Saturday, July 31, 2004

Tom Russell Indians Cowboys Horses Dogs (Hightone Records)

This is how good Tom Russell is: his version of Seven Curses on his new album made me momentarily forget it was written by Bob Dylan. I thought, what a great song, Tom Russell is a genius. A few seconds later I came to my senses but my judgement remains, he's a genius and this has shot to the top of my list of best Dylan covers ever.

Sorry, Emmylou.

Another thing I love about this album: a man who isn’t afraid to sing about pet dogs and toy horses. And he pulls it off. Russell is one of musicians great historians, listening to him is an exhilirating journey through the American south west and Mexico set to the multinstrumental brilliance of Andrew Hardin and peppered with rousing yipee-kay-ays. His voice can rumble low, soar high and has that wonderful country ache-and-break at just the right moments.

It isn’t all rodeos and cock fighting, Russell can do sweetly romantic with the best of them, such as here with Linda Thompson's No Telling and his own Bucking Horse Moon (and a lot of his softer side has to do with moons, Walking on the Moon, Throwin' Horsehoes at the Moon … )

I've already said that his The Man From God Knows Where will be going with me the next time I'm stuck on a desert island, Indians Cowboys Horses Dogs isn't far behind.

Hoyt Axton - el cheapo ($9.95) collection from Castle Pulse.

I picked this up because Rob Luckey and the Lucky Bastards have started doing Greenback Dollar and I realised my familiarity with Hoyt was pretty much zero. These songs are all from 1963-64. What a revelation and what versatility.

His own Greenback Dollar is loose and wild (love that growl and tremor in his voice), Voodoo Blues and Thunder 'n' Lightning are driving, twangy blues, close your eyes and you can smell the long hippy hair and paisley shirts on the uber-folky Five Hundred Miles, the super-silly There's a Tiger in The Closet sounds like something The New Main Street Singers would do and as for Red, White and Blue, let's just say, to quote John Hiatt, I don’t think Kenny Chesney's ever gonna record this song:

Red, White and Blue was a shroud
Red, White and Blue was a shroud
Say, here's a medal made of shinin' gold
Your son is dead, 19 years old
Hey, hey momma, ain't you proud?

Next up, I'll have to check out his 1990 comeback album Spin of the Wheel. Unfortunately he went to his eternal reward in 1999.

Edited a million times to fix all the dumb typos.

Apologia Redux

Yeah, and what's wrong with having monogrammed buttons on your ironed Levis? Country music has always had a distinct visual style, an instantly recognisable image rooted in its geographic and socio-economic history -- and the universal showbiz imperative for a bit of glam. When you think of David Bowie, The Clash, Nick Cave, Madonna, Frank Sinatra or Dr John you also get an instantly clear image of them, their music, their life. Long live the Nudie suit!

Of course Shedden's comment is really just code for "don't all those working class rednecks have such bad taste."

Friday, July 30, 2004


In music goldmine, fans get the shaft. By chief music writer for the Oz Iain Shedden. The Polly Coufos piece he mentions can be found here .

First, it's great to see the topic closest to the Mule's heart being discussed in our national rag. I don't have much to say about Coufos', except that I agree with every word.

It's hard to put a finger on why people are so resistant to the obvious and plaintive charms of the form. There are many genres of music with little appeal to mainstream audiences. You don't get ridiculed for confessing a passion for opera or folk or jazz or blues, but come out and say you like country music - and we're not only talking about the rock-critic-ratified Gram Parsons axis here - and pity or derision are the usual responses. Sometimes it's outright aggression. From all corners there's an immediate impulse to deduct IQ points.

It's true. People laugh, but I like country music for the same reason I like opera. I am a narrative junkie. Classical music I can appreciate, but opera I love and opera is classical music with a story. (OK, I know instrumental music can tell a story, but you know what I mean.) And the stories trotted out in opera are no less corny than in any twang-soaked tears-in-my-beers number. I don't want to push the comparison too far and I'll stop before I get into trouble. The difference in public perception of blues (the music of poor, rural blacks) and country (the music of poor, rural whites) is also a fascinating topic, one for another day. I try to be out and proud about my passion, but I still find myself holding my tongue sometimes. Or using weasel-y euphemisms like "roots music" or "americana." Steve Earle might be best described as roots these days, but George Jones, he's country.

Shedden is a bit sniffier about it:

Sadly - and what Coufos failed to point out - is that they and the few others like them represent a minuscule percentage of the music that is churned out under the country music banner every year. For every Kasey or Lucinda there are a thousand Clints, Garths and Tammys whose originality stretches only as far as the monogrammed buttons on their ironed Levis.

1: So what? Is this not true of every genre of popular music? Jazz isn't all Bird and Miles and for every smart pop artist like Stew or Ron Sexsmith or Stephen Merritt there's a million Milli Vannilis and Aquas. Why is it only country fans who have to apologise for the dreck taking up space on the Top 40 chart?

2: What's his beef with Tammy? Later he (rightly, of course) calls George Jones "a great of the genre," Tammy belongs in that pantheon too.  If you don't think ol' Possum recorded more than his fair share of cheese, you ain't been listening.

Women do it, too. Terri Clark, Reba McEntire, LeAnn Rymes [sic] and new kid on the block Gretchen Wilson, who has just visited Australia to promote her debut album, are among the big names. Also in the female ranks are the so-called crossover artists, people such as Faith Hill, Shania Twain and the Dixie Chicks, whose good looks and production values have eased them into the pop market.

My advice about all of these mainstream acts - avoid. Better to acquaint yourself with the roots of the music or its modern alternatives than to settle for the bland and boring.

Don't listen to bad music, listen to good music! OK, great advice. But again I have to defend the Dixie Chicks. They certainly don't belong in the company of Faith and Shania. Sure, they lean to the highly marketable end of the spectrum and mightn't write alot of their own songs but they have a good eye for a great cover, play their own instruments -- fiddle! banjo! -- and are definately traditionalists, as the lyrics to Long Time Gone (written by  Guy Clark sideman and great singer/songwriter in his own right Darrell Scott) show:

Now me and Delia singin' every Sunday
Watchin' the children and the garden grow
We listen to the radio to hear what's cookin'
But the music ain't got no soul

Now they sound tired but they don't sound Haggard
They got money but they don't have Cash
They got junior but they don't have Hank

A few lines which I think sum up Shedden's point perfectly. Oh, and remember that Toby Keith/FUTK/ashamed-George-Bush-is-from-Texas/cheese-eating traitors thing?   The Chicks might not be entirely your mileage, but they hardly belong in the Nashville cookie-cutter-factory box.

Also I think we can over-romanticise the past as an untouched epoch of pure artistic expression unsullied by the pursuit of filthy lucre. When publishers and studio realised hillbilly music would sell, they recorded it. Hank Williams may sing from the soul and listening to him can be "an uplifting, even life-changing experience," he was also a huge money spinner.  And a nitpick about Shedden's timeline,

In hindsight, it's ironic that Williams, considered the king of country for the past 50 years, initially had trouble getting himself heard in Nashville, not least because of his drinking habits.

I think it's truer to say that Hank rose quickly to star status, and it was only then the Nashville tide started to turn against him.

Shedden needs to reconsider a few of his assumptions, but again, isn't it great to see these articles in the national press?

Thursday, July 29, 2004

The Beers Stay Brave and True

Disptach from Beers HQ:

50 Million Beers played at the Coopers Arms hotel in Newtown a couple Sundays back and the feedback has been fanfreakintastic. When the mail got around that we were The Band That Drove Alan Jones Out Of Newtown, the bakelite switchboard went into meltdown ( I got off my chops on the fumes) with requests for us to perform the same service for the long suffering residents of Balmain. So pack yer ports and sling yer hook Paddy McGuiness because 50 Million Beers are playing at a pub NEAR YOU this Sat 31 July, to wit the fabbo Commercial Hotel, Darling St., East Balmain, down the ferry end, from 4 PM. De Beers have fifteen new songs and a new guitarslinger,  no less than our former axeworth the Big Tasmanian Pizz Pizzolato. Together of course with Charlie " Ernest Borgnine" MacLean giving Norm Erskine a dead-set run for his money,  Graham " Walter Brennan" Griffith, the real Man Of Steel, and Mark " Ray Barrett" Cornwall opening a can of worms on the bass. In unplugged drum-free acoustic mode, so all the surrounding Meriton apartments don't fall down. See youse all on Sat from 4 PM.

Kris Kristofferson article.

Kristofferson is looking forward to going home to Hawaii. "I've got a lot of grass to mow, so I can't wait to jump on my tractor with a bit of Steve Earle or Johnny Cash on the headphones."

Which leads nicely to the complete liner notes from Steve Earle's new album The Revolution Starts ... Now.

The word “immediate” best describes the atmosphere around the studio as this record was being made in the late spring of 2004. The prisoner abuse scandal had just broken and the Bush administration, still reeling from the 9/11 commission hearings, was circling the wagons. The Democrats, for their part, were carefully (sometimes, in my opinion, too carefully) trying to sort out how best to press the advantage. Meanwhile, back here in Tennessee, me and my boys had a deadline to meet.

The most important presidential election of our lifetime was less than seven months away and we desperately wanted to weigh in, both as artists and as citizens of a democracy. All but two of these songs were recorded within 24 hours of the first line hitting the paper. We worked 12- and 14-hour days and in between takes and over meals we talked about the war, the election, baseball, and women, in precisely that order.

Maybe I am getting old.

Democracy is hard work. American democracy requires constant vigilance to survive and nothing short of total engagement to flourish. Voting is vital, but in times like these voting alone simply isn’t enough. By the time some of you hear these songs the election will be over. Then the real struggle begins.

When the dust clears and the votes are all counted (we’re watchin’ YOU, Jeb) it will be up to all of us—Democrats, Republicans, Greens, and independents alike—to hold whomever is left standing accountable for their actions on our behalf every single day that they are in power. The day after the election, regardless of the outcome, the war will go on, outsourcing of our jobs will continue, and over a third of our citizens will have no health care coverage whatsoever.

Like I said, it’s hard work and there’s so much to be done. And there always will be.

The Constitution of The United States of America is a REVOLUTIONARY document in every sense of the word. It was designed to evolve, to live, and to breathe like the people that it governs. It is, ingeniously, and perhaps conversely, resilient enough to change with the times in order to meet the challenges of its third century and rigid enough to preserve the ideals that inspired its original articles and amendments. As long as we are willing to put in the work required to defend and nurture this remarkable invention of our forefathers, then I believe with all my heart that it will continue to thrive for generations to come. Without our active participation, however, the future is far from certain. For without the lifeblood of the human spirit even the greatest documents produced by humankind are only words on paper or
parchment, destined to yellow and crack and eventually crumble to dust.

Yours for the motherfuckin’ revolution,

Steve Earle

Fairview, Tennessee

May 2004

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Kris Kristofferson and John Prine Killarney Ireland 27th June 2004

Thanks to Billy O'Callaghan for the set lists and report.

John Prine:

1. Spanish Pipedream
2. Your Flag Decal Won't Get You Into Heaven Anymore
3. Souvenirs
4. Fish And Whistle
5. Grandpa Was A Carpenter
6. Picture Show
7. All The Best
8. Angel From Montgomery
9. Speed Of The Sound Of Loneliness
10. Sam Stone
11. Bear Creek
12. Ain't Hurtin' Nobody
13. Hello In There
14. Lake Marie


1. Shipwrecked In The Eighties
2. Darby's Castle
3. Broken Freedom Song
4. They Killed Him
5. In The News
6. Anthem '84 (dedicated to George W. Bush)
7. Jesus Was A Capricorn
8. Duvalier's Dream
9. The Heart
10. Here Comes That Rainbow Again
11. Help Me Make It Through The Night
12. Casey's Last Ride
13. Nobody Wins
14. The Second Coming (W.B. Yeats Poem)
/Slouching Toward The Millennium
15. Loving Her Was Easier
(Than Anything I'll Ever Do Again)
16. The Circle
17. The Sabre And The Rose
18. Daddy's Song
19. Jody And The Kid
20. The Pilgrim: Chapter 33
21. To Beat The Devil
22. The Final Attraction
23. Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down
24. The Silver Tongued Devil And I
25. For The Good Times
26. Paradise (w/John Prine)
27. The Great Compromise (w/John Prine)
(dedicated to George W. Bush)
28. Me And Bobbie McGee (w/John Prine)
(Crowd singing Happy Birthday)
29. Thank You
30. A Moment Of Forever
31. Don't Let The Bastards Get You Down
32. Please Don't Tell Me How The Story Ends

John Prine played for about an hour, and although his voice was in pretty rough shape he gave a great performance (as always).

Kris came out at about 6:30. It was an outdoor gig, and the daylight seemed to put him off just a little. But he was in good form, talking a little bit about George W. Bush (or in the man's own words "That son of a bitch") who was on a flying visit to Ireland the previous day and had caused Kris's flight to be delayed about an hour and a half. He also mentioned Bob Dylan, who was playing a concert in Galway. 

Where he had been at times uncomfortable in his solo shows in Dublin back in January, especially in closing out songs, here I noticed a new confidence in  Kris. I think he is relishing this now, being alone on stage. The set list  was great, especially a brilliant, moving version of They Killed Him, Daddy's Song and The Sabre And The Rose which were nice surprises. Also, In
The News
is a great song.

My sister had been hoping that he might play New Mister Me. She had a banner with the request but she was too shy to take it to the stage, so I did it instead. We had pretty good seats but as there was no real restriction on picture taking, unlike a lot of other venues, it was possible to get pretty close. I held up the banner and Kris seemed to take an eternity to read it.  Then he just gave me a kind of a wry smile, as if to say "Are you crazy?!"  He didn't play it. I guess it wasn't something he had rehearsed.  The crowd was pretty vocal, and they sang along with the 'standards'.  He played for about two and a quarter hours, maybe a little longer.  After For The Good Times he announced a surprise and invited John Prine out to sing with him. The singing didn't sound well rehearsed but it was clear that they were having fun, and Kris commented in that typically self-deprecating way of his what a couple of sweet voices they had. "Simon
and Garfunkel," he said, laughing and Prine chimed in with "The Everly Brothers."
The finale, Me And Bobby McGee, was pretty wild, with Kris singing "Feelin' good was good enough for me and Janis!"  The whole stadium was singing along, and dozens of people were dancing in the aisles!
During the new song, Thank You some people down the front were singing along and Kris asked, "how do you know this?" Overall it was a great show. Kris's voice was in great shape right from the start (Shipwrecked was just beautiful). I hope he is going to record some new stuff soon.
Yet again I didn't get a chance to meet him, but the music was so good, maybe better than it has ever been.  Anyone going to see him in the coming months, you are in for a real treat.

Notorious Cherry Bombs

Rodney Crowell's Nashville "supergroup" releasing an album this week.  First of a two part interview.

Great musicians were flocking to Rodney Crowell's band in the late '70s just to work with the drummer. Vince Gill's friends thought he was crazy to leave a successful rock band to hit the road as Crowell's lead guitarist. And what were the chances that the keyboard player would one day become one of the most powerful record executives in Nashville?

And that's just mentioning a few of the members of the Cherry Bombs -- now tagged the Notorious Cherry Bombs because somebody told them the original name had been connected to a porn site. "We don't want to cause any confusion," Crowell says with a smile.

Edited Thursday to add Part II.

Hear the album.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Thinking Caps

Think you know of the perfect way to honour the 100th anniversary of the birth of one of the most important figures in the history of country music? Then tell the Governor of Texas, who is looking for ways to remember Bob Wills next year.

In order to commemorate the birth of one of the most influential artists in American music history, the Texas Music Office seeks your ideas on how Texas can best celebrate and honor this icon of our state's music.

Also at the Texas Music Office, a directory of music pioneers and info on a music history tour.

Tuesday Surfing

Rhonda Vincent article at the Bluegrass Unlimited online.

She's a bona fide bluegrass triple-threat: great vocalist, outstanding musician, and dynamite live performer. And let's just say it-she's also easy on the eyes, which hasn't hurt in garnering a huge fan base since she quit flirting with Nashville's contemporary country scene in the 1990s and recommitted herself to bluegrass. Her three albums for Rounder ("Back Home Again," "The Storm Still Rages," and last year's terrific "One Step Ahead") have shipped more than 230,000 copies in four years, according to the label, and she has been named the IBMA's top female vocalist each of the past four years.

Dave Alvin's new direction and this is great news about a new Knitters album early in 2005.

On the heels of his latest solo effort, Alvin divulged a nugget that should be out early next year - a new studio album from The Knitters - the folk alter ego of the seminal '80s L.A. punk band X.

"Me, John and Xene did a new Knitters album," he says. "It should be ready to release in January.

Apparently there was a lot more thought that went into this record than the first one, which spawned a huge cult following over the past two decades, a reunion tour and even a tribute album.

"We did this one in three days," he says. "We recorded the first one in two days. We sure took our time this time around."

Photos from the Americana Music Association Conference 2003. No captions but at a glance I see Kris Kristofferson, Terry Allen, The Del McCoury Band, Rodney Crowell and Allison Moorer and others.

Kinky Friendman and Billy Joe Shaver pictures and James Intveld Spring Fling 2004 photos.

And if shoes are your thing ....

More country music history we neglect: the  legacy of the Anglin brothers (although they were actually brothers-in-laws.)

Forty-one years after Jack Anglin -- the tenor half of Johnny and Jack, country music's top duo of the 1950s -- perished in an automobile accident on his way to a prayer service for Patsy Cline, he and his brothers still exert a strong influence on country music.

Their songs (ones written by Jim and/or popularized by the Anglin Brothers or Johnny and Jack) have been recorded by the likes of Waylon Jennings, Dr. Hook, the Amazing Rhythm Aces and Desert Rose Band. The Bailes Brothers have released "Call to Potter's Field," and Bob Dylan claims "Searching for a Soldier's Grave," a song penned by Jim, as a favorite for concert performances.

It's a mystery to Gary Anglin, great-nephew of the talented brothers, that they have not been included in the Country Music Hall of Fame or the Alabama Music Hall of Fame.

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Defending the Faith

I don't anticipate linking to The Sun very often, but this is a great story. I have never heard of James Bourne and "Busted" to me is a Johnny Cash song.

OF all the things to start a pub fight over, the merits of BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN is one of the weirdest.

But mentioning The Boss around BUSTED star JAMES BOURNE makes him see red.

The teen rocker lost the plot when he overheard some blokes in a pub talk admiringly about the rock legend.

He got so angry he slapped startled Springsteen fan Robert Cross's face.

Some great country covers of The Boss:
Highway Patrolman Johnny Cash
Johnny 99 Johnny Cash
State Trooper Steve Earle
Nebraska Steve Earle
Atlantic City The Band
Racing in the Streets Townes Van Zandt
My Father's House Darrel Scott
If I Should Fall Behind The Flying Mules
Born in the USA Mark Thornton
Mansion on the Hill Emmylou Harris and the Nash Ramblers
Across the Border Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt
All That Heaven Will Allow The Mavericks
Fire The Tom Russell Band

Saturday, July 24, 2004

The Fold July 2003

Recently I heard a recording of Johnny Cash's appearance here, just a little over a month after the death of June, and it was a very emotional experience. At first it was quite shocking to hear how frail he sounded when he spoke but as always he performed with conviction, humility and a strength the younger and healthier of us can only aspire to. With the gracious permission of the author, here is Randy Noles' excellent account of the day. It's also sad to read about Rosey Nix who, later that same year, became another one of music's wasted talents.

Randy Noles is the author of "Orange Blossom Boys: The Untold Story of Ervin T. Rouse, Chubby Wise and the World's Most Famous Fiddle Tune," a critically acclaimed book on song and the colorful yet tragic characters who composed it. To find out more about this fascinating book, go here.

Johnny Cash Grieves in Surprise Performance

By Randy Noles

HILTONS, VA.- A frail and grieving Johnny Cash delivered a brief but emotional performance this weekend at the ancestral home of his wife and singing partner, June Carter Cash, who died May 23 of complications from heart surgery.

Cash, 71 and suffering from autonomic neuropathy, a progressive nervous disorder, sang six songs on Saturday night at the Carter Family Fold, a rustic music hall in the isolated Poor Valley region of Hiltons, VA, where commercial country music traces its roots. The Cash family maintains homes in Hiltons and Jamaica in addition to a sprawling lakefront mansion in Hendersonville, a Nashville suburb.

Prompted by a small newspaper ad, the original Carter Family--A.P. Carter, 35, his wife Sara, 29, and 18-year-old Maybelle, Sara's cousin and A.P.'s sister-in-law--traveled from Poor Valley to Bristol, TN, on August 1, 1927 to audition for a Victor Talking Machine talent scout named Ralph Peer. The recordings they made that day, and throughout the 1930s and 1940s, helped to shape a genre.

June, second-youngest of Maybelle's three daughters, married the brooding and self-destructive Cash in 1967, helping to wean him from drug addiction and joining him in the studio to record such hits as "Jackson" and "If I Were a Carpenter." Their 39-year union was considered one of the industry's great love stories.

Cash's performance at the 1,100-seat Fold on Saturday was a rare public appearance for the Man in Black, who is largely confined to a wheelchair due to a diabetes-related foot injury. He also has breathing difficulty and has been hospitalized numerous times for pneumonia, which is a complication of autonomic neuropathy.

Although Cash's presence was unadvertised, word of his last-minute decision to perform spread quickly in this close-knit Appalachian community--and around the world via the Internet. As a result, more than 2,000 people packed the Fold and spilled over onto the hilly grounds surrounding it. Some fans made pilgrimages from as far away as Florida and Texas.

There was a moment of high drama when Cash, who insisted upon walking into the building and up the three steps leading to the stage, was escorted in a side entrance with two assistants gripping each arm. He took halting and obviously difficult steps as the crowd stood and cheered. Once onstage, he sat in a chair for his set.

Cash, still an imposing black-clad figure despite the ravages of illness, was backed by his son and daughter-in-law, John Carter Cash and Laura Cash, on acoustic guitar and violin. Also onstage was former Cash sideman Jerry Hensley on electric guitar.

Sounding raspy but game, Cash performed "Folsom Prison Blues" and "Sunday Morning Coming Down" before he spoke his first words--which were about June.
"I can't tell you what it feels like to play here tonight," he said. This is the first time I've been here without my baby. The pain of a loss like that, it's just indescribable. But this is part of the healing process for me. And I know June is here with us, because she loved this place and she loved all of you."

Cash then asked Laura Carter to sing June's part of a gospel duet the two recorded and frequently performed in concert. "Far Side Banks of Jordan" is a poignantly apt song about a man and wife who pledge that whoever "is first to pass" will wait for the other on the river's banks.

The chorus concludes with the lyrics: "And when I see you coming, I will rise up with a shout, and come running through the shallow water reaching for your hand." Many in the audience were openly weeping during this song, which the Cashes had said was their favorite duet.

After a shaky rendition of his signature tune, "I Walk the Line," Cash was helped from the stage as fans pressed closer so they could touch him, embrace him, offer condolences and take pictures.

Following Cash's performance, prodigal stepdaughter Rosey Nix, once a promising country-blues singer before personal and physical problems derailed her career, sang two songs, including a subdued version of "How Great Thou Art," which she dedicated to "my mama, who was my biggest fan."

Ironically, despite his current struggles, Cash's recording career is hotter than it has been in decades. His new album, "The Man Comes Around," was just certified gold. And a video for the song "Hurt," originally recorded by Nine-Inch Nails and covered by Cash, has been No. 1 on CMT and in heavy rotation on VH1

The eerie production, which disturbed some longtime fans but attracted legions of new ones, depicts a white-haired Cash contemplating his mortality while surrounded by mementos of his storied career. His wife appears in one segment, appearing to mourn Cash as though he were "the first to pass."

File Under: Reasons to Move to Texas

Billy Joe Shaver is having a birthday party on the 16th August at the Paramount Theater in Austin.

Here is the line-up.

You might have heard of some of them.

Guy Clark
Bruce Robison
Todd Snider
Robert Duvall
Jack Ingram
Jessi Colter
Dale Watson
Jimmie Dale Gilmore
Joe Ely
Kinky Friedman

Friday, July 23, 2004

Live from Hillbilly Heaven

Touching or tacky? You decide.

Music Row long has known of such grave-defying, cash register-ringing power. Years after their fatal plane crashes, Jim Reeves and Patsy Cline's voices were spliced together to create a hit posthumous duet. In 1989, producers blended Hank Williams Jr.'s voice alongside his long gone, lonesome daddy's on There's A Tear In My Beer.

But a new country single takes that process a step further: The deceased can now sing brand-new lyrics and melodies. Just ask Country Music Hall of Famer Conway Twitty.

Actually, Twitty won't answer. He passed away in 1993. But his disembodied voice recently recorded a new duet with country singer Anita Cochran, on a number she penned in 2002 called (I Wanna) Hear A Cheatin' Song.


''When she was asked 'Who would you like to do a duet with?' Anita's first response was 'Conway,' '' Huff said. ''In the old days, he's deceased, so there's no option. You'll get differing views on this, though, and some people think you're opening Pandora's box, like, 'Can we get Hank Williams Sr. to do all of Shania Twain's new hits?' I think you can misuse the technology.''

And if that idea doesn't give you nightmares ...

Edited to add this bizarre quote about it:

''To me, that is no different than, say, donating organs.'' Grand Ole Opry star Jeannie Seely

Outlaw Risen

He's surlier than an old salty sea captain. He can drink with the best of them. Every other word out of his mouth is a cuss word. And above all else, Hank Williams III does things his own way.

Hank III rocks out at Ozzfest.

Friday Listening

The Flatlanders 1972 gig unearthed and released.

Steve Earle performance and the 2004 ACLU Conference. He plays a few tunes from the upcoming album and some old stuff. A couple of the new songs are available at Artemis Records.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

The Dolly Rocker Movement added to the gig guide for this week. "Best described as psychedelic pop with a hint of 60s garage" however I have it from sources close to the band that they can conjure a few country vibes when pressed. Not that we need an excuse to promote quality local acts.


Platinum Anniversary

Thanks to the incomparable Susan comes this fascinating bit of history.

For it was 80 years ago this week that a Texas-born, classically trained singer, previously more comfortable with full-throated Puccini than warbled hillbilly anthems, walked into a New York City studio to cut two songs that would help change the record industry forever. Vernon Dalhart’s record of “The Prisoner’s Song” backed with “Wreck of the Old 97” not only became the biggest-selling record of the 1920s, but it taught the biz that country music was a viable market, and all of a sudden, decades of recording-industry prejudice disappeared in a cloud of capitalism.

Vernon Dalhart is also notable in my books for cutting the creationist toe-tapper "The John T Scopes Trial."

In the spirit of remembering the glorious dead, some Tennessee station is airing this doco about The Carter Family but us out-of-staters can read about it: here.

''Coming from Appalachian culture and knowing the stereotype and stigma placed on that culture and the poverty, it's refreshing to find out how sophisticated these people were, how ambitious and driven and businesslike. It was not like these people were just sitting on their back porch just playing this music to relax after a hard day's work. They saw the beauty of this music and universality of it,'' said WNPT's Kathy Conkwright, who wrote, directed and produced the documentary.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Ramblin' Man

Woody Guthrie article at CNN.

It's that complicated portrait of her father that Guthrie's only surviving daughter, Nora, says impressed her most about Cray's book.

"Woody is very similar to Abraham Lincoln as a historical figure in that he's kind of been reduced to an icon who stands for certain things," she said. "But there are a lot of shades and different kinds of colors to him, so that no one can completely own him."

@ Newtown

Glenn Skuthorpe is playing tonight at the venue formally known as the Newtown RSL. Never heard of him and can't go but I wish I could.
A gifted songwriter and compelling storyteller, Glenn Skuthorpe crosses the folk/country borders with his take on contemporary Indigenous Australia. His songs are a travelogue which takes you from the small towns to the city streets and along the endless road that joins them; his gritty realism and edgy characters reflecting the indigenous experience, but also those universal themes of love and loss, of betrayal and renewal.

The Outcast

If there were an award for the singer/songwriter with the greatest talent but the least recognition, here is the guy. Tom Russell. His The Man From God Knows Where is simply one of my top five albums and an awesome achievement.

I don't have more much to say except: Go. Buy. Listen.

And this is a good article.

While he's tasted success with songs covered by KD Lang and Nanci Griffiths and many others, and his own music was in the top three in the US folk chart last year with Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash, he's an American individualist who runs what he calls a "guerrilla war" to survive under the radar of a music business he has no time for.

"Fuck Nashville. It used to be country and western. What happened to the western part? Now they are only interested in crossover artists like Garth Brooks. These days it's pretty much corporate bullshit."

Sin City III

The Dig site at the ABC is worth exploring, the associated radio show on over the summer was refreshing and we hope it will be back. In the meantime, check out Dig net radio. There today is the audi and transcript of an interview with Gandulf Hennig, director of Fallen Angel: Gram Parson. There's a cottage industry in remembering Gram these days but this doco sounds extremely promising, unlike the recent film Grand Theft Parsons which got trashed. The film is showing at the Melbourne Film Festival.

Wilco Schmilco

This is a good point.

To a listener accustomed to Hootie and the Blowfish, Wilco sounds like the Minutemen—daring, allusive, funky, weird, and yet so right. To a listener accustomed to the Minutemen, Wilco sounds like Hootie and the Blowfish: classic rock for frat boys.

Jay Farrar was undoubtably the major talent behind Uncle Tupelo.
Merging Country Music, Politics.

"Speaking just for myself, I'm very, very much against the (Iraq) war," declared Bobby Braddock, a member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame whose decades of hits stretch from Tammy Wynette's "D-I-V-O-R-CE" and George Jones' "He Stopped Loving Her Today," both co-written with Curly Putnam, to Toby Keith's rap chart-topper "I Wanna Talk About Me."

In Hollywood, some actors believe movie roles could be lost if their Republican loyalties were known, said Sherry Jeffe, senior scholar at USC's School of Policy, Planning and Development. And, citing the example of the Dixie Chicks, some country music singers believe Democratic leanings could cost them radio play.

"In Los Angeles, conservative voices feel more stifled and in Nashville liberal voices feel more stifled," said Titley.

Some singers have joined the Music Row Democrats. Emmylou Harris, Hal Ketchum, Pam Tillis, Rodney Crowell and Raul Malo of the Mavericks have performed at Democratic "Kerry-oke" fundraisers.

"But they're not currently on the radio much either," noted Braddock.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Dustbowl Follies

Woody Fest was held this past weekend in Okemah, OK. Steve Earle apparently did a scorching acoustic set, although his cussin' apparently caused some to seek the exits early. Earle fans will recall it was just this issue that caused the split with Del McCoury. That's Del's story anyway, Steve maintains it was because egos were ruffled when he got higher billing. Whatever the reason, it was a loss as they were scheduled to tour Australia. Our own Audrey Auld also performed. 

Edited Wednesday to add setlist

Baby Let Me Follow You Down
Steve's Last Ramble
South Nashville Blues
Tom Ames' Prayer
Now Shes Gone
You Know the rest
Ellis Unit One
The Mountain
Devil's Right Hand
Copperhead Road
Townes Intro
Rex's Blues
Ft Worth Blues
John Walkers' Blues
Christmas In Washington
Rich Mans War
Okemah was quite slow to acknowledge their most famous son, what with him being a Communist and all.

"Commemoration just isn't justified because of Guthrie's Communist affiliation, whether he was active or duped," says Allison Kelly, a banker.

"Commemoration is justified because Woody was a great musician and a great individualist who nobody ever proved was a Communist," counters Earl Walker, a petroleum company owner who recently bought the old Guthrie house from another family for $7000 and hopes to turn it into a "living memorial" run by a nonprofit foundation.


Happily, things have changed and the town now calls itself "The Home of Woody Guthrie" on its website.

If nothing else, I guess Woody Fest helps kill the time between turkey hunts.

Sin City II

Mr Plow spokeswoman traitor shock!    I can't imagine being so angry about something I'd throw away a perfectly good cocktail. Very Vegas.

Senor Plow no es macho,
Es solamente un borracho...

The greatest country music moment on The Simpsons of course is Johnny Cash's Coyote, although Willie Nelson and Dolly Parton have also turned up in Springfield.

Sin City I

Welcome back to Jeff Mercer who returned to the Lucky Bastards on the weekend, floral shirt and all.
Gram Parsons Tribute last week in LA. The line up wasn't bad: Keith Richards, Emmylou, Steve Earle, Jay Farrar, Jim Lauderdale, Raul Malo, Norah Jones, James Burton, Dwight Yoakham, Lucinda Williams and Kathleen Edwards among others.

Friday, July 16, 2004

Albums of the Week #1

New York Dolls bassist Arthur Kane has died. Now, this is not country related news, but it did remind me about Dolls frontman David Johansen and his two brilliant folky-blues albums recorded with his band The Harry Smiths. I found them in Moscow, so you should have no trouble.

Americana Awards

Nominations announced.
Album of the Year
Fate's Right Hand, Rodney Crowell (DMZ/Epic)
One Moment More, Mindy Smith (Vanguard)
Van Lear Rose, Loretta Lynn (Interscope)
Wishbones, Slaid Cleaves (Philo)

Artist of the Year
Patty Griffin
Jim Lauderdale
Loretta Lynn
Allison Moorer

Song of the Year
"Come to Jesus," Mindy Smith
"Fate's Right Hand," Rodney Crowell
"Portland, Oregon," Loretta Lynn
"Wishbones," Slaid Cleaves and Ray Wylie Hubbard

Sam Bush
Jerry Douglas
Will Kimbrough
Kenny Vaughan

New/Emerging Artist
Old Crow Medicine Show
Mindy Smith
Adrienne Young

Dylan Country

Chet Flippo article about Dylan Country, a compilation which looks to be a cut above the usual including some left-field choices like Kitty Wells, Earl Scruggs and Buck Owens.  While you're there check out Flippo's other Nashville Skyline articles, he generally talks alot of sense.