Tuesday, December 29, 2015

iTunes gift card purchases Christmas 2015

I got some iTunes gift cards for Christmas and so I just bought the following music:

The Frozen soundtrack

We've listened to it a ka-billion times on Youtube so I figured it was time to buy it. Now it will be more convienent to listen to, and we won't have to listen to commercials. It's mostly our little daughters who love the Frozen soundtrack, so I kind of got it for them, but I like it too. I love "Let it Go," and I like the show-tune quality of the whole soundtrack.

I've heard they're going to make a stage adaptation of the movie, and I can see how that can be pretty easy to do. They can keep all the music the same.

I really like Indina Menzel. I don't think I like her as a solo artist doing her own songs, but she has the perfect voice for Broadway. I've enjoyed listening to her sing "Defying Gravity" and the other songs from "Wicked" for many years. It's easy to see why "Frozen" was such a big hit. It's a great movie with great music.

Food in the Belly

I got the whole album by Xavier Rudd. Rudd is a hippie from Australia or New Zealand or something. I totally disagree with his politics. He's always groaning about British imperialism and the plight of indigenous people. LOL. But I love his music. I listened to "Food in the Belly" a lot on YouTube, so, I know what I'm getting, and it's great. There a ton of instruments on the album, even the exotic didgeridoo.

It's relaxing and meditative, and groovy. There's one weird part where a choir of children sing, which reminds me of the English kids featured on "The Wall" by Pink Floyd. Typically, I feel like kids should stick with singing kiddie songs like "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star." But I think I like the kids singing on "Food in the Belly."

Anyway, this is the first Xavier Rudd album I've ever bought. I found him on the Internet one day, I think he was just one of the people who were auto-suggested to me based on my music preferences and search history. Really I have no problem with Big Brother mining my personal data as long as Big Brother introduces me to artists like Xavier Rudd. LOL. He was in Phoenix a few months ago, but alas, I did not go.

OK, with this round of iTunes purchases, I did something against my principles. I bought single tracks, rather than whole albums. I normally don't like doing that. I still hold to the old-fashioned notion that albums should be listened to in their entirety. But every once in a while, it just makes sense to buy single tracks. For example, I remember when I was a teenager I really liked the song, "American Pie" by Don McLean, so I bought the album with that song on it, and it turns out that the only song on that album I liked was "American Pie." So I really should have just bought the single, but I don't think that option was available at the time. On the other hand, if you buy only a single, you may be closing yourself off to a lot of other good music... blah blah blah...

Follow the Sun

I got the single track, by Xavier Rudd from his album "Spirit Bird." I love that song. It might be my favorite Xavier Rudd song. But I didn't want to buy the rest of the songs on "Spirit Bird." How do I describe it? It's the ultimate uplifting, feel-good song. It'll make you want to quit your desk job, move to Hawaii, and just chill out.


I got the single track by George Ezra. I first heard this song on the radio, regular old terrestrial radio, on 93.3 Alt AZ, and I immediately loved it. I found myself switching to that station a few times in hopes that the song would be on again. Have you heard this song? It's a big hit. It's a very catchy and beautiful love song. George Ezra is an up-and-comer who cites Bob Dylan and Woody Guthrie as major influences, so you know he's gotta be good.


I got the single track by Muse. My little brother Luke Bird loves Muse. I don't love the band, but I do love this song "Madness". Like "Budapest," I discovered this song on the radio. I googled the lyrics and found out what song it was and listened to it now and then on YouTube. Tonight I bought it and now it's mine.

It's weird how these songs take me back to different times in my life, and I remember the times when I first heard songs, and then memories associated with songs come flooding back to me. For example, I associate the Meat Puppets with riding my bike in Flagstaff, and working at Camp Raymond Boy Scout Camp in the kitchen, in 2008.

I talk about these songs like they're mine, and that somehow when I pay a few bucks to download them or when I buy a CD, I possess the songs. But in a way, the songs belong to everyone. I realize that some songs are just as meaningful to you as they are to me. I'm sure you have wonderful thoughts, feelings, emotions, memories and so on that are associated with different songs.

How Can I Keep From Singing?

I got the whole album, by Erin Major and her Dad. I just discovered this album on iTunes a while back when I searching for a good version of "A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief," which is one of my favorite hymns. I wanted a version with all seven verses.

Most of the time that song is played, they cut out a few verses, so that it's three or four minutes long, which is a standard song length. But... the song tells a story in seven verses. It was originally written with seven verses. I feel like all seven verses should be sang, every time. Otherwise, you're disrespecting the author. Ha ha ha. I sound like a music snob, and really, it's better to sing one verse than no verse, so if a congregation only has time for one or two verses, I guess it can be shortened.

I like building up the "Sabbath day appropriate" section of my iPod so I have more music to choose from on Sundays. At our house we try to listen to only churchy music or spiritual music, or instrumental music, or classical music on Sundays. We do break that rule occasionally. Anyway, Erin Major sings heartfelt, straightforward versions of popular hymns. She doesn't bring a lot of frills or pop-music qualities to the songs, which I feel is the way church music ought to be sung. Erin Major gives such respect to the individual songs that she sings. She doesn't try to reinvent them or mess them up by making them fancier than they already are. What I'm trying to get at is what Bob Dylan was trying to get at when he was interviewed about his Christmas album "Christmas in the Heart" :

BILL FLANAGAN: Very often when contemporary artists do Christmas records, they look for a new angle. John Fahey did instrumental folk variations on holiday songs, Billy Idol did a rock and roll Christmas album, Phil Spector put the Wall of Sound around the Christmas tree and the Roches did kind of a kooky left-field collection. You played this right down the middle, doing classic holiday songs in traditional arrangements. Did you know going in you wanted to play it straight?

BOB DYLAN: Oh sure, there wasn’t any other way to play it. These songs are part of my life, just like folk songs. You have to play them straight too.

Like Bob Dylan, Erin Major recognizes that the hymns need to be played straight. I'm not against experimental rearrangements or new angles when it comes to the hymns... but... generally speaking... it's best to draw attention away from yourself and draw attention to the song. The hymns are beautiful in their simplicity. They don't need to be spiced up with electric guitars or pop-music qualities.

I really have no idea who Erin Major is. I doubt she'll make any other music. "How Can I Keep From Singing" is her only album on iTunes. She's pretty underground. LOL. Just from listening to the album, I imagine she's kind a normal Mormon Mom who has been blessed with extraordinary musical talents and sensibilities.

Maybe what's so special about her is that she isn't special. That sounds funny, but... there's been so many times at church when I listen to a musical number, a solo or a duet, or whatever, from ordinary friends and neighbors and church-goers, and I just love it. But their voices never get played on the radio. In a way, Erin Major's music is real folk music, as opposed to popular music. The "folk music" offered up by hipster bands like "The Oh Hellos" and "Laura and the Killed Men" these days are in fact a strange folk music/ traditional music hybrid. It's great music. Don't get me wrong. But Erin Major's music is the type of thing I would hear at church, or perhaps at an informal family gathering or something, so somehow is seems more real or natural or unpretentious or unassuming.

I Saw the Light

I got the album by Hank Williams. This is another album for my "Sabbath Day Appropriate" section of my iPod. It's a collection of gospel songs by Hank Williams Sr., who, by the way, is much much better than Hank Williams Jr. or Hank Williams III. Hank Williams was a genius with a tragic life. I'm just so grateful that he wrote such wonderful music, and I'm so grateful that through the wonders of technology, his recordings are available to me today.

I already have his greatest hits album, and I considered getting his complete recordings, but it's like 120 bucks, or maybe it was 200 bucks, and that seems excessive, especially when I fear that I might not like a lot of his stuff.

I recommend "How Can You Refuse Him Now" and "A House of Gold." If you want to hear a great cover of "A House of Gold," then listen to the one by the Secret Sisters. I love this album.

Well, it was fun being a music critic for an evening. If you've read this far, congratulations. LOL. I love all the music I got.

I wish I would have taken choir or band in school, but I never did, and now I'm too old and busy to learn how to play any musical instrument except for the stereo.

I like to say that I know nothing about music, except that I love it. Someday I'd like to put my daughters in piano lessons.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Birthday Poem for Emily

Oh my dearest Emily,
I struggle to find a simile
That conveys my feelings

About your dealings
In life, rife with seven- 
Oh seven! By Heaven!
Seven years of smiles. 
Let me count the miles
We've tread together 
Because I want to tether 
My soul to your soul. 
Oh I cannot control
My admiration for you!
All I want to do
Is sing happy birthday,
Happy birthday, happy birthday to you!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Ways I've Lost Friends

They moved to Utah. 
He moved to South Carolina.
He went to a different school. 
She got older
and so did I. 
I didn't go to that party with him.
I didn't go to that party either.
I was nervous.
He never told me about the next one.
We stopped calling.
We didn't know what to say. 
One day it occurred to me:
he was too smart and
he was too dumb and
he was too cool and
he wasn't cool enough. 
I broke into his locker and read his love letter to Stella. 
He stole fifty bucks from my mother's purse and lied.
So far none of them have died. 
She didn't like me that way.
I didn't like her that way.
It got awkward. 
I got married and she was single.
They said our friendship wasn't appropriate.
I was ashamed. 
We found out we were different.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Jacob Tovar and the Saddle Tramps album review

Jacob Tovar and the Saddle Tramps album review

Today I bought the album Jacob Tovar and the Saddle Tramps from iTunes.  I’ve listened to it all the way through three times, and now I’m listening to it for the fourth time as I write this.  And I’m sure I’ll be listening to the album much more in the future.

Before I give you my opinion, I’ll give you my five-year old daughter’s opinion: she loved it!  As soon as see heard it, she started dancing, and she kept twirling around for a good fifteen or twenty minutes. And now I’ll blab about what I think about the album.

I first heard about Jacob Tovar a few months ago through the Secret Sister’s Facebook page.  I saw that the Secret Sisters did some concerts with him, and they recommended him, so I did some googling.  All I found were a couple of songs on Sound Cloud, one of which was “Good Spirits.”  I played the song and instantly loved it.  I played it over and over and over.  And I thought, “Wow, this guy is so good.  Why doesn’t he have any more music available?”  But then I saw that he had an album coming out eventually, so I decided I would get the album as soon as it was released, and that’s what I did.

If you like Hank Williams Sr. and old-fashioned country music, you’ll like Jacob Tovar.  When you listen to it, you might be surprised that you’re listening to an album that was released only a week ago, because it sounds so much older and richer. 

The emphasis on this album is the vocals and the lyrics.  Tovar’s unique singing style is front and center.  I think my favorite song is still “Good Spirits,” but I don’t think there’s a song on here I don’t like.  

I love the way I can understand what he’s saying.  So many bands these days have singers that you can’t understand because you literally can’t decipher what the singer is singing. 

The lyrics also have a directness that I love in classic country music.  The lyrics are simple, but they tap into universal human experiences.  Most of the lyrics from Joe Pug, or Imagine Dragons, or the Killers, for example, are too confusing or vague or artsy.  I guess what I’m saying is, it shouldn’t take a lot of work to enjoy music.

I get the feeling that Jacob Tovar could be backed up by just about any good guitarist or drummer.  The focus on these songs is the vocals.  And that’s how a lot of the old-timey country music was: very heavy on vocals.

I don’t think this album will ever get played on the radio, unless it’s Internet radio.  There aren’t any radio-friendly hits with mass appeal.

The album was recorded in a studio, but it has a live sound to it.  It's not over-produced.

Five of these songs are covers of old country songs, but I’ve never heard the songs before, so they’re new to me.

Overall it’s a great album and I’m glad I bought it.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

What the Weather’s Like

The summers around here are much too hot,
as hot as oatmeal boiling in a pot.
So, from May to September, I complain a lot.
In the fall I suppose the weather’s alright,
but my lousy neighbors still aren’t polite
and the children these days give me a fright.
The winters are too dark and cold.
I wish it was never winter, truth be told.
That reminds me: I’m getting old.
Spring may be joyful for the birds in a tree
but it’s not a happy time for me.
I’ve got a bad back, a worse knee,
I’m tired and old and angry,
my life was a disappointment,
and I don’t care what the weather’s like.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Nothing is Exploding

Just when you're about to sell
all the fine art in the house
to buy canned food and guns,
just when you think North Korea
launched a nuclear warhead headed
straight for your back porch wind-chime,
just when you think God's gonna
reach his giant hands out of the sky,
grab hold of the planet and smoosh it,

that's when you notice a stupid dove
gently perched on a tree branch,
that's when you stroll down the street
to collect the usual junk mail,
that's when you look around, and see
with such clear eyes
that nothing is exploding.

In Hell

There's a demon
that puts his hand
into your mouth
and makes you
taste the blood.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

On Being Given a New Notebook for my Birthday

What good is a new notebook
if I have nothing good to write?
I try putting forth profundities
but I end up sounding trite.

And what good is my voice
if I have nothing good to say?
It may be better to work
in silence, all throughout the day.

Could it be that this empty book
is just how the Bible started?
Well, I'm neither Moses nor Solomon,
but at least I am good-hearted.

The Best Naps

The best naps happen in the thick of turmoil,
when water reaches a rapid boil,
when livestock crashes through the gate,
or an angry woman smashes a plate.

Oh, I'm getting sleepy just thinking about it:
I go alone to my room and relax for a bit.
They all panic, chaos abounds, violence ensues,
yet I lie tranquil, in the midst of a snooze.

It's delightful.  They can fight and they can weep,
but my bedroom is locked, and I am asleep.
And no matter how long they pound on the door,
I'll stay in my bed just a few minutes more.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

We Go To Our Car

And drive to a place
that is full of toys.
There's so much space
and birds that make a happy noise

and puzzles and games and trees
and if you want a treat
there are crackers and cheese
for free, for anyone to eat.

And there's one special spot
on the top of a hill.
If you climb climb climb a lot,
be quiet, and stand really still,

that's when you can see
every part of the sky.
Some people don't believe this place is real.
I don't understand why.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Helmuth Heubner


Here's a true story about a courageous young German Mormon during World War 2!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Ironwood and Ocotillo

It’s a major intersection of streets
named after a cactus and a tree,
both of which are native to the area.
I think most would agree 
the names were selected appropriately.

See, when I drive on Ironwood,
I think of ironwood, ironwood trees,
and when I drive on Ocotillo,
I think of ocotillo, ocotillo cactus,

living things that once dug their roots
down deep into the earth, sprouted up,
pressed up, grew up into the thickness 
of summer, waiting like disciples 
for the arrival of rain, fighting for survival, 
fighting for every inch of root, branch, thorn,
living and breathing and singing their song
until those construction crews came along.

Ironwood.  Ocotillo.  Let us remember 
the vegetation that had to die
just so all of us could drive by.

But I’m not an environmentalist.
I got a wife and kids and a car and a commute
and I gotta drive on Ironwood and Ocotillo
to get to my job every day, 30 miles away.

Yeah, that’s right, I get in my car,
step on the gas, drive real far,
and I'm happy with things the way they are.  

funny video for star wars fans

Friday, February 13, 2015

And To Teach Them Their Proper Places, God Put Smiles Upon Their Faces

Sitting in a lobby,
waiting to meet somebody,
somebody large and unknown, 
I suddenly started doodling
chaotic squiggles, zig-zags, lines,
simple organisms without spines,
jiggling and spreading all over the place
but really going nowhere.

I tapped my pencil three times and
eyeballs popped up in a blank space.
A small circle appeared, signifying a nose,
and now I draw a line, a mouth, curved into a smile.

I pause to peer into the black-dot eyes.
Despite their roughness, their disproportionate size,
those eyes look desperately toward the skies
and catch a blurry vision of me.  

Now he speaks: “Thank you 
for drawing my eyes, so I may behold you, my Maker.
Finally I see the One Who Wields Both Pen and Paper!”

Next he says, “I’m bored. And you drew me all wrong.
I would have preferred non-existence!”

There’s nothing I can say to him now, and anyhow,
I’m busy breathing life into the nostrils
of a million more faces, placing smiles on their lips. 
This is my attempt to communicate,
to place in them something innate,
to say that Joy is their natural state.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Day Before the Sabbath

I started hacking at the weeds in the front yard
but it was hot out, and the work was hard,
so after about ten minutes, I quit,
and walked inside my nice cool house to sit

in my favorite chair and watch the TV.
The sounds and pictures washed over me
for hours and hours, many, many hours,
until at last I surrendered all my powers

of perseverance.  I’m OK with that.  It’s Saturday.
I don’t have to earn a living today,
I don’t care what my neighbors say,
or even the president of the H.O.A.

Next there’s gonna be a show about monkeys
and I wanna watch that show about monkeys 
and come to think of it, I never did know

why it was such a sin to let the weeds grow.