Reading Around on April 26th through April 28th

A few interesting links collected April 26th through April 28th:

  • The GOP’s base problem – Back in 2002, the Democratic Party was a disaster. It was beset by an establishment convinced that this was a center-right nation, and that the only path to victory was to be Republican-lite. It was outgunned by a conservative movement that had a well-established idea factory and message machine, with a traditional media more eager to pick up Fox News themes than to hold the administration accountable. And it was plagued by a consultant class that still thought the calendar read 1968, and that their campaigns couldn’t associate with dirty fucking hippies or innovate with new tools like the “internets”.Lucky for them, a new generation of activists arose to challenge the status quo…, in addition to a core group of big-money donors willing to invest in a new party infrastructure. … Anyone remember how conservatives gloated when we got Howard Dean elected chairman of our party? Anyone remember how our party’s DC establishment reacted, in genuine horror and fear for the party’s future?

  • image from an unknown source

  • The real reason for torture | Steve Chapman – “Its advocates make it obvious that this cruelty is not an unfortunate byproduct but a positive attribute.

    That’s why so many people endorse inhumane methods while disregarding any evidence that suggests it is ineffective. Their hatred of our enemies has made them indifferent to civilized norms. They want to see our enemies suffer hideously regardless of whether that enhances or degrades our security.

    The point of torture is torture. It is not a means to an end. It is the end itself. ”

  • BARTANNICA » B.L.U.E.S. | Chicago, IL – I’ve got the quit-making-out-in-front-of-me-and-rubbing-each-others’-legs-and-standing-up-from-your-stools-and-bumping-into-me-you-gross-old-people-from-the-suburbs-that-have-had-too-much-to-drink-and-should-just-get-a-room-and-I-know-that’s-what-you’re-thinking-because-I-just-saw-you-pop-a-Viagra blues. Deh dah-dah dum dah-dum dah-dum …


Music Suggestions

Bukka White is Awesome

“The Complete Bukka White” (Bukka White)

The voice of blues singer Bukka White is so evocative, whenever a song of his comes up on my iTunes rotation, I stop and listen1. A cloudy tenor, with resonating overtones. His guitar playing may or may not be excellent2, but I often find myself focusing on his voice. Such power, such emotion.

Uncle Dave Lewis writes a bit of Bukka White’s history at Allmusic:

Bukka White (true name: Booker T. Washington White) was born in Houston, Mississippi (not Houston, Texas) in 1906 (not any date between 1902-1905 or 1907-1909, as is variously reported). He got his initial start in music learning fiddle tunes from his father. Guitar instruction soon followed, but White’s grandmother objected to anyone playing “that Devil music” in the household; nonetheless, his father eventually bought him a guitar. When Bukka White was 14 he spent some time with an uncle in Clarksdale, Mississippi and passed himself off as a 21-year-old, using his guitar playing as a way to attract women. Somewhere along the line, White came in contact with Delta blues legend Charley Patton, who no doubt was able to give Bukka White instruction on how to improve his skills in both areas of endeavor. In addition to music, White pursued careers in sport, playing in Negro Leagues baseball and, for a time, taking up boxing.

In 1930 Bukka White met furniture salesman Ralph Limbo, who was also a talent scout for Victor. White traveled to Memphis where he made his first recordings, singing a mixture of blues and gospel material under the name of Washington White. Victor only saw fit to release four of the 14 songs Bukka White recorded that day. As the Depression set in, opportunity to record didn’t knock again for Bukka White until 1937, when Big Bill Broonzy asked him to come to Chicago and record for Lester Melrose. By this time, Bukka White had gotten into some trouble — he later claimed he and a friend had been “ambushed” by a man along a highway, and White shot the man in the thigh in self defense. While awaiting trial, White jumped bail and headed for Chicago, making two sides before being apprehended and sent back to Mississippi to do a three-year stretch at Parchman Farm. While he was serving time, White’s record “Shake ‘Em on Down” became a hit.

Bukka White proved a model prisoner, popular with inmates and prison guards alike and earning the nickname “Barrelhouse.” It was as “Washington Barrelhouse White” that White recorded two numbers for John and Alan Lomax at Parchman Farm in 1939. After earning his release in 1940, he returned to Chicago with 12 newly minted songs to record for Lester Melrose. These became the backbone of his lifelong repertoire, and the Melrose session today is regarded as the pinnacle of Bukka White’s achievements on record. Among the songs he recorded on that occasion were “Parchman Farm Blues” (not to be confused with “Parchman Farm” written by Mose Allison and covered by John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers and Blue Cheer, among others), “Good Gin Blues,” “Bukka’s Jitterbug Swing,” “Aberdeen, Mississippi Blues,” and “Fixin’ to Die Blues,” all timeless classics of the Delta blues. Then, Bukka disappeared — not into the depths of some Mississippi Delta mystery, but into factory work in Memphis during World War II.

Bob Dylan recorded “Fixin’ to Die Blues” on his 1961 debut Columbia album, and at the time no one in the music business knew who Bukka White was — most figured a fellow who’d written a song like “Fixin’ to Die” had to be dead already. Two California-based blues enthusiasts, John Fahey and Ed Denson, were more skeptical about this assumption, and in 1963 addressed a letter to “Bukka White (Old Blues Singer), c/o General Delivery, Aberdeen, Mississippi.” By chance, one of White’s relatives was working in the Post Office in Aberdeen, and forwarded the letter to White in Memphis.

[Click to read more history of allmusic Bukka White Biography ]




for some youTubery.
Additional tidbit: Led Zeppelin credited Bukka White on the BBC Sessions release of a 1971 13 minute version of Whole Lotta Love, along with several other blues magicians (Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Paul Jones, John Bonham, Willie Dixon, John Lee Hooker, Bernard Besman, Bukka White, Arthur Crudup, Doc Pomus, Mort Shuman)
If you don’t own any Bukka White music: go for it.

“Shake ‘Em On Down” (Grammercy Records)

“Parchman Farm Blues” (Bukka White)

If your ears are sophisticated enough to listen to scratchy records, find his early material. As Eugene Chadbourne writes3:

The tracks in which White is accompanied by Washboard Sam are really fantastic, representing some of the best country blues one can find, rhythmically snappy and melodically clear. In terms of the musical styles that White employed, they are all here: The basis for every single song he ever recorded, if not the song itself, is included among these 14 tracks. “Where Can I Change My Clothes,” one of the best songs about prison, is included along with White’s unique version of “Parchman Farm.” The former song was one he re-recorded in the ’60s, releasing it under the latter title: Neither song is the same as the “Parchman Farm” blues standard that was later satirized by Mose Allison and obliterated by Blue Cheer. One of the great things about White’s style is his vocals. His pronunciation and accent are fascinating. Take the way he pronounces the title of “district attorney” in the song of the same name. As well, he could be the only blues singer to deliver the following couplet and make it sound like it actually rhymes: “Doctor, put that temperature gauge under my tongue/And tell me, all I need is my baby’s lovin’ arms.”

  1. especially Parchman Farm Blues []
  2. mostly I think it is, driving rhythms on a national steel guitar that compel a listener to dance, but I’ve never tried to emulate anything from his songbook, so I can’t say for certain anything specific about his technique, other than it appears to use a lot of open tuning []
  3. though, the publisher must have changed the cover, mine doesn’t have the same photograph as the one Chadbourne talks about []
Music Suggestions

This Was Maxwell Street

"And This Is Free: The Life and Times of Chicago’s Legendary Maxwell St." (Various)

Very cool, I’m getting a copy.

Chicago’s legendary Maxwell Street open-air market, founded by immigrant Eastern European Jews in the 1870s, attracted bargain-hunters of every ethnic background every weekend for more than a century. The unique, vibrant street bazaar was officially closed in 1994, as urban shopping evolved and the University of Illinois at Chicago campus expanded into the area, just south of downtown. Maxwell Street had long since become best-known as the outdoor home base for many of the city’s world-famous blues musicians.

A coalition of blues aficionados, black and white; historians; and children and grandchildren of Maxwell Street’s Jewish pushcart and storefront merchants tried but failed to preserve elements of the area as the market was being shut down. Direct memories of the street in its mid-20th-century heyday are diminishing, and a sense of the life of the place might easily be lost.

But now “And This Is Free: The Life and Times of Chicago’s Legendary Maxwell Street”” — a new multimedia disc and booklet “MultiPac” that combines historic films and a photo slideshow on DVD, a CD of blues tied to the area, and informative written commentary — has been released by Shanachie Entertainment. The express purpose, says its executive producer, Sherwin Dunner, is bringing the texture of the street alive again.

[From This Was Maxwell Street –]

[non-WSJ subscribers can use this link]

(H/T Chuck Sudo)

My first apartment in Chicago was on 19th and Halsted; to drive to it, you have to pass through Maxwell Street Market (which has since been moved, and sanitized, and the University of Illinois has taken the area over). When we drove to see the apartment prior to signing the lease, we were a bit shocked (both of us recent college graduates from Austin, TX, which has no areas like Maxwell Street). Turned out not to be so bad, and we heard some good electric blues there later on. We also didn’t realize that 5 blocks in Chicago is a large distance, psychologically. The dudes standing around oil barrel fires, selling recently stolen merchandise had no interest in hanging out on my apartment stairs, we needn’t have worried.

Though this was the neighborhood that shaped Benny Goodman, Adm. Hyman Rickover, Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg and CBS Chairman William Paley, the longstanding Jewish experience on Maxwell Street had not been examined on film until Israeli émigré Shuli Eshel began shooting her documentary on that side of the story, “Maxwell Street: A Living Memory,” in 1999. More than half of the spirited, sometimes nostalgic interviewees in that film are already gone, but her film has its own key role in this new release — and Roger Schatz, her co-author on the oral history book “Jewish Maxwell Street Stories”” (Arcadia Publishing), provides the narration for the MultiPac’s informative slideshow.

“The Jews of Maxwell Street really didn’t care if you were black, blue or yellow as long as you bought the merchandise so they could make a living and educate their children,” Ms. Eshel suggested in an interview with this reporter. “But then, the famous Chicken Man (an African-American who performed with a live chicken on his head, shown at work in the MultiPac) was there to make a living, too. Maxwell Street taught you how to understand people well enough to do business. As the famous Chicago Judge Abraham Lincoln Marovitz, from that neighborhood, puts it in my film, ‘Selling on the street was about survival at first, but later on became about the pursuit of the American Dream.'”

That spirit, as much as the remarkable talent of the street performers working the same urban blocks, is alive in this remarkable bit of multimedia history.


Nine Below Zero


This song is more up my alley, especially when the humidity here in the Big Potato hovers around 98%

Nine Below Zero – Sonny Boy Williamson II (Aleck Rice Miller) at the American Folk Blues Festival 1963

"His Best" (Sonny Boy Williamson)

Music Suggestions

Chuck Berry is Cool

“Johnny B. Goode: His Complete ’50s Chess Recordings” (Chuck Berry)

Can’t go wrong picking up some Chuck Berry, iffen you don’t already have some. The blueprint of a thousand songs is chorded on these tracks, and even fifty years later, they still sound good.

Chuck Berry didn’t invent rock and roll, but he may very well have invented rock’n’roll. His songs fueled and inspired the likes of Buddy Holly, the Beach Boys, the Beatles, the Who, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, the Rolling Stones, and just about anybody in his wake who picked up an electric guitar. In the invaluable rock doc Hail! Hail! Rock’n’Roll, we watch in awe has Berry puts Keith Richards in his place with just a single angry glare, and watch in double-awe as Richards takes it. After all, the Stones guitarist, like countless other musicians of his generation, knows he owes virtually everything to Berry, and has admitted as much, so he gives deference where deference is due.

Berry’s as worthy of hagiography as any rock legend, but he’s not yet ready for a eulogy. In fact, Berry’s 50-plus year career has been marked by one constant– forward motion. Indeed, Berry’s far too stubborn a man to ever give inertia the chance to slow him down, and he still spends a considerable amount of time on stage for an octogenarian. As far as the studio goes, however, Berry hasn’t released a new album since 1979, and even then his songwriting had been in steady decline since the early 60s. His last (and sole number one!) hit, a live version of the juvenile novelty “My Ding-a-Ling”, was released in 1972.

One perverse but still appropriate way to view Berry’s erratic (or non-existent) output over the past three or so decades is as further validation of the enduring strength of the first decade of his recording career, especially the productive, world-changing last five years of the 1950s collected on the self-explanatory Johnny B. Goode: His Complete ’50s Chess Recordings. It was on Chicago’s Chess imprint that Berry would change the blueprint of popular music, and it’s on this 4xCD collection that we can revisit the fruits of his labor.

[Click to read more of Chuck Berry: Johnny B. Goode: His Complete ’50s Chess Recordings: Pitchfork Record Review]

If you want a smaller sampler of Berry, check out the Great 28.

“The Great Twenty-Eight” (Chuck Berry)