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Posts Tagged ‘Sunday Morning Music’

Some days reveal their moods pretty quickly. Today is one of those days– bone cold with a slate gray sky, the first dusting of this winter’s snow on the ground. Feels somber and a little sad, even mournful, just to look out the studio window. There is a group of deer milling around out there, moving with a slowness that makes me think they feel that same somberness, sensing that the good times of summer and fall are past and that ice and snow will soon be a constant for them.

One of the first songs I clicked on this morning fell right into this mode of feeling. It’s Down By the River from Neil Young. Released in 1969, it’s a song that has been covered by a lot of people and I was close to using a live performance of it by Norah Jones and Young but the original just has the right amount of anguished beauty for this morning.

The paintings I am including here are from back in 2009 and doesn’t really adhere exactly to the mode of this post or the song but something about it seems to fit. It’s   a small group of work that dealt with tightly clusters of red roofed structures hugging a a river or canal, often with no sky visible, just a jumble of roofs and buildings. It was work that I really liked and looking at it this morning while listening to this song brought forward a whole slew of concepts that I would like to soon pursue in this same vein, perhaps on a larger scale.

Anyway, give a listen and have a good day…

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I am running late this morning and there’s a long to-do list of things waiting for me. But I definitely wanted to get out a little music for this Sunday morning. Here in the northeast, it’s rainy, dark and gray. It would be easy to gravitate towards music that reflects that mood but I think I am going to go the other way.

Bright and light. Pop.

So I am going to play a song written and released by Cat Stevens in 1967. The British group the Tremeloes also released the song that same year.

It’s hard to believe that this song is 50 years old. It feels like a perfect pop song. It’s bright and clean and doesn’t feel dated in any way. If you’re a fan of Wes Anderson films, you probably will remember the song ( the Cat Stevens version) from Rushmore.

I like both versions but slightly favor the Tremeloes version which is the one I am showing here today. Plus it has a neat live video of the era, which is always fun to see. It’s a little unusual in that it focuses on the band without the usual go-go dancers from TV performances of that time. Hope it brightens your day.

Have a great Sunday.

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I was thinking of something in a Halloween theme for today’s Sunday Morning Music.  But I changed my mind when I realized that after the last year in this country it had become an ironic holiday. Or at least overkill because every day feels like Halloween and at some point on most days I find myself screaming at the sky in horror.

All tricks and no treats.

Why the hell do I want to celebrate that?

So, I’m gonna go in a different direction (note the Chagall print at the top– not scary, right?) and play a song, White Bird, from 1968 from the San Francisco based group, It’s  a Beautiful Day. They never achieved the same kind of fame as the other bands– Jefferson Airplane, Santana and the Grateful Dead–who came out of SF’s 1967 Summer of Love. but this song is pretty captivating in tone with it’s soaring violin from David LaFlamme, who re-released a version of the song a decade later under his name. That’s where I first heard the song.

Give a listen and have a good day. And if you hear a blood-curdling scream in the woods around my studio, don’t worry– it’s just another day in Halloween Land.

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There are sensory perceptions that we carry throughout our lives.  It might be a sound, a smell, an image that once brought to mind brings forth the atmosphere and feeling of the time in which they first entered our consciousness.

The smell of a cooking turkey instantly returns me to my childhood and the farmhouse where we lived. It would be Thanksgiving and  I can see Mom’s old formal dining table with the heavy chairs that surrounded it. It’s a long table with all the extending leafs in place and it’s surface is covered with the bounty of Thanksgiving, the mashed potatoes, canned cranberry sauce, stuffing and so on. Just the tiniest whiff of a roasting turkey always — and I mean always–sends me hurtling through time back to that table.

The same is true with certain songs. Take for instance, the song In My Life from the Beatles. Hearing those opening chords always sends me back to same big old farmhouse that played such a big part in my formative years. I can see the old floral wallpaper in the living room and there’s a big console record player with cloth covered speakers on its front and two sliding panels on top that uncover a turntable on one side and the controls for a radio on the other. Those opening chords have me immediately standing in front of that record player with the light from the large windows in that room filtering through Mom’s frilled white cotton curtains. On the wall there was a reproduction of a schlocky painting — I think it was a red covered bridge–printed on thick cardboard that was bought at the Loblaws grocery store.

It’s a good memory. I felt safe in that place, free to imagine places and adventures I hoped for in the future. It was a good place to foster some of the thoughts and observations that direct my paintings to this very day.

That’s my intro for this week’s Sunday morning music. I thought instead of playing the original Beatles version of In My Life which is understandably a favorite of mine, I would opt instead for one from Bette Midler with a beautiful accompaniment on ukelele from uke wizard Jake Shimabukuro. The feeling of his playing on this song works for me as much as the original in bringing back that earlier time and place.

Give a listen, think about some of those sensations that trigger your own memories and have a good Sunday.

 

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In the studio I have a big box that is overflowing with small flags that we have picked up at the local cemetery where we often walk. There are probably 300 to 400 of them jammed in this box.

Most are faded, dirty and ripped. Some have just come detached from their dowel from the wind and the rain. And some are shredded by the mowing crews who won’t take a moment to get off their machines to pick them up before running over them. I am sure these same guys are probably having a fit that some NFL players are silently protesting by taking a knee during the playing of the national anthem.

I have been thinking over the years about incorporating them into a project but it hasn’t taken shape yet. But we continue to pick them up, often replacing them with new flags. I can’t fully explain why.

I don’t blindly worship the flag, don’t consider myself any more patriotic than the next person. I certainly don’t believe that we are in any way perfect as a nation.

Far from it. We are by definition a work in progress– so long as there is progress to made we are not done evolving as a nation.

There’s just something about seeing it being treated so badly that irks me a bit. But I don’t feel that same way at all when I see NFL players silently protesting in a dignified and respectful manner. In fact, their protests to me align perfectly with the symbol of the flag as I see it.

People have somehow come to believe, in the politicization of it, that it solely represents the troops and first responders. Well, while it does represent them it also flies as symbol for every citizen and their equal status in this nation.  Every single citizen is represented in those stars and bars. City folk, country folk, black, white, hispanic, Asian, etc– it doesn’t matter so far as that symbol is concerned. It represents us all under the defining concept of this country that we all are granted the same rights and opportunities and bear the same responsibilities.

It is not just a flag that reminds us of our past. It is our symbol of an aspiration to be ever better, to move far beyond the flaws of the past. That flag is a symbol that wants us to stand against injustices, to protest wrongs, to help the oppressed and to move us closer to what we hope is a perfect state of being.

It is in many ways a flag of protest. Almost all of the progress that has been made in this country– abolishment of slavery, workers rights, universal suffrage, civil rights and so many other things we take for granted on a day to day basis– came about as a result of citizens standing in protest to what they saw as a wrong. In fact, protest had a hand in saving the lives of troops by forcing the government to end the conflict in Viet Nam.

So, if the players’ protests bother you, ask yourself why you are so offended. Ask yourself what you have done to make this country a better place. Have you helped another American in in distress lately?

There are 3 and a half million American citizens living in Puerto Rico who are fighting for their survival and you are worried that these players in their silent protest are somehow ruining America?

Get over it.

If you love the flag and the country so much, make it better.  Recognize those things that wrong us all or help somebody. There are more US citizens in Puerto Rico than the the combined populations of Wyoming, Montana and North and South Dakota. Imagine if every citizen in those four states was on the edge of losing everything they held dear, including their lives.  Wouldn’t you want to reach out to them? Wouldn’t you want to give them the same kind of help you would want if such a thing ever came your way?

If you do think there is a difference helping those states than in extending all the assistance we can muster to Puerto Rico, you are most likely bothered by the NFL protests. In which case, maybe you should look at yourself in the mirror and acknowledge what kind of person you really are.

You might wave the flag, you might even worship the goddamn thing, but you are no patriot.

I have said my piece so let’s move on to this week’s Sunday morning music, one that is made to order for this blog entry. It’s John Prine’s classic protest song about flag wavers and their empty patriotism, Your Flag Decal Won’t Get You Into Heaven Anymore. It feels as relevant today as it did in 1972.

So have a good day and wrap yourself in the flag while you think about helping the American people of Puerto Rico in some way. It’s the American thing to do…

 

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Don’t have much of a chance this morning to write a proper post. Busy in a good way. But I came across this image above from the late painter Romare Bearden who lived from 1911 until 1988. I was going to say African-American painter as it does in most of his biographies but that kind of bugged me in the same way that bios often point out that an artist is a woman. Seems like they are creating a distinction and putting them into a sub-category for no reason at all, especially when the person in question is creating great work.

So I am just calling Mr. Bearden a painter.

And a fine one at that, one whose work always jumps into my eyes. Just plain good stuff.

Anyway this image has been sticking in my mind for about a week now and I thought it would be a great companion to some music for this Sunday Music by the one and only B.B. King. Especially since the central figure in the painting looks a little like B.B. King. I somehow have only played one song by him in all these years on this blog and it is definitely time to correct that oversight.

I came across his Live at the Regal album as a teenager and it just destroyed me. It was a live performance from the Regal Theater in Chicago from 1964 and it is one of the great live recorded performances ever put down on vinyl, regardless of genre. It just reels and rocks and is filled with classic after classic tunes from B.B., Lucille–the only guitar whose name you probably know– and a band that kicks it big time. As with Romare Bearden’s painting, it’s just plain good stuff.

Take a listen to the great Sweet Little Angel and have yourself a good–no, a great– Sunday.

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I don’t know…

I would guess that I’ve said that phrase a couple of hundred thousand times in my life. Or maybe even a million times. But then again, I don’t know.

As years pass, I am constantly fascinated by how little I know despite consciously trying to obtain more knowledge. It turns out the only thing I really know is that there are an awful lot of things out there that I will never know.

That doesn’t make me happy but I have learned to live with it and take some comfort in knowing that I am not alone. I don’t think any of us really knows as much as we let on. Oh, some speak with absolute certainty and and an air of confidence but that’s just bravado or a simple failure to recognize their lack of knowledge. I do know that.

From personal experience, unfortunately.

So I cringe a bit now when I spot that arrogant certainty in the declarations coming from myself or others. Then I cast a doubtful eye towards these claims, my own included.

What does this have to do with the price of a gallon of milk in Kokomo? I don’t know. I’m just blabbing in order to set up this week’s Sunday morning music. It’s from the Irish singer Lisa Hannigan  and is titled, fittingly, I Don’t Know.  I particularly like this version shot in a Dingle pub. Lovely.

Have a good day and be wary of those who seem a bit too certain. Or not.

I don’t know.

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