Tuesday, July 31, 2012

“The Could’ves”

[I have read many poems in my time; fun poems, serious poems, great poems, artful poems—but I’m not sure I’ve ever encountered a poet who uses personification quite the way our own poet-in-residence, Barbie Angell does. Here she takes us on a wonderland trip thru a madcap menagerie of personifications—& does it as no one else!]

“The Could’ves”

All the Could’ves and Should’ves
engraved in my brain,
while the Want to’s and Need to’s
are sounding the same.

Have the Have to’s all fled?
Are the Couldn’ts all dead?
‘Cause I want to and need to,
but Nothing was said.

Can I take a trip of magic time
if I swallow all these pills?
Can I sacrifice a troubled mind?
Should a crippled soul be killed?
Do you know the place where dreams are born?
Can a scream be taken back?
Can you paste together a life that’s torn?
Is Confusion red or black?

The What if’s try to capture me.
Will the Wonders ever cease?
As the Somedays try to set me free,
Just to offer up some peace.

Are the Have to’s all void?
Are the Couldn’ts destroyed?

‘Cause the Maybes are something
that I just can’t avoid.

Barbie Angell
© 2009-the present

Monday, July 30, 2012

Any Woman’s Blues #22 – Barbara Lynn

Welcome back to our first edition of Any Woman’s Blues in quite some time! It’s one of my own favorite series here, & I’m happy to begin posting it again. From now on, I’ll endeavor to get back to monthly installments of this.

This month’s featured artist is Barbara Lynn, a fantastic singer & guitarist whose career dates back to the early 1960s (as evidenced by the first video below.) Ms Lynn hails from Beaumont, Texas, & she really hit the scene in 1962 with the #1 Billboard R&B hit, “You’ll Lose a Good Thing” (later covered in a country version by Freddy Fender!) You can follow this link to hear Lynn play this tune—I opted against including here because I believe the two videos I chose showcase her guitar-playing more effectively.  In addition, her song "Oh Baby (We've Got A Good Thing Goin')" was covered by the Rolling Stones on their 1965 release The Rolling Stones Now! After recording on the Jamie & Tribe labels thru much of the 1960s, she was signed by Atlantic in 1967 & produced yet another hit, “"This Is the Thanks I Get."

Following her marriage (around 1970—can’t find the exact date), her career went mostly on hold as she devoted herself to family for most of the next two decades, with only occasional nightclub appearances. But towards the end of the 1980s, she returned to her musical career, signing with the Iciban label & releasing You Don’t Have to Go in 1988. Lynn also has inked recording deals with Antone’s & Dialtone, & now has 11 albums to her credit. She’s also touring, & as you can hear in the second video—her beautiful cover of “Misty Blue,” both her guitar & vocal chops are as impressive as ever.

Lynn’s guitar style mixes solid rhythm featuring lots of damped & accented upstrokes with very direct & compelling leads & fills. You’ll notice that she plays fingerstyle, using a thumbpick—unusual in general on electric guitar, tho it is used by some blues artists (for example, Lynn’s fellow Texan Lightnin’ Hopkins.) Early in her career her standby guitar was a Fender Esquire, but these days she seems to favor the Stratocaster.

Hope you enjoy the music by this truly wonderful artist!

Pic by Wiki use Masahiro Sumori. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. 

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Photo of the Week 7/29/12

 Bowling Ball Cribbage Boards
crackedpots Art Show
McMenamins Edgefield, Troutdale, Oregon
Tuesday 7/24/12

For more about this event, check back on the Rose City Wednesday post!

Friday, July 27, 2012

“Pizza Box”

Will wonders never cease—it’s Banjo Friday!

Yes, indeed. But not wishing to throw all caution to the winds, today’s post is short & not “breaking any new ground.” It’s just a song that’s beautifully composed, played & sung by one of the most intriguing contemporary banjo artists, Danny Barnes. Long-time followers will recall that I wrote more extensively about Barnes in an earlier post, & in that piece I discussed Barnes’ use of looping techniques & other innovations to produce a true 21st century brand of old-time music. But here, it’s just Danny Barnes & his voice & his banjo.

“Pizza Box” is the title track of Barnes’ 2009 ATO release; I recommend this & all of Barnes’ music highly—& if you get a chance to see & hear him live, please do; I first learned about him when I saw him at the Crystal Ballroom in Portland, & was completely wowed by the show.

Hope you have a lovely Friday, friends—listening to this sweet song will definitely help!

Photo links to its source at hellovegetables.com

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

From a Distance: the Fremont Bridge

The Fremont Bridge as seen from the Broadway Bridge

Happy Wednesday, friends! After a brief hiatus, I’m back on the Rose City Wednesday beat, & looking forward to taking you on more virtual tours of my new hometown—new, but amazingly (to me at least), I’m fast approaching the one-year anniversary of my move here.

Last Saturday was one in a succession of lovely summer days we’ve enjoyed lately in Portland—moderate temperatures, mellow sunshine & rich blue skies, & just the gentlest breeze. Given all this wonderfulness, I decided to go for an urban hike, & left my apartment headed west on a walk that ultimately took me all the way to Powell’s Bookstore over on the west side.

The Fremont Bridge seen from lower Mississippi Ave

I saw many sights along the way, but I decided that rather than describing the hike itself in detail, I’d focus on one of those sights: the Fremont Bridge. The route I took along Interstate Avenue & the Broadway Bridge afforded me some of the best possible views of this structure.

Up until now, my Bridgetown posts have always involved walking one of the Portland bridges, but there are some bridges here that aren’t open to pedestrian traffic because they carry interstate highways. The Fremont Bridge is one of those—it carries Interstate 405, which is an exchange of Interstate 5. Technically, it also carries US route 30, as this route is absorbed by 405 along this stretch (or vice-versa, depending on your point of view.) I-405 connects downtown Portland to North Portland & I-5 proper.

Industrial: The Fremont as seen from Interstate Ave
Also as seen from Interstate: with the Montgomery Park building in the background

The Fremont Bridge was constructed in the 1970s, & the intent from the beginning was to create a visually impressive structure, especially in comparison to the more utilitarian Marquam Bridge to the south. The Fremont Bridge opened November 15, 1973.

As you can probably tell from the photos, the Fremont Bridge is a high & imposing structure; so despite being near the mouth of the Willamette, it has plenty of clearance for commercial ship traffic entering Portland.  The clearance below the Fremont is 175 feet. Structurally, it’s a “tied arch bridge,” & I direct you to this Wikipedia entry for an explanation of that—the arched bridge I get—the rest seems a bit arcane to me, but then, it’s still relatively early in the morning as I write this! Also according to Wikipedia: “It has the longest main span of any bridge in Oregon and is the second longest tied arch bridge in the world (after Caiyuanba Bridge across the Yangtze River, China)”

The Fremont Bridge: iconic, with iconic St John's Bridge in the background

Several of the Portland bridges present iconic images of the city—certainly the Hawthorne & Steel Bridge of the ones we’ve already explored—but the Fremont, along with the St John’s Bridge, which I’ve yet to work up nerve enough to walk, are perhaps the most iconic.

That’s all for this week! Next Wednesday I’ll be taking you folks to a unique local arts & crafts show. & if you’re interested in my unique (I think) mixture of baseball, aesthetics & philosophy, please check out my new Beer League Box Score blog!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

"A Good Day"

[Unlike the good Dr Williams, our own banjo-uking poet in residence Carmen Leone has left what was in the icebox—for today!]
A Good Day

My one vice for the day was that left-over piece of cheesecake.
Everything else was healthy and moderately sized,
with the exception, of course, of too much salt and too much sugar
and not enough water.
But those are little things.
No one’s perfect.
The house is filled with doors I shouldn’t open
inside of which live begging chocolates and cakes
and cookies and nuts and chips
Tomorrow I may open them.
But today was a good day
and should remain so,
As long as I go straight to bed,
ignoring pleading cupboards and refrigerator doors

Carmen Leone
© 2010-the present

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Texas Blues #3 – Black Snake Moan – Blind Lemon Jefferson

Welcome back to the sporadic & spasmodic posting schedule of Robert Frost’s Banjo. Will wonders never cease: I actually have a Monday Morning Blues post for you folks!

If you remember back a ways, I’ve been slowly constructing a series of notable Texas Blues artists & songs. Since there’s been some lapse, I’ll refer you back to the first two installments on Henry Thomas & Texas Alexander.

Today’s featured artist is seminal, whether you’re talking about Texas blues, acoustic blues, or just the blues in general. Blind Lemon Jefferson was one of the biggest stars of his day, & was the first male blues singer who could compete with the so-called Blues Queens such as Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey, Ida Cox & others in terms of popularity. Although the white blues audience has since revised the history of the early blues such that it seems the lone guitarist-singers were the major figures, in fact this wasn’t true for audiences in their own time. Jefferson was an exception; there were a few others like Lonnie Johnson & Tampa Red, but the performers we know think of us most significant, like Charlie Patton, Blind Willie McTell & Robert Johnson, at best enjoyed a regional fame.

Lemon Jefferson was born in 1893 in Coutchman, Texas. Blind from birth, he began playing guitar in his early teens, & in addition to playing the picnic & party circuit, he also began a career as a street musician. Around 1910, he began traveling to Dallas, & particularly the Deep Ellum section that was the center of a growing blues scene. He moved to Deep Ellum in 1917, & it was at that time he got to know T-Bone Walker, who he taught blues guitar in exchange for Walker’s services as a guide. Leadbelly & Lightnin’ Hopkins also knew Jefferson during his time in Dallas.

Jefferson’s recording career—almost exclusively with Paramount—lasted only three years, from 1926-1929, but during that time he recorded a number of hits & also songs, like “Black Snake Moan” that have become classics, not only in his original recorded versions, but in many covers & imitations. Jefferson’s songs were typically bawdy & filled with double entendre; musically, his accompaniments are complex, featuring intricate single note runs interspersed with his chords. Once you become familiar with Blind Lemon Jefferson’s sound, his songs are among the most easy to identify, even during the instrumental passages.

Simply amazing music—& great fun too! Enjoy!

Image of Blind Lemon Jefferson links to its source at wikimedia.org

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Photo of the Week 7/22/2012

Da Tung (Universal Peace) Statue
North Park Blocks, Portland, Oregon
Saturday 7/21/12

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

“Vagabond Thoughts….”

[Many of Barbie Angell’s poems have interesting back stories, & if you want to learn more about this one, check out this post on her site. But the great thing is her poems stand on their own, independent of inside info!]

Vagabond Thoughts….

You were a part of my speech.,
the unexplained break in my voice.
You wrote the song in my head,
and I promise this wasn’t my choice.

You were the spin of the stars,
the sweet chaos of all I could see.
You haven’t uncovered the truth
of the wonder and magic of me.

You were the start of a thought
that I was too cautious to think.
Unable to fend off your charms,
you lured my heart to the brink.

You were a part of my speech.
A whisper too loud to ignore.
The voice that coaxed me to sleep,
the one this poem is for.

Barbie Angell
© 2011

Saturday, July 14, 2012

“I Dream a Highway”

For as long as I can remember, I’ve dreamed highways—highways to real places, highways to imaginary ones; highways that moved fluidly thru time & space—into the future, into the past; highways to people, highways to nowhere.

We live in time—it’s our element. Place, yes, too—so crucial—but above all time. We live in past & future & present at all times concurrently, & in living in those times that are all “present” & also all “absent,” we build highways out of longing. I long for times & places & people. I’ve always been a person beset with longing—I realize I’m not unique in this.

As the years have passed, the fierce passions associated with longing have mellowed, its true—the fruit of the late summer: September song. The longing now more often than not comes either as melancholy or gratitude. As I’m melancholic by nature, this is the baseline—but I can get to that other place, too.

Dreaming highways—no one sings about this better than the incomparable Gillian Welch.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

"Lost Friend"

[An understated, poignant & contemplative poem from poet-in-residence Carmen Leone: enjoy!]

 Lost Friend

Sometimes, on a quiet afternoon,
I like to brew a pot of coffee,
very strong coffee,
and sit at the kitchen table
pretending that he’s here.
We sip carefully from our cups
like in the good days.
There are long pauses of silence
between talk of family, taxes, work, various aches,
It does us both good,
like dropping a load off somewhere.
easing our respective burdens.
But it’s not so much the weight
as the airing:
aroma-ed offerings rising with the steam.

Eventually, the coffee finished, he gets up to leave.
We wish each other well.
I watch from the door as he goes off,
fading like the coffee vapors.

I find this ritual comforting,
on a quiet afternoon.

Carmen Leone
© 2011

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

In the Neighborhood

Home, sweet home for me

I’m back!

Truth be told, I had plans for a more elaborate Rose City Wednesday post today, but my Tuesday conspired against it.  However, I am taking this chance to share with you something I’ve been involved with recently, & something I find quite fulfilling: I’m taking on the 10,000 step per day exercise program as a way of building up stamina. Since I was already walking much more since the move to Portland, this is really an effort to make the increased walking even more of a “routine.”

How far is 10,000 steps? It depends. If you read the online sites, they give a ballpark figure of 5 miles, based on an “average” stride. Turns out my stride must be below “average,” because I get something more like 3.5 miles. Nonetheless, a three mile plus walk daily is a good constitutional—& it’s offered me the opportunity to get to know my neighborhood better. So today Rose City Wednesday post features some photos I took on my Tuesday afternoon walk—hope you enjoy them, & be sure to give a listen to that great Tom Waits song at the post’s end!

Softball diamond, Unthank Park, N. Shaver
Roses in a front yard garden, N Haight Ave
Porch bike, N Mason

Dalo's Ethiopian Kitchen, N Vancouver: unassuming, but I understand it's good!
Sound Roots, N Williams Ave: erstwhile music shop
Advertisement outside Pix Patisserie, N Williams Ave
Urban League Garden, N. Beech & Albina
Star Wars Lego display, Sunlan Lamps, N Failing & Mississippi
Park at the intersection of N Mississippi & N Albina
Healing Moon Mural, Mississippi Health & Albina Press Building, N Albina Ave
Garage doors, N Albina Ave
Playground, N Kerby Ave
A quiet lane: N Prescott Ave
The street where I live: trellised roses on N Borthwick Ave

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

“Righting Wrongs & Wronging Writes”

[Barbie Angell’s best poems always suggest more than they tell, & here’s one that does that well: my rhyming comment for my favorite rhyming poet! This is a delight.]

Righting Wrongs & Wronging Writes

The words fall from my pen

and yet they make no sense.
The syntax is a jumbled mess,
I’ve lost the present tense.

The rhymes are all approximate.
The images contrived.
I was a fool to ever let
my conscience be my guide.

The coffee stirs up memories
and dreams I’ve tucked away.
I know I seem quite unaware
of the distance I survey.

I’m really not oblivious.
I see all my mistakes.
All the many ways I’ve given,
all the miles which you take.

Immersed within my headphones,
music breathes inside my ears.
The ink’s the blood of nonsense
and stagnant, subtle fears.

So I gather up my notebooks
and my newly battered pen.
I’d like to say I’m finished,
but I never could begin.

Barbie Angell
© 2011

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Photo of the Week 7/1/12

Salsify Gone to Seed
Springwater Corridor, Portland, Oregon
Monday 6/11/12

Ok, not a photo from this week, but I  like it, & if it hadn't been for the heron photo from that same outing, it would have been the photo of the week on June 17th. Anyway: a couple of projects have taken me far away from blog land for the past week or so, but I'm hoping to get on a bit more active posting schedule this coming week. We shall see what we shall see!