Antje Duvekot and Peter Bradley Adams
Iron Horse Music Hall, October 18, 2009

On Sunday October 18, Peter Bradley Adams and Antje Duvekot treated a medium-sized crowd at Northampton’s Iron Horse Music Hall to a warm and intimate show.

Adams opened the evening with a passel of earnest songs, including selections from his soon-to-be-released Traces. His is a light soothing voice in the tradition of David Wilcox, of whom he is vaguely reminiscent. Listening to Adams is like leisurely enjoying a hot butterscotch sundae. That’s both the good news and the bad. In a world of noise and chaos, Adams is understated and calm—a bit too much so, in fact. One would think that after four albums Adams would have more showmanship, but he was content to play the sensitive young artist on a musical road with neither dips nor peaks. His 45-minute set felt monochromatic until he moved over to keyboards and Duvekot joined him for a few harmonies that added musical edge.

Duvekot’s set was much more dynamic, and her is one glorious set of pipes. Her voice has the light qualities of Nanci Griffith, the reedy tones of Kate Rusby, and the occasional nasality of Natalie Merchant. She sports a repertoire of honest and raw emotions set amidst poetic imagery. The song themes are often dark; so much so that she joked that she’s had trouble writing now that she’s in a happy relationship. Much of her concert material came from her superb new CD, The Near Demise of the High Wire Dancer (see “Acoustic Favorites,” 10/12/09) and she did especially lovely versions of “Lighthouse” and “Long Way,” the latter one of the year’s finest new songs. She selectively mined songs from her previous four albums as well, checking with particularly affecting takes on back material such as the lovely “Reasonland,” the dangerous “sexbandaid,” and the revenge song “Dandelion.”

Many acoustic music fans have wondered whether Dukevot’s live show measures up to the new album, which was so superbly crafted by Richard Shindell. The answer is “no.” She’s simply not a good enough instrumentalist to jump the bar Shindell set. When you capo down eight to ten frets, as she routinely does, there’s not a lot of guitar neck left for fancy fingering, nor does the instrument have enough volume and contrast to dazzle. She too was stronger when working with Adams as a duo. That said, Duvekot gave a very satisfying show and there is absolutely no faulting her engaging voice, quirky personality, and top-drawer songwriting. We don’t always need a raging fire to come away feeling satisfied. Chalk one up for a warm glow.


Far, Far From Ypres
Greentrax 1418

North Americans travelers are often surprised by the vividness with which the memory of World War I is kept alive in Europe. That’s ironic given that it is death and slaughter that’s being commemorated. A recent Greentrax recording captures this paradox through mostly Scottish eyes. It is true to its subtitle, “Songs Poems and Music of World War I,” and the project has the feel of classic BBC radio shows that folks such as Ewan MacColl and Hamish Henderson once hosted. But there’s also a modern twist. Disc one is historians’ source material—songs, spoken word material, and old recordings mined from or just after the war. It includes trench songs, music hall recordings, pipe laments, parting songs, and last-words-before-dying reflections. Famed songs such as “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary” and “Mademoiselle from Armentieres” show up as do numerous sad songs. But there are also lots of comic relief songs complaining about bad food, stupid officers, and why no one in his right mind would want to be a solider. Disc two puts recent a recent spin on things with talent such as The Corries, Jim Malcolm, Dick Gaughan, and Robin Laing performing reworked or original musings on the war. And, of course, Eric Bogle is included as he is the nonpareil composer of new songs about that old conflict. This is powerful stuff indeed; though he’s not on the collection I couldn’t help but hear Pete Seeger singing “When will they ever learn….”


Harvard University has an endowment of $28.8 billion. Shouldn’t it have to give part of it to other Ivy League schools so they can fairly compete for the best students? After all, poor Brown has a paltry $2.01 billion. There’s no way it can keep up, right?

It doesn’t work that way. A few people—me for instance—might argue that the unused part of college endowments ought to be taxed the same way our savings accounts are taxed, but few would argue that Harvard shouldn’t be allowed to have a bigger endowment or that it should subsidize other schools. Yet, oddly enough, millions of Americans think that major league baseball ought to work that way.

The New York Yankees have just won the World Series and the jeremiads have begun. The Yankees stand accused of buying the championship and the hue-and-cry goes forth for salary caps and across-the-board revenue sharing. You’ve got the love the delicious irony of living in a nation where half the population thinks that national health care would signal the dawn of communism, yet unabashedly support socializing professional sports. But let’s forget all of that and instead topple a few myths.

1. Money buys championships. Really? Did I sleep through all those Yankees World Series victories between 2000 and 2009? I thought they had won one in a row, not ten. Since 1995, nine different teams have won the World Series. In those fourteen years, an additional eight teams made it to the Series—seventeen different teams in fourteen years.

With its salary cap, the NFL has done only marginally better: eleven different Super Bowl champs and nine other teams advancing to the championship. The capped NBA has done worse than baseball—just eight teams have won titles and only nine non-titled teams made it to the finals. So where’s the cry to break up the San Antonio Spurs? They have as many rings (five) as the Yankees.

2. Okay, but money means you won’t suck. Someone forgot to send that memo to the New York Mets, the second wealthiest team in MLB. At number four the Dodgers haven’t won squat, and MLB’s fifth wealthiest franchise is the Cubs. Need I say more?

The least-valuable team, the Florida Marlins, have won two World Series crowns in the past fourteen years. Of the ten bottom branches on the money tree, five of them have been to Series.

Money is simply no guarantor of success in baseball or anything else. Or have people forgotten that the highest-paid executives on Wall Street are the ones who screwed up the economy?

3. What about the competitive balance? What about it? MLB is far more competitive than football or basketball. In 2009, the Yankees won 103 games, a winning percentage of .636. The league’s worst team, the Washington Nationals, lost 103 games (.364). The difference between the Yankees and Nationals was just .272, meaning that the Yankees had just a hair over 25% better chance of winning than the woeful Nats. By contrast there was an 81% difference between top and bottom in the NFL and 62% in the NBA. So how does a cap make those sports more competitive?

4. Fans lose interest when a wealthy team like the Yankees win. Wrong again. TV ratings were up by 39% for 2009, the biggest jump since measurement began. TV audiences swamped last year’s Phillies/Rays matchup and garnered the biggest numbers since 2004, when two other wealthy teams matched up, the Red Sox and Cardinals (#3 and # 8).

5. It’s just not fair to allow rich teams to beat up on small-market teams. For heaven’s sake grow up! Can we stop pretending that MLB consists of barons and pikers? There are no poor people involved in major league baseball! The richest owner? That would be Theodore Lerner at $3.2 billion in net worth and he owns the Nationals, MLB’s worst team!

George Steinbrenner is practically a pauper among MLB owners, merely the seventh richest. Of the top ten, however, only Steinbrenner and John Henry of the Red Sox have won championships, perhaps because they spend a higher percentage of their revenues on players (58% and 54.3% respectively), whereas the rich boys who own the Rays, Marlins, and Pirates pocket their revenues. (They shell out a parsimonious 17.4%, 24%, and 28% respectively.) I’m having trouble shedding tears for poor Jeff Loria who owns the Marlins and has a net worth of just $400 million.

While I’m on the subject, the Pohlad family of the “small-market” Twins and David Glass of the pathetic Kansas City Royals, both have more dough than the Steinbrenners. Pohlad and Glass recently made ESPN’s top ten list of greediest owners in sports. (Nope, George S wasn’t on the list!)

The day after the Series ended the Marlins gave Jeremy Hermida to the Red Sox for two non-entities just so they wouldn’t have to pay his contract. He made $2.25 million last year, a figure already below the MLB average of $3 million. Maybe misers are the problems with MLB.

But, as I said, no poor boys—and that includes players. MLB is not the Yankees against sandlot players. Are there inflated contracts? You bet, but I wonder which contract is less justifiable: A-Rod’s $30 million or $10 million for Gary Matthews, Jr. or Dontrelle Willis? Or maybe all those multi-millionaire utility infielders? Still, the MLB minimum is $400,000 per year, a figure it takes me many years to accumulate. Surely that can buy some pretty decent talent.

Let me return to the opening metaphor. MLB is analogous to the Ivy League—no paupers, no problems, and no reason to change the way business is done. Brown does just fine with an endowment a tenth the size of Harvard’s. It accepted just 14% of its applicants last year while Harvard’s apps were down by 40%. So let’s save the socialism for something that really matters. Did someone say health care?


A bigger hat is needed to cover these flaws!
Minstrel’s Daughter

Waterbug WBG90
(zero stars)

There’s time left in the calendar year, but at this moment Jennifer Leonhardt’s Minstrel’s Daughter has my vote for the worst release of the year. She bills herself as alt.country and “freeform.” The latter might be appropriate if by that term we mean that neither tunes nor vocals conform to known scales. To my ear the first four tracks sound like an acoustic punk/pop/psychedelia blend. The vocals are remote, as if they were one of those 1970s releases in which sound was channeled into the soundboard and then pumped through a slightly out-of-whack amp. That’s not a bad approach, actually, as Leonhardt has very little range. There are enough sour notes on this release to make Yoko Ono sound like a wood thrush by comparison. On track five, “Good Rope,” Leonhardt pulls away from the studio tricks for a song that’s stripped down. For a few moments she’s in synch and there’s a pleasant Americana feel to the song, but she can’t sustain it. It’s the kind of song that can fool some reviewers into labeling her music “raw” and “earnest,” but the rest of the album suggests that Leonhardt simply doesn’t have a very good voice. Or at least that’s what the first seven tracks suggest; I couldn’t take three more. The album cover shows Leonhardt hiding behind a giant gum bubble, dark glasses, and a hat. It’s the best idea on the album, though a bigger chapeau is in order.--LV