Club Snootiness

I’m in no way a club goer and never have been. But I had to laugh at this story about Joan Baez being refused entry in Paris because of her shoes. The obsequious apology is really funny!

“We sincerely apologize and apologize to Mrs. Joan Baez for the unpleasant night-shit incident, with the porter who refused to enter the building,” the director Parisian club. He explained that the employee “did not expect to see this enormous artist arriving around 00.30, the arrival was not announced in advance”, but admitted that the porter “did not recognize Mrs. Joan Baez.”

The club

“We share the values of peace and love that preach this symbol of music, but at the same time we are but human beings, with the possibility of making mistakes in our space” the next time we find them in Paris. like everyone, “is added to the announcement “The Peace & Love”

Of course, they see the problem as refusing a celebrity not in refusing someone because of the look of their shoes.

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Music Monday: Where the Bottles Break

John Gorka had a streak of amazing albums which, although none were as uniformly perfect as I Know, contained a ton of songs any one of which could be a career highlight. One of my favorites is “Where the Bottles Break”:

I walk where the bottles break

And the blacktop still comes back for more

I walk where the bottles break

And the blacktop still comes back

I live where the neighbors yell

And their music comes up through the floor

I live where the neighbors yell

And their music wakes me up

Life beyond the playground fence

Is serious as basketball

Life beyond the playground fence

Is serious

I’ll never be that sort of tough but listening makes me understand that feeling.

Listening to the chorus makes me feel a different sort of nostalgia:

Buy low, sell high

You get rich and you still die

Money talks, people jump

Ask how high low-life Donald what’s-his-name

And who cares?

I don’t wanna know what his girlfriend doesn’t wear

It’s a shame that the people at work

Wanna hear about this kind of jerk

This kind of jerk is wrecking the whole world now.

A Bit of Zoe News

Two weeks from tomorrow, Zoe will be in Charleston with Joan Baez at the #Emanuel9RallyforUNITY to End Gun Violence & Acquire Racial Reconciliation. I love the poster:

I’ll also just note this review in the local student newspaper:

Before performing Woody Guthrie’s protest song ‘Deportee’, Baez provides context, describing the press coverage of the 1948 Los Gatos DC-3 crash in which only the plane’s staff, and not the twenty-eight Mexican citizens on board were named (the Mexicans referred to merely as ‘deportees’). She pays tribute to them, and to all refugees, and pays tribute too to the victims of the Manchester Arena bombing, before playing a harrowingly beautiful rendition of Zoe Mulford’s (who attended the gig) song, ‘The President Sang Amazing Grace’, written in response to President Obama’s eulogy at the Charleston shooting service.

Hey student journalist! Zoe lives in Manchester and her main groupie works at the University!

Music Monday: Nottamun Town

We were in Cologne, Germany this weekend visiting my brother and his family. Zoe has been so behind on her guitar practicing that her calluses are softening. But we didn’t bring any instruments. Fortunately, my brother had a classical guitar from his wayward youth that he never learned to play. Zoe didn’t have a capo which most of her songs require so she had to reach waaaay back to when she was first learning to play in North Carolina. She played a lot of folk and kids songs and I loved them. I requested a particular favourite, Nottamun Town (read the Wikipedia article…it’s fascinating) and videoed her in silhouette:

It was a rehearsal and she was a bit ill, so the vocal quality (esp the highs) are a touch uneven. You can hear my brother cooking fabulous meals for us in the background.

I really like the silhouette effect. Zoe gets pretty self conscious when videoed, so I’m thinking the secret might be to catch her in more candid or otherwise “off to the side” situations. It certainly fits the song.

There are a ton of recorded versions. Jean Ritchie:

In contrast, we have the super high production values of Fairport Convention:

And then we have Listenbee’s electronic dance version:

The animation is ok, but doesn’t seem to really “get” the song. I’d expect a bit more of the imagery of the song to come through!

Some Baez Concert Reviews

As the album reviews trailed off, I haven’t been tracking the Whistle Down the Wind news coverage as obsessively. But I still keep a weather eye out and there have been some Zoe mentions in the concert reviews.

There was an extensive review/ interview by Paul Liberatore:

Baez thinks it’s the best album she’s ever done.

What elevates it above the 30-some albums she’s made in her long career is “The President Sang Amazing Grace,” a hymn-like lament that singer-songwriter Zoe Mulford wrote to mourn the 2015 Charleston, South Carolina, church shootings, a hate crime that took the lives of nine African-American worshipers gunned down by a white supremacist during a prayer service.

“This album would have been a really nice collection of folk songs, but that song just takes it to another level,” she says over tea made from mint she picked in her garden.

She’s been invited to sing it at commemoration events that the City of Charleston and the Emanuel AME Church are planning in mid-June to honor the families of those killed, the shooting survivors and the church congregation. She hopes to squeeze it in after the Paris dates and before she has to return to Europe in late July for concerts in Austria and Germany.

“I don’t know how I’m going to do it,” she says, “but I’m going to be there.”

GQ:

Perhaps the most moving of her recent material, however, was “The President Sang Amazing Grace” about the Charleston church shooting. It pulled the rug from under the feet.

The Guardian:

It was a tribute to the new songs, including the angry eco-protest Another World and the heartfelt The President Sang Amazing Grace, a modern civil rights song echoing the struggles of the 1960s – recited rather than sung – , that they didn’t pale in that exalted company.

There was one negative mention from the Financial Times:

She also suffered from a tendency to pick songs from the say-what-you-see school of writing. Zoe Mulford’s “The President Sang Amazing Grace” took the profoundly moving moment of Barack Obama singing at the funeral of one of the Charleston church shooting victims in 2015, and turned it into Hallmark greetings card material: “In Charleston in the month of June / The mourners gathered in a room / The president came to speak some words / And the cameras rolled and the nation heard.” Goodness knows what Baez saw in it, and she couldn’t redeem it.

It’s a weird criticism—what other “say what you see” songs are they referring to? What’s wrong with such songs? How are the quoted lyrics Hallmark greeting card like? Indeed, there’s an internal incoherence as Hallmark greeting cards aren’t reporterlike.

It’s not the only oddity:

If you don’t want earnest, don’t go to see Joan Baez, where earnestness reaches the heights of Baez doing a version of “Imagine” in which she hastily spoke each line before singing it, so the audience knew exactly how to join in.

She did give each line before singing it which is standard for sing alongs, though usually for songs which aren’t as well known. It has nothing at all to do with earnestness.

Given that “President” is by far the most popular and critically acclaimed song on the album, I’d have thought that some reflection of that would be sensible to include. After all, what Joan saw t in was what tons of other people saw in it. So, it’s a bit mysterious.

The Arts Desk:

Baez of course plays guitar, swapping between two custom-model Martins on which she finger picks nimbly, even adding a touch of lead on several numbers, including Zoe Mulford’s exquisite “The President Sang Amazing Grace”.

Musicmap

Musicmap is a very cool interactive map of popular music. (See discussion.) It’s sort of a superversion of the blackboard in School of Rock with lots of nifty search features, visualisations, and playlists.

It is at least a very cool toy. I do not say that disparagingly. Toys are cool, useful, and helpful. What I don’t (yet) know if using it produces the sort of understanding that went into producing it.

Music Monday: Elegy

Zoe’s Aunt Joanna died recently. Zoe posted this reminiscence on Facebook:

“Use the good dishes. Always use the good dishes.”
This was a line in a letter from my aunt Joanna, and it inspired a song about crystal glasses that is probably my most-requested piece. I’ve just come home from a celebration of her life near her home in Florida. She was a dedicated volunteer at her local public library, so we held the gathering there. She was a teacher who lived and worked in Korea, Denmark, and Venezuela, and traveled extensively. She was also a steady, kind, practical person who took pleasure in everyday things. This picture was taken a few years ago in the aviary of the Brevard County Zoo.

The song is called “Elegy (Crystal Glass)” (which is fitting) and appear on her second studio album Roadside Saints.

It’s a wonderful song. The poetry of the lyrics is magnificent:

This crystal glass was broken on a clumsy Monday morning
It was one of four that my mother gave to me
and it loved candle-light — it loved the morning sun
and I’m sad to see it go, but I still have three
so I will pour some orange juice and drink to precious things
Shake the broken pieces, and they sing
and they say

Glasses may break if you use them every day
That’s the risk you take — they’re like hearts that way
and every day will put them to the test
but every day deserves the very best

Listen to the whole thing…it’s amazing. The evolution is elegant—a slow shift in perspective across generations marked by key moments.

The original version was slow and contemplative. Zoe played it for me and my feedback is that I wanted it to be urgent. It’s the best advice I’ve ever given ever.