Tuesday, April 25, 2006

CD Review - Deuce

It may seem a bit odd for some that the minister would blog a review for a CD. If this seems odd to you, that's a sure sign we have not yet had the pleasure of meeting. Stop by the church some Sunday and we'll remedy that. Until then... here's my first toe-dip into the icy pool of music reviews.

DEUCE - Billy Ray Hatley and the Showdogs
Sophomore effort? Hardly. The second CD by this seasoned foursome is more like a post-doc in Americana from lauded scholars of blues, rock, roots, and country. If you make it through the opening offerings of "Heroes" and "Mama's Cookin" without toe tapping, head bopping, or full out dancing - consult your neurologist post haste. And if you listen to all the lyrics without thinking at least one song could be about you, have a beer to jog your memory. You've lived it, and it's OK. Dr. Hatley is kind enough not to name names.

This collection offers tempo variety, clever lyrics and melody without pop over-simplification, solos many would give essential dental work to play, and smart arrangements. All the Showdogs and their guest players are top notch musicians who give this collection a polish rare in local recordings. Whatever Drew Perkins, Velpo Robertson, and Charles Arthur were paid for their guest efforts, if it was less than a house in Windsor Farms, the Showdogs should be spanked. (Considering Robertson's production work, throw in a "rivah" cottage for him.)

And then there's the lead guitarist. Call it experience, blessings, mojo, or kharma. Whatever it is, Jim Wark and his trademark pink paisley Fender have more than their share of it. Deftly alternating between the rockin' of "Who's Gonna' Love Me", the down home twangin' of "Voice of Reason", and the psychedelic wah wahin' of "Colors", Wark has a distinctive sound that asserts itself without undermining the gifts of his collaborators.

"Lessons", which is hiding down in the number eleven spot on the playlist showcases the best of what this band has to offer: addictive rhythm work of Rico Antonelli and Mike Moore, the haunting stringed sub-plots of Wark and Perkins, and Hatley's voice at its deep drawling lamenting sexiest. While the lyrics are compelling, it is the interweaving siren "voices" of strings, rhythm, and Hatley's vocals that call our ships to join them in the crags of love lost. This is music for people who've chipped a few teeth sucking the marrow out of life and love, and I can't help but offer a prayer of thanks for the vixens and cads who broke our hearts. The chorus claims, "I got lessons I ain't learned, it's true." Perhaps this is true in love, but when it comes to music, these gentlemen are the professors.

Fans of the live show will be disappointed by the absence of crowd pleasers "Why's Everybody Always Calling Me Jesus" and "Hoot Owl". Two very good reasons for the professors to take us back to school on another CD. For now, there is plenty to study on Deuce.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Groupie Church, Evangelist Level

This is a follow-up to my post of April 12, 2006 called Groupie Church, Back Pew Level. Groupie Church is an internship which prepares people to become members of churches by having them follow a local band for a year. (Groupie Church is entirely farcical, but the idea is growing on me.)

When interns have followed THE BAND for 3-6 months and receive permission from said band, Back Pew level interns are allowed to proceed to Evangelist Level. At this level interns begin to bring their friends along to gigs, talk about THE BAND while at work, and share their band affection and experiences with loved ones. Interns also come to be identified as Groupies. This level of Groupie Church teaches interns the values of recognition, articulation, and financial commitment.

Recognition: By coming out as a Groupie for a band, interns identify themselves with something larger than themselves. Talking about THE BAND is a good way to share one's enthusiasm as well as introduce others to THE BAND's message.

Sample conversation starters include:
"Tony, when you were talking about US immigration policy it reminded me of a song that this band I follow called Garbage Punk does. The song is all about pygmy hippos launching an attack on the suburbs and the chorus goes..."
OR "Mom, trust me. I do understand your bunion pain. Anjellika, the lead singer/rapper in Jet Fuel wears 5 inch heels at all their shows, even the ones in open fields and on cobblestones."
OR EVEN "Yeah, baby, I love you, too. As Mao Say Tune sing in one of their ballads, 'Your love is the curdle, the wimple, the lump on the turtle, and the dimple.'"
(Church equivalent: coming out as a member of a congregation, discussing religious questions using "I" talk instead of "those people", and risking negative reaction by identifying with a religious tradition.)

Articulation: Groupies are expected to be able to articulate the essence of THE BAND to novices. At Evangelist Level, interns are expected to be able to converse freely on wide-ranging topics such as lyrics, guitar solos, the never-ending roster of percussionists, who drinks Rolling Rock and who drinks Bud, how many wives the lead singer has had, and - most importantly - who played when in what other bands. Articulation also is an entry into community building which interns cover more fully in the final level.

An example of Groupie articulation is:
Groupie A: "Dude, when Charlie was playing gut bucket for Mama's Mustache he had a certain melancholy that you just don't see in him now that he's doing washboard with The Strumpets."
Groupie B: "True that. But you know, you could say the exact same thing about Lurch when she played congas for Winslow-Homer-Simpson, and then started in as a back-up and human beat box for The Strumpets. It's like she was resurrected. Then again, that could have been the rehab."
Groupie C: "What's wrong with you two? Have you been drinking PBR again? Lurch and Charlie are chock full o' gravitas. Just listen to the lyrics of "A needle in wine". It's Sampson who brings jolly to this party. Everyone always underrates the power of the ukelele player."
All Groupies: "Good God, I love this band.Ooooh, hush hush! This is my favorite song!"
(Church equivalent: talking about your personal beliefs, understanding and sharing why you have sought a religious community, and - in my tradition - learning how to say "Unitarian Universalist" without stammering.)

Financial Commitment - When bringing friends you pay for cover charges (yours and theirs), and drinks (yours, theirs, and a round for THE BAND as an apology for bringing your scowling friend who keeps requesting Skynard or Nelly). You may also pay for a CD or two for those loved ones who claim that allergies to smoke, mold, and tacky decorating keep them out of the normal venues in which THE BAND appears. And if THE BAND you follow has T-shirts, hats, or - the holy grail of band paraphernalia - boxer shorts for sale, consider your December holiday shopping complete.
(Church equivalent: a monthly pledge of $50-$100, $5 in the offering plate every week, and more raffle tickets, brownies and other church fundraising items than you can shake a stick at. )

After 9 months of following THE BAND interns are eligible for the final step called: Groupie Church, Deacon Level. To achieve this level interns must be recognized city-wide by bouncers, bartenders, THE BAND's spouses, and other fans as Groupies of THE BAND. Significant time, money, and energy on the dance floor have been expended and, needless to say, you've gotta' be able to lip synch ALL the songs.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Over Over

Last night was Passover leftover dinner, or as I like to say "over-over" night. Religious holidays are always eclectic in our house: latkes on Christmas Eve, chalices hanging on the tree, windows instead of doors left open for the prophet (because one year our dog kept going in and out - I refused to give her the wine but we called her Elijah for a week.)

This year's Passover was one for the books. The mistakes in our seder are too numerous to mention. My Hebrew gets worse by the year, and the meal itself was not one of my finest efforts, but I found this to be a memorable Passover in spite of our failings and "over-over" was equally successful.

The preparation began when Little Man came home from Sunday school talking about Passover, proudly waving his "placemat" (a drawing of a Seder plate) and asking for haroset. By the time the observance came around we had told him "scary stories" about burning bushes, mean pharoahs, and frog plagues. He requested a dragon plague and I obliged, but let him know that it was our "special plague" and he agreed not to publicize it in Sunday school. Every morning he asked for Passover food.

Highlights of the meals included: a few words of Hebrew out of me that raised eyebrows and brought on giggles; both children simultaneously rolling their heads back and closing their eyes in mealtime bliss; and no cups spilling either night. But what made the Passover observance a true holiday in spite of mangled language skills and convoluted story-telling was that both children ended the meal in tears and had to be gently but firmly escorted to their beds, whereas "over-over" ended uneventfully. Parents of all religious definitions know that hysteria is the defining moment of a holy day.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Groupie Church, Back Pew Level

We spend significant energy at our church educating members about the expectations, rewards, and pitfalls of church membership. It takes enough of my time that I've been fantasizing how to outsource some of the workload. It would seem to me that there needs to be an internship for those who want to try out church membership; some sort of program that would acclimate one to the church experience without the full brunt of moral obligation, potlucks, and committee work. I've come up with just such a program. I call it "Groupie Church" and here is the rough draft of my proposal. (Please begin by planting tongue firmly in cheek.)

The goal of Groupie Church is to prepare interns for the expectations, rewards, and difficulties of church membership. Groupie Church achieves this through church life simulation in a relatively consequence free environment - your local dank honky tonk bar.

Those at Groupie Church, Back Pew Level begin their experience by choosing a local band to follow for a year. Initial obligation is to attend all public performances of the band for 3-6 months. At this level interns learn the values of loyalty and dependability.

Loyalty - maybe you wanted to watch "Firefly" re-runs this Friday, but THE BAND is playing so you go to some stinky hole in the wall with bad acoustics and expensive beer instead. (The church equivalent is: skipping sporting events, gardening, and golf to attend services.)

Dependability - Their mamas won't come. Their honeys won't come. Their drinking buddies only come to the cheap joints, but THE BAND knows to count on your presence at all of their gigs. They reward your dependability by regularly dedicating songs in your honor like "Crusty Old Witch" and "Yeah, But I Was Drunk." (The church equivalent is: the minister remembers your name.)

After 3-6 months at Back Pew Level and with permission of THE BAND, interns may proceed to Groupie Church, Evangelist Level. See future posts.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Long absence, nothing to report

My techno-idiot ways have gotten the best of me. Blog-wise, I've had nothing but aggravation over the past couple of weeks. I don't even know what these error messages say, much less what to do about them. To make my strained patience pop with exertion, I decided to listen to unfamiliar music on my media player while I tackled the problem tonight. This means that computer rage and Jamiroquai may be eternally linked in my mind.

Had I been posting over the past few weeks, I'm sure I would have had something to say on immigration issues, natural medicine, new findings in Biblical studies on Judas, the restorative power of cherry blossoms, and the ghost of Grandma Frances who paid a visit to my attic last night. I'm sure this would have been brilliant, too, in the manner of brilliance that only the unwritten can affect.

As it is, all I can think is how much Jamiroquai makes me think of the "Rockford Files."