Archive for January, 2010

Jesse Winchester Shows Us How it Should Be Done

January 21, 2010

Over the last couple of days, I’ve been inspired by Kate McGarrigle’s passing to go back and touch some milestones in my own musical listening journey, revisiting some things that have moved me and made me, for better or worse, who I am. I spent a lot more of that time than I thought I would listening to Jesse Winchester. Most of what I have of his music is on scratchy old LPs and just looking at those LPs I got hit with a wave from the past, a whiff of those nights when everything anyone said was wisdom for the ages, those warm nights that turned into cold mornings before any of us knew what had happened. Jesse Winchester’s music was perfect for those nights – the unspoken subtext of his exile gave his music an integrity, a moral center that so much else we listened to lacked.

I can’t tack any of those old records on to the end of my post, and even if I could, I’d never be able to bring you all back to what it was like to hear them for the first time. What I do have is a video of Jesse singing on Elvis Costello’s new TV show. The song is Sham-a-Ling-Dong-Ding from the new CD, Love Filling Station. At 3:16 of the video, there’s a shot of Neko Case, with a big tear rolling down her cheek as she listens to Winchester sing. Don’t be surprised if the same thing happens to you.

All of Jesse Winchester’s in print CDs are for sale on his website, along with lyrics to all his recorded songs and a tour schedule. He’s at Mountain Stage on January 31, so if that’s broadcast live where you are, the show starts at 7 P.M. Otherwise check your local listings. Here’s the video. Please enjoy.


Kate McGarrigle R. I. P.

January 19, 2010

Kate McGarrigle has died at the age of 63. She leaves behind a family whose membership includes not only blood relatives, but millions who have loved and been moved by the music she made.

This loss is a tough one for me. Way back and long ago in a very hard time a good friend gave me Dancer With Bruised Knees. It became and remains a go-to record for me, so basic to who I am that there’s no way I can do it justice here.

All I can do is what I always try to do here, and that’s to let the music speak for itself. Here’s Heart Like A Wheel.

Update (1/20): There’s a wonderful tribute to Kate McGarrigle at Vanity Fair – just go read it.

Update II (1/20): Hendrik Hertzberg has a lovely column about the McGarrigles here.

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Please Help Haiti!

January 13, 2010

The Haitian disaster is beyond my poor power of description. We’ve all seen the pictures, we’ve all read the stories – if we multiply that horror by hundreds of thousands, we might begin to approach the misery that country and its people are suffering right now.

We must help in whatever way we can. The best way to begin is to head over to the Center for International Disaster Information – you’ll find plenty of suggestions on how to make your donation of goods, services or money count, and count quickly. Please go there now.

The musical heritage of Haiti is a rich one, drawing on the French influence as well as that of the neighboring Dominican Republic and nearby Cuba. The mizik rasin (roots music) that got started in the 1970s drew on all these as well as reggae, American rock and even the vodou religious ceremonies. Listen and watch the Boukman Experyans perform Ti Pa Ti Pa. If you know what the lyrics are about, tell us about it – whether you have a clue about the words or not, you won’t be able to sit still while it’s playing. The band got it’s name from two revolutionaries of different eras: Dutty Boukman was an 18th century vodou priest involved in the Haitian Revolution. “Experyans” is a transliteration of Experience, as in the Jimi Hendrix Experience. I think they live up to their name. Please enjoy the music and please help as much as you can. Thanks!