Monday, October 31, 2011

Evil Unseen (Minstrel Mondays)

It's Halloween, and what would this spooky day be without a bit of macabre poetry?  While not in the league of Edgar Allen Poe, here's a creepy little bit I threw together for just such an occasion.

They watch you as you work,
as you enjoy a day,
or simply play.
The dark things which seem
as human as can be
to those who know nothing
of ethereal ways.

Every word echoes cavernously,
and even sunbeams bend around
their demonic forms,
when seen in the light
of spiritual sight.
My skin crawls in their presence
for I know the depth
of their twisted souls.

Be warned, physical souls,
these beings of whom I speak,
they'll get you,
and you'll never see it coming.
For nice they will seem,
as many fools around.
Yet death is in their hearts
the deep rivers of existence
stained dark with their lethal might.

The evil that lurks inside,
is more than mere words can describe.
These things among man
lurk in plain daylight.
I cannot yet tell how deep it goes,
or how powerful they may be
out of my sight.

Friends of the devil, indeed.
Yet their evil goes much deeper
than that old religious foe.
The depths of Hell hath no place
for fiends as foul as
the forgotten purveyors
lurking in the night.

Tomorrow is the kick-off for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), so for the month of November my posts are likely to be scarce.  I'll endeavor to post something each week, but four posts might be stretching it a bit.  Bear with me as I produce the next volume in the Fantasy Western saga!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Vacation Destinations

Yes, it is Sunday, and yes this is a Family Sunday posting.  In my continuing ancestral research, numerous locations pop up, places where different branches of my family originally settled, or called home in the past centuries.  It is my hope to visit a few of these someday, but at the moment it is fairly impossible for me to get away.  Perhaps future years and fortune will give me the opportunity.

Today, I'll share a few of the places I'd like to visit at some point.  Mind you, these aren't liable to be hot tourist destinations, and are only interesting to me because of my familial ties.

Bridgeton, New Jersey:  Really, all of Cumberland County would be on the tour, but Bridgeton is the center of it all.  Hendersons, Ballingers, Robinsons, and other assorted ancestors came from this area, and it would be interesting to have a look around.

Baldwin City, Kansas:  Home of the Counts family.  My great grandfather, George Sylvester Counts, was born and raised with three brothers and two sisters on a farm outside of town, and it would be interesting to drop by for a visit.  I know there have been a few "cousin reunions" held at the old homestead, though I've never had the pleasure of an invitation.  Maybe someday I'll get out there, reunion or otherwise.

Old Saybrook, Connecticut:  It was here that Joseph Ingham the weaver first settled in America around 1640.

Cato, New York:  Another site of Ingham interest, this is where William Ingham set up shop around 1814, and he made a fortune running a general store.  Later on, his sons overextended themselves and lost pretty much everything.  William's youngest son, Albert, was the grandfather of my adopted great-grandfather.

Hagerstown, Maryland:  It was here that the Forthmans first settled in America before the Civil War.  My great-grandfather, William Edward Forthman, was born here in 1863.  His mother, Ann Creager, was also from Hagerstown, and her ancestors settled there before the Revolution.

There are plenty of other locations of note in my family, though these are a few that stand out the most.  It may be little more than a daydream to think of visiting these distant towns and cities, though perhaps I'll go one day.  Only, what ever will I find when I get there?

Friday, October 28, 2011

Blast from The Past: Stop Taxing Books!

I've had a lot of letters published in various newspapers over the years, and once in a while I'll share one here.  While some of my letters address matters of limited interest that become antiquated with time, there are quite a few that remain relevant.  Here's one issue I still feel strongly about, and it isn't being remedied.  I wrote this letter when I was 18, and I'll still feel the same about the issue when I'm 80!

June 25, 1998  Thursday

I went to the book store the other day and was disturbed to find out that there is now a tax on books.  It had been a while since I purchased a book, due to the high price of new books these days, but I hardly expected this.

I can't speak for anyone else, but I believe that taxing reading material of any kind is wrong.  It's bad enough that the price of paperbacks has doubled in the past five years.  We don't need to be charged an extra six percent.

Taxing books is like penalizing people for reading.  You wouldn't want to be taxed for speaking, would you?

This tax is imposed with total disrespect for the first amendment.  I hope that our state officials realize this and choose to do the right thing by removing this tax.

[This tax is still imposed on the people of Maine.]

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Prisoner of Time (Peek 1)

Here's something that I've had on the market for a few years now.  Prisoner of Time was my second published novel, and it is certainly one of my under-appreciated works.  This is the sequel to Virtual Wiles, and it is in this book that Morgan Asher really comes into his own.  The character development is undeniable, and it set the stage for the subsequent novel, The Guns of Mars.

In this sneak peek, we're going to look at a funny scene with a couple of our supporting characters, the amnestic traveler and his elven companion, Alvaris.  Here we see them on the move after running away from a cult of bloodthirsty monks, and the consequences of what happens when you try to pull a fast one on the wrong people:

            After several hours of travel, they came to a stop at the edge of a village.  The stone and brick buildings with slate roofs were common throughout the region, and it was hard to distinguish one town from another at a glance.

            The small hamlet was eerily quiet at mid-morning, which gave the traveler and his elven companion reason to pause.

            "I believe this is the town those monks snatched me from yesterday," Alvaris mentioned, trying to make out familiar structures in the cramped village.

            "Any chance of finding a decent shoemaker nearby?" the traveler asked, brushing dirt from his bleeding feet.

            "I would rather not make contact with any of the locals, not after what they did the last time," Alvaris replied.  "I may be cocky, but I am not stupid."

            "I can't go on like this," the man replied.  "Like it or not, I've got to find something to wear."

            "And exactly how are you going to pay for this footwear?"

            "What about that pendant?" he asked, pointing at the hidden pocket in Alvaris' tunic.

            "Are you daft?  Without my pendant you would not understand a word I say, unless you're hiding a degree in neolatin."

            "There must be something we can use."

            "If I had anything of value to spare, I would not hesitate to use it," Alvaris mentioned.  "Unfortunately, the monks stripped me bare, and I do not see that white robe that you are wearing as being of any particular value."

            A thought suddenly passed through the traveler's mind.  The last sentence Alvaris had uttered struck like lightning, giving rise to a desperate scheme that could prove quite fruitful, or utterly disastrous.

            "Stay here," the traveler said, staggering out of the bushes, trying to walk on the wounded feet.

            Alvaris didn't know what he had in mind, but felt certain it would be the death of them both.

            The traveler found the smooth stones of the road to be more comfortable on the feet than rough dirt and twigs, which allowed him to walk upright and keep a blank look on his face, as he marched into town.

            There wasn't much activity, but a few of the inhabitants were moving around, hauling cartloads of wood and straw with ponies.  The locals gave sheepish stares at the man as he walked by, as if frightened by his presence.

            Looking around at the handful of structures, the man tried to spot a shoemaker's sign, but there was none.  If there were a shop that sold footwear, it wasn't clearly advertised.

            A few more people went by, on their way to whatever private business they had, and the traveler began staring down at their feet, studying the crudely stitched leather moccasins everyone wore in this neck of the woods.  They all had such dainty feet in town.  It was frustrating.

            Eventually, a scruffy man appeared from around a corner, and his neatly-polished black boots glistened in the sunlight.  The glossy leather appeared to be the right size.

            "Halt in the name of the Holy Sword!" the nameless man shouted, freezing the scruffy guy dead in his tracks.

            "Yeah?  Whadda you want?" the scruffy man asked in a defiant tone.  Although his height and build were relatively small, he didn’t appear feeble to say the least.

            "Your boots," the traveler said, trying to keep his voice monotone and emotionless.

            "What'ja got to trade for 'em?" the scruffy man asked, placing a hand on his hip and spitting on the ground.

            "Salvation, brother!"

            The scruffy man huffed.  "You dirty monks think you own this town, but you've got something else coming."

            "The Lord shall greatly reward you for your generous sacrifice," the traveler added, feeling his ruse was backfiring.

            "Really?" the scruffy man asked cynically.  Despite his defiance, he knelt down and unlaced his boots.  He pulled them off his feet and proceeded to chuck them at the nameless man imitating a monk.  "Here.  They'll be good fer yer funeral."

            After nonchalantly grabbing the boots, the traveler started to walk backwards, keeping his oval eyes locked on the scruffy man.  After he felt he was a safe distance away, he turned and ran.

            Turning a corner into a cramped side street, he ducked behind a stack of hay bales and slid his feet into the pilfered boots.  They were a little wide, but sufficiently long.  He tightened the laces and wiggled his toes, utterly pleased with himself and his pilfered prize.

            Ready to get moving, the traveler moved to make his way out of the cluttered side street, but was halted by a sudden commotion.  A wild clattering and clacking arose on the street outside, the sound of many wheels and hooves beating against the stone pavement.

            Ducking behind the hay, he glanced out and saw the way ahead blocked by several horses.  Peeking back the other way, he saw a block wall laid, making it a dead-end.  He was trapped.

            "Come on outta there, you blasted monk!" a gritty voice sounded, the tone barely audible over the continued noise of the wheels and horses.

            Somehow, the traveler doubted he could talk his way out of his current predicament, but there was no harm in trying.  "Monk?  Me?  I'm afraid you must have me mistaken for someone else."

            A twang sounded, and a moment later the stack of hay shook and hissed, as an arrow sank deeply into the tightly packed bale.  "We'll come in and get ya, so ya might as well give it up," the gritty voice replied.

            Seeing no alternative, the nameless man reluctantly surrendered, raising his hands and stepping out from behind the hay bales.  He stared forward, and felt a dozen sets of eyes lock onto him.

            "I'm unarmed," the traveler said loudly, as he walked forward, his arms upraised.

            The man with the gritty voice mumbled something to the men around him, and a pair of them walked down the cramped side street to meet the traveler.  They sidled up and grabbed him by both arms, almost carrying him the rest of the way, and shoving him to the ground in front of their leader.

            "Get up!" the gritty voice demanded.

            Staggering to his feet, the traveler looked up at the man who spoke with such authority.  The haggard face, with wrinkles like rivers and a bulbous nose, was something only a mother could love, if even that.  Of course, the week’s worth of black stubble on his chin only accentuated his coarse looks.

            Grabbing the traveler's lower jaw, the gritty man gave him a once over, turning his head from side to side, trying to find something of interest or familiarity.  He eventually pulled his hand away, and returned it to the hilt of the sword at his hip.

            "Now, you take off those boots," the gritty man ordered.

            The traveler knelt down and unlaced the newly acquired footwear, his fingers shivering nervously as they picked at the knots.

            "You're no monk," the gritty man said with certainty.

            "No," the traveler said, pulling the left boot off his foot.

            "It's a damn shame the state o' the world today," a different voice sounded.  It was the man whose boots had been stolen, stepping forward from the crowd.  "Nothin' much lower'n a scumbag who'd impersonate one of those devil worshipping monks to get a handout."

            The traveler kept quiet as he removed the right boot and gave the pair to their former owner.  He felt it would take too long to explain his predicament, and the mob didn't seem to be in a talking mood.

            "Now, you tell the man you're sorry," the gritty guy said.

            "I'm sorry," the traveler said faintly, feeling terrified.

            "Like you mean it," the gritty man said condescendingly.

            "I'm sorry, okay?  I'm sorry I tried to con you.  I didn't feel I had a choice."

            "There's always a choice," the owner of the boots replied.

            "What do you say we do to him?" the gritty man asked the owner of the boots.

            "Kill him," the boot owner replied, kneeling down to lace up his footwear.

            "Well, you heard the man," the gritty guy replied, drawing his sword.

            The traveler stumbled backwards, and fell on his rump.  "You can't kill a guy over a pair of boots.  What kind of law is that?"

            "It's the law of the road, bub.  We're Charioteers.  Somebody does one of us wrong, the wronged picks the punishment.  The man says you die, then we oblige."

            "You're some kind of criminal gang?" the traveler said, scooting backwards on his behind.  "You can't kill a man in cold blood like this.  What will the local authorities think?"

            "The townies are a bunch of cowards, and they'll have no problem with us killing somebody masquerading as one of their precious spiritual leaders," the gritty man said, pointing the tip of his sword in the traveler's face.

            Staring up along the blade's edge, the traveler felt there was no escape.  He'd known the risks, and the odds had bested him this day.  As he awaited the sword to be pushed forward and conclude his virtual life, he said, "The monks will thank you for doing their dirty work for them."

            "What's that?" the gritty man asked.

            Sensing an opportunity, the traveler jumped at it.  "The monks want me dead.  If you kill me, you're playing right into their hands."

            "Bull!" the owner of the boots shouted.  "Get it over with."

            "Why do you think I'm stuck in this robe?  The monks stripped me of everything, my clothes, my possessions, even my memories.  They tried to turn me into one of them, but I escaped, beat their brainwashing.  I pissed them off, so they want me dead a whole lot more than you ever could."

            The blade remained pointed at the traveler's face for a long period of silence, as the gritty man considered all the evidence.  His brown eyes stared widely, uncertain of what action to take.  Finally, the blade was taken away, and the sword slid back into its sheath at the man's side.

            "Get up," the gritty man said.

            The traveler complied, and managed to get on his feet again, despite the shiver in his muscles that told him to collapse.

            "Now, take that robe off," the gritty man ordered.

            "But I'm naked under it," the traveler replied, feeling less than eager at the thought of becoming a naturalist in the cold, spring air.

            "Drop it!" the gritty man shouted, gripping the hilt of his sword.  "You're not gonna pull another stunt like this anywhere else."

            Seeing he had no alternative, the traveler untied the two straps near his waist and slid off the robe, exposing his pale skin to the elements.

            "Now, which way are you intent on going?" the gritty man asked, grabbing the white robe.  He balled it up and chucked it at the small crowd behind him who cut it to shreds with their blades.

            "I'm heading east, for the coast," the traveler said, feeling chills as the fifty degree air nipped at his bare skin.

            "All right," the gritty man said, turning sideways and waving his arm at the crowd.  In response to his arm's movement, the crowd moved to one side, making a path back to the main road.  "My men and I will escort you through town, and get you on your way, as you are."

            Taking the gritty man up on his offer, the traveler began walking, moving at a slow and steady pace through the parted crowd, back onto the spacious street near the center of town.  He kept moving, hearing the crowd slowly move with him, their horses and chariots clacking and rattling against the pavement.  Moving down the street, he saw people staring out their windows at him.  It was a most humiliating experience.

            The eastern edge of town came up quickly, and the Charioteers behind him kept pushing forward, moving him along the road as it turned from stone to dirt.  The march didn't end until they were almost a mile into the country, beside a cattle-filled pasture.

            Calling everyone to a halt, the gritty man stepped back in front of the traveler.  "This is far enough, I think.  I expect you can find your way from here.  Now, you just keep walking until you hit the coast, and we won't kill you."

            "It must be my lucky day," the traveler said.

            The Charioteers turned around swiftly and headed back toward the town, leaving the naked traveler alone on the road, buck naked, surrounded by pasture land, wholly uncertain of what was to come next.

If this sample has piqued your interest, be sure to buy a copy from my AuthorStore, or visit the link posted above.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Lives out of Place (Minstrel Mondays)

I have often felt like a man out of time.  In this age of evolving technology, it seems my mindset is one better suited for a past era, or a future one (it really depends on my mood).  Whatever the case, "modern times" have never been mine, for various reasons, and this little poem I threw together quite a while ago expresses that feeling of displacement.

Don't be afraid to buck populist trends!

Crawling through evolution,
looking out upon the future,
seeing all civility fading
from the face of homosapiens.
Yet when the thought of this
shadow of a society seems
sickening in our eyes,
it must mean
we missed the mark.
On our spiritual trek
across eternity,
we chose the wrong century.
For we are ready for things
these people have not begun to see,
and life's about learning what
we're not here to learn,
and all about getting things
we can't seem to find.
What a sorrowful plight,
this quest of human life.
What do we get
from a world that lies sleeping
in such primeval might?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Family History Update: Kirton

I am pleased to announce that I've uncovered a little more on the Kirton line.  The first discovery concerns Robert Nelson Kirton, brother of my great-grand father Julius Kirton.

As I previously stated, Robert was married to Vera Gates in 1919.  Now, thanks to recently uncovered data in the 1930 census, I have been able to confirm that he had at least 2 daughters.  Norma J. Kirton (b. 1921), and June E. Kirton (b. 1923).  Both were born in Ohio, and they were living in Chillicothe, Ohio, at the time of the census.

I've also learned a few more clues about Ellen Hyler, wife of Richard Kirton (my 4x great grandfather).  It turns out she was not from England, as I had previously believed.  According to census data, she was born in Kentucky circa 1824.  Her father was from New Jersey and her mother from Kentucky.  There were a lot of Hylers in Jersey back in the early part of the 1800's, but I have yet to find a link to any of them.  Ellen's parents remain unidentified at this time.  However, we are one step closer to discovering them!

I have also found a death record for Sidney Kirton, brother of my 3x great grandfather Nelson Kirton.  As previously stated, Sidney was born on 2 Feb 1859, and now I know he died in 1924, though the exact date wasn't specified on the report I obtained.  Still, that's one more piece of data we didn't have.

Friday, October 21, 2011

A Writer's Plea

As we plunge deeper into fall, I continue to push forward with my writing.  Having recently completed The Curse of Selwood, I am working on ways to promote West of the Warlock, the first book in the series.  This new Fantasy Western franchise is taking me in directions I never considered before, and I'm pleased that so many people are enjoying the tales.

Even so, I have a long way to go before I am considered a commercial success.  In this world of instant self-publishing, were every semi-literate kid can put a book on the market, it is growing incredibly difficult to break free from the pack of mediocrity.  While I have the literary skills and the fruitful imagination necessary for a serious writing career, the one thing I lack is something each and every one of you can provide.  That is simply your support.  Without you, I am nothing, and I implore you to help me.

There are a few things that I hope you will endeavor to do.  These simple things would benefit me tremendously on my quest for success!

1: Visit this blog regularly.  I post fresh content several times a week, and I hope you will keep track of my various exploits and keep in touch through the blog.  Share the link with friends!

2:  Spread the word.  A writer's best promotional tool is his pre-existing friends & fans.  I'm sure you have friends & relatives who wouldn't mind learning about me.  Please, tell them about my work, and point them to my website!

3: If you haven't already, pick up a copy of my latest release, West of the Warlock.  It is very affordable in any format, and each book sold gets me that much closer to selling another book.  Yes, a single sale could be the tipping point in the grand scheme of things.  For the price of cheap take-out, you can have an entertaining read, and be doing me a big favor.  Purchase it from the Hall Brothers Shop if you really want to make a difference!

What may seem trivial or irrelevant to you could make a world of difference to me.  Thank you for caring enough to perform these little things, and assuring that the world has not heard the last of my fanciful tales.  Press on!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Six-Gun Conjurer (Sneak Peek 1)

I'm pleased to announce that The Curse of Selwood, the sequel to West of the Warlock, has been completed.   The first draft was knocked out last Thursday night, and revisions are underway.  I expect to have this handed in to Hall Brothers Entertainment around the end of the month, and together we'll complete the editing process in preparation for publication.

November 1st sees the start of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), a fun little exercise where thousands of writers around the world attempt to write an entire book (50,000+ words) in 30 days.  Last year was my first time doing the contest, and I succeeded with "The Time Traveler's Illegal Harem."  That's something for another sneak peek column or two, but today I'd like to announce this year's NaNoWriMo project, The Six-Gun Conjurer!

Hot off the completion of my second Fantasy Western, I think it is best that I take that momentum and write yet another volume in the series.  I already have some threads to continue from the first two books, and some brand new ideas are cropping up.  Of course, I can't start writing until the first of November (no cheating here), but I can work on the plot, and share the following teaser pitch:

The 3rd volume of the "Fantasy Western" saga! In 19th century America, where magic and technology exist side by side, Ron Grimes is a deputy in the growing Nevada town of Selwood. Following tragedy and political upheaval in the town, this middle-aged dwarf finds himself caught up amongst various controversies.  As pawns and powerbrokers jockey for position, a conflicted lawman must decide what is more important, his job or his heart.  All the while, elven deputy Joella Talus must brave the ridicule of her estranged clan to save her sister from a sinister fate. All this and Thomas Edison in "Six-Gun Conjurer."

Wow, that's got to spark some interest!  I can't wait to get started.  Bring on NaNoWriMo!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Airhead Addiction (Minstrel Mondays)

I've heard a lot of really bad excuses over the years about why people should be allowed to do the destructive things they do.  People tend to justify their abuses of their bodies by equating it to something else, and one excuse a relative of mine liked to use is that "breathing is a chemical reaction our bodies are addicted to," as if that will let you off the hook for getting drunk or taking drugs.  Way to go, dude!  Oxygen is the new smack!  We're all addicts now, pass the bong!

Here's a poem I wrote on that theme.  There might be something worthwhile waiting in the words.

Life leaves you wanting
Never satisfied with what you have
Even if you pretend and lie
More is desired
It's the curse of the flesh
We try to deny
What we hold inside
But never will it be enough.

Suck in the air
All around we taste it
Thinking we need it
Oxygen keeps us alive
Without the crystal clear
We would quickly expire
Get ready for a funeral pyre!

Why do we need to breathe?
It all begins with that.
The addicting air we all consume
It's our eternal curse

I was hooked from the moment of birth
But it wasn't my fault
My mother sucked in air
All through her pregnancy
So I was condemned
To carry that burden
To suck in the air the trees excrete

Hold your breath,
End the cycle of
Never will you have to be
Addicted to the air we cannot see
Then maybe you'll believe

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Caroline Sheppard Henderson

More information on the Henderson lines keeps flowing in.  I am pleased to share the following information concerning Caroline Sheppard Henderson, who was the sister of my 3x great grandmother Rebecca Henderson.  The following comes courtesy of a third cousin, twice removed, who was gracious enough to share it in the first place:

Caroline was the 7th child of the family (out of 15 children, 14 of which lived to adulthood- the family was locally famous for this feat). She was born 09 June 1861 in Deerfield Township, New Jersey.  Her father was a farmer.  Their homestead was called "Love Lane", which was located off of Finley Station Road.  The house is no longer standing.

On 16 Sep 1885 she married Ernst Frederick Kurtz of Philadelphia (son of John George Kurtz and Louisa Young, both of Germany).  Ernst and his father owned a stove store in Philadelphia.  They lived at 2535 Montgomery Ave in Philadelphia until 1918, at which time they built a home at 4901 Monument Road.

After Ernst died on 09 Aug 1930, Caroline sold their house.  Apparently they had lost much in the stock market crash, and their house which was valued at $49,500 the prior year, sold for less than half that amount.  Caroline went to live with her son Ralph and his family in Woodbury, NJ.  She died 13 Jul 1949 and is buried in Eglington Cemetery in Mickleton, NJ.

Caroline and Ernst "Fred" Kurtz had 2 children: Dr. Arthur Daniel Kurtz (05 Jun 1886 - 21 Jan 1939) who married Lucille LaDow Riley from Bridgeton, Cumberland Co, NJ., and Ralph Swain Kurtz (24 Mar 1894 - 17 Nov 1990).

Ralph was married twice- his first wife, Elizabeth Robertson Keach (1897-1931) died suddenly.  They had 3 children: Shirley Adele Kurtz (1918-1997), Roger Sheppard Kurtz (1921-1934) and Edith Harriet Kurtz (1924-2004).

Ralph's second marriage took place in 1935 to Margaret Christine Chew Pitt (1909-2000).  They had 2 children.

So, there you have it, another piece of the puzzle.  Caroline's line was one I had been unable to trace through my academic research, so I am very grateful that a fellow Henderson descendant was willing to share this data.  There is much information still out there that we need to piece together for posterity, so I hope more people will step forward.

As it turns out, I knew of Ralph Kurtz for quite a while, through a story my father told me.  This involves his grandmother, Effie K. Robinson, wife of Ned Ingham.

Back in the early 1970's when my father was moving to Maine, Effie tried to bribe him into staying near the family, telling him she would get "Uncle Ralph" to give him a chunk of farm land.  As generous as the offer was, my father declined, as he had his own plans, and they did not involve settling in New Jersey.  While he knew that "Uncle Ralph" was actually a cousin of some sort, he hadn't been privy to the precise connection.   Now we have the answer.  Ralph was actually Effie's first cousin once removed, making him my father's first cousin three times removed.

In conclusion, I'd like to share the following photograph that was graciously given to me along with the valuable data on Caroline's line.  This is a picture of Caroline Henderson Kurtz and six of her brothers, taken around 1930 perhaps.  It is not known which brothers are pictured, though it may be possible that someone else out there might know.  No doubt, a few of these guys had other pictures taken at some point, as well, so that might be of help.  If you have any information to share, let me know.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Modern Art –By Matthew Sweet (Music Album) Review

I've been a fan of Matthew Sweet's music ever since I first heard his 100% Fun album in 1995.  Since that time, he's been one of my favorite musicians, and I've come to appreciate his ever evolving sound.  He has never quite gained the superstar status I feel his talent ought to warrant, but I'm not here to begrudge modern music tastes today.  Rather, I'd like to share my thoughts on Matthew's latest release, Modern Art.

It has been a few years since Matthew Sweet released a new album (not counting the Under the Covers albums he did with Susanna Hoffs), but it was well worth the wait.  I pre-ordered the special Vinyl release of Modern Art from Amazon, and as soon as I played it through the first time, I knew we had another hit album on our hands!

This album is very retro in its sounding, and I don't mean retro-Sweet.  While different than his previous recordings, you hear a lot more of his musical influences (The Beatles, Neil Young, the Byrds, etc...) coming through in the work.  If you went back in time and put this record on the market in 1970, it would have fit right in with the top albums of that time period.  That's a plus in my book, since much of my preferred music comes from that era.

Favorite Songs:
Baltimore:  I'm not sure why, but this song really has me hooked.  It may be the best one on the whole album.
She Walks The Night:  A great retro-sounding track.  If you like 60's music, you'll dig this gem.
Another Chance (Bonus Track):  This is a great little song.  Why was it relegated to bonus download status?  It should have made it onto the album!

Album's Weak Point:
Ivory Tower:  For some reason, this song just grates on my nerves.  It is the one track I dislike from this collection.

I wasn't really keen on his Sunshine Lies release a few years back, but Modern Art makes up for that tenfold.  This is easily his best album since In Reverse, and it deserves more positive attention.  Download a couple of the tracks, and see what you think.

To Vinyl or not to Vinyl:

I have a whole stack of old LP's on a shelf right behind my desk, so it was a personal choice to go for Modern Art on vinyl.  It's rare that you can buy a "new" record in this manner today, so there was a certain thrill in purchasing it in this format.  It was a few dollars more, but it was worth it for me, and it came with a promotional card that allowed me to download the whole album (plus bonus tracks) onto my computer!

However, there are a couple of things that disappointed me about the vinyl release.  It came as a 2-record set, but the 13 songs they include on the records could have easily fit on a single, double-sided LP.  It sucks to have to get up and turn the record over after 10 or 12 minutes of play.  They only included 1 of the 4 bonus tracks on the LP, and it confounds me why they didn't just put all 4 bonus tracks on the record!  They would have easily fit, and it would have justified the 2-record set.

That said, I don't regret the vinyl purchase at all, especially with the free download.  I can listen to the songs in digital quality all I want, and put the records on the turntable when I'm in the mood.  The best of both worlds!

5-Star album all around!