June 6, 2010

Coming soon: Review of (Pell City, Alabama native) Brian S. Goodgame's novel Ring of the Masons (Volume 1)

Coming soon: Complete Review of (Pell City, Alabama native) Brian S. Goodgame's novel Ring of the Masons (Volume 1).

. . .supernatural and mysterious, humorous and thrilling, combining adventure, drama and suspense, Goodgame's first novel will takes you to a place filled with twists and turns, developing and devolving characters who lives are changed forever. -- Hunter Bell

March 13, 2009

F.U.C.T. "Retain To The Aggro"

I’m in my studio/office/meditation station listening to F.U.C.T -Forever Ungratical Corinaric Techcnikilation -

More than twenty years ago I was in many mosh pits when F.U.C.T. played countless times in Birmingham, Alabama. I was so young then. But I made it a position in my life at that time to make every single show possible. Their sound and their lyrics were before Tool or other bands of their type ever existed.

The front man / lead singer, Clay Brocker spent time in prison for drug issues after F.U.C.T. disbanded.

The original lead guitarist – Brooks, died from an aneurysm several years ago (R.I.P).

Clay is out of “hard time” and back to business.

F.U.C.T. are the Godfathers of Southern thrash, hardcore, psychedelic, heavy fucking shit! They are not to be denied. I have seen them play in the past so many times that I can’t count. They have NEVER let me down.

The new CD Retain To The Aggro brings back the past. And there is nothing missing. This CD hits you like a ton of bricks with a ton of burning-down buildings on top!

Patrick on drums makes the album sound like Tool on steroids.

Clay sounds like a fucking maniac on rocket fuel!

There is no denying this CD kills. It’s almost hard to take in on one listen. I listened ten times before I wrote anything.

Be fucking scared, as this CD will make you go into the AGGRO. This CD will make you reminisce about the past if you ever heard them back in the day.

This is a new beginning for a band that is cult-status and possibly heading for religious, heart-felt all-knowing legends.

The new guitarist – Creasey – apparently was friends with Brooks. His style of playing shows – you can hear it. You can feel it!

Retain To The Aggro does not play around. It does not fuck around. If F.U.C.T. does not get the metal, hardcore, punk credit they deserve, they will be overlooked today as I believe they were “back in the day.”

They are already legends and inspirations to many. I just hope they get the respect they deserve today and the future to from many more.
See: http://www.efyouseetee.com/ or go HERE for more information.

(By the way, F.U.C.T. is from Nashville. So if you dwell there or ever go there, look them up)
--Hunter Bell

March 7, 2009

Duquette Johnston -- "It Sings Because It Has A Song"

I saw Daniel Johnston (AKA Daniel Duquette Johnston) today at his yard sale.
I purchased two books and a great coat. He and “they” were selling all they could and can to get to SXSW!

But I got more than that. He gave me his newest CD --- It Sings Because It Has A Song -- that has been submitted to the RPM Challenge. (Record an album Per Month)

I have to admit that I did not dig his last release. I’m not a huge fan of alt-country via back from rehab. (more on that later, another blog and day)

For whatever reason, this new release blows his last release away!

I’m sure he is still sober. He’s married. He’s focused. He seems to be doing what he always should have been doing.

For Johnston to do an album in one month is awesome. But for him to survive and overcome his past is MORE than mastery. From his background with Verbena, and his rock band Cutgrass, this CD takes away the past and looks towards the future. It is nothing like his other indulgent experiences. HE kills this one my friends!!!!

Again, this CD was written and recorded in one month. Give Mr. Johnston a few more months and he will be way, way OVER Verbena, Cutgrass, and all the other projects he tends to jingle with.

Duquette Johnston is a Birmingham hero. He is a legacy.

And here we go:
Rise Up Children
an alt-country psychedelic

Pay a Little, Love A Life
Beautiful, soft and true

I am Right I am Wrong
jeez, this song is like a gospel!

Go HERE to see his Myspace. Do it now!
(pic by Morgan Jones)


--Hunter Bell (03/07/2009)

February 28, 2009

Barton Carroll -- "Love & War"

I know that this is late and that Barton Carroll has a newer CD out. However, “Love & War” is so close to my heart that I feel most compelled to review.

Carroll is a veteran of the underground music scene via solo and playing with Crooked Fingers and many other bands. But Carroll’s solo works are not directed in the way he plays with the other bands.

Though I love this release, it is also a very sad and gloomy piece of work. That’s not “bad” per se. In fact, I LOVE it! It is magical and touches my heart. The music is a ‘lil alt-country with a ‘lil symphony on “cat on a beach.” But it is also a ‘lil rock-n-roll. Carroll is even beyond Bob Dylan. (yes, I said it!)

Barton Carroll digs deep inside. His lyrics are poetry sung in a beautiful and magnificent way. Carroll proclaims in “dark and of the street” that “time is going to take its toll.” Damn. It sure is.

I’m not sure why Carroll has not gotten more attention, as he is a fantastic singer. He is an incredible musician. And he is an incredible person. Listen to his words and you’ll know how special he is.

I just hope that more people listen, give him a chance. I think chances are part of his story. Chances lost and chances received.

He has a plan and “Love & War” will give you chill bumps. The song “small thing” makes me cry.
Go to Barton Carroll and/or Skybucket Records for more information. To hear an interview with Barton Carroll please go here.
-- Hunter Bell (02/28/09)
It is TIME for Renaissance! Join me! Join us! (More TBA ASAP!)

February 21, 2009

Michael Evans / LaDonna Smith -- "Deviant Shakti"

Michael Evans / LaDonna Smith

Deviant Shakti

For all of you that know LaDonna Smith, you may --and even must-- know that you will not know what will you will hear and experience. For me, that’s a very good thing. I like to be in the dark. I like to be on the other side. That is, at least I know when LaDonna Smith plays her viola and violin that I will be taken to another side. That being said, the new CD by Michael Evans and LaDonna Smith does not disappoint.

Improvisational music can be difficult for some to digest. Sometimes it takes a little extra “nudge” and effort to comprehend. However, this new recording is more accessible than many so-called “noise” recordings. The duo are pros at what they create. And they are way ahead of current sound experiments.

This recording is hypnotizing. It is a glorification of strings and percussive output that stings deep inside the eardrums connecting to the psyche.

“Tenacious Rebel Autarchy” pulls the Appalachian Hills and Mountains and fills with a sense of careful and subdued chaos. Chaos is not the focus. It may be the outcome. But solitude is in the moment. It is a reflection of a distant relative. . . .a missed opportunity.

“Atomized Ascension” erodes the very best of anyone’s soul. The piece is creepy and hard to hold on to. It’s a song to forget your long lost lovers. Evans’ percussive beats haunt and hinder for the most chilling accompanying to the stings Smith puts forth

Deviant Shakti is a CD for the meek and agonized. But the concept is for the uplifting, caring and hopeful society.

Make this disk a part of your collective experience.

-- Hunter Bell (02/21/09)

Sharrif Simmons -- "American Music"

American Music

Sharrif Simmons

When I was 18 I used to go to a little bar in Jacksonville, Alabama called “Brothers.” It is actually connected to the infamous Nick in Birmingham. There was a band that I loved (and still have the CD) called “Follow For Now.” They were a rock, reggae, roots, spoken word band that few had seen. That was 1990. Sharrif Simmons’ new CD American Music brings back those memories. Those memories are awesome. I feel like I am back into my youth listening to Simmons’ new CD. But somehow, this CD is not just nostalgic. It is fresh and the music and presentation that today’s music lacks. So many have tried to refresh the past and most have fallen short. Simmons does not fall into that crease – that forgotten soundscape.

American Music hits a homerun with a chunky stew of flavorful funk and attitude. Get out of his way. Get out of your expectations. Listen to the verses. Hold on to the music. Sit tight and focus. Witness and forecast the future.

American Music is all over the place. It will rock you. It will make you nod your head. It will make you listen closer and replay. It will seduce you. Sharrif Simmons knows his funk, knows his words sung and spoken. He knows how to make a new revolution possible in many directions. He spins you around and upside down. As he says “You can feel it when it happens.”

So, as I reflect back to “Follow For Now,” I know now that Simmons is not a follower. He is a funked-up leader and taker and an “overwhelmer.” Take it as it is. ‘Coz it is what it is! Follow him for now as he is definitely going somewhere new and exciting.

For more info and on Sharrif Simmons go to: Sharrif Simmons
-- Hunter Bell (02/21/09)

February 1, 2009

Frank Van Bogaert -- NOMADS

The journey starts as an electronic excursion across unknown lands. Nomads, the seventh CD by Belgian composer and synthesist Frank Van Bogaert is a nomadic journey through textures of sound and ambience.
Bogaert’s music has heavy influence from the electronic symphonic tradition of artists like Vangelis, Jean-Michel Jarre and Tangerine Dream. Bogaert uses synthesizers, augmented with samples and arpeggiated loops along with traditional instruments such as European, African and Asian string instruments and drums to give his music that international symphonic world sound. His use of the CS-80 synthesizer, played in a musical style similar to Vangelis, gives his music texture and orchestral grandeur.
Highlights of Nomads include “Crack the Blue Sky” and “Nomads”, both symphonic masterpiece reminiscent of Vangelis’ Mythodea. Both tracks start with quiet melodies and world sounds and crescendo into orchestral marvels. The latter tracks on the CD move away from the grandiose orchestral sound at the beginning of the CD and mellows out with softer world sounds mixed with light melodic electronica.
Nomads playing time is just under one hour, but it manages to transport the listener to a musical dreamland with its variety and inspiration. In addition to the music, the CD includes a twelve-page booklet full of colorful pictures.
If you have never heard of Frank Van Bogaert, but love the music of Vangelis, you will really enjoy this CD. And you will probably want to hear more music by this talented artist.
Frank Van Bogaert’s previous CD One Out of Five, is a greatest hits collection that brings together tracks from his five previous CDs, Colours (1998), Geographic (1999), Docking (2000), Human (2002) and Closer (2004). Nomads, his seventh CD brings his electronic and world sound mixture a step further in melodic complexity.
Take the nomadic music journey. Listen to Frank Van Bogaert’s Nomads.
You can hear some soundtracks from Nomads at Bogaert’s
myspace webpage

Andy Douglas

January 31, 2009

Vulture Whale -- new CD Release

Vulture Whale

I love the name, first off. It’s different and yes I believe very unique. But what the hell does their name say about their music? And speaking of names, the brainchild of producing this music – the front man is Wes McDonald. He’s done so much solo work as well as work with other projects that his name within Vulture Whale holds its own. And then there is Lester Nuby from post Verbena as part of the band. At least two talented and well-known musicians. So there is already talent here we all should know about. Right?


But does it shout out a new feeling? I mean, does this recording show a new beginning from them and the entire band?

Yes, I proclaim!

I’m not a huge Bruce Springsteen fan, I have to admit. But that’s OK. Yet this album has the Springsteen flavor with a different texture. A new vibe. I different experiment. A new groove. A different way of expressing. But somehow, I have to consider Mr. Springsteen.

McDonald’s lyric’s are over the top without being overbearing. They are fresh and make you(or at least me)feel great.

“What Do” is the one piece I encourage everyone to meditate upon. It will touch you, like the song even says. Poetry without normal consciences, annoyances, nor negative consequences. Though the song has so many references, the same conclusions come full circle. That’s the talent of a great lyricist / musician.

I’ve recently read that some reviewers consider McDonald’s words “kinda weird” and I agree. But they are perfect. Just tune in. You'll get it. Deep, yet sometimes silly and sometimes serious.

This band is rock alternatively with country twists every once in a while. Drugs are sung about and there is a good ending instead of bad in the song “Every Body.” Let’s all get over it. OK?

The band is tame yet insane at the same time. What a great combination! McDonald has an interesting perception of the world we live in. And it’s not a “Bruce Springsteen” album. It’s just has the flavor, with a lot Dale’s sauce/seasoning on top after marinating for years.

I love the way the booklet of lyrics, pictures and other information is presented. Beautiful and perfect for the band – the band named “Vulture Whale.”

This is music to drive to. Get into. Go get it. Go see them. Go for it! I wish I would have at least come up with the name – "Vulture Whale." (DAMN!)
see: Vulture Whale for more info or go to Skybucket Records

Vulture Whale plays BottleTree February 14th

-- Hunter Bell

January 18, 2009

Liquid Brick – Space Shuttle Cock

I doubt most people can even “get” Liquid Brick. I doubt any of them give a fuck. But I do. Birmingham, Alabama’s musical improv scene is very strong. But these guys are a real punch in the face when considering the impact in the so called “Bombingham.” Bringing back memories of old school Einst├╝rzende Neubauten and Swans, Liquid Brick deliver intensity unheard of in most parts – especially here in Birmingham.

Space Shuttle Cock is not quite as abrasive as some of their last releases. It’s more laid back and almost ambient. They are very focused and somehow, SINCERE. That is, as an improv band, they seem to know where they are going – exactly. That’s rare. That’s VERY rare.

And the names of their songs are grand, like: “Peanut In Monkey Lung,” “You Are Amazing To Shoot,” “Please Don’t Eat My Mother,” “Mountains Sometimes Melt.”


As always, Liquid Brick’s percussion is so intense. But sometimes that percussive intensity can take away from the rest of the music, sounds, noises, experiences, etc., that one may get lost. Sometimes I think getting lost in that experience is perfect. However, on the new CD, the percussion seems less centered and more mixed. It’s clearer and diverse. I believe it makes for a greater poise of the band.

This new CD sounds terrific and is presented superbly in a great DIY design. All of the members are talented in many ways. Get this disk. Don’t miss a show.

--Hunter Bell (2009)

Tour Bus in Pell City RE: Thrift Store

The thrift store in Pell City is incredible. I always get so excited when I go there as I usually find something very cool. Besides seeing my Grandma, going to the Thrift Store in Pell City is the best thing about my visits. I’m from Pell City, and my Dad and sister and many other relatives live there. But the Thrift Store always seems to be more interesting and productive. Oh, and getting my haircut there is very important too. (That’s another story). But since all my tree houses have either rotted or burned, I’m left with the Thrift Store to visit. And now Pell City seems to be a tourist stop for thrift stores as there are actual tour buses on the weekends unloading anxious shoppers, shoplifters, collectors, inspectors, wanderers, and lovers of (not so clean) clean fun.

It’s Awesome! In fact, when I was there last week there was a tour bus unloading people as I circled the parking lot like a vulture. The circle I continue. There are always tons of people there anyways. Not that I have ever been to a NASCAR event, but it seems this thrift store has the same type of “fans.” That makes it more fun for my visits. Just because it’s weird. I learn a lot. Every time I go, there are people I know but may not know me. I meet relatives there that are embarrassed because “Thrift Stores” to them are “welfare” and not savvy. They make some blush. Even my wife. Not me. I am proud. I hope they know I disagree with their red-faced stares and eventual “look aways.”


I have found so many “things” & “stuff” at this place. But I have had more great EXPERIENCES than anything. Go figure. Add it up. I try. It’s “cheap.” Worth every dime. Sometimes all I spend. And I wonder why this is so weird when my Dad lives less than a ¼ of a mile down the road. He’s as broke as I am but refuses to care about the best Thrift Store in Alabama. Just like my wife. And the thing is: It’s FUN! It’s fun to go.

I found a first edition, mint condition Miles Davis' "Miles of Jazz," LP as well as a cool Fat Albert LP.

Plus I get to think and chill on the fairly short road trip. . . . . .

-- Hunter Bell

Davey Williams CD Release Performance

Davey Williams CD Release Concert at Crestwood Coffee 1/10/09

I’ve seen Davey Williams play dozens and dozens of times. I’ve had the honor of playing with him even in the past. He’s internationally known for his unique guitar improvisation. Google Davey Williams’ name and you’ll find tons of information on him.

Williams’ new CD Antenna Road is mind-boggling. But that is for a forthcoming review on this site. His performance for the release of the new CD was the best performance I’ve experienced of his in years. It was wild. It was tame. It was “out there.” It was of other worlds. Yet it was so grounded and accessible. It was free spirited and fun. His stage presence was friendly and inviting. Davey Williams is in a new place with his music. He can play anything. But he chooses to PLAY everything AND anything. That is, he’s all over the place. But he comes back full circle. And that circle was so enjoyable during his new CD release performance. From noise to jazz to blues: He used “toys” and “drills” on his guitar, as well as playing traditional jazz and other genres. Astonishing!!!!!!

--Hunter Bell

January 7, 2009

REVIEW: New book by Lori Hamilton

Photobucket Live, From the Emergency Room

By Lori Hamilton


This book hurts. It really does. I’ve never been raped per se. But I have been violated. But that’s not the point. The point is that Ms. Hamilton writes about her violation. The point is that she writes about it in detail. The point is she writes about survival.

I’ve known Lori for quite a long time. She is full of passion and (if I may) venom. Her words are intense. They are in your face. Her words are permanent. They are unmistakable. Her words are power and inescapable. On paper, one may not wish to continue reading, as her truthfulness scares most – at least me. But you can’t get away from her live spoken word. That is, if you don’t leave.

“and getting married to you
washing away my sins”


Lori Hamilton writes and projects her experiences like few do. Be frightened. Be calm. Lori has covered it all. She really has. And I am proud to know her.

Here is a poem from her new book

"she's beautiful"

the witch is brunette,
the heroine is blonde.
"she's beautiful!"
my niece kelsey said of dorothy.
my niece has blonde hair,
i'm a brunette.
when we get to the part of the story
where dorothy is imprisoned by the witch,
kelsey says,
"i don't like this part!"
and so, i skip it
and it's cute and funny to me at the time,
but later on, i start to think about it:
how come every witch in every child's story has black hair?
most of the heroines have blonde hair,
except for snow white,
which surprises me.
after all, brunettes aren't beautiful
or desired by princes.
brunettes are
the evil stepsisters,
the wicked witches.
brunettes are the smart ones
who get away from the killer
like Jamie Lee Curtis in "Halloween."
the blonde cheerleader or prom queen
always gets nailed -
first by the football player,
then by the killer.
the brunettes stay home and study
and fall asleep with their glasses on.
i guess that's why snow white slept for so long:
she forgot her glasses and therefore
lost her intelligence.
she was too stupid to wake up
and ask herself what time it was.
the lips of a prince woke her up.
what a risk.
could've been the sharp edge of the killer's knife
grazing her lips
for all she knew.
every night i sleep with my glasses on
and the only colors i've ever dyed my hair
were black and red.
i've never dyed my hair blonde.
i don't wanna die.
i don't wanna be pretty,
pretty as a dead body
sprawled across the bed.
i don't wanna be
the beautiful ghost of a girl
floating through your sick head,
my face pale blue,
my body wrapped in cellophane
like a dozen red roses
wrapped in green tissue.
i think i'll stay brunette.
no chance of being a heroine in one of these little myths,
but at least i'll get to live
for a little while longer.
and if my niece never says,
"she's beautiful"
of a brunette,
i can live with that.
it's just sad that
when we get to the part of the story featuring a brunette,
we skip it!
i'm participating in it!
what's worse than that?!
denying myself,
obliterating my existence by turning the page,
letting my niece forget
that not all of us are beautiful,
in fact, some of us are filled with rage
and therefore skipped always
by the princes.
and the monster
turns out to be our brother.
and when we kiss a frog,
it stays a frog.
and when we look in the mirror,
we don't even bother to ask,
"who's the fairest of them all?"
we already know
the answer.

-- Lori Hamilton


-- Hunter Bell

January 4, 2009

Tristan, toys and drums, vinyl

I went thrifting today in Center Point, Alabama. It was lots of fun and I picked up some great stuff. As I have a 5 ½ month old child, I chose to look for him first. Of course, “his” type of toys are usually the kinds of musical toys I would pick up anyway. I found drums, many shakers, and many other noise makers. They all seemed new and sounded new but even their brief history intrigued me. Who played with these before? Which baby shook the several rattlers, several shakers and then even so many times? I wondered. I pondered. It was a wondrous feeling as I hoped that all the instruments handed down from Tristan have the same impact. Or at least some what. Who knows? Who banged on the drums? But it did not matter, as Tristan knows the drums' stamina.

I got a Dag Nasty LP that I have not heard in twenty years. DAMN I'm OLD! And it's a great. ...... well, you'd have to be old enough.

--Hunter Bell

"Cadillac Records" reviewed by Lori Hamilton

“They’re probably gonna break this after I leave anyway,” Etta James says of her drinking glass after throwing it on the floor to break it in one of the pivotal moments seen in “Cadillac Records.” This moment symbolizes the lack of respect and recognition that black musicians failed to receive for their musical genius and creativity in the 1950s and 60s in America, largely because of racism. “Cadillac Records” is a valuable and important film because it documents the struggles faced by black musicians on the label Chess Records, founded in Chicago by Phil and Leonard Chess in the 1950s.

In that pivotal scene, Leonard Chess has set up a private meeting between Etta James and her white father in a restaurant. According to the film, a white pool player nicknamed “Minnesota Fats’ is James’s father, and after meeting with her, he gets up from the table and says, “I can’t help you, kid,” denying that she is his daughter. Upset by this, James asks for a bottle of gin from the white waiters, who do not bring it to her until Leonard Chess asks them to.

Much like the refusal of James’s father to acknowledge her, other artists on the Chess label, such as Chuck Berry, did not receive their proper recognition and dues when they first started in their musical careers but instead had their melodies stolen by white musicians whose versions of the black musicians’ songs were more famous than the originals. In one scene from the film, Chuck Berry, played by Mos Def, says, upon seeing The Beach Boys performing “Surfin’ USA” on TV, “They stole the melody from Sweet Little Sixteen and changed the lyrics.”

Leonard Chess, played by Adrien Brody, signs Muddy Waters, Little Walter, Etta James, Chuck Berry, and Howlin’ Wolf to the record label. While he is shown trying to help them in some of their personal struggles, for instance, setting up the meeting between James and her father, he also does things like use the royalties they’ve earned to buy them all Cadillacs, which they aren’t aware of. They just think he is giving them all Cadillacs outright. He has his moments of struggle, too. His nightclub is burned down, he falls in love with James but cannot be in a relationship with her because he is married, and at the beginning of the film, before he starts the record label, he is poor, living in a dump, and not accepted by his then-girlfriend’s father because he’s not “good enough” for her.

Muddy Waters, played by Jeffrey Wright, is discovered by two white men traveling across the country recording music for the Library of Congress, and so he has a way out of his cabin in Mississippi and goes to Chicago. He stays loyal to Chess even when he is not in the limelight and helps out with other musicians on the label, although he has his struggles too, succumbing to alcohol and philandering.

Little Walter, played by Columbus Short, sings a song in the film that goes something like, “My baby can’t stand no cheating,” and later on, there is a scene of Elvis Presley on TV performing that song. Little Walter is also shown struggling with substance addiction, and ends up getting into fights because of his addiction, and the injuries from all his fights end up killing him eventually. When he goes on tour in the South, he sees someone on the side of the road impersonating him, with “Little Walter and the Jukes” painted on the side of the their rusty automobile (not a Cadillac). Little Walter shoots the impersonator point blank, and is never shown in the film going to jail for it, since the man he shot was also black and back then, presumably, the police didn’t care if black people killed each other.

One of the most heartbreaking aspects of the film is the love felt between Chess and Etta James, played by Beyonce Knowles. They fall in love with each other but cannot have a relationship because Chess is married to someone else. James is seen looking at Chess with tears streaming down her face as she records a love song.

The struggles with substance addiction and troubled relationships faced by the musicians on the Chess label, as well as the lack of recognition due them because of racism and the theft of their musical genius by white artists, were heart-wrenching, and made me appreciate their musical genius even more. This film is worth seeing because it made me more aware of how racism affected these musicians’ lives, and it made me appreciate their musical genius even more.

“Cadillac Records” is playing at RMP Patton Creek 15 in Hoover until January 8th. Showtime is at 9:25 nightly until January 7th, and on the last night, January 8th, the film starts at 9:55. This film has been rated “R” for “pervasive language and some sexuality.”

"Cadillac REcords" reviewed by Lori Hamilton

January 2, 2009

“Everything Must Go” is the name of the art exhibit, created by Rachel Higgins - by Lori Hamilton

Back in the spring of 1995, when I was 25 years old and in college, I worked part-time at McRae’s in Century Plaza in the hosiery and accessories department. I hated that job, and I was always late to it, I think as a subconscious way of getting myself fired. I had to stand for eight hours in dress shoes, with only a 45-minute lunch break and a 15-minute break. The job only paid $5 an hour. I remember my boss called me one morning and offered me the option of resigning, because if I was late “one more time,” he would fire me. I told him I’d try harder in the future to be on time and he said, “OK,” but alas, I was late once again and lost my job. On the day I was fired, I didn’t care, because that night, Weezer, one of my favorite bands, was playing at Sloss Furnaces. Oh, to be young and carefree again with no bills to pay!

Little did I know that 13 years later, I would be revisiting Century Plaza, not to go shopping or to try and get a job, but to view an art exhibit in an empty store on the upper level next to Sears, the only anchor store left inside this mall that I went to as a child in the 1970s.
“Everything Must Go” is the name of the art exhibit, created by Rachel Higgins, whose Web site, http://www.rachelhiggins.com/EVERYTHINGMUSTGO.html, states, “Artists featured in this exhibition utilize the theatrical setting of the failed store to accentuate the void rather than filling it.”

My husband and I went to view this exhibit on January 2nd, the next to the last day of the exhibit, which ran from December 20th, 2008, to January 3rd, 2009. The Web site states that the installations rotated daily, and when we went, what I saw was mostly an empty storefront, with a few paintings here and there, a sculpture, and a mannequin in the storefront window. I am no art expert, and perhaps it was because it was the next to the last day of the exhibit, but it seemed sparse. But after thinking about it, I realized maybe that’s the whole point – to challenge my consumerist expectations not only of what a mall should be like, but to challenge my expectations of what an art exhibit should be like.

Three of the works of art in this exhibit did speak to me: the mannequin in the storefront window whose eyes were bulging out of her head, a painting of a big gray rock in the center of what looked like an outdoor amphitheater, and a sculpture that resembled a tombstone with an “eye of the storm” lighting mechanism in the center of it.

The mannequin, whose eyes were bulging out of her head, appeared not to be wearing clothes, as her body was hidden behind what looked like a door to a fitting room stall, similar to what you’d see in a department store. Perhaps her bulging eyes were a reference to the zombies in the empty mall at night in the film “Dawn of the Dead.”

The mall did have an apocalyptic feel to it, as it was mostly darkened, with only a few lights on, and very few people inside the mall. After viewing the exhibit, my husband and I walked through part of the mall and it did seem like zombies might jump out at us at any time, because it was so dark. It felt eerie, like we were there after hours, after the mall had been closed for the night, like we were there when we weren’t supposed to be.

The painting of a big gray rock in the center of what looked like an outdoor amphitheater made me think of outdoor church revivals or evangelism crusades in the 1970s. In the painting, people were sitting on bleachers surrounding the big gray rock, as if the rock was a preacher at a big evangelistic crusade and they were all waiting for the rock to do or say something. I spent much of my childhood going to outdoor church revivals and Billy Graham crusades, and I remember sitting on bleachers outdoors at football stadiums, with Billy Graham speaking from a stage in the center of the football field. Not to compare Billy Graham to an inanimate object, but the scene depicted in the painting made me think of masses of people at those crusades, sitting on bleachers, waiting expectantly for him to speak. The rock was depicted in the center of the painting, with the people surrounding it, so that is how I drew this comparison. Or perhaps the rock was supposed to symbolize change, or the dawn of a new era, much like the monolith that appeared out of nowhere in the film “Space Odyssey: 2001” whenever a new era was about to dawn for a civilization. Maybe the painting was saying the development of Century Plaza was supposed to change the landscape of the eastern area of Birmingham, because a mall does change the landscape of a city, literally and economically. And the big gray rock in the painting did look very similar to the rock formation in the back of Century Plaza, at the edge of the parking lot.

The sculpture that looked like a tombstone, with an “eye of the storm” light in the middle of it, made me think of those novelty lamps that were sold in the 1990s in stores like Spencer’s, once located in Century Plaza, that were called “eye of the storm” and had purple lines moving around, like electric lightning. Perhaps this sculpture was supposed to symbolize not only the death of Century Plaza, but the death of novelty items such as eye of the storm lamps as well, in such a distressed economy.

I am no art expert, and perhaps my interpretations of these pieces are incorrect, but what I do know is that of the few pieces featured in the exhibit the day my husband and I visited it, those three pieces spoke to me the most. Maybe it’s because I am such a rampant consumer that the exhibit seemed sparse to me. Maybe the whole point of the exhibit was to be minimalist instead of featuring an overwhelming number of works, “to accentuate the void rather than filling it,” as Higgins states on her Web site.

If that is what the artists intended, they succeeded at it.

January 1, 2009

"Limey Rock" by Scott Gordon

Artist: Jamie T.

Album: Panic Prevention

Hell yes, he’s got a thick accent. Jamie T. is a snot-nosed 22-year old South London punk that sings with an accent thicker than that asshole judge from The Wall. Plus he’s got that damned initial thing with his name. Sounds like a recipe for disaster to me.

Granted, he’s all that but Jamie T. has also has managed to cobble together an eccentric – at times brilliant – pop record called Panic Prevention that is one of the best albums of the past year. O.k. so it officially was released in 2007; what can I say? I just got it a couple of months ago. Grampa’s a little behind the curve these days.

Jamie T. the type of character that seems as comfortable playing groove-laden pop as he does yelping out drunken what-the-fuck-did-he-just-say London-isms. But it’s all extremely listenable stuff. In fact, songs like the infectious roller “Sheila” and the pulsing Casio-driven “So Lonely Was The Ballad” are downright unforgettable. They feel like instant pop standards the moment they pour out of the speakers. The slow burner “Salvador” is a bass driven, howling rock-disco hybrid that should have its own car commercial if there is any justice in the world. “From here to Salvador, the ladies dance / to fill us reckless sons with the passions of the heart.”

The way this kid sings, though…I can’t do it justice in print. You absolutely have to experience it. Think Elvis Costello at his snottiest, and you’re still only halfway there. I hope they had some extra windsocks on hand at the recording studio, because I guarantee Jamie T. was slinging spit like a goddamned thoroughbred on the home stretch. This is a good thing; the kid is giving it everything he’s got. ‘Immediate’ is a good adjective for it. He’s wildly unschooled in the best ways imaginable. He can also reign it in and suddenly be quite poignant at turns. It’s not unlike hearing early Bob Dylan for the first time; someone who technically sounds too strange to be a conventional “pop singer,” but clearly has some sort of tiger by the tail, and is letting it all hang out.

Panic Prevention hopscotches styles and genres effortlessly. “Calm Down Dearest” starts off with a stumbling drunken rap about stumbling around the city wasted, and somehow manages to weave itself into a beautiful ballad…and then back to the drunken rap, now sounding more like a drunken lament. The album itself is wildly diverse, and with a few rare exceptions, it never feels too experimental or weird. The wheels never come of the wagon, but the wagon has a fuckload of places to go. I recommend the trip.

I’m interested to see what Jamie T. does next, though I doubt it will rival Panic Prevention for sheer youthful audacity. Don’t let his age or his accent fool you, though. He brings the goods on just about every track. He’s a great songwriter, an energetic performer, and –most importantly - one hell of a fun listen.

Scott Gordon, January 3, 2009