Lose yourself in fall fun

Corn mazes are a quintessential autumn activity

Whatever you want your corn maze experience to be — easy or complex, during the day or under the cover of darkness — local farms have plenty of options to choose from.

Beech Hill Farm in Hopkinton has two corn mazes within an eight-acre corn field, each with themed activities to do along the way.

“That’s what sets our mazes apart,” said Holly Kimball, one of the family owners of the farm. “Having an objective other than just ‘Can I find my out?’ makes the maze-navigating process more meaningful, and most people really enjoy having an activity to do inside the maze.”

“Animal Olympics,” which is shaped like Olympic rings, comes with an animal crossword puzzle activity sheet, and “Ocean Action,” which is shaped like a sea turtle, comes with a game board filled with trivia questions about the ocean and marine life. The answers are revealed on signs hidden throughout the mazes.

“They’re fun, and they have educational merit,” said Kimball, who uses her 20 years of experience as an educator to design the maze themes and activities. “Children can come to the farm, go through the maze and learn something.”

Each maze takes around 45 minutes to complete, and most participants go through both during their visit, Kimball said.

The corn maze at Elwood Orchards in Londonderry, which spans 15 acres, is more traditional, with the only objective being to find your way out.

“We design it ourselves — it changes every year — and we try to make it as difficult as possible,” farm owner Wayne Elwood said, adding that the farm has gotten a lot of positive feedback from corn maze enthusiasts who are seeking a challenge. “It’s not about just going in and following the path. You have to choose all the right paths and really figure it out.”

The time it takes to get through the maze, if you can get through it at all, is unpredictable and completely up to chance based on the choices you make. Elwood said if you make all the right turns, it could take as little as half an hour, but he has seen people spend up to three hours in the maze before reaching the end.

“There are people who go in and come right out, and there are people who never find the end and give up,” he said. “We’ve even had people who wear [pedometers or smart watches] that keep track of how many miles they walk tell us that they walked two or three miles trying to find their way out of the maze.”

There are six emergency/cheat exits in the maze for participants who want to call it a day or need to leave the maze for any reason.

On weekends in October, Elwood Orchards keeps the maze open after dark for bring-your-own-flashlight nights.

“Those have been a big attraction every year since we started doing them 10 years ago,” Elwood said. “It’s more of a challenge to do it in the dark, and I think people just like to go out at night and do something under the stars.”

Some of the farms with the busier or smaller mazes are requiring participants to wear masks while others, including Beech Hill and Elwood Orchards, are not, reasoning that it’s an outdoor activity with plenty of room to practice social distancing, and the number of participants inside the maze at one time is monitored.

“We haven’t really had any issues [with safety],” Kimball said. “Since we’re open all day, people arrive at all different times, and things are just kind of staggered naturally.”

Corn mazes at Beech Hill Farm. Courtesy photo.

Find a corn maze

* Beans & Greens Farm
Where: 245 Intervale Road, Gilford
When: Now through Nov. 1; Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; additional haunted nighttime maze every Friday in October (times TBD)
Cost: $12 per person, $8 for kids age 9 and under, free for kids age 2 and under; tickets must be purchased online in advance.
More info: 293-2853, beansandgreensfarm.com

Beech Hill Farm
Where: 107 Beech Hill Road, Hopkinton
When: Now through October; weekdays, 2 p.m. to dusk, and weekends, noon to dusk
Cost: $6 per person, free for children under age 3
More info: 223-0828, beechhillfarm.com

* Coppal House Farm
Where: 118 N. River Road, Lee
When: Now through Nov. 1, Monday, Thursday and Friday, noon to 5 p.m. (Columbus Day, Monday, Oct. 12, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.), Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; additional nighttime flashlight mazes on Saturdays, Oct. 10 and Oct. 24, 7 to 9 p.m.
Cost: $9 per person; $7 for kids ages 5 through 12, seniors age 65 and up, and military; and free for kids age 4 and under; flashlight mazes, $12 per person, for ages 5 and up
More info: 659-3572, nhcornmaze.com

Elwood Orchards
Where: 54 Elwood Road, Londonderry
When: Now through Nov. 7; daily, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., with nighttime mazes on Fridays and Saturdays starting Oct. 2, until 9 p.m.
Cost: $10 per person, free for kids age 5 and under
More info: 434-6017, elwoodorchards.com

* Riverview Farm
Where: 141 River Road, Plainfield
When: Now through October; Tuesday through Sunday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Cost: $5 per person, free for kids age 4 and under.
More info: Call 298-8519 or visit riverviewnh.com

Scamman Farm
Where: 69 Portsmouth Ave., Stratham
When: Now through October; September hours are Tuesday through Friday, noon to 5 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; October hours are Monday through Friday, noon to 5 p.m. (10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Columbus Day, Monday, Oct. 12), and Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., plus nighttime flashlight mazes on Fridays, Oct. 9, Oct. 16, Oct. 23 and Oct. 30, from 6 to 9 p.m.
Cost: $9 per person, $7 for kids ages 5 through 12, and free for kids age 4 and under.
More info: Call 686-1258 or visit scammanfarm.com

* Sherman Farm
Where: 2679 E. Conway Road, Center Conway
When: Now through Oct. 25; Saturdays and Sundays, plus Columbus Day, Monday, Oct. 12, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Cost: $10 to $13 per person, depending on the date, and free for kids age 2 and under; purchases tickets online in advance.
More info: 939-2412, shermanfarmnh.com

Trombly Gardens
Where: 150 N. River Road, Milford
When: Now through October; daily, 9 a.m. to dusk, plus nighttime flashlight mazes on Saturdays in October, until 10 p.m.
Cost: $5 per person, free for kids age 3 and under
More info: 673-0647, tromblygardens.net

Washburn’s Windy Hill Orchard
Where: 66 Mason Road, Greenville
When: Now through October; Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Cost: $5 per person, free for kids age 3 and under
More info: 878-2101, facebook.com/washburnswindyhill

* Masks required

In the Neighborhood

Boston supergroup plays free Concord show

With not quite two years behind them as a band, Neighbor has become a force on the New England music scene. They played two doubleheaders at Tupelo Drive-In this summer; both sold out in hours. Everywhere they go, fans follow for a sound that blends jam band joie de vivre with technical brilliance and lyrical savvy.

What began as an informal Tuesday night meetup that gave keyboard player, singer and songwriter Richard James (Pink Talking Fish) and guitarist Lyle Brewer (Ryan Montbleau Band) a chance to play together grew into a word-of-mouth sensation particularly when they moved the party from a local craft brewery to Thunder Road in Somerville, Mass., in early 2019. Dan Kelly joined on bass along with drummer Dean Johnston, and crowd sizes from their early gigs grew exponentially.

One reason for this fervid response is that Neighbor is prolific astonishingly so, with over 50 original songs, including a James/Brewer rock opera called Silver. Also, every show is different; James opined in a recent interview that the band’s devotees, who self-identify as “Neighbors,” deserve nothing less.

This was especially true when Neighbor ruled Tuesdays at Thunder Road. Then Covid-19 shut everything down on St. Patrick’s Day. Sadly, the pandemic forced the club to close permanently in late August.

“It was something more than just a residency, or a band doing their thing,” James said. “We had these people every week who were depending on us to not let them down musically … we would push the limits so they could have a new experience every week.”

The idea for a residency came to James after he went to New Orleans to study with pianist Jon Cleary, one of his idols.

“He’s trying out his new original music and playing classic New Orleans tunes, doing his own spin on it, and he’s staying relevant doing these residencies,” James said.

He went to see Cleary at Tipitina’s and a couple of his other regular gigs.

“When I got home I said, ‘I gotta get a residency,’” he said.

Neighbor hasn’t made a studio album surprising for a band sitting on a box set or two of material. Instead they found a path like Phish or the Grateful Dead, both clear influences.

“When more and more people started paying attention, tapers got more serious about videoing each show,” James said.

There are now hours and hours of live clips on YouTube, some shot with multiple cameras, and 25 live albums currently available.

James, a vintage equipment buff who plays a Hohner Clavinet at shows, likes to package up the disks.

“Digital is cool, but when you actually hold something it’s just that much more important,” he said, adding with a wry laugh, “even if it’s, you know, something dead people just love getting it, popping it in, and knowing where it came from.”

Granite State success was only a bit unexpected.

“The Neighbors say they want to keep it small, just for themselves, because they’re enjoying it so much; but they really do care about the growth of the band,” James said. “There happened to be a whole bunch of people in New Hampshire who got in on it … but I was a little surprised that the shows sold out so quick.”

Fortunately an upcoming Concord appearance at the Capital Arts Fest is free. Originally booked for Bank of NH Stage, the show was moved outdoors, in front of the Capitol Center for the Arts, just down the street.

James had to engage in last-minute negotiations with the promoters when he learned the expected length of Neighbor’s festival set one hour.

“I said, ‘That’s not OK; we need more time,’” he said, noting that the demand stunned the venue. “They said, ‘Honestly, you’re the first band that’s ever wanted to work longer.’ But people are going to be coming from Maine, Cape Cod and the South Shore … to come all that way for an hour? Seventy-five minutes is still a little short, but it just means we’re going to have to do something that much more special.”

James’ thought was a continuation of something he’d said earlier, while attempting to state the band’s mission.

“It’s to really get stars in people’s eyes, make them say, ‘Oh my God, this is interesting this isn’t just a show, this is something more,’” he said. “Getting the people involved is just so important for us.

Capital Arts Fest
Spend the first weekend of fall outdoors, browsing fine arts and crafts in downtown Concord while listening to live music from bands like Neighbor. The League of New Hampshire Craftsmen’s third annual Capital Arts Fest will take place Saturday, Sept. 26, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Sunday, Sept. 27, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Compared to last year’s event, which featured more than 70 craftsmen, this year’s festival will be smaller in scale, but Miriam Carter, executive director of the League, said the two dozen juried artists who are participating are eager to get out and interact with the public and showcase their work.
“People get to experience crafts on the street in a really wonderful way — maybe a different way, but still a wonderful way,” Carter said.
The difference this year, of course, is that the League will follow all of the city’s Covid-19 safety protocols, including its mask ordinance and social distancing guidelines, Carter said, with the tents set up 10 feet apart.
But there will still be all kinds of art and fine crafts to shop for, including jewelry, porcelain pottery, prints, mosaics, wood furniture, decorative and wearable fiber crafts, glass sculptures and more.
Carter said League member Stephen Procter, a potter who makes oversized clay pots that are several feet high, will be doing demonstrations throughout both days.
“He builds them in sections, and it’s really a fascinating process to see a large pot come together,” Carter said.
The artists will be set up outside the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen headquarters at 49 S. Main St., across from the Capitol Center for the Arts, which is sponsoring the live music that’s scheduled throughout both days of the festival.
“We’re just trying to adapt and find the silver lining in anything we do,” Carter said.

Capital Arts Fest Live Music Lineup
All shows will take place in front of the Capitol Center for the Arts, 44 S. Main St., Concord.

Saturday, Sept. 26
11 a.m. – Jordan Tirrell-Wysocki & Matt Jensen
1 p.m. – Don Campbell Band
3 p.m. – The Rebel Collective
7 p.m. – Neighbor

Sunday, Sept. 27
11 a.m. – Wellfleet
2 p.m. – Young Frontier

Featured photo: Neighbor. Courtesy photo.

The Music Roundup 20/09/24

Local music news & events

On course: When he’s not with the band 21st and 1st, Justin Jordan plays solo, covering rock, pop, country and soul hits — his take on Dustin Lynch’s “Middle of Nowhere” is particularly good, as is a stripped-down version of the Gin Blossoms’ “Found Out About You.” The outdoor music season continues while temperatures remain bearable (and portable heaters exist). Thursday, Sept. 24, 6 p.m., The Hills Restaurant, 50 Emerson Road, Milford, facebook.com/JustinJordanMusic.

McFly time: It’s an evening of Big Eighties music from Mullett, but the real star is a Delorean just like in Back to the Future, and the chance to post a ’gram photo next to it with a “Where we’re going, we don’t need roads” caption. Merch from the movie will be sold, with all profits going to Michael J. Fox’s Parkinson’s foundation. Friday, Sept. 25, 7 p.m., Cheshire Fairgrounds, 247 Monadnock Hwy., Swanzey. Tickets are $60 to $99 (up to five-person car pass) at drive-in-live.com.

Saddle up: A benefit concert for prostate cancer has Jimmy Lehoux Band’s “Northern Mind, Southern Soul” brand of country music, performing outdoors along the shores of the Merrimack River. Admission includes a craft beer from the brewery presenting the fourth annual event, dubbed “Giddy Up” with the admonition, “Take your health by the reins.” Saturday, Sept. 26, 4 p.m., Stark Brewing Co., 500 N. Commercial St., Manchester, tickets $20 at chillcares.org ($25 at the door).

Farm fun: A free concert featuring The Band Twenty Twenty, Brian Templeton and Stragglers Plea happens in a bucolic setting well-suited to changing seasons. The band topping the bill promises alt rock “bringing a message of hope even in life’s darkest moments,” along with organic produce and handcrafted food, a helpful message for right now. Sunday, Sept. 27, 1 p.m., Kennedy Hill Farm, 176 Kennedy Hill Road, Goffstown, facebook.com/TempletonFamilyOrganics.

Back home: When she moved to Nashville a few weeks back, Amanda McCarthy promised to return for a hometown gig. The NEMA-winning singer-songwriter is midway through her I’ll Be Back tour and playing a set at the downtown restaurant and bar where she started out as a professional musician. She has two more New England appearances before heading south again. Tuesday, Sept. 29, 7 p.m., Penuche’s Music Hall, 1087 Elm St., Manchester, facebook.com/amandamcmusic.

Antebellum (R) & Unpregnant (PG-13)

Antebellum (R)

Janelle Monáe gives a good performance in the murky, underdeveloped Antebellum.

I don’t think I can avoid spoiling some of this movie’s plot. As others have noted, Antebellum takes 35-ish minutes to tell you something that you know going in if you have seen its trailers (which IndieWire says were first released in November 2019). If you want to see Antebellum innocent of spoilers, my advice is to wait for it to be cheaper than $19.99 to rent; despite the strong central performance by Monáe, there are a lot of elements to this movie that just don’t gel for me. I mean, that’s my advice for everybody but skip the rest of this if you don’t want to know more.

The spoilers start with the main character’s name. When we first see Janelle Monáe’s character, a man tortures her to get her to say her name is Eden. It is actually, we later learn, Veronica. Veronica is trapped at a plantation where violent men in Confederate uniforms run weird “military” drills and otherwise spend their time forcing captives (a few dozen people maybe, all African American, I think) to pick cotton and not talk. The only “civilians” here are Elizabeth (Jena Malone) — the daughter of the plantation’s owner (Eric Lange) and the wife, probably, of a “soldier” (Jack Huston) — and her young daughter.

This opening third of the movie drops details that suggest what we finally learn when we get to a flashback: Veronica is a present-day, successful and well-known author and speaker about race and gender. She engages in the familiar struggle to balance her family life, with her husband (Marque Richardson) and their young daughter (London Boyce), with her career which occasionally takes her away from home. We see her travel to a conference to speak and promote her book and then enjoy a dinner with friends (Gabourey Sidibe, who is So Fun here, and Lily Cowles). Her success affords her luxuries — a private yoga trainer, a high-end hotel suite — but it doesn’t shield her from racism, such as a brief encounter with a weirdly hostile hotel clerk or dismissive treatment at a restaurant.

So, persistent and pervasive racism in the modern day; a nightmarishly horrifying race-based system of enslavement from the past. The movie presents these two things (in detail) but I’m not sure what it’s saying about how they connect: maybe that the human evil that allowed for the horrors of the past isn’t gone but just barely hidden, still peeking out in small ways and waiting to be reanimated? Something like that? We get terrible evil and workaday evil but the wires between the two don’t completely connect, the “thoughts and ideas” element doesn’t illuminate and come to life. Because this movie graphically portrays the violence and despair of slavery, I felt like it needs to say something clearly, something beyond just “this is bad” and “the perpetrators are evil” (and “the perpetrators” as presented are either “these bad guys in this narrow outlandish circumstance” or “those bad people long ago” which prevents the movie from saying something more pointed about race in modern America). Slavery is a cataclysm that our country is still grappling with (and not) in key life-and-death ways but here it’s ultimately the backdrop for standard horror story beats.

Monáe’s brings more to this movie than seems to be on the page. We dive right into her character when she is in the middle of the nightmare situation. She says and does things that make sense at the time you’re watching them and more sense later on and hang together with the Veronica we meet in the flashback. It’s a demonstration of what a strong actress Monáe is and how good she is at portraying a whole complex person in small moments.

I feel like this movie wants to sit on the shelf with “horror but more” movies like Get Out and The Invisible Man and present itself as art that talks about race and gender while giving us a scary story. But this movie doesn’t deliver on the “more.” C+

Rated R for disturbing violent content, language and sexual references, according to the MPA on filmratings.com. Written and directed by Gerard Bush and Christopher Renz, Antebellum is an hour and 45 minutes long and is distributed by Lionsgate. It is available for rental for $19.99.

Unpregnant (PG-13)

Two friends hit the road in search of an abortion clinic in Unpregnant, a sweet road trip comedy.

Seventeen-year-old Veronica (Haley Lu Richardson) finds out she’s pregnant. She can’t tell her group of best friends — or her very Catholic parents — for fear of their reactions. She tells her boyfriend, Kevin (Alex MacNicoll), but his response is to propose — and tell her too belatedly about a mishap with their birth control. Helpfully, though, he does give her a ring, which she pawns to help fund her planned-to-the-minute, two-and-a-half-day trip to New Mexico, the location of the closest clinic open to parentally-unaccompanied teenagers for this Missouri resident. But she needs a car and someone to be with her at the clinic.

Enter Bailey (Barbie Ferreira).

Bailey and Veronica were once best friends but had a falling out before high school. Bailey happened to walk into the girls bathroom just as Veronica learned the results of her pregnancy test and she owns a car. Despite their difficulties, Veronica feels Bailey is the only person she can get help from. The two set out on Friday night with Veronica having carefully scheduled a trip that will get them back by Sunday night, with her parents never knowing where she was. Naturally, things very quickly go awry.

Bailey and Veronica have a friendship that reminded me a lot of the Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever friendship in Booksmart (and the Richardson and Hailee Steinfeld friendship in The Edge of Seventeen, which is the first place I think I saw Richardson, who continues to be an extremely promising young actress). I appreciated how this movie, like those movies, gets to some of what can pull close female friendships apart in their teens, as they’re figuring out who they are and how to deal with the world around them, but then also how nobody is the onehigh school stereotype they appear to be.

The girls’ relationship takes this movie to a really sweet place, which both is and isn’t jarring with the core story of a girl needing an abortion and a system that has turned a health care situation into an adventure quest. Never Rarely Sometimes Always, the excellent and terrifying movie from earlier this year with roughly the same story line, is the too-real dramatic version of this tale. There, the girls’ money woes and the distance they need to travel heighten the constant danger. Watching that movie was an edge-of-your-seat anxiety trip that I am happy to discuss (say, at Oscar season!) but don’t think I want to experience again. Here, there are money woes and long-distance travel and some of the people are still jerks but there’s a lightness (the problems are often setups for comedy situations; the girls also meet good people along the way) and a sunniness as the girls’ friendship is rekindled. And yet, both movies end up at a well-crafted indictment of the political situation that makes the premises possible. All that and Giancarlo Esposito singing a few bars of “Since You’ve Been Gone”? HBOMax earns its keep for another month. B

Rated PG-13 for mature thematic content, sexual content, strong language and some drug references, according to the MPA on filmratings.com. Directed by Rachel Lee Goldenberg with a screenplay by Rachel Lee Goldenberg, Bill Parker, Jenni Hendriks, Jennifer Kaytin Robinson and Ted Caplan (based on a novel by the same name by Hendriks and Caplan), Unpregnant is an hour and 43 minutes long and is distributed by Warner Brothers Pictures and is available on HBOMax

The Dynasty

The Dynasty, by Jeff Benedict (Avid Reader Press, 528 pages)

To hell with Tom Brady. The real GOAT is Robert Kraft. That is the only conclusion that can be drawn from The Dynasty, Jeff Benedict’s exhaustive examination of the Kraft-Belichick-Brady era. There is nothing more to be written, at least not about things that happened in Foxborough before the Dumpster fire that is 2020.

I came to the book as a skeptic, wondering if the world really needed another 500 pages about the Patriots, even by as accomplished a writer as Benedict, whose 2018 biography of Tiger Woods was achingly good.

But yes, of course we did.

Tiger Woods was a compelling portrait of a complicated figure (we gave it an A-) and read like an insider account of the famed golfer’s life even though Benedict and his co-author Armen Keteyian were unable to interview the principals of the story: Woods, his mother and his former wife, and his late father.

In The Dynasty, however, Benedict had access to many of his subjects, to include Robert and Jonathan Kraft, Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Roger Goodell, and Brady’s predecessor, Drew Bledsoe. Notably absent from the acknowledgements is Belichick, but Benedict, as it turned out, didn’t need no gruff, reticent Belichick. He began work on the book two years before Brady obscenely said “I’m not going anywhere” in a Super Bowl commercial, and then a month later, announced that he was going somewhere after all. (Not that I’m bitter.)

It turned out to be exquisite timing for an explain-all book, which poignantly concludes with Brady’s socially distanced visit to Kraft’s home in which he tells the Patriots owner he’s leaving, and then makes the call to Belichick, with Kraft standing over him like a parent insistent that a child call the grandparent to say thank you for the birthday gift.

That scene, while no doubt fundamentally true, raises my only complaint about this sort of book, which attempts to wed the narrative grace of a novel with the rude reality of events long since past. That said, Benedict’s narrative, ably blended with sportswriter-styled quotes from his myriad sources, carries the reader comfortably through 20 years of dynasty building and earlier than that, to the roots of Robert Kraft’s obsession with the team that was then called the Boston Patriots.

In fact, this book could have honestly borne the title Robert Kraft, as it is an ode to the businessman who used to take his young sons to see the Boston Patriots play, over his wife’s objections. (“The games are on Sunday. The boys have to go to Hebrew school on Sunday.”) Kraft would dutifully deliver his sons to Hebrew school, but handwrite notes to the teachers each week, asking that they be dismissed for a “family commitment.” Then he’d pick them up in a dark green Porsche (his paper-production business already doing well by then), with a brown paper bag full of sub sandwiches: “two corned beef and two roast beef with mustard.” Excellent parenting, that, and also excellent attention to detail, the hallmark of Benedict writing.

He goes on to walk us, courtside, through Kraft’s astonishing quest to acquire the team, which was not a snap decision or mere privilege of wealth, but an obsessive, strategic hunt that wasn’t so much a plan but a scheme. The story of how he acquired rights to the parking lots and to the stadium, putting the team under his control when he didn’t own the team, is fascinating, as is his patience. Pats fans are now accustomed to seeing Kraft and son Jonathan sitting in the owners’ box at Gillette, looking like models for GQ, but it’s doubtful that many understand what it took for them to get there.

Benedict clearly has enormous respect for the Krafts and the organization they built, but he doesn’t shy away from the generous supply of controversies that have accumulated over the years, from the locker-room scandal involving Boston Herald writer Lisa Olson in 1990, to Robert Kraft’s arrest for soliciting prostitution in 2019. (A court recently ruled that the prosecution’s video was inadmissible as evidence, so this will likely go away.) That said, he doesn’t dwell on it. The charges are mentioned in a seven-page epilogue in which Benedict neatly summarizes the events of the past year. The book’s real conclusion is the celebration after the Patriots trounced the Rams in Super Bowl LIII, when Robert and Jonathan Kraft, Brady, Belichick and Goodell all stood on the stage. “When they met in 2000, Belichick was a young father and Brady was fresh out of college. Now Belichick was a grandfather and Brady was a middle-aged dad. The sports world had watched them grow old together through the prism of football. ‘We’re still here,’ Belichick told Jim Nantz,” Benedict writes.

Well, two of them still are. (Not that I’m bitter.) As a Boston sportscaster wisely said earlier this year after Brady signed with the Bucs, “If it doesn’t end badly, it doesn’t end.” In spring it looked as “the dynasty” was over, and Benedict writes with a sense of finality. In fact, the dynasty could thunder on without Brady, depending on how Cam Newton performs. Regardless, The Dynasty will stand as the definitive account of an extraordinary era, and it’s a pleasure to read. A

Amid the mounds of words that will be written about Ruth Bader Ginsburg this week, those most worthy of our time are the words written by the late Supreme Court justice herself.
My Own Words, released in 2016, is a compilation of writing and speeches by Ginsburg, assembled by Mary Hartnett and Wendy W. Williams (Simon & Schuster, 400 pages; also paperback released in 2018).
It’s a whimsical selection including an editorial Ginsburg wrote for her high school newspaper and a letter to the editor on the subject of wiretapping, published in the Cornell Daily Sun, as well as her Rose Garden acceptance speech and her dissenting opinions. For other good RBG titles, see supremecourtgifts.org, run by the Supreme Court Historical Society.
For those weary of politics, blessedly, there are sports — all of them, concurrently: baseball, football, basketball, hockey, tennis, golf. For those listless moments between games, publishing has us covered with these titles:
Three-Ring Circus by Jeff Pearlman, out this week, is a look at another dynasty, the L.A. Lakers from 1996 to 2004, with emphasis on the fight club that was Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant with Phil Jackson as the man in the middle (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 448 pages).
Pass It On by Deshaun Watson appears to be an inspirational book from the Houston Texans quarterback (its subtitle: Work Hard, Serve Others, Repeat) because, of course, nothing qualifies a person to write books as does being an NFL quarterback. Cue The TB12 Method. (Thomas Nelson, 224 pages.)
The Captain is a new memoir from former Mets player Dave Wright (Dutton, 368 pages).
New in paperback for those of you who aren’t bitter: 12: Tom Brady and His Battle for Redemption by Casey Sherman and Dave Wedge. This was originally published in hardcover in 2018 but has been updated with recent events for the paperback release (Back Bay Books, 352 pages).
Tales from the Seattle Seahawks Sideline by Steve Raible and Mike Sando — no, never mind. That one hurts.

Featured photo: The Dynasty by Jeff Benedict

Album Reviews 20/09/24

Clan of Xymox, Spider on the Wall (Metropolis Records)

This Dutch goth-rock outfit, originally comprising three songwriters, is nowadays down to one prime mover, Ronny Moorings, who’s been at the helm since, well, forever now, the early 1990s. After some success on the 4AD and Polydor labels, including a whopping one hit single, the recipe still remains an obvious, if wonderfully chosen, one, namely a combination of ’80s-pop and darkwave. To wit: this album’s opener “She” re-imagines Skinny Puppy’s hard grinding “Assimilate” as an early Cure single, which pretty much sums up the aforementioned styles at work here, but, of course, if you’re a Gen Xer who grew up on a strict diet of New Wave, you might think the tune is the single most innovative joint you’ve ever heard. I mean, I don’t hate this stuff at all; Moorings has a fetish for the ’80s, and that, coupled with his melodically genial approach, makes for some highly listenable, slightly-edgy-but-not-really stuff, mostly echoing the soundtrack from the first Fright Night. No, seriously, it’s a 40something’s dream, trust me. A

The White Swan, Nocturnal Transmission (Self-released)

Well, this is delightful, a sludge-metal thingie with female vocals. With their super-slow-mo bliss-drone, Sunn(((O))) forged a path for doom bands (don’t let’s get pedantic, I realize those guys aren’t trying to be Black Sabbath, whatever) to try new things, and this one totally works, more in the vein of a sort of Kyuss-vs.-Boris deal, with Kittie’s Mercedes Lander covering drums and vocals. Thankfully, Lander isn’t trying to caterwaul her way into metal history; her singing here is no-nonsense, melodic and powerful, more than fitting for the swampy, epic quicksand going on underneath — think a handful of Tyrannosaurs fighting as they sink into a tar pit. For doom-heads, you’d want to start with the title track of this EP, as eventually Shane Jeffers drops a Nile-reminiscent guitar solo onto your heads, proving that the band is capable of a lot more than blasting listeners with fast-acting noise-goop. No, this is definitely a band band, and hopefully they continue with this project. A

Retro Playlist

More and more every day, it seems that anything that came from The Time Before The Coronavirus ignites nostalgic passion in our hearts. I already loved old stuff to begin with, even before all this. The over-dried, mummified smell of estate sale wares always makes me hesitate to unload the car after we come back with a haul; I want the scent to sink into the upholstery. On this page I’ve chatted plenty about really old music, too, which is still my go-to choice in the car. The oldest CD I have is some marching music from the 1910s; the album’s buried somewhere in these catacombs, and I can’t remember who the bandleader was, but I do know he played the cornet, a sturdy, trumpet-like brass instrument that was big in those days.

I’ve name-checked Lead Belly plenty of times here, the early 1900s Black singer from whom Led Zeppelin pilfered plenty of material, including my favorite Zep song, “Gallows Pole.” But Zep wasn’t the only crazily famous band to have drawn inspiration from the blues legend; George Harrison once said “No Lead Belly, no Beatles.” A two-CD set of his old recordings, Masterworks Volumes 1 & 2, can be had on Amazon for 17 bucks.

Today there are plenty of artists working to revive older sounds, like Carolina Chocolate Drops nationally, and, to some extent of scope, Bitter Pill locally. Nine years ago this past week, I told you about Red Heart the Ticker, the husband-and-wife team of Tyler Gibbons and Robin MacArthur, who received a grant from the Vermont Arts Council to record an album called Your Name in Secret I Would Write, meant to preserve a collection of obscure New England folk songs made of “broke-down waltzes and Stephen Foster-esque wordplay” that would have become extinct forever if MacArthur’s grandmother hadn’t passed them along to her while on her deathbed.

Yeah, gimme the oldies any day.


A seriously abridged compendium of recent and future CD releases

• Some long-overdue good news: the next general CD-release Friday date is Sept. 25, and in honor of this horrible, dreadful, worst-year-ever being three-fourths over, I will be as cool as I possibly can to the new Will Butler album, Generations, which will street on this glorious Friday. Will is the brother of Win Butler, the human responsible for much of what Arcade Fire has done to us all, with their hayloft-indie music records, and the video for Will’s new single, “Surrender,” is OK for what it is, some borderline Baptist-choir singalong-ing by two nice hipster ladies over harmless, kid-safe Aughts-rock molded to the same kind of beat as Iggy Pop’s “Lust For Life,” which used to play every single time I went into Toys R Us to try to find a cool Batmobile for my desk. The song has that Arcade Fire feel, and the video is OK, except some of them are wearing ski caps in warm weather. What’s with the ski caps in warm weather, millennials? Please explain, so that my next rage comic will have some context.

• Indie-folk anomaly Sufjan Stevens fooled everybody once with his “50 States Project,” an idea that was supposed to be a set of albums focused on all 50 states but that turned into only two states, Michigan and Illinois. Remember that one, and how he said it was a promotional gimmick? I didn’t honestly care myself, considering that no one would have bought an album called South Dakota anyway, so whatever. His new full-length, The Ascension, will be out in a day or so, featuring the 12-minute song “America,” which I don’t like at all, like, it sounds like an old reject acid-trip song from 10 CC that didn’t make it onto one of their albums: slow, trippy psychedelica with backward-masked synth-noise and one part that sounds like slow math-rock. I don’t get it, which, as always, means that it’s possible you’ll think it’s the most awesome song ever, but I shall not judge.

• As everyone know, the coolest thing ever to have come out of Sacramento, California, is the alternative metal band Deftones, whose most famous song, the Nine Inch Nails-like “Change (In the House of Flies),” was heard on such movie soundtracks as Little Nicky and Queen of the Damned. The band’s new album, Ohms, their ninth, is on the way, led by the title track, released as a single a couple of weeks ago. It is, of course, awesome, a cross between Sabbath, High On Fire and Soundgarden, and — what, you’re still here? Why are you not off listening to this awesome song?

• To close things out we have even more awesomeness, specifically Public Enemy’s 15th album, What You Gonna Do When The Grid Goes Down. The single is “State Of The Union (STFU),” a song powered by one of their relentlessly pounding signature beats. It is so awesome you will literally crack in half if you’re not worthy, so I advise you to please be worthy.

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