music clip of the day


Category: mandolin

Wednesday, April 12th


Old recordings, where everyone involved is long dead, don’t just appeal to the ears—they’re springboards for the imagination. Here’s one made in Memphis nearly 90 years ago.

Close your eyes.

Open your imagination.

They’re just about ready to record.

What’s the room look like?

What’s the last thing said before they start?

Tommy Johnson (1896-1956), “Cool Drink of Water Blues” (1928)



art beat

Robert Frank (1924-), Funeral—St. Helena, South Carolina, 1955/56

Thursday, April 2nd

More of Buddy M.

Buddy Miller & Jim Lauderdale, The Lone Bellow (27:50-), Rosanne Cash (1:08:05-), live, New York, 8/9/14



random sights

Tuesday, Columbus Park, Chicago


Wednesday, February 18th

white folks got soul, too
(day three)

J.J. Cale (1938-2013)

“Call Me the Breeze” (J.J. Cale), live, Tulsa, 2004


“After Midnight” (J.J. Cale), live (with Eric Clapton), Dallas, 2004

Sunday, October 5th

three takes

“What Would You Give in Exchange for Your Soul”

Marty Stuart (vocals, mandolin) & Del McCoury (vocals, guitar)
Live (TV show), 2009


Bill Monroe (vocals, mandolin) & Doc Watson (vocals, guitar)
Recording, 1963


Johnny Cash
Live (TV interview)



art beat

Helen Levitt (1913-2009), New York, 1940


Sunday, October 6th

two takes

Bobby McFerrin, “Joshua,” live (studio performances), 2013

WNYC-FM, New York


WFUV-FM, New York



reading table

Novelist Philip Roth on death, getting older, etc.:

‘You think, That’s the end of it when your parents die. After that, you’re done. Nobody’s supposed to die anymore, right?’

—Claudia Roth Pierpont, “The Book of Laughter: Philip Roth and His Friends,” New Yorker, 10/7/13


‘Seventy-five; how sudden.’


‘Time runs out at a terrifying speed. It seems that it was just 1943.’

—Patricia Cohen, “Philip Roth, Provacateur, Is Celebrated at 75,” New York Times, 4/12/08

Saturday, June 29th

White folks are cool, too.

Buddy Miller and Jim Lauderdale, live, Washington, D.C., 2013

Sunday, 5/20/12

three takes

“Trials, Troubles, Tribulations” (E.C. Ball)
(AKA “Tribulations”)

Andrew Bird
Live, Nashville (Grimey’s New & Preloved Music), 2009


Wayne Henderson, Martha Spencer & Jackson Cunningham
Live, Maryland (Rockville), 2010


E.C. Ball & Lacey Richardson
Recording (Alan Lomax), 1959-60



listening room: (some of) what’s playing

 Face A Frowning World: An E.C. Ball Memorial Album (Tompkins Square)

• Merle Haggard, If I Could Only Fly (Anti- Records)

• The Canton Spirituals, The Live Experience 1999 (Verity Records)

• Getatchew Mekuria & The Ex & Guests, Moa Anbessa (Terp Records)

• Derek Bailey, Bill Laswell, Tony Williams, Arcana (DIW Records)

• Peter Brotzmann Octet, Machine Gun (FMP)

• Peter Brotzmann Sextet & Quartet, Nipples (Atavistic Records/Unheard Music Series)

• Miles Davis Quintet, Live in Europe 1967 (Columbia)

• Cecil Taylor European Orchestra, Alms/Tiergarten (Spree) (FMP)

• Alfred Cortot, piano, The Master Pianist (EMI, Icon Series)

• Nathan Milstein, violin, J.S. Bach: Sonatas & Partitas (Deutsche Grammaphon)

• Arnold Schoenberg, Das Klavierwerk, Peter Serkin, piano (Arcana)

• WKCR-FM (broadcasting from Columbia University)

Bird Flight (Phil Schaap, jazz [Charlie Parker])
Eastern Standard Time (Carter Van Pelt, Jamaican music)


Mudd Up! (DJ/Rupture“new bass and beats”)
Sinner’s Crossroads 
(Kevin Nutt, gospel)
Cherry Blossom Clinic (Terre T, rock, etc.)
Fool’s Paradise (Rex; “Vintage rockabilly, R & B, blues, vocal groups, garage, instrumentals, hillbilly, soul and surf”)
Downtown Soulville (Mr. Fine Wine, soul, etc.)

• WHPK-FM (broadcasting from University of Chicago)

The Blues Excursion (Arkansas Red)

Friday, 4/20/12


Levon Helm, drummer, singer, songwriter, actor, etc.
May 26, 1940-April 19, 2012

Live,  2/12, Woodstock, NY (Levon’s home)



“The Weight”


“When I Go Away,” recording (Electric Dirt, 2009)



Levon Helm will always hold a special place in my heart. He was as great of an actor as a musician. For me watching him play the role of my daddy in Coal Miner’s Daughter is a memory I will always treasure.

Loretta Lynn


When I heard The Band’s Music from Big Pink, their music changed my life. And Levon was a big part of that band. Nigel Olson, my drummer, will tell you that every drummer that heard him was influenced by him. He was the greatest drummer and a wonderful singer and just a part of my life that was magical. They once flew down to see me in Philadelphia and I couldn’t believe it. They were one of the greatest bands of all time. They really changed the face of music when their records came out. I had no idea he was sick so I’m very dismayed and shocked that he died so quickly. But now my son [Zachary Jackson Levon Furnish-John] has his name.

Elton John


He was my bosom buddy friend to the end, one of the last true great spirits of my or any other generation. This is just so sad to talk about. I still can remember the first day I met him and the last day I saw him. We go back pretty far and had been through some trials together. I’m going to miss him, as I’m sure a whole lot of others will too.

Bob Dylan

Friday, 11/26/10

Deep, wide, strong: the groove, with this guy at the drums, is like a river.

The Levon Helm Band with guest Jim Keltner (drums), “Deep Ellum Blues,” live, Los Angeles (Greek Theater), 8/15/10

Thursday, 7/1/10

looking back

Today, celebrating our 300th post, we revisit a few favorites.



Both Chicago blues artists. Both guitar players. Both influenced by other kinds of music.

Musical personalities? They could hardly be more different.

Buddy Guy, “Let Me Love You Baby,” live


Fenton Robinson, “Somebody Loan Me A Dime,” live, 1977


Back in the 1970s, when I was at Alligator Records, I had the pleasure of working with Fenton, co-producing his album I Hear Some Blues Downstairs (a Grammy nominee). He didn’t fit the stereotype of a bluesman. Gentle, soft-spoken, serious, introspective: he was all these things. He died in 1997.



What other pop star has made such stunning contributions as a guest artist?

Sinead O’Connor

With Willie Nelson, “Don’t Give Up”


With the Chieftains, “The Foggy Dew”


With Shane MacGowan, “Haunted”



two takes

“La-La Means I Love You”

The Delfonics, live, 2008 (originally recorded 1968)


Bill Frisell, live, New York (Rochester), 2007



musical thoughts

Music . . . carr[ies] us smoothly across the tumult of experience, like water over rocks.

Vijay Iyer, liner notes, Historicity (2009)

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