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A Chat with Cory Chisel



Technology is a finicky thing; Cory Chisel’s cell dropped a call and then my recording program didn’t catch his line at all. That’s a Monday for you.

But Cory was very accommodating and gracious and left behind an excellent (second!) chat. He came off a great show this past Saturday night at the Paradise, opening for Murder by Death while staving off a raspy throat. He recovered, continuing with the Wandering Sons on tour this summer as they close the first act on the east coast and gear up for a second half out west with Norah Jones.

Before the technical mishap, we touched upon the teamwork of The Wandering Sons; Cory started on his working relationship with Brendan Benson. Being so close on a personal and professional level, Chisel admitted that they can interact with one another like “two bickering old ladies.” Brendan is also helpful in nudging Cory into the studio because he finds it challenging to record for a mic. Cory’s a one-take man, preferring live performances and sessions to the faceless microphone.

I mentioned to Chisel that his partnership with Adriel Harris reminded me of the chemistry that Tammi Terrell and Marvin Gaye had, funny thing, said Cory, because he and Harris had some plans to record some Marvin and Tammi songs down the line.

On Old Believers, Cory Chisel and The Wandering Sons struck a balance, having achieved an intimate yet relatable collection of songs; so we spoke again about the songwriting process, creative wavelength, and the joys of B-Sides.

CM: Talk to me once more about your inspirations, you know, how you’re really good with your songwriting craft and you’re able to separate yourself from imitation and replicating other artists.

Cory: Yeah! I think we were saying, you get better as you get older, definitely feeling more comfortable and certain than I was at 18. I think a really good thing about songwriting overall is like, it definitely moving more towards understanding what different musical styles resonates with you personally and what is authentic as opposed to something that I just like about other bands.

CM: Right.

Cory: You know, when you start making music it’s like you write reggae songs, you write rock songs, you write…you ‘re just getting used to what it is to be a writer. And, you know, eventually you get old enough to really …you know, just all of a sudden you need a speaking voice and you can change that too, you can speak the way that you talk—you can put an accent on—but there is one true voice that you have…that’s working yourself towards that point and being comfortable in exposing too, is the other thing.

CM: So you’re collaboration with Adriel and Brendan is just really…it just seems so natural with all of you, you just push each other along and that’s fantastic.

Cory: Yeah, we’re looking for that…natural’s the right word, I mean that’s sort of a quest to find you know, who the Wandering Sons are, mostly by who is natural to be with. And meeting those two was like meeting someone who I already knew in a way, you know? I mean, it was just fast and easy and we understood each other intuitively, and that’s a really beautiful feeling.

CM: How many years would you say that took to cultivate, would you say, because I’m sure you work with some people and it doesn’t always gel.

Cory: And sometimes it doesn’t last, you know?

CM: Yeah.

Cory: Sometimes you have a season where it works, and sometimes that season passes. So, I mean, we don’t have it perfectly, still I would like to have even more in my circle. But, we’re making—some new people we’re playing with right now—our guitar player’s 23 years-old and I feel like I’ve known him for a long time. Definitely one of the best parts about travel is that you kind of run into more people you would than just living on a street, say, in a neighborhood.

CM: Now, the material for Old Believers…did you hope to strike a chord with listeners so that they too could find it relatable, other than the songs being your own experiences?

Cory: Yeah. Well we try to take what is universal about the experience and sort of ponder on that rather than the sort of intricacies of exacting the details, like a diary entry. I think in that way it becomes something that, rather than just with sort of pitching this narcissistic way to look at myself, it’s a way to communicate and talk to each other.

CM: So once again, I’ll touch upon the Boston show. I’m glad you did have great time and that was one of your favorite shows!

Cory: Boston’s amazing for shows, I think they understand music intuitively, like it’s a part of the culture in Boston.

CM: Do you have any favorites off of Old Believers that you just love performing, that you find will be timeless in say, future performances down the line in tours and what have you?

Cory: Yeah, my favorite song to play right now is a song on the record called “Foxgloves.” It’s really turning out well in front of a live audience. And of course I really like “I’ve Been Accused,” it’s fun to play the song that people know, but it’s fun to find the other songs that are kind of deeper on the record. I’m really a B-Side writer, I spend a lot of time looking at the back half of a record, because I feel like it’s what people are left with, kind of like the closing of a movie. Some artists spend a lot of time upfront and I’m more of a back half, so it’s fun to see those songs coming to life live.

CM: Yeah! B-Sides are always gems.

Cory: I’m a B-Side fan. I care more about that. When someone really gets into the B-Side of our record, it really makes me happy.


Rain and Fire in Sedona



Ange Alex

A rainy day in Sedona? What are we going to do. Everything we have planned is outdoors. I am pretty sure that is why people come to Sedona, for the beautiful OUTDOOR activities, like hiking, biking, Jeep tours, viewing the red rocks and photography. 

What to do, what to do.

Oh, I know. I had the privilege of meeting some great artists that work in fire and glass! The perfect indoor activity when your outdoor plans are washed away!

The Melting Point in Sedona, conveniently located across the street for the Whole Foods (two birds with one stone, yeah!), is a group of artist focusing on creating and teaching others how to create as well.

When we entered the facilities, it was like entering a fine arts gallery. So many beautiful works of glass art. Jordan Ford is the general manager and one of the Artists. He came out of the workshop and told us the rules, then brought us into the fold. 

We were about to become glass blowers! 

Jordan had a love for the natural world from a very early age. He went on to study geology in college but that is when he discovered glass. He currently has Bachelor’s Degrees in both Earth Science/Geology and Visual Arts/Glassblowing.

Jordan says , “It’s the process of blowing glass that drives me. I find the physical act of making glass so overwhelmingly fascinating. I approach most of my work with a consideration for the more classical techniques – it’s the framework that I use as a jumping point for experimentation.”

Not only is Jordan incredibly talented, he is really personable and extremely funny. He made everyone in the room feel at ease and we all often irrupted in bouts of laughter.

Another artist that was helping us is Austin Littenberg. Austin became interested in the art of glass blowing at age 16 after watching a documentary. He spent over 12 years developing his craft and learning the technical precision needed to work at this level.

Austin views the many ways Art presents itself and is in tune with it all, and it shows.

Clearly these two artist love what they do, and I for one am grateful for their expertise and their willingness to show the world their art.

They worked with us to create a beautiful cactus, complete with three flowers, one for each kid, and a Sedona rock like base. We loved the patience they showed and the skill to make us feel at ease. We never felt like  we were about to do something we just couldn’t. It felt like we had been doing this before. That is the measure of a true instructor. 

Our work of art was complete and we left there feeling accomplished and quite honestly, amazing! 

Both Austin and Jordan have remarkable skills but also wonderful comedic timing. They were a absolutely pleasure to meet and I look forward to keeping up with their art in the future.

If you find yourself in Sedona and want to meet some really wonderful people, stop by The Melting Point and say hello! While you’re there, blow some glass!

How could I forget one of them most important things; They have a studio dog! Austin brings his sweet baby girl to work with him and she is an angel! We loved her! Make sure you give her some love when you visit!

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Artists to Watch

Cry With Us! Puddles Pity Party in Orlando



Ange Alex

I owe him a poem:

Here’s a story of a sad clown who one night in February was traveling through O-town. 

He brought a suitcase and a lot of gum, he brought music and videos and tons of fun.

He sang high but mostly he sang low, and he put of one hell of a good show.

He gave a bearded guy a cupcake and danced with a lady, a wolf he would make

There is no doubt he is a boss sir, he even got love from Kevin Costner.

Fans filled the plaza for a night of delight as the 7 foot clown gave us some real insight.

He sang Bowie and Queen and even some Who, also Cash, Lorde and “Let it go” too

Videos played of pets and babies crying, also beautiful artwork and people smiling.

Last night Orlando was anything but mad as we showed much love for a clown that is sad.

Ok, I’d cry too after that poem. Here’s some more info:

If you haven’t been to see a Puddles Pity Party show, you are missing out. 

The show had me smiling and laughing so hard my stomach hurt, but I was also moved so many times by the range of Puddles voice. True entertainment never gets old and I have a feeling he is going to last forever.

I loved the interaction he had with the crowd. He pulled numerous people up to help him on stage and all of them were good sports, one man even singing the entire song, “All by myself” karaoke style! The show was so well thought out and planned but with room for some hilarious improv. Especially at the end when he pulled the 3 fans from the audience dressed like clowns. At the end of them performing together, Puddles suddenly remembers that he is scared of clowns! Genius! 

Hands down one of the best performances I’ve seen in years.


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“20/20:Visionary”: Looking Back, Looking Forward



Photograph by Charlie McCullers, courtesy of Atlanta Ballet.

Last weekend (March 18-20) the Atlanta Ballet gifted the city with “20/20: Visionary,” three pieces, including a world premiere, presented at the Cobb Energy Center.

The world premiere, “Playground,” by British choreographer Douglas Lee, belied its name by being a shadowy piece danced between upright, rolling chalkboard set pieces. Prepared for a lighthearted, joyful expression of childhood, I was surprised that the work instead exposed the darker side of childhood memories. There were some light moments, such as the towering billboard inscribed with multiple lines reading, “Jackie must remember the steps” – clearly a humorous aside about Jackie Nash, one of the most capable company members and perhaps the quickest study in rehearsal. There were some easily-seen choreographic devices–a lot of theme and variation, even more pushing around of set pieces–but there were a few exceptional moments as well, including intricate, slow-motion manipulation of a dancer’s body by another dancer.

Pen-Yu Chen & Tara Lee in “Boiling Point.” Photo by C McCullers, courtesy of Atlanta Ballet.

The opening work, “Boiling Point,” by Darrell Grand Moultrie, was playfully performed at breakneck speed. Dancers are often told to “make it look easy,” and the company took that concept to heart. Highlighted against the men in black costumes, the women wore bits of metallic fabric, providing splashes of intense color and exposing powerful bodies with long muscles. The piece began with the stage space open almost to its fullest, and the dancers running across like a rushing river. They rolled, twisted, turned, and slid like water itself. The choreography juxtaposed synchronicity with counterpoint, traditional with innovation. There was a gargouillade, rarely seen even in classical ballets. The lines of the bodies were critical to the piece, and often layers deep. The flow was almost nonstop, with only an occasional flick of a wrist or toss of a head to provide momentary stasis. The standout was Christian Clark, who sometimes nearly managed to integrate himself into the group but then something distinctive and powerful in his dancing drew the eye to him again.

“Red Clay” from “Home in 7.” Photo by C McCullers, courtesy of Atlanta Ballet.

“Home in 7,” a work by Amy Siewert, closed the concert. A portrait of Atlanta, the ballet was a rich tapestry woven from music, spoken word, and movement. Performed in 7 segments to a libretto written and performed by Marc Bamuthi Joseph and an intriguing, haunting string score composed and performed by Daniel Bernard Roumain, the dance, too, was a poem, shimmering like summer moonlight on the Chattahoochee. John Welker opened the ballet with tiny explosions of movement “Secrets.” Perhaps the most enchanting segment was “Home of the Braves:” 5 men using baseball imagery, holding their formation as they slid precisely between pitches and catches. “Red Clay” evoked August nights, intolerance, and redemption—Atlanta history, a story familiar to many. I first saw this ballet in 2011, and it has grown in depth as the dancers have matured technically and emotionally. Atlanta loves its ballet company, and never more than when it showcases its home city.

John McFall is ending his tenure with the company at the end of this season. For newcomers to Atlanta Ballet offerings, this will have been a dynamic performance. For long-time supporters, it will have been an opportunity to reflect on his legacy. There are a couple more opportunities to see the company under his watch, and then he will pass the torch to Gennadi Nedvigin, the company’s fourth artistic director. Stay tuned!

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