Buzz Me, Baby (July 4th, 2018, Columbia, MO)

In the great George Jones documentary Still the Same Old Me, Johnny Cash, near tears, recalls raising a toast with Nick Lowe to The Possum: “To the best damn country singer in the world.” I get that feeling when I listen to Louis Jordan, as I did today while making tamales with Nicole. Jordan wasn’t exactly the best at anything, but his sly singing, ripping alto playing, sharp bandleading, and sterling songwriting and -picking touched almost everybody within earshot who was anybody in the next generation–by their own admission. Ray Charles (think of his boisterous version of Jordan’s “Let the Good Times Roll”), Sonny Rollins (think of Newk’s grabbing tone and mischievous wit), Bo Diddley (think of his “Say Man” series), and Leiber and Stoller (can you really imagine The Coasters’ 45 RPM comic slices of black life without Louis’ example?)–they were all touched. Further support for Jordan as a holy conduit from swing to rock and roll is that all roads to the matchless American landscape that flowed from Chuck Berry’s mind must travel through songs like “Ain’t Nobody Here But Us Chickens,” and that’s not even to mention Tympani 5 guitarist Carl Hogan’s riffwise influence on Berry. In short, this was patriotic listening today, and it wasn’t even that facile, as Louis still had a little toe inside the minstrel tent (listen to “What’s the Use of Getting Sober?”). He tears me up ’cause he had a vision that was fruitful beyond his own realization.

Short-shrift Division:

As long as Strut Records keeps sending me their subscription-only reissues, I’m gonna rep ’em. Vox kinda corny, rhythms and guitar not AT ALL.

Aaron’s never been better than on these gospel classics, sharpened and deepened by Joe Henry’s production and studio aces, augmented by none other than Allen Toussaint’s subtle, elegant touch.

For the house 4th of July activity, we watched one of the great rock and roll movies of all-time: Luis Buñuel’s The Exterminating Angel. If you haven’t ever, you might do it now for resonance’s sake:

Arkansas Adventure: Crystal Bridges (March 10th, 2018, Bentonville, AR)

Nicole, my parents and I took a trip down Highways 37 and 62 to Bentonville, Arkansas, where one of our very favorite museums lies tucked into a lovely wood: Crystal Bridges. I’ll let you click that link to read the story behind it, but suffice it to say it’s a perfect home for an impressive collection of American art, and it’s free. Yesterday, we explored a Frank Lloyd Wright Usorian home (I’d live in it; my parents and wife would not) and absorbed the bounty of Soul of America: Art in the Era of Black Power, which runs until April 23rd, if you’re interested. My favorite artists in the collection? Narrative quilt maker Faith Ringgold and collagist Romane Bearden. But those two names are just scratching the surface of those whose work are represented. The special program, which costs $10 (a steal, considering), even has a booklet one can hold onto; it provides patrons three expertly-selected music playlists that mirror the artists’ concerns.

Because we were preoccupied with art, NCAA basketball, a game of Five Crowns, and each other’s company, Music wasn’t much on the menu. But on the way back from Bentonville–when intermittent service allowed it–we enjoyed the greatest hits of Louis Jordan, Brinkley, Arkansas’ best-known citizen and bedrock innovator in rock and roll. When you listen to Jordan, you get a lot: rockin’ rhythm, a mischievous and observant lyrical eye, sly singing, sharp alto sax playing, and a seemingly bottomless well of classic tunes. And though black power aficionados might possibly view Louis is an Uncle Tom variant, I and many other folks would argue that he was one of the first performers to play songs that reflected black life, and pulled white listeners in. Plus, anyone sworn by such a range of luminaries as Sonny Rollins, Chuck Berry, and Ray Charles must be taken seriously in cultural conversations. Here’s our favorite single-disc Jordan collection, and a great place to start:

If you like that, go here: