[ Friday, November 25, 2005 ]
The Man comes around
I saw WALK THE LINE last night. Very well done; I liked the performances a lot, thought they got the story right (at least, as far as I know), and liked the way they contextualized music (both Cash's/Carter's and others) throughout, sprinkling in plenty of gospel, blues and rockabilly. Phoenix and Witherspoon also give Johnny and June serious
heat throughout the film, which was nice to see.
Watching the movie, I was struck at just how powerful Johnny Cash's presence is in my life and (I assume) the lives of others. Nothing against June Carter, who might just have been an angel walking amongst us (and a damned talented one at that), but there's something about Mr. Cash that somehow rises above even most other legendary musicians. (The fact that Phoenix and the filmmakers managaed to maintain both Cash's superhuman image and all-too-human frailties is another testament to their achievement.) While there are many memories I have that might illuminate this in my personal case, one story kept popping in my head during the film.
Through sheer accident, I ended up going to Sam Phillips' memorial service in Memphis in August 2003. (Mr. C was there too.) It was a pretty amazing event, with plenty of luminaries (some, like "Little" Milton Campbell, now also gone from us) and a wonderful, boisterous energy that seemed well in keeping with the spirit of Mr. Phillips and his legacy. Without question, though, the most powerful moment was when the lights dimmed in the auditorium, and a picture of Cash and Phillips at the height of their Sun success came up on the video screen. Over a loudspeaker, with no introduction, came some recorded words from Johnny Cash. For a moment, it sounded like he was in the room somewhere (kinda like the Holy Spirit), but we soon realized that the tape had been made at his ranch in Hendersonville for the purpose of playing at the ceremony. Cash sounded as powerful as I've ever heard him, and yet also as vulnerable. June Carter had died a couple months earlier, and Johnny didn't have long to go either. (He died the next month.) In that moment, spooky and spiritual, I think I got as close as I ever have to understanding at least the depth
of the connection, if not the reasons behind it. It really felt, at least for a moment, like God was speaking to us. He was in the room, at any rate.
Then, of course, there's the music, with its varied wonders, from the pop-romanticism to the apocalypse-now gospel. I don't want to forget that, either, because sometimes we tend to celebrate the icon while forgetting the records that helped create him. I guess, to paraphrase Mr. Cash, I still miss someone...
On the box right now: Johnny Cash, LIVE AT FOLSOM PRISON.
Dove With Claws [7:33 AM]
[ Thursday, November 24, 2005 ]
Beyond the obvious (all my friends, family and colleagues), here are the ten things I'm most thankful for in my life this year. (Format blatantly stolen from Daddy Paxem.)
And a VH1 countdown this is not, so this is IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER:
1. Blixie, the best musical experience I've ever been a part of, and one of the two or three most fun
2. The Friday Night Music Club, The Harmony Bar Academics, the Anti-Theoretical Writers' Brigade, the Dadooronron-ers, the Hughes e-group, The 54401s, and all other beloved communities I'm happy to call home
3. My students, who have somehow convinced me that either I'm a decent teacher, or they're a pretty exceptional group
4. Playing with/listening to Bill and Bobbie Malone, Pupy Costello and His Big City Honky Tonk, Cash Box Kings, World's Greatest Lovers, and all my other fave local bands
5. My guitars, amps and recording gear
6. September's Bruce Springsteen Symposium, which was as fun as it was transformative, the very definition of true believers
7. The seemingly turning tide in American politics
8. Dance parties
9. The only TV I watch regularly: THE DAILY SHOW, THE BOONDOCKS, CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM, EXTRAS (before the season ended) and ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT (Rest In Peace)
10.All the records in the collection, from the girl groups to the B-Boys, from crunk to punk
This list could go on forever, but by the time we got to things like "the staple sort on the office copy machine" or "really good sandwiches," I think the whole idea would have collapsed under the absurdity.
Happy Thanksgiving, y'all.
On the box right now: Various Artists, THE CAMEO-PARKWAY STORY, Disc 1.
Dove With Claws [7:46 AM]
[ Monday, November 21, 2005 ]
Sorry to post again so quickly, but I just had quite a moment. I realized that one of the great things about basing much of my intellectual activity around pop music allows me to say things like the following statement, which is part of a conference proposal and - in context - is totally appropriate:
"Of course, as Britney Spears argues..."
Ah, sweet mystery of life...
On the box right now: Johnny and June Carter Cash, THE LOVE THAT BURNED. A mix made by my friend Joe Fronczak. I think I'm gonna go see the movie this weekend...
Dove With Claws [8:34 PM]
Things I love right now
-Irma Thomas' TIME IS ON MY SIDE: COLLECTION.
-JARHEAD, as good a movie as I've seen all year.
-THE BOONDOCKS, both the comic strip and the TV show.
-Rep. John Murtha.
-Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham's MOMENTS FROM THIS THEATRE.
-REDNECKS AND BLUENECKS, a new book by Chris Willman that is as smart on the complex politics of country music as anything I've seen recently.
-The thought of a couple days off coming up.
On the box right now: Irma Thomas, TIME IS ON MY SIDE: COLLECTION.
Dove With Claws [6:54 PM]