April 6th, 2009

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Sometimes, a cover is the right answer

There are a small number of musicians who are genius songwriters, but not quite genius performers. Lou and Peter Berryman are the classic example, but there are others. These sorts of folks are generally a lot of fun in concert, with lots of energy and whimsy, but their albums aren't quite at the same level -- they're just not album entertainers, and that's more noticeable without the energy of a live show.

One of the better cases of this is Christine Lavin. Her songs are brilliant (albeit quirky and whimsical), and she's a delight in concert -- surprising to the point of a little dangerous. (If you get called up on stage, you never quite know what's going to happen to you.) But her albums can't quite reproduce the sheer silliness of her concerts, so they are only good, rather than great.

This is being driven home to me by the album currently in my car. It's one of the ones I picked up at the radio-station CD sale last fall (you remember -- the one where we bought 100-some-odd CDs, going broke because the price was too good). It's called Big League Babe, and is explicitly the Christine Lavin tribute album: a two-record set, with a wide variety of other musicians covering her songs.

Frankly, it's delicious, and shows off Christine's songs well. It does a great job of pairing singer to song, with a bluesy version of "The Amoeba Hop", a lighthearted duet on "Artificial Means", and beautiful (and relatively serious) renditions of pieces like "The Attainable Love" and "Volunteer". Unlike most of Christine's own records, this one is a pure studio album, done by good studio artists, and the result is quite fine.

Not even remotely new, but worth picking up, especially if you already like Christine's work. This is a loving tribute, and well worth having...
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The house fulfills another of its purposes

Quick diary entry, while I remember it:

Saturday was a Fancy Dress Dinner Party at our place. This was partly learnedax' fault: he had emailed us a while ago, along the lines of, "We haven't had a Fancy Dress party in a while. You have a big house." Thinking about it, we decided that both of these facts were true, and we'd been wanting a party for a while anyway, so this made a good excuse.

We wound up limiting the invites to 17 people, on the theory that, when we bought the house, we had decided that 20 was probably the most we could seat for dinner at one long table. As it happened, everyone accepted the invite. That rather startled us (that *never* happens), but it allowed us to test the theory.

The conclusion is that we were pretty much correct. In a pinch, we could probably seat up to 22 at the table, but the elbow room would be tight. (We were actually 19, so one end of the table was open.) Perhaps more importantly, 20 is probably the most we can fit comfortably for a dinner party: it was loud and boisterous, but not horribly over-crowded. We can fit more for ordinary parties, but not with the huge dining room table taking up two rooms.

Other lessons learned:
-- Fond though I am of mixing drinks to order, Yevsha is right that pitcher drinks are smarter for a party of that size: I was definitely the bottleneck.
-- We could have used a bit more lamb. (There was 12 pounds of semi-boneless, somewhat loosely cut; all of it was eaten, and we could have had more.)
-- We have enough dishes for 20 (if mismatched), and enough silverware for an army.
-- My friends are wonderful people, and come through when needed. (We were a little overwhelmed by the scope of the thing, but so many people volunteered to bring dishes that it turned out much easier than I'd feared.)

Much was eaten and drank, and much conversation was had. I had a fine time, as I think did most people, but I believe we need to get into the habit of having dinner with friends more often, on somewhat less grand a scale...