Music Review
Belle of the Blues
Lisa Biales

belleblues_cvrThey did it again. Co-producers EG Kight and Paul Hornsby captured another set of tracks that feature Lisa’s wonderful voice but don’t short the listener one bit in the sound behind it. Back in 2012, Kight, Hornsby, and Biales hooked up for Just Like Honey which contained some Biales and Kight originals but consisted largely of tunes written by or associated with a number of Biales’ influences. Those influences are not totally ignored here, there’s a tune written by Memphis Minnie and another that Bessie Smith made famous, but Kight wrote or collaborated on seven of the eleven songs on Belle of the Blues.

As they did on on Just Like Honey, Tommy Talton (guitar) and Bill Stewart (drums) appear on every track with Tommy Vickery and Johnny Fountain splitting bass duties to bound out the core trio of backing musicians. This line up is frequently augmented by the likes of Pat Bergeson on harmonica, Ken Wynn on guitar, and Randall Bramlett on organ. Kight adds some vocal and guitar help and Hornsby plays piano on several tracks. Something that I thought a nice touch, although it only shows up in the digital version of the track listing, is the identity of featured musicians in the titles. Examples are “Sad Sad Sunday (Featuring Tommy Talton & Randall Bramblett)” and “Belle of the Blues (Featuring Pat Bergeson)”.

Despite all the talent involved in writing, recording, and playing, this is clearly a Lisa Biales album. Her voice is out front and in control of every song from the sultry “Sad Sad Sunday through the raucous “Bad Girl”. She even takes charge of “Trouble”, a song firmly associated with Kight (she wrote it and made it the title track of a 2000 release) in a way that, while it won’t make you forget EG, will sure make you remember Lisa.

botbcdr1botbcdr2In Nashville, the Long Players exist solely to deliver live performances of entire albums. Individual songs may be rearranged to fit specific performers but when they do an album, they do it all and they do it in the same sequence it once appeared on your turntable. That’s the way I first heard Belle of the Blues. At Friday’s CD release in Oxford, Ohio, Lisa started things off by performing all eleven songs “just like the record”. I believe it was also the official debut of the quartet she’s calling the Belle of the Blues Band and with which she will be preforming other shows in the coming months. I won’t claim that this group (Bill Littleford guitar, Dave Mackey drums, Noah Cope bass, Chuck Wiggins keys) is better than the high powered crew that did the studio version, but I can report that they are mighty good and the performance was not wanting in any way.

botbcdr3A short break followed the album then the group returned to do an assortment of songs from Lisa’s repertoire. One was a Jimi Hendrix tune that Lisa has been performing at least since 2010 when she included it on her Closet Hippie CD. As a result, I got to hear the Little Wing solo performed on accordion for the first time ever. I liked it.

Real Royalties

me_terryI get a little bit of money whenever a copy of By Mopar to the Golden Gate gets sold. It’s called a royalty though it’s hardly royal in the crown and sceptre sense of the word. In time, book sales might produce enough cash to cover the giveaways but that’s far from certain and it’s not even a goal. I didn’t write the book to make money. I wrote it partly as a bucket list checkoff and partly to gain a little notoriety in the road fan community. But the best benefit of all was one that had never even occurred to me.

dgadvocatetAnother graduate from my high school has long worked at my home county’s only newspaper. Her name is Linda Moody and she writes features on a variety of subjects along with a regular column on our shared home town, Ansonia, Ohio. It was through an article of hers that I first learned of a book written by another school mate which I reviewed here. That gave my sister an idea and the next time she saw Linda she told her about the book I had just written and that led to an interview and article. That was very cool, of course, but it’s not the big benefit that I’m writing about.

The article prompted a few contacts from people who saw it and recognized me. One was an email from the fellow beside me in the photo. The photo is from the first time Terry Wolfe and I have seen each other in forty-seven years. I’ve actually mentioned Terry in this blog when I wrote about the 1952 Ford I bought from him. Starting about the time I entered my teens, I spent much of each summer with my grandparents who lived in a very small town. Make that a VERY small town. Two boys of roughly the same age naturally spent a lot of time together on bicycles and on foot and, once in awhile, on something that floated on the nearby Stillwater River. We attended different high schools but remained close friends into our motorized years and through graduation. At some point, bound up in our own lives and families, we lost contact.

I know we’ve both thought of each other now and then over the years. My Dad once told me about seeing a poem of Terry’s in the paper and I made quickly forgotten plans to contact him. Fortunately, Terry was much better at following through when he saw the article on the book. First came an email that led to a phone call that led to some vague but sincere plans to get together. Those plans came together two weeks ago.

When I knew I would be in Darke County without a tight schedule, I checked with Terry to see if he would be around. He would so after doing a few chores at my stepmother’s, I headed his way. Terry has retained some of his mechanical skills and keeps them honed by restoring and showing Wheel Horse tractors as a hobby. We talked about some works-in-process and several show ready “Horses” as we got reacquainted. Then, after an extended session of “sittin’ & rememberin’”, we, along with Terry’s wife Sue, headed to a nearby pizza parlor for a couple cold ones, some excellent pizza, and a few more memory tests. We will definitely do it again.

rrdg65rrtw65I’ve no record of what we looked like forty-seven years ago, but here we are forty-nine years ago as high school seniors. I won’t try to analyse those forty-seven years nor will I profess some sort of regret. That’s just the way life works. And I won’t claim that writing a book was solely responsible for that recent meeting. It does, however, get some of the credit and hearing from and connecting with Terry was a terrific “royalty” that I sure had not anticipated.

Celebrating the Connection

mcohc01Celebrating two weeks in a row. I’m in either a rut or a groove. Last week’s post was on my visit to the “Diana: A Celebration” exhibit in Cincinnati. This one is on my visit to a “Member Celebration” in Columbus on Saturday, May 24. This is the third such event for the organization though for the first two the celebrants were members of the Ohio Historical Society and they are now members of the Ohio History Connection. The first public use of the new name was part of the celebration.

mcohc02mcohc03mcohc04The “Member Celebration” was at the Ohio History Center and coincided with the season opening of the adjacent Ohio Village which, in turn, coincided with the opening of a two day Civil War era Soldiers’ Aid Fair.

mcohc07mcohc06mcohc05This display of rare and exotic items may not have been the biggest or most highly promoted aspect of the fair but it was my favorite.

mcohc08mcohc09mcohc10Like many events at Ohio Village, a parade preceded an official opening proclamation. Weary and even wounded soldiers, presumably home on leave, joined in and helped elevate both patriotism and sympathy.

mcohc12mcohc11The celebration included a members only lunch but this is no small club. The picture shows part of the line, which I eventually joined, for the second seating. The closest things got to formal was a brief speech by Executive Director Bert Logan. There were thanks, of course, and something of an explanation for the name change. Although he didn’t use these exact words, the impression l have is that “Ohio Historical Society” often conjured up images of little old ladies and dusty old men sitting in dim parlors talking about old stuff. In surveys, “Ohio History Connection” created an image of something much more active and accessible. He pointed out that we not only need to preserve things for future generations but make those things available and interesting and understandable for future generations. Judging from the number of youngish folks both attending and participating, it seems Ohio’s history outfit is doing a pretty good job whatever the name.

Wonderland Way

pic12aI just got the first day’s report posted for a trip along southern Indiana’s Wonderland Way. On top of a fairly full agenda, I was treated to the arrival of one of the Run to the Wall caravans at the end of my day. The trip journal is here. This blog entry is to make blog-only followers aware of the trip and to provide a place for comments.

Celebrating Diana

diana-1I wavered on going to see Diana: A Celebration at the Cincinnati Museum Center. The Center attracts some of the world’s best traveling exhibits and I generally make a point of taking them in. Some, like the Dead Sea Scrolls, I start planning to see as soon as I learn of them. Others, even though I fully intend to see them, I just sort of work in “whenever”. Until something reminded me of it on a rainy and idle day, I wasn’t even sure that I would be attending this particular exhibit.

My lack of commitment was not due to any dislike for Princess Diana. In fact, I think she probably did as much for the good of the world as any public figure of her time and a lot more than most. I simply don’t have much interest in royalty in general and nothing in the description of this exhibit aroused much interest in it. Gowns and jewels were not the only things on display but they are what advertisements and descriptions mentioned the most. To be fair, the relatively small amount of time that separates Diana’s life from the present no doubt has a lot to do with my lack of interest. I couldn’t wait to attend the Cleopatra exhibit in 2011 and I’m sure I’d eagerly work a display based on Queen Victoria or Catherine the Great. Of course, those women were all rulers while Diana was not and that may have as much to do with it as time.

I think a desire to not regret not going was a large part of my decision to go. I went and enjoyed it enough to not regret going. The exhibit and my level of enjoyment were pretty much what I expected. The only surprise was the demographics of the other attendees. A young man scanned my ticket at the entrance. About halfway through, I encountered an older fellow wearing a museum ID badge who seemed to be doing some sort of status check on some of the displayed items. At roughly the same time I spotted a guy listening to one of the optional audio guides along with a woman I took to be his wife. I saw something on the order of fifty attendees as I made my way through the exhibit. Only two of approximately half a hundred patrons were male and only one — me — was certifiably there of his own volition. In hindsight, perhaps I should have anticipated that but I hadn’t. Clearly, the trappings of a princess are of much greater interest to those who are at least physically qualified to become one than to those who are not.

diana-2No photos are allowed in the Diana exhibit. The picture at left is from the companion exhibit, Daughters of the Queen City, which honors women noted for their charitable work in and around Cincinnati. Among the women featured were Louise Nippert, Mary M. Emery, and Patricia Corbett whose names even I recognize. Diana: A Celebration and Daughters of the Queen City continue through August 17.

diana-4diana-3While at the museum, I took in two other temporary exhibits. Medicine, Marbles and Mayhem displays items retrieved from 19th century privies. Aside from their intended purpose, privies were used to dispose of just about anything and many details of life in in the good old days can be learned through “outhouse archaeology”. Medicine, Marbles and Mayhem runs through May 26.

diana-5diana-6Treasures in Black & White: Historic Photographs of Cincinnati is quite accurately described by its title. At the risk of angering princesses everywhere, I have to say that this is what I enjoyed most on this museum visit. Every photo depicts something important from Cincinnati’s past plus many of them work as pure art. Some artifacts, such as a Ruth Lyons guest book, augment the photographs. The book is displayed near a photograph of Liberace signing it and opened to show his entry. Treasures in Black & White runs through October 12.

Trip Pic Peek #18
Trip #110

FOLK movie premierThis picture is from my 2013 FOLK at NaFF road trip for the premier of a movie (FOLK) at the Nashville Film Festival (NaFF). One of the musicians featured in the film was long time favorite Dirk Hamilton. I spent the first day of the trip driving, partly on the Dixie Highway, to Nashville and listening to some of the music on Nashville’s Broadway. On the second day, I visited nearby Dickson, on the Broadway of America, before returning to watch the film in the early evening. I next drove a new-to-me section of Dixie Highway to Indianapolis where I spent a night and a day before heading home.

Trip Pic Peeks are short articles published when my world is too busy or too boring for a current events piece to be completed in time for the Sunday posting. In addition to a photo thumbnail from a completed road trip, each Peek includes a brief description of that photo plus links to the full sized photo and the trip journal it is from.

Don’t Worry Be Hoppy — or Gene or Roy or…

hcf01I don’t know where Hopalong Cassidy was born. I don’t even know if his creator, Clarence E. Mulford, ever gave Hoppy a past that included parents. But I do know that William Boyd, who portrayed the fictional cowboy in movies and on both TV and radio, was born in Hendrysburg, Ohio, and that once a year, the folks in nearby Cambridge, hold a festival bearing his name. This year, I was paying more attention than usual and managed to attend the festival for the first time.

hcf02hcf03hcf04One of the festival’s big attractions is the collectors exhibit. Virtually everything displayed is for sale but, as is typical, there is a lot more looking than buying. Movie posters, games and other toys, and just about everything else ever associated with the cowboy heroes of the middle third of the last century is in there somewhere.

hcf06hcf05Cowboy and girl look-alikes are another major attraction. They spent a good deal of time behind tables signing photographs but they could also be seen just walking around the festival. It was easy to imagine a rancher’s wife turning to her husband and asking “Who were those masked men?”

hcf07hcf08I was there on Saturday which was contest day. First up was the Little Buckaroo Contest. All four participants managed to win a trophy but most of the crowd would have probably been happy if every prize in the place had been awarded to the shy fellow in the second picture.

hcf09hcf10hcf11The look-alike contest was a little more serious but not much. When I saw the phrase “look alikes” on the festival schedule, I envisioned a town full of Hopalong Cassidys. That wasn’t the case at all and I believe that the only real duplication was two Lash Larues. This is a well organized and coordinated activity. There were two John Waynes but one was the eye-patch wearing Rooster Cogburn and the other represented Wayne from an earlier era. Two Lone Rangers marked a changing of the guard. The “blue” Ranger is retiring this year and was introducing the “red” Ranger who, in the future, will be the lone Lone Ranger. In my opinion, anyone who cannot identify the three hombres in the pictures had best stay away from festivals of this sort.

hcf12hcf13Getting all the contestants in a single picture wasn’t easy. That is an impressive line-up for sure. A panel of judges selected Lash Larue, Tonto, and the Lone Ranger as finalists then audience applause was used to select the winner. Maybe. All three rounds of applause sounded about the same to me and it’s just possible that first place was awarded to the Ranger partly for sentimental reasons. As I mentioned earlier, this is his last appearance and, although he promised he would be back at the festival next year, he will conceal his identity by not wearing a mask.

hcf16hcf15hcf14A third festival draw is this bevy of stars. That’s John Provost of Lassie, Roberta Shore and Don Quine of The Virginian, and Don Collier of High Chaparral in the group picture. Edd Byrnes of 77 Sunset Strip arrived shortly after the picture was taken. That’s John and Edd in the individual shots. Edd’s scheduled appearance got the most discussion when the festival came up a week or so ago. Friends wondered if the former Kookie still owned or needed a comb. I just take the pictures and leave it to others to decide if that hair is eighty years old and/or its natural color.

dfringeI don’t recall ever seeing a Hopalong Cassidy moving picture show in the theater but I was a big fan of the TV show. I remember having a Hopalong cap pistol and holster but my prized possession was a belt. It just now occurred to me that the belt and holster may have originally been a set but my memories are far too dim to say. The belt was black with a script “Hopalong Cassidy” and men on horses in white. I suspect that part of my belt focused favoritism was due to my being able to wear it full time whereas there were Mom defined limits on where I could tote a gun. The name and figures were merely printed on the black leather and were eventually rubbed away so the only a few flecks, none of which resembled a letter or a horse or much of anything else, were left. It was impossible to tell by looking that I accessorized my garb to honor Hoppy but I knew.

The belt’s buckle was stamped out of thin metal to imitate perfectly (I was certain) solid silver. It was always on my left side. Dad worked in a factory and wore his belt buckle on the side to keep it away from his work. I did the same for years and can’t remember when I stopped. I do remember one unintended result. On a visit to the big city (Greenville, Ohio, 2012 population 13,105), probably while Mom tended to my younger sister, I checked the light, looked both ways, and darted into the path of a turning car. It was moving slowly and stopped immediately but I was knocked to the ground. Mom, the driver, and everyone else in the area quickly clustered around me. A thorough examination revealed that my only “injury” was a red and slightly sore impression of the belt buckle on my side. Hopalong Cassidy saved my life.

My search for a picture with the belt came up empty so the best I can do is the shot of me with some sort of cowboy scene on my jacket. I’m not sure Hoppy would approve of the gaudy fringe but I know he would have liked the color.

Valiant No More

Valiant in trailerThe Valiant departed this evening for its new home. I thought it would sell for a little more than it did, but I’m satisfied with the price and am much more than satisfied with the purchaser. Even though I claim no child or pet like emotional attachment to the car, it’s still nice to think it is off to a good home and that’s something the several telephone conversations I’ve had with the new owner have made me pretty certain of. Goodbye old girl, you’re going to have a much easier time traveling to Oklahoma than you did propelling yourself from there in July.

Touring City Hall

ccht01Cincinnati’s City Hall is a building of a different color. It can’t be easily ignored but, although I’ve driven and walked by it countless times, I, like almost all of the participants in Thursday’s tour, had never before been inside. The building’s architect was Samuel Hannaford, who also designed Cincinnati’s Music Hall and many other buildings of note. Construction started in February of 1888. The completed building was dedicated May 13, 1893. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972. It has been damaged by fire, insulted by, among other things, having marble wainscoting covered by wood paneling, and, like all too many not-so-new structures, threatened with demolition. I sure do appreciate it sticking around until I could finally find time for a visit.

ccht02What I actually found time for was the inaugural Cincinnati Museum Center Heritage Programs Cincinnati City Hall Tour. Unbeknownst to me, tours of the building have long been available and can be arranged directly as described here. CMC Heritage Programs adds a nice presentation on the building’s and the city’s history plus arranging access to a few places not always included in the other tours.

ccht05ccht04ccht03Stone from six different states (Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin, Missouri, Tennessee, & Vermont) and Italy are used in the building. Inside, beautiful marble staircases connect the four floors with equally beautiful stained glass windows at each landing.

ccht06ccht07ccht08Cincinnati’s mayor and nine member council meet weekly in this chamber. The current arrangement is a recent one. For most of the building’s existence, council met at a circular table in the middle of the room. After people protesting a 2001 police shooting completely filled the space, things were changed so that the officials sit facing the room. At one point, the ceiling was covered with acoustic which has now been removed to reveal four paintings and other details. The massive chandelier was once painted black.

ccht11ccht10ccht09For many, most definitely including me, the highlight of the day was the tower. The clock room was near the midpoint of the climb of 109 steps.

ccht12ccht13The climb continued to the open level containing the huge bell. The cube at lower right in the first picture houses the clock mechanism. A cable can be seen rising from it to control the bell’s clapper.

ccht16ccht15ccht14The wonderful views from the bell level include the spire of Saint Peter in Chains Cathedral, completed in 1845, backed by the recently relocated headquarters of Pure Romance. The downtown relocation of the nation’s largest seller of “relationship and intimacy aids” was not without controversy.

ccht18ccht17The view in the first picture is one that the guides alerted us to before the climb. Those with a significant fear of heights can find the sight of the street far below quite unnerving. On the way up, we had paused at this level while the bell rang out 11:00 o’clock. A close look at the second picture reveals the cable running upward from the clock mechanism and the shafts connecting the mechanism to the clock faces.

ccht20ccht19As we were for most of the tour, we divided into two groups for the tower climb. One group hung out in council chambers while the other climbed. I was part of the first set of climbers and now had the opportunity to check out the view from the gallery and make a brief power grab.

ccht21ccht22The current building replaced a much smaller one, built in 1852, on the same site. The large metal seal, mounted high in the courtyard of the current building is all that remains from the older one. Terrible riots, in which the courthouse was destroyed, had shaken Cincinnati in 1884. With that in mind, City Hall was built with something of a fortress flavor that can be seen in elements like a “watch room” in the tower and the heavy steel doors on the courtyard.