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The Friday Morning Listen: Levon Helm – Electric Dirt

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The 4th of July approaches, the official beginning of summer around here. I've always looked forward to this weekend, not so much for the flag-waving antics and the fireworks, but for the chance to sit back and hang with the family, indulge in a little grilling (Dad always requested a "burnt hot dog"), and stare up at the sky.

This year will be a lot different as it's the first time around with just me and TheWife™ We probably will do a little grilling and sky-watching for sure. It's unlikely that there will be any flag-waving or even watching of fireworks on the tube. Mom & Dad used to love the Boston Pops 4th of July thing. I'm not so hot on the Pops. Yeah, I'm sure you're just shocked to read that.

Patriotism is a funny thing. Some people think that there's only one brand of it (read: America, Love It Or Leave It), but that's not true at all. My father fought in World War II and was appalled at the actions of supposed 'patriots.' Not long after 9/11, we purchased an American flag and put it up in front of the house. At the time, it was a statement that put us in solidarity with the immediate victims and those who put their lives on the line during the rescue efforts. Those times were sad but also interesting, as citizens drew together in some interesting ways. It was common to see people waving at police officers, shows of newfound respect.

For us that lasted about two weeks or so, as the mood turned ugly. After seeing my third or fourth flag-encrusted pickup truck festooned with "Death to the Towel-Heads" signs, I decided to take my solidarity private. Down came the flag.

See, my idea of patriotism is spending my time pointing out my favorite bits of the country — that includes not only places but art, the written word, and music. The intent isn't to illustrate what makes the U.S. 'exceptional' (I've always thought that the whole "best country in the world" thing was pointless and a big waste of time) but to better the world. Seriously, I do think that this kind of thing has it's own "butterfly effect." By pointing out the beauty of a particular artwork or piece of music, the impact can radiate those positive ripples.

This morning, I'm listening to this recently-released Levon Helm record. The man's been on a creative tear over the last few years. Electric Dirt is a stunning continuation of 2007's Dirt Farmer, bringing elements of country, blues (including two Muddy Waters tunes), R&B, and gospel. It's a musical melting-pot. He had me with the fantastic cover of "Tennessee Jed" that opens the album.

So happy 4th of July, Americans. Feel good about your country however you see fit. Me, I'll be listening to some music and enjoying a burnt hot dog.

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About Mark Saleski

  • Amen Mark. Especially the part about the flag wavin’ rednecks (though you didn’t use that word, I will).


  • Mark, I like your idea of patriotism, “…pointing out my favorite bits of the country — that includes not only places but art, the written word, and music” and I do believe in our own small people, we can affect positivity through the butterfly effect. I’d like to think that we can are making positive contributions through BC and our own blogs.

    Happy Independence Day from one of the Canadian writers.

  • I remember the first time the wife and I lived abroad. It was very enlightening to realize that not everyone thought that the USA was the greatest country in the world. In fact, some believed that *gasp* France held that title.

    I do love a great many things about this country, but the older I get the less patriotic I feel and the more I try to make the world about me (no matter where that is) just a little bit better.