Posts by: Max Gray

Song of the Day: “Gin House Blues”

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Nina Simone’s troubles were highlighted in the recent gripping documentary by Liz Garbus, What Happened, Miss Simone? Though Simone had her fair share of challenges, it was her incredibly resonant voice and musical genius that contributed to the gradual accumulation of legends surrounding her. These talents are bursting from the seams of “Gin House Blues,” Miss […]

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Song of the Day: “Me and My Gin”

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Though the British blues-rockers The Animals recorded a gritty version of a song called “Gin House Blues” in 1966, the tune was originally released by Bessie Smith in 1928 under the name “Me and My Gin.” Smith, the storied blues singer of the Prohibition and Great Depression, did record another song a few years earlier that may have confused other […]

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Song of the Day: “Here In Spirit”

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In a review of Jim James’s newest album Eternally Even, Pitchfork writer Ryan Leas declares that the artist “goes all-in on a frayed, psychedelic-soul aesthetic” that is only hinted at in previous recordings by James’s mainstay band, My Morning Jacket. Though the bulk of his songwriting efforts have gone into that long-enduring Kentucky-based rock group over the […]

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The Rumpus Interview with Robert Glancy

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Robert Glancy discusses his sophomore novel, Please Do Not Disturb, growing up under a dictatorship, borrowing and stealing from reality, and his love of proverbs.

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Song of the Day: “Gin House Blues”

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Today, the so-called British Invasion of the ’60s is remembered primarily for its flagship band, The Beatles. Another English group called The Animals—widely known for their international hit version of the folk song “House of the Rising Sun”—are unfortunately obscured by the long shadow of the former, but their screaming fans knew and loved The Animals’s gritty rock. Their […]

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Song of the Day: “Let Me See That Ponytail Run”

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The Defibulators are the rootsiest bluegrass outfit to come stomping out of Brooklyn, New York, in a long time—perhaps ever. Named by VICE Music as “Brooklyn’s kings of alt-country, minus the ‘alt,’” The Defibulators’ sound has been described as truckerpunk, Americana, citibillie… the list goes on. While their lightning-fast strings and country shuffle will draw the crowd […]

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Song of the Day: “Have Some Love”

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The diversely talented Donald Glover has gained a following in almost every artistic arena, from stand-up comedy, to sitcoms, to film and music. First making a name for himself as a writer for the smart and funny NBC program 30 Rock, Glover went on to star in Community and the FX series Atlanta. Meanwhile, quietly and then not-so-quietly, he […]

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Song of the Day: “Paul”

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As 2016 draws to a close, it is a time for both endings and beginnings. The electric folk of Big Thief is well-suited to such introspective moments—tinged with sepia-toned nostalgia and a shy sweetness that suggests hope for the future. Their gentle, unhurried song “Paul”—off their critically welcomed record Masterpiece—perfects the dual flavors of sweetness and bitterness […]

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Song of the Day: “Back Door Santa”

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Soul—that mysterious orientation towards the world that seems to be frequently accompanied by a larger-than-life personality—is probably the first word that comes to mind when one thinks of Clarence Carter, that bombastic and passionate artist whose timeless music still echoes across the airwaves and our collective memory. While his classic single “Slip Away” is arguably the […]

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Song of the Day: “The Frim Fram Sauce”

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One of the most entertaining things about the early days of recorded jazz music is the clever way musicians worked around the conservative mores of the time. The well-loved etymologist William Safire, in a 2002 article, diligently attempts to decode the playful gibberish sung so beautifully by Nat King Cole in his suggestive tune, “The […]

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Song of the Day: “Louder Than A Bomb”

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“Rhythm is the rebel,” Chuck D raps on “Louder Than A Bomb,” one of many outstanding tracks from Public Enemy’s touchstone 1988 record, It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back. Of all the controversial and heartfelt statements made on this widely acclaimed and influential album, this is perhaps the most telling, as DJ […]

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Song of the Day: “We the People”

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If A Tribe Called Quest had to make one final statement, a boisterous, politically conscious, and funky record would be the most fitting way to do so. We Got It from Here… Thank You 4 Your Service was released on November 11, 2016, eighteen years after Tribe’s last album and only a few months after the death of founding […]

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Song of the Day: “Lord, Help the Poor and Needy”

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Maybe growing up with a father who was a Jehovah’s Witness caused Charlyn Marie “Chan” Marshall to develop a sensitivity to the plight of the unlucky and underprivileged. Then again, Marshall, who is widely known by her stage name Cat Power, might also have an artist’s innate empathy and receptiveness to others’ pain—something that we, as a nation, could […]

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Weekend Rumpus Roundup

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First, in Rumpus Saturday Fiction, Sherman Alexie’s shares three short stories—”Fixed Income,” “Honor Society,” and “Valediction”—that all offer his trademark whimsy and insight into the human condition. Three different teenagers struggle with poverty, endemic racism, and social exclusion, and must depend upon themselves to make the right choices in difficult moral situations. Then, in the […]

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Song of the Day: “Secret Life”

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The passing of songwriter Leonard Cohen last Thursday added another mournful chapter to an already difficult week. The prolific and underrated artist—most famous, perhaps, for his aching ballad “Hallelujah,” popularized by John Cale, Rufus Wainwright, and Jeff Buckley—had a long career of ups and downs. Cohen was 73 years old in 2009, when his album Live in London came […]

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Weekend Rumpus Roundup

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First, Brandon Hicks complicates stereotypes of the lower classes in a comic spoof of F. Scott Fitzgerald and his famous wife, Zelda. Then, in the Saturday Essay, Melissa Kingbird recounts her experience at Standing Rock, on the outskirts of a Native American reservation. Kingbird’s participation in the Native occupation of disputed land is punctuated by apocalyptic […]

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Song of the Day: “Hurt”

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“I hurt myself today,” Johnny Cash sings in one of the last recordings he made, his poignant cover of the Nine Inch Nails song, “Hurt.” The song couldn’t be more appropriate now, during this week of confusion and heartache and regret. Cash chose to release it towards the end of his life, perhaps as a kind […]

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Weekend Rumpus Roundup

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First, in Saturday Rumpus Poetry, Connie Voisine shares three new poems. Body shaming is the subject of “Shameful,” in which the speaker considers modeling herself after someone else, “like a person on TV,” but she only watches English programs “where actors have yellowish/teeth and red eyes.” The physical body, here, is “an artichoke.” Voisine exposes the […]

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Song of the Day: “Helpless”

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Neil Young’s name has become synonymous with a special brand of rock music that came of age in the 60s, matured in the 70s, and burned on well past its contemporaries. From the laid back Buffalo Springfield, to the soaring harmonies of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, to his solo career, his songs and his […]

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Weekend Rumpus Roundup

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First, Brandon Hicks shares a special Halloween essay he’s illustrated for us. Meanwhile, in the Saturday Essay, Evan Lavender-Smith reveals takes a frank and humorous look at self-image. “Character Evan” is attractive, fit, responsible, and mature; a good husband and father. But “real Evan” experiences anxiety and self-doubt. The latter worries about the “heat death” of the universe and […]

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Song of the Day: “8 (circle)”

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It takes courage and artistic vision to take risks with music that has already won you commercial success, but lasting artists persist in doing just that. Bon Iver’s third album, 22, A Million, supports this view. The familiarly warm and affecting melodies of song writer Justin Vernon’s earlier work are reinvented here, nested in a cocoon […]

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Weekend Rumpus Roundup

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First, b: william bearheart shares a heart-wrenching and lyrical Saturday Essay on suicide, the struggle against depression and anxiety, and the role of poetry as an effective medicine. Hope and a hidden spirituality imbue a cliff, the site of many tragic suicides, with a complexity that lingers with the author. And in the Sunday Interview, Laurie […]

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Song of the Day: “I Want You”

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Allegedly covered and sampled by musicians as diverse as Madonna and Diana Ross to Mary J. Blige and Robert Palmer, the innovative single “I Want You,” off Marvin Gaye’s 1976 album of the same name, branches out from the Motown sound that typified his earlier work and delves into uncharted territory. Recognizable instrumentation—the soaring strings, the hard-edged guitar, […]

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Weekend Rumpus Roundup

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First, in the Saturday Interview, Michaelsun Stonesweat Knapp and Tommy Pico discuss Pico’s book-length poem, IRL, and its themes of temporality, Indiginous identity, and lyrical humor. IRL (which stands for ‘in real life’) reflects a “terrifying” and cathartic creative process in which Pico churned out new material four days a week and spent Fridays aggressively editing. Then, in […]

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Song of the Day: “When the Tequila Runs Out”

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Dawes is one of a handful of groups, including peers like Wilco and Broken Social Scene, who have undergone personnel changes without losing the essential heart and soul that make them who they are. Their first manifestation in 2006 as the post-punk group Simon Dawes included the multi-talented guitarist and producer Blake Mills. Though Mills left the band shortly after, […]

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Weekend Rumpus Roundup

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First, Sasha LaPointe meditates on the “language of trauma” in the Saturday Essay. An abusive experience from her childhood manifests itself in strange images of floating boats, images that she struggles to express in writing. LaPointe delves into the psychology of dissociation and discovers a wellspring of strength coming from her Native heritage and its oral […]

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Song of the Day: “Black and Blue”

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Given the anarchic, traumatic, and deeply worrying events of recent months, some might begin to lose hope. However, music—and especially jazz, the most particularly American music—never seems to lose its power to soothe and calm us. Louis Armstrong, in a special song that might sound deceptively typical to the hasty listener, made a groundbreaking statement on race relations in […]

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Weekend Rumpus Roundup

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First, in the Saturday Essay, Philip Roughton translates Icelandic writer Oddný Eir’s mirage-filled meditation on coming-of-age. Eir describes haunting images that float beneath her consciousness and in her dreams. Then, Brandon Hicks illustrates the happy story of the girl who first created music. Finally, in the Sunday Essay, Louise LeBourgeois examines her childhood in New Orleans and its […]

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Song of the Day: “The Heat Is On (Part 1 & 2)”

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Everyone knows funk music reached its heyday in the 1970s, but even legends like James Brown and George Clinton were hard pressed to compete with funk powerhouse The Isley Brothers in 1975. The title track “The Heat Is On (Part 1 & 2),” from their record of the same name, is a hard-driving, wall-shaking revelation that takes […]

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Weekend Rumpus Roundup

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First, in the Saturday Interview, Helga Schimkat talks to author Eden Robinson about silencing the inner voice of criticism. Robinson, whose award-winning novel Monkey Beach is set in British Columbia, emphasizes the sensory and emotional role of home in her work, saying, “Writing about your community is difficult for any writer. The push and pull of representing your […]

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