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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 #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 #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.

Ritland Daily Ramble #17

Quote of the day
Civilization had too many rules for me, so I did my best to rewrite them.
– Bill Cosby

Rambles
Return of one of the good guys

bill-cosby

The man.

NBC announced that Bill Cosby is returning to prime time this fall. Fittingly, he’s playing the patriarch of a multi-generational family.

Cosby’s contribution to television and comedy is undervalued. He proves that it’s possible to be very funny without resorting to profanity and cheap, easy sexual jokes. His ‘80s sitcom combined entertainment and meaning in a way very few, if any, other TV shows ever have.

I’m excited at the idea of Cosby making a comeback but I’m also afraid that the network will somehow mess it up. There are no good sitcoms on network television right now. This is largely because networks assume all Americans are idiots and dumb down their programming accordingly. There may be a lot of idiots out there but they must not be that dumb because viewership of network sitcoms is at an all-time low.

If Cosby is given creative control of his show it has a chance to succeed, although perhaps his brand of subtle, intelligent humor will have trouble resonating with contemporary America. One thing is for sure, though: he’ll wear some kick-ass sweaters.

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Picture of the day

a97678_g240_15-strange

I hope I can find this somewhere in Minnesota…

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 #16

Quote of the day
There is a certain logic to events that pushes you along a certain path. You go along the path that feels the most true, and most according to the principles that are guiding you, and that’s the way the decisions are made.
– Michael Nesmith

Rambles
Emphasis, Solidarity, and Pro-Life/Pro-Choice Dialog
Both sides of the abortion debate are, to varying degrees, very bad at getting their point across. In this article I suggest ways pro-life and pro-choice people can better dialog with each other. I also argue, via Cathleen Kaveny and Frederica Mathewes-Green, that the pro-life movement needs to shift their emphasis from attempting to overturn Roe v. Wade to solidarity with all people, especially the weakest among us.

I wrote this article yesterday not realizing that today is the 41st anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Prophecy is one of my many talents.

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The last word on Richard Sherman
Seth Stevenson, in his brilliant article for Slate, gets to the bottom of the Richard Sherman controversy even better than I did:

  1. When, after winning the game, Sherman made the choke sign in his losing opponent’s face, then called another losing opponent “sorry” and “mediocre,” he was being a dick.
  2. Even though Sherman grew up underprivileged and beat the odds and now gives back with worthy charitable endeavors, he was still being a dick.
  3. The fact that Sherman is very smart and attended Stanford and approaches his job in a scholarly manner doesn’t mean he wasn’t being a dick.
  4. Whether or not Sherman’s behavior was calculated and self-aware and media-savvy and akin to the monologue of a pro wrestling heel, it was still dickish.
  5. Many athletes play violent, hard-fought, emotional games and still manage to refrain from taunting their vanquished foes and giving dickish interviews.
  6. It is possible to be an entertaining, eccentric, and even boastful interviewee without being a dick.
  7. It turns out that Sherman and Crabtree have history—Sherman’s brother alleges that Crabtree tried to fight the Seahawks player at a charity event. Most of Sherman’s defenders haven’t bothered to mention the existing personal feud. But to be clear: While the prior beef adds some context, those two wrongs don’t make what Sherman did right—or, more precisely, not dickish.
  8. Talking smack in the lead-up to a contest, or in the middle of it, is permissible. It falls into the hallowed tradition of gamesmanship. Dancing on graves after the battle has been won is dickish.
  9. And this is the most delicate of these notions but needs to be addressed: Whatever archetypes may be conjured by the specter of white people tsk-tsking a black man who loudly brags alongside a blond woman, those uncomfortable overtones don’t change the fact that, in this case, in that moment, the man was being a dick.

Well, that pretty much ends that argument.

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Picture of the day

train

Winter is beautiful.

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 #12

Quote of the day
People call me wild. Not really though, I’m not. I guess I’ve never been normal, not what you call Establishment. I’m country.
– Johnny Cash

Watson

Country badass Dale Watson

Rambles
Song of the day
Dale Watson – Country My Ass (click to listen)
Well that’s country my ass
Who do they think we am?
Force feed us that shit
Ain’t you real tired of it?
Tell ‘em stick it up high
Where the sun don’t shine

Get pissed, get mad
‘Cuz that’s country my ass

I’m working the Jason Aldean concert tonight and earlier I had the, er, pleasure of hearing a bit of the sound check. Without the vocals the band sounded like ‘90s Aerosmith: big, bombastic, updated ‘70s classic rock. I would find out later that if you add two guys rapping over it with a super phony twang you have Florida Georgia Line, one of today’s hottest up-and-coming cuntry sensations.

Sometimes I get bored with complaining about contemporary cuntry music. But when I try to think of its redeeming qualities I stumble. The songwriters are talented, I guess, even though they’re largely manipulating people’s emotions. The producers are good at what they do, I suppose, except with how easy digital equipment is to use that isn’t very impressive either. Some of the hottest women in the world love the stuff, though, so that’s something to be said in its favor.

I love this Dale Watson song because it wonderfully describes why traditional country fans dislike what called country music today. “Don’t get me wrong, to each his own I believe,” he says, “but they’ve took the soul out of what means a whole lot to me.” Sure, people have the right to like it, but people also have the right to point out that it’s a soulless mockery of what country music used to be.

As Dale says, “I can see Hank and Lefty, they’re spinning around in their graves/and if they were here now, I think y’all know what they’d say.”

I reckon ya’all know?

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johnny-cash-middle-finger-billboard

“American Recordings and Johnny Cash would like to acknowledge the Nashville music establishment and country radio for your support. Johnny Cash – Unchained – Winner of the Grammy for Best Country Album.”

Picture of the day
In the early ‘80s Johnny Cash was dropped by Columbia Records because country radio stopped playing his music. After a short stint at Mercury Records failed for the same reason Cash thought he’d never record another album. Fortunately in the ‘90s Rick Rubin took Cash under his wing and recorded several records with him that are considered among his best.

Rubin was used to commercial success. His work with the Tom Petty, Slayer, Metallica, and many others all found radio outlets. He couldn’t understand why country radio refused to play the popular, critically acclaimed music Cash was making.

So after Cash’s Unchained won the Grammy for Best Country Album in 1996 Rubin took $20,000 of his own money to place this full-page ad in Billboard Magazine. It still stands as one of the coolest things anybody has ever done.

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.