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Nels Cline Talks Wilco, Pat Metheny, Jazz and more
The commentary by Nels really makes this thing.
Nels’ guitar work pulled Wilco in new directions when he was added to the lineup after A Ghost is Born was released. He’s such a great addition: Sky Blue Sky is an underrated classic album by the band.
I’d call this album highly anticipated, but I don’t think that really does justice to how I really feel about it. Can’t. Wait.
A nice video that shows the diversity of cycling culture. Filmed in Berlin.
From the writer of the original scroll to the return of Boba Fett and a Marvel Universe crossover Patton covers it all.
Rush had never been nominated for the hall of fame until this year. Naturally, they boys from Toronto made it in on the first ballot. Well done gentlemen (and it’s about damn time.) I tend heavily towards the twang these days, but as a teenage boy growing up in the 80s in Canada Moving Pictures(album) was a seminal work, and it remains a classic to this day.
My grandfather died a couple of days ago—the last of my grandparents to be alive. The photo above was taken on February 21, 2009. That’s not much more than four years ago, and it’s quite possibly the last time I saw him. He lived a long, healthy and full life and I didn’t see him use a walker until he was well into his 90s.
Though his first name was Andrew, most people called my him Bill. It was a contraction of Welland, his middle name. My Grandmother was one of the few who didn’t: she called him Ad and it seemed as natural as the transition from day until night. It wasn’t until I moved to Vancouver and my ex-wife asked me about it that I even thought about it. “Ask him next time we see him,” I told her, so she did.
He loved telling stories, my Grandfather, and this time was no exception. It seems that this one went back all the way to when he first joined the Royal Canadian Air Force. Put into bunkhouses he met his bunkmate—I’m pretty sure he remembered his name, but I don’t at this point—and the introductions started. When he was asked his he responded with his last name only, as was common in the forces at the time. “Nelson.” After a moment’s thought his bunkmate responded “Nelson, huh? You must be related to the Admiral then?” This was, of course, a reference to the legendary British Royal Navy officers Admiral Horatio Nelson
Much merriment ensued, a nickname was born and my grandmother adopted it along with his friends at the time. It stuck for life: if I ever heard her call him anything else, it’s long since slipped from my memory. It was always her name for him: I never heard anybody else in the family call him that.
I’m glad Kaye asked him that question. I probably never would have. It seemed so natural to me, I never gave it a second thought.
He lived in more that 40 houses in his lifetime all over the world. When we were growing up in Ontario he lived in North Bay and I have such fond memories of spend long summer weeks up there. There was a big house on Trout Lake and those summers were full of adventures in his boat, long days spent picking wild blueberries, eating fresh caught fish and swimming in the lake. My birthday is at the end of the summer, and every year I’d get tossed into the lake from the dock. In winter the fireplace was always going and between toboggans, ice fishing, cross country skis and a SkiDoo there was just as much fun to have. I loved that house, and it was sad for us when they moved from Ontario to British Columbia but they had other grandchildren here, and it was their turn to be close.
My Grandmother’s health slipped earlier than my Grandfather’s. Before she passed away in 2011 she spent quite a bit of time in the hospital while he still lived in the their house. When we visited her once, one of the nurses asked her if she’d marry him all over again. “Of course,” she responded, “Of course. I chose well.” She meant it too. They loved each other to the end, those two.
He didn’t like living without her and, as these things go, the last couple of years of his life were a bit lonely after she passed. His memory started to fade, and his health with it. A couple of nights ago he apparently went to sleep and didn’t wake up. We should all be so lucky. 95 years isn’t a bad run at things, and he’s left a rich legacy behind.
I’ll miss you Grandpa, but those times we had together will never be forgotten.
Canadians, we’re fond of saying, often define themselves as “not Americans.” With so much shared culture the line between what’s Canadian and what’s American can be a blurry one at times. We like hockey a lot more than Americans, we eat more doughnuts and there’s always the unexplainable cultural appeal of Tim Hortons and Canadian Tire stores.
It stands to reason then that if there’s a style of music called Americana we’re going to try to define Canadiana. That definition got a bit blurrier today: Stompin’ Tom Connors passed away.
Stompin’ Tom was about as Canadian as it gets. It wasn’t that the music was all that different-it was a pretty standard twangy mix of guitar, snare heavy drums and whatever else fit the mix and wore a cowboy hat. In a nutshell, this is classic country sung by a fine practitioner.
The subject matter was an entirely different issue and it was here that Stompin’ Tom was the Canadian artist. Eschewing the standard tales of heartache and break, fast cars and life in small towns (or trying to escape it) that characterize the art of Bruce Springsteen, Steve Earle and other practitioners of Americana Stompin’ Tom sang about Canada and did so unapologetically. Bud the Spud told the folksy tale of truckin’ potatoes (because it definitely wasn’t trucking) from Canada’s smallest province to it’s largest. Roll on Saskatchewan celebrates the big skies, cold winds and homeliness of one of Canada’s prairie provinces. Tillsonburg is an ode to life in a small town in what was once Ontario’s busy tobacco growing country.
The Hockey Song may be Stompin’ Tom’s greatest legacy with it’s refrain of the good ol’ hockey game / is the best game you can name / and the best game you can name / is the good old hockey game the song’s become a part of the cultural zeitgeist. There’s no escaping it, no matter how hard you try: it’s on the radio, the television and probably in every small town area in the country. It’s a part of the fabric of the country, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Canadiana will go on: we have Gordon Lightfoot, Bruce Cockburn, Whitehorse, the Rheostatics and other fine singer songwriters who define themselves to a great extent by their essential Canadian-ness. Stompin’ Tom wasn’t the only distinctly Canadian musician out there, but he was probably the most distinctly Canadian.
That’s a loss, and it’s a big one.
So long, Stompin’ Tom. Well played.
A new Son Volt album is something to look forward to in a spring full of new releases.
Justin Rutledge is one of Canada’s finest singer-songwriters. His new album Valleyheart was announced a few months ago, and I’ve been eagerly anticipating it ever since. I had the distinct pleasure of being able to interview Justin by phone and published an article at No Depression about the artist. You can read it below if you prefer, but it’s better in its original form.
The voice on the other end of the phone is quiet, as you’d expect from one of Canada’s most thoughtful and talented singer-songwriters. “When you make a record, all of a sudden you have to figure out how to talk about it” is one of the first things Justin Rutledge says. That’s why we’re on the phone: to talk about Rutledge’s new record Valleyheart, along with his upcoming tour, his recent theatre work and anything else that happens to come up. For a career that’s only 10 years old, there’s a lot of ground to cover with the young singer-songwriter.
This aired on Vision TV a while ago, and marked one of the first times I wished I’d owned a television in quite some time. It’s a documentary that’s well worth watching. If the embedded copy above doesn’t work, try visitiong the Vision TV site.
Watching Daniel Lanois work with a guitar is about as close to perfection as it gets. If he doesn’t come back to Vancouver soon, I think a trip somewhere might be in order.
There’s a new iTunes in town, and it’s been the subject of much controversy in Apple circles. It’s a fairly radical redesign of the interface that, most notably, throws albums and their associated artwork into the forefront. Moving away from a list based metaphor, iTunes does a nice job of putting album covers into the foreground.
Visually, I like the new iTunes but the search interface I’ve found a bit frustrating. In at least once case, I find it absolutely puzzling. The screenshot below does a decent job of showing that case.
When I search for Wilco I get exactly one artist match: Billy Bragg & Wilco. Don’t get me wrong, the Mermaid Avenue albums are favourites of mine and I’m happy that the search finds them but it’s the absence of other Wilco results that I find surprising.
My Wilco collection is modest, admittedly, comprising of only 42 albums with 4.35GB of music and 502 songs. That’s not much.
This one’s a mystery. Here’s hoping the new iTunes goes in the right direction, because it’s too essential to daily life for millions of iPhone owners already.
It’s been a long week: one of those ones that have the same numbers of hours as others, but too many of them filled with hard times and not enough enjoyable ones. When that balance tips, the weekend can’t come soon enough.
Today was busy and that was exacerbated by a friend’s problems this morning. While the rest of the world was reading news reports about shootings in Connecticut, I was focused on a more immediate problem closer to home. Everything’s fine, and that’s a good thing. For my friend, there are many tomorrows to come.
Of course for the 28 people who were killed in Connecticut—most of them young children—everything’s not fine and there is no tomorrow. It sort of puts things in perspective, an event like this.
After the shootings in Aurora, Colorado the Atlantic published an extremely well written article called Under a Blood Red Sky which mused, among other things, that _”…perhaps the most distressing thing to contemplate today is the realization that we are virtually powerless to prevent it from happening again, soon, somewhere, despite all the hand-wringing and soul-searching that now routinely accompanies these national tragedies.”
That hand-wringing’s been happening again today. One day, I hope America does something about the gun problem it has. One day, I hope to spend more than 147 days between reading stories that about people being killed by “mad gunmen,” or whatever term you choose to use to describe them.
The madness is the problem to be sure, but the gun empowers it in a way that is uniquely on display in America—the land of the free, and home of the brave. Where, as the Skydiggers once ruminated, every girl and boy can grow up to be the president…or grow up to be the president’s killer.
Too many people are working their way towards the latter, and it doesn’t look to be stopping anytime soon. Maybe, until it does, we should all stop going there. I might.
In all honesty, I’d like to have seen Blackie and the Rodeo Kings at their recent show at Swift Current, Saskatchewan’s beautiful and small Lyric Theatre. An alternative choice would have been Port Dover, which I could have attended with my Uncle who, despite quite a bit of crossover in our musical taste, I’ve never seen a show with.
Alas, poor me: I had to settle for seeing them at Vancouver’s gorgeous Vogue Theatre. This, of course, is the very definition of a first world problem. I took it in stride.
My review is at No Depression, or you can just read it below.
Blackie and the Rodeo Kings’ most recent album, Kings & Queens, is a series of duets with some of the best voices in the music industry including Lucinda Williams and Emmylou Harris. An album like this poses an interesting problem: how does a band whose core members are three guys tour an album on which every song includes a female voice—some of them, frankly, seemingly irreplaceable.
The answer, naturally, is to release a new version of the album with even more duets and then bring some of your friends along for a road trip. The Rodeo Kings brought their travelling road show to Vancouver with guests including Kendel Carson, Amy Helm, Exene Cervenka and Matt Anderson (decidedly not a female voice, but whatever.)
No one’s ever accused Steve Earle of shying away from issues he considers important. Burning the Walmart Down is particularly, but not only, appropriate in honour of Black Friday.
The Bilio-Mat is in Toronto, and I haven’t seen it but there’s a pretty fun video of it on Vimeo complete with a Tom Waits soundtrack. You can see it below.
I love it, because I love the concept of the mystery book for a twonie (a word, incidentally, that I’ve never quite been able to figure out how to spell—a hyphen makes it look awkward, and every other version I’ve used seems strange to my eye.) People don’t buy books as much as they used to. People have Kindles and they licence content instead, or they steal content, or they get free ebook versions of books that are out of copyright.
Books, though, those are getting a bit less common in people’s lives. So is mystery for that matter, and this is a Rube Goldberg contraption that brings a little bit of both back into your life all in exchange for a single shiny coin.