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Larry L. Looney's Profile

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Reviews Written by
Larry L. Looney RSS Feed (Austin, Texas USA)

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Price: $14.99
50 used & new from $11.00

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More polyrhythmic wonders from Nik Bärtsch and company..., April 24, 2016
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This review is from: Continuum (Audio CD)
Nik Bärtsch first unleashed his Ritual Groove Music concept on the world with the release of RITUAL GROOVE MUSIC, by Nik Bärtsch’s Mobile, in 2001. Characterized by what sounds at first to be unchanging pieces of music, closer, careful listening reveals intricate polyrhythms at work, interacting with subtly changing melodic structures that, rather than bore, caused me to focus my attention on the patterns. I’ve been listening to him for 15 years or so, and I have always found it to be an incredibly rewarding experience. This is genre-defying music that, for want of a more rigid classification, I’ve filed under ‘jazz’ – but as diverse as ‘jazz’ can be, it does little justice to Bärtsch’s work. There’s little or no improvisation going on in his recordings – the musicians improvise mainly in the construction of the pieces, working out the arrangements of Nik’s compositions as a band. When they perform them on stage, each note is precisely placed and executed – it’s really pretty breathtaking on close listening, with the ability to transport this listener. Bärtsch has an amazing ability to play with each hand working independently in different tempos. Anyone out there who plays the piano, think about that for a moment. We’re talking about rhythm structures of, for example, 15/4 working with/against something like 5/8. Like a lot of African music that utilizes polyrhythms, the two tempos seem at times to clash, then work their way back around in the cycle until they’re in sync briefly, only to fly off in two different directions again. If it sounds complex, it is. Add to that the rest of the band churning away in the same manner, and you get quite the audio stew.

Bärtsch also leads Nik Bärtsch’s Ronin on several releases, with slightly different personnel. Each band has its own specific aesthetic – I won’t attempt as a lay listener to explain them, but I enjoy them both immensely. CONTINUUM is the first Mobile release since AER in 2004. Musicians on this new recording (just out this week), credited as Mobile Expanded, are Bärtsch (piano, compositions), Sha (bass clarinet, contrabass clarinet), Kaspar Rast (drums, percussion), Nicolas Stocker (drums, tuned percussion), Etienne Abelin (violin), Ola Sendecki (violin), David Schnee (viola), Solme Hong (cello) and Ambrosius Huber (cello). This is the first recording released of Bärtsch working with strings, and I have to say it works beautifully. The strings are sometimes played bowed, sometimes, plucked, sometimes struck – but the fit right in, both rhythmically and in the melodic wash.

This arrived Friday (it was scheduled for tomorrow, and I’m glad it got here early!), and it’s been in pretty heavy rotation in my car. There’s a lot of delicacy and subtlety in this music, but it’s also capable of unbridled power that can lift the listener off the ground. In other words, turn it up.

Zyliss MagiCan Can Opener, Red
Zyliss MagiCan Can Opener, Red
Price: $9.99
12 used & new from $5.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars I liked this for awhile after it arrived, April 16, 2016
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I liked this for awhile after it arrived, but it soon became apparent that it wouldn't hold up for long. After a year, it wouldn't finish separating the lid from the can. From the beginning, when squeezed together, it was clear that the idea might have been sound, but the design / manufacturing were sorely lacking -- not enough strength in the product. The handles wouldn't line up with each other, making it difficult for the opener to maintain its grip on the can. Yeah, the cost is low -- but it should last longer than that.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 25, 2016 3:30 PM PDT

Continental Drift
Continental Drift
Price: $15.99
14 used & new from $5.97

3.0 out of 5 stars mistaken identity, April 3, 2016
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This review is from: Continental Drift (Audio CD)
The album is not bad, and the musicianship is just fine. My only problem with it is that Amazon grouped this with the ESP release by a Canadian singer-songwriter named Bruce Mackay (variously self-titled or 'Midnight minstrel'. I thought I was buying a hitherto unknown album by that artist, which was a disappointment. Not knocking the music or players on this cd -- I just wish Amazon had gotten their facts straight. Live and learn.

I Don't Do This for Love I Do This for Love
I Don't Do This for Love I Do This for Love
Offered by CD Baby
Price: $13.72
17 used & new from $10.88

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A songwriter who keeps getting better and better, January 26, 2016
Nathan Bell’s last album, BLOOD LIKE A RIVER, absolutely knocked me out. The writing and performance was as pitch-perfect as I’ve heard in many years. I searched out his earlier recordings, including his self-maligned Bell & Shore release EL RANKO MOTEL, which is better than he would have us believe, and I found myself wishing I had discovered his work sooner. Nathan writes from the perspective of the working man better than anyone I’ve ever encountered – and he does so with songs that speak with pure truth, without the swagger that too many artists attempt to pass off as blue-collar authenticity. His songs have a depth that draws the listener in and involves them by speaking to the contemporary plight of the working and middle classes in America.

The characters in his songs relate their stories and situations with the ease of men sitting across a table from one another in a faceless bar in some industrial city whose light is on the wane. They have their laments to share, and while they may wonder how they got there, they never really whine about it. It is what it is, and they’ve done their best to make their way in the world, to support their families. In the stunning ‘Stamping metal’, the narrator sings of moving north to Detroit to find work: ‘I did what I could, that’s what I did, working the press third shift at Briggs. It was as near to hell as I’ve ever seen, where a machine’s a man and a man’s a machine, stamping metal…’ The song’s subtitle, ‘Strike’ refers to one (or to several) strikes that occurred at the Briggs plant over the working conditions and treatment of the workers. The narrator adds, ‘If the first day doesn’t kill you, the next day will’, true enough in the many working scenarios so vividly laid out over the course of the disc.

The album begins with the title track, a song of the working everyman that is so lacking in pretension that it squeezes the heart of the listener without pathos or intent to incite anything close to pity. The singer spins out a list of occupations that could be an empty litany if it wasn’t so filled with truth. The occupations belong to the archetypal worker, and they could be any one of us. Labor is performed out of love for the family he supports (not necessarily out of love for the task itself), as well as his own self-respect, doing whatever he can to pull himself up, too often finding himself treading water or, at times, sinking, slowly or rapidly, into a state where he has to struggle not just to survive, but to see any hope at all for himself or his family. Even in these desperate situations, though, there is some pride to be found in refusing to give up the fight. The singer works on a freighter, pours concrete, toils as a roofer or a shrimper, as a soldier, a factory worker, a miner, a steelworker, a bouncer, a hockey player that never made the big league, even an itinerate singer.

Some songs address failure directly – factories closed for ‘better business’, desperate men moving their families from place to place in search of work that may or may not be there. In ‘Georgia 41 (Someday we’ll look back)’, the narrator sings of his desperation, facing the fact that he’s done all that he can in a region completely devoid of working opportunity: ‘The factories and the mills stand silently and still – nothing lives between the walls…You take care of your tools, you drive your kids to school, save for a rainy day. Then it rains all the time, and one day you find it’s all been washed away’. At the same time, he knows and appreciates what he has: ‘I hold my tears, my aching back and 50 years, and I travel like a ghost, and I wonder why some men fall and some get by, and I am luckier than most’, ending with ‘Someday we’ll look back on this, and it still won’t be funny’.

Carrying the rock-solid writing along perfectly are the arrangements. While Blood like a river was a solo affair, and there are a few solo or near-solo tracks here, this new album features a full band sound, featuring Missy Raines and the New Hip on double bass, mandolin, electric guitar and drums. It suits this material well, supporting without overpowering. Nathan’s own guitar work is first-rate, as always, and his vocals convey the yearning and determination of his characters perfectly. He aches for them, from within and without, and feels proud of them at the same time. I get the sense that he’s not just putting on masks, he’s inhabiting these characters body and soul, because he has known them and, in some cases, likely lived them. Also adding nice touches are Annie Mosher (harmony and lead vocals), harmony vocals from Claire Lynch, Craig Bickhardt and Nathan’s wife Leslie. The songwriting ranges over a long span of Nathan’s career, from 1993 to the last 2-3 years – listening to the album as a whole, without previous knowledge of Nathan’s recordings, I defy anyone to find a qualitative variation. The artistic level is that consistent. All of the songs were written by Nathan with the exception of ‘Stan’, which he co-wrote with Craig Bickhardt.

Every song on this release is a powerful testament to struggle, to not giving up – ‘Working and hanging on in America’. Failure, when it appears, is never ridiculed. While the characters in the songs might recognize their shortcomings, their positions in life, they see the reasons for them for the most part, without wallowing in self-pity. Events and conditions put them where they are, in spite of their best efforts. It’s reality, and that reality fills these songs with truth and honesty, driven by music and poetry.

On BLOOD LIKE A RIVER, in the track ‘Fade out’, Nathan sings ‘My hands are hard and my poetry’s plain’. This is how he sees himself and his work – but there’s an incredible amount of eloquence in his ‘plain’ poetry’, along with truth that burns like a welding torch, pounds like a hammer and beats with the resilience of the human heart.

Changing Woman's Blessing
Changing Woman's Blessing
7 used & new from $9.09

5.0 out of 5 stars spirit to spirit, November 11, 2015
We picked this CD up from Andrew in person at the Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque a couple of weeks ago while there on vacation. I was looking for a CD by R. Carlos Nakai that we didn't already have, and one of the gift shop personnel recommended this CD, then told me that Andrew worked there at the shop and would be returning soon from his lunch break. We waited around for a few minutes until he returned, and I got to chat with him briefly. I was immediately struck by the obvious depth of his spirit, and I knew the CD would convey that when we listened to it. We were not at all disappointed. This music comes straight from the heart and spirit of the performer -- solo Native American flute (along with voice on a couple of tracks), unadorned by any studio gimmickry. It travels a straight path from Andrew's spirit to that of the listener. Give yourself up to this music and you will be transported.

When Day Breaks (English Subtitled)
When Day Breaks (English Subtitled)
Price: $9.99

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful and moving, July 22, 2015
My partner and I stumbled across this film on another streaming service and loved it. I looked for the DVD here, to no avail -- I even searched sites based in Europe, and there seems to be no DVD available. This is a shame, because this is a great film -- subdued yet very moving. Some viewers might find it slow -- I would strongly recommend they relax and go with the flow.

The film follows the story of a retired music professor whose outlook on life as well as his understanding of his own family history is changed forever when he is presented with a metal box retrieved from the site of a World War II Nazi death camp in Belgrade. Reluctant at first to accept what he finds as fact, he comes to understand that he has stumbled across the truth about himself, and discovers wider truths about humanity in the process. The film is beautifully photographed and directed, and extremely moving without becoming maudlin. I'd give it my strongest recommendation...and I'll continue to search for the DVD in the hopes of adding it to my permanent collection.

Old Corrals And Sagebrush & Other Cowboy Culture Classics
Old Corrals And Sagebrush & Other Cowboy Culture Classics
Price: $10.39
35 used & new from $4.31

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great music -- misleading packaging from Vanguard, July 17, 2015
My partner and I just received this CD yesterday -- great music, as always, from Ian Tyson...but misleading packaging from Vanguard. The tracks 'Sierra peaks' and 'Diamond Joe' are listed, but are not on the CD. The track 'Oklahoma hills' appears on the CD, but is not listed. The CD is a 'twofer' of two of Ian's albums originally on Columbia. A note on the CD cover claims the CD contains over 74 minutes of music, but it's really more like 70 minutes. Additionally, the song order printed on the CD cover is wrong -- they're totally scrambled.

None of this is to say that the music on the disc isn't wonderful. It's just what any Ian Tyson fan would expect -- skillfully crafted songs performed by a man who is rightfully considered a national treasure in Canada, and who has legions of fans in the US as well. If Tyson had never written anything beyond 'Four strong winds' and 'Someday soon', his place in modern music would be secure -- everything he's ever released is of the finest quality, and he continues to record and perform to this day, thankfully. He's a class act.

Music From The Lost Provinces: Old-Time Stringbands From Ashe County, North Carolina & Vicinity 1927-1931
Music From The Lost Provinces: Old-Time Stringbands From Ashe County, North Carolina & Vicinity 1927-1931
Price: $13.99
23 used & new from $9.00

5.0 out of 5 stars a great music trip to a treasure-filled past, March 3, 2015
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This is a great collection of North Carolina string band music from the late 20s, early 30s. It’s easy to hear the roots of bluegrass in these recordings. The performances are intense and unpretentious, and the joy the musicians feel is palpable. As is the case with recordings of this age, some rough spots are to be expected, but I have to give a tip of the (old) hat to the engineers who re-mastered these tracks – they did a great job. The music is so infectious that after just a few seconds, any recording glitches that might be present slipped right past my ears.

If you love music like this, be comforted – there are young bands out there today applying themselves with all their hearts to keeping these traditions and styles alive, not for fortune and fame necessarily, but for the sheer fun of playing this music. Two of the best groups working today in this genre are the Foghorn String Band and the Black Twig Pickers. The Foghorns are more strictly traditional, the Twigs toss a bit of experimentation into the mix (but not so much as to put off traditionalists). Seek them out and have a listen – and by all means pick up this collection, it’s wonderful.

Wood, Wire & Words
Wood, Wire & Words
Price: $12.99
42 used & new from $4.10

26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't ever doubt that Norman's still got the touch..., February 26, 2015
This review is from: Wood, Wire & Words (Audio CD)
I bought this album without one whit of worry about the quality of the music it contains. I’ve been a fan of Norman Blake’s music (and Nancy Blake) for decades, and I had no doubt that this would be yet another recording of his that I would treasure. As soon as I heard his fingers on the strings in the first track, I knew I was right. Sure, he’s getting up there in years, and now and then you can hear it in his voice – but that just adds to the authenticity of his music. There’s a deep love for this music in his performances – it’s blindingly apparent to anyone who’ll give this album even a casual listen. One has to marvel imagining what Norman has seen and experienced over the course of his life – not just the musicians with whom he’s played, but all of the life experiences he’s garnered. You can hear it all in these songs, as on every recording he’s ever made.

Norman’s picking has lost a bit of its dexterity and feeling – his fingers glide over the fret board and strings seemingly effortlessly. Of course, that’s how the great ones sound – and Norman is definitely in that company. He loves his guitars and his music like he loves life, and that’s a blessing to his listeners.

If you love flatpicking acoustic guitar, you owe it to yourself to check out this album – it’s as fine as anything he’s ever done. Norman’s music doesn’t fade or become weak with time – it ages like a fine sipping whiskey. I for one will do my best to be at the head of the line anytime he makes a new recording. I feel so fortunate that I was able to see Norman and Nancy in concert here in Austin at the Cactus Café back in the 80s – I sat there watching and listening, completely transfixed. Anytime I put on one of his albums, I literally bask in it.

He’s a treasure, and this album is one more jewel in his catalogue.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 4, 2016 6:57 AM PST

Xiii: The Series: Season 2
Xiii: The Series: Season 2
DVD ~ Stuart Townsend
Price: $32.99
17 used & new from $25.85

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not as interesting as the first season, and it was iffy..., February 24, 2015
This review is from: Xiii: The Series: Season 2 (DVD)
I have to concur with the previous reviewer in that the 2nd season deteriorated rapidly after the first episode or two -- it began to feel more and more as if they were making it up as they went along. I know, I know, it's based on a 'graphic novel', so I shouldn't expect too much -- but seriously? The plot twists seemed as if they were tossed in just to be there. The acting in season 2 wasn't up to the first season, either. I can't recommend this at all. One thing that put me off as well was the over-indulgence in martial arts sequences. Oh well -- they gave me an opportunity to take a break. Yawn.

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