Category: Music

Tokens: Small Word, Big Show

Tokens: don’t be deceived by the smallness of the word.

Reminiscent of a tiny, plastic disc–stand-in currency–used to make some small purchase, or a gesture made for the sake of appearances, the word takes on a richer and deeper meaning in the context of that delightful mixture of music, mirth and musings that is the Tokens show, Lipscomb University professor Lee Camp’s “Prairie Home Companion”-like, live radio-style brainchild. The show, now a widely-recognized thread running through the fabric of the Nashville entertainment scene, is no counterfeit coin.

Tokens transcends mere entertainment, ascending instead to the level of education, even enlightenment.… Read the rest

“Huntsville International”–A Rap Song I Actually Like, Yo!

I’ve never been afraid to embarrass my sons with my bungled attempts at humor and middle age antics–I consider it part of the job description of being a “Dad.” But truth be told, whenever I do something they think is cool, it thrills me to no end. But please don’t tell them that, because that would ruin everything.

For instance, my recent acquisition of a taste for (and reputation for listening to) rap music. Well, not all rap music, but one song in particular–“Huntsville International” by the local rap group, G-Side.

Here’s how a mortuary-white, hopelessly off-beat, middle age, pointy-headed pseudo-intellectual got turned on to a piece of hip-hop:

I’ve a long-time fan of the magazine Oxford American, which is sort of a distinctly Southern version of The New Yorker or The Atlantic.… Read the rest

A Tale of Two Schools: A Review of the 2010 Christian Scholars’ Conference

People look at you kind of strange when you tell them that you shelled out good money to attend something called a “Christian Scholars’ Conference” and that you actually enjoyed it. Reactions can range from “What’s a guy like you doing in a place like that?” to “Well, la-de-da!” But believe me, after a long season of Tim James political TV ads and rootin’ tootin’ “Ag Commish” wannabe viral videos, I was ready for a little more “la-de-da” in my life.

You know Eyegal and me–liberal arts geeks to the core. An itch like that doesn’t always get scratched sufficiently in a high tech town like Huntsville, Alabama.… Read the rest

Waiting on the Crumbs From Steve Jobs’ Table

I had a Close Encounter of the Creepy Kind with my iPhone this week. This has caused me to pause and reflect on our relationship with all our bright and shiny electronic doodads.

It happened last Sunday as Eyegal and I attended early service at a local Episcopal parish, as is our habit from time to time. It was the First Sunday in Lent (Note to my Baptist and Church of Christ friends: Lent is a 40-day period of repentance preceding Easter. It is part of the church calendar, which is actually pretty official and has been around a long, long time–like, several centuries before the founding of the United States–and has more on it besides the date of the Ladies Retreat and the next church-wide potluck.… Read the rest

Settlin’ Down Me Ol’ Soul

Number Two Son and I are in Pensacola, Florida this morning. It’s not the first time I’ve been here with one of me lads.

And Pensacola means McGuire’s Irish Pub, a steroid-enhanced, Gatlinburg version of one that I’m sure a real Irishman would scoff at and probably scrap over if anyone dared to call it the real thing. Aye, I think he would.

But the filet was melt-in-your-mouth wonderful and the, ahem, “root beer” was just what the doctor ordered after a hard, six hour drive. We had a seat near the stage, so we got an earful of some loud and raucous Irish music, all of which bore the same basic theme–whiskey and fightin’.… Read the rest

A “Thin Place”–Right Hand Side, Two Thirds Of The Way Back

“Our pew” is on the right hand side, two thirds of the way back. That’s where we always sit when we attend Christmas Eve services at our second church home, Episcopal Church of the Nativity in Huntsville. I’ve written of our experiences there before, and as longtime readers know, that’s our refuge where we occasionally go in order to escape the tyranny of the modern (e.g. PowerPoint!) and surrender instead to the power and holy mysteries of the liturgy.

Picture in your mind the quintessential Christmas Eve setting: an old, storied building topped with a 150 foot Gothic Revival spire reaching toward the heavens, the nave bathed in soft candle light and bedecked with festive, seasonal greenery, a 12-foot Christmas tree near the front, beckoning with a thousand starry lights.… Read the rest

My Facebook Status Update (If I Had One)

My Facebook status update (if I had one) would probably read something like this:

“Mike is really digging ‘Straight No Chaser’ right now.”

Not the drink (although my father-in-law, bless his heart, did slip me a little shot of whiskey last night after I threw out my back pulling down the stairs to the attic), but the a cappella music group which is all the rage after their Youtube video spoof of “Twelve Days of Christmas” recorded 10 years ago when they were all in college at Indiana University (Hoosiers do music?) went hog-viral last year about this time.

That led to a group reunion, a recording contract with Atlantic Records and a new Christmas album “Holiday Spirits” which I downloaded from Amazon Saturday and, as my hypothetical Facebook status says, am “really digging.”… Read the rest

The Economy. Never Fear America, I’m On It

Although I’m currently in Nashville with Eyegal (saw Hansard/Irglova at the Ryman last night–it was pure magic!), I’m coming home. Following the lead of Senator McCain, I have decided to suspend this mini-vacation and all my daily activities, including personal hygiene and marital relations, until such time that we have a bailout deal in hand.

Speaking of bailouts, here’s some of the apparent rationale for the $700 billion requested by Treasury:

“It’s not based on any particular data point,” a Treasury spokeswoman told Tuesday. “We just wanted to choose a really large number.”

Data, smata–who needs it? Since we can just pull very large numbers out of thin air, may I choose the amount of my tax refund year?… Read the rest

Hey Lionsgate–I’m Watching You

I promised that I would follow the story that I reported the other day about Lionsgate Picture’s apparent use of Ginny Owens’ “Be Thou My Vision” on the trailer for the upcoming release of Saw V.

This message was just posted on her website:

Friends: Sometime during the afternoon of Friday, July 25th, my voice on “Be Thou My Vision” was replaced by another singer.

The track still sounds nearly identical, and most websites continue to “credit” me for it, but the background music for the Saw V trailer is no longer my original version of “Be Thou My Vision.”

Read the rest

You Can’t Keep A Good Song Down

“Be Thou My Vision,” that wonderful old Irish (we think) hymn, is one of my favorites. And if I have to explain to you why, then you haven’t been paying very close attention these past 3 years.

I’ve always considered sacred music, well, you know, sacred. So imagine my surprise to hear the strains of Ginny Owens’ hauntingly beautiful rendition of that hymn intermeshed with the trailer for the latest installment of the Saw series, Saw V.

We were waiting for the new X Files movie to start Friday night, and the misdirection totally threw me. I was thinking, hey this looks and sounds interesting.… Read the rest

Huntsville United

The Huntsville City Recreation Service’s Concerts in the Park summer series continued Monday night on an unseasonably cool and dry July evening. Citizens turned out in droves at Big Spring Park near the Huntsville Art Museum to the listen to the chillin’ sounds of two local bands, Anchor’s Eye and Band of Moose:


Man, you know you’re getting old when the kids that you used to coach in t-ball and soccer are performing live on stage and recording a session in Nashville next week to boot. Where did the time go?

It was a time to bring your camp chair and beverage of choice, enjoy the music and meet and greet old friends:

And new friends:


The politicians were out in full force, including long-time Huntsville Mayor Loretta Spencer who is running for re-election and is seen here talking to a constituent:


She even gave me this cool fan, although I didn’t really need it that night:


No, that’s not the Mother Ship from Close Encounters of the Third Kind.… Read the rest

Coldplay Warms Up the Summer

The boys turned me on to Chris Martin and Coldplay a while back. Since then their stuff has become my favorite chill-and-escape-while-I-workout-at-the-gym-after-a-hard-day-at-work music on my iPod. I get so lost in “Clocks” on the elliptical trainer that I totally forget what time it is.

That’s right, put me down as a Coldplay man. How bourgeois of me, I know.

Speaking of fancy French words, Coldplay’s latest album Viva la Vida is here and I’m listening to it as I write. For those who think Chris Martin’s screeching falsetto is like fingernails-on-the-chalkboard, you will be greatly relieved that there’s much less of that in the new album.… Read the rest

“Once” Is Not Enough–I Need More

My friend Scott was all over this early on, but he’s considerably more culture and music-savvy than I am. I can be hip too, but usually it’s 6-12 months later than everyone else. Just call me “post-hip.”

But you can take my word for it, the movie Once is everything the critics say it is: mesmerizing, enthralling, ethereal, transcendent, and all the other fancy, multisyllabic adjectives that have been used in the hundreds of reviews that have been written. It is a tour de force of powerful storytelling employing a minimalist approach: a shoe-string budget, hand-held cameras and a simple narrative arc told in a naturalistic manner and setting (the streets of Dublin, Ireland).… Read the rest