When researching the lives of people

When I think about qualitative research, I remember a group of Salvadoran teachers sitting on the floor talking about the challenges of teaching in a rural setting. They talk about their frustrations with the younger ones who have never lived in a time of war and all the loss and violence that was so much a part of their lives. They talk about crossing the Sumpul River to get away from the soldiers and their makeshift classrooms in the forest where they went to school.

Sumpul River Massacre – “there were so many vultures picking at the bodies in the water that it looked like a black carpet,”

I haven’t thought about these stories for a long time, but I am thinking about them now. The memories have been stirred up by the reading I have been doing on qualitative inquiry and what it means to use a narrative approach to conduct research. For me, the only meaningful study of the lives of these people would be through a rigorous qualitative study. Using the criteria that exists to conduct qualitative research we could learn a great deal from these people’s stories.

This was not what I was imagining when I started my courses in the fall. Now I am thinking about John Creswell and what he says about listening to the participant in the study and working to understand the lived experience of those you are talking to Creswell (2015).

I am also thinking back to the first article I read, Tracy’s ‘Big-Tent’ criteria for excellent qualitative inquiry (Tracy, 2010). The first criteria – Worthy topic –  really struck me and this is challenging me to think in a different way about my own research.

Studies of worth excite interest and go places that are unexpected (Tracy, 2010, p. 841). That is what I want to do and this is certainly what good qualitative research should do. I have read and reread Samantha Cutrara’s book Transforming the Canadian History Classroom: Imaging a New We (Cutrara, 2020) and I now understand why this book is having such an influence on me. In my opinion, this is excellent qualitative research. It tells the story of four classrooms where the author attempted to turn conventional history teaching on its head.

Rather than teach the standard curriculum revolving around the two founding peoples, Cutrara allowed students, mainly from urban racialized schools in Toronto, to develop their own narratives. She calls this methodology Historic Space, and it focuses on deconstructing the historical narratives that are meaningless to the students she is working with (Cutrara, 2020, p. 168). The richness or rigour of her research comes from the stories she tells of her conversations with different students and also the pushback she experiences from some of the teachers she works with.

Cutrara is a very reflexive writer who has taken the time to write about the anger and frustration she encountered while doing this work. She wrote this book because after four years, she felt compelled to honour the voices of the students she worked with and to ensure that their voices were heard (Cutrara, 2020 p. ix.).

The research really resonates with me, not just because at one point I was a history teacher, but because she is telling the stories of the voiceless, another key component that Tracy identifies as good qualitative research (Tracy, p. 844). 

Tracy also writes that good qualitative research should make a significant contribution. I do need to read more about how Cutrara’s arguments are being received. She goes against conventional thought on the use of historical thinking concepts in the classroom so while I consider this excellent qualitative research there may not be many academics who share my belief.

Returning to the classroom in El Salvador, I can imagine a researcher using Tracy’s model and Cutrara’s story-telling ability to get at the heart of good qualitative research. What an exciting challenge to bring such important stories into the light.

References

Creswell., J. (2015). Doing qualitative research [Video]. In SAGE Research Methods Video https://dx.doi.org/10.4135/9781506363448

Cutrara, S. (2020)Transforming the Canadian History Classroom: Imagining a New We. UBC Press.

Tracy, S. J. (2010). Qualitative Quality: Eight “Big Tent” Criteria for Excellent Qualitative Research. Qualitative Inquiry 16(10) 837-851. https://doi.org/10.1177/1077800410383121

My Researcher’s Journal – an introduction

This is a different type of post, it may go on for years.

One thing I have been charged to do is to write every day. One of the writing challenges is to start a researcher’s journal. Everything in a Ph.D. program focuses on the end goal, the completion of a dissertation. There are many layers to this process, I am unpeeling one of them here.

I am very grateful for the writing prompts I have been getting over the past two weeks. My writing had dried up and while I love to write, I really did not see much to write about. Now I have a focus and I need to reserve time every day for writing.

I have two supervisors which is wonderful. I met with both of them last week to start work on this journey. Very slowly I think, I will develop some ideas on what I should focus on in my research.

What do I know so far?

I got into all of this because of historical thinking concepts. I love the idea that as teachers our first task is to help our students to think.

While much has been written over the past 20 years, some areas like the ethical dimension have received less attention. This gives me a clue on where I can start.

One of my advisors told me to read everything by Peter Seixas, the preeminent writer on historical thinking concepts in Canada. So, I need to go back and follow the train of his writing for the past 20 years. I can’t see how I am going to truly understand the philosophy and epistemology behind historical thinking without this deep dive.

Peter Seixas

As I learn new things and read more articles, I will have to find a system for keeping a record of all this. Over the summer I used this chart along with summary notes to start documenting the articles I am reading. The chart is a good way to clarify my thinking so I will start using this again with some modifications.

content or topic with matching
photo article on gallery walk – pedagogy,
methodology, epistemology
text – big ideas/concepts
  ← relates to my thesis?
← applications for own teaching/inspirations
I have added epistemology and Methodology to the chart, also changed other resources to relates to my thesis
I have to look at articles critically – what is the epistemology, the methodology? the method?

The chart will continue to change and eventually there will be hundreds of articles, but putting down something here helps me to commit.

Apart from historical thinking, I am really interested in how we choose the stories we are going to tell our students and how this changes over time. This week, I am going to work on Reverberating Echoes: Challenging Teacher Candidates to Tell and Learn From Entwined Narrations of Canadian History (2011)
by Kent Den Heyer and Laurence Abbott. Narrative is something I am really interested in, so this is another clue.

I am learning about qualitative research, and this is something I want to understand better. There is more of a story-telling approach in qualitative research and this immediately appeals to me. I am also learning about oral history which is fascinating.

Can I combine oral history with qualitative research?

I also have to work on my academic writing and how to do citations and references properly. The only way to do this is to keep writing and listen carefully to all the advice I get.

These are early days, so my journal is a collection of random ideas. I have decided to put this out on my regular blog so that I can keep this process visible. I also hope that along the way I will get some sage advice that might help.

This is the introduction, the next post will be a chapter 1.

Searching for an idea – whose stories need to be told? 

I am putting my ideas out there now because I want to make my academic journey as transparent as I can over the next four years. I am trying to get into the discipline of writing every day, my next post will probably be the start of a research journal that I need to keep over the length of my Ph.D. I am hoping some people will find this interesting and that I will get some helpful feedback as well! Who knows maybe I will get on Doug Peterson’s show on VoicEd Radio.

I am looking forward to doing this writing every week. I love to write, but academic writing and APA ( a style guide for writing) are new to me. When I post my writing now, I will adapt it so some of the course-specific material is omitted. This post is part introduction, a search for a research topic and my reactions to reading bell hooks.

I did my B.A. at Queen’s University, my M.A. at York University and my B.Ed at the University of Toronto. In between my Masters and Education degree I took a break from studies to work for Katimavik, a national work experience for Canadian youth. I grew in this program and I wanted to find more ways to work in this non-traditional learning environment.

I taught for 31 years in several positions. None were as interesting as working in Katimavik, but after seven years in a traditional classroom, I had the opportunity to work in an alternate classroom at my school. My students didn’t fit into the regular stream. Some had mental health issues, some were dealing with addiction and some simply didn’t fit in. In some ways, I was like many of them. I felt comfortable in this learning environment, and it was a unique privilege to help them through some of the life crises they experienced while in our classroom.

I find now as I take my graduate classes that my mind is growing again. No one really grows when they are comfortable, and it is a relief to again be in that zone. Now I am searching –  what can I write about that will make a difference for people?  Last night in the middle of our methodology class, an idea came to me. Maybe I need a bolder focus. Is there a way I could study a different education system outside of the Canadian context?

Years ago, I spent a good deal of time talking to educators in a northern village in El Salvador. The educators in this town all grew up during the war and were survivors of massacres that took place in their region. We talked about these experiences and it seemed as if they were back in the river fleeing for their lives. They are teachers because they want something better for their children, they are trying to build a society out of the chaos of war. It occurs to me that going back to the village do some form of qualitative research could be what I am looking for. What would it be like to tell their stories? Has anyone tried to do this?

 talking to teachers in San Jos las Flores

I love the bell hooks book. There is so much that speaks to me. I am thinking of the discipline and passion that went into her writing. She writes a great deal about anger and loss, but I think her real message is love and understanding. It is interesting to watch her interview and what she says about speaking freely and teaching courage (Freedom Forum, 2016). The book was dark in many ways and she seemed to lack the confidence to write and publish, but here in this interview I can see how she developed her dissenting voice that welcomes conflict as a normal part of our lives.

It seems like a whole new generation of writers has been influenced by her power and honesty. We do a book study with our year 2 students on How to be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi. Kendi mentions bell hooks in his book, she was one of the writers he turned to as he worked to overturn his own gender and queer racism (Kendi, 2019, p.198-199). Kendi uses a style that reminds me of bell hooks. In each of his chapters, he gives us a taste of his own story. He uses these stories to write about gender, colour, power and what it means to be an antiracist. This book has a great influence on our students, but would this have been possible without the truth-telling of bell hooks?

this is not long and it is a wonderful interview!

My Academic Life (so far)

When I put things down on paper or in a blog I make a public commitment. Right now I am working on developing an academic schedule that will take me through the next four years. Yes, this is an assignment for one of my courses, but this is really a letter to myself. I understand the importance of committing to a plan. When I was working as a  principal I would plan ahead all the time, even though the job by its very nature, was unpredictable. Despite the chaos in running an elementary school, every week I would write weekly plans in a school blog to parents so that they would know what was intended to go on at the school. On some Sunday afternoons, this writing would take hours. I never resented the time. This was an opportunity to reflect on what had happened the week before and plan for upcoming events.

My last school blog post – December 2016

I never worried that the school schedule did not follow what was set down on Sunday. Writing was a  way for me to take a longer view and celebrate what was going on with our parent community. This also made the learning more visible for the community.

Six years later I find myself planning again: this time for a Ph.D. which will consume my time for the next four years.  The first year in a Ph.D. program is probably the most straightforward. I am in the process of taking six courses – two last semester, three right now and one in the spring. After this I will be starting work on my comprehensives. This begins with the development of my bibliography and continues on following the schedule below:

StepsExpected completion
Courses completed Spring, 2022
Committee Member List 
Comprehensive Exam: Bibliography
Written component
Oral presentation
1) October
2) spring
3) fall 2022 
Thesis proposal  winter 2023
Ethics approval spring 2023
Recruitment and data collection summer – fall 2023
Thesis winter 2024
Defense December 2025
my first draft at a long-term schedule

To get to 2025, I need a detailed schedule. I am sure this will evolve as I learn more about the Ph.D. process. However, on this cold January afternoon in 2022, there is comfort in editing a draft schedule that sets a future path and supposes order to a very busy four years.

The challenge will not only be managing a busy writing and reading schedule, it will be finding ways to balance this work with many other interests. The foundation of the week will remain exercise. If I have learned anything through the Pandemic it is the importance of keeping body, mind and spirit healthy. The activity can change from the Peloton to hiking to biking, but this is where I have to start, I simply can’t afford to let this go no matter how busy things get.

one thing we did regularly during Covid was to take walks and photos

At the heart of all this will be the thesis and defense. These are the end goals and I have to keep these in mind all of the time. Over the past summer I started to collect articles and write summaries of what I was reading. This has fallen off with the amount of work I have been doing, but now I need to get back to the process of preparing for my end goal. To do this, I will reserve one morning a week – Wednesday for reading and summarizing articles that I can start using for my comprehensives and beyond. It is a challenge to block out time for a goal that is so far away, but by the fall I plan to produce a bibliography of 20-30 pages that will prepare me for my comprehensives.

Every article – one-page images – can be single entry or represent a folder with hyperlink; text in different fonts – synthesized big ideas; icon for connections – your own and/or other articles or sources; photo scan – original written notes; ideas – applications for your own teaching.


content or topic with matching photo article on gallery walk – pedagogy
  




 text – big ideas/concepts


                   ← other resources







applications for own teaching/inspirations
the summary chart I started using last summer – designed by Heather Swail

The summary chart above was really helpful last summer and I plan to start using it again this Wednesday. I have known for a long time that I write best in the morning, especially after an exercise session, so I am going to reserve time every day for writing – summary notes, assignments, reflections, and revising.  I plan to put in two hours in the mornings each day to get something down. This semester, my goal is to improve my academic writing. Last semester I learned that while I write well, I am a little careless with my grammar and I need to brush up on my APA and academic style.

This leaves afternoons free for reading –  a highly necessary Ph.D. activity. Right now, I am working through Wounds of Passion: A Writing Life by bell hooks (hooks, 1997). She writes that when researching her first book hooks would read up to three books a day, sometimes getting only one line she could use for her own writing (p. 102-103). That will not be me. I am a slow reader; sometimes I need most of the day to absorb one article. I will read every day, otherwise, I will never keep up.

bell hooks (Anthony Barboza/Getty Images)

It is one thing to write a schedule, it is another to live it. I will need to weave in the work I continue to do at the university and for Discovery Education. I won’t give up my work with Discovery, I love working with them. The assignments are always different and interesting. Whether I am writing or editing for one of their digital science books, there is a great sense of accomplishment in getting this work done. Without doubt, they are the most positive and affirming people I know, so why would I leave that behind? It is hard to add this work to my growing schedule as I never know when another contract will come up. When it does, I can easily put in 15 hours a week working on their material. Because there is always a deadline, I will have to estimate and portion out my hours throughout the week.

Right now I have one meeting a month with the graduate student committee for Thinking Historically for Canada’s Future. I am definitely the junior member of this group, but I am starting to meet some great people, so I need to find ways to become more involved.

I also want to keep up my teaching at the University of Ottawa. Right now the responsibilities are light: we work as faculty advisors to second-year teacher candidates, but we haven’t been able to visit their schools since the beginning of the Pandemic. Next year I hope to get either another section of this course or even better, a section of the history methodology course that I taught three years ago. I am certain that this experience led me to this PhD journey. I can’t really schedule this time yet, but when the fall comes I will have to restructure my days. For now, I will reserve one morning a week to work on our current course.

SundayMondayTuesdayWednesdayThursdayFridaySaturday
exercisexxxreading for
comps
xxx
writingAMAMAMAM
readingPMPMPMPM
DEwhen
available 3-4
hours daily
when
available 3-4
hours daily
when
available 3-4
hours daily
when
available 3-4
hours daily
when
available 3-4
hours daily
when
available 3-4
hours daily
when
available 3-4
hours daily
University
work
AM
classes5:30 – 8:30pm11:30 – 2:30 pm
free
time
6:00 pm – 9:00 pm – 6:00 pm –6:00 pm –6:00 pm –6:00 pm –6:00 pm –
My schedule – first draft

There will be adjustments to this schedule over time, but the daily reading and writing will remain the foundation of my schedule. I am leaving some events out like meeting with my supervisors and committee work, but as these become more frequent I will have to find space.

My schedule is seven days. Since my days as a principal, a seven-day schedule made more sense. There is less pressure and at times when there is no Discovery work I can get ahead on my assignments. I really hope to keep my nights free – there needs to be time for fun, just as bell hooks said (p. 122).

What is missing right now is something I love to do. If I mention it here I know I will get back to it – our regular radio shows – Old Fellas New Music. Bob Kennedy, a very long-time friend and I started doing this show in the spring. Work took over and we gave the show a bit of a rest. We got two episodes done over the holiday break and we hope to get another one in next week. This is a great creative outlet and I am determined to work this in, let’s say Wednesday afternoons for now.

You can find our shows on Mixcloud – https://www.mixcloud.com/paul-mcguire3/

What is also missing are some of the activities that were so important to us before Covid. In 2017 Heather and I developed a fundraising campaign for Christie Lake Kids, an Ottawa foundation that provides recreation programming for children throughout the year. Our campaign – Climb for Kids has raised over $100,000 over a three-year period. We raised this money by carrying out group climbing trips in Peru and the Alps. Our next trip was to be Mt. Kilimanjaro, but this has been on hold because of the Pandemic. Our whole family has been involved in this venture and all of our children have worked for Christie Lake Kids. The family is not on the schedule, but in all things, family comes first.

Our first Climb for Kids trip – The Ausangate Region of Peru

If I write it down, I will do it. If I publish this, I have to do it! Thanks professor for giving me the push to get all this down. I am writing again and it feels great!

References

hooks, b. (1997). Wounds of Passion: A Writing Life. Holt.

A reset for 2022

I did a really challenging Petoton class today with Denis Morton. He is tough and I really got a great workout from him. His theme was resetting in a new year and it resonated with me. I think I have been on a mental and emotional reset for most of this year and it is good to look at what this means to me as we enter 2022.

Dennis Morton

A reset is a good thing. To me, it means recasting, rethinking, and learning from experiences that are unique to me. The first reset for me has been the struggles I have had as a result of Covid. I have written about these in the blog and I am still in the process of recovery, but I am writing now to tell you that recovery is part of the process. It does come and we need to persevere.

This whole period of pronounced anxiety is not a loss, there is so much to learn while you are in such a state. For one thing, I am much more mindful of how I am doing and what I can do to further my recovery process. So many people go through periods like this, it is really important to take these opportunities to learn. Learning seldom happens when everything is going well – there is little motivation for reflection. There vis little real growth.

One of the infographics I made that record some of the wisdom I have gained through conversations with my therapist. Good to read this on a regular day.

The resetting process has many components. One big one for me has been the work I have been able to do on my Ph.D. at the University of Ottawa. I have completed two graduate courses and am beginning to start work on three more. This has been such a wonderful learning experience and I find new vistas are opening up all the time as I begin my training as a researcher. Maybe this semester I will find the time to write about what I am learning – reflection through writing is a great way better absorb the experience.

I have also gained much through Noom. I started this last January and have kept at it throughout the year. The psychology behind the program is what keeps me with them. So much of what they write can be applied to other aspects of my life. This is a very positive approach to examining life and how you want to live it. I have also lost 30 pounds and am much more aware of what I need to do to stay healthy.

I have returned to daily meditation practice using another app, Headspace. I have taken a bunch of their courses and am working on the Pro level. This is now part of my daily practice. It is only 10 minutes a day, but I feel like I am learning more about the benefits of the practice.

An on again off again part of the reset has to be Old Fellas New Music. If you read this blog, you will see a number of posts having to do with the music show my friend Bob Kenndy and I have done since the spring. The latest episode is a New Year’s Eve edition. The show had to take a back seat for a few months as I worked through my assignments, but I am hoping in the new year that Bob and I can do this on a regular basis.

Our latest poster – you can listen to our entire playlist here

So, where does the resetting process take me in 2022? All these elements plus a few others will remain important. Another part of the process has to do with learning to live post-pod with my wonderful partner Heather. Our children are all again on their own with one daughter now in the Maritimes – lots of learning here and having time together is a wonderful reset.

After a challenging year, it is important to reflect on what one is learning. No experience is wasted, everything we do has its purpose. Resetting for a new year means reflecting on the old and setting sights on what comes next. It has been a remarkable year in so many ways; we honour the time by pausing to reflect on all this.

The family in 2021 so many experiences, so much to learn

New Years Pop Up Old Fellas New Music

This week’s Promo

This week, we are getting out our blog early so you can read up on the bands we will be playing. Again, we will try to live stream through Mixcloud using OBS software this time – last week, the live stream dropped all the time so I am hoping this will work better. Here is the link to use if you want to hear and see the broadcast – https://www.mixcloud.com/live/paul-mcguire3/

here are our selections for this week – some of this year’s best songs

Kiwi Jr – Only Here For a haircut
Jenna Esposito – The Other Side of Forever  – Guardian
Quivers – Gutters of Love
Olivia Rodrigo – Good 4 U – Guardian – Best music of 2021  # 6
Wet Leg – Too Late Now

Low – Days Like These – Pitchfork # 3

James Clark institute – Little Powder Keg
Mitski:  Working for the Knife – Pitchfork # 7
Silk Sonic – leave the Door Open

Kiwi Jr – Only Here For a haircut


Kiwi Jr.
 is a Toronto-based band.  This is the third song from the album “Cooler Returns” that has been featured on this podcast twice already.  Released in Jan. 2021, this hasn’t left  Bob’s turntable since he bought the album.

   

More info on Kiwi Jr here from their website

Jenna Esposito – The Other Side of Forever

I thought this was a great song, but when you read the incredible story below from the Guardian, I think you will agree we needed to include this one.

The best songs of 2021 … that you haven’t heard

It’s the heartbreak and hopefulness of a turbulent 2021 from the mind of a songwriter who knows them all too well. Ernie Rossi, owner of century-old gift and music shop E Rossi and Company in New York City’s Little Italy, was sidelined by health problems after reopening following the long city-mandated shutdown. Margaret, his wife of 51 years, knew the neighborhood icon might not stay afloat if doors closed once again and solely took over duties with the couple’s best friend, Freddy. Then this past spring, both Margaret and Freddy caught and died of Covid-19. In the wake of their consecutive deaths, Rossi wrote The Other Side of Forever, a heartfelt tribute to the bond the trio shared and the immense loss he feels. Recorded by the New York indie artist Jenna Esposito, the earworm ballad with a momentous opening and climatic finale was produced in the Italian folk style the store was known for being a chief importer of nearly 100 years ago. And today, Rossi is continuing his fight to stay in business.

Rob LeDonne

Quivers

Quivers – Gutters of Love

This Australian band via Tasmania are an absolute delight.  We had to be satisfied in listening to this album on Spotify as it is darned near impossible to snag a physical copy unless one is willing to pay a ridiculous price.  The NME calls “Gutters of Love” an instant classic.

From NME

As the 2010s drew to a close, Quivers found themselves on the ascent. They’d established a new lineup, and permanently relocated to Melbourne from their native Tasmania. They’d released two acclaimed singles, ‘You’re Not Always On My Mind’ and ‘When It Breaks’, which balanced a summery jangle-pop exterior and melancholic inner turmoil. American broadcasters NPR and KEXP co-signed their music, while at home they crossed a rare divide by getting played on both Double and triple j.

Olivia Rodrigo – Good 4 U

This is another one from the Guardian. I hadn’t heard of Olivia Rodrigo, and this really isn’t my type of music, but this is a really great song. So, why not. More from The Guardian below. They rated her album Sour the 8th best album of the year.

Having essayed one end of heartbreak with the piano lament Drivers License, Rodrigo’s mood swung like a wrecking ball towards this equally massive hit (between them, they spent 14 weeks at UK No 1). From its sarcastic title downwards, Good 4 U’s recrimination has the kind of bitterness that softens with age and only a teenage palate can truly appreciate, as Rodrigo rages against her blithely happy ex. The ways the chords shift through different shades of hurt is riveting, as is Rodrigo’s delivery, as if writing in a journal with the nib piercing the paper. BBT

Released in January, Drivers License sprang (almost) out of nowhere like a heaved sob. Four days later, it broke Spotify records for the most single-day streams (Christmas songs exempted). The next day, it broke that record again. After 10 weeks at No 1 in the US and nine in the UK, it has been streamed 1.9bn times. Next Tuesday, the California-born songwriter makes her live debut at the Brits; the following weekend, she does Saturday Night Live; a week later she releases her debut album, Sour, a grippingly well written – all by her – collection of balladry, pop-punk, bitter diatribes and euphoric taunts that dwells on this romantic treachery. Even in an era when virality powers pop, Rodrigo’s is a fast rise.

The Drivers License singer reflects on turning her first big breakup into the year’s biggest hit – and how songwriting saved her from the anxieties of being a Disney star

My second source for the best music comes from Pitchfork Magazine. I chose their #3 and #7 choices – both great songs by artists that are new to me.

By Pitchfork

December 6, 2021

In another trying year, many of the best songs—from “Like I Used To” to “Pick Up Your Feelings” to “Hard Drive” to “Good Days”—were about picking yourself up, dusting yourself off, and trying again. These tracks gave us a shoulder to cry on, but also, crucially, a kick in the pants when we needed it most. They were the soundtrack to our 2021, and we have a feeling we’ll keep turning to them in better times yet to come. These are the 100 best songs of the year.

Wet Leg

Wet Leg – Too Late Now . 

Old Fellas featured Wet Leg’s catchy “Chaise Lounge” a while back which is one of four single releases in their small but impressive output.  An album released is anticipated for spring 2022 so listening to the last single release “ Too Late Now” will have to do until then.  Great bathrobes! 

Low – Days Like These

Alan Sparhawk spirals through a series of escalating horrors as he offers a summary of his mindset over the past five years: “Holy crap, this guy’s going to be our president. Oh crap, he’s our president. Wow, things have been horrible for a long time, and it’s getting worse. What, we’re sick? We’re all going to die now?” Eventually, the Low singer and guitarist shifts from a cartoonish hysteria into a gruff acceptance as he makes a broader point about American life in 2021 as well as his band’s combustible new album, HEY WHAT. “Look at where we are,” he says, zooming to the present tense. “We’re still looking in each other’s eyes and going, What the hell?”

Along with his bandmate and wife, Mimi Parker, Sparhawk has long found inspiration in this type of unlikely perseverance. Nearly three decades into their career, and on their 13th album, Low are making their strangest, strongest, and most fearless music to date. On HEY WHAT, the duo is once again joined by producer BJ Burton, known for his work with Bon Iver and Charli XCX, who helped them explore abrasive digital effects and alien vocal manipulation on 2018’s Double Negative. The new album presents these abstract textures with even more intensity, as Sparhawk and Parker’s gorgeous harmonies pierce through a vertiginous landscape of glitches and static that may make you wonder if your speakers are imploding while you listen.

“Days Like These” is a song in the form of an eclipse: the first half made of blinding light, the second an uncanny, disembodied stillness. Singing into a static blur that sounds like wind noise on video, or like someone’s sawing through the tape, Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker describe a vast and subtle longing, a desire for a kind of transcendence not found on Earth. “Know that I would do anything,” they cry, their fried-out vocals taking on the call-and-response pattern of a hymn. But in this strange, desaturated grief, there’s no action to take. Even the song doesn’t end, really; it just stretches out, twinkling in the distance, a lone satellite pressing on toward the edge of space. –Anna Gaca

James Clark Institute

James Clark institute – Little Powder Keg

To quote The Pursuit of Happiness’ Moe Berg, ““James takes the power pop traditions of The Beatles, Jellyfish and Split Enz and combines them with the high IQ lyrics of Elvis Costello and Joe Jackson. The result makes him one of Canada’s greatest unsung songwriters”

Also, here’s great version of the Badfinger classic “Baby Blue”

Mitski: “Working for the Knife”  #7

The saying goes that if you do what you love, you’ll never have to work a day in your life. Mitski would like to have a word on that. After a long and grueling world tour supporting her breakthrough album Be the Cowboy, the singer took time off in 2019, saying she needed a break from the “constant churn” of performance. “Working for the Knife” is her brooding, melancholic first major single back from this respite, and acts as an incisive warning about how much of our identity we give to our life’s greatest undertakings, and who we’re giving it up for. The song unfolds as a balancing act of vulnerability and expectation, of altruistic self-expression and the vanity of wanting to be seen, or even adored. There’s some humor to it all; forlorn, she recognizes that the world never stops turning, and that it’s fine to lie to ourselves if it helps pass the time. It’s a one-act play of existential malaise and a sardonic anthem for those who can’t help but seek out the spotlight. –Puja Patel

Pitchfork  

Silk Sonic

Silk Sonic – Leave the Door Open

Silk Sonic is an R&B superduo composed of singer Bruno Mars and rapper and singer Anderson .Paak. The duo released its debut single, “Leave the Door Open”, in March 2021, and its debut album, An Evening with Silk Sonic, in November 2021.  This song veers close to a parody of 70’s soul but it’s just too good to be considered so. 

 You can hear all our music right here on Spotify

Mental Health – a postscript

My last post was pretty dark, and I am a bit sorry for that. I am more than a little tired, dealing with a prolonged period of anxiety wears on a person. When I wrote this, I felt a little bit like at the end of my rope. But there really is lots of rope left.

To anyone worried about what I wrote, I want you to know that I am really resilient and I will get through this. I have before, I know how this works.

This week I have received some lovely notes and phone calls and it really warms my heart. When you go through a tough time it is really wonderful to hear from friends who really care. Thanks for this!

I have wonderful support from my friends and family.My therapists are wonderful, I have a really great team.

The point of this post is not just to apologize, it is a hopeful message that even though mental health can be really tough, these conditions are treatable and if you stick with it you get better. I know the support system is not as comprehensive as it should be, but things are getting better.

I really think the fallout from the pandemic will prompt all of us to look at how we support people in mental and emotional distress. This is all so common and this really can happen to anyone.

My first post may not have offered much support for those who are struggling, but I hope this one does. Healing happens, you just need to trust in the process. You need to reach out and gather your community together.

This week, I realized that I have a good community. People care and they are now part of the healing process.

It is a challenge to put this story out there. I do this mainly because healing happens, even if it is really slow. If you are reading this and you are going through a tough time please know there is hope, healing and a community. Not everyone will understand, but some will.

Also, because of your struggles you can be there for someone else. This is important. Those who have gone through this are part of a special community. People in this community can be more empathetic, more supportive more aware of how this goes.

So, everyone take heart. We are complicated beings in a complex society still undergoing a global crisis. Take a moment and take a deep breath. Learn from difficulties and be ready to share what you are learning. And above all, be kind to yourself.

Thank-you to all those who have reached out – you are all very special.

The Next COVID Crisis – Mental Health

All my recent posts have been about music, but here I am taking a break.

There is an burgeoning crisis coming as a result of COVID and it will be just as painful and damaging. There is a mental health crisis as we begin to emerge from the global crisis. I really don’t think we will all survive this.

Here is an article that backs this up from the Mayo Clinic.

I am not writing this because I have a feeling about what will happen, this has happened to me. I am a casualty and there is no end in sight. This is a really tough road.

I have written about mental health in the past and it seems to help some people. For me, I have been going through moderate to severe anxiety since late June. It is certainly related to COVID because I have been really healthy for seven years. Now this is a big struggle and it is one I do with no discernable community. How is that possible? How does no one care?

Don’t get me wrong, I am fortunate to have a therapist and now a great resident psychiatrist. But the healing process is really slow – it always is.

Before the pandemic, I met up with one of my climbing buddies. He came to one of our fundraisers and I thought that was great. He looked gaunt and worried, but it was a big night and I didn’t pick up the signs. A few months later he committed suicide and I still wonder if I had really reached out to him I could have helped out in his desperate situation. People really can help people.

The big thing about mental health is that it is a silent killer. People love to send you caring notes on Facebook when you are sick with something they understand. When it comes to mental health, people are cruel. They want to distance themselves from the affliction as if they can actually can catch it. They won’t write you a nice note on Facebook. You are so on your own.

There are so few cases where I have talked about periods like this and have received a sympathetic response. This is really sad.

What is most important is for everyone to realize that there are now a lot of people suffering, most without the great support I have. They probably also don’t have a community of support – like me, because people are more scared about mental health than anything else. I have to say now, I have absolutely no sympathy for your discomfort. Try to take on a larger role. Try to see outside yourself.

I talked to my psychiatrist last week and she said the next pandemic will be a mental health one. Just like the first one, we are so unprepared for this. The victims are invisible, but they are right in front of you are they are suffering in noble silence.

Anxiety and depression are understandable reactions to a global pandemic. Those with anxiety as a predisposition are even more at risk of falling under this emotional wave. I have no idea how much longer this anxiety will go on, but I have to bear it. It would be so much easier if I knew anyone apart from my therapists and partner actually cared. We really suffer in total uncaring silence.

If you read this and you are in this situation you need to start busting down doors to get help. Don’t listen to GPs who say you’ll get over all this – fire them and move on (I did). Reach out any way you can and get help. Anxiety and depression are treatable, but it can be so much of an easier road if you have a community. Try to make your friends and family know that you are going through a rough time. If they don’t listen, you don’t need them. There are lots of people like you, but we really can’t stay silent. We deserve better than that.

I write with a certain amount of anger here. I am tired of people who just want comfort. I really hope, once I recover that I will never again be one of those people.

Old Fellas New Music Episode 25 Notes

Week 25

Gillian Welch and David Rawlings – Señor

This is taken from  the 2020 album, All the Good Times (Are Past & Gone).  This won the duo a 2021 Grammy award for Best Folk Album.  It features cover versions and traditional songs.

This is a cover of a 1978 Bob Dylan song.   

Bon Enfant – Magie

Appearing seemingly out of nowhere on Nov. 1, 2019, the debut album by quintet Bon Enfant made quite a splash in an already-rich album release season. Featuring the core singer-songwriter duo of Daphné Brissette, of Canailles fame, and Guillaume Chiasson, of Ponctuation, the Bon Enfant album made its way to our ears with shimmering soft-rock, replete with catchy choruses. Daphné Brisette spoke to us about their unexpected critical success.

Bon Enfant is already busy writing the songs for their next project, while touring an increasing number of dates over the next year. “We’ll play all the festivals!” Brissette promises.

Story by Philippe Renaud | January 21, 2020

Aldous Harding – The Barrel

Aldous Harding – The Barrel from 2019 album “Designer”

Hannah Sian Topp , known professionally as Aldous Harding, is a New Zealand folk singer-songwriter, based in Cardiff, Wales.

This profile does an excellent job of capturing this singer.

Things You (Possibly) Didn’t Know About Aldous Harding

1 May 2019

By Triple R volunteer writer Katherine Smyrk

People seem to have a hard time pinning down 29 year old New Zealand musician Aldous Harding. Her first, self-titled album was described as ‘gothic folk’. Then Party hit the airwaves and people scrambled to pin its sound to the ground. One Guardian reviewer labelled it ‘mesmeric, folk-adjacent’. Now, her third album, Designer, is out to thwart your attempts at classification again. And yet, her music is only becoming more and more popular. Maybe listeners like that she is undefinable; maybe they like that she can be a jazz crooner, Kate Bush and the Wicked Witch of the West in one album.

More here

Here is the official video for The Barrel which has a nice unhinged feel to it 

Yo-Yo Ma and Jeremy Dutcher –  Honor Song

write-up by Heather Swail

As soon as I heard that Yo-Yo Ma had a new album that featured Jeremy Dutcher I took a listen and then another. 
Just released, Ma’s album “Notes for the Future” features Dutcher and other artists representing 5 continents. Yo-Yo Ma’s site tells us that the album and its collaborators “explore our fears and hopes, reminding us that the future is ours to shape, together.” The nine tracks feature vocals in Arabic, Zapotec, Catalan, Paiwan, Spanish, Mi’kmaq, Wolastoqey, Ewe, Maori and English.”Honor Song” is a Mi’kmaq anthem. Dutcher’s haunting tones and MA’s cello bring you to another place, and also remind you where you are.

Notes for the Future brings together extraordinary artists from five continents: across nine tracks, Ma joins Angélique Kidjo, Mashrou’ Leila + Narcy, Tunde Olaniran, Jeremy Dutcher, Andrea Motis, ABAO, Lila Downs, and Marlon Williams to explore our fears and hopes, reminding us that the future is ours to shape, together.

Evie Sands – Leap of Faith

Evie Sands – Leap of Faith “Get Out Of Your Own Way” 2020

Evie Sands was born in Brooklyn, New York 1946  and has had a long and interesting career on the fringes of pop music.

When the pub quiz question comes up, be prepared: The guy who wrote Wild Thing, Chip Taylor, is the brother of actor Jon Voight and therefore the uncle of Angelina Jolie. For bonus points, he also wrote the country song Angel of the Morning which was a big hit for Merrilee Rush and further popularised by Olivia Newton-John and Juice Newton.

Unfortunately it wasn’t a hit for the first person who recorded it, the sometimes remarkable and largely overlooked Evie Sands.

Then again, it seemed Sands was doomed to never get a hit despite her impassioned voice and assured delivery.

More here

Here’s her classic from the 60’s, “Take Me For A little While”

She’s still at it 55 years later   

The Paranoid Style – A Goddamn Impossible Way of life

Write-up by Brian McGuire

Ok I have a song/band and I will give a script. Here go’s

So there is no wonder why the best band in America: Wussy which will be the subject of another broadcast totally lives The Paranoid Style. The name of the band comes from a famous article by American historian Richard Hofstadter  called ” The Paranoid Style in American Politics “. The lovely and committed rock and rollers have day jobs. I think they are cool progressive lobbyists and their music shadows their political interests. But they are kick ass and to their credit these lovelies are moonlighting.

Critical reception[edit] – Wikipedia

Robert Christgau gave the Paranoid Style’s 2013 EP The Power of Our Proven System an A- grade. In his review, Christgau wrote that “this band has yet to release a dull song” and that on the EP, the band “mine[s] a pop-rock vein that braces Nelson’s cleanly uncrystalline articulation against Bracy’s noisier guitar and a straight four that doesn’t quit.” He later gave Rock and Roll Just Can’t Recall an A grade, Rolling Disclosure an A- grade, Underworld U.S.A. an A- grade, and A Goddamn Impossible Way of Life an A grade.[6][7][8]

Jennifer Castle – Justice

Jennifer Castle – Justice from 2020 album Monarch Season

This song has the distinction of being the shortest song played on this venerable podcast. Jennifer Castle is a Canadian singer-songwriter based in Toronto, Ontario.  She has released music since 2006 and has been on the  Polaris shortlist.

For those with the time or inclination, here is Castle performing a set in 2018 at Massey Hall.

Rina Sawayama – Enter Sandman

This is an incredible project and the only time we have played Metallica on this show. A great compilation by 53 artists with several versions of Enter Sandman.

Both The Metallica Blacklist and the deluxe anniversary release of The Black Album (14 CDs, six LPs, six DVDs, and more) will be released on September 10th. Along with the Weezer, Isbell, and J Balvin covers, the Blacklist also features contributions from Miley Cyrus, St. Vincent, Jon Pardi, Yo-Yo Ma, Elton John, Phoebe Bridgers, Chris Stapleton, and dozens of other artists.

Rolling Stone

Rina Sawayama is the latest artist to cover Metallica for the band’s forthcoming compilation The Metallica Blacklist. Sawayama’s contribution to the project is a cover of “Enter Sandman.”

The Metallica Blacklist is out September 10 and includes additional covers from Phoebe Bridgers, Weezer, J Balvin, Miley Cyrus, St. Vincent, and many others.

Jeff Tweedy – Bad Day Lately

Jeff Tweedy – Bad Day Lately  from 2020 Love Is the King

Jeff  Tweedy  is an American songwriter, musician, author, and record producer best known as the singer and guitarist of the band Wilco.  This song is from his  4th solo album.  He started making this album after COVID hit and a Wilco tour was cancelled.

Judging by his pants? pajamas?…. This a truly COVID era video!    

Wew will be back next week with Episode 26!!

Old Fellas New Music Episode 24 Notes

This week’s show

Episode 24 – Wednesday, September 15 7:00 PM On Mixcloud and 8:00 PM on VoicEd Radio

Haska, Salif Keita – Madan 


Whitehorse – Strike Me Down

Whitehorse –Strike Me Down from 2021 album Strike Me Down

This is the second album from the Hamilton based duo this year.  From the early 2000’s,  Luke Doucet and Melissa McClelland were both recording and touring artists with numerous recordings under their belts. They married in 2006 and since have collaborated under the banner , Whitehorse.  Here are two versions of this week’s selected song.


Matt Mays – NYC Girls (Acoustic) 

Elvis Costello $ The Attractions & Nina Diaz – No Action

Salif Keita, Angelique Kidjo, MHD –  Itarafo 

St. Etienne – Pond House

Natalia Lafourcade – Tú Sí Sabes 

Lucy Dacus – Gone Gone Gone (edit) 

Claudia Sierra, Los Macorinos, Clayton – Voy  

Haska, Salif Keita – Madan 

Very hard to find much information on Haska, but Salif Keita is a legend in Africa and we feature him on two tracks for this show.

Haska – Madan (with Salif Keita) Visualiser

Taken from the website Inflyte

Blending their love of music from across the globe with progressive production, they kick off their catalogue with a massive statement.

Centred around the infectious vocals of Salif Keita, described as the ‘Golden Voice of Africa’, ‘Madan’ sees Haska weave together intricate rhythms, edgy synths and pulsating bass grooves to create an uplifting and inspiring modern classic.

 Inflyte website

The story of Salif Keita’s royal heritage is interested and is quotes here from Wikipedia

Salif Keita was born a traditional prince in the village of Djoliba.[1] He was born to the Keita royal family, who trace their lineage to Sundiata Keita, founder of the Mali Emp  ire. He was cast out by his family and ostracized by the community because of his albinism, a sign of bad luck in Mandinka culture.[2] He decided to pursue music in his teenage years, further distancing him from his family as that was against occupational prohibitions of his noble status.[3] In 1967, he left Djoliba for Bamako, where he joined the government-sponsored Super Rail Band de Bamako. In 1973 Keita joined the group, Les Ambassadeurs (du motel de Bamako). Keita and Les Ambassadeurs fled political unrest in Mali during the mid-1970s and subsequently changed the group’s name to “Les Ambassadeurs Internationaux”. The reputation of Les Ambassadeurs Internationaux grew internationally in the late-1970s, leading to Keita pursuing a solo career in the following years.

my dream is to see him live in Africa one sunny day!

Matt Mays – NYC Girls (Acoustic) 

Album Twice Upon a Hell of a Time

Love this acoustic version of an earlier song on Once Upon a Hell of a Time 2017

Twice Upon a Hell of a Time is the seventh studio album by Matt Mays, released on October 19, 2018.[1] It comprises acoustic rerecordings of the songs from his 2017 album Once Upon a Hell of a Time

 Yes, this may repeat those same thirteen songs, but as an acoustic offering, “Twice…” sees everything reimagined in a completely different context.  And instantly apparent upon the first listen is just how different these songs appear to be. “Once Upon a Hell of a Time … is a Saturday night record,” says Matt.  “This version is for the hangover on Sunday.”

With “NYC Girls,” for instance, the up-tempo beat is toned down significantly through a simple drum rhythm and piano, that accompany some multi-vocal harmonies to provide a choir-like rendition much more in the spirit of Sunday morning church.  “I think if a song has meaning and is played with heart it can be done in a million different styles, tempos, time signatures and colours,” offers Mays when asked about his willingness to take these original compositions and reconstruct them this way.

Great Dark Wonder Review

Elvis Costello $ The Attractions & Nina Diaz – No Action

this is such an amazing song!!

Ever the pioneer , Costello along with producer Sebastian Krys, have taken the classic 1978 album “This Years Model”, removed the vocals and invited artists from across the Spanish-speaking world to adapt the songs.  

From the Variety article

With Krys’ contact list, it wasn’t an insurmountable feat to sign up a guest list that includes Juanes, Luis Fonsi, Draco Rosa, Cami, La Santa Cecilia’s La Marisoul, Jesse & Joy, Morat, Jorge Drexler, Fito Páez, Gian Marco, Vega and others, representing Mexico, Colombia, Chile, Spain, Uruguay, Argentina, Peru, Puerto Rico and, yes, even the mainland U.S. Underneath all these star turns remains the thrilling work accomplished in the late ‘70s by as great a backing band as ever lived, the Attractions,

San Antonio singer Nina Diaz of the group Girl in a Coma  lends her vocals to the opening track, “No Action”

Salif Keita, Angelique Kidjo, MHD –  Itarafo

Album – un autre blanc 2018

Such a powerful collaboration, you can listen to it here

I actually didn’t write up any notes for this track, but I love to see the collaboration that is going on in a whole collection of albums by various new and established groups.

A littler note on MHD who is the young one on this great track.

stage name MHD, is a French rapper from Paris, who is known for blending trap music with music of West Africa; a genre he coined as “Afro Trap“.[1][2][3] He was previously part of the rap collective 1.9 Réseaux.

Born in Vendée to a family of West African extraction, MHD began his career as a rapper in Paris at the age of 18. He found success in the mid-2010s through material he published on social media (notably music videos on YouTube) and in 2016 released his debut album MHD, which sold more than 200,000 copies in 6 months.[4][5][6] He later received international recognition, and toured in Guinea[citation needed]EnglandSenegal and Morocco.[7] His second album, titled 19, was released in September 2018.

Wikipedia


St. Etienne – Pond House

Saint Etienne are an English band from London, formed in 1990. The band consists of Sarah Cracknell, Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs. They created a buzz in the UK in the 90’s which really didn’t translate to this side of the Atlantic.

According to Wikipedia,  “their work has been described as uniting 1990s club culture with 1960s pop.”   Since the nineties they have consistently released new music.  Stanley and Wiggs also have been responsible for curating interesting compilations for UK reissue label Ace Records.

Pitchfork reviews Saint Etienne’s latest.  

On their 10th studio album, the UK electro-pop heroes look back on the end of the 20th century, when hooks and choruses dissolved into blissed-out loops and vibe became paramount.

Pitchfork Magazine

Tú Sí Sabes – Natalia Lafourcade with Los Macorinos

a bit of an interview with Natalia Lafourcade and Los Macorinos who I featured on my last two tracks. I wish these guys would put out their own album.

Lafourcade has made a career out of her search for new sounds to adorn her melodies. In each of her efforts, she demonstrates a deep love for melody in all its forms, exploring it every way she can, and garnering a huge following in the Spanish-speaking world. Throughout the years, she has evolved into one of Mexico’s best songwriters and singers, thanks to her deep knowledge of music history and her ability to craft picturesque songs.

You told me you wanted to collaborate with Los Macorinos, but what was it like to finally have them in the studio with you? You also have a duet with Omara Portuondo. How was that experience?

I have collaborated with so many awesome people, but then I had this idea of making every collaboration much more deep and focused. They have to bring something new to me. In this case, it was a completely new experience to have Los Macorinos with me in the studio. We reached a whole new level because it wasn’t a very comfortable choice to work with them. How was I to play with these gentlemen? They have so much more experience.

Natalia Lafourcade – Tú sí sabes quererme (en manos de Los Macorinos)


Lucy Dacus – Gone Gone Gone (edit)

Lucy Dacus – Gone Gone Gone  from 2021 album,  Home Video

Dacus is an American singer-songwriter She is also a member of boygenius with Phoebe Bridgers and Julien Baker.  Here’s a really nice live version of this selection. 

To quote Dacus From Pitchfork, “When I wrote this one, I didn’t like it so much because it had that campfire vibe, and I thought it was too twee. For a long time, I’ve tried to establish myself in people’s minds as Not Americana, because people go to such lengths to show girls with guitars as country adjacent. People have called me alt-country… Genre is dead, and yet, I make rock music. But I felt more comfortable doing whatever the song wanted this time around. So if it’s a campfire song, then let’s get people on the refrains, and let’s do it with acoustic guitars and make it super cozy. My favorite moment is the talking at the end. I like that it’s the exact center of the record because it feels like an intermission.”

On a final note,  we aren’t the only Old Fellas enjoying new music! From The Guardian

 

Claudia Sierra, Los Macorinos, Clayton- Voy

Another one of the many collaborations by Los Macorinos

Nostalgia Entre Amigos 2 – 2018

And that’s all I have, I actually could find no more information about this singer. Any leads? Please let us know.