Sunday, July 31, 2016

Curtis Salgado Poses the Musical Question: "A Woman or the Blues?"

Truly one of the great pure talents among blues singers on the circuit today.  Curtis Salgado is, if nothing else, a survivor.  His early days as singer in the Robert Cray Band and Roomful of Blues shows how talented this man is and portended great things.  But life is a cruel mistress and sometimes, while it looks to the outside world, that you have the world on a string, life rears up and slaps you back down. Struggles and strife are part of life and can be self-inflicted or things outside one's control. 

Curtis has overcome his share of each including serious bouts with cancer.   I have followed his career and rooted for him from a distance as he battled back. The key to success in music, much like life, is to keep getting up.  If you do and perservere there is a chance that you can achieve your purpose in life and above all attain personal satisfaction and happiness. 

So glad to see Curtis Salgado do both as of late and, if there was ever any doubt, this video puts them to rest.  Thanks to BluesBroad for posting this YouTube video of a February 2014 performance of Curtis and great band from the Blast Furnace Blues Festival in Bethlehem, PA.

Curtis Salgado - vocals and harmonica
Vyasa Dodson - guitar and vocals
Brian Harris - keyboard and vocals
Tracy Airington - bass guitar and vocals
Brian Foxworth - drums 

Monday, July 18, 2016

Local Ohio Man to Open Republican National Convention Tonight

In what was already going to be one of the strangest national political conventions in modern history just got a little stranger.  In an attempt to deflect attention from the joke at the top of the ticket, former corrupt Congressman and house speaker (no not the child molester) now known as "newt, Trump's brain" has tapped Phil Davison, who formerly sought the nomination of the Stark County Ohio Republican Party Executive Committee for Stark County Treasurer to be the opening speaker at tonight's convention.  Davison, one of the GOP's most rousing speakers is expected to deliver one of his tour de force performances and show the Republicans just how weird things can get for as HST famously said "When the going gets weird the weird turn pro".

Sunday, July 10, 2016

What the World Needs Now (Love) From A Most Unlikely Source

It's been a rough week in Lake Woebegone (Minnesota) and across the nation for that matter.  First Baton Rouge, then here in Minnesota only to be followed by Dallas, one might think the human race was going backwards, regressing.  But despite all the negative incidents of late I have hope for humanity and truly believe that the things that unite us, like the love for music, is stronger than hatred and evil.
Case in point, a phenomenal record that came out in 2015 but only recently came to my attention thanks to an old friend.  While my tastes tend to run in the Blues, Soul and Americana genres I try to remain open minded, remembering that old line by Louie Armstrong.  "Pops" use to say "there's only two kinds of music" (good and bad) and "I like all music as long as it's good".  Now when it comes to world music or reggae I would be the first to admit I am no expert.  Sure I love the classic reggae artists (Toots, Cliff, Tosh, Sly and Robbie, et al) and one would have to be dead not to recognize the genius of Bob Marley, but it was not until I was turned on to Rock Steady, the roots of reggae if you will, especially the music coming out of Studio One, that I got hooked.  
So when an old friend of mine suggested I listen to a reggae project by Rusty Zinn, I have to admit at first I was a little incredulous.  I said "you mean Rusty Zinn the blues guitarist?"  It is strange how the human mind operates and our need to categorize and file knowledge.  I know this makes my musician friends see red.  Nobody likes to be reduced to just one thing or if a musician or other artist, be limited by other people's perceptions to just one genre.  That is what makes Rust Zinn's latest cd "The Reggae Soul of Rusty Zinn:  Journey to the soul of Lover's Rock Steady" so fearless, so courageous.  Rusty Zinn was not unfamiliar to me.  An accomplished West Coast blues musician and guitarist, I saw him live many years ago in Minneapolis, I believe at the now defunct Biscuit n' Blues.  He was at that time obviously in the top tier of young blues guitarists on the circuit.  To have put in all that work, paid your dues if you will and then in mid-life completely switch gears and go out on a limb and attempt an art form so pure in my mind is absolutely fearless and courageous.  Even more important and impressive Zinn absolutely nails it.

This record was no fluke as the wonderful liner notes by Roger Steffens aptly document.  It is obvious to anyone who listens to it, "The Reggae Soul of Rusty Zinn" was a labor of love by someone who truly understands the genre and its history.  Not only does Rusty possess a stellar voice but his singing is free of any affectation that would normally ruin a performance in my mind.  The music I love must have authenticity and above all tone.  Zinn gets it.   I am going to be brutally frank here, this is no white boy wannabe trying to ape a life style, but rather the work of a serious musician who has studied an art form and then used his own unique strengths and talents to create a work that stands on its own.  Wow!  Did I really say that? Yes and I mean every word.

This rarely happens with me, but this music is on constant rotation in my car, on my computer and I am not in the least getting tired of it.  Listening to songs like "Rise Up", my personal favorite "Pushing Toward a Dream" and "Gift of Love" you cannot help but to think of Alton Ellis and John Holt and how they could take the familiar yet make it their own.
With a voice so sweet and beautiful, Zinn reminds me of the second coming of Johnny Ace but without the Don Robey baggage.  But if you don't believe me go to his website and read the conversations Rusty has with my old friend and former Island Records curator and Trojan Records label manager, Bob Bell, a guy who knows just a little about Jamaican music.  As Bell is quoted in the liner notes:  "Rusty really knows his music; he can recognize players after a couple of notes.  I'm blown away by how he has really mastered the genre and the 60's aesthetic of rock steady and reggae and written songs around it that will stand with anyone's songs.  And he sings them beautifully."  Praise just doesn't get any better than that.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Life is All About Timing

'Ambush style' attack

Gunshots rang out around 8:45 p.m. CT Thursday while hundreds of people were gathered to protest fatal police shootings this week in Baton Rouge, La., and St. Paul, Minn.*

*CBC World News

Meanwhile in Minnesota at precisely the same time, 8:45 PM and totally unaware of what was about to transpire in Dallas I sent the following email:

On ThuJul 7, 2016 at 8:45 PM,
Opinion Editors
St Paul Pioneer Press

Although it felt good personally to get that off my chest, upon further reflection I can see my letter was not constructive, advances nothing of substance to help resolve the situation and stoops to scapegoating of public officials in a manner not worthy of the people who have lost their lives.  I therefore ask that my letter not be published.  Hopefully I can rework my thoughts into a constructive and coherent narrative that will eventually be worthy of publication.

Plain Sense

"For a heart stained in anger grows weak and grows bitter.
You become your own prisoner as you watch yourself sit there
Wrapped up in a trap of your very own
Chain of sorrow."

John Prine

OK. Thank you.
Pat E.

10 River Park Plaza, Suite 700, St. Paul, MN 55107 

Earlier in the evening I had sent the following letter to the Opinion Page Editor at the St. Paul Pioneer Press.  One of the reasons I chose the St. Paul paper over my hometown paper the Minneapolis Star Tribune was because of the Pioneer Press' callous and tone deaf choice of a lead article for their online edition the day after Philando Castile was killed by a St. Anthony police officer during a traffic stop for a broken tail light in Falcon Heights. Reference to the K-9 article did not make the final edit of my letter.

After St. Paul K-9 fatally stabbed in '13, donations provide vests to SPPD's dogs Press - 2 days ago

July 7, 2016 6:37 PM

Plain Sense

It should not have to come down to this.  We like to think as Minnesotans we are progressive, enlightened people.  But it keeps happening and the Mike Freemans of this world keep condoning and encouraging this behavior. 

“The police are never wrong”.  “The police are everyday heroes”.  “The police have the toughest job in America today”.  When a county attorney will not indict one member of the Metro Gang Strike Force something is wrong.  When the same county attorney adopts a policy removing from citizen grand jury review the ability of citizens to weigh in on police shootings of citizens, something is drastically wrong.  When an execution of a hostage by police captured on dash cam video following a long chase fails to get any charges or indictment one wonders “ is this still America?”

Black, white, Native American, Hispanic and Asian we all have targets on our back.  We all have been victims.  The victims also include the good police officers out there and there are a lot of them.  But by refusing to stand up or by looking the other way when it comes to unlawful behavior by their “Brothers in Blue” they too must bear some responsibility.   Police brutality and the excessive use of force by police cuts across all racial and economic lines but if we do not acknowledge that our fellow Black and lower income citizens are over represented we are in a state of “Minnesota Nice” denial.

As long as I can remember there has been a culture of Thumpers and then closing ranks that has shown time and time again that the police are utterly incapable of policing themselves.  Remember the reaction of the Minneapolis police rank and file to Chief Tony Bouza’s attempts at reform?  The same crap goes on today.  Pointergate.  Need I say more?

We must as a society immediately start a review of the policies of Minnesota Law Enforcement agencies regarding the use of lethal force and begin the process of promulgating new policies that value the lives of citizens as well as those of officers.  I call on Governor Dayton to create a committee with diverse representation .  

As a criminal defense attorney for the last 30 years I am ashamed of my profession’s lack of outrage, lack of leadership and inaction in the face of the intolerable and that critique includes me as well.  Social media, opinion letters and high styled posturing is not enough.  Ask yourself “What will you tell your grandchild you did to stop police brutality and murder?”  Obviously the current policies and regime are inadequate to protect human life and the rights of all Minnesotans.

In light of what went down in Dallas immediately following my email asking that my Opinion letter not be published, one has to wonder if I somehow had tapped into that consciousness of the One that I believe all living things are capable of.  All I know is that at about 8:30 PM and for about 15 minutes thereafter I had this incredible and overwhelming sense of doubt about the letter I was so sure of just moments before. I suddenly had empathy where moments before I only had anger.  I went back and forth for several agonizing minutes before I got up from watching television, almost as if on command, and at exactly 8:45 PM sent off my email.

While Dallas does not change the dire need for rewriting police policy on the use of lethal force and the need for changing how police are trained and most importantly what their role in society is:  Public Servants or Paramilitary Occupying Force, it does change the timing.  Out of respect for our dead citizens be they civilian or law enforcement and their families, let us heed the words of  Congressman John Lewis "let's not lose sight of the values that unite us,our common humanity."