Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Good Hanukkah Music? It's a Miracle.

It's 12/3/10 and I'm adding this to the top of this post. Someone just sent me a very charming Hanukkah Country song.  It made my day! Spinning dreidels, Patsy Cline, Jimmy Rogers, and verklempt all in one song.  Dreidel's Day Out (Blue Dreidel No. 9) by Brigid Kaelin

I am going to start with the one country Hanukkah song I found online. Oy vey, y'all. Eight Candles Burning by Yoseph and Leah Urso.

It's hard to find good Hanukkah music. I think part of the problem is that our expectations for it are set by Christmas music. It's the same problem we have when comparing Hanukkah itself to Christmas. Christmas is one of Christianity's two most important holidays, both theologically and culturally.  Hanukkah just doesn't have the same weight in Jewish life. It's a lovely holiday so I don't want to diminish it, but it's not a holiday we travel to be with family for. Most of us don't attend special services. We don't take a day off. It has a nice ritual, a short story, and miracle. We have the dreidle game, latkes, sufganiyot, gelt and some gift giving (depending who you ask).

Really, the holiday Jewish musicians should be writing songs for is Pesach (Passover). I would love some good  Pesach music to clean the cabinets, cook and set the table to. Pesach has plenty of traditional songs to draw from as well as a nice long story and beautiful family traditions to inspire lyrics. (Of course, I'm not a songwriter or a musician, so what do I know?)

But, back to the subject at hand, Hanukkah music. I'm going to be listening to the list below. There isn't anything country on this list. I did find O'Chanukah by the Sinai Mountain Boys, a bluegrass band, but as much as I want to, I don't like it. I'll keep looking and will also continue to take suggestions and add to the list.

Miracle, Matisyahu A new one. People are saying it sounds like a Katy Perry song. The chorus does, but it doesn't bother me. My prediction is that my daughter will love it and listen to it endlessly.
Eran Baron Cohen Presents: Songs in the Key of Hanukkah This is absolutely the best Hanukkah album I've found. It's modern, original and interesting. Eran Baron Cohen did a really good job. Buy it on itunes it comes with a video. Amazon, no video. Links to both if you click.
Hanukkah Dance, Woody Guthrie I found just a blank video of this on YouTube. This was the only link I found for you to hear the whole song without having to give instructions like "click here, scroll down, click again." I bought it on itunes and then it grew on me. I prefer Guthrie's original to the Klezmatic's version. They have a whole album called Guthrie's Happy Joyous Hanukkah. Another Guthrie cover is the Indigo Girls', Happy Joyous Hanukkah.
Light One Candle, Peter, Paul and Mary Beautiful
Hanukkah, Adam Sandler is annoying as all get out, but it still makes me smile every time I hear it.
Or if you'd rather, Neil Diamond's cover of the same song.
Hanukkah Rocks, The LeeVees  I'm going to sound like I've got one foot in Florida, but my girlfriends and I listened to this the other day while playing Mahjong.  We were laughing so hard we had to turn it off so we could concentrate.
Maoz Tzur, Craig Taubman I'm on the fence on this, leaning toward liking it. Fast forward through the intro by Fran Drescher. 
Hanukkah Swings, Kenny Ellis Someone just pointed this album out to me and it sounds great. Love the swing! Traditional songs and a good voice. I am probably going to buy this one.

And now I muddy the water.
The Real Complete Happy Hanukkah Party So, this album has everything. Any Hanukkah song you ever had a hankering to sing is on here. Some of them are O.K.ish. They have a traditional yet slightly groovy (disco?) sound. I like their version of Sivivoni Yarutz. I dunno. Is it good? It has all the traditional songs and it's not cantorial.
Look up Mama Doni or The Macabeats  if you want to listen to or watch videos of popular songs remade into funny Hanukkah songs. I don't want to, but I know I have friends that do because they keep telling me about these two and sending me links. The Macabeats are an a capella group from Yeshiva U. They do have nice voices.
Eight Days of Hanukkah, Rasheeda Azar, written by Senator Orin Hatch and Madeline Stone. It's still odd.

Happy Hanukkah!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Country for Kids Concert, part 3, What I love about Rodney Atkins

After a week of exile in South Florida, I am finally finishing writing about the Country for Kids Concert.

Last but certainly not least, Rodney Atkins closed the evening at QDRs Country for Kids concert, supporting the N.C. Children's Hospital. It's been well over a week since the concert, so hopefully my memory will serve me well.

First, the serious. I learned this at the concert. Rodney Atkins was a very sick baby who was put up for adoption. He was adopted and then returned, if you can believe that, a number of times because he was so sick.  Happily a family did adopt him, nurture him to good health, raise him with love, and he was able to become the successful artist he is today. Next to me sat a highschool friend of mine, coincidentally, a farmer's daughter.  She has adopted two children who were born with birth defects. Last year, between the two children, there were thirteen surgeries.  She has just moved to N.C. and specifically to an area where the N.C. Children's Hospital is an easy drive.  In addition, the friend sitting on the other side of me knew one of the mothers in a video they showed about families who have very sick children in the hospital. Quite frankly, until this concert, I had never given the N.C. Children's Hospital much thought, because, Thank God, my daughter has been very healthy.  Sitting next to my friends and hearing Atkins' story made me realize just how important it is to support pediatric hospitals.

Next, the completely superficial. Rodney Atkins was wearing as bedazzled a t-shirt as any person should ever wear, even a country singer. From where we were sitting, we couldn't actually see the image on his back but it was probably an eagle. My friend was rather enamored by the shirt. "Turn around. What's on your back? That's hilarious. It's so shiny." We were very far back and she didn't actually say it loud enough for him to hear. That would be rude.  But I think we were all in agreement that he was sporting some dazzling bedazzling.

Rodney Atkins performance was a whole lot of fun. He played hit after hit and got everyone up on their feet singing. He had the audience sing the chorus of Farmers Daughter and taped it. I think we flubbed the lyrics in the middle, but Lovin' Lyrics music promotions who is kind enough to be one of my few twitter followers, videotaped it. (Click link above and you also get a glimpse of his bedazzled shirt. See the glint over the shoulder.) 

He went out into the crowd and audience members sang "If you're going through hell" which was rather poignant considering the battles many of the kids at the hospital need to fight.  I'm assuming that some of the audience members were parents of children, or even the children themselves, that have been in the hospital. For a lively rather rocking song, it was quite the tear jerker.

But the performance aside, this is what I love about Rodney Atkins. He sings super-twangy country songs with a sense of humor.  He always keeps it positive. In "About the South" (couldn't find an official video) he doesn't imply some sort of moral highground like, for instance, Josh Thompson's "Way out here". My husband has never picked a turnip and am not a farmer's daughter, but I love his songs because they are funny, sweet, warm and occassionally inspiring. He never comes across as mean. Even "Cleaning this gun" can probably get a smile out of about the most anti-gun father of a daughter. It's charming and the feelings expressed are universal. 

Rodney Atkins has something slightly goofy and very loveable about him. After considering the four performers, I'm sending my friend who comments on my blog a Rodney Atkins CD.  Thank you for reading and participating, Rachel.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Country for Kids Concert, Part 2, Clay Walker and the Sweaty Towel

If it was going to take me so long to finish writing about QDR's Country for Kids Concert to support the N.C. Children's Hospital (on 11/18) I probably shouldn't have started. Oh well. I make no apologies. I left for a  vacation and have been enjoying time with family in South Florida.

After Jason Michael Carroll and James Otto (see previous post) came Clay Walker.  The friend who accompanied me to the concert is a big Clay Walker fan so there were lots of expectations for his part of the show. Since so much time has passed since the concert, details have become blurred but in general, he was funny and soft spoken.  I was a little surprised by his antics, in a good way. He asked everyone in the audience to send word to Ellen DeGeneres, who he claims to have a "man crush" on, that he wants to dance with her on her show, and then proceeded to do a rather amusing dance. He made a show of swinging around his sweaty towel and tossed it into the audience with finesse.

On a side note, I ask you, my readers, what on earth does one do with a sweaty towel tossed to you by a country music star?  I didn't catch it, but someone did. I would probably wash it, take it to TechShop and embroider "This towel mopped up Clay Walker's sweaty brow on 11/18 and the Country for Kids concert" and then put it into the linen closet with the rest of the towels. It would get used and grey, until my daughter one day has to move me into The Heritage and finds it under a pile of stuff.  "Oh goodness Mama, you've been hanging onto this thing since your country music midlife crisis.  Mama, those were some crazy times."

Back to Mr. Walker, he started out with "If I could make a living out of loving you".  He sang "Where do I go from you" and I believe that's the song that he made the funny comment about.  He said it's hard to sing live so the last time he lip synced like Milli Vanilli. I didn't make a note of everything he sang, but he sounded really good and was amusing and very enjoyable throughout. He played "She won't be lonely long" twice, which was a little odd. It sounded like he was starting a different song and then switched to "She won't be lonely long" to finish the concert. I didn't mind because I love that song, but I think my friend, who wanted to hear more of his older songs was disappointed. Regardless, my appreciation for Clay Walker increased at this show and I will definitely see him again if he returns to the area.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Country for Kids Concert, part 1, JMC and James Otto

Wow. Last night was the Country for Kids Concert that QDR 94.7 sponsored to raise money for N.C. Children's Hospital. I just checked the website and between the NC Children's Promise fundraising telethon/radiothon and the concert they raised over a million dollars.

The concert was great! First of all it supported a very important organization in our community, but apart from that, it was just a very enjoyable concert. After going to so many huge concerts at Walnut Creek this summer with the heat, the crowds, and the drunks, it was pleasant to be in a smaller temperature controlled venue where the seats are comfortable and men wear their shirts. On top of that, every performance was outstanding.

Jason Michael Carroll, our local star who has been involved in this fundraising effort for a number of years, opened up with his incredible bass voice. He soon had everyone in tears with "Where I Come From" and "Alyssa Lies".  It's a good thing that he didn't sing "Hurray Home" or they would have had to send in a crew to mop the floor before the next act. In addition to some tunes from his past albums, he played two new songs. One was Christmas on the Farm from his new Christmas CD. Cute. (I do wish someone would put out some good country Jewish Holiday songs. A pipe dream? Jaron? Ray?) The other was "Meet Me in the Barn", a single he's releasing sometime soon. It took me a few hours to put my finger on it, but I think it sounds a bit like Justin Moore's Backwoods.  He also threw in enough farm cliches to get an eye roll from my friend. With that said, if QDR plays it I'm not going to change the channel.   It's the kind of song that after you hear it once you can sing along. "Meet me in the barn, way out in the pasture, park by the tractor, turn off your headlights, sneak in the backway so we don't get caught. I'll be waitin the hayloft with a kiss on my lips..." It's catchy, rather sweet, and we enjoyed it.

I'm adding this in because I just saw a tweet and it reminded me. JMC talked about an organization called Brittany's Battle that raises money for lung cancer research and families in need who are dealing with lung cancer. I went to their website and learned quite a bit. I didn't know that for all the people it takes from us, lung cancer is the most underfunded cancer. I like that JMC is so involved in health related charities. We've got nothin' w/out our health.

James Otto was up next.  He was charming. It's my second time seeing him in concert. The first was when he opened for Trace Atkins and Toby Keith last summer. He said something very funny about that (paraphrasing) "The only problem with being a guy who only has one hit song and opening for guys like that is that I'm a guy with only one hit song." I must say that he underestimates himself. When I saw him last summer, the group I was with thought he was much better than Trace Atkins. After that concert I downloaded a bunch of his music and have since purchased his album Shake What God Gave Ya. He has a Bluesy, R&B thing going on with the country. He doesn't dance around but he exudes a down to earth and friendly energy. There were 1800 people at DPAC last night but he turned it into an intimate performance.   The aspect of Otto's performance that I enjoyed the most was how he integrated his banter with the music. He led in and out of his own songs with verses from Bob Marley and the Rolling Stones, getting some audience participation, and talked in between verses with the other musicians providing background. Perhaps he is a perfectionist, because it was so well rehearsed that it seemed effortless. I didn't know that he co-wrote Jamey Johnson's "In Color". He sang that (amazing) as well as Soldiers and Jesus, which is a beautiful and moving song (my own religious issues aside). "Shake what God Gave You" got much of the audience on their feet as did his hit "Just Got Started Lovin' You". I had the feeling that of the four artists he was the least familiar to the audience. Hopefully he gained some new fans. I thought he was great.

I'll continue the review of Clay Walker and Rodney Atkins in following posts.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Songs that Honor Thy Father and Mother

Continuing the series about parents and children, inspired by the Country for Kids concert 11/18 supporting N.C. Children's Hospital.  James Otto, Jason Michael Carroll, Clay Walker, and Rodney Atkins will be performing. I watched an interview that WQDR94.7, the radio station sponsoring the concert, posted with the mother of a patient at N.C. Children's Hospital so I decided to devote this post to parents. Being a parent of a healthy child, thank God, I can't begin to understand what it must be like waiting for a child to come out of surgery, waiting for serious test results, or seeing a child who is very uncomfortable or in pain. We should be grateful to our parents for raising us, and teaching us right from wrong, protecting us during our developmental years and providing moral support in adulthood, but those parents who sit night and day in hospitals rooms advocating, loving, and praying, deserve special recognition from all of us. 

On a lighter note....

When I put together the "parenting" mix last week, I asked for suggestions from friends. Some of their suggestions were more about honoring a parent, either living or deceased, than about "Parenting" so I promised an "Honor your Father and Mother" mix. It does appear to be the one commandment I'm going to be able to make a mix about. As much material is available, I'm going to resist making a "Thou shalt not commit adultery" mix.

Many of these songs honoring parents focus on what the parent taught the child, so I'd like to point out a few things I learned from my parents.

Dad taught me to be an individual and not worry too much about what other people think. He passed down to me his artistic eye, distrust of exercise, tendency to become obsessed with a hobby, and appreciation for dirty jokes. The one skill that appears to have skipped a generation is his incredible ability to watch WWII naval battles on TV and read unrelated non-fiction simultaneously, retaining detailed information from both sources.

Mom taught me how to be a friend and entertain.  One thing is for sure. Just like Mom, I'll put off almost any self-imposed obligation for lunch with a friend. Like Mom, I will have people over at the drop of a hat. Unlike Mom, the cutlery may be a mishmash of colored plastic, the plates leftovers from a birthday party and the house messy, but there will be more than enough food and drink to keep all guests well fed and watered. We have an expression in our house that comes from Mom. "Is it generous? Because we need to be generous." We may joke about it, but we know she's right.

I've added some good recommendations from friends to the few country songs that immediately came to mind. This list is a work in progress. Being a parent, wife and designer have gotten in the way of my blogging these last few days.  Please make suggestions in the comments section. I'll periodically add some of your contributions to the list.

Chris Young, Voices
Clay Walker, Fore She Was Mama
Allen Jackson, Drive
Carrie Underwood, Mama's Song
Steve Goodman, My Old Man (you'll have to google it and listen on iLike)
Keith Urban, Song for Dad
Confederate Railroad, Daddy Never was the Cadillac Kind
Sugarland, Baby Girl
Jace Everett, Between a Father and a Son
2Pac, Dear Mama
Tom Jones and John Farham, My Yiddishe Mama
Connie Francis, My Yiddishe Mama (Yiddish/English version)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

A Good Musical Mix to "Parent" To

I'm continuing my series of posts leading up to the Country for Kids concert supporting the N.C. Children's Hospital on November 18th at Durham Performing Arts Center. In an effort to promote conversation on my blog, I am going to give away a CD to or make a donation in honor of someone who leaves a comment. The CD will be the latest of any of the four artists performing, James Otto, Clay Walker, Jason Michael Carrol, or Rodney Atkins.

I understand that "Parenting" is a recent verb. The other day I noticed that one of my male friends has it listed as an interest on his Facebook profile (and he is a great Dad).  I will admit that I am a slacker Mom.  I allow my child to watch hours of moderately appropriate TV on weekend mornings, pulled her out of school at lunchtime to go to the Country Throwdown, and rarely make her eat fruit, but I still love a good song about being a parent.

Darius Rucker was opening for Brad Paisley this summer.  He played his song "It won't be like this for long". I was drinking my beer, remaining nonchalant, until I turned to my friend and realized that she had tears welling up in her eye as she was singing away.  She turned to me and said "This song is so true. It's been so hard. I remember feeling like this." Of course, I teared up as well, as I can't let a girlfriend cry alone. My friend falls into the supermom category of women. She's incredibly organized, with chore lists,  TV time tickets and calendars with little illustrations of each child's activity so the child can keep track of their own week. Her children think that hamburger buns are normally whole wheat, and she pays attention and advocates with an energy level I couldn't rustle up if there were front row tickets to a George Strait concert dangling in front of me.

So, in honor of all of my supermom and slacker parent friends alike, I've put together a list of fabulous "parenting songs". Some of these are my favorites. I've added some additional recommendations from friends so it's not all country. If you have one that isn't on the list, please leave a comment!

Bette Midler, Baby Mine, video, purchase song
Brad Paisley, If He's Anything Like Me, video, purchase song
Darius Rucker, It Won't Be Like This for Long, video, purchase song
Martina McBride, In My Daughter's Eyes, video, purchase song
Rodney Atkins, Watching You, video, purchase song
Tori Amos, Ribbons Undone, purchase song
Lonestar, My Front Porch Looking In, video, purchase song
Lee Anne Womack, I Hope You Dance, video, purchase song
Cat Stevens, Father and Son, video, purchase song
Jamey Johnson, The Dollar, video, purchase song
John Sebastian, Younger Generation, video, purchase song
Trace Adkins, You're Gonna Miss This, video, purchase song
Tim McGraw, My Little Girl, video, purchase song
The Cast of Fiddler on the Roof, Sunrise Sunset, video, purchase song
Harry Chapin, Cat's in the Cradle, video, purchase song
Jason Michael Carroll, Hurray Home, video, purchase song
Heartland, I Loved Her First, video, purchase song

I included the "purchase song" link to Amazon just to make your life easier. I'm not making any money from that.
Remember, leave a comment!

11/16 I added some additional songs, two from a commenter's recommendation. Now can anyone tell me why there are so few good songs about being a parent, sung by women, or am I just biased toward male singers?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Zahra Baker is Confirmed Dead

Sadly, the police confirmed that they have found enough physical evidence that they can say they have found Zahra Baker, and that she is dead.  It's horrifying. There are no words and no songs.

After my last blog post regarding Zahra Baker's abuse, parental anger and corporal punishment, this question of when to intervene still bothered me. I asked the Chabad Rabbi who teaches the Jewish ethics class I take if he thinks I should have said something to the Dad who was spanking his child on the beach.  He said that if the father was a stranger, and the boy was not being beaten, just spanked, it probably would  not have been a good idea to intervene.  As the father was a stranger, it could have escalated the situation in an undesirable way. He did say that if the father had been a person I knew, it would have been appropriate to say something, even if it was just a comment that spanking has been proven to be a poor method of discipline. He was very adamant that spanking was not something parents should be doing.

In addition he added one of the teachings of the Baal Shem Tov, that all of these experiences, where we witness or experience something disturbing and question our reaction, are important. They prepare us to do the right thing the next time we are faced with a similar situation.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Alyssa Lies, Zahra Baker, Maimonides, and Self Control

Read to the end. I'm giving away a CD.

I've been listening to quite a bit of Jason Michael Carroll (JMC). He's performing in the Country for Kids concert to support N.C. Children's hospital on November 18th, together with James Otto, Clay Walker, and Rodney Atkins. I've made a nice mix of their best songs to get me in the groove.  It's a little pre-concert routine I have.

Lately when JMC's "Alyssa Lies" comes up in the shuffle I can't help but tear up. Assuming he plays this song at the concert, there isn't likely to be a dry eye in the place. Many of us are going to be thinking about the sad search for the Zahra Baker, who has been missing a month from the Hickory, N.C. area. The fact that Zahra Baker has battled cancer, which resulted in her losing her leg and partial hearing, and that the concert supports a childrens hospital, is going to hammer home the sad circumstances of her recent life and assumed death from abuse. There is a certain communal guilt in stories like hers, and one that is expressed in the song. If you want to read an article detailing how Zahra was treated in the public setting of her neighborhood, read this article from the Winston-Salem Journal.

The song isn't new, but if you haven't heard it, Alyssa Lies tell the story of a father who takes a couple days to understand that his daughter has a new friend who comes to school full of bruises. He decides to go to the school the next day to report what he has heard but it is too late. The child has died.  This story isn't far fetched.  Neighbors and family reported Zahra's abuse to social services but ultimately not enough was done to help her.

It makes me question my response to something I witnessed on the beach this summer. There was a group of adults and their kids sitting nearby, listening to music and playing in the water. Then all of a sudden a father starts yelling at his eight year old son because he dumped sand on his mother's feet and towel, puts him over his knee and proceeded to spank him on his bare tuchas, a handful of smacks. I shook my head and moved my chair away. Others shook their heads and glared at them. My sister-in-law, an attorney, told me that I should have called the authorities, but on what grounds? Spanking is legal in South Carolina. The man wasn't beating his son. He humiliated his son in public and proved to all the world that he's a humorless father with a terrible temper and weak parenting skills, but he didn't damage the boy physically.

Now, looking back, I ask myself, if that father was angry enough to spank his kid in front of everyone on the beach for something so trivial, what does he do when the child truly misbehaves?  To this day I'm not sure what I should have done.  Should I have spoken up? "Hey there! Take a deep breath and get a grip, Mister."? Perhaps.

I was reminded of this incident further during a Jewish ethics class I take once a week. We were discussing the characteristics of an ethical person.  Maimonides, a renowned Jewish philosopher from the Middle Ages, said that anger is one character trait that we should avoid completely, even in situations where anger would be a normal response.  "Therefore, [the Sages] instructed us that one should distance himself from anger so much so that one accustoms himself not to feel even things which [would ordinarily] incite one to anger. And this is the ideal path."  To apply this to parenting, Maimonides says that if one needs to act angry to get a child's attention, that's OK, but one shouldn't actually be angry. Why? One reason is that when people are very angry, they do irrational things. Their wisdom and good judgement escapes them.

But the culture of using corporal punishment is not based on anger. Anger escalates it and ultimately is what kills children, but if we take the Montgomey Gentry song  "You Do Your Thing" that says "I ain't gonna spare the rod, Cuz that ain't what my daddy did, And I sure know the difference between wrong and right" it shows a rationally made parenting decision. One of my graduate school professors tells a story about how she learned basic carpentry.  She misbehaved in a way her father found so egregious that he had her go out to his workroom and use his saws, drills and sand paper to make a paddle that he later beat her with. It was obvious from the telling of the story that the memory of her father's cold cruelty was far more significant than any memory she had of the lesson learned. An angry parent who inflicts pain as the standard consequence for misbehavior is not going to be able to make good decision regarding the intensity of such a punishment. A parent who isn't angry, and still uses pain as a method of punishing or training a child, is either a bit of a sadist or sadly misguided by family tradition.

One of my favorite parenting songs is  "Watching You" by Rodney Atkins, who is also performing at the Country for Kids concert. His song sweetly states that our children see how we behave and behave accordingly. In the song, the boy uses a swear word and tells the father he learned it from watching him, and when the boy prays, and the father realizes that the boy’s faith comes from watching him as well.

What part of our behavior do we want to see reflected back at us when we visit our children's households? How are we going to prevent sad stories like Zahra's from happening over and over again? I bet that some people don't think that these things are connected, but they are. Our tempers and methods of discipline are on a continuum.  It's up to each one of us to decide where we are along that line and if we're really comfortable with how our behavior could ultimately affect our children and our children's children.

To promote discussion, I'm giving away the latest CD of one of the four artists performing at the Country for Kids concert, James Otto, Jason Michael Carroll, Clay Walker, or Rodney Atkins.  Leave an interesting comment on this subject. Extra credit goes to the writers who uses a musical reference in their comments. I'll announce the winner on Monday Nov. 15th. The winner chooses which CD they want. If the winner doesn't want a CD I'll make an equivalent donation to N.C. Children's Hospital in thier honor.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

I'm Off Topic,Y'all, Some Groovy Tunes by MOTs

So I was surfing around, minding my own business, when all of a sudden I came upon Jewish TV Network.  I haven't watched every single video in their music video section yet, but 'yet' is the operative word. All I can say is that if you have some time to burn and want to watch some really great videos, by Israelis and Jewish artists in the U.S. and Canada, watch these. It's a good collection of videos, all in one place, with no commercials. I highly recommend So Called: You are Never Alone, both songs by The Idan Raichel Project, Balkan Beat box, the long video about Moshe ben Ari, and Dana Parish. I have to tear my self away and finish watching another day.  http://www.jewishtvnetwork.com/

Twitter. Honoring my First Follower.

Twitter is a lonely place for a newbie. I was tickled pink to find one of my closest friends from highschool, but what I'm looking for are people who love music and are interested in reading my blog.

Then, the joy, a follower who didn't know me already, found me! He appeared out of the blue. Of course I followed him in return. I don't know anything about him except that he's a musician named Marcus Harmon who has posted a lovely video of a this sleepy and quietly haunting song.  Click here to see his video.  I surfed around and found quite a number of videos and interviews. Harmon appears to be a guy who is serious about performing and making music.  I'm happy to devote this post to wishing him well in his pursuit of good music and good fortune. I will point out that Marcus Harmon does have quite a following, over 1700. He is obviously doing something right.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

It's Been My Jason Aldean Kinda Day

A nightmare about pulling an enormous tick our of my daughter's hair woke me up at 5 am today.  This is what happens when you have a pack of nine deer living in your backyard. So I got an early start on Jason Aldean's new album.  I really like him and have been looking forward to this for a while. The title track, My Kinda Party, released a while back, didn't make it to my ipod on its own. I knew that there was going to be better material in the album so I waited, and there definitely is.

I've listened to the album at least five times already today and I'm not sick of it. There's the duet with Kelly Clarkson, which I'm guessing will be a hit, but I don't think there is a really rocking song like Crazytown that is going to get a crowd of 10,000 beating their fists in the air, bang, bang, bang, but My Kinda Party is coming close. It's growing on me. There isn't a shake your tush song like "She's Country" or anything quite as sweet as "Big Green Tractor", but it's a great album

What is there, for the most part, are a number of very poetic and poignant songs about life and love. Aldean doesn't seem to write his songs, but he sings them like he does. There is something so personal and conversational in his voice that it's very easy to believe that he is singing about himself and to make an emotional connection.

I do already have a favorite. I knew that I was going to like "Church Pew or Bar Stool" (written by Josh Thompson) from title alone. Shul pew or bar stool? It's a song about getting out of a suffocating small town, or, if you translate it into my world, suffocating small community.  "When you don't seem to run on either side of the fence, people act like you don't make sense." Wow, can I ever relate to that line.  "Well it's crystal clear that I, just need to find, a place where there is no lines, and nothing like it is around here." I've wanted to get the heck out of Dodge my entire life. The catch is that "Dodge" follows you wherever you go. The only place with no lines is the place in life where you can finally step to your own beat and not care what others think. I think that place is the age of 40. Maybe Mr. Aldean will find a song that touches on that a few albums from now.

The other song that immediately spoke to me is "Fly Over States". I've always found Aldean's voice to be interesting, rather than beautiful, but it's beautiful in this song.  Being one of the majority of Americans that have never driven from coast to coast, the song makes me want to jump into my car and head west. "On the plains of Oklahoma, with a windshield sunset in your eyes, Like a watercolored painted sky, you'll think heavens doors have opened, you'll understand why God made those flyover states."

Then there are the lost love songs. Aldean can make the feeling of longing palpable,  like he's crying inside, but is too much of man to let on. He did that in Truth, he does that in "See You When I See You", "If You Can See Me Know" and "Heartache that Don't Stop". 
I'd love to hear what my readers think.  If you've heard the album or any of the songs.  Please comment.

This post was revised extensively on Nov. 3rd because it was too long and I changed my mind about a couple of things.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Year NPR, my Husband and Joe Nichols Came Together to Change my Life

I could explain my recent obsession with country music in two words, midlife crisis, but I'd rather tell a bit of a story.

I have never been a fan of any specific music genre. Fan is the operative word here, originating from the word, fanatic. I've subsisted for years on the drone of NPR and small doses of Israeli music, classic and Southern rock, heavy metal, and country. Occasionally I would dip into the bucket of my teenage angst that is a gruesome brew of folk, new wave, punk, acid rock, and a whole lot of  Red Hot Chili Peppers. So what happened?

Three things happened within a few months that turned me from casual music listener to country music fan.

1. My husband bought me an ipod for my birthday, and when I filled it with podcasts of This American Life and my old tired music collection, it became apparent that if I didn't start listening to brand new music, my demise was going to be premature death by boredom.

2. NPR had a fund drive that got on my nerves to such a degree that I tuned into country radio and never looked back. I still have an ear open for good things happening in other genres, and listen to classic rock, but as I've noticed, classic rock just means old popular music, much of which I didn't like when it first came out. Given a choice, I'll almost always choose to listen to a new country song.

3. A review in the News and Observer of Joe Nichols' album Old Things New got my attention, and when I listened to it, I fell head over heals in love, not with him, with the music.  I can't imagine a life worth living that does not include an intra-ear drip of similar sounds. Today is, coincidentally, the one year anniversary of that review.

I met Joe Nichols briefly in May. He did a show in a bar in my hometown.  I brought the only other Joe Nichols admirer I know, my daughter's 1st grade teacher, along for the almost two hour drive and overnight at my Mom's. After an excellent show we stood in the slow moving meet and greet line to say hello and get an autograph. By the time we got to the front I forgot to tell him what I wanted to say, that I love his voice. It would have been nice to have remembered to say that his album changed my life; that this album was the one that made me realize how much I truly enjoy country music. He comes across as a down to earth guy, so he may have appreciated the compliment.

That's the last meet and greet line I'm ever standing in. Unless I run into him on the street or this blog finds its wings, takes off and scores me a press pass one day, this post will have to suffice as my expression of gratitude to Joe Nichols (and NPR).  My husband has been thanked many times for the ipod.