Best of 2000: Barbara Flaska

Barbara Flaska

1. Song: "Light Rain" by Geoff Muldaur, from Password (Hightone)
The sexiest voice. Additionally, the best sustained use of steel brush on cymbals. "Light Rain" will put anyone in a cozying down mood, to be gently carried away by the "Prairie Lullaby" finally to arrive amazed at "The Beautiful Isle of Somewhere".

2. Concept Album: Charas, Cosmic Dancer (privately issued)
A musical journey from West to East, reflecting Graham Hunt and Dave Stanley's travels in India during the nineteen-eighties. The journey soon leaves the music traditions of Western high culture behind and moves seamlessly toward the devotional music of mystical India. The music and lyric content represent a very personal vision of a journey into the Dance. Set out originally to be a reminiscence of a spiritual trek, the music allows others who did not take that path to understand something about the nature of the journey for those who did.

3. Use of Music in a Mercantile Setting
The antique accordian display in an organic food store. Not pre-paid muzak or piped-in local radio, and no tapes or CD's to attract the attention of music industry royalty loggers. Not the logical alternative of no music, either. Rather, the display successfully imparts the idea of music as an accompaniment to the shopping experience.

4. Real Life Blues Survivor Story
A tie.

Charles Musselwhite's wife Henrietta survives a shark attack in Hawaii, October 19, 2000.

John Fahey resurfaces with books he's written, new music he's made, a new record company that offers his music and that of some other interesting people, and a web site:

5. Street Performance
Jonny Hahn in his job as a visionary minstrel hauls his piano daily to play for donations on Pike Place in Seattle, as he has done regularly for years. He creates bright thematic pieces somewhat reminiscent of a wandering George Winston and recently saved enough money to put out his own CD called "Collage", available where he plays piano.

6. Dancing
Lavish praise for a group of hot punk fire dancers who casually swing flaming cauldrons of oil on heavy chains overhead and nonchalantly lick flames off their fingernails while moving to the rhythms of tribal drums. This certainly counts for the best dancing I saw in a remote desert all year.

7. Subterranean Music to Surface
Sacred Steel: Traditional Sacred African-American Steel Guitar Music in Florida (Arhoolie): New to me this year, black gospel musicians who sing their praises using steel guitars, a remarkable worship tradition preserved in several churches in Florida.

8. Car Radio Song
"I'm Gonna Pray For Madonna". Picked up by a car radio suffering signal drift, this surprising Christian rock song presents Madonna as being in some serious trouble.

9. New Critical Term
"shaatnez": Important words like "shmaltz" and "shlock" have suffered from overuse due to critical overexposure. "Shaatnez" refers to the blending of things that do not belong together.

10. Use for Disappointing CDs
Beyond instant regret but somewhere before habituated malaise is an emotional mezzanine known as mounting disappointment. Attach those CDs to the spokes of your bicycle wheels. That's about the only way they'll ever get turning again.

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A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

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Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

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