News and Notes
Blood on the Fields
At 18, he played with Art Blakey. Now, at 36, Wynton Marsalis is the premier jazz musician of his generation, and "Blood on the Fields," which won him a Pulitzer Prize, is his finest achievement. Recorded with the musicians of the Lincoln Center, this three-disk set is a complex meditation on slavery that combines blues, chants, call-and-response, spiritual, and Caribbean rhythms.
The Coast of Chicago
"By the time we hit downtown and passed Buckingham Fountain with its spraying, multicolored plumes of light, Deejo would be rhapsodic. One night, standing up in the backseat and extending his arms toward the skyscraper we called God's House because of its glowing blue dome--a blue the romantic, lonely shade of runway lights--Deejo blurted out, 'I dig beauty!'"
-- from "Blight"
Austin City Limits
check local listings
This long-running showcase for country music is basically PBS's answer to the Grand Ol' Opry. On the site, you'll find performer bios, playlists, trivia, and sound clips. The show's alumni roster reads like a singer-songwriter Hall of Fame, but the current season also includes its share of legends. This year, they'll air performances by Junior Brown, Nanci Griffith, Ricky Skaggs, and Loretta Lynn, among others.
The Confessions of Nat Turner
Controversial since its publication, this unflinching look at Nat Turner's 1831 slave revolt in Virginia won Styron a Pulitzer Prize. What will stick with the reader is the heartbreaking insight into Turner's psychology. As penetrating a look into one man's soul as ever put to paper, the violence of slavery and the complexities of race and religion take on allegorical significance in this beautiful and disturbing book.
Pleased to Meet Me
This isn't the best Replacements record. Probably not even the second best. Still, this was the pivotal album on which Paul Westerberg attempted to channel the chaos into a neat, radio-friendly package. The result, as one might expect, is a record full of contradictions. For radio-friendly, try "Alex Chilton" -- for chaos, give a listen to "Shooting Dirty Pool."
King of America
After several disappointing albums in the early 80's, Costello came back with what may be his strongest record. The trademark tragicomic lyrics are here, along with the vocal strength that made his earliest records classics. Costello's reflections on American culture are dead on, as evidenced in songs like "Brilliant Mistake," "Our Little Angel," and "American Without Tears." The cover of "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" is not to be missed.
The Old Forest and Other Stories
"It seems to me that in fact Taylor has been widely misread and misunderstood, and that if and when the critical establishment arises from its present state of utter collapse, some astute critic or scholar will discover and report to us all on the depths that exist in this formidable body of work. We hear it said that Taylor's subject was the southern middle class, that his characters exist in a socially fixed world, a very ordered and mannered world, and of course the implication is inevitable that his treatments of these characters are somehow more genteel than they are anything else. The mistake here is in not recognizing Taylor's shrewd and subtle concern with evil in all its forms--from the terrible interior destruction of the denial of life and one's nature, to the gothic shapes of murder, both of spirit and body. It is all there, laid into the plain, governed sentences, perfectly clear and beautifully indirect."
Martin and Me
In releasing this collection of live acoustic material, Dinosaur Jr. frontman J Mascis became perhaps the most unlikely particpant in the whole "unplugged" craze. Afficionados of Dinosaur's Marshall-stacked wall of sound will be suprised, but not unpleasantly. From early Dinosaur classics like "Repulsion" to campy, yet effective covers of Carly Simon, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and The Smiths, Mascis demonstrates his total mastery of the guitar, whether it's a Stratocaster or just a simple Martin acoustic.