September was a spankin’ good month for new music releases among the geriatric set, and you know I have a thing for grouping related themes into collectives of three. So today I take a few moments to acknowledge three artists who have been practicing their craft each for a long time, and keep expanding their body of work.
Now I know at least one reader is scoffing that Hugh Laurie is an Emmy nominated actor, best know on US shores as the insufferable Dr. Gregory House. For more background I’ll point you to the New York Times Magazine feature of September 4, 2011 by Gavin Edwards (this issue also showcases the Noodlers of the recent Okie Noodling Tournament: if you watch Hillbilly Handfishin’ on Animal Planet you know what I’m talkin’ about). http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/04/magazine/hugh-laurie-sings-the-blues.html. The album, Let Them Talk, is more than decent. Mr. Laurie has been practicing his piano a long time now, and has a genuine respect and affection for the blues, which is only right since he is a British bloke. And I give him props for stretching his artistic limbs a bit and making this fine record.
I’m also a child of the 80’s…. a time before Madonna when there was still so much aural diversity. Remember listening to FM radio before The Man took over and we started getting programed “adult contemporary” or “lite” or whatever other little box o’demographic programming that was more for advertisers than the listeners? Well, let’s go back to the time of big hair, DJ Dave Herman and New Wave. And remember my man Nick Lowe, songwriter of a few of my favorite tunes, Cruel to Be Kind, and (What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding? Mr. Lowe is now 62 and I think this small excerpt from a June, 2007 interview is a great inspiration for our Grandma Jezabels or anybody else who thinks “clinging to youth” is a better option than facing the future with some optimism and age-appropriate attire:
A New York Daily News article quoted Lowe as saying his greatest fear in recent years was “sticking with what you did when you were famous”. “I didn’t want to become one of those thinning-haired, jowly old geezers who still does the same shtick they did when they were young, slim and beautiful,” he said. “That’s revolting and rather tragic.”
His latest release, The Old Magic, follows up At My Age. Dare I say he looks quite natty in the album notes? Nick most recently opened for Wilco on their North American tour, and although I’ve never seen the gent “live” I like these songs that talk a bit more about second chances and being a grown-up. Don’t get me wrong, I still crank up the volume on my Pandora when the 80’s tunes come ’round — ff only to embarrass the children with these over-produced songs of our pre-historic youth.
I have never been a country music fan, but I fell in love with a guitar guy and it opened my eyes to the richness of the instrument and how it enriches the sound of the voice. So I’ve been open to listening to stuff I wouldn’t necessarily select. In time, and in spite of myself, I’ve gained an appreciation for country music. Glen Campbell has been around a very long time, and he’s been a victim of his own success/excess over the years. His songs were a big influence on my Guitar Man in his formative years, so he had to have Glen’s latest, and presumably last release, Ghost on the Canvas. Mr. Campbell is currently on his “farewell tour” ~ he went public with his diagnoses of Alzheimer’s disease last June. Now you could argue that taking a 72 year-old man with a progressive disease around the world so he can “say good-bye” is cruel and self-serving to the folks who earn a living around that. But maybe it is the artist’s choice to keep performing his craft? (Is it naive of me to want to believe that? We all want to remain active and productive for as long as we can, yes? ) The songs on this album were written by Campbell and others, and their performance is both haunting and touching. There are a few instrumental interludes that make me think of the music you hear in Disney World when you’re waiting in the dark for a Tomorrow Land ride: kinda spacey and New Age, but it fits. So I wish Mr. Campbell a graceful and dignified farewell, and thank him for keeping the musical faith. Really, all these gentlemen inspire me to keep creating, and I wish the same energy for us all.