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Posts Tagged ‘Bob Dylan’

“Private Space”- Available at the Principle Gallery, VA



Oh, they tell me of a home where my friends have gone
Oh, they tell me of that land far away
Where the tree of life in eternal bloom
Sheds its fragrance through the unclouded day

Uncloudy Day, Josiah K. Alwood 



Still on a semi-hiatus here on the blog but wanted to continue playing my Sunday Morning musical selection. This week I am going way back with a gospel tune called Uncloudy Day, written by Josiah K. Alwood in 1879. We’re not going back quite that far for this week’s pick but it’s still pretty old, taking us back to 1956 when The Staple Singers first recorded what is probably the definitive version of this song. 

This is a powerfully performed song, with the droning bite of the undertone from the electric guitar of Pops Staples and an emotional vocal lead from Mavis Staples. It’s hard to believe but Mavis was only 16 years old when she recorded this.

It’s reported that this song was a huge influence on a young Bob Dylan. His appreciation didn’t stop at the song as he pursued and proposed to Mavis Staples in the early 1960’s. She turned him down but they have maintained a close friendship and working relationship to this day, recording and touring together periodically over the many decades that followed.

Anyway, it’s a song that always stops me in my tracks and I think anything that makes you stop to listen is a good song to kick off a Sunday. 

Be careful out there and have a good day.



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“Sublime”– Now at the Principle Gallery



Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
The battle outside ragin’
Will soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin’

–Bob Dylan, The Times They Are A-Changin’



I’ve heard this Bob Dylan song hundreds of times over the decades since it first came out in 1964 and a particular line in it always jumps out at me, even in idle listening. The line is: Don’t stand in the doorway/Don’t block up the hall/For he that gets hurt/Will be he who has stalled.

I have always read it as being about the inevitability of change and that those who try to stand in its way rather than trying to adapt are the losers in the end. The fact that it is used in a verse that refers to senators and congressmen makes it pointedly topical, especially in times when the present Senate Republican majority leader has been heard telling a group of big donors in recent days that he will oppose and stall every bill put forward by the Democrats, even bills he considers good bills. He said he would not allow them any victories.

That means he also will not allow the American people any victories, any gains, as he darkly tries to stall progress and change. We have seen this act before and have suffered from his mean-spirited intransigence.

But try as he might, change will come, in one way or another. It can be slowed or stalled but it is only temporary and eventually it bursts through all obstacles, usually obliterating them in the process. Like the lines from the Dylan song.

So, for this last Sunday in this monumental and often awful year of 2020, I thought it fitting that I play a version of this song, probably one you haven’t heard before. It’s from a 1969 album called Dylan’s Gospel from a group called The Brothers & Sisters of L.A., which was a group of L.A. based studio backup singers organized to record an album of Dylan covers in a gospel format. The group included some pretty high profile studio singers including Merry Clayton who I have wrote about here in the past. She is best known for her searing vocals on Gimme Shelter from the Rolling Stones. She is the lead on today’s song and knocks it out of the park.

The album was not a commercial success so this was the only effort from the group but it left behind several powerful versions of Dylan’s songs including The Times They Are A-Changin’.  So, let’s wrap up this year with some gospel firepower, brush aside the barriers and let the times a-change as they surely must.

Have a good Sunday.



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“Walk in Peace”- Now at the West End Gallery



“This is what you shall do; Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body.”

–Walt Whitman, Preface to Leaves of Grass



Don’t want to focus on the dangers of the delusional craziness we’ve been experiencing in the past few weeks. It’s hard to believe this is where we are as a nation. But this morning, I want to, like the figure in the painting above, just walk in peace. 

So, I am going to take it easy this morning, maybe heed the words of Uncle Walt and dismiss those things that insult my own soul. 

Here’s a lovely version of Bob Dylan‘s classic I Shall Be Released from Rising Appalachia. The spare feel of the accompaniment from the bass and percussion really accentuate the beautiful vocals here. Nice.

Have a good day. Walk in peace.



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Been sitting here for well over an hour and a half, just listening to different music, looking at paintings and thinking on a wide range of subjects and memories, many from the distant past. There’s no nostalgia in it. Not even much wistfulness. Just tracing lines back and forth, trying to see how things come and go, how things change, how we both grow and erode with time.

And after all of that I think I am just going to play a song this morning.

Maybe it has something to do with the time spent this morning. Maybe not. I am not going to talk about it here except to say this a beautifully written and performed song. It’s from Joan Baez from back in the mid 1970’s and references her relationship with Bob Dylan in the the 1960’s with ten years perspective.

It struck a chord with me then and still does, after all these years. Here’s Diamonds and Rust.

Have a good day.
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Walt Whitman: Song of Myself, Part 51

 

The past and present wilt—I have fill’d them, emptied them.

And proceed to fill my next fold of the future.

Listener up there! what have you to confide to me?

Look in my face while I snuff the sidle of evening,

(Talk honestly, no one else hears you, and I stay only a minute longer.)

Do I contradict myself?

Very well then I contradict myself,

(I am large, I contain multitudes.)

I concentrate toward them that are nigh, I wait on the door-slab.

Who has done his day’s work? who will soonest be through with his supper?

Who wishes to walk with me?

Will you speak before I am gone? will you prove already too late?

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Bob Dylan unveiled another new song a few days ago, a follow up to his 17 minute epic, Murder Most Foul. Its title, I Contain Multitudes, references a line from Song of Myself from Walt Whitman. It’s a line that I have used in the past, most notably last year as the basis for my series of face paintings, Multitudes.

The piece from that series, shown here on the right, is what I would consider the title piece for the series, bearing the title Multitudes. I see the faces in these pieces as being parts of me, small parts that make up a greater whole. Just as the masses of people that make up a nation, it is always filed with paradox and contradiction.

The good and the bad. The wise and the foolish. The happy and the sad. The humble and the greedy. The careful and the careless.

You try to focus on the better parts with the hope that is the part that people identify with you. But like a vast nation, you can never know which part of you is  perceived as your true self by others.

So, there you are, containing multitudes that contradict one another from moment to moment, trying to put on your best face. It’s all you can do.

Here’s Dylan’s new song. Give a listen and put your best face forward today, if you can.

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Murder Most Foul

Last week, Bob Dylan released his first original song in eight years. Titled Murder Most Foul the 17 minute song is primarily focused on the 1963 assassination of JFK but uses it more a point of departure for a guided ride on a hazy time machine that moves through the decades that followed.

Over a slow paced backing with piano, drum and strings that gives it the feel of an elegy or requiem, Dylan takes the imagery of that dark November and weaves it together with a long list of wildly disparate references to musical selections and pop culture figures.

It all becomes a mesmerizing drone.

On one hand, it seems to be just a mishmash of words and references with no real meaning.

But on the other hand, it feels like it is pointing us to this moment as an endpoint for an arc that began on that day in 1963, with every moment and event since, large or small, pushing us forward to this culmination.

Like we’ve been on a journey since that day and this moment and situation was our ultimate destination.

And for many whose lives have spanned that time period, that feeling is one that makes a certain amount of sense. For these folks, that day in 1963 has cast a shadow over everything since and there is a constant groping through the detritus of the years to find the connecting strands that will somehow make sense of it all. For them, there seems to be something going on, a set pattern of small indiscernible nudges, that is just out of reach or understanding.

And this song somehow feels like it is bringing finality to that pattern’s path.

I can’t say whether that this is true or not or if I even believe what I’ve just written. Maybe it’s an epic. Or maybe it’s just a load of crap. I guess, like all art, it’s a subjective opinion.

For me, it’s just oddly compelling. I’ve probably listened to this song forty times or more in the past week, sometimes playing it on a loop while I have been stretching canvasses or working at some other simple physical tasks. I find it oddly soothing, especially after listening to it immediately after watching the news reports on the current situation. I find myself pausing at certain recurring moments in each playing of the song and catching a few of same couplets, out of the many that make up the song, again and again.

Maybe I am trying to find the pattern in this song that might somehow bring to light the pattern that has possibly spanned the past 56+ years.

I don’t know.

I’m sharing a version with lyrics so, if you have the desire and 17 minutes to spare, give a listen. It will give you something to think about in your time of isolation. Have a good day.

 

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I’ve played this song, Must Be Santa from Bob Dylan, a couple of times over the past decade. It’s a great song, a polka with a klezmer feel that takes Dylan back his Jewish roots and in the the entertaining video you get the bonus of seeing Dylan dance. Good fun for the day before Christmas.

The last time I ran this song I included a group of photos of Santa that were less than jovial and maybe a little menacing. Creepy Clauses. While looking for an photo or two to accompany that post, I browsed through masses of images of Santas from the past and was amazed how many of them crossed that line into outright creepiness. It made me believe that Santa is just about on par with clowns in Creep Factor. You might see a rogue clown in the woods but Santa is, simply put, a bearded home intruder and flamboyant dresser who crawls down your chimney in the dark of night.

He knows when you are sleeping, for god’s sake!

When I was kid I had time going to sleep on Christmas Eve because of the excitement and anticipation that Santa was on his way. Now, after looking at those photos of Psycho Santas, I won’t be able sleep for fear that he actually might be on his way!

For that first post with the borderline Santas, I picked a few that were pretty strange but there were plenty more of them out there, some which just made me a little queasy. I have a feeling that many of them are also in sort of police registry somewhere.

I thought I would include a fresh batch of Kreepy Kringles this year. I kept the one from the original, at the top here, because he just weirds me out on multiple levels.

Anyway, enjoy the song and have a good holiday. And don’t worry about the weird old man hovering around your home tomorrow night…

 

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First, want to thank everyone who came out to the Octagon Gallery at  the Patterson Library on Friday evening to see the work in the Icons & Exiles show that opened there. I met a bunch of new folks who were not familiar with my work and got to tell the stories behind a number of the folks that populate this particular group of paintings. It was a very enjoyable time.

And many thanks to Nancy Nixon Ensign who curated and hung the show. She did a fantastic job of mixing the works from various series into a cohesive unit that invites you to move slowly around the space so that you can take it all in. Great job, Nancy!

I will be giving an Art Talk on this show on Thursday, September 12, so if you’re in the Westfield area– which is a charming town!–try to make it there. The show itself hangs until September 20.

For this Sunday morning music I am going with one of my favorite Bob Dylan song from more recent times. By that I mean within the last twenty years or so. With a career that spans almost 60 years, you sometimes have to specify from what period a song might come. This song, Thunder on the Mountain, is from 2006.

Have yourself a good day…

 

 

 

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Been raining for a couple of days now, often in loud and long downpours. Looking out from my studio, I can see the run-off creek that runs through my property, normally dry at this time of the year. It’s gushing brown now, nearly overtopping the large culvert into my studio, and has a roar that fills the woods.

Down the length of the long driveway into my property, the water runs on it like it’s a newly minted stream while beside the driveway the creek rushes well outside its banks, meeting the driveway water and merging into a mass that covers everything. The end of our drive looks like a  large, moving pond.

There are a few younger deer playing in the now hard rain, running through the heavy, muddy overflow coming off my pond. The ground is soft and giving underfoot, like walking on a sponge.

We’re fortunate in our location. High enough to avoid real flooding and far enough away from the water coming out of the creeks and run-offs that run through the property. A lot of other folks won’t be so fortunate and will most likely have to face a long clean up after the flash flooding that is taking place. A day or two more and we might be into heavy river flooding and that’s real trouble.

Hopefully, tomorrow will bring some sun, some relief. But for now, I’ll watch the water run brown with the deer splashing through it. A bit of a watered-in day, as my friends in Texas might call this.

Here’s a great version of the Bob Dylan song Down in the Flood from the bluegrass legends, Flatt and Scruggs. Enjoy and stay dry.

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Many, many thank you’s to everyone who took time from their busy sunny summer Saturday to spend an hour with me at the West End Gallery yesterday. It was a very full house with plenty of faces I know well and quite a few that were new to me. Hopefully everyone went away satisfied with their decision to spend their time at the gallery.

I know that I am certainly glad they came. Their warmth makes me feel most welcome and their questions create the real form and content of the talk. I am always pleased at the questions they ask. Most are quite probing and require me to truly consider my answers. I know that sounds funny, that it seems obvious that every response should be considered. But there are some questions that I have been asked many times so the answers just come out reflexively. I am often asked questions at these talks that come from different angles, that require a moment to look at  what is really being asked.

Hopefully, I got to the point of what was asked.

Again, a boatload of thanks to the folks who came and to Jesse, Lin and John at the West End Gallery for being the perfect hosts.

That being said, I can say that I gave a big sigh of relief when it was over. One would think it would be easy by now, especially given the open acceptance of the audience, but for someone who works in private solitude seven days a week it is a daunting task to stand before a group of people and try to speak coherently in an open and honest way about inner things.

When these things finally end the relief is quickly replaced by a feeling of fatigue that quickly sets in. I was wiped out after yesterday’s talk. But I am somewhat refreshed this morning and can start preparing for the next one, about six weeks from now in Alexandria. But I’ll put off worrying about that for a while.

For this Sunday morning music I chose a song about things being over. It’s a version of Bob Dylan’s It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue by the group Them from way back in 1966. Featuring Van Morrison who sang lead for the group before he had his great solo career, this is a great version of the song. Give a listen and have yourself a great day.

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