critic's pick 187

Midway through his new Satisfied at Last album, Texas troubadour Joe Ely surveys his seemingly fleeting mortality from a number of angles. There are songs of travel, departure and return, all sung with the kind of worn country confidence that only a road-tested scribe like Ely can summon.

That can make for some life lessons that are as wily as they are worldly. Take his grand exodus song, You Can Bet I’m Gone, where Ely sets the stage against a rugged country rhythm for his own personal judgment day. In short, he asks that his ashes be stuffed down the double barrels of a shotgun and skyrocketed into the Lone Star sky.

“Get all of my friends, some windy day,” sings Ely in his arid West Texas tenor, “to say goodbye, watch me blow away.”

In perhaps less demonstrative terms, Ely asserts he has no baggage to carry when the time comes to “cross that river to the other side” in Satisfied at Last‘s title tune. With a regal dose of Western guitar twang behind him (courtesy of band alumnus David Grissom and The Flatlanders’ Rob Gjersoe), Ely sings fondly of his farewell: “You can bet when I’m leaving, I’ll be satisfied at last”

There is even a postscript already prepared to send from the hereafter in the lovely cover of Live Forever, the signature tune of another mighty Texas music champion, Billy Joe Shaver. Ely’s version is almost meditative with an acoustic shuffle propelled by churchy organ and Tex Mex accordion from Joel Guzman.

Musically, Satisfied at Last finds an affirmative middle ground between acoustic contentment and the electric dynamics that define Ely’s great ‘70s and ‘80s recordings. The arrangements here are colored by fine contributions from numerous old friends, including steel guitarist Lloyd Maines, flamenco guitarist Teye, bassist Glenn Fukanaga and drummer Davis McLarty.

There is a curious absence, though, of a dominate guitar foil to co-pilot these songs. But that hardly proves to be a liability. Ely instead rotates the roster as to what musical voice sits in the passenger’s seat. Gusman’s keyboard atmospherics sets the stage for the restless album-opener The Highway is My Home while Maines’ pedal steel howls like a distant but elegant prairie wind on Not That Much Has Changed.

Ely leaves the last word in regards to fleeing his mortal coil on Satisfied at Last to fellow Flatlander Butch Hancock by covering his contemplative self-epitaph, Circumstance. Here the welcoming light of the hereafter beckons (“something shining over yonder hill”) and Ely, only briefly, hesitates. “I know not to chase it. But I know I will.


The Capital Times June 13, 2008 | Smathers, Jason Byline: Jason Smathers Special to The Capital Times As Monona mayor Robb Kahl cut the ribbon on the town’s new Huntington Learning Center Friday, George Kinsler, who runs the franchise with the rest of his family, could hardly contain his enthusiasm.

“Everyone get in the picture, come on now!” He quickly strode in front of the building, pushing all friends and visitors to join him and his family in commemorating of the new alternative learning center located at 400 N. Interlake Drive in Monona. go to site huntington learning center

Huntington Learning Center, which has more than 400 locations across 41 states and 24 centers in Wisconsin alone, provides supplemental education to students having trouble in normal schooling.

Kinsler is certainly is working overtime to make sure visitors feel welcome at the grand opening, but he isn’t the only one taking on the challenge. Daughter-in-law Jennelle serves as center director and son Toby, a high school teacher and coach at Edgewood High School, is running the college prep section, working with students on ACT, PSAT and SAT practice tests. Even George’s wife, Moni Rohr, who recently retired from 30 years of service in the Office of Wisconsin Senate Chief Clerk, is helping out with the center’s operations.

Being able to do this with his family was one of the main motivations for Kinsler when he shifted his efforts from his mortgage company and started the process to create a Huntington branch in Monona more than two years ago.

Although the center teaches children grades K-12, Huntington tests incoming students to target academic problems and teach at their level, which is often far below the proficiency needed in their grade. If a child reads at a second-grade level, instructors teach at that level until the student is ready to move on.

“We try to create an environment that’s not only safe for the child but an environment they feel comfortable in,” Jennelle Kinsler said.

Licensed Wisconsin teachers have been hired to aid local struggling children with their studies, with each teacher supervising four students at a time. Students are encouraged to work on building their reading, math and comprehension skills independently by doing exercises out of the nearly 1,000 instructional books and exercises available. When they have a problem or question, the instructor stays within reach to help guide them through their studies. in our site huntington learning center

Similar steps are taken with high school students, although the ACT preparation provides more intensive one-on-one instruction.

The franchise is already working with students from McFarland, Monona and Fitchburg, among other areas in Dane County. The Kinslers have also claimed the development rights for Sun Prairie and Middleton and plan to turn the second floor of their first center into a regional training center for the county. George Kinsler hopes his enthusiasm, as well as that of his family and incoming teachers makes the difference with students.

“I’ve got kids that went to Monona Grove School District, my grandkids are about to go, and the most important thing you can do for you child or grandkid is to make sure they can work,” Kinsler said. “Everyone has struggles I just think it’s the right thing to do.” Smathers, Jason

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