Musings @musicandmeaning.com

Oh, the truth will form and fall apart again.
"He had a theory that musicians are incredibly complex, and know far less than other artists what they want and what they are; that they puzzle themselves as well as their friends; that their psychology is a modern development, and has not yet been understood." – E. M. Forster

Archive for the 'Music' category

Life-fuel.


Monday, 31 March 2003

WBE

Thankfully, I got to listen to quite a lot of KCRW’s Weekend Becomes Eclectic during the past two days. And yes, hearing it was a welcome relief from news and grim realities. I missed the program opening on Saturday, but on Sunday, when the second song started — "No More Running Away" by the Ben Taylor Band (from what I’ve heard, my favorite from the album) — there was no doubt that Anne Litt was at the helm. She’d played the track (and others from that CD) multiple times before, and hearing it was also like hearing a confirmation that she was there, spinning music. (In the past, there have been a few times when I’ve turned on the radio to WBE, heard a set of music, and thought, "This doesn’t sound like an ‘Anne Litt set’…" — and sure enough, when it was over, a substitute host ID’d the tunes! Litt’s true, eclectic, musical palate really gives the show her own unique and recognizable brand; and I admit: a couple of those times when someone subbed for her, I turned off the radio. It’s just not the same hearing WBE without Litt — sometimes a guest host’s musical direction simply doesn’t mesh with mine, and that’s no fault of anyone.)

What else brought a big smile to my face: hearing Stan Getz and João Gilberto from their classic album (one of my all-time favorites), back-to-back versions of Burt Bacharach‘s "I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself" (the White Stripes followed by Tommy Hunt), Goldfrapp‘s "Paper Bag" (I still am amazed that KCRW does not air an edited version of that song), new material by Daniel Lanois and the (now) good old KCRW favorites "Flowers in the Window" by Travis and "Walk On" from U2 (I remember Litt playing the latter two songs during the first weekend post-9/11).

Not to say that I didn’t enjoy the other tunes — those are just some that got my particular attention. I left out Beth Orton, Lucinda Williams, Badly Drawn Boy, Pete Yorn and many more. Unfortunately, I did miss maybe 30-40 collective minutes of the six hours of WBE (so if Litt played Richard Buckner, David Gray, Coldplay, Peggy Lee, Jack Teagarden, Oscar Peterson or anyone else I would really love to have heard, I missed that). But as always, hearing the show was an uplifting and calming experience. Thanks again Ms Litt and KCRW.


Saturday, 29 March 2003

A very welcome return

For the past week and a half — ever since President Bush gave the first order to attack Iraq — NPR stations and some television networks have been pre-empting their usual programming in favor of news. For nearly a full week, KCRW shelved many of its normally scheduled shows during the day to provide special coverage of the war. Today, the station returns to normal programming, with hourly news updates and reports of any breaking news.

Last weekend I found myself actually needing to hear some Weekend Becomes Eclectic music, but when I switched to 89.9 I realized that regular programming was still on hiatus. Understandably so, of course. I appreciated the decision, but a part of me still needed to hear the music, to get some reassurance and energy. It reminded me of when the last Bush-ordered war on Iraq began over ten years ago. During that time, my main hobby was in old-time radio, and I listened without fail to the Jack Benny Program every Saturday night on KNX. Well, the war happened and I found myself especially wanting to hear Jack Benny, but it and all the OTR had been nixed for news. IIRC, KNX didn’t reinstate its daily "Drama Hour" until weeks later.

Not being able to listen to WBE last weekend also got me thinking about how I felt when I listened to WBE on the first weekend post-Sept. 11, 2001. Selfish and unsympathetic as it may sound, I definitely missed hearing the show last Saturday and Sunday. But if you read that entry from 2001, maybe you’ll understand why.

I welcome back all of the shows, but am especially grateful for the return of WBE and its uncannily healing powers. I’m looking forward to hearing Anne Litt‘s playlists for today and tomorrow.

Quote for the time being:

But give me love over,
love over,
love over this…
and give me love over,
love over,
love over this…

— from Coldplay’s "Politik," A Rush of Blood to the Head (2002)


Wednesday, 5 March 2003

How about fringe benefits at the baby store

Congrats to new father Nic Harcourt on the birth of his twins Monday night. 🙂

I happened to be listening to KCRW when Morning Becomes Eclectic began at 9 yesterday morning, and was pleasantly surprised to hear Anne Litt‘s voice. She filled in for the understandably absent Harcourt and even played some Richard Buckner ("A Goodbye Rye" from his ’96 demo CD, which was recently released to the general public as a self-titled album — she played the song over the weekend as well). So Tuesday a.m. brought a sort of bonus three hours of Weekend Becomes Eclectic. 🙂

Nic Harcourt always asks his guests what they listened to when they were young; no doubt the Harcourt twins will have an awesome musical diet as they grow up…

Posted at 1:06 am | Filed under Music, Radio, NPR, etc. |  

Monday, 17 February 2003

Music to keep me sane and healthy II

On Sunday (I missed it Saturday), Anne Litt had a great show on Weekend Becomes Eclectic. Here’s an example of the artists she played…this is from an actual set, in order:

  • Miles Davis
  • Nat "King" Cole
  • Richard Buckner (she called him "the incomparable Richard Buckner")
  • Lizzie West

I mean well, yeah, what else can I say? I’ve said so much in past entries already…if I give any more praise it may sound exaggerated.

Speaking of KCRW, if you’re a listener and haven’t subscribed/renewed yet, don’t forget…

Two musical artists I haven’t mentioned yet: Joseph Arthur and Paula Morelenbaum & Ryuichi Sakamoto. Their latest albums sound like keepers.


Sunday, 26 January 2003

Music to help keep me sane and healthy

I haven’t updated my “What’s in my CD player” page in a while, but here are some artists who have helped keep me going these days. Some of whom should be no surprise. Links lead to artist sites (official or not).

Ryan Adams
Richard Buckner
Chopin
Coldplay
Frou Frou
David Gray
Hem
Iron & Wine
Ivy
Kings of Convenience
Diana Krall
Peggy Lee
Allison Moorer
Oscar Peterson
Six Parts Seven
Hawksley Workman

Thanks to the friends who gave me CDs as gifts, and as always, to Anne Litt who often plays a few of these and other musicians/bands I love (she even played some Chopin last weekend…okay it was filler music but still…).


Sunday, 15 December 2002

WBE: ¡Caramba!

     I just had to add this: I’m listening to Weekend Becomes Eclectic on KCRW…I heard the end of a song, then a faint "One! Two!" count and thought, "Hey, that sounds like Peggy Lee‘s ‘Caramba’ number." Then the flutes came in, and the percussion, and I just started laughing out loud as the track played and I heard Lee’s false start (and her great "I was speaking in Portuguese" joke). I’ve heard "Caramba! It’s the Samba!" many, many times in the past month or two, ever since I rediscovered the singer/songwriter and got hooked to her music. Anyway, why was I laughing? Well, once again, Anne Litt plays something and I can’t believe how apropos it is, and I have a hard time believing that she’s playing it in the first place. My usual reaction when this happens is saying "No way!" and shaking my head, but this time I just laughed and shook my head. It’s true, a huge box set of Peggy Lee’s "singles" just came out, and Litt was offering a track from it, but that specific number…on this day…coincidences abound.

     She’s playing David Gray now. I’ve said it many times: Litt’s show is always great. But the 4 to 5 o’clock hour of WBE never, ever lets me down, since she seems to mingle more old tunes in the hour, and she knows how to close a show. No doubt I will hear some more favorite music before 5 o’clock hits. If she plays Richard Buckner…I just won’t know what to say.

     Thanks again to KCRW and Anne Litt.


Sunday, 24 November 2002

The open road is closing in on me

I’ve been a fan of KCRW for years. Admittedly, I don’t listen 24/7, but I do tune in when possible. My favorite KCRW-produced show, if I had to choose, is Anne Litt’s “Weekend Becomes Eclectic” on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. But you knew that already.

I’ve heard promos for just about every show on the station. During WBE I’ve heard countless promos for Gary Calamar’s “The Open Road,” which airs from 8 to 11 p.m. Sundays. Confession: I have never listened to a full show, maybe not even 10 minutes. By 5 p.m. I’m usually away from the radio.

It’s not like I didn’t want to listen. But aside from schedules not meshing, there was another reason why I was, in fact, a bit scared to tune in to Mr Calamar.

I was afraid that I would fall in love with his show.

Don’t laugh, now. If you have any idea of how I feel about music — good music — then you may know what I’m talking about. That this fear was justified. Or, yeah, I could be crazy.

There’s truth in the adage that “ignorance is bliss,” that what I don’t know can’t hurt me. I’d gone without listening to his show for so long — hey, I got along fine without it. Now, if someone told me that I could never again listen to WBE, I’d be at a serious loss. The programming for that show is energizing, fun, and after listening to it I never think, “Gee, that was a waste of 3 hours of my listening time.” In fact, the opposite occurs. WBE (or should I give credit where credit is due, and say Ms Litt) never ceases to amaze me every time I tune in: her song choices, musical taste and diversity. Yeah, yeah, you’ve heard all this before on my Radio page. Okay, back to the main point.

Tonight, I happened to be at the computer working on something. I flipped on KCRW, and when Anne Litt signed off, I was still at the keyboard. “All Things Considered” and Steve Inskeep (affectionately known as Rat Boy) kept me informed for the next hour. Then it was two hours of Nic Harcourt’s “Sounds Eclectic” — and I was still at my desk. When 8 o’clock swung around, the first 20 minutes of music got to me.

“This is stuff I play all the time!” I thought, marvelling at Mr Calamar’s first set of the evening. My follow-up thought: “Great. I knew this would happen,” as I felt my heart latching on to the Open Road and not wanting to release it. My fear — as well as my hope — had become reality. But it’s not everyday that you find a musically kindred spirit.

Thanks a lot, Gary. Now I have to listen to your show, and if I don’t, I’ll feel bad about missing it. Please, don’t ever play classic (or not-so-classic) tunes from the ’20s through the ’40s, because then I’ll really become a hopeless fan, playing your archived shows back-to-back. And we wouldn’t want that to happen…


Thursday, 14 November 2002

The best things in life are free

    ‘A’-list music: David Gray‘s new album (A New Day at Midnight) sounds pretty good, from the few tracks I’ve heard. A bit more down-tempo than the last, but still very much DG. Also don’t forget Richard Buckner‘s new album (Impasse) and EP (Impasse-ette) are available now! Buckner is also touring as I type this, so be sure to catch him if you can.

     Lost & found, sorta: I’ve been listening to a lot of old songs as well recently, thanks to a few projects I’ve been working on. Aside from Buckner, my CD player right now has a CD of tunes from Peggy Lee early in her career. There are so many great non-standard standards out there — tunes you don’t hear very much these days. A songwriter whose work fits in this category (unfortunately) is one of my favorites, Ray Henderson. He wrote and/or co-wrote some great songs — some of my all-time faves — that may sound a little dated, but are still fun to listen to and sing: "If I Had a Talking Picture of You," "The Best Things in Life Are Free," "You’re the Cream in my Coffee" and "Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue." In any case, I’ve thought of reviving some tunes that I personally like but are hardly ever performed these days (except by traditionalist bands). Not just Ray Henderson songs, but there are so many others out there. I’d arrange them very simply — guitars, vocals, and maybe have a friend or two play along if they don’t mind — and not get worried if the arrangements are anachronistic for the songs.

     Just because: Last week’s Says You was one of the funniest ever. I’m not sure if it was a repeat, but it sounded pretty new. I kept cracking up, thanks mostly to Tony Kahn‘s "obsession" with Paula Lyons‘ poker tell and later her turning the table on him.

     On the TV front, I am really enjoying the first-season repeats of Gilmore Girls — I really think that it is the strongest season of the show to date. The writing was just fabulous — what more can I say? I hope this season picks up a little. Alias is consistently fun and still the king of cliffhanger series.

Posted at 12:00 am | Filed under Music, Radio, NPR, etc., Television |  

Sunday, 15 September 2002

New Buckner CDs; tough road for Dodgers

Last week I wrote about pitcher Kazuhisa Ishii suffering a concussion and skull fracture. It’s good to write that he’s been released from the hospital after surgery, and is doing well. He’s out for the rest of the season, obviously, but in one article I read yesterday, the Dodgers management, coaches and trainers are going to work with him before spring training and provide counseling. They’re even considering some sort of protective armor or shell that will fit underneath a cap. I know this is all preliminary, but I am so glad that these ideas are on the table.

Meanwhile, the Dodgers themselves are fading fast in the NL Wild Card and Division races. They need to command the series at home with the Giants. Their starting and middle-relief pitching hasn’t been as effective lately, save Odalis Perez and Hideo Nomo, and with the lack of run production (which has been the case all year), that’s not a good sign. The team just hasn’t been playing well the last few weeks, and meanwhile the Giants are winning most of their games. If the offense doesn’t put up big numbers every day, the outlook looks rather grim. I’m keeping my fingers crossed, though. They’ve come up with some clutch wins, and they need to be a clutch team now.

Buckner and more Buckner: Richard Buckner‘s new CDs are available now! Go get ’em. They’re called "Impasse-ette" (EP — some places may still have the older title "Born Into") and "Impasse" (full original album). Check out more details from Overcoat Records. "Impasse" is set for release in a few weeks officially, but you can get a copy (legitimately) from Village Records. And yeah, I don’t have either yet but I’m sure they’ll be sitting in my CD player soon.

And a note: I know 11 Sept. has come and gone, but I purposely avoided writing about it here on Wednesday. Just thinking of posting something about it here gave me flashbacks to that day a year ago, when I was so overwhelmed by confusion and shock and tried to write something coherent and cohesive here. All I’ll say now is that I hope people are doing better.


Friday, 6 September 2002

Here’s one for ‘The End of Free’ folks

Pollstar is going to start charging for its services. If Pollstar is unfamiliar to you, it’s a music site that provides industry news, but its name-brand feature is the notification system for artists and venues (you can just sign up to get an e-mail whenever your favorite artists or venues add new tour dates). It’s one of the most useful tools on the Web today, and it was all free. But soon they’re going to create a paid subscription level, and free accounts will have a 5 artist/venue limit on notifications. Well actually, that’s not too bad — at least they’re not nixing the whole free concept, and you can still look up (manually) the tour dates and concerts on the site at no charge. But being the music addict that I am, there are 30 people/places on my "notify" list, so I’ll need to figure out which 25 will be removed (you can bet that Richard Buckner or McCabe’s will not be one of them!).

Posted at 3:36 pm | Filed under Music |  

Tuesday, 25 June 2002

Those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer

Wow, already summer is upon us! Amazing.

Lately I’ve become more and more addicted to Says You!, the NPR panel-based wordplay quiz show. I thought I was keen on puns — boy was I ever wrong. Carolyn Faye Fox, you’ve won a place on my People List with your nabbing of the Most Punning Award. Not to just single her out, either. All of the panelists — even the pinch hitters — are, as Paula Lyons might say, "Excellent!"

BTW, if you’re a Says You! fan: I think I’ve come up with a pretty good way to tell who has the correct definition in the bluffing rounds. I figured it out a few days ago, so I’ll have to test my theory in the coming weeks. But it’s true… knowing who has the real definition does pretty much drain the fun out the mystery. In any case, I’m surprised that Richard and the panelists haven’t figured it out, either. Unless they have and they’re just not revealing their secret weapon… Maybe I could send the panelists some tips on how to be a better bluffer (and it’s true, Ms. Lyons really is called the Baddest Bluffer on the Block for some good reasons… one of those reasons would fit nicely into the alliteration).

Richard Buckner has three CDs in my player again. At least one of his CDs has been playing in there for over a year and a half straight now. Look for his new album, due out this fall. Coldplay has a new album released even sooner. Look for it later this summer.

Speaking of Richard Buckner, I specifically wanted to mention Eric Heywood. I admit I don’t know a lot of pedal steel players by name (maybe two?), nor have I heard many, but multi-instrumentalist Eric Heywood is undoubtedly up there with the most talented of them. If you haven’t heard his work (…you mean you haven’t run out and bought any Buckner or Son Volt CDs yet?), then please do yourself a favor and listen to him play sometime. Recently I tried Googling for him, but found no Heywood-based site. Anyone know of one?

Concert recommendations: Gillian Welch & David Rawlings play the John Anson Ford Amphitheatre in Los Angeles on 1 July (this Monday night). I won’t be attending, sadly, but it should be great. There’s no supporting act, so it’s all Gillian and David… they’ll perform two sets with an intermission in between.

Quote for the time being:

How could you be untrue to yourself
when nobody is watching?
Your life isn’t over —
the clock is still tocking.
One day you will wake up
and you’ll be able to forget the sadness,
get into the gladness of love;
and it’s waiting, you will not fight it.
While everyone dozes, you’re coming up roses.

— from Owsley’s "Coming Up Roses" on Owsley

Posted at 12:00 am | Filed under Music, Radio, NPR, etc. |