Categories
Features

Short Attention Span: Quick Takes on Worthy Records

Short Attention Span: Quick Takes on Worthy Records

The year is rapidly coming to a close and there is still a pile of CD’s I haven’t had time to review. I want to say something about these discs before we roll over into 2019. So, here are some records I want you to know about in nice, concise summations for the attention deprived.

• •

The Devil Makes Three

Chains Are Broken

New West

What really caught my attention about this Santa Cruz based roots rock band is their sideways approach to life. There is a beautiful honesty in “Need to Lose” that addresses obsessive behavior. “I don’t gamble ’cause I want to win, boys. I gamble ’cause I need to lose.” “Native Son” takes on immigration saying, “I came free and I came chained. I watched ships pull up on shore … Don’t say you don’t need me anymore… I don’t have to love it. And I don’t have to leave it. Ain’t no stranger here, I am your native son.” Devil Makes Three is a hoedown for thinking people.

• •

Sarah Borges & the Broken Singles

Love’s Middle Name

Blue Corn Music

Love’s Middle Name is a flat-out rocking outing from Borges and her backing band. It’s been five years since she’s taken to the studio with the Broken Singles, and they seem intent on making up for lost time. Musically, Sarah comes out all swagger and toughness. Lyrically, she sings about deterioration relationships and bad choices. The gut punch that comes half way through the album is “Are You Still Taking Them Pills?” The song is a clear-eyed conversation between a recovering addict and an old dope buddy. It’s not preachy, just an honest question; are you still taking them pills?

• •

Sam Ravenna

Fragile

Samrevenna.com

Sam Ravenna is another artist finding inspiration in sweet soul music. “Help Me Find It” has a loose groove and jazzy horns that make me think of Allen Toussaint in the ’70s. “Let it Be Known” channels a Terry Kath-era Chicago singing about love and hope. “Fragile” is lover’s rock for troubled times. Turn off the TV, dim the lights and hold your significant one close.

• •

Justin Kauflin

Coming Home

Qwest Records

Coming Home feels like a safe place to be. Kauflin’s piano work is lively, with a gentle touch and a focus on melody. With Quincy Jones involved in the production, the album has a lush feel without being overwrought. “Looking Forward” would fit comfortably along side Bob James classic theme from Taxi. While most of the tunes are original compositions, Kauflin interprets tunes by Mulgrew Miller, Sufjan Stevens and the Beatles. Kauflin actually takes two runs at “Strawberry Fields Forever”, once as a fusion fantasy with the full band and again to close out the disc as a solo meditation.

• •

The Innocence Mission

Sun on the Square

North American Badman

Karen and Don Peris have been making music as the Innocence Mission for over three decades. It’s been a long time since they were on a major label being touted as the next 10,000 Maniacs. Sun on the Square is their 11th album and it’s like slipping through the wardrobe into another world. The music makes me think of Victorian parlors and sepia-toned photographs. Karen’s voice is sweet and child-like which his so right for the sense of wonder found in her lyrics. If Guillermo Del Toro made a Disney movie, The Innocence Mission would be the soundtrack.

So there you have a quick round up of some records I didn’t want to get away before the New Year. 2019 will be here in a few minutes with loads of new adventures.

Categories
Features

A Chat with Gary Louris of The Jayhawks

A Chat with Gary Louris of The Jayhawks

My best friend growing up, Rhett Nowotny, introduced me to The Jayhawks back in 1993 with the release of Hollywood Town Hall. We grabbed our guitars and learned every song we could and to this day, the opening riff on “Take Me With You When You Go” will still hit me with goose bumps.

On August 24th, 2018 I had the pleasure of recanting that story to Gary Louris, singer, guitar player, band mate, and lyrical genius of The Jayhawks, Golden Smog, and too many collaboration projects to mention. I explained to him that I felt like I’d been having a 25 year conversation with him and the Jayhawks through those songs was extremely grateful for his willingness to answer some questions.

“Well thank you” he says humbly. “I was just in Cedar Rapids and took a flight out of there after we played Iowa City.”

Gary was referring to the Ragbrai concert that I attended a month earlier on July 27th. In the shadow of the the Old Capital building in Iowa City, Iowa the Jayhawks lit up the stage to a crowd mixed with Ragbrai bicycle riders and Jayhawk fans of all ages.

This incarnation of the Jayhawks consisted of Gary Louris, Marc Perlman, Tim O’Regan, and Karen Grotberg. They walked on stage to boisterous applause and began to play through a total of 22 songs that cover all the hits and five of the songs from the new album, Back Roads and Abandoned Motels. The album is a mix of songs that Gary had previously co-written with artists like Jacob Dylan, The Dixie Chicks, and Ari Hest to name a few and I asked Gary how this album song selection came about.

“Really it started with John Jackson at Sony Legacy, who helped us out with the reissue back in the late 2000’s….but he became a great friend and said hey, can I sit in with you guys and now he’s in the band. I think he feels like it’s his mission to tell the world about me as a songwriter. That’s what he’s told me, that I’m underappreciated or something.

“He suggested it because we were in between albums and weren’t really thinking of recording yet so it’s his brain child. I’ve been playing some of them at my solo shows, and between me, John Jackson, my manager Jake Guralnick, and our long time friend and assistant P.D. Larson, we started going through the songs and compiling songs that I had co written…and then brought that to the band.”

I mentioned the pre-order snafu, that the signed albums had not arrived before the release date and Gary says “Yeah sorry about that, that was a fuck up by the label and we were actually signing those album covers, the vinyl copies, there in Iowa City, so we have to apologize to everyone that pre-ordered.” I commented that for me it was a great experience to hear the songs preformed live and waiting for the album to arrive was only a minor inconvenience.

Of the five new songs they preformed in Iowa City from the album, Karen sang the co-written Natalie Maines song “Come Crying to Me” and Tim took the vocal lead on the Jacob Dylan co-written “Gonna Be a Darkness”, which appeared on HBO’s True Blood. The remaining 17 songs of the evening were a great mix of each album that included “Waiting For The Sun”, “Tampa To Tulsa”, “Smile”, “Lover Of The Sun”, and “Nothing Left To Borrow”.

A real treat during the concert that July night was a special guest, Kraig Johnson. Kraig, while a member of his own band, is also a Jayhawk alumni, co-founder of the band Run Westy Run and, a member in good standing of Golden Smog. Together they preformed “Big Star”, “Blue”, “I’d Run Away”, and for the encore of the evening the perfectly placed Golden Smog tune “Until You Came Along”.

During my interview I asked Gary about Kraig sitting in and if this was a foreshadowing of another Golden Smog get together for either some shows or another album. “…with Kraig it was a happy coincidence. He was down in Iowa City and does some house restorations and painting with his old friend Dan Davids from Run Westy Run and was restoring some place and said well I’m gonna be there so I said bring your guitar.”

“Were all still friend and love each other, and the same with the Smog were all still friends it’s just a lot of circumstances with peoples schedules…There was a stirring of some golden smog shows recently but Jeff has a book out and and it just wasn’t possible. I don’t know about any further recordings but there is a talk of some shows and that it’s just a matter of finding that sweet spot in the schedules.”

I will keep my fingers crossed that the stars align for future projects and that John Jackson keeps an eye out for more opportunities for The Jayhawks.

I want to extend the warmest thank you to Maria Malta from Sony Music for facilitating the interview and to Mr. Gary Louris for taking the time to discuss the album.

Feature photo by Jeremy Glazier

www.jayhawksofficial.com

Categories
Features

Drivin’ N Cryin’ with Tim Nielsen

Drivin’ N Cryin’ with Tim Nielsen

I called Tim Nielsen, bassist with Drivin’ N Cryin’ on the road as they were making their way to a Charlotte record store and a release party in Augusta the following day. He started the conversation with a nod to the original album review that Ink19 reviewed when the album was first released. “…it’s pretty wild you all reviewed our record back in 97… and I saw the review for the re release, it was a nice review” Tim says.

I started the interview with my own first encounter with Drivin’ n Cryin’ in 1993 here in Cedar Rapids, Iowa when they opened for Bad Company and Lynyrd Skynyrd. While the other 2 bands are legendary, Drivin’ n Cryin’ was the band of my generation and their performance really cemented them as one of my favorite bands. Tim laughs a little and says “wow we probably had like a 30 minute set”. And if I also remember correctly, they did, came on like a hurricane, nailed all the songs, and made a lasting impression.

Because the occasion of the interview is the re release of the eponymous Drivin’ N Cryin’ album from 1997, I asked how the re-releases work and how do they choose which albums will be put out?

Tim states “It has everything to do with timing. I was engaged in conversation with the people at Island records and I was trying to get them to do a box set. Let’s do the Island years and put the 4 island records in a box and the guy was like, …what do you think of this? Let’s do Mystery Road as a double album, if that works out let’s do Fly Me Courageous as a double album. So we did Mystery Road and in the mean time, you don’t want these re-releases to be on top of each other, you have to space them out I knew we were going to be releasing a new record but you need something for the fans to talk about and be excited about so, just by coincidence and luck, I was able to get a CD to George Fontaine who is the owner and founder of New West Records. He’s retired but is still part of the business and he just love the record and he’s like it’s such a great record what’s the story with this record?”

Tim continues, “So I told him it came out that little stuff on radio around the Southeast and then was pretty much gone. Physical copies have been gone and you might be able to find on eBay but it was digitally never on iTunes and up until a few hours ago it wasn’t on Spotify. So we had the idea to re-release the record and actually give it a name, because I think that’s part of why the record became so obscure is that it didn’t really have a name. It was called self-titled Drivin’ N Cryin’ album, and the third thing is that the covers look a lot like Scarred But Smarter, so if you showed it to someone they said oh yeah I have that album.”

“So we gave it a name and we’re going to get Kosmo Vinyl, the producer, whose doing nothing but visual art these days, to do the cover concept. So Kosmo did the cover thing, it’s totally punk rock, Sex Pistols lookin, cool, love the cover. And you know we gave it a name. Me, Kevin, and Kosmo text, going back and forth in a group text, with names and finally I think I suggested to Kevn why don’t we call it Its Too Late to Turn Back Now and Kosmos said leave off the it’s and we’re all like yeah cool let’s do it. It’s the opening line of the first song on the record so it a kind of a cool sentiment to our career. It all just came together that way and we couldn’t be happier.”

“The record turned out cool the, vinyl’s great, and New West did a great job with everything, and now it’s on Spotify. Today actually were on our way to a big record store in Charlotte and we’re doing a record release party in Augusta Georgia.”

I mention that I saw they had a number of shows in the south east end of that Tim says “Yeah we stay pretty busy on the weekends. We just finished the Northeast tour, that was two weeks along up by New York and Toronto and down through Ohio and Kentucky so that was cool, we don’t do that very often. But um, a couple times a year we’ll do the northeast and I think the next time we’re going to leave the southeast we’re going out to Texas for a couple weeks and next year will probably head over to Europe again, we like to go to Europe once a year but we didn’t go this year. We were trying to have some cool stuff coming out like our new new record. Hopefully will be out in the spring and give us something to promote.

Vincent Tseng

Ever curious about great music heading to Iowa I ask, is there going to be a larger US tour, specifically Iowa, or what the plan was for after Europe?

“Well when the new record comes out we’ll tour wherever they want us to go. We really made a lot of ground in the Midwest and, you’re in Iowa right? So we definitely want to go do Daytrotter and that psychedelic barn this someone’s got going over there.” he said that last part like a question and i answered that he had to be referring to Cod Fish Hollow in Maquoketa, Iowa and I’d just picked up tickets for a show there in October.

“We need to get back into Iowa and we’ve done a lot of stuff in Wisconsin, we did Summerfest this year and we got a really good thing going in Minneapolis now so, if we’re doing the midwest we might as well get back into Iowa. Kevn is from Milwaukee and I’m from Minneapolis so it’s always good to get back out that way.”

I wanted to know about the entire catalog eventually getting released to vinyl and Tim says “the next thing in line is definitely the brand new album and then we’ll move towards trying to do Fly Me Courageous. So even if that comes out in 2021 that will be exactly 30 years so maybe it will come out in 2020 I don’t really care about even numbers. It’s all a matter of having something teed up for the future 6,8,10 months we want to have something to look forward to and keep the fan base engaged.”

He pauses and then continues, “And that’s the exciting thing about it is that I think Fly Me Courageous I think they made a handful of copies, promo copies and I think they made a couple of album copies with the real cover that I think you can find online for a couple hundred dollars sometimes but releasing it technically on vinyl for the first time, that’s worth talking about.”

I mentioned it’s a perfect time because the market is supporting vinyl and vinyl is almost all I buy and he said “Vinyls back and it’s here to stay.”

About Tim taking over the managerial role of the band I was curious about how that affected the bands control over their direction and how it was working for them and specifically for Tim.

“It depends on the personality of the musician. I feel I have a good grip of the management role but I don’t think it’s for everybody whose trying to be in a band. There’s a lot of great managers out there doing great work and for some reason at this stage in our career I feel I can get done what needs to be done for us.”

“As far as control I don’t know if it’s a question of control or, it’s like we were talking about before you have to have a continuing story that has to be thought out in advance. so if you’re just sitting around for the phone to ring because you want some to go out and sing “Straight to hell” and get 10% of what we make because the phone rang, you know that’s nothing, that doesn’t really do anything. You know, we’re always looking into the future and always looking for something exciting to look forward to and a reason for us to be on the road and a reason for us to go tour places. And with new stuff coming out and writing new songs and having that relationship with our audience.”

“You know I have thought about this before you asked the question and I don’t think it’s for everybody to try to do this but for some reason it’s working and it’s kind of like maybe something you do when your bands first starting out or when your bands been around for 35 years but, in between you probably need some professional help. So you know I’m finding it’s not that difficult but we’re just what we are you know. We’re probably not going to be doing Lollapallooza or what ever, but maybe, you never know right?”

Knowing that guitarist Laur Joamets, formerly of Sturgill Simpson’s band, was on board and involved with the new record, I was interested in what ways his addition had changed the dynamic of the band. I wanted to know if Drivin’ N Cryin’, wanted a hired gun to play the pieces note for note or an additional member to fill a void.

“We rarely tell these guys what to play, and we like the new flavors coming down the road. Warner Hodges has his own style, Sadler Vaden had a certain style, and Laur definitely has his own thing going. Especially on the brand new songs that we all wrote together in the studio…I mean Laur was just coming up with these amazing parts…I like when guitar players come up with parts of the songs versus just wailing over everything. So Laur actually took the time to learn the parts to the older songs, which I love, and then he’s writing parts for the newer songs. So it’s a combination of their own style and paying homage to the parts that Kevn, and Buren, and Mac wrote back in the day…Laur is a musical genius man his brain is just, it’s amazing. “

Before we wrapped up I let him know that, revisiting the now titled Too Late To Turn Back Now, after 20+ years, that the lyrics and music are as poignant as ever and could easily creep into the airwaves. Tim laughs and says “hopefully people will make the mistake that Drivin’ N Cryin’ has a new album and are looking younger than ever and play it on the radio again.”

I believe that Tim has the sights for Drivin’ N Cryin’ set perfectly and, with the re releases and new album on the horizon, we’ll get to see them out a bit more than just the weekends.

www.drivinncryin.com

Categories
Features

This Hard Land

This Hard Land

Springsteen on Broadway

The best artists are mirrors, reflecting your own sense of self through their craft and experience, making you think about what comes back at you, creating something that lives in the space between you, them, and the work. This is true of any medium. For rock and roll, Bruce Springsteen achieves this to exemplary results. Having seen him live in many guises over the years – mine and his – two essential observations resonate.

First off, while a fine musician with a fine band, he is an American songwriter of the highest order, belonging in the same league as Dylan and Gershwin. Fans get it, but many laypeople overlook this because somehow he’s a victim of his success, the hits that namecheck Cadillacs, ramrods, and the U.S.A. Sure, he writes about these things, but they are backdrops for deeper meaning, songs about characters who are every day folks struggling with the ups and downs of life and love in a blue collar noir setting.

Secondly, and more obvious, is his natural charisma, his ability to connect with and lift an audience of any size. His E Street band extravaganzas are legendary as three-hour plus marathons, holy rock and roll revivals. I’ve seen a few and there is perfect pacing to those shows, so that despite their length, peaks and valleys pass too quickly and leave you exhausted, but still ready for more.

This leads me to Springsteen on Broadway.

When the run was announced, I immediately thought “what a strange idea.” A scripted set of tunes by the Boss carrying a personal narrative – solo, with none of the band interplay, none of the spontaneity, none of the ever changing set list. Odd artistic choice. But, maybe not, as I reflected on the shows I’d seen and Springsteen’s habit of inserting long narratives about growing up, battling with his father, and trying to make it out of Jersey, stories that would precede tunes like the Animals “It’s My Life” or his own “Independence Day.” So, there was a precedent for this, in some ways. In this case he would draw from those tales, as well as those he added for his Born to Run memoir. Springsteen has toured and recorded solo before, and of course, the legendary John Hammond signed him thinking he’d be a solo artist.

But, Broadway? As a young man in Freehold, New Jersey, did he ever, in his wildest dreams think his career would land him on Broadway in the Walter Kerr Theater on 48th Street, in a musical one man show? I doubt it. And, the prices. Two ranges.  $75 to $400 and $500 to $850. Yikes. I discussed this with my brother, who incidentally, took me to my first Springsteen show at the Uptown Theater in Chicago when I was in high school, on a school night (Not sure how I got away with that, but thanks Dave). He was a bit critical of Bruce’s pricing motives. I thought the tickets were too expensive for me, but defended the Boss nonetheless. My rationale was there was a lot of other things I could do with that amount of dough; but on the other hand, Bruce deserves to charge what he needs to charge. The man has a family to take care of and a business to run, and who knows, maybe he was doing this run to do something different creatively, be close to home, and build up the trust fund for his heirs. He’s worked hard, built a reputation, and earned the right. There is only one Springsteen. Supply and demand.

Of course, true to our personalities, my brother pulled the trigger on a ticket without hesitation. But, I waited, putting it out of my mind.  Like a character in a Springsteen tune, I have a job, a life to lead, a son to raise.  This was for other folks.

Then, one morning in March I got a text message inviting me to the pre-sale for a new batch of tix released for the back half of 2018.  I’d signed up for it ages before and forgotten. Clicking on the link, I followed a series of complicated steps and walked through the gates to the purchase land. One of the available dates fell on a week I was already planning to go to New York with my son Jude, for one of our summer vacations.  I used to gig in the city a lot, through all of my musical incarnations – new wave, country, and solo – and I had a lot of favorite spots I wanted to show him, paying karmic tribute to the brothers and sisters who I played with and to. Plus, we could simply be tourists, buddies, father and son, in the city that never sleeps. There is nothing Jude likes more than pizza, by the way.

There was another precedent. I’d taken Jude to see many musical greats in his young life, as part of the see ’em while you can trick. This includes multiple Dylans, Sir Pauls, Sir Ringo, George Coleman, Bryan Ferry, Ramsey Lewis, Nick Lowe, Paul Simon, the Who, and yes, even the Monkees. I’m probably forgetting someone. Jude’s had the pleasure of seeing Leon Russell, Willie Nelson, Mavis Staples, and Joan Jett – as opening acts. Throw Beatles Love and Bruce and the E Street Band in there, and you’ll see I’ve done due diligence. Jude digs a lot of these acts, but he is also getting to the stage where he’s discovering his own cultural references, for his time, which is as it should be. Whether it’s been national parks or cities, museums or concerts, flying kites and playing board games, I’ve just tried to lay out the experience, to absorb, remember, embrace, or pass on through. Possibilities. The rest is up to him.

My parents had me very late in life and they were always older than other parents and somehow I think this also instilled in me how quickly time passes, and that often you only get one shot and you never know when it’s the last shot. When I toured I would always soak up the city and the surroundings, making mental notes, wondering if I’d ever return. Usually I did. Sometimes more times than I cared to. I remember a manager friend of mine saying, “Doug, you know it’s great when you hit a town the first time, and it’s great the tenth time. It’s the eight in between that are a bitch.” That said, with kids, one thing is for certain; their growth marks time in a way that is obvious. Change is constant, as it should be. Chances were that Springsteen on Broadway wouldn’t be our last show for a while, but it could be. So, I rationalized away and pulled the trigger. Two tickets third row mezzanine. Damn. We were in. Time passed. We were on.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018. Showtime. Long line getting into security. Metal detectors.  Cops. Excitement. Ushers. Anticipation. Playbills. Merch. Diet coke in a commemorative glass. Strict no camera policy. Selfie before the show. Lights down. On walked the Boss with a one-man mix of music and monologue, beginning with long passages from his memoir, stories of his mother, father, and sisters, growing up, becoming a man, becoming a star.  Springsteen switched between guitar and piano, playing some songs as they were, reinventing others to fit the context. The crowd was a hush, still, silent, reverent.  You could’ve heard a diamond earring drop.

My first highlight was “My Father’s Town,” the song from Nebraska, elevated by Bruce’s piano playing and telling of the conflicted relationship he held with his father, throughout his life. Originally using his dad as a relatively negative dramatic foil in his work, Springsteen now grasps the other side of this complicated familial relationship.  Much of the show shed light on demons and ghosts, in the context of who we are, or who we become. It was moving.

My second highlight was “Thunder Road.” Maybe Springsteen’s strongest song.  Is there a better opening line than “the screen door slams, Mary’s dress sways?” This is one of Jude’s favorite Springsteen tunes, and I looked over to see him in rapt attention, his bright and soulful eyes fixed on the stage. When I take him to stuff like this, people tell me he’s lucky to have me as a dad. Maybe. Personally, I think I’m the lucky one, as I have learned so much from being his father. On every adventure we take I hold time still in certain moments, to savor what I know will soon become another memory to be carried with me to a time in the future, when I would have little to do but remember. This was one of those moments. A gift.

“Thunder Road” also took me backwards, to my room, in my parent’s house, in my home town, when I was younger than my son and discovering this music.  I probably ordered the album from Columbia House Record Club and if they were still around, would still owe them money. But, I still have it, and so does Bruce. He effortlessly wove guitar, harmonic, and his impassioned voice together to wring soul out of every word and note, beautifully.

Each song was its own highlight, really, but by mid-set, I felt something odd about the performance, as if Springsteen was a bit constrained in his chosen setting. Doing eight months of the same songs every night, with close to the same dialogue, had to be wearing on him.  While the consummate professional taking good care of his audience, I imagined a slight tension in the air, as if the Boss was itching to pepper in some E Street Band drop a song he’d never played, add a deep cut cover from a favorite soul record, and simply throw caution to the wind.

Midway through the Broadway show, Springsteen typically brings on his wife and background singer Patti Scialfa to do two tunes from his “relationship” album, Tunnel of Love.  But, on this night, our night, we were informed she was sick at home with a stomach flu, and regrettably, couldn’t make it. Sent her love. Awww said the audience. But, necessity is the mother of invention and while we all sent our love back, even Bruce would tell you that good art is often born of accidents. And so, he veered from the script.

A sweet narrative about coming to terms with his father and the chain of parenthood was followed by a spontaneous “Long Time Coming,” and his prayer that “if I had one wish in this god forsaken world, kids, it’d be that your mistakes would be your own.” The words had personal, societal, and communal relevance. To tie the personal to the political, which it always is, Springsteen followed with an impassioned social justice narrative that called attention to our dark times and the hope that our better angels would prevail, a call to action that was appropriately punctuated by the Guthrie and Steinbeck inspired “Ghost of Tom Joad.” Come on up for the rising and the Broadway walls were coming down. The rest of the set was excellent, and Springsteen thanked and blessed the audience with grace and humility, closing “Born to Run,” the lights came up and the audience snapped their curtain call photos.

“You’re a beautiful audience,” sayeth the Boss. “You’re so good, you get the first encore ever…Feel free to take a picture.” Grinning ear to ear as people rose, snapped and clapped, Springsteen launched into the run’s first encore, “This Hard Land.”

Earlier in the weekend, I’d taken my son to the crown of the Statue of Liberty, on his request 354 steps, round and round all the way to the top. I’d visited the Lady before, but it never gets old to me, every time I shed tears when the boat approaches the island, as I’m reminded of the best of what this country offers, the reason why my grandparents came to make their way and the hope that somehow, I can better our generational path forward, for the sake of my son and all that will follow. Walking through the great hall of Ellis Island, I was reminded of the vast and innumerable contributions of immigrants to our nation, to the arts, culture, science, politics, and the backbreaking hard work that no one wants to do, particularly after they climb a few rungs on the ladder. And, it was very relevant today, in the context of the dark times to which Bruce referred.

Before my father passed, he gave me a copy of the manifest of the Steamship Edam, which left Amsterdam for New York, carrying his father (who was three at the time) and his parents, Tjerk and Neeltje Hoekstra, who were 34 and 28 years old, respectively. It arrived May 13, 1889. Actually, my grandfather and great grandfather were both named Tjerk, but family lore has it that my grandfather changed his name to Alfred on the bequest of his wife, who said she liked the name, it was more American, and no one wanted to know him as a jerk. Since Ellis Island facilities weren’t built yet, they would’ve landed on shore, at Castle Clinton, where we picked up our tickets to sail. I wore my dad’s favorite hat on our visit and took a picture with Jude in front of the old stone entrance to Castle, the gateway to America for my ancestors. Great grandfather Tjerk’s marriage papers, which I discovered online, listed him as a laborer. Chucking it all for a new life, crossing into the unknown with courage and fortitude. Only three generations later and I’m high-stepping on Broadway. But, like the performer in front of me, I still think of myself as blue collar, and proud to be only second generation America.

“This Hard Land” was a joyous finale that brought all these thoughts together, Springsteen displaying a familiar spirit that lifted the house, and he intensity of the previous numbers. He blew harmonica as if his life depended on it.

“Hey Frank wont ya pack your bags and meet me tonight down at Liberty Hall; just one kiss from you my brother and we’ll ride until we fall.”

During the show, Springsteen spoke a lot about the souls of the departed, the presence of those ghosts in his life. What were the chances of us being there on that night, of all nights? Was my father with me? His father as well? Did his father pass by 48th Street on the way to Chicago? What would they think of all this?

“We’ll sleep in the fields. We’ll sleep by the rivers and in the morning. We’ll make a plan… if you can’t make it…”

The crowd waited for the tagline and the Boss drove on with the bittersweet optimism that his best songs carry, singing as if to me, my son, those around us, and himself. The lights were up and again, I glanced at Jude and captured another moment for the books. If you collect enough good moments, you have a good day. If you collect enough good days, you have a good week. And, so on, until you have a good life. And, then you sleep well at night.

“Stay hard, stay hungry, stay alive, if you can – and meet me in a dream of this hard land.”

Thanks Bruce for the reminder. 

brucespringsteen.net/broadway

doughoekstra.wordpress.com

 

Categories
Features

Norway Calling

Norway Calling

Hot Jazz from a Cool Country

There is a thriving jazz scene in Norway. The Nordic country has a rich, if relatively recent, tradition of jazz innovation. In the ’70s saxophonist Jan Garbarek emerged with an icy cool tone that merged jazz improvisation with a chamber music sensibility. At the same time, guitarist Terje Rypdal was forging hybrids of acid rock with free improvisation. From these beginnings, a vital scene has emerged based on an obsession with innovation and generous funding from government arts programs.

In a 2013 story for NPR, Michelle Mercer explained that the country’s young improvised music scene favors the wild flights of fancy over traditional repertory bands. While a Miles Davis tribute band may be able to get festival gigs and bookings in the US, in Norway the attitude is, ‘Why should we do that? There’s enough of that.'” So it’s not surprising that the new music from Norway may draw on Black Sabbath or King Crimson as much as on Monk or Coltrane. In this article, I will be looking at three recent albums by Norwegian artists who embody this spirit of innovation in improvised music.

Cortex

Avant-Garde Party Music

Clean Feed


Cortex fits most easily in the US jazz tradition. The quartet led by trumpeter Thomas Johansson draws clear inspiration from the sparring between Ornette Coleman and Don Cherry. The music is a rollicking celebration of classic free jazz. Kristoffer Berre Alberts sax solos evoke the squall of Peter Brotzmann as well as the melodicism of Coleman. The tune “Chaos” is appropriately named. Ola Hoyer (bass) and Gard Nilssen (drums) lay down a runaway train rhythm with the trumpet and sax scrabbling shards of melody over the top. “(If You Were) Mac Davis” imagines the American pop singer as an unhinged Dizzy Gillespie being chased by Neil Peart.

Elephant9

Greatest Show On Earth

Rune Grammofon

Elephant9 take things in a different direction. The band has developed a huge following in Norway, often showing up on lists of the country’s best live acts and consistently selling out 1000 seat theaters. That’s no small feat for an instrumental band anywhere. The group features Stale Storlokken on a variety of keyboard instruments with Nilolai Haengsle on bass and Torstein Lofthus on drums. Elephant9’s music is rooted in jazz improvisation, but they draw on a wider color pallet that includes serious contributions from the prog rock tradition.

Greatest Show On Earth opens with a moody bit of music that sounds a bit like Brian Eno scoring a film noir soundtrack. Just when you’re starting to settle into a reflective mood, “Actionpack 1” takes off like a spooked racehorse channeling an early King Crimson vibe. “Farmer’s Secret” goes off in Emerson, Lake and Palmer territory with distorted organ riffing and bluesy bass lines. “Freaks” closes the set with a slowly mutating melody that is carried along by a rolling bass line and circular drumming. Greatest Show on Earth breathes life into sounds that have almost become cliché in a rock setting, yet work surprisingly well in this Nordic jazz setting.

Fire!

The Hands

Rune Grammofon

The Hands is by a trio of Swedes called Fire!. They are unmistakably a jazz band with Mats Gustafsson’s wailing sax being the lead instrument. Like Elephant9, they draw heavily from the rock and roll for inspiration. The guys in Fire! have obviously spent a lot of time listening to head banging tunes. What makes the band unique is the slow grinding bass lines of Johan Berthling. It’s the rock solid bottom around which his collaborators build their walls of sound.

“When Her Lips Collapsed” limps along on a slow, sludgy bass throb that would make Geezer Butler proud. Gustafsson’s soloing over the top takes Jimi Hendrix full circle; a sax player emulating a guitar player trying to play like John Coltrane. “Washing Your Heart in Filth” is a showcase for Andreas Werlin’s frenetic stick work. “To Shave The Leaves, in Red, in Black” finds bass and horns marching to the gallows with the colors coming from live electronics and feedback. The closing track, “I Guard Her to Rest, Declaring Silence”, is the most classically jazz sounding tune on the disc with a meditative tone reminiscent of David Holland.

Whether you want to call this music jazz, improvised composition or rock and roll doesn’t really matter. Labels just help us describe things. What is inspiring is that musicians are taking chances and taking inspiration from wherever it comes from and turning them into exciting tunes. It’s also inspiring to know that there are governments that value the arts and support creativity.

(I did say I was going to talk about three Norwegian bands. Fire! are from Sweden, but The Hands was released on a Norwegian record label, so close enough.)

cleanfeed-records.com
www.runegrammofon.com

Categories
Features

Year in Slack!

Year in Slack!

Even though I reviewed around 60 titles this year, doesn’t mean I got to write-up all the great stuff I heard over the last 12 months. So, here’s a few I didn’t get a chance to cover.

• •

Porter & The Bluebonnet Rattlesnakes

Don’t Go Baby It’s Gonna Get Weird Without You

Cornelius Chapel Records

This should have been the year Alabama native Chris Porter made a name for himself, but tragically, he died in a wreck on the highway in October of 2016. Porter, who founded such groups as Back Row Baptists and Some Dark Holler bashed out Don’t Go Baby It’s Gonna Get Weird Without You in four days. With Centro-matic’s Will Johnson producing and drumming, Drive-By-Trucker alum Shonna Tucker on bass and John Calvin Abney on guitar, the album is a rowdy slice of life with moments such as “Stoned In Traffic” and “Shit Got Dark”, now a bitter-sweet memoriam to a talent snuffed out too early.

• •

Margo Price

All American Made

Third Man Records

Margo Price’s first record, Midwest Farmers Daughter caught the ear of any self-respecting country fan, as well it should. Sounding – both in voice and attitude – much like Loretta Lynn, Price turns her songwriting prowess to matters of state on All American Made. From “Weakness” to a Willie Nelson duet on “Learning to Lose” and the riveting title cut, this headstrong East Tennessean takes no crap.

• •

Brian Eno

Here Come The Warm Jets, Taking Tiger Mountain By Strategy, Before and After Science

Virgin/UMC

I get tons of promo emails, and I generally toss 99.9% of ’em. But when I got the press release of yet another Eno reissue series I figured what the heck, go ahead and request them. Well, I must have been living right, because I got 3 of the 4 titles, and these aren’t run of the mill CDs. Nope, these are 45 RPM, 180 gram LPs mastered by Abbey Road. Finally, a presentation worthy of the material. They sound flawless, with an almost 3D stereo image. And the albums? Only some of the most adventurous works of art ever released, in the definitive editions. Worth picking up a turntable just to experience the mind-melting “King’s Lead Hat”.

• •

John Moreland

Big Bad Luv

4AD

Big Bad Luv is the Oklahoma-born Moreland’s fourth major release, and it continues his string of “songs to make you cry”. From the rollicking “Sallisaw Blue” to heart-breaking “Lies I Chose to Believe”, Moreland reminds you of fellow Okie J.J. Cale on some cuts, or a red-dirt Elliot Smith on others. He’s got something rare and true.

• •

James Elkington

Wintres Woma

Paradise of Bachelors

James Elkington is one of those six-string wunderkinds, but like a Bert Jansch or Richard Thompson, (who he’s played with), Elkington writes actual songs, not just 3 minutes of fretboard fury. Wintres Woma sounds as if Pentangle went indie rock with moments such as “Make It Up” and “Any Afternoon”. Pick it up for the dazzling guitar work, but play it again for the 11 cuts of great songwriting.

Categories
Features

Year in Review

Year in Review

As the year winds down and I spy the pile of quality music that I did NOT get a chance to review, I am (sorta) making up for it with these short synopses of some worthy releases. So many great records dropped and although I did not get to write full pieces, they warrant honorable mention at the very least. Stocking stuffer fodder, for sure!

• •

Ronnie Baker Brooks

Times Have Changed

Provogue/Mascot Label Group

Chicago blues with a healthy splash of R&B are at their finest on this eleven-song release recorded in 2013, five of which are originals penned by Brooks. Produced by Steve Jordan and featuring a myriad of guests including Steve Cropper, “Big Head” Todd Mohr, Angie Stone, Al Kapone, Felix Cavaliere, Lee Roy Parnell, the late Bobby “Blue” Bland, and Brooks’ blues-legend father, Lonnie Brooks, who died earlier this year, the blues don’t get any tighter than this. But the R&B side shines as well. The Curtis Mayfield cover “Give Me Your Love” oozes sensuality with Stone sharing vocals, while the Robert Cray/Eric Clapton-penned “Old Love” gets a fresh take with Bland on lead vocals. Co-written with Brooks, Keb’ Mo’ and Kevin So, “Wham Bam Thank You Sam” is vintage Keb’ – one listen and it screams Keb’ Mo’. The poignant ballad, “When I Was We,” tears at the heartstrings and features lovely strings accompaniment. Brooks has really put forth a winner with this one, his first record in ten years.

• •

Lee Roy Parnell

Midnight Believer

Vector Records

Singer/songwriter/guitarist, Lee Roy Parnell, wears many different hats. As one of the premier slide players in the music biz (and also one of the most underrated) his sound ranges from full-on Delta blues to Texas swing to soul to country to gospel to adult contemporary. This record, his long-awaited follow-up to the stellar Back to the Well (2006), once again offers a more vulnerable, reflective side of Parnell on most of the ten tracks co-written with Greg Barnhill, and the result is nothing short of brilliant. Long-time collaborators including Kevin McKendree (keys), Steve Mackey (bass) and Lynn Williams (drums), among others, and vocalist phenom/good friend Etta Britt (backing vocals) all lend their extraordinary talent to this beautiful collective. Standout pieces include “Hours In Between,” the blues-drenched title track, “Midnight Believer,” “Want Whatcha’ Have,” “Sunny Days” (backed by The Fairfield Four), the groovy “Tied Up And Tangled” and the moving closer, “Some Time Ago.” After an eleven-year hiatus, Parnell has returned with a winning album.

• •

Black Country Communion

BCCIV

Mascot Label Group

The latest release from the supergroup, produced by Kevin Shirley, kicks major ass and rock fans worldwide can rejoice in the mighty sound of Black Country Communion. The four-member band, with its Led Zeppelin/Deep Purple/Black Sabbath-inspired flavors includes former Deep Purple/Black Sabbath member Glenn Hughes on bass/vocals, Joe Bonamassa on guitar /vocals, Jason Bonham on drums/vocals and Derek Sherinian on keys. Opener “Collide” is Sabbath-influenced as opposed to “Sway” and “Love Remains,” which are pure Zep. “The Cove” touts an uber bluesy tint with a rock edge and “Wanderlust” nicely features each musician. The crowning jewel, though, is the epic “The Last Song For My Resting Place,” with its progressive sound and Celtic vibe supported by Bonamassa’s unrivaled guitar and Gerry O’Connor’s fiddle. The five-year break of this behemoth mega-group was well worth the wait.

• •

Royal Johnson

Howlin’

Georgia-based Royal Johnson has gone through several lineup changes, even since the release of this record, but the killer guitar duo/writing combo of Andy Johnson and Chance Royal has remained the one constant. Tightly produced by industry icon, Paul Hornsby who also played piano, Wurlitzer and Hammond B3, the album additionally includes bassist Kevin Vines and drummer Joanie Ferguson (who have since left the group but both did co-write some of the songs). Six of the eight cuts are originals, with an outstanding Willie Dixon cover, “Howlin’ For My Darlin'” and a wicked version of Jackie Avery’s “Voodoo In You.” The harmonica sounds of Bennie Mobley add an authentic touch to the blues groove and a lengthy list of backup singers including the fabulous E.G. Kight round out the sound. The Sly and The Family Stone-esque “Swim” and “Hot Pants Sally” feature fabulous yet understated horns while “Liquored Up,” with a decidedly “Statesboro Blues” flair and Mobley’s harp accents, will get you moving. The biggest surprise was the instrumental “Snipe Shoals,” which at moments smacks of Metallica’s “One.” Another real standout track is “Aisling,” a true ear worm. With the guidance of Hornsby’s vast experience, this gem of a record is about as solid as it gets and a credible follow-up to the band’s late 2015 debut release, Belly Up.

• •

Otis

Eyes Of The Sun

Purple Pyramid Records/Cleopatra Records

When you have the likes of Greg Martin (Kentucky Headhunters), Billy Gibbons (ZZ Top) and Paul Nelson (Johnny Winter) on your team, you must be damn good. That’s exactly the case with Otis, a four-piece band who recently signed with Cleopatra Records, and deservedly so. Singer/guitarists Boone Froggett and Steve Jewell along with bassist/vocalist John Seeley and drummer/vocalist Andrew Gilpin round out the lineup of one of the hottest up-and-coming blues/rock bands on today’s music scene. And they have the chops to back it up. In 2014, the boys paid homage to the late, great John Brim with a mind-blowing tribute record, Tough Times, and it was only a matter of time before they would land on a label. Gleaning their sound from Muddy Waters, The Allman Brothers Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Wet Willie and a swirl of Southern rockers, the boys from Central Kentucky have created their own hard, tight blues-soaked rock sound. Co-produced by the band and David Barrick, and executive produced by Paul Nelson (who also plays guitar on the ZZ Top-ish “Lovin’ Man”), ten of the eleven cuts are Otis originals. The phenomenal Eddie Stone offers Hammond B3 accents on “Shake You,” “Turn To Stone” and “Chasing The Sun,” while the instrumental “Relief In C” with Danny Williams’ mandolin accompaniment hearkens back to the Lennon/McCartney gem, “Norwegian Wood.” Froggett’s gravelly vocals are the ideal complement to the band’s Southern rock leanings. Their one cover on the record, Cowboy Joe Babcock’s “I Washed My Hands In Muddy Waters” (Washed My Hands), famously recorded by Stonewall Jackson, Johnny Rivers, Charlie Rich and Elvis Presley, is reinterpreted by the band to become totally their own with a hard blues/rock edge. Keep an eye on this band because they are the real deal.

Categories
Features

Ain’t Nobody Got Time For That…

Ain’t Nobody Got Time For That…

Brief looks at new releases, ’cause ain’t nobody got time in this heat for more!

• •

Beoga

Before We Change Our Mind

New Folk Records www.beogamusic.com/

Beoga (Lively in Irish Gaelic) are steeped in the musical traditions of Ireland. The music they play sounds fresh while also tapping into the timeless traditions of the Emerald Isle. Most of the tunes on Before We Change Our Mind are fiddle and accordion-driven instrumentals. Fiddler Niamh Dunne sings on four songs. She is equally at home on the rousing traditional tune, “The Bonny Ship”, “The Diamond” and the contemporary number “Like a Dime”. With a band like Beoga at work, I’m glad to say the traditions may mutate a bit, but they’re not going to fade away.

• •

Hite

Light of a Strange Day

Six Degrees Records www.heyhite.com

Julia Esterlin is a multi-instrumentalist and producer who made her reputation building loop-based compositions. Her last release was a collaboration with Malian guitarist Vieux Farka Toure. As Hite, Esterlin creates quiet, chamber pop meditations that sublimate her experimenter past. I would not be surprised if I tuned into the revived Twin Peaks and saw Hite as the house band at Agent Dale Cooper’s favorite martini bar.

• •

Dawn Oberg

Nothing Rhymes with Orange

Blossom Theory Records //store.cdbaby.com/Artist/DawnOberg

Dawn Oberg serves up coffee house quips for the politically frustrated with a 3-song EP entitled Nothing Rhymes with Orange – the color orange now notoriously bound to the spray-on skin tone of America’s 45th President. The music is rather pop-folk bland, even if well produced, and the lyrics sometimes overplays its hand on the metaphors (e.g.: skip the “four horsemen” imagery and just tell us it’s apocalyptic). These songs are however a genuine personal and heartfelt reach out to those who feel shocked and powerless against what they feel is a country’s shift towards intolerance and isolationism.

Those already moved past the anger and on to depression or resignation, or just wanting to to take a break from the abyss of politics, hearing reminders of what’s ahead until 2020, might find this a bit too much. Nevertheless, if you do find yourself having a second or third wind at activism and change, grab a copy of this and bring it to your next protest rally.

• •

Categories
Features

A Decade in the Rearview

A Decade in the Rearview

Celebrating 10 Years with Ink 19

Seems like just yesterday – that sticky summer of 2007. The bulk of my portfolio at the time consisted primarily of poorly-written puff pieces published in my hometown’s entertainment print publication. Print publication – hilarious! However, my comfort zone was expanding, from mainly local CD reviews to meatier features, including rock star interviews. And I was seeking earnestly a more attractive creative platform.

I reached out to my longtime friend, acclaimed “Rock Critic at Large,” Gail Worley. In those days, Gail was a major contributor to the wildly popular online entertainment news source, Ink 19 – a magazine I’d been reading since it too was a print publication back in the 1990s. As a personal favor, Gail reached out on my behalf to Ian Koss, another of my longtime cronies who just happened to also own Ink 19. In short order, I was brought on board as a contributing writer. My July 18, 2007 debut feature was a record review of Sir Paul McCartney’s latest, Memory Almost Full. It wasn’t Gail-caliber work, but looking back ten years later, I still think it’s a snappy little piece.

Me and Ink 19 writer, Michelle Wilson, backstage with Chicago - Melbourne, FL (2013)

Me and Ink 19 writer, Michelle Wilson, backstage with Chicago – Melbourne, FL (2013)

Before long, I was reviewing a number of record releases for Ink 19 from an array of artists, including Kings of Leon, Britney Spears, Frank Sinatra and Poison. Apparently having taken on more than I could chew, I recall receiving an email early on from one of the magazine’s “concerned” music editors, suggesting that I may or may not have been an unreliable douche for failing to deliver work in a timely fashion – if at all. I appreciated his forthright approach, and I learned to step up my game – clearly, people were now counting on me.

I became quite experienced at proper Will Call decorum, as events editor, Jen Cray soon began sending me out to cover a host of live concerts from the likes of Bryan Adams, Three Doors Down, Butch Walker and Fall Out Boy. Over the last decade, I’ve also let Jen down consistently, however, she’s never called me an “unreliable douche.” In fact, Jen has been a great friend and constant source of encouragement – not only in terms of my writing, but also regarding my typically subpar concert photography.

Truth be told, things have gotten a little bumpy for me along the way, but my Ink 19 colleagues have always supported me – sometimes through exercising “tough love.” When my first book was published in 2010, I was attacked and ridiculed unmercifully by dopey rock stars and their delusional fans for having written what one critic referred to as “a total piece of shit.” The experience nearly crushed my passion for writing completely. In fact, I’d been shaken to such an extent, I began advancing all of my Ink 19 work to Gail for her approval prior to submitting any of it to the magazine. After a while, she finally reamed me out – indicating how my newfound lack of confidence was shamefully unbecoming. In short order, I put my “big boy pants” back on – I hit the ground running, and I’ve not looked back since. I now have three books currently in publication, with a fourth in development. I have Gail to thank for restoring my “mo,” and Jen to thank for setting up my first-ever in-store book signing appearance.

Backstage on the hottest day with the coolest chick; Bad Cop / Bad Cop bassist Linh Le - Atlanta, GA (2017)

Vance Cannon
Backstage on the hottest day with the coolest chick; Bad Cop / Bad Cop bassist Linh Le – Atlanta, GA (2017)

Props are also owed to editor, James Mann. His thorough daily online updates keep me informed (as if I’d ever actually know what’s happening on my own). Early bird email conversations regarding our passions for traditional country music and obsessions with classic rock guitarists provide engaging frequent backdrops to my morning coffee experiences.

I’m eternally grateful to Gail Worley for making that call back in ’07, and to Ian Koss for allowing me to stick around for the last decade. The opportunities I continue to enjoy keep me in the loop, on the go, and (hopefully) at the top of my game.

So, here’s to my next ten years at Ink 19 – a continued, diligent mission – pursuing often elusive, but always compelling rock and roll stories. Cheers!

Onstage with legendary drummer Mick Fleetwood - Orlando, FL (2015)

Onstage with legendary drummer Mick Fleetwood – Orlando, FL (2015)

christopherlongshowbizguru.blogspot.com

Categories
Features

It’s Happening Again – The Return of Twin Peaks

It’s Happening Again – The Return of Twin Peaks

For twenty five years, time stood still for millions all over the world.

People were stuck in their thoughts, theories and passions for characters that felt like family who lived in a town that felt like home. For many, it was a catastrophic event when ABC cancelled Twin Peaks on June 10, 1991.

With a two-paragraph announcement in newspapers, the place both strange and wonderful ceased to exist. The Log Lady’s log stopped communicating. Special Agent Dale Cooper stopped investigating. Leland Palmer stopped singing. Audrey Horne stopped vamping and worst of all, of our dearly beloved Laura Palmer, whose life tragically ended in the first episode of the now iconic Twin Peaks was stuck in the Black Lodge – for 25 years.

As time passed, the real-life actors who played Pete Martell, BOB, the Man From Another Place, Major Briggs and others passed away. They were gone (for reals) and further highlighted the great divide between reality and series television. Die hard fans remembered that Laura whispered (backwards, of course) that she would see Agent Dale Cooper again in 25 years – and they waited.

Then it happened. Twin Peaks co-creators David Lynch and Mark Frost jointly tweeted the single phrase “That gum you like is coming back in style,” and by comparison, Twin Peaks fans globally made the celebration of the Whos in Whoville seem amateurish, small and uninspired. Lynch, who masterminded, thought provoking, art-inspired and gut-wrenching avant-garde films like Eraserhead, Blue Velvet, Mulholland Drive and the Twin Peaks prequel Fire Walk With Me, followed up his stunning tweet with words that buckled knees from Missoula to Moscow, “It’s Happening Again.”

Instead of the pablum and vanilla safe space of America network television, Twin Peaks would get its reboot on Showtime which instantly promised a continuation the way the story was meant to be told – raw, violent and rated R.

Peakers (the preferred term of Twin Peaks enthusiasts) were always bothered by the PG-rated telling on ABC. While there was plenty of story, trademark staples from other Lynch masterpieces were missing. Seasons one and two lacked a gritty, dirty fingernailed, stomach turning story that Lynch usually serves. His majesty had been hamstrung by network censors who were quick with edit notes and demanded jump-cuts that turned Twin Peaks into a swirling stew of soap-opera, comedy and murder-mystery. Even under the tame and timid watchful eye of American censors, for the nearly two years the show managed to dominate entertainment media and its stars were on every chat show and magazine cover imaginable – until the weren’t, thanks to June 10, 1991.

The question of the day back on April 8, 1990 was “Who Killed Laura Palmer?” and everyone had their theory. Lynch and Frost introduced us to a storytelling orgy and we were slurping it through a straw like a fully iced Coke after mowing a summer lawn. We just couldn’t get enough.

When the sentence (take a breath and repeat it again), “That gum you like is coming back in style” were tweeted and retweeted, Peakers from all over the world awakened like vampires and started assembling. A Facebook group called Twin Peaks 2017 was quickly organized and found itself with 10,000 members within a few weeks after launch and is approaching 30,000 members eight weeks into the show.

Twin Peaks (2017) Facebook Group

Jeff Kinney
Twin Peaks (2017) Facebook Group

 

To prepare for the debut of season three on Showtime, Peakers shared their stories about what life had been like for the last quarter century and how they had fared without Deputy Andy, Gordon Cole and Annie. They posted production rumors and wrote loving tributes about how much they missed The Giant, Ed and Nadeen and Ms. Trumaine and her grandson. Twin Peaks folklore, artifacts and memorabilia were all brought out of mothballs from a day when Paula Abdul ruled the music charts, Sean Connery was hunting for a red October and the tiny town of Twin Peaks was the most important hamlet in the whole wide world.

The Start – Wrapped in Plastic:

To appreciate Twin Peaks, its revival and the euphoria enveloping the reboot like a slow, thick Washington state fog rolling over the towering spruce and sycamore trees, you have to understand its roots. You need to go back to the beginning.

All the way back to the first episode when Pete Martell (Jack Nance), who ran the family’s saw mill, went fishing one morning and discovered a body, covered with a plastic tarp on the beach. He hustled to the phone and called Sheriff Harry S. Truman (Michael Ontkean), not the president, but the cop, and uttered these never-to-be-forgotten words over the telephone – “Sheriff, come quick. She’s dead….wrapped in plastic.”

She's Dead...Wrapped in Plastic

She’s Dead…Wrapped in Plastic

 

One minute you are in a cozy kitchen with a steaming cup of coffee and the next you are on a chilly rocky beach under slate gray skies hovered over the body of a young nude girl, covered neatly in plastic. World, meet Laura Palmer, the center of the Twin Peaks universe.

All Those Secrets:

Enter Special Agent Dale Cooper, the crackerjack FBI agent, who was assigned to the case because it had the eerie connection of a murder in a neighboring town. Months before, Theresa Banks, a high school troubled girl, had died in a similar way and it looked like the killer left his calling card under Laura’s fingernail. Now, every one of us knew this was bigger than any of us.

During the first few weeks of the show we learn that she volunteered with Meals on Wheels, tutored Billy Horne, the autistic brother of her rival Audrey. She was the Homecoming Queen, girlfriend to Bobby, a loving daughter, and a trusting friend to Donna. She was gone forever and we needed to know which bastard took this lovely angel from our bosom and we demanded to know why.

In addition to her many good deeds, with every weekly probe, a darker side of Laura emerged. We learned that she hooked at a nearby brothel called One-Eyed Jack’s. Her list of “boyfriends” grew by the week. Not only was she seeing Bobby, the high school football hero, but she was also involved with James Hurley, the biker; Jaques Renault, the bartender at One-Eyed Jacks; countless other johns, and more than likely, Ben Horne, the father of the autistic boy Laura tutored.

As the weeks unfolded, and with Special Agent Dale Cooper hot on the trail of the killer, we found out that our Laura, our sweet angel who had been ripped from us in the most unimaginable way, had another life – one filled with secrets.

It’s All About Laura:

To understand Twin Peaks then and now is to accept that Laura Palmer is central to everything and everyone in this story. She connects all characters in a way that makes them impossible to exist without her. There are many characters in the series, but we would never know about a single one of them if Laura Palmer’s dead, plastic wrapped body hadn’t washed up on that beach.

Laura Palmer is to the town of Twin Peaks what Saint Theresa is to the poor of Calcutta. She is revered, admired, longed after and loved. She is the DNA of Twin Peaks.

The Fans:

Not since the original Star Trek (NBC) has one television series given birth to such a rabid fan base. As the years passed new Twin Peaks babies came out of delivery rooms everywhere. They were the brothers, sisters, sons and daughters of original Peakers and began watching reruns of the original episodes through streaming services like YouTube and Netflix. They collected their memorabilia and held on to it like hoarders with prized possessions. They kept hoping for that fateful day when we learned our favorite gum was coming back into style.

When the Showtime promotion machine started, it was centered around two main elements. The first was Laura’s lovely Homecoming Queen portrait photo and the second was the chilling phrase “It’s Happening Again.” There were billboards in Times Square, Entertainment Weekly magazine covers, a poster of the old cast positioned like the Last Supper, with Lynch in the center like Jesus. There were festivals, and those incredible Showtime promos that put you in the center of it all.

There was also the artwork. Spoke Gallery on the lower east side of New York produced In Dreams, an Art Show Tribute to David Lynch that would conclude only weeks before the relaunch of the new show. Spoke invited 80 artists, using the materials and mediums of their choice, to produce artwork to honor Mr. Lynch. The majority of the art was Twin Peaks themed and the wildly successful show produced so many red dots under the art that the wall looked like it was covered in measles. They even recreated a corner of the beautiful red draped and striped floor of Black Lodge in the corner of the gallery so enthusiasts could get the full experience.

Fans were asked on Facebook’s Twin Peaks 2017 group site if they had ever done anything irrational to incorporate the show into their daily lives. The answers were as humorous as they were shocking, largely because fans obviously were carrying a torch for a show that hadn’t produced a new episode in 25 years. Patrick Hook of Seattle, WA shared that “I have the ‘Missing Laura Palmer’ tee and have had 30 minute conversations with people at the grocery store about how I wish we could find my missing cousin.” He opined that she was lost in the woods and even had one woman asked to donate to a fund to help find Laura Palmer.

Massimiliano Lucania of Lombardy Italy has had Laura Palmer’s high school graduation picture on a shelf in his living room – for years. So does Lizi Disney of North Dakota. Susan Taylor has Laura’s picture on her piano and is amazed at how much attention it attracts. Nicole Majewski of Niagra Falls, New York made Laura Palmer earrings to wear, regularly. Eric Lee Shoemaker has the key tag for room 315 of the Great Northern Lodge (Special Agent Dale Cooper’s Room) on his key chain. When asked why he has it, he tells people that it reminds him of the trip that was both “Strange and Wonderful.”

So dedicated to the memory of Laura, Devon Poole created a Laura Palmer night light for sale from his Etsy site kitschculturecanada. Lin Hendler of Los Angeles, CA owns one. John Joseph Tashjy, a confirmed Buddhist, sewed the Bookhouse Boys logo into his favorite jacket because it promotes peace, collaboration and harmony in life.

Patrick Jacobs of Las Vegas, NV recreated his bedroom to resemble the Black Lodge, which is where Twin Peaks characters go after they die or until the pass into the White Lodge. The Black Lodge is adorned with deep red curtains in several rooms, leather chair, a bone-white stature of the Venus DeMilo and a floor with a chevron striped pattern that is unforgettable. Patrick lies his head down in his very on Black Lodge every night.

Season 3 – A Recap, So Far:

Eight weeks into an 18-week new season and the critics are already on the warpath. They write that Twin Peaks season three is too disjointed, with too many characters and plot lines. They say there are new locations outside of Twin Peaks, WA and the corresponding stories have no link. However, those on Facebook’s Twin Peaks 2017 Group, laugh and shake their heads knowing that these critics are obviously not schooled in the fine art of David Lynch and Mark Frost storytelling.

The grit and gore factor have been amped way up from the original two seasons. For example, in one scene, police are investigating a murder victim and find a woman’s severed head positioned on a bed slightly above an overweight man’s nude body in bed. It is visually horrifying, but if the viewer steps back for a moment, they are left to ponder the thought that 1) there is a woman with a severed head and a missing body 2) there is a man with a body and a missing severed head.

In the first few weeks of the show Lynch/Frost are painstakingly connecting seasons one and two to the brand-new season three. It is slow, because it is supposed to be. Lynch is a plodder, paying meticulous detail to dialogue and often hiring seldom or never seen actors to play the parts. Sheryl Lee (who plays Laura Palmer) was hired straight out of community theater.

We were treated to one of the most beautiful moments in Twin Peaks’s history during season three. The Log Lady (Margaret Coulson) is on the phone with Deputy Hawk (Michael Horse). In real life, she had life-ending cancer and appeared on screen almost hairless, weak voiced, shaken, but urgently commanding the scene giving the Deputy invaluable information about where to look for answers. The advice, of course, came through her log. The scene was sad, alive, depressing and hopeful all at the same time. We later learned that Coulson passed away long before the shooting ever started for season three, so Lynch must have reached out to her very early on to get her scene shot and edited long before the world knew that the series would be happening again.

The Log Lady is dying

Showtime Networks, Inc.
The Log Lady is dying

 

Twin Peaks is easily a grand part of American television history, first on network television and now and premium cable. For some, it has taken up space in their lives for about 25 years. For others, it is a brand new. For all, it is a masterclass in storytelling and direction by David Lynch.

No matter what you’ve heard, it’s worth a watch. You can catch up with season one and two through Netflix or similar services and you can watch season three on Showtime or through Amazon Prime’s Showtime add-on.

It is the best way to fully understand why the nearly 30,000 Peakers in Facebook’s Twin Peaks 2017 group can’t let go and will never be able to say goodbye.

www.facebook.com/groups/twinpeaks2017 and www.sho.com/twin-peaks