Thursday, March 31, 2011

Abbie Gardner: Hope

Abbie Gardner has followed up her brilliant “Honey On My Grave” CD with another fine piece of artistry called, simply, “Hope.” The Red Molly member continues a long tradition of diversity in her music, with ample displays of blues, jazz, country, and pop/rock.

Gardner opens with “Break It Slow,” which does nothing of the kind. Her skill on the dobro comes quickly to the fore in this rollicking, bluesy beginning. But this track is merely setting a mood that is prevalent throughout the eleven songs on this CD. And that is what I believe defines “Hope’s” essence; it is a mood. Each song is unique, but they all blend together to create a feeling that the listener is sitting in a dark and smoky bar, with drink in hand, leaning back, and taking in musicianship extraordinaire.

Gardner brings vocals to the table that are at once sweet and soft, while also feeling edgy and sly. Her voice gives the impression of a wink and a knowing, furtive smile. The dobro only enhances that sensation with its alluring pull of playful, soulful, street-wise touch. Add in the smooth base of Craig Akin, slick piano of father Herb Gardner and the unassuming organ of sister Sarah Gardner (Can everyone in this family play at a high level!?), and the atmosphere of the downtown Chicago or New York bar/nightclub flourishes all the more. This is a tight group of musicians, also including Ben Wittman on drums and Emily Hope Price on cello, playing together as if one. The backing vocals of fellow Molly, Laurie MacAllister, along with Robbie Hecht and Fred Gillen, Jr. are also placed brilliantly and seamlessly throughout the tracks.

“Comes Love” is the ultimate seedy-tavern song, with Herb Gardner’s ivory keys dancing about throughout the track. His lively playing joins hands with Abbie’s bouncy and smiling, “It’s You,” later on.

Abbie Gardner is also a gifted songwriter, and this has rarely been more clearly on display than in the title track, “Hope.” She sings: “Got no cause to believe, but my hope just won’t leave.” This, with the vibe her dobro transmits, and the musical accompaniment enhancing all the songs, is really what Gardner is most attempting to convey here. We should never lose faith, even in the worst moments, and Gardner has to “give up. I give in;” she won’t fight the reality any longer that she is a sucker for the promise that we tell ourselves; that in the bleakest moments, there is … hope.

Gardner also cannot resist other elements that define her. In “Bang Bang,” she is mischievous, devious, conflicted, and unsure. “I could aim for her or aim for him,” or she could do herself in or walk away. Bang bang takes on multiple meanings and possibilities here and one can only guess who gets banged, or not, in the end.

When taken as one, “Hope” always comes back to mood. The bar is filled with ominous-looking folk, there is a lot of something going on just beneath the surface or in the shadows and no one really knows what will happen next. However, through it all, there is a sense of possibility and insinuation that makes us wish to stay and see where it all goes.

Abbie Gardner gives us “Hope:” listen, feel, love and, most of all, hope.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Poem: A Fucking Poem

I do not often curse in poems, though sometimes nothing gets a point across more clearly. However, I was thinking of the ever-versatile word, "fuck," and, well ...

A Fucking Poem

If someone should ask you the most dimensional word
Cover kids’ ears so it isn’t soon heard
It is deemed rather vulgar or crude to its use
You won’t find it in classrooms or the famed Dr. Seuss

Fuck is a word that knows limitless place
“Fuck it” or “Fuck yeah” or “Fuckin’ disgrace”
“Fucked over quite royally” or “No fucking way”
“Fucking like rabbits” or “That fucker just may”
“Fuck up” a project; “Get fucked faced at the bar”
Or the envious marvel for “The fucking rad car”
“That mother fucker’s just fucked me,” so “Fuck you” returned
“I’ve no fucking idea” when a plan’s not discerned

“Fuck!,” you’d exclaim in a moment of pain
“That dumb fuck’s a moron” you would rightly proclaim
“Where the fuck are we” and “Who the fuck cares”
“Who gives a fuck” or “He is fucking downstairs”

The word can be fit into any deemed spot
It is a marvel of English though a prude’d rather not
I use it here freely as a tribute as such
The fucking poem is finished having used fuck … so fucking much

Copyright SGW 2011

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Poem: Escape From Newark

Escape From Newark

Four hours and counting on United Six Forty-Five
Stuck on the runway; not a hope we'd derive
Chicago flights passing as we miss each connection
Cramped on the airplane with no moving direction
Pretzels and bread crumbs our in-flight consumption
Our eventual departure is a hopeful assumption
Control tower's offered little sign we'll be leaving
And with words such as Kilo there's a chance they're deceiving
We've sent for more ice and First Class got a cookie
But as to whether we'll fly soon - make no bet with your bookie
Great, now a baby is crying and my cell phone's gone dead
What I wouldn't give for a sandwich on some fresh, made rye bread

We're off of the plane ... for a moment ... removed from embarking
At Gate 18 stopping, our plane is now parking
Wait! We've re-boarded quite sudden and I'm back in my seat
At least we've made friends on the flight we did meet
The questions remain if we'll take soon to the skies
The door was just closed so let's see what's implied
Happy Days! Hallelujah! The planes in the air
On our way to Chicago; at last we are near.

Copyright SGW 2003

Footnote: I was flying from Newark to Seattle, with a stopover in Chicago. This was 2003 .... The weather was fine and there were no situations in Newark, not even a Mike "The Situation," as far as I know.

Anyway, we sat on the runway for 5 hours. Since the plane ran out of food and water, we finally went back to the terminal gate, got off the plane and crowded into the nearest restaurant. After 15 minutes, we finally got close enough to place an order, at which point we were called back to our plane without getting food.

Back on the plane, we sat another hour before taking off. This inspired me to write a poem called "Escape from Newark," which I then shared with my friend and travel partner. He loved it, but the girl on my other side heard it and asked me to read it again, which I obliged. She, in turn, told the flight attendant.

With about 45 minutes to landing in Chicago, they had me stand in front of the cockpit door and recite the poem over the intercom system. After, I was asked to announce my E Mail address.

Returning home from vacation, I had about 15 requests for copies of the poem, and, just a year ago, a girl wrote to me and said she was on that flight, found my E Mail address, and asked if I would send her a copy of the poem.

So, Bruce Springsteen may have performed at Madison Square Garden. But when he can claim to have put on a show at 30,000 feet, tell him to talk to me!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Poem: Eat


Eat with abandon within love of the meal

Shine with contentments from the joys that you feel

Taste buds should revel with distinguished perception

Each bite or lick is attuned for reception

Eat like you're dancing with a partner of food

Meals for sustaining are just blessings eschewed

Passioned embracing of sensations unbounded

God's food is yummy where the glee is compounded

Dive into dining so all limit's released

Eat like a Viking who will recklessly feast

Consume without conscience so the body's acquiver

Food can bring pleasure if allowed to deliver

Me, I'm a puppy who will pounce on his bowl

Tail is wagging as I frolic in whole

Face has a smile as I sing in delight

I love what I eat, every morsel I bite

So eat like the food is a gift you've unwrapped

Explode to the skies; you're the well that's been tapped

Join me in savoring every sip, every munch

... poem is over as I sit down to lunch

Copyright SGW 2006