Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Families...oy veh...

Thank God for the non-biological family members we choose for ourselves over the years! I honestly don't know what I would do without such people. Maybe it isn't so for other people -- and lucky you if it's not -- but it seems like all I get from biological family members is pain, and a heavy-duty sense of guilt and obligation.

I'm not talking about my husband and/or kids, though sometimes relations with all of them can be a bit of a mine-field. No.

Once again, I am schmerzing about a sibling relationship that will just never be what it once was, no matter how much I believe that things could change for the better. It's over. It's done with. And if I don't let it be over and done with, and persist in holding on to this ridiculous hope of mine, I'm just going to keep getting hurt. Over and over and over again.

Stupid of me to let my guard down. Stupid of me to trust. I walked right into it face-first. Stupid, stupid, stupid!

But it did look like things were changing for the better, and I wanted so badly to believe it was true.


Time to rebuild the Wall, and hope to God it stays up this time.

Monday, June 27, 2011

My First Video!

Beware of folkies with video cameras, tripods, and time on their hands!

I did it because I could, and I've been meaning
to attempt it for awhile now.

What better excuse than a tribute song for a friend?

And besides...it was an awful lot of fun to do!

I suspect that "Magnus" is nodding his approval...

Friday, June 24, 2011

One Week Ago Today...

I didn't yet know that a dear friend of mine had passed into Eternity. I had only just learned a few weeks before that he was ill, and that knowledge had barely sunk in when I had the news he was gone. I found out last Saturday evening. It was better for him this way, that he went so quickly and didn't linger. Pancreatic cancer is incurable, and is one of the worst cancers, pain-wise. So, I am thankful that he is gone, for his sake.

We did not get to talk often, but we did send e-mails now and then. and when I first began recording music last year, he was one of the first people I trusted to hear what I'd been up to. He gave me a lot of positive feedback and some suggestions for how to improve things. He let me know I did not, in fact, suck.

If not for this man, I most likely would not even know who Grant Hart is, much less be able to call him a friend. I would never have met Grant, and without that meeting, I might never have picked up a guitar again, and I certainly never would have written any songs.

I owe this man a lot, even though we didn't see each other often, or speak to each other often, or even e-mail each other that often. Yet he was dear to me, and it was a comfort to know I could reach out and receive a kindly response.

Thinking of him yesterday, I picked up my guitar to noodle around a bit -- an activity of which he would have wholeheartedly approved -- and after a bit, words began coming to me. First a refrain, and then one verse, and then another, and another. I did some minor editing of the text, so it would fit into the song better, and tried several times to lay down a good study copy. That was hard to do, because my own words were making me choke up. It took awhile to get that start-to-finish take. I enhanced it a little with my music editing program, so it wouldn't be quite so in-your-face-naked, and have posted it on my website, so anyone who feels like checking it out is welcome to. There will be a better version at some point, with multiple guitar tracks and harmony and perhaps even a melody instrument and/or a drum. I do want this to be, in time, something that would make my friend feel proud to have inspired. I suppose just writing and recording this first version puts me part way there, and furthermore, I think this man had a spiritual hand in it. Seems he's been going 'round making a lot of visits to various people, and I feel honored knowing I was one of them.

Click on the link to enjoy the song, or just scroll past it and read the words. Or do both. In any case, I hope it moves you in some way.

I will always miss you, "Magnus," and hope someday we might meet again.

If I knew then what I know now,
What might I have said?
What might I have changed,
If I knew then what I know now?

Would knowledge have made a difference?
Would I have talked with you longer
On that warm October day when kindness
Had driven me to tears?
Ashamed of my emotion,
I chose not to speak too long.
Thought there'd be time later
Some other day in the future.

If I knew then what I know now,
What might I have said?
What might I have changed,
If I knew then what I know now?

Death comes to all of us;
Sooner for some, later for others.
Life's too often snuffed
In the midst of creation.
The pen halts in mid-stroke,
The guitar falls silent
As Death takes your hand
And you follow.

If I knew then what I know now,
What might I have said?
What might I have changed,
If I knew then what I know now?

So hard to believe you're gone
And I'll not see you again,
Or hear your voice
Sharing thoughts about music.
Recordings are no substitute
For a living, breathing person,
But they'll have to do for now,
'Til the day we meet
On that distant shore.

If I knew then what I know now,
What might I have said?
What might I have changed,
If I knew then what I know now?

CP Warner
23 June 2011

Friday, June 17, 2011

Drumming on Pentecost, 6-12-2011

I was having fun.
Really, I was.
I need to learn to smile
when I'm playing!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

16 Years Ago Today...

Rory Gallagher lost his valiant fight against...oh, so many struggles!

"...but a Heaven does exist where music lives on eternally, a million miles away, and there he plays on, blazing immortal, though still edged in blue, pacing the boards before a legion of saints..."
Please watch, and enjoy this beautiful performance.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Rediscovering Nick Cave

I'm trying to remember exactly when I discovered Nick Cave. Probably around 2001 or 2002, when I had gotten into Shane MacGowan and the Pogues in a big way, and went so far as to purchase a VHS copy of a documentary about Shane. Nick Cave, having collaborated a bit with MacGowan, was one of the people interviewed. He sang part of "A Rainy Night in Soho," accompanied by his own piano playing, and I was captivated.

Not long after that, hubby brought home a copy of Metallica's "Garage Inc," upon which they performed Nick Cave's song, "Loverman." This inspired me to want to hear Cave's original version, so I bought his CD, "Let Love In." That one CD led to the purchase of many more. I really couldn't get enough of his music, thoughts, and poetry, though at the time, I really had to draw the line at his early punk group, "The Birthday Party." I could read the lyrics from those songs in my books of Cave's poetry and enjoy them as poems, but the music stretched me farther than I wanted to be stretched. (Note to self -- find those CDs downstairs and try again!)

One of my all-time favorite Cave CDs is "The Secret Life of the Love Song," which is a series of lectures he gave on songwriting. He covered a fascinating gamut of subjects in these lectures, and performed solo versions of some of his more sensitive songs, so poignantly, accompanied by his own piano playing. I swear, as a writer, I learn something new every time I listen to these lectures, and I really, really love them so much. In fact, it's been awhile since I last listened to them, so I think that will be on the docket today: listen to Nick's lectures while I get some spinning done. Guaranteed, I will hardly notice the passing of time while he speaks.

Nick Cave is such a contradiction in terms. On the one hand, he writes fantastic, beautiful, and often painful love songs. On the other hand, there are works like "O'Malley's Bar," "John Finn's Wife," and "Papa Won't Leave You, Henry," which are gruesome and violent and graphic, and yet...one is riveted to the stories being told. Nick Cave has an extraordinary way with words, and an extraordinary way of delivering those words. Utterly compelling.

"Loverman" is probably one of the scariest love songs I can imagine, and yet...it's hot. VERY hot. The narrator is obsessed to the point of violence.

"L is for love, baby, and O is for only you that I do. And V is for loving virtually all that you are, and E is for loving almost everything you do. R is for rape me, and M is for murder me, and A is for answering all of my prayers. N is for knowing your Loverman's going to be the answer to all of yours."

The question, I suppose, is WHY is that so hot? Cave's delivery is a big part of it, but also the song is incredibly intense. The louder, the better for listening, so one gets completely caught up in the wash of sounds and the violence of the narrator's obsession.
This next one gives me gooseflesh every time I hear it. The studio version on "Abbatoir Blues" is very good, but the live performance ups the ante considerably. "Send your stuff on down to me," is Nick's way of calling down the Muse for inspiration, and his laundry list of famous, inspired writers, artists, and musicians reminds us that no real artist ever has a completely happy life, and answering the call of the Muse involves a certain amount of suffering. Sometimes the Muse will not come. Often, other people don't give a damn about what you've created, directed by the Muse you have no choice but to follow. But ignoring the Muse is Death. If you are a Creator, you require a Muse, and you must Create or die. And if the Muse declines to come when you're on your knees begging, then you either find something positive and constructive to do with your time while you wait, or you fall prey to various demons, which could include depression, drink, drugs...

Well, it's not an easy way, that's for sure, and "There She Goes, My Beautiful World" captures all of that and distills it into one perfect, intense, violent, and gorgeous song.
Part of the reason I love this next one so much is Warren Ellis, the violinist. His hypnotic minimalism is so perfect in this song, and what an experience, to watch him perform! Paganinni gone mad. What a tour de force! And the song itself tells a story and issues a warning after it meanders through an unhappy, confusing day in the life: "Be mindful of the prayers you send. Pray hard, but do pray with care, for the tears you are weeping now are just your answered prayers. The ladders of life we scale merrily move mysteriously around, so when you think you're climbing up, man, in fact you're climbing down."

And yes, Cave is so carried away in the intensity of the performance, he does indeed trip over a monitor speaker and the mic stand and nearly falls. But he carries on without a hitch, and if you heard this strictly as an audio, with no visual, you would never know what happened at 4:40.
Then, after the fierce violence of the preceding numbers, there are moments like this: "Sad Waters." The first time I heard an acoustic version of this, I wept. The studio version does not capture the same feeling at all, and in fact it's barely recognizable as the same song. This version is the quintessential one, and wild Mr. Ellis nicely displays his sensitive side as well, with one of the sweetest-sounding motifs I've ever had the pleasure to hear.
Next is "Brompton Oratory," which has got to be one of the best documents ever, of how difficult it is to separate one's spiritual side from one's worldly side. A man divided. Aren't we all like this to some degree? And in this case, even in the moments of receiving the Holy Eucharist. Amazing. So real. And each person kneeling to receive -- what are their thoughts? What are yours? What are mine?

One of the things I love best about Nick Cave is his perpetual questioning of the spiritual. There are no easy answers, and much conflict, and he is brutally honest about it. Not an easy thing to do, and I admire him for it, and strive towards a similar honesty.

I must confess, it still jars me that the man who wrote "Brompton Oratory" could also have written "O'Malley's Bar." But this, too, testifies to the man's honesty, albeit in a rather frightening way.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Business of Not Working

Except for my new lack of income, being unemployed really isn't so bad. My favorite thing about it is being able to go to my favorite grocery store in the universe, Market Basket. A new store opened just a few miles down the road from me, and it's a nice little rural drive to get there, so I have some time to listen to some good tunes as I travel.

The trouble with Market Basket is, it's SO damn good, if you don't get there fairly early in the morning, you can just forget going at all, if you're like me and HATE being stuck in a crowd. Today I got there a bit later than usual, so it was fairly busy. But even at that, I did a big haul and was out of there in an hour's time.

Their prices are remarkably good, and their fresh produce is to die for. This is the time of year when I crave melons and can't get enough of them. Last week, I scored two "personal" seedless watermelons, and this week got one of the hugest, sweetest cantaloupes I've ever had the pleasure of consuming. Oh, and the red grapes, and the strawberries, and...

My friends, I am doing a lot more cooking, and it's all good, healthy stuff. I have actually LOST about 7 lbs since I quit working in mid-May. Part of that is good quality, healthy, home made food, and part is how much running around I've been doing on a daily basis, catching up with housework.

I find myself looking forward eagerly to making jam again at some point soon. It has been YEARS since I last made any, and I have been CRAVING grapefruit-ginger marmalade, and pear jam, and Italian plum jam.

Our vegetable garden is planted, and I can't wait for the tomatoes, squashes, eggplant, and cucumbers. I've already started plucking some of the herbs for various dishes. Soooooooo good!

Yesterday I managed to cook dinner, do a couple loads of laundry, strip the bed, turn the mattress, spin some yarn, update my shop, AND practice both my drumming, and my guitar/singing. A gloriously full day.

Sunday is Pentecost, and I will be drumming for the Gospel processions. I always enjoy that, and am thinking I need to get back to African drum lessons one of these days. I've missed it, but while working, I did not have the time to practice as much as I needed to, to stay on top of the challenges. If I manage to sell some yarn soon, I think I will use the money to sign up for a series of lessons again. Freeform drum circles are nice, and I do enjoy them, but I need the balance of learning some actual technique, instead of perpetually making up my own rhythms.

Now, to knit or spin? That is the question...

Saturday, June 4, 2011

It was the Third of June...

I had never quite forgotten this amazing song, but sometimes it moves into the background for a spell, and then I'm reminded of it, and then it becomes a beautiful surprise all over again. Thanks to my old friend Paul Metsa for bringing it back to mind this time, via Facebook.

No movie ever had to be made for Ode to Billie Joe. The song was evocative enough on its own and needed no embellishment or speculation. What is wrong with some things retaining a sense of mystery?

Bobbie Gentry's cool detachment in performance is what makes this ballad the great piece it is. She's relating a tragic tale from a place of distance, and yet one can hear that the distance is feigned. She has become the young woman who is narrating the tale, and the pain is so close to the surface, yet she is somehow managing to tell her story with as much indifference as she can muster. You can imagine a sole listener having said, "Just the facts, ma'am. Just the facts," prior to her launching into the story.

These are the bones of it. The narrator does achieve a certain distance, but in spite of that, one has the sense that Billie Joe's suicide could have happened mere hours before. The young woman seems still in a state of shock, even though she makes it clear at the end that, "A year has come and gone since we heard the news 'bout Billie Joe."

Musically, is there any more eloquent a statement of a long fall than the descending chromatic scale that completes the song? You can almost see the flowers spiraling lazily in the air from the bridge to the muddy water below.

Do treat yourself to a peek at this video, from a live performance on The Smothers Brothers Show, way back in the day. I had never seen this until about a half hour ago. The visual makes it even more poignant.