Cass's Glasses Redux (a/k/a The Vision Thing, Plus Songs for a Summer Weekend)

Friday, July 26, 2019

Happy Friday everyone. Just a brief post to share a few things while I work on several longer posts (honest!). 

First, I thought I'd share a pic of me wearing my new glasses. Well, relatively new; I got them in late March (yes, I need to post way more often): 

This is my day-to-day business look, for better or worse ;c) - other than when I remember to a) bring my contacts and b) actually put them in (spoiler alert: not very often - ditziness still reigns, alas). Anyway, I like the new spectacles quite a bit. 

This is also how I usually wear my hair (also for better or worse). :c) For some reason most of my pictures show me with it down; in reality, though, I typically wear it up, simply because I don't want to get up at the crack of dawn and spend an hour-plus trying to tame it. (First world problems, I know... :c))

I also thought I'd share a few songs from two albums I've really been enjoying this year. Both of these albums have one thing in common: Jason Isbell, who both produced both records and played on them with his band, the 400 Unit (which features his wife Amanda Shires, moonlighting from her solo career).

First up is Strand of Oaks, who released several terrific albums the past 5-6 years that I somehow missed out on completely. Fortunately I'm making up for lost time, starting with with this year's Eraserland album. Here's a clip of his performance of "Ruby" on Stephen Colbert's show. In addition to Mr. Isbell (lead guitar) and Miss Shires (fiddle), his band features several members of My Morning Jacket, and, on drums, Will Johnson, of Centro-Matic/South San Gabriel. Great stuff:

The second album is one of my two favorite albums of 2019 so far (along with Bruce Springsteen's remarkable Western Stars), Josh Ritter's Fever Breaks. I rarely comment on politics online, but "All Some Kind of Dream" captures how I feel about America the past three years under the Orange Sh*tgibbon - albeit with far more eloquence (and much, much less profanity) than I am capable of. I think in years to come - assuming we still have a functioning democracy, that is - this will be remembered as one of the songs that sum up the horror/sh*t show. Be sure to listen to the lyrics on this one:

I'll end with another song from Fever Breaks, "Old Black Magic." I usually post live performances of songs in my posts, but Jason Isbell uncorks a tremendous, blistering, minute-plus guitar solo at the end of the studio version that is so smoking-hot I just had to share it. Play this one LOUD:

That will do it for now. Look for several longer posts in the near future (again, honest!). Have a good weekend, everyone...

Some Songs for Independence Day

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Thought I would share some songs for this Independence Day.

Here's the band X performing their classic "4th of July" at Farm Aid on July 4th, 1986. That's Dave Alvin, the song's author (and a brilliant songwriter and guitarist) on lead guitar.

This is Mr. Alvin performing a tremendous live version with his own band. I just saw this today, but I think it might be my favorite version ever:

The late, great (and sorely missed) Elliott Smith, performing a stripped down version of "Independence Day," from his 1998 album XO, with the help of Jon Brian and Brad Mehldau:

And the gorgeous studio version:

A song about Independence Day, written by an Irishman - "Almost Independence Day," from Van Morrison's 1972 classic St. Dominic's Preview:

I read that this song was improvised live in the studio; this is the first (and only) take. Remarkable.

And finally, the perfect song to end this post - Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder, performing Steve Van Zandt's "I Am a Patriot":

Says it all in these fraught days.

Picture This

Monday, July 1, 2019

Hello all - hope everyone's summer is off to a good start. I've been working on a writing project the past 4-6 weeks that's taking up most of my free time, but I wanted to pop in and let folks know I'm still around.

I also thought I would post something fun. The company I work for has an annual barbecue to kick off summer. This year, like more than a few others, we had a torrential downpour the day of the picnic. My colleague S and I raced outside, grabbed some food (which was excellent), and then raced back inside, dodging the nearly horizontal rain the entire way.

Needless to say all of the outdoor events were cancelled because of the conditions. Fortunately one activity was able to move inside: the caricaturists. A colleague mentioned where they were, so I trekked downstairs and waited my turn.

I had a fun chat about music with the artist as he worked; it turned out we had similar taste, which made the time fly as he worked. (He joked that his wife was going to throttle him when he came home with five new albums we discussed.) 

In any case, here's the end result (which I really like, incidentally):

And for anyone who's curious, here are the other two. First, from 2018:

And from 2015:

I never cease to be amazed at how talented these folks are. Can't wait to see what the next one looks like. :c)

Hope to have more posts in the (relatively) near future. Watch this space... 


In keeping with the post's theme, a few picture-related songs for you.

First, a standout track from The Kinks, from their 1968 masterpiece The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society - "Picture Book":

Next, a great song from the Nineties, Filter's "Take a Picture":

And last but definitely not least, one of my very favorite songs from one of my very favorite bands - "Camera," from R.E.M.'s 1984 classic Reckoning:

Such a beautiful, haunting song, which Michael Stipe wrote as a tribute to his friend Carol Levy, a photographer who was killed in a car crash.

I saw R.E.M. perform this as their first encore on the Reckoning tour that year. The crowd was in a frenzy when they came back on stage; much to the astonishment of myself and my friends, they chose to play this, one of their quietest and most somber songs. And they pulled it off; by the end of the song you could hear a pin drop in the sold-out 2300 seat theatre.

I distinctly remember talking with my friends on the way home, and how impressed we were, to a person, that they knew exactly what song to play at that moment, and how they were destined for great things. And the rest, as they say, is history...


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