Monday, October 5, 2009

reading and cheese samples

The Boogie Kings - Live at the Bamboo Hut - I am reading Shane Bernard's book Swamp Pop: Cajun and Creole Rhythm and Blues, research for my own book, and in it the Boogie Kings play a significant part in the genre's nebulous definition. This album sounds more Blues Brothers - white guys wanting to be early James Brown or Otis Redding rather than the general swamp pop signifier of wanting to be Fats Domino. The band itself calls what they do blue-eyed soul, but there is a bit of that swamp pop bump to it, the same bump you feel when the guy driving the boat has had a few too many beers and is hitting the oncoming wakes harder than prudence would dictate.

Here they are bursting at the seams at some other swamp-themed Gulf coast haunt.

I read a bit of David Byrne's Bicycle Diaries over the weekend as well, and to my surprise, I rather liked it. Much as I loved Talking Heads in my formative years and how I appreciate the interface he has been between us and a lot of cool Brazilian music that we might not have otherwise heard, his books to me seem a little over-styled weighing too much on how we love "David Byrne" as opposed to what they actually have to say. This book has a humbler premise - he rides his bike around places and reports insightfully and respectfully what he sees. I used his pedaling around New Orleans as a baseline and his commentary works, drawing comparisons between the city and Havana and other cities where poor people of divergent backgrounds converge and make the best music. He gets about as deep as you will speeding by on a bike, and that might just be the perfect depth for him.

A bonus aspect of this book is his two page interpretation of Vienna Actionist Otto Muehl as part of his bit about Berlin. Muehl was a controversial early performance artist who incorporated explicit and often degrading sex acts into his stages actions and from the mid 70's to the 90's ran a commune where his ideas of open and submissive sexuality extended to the minors that lived there, and resulted in the commune's collapse and his arrest. Byrne, but using two of the politest images one can find of Muehl's performances and a few paragraphs of vaguely moralistic prose provide an excellent view of this artist, and the art world that now embraces him as a master. Here's hoping Byrne pens a wide survey of 20th century art that has as engaging and digestible a tone.

Various Artists - The Best of Swamp Pop Classics Vol. 2 (listen) There are endless volumes of Swamp Pop compilations available - eight volumes of Swamp Pop Gold await me at Floyd's Record Shop in Ville Platte, Louisiana's oldest record store. I was bopping around the Whole Foods this weekend listening to this one, divesting the store of cheese samples, when this funky gem from Bobby James made my day.

Get out my eyes, teardrops! Get off my ladder, woman! Bobby James make some excellent demands. Me? I'm a man of simpler needs, happy to have had a weekend of the people I love and reading and cheese samples.

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