Archive for June, 2011

in performance: riders in the sky/chris hillman and herb pedersen

riders in the sky: joey the cowpolka king, woody paul, too slim and ranger doug.

riders in the sky: joey the cowpolka king, woody paul, too slim and ranger doug.

It was a moment, like so many Riders in the Sky uncorked onstage last night at the Opera House, that had become something of a running gag.

The set-up – the straight man routine, if you will – was a light and regally authentic bit of Western flavored, harmony rich singing titled Wah-Hoo! that re-affirmed the group’s status as leading performance practitioners of the singing cowboy tradition. The punch line was how the tune purposely disintegrated to a duet of Dueling Banjos that bassist Too Slim and fiddler Woody Paul slapped out on their jowls. The latter sounded like Morse code on coconuts and has been part of the Riders’ repertoire seemingly for ages.

Too Slim summed it all up with a remark customized for the occasion: “That’s what Ol’ Man Lexington had in mind when he built this place.”

What “Ol’ Man Lexington” probably didn’t have in mind, though, was the Riders playing to an Opera House that appeared nearly two-thirds empty. Maybe the group’s bag of cowboy tricks has simply lost its sense of surprise after near-annual visits here over the past decade.

That would be a shame, as last night’s performance was, despite the now-familiar array of cowboy classics (Cool Water, Rawhide, Texas Plains) and well worn yuck-provoking routines (Too Slim’s mid-show turn as sidekick/cook Side Meat; Ranger Doug’s recollections of backstage at the Grammys), another grand night among the cardboard cacti.

Among the more refreshing moments: accordionist Joey the Cowpolka King’s polka-fied version of the Les Paul/Mary Ford hit How High the Moon, the spiritually inclined King’s Highway (one of the three tunes from the Riders’ upcoming album of gospel-themed material) and the relaxed harmonies of The Arms of My Love that brought out an uninvited guest: a bat in flight.

This is the second instance this year (that I saw, at least; maybe there were more) of an Opera House show unintentionally adding one of those winged varmints to the performance bill. While it didn’t exactly get in the way of the show (Joey the Cowpolka King used the occasion to tack a bit of the Batman TV theme to the end of Orange Blossom Special), it might make for a better performance if the Riders revamped its setlist a bit and the Opera House thoroughly cleaned out whatever stage regions pass for a belfry.

chris hillman and herb pedersen.

chris hillman and herb pedersen.

The crowd seemed to have little idea as to the grand musical pasts that fortified the opening act duo of Chris Hillman and Herb Pedersen (Hillman was a founding member of the Byrds and the Flying Burritio Brothers while Pedersen clocked studio time with everyone from Emmylou Harris to The Dillards). That became eerily obvious once the crowd showed heartier recognition for a cover of Buck Owens’ Together Again than it did for the Byrds classic Eight Miles High that traded the original’s psychedelia for an impressive acoustic Western setting performed on mandolin and guitar.

The rest of the duo’s way-too-brief 40 minute set highlighted the conversational harmony of Desert Rose (the title tune from a 1984 Hillman solo album) and Love Reunited (a 1987 country hit for the Hillman/Pedersen-led Desert Rose Band) as well as the familial folk urgency of Wait a Minute (a Pedersen original that has long been a concert staple of the progressive bluegrass band The Seldom Scene).

The music was all impeccably performed. But it was the obvious yet understated chemistry between the two artists and longtime friends that made this mix of grassy folk, revised psychedelia and California-bred country seem harmonious in areas that stretched way beyond the vocal department.

The princess of giggles; Wirral film buff unveils secret footage of the Queen, aged five.(News)

Daily Post (Liverpool, England) May 21, 2002 Byline: Mike Hornby HIDDEN away from the eyes of the world for more than 70 years lay remarkable film footage of the Queen’s secret childhood.

But thanks to the technical expertise of a Wirral man those images can now be seen – just in time for the Queen’s Golden Jubilee celebrations.

The footage in 1931 of Princess Elizabeth by an unknown photographer, shows the princess giggling and posing for the camera.

The two-minute film was among a stack of old home movies found in a house in London almost 25-years-ago.

The owner of the house, not realising the importance of her find, left the film to gather dust. this web site black swan movie

But fortunately for the nation, the woman, who has asked not to be named, finally decided to do something about the tapes and brought them to Wirral to show her cousin, Eric Parkinson, an expert in photography and a member of Wirral’s Swan Movie Makers.

Mr Parkinson, a retired teacher from Bebington, said last night: “I hadn’t seen my cousin for many years but we met up again a few months ago and I got chatting about my interest in film making.

“She explained about these old films in her cellar and a short time later she came up to see me and brought them too.

“Altogether there were about 12 or 14 different films in a long wooden box. They ranged from a 20ft-long reel to some which we just a few inches long.

“Most of them were in a pretty poor state. It was clear they were at least 50 years old and they were torn, damp, dusty and in no particular order.

“Most of them were home movies but others showed scenes of British life, including some sporting events and air show in the 1930s.” He added: “That piece of film was actually the last one I came to.

“I opened the box and inside was a note saying HRH Princess Elizabeth, it came as a bit of shock.” Using specialist equipment which he keeps in the attic, Mr Parkinson was able to rewind and clean up the film.

Princess Elizabeth was just fiveyears-old when the film was made. Although other early footage of the future Queen exists, experts say nothing else captures her character in the way this does.

The film shows a carefree child happily playing and captures the glee and laughter of an ordinary youngster who was to have an extraordinary future.

Just five years later her father was King and Elizabeth herself was heir to the throne.

Her untroubled childhood was to be replaced by a life of ceremony and duty.

“I recall watching it and feeling just staggered by its importance,” he said.

“It showed the young girl giggling at the photographer who was balancing a coin on his chin. She then jumps off a chair and puts on an overcoat. go to website black swan movie

“It lasts for about two minutes, but it really is remarkable, especially today, knowing how history turned out.

“I phoned my cousin to give her the news and she was equally as stunned.” Mr Parkinson, 78, first became interested in film and photography as a young boy. When he started teaching at Mersey Park School in the 1950s, he would record events of school life.

Today those images have huge historical importance and are regularly used by documentary makers.

He and his cousin have donated the precious footage to the BBC which will use it for a documentary, The People’s Queen, scheduled for broadcast later this month to mark the jubilee.

Mark Roberts, Producer of the People’s Queen, said: “We were hugely excited to discover this film.

“Broadcasting it will give the nation a glimpse of a hidden side of the Queen.

“What’s unique about it is the honesty of the footage.

“This isn’t formal or forced, it is not Elizabeth on parade, but Elizabeth as a girl; happy, jaunty and untroubled.” For Mr Parkinson, the moral of the story is clear. He said: “The Swan Movie Makers are always telling people to check their attics and cellars for any old film.

“In the early part of the last century it was more popular than people today think.

“I’m sure my cousin will not be the last person to find such remarkable footage” CAPTION(S):

WHAT A GIGGLE: The Queen as an enchanting five-year-old in these film shots to be used in a BBC documentary, The People’s Queen, to mark her Golden Jubilee; STUNNED: Eric Parkinson; JUBILEE ROSE: The Queen

a chris hillman sampler

With one-time Byrd, Flying Burrito Brother and Desert Rose Band co-founder Chris Hillman performing tonight with longstanding pal Herb Pedersen at the Opera House ahead of Riders in the Sky, we thought we would offer a Top 10 list of albums spotlighting his remarkable career. Only trouble was we couldn’t whittle it down below 11.

1. The Byrds: Younger Than Yesterday (1967) – The fourth Byrds album pushed Hillman to the band’s front line as a composer. He penned four of the album’s 11 tunes, including the classics Have You Seen Her Face and Time Between.

2. The Byrds: The Notorious Byrd Brothers (1968) – Arguably, the Byrds’ finest hour, Notorious was also the band’s most topical and overtly psychedelic offering. Highlights include Hillman’s Natural Harmony.

3. The Byrds: Sweetheart of the Rodeo (1968) – One of the most revolutionary country albums ever imagined, Sweetheart brought Gram Parsons into the fold and mixed in songs by Bob Dylan, the Louvin Brothers, Merle Haggard and more.

4. The Flying Burrito Brothers: The Flying Burrito Bros. (1971) – Sure, the first two Burrito albums with Gram Parsons remain the real gems. But on this quieter, underrated post-Parsons record, Hillman’s presence is more profoundly felt.

5. Stephen Stills: Manassas (1972) – A sprawling two disc set of rock, Cuban jams, bluegrass and more. But the tunes where Hillman and Stills harmonize (It Doesn’t Matter) or alternate lead vocal duties (Both of Us) present Manassas as it most brilliant.

6. The Byrds: Byrds (1973) – The Byrds’ swansong became a reunion outing by its original lineup. Critics hated the album because it didn’t sound like the Byrds of old. And it didn’t. It was a fascinating and loose parting shot of a legendary band.

7. The Souther-Hillman-Furay Band (1974): The Souther-Hillman-Furay Band (1974) – Hillman’s teaming with J.D. Souther and Richie Furay was the supergroup that never was. But the first of its two albums sported strong songs by all three artists.

8. Chris Hillman: Slippin’ Away (1976) – The first of two underrated solo albums spotlighted infectious Hillman originals ranging from the pop-soul savvy title tune to the bluegrass-gospel heavy (Take Me in Your) Lifeboat.

9. McGuinn, Clark & Hillman: McGuinn, Clark & Hillman (1979) – A radio-friendly but short lived reteaming of three original Byrds. Hillman’s album-opening Long Long Time sounds like a lighter more tropical version of Manassas.

10.The Desert Rose Band: The Desert Rose Band (1986) – The first and finest of Hillman’s country albums with the Desert Rose Band. The music is fortified by co-hort Herb Pedersen, guitarist John Jorgensen and steel guitarist Jay Dee Maness.

11.Chris Hillman and Herb Pedersen: At Edwards Barn (2010) – An exquisite present day view of a long-running musical friendship that revisits songs from a remarkable career with relaxed and regal acoustic beauty.

Riders in the Sky with Chris Hillman and Herb Pedersen perform at 7:30 p.m. June 3 at the Lexington Opera House. Tickets are $30. Call (800) 745-3000, (859) 233-3535.

charlie watts at 70

charlie watts in leicester square for the spril 2008 london premiere of "shine a light."

charlie watts at london's leicester square for the april 2008 premiere of "shine a light."

What a knucklehead I am. I had to be reminded tonight – by my sister, no less, who is an even greater Rolling Stones fan than I am – that today was Charlie Watts’ 70th birthday.

Watts has been, for the duration of the band’s near 50 year career, the only drummer the Stones have ever had in their ranks. But then again, he has been the only one they have ever needed.

As efficient a player as he is soulful, Watts has also been the living antithesis of the beast we have come to know as the rock ‘n’ roll drummer. There never been anything resembling posturing in his playing, just as he has continually sidestepped that most indulgent of rock show devices – the drum solo.

Instead, Watts has been an unassuming, almost retiring figure onstage for much of his career. But his playing embraces the essentials. He is as integral to the Stones’ effortless sense of groove as Keith Richards’ guitar riffs. And though he remains a versed jazz artist with several fine large ensemble recordings to his credit (the best being 1996’s Long Ago and Far Away), he is still nothing short of masterful at creating rock ‘n’ roll rhythms devoid of fanfare. And given the Stones’ riotous history, that is no meager feat.

Upon hearing it was Charlie’s birthday, I dug out a copy of the Stones’ Black and Blue album from 1976. Though hardly among the band’s masterworks, it’s a thoroughly listenable work ripe with groove. It contains the first song that popped into my head last night that strongly emphasizes Watts’ sense of percussive soulfulness and economy – the album-closing Crazy Mama.

Though never a single or even an especially popular album track, the song percolates with guitar grooves designed by Richards and, curiously, Mick Jagger (Ron Wood was just being worked into the Stones at the time Black and Blue was cut). Then as the merry guitar riffs hijack the tune in the home stretch, Watts undercuts the groove and, for a few precious measures, delivers one of the coolest and most infectious rock backbeats ever caught on tape.

So happy 70th, Charlie. May you remain the modest but indisputably cool life force of rock ‘n’ roll’s most enduring party.

of byrds, burritos and desert roses

chris hillman

chris hillman

There has hardly been a fiber of Americana music – from country to bluegrass to rock ‘n’ roll – Chris Hillman has not made his own over the past 45 years.

He was the co-founding pilot of The Byrds and The Flying Burrito Brothers. He helmed the traditionalist country music of The Desert Rose Band. He has collaborated extensively with such distinct musical greats as Gram Parsons, David Crosby, Stephen Stills, J.D. Souther, Richie Furray, Roger McGuinn, Gene Clark, Tony Rice and scores of others.

On Friday, however, Hillman’s remarkable musical history will be whittled down to inconspicuous essentials. He will present songs from throughout his career with help from longtime pal Herb Pedersen and a bare-bones musical makeup that relies only on guitar, mandolin and harmony singing during an opening set for Riders in the Sky at the Opera House.

It is a performance setting Hillman finds both unassuming and progressive. But for new and longtime fans alike, the acoustic duo design is a means of exploring a lifetime’s worth of music with fresh and open ears.

“I don’t look over my shoulder,” said Hillman, 66. “And I don’t look at my career in terms of, ‘If only I would have…’ I don’t do anything like that. I have always said of the early days, ‘I was the apprentice. I was the first mate on the boat. Then I became the captain.’ And that took awhile. I had to do it at my pace.”

A third generation Californian, Hillman was born in Los Angeles and grew up in San Diego County. Early fascination with folk and country music led to brief tenures in bluegrass groups like the Scottsville Squirrel Barkers and The Hillmen. Then came an offer to sit in with a trio of acoustic songsmiths: David Crosby, Roger McGuinn and Gene Clark. Along with drummer Michael Clarke, the quintet became Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee The Byrds.

chris hillman as a byrd, circa 1966

chris hillman as a byrd, circa 1966

“The Byrds left a brand, a legacy that I wouldn’t trade now for all the money in China,” Hillman said. “Sometimes, The Byrds were the forgotten stepchild. But you heard a lot of what we did in artists from Bruce Springsteen to Tom Petty, who has always acknowledged how The Byrds, in a sense, created him.”

After scoring a series of enduring hits in the mid-to-late ‘60s (Mr. Tambourine Man, Turn! Turn! Turn! and So You Want to be a Rock ‘N’ Roll Star among them), The Byrds enlisted Gram Parsons and flirted dramatically with traditional country music on 1968’s landmark Sweetheart of the Rodeo album. A year later, Parsons and Hillman flew the Byrds’ coup, formed The Flying Burrito Brothers and forged a new generational country sound. The hard-living Parsons stuck with the band for two albums (The Gilded Palace of Sin and Burrito Deluxe). Hillman carried on for two more underrated entries (The Flying Burrito Bros. and the concert chronicle Last of the Red Hot Burritos). The four recordings were viewed as cornerstone influences for a legion of up-and-coming roots-dominate bands in the ‘80s and ‘90s.

“When Gram was somewhat in control of his life, he and I wrote some incredibly good songs (including Christine’s Tune, Sin City and Wheels). I’m not patting myself on the back. I’m just saying that was a very productive time for me and Gram.

“But the band, up to that point, was terrible. We were awful. When Gram left, we put a lot of work into getting it back into shape and making it a presentable live act. It got to where we played bluegrass, we played country and even played a little rock ‘n’ roll. It progressively got to the point that I said ‘I don’t know what else to do with this.’ Then along came Stephen.”

“Stephen” was Stephen Stills, on hiatus from serving as one third of Crosby, Stills and Nash. He invited Hillman to Miami for recording sessions that dressed broadly electric tunes with country and even Cuban accents. The resulting band became the short lived Manassas.

“Manassas was an amazing sort of window in time. Stills was at the top of his game in terms of singing, writing, everything. As a band, Manassas was top rate.”

Flash forward to the present day. On a 2005 solo album titled The Other Side and a 2010 concert recording with Pedersen, At Edwards Barn, Hillman reexamined the music of The Byrds (Eight Miles High, Have You Seen Her Face), The Burritos (Sin City, Wheels) and Manassas (1972’s It Doesn’t Matter) along with country hits like Love Reunited that fortified the ‘80s and ‘90s lifespan of The Desert Rose Band (“That band was the greatest – great guys, great players, consistently strong onstage”).

With fellow Desert Rose alum Pedersen as his lone bandmate onstage on Friday and instrumentation that will transform songs from a storied career into new acoustic portraits, the past will very much become Hillman’s present.

“Herb is my sidekick. We’ve known each other for 47, 48 years – something like that. So we obviously have a good time playing together. But it is also challenging. We’re game to try just about anything within this instrumentation of mandolin, guitar and voices, so it goes beyond that one dimension.

“Our performances are stripped bare. Nothing is electric. We’re not plugged in. We’re just playing this music the way we did when we were 18.”

Riders in the Sky with Chris Hillman and Herb Pedersen perform at 7:30 p.m. June 3 at the Lexington Opera House. Tickets are $30. Call (800) 745-3000, (859) 233-3535.

Kerry Challenges Bush to Weekly Debates

AP Online August 26, 2004 | MARY DALRYMPLE, Associated Press Writer MARY DALRYMPLE, Associated Press Writer AP Online 08-26-2004 Dateline: ANOKA, Minn.

Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., addresses a town hall meeting on health care at Anoka Hennepin Technical College Thursday, Aug. 26, 2004 in Anoka, Minn. (AP Photo/Jim Mone) John Kerry challenged President Bush on Thursday to weekly debates from now until Nov. 2 on campaign issues like education, health care and national security.

“America deserves a discussion like we’re having here today, which I’m prepared to have with this president every single week from now until the election,” the Democratic presidential candidate said.

Kerry issued the challenge while speaking about health care at Anoka Hennepin Technical College, fielding questions from a group of more than 200 people, some of them self-described undecided voters.

The Kerry campaign picked Anoka County for its known political independence, drawing the audience from counties surrounding Minneapolis and St. Paul. Anoka County voted for presidents Clinton and Bush, as well as independent former Gov. Jesse Ventura, and tends to be a bellwether for statewide candidates. go to web site hennepin technical college

The Bush-Cheney campaign rebuffed the debate challenge.

“There will be a time for debates after the convention, and during the next few weeks, John Kerry should take the time to finish the debates with himself,” responded Bush-Cheney spokesman Steve Schmidt.

“This election presents a clear choice to the American people between a president who is moving America forward and a senator who has taken every side of almost every issue,” he said.

The Commission on Presidential Debates has scheduled three presidential debates to be held on college campuses in the battleground states of Florida, Missouri and Arizona in late September and October. here hennepin technical college

Kerry used the health care forum to highlight new figures released by the Census Bureau, which showed the ranks of the poor and uninsured grew last year, the third straight annual increase for both categories.

“Today confirms the failure of President Bush’s policies for all Americans. While George Bush tries to convince America’s families that were turning the corner, slogans and empty rhetoric can’t hide the real story,” Kerry said.

Kerry also defended himself from Republican charges that he wavers in his convictions on major issues.

“It’s standard Republican playbook,” Kerry said in response to a voter’s question. “They just say it, and if you spend enough money and say it enough, people like you are going to ask the question.” Kerry said Bush has been the one flip-flopping over the last four years _ standing against the Homeland Security Department, then embracing it; fighting against the Sept. 11 commission, then endorsing it; promising to fund his new education law, then failing to.

After his response got a standing ovation, Kerry said, “That’s why it would be great to be talking about this every week.” ___ On the Net:

MARY DALRYMPLE, Associated Press Writer

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