Remember the days of “Up Where We Belong”? The interplay between two singers creates an energy that can’t be matched in solo work. Here’s a recent example from Jason Reeves and Kara DioGuardi - it’s an uncomplicated, down-tempo song but the vocals are good.
I’d like to see us get back to loving this type of songwriting and performance. Word on the street is that Kara will appear on Kelly Clarkson’s new album, “Stronger,” when it drops in October. Kelly’s first toe-tapping single, “Mr. Know It All,” is available now on iTunes.
(ATLANTA - 6 September 2011) :: Songwriting, crisp arrangements and soulfulness are alive and well, I’m happy to report.
All evidenced by Parachute’s latest record, “The Way it Was” (Island Def Jam). The band first caught my ear with the driving, soulful “Under Control” - a fine if a bit safe pop-rock track that spurred me to snag the entire album. I’m glad I did, because it was the perfect prep for their newest effort.
But don’t let that fool you: the production is slick and the writing is stellar. Despite the strange, retro look on the cover, the band fearlessly delves into hybrid waters, with the unabashed, gospel-infused “Something to Believe In.”
“You spend your days alone still hopin' for the truth, But all you hear are lies” As a writer and lyricist, that’s a line that hit right at my core. We are a nation hoping for something new, something truthful, but all we are fed is bullshit - and then we’re expected to stay quiet and accept the scene of our country crumbling at its core.
But the lyric and arrangement is raised up by the gospel backing - a daring move for a band not known for that. I’d push back on their video for not highlighting those specific vocals, because they absolutely make the song. But I’m nit-picking.
I don’t use the term “fearless” lightly with this record - because rock bands often shy away from anything that takes them outside of their wheelhouse. (And they are often criticized for doing so, as Liz Phair found out the hard way.) Creating accessibility in songwriting is not tantamount to watering down or “selling out” - it’s a tool to speak to more people.
Just ask Steve Winwood, who saw “Higher Love” shoot to the top of the charts with the blistering, stellar backing of Chaka Khan. How could that song have soared as it did without her vocal - and without that added accessibility? Answer: it couldn’t. They did, in fact, show Chaka in the video, too.
In all, and in the midst of the nutty spin-cycle of never ending new-band parades, Parachute has done an incredible job. So check it out on iTunes if you haven’t already; make sure to spin “Kiss Me Slowly” (written with members of Lady Antebellum), “You and Me,” and “Philadelphia” - an uncomplicated tune reminiscent of some of Josha Radin’s best stuff.
(ATLANTA - 11 May 2011) :: Atlanta has a long and illustrious history of artist enclaves, lively creative events and world-famous destinations. Visitors to Studioplex this Saturday (May 14th, 11-6 p.m.) will see all of those elements together in ArtWalkFest.
At Studioplex, the historic former cotton mill in Atlanta’s Old 4th Ward district, first- and second-floor lofts and common-area spaces have been transformed to house artists, chefs, musicians, jewelers, glass blowers, photographers, painters and so much more. Here’s just a slice of what you’ll see:
Shondra Leigh’s “Stained” line of socially conscious jewelry. These stunning pieces have been crafted from balls of tar that washed up on the Gulf of Mexico after the BP oil spill. (Visit Loft #201)
The folks who entertain us on Broadway are some of the most generous, awake and kind people out there today - constantly giving of their time and energy to “make it better.” Countless “Broadway Cares” events from Actor’s Equity show how much they invest themselves in the community.
(ATLANTA & SANDY SPRINGS, GA. :: 14 April 2010) Atlanta’s own Sunday Paper just published “Cutting Across Racial Lines” - a piece I wrote on two African-American barbers with vastly different perspectives on race. So here is some bonus coverage of the piece: George Lollar (top picture, seated, right) with Nadine’s Triple Crown in Virginia Highlands is one of the piece’s subjects, and he says he uses emotional-intelligence skills to connect with clients. “You gotta be sensitive to everyone,” he says. “I always allow my clients to lead and I follow. You’re supporting them by listening.”
Kedar Ras (pictured top, standing, left) experiences flummoxed caucasian men and women entering his Clubhouse Barbers in Sandy Springs, only to turn around and walk out. He says customers often seek and expect a similar peer group in a barber shop; when faced with something different, they will oftentimes turn around and walk out.
“One of our biggest sins is color,” Ras says. “If we cannot get past the color thing, that’s what’s gonna separate us forever. For the majority, the color barrier is still an issue. They say, ‘I can’t get past who you are because of what you look like to me.’ “I practiced getting over the fact that everybody don’t look like me,” he adds. “Even with my kids, I teach them not to see color. When you look at color you put yourself in a box or under a glass ceiling. Look past color. Get to see the person, who they are. Then make your judgment on whether or not you’re going to allow them into your inner circle. Because, to be honest, there are more enemies that look like me than there are that don’t.”
Special thanks to Nadine’s stylist Allison Eaton (pictured here, far right) and receptionist Kira Naillieux, with apologies for getting her name wrong in the article. Also, I’ll share some feedback from a Sunday Paper reader, an African American woman, who enjoyed the article: “I read your article “Cutting Across Racial Lines” in the Sunday Paper. I am an AA woman and I can say that this is one facet of race/culture rarely talked about in open forums. Many still do not realize that churches and barbershops/salons are two institutions that still remain heavily self-segregated. I have been on the other side in which I have unknowingly walked into a “white salon” and had the stylists look at me with “surprise, paralysis and panic”. Seeing the picture of the Caucasian gentleman in the shop chair was definitely a sign of the changing times. Good story and great article!”
“Atlanta's own Positive Impact threw its second-annual "Parties with Impact" gala at The Granite Room in Castleberry Hill. Alexis Vear (accompanied by guitarist Matthew Smith) headlined the event, with clips including "Step Out," a song Alexis wrote about Eddie's Attic; as well as covers of "True Colors" by Cyndi Lauper and "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" by U2 - a duet with Will Pollock (additional backing vocals by Todd Price). Videography by Will Pollock & Todd Price; edited by Will Pollock. ARTvision 2009 sales launch on December 1st. For more, visit www.positiveimpact-atl.org.”
(5 July 2009 - AUGUSTA, GA) Beneath the veils, white gloves and baby dangling, an artist moved through our pop-culture consciousness with a singular adeptness. As the long-version video shows, “Back or White” beautifully summarizes his conflict with and love of life... where he wanted to reject conventional perceptions but also show a longing for acceptance.
We are gearing up for a memorial for this man, this legend - no matter what your opinion of him, our world will be a lot less interesting without him.
And herein lies my point: We can’t wait for death to appreciate life. In his last 10 or so years, he was a lightening rod for lawsuits (some of them deserved), criticism and many, many aspersions. Much of his life drama played out publicly... and much if not all was self-created.
But amidst all of this, here’s the question: Why is everyone always a saint after they die? He wasn’t a saint, he didn’t walk on water. He was human... and a very talented one at that. We should work harder to celebrate life while we have it - instead of waiting to deliver a eulogy and wishing we had just one more moment in the waking world.
(BOSTON :: 14 March 2009) - A tipping point is fast approaching.
Great change is always preceded by intense turmoil, and I believe we are at just the beginning of a vast reinvention of our global society. With the book proposal done (the book speaks directly to the “change factor” that we, ourselves, control) and the book-agent search officially on, I thought this Web site popped up at just the right time.
“Thomas Paine wrote during the time of the American Revolution, ‘we have it in our power to begin the world over again,’ and that is exactly what people living on this planet right here, right now have the opportunity to do!” The Web site founder:
Log on and help tip the scales today. More to follow on this topic... Thanks to Brenda for passing it along.
(ATLANTA :: 3 Nov. 2008) This race is not just about race. Underlying threads of an "Us vs. Them" mentality have been poisoning our politics, our daily lives actually, for decades. In the words of Colin Powell, we need a "transformational figure" to dismantle and permanently dissolve that ideology:
Barack Obama is just that person to bring about dramatic change in our country. Yes, he's only one person and yes, he's just a politician... with the same shortcomings as any of us.
But as I told my relatives out West, it's not just about what he represents - it's about whom he'd surround himself with; the potential pool of those sharp, astute policy wonks - people who can problem solve and not wag fingers (that is, when they're not sitting on their hands). That made the difference for me. We need expert leadership in as many positions in government as possible, and now here's our chance.
Even Andrew Sullivan, a conservative writer and pundit, someone I watch intently, has been blogging about why Obama is the best choice. Thanks to Musty for passing along his post about an essay in the Times of London, talking about how Obama is the sensible salve for "profound national demoralization."
This is not about party affiliation or loyalty for me - this is about who presents the better solutions for our social (Supreme Court), economic (broken credit markets) and other woes.
I've already voted Obama and Jim Martin to defeat Saxby Chambliss, and will be volunteering tomorrow on Election Day. I will bring my camera along with me and record anything of interest.
As I said before... can you imagine intellectual curiosity in the White House again?
Every once in a while we come across someone who presents life's tools as a beautiful map on how to use them to the best of our ability.
This latest incarnation is in the form of Randy Pausch, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University. Pausch has terminal cancer and recently gave a speech at that school will blow you away. It's amazing how, through humor, instruction is not only engaging -- but also profound and transformative.
In a culture that is fascinated by Britney's choreography, Lindsay's latest line or which Anna-Nicole ex-lover is sleeping with whom, THIS is what life is about for me. But, as we're reminded by Pausch, humor is one of the most expeditious pathways to healing.
"You talk about War -- it's an old paradigm," Garry Shandling told Bill Maher last night during the "Real Time" panel discussion, referring to our "War on Terror" language. "This winning and losing thing is where we are behind in our consciousness. I'm a comedian, but in my spare time, things bother me." (Photo courtesy of nndb.com.)