Johnny Cash: The Life by Robert Hilburn (Little, Brown) $32 679 pages
The steely quaver in Johnny Cash's voice seemed to ring out of the blackest, most-bedeviled corner of the male American psyche. It conveyed the resolute self-assurance of a guy you could count on standing up for the little guy -- if not for showing up for a concert date. But to know the man's life story is to understand all the fault lines cracking the foundation of…Continue
Posted on March 3, 2014 at 2:00pm — 3 Comments
Pioneering black music critic, playwright, essayist, and former Poet Laureate of New Jersey Amiri Baraka died at 79 on Jan. 9 in a Newark hospital. I thank jazz critic, author and educator Howard Mandel for posting a tribute to Baraka on his Facebook page, which prompted this blog post.
Part of Baraka's rhetorical gift was his way of offering incisive insight while often pushing to the edge of provocative (and sometimes offensive) polemics that could undermine his posture as…Continue
Posted on January 14, 2014 at 7:00am — 9 Comments
Joel and Ethan Coen do a fine job of making us feel the experience of a fictional Greenwich Village folk singer in their new film Inside Llewyn Davis. We feel sorry for this poor schlub who can barely score a bed to sleep in, much less a gig for a meal or two. This is the way it was for Dave Van Ronk and probably many other striving troubadours who believed in the need to get out there and sing something with their guitar in front of a bunch of people who seem to care about…Continue
Posted on December 28, 2013 at 5:30pm — 33 Comments
The Best Roots Music Albums of 2013
I continued to be amazed by the strong quality and artfulness in vernaculars presumed to be mere "folk" musics.
These rankings make some fine distinctions between albums but the points stick, for me. Tedeschi-Trucks’ extraordinary blues-R&B-jazz-rock collective tops the list for all its musical artistry and exuberance, to bolster the high level of lyric writing one expects of today’s roots purveyors. Vocalist…Continue
Posted on December 18, 2013 at 9:00am — 19 Comments