Archive for November, 2010

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Too many good people we meet (good friends along the way) love this tune for us to ignore it.  Marley’s tunes were often simple and powerful, but this one stands near the top.

Here is Bob in 1979, two years before his death from cancer.  This live performance, with (pretty good) video, is a diamond-in-the-rough.  It’s a bit more abstract than earlier recordings, and Bob may have been under the spell of something.  But, this is about the music.  Cut away the rough spots for the brilliance of the diamond.


Here is another version, with Bob a little less carried away.  Please click the link:


Last and final installment:  Friday.

Previous Simple Tunes:

#1, Suzanne by Leonard Cohen with Judy Collins

#2, Jersey Girl, by Tom Waits

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No, it isn’t Black Friday that begins the Christmas season, with manic shoppers trampling themselves; nor even the day after Halloween, when stores put up Christmas decorations.  None of that has to do with Jesus.  You know that. 

Today, on the First Sunday of Advent, we sang this hymn in church:  O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.  But we didn’t sing as beautifully as Christina Sonnemann.  I discovered this a year ago from a friend’s blog (thanks, Peg!). 

I hope you enjoy.  It may seem odd, juxtaposing her between Waits and Marley (he’s up next) but you can only listen to one at a time anyway…



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Here is the second installment of simple tunes:  Tom Waits’ Jersey Girl.  Tell me what it is that makes this one work.

Never mind that you can’t stand the alcohol-soaked voice of Tom Waits.  The song is pure gold, no matter who sings it.  Bruce Springsteen borrowed it, made millions, and if you’ve heard him first maybe you like Springsteen better; but he ain’t got a clue.  The song belongs to Waits.

Here is a live-in-concert version, somewhere in Italy in 1986; and a second song, The Heart of Saturday Night, tags along.  YouTube deleted a better recording of this performance of Jersey Girl, to my frustration.

Update:  They deleted that one too (so what if it’s copyright infringement?  This is art!).  So here is a collage, with film clips from that concert, and with better audio because it’s a recording studio performance.  A little smoother (if that’s possible for Waits) than his gutsy on-stage gig, but I’ll take the guts any day.  Sorry.


Below is a second, more electric version by Waits.  He does a little stand-up routine about the origin of the song before he gets into it.  Tune in around the 3:50 mark for the music alone.  Sorry, no Springsteen.  The videos were that bad.

Next in the series:  Monday.

First in the series:  Suzanne by Leonard Cohen, with Judy Collins.


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A Psalm of Thanksgiving

Psalm 100, King James Version:

 1Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands.

 2Serve the LORD with gladness: come before his presence with singing.

 3Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

 4Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.

 5For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.

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I was at a Harbor Committee meeting this evening.  This isn’t really our work, but if we’d thought of it, it would have been on the agenda.  This photo was taken on the end of the dock at Great Cranberry Island.

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Among other simple ideas rattling around in the head, I’ve become fascinated by certain tunes, tunes that simply won’t go away.  I have no idea why some music delights and fascinates and some doesn’t, except to prove Duke Ellington’s proverb:  “If it sounds good, it IS good.” 

In this two-week series, I’ll post four songs, each one powerful (in my opinion) and each sung at least in part by its own songwriter.  The common denominator in these four tunes appears to be simplicity—that is, each generates a maximum of emotion to a minimum of notes—you might say “more bang for the buck”. 

I don’t really understand what’s going on, as I don’t have much musical training; and you may even disagree about the sparseness of notes.  No doubt there are other tunes with as few or fewer notes—but they may sound, well, boring, not powerful.  So what is it about these that pack such a punch? 

My guess is that the tunes hint at something else—that they suggest other notes, melodies or harmonies that aren’t quite there, but that could be there.  They also invite or even beg for interpretations from other musicians—and the others have been happy to oblige over the years.

This could be related to similar phenomena in literature or in visual art.  Often, what gets left out creates more of a stir than if it had been included.

In Suzanne, the first in the series, Judy Collins helps songwriter Leonard Cohen because in those early days (1976) Leonard couldn’t sing for beans.  I think Judy’s fascination with this song, and with Leonard Cohen as a songwriter and poet, helped to get Suzanne noticed.

I’ll also include a link to Suzanne where Leonard sings at a later stage in his life (2008).  See if you agree that he has aged well vocally (sorry, this one has been restricted from embedding, but just click the link): 



And a video of a more mature Judy (2009) performing Suzanne—in this one, it’s worth the wait to see her trademark smile at the last instant:


And an article about the woman Suzanne herself, who got Leonard on her wavelength and inspired the song: 


Next in the series:  Friday.

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Did you notice how the Republicans (with help from the Tea Party) regained control of the House of Representatives—and just as hunting season opened? 

It’s a coincidence, of course.  We know that because it’s open season even when the Democrats get more votes (perhaps more so).  But this Reagan-era episode of Bloom County has never been more relevant.  Enjoy. 

And oh, wear blaze orange while going for a walk.  Your dog, too.

Click cartoon to enlarge.  If needed, click again.


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We can’t avoid this in Maine.  We fought the British out of here and still feel a sense of accomplishment.  Then, with the Second Amendment, we guaranteed ourselves the right to keep on feeling proud. 

And in Maine there’s also hunting this time of year.  Deer.  Moose.  Sea ducks.  Partridge.  Ain’t nobody going to mess with that, even vegetarians. 

Regardless of your interpretation of the Amendment, or your opinion of its sentence construction (is it even a sentence?), the wording goes like this until further notice.  Let’s deal with it:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

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Well, really, we never need an excuse to hear Joni.  But today is her birthday and this is as good as any.  How old?  Not sayin’.  She’s timeless.    

So, join the party and “Come on down to the Mermaid Café and I will buy you a bottle of wine; And we’ll laugh and toast to nothing and smash our empty glasses down.”

Here is an acoustic performance of “Carey” from 1983.  Simple and uncluttered, just as she might sing if she came here to the Neighborhood House.

One can dream.

To the right: a self-portrait from her “Taming the Tiger” album.



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Jason and Lindsay’s post-and-beam house is on its way up!  It’s all natural and as local as it gets, built of Islesford spruce that Jason cut on his bandsaw mill.     And note the detail in the joinery.  It’s a shame that Jason’s dovetails, mortises and tenons will be covered by flooring and sheathing. 

Here are some photos taken in the past two weeks.  Plenty of people on hand to raise the walls, and plenty of hot baked beans to feed us all.  Even the beans are local, picked from Lindsay’s garden.  This whole thing is just plain organic.

See more photos on Barb’s blog.

Update!  Jason and Lindsay have a blog that chronicles the whole process:  http://thehardwayhome.blogspot.com/ 




Lindsay giving a tour of the living room


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