Category Archives: Music

Greazy Muzic

600full-aretha-franklinI’m a child of the sixties. Or more accurately, that’s the decade of my adolescence. Curse or blessing, my generation grew up in interesting times. We went from Beaver Cleaver to Easy Rider and Sputnik to the Moon in a little more than a decade. The Times They Are a Changin’  was a fitting anthem for the era. And when Buffalo Springfield sang, “There’s somethin’ happenin’ here, what it is ain’t exactly clear,” they were expressing what was on the minds of most Americans.

Popular music was riding the crest of that wave of change. We were already all shook up coming out of the fifties and were headed to the Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. One of the best parts of this long strange trip was the mainstreaming of Black music. The radio stations in my little Western Minnesota town exposed my to the joy of soul music, and that shaped my musical taste for life.

I recently watched the documentary Muscle Shoals, the story of the Muscle Shoals Sound and the tiny Northwestern Alabama town on the Tennessee River where some of the best of that Black music was recorded. Percy Sledge, Wilson Pickett, Aretha, Joe Tex, Clarence Carter and the list goes on all recorded there. And I drove around Moorhead in our Chevy wagon with the windows down and fell in love with Soul. Black Music.

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I’m Tired.

New heights of putzdom were reached today. You may remember that I recently put snow tires on the car. I got steel rims and cheap plastic wheel covers, one of which quickly fell off and was never seen again. I’ve been driving around looking like a hillbilly. So I bought 4 new cheap plastic wheel covers (I don’t think you can buy just one) and went to the hardware store and bought a rubber mallet for putting them on.

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Moore, Moore and Less

We watched Far from Heaven last night. Very good film, the evocation of the mid fifties is evident in the art direction, script and direction. I loved the way that the couple played by Julianne Moore and Dennis Quaid simply would not pay attention to their children, it was always, we’re busy now, later. In contrast the plot focused on racial and homophobe tension, under the Leave it to Beaver facade there’s a dark side to the perfect family.

This afternoon we’re going to see Sanford Moore and friends at the Capri Theater. Luckily we’re experiencing a heat wave, it’s up to 13 right now.

I know I promised not to write about Crohn’s disease. But I’m going to throw it out there that after four months of flare up I’m happy to say that I seem to have gotten my shit together. I’ll be breaking this promise again tomorrow with a post about some interesting developments in the treatment of auto-immune diseases like Chroh’ns and Asthma. Seems like when we pretty much eradicated hookworms in the US back when I was a kid, we made ourselves more vulnerable to attacks from our own immune systems. hmmmmm.

Not a Football Post

2010 is starting here with blue sky, crisp blue shadows on the deep, crusty layer of snow. It’s above zero, one degree, but still above and from the backyard trees there’s no wind. A great day for strenuous outdoor activity if you’re properly protected from the cold. For someone other than me that is. It also might be a great day to read a book, by the fireplace, with hot chocolate. Or watch football. What is the average time per American male spent watching football on New Year’s Day? The volume of chips consumed? Gallons of beer? Gallons of beer spilled in celebration or anger? Level of profanity spewed at coaches, refs, players and opponents? I won’t be contributing to those numbers, I may have to turn in my guy card. So be it.

Great party last night, at one of those houses designed by an architect for themselves. Classic Mid-Century Modern, a really nice pad with a big open living room that perfectly served the purpose of musical venue for the evening. Another great feature, obscured now of course, is no lawn mowing. The small front yard is all planted in garden and the back is full of massive hardwoods, so it’s natural forest floor.

We were treated to really excellent music in the form of a jam, lead by the host and some great local musicians. I’m always amazed by the way these folks, without rehearsal, will briefly talk over the structure of a song, “Three chords in A, it starts on the five and the there’s a bridge in D,” and everyone will have it after one verse. Great songs, great singers and great players. I was sweating bullets that I would be asked to sit in, it would be like me trying to step in at point guard for the Wolves. It worked out well though, after almost everyone left, Clay our host and Dan, the guitarist and bass player for Yodel a Go Go, and I did a few basic three chord songs and I was able to pretty much follow along by watching Clay’s hands. Lot’s of fun.

At one point during a break they were playing a CD by some local artist, I missed the name, and Clay said, “When I listen to this and realize how good it is and know that it’s not a big hit, what chance do I have.” This prompted a discussion about how many great musicians there are that are working day jobs, or barely eking out a living playing. It amazes me how hard these folks work for their art, with such little compensation. And these folks seem to be working a labor of love, preserving a style of music that they love, rootsy country and rockabilly. Which is good for me because I love that music too.

Someone once said to me that if I thought art was a tough gig, think about music. True that.

Lights on Broadway

smallersanfordposterThis morning I was down at the Plymouth Christian Youth Center in North Minneapolis. Carl Griffin their communications person gave me a tour of the campus and of the Capri Theater, which is owned by the center. The occasion for the tour was my picking up copies of the poster I designed for the upcoming Sanford Moore concert. They’re doing some amazing things on the Corner of Broadway and Logan. They’ve taken a former auto dealership and transformed it  into their offices and PYC Arts & Technology High School, a beautiful building where “at risk” kids are using the combination of art and technology to enhance their learning experience.

Students are learning about DNA by building sculptural representations of the Chromosome strands and studying math as it applies to music. Students are learning technical, as well as interpersonal skills by working as apprentices at the Capri, which they have also recently remodeled. They have multi-purposed the buildings, not only producing their own shows at the theater, but renting it for other musical and theatrical productions. The school building also provides a venue for after school activities and multiple youth programs. It’s a bright and inviting place, alive with natural light and vibrating with activity. I saw lots of happy faces on the kids. All in all it looks like a great environment for learning.

Part of the vision is to “bring up the lights on Broadway” and to “Lead the Capri Theater Renaissance” by making the theater a year around cultural destination that attracts visitors from all over the Twin Cities, showcasing North Side talent and revitalizing the neighborhood. Check out Sanford Moore next month and see the great things going on Broadway!

Dead Flowers

deadflowerOne of the options I’ve been pursuing is to become a rock star. Well you never know until you try, right? Seriously, I’ve been putting in some major wood shedding (hep-cat musician speak for “practice”) and have been seeing some gradual improvement in my playing. I’ve been a closet guitar player for forty years, noodling away in private, rarely playing with anyone else, never really learning any songs, just improvising away on the blues and lately some old time country and rockabilly things. I’m not particularly talented as a musician, but I’m determined. And I have a really bad case of stage fright. I’ve attended open jams and when I get called out to solo, it’s deer in the headlights time. My fingers turn to stone, I can’t remember the key we’re in, or where to start. I’ve sat there, sweating for four measures of an eight measure break. I can practice a piece for hours, play it fairly well in private, but if I have one person watching me I just can’t pull it off.

Lately I’ve been getting together to make music with a young woman who I met at a neighbor’s house last summer. Continue reading