CD: ‘Tribal’ by Dr. John and The Lower 911

Dr. John aka Mac Rebennack has been the finest musical ambassador for his home city of New Orleans. And with his recent string of winning albums like his Johnny Mercer salute Mercenary (2006), Crescent City tribute and lament City That Care Forgot and this disc he’s on a roll indeed. This 2010 release slipped through the cracks in my annual political roundup.

But songs like “Big Gap” (about the increasing economic divide in this nation) and “Only In Amerika” are as compelling topical songs as anything in recent memory. He also examines the vagaries of love and life within the wondrous musical context of the New Orleans tradition. And as scathing as his political assessment may be, the set starts with the aptly-titled “Feel Good Music” and closes on a note of hope with “A Place In The Sun” to offer a listening experience that’s as rich and tasty as Crescent City cuisine.

Documentary Film: ‘Gun Fight’

America’s troubled and twisted relationship with guns and rifles is examined with a very human touch in this superb if at times disturbing HBO movie by Oscar winning documentary filmmaker Barbara Kopple (who made the superb Harlan Country USA).

Taking the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre as its starting point, it gives both sides of the raging debate over gun control their due, and brings both arguments home by focusing on people as much as the issue. Its ultimate effect is to show how wide the divide is between gun advocates and those who wish to restrict their proliferation in our already too violent society, and make plain how any middle ground seems almost impossible.

Documentary TV: ‘The Great Famine’

I love a life where you learn something new if not every day at least on a consistent basis. And before seeing this PBS American Experience episode, I knew very little about the famine in the Soviet Union in the early 1920s and nothing of how the United States did much to relieve the suffering in what was its ideological and later geopolitical rival.

Largely failed US President Herbert Hoover’s standing is enhanced by his earlier leadership of the relief effort, which had to contend with the challenges of crumbled post-World War I Russia and its new revolutionary regime. It’s a story of both tragedy and humanity that for all its chilling sorrow reminds how humanity can triumph all that sometimes divides mankind.

From The Progressive Populist, August 15, 2011


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