It’s a bit difficult to come back to active blogging after the fundraising campaign for my stolen computers and–far, far worse–the lost documents for my book. At least I had submitted the thing already so even if I have significant revisions, it’s not like I have to start the whole project over. But still, it’s basically the worst thing ever. It’s also the 5th certifiable catastrophe to happen to me since I moved to Rhode Island, which is just bizarre. Luckily none of those things have resulted in injury.
I confess that I wasn’t very comfortable with being the center of a fundraising campaign. I am after all pretty Protestant about my relations with the rest of the world and while I totally support fundraising for others, for myself, it’s hard. So I do very much appreciate the donations. Basically, it will allow me to buy a new computer–a machine that will never be in the same place as my office computer so that the same calamity can never happen again–and some adaptators, the purchase of cloud space, etc. I know some people who don’t use Paypal were interested in an address and you can send it to my work address here. I think that’s enough about all of that except to say that your generosity in helping me out of a horrible situation is greatly appreciated and won’t be forgotten anytime soon. Anything additional would be used to get me back to the West for those sources. And you are all too nice to me. OK, enough of beating this dead horse.
Anyway, now that my life is starting to reorder itself a bit, I should be able to get back to blogging more or less at my regular pace (although I do have a conference most of next week). To start that process and connect it to my perils, I found this piece about too much music interesting because I’ve been feeling that myself lately. I didn’t know it would be possible to have too much music and I guess it isn’t. But because I had so much music (and so much lost although not all of it because I never got rid of my old CDs + stuff on the itunes cloud + some favorites I had burned onto a CD to play in my car) I realized I was struggling to connect to most of it. There was the occasional thing that broke through–Wussy, Frank Ocean, Mary Halvorson, Mates of State, realizing after many years of not hearing them how amazing L7 was–but mostly I’d listen to something a few times and then it would fade into the background. This isn’t so good. Over the past week, with my far more limited available music, I’ve actually been enjoying it more because it’s all stuff I love.
That doesn’t mean I’m not actively seeking to reconstruct my collection. But I think this is a good time to really edit the heck out of it. My policy in the past was to basically keep everything I ever acquired unless I really hated it. But do I really need the Frank Zappa live tracks I picked up 20 years ago in college? No, most of them aren’t very good. I’ll keep a few that I still like. Or all the mediocrities I took flyers on over the years? Probably not. Or even the discs upon discs of Appalachian music from the 20s with all the poor recording quality that implies, even though I actually like that stuff. On the other hand, I might take the opportunity to really invest in more jazz albums from the 40s-mid 60s. I’ve been into avant-garde jazz since I started listening to the genre, often to the expense of the earlier periods.
And in any case, actually listening to the 100 or so albums I most love over and over again, is actually a really good thing to do.
This Rolling Stone profile of Willie Nelson is pretty great, even if magazines should not refer to their own work as “definitive,” which is the equivalent of talking about your own integrity since evidently we can just judge ourselves objectively these days.
Willie is a deserving legend and I say very little negative about his music. I do think that his love of marijuana has come to dominate discussions of the man who wrote “Crazy” and “Hello Walls” and “Night Life” and so many other definitive songs, not to mention full albums like Phases and Stages and Red Headed Stranger. Of course all of that was a very long time ago and Willie started resting on his laurels a bit by the late 1970s, not writing too many songs after that and certainly not writing songs on the quality level of the first half of his career. But then he didn’t have to. When the world is at your fingertips, as it was for Willie in the last 40 years (IRS notwithstanding), why try? But when you are in your mid-30s, kind of a mess as a person, and still holding onto the dream of making it in Nashville, yeah, you are going to write “Funny How Time Slips Away.” But I do wish that he wasn’t something of a joke for his weed smoking. The article certainly engages that side of him and maybe for good reason, since its not like he has hidden it.
Overall, there are some great stories and crazy stuff in the article. Willie worked as a plumber’s assistant in Eugene? Why did he end up there for awhile? And the number of country singers who spent time in the Pacific Northwest for random reasons is really quite high, most notably Loretta Lynn, whose worthless husband dragged her out there just as she was getting started as a singer. Buck Owens was working up there for awhile too. Willie’s drummer Paul English was a pimp? Whoa. On the other hand, English knew how to handle the rednecks which Bee Spears and Mickey Raphael struggled with during those transitional years in the 70s. Willie probably needed a roughneck in the band somewhere given the craziness.
Anyway, lots of laughs here and well worth a read. Also, check out some footage of this Willie show on the first ever episode of Austin City Limits in 1974. This is great stuff.
In 1939, a promotional film in English was made for Django Reinhardt, Stephane Grappelli and the Hot Club of France. It’s unclear why, probably for a tour of Britain the group was doing that year. The start of this is a bit slow, with a history of jazz for the British uninitiated listeners. And then the Hot Club starts. You ever wanted to see Reinhardt’s fingers move across the guitar with excellent camera work that makes this very clear? Now is your chance. Just amazing footage.
For whatever reason, YouTube doesn’t allow this to be embedded, but you can watch it if you link.
One album I recommend very highly is Lydia Loveless’ Somewhere Else. This young, talented singer from Ohio is definitely someone to check out if you haven’t yet. If you haven’t heard her, this NPR performance is a good place to start, although quite a bit more subdued than her album. I read somewhere that her dad was in the band for awhile, but too many of her songs were about sex so it was too weird. Another excellent musician from southern Ohio as well, which seems to generate a whole lot of underrated music.
I certainly don’t care about the fate of most record labels, but streaming services increasingly make it difficult for musicians in less popular genres like jazz or classical to survive. Really, if you listen to music, you do owe it to the artists to buy some of their music. If it’s U2, who cares. Stream away. If it is Wussy, the album sales make a difference. That’s especially true if the labels start taking cuts of artists’ other income to make up for record sale declines. Streaming is fine to check out new artists and hear new albums, but at some point, music fans need to support the artists through purchasing their products in some way or another.
Look, if you’d all just buy Wussy’s albums, we’d stop promoting them so much. This recent performance at KEXP has 4 songs from their new album and “Pizza King” from Strawberry. I most recommend “Bug” which is a great song.
I was lucky enough to see my college roommate play bass in the Satoko Fujii New Trio +1 tonight at Firehouse 12 in New Haven. If you are fans of jazz and noise and are in New York, Washington, the Bay Area, Seattle, or Vancouver, you should definitely check them out in the coming week or two on this North American tour. They are playing the Vision Festival tomorrow in New York, which is where I would be if I were in New York regardless of having a friend in the band. Here is a clip of the Trio without tonight’s speical guest. It includes the drummer beating on a chair.
Satoko Fujii, piano
Todd Nicholson, bass
Takashi Itani, drums, chair hitting.
The Ra arrived on Earth 100 years ago today. One of the most inventive and amazing people in the history of American music, Sun Ra managed to balance experimental noise with a band that still swung. In a sense he was on his own trajectory, not only in his own mind, with his religious writings and space talk, but in the history of music, as he avoided the rock fusion of post-Bitches Brew Miles Davis while also not following Coltrane and Pharaoh Sanders into their version of noise free jazz. Noise the
Ra made, but it was always very much his noise.