october 2011

Reality Check


The final scene from Executive Suite (1954), starring William Holden, directed by Robert Wise. Submitted without further comment.



The Undefeated

I met Joe Frazier once, backstage after a Bruce Springsteen concert in Philadelphia, circa Darkness On the Edge of Town. Two things about the man were memorable as he sat alone outside the dressing room area (well, three, if you count that he was sitting alone): (1) his form fitting neon green suit and (2) a head that looked like a battered hubcap, showing, it seemed, every punishing blow he had absorbed in the ring. It’s hard to image a skull so dented could still hold a functioning brain. But hold one it did. I had the nerve to approach him, and when I introduced myself and said I admired his work in the ring and the way comported himself out of it, he lit up the room with a radiant smile and shook my hand eagerly. He didn’t know much about Bruce but he got a kick out of being in a real rock ‘n’ roll crowd. No one backstage was making much of a deal about him being there, oddly enough. Which gave us more time to talk, and to talk about music, specifically. I remember when the O’Jays came up I went on about something wonderful, something hearkening back to the church, on the group’s new album, and Joe beamed again. “A man who like the O’Jays is okay in my book,” he said in that familiar gruff Gullah accent. We shook hands once more--yes, his grip was indeed firm--wished each other well (“Thanks for the time, Champ, and the memories,” I told him) and he was gone. A thoroughly decent man, Joe, who did not deserve the verbal humiliations of a racist nature heaped on him by Muhammad Ali in some ill-considered notion of pre-fight promotion. For all his greatness in the ring and out, Ali diminished himself with some of his antics—ESPN has been showing a new documentary about Chuck Wepner, The Real Rocky, directed by Jeff Feuerzeig, in which Wepner reveals that before their fight Ali tried to get Wepner, as a publicity stunt, to refer to him with the N word. Wepner refused. Subsequently, though, when the two fighters appeared together on The Mike Douglas Show, Ali, in a stage whisper, told Douglas that Wepner had called him “a n_____.” Smokin’ Joe absorbed all the verbal blows as handily as he had the fists beating on his head and body. He had a hard life, did Joe, but never lost his pride or his dignity. He refused to make a spectacle of his enmity for Ali and even appeared with the ailing legend at a couple of events where he spoke in conciliatory terms about the past insults, even though deep down they burned fresh for him. Joe was biding his time with the same tenacity he summoned in stalking ring opponents in a purposeful, menacing stoop-shouldered crouch. Asked recently how he felt about Parkinson’s Disease robbing Ali of his body as well as his mouth, Joe had a ready answer, saying Ali was paying for having mocked others. “God mark him down,” Joe said. “He mark him down.” Smokin’ Joe Frazier died of liver cancer on November 7. Olympic Gold medalist in 1964. Undisputed heavyweight champion of the world after beating Ali in 1971’s “Fight of the Century.” Bloodied and pummeled into submission by Ali in 1975’s “Thrilla in Manila,” when referee Eddie Futch stopped the fight after 14 rounds even though Joe wanted to continue despite both of his eyes being swollen shut. Ali taunted Frazier during the fight with “They said you were through, Joe.” To which Joe replied: “They lied, pretty boy.” God, mark him down as a good man. The Champ. Undefeated where it counts. -–David McGee






TheBluegrassSpecial.com Interview with SUSAN HELLAUER
By David McGee

August 3 marched the 25th anniversary of the first public performance of the four women known as Anonymous 4. In the ensuing quarter-century, their lineup virtually unchanged, Anonymous 4--Susan Hellauer, Marsha Genensky, Ruth Cunningham and newest member Jacqueline Horner-Kwiatek--have broken out of the Early Music field to achieve mainstream public and critical acclaim for the way they have approached medieval music with a daring vision while also respecting its original traditions. Everything that makes A4 special is on display in the group’s latest excursion into the Middle Ages, a new album titled Secret Voices, drawn from the 13th Century Codex of Las Huelgas, a polyphonic work thought to have been sung by nuns who wielded unusual, unprecedented authority in their time. In TheBluegrassSpecial.com Interview, A4’s Susan Hellauer, the group’s resident historian, discusses origins, interpretations and challenges in and out of Early Music and the life and times of the interesting ladies of Las Huelgas.


By David McGee

Teaching, touring, concertizing, recording--Clogs bassoonist RACHAEL ELLIOTT is all over the map, but in a good way. Her debut solo album, Polka the Elk, reflects her fascinating, and ongoing, journey, as it expands her burgeoning footprint in the world of edgy New Music. ‘If someone really is tapping into some inner part and is able to sing or tell a story through their instrument, voice or movement, you can sense it,’ says the peripatetic artist. ‘I don’t know that I’m achieving that, but that’s the goal, that’s what we’re reaching toward, trying to tap into something inside and express something greater.’ We caught up with her at Lincoln Center, where she introduced her new CD at Rose Studio, and via phone the following day to get the inside story on the why and wherefore of Polka the Elk, an achievement in and of itself and one of the year’s finest new albums to boot.


By David McGee

A 12-CD box set of her Columbia recordings charts the winding road Aretha Franklin took on her way to monarchy. Long derided by critics and ignored by fans, the albums comprising Take a Look: Aretha Franklin Complete on Columbia cry out for a revisionist assessment for what they reveal about an artist en route to monarchy. Finally, an Aretha history lesson to rival Atlantic’s Queen of Soul box set.


Album Spotlight: Johnny Cash, Bootleg Vol. 3—Live Around The World
By David McGee

The third volume of the treasure trove of unreleased recordings discovered after Johnny Cash’s passing at his House of Cash recording studio, this live two-CD collection will not rise to the classic level of At Folsom Prison or At San Quentin but it has its own story to tell in being smartly sequenced chronologically, beginning with a trio of songs preserved from a show at the Dallas, Texas, Big D Jamboree in 1956 and concluding with two wonderful (and previously unreleased) performances in the intimate confines of Nashville’s fabled Exit Inn club in December 1979. In between are performances from ’62, ’64, ’69 (in Vietnam), ’70 (at Richard Nixon’s White House), ’72 (at a Swedish prison), ’73, ’76 (at the Carter Family Fold)--53 tracks in all, some previously issued but never before in a context such as this where Cash can be heard--literally be heard, over a period of years--becoming Johnny Cash in public.


Album Spotlight: Frank Sinatra & Count Basie, The Complete Reprise Studio Recordings
By David McGee

Count Basie and Frank Sinatra met on two memorable occasions in a recording studio, first in 1962, again in 1964, each time with different arrangers and conductors, and on both occasions the two giants rose to the challenge each posed to the other.


ALBUM SPOTLIGHT: THE PERSUASIONS, Persuasions of the Dead—The Persuasions & Friends: The Grateful Dead Sessions
Raising The Dead
By David McGee

Re-tooled and revised, The Persuasions’ investigation of Grateful Dead songs is the spiritual album of the year. Mark you this: tested time and again on Persuasions of the Dead, Jerry Lawson, Sweet Joe Russell, Jayotis Washington and Raymond Sanders prove worthy, and emerge consecrated. Accept their hymn of invitation and you too shall be released. God bless the Persuasions.


By Mary Yeomans

In April of 1996 BILL MONROE was incapacitated by a stroke, thus spelling the end of a professional touring and recording career dating back to 1929. As Monroe's friend Emmylou Harris observed upon hearing this news, ‘We all knew that if he ever got to the point that he couldn’t perform that he wasn’t going to make it. Music was his life.’ He crossed over on September 9, 1996, four days shy of his 85th birthday, and was buried in his beloved hometown of Rosine, Kentucky, on September 12. Herewith a detailed account of the sights and sounds of a remarkable homegoing.


Happy Trails to ROY ROGERS, born 100 years ago this month. We pay tribute to the King of the Cowboys not for his expertise in rounding up bad guys but for his laudable career as a musical artist both solo and as part of the unsurpassed Sons of the Pioneers.


Addis Acoustic Project Revives Classic Ethiopian Grooves on Tewesta (Remembrance)

Ethiopia isn't usually the first locale that comes to mind when one thinks of music made with acoustic guitars, accordion, mandolin and clarinet. Yet those instruments are at the core of Tewesta (Remembrance) (Harmonia Mundi/World Village), the new release by ADDIS ACOUSTIC PROJECT, a sextet that transports instrumental Ethiopian pop hits from the 1950s and '60s into the modern world. Informed not only by classic African music but by jazz, Latin and other styles, AAP creates an intoxicating, charming blend of sounds that Mondomix.com called 'a gentle groove with carefully rounded edges.'



The LINCOLN TRIO’s new album, Notable Women, asserts that there's no compromise when it comes to compositions whose creators are devoid of a Y-chromosome. Moreover, the six works contained herein, each penned by a living female composer, are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg, though it's a tantalizing tip at that.


From The Autobiography of Leigh Hunt

Poet, essayist, critic, author, friend of Shelley, Byron, Thomas Moore and John Keats (he was the first to publish Keats’s La belle dame sans merci), JAMES HENRY LEIGH HUNT (19 October 1784-28 August 1859) lived a life full of financial calamities and political controversies but was unflagging in introducing and encouraging various great literary minds of his day. Music was an abiding passion of Hunt’s. In ‘Musical Memories,’ a chapter from his Autobiography of Leigh Hunt, the author proves himself a most able critic of his time and we learn how Benjamin Franklin was rebuffed when he sought to teach Mr. Hunt’s mother how to play guitar.


Time, Time, Time--See What’s Become of Me…
By Michael Sigman

A visit to a recent, and quite wonderful, Paul Simon concert set roving contributor MICHAEL SIGMAN to thinking about why ‘we can identify with our teenage faves less than 100 milliseconds after they begin.’ His finding will, first, have you thinking, So that’s why; and second, cueing up those oldies but goodies for a satisfying stroll down Amnesia Lane. Illustrated with clips from SIMON & GARFUNKEL, THE KINKS, THE WHO and THE ROLLING STONES.


From ‘Progressive Jazz’ to Nat King Cole, An Enduring Legacy

With the passing of PETE RUGOLO on October 16 the bell tolls for the last of a towering generation of arranger-conductors-composers who made 1950s pop-jazz a golden age at Capitol Records. Rugolo died on October 16 in Sherman Oaks, CA, at the age of 95. A look back at the man who made Nat King Cole a solo star and did exemplary work for many of the finest vocalists of his time.

News & Notes

toler*Allmans’ ‘DANGEROUS’ DAN TOLER Diagnosed With ALS; Betts To Headline Benefit Concert
King Mojo recording artist and former Great Southern and Allman Brothers guitarist "Dangerous" Dan Toler has been diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease, and is currently undergoing expensive daily medical treatment. To help defray expenses, friends have organized a benefit concert for Toler on Nov. 12 and 13 at Herschberger Ranch, 13010 Fruitville Road, Sarasota, Florida, with Dickey Betts donating his services as the headliner. Details herein.

Ebenezer Scrooge is not the only person who knows how to keep Christmas well. Mr. Scrooge, however, is a completely fictional character. MICHAEL MARTIN MURPHEY is a flesh-and-blood human being who knows better than most how to keep Christmas well. In fact, he’s been keeping Christmas well for the past 19 years, by way of his Cowboy Christmas Ball. 2011 is no different: Murph’s Cowboy Christmas Tour, recreating the sprit of the original Cowboy Christmas Ball, begins Friday, November 25 and continues through 18 cities before Christmas. We’ve got the particulars, the dates and the historical perspective.

The Gospel Set


By Bob Marovich

Think of Judith Christie McAllister and chances are the phrase 'praise and worship' comes to mind. After all, she's known as the 'First Lady of Praise & Worship.' But as McAllister explained shortly after the release of her new CD, Sound the Trumpet (Shanachie), her musical roots are steeped in the classics and sacred hymnody.


By Bob Marovich

Track and field sprinter, model and actor, musician and singer-songwriter, and now social entrepreneur, MICAH STAMPLEY is as multi-textured as his music--and his new album, One Voice, is a strong calling card for both man and music. ‘It’s a multi-cultural album,’ Micah says. ‘Every race, every nationality, everyone can get something from this record.’


The new year will bring a new look and a new sound for Stellar Award-nominated ZIE’L now that powerhouse contralto CHRISTINA BELL is leaving for a solo career, while her mates carry on as a trio in preparing a project for 2012 release. -- In North Philadelphia on October 24, pioneering gospel singer-guitarist SISTER ROSETTA THARPE was honored by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission with the dedication of an Historical Marker at her former North Philadelphia home (1102 Master Street). In addition, the day’s ceremonies included a free film presentation of the recently released documentary, The Godmother of Rock & Roll: Sister Rosetta Tharpe, produced and directed by Mick Csaky. -- Gospel singer VICTORIA HAWKINS-WESTBROOK, who with her mother, Thelma Hawkins, comprised a potent singing duo in the 1940s through the 1960s, died on August 30.

*Bob Marovich’s Gospel Picks

jonesFOREVER JONES, Get Ready (Deluxe Edition)-- To maintain public momentum for the Stellar Award-winning ensemble in lieu of a new album, EMI Gospel has released a deluxe edition of Forever Jones’ debut album Get Ready, which includes the original CD plus a 45-minute DVD performance recorded at TBN.

gospelVARIOUS ARTISTS, Wow Gospel Workshop-- The long-running WOW Gospel Series, which serves as a yearbook of gospel hits, and a couple of new titles tossed in for good measure and greater sales, has extended its brand to include specialty titles, such as the just-released WOW Gospel Worship. This new disc is a collection of sacred hits whose connecting thread is the praise and worship lyric. The musical accompaniment ranges from the punchy, in-your-face contemporary gospel arrangements of VaShawn Mitchell to Smokie Norful’s simple, expressive vocals on the song-prayer “Dear God,” to Shekinah Glory Ministry’s breakout P&W smash “Praise is What I Do.”

darylDARRYL ANDERSON, You Are-- On his new CD, You Are, Darryl Anderson interprets popular gospel, hymns and his own compositions in the smooth jazz style, from Mary Mary’s “Seattle” to Fanny Crosby and W. Howard Doane’s “Do Not Pass Me By.” You Are is a pleasant listening experience, especially for fans of gospel jazz or just straight-up smooth jazz.

jawnVARIOUS ARTISTS, Jawn Murray Presents Untapped-- Among the ten young contemporary gospel artists putting their best audio foot forward on UNTAPPED, the ladies are the shining stars. Detroiter Tasha Page-Lockhart’s “The Love of God” is among the album’s jewels. It’s the kind of bracing, bright, and catchy pop-infused piece that one expects from a Detroit singer. Minneapolis resident Tonia Hughes’ nuanced and intense “Rest on Me” is a gripping praise and worship workout. Madelyn Berry sings the Chris Tomlin P&W anthem “How Great is Our God” with the urgency of South Africa's Queen of Gospel, Rebecca Malope.

cheairsDR. ANDREW CHEAIRS & THE SONGBIRDS, Makeover-- On his new CD, Makeover, Dr. Andrew Cheairs sings with the gut-wrenching intensity of a man given a second chance. And he was. Shortly before Christmas 2010, Rev. Cheairs was involved in an automobile accident and suffered a punctured lung and broken bones. Recovery was slow but sure, and although I am not certain whether the new album was recorded before or after the accident, some of the song titles, such as ‘1 More Day,’ ‘God Will,’ and ‘Grateful,’ seem to bear witness to his grateful attitude anyhow.


croweCROWE BROTHERS, Bridging the Gap-- In a career dating back to the 1970s, the Crowe Brothers have been consistently inspired, but in Bridging the Gap they have climbed the mountain with a work of traditional bluegrass at its finest, from the singing to the playing to the writing, one of the finest albums of its kind not only in the year of our Lord 2011, but in any year. Timeless, in a word.

daillardRODNEY DILLARD, Don’t Wait For The Hearse To Take You To Church-- You don’t particularly have to believe in Mayberry Values to enjoy Don’t Wait For the Hearse To Take You To Church, but when it’s all over you might want to; at the very least, you’ll be moved, regardless of whether you start rethinking your spiritual orientation, or lack thereof. Fully invested in their texts, Rodney, he of the clear, sturdy tenor, and Beverly, with an earthy alto, carry the vocal load with readings as deeply felt as they are lively and rhythmically charged.

hankHANK WILLIAMS, The Legend Begins: Rare and Unreleased/BUCK OWENS, Bound For Bakersfield, 1953-1956: The Complete Pre-Capitol Collection-- Hearing the first recordings of country giants on the order of Hank Williams and Buck Owens is a thrilling experience in and of itself, and two new releases offer exactly that--first recordings and the thrill of hearing these influential artists in their seminal stages. This enthusiasm, though, is tempered by the fact of most of this material--two of the three discs in the Hank set, the entire Buck disc--having been previously released, in the case of the Buck disc as lately as 2008. None of which makes the performances any less fascinating, even if the packages containing them are a bit less than essential.

Beyond The Blue

shirleySHIRLEY BROWN, Stax Remasters: Woman to Woman-- Acquisitive but abstemious; domineering but subservient; love struck but lovelorn; secure but needy; vulnerable but impregnable; self-reliant but co-dependent--Shirley Brown was a bundle of compelling contradictions back in the day when she was speaking up and out for women in love with the landmark 1974 single “Woman to Woman,” a surprise million seller by a then-unknown artist whose career making debut turned out to be the final hit for the Stax organization. In presenting the contradictory personas Ms. Brown adopted on record, the Woman to Woman album paradoxically illustrates the paradox of a stillborn career.

gradyGRADY CHAMPION, Dreamin’-- Because he’s been a boxer in his time, Grady Champion has surely become used to his music being described as having a knockout punch or TKO potential, or, no doubt, on some of his soulful ballads, as having the ability to float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. Guess what? All of this is true, and you don’t even have to get far into his new album, Dreamin’, to find out this much about the 2010 winner of the International Blues Challenge.

albertaALBERTA HUNTER, Downhearted Blues: Live At The Cookery-- With a career that began in 1917, flourished during the blues’s golden age in the 1920s, took her to Europe, into the movies and onto the stage, and in close proximity to the jazz giants of her youth (notably Louis Armstrong and Fats Waller), Alberta Hunter had lived a lot of life after coming out of a self-imposed 20-year retirement to begin her extended run at The Cookery. These recordings show this artist undiminished by age, all faculties intact, her showmanship honed, her musicality unassailable, her spirit possessed of infectious joie de vivre. Long may she live.

jonesGLENN JONES, The Wanting--Since walking away from his psych-rock band Cul de Sac seven years ago, Glenn Jones has worked diligently as a solo guitarist and now mingles in the front of the thinning ranks of formidable acoustic pickers carrying on the iconoclastic tradition of John Fahey.

picottROD PICOTT, Welding Burns-- A once-thriving Midwestern American town left in ruins by its factory jobs being outsourced to Mexico and China. A blue collar worker numbing himself with alcohol as he surveys the tedious routine his life has become, a legacy of “broken homes, wrecked cars, scars and welding burns” handed down as bitter legacy from his hard drinking father. Unemployed men, fueled by drink, drugs and desperation, systematically plotting gunpoint holdups that will net them the cash they can’t find via gainful employment. Bittersweet memories of damaged women whose hold on their men seems to bind them with mighty cables, even as those men know better. Last chances, last gasps, broken hearts, an unrecognizable homeland bereft of opportunity populated by the hollow shells its citizenry has become. Attention OWS protesters: Rod Picott has delivered an impassioned primer on the state of the union. Are you listening?

siegalIAN SIEGAL AND THE YOUNGEST SONS, The Skinny--British bluesman Ian Siegal ventured into the North Mississippi hill country, to the late, great Jim Dickinson’s Zebra Ranch Studio. Then he enlisted Jim’s son Cody as a producer and drummer, and rounded out his studio band with the offspring of R.L. Burnside, Junior Kimbrough and Bobby Blue Bland. Dubbed the Youngest Sons, the band comes on like gangbusters, and their virtuosity clearly had a salutary, freeing effect on the much-lauded Siegal, who has been impressive enough on four previous albums but really cuts loose on The Skinny with some of his tastiest, tartest playing and delivers one masterful blues vocal after another in what is his finest hour on record.

raySUGAR RAY AND THE BLUETONES, Evening-- If ever a bluesman has sounded like he’s been through the mill but emerged with body, soul and spirit intact, it’s Sugar Ray Norcia. The former Roomful of Blues lead singer, who ended a seven-year tenure with that group in 1998 to embark on what has been a fruitful solo career, puts so much feeling into his instrumental harmonica breaks it’s a wonder he has any energy left for singing, but he does, to spare. Having long ago learned to make the most of what he’s got, Sugar brings a cool, winning bravado to those moments when he can brag a little about himself—as he does with disarming insouciance in the delightful and aforementioned “I’m Having a Ball”—but on Evening he shines mightily during the quiet moments.

parallelANDREA WOLPER, Parallel Lives-- Only three albums into her career, Andrea Wolper is gathering the sort of critical momentum more common to a seasoned veteran with a broad catalogue to her credit. Parallel Lives, the third of those three albums, is a further refinement and step forward from the first two projects, this one featuring the surprising choices in outside material that marked her first two long players.



Christine Santelli, ‘My Town,’ one of the outstanding new songs she’s recorded for a forthcoming album. For the latest Christine Santelli news and live performance schedule, visit her website. For those in or visiting New York City, the PATH Café at 131 Christopher Street features Ms. Santelli hosting and performing an opening set at its Singer-Songwriter night every Wednesday from 7 p.m.-9 p.m. Check her out live--seeing is believing. Please contribute to her Kickstarter campaign (see note below).

Anyone who has taken a look at our Contents page in the past few months knows Christine Santelli as one of our favorite artists--each month we feature a new video from her 100 Songs in 100 Days project and do what we can to keep her name and her music in our news. Recently Ms. Santelli sent a note to her mailing list announcing a 30-day Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to complete her first solo acoustic album, which she hopes to self release in 2012. We’re hoping to mobilize our readers to pitch in any little bit of spare change to aid her cause. Her most recent, critically lauded albums, 2006’s Tales From the Red Room and 2009’s Any Better Time, showed substantial growth in all aspects of her artistry, but notably in the maturity of her songwriting. Though categorized as a blues artist, Ms. Santelli has in the past couple of years evolved into a blues-influenced singer-songwriter of uncommon depth. We’ve heard several of the songs in rough mix form and in person at her weekly solo acoustic appearances as the host of the Path Café’s Wednesday night singer-songwriter open mic, and can assure all who contribute to the Kickstarter fund of making a good investment. New songs such as “Why Call Me,” “Ten Years Ago,” “My Town” and “Rita” are absolute gems of grown-up musings on bittersweet memories, missed opportunities, faded love and intense yearning. And those are only four of 15 new tunes ready to go, expertly steered by ace guitarist/producer Dave Gross. Please join TheBluegrassSpecial.com in pitching in to make Christine Santelli’s new album a reality. She’s close to her goal, so open up those pocketbooks, readers--every little bit helps. The campaign, which began on October 20, runs until November 17. If she does not reach her money goal by the 17th, contributors will not be charged. Thanks for being part of a worthy artistic endeavor.

Click here to make a contribution



Our annual exploration of Thanksgiving takes many forms in 2011:

*In THE AMERICAN THANKSGIVING HOLIDAY, James W. Baker, curator of Alden House Historic Site, thoroughly dissects the 'First Thanksgiving' as 'an etiologic tale, a story told to explain and define the holiday through an account of its alleged origins.' Note Mr. Alden: 'The problem is that historically the New England Thanksgiving evolved without any association with Pilgrim dinners, Indian guests or harvest celebrations.’

An overview of how the day was observed as the Civil War raged, with four letters from soldiers on the front lines writing to loved ones back home about their units’ particular festivities. These poignant, sometimes barely literate sentiments underscore the correspondents’ deep loneliness and sorrow at being unable to share the occasion with friends and family, their occasional bravado notwithstanding. With illustrations by Homer Winslow and Thomas Nast.

*It doesn’t seem to be widely known, but in June 2009 President Barack Obama signed into law a joint resolution of the House and Senate, sponsored by Rep. Baca of California and Sen. Inouye of Hawaii, naming the Friday after Thanksgiving Native American Heritage Day, ‘to honor the achievements and contributions of Native Americans to the United States.’ In FOLLOWING THANKSGIVING, NATIVE AMERICA HERITAGE DAY, StuartH, whose family origins date to an ancestor who came over from England in 1680, engages in some soul searching after discovering the uplifting attributes of American Indian ways of life. Alsoe: Rep. Joe Baca (D-CA) explains why it was right and proper to recognize a day honoring Native Americans in order to reflect on ‘their many contributions that have greatly enriched the United States.’

Meteor Blades and Jacqueline Keeler, two Native American writers, explain why, despite their bitterness over the treatment of their ancestors, they participate in, as Ms. Keeler notes, ‘this official U.S. celebration of the survival of early arrivals in a European invasion that culminated in the death of 10 to 30 million native people.’ Theirs is a call for Native Americans to remember the past without being shackled to it. Writes Blades: ‘I realized that I also had missed the point that this holiday can be a healer, a remembrance of our roots but with our eyes on the present and the future. So, this year, as in the past few, I'll be together with some of my best friends, white, red and black. As we have for several Thanksgivings, we'll tell the children (and grandchildren) the true story of Thanksgiving.’

Native people in the Americas often get left out of our Thanksgiving celebrations, except in our retelling of the apocryphal ‘first Thanksgiving’ stories we learned in grade school. Here is a meaningful call-and-response prayer from the Haudenosaunee native tradition to give some perspective on thanks and providence this Thanksgiving Day. Enjoy!

By Fr. Gordon J. MacRae

The story of the first Thanksgiving’s forgotten hero, Tisquantum, or SQUANTO, sent by the Wampanoag tribal ‘sachem’ (leader) Massasoit as an emissary of the indigenous people to help the starving Pilgrims, who had roused the Wampanoag  ire by stealing ten bushels of maize from an Indian storage site on Cape Cod. Writes Father MacRae: ‘Squanto taught them to plant the native corn they had stolen instead of just eating it, and he negotiated a fair trade for the theft of the corn. The Pilgrims' own supplies of grain and barley all failed in the New World soil while the native corn gave them a life-saving crop. Squanto taught them how to fish, and how to fertilize the soil with the remains of the fish they caught. Most importantly, Squanto served as an advocate and interpreter for the Pilgrims with Massasoit, averting almost certain annihilation of the weakened and distrusted foreigners.’

The headline is taken from the lyrics of Mary Chapin Carpenter’s touching 'Thanksgiving Song,’ a landmark seasonal meditation on living an honorable life. Thanksgiving in song has not been celebrated to the extent Christmas has, some special tidbits, from hymns to novelties, highlight the day’s focus on family, friends and food. Herewith a small sampling of a Hall of Fame-worthy collection of Thanksgiving tunes, both vocal and instrumental. Music by: MARY CHAPIN CARPENTER, THE CHUCK WAGON GANG, JOHNNY CASH, AARON COPLAND, VINCE GUARALDI, THELONIOUS MONK and the MORMON TABERNACLE CHOIR.

Poems celebrating and ruminating on the day of Thanksgiving by SIR GEORGE J. ELVEY, EDGAR ALBERT GUEST and MYRA COHN LIVINGSTON, with music videos featuring GEORGE WINSTON (‘Thanksgiving’) and the MORMON TABERNACLE CHOIR (‘Come Ye Thankful People, Come’).




Did you know the United Nations has a director for Outer Space Affairs? Indeed, were we to be visited by aliens, MAZLAN OTHMAN is designated as our planet's alien point person. Malaysia’s first astrophysicist, Ms. Othman, in her UN position, assists countries in the use space technology for development, provides expert advice, and supports the work of the intergovernmental UN body, the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS). In our interview, she discusses her lifelong interest in physics and outer space and her work in building bridges between science and the arts. ‘As an artist you must be really thinking differently to come up with something beautiful,’ she says, ‘but even artists have not been able to replicate the creation out there, not only the stars but the nebula, the galaxies. It is unimaginable until you see it.’ Illustrated with some stunning photos from away out there.



This month, a double shot of love letters to the wonders of the natural world.
*True Nature
By Andrea Miller, deputy editor, Shambala Sun

In the autumn when I was twelve, my mother decided that surviving was too dangerous for young girls on their own and she put her foot very firmly down. I got out of the habit of exploring the forest and over the years my passion for ecology dimmed. Then, in 2009, I took up birding. This has brought me back into nature and I've fallen in love with it again-the ferns uncurling, the maple leaves falling. Pipher says we humans take care of what we love, and it must be true. In love again, I want to take care of the earth. Stream, wild orchid, velvet green moss--may every person find something natural to love.
*Wild Turkeys: Our Symbol Of Thanksgiving
By Ro Wauer

A Texas nature writer reflects on the wild turkey’s welcome comeback in the Lone Star State. ‘No other creature is so representative of our natural world,’ writes Wauer, ‘as we prepare to give thanks for our many blessings, as our wild turkey.’

talking animals

COPING WITH A PET’S DEATH: Author Jon Katz pens a soothing guide for the bereaved.
By Duncan Strauss

Anyone who’s ever deeply loved a pet, and been deeply devastated when that pet dies, has a visceral understanding of the profound sense of grief triggered by that loss—and how that grief can be surprisingly difficult to shake. In JON KATZ’s Going Home: Finding Peace When Pets Die, the newest of 20 books by the New York Times bestselling author, Katz presents a soothing guide for those who’ve suffered the loss of a pet, offering some ideas and explanations for why many folks get walled into that form of grief and—crucially—how to bust out.


Alex Tiller’s Blog About Agriculture and Farming
Where U.S. Agricultural Policy Goes from Here

The agricultural resources of the United States, while the most productive of any in the world, have been severely harmed by government policies. A commodity-based industrial system has encouraged overproduction, lowering prices and making it difficult for farmers to survive without government assistance. Meanwhile, erosion and water pollution have exacerbated the man-made problems facing the farming industry. It is clear that something needs to be done at the national level, if turning the U.S. agricultural base into a sustainable industry is still possible.


Leo and Diane Dillon’s ‘Searing Cycle of Poems’
By Jules

How do you introduce illustrators like LEO and DIANE DILLON? How, I wonder, do I introduce their art without sounding like a blithering starstruck halfwit? Their work is simply stunning and quite often breathtaking and always beautiful. Living legends both, they have illustrated more than sixty books for children and are two-time Caldecott Medal winners. If you're a fan, as I clearly am, you'll want to see a copy of their latest illustrated title, written by the great Patricia C. McKissack, who herself has also acquired a slew of impressive awards in her career, including a Newbery Honor and a Coretta Scott King Award. It's called Never Forgotten, was released by Schwartz & Wade this month, and has been met with starred reviews all-around.



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After finishing recording his new album, The Three Kings, guitarist Jeff Golub lost the sight in both of his eyes due to collapsed optic nerves. A fund has been set up to help defray his daunting medical expenses. Donations are accepted via PayPal, check or credit card. If you wish to donate, click here: http://www.jeffgolub.com/golubmedical.html.

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