Friday, June 24, 2011

"Friday Night Frolic" - Not Your Average Tonka

Photo by Michael Young--Ozark Photos Blog

I'm still working the metaphors, crafting and work shopping at the writing conference, but I've scheduled something special for you: Southern rock imbued with Ozark musical heritage and tradition, like squirrel potpie, duck hunting, fried catfish, and Ozark jig-dancing.

But firstfrom today's dump truck of poemsa gift:

by Elizabeth Bishop

Love's the boy stood on the burning deck
trying to recite “The boy stood on
the burning deck.” Love's the son
stood stammering elocution
while the poor ship in flames went down.

Love's the obstinate boy, the ship,
even the swimming sailors, who
would like a schoolroom platform, too,
or an excuse to stay
on deck. And love's the burning boy. 

And now, a group of friends introduced to me by Anthony Bourdainvia a recent Ozarks episode from No Reservations:  Ha Ha Tonka. (As in Ha Ha Tonka State Park of the band's native Missouri.)

From their latest release, Death of a Decade, songs reflective of small town southern life:

About their new album (from their website):

Thematically, Death of a Decade is less “story-based” than Ha Ha Tonka’s previous work (which pulled heavily from Missouri history and folklore for its lyrics), with the band now focusing on the transition into manhood—something that doesn’t automatically come once you pass a certain age: “I realize that youth is wasted on the young,” Roberts sings on “Westward Bound,” “Oh, I know that now my wasting days are done.”
However, Roberts says, Death of a Decade is not meant to be a requiem for lost youth, but rather an embrace of the notion that the passage of time is better than the alternative. There you have it again: the wisdom of the Ozarks.
Even if the album’s songs aren’t specifically of the Ozarks, the sound is—still present is the traditional instrumentation (just listen to guitarist Brett Anderson’s arpeggio mandolin lines on “Usual Suspects” and “Made Example Of”), with bassist Lucas Long and drummer Lennon Bone rounding out the rhythm section to stampeding affect. Still present are the spine-tingling four-part gospel harmonies, a signature sound that sets Ha Ha Tonka apart from every other indie band-cum-Southern rock group that seems to be shambling out of the suburban woods these days.

Who said they don't make 'em like they used to?

(Oh the poor ship. Really, the poor ship!)


  1. Ah. From the post title, I thought this might turn out to be another meditation on your young man's past. Nothing to do with toy cars and trucks, however.

    Kickin' mandolin in that music, hmm?

    Completely unfamiliar with "Casabianca," although I knew of the whole boy stood on the burning deck, uh, genre, I had to go snooping around. Found an actual Wikipedia entry on the original, which references Bishop's lovely take on it.

    The only alternate version I remember isn't included there, though. It goes something like: The boy stood on the burning deck / His head was in a whirl / His eyes and mouth were full of hair / And his arms were full of girl.

    I know, I know: typical!

  2. P.S. Priceless collection of "Capabianca" versions here. (Warning: some a little non-G-rated, if you get my drift.)

  3. I really enjoyed seeing a picture of the Ha Ha Tonka Castle. While I have been there a number of times that picture is an interesting perspective. I clicked over to Ozark Photos blog and he really has some awesome photos. Having lived in that area, I find the Ozark landscape beautiful.

  4. interesting post Jayne - I am a big fan of Elizabeth Bishop. Have a great weekend.

  5. You always have the best musical suggestions. It makes me realize that I know less about folk music than I think I do. I really need to dive into expanding my familiarity with that genre more. The iPod will appreciate it.

  6. Hmmm, squirrel pot pie? You've got my attention now!
    I love the mandolin!

  7. Now that is my kind of rot gut. What is it about a mandolin and feathered harmonys?
    You must try: The Devil Makes Three,
    and, of course, The Old Crow Medicine Show, and the Old 97's and early Steve Earle... and...
    Now I'm off to get me some Ha Ha Tonka.

  8. JES- Ha! Somehow, I do end up blogging (or writing) about the kids more than I had anticipated I would (or should). Once a mother...
    Anyway--the poem. An old standard that I remember from school days. I knew it had been parodied often, but not how often! There are some pretty funny versions on the link you included.
    But the real story is so tragic-- the child who dies waiting for his poor dead father's command!
    I love Bishop's take--compressed yet complex--on Hemans' poem. And only Bishop could cry for the ship and not the boy! Her version is stunning, (although I'm not sure one could understand why the boy stays on the burning ship without reading the original).
    OK, well can you tell I'm still reeling from days of intense poetry and presentations? So much to process! Time to return to the real world... slowly, carefully. :-)
    (Love, love the mandolin.)

  9. Cheryl- I was thinking of you when i posted this Frolic--wondering if you had seen the Ozarks Photo blog. Glad you checked it out, there's beautiful work there. And the castle! I want to stroll through its remains and listen to the stories. ;)

  10. So how do you find Anthony Bourdain? My aspiring-chef friend worships the man.

  11. David- I hadn't read much of Bishop's poetry prior to the writing conference, but I'm a fan now, too!

    Beer- I've always loved folk, but what I really love is its wild incarnations by young musicians who appreciate the genre. It's fantastic!

  12. Leonora- I'm not sure I'd eat that pie if I knew what was in it. :o

    Munk- DM3--yes--they're wonderful! Thanks for the introduction and sending that link along. OCMS was the first band I highlighted on the Friday Night Frolic--highly talented musicians. Love that Earle, too. ;)

  13. Maria- You could start with his book Kitchen Confidential (it's terrific). His show, No Reservations, is on the Travel Channel-- :)

  14. I went over to the Ozarks Photo blog and it's really great. Love Bourdain and his show No Reservations (and book too). He takes us to great places! Welcome back :)

  15. Lin Ann- Good to be back. Wanna go for a walk? We have books and cooking to discuss... ;)

  16. Really enjoyed Kitchen Confidential - AB is quite a character.

    'Ha Ha Tonka' - great name for a band. I really like their sound.

  17. One of my favorite childhood vacations was to was quite awesome indeed, except for mom finding the dozen or so copperheads at the spring...she still hates snakes in a murderous frenzy kind of way.

  18. SF- AB is quite a character, you're right. He's quite entertaining, snarly and crude. Just the right mix of everything. The kind of guy I'd love to have a beer with. ;)

    DB- "...murderous frenzy kind of way." !! I can relate to that. Yep, completely get it. ;)

  19. The always-beautiful mandolin - this is my go-to blog for stringed instruments and their players - and the harmonies you mentioned. I look forward to reading what all was revealed to you at the conference, awareness that arose once the lectures were concluded. :D

  20. Jayne,

    Thanks for the posting. Enjoyed learning about the band Ha Ha Tonka and listening to some of their music! I appreciate your reference and use of the castle photo. This was one of my favorite shoots that I have done. The clouds and everything just came together that day for this shot. Thanks to your readers too for the nice comments.

    Great blog!

    Michael Young

  21. Marylinn- Glad you enjoyed the music. I'm still processing what went on at the conference! So much to absorb, and I think it will work its way out over time--that's the plan, anyway. It did help me generate many ideas, now comes the organizing... ;)

  22. Mike- Your photos are beautiful. I hope you got a little bit of traffic from my use of your photo. (I'm sure you get plenty on your own.) I really enjoyed strolling through your gallery. Fantastic work.
    Thanks for stopping by. :-)