Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Driver's Seat - Peter Blegvad

Peter Blegvad is getting more recognition these days since his song "Daughter" was featured in the movie Knocked Up, in a cover version by Loudon Wainwright III. Like all the best artists, part of Blegvad's strength is his range. "Daughter" is an authentically sweet but never cloying expression of deep parental love. In contrast, "Driver's Seat" (from the same album as "Daughter," 1995's Just Woke Up) mines a dark but very funny vein.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

It's All Right - The Impressions

Generally I post music that is a little off the beaten track, but this is one that you'll hear in many different settings. Can't help it--I just love it too much.


People just want to create things, you know? And often in response to something that someone else has created. That's all.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Anton Webern

The second of the three pieces for cello and piano from 1914 by Anton Webern. Why? Why not?

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Friday, October 26, 2007

Mississippi John Hurt again

Since there was no post yesterday, there's two today. It's hard to have too much Mississippi John Hurt, so here's an audio-only addendum to the previous post.

Mississippi John Hurt

Another one of my favorite guitar players. The ability of one person to play guitar with such skill that the resulting sounds are as full as those produced by a good piano player is pretty much a lost art, at least compared to a hundred years ago. John Hurt, who may have been a teenager before he saw his first automobile, came from a time when more people knew how to do it. He demonstrates his ability nicely in this clip. Enjoy.

For more info, here are Mississippi John Hurt's All Music Guide and Wikipedia entries.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Randy Newman 'I Think It's Going To Rain Today'

When I hear people talk about Randy Newman as a comedian, I know it means they don't know anything about this song.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

A little Bach

J. S. Bach was a master of many forms of music, but his solo keyboard work seems to exist on a plane beyond the rest. Perhaps this is because the only limitations he had to work within for these pieces were his own keyboard technique (considerable) and imagination (apparently boundless). Here is the ending of the first of the six French Suites, as performed on harpsichord by Bradley Brookshire. Enjoy.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Don Santiago Jimenez - Viva Seguin

As it has been for the last forty-three years, I am on light posting. Here for your enjoyment is a song by a musician from my hometown, one of the first real stars of conjunto music. Don Santiago Jimenez was the father of Flaco Jimenez and Santiago Jr., and this recording was probably taken from an original 78 put out in the late forties or early fifties.

My mother was from Seguin, and I have a lot of relatives buried in cemeteries in that area, so this song has a personal resonance for me that, let's face it, it very likely won't for you. But cemeteries are the last thing you'll think of while listening to this--it's dance music. Enjoy.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Pergolesi - Stabat Mater (Dolorosa)

This version of Pergolesi's work is performed with only two voices, as opposed to the usual chorus and soloists. Pergolesi was the subject of a short story by the science fiction author Robert Silverberg. But then you knew that.

Lightnin' Hopkins- Baby Please Don't Go

Mr. Hopkins in his prime. East Texas to the bone.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Michael Clayton - more

Ken Levine has a nice post up on the new film Michael Clayton. I figured I could either leave a long comment there or post something here. This seems like the more appropriate venue for this many words.

Just to focus on the acting:

The look on Clooney's face while he's looking at the horses. (Plus this is a beautiful example of screenwriting without dialogue--if you've been paying attention, you have a very good idea of what's going through his character's mind, and why that look is on his face.)

Tom Wilkinson's timing and his vocal inflection as he says, "What are you?" to Clooney. (And another example of a screenplay as a structure, not just a bunch of good lines and scenes--it's a nothing line, but in context it means a lot. Interestingly, Ian Holm said basically the same thing in Big Night to Stanley Tucci, and to the same effect.)

Tilda Swinton rehearsing her speech, intercut with shots of her actually delivering those words in public. First fear and near-panic, then faux-warmth and sincerity. Wide emotional range, all believable.

Sidney Pollack looking so natural it doesn't look like he's acting. He is. Not much range compared to Swinton, but who cares? He fits the part perfectly.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Blessed Damozel

La lumière tressaillit de son côté, remplie
D'un fort vol d'anges horizontal.
Ses yeux prièrent, elle sourit;

Mais bientôt leur sentier
Devint vague dans les sphères distantes.
Une récitante
Alors, elle jeta ses bras le long
Des barrières d'or.
Et posant son visage entre ses mains,

The final lines from Gabriel Sarrazin's translation of "The Blessed Damozel" by Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Claude Debussy used this text for his musical setting of the poem, "La Damoiselle Elue."

Monday, October 15, 2007

Michael Clayton International Trailer (New)

Just saw this. Finally, a movie for grownups. Recommended.

Got A Feelin'--The Mamas And The Papas at Monterey Pop

Tried to post this yesterday but it failed for some reason. The six dense paragraphs of deathless prose which accompanied it have vanished into the ether, so you'll just have to take this as.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Gore Nobel - Answer to Trivia Question

What, are you nuts? It was a joke. Nobody has ever before won an Oscar, Emmy, and Nobel Prize in the same year. And I specified chemistry. For the same person to not only win an Emmy, an Oscar, and the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, but win them all in the same year? For god's sake, that's crazy.

On the other hand, Charles G. Dawes, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1925, and who like Al Gore served as vice president of the US, co-wrote a song that became number one on the pop charts. From Wikipedia:

His 1912 composition "Melody in A Major," became a well-known piano and violin piece, and was played at many official functions as his signature tune. It was transformed into a pop song ("It's All in the Game") in 1951, when Carl Sigman added lyrics. The song was a number one hit in 1958, for Tommy Edwards...and has since become a pop standard recorded hundreds of times by [other] artists.

Which proves something.

Gore Nobel

Al Gore is only the second person ever to win an Emmy, Oscar, and Nobel Prize in the same year. Name the first.

Hint: the Nobel was in chemistry.

UPDATE: The answer tomorrow.

Thursday, October 11, 2007


Two posts yesterday, none today. I'm listening to some Bach solo keyboard music--I suggest you do the same.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Brenda Holloway - Classic Motown Artist

Got a wild hair to post this. It's Brenda Holloway singing "Together 'Til the End of Time." Enjoy.

Things could be worse

Some things just make me happy. Eric Alterman picks up on a passage in Paul Krugman's lastest NYTimes column. Click here to learn more. Then start making chopping motions on your left forearm with your right hand.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner

This was the last film in the Austin Film Society's series Blokes 'n' Birds: British Realist Cinema. Tony Richardson's The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner from 1962 is in many ways a more conservative film, stylistically, than some of its contemporaries. While it tells a story of societal rebellion, there is little of the sort of radical re-thinking of cinematic form found in works like Godard's Breathless of a few years earlier. We know who we're rooting for just as clearly as if we were watching a Frank Capra movie, even if our "hero" is a petty thief doing time in a juvenile detention center. The montage that builds to the film's climax is skillful but not exactly subtle. Still, it's certainly worth watching and has some wonderful moments. Tom Courtenay's silent burning of a pound note stands out. In fact his performance throughout is excellent, and although he's worked steadily since he's rarely had such a substantial role.

And again--there's something about sitting in a large darkened room with other people that just makes movies better. If we lose that, we'll have lost something valuable.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Mahavishnu Orchestra Noonward Race

Here's the deal--I'm stuck on light posting for the immediate future. But for anyone who comes here, I've got to provide some reason for you to come back, so every day I will try to post at least something worth reading, hearing, or seeing. Today it's this.

The Mahavishnu Orchestra was John McLaughlin's "jazz-rock fusion" vehicle in the early seventies. Every member of this group both knew and loved rock and roll as well as jazz, so the mix worked in ways that it frequently did not in other people's hands. Enjoy.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

A joke

Jeez, another day, another post. Okay. Here you go.

Q: How many people from Brooklyn does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: So who the fuck wants to know?

Saturday, October 6, 2007

The Great Albert King

Albert King was one of the great blues electric guitarists. A big influence on Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Mike Bloomfield, and Stevie Ray Vaughan (to mention just a few of the better-known names), he never achieved the prominence of B.B. King (whom he sometimes claimed as a cousin), but within the field was widely respected. One of his later recordings was a duet with Stevie Ray (In Session), and you can find it on At their prices, it's a steal.

Here's the song from which this blog takes its name. It's part of the album that many consider his best, the Stax release Born Under a Bad Sign. The usual Stax folk of 1966-67 (basically Booker T. & the M.G.s along with Isaac Hayes and the Memphis Horns) back him up. Their backing is like fine whiskey--smooth but with a kick. Enjoy, and if you like it track down more of his work.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Hard Luck Story

Since I still have no time for a proper post, here's another audio clip for your streaming pleasure. Like "Sky Song," "Hard Luck Story" is from the first Illinois Speed Press album and was written by Kal David. I chose it because, even though it was written and sung by the same person and is performed by the same musicians on the same album, it sounds nothing like the other song. This sort of stylistic breadth was once fairly normal, but is now pretty rare.

In this selection Kal David pays tribute to his hometown of Chicago. Like Mike Bloomfield and Paul Butterfield, David was a young white guy who began to spend time in the blues clubs of Chicago's largely African-American South Side, and soaked up as much as he could. For most of the last thirty-five years he has mostly focused on the blues, performing with B. B. King among others. If you like this, look him up on YouTube to see more recent work.

Thursday, October 4, 2007


Stuff going on, eating into my time, can't produce. Sorry.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Thanks, my blood wasn't already boiling--part 4

Okay, to be honest, this was so expected that my blood is nowhere close to boiling. But in a better world it would be. Here's the Washington Post on W's veto of the SCHIP bill.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Saturday Night And Sunday Morning

Just saw Saturday Night And Sunday Morning, Albert Finney's first starring role, and it is highly recommended, if you don't mind some fairly thick (to American ears) accents. One of the "Realist" Brit flicks of the late fifties-early sixties (Look Back in Anger, etc.), it seems to really capture the feel of provincial working-class English life, at least as far as this Yank can tell. It's easy to imagine a two-year-old Sid Vicious as one of the extras in a street scene. And one voice-over line provided the Arctic Monkeys with the title of their first album, so at least some Engloids think the film is still vital over forty-five years after its release. Put it in your Netflix queue.
This is also a good spot to mention the Austin film scene, which is a blessing and a boon.
While I was a student here at the University of Texas in the mid-nineties, the UT film department had a schedule that included Hong Kong action flicks, anime, vintage Fellini, then-current Almodovar, etc., etc., etc., each shown a couple of times in a week, then a different schedule the following week. It was a feast, and a cheap one.
And I must commend the Austin Film Society, which is sponsoring the series of films (Blokes 'n' Birds: British Realist Cinema) that includes Saturday Night And Sunday Morning. It's a rare pleasure to live in a town that can support such a cultural entity, which without making a big deal out of it supplies a steady stream of well-chosen and well-presented films in honest-to-god movie theaters, as the good Lord above meant them to be seen. Chale Nafus, who I understand was a sort of mentor to Richard Linklater, selected, wrote program notes for, and presented the films.
Plus--plus--in 1992 or 3, the AFS sponsored Sven Nykvist, who was in the area shooting a Hollywood film, to come in and speak before a showing of Cries and Whispers. So I got to listen to reminiscences about Ingmar Bergman from one of his associates just for the price of a movie ticket. Then I got to see the movie they made. Prit-ty cool.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Sky Song

Taking a cue from one of my favorite bloggers, Undercover Black Man, I've started a Vox blog to be able to present some music for your streaming pleasure. To start off, here's the Illinois Speed Press doing "Sky Song" from their first album.