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CeeLo and The Muppets
Published on November 27, 2012 by Sara Foss

What could be better than CeeLo Green and the Muppets singing "All I Need Is Love"?


New Music Worth Noting
Published on November 19, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about two local bands with new CDs worth checking out.

Click here to read it.


Election Day Music
Published on November 5, 2012 by Sara Foss

"Election Day," The Replacements

Go Vote!


Dr. John and the Blind Boys of Alabama, in Concert
Published on November 5, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about the Dr. John and Blind Boys of Alabama concert at the Palace Theatre in Albany, which was great.

Here's an excerpt:

"One of my favorite bands, the Afghan Whigs, recently got back together and started playing gigs again. I’ve been tracking the tour all over the country, hoping that it will land somewhere near me, and although it’s come as close as New York City and Boston, I haven’t been able to get to it. Then, on my recent trip to Colorado, my friend Melissa informed me that she and her husband were attending the Afghan Whigs show in Denver on Oct. 30, two days after I was scheduled to fly back to Albany, and I was immediately overcome with the most intense case of concert envy I’ve ever had. When Melissa sent me a photo and sound clip of the band performing my favorite Afghan Whigs song, 'What Jail is Like,' it just got worse.

Fortunately, there was a cure for what ailed me: the Dr. John/Blind Boys of Alabama concert at the Palace Theatre last Thursday. I’m a fan of both artists, but it was the prospect of seeing Dr. John and the Blind Boys take the stage together that really got me excited for this show. A New Orleans native, Dr. John plays a dynamic mix of blues, rock, jazz, funk and boogie woogie, while the Blind Boys are a gospel group known for their spellbinding arrangements of traditional songs, as well as soulful covers of popular hits. Both Dr. John and the Blind Boys have been around forever, and easily qualify as legends; the story of the Blind Boys, who first sang together in 1939 at the Alabama Institute for the Negro Blind in Talladega, Ala., really is interesting, as the group performed primarily for black audiences until the early 1990s, when their album 'Deep River' was nominated for a Grammy."

Click here to read the whole thing


Thoughts on George Michael
Published on October 17, 2012 by Sara Foss

Two days after I wrote about my recent purchase of George Michael's "Faith," Steven Hyden has posted a piece on the album's 25th anniversary and Michael's continuing evolution as a pop star. He, too, shares my love of the song "Father Figure." 

Anyway, click here to read what he has to say.


Bargain Bin CDs
Published on October 15, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about the musical gems I recently purchased at a flea market in New Hampshire - Young MC's "Stone Cold Rhymin'" and George Michael's "Faith."

Here's an excerpt:

"When I visited my friend Susanna last year in the British Virgin Islands, she mocked me for continuing to purchase CDs.

'You still buy CDs?' she asked. 'Why?' Then she speculated that my irrational attachment to physical media was in line with my years-long refusal to get a cell phone, or switch my email from AOL to gmail.

Susanna is right: I am a technophobe. I usually regard new technology with suspicion, before eventually breaking down and accepting it. About three years ago I decided to give up landline and rely entirely on my cell phone, and I made the transition to gmail long before that. So I’m not completely incorrigible. However, I cannot bear the thought of converting my music collection from disc to digital. My CD racks line the wall, and help keep albums and bands I might otherwise forget about at the forefront of my mind. Keeping all my music on a little gadget or my laptop doesn’t seem like nearly as much fun, or as interesting."

Click here to read more.


Rupa and the April Fishes, in Concert
Published on October 3, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about the "world music" band Rupa & the April Fishes, who played in Troy on Saturday.

Here's an excerpt:

Occasionally I enter drawings to win free tickets to stuff over at Nippertown, but I never win. So my expectations were not exactly high when I entered last week’s drawing to win tickets to see the band Rupa & the April Fishes on Saturday at the Sanctuary for Independent Media.

I knew little about the band, other than that they play world music (a label I find so vague and generic as to be almost meaningless), but their instrumentation — trumpet, cello, stand-up bass, guitar and drums — made them sound lively and fun, and I’m always interested in checking out something a little different. But then I went hiking in the rain, and forgot all about Rupa & the April Fishes. When I got home from the hike, my attitude was something along the lines of 'I think I will take a hot shower and lie on my couch and watch movies for the rest of my life.' Then I checked my email, saw that I’d won free tickets to the concert, and off I went.

I drank some coffee before the concert, to rouse myself, but once the music started I had no trouble staying awake. The San Francisco-based Rupa & the April Fishes play a blend of reggae, ska, rock, pop, Latin music, zydeco and European folk music. The title of one of their songs, 'Electric Gumbo Radio,' provides a pretty apt description of what they’re all about as their music mixes styles and languages — French, Spanish and English. The band is also proudly political, in the tradition of left-wing bands such as Rage Against the Machine, The Clash, Public Enemy and the MC5. But those bands were fueled mainly by anger, while Rupa & the April Fishes draws upon more positive emotions, such as hope and love, and their music is more upbeat as a result. For instance, their Occupy-inspired song 'I Don’t Want to Get Arrested' is catchy and raucous, more likely to inspire dancing than clenched-fists of rage. Which isn’t to say that Rupa & the April Fishes makes light of injustice. It’s just that their approach is a more joyous and celebratory one.

Click here to read the whole thing.

 


Glenn Gould at 80
Published on September 26, 2012 by Sara Foss

Glenn Gould would have turned 80 this week, and I honored the occasion by playing my CD of his 1955 performance of Bach's Goldberg Variations.

Here's The New Yorker's Richard Brody with more on Gould.

Also, visit this NPR piece for more on Gould.


Randy Newman Comes Out Swinging
Published on September 18, 2012 by Sara Foss

Mr. Newman's new song, "I'm Dreaming," which features the refrain "I'm dreaming of a white president."

Also, here's an article about the song.


Seven Bassoons
Published on September 17, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about a concert featuring seven bassoons, performing a new piece by Bang on a Can founder Michael Gordon.

Here's an excerpt:

"Years ago, I caught the avant-garde music collective Bang on a Can at The Egg. Throughout the show, I kept trying to classify the music. At times, it was jazzy, but it wasn’t quite jazz. And it seemed to contain elements of rock. And classical. There were two separate sets, one featuring the Czech violinist Iva Bittova, whose shrieks, yowls, chirps and cackles gave the show a wild, unhinged feel, and one featuring the superb clarinetist Don Byron, whose jazzy performance included a lovely tribute to the Tuskegee Airmen. Both sets were exciting, dynamic and unpredictable — I felt like I was watching something totally unique and unforgettable. The music was cutting-edge, but also really fun to listen to, and I got the impression that my experience and impressions were fairly typical.

On Saturday I headed out to the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center to catch the world premiere of 'Rushes,' a new piece for seven bassoons by composer and Bang on a Can founder Michael Gordon. I didn’t know exactly what to expect, but I’ve seen enough musical performances at EMPAC to know that the venue prides itself on showcasing music that pushes both boundaries and buttons, and I’ve listened to enough Bang on a Can to know that the composers affiliate with the group have an experimental, adventurous sensibility. But this knowledge did little to prepare me for 'Rushes,' perhaps because I was expecting something edgy and strange in the Iva Bittova mode. Instead, I got 60 minutes of surprisingly gentle bassoon music, music that rolled and undulated, creating a swirling landscape of murmurs and nature sounds."

Click here to read the whole thing.

 


Blogging Tips
Published on September 13, 2012 by Sara Foss

My friend Molly asked me to write up some blogging tips for her seventh-grade class.

Here's what I wrote:

Blogging can be a lot of fun, especially if you like the idea of writing for an audience. You can blog about just about any topic - entertainment, sports, movies, politics, parenthood, music, science and even yourself. So you should pick a focus that really interests you. If you really like bikes, you can write about bikes. If you like comic books, you can write about comic books. My blog is a little more wide-ranging - I write about a variety of interests, including movies and sports. For some people, a blog can function as a public online diary, where they share details and stories about their life. These personal blogs can be fun, but if you write one, you want to make sure you don't share information about yourself that you'd rather keep private.

Writing a blog is a little different from writing a paper for school, or a newspaper article. The blogs I like tend to be well-written and thoughtful, but they often lack the polish you might find in a magazine story or a book. Bloggers write quickly and frequently, often providing commentary about events and news soon after they happen. This is part of what's fun about blogging: It gives you a quick glimpse of people's thoughts. I find that my blog is a bit like a notebook - a place where I might tell a story or discuss an idea that I'm not ready to write about more formally. For example, I might write about a book I recently read and post those thoughts on my blog, and then discuss the book in my newspaper column. Basically, don't worry about making your blog perfect. Blogs can be a little messy.

 (More)


Remembering Tupac
Published on September 13, 2012 by Sara Foss

When Tupac Shakur died, I was editor-in-chief of the college newspaper. I had no intention of writing a reaction piece to his death, but my opinion page writer, Kiese Laymon, suggested that it might be a good idea. I respected his opinion, and so I assigned the story, even though, as a middle class white kid from New Hampshire, I didn't really understand its significance.

Anyway, Kiese has a piece at Esquire remember Tupac on the 16th anniversary of his death.

You can read it here.


Rest Fest 2012
Published on September 10, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about Rest Fest, the terrific local music festival now in its third year.

Click here to read about it.


Fall Concert Preview
Published on August 30, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I list the concerts I'm looking forward to this fall.

Click here to see what they are.


Polka Madness
Published on August 23, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about Brave Combo - a polka/klezmer/punk/rock band/etc. band that I caught in Lake George the other night.

Here's an excerpt:

"Polka music is not something to which I’ve devoted a great deal of thought. In fact, I think it’s safe to say that I barely know what it is, or why anyone would listen to it. Nevertheless, I headed up to Lake George on Wednesday night to catch the free Brave Combo concert, mainly because a friend described them to me as a 'Tex-Mex/punk/polka band,' which certainly sounded interesting.

Brave Combo, I learned, has been around forever. The band got its start in 1979, and has won two Grammys, in 1999 and 2005, for best polka album. They boast a wide array of influences, including klezmer, salsa and surf rock, but at heart they are a polka band, albeit an especially zany one, with a penchant for performing high-energy covers of songs such as the tango show tune 'Hernando’s Hideaway,' the 'Chicken Dance' and Elvis Presley’s 'Love Me Tender.' This is a band that obviously likes to have fun, and they put on an entertaining show, mashing genres and hopping from original material to new spins on classic (and not so classic) songs. For all their wackiness, Brave Combo is a tight, talented band, and it was impossible not to appreciate what they were doing, and the flair with which they pulled it off."

Click here to read more.


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