Thursday, January 14, 2010

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

My Morning Jacket: Good coverage

Few would argue that in today's neo-folk/rock explosion, My Morning Jacket reins supreme; the "Big Bang" if you will. It began in 1998 in Lousiville, KY, and their popularity has been expanding ever since.

Courtesy of Rolling Stone

Frontman Jim James (or Yim Yames, depending) has become an iconic figure in music today and, with a scruffy beard and a set of pipes fit for a choir of angels, is revered by fans and fellow musicians alike. He (and the rest of the band) was even recently animated and featured in a November episode of "American Dad." James was the bromance of the main character in the show.

It took me a while to be bitten by the MMJ "bug." I saw them open for Pearl Jam in 2006 in Albany. I had been listening to their 2005 release, "Z," for a while and had been passing it around to friends. The band had a huge sound live and surpassed all expectations.

I was surprised when someone told me they began as a country band. In fact, I thought it was bullshit. So, I did some research and saw they're debut album was entitled "The Tennesee Fire." I wasn't sure what to expect. After listening to the brilliant mellowdramatic melodies on Z, a country album would have turned me off. Well, it turns out whoever told me that couldn't have been more wrong. Tennessee Fire is an album that captures the raw intensity of the band, and, while the song "From Nashville to Kentucky" has a little twang in it, was everything I hoped it was. It has some real gems on it, in fact. No Alan Jackson here ...

"Z" wound up on many "top 10 records of the decade" lists and the band's 2008 release "Evil Urges" continues to blow minds.

I saw a cool link on this morning. It is a compilation of the cover songs MMJ has done over the years. The band is very liberal with its taping policy, so there are many live records floating around.

The fan site is called, You Ain't No Picasso.

Check out some of the covers, ranging from Dylan to Danzig, Lionel Richie to Kool and the Gang. "Don't Fear The Reaper w/ Wilco" is pretty core.


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Coelho and realizing your dream

I'm sitting in a cubicle on a Tuesday morning, Web publishing stories I chased down the previous week. A rat race, where I'm competing with other print media in the area to scoop fluffy community news for a weekly newspaper.

It's not glamorous. I'm not seeing the world or curing diseases. But it's often said that where you are is most important, and I agree with that. I would also add that it is important to live your life with your ears tuned-in and your eyes wide open. There is a lot you can learn from your surroundings if you know where to look.

Not to mention, I'm grateful to have a job during the Great Recession. A recent poll showed that 45 percent of people who have a job, even now, still aren't satisfied.

I think it's human nature to seek more out of life, so I can understand this. But many people don't realize their dream and the freedom they inherit when born in this country.

This conundrum was dealt with by Brazilian author Paulo Coelho in a book I recently read, "The Alchemist." It is a "worldwide phenomenon," so you may have heard of it. I had a tough time getting my hands on it. It was always checked out at the library, but a friend recently let me borrow it. It spoke to me directly, as I'm sure it did for the ten's of millions of other readers. Like the ancient story of Narcissus in the author's intro, the fundamental truths dealt with in the story are timeless.

The book follows a shepard boy who sells his sheep and sets out to find a treasure, buried near the Great Pyramids of Egypt, that he saw in a dream. Along the way he meets people who teach him life lessons and guide him toward his treasure, while also teaching him to speak The Language of the World and find his Personal Legend. He had always longed to travel and see the world, but after traveling from southern Spain across the desert to the Great Pyramids, and being tested along the way, the boy learns that the treasure he sought was at home, with his family and sheep, all along.

This made me, a "boomerang," feel pretty good. A "boomerang" is the term that has popped up in media jargon of late. It is what they call kids that have gone off to college only to return home after graduating.

Even though the keynote speaker at my college's commencement told my class to essentially, go out and chase your dream now, before it's too late, I never felt too compelled to go move to an expensive city after college to prove something to myself or somebody else. Sure, that might be the conventional way of doing things, but I came to realize that the area in which I live is pretty damn good, and I wouldn't be happy in a place where I didn't have a large group of friends who I grew up with. Chances are, I won't find a person in any city far or wide that can remember going to a Little League game in the back of a pickup truck at age 10. Those moments are what made me who I am, which make you unique, which make you happy and content.

That said, the shepard didn't find his treasure until he had experienced the world and tested himself, so in that sense, I guess I should try my best to experience more of the world around me. There have long been tales of men my age going on a "great adventure" to test themselves. I don't think college is that great adventure, and many have proved that you don't need to go to college to be successful. Instead, I think that great adventure is unique from person to person and may occur at any given moment. Each person has his or her own Personal Legend to follow.

I'm going to go back to listening to World Cafe at my cubicle.

Here's to realizing the dream.