Xark began as a group blog in June 2005 but continues today as founder Dan Conover's primary blog-home. Posts by longtime Xark authors Janet Edens and John Sloop may also appear alongside Dan's here from time to time, depending on whatever.
Several years ago, I read Johnny Cash’s memoir, Cash: The Autobiography.Of the many passages that stood out to me, the strong one came from a very brief section in which Cash was discussing the songs and style of country artists.With just a tinge of “old man-itis,” he noted that while country artists of the past wore clothing and sang songs that reflected the materiality of their lives (i.e., those jeans and cowboy boots were part of their labor; songs about poverty reflected their lives), it was more the case now that the style and the themes were a requirement of the genre and no longer reflected lived experience (i.e., those jeans and boots are not reflective of a working life).
While I’m not interested in defending “authenticity” in music or elsewhere, and while I have no cause to romanticize the past, I do want to spend a moment reflecting on, for lack of a better word, sincerity.I want to reflect on this in relation to music in specific because, for my money, there is no art form that can so richly tap a wide array of emotions.And tapping into those emotions from time to time—aurally and otherwise—is valuable for a number of reasons. I also want to reflect on it because I witnessed a performance last night that has changed my thinking somewhat and has given me hope.
Over the years, I have found it more difficult for music to open my emotional cylinders in quite the same way it did when I was young, and, honestly, I miss its therapeutic function.Some of the reasons it no longer works are obvious: age jades.Regardless of the buoyancy of your personality, emotions don’t tap as easily—or at least in quite the same way—when you’re middle-aged as when you’re young.But I think it’s more than that: pleading guilty to my own case of “old man-itis,” I want to suggest that Cash is right.It’s difficult to perform sincerity when you’re so strongly self-aware that you’re performing.
While Nashville Star is now in its sixth season, this is the first year that it has appeared on broadcast network television, appearing on Monday nights on NBC (having been on USA through the first five seasons).For those who haven’t watched it, Nashville Star is a country music step child of American Idol (hereafter, AI)--which is sort of odd in that Carrie Underwood, one of the current darlings of pop country music, emerged on American Idol.
While I am a fan of American Idol and a sometimes fan of pop country music, I did not watch Nashville Star until this season.The set up is similar to AI in that the early show shortens the list of procedures from the masses down to a smaller number (12 in the case of Nashville Star) and the following weeks—all with themes—allow “America” to vote to eliminate one singer each week.While there are a few minor differences in the format, the show is very similar to AI.
All in all, it’s an adequate show and fairly entertaining.While there is no one with the charisma of Simon Cowell, John Rich does a wonderful job as the sarcastic centerpiece in the judges’ chamber.Country music newcomer, Jewel (yes, for those who haven’t been paying attention, she’s hitting the country charts now) is far more thoughtful and useful than Paula Abdul and singer-songwriter Jeffrey Steele actually gives advice beyond “That was pitchy, dog.”The singers are hit and miss, just as on Idol, but you can find yourself getting emotionally connected to the show.
That said, the show does have some glaring problems that, if corrected, could make for a strong rival to American Idol.Here, then, I propose, five ways to improve Nashville Star:
As a person who walks, runs, drives, and now, bikes, up and down some of the same Nashville roads, I feel qualified to offer a few rules for proper etiquette regardless of how one travels.I do not take this list as exhaustive, nor do I think ever rule is beyond question.I do, however, think it to be something of a good start.I welcome amendments, suggestions, and arguments.
1. Stay on the sidewalk.Even if you’re power walking for exercise, the impact on your knees is not as great as that for even the slowest runners.You’ll just jam up any other pathway.
If you’re walking with a friend or friends, it’s fine to walk side by side.However, one of you needs to move aside when someone walks toward you in the opposite direction.Remember, think of your “extra” walker as being in the passing lane.
If you’re wearing an iPod, stay to the right.Don’t sway into the left lane, as you’re not going to hear approaching folks.
If you have a dog walking with you, (A) keep it on a leash, (B) don’t let it wander up to people uninvited—some of us are terrified of even your nice dog, (C) bring a bag to pick up poop.
On Friday night, my Bonnie and I attended Eddie Izzard’s “Stripped” performance at the Ryman Auditorium.Having been a dedicated fan since actually catching his “Dress to Kill” show on HBO several years back (even given my disappointment with some of the other performances available on DVD), it was with great anticipation that we took our seats.
Izzard did not disappoint.Pound for pound, the guy is the funniest man on the planet, and for almost two full hours, my stomach hurt.When I wasn’t looking at Bonnie to see if she “got the joke,” I was banging my arm on the chair in front of me as a form of physical relief.
Izzard’s performance worked for any number of reasons.First, there was something especially delicious and slightly ironic about watching him in this former church and former home of the Grand Ole Opry.Given his general left of center views, his engaged dismissal of religious based explanations of almost anything, and his occasion forays into transvestism, there is simply something rather non-Rymanesque about Izzard (well, on second glance, the transvestim fits elements of both country music and religion).I felt it, and the entire audience understood it as well.This was one of those magical moments when the setting itself made us all feel like we were part of a conspiracy.With that as a starting point, Izzard had us as soon as the lights went down.And with his quick pacing, he never let go.