Archive for the ‘Music that doesn’t suck’ Category

All is well, safely rest. …

May 29, 2023

At ease, dad.

A historian, former ceremonial bugler, and Marylander (like Your Humble Narrator) explains the origins of “Taps.”

Happy Mothers Day

May 14, 2023

Good times, bad times

May 13, 2023

The wind woke me at midnight, a reminder that despite the warnings from the National Weather Service I had neglected to take down the wind chimes and hummingbird feeders and store the patio furniture’s cushions in their plastic footlocker.

But I’m a light sleeper, and thought drowsily, “Oh, well. How bad could it be?” And rolled over and went back to sleep.

Pretty bad, as it turns out.

About three hours later it sounded like God thought He was John Bonham and our house was His drum kit and it was time to perform “Moby Dick.” The long version.

Well. When God wants to rock out, you gotta get up and dance.

We figured that if the thundering blew us out of a sound sleep, it was probably scaring the bejaysis out of Miss Mia Sopaipilla, who overnights in the half-bath, where a goodly wind can set the fan vent a-flapping like a hi-hat cymbal.

Naturally, she couldn’t have cared less. Nothing scares Miss Mia. But she was delighted to find out that we had suddenly become lovers of the wee small hours like her and immediately set about performing her morning rituals, albeit a few hours early.

Outside, the cushions were up against a wall — we got lucky, the worst of the wind was coming from the south, or else they’d have been spotted flying in formation over the San Luis Valley — but the backyard trees lost a few limbs and our young pistache was bobbing and weaving like a stoner in the front row at Madison Square Garden in 1973.

So I stabilized it with a couple rubber bungee straps, stuffed the cushions in their footlocker, and collected the hummingbird feeders. Then Herself and I stumbled back to bed.

This dude got blown away last year.

Well, that pissed off Miss Mia, who hates a party-pooper the way Clarence Thomas hates feeling a little light in the wallet pocket. And for the next couple of hours she shared her feelings with us at some volume, sounding like Robert Plant wearing pants three sizes too small, until we finally said to hell with it and got up for good.

It was then that I noticed the wind had peeled the outer layer off our “Save the Elena Gallegos” yard sign to reveal a campaign pitch for Khalid Emshadi, a Republican candidate for the state House of Representatives, who got blown away last year by incumbent Democrat Elizabeth Thomson.

No such thing as an ill wind, I guess.

¡Que viva Puebla!

May 5, 2023

We’ve got visitors.

It’s Cinco de Mayo, which is not the Mexican Fourth of July, though Americans treat it as comparable, even adding it to their National What the Hell Let’s Drink & Drive Party Calendar.

The neighbors, the ones with the kids, have decided to throw a fiesta in the cul-de-sac this year, possibly because an uncle from Colorado was coming down to do the Turquoise Trail Burro Race at Cerrillos.

• Read “The Treasure of the Sierra Mojada,” in which I recount my own experience as a burro racer.

The uncle got here yesterday and his burros were quite the draw for our sleepy little ’hood.

My man Hal Walter will not be participating in tomorrow’s race at Cerrillos — he will drive pretty much anywhere at the drop of a sombrero, and will drop it himself if need be.

But he is busy retrieving his son Harrison from Colorado Mountain College this weekend; the kid just finished his first year of postsecondary education and will be spending the summer at the family’s Crusty County rancheroo.

This evening, Hal and Harrison will be motoring from Leadville back to Weirdcliffe, the uncle and the burros will return to the cul-de-sac, and we’ll have some quality neighbor time and medium-light refreshments to commemorate the ass-whuppin’ that General Ignacio Zaragoza and his troops laid on the French at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862.

One time, one night in America.

Tonatiuh plays the Beatles

April 9, 2023

Looks like an Easter sun day (har de har har).

Here comes the sun. …

Good Friday?

April 7, 2023

Elena Gallegos gets a water feature.

Good Friday? I wouldn’t know. It’s too early for a proper review.

Yesterday was a pretty good Thursday, though.

The weather shifted gears a bit, and I was able to give the trees a sip of water and get myself out for 90 minutes of sun worship on the foothills trails.

The Co-Motion Divide Rohloff is a great bike for this sort of thing if you’re not in a rush, which I never am. It goes about 32 pounds with all its bells and whistles, which include drop bars, a rigid steel frameset, and a pair of hefty 50mm Donnelly X’Plor MSO tires.

The cool spring having left me low on mileage and high on a whiter shade of pale, I wasn’t exactly skipping the light fandango in the Elena Gallegos Open Space. At times, especially on the hills, it felt like I was towing a Burley trailer containing 16 vestal virgins, a waiter, and his tray.

A mountain biker yielding trail on a climb shouted, “Hey, gravel bikes!” as I lumbered up. No, it’s a touring bike, I mumbled to myself, and there’s only one of us, shortly before a dude on an actual gravel bike passed me so fast the waiter couldn’t take his drink order.

Speaking of drinks, while railing the corners down Trail 342 bound for 203A, I abruptly found myself facing a water crossing. We’ve been in The Duck! City for nearly nine years now and I don’t think I’ve ever seen water running in this little arroyo.

So, yeah. A good Thursday, for sure. But a good Friday? Don’t ask Herself. Someone buggered something down to the Death Star and she had to go down there, on a day off, to boot a server in the slats.

R.I.P., Keith Reid

March 30, 2023

Keith Reid, the lyricist behind Procol Harum’s legendary “A Whiter Shade of Pale,” has gone west. He was 76.

I would’ve written “has left the stage,” but Reid was apparently never on it. He was “a full-time non-performing member” of the band, according to The Guardian.

That doesn’t mean Reid wasn’t carrying his share of the load. He wrote almost all of Procol Harum’s lyrics throughout nine albums, from 1967 through ’77, and then a couple more albums’ worth for good measure in 1991 and 2003.

In an interview with Uncut magazine cited in American Songwriter, Reid addressed the song’s origin and meaning.

“I had the phrase ‘a whiter shade of pale,’ that was the start, and I knew it was a song,” he said. “It’s like a jigsaw where you’ve got one piece, then you make up all the others to fit in. I was trying to conjure a mood as much as tell a straightforward, girl-leaves-boy story. With the ceiling flying away and room humming harder, I wanted to paint an image of a scene.”

In the 1991 film “The Commitments,” Jimmy Rabbitte derides Reid’s work on “Whiter Shade” as the “poxiest bleedin’ lyrics ever written.” But I notice he knew them so well he could correct Steven Clifford when the pianist misquotes the first line.

Me, I loved those lyrics, and the organ riffs nicked from Bach, too. So I tip me cap to Reid, who joins his old bandmate, lead singer Gary Brooker — who wrote the music for “Whiter Shade” — in that ever-growing jam band in the sky.

Extra credit listening

• “A Salty Dog.”

• “Conquistador.”

Friday mornin’ comin’ down

March 24, 2023

Leaving on a jet plane. Not Herself, but it will do
for purposes of illustration.

Herself is out of town, and Miss Mia and I are out of sorts.

Ours is a fragile ecosystem, especially Miss Mia’s little corner of it. You give her output, she’ll give you input, and plenty of it, especially if she catches you napping on the job.


“Hold my calls, stand by, and await further instructions.”

As Nick Nolte told Frank McRae in “48 Hrs,” “Yeah, I hear you, your voice carries.”

When we’re fully staffed, Herself takes the early shift. She gets up at stupid-thirty, feeds and waters and amuses Her Majesty, and then goes about her business while Miss Mia takes a nap.

I get the second shift, which starts a couple hours later. I feed and water and amuse Her Majesty, and then go about my business while Miss Mia takes a nap.

Then we tag team the rest of the day, which is mostly a breeze because hey, she’s a cat. Miss Mia requires about 20 hours of beauty sleep per diem.

But if one of us goes somewhere for a few days, it’s Katie bar the door. Double shifts, weird hours, and negative performance reviews. My first writeup came around 3 this morning.


It’s gonna be a long shift in the barrel. “Yeah, I hear you, your voice carries.”

R.I.P., David Lindley

March 8, 2023

David Lindley has taken his act on the road for the final time.

Damn, but that dude could play. And play anything with strings, with anyone who was up for it, according to his obit in The New York Times.

His collaborators included Jackson Browne, Bob Dylan, Dolly Parton, Warren Zevon, Ry Cooder, Iggy Pop, Graham Nash, and David Crosby. And that’s just the shortlist.

Writes Alex Williams:

Ever on the hunt for new sounds and textures, Mr. Lindley had “no idea” how many instruments he could play, as he told Acoustic Guitar magazine in 2000. But throughout his career he showed a knack for wringing emotion not only from the violin, mandolin, banjo, dulcimer and autoharp, but also from the Indian tanpura, the Middle Eastern oud and the Turkish saz.

That’s a dude you want on your album. He could probably play Celtic harp, rusty bedsprings or a chain-link fence if you needed it.

My people and me, we mostly knew Lindley from his work with Browne on albums like “For Everyman” and “Running on Empty.”

That first album was a who’s who of the musical world when it came out in 1973. Hear that raging piano in the background of “Red Neck Friend?” That would be Rockaday Johnnie, a.k.a. Elton John. Also in the mix on “For Everyman” — Crosby, Joni Mitchell, Sneaky Pete Kleinow, Jim Keltner, Don Henley, Glenn Frey, and Bonnie Raitt.

Our musical world is running a little closer to empty without Lindley, but that big band in the Next World just keeps on filling up.

R.I.P., Wayne Shorter

March 3, 2023

Wayne Shorter has moved on to that Big Stage in the Sky.

The tenor saxophonist and composer was 89.

Dude played with everyone. I first heard him with Weather Report, then Steely Dan. He played with Carlos Santana and Joni Mitchell, Miles Davis and Art Blakey.

And he kept his ears, eyes and mind wide open. Writes Nate Chinen in The New York Times:

A lifelong fan of comic books and science fiction, he kept a shelf crowded with action figures and wore T-shirts emblazoned with the Superman “S” logo.

Throughout his career he refused to hew too closely to any tradition except that of fearless expedition. “The word ‘jazz,’ to me,” he liked to say, “only means ‘I dare you.’”

While we’re talking jazz, David A. Graham at The Atlantic — who also has some thoughts about Shorter — reminds me that it’s the centenary of another great tenor saxophonist, Dexter Gordon, who likewise had a habit of stretching himself.

Writes Graham:

He came to greatest popular notice when, in 1986, he starred in the jazz-themed film “Round Midnight.” It was his first and last starring role, and he was nominated for an Oscar for best actor. But the best Dex is blowing Dex. Take his classic “Go” for a spin.

Here’s “Cheesecake,” from that album:

Every time I hear a horn played like this, I wish I’d gotten in line a little quicker when they were passing out the instruments in music class back in seventh grade.

I wanted to try clarinet, but they were all full up, so I went with flute. Flute’s fun, but man, it’s not the sax.