Collie, Country Fans Alike Will Appreciate ‘Alive At Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary’ Re-Issue

Courtesy: 101 Ranch Records

Courtesy: 101 Ranch Records

Late this past October, 101 Ranch Records re-issued country artist Mark Collie’s 2012 live recording Alive at Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary on CD. The recording, originally released in 2012 is an important piece of the singer’s catalogue.  That is because it is a recording that almost didn’t happen as is pointed out in the recording’s companion booklet.  The booklet, by the way, is the recording’s key element.  That is rare for a live recording and will be discussed shortly.  The show’s set list, by connection, is just as important to discuss as the recording’s companion booklet.  The band’s performance of the show’s set list rounds out its most important elements.  Each element is important in its own right to the recording’s presentation.  All things considered, Alive at Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary is a piece that Mark Collie’s fans will appreciate just as much as country music fans.

Eagle Rock Entertainment’s recent re-issue of Mark Collie’s Alive at Brushy Mount State Penitentiary is a work that Mark Collie’s fans and country music fans alike will appreciate.  That statement is supported primarily through the recording’s companion booklet.  It is pretty rare for a live recording’s companion booklet to take precedence over its set list or even the band’s performance of said set list.  But this recording proves that a recording’s booklet can be its most important element.  The booklet is so important because of the history lesson that it presents.  It reveals the set list, save for just one song—‘Rose Covered Garden’—was new material at the time of the concert’s recording.  Speaking of the concert’s original recording, audiences will learn through the booklet that the concert was originally recorded on October 17, 2001 and it almost didn’t see the light of day. That was due to legal reasons.  But luckily it did finally see release in 2012 through an independent source.  That’s just some of the important material presented in the recording’s companion booklet.  Audiences will also be interested to learn that it was Johnny Cash’s Folsom Prison performance that influenced Collie to eventually hold his performance at Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary.  There is also a relatively in-depth history of the prison itself, including the revelation that it once held James Earl Ray, the man responsible for the death of Martin Luther King, Jr., and in The Silence of the Lambs, it was the prison that held the story’s villainous antagonist, Hannibal Lecter.  This and so much more presented throughout the booklet proves why it is so important to the overall presentation of Alive at Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary.  Whether one is a seasoned Mark Collie fan or new to the veteran musician’s work, it is highly recommended that audiences in general read through the recording’s companion booklet before even taking in the concert itself.

Alive at Bushy Mountain State Penitentiary’s companion booklet is clearly an important piece of the recording’s overall presentation.  Regardless of audiences’ familiarity with Collie’s body of work, it is recommended that every listener read through the recording’s companion booklet before taking in the concert.  It is that important to the recording’s overall presentation.  While the recording’s booklet is highly important to the whole of Live at Bushy Mountain State Penitentiary, it is not the recording’s only important element.  The set list is important in its own right to the recording’s presentation.  It has already been noted that the material presented in this concert was largely original save for just two of its songs.  Those songs are ‘Rose Covered Garden’ and the group’s cover of Johnny Cash’s ‘Folsom Prison Blues.’  That is extremely important considering that the show’s “new” songs were not included in any of Collie’s prior recordings or recordings put out since.  ‘Rose Covered Garden’ was included in one of Collie’s previous albums while ‘Folsom Prison Blues’ is one of Johnny Cash’s songs, and audiences won’t find it on any of Collie’s previous albums, just as with the “new”  songs.  That makes this set list extremely special.  That’s just part of what makes the set list so important to note.  Audiences will also be surprised to learn through the concert’s interludes that at least one of the songs included in the set was written by one of the inmates housed at the prison at the time of the concert.  It is impressive to learn that Collie would show such interest in his audience as to put one of their songs on display.  As simple of an action as it was, it was an action that had to have meant a lot to that inmate and the others.  It’s the type of action that can truly establish a connection between performer and audience.  No doubt it did just that and more.  Taking into consideration the largely original set list and that Collie and company would even use one of the inmates’ songs for the set, it becomes fully clear why the recording’s set list is just as important to note as its booklet.  It is just one more item that makes this recording shine, too.  The band’s performance of the set list rounds out the recording’s most important elements.

Both the companion booklet included in Alive at Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary and the recording’s set list are key to the recording’s presentation in their own right.  The booklet is key as it presents an in-depth introduction to the concert and the prison.  The set list is important to the recording because save for just one of its songs, none of its songs are presented in any of Collie’s previous studio recordings.  They haven’t been included in any recording since.  It even includes at least one song crafted by one of the inmates housed at the prison at the time of the concert.  Both of the elements noted within the show’s set list makes it just as important as the recording’s booklet to the concert’s overall presentation in its new re-issue.  While both elements are clearly important in their own right to the recording, they are not its only important elements.  The band’s performance of the set list is important in its own right.  The concert is currently available only on CD, but the band’s performance is so easy to visualize because it feels so genuine.  Between the group’s performance of the song’s and Collie’s rapport with the inmates, the whole performance feels so genuine.  At one point, he even jokes with the inmates about something he’s drinking not tasting like a certain kind of beverage.  What kind will be left for audiences to discover for themselves.  It is a wonderfully entertaining moment, though.  The group’s performance of ‘On The Day I Die’ is another example of what makes the groups performance so powerful.  This song comes across in such a heartfelt manner that it will bring tears to any listener’s eyes.  It is that moving.  It’s one of those performances that absolutely must be experienced for one’s self in order to fully understand and appreciate the emotion in the performance.  Of course one can’t ignore the group’s take on Johnny Cash’s famed ‘Folsom Prison Blues.’  One can’t help but wonder what Mr. Cash might have thought if he were to have had the opportunity to hear the group’s take on the performance.  It likely would have made him proud.  It is that solid, even being played at a different prison.  Between these moments and so many others, throughout the concert, it is clear that the group’s performance (both in terms of the songs and in terms of its interaction with the inmates) completely entertained the inmates and the guards.  It will entertain listeners just as much, too.  When it is set alongside the show’s set list and its companion booklet (and even the liner notes printed inside the case), the whole of this recording proves to be an outstanding recording.  If it had been a new release, it would have made this critic’s list of the year’s top new live recordings.  Even being a re-issue, it is still a recording that country fans across the board will appreciate regardless of their familiarity with Collie’s body of work.

Mark Collie’s recently re-issued live recording Alive at Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary is not a new offering from the veteran country musician.  That aside, it is still a work that country music fans across the board will appreciate.  This is regardless of audiences’ familiarity with Collie’s body of work.  That is thanks in large part to the liner notes and booklet included with the recording.  The information provided through the liner notes and booklet create a wonderful, in-depth introduction to the concert and its historical significance.  The set list itself is important to the recording’s presentation, too.  That is because it is the only place—save for just two of the show’s songs—that audiences will find the “new” featured songs.  ‘Rose Covered Garden’ is available on one of Collie’s previous albums and ‘Folsom Prison Blues’ has been included in a number of Johnny Cash recordings ever since its original release.  But the set’s other songs cannot be found on any of Collie’s other recordings.  This shows, again, why the show’s set list is so important.  It is still not the last of the recording’s most important elements, either.  The group’s performance here is just as important to note as the other noted elements.  The concert is currently only available on CD.  But even on CD, the group’s connection with the inmates is so clear.  That is made clear through the passion put into each song’s performance.  The connection that Collie makes during the concert’s interludes is just as important to note in the group’s performance.  Audiences will be able to tell just as easily as the inmates Collie’s genuine interaction.  It gives the show even more of a special touch.  When this is joined with the rest of the group’s performance, the show’s set list and the concert’s provided historical background, the whole of this concert makes it a concert that Collie’s fans will appreciate just as much as any country music fan in general.  It is available now in stores and online.  More information on Alive at Brushy Mount State Penitentiary online now along with all of Mark Collie’s latest news and more at:

 

 

 

Website: http://markcollie.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/markcollieofficial

Twitter: http://twitter.com/TheMarkCollie

 

 

 

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Spies Of Mississippi Is One Of PBS’ Most Important DVDs Of 2014

Courtesy:  PBS

Courtesy: PBS

Spies of Mississippi is one of the most important pieces that PBS will release this year.  The documentary, which is based on author Rick Bowers’ 2010 book by the same name, first aired on PBS in 2013.  It was just recently released on DVD last month.  The primary aspect of this story that makes it so important is that it lifts the veil on a piece of civil rights (and American) history that few people know about.  The second factor, in direct connection, is the story’s organization.  The real story doesn’t start until late in the near hour-long feature.  However, the setup toward that story is what makes it so important.  And last but definitely not least of the notable aspects of this documentary is the inclusion of first person interviews, vintage footage and newspaper articles to help illustrate the story and advance it.  All three aspects together make Spies of Mississippi an excellent starting point for what could lead to a much deeper investigation and documentary from PBS.

The primary aspect of Spies of Mississippi that makes it so important is that it lifts the veil on a piece of civil rights (and American) history that few people know about.  People know about cases such as Brown v. Board of Education and the famous Greensboro sit-in among many others.  But how many people can honestly say that they knew about the covert operations of the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission?  This “secret society” of sorts had one and only one goal.  That goal was to prevent any possibility of blacks and whites from becoming integrated in America.  This included keeping blacks from being able to even vote.  Audiences that might be learning this story for the first time (much like this critic) will be amazed at the levels to which the MSSC would go to in order to achieve its goals.  As they will learn, the MSSC even stooped to killing two white men that were helping members of the black community in their fight for equality.  It even allegedly had African-Americans infiltrate groups such as the NAACP to keep track of what was going on so as to achieve its goals.  These are just some of the revelations that will shock viewers seeing this story for the first time.  One could almost compare the actions of the MSSC to the likes of what happened under McCarthy and the Red Scare.  And in a time when the country is getting ready to go through state and local elections again, this documentary becomes all the more important.

The story contained in this DVD is the key aspect of the program’s success.  By direct connection, the organization of the presentation adds to the program’s success.  There are those that have noted just how short the “most important” part of the story received so little time.  The part of the story in question was the portion outlining how the MSSC went to such great lengths to keep African-Americans from being able to vote.  What said individuals perhaps don’t quite understand is that the first half of the presentation was a necessary evil.  It was necessary in that it helped to set up the story in question.  That being the case, both halves of the presentation become one whole that is easy to follow.  In turn, the whole becomes a piece that any history buff, poly-sci buff or otherwise will appreciate.

The organization of Spies of Mississippi and its overall story work in conjunction to make this presentation an excellent starting point for what could be an even deeper examination of part of America’s hidden past.  Both aspects show why this is one of PBS’ most important home releases of 2014.  As impressive as they are, there is still one more piece of the whole to consider in this documentary.  That final piece is the material that makes up the program.  From one-on-one interviews with those closest to the MSSC to vintage footage and newspaper articles, Director Dawn Porter and her staff have included a number of items that help illustrate the story.  Those items show just how important the scandal surrounding the MSSC was then and even how it relates to certain voting issues going on in America today.  Viewers will be interested to hear from the supposed “Agent X” that was sent to infiltrate the civil rights movement among others.  There is much more that audiences will take away from this presentation in watching it for themselves.  And they can do so when they order the DVD direct from PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=29151026&cp=&kw=mississippi+spies&origkw=Mississippi+Spies&sr=1.  More information on this and other programs from PBS is available online at http://www.pbs.org and http://www.facebook.com/pbs.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Scholastic Set An Excellent Tool In The Classroom And The Home

Courtesy:  Scholastic/New video/Weston Woods/New Kideo

Courtesy: Scholastic/New video/Weston Woods/New Kideo

Scholastic’s African-American heritage based box set, Stories About African American Heritage featuring MARCH ON! The Day My Brother Martin Changed The World is a wonderful box set.  This triple-disc set is an excellent tool both inside the classroom and in the home, regardless of whether viewers are celebrating Black History month or simply to learn about an important part of African American history.  The stories culled for this collection celebrate some of the most respected and notable figures in the African American community such as musicians Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald.  Also featured in this set are stories of famed civil rights figures Rosa Parks and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Viewers are even introduced to some of the most well known African-American stories.  In all, this collection includes thirteen stories for audiences.  As an added bonus, interviews with the sister of Dr. King, Dr. Christine King Farris and with author of Henry’s Freedom Box, Ellen Levine.  There are even discussion questions included for students, children and parents both in the classroom and at home.  And what Scholastic set would be complete with the optional Read-Along feature?  That is here, too.  It all comes together to make a box set that any viewer will appreciate and enjoy.

Stories About African American Heritage (as it will henceforth be known) opens fittingly with a collection of stories centered on two of the most well known figures in the Civil Rights movement; Rev. Dr. martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks.  It opens with a story by Dr. King’s sister, Christine King Farris titled, March On! The Day My Brother Martin Changed The World.  In this story, Mrs. Farris describes not only how her brother prepared for his landmark speech at the nation’s capitol, but the reaction of the people who were in attendance.  The story is made even more interesting as it includes actual photos of Dr. King throughout the story as well as of those in attendance.  Audiences also learn that Dr. King wasn’t the first minister in his family.  His grandfather, A.D. Williams was also a minister.  Just as interesting to learn is that while most people remember this moment in history for Dr. King’s speech, many may not know that Dr. King had also come to meet with Congressional leaders about passing a new law that would make whites and blacks truly equal.  He hadn’t come just to give a speech.  This story is more than just a story.  It’s a trip back in time to a pivotal moment in history.  It’s a trip that everybody young and old, white, black and otherwise should take at least once.  While the story’s companion interview with Christine King Farris is dated (it mentions the monument built in his honor before it had been built), her interview helps to bring the story full circle and show just how significant his speech was and still is today to Americans as a whole.

The main feature on Dr. King is a very powerful and moving piece.  It’s just one of the interesting pieces included in this set of thirteen stories.  Also included as part of the set, is a feature on famed pianist/composer and band leader Edward Kennedy Ellington, A.K.A. Duke Ellington.  Right from the start, audiences get a little history lesson on Ellington that’s easily accessible for all audiences.  Whitaker reads to viewers that Ellington was born in 1899 in Washington, D.C. and that the name “Duke” was a name he brought on himself as he told people to call him by that name.  Viewers will be interested to learn that Ellington apparently originally did not lean towards music.  Rather, according to the story—narrated by veteran actor Forest Whitaker—Ellington originally was more interested in playing baseball than the piano.  The story of how Duke was drawn back to the piano is just as entertaining as his early lack of interest in the instrument.  The history lesson centering on Duke’s rise to stardom is equally easy to grasp for audiences.  Being that it’s being read out loud, both parents and kids alike will easily remember the majority, if not all, of what they are taught.  That’s really what makes this an especially nice addition to this set.  Just as with the feature on Dr. King, it doesn’t come across as a history lesson.  It comes across simply as a story about important historical figures since it’s coming across on the screen instead of in a book.  The visual images will stimulate the eyes and mind, while the history will stick with viewers.  As a result, it could help to foster an interest in music in younger viewers just as the piece on Dr. King could get young audiences interested in politics.  Again, it’s one more wonderful tool for viewers both in the classroom and in the home.

The last disc in this set celebrating African American heritage focuses on the literature of a people.  Just as religion, politics, and music are important parts of African American history, so is literature.  In the set’s final disc, viewers get a healthy dose of literature from the African culture as it includes five classic stories anchored by the story, Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears.  This tale tells the story of why mosquitoes buzz in people’s ears, just as the title notes.  According to the story, the mosquito buzzes in people’s ears because it has a guilty conscience after causing the death of a baby owl.  This concept might be a bit much for some younger audiences.  So parents should use their own discretion with this story.  That aside, it still is an interesting addition to this final disc’s collection of stories.  Added to the set’s other stories, the entire collection comes together to make a set that again is a wonderful tool that any parent or educator will want to use every year any time of year, not just for Black History Month.  It is available now and can be ordered online via New Kideo’s official website at http://www.newkideo.com/scholastic/the-heritage-collection/.

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