Relaxing

Now that I’ve squeezed in my long taper run as well as wandered down to the Ridgeway Festival with HRH  for an hour or two, gorged on hamburger and fries and picked up Kelly’s prescription from the drugstore, I have a little time to relax in the cool air of mt basement before needing to go back outside to cut the lawn.  Likewise, I have a big day tomorrow at the bike mount line with the SunRype Tr-KiDS so these few off-minutes to relax, read (starting my new ‘Bowie’ autobiography) and listen to some vinyl while the kid catches up on whatever it is she does on her precious iPad, are vital.  This afternoon’s vinyl du jour then is the newest album by Kalle Mattson ‘Someday, the Moon Will Be Gold‘.

Kalle Mattson

I first learned of Kalle from a colleague at work; the same guy who turned me onto Chris Wollard, William Elliot Whitmore, John Moreland and Dave Hause.  So, yeah, when I found the album cheap on line and instantly took to the cool album cover I decided to take the chance and dropped the $15.oo.

Kalle Mattson hails from Ottawa, but the album was written in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario where the 22-year-old Mattson originally lived as a child.  It was produced by Gavin Gardiner of the Wooden Sky, with guests including Jeremy Fisher and members of Cuff the Duke; you can see why I needed little coaxing.  Sadly, the album largely deals with the passing of Mattson’s mother, who died five years ago.  Bummer.

But don’t let the deter you, the album is vibrant, poignant and oh-so-beautiful.  He’s kind of like the Canadian version of, say, Bruce Springsteen– meets-Kermit the Frog and despite the depressing subject matter, Mattson added that there’s hope in the folk rocking songs.  This is best heard in the triumphantly rocking opener ‘An American Dream‘ (not to be confused with the CSNY tune), the horn-heavy ‘The Living and the Dead‘,  and the thundering ‘Hurt People Hurt People‘  which – dare I say it – is almost reminiscent of the Cars with the squiggy keyboards.  I shit you not.  Elsewhere, ‘Eyes Speak‘  has a dramatic structure of rises and falls, and ‘In the Morning Light‘  and ‘Amelie‘  end the album on a quietly restrained note.

It ebbs and flows; you’ll laugh and cry; and it’s worth every second of your time…regardless of how you choose to spend your Saturday afternoon.

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Long Run (12k)

It’s been my last week of official “training” before entering into “Taper Week” on Monday.  However, on Sunday I’ll be on my feet for 15 hours at the Oakville SunRype Tri-KiDS so that’s not really a “do nothing” kind of day…so really Monday starts taper week.  Whenever it is, I still have this morning’s last long run in (12k).  This weekend also marks the Ridgeway Festival just down the street so I’m inevitably steering out of town for an hour or so and, fortunately, I have the perfect 60 minute band to listen to, the ‘Ragged Glory‘  album by Neil Young.

Released in 1990 and backed once again by Crazy Horse (their 6th album together) was actually voted as Album of the Year in the annual Pazz & Jop critics’ poll and in 2010 was selected by Rolling Stone  as the 77th best album of the 1990’s.

This is the album that revisits the hard-rock style previously explored on ‘Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere’  and ‘Zuma’.  I do have to say though, back in the early 90’s I HATED Neil Young.  What did I know?  I was taking psychedelics on a regular basis so I naturally gravitated to the more “trippy” and ethereal music out at the time.  And, hey, while it was fun n’ all it wasn’t until a few years that after I had switched from psychedelics to, shall we say, more “herbal” vices that I actually “understood” Neil Young.

At first it was the older acoustic albums that I bonded with in my newfound hippie mellowness and I refused to delve into the more grungy albums (I was rebelling against the times at that point too).  Years after that, I learned to appreciate his more gritty, grungy rock albums as well.  In that regard, this album was the gateway drug in my having finally appreciated those other sides of ‘ol Neil.  It may have taken me a while but I finally got there.

The opening track ‘Country Home‘  and ‘White Line‘  are actually songs that they performed while on tour back in the 1970’s and are only getting to recording now I guess.  ‘Farmer John‘  is a cover of a 60’s song written and performed by R&B duo Don and Dewey (whoever the fuck they are) and ‘Days That Used to Be‘  is inspired by Bob Dylan‘s ‘My Back Pages‘ (truthfully, I discovered Dylan around the same time).  Whatever…it smokes.  All of it.  It also platforms for two awesomely extended guitar excursions: ‘Love to Burn‘  and ‘Love and Only Love‘  which run over ten minutes each (the album as a whole lasts nearly 63 minutes with only ten songs).  It’s perfect for a “long-ish” run down the Friendship Trail and away from the hordes of out-of-town festival goers and then turning back down Thunder Bay and home again.

All in, ‘ol Thunder n’ Lightning felt good and the major challenge was keeping it dialed back a bit given that this is intended to be a taper run.  And, really, how often do I ever say anything like that?  Even the summer temps today (26°  and 46% humidity) didn’t play much of a factor.  In fact, today was one of those rare occurrences where I actually felt like I could run forever.  So despite how unprepared and ill-equipped I feel heading into next weekend’s Musselman Triathlon (click HERE) I’m taking today’s run as a sign that, hey, maybe things aren’t as so bad after all and that I might actually be okay.

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Relaxing

It all started off rather auspiciously with an early rise at 6:00am, which is not feat in and of itself until you consider that we didn’t get home last night until after midnight after watching ‘Jurassic World’ at the cinema.  The plan was to squeeze in my last long training ride and a long brick run to boot except, once again, Mother Nature decided to fuck with me and turned the weather shitty overnight.  Low and behold though, it cleared up enough that me and my riding partner opted to make a go of it anyway around 9:30am.  We managed a pretty good tempo ride down the Niagara Parkway for a distance of 60k and then I had a decent 5k brick run to boot at pace and felt pretty good about it.  5 minutes later the rains came…

But now that all that shenanigans is behind me I can get on with the rest of my proposed plans for the Canada Day holiday, a whole lotta buckus.  Buckus in this case being, waffles, a bottle of Blue Moon or two, and finishing my ‘Dead Wake‘ book (all 517 pages of it) between naps and the first night of the Grateful Dead’s Fare Thee Well 50th Anniversary Tour from the Levi Stadium in Santa Clara, California (06-27-15).

Later we will eat steak and – weather permitting – go to see some fireworks.  So it was written; so it shall be told.

Fare Thee Well: Celebrating 50 Years of Grateful Dead‘, along with the three shows at Chicago’s Soldier Field on July 3rd, 4th, and 5th, will mark the original Grateful Dead members’ (Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann, Phil Lesh, and Bob Weir) last-ever performances together.  The band will be joined by Trey Anastasio of Phish (guitar), Jeff Chimenti (keyboards), and Bruce Hornsby (piano) and perform two sets of music each night.

Jerry Garcia’s daughter Trixie Garcia announced the shows in an exclusive interview (click HERE) back in January of this year.  The show was originally set for just the three Soldier’s Field shows (the site of the “final” Grateful Dead show) but after much outcry from the fans, two more shows were soon announced for Levi Stadium, given that it better represents the West Coast fan base not to mention paying homage to their Bay Area roots.

As it was, anyone expecting the “Phish-ification” of the Grateful Dead at Santa Clara was both satisfied and a bit under-served.  That’s because Anastasio, a guitar god in his own right with 30 years of heavy touring under his belt who’s known for his onstage showmanship, has the role of player in this group – a featured one, to be sure, but it’s not his band is it?  Fortunately, Anastasio held back which meant the band had to settle in a bit and there were certainly some kinks to be worked out for sure, beginning with the Set One opener ‘Truckin‘  which felt somewhat disjointed and following ‘Uncle John’s Band‘.  Even songs culled from the earlier Dead archives like ‘Alligator‘  felt restrained.  A patient segue into ‘Cumberland Blues‘  saw Anastasio asserting himself both vocally and with his guitar, engaging Hornsby in a trading of licks with a bright smile on his face. Appearing more comfortable but still restrained, Weir lead the ensemble through ‘Born Cross-Eyed‘, and keeping with the early-Dead era vibe, moved into an Anastasio-sung ‘Cream Puff War‘  that provided Trey another opportunity to lead a short jam segment. Capping off the truly old-school first set, a relaxed ‘Viola Lee Blues‘  drew Lesh, Weir and Anastasio together finally center-stage prior to ending yet one last concise jam to close the first set.

Set Two launched off with Lesh singing ‘Cryptical Envelopment‘  before evolving into a cool psychedelic free form ‘Dark Star‘  while fireworks went off in the distance.   Staying with primal Dead material and without a pause, ‘St. Stephen‘  gave Hornsby a chance to link up with Phil for part of the lead vocals that opened up into another majestic and extended jam. A mix up by Bobby on the order of the verses to the ‘William Tell‘  transition to ‘The Eleven‘  was little more than a hiccup on the road back to more improv.  Bobby took charge of the ‘Turn On Your Love Light‘  that came next leading to the ‘Drums‘  portion of the program.  Mickey and Billy’s massive rig was a percussive playground for the Rhythm Devils as both drummers wandered from instrument to instrument.  The continuous second set progressed to a short ‘Space‘  with the reemergence of the other musicians. Lesh then started to sing the biggest bust-out of the night (if you can call any song a first-time band plays a “bust-out”) in the form of  ‘What’s Become Of The Baby‘  which was played live just once by the original band.  The ultra-rarity dissolved into the Weir led ‘The Other One‘  bolstered by thunderous bass bombs delivered by Lesh.  Weir then had another chance to demonstrate his still powerful singing capabilities passionately presenting a ‘Morning Dew‘  augmented by Anastasio’s soaring solo work that drew the set to a powerful close and rousing me from my early evening nap on the couch.

*sigh*

Couch Tour on Canada Day.  Does it get any better than this?

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Easy Run (5.5k)

I’m having an easy work day at home today in light of having spent all of Saturday either on an airplane or holed up in some terminal gate.  It’s been raining all morning but now that it’s cleared up temporarily, I’m heading out for a very short and easy 5.5k run just to keep ‘ol Thunder n’ Lightning moving in anticipation of – hopefully – a big (and final) training day prior to competing at the Musselman Triathlon in Geneva, NY next on July 12th.  Likewise, if the weather holds out I’d like to slip in a ride later as well.  Anyway, the album of choice this afternoon is something I’m pretty excited about, the ‘A Letter Home‘ album by Neil Young.

Love him or hate him (I choose the former) the premise of this album is too interesting to pass up.  Released on April 19, 2014 on Record Store Day, the entire album, which consists of covers of classic songs by artists Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, Gordon Lightfoot, The Everly Brothers, Phil Ochs and others, was recorded in a refurbished 1947 Voice-o-Graph vinyl recording booth at Jack White‘s Third Man Records recording studio in Nashville, Tennessee.

Of this method, White said:

“We were obfuscating beauty on purpose to get to a different place, a different mood.”

Ooo, big word “obfuscating”.  It must be good!

A Voice-O-Graph booth, a device designed to allow a user to “Make Your Own Record” by cutting a song or message directly to vinyl. These contraptions were designed in 1947 and were once a common sight in arcades and fairs but they died away in the ’70s, turning into an artifact of a weird old Americana beloved by both Young and White.  Neil decided to use the Voice-O-Graph to record a full album, an experiment that’s strictly about the method of recording, not the music itself.  Basically, this is Neil’s self-described “art project”.

Anyway, the opening spoken-word track, and other spoken lines throughout the album, were addressed to Edna “Rassy” Young, Neil’s mother who died in 1990.  A message on Young’s website described the album as “an unheard collection of rediscovered songs from the past recorded on ancient electro-mechanical technology captures and unleashes the essence of something that could have been gone forever”.

By design, the Voice-O-Graph allows for no overdubs – it captures everything that happens in the booth and nothing more – so the performances are intimate and sometimes rushed, qualities that are alternately enhanced and undercut by the thin, crackly recording. This aural affectation can be affecting — in particular, his readings of Gordon Lightfoot’s ‘Early Morning Rain‘  and ‘If You Can Read My Mind‘  (my two favorite Gordie songs) are quite sweet, as is Bob Dylan’s ‘Girl from the North Country‘, while there’s a genuine pang of pathos lying in Bert Jansch’s ‘Needle of Death‘ – but the trebly, wavy audio can also seem cacophonous, whether it’s capturing Neil alone (Bruce Springsteen’s ‘My Hometown‘) or in tandem with White (a version of Willie Nelson’s ‘On the Road Again‘ that always seems just on the verge of falling apart, which could be perceived as a compliment depending on your view).

In it’s totality, it was the perfect running companion today for an easy 40 minute jaunt down the Friendship Trail (careful to not stomp on any chipmunks) and around the neighborhood in the gloom and doom post effects of the passing storm clouds.  The humidity has – for the time – broken, although I might not be so lucky later on during my ride.  As it was, it was nice 30 minutes to spend away from the desk and listen to some heartwarming music…every snap, crackle and pop of it.

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Tempo Run (8.25k)

The training Gods are not on my side lately. I wanted to run this past Tuesday morning before leaving for San Antonio but it rained so I ran when I arrived instead, except that it was so hot and gross that I barely made it 5k (click HERE) before quitting to eat cheeseburgers instead.  I literally haven’t run since as the hotel treadmill was broken.  So this morning is – quote literally – my first run in 6 whole days.  Gawd.  Not good.  So, anyway, I’m running before work this morning to an album from my CD collection that I’ve been wanted to get reacquainted with thanks to the Levon HelmThis Wheel’s On Fire‘  book I just finished last week, the ‘The Muddy Waters Woodstock Album‘.

Recorded in 1975, ‘The Muddy Waters Woodstock Album’  was the brainchild of the Band’s Levon Helm and his then partner-in-crime, producer/songwriter Henry Glover.  At the time, the duo’s production company, RCO, had recently set up shop in a barn-turned- studio in Woodstock, New York, and Muddy Waters was their first client.  The album, born of a unique merger of top-flight talent (Waters’ touring band plus the cream of the musicians then living in and around Woodstock), is one of the loosest, swingingest records that Waters ever cut, and features such musicians as blues-harp great Paul Butterfield, Helm and Garth Hudson (of the Band), guitarist Bob Margolin and keyboardist Willie “Pinetop” Perkins (from Waters’ band), and renowned session players Fred Carter and Howard Johnson.  It navigates from Chicago blues latitudes into deep country-bijou jazz territory.

The album includes five original songs written by Waters (‘Going Down to Main Street‘, ‘Born With Nothing‘, ‘Funny Sounds‘, ‘Love, Deep as the Ocean‘  and the previously unreleased CD-only bonus track, ‘Fox Squirrel‘) plus covers of Louis Jordan’s ‘Let the Good Times Roll‘  and ‘Caldonia’, Bobby Charles’, ‘Why Are People Like That‘  and Leiber & Stoller’s Kansas City.  Helm represents virtuosity at the drumming position. His style fits the inimitable Muddy Waters country-blues mastery. The rollicking ‘Goin’ Down Main Street‘  makes one wonder the fire this band would’ve started in some sawdust Mississippi juke joint on a dramatic Friday night.  Waters’ slide on ‘Born With Nothing‘  reminds why his legend began nearly 30 years before 1975 and ‘Funny Sounds‘  evokes a sparse, but powerful structure, reminiscent of The Band‘s sensibility, propelled by Muddy Waters singing and playing guitar.

As chronicled in the newly penned liner notes by Billboard’s Chris Morris, the album proved to be the last that Waters would record for Chess. It was, however, a memorable farewell as it was awarded the 1975 Grammy Award for Best Ethnic or Traditional Recording.  Not a bad send off at all, right?

It was nice workout this morning albeit a tad muggy, but definitely not the 97% it was in Texas.  Seriously, I didn’t even know it could get that humid without it actually raining.  My intended easy run quickly turned into a tempo run when a mysterious jogger appeared ahead of me heading down Point Prospect Rd. in the early stages (I do love me a rabbit to chase) and after I passed them just before Nigh Rd. I just kept going.  By the time I had made it to Burleigh Rd. I felt pretty good so I decided to just keep going to Bernard Rd. and see just how long I could keep this 5:03 min/km  pace up; which, I do believe was my best time/pace at this distance (8.25k) so far this year.  So maybe a week off wasn’t such a bad thing after all.

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Flight UA5566 from Chicago to Buffalo

I’ve successfully navigated through the streams of discombobulated passengers at Chicago O’Hare airport with nary a second to spare to check in on Facebook and the progress of the Unicorn Rainbow Poop Cookies at home (yes, once again, you read that correctly) before having to board for this last flight home.  I have, unfortunately though, run out of Texas-themed music so I’m going with something else that I’ve been saving on my iPod instead, the newest album by Jason Isbell, ‘Something More Than Free‘ released, well, it hasn’t been released yet (officially released July 17th).  A boy has to have some secrets.

He’s not Texan, he’s from Greenhill, Alabama.  Nor does he wear a ten gallon hat, have pony-tails or, well, he’s absolutely nothing Texas-related but I don’t care.  He probably has had his fair share of BBQ though and he’s a former Drive-By Trucker and that’s good enough for me.

This album (his 5th) is the much anticipated follow-up to 2013’s breakthrough, critically acclaimed record ‘Southeastern‘  and it captures pretty much a lot of the same magic…if not, more.  ‘Something More Than Free’  features 11 tracks of what a press release calls his “most sonically diverse album to date,” but manages to capture the same “Southern-inspired vignettes of working class men, women and traditions”  that fans of Isbell’s work expect.  The album was produced in Nashville, Tennessee by producer Dave Cobb, who also produced ‘Southeastern’  as well as albums by Sturgill Simpson.

There isn’t a ‘theme’ per se on the album, but as Isbell said that through his songwriting he is still “trying to explain relationships between people, and relationships with an individual and his or her past, and the sort of things you trade in to be happy the older you get”.  Maybe that’s why I loved this album so much as I could identify with a lot of it, including ‘Children of Children‘  and the poignantly beautiful ‘The Life You Chose‘ (both of which will remain on my iPod for future yoga workouts).  ‘Speed Trap Town‘  is a sweet take on life in a quiet, sleepy town and could just have easily been written about the town I live in now, Ridgeway.  So, yeah, you could say I really loved this album.

Making matters even better is that travel gods have finally smiled down on me by leaving the seat beside me wide open.  That means added leg space and room for my shit to spill over into, not to mention the absence of any hacking, wheezing, sneezing, sweating, snoring or otherwise obnoxious passengers playing footsie with me by competing for the limited space under the seats ahead of us or viciously jabbing me in the ribs with their elbows when vying for the single arm rest between us.  Saints be praised!

Update:  I spoke/wrote too soon.  I now have an old Asian guy sitting beside me who smells like moth balls and stinky cheese and don’t even get me started on the single gnarly white hair on his chin that is blowing and waving in my direction like one of those roadside inflatables in the air current blowing from the overhead air vents.  Furthermore, he also trying to cram his enormous bag into what little space their is under the seats ahead of us so that it is ramming into my ankles.  Yeah, it’s so long leg space and hello bruised ribs.  That’ll teach me to tempt fate and thereby piss off the travel gods prematurely.

God help me.

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Flight UA6445 from San Antonio to Chicago (Part 2)

Judging by the popping n my ears and the busy work of the stewardesses around the plane, we’ve begun our descent into Chicago O’Hare.  It’s been an otherwise uneventful flight so far and I’ve made some good progress in my book ‘Dead Wake‘  by Erik Larson, and I’m plowing forward with the last of my Texas-themed album on my iPod, ‘A Tribute to Stevie Ray Vaughan‘.

This live compilation is the soundtrack to the 1996 concert of the same name, which gathers together such incredible musicians as Bonnie Raitt, Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy, B.B. King, Art Neville, Dr. John and Stevie’s brother Jimmie Vaughan to celebrate the talent and life of the dearly departed modern blues virtuoso.  Stevie’s old band Double Trouble and the Tilt-a-Whirl Band support this cast of musical supporters as they interpret Vaughan’s songbook in an 80 minute concert (this album omits all the interviews included on the documentary).

The shows opens with Bonnie Raitt doing a blistering version of ‘Pride and Joy‘, followed by brother Jimmie’s version of ‘Texas Flood‘.  B.B. King is up next to perform ‘Telephone Blue‘  followed by Buddy Guy doing ‘Long Way Home‘, Eric Clapton’s version of ‘Ain’t Gonna Give Up On Your Love‘, Robert Cray’s ‘Love Struck Baby‘ and Dr. John‘s awesome rendition of ‘Cold Shot‘ which, to me, is every bit as good as the original.  The final three songs on the album feature a massive jam session including ‘Six Strings Down‘, ‘Tick Tock‘ and ‘SRV Shuffle‘.  The whole show focuses on the uplifting memory of Vaughan’s warmth and musical gifts, keeping them alive with the help of his very able friends.

It’s the perfect wrap up to the Texas-themed albums and another near successful journey to the “Venice of the South”, San Antonio.

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