MIDNIGHT RAMBLE, MAY 26

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Greg Schmidt and I went to the Ramble in Woodstock on Friday night, on what would have been Levon Helm‘s 77th birthday. Another fabulous show: Larry Campbell, Teresa Williams, Bryan Mitchell, Amy Helm, Jim Weider, Jay Collins, Steve Bernstein, Eric Lawrence, Shawn Pelton and Jacob Silver were joined by many special guests, including Billy Payne, Marco Benvenutto, Cindy Cashdollar, Conor Kennedy, and Catherine Russell. A great show. Very happy to have attended.
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DYLAN

IMG_0661On Friday night (July 8) my pal Dave Jensen and I saw Bob Dylan and his Band at Forest Hills Tennis Stadium. It was a treat to see the maestro, still a tremendous artist at 75. On an almost perfect evening, a vibrant, vigorous Mavis Staples opening the show (below right), and it was a treat to hear her power through `Slippery IMG_2073People’ and `For What It’s Worth’ and finally `I’ll Take You There’. Most excellent. Bob favored a broad brimmed hat, and moved about the stage in with a gait that seemed part shuffle, part skip. Dylan has been excavating the American songbook for the last year or so, and I can’t say it’s always been to my taste; it’s rather like visiting an extremely intelligent friend whom, you find, is currently immersed in the art of baking biscuits. Nothing wrong with that; it’s just that we’ve got a lot of biscuit bakers. There is still only one Bob. But this excursion seems to have done wonders for Dylan’s singing; it’s more ambitious, more expressive; he’s giving a broader vocal performance than I remember. This really paid off in the second part of the show, where he began singing about getting old. He played “Spirit on the Water’ (`You think I’m over the hill/ You think I’m past my prime/ Let me see what you got/ We can have a whoppin’ good time’); `Scarlet Town’ (`In Scarlet Town, the end is near’); “These Long and Wasted Years” (“We cried on a cold and frosty morn/ We cried because our souls were torn/ So much for tears/ So much for these long and wasted years”); and finally “Autumn Leaves” (`I miss you most of all my darling/ When autumn leaves start to fall’), written by Joseph Kosma and Jacques Prevert, with English lyrics by Johnny Mercer. Then, for his first encore, Dylan played “Blowing’ in the Wind.” I have never been a huge fan of the song, with its wise-beyond-its-years lyrics, but this was special. Singing with great expressivity in his old man’s croak, performing in this terrible week, Dylan brought a perplexed weariness to the song. I found it unbelievably moving.

DROWNED OUT DAY

aLosLobos1280x720On Saturday the 20th, after many years of longing, we went to the Clearwater Revival Festival in Croton Point Park. I was very excited that the advertised line-up promised a chain of performances by Angelique Kidjo (below left), Shelby Lynne (v. exciting!), Los Lobos (!), Neko Case (!) and David Crosby. AngeliqueKidjo1280x720aJosephArthur1280x720Alas, it was not our day. Shelby Lyne cancelled (Joseph Arthur (left), who filled in, was very entertaining and interesting), and then it rained, and rained some more, and then some more, and finally I bagged it before half the bill came out. Too bad!

HOW ROBERT FRIPP MADE A MUSICIAN OUT OF ME

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“All my life, I have loved music, and never in my life have I been the tiniest bit musical. Not only can I not sing in tune, I cause others to fall off key. Not only can I not dance, my dancing has often caused injury to others, most memorably on a St. Patrick’s Day in Chestnut Hill, Pennsylvania, when at the conclusion of a dance I exuberantly dipped my wife-to-be and smashed her head into a door frame. I took guitar lessons for two years, giving up only when my teacher noted that inasmuch I had never been able to tune my instrument, or even tell if it was in tune, I would probably always—his word—stink. Clap in time? Forget it.

And yet, when I saw that the legendary progressive rock band King Crimson, in its eighth incarnation, was on tour again, I was reminded that there was one night, nearly thirty years ago, when I did play an instrument, in a band, before an audience, capably. And we were great. As much as anyone, the man responsible was Robert Fripp, King Crimson’s cerebral, brilliant, exacting, intimidating lead guitarist.”

To read the rest on newyorker.com, click here.