Thursday, January 31, 2008

nina simone, big pink blankets, and OMG this tea smells awful

It's wintertime again, even though it never really wasn't except for briefly when we had a few of those taunting, 45 degree days with a breeze that smells of spring, and then it snowed and got cold again so that I'm back tripping out to my car maneuvering icy steps and trying not to drop the only warm thing in my house, a mug of tea, in the 19 degree morning. It's February now, sure, and it should still be cold, but I've frankly had enough of the frosty temperatures INSIDE my house and the slow, steady pleading voices that are my flip-flops and skirts begging to be worn again that I'm ready for a warm breeze and some green leafy things starting to grow. Not that we'll get too many of those here in the Burque, but maybe just a few. For posterity.

OMG this tea TASTES awful.

In the meantime I'm dealing with my cold house during those times I'm not at work by either leaving again and going out (no longer an option now that I have run out of money and am also trying not to get sick, and need to stay near my trombone even if I'm not going to play it for the sake of musical osmosis) or cuddling up in the awesomest, ugliest quilt you ever did see. Apparently my grandmother made it, and it's BRIGHT PINK on the underside and this odd, seventies-esque LSD inspired pattern of pink, purple, and green on the other side. My mom would use it as the comforter on the pull out couch whenever we had guests, or she'd let me pull it out and cuddle up under it when I was sick. I used to play a game in the mornings, in that time between waking up and getting up, where I would put myself inside the quilt's pattern, imagining each square as a maze to be navigated in order to escape the pink fluffy monster (actually one of those pom-pom things) that inhabited the fabric. It's also the perfect blanket to snuggle under with someone special, but for now that's just my cats (I could turn this into a long rant about how lonely I am and blah blah blah, but you've heard it, and you're sick of it, so I'll just be a cat lady for the time being).

The tea is better with honey. Just slightly.

Jazz is great wintertime music. I've been reviving my love for the classics- the Louis Armstrong, the Count Basie, the Ella....and yes, the glorious, naughty, incomparable Nina Simone, as well as running a few new ideas into the mix in the way of Wayne Shorter and Chris Potter. It's a good time, inspired in part by my homesickness for good Denton jazz at the Greenhouse. I see folks on Facebook back there click on 'attending' for events such as 'One O'Clock Lab Band at the Syndicate' and 'Snarky Puppy at Haileys' and 'So-and-so quintet at Greenhouse' and man...I miss that. I really do. I think those Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday evenings were some of the best times of my life so far.

You're asking why I keep drinking the tea. I need the tea. It's the only non-caffeinated thing I have left and I need to fight the shit in my throat back with herbal shit.

So, wintertime. This winter I've done some amazing things. I climbed Cabezon Peak. It was cold and amazing. I saw the Tent Rocks, and I went sledding. My brass quintet officially became a business. I'm getting the opportunity to teach my own music class and I'm so excited about it. It's going to be awesome.

Almost as much as how awesome it is I don't have to drink this tea anymore.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

steel and whiskey

I'm trying something new- inspired in part by my awesome, totally bad-ass writer friend Hans, who runs a smashing little critical review blog by the name of Hallucina- in which I review some of my favorite albums. It's a little exercise in music criticism that I hope will not only be fun, but also good for me. Like candy.

First up: Iron & Wine's The Shepherd's Dog, given to me by the wise and wonderful Ms Katie who in turn purchased the album after having heard a little of I&W on my 2006 holiday mix. Full circles are fun!

Iron & Wine is actually one dude named Sam Beam, and he has a beard. We all know that by now (QC did a joke that the band consisted of Sam and his beard once). Beards are great. Hurray for beards! They make you into an awesome musical force.

(Steel and Whiskey is a joke my friend Chris made about Iron & Wine. Oddly enough, it reminded me of being on swim team in middle school when the movie 'Iron Will' came out, and my swim coach, wanting to spin off a Disney movie's inherently optimistic and inspiring message, decided our season's motto was 'Steal Desire'. Coincidence? Yeah, sure.)

Anyway, I&W makes the kind of music I never knew I thought existed but once I hear fits neatly into a little place in my musical soul. It's a little bit how I felt about The Decemberists and their kooky blend of seafaring themed, pre WWII era British indie rock. The Decemberists never fail to make me think I'm listening to Charles Dickens' awesome garage band with Mary Poppins on lead guitar. I&W, on the other hand, has this folky, Southern style that is like being a road trip with John Steinbeck, Jack Kerouac, and Dave Eggers. It's all romantic and pretty, but with this literacy and undercurrent of religion which weaves the whole musical product into something else entirely. I find it impossible to describe, but nevertheless, I shall try. Here are a few of the things I like about The Shepherd's Dog:

-Sam's melodies are really simple. The change in inflection and ornamentation is never too great, yet they handily manage to sweep prettily across the complex underlying accompaniment. There's a lot more of that in this from, say, The Creek Drank the Cradle, and it's nice. Very sassy.

-His lyrics I dunno. I mean, you get stuff like this:
Love was a promise made of smoke
In a frozen copse of trees
A bone cold and older than our bodies
Slowly floating in the sea

and then this:
Dreaming again that its freezing and my mother’s in her flowerbed
(Long dead rows of daffodils and marigolds)
Changing her face like a shadow on the gravel, this is what she said,
(Blood on my chin, still chewing on a red rose)
“No one lives forever and the devil never sleeps alone”
Everybody bitching, “There’s nothing on the radio”

Talk about a talent for words.

-God. Whatever the meaning behind I&W's lyrics with Christian references (I haven't taken the time to really examine them, at this point I'm too caught up in all the subtle beauty), he paints this portrait of God as a more mythical, ancient creature. I like the line from "Boy With A Coin" best:
Girl with a bird she found in the snow
that flew up her gown, and that's how she knows
that God made her eyes for crying at birth
then left the ground to circle the earth

It speaks to me of a religious upbringing conducted in little country churches, rough wooden pews and pane-less windows, leaving after service to a green, open world full of magic. Yet layered on top of this is a veneer of bitterness that twists the spirituality, just so, and that little country church is just another run-down building next to a repair garage in a muddy, brown town. You don't forget the wholesomeness of the other image, but you can't ever quite reach it again.

-The way his women characters play into his stories fulfills a kind of fantasy I have always had, that there are men out there writing songs for the mysterious goddesses among them, and yet maintaining a strong belief in their own independence and strength. The fantasy of course continues that someday this kind of person will encounter me in a field underneath a tree and find me so terribly enchanting he writes a song about honeybees.

"The Shepherd's Dog" is by far one of the best albums of 2007. On top of that, it makes me smile just to listen to it. It's. So. Good. So good. So painfully, amazingly good I've been listening to it for days on end and I still haven't managed to find one thing to get sick of. I may be completely wrong about all of my hypotheses into Sam's obviously complex psyche, but then again, like I said, I haven't done my research. The music is good enough for me.

I'll leave you with this:

"Innocent Bones"
Cain got a milk-eyed mule from the auction
Abel got a telephone
And even the last of the blue-eyed babies know
That the burning man is the color of the end of day
And how every tongue that gets bit always has another word to say

Cain bought a blade from some witch at the window
Abel bought a bag of weed
And the even the last of the brown-eyed babies see
That the cartoon king has a tattoo of a bleeding heart
There ain't a penthouse christian that wants the pain or the scab, but they all want the scar
How every mouth sings of what it's without so we all sing of love
And how it ain't one dog who's good at fucking and denying who he's thinking of

Cain had the captive boy leap off the rooftop
Abel had his papa pray
And even the last of the black-eyed babies say
That every saint has a chair you can borrow in a church to sit on
That the wind blows cold across the back of a master and the kitchen help
There's a big ball of innocent bones still holding up the garden wall
And it was always the broken hand we learned to lean on after all
How God knows if Christ came back he'd find us in a poker game
After finding out the drinks were all free but they won't let you out the door again

Monday, January 07, 2008

on being productive

It has been a busy week and a half since I returned from CA and we got started on our CSBQ marathon of rehearsals and recording. We've made tremendous progress in both our group and our individual playing and I think we sound great. We've got a ways to go to reach the goal we all want (for me, it's reaching a level of musicianship such as Center City or Meridian Arts Ensemble), but we are well on our way. Sean's been great for the group in so many ways and it's just...exciting to be a part of it all again. We have pictures, but since I'm making a half-assed effort to be somewhat professionally anonymous on this blog, you'll have to go see them on Facebook or ask me nicely. Music should be going up on MySpace and our own page soon. How great is that??!?!

In the meantime, I still put in my share of hours at work, which really doesn't amount to much mental stress but does take up a good chunk of the business day. This means things I need to get done- buy cat food, do laundry, and get my Nuevo license plates- have been high on the list of priorities but low on the list of availability.

Nevertheless, I managed. I took Friday and today off of work entirely to focus on recording, etc, and since we're only doing one large chunk of recording each day, that leaves me a large part of the time to get things down. Friday and Saturday I cleaned like a fiend. Yesterday I went for the hike I've been pining after for ages and even got to make dinner and watch a movie. Today all those things on my priority list got done- and oh so painlessly, too! I am now the proud owner of New Mexico plates as well as happy, well-fed kittens (who incidentally also got a new toy to make up for all the time I've spent rushing in and out of the house lately), not to mention a load of fresh clothes will come out of the washer any minute now. Sure, it's raining, so I have to hang them to dry in the bathroom, but oh well. At least I'll have underwear for the rest of the week. :)

All of this has been so much easier to accomplish on proper sleep and sufficient water pressure in the shower, which lowers significantly both my stress and my crabbiness levels. The frozen pipes leading to my shower preventing sufficient water flow was seriously cramping my style. I like my showers like I like my men, hot and hard. Tee hee.

So Sean leaves tomorrow and things return to a normal routine. I will miss the constant rehearsals and hangs that come with a BQ Marathon, but we've got plenty to do in the next couple of weeks before our Feb 6th recital that will keep us occupied. I just need to keep my chops where they are now- nice and strong and flexible- and everything will be great.

Here's to that, and here's to finding my favorite tea ever at the grocery store. Mmm, french vanilla.

Friday, January 04, 2008

friday random ten: the late night, sad sack edition

Turn on your music player, hit random, record the first ten songs that play, yada yada.

This is a good exercise for me because it forces me to listen to stuff I've never really taken the time to listen to before because I'd rather not hear something I don't know at that moment in time. Was that a run on sentence? I dunno. I just watched a Woody Allen movie, I have no concept of reality anymore.

1. John Lennon- It's So Hard
2. Torben Floor- Do I Even Know I Care?
3. The Beatles- Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except for Me and My Monkey
4 Rufus Wainwright- Not Ready to Love
5. The Postal Service- Nothing Better
6. Mingo Fishtrap- Superman
7. Youngblood Brass Band feat. Talib Kweli- Y'all Stay Up
8. Maazel/Cleveland Phil- Prokofiev Romeo and Juliet Scene 4 Dance of the Knights (mm, bass trombone goodness)
9. Eklipse Soul- Psicose
10. Louis Armstrong- Dinah


Since it popped up a few weeks ago on my random, Nina Simone's version of 'I Want a Little Sugar in My Bowl' has been my theme song. Ugh. I'm going crazy here.

I want a little sugar
in my bowl
I want a little sweetness
down in my soul
I could stand some lovin'
Oh so bad
I feel so funny and I feel so sad

I want a little steam
on my clothes
Maybe I can fix things up
so they'll go
Whatsa matter Daddy
Come on, save my soul
I need some sugar in my bowl
I ain't foolin'
I want some sugar in my bowl

You been acting different
I've been told
Soothe me
I want some sugar in my bowl
I want some steam
on my clothes
Maybe I can fix things up so they'll go
Whatsa matter Daddy
Come on save my soul
I want some sugar in my bowl
I ain't foolin'
I want some - yeah - in my bowl.