Thursday, March 19, 2009


Inauguration in America-Revolt in Iceland

To describe the feeling of watching Barack Obama on television in Reykjavik, on a television in the Hotel Centrum while out the window at the Parliament, Iceland was burning; literally. As emotionally charged as the visual of Obama becoming President, my tears of joy were becoming tears for the Icelanders protesting the government reckless abuse of power. Tear gas was used on a few of the more violent protestors who had surrounded the Parliament; less than 100 yards from my window. I spent about a half hour walking around and taking fotos of the proceedings before watching our hope for the future becoming 44. The Icelandic population is pissed off by the looting of the banks which took place during the collapse of their financial system. The are accusing the government of being accomplises with the bankers in this failure. Very much reflective of what has happened in America; but our voices are silent. As the protests grew larger and louder and at times a bit out of hand, burning Christmas trees and splattering the windows of parliament with paint filled balloons, there were 6000 people at the largest protest. Now from a population of 180,000 in the Reykjavik area that would be about 3 1/2 % of the population. That is more than we even mustered for the inauguration. They are angry; as I have been for the last eight years; although I did shit about it, which made me even more impressed with the Icelandic spirit. The Viking in them will not stand for the rape of their country.

Somehow as this was transpiring out of my left ear I was as proud of my country as I have ever been in my 59 years. We finally did the right thing (thanks Spike!). When I was born a black man or woman could not vote, drink out of the same water fountains or ride in the front of the bus. Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Malcom X, Huey Newton, Bobby Seale, Bobby Rush ( former Black Panther who beat Obama in a congressional election), Medgar Evers, Stokely Csrmichael, Julian Bond, James Farmer, Jesse Jackson and the Reverend Joseph Lowrey blazed the trail. And the good Reverend gave probably one of the best Benedictions that I can ever remember listening too. He captured all that has come before and all that we have to look forward to. Forgive the Chief Justice for screwing up the oath; maybe because as a fellow harvard graduate he was a little nervous that the man who voted against his confirmation was now the President. It was a moment filled with joy that captivated the world. We are viewed once again as a great and honorable country. I was proud once again to say I was from the United States of America. George Bush is gone. Praise the good people of America and ll I can say is HALLELUJAH for President Obama. I love the way that sounds. President Obama.

The contrast between our joy in America and the sorrow which is enveloping Iceland is telling. Iceland will recover. These are proud and very strong people. Their heritage is Viking as ours is revolutionary. We have taken back our country and while I am writing this their Prime Minister has resigned due to cancer, the banking minister has just today resigned and there will be elections in May. Change is also in the air in Iceland. The question is “Who will lead this beautiful country back?” Someone strong, progressive and most likely very pragmatic.

Overlooked Music from 2008

Overlooked Music from 2008

I admit that since this is not my full time vocation; full time I am the North American Director for the Icelandic womens clothing company ELM (, some music slipped past me. So in the interest of staying true to emerging and ignored artists here is a quick list of those that “slipped through the cracks.”

B FLESICHMAN: ANGST IS NOT A WELTANSCHAUUNG Once again Jake Keller contributed to turning his father onto a very pleasant electronic beauty of a recording from an Austrian composer. I am guessing there is no connection between him and Fleischman Margarine, but a complete family tree examination has not been concluede by the staff yet. Thin Phillip Glass and Steve Reich gone a little bit more pop, with the help of Daniel Johnston on one track. Pleasant and at times very moving.

BEN SOLLEE: LEARNING TO BEND One of the great songs of 2008, JUST A FEW HONEST WORDS, captures this North Carolina singers take on the awful person who resided at 1600 Pennsylvania. With a blue eyed soul voice reminiscent of Amos Lee, this has been listened to me over and over again for the last few weeks. A beautiful voice, a wonderful writer and he plays the cello. Do not pass go, if you enjoy wonderful blue eyed soul roots music; with a cello. “We don’t choose our leaders, they choose themselves; tell me again about Democracy.” Amen Ben.

BLITZEN TRAPPER: FURR The title track is by far, without a doubt a song which the grandchildren of Crosby Stills Nash and Young have made. They also play jangly guitar and harmonize like most of the Northwestern USA bands and thank G for reminding me not to forget to listen to the Trappers. It is a sweet backwoods album for smiling.

BOBBY CHARLES: BOBBY CHARLES This was recorded in 1968 and it was called the lost Band album. Since most of The Band played on this with the good Mr Charles it is truly a nugget. The first cut Street People is very reminiscent of many songs on Music From Big Pink. In additon to the rootsy feeling of Woodstock New York there is surely the Cajun influence of the good Dr. John in Bobby Charles. There is talk of a new lbum soon and one can only hope it captures the soul of this classic.

THE CHAPIN SISTERS: LAKE BOTTOM Yes they are sisters and yes they are daughters of Tom Chapin and neices of the late, great Harry Chapin. Now that this little tidbit is out of the way, these beautiful voices who harmonize in the spirit of Laura Nyro, Joni Mitchell, Karla Bonoff and Wendy Waldman have made an impressive debut. Melodic and courageous voices these women who have relocated from New York to Los Angeles are on the folk road to success.

FOY VANCE: HOPE Now this Irish blue eyed soul singer in the spirit of Van Morrison made a stellar album aptly titled. When I first read about him the way his name was pronounced by the Irishman in a bar was Five Ants. Again this is one of those stellar voices and writers that gets overlooked by the music press, in this case both on line and in musical publications. A wonderful listen.

HORSE FEATHERS: HOUSE WITH NO NAME Once again a really soft and mellow additon to anyones musical library. In the spirit of Nick Drake and Bon Iver it is very quiiet and a bit like an Appalachian band which has spent a bit of time in the city. The violins add a really nice touch as do the banjos. A little Irish a little American mountain music and a fine singer. This is one that should have made the top 33 so maybe next year I will be inspired to list a full 50.

JOHNNY FLYNN AND THE SUSSEX WITT: A LARUM This is another womderful Irish addition to the musical scene that took me more than one listening to enjoy. Much in the tradition o the Waterboys, young Mr Flynn has a beautiful Irish bar folk singer voice with a fine band behind him kicking everything up a notch. Very Irish with nothing at all to do with U2.

KAT; OH THE HUMANITY: What the hell was I thinking!!! She has an adorable voice and is a darling presence live; especially wearing ELM. Kat Hayman is grinding away in the Brooklyn/NYC scene writing beautiful songs of love, loss and exuberance with life. She plays guitar and rocks as well as singing beautifully. Act Accordingly, the opening cut is a tale of a failed boy who obviously had no idea what it meant to be true to Kat. A great writer, first and foremost, she is surrounded by a talented crew of the Brooklyn scene. Clear some space for Kat, you will love her voice.

LAURA MARLING: ALAS I CANNOT SWIM Prolific and yet another singer/songwriter with a wealth of stories about love and loss at very young age. A British young lass with a scratchy, sweet and sorrowful tone Laura Marling and Kat Hayman are on the same side of the talented young voices pounding down the doors of the music industry. It would appear Ms Marling has mo marketing behind her and she deserves the support as much as Kat has yet to get it. Patience and laura Marling has a shot a real stardom; does Suzanne Vega ring a bell.

THE LUCKSMITHS: FIRST FROST Gdday mate. Australia the home of luscious pop music. Having never even heard of this band, I was reading about them on a website speaking of bands you may have ignored from 2008 and yes sir I missed them. The most perfect comparison would be the Beach Boys Oasis, , but Nilsson also comes to made as do The Beatles. Abeautiful pop album from down under.

THE MOONDOGGIES: DON’T BE A STRANGER They made the honorable mention list and based on all the attention that the Felice Brothers, Fleet Foxes and Okkervill River received; The Moondoggies did not make the cut. They are wonderful. Roots rock and country music combined they could be the grandchildren of The Band in a really good way. Big ups to the Ronin boys for turning me on to the pride of Portland Oregon.

PETER BRODERICK: HOME Amazing harmonic convergence by himself. Peter Broderick is the forgotten Bon Iver of 2008. I know little about him except to say that this is one of the most tranquil recording I have heard; ever. Why people like Peter Broderick are relatively unknown bothers me. This, of course is the only reason I am writing this blog. People need to hear this beautiful music.

RAY LAMONTAGNE; GOSSIP IN THE GRAIN He started out singing soft and beautiful like Bon Iver and Peter Broderick and this blue eyed soull midwestern singer has made another; his third, fine album. Although it did not get the attention as it deserved, his voice and phrasing is just plain sweet. His voice could be compared to either honey or silk; depending on your preference.

TOM MORELLO: THE NIGHTWATCHMAN : THE FABLED CITY One of the founding members of Rage Against the Machine, Tom Morello has extended the angry folk singer genre more in the Bruce Sprinsteen/Pete Seeger genre than anyone else in the past 5 years. His nom de plume The Nightwatchman is genius and his aggressive take on the state of our country is chilling. This, his second album, is a gem.

WAYLON PAYNE; THE DRIFTER You could not make up a better name for an “alt-country Americana” singer outta Nashville. My boy Tucker turned me on to this gem along with Gianmaria Testa (also genius) and this kid haas a future. A beautiful whiskey drenched voice who can sing sweet songs as well as he can rock; Waylon is the real deal. Check him and everyone else on these lists out. Music makes us happy ALWAYS!!