The Brown Sisters: Forty Portraits That Tell us Nothing, and Everything

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Life and Art combine to create something that is representative of the best both are capable of achieving.

I have little I can, or want to, add to the pictures themselves, part of a series undertaken by Nicholas Nixon.

This remarkable sequence of photographs contains essays, poems, short stories, even a novel. But it is more than those things; it’s better: it’s real, and the subject is at once obvious and elusive. Totally human.

And the accompanying story (by Susan Minot) is quite satisfactory, with this paragraph summing up so much:

These subjects are not after attention, a rare quality in this age when everyone is not only a photographer but often his own favorite subject. In this, Nixon has pulled off a paradox: The creation of photographs in which privacy is also the subject. The sisters’ privacy has remained of utmost concern to the artist, and it shows in the work. Year after year, up to the last stunning shot with its triumphant shadowy mood, their faces and stances say, Yes, we will give you our image, but nothing else.

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Steel (Guitar) This Album

I’ve long maintained that the judicious use of steel guitar is always one of the ultimate secret weapons of any musical act. I’ve just never said it out loud. Well, I’m saying it now.

And let’s face it, it’s not terribly often you see the lap steel broken out by an act that is not either wearing cowboy hats or singing gospel songs (and I say that without an ounce of snark).

Maybe you’ve heard of the Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey. Maybe you have not. Either way, if you like jazz, or are trying to get a handle on a good example of “modern” jazz, or –most importantly– if you just have an open mind and dig good sounds, whoever is making them, their new album, Stay Gold should be on your short list.

Suffice it to say, steel guitar in jazz is unusual, as is a jazz band from Tulsa, Oklahoma. For those two reasons alone, these guys are worth giving a shot (I also say that with an utter absence of sarcasm or snark). Their music has been affectionately (and, if I may say, brilliantly) called “Red Dirt Jazz”, and I think that works.

Check it out:

Pretty tasty, huh? As you can see (and hear), JFJO is a standard jazz trio (piano, bass, drums) and the aforementioned lap steel. Frankly, these compositions would be inviting and memorable as “straightforward” trio numbers, but the addition of Chris Combs’s lap steel gives the work a slightly haunting edge. As a result, the music is more than merely memorable; it is exhilarating and often irresistible.

Stay Gold is a pleasant surprise in 2010, and I have bookmarked this band as an act I would go out of my way to catch in concert. If you’re not inclined to drop the ten bucks (or less) this would cost you to download, and you are the iTunes song-by-song selecting type, I’d suggest you start with any of these three songs which, for me, are the highlights of this highly recommended new release: “The Sensation of Seeing Light”, “Hamby’s Window” and “This, Our Home.” I can’t stop listening to the latter song and, I suspect, you may have the same problem. It’s a good problem to have.

Stay Gold just may steel your heart (I say that, too, without snark but with a bit of embarassment; I just couldn’t help myself).

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