Mike Greenblatt’s Rant ‘N’ Roll

Spiritual Sustenance

The restorative power of music can make one whole again. Given the proper set and setting, with just the right artist, and just the right room, there’s a spirituality at work. When a hint of nostalgia is added, when a hint of hero worship unknowingly enters the mix of emotions, when the well-worn melodies resonate within your heart, endorphins are released in your brain and pure pleasure cascades through your body’s receptors. It rarely happens so perfectly. In approximately 56 years of concert-going, it’s happened to me maybe a dozen times. If that.

I haven’t stopped talking about the performance that pop genius Graham Nash gave the lucky patrons of Bethlehem Pennsylvania’s MusikFest Café on the Steel Stacks campus. Nash doesn’t need those other two guys. He’s a freak-of-nature. How could his voice be so damn perfect at 77? How could one man have such a body of work? How could he rock so hard and achieve the kind of rock ‘n’ roll bliss that could send one into a tizzy with no drums? (Answer: you hear the drums in your head. Their absence gives the music room to breathe.) How could he be so fucking profound in each and every song? Yet as great an artist as he is, how can he still be so down-to-earth, welcoming, friendly, and seemingly a regular guy in every one-on-one talk I’ve ever had with him? Well, he’s not a regular guy. Far from it. He’s every inch the consummate rock star.

Maybe it’s a generational thing. His political concerns are mine. His heroes are my heroes. Expecting “An Intimate Evening of Songs and Stories,” as advertised, what we got was so much more. That billing, as it stands, didn’t do these two sets justice. Guitarist Shane Fontayne alone can sound like a whole band. Add CSN keyboardist Todd Caldwell for the bubbling special effects, the bass, the liquid spill of psychedelia and, when combined with Nash’s acoustic guitar, stage presence, Dylanesque harmonica, and the exquisite three-part harmony on songs you already love and know…. Well, all I can say is glory hallelujah.

Set One included “Pre-Road Downs,” “Wasted On The Way,” “Bus Stop,” “I Used To Be A King,” “Immigration Man,” “Southbound Train,” “Sleep Song,” “4+20,” “Military Madness,” “Wind On The Water” and “A Day In The Life.”

That last Beatle song was so transfixing, I sat and stared into the void only to be nudged by my friend, who reminded me we had to go back at half-time to give Graham my Woodstock book. Stumbling back in a state of righteous fervor, I numbingly handed him the book. He smiled, remembered who I was(!), took the obligatory picture, and, after thinking all day what to tell this man with the limited amount of time we had, all I could babble out was, “Dude, you blew me away! ‘A Day In The Life’? Really?”

Set Two featured “Marrakesh Express,” “Simple Man,” “Right Between The Eyes,” “Wounded Bird,” “Golden Days,” “Back Home,” “Love The One You’re With,” “Just A Song Before I Go,” “Cathedral,” and “Our House.”

The encore was “Chicago,” Buddy Holly’s “Everyday,” and on the last song of the night, Nash turned into Pete Seeger, leading a singalong on what now has to be thought of as a folk-song for the ages, “Teach Your Children.” Yeah, we lustily sang it out with him and it was a cathartic moment. When it was over, I was immobilized. So, I sat there pondering life’s inequities. He made me think. Then I went back to my life.

Unique Hendrix

The idea (called “Project 5”) was to release four albums in four different genres that were linked autobiographically with its lyrical threads about the artist’s health problems, family tragedies, and the plight of an independent singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist/producer trying to scratch out a living in these times of short attention spans. The artist-in-question is Texas troubadour Terri Hendrix who sings her songs with a wry sense of humor. She wrote, rapped, co-produced, played guitar, and blew some blues-harp on the deliciously unique 11-track Talk To A Human:  Project 5.3 (Wilory Records.)

She’s got Lloyd Maines, the father of Dixie Chick Natalie Maines, co-producing and adding his own hefty doses of acoustic, electric, bass, and baritone guitars, plus ukulele, dobro, pedal steel, mandolin, banjo, and percussion. Add horns, fiddles, and keyboards and 5.3 is totally different from the upcoming electronica project 5.4 (Who Is Ann) and her book (5.5) that she’s been writing for the last 16 years (The Girl With The Exploding Brain). (Love You Strong:  5.1 and The Slaughterhouse Sessions:  5.2 came out in 2016.)

An inveterate genre jumper, on the mostly Americana 5.3, she goes Latin in “Mi Madre,” pays tribute to the pioneering female fighter pilots of World War II in “WASP,” covers Guy Clark, Cindy Walker, Woody Guthrie, and the legendary blues duo Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, and tackles such issues as alcoholism, body image, and family dysfunction. And she even makes it all rhyme.    


On November 2, composer/pianist/educator Arturo O’Farrill—the son of legendary musician/composer/arranger/conductor Chico O’Farrill—will headline “Songs Of Love & Resistance” with his 18-piece Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra in the Bronx at the Hostos Center for the Arts & Culture. Utilizing musicians from Cuba, Chile, and New York City, this special one-night-only event will include poetry, hip-hop, song, jazz, and salsa to accentuate their message. No doubt O’Farrill will also perform selections from his Grammy-winning The Offense Of The Drum.

“In perilous times,” explains O’Farrill, “I don’t see that any artist has a choice but speak up for the good of our humanity. I’m thrilled to bring together this collective of collaborators, in particular, Ana Tijoux, who has fearlessly stood up for human rights and dignity. She bears witness and beckons us to a higher place. In that sense, she’s a journalist.”