Monday, December 11, 2017


Barbara Dane

When a friend restated the simple question—“Who is the best singer?”—that her mother had recently posed, I chuckled at the burden of having to develop a response. Far too many locales, styles, eras, people, and tunes jumbled themselves. The friend, a formidable singer herself, had replied “Freddie Mercury” to her mother, perhaps owing to a Queen song she’d just overheard. In fairness, I love a question both fundamental and fundamentally unanswerable, as this one. Quite a few people can sing, by the way. So, to repurpose a phrase, I pressed my ear to many hundreds of exemplary numbers.  

Too, I required a framework. I chose the twentieth century since it has concluded for the most part. (I leave the twenty-first century to its inhabitant critics.) It felt inequitable to compare men and women together, thus I opted to develop a separate list for each. “Critical acclaim” would be necessary for inclusion but not “star status.” I rejected singers whose catalogues presented “same-y” or saccharine. Character, roughened voice, pioneering sound, and jarring delivery all appealed to me. I hardly resisted a song that “ripped my heart out” (to borrow another phrase.)

If I studied a variety of styles, including jazz, rock, folk, country, blues, soul, and R&B, I left opera, easy listening, and other niches to inhabitant critics. Rather than be “an island” I allowed the counsel of others to penetrate the cold, unforgiving veneer of my soul. Published lists, however, such as the Rolling Stone Magazine “100 Greatest Singers of All Time,” often disappointed me. I tended to reject a vocalist who recorded flippant material, but not a singer who presented with a (classically) lovely voice. Tammy Wynette’s “Stand By Your Man” is just such a (classically) lovely song. 

Rev. Gary Davis

The representative record for each singer (accompanying the lists) may be the one you’d expect, or if not, then a solid starting point. Some of these musicians—Karen Dalton and Rev. Gary Davis, for example—might not appear on any other lists of this nature. Good. Investigate these marvelous artists with my blessing. And why, Dear Reader, should my list reinforce any others? (Nota bene: Twelve of my twenty singers did not appear on the Rolling Stone extravaganza.) Here we have a scatting, haunting, versatile, steaming, scuffling, powerful, sensitive, trailblazing, salty, enchanting group—and that’s just the women. The men will add the candors of gravel, work-fat vernacular of sinew, law-breaking impulses of restlessness, transcendence of zen, and gyration of dialect.

Freddie Mercury did not make my list. Tina Turner did not make my list. Patsy Cline did not make my list. Marvin Gaye did not make my list. They’re all very fine vocalists. But this gathering concerns itself with “unassailable” qualities. By that, I mean the shadow in the voice, how it burrows into reason long after it has burrowed into stark emotional discharge. How it may glide or stagger between the stations of crisis and (however naked) the stations of distrustful calm. Some of these vocals peaked like trumpets. Some negotiated new terrain where the words of a song (necessarily) gave way to sound-play. Some voices burned free of rooftops and treetops and fingertips, like late-day sunlight in early winter.

To me, each of these unassailable singers could answer my friend’s mother’s unanswerable question. Enjoy.  

Mahalia Jackson

The Ten Unassailable Female Vocalists of the Twentieth Century (with Representative Record + Year Recorded)
Betty Carter (“Sounds (Movin’ On)” 1980)
Karen Dalton (“Katie Cruel” 1971)
Barbara Dane (“Special Delivery Blues” 1957)
Aretha Franklin (“Respect” 1967)
Billie Holiday (“Strange Fruit” 1939)
Mahalia Jackson (“Keep Your Hand on the Plow” 1955)
Nina Simone (“Feeling Good” 1965)
Bessie Smith (“Down Hearted Blues” 1923)
Kitty Wells (“It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels” 1952)
Tammy Wynette (“Stand by Your Man” 1968)

Next 5: Ella Fitzgerald, Janis Joplin, Jean Ritchie, Koko Taylor, Sister Rosetta Tharpe.

Van Morrison

The Ten Unassailable Male Vocalists of the Twentieth Century (with Representative Record + Year Recorded)
Louis Armstrong (“Heebie Jeebies” 1926)
Ray Charles (“I’ve Got a Woman” 1954)
Rev. Gary Davis (“Samson and Delilah” 1961)
Bob Dylan (“Like a Rolling Stone” 1965)
Roscoe Holcomb (“On Top of Old Smokey” 1961)
Robert Johnson (“Hell Hound on My Trail” 1937)
John Lennon (“Imagine” 1971)
Little Richard (“Long Tall Sally” 1956)                       
Van Morrison (“Brown Eyed Girl” 1967)
Elvis Presley (“Heartbreak Hotel” 1956)

Next 5: Johnny Cash, Sam Cooke, Howlin’ Wolf, Leadbelly, Jimmie Rodgers.

 Kitty Wells

Discography / Women
Betty Carter: “Sounds (Movin’ On)” from The Audience with Betty Carter (Bet-Car Records, 1980)
Karen Dalton: “Katie Cruel” from In My Own Time (Paramount Records, 1971)
Barbara Dane: “Special Delivery Blues” 1957 from Trouble in Mind (San Francisco Records, 1957)
Aretha Franklin: “Respect” b/w “Dr. Feelgood” (Atlantic, 1967)
Billie Holiday and Her Orchestra: “Strange Fruit” b/w “Fine and Mellow” (Commodore, 1939)
Mahalia Jackson: “Keep Your Hand on the Plow” from The World’s Greatest Gospel Singer (Columbia, 1955) [Arguably a more stirring rendition recorded live, with Duke Ellington; see: Duke Ellington Live at Newport 1958 (Columbia)]
Nina Simone: “Feeling Good” from I Put a Spell on You (Philips, 1965)
Bessie Smith: “Down Hearted Blues” b/w “Gulf Coast Blues (Columbia, 1923)
Kitty Wells: “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels” b/w “I Don’t Want Your Money, I Want Your Time” (Decca, 1952)
Tammy Wynette: “Stand by Your Man” b/w “I Stayed Long Enough” (Epic, 1968)

Roscoe Holcomb

Discography / Men
Louis Armstrong: “Heebie Jeebies” b/w “Muskrat Ramble” (OKeh, 1926)
Ray Charles and His Band: “I’ve Got a Woman” b/w “Come Back” (Atlantic, 1954)
Blind Gary Davis: “Samson and Delilah” from Harlem Street Singer (Prestige Bluesville,1961) [Arguably a more stirring rendition recorded live; see: Rev. Gary Davis “Samson and Delilah (If I Had My Way)” from The Reverend Gary Davis at Newport (Vanguard, 1968)]
Bob Dylan: “Like a Rolling Stone” from Highway 61 Revisited (Columbia,1965)
Roscoe Holcomb: “On Top of Old Smokey” from The Music of Roscoe Holcomb and Wade Ward (Smithsonian Folkways, 1962)                                                             
Robert Johnson: “Hell Hound on My Trail” b/w “From Four Until Late (Vocalion, 1937)
John Lennon: “Imagine” from Imagine (Apple Records, 1971) [Arguably better performances with the Beatles, including, for example, “A Day in the Life” (1967), “Come Together” (1969), and “Revolution” (single version, 1968)]
Little Richard: “Long Tall Sally” b/w “Slippin’ and Slidin’ (Peepin’ and Hidin’)” (Specialty, 1956)
Van Morrison: “Brown Eyed Girl” b/w “Goodbye Baby (Baby Goodbye)” (Bang Records, 1967)
Elvis Presley: “Heartbreak Hotel” b/w “I Was the One” (RCA Victor, 1956)

Sources for discography: 45cat, Allmusic, Discogs, Smithsonian Folkways, Wikipedia. 

Betty Carter

Also See
Louis Armstrong: “Am Pluto Waterly Yours
Jump Around: Top 25 Greatest Jump Blues Songs
John Coltrane: Energy Kick

Saturday, November 11, 2017


A young woman walked against the traffic, downhill, the breezy orbit of her scarf—the swept springs—unconceiling her, a sonorous swerve, ringlets brunette, varnished at street corners in the dipping light of eye contact. The many dress heels to pavement, the minutes and halves of a percussion compass would offer a bliss-erratic as bright as the tours of flickers, but for the directional mechanism of depletions in reverse. Those drab-dressed, vents whipping or other exodus, the day flattening. Three months later plus an hour, the weather had returned to seasonal: granular tableau above the river’s widening, husk yellow. She repaired, at the river, to the gradations of a hill, clean grass and dusty crown overlooking an eddy revolving with one styrofoam cup. Trees across the water in woolens. The sky lofted towards the coordinates of digital transmission. To receive alloys, the subfrigid metals of static, the needle electric in the ear, despair, of the listener. An air traffic pattern was changing, a rope of departures growling at the dimming detonation of the west. “I would shrink from attackers,” she may have thought. The young woman would turn away from the laugh of a bottle-thrower breaking, perhaps, on a vacant basketball court. An open palm, she concluded, is not always grasping for a handout, but a device that measures risk. The skeptic. The skeptic.

resurrection week editorial schedule:
Sonnet (for Clarice Lispector)

also see
sonnet no. 2 (for clarice lispector)

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Praise Poem for the Music and Musicianship of Marian McLaughlin and Heterodyne: Mariya Shesiuk and Ted Zook

The Venue & the Principals

At Baltimore’s impressive Four Hour Day Lutherie, a multi-purpose establishment where the practice of making stringed instruments meets the practicing musicians who make stringed and other instruments “go forth to song”, guitar player and singer Marian McLaughlin shared the bill on November 2nd with the improvisational project Heterodyne, formed by Mariya Shesiuk (keyboards, synthesizer, voice) and Ted Zook, basscello. Since Heterodyne invites an extended family of guest performers to join their appearances, I eagerly joined as “words.” In my experience, small performance spaces often facilitate some of the most indelible displays of musicianship, and this event at the Lutherie would hardly derail such a theory.

Marian McLaughlin

Marian McLaughlin might describe herself as an experimental folk musician, and to that, I’d add a few humble thoughts about her indigenous connection to guitar as well as her kindly relationship with audience. One could ponder the mastery of technique when watching Marian play and one could ponder the inevitable well of her abundant discoveries. I’d wager on the inner life of the artist, the sincere weights of her process, the implicit prevalence of her storytelling and imagery. What devotee of Debord would fail to register her travels through numerous stations of keen hypothesis? Marian’s beckoning voice can be observed in a constellation that clearly unifies audience members, the enviable concertgoers who thirst for this warmth of communion. 

Heterodyne: Mariya Shesiuk and Ted Zook

Heterodyne doesn’t simply certify a state of urgency. The consequential partnership between Mariya and Ted establishes itself in a vaulting appraisal that situates listeners amid dilemma, some parts nocturnal, some parts urban-nocturnal, some parts the fluidity of human resourcefulness attempting to achieve salvation, boot-sock, boot-sock. Even as our social contracts wobble, even as alarms signal the absence of meaningful doctrine, the music of Heterodyne proposes the kind of ambient elasticity that can enroll all the wayward bodies who might otherwise drift toward despondency. Optimism, we are reminded, cannot be the province of superficiality, but could accompany the exacting genesis envisioned by Mariya and Ted.

For a free recording of Heterodyne (plus “words”) at the Four Hour Day Lutherie, click [here]

There Will Be Additional Ruckus

The very same lineup will renew the ruckus on November 16, 2017 at The Dewdrop Inn, at 8:00 p.m., in Washington, D.C. Come see Marian McLaughlin and Heterodyne (plus “words”) as we stamp our sawing & yodeling, etc., onto worthy square footage of metropolitan terrain. Huzzah!

resurrection week editorial schedule:
Marian McLaughlin & Heterodyne

Tuesday, November 7, 2017



Welcome to Cozy Cole’s blistering R&B shaker, “Cozy’s Mambo.” This music will make you dance, jump, and sing. Let’s get on with it, then.

Twenty-five Word Song Review

Were there two drummers? Did Cozy have four arms? He owned a trick drum kit, right? No, No, No. Was he tap-dancing? Oh, yeah!

We Know a Bit about This Song

“Cozy’s Mambo” is an original.

The likely personnel include George Kelly (tenor sax); Gene Redd (vibes); John Thomas (piano); John Faire, Fred Jordan (guitar); Edwyn Conley (bass); and Cozy Cole (drums). Cozy recorded it in Cincinnati, Oh. (1959) as “Cozy And Bossa” also known as “Cozy’s Mambo.” It was released as Bethlehem 3067 and King 5303 in 1960.

We Know a Bit about Cozy Cole

Born William Randolph Cole, and given the nicknames “Colesy” and “Cozy” by schoolmates, the young drummer first envied Duke Ellington drummer Sonny Greer. As a kid, Cozy learned to tap dance, and incorporated that style into his drumming. He would eventually bridge the worlds between swing, bebop, and rock ‘n’ roll as a drummer. According to critics, he also pioneered “hand and foot independence” (perhaps also termed “coordinated independence”) which may form the basis of much modern drumming.

Cozy played on “Load of Coal” aka “Load of Cole” which Jelly Roll Morton recorded in 1930. His subsequent recordings with Cab Calloway—including “Paradiddle” and “Ratamacue”—emphasized drums, some of the earliest recordings to do so.

In addition to his activities with Jelly Roll Morton and Cab Calloway, he toured, appeared, or recorded with Blanche Calloway, Benny Carter, Willie Bryant [the unofficial mayor of Harlem], Stuff Smith, Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Ella Fitzgerald, and Lionel Hampton. He was one of the first African American musicians to play in a network band, for CBS, in the early 1940s.

Cozy recorded as leader on Love, King, Coral, Columbia, Bethlehem, Verve, and many other labels. He appeared in several movies, including I’m in the Revue (Italian), Don’t Knock the Rock, and The Glenn Miller Story. He also featured in Broadway musicals: Carmen Jones and Seven Lively Arts.

Together with Gene Krupa, he co-founded a drum school that lasted 20 years until Krupa’s death in 1973. Well after he’d established himself professionally, Cozy enrolled at Juilliard School of Music, where he continued to study drumming. He toured Europe with Jack Teagarden and Earth “Fatha” Hines. He toured Africa.

Cozy Is Best Known for “Topsy I” and “Topsy II”

In 1944, Cozy scored a minor hit with “Just One More Chance,” which he recorded on Keynote [1300] as the leader of the Cozy Cole All Stars. The song rose to #10 on Billboard’s Harlem Hit Parade.

Yet the drummer enjoyed national prominence when he released “Topsy I” and “Topsy II”—a drum-inspired jazz piece spread out over two sides of a 45—in 1958. Cozy was 49 at the time. “Topsy I” charted at #27 on Billboard’s pop charts, but “Topsy II” reached #3 on Billboard’s pop charts and #1 on the R&B charts. (It also reached #1 on Cash Box.) The same side also charted in the U.K. (#29 on the pop charts.) The tiny Love Records label released “Topsy I” and “Topsy II”; the record would sell one million copies and receive a gold disc. In the same year, Cozy released “Turvy I” and “Turvy II.” The former didn’t chart, but the latter would make the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at #36.

The title, “Topsy”, derived from a few different sources. Ultimately, it may refer to Topsy herself, a character in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, but it also refers to a piece that appeared in Mr. Tom, a folk opera written by jazz musicians Edgar Battle and Eddie Durham, also with Peter Doraine. As Cozy recorded both “Topsy” and “Turvy”, obviously he punned on the informal phrase, topsy-turvy. Battle and Durham composed the song “Topsy” presumably in the 1930s, when Count Basie (1937) and Benny Goodman (1938) recorded it.

Cozy’s Legacy

Preston Epps and Sandy Nelson both inherited from Cozy, taking drum-themed rock ‘n’ roll recordings onto the charts. The English rock ‘n’ roll drummer Colin Powell changed his name to Cozy Powell, in tribute to his idol. In older age, Cozy Cole earned a bachelor’s degree at Capital University when he was awarded (as a junior) an honorary doctorate from the same school. He passed away in 1981.

Sources of Information

Black Cat Rockabilly Europe Cozy Cole page
Capital University Endowed Fund Listing
Discogs entry for Cozy Cole
Discogs entry for “Cozy’s Mambo”
Drummer World page for Cozy Cole
JazzDisco listing for Bethlehem Records discography (1958 onward)
Modern Drummer (background piece
Modern Drummer (tribute/obituary) by Scott K. Fish
Way Back Attack (Michael Jack Kirby) Cozy Cole page 
Wikipedia entry for Cozy Cole 

resurrection week editorial schedule:
“Great White Water” (Shaker)
“Cozy’s Mambo” (R&B Shaker)



Welcome to “Great White Water,” a rowdy Shaker without identifiable musicians. This music will make you nod your head instantly. Let’s get on with it, then.

Twenty-five Word Song Review

Not the lovely crest of the wave, but the crashing, turbulent, growling finale. The danger and the thrill. Which is precisely where this song begins.

We Don’t Know Anything about The Song’s Musicians

Whoever they are, they played this song in 1963 or 1964 as part of the soundtrack for the 1964 beach movie, Surf Party, starring Bobby Vinton and Patricia Morrow.

A Bit More on Surf Party

Two bands—The Routers and The Astronauts—appear as themselves in the film. Some surf legends also appear, including Mickey Dora. Citing it as a ripoff of the earlier film, Beach Party, critics largely panned Surf Party and the male leads, but did credit the leading women as having done reputable work. The soundtrack was assembled by the legendary composer and arranger, Jimmie Haskell, who, along with William Donaldson “By” Dunham, was credited with writing several of the songs for Surf Party, including “Great White Water.”

That’s about It, Folks

Our tireless discography department can now rest. If you, Dear Reader, know more about this song, please leave us a comment. Enjoy! 

Sources of Information
45worlds (UK release)
45cat (Japan release)
AFI page for movie, Surf Party
Discogs entry for Great White Water
IMDb page for Surf Party soundtrack
Jimmie Haskell website
Thomas Lisanti book (2005) Hollywood Surf and Beach Movies
Wikipedia entry for Surf Party

resurrection week editorial schedule:
“Great White Water” (Shaker)
“Cozy’s Mambo” (R&B Shaker)

Monday, November 6, 2017


[Made note: Greeks do not like Al Gore, former V.P. U.S.A.] Al Gore at the Autobus Stop, Al Gore at the Tzatziki Vendor, Al Gore in Athens, No! This could result in Al-Gore-A-Phobia.

Received a citation for “Disturbing the Cod-Peace”, by Officer (Miss) Demeanor. Told to leave that cod-peace in extra virgin turmoil. [Made note: extroversion term oil.]

Decide between (a) Rockin’ the Casbah & (b) Rockin’ the Cash Bar. [Made note: Schlitz Malt Liquor Istanbull.] Dwayne Johnson?—The Rock?—in the Casbah? (Skip.)

Jumping ship became an art form. Sailors as artists tossing themselves into the cold, cold briny. [Made note: Shipmates to holler “Man Oeuvre Board!” when considering bodies of work.]

[Made note: Maneuvers & Manures.] The Hind-Lick Maneuver, The Heinz-Lick Maneuver, Orchestral Manures in the Dark, Heimlich Manure, Military Manures, The Hymie Lick Maneuver.

So, a guy named Walter bought a gate. [Made note: That would be Walter’s Gate.] It didn’t keep out Republicans. Then came Congressional “Probe.” Then came “Special” Prosecutor.

Hoity Toity physicians & their big-box booksellers. Those medics should shop for paperbacks local. If so, they’d be Doctors Without Borders! [Made note: French: Medecins Sans Front Ears.]

[Made note: if The Autobahn is where Germans can drive as fast as they please] then is The Audubon where Birds can fly as fast as they please?

[Made note: If I’m full of awe, then am I awe-full?] (Skip.)

NASA hiring astronaughts & expecting missions to succeed! Why not rocket the hip-hop musician, Nas, into space? [Made note: shorten NASA to Nas.] Best idea since Big Ben Gay Talese.

SUNY-Previn sucks, the cafeteria smells like wet dogs, the dorms are gross & the quad is full of douchebags. Should I transfer to Rutgers-Hauer? [Made note: RISD-Snider?]

Retreats used to be full-scale military disgraces. Now you don’t even leave the office and you order-in Buca di Beppo. [Made note: the dog expects a second treat nowadays; a re-treat.]

[Made note: Who log-ins?] Kenny? Kenny log-ins? How many Kenny log-ins? [What?] Log-ins & Messina? How many Log-ins & Messina? [Huh?] The Messina comin’? Land O’ Lakes & Honey!

I need a prescription filled immediately. I need Apothecary Now. [Made note: Fro-Yo Yo Ma & Pa Kettle.] Then I called A.A. for a tow. “Al-Gore-A-Phobia Anonymous,” said a man named Stavros. Honest mistake!

resurrection week editorial schedule:
Notes (for Sonnet)

Thursday, August 17, 2017


Some people read poems about spending a lot of time in graveyards. They don’t hate these poems. “Ooh!” they say. “I hate spending a lot of time in graveyards!” Not all poems are about loitering in cemeteries, though. Some lyrics concern a horsey, the current president, or the prevalence of vulgarity. “Vulgarity-current president,” says one ambitious verse. “Horsey-vulgarity,” goes another. Yet a third may offer, “Current president-horsey.”

If someone has died, there follows the day after someone has died. That day is almost always wintry, even if it’s the chalky cloud-swells of a wintry sky during a season of oppressive heat. Can the sky grow any oilier or smokier? In the end, there are no achievable geometries. (Can you disprove it?) Perhaps the word “achievable” should be subtracted. It supposes attainment, as in scaling a truth, or encountering a love that forever regenerates forgiveness.  

Another person has been slain. Most cessation doesn’t murder but murder almost always results in cessation. Perhaps the holy nature of stoppages kindles an impulse to envision the kingdom of the dead. Of all the unachievable geometries—wandering, sound maps, savage proximity, and slackening—only slackening can result in catastrophe. There follows the day after someone has died. That day, and every day in succession, is a white stone. Can you disprove it?

My friend, we’re all going to spend a lot of time in graveyards. Ever notice how walking is like the body through the body? Currency jangles in a coin pocket. The afternoon declares shady intervals until the curvature and curtain of disengagement. Some people read poems about the moon, its quarter-hopes and half-hopes, its hidden alertness. They don’t hate these poems. The moon tugs and we may listen in order to defamiliarize. As with any loss, how crucial the disbelief?

Sunday, July 23, 2017


Julius Caesar suspects Brutus of practicing compositions on the piano. “I heard music,” the strongman alleges. “Études, Brute?” If only our back-stabbiz had been musicians, instead. They’d of (sic) kept their steely, steely connives in their two-nix and we’d of (sic) slugged-down an Orange Julius Caesar Salad. In short, weed’a lived and it wouldn’a been uh backstabbiz atoll. Later, Caesar and Brutus haggle over which catalogue-retailer to patronize. “J. Crew, Brute?” says Caesar. They have some thought-balloons in this arena, some Ideas of Merch. To this point, the pooch hasn’t initiated a coup, a coo hasn’t emanated from the putsch. And as for empire, Romulus hasn’t reamed us out, Remus hasn’t loaded a CD-Romulus into the disc drive. Anything could happen, even détente, even breaking bread, peace-meal. It’s both terrifying and wonderful all at once, kind of like Brutus, bored out of his bust, making his late-night Bru-tay call to a gal, a Gaul pursued by the scent-o’tour, himself. Rife goes on. A gambling conference kindles-up at a hotel across the street, where someone delivers The Keno Address. When indentured servants reinsert their false teeth, they become dentured servants, no? Ever notice how antlers resemble driftwood? It’s like mature bucks are washing up on shore, waves and waves of sea-sawbucks, them and their weather-worn driftwood antlers, ten bucks a dozen in Ten-buck-two. If you have a job, or if you seek a job, then you’re under occupation. Behold the afternoon sun. It could be—a little bit—hotter before the instrument begins to fail, and it will begin to fail, the mechanism failing the person: this is our bleak future, dear citizen, all mechanisms will begin to fail. At the request of Brutus, Julius Caesar agrees to engage in the nautical guessing game, Battleship. As dick-tater, Caesar goes first, of course. “A-2, Brute?” he guesses. He guesses correctly, even though he doesn’t kitchen-sink no gravy bloat. The bodies of the other senators reflect on every bright surface, their motions unlike stabbing but in emphasis of their numbers, their jagged rationale. They attack Julius Caesar for being a crass-dressing tyranny even as they, themselves, will become tyranny, with or without the salad dressage, and they, themselves, will be slain by the residents of tyranny 2-B. Recital is a good deity, too shrewd for the mothball operas that resolve themselves (phone booth, no mouthpiece) in the public confessionals of prepaid gravity, amid the sunlit metals of confrontation.

Cultural Affairs Week 2017 Editorial Schedule
Novelty Government U.S.A.
Études, Brute?
To Be Announced

Tuesday, July 18, 2017


If only Novelty Government U.S.A. would “heart.” If only it would spray-paint. Then it could spell “i ♥ melody” in a fuzzy charcoal proclamation on the northbound side of an overpass which fjords—yes, fjords—a minor, trickly tributary. (A crick.) Novelty Government might prefer a gal named Melody. Or it might prefer the melodious through-action of music, “i ♥ melody.” Some constituents might regard the potential for two affections as ambiguous, too complicated to merit their untethered support. After all, they had voted for Novelty Government U.S.A. with the lobster-redness of exasperation, a lobster-redness that hearkened back to the single-minded exasperation of earlier generations, pioneers, men and women donning severe sugarloaf caps. Novelty Government does womanize, thus, on the one hand, professing amour (and sporting ‘under amour’ garb) for the hand of one woman in particular, might wrinkle a few lobster-red thought balloons, but as for “i ♥ melody,” the melody of song, well, just what in the Jiminy Cricket does that proclaim? And what kind of melody would Novelty Government U.S.A. prefer to heart? (Jessica Simpson cover-crooning a ditty by Scritti Politti?) One opines “if only” since Novelty Government doesn’t appear to heart, own spray-paint, hang out on the overpass, know a gal named Melody, and tap its toes to melody. It’s not difficult to imagine Novelty Government U.S.A. in the girth of a business suit, adopting poses that could be described as the “scrunched fists of seasonal desecration” or “lobster-red effort to distinguish between a bowel movement and a gasser” or “juvenile hyperventilation upon denial of favorable building permit to construct another leisure resort.” Novelty Government U.S.A. would like us to think that everything conspires against it—virulent veganism of everyday columnists, ghostly voters arising from Tammany Hall graveyards, grousing of international cultures yearning for subsistence—when instead, Novelty Government can cradle “the red telephone” anytime it chooses. It can destroy the world again, and again, and again.

Cultural Affairs Week 2017 Editorial Schedule
Novelty Government U.S.A.
To Be Announced

Thursday, July 13, 2017


When we run out of liquid assets (and we will run out of beer) perhaps our bankers will lend a hand, lend an ear, you know, a personal loan from an actual body. Let’s deconstruct the moment when a man claiming to be Jackson Shiitake knocks on your door: (1) He prefers to be called “Jack” and (2) “Jack” Shiitake doesn’t know jack sheet-music about the mushrooming morel of the story. The elk prefers a member of its ilk (who is an elk) and owing to a sense that its ilk has been bilked out of funny-money honey-bunny, the Elk would like to Lodge a complaint. Behold, dear citizen, the Sneeze-Fart Combo also known as Novelty Government U.S.A. “Please refer to the press kit,” says representative of Sneeze-Fart Combo, when asked about a list of active conspiracy theories. The press kit sits beside the steamship round of beef electric carving kiosk, and contains, does the press kit, an expository essay (entitled “Meineke Kampf”) that describes the political need to muffle, to muzzle, to squelch. What’s Happening!! comes on TV. There’s Fred Perry, in the red beret and suspenders, popping around as his character, Rerun. There’s Fred Perry haplessly chasing the pickup truck, wind-milling with futility. You’re watching a rerun of Rerun running (and re-running) after the vehicle in which Raj and Dwayne have achieved a comfy existence. Nowadays, your potato rental doesn’t include utilities, your snifter rental doesn’t include utilities, your venison rental doesn’t include utilities. (You gotta pay alternating current, you gotta pay landfill, you gotta pay sports drink, you gotta pay fossil fuel.) Buddy, I know of only one society that can boast hundreds of names for “The Imbecile,” or pronounce it “IN-BUH-SOYLE,” if you prefer poetry.

Cultural Affairs Week 2017 Editorial Schedule
List of Active Conspiracy Theories

Monday, July 10, 2017


The winning moment at Roland Garros. Bedlam!

When unseeded and relatively unknown Aļona Ostapenko (more commonly known as Jelena Ostapenko) met No. 3 seed Simona Halep in the finals of the French Open, the sports oracles might’ve foreseen a quiet, straight-sets triumph for Halep, who, with a win, would’ve overtaken Angelique Kerber to become the top-ranked women’s tennis player in the world, a height she hadn’t yet reached. If contemplating the all-time greats, one considers the likes of Billie Jean King and Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova, Margaret Court and Evonne Goolagong, Steffi Graf, and of course, the still-active Williams sisters, Venus and Serena. The nationalities—American, Czech, Australian, German, American—leave off Halep’s Romanian origins and Ostapenko’s Latvian roots. When Halep took the first set and led 3-love in the second set, it seemed as if she would become only the second Romanian woman to win a grand slam event, joining Virginia Ruzici, who also triumphed at Roland Garros in 1978. No Latvian tennis players—neither men nor women—had ever won a grand slam event.

En route to the finals, Ostapenko played four three-set matches, including a notable quarterfinal triumph against No. 11 seed Caroline Wozniacki (4-6, 6-2, 6-2). This might’ve favored Halep, who’d only faced two lengthy matches before the finals, among them a 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 semifinal victory over No. 2 seed Karolína Plíšková. Down one set, and love-three in the second set, Ostapenko might’ve been content to capitulate, might’ve been content in the knowledge that she’d earned a berth in a grand slam final just a few days after her twentieth birthday. But the viewer could detect the formulation of the comeback, in Ostapenko’s expressions and gestures, from the flailing, frowning, and pouty, to the steely, sage, and jubilant. She captured six of the ensuing seven games, to secure the second set, 6-4. Her opponent was no slouch, and took a 3-1 lead in the third set, but even then, the viewer couldn’t envision a derailment. The wiry-armed Latvian was swinging for the lines.

It’s not that simple, of course. According to Reuters, Ostapenko committed 54 unforced errors to accompany her—punishing—display of 54 winners. (Halep would collect 10 and 8, respectively.) Ostapenko would lose her serve six times, but this wouldn’t deter the upstart, as she would break Halep’s serve eight times.  She didn’t just punish the ball on winners (and unforced errors) but virtually every time she swung her racket. Trailing in the match didn’t seem to matter. So long as there were more balls to clobber, she would clobber them. Ostapenko profited from a ridiculous bounce, a net cord at 3-3 in the third set, but many champions receive lucky bounces, especially those who fight the hardest. She took five straight games to close the match 3-6, 6-4, 6-3, her first title as a professional. The French Open champion didn’t play recklessly, but just shy of recklessness, and maybe that’s how we can define her game. Ostapenko delivered powerful ground-strokes from numerous angles, balances, and stances, just shy of recklessness. She dwelt—regally, precariously, bravely—on that edge, and won the French Open as an unseeded (and mostly teenage) player. She should never play tennis any other way.

Ostapenko’s smile is as formidable as her inside-out forehand.

It surprises me often enough when intelligent people reject the meaningfulness of athletic competition. To the contrary, the fearless vision of Aļona Ostapenko and her unwavering dedication to attacking the boundaries of the tennis court, moved me—I admit—to teary eyes, right after she scorched a backhand return of serve down the line to clinch her match versus Simona Halep. Ostapenko appears to be a kindly person and she didn’t exult in a way that mocked her opponent, yet there too, I found the celebratory imagery to radiate importance: a dazzling reward that compensated her own achievement, as well as the powerful force (Halep) arranged against her. The seasoned American announcing crew was stunned; who wouldn’t be? And who wouldn’t see this performance as a blueprint for any creative foray? There. That’s the crush. Learning from this young person to gamble—every moment—on the promise of your vision. 

Sources of Information:
NBC broadcast of the French Open women’s final
French Open match highlights, on YouTube
French Open Women’s Singles 2017 complete results at Wikipedia
New York Times article on Ostapenko’s first name
WTA listing for Jelena Ostapenko
Jelena Ostapenko Wikipedia page
ESPN story about Ostapenko’s progress at Wimbledon
Virginia Ruzici Wikipedia page
Roland Georges Garros Wikipedia page

Cultural Affairs Week 2017 Editorial Schedule
Aļona Ostapenko
Études, Brute?
To Be Announced

Sunday, June 25, 2017


1. We know very little about this song and its musicians.

2. Likely personnel include: Richie Mayo (bass), Frank Perry (guitar), Mel Barnet (tenor saxophone), Mike Marrow (drums), and Don Edmonds (piano).

3. The band recorded “Crawlin’ (The Crawl)” on Varsity Music’s Campus label in Philadelphia, 1957.

4. A few years later, in 1961, a band known as the Untouchables re-recorded the song, bundled with “Benny the Beatnik,” on To-Da Music’s Rello label. While the personnel aren’t fully known, the guitar player (Frank Perry) for the Paramours appears to be part of this recording, and is given credit for composing this second version. It ain’t no slouch, as they say.

5. The original version may have been responding to The Stroll, which was both a teenage dance and an early rock ‘n’ roll song. In the dance, a line of boys and a line of girls would face each other at opposite sides of the room, akin to “reels” from other eras. One couple at a time, the dance partners would meet in the middle and stroll down the two lines, dancing while holding hands. The song, “The Stroll,” was first recorded by a Canadian band, The Diamonds, and first released in December, 1957, on the Mercury label. Ultimately, it’s a pop song, but owing to its rowdy saxophone, it reached #5 on the R&B charts. The record, the recording, would enable the song and the dance to occur simultaneously, a great triumph, perhaps, for connoisseurs of coincidence.

6. Dictionaries, as we know them, tend to define “stroll” as to “walk in a leisurely way” whereas “crawl” is typically cast as “dragging the body along on hands and knees.” The former is pleasant whereas the latter is burdened and grimy. (Ahem.) But that’s not all. The song is called “Crawlin’ (The Crawl),” as if to insist upon some slangy distance, the parentheses, between the two worlds. At the very least, “Crawlin’” is much less theoretical than “The Crawl” and to some degree must represent the unscripted form of the experience.

7. As an aside, “paramour” is defined as “a lover, especially a lover of a person who is married to someone else.”

8. Both versions of “Crawlin’ (The Crawl)” were re-released in 2013, as part of an early rock revival on Jazzman Records in the United Kingdom. Some Jazzman records emphasize the concept of burlesque, which their choice of labels—Sleazy, Sin Street, Smutt, et cetera—amply confirms.

9. “Shakers?” you ask. “SHAKERS,” I reply. Look into it.

10. In the end, here we have a suggestive song that’s crawlin’, played by a group of lovers, recorded sixty years ago, with wailing guitar and growling horn, and it’s no wonder that the band members have to shout “yeah!” at intervals. In part, those shouts acknowledge the genesis of an edgy translation, a code that instructs us to move.

Sources of Information:

YouTube comments
45cat entry for Untouchables
Wikipedia entry for “The Stroll
45cat entry for The Diamonds
YouTube video for The Stroll
Free Dictionary entry for Paramour
Discogs entry for the Jazzman reissue


If it’s feasible, then it can be stored in the freezer. If it’s dirigible, then it can be mourned by a dirge. Too many dirges, however, might cause you to walk with a blimp. In the next room, Yokel Ono sits on a barstool and croons about life in the rural prefecture. In one of the songs, an ante-lope makes off with the poker kitty that otherwise belongs to the rubber baron. He, the rubber baron, derives great affluence from prophylactic sales, but his penile business practices draw wide condom-nation. So yeah, a different fellow wants to raise fruit trees in anonymity, and so this fellow adopts a nom de plum, or would that be a nom de prune? Sadly, he struggles at agriculture, and succumbs, mildly, to gardening of the arteries. His real name is Norman, he’s a standard fellow, and when war finally erupts, he settles on Norm de Guerre as the assumed name for his saboteur of duty. Eventually, his alias gets him on the A-List. When the Jerusalemite studies you, by the by, he got his Zion you, he got his Zion you. I hate it when the hit man, one Mr. Reaper Cussin’s, mouths off, over and over again. Finally, I have to confront the hit man, one Mr. Reaper Cussin’s. “Hey Bud,” I say, “Are you assassin’ me?”

Also see: List of Active Conspiracy Theories

Sunday, April 16, 2017


 Nina Simone performed “Little Liza Jane” throughout her career. 

(For more information about our film, please see: “Behind the Scenes at the Li’l Liza Jane trailer shoot.”)

In 1927, the poet Carl Sandburg declared, “There are as many Liza songs in the Appalachian Mountains as there are species of trees on the slopes of that range.” This unmagnified observation would help introduce one of two “Liza” compositions in his crucial effort, The American Songbag, a celebrated, voluminous compilation that bestowed significance upon numerous folksongs. “Liza Jane” depicted lonesome drifters who attempted to ranch the “flat prairies and level horizons” on the western plains of the Appalachians, but a second tune, “Good-By Liza Jane,” apparently accompanied a Midwestern circus as a minstrel song. The character, Liza Jane, is rather incidental to the silliness of the circus minstrelsy—a horse falls partway down a well, a snail bursts through the tail of the goose that swallowed it, a woman crosses a bridge that that wasn’t yet built—but in the mountain range version, Liza Jane (the character) assumes more prominence. In that piece, the narrators make jugs of molasses in order to “sweeten little Liza Jane” and contrast the hardest work of their lives (“a-brakin’ on the train”) with the easiest, “a-huggin’ little Liza Jane.” Questions about the relationships of these variations as well as their origins might not persevere in the inquisitive mind of the listener would the song not persevere among recording artists. Nina Simone, for example, delivered stirring renditions of “Li’l Liza Jane” throughout her career, including a fabulous live performance at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1960. Wynton Marsalis, David Bowie (as Davie Jones), The Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Pete Seeger, Taj Mahal, Vince Gill, Duane Eddy, Doc Watson, Slim Harpo, and Fats Domino, among others, recorded the song. (Some of these recordings, Dear Reader, leap out of the ol’ phonograph better than others!) In many renditions of the tune, Liza Jane represents an object of courtship, one who eludes the promises of gifts and affection with elegiac steadfastness. 

 The Hill Billies recorded “Mountaineer’s Love Song” in 1926. 

Step Back
When investigating John Lomax’s early 1930s recordings in the penitentiaries (and other areas) of Louisiana, the writer Joshua Clegg Caffery encountered “Little Liza Jane,” terming it a “crossover dance number” performed by African American string bands and jug bands. In his book, Traditional Music in Coastal Louisiana: The 1934 Lomax Recordings, Caffery parses a version of the song performed by Wilson “Stavin’ Chain” Jones. The most charming passage of the tune, “Some people tell me Liza don’t steal, Little Liza Jane / And I caught little Liza in my cornfield, Little Liza Jane,” stamps a humorous realization onto a piece that otherwise, according to Caffery, veers between “unrelated episodes constructed out of stock phrases.” Even as that might be an unfair qualification, the author draws an incontrovertible distinction between Stavin’ Chain’s version of “Liza Jane” and the repertoire of Appalachian fiddle tunes such as “Susan Jane” and “Lasses Cane,” songs quite similar to the mountaintop variation introduced by Sandburg (although not the minstrel piece.) Terming them “second cousins once removed,” Caffery still acknowledges distant lineage between the Louisiana and Appalachian compositions. Many early recordings of “Li’l Liza Jane” predate the Lomax field recordings, among them these two popular versions: Earl Fuller’s Famous Jazz Band recorded “Li’l’ Liza Jane—One Step” in 1917 and The Hill Billies recorded “Mountaineer’s Love Song” in 1926, both in New York City. The former, recorded by white musicians, carries the African American melody, whereas the latter, its “second cousin once removed,” clips along with obvious Appalachian fiddling qualities. While “Mountaineer’s Love Song” doesn’t mention Liza Jane in its title, the singers frequently recall her throughout the piece. Neither rendition, however, accounts for the genesis of “Li’l Liza Jane”—not nearly. The untraceable Countess Ada De Lachau published sheet music for a version of the song, “Li’l Liza Jane,” that was performed as entr’acte incidental music for a thriving Broadway three-act comedy, Come Out of the Kitchen, starring Ruth Chatterton, an actress who knew Amelia Earhart and would later fly solo several times, herself, across the United States, in addition to becoming a best-selling novelist. Broadway audiences heard “Li’l Liza Jane” as many as 224 times between the play’s opening in October 1916 and closing in May 1917, not long after Congress voted to declare war on Germany as part of the mobilization for World War I. Don Tyler, in his book, Music of the First World War, cannot classify “Li’l Liza Jane” easily, dubbing it “part folk song, part [minstrel] song, part early jazz, and part early country.”

Wilson “Stavin’ Chain” Jones is pictured during 
John Lomax’s field recording sessions in 1934.

Step Back, Twice
According to The American Songbag, one C.W. Loutzenhiser of Chicago recalls seeing a performance of the minstrel song “Good-By Liza Jane” as a child attending the circus. No date accompanies this information, but we can assume that minstrels may have been performing versions of the song in the nineteenth century. (According to Caffery and other sources, Liza and Eliza were stock characters in many minstrel shows.) At least two writers published scores earlier than the mysterious Countess Ada De Lachau, one being Harry von Tilzer’s “Good Bye Eliza Jane” (1903) and the earliest being Eddie Fox’s “Good Bye Liza Jane” (1871.) The Fox version doesn’t appear to lampoon blacks, and instead, bills itself as a “comic song,” offering rural themes and silly couplets such as “Chickens and hens have gone to roost / A hawk flew down and bit an old goose.” The von Tilzer sheet music, on the other hand, portrays two black men in a stereotyped cover image and narrates a dialect-heavy scenario in which Eliza Jane has betrayed a lover, who then demands his belongings and promises to skip town before having to pay the rent. To be sure, the song’s estimable legacy exceeds sheet music and popular recordings, and we must take an important moment to understand that “Li’l Liza Jane” also served as a dancing game, or more specifically, a “Stealin’ Partners” dance-game song. In her 1918 collection, Negro Folk Songs, Book 4, the ethnomusicologist Natalie Curtis Burlin informed the tune “‘Liza Jane” as one during which an unaccompanied man would dance in the center of a circle, surrounded by couples. He would ‘steal’ a female partner, and the resulting single man would repeat the process, amid joyous lyrics in which a suitor urges Liza Jane to follow him, to Baltimore: “I got a house in Baltimo’, L’il’ ‘Liza-Jane / Street-car runs right by ma do’, L’il’ ‘Liza-Jane / O Eliza, L’il’ ‘Liza-Jane / O Eliza, L’il’ ‘Liza-Jane.” (As an aside, Natalie Curtis Burlin famously spent time transcribing songs on Native American reservations, including one stay accompanied by her pal, Theodore Roosevelt.) Additionally, Burlin would note an observation by Charles N. Wheeler, who wrote about a tune, “‘Liza Jane,” sung by African American soldiers in France, during World War I, perhaps the New York 15th (Colored) Regiment. According to his article in the Chicago Tribune, Wheeler related the words, probably sung as cadence, which began, “I’se got a gal an’ you got none—L’il’ ‘Liza Jane / House an’ lot in Baltimo’—L’il ‘Liza Jane.” 

The Countess Ada De Lachau helped popularize  
the song by publishing this sheet music in 1916. 

Roots in Slavery, Africa, and England
Whether or not the African American soldiers drew from Countess Ada De Lachau, they nevertheless restated her entry to “Li’l Liza Jane,” a phrase—“I’se got a gal an’ you got none”—that reinforces, however in reverse, the basic situation of the stealing partners dance game. The placement of Baltimore in many versions of “Li’l Liza Jane” may comment on some of the song’s evolutionary twists or may offer poetic convenience, seeing as “Baltimore” can be (and is) end-rhymed with words like “door” and “floor,” both evidence of house ownership, and both cited as reasons why Liza Jane should follow her suitor. The Countess Ada De Lachau’s sheet music, despite being billed as a “Southern Dialect Song,” contains a curious English tilt, “I will take good care [of] thee,” a line that Nina Simone maintains in her 1960 Newport appearance. Many of the African American recordings of “Li’l Liza Jane” offer melodic parallels to the African song of welcome, “Funga Alafia.” While several sources corroborate this observation, a listener can simply verify the claim by playing virtually any recording of the African American “Li’l Liza Jane” and virtually any recording of “Funga Alafia.” It might follow that the melody of “Funga Alafia” accompanied enslaved Africans as they were brought to the United States. How then the melody became affixed to English words, and where these English words ultimately originated, may be anybody’s guess, but one slave narrative from the Federal Writers’ Project of the Works Progress Administration confirms that a version of “Li’l Liza Jane” was being sung in Louisiana before the Civil War. This blogger found the narrative of Lucy Thurston extremely painful to read, but she recited, at 101 years of age, quite a few lines of the Liza song she sang: “Hair as [black] as coal in de mi--ine / Lil Liza Jane / Eyes so large and big and [fine] / Lil Liza Jane / OHooooo Lil Liza, Lil Liza Jane / OHooooo Lil Liza, Lil Liza Jane.” Indeed, the score by Countess Ada De Lachau emphasizes a refrain similar to Lucy Thurston’s rendition. “Ohe—————Liz – a, Li’l Liz – a – Jane,” it reads, with weight placed on the “Ohe,” before plunging toward the name of the woman who, either lightheartedly or earnestly, the crooner courts.

Slim Harpo and His King Bees play “Little Liza Jane” in 1961.

Apologies, Further Listening, and Listening
“I apologize for the imperfections in this work,” wrote Carl Sandburg, in the prefatory material to The American Songbag. “No one else is now, or ever will be, so deeply aware and so thoroughly and widely conscious of the imperfections in these pages.” Your humble blogger would like to express the same feelings—obviously on a much smaller scale—as those of Sandburg, a stately character revered for his writings, politics, and humility alike. To the contrary, The American Songbag stands out as a work of massive significance. Together with a few other sources, including The Acoustic Music Sourcebook and the online Traditional Tune Archive, it led me to a host of electrifying Appalachian-themed recordings of the song. Look for Uncle Am Stuart “Old Liza Jane” (1924), Fiddlin’ John Carson, “Goodbye Liza Jane” (1926), Tenneva Ramblers “Miss Liza Poor Gal” (1928), Bradley Kincaid “Liza up the ‘Simmon Tree” (1928), and Charlie Poole “Goodbye Liza Jane” (1930), among others already mentioned. Don’t neglect its second cousin once removed, either. Among others already mentioned, seek Huey “Piano” Smith and His Rhythm Aces “Little Liza Jane” (1956), Fats Domino “Lil’ Liza Jane” (1959), Art Neville “Little Liza Jane” (1965), Scott Dunbar “Little Liza Jane” (1970), and the Slim Harpo version, “Little Liza Jane,” that sits atop this concluding paragraph. What is it about Slim Harpo, man? Recorded blurry from the public address system at the National Guard Armory on Sage Avenue in Mobile, Alabama, on July 1st,1961, the King Bees and their leader play this version Through-The-Roof. By then, more than one hundred years had elapsed between Lucy Thurston singing “Li’l Liza Jane” in slavery and James “Slim Harpo” Moore inhabiting the song as part of a raucous celebration. The shouting and hollering in 1961 ought to learn us a thing or two about the magnificence of human transformation.

Likely personnel for Slim Harpo’s version of “Little Liza Jane”—James “Slim Harpo” Moore (vocals and harmonica), Rudolph Richard (guitar), James Johnson (bass guitar), Sammy Brown (drums), and Willie Parker (tenor sax).
Sources of InformationCarl Sandburg, The American Songbag  (Harcourt, Brace & Company, New York, 1927)
Nina Simone recording information for Nina at Newport (1960)
Joshua Clegg Caffery, Traditional Music in Coastal Louisiana: The 1934 Lomax Recordings (LSU Press, Baton Rouge, 2013)
Wilson “Stavin’ Chain” Jones recording information for “Little Liza Jane” (1934)
Earl Fuller’s Famous Jazz Band recording information for “Li’l’ Liza Jane—One Step” (1917)
The Hill Billies recording information for “Mountaineer’s Love Song” at Discogs (1926)
Come Out of the Kitchen production information at Internet Broadway Database
Ruth Chatterton entry at Wikipedia
“Li’l Liza Jane” (song) entry at Wikipedia
Don Tyler, Music of the First World War (ABC-CLIO, Santa Barbara, Calif., 2016)
Harry von Tilzer sheet music for “Good Bye Eliza Jane” (1903) at Library of Congress
Eddie Fox sheet music for “Good Bye Liza Jane” (1871) at Library of Congress
Natalie Curtis Burlin, Negro Folk Songs, Book 4 (G. Schirmer, New York, 1918)
Natalie Curtis Burlin entry at Wikipedia
Countess Ada De Lachau sheet music for “Li’l Liza Jane” (1916) at Duke University Library
Lucy Thurston Works Progress Administration slave narrative (late 1930s)
Traditional Tune Archive (various pages) 
Martin Hawkins, Slim Harpo: Blues King Bee of Baton Rouge (LSU Press, Baton Rouge, 2016)
Slim Harpo Sting it Then! (1961) at AllMusic