After nine days in intensive care at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, John Prine passed away at the age of 73 due to complications from COVID-19. Last weekend, he was intubated — a process that involves inserting a tube down a patient’s throat to assist with moving air in and out of the lungs — as family members and the Oh Boy Records team continued to update fans on his condition via social media. Prine was a high-risk patient, due to his squamous cell cancer diagnosis in 1998, lung cancer in 2013, heart surgery last summer, and recent hip injury that canceled his February tour dates.
Beloved, of course, in the roots music community, Prine was also greatly respected around the world for his vivid, often humorous storytelling. Beginning with his 1971 self-titled album — a record that Rolling Stone dubbed one of the 500 greatest of all time, replete with classics like “Paradise” and “Angel from Montgomery” — and through to his 2018 LP Tree of Forgiveness, Prine captured the simplicities and the complexities of the human existence in stark and stunning glory.
Yesterday evening, friends texted me regarding his death, and I asked them what songs they would like to see posted. Here’s Zippy’s selection from John Prine’s first album.
And Jen chose “In Spite of Ourselves” the title track from his 1999 album.
Gorby chose what is probably his most-famous song covered by Bonnie Raitt.
And Kyri chose “When I Get to Heaven” live from Austin City Limits.
Rolling Stone has reported that Marianne Faithfull was admitted to a London hospital with cold-like symptoms and tested positive for coronavirus. Her manager, François Ravard, says she is stable and responding to treatments.
The album of hers that first caught my attention is her 1979 masterpiece, Broken English.
Here is the title track set to an “Anti-war film made with a montage of various images including Picasso, Goya, Heartfield, Daumier, Kollwitz, and others”.
And here is a video of Marianne working with Nick Cave and Warren Ellis in the studio recording “The Gypsy Faerie Queen” and getting interviewed by Nick.
What Ballard Looks Like During the Coronavirus Pandemic
Ballard is the neighborhood where I live in Northwest Seattle, Washington that was a sleepy little Scandinavian neighborhood when I moved in. It’s gone through many changes over the past few decades that have made it a destination for Seattleites and for tourists from all over the country and the world. It’s where people go to drink, because there are many great bars and restaurants, plus the world famous Tractor Tavern music venue.
I took a walk through Ballard last weekend to see how the coronavirus shutdown has changed it.
Ballard was a bustling neighborhood with many thriving locally owned businesses, but now they are all hurting because of the severe economic slowdown brought on by the social distancing required to stop the spread of the highly contagious, deadly coronavirus. I can only hope the pandemic soon wanes and that Ballard, Seattle, Washington, and the rest of America and the world can get back to normal. I want all of these businesses to survive, but I don’t think all of them can without some huge help from the state and federal government, and from all the locals pitching in to buy what they can from them when they can.
The Great Recession was about “Too Big to Fail”. This recession is going to be all about “Too Small to Fail”.
This compilation is a fundraiser for the staff of the Ballard Avenue music venues that have been forced to shut down due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The bartenders, sound technicians & door attendants at Conor Byrne Pub, Hotel Albatross, The Sunset Tavern & The Tractor Tavern are our family and make sure that we as musicians have a place to play as well as build and sustain our community.
To celebrate these noble warriors, all the artists on this compilation have recorded their own version of Casey Ruff’s song “You Don’t Bother Me” a song celebrating friendships, good times and hangovers made on Ballard Avenue
You can see the underlying population data, which makes it very clear that coronavirus thrives and explodes in dense areas. There’s a more subtle shift in rural areas, but you can see some trouble spots forming. Contagion is contagious.
Click through to Tableau Public for more analysis of the NY Times data.
The country musician John Prine has been hospitalised and is in now in a stable condition after experiencing symptoms of coronavirus. A post to his official Twitter account said that Prine, 73, had been taken to the hospital on Thursday and intubated on Saturday.
Via Mike Mills’ twitter feed, watch this video today.
TRUMP’S HANDLING OF THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC HAS BEEN TRULY ABYSMAL, POLLS NOTWITHSTANDING
Some recent polls show Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic is approved by 55-60% of Americans. That is simply insane. Here’s why.
A New York Times article succinctly summarized the administration’s early inaction and mistakes regarding the looming public health disaster:
A series of missteps and lost opportunities dogged the nation’s response.
Among them: a failure to take the pandemic seriously even as it engulfed China, a deeply flawed effort to provide broad testing for the virus that left the country blind to the extent of the crisis, and a dire shortage of masks and protective gear to protect doctors and nurses on the front lines, as well as ventilators to keep the critically ill alive.
‘This could have been stopped by implementing testing and surveillance much earlier — for example, when the first imported cases were identified,’ said Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at Columbia University in New York.
This despite warnings by the intelligence community in early January of the seriousness of the spreading virus in China, not to mention numerous and urgent red flags raised on both the possibility of pandemic and our lack of preparedness to meet it. That lack of preparedness was caused primarily by the administration’s own self-inflicted wounds such as dismantling the National Security Council Directorate for Global Health and Security and Bio-Defense established under President Obama which would have been laser focused and vocal on the emerging crisis in Wuhan, had it still been around, and the idiotic unraveling of our network of public health liaison officials in China established and buttressed in both the George W. Bush and Obama administrations which likely prevented the alarm being raised even earlier.
And then of course there’s the testing debacle which has made us a laughing stock for our incompetence and contributed materially to the fact that we now have more infections than any other country and are heading to a best case scenario of between 100,000 to 200,00 deaths from COVID-19.
But the greatest of Trump’s sins was the fact that thanks to his efforts to downplay the deadly threat posed by the virus we lost valuable time – two precious months of inertia and fumbles in fact – which combined with other missteps has ensured that while South Korea will be the exemplar of how to handle a pandemic, we will be at the other end of the scale, an example of what not to do. And how many scores of thousands of preventable deaths we will we suffer as a result?
I get that in times of crisis Americans tend to rally round the flag and the president. But history will not be kind to Donald Trump in his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic no matter what he does from this point (in contrast to many of our state governors and local officials who stepped up to fill the void of absent federal leadership). And neither should we.
Do you find yourself running out of words to describe President Donald J. Trump? Well then you’ve come to the right place. I started compiling a personal dictionary of adjectives to describe him since he began his campaign that I’d like to share with you now. This is a work in progress that I will keep at the top of the blog for awhile – maybe until Election Day. I plan to link the words to news stories and opinion pieces that are apropos to the words.
Here are the words you can use to meticulously describe President Trump.
I think they [Americans] think we’re doing a really good job in terms of running this whole situation having to do with the virus. I think they feel that myself and the administration are doing a good job. … There was a lot of fear and a lot of good things are happening.”
A lot of good things are happening. The mortality rate is, in my opinion … way, way down. That takes a lot of fear out. It’s one thing to have it. It’s another thing to die. When I first got involved, I was told numbers much higher than the number that seems to be.
There’s nothing better than listening to music while you are sheltering in place, so I have put together a few video tracks of my favorite albums that have been released this year.
I learned of Porridge Radio a few weeks ago, and I have been listening to them via YouTube because before the pandemic when I was able to go to Easy Street Records in West Seattle or Sonic Boom Records in Ballard, neither store had any of their music in stock. I guess I will have to order it and have it delivered.
Lilac, meanwhile, turns that emotional journey on its head. This time around, Margolin repeats: “I don’t want to get bitter, I want us to get better, I want us to be kinder to ourselves and to each other.” What looks like a self-help platitude on paper slowly builds up a power at odds with its sentiment, becoming increasingly frenzied and raw-throated, in a way that completely undercuts any optimism. By the end of the song, it sounds confoundingly like a threat.
This tension of opposites is a recurring theme, not just in Margolin’s ability to destabilise a lyric with her voice, but in the words themselves. They’re big on inconsistency – “I don’t know what I want, but I know what I want” – and frequently sound like frantic internal dialogues that capture a very twentysomething brand of angst, where the realisation that you’re now an adult crashes against uncertainty about whether you’re doing adulthood correctly.
In the extraordinary “Kinda Dark,” he delivers his apocalyptic verses in a distracted whisper over subdued electronic scenery. When the drums hit and the electric guitar attacks out of nowhere, it feels genuinely startling: the appearance of the looming threat he’s been slowly backing away from the whole time.
This sense of unease spans the record, making uptempo songs like the glittery “It Just Doesn’t Happen” and the soaring “Crimson Tide” sound like dispatches from a doomed adventure. Other songs exist in the cloud of smoke that’s left behind.
I first heard this new “supergroup” Bonny Light Horseman while wandering around Sonic Boom Records a couple months ago. The band members are Eric D. Johnson, Anaïs Mitchell, and Josh Kaufman – all of whom I am not that familiar with, but I guess many people are because they are SUPER. I was struck by the clarity of their sound and their perfect vocal harmonies, so I bought their eponymously titled debut album. The video is from a live performance and it sounds very muck like it does on the album. No Depression wrote this about it:
That winter [of 2018], they made the trek to Dreamland Recording in Woodstock, New York, for another quick session to finish what they hoped would be enough for a record. “When we went to Woodstock, we knew we were trying to finish a record, and I think the question became, how to record in a way that felt of-a-piece with the Berlin stuff in an environment that was so different,” Mitchell says. They had a blast over the course of two days, again standing close to one another, playing live without headphones, and joined by Michael Lewis (bass, saxophone) and JT Bates (drums, percussion), as well as engineer Bella Blasco and mixer D. James Goodwin. That live sound results in an intimate, but atmospheric vibe that permeates every song on the album. These sessions took on that same sense of immediacy the band felt in Berlin, particularly with songs like “Deep in Love” and “The Roving,” two of the album’s standouts.
This last one is by another singer I learned about this year while reading No Depression reviews. Her name is Kyshona Armstrong. Here’s a snippet from the review.
Kyshona Armstrong honed her craft in the state mental hospital. Not as an inmate, but as a teacher. She broadened her musical healing abilities in prisons and also in schools, working with children diagnosed with emotional behavior disorders.
The singer, who records under her first name, has said that she never wanted to be in the spotlight. Armstrong had aspirations to be a psychologist, but a music scholarship opened up new possibilities for her in the field of musical therapy. She eventually realized that her message could do good from the stage as well.
On the title cut, Kyshona urges people within the sound of her voice to start their activism by the simple act of listening: “I know you wanna help / but you’re deaf to the mission / Even when you see the hand I’m dealt / You pretend it’s my decision.”
And last but not least, Pearl Jam is releasing a new album titled Gigaton tomorrow. Alexis Petridis wrote this about “Quick Escape” for The Guardian:
Quick Escape does a lot of Pearl Jammy stuff – big soaring chorus, more guitar histrionics – but sets them against an atmosphere that’s authentically spacey and strange, as again befits lyrics that have taken on an entirely unwitting kind of currency. If you’re going to release a song about the human race facing such catastrophe that escaping to another planet feels appealing, now is probably the moment to do it.
That’s all for this week. I’ll try and do this more often – maybe every couple of weeks or so.