Ithaca Blog

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

"Blue Valentine," And Penny and the Quarters

We don't review movies on Ithaca Blog, because plenty of other places do that well, but we would like to recommend this picture "Blue Valentine," newly released.

We saw an advance copy "per dolem", as we say in Latin ("by means of a trick"). It has won prizes at Sundance, Cannes, etc.

We mention it not only because it is good, but because we own a record/CD store, and the film features an astonishing song by an astonishing band that, somehow, was never famous, or even known.

The song is called "You And Me." It is by a group from long ago called Penny and the Quarters. They were from Ohio and that is about all anyone knows about them.

The song is presented in a demo version, with nothing but voices and one guitar. It is a gospel-based soul ballad. It is staggeringly simple, and beautiful for that.

It is reminiscent of "People Get Ready" and "This Old Heart Of Mine," two huge soul hits. If it antedates them, it is a brilliant amalgamation. If it predates them (no one knows, at the moment), it is monumental, if that is not too strong. (For people interested in song composition and history, not to mention copyright law, it is not.)

The makers of the film are searching for any vestiges of the band, to pay them.

You can read a bit about the band on Wikipedia - or, better, hear the song on Youtube. Simply search there for Penny and the Quarters.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca NY Blog

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Richie Stearns' New CD, And Release Gig On Sat. 29 Jan.

We usually don't think to post here for local music shows days in advance, but this Saturday comes a large one, as Richie Stearns issues a new CD, and celebrates it at the Chapter House, at 10 p.m.

It's Richie's second release, only, apart from CDs by the Horseflies. His first, a completely solo effort (called "Solo"), was about 6 years ago. The new one has band-mates, including local cohorts, the Evil City String Band; and largely-renowned players Carrie Rodriguez and Dirk Powell.

ECSB will be with Richie at Saturday's show; other prominents too, we gather.

We recommend getting there early. It should be a large crowd.

The CD is already available at Ithaca's own retail music store, Angry Mom Records/Small World Music, located in the basement of Autumn Leaves Books, on the Commons.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca NY Blog

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Are Sports The Most Benign of Entertainments?

As a fan of the New York Jets football franchise since a tender age, we are excited about the prospect of them going to the Super Bowl this year for only the second time in their history. (The first (that is, only) time was over 40 years ago. Their current date with destiny is still only potential: one qualifying game away.)

We know it is a violent sport: much more so these days, with players strong and fast as torpedos, and concussive contacts encouraged for television.

Personally, we preferred the game in the old days, when some players were pretty athletic, but many were out there only because they ate more than most people.

Sports have the attribute of getting people happily excited, collectively, which is rare. You see it at good concerts, but those don't last long. People remember sporting events a long time.

Sports and concerts - good concerts, anyway - also share an aspect of unpredictability, or at least surprise. Unanticipated turns will occur during both, even for the performers.

We were out with friends last night who were all talking about the TV series they follow. Not only had I never seen any, I'd never even heard of most. I learned there are lots of shows on TV.
The only thing I watch on TV, about, is sports. I watch them because you absolutely cannot know what will happen. And yet, you hardly have to pay attention to find out.

The mindless entertainment of a TV series seems troublesome in its length. You have to watch it all year? Never for that.

I can commit to work and relationships over time; to avocations; not much else. Like, what else? Certainly not TV shows. A game is a few hours, one time. You barely have to pay attention. You can do other things at the same time. Do the dishes. Pay the bills. Broil. Just come back to the living room when you hear shouting.

Steve "Broadway" Burke
for Ithaca NY Blog

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Four Cheers/Stars For Maxie's

We just got in from dinner at Maxie's, and had a great meal and great time there, and realize we probably don't express our esteem for the place as much as we should.

The food is always great. We know some people think it is expensive there, and it's true that you can spend nice money there, if you want. But you can also not, and it doesn't affect their hospitality.

We enjoyed the music, which (expensive?) Maxie's presents free, twice a week. It was a delightful scene, with happy people.

The service was impeccable, as always. It didn't matter that the total tab for two people (ordering light: a sandwich; sides; no alcohol) was less than $25. I mean, it didn't matter to them. Somehow the place has created a culture, not to be too high-faluting about it, of consistent friendliness, not to mention coolness, among the staff.

About the money. You can get a po' boy sandwich of first rank there, maybe 6 or 7 varieties, for $8.95 or $9.95, loaded down with fries. No food service fare here - everything fresh. This is not much more money than the State Diner, for goodness sake.

Whenever we have visitors, we take them to Maxie's. When they ask what's good, we say everything - order anything. And it is. When we leave, our guests invariably ask, do you know the staff? Everyone treated us so great. We say some of them, sort of; not all of them; that's just how they are.

So do yourself a favor - and do restaurant culture a favor, too - and go enjoy Maxie's, a really fine place, and boon to this town.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Dueling Banjos on Ithaca Sunday Morning Radio

Ithaca now has two locally-produced, marathon folk music programs on Sunday mornings.

After years of hosting Nonesuch on WVBR, Tracey Craig packed her leaving trunk a few weeks ago to start a new show, Rootabaga Boogie [sic], on a new station, WITH-FM, a little further left on the dial.

After a couple of weeks of improvising, Nonesuch has installed a new permanent host, Nicholas Hill, for the first two hours of the broadcast; the remaining hours will be hosted by a rotating cast of jocks.

We are listening to both right now. Nick sounds a little uncertain about the this and that, but inviting nonetheless. So far, his selections are tried-and-true, such as Peggy Seeger, Ewan McCall, and Johnny Cash (singing "Joshua Gone Barbados," a cover new to us, and a great one).

Meanwhile, Tracey is doing what Tracey does, an idiosyncratic take on multiple genres that she construes as, foremost, an Ithaca blend; and she should know, having done it many years, as well as presenting live shows at venues large and small.

Tracey's new show is 2 hours, versus 4.5 hours at Nonesuch. Still, she manages to pack in interviews and live studio sets by local and visiting musicians.

We hope and trust the competition will be healthy and fun for all. Thanks to Tracey for keeping on and to Nick for jumping in.