RARWRITER PUBLISHING GROUP PRESENTS

CREATIVE CULTURE JOURNAL

at www.RARWRITER.com      

--------------------"The best source on the web for what's real in arts and entertainment" ---------------------------

Volume 1-2016

MUSIC    BOOKS    FINE ARTS   FILM   THE WORLD

ARTIST NEWS    THIS EDITION   ABOUT   MUSIC   MUSIC REVIEWS  BOOKS  CINEMA   FASHION   FINE ARTS  FEATURES   SERIES  MEDIA  ESSAY  RESOURCES  WRITTEN ARTS POETRY  CONTACT  ARCHIVES  MUSIC LINKS

                                 

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Use this link to add your email address to the RARWRITER Publishing Group mailing list for updates on activities associated with the Creative Culture and Revolution Culture journals, and other RARWRITER Publishing Group interests.

 

ABOUT RAR: For those of you new to this site, "RAR" is Rick Alan Rice, the publisher of the RARWRITER Publishing Group websites. Use this link to visit the RAR music page, which features original music compositions and other.

Use this link to visit Rick Alan Rice's publications page, which features excerpts from novels and other.

RARADIO

(Click here)

Currently on RARadio:

"On to the Next One" by Jacqueline Van Bierk

"I See You Tiger" by Via Tania

"Lost the Plot" by Amoureux"

Bright Eyes, Black Soul" by The Lovers Key

"Cool Thing" by Sassparilla

"These Halls I Dwell" by Michael Butler

"St. Francis"by Tom Russell & Gretchen Peters, performance by Gretchen Peters and Barry Walsh; 

"Who Do You Love?"by Elizabeth Kay; 

"Rebirth"by Caterpillars; 

"Monica's Frock" by Signel-Z; 

"Natural Disasters" by Corey Landis; 

"1,000 Leather Tassels" by The Blank Tapes; 

"We Are All Stone" and "Those Machines" by Outer Minds; 

"Another Dream" by MMOSS; "Susannah" by Woolen Kits; 

Jim Morrison, Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson and other dead celebrities / news by A SECRET PARTY;

"I Miss the Day" by My Secret Island,  

"Carriers of Light" by Brendan James;

"The Last Time" by Model Stranger;

"Last Call" by Jay;

"Darkness" by Leonard Cohen; 

"Sweetbread" by Simian Mobile Disco and "Keep You" fromActress off the Chronicle movie soundtrack; 

"Goodbye to Love" from October Dawn; 

Trouble in Mind 2011 label sampler; 

Black Box Revelation Live on Minnesota Public Radio;

Apteka "Striking Violet"; 

Mikal Cronin's "Apathy" and "Get Along";

Dana deChaby's progressive rock

 

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Rick Alan Rice (RAR) Literature Page

ATWOOD - "A Toiler's Weird Odyssey of Deliverance" -AVAILABLE NOW FOR KINDLE (INCLUDING KINDLE COMPUTER APPS) FROM AMAZON.COM. Use this link.

CCJ Publisher Rick Alan Rice dissects the building of America in a trilogy of novels collectively calledATWOOD. Book One explores the development of the American West through the lens of public policy, land planning, municipal development, and governance as it played out in one of the new counties of Kansas in the latter half of the 19th Century. The novel focuses on the religious and cultural traditions that imbued the American Midwest with a special character that continues to have a profound effect on American politics to this day. Book One creates an understanding about America's cultural foundations that is further explored in books two and three that further trace the historical-cultural-spiritual development of one isolated county on the Great Plains that stands as an icon in the development of a certain brand of American character. That's the serious stuff viewed from high altitude. The story itself gets down and dirty with the supernatural, which in ATWOOD - A Toiler's Weird Odyssey of Deliveranceis the outfall of misfires in human interactions, from the monumental to the sublime. The book features the epic poem "The Toiler" as well as artwork by New Mexico artist Richard Padilla.

Elmore Leonard Meets Larry McMurtry

Western Crime Novel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am offering another novel through Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing service. Cooksin is the story of a criminal syndicate that sets its sights on a ranching/farming community in Weld County, Colorado, 1950. The perpetrators of the criminal enterprise steal farm equipment, slaughter cattle, and rob the personal property of individuals whose assets have been inventoried in advance and distributed through a vast system of illegal commerce.

It is a ripping good yarn, filled with suspense and intrigue. This was designed intentionally to pay homage to the type of creative works being produced in 1950, when the story is set. Richard Padilla has done his usually brilliant work in capturing the look and feel of a certain type of crime fiction being produced in that era. The whole thing has the feel of those black & white films you see on Turner Movie Classics, and the writing will remind you a little of Elmore Leonard, whose earliest works were westerns. Use this link.

 

EXPLORE THE KINDLE BOOK LIBRARY

If you have not explored the books available from Amazon.com's Kindle Publishing division you would do yourself a favor to do so. You will find classic literature there, as well as tons of privately published books of every kind. A lot of it is awful, like a lot of traditionally published books are awful, but some are truly classics. You can get the entire collection of Shakespeare's works for two bucks.

You do not need to buy a Kindle to take advantage of this low-cost library. Use this link to go to an Amazon.com page from which you can download for free a Kindle App for your computer, tablet, or phone.

Amazon is the largest, but far from the only digital publisher. You can find similar treasure troves atNOOK Press (the Barnes & Noble site), Lulu, and others.


 

 

 

NEW ORLEANS/LOUISIANA ARCHIVED LINKS  

 

 

Red Hot Louisiana Band – C.J. Chenier

www.lsue.edu/acadgate/music/cjchenier.htm

Clayton Joseph (C.J.) Chenier took control of a great franchise in the music industry when he received the mantle passed down by his father, the "King of Zydeco," the late Clifton Chenier. 

The process of inheritance began in 1978 when C.J. joined his father's band as a saxophone player. The inclusion in his father's life was late in coming. C.J. grew up with his mother in Texas, at a distance from Clifton, whose home was in Lafayette, Louisiana. They saw each other occasionally when C.J. was growing up. Whatever, they shared the music gene. C.J. developed a talent for sax and keyboards, which was his ticket into the Red Hot Louisiana Band. He joined as a side player and became immersed in a type of music he had not played before - zydeco, his father's music. 

Over the years, C.J. began to play a more prominent role in the Red Hots, particularly as Clifton's health waned. C.J. picked up the accordion and started filling in for his ailing father as the band's frontman. In 1987, when Clifton passed away, the Red Hot Louisiana Band became C.J.'s.

One by one the original members of the band were replaced by a new generation of players. C.J. sounds a lot like Clifton and carries on some of the same repertoire, but C.J. is a songwriter in his own right. Few may remember that Clifton Chenier was an R&B act until the mid-50s, when he popularized the tune “Les Haricots Sont Pas Salés” (which translates to “The snap beans aren’t salty”), a poor person's lament to insufficiency. Clifton's zydeco was uptempo, but more blues oriented than today's zydeco, which has continued to expand through incorporation of soul, rap and reggae influences.

Recording on Alligator Records, the Red Hot Louisiana Band under C.J.'s leadership has released a new LP, featuring C.J.'s original material mixed with other tunes, every few years. They released  Step It Up! (2001), The Big Squeeze (1996) and Too Much Fun (1995). The first C.J.-led album, My Baby Don't Wear No Shoes, recorded in 1988 and released by Arhoolie on CD in 1992, includes the classic Clifton Chenier song "I'm Coming Home." C.J. Chenier also recorded two albums for the alternative rock label Slash: Hot Rod (1990) and I Ain't No Playboy (1992).

 

Clifton Chenier popularized zydeco and C.J. has continued the legacy as a foremost ambassador of the style. Another key emissary has been Buckwheat Zydeco, profiled on this page below, who played the B3 in Clifton Chenier's unit but now has a great career as an accordion playing front man.

 

 

 

C.J.'s daddy Clifton in a 1973 photo.

 

ZYDECO? OR CAJUN?

Louisiana is like no other place in the United States because it was populated in a unique way. Where much of the United States were populated through a steady east to west expansion, with the entry points being on the eastern seaboard, Louisiana took exiles at its own ports of entry along its gulf-fronting southern coast. In the mid-18th century there was an influx of exiled "Acadians," French-speaking refugees expulsed from Nova Scotia by the British, who brought with them an ancient traditional music suffused with the bluesy despair of displaced people. 

In southern Louisiana, the Acadians intermingled with immigrants of African descent - Creoles - and a distinct new culture developed from the inter-marriage: Cajun. The Creoles brought instrumentation to the Acadians' traditional sound, but the sound wasn't what it is today until the late 1800s when the accordion entered the picture. Affordable accordions were imported into the area and quickly became incorporated into the sound. The discovery in the 1930s of oil in Louisiana further influenced what had been a remarkably insular bubble of French-African culture, and with the influx of "Anglos" came guitar and fiddle-based country western music. For a brief period before and during World War II the "traditional" accordion sound of Cajun music disappeared, but veterans returning from the war seemed to yearn for the earlier sound and the button accordion re-emerged as the lead instrument subordinating the guitar and fiddle, lap steel, bass and drums. Cajun music was fully formed by mid-century as an amalgam of Acadian traditional, African blues and American Country Western.

Zydeco, while also rooted in Creole culture, is a more recent innovation, dating back only to the 1950s. The word zydeco is generally believed to be derived from the French pronunciation of "les haricots" ("the beans"), "lay zarico,” which morphed into "le zydeco." At its core, zydeco (which as an attributive noun is lower cased, while Cajun, referencing a culture, is properly upper cased) is built on the hand clap and foot stomp music of African field laborers. It is more uptempo than Cajun music, which tends toward more romantic melodic sounds, while zydeco is rhythmic dance music. Zydeco is not a fiddle music and augments accordion, piano, guitar, drum and bass with the rub board, or frottoir. Here again, zydeco is an innovation, the original domestic washboard morphing into a sheet of corrugated metal worn like a vest that players scratch with spoons to create rhythmic sounds. Here again, the button accordion is often used, but leading zydeco stars like Clifton and C.J. Chenier and Buckwheat Zydeco all play piano accordion exclusively.

Besides instrumentation variations, each style has its own dance styles, the waltz being a crossover dance. Cajun dance moves around a floor and includes 2-steps and jitterbugs similar to country western dance, where zydeco dance is generally done from a closed position.

There are many great resources to learn more about these rich forms of Louisiana music. One on line resource you might check is http://rochesterzydeco.com/cajunzydeco.html

 

STEVE RILEY AND THE MAMOU PLAYBOYS

www.mamouplayboys.com

STEVE RILEY AND THE MAMOU PLAYBOYS have been carrying the torch of Cajun music since 1988. That’s when Steve Riley, from the prairie town of Mamou, Louisiana, founded his band, inspired by the music of the Balfa Brothers, who are foremost figures in the Louisiana traditional French language music.

Steve dedicated himself to learning the single-row diatonic accordion that is sine qua non to the Cajun sound. The particular instrument he plays was crafted for him by famed accordionist Marc Savoy, of the famous Savoy family, another pillar of the Cajun music community. (I’ll come back to this in a moment.) Prior to starting his own unit, he played with Dewey Balfa and the Balfa Brothers, which is how he built his extraordinary songbook of French tunes. Steve founded the Mamou Playboys with violinist friend David Greely, who also apprenticed with the Balfas.

Baton Rouge-area native David Greely has sought the music and language of his ancestors by traveling through France, Acadia and Louisiana to study Acadian history. He was honored by the Louisiana Division of the Arts in 2004 with an “Artist Fellowship Award in Folklife” for his dedication and stewardship of the Acadian culture.

The Mamou Playboys got a big boost musically when guitar great Sam Broussard joined the band in 2001. A Southern Louisiana boy, Sam comes more of a rock place but he is grew up with Cajun music, understands it well, and knows how to fire it up with his electric augmentations to the traditional sound. Sam, as has been reported here on the Links, was featured last year on the LP that Ann Savoy, of the prominent Cajun Savoy family mentioned above, did with ‘60s-‘70s heartthrob Linda Ronstadt, which was performed largely in French.

The Mamou Playboys are rounded out by another couple legitimate Cajuns – Brazos Huval, formerly a bassist for zydeco artist Horace Trahan, and drummer Kevin Dugas, who began his career at the age of 16 playing with famed Cajun accordionist and vocalist Belton Richard. He also worked with Walter Mouton and the Scott

The Mamou Playboys specialize in wild flights of musical improvisation over traditional Lafayette dancehall sounds.

TOP RIGHT: Multi-instrumentalist Steve Riley fiddles with fiddler David Greely. MIDDLE RIGHT: Steve Riley on accordion, Sam Broussard on guitar. LOWER MIDDLE RIGHT: Steve Riley at the mic. BOTTOM RIGHT: Slidin' Sam Broussard. BELOW: Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys.

STEVE RILEY AND THE MAMOU PLAYBOYS NEWS: The Mamou Playboys were appearing in February at Connolly's on 45th Street in NYC as part of the "Let's zydeco" concert series (see www.letszydeco.com). Riley got a nice writeup in the Night Life Rock and Pop section of the February 12 (2007) issue of The New Yorker, which in the January 15 (2007) issue ran the following artwork:

 

When The New Yorker art staff starts drawing pictures of you or your band, you know you've got it going on.

 

The Cajun Boys of Lafayette

Lafayette, Louisiana high schools produced four of Cajun music's greatest practitioners when in 1969 they graduated this mighty quartet featured on the left.

UPPER LEFT: Sonny Landreth is an acknowledged master of slide guitar, but he is more than that, having innovated a technique in which he plays chord forms behind his slide. His legion of admirers includes Eric Clapton, who calls Sonny "one of the most advanced" guitarists on the planet.

UPPER RIGHT: Michael Doucet is the leader of the frequently honored group BeauSoleil. Michael was a roommate at LSU with another Louisiana prodigy, Steve Conn (featured below).

LOWER LEFT: Zachary Richard is a poet working in French and English and a documentary filmmaker, as well as a singer/songwriter. He is a founding member of Action Cadienne, a group dedicated to the preservation of the French language in Louisiana. 

LOWER RIGHT: Sam Broussard, featured on this page, has switched roles with his friend Sonny Landreth in a few bands, including Jimmy Buffet's and Michael Martin Murphey's. His brilliant album Geeks (2000) demonstrated the depth of his songwriting and musicianship and won critical raves. He was the guitarists for the 2006 Linda Ronstadt/Ann Savoy Cajun album Adieu False Heart.

 

Steve Conn

www.steveconn.com
Steve Conn is all over this page, playing on tracks for Chris Daniels and contributing a great deal of the information contained herein. Steve is one of the good guys. He recently returned from shows in Colorado where he was featured on former Denver Post Music Critic G. Brown's music series. (Brown is featured on the Colorado Links.) Steve's longtime collaborator and friend slide-guitarist Sonny Landreth joined him for his Colorado dates, which featured his full band playing to sold out shows.

As most everyone knows, Steve is the son of swing violinist "Peanut" Conn, of Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys fame. Steve has played with Bonnie Raitt, Sonny Landreth, Kenny Loggins, Nanci Griffith, Kris Kristofferson, Allison Moorer, Billy Joe Shaver, Mark Knopfler, Dixie Chicks, Albert King, Sheena Easton, Marshall Crenshaw, Shelby Lynne and many others. The ridiculously humble multi-instrumentalist received a Grammy nomination for his piano, harmonica and saxophone work with BeauSoleil, and another for his accordion work with Arlo Guthrie

While living in Boulder in the 1970s and '80s he was involved with several happening acts, including Fat Chance and his own band Gris-Gris, which smoked the area for years with the sounds of rockin' New Orleans. He spent two years as music director for E-Town, a weekly National Public Radio variety show that integrated the finest Americana, roots and folk music with environmental education and information. In that capacity, he worked with James Taylor, Michelle Shocked, Shawn Colvin, David Wilcox, Maura O'Connell, Emmylou Harris and others. It seems Steve knows, and is known by, everyone.

Still, a typical Steve Conn lament would be - "The music business has kicked my ass." Hard to tell exactly when this happened. Most of the time humble Steve seems to be the one doing the ass kicking.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo (left): Kent Hutslar         Photo (above): Alan Messer       Photo (below) by Terri Fensel

Am I seeing this funny or does the Pope seem happier 
to be in this shot than Steve does? 
- RAR

STEVE CONN MP3:

How Does It Feel - Steve is back to the moral politics theme with this tune he just posted for download on his website. This song is filled with outrage - and it grooves! Nashville mates Bryan Owings (drums), Tim Marks (bass) and Jack Silverman (guitar) joined him in studio. Silverman's guitar lines are great and Steve is singing really well. (He deserves some Mary Clayton-Claudia Lanier type back vocals. Give me the chills.) Steve is thinking about fire and the end of the world.

 

Katrina Christmas - Steve wrote and recorded this for Christmas 2005 and offers it free on his website. It is an acerbic and clever response to the inadequacies of federal and Louisiana state government efforts to provide assistance to the displaced people of the Gulf Coast region, and particularly New Orleans. There have been a lot of "Katrina songs" following last year's devastating events, but I like Steve's for it's authentic New Orleans "Dr. John" feel.

Copyright © Steve Conn, All Rights Reserved

Steve has re-released a re-mastered edition of his excellent River of Madness CD, and also has his 2003 self titled CD, Steve Conn, available.
STEVE CONN - ETOWN'S ORIGINAL MUSIC DIRECTOR

There is a profile of Nick and Helen Forster, the co-host and co-producers of the popular "etown" program, the recorded-live-in-front-of-an-audience interview/performance show that is carried by over 100 PBS radio affiliates nationwide. Steve Conn had a hand in the show's success as the original music director.

Steve writes - "I was the original music director. The etones were my (former Gris-Gris)  bass player, Chris Engleman, and drummer, Steve Ivey. They're the guys who still play with me when I go back to Colorado, and they're better than ever. Chris still does the show (etown)."

And he wrote about his role in producing the weekly musical event - "I helped with every facet of the music. When we found out who the musical guests were for the upcoming week, I would get in touch with them or their management (usually the artist) and find out what songs they wanted to do. They would send me CDs or cassettes and I would make charts of the tunes. The sound you hear is me patting myself on the back -- I think I was quite good at the MD thing. I'm good at making other people look good. But the band was also stellar."

 

NEIL YOUNG PAGE OF ANTI-WAR SONGS

http://www.neilyoung.com/lwwtoday/lwwsongspage.html

Steve Conn's song "How Does It Feel" was doing well on Neil Young's site where he has invited songwriters to post their anti-war songs. Well over one thousand songs have been posted, including songs by some of the biggest names in the music business. It is a fun list to scan and to pick from. The more recently posted tunes tend to rise more quickly to the top, which is ordered according to number of plays. 

 

Radio personality and pop culture critic G. Brown interviews Steve from the Nissis stage for his video music series.

STEVE CONN with Gris-Gris and Sonny Landreth at Nissis (Lafayette, Colorado) in August 2006. Introduced by Nissis music maven Teresa Taylor.

Gris-Gris is Steve Ivey on drums, Chris Engleman on bass, Bones Jones on guitar, and Fly McClard on saxophone.

Photos © Dawne Belloise 2006

 

SAM BROUSSARD

www.sambroussard.com
Sam Broussard is a marvelous Louisiana prodigy known to all the readers of this page (I'm guessing). He released a brilliant CD called Geeks a few years back, then recently sent me a 15-song demo CD - he considers it "rough" but its smoother than most people's master recordings - that ensures that we are going to hear great music from Sam for a long time to come. He is currently guitarist for the Grammy nominated Cajun band Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys, and wrote half the songs on their most recent CD release. (See the Steve Riley profile below.) He has also been performing recently with Linda Ronstadt. He was featured on her recent Vanguard Records release  Adieu False Heart, with Cajun music artist Ann Savoy.

I met Sam one night at The Walrus in Boulder around 1978. I was sitting there getting pleasantly stewed with a friend and watching the band set up, and then Sam started to play. I think it was a life changing experience. I recognized him as the guitarist I always wanted to be. His playing was filled with cleverness and personality, extraordinary precision and luscious harmonic overtones. I thought I was there to hear just another bar band. I would soon learn that Sam is anything but just another of anything. He has a special genius, as a player, a songwriter, and a person. For some reason he has always been incredibly kind to me. I got to know him a bit and he showed me chord structures and pick techniques, taught me music theory, helped me with my songwriting, and he produced my first studio recordings. 

Okay, I recognize the freak but who's the guy with Al Gore? (If you can answer this question, send me $100.-RAR

Sam and the Playboys played a wedding for one of the former VP's gorgeous daughters. He also made those martinis the boys are seen hoisting in the photo above. There's no end to this guy's talents. 

Sam Broussard MP3: NEW SAM BROUSSARD!

Good Little Girl - I am so thrilled that Sam has allowed me to stream this song, which comes from a CD of demo version new compositions. I haven't been able to get this thing out of my head since I first heard it. It's rich in images, sexy, human and rhythmic. And listen to Sam's acoustic guitar work, which to my ear is almost balalaika in approach. Very imaginative. This is a cool song.

 

From Geeks:

I Don't Care Where You Bury Me

Your Sleeping Face

 

Copyright © Sam Broussard, All Rights Reserved

 

 

 

 

 

 

Click here to go to Sam Broussard's account of playing with guitar great Robben Ford.

 

Washboard Chaz Leary

www.washboardchaz.com

Washboard Chaz Leary was a much-loved figure on the Boulder music scene, became a much-loved figure on the New Orleans scene, and after Hurricane Katrina has become an international phenomenon. 

 

Chaz and his family were among those impacted by Katrina, and they evacuated to Oklahoma where they stayed with their old friends the McLerrans for six weeks. Chaz was then among the first to return to New Orleans, immediately going back to work lifting spirits with his wonderful music. In March the Washboard Chaz Blues Trio received international exposure when they backed a Katrina report by CNN host and correspondent Anderson Cooper. Chaz became a poster boy for New Orleans' post-Katrina resurgence efforts - an icon of spiritual indomitability - and with that exposure Chaz' fortunes have skyrocketed - and for good reason. Listen to the joy in this man's music (MP3s below). Chaz is being embraced and is touring all over the world . His effort-to-impact ratio is 100 percent; he only has to be heard to connect. We are all lucky to know this guy. In the world today, riven by events natural and otherwise, Chaz is more than a Katrina treasure. He's an American treasure.

MP3s of WASHBOARD CHAZ AND THE TIN MEN:

 

Drunk & In Love - From Super Great Music for Modern Lovers

Jingling Down the Street - From Freaks For Industry

Hallelujah, I'm A Bum Again - From Super Great Music for Modern Lovers

Copyright © Chaz Leary and Tin Men 

These performances are copyrighted and cannot be reproduced or distributed without the expressed written consent of Chaz Leary and Tin Men.

 

      

 

BUCKWHEAT Zydeco

www.buckwheatzydeco.com

BUCKWHEAT Zydeco is enormously popular in the San Francisco Bay Area, featured regularly when the local mixed format radio station KFOG goes Cajun, which it does on occassion. "The world's  greatest party band," as they call themselves, started off as a funk unit before Stanley "Buckwheat" Dural, Jr. decided to go zydeco 30 years ago. He had the blueprint, having previously played with Clifton Chenier. Buckwheat Zydeco has been nominated for a Grammy four times, is among the Top 50 grossing touring acts in Pollstar, and can claim former Vice President Al Gore as a fan. Al was turned on to Buckwheat by a daughter who attended university in New Orleans. The band has played with the Boston Pops, and Stanley Dural performed duets with Willie Nelson and Mavis Staples on "Five Card Stud". Eric Clapton was guest on Buck's version of "Why Does Love Got To Be So Sad?" Buckwheat played on Keith Richard's solo LP and has jammed with Clapton, Neil Young, Robert Plant, Ringo Starr, Greg Allman, Jimmy Buffett, John Hiatt, Neville Brothers, Bonnie Raitt, and Andy Summers, among others.

 

THE NEW ORLEANS SOCIAL CLUB

www.burgundyrecords.com/nosc

Six weeks after Hurricane Katrina, a group of legendary musicians from New Orleans gathered in Austin, Texas, to record "Sing Me Back Home." Over seven magical days and nights, THE NEW ORLEANS SOCIAL CLUB was born. The collection features performances by members of The Neville Brothers (Ivan, Cyril and Charles), The Meters (Leo Nocentelli and George Porter, Jr.), Raymond Weber & Henry Butler. They are joined by their friends and neighbors Irma Thomas, Marcia Ball, Dr. John, Willie Tee, Troy (Trombone Shorty) Andrews, the subdudes, the Mighty Chariots of Fire, Big Chief Monk Boudreaux and John Boutté.

 

 

SPENCER BOHREN

www.spencerbohren.com

Okay, this is the section of the Links on RARWRITER where a lot of us will experience feelings of inadequacy. That's right - it's the Spencer Bohren hour! 

There isn't enough real estate on this site to begin to fully profile Spencer's extraordinary life. There isn't even enough room on his own site! I'm not sure it could be done in a single book, but here are some highlights.

It goes something like this: Spencer Bohren is born in 1950 in Caspar, Wyoming to the Musical Von Trapp Family. Well, not exactly the Von Trapps, but more of a gospel singing road show of a family from whom, at an early age, he learns harmonization and love of travel. At age 14 he wins a Kiwanis-sponsored folk singing competition. At age 17 he graduates from high school and leaves Wyoming for Denver, Colorado and virtual residency at Harry Tuft's hallowed Folklore Center on 17th Street. Spencer forms Eagle-Ridin' Papa with his guitarist friend Don DeBacker, and they perform country blues. When “eccentric ragtime genius” The Reverend Gary Davis makes a week-long tour of Denver, Bohren and DeBacker, working through the Folklore Center, house “the great blind bluesman,” drive him from stop-to-stop, and feed off his fecund imagination. By the 1970s, Spencer finds himself in Oregon playing fiddle and Jimmie Rodgers tunes with the Funston Brothers, then touring the Pacific Northwest as lead singer for Seattle's Butterfat. He “embrace(s) Hank Williams and swap(s) songs with the zany Holy Modal Rounders…”

In 1973, Spencer is invited to “join the band of folk-blues legend Judy Roderick so he returns to Colorado and eventually winds up with country-rock band Gone Johnson. Gone, or Johnson, goes to Los Angeles in search of fortune and fame, but Spencer keeps blues and folk in his back pocket, which comes in handy when the disillusioned Spencer decides he must escape the pressures of the awful business – make that music business – by wondering with his wife around the country for a year. During his journey he discovers New Orleans. (For the record, New Orleans was actually discovered, or at least founded, by Sieur de Bienville. I don’t mean to overstate Spencer’s involvement.) Spencer returns to solo performing, concentrating on his rich repertoire of original and traditional songs. Spencer has a baby and soon the Bohrens take up residence in the Crescent City.

New Orleans, it turns out, is going through a musical revolution similar (not musically) to what is going on in the Boulder, Colorado music scene, i.e., a lot of acts breaking nationally while still mingling with local performers. So, Spencer is in a cadre that includes The Neville Brothers, The Radiators, Beausoleil and the subdudes, while getting up close and personal experience with New Orleans stalwarts Professor Longhair, Earl King, Clifton Chenier, and James Booker. Spencer positions himself squarely in the mix by hosting a regular jam session at the famous Tipitina’s. Spencer is also in virtual residence at “the storied Old Absinthe Bar on Bourbon Street” where he opens for big-name touring artists and collaborates with NOLA’s finest players.

Spencer has another baby and soon thereafter makes a decision to start touring more often, playing more out of town dates than local shows, but the flow can’t be stanched – Spencer has a third baby (a daughter this time).

“In 1983, encouraged by friends who traveled with the circus…” No, seriously! I got that from his website! Spencer refurbishes an old Airstream trailer (see photograph to the right), hitches it to the back of a 1955 Chevrolet Bel-Air, and heads out to touch Indians (a line I borrowed from Lost In America, thank you Albert Brooks). It’s like a Forest Gump story. Spencer and his family start driving and don’t stop for seven years. (Seven years? Isn’t that Homeric or Biblical or something?) Anyway, Spencer’s long suffering wife Marilyn, using pay phones as they go, books Spencer into every paying gig they encounter along the way. They follow the sun, heading north in summer, south in winter. They home (road?) school their kids.

Bluegrass legend Ralph Stanley, Spencer and Garrison Keillor on Minnesota Public Radio's "A Prairie Home Companion" in 2001. Upper left corner: The Bohren family's 1955 Chevrolet Bel-Air and their Airstream trailor. They toured America for seven years in that rig, until the odometer on the Chevy topped 900,000 miles.

The first year out, Spencer cuts his first album, somewhat bewilderingly titled Born In A Biscayne. (Weren’t they in a Bel-Air?) Doctor John plays piano on this LP, the cover shot for which is staged – oh my god – atop the World Trade Center! Apparently Scandinavians spot Spencer way up there and invite him to tour their country, which he does.

Over the next several years, Spencer goes nuts with recording in the U.S., France, and Sweden and he continues to tour heavily. It doesn’t make any difference, he still has another baby. The Bohrens first decide that they need a bigger trailer, but then they just say the hell with it and get regular accommodations, first in Colorado, then in Wyoming. But you can’t keep a musical gypsy down, and soon Spencer is touring in Japan, promoting yet another LP.

Spencer records an American roots LP with harmonica ace JAB Wilson that refocuses his career back on Americana and Americans. He moves his family back to New Orleans and cuts a gospel LP, Carry the Word, which the New Orleans Times-Picayune (picaresque? See a connection here?) name the "Best CD of the Year 2000 by a Louisiana Artist.”

While viewing a small art show, Spencer has an epiphany – the art box! Here’s how it is described on his site – “Spencer assembled an atmospheric scene in a small cigar box, added his own image, and photographed it for the cover.” (Here’s where Spencer and my life interests converge. I like to photograph myself “over and over” too, which is the way I misread his site.) More from the website – “The process of making art, however, deeply affected Spencer. He created another box, and then another. These mysterious little boxes quietly became a consuming passion for Spencer, the recipients of his formidable creative energy, and an inspirational way to inhabit the lost hours and stolen moments inherent in the lengthy tours that make up much of a musician's life…”

Well, okay, I’m having some fun with Spencer, but the art boxes are beautiful, aren’t they?

Spencer’s art is displayed in university settings and, with that, a whole other side of Spencer emerges – teacher. He releases Down the Dirt Road Blues, which in story and song traces the development of a single blues tune “from 16th Century Africa through America's culture and history up through the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan…”

Academia has not completely consumed Spencer Bohren. He continues to tour extensively, developing strong followings in France, Belgium, Holland, Sweden, Switzerland, Spain, Italy, Germany, England and Ireland. And Spencer shows up with Garrison Keillor and his crew on A Prairie Home Companion, for which he seems a natural.

And the extraordinary odyssey of Spencer Bohren takes yet another mythic twist (Remember the prophetic shot of Spencer atop the World Trade Center?) when his family is evacuated from New Orleans with the onslaught of Hurricane Katrina.  Spencer updates his fan base from his website on his family’s return to their New Orleans home.

Take a look at Spencer’s extraordinary site and learn more about his amazing life as a true troubadour of American music. Spencer is an amazing guy.

Spencer's available CDs (left to right): The Long Black Line (2006), Down the Dirt Road Blues (2005), Southern Cross (2004), Solitaire (2002), Carry the Word (2000), Dirt Roads (1997), Vintage (1994), Present Tense (1994).  This list doesn't include earlier albums recorded in America and Europe.
Spencer's previously unavailable full-length album Full Moon can be downloaded from his site. LEFT: Spencer on stage with Bay Area favorite Geoff Muldaur
Perhaps in the future we can provide some MP3s of Spencer Bohren's work for on line streaming. Please visit Spencer's extraordinary site to listen to what he has available there.
Spencer's 2007:

2007 has been expansive thus far for Spencer Bohren. From flying in to Glasgow to perform at the Celtic Connections Festival, to producing a CD for New York singer Terrina Clark, to performing a collaborative show with opera singer Karen Clift, to opening the Smithsonian's traveling exhibit "New Harmonies" at the Riley Theatre in Meridian, Mississippi, to a Big Easy award as Best Folk Artist in New Orleans for 2006 - it's been a full and challenging few months. 

 

 

 

 
   

 

 

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