They say you can’t judge a book by its cover, but in this case looking over the cover of the recent Latimer House release “All The Rage” gives a very good idea of this complex yet strangely accessible collection of ten songs.
Formed by an eclectic assortment of musicians with roots from around the world in 2010, the Prague-based band has put out an album which to my ears was a little bit like good jambalaya is to the palate: something with a lot of flavors you may not expect, but combined well for an overall enjoyable experience.
The base is laid by the opening tracks This Is Pop, Burn, and Eye Can See, all relatively punchy and upbeat songs with a good riff to them. You even get the hint of political commentary in This Is Pop, while Burn introduces a string section to the overall composition.
That addition and subtraction of elements continues through the tracks, something which got me thinking about what was missing. As the collection went on, it seemed like just as I was thinking that a stone was unturned, as if on cue I’d hear it in the next song. When it occurred to me that a song with harmonies was missing, along came Red Hot Sequin Blues and Splash! A slower ballad? Try Your Love on for size. The toe-tapper I was looking for turned out to be Love’s Undermined. Surprises seemed to abound with each track, so listening a second time made me notice things I missed on first impression.
Tasty, complex instrumentation comes in many of the songs as well: the horn of Follow Your Heart as well as Red Hot Sequin Blues, the echoing chorus and cheerful keyboards of Birdcage Walk, the string section revisited on Bubblegum, and even the bass-driven intro to Splash! made for good variation. Bubblegum also provides additional commentary on pop culture in its lyrics.
While all ten songs have enough variation and manage to hold the listener’s interest, perhaps the only drawback I can see is that some may grow weary of vocalist Joe Cook’s somewhat nasal voice and delivery – but then again it’s worked for Bob Dylan for years.
The band is based out of Europe and has had more of its popularity there, but there is a connection to the States as bassist Michael Jetton hails from Virginia. It may not be on their timetable just yet, but there’s always been a market for Europop in this country so an eventual tour here may not be completely out of the question. Right now, though, it appears that Latimer House is simply happy playing music with a good collection of guest artists helping out along the way.
If indeed this is really pop, then Latimer House seems to be keeping it in good hands. This is the kind of danceable, accessible stuff that’s a reminder of a simpler time, and these guys show the pop genre can still be done quite well. As I like to say though: don’t just take my word for it – listen for yourself.
He may not be much for participating in debates, but by the standard I set a few days ago Larry Hogan is a more-than-successful fundraiser. Today his campaign released a press statement claiming that the Hogan juggernaut raised $422,000 from over 1,800 individuals in just 68 days. (The official numbers are due next week, so this is a preliminary tally.)
Speaking on this, Hogan was thankful for the generosity:
Thanks to our supporters, volunteers and staff we’ve surpassed our outreach and fundraising goals. The incredible outpouring of support from middle class voters across our state shows that Marylanders want a governor who’ll put working families and small businesses ahead of Annapolis elites.
Yet a quick look behind the numbers reveals a few interesting things.
First of all, it appears that many of the donations are maxing out the $250 allowed for matching contributions, as the average works out to about $234 per. So you’re getting your share of smaller numbers, but it’s likely the report will show a high number who pitched in the most allowed. Moreover, it bears pointing out that Hogan only promised to use matching funds in the primary, so there’s a lot of room for these donors to come back and upgrade to the maximum $4,000 allowed should Hogan win in June. This may be a shrewd strategy to compete in the general election.
But I found the comparisons to other campaigns at the 68-day stage a little disingenuous, because they’re apples and oranges. Eighteen months out from an election is generally not prime fundraising time, and no contender makes a whole lot in the summer before a campaign year – for example, David Craig raised about $250,000 in each of the last two years but it was clear he wouldn’t rest on those laurels and fundraising wasn’t a big push at the time. As long as candidates have enough to keep the lights on a year out, they’re happy, so saying that his campaign is more popular than the others based on that fact alone is a little misleading.
We also don’t know how much cash on hand any of the campaigns have, and going forward at this stage that’s a far more important number. With Hogan making a television ad buy, some part of that $422,000 is already spent.
Yet as time goes on, it’s becoming more clear we may be looking at a two-person race, unless the campaign finance reports of Ron George or Charles Lollar show they’ve cut into the significant fundraising advantages David Craig already enjoyed and Larry Hogan has appeared to establish. Grassroots support is great, and taking the message to underserved areas helps build the Maryland GOP for the future. Reaching nearly a million Maryland GOP voters, however, isn’t free, and there’s a reason it’s called broadcasting – media reaches a huge number of people other methods do not.
These warm and fuzzy commercials Democratic contenders are putting out are simply to build a brand association, because very few of those voters are going to look at the issues until the end, if at all. The more discerning group on the GOP side is fine with questioning the record of the incumbents, but they’ll want a little more depth when all is said and done.
As a closing aside, David Craig is going to try and raise a little money on Sunday as he hosts a fundraiser of his own:
Please join the Eastern Shore’s own Jeannie Haddaway and me on Sunday, April 13th at Sailwinds Park in Cambridge.
Our friends from all over the Eastern Shore and across Maryland will be gathering for fresh seafood, cold drinks, and good times. The event will be held from 12pm-4pm. Tickets are $60 in advance and $70 at the door. Tickets can be purchased by clicking here.
I will say that based on the forecast he is going to luck out in that respect. Next thing you know we’ll be sweating in Crisfield, but only one GOP gubernatorial candidate will be there as a nominee.
You may do a double-take at the photos, because this week’s SotW is a holdover from last season. The top photo came from the final home game of 2013, while the bottom one came from last week’s exhibition game against Salisbury University. In any case, David Richardson is trying to jump-start his Orioles career with a big year and his first full-season experience.
David has been in the organization quite awhile compared to many of his teammates – a 17th round selection from 2010 out of Hillsborough Junior College in Florida, he went to the same high school as major league standouts Dwight Gooden and Gary Sheffield. Perhaps his slow climb up the ladder is in part because he was originally drafted as an outfielder. But the 23-year-old got his first taste of the South Atlantic League at the end of last season, and while the overall numbers looked subpar – an 0-1 record with an 8.76 ERA in 10 appearances, with a 12/8 K/BB ratio in 12 1/3 innings and 2.19 WHIP – much of the damage was done in two appearances against Lakewood where he gave up 11 runs in 1 1/3 innings and was pinned with his losing decision. Against the rest of the SAL he had a fine 0.82 ERA.
Because Lakewood hasn’t appeared on the schedule yet, David is holding his own thus far in 2014. In three appearances Richardson has pitched 3 2/3 innings, allowing one earned run (a home run), striking out two and walking none. It translates to a 2.45 ERA and 1.09 WHIP on the young season.
Richardson had some experience as a starter for two seasons in Aberdeen, but seems to do much better in relief. He’s been used thus far in low-leverage situations, closing out losing efforts in two of his three outings, but continued success could see him be placed in a setup role. It will be interesting to see how David can handle the grind of a full season as well.
Writing recently about the concept of “prevailing wage,” two-time gubernatorial candidate Ellen Sauerbrey used the letter to the editor to praise her apparent choice for governor, David Craig. Here’s the letter in its entirety, as posted on Southern Maryland News Net. I received it as an e-mail under Craig’s campaign letterhead.
I want to point out a specific passage for comment, in particular the one where Sauerbrey speaks about Craig himself and attributes statements to him.
The 2014 General Assembly has passed legislation to apply the prevailing wage to additional local government projects that receive partial state funding. The prevailing wage which is essentially the union wage, artificially inflates labor costs by ab (sic) estimated 30% to 50%.
I commend Harford County Executive and Gubernatorial candidate David Craig for speaking out on the impact of the new law on his county, as well as the impact of prevailing wages on the state budget. Every local elected official concerned about getting the most value on public projects should want to let the market determine employee wages as is done in the private sector. County Executive Craig points out that the prevailing wage adds an additional $30 million cost to his county’s $300 million capital budget for school construction.
It may not surprise you that I have some familiarity with school construction. In the 1990s, thanks to a court decision, the state of Ohio went on a multi-billion dollar spending binge to construct new schools in practically every one of Ohio’s 600-plus school districts. (I spent seven years working for an architectural firm which specialized in schools, although I had left that company before the boom in school construction began.) In 1997 the state created an exemption to prevailing wage regulations for schools, and in that debate numbers similar to the 30 to 50 percent savings were bandied about by proponents of the measure eliminating prevailing wage.
Also mandated at the time, however, was a report to be delivered five years later, in 2002. In this report, the research indicated savings were more in the ten percent range. While that is a great savings to the taxpayer, it’s not the panacea proponents were anticipating when the bill was passed. Granted, with the vast volume of work going on at the time there was less incentive for low bids – perhaps an economic climate such as today’s would yield more significant savings.
While Sauerbrey uses the hyperbole of the 50 percent savings in her letter, it should be pointed out that David Craig’s statement within seems to ring true – out of $300 million, the $30 million addition seems to line up with the data from Ohio’s study.
But regardless of the actual savings, there is a philosophical argument to be made against the concept of an artificially-created “prevailing” wage, simply because it doesn’t necessarily reflect the true conditions of the actual labor market. I can completely understand the contention that projects completed under prevailing wage (more often than not by union shops) have a better quality to them, as one advantage of using union tradesmen borne out in my experience is that they are better trained, so the question is one of whether they are worth the premium. In some cases I would say yes, but I’m not sure schools are structures complex enough to justify the extra cost – certainly not to the extent of a health care facility or technology-heavy factory where fit and finish can be most important.
I also find it interesting that on the one hand Democrats tend to be for cherished union giveaways like prevailing wage, but do nothing on the other but encourage illegal aliens to come in and undercut the market for construction labor. I haven’t seen them yet this spring, but sooner or later somewhere on Delmarva there will be three or four union carpenters holding up the “shame on” banner because someone hired non-union labor most likely mainly made up of illegal aliens. And what else do those hapless guys have to do?
In a perfect world, many advocacy groups agree that the Davis-Bacon Act which spawned the concept of prevailing wage would be repealed. (At one time even the General Accounting Office argued for repeal.) There is even a bill in the House of Representatives to do the same, although no action has been taken on it since introduction. (And why not?) Eliminating the federal law may well trigger some states to do away with their own versions, although if you assume Maryland politics will remain as they’re currently composed for the next couple decades you won’t find us on that list. (As I pointed out yesterday, we threaten liberals’ existence on the government teat and they know it.)
But it should be a job for General Assembly Republicans to try and roll back this year’s changes in the next session. In the meantime, while 10 percent may not seem like a lot, imagine a ten percent cut in the state budget – it would roll our expenditures back to FY2013 levels and just about negate the need for our sales tax, which is 11% of revenue according to our most recent budget. That wouldn’t be a rollback to 5%, it would be eliminating the whole enchilada to match Delaware. Or we could cut our income taxes in half.
Ten percent is a lot, even in the limited realm of state construction, and to me it’s better that the people have it than the government. In the case of the capital budget, it’s less bonding we have to pass along to our children. So let’s hope a Governor Craig would have the stiff spine to fight for such a change to prevailing wage, even if Ellen Sauerbrey was a little overly optimistic on its effects.
Returning once again to a familiar role of thorn in the side and burr under the saddle, Change Maryland and Larry Hogan took the occasion of the final legislative session under Martin O’Malley to remind us of his underwhelming record of “accomplishments” over the last long eight years, wrapped up in one release. All we needed was the bow, as Change Maryland remarked that:
- They broke promises to state workers by diverting $200,000,000 from pension funds to plug their budget gap.
- They’ve eviscerated local arts funding to hike the film tax credit for Hollywood millionaires.
- They raided the Transportation Trust Fund then raised gas taxes to pay for mass transit.
- They hiked income taxes on families, small business and large employers.
- They blew $125,000,000 of our tax dollars on a health exchange website that still doesn’t work and was never needed in the first place; today, more Marylanders lack health insurance than when O’Malley-Brown took office.
- More than 73,000 residents have had their health insurance policies cancelled and tens of thousands more have seen massive increases in their premiums and deductibles.
- They put the teacher union bosses that bankroll their political machine ahead of students, parents and classroom teachers.
- They’ve badly mismanaged the education budget, as a result inner city schools are falling farther behind, state SAT scores are down and elementary school reading aptitude is flat. And, even the teacher union said their rollout of Common Core was a mismanaged “train wreck.”
- Their job-destroying tax hikes on the so-called rich and small businesses – those individuals earning $100k or more – backfired, missing revenue projections.
- Some entry level jobs will pay a little more but there will be fewer of them.
- There’s a federal investigation into the Anthony Brown Health Exchange but state lawmakers aren’t issuing their findings until well after the primaries.
- Thousands of employers are now “paying their fair share” in taxes albeit to Virginia and the Carolinas; about 6,500 companies have left Maryland taking with them more than 100,000 jobs.
- Likewise, more than 31,000 Maryland residents left for more affordable states, taking $1.7 billion each year out of our economy; among these were thousands of seniors on fixed incomes who can no longer afford to retire near their families.
- It costs you more when it rains and more again when you drive to the beach.
Describing the O’Malley era as one where, “(i)n nearly every quality of life measurement our state is worse off than it was seven years ago… even areas that showed modest improvement came at a horrendous financial cost due (to) Martin O’Malley and Anthony Brown’s mismanagement and one-party rule in Annapolis,” it’s clear that Hogan isn’t too enamored with the last seven years.
But while Hogan strives to “get the government off our backs and out of our pockets so we can grow the private sector, put people back to work and turn our economy around,” we’re more or less supposed to take his word for it. Obviously some of these items he complains about from the outside will be ones he may well find useful when he takes over the governor’s chair. For example, he (or anyone else for that matter) will have to figure out how to backfill the pension funds, live with the increasing minimum wage (which, for all his charms, he won’t be able to get the General Assembly Democrats to rescind), and roll back taxes and fees to previous levels yet keep the budget in balance. That aspect may actually be the easiest because he would set the budget. Unfortunately, we’re stuck with Obamacare for at least the first two years of anyone’s term, and probably longer.
However, I have a prediction for you. If the budget gets smaller – or even if it’s level-funded – you will hear a howling like you’ve never heard before from the special interests, press, and Democrats (but I repeat myself) who will be out marching in the streets against the heartless Republicans. Remember why we had a Special Session a couple years ago? It was because we passed a “doomsday budget” that was “only” $700 million higher than the previous one, and despite GOP objection we ended up raising spending another $500 million. Again, that was with a budget increase! Heaven help us if we actually proposed spending less money!
So those we elect in 2014 need to be ready and be stiff of spine because those Annapolis fat cats are going to come after us. We threaten their existence on the government teat and they know it. Having a $125 million boondoggle of a health exchange isn’t helping, which is why that scandal is being swept under the rug just as fast as the broom can collect the dirt.
In this part of the state we have some opportunities to chip away at the Democrats’ overall advantage. We’ll have to wait until 2018 to win back the District 37A seat – which will be held for the time being by a woman who I predict will have the same reliably far-left voting record as her predecessor – but aside from that we can speak our piece by ejecting two members of the General Assembly who will occasionally vote the right way when they get the hall pass to do so, but can be replaced by two members who we know will stand up for our interests. We can confound the Democrats’ cynical redistricting ploys by elevating Mike McDermott to the Senate and getting the fresh new ideas of Maryland Municipal League president Carl Anderton, Jr. into the House of Delegates.
Changing the state means pulling our weight, and the Eastern Shore can do most of its part by leaving just one Democrat east of the Chesapeake for the next four years.
Now that the General Assembly has made it to sine die, the transition to regular campaigning can begin. Certainly there will be posturing over one issue or another, and there are rumblings that the “bathroom bill” and perhaps even marijuana decriminalization could be placed on the ballot. But for better or worse, the General Assembly has completed its work for the year, and at least 37 members out of the 188 will not be back – many are retiring, but some are seeking other local or statewide offices.
So for those who are looking for greener pastures, as well as the 150-odd who are willing to serve another term – with many among them trying to move up from the House to the Senate – the campaigning can begin in earnest. Only seven Senators (three Republican, four Democrat) have a free ride to re-election, barring a late write-in entry. Two Democrats running for the House of Delegates will enjoy the same freedom, and both will be newcomers – Will Campos in District 47A (Prince George’s County) and Sheree Sample-Hughes from right here in Salisbury. Both had opposition, but the one filer against Campos was disqualified and incumbent Delegate Rudy Cane from District 37A withdrew from his race, leaving it for Sample-Hughes.
Some in difficult races have been chomping at the bit to go out there and press the flesh, along with once again having the chance to raise funds. An e-mail from Delegate Neil Parrott greeted me this afternoon in my e-mail box, and certainly many others were making plans to raise some dough.
While he didn’t serve in the General Assembly, Larry Hogan is making a push to look good on his initial campaign finance report. Messages like this have been appearing on his Change Maryland Facebook feed:
Thanks to the generous support of engaged and informed Marylanders like you, we are EVEN CLOSER to hitting our fundraising goal before tonight’s finance report deadline! We have less than TWELVE HOURS to hit our goal – Can we count on you to help us get there? Any contribution you can afford, whether it’s $5, $50, or $500, will make a big impact on our campaign and could be enough to put us over the edge to reach our goal!
Of course, since they’re not letting on exactly what the goal is, I highly doubt they’ll actually fall short. Yet what would be success in fundraising? Back in January, it was revealed that David Craig raised just under $250,000 in 2013 after a similar performance in 2012. Since we’re closer to the election, I would have to assess success as whether Hogan raised the amount required to qualify for matching funds, which would come pretty close to matching Craig’s total 2013 take. Since Hogan has media up already with a cable television buy, it’s likely he’s raised at least $200,000.
(It’s worth pointing out as well that Hogan is slated to appear at our Lincoln Day Dinner on Saturday, as are Ron George and Charles Lollar. Jeannie Haddaway will pinch-hit for David Craig, who has another engagement. So if you’re coming you can ask the tough questions, although we don’t plan this as a debate.)
For us, the event will serve as a kickoff to the serious campaigning to come since it’s likely we’ll hear from a number of Republicans who are running, even if we have to drag out the egg timer to make sure they keep things short for our featured guests. If we let all of the District 37B aspirants go, we’ll be there all night! (Yes, that was supposed to be funny. You are allowed to laugh.)
After all, not that I’m trying to hurry it along by any stretch of the imagination, we’re just 30 weeks away from the November election (and 11 weeks from the primary, which I have a vested interest in.) Lots of time for good things to happen.
As I begin to write this, we have about an hour and ten minutes remaining in the 90 days of terror that is the annual Maryland General Assembly session. And because of the Maryland Legislative Watch website, the process of completing my annual monoblogue Accountability Project will be a snap – they’re kind enough to align all the votes taken during session by individual legislator.
So the process of weeding out what I’ll be focusing on has been my task over the last couple weeks. Since I cover 25 different votes, with three of them being committee votes for practically all the legislators (there are three exceptions: Speaker of the House Michael Busch, Senate President Mike Miller, and Delegate Don Dwyer, who was stripped of a committee assignment as punishment for his misdemeanor conviction last year) having them already arranged by legislator is a HUGE help.
Sadly to me, out of the hundreds of votes the General Assembly takes each year, the vast majority are unanimous or have very limited opposition. While there have been occasions I’ve used such exercises in futility for the minority, generally I like to find bills which have a significant number of votes on both sides. Unfortunately, this has eliminated a number of good bills I would have used via what I call the “gutless Senate syndrome” – a bill which may be 96-38 in the House passes 46-0 in the Senate. For example, did you know the state was soon to ban “vaportinis”? (Interesting, since they’re decriminalizing pot in the same session.) It would have been a good vote to use, but our gutless Senate passed it with no opposition. The same went for bills designating new wildlands, financial assistance for so-called “food desert” areas (not “desserts,” by the way), mandating balcony inspections, and several others.
All told, I will probably have 25 to 30 candidates to distill into the final 22 votes – there were a few bills which may have received a vote in their opposite chamber tonight. The “automatics” in this term will be the budget bills, the “bathroom bill”, minimum wage, and the “fix” for individuals who were hosed out of health insurance because the state screwed up. Those were always going to make the cut, even though the Senate vote on the capital budget was 46-0. Talk about gutless!
So when can you look for the monoblogue Accountability Report? I figure it could be done by month’s end.
One change I’ve made from previous editions is that legislators will be arranged into groups based on whether they are retiring, running for higher (or different) office, or trying for another term. Of course, I will still have the Legislative All-Stars and my usual rewards and criticism as well.
The process can go full throttle in less than a half-hour.
While David Craig got the jump on Larry Hogan for radio campaign ads, the Change Maryland founder has struck back with a 30-second TV ad called ‘Dedicated’:
I found it a very good ad, simple as an introduction to the candidate and his main campaign philosophy. Perhaps my only knock on it would be the fact it was shot in black and white, a technique usually reserved for the target of negative ads. The usage of black and white in an introductory commercial, therefore, seems a little stark.
While promising an “aggressive media effort” Hogan stated about the introduction:
Just two months ago I announced my candidacy, and since that time we have focused on building a campaign that will compete head-to-head with the Democratic nominee. The incredible outpouring of support from Marylanders we have received enables us to begin our TV and radio campaign earlier than we ever anticipated. This next phase of our campaign will help take our message of fiscal restraint and common sense government to every corner of the state.
Naturally, there is a lack of specifics about exactly where the ad is being placed, although John Wagner of the Washington Post notes it’s in the “Baltimore market.” Whether it’s a cable buy or over-the-air I cannot ascertain.
But with the two leading contenders on the air, it means Ron George and Charles Lollar will have to scramble to raise the money required for their own ad buys. George will be able to restart his campaign, which has been stuck in low gear because of the General Assembly session that wraps up its work tomorrow night; meanwhile, Lollar and running mate Ken Timmerman recently wrapped up their “Economic Recovery Tour” which bypassed an area much in need of an economic recovery – the Eastern Shore. (Lollar is slated to appear at our Lincoln Day Dinner Saturday night, though.)
At this point neither George nor Lollar seem to have the kind of juice which can buy media advertising, although we should have a better idea of the financial picture of all the candidates in the coming weeks.
Update: I’m told Fox News is one of the outlets for the Hogan spot, so presumably it’s a cable buy.
Proving once again that elections mean something, Delegate Mike McDermott pointed out the voting record of his upcoming opponent, Senator Jim Mathias. Mathias supported the state’s Capital Budget of $1.17 billion as well as a $300 million transfer from the General Fund, leading McDermott to predict a property tax increase to cover the difference.
McDermott went on to note:
There are many good projects in the Capital Budget but, quite frankly, voting for the Capital Budget is irresponsible with this state’s economy. Making your grandchildren pay for their parents’ playground is immoral. You’re using a credit card with your kid’s name on it.
(Mathias’s) vote goes to support extremist liberal groups like CASA de Maryland who receive funding for their illegal alien advocacy at the expense of Eastern Shore families struggling to live paycheck to paycheck. This must stop!
In 2010, Jim Mathias lost both Wicomico and Somerset counties to Republican Michael James, but prevailed by enough in Worcester County to win election by just 640 votes – in percentage terms, it was 1.4%. The bulk of that damage came from absentee and provisional votes, probably swayed by Jim’s insistence he was the second coming of Ronald Reagan. Okay, that may be a little over-the-top, but as I wrote at the time he sent out a lot of mailings insisting he was conservative. (I debunked them, too.)
Of course, there’s no guarantee that Michael James would have been a rock-ribbed conservative in the Maryland General Assembly, but I’m very sure Mike McDermott would be a far better steward of our tax dollars. After all, I have his voting record over 4 years in the House of Delegates to back that assertion up.
Yet Mathias has a number of built-in advantages which need to be overcome: he’s very personable and quite popular as a former Ocean City mayor, plus he has a boatload of campaign money available to spend – lots of it came from across the Bay, too. Starting in late summer I’m sure the good citizens of District 38 will get the full-color mailers telling us Jim’s fighting for us in Annapolis, even though his true voting record on this is spotty at best. Given the Democrats’ 35-12 advantage in the Senate, they can afford to have Jim side with the Republicans once in awhile.
But what if it begins to appear that the GOP may win several seats in the Maryland Senate? For many years, District 38 was ably represented by Lowell Stoltzfus, who decided to retire despite the fact he could have kept the seat for years to come because he was popular and his conservative voting record fit the district. The only reason Mathias even ran for the Senate was because Lowell decided to call it a career. I happen to think that, when the chips are down for Annapolis Democrats, Jim Mathias will be right there to save their bacon at the expense of the needs of his district. This budget vote stands as proof, and underscores the importance of bringing this seat back to the GOP column where it belongs.
To conclude, I found it apt to remind people of how I reported something Mike McDermott said four years ago:
(Mike) thought it was funny to hear liberals talk about conservative values. “Don’t tolerate that nonsense,” he said.
Because 641 too many in District 38 bought the line Jim Mathias handed them, we’ve tolerated nonsense the last four years. It’s time for that to stop.
If you were to summarize the debut effort “Breathe Air” from South Carolina’s Plastic Yellow Band in one word, it would be “eclectic.” But since I have a review to write, allow me to explain just how I arrived at that conclusion for this month-old release.
The twelve songs on “Breathe Air” fall into a number of different categories, and while the band likes to bill itself as “new classic rock” it’s obvious that songwriter, producer, and vocalist Gerry Jennings got his major influence from John Lennon, particularly his post-Beatles era with Yoko Ono. Instead of the Plastic Ono Band, it became the Plastic Yellow Band. Two of the tracks, Nervous Stuff and Climate Change, were even mastered at the Abbey Road Studios.
To me, that Lennon influence shows most clearly on the 17 1/2 minute three-part epic composition Sunshine that closes the album. For the most part keyboard-driven, the trilogy exists as a storyline of darkness and redemption, with the hopeful revelation coming in the upbeat final portion.
The interesting choice to open the album, though, is the ballad Lonely Place. Ballads have a strong showing on this effort, with other heartfelt tunes being Nowhere and the duet I Want To Feel Your Love with female vocalist Dana Rideout. The latter has the strongest chance at crossover appeal, as does the touching violin of She Let It Down. And if you liked the AOR format of the 1970s Alone (It’s Hard) would probably be the song of choice, since it reminded me of that era.
Those who like more rollicking tunes, though, would be the biggest fans of the album’s second track She’s My Woman, with its southern-fried slide guitar. To me that was the strongest song; one that makes me want to tip my longneck PBR.
Yet Jennings also makes his political feelings known, fretting about the state of the planet. Take as an example this song, Climate Change. The message is pretty obvious, huh?
Yet this outcry tends to make for some interesting music, such as the distortion of Oil Kings, which was also one of my favorites, or the lyrics of Nervous Stuff. Intersecting politics and music isn’t anything new, of course, but in this era of formulaic, play-it-safe pop music lyricism guaranteed not to offend, at least we know Jennings stands for something and has a little passion about it.
Speaking of playing it safe in the music industry and catering to the homogenized mass taste, it’s worth pointing out that Jennings doesn’t have the voice which would get past the initial rounds of “American Idol” or “The Voice.” While he certainly can carry a tune, his voice is just a little bit thin, and that shows up somewhat on the ballads. But the songs he’s written are more or less tailored to those limitations.
Something else worth pointing out is that the band talks about “the tradition of an era when music wasn’t considered authentic unless it was composed and played by musicians.” To that end, they have made some of these songs available in a “play along” format where one instrument track is edited out, allowing aspiring musicians to learn to play those missing parts. Not only is that good for beginning musicians, it makes for an interesting marketing strategy.
At this time it appears Jennings is focusing more on promoting its album via video than through touring, and given the structure of the band itself (three core members plus a host of “guest” musicians who perform on various tracks) that may be the prudent course for the time being. But don’t just take my word for it – you can judge for yourself if he should get the band together and go out on the road.
I had to do a double-take at my e-mail last night, and perhaps John Wagner at the Washington Post did as well. I thought I was seeing double, with Bob Ehrlich at two separate fundraising events for two different candidates for his old job. Only about an hour separated the two announcements, with David Craig’s April 14 event in Bel Air hitting my mailbox just before Ron George let me know about his April 22 affair in Glen Burnie. It got me to thinking: didn’t Larry Hogan have an Ehrlich event, too? Indeed he did back in February.
Ehrlich may only have a 1-2 record in gubernatorial contests, but he remains a popular fundraiser for a number of state and local Republican candidates. However, the common denominator seems to be the interest for Ehrlich in promoting his 2013 book, America: Hope for Change. Since it’s languishing at #800,039 on the Amazon best-seller list, obviously Bob may have a few dozen copies laying around, and each of these events features (or featured, in Hogan’s case) a book signing from Bob. At this point, the only Republican gubernatorial candidate who hasn’t solicited Bob’s help is Charles Lollar – then again, Lollar doesn’t have the same political connection to Ehrlich as the others do.
It’s also interesting that the maximum amount for each fundraiser is $250. Some may well pay more to see and be seen with Bob Ehrlich, but it also neatly matches the maximum donation allowed for a match from public campaign financing. Giving $251 would do no good in that regard.
But I also have to wonder if writing this book was part of a larger Ehrlich plan. If you look at the Republican party and the prospective 2016 presidential candidates, there are a number of governors who could play a role. Yet a guy like Chris Christie who hangs his hat on being able to appeal to the middle because he was elected (and re-elected) in a deeply Democratic state has the baggage of Bridgegate to deal with in contending for a 2016 run, not to mention he still has to run his state for another three years. Ehrlich could argue he’s cut from the same cloth, but happened to run for re-election at a time when the overall GOP brand was at its nadir due to the press-created unpopularity of President George W. Bush. (By the way, look who some in the party and punditry are trying to foist on us – yet another member of the Bush family.)
At 56 years of age, Ehrlich should be in the prime of his political career, and he has a reasonable resume at the state and federal levels. Bob would be the darkest of horses for a 2016 run, but is it possible he may be angling for a Cabinet post in a future GOP administration? To me, it would be another reason why Bob hasn’t endorsed anyone in this Maryland race – why alienate possible supporters for a favorite son bid to pump up a national profile?
I guess it would have helped, though, if America: Hope for Change was number 39 on Amazon’s list rather than 800,039. Nevertheless, if supporters of Craig, George, or Hogan are willing to shell out a couple Benjamins for a picture and signed book from our last GOP governor, more power to them. Heck, somewhere I have a photo of Bob and I from 2006 at a Perdue Stadium event so it’s not like I’ve never done the same (although it cost me much less.)
So if reading is your thing, you have another reason to attend. (Or you can read mine and save about 240-odd dollars.) Say what you might about his four years at Maryland’s helm, but Bob Ehrlich is still somewhat of a draw and he’ll take advantage of it.
What better way to begin your professional career than to be selected as Shorebird of the Week? Okay, I suppose being in the opening day lineup in the Show could top this, but nonetheless Drew Dosch will be given this distinction before ever playing a regular-season game for pay.
Drew was the Orioles’ seventh round pick last year, but instead of following his draft class to Aberdeen he had to recover from knee surgery. So the post-draft portion of 2013 was scrubbed and Dosch came into camp looking for a gig with a full-season team to get caught up – looks like the 21-year-old from Canal Winchester, Ohio (near Columbus) achieved that goal.
Dosch starred at Youngstown State University, basically being the best player on a very mediocre team. Over three years at YSU he hit .325 in 151 games, collecting 11 home runs and 83 RBI in the three seasons before being drafted as a junior. In his final season Drew hit .338/3/30 in 54 games, playing third base for the Penguins.
Of course, missing that time at the tail end of 2013 means Drew will be getting adjusted to pro life with Delmarva, although being from Ohio means he’s used to playing in cold weather. He’s also played in the Cape Cod League, which means a little bit of wooden bat experience as well, so the transition may not be as abrupt as perhaps other players may endure. Normally Delmarva gets a player or two each season who’s starting their professional career above the rookie league, and this year that guy is Dosch.