It seems like I haven’t tumbled in 4000 years, so to jump back on that train I’d like to pose the following question:
1) Is this the most beautiful song ever sung?
Flying to Texass today. This song pretty much sums it up.
Lana Del Ray covers “Heart-Shaped Box.” Not for the faint of heart. Be prepared to hate her, the song, yourself, music in general, and god.
An Open Letter to Taylor Kitsch
I am your biggest fan. Actually, I’m probably your creepiest fan, but the point is that I think you’re great. I’ve loved you since the first fifteen minutes of the Friday Night Lights pilot. And it’s because I love you that I’m going to tell you something that you might not want to hear: you have got to make better movie choices. I simply can’t keep defending you to my friends and colleagues.
Friday night I saw Savages, your third and final bomb of the summer movie season. John Carter and Battleship were bad, but Savages was almost unwatchable. Despite my undying love and admiration for you, I laughed my way through most of that movie. I was really hoping this would be your great redemption, but it’s clear now that was a pipe dream.
Let me get a few things straight. One, I don’t fault you for signing on for these three films, despite the fact that I wish you hadn’t. I am proud of you for scoring prominent roles in three big budget summer movies straight out of FNL. That is a testament to your star power. I can see how John Carter was an offer you couldn’t refuse. It’s Disney and they probably offered you a ridiculous amount of money. I remember that grew up poor.
Battleship was a reunion of FNL cast and crew, so it makes complete sense for you to be involved. I bet you were totally excited about it. I would be too. Honestly, I didn’t think Battleship was that bad. Once I got over the fact that I was watching a movie about fighting aliens at sea, I had an awesome time. Yes, it is a very dumb premise for a movie. But who says summer blockbusters have to be smart? Why the hell shouldn’t I enjoy a movie about fighting aliens at sea? YOLO, right? It was thrilling, funny, and emotional, and Rihanna was way better than I thought she would be. Plus, Jesse Plemons was in it, and he’s my fantasy best friend. The three of us should get coffee some time! I think Battleship sunk (ha) mainly because it was released two weeks after The Avengers, and it couldn’t compete with a film about superheroes fighting aliens on land. I am still upset with American moviegoers for this.
I’m sure Savages looked good on paper too. After all, there were several Academy Award winners involved in the production. I don’t fully blame you for it sucking, either. Really it’s Blake Lively who ruins the film. She is useless and terrible and she needs to fade into obscurity as soon as possible. I don’t blame you for signing on for an Oliver Stone action film based on an extremely popular novel in the same way that I’m not mad at you for picking John Carter and Battleship. Individually, they seem like decent choices for a television actor trying to establish a successful Hollywood career. But as a group, they really don’t work. Like, they’re almost offensive they’re so bad. And they’re not helping that career, either.
Pause. Take a breath. You don’t have to be a big budget action star. Not yet. No need to rush. Maybe you should take a step back. Take some supporting roles. Be picky. I hear you’re up for Finnick in The Hunger Games. I think that would be great! You’re certainly good looking enough, and I know you can walk the thin line between obnoxious and adorable. Also, there’s no way that movie can tank. Just put your ego aside, don’t listen so much to the managers who just want to make a buck off of your pretty face (maybe ask Coach and Tami Taylor for advice), and take roles that feel right.
Whatever you do, remind yourself that Friday Night Lights has given you a very devoted fan base. What we lack in size we make up for in passion. Just this weekend I met a girl who said that her only regret in life was watching FNL because now she can can’t watch it for the first time. Despite what I said in the first paragraph of this letter, I will always defend you to friends and colleuges. I believe you are a better actor than people want to give you credit for. I started loving Tim Riggins because he said “Texas forever,” and because he had the best hair and biceps I have ever seen. But I started loving Taylor Kitsch because he gave Tim Riggins heart and soul. I also started to love you because I watched a YouTube video of you fly fishing in the Guadeloupe River, and that is really hot. One day I’ll get a cat. I’ll name him Tim Riggins and I’ll tell everyone that he was named after his father. I’ll go see Lone Survivor the first weekend it comes out next year. Who knows, maybe one day I’ll even suffer through Wolverine again just to hear you with a Cajun drawl in the last ten minutes. That movie really sucks so you know I’m devoted. Listen man, I love you despite the fact that you’re Canadian. If that ain’t a testament to your star power, then I don’t know what is.
So chin up, buddy. You’re gonna be okay. Just never ever ever ever make another movie with Blake fucking Lively. She’s the worst.
With undying love for you and Texas forever,
In recent news, I moved to New York City. I’ve been here for two weeks now and it has been an exhilarating though at times overwhelming amount of change, not the least of which is the devastating lack of tacos in my diet. Unwilling to accept that there is no good Mexican food in this town, I decided to reach out to a someone who would know what they are talking: The Homesick Texan, Lisa Fain. I should tell you that I don’t know her at all (even though we are best friends in my dreams), so I was super excited to hear back!
OMG does this mean we can gchat?
Updates and reviews to follow.
Levon Helm wasn’t a flashy player, merely a perfect one. The best musicians often give the impression that they make music conform to their own rules rather than the other way around, bending it to their will and converting the counterintuitive into the suddenly obvious. Watch this incredible performance of Van Morrison’s “Caravan” and pay attention to what happens at around 0:17: The Band start the song just a bit too fast, and three bars in Levon slows the entire thing down, in the blink of an eye, like an expert jockey atop a world-class thoroughbred. By conventional rule, spontaneously slowing down or speeding up a song is a cliché of bad music-making, but here it works. And of course the tempo he slows it to is exquisitely, achingly right.
It wasn’t all mysticism, of course. He was a technically monstrous player of unsurpassed versatility, one who could turn challenging music into something that sounded effortless. Other great bands have played difficult material, but on Steely Dan records the music sounds hard, wearing complexity on its sleeve with a sort of punk defiance. The Band’s “Jawbone” goes through more meters than Con Edison but sounds utterly natural: The Carter Family at a cookout with mid-’60s Miles Davis, everyone getting along, Levon working the grill.
He could sing a little, too. For all of his prowess at the drums, most of the world will remember Levon Helm as the voice of “Ophelia,” “Up On Cripple Creek,” “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.” The Band boasted an embarrassment of vocal riches, and while Levon lacked the extraordinary expressive range of Rick Danko and Richard Manuel, his may have been the most indelible sound of the three. Listening to that worn and cozy voice was like being told a story around a campfire, after the humidity has broken and the mosquitoes have gone to sleep. Come upon “The Weight” on the radio at the right moment, and the entire world stands still.
“Levon is in the final stages of his battle with cancer. Please send your prayers and love to him as he makes his way through this part of his journey. Thank you fans and music lovers who have made his life so filled with joy and celebration…he has loved nothing more than to play, to fill the room up with music, lay down the back beat, and make the people dance! He did it every time he took the stage.”
now I’m sad
Since I’m flying to Texas tomorrow (!!!) I was going to write another pointless essay about a musician born in Texas. Buuuut I found out I got into school (!!!) so instead I spent the whole day planning an impending move to New York City. So, in honor of my two favorite cities let us listen to Jerry Jeff Walker’s immortal “Mr. Bojangles”.
Mr. Walker wasn’t born in Texas, but he’s lived there for half his life. He helped to kick-start the outlaw country movement in Austin in the 70s, so it’s safe to say he’s achieved honorary status. Before moving to Austin he had acquired some mild success in the folk scene in Greenwich Village. If you want to know more about Jerry Jeff (and Willie, Waylon, et al) immediately go pick up the April issue of Texas Monthly. There’s an excellent oral history of the outlaw country movement that makes me severely depressed that I missed the release of The Red-Headed Stranger by ten years.
I’m flying to Texas in two days! To keep myself occupied I’m blogging about one Texas musician every day until then. Today we’re relaxing our standards a bit and writing about a man who was born in Louisiana but moved to Texas at the age of five, and spent much of his life around the Lousiana-Texas border. He’s probably more of a Louisiananimal, but he’s Lead Belly and he’s awesome and I feel like writing about him.
My first introduction to Lead Belly came from my friend Paul. Katherine and I were picking him up on South Congress where he was walking to meet us from his parents house in Travis Heights. He had his headphones in and was smoking a cigarrette, air-strumming his way down the road. When he got in the car he did what he normally does when I haven’t seen him in a while: he asked me what I had been listening to. Then he told me I should check out Lead Belly. I think we were 18.
Since then, Lead Belly comes up a lot when my high school friends and I are together. Often we find ourselves sitting around some fire, bellies full of beer or Dr. Pepper and Opa’s jalepeño chedder sausages. Someone always has a guitar and eventually they’ll play “Goodnight Irene” or “Midnight Special”. We all sing whatever we think the words are.
I’ve never grown up in any other part of the country so I can’t be sure, but I’m inclined to think this isn’t an exclusively Texan, or Southern, experience. Lead Belly was one of America’s greatest musical treasures, and I’m sure he’s celebrated by musically-inclined teenagers and adults from coast to coast. During his lifetime his popularity was not geographically limited. He first achieved fame through recordings done for the Library of Congress while he was at Angola Prison in Louisiana. After his release, the self-proclaimed “King of the 12-string” moved to New York City where he befriended the likes of Woody Guthrie and Josh White.
What is so universally appealing about Lead Belly is his undeniable skill. In fact, his animated tenor and fast-picking would help him to be pardoned by not only one, but two Governors. With a wealth of experience in the fields and prisons of the poor, rural South he mastered the blues, spirituals, folk songs and prison ballads. In other words, he was a baller.
Side note: my friends Molly, Lindsey and I once nicknamed a Teddy Bear “Lead Belly” when we were less than sober one night during our freshman year of college.
I’m flying home to Texas on Wednesday and until I’ll be blogging about one Texas artist every day until then. Today’s musician is Kenny Rogers because Kenny Rogers is amazing and he’s got one of the most beautiful beards in modern history. He was born in Houston just before the start of the second world war, and achieved success on both the pop and country charts in the late 60s with his group The First Edition. He began his solo career in 1976 and since then has had over 60 top 40 hits, including “The Gambler”, “Lady”, “Islands in The Stream” and countless others that live on in karaoke bars across America and the world.