Recommended diversions

Raising Sand

Duet albums are about as original as cheeseburgers, but this one has stayed in my car’s disc player for days now. A co-worker left Raising Sand on my desk Friday, and I’ve been listening to the collaboration between contemporary bluegrass diva Alison Krauss and Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant all weekend. I’m a huge fan of both, but could not have imagined them together.

The songs and their production have an elemental quality, and are neither country or hard rock but many places in between. The songs chosen for the CD are from equally well-known writers — Tom Waits, Gene Clark, Sam Phillips, Townes Van Zandt, The Everly Brothers and Mel Tillis. What this CD lacks in raw energy it makes up for in uncomplicated, catchy music whose chorus lines stay with you. Especially good are “Gone Gone Gone (Done Moved On)” and “Please Read the Letter.”


Alison Brown Quartet

Speaking of music, the concert a few weeks ago sponsored by the Haywood County Arts Council was magnificent. Unfortunately, attendance was abysmal, so only a couple of hundred lucky concert-goers got to see Brown, her band and Joe Craven. Brown plays a banjo but her music leans more toward jazz than any other well-defined genre, and Craven is simply an amazing and fun multi-instrumentalist. Too many great concerts at venues west of Asheville just aren’t well-attended, and this one was a prime example. Here’s hoping support for live music ramps up so we’ll continue to get quality performers out this way.


Tony Horwitz

Same co-worker who suggested the Raising Sand CD plopped three Tony Horwitz books on my desk a month or so ago and told me to read. I have, and it’s been fun. Horwitz took off to the Middle East in the 1990s with his wife, who had a job for a large newspaper. He was free-lancing, and his travels throughout the region trying track down stories are edifying, hilarious, and right-on insightful. The book about the Middle East is Baghdad Without a Map. Another, Confederates in the Attic, is about a tour through the South to Civil War sites and his discussions with the war’s many aficionados. I’ve just started, and I’ve already learned about the re-enactors who won’t eat so they can assume the emaciated look of real Civil War soldiers. Horwitz is that rare journalist that combines the eye for detail with a novelist’s sense of storytelling. Check him out.



I’m taking a scuba refresher course as my middle daughter gets certified. Spent about 10 hours in the pool last weekend, will do close to the same again this weekend. The instructor reminded us that 70 percent of the earth’s surface is covered by the ocean, or is under water, so it’s a wonder more people don’t scuba dive. Made me think of all the water facts from grade school: 98 percent of water is in the oceans, 2 percent of all water on earth is fresh, and only .035 percent of the planet’s total is in lakes and rivers. Just in case you needed to know. Immerse yourself.

— By Scott McLeod

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