Ani Difranco: You Had Time
Physical distance isn't always the most difficult to traverse. Sometimes the greatest distance lies in the gulf between two people in the front of a car, traveling from one place to another but going nowhere. And as space warps, so do time and meaning - two people speak but neither hears the other, time has been spent on nothing at all. Some things are just doomed from the start. This is the way some worlds end: with a smile, a shrug and the devastating sting of someone trying not to do too much damage but knowing they will fail.
Saturday, August 18, 2012
Thursday, August 16, 2012
Wednesday, August 15, 2012
It's been so long since I've posted here that I sort of forget how to do it, so forgive me. But I've seen that there's been infrequent posts lately and thought I'd see if I can help with a post or two in the interim. I've posted songs from this album before. It's a great little album by a Tampa, Florida based band started by two ladies who were spoken-word artists who decided to start a band with their clarinet and accordion and brought along a bass player and a drummer for the ride. They use guitar and other more conventional rock instruments as well, but the addition of the clarinet and accordion adds something different to the mix.
Who Let All The Monkeys Out is their debut album and came out in 1996, though they only ever made two albums as a band. Like their unconventional name and instruments, the subject of their songs is often quite different from the normal love song as well. "4 Miles" is one of the more conventional songs, though still not ordinary. I love the sound of it.
Monday, August 13, 2012
Sunday, August 12, 2012
“Ah haaaa,” as Bob Wills, King of Western Swing, used to say to express his joy and pleasure from the melodic or improvised sounds coming from his sidemen. One’s gotta love that eclectic genre with its elements of pop, jazz, blues and folk. At the same time, the genre maintains a link to its traditional string band roots. Western Swing is both freewheeling and entertaining.
I still remember that day in the early-1970s when an old-time fiddler I knew introduced me (as a young college student) to the music of Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys. Back in the 1940s, that band was very popular, and the musicians in Wills’ band were some of the finest of their era.
I first learned the song, “Miles and Miles of Texas” from Asleep at the Wheel, the Western Swing revivalist band that helped re-popularize the genre in the 1970s. Texas guitarist/singer Ray Benson and his band have been swinging ever since, and they never cease to put on a great upbeat live show.
Another contemporary Western Swing band is Dave Alexander and his Big Texas Swing Band. Alexander has also been at it for quite awhile, and he’s garnered such awards as induction into the Texas Western Swing Hall of Fame, as well as both Male Vocalist and Entertainer of the Year Awards from the Academy of Western Artists. He’s performed with some big names in country music, and he often invites former members of the Texas Playboys to join him in his shows. As a former member of the Texas Playboys himself, four-time Grammy nominee Dave Alexander is on a mission to perpetuate the Western Swing sound and to acquaint people with an important and exciting aspect of our American musical heritage.
I’m trying a new file hosting service, so I hope the link stays live.
Music can be escapism. It isn’t always, but I suspect that is why a 50+ professional who has lived his whole life in either New York or New Jersey and has a pretty quiet family life likes to listen to music about people living on the edge, drinking, carousing, ramblin’. I know that I never will ride a motorcycle, get into a bar fight, hitchhike across the desert, or be a rock star. And, honestly, I don’t really have any interest in doing so.
But it is fun to listen to music that is about things that are outside your experience. I remember once reading an article that said that people like roller coasters, or eating spicy food, because it gives the illusion of danger, without real risk. That your body reacts by producing adrenalin and endorphins that give you that edge and pleasure, without having to worry about actually getting beat up or killed.
Which is why, I guess, I have always liked this song, by Michelle Shocked. Her narrator rescues her motorcycle from the repo man and drives it around Los Angeles, referencing a number of local landmarks and noting that she has driven 500 miles, but never left the city.
Shocked is an interesting artist—uncompromising and demanding of creative freedom. Her first few albums were incredible, and the album that this song comes from, “Arkansas Traveler,” is both brilliant, and controversial. In great part, it is a reworking of traditional folk and country songs, with all-star guests including Levon Helm and Garth Hudson, Hothouse Flowers, Uncle Tupelo (which included her brother), Taj Mahal, Pops Staples, and others, and there are many, many good songs. But Shocked insisted on appearing in blackface on the cover, to highlight her interest in blackface minstrelsy, and her label refused. The album was barely promoted and failed to sell, leading to the end of Shocked’s major label career. I did buy her next album, but have kind of lost track of her, although I know that she has been recording gospel music. She is someone who has simply done what she wanted, and damn the consequences. Another thing that I don’t think I could ever do, even though I respect her for doing it.
I’ve been to L.A. a few times, mostly on business, and recognize some of the places mentioned, but they are really meaningless to me. But there is something about the song, the music and the lyrics, that makes me want to jump on a bike, a hog, a chopper, or whatever the cool people call it, and head out on an adventure. It isn’t going to happen, and that’s OK, too. But it can be fun to live vicariously.