Amoeblog

Ya Hoidz Me? - Talk About Bounce Music

Posted by Eric Brightwell, March 20, 2009 12:01am | Post a Comment
Uptown New Orleans

For some reason, the Bounce scene, born nearly 20 years ago, seems to be undergoing a minor critical reassessment as it inspires curiosity in a new generation of fans amongst the young, the Euro, the old and new. I can only guess why. I suspect that part of it is a development of the ongoing, time-delayed, middle class fascination with vulgar, good-time booty, that, as with booty bass, gogo, ghettotech and juke house before, takes a little longer to catch on beyond the music's traditional base. Or perhaps it’s just the curiosity factor due to the prevalence of so many openly gay rappers, who have been the subject of articles in The Village Voice, The Guardian and The New York Times -- although their readers are unlikely to run out and buy the latest
Sissy Rap record. There was even a piece on Bounce for NPR’s stomach-turning attempt at hipness, What's the New What? ...Just the title of that show makes me feel like I've been kicked where it hurts.


On the other hand, sites like
Louisiana Rap, Nola Bounce and Twankle and Glisten have done a good job in documenting the scene and suggest a much deeper, more honest appreciation that makes me happy. I'll be honest, the idea of a politician claiming to like Bounce would make me die a little inside. Yet, I’d love it if all these underappreciated, undercredited artists who made Bounce happen got some well-deserved acknowledgment and attention. With films like Ya Heard Me documenting the scene and Youtubers like 1825 Tulane Ave and Whatheallman tirelessly keeping Bounce in your ear, I guess I can live with the idea that some ironic, comb-over-wearing member of the Dumpster Click is going to be into it too. Anyway, for the time being, if you look up "New Orleans Bounce" on Youtube, you're (currently, at least) unlikely to be confronted with the image an American Apparel/Vice Magazine disaster doing the Eddie Bow.

Women of the Western

Posted by Eric Brightwell, March 16, 2009 06:48pm | Post a Comment
 

Ever since the dawn of film theory, film critics have loved to talk about the Western; probaby because its engagement with formula and its psychological subtext are so obvious, so close to the surface, that it's like kicking gravel and striking oil. For example, the genre bears a similarity to tales of knights errant, who similarly were bound by codes of honor and used strength and wit to defeat malevolence, &c &c &c... Part of what makes the Western attractive for film theorists is the way it shifts and evolves too -- spiraling off subgenres like Curry Westerns, Northerns, Oesterns, Red Westerns ands Spaghetti Westerns -- and engages other genres like samurai films and noir. But whereas a little bit of research turns up several scholarly works addressing women's place in the Western, I haven't been able to find any that focus on female-centric Westerns, nor been able to uncover a clever or cutesy name for the subgenre. When I started this blog, I thought I'd come up with a tiny handful, but was quickly surprised at how many Westerns feature females in roles of central importance.

   
Real women of the west. washing clothes (left), famous madame Chicago Joe (center), bandit Belle Starr (right)

To be sure, the Wild West was, in fact, a male-dominated place. Of course, there were women too who, just like their male counterparts, were probably more likely to run a ranch or work in town than to find work as gunslingers, bandits and bounty hunters... although there were those too. The National Cowgirl Museum Hall of Fame has, since its founding, sought to better document the contributions of women in the west. Although women in Westerns generally seem to symbolize civilization/the east, making cowboys uneasy with their use of risque talk and their attempts to transport urban conventions to an untamed land, in real life, that role would've been impractical and probably abandoned pretty quickly. When there's work to be done, propriety and traditional societal constructions would just get in the way. In fact, in Wyoming, for example, women gained the right to vote in 1869, over 40 years before the ratification of the nineteenth amendment. The photographs of Evelyn Cameron depict no-nonsense women who have little in common with the dippy, ditzy cowgirls of Gil Elvgren's art or Hollywood cowgirls. Of course, I'm not suggesting that Hollywood is in the business of portraying reality, but it's interesting to look at the decisions they make when constructing mythology.

Continue reading...

Women's history documentaries

Posted by Eric Brightwell, March 14, 2009 10:19am | Post a Comment









              

The unsung heroines of Punk/Post-Punk/No Wave/New Wave

Posted by Eric Brightwell, March 13, 2009 05:46pm | Post a Comment
Since its beginning, rock music has been a male dominated affair. Women, such as Wanda Jackson, were not just anomalies but curiosities. By the '60s there were plenty of girl groups, female soul singers and a few female-fronted rock bands, but the few actually female-dominated rock bands like Ace of Cups, Fanny, The Girls, Goldie & the Gingerbreads (the first all female rock band to sign to a major label) and even the Shaggs aren't exactly household names. That seemed to change in the '70s, when Suzi Quattro and The Runaways seemed to lessen the shock of seeing girls wielding instruments. Whether he was joking or not, Roger Ebert took credit for the girl rock revolution by creating the Carrie Nations in his screenplay for Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. Things really began to change with onset of the new wave of the late '70s. Not only were there female-fronted bands like Siouxise & the Banshees and Blondie, but there were also bands integrated in various ways, like Talking Heads and later The Mekons, Gang of Four, &c. Now, although you could still listen to the radio for a year without hearing an all-female rock band, it's not entirely out of the question. These bands aren't all entirely comprised of women, but they definitely broke the mold.


The Au Pairs "Come Again"


The Bloods "Button Up" (audio only)

Samantha Bumgarner -- fiddling ballad woman of mountains

Posted by Eric Brightwell, March 12, 2009 06:49pm | Post a Comment
Aunt Samantha Bumgarner c. 1937

Aunt Samantha Bumgarner (née Biddix) was a fiddle and banjo player from North Carolina who, in 1924, became the first woman to record hillbilly music. In doing so, she opened the doors for all the great female hillbilly and country musicians who followed. Imagine for a second a world without Brenda Lee, Iris Dement, Jean Shepard, Loretta Lynn, Patsy Cline, Norma Jean, Skeeter Davis, Sue Thompson and Tammy Wynette, to name a few. Not a pretty place.

Dillsboro, North Carolina c. 1904
 

Samantha Biddix was born in Dillsboro, North Carolina on Halloween, 1878, the same year Black Bart held up his last stagecoach and, more relevantly, Thomas Edison patented the phonograph. Her parents were Has Biddix, himself a fiddler, and Sara MaLynda Brown Biddix. Though Biddix showed an early interest in music, her father wouldn’t allow her to touch the fiddle, an instrument occasionally referred to by hillbillies as a “devil’s box.” Nonetheless, when he wasn’t around, she played it and displayed a natural talent. The banjo, then viewed as a slightly more acceptable instrument for women, was not forbidden and Biddix’s first, constructed from gourd and cat hide, was presented to her at fifteen. Later, having demonstrated her skills for her father, he bought her a ten cent model and allowed her to perform with him in the area. Ultimately, he consented to her entering a banjo competition in Canton and she won. Gaining confidence, she began entering and winning competitions routinely.

English Folk Songs from the Southern Appalachians

When she married Carse Bumgarner in 1902, he gave her her first fiddle but she remained most acclaimed for her banjo playing. A few years later she acquired the nickname "Aunt Samantha." Although through the lens of modern ignorance, a hillbilly woman gaining fame with the banjo may seem completely out of the ordinary, it was actually fairly common for women to play the instrument, especially amongst hillbillies. In 1916, when Cecil Sharp and Maud Karpeles began field recording in the upper south, nearly three quarters of the hundreds of tunes they compiled as English Folk Songs from the Southern Appalachians were performed by women. In addition, many famous male hillbillies learned to play from the women in their lives. Ralph Stanley was taught to play by his mother, Lucy Smith Stanley. Cynthia "Cousin Emmy" May Carver taught "Grandpa" Louis Jones. Clarence "Tom" Ashley learned to play from his aunts, Ary and Daisy. Morgan Sexton was schooled by his sister, Hettie. Earl Scruggs was beaten to the banjo by his older sisters, Eula Mae and Ruby.

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