Monday, May 31, 2010

Chains Across The Trees, for Mick Vranich (TOTR 87)

Kimya Dawson & Antsy Pants - Tree Hugger
Amy Seeley - The Trees Want You Back
Bonnie Prince Billy - Willow Trees Bend
Bruce Cockburn - If A Tree Falls
Mick Vranich and Wordban'd - Chains Across the Trees
Mick Vranich and Wordban'd - Cloak of Skin
John Trudell - Living in Reality/Oklahoma Song
Robbie Robertson - Ancestor Song
Laughing Crow - Tree Song
Michael Franti - East to the West
Mossa Bildner - Song Out Of My Trees
Radiohead - Fake Plastic Trees
Sufjan Stevens -All the Trees of the Field Will Clap Their Hands
Rush - The Trees
Bob Mould - Hanging Tree
Counting Crows - Hanging Tree
Uriah Heep - The Hanging Tree
Willy Porter - The Trees Have Soul
U2 - Shadows And Tall Trees

Mick Vranich (1946-2010) Poems

Chains Across the Trees
for John Trudell

america’s totem is the hamburger
don’t look at me
look at tv
chains across the trees

generations bred on cheap meat
glass cars with flashy decals
x this z that magnum force for minute sight
you show me a town where the demons don’t lurk
lead heads zapped on crack
armed and ready to blow your face off
it’s just disease we get to see
in young bodies
don’t look at me
look at tv
chains across the trees

smell the burning hair
the leather straps that hold the ancient horn
stretch under the weight
of the desperate breath
of the few who still breathe
and walk with careful steps
away from the machine with steel teeth
don’t look at me
look at tv
chains across the trees

generations bred on cheap meat
and paper hats
and stars that never show up
in the night sky
or leave the mirror
stars that live in the magazine
haul piles of rags around on their backs
to show you what to look like
when you get there
when get where the stars live
in the magazines
don’t look at me
look at tv
chains across the trees

the sky is shaking
from the light beyond here
startled wings just before the fire
and spinning blades reach the nest
america’s totem is the hamburger
wrapped in the skins of beasts
who run from their homes
in the thick jungle
out into the open plain
to be picked off poached package up
replaced by the quiet cow grazing
until the water runs out
and the soil wears away
and there’s no place to go
don’t look me
look at tv
chains across the trees.

Cloak of Skin

surrounded and left alone
more marks that don’t connect
movies with the faces as big
as worlds of flesh in bright
light on the thin screen.

i don’t have anything to say
about it you should talk
to someone else like the wind
working up into a frenzy
in the trees bending and breaking
branches thrown to the ground
like a blanket made of sticks
the ceremonial fire is raging.

no one is watching
maybe a few are seeing it
in the corner of their eyes
the axis is crooked
the hole is getting bigger.

i am nothing
just the dream of becoming
in this cloak of skin
hear what I’m saying
the cloak of skin has a mouth
to talk with the shadows here
that won’t go away
until they see what happens
to it all
what happens to it all.

but I am nothing in this
cloak of skin dragged
through the streets
at the end of a rotting rope
unnoticed because the big screen
is showing how the faces should look
with the smiles riveted in place
put behind the glass
examined carefully thrown
in the heap like the rest
of the bulldozed bodies
still warm still quivering.

i am nothing
just this cloak of skin
with a mouth saying
don’t kill everything so soon.

while you load your rifles
while you slit a throat
while you fill the lung
with poison gas
ravage the earth to the bone
no not to the bone
incinerate the bones
to run the conveyor belt
pile up the goods for the ones
who traded in their souls
for a shoe shine.

don’t talk to me
about what you do
your words don’t mean anything
to me you think you are
someone because you have
a gold watch a gold car
a gold house
a gold chain around your neck
a gold shackle around your leg
a big smile your words
have no meaning to me
i am nothing
a cloak of skin
with a mouth saying
don’t kill everything
so soon.

Teacher's Asheville Field Trip for Franti & One eskimO!

I have many reasons to expect that next summer won’t include the same breadth & depth of shows for me as this one, so I am fully committed to enjoying all the live music that I will get to hear while I am off from teaching during summer 2010.

So far this May, I’ve already seen Pearl Jam with openers Band of Horses up in Cleveland followed the next week by Ryan Bingham & the Dead Horses in Knoxville. Last week began with the amazing Mike Farris revival called Sunday Night SHOUT! The very next night, we got in the car to head east for Asheville, North Carolina for Michael Franti & Spearhead with special guest One eskimO.

Living in the modest, affordable, surprisingly cool, and relatively conservative college town of Cookeville, as much as we try to make our own alternative music scene, we sometimes need to travel to see shows. Most often, we end up in Nashville, Knoxville, or Asheville -- riding I-40 in my new Ford Escape Hybrid.

Asheville is a progressive little mountain town that acts as a magnet for folks from all around the country who’ve ended up settling there. Once dubbed the San Francisco of the southeast, this progressive little pocket was partially responsible for tilting North Carolina to Obama in the 2008 presidential election.

This hippy-and-hipsterburg easily offers one of my favorite places to see a show, and the venue of choice for many touring bands is The Orange Peel, located at the edge of downtown on Biltmore Avenue, next door to the awesome burrito joint Mamacitas and across the way from the French Broad Food Co-op. In fact, while we were dining with a friend at Mamacitas (I had the Mahi-mahi tacos), we missed a live parking lot show by our bands of the night, deciding that fans who could not get tickets deserved a free pre-show.

Since 1989 during his first project the Beatnigs which dropped “Television” (later redone as Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy), I’ve followed Franti. In Detroit in the 1990s, I caught the first Spearhead tour with Arrested Development.

We danced and danced, and this May, we’re still dancing, even this 42-year-old dancing with Franti onstage during his last song. Listening to his tunes as well as his eloquent witness for peace and justice, he’s brought me to tears. One of this night’s many highlights was Franti’s support for Military Families Speak Out, with members who took the stage between the opening and headlining act. Franti manages agitprop without getting too preachy and mixmasters his message with universal love funk and reggae-rock-folk for joy and fun.

But this time, opening act One eskimO brought me to Asheville, with the band touring behind the magical strength of their self-titled debut album. Standing in line to retrieve our guestlist credentials, I met a woman from an Asheville radio station who mentioned the band’s single “Kandi.” She remarked, “What’s up with the R&B,” thus revealing one of the conundrums with One eskimO, the band’s careless and creative defiance of genre.

One attempt to peg genre on the London four-piece invokes “ambient," which for many fans signals the quieter, laid-back, early-morning fringe of electronic music. Onstage, the all-acoustic crew silenced the noisy and packed house with irreverent whispers and reverent wails. Taking full advantage of the Peel’s dual projectors, the band ran tape with their quirky animations, hypnotizing, mesmerizing, and magnetizing us for a full 45 minutes.

Without a bit of banter between songs, lead-singer Kristian Leontiou wrapped himself inside his songs, often singing with eyes closed as if serenading a personal muse or private goddess. Adding to Leontiou’s lyrical layers of loving soul, the bandmates backed with grace.

Guitarist Peter Rinaldi fit the Asheville vibe with his long locks and casual clothes, sitting towards the back of the stage as though he were jamming on your living room couch. Bassist and horn play Jamie Sefton also sat for the set, looking like a contented jazz man holding court in a New York club of the last century. Drummer Adam Falkner is almost a frontman in his own right, sharing the most energy and holding a subtle tribal anchor to the whole show.

Leontiou’s epic voice polishes beauty, betrays cynicism, and fits cathedrals or coffeehouses, bordellos or bars, making the mundane of the day fade into the majesty of night. Hopefully this tour will give them more confidence and many fans, leading to a follow-up record fierce enought to match the miracle of the debut. I know that I cannot help but want to catch them again at Nashville’s intimate Third and Lindsley in a few weeks.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Summer On The Radio

To my fabulous radio friends!

Tomorrow night, Monday, May 24th, Teacher On The Radio takes the night off, so I can travel to Asheville, North Carolina for the sold out Michael Franti & Spearhead show at the Orange Peel; I am going to cover the opening act & special guests One eskimO for

To replace that show in my life, I have a something fun on tap for this Friday morning May 28th (hopefully from 8:30am-10:30am CST), a special Memorial weekend kickoff broadcast, devoted entirely to new music & recent releases. Listen in the car, listen at work, & as always, let me know if you are listening, by Facebook wall post or text message, so I can give you a shoutout.

After Friday's special, I have just two regular Monday night shows (9-11pm CST) planned until my early summer adventures begin.

Monday, May 31
TOTR 87: Chains Across The Trees, for Mick Vranich
This edition features spoken word for the earth by the late Detroit poet Mick Vranich, a fierce poem of peace & resistance by John Trudell, & songs about trees by various artists.

Monday, June 7
TOTR 88: Reasons To Roo
The teacher will talk us through the Bonnaroo schedule, dropping tracks by folks we might get to see perform live in Manchester.

From Bonnaroo weekend & well into July, the teacher will be on the road to see friends in Michigan, attend a convention in Texas, & hopefully catch three dates on the U2 360 tour. However, as I write this note, the future of the U2 tour hangs in the balance based on the news of lead singer Bono's emergency back surgery this past Friday.

Regardless of how that shakes down, I will miss four or five Mondays, with the scheduled re-boot of the program coming on Monday, July 19. Future themes that I have in mind include neighbors & neighborhoods, fear & fearlessness. As always, I seek suggestions of themes as well as song ideas for each particular show.

Thanks to those of you who have requested archives of previous shows. As of now, the shows are not being recorded or archived anywhere. One of my goals for this summer, however, involves learning to create “Blogcasts.” If the plans work out, I will supplement the live, on-air programs on WTTU with various audio files of pre-recorded programs that I will stream indefinitely from the blog. Any advice about how best to create these & where to store files, etc. is welcome.

As always, I will regularly post of my comings & goings on Facebook, post playlists & blog at, & write about U2, current music, & pop culture at

Enjoying the peaceful marvels of May,

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Kick Out The Jams

Having never been forced to farm, I've tended a real taste for foraging fresh Tennessee fruit. During my thirteen years of rural living, I harvested blackberries every summer. If possible, I'll be back to the old communal property this summer for more blackberries. In the meantime, strawberry season startled me with its sweetness, & I suddenly had the chance to go picking on the Tennessee Tech organic farm. What an opportunity!

On a Friday, May 14, I biked to the farm with my friend & pastor Pat Handlson. It was a hot day, & we had a good sweat going by the time we got there. A vigorous breeze kept us comfortable. We were joined by a small crew of Moms & kids. Farm manager Randy Dodson gave us instructions, & we found our rows, fell to our knees, & started filling our boxtops.

Before long, we were all swimming in sweet red bounty. That afternoon, I'd be in my kitchen turning that mess of berries into a mess of jam. Canning & jamming kind of intimidated me before I tried, but I've been kicking out the jams each summer for over a decade, so I guess I have the hang of it now. Here's a simple description of how utterly easy & fun it is to make fresh jam. I encourage you to go get some strawberries today & give it a try.

What you need to have on hand
Big ol' soup-size cookin pot & wooden spoon
Smaller but wide saucepan
Large glass measuring cup
Ladel or metal measuring cup
Food processor or blender
Canning funnel
Jars & lids
metal tongs
Apron & lots of kitchen towels

Mess of fruit
Lots of sugar
Certo Liquid Pectin

When I cook, I look up recipes & quickly memorize them. I hate measuring or reading from the recipe once I start cooking. While I've become quite wizardly with guesstimating quantity for most dishes, with jam, you need to follow the directions; I hate numbers & math, so I am not going to go into that here, but the pectin packaging has all the details you'll need. For years, I've been using Certo Liquid Pectin, & jam always comes out just perfect. I suggest getting some, using their suggested measurements, & enjoying the results.

To prepare the jars, just wash them in hot water, & set aside. For the lids, place these at the bottom of a saucepan & cover with boiling water. Set aside.

The first thing to do is wash & prepare the fruit. This takes the most time, so I suggest planning to listen to some good jams while fixin' to fix jam. When I pick blackberries, I always gather at least one gallon to make one batch of jam. With the strawberries, I had close to 20 pounds, & I made two batches of jam & had lots of fruit left over to freeze.

Mash the prepared strawberries in a food processor & transfer to the glass measuring cup to make sure you get the amount correct. If you mash too many by mistake, you can put them in a smoothie or freeze them with sugar for a simple sorbet.

Combine the measured crushed berries & measured sugar in your big ol' pot. Cook on high, constantly stirring, for a good while. You want to get this mess real hot. Once the berries begin to bubble & froth in a rolling boil, even while stirring, add the pectin. Return the steamy batch to a full boil that keeps its head even while stirring. Count to 60. Now your jam is ready. Some people like to skim off the frothy head, but you won't die if it ends up in the jam.

Have lots of towels laid down everywhere, because if you're like me, you'll need these to catch sticky spills. Ladel the hot jam into your clear jars one at a time; the canning funnel makes the mouth wider & cuts back on spills. Take a lid with the metal tongs & place it onto the jar. (The tongs help if the lids are hot to the touch, & this feels super sterile.) Use one of your kitchen towels to tighten the lid on the jar or to wipe spillage. Take the freshly canned jam & turn upside down onto the counter. The heat from the jam will create the sterile seal on the lid of the jar. You can test this once the jar has cooled by firmly running a finger over the lid, to make sure it is smooth & snug.

Store your jam in the cupboard. Refrigerate after opening. Serve on warm toast, in cold plain yogurt, or with fresh hot biscuits.

Monday, May 17, 2010

May Flowers (TOTR 86)

Chris Thile – You Deserve Flowers
Scott McKenzie – San Francisco (Be Sure To Wear Flowers In Your Hair
The Kingston Trio – Where Have All The Flowers Gone
The Statler Brothers – Flowers On The Wall
The Avett Brothers – Famous Flower Of Manhattan
Uncle Tupelo – Acuff-Rose
Wilco – Forget The Flowers
The Rolling Stones – Dead Flowers
Phil Shoenfelt – Dead Flowers For Alice
Ray LaMontagne – You Can Bring Me Flowers
Animal Collective – In the Flowers
Grateful Dead – Scarlet Begonias
Ryan Adams – Cold Roses
Ryan Adams – Wild Flowers
The Cult – Wild Flower
Gavin Friday – Fatal Flower Garden
Camper Van Beethoven – Flowers
R.E.M – Flowers of Guatemala
U2 – Flower Child
Travis – Flowers In The Window
John Denver – Wild Flowers In A Mason Jar
Kathleen Edwards – Asking for Flowers
Mariee Sioux – Flowers and Blood
Bette Midler – The Rose

Monday, May 10, 2010

Mother's Monday (TOTR 85)

Ulali – Mother
Robert Gass & On Wings Of Song - Ancient Mother
Ben Lee - Song For The Divine Mother Of The Universe
Nina Hagen - Return Of The Mother
The Pretenders - I'm A Mother
The Dead Weather - Treat Me Like Your Mother
Genesis – Mama
Puscifer - Momma Sed
Lucero – Mom
Bob Dylan - John Brown
Ryan Bingham - Take It Easy Mama
Ryan Bingham - Tell My Mother I Miss Her So
Maria McKee – I Wish I Was Your Mother
The Beatles – Julia
Grateful Dead - Mama Tried
Grateful Dead - Big Railroad Blues
Widespread Panic - Red Hot Mama
Santana - Mother's Daughter
Paul Simon - Mother And Child Reunion
Scissor Sisters – Take Your Mama
Zap Mama - Hello To Mama
Patty Griffin - Mother Of God
Tori Amos - Mary

Monday, May 3, 2010

Clean & Sober (TOTR 84)

1. What It Was Like

The Doors – Alabama Song (Whisky Bar)
Janis Joplin – What Good Can Drinking Do
Robin Williams – Alcohol (excerpt)
Hillbilly Casino – PBR
Those Darlins – DUI or Die
Robin Williams – Alcohol (excerpt)
Townes Van Zandt – Waiting Around To Die
Pink Floyd – Comfortably Numb
The Rolling Stones – Sister Morphine

2. How It Changed

Bob Dylan – Knockin on Heaven's Door
John Lennon – Cold Turkey
Tool – Sober
A Perfect Circle – Gravity
Depeche Mode – Clean
U2 – Bad
U2 – Moment Of Surrender

3. What It's Like Now

TV On The Radio – Stork & Owl
Matisyahu – Time of Your Song
Utah Phillips – Anarchy (excerpt)
Mike Farris – Change Is Gonna Come
Van Morrison – Keep It Simple
Hole – Letter To God
Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros – Carries On
Joe H. – “The Morality of AA: Is it working for you?”
Live – Overcome