Shine A Light: Raphael Saadiq

I’ve heard the term neo soul before. To my ears, it mostly sounds like someone who just isn’t a hip hop or rap artist. So I was a little skeptical when I heard an NPR report describing Raphael Saadiq as a neo soul artist. The more I heard the more I realized NPR had not steered me wrong. Saadiq, the 45 year old Oakland native is all that and more. It even sounds sometimes like he uses old mix boards to record on. Arrangements, lyric, the whole vibe is a throw back and at the same time feels fresh and current. It’ really cool stuff.

Saadiq has come a long ways since his days with Tony, Toni, Tone’, to producing for Joss Stone, D’Angelo and John Legend. NPR’s story talked about how Saadiq wants his music to be found and enjoyed all everyone. Sort of in the mode of old Motown but not as contrived like sending artists to finishing school to fit into the white dominated entertainment culture of the times. Smart move then perhaps but not needed now.

The list of folks Saadiq has collaborated with is a mile long including all time greats to newcomers. If you are looking for something new that sounds old, but feels fresh all at the same time, give Raphael Saadiq a try, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Holy as a Handshake

It is a profound truth to me and one that has been circling in my mind for years, I just never found a way to say it as clear. I was talking with a friend the other day on this very subject. We were saying how, we as a human family tend to think of receiving something holy, only from God. In ways we are correct but I think where we mislead ourselves is thinking ‘holy moments’ only happen in church or when praying, or when talking to or about God. If the Bible is correct in this narrative when it says that God “is the alpha and the omega”, then to me that means the Creator is in everything, everywhere, all the time. And that all moments are holy.
If you give a Native American a cigarette it can just be a cigarette, but if you give him cigarettes or tobacco as a gift, then it becomes something holy. It’s the intention to which we act or receive. It’s how much we are paying attention to life; To the beautiful moments. How many of us are so struck by the rise of a new day that we stop and give thanks? New life, our pets, our elders, all offer wonderful opportunities for holy moments. Life has wonderful textures of scents and feels, all offering glimpses of the Maker, of God, of Wakan Tanka, of the Great Mystery!
I tend to find holy moments upon reflection or see them as so in a memory. I’m trying hard to recognize living in the moment, and finding holiness in those moments. Every human connection to other humans, to plant and animal life are holy. Every breath is holy and I should find thanks in every one of them. That sounds kinda crazy, right? That would mean I’d really have to pay attention ! Maybe I’m full of it, maybe some things are holy and some are not. What do you think?

Shine A Light: Bill Withers

Even if for some reason you don’t recognize the name of Bill Withers, possible from living under a music rock for most of your life, you will recognize the songs of Bill Withers as they are a part of the soundtrack of your life.

Withers didn’t have the kind of long hit filled career that only a few are fortunate enough to have but what he did have was a handful of songs that became a deep, rich part of the American musical fabric. “Ain’t No Sunshine” was the first one out of the box ! Followed by the small, select collection of classics, “Use Me”, “Lovely Day”, “Lean On Me”, and the amazing classic of 1980 with Grover Washington, “Just The Two Of Us”. How about that for a musical thread?

Withers, ever the gentleman and image of class, will always have a solid place in musical history. He sounded like no one else, wrote in his own style, and is a true artist. Pick up his music, you won’t be sorry !

This taken from Withers’ site shows just some of the artists that have covered Bill Withers’ tunes.

An encompassing roster of artists that includes Barbra Streisand, Michael Jackson, Liza Minnelli, Aretha Franklin, Tom Jones, Maroon 5, Linda Ronstadt, Paul McCartney, Sting, Joe Cocker, Johnny Mathis, Mick Jagger, Lee Ritenour, Al Jarreau, Morrisey, Nancy Wilson, Eva Cassidy and Diana Ross has covered Bill’s songs. Additionally, samples utilized by hit makers like Jay-Z, Akon, Kayne West, Tupac Shakur, Fatboy Slim, DMX and Swizz Beatz have powered innumerable hip-hop hits.

Postcards From The South: Pensacola, Florida

When I am home, I am there totally entrenched in my most natural culture. When I ‘m away, I think of her, longing for the next time home. What’s not to like? Sugar white sandy beaches, lazy surf, grouper sandwiches that make you want to eat 10 ! Americas oldest settlement is my hometown, Pensacola.

There are some that would say she’s a better mistress than a wife. That my longing is what makes her appeal so strong. There are those that would remind me of days hot enough to fry an egg even before it hits the proverbial pavement. It is the buckle of the Bible belt, yes I know, and sometimes the thinking is a bit too, well, maybe I should just say, not where my thinking is. Conservative, slow, but soulful, growing and well home is just home. It’s an easy place to love !

I write not only to share my town with readers, but to encourage those that might be planning a vacation, to come to our shores. With the hurricanes of the last several years and the Deep Water Horizon oil spill, Pensacola has taken a hit in more ways than one. Already reeling from a current lack of industry, then the economic downturn, the hurricanes and oil, well, times are tough. But Pensacola is beautiful and resilient.

Our beaches are without oil and the hotels, restaurants, bars, musicians, and retail stores would love to have a little of your money. In return we will give you a little slice of the Gulf Coast to take home in your heart.

Our downtown is right in its stride of redevelopment, with new restaurants, clubs and music venues right downtown on famed Palafox street. There is an energy that is building there in part with new, young mayor Ashton Hayward. I believe Hayward can be the spark that Pensacola has needed for a long time. They are approaching growth with a “build it and they will come” attitude.

The new Maritime Park with AA baseball team, the Carolina Mudcats which is a farm team for the Cincinnati Reds, promises to be a great addition to a host of things to do in Pensacola.

Here’s a few places to eat that you wouldn’t want to miss.

Best Breakfast: The Coffee Cup– Cervantes St

Best grouper sandwich- Jerry’s Drive in– Cervantes St

Best Burger- Paradise Inn– Pensacola Beach

Best Seafood- Marina Oyster Barn-Bayou Blvd and Peg Leg Pete’s on Pensacola Beach

McGuires Irish Pub is still an awesome place for dinner. Check out the new music venue Vinyl for your favorite bands. Check out the cross on Pensacola Beach marking this countries first Catholic ceremony. The Naval Museum is always a great place to take the family.

So, there ya go, book your flights and reservations. Come to Pensacola, discover its history, bask in its charm, take a little bit of heaven home with you. If you do, I think you will be booking next years trip before you leave this year. Please remember to leave only your footprints on our beaches so they will be beautiful for everyone else.

Shine A Light: Tom Waits

You may not know the name Tom Waits but you will recognize some of his music. The Eagles recorded “Ol 55”, and “Sea Of Love” has been recorded by about 25 different artists, including the Honeydrippers and Cat Power. You might also remember the movie by the same title starring Al Pacino. The huge Rod Stewart hit “Downtown Train” was also penned by Tom Waits.

“like it was soaked in a vat of bourbon, left hanging in the smokehouse for a few months, and then taken outside and run over with a car.”…..That’s how critic Daniel Durchholz described Waits’ voice. He was pretty much right on the money, but once you warm yourself to his honest delivery, it grows on you in a big way.

Waits was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this past year and he did a live version of a song called “Make it Rain”. It’s rough, coarse, and powerful at every level and my favorite line is “What she done, you can’t give it a name”, now that is great writing, direct and coveys the most powerful of emotions. He is a tortured soul in that song, she has ripped his heart out and he just wants to make it go away. Begging for a cleansing, “Make it Rain”.

Here is a video of “Make it Rain” from the Letterman show.

His voice and stories aren’t for the faint of heart, but at the core of a heart Tom Waits is right on !

Reading List: Neither Wolf Nor Dog

Do you have any books that you re read often? Maybe it’s a seasonal read. Like my friend Paul says, “these books are my friends, why wouldn’t I want to visit them often”. There is a book by Kent Nerburn called “Neither Wolf Nor Dog”, that reconnects me to a very grounded thought process; a connection to the things in life that really matter. It’s a beautiful view into a way of living in this world in a way that our culture doesn’t really embrace or teach. I think our children are missing out on these lessons and views.

So at least annually I travel the back roads of Indian Land with Nerburn, Dan and Grover. I listen in on their conversations, and the range of emotions swing high and dip low and close to home and heart. Reminders of how the late comers treated the Indigenous peoples of this land bring pain and embarrassment. The elder in this story, Dan, speaks very direct, but in the end he is looking into a person’s heart, all in hopes of helping his people navigate the rough terrain of living between two cultures. Dan speaks to the wannabe Indians, which make up a large portion of the readership of this book. Those of us with Indian blood, the ones that feel we truly feel a connection with that culture, are no matter whatever percentage of blood, are wannabes. Unless you were raised in that culture, fighting and struggling,  against the ever-present prejudices in our world, then it’s honestly hard to speak to it. All the rest of us with good hearts can really do is to draw attention to the continual problems.

Neither Wolf Nor Dog is a true gem and world chalk full of zirconium. It reminds us some things that are simply the truth. The connection to the land. You can call it your Mother or if you are more comfortable just knowing it is our provider then that’s fine. But as we spiral into a vortex of stuff, i phones, computers, Facebook, zip codes, vacation homes, and all of the other things that separate us or medicate us, we need to re remember some basic truths. Many truths are found in simpler things, like the land. It’s found in quiet moments with the ones we love, sitting with the garage door open as a thunderstorm moves across the sky or listening, really listening to someones heart.

Give this book a try, it may open your eyes to things that you didn’t know existed. There may be a unsettledness in your spirit that you can’t even identify, that some simple, clear words could help. Maybe that’s why I read and re read Kent Nerburn’s “Neither Wolf Nor Dog”. This book could become an old friend !

Alabama Tornadoes

I’ve always keyed in on one of the stories, behind the big story. Th big story in the American South this past week has been the awful tornadoes. The news goes where the biggest impact is; I get that, it makes sense to me. So Birmingham and Tuscaloosa have been the focus of what the major news is reporting. What some may not know is that there were several small tornadoes spawning off of the bigger ones, and they hit many counties in the state of Alabama. Tallapoosa and Elmore counties were also hit hard and suffered extreme damage and loss of life.

Those folks need our help too. So for those looking for ways to help, remember the other stories. The smaller ones that don’t make the big news. Life is life and homes full of love and treasured memories have been scattered across the landscape. There is almost no way for us to wrap our heads around the extreme tragedy that has occured. The scale of damage and death is hard to comprehend. It is hard to know where and when to start. Money helps, but personal efforts are huge. I have never done much of that, but I am changing, and I am making plans to help in some way physically. Perhaps I should take my own advice and call on my brothers and sisters of Elmore and Tallapoosa counties.

Listed below are 2 Red Cross links as well as a church link in Tallapoosa County. I’d encourage you to be a part in some way.

www.redcross.org

www.flinthillumc.com

Alabama_Red_Cross.html