Blow Horns, Let the Sister Play Her Steel Guitar


Many years ago, I learned to stop making the mistake of trying to commit to “New Year’s resolutions”.  Squandered gym memberships and failed diet plans are the extreme example, but more often they are filled with rigid plans seem like paying for penance for the excesses of the holidays.

I prefer to set goals, do so long before the new year and check up on them and revise them throughout the year.  I have found that replacing verbs like “will” or “must” with “try” and “consider” makes it much easier to keep the commitments since it is much more about choice than pointless obligation.

With a new year, I am always wanting to try and consider new cultural options.  Way back in November, New York magazine ran a feature called The Last Culture Pages You’ll Ever Need.  A big boast, and it promised “Exhausted by trying to keep up with new culture?  Why not give it up altogether?  Our critics’ to 154 wonderful old things lurking behind your screen.”

I was a bit disappointed in the movie list, not that they were great movies, but that they were mostly ones I know.  But the idea that they are almost all available online is exciting.

But the treasure was the list of 60 albums “you probably haven’t heard”.  Might there be another Nick Drake, Eva Cassidy or other  under appreciated genius out there. Well, I own 10 or so of them, but most of the albums were new to me and jewels.  I dabbled into half a dozen of them randomly initially and was impressed.  Then I took the plunge and started off with the amazing Sister Rosetta Tharpe, of whom there is a great documentary about online.  She is a gospel blues singer, but also has a hint of Billie Holiday in her voice and was an amazing steel guitar player.  No wonder she earned the name of Godmother or rock and roll.

If you can get past the title of Volunteered Slavery, this 1972 clip of Rahsaan Roland Kirk playing multiple instruments at Montreux pays off enormous rewards as the tune keeps building and he wanders into the audience.  It’s amazing time clip of four decades ago as Euro-trash hipsters join in what looks like was a rollicking evening.

Then there is Jorge Ben’s Taj Mahal that was famously ripped off by Rod Stewart  to create a much better known, far inferior version of this Brazilian hit.  Ben took Stewart to court for plagiarism, and this tune holds the text of time.

Shirley Brown had a huge hit with 1975’s Woman to Woman, and her above Soul Train appearance may be one of the best telephone call re-enactments ever committed to the tube.

Thus far I have worked my way through the 60 albums up to the end of the 1980s.  I’m not sure that Ta Mara and the Seen’s Blueberry Gossip can hold its own with Sister Rosetta Tharpe, but I am enjoying discovering new treasures for a new year.


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