Monthly Archives: September 2011

Book Review: Nashville Chrome by Rick Bass

I feel you have to read this book like you would any work of fiction. You have to let the story wash over you and capture your imagination. Never mind that all the ‘characters’ are real people and all the major situations were real events. Yes, there was a singing family called the Browns and they did top the charts of Country and Pop. Yes, they were friends with Elvis Presley and one of the singing sisters in the trio did have a serious relationship with him. Yes, they did stop having hits and the times did change around them. Yes, the brother in the trio would continue on and have a successful career, as a solo artist and then as a duo with his wife Helen Cornelius. And the oldest and most ambitious one of the family group would never give up hope of fame knocking on her door for the second time.

But the book is a fictionalized account of the Browns. It never goes deep into the music or the hits of the group. The book mainly concerns itself with the demons of the eldest sister of the trio, Maxine. Her hunger for fame. Her drives and ambitions. Her thoughts of being special. The alcoholism, the failed marriage and, most of all, her life as an ’80 something’ still hoping for a second chance or at least a chance to get the trio together again.

The author’s storytelling is the selling point of this grand Gothic southern story full of tragedy and triumph. Mr. Bass writes with such a strong lyrical flow to his prose that you will find yourself stopping and rereading a passage just for the joy of his poetic choice of words. But unfortunately for me it is too poetic and after a while I was a little put off to this style and I wished that the author would ‘dumb it down’ a notch or two.

Take this example of his writing from the book where he is describing a cook ringing the dinner bell at Maxine’s wedding…As the clang and ringing of the bell traveled across the distance, the sound waves would have spread out into the greater and more relaxed amplitudes, then would have begun to waver and shimmer in their inevitable disintegration – the sound acting like a living thing briefly in possession of spirit and soul, but susceptible, like all else in the world, to the inevitable decay and sheer mechanical reduction wrought by friction and time, and with the listener starving for more, as he or she first detected that wavering, that unwinding of perfect sound as it began to first loosen, thread by thread. I love the way the words flow and the use of sound as a metaphor for the Browns and human beings or for anything for that matter, but taken as a whole it has a numbing effect when you read the novel. Almost, and that is the key word…almost, too much beauty and not enough story. But the Browns life is interesting and that is the saving grace for this book.

I had never heard of The Browns or any of their music before reading the novel. I was familiar with Jim Ed Brown’s big hit ode to drinking your troubles away, “Pop A Top”, and I remember him with his wife Helen Cornelius as a regular on the 70’s country and western TV shows my father watched religiously every Saturday night. Rick Bass writes an interesting account of the group and it’s ups and downs. After reading this book I am curious about what was fact and what was fiction. Maxine has released her autobiography, “Looking Back To See”. I will be searching it out to read in the future.

So as far as ‘Nashville Chrome’ goes…it was a pleasant read but I would be hard pressed to recommend it. Let us start a precedent here on the site and give my reviews a grading system. I give it a 2.75 on a scale of 1 to 5.

New Tom Waits Track on Spotify

There is a new single from Tom Waits, “Back in the Crowd”, from the upcoming album called Bad As Me. You can listen to it on Spotify if you have the service and want to check it out. If you need a Spotify invite just hit me up…I have a couple to send out if you need them.

The Wisdom of Linus

Linus Buy Records

My Favorite Musicians

I loathe lists. They make my skin crawl, my brow break out in sweats, my bowels bubble and churn. I don’t understand all the Top 100,000 albums of the 80’s or 100 Top Keyboard Solos in Progressive Rock or 10 Best Rock and Roll Footwear…I always wonder why and who cares, as I ferociously scrutinize them and mentally argue what the author has omitted or just plain got wrong. So, of course, I decided to make a list of my favorite musicians. I decided to split it into two lists. First, bands/solo artists that you are probably familiar with if you like music at all and second, bands/solo artists that are a little more under the radar. Probably nothing you have not hear of…I am very standard even on my non-standard list. In the upcoming weeks I will share some thoughts and stories of how I heard of the artists or how the artists have shaped me. And I do believe, we as humans, are shaped by all cultural influences. My biggest influences have been through music, followed close by novels, the friends I hang out with, TV / movies…

Making the list was easy…at first. I just wrote them down as they came to me. My criteria was simple…an artist or group that had a body of work that I still listen to and still get something from. Bang, I put fingers to keyboard and had my list. Then I started to look at it. And started second guessing some of my decisions. Am I really going to leave The Minutemen on the list and leave off Iggy and the Stooges? What about Whiskeytown/Ryan Adams? No REM? Come on, I love REM. Where the hell are the Pixies?!? Shit, my whole list is wrong. What will the hipsters think of me and my list?

NO! I must stop the swirling thoughts of everyone rolling their eyes as the scan my list only to quickly click over to some other meaningless blog and more mindless ramblings. But I must be strong…it is my list of my favorite musicians that have shaped my outlook on life and my world of music. Mine, not yours…make your own damn list.

My Top 10 ‘Normal’ Bands/Artists

  1. Rolling Stones
  2. The Beatles
  3. Neil Young
  4. Hank Williams
  5. Grateful Dead
  6. Bob Dylan
  7. Led Zeppelin
  8. Pearl Jam
  9. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
  10. Phish

My Top 10 ‘Under the Radar’ Bands/Artist

  1. Black Flag / Rollins Band
  2. Frank Zappa
  3. Butthole Surfers
  4. King Crimson
  5. Minutemen
  6. Sonic Youth
  7. Jesus Lizard
  8. Captain Beefheart
  9. Ween
  10. Tom Waits

There, done. Feel free to point and laugh. As I said, I will be writing something about each artist in the upcoming weeks/months/years…how I discovered them, seeing them live, favorite song or memory and why they belong on my list. Now….discuss.

Video: Neil Young – No Hidden Path

This guy is incredible. At the time this was shot he was sixty years old, SIXTY. Is he too old? Is he lazy and just cranking out lifeless versions of his hits? He is a man that can not careless what people want him to do. Neil will do what he wants and when he wants to do it. I have seen him playing lovely acoustic music on stage when the audience wanted to rock and I have seen him blast his audience with feedback when they wanted him to just play Heart of Gold and I have watched people boo him and walk out when he challenged the Bush administration and the Iraq War. He still challenges his audience…and that is what an artist should do.

Book Review: The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta

Imagine if you will,  all at once millions of random people just vanished off the face of the earth. Without a trace, literally vaporized into thin air. This event is just a random act, totally random. This phenomenon takes people of different faiths, people of no faith, people that society deems as productive members and people that are deemed unproductive or downright undesirable. Try to imagine what our religious leaders would say, what our governments would say, try to imagine how you would react if a family member of yours was taken or how you would act to those people that had lost family members. Now try to imagine the world three years after this still unexplained event. That is the premise of Tom Perrotta’s newest book, The Leftovers.

I decided to read this book after hearing the author discuss his work on NPR one morning. I found the premise intriguing and when I found out he was writing a treatment for a HBO series based on the book I made a mental note to read it. I have never read any of Perrotta’s other novels. I did see one that was turned into a movie, Election. He also wrote Little Children (also made into a movie) and The Abstinence Teacher.

His novel is peppered with interesting and ordinary characters he has breathed life into. They are full of hope, sadness, conflicting emotions. Their life in suburban ‘Everytown USA’ is a slow crawl into the pull of various cult like trappings with the promise of a better day, like the Barefoot People (Hippies), the followers of Wholly Wayne (the Huggers), or the sinister Guilty Remnant (the Smokers). The main character’s make mistakes and deal with guilt throughout the book…in short, his characters are painstakingly human. There are no heroes and nobody makes an earth shaking discovery to make sense of what has happened. This book is a slice of the slow sad pace of life. On some deep level I suppose 9-11 and it’s aftermath give the author his underlying canvas to paint over. Perrotta gives the characters such ‘normal’ conflicting emotions and thoughts that you care about these people and hope for the best in their decisions that will shape the rest of their lives.

Perrotta writes in a simple style, never getting to overly lyrical. The novel is an easy read with plenty of room to let your mind wonder about one’s self in a similar situation or to just ponder the everyday decisions we all make in our daily lives. Overall I finished the novel with a feeling of having just read a good book. I am not sure if this is a book that will stay in my mind for along time, but if you are looking to get lost in a little escapism (with a slightly moral slant, but never preachy) I would recommend the book.

Foo Fighters vs. Westboro Baptist Church

I am not a big fan of the Foo Fighters (other than the first record that was basically Dave Grohl solo), but this video gives me a new respect for the band…

Hank Williams – The Lyricist

I am looking forward to this collection of lyrics penned by Hank Williams and set to music by the different musicians on this compilation, The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams. There has been talk of this project for over a year as I recall Lucinda Williams talking about what a thrill recording her track was. I am assuming this will be like most compilation albums…I will love some, like some, and not care for the rest. But I pretty much live to hear anything Bob Dylan does, so his name alone would be enough to get me to check this out.

Dee Dee Ramone would have been 60 today

Dee Dee Ramone would have turned 60 years old today. His machine gun bass playing laid the ground work for hardcore and punk for years to come. The man was the embodiment of rock and roll…and forever a casualty of the rock and roll lifestyle. He always seemed like a child…with problems. Heroin was his drug of choice and it took his life when he was 49.

You can’t deny his talent for writing a simple rock song. He wrote some of the best loved Ramones songs…Commando, Wart Hog, 53rd and 3rd, Rockaway Beach, Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue, Today Your Love, Tomorrow the World, Pinhead…

They looked ‘punk’, but it was just rock and roll. Dee Dee’s lightning fast count ins of ‘one-two-three-four’ will forever be missed.

Grateful Dead Europe 72 Boxset or Obsessive Collector Insanity

“Too much of anything is never enough.” – John Perry Barlow

Just received my Europe 72 mega box today…all 22 shows of the Grateful Dead’s tour, 73 discs, 70 plus hours of music…and I am a slightly overwhelmed. It is an impressive presentation…all music stored in a replica steamer trunk…a beautiful hardcover book full of high-quality glossy photos…each set of discs has an essay about the show from Dead scholars…personalized and numbered out of the limited 7200 made. Whew…

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Kinda nutty, huh?

Maybe. Guess it depends on your level of fan obsession. I am very much a Deadhead and this release I jumped on (and you did have to jump, it sold out in four days). Ask any Dead fan what their favorite years of the band are and you will probably be told 1969, 1977, 1973, 1972 or maybe 1988. I like all of those years and would welcome more releases of the tours from those years. But there is a difference with the Europe 1972 tour…the entire tour was recorded on 16 track professional equipment as the band was planning to release a live album to recover touring costs. The music presented in this box has also been remastered on state of art equipment to bring out the sonic clarity of this unique live band. The band were ‘on’ most of these shows represented in this set. Some jaw dropping improvisation in here folks…

The guys and girls at Rhino Records and the Grateful Dead Office did a spectacular job on this one. I just hope they let my pocketbook recover before announcing another project like this one in the future. I can only dream about a similar set of the Rolling Stones North American Tour of 1972, Miles Davis Tour 1971, all the Doors shows that were recorded for Absolutely Alive, Bob Dylan at the Supper Club…

So I will take my time working my way through the tour. Reading the essays as I go deeper in the set, reading the book and just letting the music wash over me.

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