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We Gotta Hold a Bake Sale to Benefit the Hessian Army... [Sep. 25th, 2008|09:36 pm]
laeth_maclaurie
...because I fully expect to see these babies to be up on eBay by the end of the week.  I can see the ads now...

"Two companies worth of reasonably modern heavy armor.  Spare parts included.  New in box. (Reserve has not been met)"

Pool some funds, ladies and gentlemen: let's put together a bid.  The Hessian state will need some reasonable means of defense, and that is the better part of the tank complement for an armored battalion (and totally jacked by pirates: lulz and kill, global commerce, lulz and kill).  I mean, it wouldn't slow down the US military that long, but it should be more than sufficient to keep our stereos safe from marauding Negros on D+3 of the Race War.  Besides, "has tanks" is an unspoken - but fundamental - criteria of autonomous nation-state status.
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Friends Don't Let Friends Take Bad Psychiatric Drugs [Sep. 9th, 2008|01:17 am]
laeth_maclaurie
Extroverted Like Me

Of course, if your goal in life is to gain weight and become a borderline alcoholic asshole with limited impulse control and no orgasms, SSRI drugs might be for you.  But don't worry, the Healthcare Industrial Complex is just here to help...

(I'm sure there's someone out there who has been saved by these things, but I just got home from an evening with a friend who recently became a drunk, irritable asshole for reasons that I suspect have a lot to do with going on the meds.  She was obviously sort of hung up and depressed before, but the drinking problem coincidentally started showing up about the time her personality shifted to talkative and erratic right after going on Paxil [which I can't believe is still being prescribed, given it's well-documented problems].)

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Music of the Southern Highlands: Old-Time Stringbands [Feb. 21st, 2008|05:24 pm]
laeth_maclaurie
When commercial recording technology became available in the 1920s, Appalachian performers emerged as some of America's first recording stars.  Playing a stylized version of the folk music of the Southern Highlands now typically called 'old-time' (but was often called 'Hillbilly' music at the time), performers like Uncle Dave Mason, Fiddlin' John Carson Kelly Harrell, Gid Tanner and Riley Puckett, backed by the characteristic string bands of the time (typically consisting of two fiddles, banjo played in the finger picking, frailing or clawhammer styles, mandolin, guitar and bass) brought Appalachian music to America.  The appearance of the stringbands, and especially, the move to recorded music represented a distinct break in the tradition of mountain music.  No longer a primarily oral tradition in which strong regional variation played an important role, the stringbands served as the key evolutionary bridge between the fluid, community-oriented cultural practice of  19th century Appalachian folk music and the homogenized and performer-centric practice of the emerging country music industry.  Still, this is the medium through which the vast bulk of the folk music of the earlier period has been preserved, and, unlike most subsequent generations of commercially produced country music, the old-time stringbands of the 1920s and 30s were deeply rooted in the Appalachian tradition from which they sprung, and accordingly, played music with a degree of sincerity and authenticity that has really not been matched since.

The following compilation consists of a series of early recordings (1927-1931) made by several (mostly) lesser-known stringbands hailing from North Carolina's "Lost Provinces" (Ashe, Avery, Alleghany, Watauga and Wilkes counties in the northwest corner of the state), a region that remained one of the most isolated parts of the continental US well into the 20th century.  Of the artists included on this recording, by far the most popular (and historically significant) were Grayson & Whitter.  This duo was responsible for popularizing several of the most enduringly loved tunes from the Appalachian tradition, most notably "Train 45," "The Banks of the Ohio," "Handsome Molly" and probably the greatest of all the American murder ballads, "Tom Dooley" (G.B. Grayson was, incidentally, the grand-nephew of the Sheriff Grayson who tracked and apprehended the real-life Tom Dula).  Those familiar with similar vintage blues recordings will note strong stylistic parallels between several of these songs (notably "Short Life of Trouble" and "Don't Get Trouble in Your Mind") and many early blues recordings, despite a distinctly different musical idiom, showing just how indebted to the Appalachian folk tradition the blues really were.

Music From the Lost Provinces: Old-Time Stringbands from Ashe County, North Carolina & Vicinity, 1927-1931


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The Music of the Southern Highlands: Jean Ritchie [Feb. 15th, 2008|11:43 am]
laeth_maclaurie
Jean Ritchie
 
Sometimes called the "Mother of Folk," Jean Ritchie is a Kentucky folk singer known for her pure, lyrical voice, her skill with the Appalachian ('mountain' or 'lap') dulcimer, and her vast repertoire of traditional ballads culled from the Southern Appalachian folk tradition.  Most of her songs, like those represented here, originated in the balladic traditions of the British Isles, and as such, are often relics of the late medieval and early modern eras (the earliest variants of "False Sir John" seem to have appeared in England and Scandinavia as early as the 10th or 11th centuries).
 
These ballads are, by and large, songs concerned intimately with honor, kinship, death and violence.  A student of modern music will be interested to find many of the characteristics of supposedly 'African' blues music (dialogue based lyrical structures, call and response, certain tonal and elaborative features, etc.).  This is a Smithsonian Folkways recording made in 1961.
 
This music is near and dear to my heart, as I grew up with these songs as a part of my own family life.  The variant of "The House Carpenter" included in this collection was one my mother sang when I was a child.
 
 
Jean Ritchie - Ballads From Her Appalachian Family Tradition
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The Music of the Southern Highlands [Feb. 15th, 2008|09:45 am]
laeth_maclaurie
Mountain Music

The Southern half of the Appalachian mountain chain holds a unique place in American cultural history. In remote communities from the Alleghenies of West Virginia to the Blue Ridge and Smokey Mountains of Virginia, the Carolinas and Tennessee, to the Ozarks of Alabama and Arkansas, physical and cultural isolation favored the persistence of Old World musical traditions brought by the regions early Celto-Germanic settlers.

Early white settlement in the Southern Appalachians was largely dominated by lowland Scots/Scots-Irish, but there were also strong leavenings of Highland Scots, English country folk (particularly from Northumberland and Cumbria), German Lutherans and Scandinavians, especially in Virginia and North Carolina.

These peoples brought a tradition of ballad singing and fiddle tunes dating back a millennium or more. Many of the characteristic ballads of the Southern Highlands - "The House Carpenter," "Little Musgrave," "Bonnie George Campbell," "St. James Infirmary" - are British songs dating to the late medieval and early modern periods. Some are even older: "False Sir John" (known more often in the Old World as "Lady Isabel and the Elf Knight") is likely rooted in an Old Norse ballad from pre-Christian Norway. The archetypal 'Southern' fiddle tune - "Soldier's Joy" - likely goes back to a similar source.

This medieval repertoire persevered as part of a living oral tradition in the isolated fastness of mountain hollers long after they had essentially died out except as curiosities in their native countries (far more variants of the classic British Child ballads have been collected in the American South than in Britain). With their emphasis on instrumental improvisation within either a modal or a five tone harmonic framework, the Old World musical traditions of the Southern Highlands would become the bedrock on which virtually all future American music would be anchored.

The decades immediately preceding and following the American Civil War proved to be a turning point in the history not only of Southern Appalachia, but in the history of American music. During the 30 years between 1850 and 1880, the railroads pierced the Southern Highlands, finally bringing them in sustained contact with the rest of the country. Laying track through the rugged terrain of the Southern mountains was a herculean task requiring a massive labor force to complete.

Railroad work was always dangerous, but no work was more dangerous than that of tunneling through the Appalachian mountains. 450 million years of erosion had left the oldest mountains on earth as rounded nubs, but what remained was among the toughest rock on earth - the 3 billion year-old granite of the continental shield. The usual dangers of tunnel work prevailed - cave-ins, accidental explosions, pockets of poisonous gas - but the greatest threat was silicosis acquired from inhaling the dust left behind in the process of drilling blasting holes.

The mortality rates on many of the tunnel projects soon proved so high that only the most expendable of workers - poor local whites and blacks shipped in at bargain basement wages (or no wages at all, the use of prison work crews for rail projects being widespread through much of the South, with prison gangs often being sent hundreds of miles away, even across state lines). Thousands of white mountain folk worked and died alongside black workers and prisoners brought in to help complete projects like West Virginia's Great Bend Tunnel (around which the legends of John Henry swirl) and the Swannanoa Tunnel just east of Asheville, NC (the 20 year nightmare that spawned the classic work song "Swannanoa Tunnel," the direct ancestor of one of country music's first great hit songs, "Nine Pound Hammer (Roll on Buddy)")

The synthesis of African rhythms and North European harmonic and melodic principles that is so fundamental to all subsequent American music first emerged among the work crews digging tunnels and laying track through the mountains of the South. The blues were born here, country too. They were dispersed throughout the United States by the great population movements spurred on first by the railroads themselves, and then by great demographic shifts of the early 20th century, which saw blacks and mountain folk in the tens of thousands moving into the industrial cities of the North and Upper Midwest, as well as the emerging mill towns of the Piedmont South. They brought with them the hybridized musical sensibilities that first emerged among the hammer swingers of the Appalachian rail projects.

In cities like New Orleans, New York, Chicago and Kansas city, blues musicians, encountering early Modernist classical music became the first jazzmen. Bluegrass emerged from a similar process in the textile and coal centers of the Southern foothills and Piedmont regions. Rock 'n roll was born when the various musical offspring of those mountain railroad men merged yet again. Fittingly, the term itself originated in the idiom of the tunnel crews: "rock 'n roll" referred in the beginning to the movements of the man holding the metal rods that 'steel drivin' men' hammered into the unyielding rock of the Southern Highlands.

That historical digression aside, however, the purest and most authentic expression of Appalachian music remains its original guise, the ballads, dances, work songs and fiddle tunes passed down through an oral tradition that stretches all the way back to medieval Europe, so it is my intent to make as much of this music as I have in my collection available for your enjoyment and edification.

Cheers,
Laeth

_____________________________

For my first entry in what will hopefully be an ever expanding series, I give you Bascom Lamar Lunsford. Known as "The Minstrel of the Appalachians," Lunsford was born at Mars Hill College (Madison County) and grew up in the Turkey Creek district of my own hometown, Leicester, NC (just west of Asheville). Lunsford was a man of many hats, singer, songwriter (notably of the country standard "Old Mountain Dew"), folklorist, traveling salesman and schoolteacher. As a collector and preserver of the folk traditions of the North Carolina mountains, he had no peer. He should probably be considered the greatest of the 'songcatchers' who kept the tradition of Appalachian balladry alive in the early 20th century. His contributions to the "Memory Project" (for which the recordings on this album were made in 1949, when Lunsford was 67) of the library of Congress represent the largest collection of material provided by any single American - over 300 songs. Lunsford played both fiddle and banjo (in the traditional mountain clawhammer style), but it is his untrained and unaffected baritone voice that was his most endearing trait.

Bascom Lamar Lunsford Banjo Tunes, Ballads and Sacred Songs of Western North Carolina
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Punks Suck [Feb. 12th, 2008|09:00 pm]
laeth_maclaurie
The bar was full of punks this evening, which always sucks.  I mean, I try to be social, you can only put up with so many pretentious fuckwits telling you about the unholy shit they don't partake of.  "I'm a vegan!"  "I don't drink/smoke/fuck/get fucked/hang out with racists/hang with black people!"  Whatever it is, every punk (hardcore kid/grind freak/skinhead) seems to have one at the very least.  Usually more than one.  It's like hanging out with angry monks: self-righteous asceticism masking a deranged and fanatical excess in some other department.  It's all so...Christian.

Give me an honest Jewlatto hesher any day.
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Jazz and Metal [Feb. 11th, 2008|01:45 am]
laeth_maclaurie
[music |Ornette Coleman "Focus on Sanity"]

I had an interesting experience a couple of weeks ago.    My girlfriend and I had a moment to relax - fairly rare of late - so I decided to put some music on.  The first thing I slipped into the disc changer was Ornette Coleman's The Shape of Jazz to Come.  By the time we'd hit the 45 second mark of "Eventually" (in the middle of a solo that sounds like every Kerry King lead played simultaneously on an alto sax), my girlfriend looked at me: "I'm sorry babe, but this is too much right now, can we listen to something a little more relaxing?"

It was an excellent reminder of just how violent this music really was and is.  While metal has certainly borrowed some from jazz idiom, it has always seemed to me that there is a much more important point of intersection between metal and modal and free jazz, a certain shared honesty and a fearless conceptual selflessness that allows the engagement with reality to lead the music (and musicians) in violent, unsettling or (on the surface) unpleasant directions.  It's not just the willingness to live dangerously though, it's that it's done with authentic sincerity, rather than the self-consciously ironic 'subversion' that is the two-belts-and-a-ballad currency of the hipster audition.
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Wisdom [Jan. 23rd, 2008|06:31 pm]
laeth_maclaurie
All roads don't lead to Rome, nor all rivers to Memphis.
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A B-day [Jan. 10th, 2008|07:41 pm]
laeth_maclaurie
Happy birthday silverambz
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The Bhutto Assassination [Dec. 29th, 2007|05:07 am]
laeth_maclaurie
This is one of the most worrying moments since the 'War on Terror' begun.  The Bhutto assassination, which apparently involved a sniper attack as well as a suicide bombing, is part of a worrying string of increasingly professional 'hits' that have been placed on leading democratic figures in Pakistan.  This professionalism is fairly worrying, because it indicates that the Musharraf government is actually behind the attacks on key opposition parties and leaders.  Some of the methods used in recent attacks - snipers and multi-prong, coordinated attacks with built-in redundancy - are much more reminiscent of the work of professional special ops or intelligence operatives than the sort of haphazard plans more typical of the al Qaeda types.  If this is the work of the government, it would only confirm what many of us already suspect: Pervez Musharraf is a violent, pragmatic autocrat, interested only in maintaining his own position of power (in other words, precisely the sort of man who will sell out his 'allies' in the 'War on Terror' the second it is in his own personal interest to do so).

But there's a second possibility that I find even more frightening.  In this scenario, Musharraf is innocent of any complicity in the attacks, and the increasing professionalism of the jihadists' tactics is instead the result of defections to militants by members (or former members) of the Pakistani military or intelligence services.  Now that is a real nightmare, because it would indicate that Musharraf is losing control of Pakistan's security apparatus.  I can't think of anything more terrifying right now than a rogue military with jihadist ties in a nuclear armed state.  Congratulations Dubs, while you were concentrating on Iran's non-existent nuclear program and breaking the US military on the rock of Iraqi resistance (instead of, you know, hunting down and destroying bin Laden and the Taliban holdouts, many of whom are unquestionably providing key leadership support to Pakistani militants), a country that already has nukes is slowly (or is that rapidly?) slipping into the hands of al-Qaeda. Great job, Brownie!
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