Dixie Chicks top 2006 country music poll

January 25, 2007

Every year, the Nashville Scene polls 80 music critics around the country who write for a variety of publications. The products of all this polling are various Top 10 and Top 20 albums, songs, singles, etc. I don’t consider myself a country music fan–I never listen to country radio stations–but I’m surprised at how many groups and individuals I like are on the Top 20 album list. At Number One are the Dixie Chicks, and further down on the on the album list is Bob Dylan and Solomon Burke.

In addition to the lists, the Scene delivers commentary from many of the critics on various artists. Here are two comments I appreciated, both about Bob Dylan:

“I found way more interesting country music this year on Bob Dylan’s Theme Time Radio Hour on XM Satellite than I did on any particular “country station” in my geography of choice. At the end of the day I end up thinking of country as “soul music for the culturally repressed” in this post-attention-deficit age, in a culture still trying to define itself, what it believes in, surrounded by the flotsam and jetsam of political destruction, senseless war and societal ruin.” —COREY DUBROWA, SEATTLE WEEKLY”

“Bob Dylan throws together a mish-mash of public domain blues lyrics, 19th century poetry and random observations, takes the writing credit for all of it, and croaks it out over a hot little rock ’n’ roll band. This is the country album of the year? Well, yeah. I can’t explain it, but I can’t stop listening to it.” —RICK MITCHELL, UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS PRESS

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Flocks of cranes–and buzzards–arrive at wildlife refuge

January 22, 2007

One of the more stupendous wildlife sights in Tennessee is the annual flock of sandhill cranes that arrive every year at the 2,600 acre Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge in Meigs County between Knoxville and Chattanooga where the Hiwasee River joins the Tennessee River. This year, according to an article in today’s Knoxville News Sentinel, an estimated 15,000 cranes will be there for the Cherokee Heritage and Sandhill Crane Viewing Days festival, which takes place February 3-4. This year, some rare whooping cranes have joined this bird Bonnaroo, further delighting the festival-goers, 8,000 of whom attended the event in 2006.

Unfortunately, some buzzards may be inbound as well. The Nashville Tennessean contains an article describing plans to put a 600-acre housing development and a golf course adjacent to the Wildlife Refuge.

Michael Ross, president of one of the development companies, ironically named Rarity Communities, was quoted in the Tennessean as saying,”We actually don’t have as much land as we need to do what we want to do.”

They never do, do they?

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Smokies park officials to end cliff-jumping

January 16, 2007

According to a story in today’s Knoxville News Sentinel, officials at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park will ban cliff-jumping at the Townsend Y, a much beloved swimming hole just inside the park near the town of Townsend.

Apparently, there have been too many close encounters of jumpers and tubers. Airborne violators will be warned and then fined.

This is too bad. Wilderness areas often have activities that are dangerous–rock-climbing, winter camping, kayaking, and you name it–but I believe that you give people an adequate warning and then let them make the choice. For many visitors, jumping off a cliff and feeling the exhiliaration of flying through the air and landing in cold, unchlorinated water, may be the best Smokies experience they will ever have.

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Seventh book on seventh president is on the way

January 14, 2007

The Knoxville News Sentinel takes a look today at the Andrew Jackson Papers Project at the University of Tennessee library. The goal of the project is to publish as many significant letters or other documents as possible that the seventh president wrote or received during his life.

When it comes to scholarly efforts, this is the long haul. According to the story, Dan Feller, director of the Papers Project, has “just delivered the seventh of a planned 16 volumes to the University of Tennessee Press, which expects to have it in print by this time next year.”

These books are not cheap. Amazon.com lists the volume covering Jackson’s papers from 1825-1828–just three years yet 784 pages long–at $70 new, and the least expensive used copy is $65.

The story concludes with a comment by Feller on how interpretations of historical figures change. “‘Historians respond to their own interests and concerns of their time,’ Feller said, noting that Arthur Schlesinger Jr.’s 1945 Pulitzer Prize-winning history, The Age of Jackson, devoted barely two sentences in 500-plus pages to Jackson’s role in Indian removal and the Trail of Tears – events for which Jackson is most closely associated today.”

However historians interpret Ole Hickory, having his papers available will provide them the best tools for their trade, now and for decades to come.

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Biltmore in Tennessee?

January 6, 2007

Mention Vanderbilt, and most Tennesseans think of the prestigious university in Nashville. The closer one gets to the North Carolina border, however, people begin associating the name Vanderbilt with Biltmore House and Gardens, the palatial estate just outside of Asheville. Many visitors to the mountains combine a trip to Tennessee with excursions into North Carolina, and Biltmore is often on the short list of places to see.

The Knoxville News Sentinel has an AP article today on the history of Biltmore and the lengths to which its owners keep reinventing the place to keep the cash registers ringing.

The residents of Erwin, a small Tennessee town close to Asheville, did their best in the 1890s to convince George Vanderbilt to build his estate in their area, going so far as to change the name of their town to “Vanderbilt” in his honor. George was not curious about Erwin, however, and the town changed its name to Erwin, which it remains to this day.

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Bonnaroo buys festival grounds

January 3, 2007


The Tennessean reports that the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival is buying the 500-acre farm of Sam McAllister on which the Festival has been held for five years.

This is good news. By owning its grounds, which no music festival of this size has ever done, Bonnaroo will be able to make investments in the property that will enrich the music experience of everyone who comes there. And by becoming a local property owner, Bonnaroo has a stronger hand in dealing with Coffee County officials.

For those who cannot wait, you can listen online to Bonnaroo Radio.

Photo by Jason Merritt
Photo by Jason Merritt