Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend the AcoustiGanza benefit concert for my friend Dennis. But, that doesn’t mean a slow song in a minor key won’t still cheer him up. ha ha. My first song to both write and record. This one’s for you Dennis!
If you don’t know Dennis, one of his favorite past times has been to go off roading at Palo Duro Canyon, TX with his Jeep.
– More Info –
Artist / Musician: Jodi Jenkins
Song: Out to Palo Duro
Album: Released as a single
As you know, BB King passed away this month. There are, I’m sure, numerous musical guitar tributes and memories being shared. I didn’t know BB King personally, of course, nor was I very familiar with his music. However, I am a big fan of powerful performances. And, one of the most powerful performances has to be BB King at Sing Sing Prison.
His band and rhythm section are on top of it. BB King really gives his all to the concert. It’s stunning how much emotion and soul go into each song. A stark contrast to today’s performers, who deliver hollow songs without, it seems, enough life experience backing their music to move anyone emotionally.
Years ago, on youtube, I discovered footage of his performance at Sing Sing Prison in 1973. That exact video is not on youtube anymore, unfortunately. A different clip of the concert is included below.
BB King – How Blue Can you Get, live at Sing Sing Prison in 1973.
Every now and then I have a bad day and start to get down about how things are hard. We all do. Lines are long at the store, working late, bills to pay, one-thing-after-another type of challenges.
Then, something comes along as a reminder of those in the past that faced incredible struggles. For some just staying alive each day was difficult, not to mention having food to eat or enough health to make a living.
I have written before about how music can be a release and reflection of what troubles us. Sometimes, singing has been the only thing a person has for comfort, literally – in prison, working in the fields, in protest, in the face of death, in any situation where the odds are stacked against you.
A great example of this is the subject of coal mining and the many songs around the life of a miner and family. Specifically miners at the Brookside Mine in Harlan County, Kentucky and events in June 1972, which is documented in the movie Harlan County USA. Here is a clip from the movie where Florence Reece, the daughter and wife of coal miners, sings “Which Side Are You On?”. Folklorist Alan Lomax, who collected it from her in 1937, claimed she wrote the song at age 12.
Most famously, Loretta Lynn effectively tells her experience and hardship through music in Coal Miner’s Daughter. Listening to Loretta’s song reminds me that my daily troubles are nothing. For instance, I don’t have bloody fingers from constantly doing the laundry by hand. And listening to Florence’s song reminds me to be thankful that I am living a better life because of those that came before and made a difference.
Recently while on a long drive I caught an interview with Bobby Osborne on SiriusXM Bluegrass Junction. It was amazing! I loved listening to Bobby’s stories and his music. Most interestingly, he spoke about being influenced by Ernest Tubb. In fact, Bobby set out to be a country singer. That’s one reason why his singing style is unique. (Bobby Osborne bio)
As they say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. But, it’s funny that in trying to sound like someone else, he ended up sounding like no one else. I think many other great musicians and singers started out trying to replicate a musical hero. That leads me to believe that one truly does need to master an art form first before having the ability to make it your own.
In visual art, students sometimes spend years copying the masters and trying to make a replica that is so perfect it is indistinguishable from the original. According to the Smithsonian magazine, Degas insisted “You have to copy and recopy the masters and it’s only after having proved oneself as a good copyist that you can reasonably try to do a still life of a radish.” This seems counter intuitive and I think many entrants into music wish to immediately be a master without taking even a single lesson. As evidenced by Bobby Osborne, it is a myth that “taking lessons will ruin originality”. He took lessons from Ernest Tubb even though it wasn’t in person.
Listen to Bobby pay homage to Ernest in Half a Mind. Boy this is good! Below that is Ernest’s version. (Oh how I love pedal steel, too!) Even though the influence is detectable, isn’t it amazing how different they both sound from each other?
What a surprise today to hear inspiring new music on the radio from a relatively new band that released a new album about three weeks ago. The band is Whitehorse, a duo. They have a song with an immediately catchy beat and bass line. Then, second to immediately, fantastic harmonies!
Gosh, I just hit play again to get that intro another time.
Now, it’s your turn. Don’t watch the video – just sit back, listen, and absorb “Baby What’s Wrong”.
The music seeps into you a bit, which is nice. I looked up the band to listen to other music by Whitehorse hoping it would be similar quality. To my surprise, it was. It seems there is a bit of rockabilly influence deep down, and possibly some Latin. Nice combination.
Though, I digress. Whitehorse has a playlist on YouTube where you can sample all their music. And, they are currently on tour. If they stop near me, I’ll definitely catch their show.
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Artist / Musician / Band: Whitehorse, Luke Doucet and Melissa McClelland
Song: Baby What’s Wrong
Album: Leave No Bridge Unburned, released by Six Shooter Records on 2/17/2015
Genre: acoustic/electric rock
Where to buy or purchase: Direct from their website
Of course the bass line in this song draws my attention.
The bass line is intoxicating. Plus, the crowd involvement brings you into the music right away. One of my first concerts was Fugazi in a warehouse with a stage, bar and cement floor. It was the first time I witnessed a mosh pit. And, participated in a mosh pit.
Many years after that Tom and Jerry Saturday morning, I was driving in the car when an interview with singer / vocalist Anita O’Day came on “Fresh Air”. I had never heard of Anita O’Day, but was immediately captivated by her sass and personality. She gave a challenging interview in “Anita O’Day: Revisiting a Classic Voice” and very much frustrated Terry Gross.
I laughed out loud several times, but it makes sense that a large talent would have a large personality that doesn’t exactly fit conventional conversation. You can probably quickly name at least five other music interviews that went awry at the journalist’s expense. James Brown comes to my mind right away.
The interview points out that Anita changed her last name to O’Day because, in pig Latin, O’Day means dough, and she hoped to make plenty of it. At least she had her priorities straight from the beginning. Ha!
Somewhere I read O’Day modeled her long, vocal solos after horn players. For instance, she would imitate a saxophone solo vocally. At the time, I imagine this was a radical idea. At the least, it was incredibly innovative and possibly came about as a result of necessity. She used what she had to entertain and, ultimately, to earn a living.
Evidently, O’Day had quite a few personal challenges along the way. Nonetheless, I have great respect for her music and accomplishments. Check out her Newport Jazz Festival performance and you will, too.
Anita O’Day – Sweet Georgia Brown, Tea for Two (Live @ Newport Jazz Festival 1958)
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Artist / Musician / Band: Anita O’Day (Anita Belle Colton)
Style / Music Genre: Jazz, Swing, Big Band, Bebop, Vocals, Improvisation
From: Chicago, Illinois
Japanese researchers published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology that listening to sad music might evoke positive emotions. Those of you that know me know I am always reading and quoting studies. There is a part of me that loves trying to understand human behavior. That said, I found these findings and additional thoughts expressed by musician Gillian Welch to be interesting and revealing.
Science Daily quotes the study as saying “Emotion experienced by music has no direct danger or harm unlike the emotion experienced in everyday life. Therefore, we can even enjoy unpleasant emotion such as sadness.” These results are in line with the tradition of tragedy in music. Actually, the tradition of tragedy in art and entertainment goes all the way back to Greek tragedy in the 5th century BC. So, perhaps a study was not really necessary to prove that humans enjoy experiencing sadness expressed outside of themselves.
Gillian Welch says “music used to be the be-all and end-all of entertainment and art, for the populace, back before TV and movies.” It’s easy to forget that entertainment by TV in the U.S. has only been around for about 85 years and movies about 100 years. That seems like a long time. However, recent findings indicate early modern humans could have spent their evenings sitting around the fire, playing bone flutes and singing songs 40,000 years ago!
She says, “These tragic songs serve several purposes. They let us know that these things happen to people – and if they haven’t happened to you, they could. And they tell you, you need to have compassion.”
Recently, I have been down with the flu. While lying in bed, I was thinking of this blog and that I should look up songs about and write about influenza. However, that thought was thoroughly depressing.
Instead, I stayed in bed and looked up the radio show American Routes. If you aren’t familiar with the radio program, “American Routes is a weekly two-hour public radio program produced in New Orleans, presenting a broad range of American music — blues and jazz, gospel and soul, old-time country and rockabilly, Cajun and zydeco, Tejano and Latin, roots rock and pop, avant-garde and classical.”
Because of the “All About That [Upright] Bass” cover by Kate Davis, I stumbled upon Scott Bradlee and Postmodern Jukebox. First, I can’t say enough great things about Kate’s singing and bass playing. She has incredible talent on the bass and excellent vocals. I am so jealous. Try watching the video only once. Thank you Alan for sharing it with me on Facebook.
Also, thank you to Roxane Assaf for writing the article “Kate Davis: All About That Bass but So Much More”. It was a pleasure to learn more about Kate and Scott Bradlee’s world of Postmodern Jukebox. Evidently, Scott Bradlee is the mastermind behind videos that match musicians and dancers to popular songs. I believe he also arranges the music. According to Scott’s website “He pursued Jazz Studies at the University of Hartford, then moved to New York to become a starving artist. He booked gigs, but as he puts it, “Jazz pianists are a dime a dozen in New York City.” So he moved to Astoria to save on rent and, in 2009, started making videos.”
Scott Bradlee has incredible vision and I admire how he makes things happen. His website says it best, “Discovering talent and knowing what to do with it is fundamental to the business of music.”