A few seconds in, there came this sound. It filled the song and then it filled the room I was listening in. What was that? Like a fiercely shaken box of tacks. Like wind rattling dry leaves on a tree. But not either of those. Comparisons couldn’t capture it.
In 2017, we’re featuring the music of Kentucky, highlighting some of the Commonwealth’s most enduring legends and local favorites while celebrating overlooked and lesser known musicians. With contributions from Sturgill Simpson, James Lindsey, Bill Monroe, Julia Perry, King Kong, and Loretta Lynn, this 27-track compilation includes songs from 1927 to the present.
Celebrating the idiosyncratic genius of Thelonious Monk, born in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, on October 10, 1917.
In a remarkable 1963 appearance with Juilliard professor and friend, Hall Overton, at the New School in New York, Monk demonstrated his technique of “bending” or “curving” notes on the piano, the most rigidly tempered of instruments. He drawled notes like a human voice and blended them (playing notes C and C-sharp at the same time, for example) to create his own dialect. Overton told the audience, “That can’t be done on piano, but you just heard it.” He then explained that Monk achieved it by adjusting his finger pressure on the keys, the way baseball pitchers do to make a ball’s path bend, curve, or dip in flight.
We both loved Gary Stewart, and we both loved Grace.
My wife Grace’s father was a big man. He wasn’t much more than six feet tall, but I think folks thought of him as taller because he carried himself large. He tried being a hippie once, he said, but couldn’t abide the non-violence (too many people needed to get their asses kicked). At the first job he ever had, on a ranch, he got a business card with his official title: COWBOY. He kept that card. He wore a cowboy hat and cowboy boots. He had the best hunting dogs in Levy County. For a while he ran a sawmill. For a while he was a watermelon farmer, then a beekeeper, then he raised buffalo on the family farm. That’s just a small sampling. His name was John. He went by Chuck.
“They were brothers in music,” Ursula Covay said. “They wrote together, hung out together, traveled together, fought together, loved together, and made deals together.” That’s the word most of the children of the Soul Clan use today to describe their fathers’ bond. Brothers.
An installment in our weekly series, The By and By.
Music is a mystery that does not want thinking. The act of doing anything with feel—writing, making love, playing freely—requires something beyond thinking and eclipses the need for even talking when done right. What I tell myself when I sing: Listen and Give. As far as I can tell, that’s the whole shebang. Annie Dillard is correct—my feelings about my work are pretty unimportant and beside the point; mosquitos to be slapped down.
A new song and a short essay by Nashville guitarist William Tyler.
Confronted with the hideous, we must commit to rebuilding, resetting, listening, doing good, fighting injustice, and trying to keep an eye on maintaining beauty. It’s on all of us. My music is instrumental but it’s political. It’s protest music in its own way.