Archive for May, 2009

Dr. Dolly Parton!

May 25, 2009

On May 8, the University of Tennessee granted an honorary doctorate to Dolly Parton. It’s only the second honorary degree they’ve ever given, and my question is – what took them so long?

We all know Dolly the entertainer, but fewer know Dolly the philanthropist. Some years ago she founded the Imagination Library in her home county in Tennessee. Every child in the county gets one book a month from the Imagination Library from birth until he or she turns five, and the program has been such a success that variants of it are now up and running in 47 states. More than 20 million books have been distributed through the Dollywood Foundation, and the number grows daily.

Dolly’s not known as a speechmaker, but she gave quite a commencement address to the U of T grads: dreams are important, she told them, but only hard work will make those dreams come true. Few have dreamed bigger, and few have worked harder than she has. You can watch the whole thing here.

Of course she sang as well as spoke – she preceded her speech (and followed Tennessee Governor Bredesen’s introduction) with a rousing version of Rocky Top (the official state song of Tennessee) and finished up with a song I’ve never heard her sing before, Try. A little corny? Sure. A lot inspiring? Absolutely. Listen, enjoy and TRY!


Nanci Griffith: New Album, Live Chat

May 19, 2009

The album, The Loving Kind, comes out on June 9 and includes 9 songs written or co-written by Nanci. The chat is this coming Thursday, May 21 at 7PM EDT, over at Howie Klein’s Late Nite Music Club.

As Howie points out, its been a while since Nanci’s work has been this explicitly political. She wrote Not Innocent Enough about the 2007 execution of Philip Workman, which went forward despite evidence casting doubt upon his guilt, and the title song is named for Mildred and Richard Loving, plaintiffs in the 1967 Loving v. Virginia civil rights case. Mr. Loving was white, his wife Mildred black, and a Virginia law banning interracial marriage forced them to leave their home state to avoid prison. The U. S. Supreme Court eventually ruled the law unconstitutional and reversed their conviction.

From The Loving Kind, here’s Across America – please enjoy, and stop by to say hello to Nanci on Thursday. She is a national treasure, and any new work from her is cause for celebration.

Alphabetical Dylan

May 16, 2009

I’ve already written about Harvard Radio’s custom of having “orgies” every January and May: for their purposes, orgies consist of “marathon-style musical programs devoted to a single composer, performer, genre, or subject.” Starting at  8 PM on Sunday May 17th, the subject is Bob Dylan, and WHRB will play all of Dylan’s songs in alphabetical order. This continues, with interruptions for lesser orgies, until approximately 11 AM on May 24th, a total of about 100 hours of Dylan.

For a more exact reckoning of the Bob and not-Bob portions of the week, see the complete program guide here. The same page also contains a link that lets you stream the whole thing. Of course, there’s a permanent link to WHRB on this page, too.

I’m not sure what song will lead off the orgy, but Absolutely Sweet Marie is going to be right up there. Here are Jason and the Scorchers with one of the truly great Dylan covers, the earth-shaking, heart-breaking, no-prisoners-taking version of Absolutely Sweet Marie from their 1983 debut EP Fervor. It just does not get much better than this. Please enjoy.

So Lonesome We Could Cry

May 13, 2009

That’s how many of us are feeling behind Paul’s announcement that he’s closing up shop at Setting the Woods on Fire. He’ll still be guest posting at Groover’s Paradise and Star Maker Machine, but his departure will leave a big hole in the blogosphere that won’t be easy to fill.

I learned a lot about music and a lot about blogging over at STWOF, and if you haven’t stopped in to say thanks to Paul and wish him well, head on over there right now.

You knew Old Hank would have something to say about all this, and here he is singing those Long Gone Lonesome Blues. The video is some home movie type footage of Hank and friends and family – Miss Audrey showing off her new wedding ring is too good to miss! Please enjoy!

Mother’s Day At Harry’s Music

May 9, 2009

Happy Mother’s Day! If you’re a mother, enjoy your day – if you’re not a mother, do something nice for a mother you know.

Harry Smith, from whom this blog takes its name, had a mother who was nearly as unusual as her better-known son. Mary Louise Smith taught on the Lummi Indian reservation near where Harry grew up. She and Mr. Smith lived in separate houses (meeting up at mealtimes), and Harry used to claim that the famous occultist Aleister Crowley was his real father. Mrs. Smith, according to Harry, claimed to be Anastasia, the only surviving member of the Russian royal family. That, I suppose, would have given Harry the title of Czar had he ever chosen to pursue the matter. He didn’t.

Clearly, Harry owed a lot to his mother, and I know I owe a lot to my own mother as well. She was hardly as colorful as Mary Louise Smith, but she did the best she could with what she had, which is all any of us can do.

Here’s a heartfelt tribute to a mother’s love: a solo performance of Coat of Many Colors, taken from a 1979 Dolly Parton appearance on Top of the Pops. Please enjoy!