Sara Watkins: Sun Midnight Sun

Sara Watkins grew up playing with Nickel Creek and then cut her teeth out in the industry with good company like The Decemberists, Bela Fleck, and the whole arsenal of Prairie Home Companion. Her new album Sun Midnight Sun will be available May 8th, but the kindly folks over at NPR are streaming the album in its entirety at First Listen.

The album is as optimistic as spring. Its warm blend of genres, strength of Watkins song writing, and gusts appearances from artists such as Fiona Apple and Taylor Goldsmith make this new release a must hear.

Sara Watkins can also be found via her webpage and twitter. You dig?


Flashback Friday: Bob Dylan's Only a Pawn in their Game

I'd like to take you back to 1963 for today's Flashback Friday and hopefully catch a fresh glimpse at the incendiary Bob Dylan classic Only a Pawn in Their Game. The song is about the deplorable assassination of Medgar Evers by Byron De La Beckwith. Medgar was a WWII vet, a civil rights activist in Mississippi, and a NAACP field secretary. His main ambition at the time of his assassination was to overturn segregation at the University of Mississippi. Meanwhile, in Alabama the newly elected Governor George C. Wallace called for "…segregation now, segregation tomorrow, and segregation forever" in his inaugural address. Medgar Evers was murdered on June 12, 1963 and on that very morning President John F. Kennedy gave a nationally televised speech in support of the civil rights movement.

In this song Dylan indites the cowardice of the of the murderer while at the same inditing the entire southern political atmosphere that enabled men to hold their heads high in the Klu Klux Klan. Later in the year Bob Dylan would perform this song at the March On Washington for Jobs and Freedom where Martin Luther King gave his famous I Have a Dream speech. What I love so much about Bob Dylan's protest songs is that they are direct, accusatory, and informed. The were ripped from the headlines of newspapers and plainly stated facts before offering opinions. Even this far removed from the song's premier and the surrounding events I am moved by the plain language and the stark presentation of the man alone on stage with his guitar and his voice. You dig?


Farewell Joe Muranyi

Sadly, on Friday April 20th clarinetist Joe Muranyi passed away after a long life and career. He was born in 1928, studied jazz with the legendary Lennie Tristano, and achieved unexpected commercial success in the 1960's playing with the Village Stompers. However, the crown jewel of his career would come in 1967 when he joined Louis Armstrong's band and played as the final clarinetist in his All Stars.

Muranyi also performed with many other notable bands including Roy Eldridge and Lionel Hampton. He will also be remembered as an engaging vocalist, prolific producer, and writer who put his pen into countless liner notes.

He was a wonderful talent and by all accounts a warm human being. If you would like to read a more personal recollection of his life, please read Ricky Riccardi's memoriam here. This performance was from a 2009 record entitled Together in which he collaborated with Lew Green. I feel that this song perfectly encompasses his sound, spirit, and amiable demeanor. I dare you to not smile when you listen to this one. Journey well Joe. Thank you for the music.

Read on for additional audio from his work with the Village Stompers.

Joe Muranyi: I Left My Sugar Standing In The Rain


Weekly Roundup: Apr 15 – 21, 2012

How's everyone doing? Get your taxes done? I've been pretty worn out and battling a cold, but I had a nice time with family visiting the past few days, and of course there's nothing like new tunes to raise the spirits. I present six of them to you here in the latest Weekly Roundup.


Dumbo Gets Mad & Venice

Last year, I had the good fortune to stumble onto the wonderful digital – and sometimes physical – record label, Bad Panda Records. They put out consistently interesting and worthwhile singles on a weekly basis. One of my favorites was Dumbo Gets Mad and the awesome track "Eclectic Prawn" (shared here, and also in my top 10 tracks of 2011) Their latest release is a cool collaboration with Venice called "Viaje Astral."


Glenn Miller: I've Got a Gal in Kalamazoo

That's right, I'm doubling down. I've shown you the softer side of Glenn Miller, so now let's take a look a one of his more up tunes with I've Got a Gal in Kalamazoo. I've Got a Gal in Kalamazoo. The composition became an absolute spectacle in 1942 in the 20th Century Fox film Orchestra Wives and boast the talents of Glenn Miller and his Orchestra, saxophonist/singer/bandleader Tex Beneke, as well as dancers/singers The Nicholas Brothers.

It was subtlety of interpretation that made Moonlight Serenade so special for me, but this performance is the opposite side of the dime. It is extravagance incarnate. With its star studded cast, beautiful and elaborate set design, and performance in multiple disciplines it bridged the gap between film, live music, and dance in a fashion that I can't turn away from. I dig the use of the tune, and the utter talent of all the involved parties. The band is swinging, the singers have their harmonies and blend on point, and the dancers are made of rubber. It's awesome. I also love the way the timpanist glissandis up at the moment where the dancers use the stage as faux trampolines. 

Maybe I don't want to live in this sound world full time, but it is a far out and renewing place to visit once and a while. It's also great to hear and see a brass  section that isn't relegated to mediocre ska bands or Mahler. Give the guys props, they were kings in their day.