Friday, July 28, 2006

Mieka Pauley: The Space 07/25/06

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Mieka Pauley:
The Space - Hamden, CT 07/25/06

I visited The Space in Hamden, Connecticut on Tuesday, July 26 for the first time to see Mieka Pauley play and I was not disappointed by either.

First off, The Space is a terribly cool place to see a show. With a vintage clothing store above it, you walk down a short flight of steps and you immediately get it…The Space is a great “space.” Envision about the coolest musician’s basement you could think of and you’ve just about got the idea. The Space is littered with comfy couches, chairs and tables. There’s a good size performance area at the head of the room and the sound booth at the rear. The Space is an alcohol free venue so no drinks, but they do have a refreshment bar with assorted beverages and snacks. They also allowed the artists performing that night to take up the entire wall next to the entrance with tables for CDs, shirts and other assorted merchandise. The atmosphere of The Space was very laid back and comfortable and made it a very enjoyable place to see Mieka Pauley play.

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After a short house announcement, Mieka took the stage with what I believe was a red Ovation Celebrity Deluxe acoustic guitar, checked her tuning and began her short, seven song set with Bravely. From there it was off to The Way It Is, Run, a haunting rendition of the Otis Redding classic (Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay, her fantastically sarcastic anthem to the bad gig Blunt and Secret before closing the set with Stronger.

Right off the bat, the first thing that stuck me about seeing Mieka Pauley live was how good her voice was. Some artists can make amazing records but really can’t cut it live…she is not one of those people. I had a notebook with me, and my own hand written note is, “god damn this girl can sing!!!” including the exclamation points for good measure.

Even more so than on her EPs, Pauley knows how to use dynamics to her advantage live. Her voice ranged from barely a whisper to full on without so much as a noticeable waver in pitch. From my view in the audience, she was having a good night…an early night mind you as she went on at 7:30, but a good night none the less.

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For me, one of them most entertaining moments of Mieka’s set was hearing her perform her song Blunt. I was familiar with the song before the show through the live recordings available at her website,, but hearing her perform it live was a blast. In a nutshell, Blunt is the working musician’s anthem. From bad gigs to questionable comments, it brilliantly encompasses the experience of playing music to the unappreciative masses.

Another thing about Mieka Pauley live is the intensity with which she is able to express herself during her performances. I introduced myself to her before the show and spoke with her briefly. She was extremely personable and grateful for people coming out to see her. (Also, rather than just talking about herself, she took the time to recommend a few of the other artists on the bill that evening.) When she took the stage however, she was transformed. She overcame the occasional coffee order and an open snare drum to become part of the songs she sang, not just the singer of them. Seeing and hearing that was a very powerful experience to be a part of.

The only other thing I can say is that Mieka Pauley is an outstanding live performer as well as recording artist. On stage she’s intense and passionate and, in my limited experience, off stage she’s generous with her time and appreciative of her fans. I highly recommend seeing her now while she’s still playing more intimate venues like The Space, because I can assure you it’s only a matter of time before the venues start to match her huge, huge voice.

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The Goldberg Variations, or...Three Sides to Every Story

The Goldberg Variations, or...Three Sides to Every Story

And now for something really boring…let’s talk about classical music.

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I guess I’ll start off with a question…how many of you think the Goldberg Variations are about the wrestler? Maybe a book or a movie chronicling diabolical cloning experiments of wrestler Goldberg gone awry? Close…but not exactly.

The Goldberg Variations are one of those pieces of music with a colorful story that may, or may not, be true depending on who you ask. The most widely accepted version of that story is that Johann Sebastian Bach composed the Goldberg Variations for an insomniac Count by the name of Keyserlingk who happened to be the Court of Dresden’s Russian Ambassador. Johann Gottlieb (Theophilus) Goldberg was a harpsichordist in the employ of Keyserlingk who routinely played Bach’s composition for the Count during his bouts of insomnia and whose name the piece eventually claimed as its own.

Delving into the more unsubstantiated and inaccurate realms of history for a fun and slightly disturbing point of interest…Keyserlingk was actually appointed to his ambassadorship by none other than Catherine the Great, who, again, may or may not have died while trying to mount her beloved steed…in the biblical sense.

Now back to our regularly scheduled program.

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Some of the musical powers that be apparently take issue with a few small facts in the Keyserlingk/Goldberg story such as, at the time of it’s publishing in 1742, the piece didn’t have a dedication and Bach’s own “brief” title for the piece was not the Goldberg Variations but “Keyboard Practice consisting of an Aria with Diverse Variations for the Harpsichord with two Manuals Composed for Music Lovers, to Refresh their Spirits”…which I think history would have found equally as popular, as it rolls off the tongue so well. There is also some doubt as to whether or not Goldberg, being only fourteen or fifteen at the time, would have had the technical ability on the harpsichord to pull off the piece’s technical demands.

So now that you know what it is, you may be wondering why I chose to call this, The Goldberg Variations or Three Sides to Every Story? No? Oh, well...I’m going to tell you anyway.

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I am the proud owner of three different recordings of the Goldberg Variations, two of them by the same pianist. The first one I purchased was Glenn Gould’s 1955 landmark recording of the piece, followed by his 1981 recording where he revisited the Bach composition. The last version I purchased was the 1999 recording by pianist Rosalyn Tureck.

Despite the obvious reasons these three recordings should be similar, they could not be more different. One of the most obvious reasons for that has to be the running time of the recordings. Gould’s 1955 recording runs a mere 38 minutes while his 1981 version was stretched to just over 51 minutes and Tureck’s 1999 recording clocks in at nearly an hour and a half. It would be easy to try and think of these recordings in terms of modern popular music and not understand how that could be possible. However, if you take the time to sit down with each of these albums, from the very first notes, the reason becomes obvious.

Interpretation is everything, and while you would expect variance between performers to some degree, Gould shows how age and experience can chance a person. In listening to the two Goldberg Variation recordings by Glenn Gould, the listener can literally hear him mature as a musician, a performer and a person.

Glenn Gould was 23 years old when he recorded the Goldberg’s for the first time, technically it was the second time as there is a recording of a CBC performance from 1954, however the 1955 performance was the first studio recording of both Gould’s career and of his playing of the Goldberg Variations. Variation 5 is perhaps the best representation of the 1951 Gould recording. In it, a young and painfully talented Gould sits at the keyboard and rockets through the passage like a speeding train. The keys show him no resistance and it’s almost as if the natural laws do not apply to him in the thirty-seven seconds it takes him to complete the piece. He unleashes so much energy, and almost a bit of arrogance, in his mastery of the movement that when Variation 6 begins slower, it is almost painful to hear.

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Through the time machine that is recorded music, the listener is then able to jump forward 26 years, more than double Glenn Gould’s age at the time of the 1955 recording, to 1981 and hear the 49 year old Gould replay the Goldberg Variations near the end of his musical and corporeal life, he would die a short year later on October 4, 1982. From the opening notes of the Aria, you can tell that this is not the same man as the youthful boy in 1955. There is a solemnity in the performance that does not appear in 1955.

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One of the most endearing, or annoying, aspects to both of the Gould recordings is Gould himself. Not only here, but in all of his recordings, Gould would vocalize the notes as he played. If you listen closely…and sometimes not that closely, you can hear the pianist literally singing along with himself. In the sense of a clean recording, it can be distracting at times, but as a record of a performer, it can be fascinating.

That leads us to the Tureck recording from 1999. Rosalyn Tureck’s approach to the Goldberg Variations is altogether different than Glenn Gould’s and even though the music is the same, this could be an entirely different composition than the Bach performed by Gould. While both of the Gould recordings exude technique, Tureck radiates feeling. That is not to say that she is not enormously technically proficient, it is just that she is in no rush to find the soul of the Variations she is playing. The notes here are carefully chosen and the overall effect is similar to watching a garden grown. The seeds are the original Bach score and under Rosalyn Tureck’s capable hands, the score blooms. The Variations seem to flower under her touch. To me, the recording captures such a unique performance of the Variations that is worthy of existing on its own merits, regardless of the fact that it is of a celebrated Bach piece.

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If you haven’t been able to tell, I love Bach. He is my absolute favorite composer of all time. Others can claim Mozart or Beethoven, but please leave Bach to me. The music of Johann Sebastian Bach is full of mathematical precision and relentless technique, but also interminable depth and profuse feeling. I don’t think you could have two better examples of those qualities than Glenn Gould and Rosalyn Tureck.

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Sunday, July 23, 2006

Jack Caldwell – The Edge of the Beginning

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Jack Caldwell – The Edge of the Beginning

In his latest release, Jack Caldwell manages to showcase a whole range of human emotion and still leaves room for his songs to breathe. The Edge of the Beginning is a simple album, and that’s what really makes it work.

Lyrically, Jack Caldwell says what he means and he does so in a way you don’t necessarily need a degree in English to understand. He successfully handles complex concepts, like love, loss and longing, without having to disguise them and their meanings in hyperbole and other fancy sounding words…like hyperbole.

Musically, Caldwell dances between genres such as Bluegrass, Country, Folk and Rock effortlessly and sometimes all at the same time.

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A perfect example of this is Beginning’s opening track, Bye, Bye Baby with a simple classic rock beat and guitars with just a hint of dirt playing along with a pedal steel guitar and what sounds to be banjo followed up with a bridge featuring a sax solo that sounds like it would be at home on an early album from an unnamed New Jersey native.

Bye, Bye Baby is followed by Like A Bullet, a song full of wistfulness and longing…and a personal favorite. With Like A Bullet, Jack Caldwell is somehow able to capture that seemingly infinite moment in a relationship just before the dam breaks.

Most all the songs follow in a similar fashion, showing you little vignettes, like fading black and white photographs, of Jack Caldwell’s life. Put simply, there’s a lot of good material here.

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Even with all that, I think my favorite part of The Edge of the Beginning is something that you may not even notice right away. There is a beautiful chemistry between the voices of Jack Caldwell and his background vocalist, Kelly Leahy-Radding. Their voices together give the songs on Beginning a presence that would be lacking were the vocal tracks his alone. I would be interested to hear a solo Leahy-Radding album…but I digress.

The Edge of the Beginning has the ability to conjure images and set a mood, which for me was much like a warm breeze blowing through a small town social on the fourth of July. It’s easy, it’s simple and it’s good.

If you’re interested in checking out The Edge of the Beginning and hearing what I’m talking about, you can do so by heading on over to CD Baby and searching Jack Caldwell,or you can just click here…

The Edge of the Beginning.

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While you’re there, you can also listen to tracks from Jack’s previous release, As Sweet As I Remember You, or again, you can just click here…

As Sweet As I Remember You.

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Now, I haven’t heard that one yet so you’re on your own, but judging from The Edge of the Beginning, I’d be willing to give it a shot. Pick up an album or two and drop by Jack Caldwell’s website and Myspace page and let him know what you think.

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Saturday, July 15, 2006

A Preview of John Mayer's Continuum

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A Preview of John Mayer's Continuum

I am, somewhat against my will, a John Mayer fan...let me explain. We’re both from the same town and damn if I wasn’t supposed to be the guitar player from Bridgeport who made good. I'm pretty sure that the current situation worked out as it has because while I thought about being the guitar player from Bridgeport who made good, John Mayer actually was being the guitar player. Oh happens.

Anyway, I was poking around iTunes and noticed that there was a new John Mayer single out called Waiting On The World To Change. I went looking for info and, somewhat ashamed to admit, someone’s pre-release copy floating around on the net somewhere. Well, I didn’t find a copy but depending on where I checked, the release date for his new album Continuum was either sometime in July or September 12, 2006.

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I also happened to stumble on a Bittorrent file at purported to be a recording of a “secret” John Mayer show at the Hotel Café in West Hollywood, CA on 04/10/06 where he debuted songs from Continuum. So I download the file and was pleasantly surprised by twelve FLAC files just as advertised. According to “glass_slipper,” who taped the show, “This was a "secret" intimate show in a 140 person-capacity venue previewing "Continuum" material. John Mayer was publicly billed as "Bill Buchanan."" and the set list for the show was as follows:

I Don’t Trust Myself (With Loving You)
Waiting On The World To Change
Slow Dancing In a Burning Room
Dreaming With A Broken Heart
Stop This Train
Good Love Is On The Way
In Repair
The Heart Of Life
I’m Gonna Find Another You

This show at the Hotel Café gives you a glimpse of the new material in a stripped down setting with John working through some of the new songs on both electric and acoustic guitar with Pino Palladino providing accompaniment on bass. Hearing them in this context helps create a picture of what the first run through of the songs must have been like after the writing was finished. It’s a very intimate picture.

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Mayer’s playing is near flawless as are his vocals. He seems relaxed and comfortable with the new material and just itching to share it. Pino Palladino’s performance is spot on, as always, and adds a nice dimension to what is essentially a solo performance. The tracks are accompanied by John Mayer’s trademark sense of humor which helps make the experience all the better, especially the wonderfully rank reference at the end of the song In Repair.

I look forward to hearing the songs here in the context of a studio album, though if for some reason that was never to happen, hearing them here would be enough. That’s for two reasons. The first reason being both Mayer’s and Palladino’s performances are excellent. The second reason is the wonderful job “glass_slipper” did in capturing them. The audio is clean and clear and even the captured crowd noise lends itself to the great performance. Who ever you are, you have my sincerest thanks for a job well done.

As far as the new songs themselves, you can expect to hear lots of John Mayer on the radio when the album is officially released. There are several excellent new pieces previewed here. However, I’m already very partial to In Repair, The Heart Of Life and the beautifully worded Stop This Train, which also comes with a great story behind it. In listening to him talk about the song, you could be led to the conclusion that Mayer is more than a bit insecure about it, and while listening to the intensely personal lyrics, his fear is understandable but completely unnecessary. Stop This Train is an outstanding snapshot of what Mayer is capable of as an artist.

In my personal opinion, Mayer is an amazing artist and his new material takes full advantage of that fact. He has managed to stay the same endearing writer as heard on Room For Squares, captures the lyrical maturity of Inside Wants Out and the musical maturity of Try. More than any other musical artist that I’m aware of, John Mayer is a work in progress. He manages to constantly evolve…and does it successfully at that. His writing, his singing and his playing have all evolved, taking with them the best parts of who John Mayer is and leaving the unneeded remnants by the wayside.

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Friday, July 07, 2006

New: On the pod


Antigone Rising - Antigone Rising's Traveling Circus
Billy Joel – 12 Gardens Live
Dream Theater – Dark Side Of The Mood (Official Bootleg)
Heart – 80’s Greatest
Mieka Pauley – Acoustic EP
Mieka Pauley – Out of Car Wrecks & Hurricanes EP
Mieka Pauley – 2004-07-27: Live @ The Living Room
Mieka Pauley – 2005-03-05: Live @ The Paradise Lounge
Mieka Pauley – 2005-06-23: Live @ The Living Room
Mieka Pauley – 2006-02-03: Live @ Club Passim
Richie Kotzen – Ai Senshi Z x R
The Wailin Jennys – Firecracker


Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child – The Book of the Dead

The Book of the Dead
Click to buy
The Book of the Dead

Quick Audiobook Reviews:

Augusten Burroughs – Possible Side Effects

Augusten Burroughs is just a wonderful writer. He can be funny and touching at the same time. In my opinion, he is also one of the best authors to write about love that I have ever read. He has such a talent for painting the people he loves in terms that make the words so transparent and real. That’s not all he’s good at either. He’s very good at writing funny, even if he, himself, says that he’s not really funny in person. If you liked Running With Scissors or Magical Thinking (or I’m assuming Sell-O-Vision and Dry, which I have not yet read or listened to) you will love Possible Side Effects.

Possible Side Effects
Click to buy
Possible Side Effects

The Ambler Warning – Robert Ludlum

Let it never be said that Robert Ludlum couldn’t write an entertaining thriller. He, or who ever has been ghostwriting as him, definitely has a grasp of what it takes to be successful in the genre…but they do seem to be obsessed with memory, or rather the loss there of.

The Ambler Warning
Click to buy
The Ambler Warning

Paulo Coelho – The Alchemist

This may actually be my favorite book. If not my favorite, it’s definitely the one I’ve listened to the most. Every few months I find myself listening to the unabridged version of The Alchemist read by Jeremy Irons. The Alchemist follows the story of a boy, Santiago, and his search for his own “Personal Legend.” The story takes this Shepard boy across the pastures of Spain through the deserts of Africa and to the Pyramids of Egypt. On his travels, he meets a king, a thief, a crystal merchant, an Englishman, the love of his life and, as the title implies, an Alchemist. As is similar with of all of Paulo Coelho’s writings, The Alchemist is an uplifting and moving story about following your heart.

The Alchemist: A Fable About Following Your Dream
Click to buy
The Alchemist

Quick Book Review:

Christopher Moore – Lamb (The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal)

I know, I know, I know…another f’n book by Christopher Moore. Talk about beating a dead horse. Sorry kids, my website. I’m just about done with Lamb and I wanted to tell you all to go out and read it while it’s still fresh in my severely askew melon. Lamb is a funny, and not all together sacrilegious, look at Jesus’ lost early years through the eyes of his best friend Biff. While the situations are extremely humorous, and some even risqué, Jesus is portrayed in an extremely reverent manner, with the vast majority of the mischief being perpetrated by none other than Biff himself. It’s an easy, fun and quick read…and if you’ve read any other Christopher Moore books you may even notice an appearance from a familiar face or two.

Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal
Click to buy

Other Stuff from On the pod:

Buy the CD

Completely unrelated to On the…my CD, The Sogno Suite, is now not only available through the Terminally Vague Media websites, but also through CD Baby. Check out there website at for great independent artists…and me. If you click on the CD Baby graphic above, you’ll be brought right to The Sogno Suite page. There were lots of reasons for my doing this, but the main one was that in approximately two weeks, you should be able to download The Sogno Suite through the iTunes Music Store.

Getting a serious podcast off the ground is taking me a bit longer than I had anticipated, but I’m still working on it. Sorry if you haven’t heard anything new in a while, but it’s coming.

I hope you were all able to catch The Wailin’ Jennys on Great Performances on July 3rd with Garrison Keillor and A Prairie Home Companion. The Prairie show was great, but the Jennys were outstanding. Check your local PBS listings for a repeat showing.

Here’s the big news. On the has been asked to join forces with Finer Things Magazine to write music reviews for their publication. I’m personally very excited to be able to bring On the to a whole new audience. You’ll be able to start seeing reviews in the coming months along with a profile piece I was asked to write on myself and my background. Keep a look out for copies near you.

Well, I think that’s it for now. Hope you can check out some of the books I talked about above and some of the new music that I’ve been listening to.

Thanks & Keep Listening,


Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Happy 4th of July 2006

Hi everyone,

I just wanted to wish you all a happy 4th of July.

Have a wonderful and safe day.


Antigone Rising: Alive At Five 06/29/2006

Once again we’re going to do something a little different...

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Have you ever gone to a show with no expectations and been completely knocked off your feet by what you saw? I’ve only had that experience twice in my life and they were both at the same place, the Palace Theater in New Haven, CT. One was Joe Satriani and the other was Melissa Etheridge. Ok, maybe a possible third time was the first time I saw Van Halen live. In general though, the live shows I’ve been to were good but nothing that left a lasting impression.

I went to see Antigone Rising play a free show as part of the city of Stamford, Connecticut’s “Live At Five” concert series on June 29th 2006 and as it turns out, I have to add another show to my list because I was blown away.

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If you’re not yet familiar with Antigone Rising don’t feel too bad…

Antigone Rising is made up of five extraordinary musicians from the New York and New Jersey area. Cassidy on lead vocals, Cathy Henderson & Kristen Henderson on guitar and backup vocals ,Dena Tauriello on drums and Jen Zielenbach on Bass

They have released several independent albums including New And Used, Rock Album and Antigone Rising’s Traveling Circus. Their most recent album, From The Ground Up, was release by Lava/Hear Music and if you’ve ever entered a Starbucks coffee shop on the planet Earth, you’ve seen it for sale.

They have toured all over the States with some people you may have heard of like Joan Jett, moe, Rob Thomas, The Allman Brothers, Aerosmith and a little band called the Rolling Stones…oh, and they’ve also played the Lilith Fair and South by Southwest music festivals.

Remember when I said to not feel too bad, I lied…feel bad. Ok, Ok…don’t feel bad, but go to their website and buy their albums.

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Back to the show…Antigone Rising came out and played a mix of old and new songs to a crowd of a few thousand. Taken individually, each member of Antigone was tremendous on their instrument. Each performance on drums, bass and guitar was powerful and spot on. The energy that radiated from Cathy, Kristen, Dena and Jen was something that you could actually see as well as feel.

Cassidy’s vocals were also powerful…inspiringly so, actually. As far “front men” go Cassidy can absolutely hang with any of them that I’ve ever seen. She has an all encompassing stage presence, that when combined with the familiarity of material and the apparent friendship of the band members, gives the person in the audience the impression that no stage is big enough to hold her.

The only thing that I can recommend is that you go see them…as soon as humanly possible. Seeing them outdoors was one thing, but with all the energy they give off during a performance seeing them in a club could only be an amazing experience. They only have a few dates listed on their site right now, but as with all bands they’re always on the road playing somewhere. Go find out where!!!

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