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Monday, September 30, 2013

Hot This Week: September 30

As we prepare to head into October, the zombie film World War Z takes the top DVD spot. Six new titles grace the CD chart, including all of the top five. It's the same story on the fiction list, with six new titles, led by the latest romantic drama from Nicholas Sparks. There are also three new titles on the non-fiction list, coming in at #s 7-9.

  1. World War Z
  2. Now You See Me
  3. Star Trek Into Darkness
  4. Oblivion
  5. Pain & Gain
  6. Epic
  7. Olympus Has Fallen
  8. Tyler Perry's
  9. The Place Beyond the Pines
  10. Empire State
  1. Jack Johnson, From Here to Now to You
  2. Justin Moore, Off the Beaten Path
  3. Chris Young, A.M.
  4. MMG Presents: Self Made Vol. 3
  5. Avicii, True
  6. Luke Bryan, Crash My Party
  7. 2 Chainz, B.O.A.T.S. II #METIME
  8. Keith Urban, Fuse
  9. The Weeknd, Kiss Land
  10. Billy Currington, We Are Tonight
  1. The Longest Ride, Nicholas Sparks
  2. The Quest, Nelson DeMille
  3. Thankless in Death, J.D. Robb
  4. W Is for Wasted, Sue Grafton
  5. Never Go Back, Lee Child
  6. Bleeding Edge, Thomas Pynchon
  7. The Final Cut, Catherine Coulter and J.T. Ellison
  8. Deadly Heat, Richard Castle
  9. The Cuckoo's Calling, Robert Galbraith
  10. Inferno, Dan Brown
  1. Si-Cology 1, Si Robertson and Mark Schlabach
  2. Still Foolin' 'Em, Billy Crystal
  3. Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg and Nell Scovell
  4. Zealot, Reza Aslan
  5. Happy, Happy, Happy, Phil Robertson and Mark Schlabach
  6. The Liberty Amendments, Mark R. Levin
  7. Grain Brain, David Perlmutter and Kristin Loberg
  8. The Smartest Kids in the World, Amanda Ripley
  9. The System, Jeff Benedict and Armen Keteyian
  10. Wilson, A. Scott Berg

Friday, September 27, 2013

Glee Takes on the Beatles

Written by Kyle Slagley

This week marked an important week for all the Gleeks out there, as the new album Glee Sings the Beatles hit shelves on Tuesday. It takes quite a bit of gall to take arguably the most sacred band in rock n’ roll history and pop-ify their work, but that’s exactly what the kids at William McKinley High School did. Judging by how well the album is selling, fans aren’t exactly complaining either.

After listening to the entire album, the Glee renditions I enjoyed most were “Drive My Car,” “Here Comes the Sun” which features Demi Lovato, and “I Saw Her Standing There.” Strangely enough, Glee has covered Beatles songs in the past, and my favorite of their covers, “I Want to Hold Your Hand” – sung by Chris Colfer, who plays Kurt, and which originally appears on Volume 4 – was not included on this album.

Glee is far from the first group to cover the Fab Four, nor will they be the last. Though many of your patrons will be far too young to remember, or even know of the performance, you cannot mention Beatles covers without mentioning Joe Cocker’s rendition of “With a Little Help From My Friends” at Woodstock in ’69 or Neil Young’s version of “Imagine” at the 9/11 TV tribute concert. More recently, Mumford and Sons have been known to cover “Hey Jude” during their concerts, and one of my favorite obscure cover finds (if you can get past the crowd noise on the recording) on YouTube is Alice Cooper, Steven Tyler, and Weird Al Yankovic singing “Come Together” at a New Year’s Eve party in 2012.

When it comes to entire albums of Beatles cover songs, my absolute favorite would be the Across the Universe Soundtrack. The film came out in 2007 and was another instance where the story was structured around the music. It received mediocre reviews, but the soundtrack is still one of my favorite soundtracks of all time.

For some, the first cover soundtrack to come to mind will be the one that went with the first Beatles-oriented film, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The film, starring Peter Frampton and the Bee Gees, was loosely based on the Beatles album of the same name, but with a 15% on Rotten Tomatoes, I think I can safely say the film was a total bomb. It is worth mentioning, though, that in later years, after memories of the film had faded, affection for ‘70s nostalgia and kitsch brought the soundtrack back into the light.

The fact is that there are too many different covers of the Fab Four to mention in just one column, and they span all different styles: from Beatallica (who plays Beatles tunes in the style of Metallica), Roberta Flack (who puts her R&B spin on the songs), to even Sesame Street and the Chipmunks. Check out our collection of Beatles cover albums Midwest Tape offers, and don’t forget to remind your younger patrons about the original band too!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Horror TV Brings Plenty of Scares to October

Written by Jon Williams

With Halloween approaching, patrons will be looking for creepy tales to watch in the dark. While it’s hard to top a scary movie, more and more viewers are turning to television for their horror needs. A series of weekly episodes allows writers to draw out the suspense and inject even more scares than they could in a two-hour movie. Here are a few great recent and upcoming horror series that will put a little thrill into your patrons’ October nights.

Two series aired earlier this year that explore the origins of two classic horror icons. In their July “All-Time Greatest” issue, Entertainment Weekly named Psycho and The Silence of the Lambs as the #1 and #5 best horror movies. The series Bates Motel looks at the teenage years of Psycho’s twisted killer, Norman Bates, while Hannibal follows the career of Hannibal Lecter before the events of The Silence of the Lambs, which begins with Dr. Lecter in prison for his crimes. Both series wrapped up their first seasons this spring, and both have been renewed for 2014.

Another series which just had its season finale on September 16 was Under the Dome. Based on a book by Stephen King, the series portrays the events that take place when the town of Chester’s Mill, Maine, is inexplicably sealed off from the rest of the world by an impenetrable force field known as “the Dome.” This show will also be back for a second season next year, with the premiere episode being written by none other than Mr. King himself.

The same night that Under the Dome’s first season ended, Sleepy Hollow premiered. This series, with a creative team led by Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci (who have written for both the Transformers and rebooted Star Trek franchises), sees Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman transported from the Revolutionary War era to present-day Sleepy Hollow, New York. While the series is airing on Fox and won’t be available on DVD for a while, interested patrons can always check out the original short story by Washington Irving on audiobook, or another adaptation, such as the 1999 movie directed by Tim Burton and starring Johnny Depp.

Premiering October 9 on FX will be the third season of American Horror Story. Titled Coven, this season will deal with a group of witches sharing a bloodline going back to the Salem Witch Trials. Each season is basically a standalone miniseries, and each of the first two seasons was very highly regarded. The first season (Murder House) was nominated for a slew of Emmys, with Jessica Lange winning Best Supporting Actress. The second season (Asylum) saw James Cromwell take home an Emmy this past Sunday for Best Supporting Actor.

The current heavyweight of horror TV is AMC’s The Walking Dead, which comes back for its fourth season on October 16. The season three finale of the zombie show adapted from Robert Kirkman’s comic series set ratings records while leaving plenty of questions to be answered, ensuring that the new season will start with a bang. If you have horror-loving patrons who have somehow missed this show, be sure to recommend it—they’ll thank you for it.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Hot This Week: September 23

While last night's Emmy Awards made TV the talk of the weekend, there was still plenty of excitement left over for other media. The second installment in the Star Trek reboot franchise enters on top of the movie list. It was another big week for debuts on the CD chart, with six new titles, including the top three. Four new fiction titles make that list, headed by Sue Grafton's latest alphabet mystery. Even non-fiction got into the act with four debut titles; beloved comedian Billy Crystal's new book leads the newcomers at #2.

  1. Star Trek Into Darkness
  2. Now You See Me
  3. Oblivion
  4. Pain & Gain
  5. Olympus Has Fallen
  6. Empire State
  7. The Place Beyond the Pines
  8. Tyler Perry's Peeples
  9. 42
  10. G.I. Joe: Retaliation
  1. Keith Urban, Fuse
  2. The Weeknd, Kiss Land
  3. 2 Chainz, B.O.A.T.S. II #METIME
  4. Luke Bryan, Crash My Party
  5. Janelle Monae, The Electric Lady
  6. Arctic Monkeys, AM
  7. Sheryl Crow, Feels Like Home
  8. Tamar Braxton, Love and War
  9. Ariana Grande, Yours Truly
  10. John Legend, Love in the Future
  1. W Is for Wasted, Sue Grafton
  2. Never Go Back, Lee Child
  3. The Cuckoo's Calling, Robert Galbraith
  4. The Mayan Secrets, Clive Cussler and Thomas Perry
  5. Inferno, Dan Brown
  6. Robert B. Parker's Damned if You Do, Michael Brandman
  7. Second Watch, J.A. Jance
  8. And the Mountains Echoed, Khaled Hosseini
  9. Someone, Alice McDermott
  10. Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn
  1. Si-Cology 1, Si Robertson and Mark Schlabach
  2. Still Foolin' 'Em, Billy Crystal
  3. The Liberty Amendments, Mark R. Levin
  4. Zealot, Reza Aslan
  5. Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg and Nell Scovell
  6. Happy, Happy, Happy, Phil Robertson and Mark Schlabach
  7. Wilson, A. Scott Berg
  8. Lawrence in Arabia, Scott Anderson
  9. Five Days at Memorial, Sheri Fink
  10. A House in the Sky, Amanda Lindhout and Sara Corbett

Friday, September 20, 2013

Banned Books Week Begins September 22

Written by Kyle Slagley

Next week marks the 31st Annual Banned Books Week, a cause near and dear to my heart, as I’m sure it is to most of you. The cause is meant to encourage both readers and librarians to re-examine challenged and banned works, but perhaps more importantly, to promote the freedom to read in libraries, schools, and bookstores.

Having closely looked over the list of books most frequently challenged in the past decade I decided to highlight a few that I have read, and give my reaction to them. If your library chooses to censor these or any other books, that is your choice and you may take my reactions with as much salt as you like.

Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling: This series has been a lightning rod for controversy ever since it hit shelves for the first time in 1997. It was attacked primarily for promoting witchcraft among children and young adults. Despite the conflict, the franchise has made over $15 billion dollars. I own every book and every movie. Do I walk around wearing t-shirts with the Gryffindor crest or the word ‘Muggle’ on them? No. But I think these books are largely harmless because the content is so fantastical that I believe the concerns about witchcraft to be largely unfounded. What kid wouldn’t want to go to a school where he or she can learn how to fly on a broomstick, levitate objects with the flick of a wrist, and live in an awesome castle?

Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy: This series, consisting of The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass, is highly controversial because of its notions concerning both witchcraft and the oppression of the book’s version of the Catholic Church. I found the books incredibly well written – not for the religious controversy, but because of the depth Pullman writes into his characters. The struggles that protagonists Lyra and Will encounter while attempting to come of age in this dangerous world is absolutely fascinating. In this, as well as other series, it’s important to stress to readers that these works are labeled fiction for a reason and are not to be taken too seriously.

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini: Hosseini’s first book was met with a large amount of controversy from both American readers as well as Afghan-Americans. Americans challenged the book because it blatantly exposed things like homosexuality, pedophilia, drug abuse, and oppression amongst the various sects within Afghanistan. Afghan-Americans reportedly never denied the allegations, but rather protested against Hosseini for publicizing things about their culture that they claimed were better left unsaid. For me, the book was an absolute fantastic read. Hosseini has a way of telling his stories which is quite unlike the majority of other modern writers and it really resonates with me. I felt the same about his novels A Thousand Splendid Sons and And the Mountains Echoed.

Are there more books that I could write about that have been frequently banned and/or challenged? Certainly! There are dozens! For a full list of books that fall on this list, check out the ALA’s Banned Books webpage. For audiobooks and movie versions of some of the books on that list, visit the Midwest Tape website and click the Banned Books Week panel on the left side of the homepage.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Linklater to Be Honored at Gotham Awards

Written by Jon Williams

The Gotham Awards are presented each year to honor the best independent films and their makers. This year’s event, to be held in Lower Manhattan on December 2, will pay tribute to acclaimed indie director Richard Linklater.

Linklater, a native Texan, was working on an oil rig when he decided he wanted to be a filmmaker. He began by founding the Austin Film Society, with the original aim of bringing obscure films to the area for viewers, but which has evolved into a cornerstone of the independent film production movement in the Austin area.

At the same time, Linklater was working on building his own budding film career. He tasted his first bit of success with the 1991 film Slacker, which drew favorable reviews and grossed over $1 million at the box office despite a limited release (and a production budget of only $23,000). The film follows an eclectic cast of characters over the course of a single day in Austin. It opened the door for a number of independent filmmakers in the ‘90s, most notably Kevin Smith, who cites Slacker as the inspiration for his first film, Clerks.

It was just the beginning for Linklater, though, who followed Slacker with the 1993 film Dazed and Confused, which brought in $8 million at the box office before coming a cult classic on VHS and DVD. The film details the exploits of a group of high school students on the last day of school in 1976 and stars such up-and-coming names as Ben Affleck, Matthew McConaughey, Milla Jovovich, and Parker Posey. With classic rock featuring heavily throughout, the film’s soundtrack (and its follow-up) is nearly as notable as the film itself.

Linklater continued toiling throughout the 1990s before becoming even more widely known for a pair of mainstream comedies in the 2000s. In 2003, he directed the Jack Black feature School of Rock, about a down-on-his-luck guitarist who cons his way into a substitute teaching gig at a prep school and teaches his young charges how to rock. Then in 2005 he helmed the production of Bad News Bears, a remake of the 1976 classic about an inept little league baseball team.

Throughout it all, Linklater has continued to write and create his own brand of offbeat independent film. In 2011 he reteamed with Black and McConaughey for Bernie, a film about a mortician accused of murder and yet still venerated by the members of his community. His most recent film is this year’s Before Midnight, the conclusion to a romantic trilogy starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, which began with Before Sunrise and Before Sunset.

This is just a sampling of the films made by this talented and varied filmmaker, who has certainly earned the accolade from the Gotham Awards. Be sure to SmartBrowse Richard Linklater on our homepage to introduce your patrons to all he has to offer.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Hot This Week: September 16

It was quite a week for new titles. Four newcomers jump onto this week's DVD chart, headed by the crime drama Now You See Me, which comes in at #2. The top four titles on the CD chart are all new, with five new titles in all making the list. There are also five new titles on the fiction list, including the top two. There's even a new title atop the non-fiction list, as Duck Dynasty's Uncle Si makes his debut.

  1. Pain & Gain
  2. Now You See Me 
  3. Olympus Has Fallen
  4. Oblivion
  5. 42
  6. Mud
  7. Empire State
  8. Scary Movie V
  9. The Place Beyond the Pines
  10. Admission
  1. Ariana Grande, Yours Truly
  2. Tamar Braxton, Love and War
  3. Nine Inch Nails, Hesitation Marks
  4. John Legend, Love in the Future
  5. Luke Bryan, Crash My Party
  6. Jaheim, Appreciation Day
  7. Robin Thicke, Blurred Lines
  8. Avenged Sevengold, Hail to the King
  9. Justin Timberlake, The 20/20 Experience 
  10. Imagine Dragons, Night Visions 
  1. Never Go Back, Lee Child
  2. The Mayan Secrets, Clive Cussler and Thomas Perry
  3. The Cuckoo's Calling, Robert Galbraith
  4. Styxx, Sherrilyn Kenon
  5. Inferno, Dan Brown
  6. Dark Lycan, Christine Feehan
  7. And the Mountains Echoed, Khaled Hosseini
  8. MaddAddam, Margaret Atwood
  9. How the Light Gets In, Louise Penny
  10. Mistress, James Patterson and David Ellis
  1. Si-Cology 1, Si Robertson and Mark Schlabach
  2. The Liberty Amendments, Mark R. Levin
  3. Happy, Happy, Happy, Phil Robertson and Mark Schlabach
  4. Zealot, Reza Aslan
  5. Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg and Nell Scovell
  6. Lawrence in Arabia, Scott Anderson
  7. The Duck Commander Family, Willie and Korie Robertson and Mark Schlabach
  8. Unbroken, Laura Hillenbrand
  9. The Butler, Wil Haygood
  10. The Guns at Last Light, Rick Atkinson

Friday, September 13, 2013

Honorary Oscar for Steve Martin

Written by Kyle Slagley

In 2012, Steve Martin tweeted: “I swear, if I don’t win an Oscar this year, it will be like every other year.” This from the man who has hosted the Oscars three times. Finally, after a career that has spanned more than 40 years, the native Texan will receive an honorary Oscar for Lifetime Achievement.

Martin got his start as a writer on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour in 1967 at age 22. By the time the mid-70s rolled around he had written for Pat Paulsen, Glen Campbell, Ken Berry, and Sonny & Cher. Known for his absurdist comedy routines, Martin still maintains that his success in stand-up was entirely accidental.

Martin’s big film break came in 1979 when he wrote and starred in The Jerk, which was directed by Carl Reiner. Martin would go on to make three more films with Reiner. Joining fellow Saturday Night Live alumni Chevy Chase and Martin Short, The Three Amigos premiered in 1986, but many may not know that the film was originally slated to be called The Three Caballeros and star Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi instead.

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, my favorite of all Martin’s films, premiered in 1988 and was a smash success, co-starring Michael Caine. Even today the film still has an 88% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. My second-favorite Martin film, Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, premiered the year before and co-starred comedy legend John Candy.

Film is not the only area where Martin has distinguished himself. He first picked up a banjo at age 17 and would later receive two Grammy Awards for bluegrass recordings. Most recently he has been touring with the Steep Canyon Rangers and has appeared with them on shows like The Colbert Report, Conan, and The Late Show with David Letterman. Martin even narrated a PBS documentary called Give Me the Banjo about the history of the instrument.

All in all, the 68-year-old star is completely deserving of the Academy Honorary Award. Between the Emmys, Grammys, Mark Twain Award, and Kennedy Center Honor, the real question is whether he’ll have to move the sombrero off the shelf to clear a spot for it.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Sherlock’s Legacy Lives On

Written by Jon Williams

News emerged last week from the Toronto International Film Festival that Sir Ian McKellan, the renowned British actor who has played such legendary characters from Shakespeare and Charles Dickens throughout the course of his storied career, and who is known these days for his portrayals of Gandalf and Magneto, is set to take on yet another larger-than-life role: famed detective Sherlock Holmes.

Holmes, one of the great literary characters of all time, first appeared in the pages of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s 1887 novel A Study in Scarlet. The character went on to star in another novel (The Sign of Four) and a number of short stories (collected in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes) before Doyle killed him off in “The Final Problem,” published in 1893.

For most characters, that would have been the end of the line, but not so for Holmes. Public outcry over his death (including from the author’s own mother) led Doyle to bring the intrepid sleuth back for another adventure in 1902’s The Hound of the Baskervilles before resurrecting him for good in 1903’s “The Adventure of the Empty House.” That and twelve other Sherlock stories were collected in The Return of Sherlock Holmes (1905). The fourth and final novel, The Valley of Fear, wasn’t published until 1915; it tells of a Holmes adventure set before “The Final Problem.” Two more story collections followed: His Last Bow (1917), and The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes (1927).

Doyle passed away in 1930, but to the delight of detective fiction fans everywhere, his greatest creation did not follow him into the grave. There are any number of tales from other authors detailing the further adventures of Mr. Holmes. A number of them are collected in The Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, which includes stories by such names as Stephen King and Neil Gaiman. Dust and Shadow by Lindsay Faye pits Holmes against Jack the Ripper, while The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz was the first non-Doyle Holmes novel to be authorized by the late author’s estate. There’s also the Young Sherlock Holmes series for young adults by Andrew Lane, detailing the youthful exploits that shaped the detective’s experience.

In fact, Sherlock film featuring McKellan will be adapted from another of these later tales. A Slight Trick of the Mind, a 2005 novel by American author Mitch Cullin, features Holmes in his twilight years, struggling to solve a mystery from his past through the mist of his own failing memory.

As this upcoming film serves to remind us, the Holmes tradition is not strictly a literary one, but a dramatic one as well. The most visible current example is the series of films (the first in 2009, the sequel in 2011; a third is currently in the early stages of development) starring Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law as Holmes and his faithful companion Dr. Watson, but it is not the only one. The CBS television series Elementary updates Holmes’s setting to modern-day New York City, while the BBC series Sherlock (starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman as Holmes and Watson) does the same in London.

As the Guinness Book of World Records lists Holmes as the most portrayed fictional character, there are literally hundreds of other films and TV shows available. Basil Rathbone is perhaps the most famous (and certainly the most prolific) Sherlock, but the famed detective has also been played by such actors as Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Charlton Heston, and Christopher Plummer, just to name a few.

Clearly, Sherlock Holmes has proved to have staying power, capturing the imagination of readers and viewers for over 125 years. In addition to the multitude of titles listed here, be sure to SmartBrowse the character’s name on our homepage to explore even more audiobooks and DVDs you can offer your Holmes-hungry patrons.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Hot This Week: September 9

The Mark Wahlberg-Dwayne Johnson action flick Pain & Gain, from director Michael Bay, takes the top spot on this week's DVD list. Four new titles grace the CD chart, led by hard rockers Avenged Sevenfold. Louise Penny's latest Chief Inspector Gamache mystery knocks The Cuckoo's Calling from fiction's top spot, while the non-fiction list sees only familiar titles.

  1. Pain & Gain
  2. Olympus Has Fallen
  3. 42
  4. Mud
  5. The Big Wedding
  6. Scary Movie V
  7. G.I. Joe: Retaliation
  8. Admission
  9. Killing Season
  10. Identity Thief
  1. Avenged Sevengold, Hail to the King
  2. Luke Bryan, Crash My Party
  3. Big Sean, Hall of Fame
  4. Juicy J, Stay Trippy
  5. Robin Thicke, Blurred Lines
  6. Justin Timberlake, The 20/20 Experience
  7. John Mayer, Paradise Valley
  8. Various Artists, Alabama & Friends
  9. Bruno Mars, Unorthodox Jukebox
  10. TGT, Three Kings
  1. How the Light Gets In, Louise Penny
  2. The Cuckoo's Calling, Robert Galbraith
  3. Inferno, Dan Brown
  4. Mistress, James Patterson and David Ellis
  5. And the Mountains Echoed, Khaled Hosseini
  6. The Whole Enchilada, Diane Mott Davidson
  7. Bones of the Lost, Kathy Reichs
  8. Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn
  9. Night Film, Marisha Pessl
  10. The Bone Season, Samantha Shannon 
  1. The Liberty Amendments, Mark R. Levin
  2. Zealot, Reza Aslan
  3. Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg and Nell Scovell
  4. Happy, Happy, Happy, Phil Robertson and Mark Schlabach
  5. Lawrence in Arabia, Scott Anderson
  6. The Butler, Wil Haygood
  7. Unbroken, Laura Hillenbrand
  8. The Duck Commander Family, Willie and Korie Robertson and Mark Schlabach
  9. Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls, David Sedaris
  10. The Boys in the Boat, Daniel James Brown

Friday, September 6, 2013

Carol Burnett to Receive Comedy Award

Written by Kyle Slagley

As one of the most groundbreaking female comediennes of the past 50 years, I thought it entirely fitting when I read that Carol Burnett is to be awarded the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor next month at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

Burnett, now 80 years old, made appearances on a variety of TV comedy programs throughout the 1950s, but her career got a big jolt when she landed the role of Princess Winnifred in the Original Broadway Cast of Once Upon a Mattress in 1959. After that, her career was on the fast track, and by 1967 she had successfully realized her dream of fronting her own variety show, The Carol Burnett Show, which won 22 Emmy Awards during its 11-year run.

As if honoring a legendary clown like Burnett wasn’t enough, the ceremony itself is a veritable who’s who of funny people, particularly today’s top comediennes. Vicki Lawrence and Tim Conway, two of Burnett’s oldest friends from their days on The Carol Burnett Show, will be hosting the event.

Julie Andrews, who co-starred with Burnett in the TV special Julie and Carol at Carnegie Hall, will likely sing a song or two during her portion of the event. Other actors who will be in attendance include Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Rashida Jones, and Maya Rudolph. Lucie Arnaz, daughter of Burnett’s idol and mentor Lucille Ball, will also help pay tribute.

Ever the laugher, when told she would receive the award, Burnett reportedly commented, “I can’t believe I’m getting a humor prize from the Kennedy Center. It’s almost impossible to be funnier than the people in Washington.”

The ceremony will take place on October 20, and will be broadcast on PBS on November 24.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Gentlemen Take to the Road

Written by Jon Williams

I recently had the great pleasure to attend a Gentlemen of the Road Tour stopover event. British folk rock band Mumford & Sons put together these stopovers to bring an event to smaller towns that rarely see big-name musical acts come through. In this case, it was a two-day music and culture festival that took over the entire downtown area, with more than 30,000 people cramming into the high school football stadium to check out a wide variety of bands.

The music kicked off Friday evening with Half Moon Run, a Canadian rock band whose debut album, Dark Eyes, came out earlier in 2013. They brought a folky sound of their own, and their hit “Call Me in the Afternoon.” They were followed by deep-voiced singer-songwriter Willy Mason,whose most recent album is 2012’s Carry On. Then came Phosphorescent, aka Matthew Houck, whose atmospheric vibe began garnering acclaim with his 2007 release Pride, carrying it through Muchacho, which came out in March of this year.

Friday night’s headliner hit the stage around 9:30. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros managed an intimate performance despite the size of the venue, with singer Alex Ebert jumping down into the crowd to share the experience with fans and hear their stories. The twelve-member collective were joined by Marcus Mumford for “All Wash Out,” from their second album Here, and they finished up with the emotional “Home,” from their debut, Up from Below. Their self-titled latest album was just released in July.

Saturday was a full day of music, with the stadium opening to the public at noon and the first band, the up-and-coming Bear’s Den, taking the stage at 1:45. The second band, Those Darlins, brought a Nashville-tinged rock sound with them, playing songs from their two albums, Screws Get Loose and Blur the Line. One act that I particularly enjoyed was Justin Townes Earle (son of outlaw country singer Steve Earle, and named for singer-songwriter Townes Van Zandt), who played a mellow brand of bluesy country-rock. His most recent album, Nothing’s Gonna Change the Way You Feel About Me Now, was released in March of 2012; he mentioned during his set that he’s working on a new one.

Afterwards, the Vaccines performed the most straightforward rock music heard during the weekend, which can be found on their albums  What Did You Expect from the Vaccines?  and Come of Age, and whose song “Wreckin’ Bar (Ra Ra Ra)” is included on the soundtrack for the hit HBO series Girls. They were followed by Americana favorites Old Crow Medicine Show, who performed their hit “Wagon Wheel” (from their full-length debut O.C.M.S.) to the extreme delight of the crowd, which sang along at the top of their lungs.

And then it was time for the headliners. Mumford & Sons themselves took to the stage around 8:30 and played for nearly two hours. They played fourteen songs from the albums Sigh No More and Babel (the 2013 Grammy Winner for Album of the Year) in their main set, with the rain coming down during “Thistle and Weeds” being a nice touch. After leaving the stage briefly, they then came back out for a five-song encore which included covers of Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m on Fire” and the Beatles’ “Come Together.”

All in all, it was two incredible days filled with phenomenal music—some from bands I knew, and some from bands I’m eager to hear more from. If your patrons like Mumford & Sons (and trust me, they do), be sure to treat them to CDs from this wide range of artists invited to perform with them at these rare, amazing stopover events.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Hot This Week: September 3

Scary Movie V and Killing Season make their debuts on the post-Labor Day DVD chart. Luke Bryan keeps his #1 spot on the CD chart, with four new titles following him, led by the latest from rock superstar John Mayer. The familiar names remain the same at the top of the fiction list, with the latest in the Sword of Truth series from fantasy author Terry Goodkind leading a trio of newcomers. The non-fiction list also remains mostly the same, with The Butler making its first appearance, buoyed by the movie starring Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey.

  1. Olympus Has Fallen
  2. 42
  3. Mud
  4. The Big Wedding
  5. Admission
  6. G.I. Joe: Retaliation
  7. Scary Movie V 
  8. Identity Thief
  9. Bullet to the Head
  10. Killing Season
  1. Luke Bryan, Crash My Party
  2. John Mayer, Paradise Valley
  3. TGT, Three Kings
  4. Jimmy Buffett, Songs from St. Somewhere
  5. Earl Sweatshirt, Doris
  6. Robin Thicke, Blurred Lines
  7. NOW That's What I Call Music 47
  8. Teen Beach Movie Soundtrack
  9. A$AP Ferg, Trap Lord
  10. Jay-Z, Magna Carta Holy Grail
  1. The Cuckoo's Calling, Robert Galbraith
  2. Inferno, Dan Brown
  3. Mistress, James Patterson and David Ellis
  4. And the Mountains Echoed, Khaled Hosseini
  5. The Third Kingdom, Terry Goodkind
  6. Night Film, Marisha Pessl
  7. Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn
  8. The Kill List, Frederick Forsyth
  9. The Husband's Secret, Liane Moriarty
  10. The English Girl, Daniel Silva
  1. The Liberty Amendments, Mark R. Levin
  2. Zealot, Reza Aslan
  3. Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg and Nell Scovell
  4. Happy, Happy, Happy, Phil Robertson and Mark Schlabach
  5. Lawrence in Arabia, Scott Anderson
  6. Unbroken, Laura Hillenbrand
  7. Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls, David Sedaris
  8. The Butler, Wil Haygood
  9. The Boys in the Boat, Daniel James Brown
  10. These Few Precious Days, Christopher Andersen