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February 27, 1990 - Image 5

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1990-02-27

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The Michigan Daily

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Page 5

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Walker celebrates finer things
by Mark Webster

JERRY Jeff Walker has celebrated
bars, boisterousness and bullshit for
much of his career. The former out-
law country musician, whose best-
known song, "Mr. Bojangles," was a
hit in 1970 for the Nitty Gritty Dirt
Band, is identified by fans with
songs like "Up Against the Wall,
Redneck Mothers," and "Pissin' in
the Wind." The bad-ass days are now
over but Walker's voice still res-
onates like the last drop of a half-
gallon bottle of bourbon. He'll play
solo at the Ark tonight.
Leading off for Walker and travel-
ing with him will be Chris Wall, a
Montana country rocker and song-
writer. Two of Wall's songs, "I Feel
Like Hank Williams Tonight" and
"Trashy Women," appear on
Walker's most recent album (his
19th), Live at Gruene hall.
Walker was scheduled to play
here in December, but a back prob-
lem postponed the show. He has just
recovered from surgery to remove a
cracked vertebra and damaged disk.
Walker will arrive with a back-brace,
an acoustic guitar and an outlook far
removed from the days when he and
his raucous bandmates, the famous
Lost Gonzo Band, kicked ass Texas-
style in the early '70s. In 1973
Walker's album Viva Terlingua
went gold. Since then, his music has
slowed but it's given him a chance
to bring out a backlog of self-penned
A prodigous composer, many of
Walker's slower songs weren't
played in the heyday of The Lost

Gonzos, or later with The Bandito
Band. "There are a lot of songs that I
pull out that got left out before -
that didn't always fit when you've
got a band to play with and a crowd
drinking and hollering," he said. In
the last three years he's toured alone.
"I started out playing solo, and
wanted to rekindle that again," he
Walker has tried to bring a beat
into his newer songs, while not nec-
essarily making them upbeat.
"Bluegrass music," he said, "even if
they're talking about eight kids
drowning in a river, is still upbeat."
Walker was born in upstate New
York, where his grandparents played
square dances and he formed his first
band. Out of high school, he hit the
road and headed south, avoiding New
York City. Back then people warned
him if he made big money too soon
it would be selling out. "But then,
Neil Diamond is as famous as Bob
Dylan," he said, "so I guess it
doesn't matter after all."
His travels included time in New
Orleans, where he came across Bill
Bojangles, the dancer whose name-
sake song has been recorded by other
notables, like Nina Simone, Sammy
Davis Jr. and David Bromberg.
Bromberg and Walker toured as a duo
in the '60s, and Bromberg helped out
later on the acclaimed 1977 album,
A Man Must Carry On, which
combined studio and live tracks in
the mythical setting of Luckenbach,
Austin, Texas has been Walker's
real home for nearly 20 years.
"Music has a right to show lots of

Jerry Jeff Walker has mellowed out in recent years but he still knows
the meaning of a good ol' time.

Courtney Pine
The Vision's Tale
Now here's a young saxophone
player who can really make his horn
talk; and what he has to say is well
worth hearing. 25-year-old Courtney
Pine is a London native who, even
at his relatively young age, has
played with several notable musi-
cians including Art Blakey, George
Russell and Elvin Jones.
His latest album presents him
teamed with Jeff Watts on bass,
Delbert Felix on drums, and Ellis
Marsalis on piano. The recording is
as much a treat because of Marsalis
as it is because of the young sax
man; the whole CD gives the sensa-
tion of a warm, relaxed, and informal
nightclub atmosphere. After a brief
discussion between the band mem-
bers regarding the key in which they
should play, they kick off things
with Duke Ellington's "In a Mel-
lotone." And the tone of the entire
performance is certainly mellow.
Pine plays his solo on tenor sax
with a slow, breathy, terminal vi-
brato that could bring warmth to
even the coldest winter day. And
what can be said of Marsalis' solo?
It's as pretty as you please. On "C
Jam Blues," Marsalis plays a swing-
ing solo and Pine catches fire during
his final improvised chorus, reach-
ing a peak in a heatedly blown rise
to a high pitched trilled note before
returning to the melody to close out
the performance. Also worth men-
tioning are the first-rate treatments
given to Hoagy Carmichael's pretty
ballad "Skylark" (versatile Pine
plays soprano sax on this one) and
John Coltrane's "Giant Steps." Re-
cently, in a television interview on
the program "Sunday Morning,"
Wynton Marsalis spoke of an ac-
quaintance of his who professed to
be worried about sounding too much
like Coltrane when he played. Wyn-
ton assured him "you have nothing
to worry about." Well, Pine is no
Coltrane either, but his handling of
the difficult chord changes in "Giant
Steps" would have certainly im-
pressed the the master tenor sax
The only piece that doesn't work
on the album is "I'm an Old
Cowhand From the Rio Grand."
Even the somewhat humorous
treatment given to it by the excellent
performers here cannot save the tune
from its trite melody and uninterest-
ing chord changes. But uninteresting
moments are rare in this recording.
Mr. Pine and company have collabo-
rated to produce 70 minutes of spir-
ited and soulful jazz.
-Phillip Washington

Max Q
Atlantic Records
We've all seen some terrible side
projects. Musicians with over-in-
flated egos in overrated bands have a
tendencyhto say that they want to
express themselves outside the con-
straints of their (usually extremily
popular) band. And some of there-
sults leave a person wondering .tow
this objective was accomplished,,let
alone even attempted (witness Mike
and the Mechanics). Luckily, that's
not the case with Max Q, the brain-
child of INXS's Michael Hutchence
and fellow Australian Ollie Olsen.
Although the record has been suffer-
ing from a promotional stalemate at
Atlantic Records and consequently
has been left standing at the gate,
this is by no means a reflection of
its quality. .
Max Q is a radical departure from
INXS, but it still has much of the
smart pop sense that Hutchence is
known for. However, as noted ,in
Musician, Ollie Olsen is responsi-
ble for the bulk of the work. Virtu-
ally unknown in the U.S., Olsen is
very active in the Australian music
scene, both as a producer and a mu-
Largely influenced by acid hiouse
and a lot of what falls under the un-
brella term "world beat," the nusic
will surprise most INXS fans. rxQm
the overpoweringly funky "Ghost of
the Year" to the industrial heavy
metal of "Zero-2-0," this is Qqt at
all the catchy-but-safe INXS style,
which is just as well; this is. ex-
tremely much more ambitious, and
challenging music. Likewise,
Hutchence's lyrics take on a more
sophisticated and political tone.
"Way of the World" deals with:the
age-old class struggle between.:ex-
ploiter and exploitee: "You -were
born into this world/ looking down
the barrel of a gun/ and those:who
hold the gun/ want you to work fast
and die young." However, MaxQ
does have its share of more mundane
topics: "the motion of my straw/ is
stirring anti-clockwise in the glass."
Overall, Max Q is an extremely
worthwhile effort that may lendsnew
meaning to the term "solo project."
Olsen and Hutchence have created an
original and accessable mix of house
and rock that deserves much more at-
tention that it has been getting.
Now, if Atlantic records would just
get off its ass... :
-Mike Molitor

sides, he said, and in Texas he
found people with his style at heart.
"In Texas, music and storytelling
and all that lifestyle are intertwined,"
he said. "Bank presidents will go to
their weekend cabins to eat chili,
drink beer, sing songs, tell stories,

and have a good time. People don't
want a bunch of skip-dee-doo-da."
WALL play two shows tonight at
The Ark at 7:30 and 10 p.m. Tickets
are $16.

My Left Foot
dir. Jim Sheridan
By Nabeel Zuberi
"Looks can be deceivin'. It's very
sentimental," says Christy Brown
(Daniel Day-Lewis) to purseMary
Carr of his autobiographical novel
My Left Foot. Of course, there's a
A touch of self-deprecation in this
comment, but it also happens to
hold true for Jim Sheridan's movie.
My Left Foot is a sentimental film
- sentimental without sinking into
a quagmire of sticky icky schmaltz
like, for example, Rain Man. Here,
sentimentality is a sensibility rather
than an emotionally inert conser-
The story of painter and writer
Christy Brown provides all the ba-
sics for one of those cloying TV



Christy Brown

movies that deal with "social prob-
lems" - in this case, physical dis-
ability. But in the hands of Jim Sh-
eridan, the tale of a working class
Dublin child born with cerebral
palsy during the Depression is han-
dled with a poetic but gritty neo-real-
ism, as well as a charmingly bois-
terous sense of humor.
The movie is essentially a set of
vignettes that are framed by Mary
Carr (Ruth McCabe) reading the
book. We see Christy as a child frus-
trated with the limitations of his
movement. This doesn't induce the
gooey aahs from the audience we're
used to with "handicap" movies, but
makes us more engaged with a feisty
lad who's pissed off with people for
thinking he's a mental defective.
Many of the scenes are shot from
Christy's point of view, so we're
made to feel intensely his difficulty

in orienting himself in the confining
space of hallways and rooms. We're
as exhausted as Christy when he
grabs a piece of chalk between his
toes and writes out his first word for
his family on the wooden floor.
At the center of Christy's exis-
tence is his mother. Brenda Fricker
gives a beautifully subtle and under-
stated performance as a woman with
boundless love for her son. Realiz-
ing that any artist worth his/her salt
requires a room of one's own, she
starts to build an extension in the
backyard, in the hopes that this will
urge Christy out of his slough of
self-pity. Ma is constantly fighting
the poverty of the family's situation.
In many ways, My Left Foot does
for working class Dublin what Ter-
ence Davies' brilliant Distant
Voices, Still Lives does for Liver-
There is a real sense of family
and community in Christy's Dublin,
though this is never romanticized.
The late great Ray McAnally is su-
perb as Christy's father; tough on
the outside but mush on the inside,
Da is brutal, yet sentimental and
generous. None of the family mem-
bers is painted one-dimensionally.
Of course, Daniel Day-Lewis
dominates the movie with a perfor-
mance that should win him the
Oscar that the similarly wheelchair-

bound Tom Cruise will probably
get. He captures Christy's gift of the
gab, his sheer blarney, as well as his
scabrous wit. He gets all the best
lines. With a taste for "unparlia-
mentary language" and a volatile
temper, Christy is a pained soul, but
also, sometimes, just a plain arse-
hole. When he confesses his love for
his doctor (after rapidly swigging
down several whiskeys), and she
misunderstands, he shouts out, "I've
had it up to here with platonic love!
Fuck Plato!" and proceeds to make a
fool of himself. Christy is full of
bullshit as well as fiery creativity.
Day-Lewis' performance is a tour de
force of physical exertion and emo-
tional tautness that impresses as
much as his earlier work in M y
Beautiful Laundrette, A Room With
A View and The Unbearable Light-
ness of Being.
My Left Foot is finally about the
determination of Christy Brown,
who, like Joyce, Behan and Beckett
was a great Irish writer who liked a
drop of the finer stuff (no wonder
Shane MacGowan of the Pogues
wrote a song about Christy Brown).
And it's a testament to the power of
the human spirit and the strength of
family and community.
MY LEFT FOOT is playing at Ann
Arbor 1&2 and Showcase

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Chick Corea
Digs Eclipse
You Can Too
Eclipse has presented Jazz
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