CD: Gone Away Backward by Robbie Fulks

The onetime funny guy of alternative country has matured into one seriously good serious musical artist. Accent on the musical here, as his latest release features two spry instrumentals from this talented writer of songs with superior lyrics. Imagine Woody Guthrie’s spirit surveying contemporary rural America from atop an Appalachian music mountain top and picking and singing on a back porch about what he sees. The resonance of place suffuses this wonderful collection of heartfelt and empathetic songs about the lives and feelings of real people – the stuff country music used to do so eloquently before it became mediocre suburban pop-rock. Fulks is no longer alternative but rather a keeper of the true cross of country traditions even if he also progresses it brilliantly on a song title “The Many Disguises of God” that lives up to its challenging title.

Movie: 42

The tale of Brooklyn Dodgers owner Branch Rickey’s brave yet also keen move of integrating major league baseball by adding Jackie Robinson to the team in 1947 and Robinson’s inspiring grace under ugly racist pressures is one of the most compelling stories of the American civil rights movement. And it certainly deserves a better telling than this soapy account that cleans up history into a shallow and not particularly dramatic feelgood fairy tale. A prime example of what’s so wrong with Hollywood today though it might make a good way to gently introduce young children to our nation’s racist past. Sad, as the Robinson story told well could have created another contender for the proverbial Baseball Movie Hall of Fame.

TV Documentary: Sam Houston: American Statesman, Soldier, And Pioneer

Sam Houston wasn’t just important to the history of the state of Texas but the legacy and growth of the United States. He fought bravely in the War of 1812, where he became a protege of Andrew Jackson. He is the only American to have been the governor of two states, Texas and Tennessee, as well as president of another nation after Texas rebelled from Mexico. He was a Congressman from Tennessee and a US Senator from Texas. He became immersed in native American Cherokee culture early in life and lived among them. And of course he was pivotal in Texas breaking away from Mexico and then becoming an independent republic and finally an American state. Brilliant, driven, somewhat eccentric and visionary, Houston’s story is told in full with dramatic recreations and commentary by historians, politicians and his descendents in this compelling three-part series.

From The Progressive Populist, October 1, 2013



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