Photo Shuffle-The Street Where You Live

I love accordions. There I said it. In all honesty though, I have never understood why the instrument has been subject to such hostility from some corners. It is an extremely versatile instrument, and a key ingredient to a range of styles, from folk music across Europe and Latin America, and right here in the U.S. with Cajun and Zydeco music especially. Be it a piano accordion or some degree of button style it can do so much as an instrument and I have always enjoyed what it brings. It is a good solo instrument capable of subtle nuances, makes great dance music, and can really rock when it wants to. Yes, I said that too. Accordions rock.

I love accordions so much I could make you a long list of my favorite players, mostly from English and Celtic music, with others from Cajun and Zydeco. But it would also include a fabulous musician and singer I am happy popped up today here on Photo Shuffle. Her name is Ginny Mac, from Fort Worth, Texas. I first became aware of her a few years ago,  watching her perform with the band Brave Combo at a festival. They were a band I had been familiar with for years but never managed to see. A great party band with an astonishing repertoire of music from around the world. You have never heard the Hokey Pokey until you have heard their version! Much as I was enjoying Brave Combo’s set, when Ginny stepped up to the microphone to sing I realized she definitely had something special going on.

So I did the usual social media thing and began following her musical activities since leaving the group not too long after, as well as backtracking to her older material. Ginny is just an incredible talent. Versatile in both voice and her playing on both accordion and piano. Capable of rocking out to a Chuck Berry song, or singing the Cajun standard Jole Blon, followed by a Patsy Cline number for good measure. I absolutely admire musicians who are versed in so many styles. A big part of that for Ginny I suspect is the versatility of the accordion and what it can actually do. Make sure you watch the clip at the bottom of the post with Ginny explaining that herself far better than I can.

Much as I thoroughly enjoy all those styles, I found myself particularly drawn to Ginny’s interpretations of some of the old standards. Take ‘On The Street Where You Live’ for example. Originally from the musical My Fair Lady, it was covered by the likes of Dean Martin, Vic Damone, Nat King Cole and dozens more. It is not really a type of song  that I normally listen to, but I realized something awhile back. Where once I used to automatically dismiss much of this style, probably a result of some of it being ‘inflicted’ on me as a youngster, I can now appreciate the songs themselves more. So while I do not see rushing out to buy the complete works of Vic Damone in the near future, I can at least acknowledge that a good song is a good song.  Groups like Hot Club Of Cowtown and singers such as Ginny Mac have made me realize that with their interpretations.

‘On The Street Where You Live’ is actually a great example of this. I have been familiar with this song of course, almost certainly because of My Fair Lady which my parents had the soundtrack for. Listening to Ginny’s cover of it though, the dreamy words really come through. Though the street where I live (seen in the photo above) is not so dreamy, and definitely not filled with larks and lilac trees or enchantment pouring out of every door, it is home. Where my beautiful wife and I live with our two cats.  I realized that I missed all this imagery in the more schmaltzy versions of the song, Ginny Mac’s accordion driven re-working really fits the song. But that accordion being  such a versatile instrument, somehow also captures the feel of those versions with a full on orchestra.  Which makes me thankful for such talented musicians as Ginny Mac constantly thinking and working on their music. Finding ways to reinterpret music and going back to basics. And using an accordion to do it is icing on the cake! Please check out her website and social media for more clips-http://www.ginnymac.com/

On The Street Where You Live-Music By Frederick Loewe, Lyrics By Alan Jay Lerner

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All Photographs By Robert P. Doyle

*Photo Shuffle is a short slice of my regular blogs based on setting my Ipod on shuffle and matching up one of my photographs to whatever comes up.

Ginny Mac
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Photo Shuffle-Little Sparrow

I pressed play on my Ipod and this is what I heard…Little Sparrow, By Leyla McCalla *

Hello readers, and welcome to my first music post of the new year! I have been working on ideas for some new posts to share soon.  In the meantime though I figured it would be good to start off with a Photo Shuffle to get myself back to writing  again after a Holiday break.  So lets  get back to some more music!

I am particularly thrilled at the choice my Ipod came up with today. One of the albums I bought recently (got to love those Holiday gift cards!) is the stunning new album by singer and multi-instrumentalist Leyla McCalla. Like many, I first became aware of her a few years back when she was a member of the Carolina Chocolate Drops. Some of you may remember me writing about another member of that group, Rhiannon Giddens in this post last year. Since leaving the group she has released two solo albums-Vari-Colored Songs (a tribute to Langston Hughes) and most recently, the sublime A Day For The Hunter, A Day For The Prey. Continue reading “Photo Shuffle-Little Sparrow”

Photo Shuffle-Barrett’s Privateers

I pressed play on my Ipod and this is what I heard…Barrett’s Privateers By Stan Rogers.

CSS Acadia, Halifax Nova Scotia
CSS Acadia, Halifax Nova Scotia

Those of you who have been reading my posts for awhile now must surely realize that recurring themes pop up in my posts from time to time. Chalk that up in part to the types of photographs I like to take.  When I travel to a new and different place I  anticipate the types of photo ops I might get, and I instinctively pull the camera out to be ready. Say for example in Halifax, Nova Scotia,  which I stopped in while on a cruise a few years ago. It was a place I hoped would be full of different types of ships, which is one of those recurring themes I mentioned. I do have a thing for all manners of transportation! Happily I was not disappointed, and just a few moments after disembarking while still getting our bearings, my wife and I walked along the fabulous waterfront in Halifax, which was filled with all manner of ships in a busy port.

I suppose the reason I don’t feel bad about recurring, or ‘repeating’ themes here is because  photos, like songs  have similarities, yet there is always something unique to them somehow. A busy port filled with commercial, military, and  cruise ships together with pleasure craft may seem the same as any other port anywhere in the world, yet there is always something different about them, be it due to the layout or the climate. Likewise though songs may have the same time signature, same instruments playing, and maybe even the same subject matter, no two songs are ever truly alike.  I think both of these elements are why I am so easily influenced and inspired by things like transportation as a photography subject. It is also why I am so particularly drawn to folk music because it keeps such a connection with history. Continue reading “Photo Shuffle-Barrett’s Privateers”

Photo Shuffle-The Crossroads

I pressed play on my Ipod and this is what I heard…Standing At The Crossroads By Dave Edmunds

Standing At The Crossroads

I’m trying to make an effort to get back to these shorter Photo Shuffle posts after a bit of a gap, as I mentioned in my last post. The song and artist that came up today is a great pick by my Ipod if I do say so myself! In this post from earlier this year I wrote about Nick Lowe. That included the long time musical partnership he and Dave Edmunds had in Rockpile. When I was younger I came across Dave Edmunds’ music before Nick Lowe’s, though not by much if I recall correctly. There was probably something in Edmunds love of 1950’s and early 60’s Rock & Roll that made me pay attention initially compared with Nick Lowe’s more contemporary sounds. There are many things to admire about Dave Edmunds. Musically he can do a great cover of a Chuck Berry song one moment, then put a little country twang on the next song, and then follow that with a hard edged guitar stomper.  In addition he is a great guitarist and though his standout performance will probably always be considered a rocking version of the classical piece ‘Sabre Dance’  I can make the case for many more. He is also a top notch producer. When The Stray Cats ‘Rocked This Town’, it was in large part because Dave Edmunds had produced the album. Not to mention being asked to produce albums by some of his own musical heroes like Dion, and The Everly Brothers. 

Just a short list of classic Edmunds songs includes I Hear You Knocking, Trouble Boys, Girls Talk, Crawling From The Wreckage, Queen Of Hearts (his version predated the hit by Juice Newton), The Race Is On, A1 On The Jukebox, If Sugar Was As Sweet As You, Slipping Away, and dozens more. He’s just one of those musicians that really understands that the simple approach is often the best approach. No screeching guitars or complicated rhythms. Just Rock & Roll pure and simple.

Though he has dabbled with writing songs over the years, he has been more adept at choosing good songs to interpret. Such is the case with Standing At The Crossroads, by the equally great British rocker Mickey Jupp. It is a song replete with typical blues subject matter-love gone bad- “I’m not the man she was looking for, but just the man she found,” anger, and confusion. But its the chorus that really takes it to classic blues territory-standing at the crossroads with Robert Johnson who of course famously sold his soul to the devil in exchange for mastery of the blues. At least that’s how the legend goes! Also there is Elmore James, who later revived Johnson’s own songs. Like a true rock and roller though, Dave Edmunds doesn’t sing the song as a blues, but rather as a jaunty little rock number. The photo I chose above represented the best photo I could find that I have taken of something akin to a crossroads. Should you go forward? Back? Left or Right?  Whenever I come to a rural crossroads like this, I often think not only of Robert Johnson’s ‘crossroads’, but also to one of my favorite all around musicians-Dave Edmunds. If you are unfamiliar with him, I urge you to go check his music out.

 

Standing At The Crossroads-Written By Mickey Jupp

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*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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Photo Shuffle-Watch The Weather

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

Alabama Rain

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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Photo Shuffle-I’m Gonna Fly Someday

I pressed play on my Ipod and this is what I heard…I’m Gonna Fly Someday By Bruce Cockburn

Taking Flight
‘I’m Gonna Fly’

If you read my last post you know that I took a bit of a break from writing over the last month. I was touched, and somewhat surprised by the reaction I received. More than one person commended me for my honesty  explaining my absence.  I’m sure I have mentioned it on these pages before, but once I started writing this blog, a lot of those bottled up feelings came pouring out. Some of it was heavier on the emotional scale-loneliness, or the car accident I was in years ago for example. Some was about the creative side of me that had been screaming to be unleashed for years. Or some of it was figuring out how to express this new found creativity in a way that people would want to read, and listen to the songs I chose together with my photography (for which I still suffer with self-doubt about). It has been a process. At times emotional, at times difficult, while at other times  it has been a great deal of fun. I think about all of this quite often in fact but now that it is a firm part of my life, I don’t want to change a thing about it, or how or what I write about. 

Continue reading “Photo Shuffle-I’m Gonna Fly Someday”

Photo Shuffle-Sitting On The Porch

I pressed play on my Ipod and this is what I heard…I’m Gonna Sit On The Porch & Pick On My Old Guitar By Johnny Cash

Have A Seat

Have you ever noticed that in moments of stress and bad news people are often told,   “Better take a seat”? Or conversely with good news the same words are usually spoken. I am not exactly sure why that is. The knot that inevitably forms in the stomach feels the same regardless of the option. On the other side of that are those moments you feel you need to just have a seat somewhere and look out at the world around you. That might be looking out at the ocean while sipping a nice drink, enjoying the breeze to the sound of the waves crashing in a repetitive and calming pattern . Or maybe on a bench in the park people watching-families strolling by, dogs pulling their owners, bicycles whizzing by, seniors shuffling along, couples holding hands. Perhaps it is even just sitting on your own bit of space at home, contemplating the weather/politics/money/health/work or whatever happens to be on your mind.

I have experienced all of the above situations of course, but as I have written about in other posts, the little balcony in our apartment now allows for lots of time for me to think about all sorts of things. It really helps to have that sort of space available to us. Now that the weather is getting nicer I look forward to being out there again. And occasionally I do what Johnny Cash sings about in this song-ponder things and strum my guitar (badly in my case!)

In an earlier post I wrote about buying the complete Columbia Records collection of Johnny Cash-all 62 albums in total, packaged in one convenient box. I knew I would return to his music at some point here because of that wealth of music. I’m just surprised it took this long for one to pop up in my Photo Shuffles! I like to think that everything I just wrote about is something Johnny himself pondered as he wrote the song. Those moments where you catch yourself daydreaming a little bit. Your mind drifting through a sea of ‘What If’s and ‘What would happen’ types of scenarios. As I continue to  absorb all the music that comes from such a large source, I remain amazed by the ideas the man had as a songwriter. As I have delved deeper into his catalog in the last few years I began realizing that many of his own song ideas seem to stem from those moments of just sitting down and watching the world go by around him. His music continues to  ring true for me on so many levels and I am glad it popped up again for a Photo Shuffle today!

Where do you like to have a seat to think about things?

I’m Gonna Sit On My Front Porch & Pick On My Old Guitar-Written By J. R. Cash

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