2015, in some ways a lost year as we were absorbed in a job hunt, vacillating over "to move or not move," sorting, yard-salting, Goodwilling, cleaning, cleaning (did I mention cleaning?), packing, a thousand good-byes, the fully expected mover's remorse followed the joy of creating a new home. Did I mention finding friends at 60? Is this going to be as bad as 45 years ago? Still, it was a good year. No disasters, thanks-be-to God. Good vibes in the fam. Lovely fellowship with friends. The gift of music poured down in buckets, pressed down and flowing over. Then there has been endlessly changing canvas of the spectacular Creation as we spent our days the Front Range of Colorado and now to an unexpected degree in eastern Washington.
In the next few posts are my usual collection of the best of music, favorite images, media and quotes from the last year of my sixth decade. Also as usual, this stuff was not necessarily created in 2015, just discovered by yours truly.
Album Of The Year: The Punch Brothers "Phosphorescent Blues"
Chris Thile & friends, who are much, much more than supporting cast, have redefined acoustic and bluegrass music, taking the traditional instruments into the stratosphere with this album. The whole experience starts with the riveting cover art featuring an image of oxymoronic anonymous intimacy. The titled phosphorescence refers to the blue glow surrounding the faces of our young as cell phone addiction separates while proporting to offer familiarity. The hook-up revolution takes this to its necessary conclusion.
But this is music, not 2-D art. On our first listen my son and I just looked at each other in amazement, thinking, "What did we just hear?" Speaking of "Familiarity", this is the title of the first song, a 10:23 tour de force. Imagine Flatt & Scruggs jamming with the London Philharmonic while the Beach Boys weave their sonic curtains of magic inside it all. This song alone is worth triple the price of the album. It is not however my favorite. That would be "Julep." Paul Kowert's bass line introduces and finishes this gorgeous drink of song telling of long-lived love aging into sweet memories. "Heaven's a julep on the porch."
Claude Debussy's "Passepied" makes an unexpected instrumental interlude as the notes flow up and down the line from mando to bass to guitar to fiddle to banjo and back again.
Every song is a keeper. "Magnet" is the anti-Julep with an almost-hook-up-in-the-hallway of nameless sex. "Boll-Weevil" is back to traditional bluegrass but up a notch (or two). "I Blew It Off" jumps back to the theme of superficiality, "I’ve got an American share of 21st century stress. Your trouble vibrates the table interrupts my reverie. I blow it off. I blow it off. ’Cause if it’s that bad it ain’t getting better face to face with me, So I blow it off."
There's more to discover, but "Little Lights" finishes the album with a play on the Sunday school ditty, "This Little Light Of Mine," The light of course is the ubiquitous cell phone.
Don't miss this masterpiece.
Don't miss this masterpiece.
This is the White Album of bluegrass music.
Surprise Of The Year: Zach Winters: "They Were Longing For A Better Place" & "Monarch"
So, this past spring we were far back in a line of a thousand people waiting to get in to see Josh Garrels at some nightclub venue in Denver. The owners of the club didn't seem prepared for the number of people as they were moving ticket holders thru their ID check at a glacial pace. Luckily it wasn't cold and luckily everyone was way excited to see Josh, because it took an hour to get in. One of the opening acts had already started, but that didn't bother me too much that we were missing whomever it was. That was until this summer when my son met another Zach, a fellow actor in West Side Story, who was inside for that opening performer who happened to be Zach Winters. Son Jonathan brought home some of his music and told me I needed to listen up. I was a fan in five minutes.
I'm usually pretty good at putting a label on music, but I'm at a loss here. Just check out "They Were Longing For A Better Country"and listen to "Give Me Peace & Rest," "The Little Child," "The Grass After Winter" and "Small Boat." In fact, just listen to the whole album. Then buy it. Also check out "Monarch" and listen to "Fernweh (Shore)," "Snow" and "Morning Dove." This is good, good stuff. Check out the rest on Bandcamp. Did I mention, buy it?
And we are hoping to host Zach for a house concert this summer!
The Bronze Medal:
OK, now back to Josh Garrels, this time with his 2015 musical offering, "Home." I might do a bit better putting a label on Josh's music. How's this for a try - "Northwest grunge*Folk*Alt/Indie*Christian*R&B*Talking Blues?" Josh had a lot of pressure on him this time around after the amazing "Jaracanda" and "Love & War & The Sea In Between." I didn't see how he could do it again. But there was "Home," every track a treat as Josh explores the delight of his wife, children, table and faith. This album is a sumptuous feast. Dig in!
Not On The Podium, But Great Albums:
Outside The Box Stuff: (Everybody Loves Psychedelic Surf Guitar!) Check out "Pipeline.
And Finally two from the classical page: