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.
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 Air Amadou & Mariam (x2) Ash, Daniel Barnett, Courtney Bauhaus Beck (x4) Belly 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?) Buzzcocks 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) Cramps Cure Darondo David, Anthony Del the Funkyhomosapien Depeche Mode Devo (x3) Doe, John (x2) Dr. John (x3) Dumpstaphunk Elliott, Ramblin’ Jack Erickson, Roky Eskimo Fall Farka Toure, Vieux Feist Flaming Lips fIREHOSE Fishbone Foetus Ford, Sallie (x2) Funky Meters (x?) Gabriel, Peter Galactic Gift of Gab (x3) Grateful Dead Guy, Buddy Harvey, PJ Hold Steady Hooker, John Lee Hooters Iron & Wine Jane’s Addiction Jazz Butcher (x3) Jeffreys, Garland Jesus & Mary Chain (x4) King, B.B. Kool Keith (x2) Kraftwerk Kristofferson, Kris Latryx 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 Mexrissey Monks of Doom Morphine Murphy, Peter (x2) Murray, Bill Musselwhite, Charlie Naked, Buck & the Bare Bottom Boys Negativland Oranger Overwhelming Colorfast (x?) Ozomatli (x2) Pavement (x4) Pere Ubu (x2) Perry, Lee Phair, Liz Pharcyde Pimps of Joytime Pixies (x5) Poptone Presidents of the USA Prophet, Chuck Public Enemy Rebirth Brass Band Rev. Horton Heat Richman, Jonathan (x?) Rodrigo y Gabriela Roots Ruffins, Kermit (x2) Run the Jewels Semisonic 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) Spiritualized Starlight Mints Sugar Television They Might Be Giants Thinking Fellers Union Local 282 Thin White Rope Throwing Muses (x2) Tin Machine Tortoise Toure, Vieux Farka Trombone Shorty (x3) Uncalled Four (x?) Van Etten, Sharon Voice Farm (x?) Wailing Souls Waits, Tom Watt, Mike & the Missingmen Ween Wild Magnolias Wilson, Brian Wire Wolfgang Press Wood Brothers (x2) Wu-Tang Clan X Young Fresh Fellows Ze, Tom
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.
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.
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.