Archive for May, 2011

critic’s pick 178

Louisville’s My Morning Jacket is a band that has always loved to playfully mutate its own musical image. Just when you think you have its early records pegged as the work of some retro ambient psychedelic stylist, the songs crank up the guitars and rock out in plain speaking fashion.

2005’s sublime Z (still the album to beat in the MMJ catalog) started the alterations by both embracing and deconstructing its reverb laced arrangements. Then 2008’s Evil Urges, MMJ’s first Top 10 hit, broke the mold in almost scattershot fashion. There were passages of brilliant groove-blasted psychedelia (such as the two-part Touch Me I’m Going to Scream) alongside bits of Prince-style pop-funk (the dubious Highly Suspicious) that still stand as major head scratchers.

In perhaps typical fashion, MMJ’s new and much ballyhooed Circuital , which was cut in a renovated Louisville church gymnasium, is a bit of all that. While almost streamlined in design when compared to Evil Urges, it presents the MMJ sound we know with a dimmer switch of sorts.

On the album opening Victory Dance, the feel is almost cinematic with a Zen-like percussion greeting, synth-driven strings that dash about with the epic flourish of a ‘60s Spaghetti Western and vocals and lyrics from chieftain Jim James that outline a sense of self-discovery with almost conversational clarity. But that bleeds right into Circuital‘s title tune, which places James back in an echo chamber before the band breaks into the kid of folk/country hoedown that would do early ‘70s Poco proud.

The rest of Circuital scours the musical terrain between those extremes. Wonderful (The Way I Feel) is all chamber-esque folk chill, a tune every bit as content as its title suggests. Later, Slow Slow Tune seems to bridge the ‘60s instrumental classic Sleepwalk, a touch of Tony Joe White’s Southern swamp soulfulness and a guitar line that leisurely winds it way through 1971-era Pink Floyd.

And then there are the extremes. The Day is Coming is world class MMJ, a serving of summery pop that patiently references the more melancholy side of Brian Wilson. Outta My System is even more surf-happy. You almost expect James to tear into Little Deuce Coupe until the lyrics of thuggish reformation start kicking in along with a sense of melodic urgency that builds as the song progresses.

Less arresting is Holdin’ on to Black Metal, an overreaching piece of pop dramatics with an out-of-step female chorus and orchestration. But even here, an appealing retro feel is attained (specifically, a kind of ‘70s TV crime show theme feel) which keeps Circuital on its toes and expectations of MMJ fans continually sharpened.

gil scott-heron, 1949-2011

gil scott-heron on the cover of 1972's free will album

gil scott-heron on the cover of 1972's free will album.

“You will not be able to stay home, brother. You will not be able to plug in, turn on and cop out. You will not be able to lose yourself on skag and skip out for beer during commercial breaks, because… the revolution will not be televised.”

Those words, spoken over a cool jazz groove over 30 years ago, defined the music of Gil Scott-Heron and gave rise to one of the most timely aural montages of the early ‘70s, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.

A native of Chicago but a longtime New Yorker, Scott-Heron was unlike any artist of his (or any other) day. By combining a gift for narrative and social activism with serene jazz fusion and funk melodies, he was urban music’s answer to beat poetry.

The titles of Scott-Heron’s works, especially his early recordings, spoke for themselves: Get Out of the Ghetto Blues, Whitey on the Moon, Home is Where the Hatred Is and Who’ll Pay for Reparations on My Soul. By setting his often heated, but sleekly delivered ghetto postcards to intimate jazz grooves, Scott-Heron and his music would be viewed a generation later as formative influences on hip-hop. But he distanced himself from such associations and forged ahead with narratives that often ignored conventional rhymes altogether in favor of music that possessed a light, organic flow.

I first came into contact with Scott-Heron’s music when he performed early into the first season of Saturday Night Live in 1975 for a program hosted by Richard Pryor. It was long rumored that Pryor insisted on Scott-Heron being booked for SNL before he agreed to host. The two songs Scott-Heron performed that night – Johannesburg and A Lovely Day – were atmospheric and appealing bits of socially conscious jazz-soul.

Scott-Heron died on Friday at the age of 62. No official reason for his death has been announced.

Those looking for an introduction to Scott-Heron’s music should check out 1971’s Pieces of a Man, which enlisted jazz pros like bassist Ron Carter and flutist Herbert Laws as part of his musical support team. 1976’s From South Africa to South Carolina, the best of the nine albums he cut for the Arista label, is a close second.

Both remain soundtracks for a soul revolution established decades ago. It wasn’t televised, of course. It didn’t even create much of a stir on mainstream radio. But its influence continues to ripple through the worlds of R&B and hip-hop with a quiet but affirmative authority.

Classic Land Rover Should Last Forever

Chicago Sun-Times October 7, 1992 | Dan Jedlicka The $40,000-plus British Range Rover sport/utility vehicle is for the horsey set. Even members of England’s Royal Family drive Range Rovers.

But what of the classic, four-wheel-drive Land Rover, which is designed to do down and dirty jobs such as tackling deepest Africa and the wildest deserts?

It recently returned to the States. I’ve tested the 1993 version, which costs $39,900 and is called the Land Rover Defender 110.

The Land Rover debuted in 1948 and was the first vehicle made by Rover Cars, now called the Rover Group Ltd. Only 500 individually numbered 1993 Land Rovers will be sold here. It’s an instant classic because no more will be sold here.

“If we wanted to sell more in the States, we would have to spend a lot to engineer it to accept air bags, and the Land Rover is so limited-production it wasn’t worth that expense,” explained Bill Baker, a Land Rover North America spokesman. “We’re really selling the 500 Land Rovers to call attention to the Rover name here.” The four-wheel-drive Range Rover has been a hit here since it arrived in early 1987. That’s partly because it is the Rolls-Royce of sport/utility vehicles.

More than 21,000 Range Rovers have been bought in North America, and 1992 sales are up 12 percent from last year.

The Range Rover, built as a seriously upscale version of the Land Rover, first was unveiled in 1970 in Europe.

“Many Land Rover buyers are wealthy, outdoors-oriented people – those who like to hunt, fish and camp,” said Nancy Rader, a spokeswoman for Land Rover of North America. It recently changed its name from Range Rover of North America to cash in on the Land Rover’s tough, colorful reputation. in our site land rover defender

Despite its off-road prowess, few want to get the Range Rover dirty. But the Land Rover has such a utilitarian personality many owners may feel silly if it’s squeaky clean. It even has a standard roll cage originally developed for use on the rugged Paris-Moscow-Beijing rally.

The Land Rover was sold here from 1949 to 1974, first being displayed at New York’s British Automobile and Motor Cycle show. Some 13,568 were sold, and many are still are the road.

The Land Rover Defender 110 has more than 450 new components. Its only option is a $1,900 winch package that is capable of handling 8,000 pounds.

The Land Rover has four doors, seats five in firm but comfortable front bucket seats and a rear bench seat and four more on folding jump seats in the cargo area. It has a big, swing-out rear door and rides on a 110-inch-wheelbase.

Land Rovers only come with a decent-shifting five-speed manual transmission, with a long lever that looks like it’s off a piece of British agricultural equipment.

Tradition dies especially hard in England, and it’s hardly died at all with the Land Rover. The 1993 Land Rover I drove reminded me a lot of the one I tested in the early 1970s, although the current model has a hefty 180-horsepower, 3.9-liter V-8. Curiously, the engine is a modified General Motors V-8, first used in the 1961 Buick Special.

Like the old model, the latest Land Rover is a serious safari vehicle that feels as if it would be more at home on fender-high water crossings or tackling 45-degree hills in the African outback.

The Land Rover was England’s answer to America’s Jeep and is a British classic, like old MG TC sports cars, kidney pie and tweed jackets. The current model has the old Land Rover construction hallmarks, including a high ground clearance and a rigid boxed steel ladder chassis.

Like the 1948 model, the current Land Rover has aluminum body panels. The panels are popular now because they’re light and don’t rust, but Rover Cars first used them because the lack of steel in England after World War II forced the company to turn to aluminum for the body, which was mounted to a rigid steel box ladder-style chassis. Although its more utilitarian nature makes it less plush than the Range Rover, the Land Rover’s tightly focused, no-nonsense design gives it a certain beauty. It’s meant to get you with minimum fuss and no excuses from Point A to Point B virtually anywhere on the globe anytime you want to go.

Just twist the ignition key, which is located to the left of the steering column in typical old-style British vehicle fashion, put it in gear and go.

Just be sure you have plenty of fuel supplies lined up along the way. Despite its aluminum body, the 90-m.p.h. Land Rover is no lightweight, at 4,840 pounds. That heftiness and the drag of the four-wheel-drive system has resulted in the Land Rover Defender 110 getting the lowest EPA-estimated fuel economy of any 1993 truck: 10 m.p.g. in the city and 12 on the highway. in our site land rover defender

The Land Rover’s maker knows Americans like power and have cheap gasoline, and that those who can afford a Land Rover Defender 110 don’t think much about fuel economy. In other parts of the world, the Land Rover is sold with smaller, more-economical engines.

The Land Rover is quick, with strong off-the-line acceleration and passing ability. It cruises quietly and comfortably at 75 m.p.h. It’s a big vehicle, but good handling makes it fairly easy to maneuver in traffic, and the ride is smooth. Steering is good, but the turning circle is very wide.

Low economy isn’t the Land Rover’s sole drawback. The nonadjustable steering wheel takes getting used to because it’s angled away from the driver, and there’s no place to put your clutch foot except beneath the clutch pedal.

Also, the tachometer is one-third the size it should be, and other key gauges and the clock are positioned way over in front of the passenger. The center console, which contains the radio controls, is awkwardly placed nearly behind the front seatbacks.

With its standard roof rack, the Land Rover is 90 inches high. It’s a hassle to climb into or leave the vehicle. And just try finding a parking garage with sufficient roof clearance.

Although limited-production, the Land Rover is clearing the path for newer Rovers – although there’ll probably never be a substitute for MG roadsters or the Land Rover. It’s costly but is a classic that should last just about forever.

Dan Jedlicka

summer album of the week 05/28/11

little feat: time loves a hero (released may 1977)

little feat: time loves a hero (released may 1977)

Summer has arrived and with it comes our third series of Summer Albums of the Week. Every Saturday between Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day weekend here at The Musical Box, we will serve up a tasty platter from summers gone by that embraces, expounds and expands the notion of “summer music.” And the first platter is…

Time Loves a Hero. One of Little Feat’s most commercially visible albums, it is also the record where founder Lowell George takes a conspicuous back seat role in its design. Guitarist Paul Barrere carries on with the band’s askew, slide-driven sound with delights like Old Folks Boogie while keyboardist Bill Payne counters with the truly summery title tune. But a blast of instrumental fusion, Day at the Dog Races, set the Feat in very different motion. An altogether appealing seasonal listen.

2011 ASSISTANCE TO FIREFIGHTERS GRANT APPLICATION PERIOD OPENS AUGUST 15.

States News Service August 10, 2011 WASHINGTON — The following information was released by the office of Illinois Rep. Randy Hultgren:

A program of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, grants are awarded to fire departments to enhance their ability to protect the public and fire service personnel from fire and related hazards. Three types of grants are available: Assistance to Firefighters Grants (AFG), Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response Grants (SAFER), and Fire Prevention and Safety Grants (FPandS). The open application period will run from August 15 – September 9, 2011. site duns number lookup

WHO’S ELIGIBLE FOR AFG?

Paid, volunteer and combination fire departments and nonaffiliated EMS organizations from urban, suburban, and rural communities in the U.S. and its territories.

WHAT DOES AFG SUPPORT?

Firefighting and EMS equipment Personal protective equipment (PPE) Fire and EMS vehicles Training programs Wellness and fitness programs Modifications to facilities WHAT’S NEW THIS YEAR? see here duns number lookup

Funding priorities have been categorized as: High, medium and low. Use our priority system to increase your chances of winning an award.

We’ve added new items/activities eligible for funding in 2011: Behavioral health programs, boats under 20 Ft., and extended warranties.

Flashover simulators are not eligible for funding.

Applicants may apply for more than one vehicle. However, driver/operator training/certification is required in order to receive a vehicle award.

WHERE DO I APPLY?

NEW THIS YEAR: GRANT RECIPIENTS MUST REGISTER IN THE CENTRAL CONTRACTOR REGISTRATION (CCR) SYSTEM As of August 2010, prime recipients of Federal grants are required to register in the Central Contractor Registration (CCR) system. As a potential grantee you are not required to register, but you may wish to do so now in case you receive an award. CCR registration will be required if you are selected for an award.

How to register:

If you already have a DUNS number, skip to #2.

2. Once you have a DUNS number, register here: https://www.bpn.gov/ccr/default.aspx.

For more information on grantee registration in the CCR system, download the AFG Get Ready Guide or visit their website: https://www.bpn.gov/ccr/grantees.aspx

surf’s up: brian wilson to play the opera house

brian wilson

This Sunday, we will publish our annual Summer Concert Guide, a listing of over 200 performances scheduled within a two hour drive of Lexington in the coming months.

The trouble in assembling such a piece is that it is almost instantly obsolete. No sooner do we get in print than another great show is announced. This year’s guide is already obsolete because of the news we just received. Ultimately, though, this is a great problem to have.

This afternoon, the Troubadour Concert Series – which already has performances by Steve Martin, Mary Chapin Carpenter and Steve Earle on tap this summer – has added a major treat to its Opera House schedule: Brian Wilson.

The brainchild of the Beach Boys, Wilson will present a program titled “An Evening of Hits and Gershwin” on Tuesday, Aug. 2. Tickets, at $95.50 and $125.50 each, will go on sale June 17.

The hits, of course, will entail classics from Wilson’s legendary Beach Boys catalogue, including songs from the never completed Smile album that are slated for release later this year as The Smile Sessions. The Gershwin aspect of the concert will pull from material off of 2010’s Brian Wilson Re-Imagines Gershwin album.

Showtime for the Opera House concert will be 7:30 p.m.

That’s what you call time-appropriate news as the unofficial opening weekend of summer begins.

dylan at 70: he don't look back

bob dylan.

bob dylan.

It was a hectic day yesterday, one where every minute was spoken for, from the time the alarm sounded in early morning to the commercial break after David Letterman’s monologue just before midnight. But it was a special day nonetheless, one that warranted at least some belated notice today. That’s because yesterday was Bob Dylan’s 70th birthday.

So I was determined on my way out the door today to grab the first great Dylan CD I could find to listen to on the way to work. No Empire Burlesque. No Self Portrait. No Down in the Groove. A classic was called for. Dylan cut at least a dozen of them. Any would do for this makeshift celebration of His Bobness.

And there it was. In a stack by the bedroom dresser – Bringing It All Back Home, the album that made Dylan a folk outcast in 1965 by, dear heavens, embracing rock ‘n’ roll. Never mind that nearly half of the record was in line with the same folk attitude that drove Dylan’s first four albums, an attitude that yielded some of Dylan’s most superlative acoustic works. Among them: Gates of Eden, Mr. Tambourine Man, It’s All Over Now Baby Blue and the pensive political masterwork It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding).

But in listening again to the renegade electric pieces that start the album – Subterranean Homesick Blues, She Belongs to Me and Maggie’s Farm – one has to wonder if audiences didn’t consider Bringing It All Back Home as a bittersweet epiphany. Here was the most heralded folk celebrity of his day plugging in and setting sail for an altogether new audience.

“She’s got everything she needs. She’s an artist. She don’t look back.” That’s the opening line to She Belongs to Me, although it easy to infer Dylan was singing about himself. He was complete. He was steadfast. And from Bringing It All Back Home on, he has never looked back.

For all of his career triumphs, Dylan has been perceived as both icon and irritant, an artist capable of penning songs full of extraordinary narrative, conviction, reflection and, yes, hyperbole who has also corroded his music in performance with a sense of almost punkish anarchy.

Been to a Dylan concert lately? If so, which unnerves you the most – his impenetrable death rattle wheeze of a singing voice or the often caustic rearrangements of works from his treasured past?

Personally, I find all of that fascinating. It’s what makes Dylan so utterly Dylan – an artist who sings like a scorched but supremely confident soul. But comparatively recent albums like Time Out of Mind and Modern Times underscore just has how valid and vital his music remains.

But Bringing It All Back Home was the album that cemented the reputation of Dylan the anarchist. All it takes is a listen to Maggie’s Farm to sense how troubled the winds of change were that came blowing in his direction.

“I try my best to be just like I am,” Dylan sings in Maggie’s Farm‘s final verse. “But everybody wants you to be just like them. They say, ‘Sing while you slave.’ And I just get bored.”

That’s not my favorite Dylan lyric. That still goes to 1974’s Idiot Wind (“What’s good is bad, what’s bad is good, you’ll find out when you reach the top, that you’re on the bottom”). But it’s close. It was also a reminder this morning that the still-vital Dylan has always been the hapless master of his own artistic destiny as much (or more) than his legacy.

Happy 70th then, Bob. Keep bringing it all back home.

Letter: So vital we’re all aware of symptoms of meningitis.(Letters)

South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales) February 7, 2009 Byline: Steve Dayman I WAS deeply saddened to read your article on January 22 about the inquest into 18-month-old Fatama Barkhad’s death from meningitis last year.

Sadly, doctors failed to spot the disease’s symptoms and discharged her with a sore throat. I lost my son Spencer to meningitis and meningococcal septicaemia some time ago and can well imagine the pain that all those who knew Fatama have suffered. in our site symptoms of meningitis

This tragedy emphasises the importance of early recognition, diagnosis and prompt treatment. Most parents who contact health professionals for advice do so because they are extremely concerned and know their children best.

Meningitis should always be a major consideration because early diagnosis and hospital treatment could mean the difference between life and death. in our site symptoms of meningitis

Meningitis UK has a single focus – to find a vaccine to eradicate all forms of meningitis.

It’s imperative to find a vaccine to protect against all forms of the disease to prevent other families suffering the heartache and devastation meningitis can cause. Sadly, although successful vaccines exist to protect against some strains, there is still no vaccine available to protect against the most common form – meningococcal group B, which causes almost 90% of all cases in the UK.

In the absence of a vaccine to protect against all strains, we also distribute a wide range of material to raise awareness.

If any of your readers would like a symptoms information pack, they can call Meningitis UK on 0117 373 7373 or visit www.meningitisUK.org Steve Dayman Chief Executive, Meningitis UK

critic's pick 177

There’s a blissful little blues moment near the start of Irish Tour ’74, the seminal concert album by Rory Gallagher that kicks off a year-long reissue campaign of the late Irish guitarist’s recording catalog. The passage centers on a dialogue between guitar and voice that eases into Muddy Waters’ I Wonder Who. It’s almost like a séance, an artist communing so keenly with a muse that the guitar voice completes a solo conversation of restless and relentless urgency.

Irish Tour has long been hailed by Gallagher fans as perhaps his finest recording – a blues saturated set pulled from performances in Belfast, Dublin and Cork during the dead of winter in 1974, a time when relations between Ireland and Northern Ireland were especially hostile.

Gallagher rolls with the flow, though, from the lovely acoustic temperament of Tony Joe White’s As the Crow Flies to the luxurious blues jam (complete with Lou Martin’s Doors-like keyboard colors) that serves as the centerpiece of Walk on Hot Coals.

The sound is organic, the vibe is wonderfully inviting and the level of invention in Gallagher’s playing is continually engaging.

This reissue is identical to a 1999 edition of Irish Tour, which, in turn differs not at all from the original 1974 version. It seems intended for novice rather than veteran fans. For the latter, there is Notes from San Francisco, an outrageous new two disc set that leaps ahead to 1977 and 1979, drops the blues inferences and offers some of Gallagher’s most ferocious recorded playing.

The first disc centers on an Elliot Mazer-produced session in San Francisco that, admittedly, boasts a bit of sheen, especially in the keyboard department. That hardly detracts from the music’s often monstrous intensity, as shown as the big boogie rumble of Cruise On Out and the Faces-like free-for-all in Brute Force and Ignorance.

Throughout, Gallagher sings with the same robust gusto that stirs his playing. Only Wheels Within Wheels (offered here in two versions, one of which is serenely acoustic) cools the flow. 

Gallagher responded to the sessions by shelving the album and dissolving his longrunning band. Notes from San Francisco‘s second disc is a December 1979 live date that whittles his new band to a trio while retaining the volcanic tone of the first disc. Shades of the blues ferocity Stevie Ray Vaughan would explore 15 years later surface in the chunky lyricism of Shinkicker, bass-pumped grooves provide a cool stride for the title tune from 1976’s Calling Card album and muscular guitar trio interplay ignites Follow Me.

There you have it – a reissue of Gallagher’s finest work for the newbies and a glorious sounding unreleased postscript for the die-hards. Between the two, the music of a long underappreciated guitar hero is receiving the reconstituted attention it heartily deserves.

NORTH CAROLINA COURT OF APPEALS ISSUES OPINION REGARDING TOMIKA GOODSON V. AFFILIATED COMPUTER SERVICES

US Fed News Service, Including US State News July 10, 2009 RALEIGH, N.C., July 7 — The North Carolina Court of Appeals issued the following opinion:

TOMIKA GOODSON, Employee, Plaintiff, v. N.C. Industrial Commission I.C. No. 668784 AFFILIATED COMPUTER SERVICES Employer, ACE USA/ESIS, Carrier, Defendants.

Appeal by Plaintiff from opinion and award entered 12 August 2008 by the North Carolina Industrial Commission. Heard in the Court of Appeals 12 March 2009. go to website affiliated computer services

Scudder & Hedrick, PLLC, by Samuel A. Scudder and April D. Seguin, for Plaintiff-Appellant.

Hedrick, Gardner, Kincheloe & Garofalo, L.L.P., by Vachelle Willis and Dana C. Moody, for Defendants-Appellees.

STEPHENS, Judge.

I. Procedural History and Factual Background Tomika Goodson (“Plaintiff”) filed a Form 18 on 20 March 2007 alleging her previously diagnosed post traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”), depression, and panic attacks were aggravated by statements made about her prosthetic eye during a training class on 6 September 2006. Affiliated Computer Services, Inc. and Ace USA/ESIS (collectively “Defendants”) had previously filed a Form 61 on 30 November 2006 denying Plaintiff’s claim. Plaintiff filed a Form 33 requesting a hearing in this matter. Defendants responded by filing a Form 33R on 28 December 2006 maintaining their denial of the claim.

This matter was heard before Deputy Commissioner Theresa B. Stephenson on 17 May 2007. The evidence presented at the hearing tended to show the following: affiliatedcomputerservicesnow.net affiliated computer services

In August 2000, prior to the incident at issue in this case, Plaintiff’s ex-boyfriend attacked her. Plaintiff was living in New Jersey at the time. Plaintiff’s ex-boyfriend punched Plaintiff in the eye, which resulted in the loss of her eye. Thereafter, Plaintiff received a prosthetic eye. Plaintiff’s ex-boyfriend was convicted and served jail time as a result of the attack. Plaintiff testified that after the attack and loss of her eye, she became very depressed and frustrated, and felt ugly and ashamed due to her eye injury. She also received psychiatric care, and was diagnosed with PTSD. Plaintiff met with a psychiatrist, was placed on medications, and was taken out of work. Plaintiff received social security disability benefits.

In August 2005, Plaintiff’s ex-boyfriend was released from prison. Plaintiff saw her ex-boyfriend after his release, and decided to relocate for her safety and peace of mind. Through a grant from an organization called “Victims of Crime,” Plaintiff was able to relocate to Raleigh, North Carolina in October 2005. In March 2006, Plaintiff began working as a cashier for Food Lion. Plaintiff testified that her job with Food Lion “was scary at first because . . . [she] felt . . . someone was going to say something to [her] about [her] eye[.]” Plaintiff wore her hair pulled over her injured eye and always wore transitional glasses. Before getting a job at Food Lion, she always wore sunglasses in public.

life on the high road

the 2011 lineup of the blind boys of alabama

the 2011 lineup of the blind boys of alabama: ben moore, ricky mckinnie, billy bowers, tracy pierce, jimmy carter and joey williams. photo by erika goldring.

For nearly all of his life, Jimmy Carter has had a musical home within the Blind Boys of Alabama.

When he was a youth, he helped fortify the group’s blooming vocal sound as it toured a black gospel circuit in a heavily segregated South. Now, as the lone elder from the group’s early days, Carter has witnessed global acceptance of the Blind Boys’ music measured in a string of all-star collaborative albums as well as a subsequent handful of Grammy Awards.

But as he heads back to Lexington sing with the Blind Boys at the WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour on Monday, Carter, 79, has a confession to make. His favorite type of music isn’t exclusively gospel.

“I listen to all types of music,” he said. “But my favorite is country music. It always has been. It’s the message those songs carry. You have some great country writers out there and they always tell a story in their songs. I like that.”

This spring, Carter’s country preferences are getting a serious workout. The Blind Boys’ new album, Take the High Road, is a collection of country gospel songs split evenly between collaborations with a team of top Nashville stars (Vince Gill, Willie Nelson, Lee Ann Womack among them) and seven outrageously righteous tunes the group sings with sage-like command on its own.

One of the primary catalysts for Take the High Road is new generation roots-country celebrity Jamey Johnson, who adds his barroom baritone to the traditional gospel meditation Have Thine Own Way, Lord and serves as co-producer for the album. With his help, the Blind Boys set up shop at a vintage RCA soundstage and recorded Take the High Road live in just a few days.

“Jamey came up with the idea of having all these country stars on the album,” Carter said. “We wound up with a great collection of legends. I was just happy to be part of it all because being a country music fan, this kind of project was right down my alley.

“When the session was over, I told him, ‘Jamey I’ve done a lot of recordings in my time. But I’ve enjoyed this session with you more than any of them. The atmosphere was so great. It was like a family gathering.”

The resulting music on Take the High Road reflects such a vibe. The album-opening title tune, for instance, enlists the harmony help of the Oak Ridge Boys to create a vocal chorus of efficient gospel authority. A very different dynamic drives Family Bible, where Nelson leads a quieter acoustic meditation with the Blind Boys supplying a serene vocal backdrop. Womack, in further contrast, sings like a young Dolly Parton on the Danny Flowers salvation serenade I Was a Burden, where the Blind Boys’ vocal foundation creates an affirmation as immovable as a granite wall.

But the songs the Blind Boys take on minus the guest list are just as absorbing, from the wiry spiritual sway of Muddy Waters’ Why Don’t You Live So God Can Use You to the solemn harmonies of Randy Houser’s Lead Me Home to the summery stroll to heaven provided by the traditional The Last Mile of the Way.

“When we got into the studio, Jamey presented us with a lot of these songs,” Carter said. “Several of them were old traditional gospel songs that you might find in a hymn book. The Last Mile of the Way was one of them. So we just went for it.”

The release of Take the High Road brings to a close a very fruitful 10 year period of rediscovery for the Blind Boys. It was in May 2001 that the group released Spirit of the Century, a recording that opened Carter and company up to a contemporary arsenal of spiritually inclined songs by Tom Waits, The Rolling Stones and Ben Harper along with the instrumental support of heavyweights like David Lindley, John Hammond and Charlie Musselwhite. Spirit, along with four of the five studio albums that followed (culminating with 2009’s Crescent City summit Down in New Orleans) earned Grammy Awards.

Spirit of the Century… that’s what really got things going for us,” Carter said. “When we started out way, way back, we were singing to a predominantly black audience. The South was very, very segregated at the time, so we couldn’t just crossover like we can now. When we had the priviledge of singing to the mainstream, we discovered the mainstream had been waiting to hear us all those years. But we just weren’t allowed to give the music to them then like we can now.”

The past decade has come with costs, though. When Spirit was released, Carter was one of three original singers that met as children when the Blind Boys were formed in 1939. Today, he is the lone founding member still on the road with the group.

“We lost a great one, a very important figure, in George Scott in 2005. And Clarence (Fountain, the third co-founder), he’s still alive, but he’s not able to tour anymore because of some health problems (Fountain does, however, appear briefly on Take the High Road).

“So people keep asking me, ‘You’ve been singing such a long time. What keeps you going?’ And I tell them, ‘The only thing I can tell you is that I love what I do.’ We love to sing gospel music. We love to get on that stage and hear the crowd respond. That keeps us motivated. You see, we’re trying to touch lives.

“I hope I can keep doing that until God says, ‘That’s enough.'”

The Blind Boys of Alabama perform at 7 p.m. May 23 at the Kentucky Theatre, 214 East Main, for the WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour. The event is sold out.

in performance: preservation hall jazz band and the del mccoury band

the preservation hall jazz band

members of the preservation hall jazz band and the del mccoury band. photo by shannon brinkman.

The tip off to the collaboration came early last night at Cincinnati’s Aronoff Center for the Arts when Kentucky-born fiddler Jason Carter of the Del McCoury Band started juggling exuberant solos with clarinetist Charlie Gabriel of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. The sounds came seemingly from two different artistic communities that were effectively reaching out to one another. Carter’s regal bluegrass tone adopted a hearty swing vibe while Gabriel’s summery solos stretched beyond Preservation Hall’s New Orleans comfort zone into boppish terrain. When the music was complete, the players broke into massive, electric smiles – the kinds that surface when musical camaraderie clicks in terms of spirit as well as technique.

That explains why smiles were in abundance last night as the McCoury and Preservation Hall troupes joined forces for a mighty roots music gala. While the latter’s celebration of Crescent City and Dixieland jazz seemed to dominate the performance’s stylistic framework, McCoury’s Americana and bluegrass smarts heavily infiltrated its repertoire and internal musical makeup.

For instance, the 1979 Hank Snow hit A Good Gal is Hard to Find – performed by the McCoury Band, but with Gabriel on vocals and PHJB pianist Rickie Monie adding effortlessly seasoned piano strolls – transferred its country sensibility straight to the bayou. The Hank Williams chestnut Jambalaya, in turn, put McCoury’s high mountain tenor in charge of a tasty Preservation Hall calypso/creole arrangement.

The two bands briefly broke away for separate tunes. McCoury’s mini-set was killer: two Richard Thompson gems (Dry My Tears and Move On and 1952 Vincent Black Lightning) and a classic Bill Monroe instrumental (Bluegrass Breakdown) while the PHJB offered a pair of tunes from its 2010 benefit album Preservation: Shake it and Break It and Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea. The latter boasted a surprise vocal serenade from Kentucky’s own Daniel Martin Moore.

But the most enticing moments came when the full bands crossed over into each other’s turf, as during an update of the vintage McCoury instrumental Banjo Frisco fortified by the trombone sass of Freddie Lonzo and the unison jubilation of Jelly Roll Morton’s Milenberg Joys.

During those champion moments, boundaries between bluegrass and New Orleans jazz evaporated so that one riotous sound could roar forth.

critic's pick 176

Ever since his first songs surfaced to the pop mainstream in 1967, the music of Randy Newman has been cast in two dramatically different settings.

On record, Newman’s work has usually been presented with ornate orchestration – not simplistic string arrangements that have long been tools of choice for middle-of-the-road pop, but rich, detailed Americana-informed orchestrations that have made Newman’s best songs sound like compositions from another century.

As much of Newman’s newer music from the last three decades has leaned more toward film scores, such a keen orchestral instinct has been well utilized. But the majority of his performance work whittles his songs down to only piano and voice, a sort of renegade troubadour setting that highlights the warm coarseness of Newman’s singing and his mix of sardonic, romantically poetic and starkly bleak narratives.

Fittingly, Newman has been devoting more concert time in recent years to orchestral pops performances that showcase his more lavish songs and soundtrack music. But in the interest of equal time, one supposes, we also have albums like The Randy Newman Songbook, Vol. 2 that take the solo settings his concerts used to be known exclusively for and transfers them to record.

The first Songbook edition, released in 2003, concentrated largely on hits (Short People), popular concert pieces (Louisiana 1927) and film tunes (Ragtime). Vol. 2 sets its sights on that vast pasture of lesser established songs that will be new to casual fans. For those who have experienced little of Newman’s music outside of his G-rated Toy Story tunes, here is a chance to explore some darker corners in his catalog. Brace yourself, though.

Birmingham (from 1974) and Baltimore (from 1977), for instance, are two very different travelogues that gain in urgency from the piano settings. The former’s cheer, as told by a steel worker, serves only as a thin veil to some ugly angst (“Got a big black dog whose name is Dan, lives in my backyard in Birmingham. He is the meanest dog in Alabam’. Get ‘em Dan”). The latter wears its bitter sentiments openly and unapologetically (“Never comin’ back here till the day I die”).

The love songs shift from the twisted reflection of The Girls in My Life (Part 1) to the harrowing solo chill of the overlooked Same Girl (“A few more holes in your arm; a few more years with me, that’s all”).

Then there is the album opening Dixie Flyer, a mostly autobiographical story of life in sunnier regions of the South. The infectious combo lyricism of its 1988 studio version sounds equally complete and compelling in the piano setting. For that matter, though, so does all of Songbook, Vol. 2.

Behind the runway The fashion world saw a mix of hellos, good-byes, diversity and debate through a busy 2010 site medium length hair styles 2011

The Buffalo News (Buffalo, NY) December 26, 2010 | Robin Givhan The past year in fashion was marked by the stunning loss of the industry’s most captivating iconoclast and the dazzling return of its most charismatic star. Together these two outsize personalities helped transform the 21st-century fashion industry into an irresistible world of Hollywood theatrics, sexual provocation and mesmerizing – and profitable – showmanship. Along the way, the two also crafted a host of exquisitely conceived and constructed frocks.

But the year was not defined by personalities alone. Ideas and issues also took center stage, giving rise to lively debate. Instead of merely giving folks pretty clothes, the industry asked consumers to rethink the very definition of “attractive,” as well as who gets to pass judgment on the kind of women and men who measure up.

Former Gucci designer Tom Ford returned to the fashion fold this year after making a name for himself in the movie business with “A Single Man.” He presented his first womenswear collection under his own name for spring 2011 in the intimate space of his Madison Avenue shop. The clothes, shown on women of note such as Julianne Moore and Beyonce, exuded confident sexuality and controlled flamboyance. His audacious decision to bar photographers from the show flummoxed fashion folks, but ultimately heightened the anticipation of the clothes’ arrival in stores.

It’s bittersweet to declare Alexander McQueen’s fall 2010 collection one of the best fashion moments this year. But his final work, shown to small groups of editors at the elegant headquarters of Artemis, the brand’s holding company, was breathtaking. It was a tour de force of skill and imagination. Finding inspiration in the visual arts as well as in religiosity, the collection was touched with grace, melancholy and beauty. in our site medium length hair styles 2011

Mississippi high school student Constance McMillen caused a national stir when she wanted to take her girlfriend to the prom, an event to which they both planned to wear tuxedoes. Their sartorial desires were more than the Itawamba County School District could tolerate, and McMillen was disinvited to the party. With the help of the ACLU, McMillen, who is lesbian, took on the school district and won. She received some $30,000 and legal fees. When she was honored as one of Glamour’s Women of the Year, she wore an Isaac Mizrahi tuxedo to the awards gala at Carnegie Hall. McMillen proved that while clothes don’t make the woman, they can make a powerful personal statement.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton grew out her hair. It was a fine rebuke to the accepted adage that a woman of a certain age must cut her hair – a symbolic gesture that she is leaving sex appeal and youthful flirtatiousness behind. Clinton’s flattering shoulder-length style was a reminder to women who have unhappily submitted to the scissors that they should not allow cultural assumptions to dictate their own perceptions about themselves.

When Essence, a magazine aimed at African-American women, hired a white fashion editor, the decision rattled longtime readers and gave many in the media world pause. But the uproar about the hiring of Elliana Placas sparked a conversation about diversity within the fashion industry and precisely what that means. And that is nothing but good news.

This was the year in which size mattered. A vigorous debate erupted over what it means to be plus size. How big is too big? What exactly is big enough? At the second Full-Figure Fashion Week in New York, plus size women demanded trends and high style and took aim at a design industry obsessed with making them look thinner. Actress Gabourey Sidibe settled into life as a fashion cover girl. Designer Jean Paul Gaultier used extremes in size – from the fat girl to the waif – as inspiration for his spring 2011 collection. And Vogue Italia launched a website dedicated to curvy women. Chubby ladies didn’t rule the runway, but they were no longer ignored.

Robin Givhan

in performance: elvis costello and the imposters

elvis costello. photo by james o'mara.

elvis costello. photo by james o'mara.

We always knew there was something of the carnival barker in Elvis Costello. He may forever be viewed as a champion songsmith that has continually taken huge stylistic risks with his music over the past 35 years. But last night at the Taft Theatre in Cincinnati, he left nearly all of his tireless 2 ¼ hour concert beautifully to chance.

Backed by his ever-resourceful Imposters band, Costello opened the performance with a quartet of sterling rockers – I Hope You’re Happy Now, Nick Lowe’s Heart of the City, Mystery Dance and Radio Radio – that let the crowd know he still meant business when it came to performance drive. But then the fun really started.

Beginning with Tear Off Your Own Head (It’s a Doll’s Revolution), eager patrons were plucked from the crowd and invited onstage to have a go at the “spinning songbook” – a gargantuan, roulette-style wheel that sported titles of over 30 Costello songs, cover tunes and a few generic themes (“time,” “girls”) that gave the singer some latitude in performance selections. The patrons spun the wheel, Costello played the songs it stopped on and a vinyl booted co-hort referred to as “The Duchess of Lexington” (a local lass perhaps?) danced in the stage right “Hostage-to-Fortune Go-Go Cage.” Some of the audience invitees got their turn in the cage, too. Others were allowed to sip drinks in front of Steve Nieve’s keyboard set-up.

That’s the kind of air this immensely fun show went for. The result was a continually engaging and entertaining performance that gave new meaning to the notion of interactive art.

Some of the selections the wheel landed on offered some wonderfully unexpected treats – like a stunning New Lace Sleeves that was subsequently peppered with Nieve’s noir-inspired keyboard accents. Another delight was Waiting for the End of the World, which drummer Pete Thomas and bassist Davey Farragher pumped up with enough big beat hullabaloo pop charm to do any go-go proud. The wheel actually landed on that one twice, but Costello balked at a repeat play. “The world can only end once,” he said.

As usual, Costello had a tough time serving up a nightcap. A regal audience sing-a-long cover of The Rolling Stones’ Out of Time briefly looked to be a lovely encore finale. But then Costello returned for a pair unaccompanied gems from last year’s Americana-slanted National Ransom album (A Slow Drag with Josephine and Jimmie Standing in the Rain). Still unwilling to call it a night, he came back for a third encore dominated by favorites the wheel didn’t click upon. Among them: a jam savvy Watching the Detectives, a deliriously involving Lipstick Vogue, a riotous cover of The Who’s Substitute, a coarse but powerfully propulsive Pump It Up and a suitably anthemic (What’s So Funny ‘bout) Peace, Love and Understanding.

That set shut the wheel down. But with arms and guitar raised in exaltation after the music stopped, Costello looked like he could have kept this go-go going all night.

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