Music Review
Raise Your Hands
Long Tall Deb

Solid! That word entered my head the instant I heard the snare drum snap that starts of the first track of Raise Your Hands and it stuck with me throughout that first listen. It comes back on every repeat listen and sometimes when I just think about this album. Yep, I’m pretty sure solid is the right word to describe Deb Landolt’s second studio effort.

Thanks to my minor support of the Kickstarter project that helped birth this CD, I got to listen to the finished product a little ahead of its official release. An email arrived on Thanksgiving eve with a link to the MP3 files. The next morning, I took them with me on the drive to a holiday feast with friends. I hit play as I settled onto I-71 and got slapped by that snare before I could set the cruise control. The bass punch came half a second later and we were rolling.

And we kept rolling. There are twelve tracks on the CD; All but two written by Deb and a collaborator or three. When the last one finished, I realized, with a certain amount of surprise, that I had not mentally noted a weak spot. I almost always listen to a new CD straight through but it seems that more often than not a track or two will register as something I just may skip during replays. That didn’t happen here and subsequent listens verified that I had not just slept through a dud. All the tunes are keepers and they offer plenty of the “soul, gospel and swamp” that Long Tall Deb is known for. They’re rarely sharply separated but are, instead, deliciously stirred together. The title track is a bit swampy, tastes a lot like gospel, and is filled with soul. The wonderful “To Find His Home” is gospel of the highest order but even it takes a little stroll through the swamp as it gets cooking. The two covers are well chosen. The closing track is Tom Waits’ “New Coat of Paint”. The other cover, “Muddy Jesus”, is an very cool tune by Austin based guitarist Ian Moore.

There is a solid set of talent to go with that solid set of material. In addition to Deb, I counted twenty-five musicians listed in the credits. Drummer Jan Roll and bassist Melvin Powe provided the snap and punch that got my attention at start up and they form the rhythm section for all original tunes. Guitarists David Clo and Sean Carney also appear on all the originals as does keyboardist John Popivich.

I’ve mentioned just five names which means another twenty of Deb’s friends make guest appearances on Raise Your Hands. Names that I recognized include Colin John, Damon Fowler, Jimmy Thackery, & Reese Wynans and I probably should have recognized a lot more. In the Kickstarter updates that Deb occasionally sent as recording progressed, it was apparent that she was working hard but having fun, too. One look at the list of musicians she shared the studio with makes it obvious that having fun was practically unavoidable.

But it is Deb’s voice that drives the album. It is, of course, like everything else here, solid. It is also powerful. I’ve seen her voice described as powerful but not overpowering. Good description. You never get the feeling that she’s holding back but you always have the feeling that there’s more available. Same with emotion. The celebration of “Train to Tucson” and the relief of “Finally Forgot Your Name” come from different ends of the emotion scale and Deb gets them both just right. I think that’s called soulful.

I’m pretty bummed that I won’t be able to attend the Columbus CD release party on December 8. That should be quite a party. The CD (both real and downloadable) is to be available on December 4 (wrong – see below) at CDBaby, iTunes, and Amazon. You will be able to listen to some samples at those sites or you can listen to it blast out of my car windows as I head up I-71 again this weekend.

UPDATE: November 30, 2012 – Had I waited just a bit, I would have learned that a national release in December is not to be. Distribution negotiations are ongoing and look as if they will lead to general availability around mid-March. The December 8 release party in Columbus is for real and copies of the CD will be available there as well as at other live appearances. It will likely also be available at well in advance of the spring time release. Sorry about the false start.

Hats Off to Larry

Larry Goshorn Farewell ConcertGuitarist Larry Goshorn “retired” this week. Of course, musicians don’t retire the way some folks do. A guy who retires from Ford will probably never build another car and a retired assassin can be perfectly happy not killing anyone ever again. But no one believes that, just because a musician does his last concert and stops actively looking for gigs in clubs and bars, they quit being a musician. Following Wednesday’s “farewell” concert, Larry may not be as prevalent on the local music scene as he has been but neither will he vanish completely.

Sacred Mushroom album photoLarry, along with brothers Dan and Tim, has been a big part of Cincinnati’s music for pretty much as long as I’ve been here. I moved to the big city in the fall of 1965 and evolved from visitor to resident over the next couple years. I don’t know when I first became aware of the Sacred Mushroom or even when the Sacred Mushroom first came into existence but I do remember Sunday afternoons in Eden park with the Mushroom in the band shell and nights in a dump called the Mug Club with the Mushroom on stage. Dan Goshorn did most of the singing but Larry also sang a bit along with doing all the lead guitar work. I fondly recall a couple of break time conversations with Larry at the Mug Club. I don’t recall their content; Only that they happened. No reason for Larry to remember them at all.

The Sacred Mushroom was a different sort of band. There was, of course, the Mushroom House and a life style that said “we are musicians, dammit” but their music was different, too. There were other good bands in Cincinnati including several that, like the Sacred Mushroom, did a mix of covers and originals. But the Mushroom’s covers were from guys like Willie Dixon and Paul Butterfield and their bluesy originals (actually Larry Goshorn originals) were not exactly formula top 40.

The peak and the crash were not far apart. In October of 1968, they opened for Big Brother and the Holding Company. I was there in the last row of the last balcony with a ticket I’d bought at the last minute. Their one and only album was released the following summer but the band was already disintegrating. It was kind of like the Beatles and Let It Be minus the long string of million selling albums in front of it.

Larry didn’t stop playing, of course. I may have even seen him a time or two before he went off to help put Pure Prairie League on the charts but I really don’t remember. My memories of his days with PPL are pretty spotty, too. Even though I liked several of their tunes, I never became a big fan. I saw them perform just once.

Pure Prairie LeagueLarry didn’t write the song that put Pure Prairie League on the charts. That song, Amie, was written and recorded by Craig Fuller before he left to deal with draft obligations. What Larry did do, after replacing Craig, was sing play (see Tom Sheridan’s informative reply below) Amie in a couple of hundred concerts that got the song enough airplay to make it a hit. He then went on to write a number of the band’s songs including my favorite, Two Lane Highway. As much as I like the song, I don’t dare dwell on the lyrics. Just like Springsteen’s Born in the USA  is not (despite what some politicians apparently believe) exactly glorifying the country, Two Lane Highway is not an ode to back roads. I never thought to ask but was there when a friend did and learned that Larry wrote the song in the back of a GMC motor home as the band rolled through a Pennsylvania night and he really did want to “get off this two lane highway”. He’s got a front row spot in the picture at right.

The Pure Prairie League story is a convoluted one and quite a few web pages offer up pieces and variations of it. Today, a four piece group with a couple of original members keeps the name alive. The official Pure Prairie League website makes no mention of Larry at all. A careful scan turned up one tiny uncaptioned picture that has Larry in it but that’s all. The closest the site’s text comes to mentioning him is in an almost comical reference to the “departing Gorshorn [sic] brothers”. Along with ignoring his contributions, they’ve forgotten how to spell his name. Larry’s younger brother, Tim, had joined him in the group around 1977 and they did leave together around 1978. Tim later rejoined for a second stint.

Between PPL and the 1994 opening of a certain bar on Main Street, I have no personal knowledge of Larry’s activities. I heard ads for The Goshorn Brothers Band on radio and I may have even had a beer or two somewhere they were playing but I wasn’t paying attention. When I saw Larry and Tim at what I believe was the opening night for Tommy’s on Main, I was reminded of how much I enjoyed his playing and I’ve not lost sight of him since.

I probably irritated some folks when I said I was never a big fan of PPL. I liked them well enough and I certainly appreciated their talent but they weren’t one of my top tier groups. That tier was filled with the Moody Blues, the E Street Band, Yes, and others. I liked PPL the same way I liked the Eagles and there are more similarities between the two than my level of fandom. Of course, they sound somewhat alike but there was another connection that maybe only I cared about. PPL had sucked up Larry Goshorn; The Eagles had sucked up Joe Walsh. I was much more a fan of the James Gang and Sacred Mushroom than of the Eagles and Pure Prairie League. On one of those very first nights at Tommy’s, I mentioned to Larry that I had thought of his time with PPL as a “day job”. He smiled and said, “Me too.” I don’t know if he meant it the same way I did or if he even meant it at all.

The Tommy’s gig started as an “acoustic” duo then one night ex-PPL drummer Billy Hinds showed up with a snare drum. From there, it wasn’t long until a five piece Goshorn Brothers Band had taken up residency at Tommy’s. Billy was behind a full drum kit with Michael Baney and Steve Schmidt taking care of bass and keyboards. Other top notch musicians would sit in or perform their own shows. Wonderful music poured out of Tommy’s for the next couple of years with GBB typically playing three nights a week and me being there for at least one of those nights more often than not. Tommy’s eventually closed but the Goshorn Brothers rolled on. The lineup wasn’t particularity solid so you were never quite sure who would be backing up the brothers on a band date but you knew they would be good. The two Goshorns could probably make anybody sound good but it’s a plain fact that they attract the best. Many different combinations have appeared as the Goshorn Brothers Band over the years and every one that I’ve heard sounded great.

Larry Goshorn - Cincinnati Summer of Love Reunion 2007Larry Goshorn - Cincinnati Summer of Love Reunion 2008I have no pictures from Tommy’s. Those at left are from the 2007 and 2008 Summer of Love Reunions. A big part of celebrating the Cincinnati music scene of four decades ago was the current Goshorn Brothers Band playing the role and the songs of the Sacred Mushroom. Both years, Mushroom bassist Joe Stewart (in the first picture) was coaxed into performing a couple of those tunes with his old bandmate.

Goshorn Brothers Band - Larry Goshorn Farewell ConcertGoshorn Brothers - Larry Goshorn Farewell ConcertThe photo at the top of this post is from Wednesday’s concert as are the two at right. The evening began with a Larry and Tim acoustic set and ended with the brothers fronting a hard hitting five piece. The time between was filled by the same group minus Larry. Larry broke his ankle early in the year and Tim has been performing without him in a quartet sometimes called Whistle Pig and sometimes called Friends of Lee. Members are Lee Everitt on keys, Bam Powell on drums (yes, his head really does look like a cymbal), and Mike Fletcher on bass. This was the group that filled in the middle and by definition became the Goshorn Brothers Band when Larry joined them.

The music was great and the event well attended. The only surprises were things that didn’t happen. I had expected some comments or jokes about retirement and there was absolutely nothing of the sort from the stage. I had also expected something like an all star jam but, despite there being a number of well known and talented musicians in the house, nothing of that sort happened either. I really shouldn’t have been surprised though. The “we’ll never see Larry again” shock of the first announcement had become a more realistic “we’re going to see Larry less”. The shift was made official with an “or is it?” appearing on posters and tickets. It was a great show and it brought a lot of old (in every sense of the word) friends together. But I think we were all rather relieved to realize that Larry is only mostly retired.

Ohio National Road Meetup

Springs Motel, Yellow Springs, OhioAlthough I did spend a night away from home, it wasn’t really a road trip and, though I did attend an event, it wasn’t the sort of thing that produces a lot of pictures for an Oddment page. Good thing I’ve got a blog, eh?

The focal point of my little outing was Friday’s annual meeting of the Ohio National Road Association. These meetings are held in the Columbus area and, while it would be feasible for me to drive home after one of them, it wouldn’t be all that much fun. In the past, I’ve used them as an excuse to spend a night near Columbus and do Columbusy things. This year’s meeting was in Lafayette, Ohio, about midway between Columbus and Springfield. I thought about using it as an excuse to spend the night in Springfield then had a better idea.

Springs Motel, Yellow Springs, OhioSprings Motel, Yellow Springs, OhioThe Springs Motel is about ten miles south of Springfield near the town of Yellow Springs. I stopped here a few years back to check out the place as a possible overnight on a weekend cruise being planned. It didn’t work out that time but it has remained in my mind as a place I’d like to stay. I had envisioned staying here in the summer when I could sit outside and chat with the neighbors but temperatures in the twenties pretty much eliminated any chance of that happening. I still very much enjoyed my stay, however. The twelve room motel was built in 1956 and refurbished in 2002. It’s reasonably priced, quite comfortable, and operated the way an independent motel should be. Its owner has imprinted it with a personality that comes through on the website and in placards like this. Folks often rent the entire motel for family gatherings or events in Yellow Springs.

Red Brick Tavern, Lafayette, OhioThe meeting in Lafayette was at the Red Brick Tavern which identifies itself as “A house of hospitality since 1837”. Its construction anticipated completion of the National Road in this area by just a bit but it was soon providing food, refreshments, and lodging to travelers on the new road. What better place for a bunch of National Road fans to meet than in a building that started serving our kind about 175 years ago? The tavern’s fortunes fell with the coming of the railroads, rose with the coming of automobiles, and fell again when I-70 pulled traffic away from the National Road/US 40. It was idle and about to be auctioned when the current owners, Madonna Christy and Cris Cummins brought it back to life. It was sure busy Friday night. Of course, our group of near forty helped but, in addition to the dining room that we occupied, the main dining room seemed just as full and the bar area was overflowing. Partly because of the crowd, I took no pictures inside and barely got this one outside as the sun was setting. I had to deal with on going construction as the road is widened once again. I wonder how may times the Red Brick Tavern has seen that happen.

An excellent meal was immediately followed by the business meeting. Highlights included a report on the ongoing interpretive signs project and the ramping up of a project to replace or repair missing or badly damaged mile markers. Two Milestone Awards are given each year. Mike Peppe received the Leadership Award for his work with the interpretive signs while  Madonna Christy and Cris Cummins received the Preservation Award for their resurrection of the Red Brick Tavern. Dean Ringle will remain on the board as Immediate Past President while Doug Smith ends his possibly record setting run as Vice President to become President. Mary Ellen Weingartner is the new Vice President.

Springs Motel, Yellow Springs, OhioSprings Motel, Yellow Springs, OhioIt was full on dark when I drove back to the motel so the lighted sign and neon bordered building were welcome sights. My room was also quite welcoming. Take a look here.

Winds Cafe, Yellow Springs, OhioWinds Cafe, Yellow Springs, OhioOn Saturday, I hung around Yellow Springs long enough to try out the highly acclaimed Winds Cafe. This place gets considerable press and I found it classy but not stuffy. I was there for lunch so it’s possible that dinner time is different but I doubt it. Menus, featuring local ingredients, change seasonally. Today’s offerings included an omelette and, this being my first meal of the day, that was my pick. This was not, however, a ham & cheese omelette from some chain restaurant. This was a smoked trout and Boursin omelette “flipped the traditional way” in a French iron pan and that’s exactly what it tasted like. Excellent!

War protestors, Yellow Springs, OhioAs I headed south out of Yellow Springs, I passed something that could have been part of an SNL skit about old hippies. Of course it also looked like something I could probably be a part of so I smiled and waved as I drove by. I get to Yellow Springs a few times each year but I guess I’ve not been there between noon and 1:00 on a Saturday in at least ten years. Since late 2002, a small group of anti-war protesters has been spending the first hour of each Saturday afternoon standing on  a Yellow Springs street corner. A nice article here tells much more. I have immense respect for those people and they’ve got me thinking about digging out my old beads and scrounging up some cardboard.

Book Review
Stay on Route 6
Malerie Yolen-Cohen

Stay On Route 6 coverMuch like the subject highway, my opinion of Stay on Route 6 has gone “coast to coast”. In the end, I settled slightly inland on the positive side.

I was pretty excited when I first learned that an established travel writer had published a book on US 6. My excitement faded as I read the introduction and it was replaced with disappointment after I’d read a few pages of the “guide” portion. I paused then took a look at the blog the author had launched as she prepared for the cross country trip that would become this book. This somehow allowed me to let go of my preconceptions and accept the book for what it is. It is not a guide to the bypassed twists and turns of an historic highway. It is a guide to food, lodging, and attractions along the current path of a highway with history.

The seeds for recognizing my preconceptions were planted as I read the book’s introduction. That’s where Yolen-Cohen tells readers that Route 6 is not Route 66 and details some of the differences. The need to do this may be irritating but it is a fact. For many people, the only roads they know of are the interstates, some local streets that lead to jobs and shopping, and a mythic Route 66. It is a wonderful thing that Route 66 has the recognition that it does but it sometimes blurs people’s perception of other roadways. I am quite familiar with the phenomenon. I have had several conversations with folks who expected the Lincoln Highway, the National Road, or the Dixie Highway to be just another Route 66 and were disappointed that they are not. It turns out I was guilty of something similar. I don’t believe it was anything in the actual blog that did it but as I read some of the early entries I realized that my disappointment in the book wasn’t very different from that of those travelers. I wasn’t disappointed in the book because it was a bad guide but because it was not like the guides I was familiar with for Route 66 and other historic highways.

So once I got my own expectations adjusted, I found that the book was pretty good at doing what Yolen-Cohen intended. It covers the entire route, offers some casual commentary on the country along the way, and describes most cities and towns it passes through. Sleeping and eating establishments are noted with a distribution that should assure no one using this guide goes hungry or has to sleep in their car. The emphasis is on locally owned businesses and the owners are typically identified right along with their bistro or B&B. Yolen-Cohen met these people on her 2011 drive so her recommendations have a personal touch. Nearby attractions are also identified and I very much appreciate the effort to visit and describe local museums. I like local museums. Contact information including, where possible, address, phone number, and website, is included for each restaurant, lodging, and attraction.

I can’t swear to there not being other travel guides created as this one was but I don’t know of any. Guides like the ones I mentioned for faded historic routes are typically put together by someone intimately familiar with the road through years of exploration. On the other hand, my impression is that many dining and lodging guides are put together by someone sitting at a desk using a phone and computer to gather recommendations from chambers of commerce and other boosters. Yolen-Cohen certainly did some recommendation gathering but she did it specifically for her trip. She selected and scheduled almost all of her stops before leaving home then colored things in with a single cross country run.

I like that. I like the idea of a single road trip — even one meticulously planned — giving birth to a travel guide. Yolen-Cohen describes this as a life long dream. A little innocence even shines through the possibly jaded view of the experienced travel writer. At least it does in the blog. The blog ( is part of the whole. The book contains some low resolution maps and some black and white photos. The maps help with mentally placing general locations but a traveler is expected to follow the route with posted signs and modern maps. Similarly, the photos help understand some of what Yolen-Cohen saw on her trip but little more. This is a black and white paperback guide book not a full color photo book. It belongs on a car seat, not on a coffee table. But Yolen-Cohen did take color photos and video, too. Both appear on the blog and are worth checking out.

There are few turn-by-turn directions in the book. They are not needed since it is following an active and signed US highway. That is, until it isn’t. US 6 was once truly coast-to-coast and ran from the tip of Massachusetts to Long Beach, California. In 1964 the western end was truncated to Bishop, California. Yolen-Cohen carries on, however, and does provide turn-by-turn instructions for following the former US 6 to the coast.

I don’t know of any significant errors in the book but I do know of two insignificant ones. At least they should be insignificant. It’s even possible they would have gone unnoticed if the author hadn’t gone out of her way to draw attention to them. The first one is in the introduction and is partly responsible for me almost giving up on this book early. Calling an “association” a “society” sets the stage for Yolen-Cohen’s joke about the “unfortunately acronym’d ASSHO”. I’m sure this was a legitimate mistake but the fourteen months between the goof’s appearance in the blog and the book’s publication seems ample time to realize that the organisation in question is the American Association of State Highway Officials (AASHO).

The second is when the author berates a Joliet, Illinois, museum that touts US 66 for not also touting US 6. This seems a little off key since the differences between an historic decommissioned Route 66 and a living breathing Route 6 have been duly stressed. But it turns even more sour with the realization that, despite claims that the museum “occupies the corner of Route 66 and Route 6”. US 6, according to all maps I’ve checked, never gets within half a mile of the museum. A living breathing US 30 does pass by the museum. There isn’t a US 30 section in the museum, either, but a Lincoln Highway (US 30’s predecessor in these parts) display has just been added.

But, even though these errors are quite annoying to me personally, they do not make the book less useful. Anyone looking for a place to eat or sleep anywhere along this long highway can certainly benefit from Stay on Route 6 and the number of museums and other attractions included makes it valuable for sightseeing, too. It’s kind of refreshing to see a guide for a highway that hasn’t been declared dead by someone.

Stay on Route 6, Malerie Yolen-Cohen, CreateSpace, May 2012, paperback, 5.5 x 8.5 inches, 257 pages, ISBN 978-1468049398

Veteran’s Day Eve Concert

Hamilton County Memorial BuildingI thought I might turn up a parade or two when I went looking for Veteran’s Day events but I found not a one anywhere nearby. What I did find was a concert in a building that seems almost made for the occasional and that I’ve been curious about for some time. On the afternoon before Veteran’s Day, I headed downtown for the Veterans Salute at the Hamilton County Memorial Building.

Hamilton County Memorial BuildingThe building, commonly called simply Memorial Hall, was erected in 1908 as something of a joint venture between the county and the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR). It was designed by noted architect Samuel Hannaford. Hannaford designed many buildings in Cincinnati including the nearby Music Hall which tends to overshadow Memorial Hall. Even when the building is noticed, it is easy to miss the six Clement J. Barnhorn statues high above the entrance. Representing each of the nations’s conflicts at the time of construction, they are a soldier from the Revolution with a frontiersman from the Indian conflicts here, a sailor from the War of 1812 here, an artilleryman from the Mexican-American War here,  and an infantryman from the Civil War with a “Rough Rider” sort of fellow from the Spanish-American War here.

Hamilton County Memorial BuildingHamilton County Memorial BuildingHamilton County Memorial BuildingThe doors opened in time for me to do a little exploring before the concert and that’s just what I did. Although most of the artifacts from the building’s GAR days are gone, many pictures remain. The wreath in the first photo is believed to have been at Lincoln’s funeral. There is lots of marble in the building. The marble arches in the second photo are entrances to the somewhat circular auditorium. After the concert, a pair of fellows from American Legacy Tours led a tour of the building which included the area above and behind the stage. Many of the men who constructed the building were craftsmen from the surrounding area and many of those were Civil War veterans. As the guides pointed out, it would be almost impossible to recreate this building, with extensive hand work like the GAR motto on the proscenium arch, today. Plus a much wider building would be required to hold the additional statues out front.

Cincinnati BoychoirAt the start of the concert, I had one miss and a near miss. I was in the balcony so as to get a clear view of the stage and that turned out to be a not so good spot to photograph the Xavier University Honor Guard as they brought in the US and Ohio flags. It did turn out to be a good spot to photograph the Cincinnati Boychoir but I almost blew that. I had not studied the program and expected them to perform at least a few songs. I stood in my spot as they sang the national anthem intending to get a picture from a better location later. Fortunately I grabbed this not so great shot during The Star Spangled Banner since that would be all they sang. It was beautiful.

Otto M. Budig, JrQueen City Concert BandThe actual concert was in the capable hands of the Queen City Concert Band with a short speech from retired USAF Captain and all around Cincinnati arts benefactor Otto M Budig, Jr, in the middle. Beginning with the ultra-appropriate Battle Hymn of the Republic, the band performed marches and hymns and a few things in between. I particularly liked the collection of mid-nineteenth century tunes called American Civil War Fantasy and The Armed Forces Salute medley gave veterans an opportunity to stand and be applauded and maybe do a little singing.

Stars and Strips Forever at Hamilton County Memorial BuildingJohn Philip Sousa is among the many musicians who have performed in this building during its long life. A couple of his marches were played here today with Stars and Stripes Forever as the stirring finale. US flags, given to attendees on entry, were waving throughout.

The concert, presented by the Cincinnati Memorial Hall Society, was free. So was the punch and cookie reception provided by Fantasy in Frosting, portraits of veterans by Christopher Lowry, and the previously mentioned tour by American Legacy Tours.

American Classical Music Walk of FameThe Hamilton County Memorial Building houses the American Classical Music Hall of Fame but its modest exhibits were removed today to make room for cookies and cookie eaters. However, just across the street in Washington Park, the associated American Classical Music Walk of Fame is always available. Engraved bricks identify inductees.

Phirst FotoFocus Phinished

Paul Briol exhibit at FotoFocus 2012It’s officially over and I pretty much missed it. The inaugural FotoFocus festival ended along with October and, despite some good intentions, I barely caught a whiff. Of the over fifty exhibits that were part of the event, the only one I actually saw during regulation time was the “The Photographic Legacy of Paul Briol, 1909-1955” at the Cincinnati Museum Center. Briol’s photographs of Cincinnati in the first half of the last century are both documentation and art. He was a master in the dark room and learned to combine images to enhance the finished product. For example, a blank sky might be turned into a pleasant background by adding a few clouds. That was neither common or easy in those pre-PhotoShop days.

FotoFocus is the name of a a Cincinnati nonprofit that “champions the ubiquity of photography and its important role in contemporary culture.” It is also the name of the just concluded month long series of exhibits, presentations, and lectures. There were a couple of receptions and at least one lecture that I wanted to attend but each of those encountered a conflict. I had a whole month to take a look at the many exhibits but just kept putting it off. When I finally panicked and got serious, it was too late. I managed to get to the Briol show at Cincinnati Museum Center on Monday and two others on Friday. Of course, Friday was November 2 and the majority of exhibits were history. The two I visited on Friday were fairly major productions whose runs extend beyond FotoFocus.

Herb Ritts exhibit at FotoFocus 2012Herb Ritts exhibit at FotoFocus 2012On Friday, I headed first to the Cincinnati Arts Museum in Mount Adams to see “Herb Ritts: L.A. Style”. Since I do stop by here once in a while and wouldn’t feel the need to see all of the permanent displays, I thought my visit would be fairly brief. Though I did essentially limit my viewing to the Ritts exhibit and a traveling Toulouse-Lautrec exhibit at its entrance, it wasn’t exactly a dash in and out. For one thing, Friday was the first of three days of an expanded “Holiday Expressions” gift shop that filled the lobby. Secondly, several bus loads of students were touring the museum in groups of twenty or so. I love seeing kids in museums. They can be a little noisy and can sometimes block an intended path but they deserve to be there a lot more than I do. Kudos to the schools and teachers who get their kids out to see “stuff”. There also happened to be two musical performances going on. In the lobby, a string trio played on a balcony for the benefit of “Holiday Expression” shoppers and two fellows played and discussed some “old timey” music for the benefit of the students in the main hall.

“Herb Ritts: L.A. Style” was curated by Paul Martineau for the J. Paul Getty Museum. Although I was not familiar with Ritts by name, I definitely recognized some of his photos including the cover of Madonna’s True Blue album. Not all of Ritts’ assignments were successful from the client’s point of view. Several examples of his most impressive work came from assignments that were rejected because they matched Ritts’ vision a lot more than the client’s. Ritts’ vision was darned good.

Even now. it seems, Ritts doesn’t please everyone. There are some stunningly beautiful nudes in the exhibit. A sign at the entrance states this and suggests parents check out things and decide for themselves whether their children should see them or not. After I had viewed the exhibit, I stopped for a while just outside the entrance and listened to the musicians below. As I stood there, a fellow I guessed to be about sixteen or seventeen exited the exhibit and approached me. “My male instincts told me to go in there”, he said. “They were wrong.” There are nudes of both genders on display and I’m guessing that this was the teenager’s problem. I doubt he had ever before considered that the word “nude” was not synonymous with “naked woman”. Ah, the insecurity of youth.

“Herb Ritts: L.A. Style” runs through December.

Edward Steichen exhibit at FotoFocus 2012Taft Museum of ArtThe other exhibit I saw on Friday was “Star Power: Edward Steichen’s Glamour Photography” at the Taft Museum of Art. To my shame, this was my first visit to the Taft since its major expansion and renovation in 2004. That meant I needed to look over the whole place and not limit my visit to the Steichen display. Christmas season is starting here also with Friday being the first day of “Antique Christmas”. This consists of a number of decorations, toys, and other Christmas related items from holidays far in the past spread throughout the museum.

Edward Steichen was a name I half recognized but couldn’t connect with anything in particular. It turns out that, had I made any sort of guess, there’s a good chance I’d have been right. He did a lot. He painted, directed movies, and played a key role in the publication of books and magazines and in the running museums. And he was a photographer. In World War I, he commanded the photographic division of the American Expeditionary Forces. In World War II, he was Director of the Naval Aviation Photographic Unit. His many activities between the wars included a fifteen year stint as photographer for Vogue and Vanity Fair magazines. That stint ran from 1923 to 1938 and I believe that most, if not all, of the photographs in this exhibit are from that period.

The title refers to “Glamour Photography” and his work for the world of fashion is well represented. It also mentions “Star Power” and the stars are all there: Greta Garbo, Katherine Hepburn, Joan Crawford, and many others including my fav, Claudette Colbert. The way Steichen handles light in these black and white images is remarkable as is his frequent use of stark high-contrast backgrounds. His lighting often adds a 3-D quality and both it and the composition automatically and consistently focus the viewer right where Steichen wants.

“Star Power: Edward Steichen’s Glamour Photography” runs through January 27.

Even though I missed the majority of FotoFocus exhibits, I did see three of the bigger ones. With the Annie Liebovitz exhibit I visited a couple of weeks back, that means I’ve been exposed to some of the best lens based art of the last century in a fairly short span of time. I’ve never called myself a photographer. In fact, after seeing what can be done, I’m almost embarrassed to even be seen with a camera. I’ll get over it and I won’t stop snapping pictures but it was a clear reminder of just why I never call myself a photographer.

On Friday morning, I wanted to check out something about FotoFocus via my phone but I misspelled FotoFocus. I did it by correctly spelling Photofocus. Photofocus is a long running website that I was aware of though not one I can claim to be familiar with. By coincidence Friday was Photofocus’ fourteenth anniversary. It was also the day that founder Scott Bourne announced his retirement. He is not retiring just yet. That will occur in exactly one year and the website will continue. Scott has already made arrangements to assure that. Accident, coincidence, and the reading of a couple of interesting articles made me think that maybe I should become familiar with Photofocus so I’ve subscribed to its RSS feed.