Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Pass-a-long of the week
Every now and then you might be fortunate enough to stumble upon someone who adds a distinctive voice to your life. For me, Steve Almond is one of those people.
He’s not a guru of any sort, nor a noted genius, or a loving spiritual guide, but he has a couple of talents that I admire and he’s a man who stands up for his beliefs. (Don’t go thinking Gandhi, but more along the lines of 70’s counter-culture disciple)
I can’t even remember how I became acquainted with him, but if you are ever in a state of mind where you need a good laugh – I mean a from the gut rip roaring snort – then you should read his book, “candyfreak”.
This man knows more about packaged sweets than any other human being on this planet. “candyfreak” is his wacky memoir of a truly wild addiction.
Aside from writing, he served as adjunct professor in creative writing at Boston College for five years until publishing an open letter of resignation in the Boston Globe in which he explained that his resignation was intended to protest the selection of Condoleezza Rice as the college's 2006 commencement guest speaker. That’s the standing up for his beliefs part that I mentioned earlier.
The other dimension Steve adds to my life is his knowledge of music. I subscribe to his newsletter and a couple of times a year he will send out a list of recommendations. We’re talking mostly below the radar talent that you likely would never encounter had you not be privy to his thoughts. Well, at least it’s fresh to a music dud like me.
Here are a few picks from his recent list:
Raphael Saadiq, The Way I See It (Sony, 2008)
Am I honestly tipping a solo album by a Tony! Toni! Toné! alum? To mis-quote our last black president, when questioned as to whether he enjoyed pollinating Gennifer Flowers ... You bet I am. This is pure soul from the Philly wing of the party. "Sure Hope You Mean It" ranks as the greatest hidden track never released by the Platters. (I second this recommendation. One of my favorite CDs in a long time.)
Charlie Mars, Like a Bird, Like a Plane, (Rockingham Records, 2009)
Charlie got tipped a few years back and he returns now, having thrown off the bridle of country for something more atmospheric, a kind of Pink Floyd under the influence of Marley vibe. Call it stoner sex jelly. And spread liberally.
Johnny Flynn, A Larum, (Mercury Records, 2008)
Tommy Finks put me onto Flynn, who makes folk rock of the nimblest British sort. Think Fairport Convention with a brogue, or Nick Drake with a bit more vim in his vigor. It's all joy and mischief, guitars strummed by sprites and a reedy tenor.
Clare Burson, Silver and Ash.
A softly devastating suite of songs that reveal themselves with the slow grace of an antique music box. There's a story here, subtle but persistent, about the people who came before us, and the miracle of our births.
Ike Reilly, Poison the Hit Parade, (Six Siren, 2008)
Still ugly, still making pretty things. The Ike delivers another blow to the temple of corporate rock. "When the Plant Shuts Down" offers a blistering vision of what the recession might do to wake our conscience.
Eric Hutchinson, Sounds Like This, (Warner Brothers, 2008)
Madonna was all ready to roll Hutchinson out as the Next Big Thing. Then her label tanked. Then the internets found him. Then he got another deal. And now his first LP is here, a creamsicle of sweet sunny pop.
If you just want to listen without purchase commitment, I often find CDs through my library. Then if it’s good, I can rip it to my computer. I also joined MySpace because they have an amazing music collection. You can create your own playlist, perfect for background tunes while you are blogging. The playlist is free but downloads do have a fee.