 2010 Byline: Anne D’Innocenzio; The Associated Press NEW YORK — Santa in the summer?

Retailers are pumping still more energy this year into trying to get shoppers to loosen their purse strings early for Christmas with sparkly ornaments, holiday music and special prices. In July.

Target is entering the game for the first time, with a one-day online sale starting Friday on 500 items from clothing to Blu-ray Disc players that’s modeled after sales typically held Thanksgiving weekend.

And Sears and Toys R Us are dramatically promoting “Christmas in July” online, based on the success they saw in last year’s efforts.

“We really wanted to create that sense of excitement, that sense of urgency,” said Target spokeswoman Molly Hanus.

Retailers pushed Christmas promotions as early as September during the recession as they competed for shoppers’ dwindling dollars and tried to get them back into stores.

Some shoppers have been glad to spread out the cost of the holidays, especially if discounts average 40 percent like Target’s. But others may be turned off by the snowflakes and Santas and glitz. And stores are divided as well.

“It’s smarter to buy this early,” said Ebony Rios, a 17-year-old high-school student shopping over the weekend at Toys R Us in Times Square in New York City, where a Santa in sunglasses lounged in a swimming pool in one ad.

The Clayton, N.C., resident — who said she spent $200 on her nieces and nephews at the store’s online summer sale last year — plans to take advantage again this year.

But Tammy Perez, 28, from Bloomington, Ind., wasn’t ready.

“It’s too hot to think about Christmas,” said the administrative assistant, also at Toys R Us on Sunday. “The earliest I will shop will be in October.” Some merchants, including J.C. Penney and, agree.

“Customers don’t like it when you push Christmas too early,” said Mike Boylston, J.C. Penney’s chief marketing officer.

That’s especially true when shoppers are already putting off buying anything until the moment they actually need it, he said.

Janet Hoffman, global managing partner at consulting firm Accenture’s retail practice, called July holiday sales “a risky bet.” Shoppers could be inspired to buy more, but summer promotions also can hurt back-to-school buying and depress December business, she said. shoe buy coupon code

Merchants are taking a variety of tactics:

* Target customers can find a link at for what the chain is calling “Back in Black,” which includes Philips Blu-ray Disc players for $99.99 and Liberty of London dresses for $14.99.

* Sears Holdings’ and shoppers are invited to “Christmas Lane” to shop for lights, ornaments and outdoor decor, and the websites are temporarily offering free shipping on all orders worth $39 or more.

In more than 500 stores, holiday tunes will be playing at least through July 25 in the seasonal aisles, where customers can touch such holiday merchandise as stuffed animals and ornaments. Last year’s “Christmas in July” included 200 stores.

* Toys R Us is promoting its summertime discounts more heavily than last year with deals of the day and free shipping through Saturday.

Natalie Norris-Howser, spokeswoman at Sears Holdings, said the company’s summertime holiday promotions did “very well” last year and it may extend the sale as they did last year to appeal to cautious consumers.

The event allows shoppers to see what’s going to be available so they can budget or put items on layaway, she said.

But many other Americans are in the same situation as Isabel Velazquez, 39, a Toys R Us shopper from Wilkes-Barre, Pa., who said she can’t think about spending right now:

“I just got laid off.” CAPTION(S):

Bebeto Matthews / The Associated Press: ”Santa” and ”Christmas in July Sale” signs greet customers at a Toys R Us store in New York. It’s one of a number of retailers having very early holiday sales. (0413430283)

in performance: the decemberists

the decemberists: becky stark, shara worden chris funk, jenny conlee

the decemberists: becky stark, shara worden, chris funk, jenny conlee, colin meloy, nate query and john moen.

Aided by a sense of stylistic division that was just shy of schizophrenic, The Decemberists made their local debut last night with a two set performance at the Singletary Center for the Arts that, had your eyes been shut, would have seemed like the work of different bands.

The first set was essentially rock theatre with singer Colin Meloy and company playing the recent The Hazards of Love album from start to finish. There were no stops, no chatty interludes and no real eccentricities outside of the music itself. And even then the frills came mostly through the fanciful – and, frankly, fairly indecipherable – storyline.

But the music was a wondrous slab of magic full of vibrant vocal color highlighted by  Meloy’s nasally but operatic leads, Shara Warden’s meaty bulldozer wail on The Queen’s Rebuke and Becky Stark’s folk-pop melancholy during Won’t Want for Love (Margaret in the Taiga).

Instrumentally, though, was where The Hazards of Love got good and treacherous. Harpsichord-like keyboards gave way to a rich, tribal percussion groove on The Rake’s Song. Respiratory-like rhythms of accordion and mandolin peppered Annan Water. And during of a brief reprise of The Wanting Comes in Waves, Meloy and Chris Funk strapped on electric guitars and brought the suite into an anthemic, arena rock-savvy home stretch.

The second set was lighter, looser and vastly more pop friendly. It scanned The Decemberists’ past for the bouncy Brit-pop of The Sporting Life and surprisingly harmonic audience sing-a-longs at the heart of Billy Liar and the show closing, hurdy gurdy-infused Sons and Daughters. Top prizes go to the Indian Summer-flavored medley of California One and Youth and Beauty Brigade as well as a just-for-fun cover of the Heart hit Crazy On You with vocal leads quite rightly reassigned to Warden and Stark.

All in all, it was quite the display. For the first set, you sat attentively as The Decemberists served a feast of new music that was stylish and smart enough to merit active listening. For the second, you were on your feet for rock and pop that happily underscored a celebratory and, at times, refreshingly sillier profile.

Both were a blast.

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december’s children

the decemberists. photo by autumn dewilde.

the decemberists. photo by autumn dewilde.

Almost by definition, pop music is viewed as an easily digestible commodity. It commands that you stick to a familiar and accessible theme, conjure an appealing melody and, for crying out loud, it’s got to move along briskly. A pop tune isn’t an epic, you know.

Or is it?

The newest album by The Decemberists, The Hazards of Love, harkens back to an artistically haughty enterprise known as the “concept album.” That means that even though it is technically divided into 17 songs, the recording is essentially one piece – and a fairly fanciful one at that. Its storyline involves fabled but forbidden love, forest witches and the promise of some very nasty deeds from a fellow known as The Rake.

So what could be more out of step with the pop mainstream than to release an album that is, in essence, a single extended work? How about going on tour and performing the entire thing from start to finish.

Did Capitol Records, which signed the one-time indie sensation in 2005, think such moves conflicted with conventional pop strategies? Hard to say. But Decemberists drummer John Moen had an initial word for releasing and performing a concept work like The Hazards of Love – “inadvisable.”

“I thought, ‘OK, now that everyone is back to ordering just one song at a time on the internet, we’re going to make an entire album that is one big, long song.'” Moen said. “But you know, sometimes it can be really interesting to do something that even you are telling yourself is a bad idea.”

A connection was made, however. While The Hazards of Love didn’t sell in Michael Jackson-like numbers upon its release last spring, it did become the highest charting album of The Decemberists’ career, making it to No. 14 on the Billboard Top 100. More arresting than that, though, was the sheer expression and invention of the record.

Inspired by a 1966 EP disc of the same name from British folk songstress Anne Briggs, The Hazards of Love moves from delicate passages of dark acoustics to thundering bits of keyboard-charged rock ‘n’ roll. It’s part Brit-folk fairy tale (which is fascinating given that the band is from Portland, Oregon) and part rock ‘n’ roll theatre.

“I love The Decemberists,” said fellow Portland musician Scott McCaughey, who recruited all of The Decemberists for cameos on his new Killingsworth album with indie rockers The Minus 5. “Great lyrics, absolutely killer musicians… they’re incredible. They go from doing really stripped down English folk to bombastic prog rock, but also sound great on everything in between. I really love that about them.”

The Hazards of Love, like all Decemberists records, is the invention of Colin Meloy. As the band’s vocalist, frontman, co-founder and chief songwriter, he mapped out the album’s epic pop design. But this wasn’t the first time Meloy had devised a concept recording for The Decemberists (which currently include multi-instrumentalist Chris Funk, keyboardist Jenny Conlee, bassist Nate Query and Moen). In 2004, he wrote the Irish-inspired (though decidedly un-Irish sounding) The Tain. But the EP’s five songs clocked in at a mere 18 minutes. The Hazards of Love runs nearly an hour.

“It was daunting, firstly,” Moen said. “I wasn’t in the band when The Tain was recorded. So I was kind of nervous about how all of this was going to come together. But Colin made a pretty detailed map, a demo, for us. Once you listened to everything you realized how there are songs in there that hold up on their own just as much as the other material he writes.

“So once we heard the tunes, the ideas just started popping in our brains about how to make this sound unique. It became a kind of creative puzzle.”

The Hazards of Love will make up the first half of The Decemberists’ Lexington debut performance tonight at the Singletary Center for the Arts. The band will be augmented for the new material by vocalists Shara Worden (of My Brightest Diamond) and Becky Stark (of Lavender Diamond). A second set will feature earlier Decemberists songs.

“I think we have proved that a show like this really isn’t such a silly thing to do,” Moen said. “I mean, I wasn’t sure at first this was such a good plan, but it’s been great to pull off playing the whole record, to get the whole thing done. I wouldn’t have predicted something like this at all. But I’m really proud to be part of it.”

The Decemberists perform at 7:30 tonight at the Singletary Center for the Arts. Laura Viers and the Hall of Flames will open. Tickets ate $30, $35, $40. Call: (859) 257-4929.

americana technique

mark o'connor. photo by erica horn.

mark o'connor. photo by erica horn.

Some artistic visions can take years, decades even, to formulate. And that can often be meager compared to the time it takes for those ideas to find an accepting audience.

For Mark O’Connor, the journey continues this fall with the further realization of what he terms new American classical music. Over the course of an October residency in Lexington, he will perform with the latest version of the ensemble that helped introduce his new string music to the world, team for two concerts in two cities with the University of Kentucky Symphony Orchestra and introduce instruction of a violin method that is as Americana friendly as O’Connor’s concertos, string quartets and symphonies.

“About 25 years ago I started this idea of combining classical music – the styles, techniques and even instrumentation – with American fiddling,” O’Connor said last weekend from his New York home. “I’ve been able to explore that in the solo music I’ve done, in chamber music and now with orchestras. So this idea of cross pollination of music is something that continues to this day.”

“As a player, Mark is at the very top of the field,” said UK Symphony director and conductor John Nardolillo, who has collaborated with O’Connor on numerous performances over the past five years. “He is the best and best known living fiddler. His facility with the instrument is just extraordinary. It may even be unequalled in the classical field, as well. But what draws in the audience is his incredible expressiveness on the stage, even if it’s with the simplest old time tune.”

A Seattle native, O’Connor’s early career involved work with such disparate ensembles as The David Grisman Quintet (a leading new generation string music group that combined elements of bluegrass and jazz) and The Dregs (an early ‘80s version of the Southern fusion band Dixie Dregs). But studies with such visionaries as French swing-jazz violinist Stephane Grappelli, along with an active ‘80s career as a Nashville studio musician, expanded an already versed stylistic vocabulary.

In the mid ‘90s came two recordings that set O’Connor’s classically inclined string music into motion. 1995’s The Fiddle Concerto offered two extended pieces – a concerto and a string quartet – heavily accented by American fiddle playing. The following year brought Appalachia Waltz with fellow string journeymen Yo-Yo Ma and Edgar Meyer. The third and newest Appalachian Waltz Trio, with violist Gillian Gallagher and cellist Mike Block, brings O’Connor back to Kentucky tonight for a performance at the WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour that will be augmented by four string players from the UK orchestra.

“The trio plays some of my most accessible music,” O’Connor said. “But it also really helps me describe the idea of this new American string music.”

Such music, in essence, begins with Americana inspirations. That means echoes of folk, jazz, bluegrass and country register within O’Connor’s compositions. For instance, within O’Connor’s String Quartet No. 2: Bluegrass (released on an album in May on O’Connor’s Omac label), a plaintive melody circulates that sounds for all the world like a vintage Hank Williams record.

“I was listening to one of his violin caprices the other night,” Nardolillo said. “It’s sort of written in the style of a Paganini caprice. So on the one hand, it’s incredibly virtuosic. But on the other hand it sounds like fiddle music. It’s an extraordinary combination.”

“A long time ago, perhaps when I really started focusing on my solo career, I realized people my age and older we going to be sort of slow to come to the musical changes and philosophical differences I was bringing to the table,” O’Connor said. “That’s when I thought my best success, so to speak, would be with the next generation of string players.”

That brought O’Connor to the idea of developing his own violin method, one that stressed the same Americana inspirations as his compositions. The first two books of what will be a 10-volume series on the method will be published in November. Part of O’Connor’s October residency, which culminates with performances with the UK Symphony here and in Ashland, will focus on instruction of the method for area music teachers.

“With the method, I realized I had an endgame,” O’Connor said. “And that endgame would be the string player of the 21st century. That would involve a player with working knowledge of jazz and folk as well as classical music.”

But how will an educational system that didn’t widely accept jazz as part of a music curriculum until the past few decades feel about an entirely new method of violin instruction?

“The establishment of academia is exactly that – it’s an establishment. To change these things overnight is difficult just as changing government overnight is difficult. Over time, people come to change and establishments eventually adapt. The violin has been around for a long time with established ways of teaching. So there is bound to be resistance to the method because of the change.

“That doesn’t mean people won’t come around, though.”

Mark O’ Connor performs at:

+ 3 p.m. Oct. 4 at the Kentucky Center for the Arts Bomhard Theater in Louisville with the Appalachian Waltz Trio. $25, $32. (800) 775-7777.

+ 7 p.m. Oct. 5 at the Kentucky Theatre for the WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour with the Appalachian Waltz Trio. $10. (859) 252-8888.

+ 7 p.m. Oct. 27 at the Paramount Arts Center with the University of Kentucky Symphony Orchestra. $20, $25, $35. (606) 324-3175.

+ 7:30 p.m. Oct. 30 at the Singletary Center for the Arts with the UK Symphony Orchestra and Chorale. $10 (student) and $20 (public). (859) 257-4929. 

in performance: mary chapin carpenter

mary chapin carpenter.

mary chapin carpenter.

As twilight gave way to night, as dipping temperatures sent patrons to sweaters and blankets, as a full moon lit up over the stage at Equus Run Vineyards like a neon marquee, Mary Chapin Carpenter confided that fall was her favorite time of year.

She certainly dressed the part, performing her entire 90 minute concert last night wrapped in a thick scarf. But the setting and the season fittingly complimented tunes already rich with an autumnal intimacy.

Admittedly, having only longtime allies John Jennings on bass and Kevin Barry on guitar as her support team onstage made the music all the more delicate – to the point, even, that pockets of audience chatter seemed especially intrusive. But there remained, even in the more assertive songs Carpenter performed last night (such as the radio hits Shut Up and Kiss Me and I Feel Lucky, both of which opened up enough to let Barry freshen the tempo with tastefully rugged guitar breaks), a conversational air that beckoned the crowd to put down the wine glasses and listen close.

When the music became as chilled as the evening temps, this truly became an performance full of aural fall color. The title tune to 1995’s Stones in the Road album, for instance, was delivered with a quiet but pensive grace. Twilight, the closest thing offered to an obscurity all night (it hailed from 2007’s The Crossing), unfolded with a lovely mantra-like chorus. And All the Sad Songs, one of two unrecorded works performed from an album Carpenter will begin recording later this month, glided along with a sort of effortless yet poetic melancholy that has long been an earmark of her best work.

There were airs of playfulness, too. Barry morphed the guitar hook on I Take My Chances so that Carpenter could insert, of all things, some broken verse from Blue Oyster Cult’s Don’t Fear the Reaper. And even though her full band was absent, the Carpenter trio still managed to convincingly substitute hearty Americana twang for Cajun-ization on the show closing encore of Down at the Twist and Shout.

Still, it was those moments when the stark detail of Carpenter’s most modestly disquieting works, such as the Come On Come On stunner He Think He’ll Keep Her, hung in the autumn air that seasonal charm, performance intimacy and real life reflection all beautifully merged.

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mary chapin carpenter

mary chapin carpenter

It took a concert last spring in the Deep South to underscore for Mary Chapin Carpenter the love, vitality, and perhaps even restorative power that can come from a live performance.

The occasion was a songwriter summit staged as part of the Eudora Welty Centennial celebration at the Pulitzer Prize winning author’s hometown of Jackson, Mississippi. The show teamed Carpenter with a trio of new generation folk voices from the South – Kate Campbell, Caroline Herring and Claire Holley. In essence, Carpenter was honoring a lifelong inspiration but picked up three new friends in the process.

“We played a lot of songs that were directly and sometimes indirectly connected to Eudora,” Carpenter said. “It was put together and performed by the seat of our pants. But we had a wonderful time.”

The concert’s importance went beyond being a tribute, though. It was Carpenter’s first stage appearance in two years. Why such a break for a singer who toured incessantly for the previous two decades? And why a similar silence from a recording career that had yielded Americana albums full of stark emotive detail (1992’s quadruple platinum Come On Come On and 1995’s Stones in the Road being among the best of a strong lot) as well as a string of early ‘90s singles (I Feel Lucky, Shut Up and Kiss Me and the jubilant Cajun collaboration with BeauSoleil Down at the Twist and Shout) that earned her a solid fanbase at country radio as well as five Grammy Awards.

“It’s not the first time,” Carpenter said of the break. “When I got married in 2002 I took a few years off just to, well, enjoy married life.”

But this time was different. Following work on her 2007 album The Calling, Carpenter was diagnosed with a pulmonary embolism – a blood clot in the lung that often forms with few symptoms as warning signs. Severe and undiagnosed cases can cause sudden death, although Carpenter’s PE was discovered when chest pain and breathing difficulties sent her to an emergency room.

“You go through all sorts of questions about your identity and what you’re able to do when you get a health scare like that. It’s certainly not something I ever imagined would happen to me.

“When you sit down with your business manager and talk about the nuts and bolts of having careers like mine, they say, ‘Well, you’ve got to have insurance.’ And I’m like, ‘Why?’ ‘Well, what if you get sick and can’t play again?’ And I was like, ‘That’ll never happen.’ You just never think that will happen to you.

“You keep asking these questions about identity and purpose and things like that – things you just don’t think about on an everyday level. Maybe you shouldn’t spend a lot of time thinking about those things. Then all of a sudden, you’ve got the time on your hands to think about them because you’re not able to do anything else. There’s not a manual for this. You just have to bumble your way through it.”

With recovery and reflection, there was writing – lots of it. Carpenter has completed a new set of songs that she will begin recording shortly after her first Central Kentucky concert in nearly 17 years. She performs Friday at Equus Run Vineyards in Midway for the Alltech Fortnight Festival.

“As time goes on, writing sometimes feels harder. But maybe that’s because you become harder to please. Then every once in awhile, a song will kind of write itself, clichéd though that may be, and you will feel in full possession of your tools. It’s not predictable. But I still love to write songs. It doesn’t feel like anything other than a complete labor of love.”

Carpenter’s writing also went to print about a year ago. She was invited by The Washington News to write a bi-weekly arts-related column, which she continued until work resumed in earnest on her songwriting last spring.

Among her column topics: a tribute to Piedmont bluesman John Cephas, the beauty of a Hem song used in a TV commercial and the snubbing of Bruce Springsteen at last winter’s Grammy Awards (for not being nominated for The Wrestler).

“There were times when I had to be reminded that this was for the Arts page as opposed to something where I would be flapping my political wings,” Carpenter said. “I also have been taught how much respect to have for people who write on deadlines.”

But perhaps the most eloquent and moving writing Carpenter has penned since her recovery was a short essay for National Public Radio’s “This I Believe” series titled “The Learning Curve of Gratitude.” There, she recounts her illness, the consuming guilt resulting from the canceled tour and the difficulties of her recovery. But it also speaks of a renewed appreciation of love of life.

“I will think about how uncomplicated it all is,” Carpenter writes at the essay’s end. “I will wonder at how it took me my entire life to appreciate just one day.”

“It’s your joy,” she added in our interview. “You get your joy back. I mean, I’m just so grateful to be here.”

Mary Chapin Carpenter and Mother Jane performs at 6 tonight at Equus Run Vineyards, 1280 Moores Mill Road in Midway for the Alltech Fortnight Festival. Tickets are $55. Call (859) 846-9463 or visit www.alltechfortnightfestival.

Fathers’ day killing baffles detectives Brutal murder stuns Richhill

Belfast Telegraph June 21, 2004 | Jonathan McCambridge and Michael A QUIET rural community in Co Armagh told of its shock today following the brutal Fathers’ Day abduction and murder. go to website fathers day crafts

Detectives are still trying to establish a motive for the killing of father-of-two Paul Crymble in Richhill yesterday.

They have ruled out a sectarian motive and said they do not believe paramilitaries were involved.

Mr Crymble, an engineer originally from Carrickfergus, was the father of a 12-year-old girl and a eight-year-old boy.

Four masked men, one of whom was armed with a handgun, ambushed Mr Crymble and his wife as they were returning to their home in the Aghory area of Richhill at 2:15am yesterday morning.

The gang tied the couple up and demanded money before they forced 35-year-old Mr Crymble into his car, a green Seat Ibiza, registration VAZ 6483, and drove off.

At 11am yesterday morning a member of the public reported that a body had been found in a car in the Cornascreeb Road, about two miles from where Mr Crymble went missing.

Police and a doctor went to the scene but the victim was pronounced dead. It is understood he had been shot.

The area from where Mr Crymble was abducted remained sealed off this morning.

One neighbour said: “He had lived here for about two years; they were a quiet family and kept themselves to themselves.” Neighbours also said that Mr Crymble had been the victim of a robbery about six weeks ago.

Superintendent Bob Moore, DCU Commander for the area, said: “A murder inquiry is underway. No motive has yet been established but all lines of inquiry will be investigated – at this early stage it would be unhelpful to speculate.

“This was all the more tragic as this man was the father of two young children and this happened on Fathers’ Day.” Richhill councillor William Irwin said: “This is a very real tragedy which has shocked the community.

“It is sad that there are people who have stooped to this level and carried out this act of barbarity.

“It is a horrific way for a life to end and my sympathy goes out to the family and children.” UUP Assembly member Danny Kennedy called the murder a “dastardly and gruesome act”. go to website fathers day crafts

He said: “This is a quiet, rural area and the people are appalled and in shock that this could have happened on their doorstep.

“I would condemn this as a dastardly and gruesome act, whatever the reasons for it.

“The wife of the victim has been through a dreadful experience and there have been two young children who have been left without a father.” DUP MLA Paul Berry added: “This is a very worrying and sinister situation.

“Murder is murder and I would condemn this incident, particularly given the sinister circumstances in which it was carried out.

“This is a quiet rural area which has never had to endure anything like this before.” Police have appealed for anyone with any information about the murder to contact them.

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jj and sj

Don’t think for a minute that Monday’s Silversun Pickups/Manchester Orchestra/Cage the Elephant sellout show was the only multi-act bill Buster’s has in store for us this week. Tonight, the club brings us a double-header of Shooter Jennings and JJ Grey & Mofro.

Jennings, of course, is the son of country outlaw Wayon Jennings. But he has forged his own electric country sound on a trio of Universal South studio albums over the past four years. While songs like Busted in Baylor County possess much of the gift for narrative that made his father’s music so distinctive, the younger Jennings is also right at home exploring dark rural inspirations with potent, rockish backdrops that ignite fully onstage.

A new anthology album with ultra cheapo album art titled Bad Magick suggests Jennings’ tenure with Universal is at an end. Their loss. Perhaps a tougher independent label like Bloodshot can serve as a more fruitful home.

Grey and Mofro popped into Lynagh’s in 2002 with their swampy Floridian soul and funk music and then spent most of the ensuing years establishing a devout fanbase in Louisville. A WoodSongs set last winter followed by a near sellout Saturday show at The Dame in February suggested Grey’s earthy deep Southern grooves are finally starting to sound sweet to Lexington.

2008’s ultra funky Orange Blossom album remains the most recent Grey/Mofro release. But a new vinyl only anthology called The Choice Cuts will hit stores in November.

And even though we’re referring to the show here as a double bill, the retro-rock minded Brooklyn blues/soul trio Earl Greyhound, which kind of sounds like a Muscle Shoals variation of early ’70s Black Sabbath, will open the evening. Dig it.

JJ Grey and Mofro, Shooter Jennings and the .357s and Earl Greyhound perform at 8 tonight at Buster’s Billiards’s and Backroom. Tickets are $17. Go to

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