Friday, July 18, 2008

Contemporary String Band Workshop

I'm going to be participating in a new workshop put on by the Centrum Foundation in Port Townsend, WA, and directed by his honor, the Right Reverend Darol Anger, otherwise known as the Legendary Fiddling Weirdo (well at least to some). Also on the lecturer's side of the podium will be Tristan Clarridge, who just won his 47th (or something, I lost count) National Fiddling Championship (at the age of 22?) and the inimitable Matt Flinner, mando king supreme. It will be in November (13-16 to be exact), not the warmest time to visit the Northwest, but a time when post-summer festival withdrawal has got most of us by the short hairs. Should be fun. Check it out!

Contemporary String Band Workshop

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Cool 2008 Albums

Looking at my list of Best of 2007, I realize I haven't said much about 2008 albums, so here's a list that could make the Best of 2008:

Kate Rusby, Awkward Annie
Tim O'Brien, Chameleon
Dave Douglas, Moonshine
Eliza Carthy, Dreams of Breathing Underwater
Cassandra Wilson, Loverly
Joan as Policewoman, To Survive
Crooked Still, Still Crooked
Dan Tyminski, Wheels
Karine Polwart, This Earthly Spell
Annbjorg Lien, Waltz with Me

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Joey Hangs with the Elite 4s

Joey finished with the Cat 4 pack for the first time last Saturday, at the Coyote Creek Circuit Race, a 1.9-mile circuit with a 100-foot climb that the 4s circled 10 times in 45 minutes--you do the math. Here's his report:

We left in the morning preparing for a fun change from the usual juniors races. It was my first cat 4 road race and I was determined to stay with the pack for as long as I could, but being only a 2 mile circuit and having a fair-sized climb I wasn’t too worried. Starting at the front of the group off the line gave me a perfect position for the climb, which the group sped up the climb and started down the small descent. While turning onto the longer flat section of the couse, the man in front of me’s rear tire blew out and he slid out, but he managed not to fall and kept his balance. Not wanting to crash again, I decided to take it easy on the descent but not so easy that I would get dropped.

With 5 laps to go I was comfortably in the pack and feeling great, so great in fact I was beginning to wonder if I could hang on ‘til the finish!! With two laps to go I was sure I could do it and it even passed through my mind that it would be fun to try an attack up the climb, but I couldn’t get a good enough position. With one lap remaining, the pack started to really hammer and I had to fight to stay in position. When the group got to the last climb up to the finish line I had lost some ground but was still barely with the group. Once the sprint started, the field split and I was near the front of the second group only 15 meters behind the lead group!!

I was very proud of myself after the race. It was my first cat 4 race that I had finished with the pack and it encouraged me to do more 4s road races. The race also was great for my bike handling skills considering there were some very sketchy riders (including the rider who caused the crash at the Wente Crit that broke my collarbone) and corners.

Sadly I was the only Swiftie there but a few friendly Roaring Mouse riders we knew from rides were good company!!!!!
Joey Nygaard

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Eliza Carthy

Eliza Carthy may very well be my favorite singer. Her combination of vocal power and restrained passion tends to produced renditions of songs that immediately become definitive to my ears. Her songwriting, on the other hand, is something I haven't quite gotten. My favorite recordings are those, like Anglicana and Rice, that primarily stick to traditional material. Her "pop" folk-rock records are a taste that I've not yet acquired. Until now . . . I think. Her latest, Dreams of Breathing Underwater, is a record that, unlike Angels and Cigarettes, her last recording of original songs, will likely remain in my CD player for quite some time.

I think the problem with Eliza is her lack of irony. Her lyrics tend not to scan, but that doesn't necessarily phase me. I'm a big fan of Jenny Lewis, who shares a certain lyrical irregularity with Eliza. But Jenny's songs are filled with irony and subtle humor. Eliza's are not, and her music is not. It's hard to imagine her writing these tragicomic songs about anyone other than herself. And occasionally we get a little more personal information than we'd like. I really don't need to know, for instance, that she has "given blow jobs on couches to men who didn't want me anymore," as she wrote in "The Company of Men." Of course, I may be like those people who think that Richard Thompson "should lighten up." Maybe I don't get it. It wouldn't be the first time. But the one real misstep here illustrates the problem. Had "Mr. Magnifico" been sung by Richard Thompson, with tongue firmly planted in cheek and electric guitar set on stun, it would have worked. Here it's semi-narrated by one Tim Matthew with obbligato by a trumpet-playing refugee from Marty Robbins' band. The effect is more Benny Hill than Monty Python, to exhaust my knowledge of British TV humour.

The good news, though is that there is just one of these (OK, maybe two, I haven't decided about "Little Bigman" yet) and that Eliza has written a brace of excellent songs--including "Rows of Angels," "Rosalie," "Like I Care," "Hug You Like a Mountain," and "Lavenders," and that's the first time I've ever been able to say that. I may not be quoting any of her lyrics as my favorites, but the wedding of music to lyric and vocal on this CD ranks with her classic trad material, and the CD is marked by numerous brilliant musical moments--such as the gorgeous and loose folk string sections that come and go throughout the CD; the distorted guitar, horn, and accordion line that ends "Like I Care"; the luscious vocal trio (with Eddie Reader and Heather McCleod) on "Lavenders"; and the stunning combination of sweet violins, wah-wah-ish guitar noises, and ashcan drum-kittery on "Simple Things," to name just a few. Though hearing her voice on this recording in some ways makes this old fogey long for another of her trad records, I have a feeling this one will stay with me for quite awhile and may soon rank with my favorite "new song" recordings. Time will tell. For now, I'll just go give it another spin.