Monday, July 26, 2010


My new blog will be dedicated to music reviews of brand new stuff, but before we get there...I thought I'd post my most current summer playlist. Get it all.

1) Neutral Milk Hotel, "King of Carrot Flowers, Pt. 1" (In the Aeroplane over the Sea) [Some of the best lyrics ever written, I venture. "And this is the room/one afternoon I knew I could love you." Melt. Too bad it's such a short song.]

2) Phoenix, "1901" (Wolfgang Amadeus Pheonix) [Yep, you heard this playing over the Wimbledon promos..."folded, folded, folded!" The energy in infectious.]

3) Passion Pit, "Little Secrets" (Manners)

4) Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, "Hot Summer Night" (self-titled) [Enough said.]

5) Beck and Bat for Lashes, "Let's Get Lost" (Eclipse soundtrack) [Don't judge. These soundtracks are stellar. And this is one of the best song's of the year thus far.]

6) Fleet Foxes, "Ragged Wood" (Ragged Wood) ["Come down from the mountain--you have been gone too long."]

7) Little River Band, "Cool Change" [Anthem-esque classic. No laughing.]

8) Stars, "The Last Song Ever Written" (The Five Ghosts) [One of the best albums this summer...mellow, haunting. They'll be Austin in November!]

9) 22-20s, "Ocean" (Shake/Shiver/Moan)

10) Laura Marling, "Rambling Man" (I Speak Because I Can) [Her voice is old-soul, but she's so effing young. One of the best songbirdish albums this year.)

11) The Morning Benders, "Excuses" (Big Echo) [These guys came outta nowhere and claimed a lustful following quickly. This song is pure, soft sex! "You tried to taste me/And I taped my tounge to the southern tip of your body/Our bones are too heavy to come up/Squished into a single cell of wood/Wooooood ... woooooooood/And I made an excuse/And you found another way to tell the truth/I put no one else above us/We'll still be best friends when it all turns to dust."

12) Bon Iver, "Skinny Love" (For Emma, Forever Ago) ["Mah-ma-my-my"...makes you want to hum along. This album holds up like a steel drum. One of my favorites.]

Saturday, July 24, 2010

epic letter to myself

Greetings from my new address.

I'm finally officially settled in Austin, Texas, inhabiting the back bedroom of my sister's beautiful bungalow. My brother in law is a much-accomplished political scientist, so the bookshelves here are overloaded with heavy works by the likes of Chomsky. There's a precocious cat wandering around; she answers simply to "Kitty," has oddly human-like emotions, and seems to think she runs this place. Eleanor, my niece, learned to sit up on her own today. She's all chunky cuteness and "ga-ga's." And Joan manages it all with grace and clarity. In other words, I'm home. I feel grounded and clear-headed for the first time in a long time.

When I turned 25, a friend of mine said to me, "You'll have it made now. 25 is when it all started to make sense, for me. You'll begin to understand that your destiny really is your own making, and that no one is going to do it for you." Well into my 25th year, I'm realizing how right she was. My latest thing is that I've squeezed out all the room I had in my gut for hesitation.

I realized that when you remove that gnawing of worrying about what others think, you enjoy all of your days and moments infinitely more. I think a lot of worry, for all of us, comes from hiding things away or wondering if others are as well. I'm moving forward unashamed of the tapestry of happenings that put me here, that made me who I am at 25, unabashedly forthright about the questions I have. I'm looking for the answers, but I'm doing it the fun way.

Too deep for a Saturday morning? Sue me.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

the new blog

I'm branchin' out, y'all!

Follow this link [] to check out my newest space. I decided recently that a) blogging is important to me, and it's about damn time I actually try to widen my audience by focusing on a singular topic and b) music plays too big a role in my daily life to not place myself in its world somehow, even in a small way.

Check it out, you know you want to. Intro's up!

Friday, July 16, 2010

where I came from

This coming Sunday would be my mother's 63rd birthday! So my weekend is in honor of her...umm...okay, I'm not gonna lie, that probably means some whiskey toasts, some Corona by the pool, and also leaving no carb behind. She'd approve of all of this. I promise ;)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

the South in song

I was recently challenged to compile an "ultimate songs of the South" playlist. And...unsurprisingly I went kinda crazy. This is the rough list. At some point yesterday I had to STOP working on it because there are real deadlines floating above my head.

Here goes--a few are even annotated.

Bessie Smith, “Backwater Blues” (1927)—Flood story, makes you cry unless, have absolutely no heart or aren't southern...enough said.

The Carter Family, “My Clinch Mountain Home” (1929)—Historiography has taken away the romantic myth of the Carter family as untouched wild things, but every time I hear this song, I can visualize Ralph Peer sitting dumbfounded in the Bristol studio as the family let it all out.

Billie Holiday, “Strange Fruit” (1939)/
Nina Simone, “Strange Fruit” (1965)—Two versions of the most lyrically bold (and hauntingly beautiful) song about racial injustice in the American South.

Hank Williams, “The Log Train” (1952)—This was Williams’ only truly autobiographical song, a dirge-like tribute to his father’s days running lumber on Alabama’s rail lines. There must be a dozen different stories about his relationship to his father. I read one claim that he wrote this song on a visit back to Alabama in early 1952, perhaps because he was so moved by the memories; that story matches up with the date on the original demo, but who knows if he’d sat on the song for years or not. It wasn’t officially released until 1982, but the song has become a bit of a cult classic among Williams’ devout fans. I love it because it’s his voice at its rawest but perhaps also at its calmest. In just a few lines, it’s the story of a family living day by day.

Ray Charles, “Georgia on my Mind” (1960)—I like Willie Nelson’s 1978 version as well, but this is the classic.

Sam Cooke, “A Change is Gonna Come” (1964)—That the song was released posthumously makes it even more powerful.

Bob Dylan, “Stuck in Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again” (1966)—The way Dylan’s voice lifts up on the word “again” in the chorus makes me so happy; I can’t even explain why.

The Band, “The Night they Drove Old Dixie Down” (1969)—“He was just eighteen, proud and brave, but a Yankee laid him in his grave.”

Dolly Parton, “Coat of Many Colors” and Loretta Lynn, “Coal Miner’s Daughter” (both 1971)—If there was a “narrative songs about dirt-poor but loving Tennessee families who produced famous singing daughters,” well…okay, you get the point.

Vicki Lawrence, “The Night the Lights went out in Georgia” (1972)--Southern gothic at its best (and by “best,” I certainly mean grittiest). Corrupt cops, “backwoods southern lawyers,” promiscuity, family violence…once you read the lyrics, it’s almost too much to take. My mom loved this song, and of course when I was little I had no idea what the story actually entailed. But whenever Lawrence sang “The judge in the town’s got bloodstains on his hands,” my little body cringed and I imagined that his hands were actually bleeding. Reba McIntire did a cover of it in 1991, but the original holds up better.

Neil Young, “Alabama” (1972)

Ike and Tina Turner, “Nutbush City Limits” (1973)—Her hometown (apparently, though, barely incorporated) was Nutbush, TN. The lyrics are simple—she’s describing life in a pinprick southern town. “Church house/gin house, school house/outhouse”…come on! Maybe that’s southern history in a nutshell. (Pardon the pun.)

Lynyrd Skynyrd, “Sweet Home Alabama” (1974)

Outkast, “Rosa Parks” (1998)—The crazy thing is that I’ve heard this song play at weddings in the South, and some of the adults dancing to it have no clue as to what exactly they’re dancing to. That may be a phenomenon in itself—how Outkast became a wedding reception favorite.

Erykah Badu, “Southern Gul” (1999)—“I’ve got a dirty way, cause I’ve got a dirty mouth.” And she even “likes her tofu fried.” This is an unabashedly satirical little tune about the modern, southern black woman.

Allison Krauss, “The Scarlet Tide” (2003) –Krauss is always good, but here she’s absolutely haunting. It’s a woman trying to justify her husband’s absence. She’s smart, she understands the economic woes and politicking that are irrevocably connected to the Civil War, though—“swindlers who act like kings and brokers who break everything.” As the listeners, we get a sense that her husband isn’t coming back, that the blood trickling down through the mountain is going to make her a widow, no longer a bride.

Zac Brown Band, “Chicken Fried” (2009)—The more I listen to this, I think it’s not only great country-pop, but it’s also lyrically beautifully. “It’s clear when love is grown in southern ground” and “let freedom forever fly”…that’s timeless stuff.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

summer in the (smaller) cities

So, I had to face facts. Post-Italy, my bank account looked like a Filene's after a clearance sale. In other words, totes empty. So my summer is unfolding with small-time grace, as I shuttle back and forth from Louisiana and Texas and learn from my family and friends here. Summer fun on the cheap? Beer, affordable whiskey (mixed with ginger ale, although Sprite and Coke combinations also work in a pinch), patio time, matinee movies, mini-dance parties, and days in the sun. By a pool, on a lake, on your damn sidewalk, the sun will save your day. Oh, and impromptu photo sessions are fun too. Shout-out to my Uncle Jerry for the above gem.

Shouts-outs, in fact, are also due to:
-Vintage Wine and Spirits, Shreveport's coziest, loveliest wine bar. It's on Line Avenue. Go. Happy Hour = 3.25 glasses of top-notch Italian vino.
-The fantastic Chaos of Monroe, Louisiana; they hosted me this past weekend as I visited my friends Chris and Allison Huff, in from Atlanta. The rockstar Vince Chao is a music collaborator of the Huffs'; his beautiful wife Anna Beth (AB) is a budding interior designer (see her blog here:, it's eye-candy). They have a magical porch where many beers were consumed and many new friendships made. A great Fourth!
-Barton Springs Pool in Austin, Texas, for offering afternoons of sun and swimming (in cool natural springs) for $3 a pop.
-Starbucks, for finally giving up; they now offer free wireless.
I was just thinking this afternoon about how many GOOD people are in my life--family, friends (old and new). Thankful, I am.


Monday, July 5, 2010

talkin' bout my...

I saw an ad the other day for a new ABC television show called "My Generation"; apparently, it's faux-documentary style, a back and forth of footage of one group of high school friends as they traverse the decade between 2000 and 2010. It's set in Austin. The premise is that the group is reunited at age 28. Of course, none of this is very original. What happens to people? Who followed their soapy, over-talked dreams, and who didn't? Who got knocked up, married, divorced, went nuts, etc.? But it intrigues me because this might be the first blatant attempt to fictionalize MY generation. I'm a couple years off on the 2000 graduation date (I matriculated in 2002), but sure as hell I was the generation who followed Britney Spears in her prime (what was anyone thinking?), watched 9/11 unfold on a classroom screen, cared whether Joey and Pacey ended up together (and if you don't get that, you're fired!), and went off to college with so much promise in my gut that anything seemed possible. The second Bush was in the White House, but other than that life seemed like it might be pretty manageable. Who knew, eh.

Whether or not the show lives up to its hype, or makes me feel nostalgic, thinking about it also made me think about how we all process change as the years roll by. No matter the specific "generation," we all have that decade (AKA, our twenties) that sort of defines us. How we enter the world, how it surprises us, how we find the people who we want to CHOOSE instead of them choosing us. After college, anything is on the table. But we have to put it there.

There's a scene in the show's promo in which the group jumps, fully clothed, into a pool. Cheesy, yep, but also a little moving. I think it's supposed to represent a moment of unabashed joy--a moment that, despite receding hairlines and dashed hopes and re-start buttons, these people can find again. Who would want to be 17 again? Not me. But to recapture the joy of 17 in your late twenties? Score.

This morning I randomly read a page of a Pablo Neruda poetry collection I have by my bed. The line was "I love the handful of earth you are." That's how I feel about the people who stay in my life. They're not perfect, because no one is. But I love them just because I love them (to paraphrase Neruda), without pride or show or having to defend my choices. I didn't have a very good high school experience; I was the nerd, the cast-out. Much of it was my own doing. But as I've come into my own, and approach my tenth reunion, I realize that the most important development of my decade has not been an event but a process of accepting change and learning to love.

Talk about change. My sister Joan and I used to regularly lounge around painting our nails red and dissecting my latest man-drama (because, um, there pretty much always is some); now she goes to work, I try to work, and her precious daughter crawls around on the floor. There's a quarter of a century between me and Eleanor. She'll have a whole different story to tell--culturally, politically, just in the every day of her

Above, there we are--two totally different generations, just a' rollin' around in a heap on the carpet, giggling.