Feature Stories

October 9, 2007

Pyeng Threadgill
Sweet Home: The Music of Robert Johnson
Random Chance RCD-16

Pyeng Threadgill is a young African-American woman and jazz vocalist, and she has brought together a multiethnic, multiracial ensemble of talented jazz musicians to join her in rendering eleven of Robert Johnson's classic blues songs into modern jazz. A daunting task indeed, but one in which her CD here, Sweet Home: The Music of Robert Johnson not only achieves successfully, but with soul as well.

September 25, 2007

In the opening moments of Joel Pierson's new play Mourning Lori, the character David has an animated argument with his mother, Lori. At stake is whether or not David is mentally ill.

David tells his mother that he's just been under a lot of pressure lately but that things are looking up for him. His mother counters with the fact that she is dead.

Mourning Lori, which opens Oct. 4, at the John Waldron Arts Center's Rose Firebay, is a family drama in a postmodern wrapper.

The setup is simple. Lori has died - committed suicide, in fact - and her family gathers in Chicago to grieve and plan the funeral.There is the father, Michael (played by James Behmke); Talya, his responsible daughter (Whitney Christiansen); Carolyn, the other daughter (Jenn Robison Taylor); and David (Aaron Moon), Hollywood screenwriter and diagnosed schizophrenic.

September 25, 2007

Chief Schabuttie Gilliame
Snakes Crawls At Night
Random Chance RCB-17

Chief Schabuttie Gilliame is an African-born bluesman from the Phoenix, Arizona area who performed in Arizona and California. Born in Egypt in 1925, he first learned the blues in Arkansas and Louisiana before moving to Arizona in the mid-1970s. His deep-throated, gravelly bass vocals render him reminiscent of Howlin' Wolf, and the Chief is an accomplished, original blues songwriter as well.

September 15, 2007

BloomingPlays, the Bloomington Playwrights Project’s (BPP) new collection of one-act plays, grew out of a group of writers looking for a place to call home.

“Outside of very specific events we do here, there’s not really a place for new plays,” says David Nosko, a BPP member who’s involved on many levels with BloomingPlays. “There’s a group of us local writers who sought a space for us to develop and showcase our own works.”

So, starting in March, the group began meeting regularly to discuss each other’s writing. In the workshops, writers provided positive feedback to each other, who then revised their plays. Out of that process, five plays—“Streetside Shoeshop,” “For the Love of a Couch,” “Morning,” “The Clockwork Man” and “Party Girls”—emerged to be part of the Lora Shiner Series, in which each was polished to a finished product, collectively known as BloomingPlays.

September 11, 2007

For the last seven years, when he hasn’t been chasing area hell-raisers, Bedford police officer Brian Turpen has quietly and painstakingly researched the life of a man who, according to country music lore, was perhaps the quintessential hell-raiser: Hank Williams Sr.

Turpen, whose zeal for the music legend is already well-known among a small but fervent church of Hank Williams superfans, may be on the verge of achieving wider recognition with the July release of his book, Ramblin’ Man: Short Stories from the Life of Hank William.

The book is a collection of more than 50 articles Turpen has published in various fanzines and newsletters over the last few years, all of them written exclusively by the man in blue, with the exception of one sprawling, standout piece on the 1949 Grand Ole Opry European Tour, which was co-written with Manfred Reinhardt of Germany.

September 11, 2007

If Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeah's had grown up and formed a band in the heart of the Midwest instead of New York, one could imagine that the resulting outfit would sound a lot like Cincinnati-based Heartless Bastards, who rocked Bloomington's own Bluebird on Sept. 6.

While the brazenly unapologetic name might make some a little hesitant, one listen to the trio's brand of bluesy, grungy, down-home rock 'n' roll and you can't get them out of your ears.

Kicking off a late show Thursday night, HB drew a decent crowd for still being relatively unknown and were definitely worth the three-hour wait (for this reviewer, at least). Coming off from a recent appearance at this year's Lollapalooza in Chicago and starting a tour of the Midwest, the band has a lot to look forward to, as evidenced by the hard-stomping show.

September 11, 2007

Random Chance Records is a small, high-quality blues and jazz record label based in New York City. It has some excellent, exciting issues, as these two reviews below indicate.

Jimmie Lee Robinson
Chicago Jump
Random Chance Records RCD14

Chicago Jump is composed of previously unreleased material from the late Jimmie Lee Robinson, Little Walter's long-time guitarist in the 1950s, that was recorded in November 1995 and February 1996. Coaxed out of retirement in the late 1980s by Scott Dirks, harpman with one of Chicago's leading blues bands, the Ice Cream Men, Robinson hadn't played regularly for over a decade. One of the last remaining traditional 1950s Chicago-style electric blues guitarists, Robinson soon re-established himself as a blues artist of note, playing festivals and recording his widely-acclaimed “comeback” album for Delmark, Lonely Traveler, that was released in 1994.

September 5, 2007

Margot & the Nuclear So and So’s, an Indianapolis-based indie rock/folk band, will perform at the Bluebird this Saturday, September 8, at 9 p.m. You can expect to hear songs from their debut album, The Dust of Retreat, and hope for previews from their forthcoming album.

The band’s Web site describes The Dust of Retreat as “a wintry sort of album, filled with stories and observations, made tastier with Jesse Lee's cello, Emily Watkins' rhodes piano and Hubert Glover's trumpet. Chris Fry played the drums and Casey Tennis played more drums and banged on things with mallets. Tyler Watkins played electric bass, usually without any shoes on his feet.”

These tactics seem to work well for the So and So’s, who’ve received overwhelmingly positive reviews from Billboard, The Indianapolis Star, and various websites for their debut album.

August 28, 2007

On Sept. 1, the Buskirk-Chumley Theater's Textillery Gallery will premier "Pipe Dream," a multimedia exhibit by local artist Libby Bulloff. The exhibit runs Sept. 1-30, with an opening reception on Friday, Sept. 7, from 5-7 p.m.

Bulloff, an IU graduate, combines her many artistic talents through various endeavors. She's the co-creator, co-promoter and director of design for Axis of Evil, a monthly Gothic dance event; a contributing writer for SteamPunk Magazine; graphic designer and videographer for IU's Residential Programs and Services; and the owner of Exoskeleton Cabaret, a Web-based business dedicated to hairpieces and wearable art.

August 11, 2007

Under the name Songs: Ohia and Magnolia Electric Co., Jason Molina has more releases on Bloomington's Secretly Canadian Records than any other artist -- nine CDs and two EPs. Sales of 300,000 copies across his discography is a long-term boost that has helped the company grow.

Molina has been one of the label's hardest-traveling touring artists, globetrotting through much of each year on solo jaunts, but more often with his band of Bloomington-based players -- Jason Groth on guitar, Pete Schreiner on bass, Mark Rice on drums and Michael Kapinus on keyboards.

Fresh from tours of Europe and Australia and New Zealand, Magnolia Electric Co. will be kicking off a 40-date North American tour on August 23 at The Bluebird in Bloomington.

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