The saga of Nina Paley and Sita Sings the Blues has gone mainstream after percolating on the Intertubes. The problem is that Sita, a very impressive animated feature Paley created with Adobe Flash that weaves the Ramayana with jazz music and asides about the breakup of Paley’s marriage, is thematically dependent on a set of Twenties-vintage songs performed by Annette “The Personality Girl” Hanshaw. These have kept Paley mired in expensive negotiations with the holders of the performance rights, and until she can spring the film from what she calls “copyright jail” she’s decided to go for decentralized distribution. You can a taste at The Art of the Title Sequence, and even more formats will become available after the 88-minute feature is broadcast on PBS tomorrow night. (It’s already streaming at Channel 13 dot org.) There are limits to my sympathy for Paley — frankly, I think she was a fool to have sunk so much into this project without first nailing down all rights to the crucial songs — but there’s no denying the beauty and wit of the finished film, and all this attention has to be doing her some good.
Whatever happened to Danie Ian? I didn’t know either, but this great post about a superstar of African pop music gave me plenty of ways to fill in my knowledge gaps.
Via Michael Gray comes the news that a previously unreleased concert recording by the seminal bluesman Son House is about to be issued. Son House is the man who taught Muddy Waters some of his moves, and he spent a long time in obscurity until he was rediscovered in the early 1960s. Apparently this recording was made during his summer 1964 concert tour, when he literally played for white people for the first time in his life. The shows were recorded with top-notch equipmentand capture some of the engorssing stories Son House told between numbers. And while we’re on the subject of blues, I’m delighted to see that Michael Gray’s excellent biography of Blind Willie McTell, Hand Me My Travelin’ Shoes, is finally going to get a proper U.S. release this fall. I’ve already held forth on Gray’s books about Bob Dylan, and I ordered the U.K. edition of Hand Me My Travelin’ Shoes the minute it came out. I’ll post something longer when the book’s U.S. publication date comes closer, but I can tell you right now the book is deeply rewarding for anyone interested in the blues, McTell, or American racial and cultural history.
Here’s a hilarious roundup of the eight best Bob Dylan imitations, as done by celebrities. Does it have Adrian Belew’s monologue on “Flakes”? It does indeed, along with some unexpectedly funny impersonations from none other than Joan Baez.
Caustic Cover Critic alerts us to a new illustrated edition of Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, created by the design firm Pentagram as a showcase for its artists. The cover alone wwill stop you in your tracks, and the interior illustrations are pretty striking as well.