Blood Suckers

TV: True Blood — The new HBO series created by Alan Ball takes his delicious gift for mixing real and surreal from the gothic halls of a Los Angeles funeral home on the brilliant Six Feet Under to a truly Southern gothic small town setting into which comes a vampire—out of the coffin and darkness and into everyday life, albeit as second-class citizens. I write this in the week before its Sunday, Sept. 7 premiere. Like Ball, I’ve never read Anne Rice or watched Buffy. Yet from just what I’ve seen of the HBO On Demand previews and accompanying features make me fairly sure I’ll be bitten by this series as much as I became buried alive within the milieu and characters of Six Feet Under. Why? Well, there’s Ball’s vivid sense of setting and place, and where better to send such prejudged creatures as vampires than a small Louisiana town? And then there’s his feel for characters. Of course, the whole notion of vampires as the misunderstood and threatening “other” has all sorts of social, cultural and political implications.

Music: Rodney Crowell, Sex and Gasoline — I’ve taken to calling Crowell the last “new Dylan” of his generation, even if he already has enjoyed a long and very distinguished musical career. He’s been a paragon of quality in the often base world of country music. After a six-year hiatus from making records, he’s been writing songs at a whole new level for what is now four brilliant and musically engaging albums. All of them have their very pointed and highly eloquent political elements, explored from his blue-collar based but well self-educated leftism. On this one, the title track and “The Rise and Fall of Intelligent Design” have their obvious political commentary, and the general tenor of the album being written from a perspective of empathy with the female position in society gives it a subtle yet weighty gravitas.

If you like your music rooted yet rocking and enjoy the singer-songwriter tradition, this disc and the three that precede it are well worth seeking out.

From The Progressive Populist, October 1, 2008

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