Archive for January, 2010

kate mcgarrigle, 1946-2010

kate mcgarrigle with rufus wainwright. photo by mat szwajkos, getty images.

kate mcgarrigle with son rufus wainwright. photo by mat szwajkos, getty images.

One of the most arresting aspects to the music Kate and Anna McGarrigle created over the last 35 years was its sense of folk without boundaries. They were traditionalists in many ways. But on their best recordings, such as 1977’s Dancer with the Bruised Knees, the sisters seemed to have happily lost their compass. One minute we heard solemn British folk, the next it was a breezy French romp. The record was blissfully romantic in an almost vaudevillian way and then turned starkly confessional with little notice.

Besides that, it was perhaps the only recording to feature both Bill Monroe and John Cale as guest artists.

The sound became wondrously matronly on 1996’s under-appreciated Matepedia, the record that brought the sisters to Louisville for, as far as I can tell, their only Kentucky concert appearance. The traditional turns became more internalized and ghostly, especially on the whispery, otherworldly sibling harmonies created on Anna McGarrigle’s Going Back to Harlan, a tune covered by longtime friend Emmylou Harris on her groundbreaking Wrecking Ball album.  

In fact, with the McGarrigles’ own recordings becoming increasingly rare in recent years, their cameos with Harris became major treats. Among their most delightful collaborations was the jointly composed and performed Little Bird, with beautiful support from Buddy Miller and Malcolm Burn, on Harris’ 2003 album Stumble Into Grace.

Kate McGarrigle died in Montreal on Monday at age 63. She had been battling liver cancer for several years, although that hardly kept her from becoming a visible and supportive champion of an especially cherished younger artist – her son, Rufus Wainwright.

One of McGarrigle’s final televised performances was with Wainwright last year on Elvis Costello’s Spectacle. She was there simply in the role of back-up musician. But as with every record she ever had a hand in, McGarrigle came across as an expansive folk soul that left time, genres and inhibitions behind.


US Fed News Service, Including US State News July 22, 2011 WASHINGTON, July 21 — Rep. Edward J. Markey, D-Mass. (7th CD), issued the following news release:

Representatives Joe Barton (R-Texas) and Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), co-Chairmen of the House Bi-Partisan Privacy Caucus, sent a letter today to Groupon asking about the company’s new privacy and data collection policy. It was recently reported in The Washington Post that the “deal-of-the-day” company would be dramatically expanding the categories of personal information it collects and shares with partners and third parties. After a spate of recent data and privacy breaches and increased concern that customer’s personal information could be vulnerable to hackers, Reps. Barton and Markey’s letter queries Groupon CEO and Founder Andrew Mason about the company’s data collection and sharing policies and practices.

“Groupon offers consumers great deals on everything from spa treatments and hot air balloon rides to pub grub and concert tickets, but avoiding full price shouldn’t put your privacy at risk,” said Rep. Barton. “Groupon has made it clear that they are expanding their business model by collecting more personal information and even tracking your location. While I do understand that companies participate in these practices to offer better services, I strongly believe that Americans should always be informed of how their personal information is being used and be given control of when their information is shared. We want to make sure that ‘the Groupon Promise’ is kept and that going after a good online deal doesn’t lead to your information being sold to the highest bidder. I look forward to Groupon’s responses.” In the letter, Reps. Barton and Markey asked Groupon to respond to questions that include: go to site groupon atlanta

* Is Groupon willing to allow consumers to “opt-in” to all tracking methods the company may use when conducting business? If not, why not?

* What service providers does Groupon use and has there been any instances of a breach in consumer’s personal information during Groupon’s tenure of business with them?

* What mechanisms does Groupon have in place to identify the age of its consumers?

* Are Groupon merchants, business partners, and service providers required to adhere to your company’s privacy policies?

critic's pick 107

eberhard weber: colours

eberhard weber: colours

Let’s begin here by wishing happy birthday to Eberhard Weber. The German bassist who has been a cornerstone artist of the European jazz label ECM for nearly all of its four decade history turns 70 on Friday. In blending compositional, instrumental and improvisational skills with Euro-classical undercurrents and textured works of rich but relaxed lyricism, he has been a prime architect of ECM’s atmospheric sound.

Though ailing in recent years due to a stroke, Weber’s past is represented by a new triple-disc box set called Colours. This isn’t a career retrospective, but a package of three extraordinary ECM albums cut over a five year period by the Weber-led quartet Colours that came to define the orchestral beauty of the bassist’s music.

Like much of Weber’s work, the recordings – Yellow Fields (1976), Silent Feet (1978) and Little Movements (1980) – have drifted in and out of print over the years. What a delight it is to have them all under the same roof again.

yellow fields (1975)

yellow fields (1976)

Yellow Fields set the Colours group – Weber, American reed player Charlie Mariano, Norwegian drummer Jon Christensen and the extraordinary German keyboardist Rainer Bruninghaus – in motion, although its approach to subtle textures and ambient-like orchestration was established on Weber’s sublime 1974 ECM debut (cut with Bruninghaus), The Colours of Chloe.

Weber makes little fuss with his playing, although his adjustments to the bass (the use of extra strings along with the design of a solid body electric double bass) greatly increases the instrument’s vocabulary, as shown the ballet-like exchanges between Weber and Christensen’s percussion tapestries on Yellow Fields‘ title tune. But the bulk of the recording is hardly a solo vehicle. Bruninghaus’ early use of electric keyboards along with his fully versed voice on acoustic piano gives the bassist much to work with. Ditto for the soprano saxophone and Indian reed playing of Mariano who, on all three albums, exhibits an alternately ghostly and playful tone that recalls fellow ECM journeymen and frequent Weber collaborator Jan Garbarek.

silent feet (1980)

silent feet (1978)

The exchange of Christensen for Soft Machine alumnus John Marshall on drums for the latter two albums marks Colours’ only personnel switch. But Marshall’s approach on Silent Feet (arguably Weber’s finest hour) is light and expressive, which allows the music to open up. Credit much of that expansion to Bruninghaus. His limber skirmishes with Weber and Marshall mirror the melodic, emotive soundscapes that another then-blooming ECM artist, Pat Metheny, would soon run with.

Ironically, Silent Feet was recorded almost concurrently with Metheny’s second ECM set, Watercolors, which featured Weber as bassist.

little movements (1980)

little movements (1980)

The ensemble Colours sound starts to reveal familiarities on Little Movements,  such as the keyboard couplets repeated like mantras, the moody mix of piano and Weber’s arco bass playing and the melancholy shades of Mariano’s soprano sax and flute. All beautifully mingle on Little Movements‘ exquisite The Last Stage of a Long Journey.

Let’s not stop here, shall we? How about a full reissue overhaul of Weber’s work? The Colours box makes a great birthday treat. But it beckons for a return of all the bassist’s out-of print recordings to full, visible and Colour-ful glory.

A babysitter should sit well with anxious parents.

The Boston Herald May 31, 1998 | Anderson, Nancy Q: My husband and I are the very busy parents of a 3-year-old boy and a 1 1/2-year-old girl. We disagree about the need to go out as a couple. My husband thinks we should, but I think it’s important to be home while the kids are so young. We go places, but always with the children, and that is fine with me. I feel guilty leaving them with a babysitter. Should I focus on getting a babysitter or just wait until the kids are older? – Millis A: Parents often struggle with the idea of leaving young children with someone else. Consider the following: go to web site my babysitters a vampire

There are many ways to find a trustworthy, reliable babysitter. Start by asking friends or neighbors. You might also put an ad in the newspaper. Interview potential babysitters and start by having the one you choose care for your children while you are home. You can accomplish some chores uninterrupted and observe how the babysitter interacts with the children. Trust your instincts. It is important that your children be safe, well cared for and happy.

For two young children, it is preferable to get a babysitter of at least middle-school age who has taken a babysitting course and understands the basics of child care. Some parents are more comfortable exchanging child care with other parents. Friends can watch your children in exchange for an evening when you watch theirs.

Be sure to make your rules known to the babysitter. Discuss safety, discipline, meals, snacks, bedtime and your children’s special habits or routines.

Ease into the babysitting situation slowly. Your first time out of the house could be to a nearby restaurant. Call the babysitter to check on the children. See how everyone does.

When you leave the kids for the first time, be prepared for tears. Say goodbye to them; don’t sneak out the door. Tell them you’ll be back later, and let the babysitter handle it from there. If the kids know the babysitter, they’ll be more comfortable with your leaving. here my babysitters a vampire

Realize the children will meet teachers, coaches, friends’ parents and other caring adults. They learn and grow under the care of trusted people outside the family.

If you learn to relax, you will come to realize it’s healthy and fun to go out as husband and wife. If you are happy in your relationship, you can better face the challenges of parenting.

Parents Network is a group of area parents and professionals that meets regularly to discuss children’s issues. Write in care of the Boston Sunday Herald, P.O. Box 2096, Boston, MA 02106-2096.

Anderson, Nancy

hoops for haiti

We’re veering away from music for this entry so as to give a tip of the hat to what was a pretty remarkable afternoon of live local television yesterday.

In the midst of a dark, gray, rainy Sunday, University of Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari and the entire Wildcat team – John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, the whole bunch – assembled at the studios of WKYT-TV after journeying back to town from a dogfight win over Auburn on Saturday night.

The occasion was an impromptu telethon called Hoops for Haiti that Calipari and WKYT assembled over the previous two days. With his team serving as a makeshift phone answering crew, Calipari called upon his connections in the coaching world, upon local businesses and especially upon viewers. But a hustler he wasn’t. Calipari’s appeals were honest, tempered and quite often fun. More than that, they were effective. Once matching funds were added in, the final tally exceeded $1 million.

The governor showed up. UK president Lee Todd showed up. There were phone pledges from sportscaster Dick Vitale (who put a sizable amount of cash where his sizable mouth was and seemed glad to do so), from Rick Barnes (coach of the University of Texas Longhorns, the only NCAA men’s basketball team, outside of UK, that is currently undefeated), from Marvin Lewis (of the Cincinnati Bengals, who was named Associated Press NFL Coach of the Year over the weekend) and, in an ultra-classy token of good will, former UK coach Tubby Smith.

But there were also nicely assembled interviews with local missionaries, students and families with direct ties to Haiti – some of whom had just returned from the country and had experienced the earthquake and devastation first hand.

You know, we’re all familiar with the slogan “think globally, act locally.” Well, this was such thinking put into swift, efficient and practical motion. Sure, there have been and will be numerous benefits to alleviate the mortifying devastation in Haiti. All are to be commended. But Coach Cal wasted no time coming to the table. On a rainy Sunday afternoon, along with his Wildcats, WKYT and the better portion of Lexington, he showed the Big Blue Nation has as big a heart off the court as on. Bravo.

current listening 01/16/10

king crimson: lizard

king crimson: lizard

King Crimson: Lizard (2009/1970) – The mighty Crimson’s third album, reviled for years by mainstay leader Robert Fripp, returns to us with a beautiful new mix. Crimson’s lineup was in flux at the time, but enlisting pianist Keith Tippett and Yes vocalist Jon Anderson wildly widened the band’s post psychedelic prog-rock reach. And the new mix, especially on Lady of the Dancing Water, is quite breathtaking.

richard thompson: live warrior

richard thompson: live warrior

Richard Thompson: Live Warrior (2009) – A mail order-only concert album available on Thompson’s website reminds us how electric the British folk-rock vet can become when he plugs into a band format. He’s still a masterful songwriter, as displayed by the sublimely reflective Sunset Song. But on the mob rules drive of Guns Are The Tongues, Thompson reaffirms his status as a truly fearsome guitarist.

soundtrack: crazy heart

soundtrack: crazy heart

Original Motion Picture Soundtrack: Crazy Heart (2009) – A country album of sorts as opposed to a strict soundtrack. There are snippets of vintage blues and outlaw music along with fine new tracks from Ryan Bingham and Sam Phillips. But the formula that ignites Crazy Heart is masterful: tunes co-penned by the late Stephen Bruton, produced by T Bone Burnett and sung with dry, wry grace by Jeff Bridges.

the ahmad jamal trio: the awakening

the ahmad jamal trio: the awakening

The Ahmad Jamal Trio: The Awakening (2007/1970) – This 2007 edition of an overlooked trio album by pianist Jamal is a real treasure. The performances are beautifully understated yet come bursting with playfulness. You hear it in the modest bossa nova turns of Antonio Carlos Jobim’s Wave, the spry step of Herbie Hancock’s Dolphin Dance and the stately Jamal-penned title tune. A thoroughly satisfying listen.

stephen stills: stephen stills

stephen stills: stephen stills

Stephen Stills: Stephen Stills (1970) – A wonderfully wintry post ‘60s rock adventure. Bolstered by the hit Love the One You’re With, Stephen Stills ignites with a huge churchy sound rich with choirs, organ and epic guitar and percussion arrangements. Aside from the bluesy Black Queen, Stephen Stills sounds like Phil Spector on a West Coast hippie holiday. Stills never equaled this triumph again.

LETTERS: Global Warming hoax/consensus; Druken Keynesians; socialism

The Gazette (Colorado Springs, CO) October 27, 2010 Global warming concensus Ken Buck says man-made global warming is a hoax. If Buck is elected, and Republicans win control of the Senate, we should expect Buck to support an investigation/witch hunt of the National Academy of Sciences to find out why the nation’s most prestigious scientific organization is promoting this “hoax.” Is this what Coloradans want?

David Connolly Nacogdoches, Texas Global warming hoax Ross Meyers premise seems to be that because the majority of scientists believe in global warming, it must be correct. Albert Einstein said “Many experiments may prove me right, but it takes only one to prove me wrong.” Science is not a democratic process, is must be proven by the data. in our site global warming hoax

Climategate has shown us that there has been some fraud and cover up of the data that does not support the global warming hypothesis, and bravo to The Gazette for daring to challenge the political correct dogma. There is an interesting website debating global warming called “”. It is a website that all open- minded individuals should visit.

Science mixed with politics and big money is psuedo science. The issue is complex and the stakes are high. There was a time when a majority believed the earth was flat, and then some guy sailed around the world and the theory was disproved. I believe that history will show that the real “flat earthers” were the global warming alarmists.

Elden Rice Colorado Springs Like drunken Keynesians John Horner has concluded that deficit spending is a good thing if a Democrat is president. Well, we have a Democrat in the White House and we are spending like drunken Keynesians. Life should be good. The thing standing in the way of the good life, according to Horner, is the tea partiers’ aversion to more taxation. Now that is voodoo economics.

John Vucasovich Colorado Springs Socialism is force In the Oct. 20 Gazette, Professor John Horner tells us what is obvious to any thinking person: Social Security and Medicare are social programs. For once he’s right. But he’s wrong about their effects on society. They are not good. They are evil.

Both Social Security and Medicare are over-promised. According to Dallas Federal Reserve President Richard Fisher, Social Security has promised $14 trillion more than it will take in, and Medicare has promised an astounding $90 trillion more than projected revenues.

To add insult to this massive debt injury, Social Security has made seniors poorer, not richer. Horner says “it is estimated that 40 percent of senior citizens would be living in poverty without Social Security.” Oh, really? I know that I’ve lost money, and how much. go to website global warming hoax

I wrote a little computer program to see what I could have had if could have invested my Social Security payments in the stock market and received the same returns as the DJIA. I would have enough money to pay me – for 25 years – $13,000 a year more than Social Security would. These calculations even assume that I stuff the money in a mattress and get no further growth of principal.

Medicare has not assured seniors adequate medical care, as Horner claims.

If I could have invested my Medicare “contributions,” I would have enough to pay for my own health insurance for life. Furthermore, Medicare is one of the primary reasons that the price of medical care keeps going up.

Dr. Horner says that “‘socialism’ is being used as the not-so- subtle bogeyman to argue that we as a nation should not work together to solve any of our social problems.” Socialism is not “working together.” It is government force, and it exacerbates the problems it claims to solve.

Richard H. Timberlake, III Colorado Springs

in performance: bill frisell, buddy miller and marc ribot

Greetings from Nashville, where The Musical Box took a brief road trip to catch an evening of heavily and heartily deconstructionist country roots music by guitar innovators Bill Frisell, Buddy Miller and Marc Ribot.

The jest of their performance last night at the Belcourt Theatre was to cap off a week’s worth of recording for a project Miller dubbed a “country record.” But the scope hardly seemed that limited. Over the course of 95 minutes, the trio took gleeful liberties with tunes written or popularized by Chet Atkins, Marty Robbins, George Jones, Lefty Frizell, Johnny Cash, Eddy Arnold and Miller himself. But there were also rootsy detours into vintage soul turf for music established by Otis Redding and Wilson Pickett.

But the guitarists, augmented by the beautiful prairie ambience of Greg Leisz on pedal steel and the noir-like rhythm section of bassist Dennis Crouch and the extraordinary drummer Jay Bellerose, made no secret of hiding the distinctions within playing and performance personas that made their music so refreshingly complimentary.

Frisell was the Americana-loving jazzer of the three with a spotless tone that preferred to provide atmospheric embellishments for whatever country or soul path was chosen by the other players. Last night, he was the most understated of the three, eschewing any turns at spoken introductions to the material. But his presence was keenly felt, from the surprisingly rockish blasts he let loose during the Mickey & Sylvia hit No Good Lover to the way his guitar mimicked Arnold’s yodeling croon in Cattle Call to the many instances when his playing played off Leisz’s regal orchestration.

Acting as emcee for much of the evening, Miller seemed almost apologetic for the spontaneously ragged turns in the program that only added its broad sense of musical adventure. He remained the staunchest country traditionalist of the three, offering a haunting, hushed vocal turn on Robbins’ Return to Me (a tune from the trio’s recording sessions that featured Lee Ann Womack on vocals) and a solemn reading of the epic Redding soul classic That’s How Strong My Love Is (a staple of Miller’s repertoire for years).

Ribot proved the anarchist of the bunch. A longtime champion of the New York avant-garde, he has taken huge stylistic leaps over the years into country, funk and even Cuban music. His top reconstructions last night included a jagged minor key variation of the Roger Miller classic Dang Me that became a fascinating, dirge-like brawl full of luminous guitar shards, and a meditative, ambient revision of the Stonewall Jackson gem (Angel on My Mind) That’s Why I’m Walking.

There was a lot to take notice of during the concert, from Bellerose’s intensely dense playing that usually called for drumsticks in one hand and a shaker in the other, to the wild collaborative bits, such as the roughneck vocal harmonies between Miller and Ribot on Elmer Laird’s Poison Love (the title tune to a 1997 Miller album).

But nothing summed up the full ensemble’s sense of playfully dark animation better than the broken hoedown versions of the Chet Atkins staple Freight Train that began and ended the performance. Both workouts wheezed, wobbled and eventually stormed down the tracks with frightful rhythmic ingenuity.

It’s hard to say what country purists will think of this group’s recording project whenever it surfaces. But the loving yet uncompromising kick in Nashville’s rootsy rump served up last onstage was a stylistic riot. Bring on the record.

teddy pendergrass, 1950-2010

teddy pendergrass performing in philadelphia in 2000. associated press photo by suzanne plunkett.

teddy pendergrass performing in philadelphia in 2000. associated press photo by suzanne plunkett.

Nearly all the tributes to surface since the Wednesday death of R&B star Teddy Pendergrass at age 59 from colon cancer have been rigidly focused on the singer’s status as a ‘70s and ‘80s sex symbol. What an empty way to remember a great soul stylist and humanitarian.

I may be in the minority on this, but the songs that made Pendergrass great weren’t the post 1977 pop-soul singles he cut under his own name, but the defining Philadelphia soul he designed between 1972 and 1977 as co-lead singer for Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes. Sure, Melvin’s name was out front, but it was Pendergrass, the group’s original drummer, that fueled the churchy soul power of the group’s breakthrough hit If You Don’t Know Me By Now.

The 1972 debut album Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, along with the O’Jays’ Back Stabbers from the same year, were the recordings that essentially broke the Philly soul sound of Gamble & Huff to the rest of the world. By the time Pendergrass became a solo act, R&B morphed into a branch of a mounting disco and funk movement. Image, especially in Pendergrass’ case, took over.

But the singer’s biggest act had nothing to do with music. A quadriplegic after a 1982 car crash, Pendergrass put his money where his heart was and became a major activist of spinal injury research.

A sex symbol? If that’s how you have to remember Pendergrass, so be it. But the chorus to Pendergrass’ first landmark hit seems to ring eerily true today as a reaction to that estimation:

“If you don’t know me by now, you will never never never know me.”

critic’s pick 106

soft machine: live at henie onstad art centre 1971

soft machine: live at henie onstad art centre

Since its official demise in the early ‘80s, some 15 or so concert recordings by the British psychedelic-turned-prog-turned-jazz fusion ensemble Soft Machine have been released. Most have come from its 1970-71 era, a time when the band’s move from psychedelia was complete and a sense of jazz and free improvisation abounded. Fans and critics generally agree this lineup – keyboardist Mike Ratledge, saxophonist Elton Dean, bass guitarist Hugh Hopper and drummer Robert Wyatt – was the most daring of the Softs’ numerous incarnations.

So it remains to our good fortune that so many of the quartet’s concert performances keep emerging on CD. But even those that thrilled to the 2006 CD/DVD release of Grides (taken from an October 1970 show) should brace themselves for the new two-disc Live at Henie Onstad Arts Center 1971. This is, hands down, the best sounding live document of any Softs lineup – much less the famed early ‘70s group – to date. How these reel-to-reel recordings from a February 1971 show at the Norwegian arts center remained unearthed for so long is anyone’s guess. One can’t help but wonder what other treasures remain buried.

The repertoire on Live is pulled primarily from the Softs’ third and fourth albums, but like all the performances the band gave during the day, the compositions tend to melt into extended suites. The first set, documented as a 40 minute firestorm that makes up Live‘s first disc, mounts slowly into the spacey Rhodes piano colors and percussive rumblings of Facelift. Though the band approximates the abstract fusion Herbie Hancock was exploring at roughly the same time, the fuzzy tone of Hooper’s electric bass remains the Softs’ prime musical calling card as well as a tie to its psychedelic beginnings. That leads into the more rugged jazz turns of the four-section, 20 minute Virtually.

The music reaches a serious boil on the second disc. As Neo Caliban Grides begins to take shape, Ratledge and Dean go wild with free jazz exchanges on organ and sax. Wyatt supplements the dialogue to a degree, but during the minutes Ratledge and Dean go head to head, the Softs create music as complex, creative and demanding as anything the European avant garde offered at the time. Then in a six minute encore version of Noisette, Ratledge switches back to electric piano, Dean squeezes in his sax leads and solos into a warm but desperate groove and the Softs become a prog band all over again.

Add to this the stunning recording clarity and Live becomes a vital, living snapshot of art in motion, even if that art is nearly four decades old.

in performance: ben sollee and daniel martin moore with silas house

daniel martin moore

daniel martin moore

On the surface, the music cellist Ben Sollee and guitarist Daniel Martin Moore performed last night for the inaugural 2010 taping of the WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour at the Kentucky Theatre seemed attractive enough.

Within Sollee’s playing was chamber-style elegance that regularly leaned to the elegiac, especially when it was complimented by the guitar and violin assistance of Cheyenne Mize. Moore, seemingly a world class folkie at heart, created quiet drama with singing and playing styles of whisper thin delicacy. There were also instances where the pop side of his songs beamed with summery anticipation.

Again, this was only what happened on the surface. Given that the music of the duo’s upcoming Dear Companion album on Sub Pop deals with themes of mountaintop removal (MTR) coal mining, there was a certain sense of irony and, well, quiet horror about the set.

It was ironic in the sense that once you penetrated the musical surface of their songs, a mix of activist urgency and dark reality was revealed. This was an unintentional metaphor, perhaps, for how MTR has been literally ripping apart the mountains of Appalachia to reach the coal inside.

A rather exceptional case in point was Needn’t Say a Thing, a tune Moore offered as an encore with a melody so sunny you could whistle it in your sleep. But the lyrics sang of “mighty mountains brought down low,” of ruble and ruin.

ben sollee

ben sollee

Sollee’s Try, in contrast, was more brittle with his cello striking the timbre of a weathered guitar. “There’s no telling what history may bring,” he sang in a voice almost as plaintive as his playing.

But the MTR theme wasn’t just limited to music. Kentucky author Silas House let one of Appalachia’s heartiest mountain voices have its plain-speaking say by reading this testimonial by Jean Ritchie from his 2009 collection of oral histories titled Something’s Rising:

“The coal companies count on people thinking that their jobs are going to be cut if they quit mining in a particular way. But my dad always went and dug that coal out himself to heat our house and that didn’t hurt anybody. It didn’t hurt the land. But this large scale stuff… well, we have to change our way of thinking.”

mountaintop companions

ben sollee and daniel martin moore. photo by guy mendes.

ben sollee and daniel martin moore. photo by guy mendes.

Given the complimentary nature of their folk inspirations, the Kentucky bonds that link their lives and the very topical cause that ignites their work, it’s a wonder Ben Sollee and Daniel Martin Moore didn’t sense some measure of artistic kinship before now.

Listen to the 11 songs that make up their soon-to-be-released Dear Companion album, in fact, and you would swear the vocal and instrumental harmony at play had to have been made by siblings with a devout Appalachian allegiance. The music is learned, soulful and, most of all, intuitive. But Sollee and Moore aren’t brothers – not literally, anyway.

“We met on myspace, believe it or not,” said Lexington bred, Louisville schooled cellist Sollee almost sheepishly. “I was just sort of cruising around myspace.”

“It was the marvel of modern technology, I suppose,” said Moore, who hails from the Northern Kentucky town of Cold Spring. “I had a song, a demo that was kind of like a home recording called Flyrock Blues (which would become a cornerstone tune of Dear Companion) and put it on myspace. I have no idea how Ben found it. But he did. He sent me an email saying, ‘Hey, we’re sort of working on the same stuff here. We should get together.”

“Ultimately, it was the issue that brought us together,” Sollee added.

The “issue” was mountaintop removal mining or MTR. As the name states, it’s a form of mining that literally blasts hundreds of feet off the tops of mountains to attain the coal inside. Although sites are required by law to be reclaimed after mining is complete, the mountain areas often remain barren, broken and deforested.

Mountaintop removal mining has long been prevalent in Appalachia. But in recent years, environmentalists, writers and, yes, musicians have become increasingly vocal about its impact upon the Kentucky landscape. It’s to that chorus than Dear Companion joins in and to that cause that a musical partnership between Sollee and Moore took root.

Though the album won’t be released until mid-February on the veteran Seattle indie label Sub Pop, the duo will showcase its songs at Monday’s taping of the WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour. Also on the program will be a longstanding opponent of MTR, Kentucky author and playwright Silas House.

“Ben and I met up at CD Central, where I was doing an in-store performance,” Moore said. “I played a few songs and then we went to get a cup of coffee and talked about music and all the things we were thinking in regards to mountaintop removal. It’s something we’re both mortified by. So we sort of bonded over that.”

“We’re significantly different musicians,” Sollee said. “He’s the guy who played guitar in his bedroom. I’m the guy who was in school all the time. We’re coming from two different sides of the musical world, but we’re united by this whole idea that we’re Kentucky boys that have grown up with MTR in their backyard.”

Recorded in part at Duane Lundy’s local Shangri-la studio, Dear Companion relies heavily on the chamber style colors of Sollee’s cello playing and the often plaintive guitar/vocal accent of Moore’s songs. The album then digs deep into notions of harmony that are ripe with rootsy expectation (as in the way their voices blend with Louvin Brothers-like ease on My Wealth Comes to Me) and novel distinction (on the album-closing It Won’t Be Long, where Moore’s singing companion is the eerily human tone of Sollee’s cello).

But another Kentucky voice played a role in bringing Dear Companion to life. Handling production duties was a Louisvillian credited as Yim Yames. He is better known to the rock ‘n’ roll world as Jim James, frontman for My Morning Jacket.

“Jim and I met through the Louisville music scene,” Sollee said. “We were both pretty upset about MTR. So, again, it was the issue that brought this whole project together. All of the musical collaborations grew from there.

“A great producer takes in the full spectrum of possibilities,” Moore said. “Jim’s musical imagination knows no bounds. He always has a good idea. Plus, anytime you get artists together who like each other personally and can still blend musically, it’s great.”

Perhaps the defining moment of Dear Companion is its title tune. It’s a song Sollee and Moore wrote together after reading Ronald Eller’s book Uneven Ground: Appalachia Since 1945.

“It’s a history of industry and the many changes that have befallen the region,” Moore said. “One of the images in the book is a handwritten letter by a miner who was trapped in one of the coal mines. He was writing a letter to his family that he knows he is never going to see again. It’s sad and very poignant.

“So we wrote Dear Companion as kind of a letter from Central Appalachia to the rest of the country, saying, ‘We’re being destroyed. Are you paying attention?’ We took the tune to Jim who added this sort of half-time rock percussion and drums. Once he did that, the song just became its own little world.”

Still, Dear Companion doesn’t come off as a fist-in-the-air protest record. It states its case on MTR by embracing the kind of soulful, folk-fortified music that is as prevalent in Appalachia as coal itself.

“This is probably the most important record that either of us will ever release,” Moore said. “Certainly it is as far as its intent is concerned. We’re really hoping to spark a dialogue so people can learn more about MTR and what it’s doing to Kentucky. We’re going to set aside as much time for touring with the record as we can. As long as there is still interest, we’ll keep touring and singing these songs.

“This is a project that has our full attention.”

Ben Sollee and Daniel Martin Moore with Silas House perform at 7 p.m. Jan. 11 at the Kentucky Theatre for the WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour. Admission is $10. For reservations, call (859) 252-8888.

Chicken pox vaccine spurs Senate battle; 2003

Post-Tribune (IN) March 14, 2003 | The Associated Press THIS ELECTRONIC VERSION MAY DIFFER SLIGHTLY FROM PRINTED VERSION A bill that would require Indiana children to be vaccinated against chicken pox before entering kindergarten triggered debate in a state Senate committee. The Senate Health and Provider Services committee discussed but did not vote on the bill Wednesday. It could come up for a vote in the committee as early as next week. go to website chicken pox vaccine

The bill, which would require children to be vaccinated before the 2004-05 school year, passed the House on a second vote after failing a first one.

Indiana already requires all children be vaccinated for diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus, measles, rubella, polio and mumps. A hepatitis B immunization is also required for school entry.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 20 states already require the chicken pox vaccine.

While the Indiana Department of Health supports the proposal, a former state official who testified on behalf of the Indiana Academy of Family Physicians expressed some reservations.

“We are not so much against the vaccine … but we ought to be cautious and have all of our questions answered before we start making this a requirement. And there are questions,” said former Health Commissioner Dr. Richard Feldman. chicken pox vaccine

He said the Centers for Disease Control has expressed concern about how long the vaccine remains effective.

Both Feldman and Zachary Cattell of the state health department said it could be determined that a booster is necessary later in life for the chicken pox vaccine to remain effective.

“It was the same with measles a decade ago. But it took an epidemic first,” said Feldman.

The immunization is believed to be about 90 percent effective. One out of 10 children vaccinated will still come down with chicken pox if exposed, although it is usually a milder form.

Cattell said about 59 percent of Indiana’s 2-year-olds have been vaccinated for chicken pox, compared with 76 percent nationwide.

Wetlands issues: The great division Lawmakers are considering two bills that would allow state officials to regulate certain wetlands, but environmentalists and developers disagree whether the proposals offer enough reform or too much.

The legislation would allow environmental regulators to create a permit program to oversee the filling and dredging of isolated wetlands, which are those wetlands not connected to lakes or streams.

The bills have divided business leaders, state regulators and environmental activists.

“With the stroke of a pen, (lawmakers) could be wiping out a vast amount of resources here,” said Jim Ray, coordinator for the state’s Department of Natural Resources.

Nearly 5 million acres of wetlands have been filled or drained in Indiana since the state was settled. Wetlands now cover less than 4 percent, or about 800,000 acres.

Roughly a third of remaining wetlands are isolated. And many are relatively small, covering less than half an acre, according to the state Department of Environmental Management.

The Associated Press

in performance: david grier

david greer

david grier

“It’s a pretty waltz, if you don’t get out much,” remarked David Grier last night before bringing the light, lyrical phrasing of High Atop Princess Cove to life at the Kentucky Coffeetree Café in Frankfort. It was a typically unassuming remark from an artist who, over the course of two sets of solo guitar instrumentals, mixed learned folk traditions with commanding flatpicking technique.

But like the entire performance, there was nothing fussy or overdone about the tune. A “pretty waltz?” Yes, that’s exactly what it was. Similarly charming were several fiddle tunes reworked as guitar vehicles – including the show-opening Gold Rush and the Soldier’s Joy medley played near evening’s end. During the latter, Grier’s playing busted the speed limit, even to the point where he paused to take an audible exhale when the music’s more treacherous passages were successfully navigated. But that was as indulgent as the evening got.

Inspired by the likes of Doc Watson and Clarence White, both of whom he gave recognition to in an expert performance of Black Mountain Rag, Grier and his playing have long been celebrated in bluegrass circles. He also helped pioneer string music progression with such stylistic thrillseekers as Darol Anger and Mike Marshall in the celebrated Psychograss. But this fine Frankfort outing, a show made all the richer by the ultra cozy environment the Café was able to supply on a snowbound evening with temps in the teens, didn’t really polarize its stylistic preferences. When Grier’s music edged towards bluegrass, as it did on Whistling Rufus (another transposed fiddle tune), it did so in manner gingerly enough to keep his spotless guitar tone from sounding austere. When the concert fused sounds and styles, as in the blend of folk colors and twilight blues on Cascade, the resulting music focused on a strong, melodic center.

In short, this was an exhibition of taste. Grier may have possessed all the instrumental firepower necessary to become a well versed show-off. But within this intimate, house concert-like environment, his scholarly instrumental prowess glowed in more comforting and conversational terms.

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