december 2011

Reality Check

Please, Sir, Can I Have Some More?

Illustration by George Cruikshank, 1838

It's been a long time since the engines of American industry were driven by tiny fingers. So when Newt Gingrich recently proclaimed, ‘Young people ought to learn how to work,’ and suggested that children could develop a strong work ethic by working as janitors in their own schools, many Americans probably missed the throwback to the early twentieth century, when hundreds of thousands of children toiled in factories. But after decades of campaigns against youth exploitation, the right is rekindling vestiges of the sweatshop era with legislation aimed at rolling back child labor laws.

While they didn't go so far as to recruit tweens back to the factory floor, throughout 2011 state legislators pushed bills to erode regulation of youth employment. Maine Republicans sought to ease protections for young workers with amicably named legislation to ‘Enhance Access to the Workplace by Minors.’ The original bill, introduced by State Representative David Burns, would remove some limits on working hours for teenagers and expand the number of days a youth under 20 could work for $5.25 an hour-to about half a year. That would be a bargain for employers, who pay adult Mainers a minimum wage of $7.50. Last summer, a more limited teen labor bill passed, which only eased restrictions on working hours.

Read the full story at The


ruthie foster

RUTHIE FOSTER’S Aim For The Heart Is Nigh On To a Miracle
By David McGee

RUTHIE FOSTER’s Let It Burn would be the first great album of 2012 even if it possessed nothing more than the soul and depth of feeling and musical integrity you hope to find in any style of roots music, be it bluegrass, blues, folk, country, gospel or even classic pop a la Sinatra. But the greatest gift it offers is in molding its musical elements into something more profound than can be played or sung: It takes you to a place you may not have expected to go, but when you get there you realize you’re right where you belong. And you’ve learned something about yourself.


By David McGee

Kicked out of high school for her activism, homeless for two years on the streets of Austin, CAROLYN WONDERLAND has risen to the forefront of the Houston and Austin blues scenes, taken her music to points far beyond the Lone Star State, counted Bob Dylan among her most ardent supporters, and found true love with A. Whitney Brown. Oh, and her new Ray Benson-produced album, Peace Meal, is truly righteous. Things are looking up.

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By David McGee

Several years ago a bootleg album surface featuring Janis Joplin and Jefferson Airplane/Hot Tuna guitarist Jorma Kaukonen working out on six venerable blues numbers. Since then the mythology has taken over: the sessions were recorded at Jorma’s mother’s house in 1964, and the typewriter pecking away in the background throughout the songs was being played as a percussion instrument by Jorma’s wife. And so on. Because the performances on The Typewriter Tape are so powerful--Janis’s singing is more raw and searing than any she ever produced on her commercial recordings—truly stunning—and Jorma’s guitar work is so soulful and earthy you don’t even need Janis’s powerhouse vocals to be moved to your core by it—we went to the sole surviving witness to those sessions to get the facts. In this cotton-pickin’ worldwide exclusive, JORMA KAUKONEN takes us back to that day in 1964 when he and Janis made music for the ages.

He’s played with some of the top classical artists of our time; he’s a member of Regina Spektor’s touring band, and as a solo artists he tackles fare ranging from Animal Collective to The Flaming Lips. The versatile virtuoso JOSEPH BRENT impresses with skills and winning ways on record, on stage and in the classroom. Part 1 of a two-part interview with a most remarkable artist, who excels in the classical, pop and roots world’s.


Saying ‘I just want the Lord to use me ‘til I die,’ eight-time Grammy winner Andraé Crouch begins his 52nd year in gospel music with an acclaimed new album, The Journey, and a Grammy nomination to go with it. ‘God has been good,’ says Crouch, and he should know. Also: The Journey reviewed.


This year marks the 100th anniversary of Woody Guthrie’s birth. As we did for Bill Monroe in his 2011 centennial year so are we doing for Woody throughout 2012: marking the occasion with a monthly look at some aspect of the artist’s life and/or music, from January through December. To start things off, this month we visit the origins of one of the most important friendships in Woody’s life, that being with PETE SEEGER, as documented by Seeger’s biographer, David King Dunaway.



Listening to Mediterraneo, the debut album by guitarist Miloš Karadaglic, you find yourself wondering where on earth the classical guitar has been lately. As he moves from haunting compositions by Tarrega, Albeniz and Granados to the more abstract shapes of Carlo Domeniconi's Koyunbaba suite, it's as if Karadaglic is shining a brilliant light on the entire heritage of his instrument.


Border Crossings

tamaraUzbekistan Music: The Persistence of Tradition
Since time immemorial the most important events in the lives of the Uzbeks, from cradle to grave, have always been accompanied by ritual music and songs. On the seventh day of his life a baby is for the first time swaddled and put to beshik -cradle to the accompaniment of the lullaby "Alla.” If a child is ill, he is comforted with the chant "Badik.” The ancient laments "Yigi" and "Yuklov" can still be heard at funerals and commemorative ceremonies. Many Uzbek families cherish and hand down their traditional ritual songs. Full of special meaning, these songs often date back to the age of the pre-Muslim culture. Also: a profile of TAMARA KHANUM (shown above in a photo shot by LANGSTON HUGHES), the legendary Uzbek dancer who was one of the first women to defy tradition and perform unveiled, often courting death at the hands of Basmatchi reactionaries.

The Gospel Set

By Bob Marovich

A profile of the young Christian rapper who ‘was backsliding pretty fierce’ when he attended a Tonex concert andfelt like the Lord was speaking to me. I heard Him saying, 'I want you to do this.'’ Now, he says, as his fourth album, The Future Is Now is being released, ‘being a youth pastor means for me to be a voice, to help answer questions such as how does a marriage work? How do you go out and have fun and still be a Christian? How can you be prosperous in your finances, as a believer? I want to be relevant.’

*Bob Marovich’s Gospel Picks

nevelTHE NEVELS SISTERS, It’s My Time--The Nevels Sisters--April, Debra, Gail and Veneice--have what it takes to be the new Clark Sisters. Individually and collectively talented and adorned with style, the sisters sparkle on their major label debut, It's My Time.


shreeSHREE NEWMAN-ISABELL, Life of a Worshipper--Recorded live at the Gallatin Campus of Long Hollow Baptist Church, Life of a Worshipper is the debut CD for singer-songwriter Shree Newman-Isabell, the Tennessee native known as Nashville's "best kept secret."


tallieTALLIE ROGERS, Try Jesus--Tallie Rogers, sister of quartet singer Pastor Tim Rogers (of Tim Rogers and the Fellas), was recently introduced to a wider gospel audience on the power of her indie single, "Try Jesus." Try Jesus is the album from whence the single came and, like the namesake single, it packs a great deal of punch into a short period of time.

hart ramseyHART RAMSEY, My Next Heartbeat--The popularity of jazz keyboardist Hart Ramsey's debut CD, Charge It to My Heart, surprised even the artist himself, and undoubtedly played no small role in encouraging him to release another album, the appropriately titled My Next Heartbeat. Pastor Ramsey's sophomore project finds him exploring similar smooth jazz territory in company with vigorous and highly-polished, studio-quality musicians. Vocalist Robert Moe's easy Jeffrey Osborne tenor brightens the songs he leads on the album.

puchiPUCHI COLON, Vertical Praise Live--Puchi Colon and his ensemble are the Miami Sound Machine of Praise & Worship. On their latest release, Vertical Praise Live, they demonstrate why. An aggressive brass section and a veritable orchestra of percussion instruments underlay Colon's handsome baritone that, in its understatement, is ideal for the salsa style he makes his own. The lyrics are soothing, but the musica urges listeners to get up and dance in the spirit

*Gospel News & Notes

We honor four Gospel Warriors who crossed over at the end of 2011: GENE VIALE, LISA E. BURROUGHS of the Richard Smallwood Singers, BARNETT WILLIAMS, and ARCHIE SWINDELL, JR. of the Swindell Brothers quartet.

News & Notes


Remembering FRED MILANO
, second tenor of DION & THE BELMONTS, who passed away on January 1.

By Michael Sigman

A lifelong friend reflects on the life of MOOGY KLINGMAN, the prolific singer/songwriter/keyboardist/producer/political activist who lost his battle with cancer on November 16, 2011.

Songwriter LEE POCKRISS, whose ‘Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini’ helped popularize the navel-baring swimwear in this country, died on November 14. In addition to ‘Bikini,’ his hits included ‘Johnny Angel’ (Shelley Fabares), ‘Catch a Falling Star’ (Perry Como), ‘Leader of the Laundromat’ (The Detergents), and Kermit the Frog’s ‘My Polliwog Ways,’ in addition to extensive credits in musical theater.

Guitarist and singer ROBERT DICKEY, who as Bobby Purify formed half of the duo James & Bobby Purify with his cousin James Lee Purify and had a #6 single in 1966 with the Dan Penn-Spooner Oldham-penned “I’m Your Puppet,” died in his home town of Tallahassee, FL, on December 29.


carolinaCAROLINA ROAD, Back To My Roots--With new vocalist Tommy Long adding his baritone heft to the proceedings, Carolina Road has an easy time making good on the title of its second Rural Rhythm album.


russell moore

RUSSELL MOORE & IIIrd TYME OUT, Prime Tyme--The year of our Lord 2011 marked the 20th anniversary of the much-awarded Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out (Moore is the only remaining original member). To mark the occasion the band released its 16th album, aptly titled Prime Tyme, and made it one of the finest in its catalogue, indeed if not the finest of its many laudable long players.

Beyond The Blue

carrollSANDY CARROLL, Just As I Am--Check out the song titles on Sandy Carroll’s new album and you would be forgiven for thinking you had stumbled onto a spiritual or gospel outing: the album takes its title from an original song that nonetheless invokes the powerful hymn of invitation millions have heard choirs sing at Billy Graham Crusades; the first song is titled “Blessed Be,” others—“Waiting for the Storm,” “Runnin’ Out of Grace”—appear to have spiritual overtones, whereas “Help Mother Nature” surely evinces a heightened environmental consciousness. Well, yes and no. Salvation, however, is a persistent theme throughout.

robillardDUKE ROBILLARD, Low Down & Tore UpNow up to his 18th album for Stony Plain, Duke has delivered one of his finest efforts yet in revisiting some of his favorite blues styles of yore in Low Down & Tore Up, an occasion for him to show off his abundant artistry as a musician, singer and producer all at once.

Christine Santelli’s Video Of The Month

From her ‘100 Videos in 100 Days’ project, Christine Santelli performs ‘Sweet Rita,’ which is featured on her new solo acoustic album, Dragonfly, now available at, and soon to be offered at CD Baby and various online music sites. 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.

Meaningful Matters

space junk

New 3D Film Puts Space Junk In Your Face

In an effort to raise awareness regarding a thus-far unchecked interstellar threat, a new 3D film directed by MELISSA BUTTS, Space Junk 3D, takes the viewer from the depths of Meteor Crater in Arizona to the growing spread of Earth-orbiting debris--a troubling legacy of more than five decades of multiple nations lofting space hardware. ‘Outer space is peppered with upper-stage rocket bodies weighing several tons,’ says columnist Leonard David. ‘Adding to the mess is everything from paint chips to cast-off bolts, pieces from exploded rocket stages and other miscellaneous fragments.’ David takes a look at the film and reports back, and Ms. Butts speaks out in a quick Q&A.


Farmageddon, And Other Sustainable Agriculture News

ALEX TILLER, our Blogging Farmer, is on sabbatical. In his stead, we are offering a variety of news from the sustainable agriculture front. This month: ‘Large Monoculture Farming Is Unsustainable and Unhealthy’; a UN report touting the virtues of organic agriculture, or eco-farming (the report shows that these practices raise productivity significantly, reduce rural poverty, increase genetic diversity, improve nutrition in local populations, serve to build a resilient food system in the face of climate change, utilize fewer and more locally available resources, empower farmers and create jobs); how the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act (BFROA) encourages new agricultural entrepreneurs in an aging population by breaking down the barriers to entry that impede new agriculture entrepreneurs from starting a farming business; the dwindling supply of organic milk and a concurrent rise in organic milk prices; and notice of the Real Food Challenge’s first national summit, Breaking Ground 2012, in February.


Breaker, Breaker—Roger That!
By Duncan Strauss

Moved by the sight of animals left homeless and stranded following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, retired trucker SUE WIESE created Operation Roger, a nonprofit organization consisting of long haul and regional truckers who use their trucks to transport dogs, cats and other domestic pets—who’d previously been living in shelters—to new homes across the country. ‘I was driving down the road, listening and praying, wondering, ‘What can I do? I’m just a truck driver.’ And then I heard one word—‘transport’—and it blew me away,’ she tells our DUNCAN STRAUSS, host of NPR’s Talking Animals show. Herein Ms. Wiese explains how she got Operation Roger rolling and how others can get involved.


Winter In Verse

As the freeze sets in, poets ponder seasonal moods. Reflections on winter in its many aspects by WALLACE STEVENS, ROBERT FROST, RALPH WALDO EMERSON, EMILY DICKINSON and WALT WHITMAN.



This month Jules celebrates a wintry tale she favors, Over and Under the Snow, written by KATE MESSNER and illustrated by CHRISTOPHER SILAS NEAL. In a second post, she exults over SALLEY MAVOR’s unusual Peaceful Pieces: Poems and Quilts About Peace. ‘Hines' poems come in many forms--haiku, rhyming couplets, concrete poetry, acrostics, free verse--and they cover many aspects of peace,’ Jules notes of the book with its intricately stitched quilted artwork. ‘The most striking aspect of the book,’ writes Booklist, ‘is its quilted, pieced-cloth artwork, and the borderless pages allow maximum impact for Hines' bold, expressive visual statements.’ Interesting and valuable in and of itself, Ms. Mavor’s book would, says Jules, ‘serve as an excellent writing prompt in elementary or middle school classrooms.’ Read on.



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