I have been busy and I am back at this business of boring the world with the everyday experiences of my life. Some will be sorry but I suspect that most of them have not lingered long at this place anyway. If you are reading this, Thanks.
What’s Bob Listening To?
It’s A Brand New Day
I can’t remember the last time I played a new CD over again after listening to it the first time. I just fired up I And Love And You by the Avett Brothers for the third listen. I guess you know where this is going so beware.
On listening to the new Avetts CD it struck me just how aware these guys are as to where they are going. They know they have left some things and perhaps some folks behind. But that is what happens in life. You grow or you don’t and if you don’t then we all know what happens to you. So long. Farewell. Been nice knowin’ ya.
Much has been made of the new disc and how it’s just not those old boot flingin’, stompin’, shoutin” boys we have come to love so well. But come on now. It’s not really quite that way. There are banjos and shouting on this disc. What the hell is wrong with a piano and drums?
If I thought that all of this was a terrible thing for the Avetts, and I most certainly do not, I would still have to admit that the song writing is as strong as ever. These are not three chord progressions or sing-song bouncy love songs. The lyrics and rhythms are as strong as ever and there is more. There is much more. What we have is a clean representation of their ability as musicians and clean is not necessarily a bad thing.
The important thing to me is that they know very much that they are moving on. In the opening title cut they tell us so. They speak of New York and all that the big city means. They are heading north. They are going to the evil world and taking their banjos, cellos, guitars, pianos and yes, even the devils own instrument, the drums with them. The addition of piano and drums to the majority of the tunes is a compromise in some folk’s eyes, but to me it speaks of reaching out. It speaks of extending the warm hand of their talents to those who have a narrower view of the musical world. You know, the majority of dim wits that buy records. If you hate compromise then I can see where you might have a hard time swallowing this new Avett attitude but most people who are true artists want to share what they believe is of value with the rest of the world. Or at least a bigger portion than the fringe crazies that some of us belong to. They want to be successful if they can and we all need to let our ears grow just a little. This CD is a stretch in that direction.
I am blown away by And It Spread.
This is classic Avetts with the new twist of drums but still retaining that great bass and cello foundation. The stompin’ is there. The shoutin’ is there. And the poetry has never left. A+ in my humble opinion.
At bottom the whole idea that the Avetts have left their roots and abandoned those crazies who helped them reach this point in their career is why some of those good old folks out there are having a hard time swallowing this. I personally believe they have allowed their feelings to be hurt and are being incredibly selfish. No artist creates and then hopes that he will achieve a minimum of success and be happy with a small cadre of followers. Is there any sense in this? Check out the lyrics to The Perfect Space. This sounds like a production from Sgt. Pepper. Who are these guys?
“I want to have friends that I can trust that love me for the man I’ve become not the man I was”
Oh they know they are changing.
“I want to have pride like my mamma has and not like the kind in the Bible that turns you bad”.
And then we have Ten Thousand Words.
Everything in this poem speaks of self knowledge and the roads we take.
“We love to talk on things we don’t know about”. Yes. I know. That applies to this scribbling as well. In the end it makes no difference what I have to say about these simple men making simple art, but…. I gotta tell you that if this art is really so simple then why don’t we have more of it in the world? I’m crazy but I gotta tell you I think this is the stuff to be crazy about.
“Quick to point out our shortcomings”.
There is much more in this astounding music and inspiring self analyzing lyrics then I am capable of expressing. Listen to the CD. If you don’t like it fine. I personally find much to impress and inspire.
Kick Drum Heart.
The heart of the Avetts will probably always be connected to the kick drum that is such an important instrument in their live performances. That explosive electricity is key to what we all love about these guys but it can reside in their hearts and always be a part of their sound without holding them back. The screaming and the pounding rhythm will reside with them forever. But do not try to hold them back with the musical limitations of your ears. Turn your back on them if you must but they have made it quite clear to this listener that they will continue to venture forth, exploring new sounds and poetry as they see fit. We would be wrong to confuse breaking new ground with conforming to some mythical musical framework. Sure we have heard piano and drums before but nobody complains if Neil Young uses them, or Bob Dylan or any of the other giants who have turned their backs on their so called fans to explore new directions.
More than forty years ago a young and upcoming folk singer followed a musical whim and started playing electric music. In an apparent attempt to turn his back on his real fans he struck out in a new direction and took a lot of grief over the whole thing. The good news is that he is still making recordings and is a virtual god in the musical pantheon of America. God willing, some of us will still be listening to the Avetts forty years from now.
As always. You listen. You decide. I personally can’t wait to hear what they do next.
One thing I believe with all my heart is that they will be writing and performing music no matter how large or small their audience is. As a fan though, I have to admit that I would love to see them succeed.
“They say don’t take your business to the Big Time, I bought us tickets there”.
Don’t tell these guys not to change. They are going their own way and we will ultimately benefit from it.
October 13th, 2009
I will be away from this space for the next four to six weeks. My computer is giving me some problems and in order to have the work done under the service contract I purchased from Best Buy, I have to take it to one of their stores. They have informed me that it will take that long to replace my CD drive. I think that this is one of the lamest excuses for poor service I have ever heard but my only other option is to buy and replace the drive myself which would mean that when I purchased the extended service contract I was actually just throwing my money down the toilet. What are you going to do?
Some folks use their computers more than others and for me to give up my machine for that length of time is a royal inconvenience. I am not very happy with Best Buy and will probably never buy a computer from them again. Thanks for nothin’.
In the mean time I will be working on some other personal writing projects that I have underway including some journaling by long hand and the completion of my first e-book entitled; Flatulence: A frank and open discussion. I hope to have it available for purchase when I return with my next post on this site. That is as soon as the customer service experts at Best Buy get finished with the arduous task of replacing a CD drive. Anyone with a Paypal account will be able to get it for $9.95 and I know you won’t want to miss it as I intend to give the subject a thorough airing.
Stay safe and work hard.
August 9th, 2009
The First food on the New Grill.
I just bought my first gas grill. That is to say that this is the first gas grill I have ever owned that I actually paid for myself. In the past I have inherited a couple and I have acquired a few more in trades or by moving into houses that had built in ones in the back yard that were attached to the gas line; but this is the first gas grill that I have purchased and it’s a pretty cheap one.
I much prefer to grill food on charcoal. I enjoy the primitive nature of building a fire and the challenge of preparing food while carefully monitoring the temperature of burning charcoal. I also think that charcoal adds a certain flavor to food that is hard to beat.
Now to be perfectly clear here I want to point out that what I am talking about is cooking food over a fire outside the house. I call this grilling but where I grew up in northern Pennsylvania, they often referred to it as barbecuing. Since I have lived in the south, I no longer think of barbecue in the same manner. Those of you who have read previous posts know what I am talking about.
The Loaded Charcoal Grill
Now smoking food is somewhat related to grilling as well as barbecue. I have smoked a great deal of meat over the years on small water smokers and some of that was pork that became barbecue once I had added the appropriate sauce to it. A slow cooked pork shoulder on a good smoker, like the Weber Rocky Mountain Smoker, is hard to beat. When properly done it can take as much as fifteen hours and is well worth the wait.
So why did I buy a gas grill if I think that charcoal is so much better?
I was looking for something that could be used easily and quickly. I live in a house with a glass top stove and since I own a fair amount of cast iron cookware (which cannot be used on glass top ranges) I wanted to have an alternative cooking system that I could turn to. Since it is gas, there is no wait time for the charcoal to get ready and very little clean up when I am done. I can push the electric igniter and have the grill hot and ready to use in less than five minutes and when I’m done I can turn it off, scrape off the grill and be done until the next time I want to cook something.
I purchased the new grill just a little over two weeks ago and we have been using it quite regularly. Getting it here and together was quite a chore, but with the help of my son we managed to pull it off.
I went to the store and found out that they were willing to assemble the whole thing for free. It was some sort of special sale they were running but I also discovered that they normally only charged ten dollars to do it anyway. Now I am not the world’s greatest handyman by any stretch of the imagination so I will always try to avoid having to assemble anything I purchase. Years of putting together chairs, tables, couches and other items has taught me to avoid this whenever possible. I usually feel lucky if there are only a couple of pieces left over when I am done. That seems to me to be much better than to draw near the end of the project and not have some of the items that it is clear you need to finish the job. My joy at discovering the free construction of the grill I wanted was short lived however, because I soon discovered that the assembled grill was just not going to fit into my van. I measured that grill several times and I kept measuring the doors on my van and no matter how I moved the grill around in my head or how I thought about laying it on its back or side or face down or whatever, it just was not going to fit.
When I inquired about home delivery I learned that they would be glad to deliver it to me for seventy bucks. Great. The whole thing was only costing me a hundred dollars more than that. I just could not feel good about spending a third of my purchase in getting the thing to my house. No matter how I studied the situation I had to accept the fact that I was just going to have to put this bad boy together at my house. So I bit the bullet and bought one in the box. Actually, it was a real tight fit getting the box in the van but we made it.
This all took place on the Thursday before the Fourth of July weekend and we certainly wanted to have that thing together for the holiday. I was already imagining all the things I wanted to burn on that grill.
My son and I got it into the house and opened it up. I started reading the instructions and he laid out all of the tools and parts that were packed in plastic bags. By carefully following the instructions which weren’t terrible, but then they are never great, we proceeded to build, step-by-step this burning machine.
You are probably wondering about me calling this grill a burning machine. Some of you who know me are aware that I constantly refer to grilling food as burning food. Burning meat is what I am doing when I cook burgers or steak on the grill. I don’t intentionally try to overcook these foods but let’s face it; I am cooking them over fire.
It kind of brings out the caveman in me. You know what I mean?
And then of course there is the whole social aspect of cooking over fire. If you have friends or family over and you are all standing around the grill watching the food cook, everyone has to put in their two cents. Almost everyone has an opinion to offer. Everyone has their own method of cooking on the grill and most are more than willing to share their opinions. I love this part of it, but I usually do things my own way.
Back to the Construction Project
There were several stops and starts. At one point we could not figure out why they placed the main screws in such a way that you had to practically stand on your head to put them in. Then we lifted the top of the grill up and found out you could put them in while looking down at the middle section. All in all after a lot of grunting and aggravation we got the damn thing together, hooked up the tank and lit the burners. Voila! It actually worked.
At this point I would not be completely honest if I didn’t make it clear that I would never have been able to do it myself. A big thanks to my son, Abraham.
I love to read the Old Testament. The Jewish Bible has inspired authors, artists and musicians for thousands of years and is the source of much of our western world morality.
In the book of Leviticus we learn a great deal about the tribe of Levi. These were the people God chose to act as priests. A lot of rules and rituals were revealed in that book and the priests were the ones who sacrificed the offerings of animals and plants. They laid them on burning alters and offered them up to God. These ritual sacrifices were described in great detail and the priests were permitted to partake of some of the offerings as food.
Sometimes when I am up to my elbows in flame and sizzling fat I imagine myself as burning sacrifices to God. Since I feel that all of us are priests in this world and called upon to help each other out, I’m not all that sure that this is such a wild idea. I think that our interpretation of prayer, or communicating with God, can often be a bit restrictive. Shouldn’t we move through life in a prayerful manner? Shouldn’t we be trying to communicate with the higher power; however we imagine it, in all we do? It may seem like a bit of a stretch to some, but I think I am on a certain level, praying when I burn meat on my grill.
Ribs on the Smoker
I do know for sure, that I am eternally grateful to have been blessed with good food to eat and good friends and family to eat it with. Let us give thanks in all we do.
July 20th, 2009