North Mississippi Allstars–Buckhead Theatre

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A holiday with the son at home from college... it made sense to look for a concert outing, giving some semblance of purpose to sleeping until 3:00 in the afternoon, I suppose.  Maybe.

It also helped that 2 for 1 discount tickets were offered by GoldStar, a discounter of Atlanta area entertainment events. 

I’d seen NMA twice before, more recently opening for Robert Plant with brothers Luther (guitar) and Cody (drums) Dickinson.  Before that they were opening for Drive-By Truckers around 2002, and included a bassist and the Rising Star Pipe & Drum Band.  The duo was okay, but the first hearing was awesome, an interesting mix of blues featuring blistering slide guitar that looked so simple that everyone should be able to play it.  I can say that because my concert and I were maybe 6’ away at the time.  But I hadn’t seen them in concert when they were headlining.

My son is also accustomed to getting close in, so we arrived at 8:30 to find our 2nd “row” spots, behind those who arrived only a bit earlier to claim the coveted railing.  The crowd was light at that point, but about 10 minutes after the scheduled 9:00 start, NMA’s bassist Lightnin’ Malcolm and counterpart Carl Gentle White aka “Stud” on drums, the grandson of T Model Ford, another MS bluesman.

Malcolm plays what is called “underground blues,” which to my ears were fairly traditional blues forms heavy on riffs and very little lead guitar.  The songs were fine, but Malcolm’s apparent joy in playing and attitude towards his career (“just wanting to make people dance”) added a good stage presence. 

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The sadder realization was that, for the second time this year (and the second time in my concert going experience), the house sound system failed to deliver vocals to those down front.  You could hear a bit of it, but there it’s a serious gap and a major disappointment for an otherwise fine venue.

After 20-25 minutes, NMA came out.  And they would essentially stay out for the next two hours and 40 minutes.

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A couple of things were quickly apparent.  Luther has expanded his guitar vocabulary, and the guy really enjoys playing for an audience.  Somewhat later, you find that the band is more than happy to change roles.  Cody, only observed in the past playing drums or electric washboard (hook up a wah pedal and probably a phaser pedal), has also stepped out – to include vocals and lead guitar.

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The bassist will play drums, Luther will play bass, the bassist will sing lead, etc.  Also guesting on a second set of drums through much of the night was Widespread Panic’s drummer, Todd Nance, who provided a steady but low-key presence among all the other drums going on.

Such as the bass drum, which Luther went back to time and again.  And the snare drums, which they all picked up from time to time, including “Stud.”

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Another observation is that while this band lets it all hang out, so does there staging... guitar cords getting caught in equipment, mics not set properly by amps, effects pedals not working...  I don’t think they really cared.   That kind of thing might set other musicians on edge.  But not this bunch.

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The band played a pretty good set, including “Shake Em On Down,” but you don’t really have to know the songs to enjoy their music.  It’s more about the emotion and feeling, some of which is cut short in their shorter, straightforward songs.

But, when they extend them...

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Well, that’s when the good stuff happens, and that’s apparently what an encore is for.   Nine of their 15 encore songs (yes, typed correctly), stretched over the 5 minute mark.

For those missing fingers or who have fingers that don’t bend, Luther played a cigar box guitar as well as a tin can attached to a pole with either one or two strings... and made them sound freaking awesome.  That’s just not fair to the musically challenged.

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I’m not sure what the bird mask was supposed to represent, but Cody seemed to like it.

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After 12 of those encore songs, the band started shaking hands with those at the front and exited... except Luther didn’t, and the bassist held back, and “Stud” moved to the drums.   I think this was unplanned as they seemed to be done, but the quality of the last three songs suggest otherwise. 

“Hear My Train A’Comin,” particularly, was the highlight of the show, and it sounded like Luther wanted to leave his best before exiting the stage.   That song was really well done, as he leaned into the crowd to get a sing along while playing great licks with a great tone.  “Peaches” and “Po Black Maddie” were also favorites.

The below shot is near the end of the show, which wrapped at 1:00 a.m.  After 5:30 hours of standing, Aleve came to the rescue when I returned home.

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While we were leaving the theatre, I noted an obviously approved recording rig.  Happily, it’s already found its way to the web.   The whole show.

Audio Archive

4 of 5 STARS


Actually, it was a 3 Star experience due to the lack of vocals up front, but it was definitely a 4 Star show.  The venue and/or artists really need to make sure there are vocals coming off the stage, as the house speakers in the upper corners don’t get the job done.

Set list:

Shimmy She Wobble
My Babe
Station Blues
Turn Up Satan
Shake Em’ On Down
Meet Me In the City
Shake (Yo Mama)
JR
Goat Meat
Psychedelic Sex Machine
Mystery Train
Boogie
Hoedown
Mean Old Wind
Mississippi Bollweevil
World Boogie
Black Back Train
Snake Drive (vocals by David Banner, MS rapper)
Mississippi Party
Granny, Does Your Dog Bite

Encore:
Peaches
Rollin ‘N Tumblin
The Meeting
Let It Roll
Never in All My Days
Po Black Maddie
Skinny Woman
KC Jones
Lord Have Mercy
Turn On Your Lovelight
Goin’ Home ML
All Night Long

Extra Encore:
Goin’ Down South
Hear My Train A’Comin’
White Lightnin’

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Healthcare and Universal Rights

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I’m usually entertained by Wil Wheaton, the actor who played Wesley Crusher on Star Trek: The Next Generation.  He’s often hilarious on Twitter, amusing on his blog, and entertaining on his YouTube board game videos.  He’s also decidedly liberal and correspondingly irritating to some percentage of his audience whenever he ventures into politics and public policy.  Celebrities are certainly entitled to their opinions as much as anyone.  The difference is that they’re often heard as they have reach. 

I believe healthcare is a universal human right, and nobody should have to worry about what happens if they get sick, except getting better.” ~ Mr. Wheaton, on Twitter.

Gee, it sounds nice.  Altruistic, and beneficial for me as well.  But do I agree?

In a perfect world, yes.  And everyone who wanted a job would have a job.  And every child would keep their (psychologically healthy) parents as a nuclear unit, everyone would have means far above an adjusted-for-inflation poverty level, Star Trek would have completed its five year voyage, and... there wouldn’t be any need for liberals at all.  Or conservatives, to be fair.  There would be Government, stating what is right, mandating it, and enforcing it by a finely crafted pen and a charismatic leader, because...  well, guns wouldn’t be needed to coerce compliance amongst citizens who somehow show traits of human nature after formative indoctrination years, because, happily, there are no guns in Utopia.

I’m not digressing.

Mr. Wheaton may frame a “universal human right” as a right of all humans, regardless of their country and citizenship.  In fact, I’m sure he would agree with that.  The distinction, then, is whether he considers this a natural right or a legal right.   Natural rights are not contingent upon the laws, customs, or beliefs of any particular culture or government.  Legal rights are bestowed by a given legal system.  One is viewed as unchanging; the other is subject to change over time based on interpretation and changing societal mores.

Natural Rights / Inalienable Rights

My definition of a natural right is one that exists at the point of personhood.   The preferred term is inalienable right, recognized in the Declaration of Independence as being endowed by [man’s] Creator, but this is under threat today as being an unnecessary foundation when a social contract between the authority and its people is sufficient to carry the morality and course of a nation’s governance, never mind the irrelevance of the God concept.

Inalienable rights were said to be “self-evident truth,” and whether tied to Judeo-Christian, Deist, or other philosophical reasoning, include rights which cannot be ceded to the State.  John Locke said that these include “life, liberty, and estate [property],” of which Jefferson amended the last as “the pursuit of happiness” in the Declaration of Independence.

Locke’s paraphrased definitions:

Life:  everyone is entitled to live once they are created
Liberty: everyone is entitled to do anything they want to so long as it doesn’t conflict with Life.
Estate: everyone is entitled to own all they create or gain through gift or trade so long as it doesn’t conflict with Life and Liberty.

In single words, these terms mean something, an oughtness of humanity in general and the individual specifically.  When scrutinized, though, these inalienable rights have already been ceded to the government in varying measure, in the first instance in Roe v. Wade, in the second more widely in the interest, we trust or trusted, of protecting ourselves, and lastly in taxation, the instrument by which government funds the outworking of legal rights and other obligations.

Mr. Wheaton will note that that his right deprives the government of extinguishing his life (unless as ceded by legal law for the crime of murder, even in California), but there is no inalienable right to always be made healthy.


Legal Rights

If natural rights don’t solve the problem, legal rights will not help, either.

Two examples of legal rights are the right to an attorney and a right to an education.  There are others, but I single these out because the law confers the work product of others to those who qualify, at no cost to the recipients.  The cost is instead paid for by the government.  Some might enlarge the notion as a societal cost, but to be specific, it’s paid for by income producers and property holders via governmental taxation, a narrowed subset of “society.”

In the U.S., I would have to think that the Affordable Care Act, i.e, Obamacare, would not pass Mr. Wheaton’s muster.  For those who can’t afford it, the insurance coverage is given to them by income producers, but they’re still left with out of pocket expenses that are likely to exceed $6,000 per person.     Financing healthcare clearly remains a worry at the individual level, so I’ll presume he would recognize Obamacare as a failed placeholder until Utopia, eh, universal health care, arrives.

But that’s not a suitable end game, either, at least for Utopians.

In the current insurance market, in the new ACA, and observably in countries with universal health care systems, there is no provision that anyone who is sick should only have to worry about getting better.  There’s a cost/benefit based on age and relative improvement in quality of life (or “quality adjusted life year system”), not to mention the consideration of mortality tables.   There’s also shortages in health care professionals, long delays for needed services due to system demand, and a reduction in Research and Development in that related costs are often no longer worth the benefit for profit-minded investors, not an insignificant portion of that community. 

Universal health care is not a system for “sickness without worry.”  There can’t be, because it’s not affordable when scaled to all the needs of a population.   That doesn’t mean, though, that governments cannot or should not try.


Conclusion and More

When I started this exercise, I had a fixed opinion that Mr. Wheaton was wrong about rights, because I believe strongly in fixed inalienable rights.  None of these require the talents, goods, or services of other people for my benefit.  I’ve had to reassess this and concede that a government can make any contract with its people that it wants, or that its citizens allow. 

Lacking justification within “rights,” I move to the U.S. Constitution, where it is set forth that “We the People” will “promote the general welfare” under the auspices of a government.  “Promote” is the key word there, a word chosen for its particular meaning, as opposed to, say, “Provide.”  The founders also chose that word for its proper context, namely in providing for a common defence (sic). 

Provide vs. promote.  These are different terms with different meanings.  The government functionally operates one and encourages, researches, and oversees (but does not provide) the other.   Elected politicians have long ignored the meaning of the words behind their oaths.  ACA does not intrude on “promote.”  Universal health care will, just as Social Security and other programs have.

What is left is the practicality of implementing AHA (now) and universal care (soon) based on medical system capacity, costs and increasingly difficult funding needs, weighed against the changing mores of the population over time, namely, how much of their estate [property] they are willing to give for the benefit. 

There will be gratitude for those currently unable to afford healthcare, a genuine response to charity.  But soon, there will only be entitlement, which is the “right” that liberals pronounce at every perceived need.   After all, it’s a good thing to do, it builds political power, and debt is never a problem.  

Note: Much of the information on rights was borrowed from Wiki, a publicly editable resource that may contain errors.

Healthcare is a concern for many, both in affordability and access.  Perhaps THIS is a wiser means of going about it.

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Christmas 2013

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Black Friday put Thursday to the test
Deals led families to a state of unrest

Gone are the stations with the month of carols
Offering Cyrus and Bieber as your holiday perils

Salvation Army ringers are looking for quarters
Card carrying shoppers give to the importers

The CEO closed the year with “Happy Holidays”
The Bible and A&E all but parted ways

Target’s seasonal colors are green and blue
The new LED lights lack a traditional hue

The kids are grown and past their days of wonder
Santa won the battle for a Day of Plunder.

The public tolerates a savior unseen and muted
But naming Him publicly is clearly unsuited

I’m wondering just what the future might bring
As fewer find their knees for the King of Kings

I passed a saying on a Day Care marquee
That I really hadn’t dwelt on hitherto
It’s not just about the birth of Christ, few see
”The reason for the season is you”

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Shem Creek, SC

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This is a post that I wrote and forgot about shortly after our visit to Charleston, SC this summer.   My wife awoke early to capture the area in the favorable tones of morning light, which was moderately successful.

First, Shem Creek is not a town.  It’s a creek located in Mt. Pleasant, SC, which is just across the Cooper River from Charleston, SC.  So, adjacent to a picturesque city is a picturesque “spot” that has had its uses since the early 1700’s – fishing, shipbuilding, brick making, and rice milling, for example.

“Shem” may come from “Shemee,” a word used by the Sewee Indians for the creek, who inhabited the area nearby.

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Today, it’s a picturesque spot, with competing interests of restaurants, charter boats, and shrimp trawlers.  Essentially, it’s now a tourist trap for restaurants, but commerce remains with perhaps 20 shrimp boats, as compared to over 100 at its peak.  The explosion in growth in Mt. Pleasant and the nearby islands has brought more dining options, but none offer the quaint waterfront vibe of Shem Creek.

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The names come and ago.  The Trawler, a landmark restaurant for many years, but it’s been closed for several years.  Ronnie’s is now Waters Edge... and so it goes.  All offer scenic views of either the creek, the bay or the marsh.

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The marsh is much more in view due to the creation of a “park” consisting of a wooden pier system that reaches out into the marsh area.  The view will vary with the tide, but we got to see the fiddler crabs, moving as a horde.  The park may be developed further in the near future.

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Looking inland from the crossover bridge reveals the water access to houses along the sides.

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It has all the evidence of a peaceful place... other than the constant traffic on the Charleston/Mt. Pleasant corridor, which is, all things considered, a needed supplier of tourists.  It remains a place all visitors to the area should at least see, if only for photos and a lunch meal.

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The Improbability Drive

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Take a young man, send him to college, fund him with a cafeteria plan to keep him alive, and hope he returns home healthy and more mature.

Do it again the following year, fund him with a... well, wait.  What?  He wants to cook for himself?  Really?  The same guy who only eats day old pizza if someone else warms it for him?  Just how bad was that last meal plan?

A time of growth, indeed.

So, through the semester we’ve heard of ongoing experiments about making the perfect chili.  My wife gave him the “family recipe” specifying exactly which store mix to purchase, plus the other basics.  Reportedly, many experiments were “too spicy,” a difficult admission.  Cayenne pepper will do that.  But he’s had plenty of practice, as a big batch can last for days.  It’s cheap and efficient.

The stars aligned this evening.  Home for the holidays, he was confident enough about his creation to actually want to make it for us.  (Insert eyes wide open parental bewilderment).  And he did just that, advancing himself one cooking level above his big sister, who made peanut butter and (not enough) jelly sandwiches for me earlier in the day. 

So, take your basics (ground beef, chili mix, chili beans of choice, diced tomatoes) and add chopped red peppers (sautéed with coriander) and brown sugar (because sugar makes everything taste better), and... I’d give it an “A”...  another good grade for a good semester.

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Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds–Push The Sky Away

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I feel creepy just writing a review about this CD.  I’ve borrowed others from a friend, but Nick Cave is worlds away from where my head lives and resides. 

Lyrical snippets:

Your dress sighs with your wide lovely stride
All along the street and lately stories abound
They’ve dismantled the funfair
And shut down the rides
And hung the mermaids from the streetlights
By their hair

They would come in their hordes these city girls
With white strings flowing from their ears
As the local boys behind the mound
Think long and hard about the girls from the Capital
Who dance at the water’s edge shaking their asses

I am alone now. I am beyond recriminations
Curtains are shut.  Furniture has gone.
I am transforming.  I am vibrating
I am an embryo eating dark oxygen
I am glowing, I am flying.  Look at me.

Each of those are from different songs, and I left out the Devil and Robert Johnson, various biblical references, abundant sexual innuendo and suggestiveness, and... and.

To say that Nick Cave mines the dark side of the flesh is fair to say.  He also does it in a manner which begs a stream of consciousness scattering of darts that may or may not relate.  But they tell a story, often poetic, that makes Cave a favorite of black clad, gothic wannabes.  My opinion, he’s the real deal.  And that’s what makes this CD interesting.

At the same time, despite the music is a draw.  It’s not loaded with tunes that I would hum to myself or refer back to as a great musical moment, but rather he builds each song spaciously.  A lulling simple piano accompanied by sparse percussion, a muted guitar strum, a thrumming bass with an odd violin phrase, a slow stark electric line, a bass undercurrent that speaks ill, warm female backing vocals that tries to cover the gloom of Cave’s prose, and so it goes.

Cave’s voice is an instrument in itself, defining whatever tune there is and expressing all of the content... his all but spoken word delivery and his vocal emphasis on just the correct words, and, yeah.  It’s creepy.

For a counterpoint, here’s my son’s opinion, who favors guitar shredding bands, after his first listen. “This is really good.”

4 of 5 STARS

 

 

Suggested Track: “Higgs Boson Blues”

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Riverside – Shrine of New Generation Slaves

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I purchased this CD at the conclusion of their Atlanta concert several months ago, and I might have reviewed it immediately.  But, I was either procrastinating or wanted to give it a fairer report after time had moved on a bit.  It’s probably both, but I do prefer reviewing CDs after I’ve lived with them a while.  I have no idea how paid reviewers are comfortable with judgmental reviews on the date of release.  Maybe they get their demo copies weeks in advance.  If you’re a record company, yeah, help me out there.

I love this CD.  It’s progressive rock, which means it has some ambition musically, from chord changes, to instrumental solos, to song length, to tonal complexity, etc.  It takes only a moment for me to get used to Mariusz Duda’s vocals.  This is a Polish band, but he sings in English and his accent fits in beautifully with a style of music that built upon European musical history anyway.  He really has one of the finer voices for this type of music, and he has suitable inflections to cover the range from their heavy metal to all-but pop styles.  

Guitar, drums, and keyboards play their roles, the first two rather heavily to suit their fallback preference of rocking with a punch, but tasteful through any song.  Keyboards are rarely used in a lead role, which I might prefer more of in a Genesis/Tony Banks complexion, but they’re tasteful and enjoyable throughout, especially in the jazzier sections.  Bass is spot on, both melodic and driving where needed. 

Riverside is an original band but suffer from being labeled as similar to many others, primarily Porcupine Tree and Opeth.  Whatever, but the places they borrow from, I really like.  Radiohead, Steven Wilson, Pink Floyd...  They take tones and occasionally sections of others music to supplement what is their own.  It works for me.

Still, a full CD listening takes a little getting used to.  Sections of a song may sound like mid-tempo, melodic FM radio fare, then are shattered by crashing drums and heavy metal riffs.  In places like that, I struggle to find how the music melds with the lyrics.  But over time, I’ve found that it all works together to a very enjoyable listen, and one that continues to hold my attention.  Plus, even as I age, I don’t mind some aggression in my music, as long as its not noise.

I tend to favor the second half of the album slightly more than the first, where the band moves beyond rockers into the more exploratory instrumental musings.  “Escalator Shrine” is the standout song for me as it gives room/length for their musicianship to shine, though there are other songs or sections within that I think are excellent.

Lyrically, it’s all fine.  There are no moments of revelation on the cause of the sores of human nature, but the songs comment ably on resignation to life’s wear and tear, relationships that suffer due to things left unsaid, the recognized loss when failing to commit to a relationship, isolation, and similar odes to melancholy.  Despite all that, the music and overall feel is positive and uplifting.  Go figure.  But give it a listen.

4 of 5 STARS

 

 

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Jekyll Brewing

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Craft beer has grown at 10% annually over the last 5 years, at a time in which beer consumption is shrinking by a small margin, as wine and liquor pick up.  Still, it’s a growth market, and whether the motivation for craft beer is dissatisfaction with the major breweries, “buying local” consumer fascinations, or just a growing appreciation for more variety in flavors and higher alcohol content, craft breweries are popping up everywhere.

And now there’s Jekyll Brewing, opening this past August just a hop and a skip away from my office.   This is convenient, but kind of... weird.   I’m used to going to industrial parks or old commercial buildings that have been converted to brewery use.  You come to expect a certain atmosphere in these things.
Jekyll, so far in my experience, is unique.  It’s located, essentially, in an office park.

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A peek inside suggests its perfect for area businesses to hold after-hour get togethers or even host corporate events.

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The names in the background are a visible thank you to individuals who helped fund the brewery through a Kickstarter campaign.  Kind of cool for them in an overly large cornerstone sort of way, but there’s not a festive sense of environment for others.

There are things to do, though.  There’s a small stage for live music, a pinball machine, a couple of X-Box units, and an industrial sized version of Jenga.

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So it manages at least a little personality, but otherwise, it’s a sterile, ho-hum place.   That’s a disappointment, but, fortunately, their beer is not.

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Above is their Hop Dang Diggity IPA, my favorite, in the souvenir glass that is included in the $12 admission for a “tour.”  They also have a Kolsch, Brown ale, Amber ale, and a blonde.  In two visits, I’ve sampled all of these, as well as a limited run smoked porter. 

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Having been to most of the local breweries, I think the Brown, Amber and IPA fare better in these categories.  Good stuff.

Then there’s the tour.  Pretty much, you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all.  But you learn a little about the history and how much product they make, from the people who make and, obviously, enjoy their beer.

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Jekyll currently brews one day per week, the equivalent of 30 barrels of beer.  At 31 gallons each and 128 oz. per gallon, that’s 9,920 bottles for relativist thinking.   And Jekyll is just beginning to bottle, which will soon increase their brewing to 2-3 days per week.  They’ll initially find their ways into most package stores in the local market, but not the large box supermarkets.  I scored a 6 pack of the IPA this evening from my local package store, so it’s getting out there.

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Otherwise, the brewery is obviously new.  A remarkable difference, though, is that everything is new here.  New tanks, new tools... everything.  Most breweries start off buying starter sets of other breweries that have since outgrown their equipment.  Not here.  It makes you wonder a bit about their business plan.

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Even the sundries are new, as well as things like hand tools, dollies, and furniture.

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Jekyll will provide small cups of pretzels later in the evening.  The tour includes 6 tickets which equate to about 3 pints of beer.  Plan accordingly, such as bringing a sandwich or a pizza.  Overall, it’s a good value, good quality beer, and, for me, much more convenient than other breweries around the city.

Kudos to the City of Alpharetta for encouraging and working with Jekyll to provide a local brewery presence, even if they borrowed the name from Georgia’s first brewery located in scenic Jekyll Island back in the 1740’s.

Other assorted photos:

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Midlake – Antiphon

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The announcement that Midlake, my favorite of contemporary bands, was releasing a new CD was great news, as it had been three years since The Courage of Others, which followed four years after The Trials of Van Occupanther.  That’s not a formula to build a reliable audience or sustain a career.  Concurrently, the band announced that it’s writer and lead singer had left the band almost a year prior.  Eh…

Recorded in just six months and free of the perfectionist frustrations of their former leader, Midlake built Antiphon, a term appropriate for their response to the call to go and prove themselves.  As an album title, this works.  As a refrain in their leadoff song, it’s unfamiliarity and awkwardness makes for an unfortunate choice.

But, otherwise… Otherwise, the song is good.  It wakes the listener from the muted folkish flavors of their prior two efforts and sets the stage for a killer sequence in the next three songs where the band sounds like their old selves, but injects some aggression, often with a progressive rock feel to it.  It’s a formula that works through most of the CD.

At other times, they move into a trippy instrumental ambiguity, which is okay for a spell, and this does provide an opening for the return of Bamnan and Silvercork era keyboards.  But overall, the band easily quells any questions about their post Tim Smith abilities.   Chalk it up to a smart players who know how to mix a melodic and occasionally aggressive bass, fluid and perfectly appropriate percussion, occasional flute, crisp and accenting lead guitar, and clear acoustic guitar to carry the tunes.  Good stuff, indeed.

Lyrically, the album is much more obtuse.  Under Smith’s guidance, lyrical vignettes were imagined fairly vividly.  I couldn’t say specifically what most of Antiphon’s songs are about, but the words sound right for what they’re doing musically, and that’s more important to me.  That said, “Science our daughter, Religion our father, Who is mother?” is the worst type of metaphysical babble, absent a tongue firmly planted in cheek.

It will be interesting to see if Tim Smith can free his own vision (under an announced name of Harp) without the support of this cast.  I’m looking forward to what he might create – whenever that is -  but I’m very pleased that Midlake continues to make great music and am curious to hear where they will take it.  And now that they’re without excuse, I’m we’ll hear from them more frequently.

Recommended Songs: “Provider,” “The Old and the Young,” “It’s Going Down”

4 of 5 STARS

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Paul McCartney - New

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There’s 1977 for you, which is about the same year as Paul McCartney last had a (good) recording band.  Since 1980, he’s assembled players from here and there to make an album and occasionally tour, but his New CD is the first since Wings where’s he’s played with musicians for years before recording. 

It makes a difference.  The same supporting cast can be found on 2005’s Memory Almost Full, but that CD sounds like a collection of leftovers other than the toss-away single “Dance Tonight.” 

New, on the other hand, sounds like an album made by a band, with McCartney at the forefront.  At 71, he sounds as engaged, enthused and on point as he’s been in a long, long time.  Maybe using four different producers was a factor, but somewhere he seems to have found someone "new” who either has the balls to tell a legend “No” or counters underwhelming intentions with a “Have you considered this?”  McCartney needs that type of editing, and his post-Beatles career is replete with examples of either his musical excesses or, more frequently, lapses.

You won’t find deep meaning here.  Lennon wrote as much silliness as McCartney way back then, but McCartney has rarely intended to bare his soul.  This is just good, well constructed music.

The audience can find ample references to a new love, a remembrance of the past, quite a few moments of Beatles’ musical styling, and whatever else they fancy.  But, nowhere else will you find “Chichester” in a song lyric.  And why not?  Most everything works on this CD.  It’s not a hit and miss affair, and when can that last be said about a McCartney release?   No, this isn’t a great CD, it’s just consistently good.  And that’s been the weak point of so many of his albums.   Even McCartney’s fondness for oddities, such as the musical approach to “Appreciate” or titling a song “Alligator” that turns out to be an honest declaration for a need in a relationship, have the right helping hands to make them gems rather than filler.

It’s not all perfect.  The vocal treatments help temper the fragility of McCartney’s voice, especially when he reaches for higher notes.  For example, “Alligator” features a falsetto vocal break begs for a few word tweaks and a female voice, a la Kate Bush in Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes.”  Likewise, the jarring and redundant transition in “Road” detracts from that’s song’s jazzy mood.  But overall, this CD grows on you, warts and all.

And, finally, a regular version vs. a Deluxe Edition is ridiculous in the digital age, especially when the final two songs might be appropriate bookends to his recording career, if it comes to such.  “Get Me Out of Here” is a cheeky return to the blues, and “Scared” is one of those sparingly accompanied, emotional songs that shows just how well McCartney can write when he tries.

4 of 5 STARS

 

 

Recommended: “Appreciate,” “Alligator,” “Queenie Eye”

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