A Grief Interlude

It seems so strange to interrupt an ongoing tribute to a now deceased famous person who affected my life significantly…to talk about recent deaths of similarly significant celebrities. And yet here I am, writing this post rather than writing one of my Cravenous reviews as I continue to make my way (very slowly) through Wes Craven’s oeuvre.

There have been several deaths recently within the celebrity circuit. It’s rather alarming, actually, how many famous people have departed the realm in the past month or so—and not celebrities who we might have anticipated leaving us. It’s one thing when someone tips the scales into the upper 80s or even 90s and then leaves us still wanting more but grateful that they were there to inspire and entertain us for as long as they were.

No. These have been wholly unexpected (at least by the general public) and wholly depressing. These have been the deaths of people still active in their crafts, be it music or acting or writing or art. These were early deaths. Painful deaths from an illness far too prevalent among us all. For me personally, I find that the recent deaths of David Bowie and Alan Rickman have been almost as upsetting as Craven’s unexpected death in August of last year. Both were 69 years old. Both succumbed after lengthy yet quiet battles against cancer.

For Bowie, I confess that I didn’t start actively getting into his music until a few years ago. To me, he was first Jareth the Goblin King.

jareth

I’ve already written about the significance of Jim Henson and his Muppets to my early years. Make no mistake that I consider Bowie to be a crucial part of that significance. His performance as the Goblin King to Jennifer Connelly’s Sarah is what made Labyrinth as captivating and memorable as it was. Plus, Bowie wrote all the music for the movie, which he of course performed.

It was his appearance as Jareth that I found most compelling, with the whimsical (though slightly lewd) costumes, the magnificent hair, and the most stunning makeup, made all the more ethereal by his one eye with the forever-dilated pupil. He was beautiful. It wasn’t until later that I realized that it wasn’t just Jareth who was beautiful. It was Bowie himself. Androgynous, feather-light, stick-thin, snaggle-toothed, and stunning. Whether as Major Tom, Ziggy Stardust, the Thin White Duke, any of his movie roles (several of which are standouts among my beloved genre fiction, such as The Hunger or The Man Who Fell to Earth, which seems as though it was written with Bowie in mind), or simply Bowie, he was always gorgeous.

David Bowie (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)
David Bowie (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)

(Also, from the look of this photo, Tilda Swinton owes him significantly as well…do you think she knows? Oh. Yeah, I think she does.)

As I learned more about his career, I realized that Bowie also was one of the most influential artists within the rock world to which I was first introduced. Even when I didn’t realize his impact, I was feeling it. Every time I turned on a Culture Club video and swooned at the sight of Boy George in all his early gorgeous glory or fell under the spell of similarly androgy-gorgeous Eurythmics-era Annie Lennox, I was reaping the benefit of Bowie’s influence. Any time I fell in love with an artist for being unabashedly, defiantly unique, what I was really falling in love with was how Bowie burst through the doors that continued to remain open for all these subsequent acts who fell within the purview of my growing attention to music. Bowie showed that it was all right to be different. It was okay to be flamboyant, to be a “Space Oddity” and not fit in. He showed the way for so many artists who walked the peculiar path whose bricks Bowie helped lay.

Even when I had no idea who or what Ziggy Stardust was, I was enjoying his short existence that continued to benefit all of us who were, just as he was, delightfully left of left of center. And even in my nascent naivete toward music and musicians, I was grooving to songs laid down by the Thin White Duke. I didn’t know who sang the songs (I predate the ease of holding up a smartphone to a radio and having the ghost in the machine tell me what I’m listening to), but I knew I liked them.

I liked David Bowie. His creativity was immense (almost as immense as Jareth’s cod piece) and left an indelible mark upon the creative spaces of sound and image. His influence shaped the musical landscape to which I arrived in all my unknowing glory and continues to enthrall and influence even now.

Many of these same sentiments can extend to how I feel about Alan Rickman’s equally unexpected passing. Rickman, with that striking singular voice. That voice will always, to me, be the Voice of the One True God (beware, NSFW for language):

Whether he was telling you to “shoot ze glass” or threatening to carve your heart out with a spoon or trying to teach you a new spell to protect you from the Dark Lord, Rickman’s dulcet timbre was always captivating and instantly recognizable. His performances were always satisfying, his range always astounding. By Grabthar’s hammer, he could bring gravitas and pathos to any character he played. He also breathed life into some of the most momentous genre fiction characters we’ve had the pleasure to meet on screen, be they Metatron, Dr. Lazarus, the Sheriff of Nottingham, or that most infamous Death Eater of all, Professor Severus Snape.

severus_snape

For me, while it was all about these larger-than-life roles (of which, I do believe the Metatron was my favorite) to some degree, I think I loved Rickman most of all in a couple of his quieter, lesser-known roles: Dr. Alfred Blalock in Something the Lord Made and Alex in Snow Cake, which paired him once more with Sigourney Weaver.

Regardless of his role, Rickman was always watchable (or listenable, if it were one of his voice-only roles). His talent made many a movie more enjoyable and it will be sorely missed. He will be sorely missed as well, for his humor, his kindness, his depth of care and compassion for other actors. From what I have gleaned from recent words of kindness spoken of him and Bowie, both men were exceptionally generous with their time, attention, and advice. They were solid, solicitous souls who brought light to all they did. Both he and Bowie have left irreparable holes in the fabric of creativity as well as in the hearts of many a fan, including this humble and sorrowful wolf.

Flashback Friday: Volcano Girls

Remember the era of 90s Alt-Rock Power Grrl Music? I miss those days. Apparently, my iPod understands this, because the next song that came up during the shuffle session that pulled up last week’s post brought me this, my only Veruca Salt song (because I want to rock out now, now, now!).

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qyVSKydUxKk&w=640&h=480]

I’ve listened to some of their other music, but nothing else by the group ever struck my fancy quite like this song (even if they do all look like they’re trying to hang themselves in the video). Of course, listening to this song always puts me in the proper frame of mind to listen to more Power Grrl music, which means that I might be continuing this particular thread for a little while longer. You don’t mind though, right?

Photo Fun Friday: Why So Serious?

So, New Year, new opportunities to rejuvenate the lair…dust off the cobwebs that settled last year, get back on track with writing, musing, rambling, and just having fun. I hope.

Sooner or later, I’ll even get back to Flashback Fridays. Today, however, I needed to scratch an itch that’s been tickling my brain for a while now. Ever hear the P!nk song “Raise Your Glass”? No? Well, here, in all its NSFW glory…

//www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/XjVNlG5cZyQ

I love that song. I love the video, too, for all its strangeness. Okay, some of the strangeness is just downright weird. But it’s still fun. The one line that always jumps out at me, though, is when she sings, “Why so serious?”

Obviously, as a comics fan, all I can think of when I hear that line is Heath Ledger’s Joker. Successful ad campaign is, obviously, successful. Of course, you know my wacky brain, denizens. Each time I hear this song, I immediately start combining P!nk and the Joker. It just kept getting worse and worse, until finally? Well, finally, this happened…

pink_whysoserious

You’re welcome.

Fabulous Photo Friday: Sarah McLachlan

Know what makes this past week of power outages, extreme heat, sticky-sweaty-ickiness, and general WTFery all better?

I was this close to Sarah McLachlan last night:

All your arguments are now invalid to Loba.

Seriously, this was the perfect way to make up for the hella week we’ve been having here in the D.C. area. I’ve loved Sarah McLachlan since my college days (all those many moons ago, right?), and she is only one of two musicians I will gladly pay top dollar to see in concert whenever they come to town (can you guess who the other is?).

Speaking of Tori (guess I gave that answer away), McLachlan seems to be taking a page from Amos’s current play book. Just like Amos, McLachlan is currently touring with orchestral accompaniment, from the National Philharmonic.

As with Amos’s music, McLachlan’s often down-tempo, haunting songs are perfectly suited for this type of musical enhancement. Regardless of the swelter that surrounded us (she played at Merriweather Post Pavillion, which is an outdoor venue), McLachlan’s voice, strengthened by strings, winds, and percussion was well worth the sweet summer sweat.

The highlight of the evening, as it usually is (for me, at least), was the new arrangement of “Possession,” one of McLachlan’s songs from her third (and my personal favorite) album Fumbling Towards Ecstasy.

The story behind this song is actually quite a dark one. McLachlan wrote “Possession” in response to rather disturbing letters received from some fans, including one “self-admitted stalker” named Uwe Vandrei. Vandrei sued McLachlan, saying that his love letters to her were the basis for “Possession.” The case never went to trial, however, because Vandrei committed suicide not long after filing his suit.

With lyrics like:

And I would be the one
To hold you down
Kiss you so hard
I’ll take your breath away
And after I’d wipe away the tears
Just close your eyes dear

you can’t help but wonder what kind of memories this song must invoke for McLachlan each time she sings it. Yet to watch her sing it is to watch her become the possessed and the possessor—of memory, of lyrics, of rhythms, of every moment and movement, from beginning to end. Of all her songs, I think this is the one she gives herself to completely each time she plays it. She holds nothing back, hides nothing from herself or her audience.

I love watching her sing this song.

Some of my favorite shots of the evening came during this song. I’ll stop blathering now and get on with posting said favorite photos. I hope you enjoy them…and I hope they make up slightly for the fact that I’ve been remiss in my Flashback Friday visits (or any visits in general) to the lair of late. Things are crazy right now. Some of the crazy is good. Some is bad. Some? I can’t wait to show you 😉

Oh, one more thing: If you are jonesing for a little Flashback Friday, why not flash back to my 2010 post on Lilith Fair? Seems appropriate, no?

I Don’t Give a Damn ‘Bout My Bad Doppelgängin’

I warned you, denizens. There was a reason for my last Flashback Friday choice.

Truth be told, Joan Jett’s 1988 release Up Your Alley is my favorite album, holistically speaking. This probably stems from the fact that this was my first taste. However, I can find something enjoyable from all of her Blackhearts releases. I can even dip back into her Runaways years and find stuff to make those long commutes at least audibly enjoyable. All I have to do, though, is just see the cover art for Up Your Alley, and the Loba Happy-O-Meter is cranked to 11.

None more black, indeed.

This was quintessential Jett in many ways, especially in visual style: teased black rocker hair, black leather all around, kohled eyes, “come here if you dare” stare. However, I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for the cover of her 1983 release, Album. Atrocious jaundiced background aside, this has always struck me as one of her most “fun” covers:

Nothing better than a Jett in flight, eh? I’ve always loved this pose…so much so that I’ve considered getting the silhouette on a T-shirt. Plus, she’s decked in her trademark black, including the leather pants, but she’s still holding onto her punkier Runaways style with her red Chucks, that bandanna thing she kept going for quite a while, and some badass black leather-studded accoutrements.

I love this version of Jett so much that this is the photo I chose as the inspiration for my own Joan Jett costume for a rock-themed party this weekend:

Close enough for government work, right? I was pretty pleased with the overall look (although I’m sure there was more makeup on my pasty face that night than on an episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race). I thought about taking my Guitar Hero controller with me for effect (after covering the Aerosmith logo, of course), but decided that I didn’t want to run the risk of spilling anything on it. And there was much to be spilled. Open bars make awesome parties.

Most people immediately twigged to who I was supposed to be. One couple, however, did ask if I was Jack White.

Damn young people. Learn your rock history!

Of course, I did have a disturbing epiphany when I finally stumbled back home that night and caught a quick glimpse of myself in the foyer mirror. With my mullety hair and my thickly lined blue eyes? I looked a little less like an 80s rock star and more like a motorcycle-riding graduate of Eastland Prep…

Loba as Joan Jett Totally Looks Like Nancy McKeon as Jo Polniaczek

Take the good. Take the bad. Take ’em both and there you have just a part of Mi Vida Loba…

Hunting the Unfamiliar

It takes years to shape a Bösendorfer piano. The wood, carefully selected among the forest of possibilities owned and maintained by the Bösendorfer company, is weather-aged for four years or more. Each shell is then hand-carved, hand-curved, workers molding the forms with the stroke and care of a devoted lover. They believe that they transfer some essence of themselves into these instruments through their touch, that their emotional bearing as they work can affect the timbre and character of the final product. This is not a pedestrian piano. This is the culmination of nearly 200 years of devotion to craft and care—the exquisite, dark richness of sound released from within incomparable to any other.

All of this and more will one day be written upon a placard and placed within the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame …perhaps even installed right next to one of these magnificent creatures whose music once held audiences under the enchantments of its melodic mistress.

Many things can (and have been) said about Tori Amos, but above all else, one truth is clear: She is uniquely focused—in her effort, in her skill, in her creativity. The world as filtered through her mind and released through lyrics that often defy comprehension is equally magical and malevolent. She is a pragmatist and a dreamer, her hands possessed by a musical sorcery when they come in contact with the keys of her mighty Bösendorfer beauties. There are few pianists who can rival Amos’s preternatural aptitude. Hyperbole be damned—to watch her play is to watch divinity set free.

Not everything that Amos has done throughout her career has resonated with me on a positive level. However, I will never deny my admiration of the desire that presses her onward in her exploration of sound and meaning, even when it falls short of my own personal boundaries of enjoyment. She stands unafraid of pulling forward whatever lives within her, examining it and presenting with an unparalleled candor. She is also unafraid of expanding beyond the rote safety of one specific genre, as so many musicians of her longevity are. Those musicians often stagnate within the confines of sound and style that no longer suit them, too afraid at this point in their careers to embrace the duality of salvation or failure that change could bring.

Fortunately, Amos has practically made a career of embracing change. And so it goes with her latest release, Night of Hunters. Her first offering on new label Deutsche Grammophon, this release marks Amos’s entry into yet another previously unexplored genre, the reinterpretation of classical music concepts through her distinctively contemporary lens. I was admittedly wary when I first heard about this release and have yet to purchase it. I’m not entirely certain what I find so off-putting about this concept. I’m still wrestling with that.

I can say, with all certainty, that last night has convinced me that Amos needs to continue with this particular collaborative exploration. She returned home to us last night, playing Constitution Hall in downtown D.C. This was my ninth time seeing her in concert—and it might qualify as one of my favorite performances. Amos is bliss by herself, but when joined by the skilled efforts of a string quartet, she transcended expectation in extraordinary ways.

It wasn’t her new music that reached me. In fact, the new songs that appeared at the beginning of last night’s playlist left me feeling a bit apprehensive regarding how enjoyable the rest of the concert would be. Also, the sound technicians overcompensated in their attempts to raise her voice above its accompanying instruments, which left the quality distorted and painfully sibilant. Once the technical glitches were sorted and she began to move more deeply into the bramble of her musical oeuvre, that was when the hunter captured me.

Amos has always had an uncanny ability to reinterpret her own music when playing to a live audience. It’s one of the reasons I love going to see her whenever she comes to town. Last night, with the added layering of violins and cello, she took familiar standards to levels of surprising complexity and reinvention. The standouts of the evening were a musical mash-up of her song “God” with Mike Oldfield’s “Tubular Bells” and Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill”; “Winter,” which has always been one of my favorite Amos songs and took pride of place as my favorite song from last night’s performance; and “Cruel,” in which her accompanying string quartet embraced Amos’s approach to the untethered exploration of their musical instruments.

For the moment, there are clips on YouTube of each of these songs. The version of “Winter” that I found wasn’t quite as expansive as the version last night; I do believe the artists are growing more comfortable with their freestyle expressionism with each playing. The version of “Cruel” that I found, however, is quite close to what we heard last night. I only wish you could see more of the quartet. I encourage you to enjoy them while they remain online, denizens:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b0BZ_G7eVPQ&w=640&h=360]

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LDvShrKXDrY&w=640&h=360]

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ax0MUDd2PTE&w=640&h=360]

I would love to see what we witnessed at last night’s concert turned into to a revisiting of her earlier music in this fashion, for studio release. I doubt that will happen, but one never can tell when it comes to Amos.

Flashback Friday: Ray of Light

So I mentioned last Friday that one of my future flashbacks would be a response to an ImagiFriendTM challenge. I’m to blog about music. While drinking.

Well, guess what, denizens? Loba has, indeed, been partaking of a great deal of beer-y goodness this evening. And it still continues to flow as I type. I’m finishing up the vestiges of a double chocolate stout, which is chasing on the heels of a London ale, a smoked porter, a…something dark…followed by a something lighter but not too light because I hate those beers…bottom line is, I’ve been drinking. Drinking to the point where my tongue feels a little numb and everything has that pretty hazy glow. And I’m still drinking. So that part of the challenge is being met.

What sparked this challenge was two-part and started with this review of Madonna’s most recent CD, Hard Candy. The only comments I would add to this review are that the only thing hard about this album is trying to listen to it. And, just like candy, it indeed sucks.

The second part of the challenge came from this post, in which my ImagiFriendTM expounds upon memories of the music that served as the soundtrack to his youth.

It’s like a Flashback Friday. Only better. And boozy-awesome.

Well, denizens. I can’t really expound on music in any sort of knowledgeable way. I think I’ve proven that every time I’ve written something tagged under my Music category.

Wow. That’s a weird cross-selection of posts, innit?

But I can tell you why I love Madonna’s Ray of Light and why I think it’s going to be remembered as her greatest album EVAR.

First, a little backstory. RoL was Madonna’s first new studio release since 1994’s Bedtime Stories. This ’94 offering is actually a fine album and indicative both of her continuing evolution away from her early bubble gum pop days and her journey toward a more mature sound and style. I think the evolution had actually begun on 1992’s Erotica, but Madonna was deep in the throes of a very public bout of titillation-itis at the time, including her little role-playing game as Dieta vonSchtoopyPants, so many of Erotica’s better points were drowned out by the roar of “She’s nekkid! Again!!” I’d argue, though, that those who ignored Erotica because they were a bit turned off or burned out by Madonna-Nude-A-Rama should give it a try now.

Back to Bedtime Stories. Solid effort with a nice urban vibe, even if it is a little on the bass-heavy side (Madonna would go on to prove that she hadn’t even begun to bass it up, giving us in Hard Candy several songs that sound like they’re playing through tinny Value Village speakers with blown-out subwoofers). Madonna was beginning to move into a more adult sound quite expertly, which wasn’t all that shocking. If Madonna has proven anything throughout her career, it’s that she’s not at all averse to changing things up a bit.

However, her music career became side-tracked after this 1994 release by being cast as Eva Perón in the 1996 film adaptaion of Andrew Lloyd Weber’s musical, Evita. I won’t lie, denizens. I was in line on opening day to see Evita. I had been waiting pretty much the bulk of my lifetime at that point for: A) the film adaptation of this movie to finally get the green light; and B) for Madonna to finally be given the role that seemed to be her destiny.

Yeah, I said destiny. Your density has popped me to you, Lorraine.

Unfortunately, the movie didn’t not suck. Which was a huge disappointment to me. I wanted so very much for this to be the greatest musical film in the history of the genre, but Hollywood polished the soul completely out of it. And, prophets bless Antonio Banderas, but the man can’t sing. Plus, they covered up Madonna’s diastema, which probably upset me more thna it really should have.

[Loba Tangent: Get your minds out of the gutter, denizens; that’s just a fancy word for the gap between her front teeth. I kind of have a weird fascination with people with diastema. I can’t explain it. I just enjoy it.]

I will say this, though: This is the very best performance I think we will ever see from Madonna in a leading role. I say this based solely on the one song she was allowed to perform “live” on set rather than lip-sync. It’s toward the end of the play. That’s all I’m going to say. Every time I have seen this particular point in th emovie, I get teared up.

Yeah, so after Evita, Madonna sort of went silent for a while. Well, there was the fact that she found out that she was pregnant while she was filming. That might have had something to do with her radio silence. She gave birth to her daughter, Lourdes, in October 1996. Then, we heard nothing from her.

Until March 3, 1998.

I was a flat-broke student at the University of Maryland at this point, with barely enough money to cover all the parking tickets that I kept getting. But I knew damn good and well that I was going to buy this CD, the day it released, no matter what it cost. I had been waiting four long years to hear something new from the Material Girl, goddammit. Nothing was going to stop me.

Oh, what a circus! Oh, what a show!

This was a Madonna like no other. All those months she’d spent preparing for her role as Eva Perón had left her with a voice much stronger, much more refined, and much more nuanced than it had ever sounded before. And, gods, that sound…William Orbit took her from the land of bubble gum pop that she had previously inhabited and shifted her to a completely new ZIP code deeply entrenched in a land of rich bass and bad-ass electronica sizzle, a sound that was on the fringes of acceptability at the time but slowly working its way into the mainstream. However, Madonna being who she is, grabbed onto this still underground sound and dragged it into the light in one of the most amazing returns to pop culture prominence ever recorded.

To me, RoL is practically perfect in every way. New sound. New image. New outlook. Gorgeous, rich vocals; lyrics overflowing with eloquence and depth; and these infectious beats that were so new and inventive…like nothing we’d yet heard. Sure, it was destined to be played out to the point of nausea, but Madonna was one of the first artists to really explore the space of this particular beat-heavy genre. And she did it in tellingly classy ways, something that would diminish with time until we ended up with the hot mess of Hard Candy.

I remember reading reviews of RoL that were…well, unkind is a nice way of putting it. The review in teh school papper was particularly scathing, with the reviewer ending with a comment that basically stated that he hoped Madonna was a better mother than she was a musician now. I couldn’t understand this sentiment then, and I still don’t understand it. Minus a few minor stumbles (I have to confess, denizens, I’m not a particularly big fan of “Mer Girl” or “Little Star”), this CD is holistically such a powerful series of songs. Hell, even the songs that I don’t particularly like retain a redeeming quality or two, either through strong lyrics or a particularly tasty beat. I can only assume that these negative sentiments stemmed from the fact that this was such a

[Loba Tangent: Okay, see what happened there at the end of that previous paragraph? I started watching YouTube videos of songs from RoL and I ended up forgetting what I was going to write. Yeah. But I have realized that I would love to have a DVD collection of Madonna’s videos. Except for that one where she’s dry-humping Justin Timberlake. No one needs to see that.]

Beyond being a powerful compilation of music in its own right, RoL also helped re-establish Madonna as a standard bearer for the club culture. It’s no secret that Madonna is a dance club icon. She got her start in the NYC club scene, ffs. But, oh the tasty phat beatz that came from remixes.

My own clubbing days had a very limited shelf life, butMadonna was definitely one of the major players from the soundtrack of those days.

Wait. Let’s relive Loba’s Club Days, shall we?

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gs-VsBBGDpQ&w=640&h=390]

Woah.

That video would probably look way better to me if I was high rather than tpisy. Er, tipsy. Still…Madonna with something close to her real hair color, and those icy cerulean eyes? Snerf!

How about this one? It’s another remix that I remember being HUGE during my club days:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ht_YjpLkouY&w=640&h=510]

I could grok someone for a Long Island Iced Tea right about now. And, really, “Frozen” was not only one of my favorite RoL songs in whatever format I heard it, it was also my favorite video from this album. I remember sitting there for several hours, waiting to download the Quicktime version through my 56K connection. Oh, those crazy dial-up days.

One more. Calderone Club mix of “Beautiful Stranger,” the song Madonna did for Austin Powers 2: The Spy Who Shagged Me:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nWwNGuQamLY&w=640&h=390]

And I’m spent.

I love how this song supposedly sprang from the friendship that Madonna and Myers had formed during that SNL “Wayne’s World” skit from back when the show was funny. I only wish that she’d stopped at doing a song for the movies that spoofed James Bond. Because, really, did any of us need to hear “Die Antoher Day”? I mean, come on, Madge…did you really use Sigmund Freud’s name as a lyric? Really? Plus, by this point, Madonna was starting down the path of self-immolation through excessive self-emulation. She was dancing dangerously close to turning herself into a parody of herself…something that she didn’t completely achieve until American Life, (rapping about soy lattes, Mini Coopers, and pilates? IT BURNS!!!) with a brief respite with Confessions on a Dance Floor, before returning full-throttle to parody mode with that shit she just recenlty released.

Really, she’s just a hot mess now.

I actually really like the original version (both song and video) of “Beautiful Stranger.” In fact, when I think of Madonna’s most “prime” physical appearance, it’s usually the Ray of Light/”Beautiful Stranger” era of videos that come to mind. Gone was the baby-faced vixen with the peroxide-frizzed hair and “Boy Toy” buckles. She was still smokin’ hot but now with haute couture coif and clothing and a body toned beyond belief. I mean, look at those arms in “Beautiful Stranger”! I still want arms like that. And, even though I know it’s in no way true? In my mind, I was dancing just like she was in that Austin Powers video when I was getting my grind on in the clubs.

Oh wow, but I love Madonna. Not Madonna now, but the Madonna of my misspent youth. Now, she just makes me sad. But back then? Not sad. At. All.

What the hell was I saying? I don’t even know anymore, denizesn. But my beer is now all gone and I have a suddne craving for a peanut butter and banana sandwich. And I see lots of little red squiggles, letting me know that my typing has officially gone to shit in this post. But I’m leaving it the way it is. Because that’s the kind of wolf I am. One who lives up to challenges. Especially ones that involve alcohol. I don’t even know if what I’ve written makes any bit of sense. But I know at least that I have included a lot of links to videos. Hopefully, those will keep you entertained. They’ve definitely made me happy.

Roots and Wings

Just when I thought I was out…they pull me back in!

Okay, so it’s not as dramatic as that, Mr. Corleone, but I do believe I won’t ever shake this utterly unexpected happy feeling I continue to harbor in my dark lupine soul for country music.

[Loba Note: I guess it would be more appropriate to state that I harbor this love in the darkness where a soul should theoretically exist…]

No, not all country music. I’ve already established that there was a definite dimming of my country music love a few years ago. And yet I continue to keep tabs on a select few who succeeded in rising above the intrinsic issues I continue to have with the genre.

Terri Clark is one of Loba’s Chosen Few.

She’s a bit of a black sheep in the country family, to be sure. First, start with the fact that she’s not really “country,” by the xenophobic Amuhrakin definition of the word. Born in Montréal and raised in Medicine Hat, Clark is one of those “furraners” that we don’t take to liking all that much down here in the States. However, she moved to Nashville, Tennessee, when she was 18 years old, which means that she’s spent more of her life here than among her own people. I guess that counts for something (or at least makes me wonder if her grasp on sanity is as questionable as my own).

Next is the fact that Clark is unrepentantly country in the best sense of the word. While many within the genre, including a bulk of the red-hot-at-the-time female artists, decamped to that in-between land called “Crossover Track” back in the late 90s, churning out tarted-up poppy drivel that barely qualified as country music, Clark stuck to her guns and her cowboy hats. Every single one of her albums is filled with songs that won’t ever be heard on heavy rotation on rock-lite radio stations that typically turn up their noses to music that includes wondrous instruments like banjos, fiddles, mandolins, and slide guitars. Some of Clark’s songs even include {gasp} cowbell.

[Loba Tangent: Okay, I’m not really sure how I feel about the cowbell songs. However, I am a bit smitten by the enthusiasm with which Clark takes to the…er, instrument.]

It’s this dedication to the roots of the country genre that keeps me coming back to Clark. Admittedly, though, I’ve been a fair-weather fan at best for several years. I continued to purchase her new releases but found them decidedly less and less consistent. True, every album has included several songs that were enjoyable, but not since the double-whammy of How I Feel and Fearless, the albums that respectively pulled me in and locked me down as a lifelong fan, had I felt holistically happy with her new offerings. I didn’t even bother to buy her 2009 release, The Long Way Home (although I do remember wishing for a title mashup of this with the Dixie Chicks’ last studio album, Taking the Long Way). I wasn’t really feeling much love for music in general at that point in my life and I think Clark was merely one of many of my favorite artists who didn’t get much Loba Lovin’ at that time.

That is, until her latest release. I purchased and downloaded Roots and Wings from Amazon on Friday afternoon, and I have listened to it every day since. I’m listening to it right now as I write this review, in fact.

Oh, this is a good one, denizens. Everything that I have always loved about Clark is there, from start to finish: catchy country hooks, clever lyrics that are playful and poignant and all stops in between, and gorgeous vocals that slip from roadhouse to lullaby with enviable ease.

In fact, I’m going to have to give the paw of approval to every song on this album. Clark kicks things off with “Wrecking Ball,” which hasn’t failed yet to get my feet tapping and me laughing with each listen (“Woman on a mission / Pure demolition”), and continues along at a solid pace as she slams out of the park common country tropes with grace, joy, and beauty. No, if you play a Clark song backward, you’re not going to get back your house, your truck, your wife, and your dog…but play them forward and you’ll get a glimpse of the greatness that honest country music has to offer.

I don’t know if I can even narrow down this collection of songs to one or two favorites, but if I had to select ones to praise above others, I’d go with “The One” for capturing so wonderfully the essence of what everyone wants to find at least once in this lifetime, “Beautiful and Broken” for its reserved elegance, and “Lonesome’s Last Call” for the respectful way it tips its 10-gallon hat, in sound and sentiment, to old school country.

Even the final two new songs on this album, “We’re Here For a Good Time” and “Flowers in the Snow,” have redeemable qualities even though I feel that they strike a slightly discordant tone in comparison with the rest of the album. “Good Time” is actually a pretty good song, with a happy-go-lucky sound reminiscent of a Margaritaville standard, but there’s something overly processed about the track that seems a little whiffy of auto-tuning. I hate auto-tuning. Unless it’s this. And I think “Flowers in the Snow” suffers only because it comes right on the peppier heels of “Good Time” and ends the new songlist on a decidedly somber note. However, on its own, it’s another classic example of Clark’s ability to write/co-write songs that honor the true sound of country music.

Then there is “Smile.”

This is actually the reason that I bought Roots and Wings. Clark wrote “Smile” in honor of her mother, who died in April 2010 after a 3-year battle with cancer. I’m still trying to sort through the flotsam of emotions that my own mom’s death (barely more than a month after Clark’s loss) has stirred up, but I have discovered that there is an undeniable solace to be found in the words of tribute and love penned by someone who knows first-hand how it feels to lose someone to the unfairness of disease. In fact, I think only “Always,” written and performed with heart-mending beauty by my friend Craig Bevan, has provided me with more comfort than this song has given me, even in the short time since I first heard it.

Of all the things that Clark has a right to be proud of from her career, I hope she knows what a gift she has given her listeners with this particular song.

So there you go, denizens. If you enjoy country music at all, give Roots and Wings a chance. I think you might be pleasantly surprised.

Photo from Terri Clark’s Flickr Stream.

DidnWannaDoIt!

So maybe you’ve seen this before in…other places. Maybe you haven’t. I guess it all depends on where you beam into on teh Interwebz.

Just in case you missed it though, here is a music video from the always delightful Suzie Plakson, she of many Trek aliases and many more talents:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ntEJQ61sBM&w=640&h=390]

Check out the red sneakers! And once you’re finished, check out your very own copy of her CD, DidnWannaDoIt!

I do loves me some Suzie, that’s for sure. Whether it’s from her many Trek appearances or her roles in other favorites like Wag the Dog or Mad About You (which also featured another of my favorite Titian-Tressed Trek Talents [dear prophets, I love alliteration]), she is always delightful. There’s something so very vintage Hollywood classy about her.

Of course, the ears hanging in my stairwell probably make me a bit biased…but you all still trust my opinion in this matter, right? Right 😉