By convenient circumstance, I recently caught Tony Jo White on a Sunday night at the Thunderbird Caf in Lawrenceville, a rapidly changing for the better part of Pittsburgh, Pa. In a small but sweet back room, White put on a low key show that shows both his voice and his ability to get in a groove and jam are still potent. His methods are easily understood, he comes out, looking vaguely like a long and lean version of Charlie Rich, when the Sliver Fox wore a similar kind of hat, and plays either spooky ballads or a bluesy, rumbling groove that runs for many verses and becomes a long jam. His hits (or “best known songs” if you prefer) , “Polk Salad Annie” which is probably most famous because of Elvis’ version (Tom Jones actually slays it as well) came off with the needed amount of snap to the choruses. And then there’s “Rainy Night in Georgia” a tune I always forget TJ wrote until he starts singing it or someone puts a Tony Jo record on. It’s a sweeping slow number whose chorus changes are really gorgeously bittersweet. The man has soul, there’s no doubt. And rock gigs like the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival gave him serious rock chops for awhile as well.
Walking along the spring streets of this crowded city, a place where you’re literally always in everyone else's business whether you like it or not, I'm often struck by the amount of serious, pounding through the songlists iPod listening that’s going on. People are eyeballing their little screens as much as they're listening.
So far, other than Steve Zahn who is really annoying as a devilmaycare DJ with goofy eyeglasses, the new HBO series, Treme is pretty great. Lots of flavor. Some hokiness of course, but still fairly believable most of the time. The best scene so far hands down was when Elvis Costello, playing Elvis Costello, comes out of a bar to crawl into his limo and Kermit Ruffins, playing himself, is standing on the sidewalk really huffing on fatty. When Zahn encourages him, through the cloud of smoke, to talk to Costello and maybe land himself an opening slot on an upcoming Costello tour, Kermit demurs and Zahn comes back with a line, and I’m paraphrasing, “So what do you want to do all your life, play music, get high and BBQ in New Orleans?” Kermit laughes and shakes his head in the affirmative. In some ways that’s the story of a lot of NOLA musicians. They can be provincial. And disdainful of success. It can be a town where a sort of collective inertia keeps people from doing anything but hanging out. I know, I’m painting with broad strokes here, but it’s always been a town, heavy with musical talent, much of it unwilling or unable for whatever reason, to leave. And then those who do leave get tarred as traitors or getting too big for their britches. There truly is nowhere like New Orleans, I adore it, but damn, the place is like a parallel dimension sometimes.
All Together Now, the DVD that details the making of Love the Beatles collaboration with Cirque du Soleil is coming out on October 21 and from the looks of the trailer it could be fun. I hear there are flashes of Yoko being a dragon lady (now there’s a shock), McCartney being a doofus of sorts (another revelation) and some great bits with George Martin which, all kidding aside, might make this worth the price. The subtitle in this trailer that says, “Yoko hates it,” is a classic.
I've come to the conclusion that birthdays really aren't a whole lotta fun. I mean what's to like? You're another year older, fatter, dumber; in short, whatever detriment is plaguing you at the time is magnified by yet another año.
As history goes, the U.S.A. is weird shape these days. But not all is lost. Yeah, we got our shit: the war in Iraq, a warped, unconnected, hilariously inarticulate jackass for a president, a porous border with Mexico (oh wait, the republicans billion dollar fence will solve that). But just when it looks like it's all sliding down a rat hole it's good to remember that hey, we still got Ted Nugent. U!S!A!U!S!A!U!S!A!
If piles upon piles of LPs bring you joy, and you’re within striking distance of Pittsburgh, Pa. this weekend, you need to head for the Pittsburgh Irish Centre on Forward Avenue to check out the first annual Vinylpalooza
They’re invisible. The person you never see onstage. The essential unseen force that even hardcore music fans have never heard of. In all music, arrangers are the secret weapon who never get the credit they deserve
Rumor is that the suits at MTV are beginning to kvetch about the expense of having bottled water delivered to the NYC offices of the network. Man, when the bottled water bill gets up on the bean counter radar nothing good can come of it.