Cormac McCarthy often comes up with really good stories but he doesn’t know how to tell them, because he can’t write his way out of a paper bag.  His original script for Ridley Scott’s movie The Counselor is a case in point.  It’s not a terribly original story — lawyer with financial problems thinks he can take a one-time step into criminality to save himself and finds himself trapped in darkness.  It’s basically the plot of the John Garfield classic Force Of Evil, updated, with a more downbeat ending.

But it’s still a good story, set in lots of interesting locations, handsomely photographed by director Scott.  The dialogue bounces back and forth between the pretentious and the banal, but it’s quirky stuff, refreshing as a change of pace from the cookie-cutter writing in most modern thrillers.


Sadly, McCarthy is a soi-disant artiste, so he can’t just let the story have its way — he has to weigh it down with philosophical claptrap, which eventually sinks the tale.  His stories are better served when real storytellers, like the Coen brothers, take his narratives and cut the bullshit — cut to the chase.  The Counselor dribbles away at the end into nihilistic gobbledegook, into supposedly intellectual conceits that don’t bear much actual intellectual scrutiny.  McCarthy is a literary poseur, who turns stories into tiresome post-modern parlor games.



My New Orleans friends Adrienne and Bill gave me this album for Christmas but I’ve just had a chance to spend some serious time listening to it.  I knew it would be cool, because Adrienne and Bill know what’s cool when it comes to New Orleans music.

Dr. John called James Booker “the best black, gay, one-eyed junkie piano genius New Orleans has ever produced.”  He was a virtuoso keyboardist who combined a lot of traditions, stride, Latin, classical, jazz, gospel, blues, into a distinct style that’s still recognizable as a variant of a traditional New Orleans musical gumbo.  He sometimes added plaintive vocals to his recordings.

Booker died at the age of 43 in 1983 — this album contains his last commercial recordings.  They’re strange and spooky and wonderful — something in that gumbo you haven’t tasted before and can’t quite put a name to.

Click on the image to enlarge.



Few things make me as happy as surf music, the shittier the better.  I once saw Dick Dale play at the beach in Ventura, California and that made me unreasonably happy.  Dick said, “I always use the thickest strings I can find for my guitar to get this sound — I’ve cut my fingers to ribbons for you.”

Thank you, Dick.



This is a very enjoyable album.  You might argue that some of the mixes are a bit too Spector-ized — a bit too mushy — but Lennon’s voice cuts through them like a knife, full of his joy in these basic rock and roll numbers.  I’m especially fond of his version of “Stand By Me” — I remember dancing to it on a juke box at McManus’s Irish pub on 7th Avenue in New York, with my girlfriend of the time, back when I was young, and thinking, “This is our song.”

As far as I’m concerned we’re still dancing to it, and it’s still our song, and John Lennon, long dead, is still singing it just for us.



More Record Store Day booty — a repressing of Dream With Dean, and it’s pretty dreamy, with Dino singing in such a laid-back style that you think he might drift off to sleep at any moment, though that would not be cool, and Dino is impeccably cool here.

Backed up by a jazzy quartet featuring the impeccable Barney Kessel on electric guitar, the song selection is excellent, the interpretations quiet but emotionally convincing.  It’s hard to think of any singer today who could pull off an album like this — getting the job done in spades without seeming to work at it at all.

We’ve all heard “Blue Moon” a million times, but when Martin just lets it roll off his tongue here, it sounds brand new, matter-of-factly perfect.



Record Store Day booty — a new pressing of the Everly Brothers 1968 album Roots.  This is a pretty good record, though many tracks are spoiled by too much reverb on the brothers’ vocals, which makes it hard to appreciate the exquisitely precise blend of their voices singing in harmony.  The standout track is “Sing Me Back Home”, where the harmony parts are clearer in the mix.

Click on the image to enlarge.


Circus Cover Baja

Drama and Romance Under the Big Top

“Circus” depicts the drama and romance, the triumphs and the tragedies, behind-the-scenes of a good old-fashioned American circus making its way through the midwest in 1935. Fonvielle immerses the reader in the unique show business world of the circus and provides a thrilling glimpse of the last days of the old-time traveling tent “Big Top” circuses that would disappear in the coming years after the story is set. The complex and colorful characters and evocative portrait of a time and world long-gone made this a highly enjoyable read.

Read the review and get book details here: