Friday, July 20, 2012

Will Gray - Broke

Columbus friends, this is a reminder that filmmaker/hip-hop/Americana artist (yes, those ideas do fit together) Will Gray is at Wild Goose Creative tonight. That's 2491 Summit St. in Columbus. Doors open at 7:00; film at 7:30.

Will's film "Broke" will screen first, followed by a concert and Q&A. If you're a musician, or simply care about music, you need to check this out. With radio playlists as constricted as ever, with a traditional label system in the terminal throes of meltdown, what's a young, struggling musician to do? How do you simply get noticed? Here's more in the current issue of Columbus Alive

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Paul Buchanan - Mid Air

Paul Buchanan, lead singer and songwriter of Glasgow mopesters The Blue Nile, is known as a meticulous craftsman. He’s released a grand total of five albums in a 31-year recording career. To say that he makes every note count might be an understatement. Considering the paltry output of his band and the minimal arrangements of his songs, he averages about a note per month.

Now at age 56, without a band, on his own musically and relationally, and possessing a lifetime of loss and regret, he’s released his first solo album Mid Air.

Buchanan has not lived an extraordinary life. He hasn’t staggered through decades of rock ‘n roll debauchery or careened from one high-profile jet-setting relationship to another. He’s merely lived in Glasgow, a mile or so from his bandmates of 30 years, and awakened day after day. And through the mysterious entropy of time and the vagaries of the heart, he’s simply grown apart from those who were closest to him. Friends have died. The love he swore would last forever and withstand the buffets of the harshest of circumstances has somehow, inexplicably, drifted like smoke in the wind. And so he sits down at the piano and tries to work it out, wondering what the hell happened:

The buttons on your collar
The color of your hair
I think I see you everywhere
I want to live forever
And watch you dancing in the air
All lies and make believe
The very thing that one day leaves
But I can see you standing in mid-air.

The girl I want to marry upon the high trapeze
The day she fell and hurt her knees
And only time can heal it
But it’s the wind that blows away the leaves
For everything that life was worth
The fallen snow, the Virgin Birth,
Yeah, I can you standing in mid-air.

Start with one piano playing blocked chords. Mix in a hint of ghostly strings from time to time. Add a cracked and broken voice that barely rises above a whisper. And there you have Mid Air.

I’m fairly certain that it’s one of the finest albums I’ve heard this year. Those of you who are familiar with Buchanan’s old band know that he has a quietly devastating, soulful voice. He uses that voice here – a little frayed around the edges, and all the more effective for it – to superb effect. The songs are sad but never lugubrious, tinged with regret but never awash in cheap nostalgia, and surprisingly, almost shockingly, full of hard-won hope and promise. It’s a flat-out gorgeous album, resplendently beautiful.

And it has nothing to do with rock ‘n roll. The musical antecedents here are Sinatra’s 3:00 a.m. ruminations from the late ‘50s (without the over-the-top string and horn arrangements) and Tom Waits’ beat poetry and anthems from the late-night saloon. Consider it a minimalist musical masterpiece that confronts the deepest and darkest chambers of the human heart, and finds a bit of light in the inner recesses. I’ll settle for that formula any time. Paul Buchanan is welcome to take as long as he likes and needs.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Double-Barreled Brooce

I offer a double-barreled dose of Broooce today,. with my review of Wrecking Ball, and a new monthly column in which I ponder Springsteen and the gospel. Both at Christianity Today Magazine.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Leonard Cohen - Old Ideas

My review of Leonard Cohen's superb new album Old Ideas is up at Christianity Today Magazine.

Friday, January 20, 2012

And All Who Believed Were Together

Apparently my friends and I are the subject of this week's cover story from Columbus' Other Paper. Thanks, Joel Oliphint.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Girls - Father, Son, Holy Ghost

This is a terrific, sweet, uplifting album. I've ignored it for a while, mainly because I thought that the debut offering Album was a promising mess, but still more of a mess than promising. But Father, Son, Holy Ghost is better in every way -- more focused, tighter songwriting, better production, and less beholden to influences.

On first blush, this album seems like just another retro throwback -- Beach Boys sunny pop, early '70s Laurel Canyon singer/songwriter navel gazing, the early '00s indie pop goodness of Beulah and The Shins, with occasional nods to '90s slacker guitar heroes Pavement and Dinosaur Jr. But the minute you start to play "spot the influence," lead singer/songwriter Christopher Owens has already moved on. And it misses the point. Owens is the kind of guy who has absorbed the DNA of 50 years of rock music. You can separate the strands if you like, but the reality is that he does what great songwriters always do -- rearrange those strands into something unique and compelling.

It's the sweetness that ultimately wins me over, and makes me smile. This is a guy who writes not one, but two songs about his mother. It sounds as if he likes her. And "Forgiveness" gets it exactly right. I have no idea what this guy believes or does not believe. But it's refreshing to encounter someone who holds out the notion that bitterness, cynicism, and recrimination are not the answers. What a lovely second album.