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SOUNDTRACKSHELLEY [fka D.R.A.M.]-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #198 (April 26, 2021).

I’m always puzzled by the FKA in a singer’s name.  Is it part of the singer’s name? Is this singer’s official name Shelley FKA D.R.A.M.?  I don’t think so, I think it’s just for us to know who Shelley used to be.

When D.R.A.M. played the Tiny Desk back in 2017, he made a couple of things clear to us: His playfully dynamic personality was primed for the spotlight, and beneath the catchy hooks, there’s a real singer waiting to come out. For his Tiny Desk (home) concert, he does a complete 180. “It’s like a new beginning. Full circle. So this time, call me Shelley.” he says, following the opening track, “Exposure.” Everything is new. Silk pajamas and slippers replace the trench coat and plush beanie, and thanks to lifestyle changes, he’s slimmed down quite a bit and goes by his government name now: Shelley.

I enjoyed D.R.A.M and his vulgar silliness.  But Shelley is one of those singers who intends to hit every note every time he holds a long note.  He whines up and down the octaves constantly and I hate it.  I know that there are listeners who love this as the blurb admires

The shift from lighthearted melodic hip-hop to full-on R&B crooner shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s seen him perform live. It feels like it’s his way of saying, “Now that I have your attention, allow me to introduce myself.” We still get glimpses of the “Big Baby” here and there — the charm, a little bit of silliness, and the million-dollar grin — but other than that, it’s grown folks business and vocally flawless performance.

For the Shelley Show, he gathers a groovy band in front of a massive bookshelf and runs through selections, including the premiere of “Rich & Famous” from his upcoming self-titled project, due out on April 29, his late mother’s birthday. If D.R.A.M. was the ploy to break into the music industry, then Shelley is the longevity play.

“Exposure” and “The Lay Down” really accentuate his new vocal style.  But I liked the music of “Cooking With Grease.”  The simple drum beat from Keith “KJ” Glover and then the live viola from Yuli (a highlight throughout).  Sensei Bueno follows the melody on guitar and the song grows from there.

Of the four songs, I liked “Rich & Famous” best.  Trey Mitchell plays a grooving bass line, the backing singers Crystal Carr and David Fuller are ah ha-ing.  Sensei Bueno is wah wahing the  guitar and SlimWav is floating the keys around.  Shelley’s voice stayed low and less whiny.  Is he really going to try to make it with the name Shelley?

[READ: May 10, 2021]  “The Way We Are”

Reading this essay in 2021 was a really uncomfortable experience.  David Sedaris is not afraid of saying a risqué thing or three. But it’s amazing how much things seem to have changed in 13 years.

This essay begins in Normandy with David saying that the city shuts off the water without any warning.  Usually it’s a construction project or something.  It usually happens when David gets up around 10:30, which is practically the middle of the day for Hugh and the neighbors.

What they do at 6AM is anyone’s guess, I only know that they’re incredibly self righteous about it, and talk about the dawn as if it’s a personal reward bestowed on account of their great virtue.

The last time the water went off, David had a coffee problem. In order to think straight, he needed caffeine.  In order to make this happen he needed to think straight.  One time he made it with Perrier which sounds plausible but isn’t.  He tried leftover tea which might have worked if the tea weren’t green.  This time he decided to use the water in a vase of wildflowers that Hugh had picked. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: STING-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #183 (March 22, 2021).

Sting starts this Tiny Desk Concert with a duet on “Englishman/African in New York” which is exactly how he started his previous Tiny desk Concert back in 2019.  In fact, since this is a duet, I wondered if I had accidentally cliked on the wrong concert.

But the previous Concert was a duet with shaggy and this one is a duet with Shirazee.

During the pandemic, Beninese pop star Shirazee adapted his own rendition of Sting’s classic “Englishman in New York” into “African in New York.” His version made its way to Sting, who loved it so much that he asked Shirazee to lend his voice to his Tiny Desk (home) concert and record for his new Duets album.

I never loved this song, but I’ve always liked it.  But I really like the way it has taken on a life of its own with these new duets.  And the “African in New York” parts shine a new light on the song and show its universality.

Shot in a lounge in NYC where Sting’s presently recording another album, these two gentlemen share a touching moment between songs, expressing their mutual admiration and discussing the sheer joy about a simple concept – performing in a room together after 12 long months of isolation and virtual collaborations.

Sting comments about how the song has had multiple lives: a Jamaican in New York, a Somalian in New York and now a Benin man.  Shirazee says, “Benin man in New York, I should have said that why didn’t I say that?”  When Shirazee thanks Sting, he replies, I’m always delighted when artists take the template I’ve written and make it better made it different.  Shirazee thanks him again and then says, and now I can’t wait to get a free Sting concert.

Sting jumps into a stunning acoustic performance of “If I Ever Lose My Faith in You,” another one of his many classics. The timbre of his voice conjures a sense of carefree familiarity, reminiscent of times with more levity and peace.

He sounds really good and definitely has fun vamping at the end of the song.

His finale, “Sister Moon,” is a gem from his 1987 solo album, Nothing Like the Sun, that rarely gets performed live.

I don’t know this song, but it sounds really good, just his voice and his resonating guitar.

[READ: March 31, 2021] “Tasteless”

The September 3, 2007 issue of the New Yorker contained several essays by their writers about the subject “Family Dinner.”

This is one of David Sedaris’ really funny essays.  There’s so many great lines.

He starts by saying that he was promised that when he quit smoking his sense of taste would remarkably improve–like putting on a pair of glasses that are your prescription.

But after six months he’s having no luck.  However, he was never an attentive eater.  He’d thank his mom for the fried fish and she’d say it was chicken or even veal.

She might as well have done away with names and identified our meals by color: “Golden brown.” “Red.” “Beige with some pink in it.”

In addition to not tasting things, he says he is a shoveller.  As if he were a prisoner, encircling his plate to fend off the others. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK-XAVIER OMÄR-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #181 (March 15, 2021).

Xavier Omär has a fantastic voice–one that I thought was rather unexpected given his appearance.  He’s a pretty big guy and seems like he’d have a deep resonant voice, but his voice is really soft and high.  And powerful.

He’s also had a pretty interesting career.

Omär’s career began in Christian music under the moniker SPZRKT, before he moved into secular R&B and hip-hop. Through his first couple of projects and work with Seattle DJ and producer, Sango, the 27-year-old singer’s heart-on-sleeve approach quickly created a buzz.

He says that the whole band is from San Antonio Texas.

Xavier Omär decided to turn his Tiny Desk home concert into a whole Texas affair. Initially, Omär wanted to recreate the look of the Desk: “I wanted to kind of bring the feeling of Tiny Desk back, so I had booked a library,” he said. Ultimately the library didn’t work out, but Rosella Coffee and Wine in his home base of San Antonio proved to be a great match for his sound–spacious and airy.

“Like I Feel” opens with some grooving bass from Korey Davison and wailing sax from Kevin Davison.  Josh Greene adds some big drums fills and guitarist Billy Ray Blunt Jr. plays some wailing leads.  Xavier trades off lead vocals duties with Talyce Hays whose voice is also terrific.

During “Blind Man” he throws in some rapping–a softer cadence, but to good effect.  There’s some response backing vocals from Jay Wile while Alana Holmes and Hays fill in the backing vocals.   Lyrically the song is kinda lame (sweet, but lame), but there’s some cool musical moments–splashes of four notes and more than a few tempo changes.

For good measure, he plays the song that put him on the map, 2016’s “Blind Man.” This is undoubtedly Xavier Omär’s best live performance on record.

I had no idea that this was his breakthrough song.

He tells a quick story (it’s amusing) about how he wishes he was at the beach.  But even if he can’t get there he can think of the the rhythm of the waves and the “SURF.”  He says he could enjoy the surf because his woman has that “splah” (?).  Its’s a pretty ripping song with, again, surprising tempo changes.  The song has moments that I would say come from Frank Zappa’s oddball melodies.  Ands once again, the drums are massive.

He says “So Much More” is the wedding song of the year.  It features Justin Crawford on keys and is a much more mellow song than the other.  It also allows Xavier to really show off his voice.

The Alamo City resident and his cohorts orchestrated a charismatic and vocally rich show. The set list perfectly depicts the emotional arch of if You Feel. He’s on a clear path to greatness in R&B music.

It was probably a smart move to go secular.

[READ: March 31, 2021] “A Man in the Kitchen”

The September 3, 2007 issue of the New Yorker contained several essays by their writers about the subject “Family Dinner.”

Donald Antrim starts this rather sad memory with an amusing story.

His father learned how to cook when his mother served “hot tuna-and-mayonnaise casserole with potato chops as a decorative garnish.”

This story had become Received History in the family: “Baked mayonnaise! I had to take action!”

Soon cooking had become his father’s second full time job.  He taught literature at the University of Virginia and then he would drive around buying all of the food stuffs for their meals.  He would travel to different markets for different foods and he was an early adopter of the Cuisinart. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BLACK COFFEE-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #180 (March 11, 2021).

Black Coffee is such an excellent name.  And yet the music he creates is nothing like what I was expecting.

Born in Durban and raised in the Eastern Cape in Mthatha, Black Coffee’s subculture of soulful … house music has always been about love. It’s a form of sonic escapism that provides a sanctuary for all beings, regardless of race, age, or gender. Therefore, it’s only fitting that Black Coffee rocks a tee embossed with “I Heart You” across his chest.

Black Coffee stands behind a big mixing board as he generates most of the sounds.  Although next to him is Pansula on the drums.  And Pansula is possibly the real star of this set, with his persistent and powerful rhythms.

Black Coffee, a figurehead of the global South African dance movement, is known for his undeniable DJ sets and AfroHouse anthems that (under normal circumstances) light up dancefloors around the world. He brings that same feeling to his Tiny Desk (home) concert, but with a unique configuration: live instrumentation.

Kicking off the set is “You Rock My World” featuring Soulstar, a classic dance joint from his Africa Rising album whose convergence of pulsating percussion, a calming melody, and the sultry vibes of Soulstar’s voice feels like a spiritual palette cleanser.

It starts with drums and drums and more drums from Pansula.  Black Coffee’s samples provide most of the music with some fleshing out from Nduduzo on the keys.  Then Godfrey Mntambo plays some sultry sax as the lead melody.

The backing singers (Musa Nhlapho, Sandisiwe Sishuba and Bonokuhle Nkala-Mtsweni) start cooing and then lead singer Soulstar sings.

“Flava” is up next with lead vocals from Una Rams and Tellaman.  My favorite part comes at the end of each verse as Black Coffee thumps the bass and Pansula echoes with cymbals.  The gentle keys on this track provide some nice high end amid all the bass.

“Flava” and “Wish You Were Here” come from his new LP, Subconsciously, whose litany of special guests — include Diplo and Pharrell.

“Wish You Were Here” is a bit more mellow and includes a much wider array of samples–guitars, flutes and crashing sounds.  Singer Msaki has an Annie Lennox vibe and sounds really great.  Nduduzo plays a jazzy piano solo as the song nears the end, which adds a fun new component to this house song.

[READ: March 31, 2021] “Real Food”

The September 3, 2007 issue of the New Yorker contained several essays by their writers about the subject “Family Dinner.”

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie explains that when she was little she hated garri, a food served for lunch every day except Sunday in her house.  Her mother was concerned that she was not eating at all and sat with her to watch her eat the garri.

It was made in various ways, with different ingredients (primarily yams) but was always cooked, stirred or pounded in a mortar until it became a soft mash: “it was jokingly called ‘swallow,’ because one swallowed the morsels without chewing.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: COMING 2 AMERICA, SOUNDS OF ZAMUNDA-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #179 (March 10, 2021).

I thought that this name meant that it was the soundtrack for the movie.  But no, this release highlights

the new compilation Rhythms of Zamunda: Music Inspired By Coming 2 America.

Tenuous connection to the movie, perhaps, but the results are great:

six artists representing four countries in Africa perform a megamix of selections from the project. Each performance from the pan-African project bridges the distance between the countries and cultures.

The songs jump back and forth to different locations

In addition to the sweeping range of the showings, the look of each set is stunning: vibrant, opulent colors; meticulous Tiny Desk shelf recreations; gorgeous African artifacts; and a few nuggets dedicated to King Akeem of Coming 2 America.

The majority of the songs are filmed in South Africa.

South Africa’s Nasty C — who’s arguably the biggest rapper on the continent — opens the set and trades verses with Tiny Desk alumni Ari Lennox on “Black and White.”

The set looks like the original Tiny Desk Room with cluttered bookshelves.  I like the lines where Nasty C pauses before saying the last word.  Ari Lennox’s vocals are really great.  Fundile “FD” Dlamini plays drums while Christer Kobedi and Vaughan Fourie play keys.

He then sends us over to Cameroon for some Afrobeats flavor, courtesy of Locko and his stripped-down version of “Magnet.”

His book-filled room is also a nice backdrop.  I enjoyed this song more than the previous because of all the instrumentation–drums (Marc Nzana), guitar (Benjamin Mouangue Bossamo), cool bass (Joel Parfait Ondigui) and even a violin (Martien Oyono).  Brice Essomba fleshes out the songs on the keys.

We then circle back around to South Africa to hear from R&B newcomer Ricky Tyler.

It’s the same set as Nasty C, but this time with a full band.  There’s deep bass from Tendai “Shoxx” Shoko and soft guitars from Innocent Mzizi.  The keys from Zādok float throughout grounded by drums from Tino “Beatboy” Damba.

From there, we head north to Nigeria to do the “Jiggy Bop” with Alpha P.

Alpha P is lounging on a zebra bean bag chair.  Then his hype man (David Osang?) gets everyone going and then comes a seriously funky bass from Ayodele Agbabiaka Oluwasegun.  Rocking guitars from Best Amakhian and rocking drums from Ebenezer Olayinka really power this fun dancey jam.  Olabiyi Julius sprinkles melodies from the keyboards throughout.  The backing vocalists (Agu Chinyere Gift, Tosin “SDK” Tade, Femi Jacobs) keep the song flowing nicely.

Then it’s back to that original set as

we take one last trip to South Africa for award-winning dance DJ and producer Prince Kaybee’s “Fetch Your Life,” featuring Msaki.

I haven’t heard of Msaki but her voice is really beautiful.  Prince Kaybee lays down a thumping ground track (while wearing one glove to twist the knows).  There’s a cool guitar solo from Zādok (who returns to show off his multi-instrumental skills) and gentle keys from Fundile “FD” Dlamini.  Like with the other songs, the thumping bass, this time from Katleho Motlatla really grounds the song.

Finally, Togo duo Toofan dares us not to dance to “Yé Mama.”

This song has a great island feel with lots of percussion (Therence Egue), grooving bass (Martin Lawson) and vocals from Barabas and Masta Just in French.  When Lionel Adjovi plays his guitar licks you can really hear where Paul Simon got the tunes for Graceland.  Paul Akakpo keeps the sound full on the keys while Sylvie Akpedjo and Lamabara Paul provide backing vocals.

This is a pretty great introduction to music from all over Africa.

[READ: March 31, 2021] “Choke”

The September 3, 2007 issue of the New Yorker contained several essays by their writers about the subject “Family Dinner.”

Anthony Lane was in France on a student exchange program.  The family he stayed with was wonderful.  Until they dropped an artichoke on his plate.  It steamed with the promise of pure malice.

Can you imagine a food less appetizing than one that possessed: “bristles, bottom and choke.”

The family watched him in bemused delight as he tried not to look like a an irredeemable hick–not knowing what to do with this hand grenade

He watched Madame rip off a spiky leaf, dip it into butter and then eat the inside.  He followed suit and felt like Tigger eating one of Eeyore’s thistles. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKFLEET FOXES-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #178 (March 9, 2021).

I absolutely loved the first Fleet Foxes album.  The harmonies were just outstanding.  And then after a couple more records, Robin Pecknold pretty much made Fleet Foxes a solo project.  Since then I have found most of his songs to be really pleasant, but not all that memorable.

I’ve listened to the new album, Shore, a few times and only two or three songs really stand out for me.

But the sound of this Tiny Desk is amazing.

“I’m Robin Pecknold from Fleet Foxes. Thank you so much for asking me to find the tiniest desk I could, and sing unadorned for the first time in too long.”

With his guitar and that unadorned voice, Robin Pecknold performs four songs from Fleet Foxes’ 2020 album, Shore. … Robin wrote the songs while driving in the Catskills and (as you hear on “Going-to-the-Sun Road”) Montana, a place that feels like home.

“Going-to-the-Sun-Road” is a quietly picked song.  His voice sounds great and the melody is really lovely.  I think my favorite part might be the end where he sings in Spanish.

He gets an amazing sound from his acoustic guitar.  I can’t get over how softly he seems to be playing the strings and yet how full it sounds.

“Sunblind” is the catchiest song on the new album.  I hadn’t realized until reading this that it

pays homage to some of the greats that we’ve lost — some more recently, including David Berman and Richard Swift, and some long gone but still influential, like Elliott Smith, Curtis Mayfield, Jimi Hendrix and Judee Sill.

“Featherweight” is a reasonably catchy song–especially at the end where he has those repeating three note melodies.

“I’m Not My Season” ends he set with a slow, pretty ballad.  The song has some very nice melodies in it.

I’m curious how long it will take for this album to really resonate with me.

[READ: March 31, 2021] “Grandmother’s House”

The September 3, 2007 issue of the New Yorker contained several essays by their writers about the subject “Family Dinner.”

Nell Freudenberger was on a flight to Rochester–her grandmother had just died.  She was reading Amitav Ghosh’s novel The Hungry Tide which was set in the Sundarbans in Bangladesh: “one of the last places on earth where humans are occasionally consumed by tigers.”

A young couple sat next to her on the plane and the woman said she was born in the Sundarbans and that her grandmother still lived there. They exchanged contact information and the woman, Farah said that the next time she was returning to Bangladesh, Nell would have to go.

Farah had considered staying in a local guest house, but her nanu  and auntie were insulted that they would even think of not staying with them. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKKIRK FRANKLIN-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #175 (February 25, 2021).

Religion is inextricably linked to gospel music, which I think is rather a shame became gospel music can be a lot of fun, regardless of the lyrics.

If I wanted religion in my music I would call on Kirk Franklin in a heartbeat.  His songs are super catchy and inspirational and he is a great band leader.

For nearly 30 years, Franklin has been widely regarded for revolutionizing gospel. He incorporated secular music, particularly hip-hop, while preserving the message and integrity of traditional gospel. Here, he and his powerhouse choir pace through a decades-long, sixteen Grammy award winning discography of faith, praise and encouragement while cracking plenty of jokes. I cannot recall a more moving Tiny Desk home performance.

The set begins with “Love Theory.”  Franklin doesn’t even sing on this one, leaving it up to the rest of his singers [from left to right Darian Elliot, Eboni Ellerson , Michael Bethany, Deon Yancey, Melodie Pace,  Tia Rudd] to croon the melodies.

He gets up and claps his hands.  He even does some dancing behind the keys.  His energy is undeniable.   And actually, this one could be secular: “I don’t love nobody but you.”  By the end of the song, he tells everyone to make it bounce y’all and the funky bass from Matthew Ramsey kicks in heavy.

Kirk Franklin, set up with his band and choir in a corner of Uncle Jessie’s Kitchen, makes a declaration. “I know you’re at home right now, in your draws, listening to some Jesus music. It’s ok. Jesus loves you in your draws!”  Those are your draws!  He blessed you with those draws.

“Silver and Gold” slows things down old school.  Franklin plays the piano but it’s all about the harmonies that the singers include.  They keep building on the word “gold” getting bigger and bigger to a huge, outstanding peak.

The Arlington, Texas studio, named after a long time close friend, features a large photo of the iconic “I AM A MAN” protest signs from the 1968 Memphis Sanitation Strike on the wall. The jubilant energy that Franklin and company emit, juxtaposed with a visual reminder of the strife that Black people have endured is illustrative of the importance of gospel music in the Black community.

He continues “If you still haven’t put any clothes on yet we gonna groove a little bit more. You in one sock, I see you with just one sock with a flip flop or a house shoe.  I see you.  You look crazy but Jesus loves you still.

“Melodies From Heaven” has a quieter intro, but it builds bigger and then Franklin gets up and dances around the room while Shaun Martin plays the keyboard and Terry Baker plays some crashing drums–But its all about that wild bass.

The song ends abruptly.  He says that’s all you gonna get now … but after the pandemic I’m coming to your house and I’m bringing everybody and we gonna do this in your living room, your living room–everybody gets a concert.

For the final song “I Smile” he gives this positive intro:

All you gotta do, no matter what you face, even if you don’t have all your teeth, even if you got one good tooth all you gotta do is smile.

It’s a fun, boppy song with some more terrific drums at the end.

If all church was like this, more people might go.

[READ: March 31, 2021] “Sixty-Nine Cents”

The September 3, 2007 issue of the New Yorker contained several essays by their writers about the subject “Family Dinner.”

Gary Shteyngart’s family moved to the United States when he was young and by the time he was fourteen, his accent was mostly gone.

He now had three goals: to go to Florida and Disneyworld, to have a girl say she liked him and to eat at McDonald’s.

His parents did not believe in spending money–they bought clothes “by weight on Orchard Street.”  Despite their frugality, their parents agreed on a trip to Disney.  The tickets were free after a timeshare presentation.
“You’re from Russia?
“Leningrad … please Disney tickets now.”

They drove to Florida and stayed in cheap motels along the way. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: JACK HARLOW-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #176 (March 3, 2021).

Tiny Desk had posted exclusively black artists for Black History Month.  So it feels really weird to follow that up with a white rapper.  And, yes, it feels even weirder to see him surrounded by all black musicians–although they seem to be really into it, so clearly I’m the only one who finds it odd.

Jack Harlow is apparently huge, but I’ve never heard of him.  I am greatly puzzled by his outfit in this video.  Are those leather pants?  I can’t tell.  And with that jacket–he looks really uncomfortable.

The Louisville, Ky., emcee delivers a performance with the confidence of an old pro. His set, however, is the first time he’s relied solely on live instrumentation to bring his songs to life. “It’s been a long time since I had a chance to perform and I’ve never done it like this,” he says.  Over the past few years, the 22-year-old rapper has steadily ticked the boxes for a successful career, and this showing undoubtedly checks the performer section.

Indeed, for my mocking in the first paragraph, his flow is really smooth–and apparently more than a bunch of his fans didn’t realize he was white.

I’m disappointed, though, to hear that he doesn’t normally play with a band because this band is tight a anything.  Bassist Joe Cleveland is hot throughout playing some great riffs and runs and “Rendezvous” is a good opening for showcasing his skills.

He says he’s going to play a few songs that he hasn’t played before.

“21C / Delta” really shows off the backing vocalists (Erik B, Chimera Patrice, Porcha Clay) who sing the final word of each line and sing the chorus.  “21C” segues into “Delta” which has some cool improvised keyboard melodies from O’Neil “Doctor O” Palmer.

The orchestration underscores his sentimental and introspective side on songs like “Same Guy” and “Funny Seeing You Here,” but it also elevates the melody, which is the true hero here.

“Funny Seeing You Here” is a quieter song (he sits on a stool for that one) and has a thoughtful side.

He used to say her man was trash and tell me ’bout the way he’d act
I would shake my head until I realized I’m the same as that
Now I wonder, did she tell her man that I’m a trash dude?

“Same Guy” is one of the most honest songs he’s ever written.  It’s got some really great basslines and big vocal flourish from the backing singers.

“Creme/ONCE MAY COMES” features some great drumming from Rico Nichols (his drums sound great throughout including the electronics–the reverse cymbal sound is particularly cool and the big bass really pounds.  “Creme” segues into “ONCE MAY COMES” which is a slower jam.

There’s an awkwardly fake moment before the last song, where he says “I can’t lie fellas, I’m having a really good time. You think we could do one more, maybe?”

Harlow landed a big hit last year in “WHATS POPPIN.” That performance earned him a Grammy nomination ahead of his very impressive debut album, Thats What They All Say.  [I can’t IMAGINE the outrage if he’d won]

Musically this song is really catchy–it’s understandable why this was big hit.  Throughout the set guitarist Rob Gueringer has played some great solos and chords in the background, but he never gets a moment to show off how good he is.  Except near the end of this song when he gets to play a ripping solo to end the set.

[READ: March 31, 2021] “Lunch”

The September 3, 2007 issue of the New Yorker contained several essays by their writers about the subject “Family Dinner.”

Cristina Henriquez details the joy of a family dinner held at lunch time.  This was either a Panama tradition or a family one–she was never sure which.

Every summer Cristina’s family would summer in Panama where her father grew up. It was very different from the Unites States but it was the same every year.

They stayed at her grandparents’ house and as Cristina woke up, she would smell the garlic that her grandmother was cooking in preparation for the lunch time feast. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RICK ROSS-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #169 (February 16, 2021).

I’ve heard Rick Ross’ name a lot although I don’t remember why–do people love him or hate him?  I can’t remember.

This Tiny Desk is fascinating because Ross is clearly in charge (he sits in the golden throne for some of the set), but the stars of this set are really Ross’s backing singers.  Elijah Blake (with the pink hair and muscles) and Troy Tyler have fantastic voices–singing backing and lead for most of the tracks.  And, actually I’m even more fond of his hype man DJ Sam Sneak, who is saying all kinds of things in the background in a kind of growl.  I’d love to hear his vocal track without Ross’ to really get all the things he’s shouting.

He starts with “Super High.”

This Tiny Desk marks just the second time Ross has performed with a live band. On “Super High,” from his Teflon Don album, drummer Rashid Williams and bassist Thaddaeus Tribbett lay down the foundation for Ross’ smooth cadence and signature nonchalance. Background singer and Ne-Yo protege Troy Tyler projects the lead vocal lines originally sung by his mentor.

I really like the intensity of the music in “B.M.F. (Blowin’ Money Fast).”  The heavy bass works well.  Sam Sneak is going to town with the responses.  Meanwhile, Elijah sings along accenting everything Ross raps. The live drums from Rashid Williams are great for this with heavy thumps and cymbals at the end of each line.

Blake sings lead on “Aston Martin Music.”  He has an impressive, delicate falsetto.

Monty Reynolds drops in with the sparse, yet catchy key melody that made it the contagious hit single it was in 2010.

Then Ross pauses.

At one point, Ross pauses between songs to speak on his inspirations. “So many inspired the Boss,” he says. “I could look at any brother on the street and get some inspiration from them, regardless of how many followers you got on social media, regardless of what you’re riding in. I could learn something from you. I ain’t scared to. Let’s make sure we keep building.”

“I’m Not A Star” is my favorite track–it’s got great intensity and it’s fun to watch everyone bouncing to the song.

“F*ckwithmeyouknowigotit” opens with samples from the DJ then adds low bass and sprinkled keys.  Ross says, “If you remember the Blockbuster days right now you’d be recording this with your VHS.  And I know you was one of them who never rewinded your shit after you watched it it and they charged you that extra $3 at Blockbuster.”

“Tears of Joy” ends the set with nice use of floor toms by Williams.  Dj Sam Sneak is hyping behind him.  And Troy sings backing on this one.  He’s really impressive.  The song ends as Ross rests in his chair while Elijah takes us out accompanied by grooving bass work.

[READ: March 31, 2021] “Rationed”

The September 3, 2007 issue of the New Yorker contained several essays by their writers about the subject “Family Dinner.”

Aleksander Hemon starts his essay talking about his family routine when he and his sister were adolescents.  His parents returned from work at 3:45PM.  They ate their dinner at 4PM.  [Four PM?  That is so early!]  Did they go to bed at 6?

They listened to the news on the radio, their parents asked them endless questions about school and the whole thing was done at 4:30 after the “you must be silent” for the four twenty-five weather report.

It was like a horrible oppression.  The childrens’ ideal meal would involve Bosnian fast food, comic books, television and no parents.

Then he was conscripted into the Yugolsav People’s Army. (more…)

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 SOUNDTRACK: THE REDNECK MANIFESTO-The How (2018).

Despite a terrible name that would keep me away from wanting to see them, The Redneck Manifesto are a very interesting and complicated band.  I discovered them through the book of Irish drummers.  TRM drummer Mervyn Craig is in the book.

The How is the band’s fifth album (and first in eight years).  The album is chock full of instrumentals that touch all genres of music.

There are jazzy elements, dancey elements and rock elements.  There are solos (but never long solos) and jamming sections.  Most of the songs are around 4 minutes long with a couple running a little longer.

“Djin Chin” has jangly chords and quiet riffs that switch to a muted melody.  All the while the bass is loping around.  It shifts tempos three times in the first two minutes.  Around three minutes the bass takes over the lead instrument pushing the song along with deep notes.

“The Rainbow Men” has a circular kind of riff with swirling effects that launch the song during the musical pauses.  After a minute and a half it drastically shifts direction and the adds in a cool solo.

“Sip Don’t Gulp” starts with a catchy bouncy guitar riff and bass lines.  At two minutes it too shifts gears to a staggered riff that sounds great.

“Kobo” is the shortest song and seems to tell a melodic story.  The two guitars play short, fast rhythms as call and response while the bass rumbles along.

“Head Full of Gold” is over 6 minutes with a thumping bass, rumbling drums and soft synths.  “No One” is nearly 7 minutes and feels conventionally catchy until you try to keep up with the beats.  After a middle series of washes from various instruments, the back half is a synthy almost dancey rhythm.

“Sweep” is a pretty song until the half-way mark when it just takes off in a fury of fast drumming and complex chords.  The end builds in upward riding notes until it hits a calming ending

“We Pigment” is a poppy staccato dancey number.  The second half turns martial with a series of four beat drum patterns and a soaring guitar solo.  More staccato runs through to the end.  “The Underneath Sun” also has a lot of staccato–fast guitar notes interspersed with bigger chords.  The end of the song is just littered with sweeping guitar slides until the thumping conclusion.

This album is great and I’m looking forward to exploring their other releases.

[READ: January 10, 2021] A History of Ireland in 100 Words

This book looks at old Irish words–how they’ve evolved and how they show the way Irish history came about.  The authors say:

our store of words says something fundamental about us and how we think.  This book is meant to provide insights into moments of life that may be otherwise absent from history books.  The focus is on Gaelic Ireland throughout as Gaelic was the native language of the majority of the inhabitants of the island for the last 2000 years. It yielded its primacy to English only in the last 150 years.

We selected words with the aim of illustrating each of our themes as broadly as possible.  We wanted the words in all their richness to tell their story … like how the word that originally meant noble came to mean cheaper (saor).

Almost all of the entries reference The cattle raid of Cooley (The Ulster Cycle) which features the hero Cú Chulainn.  This story is at the heart of most of historical Ireland and it’s pretty fascinating how many of these Gaelic words either originate with that story or get their foundation from the story.

There’s a general pronunciation guide although I wish each word had a phonetic guide because anyone who speaks English will look at Irish a if it is just a jumble of nonsensical consonants.

The book is broken down into sections, although the authors insist that there is no correct way to read the book.

  • Writing and Literature
  • Technology and Science
  • Food and Feasting
  • The Body
  • Social Circles
  • Other Worlds
  • War and Politics
  • A Sense of Place
  • Coming and Going
  • Health and Happiness
  • Trade and Status
  • Entertainment and Sport
  • The Last Word

There are also delightfully weird wood carving-like drawings from by Joe McLaren scattered throughout the book.

The words are listed below with either a definition or an interesting anecdote included. (more…)

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