Music Review: Indigo Girls – Beauty Queen Sister

Hi all!

What seems like a lifetime ago, I discovered the Indigo Girls at the tail end of college. Rites of Passage and Nomads Indians Saints started off my love of this folk music duo made up by Amy Ray and Emily Saliers. I wore out my Swamp Ophelia tape in an old Walkman tape player when I was regularly walking around the Denver Tech Center near Fiddler’s Green Ampitheatre (which has since gone through a few name changes and is currently Comfort Dental Ampitheatre). I saw them perform at Red Rocks Ampitheatre in Morrison, Colorado, and at least one other venue in Colorado.

But like many easily distracted music lovers, I kind of lost track of Amy and Emily after a while. I have picked up most of my favorite albums on CD over the years and every once in a while have checked in to listen to their latest releases. And though occasionally I heard glimpses of some of what made their earlier albums amazing, through the tinted lenses of experience – both theirs and mine – I was never as caught up in the melodies, words, and harmonies as I was with songs like “Galileo,” “Closer to Fine,” “Pushing the Needle Too Far,” “Prince of Darkness,” “Strange Fire,” “Ghost,” “Mystery,” and “Kid Fears.”

Fast forward to this year – 2011 – and their 14th studio album Beauty Queen Sister. Featuring thirteen new songs in their signature storytelling style. They definitely haven’t lost their touch in creating simple yet complex arrangements, melodies, styles, and harmonies to suit whatever topic they choose to focus on. And those topics vary widely on the album, including my favorite on the CD – “War Rugs,” written about the 2011 Egyptian revolution. Their attention to causes both here and abroad hasn’t let up in the slightest, including support for saving the environment, the rights of Native Americans, and the LGBT rights movement. So support for the Egyptians’ brave stand against a corrupt government fits right in with their strong support for equal rights for all.

Though they’re just as capable of rocking the house as singing a gentle song, I tend to like their softer side. On Beauty Queen Sister there are three songs that fall into that category with different styles.

I already mentioned “War Rugs,” which is about the mostly non-violent revolution in Egypt that began in January 2011 and whose efforts continue today. Seeing the hundreds of thousands of protesters in Tahrir Square on the television news this past January and February was amazing. And obviously it wasn’t just those in the Middle East who were affected, with the continuing revolution in Libya ousting Qaddafi and the other areas affected by the “Arab Spring.” Amy and Emily’s song highlights the lasting effects…

“We’re all growing up together / We’re all making a mark on it. / We’re all damning the consequences. / I want to understand / the soul you have in there / Young Egypt seized the moment / and brought that bastard down / You’ve got technology / And you’ve got archeology / We treated you like punters / until you kicked the goal / now we’re claiming you for our team / ’cause what do we know?”

Freedom is one of those things we have to all tend to or it gets taken away in dribs and drabs until it’s gone. I think that’s the “team” we’re all on. And that struggle for freedom is happening even within our own country. Just ask the people with lifestyles not “sanctioned” by certain parts of the population. Couldn’t we all do with a bit more tolerance and brotherly love?

Also among the softer songs on the album is “Birthday Song.” And it’s a sentiment I often have. “I couldn’t think of a thing to write / on your birthday card / considered the poets / they didn’t know what lay quiet inside my heart / thought of Atlanta / thought of Toronto / all of the places we’d been…” But nothing comes to mind to write down. Instead, I hope my actions speak louder than words and we can share those together. What a wonderful sentiment. Words sometimes seem so hollow and given the chance we should all be happy to share time with one another.

“Damo” is sort of halfway between soft and loud, with its Celtic feel. And it makes me want to get up and jig. Nobody wants to see that, but it’s impossible not to feel like dancing. I think it owes that dancing spirit to Eamonn de Barra’s whistles and flute and the full-throated backing vocals of Irish singer-songwriter Damien Dempsey in the background along with the spritely rhythm guitar and the beat of the bodhran (Irish Drum).

Beauty Queen Sister mixes the soft, loud, and energetic sides of the Indigo Girls and should make fans sit up and take notice. It’s available at your favorite music store now, so I’d encourage you to give it a listen. If you want more info about the album or anything else you want to know about the Indigo Girls, you should also check out the Indigo Girls home page for biographical info, tour details, albums, and more!

This article first appeared in a slightly different form at BlogCritics.org here.

–Fitz

Enhanced by Zemanta

Book Review: The Chameleon Conspiracy by Haggai Carmon

Hey there…

Even James Bond would probably have a hard time chasing down The Chameleon. Haggai Carmon’s agent Dan Gordon chases The Chameleon around the world by following money and clues, eventually uncovering a terror plot that is much larger than any single person.

Do you think of international finance or fraud investigation as being interesting? Neither did I. How about a fraud investigator for the US Department of Justice with ties to Mossad? Ok, now we’re getting warmer. Now what happens if we add in a terror plot with sleeper cells in the United States? Now I’m hooked.

For the last 20 years, author Haggai Carmon has held a number of intriguing jobs: international attorney, undercover intelligence operative for a number of U.S. federal agencies, husband, father, and author of the Triple Identity and The Red Syndrome, the first two Dan Gordon novels. Now with The Chameleon Conspiracy, he’s done an amazing job weaving the complex areas of money laundering and fraud investigation with international intrigue to make a compelling, page-turning story.

Agent Dan Gordon, over the course of a number of months, travels from the United States to Australia, Europe, and the Middle East to try and track down a mysterious Albert C. Ward III who bilked money from a number of investors throughout the US. His investigation eventually finds him working with the FBI, CIA and Mossad as they attempt to discover just how deep the conspiracy goes…

I’m a huge spy novel fan, but have to admit I haven’t read any for a while. The last one I read was Devil May Care by Sebastian Faulks, a James Bond novel set during the 1960s at the height of the Cold War. The Chameleon Conspiracy takes place in the present political climate, using our post 9/11 world to take us to dangerous hubs of terrorism and anti-American sentiment in Pakistan, Iran, and elsewhere.

It’s nearly impossible to review this book without giving too much away. Suffice it to say that if you’re looking for an entertaining, but intricate spy novel, I can’t recommend The Chameleon Conspiracy enough. Now I have to go find the other Dan Gordon books by Carmon to catch up! Find it at your favorite local bookseller or online retailer.

–Fitz

p.s. Click below to check out this and other Haggai Carmon books at Amazon!

    

 

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Music Review: Playing for Change: Songs Around the World

Hi all…

To be moved by music is a wondrous feeling. Whether you are moved to feel, dance, sing, or play, there is something about music that reverberates through each of us. And even in a world feeling lost and afraid in the face of global changes, music is one thing that can bring us together.

Add to that the need to keep music alive and you find a group of people doing some remarkable things around the world. Even in the midst of poverty, war, or famine, the Playing for Change Foundation aims to share more than the music of the many musicians they have met during the course of their travels. They are building music schools so that these gifted artists can pass along their skills and passion to the next generation so this precioius resource is not lost.

The Playing for Change: Songs Around the World album is part of a multimedia effort to inspire, connect, and bring peace to the world through music. Using a mobile recording studio, a group of people traveled wherever the music took them. This is not a political or spiritual missoin, but an artistic one with the goal of helping people see that music can unite us as a people regardless of ideology, location, or religion.

Traveling to such diverse locations as Santa Monica, California, and Barcelona, Spain; Johannesburg, South Africa, and Kathmandu, Nepal; New Orleans, Louisiana, and Jerusalem, Israel; these people, led by Mark Johnson and a crew devoted to the singular mission of spreading peace through music. They found musicians in the United States, Europe, Africa, India, Asia, and the Middle East and recorded them live using their mobile equipment.

Songs Around the World includes a CD with ten tracks, from the classic “Stand by Me” and Bob Marley standards as “One Love” and “Don’t Worry” and the Hindi song “Chanda Mama”. It also includes a DVD with videos of five of the songs on the CD.

Though the CD is amazing and I don’t want to downplay its significance, it’s the DVD that really touched me.

Several months ago I first saw the video for “Stand by Me” on the web as the project was starting to get the word out. I remember it vividly because it touched an emotional bone in my body that hasn’t been touched for quite a while. Each of the artists who performed on the song added a bit of their indomitable spirits to this song, from Roger Ridley on the street in Santa Monica, CA, to Sinamuva outside in Umlazi, South Africa, to Clarence Bekker in Amsterdam, Netherlands, and everyone in-between.

And if you think about the technological feat it would be to not only record each individual performance, but then turn around and make different parts available for the rest of the artists to listen to while performing, it’s a huge undertaking. Think about the challenges of recording in wide open spaces, in the middle of a crowded area, or inside a building – none of which were ever meant to record audio in, let alone record it cleanly. Then add to that recording video of each performance and then weaving the performances, both video and audio, into a complete whole and balancing tracks.

Each of these videos is a work of art that faithfully weaves the lives, passions, and music of the artists into a tapestry of sight and sound. And though “Stand by Me” is still my favorite, as it was my first taste of this project, “War/No More Trouble” and “Don’t Worry” are my other two favorites out of the five videos available.

These amazing artists around the world were brought together virtually, proving once again that the world is getting smaller every day through the use of technology.

Through music, perhaps our world will one day find peace. Please keep that hope alive. Buy a copy of the Playing for Change: Songs Around the World CD or better yet, donate to the cause at the Playing for Change Foundation website. Join a movement and help this music touch more peoples’ hearts around the world.

–Fitz

p.s. Pick up a copy of the Playing for Change: Songs Around the World CD/DVD at your local music retailer or online:

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]