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Category Archives: music maven

1-1-11….Renewal Time

So, it’s finally a new year and I have resolved to start blogging again.

I could go into why I took a sabbatical, but wouldn’t want to bore folks with my trials and tribulations.  Suffice it to say that 2010 had its ups & downs for me, just like everyone else.  I did experience some major life changes in that I changed jobs (again) and we went through Dave’s Senior year of high school and his subsequent leaving for college.  In between all of that, we have been trying to sell our house so that we can build our dream house “on the river”, but the economy and the Gulf Oil Spill created a frozen market with not a one offer in a year. 

We’re hoping that the Spring of 2011 will bring a motivated buyer so that we can get on with our lives.  Which brings me back to this blog.  While I’ve decided to keep the name, the format will change somewhat.  I’ll still delve into Music, but plan to include some other “features” that may or may not revolve around photography, sports, politics, home building, decorating, fishing, wine, and anything else that I have a burning desire to share here.

I hope that you will come by, read, and comment and I hope that 2011 brings the best on all fronts for everyone.

New Year, Death Cab for Cutie

 

Music Maven’s Grammy Rundown

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Admittedly, The Grammys do not thrill me.  Unfortunately, moguls like Clive Davis’ seeming influence into the awards over the last few years leaves me very skeptical as to the nominations and the winners.

I mean, WHERE is Amos Lee?  Ray LaMontagne? 

However, in the spirit of Music comraderie, I made my own Grammy picks.  Personally, I think that they could cut out 2/3 of the categories and cut this puppy down to a half-hour show….but, whatever.  Here are the 2009 Music Maven Grammy picks.

Record of the year

  Please Read the Letter, Alison Krauss & Robert Plant

Mainly because Coldplay’s Viva La Vida is so over-played.

Album of the Year

Because of their revolutionary, “name your price” sales strategy….

  In Rainbows, Radiohead — Videotape track

Song of the Year

Only one choice for me…loved her from the start.  Remember, she debuted her 12-song DC (rather than CD) for $6.99 on iTunes.

  Love Song, Sara Bareilles

Best New Artist

For her ’60s vibe….

  Mercy, Duffy

If Katy Perry’s I Kissed a Girl wins anythings, I will never turn on a radio again.

In the Best Male Pop Vocal Performance category, I’m seriously torn between James Taylor’s Witchita Lineman and John Mayer’s thoroughly emotional Say, from The Bucket List.   However, I’m going to have to go with Sweet Baby James on this one.  The Glen Campbell kun-NECK-shun is just too strong.  The best song lyric of all time:

…and I want you more than need you, and I want you for all time.

‘Nuff said.

  Witchita Lineman, James Taylor

(Besides, Say wins a MM Grammy in another category — see below.)

Which, given the choices, leads me to Best Pop Album — JT’s Covers.  I was convinced by Seminole Wind and Not Fade Away.

I was intrigued by the nominations within the Best Solo Rock Vocal Performance (who comes up with these categories?) pitting Sir Paul McCartney’s Amoeba Record performance I Saw Her Standing There against John Mayer’s Gravity performance from Where the Light Is.  While I have great affinity for McCartney, the Where the Light Is video is superb and Gravity is one of my all-time favorite songs.  Therefore, the award goes to….

  Gravity, John Mayer

The only performance in the R&B categories that I feel is worry of any award is Wayne Brady’s Change is Gonna Come.  Yes, Wayne Brady of Who’s Line is it, Anyway? fame.

  A Change Gonna Come, Wayne Brady

However, I’d like to see Jennifer Hudson win a Grammy, just because she is that good and she deserves it.  Note:  she is the only American Idol alum nominated this year.

In the Country categories, only two nominations piqued my interest.  Brad Paisley’s nomination for Letter to Me in the Best Country Song category and The Del McCoury Band’s nomination for Best Bluegrass AlbumLive at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.  Love me some Del…

  Nashville Cats, Del McCoury Band

John Mayer’s Say is a lock for the Best Song Written for a Motion Picture.  I love this song, music & lyrics.

  Say, from The Bucket List, John Mayer

Miscellaneous Other favorites:

Best Traditional Gospel Album, Down in New Orleans, The Blind Boys of Alabama

Best Traditional Blues Album, Pinetop Perkins & Friends, 95 year old Pinetop Perkins, with a line-up of Blues royalty.

Best Contemporary Blues Album — THREE New Orleans acts; Dr. John, Irma Thomas and Marcia Ball.  Can they simply split a Grammy?

And, finally the BIG category….Best Zydeco or Cajun Album….drum roll please……

Music Maven picks……

  Steve Riley & The Mamou Playboys

 

 

 

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The Day the Music Died: Part 1 – American Pie

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….A long, long time ago….

Singer/song-writer, Don McLean penned one of the most recognizable songs ever recorded.  American Pie is part of our musical and American lexicon.  Not only does the song lament the change in music with the passing of Buddy Holly, but it catalogues the changes and additional “deaths” of music through the decade of the ’60s.  There is a real dichotomy in this era.  The mutation of music in the 1960s provided revolutionary new sounds, electric music and much different attitudes.  While many would look at this as positive progression, many also mourned the loss of the music of the past, as well as the innonence of the time.

  American Pie, Don McLean

McLean has never commented extensively on the meaning of the song, preferring to let the aire of mystique remain.  When asked what the song means, he generally gives the elusive answer of “It means I’ll never have to work again” or “It’s the story of America”.

For my personal experience, I spent many a high school night memorizing every word of every verse, rewinding my cassette recorder over and over again to get every word.  On the way home after a night out, my friends and I would pop the tape into the car cassette player and passionately belt out the lyrics.  I imagine that American Pie has been a staple on playlists across America for the last 35 years.

Perhaps the most eloquent explanation of American Pie is the original Rolling Stone review from ’72 by Lester Bangs:

Don McLean’s “American Pie” has ripped out of nowhere and taken the country by storm both in its album and truncated single versions. It took exactly two weeks to shoot to the top of the charts, everybody I know has been talking excitedly about it since first hearing, and, even more surprisingly, it has united listeners of musical persuasions as diverse as Black Sabbath and Phil Ochs in unbridled enthusiasm for both its message and it musical qualities.

All of which is not so surprising once you’ve heard it, because it is a brilliant song, a metaphor for the death and rebirth of rock that’s at once complex and immediately accessible. For the last couple of years critics and audience alike have been talking about the Death of Rock, or at least the fragmentation of all our 1967 dreams of anthemic unity. And, inevitably, somebody has written a song about it. About Dylan, Buddy Holly, the Beatles, Stones, Byrds, Janis and others. About where we’ve been, the rush of exhilaration we felt at the pinnacle, and the present sense of despair. Don McLean has taken all this and set it down in language that has unmistakable impact the first time you hear it, and leaves you rubbing your chin–”Just what did that line mean?”–with further listenings because you know it’s all about something you’ve felt and lived through. A very 1967ish song, in fact, in the way it makes you dig for deeper meaning, but not the least bit mawkish.

It opens with a slow, mournful sequence about reading the headlines about the deaths of Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and the Big Bopper while delivering papers as a child, then into the chorus: “Bye bye, Miss American Pie/Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry/Them good ole boys were drinkin’ whiskey and rye/And sayin’ this’ll be the day that I die.” Then all at once it rears up and charges through the years in a giddy rush: “I was a lonely teenage bronckin’ buck/With a pink carnation and a pickup truck,” the “Book of Love,” sock hops in the gym and puppy jealousy, and then into the heart of the myth, where Dylan is a Jester “in a coat he borrowed from James Dean,” laughing at the king “in a voice that came from you and me.”

The halcyon days of Sgt. Pepper are brilliantly caught: “The half-time air was sweet perfume/As the Sergeants played a marching tune,” but suddenly the Jester is on the sidelines in a cast, the stage is taken by Jack Flash (“Fire is the devil’s only friend”), and Altamont, the Angels and the despairing resentment the Stones left many fans with pass in a dark panorama. Finally coming down to the levee again, where the good old boys are draining the bottles and talking as if it’s all over, as they did when the plane bearing “The Father, Son and the Holy Ghost” fell and as they will again and again through the years. It’s just the old Calvinist sense of impending apocalypse and perdition, but they’re good old boys anyway and we can’t resent them because we too “believe in rock ‘n’ roll/And [that] music can save your moral soul.” Because they’re us.

“American Pie” is a song of the year, and its music is just as strong as those lyrics, propelled with special resonance by the piano of Paul Griffin, who played with the Jester when his myth was at pinnacle. The single version is considerably shorter than that on the album, and I only wish that I could recommend the latter unhesitatingly. Unfortunately, the eight-minute hit is the only tune of real substance and vitality on it; the rest is given over to a series of moody, rather bland songs stereo-typically deriving from the Sixties folk tradition and the current proliferation of songwriters specializing in introspective, watery poeticizings. Shucks, I almost wonder from struggling to keep my attention on them whether “American Pie” won’t be the only important song Don McLean will ever write. But maybe that’s being premature and petty; because he did write it, and we needed it, did we ever. If you’ve ever cried because of a rock & roll band or album, or lain awake nights wondering or sat up talking through the dawn about Our Music and what it all means and where it’s all going and why, if you’ve ever kicked off your shoes to dance or wished you had the chance, if you ever believed in Rock & Roll, you’ve got to have this album. (RS 100)

LESTER BANGS

I have to disagree with Lester on the rest of McLean’s American Pie album.  There are several great tracks on this album, with Vincent (Starry, Starry Night) as a particularly compelling song about artist Vincent Van Gogh.

  Vincent (Starry, Starry Night), Don McLean

Don McLean was friends with folk legends The Weavers, as well as Pete Seeger and briefly attended Villanova with Jim Croce.  McLean’s style is very much in the vein of old-time singer/songwriters with tunes that are easy on the ear and hard on the mind.  His songs MEAN something.  They’re not catchy and snazzy, they are deep.

A young girl named Lori Lieberman attended one of Don McLean’s performances and was so touched by it that she wrote a poem, entitled Killing Me Softly with His Blues.  Composers Charles Fox and Norman Gimbel later turned that poem into a song immortalized by Roberta Flack as Killing Me Softly. 

   Killing Me Softly, Roberta Flack

It was later re-mixed and covered by The Fugees.

MUSIC MAVEN Trivia:  Lori Lieberman went on to provide music for the critically acclaimed Schoolhouse Rock…”I’m just a bill, only a bill…”

NOTE:  I refuse to post  covers of American Pie, as among those that attempted it, the Madonna and The Brady Bunch (a kid you not) versions are hideous.  Garth Brooks does a minimally decent rendition but it doesn’t come close to Don McLean. 

Don McLean immortalized the great Buddy Holly, paying apt homage to the legend’s musical importance and ensuring  Holly is known to new generations.  American Pie is proof that songs with meaning, songs than resonate with listeners, are recognized, treasured and endure forever.

Tune in tomorrow for the next installment in The Day the Music Died series.  Until then, if you’re so inclined, take a look at Music Maven’s take on American Pie‘s lyrics, verse by verse.

  Click here for Music Maven’s Lyric Interpretation of American Pie

 

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It’s Coming….

I’m working on a big project for Music Maven.  Be sure to check back this weekend…

Here’s a hint:

  Killing Me Softly, The Fugees

 
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Posted by on January 31, 2009 in music maven

 

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Crisis of Inspiration

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Dry as a bone.  Uninspired.  Writer’s block.

When I started this blog, thoughts were flooding through my brain and screaming to escape into some kind of creative expression.  I had lists and lists of musical ideas and exploration that I felt compelled to share.  I posted nearly every day with an excitement and desire that was exhilerating.  To add to the thrill, my confidence soared when it seemed that people were genuinely interested in what I had to say.  I marveled each day at the dialogue generated from the comments and checked email with heightened anticipation to see what new commenter had found my little piece of reflections on life and music.  I reveled in the comments of “regulars” and the camraderie of community and acceptance.

Over the past two years, I’ve watched this blog change and evolve.  While music is still a burning passion for me, there are other topics that I find more compelling at this point of my life.  Perhaps it’s the added pressures of proving myself at work so that I don’t lose my job to this horrendous economy, along with the consternation over finding the right college for my teenage son, and finding and buying the perfect “spot” on the water to build our dream home, and trying to keep up with the day to day responsibilities of that little thing called life, that has caused my mind to lack the focus to come up with new and exciting ideas to post about.  I don’t know.

Maybe it’s because I feel that this blog should somehow be tied to music and right now, there’s nothing new on the music front that’s inspiring me to rise above the day to day and produce interesting reading.  I honestly don’t know. 

I also don’t know, at this point, that even if I work through this apparent “blogger’s block” and find new and compelling topics to write about, if people are even interested.  I get alot of hits to various posts, with most coming from Google images, where I find many of the pictures I use, so people come, but do they even read?

For example, the top post with the most hits ever on this blog is Abba vs. Journey.  Nearly 12,000 hits on this post since it was written (over 100 each day, still), yet only 25 comments.  Do that many people actually CARE about Abba?  And, if so, are they not actually reading the post?

But I digress…

I guess what I’m saying is that things change.  Some blogs thrive and some limp along, while others die a slow death.  I’m simply not sure what category Music Maven falls into right now and if I have the time and energy to continue.

The only song that I can muster up that captures some of what I’m feeling….

  Landslide, Stevie Nicks & Lindsay Buckingham

 
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Posted by on January 11, 2009 in inspiration, music maven, navel gazing

 

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2008 Music Maven Christmas Playlist

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Hope you all have a very safe and Merry Christmas and a most blessed New Year.  To assist in your merriment, here’s my annual Christmas playlist…a little old school.

Grown Up Christmas List —  Michael Buble’

Let it Snow — John Legend

Away in a Manger  —  Ella Fitzgerald

Santa Clause is Coming to Town — Bing Crosby

Christmas Waltz — Frank Sinatra

Twinkle, Twinkle Little Me — Stevie Wonder

Go Tell it on the Mountain — Mahalia Jackson

We Three Kings — George Strait

The Christmas Blues — Dean Martin

Winter Wonderland — Tony Bennett

Do You Hear What I Hear?  — Perry Como

Celebrate Me Home — Kenny Loggins

Silent Night – Elvis Presley

Run, Run Rudolph — Keith Richards

Christmas Auld Lang Syne – Bobby Darin

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen – Barenaked Ladies & Sarah McLachlen

Little Drummer Boy — Bob Seger

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas — Judy Garland

Jingle Bells — Sinatra & Crosby

O Come, O Come Emmanuel — Enya

 
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Posted by on December 24, 2008 in christmas, holidays, music maven

 

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Wonderful Wedding Weekend

Made it back in one piece from our New Orleans excursion for the family wedding. What a weekend!

On Friday, we made the two-hour trip to The Big Easy and arrived just in time for the first of the wedding festivities — the Rehearsal Dinner at Dickie Brennan’s Steakhouse. We had a great meal with great fellowship between the two families forging this new covenant.

Paul is a graduate of Notre Dame (but in Law School at LSU) and his mentor, Fr. Tim Sculley made the trip from South Bend via The White House earlier in the day to preside over the weekend festivities. He was very gracious and a whole lot of fun. He gave Mini-DD his card and told him to give him a ring when he’s ready to enroll in college….We’ll see.

After our wonderful dinner, we all retired to The Carousel Lounge at The Monteleone, the famous French Quarter Hotel affectionately dubbed “de Clouet Central” for the weekend. Here’s a party pic of the groom (center) with his Uncle Mark and his brother, John’s, wife Jeanne.

We all gave him a hard time regarding that sear-sucker suit, but hey, it worked. And, I actually made it through the “revolving” experience with no injuries.

The next morning brought some extreme humidity, but we weren’t deterred from enjoying the day. We headed out to The French Market to acquire a little jewelry, some sunglasses and wonderful homemade candles.

Now the French Market used to be commonly known as Dryades Market and my husband’s family actually owned the spot about 200 years ago. It’s a very diverse and active place that offers all kinds of possibilities. There is traditional New Orleans fare, like Mardi Gras masks….

…as well as various and a sundry articles for purchase. Mini-DD got some sunglasses and a trade bead bracelet and I secured some decorative flip-flops along with some nice silver jewelry to wear with my new dress for the wedding. All Mr. D wanted to do was get through the market to the Gazebo. Once there, we sat an enjoyed the open air lounge and restaurant by listening to some locals do some a variety of NOLA inspired tunes.

One favorite that was covered –

Don’t You Just Know It, Huey Smith and The Clowns

You might remember some of Huey’s better known hits.

Rockin’ Pnuemonia & The Boogie Woogie Flu

Sea of Love (written by Huey Smith)

After a Banana Daiquiri and a Shrimp Po-Boy lunch, we began our trek down back to the hotel with a couple of stops along the way. Here’s a picture of Mini-DD in front of St. Louis Cathedral where his great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather married 247 years ago on May 11th.

Part of the loveliness of New Orleans is it’s history, particularly for those of us with historical Louisiana backgrounds. History is readily apparent in the wonderful architecture that is The French Quarter and the European influences are very self-evident.

The wonderful residents of the area preserve and protect the architecture and make the environs so inviting, but I have rarely ever seen residents actually sitting on the balconies, except for Mardi Gras.

The beautiful courtyards are interwoven with commerce and tourism, inviting walkers to partake of their tranquility.

Of course, New Orleans is never short on dichotomies. An example of just how diverse Nahlin’s can get is this “robot” found just a few hundred feet from the previous picture.

It never ceases to amaze me how creatively some people can make a living.

After a short walk back to our hotel and an afternoon nap to prepare for the nighttime festivities, we gathered with our family at Our Lady of Good Counsel Church, where Fr. Sculley presided over a very happy ceremony. Each wedding has it’s own personality and while some are touching and others poignant, this one was joyous. Everyone was smiling from start to finish, just happy to be there and be a part of the joining of two fun-loving, happy people.

It was back to the hotel for the reception, where Paul’s groom’s cake greeted us.

Some of the LSU fans there were foiled in their plan to sabotage the cake, but otherwise it was generally well-received.

The reception was full of visiting, laughter and enjoyment. I was particularly elated to see my God-child, Dana and her boyfriend, Dave, there.

They happen to be good friends of the bride and groom. Dana is a wonderful young woman studying to be a Cardiologist. I am so very proud of her and the wonderfully independent woman she has become.

Also among the crowd were a few Music Maven patrons:

Parents-to-be, Amy and Michael Paul (Mr. D’s nephew and the groom’s brother) a/k/a Neil Diamond connoisseur. If you haven’t already done so, check out Amy’s blog. She has a great wedding re-cap.

Another family blogmeister was also in attendance. Mr. D’s other nephew, Mark, and his wife of one year, Karen, always bring some life to the party.

Mark is a very witty writer and also has a nice wedding overview. There’s even a bonus pick of Michael Paul in “Sweet Caroline” mode.

Part of the reason that I started this blog was to expose readers to music that they may not have known about or explored very deeply. I will continue to talk about artists like Paul Pena, to ensure that others are least exposed to great music that might not otherwise be known. Mark shared with me that my recent Randy Newman post of Louisiana 1927 has now made him an ardent fan of Randy Newman. I have to say that this has given me great satisfaction. If that wasn’t enough, Mark’s brother, Matt shared with me that he and his girlfriend, Paige, read and love the blog.

Exposing these young people to music that they haven’t really been “into” before but like once they give it a chance is very rewarding and I’m so happy that they come by and read my ramblings about music.

So, the wedding was tremendous fun that culminated in a midnight “second line” with the newlyweds happily heading up the train.

If you’re not familiar with the “second line” concept, here you go….

So, the happy couple is off to NYC for their honeymoon and we’re all back to our normal lives, with another great memory and with inspiration from various sources. Hope it’s a great week….for everyone.

 
 
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