Don Messerli’s Blog |

An exercise in self-indulgence.

Chris Whitley 1960-2005

Wednesday Nov 23, 2005

Chris Whitley passed away from lung cancer this past Sunday. He was only 45 years old. My brother Evan first got me interested in CW by introducing me to his first album, Living With The Law. With its hard pounding tempos, raw and viceral lyrics and southern twang; it was refreshing when music had seemed to hit a boring streak. I would rediscover CW years later when my friend, Mark Stracka, tried to recommend him to me. I caught up with CW’s releases and enjoyed them all. When I later got heavily into Daniel Lanois, I was delighted to discover that DL had played guiter on Living With The Law.

Recently, Mark asked me if I had kept up with CW’s releases. Sadly, the answer was “No”. We both agreed that we needed to pick up his latest album. I’ll be filling in the gaps in my collection right after I get back from Thanksgiving.

I checked my email this morning to find the sad news. I feel, in some strange way, a loss. I can’t explain it and I won’t try right now.


Thursday Sep 29, 2005

Late last year I picked up a really cool toy. It’s called a SqueezeBox from Slim Devices. It’s a small box with a bright LED screen that you plug into your stereo as an input device. You load up their software on a computer (it will run under Windows, Linux, and Mac). I have the server software use my iTunes Music Library.

Using a remote control, you can browse or search your music collection and then the music gets streamed to the SqueezeBox. The one I have is wireless (802.11b - they have a new SqueezeBox2 which is 802.11g). I can listen to my entire music collection* on the stereo in my bedroom without touching a CD!

I plan on getting another SqueezeBox for Regine to use in her playroom (where she does all of her scrapbooking, card making, and rubber stamping).

* Of course, this is only in theory. I have about 600 music CDs and have only ripped about 135 of them into iTunes so far. I figure at the rate I’m going, I’ll rip the last CD on my death bed.

Live in Concert

Thursday Aug 11, 2005

Regine and I went to see Live in concert Tuesday night at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood. Although its only about 30 minutes away; this is only the second time I’ve been to the place. We went to see some standup comedy at the improv about a month ago. The casino is big; but nothing like Foxwoods in Connecticut. Everything is shiny and new. We’ll see how it looks in a couple of years. The venue for the concert was nice. Much better than the Hard Rock in Las Vegas; but that’s a whole other story. Surprisingly, the concert didn’t sell out. Probably because a large portion of Miami’s population never heard of Live. You can come up with your own “why” theory.

The concert was excellent. It took a little time for the energy to build; but by the time they got around to doing “White, Discussion”, things had climbed to a fever pitch. The majority of the songs they played were from their first two albums: Mental Jewelry and Throwing Copper. This is a good thing since most people I know agree that they have yet to match those albums. They played some stuff from Secret Samadhi as well as four or five songs from their yet-to-be-release new album called Songs from Black Mountain. The new album was just completed and will be released in November. Almost all of the new songs were very good.

Ed Kowalczyk was a bit more buff than I remember. He still needs to do something about those eyebrows and farmer tan. He’s also the only bald/buff guy I’ve seen in a long time that doesn’t have any tattoos.

Again, the concert was excellent. I recommend seeing them if they come to your sh*t town.


Thursday Aug 11, 2005

My friend, Mark, exuberantly recommended an album to me. I tend to regard Mark’s recommendations very highly. He has introduced me to artists such as Dog’s Eye View, Martin Sexton, Live and Dave Matthews Band. Sorry for the lack of links to those artists; but here’s one for you: Google.

This time, Mark recommended an album titled The Mysterious Production of Eggs by Andrew Bird. I purchased the album from the iTunes Music Store that day at work and schlepped it home on my USB memory gizmo. Now, a couple of months later, I finally burned it to CD and listened to it on the way into work this morning. Yes, my commute is long enough to digest a whole album.

As I listened, I started to try to place the music. It sounded like Rufus Wainwright, the group James and, in some places, Paul Simon. Then I started to think: why do I try to place music from artists that are new to me somewhere in my musical comfort zone? Do other people do this? (Feel free to leave comments). Is this being fair to the new artist? Or to the artists already in my comfort zone? Do I do this with other things? New flavors of ice cream? “This new Edy’s Triple Fudge Mocha Nut Blast tastes like Baskin Robbins’ Mocha Almond Fudge mixed with Ben and Jerry’s Chunky Monkey.”

My initial impression of the album is that it’s excellent and I’ll listen to it quite a bit. It’s going to take that much just to fathom all of the lyrics. I swear I heard him say something about tying a girl up and drilling a hole in her head. Eggs is lyrically rich and the instrumentation is a bit eccentric. Somewhat “Wall of Sound”ish. I’ll post more about this album after I’ve listened to it a few more times.