Bear With Me

Sunday, November 17, 2019

So, I was visiting my friends A and B north of the border recently and made a new acquaintance:


He's the strong, silent type, as you can see. ;c)

And yes, that *is* snow on the ground, believe it or not. They received about a foot while I was up there, which was unusual even by Canadian standards. It was also bitterly cold during my entire visit, far more than usual for early-mid November. Fortunately I purchased the nifty red snow boots in the photo while I was up there, and wow, did they come in handy! (They're also really cute, which is a lovely bonus!)

In spite of the less-than-hospitable weather, I can't wait to visit the Great White North again - see you next spring (if not sooner)!

***

A few ursine-related tracks for your listening pleasure. First up, Grizzly Bear's "Yet Again," from their excellent 2012 album Shields:


Second we have one from a band *called* The Bears, featuring the amazing guitar work of Adrian Belew, who is best known as a long-standing member of King Crimson and for his work with Talking Heads (Remain In Light), David Bowie (Lodger), and Frank Zappa, to name just a few. This is "Fear Is Never Boring," from their self-titled 1987 debut.


This next one has absolutely nothing to do with bears, but it's such a cute song I wanted to include it anyway. The song is "Oh Daddy," from his 1989 album Mr. Music Head. The charming video features Adrian with his absolutely adorable daughter Audie (who introduces the song in this clip). Enjoy this one! :c)


The final song is "If She Knew What She Wants," written by Jules Shear of Jules & The Polar Bears and covered magnificently by The Bangles on their 1986 album Different Light. Check out these live harmonies!


Incidentally, he also wrote "All Through The Night," which Cyndi Lauper included on her debut album She's So Unusual.

Ciao 'til next time! :c)

Cassi-DJ: Today's Playlist (11.02.19)

Saturday, November 2, 2019


Happy Saturday, all. Hope you're having a good weekend so far. Yours truly is enjoying the first day of a two-week vacation. I am pretty burnt right now (see the above photo, taken this morning), so this is a VERY welcome break. It's been a challenging year. I'm looking forward to some serious down time.

I started it off my sitting in with my friend Mike again on WMFO-FM's Mike on the Mic show this morning. We had a lot of fun, as we always do, and Mike was kind enough to let me program a set of my own. Here's what went down on the airwaves this morning. :c)

Leading off is the first track from The Dave Rawlings Machine's 2010 debut album A Friend of a Friend, "Ruby." Backing him up are his partner, Gillian Welch, as well as two members of Old Crow Medicine Show, Ketch Secor and Willie Watson (who has since left the band for a solo career and permanent membership in the Machine. Here's a lovely version recorded at KEXP-FM in Seattle; the wonderful baritone vocals are courtesy of Ketch. :c)


Next is a great song from Noel Gallagher & His High-Flying Birds 2011 self-titled debut album, "If I Had a Gun." Mike is also a longtime fan of Noel dating back to his days in Oasis; as Mike noted during the set, you recognize a Noel Gallagher song as soon as it starts. This is my favorite song from his three solo albums; one listen and I think you'll understand why:


Third song up is  Radiohead's "Daydreaming," a somber, hauntingly beautiful meditation that is believed to have written about the end of front man Thom Yorke's 23 year relationship with his long-term partner Rachel Owen. The song's video is directed by Paul Thomas Anderson (There Will Be Blood, Magnolia); it is stunning, as you will see:


Filmmaker Rishi Kaneria made a fascinating short film about the video that examines the amount of though and effort that went into its creation; it is well worth watching if you are a fan of Radiohead or  Anderson.

Next is a tune from a band I adore that never received anywhere near the acclaim it deserved: Grant Lee Buffalo. This song, "Superslomotion," is a deep track (and a personal favoriteO) from what turned out to be their fourth and final album, Jubilee. Safe to say that they went out on a high note:


We had to cut my set short due to time constraints, but we nonetheless went out on a high note with another artist who is a favorite of both Mike and your humble blogstress: the pride of Ottawa Ontario, Miss Kathleen Edwards. "Change the Sheets" is from what looked for a number of years to be her final album, 2012's excellent Voyageur. This is a great live version on Late Night with David Letterman from 2012, shortly after the album was released:


Exhausted after years of unrelenting touring, she fulfilled a longstanding dream and opened a coffee shop, Quitters, in Ottawa. (I visited it last year and can vouch for both its coffee and delicious corn muffins. :D) Happily, she returned to the recording studio this summer to work on what will be her fifth album, hopefully out in 2020. Can't wait to hear it!

The name is Catsidy. Miss Catsidy.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Happy Halloween everyone (or everyone who celebrates it, anyway). :c) Here’s my “it’s 5:45AM and my other ideas are wwwaaayyyy too much work pre-caffeine” costume:


Hope you don’t get any rocks while trick-or-treating!

Cassi-DJ: Today's Playlist (10.05.19)

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Hey folks. Hope everyone is having a good day. I've been fighting a lingering cold, but I managed to once again join my friend Mike on his radio show on WMFO-FM here in Greater Boston. (See this post from a few weeks ago for more on WMFO-FM.)

My nephew C was supposed to join us and make his radio debut, but he's also suffering from a cold - one much worse than mine. He also just started nursing school, and, as his mother reminds him, he's still only a few months into his recovery from the serious health issues he was dealing with for over a year and a half. He is, wisely, being extra cautious and making sure he gets sufficient rest, even when it means passing up on something he was very much looking forward to. Fortunately, there's always next time, C. :c)

In spite of my rougher-than-usual voice, I had a terrific time per usual. Mike always does a terrific job, and makes it easy for me to sound relatively coherent (not a given, believe me!). I've already booked my next visit; mark your calendars for Saturday, November 2nd, folks. :c) In the meantime, here are the songs from my set today. Enjoy!

***

First up is a great live version of "Landed," from Ben Folds's 2005 album Songs For Silverman. This version is from a reunion tour he did a few years later with his pre-solo career band Ben Folds Five (which, naturally, is a trio lol). Check out his phenomenal piano chops on this one:


Track number two is interesting. It's a song called "Swimmer," by Amanda Shires. She began her career as an award-winning fiddle player (she joined the legendary Asleep At The Wheel while still a teenager) before launching a solo career as a singer-songwriter.

She's actually recorded two versions of this gorgeous song, which she wrote about falling in love with her future husband, Jason Isbell (a favorite of this blog). The first is a lovely, country-flavored acoustic version from her 2011 Carrying Lightning album. (That's her doing the whistling, incidentally.)


Then, in 2018, she recorded a terrific rock-oriented album called To The Sunset, which included a radically reworked version of "Swimmer" featuring electric guitars, more pronounced drums and percussion, and what sounds like a heavily treated fiddle playing the whistling part from the earlier version. Give it a listen:


After listening to both versions back to back today, the difference in her vocals between the two versions is quite striking as well. The original version - which I believe she recorded after she and Isbell were a couple but before they married - is more wistful. Her singing in the 2018 version, by which time they had been married for several years and had a daughter, by contrast, is more assured (but equally affecting). Anyway, I digress. :c)

Third on my playlist is the definition of a "deep track," in this case from someone regular readers can probably guess is one of my favorite artists, Bruce Cockburn. "January In The Halifax Airport Lounge" is on his 1975 album Joy Will Find A Way, which for many years was available only in his native Canada. (It was finally released in the US in the early Nineties, when he signed with Columbia Records and they reissued his entire catalogue here.)

The song was indeed inspired by an afternoon he spent waiting for a flight in Halifax, Nova Scotia; however, a closer listen reveals that it's true subject is the loneliness a touring musician faces, constantly on the road away from loved ones (in his case his wife and young daughter). I particularly love the keyboards on this one, which makes me feel  (in a good way) as if I'm right there in that mid-70s airport lounge.


Continuing the Canadian theme, another favorite of mine - Blue Rodeo. When I sat in with Mike last month, we played "Hasn't Hit Me Yet," a song written and sung by Greg Keelor. This week we featured "New Morning Sun," from their 2013 album In Our Nature, written by Keelor's songwriting partner and band co-leader Jim Cuddy. He explains what inspired the song in the intro to the excellent live version recorded in Keelor's farmhouse, where they recorded the album.


The second-to-last song was Wilco's "At Least That's What You Said," from their 2004 album A Ghost Is Born. A wrenching, deeply personal song, Jeff Tweedy wrote this while struggling with an addiction to the painkillers he was taking in an attempt to control his chronic, debilitating panic attacks.

The song, particularly his savage, Neil Young-esque guitar playing in the song's second half, attempts to evoke what those panic attacks feel like. As someone with altogether too much firsthand experience with them, I can attest that he captures their primal terror with unnerving, bone-chilling accuracy. As Mike said after watching this video later, "He isn't just playing this; he's living it." Just so.


Bringing the set to a close (and necessarily lowering the intensity level) is that rarest of beasts: an obscure Beatles song. (Well, relatively speaking, anyway).

"Long Long Long," which closes what was Side 3 on the vinyl version of the White Album, is a beautiful, eerie song written by George Harrison. (Really, it's a song that only George Harrison could have written.) While the lyrics could be interpreted to be about a lover, the "you" he references is, in fact, God. The languid, hushed atmosphere of the song is punctuated only by Ringo's patented, perfectly placed drum fills in the breaks.

(As we listened to the track in the studio today, Mike commented on how heartening it is to see people finally recognizing what a great drummer Ringo was. I have a book that details every single recording session the Beatles ever held. The book's author, who listened to literally every second the band spent in a recording studio, said that in eight years of recording, playing literally hundreds and hundreds of takes of songs he was learning for the first time, Ringo made a total of two - yes, two - mistakes. That is the definition of "rock-solid.")

Incidentally, one of my favorite pieces of Beatles trivia involves this song. The strange rattling sound that starts at 2:32 is caused by an empty wine bottle that happened to be on top of a Leslie speaker in the studio. As Paul held a sustained note on the Hammond organ he was playing, the bottle began to vibrate. The entire band spontaneously incorporated it into the song: McCartney held the note on the organ, Ringo played an extended drum roll, and Harrison sang a wordless, ghostly howl before bringing the song to a close with a dissonant, thrashing chord on his Gibson guitar - one of the most moving, affecting song endings from a band that was endlessly inventive in finding new ways to do just that. 


OK, that will do it for this post. Hope you all enjoyed the tunes. See you next time... :c)

Cassi-DJ: The Sequel (Pt. 2)

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Happy Saturday, everyone. Hope you're having a lovely weekend.

As promised earlier this week, here are the remaining songs I played while sitting in on my friend Sue's radio show on WMFO-FM here in Boston. Enjoy. :c)

This is a great song from Amy LaVere's new album, Painting Blue, titled "No Battle Hymn." Can't get enough of this song and album. Incidentally, that's her husband, Will Sexton, on guitar.


Another new one, "Something to Believe In," from Madison Cunningham's debut album, Who Are You Now. This song is a grower, as is the album. She is also a remarkable guitarist - and did I mention she's 21 years old? Yikes...


Next is "Pontchatrain," from Vienna Teng's 2006 album Dreaming Through the Noise, a somber, haunting song she wrote in the wake of the devastation wrought on New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina. 


The studio version of "Pontchatrain" is equally powerful, and features a striking string arrangement that deepens the song's hushed melancholy.


And finally, to end the post on a lighter note, here's "Airplane," from the Indigo Girls' 1992 album Rites of Passage. Emily Saliers (on the left in the photo below) is afraid of flying - hence the title - but this is utterly charming. Listen to this one for the amazing - and I do mean amazing - backing vocals provided by The Roches. They must be heard to be believed. :c)


Well, that will do it for this one. Have a great weekend, everyone!

Musings: It Takes Two

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Hi all - this is a brief mid-week post commemorating the anniversary of the most important day of my life.

Two years ago today I had my GCS (Gender Confirmation Surgery), performed by Dr. Brassard at GRS Montreal. It's hard to believe, even as I type these words. It simultaneously feels as if it just happened yesterday... and a million years ago.

I was chatting online with my Montreal roommate (hello Miss A!!!) today - she confessed she had no idea it was today! I was aware it was approaching, but not until last week. As I told A today, I think that's a healthy thing for both of us. 

The fact that it could sneak up on us in that way doesn't mean its importance is diminished in any way; rather, it shows how effective - and necessary - it was. We no longer have to dream about living the life we should be leading; now we are leading them. All of the hard work and sacrifice was totally worth it.

I can't tell anyone else what the right choice is for them; our journey is our own, and only we know what's right for us. But this was both the hardest thing I've ever done and the best thing I've ever done.

My life isn't perfect; I still have issues I have to deal with, and there are things I want to change, and to do, and to achieve.

And I know I will. Because I was able to go from this:


To this:

I know that if I can do that, then I can do anything - and do it as myself. At long last.

And that makes all the difference.

Here's wishing you all the best on your journey, wherever it may lead you.

***

A few road/journey songs for your listening pleasure. :c)

You can never go wrong with The Beatles, of course, so we'll start with them. Here's the lovely, stripped down version of "The Long and Winding Road." I very much prefer this to the somewhat overwrought studio version (and I say that will all due respect for the genius of Phil Spector).


Next up is Jackson Browne's gorgeous "The Road," from his 1978 masterpiece Running on Empty. What a great album this is:


Speaking of Journey, here's my favorite song of theirs - "Still They Ride," from 1981's Escape album. Steve Perry's vocals are so moving; I still get goosebumps every time I listen to this:


And finally, a much-beloved (by me) song from one of the first albums I bought - "Take The Long Way Home," from Supertramp's Breakfast in America (1979):



Cassi-DJ: The Sequel (Pt. 1)

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Hello all. Hope everyone is having a nice weekend.

So, apparently my appearance on WMFO-FM at Tufts University last week wasn't enough to dissuade them from having me on the air again, because I was back at it yesterday - this time on the Something About the Women program, which airs every Saturday from 11:00 AM-1:00 PM.

As the program title indicates, SATW plays music exclusively from female artists (although, like everything else on WMFO, it's free-form; DJs can play whatever they want). SATW has been on the air continuously since 1973, making it one of the longest-running (if not the longest-running) women's radio show in the United States.

My friend Sue has been a DJ on SATW for a number of years, and very kindly invited me to sit in during her shift yesterday. It had been several years since I had been on SATW, but it was every bit as enjoyable as I remembered. We had a lot of fun chatting about our respective set lists; Sue is extremely knowledgable about jazz, among other genres, and I drove home after the show with a list of artists to either discover or re-acquaint myself with. (I foresee my Ella Fitzgerald and Cassandra Wilson albums getting a workout this week.) :c)

I'll be off the WMFO airwaves the next few weekends, but will be on my friend Mike's program again the first weekend in October, and hopefully on SATW as well. I'm looking forward to it already!

I played a number of songs on the show, so I broke them out into two posts. Here's the first batch - enjoy!

 

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