All the Books I’m Partway Through

It was not one of my goals, during the current Global Time Out, to set a new personal record for number of books being read at one time. But I seem to have ended up there. Just as it is easier to buy books than to read them, they are generally easier to start than to finish. And it is not unusual for me to have several going at once, but things may have gotten a little out of hand.

By way of motivational self-shaming, here is a brief breakdown of literary works currently In Progress, along with my excuses for not having finished them:

Margaret Atwood, The Blind Assassin
No shame in this one, as I am reading in conjunction with the Blind Assassin Meander, which still has three weeks to go. I am liking it but find myself constantly wrongfooted by its peculiar combination of humor, time-and reality-shifting, and an undercurrent of persistent dread.

J.G. Ballard, Hello America
Written in 1981, Ballard’s delirious vision of post-apocalyptic America feels weirdly resonant today — there’s even a 45th president who, despite being obviously crazy and named Manson, seems vastly preferable to the actual one. This is one of those books that would be easy to rip through in a day — Ballard’s stripped-down prose is built for speed — but it’s more fun if you take it slow.


Bands I’ve Seen 4.0

This seems like a good time to update the list, since there have been no shows recently and aren’t likely to be any anytime soon. I finally got an “I” thanks to Iron & Wine, but sadly still no Q’s.

Until further notice, my last concert will have been the Wood Brothers at the Arkley Center in Eureka on March 8, 2020. It was a heck of a show, so no complaints here.

Abstract Rude
AC/DShe (x2)
Ade, King Sunny
Amadou & Mariam (x2)
Ash, Daniel
Barnett, Courtney
Beck (x4)
Beta Band
Beulah (x2)
Bird, Andrew
Blacc, Aloe
Blackalicious (x3)
Black, Frank (x-many)
Blind Boys of Alabama
Bombino (x2)
Booker, Benjamin
Boss Hog
Bowie, David (x3)
Breeders (x2)
Brian Jonestown Massacre
Built to Spill
Burnett, T-Bone
Butthole Surfers (x3?)
Byrne, David
Camper Van Beethoven (x?)
Cave, Nick & the Bad Seeds
Chao, Manu & the Radio Bemba Sound System
Chicano Batman
Chilton, Alex
Clinton, George & the P-Funk All Stars (x2)
Colvin & Earle
Costello, Elvis
Cracker (x5)
David, Anthony
Del the Funkyhomosapien
Depeche Mode
Devo (x3)
Doe, John (x2)
Dr. John (x3)
Elliott, Ramblin’ Jack
Erickson, Roky
Farka Toure, Vieux
Flaming Lips
Ford, Sallie (x2)
Funky Meters (x?)
Gabriel, Peter
Gift of Gab (x3)
Grateful Dead
Guy, Buddy
Harvey, PJ
Hold Steady
Hooker, John Lee
Iron & Wine
Jane’s Addiction
Jazz Butcher (x3)
Jeffreys, Garland
Jesus & Mary Chain (x4)
King, B.B.
Kool Keith (x2)
Kristofferson, Kris
Levy, Barrington
Lords of the New Church
Los Lobos (x4)
Love and Rockets (x4)
Loved Ones
Lovett, Lyle
Low Pop Suicide
Lyrics Born
Malkmus, Stephen
Masekela, Hugh
Meat Puppets
Monks of Doom
Murphy, Peter (x2)
Murray, Bill
Musselwhite, Charlie
Naked, Buck & the Bare Bottom Boys
Overwhelming Colorfast (x?)
Ozomatli (x2)
Pavement (x4)
Pere Ubu (x2)
Perry, Lee
Phair, Liz
Pimps of Joytime
Pixies (x5)
Presidents of the USA
Prophet, Chuck
Public Enemy
Rebirth Brass Band
Rev. Horton Heat
Richman, Jonathan (x?)
Rodrigo y Gabriela
Ruffins, Kermit (x2)
Run the Jewels
Shankar, Anoushka
Shriekback (x2)
Siouxsie and the Banshees
Sierra Leone Refugee All-Stars
Sippy Cups (x3)
Sisters of Mercy
Sly & Robbie/Taxi Gang
Smith, Patti
Smither, Chris
Snider, Todd
Soft Boys
Sonic Youth
Soweto Gospel Choir
Spencer, Jon Blues Explosion (x2)
Starlight Mints
They Might Be Giants
Thinking Fellers Union Local 282
Thin White Rope
Throwing Muses (x2)
Tin Machine
Toure, Vieux Farka
Trombone Shorty (x3)
Uncalled Four (x?)
Van Etten, Sharon
Voice Farm (x?)
Wailing Souls
Waits, Tom
Watt, Mike & the Missingmen
Wild Magnolias
Wilson, Brian
Wolfgang Press
Wood Brothers (x2)
Wu-Tang Clan
Young Fresh Fellows
Ze, Tom

Song of the Week, 4/4/2020

We lost the great Bill Withers this week, and it’s not easy to pick a song to represent his oeuvre. The man wrote “Ain’t No Sunshine,” “Lean on Me,” “Lovely Day,” just for starters… but for the nonce let’s go with something a little less known, a love song of heartbreaking simplicity.

And, hell, while we’re at it, here’s one more, kind of the flip side — this is a love song too, of sorts, but dark and driving:

We’ll miss you, Bill, but you shan’t be forgotten, that’s for sure.

Song of the Week, 2/22/2020

In New Orleans last week we walked into a random club on Frenchmen St. just as the band was finishing a song. As the applause died away I heard the guitarist noodling through his wah-wah pedal with a familiar-sounding riff and my ears perked up. “Are they about to do ‘Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley?’” I asked.

Indeed they were.

“Sally” was written by Allen Toussaint and originally recorded by Lee Dorsey in 1970:

But probably the most famous version, and the one the bar band was clearly drawing its arrangement from, was the one Robert Palmer did — with the Meters as his backing band — in 1974:

Confusingly enough, “Sally” was also recorded by New Orleans musician Robert Parker:

Apologies in advance if that last one is preceded — as it was for me — by a Mike Bloomberg ad. Fucking Bloomberg.

Song of the Week, 2/8/2020

I can say now in all honesty that in my time I have seen Courtney Barnett perform in a barn. Said barn is on the grounds of the Gundlach Bundschu winery in Sonoma, and is equipped with a stage and a sound system; but still.

The whole thing was really rather strange. It was the coldest day I’d ever experienced in Sonoma County, with an icy wind whipping through the vineyards; fortunately the barn was walled in on three sides, at least. After an opening set by a charming little German who calls herself Hachiku, Courtney turned up with her electric guitar looking fresh-faced and chipper. She did some old songs, some new songs, some covers — including “I’m So Lonesome Could Cry” and a set-closing version of Gillian Welch’s “Everything Is Free,” which she said was “one of the best songs ever written.” I can’t disagree.