You are currently browsing the archive for the Uncategorized category.

Thanks to The Modesto Kid for letting me know that somebody was posting about pet seat covers on the blog.

(Lesson #1, I should put my own blog in my RSS feed. I get e-mails when people comment but not, apparently, for new posts.)

It appears that somehow the WordPress setting was changed so that new users were defaulting to administrators. So the spam-bots created user accounts and then had full access to the site.

They didn’t change my password, thankfully, so I deleted the new accounts (along with the posts) and changed the setting so that new users won’t be admins.

If anybody knows if there is something more that I should do, let me know in comments, but it looks like it’s relatively easy to clean-up. I’m just not sure what the hack was to update the WordPress setting, so I don’t know where the security hole is.

This summer has been notable for its sustained levels of business. Blogging has suffered, as a result. But, hopefully, next week I’ll pick up “Living Room Songs” where I left off.

I’ve had a bunch of things that I’ve wanted to write about recently, including some new music that I’m quite pleased with, but one that I want to cover before it gets too stale is a surprisingly interesting documentary that I watched a little over a week ago.

I got the Classic Albums documentary of Aja from the library with low expectations — it looked like the music documentary equivalent of DVD extras, but it turned out to be very well done, and helped to get me thinking about Steely Dan again.

Steely Dan is one of the bands for which I have a hard time getting much perspective. I got into them relatively early in the development of my musical tastes (which, in this case, was just after college), got the box set with all of their albums, went through a period of listening to them over and over again, and then tailed off the the point that these days I don’t listen to them all that often.

All of that makes it a little bit difficult to know what to say about them. Their strengths and weaknesses are obvious, their songwriting is amazing, I love their sound, and they don’t sound like anybody else but, on the other hand, they don’t particularly rock, they aren’t intimate (exactly) and, while they experiment with a variety of musical styles, all of their stuff sounds sort of the same. But, beyond that, for me there is a part of me that loves them in a completely unreserved way, and another part that feels like they’re part of a specific period in my past.

Watching the documentary gave me a chance to step back and have a way to approach them that was somewhat fresh, and ultimately it made me appreciate their strengths even more than I had, and feel like some of their weaknesses are quite forgivable.
Read the rest of this entry »

A quick post before heading off to Thanksgiving dinner:

Rs sent me a copy of the live version of Rondinelli’s Castle that he mentioned in comments on the last post. It’s a nice version, it feels more emotionally direct than the album version.

Listening to it this time I was struck by the line in the opening verse, “He was looking for the new world; well we all were in those days.” It struck me that, in that way, the song is related to The Ballad of Elizabeth Dark by Michael Smith — both are songs written by older musicians who have written and performed for a long time, looking back at their youth in the 50s, and reflecting the fact that, whatever one’s sense of possibilities looking at the world as a younger person it is inevitable that the world will change in ways that are far larger and less predictable than you can think.

A while ago at unfogged someone brought up the idea of “gateway songs” — songs that are different than the majority of an artists work in ways that make them easier to get into, but that prepare you to appreciate the virtues of that musician. For me “The Ballad of Elizabeth Dark” was a gateway song for Michael Smith who is now one of my favorite songwriters. There’s something about his performance style that is both seemingly casual and simultaneously very mannered which can take getting used to. “The Ballad of Elizabeth Dark” is one of his songs that feels immediately personal, and it grabbed me immediately.

From the same Willie Nelson album, because I can’t resist, an astonishing version of “Outskirts Of Town

In the liner notes for the album, Willie Nelson describes as being recorded relatively quickly, and without any particular sense of who the audience would — just because it was a fun project. I seems like that circumstance allowed for a certain freedom, and this song is the most extreme example of that.

It isn’t a style that would normally be to my taste. It’s relatively sparse almost completely instrumental and not particularly technical, flashy, or pretty. His note for the song is, “Outskirts of Town takes us into the part of our life where some days the blues may be the only friend you have.”

But I find it extremely compelling. The playing is astonishingly expressive and his musicianship is extraordinary. Compared to any other Willie Nelson I’ve heard the performance feels like someone who is extremely comfortably playing music letting go of a lot habits and just playing. As I listen to it, everything in the performance feels like it is an embodiment of an emotional impulse, rather than a musical form. There is form to it, and it’s bluesy in a recognizable way, but it still seems unusually direct in the expressiveness of the music.

New Link

The discussion in the previous post reminded me to add a sidebar link to the Mudcat Cafe — the best online resource I have found for traditional music. It include an extensive database of lyrics, and active forums for people who perform, listen to, and enjoy traditional music. Well worth poking around.

If you haven’t read RS’s comment in the previous thread, he has a couple of great quotations reflecting different perspectives on “folk music.” Thinking about them made me realize that I feel like I have a hole in my vocabulary when thinking about “folk music.” Within the realm of what is commonly called “folk music” there are two categories that I feel are reasonably distinct. “Traditional music” refers specifically to songs that have been passed down as part of a musical tradition, and that have no recognized author. “Singer/songwriter” refers to a style of music that grew out of the folk revival, of people writing and performing their own songs, frequently with minimal arangement. Both of those can get fuzzy at the edges, but both of those terms have meaning for.

What I don’t have is a word for the area in between those two — of contemporary music written in an explicitly folk style. For example, there are a number of Ewan McColl songs that are frequently listed as (trad) e.g., “Shoals of Herring” Or, to pick a less clear cut example, I would say Woodie Guthrie and Joni Mitchell are clearly working in different styles. I feel like “singer/songwriter” describes Joni Mitchell well, but, even though Woody Guthrie was a singer/songwriter, I would like another term to describe his style of music.

I do like one definition proposed here

If I sing something not the way you’re used to hearing it, and you think I’ve got the tune or the words wrong, then it isn’t folk. On the other hand, if you think I’m singing a variant–then it’s folk. — Charlie Baum

On another note, there’s a very interesting discussion of lyric writing in hip-hop here. Well worth reading.

Following up on my earlier post about the process of getting used to a new song, I have an example.

I know that I like Fiona Apple’s Parting Gift, but I’m not sure I can articulate exactly why I like it.

To start I would say that I think the song is above average, but not great, but her performance is very good. The song didn’t catch my attention the first time I heard it because, while the chorus is memorable, the verses ran together for me. But as I’ve listened to it, I appreciate that her performance clearly has a sense of the song as a complete whole. I like the song better when I’ve heard a couple times, and can listen from the beginning knowing where the song is going.

I don’t know if I can give more specifics than that.
Read the rest of this entry »

It’s interesting to speculate, when listening to a performance that clearly taps into genuine emotion, what motivates the singer.

I was listening last night to two versions of “The Ballad of Ira Hayes” — Peter La Farge’s original and a late Townes Van Zandt cover (released in 1997, after his death). Both are great, and break my heart, and are very different from each other.

Listen to the La Farge version first. It sounds to me like he knows he he has a good story* to work with, and he’s just going to tell it pretty much straight. He isn’t a songwriting genius, but it feels like the song stirs him ambitions. He feels that if he can tell the story as well as he can, and communicate that to other people, that it could make a difference in the world.
Read the rest of this entry »

For anyone new to the blog, interested in recommending the blog to a friend, or who just want to be reminded of the various music that has been posted, I just updated the music page and uploaded a zip file that contains all of the music to date.

Between them, you could listen to randomly selected songs and then use the music page to look up the post that referenced a chosen song. I think of it as a good introduction, and if you’ve missed anything here’s your chance to go back and catch up.

The music page is organized alphabetically by artist, the zip file contains no organization at all.

More music later today.

Update: It appears the zip file is corrupted. I am in the process of replacing it.


I don’t have much to say, except to recommend Lost In Arizona.

The song is by Stacy Phillips and Paul Howard on dobro and guitar respectively. Both are great players (Stacy Phillips, in particular, is a bit of Dobro legend, or so I have heard), and they clearly enjoy playing together.

« Older entries

Bad Behavior has blocked 148 access attempts in the last 7 days.