Monday, January 29, 2018

Rosanne Cash Duo - Edmonds Center for the Arts, 1/25/18

Rosanne Cash and John Leventhal - Credit Josh Saul

I'm currently up in Edmonds, Washington visiting family and spending a couple of days with my ol' bud Bill DeVoe in Seattle before he takes off for a trip to Mexico with his wife, Marie.

We're getting a good dose of rain which is nothing new up here, but I'm definitely the So Cal "fish out of water" with the rain steadily falling down this past week. Actually it's been fun wearing jeans, a down jacket and my Vibram sole shoes everyday like when it used to rain in winter growing up on the Central Coast in California. I love my shorts and t-shirt lifestyle down in San Diego, but I'm rather enjoying the cold and constant wet along with the nighttime fireplace with the missus. I also love to listen to the rain gutter drip while you lay in bed just before you go to sleep.

Being in the lovely small town of Edmonds is always fun, and this trip we had the pleasure of seeing Rosanne Cash and her husband, John Leventhal at the 700 seat Edmonds Center for the Arts. Both Mary Kit and I throughly enjoyed this venue as the acoustics of the theater was simply fantastic to match Rosanne's beautiful voice and the guitar playing of  John Leventhal.

The boomer-aged audience were so respectful that you could hear a pin drop during every song. It was also nice not to see even one smartphone make an appearance as apparently everyone in Edmonds actually follows directions when the announcement of no photography was given at the beginning of the show. After seeing several stadium and arena shows in 2017, it was refreshing to hear music given the theater treatment and actually listened to by 100% of the audience.  It's safe to say that we're now following the ECA schedule and we'll be back for future performances! (Darn, missed Randy Newman's show at ECA last October!)

Rosanne and John, billed as the Rosanne Cash Duo are currently on tour, that started here in Edmonds and moves on to several more shows in Washington state, back to Carnegie Hall in New York and then up into Canada. (I searched for a current tour setlist, but so far nothing has been posted online as of this date.)

This show is truly an Americana experience as Rosanne's set plays across her musical catalog including her 80's hits now performed with just the Duo's harmony with two acoustic guitars, or mandolin and piano accompaniment from John. At 62, Rosanne's voice is totally intact to present the couple's songwriting together from her most recent albums, 2014's River & the Thread, and 2009's, The List. 
Rosanne is also a wonderful storyteller as she share's her life experiences and sets up each song so well. With The List she tells the story of her famous father giving her at age 18 a handwritten "list" of 100 "American roots music" essential songs. She still has that list as she learned and preformed many of the classics such as 500 Miles throughout her career. I enjoyed hearing about her going on the road right out of high school for two and half years with Johnny, Carl Perkins and the Carter family. On that tour, she learned many of the Carter family's lexicon backstage with Mother Maybelle Carter who played "badass" guitar along with the other Carter family members.

I also enjoyed learning about Rosanne and John's 23 year marriage and their "all getting along" with first husband, Rodney Crowell who is also a fantastic singer-songwriter. Being 62 myself and living a second marriage in a wonderful blended family with my wife Mary Kit and all our combined children and grandchildren, it is nice to hear their story as well. In fact, Rodney has a new song and video that I featured in My Favorite Songs of 2017, from his Close Ties album called, It Ain't Over Yet which features Rosanne Cash and John Paul White that you must listen to and I've included in this week's playlist. Life is that long winding journey filled with hope, regret and redemption that is often best captured in the written lyric with guitar in hand.

Both MK and I were struck by Rosanne's and John's total partnership- married and coupled with their musical careers, it must be quite a dance, and what a fine dance indeed to see in person. I only write about shows that I really like (you know what mom's say about "if you don't have anything nice to say...") well I have a lot of nice things to say here and that comes easy with such great people as Rosanne Cash and John Leventhal live on stage. Enjoy this playlist my friends.

Note- check out Peter Dervin's Photography of the Edmond's concert @

Monday, January 22, 2018

To the Dreamers

As I write this morning, it looks like the U.S. Government is about to be reopened for business. I'm not going to get into the politics of all that but for the past several days I have thought a lot about how immigration continues to make America great. Immigration is America and America is immigration.  When my ancestors came from Scotland, Ireland, England and Germany (to name some of the known McMutt in me) they were not "merit" candidates. If you think of all the millions of people who came to America either by necessity to leave their own country or people of color forcibly taken from their homelands to become slaves here in America, the great majority were not formally educated.

America in its vast melting pot has progressed over the past couple hundred years by steadily moving forward, providing public education to the all the waves of people who came here and continue to come today. As an American, I became the first college graduate from my mother's side of the family, at least in my Grandma Mary's memory. I worked my dream and became a school teacher for 35 years in San Diego.

K-12 education is one of our nation's cornerstones. It is the place where children can begin to dream and to create their own "American Dream." Today, I'm thinking about them, ALL the children in this country going to school, regardless of status. Giving a child options in their young life is the greatest gift you can ever give an individual. Options provide young people the path to realize their dreams and to strive towards that horizon. As adults, let's always strive to make our schools better and a top priority, and the dreamers will take care of our country, like they always have.

Note - Last night I caught the tail end of La La Land on cable. Emma Stone sings, Audition (The fools who dream) and it stirred my thinking. Here's a few quick songs I put together for the dreamer in us all.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Musical Eclairs

“Life doesn't make any sense, and we all pretend it does. Comedy's job is to point out that it doesn't make sense, and that it doesn't make much difference anyway.” ― Eric Idle

This blog explores some truly unique songs through the songwriting lens of comedy. I came up with the title, Musical Eclairs because it's a play on the think-fast of "musical chairs," but also plays into Forrest's, "Life is like a box of chocolates."

The first bite came to me through John Prine's, It's a Big Old Goofy World. Then I started thinking of other song's like- Randy Newman's, Short People, Bobby Bare's, Drop Kick Me Jesus, The Smothers Brothers musical skits, and then, the more serious like Country Joe McDonald's, What Are We Fighting For,? and my song list just started to grow.

Then, the curator (or OCD) in me started to put these songs into this hierarchy, starting with novelty and moving up the chuckle-chain to satire as probably the highest form of musical comedy. Several weeks ago, I saw CNN's The History of Comedy: Episode 7- Making Fun, that dove into the difference between parody and satire and I said to myself, "Hey, I'll explore this from a musical perspective." 

He's my three-part progression.
  1. Novelty Songs - "a comical or nonsensical song, performed principally for its comical effect." Wikipedia

  2. Musical Parody - "involves changing or copying existing (usually well known) musical ideas or lyrics, or copying the particular style of a composer or artist, or even a general style of music. Although the intention of a musical parody may be humour, it is the re-use of music that is the original defining feature." Wikipedia

  3. Sarcastic and Satirical Songs
  • Sarcasm - "a sharp, bitter, or cutting expression or remark; a bitter gibe or taunt. Sarcasm may employ ambivalence, although sarcasm is not necessarily ironic. Most noticeable in spoken word, sarcasm is mainly distinguished by the inflection with which it is spoken and is largely context-dependent." Wikipedia

  • Satire - "is a genre of literature, and sometimes graphic and performing arts, in which vices, follies, abuses, and shortcomings are held up to ridicule, ideally with the intent of shaming individuals, corporations, government, or society itself into improvement. Although satire is usually meant to be humorous, its greater purpose is often constructive social criticism, using wit to draw attention to both particular and wider issues in society." Wikipedia

    In a distinction between sarcasm and satire- think of sarcasm as light beer in a can from your house, and satire as a craft beer from a tavern tap.
Three Examples

1) Novelty Songs
Now I'm going to spare you from people like Ray Stevens (Gitarzan, etc.) who in my opinion is in the plan doughnut holes bin in the novelty song bakery.

Instead, let's get into some tastier pastry starting in the 1960's with Allan Sherman and his classic Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah (A Letter from Camp). What made this song so laugh out load funny was Sherman's comic sense that millions of children (including my siblings and friends), were being shipped off to summer camps all over America by their parents, giving the adults a much needed break from the rug rats. Sherman struck a chord with us all (young and older) with his tales from camp. In listening to this song this past week, I thought back to many of my own camp experiences.

2) Musical Parody
Parody music is so prevalent today in all media that I had to illustrate that point by finding something no more than a week old. I settled on Seth Meyers, Amber Cougar Mellencamp Performs "Sneaky Dianne." 6/9/20 Update -  I see that video has been taken down. So here is another music parody video that will make the same point, because it's so easy to find one with Trump in office. Here you'll see the typical intersection between politics, parody and satire played out weekly on television from the daily s#*! show @ 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

3) Sarcastic/Satirical Songs - Also, Wikipedia's Satirical Songs List A-W
I didn't know of Bo Burnham until I started researching for this piece, and boy is this guy funny with a serious wit in his musical satire. I was to feature Randy Newman as the "King" example of satirical music with Warren Zevon a close second, but I've got plenty of their material in this week's playlist to satisfy the cynical in you. In the following video, Bo's bit of today's mainstream country music is hilarious, but also mirrors my real opinion of "Pop Country" as mostly a pile of the same stale doughnuts. Here, Bo sings and hits his mark with "Country Song (Pandering)."

Now onto the Musical Eclairs playlist. Play a little tune game with yourself. As the song plays, identify it as novelty, parody, satire or a combination. I mixed the playlist up with a good variety of material from the 60's to the present.

So here's to appreciating atypical songwriting like Dan Hicks and his heartfelt, How can I miss you, when you won't go away? Enjoy my friends.

Monday, January 08, 2018


Rain-Paperback Writer US aa sleeve.jpg
About three weeks ago, I noticed that The Beatles have released several new video recordings on their TheBeatlesVevo channel on YouTube, check it out. 

I'm currently working on a new blog that needs a bit more research so thought I would post a little topical song for the folks in Southern California desperate for some rain and in the forecast.

I know with the "bomb cyclone" in the east that people there would welcome "just rain" so here's thinking to some warmer weather ahead for them.

With that in mind, I remembered The Beatles' Rain just being released on YouTube as I noted above.

So here's to some rain, at least in So Cal, but not too much because of the fires and then mudslides. Happy Monday.

Monday, January 01, 2018

My Favorite Songs of 2017

Happy New Year!

Now with that said, let's go back to take a listen to some of the best songs from last year. In putting this post and playlist together, I looked at several top lists from the "Best songs of 2017" on the Internet. Current stars such as Kendrick LamarChris StapletonHarry Styles, and St. Vincent came up, as well as many other artists who I have never heard of before. I'm thinking, with rap, pop and country pop as the main music plays on the airwaves, who's going to dive into my 2017 list of 100 songs? I'm the guy who likes acoustic music, or as some might say, "the old white guy who listens to banjos and mandolins." 

So from the pick of the names above, you'd probably peg me as a Chris Stapleton guy, well no. I know he's a gifted singer-songwriter but he just doesn't have that "it" factor for me– maybe a little too much stereotypical male country voice. Then why do I like Meryl Haggard? Again, maybe it's as simple as just having the magical "it" that draws you to an artist that you can't always explain. Then for things that I can explain, like the sound of the female singing voice as in the perfect harmony of The Secret Sisters that is simply one of the most beautiful things in the world.

I first started the Monday Monday Music blog two years ago on January 5, 2015 as a writing exercise that I designed for myself, to improve my writing in my educational consultant business. Writing this blog has been fun and given me a confidence to keep writing in other areas.  Last summer, I began to research and write most everyday towards the completion of my first book called, Transformation by Design: The Integration of Learning Design, Physical Space Design and Digital Space Design. I believe all my current writings have changed my life from what I was doing just a couple years ago. And in the spirit of a 62 year old upstart, to paraphrase what many accomplished writers have said in one way or another, "I've only written to myself for myself." My music playlists, like my writings here are an extension of my passion for music that I have curated for me, but are also equally fueled with a motivation and great hope that you're reading and listening to both.

The first song on the playlist is Prisoner, by Ryan Adams. I rarely record video at concerts because they look and sound like crap, but I like this one. I was sitting in the fourth row at the Granada Theatre in Santa Barbara on June 1, 2017. The video does look like crap, but my phone magically picked up the sound better than usual. Here's me, becoming a new big fan of Ryan Adams in the moment, not to mention one of the best albums of 2017, Prisoner. The next song from the same album is, To Be Without You and is my favorite song of 2017. I love this album!

Speaking of albums, you can see from the 24 album covers collage that I put together at the top of the post, I'm an album guy. I think it is very important that you at least "skim and scan" an album, and one thing Youtube is very useful for before you purchase. Liam Gallagher's solo debut, As You Were, is a good example. I started skimming it on YouTube, but quickly settled in for a deeper listen and really enjoyed most of the tracks on the album.

The concept of a record album is such a wonderful thing. You may buy an album for a hit song but yet, have a mini collection of the musicians' work at that moment during their time in a recording studio together. If you make the time to listen, there's magic in the deeper cuts as many albums are unique unto themselves from an artist's or band's total catalog. Billy Joel's The Nylon Curtain comes to mind for example. In fact from my list of 100 here, many of the songs represent those cuts so often overlooked in the media.

Here's my Top 10 songs released in 2017 (and hard to cut that down from 100), but these are the songs that give me a special rush (just add Christmas headphones) and get better the more you hear them.
  1. To Be Without You - Ryan Adams, Prisoner
  2. If We Were Vampires - Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, The Nashville Sound
  3. King of a One Horse Town - Dan Auerbach, Waiting on a Song
  4. Helpless - John Mayer, The Search for Everything
  5. Mississippi - The Secret Sisters, You Don't Own Me Anymore
  6. Beach Boys - Weezer, Pacific Daydream
  7. The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness - The National, Sleep Well Beast
  8. Hollywood - Lee Ann Womack, The Lonely, The Lonesome & The Gone 
  9. Paper Crown - Liam Gallagher, Liam Gallagher
  10. Carry Me - The Secret Sisters, You Don't Own Me Anymore
So I'm hoping you at least you skim and scan this playlist as I've purposely scattered each artist or band's songs around as a linear shuffle (my basic technique for most of my YouTube playlists). Enjoy my friends and here's to listening to new and old music in 2018!