Bob Dylan is Not a Man of Arts and Letters

When I passively heard news reports Bob Dylan had been voted into the “prestigious and elite” Academy of Arts and Letters, I was surprised, and immediately recalled famous Groucho Marx quote, “I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member.”  Bob Dylan is no hoity-toity academic — he’s a measured man of depth and magnitude.  What was going on?

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The Death of Levon Helm is the Beginning of the End of the Dylan Era

Levon Helm died yesterday in New York City of throat cancer. He was 71. Levon was a tremendous talent and an outstanding drummer. Few people understand the engine that drives any sort of live performance music is the rhythm — and in modern music, that means a live drummer. Without a proper human metronome keeping the entire band on track and in sync, the entire song falls apart. If you have a terrible drummer, the job of keeping the energy of the music moving forward falls to the bass player. If both drummer and bass player are inept, you do not have a band. Levon Helm was, The Band:

Helm, the drummer and singer who brought an urgent beat and a genuine Arkansas twang to some of The Band’s best-known songs and helped turn a bunch of musicians known mostly as Bob Dylan’s backup group into one of rock’s most legendary acts, has died. He was 71.

Helm, who was found to have throat cancer in 1998, died Thursday afternoon of complications from cancer at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, said Lucy Sabini of Vanguard Records. On Tuesday, a message on his website said he was in the final stages of cancer.

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Kyser or Shubb: The Great Capo Throwdown

If you own a guitar, you likely have a capo — or you will soon be buying one.  I’m not big on capos in performance — even though I have several — because I think using them on a song is a bit of a cheat.  Use a barre chord instead of a capo.  That makes you the master of the fretboard and not a device.  That said, Bob Dylan and Albert Collins are big capo users and they both have certainly had incredible, glorious, careers in music.  The most popular capo is made by Kyser.  It has an elegant, looping, design, and one of its best qualities is that you can use one hand to take it on and off your guitar.

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The Adele 21 Review

I am completely and totally in love with Adele — in the most honorable and humanistic way — and it is my delight to review her latest 21 album.  Yes, Adele is a SuperGenius SuperStar from the UK and, yes, she is only 22 years old.  Her voice is a throaty, smoky, raspy mix of the Bluesy heartache made famous by Fiona Apple, Rihanna and Janis Joplin.

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Hal Leonard Does the Right Thing

We love Hal Leonard’s fine website, and we spend a lot of money there downloading song TABs and play-along tracks and teaching videos. recently launched a new Guitar Chords/Lyrics feature where, for about a dollar, you can download “one sheets” for over 5,000 new songs.  That means you get the lyrics and simple chord patterns, but no actual guitar TAB.  These one sheets are more for strumming and/or cheat sheets used in a live performance.  I decided to buy one of those one sheets for the great Bob Dylan song — “Make You Feel My Love” — and I was disappointed that my purchase of that song looked and printed out just as you see below. I blurred most of the chords and lyrics on purpose to protect the song from being printed out from this review and used for free.

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The Best Guitarists First Played a Les Paul

If you want to know what guitar a great guitarist really plays — you need to look beyond what they are playing now — and hearken back to what guitar they were playing when they were poor, unknown, and hungering for fame.  I argue today, that the greatest guitarists of our time started off their careers playing the Gibson Les Paul — even though Fender and the Stratocaster and Telecaster were cheaper and beat the Les Paul to market.

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