Michael John Dunaway Lifestream

January 14, 2009

The Mahalia Jackson is reborn (article for Alarm Magazine)

Filed under: Culture,Entertainment,Magazine articles by MJD,Music,Uncategorized — michaeljohndunaway @ 3:53 pm

louis1Here’s the unabridged version of an article I wrote for Alarm magazine on the reopening of the Mahalia Jackson Theater at Louis Armstrong Park in New Orleans. Published version here.

A symbolic act doesn’t actually change anything; it’s only a symbol, after all. But sometimes a symbolic act can change the way people see themselves, and change their understanding about what’s happening, and about what is to come. Wednesday night’s reopening of Louis Armstrong Park in the grandly restored Mahalia Jackson Theater was just such a moment. It was, as Mayor Ray Nagin told me afterwards, “awesomely, outstandingly, naturally New Orleans.”

The Mahalia Jackson Theater sits in the middle of Louis Armstrong Park in New Orleans, which is also the home of Congo Square, where slaves used to gather and sing African songs, and the spot where jazz was eventually born. Both the park and the theater were casualties of Katrina flooding, and the wire that fenced them off has been a continual reminder ever since of the devastation that flooding brought. Many New Orleanians haven’t quite felt whole without the park open. (more…)


RIP: Stooges Guitarist Ron Asheton (1948-2009) (for Alarm Magazine)

Filed under: Entertainment,Magazine articles by MJD,Music,Uncategorized — michaeljohndunaway @ 3:48 pm

stoogesMy tribute to Ron Asheton, published by Alarm magazine here.

RIP: Stooges Guitarist Ron Asheton (1948-2009)

Simply put, Ron Asheton paved the way for the Ramones and then for everyone after. No Ron means no Ramones or Clash or Sex Pistols, no REM or U2 or Sonic Youth, no Nirvana, no who knows what else.

Iggy was the face of The Stooges, but Ron was the sound, that loud, chunky, aggressive Fender Strat that just always sounded so dirty and surly and cocksure. You might not know Ron Asheton’s name as well as those of Buddy Guy, Bo Diddley, or Les Paul, but Rolling Stone ranked him higher than any of them in their 100 greatest guitarists.

In terms of sheer influence, he ranks much higher. Just listen to “Dirt” from the Fun House album (Jack White called it the greatest rock album of all time, and Henry Rollins said that everyone should own a copy), and you’ll know what the fuss is about.

He wasn’t a saint (though he was the only member of the band without a heroin problem). He wasn’t even a nice guy. But man, did he embody that sound — the sound of the biggest revolution in rock history coming just a few years down the road. Rest in peace.

November 19, 2008

Amanda Petrusich profile (for Paste)

Filed under: Culture,Magazine articles by MJD,Music,Paste articles by MJD,Uncategorized — michaeljohndunaway @ 11:51 pm


My interview/writeup with Amanda Petrusich, author of It Still Moves: Lost Songs, Lost Highways, and The Search for The New American Music, should hit the Paste Atlanta site today or tomorrow. IN the meantime, here’s the unabridged version:

Decatur’s own Wordsmiths Books does a pretty darned good job of hosting events designed to build community, and case in point is this Saturday’s evening twinbill co-sponsored by Paste and Oskar Blues. You get both literary and musical credit for this one.

The musical entertainment will be provided by The Georgia Fireflies, a self-described “old time music band.” Noted for outstanding live shows, the group plays largely in traditional Appalachian modes, albeit with a decidedly alternative twist. If you’re a listener to Georgia Public Television’s “Growing Outdoors,” you know their work from the theme song.

As for the literary portion of the evening, Paste senior contributing editor and New York Times contributor Amanda Petrusich will be making the trip from Brooklyn to read from and discuss her new book It Still Moves: Lost Songs, Lost Highways, and the Search for The Next American Music, a cross-genre hybrid that’s equal parts memoir, travelogue, music history, and music criticism.

It’s obvious that Petrusich sees Americana, like many see hip hop, as a larger cultural movement rather than simply a musical genre. “There is a sort of interesting common ideology,” she agrees. “It’s slippery to define, but there’s historically been a rural, indigenous, acoustic nature to it. It’s sort of organic, front-porch kind of music.”

And it’s that connection to the land, the terroir that produces the music, that was the impetus for her cross-Delta journey. “Everything seems less like a community now, like we’re less oriented to those around us. And part of what those musicians had in the past was – well, they didn’t log on, and they generally didn’t travel. Not that those are bad things, but I wanted to return to that sense of regionalism. It just felt dishonest to try to study that Delta blues music that I love so much without actually going there, like I would be missing the whole key to understanding it.” Plus, she admits, it seemed like a really fun road trip. Petrusich is one of those rare writers that speaks as well as she writes, so it should be a great event.

Did I mention that the evening is also co-sponsored by Oskar Blues, brewers of “the best canned beer in America?” Just because Details magazine said it doesn’t mean it’s not true. And come on, how many times to you get a chance to see a band that cites as influences both The Carter Family and Camper van Beethoven, AND meet an author that Rolling Stone called “a smart, genial Persephone?”

October 13, 2008

Another blast from the past…

Filed under: Entertainment,Magazine articles by MJD,Music,Uncategorized — michaeljohndunaway @ 11:18 am
Tags: , ,

Another Pif magazine piece from the early 200s, this one a review of a Janis Joplin bio.janis-joplin-1969

Scars of Sweet Paradise
Biography by Alice Echols
reviewed by Michael Dunaway

The resurgence of women in rock in the mid-to-late ‘90s has brought with it a long overdue critical reappraisal of the career of Janis Joplin. Public and vocal homage paid by Joan Osborne, Meredith Brooks, and most vehemently by Melissa Etheridge (among others) have highlighted the work of the first, and some would say the only, real female rock god. Like great American vocalists before her – Sinatra and Billie Holiday in the jazz world, Hank Williams and Patsy Cline in country music – Janis gave voice to the heartbreak and loneliness lurking just below the surface in the lives of so many. And her vocal attack, an eclectic mix of the sound of the (mostly black) blues growlers with the sensibility of more traditional, folk, and bluegrass greats, shaped the sound of rock vocals for the decades that have followed, even – and especially – the male vocals. Janis is to harder rock vocals what Buddy Holly is to pop vocals (or what Huckleberry Finn is to American fiction, if you want a more literary example). Her short career was both groundbreaking and stunningly influential; that her life was so colorful and intense both clarifies and obscures the work as well as the woman. (more…)

October 3, 2008

Passion, Music, Life

Filed under: Entertainment,Music,Uncategorized — michaeljohndunaway @ 1:33 am

Wow, wow, and wow.

Last week Gates and I met our dear friends the Burgins in Nashville to see The Swell Season (Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, who won an Academy Award for the gorgeous song “Falling Slowly” from the perfect little film Once) perform at The Ryman Auditorium.  The Ryman is one of the great music venues in the entire country.  And this was one of the greatest shows I have ever seen.

The passion in the music is overpowering.  Glen Hansard sells out to every song like his very life depends on it.  I kept looking up at him and thinking, “THIS is how we should all be living our lives!”  At one point in the show, he did a solo version of Van Morrison’s “Astral Weeks,” just him and his guitar.  It was probably my favorite solo musical moment of all time.

Now, no video clip will ever do it justice.  This is the epitome of the “you had to be there” moment.  So my most desperate plea to all of you is to go see The Swell Season in person as soon as possible.  But to give some idea of the way Hansard performs, here’s a Youtube page with his Coachella performance of the same song.  Turn those speakers up loud, and expand the picture to full screen.


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