Archive for March, 2011

phil lee and the horse he rode in on

phil lee

A half hour on the phone with Phil Lee can seem far removed from a conventional interview.

Sure, there is plenty to talk about regarding his myriad musical projects, including possible recording with members of Neil Young’s famed Crazy Horse band. There is also a recently completed cameo in an upcoming indie film to consider. One could also mull over the inspirations that forged Lee’s reputation as one of Nashville’s most esteemed (and overlooked) songwriters or the altogether hapless attitude he maintains about a career where financial returns are measured in shades of red.

There is a vast professional history that eagerly awaits discussion, as well, from his brief tenure in the Americana mainstay band The Flying Burrito Brothers to a series of extraordinary indie albums that define his expert sense of songcraft to a few of his non-musical jobs (long haul trucker, knife thrower, etc.).

Best of all, there is the encouraging news that enough of a regional fanbase has formed around his music to bring Lee back to Natasha’s this weekend for his third regional performace in just over seven months.

But as our conversation concludes, unasked questions about past recordings and future tours fade in favor of the very human humor that drives Lee’s music. It’s a fortifying force, to be sure. While several tunes from his 2009 album So Long, It’s Been Good to Know You possess the stark, dark turns of a vintage work by John Prine, Dave Alvin or Merle Haggard (25 Mexicans and Sonny George come to mind), Lee’s musical instincts – much like Lee himself – are devilishly quick witted.

“A lot of the stuff in my songs happens, oddly enough, because I’m always out in the trenches,” Lee said. “If these things aren’t happening to me, they are most certainly happening to the boneheads around me. Between friends and family, there is never a shortage of material.

“Even when this stuff happens to me, it’s funny. In my music there is no parental supervision, no publisher and no endgame. That’s my job description, really. If I can make myself laugh, then mission accomplished. Look, I’ve said this before. My mission in life is to do cool things till I’m dead.”

Here, then, is a random sampling of anecdotes and one liners that emerged with delightful frequency during a half-hour talk with Lee. They were plentiful enough to suggest that perhaps his next Lexington booking should be at Comedy Off Broadway.

 + On UK’s defeat of North Carolina in the NCAA division finals: “My son-in-law is the media liason for the UNC basketball team. Believe me, there was a lot of crying and slow driving going on down there after the game.”

+ On performing with members of Crazy Horse: “To some, it would be eerily disappointing to hear that band and then realize it’s me, not Neil Young, singing. I can hear them going, ‘Neil, brother, are you sick?'”

+ On a proposed title for a proposed album with Crazy Horse: Phil Lee and the Horse He Rode In On.

+ On his just filmed role in the movie tentatively titled Carolina Blue: “I play an old geezer playing guitar in the next hotel room over. Basically, I portrayed myself.”

+ On the financial rewards of his profession: “I’m making just as much money as I ever have, which is… well, let’s see. I go in the hole about a grand a month. But that’s alright.

+ On other recording possibilities: “The other plan to go around in my travels and record with people who are friends of mine. It would be nice if some of them were celebrities.”

+ On the state of Americana music: “Everybody’s writing the same song over and over again. It’s always about their nickel and dime problems. I mean, who cares if you’re lonely? I don’t.”

+ On his Americana contemporaries: “I have friends whose songs are all about that factory that just shut down. I’m like, ‘Yeah, we know that already. Thanks for the (expletive) news tip.”

+ On the life of a working musician: “I’ve learned to live off air and spores, like a mushroom.”

+ On the future: “Anything can happen. Maybe this movie will come out, I’ll make that record with Crazy Horse and things will change. Maybe unicorns will come back to life, too.”

Phil Lee and George Worthmore will perform on April 2 at Natasha’s Bistro, 112 Esplanade. Cover charge is $10. Call (859) 259-2754. Worthmore will perform at 8 p.m. Lee will begin his set after Saturday’s UK/U Conn game.

the walking dead

7 walkers: malcolm "papa mali" welbourne, matt hubbard, bill kreutzmann and george porter, jr. photo by jay blakesberg.

7 walkers: malcolm "papa mali" welbourne, matt hubbard, bill kreutzmann and george porter, jr. photo by jay blakesberg.

Contemporary music has long loved to define its stylistic extremes in geographic terms – as in, say, having spiritually inclined traditions from the East crash into the earthier rhythmic drive of the West.

In presenting the music of 7 Walkers, let’s adjust the signposts a bit, alter the directions and keep the sounds on native soil. More exactly, take the sweaty, percussive grooves of New Orleans funk and send it out West to mingle with the San Francisco psychedelia that launched the Grateful Dead in the mid-’60s.

That’s the kind of terrain 7 Walkers travels.

“It’s a beautiful thing to have the two genres working together,” guitarist Malcolm “Papa Mali” Welbourne said. “New Orleans funk and the legacy of the Grateful Dead: Nobody would have expected that blend – including us.”

A Shreveport, La., native, Welbourne was raised on the music of The Meters, Dr. John and scores of other New Orleans artists, plus a generous sampling of music that extended to the singer-songwriter haven of Austin, Texas, where Welbourne now lives, and even reggae – he earned his “Papa Mali” stage name while on tour with reggae great Burning Spear.

Although he was a devout Grateful Dead fan, Welbourne discovered a connection to the band’s West Coast inspirations largely by chance. Backstage at an Oregon music festival, he was introduced to Bill Kreutzmann, the Grateful Dead’s drummer for its entire 30-year history. From there, the seeds for what became 7 Walkers quickly took root.

“It was such a random thing that we even met,” Welbourne said. “We hit it off so well as friends that it became only natural we would eventually want to play music together. One thing led to another to where Bill found enough faith in what we were doing to introduce me to Robert Hunter.”

Although Hunter has collaborated with numerous artists over the years, from young folk stylists to bluegrass pros, he is best known as the late Jerry Garcia’s songwriting partner with the Grateful Dead. Garcia composed the music and melodies, and Hunter wrote the lyrics.

On 7 Walkers’ self-titled 2010 album, Hunter did the same for the spicy Crescent City grooves and voodoo imagery of Welbourne’s music.

“I just wish I could keep up with him,” Welbourne said. “He is so prolific. We already have a second album written and part of a third.”

Combine these elements and what you come up with might surprise the most die-hard of Dead Heads. Take one of the highlights from 7 Walkers, a rootsy joy ride called Sue From Bogalusa. The song’s vintage-pop flair sounds less like a Hunter song and more a like mash-up of Fats Domino and Del Shannon. And the percussive strut that echoes New Orleans’ famed second-line drum sound hardly seems the product of the man who played Truckin’ and Sugar Magnolia for more than three decades – more, if you count the various post-Garcia re-formations of the Dead that Kreutzmann has been involved in.

“Bill has been into New Orleans music for a long time,” Welbourne said. “He was into it long before he met me. Bill’s mother is from New Orleans. He’s even said that his very first musical memory was listening to Fats Domino records. And that makes perfect sense when you hear what he is doing with this band.”

The musical depth of 7 Walkers runs even deeper, though. When founding bass guitarist Reed Mathis, who performs on the album 7 Walkers, had to bow out of touring duties to devote time to other San Francisco-based bands with which he performs, Welbourne turned to George Porter Jr., a seminal bass instrumentalist for such pioneering New Orleans acts as The Meters, Allen Toussaint and Lee Dorsey. Multiinstrumentalist Matt Hubbard – a musical protégé of Willie Nelson, the country icon who adds vocals and guitar to 7 Walkers’ decidedly Dead-like King Cotton Blues – completes the band lineup by adding generous accents of piano and harmonica.

“I couldn’t be more pleased,” Welbourne said. “This band has been like a dream come true for me. First of all, I’m in a band with two of my biggest musical heroes, Billy and George. Then to have those heroes meet and hit it off in such a really big way. … I mean, when that happened, I knew we were on to something special.

“We’re watching two musical worlds colliding here.”

7 Walkers perform at 9 p.m. March 31 at Buster’s Billiards and Backroom, 899 Manchester St. Tickets are $20 advance. Call (859) 368-8871.

great wall of fire … ; Tonight a line of light will blaze along the entire length of Hadrian’s Wall, Adrian Mourby and his son walked the route

Belfast Telegraph March 13, 2010 great wall of fire John and I arrived at Arbeia Roman Fort, hot and close to an argument. The idea had been to get a pre-walk image of Britain’s Roman coastline because the actual point where Hadrian began his wall, Newcastle upon Tyne, had long ago buried all traces of Pons Aelius, the original Roman fort, under a Norman castle. go to web site hadrian s wall

We do these father/son trips from time to time. It’s proved a good mixture of exercise, travel and family bonding. Only this time the bonding had been severely tested by my dozy son leaving his backpack on the 15.03 to Edinburgh. Maria, our taxi driver, was wonderful, dropping us at Arbeia and then zooming back to Newcastle station to see if she could track it down.

I had an ulterior motive for this trip. This evening a spectacular line of light will illuminate the entire coast-to-coast length of Hadrian’s Wall for one night only. I wanted to preview the beginning of the route while introducing John to what the Roman empire had done for us.

Our starting point, Arbeia, was the military granary that supplied the wall. It’s been partially reconstructed in open ground, a fortified stone gate with ramparts amid the narrow terraced streets of South Shields.

“I really can’t believe it!” I muttered, a remark that Val, our guide, took as a reaction to the building’s remarkable authenticity.

Cheerily she led us through the reconstructed barracks on other side of the dig. Here we saw how the commanding officer and his wife would have lived in tall rooms, painted in bright Mediterranean hues.

Meanwhile his troops slept in wattle-and-daub cubicles dominated by three-up three-down bunks. According to an inscription they were probably from the Tigris region, which is how this fort got its name. “Arbeia means place of the Arabs,” Val explained to John, smiling and nodding now. My 19-year-old has a remarkable ability to get over my blowing up at him and, as ever, I soon forgot the backpack and was enjoying Arbeia too.

“You can tell where the grain was kept,” Val said, “because grain is very, very heavy when stored. Any foundations that have been buttressed were the granaries.” There were a lot of them; feeding legionaries from coast to coast must have been a huge job.

Our own provisioning came later once I’d received a call from Maria’s boss saying that John’s rucksack was in the lost-and-found at Edinburgh station, and had to be collected. By this time we were checking into the Hotel du Vin, which overlooks the Tyne and the new Gateshead Millennium Bridge.

“You’re going up to Edinburgh tomorrow first thing,” I told my son, “before we start the walk.” John nodded. But then David, the deputy manager, offered to go as he had a friend he wanted to catch up with in Edinburgh. I tried to insist that this was beyond the remit of any hotelier, and yet I was tempted. I had more confidence in a stranger getting there and back in time for us to start walking than in John.

We celebrated by going out to eat pizza in Newcastle, a city I last saw in 1983. I’ve never been quite so disorientated. Much that I remember was still there but it didn’t seem to be in the same order.

The next day we set off from Pons Aelius and headed west. I checked my watch. “1.15!” I declared slapping John on the back. By 1.30 we were sheltering from a vindictive thunderstorm under one of the Tyne bridges. Half an hour later we emerged and headed along the Hadrian’s Wall Path, which is really the northern embankment of the Tyne.

The wall itself lies under the dull suburbs of Benwell and Denton. No one would want to walk those, so the map sends you along empty quaysides and through a new business park.

It takes a while for Hadrian’s Wall to start resembling those dramatic images of Steel Rigg, Housesteads and Cuddy’s Crag. I dealt with a solid day of disenchanted boy before leaving him heading towards the aptly named village of Wall.

As we parted, John waved his walking stick cheerily. This was the part of the walk he had been looking forward to.

Unfortunately his first solo day ended with the police looking for him as he was two hours late and had not switched on his mobile phone. The second day he lost his phone. By the third day a pinched nerve meant he was having difficulty carrying his backpack and the kind owner of the next hotel collected him by car. go to web site hadrian s wall

For the rest of the week I was amazed by the kindness of people: the hotel receptionist who drove John and his arm to the doctor; the lady who found his phone and hand-delivered it to the next B & B; the hoteliers who arranged for Hadrian’s Haul — a great scheme — to transfer John’s rucksack by van (Pounds 5 a day — a bargain); the people who made him sandwiches; the fellow travellers who put him right when lost, those who mailed back the heavier items John chose to leave behind.

Over the week my son discovered Hadrian’s Wall and I rediscovered how generous people can be to strangers.

How to get there: Flybe flies from George Best Airport to Newcastle upon Tyne (flybe.com), while Easyjet flies from Belfast International to Newcastle upon Tyne (easyjet.com) Staying there: Adrian and John stayed at the Hotel du Vin & Bistro, Newcastle upon Tyne (0191-229 2200; hotelduvin.com/ newcastle) where double rooms with breakfast cost from Pounds 99.

More information: For details on walking Hadrian’s Wall visit hadrians-wall.org CAPTION: ROMAN HOLIDAY: hadrian’s Wall and (below) an artist’s CAPTION: impression of the line CAPTION: of fire along the wall

critic's pick 169

The Iridium is a basement jazz club in the heart of New York’s Times Square. Its confines are cozy and its walls are thin. Waiting for a late night set there by violinist Regina Carter in February, I could hear the serenades of the singing waiters in the diner one floor above.

Imagining a guitar star like Jeff Beck holding court there, much less filming and recording a performance, seems nigh to impossible. Why not choose one of New York’s more spacious locales, like Radio City Music Hall or the newly renovated Beacon Theatre?

The reason was simple. The Iridium was where Les Paul, the pioneering guitar stylist and designer who served as a mentoring influence on Beck and an entire generation of players, performed every Monday night until his August 2009 death at age 94.

Rock ‘n’ Roll Party Honoring Les Paul is a live document of Beck and a handful of pals crammed into the Iridium paying homage to Paul’s rock, pop and swing legacy. It is also a grand opportunity for Beck, who usually dabbles in harder rock, fusion and even industrial instrumental grinds, to step slightly out of character.

The light but furiously spirited inspiration of Paul is so pervasive on the album that if one were to listen to it blindfolded, Beck would likely not be the first player to be pegged as host of the party.

Backed by the band of Irish-born singer Imelda May (a key contributor to Beck’s Grammy winning 2010 comeback album Emotion & Commotion), Beck rips effortlessly through the rockabilly charge of Double Talkin’ Baby (with vocals by May’s guitarist husband Darrel Higham), a sleek and ultra cool Peter Gunn (pumped up by youthful brass from Trombone Shorty) and a hullabaloo-style New Orleans (led by the ageless party pop singing of a 71 year old Gary U.S. Bonds).

But at the top of the guest list is May herself, who ignites the torchy outlines of Cry Me a River, the studied country classicism of Vaya Con Dios and the brassy blues charge of Walking in the Sand. Beck goes wild on the latter with a solo that breaks free of Paul’s ordered guitar lyricism for a smoldering electric blues attack. But he more than matches Paul’s quick-witted picking on the signature 1951 hit How High the Moon, with May channeling the world class swing singing of Mary Ford.

If that wasn’t enough, we get instrumental blasts of Apache and Sleep Walk with Beck offering variations on Paul’s sound that are as respectful as they are inventive.

How these styles and spirits were so vividly caught co-existing on the modest Iridium stage is anyone’s guess. Only in New York, folks. Only in New York.

Jeff Beck performs at the Louisville Palace on April 26.

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a night for larry and roy

The last time I saw Larry Steur was four days before his very sudden death on March 1 of a heart attack. Larry was someone I had been running into at concerts for years, a patron I knew by face long before I ever knew his name. We would regularly engage in often detailed discussions about music. Sometimes ithey would be about a performance we were witnessing at that moment. In other cases, it might deal with some festival he had just returned from. He loved making pilgrimages to the annual New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival and was a veteran of several trips to Bonnaroo.

Larry had over 20 years on me, but he seemed ageless. It was all I could do to keep up with him at a single performance. I couldn’t imagine doing so at a festival.

We talked only briefly that last time I saw him. We ran into each other at a Natasha’s show by the Cincinnati gypsy jazz quartet Faux Frenchmen. I was hoping to ask him what he thought of the Randy Newman concert at the Opera House the week prior. But, as usual, he was too quick for me. As soon as the Frenchmen called it a night, Larry was gone.

Steur will be honored along with another avid and longstanding music patron, Roy Stout, on Tuesday night at Natasha’s. I didn’t know Roy as well as Larry, but I knew him longer. He led a local indie record label in the ‘80s that cut albums by such Lexington bands as I.S. In recent years, he was a continual supporter of the local arts community. Like Steur, he was a volunteer for – and a tireless supporter of – the WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour and the Troubadour Concert Series. Stout died last month after being hit by an automobile in Jamaica.

The Natasha’s celebration will feature performances by Michael Johnathon, J.P. Pennington, Ben Sollee and others. Admission to the 7:30 p.m. event is free, but donations to benefit Kentuckians for the Commonwealth and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society will be accepted at the door.

JCPenney develops process that’s efficient and pays suppliers faster.(management of JCPenney Company Inc.)

Purchasing July 14, 2007 By Susan Avery Corporate procurement at JCPenney has figured out how to pay suppliers quicker-and it isn’t by electronic data interchange (EDI). In fact, the tool the company uses works for big and small suppliers-even those that may not be large enough to justify EDI. The new tool also improves efficiency and control. see here jcpenney printable coupons

Quicker payment helps improve relationships between purchasing and suppliers.

JCPenney uses the MasterCard purchasing card (p-card) issued by GE Money-Corporate Payment Services in Salt Lake City, Utah, and its e-settlement tool called vPayment. Corporate procurement at JCPenney has also integrated the tool into its Supplier Internet Site and e-procurement system called e-Pro.

JCPenney developed e-Pro to help manage its indirect materials and service suppliers. It is an online resource that provides suppliers information on shipping procedures, purchase order (PO) policies and an option for payment by p-card. The company pays more than 90% of its indirect suppliers by wire transfer, check or automated clearing house (ACH).

“Before we started using vPayment, we sometimes encouraged suppliers to get set up for EDI, when it really wasn’t the best fit,” says Paula Price, senior financial planning manager in JCPenney’s corporate procurement operation. “So, we designed from scratch an easy-to-use system, with controls that minimize risk, providing another payment alternative for suppliers.” Purchasing cards. At JCPenney, store managers use “walk-around” purchasing cards for infrequent or low-dollar purchases, such as special occasion flowers for employees and food for staff meetings. The company was reluctant to expand the program beyond that, says Price, whose background is in internal auditing.

“We were hesitant to use the p-card for other purchases, because of tax reporting issues,” she says. “Capital purchases are taboo as well, since it’s hard to track the assets. vPayment supports documentation that resolves these issues.” Prior to implementing vPayment, Price was settling Pos with procurement-controlled p-cards with high limits. “I would manually perform a three-way match, verifying receipt, and then I would call the supplier with the account number,” she says.

“Suppliers like the cards. I processed several million dollars in orders this way in 2006 alone. However, sometimes suppliers would charge other invoices to the accounts. That required another phone call, when I would challenge the supplier on charging the card without approval. I’m still chasing a few credits.” To resolve these issues, Price wanted a payment option with tight controls that would expand a supplier’s payment choices. So, she developed a business case and approached JCPenney’s IT managers. “We had to demonstrate that our regular suppliers would embrace payment by credit card,” she says.

Key to the approach is vPayment. Using technology to cap authorizations to specific dollar- and date-range limits, the tool also automatically captures accounting information such as PO number with no manual input.

With a green light from IT came months of analysis, coding and testing-and some changes on the procurement side:

First was policy documentation. “We had to adapt some supplier policies,” says Price. vPayment-specific policies are now part of the reference material a supplier can review online.

JCPenney buyers and others also needed training. “For instance, if you’re paying a supplier with vPayment, you need to go into e-Pro and receive the goods or services, regardless,” she says.

Setting up and approving a supplier for payment by p-card takes about two days, depending on goods and services provided. This is quicker than setting up a standard supplier. in our site jcpenney printable coupons

For suppliers, “vPayment is an alternative payment process and it allows them to avoid getting set up on EDI,” says Price. “All a smaller supplier needs is Internet access and ability to take payment by MasterCard.” Still, there are some differences to settling a transaction using vPayment:

Prior to using the tool, suppliers need to request and retrieve a vPayment account for the specific PO received plus applicable tax, which the supplier enters. Freight is separate, using JCPenney’s shipping rates.

Upon receipt, the supplier retrieves the vPayment account number from the JCPenney Supplier Internet site. The supplier uses it one time to get paid. Entering the payment amount incorrectly or past a 30-day authorization window brings a decline at point of sale. “From the supplier’s standpoint, a vPayment account goes dead once it’s used,” says Price. “It will decline if tried again or for a different amount. That’s different from the p-card.” JCPenney built a 72-hour buffer period into the process to help improve accounting accuracy. Sometimes the company’s business units need to correct receipt amounts, or the supplier may be able to fulfill a split shipment within that period without affecting the original PO. “We deal with far fewer exceptions when we add that extra time,” Price says.

Most suppliers like card payment within 72 hours of receipt, she says. Sometimes a supplier needs time beyond the usual 30-day authorization window that JCPenney allows. In these cases, Price logs onto vPayment On-Demand, where she performs a maintenance adjustment, extending the authorization’s active timeframe.

Tax accounting is another difference. “The supplier must enter something in the applicable tax field,” she says. “If ‘$0′ is entered, we run a report and do a self-assessment of sales and use tax on those transactions. Between the exact tax figures entered by suppliers in most cases and this self-assessment report for the exceptions, we maintain an accurate and conservative tax position.” How They Buy:

Susan Avery Corporate procurement has developed a Supplier Internet Site and e-procurement system called e-Pro.

On the Supplier Internet Site, suppliers have access to information on shipping, Pos and options for payment One of those options consists of payment by purchasing card that includes a tool that eases the process for corporate procurement as well as suppliers.

How it works Susan Avery Companies use vPayment within their accounts payable and procurement systems. Here’s how it works at JC Penney:

JCPenney processes a PO, which can originate from an invoice or supporting documentation sent by the supplier, or it can be a new request for goods and services from within JCPenney.

The supplier logs onto the Supplier Internet Site to view PO details and start the fulfillment process. The supplier must use JCPenney routing guidelines and carriers.

JCPenney indicates receipt within e-Pro. Payment authorization is available in 72 hours. The supplier can view PO status online at the Supplier Internet Site.

To receive a MasterCard vPayment account number, the supplier logs onto the Supplier Internet Site and enters the applicable tax amount.

The supplier processes the account at its point-of-sale device. No additional input is required, since vPayment has already automatically captured the PO number in the MasterCard transaction record.

JCPenney receives a daily data file to confirm the supplier has processed the transaction.

deconstructing gershwin

kevin cole

kevin cole

It was what they used to call a Kodak moment and it occurred just as pianist Kevin Cole headed into the home stretch of Rhapsody in Blue last night at the Downtown Arts Center. It’s a piece he has played hundreds of times, though seldom in the modestly deglamourized blueprint version that the Lexington Philharmonic utilized  – one that deemphasized strings to a mere quartet of violins without sacrificing the work’s inherent animation and warmth.

The Kodak moment? It came when Cole, who was recruited by the Philharmonic roughly 36 hours earlier as guest soloist for tonight’s Singletary Center concert after Awadagin Pratt bowed out due to a family emergency, broke into a broad, beaming smile. The look on Cole’s face told the whole story. Some 87 years on, Rhapsody in Blue remains golden.

This isn’t a review. Just a Kodak moment of my own, a snapshot of last night’s second installment in the Philharmonic’s Kicked Back Classics series.

As an example of community outreach, it was a simple triumph. There were no tuxes and ties, no hefty ticket prices (seats were $15), no distance between orchestra and audiences (Cole was practically playing in the lap of some front row patrons as he soared through a warp-speed solo medley of 10 Gershwin classics) and best of all, zero attitude.

Maybe that’s because this was less a concert than a symposium. Philharmonic conductor and music director Scott Terrell spent the first half of the hour-long program deconstructing Rhapsody in Blue, tracing the piece back to its “big band with strings” beginnings using video clips of bandleader, entrepreneur and “P.T. Barnum-style” jazz forefather Paul Whiteman to illustrate the music’s genesis.

Cole similarly deflated any stigma surrounding the music – whether it stemmed from classical enthusiasts reaction to Rhapsody in Blue‘s abundant jazz inspirations or a jazzer’s reaction to confronting the classical camp. He also described the daunting task of performing Rhapsody in Blue as “an Olympic event.” But within the modest confines of the Downtown Arts Center, Gershwin’s most grand and poetic work last night possessed the intimacy of a party piece.

The main event comes tonight, when Cole, Terrell and the Philharmonic present Rhapsody in Blue at the Singletary Center for the Arts with the tuxes and the formality of a full concert setting. But hopefully it will also reflect some of the wonderful accessibility that resulted from an orchestra and audience sharing a neighborly hour together.

The Lexington Philharmonic with guest soloist Kevin Cole performs at 8 tonight at the Singletary Center for the Arts. Tickers are $25-$52. Call (859) 233-4226 or go to www.lexphil.org.

critic’s pick 168

Four-plus decades into the game, Bruce Cockburn remains forever a folk journeyman, an artist whose chronicles balance the political and the spiritual while speaking bluntly from the heart and even more so from various troubled ports of the world. And then there is the not-so-small matter of his abundant resourcefulness as a guitarist. With all these wellsprings to draw from it’s no wonder the veteran songsmith has no shortage of ideas or inspiration to forge music from.
You might think otherwise at the onset of Small Source of Comfort, Cockburn’s first album of new songs in five years. In the liner notes, he labels the album-opening The Iris of the World almost apologetically as a road song. “I did a lot of driving between Kingston, Ontario and Brooklyn, NY,” he writes. “Not to mention many other places.” But it’s a riveting travelogue of a tune, one where the modes of transportation are never clearly defined and the destination is seldom visible – at least, not initially.

“I’ve got a way with time and space, but numbers freak me out,” Cockburn sings. “I’ve mostly dodged the dogmas of what life is all about.”

Later, on Each One Lost, Cockburn bears witness to a “ramp ceremony” in Afghanistan where two fallen Canadian soldiers are honored before being flown home for the final time. Cockburn views the loss, and the inevitable love the soldiers inspire, in universal but devastatingly simple terms: “Each one lost is everyone’s loss.”

Musically, Small Source of Comfort is one of Cockburn’s lightest and leanest albums in years. The songs are primarily designed within mostly acoustic parameters with veteran sidekick Colin Linden again serving as producer and the longstanding rhythm section of bassist John Dymond and drummer Gary Craig offering tasteful support. There are also two new recruits on board.

Coburn penned a pair of songs with folk stylist Annabelle Chvostek, the slo-mo meditation Driving Away and the more ethereal tale of travel, Boundless. The other enlistee is violinist Jenny Scheinman, an artist known for balancing expert songcraft and with equally audacious instrumental smarts (she has collaborated extensively with guitarist Bill Frisell).

Scheinman opens Cockburn up to several jazzy turns, especially within the five instrumentals peppered among Small Source of Comfort‘s 14 song lineup. The summery and still-travel themed Lois on the Autobahn is a spry highlight among the wordless tunes.

Small Source of Comfort concludes with a surprise, an affirmation called Gifts. It was a staple of Cockburn’s early career concert repertoire. The liner notes date the tune back to 1968 with the singer adding, “Didn’t seem right to record it until now.” On an album infatuated with travel, Gifts is the home Cockburn’s sublime music returns to.

pinetop perkins, 1913-2011

pinetop perkins. ap photo by rogelio v. solis.

pinetop perkins. ap photo by rogelio v. solis.

Age always seem to be the great leveler in most musical fields – except, that is, for the blues. There, age is both a virtue and a necessity. Even in its most stereotypical portrayals, the blues comes alive in the hands of the elders.

A young man playing the blues? Sure, it can be done. Just look at the work of Stevie Ray Vaughan. But blues music becomes almost incandescent when brought to life by a stylist that has lived long (and often hard) enough to turn the life lessons within its grooves into sage-style testimonies.

That may explain why many bluesmen don’t retire – even the few that can afford to. They simply perform until they draw their last breath. Witness the aged grace of Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker and R.L. Burnside or the still-alive-and-well music of B.B. King and John Hammond.

But if there was a true Energizer Bunny among bluesmen, it would have been Pinetop Perkins, who passed away Monday at the age of 97. The pianist was a working musician almost until the very end and won his most recent Grammy in February, making him the oldest recipient of the award. Not a bad way to make an exit.

Perkins was a bluesman by definition. Among his many career accomplishments were the late ‘70s Johnny Winter-produced albums by Waters, where the pianist was part of a sublime band that helped the blues giant regain national notoriety and begin a career victory lap equaled only by the final recordings Johnny Cash made with Rick Rubin.

But Perkins regularly outdistanced the blues. His music reveled in boogie-woogie traditions, most of which he forged into a joyous sound all his own. He generously shared that music, too.

A favorite concert snapshot came when Perkins played as part of a 1994 festival at the Kentucky Horse Park. There, performing with numerous Waters alumni that included longtime pal Willie “Big Eyes” Smith, Perkins had two different audiences cheering him on. The first was the wildly receptive Horse Park crowd in front of him. The second was made up of members of the co-billed Little Feat, especially pianist Bill Payne, who stood behind him like eager children listening to a grandparent. Enthralled by the mutual adoration, Perkins beamed with a smile that could have lit up Broadway.

“I think people like the stuff I’m doing,” Perkins told me prior to a 2008 performance with Smith at Somerset’s Master Musicians Festival. “It’s all I know how to do.”

the king is calling

king crimson in 1995. from left: adrian belew, bill bruford (sitting), pat mastellotto, robert fripp (sitting), tony levin and trey gunn.

king crimson in 1995. from left: adrian belew, bill bruford (sitting), pat mastelotto, robert fripp (sitting), tony levin and trey gunn.

15 years ago last autumn, the mighty King Crimson was in the midst of an international tour that celebrated what has come to be known as the prog-rock group’s “double trio” lineup. That meant founder and chieftain Robert Fripp was doubled with Kentucky native Adrian Belew on guitar, that veteran Crimson drummer Bill Bruford was teamed with then-Crimson percussion newcomer Pat Mastelotto and that bassist/Chapman stick innovator Tony Levin was paired with a young champion of a mutant device called the “touch guitar” by the name of Trey Gunn.

Such a makeup might suggest Crimson only played sets of tag team jams at the time. But the sextet’s nearly two year-long tour provided a bold and complete voice to Crimson’s ‘70s material (the still majestic Red), a potent new immediacy to its ‘80s music (especially the giddy rampages at the heart of  Indiscipline and Neurotica) and, most of all, a platform for then-new ‘90s music that both created a wonderfully monstrous racket (Vrooom) and cooled the Crimson fury in more meditative pop streams (Walking On Air, which captured one of Belew’s finest vocal turns).

So why does all of this matter today, aside from the fact that Crimson’s double-trio music still rocks like mad? Well, it’s like this. As of yesterday, you can grab an exquisitely recorded performance by King Crimson and also do some honest good in a corner of the globe that could really use some.

Available at the Crimson website, www.dgmlive.com, is a download of a double-trio performance from October 13, 1995. The concert locale: Sendai, Japan – a region devastated by the recent earthquake and tsunami.

To be honest, the site has long had a motherlode of archival Crimson and Crimson-related performances dating back to 1969 available for downloading. But this 1995 show is different. All proceeds from downloads of the Sendai concert will be donated to the Japanese Red Cross.

If you’re a King Crimson fan, you will in no way be disappointed by this music. The performance is stunning and the recording quality even more so. If you know absolutely zilch about Crimson but are open to some mid ‘90s sounds that remain fresh and daring, this download is for you, too. And if you simply like the idea of reaching out to another land in a time of incalculable need, step right up. The King is calling.

in performance: the dynamites featuring charles walker

charles walker

charles walker

“Our mission in life is to make the world a funkier place” proclaimed Dynamites guitarist/bandleader Leo Black near the onset of the stirring soul revival conjured up last night at Cosmic Charlie’s. While Smith and a trim quintet version of the Dynamites more than made good on that promise with deliciously lyrical guitar hooks and the beefy brass support of a two-man horn team that made the ensemble sound vastly larger than it was, the man responsible for unleashing a funk firestorm was the tireless and profoundly soulful vocalist Charles Walker.

Part of decades-old soul music scene in Nashville that has never received its proper due, Walker, 69, represented a school of proudly organic R&B that regularly shifted to the other end of Tennessee to embrace Memphis soul inspirations, as shown by the playfully fat bass riff the singer worked off during the set closing Own Thing or the irresistibly funky brass groove that ran through Do the Right Thing like a night train.

The other Dynamites had their moments, too, especially tenor sax man Chris West, who ripped through the evening’s funkier moments with the flair of a young Junior Walker (no relation to the vocalist), and Black, who delivered a series of light, unforced guitar melodies that continually provided the spark in the Dynamites’ rhythmic engine room. His lean, propulsive riff during Somebody Stop Me was but one example.

But this was clearly Walker’s show, from the combustible soul fury he created with the horns during the title tune from the Dynamites’ 2009 album Burn It Down to a straightforward reading of Summertime that became a tour-de-force performance of vocal passion, intonation and showmanship.

Though it grew in size after the witching hour hit, the Dynamites had a fairly meager sized crowd to play to last night. That’s what one gets, one supposes, for having to perform near the end of spring break week and during the height of March Madness. Neither Walker nor the band seemed to mind that kind of competition, though. After all, they were on a mission to funkify. Nothing was going to stand in their way. Nothing did.

In Italy, a startling new kind of trade fair

International Herald Tribune May 10, 2010 | ELISABETTA POVOLEDO

ELISABETTA POVOLEDO International Herald Tribune 05-10-2010 In Italy, a startling new kind of trade fair Byline: ELISABETTA POVOLEDO Type: News

What was billed as Italy’s first divorce trade fair was held in Milan over the weekend. this web site goodbye in italian

The exhibitors at what was billed as Italy’s first divorce trade fair were a predictable mishmash of lawyers, real estate agents, divorce planners, paternity testing centers and dating agencies.

No less predictable was the media scrum to record the latest seismic transformation of society in Italy, a mostly Roman Catholic nation traditionally centered on the family.

That stereotype is fading fast. In 2007, according to the most recent statistics available, more than 81,000 of Italy’s 59 million residents at the time separated and about 50,000 divorced. Thirty years ago, divorces did not break the 12,000 mark.

Lifelong marriages and close-knit family “values are great, but women have begun to live a different reality,” said Lorenza Lucianer, a twice-separated office worker who came to the fair with two friends. “We’ve turned into America. Everyone is on their second marriage. It happened later here, but it happened.”

But it’s not quite like America.

For antsy Italian singles-in-waiting, U.S. divorce laws — at least of the cinematic variety, where marriages are dissolved in the time it takes for ink to dry — are the stuff dreams are made of.

In Italy, a divorce takes around five years from the first separation hearing, said Claudio De Filippi, a lawyer who had a stand at the fair over the weekend.

His studio, he said, was challenging Italy’s divorce laws at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, because in most European countries divorce takes around one year. “But, of course, we have the Vatican here,” he said. “Divorce has tended to be viewed as an extreme measure.”

Italy approved divorce, in a referendum, only in 1974 and critics complain that Italian legislators have not kept up with changing times.

For example, Italy fine-tuned its joint custody legislation in 2006, but “la mamma” still ends up doing most of the child-rearing, said Umberto Vaghi of I Love Papa, an association that organizes an annual Daddy’s Pride Parade in Rome and fights for the rights of fathers and minors.

He said his association has been “battling a cultural problem that discriminates against men and women” because it “presupposes that children will stay with their mothers.”

“And that forces mothers into a role that might not let them do other things in life,” he said.

The growing divorce rate is what led Milena Stojkovic two years ago to open what she claims to be Italy’s first divorce planning agency, Ciao Amore. “Ciao means both hello and goodbye in Italian,” she said, adding that she “wanted to give the idea of ‘I never want to see you again’ and ‘this isn’t necessarily a goodbye.”‘

With offices in Rome and Trieste, a branch is expected to open here soon, she said. “Divorce planning was a very new concept in Italy,” she said, but the business has been satisfying. see here goodbye in italian

And now, a trade fair.

It was held in the basement of a large business hotel, not the sort of lodging where people find themselves in situations that lead to divorce.

According to Franco Zanetti, the journalist turned impresario behind the event, Vienna was the first European capital to hold a divorce fair two years ago.

“It was also in a hotel,” he said. “Really Viennese, everything behind closed doors.”

A Parisian version last December “was too sociological and ideological” and open to widows and widowers, which he thought would not have gone down as well in Italy, he said.

So his fair had a bit of everything, including a self-proclaimed seduction expert who gave tips on how to pick up women in a discotheque and mimed a male orgasm during his public pep talk.

Mr. Zanetti said he had “no ideological vocation” toward divorce – – in his late 50s, he married only four years ago — but he has experience in designing trade fairs for the public.

In 1994, he said, he was one of the organizers of Italy’s first sex fair, Mi-Sex, which drew 62,000 visitors in three days. His ambitions this time were more modest. “A thousand visitors would be great, but it’s a small place,” he said.

The potential economic implications of a growing divorce rate were not lost on the Slovenian Tourist Board, which, especially for the fair, quickly put together “regenerative weekends” that could — but need not — include cosmetic treatments for “fresh divorcees,” at several spas, said Maja Slivnjak, a tourist board representative. Slovenia, she added, is “the only country that has love in its name.”

Slovenia is a short drive from many major Italian cities. “We used to focus on couples and families,” but divorce is “a very interesting market,” she said.

Divorcees were not out in big numbers on Saturday afternoon, but those who came had specific agendas.

Virna Modena, a wedding planner from Modena who is divorced, said she had come to the fair “to see the other side of the coin.”

And to check out its commercial potential. “Perhaps it’s a better business to be in,” she said.

ELISABETTA POVOLEDO

a few minutes with andy mason

andy mason, photo by beverly james.

andy mason, photo by beverly james.

Taking in a performance by local music vet Andy Mason can mean bearing witness to a generous sampler of sounds.

Catch him with Lexington faves The Swells and you will hear an integral part of a musical fabric that honors vintage jazz, blues and more. If he happens to be onstage with fellow local-ites Big Maracas, the focus shifts to a more summery Brazilian vibe. And this goes without covering Mason’s local history as one-third of the ‘90s power trio The Blueberries and his crafty solo piano shows staged during the early days of The Dame.

Much of that versed background figures into Mason’s new Off-Camera album.

There are light, tropical touches scattered about and even a jazzy flourish here and there. Mostly, though, it’s an expert pop outing full of deftly played, articulately penned and crisply produced songs. Imagine the cunning songcraft and vocal finesse of early ‘80s Squeeze records but with arrangements that favor a more traditional, almost parlor-style pop setting, and you have an idea of what Off-Camera aims for.

“I usually hear what kind of set-up I want for a song,” Mason said. “Then when I get the basic tracks and everything, I start experimenting with ideas. It’s like you perceive at first something that you want, but you’re not sure if that’s what the song is going to sound like when you record it.”    

Having recorded in the past at the home studios of Blueberries mate Otto Helmuth, Mason cut Off-Camera locally with Chico Fellini’s Duane Lundy.

“I really wanted to see what ideas he could present. I’ve worked with Otto so much before with so many other things, so I wanted to get someone else’s perspective on the music. I also wanted Duane’s production sensibility available. I still kind of steered the whole thing, but I was definitely grateful to have his thinking available to me.”

Off-Camera enlists the help of local blues-and-groove merchants The Tall Boys, as did Mason’s 2008 album Illumination. Similarly, the band will back-up Mason at tonight’s record release show at Cosmic Charlie’s. While that will help fortify the new tunes’ rich pop flavor, having The Tall Boys on tap will also assist in heightening the live profile of a local artist known far more as a band man than a solo act.  

“Locally, I seem to do better with The Swells and the other bands. It’s tougher to get a crowd for myself, although I’ve had some good opportunities lately to get in front of larger audiences.”

That’s an understatement and-a-half. In December, Mason opened a sold out Singletary Center for the Arts concert by Chris Isaak.

“Exactly,” Mason said with a laugh. “That’s what I was referring to. But like with any band, you have to be playing a lot to bring a crowd out. I haven’t been doing a lot of that of late because I’ve been focusing so much on the other bands I’m in. But that’s been fun, too. We’ve done a lot of gigs and built up a lot of business over the years. It’s fun and it’s good for the bank account.”  

Andy Mason with The Tall Boys will perform at 8 tonight at Cosmic Charlie’s, 388 Woodland Ave. Coralee and the Townies will play a late set. Cover charge is $6. Call (859) 309-9499.

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