musings on music, travel, books, and life from Southeast Asia

Archive for October, 2016

William Bell’s Soulful Comeback

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Some recording artists release new albums every year, while others take their time, spacing their new collections a few years apart. In William Bell’s case, it’s been a whopping ten years since his last studio album, and nearly forty years since his last major label release. Talking about taking your time! But in this case it was well worth the wait. His excellent new album, This is Where I Live, marks his return to Stax Records, the label where he penned the classic “You Don’t Miss Your Water”, as well as other 1960s hits such “I Forgot to Be Your Lover”, “Private Number”, “Born Under a Bad Sign”, and “You Don’t Miss Your Water”. But after his early success William Bell has been pretty much off the musical radar since his 1977 album Coming Back For More.

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Bell wrote or co-wrote most of the songs on his new album, astutely selecting some talented writers to help him (producer John Leventhal, Rosanne Cash, and Marc Cohn), plus he does a fantastic cover of an old Jesse Winchester song. From start to finish, This is Where I Live is nothing but sheer listening pleasure, pure southern soul from one of the masters of the genre. Although Bell is now 77 years old, he sounds like a much younger man, although one whose long life and vast experiences has shaped these heartfelt songs. Even so many decades later, the power and soulful passion of his voice remain, the perfect garnish for these splendid songs.

Meanwhile, here are the other albums (all purchased on CD; you won’t get me paying those high prices for supposedly “superior” vinyl!) that have me humming and smiling and dancing while the rain continues to fall where I live in Thailand.

 

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Drive-By Truckers – American Band

Barry White – Together Brothers

Teenage Fanclub – Here

Hailu Mergia & Dahlak Band – Wede Harer Guzo

Blood Oranges – Freetown Sound

 

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Ike Turner – That Kat Sure Could Play!

Gerry Beckley – Carousel

Dawes – We’re All Gonna Die

Look Park – Look Park

Turnpike Troubadours – Goodbye Normal Street

 

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Temper Trap – Thick As Thieves

Ian Hunter – Fingers Crossed

Jimmy Bo Horne – Best of the TK Years 1975-1985

Seth Swirsky – Circles and Squares

William Tyler – Modern Country

 

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Various Artists – Bluesin’ by the Bayou: Rough ‘N’ Tough

Band of Horses – Why Are You Ok

The Main Ingredient – Tasteful Soul & Bitter Sweet

Peter Bjorn and John – Breakin’ Point

Various Artists – Eccentric Soul: Sitting in the Park

 

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Johnny Jenkins – Ton-Ton Macoute!

Red Hot Chili Peppers – The Getaway

Senor Soul – What It Is Y’all: The Best of

Fats Domino – Greatest Hits: Walking To New Orleans

The Dells – Freedom Means …

 

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Various Artists – Reaching Out: Chess Records at Fame Studios

Corinne Bailey Rae – The Heart Speaks in Whispers

Lucero – Live From Atlanta

Joe Ely – Live Chicago 1987

The Explorers Club – Together

 

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Various Artists – Things Gonna Get Better: Street Funk and Jazz Grooves 1970-1977

Fanga/Maalem Abdallah Guinea – Fangnawa Experience

School of Seven Bells – SVIIB

Michael Kiwanuka – Love & Hate

Andrew Bird – Are You Serious

 

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The Garifuna Collective – Ayo

Various Artists – South Texas Rhythm ‘N’ Soul Revue 2

Van Morrison – Keep Me Singing

John Fahey – The Dance of Death & Other Plantation Favorites

Various Artists – Wayfaring Strangers: Cosmic American Music

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Enduring Somber Thailand

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Thailand is often called “The Land of Smiles” but that’s certainly not the case lately. The world is seeing a very sad and somber Thailand the past two weeks after the death of the country’s beloved King Bhumibol Adulyadej on October 13. Many previously scheduled events and concerts have been cancelled, regular TV coverage has been disrupted, and most of the citizens — and many foreigners — have been wearing black during this period of mourning.

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I’m not Thai, but I’ve lived here in the kingdom for over 20 years and I share the nation’s loss. King Bhumibol reigned for over 70 years and is often called the father of the country. His birthday, on December 5, is in fact Thailand’s official Father’s Day. But more than the father of this country, I don’t think it’s incorrect to say that the King WAS the country. He was the heart of the country, the soul of the country, the face of the country. You can’t replace someone like that. And so the country mourns.

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Amidst all the mourning, I’m trying to go about my daily duties at work and live my life as usual, but also reflecting on what all of this means to Thailand. Grief, worry, anxiety, uncertainty; emotions are running high. In the past several years I haven’t been as happy living in Thailand as I was when I first moved here, but when I think about the alternatives — moving back to the USA or relocating to another country — I realize things really aren’t so bad here after all. Nevertheless, I think it’s also safe to say that my heart is in Myanmar, a country I visit frequently and one that I’d love to call my home at some point in the future. I’ve said it before and it bears repeating; the country and its people are wonderful.

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And so, here is yet another post with photos from Myanmar; a few images of some of those delightful people that put a smile on my face and a song in my heart when everything else around me is dark and somber.

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Shan State Spelunking!

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There’s caves in them hills! Yes, all you spelunkers, we got your caves! Over in the tiny Shan State village of Tat Ein, just a few kilometers down the road from the larger environs of Nyaung Shwe and scenic Inle Lake, there is at least one interesting cave worth exploring.

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Accompanying me on this trip to Nyaung Shwe this time were Ye Man Oo and his parents from Mandalay, along with his friend Zin Min Phyo, and my friend from Bagan, Nine Nine. None of those fine folks had visited the larger of the Tat Ein caves before, so we put that on our agenda this time, hoping to squeeze in a visit between the rain storms.

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Well, the first day the rain won and we couldn’t go to the cave, but on the second day our luck held and we were able to make a visit, accompanied by Aung Thaung, one of the novice monks from the village’s monastery, and one of the local kids. Armed with a huge flashlight, Aung Thaung and his friend led us through the labyrinth network of dark passages and Buddha images that decorated the interior.

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The next day we returned for a quick visit to say goodbye to the monks at the monastery. While we were there we met Chaw Jo, a friendly young female tourist from Hong Kong who was traveling by herself. We didn’t have time to stay and show here around, needing to be at a friend’s house before dark, but we suggested that she visit the cave while she was in the village. Once again the senior monk assigned Aung Thaung and the other boy the task of taking a visitor to see the cave. Not sure if Aung Thaung was thrilled or petrified with this extra task, but he obediently accepted the duty!

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We met Chaw Jo for dinner later that night and she reported that the excursion was a lot of fun, although because Aung Thaung and his friend spoke only a few words of English, and Chaw Jo didn’t understand any Burmese, they resorted to using a lot of hand gestures. All in all, this was another good example of the joys of travel and the unexpected things — and people — that you can encounter along the way.

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