Shot Of Rhythm

[ Thursday, February 05, 2004 ]


And the winner is...

Unless plans change, I'll be spending the lion's share of the weekend on a road trip to Youngstown, OH. Double purpose for this trip is to see my cousin play basketball (for the fighting Phoenix of UW-Green Bay) and pick up my Grandma from her annual January trip to stay with some relatives in Delaware. Youngstown is about halfway between the two points of origin, and the game makes it as convenient as seemingly possible. Barring weather concerns (which don't look to be materializing as of yet), I'll be on the road early Saturday morning.

The nice thing about a trip of this caliber is that it'll give me ample time to read. I'm right in the middle of THE TIME OF OUR SINGING by Richard Powers, a novel both great and long. Rich in detail and deep in meaning, it's the kind of book for which anything but a careful reading of its every detail and turn-of-phrase would seem like a cop-out, a cheat on the part of a reader not ready or willing to soak in a work of this magnitude.

Hopefully, I'll return in time for Sunday night's Grammys telecast. At some point in the past couple years, the Grammys actually became both entertaining and satisfying, in a regard that they weren't previously. I don't know the reason for this; maybe it's because my taste has broadened and deepened to appreciate a lot of music (popular or otherwise) that my previous selves didn't register with, or maybe because the pop music landscape itself (and the Grammys in particular) has simply gotten better in the past couple years. Anyway, with OutKast, Fountains Of Wayne, and tributes to the Beatles, Zevon and P-Funk, I'll for sure run a tape, in case I don't make it back in time.

On the box right now: Various Artists, HI RECORDS: ROYAL MEMPHIS SOUL. The label that produced Al Green was also the best non-Stax soul label in Memphis. Ann Peebles, Syl Johnson, Otis Clay, O.V. Wright...hmmm. Producer Willie Mitchell led the proceedings with true musical genius, and the house band (Hi Rhythm, built around the Hodges brothers) was as good as The MGs, Muscle Shoals Sound or Funk Brothers. (Even the track on the boxed set by someone named "Bobo Mr. Soul" is hot and funky.)


Dove With Claws [8:52 PM]

[ Sunday, February 01, 2004 ]


Sunday Sermon

Okay, so here's what your gonna do. Get ahold of Willie Nelson's TEATRO record, skip ahead to track 8, "The Maker." The song fades up, with that typically liquid Daniel Lanois production, and then Willie sings his first line, with the kind of fragile grace that has made him such a powerful voice. The lyrics, cradled by Willie, are poignantly simple: "Oh, oh, deep water." Listen to this song, or at least this opening, over and over and over again. I have a feeling it might help you to figure out the meaning of the universe.

Because what we seek is not always easy to find, brothers and sisters. It's a thing that Rev. Vernon Tyson of Oxford, North Carolina calls "finding a harder wisdom," and it involves seeking the truths no matter where they lie, in the pain and murk of story and history, buried underneath the tangled mess of perceptions and conventions that make up the lion's share of our judgments. The water is deep (oh oh deep water) and wide (I cannot get o'er), but every indication says this is where any search for the core of what's real must eventually lead.

Which leads us to the subject of today's message, the documentary CAPTURING THE FRIEDMANS. This is another in a group of outstanding documentaries that has been released in the past two years, and it's as heartwrenchingly compelling as any film I've run across in a long time. The story of how molestation charges against the father and youngest brother of otherwise normal suburbian middle-classers (charges which may or may not be true, ambiguities that the film explores in stunning detail) tear that family apart. What makes the film even more unique is that the family itself videotaped - with surveillance-esque ubiquity - their family life post-arrest, with all the quarrels, strategy sessions and stabs at normalcy that one would expect. The main thrust of the story is, of course, whether or not the charges are true (and they are charges that go beyond even "normal" child molestation accusations), but the film is really about the flawed nature of humanity, and how a complete understanding of these flaws is central to our developing of Rev. Tyson's "harder wisdom." Much like STEVIE, another fabulous film that I discussed in an earlier post (and the film which uses "The Maker" powerfully over the end credits, leading to its re-entry into my consciousness), the filmmakers aren't simplistic enough to break the world down into "good" and "bad" people; the complicated moral matrix of the worlds these films occupy demand a deeper understanding (and "harder wisdom"). Bad things, good intentions, bad faults, good attempts, bad memories, good times, bad times...these all do exist, in spades, of course. But whether it's police oversight or pedophilic desires, nobody gets hammered to the yard-arm too quickly, letting the audience sit in the somewhat discomforting reality of the real humanity, with its moral gray areas and tragic flaws, that our "Axis of Evil" world needs to be reminded of as often as possible.

Because Curtis and Bruce were right when they talked about the train that's comin', ready to carry saints and sinners, and all the lost souls. Human beings are beautiful disasters, redemption is an elusive property, and Jordan is a hard road to travel. Let us seek that "harder wisdom," and wade into the deep water.

On the box right now: Willie Nelson, TEATRO


Dove With Claws [8:34 AM]