N EPISTLE TO THE CAROLINIANS
And Other Stuff I Noticed In The Past Couple of Months Or So
The Reverend Charles M. Young
1) Lady Gaga on the The Tonight Show. Leno asked her, “Have you met anyone in your generation who’s against gay rights?” Civil rights for gays is now so acceptable that it’s passe? Really? Lady Gaga replied that her new single is about giving birth to a new race that has no prejudice. Nice if it happens. I thought the anti-war movement in 1968 was the birth of something new as well. Turns out it was the Young Americans for Freedom who were giving birth to the future, and it’s here. My plea to Lady Gaga: Go to Madison!
2) “Green Fields of France” by Klonakilty. There are so many versions of this song on Youtube that I can’t count them all. I’ve listened to 20 or 30 of them—it may be the greatest anti-war song ever—and Klonakilty did the best. Singer Linda Scanlon gets the right mix of outrage and mourning in her phrasing, while everybody else is too solemn or just doesn’t have the vocal cords. Apparently Scanlon is trying for a solo career these days. I hope it works out for her. Even it doesn’t, this is a perfect 4 minutes and 58 seconds.
3) Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. Had not been paying attention to these guys at all, but stumbled on last year’s Beat the Devil’s Tattoo during an iTunes browse and, lo, they are good. And full of ideas after being a band since 1998. How does that work? I see them as a machine gun nest in the middle of no man’s land between the Jesus and Mary Chain and Green Day, perhaps because I have World War I on my mind (see Item #2).
4) Compilation: Acoustibbets/Elektrobitts/Exotibbets by Steve Tibbetts. So I got a cover letter from Tibbets, saying he’d mastered this 3-CD set from analogue tapes of his 12 CDs and he didn’t know what he was going to do with it. Well, how about selling it and receiving remuneration for your jaw-dropping artistry? I know, I know. In 2011, only Wall Street deserves remuneration for the great service it provides to mankind. Brilliant, one-of-a-kind guitarist/composers should starve with the rest of us. Even so, I think that if the Ventures had gone to the Himalayas right after they first heard Dick Dale, and if they’d learned to play instruments made from dried yak intestines stretched over the femurs of Abominable Snowmen, and then contemplated Miles Davis’ navel for 20 years in a mountain monastery...if all that, then they could have been Steve Tibbetts, and Steve Tibbetts could have had a big hit with“Walk Don’t Run.”
5) Genuine Negro Jig by the Carolina Chocolate Drops. If beauty is exuberance, as Blake said, then the Carolina Chocolate Drops are way beautiful. The antiquity of the music—Piedmont banjo and fiddle tunes, for the most part—has something to do with it. Designed to offer a Dionysian exuberance to people whose lives were relentlessly hard, the music had to make you want to dance without aid of electricity, and it did. And CCD understands that, which is a wonderful thing in the middle of the mass extinction event that we are currently living through. Exuberance is also the sine qua non of proper kazoo playing, and Rhiannon Giddens is the queen of kazoos.
6) Shitake mushrooms. You can buy about five of them for $12 on the Upper West Side, or you can go to Chinatown and buy enough to fill a volleyball for about $8. Soak them overnight (I’m talking dried shitake mushrooms) and pour the juice into your rice or rice porridge the next day. What Hendrix did for the electric guitar, the shitake mushroom does for rice.