Showing posts from June, 2017

In Praise of "Shooting Star"

"Shooting Star", the last track off Bob Dylan's brilliant album Oh Mercy, is one of the finest, most beautiful songs the he has ever wrote. It's a simply delivered tune, never losing it's fluidity. Bob, here, is full of reflective emotion, directness, and contemplation. Not a word is wasted. It feels like the song could cut through the haze of a smoky bar, right through the confusion and straight to the heart of the matter. It is, in equal parts, a last dance with a lover and a profound moment of graceful clarity. In it you will find no malice, just a clear heart and a few genius turns of phrase ("seen a shooting star tonight/ and I thought of you", and "seen a shooting star tonight/ and I thought of me").

The shooting star-a moment of natural wonder- is the impetus here for thoughts about past loves, oneself, and the world at large. Here, Bob documents a moment of time and space, nature, love, and personal confession. After all, he said hims…

The Zollo Interview: Bob On Infidels

Read below for the transcript on an excellent interview with Bob Dylan:

ST: Would it be okay with you if I mentioned some lines from your songs out of context to see what response you might have to them?
Dylan: Sure. You can name anything you want to name, man.
ST: "I stand here looking at your yellow railroad/in the ruins of your balcony... [from "Absolutely Sweet Marie"]
Dylan: [Pause] Okay. That's an old song. No, let's say not even old. How old? Too old. It's matured well. It's like wine. Now, you know, look, that's as complete as you can be. Every single letter in that line. It's all true. On a literal and on an escapist level.
ST: And is it truth that adds so much resonance to it?
Dylan: Oh yeah, exactly. See, you can pull it apart and it's like, "Yellow railroad?" Well, yeah. Yeah, yeah. All of it.
ST: "I was lying down in the reeds without any oxygen/I saw you in the wilderness among the men/I saw you drift into infinity and c…

"Three Angels" and Theme Time Radio Hour

At the beginning on each episode of Bob Dylan's Theme Time Radio Hour, listeners are greeted by a sultry voice, laying out a scenario as if describing the opening scene to a movie. There's no evidence to suggest it, but it seems abundantly clear to me that Bob wrote these short "scenes" that help set up each episode (each installment worked around a theme, and played music related to it). Here are some examples of the shows opening sketches:

It’s nighttime in the big city Fog horns bellow in the gloom along the wharf A spinster finishes a jigsaw puzzle
It's night time in the big city Rain is falling, fog rolls in from the waterfront A night shift nurse smokes the last cigarette in a pack
It's night time in the Big City a woman in a red gown throws out her cell phone a man sleeps with a gun under his pillow
It's night time in the Big City a girl goes through the medicine cabinet of the man who brought her home a ringing phone goes unanswered
It’s night time in the big …

Hopin' For Low Humidity: Summer Playlist Part 1

A summer playlist, for crusin' down the road for a country mile or two, hopefully under the enjoyment of a summer sun and low dew points.

1. "We Take Care of Our Own": Bruce Springsteen
We kick things off with some fireworks. This tune might be the most inspiring patriotic anthem you've ever heard concerning expanding the social safety net. The heart behind the social contract theory lies here, underneath the shining sun of Bruce's big, fists-in-the-air sound.

2. "I'm Working on a Building": Bill Monroe
We move from an anthem calling for a 21st century New Deal to a call for a more intimate spiritual quest. Quit your low-down gamblin' ways and listen up to this fine bluegrass tune from legend Billy Monroe:

3. "The Passion": Ms. Lauryn Hill
Sticking with a spiritual theme. . . let the off beat drums find their rhythm and incessant moral questioning mixed with existential wonderin' find their way home and into your heart with this tune …

Tales of the Heartwarming Darkness: James McMurtry

James McMurtry, who's name I keep wanting to spell minus the "r" at the end, has written some damn good songs. He's the son of a southern pop-novelist and english professor who delivers his tightly worded short stories with incredible authenticity and grace. For years, McMurtry's been cruising around the edges of the Americana/folk music scene, playing extensive dates in his home state of Texas and points north and west, (Montana, Oklahoma, rodeos, county fairs) and quietly earning his place as one of the best songwriters you've never heard of.

McMurtry has an odd way of playing the guitar-he often plays a 12 string- somehow drawing out more emotion and mood out of simple chords than most. His voice is not dynamic-he's not quiet one song, desperate in another, and mournful in the next. Rather, he demonstrates a vocal consistency throughout his entire catalogue, and for good reason: it's downright honest, direct, and well-meaning.

Even in his darker sh…

Review: Bob Dylan at the Oakdale Theatre

It's hard to know what to say about a Bob Dylan show. Although he has a reputation to be a sporadic performer, every show I've seen of his has been at least good, with the best being his 2010 Charlottesville, VA gig (in which he threw his harmonica into the seats at the end).

Dylan preformed at the Oakdale Theater-a venue that leaves much to be desired. The Oakdale's feel and structure seemed to be more suited for a corporate retreat, TED talk, or as a friend remarked, Sesame Street Live. Despite the Oakdale's placidity, Bob rode the strength of his band to deliver a solid set to the Father's Day crowd.  
The Show:
Following a brief acoustic "introduction in the dark", the lights went up and the band broke into "Things Have Changed". What a perfect opening song, honestly, and seeing Bob on stage banging on the piano in his suit, white boots, and bolo was hard to wipe the smile off my face. He preformed a fantastic, bluegrass soaked versi…

Stanley Donwood: Artwork, Radiohead, and Seeing the Real Picture

Artist Stanley Donwood has been working with the alt/rock band Radiohead for quite some time. Donwood has enjoyed a fruitful relationship with critically acclaimed Radiohead, and has constructed artwork for the band since 1994.His contribution to Radiohead's artistic identity should not be overlooked.

Kin to Radiohead's music, Donwood's artwork explores contemporary, western life through the lens of a worried outsider, utterly disillusioned by the triumph of post cold war capitalism. Some of his best work, you ask?

More History: Bob Dylan in Connecticut

When Bob Dylan makes his way to the Oakdale Theatre in Connecticut June the 19th, it won't mark the first time Bob has graced the state with his presence (for more on Bob and Wallingford, CT, see here).

Here is a quick review of Bob's memorable performances in the Nutmeg State:

May 6, 1961: Montowese Hotel Branford, CT
Bob Made first made the trip up from NYC in 1961 to play at the Indian Neck Folk Festival, held at a shore front hotel. There, he covered three Woody Guthrie songs.

March 6, 1965: New Haven Arena New Haven, CT
Bob took his mid 60s tour on the road to New Haven just days 
before the release of Bringing It All Back Home. This show featured Bob performing with Joan Baez.

November 11, 1975, Rolling Thunder Tour, Palace Theater, Waterbury, CT 
Bob preformed a great set, as Waterbury caught him right in the prime of his Rolling Thunder tour. 

November 13, 1975, Rolling Thunder Tour, New Haven Coliseum, New Haven, CT

Two days after his Waterbury show, Bob played both an afterno…

Bob Dylan's Thoughts on Coffee

"You know, at one time coffee was believed to be the drink of the devil. When Pope Vincent III heard about this, he decided to taste the drink before banning it. In fact, he enjoyed coffee so much he wound up baptizing it, stating, 'Coffee is so delicious it would be a pity to let the infidels have exclusive use of it'. I also feel that way about coffee".
-Bob Dylan

"One more cup of coffee before I go/ to the valley below"
-From the song One More Cup of Coffee

"He was wearing blue jeans and a white tank-top T-shirt, and drinking coffee out of a glass. 'It tastes better out of a glass,' he said grinning".
-1991 Interview with Paul Zollo

Enjoy your coffee today!

Office Space: Breaking Down "The National"

How to describe perhaps Americas finest modern rock band? Simply put, the National mesh, they construct and tear down, and they play rock n' roll unlike anyone else. At the core of all their songs lies a detectable heart buried underneath a sea of concrete. 

The National are city boys, their influences cosmopolitan, and they often teeter at the edge of wiseassdom only to be saved by their art. After a typical National song has reached it's conclusion, we've read a tightly constructed essay of postmodern discontent, meticulously built with plenty of poetry and no wasted words.

Although the band is led by lead singer Matt Berninger, the National does not serve as a vehicle for any sort of overwhelming personality. As a unit, the National almost always have something to say that seems to stretch beyond just one personality, suggesting that a collective approach is favored by the band. 

In many ways, they are the opposite of the Drive By Truckers, and not only in the sense that t…

Weekend Poem: "Auguries of Innocence" by William Blake

Auguries of Innocence
Related Poem Content Details BY WILLIAM BLAKE

To see a World in a Grain of Sand  And a Heaven in a Wild Flower  Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand  And Eternity in an hour A Robin Red breast in a Cage  Puts all Heaven in a Rage  A Dove house filld with Doves & Pigeons  Shudders Hell thr' all its regions  A dog starvd at his Masters Gate  Predicts the ruin of the State  A Horse misusd upon the Road  Calls to Heaven for Human blood  Each outcry of the hunted Hare  A fibre from the Brain does tear  A Skylark wounded in the wing  A Cherubim does cease to sing  The Game Cock clipd & armd for fight  Does the Rising Sun affright  Every Wolfs & Lions howl  Raises from Hell a Human Soul  The wild deer, wandring here & there  Keeps the Human Soul from Care  The Lamb misusd breeds Public Strife  And yet forgives the Butchers knife  The Bat that flits at close of Eve  Has left the Brain that wont Believe The Owl that calls upon the Night  Speaks the Un…