Friday, January 30, 2009
Material culture, simply put, is the study of things people make and use in their daily lives. These things, these artifacts, are like a language that can speak to us about life in the past. Cityfolk will be focusing its Material Culture lens on the art/craft of quilts for the 2009 Cityfolk Festival in an exhibition entitled “Threads of Evidence.” Quilts speak to us about their makers and the time in which they were created.
When you mention quilts, the image that immediately comes to mind is that of an American pieced or patchwork bed quilt. However, the roots of quilting go back for centuries in other parts of the world with origins far beyond the borders of America. Quilts originally had been made with function as their first priority. But they were more than blankets to warm sleeping bodies. The makers used quilting as an avenue for individual creative expression, many recording the circumstances of their world and the social environment in which they were created. They were used to speak of concerns, express appreciation, to celebrate births and mark marriages, to commemorate the dead. There are personal biographies attached to quilts.
By the mid-nineteenth century, American women regularly turned to quilts as a political statement, using them as raffle prizes to raise money for causes such as abolition, temperance, and support of troops. In recent times the causes of peace, homelessness, child abuse and AIDS have all been subjects for quilt artists. Needles become pens, and quilts expressive texts. Within the visual language of quilt designs, images from popular culture can blend with those traditions based in ethnic heritage. It is an art growing out of and enriched by specific tradition, rooted and deeply informative of the culture from which it arises. The unique appeal of quilts is confirmed by the way the craft has been adopted and modified by the different cultural groups that make up the American population.
The State of Ohio is like a quilt—it is a region made up of layers of cultures, pieced and joined into the fabric of our daily lives. It is a state of diverse traditions, and in its diversity can be seen a microcosm of America. Quilts made in and about Ohio likewise are full of stories, some universal, others specific to our part of the world, our ethnic mixes and our circumstances. Through these quilts, stories are shared and passed down.
The aim of this year’s Material Culture exhibition is to present quilters from our region, many from the Miami Valley (The quilts at left were on display at the 2008 Miami Valley Quilter's Guild Show). With assistance from organizations like the Ohio Arts Council, Quilt Surface Design Symposium, and the National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center, lists of potential artists have been made available, and from these, ten to twelve quilters will exhibit their work and be present at the Festival to provide demonstrations and to interact in a personal way with festival-goers. Talks and workshops by the artists are also being planned.
Quilting remains a precious legacy, both the process of creation and the end result. It is an art form, combining women’s—and men’s—handwork with fine art. Contemporary quilters’ work may shine on their merit, but they are part of a shared heritage. This year, through the art of quilts, Cityfolk celebrates this handing down.
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Rehearsals are history, tickets are selling well and anticipation is high for Brother Wolf, produced, presented and performed by the Human Race Theatre Company and Rhythm in Shoes.
Written by Preston Lane with music and lyrics by Laurelyn Dossett, Brother Wolf was first produced in 2007, at the Triad Theater in North Carolina. It's a retelling of Beowolf set in the Southern Appalachian Mountains where our hero is the subject of many tales. He travels the hills and valleys preaching the word of God and battling the forces of evil. The evil-doers—Grin Dell and Grin Dell's Maw—are mythical creatures of darkness terrorizing the land, while Rattler Man, with his box of serpents, spreads another kind of terror.
Not since the 1996 Dayton Stories Project have these two companies joined forces on such a large scale. Always on the lookout for a suitable fit, Brother Wolf came along and provided everything they were looking for—well-crafted music in the traditional style, a classic story line with a contemporary twist and the potential to challenge a group actors, dancers and musicians.
Among those challenges is the dynamic of four directors working at once, with three of them also in the cast. A potential train wreck of creative temperaments, the experience has turned out to be a high speed roller coaster ride through a world rich in possibilities. Sharon Leahy is in charge of movement and choreography as well as daily work in acting Viewpoints, Scott Stoney is concentrating on language, character and dramaturgy, Rick Good is focusing on the music, while Marsha Hanna ties it all together with a grand overview and an all-important outside eye.
The stellar cast of players includes actors, musicians and dancers—all of whom will be acting, singing and moving. The entire process is true collaboration at every level and the ensuing ensemble has grown stronger by the day. As you may have gathered, we highly recommend this show to anyone who appreciates good theater.
Brother Wolf opens Thursday, January 29 and runs most evenings through Sunday, February 15. Tickets are available by calling 937-226-3630 or by going online to Ticket Center Stage. The pre-sale promotional discount for our readers ends today, so don't wait! Get $10 off a Regular, Full-Priced Adult Ticket for any Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday or Sunday evening performance by using the promotional code: SHOES.
Monday, January 26, 2009
There’s lots of Patsy Cline on the web. This is pretty early in her career.
Django Reinhart -- J’attendrai
Django was one of those geniuses who come along now and then and shake up the musical world. This is the best clip I know of him--you can really see what he is doing with the guitar here.
Friday, January 23, 2009
We then tried to book him for the Cityfolk Festival, but the appearance fell through when a lucrative opportunity in Nashville presented itself. After having a chance to see him live at a private party in Brookville two years ago, I held onto the idea and this year we finally have Scotty and his band on view in Dayton.
Most of the guitar players in the region are already in on the not-so-secret skills of this phenomenal player. You have your chance at Canal Street Tavern on January 31. Click through for details on the show and how to buy tickets.
You might also be interested in checking out Jon Hartley Fox's listing of Masters of the Telecaster. Anderson has clearly entered this pantheon.
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
1. Clarence White
Clarence White (1944-1973) is recognized as a major bluegrass innovator for his acoustic guitar flatpicking with the Kentucky Colonels, but his electric guitar playing with the Byrds beginning in 1968 is even more mind-boggling. A protégé of James Burton, White had a brilliantly idiosyncratic sense of timing, all the technique a guitarist could ever want, and space in the four-piece Byrds to stretch as far as he wanted. He’s the Jimi Hendrix of country-rock guitar. Check out his extraordinary live work with the Byrds on Untitled; Live at the Fillmore West February 1969 and Live at Royal Albert Hall 1971. Yow.
2. Roy Buchanan
Roy Buchanan (1939-1988) could play the frets off a Telecaster, but he could never quite find the commercial niche that would allow him to display his gifts to the fullest. He was at his best on deep blues, displaying a ferocious attack and unearthly sense of dynamics, and country music, where his unequaled mastery of the Tele’s distinctive electronics gave him an instantly recognizable sound.
3. Don Rich
4. Danny Gatton
The most technically gifted player on this list, Danny Gatton (1945-1994) could play it all—rock, country, blues, jazz and various combinations thereof. Like Roy Buchanan, Gatton struggled to attain commercial success, but his nickname within the guitar world—The Humbler—says it all. Redneck Jazz Explosion, a quartet with steel guitar great Buddy Emmons, was his finest moment.
5. James Burton
The quintessential sideman and session musician, James Burton (born 1939) helped define and codify the role of the Telecaster in country, rockabilly and country-rock music. Burton first gained attention in 1957 for his playing on the swamp-rock classic “Suzy Q,” and later played in the bands of Ricky Nelson, Elvis Presley, Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris and recorded with everybody (pictured here with Elvis).
6. Steve Cropper
As a member of Booker T & the MGs—the house band at Stax Records in Memphis—Steve Cropper (born 1941) proved that one doesn’t have to play extended solos to be a great guitarist. Cropper played on some of the best R&B and soul records of the 1960s, backing such artists as Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin, Eddie Floyd and many others.
Monday, January 19, 2009
Jerry Byrd, one of the great steel guitar players, holds forth with Marty Robbins in a pilot for a TV show. Nothing came of it, but it was an attempt by two good friends to put some traditional Hawaiian music in context on television. That’s a daunting task! I think you’ll agree that seeing Jerry playing a Dobro in pedal pushers is kind of special.
Jerry Byrd and Marty Robbins -- Hula
Here’s another from the same set of recordings.
Sunday, January 18, 2009
Tim O'Brien opened the show. Usually he's surrounded by a band, but before his first song was over, I had to wonder why: I sure didn't miss one! His sound was simple and pure, just O'Brien's rich voice above the guitar (or banjo, bouzouki or fiddle) he played for accompaniment. He's as skilled a musician as he is a singer, moving from bluegrass to jazz to old-time to blues with ease, altering his licks to suit. The result was a varied program that was a delight from start to finish. (He's pictured here with Cityfolk Executive Director John Harris).
He opened the show with the traditional song "Maid in the Garden". There are as many versions of this song as there are artists to perform it, and I've never heard the same one twice! His was refreshingly straight-forward. Nearly everything else O'Brien performed he had written himself. His clever lyrics made me listen close, to enjoy every turn of phrase (which usually set me to grinning). For instance on one of my personal favorites "Get Out There And Dance": Learn from Arthur Murray or Dancin' With The Stars/Learn from Fred Astaire, learn from Ginger Rogers/Learn from young people and learn from old codgers/Just get out there and dance. O'Brien has an incredible talent for writing tunes that sound like they've been knocking around the hills of his native West Virginia for decades, and adding lyrics set firmly in the 21st century. Take a listen to "Phantom Phone Call" and you'll know just what I mean.
Dan Tyminski is taking advantage of a break from his regular gig with Alison Krauss to put together an all-star band. They came out blazing, cranking up the speed of the night's songs a few notches in true bluegrass style. As each musician stepped forward for a solo, it clear to see why Tyminski chose these men. They're each solid performers, and the combination was electric. The band includes Barry Bales on bass, Justin Moses on fiddle and banjo, Adam Steffey on mandolin and Ron Stewart on banjo and fiddle.
Last summer, they released the album Wheels, from which they played several songs. They joked that the instrumental is the only track on the album that's not depressing and sad. Need an album for the kind of day where everything goes wrong and you need to wallow in it a little? This is the one for you! And sure, they sang about the bluegrass hallmarks--heartbreak, loss, death and misery--but you need only focus in on the music behind the words to feel uplifted.
This was such an enjoyable evening of American acoustic music. Lively, soulful and funny by turns, it was a great way to warm a winter's night!
Friday, January 16, 2009
Thanks to tribute recordings from musicians such as Art Farmer and Joe Henderson, David Hajdu's superb biography Lush Life, and Robert Levi’s Emmy winning documentary film of the same name, Strayhorn--who died in 1967 at the age of 51--has been gathering greater attention over the past two decades. Born in Dayton, Ohio in 1915, this hometown tribute will feature film showings, a talk session with biographer Hajdu and some extraordinary music. Pianist Bill Charlap is creating an all-Strayhorn program to be performed by his trio on April 11 at the Dayton Art Institute. And the culminating event on April 18 at Stivers' spanking new Centennial Hall will feature peerless trumpeter Terell Stafford and his Quintet, and the award winning Stivers School for the Arts Jazz Orchestra in a concert of Strayhorn and Ellington/Strayhorn creations. Billy Strayhorn Songs, Inc. is contributing rarely heard works excavated by musicologist Walter Van de Leur, which will be part of the repertoire the Stivers band will be working on in the coming months.
Beginning February 2, visit the Cityfolk website for complete information on Celebrating Billy Strayhorn.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
The event happens during the annual conference of the Association for Performing Arts Presenters, which one of Cityfolk's booking staff usually attends. That's how I was lucky enough to be at the first Globalfest six years ago. Paris Combo performed in a small club venue, Rokia Traore in a big ballroom where hundreds of people (myself included) moved to her African grooves.
Listen to a sample of who performed at this year's GlobalFest as WNYC's Rob Weisberg has his picks for the best in the bunch, including La Troba Kung-Fu.
Read more about GlobalFest at World Music Central.
Like what you hear? You can download La Troba Kung-Fu's entire album for free!
Monday, January 12, 2009
This is from a Gene Autry film called Oh Susannah from the late thirties. While Gene does hold forth with a bit of roping, the stars here are the Light Crust Doughboys.
Eleanor Powell -- So Long Saro Jane
I have it on good authority that this is the best thing Hollywood ever did with roping. Powell was a dancer and a big star for MGM in the late thirties and she always had something spectacular in each of her movies. She worked with Sam Garrett, one of the great ropers, for four months to put this routine together. Most of this is a single take-it took them 27 tries to get it! Garrett tried to talk Eleanor Powell into leaving Hollywood and going on the rodeo circuit with him. She does some very difficult work here with her usual style and grace. Garrett is one of the cowboys working with her-he does the big loop toward the end as well as some of the tricky hand-offs. The movie is I Dood It, made in 1943.
Sunday, January 11, 2009
O’Brien is an all-around talent—he writes songs, sings, plays a mess of instruments (guitar, fiddle, mandolin, banjo, etc.), makes Grammy-winning recordings and is an engaging, charismatic performer. He’s also one of the funniest people in the music biz, with a dry, droll line of patter that rewards paying attention.
Performing solo is not so much a new thing as a return to basics for O’Brien. “The folksinger with a guitar is a sort of an unassailable icon,” he writes on his website. “Dylan, Woody Guthrie—what can you say. And I remember that when I heard the first Doc Watson album, I thought, ‘What does he need a band for? This guy has got it all.’ But what happens is that when you go into the studio, you can play with a band and get the juices flowing and maybe do things that you might not be able to do on the road. So there’s a temptation to go that way. But this time, I thought, let’s just bring it inside.”
The Coen Brothers’ film O Brother, Where Art Thou? was chock-full of wondrous moments and images, but Dan Tyminki’s voice coming out of George Clooney’s mouth was one of the best. Best known as the longtime guitarist and harmony singer with Alison Krauss & Union Station, Tyminski has stepped out of his sideman role and now leads one of the hottest, most exciting bands in bluegrass. The band’s first album, Wheels, is nominated for a Grammy as Best Bluegrass Album of the Year and has received extensive airplay on radio and satellite outlets.
Tyminski is one of the most acclaimed singers in bluegrass—he’s a three-time winner of the IBMA’s Male Vocalist of the Year award—and he’s universally admired by his peers. Dolly Parton, for example, says, “I feel and believe every word and note he sings. Dan reminds me of what honesty, purity and great singing is all about.”
But there’s more than great singing in the Dan Tyminski Band. Ron Stewart (banjo), Barry Bales (bass) and Adam Steffey (mandolin) are three of the most accomplished pickers in bluegrass and Steffey is the most humorous emcee in bluegrass. Finally, the quintet has so much fun on stage, it’s impossible not to be caught up in it.
This concert will be fun. In these troubled times, who can’t use a little fun?
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
So what’s up, John? I can’t be the only one who experiences the music in such a physical way? Don’t you ever want to let loose during these incredible musical performances? Perhaps I should pose my question another way…Picture yourself back at the Jorgenson show. There is a V.I.P room at Canal Street and YOU are in it. You can see and hear the band as if you’re in the same room, but NO ONE CAN SEE YOU! What do you do? I’m so curious!
John: Well, Kelsa, it’s funny you should ask! To tell you the truth, I’ve been worried a few times. In the three years I’ve known you, I don’t think I’ve seen you still for more than a few minutes at a time, and there have been a couple of times I was afraid you were going to fly out of your chair and hurt somebody! I understand it’s in your blood, but I always wondered, too – why is it that some people have to dance and some people feel it inside? For me, there are probably a few reasons. For one thing, I had the misfortune to come of age during the 70s – not exactly the golden age of dance music. The 40s had the jitterbug, the 50s got the twist, the 60s had all kinds of cool dances, and what did we get? The Bump! You gotta admit, enough teenage dances doing the Bump is enough to keep even the most soulful among us off the dance floor! (And don’t give me that line about the great Chicago dance movements of the 70s. I’m from Lexington, Kentucky – not exactly the most cutting edge place on the planet).
But my youthful emotional scars aside, I’ve just always internalized music. There’s something I love about sitting completely still and getting lost in the music. And maybe it has something to do with how I was introduced to music. When I was a kid I listened to Brahms and Beethoven, Bob Dylan, Miles Davis, Flatt & Scruggs, Led Zeppelin (and some others I refuse to even admit). Hmmm, see anything in common there? Not exactly Tango material!
But, hey, I’m not made of stone either! I have to admit I can be caught flying around my living room from time to time. Just ask Natalie. She has a few smashed toes to prove it! So, to answer your question: if I was all alone in the VIP room, you might find me sliding across the floor once or twice. But more often than not, you’d find me moving ever so slightly. But what’s dancin’ is my brain!
And my question to you is this: What if James Brown is playing live? He’s 10 feet from you and you’re tied to your chair. Think you’d survive?
Kelsa: Absolutely not. I would go berserk! Or else, I’d find a way to dance on my hands with my butt waving in the air.
Do you really find this odd? Perhaps I do have some sort of personality disorder. But I prefer to believe that our true human nature is to respond to music and rhythm through our bodies. I think those who experience the music in their minds alone, are actually being stifled by their brains due to internalized insecurities, socialization, and cultural cues that say, “DON’T DANCE!” If people could remove all of these mental barriers and constraints, I think we’d find that most people would explode into whole body action at a James Brown concert. Of course, I agree that the style of music does make a difference. I’d rather lay back in a Lazy Boy while listening to Enya. And given that you grew up in Lexington, KY, I can understand how you missed out on the funky chicken, and Campbell locking in the 70’s. Poor you! But even if we presented James Brown at the Victoria Theater to a bunch of 40-something’s who grew up in Lexington, KY, I think everyone there would find some way to dance in the aisles…that is, if we could remove the fear of dancing from their psyches.
I must admit, though, I do completely relate to your experience of always having had the same response to music. I can remember dancing around my living room from as early as 3 years old to anything my parents played on the radio or their record player (yes, I’m old enough to have had a record player in the house), and yes that includes Prince, but also the likes of Beethoven and Bob Dylan, and I danced to it all! So, when it comes to the age old nature vs. nurture question, perhaps it is a “nature-thang” after all. I suppose we all just have a different nature. And that is certainly all right with me…as long as Cityfolk humors us dancers with at least one or two opportunities to get down to some great live music every year. And I promise I won’t tease you anymore about the closed-eyed, grinning, head-bob thing you get goin’ on when you’re internalizing the music.
Man, I’m glad we finally got this all out in the open. I feel much better about our differences now!
John: Well, I guess it just goes to show that the magnificent thing about music is that it speaks to each of us in our own way. Maybe I’m stifled by internalized insecurities, but at least I can revel in the music while I’m at it! And I imagine there are as many ways people feel the music as there are people on the planet. So maybe we should just ask our readers.
Join the conversation by sharing your comments with us!
Monday, January 5, 2009
There are more people playing Hawaiian music in Japan than anyplace else on earth, with the possible exception of Hawaii. The Hollywaiians are heavily influenced by the playing of Sol Hoopii.
Janet Klein and the Hollywaiians -- Get Out and Get Under the Moon
I remember learning this pop standard from the singing of Riley Puckett. I don’t think he sang in Japanese, though.
Friday, January 2, 2009
I certainly share gratitude for a lot of the things on Huffman's list. I'd also add, in no particular order:
- The talented local artists who show and sell their work at galleries like the Dayton Visual Arts Center and the many shops of Yellow Springs. So often I've been delighted, caught off guard and otherwise entertained by the range of work they create. And it feels good to buy local.
- The natural beauty of (and free access to) Glen Helen, John Bryan State Park, and the Five Rivers MetroParks. We don't have to go far to introduce my young son to the beauty of southwest Ohio.
- Thrift stores. You may not know it, but Dayton's got a lot of great ones! My husband and I actually seek them out in other towns when we're on vacation, and we have yet to find anywhere else that really compares. Village Discount Outlet on Linden, Valley Thrift Store on Woodman and any Goodwill rank high on our list.
- The abundance of local musical talent. My favorite places to enjoy them are Cityfolk's Festival and Contra Dances, and any Rhythm in Shoes performance. (No surprise there!)
Starting on January 1, when you leave a comment on any Inside Cityfolk blog post, you are also throwing your name in the hat to win something. Each month, we'll raffle off an item of Cityfolk merchandise, tickets to upcoming events, or other fun prizes we have yet to dream up. We'll start the ball rolling with the Wine Lover's Gift Set, pictured here.
So go ahead, speak your mind!
The fine print: please voice your opinion respectfully and without profanity. We reserve the right to delete offensive comments.