POST-GOLDEN AGE WESTERNS….A HANDY TEN

The “Golden Age” of the Hollywood western is generally conceded to have stretched from 1946 to 1962. It’s bounded by the respective releases of John Ford’s My Darling Clementine in the former year* and Ford’s The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and Sam Peckinpah’s Ride the High Country in the latter.

Based on the films each man released in ’62, the hand-off from Ford to Peckinpah should have been a natural one. What happened instead was what we like to call The Sixties.

All that’s beyond the scope of what I’m after here, which is simply to suggest some films for viewing that, taken together, make up an impressive legacy of their own. Call them markers on a trail to what might have been…

The Shooting (1966)
D. Monte Hellman

Harrowing. This film is as unsettling as In a Lonely Place…perhaps more so, because it doesn’t have Humphrey Bogart’s, or even Gloria Grahame’s, level of star power to supply a set of foundational assumptions. With this and Ride in the Whirlwind, Hellman invented what came to be called Acid Westerns. That’s a ridiculous moniker (did anyone think to call Lonely Place Acid Noir? As though it’s destabilizing qualities were merely hallucinatory? Thought not.) When Warren Oates is the stable one, you’re in another land alright. But it’s one that could only be reached through the gateway of the western–not a pill. Next to this, the best spaghetti westerns and The Wild Bunch look silly and ham-handed. Not to mention light-hearted.

Hombre (1966)
D. Martin Ritt

Strong by any standard. One of Newman’s signature “H” movies (The Hustler, Hud, Harper) and perhaps the best. Not least because his character has no redeeming quality except that he’s right. This is Stagecoach turned into a nightmare. One where the characters never quite wake up. It wouldn’t surprise me to learn that Martin Ritt (who made an awful lot of good movies for a guy who doesn’t get talked about much) watched a lot of Boetticher-Scott westerns somewhere along the way. Or maybe Elmore Leonard (who wrote the source material for this and Boetticher’s The Tall T–as here, Richard Boone played the villain) just brought certain qualities out of people.

True Grit (1969)
D. Henry Hathaway

Don’t sleep on this one just because John Wayne’s Oscar winning performance is larger than life even by his standards or because there’s been a fine remake. Kim Darby is still the definitive Mattie Ross. George MacDonald Fraser’s assertion that the line readings throughout are the closest we’ll ever have to hearing Victorian western speech as it was actually spoken makes it plain this is a window into a lost world. Charles Portis’ source novel provided dozens of memorable lines…and Marguerite Roberts’ script added a few more, without missing a beat. I still wish they had kept Portis’ ending, but everything else is in place. For Wayne and Darby and a host of fine characterizations (Strother Martin and Robert Duval are especially memorable) it will always be worth revisiting.

Bad Company (1972)
D. Robert Benton

One of the best roles Jeff Bridges ever had while he quietly went about being the best actor of his generation. Here, he and an equally effective Barry Brown are green as grass Civil War draft-dodgers heading west….and finding out maybe marching off the war wouldn’t have been such a bad idea after all. Bridges’ brand of American innocence is even funnier–and warmer–in a western setting. It’s a shame he didn’t come along twenty years earlier, when he might have made a dozen of these.

Ulzana’s Raid (1972)
D. Robert Aldrich

Aldrich and star Burt Lancaster had been players in the Golden Age and even made a couple of fine westerns together (Apache and the wonderful Vera Cruz, with Gary Cooper). This gave them an opportunity to raise their game and they were more than up to the task. Lancaster was never better than as a grizzled scout trying to help a green lieutenant (a superbly callow, but learning fast, Bruce Davison), track down a renegade Apache band and perhaps even live to tell the tale. This might be seen as re-revisionist western–a kind of answer film to Arthur Penn’s misguided Little Big Man, which had perverted Thomas Berger’s great novel from comedy into parody, and presented the warrior cultures of the Plains Indians (in that case the Cheyenne, who held the U.S. Cavalry at bay for forty years) as peace loving flower children. No one, at least, will emerge from watching Ulzana’s Raid for the first or twentieth time under any misapprehension that Apaches would have been at home in the Age of Aquarius….or welcomed hippies into their own age.

The Shootist (1976)
D. Don Siegel

A setup to be sure. John Wayne, cancer victim and last of the Golden Age cowboys, playing John Bernard Books, cancer victim and last of the Old West gunfighters. But, with the great Don Siegel (like Martin Ritt, an underappreciated pro’s pro) at the helm, an impeccable cast (Lauren Bacall, Ron Howard, James Stewart, Richard Boone–one could go on) and a lean, well-measured script, it defies expectations and transcends its own nostalgia. It self-consciously echoes a hundred westerns, none more than Shane. Except this time, the gunfighter does not ride out of the valley. And it isn’t clear what he has done for Civilization–except represent the best of what it inevitably washes away.

The Quick and the Dead (1987)
D. Robert Day

In the eighties, the western was represented most ably on television, with adaptations of Louis L’Amour (usually starring either Sam Eiliott or Tom Selleck) leading the way. This and the Selleck vehicle, Crossfire Trail, are my own favorites and can stand for the lot–fine westerns that might not have stood out in the Golden Age, but certainly would have held their own. Elliott and Selleck, both excellent, are a wash and Crossfire Trail gave Wilfred Brimley the role of a lifetime. Still, I’m giving this one the edge because it has a slightly more expansive story and a fine performance by the always under-utilized Kate Capshaw, as an eastern woman adapting to the mindset of the frontier more rapidly  than her husband (an equally good Tom Conti), in part because she grasps how vulnerable any woman (let alone one as fetching as Kate Capshaw) is in a land where the law is what you make it.

Lonesome Dove (Miniseries) (1989)
D. Simon Wincer

Speaking of television….This epic mini-series blew the doors open when it first aired. There was serious talk of the western being revived in a way that hasn’t really occurred since. And it’s all that. None of the fine cast were ever better, and, though the story is an old one (it’s about a cattle drive after all), the mini-series length gave Tommy Lee Jones and Robert Duval, among others, a scope rarely afforded elsewhere. They took full advantage. The effect on Duval’s career was unfortunate. He’s satisfied himself with playing old coots ever since, with markedly diminishing returns. Jones didn’t get his mojo back until he learned to laugh at himself in the Men in Black series. But that doesn’t diminish what they did here, in the company of the strongest female cast to appear in any western (again, the length matters)–Anjelica Huston, Diane Lane, Glenne Headly, all superb. The other volumes in the Lonesome Dove series are good, especially Streets of Laredo, with James Garner and Sissy Spacek taking over the Jones and Lane roles (and being everything you would expect from those two). I also recommend Larry McMurtry’s source books. But the space opened up here has never been filled by anything else, making it, in its own way, as epic as anything done by the old masters.

Appaloosa (2008)
D. Ed Harris

An entertaining, if troubling, update on the town-taming ethos. The set up is similar to Warlock, Edward Dmytryk’s entertaining, if troubling, take on the town-taming ethos from 1959. I like Appaloosa better. The story is tighter, the grim psychology more relentless and logical. And there’s a rare good middle-age role for Renee Zellweger. Those who worry about the western (or any action) genre bleeding into fascism will not be comforted, but not being comforted is a symptom of the concerned citizen and you could spend your life worrying about subjects a lot less worthy of your time and attention. And I’m normally not big on actors directing, but Ed Harris does a lovely, understated job here. No fancy camera tricks, just straight, non-nonsense storytelling that lets the good actors (including himself) do their thing.

True Grit (2010)
D. Joel and Ethan Coen

It feels a little odd to include both versions of True Grit on such a small list. Thee are other worthy candidates even if I did leave off spaghetti westerns (God help me, I do like Sergio Leone), Peckinpah (I like several of his later westerns, including, until the end, The Wild Bunch–that’s the part that excites a lot of people but seems to me senseless bluster), or spoofs (highly recommend the Kennedy/Garner Support duo and Waterhole #3).

But I can’t choose between them and I certainly can’t leave them both off. This has the advantage of great atmosphere and sticks reasonably close to Portis’ story and language. Jeff Bridges proves again that a lot was lost when he didn’t get to make more westerns. Matt Damon acquits himself well. Hailee Steinfeld makes for a compelling contrast to Kim Darby’s Mattie Ross and gives the role her own stamp–maybe proving that, like Rooster Cogburn, Mattie’s just a great character, open to a wide array of interpretations. And the Coens more or less restored the book’s ending, pulling the punch only slightly by not having the older Mattie recite the entire last paragraph of the novel, which gets my vote for the finest ending of any American novel. It was a hit and, once more, there was talk of reviving the western. There always will be such talk–the western is in our DNA. But if we have to live with what we have, it’s still a lifetime investment getting to know the best of it. If you want to take that journey, everything here is worth adding to your list.

**NOTE: Howard Hawks’ Red River was shot in 1946 but not released until 1948. According to one of the film’s stars, Joanne Dru, the main reason was trouble in the editing room, resolved when Hawks sought Ford’s advice (Ford did not, so far as I know, do any actual editing but made some key suggestions). Hawks later admitted to Peter Bogdanovich that Ford was always in his head anyway. I mention it only to illustrate that Ford was always in everybody’s head. Regarding anyone who’s up to any good, he still is, even if they’ve never heard of him.

 

BEFORE I GET LEFT BEHIND….

The thirty-five months that have passed since Donald Trump announced he was running for president have made me almost regret I didn’t start a political blog on the spot. I say “almost” because it would have meant giving up this blog and any chance of writing or publishing fiction, plus attracting a bunch of abuse from “partisans” and other weirdos (probably from both ends–I’m that kind of guy when it comes to Politics).

Still, once in a while I find myself wondering why neither the media nor the host of political blogs/twitter feeds I follow on a regular basis have managed to notice something.

To that end, it was interesting to come across a story today (from Kim Strassel in the Wall Street Journal–sorry it wasn’t behind a pay wall but now it is, so I’m not linking) that was the first to suggest something I’ve assumed was obvious for at least a year: That the FBI planted someone inside the Trump campaign in 2016.

I even have a pretty good idea of who that someone has to be–I’m not saying the name, though, because I don’t want to impugn the integrity of anyone on the basis of a gut feeling when there’s even a slim chance they might be innocent. Let’s just say that, if his name comes up again, I’ll refer back to this moment. And, if I’m wrong and it’s someone else, I’ll happily admit I’m wrong.

I assume that some reporters (including Strassel) can put two and two together as well as I can, though, and are holding back on publishing the obvious name for the same reason I am (well that and libel laws).

I just hope they aren’t holding back on actual reporting.

Because I’d really hate to think the only reason the new era’s muckrakers aren’t eager to track down the FBI’s mole in the Trump campaign (or White House?) is because, in an age when every major “news” organization must at least be suspected of being an intelligence asset, they’re not too sure who their editor works for (and that would certainly not exclude the WSJ, as fiercely anti-Trump as any other news organization, right up until the moment they figured out he had a chance to win).

I mean, that’d be depressing….

ALL IS FORGIVEN….

Anyone who has been around here for a while knows I go back and forth on Greil Marcus. I don’t always agree with anybody, but I’ve mostly called him out when I thought he stepped on his own tongue. And I’ve called him out more than anyone else because I always find him interesting even when my disagreement is vehement.

From his website’s mailbag of 5/8/18, though, (and in response to a question about early seventies’ soul groups no less) there’s this:

I don’t think any Hall of Fame argument has merit when Joan Jett, who is a small-time but effectively self-promoting mediocrity, is in and the Shangri-Las are not.  It’s a matter of how you judge it. Kiss and Joan Jett, not to mention Patti Smith, are in the HoF because of their overwhelming influence on other people. I consider that a false standard. I think people ought to be judged on their own work, and that to consider uninteresting and self-promoting people important because of their influence on people who are even less interesting than than they are is absurd. Patti Smith is genuinely a hero to countless people for many good reasons. I once was one of her opening acts, was essentially kicked off the stage because I was taking up too much time (what I had been asked to do), was as angry as I could be, and then she came on, and after a few minutes I was humbled that I had actually been on the same stage as she was. Did she define what rock ‘n’ roll is and what it could be, and even what it should be? Maybe. Perhaps definitely. But you can’t even begin to raise that question about the Shangri-Las—they did what all of the people I’ve mentioned did, did it with more depth, and it’s almost irrelevant that they did it first.

That’s much further than anyone of Marcus’ stature has ever gone on behalf of the Shangri-Las, regarding the Hall of Fame or anything else.

Seeing the Shangri-Las in the Hall is one of about four things that have to happen before I can die happy.

But I don’t need that to say this: Believe me, all is forgiven…until next time!

 

THE TURNING POINT (Monthly Book Report: 4/18)

High Tide at Gettysburg: The Campaign in Pennsylvania (1958)
Glenn Tucker

The only book i finished in April was Glenn Tucker’s High Tide at Gettysburg, which I quoted from a couple of times along the way.

I could have quoted a lot more. Tucker’s history of the most important battle in American history yielded insights on nearly every page, even to a long time student of both the battle and the Civil War. The author was Indiana born and raised, spent his career as a Yankee journalist, and retired to North Carolina in the late forties to concentrate on writing history.

I mention his biography because this particular book could be accused of having a pro-Southern bias, especially in our current climate. Tucker is as prone to romanticizing southern gallantry and courage on the battlefield as some actual southerners have been. Here as elsewhere, it’s more a matter of tilting perspectives a bit, as opposed to cheering for one side over the other.

That said, it wasn’t enough to impede my enjoyment of Tucker’s account. If you want a concise, well-written, relatively brief but comprehensive, account of a subject everyone should know at least a little about, you could hardly do better.

As an example of Tucker’s grasp of the blend of events, gossip and coverage that go into making History what it is–including his own–here’s his take on a little known aspect of the Third Day at Gettysburg (and why it is little known):

Members of Davis’ brigade, this company was part of he regiment that pursued Cutler’s men north of the railroad cutting on the first day of the battle. The point of farthest advance was established–at least to the content of the North Carolinians, and the apparent satisfaction of the Gettysburg battlefield authorities of that day–when Lieutenant T.D. Falls, of Fallstown, Cleveland County, North Carolina, and Sergeant Augustus Whitley, of Everitts, in Martin County, visited the terrain, made affidavits about the point they had reached, and had it marked by the Gettysburg Commission. This testimony, according to Adjutant Charles M. Cooke, of the 55th, had other corroboration.

Taken with the advance of Lane and D.H. Hill in the pre-Manassas affair on the Peninsula, and the fact that Cox’s brigade fired the final round of the Army of Northern Virginia, this bold feat of the 55th Regiment went to establish North Carolina’s most cherished tradition of its part in the Confederate War: “First at Bethel, farthest at Gettysburg and last at Appomattox.”

Unhappily for the North Carolinians, the principal press accounts of the battle were from the Richmond correspondents. In one of the first conspicuous dispatches to the Enquirer, Pettigrew’s (North Carolina) command, containing some of the staunchest veteran regiments of the army, was termed “raw troops” and Pickett’s defeat was attributed to Pettigrew’s “faltering.” North Carolina has not yet recovered.

Against that gimlet-eyed view of the means and motives of nineteenth century Fake News, here is Tucker’s account of one of the battle’s most poignant anecdotes:

When the results were reviewed, it was recognized that Culp’s Hill had been the scene of some of the most determined, sanguinary fighting of the war. Geary always thought that the main battle of Gettysburg was won by Meade’s army on Culp’s Hill. (called by the Confederates “The Hill of Death.”)

Kane’s brigade found 500 dead Confederates in its front. Somewhere among them was a squat little man, Wesley Culp, a private in Company B, 2nd Virginia, of the Stonewall Brigade. He was twenty-four and because he was only five feet tall, Colonel Douglas had had a special gun made for him. Where he fell he could look at the house where he was born. Like Henry Wentz, he had gone to Virginia to sell Gettysburg carriages and Southern eyes made him stay.

No one who appreciates those two descriptions of lost causes–the public cause of a battle unit’s reputation and the private cause of a young man killed fighting with an enemy army to capture his father’s land at what was, literally, the Confederacy’s high tide–would be remiss in adding this little volume to any list of a completist’s interest in this, or any, “high tide.”

Same for anyone who knows nothing and is looking for a place to begin learning.

A LITTLE SUNDAY READING….

David Cantwell has a piece in Rolling Stone celebrating the fortieth anniversary of a landmark year in country music. Most of the albums he recommends challenge or overturn that era’s conventional marketing categories…all while yielding big hits–most becoming staples. Based on the half I have in my collection and what I’ve heard of the others, I (as usual) heartily endorse his choices.

My only nit to pick is his preference for Bonnie Raitt’s version of “Angel From Montgomery” over Tanya Tucker’s….them’s fightin’ words!

Against that, and what really matters, a thousand times yes on Jeannie Kendall…

TO THE SECURITY STATE…EVERY LAST RAT IN EVERY LAST RATHOLE (Late Night Dedication)

On the occasion of more “resignations” at FBI (following “demotions” and “firings” that have bled the agency’s top management for months–most at the behest of Obama appointed Inspector General Michael Horowitz), and a Federal Judge rebuking former FBI head Robert Mueller’s team for “lying about the scope of the investigation” into Trump fixer Paul Manafort which, you will be shocked to learn, is not really about Manafort’s ten-year-old fraud cases (which couldn’t have been new news even to Robert Mueller).

The judge, who had previously deemed Manafort a serious flight risk, was also a bit perturbed to discover that Mueller is using a warrant obtained in an FBI counterintelligence operation to pursue criminal prosecutions.

Apparently, that’s a no-no. Abuse of power or something.

What? By a Special Prosecutor who used to head the FBI? Say it ain’t so.

I haven’t quite been able to credit it before–and there’s a long way to go–but the Security State is, for the moment, back on its heels. The Trump administration, boxing from the shadows for a year-and-a-half, has now surpassed Jimmy Carter’s mass firing at Langley in the late 70s, and become the most serious threat to the real government behind the shadow puppets we elect every 2 to 4 years since John Kennedy threatened to smash the CIA in the early 60s.

We all know how it worked out for Kennedy and Carter…And Donald Trump might not be bound by whatever moral or legal constraints those men would have recognized should he, unlike them, emerge victorious.

So I ‘m not dancing a jig. We must all be careful what we wish for and one thing thirty-five years of knowing who’s really in charge has taught me is to trust no one.

But I am watching the dread institutions who must be disbanded before any other progress can be made–CIA, FBI, NSA, DNI, etc.–circle the drain.

As a fan of Liberal Democracy, who does not accept that free people need spy services, secret police forces or star chambers, I’d take a final flushing over Peace in Our Time, 2 percent Real Unemployment, a Balanced Budget, or a 30,000 Dow Average every day of the week and twice on Sunday.

Hey, I can dream, can’t I?

Here’s to you, boys….and to stomping roaches.

 

DIAMONDS IN THE SHADE (Soul Brothers Six Up)

“Some Kind of Wonderful”
Soul Brothers Six (1967)
Billboard: #91
Recommended source: In Yo’ Face Vol 1/2 (Okay, this set is great beyond belief. But, unless you’ve got something juicy on Donald Trump you can sell to the former FBI director of your choice, I’m not recommending you pay the $172.00 it’s going for on Amazon right now!…It’s one I’ve got, though, and I do hope you can find it cheap some day.)

They were the Soul Brothers Five at first. Five actual brothers out of Rochester, New York, trying to do an Isleys sort of thing in the mid-sixties. They didn’t have a Ronnie Isley in the family so, soon enough, they had to hook up with a lead singer, which was how they came to be fronted by the great John Ellison.

And the rest was history!

Well, except they didn’t have too much success, not even after Jerry Wexler ran across them in Buffalo and was impressed enough to bring them down state to Atlantic records. They were a band, not just a vocal group–though I haven’t found a yay or nay on whether they played the rock steady soul riffs Ellison wrote for them in the spring of 1967.

He definitely sang the words, a kind of pastiche of R&B titles and catchphrases that, strung together just so, added up to one of the deepest soul cuts ever.

Too deep, as it happened, to do more than scrape the pop chart, miss the soul chart altogether, and then lay in the rough dirt of the underground (you know, “diamond…in the shade”), waiting for Grand Funk to dig it out, cover it note for note, scream for scream, and ride it to #3 Pop in the mid-seventies, with a record that was about half as good….and still plenty fine.

Because half of this is twice of almost anything you want to throw it up against it…

ONE OF THESE DAYS….(May 4th, 2018)

…I really will get around to seeing if I can find my notes from my experiences of May 4th, 1998 on and around the campus of Kent State University (and my subsequent first trip to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame–an experience that taught me to never take that institution lightly). The notes aren’t where they’re supposed to be…and it’s a big house…with a lot of boxes. I probably wrote ten thousand words at the time.

Might still be interesting.

But, I confess, Neil Young–not to mention a thousand pictures worth a thousand words apiece–probably still said it better….

Links to past years here…

I ain’t forgot.

MY FAVORITE BOX SET: VARIOUS ARTISTS (Not Quite Random Favorites….In No Particular Order)

Philly Soul: Kenny Gamble, Leon Huff and the Story of Brotherly Love (1966–1976)

Good title…

This might be a bit of a cheat, and, to tell the truth, if I put Gamble and Huff in the “single artist” category, this would probably be my favorite there, too. But Various Artists feels more appropriate even if the dazzling variety heard here was guided by a common vision.

However defined, a box set should be a great listening experience first and foremost and one that can be taken in all at once. My own “all at once” has a limit of around 3-4 hours. The single greatest box ever is probably this one…

But, at 6 discs and well over seven hours running time, it’s impossible to take in without setting aside the whole day. Rhino made plenty of other definitive genre boxes: for garage bands, rockabilly, surf music, doo wop, even a box of girl group rarities that never quits and comes in the greatest–or at least grooviest–ever package…

All of these are essential and will become more so as time marches along and memories of Rock and Roll America fade.

But Philly Soul has an advantage besides its relative brevity (3 discs, about three-and-a-half hours of music) and the cohesion of a strong vision. Call it an extra level of awareness. The difference between fighting the good fight in the disintegrating seventies versus riding the wave of the (mostly) optimistic sixties.

It offers a concept then, and, like any other concept album, a great box should also take you on a journey. And, if the compilers, not to mention the original artists, get it right, that journey, by dint of its sheer length, can be more complex and nuanced than any single album.

The danger is that it might quit on you.

Philly Soul doesn’t quit. It wanders now and then, perhaps in keeping with the artists’ guiding vision and the contradictions they meant to both raise….

and resolve….

But it doesn’t quit.

It almost can’t.

For one thing, the story’s too good: Black America coming to terms with itself and America in general.

Like the narrative it supports–gliding under and around all the slices of black (especially the emerging black bourgeoisie) life–it ebbs and flows. But with each wave it creeps a little closer to shore and, when it gets there, it doesn’t let you just stop and take a look around. It cries out for an ending that only the culture could have provided…and laments the absence of the clean triumph the best music here has so clearly earned, even as it questions the likelihood of justice, and the inherent naivete of expecting a reward, an acknowledgment, a resolution, all along the way.

That the culture failed to provide such an ending–and whether it was a near miss or a pipe dream all along is a question even Philly Soul cannot answer–is a tragedy that, upon sufficient reflection, rides the shoulder of every cut here, from the triumphal ebullience of Kenny and Leon’s first big hit, the Soul Survivors’ “Expressway to Your Heart,”…

All the way to Bunny Sigler’s somber, almost painful, re-imagining of the “Love Train.”

Along the way, themes develop: Brotherly Love of course, but also the haves trying not to be had by the have-nots….

The black family’s stand against the dark forces that would, ultimately, undermine it..

and, of course, celebrations of the beat, the beat, the beat…

It all developed from a multiracial vision, in keeping with the last vestiges of the preceding era’s hopes–the first disc features not only the Soul Survivors’ impeccable blue-eyed soul but soaring sides from Dusty Springfield and Laura Nyro, and, of course, it’s all underpinned by a hand-picked house band that looked liked this…

Mother, Sister, Father, Brother indeed.

But, beginning near the end of the first disc, there’s no question the sound in your ear–and the vision in your mind–became blacker. Hard not to when the middle passage (end of first disc to beginning of third) amounts to a cutting contest between the O’Jays and Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes’ Teddy Pendergrass…with interludes that range from the hardest soul….

to the smoothest, most sublime, pop…

It’s a measure of Pendergrass’ quality that he kept it a fair fight throughout…and a testimony to his genius that he walked off with the title in the end…gospel-scatting over the last four minutes of the record that summed up Gamble and Huff’s entire ethos so thoroughly

that a pause for a spirit of reflection, long since earned–and a retreat from the top of the charts, first gradual, then sudden–was almost the only way left.

The one record that might have answered “Wake Up Everybody”–the O’Jays’ “Ship Ahoy,” a close-to-the-bone account of the real Middle Passage–is the one essential cut missing from this life-affirming “pure listening” experience that doubles as the greatest documentary we’ll ever have of the moment we flew closest to the sun.

I’M NOT YET PREPARED TO CALL MYSELF THE COMEBACK KID…

..But:

April views were the best I’ve had since June, 2017.

April visitors were the best since January, 2017.

March was nearly as good.

That followed an eight-month slump that seemed to strongly coincide with Google changing its search engine parameters last June/July (many websites across the board have cited similar declines).

I’m still not quite back to the standard I established in the first six months of last year…and, of course, my numbers remain quite small.

But they mean a lot to me and I’m grateful to all who visit, view, read and comment. I’ve been very fortunate in thus far attracting a uniformly high class of people: all debates (including those conducted via email) have been civil; all comments have been pertinent; all suggestions intelligent and, I assure you, duly considered, even if I haven’t been able to enact certain changes (time and my lack of tech-savvy being the two principal culprits).

Six-and-a-half years in, no one whose first thought for a blog name was “No (Unearned) Comfort Here” could ask for more than that.

Here’s to everybody, not forgetting those artists who inspired me in the first place: