Category Archives: Musicks

Songs and concerts are important.

Pretty Good for a Girl by Murphy Hicks Henry: a short review

Banjo player Murphy Henry looks at women in bluegrass, and discovers that there are, and always have been, more woman players than everyone thinks. She also reports that they’re not exactly accepted, as most have either been related to another member of the band or have belonged to all-woman ensembles. The author’s particularly concerned that few women have ever been supporting musicians (dare I say “sidemen”?) with major bluegrass bands. She mentions this matter regularly, and examines it fairly thoroughly in the chapters profiling Missy Raines, Alison Brown, and (especially) Kristin Scott Benson. She sees change, but less change than she’d like. But the book’s far more about the biographies of specific performers than about how things might be differently arranged.

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A Freewheelin’ Time by Suze Rotolo: a review

This book’s about the Village in the sixties, and about Suze Rotolo’s youth. Since Bob Dylan was important to both, this memoir talks a lot about his early career, but even that’s usually more about the Dylan/Rotolo relationship than about Dylan’s work. And that’s OK. If this were any other author, looking back at that time and place, we’d expect lots of context and little Dylan. Here we’ve got Rotolo doing something similar.

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Sessions with Sinatra by Charles Granata: a review

Interesting, and very readable. Sinatra’s life is discussed only as it impinged on his work, and then only in generalities. If biography’s what you’re looking for, this is not the book to read. On the other hand, his changing relations with the Victor, Columbia, and Capitol recording labels are discussed in some detail. Nonetheless, the book’s mainly about the technicalities of the recording studio, and/or how Frank worked in the studio. If you’re interested in those things, this is a very good introduction.

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Becoming Jimi Hendrix by Steven Roby and Brad Schreiber: a review

Becoming Jimi Hendrix mostly explores Jimi’s life as a professional sideman, from his 1962 Army stint until his move to London and great fame in late 1966. An introduction covers his life to that point, and an epilogue touches on his career as a bandleader. There are approximately three recurring themes in the book’s main section: Jimi’s poverty, his contacts with some of the 1960s best popular musicians, and his women. While the poverty’s mentioned constantly, the authors don’t make it particularly real. In contrast, his musical odyssey is covered very well, with both his experiences as a professional sideman and his (relatively) casual contacts with famous musicians are recorded with some excellence. And there are constant mentions of frequent sexual encounters–though the book also offers fine and sympathetic portraits of the half-dozen or so women with whom he had relatively stable relationships.

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Embarr

A friend’s band….
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Man of Constant Sorrow by Ralph Stanley: a review

The omissions are interesting. There’s practically no mention about his first marriage, and only cursory mentions of his children (even of Ralph II, who was part of his touring band for a long time). After Carter’s death, there’s really little about the mechanics and logistics of running a band; would be interesting to hear Ralph discuss that, since he’s done that longer than almost anyone. That he didn’t include such a discussion is this book’s greatest disappointment.

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Oh, Ned

One morning, after thirteen hours at the DSTE and on the teletypes, we hit the airbase bar for breakfast and a few drinks, only to discover that the club was planning to run the (then) new Ned Kelly movie. So we stayed and watched, as did a handful of Aussies who were stationed in the vicinity.

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Driving Hard Across the Plain

Joan and I heard Garnet Rogers when he was in town last year; that was a powerful evening built on what I took to be a version of his standard performance set. Tonight’s show, before a substantially smaller audience, was quite different; perhaps more relaxed, differently introspective, with fewer tales. Garnet’s a droll story-teller, a strong and exceptional singer, a very good writer–and an formidible guitarist. He played six or eight guitars over the course of the concert; each instrument change had musical justification, rewarded different technical skills, and improved the song.

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Gilmour’s Albums

The Handel harp concerto was one of Gilmour’s theme songs, at least in the sixties when I made a point of listening to his program.  One of the neat things about Clyde’s use of this theme was variation–always the same piece, but an array of recordings, each with strengths and weaknesses, all with something to appreciate.  A good lesson.

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Back in ’57

This song I’d give a six on a five-point scale.

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