Why don't more people listen to Ron Sexsmith? The critically acclaimed singer-songwriter crafts masterful pop songs, records them with topflight producers and sings them in an understated croon. Unless you hate music that makes you smile, what's not to like?
Woody Guthrie: American Radical, by Will Kaufman. I love musician
biographies; Humphrey Carpenter’s of Benjamin Britten is the most
fascinating book I’ve read in years. I also love Guthrie’s music--he’s
so much funnier and sharper-edged than the earnest troubadours who
mimicked him in the 60s--and I’ll read anything about politics.
Wanda Jackson may be the queen of rockabilly, but Jack White is king of this collaboration. The roots-obsessed producer takes charge, offering a high-octane reimagination of various '50s styles. But where White's work on Loretta Lynn's Van Lear Rose (2004) came off as reverent and almost subtle, here 73-year-old Jackson's presence seems like an afterthought.
President Obama seems to be moving in the direction of openly supporting same-sex marriage. But when he spoke in New York last week, he stopped short of endorsing it--despite pressure from the audience:
Vic Chesnutt, who died of an overdose in 2009, was one of the best and most unusual songwriters of his generation. Country-rock veterans Cowboy Junkies are far more conventional. So Chesnutt diehards might not find much to like in this collection of his songs, but the album may provide newcomers a bridge to his work.
Stephen Colbert's commencement speech at Northwestern wasn't as funny as Conan O'Brien's at Dartmouth, but the inevitable "now I'm serious kids, please keep listening" section was far better--it was pretty much a hard-hitting sermon.
Mark Silk notes an interesting moment at the Republican
presidential debate Monday night in New Hampshire: Rick Santorum's take on
religion in public life sounds an awful lot like the one then-Senator Obama articulated in 2006.
All 50 states have regressive tax structures: the lower your
income, the larger share of it goes to state taxes. While a few states have
flat income-tax rates--here in Illinois, everyone pays 5 percent--most are
mildly progressive (higher rates for higher income).
I don't know whether Rep. Anthony Weiner sent a lewd photo
of himself to a college student via Twitter. The evidence is mixed: on the one
hand, Weiner's claim that someone else sent the photo as a prank is quite
plausible given security
holes (since fixed) in photo-sharing service yfrog.
After President Obama's inauguration in 2009, I wrote about going to a DC church that weekend
at which I heard him referred to from the pulpit as a prophet called by God.
Love the president or hate him, that's a troubling category mistake.
The day before my wedding, I picked up ten cases of table
wine from a local winery--and one bottle of sweet wine for communion. The folks
at the winery had encountered local-food enthusiasts planning receptions before,
but the communion thing seemed to surprise them. "My son always says this
tastes just like altar wine!" said the woman who rang me up.