28 December 2021

TPC Album Review: Robert Plant | Alison Krauss -- "Raise the Roof"

 Friends, the Missus gifted me the latest recording from Krauss & Plant for Christmas & I'm so glad & grateful she did. 

2007's Raising Sand by the duo was obviously a transformative  American musical experience in that it took the world by storm & netted multiple GRAMMYs for the two as well as others (remember: Jimmy Page got one as well for co-writing "Please Read the Letter"). 

What made their album from 14 yrs ago so amazing was...basically everything. Krauss & Plant's otherworldly vocal harmonies, T-Bone Burnett's production prowess, the backing band's genius (Buddy Miller in particular), etc. 

I'll be honest. I actually had a bit of trepidation leading up to my first listening of Raise the Roof. Surely it couldn't match their previous effort. 

Well, I'm here to tell you this, folks.  

It does. 

Rounder Records

The opening track is an interesting one. At first, I wasn't so sure, but as I hit about 30 seconds in, I was totally hooked. 

Track # 2, a take on the  Everly Brothers' "The Price Of Love," is such a keeper. Perhaps the best track
on the album. Song choice? Perfect. Musicality? Perfect. Vocals? Perfect. 

Ditto for "Go Your Way." 

By the time you get to Allen Toussaint's "Trouble With My Lover" & you hear those soul-stirring vocals from Krauss, it's almost as if you just can't stand it no more; but then, after almost two minutes when Plant finally comes in? Well, it's really a musical Manic Nirvana, so to speak

Next on the playlist is an old, perhaps overlooked one by Bobby Moore from back in the mid 60s & is - once again - maybe the best one on the entire recording. 

"Can't Let Go" could've easily been on the 2007 record. It is exceptional. 


Like the previous work, the musicianship on Raise the Roof is remarkable. The aforementioned Buddy Miller makes a few appearances, but it's 2007's  lesser-utilized talent , avant-garde, free-jazz guitarist Marc Ribot, that really shines this go 'round.

And finally, the rhythm section of Jay Bellerose on drums & Dennis Crouch on bass is the really the key - the glue, as it were - to this offering. 

The rest of the album keeps up the pace & the penultimate Merle Haggard tune is simply awe-inspiring. 

Easily one of the best recordings I've encountered in the last several years. 

Highly, highly Rec'd, my friends. 

- MBM 


Raise the Roof 
Produced by T Bone Burnett
Copyright 2021
Distributed by Concord

23 December 2021

Merry Christmas From TPC

 *Ed. note: well, gang, I lied again. With the change of format I promised that TPC would average at least one post a week. That hasn't happened, YET, but in the words of Ray Goff: we're gonna work hard to get better! Seriously, we will. In the meantime, here are some past Christmas write-ups from Yours Truly & others that have graced these pages. Hope you enjoy & hope you all have a very Merry Christmas --MBM

Glory to God in the Highest Heaven and on earth Peace to those on whom His Favor rests

A Good Christmas, Indeed 

A Christmas Novella by Marshall McCart 

A Christmas Tradition 

A Christmas short story by Perrin Lovett 

Remember Christmas Trees Past 

From Bess Tuggle's Memoirs of Surviving Children 

And a very special Christmas write-up I did several years ago in a different publication: 

Christmas Time’s A Comin’
~from the December 2009 issue of About Covington to Madison~

Hey everyone. So glad to be back with you again. Wow, December already! It’s hard to believe. Time really does seem to speed up as we get older. But the Holidays are upon us once again and that makes me very happy. Christmas…man, it just doesn’t get much better. A celebration of faith, love, and fellowship—it’s obviously a very special time of the year.

What is Christmas exactly? That answer can be as varied as the people you ask. For a lot of us, Christmas is a celebration of the Lord Savior Jesus Christ as we remember his entrance to our earthly world. But Christmas is also simply about love. Love of our fellow man. Love of our families and friends. And love of the things we hold most dear. While Thanksgiving is certainly about giving thanks, Christmas, for me, is just as much about gratitude. It is also about the spirit of giving. But what about the history of Christmas?

The roots of Christmas go back to the Romans. They had a festival called Saturnalia that celebrated Saturn, the god of agriculture, marking the end of the fall harvest and honoring the winter solstice. During the heyday of Rome , this was the festival and was considered the most important time of the year. Other cultures and other peoples in other parts of the old continent also had celebrations around this time of the year. In the early years of Christianity, church leaders were looking for ways to help spread the Good Word, so in the 4th century A.D., they adopted the time of Saturnalia as the “Feast of the Nativity.” Within a couple of centuries, it had stuck and December 25 to this day remains the celebration of Christmas.

For many of us, Christmas always brings back memories of being young and anxiously awaiting Santa. The origins of Santa Claus are as interesting as the origins of Christmas itself. It starts with St. Nicholas, a monk born in the 3rd century who gave away all of his wealth to help the poor and sick. He was known as “Sinter Klass” by the Dutch and this would turn into Santa Claus by the 18th century. The image of Santa that most of us have with his red suit, large belly, and white beard can be traced back to the drawings of Thomas Nast in the 19th century and further reinforced with ads from the Coca-Cola Co. in the 1930’s.

There are many wonderful Christmas stories throughout the annals of history but perhaps there is none better than the story of the WWI Christmas truce. In 1914, on the fields of Flanders  German and British troops were squared off in their trenches fighting a terrible war. Then on Christmas Eve, German troops lit candles and started singing Christmas carols. The British followed suit and in no time, a truce had been called and the fighting stopped. Germans and Brits exchanged gifts, spent time together, and even played soccer. This phenomenon occurred in several other places along the battle lines and in some cases lasted all the way until New Year’s Eve. To me, that is a story that truly captures the Christmas spirit.

One of the key aspects of Christmas also has to be the music! There are so many wonderful Christmas songs. “Silent Night” is probably one of the better known and ingrained of all Christmas songs; it was written in the early 1800’s by a couple of Austrians. Originally written in German, it was later translated to English with a slightly different melody and that version is the one we know today. “White Christmas” has been ranked as the number one Christmas song of all time by several groups and publications. Written by Irving Berlin, the original recording was done by Bing Crosby. Speaking of Bing Crosby, if you want a real treat—search Youtube with the key words: Bing Crosby, David Bowie, and Little Drummer Boy. You will find a magnificent version of that song by two of the greatest artists of the 20th century. The title of this column is a new favorite of mine. I had never heard this song until I played it a while back with the Biggers Family Band—a country, bluegrass-gospel band that I play with from time to time with my wife and her family. But probably my all-time favorite Christmas song has got to be—“Come Home for Christmas” also known as “Bells Will Be Ringing.” Released by the Eagles as a Christmas single in 1978, it is such a great tune.

As I write this column, the calendar still reads November but I am starting to feel an almost child-like excitement for Christmas that I haven’t felt in years. It will be the first Christmas for my little baby girl and I am so very excited. From my family to yours—Merry Christmas &  Happy New Year.

07 December 2021

Ellis Millsaps: How I Spent My Summer Vacation, (Part One?)

  I spent a lot of time on my porch this summer watching hummingbirds and squirrels. Of the many squirrels I've seen in my section of Porterdale, only once have I seen one on the ground. Squirrels here travel by tree, rooftop and to a great extent by utility line. We have some really thick electrical lines on West Palmetto, I assume because when installed they were furnishing power to a huge mill on the river, the one up river from the one that is now The Lofts and equally as large.

 The last of the hummingbirds left for Costa Rica in late October. Now it's just me and the squirrels.

 As noted in a prior post, I spent most of my indoor summer hours reading. I started this reading binge in New Orleans while staying in my daughter's in-laws’ empty for the summer house. I looked at their book collection and discovered The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead, a writer with whom I was familiar. In my semi-educated opinion Whitehead along with Donna Tartt are the best American novelists at work today.

 The Nickel Boys won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2019. It is not a fun read. It will leave you unsettled. It's based on an incident I remember from the news in 2014. After years of complaints about abuse at The Dozier (reform) School For Boys,  South Florida University students at the behest of the state discovered over a hundred (the number is still growing) unmarked graves around the school’s official graveyard. These were the graves of boys who over the years were reported to have escaped the facility. In fact they were each beaten to death. Whitehead gives the story through fictional characters but spares no detail of the gruesome and well-researched factual account. I highly recommend this book.

 Over the rest of the summer I read fifteen more books. I rated them for myself on a scale of one to five ranging from a low of Fahrenheit 451 at 3.0 to three books I gave the full five. Some of these  books were really long. War and Peace, Anna Karenina and The Magic Mountain are over 4000 pages all together. My three books rated five were The Nickel Boys, The Secret Commonwealth by Phillip Pullman, the second in a proposed fantasy trilogy which like his earlier prequel trilogy rivals Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, and the only non-fiction book on my list, The Body by Bill Bryson. If you've read any Bill Bryson you know that he is a widely self-educated man. He has no medical training that I know of but this work is erudite and fascinating,  It contains interesting tidbits such as the fact that all of the penicillin in the world came from the mold on one cantaloupe in Peoria, Illinois discovered during WWII, and that ,in spite of what we’ve always been told, hair and fingernails do not grow after we're dead. Look it up.

 I've continued this reading frenzy in the fall and I am now up to twelve more  lengthy volumes finished. Maybe I'll talk about them next time or maybe I'll talk about something else. Till then, TTFN. 

Contributing Writer & Editor Emeritus of The Piedmont Chronicles

Ellis "Da" Millsaps is a recovering Attorney but has worn many hats over the years: father, bus boy, stand-up comedian, novelist, wiffle ball player, rock'n'roll band manager, and at one time wrote a popular and funny column for The Covington News. A Fannin Co. mountain boy originally, Mr. Millsaps now stays at the mill village of Porterdale by way of 20 years in Mansfield. Usually funny and at times irreverent and subversive, he leans left in his political philosophy but can always be counted on for a pretty darn good write-up. The Chronicles are proud to have him involved...