My Friend Rachel is SO Much More Talented Than I Could Hope To Be (or, two little poems set to music)

I received an amazing surprise from my dear friend Rachel Fogarty this weekend — she’s secretly been setting some of my poetry to music for a composition competition in San Francisco.  She and Kevin (earmuff pioneer, lover of tom grooves, equally amazing musician) showed up at our Christmas Open House this weekend with a release form and an embarrassed smile as she asked me to sign it — like I wasn’t going to be completely flattered that she had even THOUGHT of doing something like this.

Rachel’s graduate recital a few years ago was revelatory — having never heard her compositions before, I was totally floored at her talent and surprised that I hadn’t realized it sooner. It’s an honor that she’d even want to use my old dusty poems for her work.

Words and links to MP3 below. Continue reading My Friend Rachel is SO Much More Talented Than I Could Hope To Be (or, two little poems set to music)

HOLY SH*T I JUST MET ELVIS COSTELLO.

This was the text message I sent my wife and few other folks yesterday at about 12:13. I’m still sort of accepting the fact that this happened at all.

But first, the night before: Costello played an outstanding show at the Ryman. I dare to say you won’t find a more vital artist of his age than Costello — he still performs with more drive and focus than I see in some folks half his age. The setlist was fantastic: EVERY SONG from his new (very urgent, very immediate) album Momofuku, plus a smattering of gems from the back catalog. The highlights:

  • new tune “Flutter and Wow”, which could very well be among his finest songs ever
  • a jaw-dropping solo rendition of “Alison”
  • a very solid and fluid four-piece take on the slick production of “Everyday I Write the Book”
  • truly amazing vocal performance on “Either Side of the Same Town” from The Delivery Man
  • “Man Out of Time”
  • “Beyond Belief,” “Accidents Will Happen,” and “The Impostor”
  • A totally breakneck-paced version of “Radio, Radio”

My gripe: the crowd. Here’s this amazing, energetic set delivered by an absolute master who’s charming and talkative and generous enough to deliver 4 stellar encores, and the jaded mostly middle-age Nashville audience just sits there like they’re waiting for a Hot Pocket to come out of the microwave. I really hate when the Ryman audience sits through a rock show (you just can’t feel it the same way sitting down), but c’mon Alice — the least you can do is bob your head from time to time. I saw numerous people refuse to stand during the ovations, and about an eighth of the balcony left immediately before or after the first set. There was even a mad dash for the door after the first chorus of the closing rendition of “Peace, Love, and Understanding.” Look, I know you’re going to have to wait 5 more minutes to get your Yukon out of the parking lot if you leave with everybody else when the final note has been played, but what’s five minutes in exchange for showing an artist a little respect. I saw the same thing at R.E.M. three years ago, and even at the Tom Waits show a few years back. Bottom line: most of the time, I think Nashville doesn’t even deserve the moniker of “Music City”, because some of the quote-unquote music-lovers in this town are jaded idiots.

But put that aside. Elvis came to Grimey’s on Thursday.

Elvis Costello and the Grimey\'s StaffHonestly, I felt like a 10 year old girl. I was completely nervous in the hours before his arrival, all sweaty and listless, wandering the store aimlessly. When he arrived, we were ushered quickly to the side for group photos (sadly, no solo pic of Elvis and I in a bromancely embrace). During all of this, Elvis was looking around the store, making comments about the inventory. He made a great (and reverential) Prince joke, although I can’t remember what it was about. I felt like he was sort of shopping the whole time he was there, just looking around, connecting all this vast musical knowledge in his head.

We pretty quickly opened the door to let people in, so I stepped aside and helped keep the line in order. I stood about 12 feet or so away from Elvis while he talked to folks, and he was really charming, very witty, and very friendly to everyone. He told Grimey’s regular (and supreme vinyl collector) Joe Crook that he liked his Son House t-shirt, and I thought Joe’s head was going to explode. While there was a little lull in the line, Larry and I jumped over and introduced ourselves, shook his hand, and thanked him for being there, and it was pretry surreal and a little hazy, even in the moment it was happening.

When the line evaporated we closed the doors so Elvis could shop, and he spent a good 30 minutes going through the store, asking for recommendations from Doyle, and making requests. There were a few straggler customers still around, and he made some recommendations to them in passing, which was pretty much the coolest thing ever. He bought a box worth of stuff, said goodbye, and then took off in his bus.

So yeah, yesterday was one of the coolest and most surreal days ever.

Sidenote: if you haven’t heard Momofuku yet, go hear it. It benefits from a very immediate, almost tossed off vibe. Great songs played almost effortlessly from a very friendly genius of staggering proportions who wears a nice hat and a scarf in April.

Recommendation: Hotpipes — Future Bolt

Props to Nashville locals (and nice dudes) Hotpipes for just releasing another great record, Future Bolt — that’s two outstanding albums in two years, with each being a significant step forward from their previous work. This time around, they continue to do “bombast” better than most anybody, and they apply that sound to the sharpest set of songs they’ve written yet.  This one’s in heavy rotation right now.

Hear samples at  http://www.myspace.com/hotpipes 

Two Things Collide: My Love for Elvis Costello and Vinyl

Stereogum.com just reported that Elvis Costello’s new record — awesomely titled Momofuko — is coming out April 22nd. And get this: it’s not even going to be available on CD, but rather as vinyl-only with a free digital download.

This puts gas in my go-cart for three reasons:

  1. I admittedly have a man-crush on Elvis Costello. Seriously, it’s a completely hetero-obsession with his amazing body of work, his unique and surprisingly versatile voice, his genius songwriting, and his penchant for big glasses and looking totally cool while holding a guitar. His last record, The Delivery Man, is one of the most solid albums I’m aware of from an artist in his fourth decade of output, so I can’t wait to hear this followup.
  2. As a vinyl collector, this move is almost like EC writing me a letter and telling me how cool I am. Vinyl has become my format of choice, especially now that most labels are making free downloads available with vinyl purchases. It’s the best of both worlds — I get the warm, analog sound and the killer physical artifact, and a hassle-free digital version for flexible listening.
  3. This now means that April, the month of my birth, contains three of my most majorly anticipated releases: the new Elvis Costello, the new R.E.M., and the long-awaited (as in ten years) third record from Portishead.

EC is playing the Ryman on April 23. We have great seats, thanks to my wife — one of the best birthday presents ever. It will be my first time to see EC live with a band. (We saw him last year with the Nashville Symphony. Amazing, but I’m looking forward to seeing EC hold a guitar like a badass and hopefully play “Hope You’re Happy Now” or “Man Out of Time” or “Welcome to the Working Week”.)

“Coil”

One shoulder takes the weight
while the other rests in waiting
for the slow steady shift.

As midnight settles, a rusty halo
emerges around the Nashville skyline,
and the hour exchanges regret
for numb awareness and silver stillness.
There is the sound of the airport sleeping,
of Interstate 24 slowing its shuttle,
the dim arterial hum of a city in relief.

And there is the clock, aching to reset –
a muted shift of method from gear to rod,
pin to pendulum, pulpit to hand,
and again to a series of gears,
where the key is not and never was.
It divides by twelves and by sixty,
and rations to each arm
an emotion of precise mathematics –
driven, by design, to find an ending
and at once another stark beginning.

One shoulder shifts the weight to the other.
The coil builds tension, and aches for release.