I’ve been trying to drown out the Trump* in my life, but it’s not easy. Especially with my addiction to “the news.”
(I do LOVE the sound of indictments!)
But occasionally I must turn off MSNBC/CNN/FauxNews/Thom Hartmann/Sirius POTUS/etc. and find better sounds.
Here’s what I’ve been listening to lately:
NOT DARK YET by Shelby Lynne and Allison Moorer
I’m currently obsessed with NOT DARK YET, the title song of sisters Shelby Lynne and Allison Moorer’s new album. It’s a Bob Dylan cover, from his 1997 TIME OUT OF MIND album. Until now, I never realized what a great song it is. (Bob’s singing didn’t exactly bring out the melody. He can no longer really do justice to his own songs.)
But the version by Shelby and Allison is simply haunting. And the song is as good as any Dylan ever wrote:
“Shadows are fallin' and I've been here all day
It's too hot to sleep and time is runnin' away
Feel like my soul has turned into steel
I've still got the scars that the sun didn't heal
There's not even room enough to be anywhere
It's not dark yet but it's gettin' there.
Well, my sense of humanity has gone down the drain
Behind every beautiful thing there's been some kind of pain
She wrote me a letter and she wrote it so kind
She put down in writin' what was in her mind
I just don't see why I should even care
It's not dark yet but it's gettin' there.
Well, I've been to London and I been to gay Paris
I've followed the river and I got to the sea
I've been down on the bottom of the world full of lies
I ain't lookin' for nothin' in anyone's eyes
Sometimes my burden is more than I can bear
It's not dark yet but it's gettin' there.
I was born here and I'll die here against my will
I know it looks like I'm movin' but I'm standin' still
Every nerve in my body is so naked and numb
I can't even remember what it was I came here to get away from
Don't even hear the murmur of a prayer
It's not dark yet but it's gettin' there.”
The TG and I had tickets to see Shelby and Allison at the Largo at the Coronet, an interesting performance space in Hollywood. (It’s where Bertholt Brecht’s English version of his LIFE OF GALILEO was premiered in 1947, with Charles Laughton in the title role.) But the she was under the weather, and there was a Dodger game on TV, so I gave the tickets to my daughter The Flower, who very much liked the show.
(The rest of the NOT DARK ALBUM album is very good, too: a moody mix of country, rock, pop, and “Americana” covers: Townes van Zandt, Merle Haggard, Nirvana, Jason Isbell, etc. With a tasteful back-up band including Benmont Tench and Doug Pettibone.
And Shelby and Allison sounding like “the Everly Sisters.”)
The studio version of NOT DARK YET – the one I can’t stop listening to
Shelby and Allison – NOT DARK YET – live from the Country Hall of Fame, 9/15/17 – pure magic
Shelby Lynne and Allison Moorer – NOT DARK YET (Live from Electric Lady Studios)
His Bobness singing NOT DARK YET (live, from 1999)
and for old times’ sake, young Shelby’s knockout HOLD ME, THRILL ME, KISS ME
Shelby Lynne – GOTTA GET BACK – from 2008
Shelby Lynne – YOU DON’T HAVE TO SAY YOU LOVE ME – live from 2008 – from her Dusty Springfield tribute period
Young Shelby singing WHEN SOMETHING IS WRONG WITH MY BABY (live)
Young Shelby singing NIGHT LIFE (live)
LAMPEDUSA CONCERT FOR REFUGEES at the Wiltern
The TG and I went to the Lampedusa Concert for Refugees at the Wiltern here in LA. This was the SoCal stop on this short but sweet tour by some major musical talents on behalf of the Jesuit Refugee Service/USA. This organization seeks to help the 65 million refugees at risk in today’s extremely unstable world. There are more refugees on the move in the world than at any time since World War II.
This year’s eight-stop tour featured some of my favorite artists. At the Wiltern, we got Steve Earle, Lucinda Williams, Patty Griffin, Brandi Carlile, Alynda Segarra (of Hurray for the Riff Raff), the Mastersons (a talented couple who often work with Steve Earle), David Pulkingham (Alejandro Escovedo’s longtime guitar whiz) … and luminous 76-year-old Joan Baez.
The concert was an old-fashioned “guitar pull” with the singers going around a couple times, offering their best or most appropriate songs. The first thing Lucinda asked Steve Earle was “Which way are we going?”
I’ve seen Steve Earle and Lucinda Williams before, so I was curious to hear Brandi Carlile and especially Alynda Segarra. I’ve been hearing the music of Segarra’s one-person “group” -- Hurray for the Riff Raff – for a while now on Sirius radio, so I was eager to hear her in person. I was not disappointed.
The emotional highlight of the concert was Joan Baez singing Woody Guthrie’s “Deportee,” which united several generations of activists and their supporters in a single song.
Joan Baez singing “Deportee” at her Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction in 2017 (Joan was in better voice at the Wiltern.)
Joan sings Dylan’s FAREWELL ANGELINA (live, 1969)
Woody Guthrie – the original “Deportee”
The Byrds – “Deportee”
Hurray for the Riff Raff – “Blue Ridge Mountain” – live on American Songwriter
Hurray for the Riff Raff – “Look Out Mama” – live on the Waverly Sessions, from 2012
Hurray for the Riff Raff – “Jealous Guy” – her lovely John Lennon cover
Hurray for the Riff Raff – “My Morphine” – her lovely Gillian Welch cover
Brandi Carlile – “Raise Hell” – from “The Late Late Show” in 2012
Brandi Carlile – “The Story” – live, on Jools Holland’s show
The website for the Concert for Refugees – the tour is over, but you can still donate to a good cause
ALISON KRAUSS AND DAVID GRAY AT THE GREEK THEATRE
I had very high expectations for this concert. Alison Krauss is one of our “default” singers, always playing in our house. We’ve seen her several times (with Union Station as well as the “Raising Sand” tour with Robert Plant), but this was her first “solo”—no Union Station-- tour in a long, long time.
Not that she was on stage alone: in her traveling band were two members of Union Station (Barry Bales and Ron Block, who have played alongside Alison for twenty-eight and twenty-six years respectively), longtime collaborators Sidney and Suzanne Cox of the Cox Family (Alison produced and sang on their all-gospel album I KNOW WHO HOLDS TOMORROW), as well as one of today’s best keyboard players Matt Rollings (from Lyle Lovett’s Large Band), whom we’d seen in two all-star bands: the “Raising Sand” band and the band who backed the Mark Knopfler-Emmylou Harris “All The Roadrunning” tour.
Alison’s just released her fine WINDY CITY album, her first solo effort in almost twenty years, with some lovely covers of classic country songs: some famous, some obscure. And her opening act was David Gray – an interesting choice: an indication that the show might lean insome unusual directions, more to pop and less to bluegrass.
I was ready for something really special, and I got something very good. Alison’s set was impeccable sung and played. She sang with the clarity and accuracy of a great opera singer. (In opera, missed notes are heavily frowned upon. People are booed for bad notes in opera.) She didn’t hit one bad note all night, and she sang full out. She sang many of our favorite songs, one after the other. The only ones I really missed were “Away Down the River” and “You Don’t Know Me,” which is on the new album and I thought was a sure-bet for the setlist.
Unfortunately, the end of the set was loaded with gospel songs from I KNOW WHO HOLDS TOMORROW, which the players seemed to enjoy singing but I could have done without. (There was altogether too much Suzanne Cox.) I was hoping for a few out-of-left-field choices like Alison’s covers of Blind Faith or Jimmie Rodgers or even some disco. Situated in Griffith Park, right in the midst of lovely Los Feliz, the Greek Theatre has a strict curfew and shows never go on very long. Time is precious at the end of sets.
As much as I enjoyed the show, something was missing. There was something remote, almost robotic about Alison’s performance. There was less of the usual banter from her. Maybe she’s more relaxed, playing with Union Station. But it’s as if there were an invisible wall between Alison and the audience. She gave us perfect singing, and that was enough.
(I don’t require that artists talk to their audiences: Van Morrison seldom says more than two sentences all night. But he puts his inner soul into the music. I didn’t feel that from Alison. David Gray sang harder.)
Is it churlish of me to be disappointed that there wasn’t something more than excellent singing and playing? I guess I was a victim of high expectations.
Alison Krauss – CAN’T FIND MY WAY HOME
Alison sings ANY OLD TIME and OH ATLANTA – live, with Union Station – so fine
Alison with the Jerry Douglas Band – DON’T LEAVE ME THIS WAY (Thelma Houston’s disco classic at the 2016 Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in SF)
ALISON AND UNION STATION – NO MORE LONELY NIGHTS (live) –Better than McCartney’s original
ALISON – TILL I GAIN CONTROL AGAIN (from the Emmylou Harris tribute concert in DC)
ALISON & UNION STATION – SHE’S GOT YOU (live from Carnegie Hall -- almost as good as Patsy’s original)
and the one that got away
Alison sings YOU DON’T KNOW ME
As a late birthday present from the TG, she took me to a “sound bath” by a local practitioner. I’d never done a full sound bath, but our yoga teacher does a few minutes of “sound bathing” using a traditional Tibetan bowl at the end of our classes, which I love. So I was pretty sure that I’d enjoy a full hour from a full-time sound bath practitioner.
I was right. For pure out-of-body relaxation and a plain, old-fashioned, good time for all your senses – not just “hearing” – a sound bath is highly recommended. Sound comes in layers.
You could say that sound baths are “so California.” Then why did they start in Tibet?
Sound bath from Tibetan bowls
A three-minute sound bath session with Tibetan bowls
Lots of opera, all the time, especially when I’m writing. COSI FAN TUTTE for happier scenes, DON GIOVANNI for the more dramatic ones.
And now the Metropolitan Opera season is on, so I’ve been listening to some live performances on Sirius radio:
NORMA, the Met season premiere, with Sondra Radvanofsky, Joyce DiDonato, and Joseph Calleja, three singers I’m lucky to have seen before. In fact, we saw Calleja’s Pollione at the Royal Opera House last year. (Sondra R. wasn’t in her very best voice, Joyce D. isn’t right for the role, Calleja sounded more pinched than usual, but I love this opera: especially listening to -- and not seeing – it. Vicenzo Bellini died at 34: what masterpieces were the world denied?)
Maria Callas sings “Casta Diva” – live in concert, from 1958 – As good as it gets.
Callas sings “Mira, o Norma” with Ebe Stignani – from 1955 – This is nice, too.
TALES OF HOFFMANN with Vittorio Grigolo, whom we saw in this role at the LA Opera. Grigolo’s Hoffmann is “in the pocket.”
THE EXTERMINATING ANGEL, the US premiere of Thomas Ades’ opera based on the Bunuel film. I tried for a while: not my cup o’ tea.
At a Japanese festival at our nearby Descanso Gardens, there was a performance by a group of taiko drummers. I got tickets, thinking that my grandson Calder would love it. He’s almost three and likes drums. I thought it was a no-brainer.
But Calder was not interested. Several times during the first, furious number, he said, “I want to do something else.” No tantrum: he just wasn’t interested. So we moved on to his favorite Descanso activities: watching the koi, watching the railroad go around, looking at flowers, smelling things.
Me? I liked the taiko drummers. (What a workout for the upper body!)
More taiko drummers
Raging Asian Women Taiko Drummers
And The Beatles Channel on Sirius Radio!!!
*And it’s not just Trump: the entire GOP is a swamp of bad ideas and actions.