Category Archives: Arts

Recalling Reality. A Tale Of Revenge. Passionate Music.

             

Two engaging conversations in this edition of Life Elsewhere with two authors who have written two completely different books. One is an intimate, revelatory memoir, exploring the ways we can care for and repair ourselves when life knocks us down. The other takes us into the well-trodden path of noir set in Los Angeles. Only here we find the narrator is a seemingly tough-as-nails woman who may be far more vulnerable than she appears. Plus, new music about the passion and intensity of a doomed yet all-encompassing relationship.

Katherine May Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times 

Sometimes you slip through the cracks: unforeseen circumstances like an abrupt illness, the death of a loved one, a break-up, or a job loss can derail a life. These periods of dislocation can be lonely and unexpected. For May, her husband fell ill, her son stopped attending school, and her own medical issues led her to leave a demanding job. Wintering explores how she not only endured this painful time but embraced the singular opportunities it offered. A moving personal narrative shot through with lessons from literature, mythology, and the natural world, May’s story offers instruction on the transformative power of rest and retreat. Illumination emerges from many sources: solstice celebrations and dormice hibernation, C.S. Lewis and Sylvia Plath, swimming in icy waters, and sailing arctic seas. Ultimately Wintering invites us to change how we relate to our own fallow times. May models an active acceptance of sadness and finds nourishment in deep retreat, joy in the hushed beauty of winter, and encouragement in understanding life as cyclical, not linear. A secular mystic, May forms a guiding philosophy for transforming the hardships that arise before the ushering in of a new season.

Halley Sutton The Lady Upstairs

A modern-day noir featuring a twisty cat-and-mouse chase, this dark debut thriller tells the story of a woman who makes a living taking down terrible men…then finds herself in over her head and with blood on her hands. The only way out? Pull off one final con. Jo’s job is blackmailing the most lecherous men in Los Angeles–handsy Hollywood producers, adulterous actors, corrupt cops. Sure, she likes the money she’s making, which comes in handy for the debt she is paying off, but it’s also a chance to take back power for the women of the city. Eager to prove herself to her coworker Lou and their enigmatic boss, known only as the Lady Upstairs, Jo takes on bigger and riskier jobs. When one of her targets is murdered, both the Lady Upstairs and the LAPD have Jo in their sights. Desperate to escape the consequences of her failed job, she decides to take on just one more sting–bringing down a rising political star. It’s her biggest con yet–and she will do it behind the Lady’s back, freeing both herself and Lou. But Jo soon learns that Lou and the Lady have secrets of their own and that no woman is safe when there is a life-changing payout on the line. A delicious debut thriller crackling with wit and an unforgettable feminist voice, The Lady Upstairs is a chilling and endlessly surprising take on female revenge.

Miranda McCarthy From Loving You

Inspired by the wildness of West Cork and life in profound transformation, Miranda McCarthy has in her new single, From Loving You created a moving, beautiful song. Her words and the exceptional arrangement work as a perfect segway between our conversations with Katherine May and Halley Sutton where both authors explore deep and perhaps hidden emotions.

Show 399

A Conversation With Philip Parfitt Part 1

“Do you think you have a distinctive voice?” Norman B asks British musician, Philip Parfitt. “I don’t really think about it” Parfitt replies, adding “I guess I can’t hear myself.” From the moment the conversation with Phil Parfitt begins his distinctive timbre catches your attention. Is it world-weary, years of smoking and drinking, a theatrical veneer? Or is it the voice of a man who is way beyond fronting a pose? Is this the comfortable voice of a fellow who enjoys a good conversation? A man who has a lot of stories he is eager to share? As you listen, you’ll come to your own conclusion, yet the striking black and white portrait by Jean-Charles Feunteun is as intense as it is mysterious. Phil Parfitt is an open book with many chapters to discover. This will explain why our conversation will air in two parts, but there is far more to learn from a musician, an artist whose ideas cannot all be gathered in one sitting. More conversations with Phil Parfitt are planned for the near future. 

In part one, Phil traces back to being around six-years-old listening to his older brother’s selection of Pretty Things, Rolling Stones, and Kinks records. The lure of rock ’n’ roll was infectious. He knew he wanted to part of it. He jumped in, naively, with Punk and formed Varicose Veins and released the Incredible EP. A limited-edition venture, not by choice but because of limited funds. A record that Phil is loathed to hear these days, despite that collectors are willing to fork out up to 500 pounds for the rare 7” single. His non-de-plume at that time was Henry Crank, but that got old very fast and he morphed into his real name and a new band, a three-piece, sans a live drummer, Orange Disaster. They made the sublime, Something’s Got To Give. Five minutes of heartbroken bliss. An extraordinary record that sounds just as relevant today as it did back in 1980. A name change was next, with Architects Of Disaster seeing their line-up come and go till 1984 when The Perfect Disaster was formed. From there, a number of albums were released, while Phil Parfitt admits to being disillusioned with touring and personnel changes. By 2014, the solo album, I’m Not The Man I Used To Be was released under the moniker of Philip Parfitt. This brings us up to Mental Home Recordings by Philip Parfitt, released on October 30, 2020. Music archivists and simply lovers of good music will enjoy our conversation with Phil and the eclectic record choices he makes for the program.

Portrait of Philip Parfitt by Jean-Charles Feunteun

LEM Vol 206

Rudy Tambala on A. R. Kane, Jübl & The Business Of Life

Discovering new music has been an integral part of my life for many years. That that I’m still able to get giddy with excitement when hearing Arlo Parks or Pela or Barzin for the first time is, honestly, the same rush I got when hearing The Stones at The Railway Hotel, the same night Andrew Loog Oldham showed up and changed history. Your brain-pan is either open to new music or it’s stuck in a musty-dusty time warp which usually marks the time you first said, I love you after an orgasm — and meant it. The notes accompanying the new album, Sweet Company by Jabu cite A. R. Kane as an influence which makes discovering new music to another level. The impact A. R. Kane’s Lolita had on me was has resonated for over thirty years. How exciting then to know that Amos Childs, Jasmine Butt, Alex Rendall, and Daniela Dyson of Jabu unabashedly give a nod to Rudy Tambala and Alex Ayuli of A. R. Kane. No doubt, many musicians have, over the years listened carefully for hours to Lolita and asked, How did they get that sound? That plaintive, sexy treated guitar sound mixed with an acoustic on top, the seductive voice, and then — the thundering electric guitar explodes in your head! From the first moment I heard Lolita, I had to hear it again and again. Thirty years on, it still sounds so modern, so new. And of course, there was the sleeve. Enterprising 4AD records were known for inventive artwork, but this one went further. A provocative nude, a young girl — holding behind her back a huge knife! The sum total of the sound and image A. R. Kane presented was/is extraordinary, as in fuckin’ brilliant. A year or so back I blabbered on about my fascination and enthusiasm for A. R. Kane to Rudy Tambala in a long in-depth conversation. I soon learned that Rudy is a smart guy, he’s well-read, he’s articulate and he enjoys a spirited conversation. He’s sincere when he states, “Rock ’n’ roll is fucking sex! It’s the rhythm of your blood. It’s the most vital force. Without it, there isn’t any existence on this planet!” The irony of his words adds to the fascination of listening to a man whose creative talent has been on display for over three decades. The forthright musician reveals how he and his bandmate, Alex Ayuli created their extraordinary and frequently emulated sound. He talks enthusiastically of the beginnings of A. R. Kane, detailing the creation of the noted Lollita artwork. Rudy shares his thoughts on current music, design and why style is important, “It’s not what you play it’s the way you hold your guitar. It not what you wear it’s how your hair looks…it’s a youth thing.” He says wryly. The legacy of A. R. Kane continues with his new band, Jübl and Rudy gives us an insider’s take on the demands of his new project. This is an interview full of warmth and candor. The conversation flows seamlessly from previously unheard details about recording techniques to spot-on observations about the business of life. Thank you Rudy for a wonderful conversation.

Norman B October 9, 2020

Show #393

The Secrets Of Groceries & The Passion For Baking

Benjamin Lorr – The Secret Life Of Groceries  – The Dark Miracle Of The American Supermarket

What does it take to run the American supermarket? How do products get to shelves? Who sets the price? And who suffers the consequences of increased convenience end efficiency? In his alarming exposé, author Benjamin Lorr pulls back the curtain on this highly secretive industry. Combining deep sourcing, immersive reporting, and compulsively readable prose, Lorr leads a wild investigation, revealing the secrets of Trader Joe’s success from Trader Joe himself. He talks about why truckers call their job “sharecropping on wheels” and the truth behind the alarming slave trade in the shrimp industry. Benjamin’s book is a page-turning portrait of an industry in flux, filled with the passion, ingenuity, and exploitation required to make this everyday miracle continue to function. The author’s enthusiasm for his story is evident in this engaging conversation with Norman B.

Chef Kelly Fields – The Good Book of Southern Baking – A Revival of Biscuits, Cakes & Cornbread

Celebrated pastry chef Kelly Fields has spent decades figuring out what makes the absolute best biscuits, cornbread, butterscotch pudding, peach pie, and, well, every baked good in the Southern repertoire. In her first book, Fields generously shares her boundless expertise and ingenious ideas. With more than one hundred recipes for quick breads, muffins, biscuits, cookies and bars, puddings and custards, cobblers, crisps, galettes, pies, tarts, and cakes—including dozens of variations on beloved standards—this is the new bible for Southern baking. Chef Kelly talks about pastries, pies, and puddings but also gets into why she is so passionate about her culinary skills, and the star chef also explains how the pandemic has helped her take a fresh look at life and being inspired by the music of Sleater-Kinney.

 

Show #390

Martha Graham, The Dancing Diplomat. A Tribute To Toots.

 

 

Martha Graham’s Cold War frames the story of Martha Graham and her particular brand of dance modernism as pro-Western Cold War propaganda used by the United States government to promote American democracy. Representing every seated president from Dwight D. Eisenhower through Ronald Reagan, Graham performed politics in the global field for over thirty years. Why did the State Department consistently choose Martha Graham? As with other art forms such as jazz or avant-garde paintings, modern dance was seen to demonstrate American values of individualism and freedom; the choreographer used the freed body to make a new dance technique that could find the essence of human narratives. Graham targeted elites and its youth with modern dance to propound the ‘universalism’ of human rights under the banner of American democracy. In her choreography, argues author Victoria Phillips, Graham recast the stories of the Western canon through female protagonists whom she captured as timeless, seemingly beyond current politics, and in so doing implied superior political and cultural values of the Free World. Centering on powerful yet not demonstrably American female characters, the stories Graham danced seduced and captured the imaginations of elite audiences without seeming to force a determinedly American agenda. When her characters grew mythic on stage, they became the stories of all mankind, as Graham termed it. “My dances are ages old in meaning,” she declared. But Graham took the pro-American argument one step further than her artistic compatriots. She added the trope of the frontier to her repertory. In the Cold War, Graham’s particular modernism and the woman herself ossified, as did political aims of cultural diplomacy based on an appeal to foreign elites. Phillips lays bare the side-by-side trajectories between the aging of Graham’s choreography, her work as an ambassador, and the political dominance of the United States as a global power. With her tours and Cold War modernism, she demonstrated the power of the individual, immigrants, republicanism, and freedom from walls and metaphorical fences through cultural diplomacy with the unfettered language of movement and dance.

Toots Hibbert died of complications due to Covid-19 at University Hospital, Kingston, Jamaica on September 11, 2020. The 77-year-old reggae legend is widely credited as the genesis of the genre name reggae, after his 1968 song, Do The Reggay. The youngest of eight children, he became an orphan by the age of 11 and went to live with his brother John in the Trenchtown neighborhood of Kinston. In 1962, while working at a local barbershop, he was heard singing by Ralphus “Raleigh” Gordon and Nathaniel “Jerry” Matthias. They become a trio, The Maytals, named after Hibbert’s hometown May Pen. In 1962 the trio was discovered by producer Clement “Coxsone” Dodd, who signed them to his Studio One label.  Hibbert’s soulful lead vocals were often compared to US soul icons, Otis Redding and Wilson Pickett. After two years with Studio One, The Maytals briefly worked with producer and ska pioneer Prince Buster before signing on with another Jamaican record man of note, Byron Lee, in 1965. The Lee-produced material showed that The Maytals were developing a more mature and polished approach, but the group hit a serious roadblock in 1966 when Hibbert was arrested for possession of marijuana; he was convicted and would serve a year behind bars. This experience provided the inspiration for one of his best-known songs, 54-46 That’s My Number. Hibbert was one of the first artists to use the word “reggae”, in 1968’s Do The Reggay. Reunited with Matthias and Gordon, the trio became known as Toots & The Maytals.  Hibbert’s stay in prison coincided with ska fading from the musical landscape in Jamaica as the proto-reggae sounds of rocksteady took its place. The new style suited Toots & The Maytals, and they signed with producer Leslie Kong, with whom the band would record some of their biggest hits, including Pressure Drop, Sweet and Dandy, Monkey Man, and 54-46 That’s My Number. Chris Blackwell, whose Island Records label was enjoying success releasing reggae material in the U.K. and U.S signed Toots & The Maytals releasing a revamped version of the album Funky Kingston in the United States in 1975. By the mid-’90s Hibbert had assembled a new version of Toots & The Maytals without Gordon and Matthias and toured extensively while recording a handful of albums for various reggae specialist labels. Toots & The Maytals made a high-profile comeback in 2004 with the album True Love, in which Toots re-recorded a number of his best and best-known songs with a stellar collection of guest stars, including Eric Clapton, No Doubt, Willie Nelson, Bonnie Raitt, Keith Richards, and The Roots. After this Grammy-winning collection of duets, Hibbert stepped back to the spotlight on his own for 2007’s Light Your Light, and in 2012 his latest edition of The Maytals set out on a global acoustic tour to commemorate the 50th anniversary of their recording debut. A pair of concert albums, Reggae Got Soul: Unplugged on Strawberry Hill and Live! appeared that same year. After a 2013 incident in which Hibbert was hurt by a vodka bottle thrown by an intoxicated fan, he eased back on his career, performing occasionally but staying away from the studio. However, when noted musician and reggae fan Zak Starkey launched a new label, Trojan Jamaica, one of the first acts he signed was Toots & The Maytals, and their first release for the company, Got to Be Tough, arrived in August 2020. Frederick Nathaniel “Toots” Hibbert, O.J. will be long remembered as one of popular music’s most important contributors.

Show #389

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