Archive for February, 2009

That Evening Sun trailer

February 28, 2009
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Bosque Brown – Baby

February 28, 2009

Bosque Brown Baby
(Burnt Toast Vinyl, March 3, 2009)
By Matthew Ralph

Like the great Brian Wilson, Mara Lee Miller just wasn’t made for these times. At least in the way she delivers her rickety dust bowl tunes as the vocalist of the where-the-heck-have-they-been-for-the-last-four-years Texas band Bosque Brown.

Forgetting for a moment that the advance copy of Baby, Bosque Brown’s sophomore album, came digitally and has been playing repeatedly on my iPod for the past two weeks, it’s not hard for me to imagine Miller’s hypnotic voice and the subtle instrumentation layered behind it playing on a tube radio in a dimly lit parlor in some no name Texas town as tumble weeds rustle outside a nearby window with the passing of a steam locomotive.

Like a good storyteller, Miller’s voice inspires the imagination to run wild like that, putting you in a different time and space where so much of the excess we’ve grown accustomed to in life is stripped away.

She doesn’t accomplish this alone. Like on the band’s debut, the instrumentation plays the supporting actor to Miller’s command performance, eloquently complimenting her star appeal with just the right punch of the snare, touch of the piano or crash of the high-hat.

Baby isn’t one of those recordings that will win listeners over with a 30-second soundbyte or light the mp3 blog world on fire with a flavor of the week song you have to listen to to maintain your hipster cred (though “This Town” and “Train Song” are really catchy). For the unitiated, the 12-song recording might even come across as being too slow to the punch, too sparse in its delivery, a black and white movie in a High Definition color world.

I started to think this of the band’s first record until I saw them live and was completely blown away by the raw talent and charisma of more than just the leading lady. This time around, I knew better than to write off too quickly a record that can’t be fully appreciated in a hurry, a record that wasn’t necessarily made for these times.

25 things to hate about Facebook

February 27, 2009

You might be a Christian hipster

February 27, 2009

 

Blogger/writer/film critic Brett McCracken has been busy at work on a book about Christian hipsters. We know this because he’s been posting some of his thoughts on the subject at his blog The Search.

Just today, he took on the risky ritual of (the horror) defining the Christian hipster. He deserves props for opening himself up to a potential backlash from the label-jars-not-people-crowd while more or less capturing in a nutshell me and many of the other Christians I’ve known over the years. It takes one to know one, I guess.

Click HERE for the complete list of characteristics. Here’s an abbreviated  idea of what he’s getting at:

1. You don’t like megachurches, altar calls and door-to-door evangelism.
2. You don’t really like John Eldredge’s Wild At Heart and pastors who talk too much about Braveheart.
3. You don’t like people like Pat Robertson, James Dobson and Jerry Falwell.
4. You don’t like contemporary Christian music or any non-book item sold at Family Christian Stores.
5. You hate warehouse churches with American flags on stage, or churches with any flag on stage.
6. You love books like Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger by Ron Sider and God’s Politics by Jim Wallis.
7. You tend to be fans of any number of the following authors: Flannery O’Conner, Walker Percy, Wendell Berry, Thomas Merton, Anne Lamott, C.S. Lewis, Chuck Klosterman, David Sedaris, etc.
8. You love poetry readings, worshipping with candles and smoking pipes while talking about God.
9. You love piercings, dressing a little goth, getting lots of tattoos, carrying flasks and smoking cloves.
10. You tend to get jobs working for churches, parachurch organizations, nonprofits, or the government.

The above photo is of Welcome Wagon, a Brooklyn band Christian hipsters flocked to because of their Sufjan Stevens association when they released their debut album last December.

James Dobson resigns, sort of

February 27, 2009

Conservative evangelical leader James Dobson officially resigned his chairmanship of Focus on the Family earlier this week, according to the Associated Press, but won’t exactly be exiting the spotlight.

Dobson, a 72-year-old child psychologist and author who founded Focus on the Family more than three decades ago, plans to still do his radio show, write a monthly newsletter and speak out on moral issues (read: promote the Republican party agenda), according to the AP report.

Though his more recent political activities have earned him and his organization a divisive reputation, Revolution in Jesusland blogger Zack Exley noted last year how Dobson and FOTF weren’t always associated with spreading political propaganda like the ridiculous anti-Obama “letter from 2012” that circulated before the Nov. 4 election. Exley wrote:

“For years, FOTF was one long, continuous, cheery stream of socially conservative but therapeutically liberal self-help and affirmation. And then suddenly James Dobson started frothing at the mouth. More and more, he crowded out feel-good programs with hysterical anger about things like ‘the Homosexual Agenda!'”

Let’s hope this semi-retirement will help him find his bearings a bit.

Jim Calhoun’s tirade

February 27, 2009

Apparently, some lawmakers in Connecticut aren’t too happy with the way the state’s highest paid employee acted in what has probably become the most viral post-game press conference video since “I’m a man, I’m 40.

Failures and failing

February 26, 2009

“Why is it our failures only show us more clearly the people we are failing?”

-Leif Enger, from his novel “So Brave, Young and Handsome”

For the love of God, beer and cussing

February 26, 2009

Tom Larson loves God, beer and using four letter words to describe his journey from dropping LSD driving across the continental divide of the Rocky Mountains to being one of only seven invited guests to a private dinner party with a multimillionaire Christian evangelist.

Larson, the founder and former executive of the nonprofit Healing Waters International, is anxious to share his “adventures of a schitzophrenic evangelical” story but he’s run into a little trouble convincing a book publisher to champion his “For Love of God and Beer” memoir.

The problem: it’s apparently too Christian for mainstream publishers and too rough around the edges (read: his favorite word is shit and it has beer in the title) for the Christian bookstore shopping public.

To drum up an audience, Larson has posted the book’s prologue and first chapter on his Web site as well as a survey with an array of odd questions to gauge reader interest and judge the demographics of the book’s potential audience.

It’s a bit of an awkward approach and Larson even admits on the site that he feels “like a dick” promoting himself, but I was amused and enlightened enough by what I read of his story to want to share it with you.

Check it out, whether you love God, beer and cussing or not.

(The above photo is from the short-lived NBC show “God, the Devil and Bob.” It seemed an appropriate illustration.)

The Joe-the-Plumberization of the GOP

February 26, 2009

If you want to get a sense of how unserious and ungrounded most Americans think the Republican Party is, look no further than how conservatives elevate Joe the Plumber as a spokesman. The movement has become so gimmick-driven that Wurzelbacher will be a conservative hero long after people have forgotten what his legitimate policy beef with Obama was. 

Patrick Ruffini

Within heaven’s earshot

February 25, 2009

Long before Christian growly-voiced Creed imitators were populating radio airwaves across the Bible belt and CCM was short-hand for a profitable industry in Nashville, there was a creepy puppet named Little Marcy singing Sunday School songs and hanging out with Smokey the Bear.

There were also Pentecostal preacher A.A. Allen recording what he claimed was an honest to goodness demon spirit speaking the words “I am Lucifer” through a possessed woman, Captain Hook and his Christian Pirate Puppets and dozens of singing groups clad in their Sunday best like the Crawford family were on their album “Aboard Heaven’s Choo-choo.”

Many of these religious records were in short supply to begin with and have been out of print for decades, but collectors who have salvaged them from dusty attics, yard sales and dirty thrift store record bins have preserved hundreds of vinyl from the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s that, as an L.A. Times article previewing an art exhibit opening next month put it, wear “their religion on their record sleeves.”

Opening March 13 at the Synchronicity gallery in Los Angeles, the show entitled “Within Heaven’s Earshot,” will feature some 200 album covers in the vein of “Little Marcy Visits Smokey the Bear,” a record religious record collector Dan Bolles refers to as “one of the most twisted collaborations between fundamentalist Christians and a federal government fire prevention program (he’s) ever seen” in the L.A. Times piece.

Of course, no discussion or in this case art exhibit of bizarre religiously-themed vinyl would be complete without a song WFMU’s “Beware of the Blog” introduced me to several years ago – Lil Markie’s “Diary of an Unborn Child.”  

It makes even a grown woman singing with a creepy puppet named Marcy seem fairly normal. One can only imagine some of the kitschy company these records will have at an exhibit that is sure to be a hit.