Sunday, May 16, 2010

Reviews, Reviews! : Apologize; Natalie Merchant

Book Review: Apologize, Apologize! by Elizabeth Kelly

Call it a Tragi-comedy, a mixture of Shakespeare and Ferrol Sams, with elegant writing and bawdy actions to thrill lovers of Southern Literature and literature fanatics. It's like Pat Conroy, but on the shores of Boston's rich and secluded coast. It would be similar if one of the Kennedy's suddenly decided they didn't want to be a Kennedy anymore, but were powerless to do anything but be that.

Ultimately, it's the story of a family who lives under a rich and Paternal figure called "The Falcon," who dolls out money and keeps his daughter (the mother of the main characters) without need or wants...which of course she rebels against at every opportunity. She names her children after dogs... Collie and Bingo are her two sons, and the house bounds with dogs. Her husband is an Irish drunk, married because his hair was red. Imagine Conan O'Brian as an alcoholic. For the first half of the book, it's hard to eat and laugh at the same time (and since I read while I eat, it got difficult.)

In the end, however, it's about the two brothers trying to flee their overbearing and eccentric mother, their dysfunctional family, and the mountains of money that seems to follow them wherever they go. The amazing thing about the book is that, for sometime after it was over, I didn't understand some of the symbols of the book. Yes, there are symbols. The dogs, the racing pigeons... the animals in the book are constant reminders that, however hard you try to change yourself, to become something new and different, without fail, you will always come home. And as my grandmother says, "Home is where, when you come there, they have to take you in."

Music Review: Leave Your Sleep by Natalie Merchant.

How wonderful, in the day of Miley Cyrus and Lady Gaga, that there are musicians who take the world of music seriously, who apply the gift of music to something other than just making money, and turn music into a work of art.

What Natalie Merchant has done with this work, a culmination of several years of research, lovingly laborious, is take her experiences of raising a child and a family, taking the poetry and the music that appeals to children and make it appeal to everyone. Because there's a universal quality to the songs that she performs on this album. And no wonder that there is a mixture of jazz, bluegrass, folk, Chinese, and pop music, all present on this work. The words are taken from poems written by obscure, masterful poets from the 18th and 19th centuries. They are reprinted in an 80 page booklet along with short biographies of each of the writers. It is amazing that she has taken these poems, brought them out of the "yellowed pages" of forgotten books and into the American consciousness. It is my hope that Merchant will be known for this album, that it will become a landmark piece of American music. But you don't have to take my word for it. Below is an interview she gave, along with the music video of "Equestrienne," which is my favorite song on the album. Something about 3/4 (or 6/8) songs gets me hooked.

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