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Archive for the ‘Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: JOSH RITTER with AMANDA SHIRES and JASON ISBELL-Tiny Desk Concert #896 (September 27, 2019).

I enjoyed Josh Ritter’s previous Tiny Desk Concert.  I liked his voice and found his lyrics to be quite thoughtful.

For this Tiny Desk he is accompanied by “musical soulmates,” Amanda Shires on fiddle and Jason Isbell on acoustic guitar who both play on Josh’s 2019 album Fever Breaks.

The three songs he plays in this concert are even more thoughtful, they are also pointed, powerful and painful.  The songs are not enjoyable, exactly.  They are accomplishing something other than joy.

As the blurb says

Honestly, it was a draining concert with challenges to who we are and who, as a country and a people, we wish to be.

The music is quiet and subdued and are there to lift up the lyrics, which are clearly the most important part of these songs.

“All Some Kind of Dream” is

filled with frustrations regarding the treatment of refugees, immigration, politics and our hearts…. He sings, “There was a time when we were them / Just as now they all are we / Was there an hour when we took them in? / Or was it all some kind of dream?”

Every word his sings is one that should change the way Americans view what is going on, and yet some will never be convinced by lyrics like

I saw the children in the holding pens
I saw the families ripped apart
And though I try I cannot begin
To know what it did inside their hearts
There was a time when we held them close
And weren’t so cruel, low, and mean
And we did good unto the least of those
Or was it all some kind of dream?

Ritter took a moment to encourage everyone to fight back

When the song ended, Josh stared into the NPR crowd. “I feel like the big thing that we all have to fight against is this notion that we’re not all human beings,” he said. “And they’re trying to break us in every number of ways, all different little groups, and that we have no power, but we have power!”

The next song “The Torch Committee,” is slightly more cryptic in construction but hardly cryptic in intent

Wait, suppose that we untie
Your hands to sign upon this line
To pledge that you have always been
A patriot and citizen
Please ignore the legalese
Lawyers are my right now see
Why we’re so happy that you came
Appendix three and list of names

It features a nice solo from Isbell and a raw violin solo from Shires.

They ended the set with a new song,”The Gospel of Mary.”

This is a long song ().  Like the other two it is something of a story song which “imagines Joseph, Mary and their child as refugees.”  The verses are interspersed with solos from Isbell and Shires.

As the applause faded Josh hugged his bandmates, thanked the crowd, smiled and said, “America, we love you, but you’ve gotta change!”

Ritter is an amazing songwriter and I hope that these songs hit the ears of those who need to hear them.

[READ: August 9, 2019] Labor Days Volume 2

Book 2 picks up a little over a month after Book 1.

Bags and Vanessa are still on a quest for the Face of History (which suspiciously keeps leading them to bars).  But they know that the Face of History is a leader of a vast conspiracy.  And of course Rick Stryker is hanging about being rather useless and hilarious as always.

Vanessa is annoyed with Bags for dawdling and wasting their time.  Bags is annoyed at Vanessa because she keeps hurting people in extraordinarily violent ways.  She seems to have no compunction about doing the violence she does.

A chance discovery sets them aboard a ship.  The captain makes Bags do grunt work and makes Vanessa something of a captain’s aide (much to Bags’ dismay). (more…)

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[ATTENDED: July 27 & 28, 2019] Newport Folk Festival

Back in 1998, I won a radio contest (not through luck, I knew the name of a song and couldn’t believe no one else did!) and scored a ticket to the Newport Folk Festival.  It was in a lull back then and also, I believe there was only one stage (it’s hard to remember).  Now it is at full power, selling out before artists are even announced.

S. and I have talked about going and finally this year I saw when tickets were announced and I bought 4 tickets for us.  I knew that our son wouldn’t want to go, but I decided to make a long vacation out of it–a couple days in Rhode Island and then about a week in Maine.  He couldn’t say no to going to that.

I didn’t get Friday tickets because three days seemed excessive.  Plus, you never know who is going to appear until long after you buy the tickets. and that actually worked out pretty well.   Turned out, there wasn’t anyone I really wanted to see.

So we rolled in for Saturday.  I was told that if you wanted to get the poster you had to get their very early.  We arrived at 12:30 and they were long sold out.  Oh well. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: JASON ISBELL-Tiny Desk Concert #645 (August 28, 2017).

Everybody seems to love Jason Isbell.  I’d heard the songs that people liked and I didn’t really think all that much of them.

This Tiny Desk Concert made Isbell sound much more country than I’d realized (I didn’t know he was with the Drive-By Truckers, either).

I was a little resistant initially, but the first song “Chaos and Clothes” really won me over with the words and melody.  By the end of the song when the fiddle and violin are in full swing and the bassist is playing a cool bass line on that weird tiny fake-looking bass guitar the song really takes off.

But it was Isbell’s playful and funny side that made me rally enjoy him and his band.

He asks the drummer how he is dong and then comments on the hat that they wished they could have worn (they point to tiny top hats).

Isbell says, “Abraham Lincoln had a tiny head, it turns out.  Where’s you’re novel about that, George Saunders.”

Then he jokes about the bass guitar: “that’s’ why you need the hat,  your bass is so small.  Abe Lincoln played a tiny bass.

When they finally get going, the second song “Molotov” has a false start-“I spent so much time on that word and then I said the wrong one.”  The violinist says its alright she didn’t do the best either.  I love the dramatic melody and delightful swing to this song.  It’s really good.

They have a lengthy amusing discussion about babies’ defense mechanisms. The whole banter section between the second and third song is really funny.  Jason leans into his guitarist who jumps and says “thank you.”  This makes Isbell laugh, “if you scare Sadler, he says ‘thank you.'”  Sadler says it’s a defense mechanism from when he was a baby.  Isbell looks at him: “Why would you have o defend yourself when you were a baby?” They talk about baby defense mechanisms and Isbell determines that saying thank you is a good idea: if you were going to kill someone and they said thank you, you’d pause–wondering if you fell into their trap.

He jokes, “we shouldn’t have taken all that acid before Tiny Desk.”

There’s a lot of laughter and then Amanda worries that she has boogers.  It’s quite light-hearted (she doesn’t, by the way).

There’s another false start for “Last of My Kind.”  He pauses the song and then invites an audience member up on “stage” to play.  He says that when he was younger he always imagined that this would happen to him–that someone would have once just asked him to come up and play.

The final song is really good, with a lot of great details in the words, and Ashwin, “a guest in the building who got more than he’d likely expected from his visit to NPR headquarters,” makes good use of his special performance.

His band is The 400 Unit: Sadler Vaden (guitar); Amanda Shires (fiddle, backing vocals); Jimbo Hart (bass); Derry deBorja (keyboards); Chad Gamble (drums); Ashwin Wadekar (guitar on “Last of My Kind”).

[READ: March 15, 2015] Ms Marvel: Generation Why

This book collects issues 6-11 of the Ms. Marvel series. I really enjoyed the first collection a lot, but I hadn’t seen any of the follow ups.  So I was pretty excited to see that my library had gotten all of the published volumes.

In addition to having a great story line about a Pakistani-American teenager who received superpowers, Ms Marvel has a lot of fun with inside-Marvel jokes (which I know some people get tired of, but which I like and which I think works very well here).  Ms Marvel is Kamala Khan.  She is a huge fan of the Marvel Universe (which of course is real), and she had taken the name of Ms Marvel in honor of Carol Danvers, the first Ms Marvel.

Jacob Wyatt drew books 6 & 7 and Adrian Alphona did 8-11.

The book opens with Kamala’s parents–god-fearing Muslims, sending her to Sheikh Abdullah.  She is obviously concerned with talking to this religious leader. Her new career as Ms Marvel has kept her from doing most of the things she should be doing as a decent Muslim girl. But the Sheikh is surprisingly cool.  She doesn’t reveal her secret but he senses that she is doing good and perhaps she just needs the help of someone–a teacher?  She heads downtown where suddenly there is a sinkhole in the ground.  As Ms Marvel, she jumps in and discovers gigantic crocodiles.  The person who has carted these gigantic creatures proves to be a human-cockatiel hybrid who IS NOT A BIRD.  He is bad guy named The Inventor.  And just as things start to get really intense, a teacher of sorts comes to help out–Wolverine!  It cracks me up that she takes a selfie with him. (more…)

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