Rufus Wainwright’s “Little Sister”: An Unofficial Slideshow

Rufus Wainwright’s “Little Sister”: An Unofficial Slideshow

“Little Sister” is Rufus in high classical mode, with very symmetrical violin figures. This makes sense, as I am fairly sure that the song is–at least in part–about the relationship between Wolfgang Mozart and his sister, Marie (aka “Nannerl”). She was actually four and a half years older than he was, and he first became interested in music watching his father Leopold tutor her. She too was a musical prodigy (esp. on the harpsichord), and she too toured the courts of Europe with her father and brother. Occasionally, she even seems to have gotten top billing. Unfortunately, she got older, was forbidden by her father to marry the relatively impoverished man she loved, and forced to marry a rich old guy. She also wrote music, which her brother praised, although virtually none of it has survived. There’s even a French movie about her (which I haven’t seen yet). I bring this up, simply because some of the song’s lines actually make much better sense if you see them as being about Wolfgang and Nannerl.

Of course, it is also about Rufus and Martha (although I couldn’t find any pictures of them sitting at the piano together). I was particularly struck by the “have no shame” line, a line that Martha herself seems to be recalling when she describes her growing up (I imagine it was pretty hard to compete with Rufus for people’s attention). Anyway, I wanted to put this up in part to announce my new Unofficial: Martha Wainwright page

In any event, I hope people enjoy the slideshow, and I’m looking forward to seeing Rufus again at Belly Up in Solana Beach on May 24th (my first chance to see Rufus perform in a club!).

Angel City’s “Ivory Stairs”: An Unofficial Tribute to the new Legacy Museum

Angel City’s “Ivory Stairs”: An Unofficial Tribute to the new Legacy Museum

This slideshow is really the product of two different recent occurences. The first was the murder of  21 year-old Ebony Groves, 23 year-old Akilah DaSilva, 29 year-old Taurean C. Sanderlin, and 20 year-old Joe R. Perez. None of them were criminals. All were promising young people of potential, all killed by a relatively young white male with an AR-15. More probably would have been killed had not James Shaw Jr. acted heroically and grabbed the assault rife’s barrell with his hand and wrestled it away from the murderer. In mind, at any rate, it connected with other painful events, such as the shooting of 22 year-old Stephon Clark in Sacramento for holding a cell phone, or the killing of Walter Scott (which–highly unusually–resulted in a conviction for the officer involved). The other event that prompted me to make this slideshow was the opening of The Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration in Downtown Montgomery, Alabama, and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, also in Montgomery. While I can’t say I ever had any desire to visit Montgomery before, I sort of do now. For some reason, I respond even more deeply to works of art than pictures on the news (it was only after making this, in fact, that I finally donated to the fund James Shaw Jr. had set up for the victims of the Waffle House Tragedy (There’s a link in the post below this one, if you are interested). The music is from Australian hard rock band Angel City, a track from their minor classic 1980 album Dark Room. I realize that the song is almost certainly about the difficulties of making it as a rock band in the music business, but it fits the general theme of the cultural and institional difficulities darker skinned people often have achieving success in America.

“Up in NYC”: An Unofficial LW3 Slideshow about Charlie Poole

“Up in NYC”: An Unofficial LW3 Slideshow about Charlie Poole

This is the second slideshow I’ve done based on a song from High Wide and Handsome: The Charlie Poole Project (2nd Story Sound Records 2009). Where the first, Acres of Diamonds, was a song in Charlie’s vein (actually written by the album’s producer, Dick Connette), this is a song about an episode in Charlie’s life written by Loudon Wainwright III and Dick Connette. As far as it goes, it is pretty accurate.  Charlie’s band–Charlie, Posey Rorer, and Clarence Foust (aka The North Carolina Ramblers)–did go up to New York City from Passaic for an audition with Frank Walker of Columbia records, who was so impressed they cut four sides that very afternoon of Monday, July 27th, 1925. They were paid $25 a man ($75 total), with “Don’t Let Your Deal Go Down Blues,” selling 102.000 copies, a siginificant hit for the time. As the song details, Poole was reluctant to return and record more for a label that had paid less than a hundred dollars for recordings that had netted the Columbia more than $40,000 in sales. What the song does not say is that he and the Ramblers did return in 1926 with a better deal and recorded another eighteen tracks for Frank Walker.  The band broke up in an argument over royalties in 1928, but Charlie continued recording successful records with other musicians until the Depression hit, dying before his time at the end of a thirteen week bender in 1931.  {Virtually all of the information above is from the fascinating introductory booklet that comes with the 2 CD set}.

“Acres of Diamonds”: An Unofficial LW3 Slideshow

“Acres of Diamonds”: An Unofficial LW3 Slideshow

I am embarrassed to admit that I just listened to High Wide and Handsome; The Charlie Poole Project (2009) last week. I was really blown away by Loudon’s artistry, and I really ought to be used to it by now. The deep love of many kinds of folk music, the high spirits, and the dead on performances really did make it into a kind of career monument for Loudon (he won a Grammy for it as Best Traditional Folk album in 2009). I have to admit, I went on sort of a High Wide and Handsome binge and did three slideshows. This was the first one, “Acres of Diamonds,” which stood out both for its bluegrass bounce and infectious optimism. The phrase was made famous by motivational speaker Earl Nightingale as well as being the title of a much covered gospel song, but this tune was actually written Dick Connette, who produced the album. The guy with the banjo who is NOT Loudon is Charlie Poole, the high living but short lived country star and sometime bootlegger, Charlie Poole. The other one, is–of course–Loudon, who also appears looking mighty pleased in the last photo. The Bakersfield sign has nothing to do with the song, other than it vaguesly resembles the curve of a rainbow and is my hometown, and the attractive looking couple  who appear near the start of the final third are actually my parents, although I am not sure if the photo is from before or after they moved to Bakerfield. Anyway, I hope you enjoy this old timey style tune about good times in hard times.

Donovan’s “Epistle to Derroll”: An Unofficial Slideshow

Donovan’s “Epistle to Derroll”: An Unofficial Slideshow

Derroll Adams was a noted American banjo player, folksinger, and songwriter. When Donovan was in St. Albans in 1964, he would go down to London to see Derroll Adams or Bert Jansch performing in clubs around London. Derroll’s expatriate home base was in Antwerp, in Belgium. For Donovan, he was “a direct link to the American Folk– Revivial–he had known Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie.”  In Donovan’s autobiography, The Hurdy Gurdy Man, he goes opn to say,

I wanted to know Derroll, and when we met we liked each other fine. In fact we bacame friends. I learned so much from Derroll even though he played banjo and I guitar. I would sit cross-legged on hotel carpets or in the tiled bathrooms (for the echo) and watch the master. He played in a delicate ‘frailing’ fashion, brushing the strings very gently and singing soothingly in his low sonorous voice. He touched each string with such tenderness, then seemed to pause to marvel at the sound that his banjo produced. I fell into altered states, following the one note fading. I was being taught by a master, instructed with no instruction. Awakened to the knowledge with no awakening. Amazed by his own plucking of one string, he would stop, turn to me, and say, ‘Donny . . . will ya listen to that, isn’t it beautiful?’ And it was. (61)

Here is a brief clip (all I could find) of Donovan playing with the Master:

“Epistle to Derroll” is from Donovan’s A Gift from a Flower to a Garden album, where it is the final cut. A lovely song about “The Banjoman,” it is filled with oceanic and cosmic imagery, as we go from the world of the starfish, to the silica on the beach (from which mirrors can be made), to the stars in the heavens. The song becomes a very clever commentary on the responsibilities and vagueries of fame, while at the same time a deeply affectionate tribute to Derroll and the musical tradition, skill, and kind-graciousness he was so well known for. This is rather different that anything I’ve done before, but I’m rather pleased with it. I hope you are too.

Donovan’s “Turquoise”: An Unofficial Slideshow

Donovan’s “Turquoise”: An Unofficial Slideshow

This is Donovan in romantic folkie mode, with some nice Dylanesque harmonica, in a song from “Fairy Tale.” It’s a lovely love song with some faint echoes of “Catch the Wind.” With no real justification, I made the slideshow about two things: Donovan’s relationship and eventual marriage to Linda Lawrence, and the color of the title (always implied but never mentioned in the lyrics). I’m not totally sure what they have in common other than that they are both beautiful. But maybe that’s enough. Maybe that’s the point. Hope you like it:

Rufus Wainwright’s “Oh What a World”: An Unofficial Slideshow (I’m actually in this one)

Rufus Wainwright’s “Oh What a World”: An Unofficial Slideshow (I’m actually in this one)

Well, I’m back from my trip and–like many people–I came back with photos and videos. Faced with the dilemma of what to do with them and feeling the need to put together another Rufus slideshow, I decided to make a virtue of necessity and expose my talents as a photographer and filmmaker to the world. I’ve long been interested in doing one on “Oh What a World” from his Want One album. I actually conceived it as my second Rufus slideshow, after “Tiergarten” last summer. I think I originally thought of it as a New York song because of the repeated references to The New York Times. Made about six months later, this slideshow emphasizes the “world” in the title, although the visuals are almost all from the western hemisphere. Anyway, I now see it more as a song about aging, generational change, and the hectic pace and surreal nature of modern life. There is a faint ecological message, but it’s pretty muted and pretty easy to miss.

Just a warning, Rufus does appear in the slideshow, but almost entirely in the third and last section. When you get to the second section, after the train clip, DON”T PANIC–that odd bearded guy is actually me (I doubt Rufus will ever let himself go to that degree). The video clips of animals, Antartica, and Chile are all mine, as are the photographs of Argentina, Antartica, and Chile. There are also a couple of photographs of Havana, and of the Bridge to Nowhere in the Guthrie Theatre, as well as Symphony Hall in Minneapolis where I saw Rufus last December.The parents in the second section are mine, and the baby is actually my sister (on the grounds that most Caucasian babies more or less look like Winston Churchill). The transportation clips are mostly purchased from Videohive. I actually like it, with the song’s swaying rhythms rather nicely complementing the animal movements and even making my unsteady camerawork look like it might be deliberate. Hope you enjoy.

Donovan’s “The Music Maker” (An Unofficial Slideshow)

I thought I would start the new year off with this track, a mid-seventies celebration of the joys of live music in general, and music festivals in particular from his Cosmic Wheels album. This seems appropriate in that I am hoping to attend more live music next year, and possibly even perform it once or twice, in addition to singing in the local UU Fellowship choir. This isn’t as irrelevant as it might sound in that I have actually never seen Donovan in concert (I’ve really only gotten back into his music during the last sixth months), and I am planning a brief visit to northwest Germany with the express intention of going to see a couple of his “Song of the Sea” concerts he’ll be doing in the first half of March. With luck, I’ll actually get to meet him in Bochun on March 3rd (I’m hoping for a photo with him I can post on the lower left corner of my website–the big photo will stay the same). Then I’ll be meeting a Facebook friend (we’re both big Phil Ochs fans) for dinner and go together to his concert March 5th in Hamburg. It’s not an area I know well (I’ve been to Cologne and Frankfurt airport, but that’s about it). I am hoping to shoot a lot of photographs and bits of footage which I think I’ll probably be able to use for short films and slideshows. I also hope to film a couple of songs, if that is allowed (it seems to usually be OK in the States as long as you aren’t using a professional quality camera, but this is Germany, and I’m sure I’ll be on my best behavior, especially since I suspect the US’s reputation is not especially high right now). If I can and they turn out, I’ll post them here. I apologize for an introduction that is really about me than Donovan, but I think the song is a pretty self-explanatory celebration of live music.

Warren Zevon’s “Empty Handed Heart”: An Unofficial Slideshow

Warren Zevon’s “Empty Handed Heart”: An Unofficial Slideshow

While this is an odd way to begin a year, it feels appropriate for what could be described as a beginning. More a look back at the failures of the past than the successes of the future, “Empty Handed Heart” is a song from Warren Zwvon’s Bad Luck Streak in Dancing School album. A marvelously self-aware love song about those bad choices a lot of people make (sometimes even us). It seems to at least hold out the possibility of a second chance, even a happy ending, while acknowledging that those are pretty rare. As a few people will notice, I sort of made it with Warren’s and Crystal’s story in the back of my mind, which sort of allowed me to emphasize the happy ending aspect, albeit a somewhat qualified one. I still find it a remarkably moving song, partly because I suspect it’s right. I believe that is Linda Rondstadt singing second descant in the last part, sounding near the peak of her powers. Hope you like it.

Slideshows about Cats and Babies: Things to be thankful for (sort of)

Slideshows about Cats and Babies: Things to be thankful for (sort of)

This one is pretty self-explanatory (it originally appeared on my Unofficial Joe Walsh Cat Video page).  It’s just one of those costs that comes from being a cat guardian, and it still seems like we humans are getting the better deal. The song is from Joe Walsh’s Analog Man album. Hope you enjoy. (and make sure your kitties know you are thankful for them this week).

While on the subject of adorable creatures who sometimes drive us crazy, here’s a charming song by The Wainwright Sisters (Martha and Lucy Wainwright Roche) that appears on their Watching the Dark album (the song was originally composed by Rosalie Sorrels). “Baby Rocking Medley” (aka “Hostile Baby Rocking Medley” and “Hostile Baby Rocking Song) is great fun, but you probably shouldn’t take it too seriously. Let’s face it, the original lullaby has some rather dark undertones (what’s that baby doing up in the tree anyway?) Hope you enjoy it.