Here’s a photo of two blues legends… and two future legends.
The dude at far left is “Steady Rollin'” Bob Margolin, who played with Muddy Waters from 1973 to 1980, and has been performing under his own name since, garnering Blues Music Awards along the way. The gentleman on harmonica is Phil Wiggins, a master of the”Piedmont Blues” style, most notably in the duo Cephas & Wiggins, which performed for 32 years until guitarist John Cephas passed away in 2009. Phil is still actively performing, and was awarded an NEA National Heritage Fellowship in 2017.
The kid on guitar is Joe Tellmann. I worked with his dad Dave in the early 90s, at a tiny indie rock station called 97X. (Shameless plug: Dave & I do a podcast about our days at the station.) Dave and I have been friends ever since. The kid on piano is Ben Levin, a neighbor of ours. He and our oldest son Gabriel went to school together in junior high. Now Joe, Ben and Gabriel are all freshmen at the University of Cincinnati.
Joe and Ben are blues wunderkinds – musical prodigies with more chops than a Bruce Lee movie. The photo above is from a Pinetop Perkins Foundation MasterClass performance last summer in Clarksdale, Mississippi (“crossroads of the blues”). The Pinetop Perkins Foundation supports young artists who are interested in the blues, and provides opportunities for them to learn from seasoned pros.
But let’s set aside the musical talent for a moment. Both Joe and Ben are great kids. Even if they couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket, their parents would have ample right to be proud of the young men they’ve become. Their musical talents are just icing on the cake… or maybe the discipline required to learn and master an instrument also comes in handy off stage. When schools face budget cuts, the music program is one of the first ones to walk the plank. That’s a shame, because music has myriad benefits.
Some folks claim the blues are a dying art form, but I disagree. Check out this clip and you’ll agree that with Joe and Ben involved, the blues are in extremely capable hands.
Tanya Donelly rocks. Period. End of discussion. You’d be hard pressed to find someone with more indie music cred. She was a founding member of not one, not two, but three seminal bands: Throwing Muses (with her stepsister Kristin Hersh), The Breeders (with Kim Deal from The Pixies) and Belly. Quick, name another artist who can claim that feat…
All those bands had their heyday back in the 80s or early 90s. It would be easy to traffic in nostalgia. But Tanya is looking forward instead of backward, and encouraging all of us to do the same. In 2018, her band Belly released Dove, their first album in 23 years. They haven’t missed a beat – it’s fantastic.
The song “Human Child” is on the new release, and it’s all about looking forward:
We let ourselves be owned by things long gone Old photographs, old songs Wrap us in ghosts
Oh human child Your face to the wind, your back to the sun Oh human child You’re digging up bones and miss all the fun
I’m not here to save you I’m just trying to get you outside Get yourself out of your way and pull your head out of the shade
Belly’s bassist Gail Greenwood created a video for the song, using mostly footage from a 1993 tour.
And here’s their live performance from KEXP, with a career-spanning set list.
I had lunch with a world-famous artist yesterday. OK, he’s not world-famous yet, but he’s certainly nationally-famous. More importantly, he’s one of the nicest folks you’ll ever meet.
Keith Neltner and I worked together at a Cincinnati ad agency (ahem, “design studio”) for about five years, more than a decade ago. He was a brilliant graphic designer and I was a hack copywriter… your classic Odd Couple storyline. Keith’s skill level, his talent, his “eye”… is off the charts. Yet it’s matched by his work ethic, which came from spending his entire childhood (and beyond) working on his family’s small farm in Northern Kentucky.
Keith hung his own shingle several years ago – Neltner Small Batch is the name of his company. He’s still working his magic, but instead of doing it for the P&Gs of the world, he’s doing it for smaller, more craft-oriented companies like LIC.
Keith also does artwork for musicians, including the album layout for Shooter Jennings’ most recent release.
Which is great, but I still think his art is underappreciated because it’s typically intertwined with commerce. However, a recent project that Keith and his Neltner Small Batch collective worked on is pure heart and pure art. They (Keith, Tom Post, Chris Dye, Andi Bussard and Andy Sohoza) created a 63-foot wall mural in graphic novel style to share stories from holocaust survivors at Cincinnati’s Holocaust & Humanity Center.
On Monday evening, Erika Wennerstrom, leader of the band Heartless Bastards, played an intimate set at a bar in the hipster part of town. Actually, she played two sets – the original gig at 6 p.m. sold out quickly (not surprising – the room capacity was well under 100) so they added a second set at 9 p.m.
I’m a bit slow on the uptake (if you read this regularly, that shouldn’t come as a shock), so I missed out on getting tickets to the 6 p.m. show, whose starting time was much more conducive to my Middle-Aged-Man-On-A-School-Night schedule.
However, I’m a live music super trooper, so I sucked it up and hit the late show with my friends David and Sandy. (“David & Sandy” could also be the name of a ’60s duo…)
Erika was the star of the show – a pint-sized dynamo with a majestic voice. But she shared the stage with two other women: Beth Harris (from the Cincinnati band The Hiders) provided angelic harmony vocals and Lauren Gurgiolo (formerly of Okkervil River) played lead guitar in an understated-yet-amazing way.
Erika’s used to playing large clubs and festivals with her band… and I’m used to seeing them in that setting. This was a wonderful opportunity to see her at a more casual, more personal gig. (She’s from Dayton, Ohio and formed her band in Cincinnati.) It didn’t disappoint. The set list consisted mostly of songs off her new solo album, and they sounded great live. And it’s always a treat to be so close to the stage.
Actually, I have no regrets about the late evening. It was totally worth it because it was so extraordinary.
… you head to the basement to feed the cats and notice that the sanitary sinks near the washer are filled to the brim with swampy water.
It happens at least once a year. It’s not the washer drain that’s clogging (I have lint screen and a drain cover there), it’s just backup from the kitchen sink, and the basins near the washer are the path of least resistance.
My trusty drain auger, which I got eons ago for less than $20, saved the day once again. I was able to snake the drain to clear the clog.
Thank goodness… after all, I wouldn’t want to spend any dead presidents for an emergency plumbing visit on President’s Day.