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Cornbread Cafe #13: The Black Bear Americana Music Festival

We celebrate the first inaugural Black Bear Americana Musics Festival with potent tracks from The Mammals, Adam Ezra Group, Belle of the Fall, The Nields, Whiskey Treaty Roadshow, The Rad Trads, Violetta Zironi, NuBluzRevue, and the Honey Whiskey Trio.

The Black Bear Americana Music Festival
First ever installment of this huge event to be held at the Goshen Fairgrounds just north of Litchfield, Conn., October 4–8.

Welcome! brothers and sisters to Episode #13—of the Cornbread Cafe, that new joint on the web offering tasty American Roots treats. We’re located at the five-corners of Americana, Blues, Country, Folk, and Gospel. And sometimes you can catch an express to Rock ’n’ Roll at the bus stop across the way.

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The Cornbread Cafe #6: INTERVIEW with Janie Barnett, too many new tracks to list!

Janie Barnett discusses her gracefully drifting release, You See this River.

Janie Barnett; submitted photo.
Janie Barnett; submitted photo.

 

Welcome! brothers and sisters to Episode #6—of the Cornbread Cafe. I am the mongrel, and I will be your waiter today. Cazh and cozy, we’re located at the five-corners of Blues, Americana, Folk, Country, and Gospel. And you can sometimes catch an express to Rock ’n’ Roll at the bus stop across the way. We hope to become your new new fave hang for the best in a sprawling menu of American Roots music.

 

Click the play button on this audio player to hear the complete interview with Janie Barnett.

 

This is episode six of the Cornbread Cafe, and do I have a special treat treat for you this time around. Actually I have a whole hour of special treats, as always, but one of them is especially rare and wonderful. We have with us Janie Barnett, who if she were the last Americana musician to be minted in this world, would be give us a perfect last lingering chord in the genre.

Artists Featured in this Episode:

Janie Barnett, “You See This River,” You See this River
Janie Barnett, “Better Times Are Coming,” You See this River
Molly Pinto Madigan, “Seven Tears,” The Cup Overflows
Bees Deluxe, “Industrial (espionage),single
Gus McKay, “Married a Snake,Salt Flat Mojo Blues
Heather Maloney, “Let Me Stay,” by Just Enough Sun
Almond & Olive, “We Will,” Standing at the Precipice
Birds of Chicago, “American Flowers,” American Flowers
Janie Barnett, “Sweet Thursday,”  You See this River

Note: Artist links provide access directly to artists’ websites or social media homepages. All album links provide access to song or album purchase options, often through our affiliate programs with Apple Music or Amazon.com.

 

On her just released album, You See This River, Janie crafts stories dug out your family’s cedar trunks up in the attic, memories traced in carbon copy from old letters in the shoebox in the back of the closet. Her ballads are painted in emotions as fresh as eternally wet paint. Her creations are woven from Words that seem like she could have teased them out of my own brain if I were an immeasurably more talented poet.

Some are Songs of stubbornly optimistic, inevitable love filtered through a self-knowledge even the most enlightened gurus would envy.

Some Songs echo the lives people who are really living their lives on the back stoops, in the kitchens, in bedrooms together in vulnerable companionship or the complex internal lives we’re living alone in our hearts and minds as we travel through our labors or little luxuries.

Penetrating and heartbreaking. Wise and reckless. True. Imagined. True anyway.

Janie Barnett thanks for being on the show!

(audio clip of our interview with Janie Barnett)

Upcoming Event

Janie Barnett, opening for Paula Cole
Saturday December 16, 2017 at 8:00 p.m.
The Center for Arts in Natick
info & tickets

Molly Pinto Madigan's 2017 release, The Cup Overflows, builds on her impressive songwriting and vocal skills with a heightened level of self-assurance that suits her musical direction.
Molly Pinto Madigan’s 2017 release, The Cup Overflows, builds on her impressive songwriting and vocal skills with a heightened level of self-assurance that suits her musical direction.

I think it’s about time that we all get a taste of the work that I know Janie can do, does do, and has done with Blue Room on this recent release “You See This River.” Before we do, though, I need to pause and explain that I had no idea just how engaging our conversation was going to be. I will confess right here and now that I was prepared to record for 20 minutes, keep the best 10, and share them with you. When I looked up at the clock and saw that a full 30 minutes had gone by, and realized that she had so many more stories and nuggets of wisdom to share, I made the decision to keep rolling tape and figure it out later.

And I think I’ve got it figured out, now. I’ve edited the entire conversation, keeping almost every syllable, and have made the entire talk available as bonus audio here in the show notes. Just look for the audio player below the first paragraph. You’ll want to hear everything Janie has to say. And to create the most powerful, most tempting incentive, I’m going to sprinkle jewels from our talk throughout the rest of the show. That way, you still get almost as much music as usual, AND you get an exclusive interview with one of Americana’s leading ladies.

Bees Deluxe Front: Conrad Warren, Allyn “Aldo” Dorr Back: Patrick Sanders, Carol Band photo courtesy Carol Band via Patch
Bees Deluxe
Front: Conrad Warren, Allyn “Aldo” Dorr
Back: Patrick Sanders, Carol Band
photo courtesy Carol Band via Patch

So let’s have two right now from Janie—One, a searching, buoyant rendition of Steven Foster’s “Better Times Are Coming” from 1862, but first the title track off this tuneful treasure trove, You See This River.

And THAT last number was “Seven Tears” off our old friend Molly Pinto Madigan’s very recent release The Cup Overflows. Before that, we heard Better Times Are Coming and the title track from You See This River, from the very phenomenal Janie Barnett and Blue Room. You can find purchase options for their most recent as well as prior releases in the “Artists Featured in this Episode” section, above.

After hearing Janie Barnett, you’re likely to ask yourself, “This is great, but how and where can I experience the magic live?” You’re in luck, because she has a couple shows coming up in the next couple of months, including a one-of-a-kind performance December 16 opening up for Paula Cole at the Center for Arts in Natick, Mass. If you’re anywhere in the Boston Metro neighborhood, you won’t want to miss what is sure to be a powerful evening of tunes.

Gus McKay; photo courtesy Gus McKay
Gus McKay; photo courtesy Gus McKay

Next course coming out of the kitchen is a sub-genre we have not explored much yet on the Cornbread Cafe—and that’s Acid Blues. Oh it’s true blue, but just a little bit gacked out. We’ll have a double shot that starts with a band I’ve been following since my days at the helm of the Mongrel’s Howl podcast, back in 2005. In fact, that’s why I was so grateful and honored that they responded to my note asking if they wanted to be part of this new show. Ever-gracious, they obliged, and YOU dear listener, reap the benefits of my association, I promise you that.

Also in this block, we’ll hear a deeper cut “Married a Snake,” off Gus McKay’s recent release, Salt Flat Mojo Blues. I don’t know if Gus would categorize his music as acid blues, but I’ll let you be the judge of whether it belongs in the same drawer as Bees Deluxe’s newest single, “Industrial (espionage)” right here on the Cornbread Cafe.

(audio clip of our interview with Janie Barnett)

Heather Maloney; photo courtesy heathermaloney.com
Heather Maloney; photo courtesy heathermaloney.com

That’s Janie Barnett talking about the need to wrangle, and ultimately reconcile time and creativity as responsibilities of family and paying gigs eat away at the leisurely time once spent waiting for the muse to show up with inspiration. In our extended conversation, Janie shares some deeply personal perspectives on subjects like family. I really encourage you to to listen to what was, for me, one of my most absorbing interviews ever. In fact, let’s have a listen to one of my favorite gems from our talk before we hear brandy new just released tracks from Heather Maloney, Almond & Olive, and Birds of Chicago.

We just heard the title track from the just released EP American Flowers, by Birds of Chicago, available through Signature Sounds. On a different podcast, I’ve had the distinct pleasure of sharing a long conversation with JT Nero who, along with Allison Russell, makes up the principle force of the group that’s been described as “secular gospel.” That identifier certainly seems to fit, doesn’t it? The affect some of their songs have on me definitely goes beyond simply my heart and mind.

Almond & Olive; submitted photo.
Almond & Olive; submitted photo.

Before that, we heard “We Will” off the new release from Almond & Olive. This duo, sometimes known simply as A&O, is comprised of singer-songwriters Natalie Alms and Ollie Davidson. The also call Chicago home, so if you think detect some shared musical DNA, you’re probably not wrong. The track comes from “Standing at the Precipice,” an album that came about less than two years after the two met in 2015.

And we started the set with another artist on the Signature Sounds label, Heather Maloney, who brought us “Let Me Stay,” from her latest effort, Just Enough Sun, which also features the instrumentation of Ryan Hommel.

You’ll be hearing plenty more cuts off each of these albums in the near future, probably just as soon as my heart recovers from the extreme emotional workout that triple of tunes put it through.

Birds of Chicago; submitted photo.
Birds of Chicago; submitted photo.

Before them, Janie Barnett gave us a deep look into the emotional dimensions of her own creative source material, and how motherhood instilled a sense of forgiveness in the artistic space she inhabits these days.

Let’s hear from Janie again as we work our way through dessert and coffee. She talks about the process of creating her new album, You See This River, one of the most consistent and structurally sound I’ve heard. She suggested we close out the show with a song she described as one of her more light-hearted compositions, “Sweet Thursday.” I think you’ll agree that it’s just the balm you need some days, these days.

(audio clip of our interview with Janie Barnett)

 

Janie Barnett; photo courtesy janiebarnett.com.
Janie Barnett; photo courtesy janiebarnett.com.

 

Well, that’s our show for the week. I know you won’t want to miss next weeks episode of the Cornbread Cafe, so I’d encourage you to subscribe through iTunes or Google Play Music—you’ll find the subscribe buttons on just about any page of our site. And when you subscribe, I’d be grateful if you left us a review—it really helps people discover us.

I’ve been your host, Jay Vee, aka the mongrel, and I thank you for listening. We’ll tuck into more heaping helpings of American Roots music next week. Take care.

Will Call #54: Standing Together Against Othering in the Berkshires

"Kylie Jenner," by Merudjina Normil; submitted photo.
"Kylie Jenner," by Merudjina Normil; submitted photo.


In the wake of the November election, people across the country have seen fear and anger and exclusion become part of a national public conversation. Many people are sharing the experience of feeling that they do not belong in their familiar places. It’s called othering — making someone feel pushed to the edges, unwanted or different. It can happen in daily meetings and conversations, at work, at school, even at home.

In the Berkshires, movements are growing in response, art and lectures and performances and rallies, to explain what othering means and what it looks like — and to draw people together instead.

"Eyes Opaque With Terror," by Marcelene Mosca and Freya Segal; Mixed Media, 2014; photo by David Edgecomb.
“Eyes Opaque With Terror,” by Marcelene Mosca and Freya Segal; Mixed Media, 2014; photo by David Edgecomb.

People are saying in different ways, I feel threatened. I feel alone. And people are saying that hate is not mine. I want to stand with you. I want to live in a country where we can all live and love and work, pray or not, speak and play music. People are saying we need to talk to each other.

In the Berkshires, efforts are growing to bring people together. In Pittsfield, on a November afternoon, young WordxWord poets and storytellers reflected on how it felt to be excluded or pushed to the edges, as part of “Othering,” a month-long show curated by the Berkshire Art Association at the Lichtenstein Center for the Arts.

In Great Barrington, Asma Abbas, Associate Professor of Politics and Philosophy at Bard College of Simon’s Rock, invited Moustafa Bayoumi, American Book Award–winning  writer and professor of English at Brooklyn College — who wrote one of the most re-tweeted tweets of the 2016 USA presidential debates, according to Twitter—to speak about Muslim American experiences in the last 15 years.

In North Adams, Rabbi Rachel Barenblat, the spiritual leader of Congregation Beth Israel, joins Rabbi David Markus, her co-chair of Aleph, the central organization of the international Jewish Renewal movement, in a call for solidarity. If a national effort to register Muslims becomes real, they are calling on all Americans to register.

Nick Cave’s “Until”

One of 16,000 dangling items in MASS MoCA's Rauschenberg gallery that are part of the installation, "<a href="http://massmoca.org/event/nick-cave-until/" target="_blank"><strong>Until</strong></a>," by Nick Cave, on view through August, 2017; photo by Kate Abbott.
One of 16,000 dangling items in MASS MoCA’s Rauschenberg gallery that are part of the installation, “Until,” by Nick Cave, on view through August, 2017; photo by Kate Abbott.

And in December of 2016, MASS MoCA, offered free admission for Berkshire residents until the solstice, as Nick Cave’s installation, Until, opened to take a close look at the ideal of “innocent until proven guilty” — and what happens when it becomes “guilty until proven innocent.”

Soprano Brenda Wimberly and organist Sereca Henderson  perform at the opening of Nick Cave’s ‘Until,’ at MASS MoCA. His installation fills the Rauschenberg gallery, and everyone who walks in stops at the doorway. The room is as large as a football field. And it is full of light.

It’s like walking into an optical mobile. It’s a maze of stars and spirals and suns on 16,000 strings. They spin like tops, and they transform from pinwheeling color to faint lines, until they become invisible. In some of them, at the core, he has set the image of a hand gun.

 

Nick Cave is known for Soundsuits, wearable sculptures that cover the whole body, and he often performs in them. But here he has created something new. It’s a landscape. It’s a cloudscape made of chandelier crystal. It’s a place where he invites other people to perform.

Benjamin Clementine gave a concert on opening night.

 

Nick Cave created this installation holding in mind the lives and deaths of Eric Garner, Oscar Grant, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Yvette Smith and Michael Brown and more like them. Mass MoCA curator Denise Markonish speaks about his work.

Moustafa Bayoumi and Asma Abas

John Coltrane’s ‘A Love Supreme,’ a jazz classic from 1965 has echoes of Middle Eastern scales in its improvisation, and echoes of Islamic prayer in its inspiration, professor Moustafa Bayoumi writes in his 2015 collection of essays, “This Muslim American Life: Dispatches from the War on Terror.”

Moustafa Bayoumi has explored the concept of Othering in both How Does It Feel to Be a Problem?: Being Young and Arab in America (2009) and This Muslim American Life: Dispatches from the War on Terror (2015); photo by Neville Elder, courtesy of Moustafa Bayoumi.
Moustafa Bayoumi has explored the concept of Othering in both How Does It Feel to Be a Problem?: Being Young and Arab in America (2009) and This Muslim American Life: Dispatches from the War on Terror (2015); photo by Neville Elder, courtesy of Moustafa Bayoumi.

 

 

Coltrane often performed with Muslim musicians, he says, and anyone with an ear attuned to Islamic influences can hear them in Coltrane’s words and music.
He quotes Coltrane’s liner notes: “No Matter what … it is with God. He is Merciful. His way is in love, through which we all are. It is truly — a love supreme.”
Moustafa Bayoumi is an internationally recognized journalist. He is a columnist for The Guardian; his writing has appeared in journals from the New York Times to the Nation; and he has appeared on CNN, FOX News, National Public Radio and many other media outlets around the world.
He is an associate professor of English at Brooklyn College, and in 2008 he won an American Book Award for “How Does It Feel to Be a Problem: Being Young and Arab in America.”

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Asma Abbas is an Associate Professor of Politics and Philosophy and Emily H. Fisher Faculty Fellow at Bard College at Simon's Rock; photo courtesy Asma Abbas.
Asma Abbas is an Associate Professor of Politics and Philosophy and
Emily H. Fisher Faculty Fellow at Bard College at Simon’s Rock; photo courtesy Asma Abbas.

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“How Does It Feel to Be a Problem?” takes its title from writer, Civil Rights activist and Great Barrington native, W.E.B. DuBois, who asks that question in Souls of Black Folk.

In his book, Bayoumi tells the stories of seven young men and women in their 20s living in Brooklyn after 9/11.
Rasha and her family were imprisoned without trial and without evidence; Sami served in the military in Iraq; Yasmin fought discrimination in her diverse high school — and won.
In December, professor Bayoumi came to Bard College at Simon’s Rock in Great Barrington to talk with professor Asma Abbas, and her students and the community, about the experience of being Muslim American in the past, in the last 15 years and today.
Many Americans misunderstand a great deal about what Muslim Americans believe and how they live their lives, he said.

To begin with, Muslim Americans have lived in this country for almost 400 years.

Aleph takes a stand against othering

Rachel Barenblat of Williamstown is the rabbi and spiritual leader of Congregation Beth Israel in North Adams, and she will serve as the interim Jewish Chaplain at Williams College in the spring semester. She is also co-chair of Aleph, the central organization of the international Jewish renewal movement, with David Markus, associate spiritual leader of Temple Beth-El of City Island in the Bronx. He has Berkshire ties as well — like Rachel, he is a Williams College alum. (In full disclosure, I am also a Williams alum, and Rachel is an old friend.)

Jewish Renewal, founded by Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, is a movement across Jewish denominations. At its center, Aleph includes a rigorous liberal seminary and a growing network of congregations and communities around the world.

"Arab Women Bonding," by Muriel Angelil; Monoprint, 2014; submitted photo.
“Arab Women Bonding,”
by Muriel Angelil;
Monoprint, 2014; submitted photo.

In response to the U.S. president-elect’s campaign promise to require all Muslims to register with the government, Aleph has sent out a call to all Americans, if that day comes, to register as Muslim in solidarity.

That call comes out of values central to Renewal, Rachel and David say, from a respect for all faiths, and a core Jewish value (Lev. 19:18), to love your neighbor as yourself.

The experience of being treated differently — the ‘Othering’ that David Markus talks about — is also the name of the Berkshire Art Association’s biennial juried show. In November, it filled the Lichtenstein Center for the Arts in Pittsfield with abstract paintings, collages and drawings.

The art association sent out a call for work reflecting on experiences of exclusion and separation. More than 30 artists from throughout the Northeast had work in the exhibit — from a twenty-year veteran of the U.S. military who served two tours in Iraq to an African-American Pittsfield High School graduate now studying art at Williams College.

On Nov. 13, the Pittsfield organization WordxWord hosted an afternoon of poetry and storytelling on the same theme — WordxWord uses spoken word, poetry and storytelling to celebrate diversity and creativity and make connections.

"Kylie Jenner," by Merudjina Normil; Drawing, 2014; submitted photo.
“Kylie Jenner,” by Merudjina Normil; Drawing, 2014; submitted photo.

Four of those poets have given us permission to share there work here. We thank Izzy; our second poet, who has asked to remain anonymous; Sage; and Doni Smith.

"This Is Normal: 4th grade," by Dina Noto, Ink Drawing, 2016; submitted photo.
“This Is Normal: 4th grade,” by Dina Noto, Ink Drawing, 2016; submitted photo.

 

Looking Ahead

On Saturday, Jan. 7, on the 76th anniversary of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms speech, a new Four Freedoms Coalition will invite the Berkshire community to unite against hate and bigotry in all its forms. The Berkshire County branch of the NAACP, BRIDGE, Berkshire Immigrant Center, United Africans of the Berkshires, and the United American Muslim Association of the Berkshires and others will gather for a rally and march in downtown Pittsfield.

The Four Freedoms Coalition is a non-partisan, diverse coalition of community organizations and people working together to unite the community and reaffirm the  American values outlined in President Roosevelt’s speech:

Freedom from fear
Freedom from want
Freedom of speech
Freedom of religion.

All are welcome. To find out more, check out the Four Freedoms Coalition on Facebook or email 4freedomscoalition@gmail.com

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On Jan. 29 at 3 p.m., Doni Smith and WordXWord will welcome the new year with a free poetry reading to celebrate sharing and caring and reflect on the consequences of greed at MCLA’s Gallery 51, at 51 Main St., North Adams.

Nine days after the presidential inauguration, poets and spoken word artists will bear witness to a world where greed appears to have no limits, and yet every day holds moments of generosity and compassion. The event will accompay Josh Ostraff’s exhibition, OFA ATU, which opens Jan. 26.

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Also in Pittsfield, Georgene Poliak has formed All Band Together as an initiative in compassion and solidarity. At the holiday Shindy at Shire City Sanctuary, she showed arm bands with a crescent and a star that she is making out of upcycled t-shirts and sweaters. They recall the bands that Jews in Europe were made to wear under the Nazi occupation. But these mean the opposite — they mean that people of many faiths can stand together.

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And in the spring, new artists will come to Mass MoCA to create and perform work inspired by Nick Cave’s ‘Until.’ Internationally acclaimed dancer and choreographer Bill T. Jones will present a new solo work on March 4.

And choreographer, writer, and actress Okwui Okpokwasili will create and offer a site-specific dance on April 7.

Okwui Okpokwasili “Bronx Gothic” trailer from Peter Born on Vimeo.

Grammy-winnter and living legend Mavis Staples, known worldwide as a voice in R&B, Gospel, Soul, folk, rock and blues, will also perform at Mass MoCA on March 25.

And Toshi Reagon and Dorrance Dance will return to the ’62 Center at Williams College with tap masters Derick Grant and Dromeshia Sumbry-Edwards.

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