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Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

Sometimes when two artists come together, magic happens. Last night Shawn Colvin and Mary Chapin Carpenter hit the small stage at the Norwalk Concert Hall (which is literally in the City Hall Building) in Connecticut for a beautiful blending of their talents. They are playing a number of shows together, continuing tonight at Infinity Hall, also in CT, and other venues in around the country. But last night was their first show together, and that’s always special.

Music is a highly collaborative art, and the mixings of a particular performance are always unique. The chemistry between these two old friends who have lent back-ups to each other’s recordings over the years was so strong that it felt like we were hanging out with them in on the porch while they pulled out the old songs they always wanted to play.

A lot of it was covers from Tom Waits, the Backstreet Boys, and short references to everyone from James Taylor to Bob Dylan to Katy Perry. Shawn Colvin tends to provide comedy relief in her reminiscences from the road—and hopefully she will share her Sting guitar-tuning story again. Mary Chapin (her first name) Carpenter is the warm friend who rolls with whatever comes along and cracks jokes as they come to her. And while their patter includes references to loser boyfriends and hot flashes, their lyrics are mostly about small moments in life and love—the good and the bad, and what lies between.

 

There was someone in his past that he hasn’t gotten over yet

Each day’s like the last, he just misses what he can’t forget

It’s just an empty space where something used to be

Now he guards the gate, but he’s lost the key

So no one enters, but no one leaves

There’s a keeper for every flame

                           Mary Chapin Carpenter, Keeper for Every Flame

 

Sweetness and light, you were right,

Summers are getting harder

Days echo by–blood red sky

Chop wood and carry water

We only do what we can and there’s a natural plan, you know

I know that you understand cause you’re just that kind of man, you know

Oh we try and try and we cry baby cry and

Everybody knows we get nowhere

Again and again forever til the end and anwhere you go I will go there

                                   Shawn Colvin, Anywhere You Go

 

And, it should be noted they are both phenomenal guitarists.  While I lean heavily toward Shawn Colvin’s syncopated, rolling riffs,

 

it would hard not to appreciate the fine fingerwork of MCC’s delicately-laced songs.

 

They gave acoustic versions of their hits, MCC’s, He Thinks He’ll Keep Her, and what they referred to as a good ol’ murder ballad, SC’s, Sunny Came Home, but the real treat was the harmony they brought to each other’s songs—MCC’s deeper base filling in Shawn Colvin’s high register. It would have been nice to hear more of their better-known songs (like the two above), but maybe that’s for another tour!

It was one of those great evenings where the audience felt like they could easily talk to them on stage, and everybody had a good time. There is something to be said for experience, particularly among musicians, who appear to ripen with age—they are at once both sharper and more mellow. The comfort and enjoyment they so obviously derive from playing familiar songs is something that fills the air around us and we get to take home with us.

These are singer-songwriters in the folk tradition blended with county, rock and even a little blues, they play an acoustic tour with just four guitars on stage between them in a very pure set. They share stories from the road and their lives, opening just for a while, the window into how music—and why music is made. Both have albums coming out in June, SC’s All Fall Down and MCC’s Ashes and Roses.

Great timing, since we’re all waiting for something other than Adele (who is wonderful, but will need years of seasoning to be as rich as these two!)

© Copyright 2012 – Arts Enclave

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If you’ve never been to an outdoor festival and you can make it to CT this weekend, Gathering of the Vibes is where the music plays!  It’s a four-day festival in the old rock tradition, built on the memories of Grateful Dead concerts–but with plenty of new talent to keep all ages entertained. Last year I interviewed the VIBES Director and originator, Ken Hays about the festival, and where live music is headed.

Try to catch this great event if you can. Tickets are still available by the day for the performances – check out the schedule. Bands like Dark Star Orchestra and FURTHER, featuring Phil Lesh and Bob Weir are long-time favorites at the Vibes. This year the new headliners include Elvis Costello and Jane’s Addiction. Definitely one of my favorite CT events!

  © 2011 Arts Enclave. All Rights Reserved.

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2011 will be the Year of  Inspiration.

We leave behind a decade of hardship and excess, and a complete loss of touch with everything that makes us human. We got caught up in symbols of things that prove we dominate the planet, and arguments over who should have those things and who should not. We measured our world by prices of stocks and houses, watching the numbers as if they were the air we needed to breathe. And when the dominoes began to fall, we hung onto a lot of misguided discussion over who had the answers. Nobody did, because we weren’t asking the right questions.

Life is fairly simple, when we are able to step back and view the universe for what it is—something miraculous and relatively indifferent to our individual neuroses. There’s the sky and the ocean and the land between, sun and moon, winter and summer. At our best, we humans are uniquely blessed with the ability to appreciate those things that are so much larger than we are, and when we do, we see how inconsequential the price of gas is. It’s time to let a universe that knows better than we do take back the reigns. Our job is to get up every day and revel in what the world shows us.

Everyone needs daily inspiration to plod through the infinite indignities, hardships, and even tragedies of life just to find those small moments of perfection, where it is just good to be. And so we decorate our space in the world with things large and small that remind us of who we want to be, and show us new ways to see ourselves. It’s in the music we play, the books we read, the movies we watch, and the pictures we look at that take us to the world at its best. Each day becomes a tapestry we weave ourselves, stitching together the inspiration we find in a million places.

Art does move the world, in infinitesimal, miniscule, monumental ways. It is the forest of dreams we wander through, and without it, we would simply forage for food and seek shelter from the cold. Birds make nests, but they don’t hang pictures on the wall. They sing, but not to entertain. They dance, but only to capture the attention of a mate. And even then, it’s all for a purpose—only humans are into recreational sex. And as far as we know, birds don’t tell jokes.

So, the point of human life is not in daily survival. We all do that until the day we don’t. It’s the view along the way, and how deeply we can absorb it. Socrates announced more than 2400 years ago that “the unexamined life is not worth living.” So much of modern life is about self-examination, to a point where we have lost sight of where we sit in the larger arena. We examine our psyches, measure our food, and watch new and ever more excruciating reality shows designed to explore the minutia of our lives and expose our most pathetic foibles. It’s time to turn the focus around and look out at the world again—and that is gift that artists bring to us.

Even though Mark Twain died 100 years ago, he observed our penchant for seeing ourselves as the center of the Universe even before TV, Facebook, and Twitter made it profitable, and so he added the caveat that “the life too closely examined may not be lived at all.”

This is the year we stop grousing and blaming everybody else for the miserable state of the world, and start to recognize what an amazing place it is—it survived all we did to it in the past decade alone! We can paint a new future, sing new songs, and tell new stories of who we want to become, as individuals, and as a species. 

This year I plan to celebrate art, music, literature, movies, and every creative source of inspiration I can find. I hope you will continue to follow me as I explore the world as artists show it to us—and that you will lead me to your creative inspirations as well.

Thank you to the artists of the world, for giving us the vision to keep going!

Happy New Year!

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You can’t plan for brilliance. You can daydream about it, angst over it, aim for it, and still it can elude you. Every artist sets impossible standards for themselves, hoping to achieve that vision in their heads that includes everything from a vast body of brilliant work to performing on Letterman or sitting with Charlie Rose to discuss your art. 

But if Hope is the thing with feathers (thank you Emily Dickinson), then Fear is the tar it gets stuck in.
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Writers work with the connotation of words, which means the attending feelings that surround a word. The words “brilliant” and “glaring” describe the same quality, but the former is a positive trait and the latter is decidedly negative. So goes the fine line between a critique and criticism. One is kind; the other is not. But they can both be helpful.
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It could never be said that I am a good guitar player. When you have the gift, it is evident….

Still, I like playing and it periodically opens me up to epiphanies about art. Lately, I’ve been learning to play Neil Young’s “Out of the Blue and Into the Black” (My My Hey Hey) from a youtube video, and despite the opening being only two chords, both of which I actually know and can easily play, I’m having a hard time of it.

All because of the unexpected note. 
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We’re not talking about the kind of recovery that involves a rehab, a car wreck  or DUI, internet mugshots, paparazzi, a judge, or any kind of intervention. Creative recovery is a special survival mechanism that allows us to delve into the darkness of complete uncertainty day after day and come out again able to relate to the real world. And it is every bit as dramatic as it sounds—except we get used to it.

I’ve been harping of late (or is it carping?) about our natural inclination to move center and play safe in our art.
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