It doesn’t seem seven years since Leonard Cohen’s last album because the man has spent the middle years of his 70s up to his wrinkles in a whole lot of activity including critically acclaimed concert tours that produced a plethora of CDs and DVDs and a No.1 hit single via the dubious conduit of X Factor winner Alexandra Burke!
The years between 2004's Dear Heather and his latest album Old Ideas have built Cohen’s status to a Zen guru presence. For weeks there has been anticipation about this new record not because the public is imagining some reinvention at the age of 77 but more that he is the closest thing rock music has to a spiritual sage and we are waiting for the wisdom he has to share.
Old Ideas is no disappointment for those looking for spiritual songs.
I have followed the Irish musician Peter Wilson’s (aka Duke Special) career from the very beginning, giving him one of his first radio sessions as Booley House way back in the day. I have watched the twists and turns of a determined young man seeking a way to fulfil his dreams for his art.
I remember him deciding that the piano was not the way to go and drawing a guitar band around him, renamed Benzine Headset. Then along came Coldplay and Wilson’s instrument was suddenly back in vogue and loads of bands improved because they gave the musically talented member who had been an add on out in the wings a more central position in writing and performance.
Wilson found his original vocation and genius and the piano became the focus. While watching him with the Ulster Orchestra recently, his piano and voice has never sounded more assured, more authoritative.
Oh Pioneer is being promoted as Duke Special’s third “commercial” release. Between it and his second “commercial” release he has produced five projects from theatre songs to a suite of songs on photographers to a short EP on Belfast’s great voice of the fifties Ruby Murray. His Dukeness seems a prolific young man who needs such projects to give his over imaginative mind room to play.
On the opening night of the second Wild Goose Festival late last month in Shakori Hills, N.C., the dancing hadn't started yet.
The fabulous parades and the frenzied-yet-friendly almost-moshing were yet to commence on the grassy playscape in front of the main stage. Before things got wild for us goslings, we had to unpack our musical expectations and pitch a tent large enough to welcome the broadest of folds.
Kicking things off was Josh Garrels, who brought his smoothly smoky-folky sound with its pleasant rasp that recalls adult-alternative icons like Ray LaMontagne and Amos Lee. Following Garrels, former frontman of the band Caedmon’s Call and current experimental multi-genre provocateur Derek Webb pushed at the already broad boundaries of the Wild Goose aesthetic.
With several funny, yet biting, remarks during his plenary setlist, Webb outright rejected the “Christian music” label and bathed our brains with songs such as “A New Law,” the 2005 sarcastic anthem where bold freedom and blind faith wrestle it out for the soul of contemporary Christendom. Webb threw down a gauntlet with lyrics such as, “don't teach me about loving my enemies/don't teach me how to listen to the Spirit/just give me a new law.”
But on Friday, with fiery folk rock a la R.E.M. or Wilco, Damion Suomi and the Minor Prophets fired back a response. “The Lion, The Ram & The Fish” served up an antidote as we negotiated our weekend-long truce in the culture wars with this refrain: “Love your God with your heart, love your neighbor as your own, and the rest is just a guess as good as mine.”
I lost my joy. I suspect there are a few of you who feel the same way. Not that you aren't happy, but there is this deep place of celebratory joy which you once knew that really doesn't come around much anymore.
There was a time when I was a pretty joyful guy. Not “blind to the world's problems” kind of joyful, just “blessed to be blessed in the midst of this mess” kind of joyful. Lately though, I've found joy to be an increasingly difficult thing to come by.
The thing is, I have every reason to be joyful. I'm lucky enough to be married to an amazing woman – truly amazing. I couldn't be prouder of my kids who, in an age of “be different just like us” are very much their own kind of different simply because they aren't afraid of being themselves. My personal interests, like my blog, just keep getting better. I have some of the best friends in the world. Yet, I'm not the generally joyful person I once was.
It's a dull malaise that I just can't quite shake. I don't like it. Not one bit.
Recently though, I've been catching little glimpses of my joy making cameo appearances in the storyline of my life. I like it. A lot.
The question is, why now? Why not back then?
When I heard Damion Suomi & The Minor Prophets for the first time, they were performing on the main stage at Wild Goose Festival 2012, opening up for established artists Jennifer Knapp and Phil Madeira. I had heard good things about them from my friend Todd Fadel, the music director for the festival, and I was not disappointed.
It was an experience I can only liken to hearing Bill Mallonee for the first time, performing with the Vigilantes of Love at Cornerstone Festival in 1992 (how can it be 20 years ago?!). Or hearing Steven Delopoulos for the first time, performing with Burlap to Cashmere. (In fact, Suomi's voice and The Minor Prophets folk-rock will no doubt get compared to Burlap, but don't be fooled, this is entirely new/different story!)
In both of those experiences, I immediately went out and purchased the CD (remember those?). Hearing Suomi and band was exactly the same. Product procured immediately following their set, I listened to their fantastic plastic musical disc Go, And Sell All Your Things all the way back home after the festival.
SHAKORI HILLS, N.C. — On a swelteringly hot solstice weekend in the southeast, a couple thousand folks gathered in the woods of North Carolina to get their collective goose cooked. An early summer camp like no other, this second annual festival invokes a Celtic image of the Holy Spirit and sparks unlikely convergences inside the great emergence of the contemporary Christian counterculture.
The Goose blends the best of an intellectually engaged faith conference and social justice activist base camp with the sonic frivolity of a modern rock festival and stirs all concepts and collapses all constructs in a steamy potluck stew of primal camp meeting and postmodern tent revival. Without a doubt, the blossoming and beckoning of the Wild Goose movement in North America heralds a bright radical future for today’s Jesus followers bringing the kingdom come.
A load of links to counter those mid-week blues ... a video of Wild Goose performers Damion Suomi and the Minor Prophets -- an Arrested Development art show -- Alec Baldwin interviewed by Terry Gross -- lists of summer music and movies to know -- the Bill Muarry coloring book (and baseball speech) -- Van Gogh recreated with dominoes -- The Avett Brothers, and more. Click through to today's Links of Awesomeness...
The girl with the mobile garden dress -- cover songs by Iron & Wine -- kid reacts to first sip of root beer -- art from wine stains -- and Conan teaches first-graders how to sing the Chicago blues. See these in today's Links of Awesomeness...
Editor's Note: This is the first post in a series called FIRSTS, where some of us take a look at classic works of art, music, film and literature for the first time. We hope that a fresh perspective on these influential pop-cultural artifacts will inspire discussion and interest that outlasts the shelf-life of daily reviews.
Townes Van Zandt
The Late Great Townes Van Zandt (1972)
Townes Van Zandt isn’t a songwriter I’ve heard many people praise (or even acknowledge, really.) But the few people I know who love him are folks with musical tastes I admire and respect.
One is my college roommate’s brother, who introduced both of us to the great Tom Waits during my junior year.
Another is a friend who’s always following a new dream, be it dropping out of school to travel, or finding work on farms and in coffee shops.
Both are people I’d describe as earthy and natural — devotees to folk tunes with lyrics that transcend contexts, offering timeless truths that smirk at popular culture’s music of cheap love and consumer-driven individuality.
So, this week I began listening to an album that my musical mentors hold dear — and one that I’ve never heard laid ears on before — Townes Van Zandt’s 1972 LP The Late Great Townes Van Zandt.
An award winning new short starring Kevin Spacey -- the most extroverted city in the U.S. -- Wilco releases free e-book -- The Daily Show's coverage of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee -- Jason Schwartzman and Jimmy Fallon's ode to a pepper. See these and more in today's Links of Awesomeness...
Novelists set down the typewriter and pick up the paintbrush -- cross stitching electrical circuts -- beautiful photos of colored ink underwater -- Improv Everywhere strikes again with a car alarm stunt -- Pulitzer-prize winning author Dave Eggers talks new novel. See these and more in Today's Links of Awesomeness...
A batch of the best new audio and visual stimulation. Roman Mars' podcast explores the craft of Trappist beer — nature-loving artist trades the electronic equipment for some earthy sounds — Andrew Bird's hit "Eyeoneye" gets the stop-motion video treatment -- the iconic walls of Sydney's Opera House are the backdrop for a new artful video projection — a Super Mario Brothers themed aquarium — summer rock vibes, and more. See today's Links of Awesomeness...
Politwoops presents deleted tweets from politicians -- bloopers from The Muppets -- crocheting massive portraits -- mashup of Men in Black III and Wes Anderson -- The Walkmen -- Rainn Wilson's airplane magazine article -- and Reggie Watts and Michael Cera improv a soul song about friendship and pie. See these and more on today's Links of Awesomeness...
Reggie Watts is a comedian and musician who has an intangible style. He mixes hip-hop vibes with stream of consciousness talking and singing. Part satire, part a capella, with plenty of wit and humor, he’s been delivering unique performances in this shock/awe improvisational manner for many years.
Listen to him shock the audience at a Ted Conference with a ten minute bit titled “Reggie Watts disorients you in the most entertaining way.”
Artists are telling it in their own words: through the airwaves, written on paper, on physical walls, etc. Our Friday links feature some notable creatives, new and old, expressing their craft at its finest. Fred Armisen -- The Burning House project -- Wes Anderson's music supervisor -- Banksy -- Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros and more! See today's Links of Awesomeness for more...
A Day of Video + Song: Pomplamoose pumps out a fun new tune -- upcoming song from Sigur Ros -- turkeys and dubstep -- stop motion paper cut-outs -- Saturday Night Live's "Lazy Sunday 2" -- and Will Smith rapping the Fresh Prince theme song. See these in today's Links of Awesomeness...