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July 18th, 2014

By Philip Turner in: Canada; Music, Bands & Radio; Urban Life & New York City

My NXNE Storify: “Great Music & Great Times in Toronto for NXNE 2014″


Storify screenshot

In completing my coverage of NXNE, the Toronto music festival I attended June 17-24 as accredited press, I’ve used Storify, the platform that lets bloggers incorporate social media posts in with their own writing. Once a piece is published on Storify, you can grab a handy embed code and paste it in at your websites, where it populates precisely as you assembled it. The piece is titled “Great Music & Great Times in Toronto for NXNE 2014,” “a collection of illustrated social sharing culled from my timelines 6/17-6/24, w/commentary; links to bands & venues; plus content I’m borrowing with acknowledgement of & appreciation for other music fans who shared about NXNE, creating a visual diary of the festival.” Please click here to read it on Storify, or here on Honourary Canadian. I hope you enjoy reading the piece which includes travel and tourism info about Toronto, offering some notes on restaurants, bookstores, shopping, and architecture, along with my music coverage.
 

 

 

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June 5th, 2014

By Philip Turner in: Music, Bands & Radio; Urban Life & New York City

Fun Night of Happy Music with Brain Cloud at the Rodeo Bar

Brain Cloud is a happy music-making outfit, maestros of western swing whose infectious repertoire harks back to the music of Bob Wills, Patsy Cline, and early country & western radio. They are fronted by Dennis Lichtman, multi-instrumentalist (clarinet, mandolin, fiddle), while also featuring fab vocalist Tamar Korn, and hot sidemen playing lap steel guitar (Raphael McGregor); hollow-body electric guitar (Skip Krevens); and a solid rhythm section with a stand-up bassist and drummer who also played a washboard vest. They have so much fun playing their tunes, and with such good humor, you can’t help but feel good, even giddy, as you listen to them play. Licthman sports a very open personality on stage, offering polite kudos to his bandmates, and clear announcements of song titles and their origins, while Korn is a veritable vocal gymnast who uses her voice in skillful and surprising ways, often mimicking the sounds of the instruments near her on stage, and miming the fiddling of her stage partner, Lichtman.

The Rodeo Bar is a long-running NYC venue for live music. On weeknights there’s no cover charge in their music room, with a reasonably priced Tex-Mex menu on offer. Kyle and I ordered dinner (tacos and pulled pork), which was served quickly, and cleared off our table before Brain Cloud’s 9:00 PM set began.

Before the show, we chatted with Dennis, whom I had first met in 2011, when Brain Cloud played the Brooklyn Folk Festival. He also plays with the jazz combo, Mona’s Hot Four, an outfit that plays weekly at Mona’s Bar on Avenue B on the lower east side. In 2012, I attended a joint launch of a documentary and a CD about the jazz scene at Mona’s, and wrote about it here on this blog. In 2013, I attended a CD release party for Brain Cloud’s album “Outside Looking In,” also the title of a signature song of theirs that Lichtman explained was composed by Izzy Zaidman (and I note from the CD below, Lichtman and Korn), musician and leader of Izzy and the Catastrophics. Like much of Brain Cloud’s repertoire, this song sounds like it could come from the 1940s, though it’s a modern evocation of that era. They appear at Rodeo Bar many Wednesdays, I recommend you go hear them some time. Here’s what their CD looks like, along with pictures I took during last night’s show.

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May 25th, 2014

By Philip Turner in: Music, Bands & Radio; Urban Life & New York City

Ewan Turner at the Bitter End, 7PM May 25/Updated w/Photos

As I’d tweeted earlier tonight and shared here, Ewan Turner was going to be playing at the Bitter End tonight and it turned out to be a terrific night. The venerable music room—which has hosted such legendary performers as Joan Baez, Van Morrison, Bob Dylan, and Miles Davis—was quite full, and attentive to Ewan’s songs. He did six of his own songs, and he had time for one cover, Dylan’s “Abandoned Love,” a song that he told the crowd he’d learned Dylan had performed only once live, at the Bitter End, back in 1975. Here are images from the evening, beginning with a shot of an old poster in the club window, indicating many of the people who have played the venue over the years.Bitter End lineup

IMG_2331Set list

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May 5th, 2014

By Philip Turner in: Music, Bands & Radio; Personal History, Family, Friends, Education, Travels

Indie Musical Instrument Store Flourishing 100s of Miles from a Big City


I was delighted to see this article in the New Hampshire Union-Leader, reporting on Northern Lights, in Littleton, NH, where my singer-songwriter son Ewan Turner has gotten one of his favorite guitars, a Fender acoustic. The store was founded by Dan and Moochco Salomon, two friends and classmates from Franconia College, where we all went to school in the 1970s. It’s a good-news article by John Koziol emphasizing how the couple have managed, since 1978, to make the store in to a destination for musicians and avid players. They carry keyboards, drums, and other instruments, and really specialize with a fabulous guitar selection, with instrument prices that range from $100 to $95,000, the latter for a 1957 Gibson Les Paul Goldtop. They operate from a rustic wooden building they own that was erected in 1833, on Main Street of one of the most livable small towns in the eastern U.S., roughly equidistant from Boston, Portland, ME, Burlington, VT, and Montreal, Quebec. They carry many fine guitar brands, including Martin, Taylor and Santa Cruz, which has only sixty authorized dealers in the whole country, and benefit from what Koziol reports is, “according to the April 2014 issue of Music Trades magazine…a ‘golden age’ for acoustic guitars with the market for acoustics costing more than $1,500 up 40 percent in 2013 over 2012.” I would add it seems to me a phenomenon similar to that which is fueling the renewal of vinyl’s popularity as a format for recorded sound.

I’m very happy that this store operated by my friends Dan and Moochco is doing well, thirty-six years after they first opened their doors. It reminds me that yesterday, May 4th, was the thirty-sixth anniversary of the opening of Undercover Books, the indie bookstore chain that I operated from 1978-85 with my sibling and parents, and which still ran as an online book ordering service until my brother Joel’s death in 2009. Congrats to Dan and Moochco, I hope to see them at Northern Lights sometime soon! Meantime, I invite you to see a picture of them in this screenshot from the article, and read it all via this link. Northern Lights

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May 1st, 2014

By Philip Turner in: Art, Film, Photography, Fine Printing & Design; Music, Bands & Radio

New B.B. King Documentary Opening May 21


Last year I saw a great documentary on the blues, “Born in Chicago,” and now it looks like this film on the life and career of B.B. King will also be terrific. At B.B.’s site is a full listing of the more than twenty-five cities in which the film will be opening later this month. In NYC it will be showing at Village East Cinemas.

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April 26th, 2014

By Philip Turner in: Music, Bands & Radio; Philip Turner's Books & Writing

#FridayReads, April 25, Robert Palmer’s “Blues & Chaos”

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March 23rd, 2014

By Philip Turner in: Art, Film, Photography, Fine Printing & Design; Music, Bands & Radio; Urban Life & New York City

Remembering Woody Guthrie’s Sad Convalesence at Greystone Hospital

Wardy Forty postcardFriday night at Valentine, the gallery in Ridgewood, Queens, Kyle and I attended the opening of a very powerful exhibit, “Woody Guthrie’s Wardy Forty,” also the title of an accompanying book by photographer and curator of twentieth century ruins Phillip Buehler. It refers to the name Guthrie himself assigned to the section of Greystone Psychiatric Hospital, in Morris Plains, NJ, where he lived from 1956-61. On WoodyGuthrie.org, the site maintained by the late folksinger’s daughter Nora, the biographical sketch of Woody explains the circumstances surrounding this chapter in his life (edited for length below, I suggest you make time to read the whole sketch):

“Toward the late 1940s, Woody’s behavior started to become increasingly erratic, moody and violent….He was beginning to show symptoms of…Huntington’s Chorea, a hereditary, degenerative disease that gradually and eventually robbed him of his health, talents and abilities….It was later discovered to be the same disease which thirty years earlier had caused his mother’s institutionalization and eventual death. Shaken by inexplicable volatile physical and emotional symptoms, Woody left his family…taking off for California with his young protégé, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott….Woody met Anneke Van Kirk, a young woman who became his third wife….Becoming more and more unpredictable during a final series of road trips, Woody eventually returned to New York with Anneke, where he was hospitalized several times. Mistakenly diagnosed and treated for everything from alcoholism to schizophrenia, his symptoms kept worsening and his physical condition deteriorated. Picked up for ‘vagrancy’ in New Jersey in 1954, he was admitted into the nearby Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital where he was finally diagnosed with…the incurable degenerative nerve disorder now known as Huntington’s Disease or HD. During these years, Marjorie Guthrie, family, and friends continued to visit and care for him. A new generation of musicians took an interest in folk music bringing it into the mainstream as yet another folk music revival. Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, The Greenbriar Boys, Phil Ochs, and many other young folksingers visited Woody in the hospital, bringing along their guitars and their songs to play for him, perhaps even to thank him.”

For his part, Phillip Buehler explores, photographs, and appreciates modern ruins. His website is called Modern-Ruins.com. When he stumbled on to Greystone the grounds had been abandoned for more than forty years. As it’s described in an statement accompanying the exhibit,

“After coming across thousands of negatives in the deserted darkroom, he researched the hospital and discovered that Woody Guhtire once lived there. He reached out to Guthrie’s daughter Nora…who gave him Guthrie’s case number. Buehler was then able to pull negatives from Guthrie’s file…beginning a ten-year journey that led to Wardy Forty: Greystone Park Hospital State Hospital Revisited.”

Copies of the book, a landscape format photography album with illuminating captions and text, were on hand at Valentine, while on the walls were hung small snapshots, many black & white, of Woody and family at Greystone; large format 4-color photos of the crumbling structure that was Greystone as Buehler found it; a slide show with the original text of Woody’s intake interview at the hospital running at timed intervals, which strikes the viewer with the singer’s innocence of the fact that his interlocutors seemed as it went along to increasingly believe he was mentally ill; and projected images of photographs taken of Woody at widely differing times, sadly showing his inexorable decline in health and demeanor. In a hallway off the main room is a display of intake photos of many Greystone patients with their patient number hovering above them, including that of Woody.

Nora Guthrie and Phillip Buehler were both on hand Friday night at Valentine. When Kyle and I came upon them, they were talking among themselves, but they welcomed us into their conversation and we enjoyed talking over the next little while. Nora told me with enthusiasm about the Woody Guthrie Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma, which she’s recently helped to establish in her father’s home state. She explained that it’s a study center for researchers, an educational facility for students of all ages, and a concert space for live music performances. Nora’s a warm and friendly person and it was a privilege to meet her this night. Buehler is also full of enthusiasm for his enterprises, and I was excited to tell him I share his interest in industrial archaeology and physical artifacts, as with my website photography of maritime and architectural artifacts, such as the Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge.

I recommend you check out Phillip Buehler’s book, which A.M. Homes has called “hauntingly beautiful.” It is available for purchase at WoodyGurthrie.org. I also urge you to see the exhibit, which will be up at Valentine until April 13. Below is more info on the exhibit and the gallery, along with pictures I took the other night, including this one of Nora Guthrie and Philip Buehler.Nora Guthrie&Philip Buehler

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February 25th, 2014

By Philip Turner in: Music, Bands & Radio; Urban Life & New York City

Pete Seeger Tribute Night at the Jalopy Tavern

Jalopy photoAs a follow-up to the post below, Celebrating Pete Seeger & Enjoying “Mr Personality”–a Music-filled Weekend in NY, the Pete Seeger tribute turned out to be a fun night. The program, well organized by folksinger Jan Bell, was held at the Jalopy Theatre in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn. The Jalopy, and its next-door tavern, are a combined performance space, instrument store, bar and restaurant. About ten acts peformed Sunday night, playing from a single song to several tunes. Most of the songs were compositions of Seeger’s, or songs the performers believed influenced Pete, or were influenced by him. Proceeds from the sold-out show benefited WhyHunger, a social service organization that is a legacy of the great singer and activist Harry Chapin. $900 was raised to support their important work.

Below are pictures from the show, with captions describing what the artists played. In addition to the musicians pictured here, artists who performed at the tribute included: Tamar Korn, Ernie Vega and Samoa Wilson, Wyndham Baird, Geoff Wylie, and Feral Foster. If you’ve never been to the Jalopy, I recommend you take in some shows there. The venue offers great company in a mellow setting, superb musicians, and very fair admission and food and drink prices. Also, please note that April 18-20, the Brooklyn Folk Festival, organized by Eli Smith (pictured below) will be held at Bell House. I give the Jalopy and the Festival my highest recommendation.

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