Friday, April 20, 2018

Courtney Yasmineh Returning to the Northland for Dylan Fest

It's been five years since her first Duluth Dylan Fest when she shared a stage with Scarlet Rivera and Gene LaFond at Weber Hall. The following year she returned with enthusiasm and after her performance we talked about where her career has taken her, whereupon I learned she was also writing and working on a novel. This time around A Girl Called Sidney, her first in a quartet of books, has been completed and the second well on its way.

Courtney's returning here to rock, though, and you find her Wednesday night with Rob Genadek at The Rex @ Fitgers right after the Highway 61 Band Five dollars gets you fifty dollars worth of music that night.

EN: You begin your bio by talking about how rare honesty is in rock and roll. Why is this? And is it something that has gotten worse, this lack of honesty?

Courtney Yasmineh: Well, the bio was written by a publicist, so that isn’t necessarily my own viewpoint. I guess I would say that certain artists in popular music are more genuine or authentic or honest than others and that I always endeavor to be sincere in my work.

EN: Your energy and drive are noteworthy. Where does this energy come from? That is, what's behind it that propels you to perform?

CY: I feel that this is my time to fully explore being a full time artist, now that my children are grown. I’m excited to be able to do all that I can.

EN: When did you start your blog and what have you learned from this daily discipline?

CY: I started the blog after my recent tour in Europe. I felt that I wanted to sidestep the constraints of social media and write more freely for people who want to stay in touch with me as an artist. Most of my adult life I have written in a journal every morning. Now I have the idea that it would be inspiring to others and to myself to share these morning musings in a semi-public way on my own website.

EN: Your blog projects an explosion of color that is catchy. At the top of the page is the title of your new album, The High Priestess and the Renegade. Which one is you, high priestess or renegade? Can you elaborate on this?

CY: I am the high priestess and the renegade. And also Rob Genadek, the Minneapolis music producer I work with, he is the renegade as well. I saw a High Priestess card in a Tarot deck and she has her hand on a lion’s head. She tames the lion with her inner strength and graciousness. The picture of me on the front of the album artwork is the High Priestess. The picture of the lion on the back cover is the renegade….and my fans and I like to say that the lion is Rob, too.

EN: You've been performing internationally since when? And do you have a favorite memory from performing abroad?

CY: March 2018, 26 shows in 32 days, was my 11th Europe tour! Some years we went twice, and this year we are invited back to play outdoor festivals in August, so it’s been twelve tours in ten years. My favorite memory was the filming of my music video “Heartbreak Woman” in Paris. I loved that! You can watch it on youtube or on my website.

EN: You've given credit to Bob Dylan's music for getting you through a very hard winter when you were young. I know other's who have said Dylan's music helped get them through hard times. What is it that enables him to connect with so many kinds of people?

CY: I think Mr. Dylan has written songs to express pain in a very sincere way. The beauty of his melodies and the brilliance of his words has never overshadowed the deep feelings running through his recordings. As a performer, especially on his recordings, he has so many times been able to create an atmosphere of remoteness, a sense of only you listening to only him.

EN: You've released four albums of original music and songs. What is your process for writing songs?

CY: The new album is my seventh, believe it or not. I write songs as I walk outside usually. I just start singing a soundtrack to whatever is happening in my life and in my heart. I sing it, right from the first words. Then if it seems promising, I sing the first line over and over until I get home so I won’t forget it and then I sit down and actually work out the rest with a guitar and a note pad and a recording device.

EN: Last time you were in Duluth we discussed writing. You mentioned you were working on a book. Have you published it now? What's it about and where can people find it?

CY: Yes, I had been thinking for many years about how to tell the story of the year I ran away from Chicago and stayed alone for the winter in my grandfather’s deserted old cabin on Lake Vermilion.

I was approached by a publisher out of Chicago a few years ago. She had heard that I was a songwriter and touring artist who also was writing fiction. So with her encouragement I wrote and edited a very concise version of the story.

That first novel, in the literary fiction category, came out a year ago in June. It is the first in a four book series with the second book due out in early 2019. The novels are about a girl who wants to be a songwriter, and yes, the stories are based on my own experiences. I find prose writing to be very hard work. I find songwriting to be delightful hard work. I’m very grateful that I get to go around singing my songs.

I got the idea to make it a four book series in an effort to show a woman’s life of pursuing her artistry and also having children and trying to survive by conventional and less conventional means.

Book one has had excellent reviews and is available internationally at independent booksellers as well as all Barnes&Noble stores, and is available on in ebook and paperback.

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Related Links
Courtney's Website
Another place to find her book.
Complete Duluth Dylan Fest Schedule 
Follow Courtney on her blog. 

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Duluth Dylan Fest 2018 Official Schedule


William Pagel Archives Bob Dylan Exhibit Opening Reception and John Bushey Memorial Lecture with David Pichaske, author of Songs of the North Country: A Midwest Framework to the Songs of Bob Dylan
6–8p | Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum | Free
Exhibit runs May 19–June 29

EdNote: Earlier on May 19th, the Hibbing Dylan Project 
is holding several events in Hibbing from 1:00-4:30p
To learn more visit

Big Wu - Armory Arts & Music Center Concert
5p for dinner | 6:30 show | The Sports Garden
Tickets & Electric Fetus
Dylan Pub Trivia
9p | Carmody Irish Pub | Free

Visions of Duluth Art Show Opening Reception at Zeitgeist Atrium
5–7p | Free | Show runs May 20–27
Music by Tom O'Keefe and Friends

Geno LaFond and Amy Grillo
6–8p | Sir Ben’s Tavern
Dylan Fest Open Mic hosted by Marc Gartman
9–11p | Sir Ben’s Tavern | Free

Shakespeare’s in the Alley: A Tribute to Bob Dylan 
Largescale text-based art installation by Skye
Artist talk 5:30p | The Depot Great Hall | Free
Exhibit runs May 21-29 (Museum fee)
Poets of the North Country
6:30–8p | The Depot Great Hall | Free
Highway 61 Band and Courtney Yasmineh with Rob Genadek
8:30p | The Rex at Fitger’s | $5


Bob Dylan Turns 77
Front Porch concert with Greg Tiburzi
3p | Bob Dylan Boyhood Home, 519 W. 3rd Ave E | Free

Blood on the Tracks Express
Rolling-train music fest: Duluth to Two Harbors
Boarding 5:30p at The Depot | Tickets:

Dylan Fest Singer-Songwriter Contest
Sacred Heart Music Center 7p | Valentini’s Food Truck on site Contest sign up | Free

John Bushey Memorial Lecture with Richard F. Thomas, author of Why Dylan Matters
1–2p | Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum | Free
Dylan Fest Party with Cowboy Angel Blue
8p | Carmody Irish Pub | Free

Farewell Brunch with Jim Hall
11a to 1:30p | Zeitgeist Café | Free

Related Links
2016 Interview with David Pichaske, author of Song of the North Country
Our Generous DDF Sponsors for 2018
A Visit with Richard F. Thomas, author of Why Bob Dylan Matters

Meantime, life goes on all around you. Engage it!

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

A Dozen Things Seen During My Recent Trip Up the East Coast from Tampa to Allentown

I saw these birds during a morning run in Riverside, East of Tampa Bay.
On my first day I woke in the night and sketched this vision from my head.
Along the way I found Waldo.
And wouldn't you know it, I also found myself. 
This is George Melvin.
One of many wonderful murals that I saw in various places.
So many good Mexican restaurants, too... Yummm.
And yes, my grandson Wally is a gem.
There was a birthday celebration with the extended family.
Wally enjoyed his first Easter...
...while his cousins had to work to find Easter eggs outside.
For dessert I enjoyed a visit with an old art instructor I had in college.
His dog leapt out the window to greet me.*

It was a very special time with family, friends and memories.

*A miniature sculpture by Frank Holmes.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Earth Day Gallery Hop Is This Weekend -- PLUS More Art and Music To Lift Your Spirits and Touch Your Souls


Next Friday, April 27
Three More Great Art Events
Here's the Lineup
The Inimitable Leah Yellowbird

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State of the Workforce Gallup Study: Medicine to Make America Great Again

This past week I've been reading another great book on leadership. It's called Eleven Rings, by Phil Jackson. Subtitled The Soul of Success, Jackson has earned the right to speak about what it takes to produce successful teams. His first Championship Ring was as a player. The next ten were earned by applying an underlying philosophy that incorporated insights from experience as well as an eclectic mix of spiritual disciplines including Buddhism, Christianity, Chinese philosophy and Lakota Sioux. 

In chapter one he references a book that I was introduced to in late 2016, Tribal Leadership, by Dave Logan, John King and Halee Fischer-Wright. Jackson succinctly lays out the five stages of organizations, including sports organizations and other kinds of businesses.

Stage 1 is characterized by despair, hostility and a collective belief that "life sucks." It's pretty much the nature of street gangs, Jackson explains.

Stage 2 is characterized by apathy, people who see themselves as victims. They are a little better than stage one because they aren't saying "life sucks" but rather, "My life sucks." Meaning, this toxic situation I am in at this moment in time is not good.

Stage 3 is comprised of people who believe themselves great. "If only everyone else on the team were as motivated and talented as me." Winning is everything, except its a personal notch in the gun, and not a team thing.

Stage 4 is dedicated to tribal pride and the overriding conviction that "we're great and they're not," meaning the competition. This works if the foe is big enough and our tribe can see themselves as heroes in this battle against a Goliath.

Stage 5 though is the rare kind of company you dream of being part of, characterized by innocent wonder and the pervasive sense that life is great. Jackson points to the 1995-1998 Bulls as a premiere example of this kind of tribe.

Before you say, "Yes, but he had Michael Jordan," you need to see how he changed Jordan from being a "me" player to a team player.

All this to say that too many companies in America are mired in Stage 2 cultures, hence the widespread popularity of comics like Dilbert and TV shows like The Office. If we really want to make America great again, we won't find the answer on a November ballot. According to the Gallup organization's latest State of the Workplace report, it has to start in the workplace.

The first stat that hits you in the face – because it's on page one --is that only 33% of American workers are engaged in what they are doing. This compares to 70% engaged in the world's best organizations.

Equally disconcerting is the stat that 51% of all workers, according to Gallup, are actively looking for other work.

Considering these realities, it’s clear why people in the U.S. continue to drop out of the labor force in alarming numbers. In some cases, they can’t find a job or the right job, and in other cases, they can’t find a job that pays enough to justify incurring other costs that sometimes go along with working, such as child care, transportation or therapy due to mental duress.

The Gallup report estimates that actively disengaged employees cost the U.S. $483 billion to $605 billion each year in lost productivity.

A majority of employees (60%) say they want to work at a job that utilizes the skills they do best. What's missing for many if not most workers is a sense of purpose beyond the paycheck. This is especially important for millennials who want their lives, including their work, to have meaning.

Times have changed and the workforce has changed, but many workplaces have not been adapting to these changes, according to Gallup findings. (p. 7) " The key to an organization’s growth has been and always will be its workforce."

The most unsettling pattern in this study of 195,000+ workers was that employees are not confident about their company's leadership, as these stats reveal.

• 22% of employees strongly agree the leadership of their organization has a clear direction for the organization.
• 15% of employees strongly agree the leadership of their organization makes them enthusiastic about the future.
• 13% of employees strongly agree the leadership of their organization communicates effectively with the rest of the organization.

The report, which you can download here, is near 200 pages.

What Phil Jackson's book explains is that we don't win by being an organization made up solely of Michael Jordans-level talent. Jordan was a rare individual well outside the talent pool bell curve. The power of the team comes together when each member of the team is engaged, while recognizing the value of the other members on the team.

The biggest lesson Michael Jordan and other superstars must learn is how to trust the others on the team so they can work together for maximum effectiveness. Jackson helped Michael "see the light" on how his self-reliance hindered realization of the team's highest capabilities.

All this to say both Eleven Rings and Gallup's State of the Workforce report are good reads.

Monday, April 16, 2018

When He Returns: Dylan Drapes Biblical Fervor With Poetic Insight

We were talking, about the space between us all 
And the people, who hide themselves behind a wall of illusion 
Never glimpse the truth, then it's far too late when they pass away
George Harrison, Within You Without You

8 November 1979, San Francisco.
Photo courtesy Bill Pagel Archives
"We were talking, about the space between us all." It's just a statement of fact. We were talking about this. George Harrison put it out there as something that was taking place, that was true and observable. But where he takes it becomes controversial because it can be interpreted as preachy and patronizing.

When I wrote about Within You Without You in 2014 it surprised me to read that there were people offended by this song, for that specific reason.

"And the people, who hide themselves behind a wall of illusion 
Never glimpse the truth, then it's far too late when they pass away."

But then, it's just a variation on the age-old story that Plato illustrated with his allegory about people in a cave who are chained facing a wall of shadows cast there by a fire behind them which they cannot turn and see. These shadows are not reality. In fact, the fire behind them that casts the shadows is not even the real light that lights the world. They must escape their chains and climb out of the cave to see the sun.

Now frankly, I did not see The Beatles' "Within You Without You" as something didactic and harsh. There was no fire and brimstone in the lyrics, nor was there a harshness in the tone of the song. By way of contrast, Dylan did put on the mantle of fire-and-brimstone evangelist at times. If people were touchy about George Harrison's attempts to enlighten, small wonder that there were a few hostile reactions during this Gospel period in Dylan's career.

That Dylan went Gospel should not have been entirely bewildering. He's always been a shape shifter. Why be surprised that one of his iterations would be as a Gospel evangelist? Glimmers of his spiritual interior life had peppered his lyrics for two decades previous.

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Bootleg Series #13: Trouble No More captures the essence of Dylan's spirit during this period from 1979 to 1981. In Plato's allegory, the one who escapes from imprisonment in the cave and sees the true light feels a moral obligation to return to the cave, which in part explains the preaching Dylan did during some of the concerts of that time, which is in itself a bit of an irony because one of the chief criticisms I've heard about his most of his concerts during the Never Ending Tour  is how little he talks. Sometimes he's almost mute, as he was in his 1998 concert in Duluth..

"When He Returns" is the fifth track on Trouble No More. In a nutshell, the song is about the things Jesus will do "when he returns." It's a tenet of Evangelical Christianity that Jesus not only died and was raised from the dead, but that he is coming back again at the end of the age.

The lyrics are interesting because of the manner in which Dylan splices into the story his own very personal feelings. "How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?" In the concerts where he sang this, it is sung with remarkable feeling, some of the words almost painfully squeezed out. It's moving. And when he gets to the third stanza is the "you" here a sermon to the audience? Or is it a continuation of the exhortations to himself? "How long can you hate yourself for the weakness you conceal?"

The questions are pointed, but for all of us including himself as he does in other places such as "Heart of Mine" on Shot of Love.

Here are the lyrics. The Bible verses referenced are in parentheses. As he did with the "American Songbook' so has Dylan done with the "Good Book," internalizing it and putting it back out there in his own poetic voice.

When He Returns

The iron hand it ain’t no match for the iron rod  (Revelations 2:27)
The strongest wall will crumble and fall to a mighty God  (Joshua 6:20)
For all those who have eyes and all those who have ears  (Matthew 11:15)
It is only He who can reduce me to tears
Don’t you cry and don’t you die and don’t you burn
For like a thief in the night, He’ll replace wrong with right (I Thessalonians 5:2)
When He returns

Truth is an arrow and the gate is narrow that it passes through  (Matthew 7:13,14)
He unleashed His power at an unknown hour that no one knew  (Matthew 24:44)
How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness? (Deuteronomy 1:19-45)
Can I cast it aside, all this loyalty and this pride?
Will I ever learn that there’ll be no peace, that the war won’t cease
Until He returns?

Surrender your crown on this blood-stained ground, take off your mask (Hebrews 9:22)
He sees your deeds, He knows your needs even before you ask
How long can you falsify and deny what is real?
How long can you hate yourself for the weakness you conceal?
Of every earthly plan that be known to man, He is unconcerned  (Proverbs 19:21)
He’s got plans of His own to set up His throne  (Revelations 4:2)
When He returns
Copyright © 1979 by Special Rider Music

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Sunday, April 15, 2018

Duluth Dylan Fest Update: Big Wu Comin'

"Double Dylan, Strathmore Style" by Ennyman
Events for Duluth Dylan Fest 2018 have been shaping up for months, and for additional icing on the proverbial Bob-Birthday Cake this year Big Wu will be in town for a Dylan-flavored concert on Sunday, May 20 at the Sports Garden in Canal Park.

If you're noticing a lot of Double Dylan images this year it's because the theme for our 2018 week-long celebration is Twins, selected because Duluth's Native Son will be 77 this year. He was born in the Twin Ports, went to college in the Twin Cities, has a zodiac sign of Gemini (The Twins), was the first rock musician to produce a Double Album (Blonde On Blonde) and no doubt has some fans who are twins. (Hibbing friends: can you add something from up there that fits the theme?)

Duluth Dylan Fest 2018 kicks off on May 19 at Karpeles with the opening reception for the William Pagel Archives and the John Bushey Memorial Lecture with David Pichaske, author of Songs of the North Country: A Midwest Framework to the Songs of Bob Dylan 6–8p. There is no cost. This is a free event. Mr. Pagel's exhibt will run from May 19 thru June 29.

Doors open for Sunday's Big Wu Concert at 5 pm. If for some reason you can't make it to the concert but you're in town, the annual Dylan Trivia Contest will be taking place at Carmody's Pub at 9 pm. The questions and answers have already been prepared, and are under wraps in a secret vault.

As we count down to Duluth Dylan Fest 2018 we'll keep you in the loop as regards the final schedule of events for the week. Join us if you can.

Related Links
Inside an Unbelievable Bob Dylan Memorabilia Collection by Kate Nelson
Artful Living Dylan Features
Call for Art -- 2018 Duluth Dylan Fest
Warhol, Dylan and the Double Elvis -- Catalyst for this year's theme image.