Monday, April 24, 2006

He Sells Sequels

Memo to Quentin Tarantino:

Pulp Fiction 2.

Seems the samurai sword used by Butch to deliver Marcellus Wallace from Zed was pawned in distaste by The Bride after dispatching Bill. After getting medieval on Zed, the sword was taken by Marcellus as a reminder of his ordeal. Marcellus recruits a replacement for Vincent Vega, and The Bride applies for the gig. She and her sword are reunited.

While "walking the world", former hitman Jules arrives in Knoxville and enters Butch's Pancake House to try their famous blueberry pancakes.

That oughta get you started. We're waiting...

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The Sound of Silence

Michael Silence is a reporter for the Knoxville News who blogs about blogs. I found his site through his fellow Knoxvillian Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit.

Michael covers the Tennesse blogging community and is certainly worth a visit if you you want to stay on top of the blog scene here. Thanks for the mention, Michael. I do appreciate it!

Friday, April 14, 2006

Produce Section

Nashville's legendary Station Inn is a Bluegrass and Acoustic Music haven surrounded by an increasingly gentrified collection of old factories and warehouses. Slick new restaurants and clubs have taken root in The Gulch, as the neighborhood is known, and I hope the Station Inn can withstand the pressure to sell and let another condo take it's place. This town needs more for real and less faux real.

The same can be said of the show that Elizabeth Cook brought to the stage - the real thing, not the latest thing. Celebrating the completion of the tracking stage of her new album, Cook and her band did two sets of excellent Country music. She easily held her own against industry stalwarts like Nanci Griffith, Gail Davies and Rodney Crowell, all of whom joined her onstage throughout the evening.

Griffith has taken Cook under her wing, inviting her to open a tour last Fall, and co-writing the title track to Griffith's latest album, "Simple Life". Rodney Crowell produced Elizabeth's new record with a light and masterful touch. I've been fortunate to observe a few album sessions in the past, and his intuitive approach to getting the music and the players on the same page was quite impressive.

The challenge for Crowell, as it has always been for Elizabeth, was to find a way to present her straight-up hillbilly sound in a package that the non-cognoscenti will find familiar and pleasing. She's an acquired taste if all you know about Country music is Tim McGraw and Faith Hill. Too country for Country.

Thankfully, Crowell recognised that Cook has a unique voice, both vocally and as a writer, and did not attempt to dilute - or should I say muddy up - the purity of her throat, brain and heart. In a town where daily e-mails go out from the labels begging songwriters for "hits only" and "same as last record" ditties to sun, sand and rednecks, Crowell and Cook found community in their respective artistry and the record will be her finest effort to date.

There is no blatant "radio ready" song on this record. Not that there aren't several potential hits - just none of the lowest common denominator pandering variety that pretend to be the makings of a "Music Row Rebel", "the Future of Country Music", or even "Hey, look at this midget we found". It's pretty obvious that once you throw Radio a bone, they suck out the marrow.

I learned a lot watching Rodney and the superb studio band, and conversations with engineer Peter Coleman reaffirmed my beliefs regarding recording. "Put the right mic in front of the right musician giving the right performance" and the rest is easy. And what's so hard about easy?

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

A Town Without Pitney

Gene Pitney was found dead in his hotel room in Cardiff yesterday. He was on a UK tour, where he enjoyed great popularity, ending his career with a standing ovation Tuesday night, 14 shows into a 23-date tour.

An early example of the singer/songwriter, Pitney had more success as a writer than a performer in the U.S. Ricky Nelson had a huge hit with "Hello, Mary Lou", the Crystals cut his "He's A Rebel", and Pitney wrote "Today's Teardrops", the B-side to Roy Orbison's million-selling "Blue Angel". His cover of a Jagger/Richards song, "That Girl Belongs to Yesterday", was the Rolling Stones' first appearance on a U.S. chart. Pitney was introduced to Mick and Keith by their manager, Andrew Loog Oldham, and subsequently played maracas on the Stones' version of Buddy Holly's "Not Fade Away", and piano on other tracks.

In 1961, while working with legendary producer Phil Spector, he recorded the song that was to be his breakthrough hit,"Town Without Pity". The title track from the film of the same name, "Pity" was a hit record in 1962. Burt Bacharach and Hal David were a steady source of material in the early 60's: "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance", "Only Love Can Break A Heart" - his biggest hit ever, and "Twenty Four Hours From Tulsa". He later recorded a couple of duet albums with country legend George Jones. Pitney had 16 Top Forty songs in the USA from 1961 to 1968, and he had 40 such songs in the UK through 1974. In 2002 he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

In an interview with Australian publication "The Age", Pitney gave his thoughts on modern recording technology and Pop.
As a student of electronic engineering in the '50s, and an early studio colleague of both Phil Spector and the Rolling Stones, Pitney has come as close as anyone to the original essence of the classic pop single.

"When I began recording, the technology was not anywhere near what we have today," he says. "Preparation was of supreme importance; that meant the producer, arranger, musicians and artist all had to peak in the three-hour session."

Although a big fan of digital recording, Pitney says there is often a shortfall between production and songcraft. "I feel that technology is used to the point of overkill . . . it covers a multitude of sins on inferior songs."

Read more details from the BBC article that I liberally borrowed from here

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Smoky Mountain Reign

We took the weekend off from mixing the record to visit my mother-in-law in nearby Sevierville, Tennessee. Sevierville is at the ankle of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, since I guess Gatlinburg is at the foot. It's pretty amazing how the commercialized sections of the county disappear as soon as you get on the road into the Park.

Cade's Cove

We drove the 11-mile loop around Cade's Cove, and hiked the 3.5 hour, 2.5 mile Abrams Falls Trail.


It's a "moderate" rated trail, which can be a bit of a hike when the rocks are slippery, which they were this early in the Spring. It is a well-kept trail, and has a few stream crossings like the one pictured above.

Abrams Falls

The Falls are about 25-30 feet high, splashing into a pool that narrows into a swift- running stream again. Many hikers take a dip, we did not. We reached the Falls in about an hour. The trail back to the car was mostly uphill, and took us 75 minutes.

As soon as we entered the trail head, we saw a red-headed woodpecker and several deer feeding on the edge of the forest. Cade's Cove is full of viewable wildlife, including deer, turkey and black bears.

The plan is to gradually get into serious backpacking shape, starting out by car camping in the park and taking day hikes on the many trails that lead from Elkmount or Cade's Cove. Eventually we hope to do an overnight in the backcountry, finally using the two-year old tent that has yet to be pitched outside the living room floor.

The Great Smoky Mountain National Park is the nation's most-visited, and the fabled Appalachian Trail goes through it for many miles. As busy as it might get around the tourist attractions on the outskirts, once you are off the easier trails, hikers say you can go for days without seeing another human. I'd like to experience that.

Here's a short video I shot of the Falls.