Tag Archives: music

Where the Boys Are

22 Sep
sally-and-rosanne

Rosanne Cash … always wonderful!

I attended the wonderful 3-day music festival, FreshGrass, last weekend. I saw a plethora of talent and a whole host of favorite musicians including Rosanne Cash, Glen Hansard, Aoife O’Donovan, Sierra Hull, Ruthie Foster, Alison Brown … but WAIT! By this account, one might think that the festival was dominated by women, but alas, it was far from a reconceived Lilith Fair. No, no. FreshGrass is a bluegrass / roots / Americana music festival and bluegrass / roots / Americana music is dominated by dudes. 

Rather than letting my feminist self get all riled up over the gender gap and put a damper on my fun (because when I get angry I tend to have less fun), I decided instead to make a little data collection and data visualization project out of the experience. That’s fun. 

You can see the total percentage of players, by instrument, in the first graphic. In the second one, each instrument represents one musician. I didn’t count all of the smaller groups on the courtyard stage and the pop-up performers (there were just too many to keep up with), but from casual observation, doing so wouldn’t have changed the results.

What’s all this to say? Probably plenty, but I’m simply going to take it as motivation to keep practicing so that I can do my part to close the gap.

where-the-boys-are_freshgrass-2016

boys-and-girls-clubs

12 Albums of Christmas (Plus 3)

28 Dec

My good friend, Dan McCloskey, has produced a terrific “best of” list of albums for a good number of years now. He does a much better job than I’m about to attempt here, as he offers up his picks a day at a time and gives you a nice overview of why each is a favorite. (Follow Dan at Left Field.)

Me, I’m too lazy for that. In fact, as I tried to make a “best of” list for 2015, I quickly realized how seldom I focus my musical attention on new releases. I tend to either (1) follow the same people for years (thus, if they issued a new record in 2015, it will likely be a favorite of mine), or (2) discover new artists and go back and listen to and/or collect their catalog from whatever years the records came out. Thus, at a loss for making a “best” list, I give to you, instead, a list of records that I purchased this year that were actually released this year. In other words, here are my picks for 2015 music worthy of my hard-earned dollars (in no specific order beyond the list I wrote on a post-it note):

CincyPops

The Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, along with a bang-up group of performers,  recorded a selection of songs from the songbook of Stephen Foster, one of America’s most cherished songwriters. I’m not sure how I came across it, but am sure glad that I did. Catch a wonderful video of “Camptown Races” here

Musgraves

My same friend, Dan, introduced me to Kacey Musgraves this year and I became an instant fan. Not only did I grab hold of her 2015 release, Pageant Material, but I also downloaded “Same Trailer, Different Park,” her award-winning release from 2013. Both are just terrific! Enjoy some Biscuits, here

Monterey

Don’t know the Milk Carton Kids? Shame on you! Amazing songwriters, guitar pickers, and harmonizers. If you’re a fan of a couple of other guys from a few years back, Simon & Garfunkel, or you enjoy the guitar stylings of Dave Rawlings (see below), you’ll like these guys. Monterey is just the latest in a string of wonderful, wonderful records.

Still the King

Without a doubt, one of the highlights of my 2015 was a week in Austin, Texas. I went there for to attend the annual meeting of the Medical Library Association, but stayed several extra days to take in the music. I LOVE Texas swing music and am forever grateful to the band, Asleep at the Wheel, for keeping the music of Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys alive. They have a regular gig at the Austin airport, but alas, they weren’t playing when I was passing through. One day… Catch Katie Shore and the rest of the band give Wills’ “It’s All Your Fault” a go here

As a bonus, one of my favorite books that I read the past year is Duncan McLean’s, Lone Star Swing. It’s the travel account of a Scot who’s never been outside of his homeland, but loves the music of Bob Wills and when he wins the Somerset Maugham Award for a short story he wrote, he takes his prize money and travels from Orkney, Scotland, to Texas “in search of the extraordinary mix of jazz, blues, country, and mariachi that is Western Swing.” It’s funny and informative at once. I just loved it.

song of the banjo

Not only one of my favorite musicians, but one of my favorite women, Alison Brown is both a virtuoso banjo player and record company founder. I’ve also had the privilege of meeting her a few times and she’s an incredibly approachable, genuine person. Her 2015 release, The Song of the Banjo, on her own, Compass Records, highlights the musicality of the banjo as she puts her own spin on a number of popular tunes. I happened to see her perform in Northampton, MA the day before it was officially released, so my copy is/was literally, hot off the presses! Check out her rendition of Chuck Mangione’s “Feels So Good,” along with special guest, Jake Shimabukuro, here

Cover_hi_res

Through Jason Isbell, I discovered his talented wife, Amanda Shires, this year. Her latest recording came out in 2013, though. Isbell’s latest came out this year. Like pretty much everything else he’s given us, Something More than Free is a winner. One of our most talented songwriters of today, Isbell continues to provide lyrics of substance that I listen to over and over, pondering all that they mean. The title track is but one example of the good stuff this record brings. 

The-Weepies-Sirens

Perhaps the record I most looked forward to in 2015 was Sirens from The Weepies. It’s not only because I’m a big fan and because it had been 5 years since we’d been given a new release, but because Deb Talen spent 2014 battling cancer. Thankfully, she came through and along with musical partner and husband, Steve Tannen, was able to give their fans Sirens. I have a feeling that the track, No Trouble, is a 3-minute summary of their past couple of years. Here’s to them for a happy and healthy 2016!

uncovered

If I’m stuck on an island and can only have one person to sing songs to me, Shawn Colvin may well be the one I want. She will forever be a favorite artist of mine. Her 2015 release of covers (like her 1994 offering, Cover Girl) gives listeners the treat of her amazing take on another batch of wonderful songs. Her cover of Bruce Springsteen’s, Tougher Than the Rest, is just one she’s picked.

honeycutters-2015-me-oh-my

I discovered The Honeycutters at MerleFest a few years back and have been a fan since. I was happy to stumble upon their 2015 release, me oh my, last spring. The Ashville, NC-based group gives listeners great songwriting and a straightforward Americana sound. It’s good music for driving. All You Ever is one good example. 

sara-watkins-im-with-her

Individually or in their many varied incarnations (Nickel Creek, Crooked Still, Sometimes Why), I just absolutely love Aoife O’Donovan, Sara Watkins, and Sarah Jarosz. Their get-together-tour, “I’m With Her,” in 2015 produced a little gem in this EP, Crossing Muddy Waters. Sadly, I missed seeing them perform live and can only wish and hope that their act won’t be a one-shot deal. I can also tell you that my first entry for my 2016 list is Aoife’s forthcoming, In the Magic Hour. It’s out on January 22nd and my copy was pre-ordered months ago.

DarWilliamsCover_1500px-1

It had been a few years since I listened to Dar Williams and her 2015 record, Emerald, only made me wonder why. She never lets me down when it comes to giving music with meaning and heart. She’s been at this singer-songwriter life a good while now, but she’s not missed a beat. I was happy to have her grace my iPod in the past year.

Nashville Obsolete

Anyone who knows me knows that I can sing pretty much the entire Gillian Welch catalog. She and Dave Rawlings, when they perform as “Gillian Welch,” are simply right at the top of my record collection. Performing as the Dave Rawlings Machine, they gave us Nashville Obsolete in 2015. I admit that I liked 2009’s, A Friend of A Friend a little better, but when they set the bar as high as they do, “a little less” in comparison is hardly a disappointment. Everything is relative and these two don’t ever miss.

35450-servant-of-love

Another who rarely, if ever, misses is Patty Griffin. Servant of Love is a 2015 gift from the gifted songwriter and musician. You’ve gotta love a Mainer and I love Patty. This record is one more addition to her expansive catalog of beautifully-crafted songs. Any year that she releases a record is a year that she’ll appear on my “best of” list. 

Schneider

Another of my favorite Texans (by way of Michigan) is Bob Schneider. The long-time Austin resident, the prolific (as in “write a new song every day”) singer songwriter gave his fans a trilogy this year in the King Kong Suite. Three releases = hours of Schneider greatness. I love this guy. I just love him. There are few true artists like him giving us music today. Seek him out, if he’s unfamiliar to you. A quick YouTube search will leave you with lots to enjoy.

adele-25-album-cover

Okay, okay… yes… THE record of the year is on my list, too. I was way late to the Adele party. In fact, when she won a gazillion Grammies for 21, I asked all of my friends on Facebook, “Who is Adele?!” only to be bombarded with questions asking me in any number of ways what rock I’d been hiding under for the past years. Well, I do know now and I did purchase 25 as soon as it was released, and while “Hello” is the first big hit, it’s  “Send My Love (to Your New Lover)” that plays over and over and over again on my iPod. That song is infectious. 

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That’s it. That’s my list. If some artists are new to you, I hope you’ll give them a listen. I also hope you’ll share in the comments some of your favorites from 2015. I surely won’t complain about the year’s offerings. There was plenty of enjoyment for me.

Happy New Year, everyone, and thanks for following along throughout 2015! 

Summertime, and the Readin’ is Easy

30 Jun

I have a half-dozen more substantive and/or reflective, work-related blog posts partially written in my drafts box, but it’s summertime and the warm weather, the slower pace, the better parking at work… well it just seems I can’t finish any one of those. So, as I looked at the pile of books on my coffee table this morning, I sent myself a note to make this week’s post another reading list – my summer reading. Here are some things I’m enjoying. Feel free to add yours in the comments section.

How Music Work_Byrne

I was in high school in the 1970s and college in the 1980s, the perfect timing to become a HUGE fan of The Talking Heads. While they stopped making music together many years ago now <sniff>, I’ve remained a fan of each of the members as they’ve struck out on all sorts of other artistic endeavors. Former lead singer, David Byrne, has kept me well-entertained with music and writing since those band days. I picked up a copy of his book, How Music Works, back in the spring and absorbed myself in the first third of it, but then put it down for awhile – not because it isn’t a good book at all, but because it’s so interesting, well-written, and thought-provoking that I needed some time to mull over all that I’d read. Then, as things go in my reading life, I found something else and then something else and then… well, it’s on the top of the pile for completion this summer.

Creativity_Pettite

A few weeks ago, my family took a day trip to explore Concord, MA. We hiked the trails of Minuteman Park and enjoyed the quaint shops of the small, New England downtown. One of these shops happened to be The Concord Bookshop, a terrific independent bookstore. As we browsed the shelves, we noticed that the staff were setting up for an evening event. When we inquired who was speaking, we couldn’t believe the answer! Philippe Petit – THE Philippe Petit of “Man on Wire” fame – was in town. What luck! Both Lynn and I are fans of the documentary about his 1974 high-wire walk between the twin towers of  New York World Trade Center. Circus act, daredevil, pickpocket, magician, artist… we were thrilled to get the chance to see and hear him talk about his new book, Creativity, the Perfect Crime. Of course, I picked up an autographed copy. Part instruction book, part autobiography; this is a great book to help get your creative juices flowing. What could be a better summer activity?

W is for Wasted_Grafton     Ghosts of Belfest_Neville

No summer reading list of mine is complete without a mystery! This summer, I have a couple in my pile. I have no idea what I’m going to do when Sue Grafton reaches “Z” and Kinsey Milhone rides off into the sunset of literary characters, but for now, I’ve still got 4 titles to look forward to, including W is for Wasted that came out this past winter. I’ve been waiting for the lazy months of summer to catch up on my favorite detective. Now’s the time.

Going from a very familiar author to the debut work of Stuart Neville, the very well-received, The Ghosts of Belfast. Guilt, redemption, political drama… I’m ready for it.

Kate_Becker

 

My friend, Suzy Becker, has a new book out for younger readers, Kate the Great. I am young at heart and Suzy is my hero, so I’ll be reading Kate. Best part… it’s the first in a series! I won’t have to say goodbye to Kate as soon as I meet her. Hey! Maybe I can convince Suzy to turn Kate into a detective so that she can fill the Kinsey Milhone hole when it inevitably appears.

HSL_Wood

And okay, okay… I do have a couple of work-related titles on my list.

Hot off the presses, this updated, revamped, wholly new edition of Health Sciences Librarianship will become required reading for those studying to become medical librarians and/or work in the information world of the health sciences. I have several friends and/or colleagues who authored chapters in this book, so that’s reason alone to read it. If you’re looking for the staff copy, I have it.

Rosalind_Franklin

 

Finally, the Friends of the Worcester Public Library always have a cart of freebies at the entrance to the WPL. I’m forever finding real gems there, the latest being, Rosalind Frankin & DNA by Anne Sayre. Here’s the blurb from Amazon:

Rosalind Franklin’s research was central to the discovery of the double-helix structure of DNA. She never received the credit she was due during her lifetime. In this classic work Anne Sayre, a journalist and close friend of Franklin, puts the record straight. 

I look forward to learning the whole story.

Enjoy your summer, everyone.

I sure hope you’ve got a good book!

 

Follow Along

7 Jan

blog bubbleI’m a HUGE fan of Twitter. I know that many of my colleagues, associates, and people in general still don’t get it. They don’t understand how a continuing stream of bits of information could be relevant to anyone. Mostly, I find that those who either don’t get or don’t like the social media tool always sum up their feelings by stating, “I don’t care if you brushed your teeth today.”

Concerns for halitosis and dental hygiene aside, these short-sighted and shallow accusations of Twitter are just that. But this isn’t a blog post to share the merits of Twitter. I need to write that piece for another blog (NAHSL) later this week. Instead, this is a very quick collection of BLOGS that, in many cases, Twitter led me to. In other words, the 140 characters shared by someone on Twitter ultimately took me to the following substantive resources that I check daily. The blogs themselves are not all updated on a daily basis, but I decided that this year I would put them into a folder on my bookmarks toolbar and look at them each morning. Anything new that these people write never ceases to inform, inspire, energize, and/or entertain. I share them with you here in the hopes that you will choose to either follow them as well, or perhaps create your own “Top Ten” to share with others.

  • Get Moving: Fitting Fitness into Your Day is the blog of Boston.com’s senior health and wellness producer, Elizabeth Comeau. You can follow along with Elizabeth on her own journey to live a healthy life, as well as find many links to important news stories related to health and wellness. Elizabeth gets the first listing in this list because today marks her one year “blogiversary”. Congrats, Elizabeth! You can also follow Elizabeth on Twitter at @BeWellBoston.
  • FUDiet is the blog of, admittedly, my favorite researcher at UMass Medical School. Librarians are not supposed to choose favorites (I think I’ve typed this before), but I have a bias towards Sherry Pagoto, PhD, a clinical psychologist and researcher in the areas of health, nutrition, fitness, depression and obesity. She lets me work with her, she planks in the Library, she makes me laugh. Ranking #1 for sure! Her blog and her social media movement, #PlankADay, are not to be missed. If you want to know the FACTS about health and fitness, follow an expert. Follow Sherry! @DrSherryPagoto
  • The Brilliant Blog is home of the musings of author, journalist, consultant and speaker, Annie Murphy Paul. Annie is a regular contributor to numerous news sources including Time, CNN, Forbes, MindShift, Psychology Today, and The New York Times, to name a few. She writes fascinating and thought-provoking pieces on the science behind learning and intelligence. You can also find Annie on Twitter at @anniemurphypaul
  • I started following Laura Vanderkam’s blog after reading her book, 168 Hours. I need all the help I can find, all the tips offered, to help me manage the multiple projects I have going on in my life, both at work and away from here. Laura provides these through her books, her videos, and her blog. Felling overwhelmed? Take a few minutes to read her stuff. You really DO have more time than you think. @lvanderkam
  • Librarians know Daniel Pink. Members of the Medical Library Association were lucky to have Dan speak at our annual meeting a few years back, as well as host a webcast just for us! When it comes to understanding people and how to put that understanding to practice in my people-oriented work, his books are at the top of my list. And his blog is a great way to keep those ideas going in between the publication of said books. @DanielPink is also on Twitter.
  • I would be remiss if I didn’t include my colleague, Donna Kafel’s, blog in this list. Donna oversees the e-Science Community Blog, a multi-contributor source for all information related to librarians, eScience, and data. I slip in a post there myself, from time to time. If you’re an informationist, a research librarian, any kind of librarian working with data, you can find a lot of relevant information here. The NER eScience Portal tweets, too – @NERescience.
  • Speaking of data, David McCandless and Omid Kashan’s website and blog, Information is Beautiful, is… beautiful! Leaders in data visualization, these guys regularly publish amazing pieces on all kinds of topics. It’s a fun stop in your busy day. Info=Beautiful, @infobeautiful
  • The Chronicle of Higher Education hosts a number of great blogs, but the one I choose to list here is Percolator: Research that Matters. From politics to morality to academia, Percolator is worth your attention. Grab a cup of Joe(sephine) and enjoy! You can keep up with all news from The Chronicle on Twitter at @chronicle.

And now, perhaps the two most important blogs to follow (save my own, of course!):

  • Because a life without music is no life at all, read Kim Ruehl’s blog for great writing on music and community. Kim writes regularly for No Depression, FolkAlley, NPR, and Yes! magazine. Though you can find her work at each of these places, I like to follow her own website. One-stop reading.
  • Ask Amy. Go ahead, ask her! She will answer. The Chicago Tribune’s nationally syndicated advice columnist, Amy Dickinson, is a sure thing for a 2-minute daily ponder regarding some important life lesson. Wondering what to say to your tacky neighbors (nothing, you McSnippy!), your whining children (just do the chores, you lazy kiddos!), the last guy to not return your calls after a date (seriously?! move on!)? No worries, someone has surely asked Amy and she’s provided just the right advice. If you work in a cubicled environment with other people (as opposed to being a zoo keeper), Amy can help you get through the days a little bit easier. Her memoir, The Mighty Queens of Freeville, is also worthy of a list, just not this one. Even better, buy the audio version and Amy will read it to you herself. Follow Amy on Twitter @AskingAmy and catch her from time to time as a regular panelist on NPR’s Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!

Yes, I can see that you’re hard-pressed to make an argument that each of these blogs is relevant to the librarian life, but this librarian’s life would be much less of what it is without them. Thanks to each of the writers for writing them!