Barbara Lea was a singer known for her straightforward interpretations, precise diction, and respect for the intentions of each song's composer and lyrist. She died December 26th at the age of 82, from complications from Alzheimer's disease.
Lea got her start singing in clubs in the 1950s. Her first album, A Woman in Love, released in 1955, was named one of the finest recordings of the year. Though she dropped out of singing for a while, she made a comeback in New York's cabaret world in the 1970s.
Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen film their sketch-comedy show Portlandia in the summer, when Armisen is on hiatus from Saturday Night Live. During the rest of the year, they communicate through constant text messages, says Armisen.
In one episode of Portlandia, Brownstein and Armisen started a grassroots campaign to prevent the Olympics from ever coming to Portland.
On Back to Love, Anthony Hamilton makes music from declarations. He tells a woman "I'm missing you crazy" in "Who's Loving You," and it's typical of his strategy. He states his thesis, his opinion, his desire in a voice that speaks as much as it sings for the sake of emphasis. After he's sure he's gotten his lover's attention, he begins doing his rhythm-and-blues work, mixing soul and blues and hip-hop phrasing to heighten the emotion in a song.
Most everyone's spirits are a bit deflated after the holidays. So, as a literary antidote, I recommend a just-published anthology called New York Diaries: 1609 – 2009. Editor Teresa Carpenter has collected four centuries worth of diary excerpts written by people, great and small, who've lived in or just passed through one of the greatest cities in the world.