Friday, February 27, 2009

His Tipping Point

He likes to lean back in his chair and bump it up against a table in my living room. On occasion he will misjudge the distance, or lose his balance and fall. This is how I think he bruised his ear last week.

Now he takes the chair into the dining room, which has no rug, so I get to hear it bump on the floor. Plastic does not grip well to wood, so this chair slips often, and he falls.

He picked out a book earlier. His method of reading is to turn the pages rapidly. I try to engage him by pointing to the pictures and naming them. Tonight he was naming many pictures without prompting. He did call a whale a fish, nailed the chicken and airplane and when he pointed to a guitar and said "play guitar" I nearly wept - because I bring mine out and play it once in awhile and he likes to pluck the strings.

I got a real kick when he kept pointing at the dinosaur, saying it, then looking at me for confirmation. I also pointed at a helicopter, said "that's a helicopter" and he repeated those words when he pointed at it.

He's in there, and when we connect it's wonderful. Later, he ran around upstairs for a quite a bit, running around yelling incoherently. He's in bed now, talking to the ceiling, as he will do for a good half hour before finally falling asleep.

And for how long? Could be four hours, could be nine.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Complete with bad photography

A number of my friends off and online have been working on track listing their lives. I did this a few years back, when I turned 40. Never got around to burning them to disc, but here it is in all its lengthy glory - complete with a few additions at the end.

Disc One: The Lonely Years.

XTC - Life Begins At The Hop. It was December 8th, 1979. We were going
to the Cars concert at Nassau Coliseum. Mike stole a bottle of
Canadian Club from his parents liquor cabinet. Frank was driving the
van down Jericho Turnpike when he rear ended someone. Luckily, there
was no damage so we all went our our way. "I can't feel my hands."
Frank told me as he continued driving. This was my first concert. The
opening band played this song. They sounded good, even if I'd never
heard of them. They finished their set with 'Making Plans For Nigel.'
That one I recognized. They had me then and there.

The Ronettes - Be My Baby. This should be on disc two because of the
Retrorock show. It goes here, though, in homage to all the AM radio I
listened to in the pre-consultant, pre-disco era. This is a great song
by one of the greatest vocalists ever.

Buddy Holly - Peggy Sue. How can one love the Beatles and not worship
this man. I can't.

The Beatles - I'm Looking Through You. My favorite from my favorite
album. It was my 13th birthday. If Modell's had the bowling ball I
liked life would be different. Instead, I bought '67-'70. A life
altering decision.

Bruce Springsteen - Candy's Room. Bruce never really hit me until
later. His voice was too mumbled and unclear for me. Then I listened.
Really listened. Darkness on The Edge of Town. Whoa. And this song. I
saw him do it live in '84. 'She has fancy clothes and diamond rings.'
The guitar soars, the drums pound. Rock and roll.

Led Zeppelin - The Immigrant Song. There was a rumor than every kid on
Long Island got a copy of Led Zeppelin IV on his 16th birthday. Not
true, but by listening to WBAB you'd think that, I've always loved
their third record. Lots of bluesy acoustic guitar. It's their Rubber
Soul. You cannot deny the power of the F# minor barre chord!

The Police - Born In The 50's. I don't listen to this band much
anymore but they were a big part of my high school years, even if no
one else I knew listened to them. Sting rocked once, a long time ago

The Pretenders - Precious. Chrissie. Sooooo sexy. What an opening riff
to a debut record. What a guitar sound. Then there was her voice,
purring and growling at the same time. What a turn on. And then she
drops a f-bomb toward then end of the song and you practically cum
while listening to the rest of the song.. That song is hot!

The Cars - Just What I Needed. Somewhere, deep in the bowels of my
recorded materials collection, is a tape. A tape of me. Singing this
song. Live. For a group of mentally handicapped people in Melville,
New York. None of you will ever hear it.

The Who - I'm One. Tough call, finding a song from these guys. Bless
'em. I was supposed to go to junior prom, but my 'date' had other
ideas. So I had a snit and didn't go. Instead, I called Frank and we
went to see The Kids Are Alright. I was unfamiliar with The Who, not
after that. Wow, these guys were cool. The drummer was crazy. The
bassist just stood there and moved his fingers in ways that were
seemingly impossible. And they beat the crap out of their instruments.
How neat is that? Funny, smart, rowdy. Thanks for helping me get
through some bad times Pete.

Ringo Starr - Photograph. Poor Ringo. Maligned as the dumb one. But he
had some lovely hits. The song has different meaning now.

George Harrison - Run of The Mill. I'm not going to post the lyrics
here, but they are so heartbreaking and wonderful and true to me.
George is my favorite Beatle. I always thought he'd be too mean to
die. In his mansion. Complaining about the heat. Too cheap to put a
lump of coal in the heater. Wearing his sweater while counting all his
money. I miss the world with him living in it. But life goes on within
and without him.

Paul Simon- America. 'I'm empty and aching and I don't know why'
Strong stuff for a sixteen year old.

Elton John - Bitter Fingers. My brother turned me on to him. The first
single I bought was Crocodile Rock. He was the coolest. Flamboyant.
One of the best concerts I ever saw. I didn't listen to this song much
until later. I had Don't Shoot Me I'm Only The Piano Player and wore
it out. Captain Fantastic and The Brown Dirt Cowboy has been elevated
to most favored album status these days.

Nick Lowe - Marie Provost. He's the Jesus of cool for a reason. Chock
full of wit and stolen riffs. How can anyone not love Nick The Nife.
And this song, based on a true story. The funniest rock song, ever.
How can you not laugh until you cry, "She was the winner/who became
the doggie's dinner/she never meant that much to me/poor Marie'

The Kinks - Shangri-La. I have to thank Marcus Reilly, wherever he may
be, for turning me on to this band. It was senior class trip to Bear
Mountain, and he had a tape of One From The Road. Man I was hooked nad
devoured everything I could find by these guys. I love The Beatles,
but they've never made me weep they way Ray Davies can. Saw them once.
Ray came out in a ratty trench coat and acoustic guitar and started
playing 'Well Respected Man' I could have gone home then and have been
happy because the rest of the show was kinda lame. But I do love Ray,
crazy bastard he is.

Disc Two: The Fredonia Years:

Oh to be seventeen and on one's own for the first time. Was I open to
new experiences? Not really. I was terrified. Had a 21 year old
roommate - thank God we instantly bonded over National Lampoon and
Firesign Theater records or who knows what would have happened.
What kept me alive? What fountain of tunes did I drink from?
WCVF radio.

Still a Beatle geek. They took up more than half of my record
collection. I branched out safely into anything Beatlesque.

Squeeze: Mumbo Jumbo - East Side Story lived on my turntable freshman
year. Later, Synchronicity would be the first record played in any new
residence. But Squeeze had the crème brulee hooks and harmonies that
sounded like you-know-who, and I don't mean Voldemort.

REM: Begin The Beguine - This record came out and roared. And you
could finally hear Stipe's voice clearly. And you realized he really
didn't have anything to say. Life's Rich Pagaent stayed on the
turntable until thieves stole it. I loved that turntable. Onkyo,
direct drive with pitch control for the bootlegs. Came close to
meeting the band at a college radio convention in DC. Didn't want to
deal with the lines of people, but I still have one of their early
press photos.

U2: Like A Song - Sure Boy and October came out first. But War. Talk
about the passion. The anthems on this record are heartfelt and true.
I wish I had the extended dance mix of 'Two Hearts Beat As One. Man,
BJ's rocked when that one blasted out of the speakers. Walls covered
in sweat. I remember the Billy, the bar owner, asking me to tone it
down one night when the crowd became a bit rowdy. I played 'Where The
Streets Have No Name.' The crowd sang the first line of the song, "I
want to run/I want to hide'. Still sends chills. Like A Song is a
great album cut that didn't get the play it deserved. Great power
chords at the end. Is honesty what you want?

T-Bone Burnett: The Sixties - Introduced to J. Henry when Proof
Through The Night was released. Why isn't this record released on CD
today? The record is a revelation that still works twenty years later.
Saw him live once, playing guitar for Sam Phillips. This song has
amazing relevance today. He updated it in the 90's with lots of
references to The Starr Report. Proof Through The Night is one of the
finest releases of the eighties.

10,000 Maniacs: Planned Obsolescence - This is a band I watched from
the beginning. The growth, the petty squabbles, the multiple drummers.
Once jerry came aboard the band clicked it up into something special.
Rob Buck was a unique guitarist. He used amazing effects in the early
days of the band. I'd be drunk, open mouthed trying to figure out the
sounds he got out of that thing. I hardly noticed Natalie, in a fetal
position, screaming on the beer soaked floor. I always liked this song
from their Human Conflict #5 EP. This leads to one of the best segues

Creedence Clearwater Revival: Sweet Hitchhiker - Thank you Chris
Turano for showing me that this is the best American band, ever. And
they never had a number one record. Simplicity and strong lyrics. A
Retro Rock radio show mainstay.

Lone Justice: Soap, Soup and Salvation - I have my Aunt to thank for
many things in my life. During this decade she bolstered my record
collection and turned me on to countless amounts of music and culture.
As she once said, though, about Maria McKee, "We can't get her
arrested." How this band, and her music, failed in achieving
commercial and popular success when lesser talents got the brass ring
is a mystery. They were alt-country ten years too soon I suppose.

The Clash: This Is Radio Clash - The beginning of this song inspires.
Great in the bar. The extended dance mix is amazing. The only band
that matters, still.

Elvis Costello: Lipstick Vogue - Lyrics that equal the viciousness of
Bob Dylan, 'love is like a tumor/you've got to cut it out' Incisive as
ever, even over twenty years later.

Patti Smith: Frederick - The high priestess of cool. Wave may not be
her best record but this is a heart felt love song. Who knew Fred was

Victoria Williams: Holy Spirit - Another artist my Aunt introduced me
to. What a gentle, real soul. Her strength in dealing with her MS is
always an inspiration. I brought her a copy of Happy Come Home to sign
after seeing her live. Her eyes got all big when she saw it. She
seemed amazed that anyone still owned it.

John Hiatt: She Loves The Jerk - Well what do you know? Another Geffen
artist. Thanks Auntie. Hiatt put himself through a lot of internal
pain and lost a lot (a record deal and a wife to suicide) before the
decade had ended. I'm glad he survived ad is still making great music.
One of the best songwriters, ask Bonnie Raitt.

Laurie Anderson: Example #22 - Boy did Big Science open my eyes. Such
a powerful artist she is! Independent and strong. What the hell does
she see in that ass Lou Reed? My housemates and I would get high
listening to this. Those were the days.

Talking Heads: Cross Eyed and Painless - The second greatest American
band. What rhythm. The howling of the Byrne. What a shame he abandoned
the best musicians who could interpret his music. Saw them during the
infamous Stop Making Sense tour. Loved the bug suit.

Kate Bush: The Big Sky - I'll admit it. It took awhile to get Kate.
Wasn't ready for The Kick Inside, or The Dreaming at first. But them
Hounds of Love came along and The Whole Story with the kick ass remake
of her own Wuthering Heights that displayed her now formidable voice.
And she'd grown up in so many ways. Haven't seen the Big Sky video in
years but remember being impressed with the military imagery and her
amazing hair. Kate's all that.

Robyn Hitchcock: Airscape: At first I though he was another acid
casualty. Now I'm quite fond of loveable ol' Uncle Robyn. He's the
witty man in the corner telling weird tales about things in plastic
bags and dead wives and men with light bulb heads.

Crowded House: Sister Madly - Neil Finn winked at my wife while
singing this song. The scoundrel! The cad! It took awhile, but now I
know That The Temple of Low men is their best record. Seen them live
three times. First there was a chicken pox epidemic on campus (which
my wife caught) and the show was almost cancelled. Second time Tim
Finn was touring with them but left a couple of shows before. Third
time, Paul Hester quit the show the night before. They used Sheryl
Crow's drummer for the first part of the show because the replacement
showed up late from Cleveland. Crow sucked and still does.

Otis Redding: I've Been Loving You Too Long - Take it from me. Otis is
the best hangover cure. Better than chocolate milk, even.

Warren Zevon; Desperadoes Under The Eaves - I owe Joe Sawtelle an
apology. I didn't quite acknowledge him in high school I could have
learned the chords to Werewolves of London years sooner. My first
college roommate Roland set me straight. Side one of Excitable Boy is
great stuff. Seeing Warren perform this song was priceless.

Disc Three: C.O.C.O.A. years. Columbus, Ohio - City of Amateurs.

We left Fredonia after she was accepted into graduate school at Ohio
State. It was the first time I'd really lived in a big city. Sure, I
grew up in the suburbs of Long Island, but it's different than the
inner city. Fredonia was a very small town about an hour south of
Buffalo. My work hosiery has been a part time job at Bank One. Four
positions in various wine shops. A wretched job in a college
bookstore. Part time at B&N. The Statehouse Museum Shop and the
library. Life became living through my wife's academic troubles.
College hockey, death and an attempted suicide of employers,
separation, divorce, nervous breakdown, new person, new job, new life,
new life, new kid. So today, and into the future, of course, there is

Roxy Music - Take A Chance With Me. I aspire to be Bryan Ferry. Not
the pasty faced one scene in first class scared shitless (naturally)
after the plane he was on was nearly hijacked, but the well dressed
one. The music is wistful and horny. A phrase we came up with at the
Fredonia bars. Didn't really understand what it meant until later,
walking the streets of Columbus at two in the morning. Avalon is quite
the romantic record. I want his wardrobe.

Steve Winwood - Colored Rain. I've always liked Stevie. Talking Back
To The Night is a fine eighties record. It was a decade of hits for
Winwood. Saw him live at the now defunct Capital Music Center at
Beulah Park. He did a few Traffic songs that I didn't realize were
Traffic songs. "Oh, he wrote that?!?" It's pleasant, peaceful hippie
shit that isn't quite dated. Well some of it isn't.

Emmy Lou Harris - Wrecking Ball. My cable system has Music Choice.
I've found a number of artists through this service. This song kept
coming on. I'd race to the television to see who it was until it
finally got entrenched in my head. Then I bought one of the finest
records of the nineties. Ambient sounds for late at night. Drinking,
brooding, thinking.

Moxy Fruvous - Horseshoes. It took some time to get into their Wood
album. It was their live performances that drew me to them They sing
so well and have some tremendous energy. It's a song that says to move
on. I'm still trying to figure out how they never hit big but
Barenaked Ladies did with less talent. Fruvous was a sweet band.

World Party - Way Down Now. Who was that gal in Fredonia who said I
should listen to Karl Wallinger? Didn't like Private Revolution all
that much but Goodbye Jumbo is a stunning record. He still sounds like
Lennon when he wants to be Jagger and vice versa. At no time should he
ever channel Stevie Wonder. Karl, be yourself tonight.

Sam Phillips - Private Storm. The Indescribable Wow is one of my
favorite records but this song off Cruel Inventions is very revealing.
"Screaming into the storm" Tells me she runs a lot deeper and darker
than he world of Omnipop. I think she's one of us, any Asder would
know what I mean. That said, her navel is better looking than

Jayhawks - Blue. One of the loveliest songs of the decade. Dang,
Louris and Olson sang well together. The song doesn't drag on. Says
its point in 2:50. That's all you need.

Liz Phair - Shitloads of Money. She will remind me forever of
depression, hope, loss, personal failure, Baltimore. Despite the
recent corporate pandering, which to many resulted it he loss of her
indy cred, she possesses the capability of putting together some great
hooks. And I liked Whitechocolatespaceegg, even if she never returned
my phone calls or answered my mail. Wait. That was Elizabeth Wurtzel.

Wilco - At My Window Sad And Lonely. The band of my middle age. Can't
say when I first heard them. Do remember that Summerteeth was the
first record of theirs I bought. Must have been around the time of my
divorce. What can I say? Tweedy resonates with me more than anyone has
recently. Sure the old stuff will always be there, but what about now.
I'm an adult now, The Pursuit of Happiness sang. Give me adult music
for adults. I suspect he's a major control freak but he's not evil. I
Am Trying To Beak Your Hearty really didn't change my opinion of him,
not did Man In The sand. I do hope he gets well and that the headaches
can be controlled. Mermaid Avenue Volume One is one of the most
important releases in any genre in the past twenty five years. It is a
treasure than demands preservation.

Kasey Chambers - Barricades and Brickwalls. I'd never heard of this
Australian gal who was opening for Lucinda Williams. About a third of
the way through her first song I'm hearing Maria Mckee. Then Gram
Parsons, then her own bad self. One of the few shows I've seen where
an unknown won over the crowd. She's impressive. If she can stay
healthy and stay in the states for a lengthy tour, she's going to be a
major star. Her new record is out down under and is set for a
September release.

Lucinda Williams - Essence. Another of the great songwriters and story
tellers. She's a drama queen, liar, cheat and a probable thief. Then
she writes about it. But is it true? That's her talent. Did it really
happen? It doesn't matter, the song survives.

Beach Boys - Love Is Here. Chris Turano was right. Brian Wilson rules.
Took me years to discover that. Listen to Pet Sounds. You hear the
man's soul, (Do you ever hear McCartney's soul?) and some of it isn't
pretty. He's been through a lot. Many demons, some he created. I've
seen him twice during his comeback and the performances, despite the
weakened vocals, are passionate and true. A great deal of his recent
success can be directly attributed to…

The Wondermints - Ooh Child. This band of twenty somethings understand
70's pop better than Eric Carmen ever did. There's fondness for the
era that shows in their music with and without Brian. They protect him
while on stage and bring out the best in his music. Gifted musicians.

Gram Parsons. - Devil In Disguise. Another late discovery. Ended up
watching Music From 54th Street or whatever the show was. John Hiatt
was hosting. Emmy Lou Harris was there, as were Vic Williams, Ryan
Adams, and others. I liked the tribute songs. So I checked out The
Flying Burrito Brothers. This song led off the disc and I was hooked
when the voices kicked in. The Hillman/Parsons via Everly Brothers
meet the Rolling Stones. Read up on Gram's sad, irresponsible past and
hope that Ryan Adams doesn't end up the same way.

Joseph Arthur - Dear Lord. I have daisydumont to thank, along with
Music Choice. He can be drony, and some of his songs are a bit
lengthy. But when he's concise, look out. I gave Redemption's Son to
my sister, who said he has Jesus issues. Well, heck yes. Major
songwriting talent.

Sondre Lerche. You Know So Well. Again with the Music Choice. Trying
to get my kid settled down and this guy comes on. What an arrangement!
A voice of Donovan. Asked my wife to write down his name so I wouldn't
forget. Found out he's a young man from Norway who at the time was
barely 21. How poised and mature his music is. A bit more polish and
some help with the lyrics and he'll be around for years.

Norah Jones - Come Away With Me. I love finding artists that break out
six months later. Nyah nyah nyah, told you so! Her voice is so darn
clear and honest. Sure, she's dull as dirt live. It's going to be hard
for her fans and critics to forget how great her first record was.
She'll never top it.

Paul McCartney - Beautiful Night. I rag on him a lot. But this song
kept me alive. The soundtrack to a marriage falling apart. I was all
over this song. Played it constantly. So sweet. Sure he and George
Martin rip off Abbey Road, but so damn what. He wrote that, he's
entitled! I suspect Flaming Pie will be his last good album. But this
song though. Wow.

John Lennon - Life begins at 40/Nobody Loves You When You're Down and
Out. Couldn't let Paul have the last word, as much as he's trying
these days. Life turned upside down at 16. First rock and roll
assassination. Again, John could bare his soul when Paul couldn't.
There's the difference.

So who'd I miss? Quite a few artists: Joe Jackson, Radiohead, Carole
King, Darlene Love, Jonathan Richman, Dire Straits, Dave Clark Five,
NRBQ, The Jam, Gillian Welch, The Northern Pikes, Dusty Springfield,
Mrs. Miller, Bob Dylan, Queen, Pearl Jam, Peter Case, Jackie Wilson
and about fifty others.

It's been almost five years since that list was put together. There are a few more I'd add now. Maybe as an EP or something.

Zombies - Care of Cell #44. I discovered Odessey and Oracle about 38 years too late. Listened to it incessantly. Googled them and found out they were due to play the Ohio State Fair, in a free show, with Ian Hunter opening. I was psyched, then intrigued when Ian Hunter cancelled and Denny Laine was his replacement. Ultimately, Laine was a trainwreck but Blunstone and Argent were incredible. I was amazed at how well Blunstone's voice kept and Argent, despite some Spinal Tap moments, still has the chops.

Arcade Fire - Wake Up. A now estranged friend recommended them. I reserved Funeral from the library and was hooked thirty seconds in. This band woke up my ears. Seeing them live was a highlight of my concert going experience. I want them to succeed.

KT Tunstall - The Other Side of the World - It's late 2006 most of 2007 and I'm driving. Hitting this song on repeat, repeat and repeat...

Belle and Sebastian - Dirty Dream Number Two - There's a girl in the car, we're driving up Riverside Drive, and she's dancing in her seat. Beautiful and perfect.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Pre Oscars

I am weak, watching the Oscars every year as if they really matter. Ultimately, it's an excuse to open up an inexpensive bottle of sparking wine, eat some cheese and be rude to the television. Like the nightly news, but with better dressed people onscreen. I've only seen a few of the movies and have a lot of speculation about who will win. If I get half right, it's been a success.

A couple of weeks back, while watching the Grammys, a few people from my old college radio station ended up gathering on Facebook and had a wonderfully snarky conversation. It was so much fun, we're doing it tonight.

Earlier today I went to a poetry reading that was supposed to be a youth slam. Not many people turned up so it turned into an abbreviated open mic. I enjoyed the people and the space. It's put on by a group I can't get to because I have my son when they meet. There's one seventeen year old kid who has incredible potential. Heck, she's amazing already. I read a new piece and think I did well with the fifteen or so people who attended.

Yesterday I went to the new Dunkin' Donuts at Broad and High that everyone has been dying to try. The donuts are ok, not bad really. The coffee I was not impressed with. It tastes burnt. I'm not a coffee person, but I know scorched when it's in my mouth. Next time, I'll get a bag of tea and some hot water - and sample a couple more donuts.

A very productive weekend, despite getting little writing or reading done. Managed to get more documents across the pond for my girlfriend's immigration process, saw my son in the pool and did a few other things I've been meaning to do but have not had the time. One did not quite pay off, the other may.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A Trilogy of a Post

Still trying to figure out what I'm doing in this part of the blogosphere, and readership seems to be nil so I have a sand box to play in. Here's something I wrote a couple of years ago for the now defunct site complusivetruth.

When it comes to the now obsolete genre of alt-country one of the seminal bands of the movement was the 80's group Lone Justice. They were ahead of the curve in the movement along with the bands Rank and File, Jason and the Scorchers and many others. Naturally, these bands all sat at their speakers when they were growing up, soaking in the music of Gram Parsons, the Carter Family, and the Flying Burrito Brothers, with a healthy amount of gospel thrown in to keep it holy.

The force behind the band was the voice and stage presence of its lead singer. Maria McKee had a very powerful voice and an image of a punk rocker who wore vintage dresses. At seventeen, she wrote a song, A Good Heart, that Feargal Sharkey had a massive hit with in the U.K. in the 1983. McKee's half-brother is the late Bryan MacLean, who was guitarist in the band Love.

Lone Justice was signed by Geffen Records in 1985.

They had a promotional slush fund that could budget a small country. Still, all that cash could not get them arrested. McKee was at one point in her career managed by Jimmy Iovine, the svengali of Stevie Nicks, who had no clue what do do with her abilities, so he threw top name talent such as Steven Van Zandt to work with her. Nothing happened. The records did not sell.

Their first video, Ways to Be Wicked, was written by Tom Petty. The video's quality was of a silent film from the 20's in dire need of a restoration. You could not see the band, or McKee's looks because the video had a a scratchy, over antiquated look. Not a good beginning. The record, while receiving good praise, never sold well.

After the first record, bassist Marvin Etzoni, guitarist Ryan Hedgecock and drummer Don Heffington left the group. After that, the lineup was a revolving cast of session players from other bands including Benmont Tench and Mike Campbell of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.

McKee also had a style that was noticed by director Martin Scorcese as he cast her to appear with Robbie Robertson in his video Somewhere Down the Crazy River. A video in which McKee and Robertson were in a coital embrace for virtually the whole song.

There rarely seemed to be any consistency or patience with the sound of the group or image of the band. As frontswoman, the pressure was on McKee to deliver. It seemed as if she never had control over her product, but a posse of handlers and producers all willing to spend David Geffen's money seemed to control her releases.

She broke away from Lone Justice and a self titled solo record was released in 1990. Few noticed.

In the 1993 she released a fine record called You Gotta Sin To Get Saved. Once again, it featured top talent from The Jayhawks, The Heartbreakers and other prominent session musicians from the west coast. It is a very soulful record with a solid R&B and country vibe. It contains a great cover of Van Morrison's "The Way Young Lovers Do." Once again, it failed to get noticed.

She then took over her career completely with her final release on Geffen in 1996. She wrote all the songs by herself and played all of the guitars, to mixed results. Life is Sweet is a record of passion and autobiography. The first song, Scarlover, tells of an affair with a prominent musician. The rest of the songs were unlike any of the Cosmic American Music she had previously release. Distorted guitars and howling vocals were up front as McKee bared her soul. Again, sales were dismal. It was to be her last major label release.

The late nineties and new millenium found McKee in Dublin, recording and releasing material every couple of years. Her cult following noticed, but the masses yawned and ignored her.

With her new record, Late December, McKee shows she still has it. Her voice soars, contains drama and borders close enough to the histrionic to keep the sound spicy. It reminds me of her work on Life Is Sweet. She also officially released her version of "A Good Heart", a song she wrote at seventeen.

I wonder if writing a musical for the London stage is in her future. Perhaps a story of a hyped up musician who should have been a major star, but, inexplicably, was not. Or, just as a personal pipe dream, working with producer Jim Steinman (Meatloaf) for at least one song, just so I can hear what that collaboration would bring.

McKee is also one of my favorite musicians that I have not seen play live. She tours infrequently in the states. When she does play here, she sticks to the coasts. The closest I've been was seeing Marvin Etzoni open for Sam Phillips. Marvin was doing his mandolin act and played for 45 minutes straight, and I mean that. he didn't break stride. He did play a cover of "You Are the Light."

I also happened to catch Lone Justice's original drummer, Don Heffington, when he was in Lucinda Williams' band.

Maria McKee has always been one of rock music's unrecognized talents. In this day of corporate control of the mainstream it's unlikely she ever get noticed, unless one of her songs shows up on Greys Anatomy or another television show. Heck, not even satellite radio is playing her new record, and that's a shame. She keeps plugging away, and offers us hope in her song "Starving Pretty" in which she tells us, "And stay with me/Starving pretty and high/Back and forth/Celebrate at such refine/Lean on me, baby/We're going to make it/We're paper thin/We’re gonna win."

She has always had the voice, the presence and the ability to write songs of relevance and passion, and has been doing so, virtually unnoticed, for almost a quarter of a century.

Today the blogger known as Last Year's Girl asked this question, and I'm replying.

“The idea, is to jot down ten most bestest songs ever and find out what other people like so you can see if you like it yourself. Apparently this exercise builds understanding of other people."

It's hard to pick a top ten of anything. Let alone music. Moods shift. What is chosen today will not necessarily be the same an hour from now. But, here they are, in no particular order.

The Beatles - I'm Looking Through You
The Who - I'm One
The Kinks - Shangrila
The Ronettes - Be My Baby
Arcade Fire - Wake Up
Buddy Holly - Peggy Sue
Wilco - At My Window Sad and Lonely
Emmy Lou Harris - Wrecking Ball
Liz Phair - Shitloads of Money
George Harrison - Run of the Mill

So many are missing from that list. I can pick eight more tomorrow, and the day after.

Not going to talk about work here much but this book came across my desk today. Have not paid that much attention to a book at work since the Pink Box.

Here's a picture of Emmanuelle Beart that is work safe.

Forgive me, my girlfriend is 3,600 miles away

Monday, February 16, 2009

This one is not going viral

EARLIEST MOVIE-WATCHING MEMORY: I think my mother took me to see Dr. Dolittle. Not sure if it was at Radio City Music Hall or not. I remember the ornate theater lobby more than the film. They dropped us off one afternoon to see Ring of Bright Water. I remember otters swimming.

LAST DVD YOU BOUGHT: I found a copy of The Saddest Music in the World at Big Lots for three bucks.

IF YOU WERE A TCM GUEST PROGRAMMER, WHAT THREE MOVIES WOULD YOU CHOOSE: This is like what would you play for an hour on the radio. It would change depending on my mood. Let's start off by scaring the kids with Au Hasard Balthazar, go right into Day of Wrath and if anyone viewing is still alive I'll save them with Duck Soup.

FAVORITE MOVIE ENDING: You have to love the Christ-like donkey in Au Hasard Balthazar, or maybe the rolling down the hill followed by an off camera splash in Mouchette.

Ok, what's Bresson doing in my head today?

WHAT MOVIE ARE YOU ASHAMED TO SAY YOU HAVEN'T SEEN, AND WHAT'S YOUR EXCUSE: Ashamed? It's a matter of not having time or the inclination. Maybe The Matrix or Fight Club.

The Goodbye Girl
Working Girl - Joan Cusack is a better actress than Melanie Griffith will ever be. Ok that's one sentence, but it's the correct one.
Funny Girl
Jersey Girl

WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU WERE AT A DRIVE-IN, WHAT DID YOU SEE: We're talking many years ago. I think it was E.T.

FILM ERA OR GENRE YOU'RE A LITTLE OBSESSED WITH: I'm a buff of the pre code era. Racy dialogue, Norma Shearer, Barbara Stanwyck or Carole Lombard without undergarments, the last fifteen minutes of The Sign of the Cross. Pygmies on sticks! Who wants to go to hell with Madame Satan? I love that stuff. Will Hays was evil.

FILM CRITIC YOU TRUST THE MOST: wendersfan, except when it comes to Slumdog Millionaire.

FAVORITE BOOK ON THE SUBJECT OF FILM: The Parade's Gone By - Kevin Brownlow. 41 years later, it's still the book on the stars and crew members of the silent era.

DESCRIBE THE FREQUENCY OF YOUR FILM INTAKE: I try to watch one a week, some weeks it's difficult.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Beep Beep, Beep Beep Yeah

For many reasons: fear, mental illness and other personal issues, I did not get my driver's license until I was 37. When the kid was on the way, it was time to get off my ass and get it done. Luckily, I did.

I really do not like driving. Parking lots piss me off. My eyes and the dark do not get along. The constant stop and go traffic is a waste of my time.

I do like driving on an open road or highway. Road trips to Buffalo are fine by me, even the boring part of I-71 between Mansfield and I-271. Having a decent radio or CD player is important. Tunes are essential. I like Exile on Main Street and The Bends.

I've only owned two cars, same brand. Bought the first one in early 2005.

Classic 1989 Volvo 240. Had about 175,000 miles on it. The body was in great condition. The interior was ok. Had a CD player that was stolen from our driveway. Idiot broke the window too. Had a lot of brake work done. A pre fuel pump fixed. A radiator replaced - that one due to my negligence. Then there was great fun with a local Firestone shop I will never go to again. They sold me a bad starter and it took months to resolve.

Never really went on a road trip with this car. I loved the way it handled. You feel safe in these cars. You can see and feel the standards of safety Volvo makes and strives to achieve.

Eventually the odometer quit at about 208,000. It plodded along a few more months before the windshield cracked, the brakes again died, the exhaust failed and coolant started leaking. My mechanic took me aside and showed me the car his daughter used to drive.

We made a deal. This is a 1988 760, it had about 190,000. The body has a few dents. The leather interior has a tear in the driver's seat. When it runs well, it's a wonderful car to drive. It's been to Buffalo a couple of times. Took it to Niagara Falls. Never thought I'd appreciate a station wagon until I hauled a bed in the back. Then went to Ikea in Cincinnati for more stuff. It comes in handy

Since July though, it's been a personal nightmare and a mechanic's college fund. It started outside of Coshocton, Ohio when the timing belt decided to break at a red light. Then the mechanic had no clue as to what they were dealing with. He claimed that the belt broke valves and the cylinder heads would have to be reshaped. Not true. Towed it back to Columbus at considerable expense (gas was $4 a gallon) and had the belt replaced for less than the cost of the tow.

A rim them bent badly, and had to be replaced. When it got really cold here, it froze part of the ignition system to death. Shortly after wards, the thermostat and water pump decided to quit. There are also interesting rattles coming from the exhaust system.

It's starting again though, even in the cold. I have no idea how much longer I'll have it. I may die before this car, which could be soon if it causes me more stress! Or, it could join the 300,000 mile club. You never quite know. When you have a car that's old enough to legally drink, a lot can go wrong.

Friday, February 13, 2009

A Good Use of New Pipe

I've been out of sorts the last week. You do not appreciate a kitchen sink until you lose it. Discovered a leaky drain pipe that was sending a waterfall of liquid into the basement. So using the sink was off limits.

I'm a lousy cook, but not being able to use dishes was tough. And washing the few dishes I rationed use of in the bathroom sink was a pain. Times like these I wish I had a stream in the backyard, and I want none of you to think I'd only complain about how cold it was! Living on a diet of take out sushi, eating out and microwave pizza was not fun, and hard on the wallet.

So I had a friend come over and assess the damage last night. A cast iron pipe had corroded so a bypass was needed. We went to Lowe's and he picked out a bunch of plastic pipes and parts which he assembled in a not quite Rube Goldberg fashion. In about two and a half hours we heard water go through the pipes and saw none. It's functional. It drains properly.

Best part, it only cost about the price to get a plumber in the door! A huge relief.

Busy weekend of son, swimming, hockey, FA Cup and Old Firm ahead.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Next time, a deep fried Mars Bar

I've noticed a lot of food blogs out there. Home cooking and restaurant reviews. I'm not much of a cook, and my food criticism skill is limited but I enjoy reading them and learning about places in Columbus I have not been.

Last year I had the pleasure and privilege to take a trip to Scotland. You hear rumors of the food being bad. It was not. Had the best fish and chips of my life that Philadelphia Fish and Chicken in Glasgow. Enjoyed the pub life immensely. Why the half pint of beer and shot of whisky is not served here is an outrage. It's a very civilized way to enjoy two great beverages.

My girlfriend wanted to take me out for some classic Scottish food. And yes, you know what's coming. But first I had the soup. It's called Cullen Skink. It's a potato soup with leeks and nice chunks of smoked haddock. It's delicious.

Then it was on to the main. Haggis. The food one thinks of when one thinks of Scottish cuisine. Sheep's lungs, heart, liver and whatever else is lying around unused combined with oats and spices and boiled in a sheep's stomach. The stomach of mine was removed before serving and the innards were served on a bed of turnips and mashed potatoes. Neeps and tatties as it's called in the old country. Mine was also served with a lot of caramelized onions on top.

How was it? Quite good. In all honesty the consistency and texture of the dish reminded me of a White Castle slyder without the bun. The onions had a lot to do with that. I'm not sure I'd try it in that form again because caramelized onions and I usually have issues later in the day.

So if you're ever in Glasgow and want some Scottish food served in a good setting. The place is called Blas (Gaelic for flavor), it's on Argyle Street right across the street from the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. Which in itself is a wonderful place to spend the day.

I want to go back so badly.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Facebook Karma

If you scroll back a couple of posts you'll see I had a person contact me from out of the blue at that I never responded to.

Last week I sent someone a facebook message, and no reply. I do not know the etiquette behind all this. I guess I do not follow it.

God got me.

Finished second in a poetry slam my group puts on. Best finish ever. There's a possibility I could be part of the team that goes to the National Poetry Slam this August but I'm getting ahead of things. I need more quality work and to improve my performance. Off paper in particular. It was fun and felt good while it lasted.

Had a parent/teacher conference that went well last night. Expectations change when you're the parent of a special needs child. We saw that he could just about trace his own name with no help. The kid can handle a mouse though. He clicks fast and knows where he wants to go. Same with a laptop touch pad.

First weekend on my own in many months. What to do? I think a movie at the Wex tonight, a walk through Greenlawn - the weather is supposed to improve.

Homeland Security approved my girlfriend's visa application. Now it's off to the Department of Immigration and Naturalization. They send it to the embassy in London. Now she's subjected to a background check, various interviews in London and a medical exam. We're looking around April/May for her to be here on a permanent status.

It's happening quicker than I thought. Or, it's happening quick!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Super Bowl Sunday

Yesterday the pro football hall of fame elected seven new members. Two of them were Buffalo Bills, owner Ralph Wilson and defensive end Bruce Smith.

My fandom of the Bills was solidified in the late eighties in Fredonia. I'd go over to Dave's or Jeff's to watch the game. You could see the team was improving from their malaise with Marv Levy as coach. Levy and GM Bill Polian assembled and molded a heck of a football team.

While not Levy's draft pick, he came along in mid 1987, Smith was the number one pick in 1985, a massive kid out of Virginia Tech. It took a few years and a couple of coaches for Smith to settle in Buffalo. He had some weight, drug and attitude issues.

My favorite Smith memory happened in 1988. At the first NFL game I attended. The 'When Harry Met Sally Game' in fact. They were playing New England. It was a very tough game that neither team wanted to win. There were fumbles, penalties, missed field goals and extra points. Somehow the Bills had managed to pull ahead but New England was setting up for one final drive and a hail mary. Before the last play of the game Smith was lined up wide on the right side of the line and he was pumped - winding up his arm like Pete Townshend before a tremendous power chord. The New England quarterback ran to his right as the play started and Smith ended up running more or less halfway across the field and crushed him with a sack, ending the game.

That quarterback's name was Doug Flutie.

I stood next to him while waiting for chicken wings at BJ's. He was a big man, in amazing shape. His biceps were tremendous. One time he tried to help out a waitress there by clearing a tray of glasses. He dropped them. The bar immediately hushed. Everyone stared. Who was going to laugh at Bruce Smith? You?

Sure, you can mention the four straight Super Bowl losses, everyone does. You have to remember though, in the city of Buffalo, these guys are loved, including Scott Norwood. Especially Scott Norwood. I learned a lot about obsession, loss and resilience from watching these teams come back.

My second favorite Smith memory came as his Buffalo career was winding down (it ended in Washington) in a meaningless Monday night game against Miami. Frank and I just stared at each other watching at Michael Dominic's as Smith was covering a wide receiver on a pass play - and he did a damn good job at it.

I'm happy to see that ninety year old Ralph Wilson was finally elected to the Hall also. He was instrumental in getting the AFL started in the early sixties and while he and Buffalo had a love/hate relationship at times, he's always come through for the city.

Now that he's nearing the end of his life though, it gets a bit complicated. None of his heirs want to run the team. It's going to be sold, but to whom? Keeping the team in Buffalo does not seem to be a part of his will and if it leaves, well, an NFL without the Bills in Buffalo is not a league I will support. I want the team to stay, and hope it does, but that's a big unknown.