Like last Friday, I have another concert from Thursday night to write about, but I can’t really fudge this week and combine my posts because The Avett Brothers don’t really have any new music out right now. So stay tuned for my post on that concert. For now let’s talk about the inimitable Mavis Staples’ new album, We Get By, which is out today.
Mavis Staples makes me so happy. She is just pure joy despite having lived her life fighting for change through her music. She grew up singing with her family as part of The Staple Singers, one of the iconic groups of the Civil Rights movement. She is turning 80 years old this year and is still going full force. She has this new album out and is still touring like crazy. The Newport Festival Foundation held 3 recent concerts in New York, Nashville, and L.A. with star studded line-ups to celebrate her. I’m so bummed I wasn’t able to get to any of them. There’s just no way she’s not coming to the Newport Folk Festival this year even if she’s not officially announced. I said the same thing last year when the closing set of the weekend was themed around civil rights music, and I was totally right so I’m holding out hope for this year too.
This new album I think was probably a little sad for her because it’s really the first one in forever where she’s singing without any other family members. She obviously sang for a very long time with the Staples Singers. I just listened to a podcast recently where she was talking about being a solo singer and thinking her voice didn’t sound right without any other Staples singing with her so she recruited her sister Yvonne to come sing back-up for her. They did that for a long time, but Yvonne past away last year. Now Mavis is the last one standing aside from I think one brother who if I recall isn’t in good shape.
I’m highlighting the title song “We Get By” for a couple of reasons. One because I really like it. Two because it features Ben Harper who produced the album, and three because the beginning of this video gives you a little glimpse of the joy that Mavis Staples lives out.
We finally went to see the movie The Long Shot last night. I had wanted to see it ever since the first time I saw a trailer for it. I love romantic comedies. Thankfully Netflix has started to fill in for the big lack of them in theaters, but I still wish there were more of them. The movie opened the weekend we were traveling to Hilton Head, so yesterday was really the first chance we had to see it. Plus happily we snuck it in just under the wire to take advantage of the $4 tickets we got through T-Mobile Tuesday deals, even though I would happily have paid full price.
My only apprehension going into this movie was the Seth Rogan of it all. A little Seth Rogan goes a long way for me. There’s actually a line in the movie where his characters says that he thinks he is the exact right amount, and that was pretty spot on. He’s definitely got the schlubby, kind of annoying thing going on but in a way where you could see how someone would find him charming and fall in love with him. Being a Seth Rogan movie there is some gross out and drug humor, but I didn’t find it over the top. Even the embarrassment humor was mostly just funny. I can’t stand watching people in tv and movies embarrass themselves, and I didn’t have to cover my eyes even once though I was prepared to a couple of times.
If you’re not familiar with the movie Charlize Theron stars as the Secretary of State who is preparing to run for president. Seth Rogan was a kid she grew up next door to and once babysat for who has become a journalist. They run into each other at a party and she winds up hiring him to help with her speech writing. They of course start to fall in love, but he’s not the kind of guy who is going to present the image America wants when voting for a president. Will they be able to find a way to be together in the end? I’ll let you guess.
I laughed a ton during this movie and I thought their relationship was sweet with some real hurdles that didn’t feel like forced obstacles that terrible romantic comedies can throw out there to try and create reasons to keep the leads apart. I also really dug June Diane Raphael in the sassy, sarcastic sidekick role that is a hallmark of romantic comedies. The movie has a fantastic soundtrack too, and we all know what a sucker I am for music.
It’s been a long time since I’ve like a romantic comedy this much. If you like romantic comedies I highly suggest running, not walking (because this movie won’t realistically be in theaters much longer) to go see it. If nothing else definitely check it out once it’s available to rent.
I’m kind of cheating today and combining my New Music Friday post with a write-up of the concert I went to last night. I think it’s fair to say that it’s not that much of a cheat though because her newest album with Francesco Turrisi, there is no Other, came out only a week ago. Add on to that that she also released a collaborative album, Songs of Our Native Daughters with Amythyst Kiah, Leyla McCalla, and Allison Russell earlier this year and I think it’s fully legit to say she is all over the new music. Though it’s actually a little funny to say that because one of her main goals with her music is to revive the folk music of the past and bring back the history of black string folk music that like much other culture has been co-opted and white-washed. There is a recent New Yorker article about her and black folk music that she said the author researched for 4 years. I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but I’m very much looking forward to digging into it.
As per usual the BSO Pulse concert started off with a set by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. This time it was a pared down 9 person string section only. They played four movements: Mozart’s Eine kleine Nachtmusik, Puccini’s Chrysanthemums, Jessie Montgomery’s Starburst and Bartok’s Divertimento for Strings.
Rhiannon Giddens then had her own set in which she performed with her long-time collaborator Dirk Powell. They switched off between the bango, fiddle, and guitar and played a variety of music off of her albums as well as him singing a couple of his songs. During one of the songs he was singing she got into some knee slapping rhythms and wound up doing some barefoot clogging after which she had a hard time catching her breath after which she said she once spent 6 hours a day tap dancing preparing for a show, obviously not no more. Because I know things I knew she had to be referring to the fact that she was cast to replace Audra McDonald in Shuffle Along when Audra had to leave the show after getting pregnant. Apparently people only wanted to see the show for Audra because the ticket sales tanked and they closed the show before Rhiannon Giddens ever took the stage. It made me a little sad remembering that because I thought her casting was an excellent choice.
Anyway, it was a wonderful night of music. Rhinnon’s songs are very much story songs, and she very much has a way of taking traditional songs and updating them to speak to today. I really adore her. Her set at the Newport Folk Festival a couple years ago was my favorite of that year’s festival, and I’m very excited to see her this summer with Our Native Daughters.
The final part of the evening was the collaboration between Rhiannon Giddens and the BSO. At all the other BSO Pulse concerts I’ve been to there have only been 3 songs where they’ve played together, but last night they did 5 which was a pleasant surprise. They ended the show with a literally breathtaking (you could hear her gasping for breath between long spates of lyrics that I have no idea how she got through) rendition of “Mouth Music” which had everyone in the crowd leaping to their feet and cheering loudly at the end. It was another wonderful collaboration and I very much hope they keep this concert series going again next year.
And now as promised because it is Friday here is the song “I’m On My Way” off of Rhiannon Giddens most recent album.
I first got introduced to Yola in the music coming out of SXSW. Now she is one of the artists I am most looking forward to seeing at this year’s Newport Folk Festival. Her debut album came out at the end of February, but it sounds like it’s from another time entirely. If you played it for me and asked me when these songs were from I would definitely go with the 70s. She totally reminds me of that country, soul, smooth R&B sound that was a thing back then. I absolutely adore the retro sound of this album.
My husband and I have season tickets to the touring Broadway shows in Baltimore. Our tickets are for the final night of the run, but I know other people who have tickets on earlier nights in the week. The show that just finished its run in Baltimore was Come From Away and at the birthday party I was at on Saturday night I was having a conversation with people who had already seen it and who were saying it immediately vaulted into their top 3 or 5 shows ever. I had actually seen it already on Broadway and adored it, but I wasn’t sure I was willing to put it that high in my rankings. After seeing it again though it might actually be.
It’s a super affecting show. The fact that all the actors play so many characters with essentially only their mannerisms and perhaps a small piece of wardrobe identifying them as someone else is amazing. The music is wonderful. I will say that I think Come From Away may have the best opening number of any musical I can think of. It’s a rare show that has me laughing out loud and in tears multiple times throughout and it’s all done in a tidy one act. So yeah, even if I’m not sure it’s in my top 3 or my top 5 it’s definitely up there. That had me thinking though if it’s one of my favorite shows then what else goes on that list. So here you go in no particular order.
Les Mis has to go on this list because it is the show that first made me fall in love with musical theatre. There’s a reason this show is a classic. It’s not a perfect show and in some ways feels very much of the time and the way musical theatre was when it was written, but that doesn’t mean I love it any less.
Anything Goes was the first show I saw live that was not just some production aimed at kids that we saw on field trips at our local Civic Center. I did not actually see it on Broadway though. I actually don’t remember what my first Broadway show was. I saw Anything Goes in the West End in London when my family took a trip there I think between my fifth and sixth grade years. It’s still a show I love. Cole Porter’s music is clever and fun. I’m also a sucker for tap dancing. The huge tap number to the title song in the revival with Sutton Foster from a few years ago is still one of my favorite things ever.
Rent is definitely still one of my favorite shows. I can still sing every word. I listened to that cast album approximately one billion times. It’s also the show I’ve seen the most times and in the most iterations given the movie and the recent Rent Live production. It was also the first show where the voices on that cast album were the same ones I was seeing in the live production. When you’re intimately familiar with a cast album hearing other people sing it can be a bit jarring sometimes. Granted that rarely happens to me now because if I’m interested enough in a show that I’m likely to listen to the cast album I’ve probably seen it before the cast album was even recorded. Interestingly the show I saw with much of the original Broadway cast was in London again not on Broadway. The year I studied abroad in London was the same time when probably about 3/4 of the original Broadway cast went over to London to open the show in the West End. I luckily made it to the show the first time before they left because I saw it multiple times and went I went back the second time there was a new cast.
Because you know Hamilton.
If you pinned me down, put a gun to my head, and forced me to pick a favorite musical it would probably come down to Anything Goes or Cabaret. I love the music and the story and the dance and the end is a real gut punch every time. I’ve seen several productions of this show and was super happy to get to see Alan Cumming reprise his role as the Emcee opposite Emma Stone a couple of year ago.
This past weekend I had the opportunity to celebrate some dear friends in joyous events. They are both genuinely two of the kindest people I know. While I am someone with some degree of social anxiety, who is terrible at small talk and feels like I never know what to say to anyone I’m not close friends with and thus whose first instinct is to run in the other direction when faced with talking with someone I don’t know or don’t know that well, they both seek to make sure everyone feels comfortable and included. They are both generous and welcoming in spirit in a way that I envy and it showed in the people they had surrounding them this weekend.
Friday night I attended my friends Lindsey and Andrew’s wedding. It was a beautiful ceremony performed by one of our other friends who did a wonderful job. I’m pretty sure it was the best food I’ve ever had at a wedding. I’m still dreaming about the little cheesy toast appetizer things. It was also super fun to dance the night away. I adore wedding dancing. I don’t have much opportunity to dance in my life, and I always find dancing with a bunch of friends to the kinds of music that gets played at weddings to be super fun. I even got my husband to dance with me for like half a song when they invited everyone to join them on the floor during the first dance. That was the first time he’s danced with me since our wedding over a decade ago, and I think that was the first time we danced ever. So I guess I can get him to dance again in another 10 years. I was a little worried that with all the stuff wrong with my right foot right now I wasn’t going to be able to dance that much without being in super pain, but my foot didn’t really bother me much at all on Friday night, though I did regret it a little Saturday. I’m past the point in my life where I get invited to a lot of weddings, so it was really fun to get to do some wedding dancing for the first time in awhile.
Friday night was also my friend Emily’s 30th birthday, but as we were all at the wedding she had her birthday party on Saturday night. We ate some delicious bbq all the way from her home state of North Carolina. This was a lot more of me being awkward and not knowing what to say to all the people I didn’t know or don’t know all that well until the party thinned out at the end of the night, but I had a good time anyway and was very happy to celebrate the birth of a wonderful person and friend.
It’s always nice to have times where you can take a step back and think about how lucky you are to have the people you have in your life. This weekend was one of those times.
In a complete twist for New Music Friday today I’m talking about a song I don’t actually recommend that you listen to. My friends Lindsey and Andrew are getting married today which had me thinking about wedding themed music earlier this week which led to me getting the song “Wedding Bell Blues” stuck in my head. It’s not actually a song anyone would play at a wedding (except Richard Gilmore I guess) because it’s about a woman whose boyfriend won’t propose to her, but because it’s wedding related it popped into my brain.
I adore the original version by the Fifth Dimension as well as the scene in Gilmore Girls alluded to above. The episode appropriately titled “Wedding Bell Blues” is one of my favorites of the whole series and I think this song has something to do with it. I went Googling to listen to it whereupon I discovered this new Morrissey version of it from an upcoming covers album he’s releasing. Big confession here guys, I have never liked Morrissey or The Smiths as a general rule though there are a few songs I enjoy. Morrissey as a human seems pretty terrible so I’m okay with that, but I feel like it probably takes away some of my music cred in certain circles. If I’m looking for some moody, broody Brit pop I’ll take The Cure any day. But I digress.
This insipid cover is the worst kind of cover song. It adds nothing to the original. Other than changing up the female vocalist for a male vocalist it’s a pretty straightforward cover, but somehow worse. The instrumentation both sounds exactly the like original but more annoying with whatever they are using to create it. The song also features Billie Joe Armstrong from Green Day, which gives it another ding in my book. So look don’t listen to this song at all. It’s just a way for me to cheat my New Music Friday post to talk about how much I love the original Fifth Dimension version of “Wedding Bell Blues”. Do go listen to that.