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I (still) Like Lucinda Williams

Lucinda Williams

2/25/17:  Saw her last night in concert at the Parker Playhouse in Ft. Lauderdale, where she and her band Buick 6 rocked the joint with 21 songs. Her lyrics are memorable and vivid. She brings a dash of politics along and is no fan of “liars and fear-mongers,” directed currently to you-know-who. Standing ovations by a largely sixty-ish crowd of 1200, a great show.

She has her own label now and can be more like Dylan, producing records without limitations, like making long double albums in the spirit of Blonde on Blonde.

below from post on 11/16/2012

Folks in my immediate circle thought it odd that I liked Lucinda Williams so much.

She’s so…country, they said.

This was in 1998 when the “Car Wheels on a Gravel Road” album caught my attention.

She is country, I’d answer, but much more.

The “Car Wheels “album is a poetry chapbook. Each piece tries to outdo the other, though they all are cut from the same thematic cloth and connect in the end. Behind excellent guitar work, she lays the Southern Delta twang on thick.  The songs are about the chaos of love but they are tidily produced. Some, as it turns out, sound even better in future performances, especially with a minimalized band.

Her songs have pieces that can be transformed and unleashed anew.

Her “Essence” album is raw and sensual. The rock elements of blues and hard surf guitar heavy with reverb foreshadow her later days to come with Buick 6.

I like her albums “Blessed” and “West.” They have their own milieu and style, and she explores worlds beyond her Delta roots. She pushes the envelope stylistically without spinning out of character.

She’s a Dylan figure in the sense that she’s an original, the real deal, ragged edges be damned. Her twang is similar to Bob singing though his nose, and similarly her voice was sweeter and less torn up when she was younger. Both are poets (Lucinda’s father, Miller Williams, is a noted national poet and teacher who read at Clinton’s inauguration). They are individualists who eschew the usual media PR mill. Lucinda’s been down the road and has wisdom to add to all that born talent for writing. Just as you can’t lock Dylan into the folk category, you can’t label her either. They never sing the same song the same way twice. They’re artists and rebels.

In the French Quarter  one morning I had breakfast at a beer and eggs dive. Someone put Lucinda on the jukebox, and the universe felt complete.

A younger Lucinda performance from 1989.

No one I’ve heard can do a sad songs about love and loss like Lucinda can.

 “Copenhagen,” (audio on YouTube)

I’d recommend anyone trying out Lucinda to try the Fillmore concert double album.  It has a good cross-sampling of her work, and the band that is with her that night is both sublime and red hot, perfectly in sync with her. She sings the best ever, her twang toned down, and the guitars complement her. Some fans (and she has her own cult) prefer watching her DVD performances. Lucinda on video is okay by me too, but I find it distracting whenever she refers to a three-ring binder for lyrics. Yet who can expect a poet to remember the volume of their work, word for word?

Better yet, follow her tour and get a ticket to see her live.

Looking Back at La Valse

Some Background Stuff paraphrased from Wiki:

Ravel originally wrote La Valse as a ballet piece that celebrates Johann Strauss and the waltz form. Unsure what to say of its new and radical form, critics described the piece as a metaphor, one that made socio-political statements about deconstruction and decline. Ravel said otherwise, that “one should only see in it what the music expresses: an ascending progression of sonority, to which the stage comes along to add light and movement.”

The composer’s preface notes say: “Through swirling clouds, waltzing couples may be faintly distinguished. The clouds gradually scatter…one sees an immense hall peopled with a whirling crowd. The scene is gradually illuminated. The light of the chandeliers bursts forth at the fortissimo…”

Some Stuff from Me:

I imagine to hear it played live by a symphony in New York or Paris or Vienna must be an out of body experience. I can only speak to the one time I saw it live, which was on a summer evening in Houston. I was still a young man then, and an even younger woman was in my company. We were one of the couples, for a brief time existing more in the swirling clouds than grounded.

The music at first had a traditional aesthetic and was beautiful and idyllic. Then rebellion seized the melody. The rhythm halted and skipped, and an unexpected dissonance took hold. The sections of order and beauty volleyed with sections of discord.

During the concert, an explosive electrical storm took place over downtown Houston. Lightning flashed through the concert hall windows. If the chandeliers inside amped up, I doubt anyone noticed. When all the high musical tension was over, I felt a sense of relief. Through the doors the air smelled of fresh rain.

A version by the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France:

February Toast (reprise)

Pip pip cheerio and saludos cheers –
Let’s drink to ancient presidents
and torturous valentines,
moving trucks and red red wines –
snowstorms on Sunday, flesh in the tropics,
neighbors we hate, incomplete biopics,
Atlantic-striped ties stained by nicotine,
bluesy friends whacked on Benzedrine,
boys soaked in hormones with guises and roles,
girls cloaked in perfume, spongy dark souls.

Bang one down for month two.
Within its four hazardous weeks
before the lion wheezes and creaks,
all left sane will likely go mad
Locked in cabins, no relief to be had.
We will try free verse with carriage returns
Fading like this – as our memory burns
Laughing hee hee at the wiki watchee
snacks on our knee, worshippin’ tee vee.

Whoop whoop and down the hatch –
Here’s to dinosaurs ever thirsty in museums,
to randy sailors and plump manatees,
to untended graves, the frigid north breeze.

The Joads drink gin on freeway exits,
Elephants stampede an invisible nexus.
The sirens of fate sing a bitter bolero,
while demons dance al contrario;
Between the poles of the morally upright
Lovers speak their clever lies at night.

Blinky winky mix me a stinky –
Another round for tavernous ghosts
Mythical heartthrobs and misguided boasts,
Black leggings over soiled pink lace
Reproduction rehearsals of the human race.

Wise are the beaten the noble the dying,
Into our beers lost chances go sighing,
By our breath and brain we’re fogged,
Our Febby pipe frozen and clogged.

Cold bad luck and electrostatic hugs,
tyrant landlords, someone else’s bugs,
Bad trombone, influenza, and wat’ry stew,
Roll a joint doobie doo,
Get us past this month, please hurry too.

from my book “February Toast,” published in 2014.  

On the Road (the movie)

otrExpecting some other mood to the presentation, I was distracted during the first half.  The screenplay emphasis is on free beatnik love, I suppose. Anyone with everyone, we get it. After repeated scenes like “Dean does Denver” the movie was beginning to seem like the Kristen Stewart SkinFlick Hour. It sells tickets, they say. And there’s no doubt she is nice looking.

I wondered why the opening half didn’t have more emphasis on Sal (Kerouac) the writer and his paradoxical visions of beauty and anguish, of life and the American culture, the countryside and its soul.  Instead we get endless cigarettes and a repetitious display of Dean’s (Neal Cassady’s) fancy for nose inhalers. They gave us bebop music scenes but that was only one facet of Beat. Beat was about absorbing everything, living in the moment, not just Dean’s capacity for getting laid.

I’ve read the book more than twice, and never saw in it things the director included.  I barely remember reading parts about Jack’s mom, and the movie showed her several times. The movie says Sal met Dean “after his father died” which is conveniently inconsistent with the book, in which Sal meets Dean right after Sal and his wife have split up.

OTR has no real compelling storyline.  It must have driven the screenwriters crazy. Other parts are great: the visuals, the editing, the building interest in the guys as they journeyed through their passages. Good actors appear in bit parts.  When Jack K’s writing was quoted, those narrations raised the hair on the back of my neck. The Ginsberg quotes did the same.

Once Dean’s unhappy wives leave the script, the movie improves.  The road scenes are good, the William Burroughs scenes are vivid, and the Mexico sequence artfully depicts a drunken nightmare of a trip.  From that point, the novel (slash movie) hits its stride and pushes to a conclusion.  At the end I felt like I had watched a movie of some merit, and one Francis Ford Coppola’s name is rightfully attached to.

Note on casting….the actor who played Sal didn’t look like Kerouac, but more like Rory McElroy.

I WAS A ZOMBIE COMMUNIST WEREWOLF BLOGGER WHOSE BLOGGING ADDICTION ENDED; WELL, IN THE TRADITIONAL SENSE OF BLOGS ANYWAY

An article I read recently about the state of blogs, i.e., the current condition thereof – dead or alive – uses the term “convergence” to explain the diminishment of blog popularity.  Convergence as in the mass uniform movement of users into a web world  dominated by the conformist communities of Facebook and Twitter.

I wonder. If people have time for hourly chitchat in Immediacy Land, they also have the time to read blogs. But I don’t think they have the interest in spending it on blogs anymore. Everyone’s capacity for attention is stretched. Better to exchange a fast word or two (often vanities-based) than read or write an article where argument or story is developed.

There is a quality dilution factor to blogs. It’s difficult to blog every day. Especially when your audience dwindles to accidental passers-by. Blogs are also susceptible to the sameness that comes with convergence. Few stand out, and few are remembered.  Their purpose is blurry. Some do stand out because the bloggers themselves are willing to work at ensuring their visibility and pageview counts. Or they specialize and cater their posts to a niche audience. Otherwise blogs are hobbyist or small business or family affairs or exchanges within a circle of friends and fellow bloggers, and any or all of those scenarios can fail too.

The diehards (I am likely one) blog for blogging sake. It is a writing compulsion (or more gently, a call to write) that brings me back to blogs.  Do bloggers run on conceit?  Or need or both?

Some blogs eventually wind down or gray out into archive status. For example, I’ll blow up my oldest one like a bomb. It will feel satisfying, like waving bye to an old car you drove too long.

That doesn’t preclude doing another one if ever the urge arises. But it won’t ever again be like writing a blog of yore. We’ve all thought about it too much and ascribe creepy reasons for doing it. We are our own enemies. It’s not as fun and immune from asking Why? as it once was.

wpm

 

Brother Bill’s Social Network Prayer Rap

God spare us Mugbook and ratchetjaw Twitter
All that stuff’s going straight in the shitter.

Grant us real writing
amid the weblog smog, where
the language radiates
and imaginates,
pontificates and
metaphoriates –

Seems to me
at sixty-three
the other’s got no arts,
just me-me dope from mundane charts,
benign and fine
for those who like that line,

but to me at sixty-three
the table talk chatter
lacks substance and matter –

So bury me not
on the Mugbook wall,
I prefer my lot
on lonely blogspot:

Land of the blog,
dog,
Blessed is the blog,
dog;
Blessed is the blog.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Dios nos libre Mugbook y Twitter ratchetjaw
Todo eso va directamente en el cagadero.

Concédenos la escritura real
en medio de la niebla blog, donde
el lenguaje irradia
y imaginates,
pontificados y
metaphoriates –

Me parece que
en el sesenta y tres
la otra tiene ni artes,
sólo yo-yo la droga de las cartas mundanas,
benigna y fino
para aquellos que gustan de esa línea,

pero para mí en el sesenta y tres
la charla conversación en la mesa
carece de sustancia y la materia –

Así que no me entierres
en la pared Mugbook,
Yo prefiero mi suerte
en blogspot solitaria:

Tierra del blog,
perro,
Bendito sea el blog,
perro;
Bendito sea el blog.