CD: Second Story by The Reivers

This band from Austin, Texas, where I live were among the many contenders in what was called the "college rock" movement – for lack of a better term – of the 1980s that made albums for a major record label but never connected with a significant national audience despite the pop and rock'n'roll appeal of their music. They were on the periphery of my own radar until I moved here and saw them perform and was duly impressed. They broke up soon after. Now, some two decades later, the four-piece act have reunited and made a new album that fulfills all their early promise and then some. Second Story proves how youthful rock music can mature to create an adult style that doesn't forsake the eternal adolescence at the heart of that music, and how a band that was relegated to the margins of pop music history can reconvene and find true fruition. With a sound that is at times potent and stirring and at other moments gracefully majestic, this disc is a truly satisfying listening experience for anyone who wishes for rock'n'roll to grow up beside us. As a self-released record, it's not likely to win them the wide audience The Reivers might have once hoped to find. But in terms of the quality of the songs, performances and impeccably smart and tasteful production, it's world class adult pop-rock made for the sake of the music rather than any ambitions, and as such a worthy endeavor today's music needs more of.

TV Documentary Film: Havana, Havana!

If you enjoy Latin music and the rich Cuban musical tradition, this movie that explores and celebrates the return of four expatriate musical artists to their homeland is not to be missed. Descemer Bueno, Kelvis Ochoa and David Torrens all left Cuba to enjoy opportunities and musical experiences that weren't available in their land and were drawn back by the creative fecundity and deep musical legacy of their native nation. The wonderful music they create and the colorful glimpses of life in the island country so close to America yet at the same time so foreign and removed are delightful and inviting, and without ever broaching the topic, the musicality of their talents and personalities make a case for changing U.S. policy towards Cuba as compelling as any political arguments. It's as significant in its own right as the Buena Vista Social club film and album were, and merits a viewing and listening as wide as that collaboration enjoyed.

DVD Film: Lincoln

Steven Speilberg excels at glossy recreations of historical figures and events that dazzle in their visual depiction of the past and bring alive the characters who shaped their times, and this Civil War era biopic of the revered president is no exception. It's loosely based on historian Doris Kearns Goodwin's superb book "Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln," and brings a grand scope to the final four months of Lincoln's life. Shot in muted tones, it conveys the atmosphere of the era. Daniel Day-Lewis's portrayal of Lincoln evokes his mythic yet also plainspoken and homespun wisdom and heart. And Sally Fields brings a sense of deserved empathy to the much maligned character of Mary Lincoln. Its historical veracity is debatable, and it gives short shrift to the central point of Goodwin's story and thesis. But as a movie, it's an affecting gem of humane historically-based filmmaking.

From The Progressive Populist, June 1, 2013



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