The Mindful Bard – Steppin? In It, Simple Tunes for Troubled Times

Books, Music, and Film to Wake Up Your Muse and Help You Change the World

CD: Steppin? In It, Simple Tunes for Troubled Times

Release date: 2008

Label: Fox on a Hill

All right, Steamboat Queen,
Sing me a simple tune for these troubled times.
Hold tight, Steamboat Queen.
You must have been something in your prime.

from ?The Steamboat Queen,? Steppin? In It, Simple Tunes for Troubled Times

On several occasions during my early childhood my parents took me to visit the home of friends who owned a player piano. The adults would dissolve in laughter as I walked around and around the piano looking for the player who was ripping out that glorious honky-tonk tune.

Memories like this are part of what keeps me relatively stable in the wake of these ?troubled times.? Childhood memories and ancestral voices not only root us in the past, they also show us where we are and where we’re headed.

I didn’t want to hear this when I was 16, but a sense of the past does grant us wisdom and strength. The voices of them what’s gone before are a source of enlightenment and solace, as exemplified by these timely songs that draw exuberantly on Texas swing, Dixieland, blues, gospel, Cajun, country rock, as well as North American folk history.

?Charles Hatfield’s Blues? channels the Kansas-born pseudo-scientist on whom the movie The Rainmaker was based, and who, in the early part of the 20th century, had a secret formula for making rain. His services were much in demand, with mixed results?some sensational, some not.

?The Ghost of Richard Manuel? is a loving tribute to the Canadian musical wizard who, in 1986, after a long and distinguished career with The Band, hung himself in his hotel room.

Why write about these people? I can’t say, but I do know that tales of doomed heroes seem so much closer to reality as most of us know it, and that they are often more entertaining and enlightening than the more highly publicized conquests and vanquishings.

?The Break of Day? and ?Mr. President? keep up a time-honoured tradition of speaking out against inequality, that ugly underbelly of capitalism, in a country where free enterprise is a god many dare not foil.

None of this would be worth the plastic it was burned on if it weren’t so dang much fun. Just try listening to ?The Romp? without dancing. Or at least hopping a knee or two.

Simple Tunes for Troubled Times lives up to five of The Mindful Bard’s criteria for albums well worth hearing: 1) it is authentic, original, and delightful; 2) it confronts existing injustices; 3) it makes me want to be a better artist; 4) it displays an engagement with and compassionate response to suffering; and 5) it provides respite from a sick and cruel world, a respite enabling me to renew myself for a return to mindful endeavour.

The Bard could use some help scouting out new material. If you discover any books, compact disks, or movies which came out in the last twelve months and which you think fit the Bard’s criteria, please drop a line to bard@voicemagazine.org. For a list of criteria, go here. If I agree with your recommendation, I’ll thank you online.

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