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Archive for November, 2010

I could be wrong, but I don’t think that there are as many songs about law enforcement officers as there are about the outlaws they bring to justice. Maybe it’s because outlaws and their wicked deeds make for more dramatic songs or perhaps its because–secretly–we would like to defy society’s conventions they way they do.

First up is “Streets of Bakerfield”. The video quality is unfortunately very poor, but I get a kick of how Dwight Yoakam is clearly so tickled to be singing next to Buck Owens.

Here’s a classic: Marty Robbins singing the ballad of “Billy the Kid” from his album, “Gunfighter Ballads.”

Another take on the Billy the Kid legend. This is Joe Ely singing “Me and Billy the Kid.”

Jerry Reed gets to have the last word with this tale of gambling gone wrong, “When You’re Hot, You’re Hot.”

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I’ve become very enamored of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, a trio of African-American musicians who play string band music from North Carolina among other things.  Check out this talented threesome’s videos.

The Drops do traditional favorites, but they aren’t afraid to cover more modern songs. This is their version of Blu Cantrell’s R & B song, “Hit ‘Em Up, Style.”

If you have ever doubted that the kazoo is a serious musical instrument, doubt no longer, but believe.  This is the Drops takin’ down “Memphis Breakdown”.

‘Course you can’t expect anybody–even the band–to sit still while such good music is being played. Here’s Rhiannon Giddens’ barefootin’ to her bandmates fife and drum music.

If you like what you’ve seen here, check out their website and their latest release, “Genuine Negro Jig.”

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I’ve always loved music and I’ve always loved to sing, but I spent most of my adult life believing that I just didn’t have the voice for it. I haven’t sung with a group since junior high choir and I haven’t sung in public since elementary school.  Neither experience was exactly “Glee” quality–we weren’t taught to read music or to warm up our voices. Instead we were separated into groups and then had a go at mangling the song du jour.

Still, I desperately wanted to sing and envied those who could. Finally, in this my 44th year, I broke down and decided to go see a vocal coach whose studio is nearby. My hopes weren’t high: I went hoping she could salvage my voice and maybe shape it into something passable.

You really can’t imagine my joy at being told that yes, I COULD SING! Yes, I’m still an alto. Yes, I fall on and off pitch. Yes, I need to practice. But no, I’m not tone deaf, I can hear and match the notes and with some work I should BE ABLE TO SING!!!! IN PUBLIC!!!

[A brief pause while I do a Julie-Andrews-like rendition of the “Hills Are Alive With the Sound of Music”. Spin, spin, spin, fall over. Thank you. Back to the blog.]

With that one pronouncement, I feel like doors that were previously closed to me are springing open.  I could sing anything. With anyone. Anywhere. At any time. No limits. Only opportunities.

So that’s where I am now: wildly happy and working hard. Warming up my voice every evening. Training my ear to hear the pitch changes. Doing my musical homework. And going to singing class once a week.

Sometimes one lesson can change your whole life. 🙂

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I’m excited today because I’m taking part for the first time in a crowd funding project on the Internet. As you know, I’m a fan of Neil Gaiman and it happens that a guy named Christopher Salmon wants to make an animated film out of one of his short stories, “The Price”. Yawnsville, says you, but wait, here’s where it starts getting interesting. Christopher is planning to fund the project via Kickstarter, a website that solicits money from folks on the ‘Net to fund various community and art projects. Here’s how it works: artists put up a description of their project and you, the viewer, decide how much, if anything, you want to contribute to the project. If the project isn’t fully funded within a specified time period, it’s dead in the water and you are not charged. If it is fully funded, the amount you pledged is charged to your credit card via Amazon. If you have ordered anything from Amazon with your credit card, you probably already have an account set up.

Fans of public radio and TV will recognize the pledge drive motif. The difference here is that Kickstarter is harnessing the awesome power of the Interwebz as opposed to the awesome power of the local community.

Neil has given his support to the project (read his post) and this is the link to Christopher’s project page on Kickstarter. The amount he is asking for is very large ($150,000) and the deadline is Dec. 1, 2010. So the boulder to be rolled up the hill is a mighty big one. The good news is that the minimum pledge amount is $10.00.

Remember that investing is like gambling–don’t be plonking down money you can’t afford to lose. That being said, I would like to ask folks that if this project does appeal to you, please pledge a little more, get the DVD, and then donate to your local library. Artists win, writers win, fans win, and, of course, libraries win.

Even if you don’t want to donate, but you like the idea of the project, please pass the message along to other folks you know.

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