* Cross-posted from MontessoriPublic as this is not strictly speaking a public Montessori even — but look for Part II later this week.

Wildflower.  Dandelion. Marigold.  Snowdrop.  Wild Rose.  You may have seen them sprouting up in your Facebook feed or your Montessori network, but what are they?

Sep KamvarWildflower Montessori is the inspiration of Sep Kamvar, professor of Media Arts and Sciences and director of Social Computing at the MIT Media Lab, as well as an artist, author, entrepreneur, and former engineering lead at Google.

Kamvar’s journey to Wildflower has been a bit of a garden path, but as often happens, it has Montessori at one end and young children at the other.  He mentions in passing that he went to a Children’s House in Torrance, California, for a few years before his family moved to New Jersey, but that he doesn’t remember much about it.  (And yet, he went on to become an independent,  innovative thinker who worked at Google…) After he graduated from Princeton in chemistry and went on to Stanford for computer science, he wrote a seminal paper in 2003 on managing trust  in peer-to-peer networks.  The same year, he launched a “stealth startup” personalized search engine which was acquired by Google a few months later.  Kamvar went to work for Google that year as the head of personalized search, a now-universal Google feature which shapes search results with information associated with a user’s location, search and browser history, and social networks.  (Users can turn this off by using private browsing or the methods described here.)

Kamvar earned his PhD from Stanford in 2004 and stayed with Google through 2007, and in California through 2011, as a consulting professor for Stanford, as well as launching a venture capital firm and a line of men’s clothing, mounting an installation at the Museum of Modern Art,  publishing two books, getting married, and continuing his explorations of social connectedness and data aggregation,  In 2012 Kamvar returned to the east coast, joining MIT’s media lab as the LG Associate Professor of Media Arts and Sciences and head of the Social Computing research group, where, among other projects, he wrote a  programming language and developed You Are Here, an data visualization project that maps data sets such as transit efficiency, street greenery, or food deserts onto city maps, to help people to make their city a better place”.

Throughout his career, Kamvar has explored how technology, data, and social interactions can come together to drive behavior.  His 2003 paper used individual social interactions to build up a trust system in file-sharing networks.  His work with Google used data from individual choices and social networks to deliver better search results.  His art projects have gathered and visualized emotional and relationship data from thousands of blog posts and dating profiles to offer new and unexpected insights. The mapping project uses personal experiences and broad data sets to give people new information they can use to improve their environments.  In 2013, Kamvar turned this interest, along with his research and analytical skills, towards choosing a school for his two-year-old son. The result, not surprisingly, was a data-driven, non-hierarchical, action-empowering network

Kamvar started out doing a lot of reading and looking at a lot of schools, and he came to two conclusions.  First, he knew he wanted Montessori.  As a scientist, he appreciated its observation-based, developmentally grounded, constructivist approach, and he was captivated by the peacefulness and independence of the children in Montessori classrooms.  As he read more of Montessori’s work and joined a parent-child classroom, his respect for the approach grew.  Second, Kamvar had some ideas about teacher autonomy, observation, and scale, among others, that weren’t expressed in the programs he saw. The school that matched his emerging vision didn’t yet exist.

wildflowerSo Kamvar decided to start one, and the first Wildflower school, Wildflower Montessori in Cambridge, was born.  Before long, interest in the school overran capacity, and Kamvar and his team launched the a project to put the principles and organizational materials online, where anyone could access them and start a school along the same lines. Several more schools opened last year, growing to six in Cambridge, one in nearby Haverhill, and three in Puerto Rico.

Wildflower schools are intentionally one-classroom operations, staffed by two “teacher-leaders” who share teaching and administrative responsibilities.  The Wildflower project offers financial and consulting support for teachers to start schools and makes resources such as school handbooks and sample budgets available under an open source model on its website.  Schools in a city or region join together in a loose network, or “hub”, to provide mutual support and feedback.

Wildflower schools are organized around nine principles, articulated on the website:

An Authentic Montessori Environment: providing a peaceful, mixed-age, child-directed learning environment.

Wildflower steps carefully around the delicate subject of Montessori authenticity, but seeks out Montessori practiced according to consistent high standards.

A Shopfront, Neighborhood-nested Design: committed to remaining small, integrated in the community, and responsive to the needs of the children.

The model envisions one-classroom schoolhouses in storefront retail locations.

A Lab School: serving as a research setting dedicated to advancing the Montessori Method in the context of the modern world.

asterThis principle doesn’t really spell it out, but a key element of the Wildflower model is augmenting traditional pencil-and-paper observation with ceiling-mounted cameras, wearable sensors, and software analytics, inspired by Kamvar’s interest and expertise in technology and data visualization.  Kamvar feels strongly that Montessori, as a scientist, would have welcomed such innovations.

A Seamless Learning Community: blurring the boundaries of home-schooling and institutional schooling by placing high priority on parent education and giving parents an integral role in the classroom.

Parent education is integral to the model as well.  Kamvar observes that he spent nine years training to be a professor, but his preparation for being a father consisted of reading a few books, purely as a personal choice. His time in the parent-child class showed him how transformational Montessori could be in his parenting.

An Artist-in-residence: bringing richness to the learning environment by giving the children opportunities to observe and interact with adults doing day-to-day creative work.

This principle brings a working artist into the classroom, ideally making her less of a specialist teacher and more an element of the prepared environment.

An Attention to Nature: emphasizing the nonseparation between nature and human nature through a unique living-classroom design and extensive time in nature.

As one-room storefronts in retail neighborhoods, the schools have to proactively bring natural elements into the classroom and work to extend into available urban spaces such as parks and gardens.

A Role in Shaping the City: working with the community to improve local parks, streets, and establishments to create an urban environment that is healthier for children.

Consistent with Kamvar’s work using data to empower social activism, Wildflower schools, by integrating children and families into their neighborhoods, can drive urban environmental transformation.

A Spirit of Generosity: seeing school as a change agent for society, and reflecting a spirit of generosity to all stakeholders, to children, to parents, to those in need, and to the local community.

wild roseMost of the current Wildflower schools are private, tuition-based programs, and the “spirit of generosity” principle has not so far been very effective at creating programs accessible to lower-income families.  An initial idealism about the willingness and ability of individual families to support a diverse population has not been as successful as was imagined.  Wildflower’s organizers have a commitment to development in this area.

An Open-source Design: advancing an ecosystem of public and independent Wildflower schools that mutually support one another.

The two complementary sides of this principle — independent, and mutually supportive — are really the distinctive features of the model.  Wildflower does not administer, organize, or oversee the schools they are independent entities, with their own non-profit statuses and their own boards. This was a key motivation for Kamvar in his exploration of schools. He told me,

In a traditional (non-Montessori) school, there’s a board of directors, who’s the boss of the head of school, who’s the boss of a level director, who’s the boss of the teachers, who’s kind of the boss of the children.  Montessori articulated beautifully that this doesn’t work very well.  Why can’t we model Montessori non-hierarchical learning onto the school structure?

At the same time, the network of mutual support is critical, allowing schools to get economies of scale where they are available (in purchasing power, professional development, observation and support, for example) while keeping small the things that don’t scale as well (interactions between adults and children).

Theres something a little puzzling about Wildflower—even with the comprehensive website, it raises more questions than it answers.  The names run together: there’s Wildflower Montessori, the school; a project called Wildflower which has offered financial and operational support and hosts; and a newly formed Wildflower Foundation.  The decentralized, one-room schoolhouse model raises some “How does that work?” responses.  Where does the money come from to start a school?  What about zoning, occupancy permits, ADA bathrooms, DHS approval, the fire marshal, and all that?  Will classroom teachers really want to take on the admissions, marketing, regulations, hiring, facilities, etc., issues that administrators handle, in the hours after a day with children?

Kamvar had answers to many of these questions.  Wildflower, the project, has offered some financial support for startup, but founding families also typically play a role, as well as taking responsibility for finding an appropriate site and getting regulatory approval.  Acting as a “teacher-leader” for a one-classroom school is admittedly, “not for everybody” and “a lot of work”.  Some of the administrative work can be shared with schools in the area network.  And the model envisions two “teacher-leaders” for each school, filing between them the roles of guide, assistant, and administration, so the burden is shared.

But that brings it back to the money.  Tuition for 20 or fewer pre-schoolers is not a lot to cover salaries for two people who can fill those roles, along with materials, furnishings, rent, and other overhead.  And if tuition is set at a level that covers those costs, where does that leave the school as a change agent for society”?

Yet the schools are there and thriving, and the model is growing.  In fact, Wildflower is at an inflection point in its growth.  There’s been an organizational change in the last few months, with Kamvar becoming Board President of a newly launched Wildflower Foundation, and a new and influential figure from the public education world coming on board as CEO, bringing with him organizational and fundraising expertise and an explicit mission for social justice.  For that part of the story, look out for next week’s post on Wildflower’s next moves.

Sufjan Stevens, The National’s Bryce Dessner, and Nico Muhly release collaborative album Planetarium: Stream/download

Today marks the arrival of Planetarium, the solar system-inspired collaborative album from Sufjan Stevens, The National’s Bryce Dessner, Nico Muhly, and drummer James McAlister. Subscribers of Apple Music and Spotify can hear it in full below.

The 17-track collection is the debut collaborative album from this group of elite indie rockers. Though the project originally receive its live premiere back in 2013 during a multi-night run at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, this is the first time its being released as an official recording courtesy of label 4AD.

In an interview NPR, Stevens spoke about his inspiration for Planetarium:

I knew I wanted to write songs. I didnt want it to be like art music. So I thought thats what I would bring, is just the lyrics. And at first it didnt have lyrics, and we were naming everything based on astrology we were just using our kind of horoscope-like concepts. And so I was thinking about astrology and then I started writing the lyrics and it started to shape into songs about the planets. So then I just decided to go with that. I mean lyrically its a word salad. Half the time I had no idea what I was saying. It was just like I was just grabbing.

I was also struck by the abundance of our lives here — of the human body, just our own biology, what we contain our anatomy — all kinds of stuff. Theres stuff going on and its like, life is so abundant here and yet were still obsessed with the exterior of here — and its just chaos. Its methane gas and helium, just violent chaos. Thats whats so interesting. Theres a sort of beautiful perfect order to life on earth thats so mysterious and so profound. And yet as people we really f*** it up. Were so dysfunctional, and we seek guidance from the exterior world, from the heavens, to help us understand our purpose here and to sort of create a sense of order.

In support of the LP, all four musicians will hit the road for one of the most anticipated tours of the year.

Planetarium Album Artwork:

planetarium sufjan stream album Sufjan Stevens, The National’s Bryce Dessner, and Nico Muhly release collaborative album Planetarium: Stream/download

Planetarium Tracklist:01. Neptune02. Jupiter03. Halley’s Comet04. Venus05. Uranus06. Mars07. Black Energy08. Sun09. Tides10. Moon11. Pluto12. Kuiper Belt13. Black Hole14. Saturn15. In the Beginning16. Earth17. Mercury

That One Summer Filled With Whiskey

I was really poor that summer. Like so poor sometimes I wasnt sure if Id have enough to take the bus the hour and half it took me to get home from the retail job I was sure would be the end of me. I knew if I couldnt cough up the 2.75, it would be a two hour walk home. And I knew that because once, it happened.

And even though everything about my job was terrible and I wasnt sure who I was or who I wanted to be, I still somehow felt the overwhelming sense of possibility that summer.

But maybe that was the whiskey talking.

The first time a comedian came over to my house and tried to make me laugh I dont really remember kissing him. I remember the plastic pint glasses filled with whatever we had in the freezer of that apartment above the grocery store, and I remember him stumbling back into my apartment the next morning after I was sure he was gone with a hungover greeting of, I brought bagels. He left things in our bathroom. A miniature thing of toothpaste, some floss, and a giant bottle of contact solution. Im still completely in awe of how sure he was of his own permanence. Like he was just positive that he was going to last because wed happened to make out on my couch on some night in June in between sips of Fireball.

Greg used every last bit of that contact solution for the next year. I stopped returning the comedians texts a week later.

So many people slept in our living room that summer. Friends would come and crash before making the hour and a half drive out of the city the next morning, people from college would come just to see what Seattle is like!! only to be annoyed that we were literally living off of $50 per week and could barely do anything fun. But regardless of our own bleak financial status we were always happy to inflate the air mattress, put on a movie, and drink on the living room floor. Id scramble to the freezer, find whatever we had left from one of our splurges and happy pour a round of shots for whatever guest we had at the time.

We were really good at making something out of nothing.

I dated this boy for a month because he seemed like he had his shit together, and I remember laying in bed with him while he talked about things like grad school, boat races, and just staring at him and thinking, We couldnt possibly be more different. There, in the glow of the Ikea lights wrapped around my headboard and the haze of whatever cocktail Id foolishly paid for while we were out, I realized that I was lost. I had no idea what I was doing or what I wanted or where I was going or who I was. And if it was that obvious to me, it was probably that obvious to him.

He would later end things with me by telling me I wasnt someone that he could see taking seriously. I sat on the floor of the living room with Greg and his boyfriend and did shots of whiskey to make myself feel better for a break up everyone could see coming from 7 miles away.

I was really lost that summer. So lost I convinced myself that selling sweaters could make me happy, swiping on Tinder would make me feel less empty, and lying enough would eventually make those lies a reality. I wasnt happy, I never fell in love but did fall out of it, and one night in September I decided to stop lying to myself.

So I did a shot in the kitchen the night before my 25th birthday, poured a glass of merlot, and wrote down all the things I knew to be true, and hoped would be true, and wanted to say.

And for the first time since May, I felt the possibility of what it would be like to be found. TC mark

Chicken & Broccoli Bites

Im going to keep this weeks recipe intro a bit short, because to be honest Im a little distracted we welcomed our second child into the world yesterday! His name is Elliott and Im sure plenty of pics will soon be coming to my various social media platforms.

I recently asked my readers what recipes theyd like me to tackle next, and an overwhelming majority asked for pressure-cooker meals; for those folks, I have something special in store for next week. Meanwhile, a vocal minority asked for appetizers to bring to holiday parties, so I put together this recipe as a fun way to enjoy a classic Chinese takeout dish: Chicken Broccoli. While not as celebrated as its big brother, Beef Broccoli, I like the contrast of crisp chicken with a dark sauce. Enjoy!

Chicken Broccoli Bites (Gluten-free, Paleo, Perfect Health Diet)Servings: 8Time: 20 minutesDifficulty: Easy

1 lb chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized chunks1 egg white1 tbsp arrowroot starch1 tsp rice wine1 tsp fish sauce1 tsp tamari (or coconut aminos)1/4 tsp salt1/4 tsp white pepper

Sauce:3/4 cup beef broth1/4 cup tamari (or coconut aminos)1 1/2 tbsp arrowroot starch1 tbsp honey or coconut palm sugar1 tsp apple cider vinegar1/2 tsp ground ginger1/2 tsp garlic powder1/2 tsp white pepper1 pinch crushed red pepper flakessalt to taste

2 tbsp coconut oil, more if needed1 bunch broccoli, cut into bite-sized florets1 tbsp watersesame seeds to garnishcrushed red pepper flakes to garnish

1. In a bowl, combine the chicken, egg white, arrowroot, rice wine, tamari, salt, and white pepper; toss until evenly coated then set aside.

2. In a small saucepan, combine the sauce ingredients and bring to a simmer over medium heat; reduce heat to low to gently simmer while you prepare the rest of the meal.

3. Heat the coconut oil in a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering, about 2 minutes. Add half of the chicken and stir-fry until golden brown, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a plate lined with paper towels and set aside; repeat the process with the remaining chicken, adding more oil if needed. Once the chicken is done, transfer it to the plate.

4. Reduce heat to medium, and check the oil level you need about 1 tbsp in the wok. Add the broccoli, and stir-fry until the oil has been absorbed; add 1 tbsp water and stir-fry until the broccoli has cooked, about 1 minute; set aside.

5. Skewer the chicken and broccoli, then taste the sauce and add salt if needed. You can either drizzle the sauce over the chicken and broccoli bites or serve it as a dipping sauce. Serve warm garnished with sesame seeds and red pepper flakes.

** The sauce should be plenty thick, but if youd like to thicken it a bit more, combine 1 tbsp arrowroot starch and 1 tbsp water and stir into a slurry, then add to the bubbling sauce to thicken.

** Not attending a holiday party anytime soon? This dish can easily be transformed into the classic interpretation. Simply cook the chicken as instructed, then instead of step #3, toss the cooked chicken together with the broccoli over medium-high heat until the broccoli starts to soften, then add enough sauce to coat everything (you may not need all of it).

Final Live +7 viewer averages for 2016-17: ‘Sunday Night Football’ holds off ‘The Big Bang Theory’

The very top of the Live +7 viewer chart for 2016-17 looks almost exactly like it did in 2015-16: Sunday Night Football is the No. 1 show on network TV, followed by The Big Bang Theory and NCIS.

The difference this time is that the numbers are smaller for all three shows, and the gap between first and second place is slightly narrower.

Sunday Night Football averaged 19.75 million viewers for the season, down about 8 percent from 2015-16. The Big Bang Theory (19.03 million) also dipped by 8 percent, and NCIS (18.34 million) was off 11 percent. All three shows topped 20 million viewers with a week of DVR and on-demand viewing last season.

See also: Final Live +7 adults 18-49 ratings for 2016-17

The Big Bang Theory trailed SNF by 723,000 viewers vs. just over 800,000 last year.

A pair of new shows, Designated Survivor (+6.18 million) and This Is Us (+5.45 million), scored the biggest gains from their initial audience. CBS Bull was the most-watched new show by a scant 45,000 viewers over This Is Us.

All figures below are Live +7 viewer averages for original episodes during the Nielsen-measured TV season from Sept. 19, 2016-May 24, 2017. Episodes of shows that aired outside those dates are excluded, as are summer shows that aired episodes during the season.

RankShowNetworkLive +7 viewers (000s)Gain vs. Live +SD1Sunday Night FootballNBC19,7521182The Big Bang TheoryCBS19,0294,9993NCISCBS18,3393,7084Thursday Night FootballNBC17,1131145BullCBS15,3443,9636This Is usNBC15,2995,4457Thursday Night FootballCBS14,596898Blue BloodsCBS14,0704,1249The OTFOX13,6202810NCIS: New OrleansCBS13,4033,83311NCIS: Los AngelesCBS12,5292,40412The Voice MondayNBC12,4871,96613Dancing With the StarsABC12,4521,6851460 MinutesCBS12,42549015The Voice TuesdayNBC12,3111,89816Hawaii Five-0CBS12,1622,91317Designated SurvivorABC12,0226,17918Greys AnatomyABC11,2253,37419Madam SecretaryCBS11,0622,77520EmpireFOX11,0173,39921Criminal MindsCBS10,8973,42922Football Night in America Pt 3NBC10,8381123Modern FamilyABC10,7343,83624ScorpionCBS10,7033,47125Chicago FireNBC10,6583,70726SurvivorCBS10,5142,09627Little Big ShotsNBC10,3461,22128Chicago PDNBC10,1503,68029Chicago MedNBC9,9083,25030MacGyverCBS9,8022,08031The BlacklistNBC9,6504,33732MomCBS9,4401,83033Kevin Can WaitCBS9,2461,62834Code BlackCBS9,2393,26835Lethal WeaponFOX9,1832,64936The BachelorABC9,0031,63337Law Order: SVUNBC8,7842,95538ScandalABC8,5752,96039Chicago JusticeNBC8,4782,52640The Great IndoorsCBS8,39491341Last Man StandingABC8,3261,91542Life in PiecesCBS8,1681,99943TimelessNBC7,9873,36944Pure GeniusCBS7,9442,55745How to Get Away with MurderABC7,9063,29946The MiddleABC7,7591,71747The GoldbergsABC7,7521,70848ElementaryCBS7,5552,70349Man with a PlanCBS7,4371,10850Black-ishABC7,3742,19651Superior DonutsCBS7,2881,04452HuntedCBS7,2591,16853BlindspotNBC7,2042,419542 Broke GirlsCBS7,0251,40155Shades of BlueNBC7,0192,64556Criminal Minds: Beyond BordersCBS7,0012,15057American HousewifeABC6,9821,80058TakenNBC6,9311,80659SpeechlessABC6,9171,54560DoubtCBS6,7952,12861Shark TankABC6,5941,45462The WallNBC6,48760663Undercover BossCBS6,40570664The Amazing RaceCBS6,3282,34865The Blacklist: RedemptionNBC6,2312,18766Saturday Night College FootballABC6,1333967NotoriousABC6,0872,1146824: LegacyFOX6,0822,09969GrimmNBC6,0701,92070The Good PlaceNBC6,0151,90771The Odd CoupleCBS5,9901,05972StarFOX5,9821,75773LuciferFOX5,9572,28274Dateline FridayNBC5,8801,20475ConvictionABC5,7422,17176BonesFOX5,5382,31277Americas Funniest Home VideosABC5,45838878Secrets and LiesABC5,2872,02679Dr. KenABC5,2688578020/20ABC5,26493981SuperstoreNBC5,2081,26082Football Night in America Pt 2NBC5,204883APBFOX5,1961,77784GothamFOX5,1601,81085Fresh Off the BoatABC5,0841,22886The Great American Baking ShowABC5,02686687Trial ErrorNBC4,9269568848 HoursCBS4,88066189The CatchABC4,8581,59290The SimpsonsFOX4,83869191The New Celebrity ApprenticeNBC4,82081692Hells KitchenFOX4,7771,30193QuanticoABC4,7721,99294The FlashCW4,7161,872Masterchef JuniorFOX4,7161,16796To Tell the TruthABC4,70854697PitchFOX4,6751,65098Shots FiredFOX4,6561,17999Emerald CityNBC4,6431,610100The MickFOX4,6061,714101Training DayCBS4,5581,152Dateline Saturday MysteryNBC4,558411103Once Upon a TimeABC4,5031,319104Agents of SHIELDABC4,3982,061105RosewoodFOX4,3621,343106RansomCBS4,346889107Match GameABC4,299780108Prison BreakFOX4,2531,604109Family GuyFOX3,9871,164110First DatesNBC3,941557111The Real ONealsABC3,939888112Imaginary MaryABC3,802838113SupergirlCW3,7541,391114Great NewsNBC3,726393115American CrimeABC3,3271,394116The Last Man on EarthFOX3,2911,146117Sleepy HollowFOX3,2871,369118Time After TimeABC3,2221,022119Caught on CameraNBC3,203112120Son of ZornFOX3,180404121The Toy BoxABC3,177302122The ExorcistFOX3,1531,241123New GirlFOX3,1471,091124Brooklyn Nine-NineFOX3,021973125NBA Saturday PrimetimeABC2,98335126Legends of TomorrowCW2,9171,101127PowerlessNBC2,878581128People IconsABC2,876238129Bobs BurgersFOX2,819683130ArrowCW2,8051,047131My Kitchen RulesFOX2,631367132SupernaturalCW2,622945133FOX College FootballFOX2,35815134Scream QueensFOX2,281842135Kicking and ScreamingFOX2,221347136Making HistoryFOX1,895345137NBA CountdownABC1,8903138You the JuryFOX1,765393139RiverdaleCW1,731686140The Vampire DiariesCW1,710716141Jane the VirginCW1,650689142The 100CW1,634676143The OriginalsCW1,578626144iZombieCW1,564653145FrequencyCW1,515579146ReignCW1,229531147No TomorrowCW1,020226148Crazy Ex-GirlfriendCW751203

New Reviews, Spring 2016

New ReviewsSpring of 2016


Michael Wesley Hughes Tryin To Come Back Home

Print[All lyrics by MICHAEL WESLEY HUGHES]

Stains On your heart and on your handsStainsWaging wars in foreign lands

One of the most poignant and also rocking anti-war statements to have emerged in years. A vivid masterpiece long brewing in the soul of this old soldier, and now emerging after years of playing the blues. Beloved as a brilliant bluesman and the songwriter of blues classics, Michael Hughes now shares his hidden crucible of song and survival. A Vietnam vet who was blown to kingdom come only to be sewn up and sent out to be blown up again, this is his real story, a rock and roll spiral directly into the unfathomable hell of war, and the world after the war, the long and enduring road back home. Although these are songs of outrage, they’re also redemption songs, the songs of an ultimate survivor. And don’t worry: these songs aren’t weepy or pedantic; the man rocks. As pointed and even political as these songs get, they never abandon the aim of good songwriting: compelling choruses, visceral verses and rich melodics ensue.

He’s an incendiary lead guitarist who wails with deep electric sorrow and redemptive joy to cut through the noise and transcend words. Several of his songs from his critically-acclaimed eBlues Highway (2009) were used in HBO’s “True Blood” (as those Southern vampires evidently dig authentic blues). His blues – the songs, singing and playing spring from a source so deep and genuine that they resound like the first blues, like the songs of the ages.

This album digs as deep, but is a shift to a different kind of songwriting. Still it’s informed by the blues. Fortunately for fans, his electric guitar solos abound, and are as blistering as any on his blues records or live shows. He sounds like a man on fire. But that crying soul is crying about a whole other kind of American blues, that of the thousands of American sons sent to battle. Those who weren’t killed and were sent home found themselves forever chained to the horrors they endured, perpetually – as the title says – tryin’ to find their way home. There is no resolution, no answer to any of the fundamental questions that arise, because war is simply a crazy solution to any problem. Going crazy, as the famous Catch-22 dictates, is the most rational response to the insanity of war.

This is the sound of authenticity. It’s an unmistakable sound. Humans can sense when others are faking. Inherently and organically. Which is why his anthem of human phoniness – “Faking It” – is so perfect here, united around the whole crowd singing, “Fake you!” The sin is deep enough of sending sons to battle. But to do so based on lies – based on intentional falsehoods –– is even more egregiously evil. It’s an outrageous rock stomp about the powers that lie, those who wear, as he writes, “a third degree black belt in Bullshit.” Hughes burns through the song, both vocally and on guitar, while unleashing pure electric fury at the masters of war.

So accustomed are we to hearing music devoid of musical or lyrical substance, albums with little coherence but much filler, it’s like living on a diet of junk food. One yearns for something, anything, that’s real. So when you hear this, the raw power of a man singing from his soul, so revelatory of human drama, it resonates even more powerfully. With rampant frivolity and banality celebrated daily, and with more and more people making music with less and less substance, the sound of a true artist rings like a beautiful bell-tone through the noise.

The reason for the resonance is because it’s real. Through the history of American popular song, those songs which specify the real facts – the truth – are the ones that persist in resounding so powerfully. From the classic songs of Willie Dixon, who always said the blues were the facts of life, though songs such as “Coal Miner’s Daughter” by Loretta Lynn, “Pastures Of Plenty” and “Deportees” by Woody Guthrie or Merle Haggard’s “Mama Tried,” up to “Rehab” by Amy Winehouse and beyond, we find songs deriving their power by drawing on the truth itself, on real life as it is really lived.

These songs exemplify that musical highway of truth. These entail his excursion to hell, and his protracted emergence. A nightmare so brutal that it never left him. To this day. Nightmares. Like so many veterans, the nightmares never stop. Asked about honor, he answered soberly with no lack of sorrow: “There is no honor when you are carrying your friend’s body, and he’s been blown in two.” It’s that madness, and all that is too horrific to even remember let alone relate. There are, as he sings, “stories that I can’t tell.”After all, when our fathers, and grandfathers, went to fight Hitler, the threat was real and understood. World War II was a war the directly affected America, and the entire world. The war was still hell, of course, as are all wars. But it was based on an equation that added up. When soldiers returned from the war, they were welcomed into the fold of American life again with love and gratitude. Their service and sacrifice was felt and understood, and the war was over.

Whereas fighting in a civil war in the swamps of Vietnam never made any sense because it was insensible. And when those soldiers were sent home, there was so resolution there, nothing won or resolved, no honor. And what have we learned since then? Iraq. Afghanistan. We continue to wage wars, far from our own shores. “All my dreams now undone,” he sings, “sent to a war that can’t be won.”

All of it and more, all these years later, now channeled into a charged and remarkable cycle of songs. Here is a man of heart trying revealing this madness in “Evil,” the album’s closing song, which he tells us in the liner notes, embraces the mission of transforming a “human with compassion” to a “trained killing machine.”

Produced dynamically by songwriter-producer Lisa Nemzo, the entire album surrounds Hughes in driving grooves, rich choirs of voices, and soulful rhythm beds on top of which his guitar gently – and powerfully – weeps. Nemzo powerfully connected with these songs and with their singer. Each is etched ideally to the artist’s contours, his voice and style. These are songs of great intensity, and the production directly embodies the character of each, and with great soulfulness. His singing has never sounded more vital, as electric as his combustible Hendrix meets B.B. King at the crossroads guitar playing throughout.

The  visceral “Stains” opens the album, and sings of the profound and indelible darkness forever imprinted on the spirits of all soldiers. A song of rage and sorrow, it’s crafted with cunning; it’s catchy, even when he’s singing of bombs raining on the innocent. It’s got a great melody, one that builds and builds with organic grace and rightness. It’s boldly audacious, especially in the blistering bridge – all emergent tension that keeps building and building until it explodes into a fiery guitar solo – not unlike “If I Had A Rocket-Launcher,” another fiery anti-war song, by Bruce Cockburn. When Hughes returns after the bridge and solo, he comes back with even more fervor than before, emblematic of his survival and emergence.

“Blind See” is a sound painting, based on his hallucinogenic ramblings after almost dying, his eyes blinded and bandaged, testifying of an angel who told him to see. And he did. He saw again, emerging from the nightmare of blindness to the light.

“Bullets, Bombs and Bodybags” is a compellingly melodic anthem of survival, which he wails. “Angel Without Wings” is a tender and unique story, a ballad of a soldier falling in love with his nurse, her loving care confused for love. “Arlington,” written by Nemzo with Artie Colatrella, is a poignant epic that is the album’s first single. It starts with a 500 mile drive to bring roses to the graves at Arlington. It’s a long distance to come to pay tribute to the fallen, and a long distance this nation has come since its first war for freedom. Sadly this “saddest acre in the nation” doesn’t stand as a reminder of something ancient, but a living memorial to those soldiers who have fallen through our history, and continue to fall today. The colors of the blood red roses and the cherry-blossoms draw a stark contrast to all the stone-white graves and crosses. We see the trees and flowers that still flourish where the world absorbs all the lives lost, here where “eternity keeps calling.”

It’s the most ancient kind of grief, even here in modern times, centuries removed from armies facing each other on bloody battlefields, the fact of mankind still embracing war. Still a young nation, we’ve waged wars through each chapter of our history. And here we have Arlington, and other fields of the fallen, all over America. On Mr. Hughes’ album cover, he’s shown in mirrored shades that reflect the sorrow in his eyes, and a vast field of white gravestones. Half of his face is painted with camouflage, like what he wore in the jungle. Half is unpainted, but engulfed still, among the tombstones, in this field of death. This isn’t war in the abstract. This is the reality, the outcome. Thousands dead. Generations decimated.

So it is with gratitude that we honor those who have survived, and those like Mr. Hughes who help us, though his words and music and especially, his soul, to make sense of this madness. That Mr. Hughes not only survived, but survived to write and sing these kind of songs, gives us all hope. This album helps us remember not to forget, to honor those who did for their country what their country asked them to do. It honors the fallen, those who paid the ultimate price even without knowing the reason. And it honors the dream of a world beyond war, a world where humans can learn the meaning of harmony, and the song of true peace.

To buy Trying To Get Back Home, click here.

1 Thom Bishop

Thom BishopThe Amber Ages

Since I was a kid spinning 45 singles over and over, never feeling the need for a different song when I found a great one, I’ve always been drawn to the single. Not the hit necessarily, but the singular song that stands out from the rest and resonates with grace and greatness. And which not only stands up, but grows better and even more compelling with each listen. Not every album affords us this opportunity. But this one sure does, and it’s the title track, “The Amber Ages.” Thom wrote the lyrics, with beautiful cinematic music composed by Linn Brown. It is dedicated, I have learned, to his father, Thomas Bishop, Sr.

A multi-dimensional masterpiece, it’s hard to listen to this song without shedding any tears, as I’m also the son of a reluctant warrior who also fought in France, and whose life is over as mine goes on. That dynamic of yearning to hold onto the past resonates throughout my generation, as does the inclination to honor the bravery of these men – just boys then sent overseas to save the world. Those who survived and came back were humble heroes, as was my father, rarely wanting to talk about it. The song contains that dynamic but so much more: it’s a timeless epic of remarkable proportions, a cinematic summation of recent human history, beautifully detailed. Dedicated to an unnamed soldier who also fought in France long ago, it is the song of a son for a father who peers over fading pages of old journals. Deeply felt and delivered, it’s beautifully underscored by piano. A sprawling song with a beautifully arching and elegiac melody, it’s deeply nostalgic and new at the same time, and grandly poignant.

“The parrots are rustling on Telegraph Hill Your memory throbbing your spirit is still And there in the corner defying the dust Your proud suit of armor stands speckled with rust..”

From “The Amber Ages” By Thom Bishop.

For that song alone, this would be well worth the price of admission. But there is much more. Beautifully lyrical and luminous songs abound from this Chicago son, including one called “Luminous.” A song about humans being human, that aspiration towards something singular, something special. Always there was a luminous quality in his singing, since he first emerged from the vital Chicago folk-music scene in the 70s. Playing acoustic guitar, he sang with a spirited, angelic tenor voice, delivering stunning, lyrical songs. The stunning songs remain, as does the angelic tenor, but on this song cycle he plays no guitar. The setting is more jazz than folk, speaking of Miles Davis’s famous embrace of silence, the space between the sounds, with Jeff Jenkin’s elegant piano at the heart of each track, fleshed out by Eric Thorin on lyrical double bass. Other colors are painted with warm pedal steel by John Macy, and soulfully haunted flugelhorn and trumpet passages by Gabriel Mervine.

The other shift here is that, unlike previous albums for which he wrote the songs alone, here he’s collaborated on many songs, writing the lyrics while various composers create the music, including Jude Swift, Ed Tossing, Gary Grundel and Linn Brown. And so these songs resound like new jazz standards – like something in the hip wheelhouse of Ben Sidran or Mose Allison. He does bring one of his older songs, the haunting “Mr. Arthur’s Place,” into this jazzy realm, and it comes alive in a new way. Its beautiful meandering melodics lay lovingly with the piano, and the delivery is all heart. It’s a song of great grace, of recapturing the essence of long ago love. Another beautiful song cycle by Thom Bishop, it’s united by the timeless and limitless power of song.

1 Jason Wilber echoes

Jason WilberEchoes

Knowing that John Prine’s longtime multi-instrumentalist, the great Jason Wilber, had recorded an album of covers, bringing us new renditions of great old songs, I assumed it would be mostly folky songs, the kind most easily suited to an acoustic guitar-based artist. But as often happens, I was wrong. Instead he has chosen songs quite removed from the acoustic guitar as we know it – singular and remarkable songs originally rendered with production grand and dimensional, including piano-based and/or open-tuning derived chromatic excursions. But in Jason’s gentle hands, he returns us to the essence of each song – the words and melody – and brings them home in a brand new and poignant light.

The instrumentation is pure and unadorned throughout, with Jason on vocals, guitars and bass, and with touches of percussion by Paul Mahern, who also produced and engineered the album, and Devon Ashley. That simplicity beautifully frames these songs, and keeps the focus keenly on the lyrics and melody of these great songs.

Seeing that he’d included Joni Mitchell’s “Edith and The Kingpin,” from her vastly under-appreciated Hissing of Summer Lawns, I was surprised. Of all of her remarkable songs, it’s one that rarely gets celebrated, even by the most die-hard Joni fans, of which there are a multitude. Truth is not a lot of Joni songs ever get covered – not because they’re not amazing songs, but because they are so complex, so distinctive to her style, her voice, her open-tunings of guitar, that it would be a supreme challenge for all but the most gifted singer-musicians to do right. Prince famously covered “A Case Of You” with great love. But, sadly, there are few Princes around.

Jason, however, is an exceptional musician, most famous for his multi-instrumental role in the Prine band for decades now, and his easy penchant for bringing as much soul to a mandolin solo as to a harmonica refrain or guitar rhythm. His rendition of “Edith” is revelatory. It brings a softness to the sharp, angular contours of the song, and a sweetness that was always there but obscured by the sonics of the production. His vocal is relaxed, allowing this mysterious story to unfold in a whole other way. This is greatness. This is ambitious. If one can imagine Joni performing it solo, just voice and guitar, before making the album, it might sound like this. All those years with Prine seems to have taught him a lesson of great consequence: that when you have a song filled with rich, complex lyrics, it’s wise to keep the instrumentation simple so as not to get in the way.

He does it again with one of Stevie Wonder’s most exultant melodies and lyrics of sweet ardor, “Overjoyed.” This chord progression – like so much Stevie has created – is beyond complex. No normal musical logic holds it together; rather it is connected by Stevie’s singular genius, which bypasses all conventional ideas of harmony and chord structure to create a progression that propels this melody with transcendent beauty. It’s the kind of chromatic chord structure, not unlike Brian Wilson’s “God Only Knows,” which on paper would seem so complex as to be unfocused and desultory. But it’s the purity of melody which sails this vessel, so that all those chords line up in a sublime symmetry that never sounds unusual or complex, it just sounds right. And with Jason’s warm acoustic guitar playing and gentle voice, the genius inherent in this composition comes alive with humble, understatement, and the effect is stunning.

He similarly transforms another similarly complex song by another genius songwriter known like Stevie and Joni for intricately elaborate chord progressions, David Bowie. “All The Pretty Horses.” Again, a song that is rarely if ever covered, because the artist defined it so deeply already, and because it’s so complex. The chords, as in other songs of his, seem convoluted, even. But on acoustic guitar with a single gentle vocal at its heart, it rings with great grace and beauty.

He also delivers a song he’s performed himself thousands of times, Prine’s classic “Paradise.” He gives it a bluesy edge that is haunting, bending the famous melody into places where its sorrow rings like a church bell. It’s a keen kind of triumph, discovering a whole new depth in this song he’s done for decades, and outlining the paradigm shift in the lyrics – the American towns forever decimated by the coal industry – with a deep and perpetual sorrow.

Other unusual and great song choices are here, including a beautiful rendition of the Stones’ lovely ballad, “As Tears Go By,” as well Leon Russell’s “A Song For You,” and Big Star’s “I Am The Cosmos” by Alex Chilton and Chris Bell. In each he delivers the essence of the song with stunning clarity, letting us hear each word, each melody note, in a whole new way. This is new, unexpected and great record-making.

1 Hollie Stephenson

Hollie Stephenson Hollie Stephenson

I have seen the future of RB, and her name is Hollie Stephenson. This is greatness, an astounding debut. She’s a stunning singer who writes songs that resound like RB standards. This is the heart of real soul, the sound of exultant, transcendent horn-charged RB. It sparkles like the heart of Motown soul with a measure of pure Philly sound and  a modern, poignant edge. At first listening it resounds like Amy Winehouse but without the drugs, just pure soul and retro girl-group elation ideally suited for a new world. But the Amy comparisons fall away after listening over and over, and this is an album that invites constant listening like the classic records of yore. Her voice, with the warmth and piercing agility reminiscent of other great soul singers like Amy and Duffy and Dusty Springfield, is very much her own. At all of 17 years, she discovers and crafts new songs like an old soul, one deeply immersed in soul, RB and classic songwriting.

It would be easy to listen to this and assume this young singer had chosen soul chestnuts, great standards of the past to belt out with tender romance. But, amazingly, these are all new classics.

These are the kinds of songs that songwriters spend their whole lives to write. She’s written them all before turning 18. It’s prodigious of the first degree. “Broken Heart Strings” starts good and just gets greater, with a chorus of great power. “Dried Out Lies” is set against a dizzying horn section and a tempo which quietly increases the singer’s passion simmers. “Pointless Rebellion,” the album opener, sparkles with bright yearning, delightfully delivering the title and all it implies with both whimsy and wonder.

She’s the discovery of Dave Stewart, who produced the album and co-wrote some of the songs, including the gorgeous “Sunday Morning.” Swelling with strings and a choir of voices, it’s a sumptuous ballad for the ages. Were she only a songwriter and not a vocalist, she’d be providing luminous and soulful songs for other singers. But as vocalist she rises to the high bar of her own material to deliver the kind of album we used to live for. This is a very rare debut, a soul masterpiece.

1 quiet life froggyQuiet LifeFoggy

Beautifully resonant and hypnotic roots rock. Quiet Life is a great Americana band who write songs for the ages, the kinds of songs that seem to have been around forever. Produced by Scott McMicken of Dr. Dog and recorded at his Mt. Slippery studio in Philly, it’s an album of much tenderness and charm. Songs like “Summer of ’16” and the title song, “Foggy,” resound with a warm wistfulness. Close harmonies and organic textures abound. The ghost of Jerry Garcia is evoked in the mystic and folky focus of these songs, starting simple but always with the promise of infinite expansion, that these songs never really stop, but keep spinning like galaxies into the mystic. It all starts with “Live Wire,” a compelling song of simplicity and grace. If The Band collaborated with Pink Floyd, it might touch a realm like this. Everything starts small, and gradually builds and builds, sending this humble song home wrapped in wonder. For this track alone, this would be one worth keeping.

Known to tour America in a fabled forest green Ford van which runs on used vegetable oil, this is a roots band for the 21st century. Foggy is an album perfect for the upcoming summer of ’16, already rendered iconic in advance. It’s music that makes you happy, but also evokes a whole world far beyond. It’s brand new and modern, yet forever connected to those great albums of the past which still deliver, even after all these years. This is one for the ages.

1 melinda-gibson-money-in-the-bank-epMelinda GibsonMoney In The Bank

Very great and unexpected. Fun, spirited, angularly singular songwriting abounds. Entirely on her own ground, Melinda Gibson is no folkie though often seen in their company: these are super-charged, fervently delivered rockers which have more to do with a raw, punk-fueled energy reminiscent of John Doe and Exene’s incendiary exhortations in X than anything unplugged. It’s powered by a muscular three-piece ensemble of Melinda on voice and guitars, Shawn Clawson on bass and vocals, and the ferocious David Rodgers on drums. She’s funny and serious as Patti Smith, with lyrics that cut through the sonics with a whimsical mingling of enlightenment and resignation. “Money In The Bank” is a brilliant reflection of modern times and the financial crosses we all bear: “You do what you have to do to get the money in the bank, the money in the bank…” “Madman” springs out of the gate on a galloping electric groove that seems one-part folk and one-part Bowie.

Written and produced with James Hurley, this is a delightful EP of five finely etched songs. She sings with soulful authority throughout, projecting the lyrics with pointed whimsy and soulful focus. With only one song in five that exceeds three minutes, she knows how to make a strong, essential statement without every overstaying her welcome. This is inspired and vigorous songwriting and robust record-making. The only weakness is that, unlike almost every album made these days, there’s not enough here. We want more! But kudos to the artist for bringing such essential power and punch on an album that reminds us just how good it can get. There’s no wasted moments here, no excess, no self-indulgence. Just the powerful purity of singular passion. Here’s hoping there’s much more to come.

1 skipheller_sanfernandovalleyblues_cmb

Skip Heller San Fernando Valley Blues

The man is prolific and engaged, and this is but one of many collections he’s recently created and released. But it’s so good I can’t get past it. He writes beautifully detailed, sensual songs, the kinds of songs people complain that nobody writes anymore. Both evoking retro ghosts but with his feet planted firmly in the now, this is seriously good. He sings with the calm confidence of Johnny Cash mixed with the wounded soul of Townes Van Zandt and a touch of Buddy Holly rockabilly swagger. Recorded at assorted homes and apartments spread through the vast urbanity of Los Angeles, it’s an album of much quiet grace and focus. When he sings, you want to listen – there’s a summoning, compelling dynamic to his voice that invites you to take in every word. It’s delicately attired by as assortment of musicians who revolve around the sun of his acoustic guitar like satellites, a dynamic cast of players including Paul Eckman, Wyatt Stone, DJ Bonebrake, Christopher Lockett, Jim Cavender, Dale Daniel and more. “With Me Everywhere I Go” resounds like a beautiful ballad Elvis would have loved, romantic and generous both. “I Used To Love California” is an essential exploration of a musician’s world, filled like love songs with symbols that lose their charm when the love ends. It brings to mind those musicians who blame the state itself, not the music industry or their own bad luck, on their lack of success, as in “I am outta here, dude – California has messed with me enough. I’m going back to [fill in name of any home-town] where they treat me better.”

“Duke Ellington’s Tears” is a remarkable rootsy country-stomp about the “quiet grace” of the maestro years past his heyday, on the great abyss, finding himself playing in a high school gymnasium. It’s a tribute to the fortitude of all musicians, of the hard roads traveled down decades for the few quick trips on the glory train. The sad fact that, as Shel Silverstein once wrote, even living legends have to live. “Too Hot To Sleep” is temperate and hypnotic.

“San Fernando Valley Blues” sounds like a modern blues standard, with perfect charged-blues phrasing on sad lines like “In Panorama City, she’s topless in some bar.” (Anyone who has spent any time in Panorama City knows just how sad that is.) In the vast desolation of the San Fernando Valley, what Van Dyke Parks once termed “an endless suburban nightmare,” there are infinite stories of hollow despair. But this crystallizes all of it, the perpetual yearning for stardom that brings some so close to the luminous core of Hollywood without ever attaining it.

It all ends up with the retro charm of “Tracy Lee,” a love song by an admitted fool that swings with rockabilly ardor. Skip Heller’s the real deal: a deeply committed and gifted songwriter who seems capable of just about anything. This is not only a great collection of perfectly conceived and executed songs, it’s a lot of fun. I want to put this in my car and drive through the valley all day long.

1 Ivas JohnIvas John Good Days a CominIt opens with spirited guitar and violin, like the early jazz flights of Django with Stephane Grappelli. That is until his voice comes in, a voice resonant as the earth, singing with a gentle warmth and delivering beautiful originals and some great covers. This is a beautifully intimate, warm song cycle all built on the simple foundation of his fine guitar playing with just a few delicate touches, such as the sparkling violin of Robert Bowlin.

Ivas’ guitar style is reminiscent of the late great Steve Goodman, who blended layers of fluid ragtime and jazz into a rainbow of country and folk, and could play leads and rhythm and sing all at the same time. Ivas seems cut from the same cloth, and with a voice like Goodman’s, of much amiable love. He brings us beautiful and timeless songs of his own which echo with a beautiful Americana purity, such as “Roll Mississippi” and “Here I Am,” the latter of which was co-written with Edward John. He also delivers some entrancing covers, including Merle Travis’ spectral “Dark As A Dungeon” and Tom Paxton’s great “Can’t Help But Wonder Where I’m Bound.” This is an artist of purity, a gifted and lyrical guitarist and songwriter. It’s an album you can live inside of for weeks, and never feel let down. This is soulful and solid stuff. Honoring the traditional ground from which he’s emerged, Ivas John embraces the source while reaching into the hopeful future, the good days he knows are a comin’.

1 Jared RabinJared Rabin Something Left To Say

An Americana masterpiece. A tender, beautifully realized and lyrical song cycle from Jared Rabin, founding member and lead singer-multi-instrumentalist of Chicago’s great Falldown. He writes perfect songs, beautiful melodic gems lovingly layered with rich vocal harmonies throughout, wed to compelling grooves. It all starts with the gently galloping “Something Left To Say,” a song about grabbing the reins of the present while they’re in your hands. He brings it home with a perfect couplet, like a great Paul Simon line, both simple and complex at the same time: “And I’ve got something left to say/Soon tomorrow will be yesterday.”

Produced by Jared with Rick Barnes at Chicago’s great Rax Trax studios, this is an album which shows off the multitudes of music which live in this one man. As those who have invited him for years into their bands and onto their tracks know well, he’s a remarkable multi-instrumentalist who brings a dynamic and delicate warmth to everything he touches. Unlike other gifted songwriters who leave guitar solos to others, he takes burning leads throughout, such as the fleetly fluid one in the center of “Eight Trips Around The Sun.” And besides the solos, he covers so many bases at once it’s staggering, like an Americana Stevie Wonder. Besides singing and writing all the songs, he plays acoustic and electric guitars, bass, mandolin, violin, banjo, piano, organ and harmonica.

Besides that the only musicians are drummer Jordan Kozner, as well as Dan Kristan, who plays double bass on two songs, and Kallie Palm on vocal harmonies. Percussionist Juan Pastor provides great tapestry rhythms and handclaps on the opening cut.

His music reflects a music lover who has seriously absorbed every kind of music his whole life, from old jazz and standards through folk and country to rock and far beyond. It all informs his music, which is deeply dimensional and richly rendered. “Nothing I Can Do” is a charged fiddle-based country stomp, like one part Jackson Browne and one part Charlie Daniels. “Ride the Wheel” is a slowly simmering anthem which closes the album with amazing guitar exhortations throughout set against an urgent pedal-tone bassline.

The effect is exultant and powerful, as if Hendrix sat in with the Eagles, even exploding at the end, after the harmonies are gone, into pure incendiary feedback. It’s an apt conclusion to this song cycle both tender and volatile, touching on every degree of this one artist’s vast musical spectrum. He seems like a guy who could do anything musically, and I look forward to what’s next. In the meanwhile I’ll keep spinning this disc, and keep it with my collection of classics.

Cock-A-Leekie Soup

Im traveling this week, and feeling a little under the weather. These two events frequently coincide; that is just the price one pays for seeing new places and shaking new hands. So this week seems like an appropriate time to share one of my favorite chicken soups.

Cock-A-Leekie (sometimes spelled Cockie Leekie) is a Scottish soup likely derived from French chicken and onion soup during the Middle Ages. It was later adapted to Scottish regional ingredients (namely, leeks), and sometime down the line prunes were an added element of the dish probably to increase the dishs flavor and nutritional profile. The soup is often thickened with cooked rice or barley, or enjoyed plain, as in this recipe.

Fun fact: this soup is one of two items on the menu the day the Titanic sank.

Cock-A-Leekie Soup (Gluten-free, Paleo, Primal, Perfect Health Diet, Whole30-friendly)Servings: 4Time: 1 hourDifficulty: Easy

1 tbsp butter1 leek, tops separated, cut into big chunks2 stalks celery, coarsely chopped1 carrot, coarsely chopped1/2 cup dry white wine1 tsp black peppercorns1/4 tsp dried dill4 cups chicken broth2 bay leaves10-15 prunes2 lbs leftover chicken, cut or torn into bite-sized piecessalt to taste

1. In a stockpot, warm the butter over medium heat. Add the leek tops, celery, and carrot; sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the wine, peppercorns, and dill, and sauté until the liquid evaporates, another 3 minutes. Add the chicken broth and bay leaves, and bring to a simmer; reduce heat to low and gently simmer for 30 minutes. Strain the broth, rinse out the stockpot, and return the stockpot and broth to the heat.

2. Increase heat to med/low, then add the leek bottoms, prunes, and leftover chicken. Simmer until the leeks are softened, about 20 minutes, then add salt to taste and serve.

** This dish can be made with raw chicken pieces. To do so, brown the chicken in butter and set aside before starting step #1, then return the chicken and its accumulated juices to the pot when you add the broth. Remove the chicken when it is tender, about 40 minutes, then strain the broth and proceed to step #2.

Jason Isbell takes our country to task on new song “White Man’s World” — listen

Photo by Danny Clinch

Jason Isbell has a new album on the way called The Nashville Sound. Written and recorded with his backing band The 400 Unit, the record finds the Grammy-winning musician whos been openly critical of President Trump and his sad excuse of an administration ruminating on our nations chaotic cultural and political landscape.

Case in point: The latest preview of the Something More Than Free follow-up, White Mans World, takes direct aim at one of the most contentious topics gripping modern America. With stinging guitars and stomping drums on hand, the alt-country rocker shines a bright light on our countrys ugly race and gender inequality problems.

I’m a white man living in a white man’s world/ Under our roof is a baby girl/ And I thought this world could be hers one day/ But her mama knew better, sings Isbell in the songs opening, his voice taut with twang as well as twinges of disappointment. Later, he acknowledges the damage caused by his own white privilege, saying, I’m a white man living on a white man’s street/ Got the bones of the red man under my feet.

The song discusses my perspective on race and gender, Isbell tells Consequence of Sound. I think its inspiration should be pretty obvious these days. I think my job is to constantly evaluate my role in the human struggle for equality without feeling guilt or shame for things I can’t control.

Hear it down below.

The Nashville Sound, which was produced by Dave Cobb (Sturgill Simpson, Chris Stapleton), arrives in stores June 16th through Isbells own Southeastern Records. Pre-orders are ongoing.

The Nashville Sound Album Artwork:

jason isbell Jason Isbell takes our country to task on new song White Mans World    listen

The Nashville Sound Tracklist:01. Last of My Kind02. Cumberland Gap03. Tupelo04. White Mans World05. If We Were Vampires06. Anxiety07. Molotov08. Chaos and Clothes09. Hope the High Road10. Something to Love

Disgruntled Ex-Worker Killed 5, Then Himself

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — The Latest on the multiple shooting in an industrial park in Orlando (all times local):

11:05 a.m.

Authorities say five people have been killed in a workplace shooting near Orlando.

Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings said during a briefing Monday that the gunman was a disgruntled former employee who was fired in April. Demings says the gunman shot and killed himself. The sheriff says the shooting is not believed to have any link to terrorism.

The shooting happened inside a business that manufactures awnings.

The sheriff says the shooter, who has not yet been identified, had been involved in a previous workplace violence incident and had been accused of battering another employee inside the business. He was not charged in that case.


11 a.m.

A woman who was in the awnings manufacturers business that is the site of a multiple shooting ran out of the building, saying the gunman told her to leave.

Yamaris Gomez, who is the owner of a tile store across the street, said that the woman ran out of the Fiamma, Inc. facility and across the street to call law enforcement.

Gomez says the woman told her that the gunman had told her to leave the facility.

Gomez says the woman ran across the street, calling law enforcement on her phone.


10:45 a.m.

Gov. Rick Scott has issued a statement after a shooting with multiple victims asking all Floridians to pray for the families impacted by this senseless act of violence.

In his statement Monday, Scott says the Orlando community has been challenged like never before. And he says he and his wife, Ann, are praying for the families who lost loved ones in the shooting reported about 8 a.m. Monday.

Scotts comments about the Orlando areas challenges were in reference to the shooting on June 12, 2016, at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. The gay nightclub was the site of the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

Mondays shooting at the company that makes awnings for recreational vehicles happened in Orange County near Orlando.


10:30 a.m.

The focus of the police investigation into a fatal shooting with multiple victims is a business that makes awnings for recreational vehicles.

Orange County Sheriffs deputies were zeroing in Monday morning on the Fiamma Inc. business in an industrial park in Orlando, Florida.

The company says on its website that it is one of the largest manufacturers of awnings for camper vans, motor coaches and sports utility vehicles.

Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings is expected to give a briefing. Officials said there were multiple fatalities and that situation is contained.


10:15 a.m.

Witness accounts are beginning to emerge from a multiple shooting inside a business in an industrial park in the Orlando area.

The Associated Press talked with Shelley Adams, whose sister, Sheila McIntrye, works for the company and was in the bathroom when shots rang out.

McIntyre is safe with police now but she called her sister during the shooting, and she was very upset.

She kept repeating My boss is dead. My boss is dead.

Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings is expected to give a briefing. Officials said there were multiple fatalities and that situation is contained.


10:10 a.m.

The FBI is joining the investigation into a multiple shooting in an industrial park in the Orlando area.

Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings was expected to give a briefing Monday about what happened at the warehouse in an industrial area of east Orlando.

The sheriffs office says there are multiple fatalities. Officials havent said how many, but they do say that the situation is contained.

Several roads in Orlando were closed as deputies responded to the shooting.

No further details were immediately available.


9:25 a.m.

Law enforcement authorities in Florida say there are multiple fatalities following a shooting in an industrial area near Orlando.

On its officials twitter account Monday morning, the Orange County Sheriffs Office said the situation has been contained. Officials say theyll provide an update as soon as the info is accurate.

Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings is expected to make a statement soon.

Several roads in Orlando were closed as deputies responded to the shooting.

No further details were immediately available.

A Fluoroquinolone Toxicity Post Goes Viral

A post about fluoroquinolone toxicity, i.e. getting floxed, i.e. getting ruined by Cipro, has gone viral.

Check it out!

This antibiotic will ruin you.

It has been shared more than 10,000 times on Facebook (probably closer to 20,000 the web site stops updating each share after 10,000 shares) including more than 6,000 shares from The Fluoroquinolone Wall of Pain Facebook page.

It is resonating with thousands of people, who are not only reading it, they are sharing it. It has been viewed by MILLIONS of people. The author, Amy, posted on her facebook page that, in just a couple days, the post has been viewed more than 4 million times. Thats amazing!

Please shareThis antibiotic will ruin you with your friends and family. Its getting through to people. Its informing people. Its connecting people.

Thank you, Amy, for sharing your journey and your story, and for doing it in a way that has resonated with so many people!

This post has done more to get the word out about the dangers of fluoroquinolone antibiotics (Cipro/ciprofloxacin, Levaquin/levofloxacin, Avelox/moxifloxacin, Floxin/ofloxacin, and a few others) than 90% of the other posts, media stories, etc. that have been produced. It has gone viral. It has gone so viral that people are writing about it going viral, including WOMAN SAYS FLOUROQUINOLONES ANTIBIOTICS ‘WILL RUIN YOU,’ GETS 40K FACEBOOK LIKES on (which, I believe is part of Buzzfeed), and, obviously, this post.

Viral posts arent something that happens every day, so, CONGRATULATIONS, Amy! Most importantly, her viral post, This antibiotic will ruin you, is increasing awareness about fluoroquinolone toxicity.

This antibiotic will ruin you has more than 1,000 comments on it many of which are from fellow floxies. Amy has stated (on facebook) that she wants to respond to all of them, but that shes drowning in the volume of comments. Can you, my friends in the floxie community, who are experts in fluoroquinolone toxicity, please help her? Please take some time to respond to some of the people who have commented on This antibiotic will ruin you. Your help will be appreciated!

The viral nature of the post has given us a window of opportunity to inform people about fluoroquinolone toxicity, and to support those who are going through it who didnt realize that there is a support network available. Any help that you can provide in further spreading the post, and helping to answer comments on the post, will help. Thank you!