Misfortune & No Wealth: Soul band The 24-Carat Black was discovered in Ann Arbor and recorded its 1973 underground classic in Ypsi

MUSIC WRITTEN WORD REVIEW

The 24 Carat's Ghetto: Misfortune's Wealth album cover

The long-running 33 1/3 book series devotes each volume to the study of one classic album’s creation, impact and essence, and recent entry number 152 concerns an album made in Ypsilanti nearly 50 years ago. Author Zach Schonfeld relates the messy tale of quixotic ambition that birthed an album unknown but not unheard, commercially unsuccessful but the backbone of big hits for other artists: The 24-Carat Black's Ghetto: Misfortune’s Wealth.

Released by Stax Records in 1973, the album was the brainchild of Detroit native Dale Warren, a classically trained violinist who began his career arranging songs for Motown before migrating south to the funkier climes of Memphis. Employed by Stax, Warren’s talent for conducting helped build the lush, string-cushioned vibes of Isaac Hayes’ most iconic works along with other classic records of the R&B/soul label’s late era.

Warren composed his own ambitious set of socially conscious songs with the aim of producing a concept album about inner-city poverty, so he scouted for talent. At a University of Michigan frat party he discovered a nine-piece band of high school kids from Ohio with chops beyond their years. The band was re-christened The 24-Carat Black, an album deal was secured from Stax, and they headed for the legendary Morgan Sound studio in Ypsilanti to make a record.

Friday Five: Andrew WK, Ki5, DJ FLP, Villin and Notorious_Vonna C, Emilie Lin

MUSIC FRIDAY FIVE

Friday Five, February 19, 2021 with Andrew WK, Ki5, DJ FLP, Villin & Notorious_Vonna, and Emilie Lin

Friday Five is where we highlight music by Washtenaw County-associated artists.

This week features symphonic metal blasted by Andrew WK, R&B romanticism via Ki5, skittering electronica courtesy DJ FLP, hip-hop from Villin and Notorious_Vonna C, and contemplative solo piano by Emilie Lin.

Taking the Hit: Ann Arbor singer-songwriter Lily Talmers explores big questions through small details on her excellent album debut

MUSIC INTERVIEW

Lily Talmers

Lily Talmers photo by Alex Gallitano.

When Lily Talmers sings "Is there anybody listening to me? / From the middle of America you scream out to the ocean, it gets lost" it's not just a plea by a 23-year-old Ann Arbor singer-songwriter-multi-instrumentalist who wants to be heard.

"Middle of America" also addresses a potential lie to "people at the border," a father's decimated pension fund, and a lost Lady Liberty.

The song is neither didactic nor overly sentimental, though it is pointed and nostalgic. It's both specific in its details and nebulous in its meaning, a feeling that runs throughout Talmers' debut album, Remember Me as Holy, one of the finest debut singer-songwriter albums I've heard since Phoebe Bridgers' Stranger in the Alps.

Friday Five: Ma Baker, Chris DuPont, Mike Dos, Nick Melody, Prol'e

MUSIC FRIDAY FIVE

Friday Five 02-12-2021

Friday Five is where we highlight music by Washtenaw County-associated artists.

This week features jams courtesy Ma Baker, Americana from Chris DuPont, R&B hip-hop by Mike Dos, indie rock from Nick Melody, and hip-hop from Prol'e.
 

UMMA + Chill serves up virtual social engagements with a side helping of art

VISUAL ART

UMMA + Chill

Michigan is already a tough place to be during the winter. Double triple quadruply so when you can't go anywhere.

That's why the University of Michigan Museum of Art has created a series of online events that encourage you to travel the spaceways of your mind in order to deal with this oppressive season (and all the other things going on).

UMMA + Chill is a series of programs throughout February—and perhaps beyond since winter in Michigan usually ends in, what, mid-June?—that will allow you to connect with fellow art fans via group-chat Zoom tours of the museum's interior while accompanied by a drinks mixologist, in-person outdoor tours, music playlists, meditation sessions, poem writing, game shows, live performances, film screenings, luminary art-making, and 30-minute discussions with a chef, cultural curators, and more.

EMU professor Christine Hume's "Saturation Project" offers a lyric memoir composed of three essays

WRITTEN WORD INTERVIEW

Christine Hume and her book Saturation Project

Three essays fill Saturation Project, a new book by Christine Hume, a professor at Eastern Michigan University. Described as a lyric memoir, the text obliquely depicts various moments, ranging from Hume’s childhood to interactions with her daughter.  

In the first essay, “Atalanta,” first-person accounts about personal thoughts, family, and a daughter intermingle with Greek mythology and examinations of feral kids raised by bears. Wanderings in the woods and through memories merge with ancient stories and animals in such a way that the distinctions between them blur, as Hume elaborates: 

I read the story of Atalanta as if I were swallowing it, but it swallows me. Then I tell it to my daughter because I don’t have a childhood I can tell her about yet. I steal Atalanta’s, which is like mine in that the most longed for moments are inaudible.

It’s as if the essays are a way of remembering, but recollections are transposed, taking inspiration from other places. 

Gabba gabba, we accept you, one of us: A history of The Ramones in Ann Arbor

MUSIC BOOTLEG WASHTENAW

Flyer for the first Ramones concert in Ann Arbor, March 28, 1977.

The flyer for that first Ramones' first concert in Ann Arbor, March 28, 1977.

[Updated February 9, 2021, with photos and reviews from The Ann Arbor News].

The Blind Pig is a favorite club of many rock musicians, and the venue has hosted so many legendary bands over the years.

But The Ramones' love lay elsewhere in Ann Arbor.

Between 1977 and 1983, the New York City punk godfathers played Tree Town seven times—and every show was as headliners at The Second Chance, which is now Necto, 516 E. Liberty St. The Blind Pig was still a blues bar back then while The Second Chance was hosting numerous rockers, from Bob Seger (when the club was known as Chances Are) to Bow Wow Wow. In fact, during that period The Ramones headlined nearly as many shows in Ann Arbor as they did in Detroit (nine).

The first time they played Michigan was as the opener for Flamin' Groovies, October 17, 1976, at the Royal Oak Music Theater.

But The Ramones' first show as headliners in Michigan was a little over five months later in Ann Arbor on March 28, 1977, with Sonic's Rendezvous Band opening. There doesn't appear to be any audio or video of this show, but here are two excellent photos by legendary Detroit Rock City and Creem magazine photographer Robert Mathieu of Tommy and Johnny Ramone backstage with the Fred "Sonic" Smith, Ron Asheton, and Scott Asheton:

Catching up with WSG Gallery's "Blue," "Winter Show," and "Something About the Light" exhibits

VISUAL ART REVIEW

Takeshi Takahara, Out of the Mud II

Takeshi Takahara, Out of the Mud II, multiple color intaglio and woodcut with mica printed on Japanese paper. From the WSG Gallery exhibition Something About the Light.

Since its launch in late May, WSG’s online gallery has hosted seven exhibits, six of which are technically “over."

But they are all still available for viewing on the online exhibitions information page, a benefit not available to latecomers to the gallery's offerings when it had a physical space at 306 S Main Street, which was shuttered in May 2020 when WSG lost its lease.

WSG Gallery's three most recent exhibits offer meditative spaces, addressing the color blue, winter, and light as themes. 

Blue, the exhibit featured from November to December 2020, presented works of 14 WSG Gallery Artists and is described on the website as ranging from:

Friday Five: Nickie P, Aareus Jones, Modern Lady Fitness, Weekend Hours, Safa Collective

MUSIC FRIDAY FIVE

Friday Five 02-05-2021

Friday Five is where we highlight music by Washtenaw County-associated artists.

This week features hip-hop from Nickie P and Aareus Jones, indie rock from Modern Lady Fitness and Weekend Hours, and a multigenre compilation by Safa Collective.
 

Afa S. Dworkin on the Sphinx Virtuosi and their UMS concert "This Is America"

MUSIC PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Afa Dworkin and Sphinx Virtuosi

Afa S. Dworkin photo by Kevin Kennedy. Sphinx Virtuosi photo by Brian Hatton.

Classical music has had a long history of lacking diversity, which is why Aaron P. Dworkin founded the Sphinx Organization in 1997 to encourage and support minorities in this art form. The name was inspired by the iconic Great Sphinx of Giza statue in Egypt, which “reflects the power, wisdom and persistence that characterize Sphinx’s participants," according to the Detroit-based organization's website.

Today, the Sphinx Organization’s programs reach more than 100,000 artists and students, while performances by the orchestras and ensembles are viewed and attended by more than two million people each year.

UMS recorded a special performance by the Sphinx Virtuosi, an orchestra of the Sphinx Organization, for its 2021 season of virtual programming, and the concert is streaming for free on ums.org through February 8. The program is titled This Is America and includes works by Michael Abels, Jessie Montgomery, and Xavier Foley. On the final day of the stream, there will also be a special conversation with three Sphinx artists: Gabriel Cabezas, Bill Neri, and Melissa White. Each musician will discuss the performance as well as talk about their musical careers. You can download a PDF for the This Is America concert notes here.

A 2005 MacArthur Fellow, Aaron P. Dworkin was dean of the University of Michigan’s School of Music, Theatre & Dance and is now a tenured professor of arts leadership and entrepreneurship at SMTD who also hosts the weekly videocast Arts Engines; he currently serves as a strategic advisor for Sphinx. Afa S. Dworkin, his wife, is a celebrated violinist and educator who now leads the Sphinx Organization.

Afa S. Dworkin, who has been honored with the Kennedy Center’s Human Spirit Award and was named one of Detroit Crain’s 40 Under 40, has expanded Sphinx's outreach and range enormously during her tenure as president and artistic director.

I spoke to the Ann Arbor-based Afa S. Dworkin about the Sphinx Organization and the Virtuosi concert recorded for UMS.