Less nice is the nearly one year that has passed since my last morning exercise music rundown!!! That is pure laziness. Well, no, in fact, the more time that passes, the more CDs, EPs and other musical listenings that I have to choose from, and the more I feel a foreboding about getting it all down! So without further verbiage, here we go.
The Morning Exercise Music Philosophy
As a reminder to readers, the idea behind this regular column is that for most of my life I avoided classic daily physical exercise because I felt I was able to avoid it and it bored me to death. In recent years, I had a kind of flash of aged wisdom and realized that I might bore myself to death if I DON’T exercise. (No time in life for exercise? No! No time in life to NOT exercise!) That did not, however, alleviate the boredom of doing it. So when not doing my nighttime exercise of riding my unicycle around the neighborhood – which does NOT bore me – or jogging – which does bore me to a degree – I do my exercises in the morning (sit ups, push ups, etc.) while listening to new (and old) CDs that I acquire from compilations of magazines, that I also occasionally buy or receive from budding musicians at open mics (and including EPs on SoundCloud or other sites) or from any other source.
I do not pretend to be a music critic, but simply to talk about and describe, and give my impressions of the music I listen to during my morning exercises. Keep in mind that my impressions and opinions, therefore, will have been formed while straining to reach a record number of push ups, sit ups, couch ups, deep knee bends, stretch downs and simply catching my breath. So maybe my opinion will be warped.
The Americana from Malaysia of The Cotton Field ScarecrowesDuring my trip to Kuala Lumpur in March the last thing I expected to find at one of my favorite open mics in Malaysia – or in the world, for that matter – was a Malaysian group that has the Americana feel down to more than a convincing art form. The Cotton Field Scarecrowes (sic), may have a weird spelling for the word scarecrow in the name of their band, but the rest of it is bona fide Americana. Laid back, cool and earthy, deep feeling vocals make this album, “Dancing Hymns And Broken Rhymes” one of my favorite of the year. It is rare that I will listen several times over a long period to a CD from a band I meet in an open mic, but that is the case for this one from The Cotton Field Scarecrowes..
A Duet Made in Heaven, Called, Shall WeSpeaking of open mic connections, one of the cool moments of the end of the year has been discovering a project called “Shall We,” which is a duet composed of Olivier Bernard and Maddie Speed, two people I met in open mics, and whom I introduced to each other at an open mic a few years ago, and who have now created this fabulous duet and released their first Shall We EP on SoundCloud. (And as I write these words Shall We will be making their concert debut in Paris tonight at Le Mecanique Ondulatoire.) Olivier went on to start one of the best open mics in Paris, at the Ptit Bonheur la Chance, and Maddie went off to complete her studies in England. Somehow they met up again and Olivier moved to Berlin, and now, they have given us this fabulous EP that I can best sum up as having a feel of Nick Cave and Kylie Minogue. In fact, when I mentioned that to Olivier, he said they actually do sing the famous “Where the Wild Roses Grow.” In any case, with Olivier’s deep and sandpaper coated voice along with Maddie’s slightly fragile, smooth and gentle voice, the duet is a peaceful, laid back cool listen – with just the edge of vitality that I look for.
Leandro Bronze, the Powerhouse Personality from Brazil
All right, I can see where this post is leading. I’m onto my third open mic related link here. But given that this is the 1000th post on my blog, and most of the posts are related to my open mic adventures, I think it is probably just as well to devote this entire Exercise Music edition to the musicians I have met at the open mics. I mean, I have stacks of compilation CDs from the various music magazines that I had planned to review. I also have some links to music sent to me from PR people eager to get web presence for their clients – but I don’t know them from a hole in the wall, and none of the music has fired me up. So that’s it. I’ve decided this will be a special edition of music from the musicians from open mics that I met this year. As good a way to close out the year – and the 1000th post – as any.While my now ex-girlfriend was running what was for a very brief period this year no doubt the best open mic in Paris (and perhaps fittingly now no longer exists, since I started it with her), at the Noctambules on the Place Pigalle, one of the regular musicians was the boisterous and gentle giant, Leandro Bronze, who had come to Paris from his native Brazil to try his luck in Europe. Leandro, for whom I always had to raise the mic as high as the ceiling, was forever making up in his bright personality for whatever he lacked in the way of English or French. But it was with his onstage presence, his fine guitar playing and warm, boisterous vocals that he really lit up the room – and indeed, the whole Place Pigalle. His self-named EP, available as a CD, is a reflection of all that. Check it out.
Wrapping Up With Jan Sloane, Steve Kessler and Lorin Hart
Aactually, blog posts are supposed to be fairly short, easily digestible things, and I’ve been running on forever here! So I think that I will have to do a quick roundup on the final three performers that I met and whose music I listened to this year on their albums…. Continuing on from the Noctambules open mic mentioned above, another who showed up several times was the British singer songwriter, Jan Sloane. I must admit that it was not until I heard Jan’s CD, Factor 55, that I truly got the gist of Jan’s very typically and specifically British sound and lyrics sense. His music was so highly personal or specific at the open mic, that I was very pleased to finally be able to say, “I get it now!” When I heard his CD and realized where he was coming from.
The first thing that made me turn my head and ears directly toward the stage of the Baroc open mic (hey, wait, that one no longer exists either, and it was the place I introduced Olivier and Maddie a few years ago, oh, and Olivier’s Ptit Bonheur no longer exists… what’s going on?) was when I heard Lorin Hart talking about how she had attended the Woodstock festival of 1969…. That’s a good line for anyone anywhere in the world to announce their presence on stage! But Lorin need not have such a calling card, since her songs, finely crafted and feelingly sung, do the trick. “Love Come Back” is a beautifully crafted album from a woman who has witnessed a hell of a lot of history.Last but not least are the two albums from Steve Kessler and the Saturday June Band. I met Steve at the O’Sullivan’s Rebel Bar open mic – hey, this one is still in existence, and run by Etienne Belin, formerly of the now extinct Coolin open mic! – and I could hear instantly without knowing anything about him that Steve was a true song craftsman, with lots of experience. The Saturday June Band is one of Chicago’s longtime – more than 20 years – local bands that has played all over town, and continues to do so. What I just loved seeing with these CDs is that the one that was released in 2011 “A Better Place,” actually appealed to me more than the one that was released in 2001, just called Saturday June, under the name of Steve Kessler. I love discovering any writers, poets, painters, musicians, filmmakers, anyone at all who does better work 10 years later….
Well, that rounds that up. Another morning exercise crop of CDs and SoundClouds, my tenth edition since I started doing this in April of 2013….