Edie Brickell is growing up. Two years ago, Brickell & New Bohemians' debut album, "Shooting Rubberbands at the Stars," was criticized for being a touch too wise yet, at the same time, shallow, as if the early-twenty-something Texans were trying to tell listeners with songs such as the Top 10 hit "What I Am" that they had it all figured out.
For their new album, "Ghost of a Dog" (Geffen), Brickell and her bandmates have stepped down from the pulpit. They are now looking at the world. "I just wanted to paint a little picture," says Brickell, her voice lush and sweet with a cooing twang.
A lady with a baby
With only one shoe
Where's his other shoe?
She's also writing a lot about love and relationships. Almost innocently, as if it's unexplored territory. Maybe it's because she describes herself as "passionate combined with confusion." Maybe, she admits, it's because she thinks too much.
"I'm always trying to figure things out," she says. "I drive myself crazy trying to figure things out."
She's hooked on Oscar Wilde these days. She picked up a complete collection of his works when the band was touring with Don Henley last year, and she takes it with her everywhere. She particularly likes his essays.
Her favorite film is "My Life as a Dog," a sweet tale of a young Swedish boy coming of age. "I love movies," she says, "that can produce a feeling in a subtle way. Or that can be sexy without being explicit. I think subtlety is a challenge."
And she likes looking to the future. She gets bored with songs she's written and recorded. (She says on the eve of her new tour that she's already ready to record another album. And she's sick of singing "What I Am.")
"When you first get an idea," she says of writing a song, "it's almost like a personal revelation or a release. But after the idea is down, it doesn't remain fresh that long, because your mind is in another place.
"And to go back and sing them over and over," she sighs, "is like repeating a grade in school."
There is a problem, however, with constantly searching for the next enlightening moment: "Sometimes," she laughs, "I miss the present day!"
Edie Brickell & New Bohemians are performing Wednesday night at 7:30 at George Washington University's Lisner Auditorium. Tickets are $19.50 and available at Ticketron. For information, call 202-994-6800. 'AD' LIB, AT THE SOURCE So, our lives are a lot more controlled by television advertising than we ever imagined. That's what Washington playwright Martin Blank thinks. And he's written a play about it, "Avenue of the Americas."
"It's about a woman who escapes from a mental institution who gets work in an advertising agency," he says. "And her ads are dangerously successful."
The play is a one-act "very dark" comedy with 17 scenes. In one hour. With commercials. "They're the funniest part," he says.
Yes, it does sound like a TV show.
But it's not, he insists. Even though his background is writing TV sitcom scripts in Hollywood. And even though there are all those scenes. He says he wrote it that way because that's what audiences are used to seeing.
"I have friends with Ivy League educations who have a short attention span and get bored easily," he says, "and I think a lot of it has to do with watching a lot of television."
The secret to his character's success in advertising, he says, is Rip Apart Your Competitors. "Instead of talking about her own product," he says, "her ads attack other products, viciously."
He won't say much more. But he did just purchase a straitjacket. "For my play," he explains. "But I may need it after the review comes out."
"Avenue of the Americas" will be presented at Source Theatre Fridays and Saturdays at 11 p.m. and Sundays at 8 p.m. through Dec. 15. Tickets are $10. For information, call 202-462-1073. THE HARMONICA'S CLASSICAL HARMONIES "I can't think of any other instrument that has more of an American connotation than the harmonica," says virtuoso harmonica player Robert Bonfiglio. "It's a humble instrument. And people aren't intimidated like they are by, say, the violin."
That's what it's about to Bonfiglio. Hooking new audiences by playing classical pieces on the good ol' harmonica.
"Everyone knows how to play or knows someone who plays the harmonica," he says. "Not like the cello. Not too many people play the cello. And there are a lot of people out there who don't even know what a cello is. People who come to my concerts don't usually listen to classical music. They come to listen to harmonica, and they get to hear these wonderful classical tunes."
Bonfiglio, born and raised in Iowa, decided early on that he didn't want to be a farmer. "It's too much work," he says. "Cows like to be milked every day. They don't care that it's Sunday." So he learned to play the blues on harmonica instead.
In the mid-'70s he moved to New York and attended Mannes College, where he majored in composition. "They didn't have a harmonica major," he says with a chuckle. He studied with virtuoso Cham-ber Huang, and "fell in love" with the idea of playing classical music on harmonica. "There's as much emotion in playing Bach as there is playing the blues," he says.
To survive in New York, he started recording harmonica tracks for commercials, films and television series. "You name it," he says, "I did it. All the airlines. 'Ryan's Hope.' 'General Hospital.' Every kind of dog food and cat food. Even 'China Beach.'
"One time," he recalls, "I went in for what I thought was a Hertz truck commercial and it was a Certs breath mint commercial. And I played this hard trucker's music. I guess everyone who saw it went out and rented a truck!"
He now plays 70 concerts a year with symphonies and chamber ensembles around the country, performing such works as Gordon Jenkin's Divertimento for harmonica and string quartet, George Gershwin's "Summertime," and a medley of Stephen Foster tunes. "When you think of Stephen Foster," he says, "you think of 'Oh, Susanna,' and you realize these songs were probably first played on harmonica."
Robert Bonfiglio is performing tonight at Fairfax High School auditorium at 8. Tickets are $20 and are available at the door. For information, call 703-272-7583.