Ham and Eggs

Mostly I have been inspired by Mr. McDowell’s birthday (the 12th) and the combined forces of Carnival and the New Orleans Saints (Crescent City longing). A couple punky things snuck in as punky things are wont to do. I put together a YouTube playlist for this installment (sans the punks, for focus’ sake, but I linked those albums below)–I’m still trying to get ahold of rhyme and/or reason!

Fred McDowell: You Gotta Move

If you like slide like I like slide, Fred must be in your top pantheon. This first outing he made for Chris Strachwitz and Arhoolie (recorded in ’64-’65) is my favorite–but just by a hair. What the adjective “stinging” was designed for.

Blind Willie McTell: Atlanta 12-String

Nobody did play the blues like McTell, partly because he’s not always playing blues–he’s a swinging songster just as much. I love his singing, too, and this later record communicates some serious wit, accumulated through three itinerant decades.

Jessie Mae Hemphill: Feelin’ Good

The Ramones of the North Mississippi Hill Country Blues, the She-Wolf of Como, Jessie Mae needs to be better known. Besides knocking out some deep late-night trance blues, she socks a Christmas song over the fence and rocks a great church tune with just her tambo. Get hip if you ain’t already, folks.

A Collection of Pop Classics by Reagan Youth

They weren’t ever pushed on me by my hardcore friends in their heyday, but two of their songs leapt off the Mom & Dad soundtrack as we watched it Friday night, and I required more the next morning. See also last post’s blurt on Superchunk.

Betty Harris: The Lost Queen of New Orleans Soul

Possessed of a smoky, sultry, and vulnerable voice, Miss Harris linked up with Allen Toussaint and the fledgling Meters for a handful of tracks in the mid-Sixties. That combo should conjure sone desire in your ears.

Paul Barbarin’s Jazz Band / Punch Miller’s Bunch & George Lewis: Jazz at Preservation Hall

Old-time New Orleans jazz, executed by masters, is difficult to beat for sheer high spirits, and the collective improvisation (an influence on Ornette Coleman) can fly under your radar. Atlantic cut three (or four?) of these records in the mid-Sixties in higher-fidelity than the music had ever enjoyed–unless you happened to hear it in person.

Danny Barker: Save the Bones

The New Orleans musical griot, singing pop and blues standards as well as his own songs with exuberance and knowing, making his guitar testify, and spinning tales in between. 79 at the time of the record’s release, he sounds about half that.

IDLES: Joy as an Act of Resistance

This item would have made my “Best of 2018” list had I heard it in time. A yobby, aggressive punk rock crew from Bristol that takes on Trump and Brexit while also applying a scalpel to themselves–and laying hearts bare. And there’s laffs! They’ve been around for a bit, too–I might as well give up trying to keep up!

Home Stretch: The Best Records of 2018, with One Month to Go (December 2, 2018, Columbia, Missouri)


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I feel like my life has been too hectic lately even for music. Holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, life…death: the month of November was a massive wave that washed over me and left me lying here on December’s shore. I might have written about music had any event really taken form; even my college pop music students were busy doing research, so not much entertaining (certainly from their perspective) was going in the ivory yurt. Upon reflection, at least these moments remain fairly vivid:

My wife and I listened to a ’50s/’60s blues playlist I made for her throughout our trip to my parents’ for Thanksgiving and back. Nicole: “I am just in love with the sound of this period of blues–the electricity, the voices, the power.” I cannot say I disagree. The playlist mixes icons like the above gentleman with characters from the shadows, many of them captured on great compilations like Super Rare Electric Blues 60s Era and Scratchin’: The Wild Jimmy Spruill Story.

I have been positively addicted to the music of Catalonia’s nuevo flamenco firebrand Rosalia. Her voice is powerful, the rhythms that support it–especially on her recent El Mal Quererare intoxicating and blood-quickening, and she seems better able than any artist I’ve seriously bent an ear to this year to chase demons out. A measure of my love and respect for this record is that I just ordered the vinyl–from Spain.

A week ago today, the Columbia, Missouri, rapper featured above died under circumstances that remain shadowy, though the local sheriff’s department says that, as indicated in its ongoing investigation, he was shot while perpetrating an armed robbery. I’ve known the kid since 2010, I was his teacher for 180 days, I’ve witnessed and heard testimony to his evolution into a positive force for good in our community, and, while he may have been up to something (and very well may not have), it wasn’t robbery. Whatever it was, as a friend says, Columbia now has a hole that is going to be hard to fill. The first essay he wrote for me, in August of 2010, detailed–really, in classical style–his journey through dangerous street episodes to an understanding that he had the charisma, skills, and energy to devote to positive change in his home city. The last eight years have provided plenty of evidence that he was evolving even further, but now we’ll never know. I’m pouring out a pint glass of white-man juicy haze IPA onto the curb for you, Ahmonta Harris–I know you will appreciate the mischief. Read more about who he was here.

Also, I have either being lazy or desperate or both in rescuing and “repurposing” on this blog some old, old pieces I once wrote under the nom de plume of “The Reverend Wayne Coomers” during the first half of the ‘Oughts, for a website I invented and commandeered called The First Church of Holly Rock and Roll. I actually wrote sermons. At one point, I even had a staff (here’s a notable contributor’s section). And we were very highly-principled. Check ’em out if you’d like a chuckle before they disappear.


Which brings me to this facile undertaking: tweaked oh-so-delicately from last month, 150 albums from this calendar year I pronounce “very good” (think of their grades as 86.5% or better, and fuck your charges of grade inflation–this is pop music!) and 35 issues of old music (some of it which has appeared before, some just excavated) that are also B-plussy. I know: you’re saying to yourself, “11 female acts in your Top 20, man? Sure you’re not letting the politics of the moment bleed into your critical acumen?” Yeah, I’m sure. It’s simply the music that moves me the most, that I’ve listened to the most, and if the moment is moving me, well, that’s life. Plus, I’m honestly evolving critically anyway, and I have the good fortune not to have to be done yet.

  1. Tracy Thorn: Record
  2. Rosalia: El Mal Querer
  3. CupcaKe: Ephorize
  4. Bettye LaVette: Things Have Changed
  5. JLin: Autobiography (Music from Wayne McGregor’s Autobiography)
  6. Chloe x Halle: The Kids are Alright
  7. The Internet: Hive Mind
  8. Zeal & Ardor: Stranger Fruit
  9. Noname: Room 25
  10. Makaya McCraven: Universal Beings
  11. Pistol Annies: Interstate Gospel
  12. Sly & Robbie and Nils Petter Molvaer: Nordub
  13. Orquesta Akokan: Orquesta Akokan
  14. Pusha T: Daytona
  15. Parquet Courts: Wide Awake!
  16. Elza Soares: Deus É Mulher
  17. John Prine: The Tree of Forgiveness
  18. Janelle Monae: Dirty Computer
  19. Berry: Everything, Compromised
  20. JD Allen: Love Stone
  21. Superchunk: What A Time to Be Alive
  22. Mary Gauthier and Songwriting with Soldiers: Rifles and Rosary Beads
  23. Toni Braxton: Sex & Cigarettes
  24. Cloud Nothings: Last Building Burning
  25. Joe McPhee: Imaginary Numbers
  26. Nidia: Nídia É Má, Nídia É Fudida
  27. Fat Tony: 10,000 Hours
  28. Blood Orange: Negro Swan
  29. Swamp Dogg: Love, Loss, and Auto-Tune
  30. Subtle Degrees: A Dance That Empties
  31. Daniel Carter: Seraphic Light
  32. Alice Bag: Blue Print
  33. The Necks: Body
  34. Michot’s Melody Makers: Blood Moon
  35. Hamell on Trial: The Night Guy
  36. Young Fathers: Cocoa Sugar
  37. Quelle Chris & Jean Grae: Everything’s Fine
  38. Robbie Fulks & Linda Gail Lewis: Wild! Wild! Wild!
  39. James Brandon Lewis: Radiant Imprints
  40. boygenius: EP
  41. Mitski: Be the Cowboy
  42. Peter Brotzmann and Heather Leigh: Sparrow Nights
  43. Tropical Fuck Storm: A Laughing Death in Meatspace
  44. Sons of Kemet: Your Queen is a Reptile
  45. Lisbon Freedom Unit: Praise of Our Folly
  46. Doctor Nativo: Guatemaya
  47. SOPHIE: The Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-insides
  48. The Goon Sax: We’re Not Talking
  49. Lyrics Born: Quite a Life
  50. Grupo Mono Blanco: ¡Fandango! Sones Jarochos from Veracruz
  51. DJ Juan Data: Ritmos Crotos, Volume 1
  52. Chhoti Maa: Agua Corre
  53. Ken Vandermark / Klaus Kugel / Mark Tokar: No-Exit Corner
  54. Tallowit Timbouctou: Hali Diallo
  55. Knife Knights: 1 Time Mirage
  56. Angelika Niescier: The Berlin Concert
  57. Young Mothers: Morose
  58. Kelela: Take Me Apart—The Remixes
  59. Becky Warren: Undesirable
  60. No Age: Snares Like a Haircut
  61. Kids See Ghosts: Kids See Ghosts
  62. Sidi Toure: Toubalbero
  63. Robyn: Honey
  64. Neneh Cherry: Broken Politics
  65. Tyshawn Sorey: Pillars
  66. Chhoti Maa: Caldo de Hueso
  67. Wynton Marsalis & Friends: United We Swing–Best of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Galas
  68. La Maison Noir: The Black House
  69. Jonghyun: Poet / Artist
  70. Serengeti: Dennis 6e
  71. Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever: Hope Downs
  72. Mandy Barnett: Strange Conversation
  73. Dave Holland: Uncharted Territories
  74. Halu Mergia: Lalu Balu
  75. Full Blast: Live in Rio
  76. Mekons 77: It Is Twice Blessed
  77. Jeffrey Lewis: Works by Tuli Kupferberg
  78. Bombino: Deran
  79. Teyana Taylor: T.S.E.
  80. Earl Sweatshirt: Some Rap Songs
  81. Idris Ackamoor & The Pyramids: An Angel Fell
  82. Rapsody: Laila’s Wisdom
  83. Chris Corsano & Bill Orcutt: Brace Up!
  84. Sarayah: Feel the Vibe
  85. Jinx Lennon: Grow a Pair
  86. The Thing: Again
  87. Tierra Whack: Whack World
  88. Lori McKenna: The Tree
  89. Chief Keef: The Kozart
  90. Nas: Nasir
  91. Speedy Ortiz: Twerp Verse
  92. Courtney Barnett: Tell Me How You Really Feel
  93. Car Seat Headrest: Twin Fantasy
  94. Makaya McCraven: Where We Come From (Chicago x London Mixtape)
  95. Evan Parker, Barry Guy, and Paul Lytton: Music for David Mossman
  96. Salim Washington: Dogon Revisited
  97. Beats Antique: Shadowbox
  98. Jon Hassell: Listening To Pictures (Pentimento, Vol. One)
  99. Charge It to The Game: House with a Pool
  100. JPEGMAFIA: Veteran
  101. The Beths: The Future Hates Me
  102. Various Artists: Girls Just Wanna Have Fun…and Rights!!!
  103. Apolo: Live in Stockholm
  104. Mdou Moctar & Elite Beat: Mdou Moctar meets Elite Beat In a Budget Dancehall
  105. Willie Nelson: Last Man Standing
  106. Mudhoney: Digital Garbage
  107. Wussy: What Heaven is Like
  108. Ahmoudou Madassane: Zerzura (Original Soundtrack Recording)
  109. Kiefer: happysad
  110. Meshell Ndegeocello: Ventriloquism
  111. Freddie Gibbs: Freddie
  112. Kamasi Washington: Heaven & Earth
  113. Don Flemons: Black Cowboy
  114. Cardi B: Invasion of Privacy
  115. Shopping: The Official Body
  116. Cypress Hill: Elephants on Acid
  117. Maria Muldaur: Don’t You Feel My Leg—The Naughty Bawdy Blues of Blu Lu Barker
  118. Dana Murray: Negro Manifesto
  119. Shame: Songs of Praise
  120. Henry Threadgill: .and More Dirt
  121. Ceramic Dog: YRU Still Here?
  122. Marc Ribot: Songs of Resistance 1942-2018
  123. The Coup: Soundtrack to the Film Sorry to Bother You
  124. ALLBLACK & Kenny Beats: Two-Minute Drills
  125. Van Morrison & Joey DeFrancesco: You’re Driving Me Crazy
  126. Various Artists/Sahel Sounds: Field Recordings
  127. E.S. Douze: The Stoned 1
  128. Kendrick Lamar, et al: Black Panther—Music from and Inspired by the Film
  129. Tal National: Tantabara
  130. Rodrigo Amado (with Joe McPhee): History of Nothing
  131. Hop Along: Bark Your Head Off, Dog
  132. MAST: Thelonious Sphere Monk
  133. Tirzah: Devotion
  134. The Chills: Snowbound
  135. Ambrose Akinmusire: Origami Harvest
  136. Eddie Daniels: Heart of Brazil
  137. Big Freedia: Third Ward Bounce
  138. Heather Leigh: Throne
  139. Amy Rigby: The Old Guys
  140. Busdriver: Electricity Is On Our Side
  141. Lonnie Holley: MITH
  142. Del McCoury Band: Del McCoury Still Plays Bluegrass
  143. Michael White: Tricentennial Rag
  144. Migos: Culture II
  145. Yo La Tengo: There’s a Riot Goin’ On
  146. The Carters: Everything is Love
  147. Sleep: The Sciences
  148. The English Beat: Here We Go Love
  149. Princess Nokia: A Girl Cried Red
  150. Santigold: I Don’t Want—The Gold Fire Sessions


  1. Various Artists: The Savory Collection 1935-1940
  2. Dead Moon (2LPs, 1 book)
  3. Sonny Rollins: Way Out West (Deluxe Reissue)
  4. Neil Young: Roxy—Tonight’s the Night
  5. Danny Barker: “Tootie Ma Was Big Fine Thing” / “Corrinne Died on the Battlefield” and “Indian Red” / “Chocko Mo Feendo Hey”
  6. Willie Nelson: Things to Remember—The Pamper Demos
  7. Erroll Garner: Nightconcert
  8. Various Artists: Voices of Mississippi—Artists and Musicians Documented by William Ferris
  9. Charles Mingus: Jazz in Detroit/Strata Concert Gallery/46 Selden
  10. Joan Jett: Bad Reputation (Music from the Original Motion Picture)
  11. Prince: A Piano and a Microphone
  12. Various Artists: Amarcord Nino Rota
  13. Various Artists: Listen All Around: The Golden Age of Central and East African Music
  14. Gary Stewart: “Baby I Need Your Loving” / “Yester-Me, Yester-You, Yester-Day”
  15. Peter Brotzmann and Fred Lonberg-Holm: Ouroboros
  16. Oneness of Juju: African Rhythms
  17. Joe McPhee: Nation Time
  18. Bruce Springsteen: 1978/07/07 West Hollywood, CA
  19. Various Artists: Oxford American, North Carolina Music Issue, 2018
  20. The Revelators: In which the Revelators perform live renditions of selections from the Billy Childish songbook
  21. Against All Logic: 2012-2017
  22. Grant Green: Live at Oil Can Harry’s
  23. Entourage: Ceremony of Dreams—Studio Sessions & Outtakes 1972-1977
  24. Various Artists: Africa Scream Contest, Volume 2
  25. Wussy: Getting Better
  26. Bob Dylan: More Blood, More Tracks—The Bootleg Series, Volume 14
  27. Milford Graves: Babi
  28. David Bowie: Santa Monica ‘72
  29. Various Artists: The Beginning of the End
  30. Mulatu Astatke & His Ethiopian Quintet: Afro-Latin Soul, Vols. 1 & 2
  31. Various Artists: Two Niles to Sing a Melody—The Violins & Synths of Sudan
  32. Feeling Kreyol: Las Pale
  33. Neil Young: Songs for Judy
  34. Joe McPhee: One Day…A Lightning Storm
  35. Camarao: The Imaginary Soundtrack to a Brazilian Western Movie 1964-1974

Early in the Morning (May 6th, 2018, Columbia, MO)

Recently, I began plotting a scheme by which we could get music into the air earlier in the morning. We keep farmer’s hours–up usually at 4:45ish–and come into consciousness by reading the news or whatever books we have going. It’s not the hour for Captain Beefheart or Charles Gayle, and I prefer not to get up, start picking through the crates and shelves, and fuss with the turntable or changer until after about 8–but some music would be nice. My brother’d given me a neat little Bluetooth speaker for Christmas, I’d snagged a cheap 16g mp3 player after an iPod died, so why not load some dawn-appropriate tunes onto the dang thing? I asked Nicole what she might like to hear, and with stunning quickness and specificity she replied, “Blues-oriented stuff, nothin’ past ’45.” Well, OK then!

It occurred to me instantly what to do. Do you know Allen Lowe? Besides being a terrific saxophonist, guitarist, and composer, Mr. Lowe is a tireless thinker about American music, a man averse to easy truths about its history and determined to constantly revise his own understanding, which is considerable. His book American Pop: From Minstrels to Mojos (1893-1946) is required (and cantankerous) reading for music buffs, and after its publication, Lowe released an equally essential nine-CD companion volume to the book in 1998. The set begins with 1893’s “Mama’s Black Baby Boy” by the Unique Quartette and closes 214 tracks later with Lennie Tristano’s 1946 take on “What is This Thing Called Love?” It’s a great way to hear our music’s beginnings, with blues, pop, jazz, gospel, country, and their variants and hybrids proceeding chronologically but lying side by side. The juxtapositions can be revelatory.

14 years later, Lowe released another musical companion to one of his publications, the perfectly-titled “Really The Blues? (1893-1959); this time, the set stretched across 36 CDs, with little overlap of the previous set and many inclusions that took even aficionados by surprise. Upon having received this treasure chest in the mail, I played all the 36 discs consecutively, across several days, with consistent delight. I remember Nicole hollering from the living room, “Hey, this stuff is fantastic–I haven’t heard very much of it! What is it?”

Wait, you are saying, did you do what I think you did?


I transferred all 45 discs to the mp3 player, set the fucker on “shuffle”…and that oughtta get us to 2019, doncha think? This morning brought us, oh, Charles Ives, Eddie Cleanhead Vinson, Stan Kenton, Jelly Roll Morton, Mary Ann McCall, Maynard Ferguson (yeah, that’s right!), James P. Johnson, Eddie Jefferson, and Mel Brown. A great start to the day, one must admit. Lowe’s curatorial imagination and dedication deserves a channel into all our homes.

Short-shrift Division:

Return road-trip selections.

Diggin’ In The Crates, Spousal Style! (April 29th, 2018, Columbia, MO)

Sometimes, pictures really are worth 1,000 words (more like 500, in my case). I’ve posted four times in the last two days, so I am going to let this snap of Nicole’s work as weekend selecter carry the weight. As is frequently true with her when she takes control, she left honky-tonk, south Louisiana, and Fat Possum footprints behind.

(Oops: those are my Marc Ribot and Psychedelic Furs choices in there!)

In Walked Budd (February 24th, 2018, Columbia, Missouri)

Budd Johnson, that is! From the opening notes (just click above, podnah) you know you’re going on a deep tenor sax dive, which is what I did yesterday with Johnson on his Swingsville album, Let’s Swing, and indirectly on Etta Jones’ luxuriously blue Lonely & Blue, where Budd, with assistance from the equally great tenor man Gene Ammons, wraps the singer in thick, slow-swinging swaths of indigo.

Both LPs are simply classic. Both are rendered in Rudy Van Gelder’s stunning sound. Both feature a richness and depth of feeling you’ll have some difficulty finding in a new set today.

Funny: I just read an article on meditation written by Repa Dorje Odzer and published in tricycle, and I’d advise you to listen these in much the way the article advised me to sit:

1) Don’t think about past records you’ve heard.

2) Don’t judge what you’re hearing now (hear it arise and unfold).

3) Don’t imagine where the music will go.

4) Don’t try to figure the music out.

5) Don’t try think about how the music could be/should be different (resist controlling thoughts).

6) “Rest, like a bee stuck in honey,” and let the music wash over you.

Easier typed out than done, but Johnson’s and Jones’ (and Ammons’ and Van Gelder’s) work provides a perfect opportunity to try and merge meditation and fully present listening. I’m trying it in a bit.

Short-shrift Division

Hailu Mergia: Tche Belew(Wow! Truly a master Ethiopian jazz-funk composer–I get the funk now.)

Harlem River Drive (all hail the Palmieri Brothers!)

Dennis Gonzalez’ Yells at Eels: In Quiet Waters (Wow! Truly a master free jazz composer!)

Jason Marsalis and the 21st Century Trad Band: Melody Reimagined, Book 1 (Doesn’t quite live up to the ambitions of the band name or album title, but it’s swinging and lilting and lively nonetheless. The leader’s on form.

Blues ‘n’ Tonks from the Pierces (February 3rd, 2018, Columbia, Missouri)

Traditional New Orleans jazz (not otherwise known as Dixieland or ragtime) experienced a major if short-lived comeback, with local legends who’d been playing around town on a regular basis for years suddenly finding themselves recording for Atlantic. These records are hard to find these days, but they are warm and very wonderful. My favorite series is Riverside’s Living Legends of New Orleans Jazz, which featured trombonist Jim Robinson, legendary pianist Earl Hines (a Pennsylvania ringer), clarinetist and saxophonist Louis Cottrell, multi-instrumentalist Peter Bocage, and (my favorites, and also recorded by Atlantic) the husband-wife cornet-piano/vocal team of De De and Billie Pierce. The couple, who passed away in New Orleans within a year of each other in 1973 and 1974, are underrated in the general annals of American music and aren’t exactly the first names the gen-pop think of when New Orleans comes to mind. However, they made much dynamite, intimately raucous music together, with Billie’s lusty blues vocals and saloon-tinted tonk piano the spark riding down the fuse. Sometimes I think she’s major.

Try the full album (above) and, since it’s Carnival Time, seek out Les Blank’s Always for Pleasure, where you can glimpse the pair at work, though not in this clip.

Listening Diary, Southern Journey, March 22, 2014


First leg of Southern journey to NOLA and back, spurred by reading of Greg Kot’s Staple Singers book, listened to Staples’ Vee Jay and Epic recordings, which are to today’s music (pick your genre) as Sophocles is to Neil Simon. You think I exaggerate? Listen to this.

‘Tween Cape Girardeau and Blytheville: Cosimo Matassa-engineered ’62 Atlantic recordings of New Orleans jazz bands frequently at Preservation Hall (Paul Barbarin, Punch Miller, Jim Robinson, The Pierces). Amazingly present recording (Cosimo liked to “crowd it” to excellent effect), fantastic musicianship and LISTENING SKILLS, subtle song selection. Example right hyar.

Just outside of Memphis, decided to try the OTHER END of jazz: septuagenarian free jazz veteran Roscoe Mitchell’s new duet album with Hugh Ragin and the amazing Tyshawn Sorey. It didn’t get far, but it inspired a discussion about what the free crowd really expect from its audience, and what to make of free records where the participants don’t listen to each other.

Some time spent with Todd Snider’s new rekkid, HARDWORKING AMERICANS. It’s really about hardworking American songwriters other than Todd, who sounds hoarse and cashed out. Faron Young’s “Blackland Farmer,” Will Kimbrough and Tommy Womack’s “I Don’t Have a Gun,” and BR549’s “Run a Mile” are the standouts, but Snider seems stuck.

Hitting Highway 55 South to Jackson, we switched to a “Country Blues Legends” folder on the ol’ iPod, with Geeshie Wiley, Robert Wilkins, Tommy McClellan, Victoria Spivey, and many more. Highlight was William Harris’ “Bullfrog Blues”: “Did you ever dream lucky/Wake up cold in hand?” Check it out yourself: http://youtu.be/JNwzCcTRh0w

Finally, we wended our way down 51 out of Senatobia (after eating smoked sausage and pork BBQ at Coleman’s BBQ) and, halfway to our destination of Como, MS, pulled a right down a country road, then a left up another until we reached the Hammond Hill Baptist Church cemetery (see above photo), the resting place of Mississippi Fred McDowell, to north Mississippi hill country blues what Robert Johnson is to Delta blues, and covered by the Rolling Stones on STICKY FINGERS. He’s buried next to his wife, but some oblivious fuckers had recently sat by his graveside and made a pile of cigarette butts and trash on her mound. We hadn’t thought to get a blue rose for Fred, so we cleaned up Ester’s grave. A pretty moving experience, standing there on a quiet hill of interred corpses in the obscured Mississippi woods. Afterwards, we drove three miles down the road to Como, Mississippi, entering the town with Napoleon Strickland’s fife and drums powering us. Who is Napoleon Strickland? Well, he’s got a sign on Main Street in Como!