Monday, October 31, 2011

Rickie Lee Jones

Today's column features an opportunity to win a pair of front row tickets to the upcoming Rickie Lee Jones concert at the Cascade Theatre!

When I was in high school, I did a lot of babysitting. It was more than just a way to make money, it's also one of the main ways I was introduced to music that otherwise I never would've been exposed to. I was one of those babysitters who would go through the kitchen cupboards looking for chocolate, and then I'd go through the LP collection looking for something interesting. That's how I found the B52s, and that's also how I discovered Rickie Lee Jones.
One night I was watching the young child of a woman who was, coincidentally, a future JPR colleague known to most of you as The Nurse, who co-hosts the Retro Lounge on Saturday nights at 9pm (on your radio in Shasta County at 89.7 or streaming live at When she left the house, the record player was already on, and I was immediately enraptured by the dreamy, kind of lazy voice of Rickie Lee Jones, a chanteuse unknown to me until that moment. She was jazzy, quirky, and I loved what I heard. Loved it enough to listen to that album over and over again for about 4 hours until The Nurse returned home.
That album was Rickie Lee Jones' self-titled debut, featuring Chuck E's In Love and Danny's All Star Joint. That album also featured a host of other musical heavy hitters that I'd never heard of at the time, like Dr. John, Randy Newman, Michael McDonald, Tom Scott & Steve Gadd. But mainly it served as my introduction to the amazing songwriting skills of RLJ. I've been a fan ever since, and although the first songs I ever heard continue to be favorites, I can name about ten songs that she's done throughout her career that rank as brilliant in my book.
Sometimes I get lucky when JPR decides to book a performer that I just adore. And this year I've been very, very lucky. First there was Chris Isaak, then k.d. Lang. I didn't think it could get any better than that, and then the next thing you know, we got the B52s! And now, glory be and whattaya know, Rickie Lee Jones will be gracing the Cascade Theatre stage this Saturday night, November 5th at 7:30pm. I've got it on good authority that the show will feature most of her greatest hits from the past 3 decades.
And readers, sometimes you get lucky as well. I've got a special pair of front row tickets to share with one lucky reader of Mistress Of The Mix today. All you have to do is leave a comment on this column, and you'll be entered to win. We'll announce the winner on Friday.
Of course, you may want to make sure you've got the opportunity to experience the great talent of RLJ by purchasing a pair of tickets to the show. You can do that online 24-7 at the Cascade Theatre website or call the Cascade Box Office at (530) 243-8877.
In the meantime, please enjoy this Grooveshark playlist of all my favorite RLJ hits, starting with the very first one I heard.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Hang In There, Baby!


Ever have one of those months when life is just one swift kick in the seat of your pants after another?

I have to admit that right now, life is pretty good. For me. Except for one thing. I've been saddened lately by the overwhelming number of my friends that are experiencing problems. Huge problems. Medical. Heartbreak. Custody issues. Job loss. Disappointment. Grief. Financial setbacks. Bad juju is buzzing around like a mosquito hunting for a warm body right now, and I wish I could swat it into oblivion. Of course I can't.

I can only be there, for my friends, with a sympathetic (sometimes more empathetic) ear. I can listen, I can bitch, I can suggest potential solutions, but there's really nothing I can do to ease the worries and frustrations for any of my friends. I can't make their troubles go away. And for many of them, what's done is already done. The thing that rocked their world has already happened, and now all that's left is the emotional pain. Finding a way to make that emotional pain and suffering go away and move forward is all they can do. And that can be a mighty difficult thing to accomplish.

It reminds me of a time back in the late 80's when I was going through a rough patch. I had just broken up with my college boyfriend of several years after realizing that all the love in the world I  had to offer wasn't as strong as the lure of something else that had come between us - drug addiction. And as long as I stayed with him, I was enabling him to continue, at my own emotional expense. So I finally walked out the door - on Christmas, no less - and he continued along his downward spiral. Now he's a substance abuse counselor.

I was pretty depressed for a while after that, because I hate giving up on love. It seemed like not only had I lost this relationship, but other bad things were lining up to take a shot at me. Parking tickets. Car breaking down. Money problems. School problems. Roommate problems. I related to a co-worker that I felt like PigPen, with this big dark cloud following me around, raining crap on everything I touched. It seemed like every conversation I had, every situation I found myself in, was tinged with negativity. At some point I realized that other people were simply reacting to the permanent scowl I had on my face, but didn't know how to turn things around. I felt like giving up.

Then one evening, music changed my entire attitude. I was hosting the late night jazz show at JPR at the time, and I came across this song that said everything I needed to hear. When I heard it, I realized that I did need to give up. I needed to give up the worries, the attitude, the fear and the negative thoughts that had been clouding my head. I needed to box up those worries and ship 'em off somewhere else. I played the song on the radio, and smiled for the first time in months. Had my first belly laugh since December. When that song was over, I was ready to move on. And I give all the credit to Mose Allison.

Years later, I found my job on the chopping block when Newt Gingrich launched a successful effort to snatch most of the federal funding away from public broadcasting. The staffing for the station I was at - the only source of daily local or regional news in the pre-internet era - was going to be cut from 13 to 3. Things got ugly as co-workers began strategizing was to keep the few jobs that would be left at the end of the month.  One day as I was going through the new releases I found a song that helped me realize I had the power within me to live through it - to hang tough - and find another career. I started the day feeling overwhelmed and crushed in spirit, and after playing that song I felt lifted and ready to hang tough. I asked to be pink slipped that very day, telling my boss that while radio was my passion, I was going to move on, start my own coffee house and have a baby. And that's just what I did.

To sum up: Music has a way of speaking directly to us from time to time. Forgive me as I unabashedly quote from almost every song on today's playlist as I speak directly to you.

Friends, when life is getting you down, don't worry about a thing because sometimes you can't control your life (no matter how hard you try), and sometimes things just don't turn out alright. Whattaya gonna do about it? You're gonna suck it up. You're gonna hang on. You're gonna stand up. You're not gonna back down. You're gonna look on the bright side and you're not gonna give up. You're gonna survive, and you're gonna hang tough. You're gonna be OK. You're gonna put on a happy face, dust yourself off, keep your head up, walk on the sunny side of the street, get back in the saddle & cowboy up.
I know you can do it. I have faith in you.

Stream the playlist on Grooveshark:

  1. Mose Allison - I Don't Worry About A Thing 
  2. Crescent City Gold - Hang Tough This is the musical Dream Team of New Orleans. Dr. John, Allan Toussaint, all the great musicians together, hanging tough.
  3. Lenny Kravitz - Stand Unfortunately, Grooveshark doesn't carry this tune. Bummer. Fortunately, YouTube does! Please enjoy this song by watching the video. It's one of the most meaningful of the bunch.
  4. Destiny's Child - Survivor
  5. Morcheeba - Good Girl Down
  6. Randy Newman - Can't Keep A Good Man Down
  7. Andy Grammer - Keep Your Head Up
  8. Stevie Wonder - Don't You Worry 'Bout A Thing
  9. Monty Python - Always Look On The Bright Side
  10. Frank Sinatra - On The Sunny Side Of The Street
  11. Ingrid Michaelson - Be OK
  12. Pink Martini - Hang On Little Tomato That little tomato is you!
  13. Ben Folds - Golden Slumbers Maybe what you really need is a nap.
  14. Coldplay - Everything's Not Lost
  15. Michael Franti & Spearhead - Hey World (Don't Give Up)
  16. Kate Bush - Don't Give Up
  17. Tom Petty - I Won't Back Down
  18. Shakira - Waka Waka 
  19. Chris LeDoux - Cowboy Up
  20. Gene Autry - Back In The Saddle Again
  21. Andrews Sisters & Bing Crosby - Ac-cen-tu-ate The Positive
  22. Anita O'Day - Pick Yourself Up
  23. Stevie Wonder - Put On A Happy Face
  24. Michael Franti & Spearhead - Have A Little Faith

Monday, October 3, 2011

Put Your Lips Together and Blow

Whistling is not as easy as Lauren Bacall makes it out to be in Casablanca.

"You just put your lips together and blow," she says.  Psssssh.

Anyone who knows me, really knows me, knows that I can't whistle worth a crap.
Well, I should clarify that. I can whistle. I can't carry a tune, and I can't do one of those awesome attention getting whistles with my pinkies hanging from the corners of my mouth, but it's good enough to get the dog to come running. What my whistle is really good for is getting a belly laugh out of other people who see me doing it, because I look completely ridiculous. Seriously, watching me try to whistle has resulted in people laughing so hard that they end up bent over, holding their gut. My lower lip puckers in and I look like I have no bottom teeth and a really big overbite, and mostly just air comes out. Today my kid came home from school and told me that one of her friends confessed to being an inept whistler, and she outed me to her friend to make the kid feel better. This inability to whistle like Bogey does after Bacall leaves the room after their kiss in Casablanca is becoming legendary in my circle.

This whistle disability is becoming especially aggravating to me now that two - yes, two - of Billboard's top 10 pop songs at the very moment I type this column happen to incorporate a heavy dose of whistling. In fact, that's how the following playlist found its genesis.

I was in Holiday Market last week, and my friend Anna in the juice bar(one of my favorite baristas, along with Kathleen of Downtown Java & Cafe) was talking about this song that was just driving her crazy because she'd heard it on the car radio while driving her son to school, and couldn't get it out of her head. She wanted to know what it was.

She couldn't remember any of the lyrics, thought a woman sang it, and the only line she could remember had something to do with the girls or the boys (she wasn't sure which) coming out to play, and she thought maybe they used an autotune at the beginning. But what stuck in her mind was this crazy beat that she said was unlike anything else she'd heard, and that I'd know it if I heard it because it would get stuck in my head.  My immediate response was, "You mean like Maroon 5? When they first hit the charts they had a beat that was totally unlike anything else at the time." She agreed, and we thought maybe it might even be Maroon 5, which makes sense, because they're #2 on the charts right now (sharing the credit with Christina Aguilera) for "Moves Like Jagger." This song makes me happy. It makes me dance. We even had a 5 minute dance party in the kitchen tonight with this song playing louder than my stereo really should be played, although I kept my best Jagger moves to myself, although truth be told, I can hurky jerk around the kitchen like a chicken with my lips stuck out in a big Mick Jagger pout. I just choose not to subject my child to a 45 year old woman doing that at this tender point in her teenage development.

I digress.

Back to Anna.

I found that Maroon 5 song for her on her Android, and she tried to listen to it over the din of the supermarket and the espresso machine screaming out foam in the background, and at first she thought maaaaybe, and then she shook her head and said nope. Wasn't it. But it was close.

I thought about it and thought about it over the weekend, this song I'd never heard totally taking over my headspace. Then I went back to the market this morning, and Anna said she'd heard the song again over the weekend, and that's when she mentioned the whistling. Which is, of course, why the Maroon 5 song, with whistling all the way through it, reminded her of the song she couldn't get out of her head. Before I tell you what the song was, let me brag on just how amazing it was that we ever figured it out. Because it wasn't a woman, it was a bunch of guys. The only line she remembered? It's not in the song at all. Nothing about boys or girls coming out to play, unless you mean playing with guns. The line is "All the other kids with the pumped up kicks you better run better run, outrun my gun." And the autotune? Figment of her imagination. (Well, to be honest, she was trying to describe the beginning of the song, and said it had this weird echo-ey sound, and I suggested the idea of the autotune.) But the whistling? That's a sound that you can't mistake for anything else. A whistle is a whistle. And finally I figured out that it was Foster The People's "Pumped Up Kicks," which is also in the top 10 right now. And it also contains a whole lotta that thing I can't do. That whistling thing. And now I can't get either of these songs out of my head.

Lucky you, you won't be able to get these songs out of your head either after I'm done with you today. After this morning I sat down and pored through my iTunes and realized that I have a treasure trove of songs that incorporate whistling. And they are fantastic, my friends. I've got the song that Harry, my cockatiel 20 years ago could never quite whistle (wasn't entirely his fault...he had a bad teacher). I've got a song that features Shasta County's own movie star Clint Eastwood whistling (and he's not so good either...sorry, Clint). I've got PB&J's whistle (and by that I mean Peter, Bjorn & John, of course). This may be the only playlist ever to match up 2 Disney tunes, the Meat Puppets, Rammstein, Clint Eastwood in body (on Big Noise) and spirit (The Good The Bad & The Ugly) and Sammy Davis Jr, and well, I feel accomplished. Even if I still can't whistle.

Stream the playlist on Grooveshark
Folks, I apologize, but sometimes making the iTunes playlist is just such a pain in the whistler. I figure if you really want to own these songs, you'll go to iTunes and find 'em, because that's the kind of smartypants you are. Please forgive my laziness, and enjoy today's playlist.

  1. Maroon 5 with Christina Aguilera - Moves Like Jagger My favorite song of the moment.
  2. Foster The People - Pumped Up Kicks The inspiration for this playlist and a really great song, but some semi-terrifying lyrics.
  3. Peter Bjorn & John - Young Folks They're peppy, they're fun, they killed at SXSW and they're great on white bread. PB&J!
  4. One Republic - Good Life 
  5. J. Geils Band - Centerfold This song brings back memories of 9th grade all over again, and contrary to most 9th grade memories, these are some great memories!
  6. The Bangles - Walk Like An Egyptian
  7. Professor Longhair - Mardi Gras in New Orleans
  8. Dr. John - Big Chief Basically the same song, slightly different twist
  9. Supertramp - Goodbye Stranger
  10. Kyle Eastwood - Big Noise from Winetka - Kyle is Clint's son, and he's an accomplished jazz musician. Dad helped on this song with the whistling. 
  11. The English Beat - Can't Get Used To Losing You - This tune can be easily substituted with Andy Williams' version. They both have whistling.
  12. Lovin' Spoonful - Daydream
  13. Otis Redding - Sittin' On The Dock Of The Bay
  14. De La Soul - Eye Know 
  15. Pixies - La La Love You
  16. Cat Power - After It All
  17. Monty Python - Always Look On The Bright Side   You do know that Jefferson Public Radio is bringing Spamalot to the Cascade Theatre in November, right? How lucky are we?! I've loved this Eric Idle ditty since "The Meaning of Life" came out on VHS. He's so....Russell Brand! There's no language warning on this one, but there should be, with an S-Bomb at the end.
  18. Van Helsing BoomBox - Man Man
  19. Paul Simon - Me & Julio Down By The Schoolyard
  20. David Bowie - Golden Years  Not a whole lot of whistling in this song, but enough to qualify.
  21. Andy Griffith - The Andy Griffith Show Theme   Besides, this song makes up for what Bowie lacks with an overabundance of whistling. In case you were on the edge of your seat wondering which song my cockatiel couldn't whistle worth a darn, this would be it.
  22. Happy Mondays - Step On
  23. Mary Poppins Soundtrack - A Spoonful Of Sugar  This is the first movie I can ever remember seeing in a movie theater, if you don't count the double feature my parents took me to in 1971. The Last Picture Show and Easy Rider. I was 4. 
  24. The Beatles - Two Of Us
  25. Sammy Davis Jr - Mr. Bojangles
  26. Beck - Sissyneck
  27. Andrew Bird - Oh No  There's whistling in almost every Andrew Bird song ever released.
  28. Loose Fur - The Ruling Class
  29. Billy Joel - The Stranger
  30. Bobby McFerrin - Don't Worry Be Happy I know a lot of people were disappointed when McFerrin refused to sing this song when he performed at the Cascade Theatre the first year it was re-opened, but I completely understand his excuse. He estimated that by the time this song hit the top 40, he'd already performed it 10,000 times and by golly, he was sick of it. I get it. I almost didn't include it in this playlist because I've heard it way too many times myself. But I didn't want to deprive you of some great whistling.
  31. Elliott Smith - Jealous Guy  John Lennon did it first, but he's already had a moment in the spotlight during song #20. Meanwhile, this is Elliott Smith's debut on any of my playlists. Welcome, Elliot. RIP.
  32. The Smiths - How Soon Is Now
  33. The Fratellis - Whistle For The Choir
  34. Richard Cheese - Creep  I love Richard Cheese, he's like my dirty little secret in a smoking jacket. This song was my introduction to him, and in true homage to Radiohead, he drops an F-Bomb in this one. Hey, I'll take that special!
  35. Noah & The Whale - Five Years Time
  36. Taj Mahal - Ain't Gwine Whistle Dixie No Mo
  37. XTC - Generals & Majors
  38. Meat Puppets - The Whistling Song
  39. Snow White Soundtrack - Whistle While You Work
  40. Kill Bill Soundtrack - Twisted Nerve
  41. Ennio Morricone - The Good, The Bad & The Ugly Theme
  42. Rammstein - Engel