The Latest from Erik Ritland

Erik Ritland is a writer and musician from St. Paul, Minnesota. His blog and podcast Rambling On features commentary on music, sports, culture, and more. He was also Lead Staff Writer for Minnesota culture blogs Hometown Hustle and Curious North. Support Erik’s music via his Patreon account, reach him via emailor find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Hello all,

This is an intimate message from the Ritland Rambler himself, one Erik Ritland.

I’ve been writing blogs under some semblance of the Rambling On name since 2012. It started with a weekly run of several articles (in a newspaper type format) in January and February 2012. I quickly ran out of funding to keep it going, and after a second attempt in the summer I had to reconsider my direction.

Throughout 2013 I wrote a few blogs under the Music, Sports, and Sunday Ramble names. Finally in April 2014 I launched the latest version of Rambling On, a regular blog and podcast, that I’ve been running ever since.

Speaking of, Rambling On is seriously fun commentary on sports, music, culture, and more. I encourage you to check it out.

I’ve kept each of the former incarnations/incantations of my rambles up for the sake of archive. Enjoy them but be sure to check out the latest and greatest stuff at http://www.ramblingon.net.

Erik Ritland Archive Sites

Rambling On (original series)
The original run of seriously fun commentary on sports, music, culture, and more. Archived winter and summer 2012.

Music Ramble
Longer articles about music of all kinds. Archived from 2012-2014.

Sports Ramble   Local and national sports coverage. Mainly baseball and football related but some commentary on hockey and basketball as well. Archived from 2012-2014.

Ritland Ramble
Erik’s former culture blog. Society, politics, current events, and more. Archived from 2012-2014.

Sunday Ramble
Religious commentary. Archived from 2012-2013.

Daily Ramble
Daily blogs covering sports, music, culture, and more from January 2014.

The Weekly Ritland
Short-lived site that linked to each article I had posted for that week. Archived September 2012.

Main Ramble
Articles about politics and culture from the original run of Rambling On in 2012. Archived fall 2012.

Football Ramble
Commentary on the first few weeks of the 2012 football season. Another project that ran out of funding. Archived fall 2012.

Erik Ritland is a writer and musician from St. Paul, Minnesota. His blog and podcast Rambling On features commentary on music, sports, culture, and more. He was also Lead Staff Writer for Minnesota culture blogs Hometown Hustle and Curious North. Support Erik’s music via his Patreon account, reach him via emailor find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Archive: Ritland Daily Ramble #26

Quote of the day
I’ve been perfectly enamored it’s true
But perfect doesn’t matter with you
– Sean McPherson

Rambles
Summershine album
A couple weeks back I was downtown St. Paul to pick up a coffee for my brother. Since I had to waste $.75 on a meter I stopped by Eclipse Records. I went in just to browse and left with $50 worth of stuff, including the Cloak Ox LP that I reviewed a couple weeks back for Curious North and the new record from Twinkie Jiggles Broken Orchestra, Too Big to Fail.

I’ve dug Sean McPherson (also known as Twinkie Jiggles) and the band he’s bassist for, Heiruspecs, from the first time I saw them in 2003. He won my heart after the first time I heard him freestyle. Back then I was a music snob that thought rap was stupid. My friend Casey Carver introducing me to Heiruspecs was instrumental in opening my mind to how great it can be.

Too Big To Fail, McPherson’s debut album, is a lovely springtime album. It’s sunny, piano and horn-laden pop/rock is the perfect antidote for the long winter we’re in the midst of. Read my review for Curious North here.

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Picture of the day

clean

I found this while googling “pigs in the dirt being funny” (for no reason). There’s a context for this but it’s funnier without one.

Erik Ritland is a journalist and musician from St. Paul, Minnesota. He is a contributor for Minnesota culture blog Curious North and writes frequent Daily Rambles. Ramblin’ On catalogs his writings on culture, music (including his own projects), sports, religion, and many other topics. You can reach him via email here

Ritland Daily Ramble #25

Quote of the day
If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.
– Jesus Christ

Rambles
969940_510713322310573_1445846187_n-1In our own image
Things Jesus Never Said is one of the funniest Christian memes. If you’re a far-left leaning Christian you may not think so, but even then you have to admit that they’re clever. This is one of my favorites.

From the beginning of Christianity people have had trouble accepting the message of Jesus. Gnostics, who believed that the material world is evil, couldn’t accept that God would become a man. So they changed that part of the message of Jesus, claiming that instead of a human he was actually something like a vampire. Jehovah’s Witnesses couldn’t accept teachings about the Trinity. Seventh Day Adventists, of Sunday being the day that Christian’s worshiped. And so on and so forth.

The most current form of this is dumbing down any message of Christianity that goes against cultural norms or popular political leanings. For these people faith is just one of many branches of their individual personality. I follow this or that political agenda, I’m a member of the YMCA, I like spaghetti…and I’m a Christian. Each aspect is simply what makes them who they are. It’s not the belief that’s important or has any sway over them, it’s how they fit the belief into what makes them who they are.

Worse than phony, this type of “Christianity” is destructive. If God is real, if Christianity is the truth, then faith and adherence to God’s revelations should be what guides everything that makes a person who they are. It should be what everything in a person’s life falls into place around. If something in Christianity doesn’t fit into a worldview then it’s the worldview that should be reconsidered, not Christianity that should be revised to fit into it.

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Picture of the day

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Another classic Things Jesus Never Said.

Erik Ritland is a journalist and musician from St. Paul, Minnesota. He is a contributor for Minnesota culture blog Curious North and writes frequent Daily Rambles. Ramblin’ On catalogs his writings on culture, music (including his own projects), sports, religion, and many other topics. You can reach him via email here.

Ritland Daily Ramble #24

Quote of the day
I myself have found a real rival in myself
– Jeff Tweedy

Rambles
Curious rambler
As many of you know I am a writer for Minnesota culture blog Curious North. I essentially do what I do here except a little more seriously and about exclusively local topics. I write about music and sports primarily but may branch out to religion if the opportunity presents itself.

Last Saturday Haley Anderson, the owner and operator of Curious North, and I had the opportunity to report on the 2014 Winter Carnival Beer Dabbler. In the article here you can get my thoughts on it. Warning: lots of beards.

In addition to the article this week also saw my podcast debut alongside Haley for the weekly Curious North podcast. Listen to it here. I never thought I’d believe this but I actually think I prefer – and am better at – talking about stuff than writing about it. Haley and I have great radio chemistry and I look forward to podcasting with her again hopefully soon.

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More from the curious rambler
I’ve been writing regularly for Curious North for about a month. If this whole Daily Ramble thing is too much for you to digest my better material is typically on there. Here’s a rundown of what I’ve had on there so far.

Dancing About Architecture
An esoteric reflection on the impossibility of using words to describe important things. Also about holiness.

The Cloak Ox – Shoot the Dog
Andrew Broder’s latest project, The Cloak Ox, is rooted in classic and alternative rock but also pushes boundaries. Learn more by reading my review.

Minnesota Vikings Report
My analysis of the Vikings’ 2013 season, a word about the head coaching search, and some suggestions for 2014.

Minnesota Wild Report
Some words on the 2014 Wild season.

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Picture of the day

me

Since this blog is all about me me me, why not a picture of my new haircut with some tires in the background?

Erik Ritland is a journalist and musician from St. Paul, Minnesota. He is a contributor for Minnesota culture blog Curious North and writes frequent Daily Rambles. Ramblin’ On catalogs his writings on culture, music (including his own projects), sports, religion, and many other topics. You can reach him via email here.

Ritland Daily Ramble #23

Quote of the day
At some point, Pete Seeger decided he’d be a walking, singing reminder of all of America’s history. He’d be a living archive of America’s music and conscience, a testament of the power of song and culture.
– Bruce Springsteen

seeger4

The man.

 

Visions of Pete Seeger
In this, my final of four Pete Seeger appreciation pieces, I highlight some songs, videos, and websites that illuminate his life. I also include some loving tributes.

Pete Seeger on Appleseed
Seeger spent his twilight years on Appleseed records. On this lovely site learn about his work with them, get information about the movie about him, and check out other cool links.

Pete Seeger: The Power of a Song
Speaking of the Seeger movie, here you can watch it in its entirety. It follows Seeger through his life and highlights how powerful music was in his life.

“We Shall Overcome” – Bruce Springsteen live, 1/28/14
In 2006 Bruce Springsteen released one of his best albums, We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions, which was all covers of songs Seeger popularized. Hear him play his friend’s most popular song in tribute the night after he died.

The Pete Seeger Appreciation Page Jim Capaldi, drummer for Traffic among others, started this Seeger tribute page years ago and it’s still the best on the web. Includes a bio, discography, songs, articles, reviews, and so much more.

“Playboys and Playgirls” – Pete Seeger and Bob Dylan
Although Dylan’s “going electric” caused a rupture in their friendship Seeger was one of his biggest inspirations. Here’s a track featuring them together from the 1963 Newport Folk Festival.

The Last Word
“Forever Young” – Pete Seeger
Everybody is going crazy about this video for good reason. Elder statesman Seeger sings Dylan’s “Forever Young” and the results are lovely. A great tribute to a great man.

The legacy of Pete Seeger will undoubtedly live on forever in American folk lore. That isn’t a highfaluting  statement; it’s a simple truth. The work he put in to collecting and spreading the word about America’s folk music is unmatched, his willingness to defend himself even during unfair circumstances, and the songs he wrote and sang will live on forever. He is truly an American hero.

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Picture of the day

seeger guthrie

One more for the road. Thanks, Pete.

Erik Ritland is a writer and musician from St. Paul, Minnesota. His blog and podcast Rambling On features commentary on music, sports, culture, and more. He is also a contributor for Minnesota culture blog Curious North. Support Erik’s music via his Patreon account, reach him via emailor find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Ritland Daily Ramble #22

Quote of the day
Any fool can make something complicated. It takes a genius to make it simple.
– Woody Guthrie

seeger guthrie 2

Leadbelly, Seeger, Guthrie, Sonny Terry.

Rambles
Finally, the long-awaited reunion of the Almanac Singers
Pete Seeger was a great man. To say anything less is a lie.

It’s particularly sad that he’s gone because he was one of the last living links to the legacy of Woody Guthrie, the most highly revered songwriter of the ‘30s and ‘40s. Seeger and Guthrie, together with an impressive group of friends that included Leadbelly, Cisco Houston, Sonny Terry, and so many others, created the most enduring American music of all-time. Although firmly left-leaning in their political views their music is so broad, creative, funny, and just plain cool that it appeals to those on all sides.

Woody Guthrie, of course, was one of Bob Dylan’s biggest influences. In the early ‘60s he traveled to New York solely to visit an ailing but still living Guthrie, which he eventually did. Seeger, for his part, became one of Dylan’s biggest mentors and earliest supporters.

Guthrie was a more talented writer but Seeger was more serious and knowledgeable. Guthrie was more himself, was more creative, was less linear. Seeger was more rigid and less flexible, but this was only because he knew clearly and exactly what he believed and why.

Dylan loved them so much, and was so influenced by them, because their music speaks across boundaries. It speaks deeply to human experience. You don’t find this sort of depth and uniqueness anymore, and that is why it’s such a tragedy that Seeger is gone. The world will miss such a strong, independent thinker.

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Picture of the day

almanac-singers

Seeger and Guthrie’s Almanac Singers.

Erik Ritland is a writer and musician from St. Paul, Minnesota. His blog and podcast Rambling On features commentary on music, sports, culture, and more. He is also a contributor for Minnesota culture blog Curious North. Support Erik’s music via his Patreon account, reach him via emailor find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Ritland Daily Ramble #21

Quote of the day
I have sung for Americans of every political persuasion, and I am proud that I never refuse to sing to an audience, no matter what religion or color of their skin or situation in life.
– Pete Seeger

Rambles
Love each other
seeger3Honestly, I’ve never had an unequivocal love of Pete Seeger. He does represent, to some degree, the sort of one-dimensional political singer that the folk scene desired Dylan to never grow out of. Even on his last album of new material, Pete Seeger at 89, he preached about endangered whales and zero waste resolutions.

But that’s only part of his story.

Seeger sang and collected a diverse selection of American folk music: slow, minor key murder ballads, negro spirituals, funny and upbeat story songs, instrumentals of all sorts on many different instruments, blues, country, and so much more. Though he never strayed from folk music his repertoire had an endlessly entertaining amount of variety.

The contemporary left can learn from Seeger’s willingness to reach out to people regardless of their political, religious, or philosophical beliefs and affiliations. In addition to the inspiring quote above Seeger also said “It’s a very important thing to learn to talk to people you disagree with.” Being open to the ideas of others, and reaching out to them, is infinitely more useful than surrounding yourself only with people you agree with and shutting yourself off to the other side.

That Seeger was willing to reach out to those he disagreed with was one of his greatest attributes. Even though his left-leaning views were sometimes radical he had a patient, charitable attitude towards those who disagreed with him. His example will always be inspiring.

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Picture of the day

Pete Seeger (left) and Woodie Guthrie

Seeger with Woody Guthrie looking absolutely badass.

Erik Ritland is a writer and musician from St. Paul, Minnesota. His blog and podcast Rambling On features commentary on music, sports, culture, and more. He is also a contributor for Minnesota culture blog Curious North. Support Erik’s music via his Patreon account, reach him via emailor find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Ritland Daily Ramble #20

Quote of the day
I love my country very dearly, and I greatly resent the implication that some of the places that I have sung, and some of the people that I have known, and some of my opinions, whether they are religious or philosophical, make me less of an American.
– Pete Seeger

Rambles
Pete Seeger: True American Hero
Pete Seeger
Legendary singer, songwriter, banjo player, music scholar, song collector, and all-around good guy Pete Seeger died Monday. Coincidentally all day I was reading the early chapters of Sean Wilentz’s wonderful book Bob Dylan in America which mentions Seeger a lot. I was thinking all day about how great it is that Seeger, one of the last living links to Woody Guthrie, was still around. I found out about his death from a post by one of the Band’s only living members, keyboard guru Garth Hudson, who is also mentioned in Bob Dylan in America.

How well Seeger presented himself, and how strongly he stood by and defended his beliefs, was admirable regardless of whether or not you agree with his sometimes radical leftism. During the McCarthy blacklist he repeatedly stood by his First Amendment right to believe whatever he wanted, even though it cost him his livelihood. He lost his popular TV show Hootenanny! and couldn’t get work at any musical venues that paid any money. He was forced to play for small paychecks at college campuses to survive.

Seeger was a quiet, well-stated man. If you watch any interviews with him you wonder how he was ever considered a threat. He expressed his views, sure, but he wasn’t an anarchist that wanted to overthrow the government or anything. He was simply a perceptive man who, like a true patriot, tried to influence the country he loved in what he thought was the best way. Anybody who finds freedom important, and respects people who are strong in their beliefs at any cost, have no choice but to see Seeger for what he is: a true American hero.

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Picture of the day

PBS#01248

Seeger and Dylan in the early ’60s.

Erik Ritland is a journalist and musician from St. Paul, Minnesota. He is a contributor for Minnesota culture blog Curious North and writes frequent Daily Rambles. Ramblin’ On catalogs his writings on culture, music (including his own projects), sports, religion, and many other topics. You can reach him via email here.

Ritland Daily Ramble #19

Quote of the day
There’s a kind of rush that I can’t explain
Tearing off the cellophane
Reading off the card, cueing up side A
Starting up the car and hitting play
– Johnathan Rundman

Rambles
Cassette tape magic
I have sentimental attachment to cassette tapes. Along with thrift store LPs they were the only format I could afford to buy music on growing up, due in equal part to not having a lot of expendable income and CDs being stupidly expensive.

I always dreamed of making a cassette tape. When my friend Nate Houge sold me his TASCAM cassette recorder I went crazy. I began writing and recording songs for the first time in my life. I was like 15 and obsessed with David Bowie and Uriah Heep. I wrote really bad socially conscious folk songs, meandering love songs, and bad punk rip-offs.

When I was in high school I got as far as making artwork for a tape of my recordings called Lower than Lo-Fi, Cheaper than Cheap. The only problem was I had no way to transfer my music from my four track onto other tapes. I think I still have the artwork for it somewhere. Song titles included “Society’s Song,” “Giving In,” and the title track. Many of them I re-recorded for the first demo that I made once again with Nate Houge.

Evidently 2013 saw a resurgence in cassettes. Honestly, I have no idea why. LPs sound better, MP3s are easier to manage, and CDs are, well, nearly as useless only they have better sound.

In an article for Rolling Stone cassette obsessive Rob Sheffield makes a good case in favor of cassettes, though:

Why are cassettes back? It’s easy. They’re cheap and they make noise. They’re quick. They’re intimate. They have personality, not just another digital file. And they sound great, if you like the ambient hum of cassette sound. (I do.)..Tapes are the ultimate DIY format – bands can crank out their homemade goodies fast, design a groovy cover, stack them on the merch table for $5 a pop. It’s a way to indulge weird experiments or the drummer’s side project.

I can get behind this sort of romanticism. A lot of my favorite ideas are side projects that never came to fruition. If I could spend all my time making music I’d come out with a bunch of cassettes. I’d write songs forever and work with all my friends on a ton of different stuff. The romance of a person, or band, creating songs and releasing them will never lose its mystery.

Speaking of mystery, Shefflied continues:

They also have a bit of old-school mystery. You can’t just click on a cassette and get the back story. You have to let the tape roll in real time, asking yourself questions like “Where did this come from?” or “How long does this stupid thing go on?” or “Why the hell did anyone spend an hour of their life making this?” You have to forget what you know and surrender to what you hear. It’s a format that rewards the curious of ear and stout of heart.

I often bemoan that in our fast food, digital world people don’t take the time to immerse themselves in music anymore. Albums (not vinyl, but a collection of songs) are dying as a format. That you can’t skip over a song you don’t like right away forces you to listen to it and maybe find something you didn’t expect. Instead of “surrendering to what you hear” each song surrenders to the whim of the individual listening to it.

I had no idea that anybody made cassettes anymore. It’s a trend I can certainly get behind, though. After all, who doesn’t like a little tape hiss?

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Picture of the day

tape

Ah, those were the days.

Erik Ritland is a journalist and musician from St. Paul, Minnesota. He is a contributor for Minnesota culture blog Curious North and writes frequent Daily Rambles. Ramblin’ On catalogs his writings on culture, music (including his own projects), sports, religion, and many other topics. You can reach him via email here.

Ritland Daily Ramble #18

Quote of the day
Sometimes you say things in songs even if there’s a small chance of them being true. And sometimes you say things that have nothing to do with the truth of what you want to say and sometimes you say things that everyone knows to be true. Then again, at the same time, you’re thinking that the only truth on earth is that there is no truth on it. Whatever you are saying, you’re saying in a ricky-tick way. There’s never time to reflect. You stitched and pressed and packed and drove, is what you did.
– Bob Dylan

Rambles
Songwriting is ridiculous
Songwriting doesn’t really make a lot of sense. There are so many factors involved, from knowing your craft to being able to feel the spirit (intuition, of course, proving the existence of the spirit).

In the article you can read here I ramble a little bit about how strange and difficult it is to write a song. It’s sort of a “sky piece.” I wrote it quickly and didn’t edit it too much. I was in the spirit, you could say.

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Song of the day
“Illegal Smile” by John Prine (click to listen)
Somehow I discovered John Prine only a few months ago. I had heard a few covers of his “Paradise,” which is my third favorite song of all-time, but I never went out of his way to listen to him.

I have a strange habit of buying CDs whenever I see them for sale. I do this because I know that there’ll be a time in the future when I can’t. So I bought a few CDs at Barnes and Noble this fall and Prine’s self-titled debut was among them.

“Illegal Smile” is the leadoff track from what is by far my favorite album discovery in years. It’s a song glorifying smoking weed, essentially, but in such a way that you hardly notice. Instead of beating you over the head with the message Prine instead he winks and nudges, something he’s as good at doing as Warren Zevon:

When I woke up this morning things were looking bad
It seemed like total silence was the only friend I had
Bowl of oatmeal tried to stare me down – and won
It was 12 o’clock ‘fore I realized I was having no fun

Ah, but fortunately
I have the key to escape reality

And you may see me tonight with an illegal smile
It don’t cost very much but it lasts a long while
Won’t you please tell the man I didn’t kill anyone
No, I’m just trying to have me some fun

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Picture of the day

Alex2.2

Immortal lyrics from “Illegal Smile.” It wouldn’t kill anyone if you shaved your pits either, lady.

Erik Ritland is a journalist and musician from St. Paul, Minnesota. He is a contributor for Minnesota culture blog Curious North and writes frequent Daily Rambles. Ramblin’ On catalogs his writings on culture, music (including his own projects), sports, religion, and many other topics. You can reach him via email here.