Archive for January, 2011

in performance: bang on a can all-stars featuring glenn kotche

glenn kotche. photo by michael wilson.

glenn kotche. photo by michael wilson.

Descriptions seemed to defy last night’s refreshing discourse in modern composition, courtesy of the Bang on a Can All-Stars and guest drummer Glenn Kotche at the Singletary Center for the Arts. That was especially true when the ensemble attempted to label itself.

For instance, Bang on a Can clarinetist and compere Evan Ziporyn tagged Snap, an immensely animated piece penned for the ensemble by Kotche, as “the hidden connection between Shaft and Tchaikovsky.” That was because the work was supposedly inspired – indirectly, at least – by the Memphis soul music popularized in the ‘60s on the Stax label.

But the piece curiously (and more literally) recalled at least two editions of the long-running prog band King Crimson. An early section revolved around an intriguing collage of strings (specifically, the lean orchestration of cellist Ashley Bathgate and bassist Robert Black), reeds (specifically, Ziporyn’s lone punctuations on bass clarinet) and dizzying piano (the work of Vicky Chow) that danced giddily around the music in a way that brought to mind the music the great British avant gardist Keith Tippett created with Crimson in the early ‘70s.

Then the piece shifted with Kotche and Bang on a Can drummer Ian Ding peppering the music with potent duel drum exchanges. That’s when an attractive theme was repeated in rounds with the dynamics increasing each time through. Crimson came to mind again, only more so in the guitar and drum-dominate version the band favored between 1972 and 1974.

And that was just one piece. Kotche, a rightly celebrated University of Kentucky alumnus and drummer for the equally decorated Wilco, teamed earlier in the set with Ding for two Steve Reich-inspired works. Clapping Hands Variations took the two from drum kits on opposite sides of the stages to hammering out Eastern-shaded tones on a series of cymbals, gongs and metal dishes that sat face down on the centerstage floor. A modified arrangement of Reich’s Music for Pieces of Wood for the two kits was a more elemental, though no less intriguing, big beat exhibition.  

Bang on a Can tackled the concert’s first set on their own with a tense ensemble recitation of Louis Andriessen’s Workers Union and the more varied For Madeline, a eulogy by Bang on a Can founder Michael Gordon for his mother that brought out lighter textures within the ensemble. Among them was the unexpectedly harmonious pairing of slide guitar and vibraphone.

Words failed the group again, though, on an exquisite arrangement of the first section of Brian Eno’s vanguard ambient piece, Music for Airports. Ziporyn described the piece as “cold.” A listen to the wonderfully remastered edition of Eno’s original Airports recording released in 2004 reveals the piece to be anything but.

Ditto for the ensemble’s arrangement and performance of the piece last night. With a purposely glacial melodic pace and a sleek theme on piano, chimes and synthesizer that was repeated like a mantra, the tune possessed an intimate, inviting glow. Pretty cozy listening for a winter’s evening it was, too.

Cities house hundreds of pets after Gustav, Ike

AP Online September 18, 2008 | JAY ROOT and ANGELA K. BROWN Hurricane Ike was about as mighty and destructive as they come, but it couldn’t break the bond between Nora Smallwood and her two dogs. She’d just as soon drown than abandon them to Mother Nature’s fury. this web site austin humane society

“They’re my life,” the 78-year-old said after being evacuated from her home in La Marque, near Galveston. “There was just no way I was going to leave them.” Luckily, she didn’t have to. She usually visits Honey and T.T. twice a day, riding a city bus to the Austin Humane Society from her shelter at the convention center.

Like Smallwood, hundreds along the Gulf Coast evacuated with their pets before hurricanes Gustav and Ike roared ashore this month _ unlike in Katrina in 2005. Many Louisiana residents were not allowed to take pets on buses, causing more anguish. Others refused to leave their animals behind, leaving many to perish with their pets.

That led to the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act, passed by Congress in 2006 to make sure state and local governments help pets’ during a major disaster or emergency. Texas passed a similar law last year.

“This act is not only saving pets’ lives _ it’s saving human lives,” said Scott Haisley, senior director of emergency services for the Humane Society of the United States, which supported the federal law.

In the first major Gulf hurricanes since Katrina, officials in cities across Texas say housing the furry, feathered and scaly loved ones of evacuees has for the most part gone well.

Health regulations prohibit the creatures from living in the same rooms as people, so some cities provide transportation so evacuees can visit their pets at animal shelters. That gives them something to do and makes them feel better during a time of upheaval, officials said.

“That is emotionally comforting to people because they have contact with the only thing they feel they have left,” said Dorinda Pulliam, shelter director for Town Lake Animal Shelter in Austin.

In Austin, officials drop off pet supply kits _ including carrying crates and waste disposal bags _ before evacuees even arrive at the shelters. Other cities have adopted similar models.

Fort Worth keeps evacuees’ pets at the city animal shelter and provides free microchips for the critters to make sure they will be matched with their owners.

Evacuees staying at the Dallas Convention Center can play and cuddle with their pets at another area of the complex just across the street.

“We get a lot of hugs from folks with tears in their eyes,” said Kent Robertson, a division manager with Dallas animal services. “Their homes have been destroyed, and they don’t know what they’re going to do, but they have a place for their animals.” But some evacuees resist giving up their animals, even temporarily.

Pulliam said one elderly couple staying at an Austin shelter slept in a car outside with their two cocker spaniels, rather than turn them over to shelter workers.

Last weekend, Galveston resident Ida Navejar ran away from the Austin Convention Center with her iguana, Iggy, and one of her five Chihuahuas, Cha Cha, because she apparently thought she would not get them back from the animal shelter. But the 19-year-old and her pets were found after police put out a bulletin, and Navejar returned after reassurance that her animals would be cared for and later returned. site austin humane society

“They’re like our kids,” said Ida’s mother, Maria Navejar.

Before Gustav and Ike, owners weren’t the only ones leaving hurricane-prone areas with pets. Animal shelters in harm’s way evacuated cats and dogs to several nonprofit animal welfare agencies across Texas.

The SPCA of Texas took in about 300 animals from Louisiana shelters before Gustav hit earlier this month, then accepted 235 more from South Texas shelters in Ike’s path last weekend. That’s in addition to the 500 cats and dogs already at the SPCA’s two shelters in Dallas and McKinney.

“Animals are totally dependent on people, and we have to be there as an organization to do this,” said James Bias, president of the Dallas-based SPCA of Texas.

Animal rescue groups in other states helped out by taking some of those cats and dogs, but several hundred remain at the Dallas-area shelters _ as well as in other cities. They are up for adoption and won’t return to their former shelters, which have to make room for any stranded pets found in the hard-hit cities along the Gulf Coast.

So far, Humane Society workers have rescued several hundred animals after Gustav and Ike. But they said they expect the number to be far less than the 10,000 pets rescued in Louisiana and Mississippi after Katrina _ and far less than the scores found dead.

“We are seeing fewer animals left behind,” Haisley said.

___ Associated Press writer Angela K. Brown reported from Fort Worth, Texas.


new light from a dark star

dark star orchestra in full performancne glory. photo by peter wochniak.

dso in full performancne glory. photo by peter wochniak.

Dino English admits to being a bit of latecomer to the music of the Grateful Dead.

The Lexington-based drummer, who now makes interpreting the fabled jam band’s songs his vocation as a member of Dark Star Orchestra, didn’t really become a Dead Head until 1990, a mere five years before the passing of guitarist Jerry Garcia signaled the official death of the Dead.

“There are guys in Dark Star Orchestra who started going to Dead shows back in the early ‘70s, so I’m definitely the young Dead Head of the band,” said English, who performs with DSO at Buster’s on Tuesday. “But we all come to the Dead’s music from the perspective of a fan.”

A drummer versed in jazz studies, English joined Dark Star Orchestra early in its career. The Chicago-based group formed in late 1997 and quickly gained national distinction amid legions of Grateful Dead cover bands. Instead of covering specific Dead songs, they recreated entire setlists – meaning, nearly all Dark Star Orchestra concerts take their cue from the order in which the Dead played a set of songs on a given night decades ago. And given how the Dead’s sound, personnel and very musical makeup shifted over the years, recreating a concert from 1972 (when the Dead operated with one drummer) differs considerably from exploring  set-lists from 1977 (when it had two drummers and a female vocalist) or 1991 (when the Dead often utilized two keyboardists).

“It’s an interesting mix,” English said. “The Grateful Dead was primarily a double-drumming band, although there were time periods when it used only a single drummer. And since DSO does a different show every night, we use a different stage set up with sometimes a different number of musicians. It’s a continually fresh approach.

“With the two drummer thing, it’s a deal where one player is more of a straight ahead jazz drummer that doesn’t necessarily stick to the guidelines. That’s primarily my role. Ron Koritz, our other drummer, is more of a percussionist who adds fills and instrumentation over the top of the music.”

English joined DSO in 1999 (“right about the time the band started getting serious about touring”) and lived in St. Louis until 2008, when he got married and relocated to Lexington. He has sat in with several local bands since then. In January, he performed twice at Cosmic Charlie’s – once with a new original music group called The Kentucky Gentlemen and again with the long-running Grateful Dead cover troupe Born Cross Eyed. But he admits that he hasn’t gotten a complete taste of the local music scene yet. A regularly full DSO touring itinerary and home duties raising a young daughter tend to limit English’s time in Lexington clubs. His primary performance focus continues to be on bringing the Dead to life on the road.

“I tend to really like the Dead setlists from ’77 to about ’87 the best,” he said. “It was all about the flow of their shows. At that point, they developed a kind of game plan that they stuck with for awhile.

“They used the first set as a kind of warm up. During the second set, they brought out the big guns and opened out into more spacious playing. Then they just blew everything out at the end of the night. It was a formula, but it worked.”

That formula has its limits with DSO, however. The band isn’t so locked into a vintage set list that it tries to recreate a Grateful Dead show from years past with note-for-note precision. Admittedly, there is enough source material to do so if it wanted to. The Dead has released close to 100 official concert recordings and openly allowed Dead Heads to record concerts themselves during the band’s active touring years. DSO instead uses the Dead’s setlists more as roadmaps for their own improvisational exploration.

“Some people have this misconception that we try to play things note-for-note the way the Dead did,” English said. “It’s not really about that. It’s more about playing the arrangement of a song that’s true to a specific time period in the band’s history and using that as a kind of launching pad.”

Among the fans DSO has picked up over the years have been several former members of the Grateful Dead itself. Guitarist Bob Weir, keyboardists Tom Constanten and Vince Welnick, drummer Bill Kreutzmann and vocalist Donna Jean Godchaux have all performed onstage with the band.

The DSO and the Dead camp have even traded a few members. DSO guitarist John Kadlecik defected in 2009 to Furthur, a new band fronted by Weir and Dead bassist Phil Lesh. Back in 2007, former Lesh keyboardist Rob Barraco (who also toured as part of several Dead reunion tours) joined DSO. Dead sound engineer Dan Healy even toured with DSO for a year.

“So many members of the Dead community have been so hospitable to us by joining us onstage,” English said. “They’re used to far more luxuriant situations than what we deal with, too. So it’s great that they have become such good friends.”

Dark Star Orchestra performs at 9 p.m. Jan. 31 at Buster’s Billiards and Backroom, 899 Manchester St. Tickets are $20 in advance, $23 day-of-show. Call (859) 368-8871.

in performance: nellie mckay

nellie mckay

nellie mckay

Who was the real Nellie McKay?

Was it the piano songstress that journeyed through the disparate repertoires of Ella Fitzgerald and Doris Day? Could it have been the songsmith that explored socio-political views with expert wit? Maybe it was the interpreter that mined a litany of cover songs that stretched from Lionel Hampton to Tom Waits. Or it could have been the stage artist that reflected the lightness of a cabaret singer and the lyrical severity of an aware activist.

All of these personas converged with dizzyingly ingenuity into McKay’s wondrous two-set, sold-out Lexington debut last night at Natasha’s. The show started late and the audience was cramped uncomfortably into seats that practically put patrons in each other’s laps. But McKay’s devilish show was worth the hassles.

Striking vogue poses to Jimi Hendrix’s Purple Haze as she took the stage, McKay opened with the torchy  “love turned to tumbleweeds” lament The Portal and the Fitzgerald favorite A Tisket, A Tasket, which heightened a cartoon-like playfulness that dutifully propelled much of the concert.

From there, one had to fasten the stylistic seat belts. Dispossessed (one of nine originals pulled from McKay’s recent Home Sweet Mobile Home album) was all finger-popping gospel with a New Orleans second line groove from drummer Ben Bynhum while The Dog Song, with funky, tuba-like bass from Alexi David, was a piano reverie that revealed a woman’s best friend walks on four legs. Please, on the other hand, had McKay dancing a demented hula (“Please Mr. Hula-Hoop, keep on ballistic; you must be a man that got to be sadistic”) to a pedal-saturated guitar break from Cary Park.

There was also an alert and pointed wit to many of McKay’s originals, including the hysterical Mother of Pearl, which viewed feminism through ultra-conservative eyes before ending with a cryptic campaign reference (“I’m Sarah Palin and I approved this message”). The tune cleverly paralleled a later cover of Loretta Lynn’s ballad of domestic overpopulation (One’s on the Way) and McKay’s savagely tongue-in-cheek I Wanna Get Married (“I wanna pack cute little lunches for my Brady Bunches”).

And then there were the glorious covers, highlighted by the stratospheric soprano tone of 1929’s Broadway Melody and a throaty take on Waits’ Straight to the Top (which McKay admitted wound up sounding more like Jimmy Durante).

But the show-stealer was a straight-faced reading of the 1957 Hampton-penned Fitzgerald classic Midnight Sun, a cool blast of serious jazz that elicited more than a few audience gasps when it concluded. It was the most quietly lavish moment in this delirious pop cabaret.

"a little bit of a homecoming"

glenn kotche, right, in a new york performance with bang on a can all-stars percussionist david cossin. photo by stephanie berger.

glenn kotche, right, in a new york performance with bang on a can all-stars percussionist david cossin. photo by stephanie berger.

In discussing his preparation for a brief winter tour with the Bang on a Can All-Stars that brings him back to Lexington, Glenn Kotche outlined the inspiration he finds in collaborating with an ensemble that has, in turn, worked with such diverse artists as Philip Glass, Ornette Coleman and Thurston Moore.

“Every time I play with them, I have to be on top of my game,” Kotche said.

Come again? Has there been an instance when the world class drummer has returned to his alma mater – specifically, the University of Kentucky and the stages of the Singletary Center for the Arts where he gave his student recitals – and not been anything less than in peak creative form?

Take his last outing here, a 2006 program of solo percussion presented on a split bill with guitarist Nels Cline, who just happens to be a bandmate of Kotche’s in an industrious Chicago-based pop unit called Wilco. For that performance, he utilized drum sets jury-rigged with springs and strings along with an orchestra of “cricket boxes” to bring the Hindu Monkey Chant to life.

A few years before that was a Singletary evening with the mighty Wilco itself, then in the final stages of recording A Ghost is Born. That night we heard Kotche bashing merrily about on then-new works like the Neil Young-ish At Least That’s What You Said and coloring the now classic I Am Trying to Break Your Heart with devilish percussion color.

Back up a mere two months before that and Kotche was at the Singletary again, reteamed with UK professor James Campbell for the school’s annual Day of Percussion. The culmination was a display for eager students of how complete and compelling the sounds on a solo drum set could be when removed from the usual arena of rock clichés.

“It’s very comfortable coming back again,” Kotche said of playing UK tonight with the Bang on a Can All-Stars. “I know the stage. I know the people. I know the town. So all of that is really nice. But for me, it is also a little bit of a homecoming that puts things in perspective.

“When I get onstage there, I can’t help but think of the Percussion Ensemble concerts there, my senior recital and what my frame of mind was like then. The world was wide open. It was like, ‘What am I going to do? How am I going to make a living in music when I graduate in two months?’ These are the same insecurities any music major would go through.

“Now it’s comforting to come back and go, ‘I’m doing OK. Just keep it up, keep doing what I’m doing.’ It’s nice to check in and get back to that feeling and just take stock of everything.'”

“Everything” these days amounts to a very full artistic plate for Kotche. Once his concert run with Bang on a Can concludes, he will be back in the studio with Wilco. Then comes a March tour of Japan with On Fillmore, the duo he fronts with bassist Darin Gray that released one of 2009’s true sleeper albums, the wonderfully atmospheric Extended Vacation. He may also squeeze in some recording work of his own on a follow-up to his 2006 solo album Mobile before roadwork with Wilco recommences in May.

The Bang on a Can collaboration stems back several years to a meeting with ensemble co-founder Michael Gordon. That led to more direct work with Bang on a Can percussionist David Cossin and, eventually, the commission of a Kotche composition for the group’s progressive chamber-meets-rock sound.

“This is an amazing ensemble that has been all over the board as far as collaborators go,” Kotche said of Bang on a Can. “Everybody from composers like Philip Glass, Steve Reich and Terry Riley to jazz artists, noise artists, you name it. These are all world class players as well.”

The All-Stars will go it alone during the first half of tonight’s concert, performing works by Eno (a daring ensemble variation of his groundbreaking ambient work Music for Airports) along with music by Gordon and Dutch composer Louis Andriessen. Kotche will join the ensemble – especially percussionist Ian Dinge, who is subbing for Cossin on this abbreviated tour – for the title work from Mobile, two Reich works (Clapping Music, which is also featured on Mobile, and Music for Pieces of Wood, arranged, of course, for two drum sets) and his original composition commissioned for Bang on a Can (Snap).

If juggling the Bang on a Can Tour with Wilco duties and his myriad other projects wasn’t enough, Kotche also became a dad for the second time earlier this winter.

“It’s a lot of disparate things, for sure. But they’re all really challenging, which is what I like. It is sometime difficult. Like last week, I was in the studio with Wilco until Friday. Then I’d come home, feed the kids, get them to bed and practice three to four hours to get ready for the Bang on a Can program. So I just have to budget my time well to find that balance between work and home life.

The four hour practice sessions were requirements, Kotche said, in remaining “on top of my game.” When it was suggested that being anything less than on top was unlikely, given his work ethnic and love of performance, Kotche broke into a laugh and politely dismissed the compliment.

“No, really… I have to make sure.”

Bang on a Can All-Stars with Glenn Kotche perform at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 30 at the Singletary Center for the Arts. Tickets are $25, $28, $32.

Bowling Green, Ky., merchants fight battle against counterfeit money.

Daily News (Bowling Green, KY) July 13, 2005 Byline: Rachel Adams Jul. 13–A customer hands a store clerk a counterfeit $20 bill.

The clerk doesn’t notice it’s counterfeit, and places the bill in the cash register drawer. The next customer through the line receives that counterfeit $20 bill as change, and uses it to pay for something else at the store down the road.

It’s a vicious cycle, one that many people don’t realize they’re perpetuating: passing counterfeit money.

“It comes in waves,” said Barry Pruitt, public information officer at the Bowling Green Police Department. “We may go for a long time and not see any, and then all of a sudden they pop up and we’ll get several bills in one afternoon.” From June 30 to July 9, three counterfeit bills — two $20 and one $5 — surfaced at Bowling Green businesses. Two went unnoticed until routine cash register drawer checks, while the third was passed by a man who said he didn’t know the bill was fake. bowling green ky

“We feel that some of the recently confiscated bills were ones that were put into circulation a few weeks ago when an arrest was made,” Pruitt said.

Most of the counterfeit money in the United States and Kentucky is computer-generated, said Jim Cobb, special agent in charge of the Louisville Secret Service District. When counterfeit money is compared to real money, it’s easy to tell the difference: computer-generated money does not show the same fine lines as real money, the images may be blurry and lack depth, and the paper isn’t the same.

“The main problem in this state and throughout the United States is computer-generated counterfeit currency,” Cobb said. “A lot is generated by teenagers and lots of it is tied to the drug trade. (Counterfeiters will) mix counterfeit with genuine currency in narcotics transfers.” Money is actually printed on cotton fibers, Pruitt said. A lot of the counterfeit money he sees in Bowling Green is printed on regular copy paper, so it’s easy to tell the difference.

“Typically, the bills that we get here locally are of very poor quality,” Pruitt said. “If merchants would just take that extra second or two, we could really curtail this. You look, you feel, it’s a whole process, but it only takes a second.” The Secret Service has a nationwide web that catches 99 percent of counterfeit money before it hits the streets, Cobb said. However, it’s still a good idea for merchants and customers to familiarize themselves with their money.

An easy way to do that, Pruitt said, is to count change like bank tellers do — lay each bill on top of another.

“Counterfeit money really stands out when you do something like that,” he said. “It should pop up immediately.” Another solution for merchants is to stop relying totally on the markers used to test bills, Pruitt said: They can give false readings. go to web site bowling green ky

Education is the best defense against counterfeiters, though, he said. Most counterfeiters will try to pass the bill with a stack of other bills, during a busy time period, when a clerk is distracted, or at a cash register with a younger or inexperienced clerk. It’s important employees know the difference between counterfeit and real money and are trained to respond when one is discovered.

Merchants should act wisely when encountering a counterfeit bill, Pruitt continued. If the person passing the bill is acting nervous, it may be safer to get a description of the suspect and a license plate number and call the police after the suspect has left. It’s also important to remember that not all people who pass a counterfeit bill realize that it’s fake.

“Some bills get into circulation and it may be somebody who has no idea,” Pruitt said. “There’s no standard (course of action) for that. You really have to use your best judgment.” Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News.

the real mckay

nellie mckay. photo by rick gonzalez.

nellie mckay. photo by rick gonzalez.

Over the course of seven years and five studio recordings, Nellie McKay has offered a remarkably varied study of modern pop that seems to pride itself as much in unpredictability as it does in its robust sense of songcraft.

As a writer, her music offers a mix of reflection, activism and feminism as well as a sense of romance that shifts from the blissfully hopeful to the unapologetically uneasy. And she has a bagful of melodic choices to explore them with that includes richly designed pop, torchy jazz, reggae and hip hop.

As an interpreter, she draws from a wildly diverse inspirations. She has sung Bertolt Brecht on Broadway, devoted an entire album to the sunny pop of Doris Day and has collaborated with such stylistic scholars as David Byrne.

An artistic wonder or a marketing nightmare? Nellie McKay is a bit of both.

“Frankly, I think it’s nice when people can’t always tell where the inspiration for the music comes from,” McKay said. “I think they like to be kept guessing.”

McKay has done exactly that ever since she gained national acclaim while still in her teens with a debut album titled Get Away From Me. The title was rumored to be a play on Norah Jones’ popular Come Go With Me.

She lobbied hard for the record to be a double-disc recording and won, making her one of the few artists awarded such a luxury on their debut recording by a major label (Columbia). The cover photo of a cheery McKay in full Mary Tyler Moore mode hinted at G-rated pop. The graffiti on the brick wall behind her suggested otherwise.

The music inside cemented such vivid contrasts. Such seemingly sunny moments as The Dog Song were riddled with unrest (“I was sad as a sailor. I was an angry one, too”) while the bolder, half-sung rap tunes (Sari, Inner Peace) roared by with the blunt, unglamorous swiftness of a subway car.

Where do such vast and seemingly opposing sounds and themes come from? For McKay, the answer is easy. Growing up in New York, she was surrounded by them.

“There was always music in the air,” McKay said. “When I lived in Harlem, there were African drummers in the park. I would like to think they had an influence. But there was also a strong music program in school that made music so available – particularly jazz band. Really, it was all about jazz band for me.

“I heard A Night in Tunisia just last other night. I heard I Got It Bad and That Ain’t Good recently, too. Those songs that we did in jazz band always take me back. It was such a relief from the regular part of school.”

Ensuing years allowed McKay to star on Broadway as Polly Peachum in Brecht’s The Threepenny Opera (“Brecht unnerves people, which I think is a good thing”), explore Day’s vintage pop on 2009’s Normal as Blueberry Pie album (“Those were some dainty, dancer-y shoes to fill, and I’m quite indelicate and clumsy”) and serve as one of the many guest vocalists on Byrne’s Imelda Marcos-themed Here Lies Love project with Fatboy Slim (“I couldn’t believe David asked me. It was probably because I’m very cheap”).

That takes us to last year’s Home Sweet Mobile Home, McKay’s fifth and perhaps finest record. Co-produced by McKay and her mother, actress Robin Pappas, Home is a typically disquieting tapestry of songs that reflect dashed dreams of a false paradise (the ukulele serenade Adios), a grimmer forecast of a real paradise (the reggae-fied Carribean Time) and a literally dispiriting meditation (the jazz and gospel fused Dispossession).

“A lot of these songs were written for a musical based on the book and movie Election, which looks like it’s not going to happen. So I used some of them on the album. Dispossession was written as a duet between mother and daughter. It’s funny to hear people say that these songs seem quite personal when they were, in fact, written for another character entirely.”

“You know, there’s a funny quote from Conan O’Brien. I’m paraphrasing a little, but it goes, ‘Show business is full of extraordinarily lucky people who are really bitter about it.’ But I’m very happy with my career. Sure, the stress can get to you. Still, I try to relax and have fun. I just haven’t found the right combination of alcohol and meditation to put me completely at ease.”

Nellie McKay performs at 8 tonight at Natasha’s Bistro, 112 Esplanade. Tickets are $30. Call (859) 259-2754.

The developing labor law; the board, the courts, and the National Labor Relations Act, 5th ed.; 2v.(Book Review)

Reference & Research Book News August 1, 2007 9781570185724 The developing labor law; the board, the courts, and the National Labor Relations Act, 5th ed.; 2v.

Ed. by John E. Higgins et al.

BNA Books 2007 3349 pages $685.00 Hardcover KF3369 Produced by the American Bar Association’s Section of Labor and Employment Law, this two-volume treatise describes the development of labor law under the National Labor Relations Act through the end of 2005. The editor-in-chief (a member of the National Labor Relations Board and a faculty member at the Columbus School of Law, Catholic U. of America) first presents chapters detailing the history of the law, covering the Wagner Act, Taft-Hartley changes, Landrum-Griffin changes, and the post-Landrum-Griffin period. The treatise then discusses protected employee activity, covering interference with protected rights, discrimination in employment, employer domination of and assistance to labor organizations. The representation process and union recognition is covered in chapters discussing restrictions on pre-election activity, proceedings and elections, appropriate bargaining units, and recognition and withdrawal of recognition without an election. The collective bargaining process is covered in detail and issues of arbitration are examined. Discussion of issues of economic action, including the primary strike, the lockout, picketing for organization and recognition, the “hot cargo” agreement, and jurisdictional disputes open the second volume, followed by chapters on the duty of fair representation and union security. The treatise concludes with examination of the administration of the Act in chapters exploring jurisdiction, federal preemption of state regulation, accommodations to other federal laws, the applicability of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act to labor disputes, National Labor Relations Board procedures, NLRB orders and remedies, and judicial review and enforcement. Case issues under current review by the NLRB are included in the discussion. see here national labor relations act go to website national labor relations act

([c]20072005 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR)

in performance: avenged sevenfold/stone sour/hollywood undead/new medicine

bassist johnny christ of avenged sevenfold. herald-leader staff photos by rich copley.

bassist johnny christ of avenged sevenfold at play in the graveyard. herald-leader staff photos by rich copley.

The only hint of dissention last night at Rupp Arena between Avenged Sevenfold and its very vocal audience of 6,500 came when M. Shadows, the generously tattooed frontman for the California neo-metal band, admitted he had slipped into town a day early and caught Thursday’s Rupp show by the country-pop brigade Rascal Flatts.

The confession drew a pronounced round of jeers – more for Rascal Flatts than for Shadows’ one-night-defection to the country ranks. But the performance mood was well in place before the singer offered his less than glowing appraisal of the Flatts trio.

Headlining a four act, 4 ½ hour rock package parade dubbed the Nightmare After Christmas, Avenged Sevenfold – A7X, to its fans – opened its 75 minute set with a hanging. Seriously.

avenged sevenfold's m.shadows.

avenged sevenfold's m. shadows

As the music box-style intro to the show-opening Nightmare (the title tune to the A7X’s fifth and newest album) commenced, a stuntman (well, let’s hope it was a stuntman) stood atop the light rigging perched over a stage made to resemble a graveyard. After slipping a makeshift noose around his neck, he leapt into in the air and was left, literally, hanging as A7X lets loose with Nightmare‘s near operatic mix of banshee vocals, pop-metal melodies and twin guitar leads. Around this dark carnival shot enough flames and pyrotechnics to put the Trans Siberian Orchestra to shame

Musically, the song was like vintage Queensryche. Visually, it was like Alice Cooper – only a lot creepier.

Luckily, though, the bulk of A7X’s set played with metal-tinged arena rock convention. Much of the multi-act bill did, for that matter. Only the Minnesota band New Medicine, which kicked off the evening while rush hour traffic outside Rupp was still at a boil, worked itself into a stylistic corner with generic metal and post-grunge grooves.

For A7X’s part, it cooled the heated guitar makeup behind Danger Line down to the sleek strains of a piano, whistling and a lone military snare. Later, So Far Away, dubbed by Shadows as “our saddest song,” was offered as eulogy for founding A7X drummer Jimmy “The Rev” Sullivan, who died in 2009 at age 28.

Des Moines, Iowa rockers Stone Sour preceded A7X with a set that nicely shifted from the ensemble metal crunch of Hell or Consequences to the solo acoustic Bother. The latter was a showcase for vocalist Corey Taylor. Both Taylor and Stone Sour’s fleet fingered guitarist Jim Root double as members of the masked metal troupe Slipknot. But last night, aside from Taylor dubbing himself the “metal Dougie Howser,” they balanced the kind of meaty metal grind Slipknot is known for with a generous pop accessibility that is very much Stone Sour’s creation.

The surprise of the night, was the bill’s second band, the Los Angeles rap and rock troupe Hollywood Undead. Operating with a novel musical makeup centered around four vocalists and two drummers, the band injected generous does of pop harmony into a wild stylistic mix that resulted in such inventive hybrid tunes as Hear Me Now. Despite the Gothic sounding name, Hollywood Undead offered the evening’s craftiest pop crossover possibilities.

in performance: rascal flatts, luke bryan and chris young

rascal flatts: joe don rooney, gary levox and jay demarcus.

rascal flatts: joe don rooney, gary levox and jay demarcus.

The best way to make the music of Rascal Flatts work in a performance setting is to make it move. Fast. Streamline the sucker. Otherwise the celebratory electric charm that is the key to its appeal simply vanishes.

Last night, the enormously bankable Nashville country-pop trio of Gary LeVox, Joe Don Rooney and Jay DeMarcus cashed in on that strategy with a 1 ¾ hour Rupp Arena concert that moved with the might of a freight train. There were a few intermittent stops along the way that briefly derailed the pace before the crowd of 8,000. But for the most part, Rascal Flatts operated with a repertoire that emphasized its cheeriest, most efficiently emotive songs and a stage design that greatly helped contain the show’s drive.

First, a few words about the latter. The show operated from a stage that used a series of Jumbotron-like video screens that closed around the group like gates. Needless to say the screens lit up like Christmas trees with imagery that shifted from the great outdoors at autumn to the heart of Las Vegas.

In front of this massively lit bulb of a performance space were two runways that ran parallel to the stage instead of out into the audience. The spaces between the runways were used as audience pits that helped bolster the stage energy even more. Among the fans cheering Rascal Flatts on from the stage left pit was Central Kentucky actress and singer Laura Bell Bundy.

From there, the trio employed an arsenal of party-strategic songs – including the show-opening, neo-rap flavored Bob That Head that opened out into Prayin’ for Daylight, the fiddle-savvy pop tune that established the band on country radio almost exactly 10 years ago.

The hits flowed generously after that. The title tune to 2004’s Feels Like Today album epitomized the concert’s immaculate sound mix (especially in its wildly alert keyboard sounds) while the title songs from 2006’s Me and My Gang and 2009’s Unstoppable eased the festivities from the broadly rockish to the keenly anthemic.

As mentioned, the action did break during a few prolonged, comically intended interludes by DeMarcus that were true tempo killers. One, in particular, had the bassist/keyboardist juggle half baked gospel riffs with a cover of Journey’s Open Arms. These were the kinds of gaps that have made past Rascal Flatts shows at Rupp drag.

Luckily, one break compensated – a brief time out when LeVox handed the microphone over to an audience member who made a very public (but ultimately inaudible) marriage proposal to his girlfriend before the group tore into the cheesy Vegas-inspired romance of Why Wait.

Georgia singer Luke Bryan preceded the trio with a 50 minute set that felt the need to sell its sense of country credibility with the opening songs Country Man and What Country Is. Perhaps that was necessary. Bryan’s music revealed several references to ‘60s pop (like the Walk Away Renee-style heartbreak that fueled Someone Else Callin’ You Baby). And, yes, there was that odd detour from All My Friends Say into an antiseptic cover of Metallica’s Enter Sandman.

Show opener Chris Young was probably the most authentically country sounding act of the night. He sang with a crisp, meaty Tennessee tenor that neatly wrapped around the otherwise contemporary sway of That Makes Me, the new I Can Take It From Here and Gettin’ You Home.

A curious sidenote to all of this pageantry: country legend Charlie Louvin died on Wednesday. Not surprisingly, in a modern country arena show that sported Journey and Metallica covers, his passing seemed immaterial.

charlie louvin, 1927-2011

charlie louvin.

charlie louvin.

Charlie Louvin was one of those great musical souls that you thought would live forever. As he began riding the tide of a remarkable career renaissance a few years ago with a string of fine indie Americana albums, the man was sharp as a sabre.

Most musical elders fear nothing from age if they have the health, confidence and artistic vision to maintain a lengthy career. When Louvin sailed into Lexington in 2007 to play a free noon time set at CD Central, he was fearless indeed. But he was more than that. In his late 70s at the time, the Country Music Hall of Famer was content. He sang decades-old country staples cut with sibling Ira as the Louvin Brothers, forgotten relics recorded under his own name in the ‘60s and ‘70s and newer works that reflected less of the sagely vibe you would expect from an artist of his years and more of a grandfatherly tone that was warm and welcoming but never falsely sentimental.

Louvin died yesterday from complications of pancreatic cancer. He was 83.

A living monument to country music done right, Louvin was an inspiration to multiple generations of artists, from The Everly Brothers to The Byrds to Uncle Tupelo to Lucinda Williams to Emmylou Harris. The list is massive.

As for recommended listening for anyone perhaps unfamiliar with his work, may we steer you to Satan is Real, a classic 1960 Louvin Brothers blast of spiritual country, and the best of Louvin’s comeback albums, 2008’s Charlie Louvin Sings Murder Ballads and Disaster Songs. Talk about a record where the title says it all.

But the memories of the numerous performances Louvin gave locally in recent years are what continue to bring the inspiration of a true country gentleman closer to home.

“There are still a few old boys like me around,” Louvin told me prior to a Dame concert in February 2009. “Mostly, we’re singing to grandchildren and great grandchildren of the people Ira and I played to 60 years ago. It’s a real thrill to be able to stay around that long.”

a no. 1 of his own

luke bryan.

luke bryan.

In 2007, Luke Bryan scored his first No. 1 hit. It came by way of a bright, melodic and ultra radio friendly single called Good Directions. But there was a slight catch. The Georgia-born songsmith wasn’t actually the one who took the tune to the top of the charts.

He wrote the song, so ownership was all his. But the version that became a hit was actually cut by someone else – namely, country star Billy Currington.

Now, fast forward three years. In July, a more roots-savvy single, Rain is a Good Thing, becomes No. 1. This time, Bryan is the artist, songwriter and, thus, the sole hitmaker.

So which is the bigger deal – an initial No. 1 hit that you wrote or a followup where you  pretty much did everything?

“It’s a case of different emotions,” admitted Bryan, who will help open Thursday’s Rascal Flatts concert at Rupp Arena.

“With Good Directions, I had my first No. 1 as a writer, so that was just an amazing time. But when you have one that you’ve written, recorded and performed, it becomes very, very special. It’s surreal, really. This whole experience of getting to do what I love to do and then having success at it is incredible.

So, yes, Rain has indeed been a good thing for Bryan. But he doesn’t discount at all the kind of attention that Currington’s hit version of Good Directions drew to what was, in 2007, a very young career.

Good Directions gave me street credibility right off the bat. That let people know who I was a writer. Then as the song was going up the charts, Billy Currington wasn’t just promoting it. He was promoting me as an artist, so it was an incredibly positive thing.

“A lot of people have asked if I regret at all that Billy was the one who recorded the song. No way. I don’t regret it for a minute.”

But the popularity of Rain is a Good Thing came laced with more than a trickle of irony. The single’s ascent on the charts coincided with devastating floods that crippled much of Nashville during the late spring. A song about yet more rain, you would expect, would be the last thing the city wanted to hear

“I know. I think it’s kind of a testament to the song that it was still No. 1 at a time when a lot of people were still underwater. But I think the city of Nashville understood. Some of the radio stations there kind of dialed it back and maybe didn’t play it much or make a big deal out of it. And I certainly understand their reasoning behind that. It was a very sensitive time around the Nashville area. I’ve been honored to watch how resilient the city has been and how quickly it has been able to emerge from such a volatile time.”

While Nashville has been Bryan’s home for much of his professional life, he hails from Leesburg, Ga., a city located smack in the middle of one of the South’s most fertile musical regions.

“Ray Charles was born in Albany. Over in Dalton, Ga., you had Otis Redding. You go to Macon or work your way through that whole South Georgia region and there is so much music. Then you have to look at the influence that artists coming out of Georgia have had on country music. It’s a great state for all kinds of music. I think it always will be.”

Bryan’s debut album, I’ll Stay Me, was released in the summer of 2007 with the gold-selling Doin’ My Thing following in the fall of 2009. The second album’s first single, the poppish Do I, topped out at No. 2 just before that year’s end.

But 2010 will forever be the time of Bryan’s breakthrough. Aside from the popularity of Rain is Good Thing, the year also brought an opening act slot on a fall tour by Jason Aldean which set up the current trek with Rascal Flatts. An entire tour awaits later this winter and spring with Tim McGraw.

If that wasn’t enough, Bryan’s home life also got a boost in 2010. In August, he and wife Caroline welcomed the arrival of their second child, Tatum.

“You have to have a year like I did in 2010 to get from A to B,” Bryan said. “I felt like last year kind of showed all of country music, radio, Nashville – everybody, really – that I’m hopefully on the path of putting out some music with a lot of impact. Hopefully they see I’m making that run at being a big headliner myself one day.”

Rascal Flatts, Luke Bryan and Chris Young perform at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 27 at Rupp Arena. Tickets are $25-$99. Call (859) 233-3535.

critic’s pick 160

It’s easy to forget as you stroll about the rustic tunes of B.B. King, Skip James and Otis Rush on Low Country Blues that Gregg Allman was once among the most glammed up of rock stars. Not glamorous. Glammed.

The longstanding figurehead of the Southern rock vanguards known as the The Allman Brothers Band, the singer was, by the late ‘70s, a champion druggie and boozehound married to Cher. But ever since the Allman Brothers rose from a second breakup in the late ‘80s, Allman has held his demons in check. Of late, with a liver transplant to serve as incentive, he has remained free of his hard habits altogether.

Such an image of an artist rescued from the highway to you-know-where alone gives credence to Low Country Blues. But the record also takes Allman out of his comfort zone. Admittedly, the blues have been a cornerstone of the Allman Brothers sound. Still, much of the album deviates from the churchy blues that have long been integral to his band. You hear it in the street corner brass of Little Milton’s Blind Man and Rush’s Checking on My Baby as well as in the rich acoustic colors that dominate James’ Devil Got My Woman.

There are also differences in Allman’s vocal work. Throughout the first half of Low Country Blues, his voice sounds thinner and reedier than in the past. Age can account for some of that, although the differences do nothing to diminish the obvious blues devotion at the heart of Allman’s music.

Yet when the record reaches its only original tune, Just Another Rider (penned with longtime Allman Brother mate Warren Haynes), the deeper, throatier blues moan that defined Allman’s music in the ‘70s awakens. From that point, Low Country Blues sounds almost ageless.

The album also benefits from its producer, roots music entrepreneur T Bone Burnett. He provides Low Country Blues with an atmospheric ambience that enhances some of the songs’ inherent mystery and soulfulness. A highlight is the finger popping bass of veteran Burnett henchman Dennis Crouch that sits firmly in the foreground on the album-opening cover of Sleepy John Estes’ Floating Bridge. It’s just one of the many solemn but playful ways that spirits on Low Country Blues remain so high.

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