Big Foot Wins!

Big Foot knows the Constitution better than New Hampshire park officials.

Score one for the little guy. Or should I say, for the big furry guy. Those outside of New England may not have heard of Jonathan Doyle. He’s a free spirit who gets his jollies by dressing up as Big Foot and scrambling around the rocks of New Hampshire’s Monadnock Mountains. It was big goof that evolved into a concept. Doyle took to interviewing hikers about their alarm at confronting Big Foot and posting small videos on YouTube. Everything was done in the snarky, ironic, and self-reflexive style that dominates the Internet. Sometimes Doyle made himself as Big Foot the subject of the interview, with “Big Foot” commenting on his brush with homo sapiens sapiens. Doyle even planned to do a “mockumentary” film titled The Capture of Big Foot.

Everyone was having a good laugh until the State of New Hampshire stepped in. Wonder why Ron Paul is popular in the Granite State and why folks up that way distrust government? It might have something to do with the fact that its regulators have the commonsense of the average mollusk. As word got out about Doyle’s theatrics, the “Live Free or Die” state decided that Doyle had become an “event.” As an “event,” Doyle was required to secure a $100 special events permit and post a $2 million bond--a pretty hefty hunk of change for a guy in a glorified gorilla suit. So Doyle exchanged the monkey suit for a lawsuit, got in touch with the ACLU, sued, and won. The Supreme Court of New Hampshire–showing more mental acuity than the regulatory mollusks–decided that the law was too vague. (No kidding!) Now Doyle is free to let his wild spirit gambol amidst Monadnock’s gnarly gneiss.

While I’m on the subject of New Hampshire, isn’t it time also to call out the hypocrisy of the Granite State? It prides itself on having no state income tax. Big frickin’ deal! Everything else costs an arm and a leg up there. How does it fund mollusk regulators and the rest of the state? By having very high property taxes, by gouging drivers a $1.40 toll to drive the 13 miles from the Massachusetts line to Kittery, Maine, by having user taxes on everything, and by trying to fleece jokesters like Doyle. And, oh yeah, by not spending much; New Hampshire has some of the worst public services north of the Mason-Dixon. Maybe it would be better off with Big Foot running the show.


John Martyn Tribute Album Wildly Uneven


John Martyn: Johnny Boy Would Love This

Liason Music 4012

* * ½

John Martyn (1948-2009) was certainly one of the more important songwriters of the past 60 years. He was also one of the most versatile; he wrote songs that thrilled fans of various genres: pop, rock, folk, jazz, blues…. It seemed as if every other review of his songs included the phrase “defies categorization.” Like Joni Mitchell, Martyn’s favorite project was reinventing himself. As a result, he never lingered long in the limelight, but among other songwriters he commanded a reverence bordering on legend.

The intent behind Johnny Boy Would Love This is to honor Martyn’s eclecticism. Thirty different artists headed to the studio to record his songs and, appropriately, they are from various musical genres. The result? Well… Johnny boy might have indeed loved it, but most listeners will, at best, find it a stronger concept than album. My own take is that it would have made one terrific disc, but at two it’s exceedingly uneven.

The odd choices begin immediately in that the second disc is much stronger than the first, a curious marketing decision given that most DJs and reviewers are likely to spin whatever comes first in the rotation. In like fashion, the opening track of David Gray singing “Let the Good Things Come” is so moody that we expect ominous rather than joyful things. It’s an interesting track, though, which cannot be said for the histrionic soul of Clarence Fountain and Sam Butler on “Glorious Fool.” This, I fear, is a metaphor for the entire project: good tracks amidst mediocre ones. Among the latter, Beck’s competent but forgettable “Stormbringer,” Syd Kitchen’s calpso-meets-pop “Fine Lines,” the faux soul of Nicholas Barron on “Angeline,” the noisy train wreck a band called On My God makes of “John Wayne,” and the unforgiveable sonic mush to which Vashti Bunyan reduces Martyn’s classic “Head and Heart.” I’m not overly fond of Beth Orton’s “Go Down Easy,” either, but I confess I find her so overrated than I’m biased on that one.

Among the good stuff, Snow Patrol’s shimmery “May You Never,” which features Gary Lightbody’s expressive vocals; the psychedelic/bluegrass tinged “Run Honey Run” by Morchebba; Bombay Bicycle club’s evocation of Donovan on “Fairytale Lullaby;” and Julie Tzuke’s well-done pop/soul rendition of “Hurt in Your Heart.” The album closes with Phil Collins covering “Tearing and Breaking,” another highlight. The Collins track ought to serve notice to pop-wannabes not to shop at thrift stores. Until you can fill the stage with an army of harmony singers and musicians, don’t try to construct thick arrangements. Overall, this collection works better when it keeps things simple, and founders when complexity overwhelms the songs. Half good/half lamentable--hence 2.5 stars of five.