Monday, December 31, 2012

Any Woman’s Blues #27 – Natalia Zukerman


It’s Monday, & the final day 2012. What better way to celebrate than with this month’s edition of Any Woman’s Blues?

The featured artist for December is Natalia Zukerman, an exciting up & coming performer who is comfortable in any number of genres, & blends them all in her strong songwriting. But blues—& slide guitar, which is always near to my heart—is a sound & form that underlies much of her work, as you will hear in evidence in the two video selections.

Natalia Zukerman comes from Manhattan, & she was raised in a musical family: both her parents are virtuoso performers (her father is violinist/conductor Pinchas Zukerman & her mother is flutist Eugenia Zukerman), while her sister Arianna is an opera singer.  Given her background, it’s not at all surprising that Zukerman draws from a number of genres & styles when she composes, utilizing not only blues, but also rock, bluegrass, jazz & classical.

She is a talented singer & songwriter, but make no mistake: her guitar chops are also impressive. The New Yorker proclaimed, “Natalia’s voice could send an orchid into bloom while her guitar playing can open a beer bottle with its teeth.” Her playing is indeed gritty when need be, but she is able to wield a full dynamic palette in her fingerstyle playing.

To date, Natalia Zukerman has released five cds, beginning with her 2001 debut, Mortal Child on Talisman. She followed that up in 2003 with On a Clear Day & Only One in 2006, both on Talisman, then moved to Weasel Records for her 2008 release, Brand New Frame (title track is the second video below) & the 2011 Gas Station Roses (first video is the title track.)

Natalia Zukerman also plays lap steel guitar & electric guitar as well as her acoustic Guild. She’s definitely a significant talent & someone to watch for—in fact, she’s starting to announce dates for her 2013 tour, so check her out if she passes through your town—I certainly will!

In the meantime, enjoy some great songwriting, singing, & guitar playing on these two videos.








Photo of Natalia Zukerman links to its source

Sunday, December 30, 2012

“José Embala O Menino”

A happy Sunday, friends. December is winding down to its close.

But I hold by the 12 days of Christmas, which means the season is far from over. So once again, we have the remarkable singer Montserrat Figueras, this month’s featured artist, with a seasonal lullaby, the Portuguese “José Embala O Menino.” It really is a remarkable song—as I understand the lyric, Joseph cradles the baby Jesus while Mary does washing at Bethlehem’s fountain. As she washes, she sings, & as she sings, she weeps—anyone familiar with the overall mythos will recognize she is weeping already for the Christ’s Passion. Montserrat Figueras delivers the song against a very spare backing with an unerring melodic, emotive & lyrical reading. This is a superlative performance, taken from her 2003 Alia Vox release, Ninna Nanna, ca. 1500-2002.

Montserrat Figueras passe3d away in November 2011, at the far too young age of 69. Still, her music lives in its vibrancy & vitality through her recordings, & her legacy in early music is also carried on by her husband, Jordi Savall, her daughter Arianna Savall & son Ferren Savall, as well as by the other members of various early music ensembles she helped to form, including Hespèrion XXI. You can learn more about this talented musician at the Alia Vox website.

Next Sunday we will wrap up the Christmas themed music, though this is the last post in the Montserrat Figueras series. Hope you have a wonderful Sunday.





Image links to its source:
“Christ’s Nativity” from the Niederwildungen Altarpiece (1403): 

Conrad von Soest
Wiki Commons – public domain

Saturday, December 29, 2012

"ballade pour l’orchestre"


ballade pour l’orchestre

a flute afloat where buffleheads glide green
and aubergine in F major and it’s already March;
observe, the oboe emerges, this Bb hummed
in some tongue that concedes blue and green are the same
and why does dogwood spring maroon from the clarinet’s bell
under April’s Alice blue clouds and flurries of swans?
while May’s full bassoon and moon modulate up a tone
singing the burden of Time’s impossible color

though June comes soonest, the cello drowsy where willow weeps
and blackbirds do not snooze through dawn’s puce verge
but violas drift on a Sunday drive through
cherry blossom Sunday perfect skies crooning A 440
for the violins to echo come July, oriole brilliant
counterpoint to croquet mallets’ crack, but
the double bass snores terra rosa under August’s umbrella
singing the burden of Time’s impossible color

see here: two French horns in blackberry bramble tangle
where September’s brass beds and wind-up clocks arabesque
though trumpets in any key flash folly red as the last rose
nods her head and another moon’s left hanging,
a whole note sounding throughout October as geese veer past 
and pay no mind to the timpani among November’s
dotted quarter notes and crows on so many fence posts
singing the burden of Time’s impossible color

in winter, theorbos and bangles and raindrops
and Davy’s gray sky and harmoniums in the fog:
ancient music and vox humana harmonic minor
singing the burden of Time’s impossible color


A.K. Barkley
© 2012

 


Image links to its source
"Stilleben mit Musikinstrumenten und Früchten" (Still Life with Musical Instruments and Fruit") - Cristoforo Munari (1667–1720)
Wiki Commons - public domain

Friday, December 28, 2012

“Boquet Mazurka”

Welcome once again to Banjo Friday, final edition of 2012!

Today we wrap up our series with December’s featured artist Rob MacKillop, as he performs another Frank Converse tune, this one dating from 1886 & played on a gut-strung Luke Mercier banjo.  MacKillop’s playing is always first-rate both in terms of technique & feeling, so I’d encourage you to check out more of his music—he also performs on classical guitar, lute (in its various manifestations) & ukulele. MacKillop has also authored several books of arrangements for both banjo & ukulele, & those look really interesting. Please see Rob MacKillop’s website for details on his recordings, performances & books.

Have a happy Friday, friends! Hope this lovely & playful banjo tune adds to your day.



Image links to its source at robmackillop.net

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Sunday, December 23, 2012

"El Cant de la Sibil·la"

A happy Sunday, friends. Christmas is drawing near, & today’s Early Music Sunday post celebrates that fact.

All month we’ve been enjoying the remarkable voice of Montserrat Figueras, & today we have a ten minute extract from one of her most splendid pieces, “El Cant de la Sibil-la.”  According to the Wikipedia entry:

The Song of the Sibyl (Catalan: El Cant de la Sibil·la is a liturgical drama and a Gregorian chant, the lyrics of which compose a prophecy describing the Apocalypse, which has been performed at some churches of Majorca (Balearic Islands, Spain) and Alghero (Sardinia, Italy), and some Catalan churches, in Catalan language on Christmas Eve nearly uninterrruptedly since medieval times. It was declared a Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO on November 16, 2010.

The original form of the Sybil’s prophecy was a Greek acrostic poem written by the Arian bishop Eusebius of Caesarea, & later incorporated by St Augstine in his The City of God. The song itself dates around the 10th or 11th century in a Latin form named “Judicii Signum” (“Sign of Judgment”), & then was translated into both Provencal & Catalan by the 13th century.  Montserrat also performed “Judicii Signum,” & you can listen to that here.

Wishing all of you who observe the holiday a joyous Christmas.





Image of the the Virgin of Guadalupe links to its source on Wiki Commons; it is in the public domain. The Virgin of Guadalupe is associated with the woman mentioned in the Book of Revelation, 11:19—12:1-18

Friday, December 21, 2012

“The Dream”

Welcome to the all-time latest edition of Banjo Friday ever—"latest" in every sense of the word. Really, I’m a bit sheepish to post this when Friday is almost become Saturday back east. But it will remain the top post on the blog all day tomorrow. I’m also confident we won’t encounter another snafu with this piece as we did with Thursday’s ill-fated Guitarists We Like post; that video, featuring John Fahey’s singular version of “It Came Upon the Midnight Clear,” was blocked by UMG & wouldn’t play on the blog, despite the fact it had played on YouTube itself the evening before.

This evening—or tomorrow, or whenever you come across this—we have more classic banjo with this month’s featured artist, Rob MacKillop, & another piece from late 19th century banjoist & composer Frank Converse, whose works are a staple among classic banjo enthusiasts. It really is a lovely, delicate piece, played with great sensitivity by MacKillop on a  Thomson and Odell banjo from Boston, dating to around 1890. MacKillop is using Aquila Nylagut strings, a brand with a good reputation not only with nylon string banjo players, but with uke players as well.

Enjoy!







Image of Mr MacKillop links to its source at banjocrazy.com

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

“reflections”


reflections


the mirror is a two sided coin
showing me, as i dress
(up, like the girl i'm not)

but this parody
of someone else's woman
isn't all i don't want to see

behind my lipstick
up-do, pearls
lurk worse things
than prostitution

the shadow watching over my shoulder
spares sardonic sartorial remarks.
it knows where i sleep,
where my children sleep

and i, i am half grateful
for my knowledge
for the dirt beneath my nails
my impatience
and the inelegant wobble
of my heels

half wishing it all away
so what i see in darkness
i could call a nightmare
so i could pin diamonds
without seeing blood 

Mairi Graham-Shaw
© 2012

Image links to its source
Porträt von Wally (1912): Egon Schiele – Wiki Commons – public domain

Sunday, December 16, 2012

"Berceuse de Noël"

A happy Sunday, friends.

We have another beautiful song today, sung by the incomparable soprano, Montserrat Figueras.  “Berceuse de Noël” comes from her 2002 Alia Vox album, Ninna Nanna: Lullabies (1500-2002), which also features the accompaniment of her husband, violist Jordi Savall (though not on this track) & her daughter, harpist Arianna Savall, as well as other members of the early music consort, Hespèrion XXI.  The song was written by Estonian composer Arvo Pärt, & it is truly beautiful. The lyrics are Russian, but I haven’t been able to find a translation—no matter: Montserrat’s voice & the music itself imbue them with meaning.

The musicians on “Berceuse de Noël” are listed as follows: Begoña Olavide (Psaltery), Dmitri Psonis (Santur), Arianna Savall (Triple Harp), Sophie Watillon (Viola da gamba), Sergi Casademunt (Viola da gamba), Montserrat Figueras (Soprano).

I know you will enjoy this beautiful piece.




Image links to its source:
“Geburt Christi” (Birth of Jesus) by Geertgen tot Sint Jans, c. 1490
Wiki Commons – public domain

Friday, December 14, 2012

“Gumbo Reel and The Pequot Galop”


Welcome, friends, to Banjo Friday! We sure do have a couple of pretty banjo tunes for you today.

If you’re a regular here, you know that this month’s featured artist is Rob MacKillop, a Scottish banjoist who excels in the classic banjo style (when he’s not excelling on various lutes, the classical guitar, the uke or the 4-string varieties of banjos!) & if you’re a regular you also know that the so-called classic style has its origins in the 19th century, & has two defining characteristics: it is typically played on a gut strung (or nylon/synthetic gut-strung) instrument, & it is played by plucking the strings in the same way as a fingerstyle guitarist, with bare fleshy side of the fingers & thumb. In this, it contrasts quite sharply with the two most prevalent styles in contemporary banjo playing—the so-called 3-finger Scruggs or bluegrass style, which also features “up plucks,” but builds melodies on syncopated patterns & is always played with fingerpicks & thumbpicks & on a banjo fitted with steel strings & a resonator; & the frailing or clawhammer style, which covers a host of techniques, but typically involves striking down on the strings with the fingernail of either the index or middle finger, which then alternates in various patterns & configurations with the thumb. The Scruggs style emphasizes the banjo’s brightness & volume; frailing emphasizes its percussiveness.

But the classic banjo style is a whole different thing altogether, & really makes for fun listening! I’ve always found it most natural to “fingerpick” the banjo myself, coming as I do from playing fingerstyle guitar, though I admit I’ve yet to actually put nylon strings on mine. Some day.

The “Gumbo Reel” & “The Pequod Galop” both come from Frank Converse’s 1865 New & Complete Method for the banjo, & features just the sort of pieces folks love to play in the classic style. As is his wont, MacKillop presents delightful versions for our listening pleasure.

Enjoy!



 

Image links to its source at classicbanjorm.com

Thursday, December 13, 2012

“Carmine Street”


Happy Thursday! Sorry to have missed Photo of the Week yesterday, but I’ve been going through a busy patch of late—all good things though.

A short post today with some fantastic guitar music by a contemporary player whose compositions & playing are both fascinating—Kaki King. You can learn more about Kaki King on her website or from the ever-present Wikipedia, & if you're not already familiar with her, I certainly hope this sparks your interest in her music.

“Carmine Street,” which makes extensive use of the “tapping” technique (as do a number of other King compositions), comes from her 2003 debut album on the Velour label, Everybody Loves You. In a review of the album on Allmusic, Thom Jurek writes:

Simply put, Kaki King possesses the most original voice on the acoustic guitar in a generation….Everybody Loves You is the most auspicious, tender, and tough instrumental debut by any guitarist in a decade at least. It is singular in approach and peerless in execution; and in its poetic, raggedly graceful manner, it is simply a treasure of individuality and idiosyncratic virtuosity, visceral truth, and verve.

Since this debut, King has released eight more acclaimed albums, including the 2012 Glow, also on Velour. She just completed a tour (& I missed her Portland show, for which I feel endless chagrin), but if she comes by your town, don’t make the same mistake as me—do go hear her show! I won’t make the same mistake twice.

In the meantime, enjoy this lovely recording.




Image links to its source on Wiki Commons:
Kaki King at the Knitting factory, 2004: by Empress Ericka. 


This file is made available under the Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.  The person who associated a work with this deed has dedicated the work to the public domain by waiving all of his or her rights to the work worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law. You can copy, modify, distribute and perform the work, even for commercial purposes, all without asking permission.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

"Trust"

 
Trust

Never having learned to swim myself,
I stood, feet planted firmly in water not quite to my chest,
coaxing him to kick and flail his way to me,
I moved one step back with each attempt.
I had to fight to keep from reaching out to him,
to let him reach for me instead.
He trusted me.

Just as he trusted me when
we stepped into that strange little world called a Hobby Shop,
and the planes and ships and trains dazzled him,
not knowing what to make of it all.
“Why are they here? Are they for sale?”
I muttered something about Santa Claus and his toyshop.
For a moment he looked at me puzzled,
then said, “That’s not for real.”
“Well, it is, kind of,” I said,
and fumbled to explain,
without betraying what his father taught him.
But thankfully his eyes spotted a train traversing a tiny village.
and he dropped the subject.
He didn’t ask if he could have one.
He didn’t object when it was time to leave.
He trusted me then, too.

A week later, when the same train appeared under his tree,
I wondered, as his face lit up,
if it made him think about what was real and what was not,
He shouted, “That’s the one from the Hobby Shop!”
He didn’t mention Santa Claus,
He didn’t try to explain it,
anymore than he’d tried last summer to explain
how he walked on water.
He only knew I was there.
He trusted me.
 


(Nick’s KK, Christmas 09)

Carmen Leone
© 2009-the present


Image links to its source on Wiki Commons:

"Photograph of Steve and Susan Ford (children of Gerald and Betty Ford) Playing with an Electric Train at the Ford Residence in Alexandria, Virginia" 

per Wiki Commons:
This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work prepared by an officer or employee of the United States Government as part of that person’s official duties under the terms of Title 17, Chapter 1, Section 105 of the US Code. See Copyright. 

Sunday, December 9, 2012

“O Lux”

A happy Sunday, friends. We’re here again with some beautiful early music from this month’s featured artist, Montserrat Figueras.

“O Lux-Prosa: Flavit Auster” (“Flavit Auster” is Latin for “the south wind blew”) is taken from the early 14th century manuscript, the Codex Las Huelgas, which comes from the Cistercian convent of Santa María la Real de Las Huelgas in Burgos, Spain.  According to the Wikipedia article:

The manuscript was intended for use in performance, and raises questions regarding performance practice of the pieces it contains, especially the polyphonic repertory. The monastery had a choir of 100 women at one point in the 13th century, and it is believed that this choir of women performed the polyphonic works in the manuscript, despite the Cistercian rules against the performance of polyphonic music.

“Flavit Auster” is a responsory related to Mary Magdalen, & as such is a bit of a departure from Advent/Christmas music, but Montserrat Figueras’ part against the background of the supporting choir members is haunting & beautiful, & it seems an interesting piece to include. The recording comes from Figueras’ 2006 Alia Vox release, Lux Feminae 900-1600—highly recommended, as is all of her music.

Truly sublime.



Image of the convent of Santa María la Real de Las Huelgas links to its source on Wiki Commons. The image is by Lourdes Cardenal, who makes it available under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Friday, December 7, 2012

“Sunflower Slow Drag”

A happy Friday, friends! & a Banjo Friday at that.

A new month is upon us, & so we have a new featured artist. After a fun month with the innovative Danny Barnes in November, we’re going back to the “classic banjo” sound with master Scottish banjoist (& lutenist, guitarist & uke player) Rob MacKillop (& see also this link.) MacKillop has appeared in previous posts here, & I’m a big admirer of his work in genres ranging from early music on the theorbo to Scott Joplin on the banjo!

Obviously, Scott Joplin needs no introduction—he’s one of the truly great American composers, a man who really brought the ragtime form to its true artistic heights. Of course, Joplin’s compositions were written for piano, the banjo is also a great vehicle for expressing his pieces—in skilled hands, the banjo can produce the delicacy of the compositions, while also lending its characteristically “American” sound. The “Sunflower Slow Drag” was co-written by Joplin & Scott Hayden & was copyrighted in 1901. It is a ragtime two-step.

As is typical of “classic banjo” playing, MacKillop is using a gut-strung instrument. His playing is precise, but at the same time is always marked by the sort of verve & panache that’s necessary to truly animate the tune.

I know you’ll enjoy this one!



Image links to its source on Wiki Commons – public domain

Thursday, December 6, 2012

"Blues for Herb"

Happy Thursday, friend. We’re here again with another amazing guitar player (& a short post) for your Thursday listening pleasure.

I wish more people knew about Emily Remler, who was an amazing jazz guitar player; that feels important, & I’ll try to do what little I can through this blog to help that along. I knew Emily, though only slightly, as an acquaintance, but I had some insight into her very sad & very untimely end. Emily’s passing in 1990 was a great loss, & not just because of her musical ability. Her guitar playing, at the least, lives on at least in recordings—a small consolation, because she would no doubt have gone on to do beautiful things in jazz. & I would note & underline that the world of jazz guitar is, sadly, very male-dominated, but Emily didn’t have to take a backseat to anyone.

Hope you enjoy these swinging original composition, “Blues for Herb.” Great guitar work by such a talented player.



Image of Emily Remler is from Wikipedia. It’s by Wiki user Brianmcmillen, & is  licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

“Insatiable Appetite”

[Be sure to read some exciting news about Barbie Angell’s  book Roasting Questions right after her poem—& stick around for a special treat at the bottom of the post!]

Insatiable Appetite

I had a misunderstanding today
with relish on the side.
I washed it down with courage
but just could not decide…

Do I eat the fat-free plate of guilt?
Or leave room for a grudge?
I guess you probably didn’t know
that irony tastes like fudge.

I’ve swallowed my pride.
I’ve eaten my words,
complete with mounds of disdain.
Did you know that love and chaos
taste pretty much the same?

And if everything’s served with common sense
it's all a little bland.
But the bitter drops of hatred
are more than I can stand.

I’d like to bake a special cake,
filled with happiness.
Serve coffee-covered kisses
with an upside-down apple wish

 
I’d like to buy the world a laugh
and put it in their tea.
All the magic that surrounds us
is found in you and me.

 
Barbie Dockstader Angell
© 2009-2012

As I indicated in the lead-in, there’s exciting news about Barbie’s book of children’s poems Roasting Questions: the pre-sales goal has been met & the book is going to press! I am so happy about this news, because I’m a big believer in Barbie & I’m a big believer in the book.
Roasting Questions is a lovely creative act from a lively & lovely imagination, & it will appeal "to kids from one to 92," just as the song goes. Speaking of which: if you have kids who like beautiful, fun drawings & delightful, funny poems, this is a great gift! Or if you or someone you know is like me & just likes children’s poetry & admires Barbie’s gift for writing (& illustrating) children's poems, then it’s also a wonderful gift. The link at the top of the right-hand sidebar will take you right to the Roasting Questions site where you can order a copy (or more!) today.

& now: a really special treat! Here’s Barbie herself:


Monday, December 3, 2012

The Texas Blues #7 – DeKalb Blues – Lead Belly


Monday is here, folks, & you know what that means (at least some of the time): The Monday Morning Blues here on Robert Frost’s Banjo!

We’re back to Texas this week for our continued series on blues artists who called that state home. & today’s featured artist is a true figure, not just in the blues, but in the general history of the folk revival from the 1930s through the 1950s, & indeed, in the larger history of mid century U.S. popular music. I’m talking about Lead Belly, Hudie Ledbetter. Although Lead Belly was born around Mooringsport, Louisiana in either 1888 or 1889, his family moved to Bowie County, Texas when he was five.

Lead Belly began performing while in his teens in the red light district of Shreveport, Louisiana. At first he accompanied himself with the accordion (& he did play the accordion on some of his later recordings), but he eventually moved on to his signature 12-string guitar, tuned down from standard tuning by a fourth (at least that’s the consensus on the tuning.)  He moved to Dallas, & performed with Blind Lemon Jefferson, especially on the streets in the Deep Ellum section of the city.

But, as the story goes, Lead Belly was in & out of jail, often stemming from fights caused or at least made worse by his notorious temper. In 1918 he was jailed for murder following one of these fights in the Sugar Land Penitentiary near Houston—but he was pardoned after a minimum seven-year sentence after appealing to Governor Pat Morris Neff in a song. Then in 1930, he was again in prison for murder following a knife fight, this time in Louisiana’s notorious Angola Prison Farm. This is where Alan & John Lomax first found him, recorded him, & eventually persuaded the governor to pardon him, again after Lead Belly had served the minimum sentence.

Lead Belly traveled with the Lomaxes & later became a celebrity in the New York folk scene. He performed with Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, Brownie MacGhee & Sonny Terry, & he was championed by novelist Richard Wright. He recorded for RCA, the Smithsonian& Moe Asch of Folkways during a relatively short but successful career. He was diangosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig's disease, while on tour in France in 1949 & died later that year.

As this brief bio will tell you—if you didn’t know already—Lead Belly was larger than life in many respects, & while the blues underpins his music, he certainly moved beyond the blues into other folk genres—for instance, he was particularly fond of cowboy songs (as was Muddy Waters!) & had some hopes of becoming a singing cowboy in films. His sound is very distinctive—between his powerful tenor voice & the drive & growl of his Stella 12-string, you simply can’t mistake a Lead Belly song!

Here’s “DeKalb Blues,” one of his most straightforward blues numbers, from one of the Lomax recording sessions at Angola Prison Farm. A powerful piece of music—enjoy!




Image of Leadbelly links to its source on Wiki Commons. Wiki Commons states that this photo is in the public domain because it was created between 1923 & 1963 & the original copyright was not renewed.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

“La Mare De Déu”

A happy Sunday, friends, & the first Sunday of Advent at that.

I have a very special series planned for this December on Early Music Sunday: songs sung by the incomparable Catalan vocalist Montserrat Figueras, who passed away in November 2011 at age 69—far too young. For those of you who don’t know, Montserrat Figueras was married to Jordi Savall (who appeared in an earlier video, playing viola de gamba, along with their daughter, harpist Arianna Savall), & along with Savall founded the early music group Hespèrion XX (now Hespèrion XXI), as well as La Capella Reial de Catalunya and Le Concert des Nations. Montserrat Figueras also recorded extensively as a solo artist (though typically with backing by members of her other groups.)

Figueras’ singing is as nearly elemental as any I have heard. In the New Yorker in 2005, Alex Ross stated that her “voice falls somewhere between grand opera and rural folk singing, and combines the best aspects of both.” But Montserrat Figueras didn’t rely solely on the native power of her voice—she was also a learned student of early music.

Jordi Savall wrote recently on the anniversary of her passing:

L’âme de Montserrat continuera de nous inspirer toujours, dans toutes les musiques que nous réaliserons et ensemble avec tous ceux qui dans le monde se sont assouvis de son chant, nous continuerons, en travaillant avec ses chers idéaux de paix et d’harmonie, à maintenir son souvenir toujours vivant.

Montserrat’s soul will forever continue to inspire us in all our music-making, and together with all those everywhere who have been nourished by her song, we will continue to keep her memory alive as we are guided by the ideals of peace and harmony that she held so dear.

Both the original French & the English translation are from the Alia Vox site, where you can read the entire text of Savall’s statement, on a memorial page for Montserrat Figueras maintained by the Alia Vox recording label. The page plays selections from her extensive catalog.

Today’s selection is an anonymously composed Catalan lullaby titled “La Mare De Déu,” (the Mother of God) which seems a fitting selection for today. The recording comes from her 2003 Alia Vox release, Ninna Nanna: Lullabies (1500-2002).

This is amazing music by a truly extraordinary artist.  


<iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/yOq0IHjnV4s" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen>



Image links to its source



(By the way, here’s a rough English translation of the Catalan by yours truly—only possible because I found a French translation! However, I can find no source to explain the "Garindo, garindeta" line; that's left intact from the Catalan in the French translation as well)

The Mother of God

The Mother of God
When she was young
Went to school
To learn to read
With her pillow
& her little basket

In the basket
She had four apples
A slice of bread
And also some hazelnuts
And she had walnuts
And many raisins

The angels were singing
"Garindo, garindeta !"
Later, when she retired
To her small bedroom
The angel entered
Through a little window

God save you, Mary,
You are full of grace,
On Christmas night,
You, a virgin, will give birth,
You will bear a son, beautiful as a star,
He will be your son,
The son of a virgin.

And the name they will give him.
And the name they will call him
Will be Savior
Of Heaven & Earth
He will be called Jesus
King of Heaven & Earth.

Friday, November 30, 2012

“Where They Do Not Know My Name”


Hi, friends! A belated Banjo Friday post today—my time got a bit away from me, with a morning (?!?) band rehearsal. But banjo is always better late than never, like so many things.

All this month we’ve been featuring the music of Danny Barnes, & I thought it would be appropriate to end with Barnes’ cover of a more traditional tune; but then I decided it would be even better still to end the month with two Danny Barnes’ covers of the tune—one is a straight version, with just singing & banjo, while the other features his looped electronic sound.

If you’d like to find out more about Danny Barnes, please check out his full service website, or you can also read my write-up about him here. & be sure to check out his tour schedule, because Barnes is a performer you definitely do not want to miss if & when he pulls into your town. His playing is superb, as is his singing & songwriting, & his sense of orchestration using looping technology is always inventive. But perhaps most importantly, Barnes always reminds us that we “play” music—his joy in music & love for it come through with virtually every note & phrase.

We’ll be heading back into the classic banjo next month, as we feature the excellent playing of Rob MacKillop, so be sure to tune in for that—& enjoy these fine performances by Danny Barnes!



Thursday, November 29, 2012

“Vaseline Machine Gun”


Happy Thursday, folks! A short guitar-centric post with some wonderful guitar-picking & slide playing by the great Leo Kottke.

If you like fingerstyle guitar playing, chances are you’re familiar with Kottke. If you’re not, you’re in for a treat (& you can get some background about him from Wikipedia.) Kottke is a marvel—I was most happy to get a chance to see him play this summer at a show (with Jake Shimabukuro) at the Oregon Zoo; a wonderful show by both performers.

This should put a good charge in your day
—enjoy!







Image links to its source:
Leo Kottke photographed at the Clearwater Festival 2007 by Anthony Pepitone: This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. Wiki Commons

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Photo of the Week 11/28/12

Bandstand at Dawson Park
Portland, Oregon
Tuesday 11/27/12

Hello friends.  Yes, you're reading that correctly—Photo of the Week is returning, but now on Wednesday rather than Sunday. I'll also endeavor to post Rose City Wednesday as a monthly feature; those stories tend to have a lot of photos anyway, so once a month it will be a sort of expanded Photo of the Week

Hope you enjoy your day!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

“berceuse with passenger train”


  berceuse with passenger train

 

contingent whip-poor-will in those woods where “lonesome” is the response to all questions—
in woods where the question always sounds like “green” and “saturday”—
this humungous luna moth in the porchlamp, this bottle of milk of magnesia—

everything happens in threes along that specific riverbank—
a chalkboard, a rowboat, a sawhorse notched from cross-cuts and gray from sun and rain—
to say “i love you” or “i love you” or “i love you” in this actual yellow meadow—

blackeyed susans contigent on goldfinches contingent on a clapboarded folly under the elms—
that was your day, and this is your night, a brass floor lamp, a vinyl LP record, a bookshelf—
everything subsides to birdseye maple and a piano key and then another piano key—

crescent moon contigent on cows in the neighbors’ pasture contingent on a grackle—
those same white birches, these mason jars phosphorescing with fireflies and stewed  tomatoes—
veni, veni, midnight train and hold my child in your wings without contingencies—


A.K. Barkley
© 2012


 

Image links to its source on Wiki Commons   
Dampf auslassende Lokomotive bei Nacht (Evaporating locomotive at night) – 1896:  Hermann Pleuer [public domain]

Monday, November 26, 2012

Any Womans Blues #26 – Beverly “ Guitar” Watkins

A happy Monday, friends! We’re here with the Monday Morning Blues, Any Woman’s Blues edition, & we’ve got some smoking hot guitar playing.

Beverly Watkins has had a long career as a blues guitarist, but for much of life she’s plied her trade in obscurity. While still in high school, she began playing guitar with Piano Red & toured with his band the Meter-tones until the combo broke up in 1965 (the group was also known as Piano Red & The Interns, Dr. Feelgood & The Interns, & Dr. Feelgood); following this she performed with such groups as Eddie Tigner & the Ink Spots, Joseph Smith & the Fendales, & Leroy Redding & the Houserockers.

Watkins’ solo career didn’t really take off, however, until she became associated with the Music Maker Relief Foundation in the 1990s. This wonderful organization, which we learned about also in an earlier post on guitarist Precious Bryant, describes its mission as follows:

Music Maker Relief Foundation preserves and promotes the musical traditions of the American South. Since 1994 we have partnered with traditional artists over 55 years old who survive on a yearly income of less than $18,000, sustaining their day-to-day needs while building their careers. Through Music Maker, our rich heritage of folk music will not be lost with the passing of time.

Beverly Watkins is a truly remarkable musician. Still rocking hard in her 70s, she sings & plays guitar with great power, verve & energy. Watkins says of her music:

My style is real Lightnin’ Hopkins lowdown blues. I call it hard classic blues, stompin’ blues, railroad smokin’ blues.

Since joining Music Maker, Beverly Watkins has released three albums, & her 1999 debut Back in Business was nominated for the Blues Foundation’s W.C. Handy Award.  She has followed that up with The Feelings of Beverly "Guitar" Watkins & The Spiritual Expressions of Beverly “Guitar” Watkins. Watkins keeps up an active touring schedule.

Why is her middle name “Guitar”? Just watch these videos & you will find out! Enjoy!








Image links to its source at theuntitledmag.tumblr.com

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Allemande from Cello Suite in G Major, BWV 1007

A happy Sunday, friends. We of course have some lovely music for you here on Robert Frost’s Banjo.

Bach’s Suite for Cello in G Major, BMV 1007, is a staple of any Baroque repertoire & is probably the best known of his six cello suites.  Typically we hear these performed on the modern cello, but the contemporary instrument actually differs in some significant ways from the cello of Bach’s day. First, contemporary instruments use metal strings, while the baroque cello is always strung with gut strings; this has a significant effect on the sound. There are other differences in construction as well—perhaps the thing most noticeable when one sees is that the baroque cello doesn’t have an endpin to balance it on the floor—the instrument is secured solely by the cellist’s knees.  

Tanya Tomkins is an extraordinary musician & a virtuoso on both the modern & baroque cellos. She performs with San Francisco’s Philharmonia Baroque and Portland Baroque (! —in fact, she’s performing here this weekend, but sad to say, I will miss the show); in addition, she performs as a soloist & with other ensembles, & teaches at Juilliard, the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, & San Jose State University; she also serves on the faculty of the American Bach Soloists Summer Academy.

I’ve chosen her performance of the Allemande from Cello Suite No. 1 in a 2009 performance for the Great Artist Series presented by San Francisco Early Music Ensemble Voices of Music; however, you can hear her perform the entire G Major Cello Suite on YouTube here.

Enjoy the music & your Sunday!




 

Image of the baroque cello links to its source on cello.org

Friday, November 23, 2012

“Rocket”

Hey, folks, it’s time for Banjo Friday—& here to drive away the November doldrums for one & all & the post-holiday doldrums for those of us stateside is the wonderful Danny Barnes, our featured artist this month.

Today’s Danny Barnes’ selection comes from a show early this year, actually the same weekend as when I saw Barnes perform at Portland’s Crystal Ballroom, & right down the road in Forest Grove, Oregon. The song is “Rocket,” the title track from his 2011 ATO release. This live version differs considerably from what’s on the record, as the studio version is a hard rocker with distorted guitars; here we have some of Barnes’ beautifully composed & conceived looping with live banjo, & of course his always delightful songwriting.

Hope you enjoy it, & have a great Friday!





Image of Danny Barnes links back to its location on his site

Thursday, November 22, 2012

“On the Sunny Side of the Ocean”


Hey, friends! Just stopping by to wish you a Happy Thanksgiving—hoping you’re “On the Sunny Side of the Ocean” whichever ocean & wherever you may be!

Enjoy some “American Primitive Guitar” with your holiday.




Image of John Fahey links to its source

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

“intent unspoken”

intent unspoken

here the breaking of the bread
veiled in context of their stark hotel room
as she undoes her belt
he his buttons

he a poor and broken god
coming to her
in the shedding of clothes
the wary looks
quiet gestures
intent unspoken

this is my broken body,
for you

take this
for the forgiveness 
of whose sins?


Mairi Graham-Shaw
© 2012


Image links to its source on Wiki Commons
Egon Schiele: Schieles Wohnzimmer in Neulengbach - 1911, Public Domain

Sunday, November 18, 2012

“Diferencias sobre las folias”

A happy Sunday, my friends. Time again for some music!

A short blog post can’t do justice to any of the subjects involved in today’s video—La Folía, Antonio Martín y Coll, Jordi Savall or any of the other artists involved in this 2002 concert of Folías de España held at the Festival de Música Antigua de Lanvellec, France. But I will devote a little space to each, as well as provide links so that anyone who’s interested can find out more. I should start by saying that if you want to hear & see the concert in its entirety, you can find it at this link.

La Folía is the name given a series of musical themes based around a minor chord progression. This framework has been used not only as a vehicle for improvisation—in some senses as the 12-bar blues chord progression is used for improvisation in blues & jazz—but the themes that emerge have also found their way into well-known canonical works of the Baroque, Classical, Romantic periods & beyond—themes from La Folía have appeared in compositions by Bach, Handel, Beethoven, Liszt & Rachmaninoff, not to mention a number of other composers, especially from the Baroque period.

Antonio Martín y Coll, who lived from around 1680-1734, was one such composer. He was a Franciscan friar, but he played the organ & he published Flores de Música in the early 18th century. This contains his “Diferencias sobre las folias,” based on La Folía—or at least, it’s assumed to be his. Authorship was much different in the 17th century!

Jordi Savall is a major figure in Baroque & what we call “Early Music”—the music of the late Middle Ages & the Renaissance. He is known as one of the foremost violists in the world, & you will see & hear him playing viola da gamba (the tenor size, I believe) in this video. Along with his late wife Monsterrat Figueras, Savall founded the Early Music consort Hespèrion XX (since the beginning of the new century, Hespèrion XXI), which has done much to revitalize this wonderful ancient music.

The other performers at this concert are Jordi Savall's daughter, harpist Arianna Savall, lutenist Rolf Lislevand (who plays baroque guitar on this piece), & the amazing percussionists, Pedro Estevan & Adela González-Campa.

This is truly rich & compelling music performed by virtuoso musicians—enjoy!







Image of Antonio Martín y Coll’s Flores de Música links to its source at ars-antiqva.com

Friday, November 16, 2012

“Overdue”


Happy Banjo Friday, kids! & in order to ensure that it’s a happy Friday indeed, I have a sweet, sweet banjo love song for your listening pleasure today.

If you tuned in last week, you know that I designated November, at least in terms of the Banjo Fridays, to be Danny Barnes month—because I believe November is a month when we often need a mood boost, & Barnes is someone very capable of giving us that!

I’ve written about Danny Barnes in the past (& here), so rather than go back over old territory, I’ll simply say that this song, “Overdue,” comes off his wonderful 2009 release Pizza Box, & that this version was recorded right down the street from me at Mississippi Studios in Portland. “Overdue” features Barnes making full use of looping technology, & doing so to great effect. If you love great banjo playing & innovative music combined with excellent songwriting, I encourage you to check out more of Barnes’ music—& definitely catch one of his live shows if you have the chance!

But for now, have fun with “Overdue” & enjoy your Friday!




Image links to its source at dannybarnes.com

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

"Last Night I Pedaled to the Moon"

Last night I pedaled to the moon.
I pedaled through black sky
toward the orange crescent,
no chart to compass by.
Uphill all the way it was,
’til—breathless—I arrived.
Just one small step for me
I took, so glad to have survived.

Returning—rolling on with ease—
‘til I was almost down.
I saw no sight I recognized
In sea or field or town.
Alone and GPS-less,
afraid and tempest-tossed,
I landed God knows where,
then woke at last,
still lost.


Carmen Leone
© 2012





Image links to its source
Voyage à la lune (c. 1865-1870) Wiki Commons - public domain

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Texas Blues #6 – Lone Wolf Blues – Oscar “Buddy” Woods

A happy Monday from the rainy Pacific Northwest! The Monday Morning Blues will be transporting us to Texas today, at least for the three minutes & 14 seconds of our featured song.

It’s a commonplace, of course, that slide guitar is a staple of the blues sound; it’s also true that while several of the best known slide players lived in the Mississippi Delta area, slide blues styles were found throughout the south in the first half of the 20th century.  However, in most cases the guitarists played blues while holding the guitar “Spanish style”—in other words, in the conventional manner. But slide guitar is also played “lap style,” with the guitar across the player’s lap, but while this style was common in Hawaiian music & in early Country (where it eventually developed into the related playing of dobro on one hand & pedal steel on the other), it was rather uncommon for blues guitarists to play slide in this manner (though blues historian Steve Calt claims that lap style, using a knife as a “bar,” actually pre-dated “Spanish style” slide playing.) Certainly many of the common riffs & figures in slide blues require the use of fingers fretting strings, & this really isn’t possible in lap playing—all the noting & chording is done with the bar itself. Of course the slide itself for lap playing is also different—it’s not practical to use a bottleneck or a copper tube, so usually players opt for a solid piece of metal (I have seen a video of Booker White playing lap style with a railroad spike!) 


In any case, Oscar Woods is now thought of as one of the first players to popularize lap style playing in the blues. Although Woods hailed from  Natchitoches, Louiana, near Shreveport, he was part of the Dallas music scene in the 1930s, & even backed Jimmie Davis of “You Are My Sunshine” fame on several recordings between 1930 & 1932. He also recorded with such bands as the Shreveport Home Wreckers, Kitty Gray & her Wampus Cats—& had one recording session with Peetie Wheatstraw, the “Devil’s Son-in-Law” himself.  Wood also was a mentor of Buck Turner, AKA “the Black Ace,” who was another notable lap guitar Texas bluesman—& one who will soon appear in this series.  It's also clear that Robert Johnson was familiar with Woods' work, as one verse of his song "Love in Vain" was taken from the Shreveport Home Wreckers' "Flying Crow Blues."

But Woods also made a dozen records in which he performed either solo with just his voice & his slide guitar playing, or as the front man. Perhaps the best known of these is today’s selection, “Lone Wolf Blues,” which he recorded for Decca in New Orleans in 1936. “Lone Wolf Blues” was the A side, backed by “Don't Sell It - Don't Give It Away.”

“Lone Wolf” is played in open G, but not the common open G tuning that was used so much on the Delta (&, interestingly, in Hawaiian slack key playing, in which it’s called “Taro Patch”); here the guitar is tuned GBDGBD, which means that the low string is brough all the way up from an E to a G.  These days this tuning is usually only used on squareneck guitars, because of the stress put on the neck by this string (& to some extent by the low A string coming up to B.)

Enjoy!





 

Image links to its source on http://4.bp.blogspot.com. That isn’t a photo of Oscar Woods on the album cover—no photos of Woods are known to exist. I believe that’s the Black Ace.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Allegro from Sonata in A Minor BWV 1039 (or BMW 1027)


Happy Sunday, friends. I’m back with some music for your listening pleasure today, & also a short post, which you may enjoy perusing as you listen.

Yes, I do indeed have a fascination with the viola da gamba, & it dates back at least several years, probably to about the time when I was most fascinated by the harp guitar. At that time, the Lark in the Morning stores were still open, & we were on the mailing list for their catalog—& yes, they did indeed sell violas da gamba! Pricey items (like harp guitars) even at the low end of the range.

The viola da gamba is properly speaking a “viol,” & while it looks very much like a 7-string cello with frets (!), it is as much a cousin to the modern guitar as it is to the cello. Both the viola da gamba & the guitar descended from a common ancestor called the vihuela.  The vihuela was played either with the fingers, a plectrum or after a certain point, with a bow—the vihuela de arco. Like the modern guitar, the vihuela was tuned in fourths with one interval of a third, & in fact, the viola da gamba also shares this quirky tuning. In addition, the viol, the vihuela & the guitar (prior to the advent of the modern steel string version) all had flat fingerboards, whereas the violin family all have fingerboards with a curve that’s visible to the naked eye. Steel string guitars also have a radiused fingerboard, though the curvature really isn’t that noticeable (unless you play slide); in the case of steel string guitars, the slight radius tends to facilitate playing barre chords—barring is done on a classical guitar too, of course, but not really as a way of playing closed position chords.

The “gamba” in viola da gamba simply refers to the fact that the instrument is held in place by pressure from the knees. Viola da gambas don’t have the end pin you find on modern cellos that rests on the floor—in fact, the baroque cello also didn’t have such an end pin. It’s also worth noting that viols came in different sizes—while we mostly see the tenor size nowadays, viol consorts consisted of treble, alto, tenor & bass.

In today’s, Lucile Boulanger is the violist here, & she & harpischordist Arnaud de Pasquale produce a fine duet here. For those who are interested in the catalog number (the BWV, which is how Bach’s music is catalogued), the video itself titles this BWV 1039, while the IMSLP site calls it BWV 1027IMSLP states about BWV 1039: “Possibly an arrangement of a trio sonata for different instruments (e.g., 2 violins and basso continuo.) Later arranged for viola da gamba and harpsichord as BWV 1027.”

However it’s catalogued, this is sublime music  —enjoy!





Image Links to its source on Wiki Commons
"Various Viole da gamba/Viols" - public domain [the tenor viol is second from the right]


Friday, November 9, 2012

“Get It While You Can”

Happy Banjo Friday, one & all! We’ve sure been focused on both classical music played on the banjo & the “classical style” of banjo playing here of late, & I admit I’m really quite fascinated these days by both of these types of performances. But I also don’t want Robert Frost’s Banjo to turn into Robert Frost’s Baroque, & since I’m also posting music on Sundays these days& that may involve baroque & early music for a bitI thought I’d do something a little different on Fridays this month.

Truth is, November has always been a hard month for me. I have unpleasant associations with the Thanksgiving holiday that are very long-standing, & the diminishing light can make me blue. So what a perfect time to mention one of my favorite Charles Schulz cartoons (as pictured), & also to feature a performer who may illustrate Linus’ point better than anyone I’ve ever watched & listened to—Danny Barnes.

I’ve written about Danny Barnes before on Banjo Friday, both as a feature post & also in a post highlighting his wonderful song (& album) “Pizza Box,” but as I was surfing all manner of banjo videos on YouTube & feeling very dissatisfied with what I was hearing, I came back to Danny Barnes, & I realized he was the answer for this month! Yes, I'll be featuring Danny Barnes on Banjo Friday for the rest of November.

Although Danny Barnes often performs with extensive use of looped sound (which he handles beautifully—I had a chance to see him live, which I also wrote up here), this video features just his banjo & his voice & his fantastic songwriting.  “Get It While You Can” is from his 2004 release, Dirt on the Angel.

One thing about music: it gives us the capacity for joy in a way that few activities can. & anyone who has seen or heard Danny Barnes knows that to be true!



Image links to its source at 4.bp.blogspot.com

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

"Fairy Tale?"

Once up a time,
(or so the story goes,)

in a land so far away,
(or right here for all we know,)

there was a a great occurrence,
(or a mediocre one,)

a turmoil on the moon,
(or perhaps it was the sun.)

The country was in ruins,
(or it may have been okay,)

but I’m sure it was a country,
(at least that’s what they say.)

and the hero was a girl,
(or it might have been a guy,)

and they lived happily ever after,

no wait…I know they died.


Barbie Angell
© 2012


I love the wit & humor of this poem from Barbie Angell’s book, Roasting Questions! In fact, I love the whole book, & I recommend it highly! Roasting Questions is on the verge of going to press, but just a little more money is needed to make that a reality. If you’d like to know more about my thoughts on Roasting Questions, you can read my review here; if you’d like to know more about Barbie Angell (& about the publishing process), you can read my recent interview with her or look back at the many wonderful poems & drawings she’s contributed to the blog…but wait! I have a better idea: head over to the Roasting Questions website & take a look at the book (there’s a complete “look inside” option); I know you’ll fall for this book just as I did. Pre-orders & sponsorships are still important to meet the costs of the printing, but the goal is in sight.

Thanks, friends! & thanks, Barbie Angell, for all the wit & wonder you bring to this blog & to so many people’s lives.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Prélude et Allemande - Robert de Visée

A happy Sunday, friends. Since I haven’t been getting out on photographic expeditions as much lately, I thought it would be fun to have some musical Sunday posts interspersed when there isn’t a photo available. & because I like the idea of a Sunday post that is brief & to the point, I’ll try to keep these musical outings that way.

Thanks to the redoubtable musician & blogger Dominic Rivron for first making me aware of the theorbo. Here we have a piece by 17th & early 18th century lutenist Robert de Visée, who was a musician at the court of Louis XIV—Le Roi Soleil, the Sun King
& it is played by Swedish guitarist & lutenist Jonas Nordberg.

A beautiful piece of music & a compelling performance—enjoy your Sunday!





Image links to its source

Ludovico Lana, Ritratto del liutista Girolamo Valeriani (Ludovico Lana, Portrait of Lutenist Girolamo Valeriani)     circa 1630: Wiki Commons – public domain

Thursday, November 1, 2012

“The Gun in Your Hand” – Danielia Cotton

In the wake of a howling guitar chord & drum roll,& over the top of a jagged & funky guitar riff, Danielia Cotton’s voice roars into the opening of her new album, Gun in Your Hand: “Somebody save me.” This voice come from someone who may be wounded, but is clearly not defeated; it’s s strong voice, a voice that asserts itself even in the face of a world that stops making sense.  Danielia Cotton has said that the message of “survival” is what she’d like people to take away from her latest album, & survival is clearly a central theme—but there’s a lot of salvation here too, even if under the surface. A voice that can rise up to sing “Save Me” in the face of tribulation knows: rock & roll can save your soul.

Make no mistake: while The Gun in Your Hand employs a wide sonic palette in painting its music pictures of loss, survival & salvation, it always rocks. Even its quietest songs, like the plaintive & acoustic “Boy Blue,” appear out of the silence with an underlying rhythmic urgency; at the other extreme, there’s the deliciously hardcore “Deep Dark Love,” with its lyric about Jesus & Mary Magdalene broken down by the side of the road, & a nod to Willie Dixon’s great “Spoonful.” One of the great interpreters of “Spoonful” was Howlin’ Wolf, & while Danielia Cotton is not a blues artist in a strict sense of the word, she absolutely can marshal the kind of elemental power that the great Wolf deployed!

But there’s so much here to discover. It’s an album that asks for salvation, for love, for understanding, but that also teaches: in fact, that also seems to be a central concept. & I don’t mean that Gun in Your Hand is didactic or preachy in the least; it rocks far too much for that, & the songwriting is far too good. Seven of the album’s 12 songs were either written or co-written by Danielia Cotton, while producer & musician Kevin Salem wrote or collaborated on six, & both are strong songwriters both in terms of lyrics & music. In addition, Cotton covers two standards: “Purple Rain,” one of the greatest rock songs ever written, & the haunting & disturbing “Strange Fruit,” known from the great versions by Billie Holiday & Nina Simone. The standard versions of these two songs are masterpieces in their genres, unquestionably; but Cotton truly produces exquisite versions that are completely her own & can stand alongside the best. 


To return to the teaching theme: in her song “Smile,” Danielia Cotton sings the apparently simple line, “In a good life there’ll be hard times.” This statement seems crucial to the album, which is so much about hard times & navigating them, even when the waters seem overwhelming; for instance, in the beautiful love ballad, “The Only Reason,” the lover may indeed be “the only reason anything good happens at all”—but the crucial point is that there is a reason in the midst of all the chaos & unreason. These thoughts don’t only apply on a personal level either; Cotton asks us to put ourselves in the place of lost souls in “Boy Blue”; she sings about the struggle for social justice in “Long Days”; the whole arc of the album, from the very personal “Save Me” through the historic & cultural touchstone of “Strange Fruit,” not only places suffering in various contexts, but it continues to raise a strong voice as a way of surviving & seeking a real form of salvation.

The Gun in Your Hand was co-produced by Kevin Salem, Cotton, & the band, & the production is simply superb. Salem & the others know when to layer on heavy sound, as in “Deep Dark Love” or “Save Me,” & when to pull back & let Cotton’s truly amazing voice stand out against a spare backdrop. This is done so effectively in the two cover songs, “Purple Rain” & “Strange Fruit.”  The playing throughout the album is top-notch; riff-driven, exact, clear gestures, even when the distortion is turned up highest on the guitars.

I highly recommend this album, & I predict it’s one that will stand up as time passes. Indeed, the sound is classic, without ever being dated. The Gun in Your Hand is available at iTunes & is also going into release today, November 1st, so do check out your local music shop—listen, learn, enjoy, be moved.



Images links to their source on Danielia Cotton's website