Brian Arsenault Takes On: A Guitar Tour of the World, the Phony Hipness of Country Muzak, the Tastelessness of Network News and Free Music from Moscow

By Brian Arsenault

Annalisa Ewald

Live at the factory underground (Dionysian Media)

Annalisa Ewald is a classical guitarist of significant reputation. But don’t let that stop you from her performance live at the factory underground recorded last year in Norwalk, Connecticut.  Even if you’re like me and equate great guitar with Eric Clapton and Pete Townsend you’ll find much to like as she brings us to Brazil and Argentina and Renaissance Europe; happy little tunes, melancholy melodies and tangos and gypsy flamencos.

She reminds us that these “classical” pieces sprang from the soil, the seamier parts of town and scandalous, sometimes illegal rhythms and dances.  Her brief comments throughout the album are good natured and inviting, sometimes self deprecating, and never pedantic.  And the playing seems faultless even though she can joke about jarring misplayed notes (by someone else).

And whatever your tastes in music you’ll occasionally hear snatches of “tunes” that you know from cultural experiences ranging from  movies to old Bugs Bunny cartoons. All in all, a delight.

Some of the proceeds from sales of the album, release date April 23, will be donated to the John DeCamp Fund “helping veterans heal through music and caring.”

The ACM Awards

The Grand Ol’ Opry was at least genuine. Genuine hillbilly and unhip maybe, but music that came down from the hill country and back roads.  What so-called country music has now become is a bunch of over-age prom queens and dorks in designer cowboy hats playing the kind of vapid pop crap that in one guise or another has been around for six decades or so.

The biggest news from the Academy of Country Music “awards” show seems to be that everyone’s ex, Taylor Twitt, didn’t win anything. So who cares?  Name me a significant artist who did win anything.  Nice dresses and hair though.

They trotted out Stevie Wonder for some incomprehensible reason.  Who’s advising him these days anyway?

They did do a nice little tribute to Dick Clark which the equally vapid Grammys couldn’t manage.  So I guess we should be grateful for that, though I can’t imagine anyone watching long enough to catch it. Dick brought kids all over America a taste of real rock at times but he could never distinguish it from the slop pop that he also promoted with equal enthusiasm.

The same holds true here.

The Foulness of Network “Entertainment” News

Annette Funicello
Annette Funicello

One of the first child stars of television, Annette Funicello, passed away on Monday, April 8.  She was the Mouseketeer that eleven year old boys first squirmed at watching her begin to fill out her modest sweater. And of course she sang and danced. All the Mousketeers did.

She went on to make those dreadful beach blanket movies with Frankie Avalon crooning to her against the California surf. Still, she has always seemed a kind presence, even while suffering from the debilitating Multiple Sclerosis that forced her to retire from public life fifteen years ago.

Her husband and caretaker, Glen Holt, authorized a video of Annettte in her current condition, supporting research in Multiple Sclerosis treatment via the Annette Funicello Research Fund for Neurological Diseases.  In the video, we get the obligatory shots from the Mickey Mouse Club, the beach movies and her getting a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, accompanied by Mickey of course.  But the slimy TV programmers who bring us their own slants on “news” couldn’t restrain from emphasizing the photos of her late in life that were unfortunate and won’t be described here.  If he were around today, Dante would put those shapers of popular culture in the lowest circle of Hell.

Gregg Robins

 Snowing in April

As someone who lives where it sometimes snows in April, how could I pass up Greg Robins downloadable album of Demos — Snowing in April.  And I’m glad I didn’t.

Let me go right to the last song which truly touches the heart.  “Believe”  sings of a father’s advice to his oldest daughter and what makes it so striking is that Robins sings it with his then 15 year old Casey.

Casey’s voice will never again be exactly as it was when she sang on this recording.  She will never again be exactly the same.  That is the bittersweetness of growing children and grandchildren.  They can’t wait for the next age and parents want to hold on to the current one just a little longer.

“Believe in your dreams. They can always come true.”

The passage of time pops up a number of times on this warm album from a New Yorker now living in cold Moscow. (Moscow!!?) “The Middle of the Show” isn’t about a stage show.

“Middle age is all the rage.”

In “Where Were You?” where Robins is joined on vocal by Remy Sepetoski, at 35 “I knew where I was, where were you?”

But the album’s not maudlin about fleeting time. It just urges us to not miss “How Lucky” we are just to be here. Robins is sometimes a bit off-key singing but he hits mostly right notes writing neat songs.

You can listen to the album at Robins” website for free.  Must be the old Soviet socialist share the wealth spirit at work, if it ever was.

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To read more posts, reviews and columns by Brian Arsenault click HERE.


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