Shine A Light: Stanley Turrentine

There is something special about finding Jazz music when you are 20 years old. At least it was for me.. It was that transition from boy to man, from living at home to being on my own. I received a great musical education working at a record store at the time. That’s when Pittsburg native, tenor sax player Stanley Turrentine came across my radar.

Turrentine’s music made me feel more sophisticated and more well-rounded. I also thought it would help get girls, but I don’t think that ever worked!

Not that I pretend to understand the nuances of this music or its intricacies, but I do know how it makes me feel. I love it and I love it being a soothing alternative to vocal based music. It works on a different part of my brain.

So if you get time acquaint  yourself to Stanley Turrentines music. I hope it scratches you somewhere you didn’t even know itched!

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Stuff

About 5 years ago I moved into a new house and it had more room than the previous one. One thing my wife and I noticed as we set up house was how good it felt to be able to move around with ease in closets and drawers and even the living space. We made a “deal” that to keep this freedom of space, we’d get rid of something every time we bought something new. Yeah right! “Can you move some of your junk so I can put my stuff down”, is a polite version of the old George Carlin bit on stuff.

It’s amazing isn’t it just how much stuff I can accumulate? It’s very subtle. A little more and a little more and pretty soon I’m stepping over things to get the thing I want. Most of my stuff is “wants” and not “needs” anyway. Stuff becomes clutter and clutter hides what I’m trying to see. In trying to defend himself against a Zen practice of only have three possessions, Jackson Browne asked “does  a guitar collection count as one possession”? I know how much I like to justify  when it comes to my stuff.

It’s the same thing in my personal journey. I carry way too much clutter. Too much stuff, too many views. Too many voices, too many worries! Trying to be everything all the time. I think somewhere all of that is connected to me not being able to trust enough. To just be quiet, let go, and trust that it’s all gonna be OK. To trust enough in simplicity. To trust enough in me. To trust enough in my Creator. I need some spiritual Feng Shui!

So I will continue on, adding then subtracting. Reshaping. Hopefully resurfacing with a better, cleaner, clearer, less cluttered me! Maybe then I can see the back of the closet as well as see God without all of the obstacles that bring confusion. Without all of the stuff.

Shine A Light: Norah Jones

Several years ago, I was at the Ryman auditorium in Nashville for a Willie Nelson TV special. The show included many greats from Sheryl Crow to Keith Richards to Ray Price. Ryan Adams to Emmylou Harris. The show called Willie Nelson and Friends; Stars and Guitars was being taped for television. During commercial breaks there would be stage changes to be ready for the next act. So during one such change, the crew brings out a little wurlitzer keyboard. Then comes a pretty dark haired girl who sits at the keyboard. She is smiling and staring at Willie like she needs to pinch herself to believe she is there. When she opened her mouth to sing “Lonestar” with Willie, that Ryman audience took a collective breath at this beautiful unknown voice. She wouldn’t be unknown however for long. She soon would go on to win 5 Grammies. She is Norah Jones.

Ever grateful, but having moved long past the need for big radio airplay to feel successful, Jones has been one wonderful CD after another. she has even bucked  label advice and made a record under the band name “The Little Willies” covering many great standards such Willie Nelson’s “I gotta get drunk”, and Gram Parson’s version of the Harland Howard classic “Streets of Baltimore”. In other words Norah Jones is carving her own musical road.

Many before her including Christopher Cross and Shawn Mullins, who scored big from out of nowhere, Norah was almost force fed upon us. Now that the rage has subsided we can let her stretch as an artist, and enjoy the journey with her music. It’s good stuff. Give it a shot if she has been on your back burner for a while.

The Mountain Man in all of us

Do you think there is an inner mountain man in all of us? Is there something about that ‘make it on our own and off the land” thing that resides deep in the spirit of most of us? I think so. It resonates, especially in men. For centuries we were the hunters, providers and protectors of our worlds. However I think it goes deeper than that. Perhaps to a place of lost harmony. Lost skills. We have lost our understanding and connection to things that are true; we have lost our relationship with nature.

I have spent many years at pow wows. Many years traipsing around in the woods, watching wildlife, listening to the birds. I have camped and spent many a year doing primitive camping at various Mountain Man rendezvous. Camping in tipis under buffalo hides dressed in buckskins. Eaten my food cooked from an open fire. All for a week at a time! Yup that’s it. But it lives deep in my soul and the rest of the time there is a quiet longing for that reconnection. Reconnection to simpler times where going back makes that life feel less confusing that the ones we live today.

I’ve been reading a book by Elizabeth Gilbert called “The Last American Man”. It’s the story of Eustace Conway who lives by and large a primitive life in the mountains around Boone, N.C. Not a hermit, Conway’s mission is to help people understand nature and how to live in it. I can’t find a true, constant place in my spirit to want to live like Eustace Conway. Full time he has lived in a tipi for close to 20 years. But I do dream of finding a better balance with this suburban life I lead. A desire to know more about plants, animals and the cycles of nature. The indigenous peoples of all lands see nature as their grocery stores and their pharmacies. Everything they need to live is there. All of that seems like important stuff to know and to pass down. It’s the stuff that grounds me in a world of materialism.

I know there is no going back. America, the world isn’t and shouldn’t give up the many fine things we have to return to an old way of life if it doesn’t call them in that way. I am glad for Eustace, happy he shines a light on things that are so beautiful. I hope I can continue to persue the balance with my natural environments and my man made ones.

What do you think of this? do you find comfort in nature? How important is the natural world to you? Do you ever feel like man thinks he is smarter than nature? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Shine A Light: Dobie Gray

Everybody in the world knows “Drift Away”, the great hit by Nashville resident Dobie Gray. It has become a classic. But my favorite is a Dobie Gray song called “Loving Arms”. I first heard it on an Elvis Presley record from about 1974, but Dobie’s version is the one.

Here is a version of Dobie doing his big hit “Drift Away”, which Uncle Kracker also recently revived.

Despite Dobie’s great selling singles, he remained a dedicated songwriter penning songs for many top artists including Ray Charles.

Go Check out some Dobie Gray. It’ll do your soul some good…

Money

Almost everyone reading this is probably smarter about the subject of money than I am. I am guessing that in the more “primitive” cultures, most men and women made everything they needed, right? Household needs, farming and hunting tools. But there had to be a time when one person, lets say just wasn’t as good at making spears, so he had a friend make a spear for him and in turn he maybe made something for the friend. Sounds reasonable. Or perhaps he traded meat or vegetables for the spear. Both items in the trade were useful to each person. To me that made sense.

Well, somewhere along the line a culture created money and that money had to be based on something. That something became gold. It’s just weird to me, because gold in itself isn’t worth a damn thing. It can’t keep you warm and you can’t eat it, so what’s its value other than there is a finite amount, which doesn’t seem true.

Why wasn’t money, if we even needed it (another debatable idea) based on something of real value. Something someone could actually use to help their existence and their family.

I would be willing to just go along and admit that I’m not that smart…..if the plan was working. It doesn’t seem to be..When the Government needs more money, they call the Feds, who just make some! Wish I could do that, but I know how irresponsible I’d be with a plan like that. It seems irresponsibility isn’t confined to just me. Our entire world seems to be centered around buying. Not only buying for needs, used loosely, but to fill the emptiness. To make us feel like we have worth, to medicate with.

Like that old saying “You can’t take it with you”, and most people that I know that have enough money to buy happiness are the most unhappy. Yet we cling. We cling to the rule that it makes us feel special.

 

The system can’t change without the Big Crash, and nobody wants that. It does however pose the question; did we outsmart ourselves? Did our brilliant minds back us right into a corner where implosion is what we’re heading towards. Did the early cultures have a better take?

I sure don’t have the answers. I don’t even know enough to ask really good questions, but I can see when something isn’t working. I can see when we are gradually working ourselves out of a way of life. So come on, you economists; explain this to us? I’m sure it all made sense at one point, when our childrens, childrens, childrens, children were only a far distant thought.

This probably conjures up thoughts of the United States going back to a time where we actually build something. Something we can touch; something we can use. I’ll trade you my extra hammer for a few nails. Then maybe we can both build something.

Shine A Light: Spoken Word artist John Trudell

I have posted on John Trudell before. There would in fact be many lights to shine on Trudell. As a human being in search of truth to activist for American Indian rights, and for his music.

John is a spoken word artist. His words read over music. I wasn’t used to this type of presentation and it took me a while to divest myself of what I wanted it to be and listen to it with ears of what it is. To get out of my box and hear it for what it is saying. For me, even after many listens and the acceptance of the work, it took time for the weight of his words to sink in and connect.

Being patient was as big a challenge as anything and my lack of it told me much about myself. This video of “Crazy Horse” opens slowly and thoughtfully. something we aren’t used to in our fast paced, instant gratification society.

John Trudell also has several really good podcast that are free on i tunes.