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It’s been a tough week in WNY, but here are a few reasons to give thanks

My son is at the age where he’s questioning the sanity of things we, as a culture, are taught to take for granted. I’m enjoying it, most of the time, partly because the apple didn’t fall far from the tree, and partly because the warped nature of the time-space continuum makes it seem to me like only yesterday that I was doing the same thing. (Actually, I was questioning the sanity of the NFL for pushing for a Bills game in the midst of our state of emergency weather situation, but hey, I’ve never taken football all that seriously, anyway.)

Declan’s targets over the past few weeks have been holidays. Thanksgiving, in particular.

“What a stupid holiday,” quoth he. “Why are we celebrating stealing land from Native Americans by eating too much and watching football and going shopping for junk we don’t need? What a joke. It’s just another day.”

I see his point. But I also tried to put a positive spin on things.

“You’re not wrong,” I said. “But I think it’s really about taking a day to realize what you have to be thankful for, and it’s a good excuse to not work, and to gather with family and friends. It’s a good idea from time to time to realize you’re lucky. I mean, think of what a life without music would be like! You’re grateful you don’t have to live that life, right?”

“Yeah. I get it, pops.”

I know. Real “Father of the Year” material here, right? But I do like to reflect on blessings. It’s good for the soul. So, in honor of Thanksgiving, whatever you may think of the origins of the holiday itself, I’m sharing a list of some of the musical things I’m thankful for, and assuming you could make such a list of your own without too much effort. Have a nice holiday, everyone.

David Bowie is alive

Life is just that much better knowing the Thin White Duke is still out there, making music in secrecy and dropping it on an unsuspecting public at will. What’s even more comforting is the fact that Bowie has aged incredibly well, and is still making music worthy of his reputation. The recent “Nothing Has Changed” career overview kicks off with a brand new song, “Sue (In A Season of Crime),” a collaboration between Bowie and the Maria Schneider Orchestra. Bowie has never made his love of jazz a secret, and so it’s not surprising that his collaboration with the Grammy-winning Schneider is so organic and believable.

Steve Earle & the Dukes are still ‘The other kind’

Alt-country, indie-folk, rock – whatever you need to call Steve Earle, the fact is he’s one of the finest curmudgeonly singer-songwriters in the country, and any time he’s got a new batch of songs to share, we should all give thanks and praise. Earle & the Dukes will drop “Terraplane” on Feb. 17, via New West Records.

Those Springsteen reissues sound killer

Bruce Springsteen’s “The Album Collection Vol. 1” wraps up the man’s first seven releases in newly remastered editions, and delivers them all on beautiful vinyl. (And CD and digital formats, too.) This might not seem like such a big deal to some folks, but five of these albums have never been remastered, having made the jump from vinyl to CD many years ago without the adjustments we now know to be essential for such conversion. So hearing “The Wild the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle” in this definitive form, for example, is a pure revelation. In fact, it’s that album that stands out in this box – although with company like “Greetings From Asbury Park, NJ,” “Born to Run,” “Darkness on the Edge of Town,” “The River,” “Nebraska,” and “Born in the USA,” it’s not like Springsteen’s second effort is the sole genius in the class. But there’s something special about this album, by far the funkiest of the bunch. This is the E Street Band at its jamming best, and Springsteen provided songs for the project that represented him fully delivering on his promise for the first time.

Mohawk Place is open

Hats off to Rick Platt, the new owner of Mohawk Place, for getting the fabled indie rock haven up and running again. And kudos to Marty Boratin for handling the booking, as he did during a prime period of the “old” Mohawk’s life. Boratin just announced a clutch booking for late winter/early spring: Cursive will play Mohawk Place on March 15.

The Tea Party is playing the Town Ballroom on Saturday night

The good news first – one of the most beloved Canadian bands to have frequented Buffalo over the past two decades is arriving with a new album’s worth of material to choose from. The bad news – if you didn’t buy a ticket yet, you’re too late. It’s sold out. Sorry, eh.

The Studio @ Waiting Room is cool

When new clubs open in Buffalo, it’s a good thing, a sign of growth. When new clubs open in Buffalo and stay open for more than a year, it’s a very good thing. When new clubs open in Buffalo, stay open for more than a year, and then expand by opening a secondary club on their second floor, it’s downright awesome.

Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds are dropping 11 new pieces of vinyl

Beginning with 1984’s seminal “From Her to Eternity,” the first 11 releases in the Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds catalog will get the deluxe heavyweight vinyl treatment in the coming months. The first four titles will hit your favorite retailer on Dec. 16. The rest will follow in the early months of 2015. Can I get an amen?

Cassandra Wilson has signed with Legacy Recordings

One of the greatest jazz singers of her own or any other era, Wilson just inked a new deal with Legacy, and will drop her first album for that label, “Come Forth by Day,” in the spring. It gets better – “Come Forth by Day” will be released on the 100th birthday of the great Billie Holiday, and will find Wilson joined by members of Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds for new interpretations of songs associated with Lady Day. Too cool.

Max Ox is crazy good

Nothing stirs the heart these days quite like hearing a great new young band deliver music that pays heed to the past while celebrating the present with urgency. This trio from Los Angeles plays futuristic funk with R&B underpinnings and jazz chops. Max Ox – shorthand for Maximum Occupancy – has offered up its album “Your (Drunken) Soundtrack” for your listening pleasure, via Band Camp. Check it out at


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