Soundtrack Of A Photograph, The Christmas Editions, Part 9

Song-Big Bulbs

Artist-Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings Featuring Saun & Starr

One thing I always enjoy at this time of year is sharing memories of Christmas with people. I also enjoy hearing other people’s memories of Christmas. Different customs and traditions that other families had, or different ways of celebrating the holiday are fascinating to me. It does not matter to me if it is from Finland, Arkansas, or the Bronx, everyone seems to have their own way of celebrating the holidays with their own memories. I was reminded of that again recently when a friend released a fun new Christmas song which celebrated her own memories of the season. Before I talk about that, a little story is called for.

Back in January, in Part 5 of my regular blogs, I wrote about soul music and Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings who are part of the powerhouse Daptone Records label based right here in Brooklyn, New York. In trying to promote that blog installment, I sent Daptone a message via Facebook with the hopes of them sharing it on their page. I was pleasantly surprised when they got back to me shortly after and said SURE! They gave it a nice buildup and a lot of people checked it out as a result. Fast forward a few days and I logged on to the Facebook page for my blogs. When I got there, I saw about 20 notifications of ‘likes’ for various photos of mine on the page from somebody called Saun & Starr. It took me a few moments to realize who that actually was and when I did, I was both surprised and excited. The duo of Saundra Williams and Starr Duncan are also known as the Dap-Ettes, backing vocalists to Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings. It got me excited thinking that they had stopped by my little page and were going through random photos I had been posting for a few months. Of course I reciprocated and liked their own page (https://www.facebook.com/SaunAndStarr) and gradually I began building up a friendship with Saundra Williams herself via Facebook.

Sometime this summer my wife and I went down near Battery Park to see Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings give a free concert. After the amazing show we briefly met Saundra and I think a friendship was sealed between us as a result. At this time of year when we give gifts to friends and loved ones, I am grateful that I can share this blog with her as a thank you for her love and support to both of us throughout this year.

It is also nice to hear some new Christmas music, and this season saw the release of a new single (and I mean an actual old school single on 45rpm vinyl!) by Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, “Just Another Christmas Song. On the flip side is a song written by Saundra Williams herself called “Big Bulbs.” Here is how Saundra herself described it-

“I was at home one night thinking about Christmas back in the day when I was a little girl, and one thing stood out in my head – the colorful Christmas lights that lined the windows and doors of the bodegas and apartments buildings in The Bronx, where I grew up. I remember them so vividly – the colors, the size and shape of the bulbs. To me, the bulbs in the windows said Holiday celebration time even more than the Christmas trees because you couldn’t get to see everyone’s Christmas tree but you could see everyone’s big colorful festive bulbs displayed! The song then came to me almost whole, lyrically, and I heard a 3-part harmony. I couldn’t wait to get Starr and Sharon to listen to it and sing it with me. We recorded it raw and impromptu – Sharon was still finding her way around her bottom notes. It was so much fun to hear it how I’d envisioned it and to hear The Dap-Kings embellish it their way. One of my most special childhood memories come to life – via Daptone Records, no less. Awesome!”

 It has been a wonderfully successful year for Daptone Records. New releases, successful tours  worldwide, a Grammy nomination for Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings and the beginnings of a new soul duo- Saun & Starr. It has been great watching and listening to it all, and I cannot wait for what is next. Merry Christmas Daptone!

Saundra and I

Saundra and I

***Update-12/2/2015***

2015 has been another great year for Daptone Records, and a part of that success has been the release and successful world tour by Saun & Starr backing their debut album-Look Closer. Last month also saw the release of a Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings Christmas album- ‘It’s A Holiday Soul Party.’ Lots of great funky soul interpretations of classics together with some newer holiday songs like ‘Ain’t No Chimney’s In The Projects’ and ‘Big Bulbs.’ I strongly recommend this album to everyone so buy it on vinyl, buy it on CD, download it..whatever your preference. You won’t regret it!!

Big Bulbs-Written By Saundra Williams

All photographs by Robert P Doyle All images in this blog are available in limited supply for purchase as unframed prints. Sizes may vary. Contact via robpatdoy@hotmail.com for details.

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Soundtrack Of A Photograph, Part 5

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CORNERS OF SOUL

 

Well after a holiday break I am back with what I hope will be a continuous run of The Soundtrack Of A Photograph in 2014. I would like to thank everyone who has taken a few moments to read my previous entries. I have aspirations of taking this blog to bigger and better places in the year to come and the number of people who have commented and liked it thus far has made that job much easier. So thank you for the encouragement!

“I learned the hard way”

When I finished the first installment of this blog and saw the positive reaction I started jotting down ideas for further editions. Some of them came immediately, and I knew exactly what photographs I wanted to pair with particular songs, though getting them to a completed blog is the hard part. Others are more difficult as concepts and I have only a rough idea of where I want to go, be it musically or in the photographic sense. But I have a confession to make. As I mentioned in Part 1, I took up photography sometime around 2001 or so, and that was all on film up until about 2 years ago when I began shooting in both film and digital. Though I have a portion of my film photos copied to CD, I also literally have thousands more 4 x 6 photographs printed, and kept in those nice little storage boxes. Going through those now is an interesting exercise to see the development of my photography. There are a lot of close but not quite photographs in terms of subject matter, or some that are good to keep as mementos of a time or a place mixed in among the good ones. BUT, and here is the confession, even though I could go through those thousands of photographs looking for source material here, it is time consuming, and I am fortunate that I live in a place, New York City, where I can go out with my camera right now and take a fresh new set of photos if needed. Having so many landmarks around, I can use the old photos as a guide and literally stand in the same spot with the same camera angle as I did 10 years ago, but apply better techniques that I have learned. So sometimes the photographs I may use here in the blog may be brand new, but are based on ones I have taken previously.

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“But now I’m standing on this corner, I know right from wrong”

Regardless of the source, I have noticed definite themes in my photography taking shape over the years, and they seem to happen organically. In my previous entries I have mentioned how trees, urban scenes in New York City, and the great old ship Peking have been some of my favorite subjects through the years. Another theme I have noticed is what could best be described as corners. They are everywhere in New York, and are unavoidable both in travelling around, or even in daily conversation. “Meet me on the corner of 49th and 9th,” there is a bodega on the corner of Broadway and 103rd Street,” “the subway entrance is on the corner of West 4th Street.” We say the word every day in some context it seems. It can mean a street corner of course, but as a photographer it can mean the edge of almost any finite object you care to mention. There is something about the angles; the way corners come together in one sharp point that makes for engaging photographs. I love how even on the largest objects like a ship or a skyscraper for example; there is a point where all sides converge into one razor thin edge. Often because of sheer inability to take photographs in exactly the way I would like because of typical city obstructions, the only way I can get a photograph of a building for example is to take it at an angle, rather than as a head on shot. Physically that means I need to back up from the object in a trajectory that usually leads me to a street corner until I get a result I am happy with, calculating that I can now in most cases get a more interesting photograph by showing two sides of a building, rather than a head on and rather static one, as in the picture below. Using words like trajectory here will make me sound like a mathematician, which anyone who knows my academic standing historically on that subject through the years would know is laughable.

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