Monday, March 10, 2008

Current Listening

Willie Nelson, Moment of Forever
Otis Taylor, Recapturing the Banjo
Robin Trower, Bridge of Sighs
Nick Lowe, Jesus of Cool (Yep Roc reissue)
Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks, Real Emotional Trash
Lily Allen, Alright Still

From the Archives

Originally published in the DeFuniak Springs Herald, Sept. 13, 2007.

Milton fights to save library

By CHRIS MANSON
Last week the cash register was removed from the Gladys N. Milton branch of the Walton County Library System. No new books have arrived here since August. The air conditioner hasn't worked for almost a month, although a few strategically placed fans provide a temporary solution. The propped-open door to the Flowersview Community Center has attracted a small army of what librarian Maria Milton identifies as love bugs. For Milton--the daughter of the celebrated midwife for whom the library is named--closing seems inevitable.

Walton County Citizen Services Division Director Ken Little said the state legislature mandated that $5.6 million be cut from the 2008 budget. He added that the Milton library accounted for just one percent of the county's library usage in 2006. "We have a brand new bookmobile that can service that area," Little said.

Milton said the entire north end of Walton County would be impacted if the Walton Country Board of County Commissioners (BCC) votes to close the library. The Milton library services Paxton along with unincorporated rural communities like Flowersview, Glendale, and Mossy Head. Milton said the library also provides Internet access for many low-income residents. "It's a big thing lately. The offices where people apply for food stamps want you to do that online now. Also, some students with transportation problems are using the online schools."

When Milton first suspected the library might be closing, she called District 2 Commissioner Kenneth Pridgen. "They said we don't have to worry," Milton said. "But I'm very worried we're going to close. This may seem like a small decision to them, but it has a big effect on the people who come to the library."

If the budget is approved at the Sep. 24 hearing, the library would cease to operate on Oct. 1. That's why Milton is urging all residents of the north end of the county to get involved. She has posted flyers in the library and at the nearby corner store encouraging patrons to call Commissioner Pridgen's office prior to Sep. 18.

"Before she died, my mother tried to get this library opened," said Milton. "She didn't live to see it open, but she knew the importance of education. She devoted a lot of her life to helping people. She realized a library was definitely something a lot of underprivileged people needed," said Milton.

Milton said the library's circulation has increased significantly since she began working here last June. "But you can go into Paxton and find 10 people who don't know the library is here and don't know about the services we provide." The library has offered computer classes and Spanish language classes in the past and has audiobooks and DVD movies available for checkout.

"They are not even spending four percent of their budget on this library," Milton said. "It's almost like a double standard here. This is a matter of 'we can shut them down because their vote doesn't matter.' That's the attitude they're giving. But the community has made an effort. People are coming in and asking what they can do to help.

"If we can at least bring it to the commission's attention that this library is important to the entire north end of the county, I won't give up hope."

(More articles at www.defuniakherald.com)

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Karl Rove Visits DeFuniak Springs


(NOTE: This article was submitted for the Feb. 7 issue of the DeFuniak Springs Herald Breeze, but did not make it in due to space limitations.)

ROVE ANSWERS QUESTIONS, BUT MEDIA SILENCED

By CHRIS MANSON
Karl Rove's appearance Saturday during the 13th annual Florida Chautauqua Assembly attracted a polite crowd that included city and county officials, as well as actors portraying President Abraham Lincoln, Mary Todd Lincoln, Florida Governor Sidney J. Catts, and author Louisa May Alcott.

Florida Chautauqua Center, Inc. president Christopher Mitchell informed the capacity crowd at the Methodist Sanctuary that the question and answer session with Rove would follow "an academic format. We are just here to learn. Come to your own conclusions."

The previous day, following Dr. Steven Hochman's appearance, Mitchell informed the media that they were welcome to attend Rove's keynote speech but would not be allowed to ask the Bush administration's former chief of staff any questions.

When an editor from Southern Living magazine, who was here to host an afternoon presentation entitled "So You Want to Be a Travel Writer?" stood up to ask Rove about what he thought President Bush's legacy would be, he was promptly silenced. The audience was allowed to ask questions, but no one from the press was afforded that right.

"God, that felt good," said Rove, who during his speech showed his disdain for the press by referring to "stupid" editorials in the New York Times.

Later, outside the church, the editor said he found Rove's remark "terribly demeaning."

Rove's speech was punctuated by presidential trivia and humor and was generally well-received. He spoke of the personal challenges that befell former presidents and referred to all 43 as "a pretty remarkable group of presidents."

Jim Fowler, from TV's Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom had originally been scheduled to speak Saturday morning, but relinquished his slot to Rove so that he could participate in a wildlife demonstration in the Lake Yard. Rove acknowledged Fowler's presence by referring to some of the more unusual presidential pets.

Theodore Rooosevelt had his snakes, and Woodrow Wilson kept a flock of sheep on the White House lawn. Lincoln, Rove said, wisely refused the King of Siam's gift of a group of elephants.

Rove said during the 2008 presidential campaign, the public could determine how the future leader of the free world might react when under stress.

"You better be in good physical shape," said Rove of presidential hopefuls, "and be unconcerned about your legacy." He said every president had benefited in some way from the previous president's accomplishments.

Rove said a good president must also build coalitions and "put the interests of the country above the party."

During the question and answer session, an audience member asked about the biggest misconception of Bush.

"That he's a good ol' boy," said Rove. "He's Yale and Harvard educated. He reads a lot. He's really smart. A very adroit, very sophisticated and thoughtful person."

A woman who identified herself as "a naturalized citizen" asked Rove who started "this 'Press one for English' thing."

Rove answered that he thought English should be required of all Americans. Later, Rove addressed the immigration controversy, informing the audience that last year 1.3 million illegals had been apprehended and returned across the border.

"It's getting harder, not easier, to get across," said Rove. He noted that deporting all of the estimated 12 million immigrants still residing in the country illegally would be foolhardy and costly. "Rounding them up and saying, 'Get the hell out of here' is not the answer."

Rove said the path to citizenship should be "bleed, sweat, and pay."

Also, Rove told the crowd that terrorism was still the highest priority issue for the country. He said Muslim extremists were determined to destroy western civilization and "restart the golden age of Islam from the ninth and 10th centuries."

Fowler asked Rove, "Have you ever thought of running for president?"

"I ain't that stupid," said Rove. "My wife would kill me."

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Five Years of THE WIRE

Two new soundtrack collections from HBO's great series "The Wire," now in its fifth year and still unbelievable. "...and all the pieces matter" includes four versions of the opening credits song "Way Down in the Hole," including Tom Waits'; unfortunately, the Season 5 rendition by Steve Earle is absent. I prefer the companion volume, "Beyond Hamsterdam: Baltimore Tracks from The Wire." Among the highlights is Ogun featuring Phathead, "What You Know About Baltimore." This track appears on both CDs, as do eight of the other Baltimore tracks, though in shorter versions.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Albums I Liked in 2007


AGAINST ME!: New Wave. They haven’t softened up, yet “Borne on the Waves…” has some of the loveliest harmony singing I’ve heard in forever.
DAVIE ALLAN AND THE ARROWS: Fuzz for the Holidays. Little Steven rescued these guys from obscurity.
ARCADE FIRE: Neon Bible. More accessible than their previous masterpiece. Also, I downloaded an NPR concert and didn’t remember any of the older songs.
THE BAD PLUS: Prog. Tears for Fears, David Bowie, Rush, and Bacharach-David get the BP treatment this time, and their original compositions are starting to sound better and better. David King’s drum solo on “Thriftstore Jewelry” is a highlight, as is the tour de force closing number “1980 World Champion.”
SAM BAKER: Pretty World. A superior storyteller… unforgettable characters and colorful lyrics. Also what songs these characters sing… interesting.

“THE BEATLES”: Hate. Best answer album since We’re Only in It for the Money.
TERENCE BLANCHARD: A Tale of God’s Will.
MICHAEL BRECKER: Pilgrimage. The late saxophonist took a more organic approach on his final album.
CAROLINA CHOCOLATE DROPS: Dona Got a Ramblin’ Mind. Can’t get enough of these young ol’ timers.
JOHNNY CASH: Live from Austin, TX. In a pinch, I’d go with the DVD--same program, and yet the Tommy Cash duet I remember from a CMT broadcast is missing here, too. Recorded during Cash’s supposedly nonproductive Mercury Records period.
ELIZABETH COOK: Balls. On her third excellent disc, Cook hooks up with my main man Rodney Crowell. Maybe this time people will listen!
CHRIS CORNELL: Carry On. Nice of the ex-Audioslave singer to find room for some Morello-inspired weird guitar solos.
DION: Son of Skip James. Even better than the great Bronx in Blue.
BRYAN FERRY: Dylanesque. Another fine Dylan covers album. See also, last year’s Maria Muldaur.
NIK FLAGSTAR & HIS DIRTY MANGY DOGS. Half-live, half-studio, all attitude.
FOUNTAINS OF WAYNE: Traffic and Weather. Perfectly lovely pop-rock should appeal to anyone who loves Squeeze’s Singles 45s and Under. Or the Beatles.
ROBBIE FULKS: Revenge! Double-live “fast and cheap” does everything it should for the non-fan—it makes me wanna seek out his earlier stuff. Love that heartfelt take on the Cher hit “Believe.”
FUNKADELIC: By Way of the Drum. Not quite the Holy Grail, but it’ll do. And that’s a helluva good version of “Sunshine of Your Love.”
GENESIS: Live Over Europe 2007. The sound of five middle-aged proggers laughing all the way to the bank.
GILEAH AND THE GHOST TRAIN. Even better than her debut, a moody and introspective and lyrically imaginative foray into matters of the heart.
ELIZA GILKYSON: Live from Austin, TX (DVD). Great to discover this old-timer, a favorite of my main man Dave Marsh.
GOGOL BORDELLO: Super Taranta! Best gypsy punk band ever.
PATTY GRIFFIN: Children Running Through. She just never does anything bad, huh?
JUAN LUIS GUERRA 440: La Llave de Mi Corazon. Mostly not in English, save for the lovely duet con Chiera Civello, “Something Good.”
MERLE HAGGARD: Working Man’s Journey. The half new songs are good, especially the last two, “Songman” and “Stormy New Orleans.” But that doesn’t excuse remaking another half-dozen for what must be the umpteenth time… still, nice to hear Hag sing anything. And he didn’t include “Okie from Muskogee”! YAY!
THE HIVES: The Black and White Album. A couple of inspired collaborations with Pharrell, the rest up to the high standards of their first two long-players. Plus a couple weird ones.
IAN HUNTER: Shrunken Heads. The title track perfects the Dylanisms Hunter has strained for since his Mott days. Plus another great song inspired by Katrina.
JASON ISBELL: Sirens of the Ditch. “Dress Blues” is so outstanding the other 10 songs suffer by comparison. But this is one hell of a strong solo debut from the guy who helped make DBT’s last three albums as great as they were.
CHRIS KNIGHT: The Trailer Tapes. “Rita’s Only Fault” is great… everything else comes pretty close.
MIRANDA LAMBERT: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. Coming on twice as strong as she did on her very strong debut disc.
BETTYE LAVETTE: The Scene of the Crime. This album destroyed two long-held misconceptions: (1) That it is not possible to steal a song from George Jones, and (2) Aretha has no competition for Queen of Soul.
JERRY LEE LEWIS: Live from Austin, TX (DVD). So good I actually watched it twice and would probably get the sold-separately CD version.
Little Steven’s Underground Garage Presents CBGB Forever. Wotta grab bag.
NICK LOWE: At My Age. Nothing as grabby to me as his fine rendition of “Poor Side of Town” from 2001’s The Convincer, Lowe’s last long-player. But it’s always great to hear the guy, no? (Also, the NPR “All Songs Considered” concert.)
STEPHEN MARLEY: Mind Control. Even better than his brother Damian’s disc, and that one was great.
MAROON 5: It Won’t Be Soon Before Long. You don’t realize how good these guys are until you’ve suffered through the endless parade of mediocre bands inspired by the success of the 5’s first disc.
BRIAN McKNIGHT: Ten. Ignored by me throughout the ‘90s and wrongfully so. McKnight’s at his best when he’s channeling Marvin Gaye, but the Rascal Flatts collaboration is worthy, too.
JOHN McLAUGHLIN, JACO PASTORIUS, TONY WILLIAMS: Trio of Doom. Wish it was longer, but how can you go wrong with these three cats?
JOHN MELLENCAMP: Freedom’s Road. Heartland rocker still has something to say about it.
M.I.A.: Kala. How exciting! How 2007!
RONNIE MILSAP: My Life. Good to see him back on a major label and sounding as soulful as ever…also sort of country, wow.
CHARLES MINGUS SEXTET with ERIC DOLPHY: Cornell 1964. Not quite the match to recently discovered Monk-Coltrane and Dizzy-Bird concerts, but pretty damn good.
YOUSSOU N’DOUR: Rokku Mi Rokka (Give and Take). Another triumph. Also, his version of John Lennon’s “Jealous Guy" on Amnesty Int'l's Lennon tribute is worth getting.
WILLIE NELSON/MERLE HAGGARD/RAY PRICE: Last of the Breed. Willie’s always better when he has someone pushing him, Ray’s always better with Willie, and Hag is just plain good no matter what.
THE NIGHTWATCHMAN: One Man Revolution. Tom Morello minus the guitar pyrotechnics turns out to be very goddamn potent. Honest-to-gosh protest songs with traces of hope.
NINE INCH NAILS: Year Zero .Noisy, angry, beautiful. How did I avoid NIN for so long?
OKKERVIL RIVER: Golden Opportunities Mixtape. Free EP with interesting cover choices from Randy, Joni, Jimmy Webb (!).
OZZY OSBOURNE: Black Rain. Hard to believe it’s his first album of new material since he became a reality TV star.
OZOMATLI: Don’t Mess with the Dragon. Amazing how they mix all those styles without sounding calculated. (Also the iTunes exclusive Live from SoHo.)
POISON: Poison’d. Leave it to these guys to do what Def Leppard couldn’t—make a damn great covers album that has the rock and roll spirit all over the place.
JOHN PRINE & MAC WISEMAN: Standard Songs for Average People. Wonderful throwback.
RADIOHEAD: In Rainbows. Their most accessible disc in more ways than one.
CHUCK RAGAN: Los Feliz. Intensely sung acoustic live recording, and as much as I like his own songs, that’s one hell of a version of “Fixin’ to Die.” (See also: Eli Cook, Robert Plant.)
RASPBERRIES: Live on Sunset Strip. They really were great, even in 2005 when they wisely opted to ignore Eric Carmen’s solo career.
RILO KILEY: Under the Blacklight. Their major label debut finds them flirting with all kinds of unexpected influences, and all the more enjoyable for it.
ROBERT & JAMES: Standing in the Sun. DeFuniak Springs, Fl. duo get over on eight exquisitely crafted tunes about the Lord.
SONNY ROLLINS: Sonny, Please. Dangerously close to the non-intrusive background music his best work resembles in no way at all, but it’s always a treat to hear the old guy play. And it beats anything on the smoove jazz station.
RUSH: Snakes & Arrows. Can’t believe I like them. Maybe ‘cos Geddy’s not as screechy as he was 20 years ago.
SCORPIONS: Humanity Hour 1. Thanks to the song doctor, it’s their strongest album in years.
RYAN SHAW: This Is Ryan Shaw. A young guy who not only understands old-school R&B—er, soul—well, pop, actually… he can put it across like you never heard it before. It takes balls to cover Jackie Wilson.
BLAKE SHELTON: Pure BS. Earl Thomas Conley fan, frequent Mullet Festival guest, good songs…what not to like?
THE SHINS: Wincing the Night Away. More catchy indie pop, not quite up to Chutes Too Narrow, but what is?
THE SHYS: Astoria. Music that bleeds!
SLANG: Soul Love An’ Groove. See Ozo.
MINDY SMITH: My Holiday. Lovely Christmas album, guitarist Bryan Sutton a real plus.
GEORGE SOULE: Take a Ride. Excellent Southern soul man.
SPOON: Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga. A return to greatness unattained since the magnificent Kill the Moonlight. Plus a bonus hidden disc with a bunch of meandering horseshit.
BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN AND THE SESSIONS BAND: Live in Dublin (CD and DVD). Startling reinventions of older songs, first-rate performances of Seeger sessions tracks. High point is the rock and roll punch of “Open All Night.”
BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN: Magic. A notable return to one form or other.
ANNA STAFFORD: String Music. Saved by minimal production, tight song structure, pop smarts.
OTIS TAYLOR: Definition of a Circle. Another breakout classic from this great bluesman.
3 TENORS OF SOUL: All the Way from Philadelphia. Achingly gorgeous… music for the Jackie Brown-Max Cherry nuptials.
This Bird Has Flown: A 40th Anniversary Tribute to the Beatles’ Rubber Soul. Not exactly new, but…
T.I.: King .Interesting new voice (for me), “What You Know” a great hit single.
STANLEY TURRENTINE: A Bluish Bag. A new album of sorts, lots of great unreleased stuff.
VELVET REVOLVER: Libertad. The rare second album by a rock supergroup that improves on the first.
VIVANATIVA: Dulce Sudio. Music Latina at its best.
THE WaCo RAMBLERS. Walton County, Fl. outfit can pull off this old-time country stuff as good as anybody.
PORTER WAGONER: Wagonmaster. Pure country, outstanding production by Marty Stuart. 16 songs, not one of ‘em a clinker.
We All Love Ennio Morricone. Celine Dion and Metallica and Bruce Springsteen (a rare instrumental) on the same album? It works due to the strength of the material. Oh, and also that Morricone is one of the greatest composers in the world.
LUCINDA WILLIAMS: West. Her strongest set since Car Wheels on a Gravel Road.
TOMMY WOMACK: There, I Said It! Any guy who remembers Opryland and hopes his little drummer boy will save the world someday is a guy worth hearing, repeatedly.
NEIL YOUNG: Live at Massey Hall 1971. Second in the archives series, a fine live acoustic show but hardly a revelation. I prefer the grungy and noisy Neil.
NEIL YOUNG & CRAZY HORSE: Live at the Fillmore 1970. The grungy, loud and noodling Neil and band that I prefer to the sensitive acoustie.
YUSUF: An Other Cup. Definitely not the work of a suicide-bomb-strapped terrorist.


Compilations & Reissues:
Big Waves: Five Decades of Surf Rock. Another fine compilation from Starbucks (!), notable for the inclusion of newer tracks in the genre as well as the old reliables.
DEF LEPPARD: Hysteria (Deluxe Edition). Benefits from better sound and a whole lotta bonus tracks that are worth hearing. The live covers and the really weird B-side “Release Me” beat anything on the Leps’ recent oldies album.
BO DIDDLEY: The Definitive Collection. Nothing from Gunslinger, but everyone needs to own that album, too.
ARETHA FRANKLIN: Rare and Unreleased…
GENESIS: Abacab (CD/DVD).
GENESIS: Duke (CD/DVD).
GENESIS: 14 from Our Past. Starbucks jumps on the 2007 money train, with one from each (studio) album, except the much-reissued (and awful) first one. Bonus is the inclusion of “Happy the Man,” a Gabriel-era track otherwise only available on a pricey box set.
GENESIS: Genesis (CD/DVD).
GENESIS: Invisible Touch (CD/DVD).
GENESIS: A Trick of the Tail (CD/DVD).
GENESIS: We Can’t Dance (CD/DVD).
GENESIS: Wind and Wuthering (CD/DVD).
CHRIS ISAAK: Best of Chris Isaak. Omissions aside, this makes a strong case for the guy who had the nerve to wear Elvis’ leather suit.
ROBERT PLANT: Dreamland (Bonus Tracks). His solo career has been vastly undervalued, especially with all the talk of Zep reunion. This is an interesting approach to the covers album phenomenon.
P.O.D.: Greatest Hits (The Atlantic Years). Finally, a Christian band that kicks ass.
ELVIS PRESLEY: The Essential Elvis Presley. Another comp, but this time they included ”Hurt,” “Follow that Dream,” and “Viva Las Vegas.” Therefore, it cancels out all the others. See you at the used CD shop!
Salsa Explosion: The Sound of Fania Records. Finally, a Starbucks compilation that offers stuff you don’t already have on a bunch of other CDs.
SCORPIONS: Gold. 34 reasons to believe they were indeed the inspiration for This Is Spinal Tap.
Stax 50th Anniversary Celebration. 50 tracks on 2-CDs, lots of great ones and some nice obscurities. “Shaft” you know, but when was the last time you heard the Bar-Kays’ “Son of Shaft”?
FRANKIE VALLI AND THE FOUR SEASONS: Definitive Pop. All the stuff you could possibly want by these guys and more (does anyone really want to hear “My Eyes Adored You” again?).
FATS WALLER: If You Got to Ask, You Ain’t Got It! Now this they should teach in school. Fuck FCAT.
WARREN ZEVON: Stand in the Fire (Bonus Tracks). Inexplicably missing from CD all these years, a powerful document of the songwriter and rocker. Includes four bonus tracks—like they needed to bait us, yeah!
WARREN ZEVON: Excitable Boy (Bonus Tracks). Hardly his best album, but his most popular, and such a treat to hear even the least of these songs again. Now howsabout a remaster of album one, Rhino?

Sunday, December 24, 2006

It's That Time of the Year!

This year everyone has agreed to call it "CHRI$TMA$." Now we can all be happy.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Current Favorites

Listening to:

Joe Lovano Ensemble, Streams of Expression. Another superb effort by saxophonist Lovano. Check out his recently released DVD, too--Joe Lovano Nonet Live in Paris.

Dusty Springfield, Gold. Everything I've tried in the 2-CD Gold series has been first-rate, but limited to Sublime and Southern Rock entries.

Various Artists, The Who Jukebox. This is the free CD included with the current issue of MOJO magazine. Starts with familiar Motown tracks and ends with the Stanley Brothers, finding room in between for Ian Dury, Jimmy Reed, Leadbelly, and more. The magazine itself is worth picking up for my main man Dave Marsh's cover story on Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey.

Diana Krall, Christmas Songs. A very engaging holiday collection from last fall. I'll swear it's the one Krall CD to get, since I really don't want to listen to the others (yet).

Acute, Selections (EP). I remain undecided about this one. It was sent to me to review for a music website... I'll keep you posted.

Reading:

Stephen King, Bag of Bones.
John Irving, A Widow for One Year.
Joe Hill, Heart-Shaped Box (advance copy of 2007's must read novel!)
Paul Talbot, Bronson's Loose! The Making of the Death Wish Films

Movies/DVDs:

Dion Live (I see that just about everyone has forgotten about Dion's great 2006 release Bronx in Blue on their best of the year lists--assholes!)
Death Wish 4: The Crackdown