Friday, January 30, 2009


Sweetwater, by Forrest L. Smith, Jr. Enjoy the adventures of young Bob Smith and Chauncey as they survive childhood misadventures, the Civil War and thrive through Reconstruction. A different look at the old south.

Germania, by Brendan McNally. An absurdist portrait of World War Two Germany between Hitler's death and surrender.

The other two are about Tift Merritt. She's got a live album coming out, Buckingham Solo, recorded in an old church in England. I believe this one is the Tift-solo-acoustic version of, mostly, Another Country. Included is The Best Song Ever Written, as it was meant to be performed, "Trouble over Me."

Speaking of Another Country, the song is sung by Tift in the new Renee Zellweger romantic comedy, New in Town.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Sara Maja

When I was little the options for watching movies on television were considerably more limited than they are today. Mostly it was the Late Show, which was on after my bedtime, Big Movie Shocker (with Bestoink Dooley) on Friday nights, and a daytime movie feature called Armchair Playhouse, which was on during school so I seldom got to watch that, either. Well, that and Saturday Night at the Movies, once it was added. Oh, and I guess there were the Moochie movies on Disneyland. Still, what with cable I can now watch more movies in a week than I saw throughout my entire childhood.

Ironically, those few movies were better than almost all of the ones I see now.

One of the movies I did see during one of those weekday afternoons, about Francisco Goya, was "The Naked Maja." I have never seen this movie since, but I recall it revolved around some scandal involving two versions of a painting, one wherein the subject was clothed and the other not. Let's see what the Internet has to say about this one ... well, there you go: The Naked Maja, and the Clothed Maja, in all their glory; and IMDB reports Ava Gardner, as Maria Cayetana, Duchess of Alba, and Anthony Franciosa as Francisco Jose de Goya, made in 1958; it gets only five stars. That's wrong. I am an expert on Goya solely as a result of having seen this movie.

So, last night Ken Tucker reviewed a new CD, "Fiction Family," from Sean Watkins and Jon Foreman on Fresh Air. I'm not sure if the review was favorable or not, but there was one song that he thoroughly panned. Okay, back to the Internet ... from the Fresh Air web site, "Fiction Family Debut Is Delicate And Industrious, by Ken Tucker." (Interesting that they capitalize "And.")

Tucker's criticism: "Sometimes it doesn't work, as in the maudlin 'Please Don't Call It Love,' with its weepy, sleepy violin."

Tucker neglects to identify the violinist, but judging from the "Fiction Family" web site it is likely Sean's sister Sara. I last saw Sara playing a ukulele, of all things, as the opener for Tift Merritt in Durham last spring; one supposes the transition is easier from one four-stringed instrument to the other? Sara did not stick around for me to take her picture that night, but, as you will see above, I was able to capture her in a Goya-ish moment back in aught-two. (Taken at MerleFest, at the same cement stage where I first heard Tift singing "Supposed to Make You Happy" the previous year.)

I imagine Sara was none too happy about Tucker's comments.

- Update from May 28: Sara is scheduled to perform at the Arts Center in Carrboro next weekend; and in an interview about her current tour and new CD, I read where she actually writes songs on the ukulele. Okay, that is an intriguing image, pencilling words between the strings. Composes songs on the ukulele?

Monday, January 26, 2009