Thursday, September 30, 2004

Big Bugs

The Sydney Morning Herald is advertising an interview with Bob Dylan for Spectrum on Saturday. Presumably this will be a repeat of the Newsweek interview, and not some Bruce Elder exclusive.

One of the most annoying cliches in rock is "Bob Dylan, voice of a generation." Don't get me bloody started. Anyway, in the except of his book which accompanied the Newsweek piece, he talks about how ridiculous it was for him -- anyone -- to be dubbed "the voice of his generation" as if a lowly song and dance man was some kind of conduit for the conscience of society.
but the big bugs in the press kept promoting me as the mouthpiece, spokesman, or even conscience of a generation. That was funny. All I'd ever done was sing songs that were dead straight and expressed powerful new realities. I had very little in common with and knew even less about a generation that I was supposed to be the voice of. I'd left my hometown only ten years earlier, wasn't vociferating the opinions of anybody. My destiny lay down the road with whatever life invited, had nothing to do with representing any kind of civilization. Being true to yourself, that was the thing. I was more a cowpuncher than a Pied Piper.

And so how does the Herald advertise its story?

Exclusive interview with the voice of a generation.


Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Newsweek interview with Bob Dylan and excerpt from the book.
Looks like Chronicles is really happening but this is Bob we're talking about so I'll believe it when I have it in my hands. New album! Woot!

The photo on the cover of "Chronicles" shows Times Square in 1961, the year he came to New York, but as a kid, he says, "I had no idea of what a city was like. And I think it probably made me who I am today. The country where I came rom—it's pretty bleak. And it's cold. And there's a lot of water. So you could dream a lot. The difference between me now and then is that back then, I could see visions. The me now can dream dreams."

Seems like a good excuse to post maybe my favourite Bob picture. From Houston 2002. The ladies sure do love Bob.

Come gather 'round cowgirls, wherever you roam: During the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo at the Astrodome Bob Dylan sat a spell with Junior Miss Texas Rodeo pageant winners Stephanie Scogin (left) and Lisa Goe. The urbane cowboy performed in the arena later that night -- after it was cleared of bulls and calves.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Two Thoughts on Tim McGraw, Composed After Listening to His Greatest Hits

1) Is Indian Outlaw the worst song ever?
2) Lynn from Lindsborg, Kansas says it best on her Amazon review: Tim McGraw is my FAVORITE "artist", in the entire world. His talent and "charisma" is captured in every note he sings!! "artist" and " charisma" indeed, never have quotation marks been used with greater insight.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

For Yom Kippur:

Longtime pals Richard “Kinky” Friedman (author, magazine columnist, singer/songwriter) and Farouk Shami (founder, chairman of Farouk Systems) have launched this new product to show the world that deep friendships between Jews and Arabs are possible. The premium, first cold pressed, extra-virgin olive oil is sourced from both Israel and Jordan. 100% of after-tax profits will be donated to children’s charities such as Neve Shalom/Wahat Al-Salam (Oasis of Peace in Hebrew and Arabic). $5.99

More on that and Kinky's bid to become Governor of Texas

Images stolen from Kinky's site. Go buy some stuff.

Trip to the library yesterday yielded two more for Hot Country research.

Greatest Hits
Tim McGraw

Honky Tonk Sonata
Jason McCoy He looks like a George Michael impersonator but I like the title

George Strait

plus ones I know I'll like

Shock Country Sampler Heartaches and Highways Vol III
the first two volumes from Shock were essential and I've always gone out and bought at least several of the artists featured (which I guess is the point). I might be making up some ground, as there's only one this time (Danni Leigh) I've never heard of or don't own. There are no helpful liner notes on each artist like in vols 1 and 2 though.

Blugrass No 1's
from Rounder. Excellent liner notes, I'm pleased to say

Friday, September 24, 2004

My People Will Talk to Your People

I have been trying to expand my knowledge of the murky world of Top 40 country. The latest acquisition is Brad Paisley's Mud on the Tyres Tires.

My first thought is this: He looks eerily like a WASP-y version of Michael Imperioli from The Sopranos. Which got me thinking, there has got to be a sitcom in there somewhere.

Here's my pitch: Through some kind of weird set of circumstances (I'm just the ideas girl, they have writers to do the leg work) a set of twins are split at birth, one grows up a coal miner's son in West Virginia, the other a wiseguy in NYC. Then along comes another weird, yet sharply comic, set of circumstances and they are reunited. They have to live together. Perhaps there is a child involved, differing standards of parenting are always a hoot. A kooky neighbour. An ethnic minority (but just the one.) Brad is an aspiring country singer, Mikey a made guy going straight. At first that seemed improbable but then I had a flash of inspiration: witness protection! Yes, he is in witness protection and since no one knows about the long-lost hick brother, it is the perfect cover. Lots of misunderstandings between gangters and rednecks: sit back and watch the comedy gold flow! I think there was a Bette Midler/Lily Tomlin movie along these lines but originality can only count against us with the execs so we should play that up.

In fact I was so engrossed with the idea I didn't really take much notice of the music. The only song I had previously heard was Celebrity, I tracked down the video online because of William Shatner. The idea seems to be that to get to somewhere worthwhile you have to get off the beaten track sometimes but there's nothing mud-splattered about this journey. It's more like jumping in the Lexus at ten to three and driving four blocks to pick your kids up from school.

It will probably grow on me though, most things do. I'll listen some more.
Buddy Miller and God

Ralph Stanley

Townes Van Zandt film

Elvis Costello and Johnny Cash

Another one on the same topic.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Excellent Gillian Welch article in the New Yorker
Now online, saves me a trip to Borders.

Holly Williams

So what does the granddaughter of Hank Williams, the daughter of Hank Williams Jr. and the sister of Hank Williams III sound like? If her bloodlines are any indication, she sounds fantastic.

Loretta Lynn shares recipes, life in new cookbook

Johnny Cash musical to hit Broadway in 2006

Elvis Costello's new double album features duets with Emmylou Harris and Lucinda Williams.

Steve Earle brings Townes Van Zandt's ghost along on Silver City's magical mystery tour

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

St Peters Graffito

A few folky chicks for your consideration.

I first heard an Amy Rigby song on internet radio somewhere, the domestic anthem Are We Ever Gonna Have Sex Again?

What happened to babe and stud?
Too much KFC and Bud
I shout it out into the wind
Are we ever gonna have sex again?

Come here baby, scratch my itch
Or I’ll show you one mean ass bitch
I’m so tired of acting Zen
Are we ever gonna have sex again?

Then I bought the album Till The Wheels Fall Off which is chockas with little gems of the middle-aged life. A Mojo review says it well:Amy Rigby is a 44-year -old divorcee with a teenaged daughter. Her mind is sharp, her voice is strong, her hormones are coursing and her breasts are hanging in there. Her demographic needs all the music it can get, and she's been writing songs from its evolving perspective since 1996's inspired Diary of a Mod Housewife - songs so heartfelt, pointed and shapely that by now her marginality is an ageist outrage. She also duets with Todd Snider on one song. I was listening to the album alot at the same time as Uncut favourite Thea Gilmore's Avalanche and the Marge and Lisa Simpson image occured to me. Thea's definately a gal Lisa could love, more serious, alot younger (25) but ploughing the same catchy-profound-pop-folk-roots territory. Her Brit accent cuts through strongly which gives the tracks a no-nonsense flavour which emoting young women on record often lack.

Zoilus is the website of Carl Wilson a music critic at Canada's Globe and Mail and he mentioned me. Good chap. There is alot there I'm working my way through, but in particular this article from September 12th grabbed my attention.

News about Iris DeMent's long awaited (eight years!) new album Life Line is trickling out, it is said to be a return to the stripped back style of her first two albums. Due out October 19th.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Who held a gun to Leonard Cohen's head?

70 In 1994, Cohen said: "If you're going to think of yourself in this game, or in this tradition, and you start getting a swelled head about it, then you've really got to think about who you're talking about. You're not just talking about Randy Newman, who's fine, or Bob Dylan, who's sublime, you're talking about King David, Homer, Dante, Milton, Wordsworth, you're talking about the embodiment of our highest possibility. So I don't think it's particularly modest or virtuous to think of oneself as a minor poet. I really do feel the enormous luck I've had in being able to make a living, and to never have had to have written one word that I didn't want to write.

"But I don't fool myself, I know the game I'm in. When I wrote about Hank Williams 'A hundred floors above me in the tower of song', it's not some kind of inverse modesty. I know where Hank Williams stands in the history of popular song. Your Cheatin' Heart, songs like that, are sublime, in his own tradition, and I feel myself a very minor writer. I've taken a certain territory, and I've tried to maintain it and administrate it with the very best of my capacities. And I will continue to administrate this tiny territory until I'm too weak to do it. But I understand where this territory is."

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Weekend Ideas

Top line up at the Hank Williams birthday bash: Bill Chambers, Hunter and Suzy, Moonshine, Reno Nevada, Buddy Cartwright and others.

Serena Ryder was out here opening for Steve Earle earlier this year. Impressive folkie singer songwriter.

The Lovebites:

Featuring JASON WALKER ( deadset alt-count legend, published author, Gram Parsons obsessive) KERRYN STANTON ( Scrub Hornets, Rock Queen of Surry Hills) and MARK CORNWALL ( 50 M Beers), the LOVEBITES perform their debut gig on Sunday 19 Sept at the Excelsior Hotel, Bridge Rd, Glebe ( not to be confused with the Surry Hills franchise), from 6 PM. Three lead singers, 3 songwriters, 3 titanic egos- be there just for the onstage punchup! Also playing the Exy that nite is GEOFF HOLMES' CUTTIN' EDGE OLD BASTARDS. Alert readers will recall Holmesy's fine work in deadset Rilenesque legends X. Free in, see youse there on the 19th.

Oh, and Will Oldham of course.

Unfortunately I won't be around again. Anyone know what's on in Bathurst?

Blog news: Any bloggers or free webpage people out there, try Reinvigorate for your hit details. Way better than Sitemeter so far.

I like these stupid personality tests, can't help myself.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Some housekeeping: The Damn Right I'm A Cowboy show I mentioned earlier has been resceduled for the 20th October on ABC. I'll remind you again closer to the date.

News about Leone Becker, ex-Helldorado from Audrey Auld's Country Update page:

Another Ausie who's carving out a groovy niche for herself in the US is Leone Becker (ex Helldorado, Sydney). She's operating the Texas Music Cafe in the heart of Austin serving up fresh southern food and great music.

"Texans are a pretty laid back bunch like us Aussies. They love my accent even though a lot of them don't even know where Australia is. There is a certain novelty to being an Australian here. They want to know how the hell we know about honky tonk, so far away. It's pretty easy to put a great band together here because there are so many amazing musicians in this town, and they all want to play!"

The Texas Music Cafe is right next door to the Famous Continental Cafe on Congress, so stop in and say "G'day" when you're in town.

Thanks to Ron for the info.

Thinking of the Helldorados reminded me of Midwest Obsession and the good old days they use to alternate Saturday nights at the Enmore. You remember, back when that premises was a proper pub, before it became the S** F** (may its blonde wood spontaneously combust and its stainless steel corrode) and another little part of Sydney died.

So, anyway, after far too long away Mary Heard is back with "a new low key acoustic group" and purveyors of fine hillbilly folk, called Moonshine. Says Mary, "We are having so much fun finding material from the Carter Family to 70s Folk revival stuff from New York and San Francisco. Les Scott is playing guitar with us and Gary Brown on dobro. " They are doing the Hank night at the Bridge this weekend, then Almost Acoustic in Rozelle -- avert your eyes left for all the details.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Are You Sure Kasey Done It This Way?

More Country Stars Emerge from Down Under

Reuters article about Australian country artists trying to make it in the USA.

But Australian country music executives acknowledge that domestic sales do not automatically translate to American success.

"The problem is that many Australian singers tend to sing about Australian themes," says Clive Hodson, managing director of Sydney-based ABC Music, the most prominent Oz country music label.

Insiders agree that U.S. country music audiences and radio formats can have a problem with strong Australian accents and peculiarly Australian names. "We sing about 'utes,' but (in the United States) they have 'pickups,"' Hodson notes. "We have a syntax problem in some of the material. So (artists) have to learn to write generically, without using slang."

Of course "insiders" and execs would say that but I disagree. If the song is good enough, is the use of "ute" not "pickup" really going to be a barrier to success? No. The accent thing is maybe a bit more significant but it's not make or break and neither is the syntax if the hook is catchy enough. What does having a syntax problem mean anyway, using more subjunctive tenses to make the Yanks feel at home?

And what "Australian themes" are these? The MacIntyre system of working out the NRL finals? The Pacific solution? Richard Butler's payout? Duckworth Lewis? The Melbourne gangland war? Sitting in the front seat of taxis? Latham's man boobs? I believe most Australian country songs are about such staples as love, regret, lost love, hard times on the land, I'm glad it's the weekend and let's get drunk tonight, I love my horse and my dogs, my friends are also great, people in the city aren't half as real as people from the country, the Anzac spirit, don't fence me in and the drought really sucks. In short, exactly what the Yanks sing about.

The fact is, mainstream chart Australian country acts are really doing the same thing as the mainstream chart American acts, except not as well. Why are you going to seek out Lee Kernaghan when you have a Wal Mart full of Tim McGraw, Alan Jackson and George Strait on every corner. Why are the record companies, promoters and radio jocks going to push so-so MOR Australian country when they get a bazillion so-so MOR American CDs thrown at them each week. Of course that argument also goes for American singers trying to break into the market.

Keith Urban and Sherrie Austin moved to Nashville and toiled away there for years before becoming overnight successes, so their situation can't be compared to an established Aussie star trying to launch from here. Adam and Troy, what are you waiting for?

One of the reasons Kasey Chambers has had success in the US is that she is pitching to a niche market of "alternative country" (whatever that is) fans who are more likely to seek out new things themselves (because if you want that kind of music, CMT isn't going to hand it to you on a platter) and is hooked into the tight knit incestuous (in a good way) world of OKOM; record a Fred Eaglesmith song, do a duet with Lucinda Williams, praise Miss Emmylou in interviews, get Steve Earle to say you are a fuckin' great girl hillbilly singer and bang you're in the club. Next thing you know you're doing a shoot for the front cover of No Depression, Village Records stocks your album and the word gets round. Kick arse female country singer-songwriters are not the dime-a-several-dozen the Garth clones are.

Of course one of the other reasons is that she has a bucket load more talent and personality than the rest of them.

NASHVILLE SKYLINE: Will You Miss Me When I'm Gone?

In November of 1974, Hank Williams' first wife, Audrey Williams, put a hand-lettered sign out in her Nashville front yard that read "Garage Sale. Tour Buses Welcome. Souvenirs." She charged $2 admission to the garage sale. She was broke, but she still had some Hank totems to peddle. "I was married to a legend," Audrey said. "What else am I gonna do?"

The man in black whose legend lives on

Nice article but requires registration.

Cash’s most famous line, which might have been penned by Dostoevsky - if the Russian had been born of cotton-picking folks in Arkansas - came in Folsom Prison Blues, a song he wrote while stationed in Germany on his national service. Cash - a Morse code decrypter, who decoded the message that Stalin had died - had seen a documentary about Folsom Prison, and tried to imagine the world from the viewpoint of a remorseless killer who had murdered for the worst possible reason: "I shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die."

By the end, singing was all he did. The force of his baritone had dwindled, but such was the richness of the Cash persona that his frailty seemed profound. Everything became Biblical, whether it was pop, rock or bubble gum. He was reaching for humility and scenting decay.

On last year’s Unearthed boxed set, he delivers many epitaphs. To take just one: "I’m not a saviour, and I’m not a saint/The man with the answers I certainly ain’t/I wouldn’t tell you what’s right and what’s wrong/I’m just a singer of songs."

That, I think, is Johnny Cash. Modest and boastful, humbly proud.

Whitley discovers life after Americana

Chris Whitley, that is.

In 1991, Chris Whitley made "Living With the Law" (Columbia), a CD that is as important as anything done by Gillian Welch or Lucinda Williams in establishing the genre known as Americana. His career since then is a cautionary tale for anyone who thinks one big hit means you're set for life.

Live Farmaid webast

My Story of the Day (the same column has Bobby Bare/Johnny Cash/Willie Nelson stories too ):

Kressley dishes 'Queer Eye' for Nashville guys

Kressley, who called from Dallas, where the show's been filming for next season, might have begun noticing this during one of his many trips to town. ''I remember going to Nashville as a little kid, wandering the streets looking for Tammy Wynette's house,'' he said. ''I've always been a big country fan.''

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Melancholy weekend for many reasons, let's just concentrate on the one that is easiest to take and also on-topic.

Johnny Cash
February 26th 1932 ~ September 12th 2003

There will be many tributes over the weekend but I am heading to Wollongong for some maekju and sorority so this will be it until Monday (possibly Sunday.)

Here is one tribute.

Johnny Cash Spent His Final Days Getting Close to God (although these rituals don't sound particularly bizarre to me)

Jailhouse rock -- includes the text of a 1969 Ralph Gleeson article about the San Quentin show. Highly recommended.

Southern hospitality rocks film cast Requires registration.

Playing Luther Perkins was a treat for Dan. "That was kind of a dream come true just 'cause I was always a huge Johnny Cash fan," he said. "And that kind of guitar playing seemed to be equally important to the sound as Johnny Cash's voice. Just that real simple elegance. It was just so sturdy and distinctive and simple and really beautiful."

The official Johnny Cash site

And to get you in the mood for the Welch/Rawlings tour, a review. This could require registration too.

Friday, September 10, 2004

Don't we all: Kris Kristofferson still grieves loss of Johnny Cash.

"It's hard to believe that it's been a year," Kristofferson said recently from his home in Hawaii. "It's still painful that he's gone. I think about him a lot."

'He will never die or be forgotten - even by persons not yet born'
Reprint of tributes from last year (Dylan, Bono, Jerry Lee Lewis among others)

West Texas Musicians Shine in Lubbock Lights

Lubbock Lights, a documentary, shares the philosophies and thoughts of various West Texas musicians. Joe Ely, Terry Allen, Butch Hancock, and Tommy Hancock are just a few of the West Texas musicians highlighted in Lubbock Lights, a documentary exploring music on the South Plains.

More Lubbock-ania: the Buddy Holly Symposium.

Superstars ride to rescue of country

The incomparable Dolly Parton will release a concert disc, "Live and Well,'' and a companion DVD of the same name on Sept. 14. Bluegrass aficionados are also eagerly awaiting the our-CD collection "Can't You Hear Me Callin' -- Bluegrass: 80 Years of American Music'' (Sept. 21), Ricky Skaggs' "Brand New Strings'' (Sept. 28) and a 1963 concert set from Bill Monroe titled "Live at Mechanics Hall'' (Oct. 5).

Groove to the Gourds

Describing the Austin, Texas-based Gourds is no easy task. In short, they are a Louisiana tinged Texas rock band with a little south of the border and Appalachia thrown in for good measure. In long, they are so much more. A live Gourds show is like free beer: it gets better and better as the night goes on and, no matter how late it gets, you’re always left wanting more.

Robbie Fulks: Keeping Country Real

Earl Scruggs in concert.

What the critics are saying about Loretta Lynn and Steve Earle.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Finally got the August issue of Uncut with the Americana CD. Might write a bit more about it later, it sorta sums up alot that frustrate/bores me about so-called "Americana". Anyway, the song that did grab me right away was the Josh Ritter song "Mona Lisa." It reminded me a bit of Butch Hancock. Here is a nice little article about him.

Merle Haggard typically straight talking in this interview.

Hank Williams Snr museum.

That's the official one, this one is unofficial.

Can't sleep, Hank'll eat me: Recently, he added the first in a series of hand-made Hank Williams porcelain dolls.

Nashville That Says No

But there's another side to Nashville, and two new records from Middle Tennessee residents operating outside the country-music machine offer an alternative. Onetime Memphian Todd Snider's career-best East Nashville Skyline makes his dissent geographically specific -- praising an artist-heavy neighborhood away from Music Row that the rich avoid at all costs. Steve Earle signs off from Fairview, Tennessee, in the liner notes to The Revolution Starts Now, his one-man-527 attempt at influencing an election. But he's been battling Nashville's conservatism for years en route to becoming the American musician most likely to be seen sparring with Bill O'Reilly on national television.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Thank you to Drum Media for getting back to me with confirmation, and passing this on ...


for the first time in Australia...



Well folks, this time the rumours are true, GILLIAN WELCH, will be here in November for what is certain to be the roots tour of theyear. Accompanied
by David Rawlings, partner/producer/multi instrumentalist and singer, this will be the pair's first visit downunder.

Armed only with two guitars, a banjo, two voices and a big bag of songs that sound as old as the Appalachian mountains, Welch andRawlings manage to
ignite their remarkable chemistry every time they walk out in front of an audience. Their performance is so beautiful and intense that their
presentation of their bleak emotional tunes somehow has an effect thatis never less than uplifting.

The tour is a mix of intimate venues, seated theatres and bar room dancehalls booked to accommodate Gillian's very mixed fan base. With her
admirers coming from her own work, through to the Grammy Award winning'O Brother Where Art Thou? Soundtrack and the numerous collaborations with
everyone from Emmylou Harris to Ryan Adams.

Gillian's most recent record, "Soul Journey", was released in 2003. She calls it "the sunniest record I've ever made". A collection that offers much
of what we've come to associate with her style, stark but powerfulstories set to music whose bare intensity conveys an almost unbearable beauty.

If you care for real music, these shows are not to be missed.

Dates as follows....


Monday 1st (Cup Eve!): THE TIVOLI, BRISBANE, QLD (General admission seated show)
Tickets from Ticketek.

Wednesday 3rd: GREAT NORTHERN HOTEL, BYRON BAY, NSW (General admission standing show)
Tickets from the Great Northern and Ticketek.

Friday 5th: THE ROXY, PARRAMATTA, NSW (Reserved seating show)
Tickets from Ticketek.

Saturday 6th: THE METRO, SYDNEY, NSW (General admission standing show)
Tickets from Ticketek and The Metro.

Thursday 11th and Friday 12: THE PRINCE, ST KILDA, VIC(General admission standing show)
Tickets from Ticketek GaslightMusic, Polyester Records, Greville Records, Basement Discs, Princepublic bar and

Saturday 13th: THE PALAIS, HEPBURN SPRINGS, VIC (Reserved seating and general admission standing show)
111 Main Road, Hepburn Springs Vic 3461 Tel 03 53484849 Tickets from The Palais Tel 03 53484849

Sunday 14th: MEENIYAN HALL, MEENIYAN, VIC (General admission seating)
Tickets from Ticketek.


Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Stop Press!

The Drum Media out today reports "Gillian Welsh" is touring in November with dates in Parramatta, The Metro and Canberra. A Google search fails to bring up any notable musician of that name, do they mean .... deep breath .... "Gillian Welch"?

Nothing about it on Pollstar or at Gillian's webpage as yet.

And no I am not being snarky, people with blogs should not call the kettle black about typos. I am just as excited as can be. She says, quickly reaching for the Edit Post button to change "came " to "name."

Diary It

Courtesy of Gil at Black Routes:

Damn Right I'm a Cowboy is a 56 minute doco on Adelaide community radio program the Hillbilly Hoot Radio Show. The program goes live from an Adelaide front verandah with a roving cast of amateur and professional musicians. Effectively the program is fed live to air without interruption from 8 pm to 9 pm on the day of broadcast but apparently the music starts earlier and doesn't finish until the neighbours start complaining.

Damn Right I'm a Cowboy was screened at last years Adelaide International Film Festival to much acclaim. It screens into your loungeroom at 11 pm next Tuesday September 14 on ABC TV.

First Impressions

I have been a Steve Earle fan since "Copperhead Road" crossed over in 1988, an auspicious year (my 13th) in this musical journey since it was also the year the Traveling Wilburys first taught me to hate Bob Dylan's voice, to love Roy Orbison's. I got over that first immature reaction, obviously. I had bought my first LP the year before, and, as the top singles for the year show, it was a most glorious year for music. I haven't thought of it since but knew every word to the Stutter Rap (hey, do you think it could be, like Randy Newman's "Short People", a sophisticated and ironic comment on the nature of prejudice? No? OK.)

Anyway, enough nostalgia. As anyone unfortunate enough to have caught me after a few drinks knows, I wasn't much impressed with Jerusalem, Steve's last album. It suffered tremendously in comparison to Springsteen's The Rising which came out at a similar time, both as a memorable musical document and as a reaction to current events. It has the distinction of containing the only Steve Earle song that actually makes me cringe: the title track. Really, the Middle East situation is bad enough without making it worse with horrendous cliches ("I don’t remember learning how to hate in Sunday school." As they say in the classics, gag me with a spoon.) "John Walker's Blues" was a fair attempt at some Boss-esque psycho-mythologising, but then Bruce goes and writes "Paradise" and it is game over, gentlemen. Musically, it was nothing remarkable, nothing that kept me going back and repeated listenings in the last 18 months confirmed me in my reaction. Not a bad album, a good one actually but we expect more of Steve.

The Revolution Starts … Now is Steve Earle is rocking mode like never before on an album, with Roscoe's chainsaw lead guitar taking centre stage. It also continues his infatuation with manipulating his voice with studio trickery -- echo-y Steve, digitised Steve, scratchy Steve. It reminds me a bit of watching the video from my high school formal, all those snazzy effects straight out of the Wuthering Heights video clip. Very pretty, quickly dated and to no great purpose.

But I like the album, on a few spins so far. Particularly the country rock of "Home to Houston" and "Rich Man's War." Nothing out of the box, but solid. "Condi, Condi", surprising, I liked although I'm pretty unsure of its political intent. Anyway, nothing wrong with a bit of hillbilly reggae. Pretty catchy actually. First thoughts anyway, more perhaps to follow.

Last week brought the tantalising news about Steve heading into the studio with the Bluegrass Dukes. Now, that's definitely something to get out into the streets about.
If anyone knows what is coming up at the Coopers Arms on Sundays, can you please let me know. I went there last week to get the details and asked again on the weekend and they were supremely unhelpful. Not like I'm trying to give them publicity or anything. It's a cool little venue actually (despite that freaky red-amber-green sound monitor above the door; makes me nervous), particularly being situated amid the blonde-wood-and-stainless-steel pub scene on King St.

Sympathy for the Slave

Stephen Collins Foster is back on earth, wrestling with race: the entity in the woodpile

Though Foster's songs course through the culture from Derby Day to doorbells, they're rarely performed by contemporary artists. Previous collections by legit singers Joan Morris and Jan DeGaetani inflated Foster into a capital-C composer; Beautiful Dreamer attempts to haul him back to earth. The two instrumental pieces here sound irrevocably dated (despite Henry Kaiser's scorched-earth solo on "Autumn Waltz"), but the vocal works adapt well to a range of rootsy but not wholly retro styles: country (Raul Malo, Grey De Lisle), folk-rock (Roger McGuinn's gauzy "Jeannie"), and, too often, public-radio Americana ("Slumber, My Darling," with Mark O'Connor, Allison Krauss, and Yo-Yo Ma). If this disc proves anything, it's that the reasons musicians avoid Foster aren't musical.

Country music not just for hicks In New Zealand.

Gillian Welch

Emmylou and Buddy Miller

If only the boys back at the old mill could see Earl Scruggs now

On Saturdays, Earl Scruggs worked second shift at the mill in Shelby, N.C. From 2 p.m. until 10 p.m., he was a spare hand. Sometimes, he'd be in the spool room. Other times, somewhere else.

The best part of the day was dinner break. That was when he could get a little pickin' in.

''Me and Grady Wilkie would sit in the back seat of my '36 Chevy and play music,'' Scruggs said, sitting in a small room at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, a place that will present four weekly concerts from Scruggs, his family and his friends beginning Tuesday. At those shows, he'll display the same groundbreaking, rocket-speed banjo style that he perfected in the back of that Chevy.

Friday, September 03, 2004

Sign Real Country Music's petition to protest the CMA overlooking Loretta Lynn and Van Lear Rose for a nomination. Mind you, if you were going to protest every stupid thing the CMA did you wouldn't have time to fit in much else.

Review of Kasey Chambers in the SMH. We have been down this road before: if you like the music, just damn well say so, without trying to cover your hipster arse by assuring us no, no, she isn't really country. I mean, what earthly reason is there to mention Shania Twain and linedancing in a review of Kasey Chambers? "Hokey cliches" are to be scorned in popular music apparently, but still OK in popular music hackwork.

I look forward to the live reviews of Jet which deny they bear any resemblance to Mark Holden and of James Morrison, who redeems jazz from Kenny G.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Drillin' in the Wall

Ripped from the headlines:

Police then entered the building to find a hole with bricks knocked out in a wall between the bank and an adjoining vacated bookshop.

It's suspected the gang had laid in wait for hours for staff to arrive after a resident two levels above the branch reported having heard drilling at 3.30am yesterday.

Sound familiar?
The Man in Black Bloc at the RNC in NYC.

The American Gas Association and the Nissan Motor Co. had arranged a swank party to honor Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander and his state's delegation to the Republican convention. And, since the event was being held at Sotheby's, which will be auctioning Cash memorabilia in mid-September, it was decided to make the event a "tribute" to the singer.

To a lot of Cash fans, however, that sounded like claiming that the Man in Black was a Republican.

And those were fighting words for folks who recall that it was Cash who sang: "I wear the black for the poor and the beaten down/ Livin' in the hopeless hungry side of town/I wear it for the prisoner who has long paid for his crime/But is there because he's a victim of his times."

The website mentioned in the article: Defend Johnny Cash

Roseanne Cash's view:

There is no need to 'defend' my Dad against the Republicans, or against anyone, for that matter, as some over-zealous types would have you believe. You can rest assured that if anyone needs to 'defend' my Dad against improper usage of his name or image, that we, the family and the estate lawyers, are on the case, usually long before the rest of the world finds out about it. It is our honor and our duty to protect the legacy of my father, and we all take this very seriously, and we are empowered to the nth degree to do so.

So, please, rest easy. If you feel the need to protest something, allow me to give you directions to Madison Square Garden.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004


The Other Side of Country blog has a rejection letter a country music station today might write to Hank Snr.

Take heart, though. We believe you can still make it as a country performer. You have several songs that mention drinking; maybe you should consider adding Captain Morgan, Jose Cuervo, or Jack Daniels to one of your songs so that we might better develop some “alternative income streams” for your songs and thus profit doubly when giving you airtime. Maybe you could consider picking a truck brand too. Other artists, such as Kenny Chesney and Garth Brooks have done well for themselves in that area. For example, cleaning up the English a little, adding a more popular boy's name from today and a brand, you could change "Jambalaya" to something like:

Good-bye Shane
Down the lane
In your Volvo

Lucinda Williams' planned double live CD has apparently been delayed due to unhappiness with the original mastering job. Read something she wrote here.

Authorized Cash Biography Due Sept. 13

A new Johnny Cash biography, authorized by his family, will arrive in bookstores on Sept. 13. The Man Called CASH: The Life, Love and Faith of an American Legend, written by Steve Turner, includes interviews with all of Cash's children and many of his close friends. Kris Kristofferson wrote the foreword. It will be published by W Publishing Group, a division of Thomas Nelson Inc.

Later this month, Sony is releasing another in its The Essential ... series: Merle Haggard. No playlist yet that I can find, but it covers the early Epic years and based on the others in the collection it should be great.