Reviews

Jay Clifford + Marc Broussard

Devon Powers
Jay Clifford + Marc Broussard

Jay Clifford + Marc Broussard

City: New York
Venue: Village Underground
Date: 2003-06-12


Marc Broussard
Photo credit: Jeremy Schultz Two weeks ago, the niece of a friend was killed, and my friend is working through how to respond. No one wants to forget what they've lost, she says. The trick is how to balance carrying on and holding on. To let the past shape us, but not rule us. It is this tension through which grief can will us to destroy, or encourage us to create. What Jay Clifford has lost exactly, I don't know; what I do know is that his songwriting is swollen with recollections of those people and things, cast in timeless melodies and shaped by a voice so astounding, it is almost a shock to hear. I know that his desire to share these experiences, both personal and communal, is what makes seeing him live feel something like a consciousness raising or a group therapy session. And I know that tonight, this feels overwhelming, and good. Good, because if sadness is what inspired some of the songs, there are also plenty of odes to happiness, unions, births and regenerations of all types. Good, too, because the heavy things are lifted by Clifford's good cheer. Declaring tonight's show a democracy, Clifford asks audience members to call out what song they would like to hear next. He peppers this popular rule with numbers of his own choosing -- new material that he models for us, like a chum trying something on for size. He also tells stories between the songs, cracks jokes for us, calls us his friends. It's a coming together of friends, tonight. And it feels wholesome, and overwhelming, and good. Jay Clifford is here without the other members of Jump, Little Children, his primary project, and Rosebud, another group he's also associated with. Instead, as an opener, he has singer Marc Broussard in tow, a Southern-fried bluesman who bleats and browbeats through naked, wounded love songs. Broussard shakes us up, stomping manically to keep his rhythm, a supercharged spirit scratching away at his guitar in fits. His is the kind of music that makes lovers reach for one another, and they do, a gesture of together-foreverness, inspired by the incredible sentimentality of now. When Broussard is done, we are amply warmed, and it is time for Jay Clifford, alone. Jay Clifford. Recorded, his singing is certainly dazzling but here, in person, it is positively jeweled. His voice, here in this room, is both achingly mortal and somehow superhuman -- a thing of awe, a wonder-inspiring marvel at what man can do, producing the awareness that this is no ordinary man. When he sings, toes curl and hearts flutter, the room goes quiet and still with reverence; parts of us are dying, becoming more alive. The sound of him, here, is hyperreal; it triggers a tingle of adrenaline and serotonin and hormones, rushing, all at once, through our veins. When there are no words to describe something's beauty, there should only be sound -- and this would be it, Jay Clifford, singing. The populist form of this show perpetuates this: the screaming college girls who people the majority demand the slow, crafted love songs, and Clifford delivers, with gladness. "Where She Lies", "A Lover's Greed", and "15 Stories" among them, Clifford appreciates the suggestions, claiming their acrobatics might kill him, yet through each he more than survives, and it is we who experience beautiful death. Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah", that bittersweet ballad, gets a mobile and thoughtful rendition here; "Rains In Asia" and "All the Way to Mexico", new songs, sound as familiar as old standbys. Music can be thought of as a kind of aural journalism -- an artifact which captures human transition, an expression through which experiences can live long after the immediacy of their origins has faded. If tragedy and hope, good times and bad, are the stuff of life, then Jay Clifford is a walking testament to the importance of living. He's a gracious gift, a force that keeps creating, no matter what may come his way.

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

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TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

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"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

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The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

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To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

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Gallagher's work often suffers unfairly beside famous husband's Raymond Carver. The Man from Kinvara should permanently remedy this.

Many years ago—it had to be 1989—my sister and I attended a poetry reading given by Tess Gallagher at California State University, Northridge's Little Playhouse. We were students, new to California and poetry. My sister had a paperback copy of Raymond Carver's Cathedral, which we'd both read with youthful admiration. We knew vaguely that he'd died, but didn't really understand the full force of his fame or talent until we unwittingly went to see his widow read.

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