Sunday, September 16, 2012

Bob and Coal Porter

The "Coal Porters"
     No, that's not a typo. "The Coal Porters" is an indie-alternative-bluegrass band out of Britain that will knock your socks off. I have just come from a driveway moment this morning with an NPR interview and review of their latest album "Find the One" (to be released September 18) with so many good tracks, like their version of David Bowies' "Hero's" which takes this tune under my arm-pit and where I will proceed to give it a noogey (which I do to all good things).
     The use of dobro and auto-harp in strange places is terrific and with "1952 Vincent Black Lightning" guitarist Richard Thompson leading the way in "Hush You Babe" and another version ala the deep folds of the Appalaichan Mountain high lonesome sound of The Rolling Stones "Paint it Black", it will make you rethink acoustic music.
     It doesn't hurt that the producer is John Wood, the same guy who worked with "Fairpoint Convention", Cat Stevens, Nico, Squeeze and "Pink Floyd" and who's deft touch controls much of the steam this band can produce.
     With guest such as Thompson and sitarist Robert Elliot this is worth more then a listen or a casual flip through on iTunes.
Bob Dylan's latest change.
     Neil Herd, Sid Elliot, Carly Frey, John Breese and Tali Trow make "The Coal Porters" a truly uplifting experience to those jaded ex-folkster's from the UK and refugees from Harvard Square in 1962. Acoustic music has pushed the boundaries ahead and the detritus left behind is your own if you fail to keep up.
     Bob, remember him? He's the first name mentioned in this post.  Dylan has become over the years the master chameleon and guide to the roads less taken.  has done it again with "Tempest" his latest offering. I looked it up. He has 34 studio albums (read "cd's" for albums - yes I am, after all, a contemporary of Dylan) 58 singles, 14 live albums and 17 compilation albums. And not one of them sounds the same - even when he tried.
     As Garrison said last night on "PHC" it took years for him to get that old guy voice.Check out the latest Rolling Stone and his interview. The cover is worth the price of admission. The first words that come to mind on viewing is "Grand Old Man" of popular music.
     I have only hear bits and pieces of the disc, so more on that later.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Not Simone Enough

     The New York times grabbed my attention this morning, but not because of the recent unrest in the Middle East or the current crisis within the European Union. Or the toe to toe slugging match between Mitt and Obama, although I must say Romney has a remarkably accurate propensity for shooting himself in the foot.
     No. It was instead a little story on page seven of the arts section which caused my already unbalanced blood pressure to make a mild detour on my imaginary electrocardiograph.
     A new biopic chronicling the life of Nina Simone will star a young performer with impeccable credentials and acting chops named Zoe Salanda. You will recall her as "Uhura" in the latest re-telling of Star Trek and she has also been seen in "Pirates of the Caribbean" and "Avatar".
     The problem? Well, as activist and best selling author of "The Color Purple" Alice Walker has put it, this decision has re-ignited "colorism", her designation of discrimination based on gradations of color.
     As an over-weight white Anglo male living in the northeastern part of the United States, what I think about "gradations of color" does not really matter. I have never had to live with Jim Crow laws or had my life threatened because of my race.
     But I know one thing. I know the sound of Nina Simone's voice and her music cuts me to the quick.  And I also know her to be the very image of what whites considered a perfect example of the "negro race".
     Check out her song: "Mississippi". It stands head and shoulders above almost everything written by anyone about  discrimination - and it remains with "Strange Fruit." as one of most potent songs ever written.

     Every move of her head - shrouded with hair that many would consider "too short" and" too kinky" and every accusatory word that pours forth from those lips that many might consider "too big" bespeaks of a person who has caught the truth and will not let it go. In fact who would blame her if she beat it to death.
     But she would not. And them that would allow a woman, who is far lighter then Nina would, to play her  in an upcoming movies about her life should be ashamed and look a little further afield, for there are many actresses "of color" who could and should portray Nina Simone.
     Now some would say to me..."but George, come on, it's not the color. It's what she did - it's how she lived her life and banged those keys and sang in anger and justification that we should  be concerned with."
     But I say to you it is exactly that dark, dark color and those lips that sang, and those eyes that saw and those hands that attacked the key-board that should be celebrated, and not someone who fits into the sweet mold of light-skinned Hollywood's' interpretation of race.
     This is not a blog about acting, but about a word I used already.  That word is justification.
     Nina Simone was not a person who could instill peace of mind. She would not suffer fools gladly and her music always caught you off guard. Listen to her arrangement of  "Little Girl Blue". It will silence your soul.
     I hope that when the dust settles that the film story of Nina Simone will offer an actress of the deepest color and the deepest soul, for her life deserves that justification.