My goodness, has it really been since May when last I did a Photo Shuffle? When I realized that a few days ago, I thought I better correct that oversight as soon as possible. I almost felt like I needed a refresher myself since its been so long! So for my own benefit, and anybody who has only started following me more recently, Photo Shuffle is an idea I had last year where I set my Ipod on random, and let it choose a song I then pair with one of my photos. It is the reverse of how I write my usual posts, and is a lot of fun to do. So here we go…
I pressed play on my Ipod and this is what I heard…Watch The Weather, By The Health & Happiness Show
Like many people I enjoy sitting back and watching the weather roll by. Provided of course that I am in the comfort of my own home and not fearful that it will turn into something more serious. There is something oddly soothing about watching the snow pile up outside your window. Or rain pouring down, punctuated by the occasional burst of thunder or lightning. The eerie sound of the wind circling the surrounding landscape. To some the notion of watching the weather might be more akin to watching paint dry, or a pot boiling, but for me it can be better than any TV show or movie.
Weather also makes for interesting photography. Thinking about that more carefully, it is probably because weather causes something that was not there moments before to suddenly dominate, altering the scene rapidly. That is obviously something appealing to anyone who has ever picked up a camera as clouds darken the sky. We recognize that sudden change as something new we want to preserve. I certainly did when I pulled my camera out and took this photo a few years ago in Alabama when the sky was clear one moment and then pouring the next. That idea is similar to music in many ways and in an older post I explored this idea further.
Watching the weather is also a metaphor for watching the world go by, and ‘weathering’ the changes. I think this is the idea behind the song by The Health & Happiness Show. There are lots of references to the weather-snow keeps falling, never seen a summer this long, April rain keeps coming on and on… But the key line relates both to the actual weather, and to life itself-
‘Some changes come without warning, Some changes you can’t really see.’
The song was influenced in part by Sadie and Bessie Delany’s biography ‘Having Our Say; The Delany Sisters’ First 100 Years’ and viewed in that context, this idea really makes sense. Especially since it was written by one of my favorite and one of the most criminally underrated artists of the last 30 years or so, James Mastro.
The Health & Happiness Show formed sometime in the early 90’s in Hoboken, NJ by guitarist Mastro and drummer Vinny DeNunzio while sitting around a table and playing Hank Williams songs so the story goes. Both had been members of bands that had put Hoboken on the map as a music destination and received some critical acclaim-Mastro in The Bongos and DeNunzio in The Feelies. Both were feeling disillusioned with the business side of music and wanted to get back to just playing music however. Soon the core of a group formed, and they took their name appropriately enough, from a series of radio shows by Hank Williams. A strong debut album called ‘Tonic’ appeared in 1993 which garnered some attention. With an alt-country, Americana meets Celtic sort of sound and Mastro’s beautifully crafted songs this was not a surprise. Two more albums followed-Instant Living in 1995, and Sad & Sexy in 1999. The sound had changed slightly, moving away from the alt-country to more of a rock sound, but James Mastro’s songs remained a force, with wry observations and subtle humor.
This can be heard in his song ‘Watch The Weather.’ To me the mark of a good songwriter is many things- being able to tell a story you want to hear as the listener, to write about different subjects, to make observations, and most importantly, to not resort to the same cliches and observations others do. It is not easy to maintain that, but gifted writers like James Mastro, together with The Health & Happiness Show pulled it off to dedicated fans like me. How I wish I still had my T-shirt, which was a knockoff of a Bayer aspirin box! These days James continues to play with a variety of artists in the Hoboken and NYC area, as well as around the world with Ian Hunter (of Mott The Hoople fame), while also running the popular Guitar Bar in Hoboken. Easily recognizable by his wide ranging collection of hats he has always worn, if you see his name on a bill anywhere, make sure you catch him.
Now, I think I’ll throw some Health & Happiness Show on the stereo and watch the weather. Do you like to weather watch and dream?
Watch The Weather-Written By James Mastro
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All Photographs By Robert P. Doyle
*Photo Shuffle is a new, very short slice of my regular blogs based on setting my Ipod on shuffle and matching up one of my photographs to whatever comes up.
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