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Archive for the ‘Brittany Howard’ Category

[CANCELLED: July 31-August 2, 2020] Newport Folk Festival

Last year we took the whole family to two days of the Newport Folk Festival.  It was a fun experience for the most part.  Both kids were exhausted and my son decided he’d rather stay in the hotel than go on the second day.  However, this year he said he;d like to go again, so since the 2020 Festival was cancelled, maybe next year all four of us will go again.

I was not surprised that the Festival was cancelled. But it was still a shock when it happened on April 29th.

Here’s the formal message

Dear Folk-

This is the letter I was praying I wouldn’t have to write, feeling we need the healing powers of live music more now than ever. It is with the heaviest of hearts we announce the cancellation of the 2020 Newport Folk Festival. As devastating as it is to write those words, it’s balanced with a renewed sense of, well, HOPE. It’s Rhode Island’s motto for good reason and it’s also the feeling you, our festival family, constantly exudes when we come together in good times and perhaps more importantly, in difficult times as well. This community is truly unlike any other in music, and I believe we can emerge from this hardship stronger and more connected than ever before.

However, while your safety was at the core of the present decision, your support will be at the core of our future viability. Our ability to produce this festival in 2021 – and continue making a lasting difference in the lives of artists, students and music lovers like yourselves – is in your hands. Quite simply, we need your help.

Due to the financial and institutional uncertainties we find ourselves in, we believe the most trusting and direct course of action is to let the ticket holders decide where their ticket dollars should go. We have sent all ticket holders an email mapping out three options: 1) donate all or a portion of your ticket that will go directly towards ensuring our festival for 2021 while continuing our support for artists and educators; 2) apply your refund towards a 2021 Revival Membership – a new and one-time offer we’ve created specifically to ensure our future and provide these members with 3-day tickets to the 2021 festival (remaining memberships will be offered to the general public directly after the request period); and 3) receive a 100% full refund if desired.

For those of you who didn’t have tickets for this year, PLEASE consider making a tax-deductible donation. Help us continue these festivals, support year-round music education initiatives, and provide grants to artists in need.

I want to personally thank our founder George Wein, our staff, our Board of Directors, the City of Newport, and the DEM for their continued efforts. And, offer a personal note of gratitude to Rhode Island Governor, Gina Raimondo, for her leadership and counsel in prioritizing our well being in making the decision to cancel the festival.

Although we won’t be able to gather at the Fort this summer, rest assured we have invited ALL the announced artists to join us next year. In the meantime, we promise we will all commune one way or another on our festival weekend. As always, we have some secret surprises in store as well, so stay tuned for more details in the coming weeks. Until then, stay strong and folk on.

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SOUNDTRACK: BRITTANY HOWARD-Tiny Desk Concert #901 (October 15, 2019).

I don’t really like Alabama Shakes because I don’t really like blues rock.

But I have really enjoyed a lot of the Brittany Howard solo songs that I’ve heard (which might make me appreciate the Shakes’ music a bit more).

This Tiny Desk Concert is pretty outstanding and Howard is a terrific frontwoman full of passion and fire.

From the moment Brittany Howard walked into the NPR offices, I could sense her intense commitment and passion. Her eight-piece backing band, all decked out in red and black, played with a soulful subtlety that bolstered Brittany Howard’s tender songs about her family — stories of a mixed-race child growing up in Alabama.

She plays four songs.

All the songs performed at the Tiny Desk come from Jaime, an album Brittany Howard dedicated to her sister who died at the age of 13 from a rare form of eye cancer, the same disease that has left Brittany Howard partially blind in one eye.

I have heard a few songs form this album, but the one I know the best is “Stay High.”  This pretty song starts with Lloyd Buchanan playing a kind of bell melody on the keys.  There’s also gentle acoustic guitars from Alex Chakour (whom she calls the crown jewel).  As the image fades in, some simple bass from Zac Cockrell is added and then some drums from the amazing Nate Smith.  And then it’s all about Brittany.  She lives these songs as she sings them.  When you add in the pretty backing vocals from Shanay Johnson and Karita Law the songs sounds even more amazing than on the record.

On these songs (and in particular at this Tiny Desk Concert), there is more nuance than I’ve heard in Brittany’s past projects, including her work with Alabama Shakes and Thunderbitch.

It’s this more complex music that I find so appealing about these new songs.  But also that Howard seems to be having a really good time singing them.

After the first song she says, To all them people on YouTube I’ll let you know its hot in here.  All the bands about to go on… know to dress light.

Up next is “Georgia.”  The blurb says:

The music has a sense of wonder and playfulness, even when the subject is heavy, as in “Georgia.” She tells the audience that it’s a tale of “a little young, black, gay girl having a crush on an older black girl and not knowing what to say and how I was feeling.”

This is a song where it’s nice that Nate Smith is visible because his playing is dynamic, including the rumbling crashes he adds (electronically) throughout the verses.  Buchanan plays church-sounding organ while washes of keys from Paul Horton (Brittany’s cousin) fill in behind the song.  There’s also a buzzing guitar solo from Brad Allen Williams as the song builds and builds.  This is a powerful song that really brings you right into the words.

Britanny says she’s wanted to write songs like this since she picked up a guitar when she was 11 years old.

Brittany Howard knows how to tell a story, to foster empathy and understanding and, in this intimate setting, the songs feel at home. The connection with the audience felt visceral … even a small child in the arms of their parent screamed at the appropriate moment during the climax of Brittany’s song, “Baby.” It gave us all a good laugh just when the weight of the words felt the heaviest.

She introduces “Baby” as “a love song.  Love.  Doesn’t it just give you chills.  But sometimes love is not 100%.  Sometimes you got that 80/20 split and you’re on the bad side.”  This song starts quietly but builds and builds to a huge moment as Brittany and the backing vocalists sing “Baby!”  The song hits a full pause and you hear a child scream.  She points at the child, smiles and says “Now pick that shit back up” as the band rocks out some more.  As the song nears the end, she says, “Fool me once.  Fool me twice.  Fool three times?  (the band plays two hits) not three times (hit hit) as the song ends.

She says, “Thanks to the little one for hitting the right notes at the right time–I gave him a record before we came out.”

The final song is “Goat Head” a shocking song of growing up as an interracial child.   It’s amazing she can dance to it when there are lyrics like:

See, tomatoes are green
And cotton is white
My heroes are black
So why God got blue eyes?
My daddy, he stayed
My grandmama’s a maid
My mama was brave
To take me outside
‘Cause mama is white
And daddy is black
When I first got made
Guess I made these folks mad
See, I know my colors, see
But what I wanna know is
Who slashed my dad’s tires and put a goat head in the back?
I guess I wasn’t supposed to know that, too bad
I guess I’m not supposed to mind ’cause I’m brown, I’m not black
But who said that?
See, I’m black, I’m not white
But I’m that, nah, nah, I’m this, right?
I’m one drop of three-fifths, right?

But the introductory guitar riff is really catchy.  When the main verse starts the music is menacing and pretty at the same time.

It’s a short song bt very powerful.  And its a fantastic ending to this Concert.

[READ: November 16, 2019] “The Final Frontier”

I haven’t read a lot by Michael Chabon, but what I have read, I have enjoyed.

This is an essay about his dying father and their connection through Star Trek.  Specifically, he tells his father, “I love Mr. Spock because he reminds me of you.”

Although this essay was lovely and heart-felt, perhaps the most mind-blowing (or mind-melding) moment for me was learning that Chabon is a  writer, producer and showrunner of the upcoming Star Trek: Picard.  Since I’m a TNG fan more than an Original Series fan, I’m pretty exited about this.

As a kid Chabon had written stories that were like Sherlock Holmes or Robert E. Howard  or Larry Niven or even Edgar Rice Burroughs.  But never Trek.  He didn’t have the means or the chutzpah to do it until now. (more…)

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