1. Cowboy Jack Clement was a prolific producer, songwriter, arranger, and talent scout.  He only made three albums of his own, the last of which is the new For Once and For All, executive produced by T Bone Burnett.  Ken Tucker reviews: 

Cowboy Jack Clement – the “cowboy” nickname was always something of a joke; he once said, “cowboy boots make my feet hurt”—was a colorful character as well as a first-rate songwriter and producer. Clement told music historian Peter Guralnick that Shakespeare and PG Wodehouse were influences on him as significant as any country or rock & roll artist, and since he wrote tunes for Johnny Cash called “Dirty Old Egg-Suckin’ Dog” and “Flushed from the Bathroom of your Heart,” I’m inclined to believe him. He also wrote some of the finest pure-country songs ever. 
View in High-Res

    Cowboy Jack Clement was a prolific producer, songwriter, arranger, and talent scout.  He only made three albums of his own, the last of which is the new For Once and For All, executive produced by T Bone Burnett.  Ken Tucker reviews: 

    Cowboy Jack Clement – the “cowboy” nickname was always something of a joke; he once said, “cowboy boots make my feet hurt”—was a colorful character as well as a first-rate songwriter and producer. Clement told music historian Peter Guralnick that Shakespeare and PG Wodehouse were influences on him as significant as any country or rock & roll artist, and since he wrote tunes for Johnny Cash called “Dirty Old Egg-Suckin’ Dog” and “Flushed from the Bathroom of your Heart,” I’m inclined to believe him. He also wrote some of the finest pure-country songs ever. 

  2. cowboy jack clement

    t bone burnett

    ken tucker

    review

  1. Marja Mills, a reporter for the Chicago Tribune, spent 18 months living next door to Harper Lee and her sister Alice. Maureen Corrigan reviews Mills’ book about the experience, titled  The Mockingbird Next Door: 

Rather than warmed-over gossip, what The Mockingbird Next Door does offer is a rich sense of the daily texture of the Lee sisters’ lives. By the time she moved to Monroeville, Mills had been diagnosed with Lupus and was out on disability from the Chicago Tribune. Consequently, she entered easily into the world of the Lees and their “gray-haired crew” — all of them shared aching joints and free time to talk about books and local history, to go fishing and take long car rides into the country. Mills says she had to watch herself with Harper, who had more of an “edge” than her older sister Alice. Whereas Harper could shut down a conversation with a frosty stare or a few choice cuss words, Alice comes off as gracious, grounded and principled. During her long legal career, she was a steady proponent of The Civil Rights Movement, prompting Harper Lee to refer to Alice admiringly as: “Atticus in a skirt.”


Photo: Book author Harper Lee and Mary Badham (in the tire swing), who plays Scout in the film version of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” are shown on a film set at Universal Studio in 1961. View in High-Res

    Marja Mills, a reporter for the Chicago Tribune, spent 18 months living next door to Harper Lee and her sister Alice. Maureen Corrigan reviews Mills’ book about the experience, titled  The Mockingbird Next Door

    Rather than warmed-over gossip, what The Mockingbird Next Door does offer is a rich sense of the daily texture of the Lee sisters’ lives. By the time she moved to Monroeville, Mills had been diagnosed with Lupus and was out on disability from the Chicago Tribune. Consequently, she entered easily into the world of the Lees and their “gray-haired crew” — all of them shared aching joints and free time to talk about books and local history, to go fishing and take long car rides into the country. Mills says she had to watch herself with Harper, who had more of an “edge” than her older sister Alice. Whereas Harper could shut down a conversation with a frosty stare or a few choice cuss words, Alice comes off as gracious, grounded and principled. During her long legal career, she was a steady proponent of The Civil Rights Movement, prompting Harper Lee to refer to Alice admiringly as: “Atticus in a skirt.”

    Photo: Book author Harper Lee and Mary Badham (in the tire swing), who plays Scout in the film version of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” are shown on a film set at Universal Studio in 1961.

  2. to kill a mockingbird

    harper lee

    marja mills

    the mockingbird next door

    atticus finch

    review

    maureen corrigan

  1. Linklater has always used time as a character. It’s in the titles of his Before trilogy, featuring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy as characters at different junctures: Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, Before Midnight. They have to reconnect in each film—and fast, because the clock is ticking. I love these films, but they’re talky. Linklater is so literal about time he never seems to use the full, transcendent resources of cinema.

    He does in Boyhood.

    — David Edelstein reviews Boyhood, directed by Richard Linklater

  2. david edelstein

    boyhood

    richard linklater

    before sunrise

    before sunset

    before midnight

    film

    review

    movies

  1. Ken Tucker on Jim Lauderdale's 'admirable and somewhat puzzling career' and his new album I’m a Song: 

"So with all these good songs and strong singing, why isn’t Lauderdale a bigger star? I think one answer is the absence of a consistent persona in his work. Look at his idols: George Jones is, in Jim’s phrase, the king of broken hearts; Gram Parsons is the sensitive tragic hero that Lauderdale is too optimistic and too wise to the ways of the music biz to emulate; bluegrass legend Ralph Stanley, with whom Lauderdale recorded a Grammy-winning album, is the kind of formalist that Jim never aspired to be. Lauderdale rarely goes as bleakly dark as his pal Buddy Miller can, both on guitar and in lyrics with his wife Julie Miller. One reason Lauderdale is a successful songwriter for others is because he can slip into others’ skins, and write from different points of view and moods. On his own projects, and on the satellite radio show he co-hosts with Buddy Miller, he projects a sunniness that to some listeners may come across as lightweight. But it takes as much craft to sound resilient as it does to sound shattered and depressed."
View in High-Res

    Ken Tucker on Jim Lauderdale's 'admirable and somewhat puzzling career' and his new album I’m a Song:

    "So with all these good songs and strong singing, why isn’t Lauderdale a bigger star? I think one answer is the absence of a consistent persona in his work. Look at his idols: George Jones is, in Jim’s phrase, the king of broken hearts; Gram Parsons is the sensitive tragic hero that Lauderdale is too optimistic and too wise to the ways of the music biz to emulate; bluegrass legend Ralph Stanley, with whom Lauderdale recorded a Grammy-winning album, is the kind of formalist that Jim never aspired to be. Lauderdale rarely goes as bleakly dark as his pal Buddy Miller can, both on guitar and in lyrics with his wife Julie Miller. One reason Lauderdale is a successful songwriter for others is because he can slip into others’ skins, and write from different points of view and moods. On his own projects, and on the satellite radio show he co-hosts with Buddy Miller, he projects a sunniness that to some listeners may come across as lightweight. But it takes as much craft to sound resilient as it does to sound shattered and depressed."

  2. jim lauderdale

    review

    ken tucker

  1. Fresh Air TV critic David Bianculli reviews two new creepy sci-fi shows premiering this week, Extant and The Strain:

    "Extant has a premise that could go places, but based on the pilot, many of those places are awfully, unimpressively familiar. The moment when Halle Berry, as female astronaut Molly Watts, encounters an anomaly in space, it’s while talking to her family back home, and to her onboard computer, when she loses the video signal. The computer isn’t named HAL, as in 2001: A Space Odyssey – it’s named Ben. But still…

    Much better, even though it treads on similarly familiar ground, is FX’s The Strain. This one stars Corey Stoll, who’s more than up to the demands of a leading role – in supporting parts, he played the out-of-control young congressman in Netflix’s House of Cards, and a memorably magnetic Ernest Hemingway in Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris. In The Strain, he plays a scientist named Ephraim Goodweather, who heads the Centers for Disease Control team called in to investigate a very bizarre airline disaster. The plane has landed safely in New York – but neither the crew nor the passengers have made a move, or a sound, since, and may not even be alive.”

  2. extant

    the strain

    david bianculli

    review

    guillermo del toro

    sci-fi

  1. John Powers, Fresh Air’s critic at-large, reviews Violette a film by French director Martin Provost: 

Americans put a lot of stock in being likable.  Pollsters take surveys of the president’s likability.  Test screenings check whether we like the characters in movies.  And when a literary novelist like Claire Messud mocks the notion that fictional characters should be someone we’d like to be friends with, writers of popular fiction attack her for snootiness.



You rarely find such disputes in France, which finds our fetish of likability charmingly simple, rather like our shock at politicians committing adultery.  Hooked on the fervent, the argumentative, even the crazy, the French really like liking unlikable characters.



You find a real doozy in the revelatory, strangely gripping new film Violette.  It’s a fictionalized portrait of Violette Leduc, the trailblazing French novelist who may have been even better at being a pain than she was at writing.  An illegitimate child, Violette felt unwanted by her mother, and lugged her loveless sense of grievance through life like an accordion made of lead.  Her key signature was exasperating self-pity.      
View in High-Res

    John Powers, Fresh Air’s critic at-large, reviews Violette a film by French director Martin Provost: 

    Americans put a lot of stock in being likable.  Pollsters take surveys of the president’s likability.  Test screenings check whether we like the characters in movies.  And when a literary novelist like Claire Messud mocks the notion that fictional characters should be someone we’d like to be friends with, writers of popular fiction attack her for snootiness.

    You rarely find such disputes in France, which finds our fetish of likability charmingly simple, rather like our shock at politicians committing adultery.  Hooked on the fervent, the argumentative, even the crazy, the French really like liking unlikable characters.

    You find a real doozy in the revelatory, strangely gripping new film Violette.  It’s a fictionalized portrait of Violette Leduc, the trailblazing French novelist who may have been even better at being a pain than she was at writing.  An illegitimate child, Violette felt unwanted by her mother, and lugged her loveless sense of grievance through life like an accordion made of lead.  Her key signature was exasperating self-pity.     

  2. violette

    film

    review

    martin provost

    john powers

    violette leduc

  1. Fresh Air jazz critic Kevin Whitehead reviews ‘Wish The Children Would Come On Home' by The Westerlies, a quartet of young New York brass players playing the music of composer and improviser Wayne Horvitz: 

"There are a few such echoes here of riffing minimalism, another music built on the cumulative power of simple riffs. It’s part of the mix alongside jazz, chamber music, small-town brass bands and garage rock. The Westerlies represent a breed of musicians rare when [composer] Wayne Horvitz was coming up: skilled interpreters who are also adept improvisers. With such versatile and well-equipped performers around, composers can expand their reach—and they may all wind up in places they might not’ve found on their own."
View in High-Res

    Fresh Air jazz critic Kevin Whitehead reviews ‘Wish The Children Would Come On Home' by The Westerlies, a quartet of young New York brass players playing the music of composer and improviser Wayne Horvitz: 

    "There are a few such echoes here of riffing minimalism, another music built on the cumulative power of simple riffs. It’s part of the mix alongside jazz, chamber music, small-town brass bands and garage rock. The Westerlies represent a breed of musicians rare when [composer] Wayne Horvitz was coming up: skilled interpreters who are also adept improvisers. With such versatile and well-equipped performers around, composers can expand their reach—and they may all wind up in places they might not’ve found on their own."

  2. the westerlies

    jazz

    kevin whitehead

    review

    wayne horvitz

    brass

  1. David Edelstein reviews Begin Again starring Keira Knightley, Mark Ruffalo, and Adam Levine:

The Irish director John Carney has a touching faith in the idea that people who are culturally and temperamentally unalike can achieve oneness by making music together. That’s not exactly a radical idea in the world of musicals, but in his 2006 hit, Once, he proved he had a knack for giving sentimental showbiz fairy tales the texture and tang of real life, and for knowing when to darken the mood with harsh notes. In Begin Again, he makes the case once more that a song can save your life. The original title was even, Can A Song Save Your Life? which sounds like a name for the worst quiz show ever.
View in High-Res

    David Edelstein reviews Begin Again starring Keira Knightley, Mark Ruffalo, and Adam Levine:

    The Irish director John Carney has a touching faith in the idea that people who are culturally and temperamentally unalike can achieve oneness by making music together. That’s not exactly a radical idea in the world of musicals, but in his 2006 hit, Once, he proved he had a knack for giving sentimental showbiz fairy tales the texture and tang of real life, and for knowing when to darken the mood with harsh notes. In Begin Again, he makes the case once more that a song can save your life. The original title was even, Can A Song Save Your Life? which sounds like a name for the worst quiz show ever.

  2. begin again

    david edelstein

    keira knightley

    once

    fresh air

    review

  1. Musician Timothy Showalter has been recording under the name Strand of Oaks since 2006. He has cited performers ranging from Jeff Buckley to the comedian Richard Pryor as influences. Rock critic Ken Tucker reviews his album ‘Heal’:


"If you’re going to be downbeat, glum, or morose, it’s best to do it the way Timothy Showalter does it. Which is, with an energy and purpose that doesn’t contradict the melancholy, but rather frames it as various stories—studies in seriousness. He records under the name Strand of Oaks, he writes and performs nearly all of the music on this new album himself, and it’s titled Heal as in “healing a wound,” something Strand of Oaks frequently seems in need of."
View in High-Res

    Musician Timothy Showalter has been recording under the name Strand of Oaks since 2006. He has cited performers ranging from Jeff Buckley to the comedian Richard Pryor as influences. Rock critic Ken Tucker reviews his album ‘Heal’:

    "If you’re going to be downbeat, glum, or morose, it’s best to do it the way Timothy Showalter does it. Which is, with an energy and purpose that doesn’t contradict the melancholy, but rather frames it as various stories—studies in seriousness. He records under the name Strand of Oaks, he writes and performs nearly all of the music on this new album himself, and it’s titled Heal as in “healing a wound,” something Strand of Oaks frequently seems in need of."

  2. strand of oaks

    timothy showalter

    ken tucker

    review

  1. 
"Lana Del Rey is sharp-witted, aiming to take her place among her predecessors. She is Morrissey with a better pout; she is Katy Perry with the blues. She’s the daughter Twin Peaks’ Laura Palmer never lived to have. Del Rey dares you to believe that she’s all trouble and impure pleasure, even as she crafts music so darkly inviting, it enters you like a knife between your ribs."

- Ken Tucker on Lana Del Rey’s Ultraviolence
View in High-Res

    "Lana Del Rey is sharp-witted, aiming to take her place among her predecessors. She is Morrissey with a better pout; she is Katy Perry with the blues. She’s the daughter Twin Peaks’ Laura Palmer never lived to have. Del Rey dares you to believe that she’s all trouble and impure pleasure, even as she crafts music so darkly inviting, it enters you like a knife between your ribs."

    - Ken Tucker on Lana Del Rey’s Ultraviolence

  2. lana del rey

    review

    ultraviolence

    ken tucker

    fresh air

  1. Fresh Air book critic Maureen Corrigan reviews The Most Dangerous Book by Kevin Birmingham, about the publication and censorship battles over James Joyce’s Ulysses. 

There are many heroes in the tale of how James Joyce’s masterpiece, Ulysses, which was banned for over ten years throughout the English-speaking world, finally won its long battle to be legally published, sold, and read.   Kevin Birmingham tells that extraordinary story in his new book about Ulysses, called The Most Dangerous Book; as I said, there are many heroes in it, but James Joyce himself isn’t one of them.  Narcissistic, manipulative, mean, and dissolute, Joyce was a handful from the time he was a teenager.  Here’s an example: when Joyce was just twenty, an intermediary arranged a meeting for him with W.B. Yeats, whom Joyce had publically criticized as a sentimental sell-out. Nonetheless, Yeats was gracious throughout their meeting, even offering to read the younger man’s poetry.  Joyce eventually stood up to leave and, in a parting shot, asked Yeats how old he was.  Yeats said he was thirty-six and Joyce replied:  “We have met too late.  You are too old for me to have any effect on you.”


Photo - Young James Joyce View in High-Res

    Fresh Air book critic Maureen Corrigan reviews The Most Dangerous Book by Kevin Birmingham, about the publication and censorship battles over James Joyce’s Ulysses. 

    There are many heroes in the tale of how James Joyce’s masterpiece, Ulysses, which was banned for over ten years throughout the English-speaking world, finally won its long battle to be legally published, sold, and read.   Kevin Birmingham tells that extraordinary story in his new book about Ulysses, called The Most Dangerous Book; as I said, there are many heroes in it, but James Joyce himself isn’t one of them.  Narcissistic, manipulative, mean, and dissolute, Joyce was a handful from the time he was a teenager.  Here’s an example: when Joyce was just twenty, an intermediary arranged a meeting for him with W.B. Yeats, whom Joyce had publically criticized as a sentimental sell-out. Nonetheless, Yeats was gracious throughout their meeting, even offering to read the younger man’s poetry.  Joyce eventually stood up to leave and, in a parting shot, asked Yeats how old he was.  Yeats said he was thirty-six and Joyce replied:  “We have met too late.  You are too old for me to have any effect on you.”

    Photo - Young James Joyce

  2. james joyce

    ulysses

    the most dangerous book

    maureen corrigan

    review

    fresh air

  1. 
"At the end of Jersey Boys, after trials and tragedies, Valli says nothing in his life compares to the moment they found their sound “under a Jersey streetlight.” Except that isn’t in the movie! It’s a huge loss: If there’s one thing artist biopics can do, it’s dramatize the alchemy of discipline and inspiration. But if Jersey Boys has many flaws of oversimplified musical theater, it has so very many of the corny joys.” 

-David Edelstein reviews Jersey Boys
View in High-Res

    "At the end of Jersey Boys, after trials and tragedies, Valli says nothing in his life compares to the moment they found their sound “under a Jersey streetlight.” Except that isn’t in the movie! It’s a huge loss: If there’s one thing artist biopics can do, it’s dramatize the alchemy of discipline and inspiration. But if Jersey Boys has many flaws of oversimplified musical theater, it has so very many of the corny joys.”

    -David Edelstein reviews Jersey Boys

  2. jersey boys

    frankie valli

    review

    david edelstein

  1. Fresh Air jazz critic Kevin Whitehead remembers jazz pianist Horace Silver, who passed away this week: 

"Horace Silver could handle bebop’s high-speed chases, but he favored more relaxed tempos and stronger echoes of blues and gospel—what came to be called hard bop. He started leading his own two-horn quintets featuring no end of original tunes with infectious, built-in grooves—and maybe little extensions or riffing interludes to spur the players on. On his mid-’50s hit “The Preacher,” adapted from an old drinking song, you can practically see the congregation swaying in the pews. Whole bands, whole movements would take off from that sound.”

    Fresh Air jazz critic Kevin Whitehead remembers jazz pianist Horace Silver, who passed away this week: 

    "Horace Silver could handle bebop’s high-speed chases, but he favored more relaxed tempos and stronger echoes of blues and gospel—what came to be called hard bop. He started leading his own two-horn quintets featuring no end of original tunes with infectious, built-in grooves—and maybe little extensions or riffing interludes to spur the players on. On his mid-’50s hit “The Preacher,” adapted from an old drinking song, you can practically see the congregation swaying in the pews. Whole bands, whole movements would take off from that sound.”

  2. horace silver

    jazz

    bop

    review

    kevin whitehead

  1. Fresh Air’s jazz critic Kevin Whitehead reviews two albums from Ronald Shannon Jackson & The Decoding Society that are now available for download, having been out of print for ages: 

Ronald Shannon Jackson like other ’80s composers abstracted looping structures from West Africa’s intersecting rhythm cycles. His tune “Iola” is built in layers: the basses play different lines, one twice as long as the other, as a horn melody moves in slow motion over the top. Vernon Reid plays banjo, African American instrument rarely heard in creative music, because of uncool associations with minstrelsy and dixieland. But its thin percussive snap cuts through and helps keep the texture transparent. 


Listen to the full review
image via Jazz Forum  View in High-Res

    Fresh Air’s jazz critic Kevin Whitehead reviews two albums from Ronald Shannon Jackson & The Decoding Society that are now available for download, having been out of print for ages: 

    Ronald Shannon Jackson like other ’80s composers abstracted looping structures from West Africa’s intersecting rhythm cycles. His tune “Iola” is built in layers: the basses play different lines, one twice as long as the other, as a horn melody moves in slow motion over the top. Vernon Reid plays banjo, African American instrument rarely heard in creative music, because of uncool associations with minstrelsy and dixieland. But its thin percussive snap cuts through and helps keep the texture transparent. 

    Listen to the full review

    image via Jazz Forum 

  2. ronald shannon jackson

    free funk

    music

    review

    kevin whitehead

  1. Fresh Air critic Ken Tucker reviews the latest album from Parquet Courts, Sunbathing Animal: 

Parquet Courts creates songs that dare you to be irritated by them. They stick with a riff like that one, a song called “Dear Ramona,” and shuffle into it lines such as “Whoever she might be goin’ to bed with, you can read about that in her moleskine.” There’s an undercurrent of sarcasm there, and I would be surprised if the Parquet Courts boys don’t own a few moleskine notebooks themselves. But making clever snark develop into something more emotional, more revelatory — that’s the challenge the band sets for itself. 


photo by Ben Rayner via Rolling Stone View in High-Res

    Fresh Air critic Ken Tucker reviews the latest album from Parquet Courts, Sunbathing Animal: 

    Parquet Courts creates songs that dare you to be irritated by them. They stick with a riff like that one, a song called “Dear Ramona,” and shuffle into it lines such as “Whoever she might be goin’ to bed with, you can read about that in her moleskine.” There’s an undercurrent of sarcasm there, and I would be surprised if the Parquet Courts boys don’t own a few moleskine notebooks themselves. But making clever snark develop into something more emotional, more revelatory — that’s the challenge the band sets for itself.

    photo by Ben Rayner via Rolling Stone

  2. parquet courts

    ken tucker

    music

    review

    sunbathing animal