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Down and Nerdy: Jeffrey Lewis, The Sandbaggers and "Queen & Country"

IN WHICH a musician incorporates comic books into his stage show, and a legendary British espionage series is celebrated.

Briana's pick: Jeffrey Lewis

Just one look at him on stage and you will immediately assume that Jeffrey Lewis is a nerd. Visit with him a while and you will discover that Jeffrey Lewis is 2,000 times cooler than you or I will ever be…and not just because he was raised on the lower east side of Manhattan (which makes him cool by default). Jeffery Lewis is cool because he is unique and (I’m going to guess) doesn’t care what you think of him. Songwriter, illustrator, history buff, storyteller Jeffrey Lewis is on a mission to entertain you. You might even learn something along the way.

Recently, I saw him perform with his band, The Junkyard and had my mind completely blown away. You can classify his songs as part of the “anti-folk” movement (think lo-fi, out of tune ditties, Moldy Peaches or Daniel Johnston). His song topics range from girls to ‘creeping brains,’ ramen noodles to the “The History of Punk on the Lower East Side, 1950-1975.” He even wrote a terrifying song about running into a look-alike Will Oldham on the subway (Oldham is nationally recognized, Louisville singer/songwriter, in case you have been living under a rock).

Jeffrey Lewis sings songs, but he also writes and illustrates comic books. On stage he incorporates his comics into his performance. Lewis has completed several large, full-color books that he reads and sings live while his band performs behind him. He will hold the book out in front of him and turn the page as the story progresses. They are full color, professional level illustrations. Some are silly tales straight from his imagination. Others are depictions of historical events--like when the Mayflower pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock. Good stuff.

Visit www.thejeffreylewissite.com for more info. Also, check out this live version of his hit:

James' pick: The Sandbaggers and "Queen & Country"

Lately I've been totally absorbed by an awesome British TV show from the late 1970s called "The Sandbaggers." It's about the men and women of England's Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) during the Cold War.

It is very unlike most TV/film spy fiction – virtually all of the action takes place in offices, in the form of conversations. There are no hot women or guys in tuxedos swilling martinis. TV critic Rick Vanderknyff said it "is many things American network television is not: talky and relatively action-free, low in fancy production values but high in plot complexity."

It's a very intelligent show, quiet and thoughtful and deep. Most of the episodes were written by Ian Mackintosh, a novelist and Scottish naval officer. I think it's absolutely thrilling. Here's a brief clip to give you an idea of the show's tone:

I'm also suggesting you check out "Queen & Country," an awesome series of graphic novels written by Greg Rucka. It's a sort of modern-day sequel to Sandbaggers, telling similar stories of a small group of agents that are dropped into incredibly dangerous situations. It's been collected in four paperback editions, and it too is a complete thrill.


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