Saturday, October 30, 2004

Season's Greetings

'Galactic Ghoul' Rears its Spooky Head

A "monster" lurking behind a blanket of cosmic dust is unveiled in this new Halloween image from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. Resembling a ghoul with two hollow eyes and a screaming mouth, this masked cloud of newborn stars was uncovered by Spitzer's heat-seeking infrared eyes.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Mojo Part Two

Had a chance to peruse the Mojo mentioned yesterday. First the CD. There are 15 tracks, five of them specially recorded for the project:

Worried Man by Jeb Loy Nichols
Dark as a Dungeon by Sparklehorse
I Still Miss Someone by Willard Grant Conspiracy
Get Rhythm by Jawbone
When the Man Comes Around by Knife in the Water

Shrugs shoulders. The soupy reggae of Nichols is kinda seductive, and appropriate on the song but the others inspire mostly indifference in me. I try to like the hip slacker end of but sometimes I just want to scream Stop whispering damn you! The Ye Olde Rusticness gets old (old in a bad way not old in a good way) for me real quick. And they way they sing/speak as if there is a full stop (Americano: period) after every third word. Anyone want to set me straight? My proletarian tastes, I guess. Michelle Shocked doing One Piece at a Time is fun, virtually the same as the original. Waylon Jennings' Folsom Prison Blues is very laid back, ol' Waymore doesn't sound too fussed about getting out at all. Hardin Wouldn't Run is Steve Earle at his best. Tom Russell's Bacon Rind, Chief Seattle , The Ballad of Ira Hayes captures perfectly the spirit. Put Giant Sand in the hip-and-I-should-like-it-but-really-its-kinda-hohum category above. Nick Cave and the Seeds are included with The Singer, saw them do it at the Enmore in January, he dedicated it to Johnny and June. One of my gig-going highlights.

The feature article is essentially a well done revisiting of the familiar story of Johnny's life. The Depression-era New Deal upbringing, death of brother Jack, cotton fields, singing hymns, air force, first marriage, Sam Phillips and so on. It doesn't mention the story about him being the first American to know Stalin had died when he was intercepting Soviet morse code in Germany. It sounds too good to be true, and probably is.

The most interesting parts are Sylvie Simmons' recollections of her time spent with Johnny (in the house featured in the Hurt video) in the few months before he died. The contrast of his fading body ( "confined to a wheelchair ... half blind from glaucoma, his face both swollen and sunken, his body battered by diabetes, assorted surgeries and neurological illness" ) and the mind and spirit still intensely driven is partially painful but at the same time reminds me of what has always drawn me to him. And that never fails to make me glad. Bootleg recordings of his final live shows at the Carter family home in Virginia have this effect also - the frailty of his speaking voice is deeply shocking but the conviction of his singing voice is transporting.

Also excellent are the bite-sized flashes of Cash's life and work: his relationship with Bob Dylan, his coversion moment at Nickajack cave, the making of At Folsom Prison, his ABC show. Good is the piece on his 60s concept albums like Bitter Tears, Blood Sweat and Tears, Ride This Train and Songs of the True West. It says little is heard of them these days, not at Chez Mule, Bitter Tears for one is on high rotation.

Anyway, it's good. About $16 air freight in Australia, if you wait a few weeks you can get it for $10.

For Your Consideration

This Sunday sees the difficult second gig of the fabbo LOVEBITES at the Excelsior Hotel, Bridge Rd, Glebe. This threesome is in my opinion thed most entertaining showbiz trio since Larry , Curly and Moe stole a plumber's truck. Heading up the outfit is JASON WALKER, former conscience of Golden Rough, published author ( "God's Own Singer" , the life of Gram Parsons) and Laughing Outlaw solo roots rock country artiste. The Girl With The Faraway Eyes, Rocket 88 KERRYN STANTON is late of the Scrubhonets and still of the Wildcat Tamers. She takes no prisoners on the singin' teeth as she jangles the black and white keys to Jerry Lee heaven. MARK CORNWALL crawls from the wreckage of 50 Million Beers with a fistful of new self penned songs and dead red roses to hide the blood that spilled. The whistle blows at 6 PM Sunday. Gang, I'm here to tell ya there's more to Sunday life than cover bands at the Riverview and Botany View ( I ain't never seen no river and for sure no Botany from either of them joints.) A lot more. Our very special guest on Sunday is Geoff "Mad Dog" Holmes, known to youse all as the heart n soul of the WILDCAT TAMERS and of course the inimitable X. A wizard, a true star, definitely a brave berserker.

And more about the Harvest Fest south o' the border. It was put to me in the comments section below that I should go, but I have an excuse: I will be making my inaugural, much fretted about and much delayed appearance at the Tamworth Country Music Festival. Not my first time actually in Tamworth, mind. No, I've driven through that hole many times but my first at the same time as all the line dancers.

We're all set to go!!

Our annual Alt.Country & Roots Music, Film and Art celebration, Harvest Festival 2005, will be held over two days on 22 & 23 January at the Victorian Mornington Peninsula town of Red Hill.

The performer line-up includes - The Handsome Family (US), Lisa Miller, Sally Timms (UK), Jon Langford (UK), Mick Thomas, Chris Wilson, Shannon Lyon (Canada), Conway Savage, Cyndi Boste, Maurice Frawley, Wagons, The Yearlings, The Small Knives, The Sand Pebbles, Marcel Borrack. Plus we'll be screening rare film footage of The Byrds, Neil Young, Gram Parsons, Roger McGuinn, Johnny Cash, Tim Hardin.

The festival weekend will also feature a Short Film Festival of Art, Red Hill Wine, Speciality Beer, Gourmet Food, an Art & Book Market, plus lots more fine things!

Tickets are $35.00 (for 22 & 23 January) and they'll be on sale from Monday 8 November at the following outlets:

Online Ticket Purchase
Raoul Records -

The Last Record Store
304 Smith Street
Tel - 03 94162000

Missing Link
Basement, 405 Bourke Street
Tel - 03 9670 8208

Raoul Records
221 Barkly Street
Tel - 03 95255066

Record City
Shop 8A, City Arcade
433 Nepean Hwy
Tel - 03 97832357

Red Hill Trading Company "Blue Moon"
169 Shoreham Road
Red Hill South
Tel - 03 59892341

Tickets are limited. The 2004 festival SOLD OUT so I recommend you get
in early!!

All the festival bits & pieces are available at our website -

Thursday, October 28, 2004

The Man in Black and White

I've often wondered when Mojo or Uncut would get around to it, but they have as you can see : Johnny Cash on the cover. The accompanying CD is covers of Cash songs, on first look the one that jumps out immediately is Michelle Shocked doing -- wait for it -- One Piece At A Time! And in the mag itself there are a huge number of pages devoted to The Man, written by Sylvie Simmons who I know interviewed him often and spent time with him in Hendersonville just before his death. More tomorrow after get a chance to devour it.

The article is also illustrated with many famous Jim Marshall shots, which neatly segues into a review of the photographer's new book. Thanks to Steve, sounds like another one for the Christmas list:

I received Jim Marshall's new photo book yesterday titled Proof.

It's an interesting display of some his famous as well as more recent photographs.

Jim Marshall is the photographer that shot the now famous Cash flipping the bird photo.

In this book Marshall displays a number of his recognizable photos on one page and on the facing page, he displays the contact sheet of that roll of negatives. A small bit of information is given about the photo shoot and why the picture that was used was selected. So the contact sheets gives you an insight into what was going on during the time the "famous" photo was shot.

The famous Cash/bird photo is displayed along with the contact sheet. Marshall explains in the text that Cash had just finished the sound check for the San Quentin show. As Cash approached Marshall, Marshall said he asked Cash for a shot for the warden. Cash spontaneously flipped the bird. The contact sheet shows a number of shots leading up to the flipping of the bird, showing a lot of typical sound check scenes - standing around waiting, discussing, performing and so on. There are three different negatives of Cash flipping the bird with various people and activity going on in the background.

Also in this book is the photo of Cash at Folsom that is well known and was used for the Folsom picture sleeve. A number of the shots on the contact sheet recently appeared in the book about the Folsom Prison Blues project.

The picture of Kristofferson that was used in the liner notes of Jesus was a Capricorn (Kris on the edge of a hotel bed putting his shoes on) is displayed as well and the contact sheet really gives a glimpse of Kris' life at the time. Several shots of Kris sitting at a table drinking from a bottle and smoking. Marshall said it really was an example of "Sunday Morning Coming Down."

A recent photo is of Billy Bob Thorton - flipping the bird. The photo shoot was shortly after Cash's death. Marshall had learned that Billy Bob was a collector of Marshall's photography and prior to Cash's death, Billy Bob had gotten to know Cash. For the photo shoot Billy Bob reenacted the Cash/bird photo.

My only complaint about the book is that the contact sheets are actual size and with my middle aged eyes, I need a magnifying glass to truly appreciate all the photos on the contact sheets.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Alt Country Australia reports rumours next year's Harvest Festival in Red Hill (Victoria) could feature the Handsome Family, Sally Timms & Jon Langford, Shannon Lyon & the Willard Grant Conspiracy. Hopefully they will also make the trek north to civilisation for some gigs.
After Grog Blog directs me to a Matt Price piece in the Oz ~ two decent articles in a row about Bob Dylan in the Australian media. Woo Hoo! Mind you, parts of it are pretty thin. John Howard is not off the hook for saying he liked Blowin' In the Wind ... but he didn't like the words. And the Oz Idol link is a bit strained. So you think Bob would approve the concept? Why not, it's just a drawn out talent show after all, who disapproves of those?

I was hoping someone would come out and do an acapella version of Masters of War or something during the 60s themed show. I could see Courtney knowing a Bob tune or three. Marty probably knows the G'n'R version of Knocking on Heaven's Door.


Saturday, October 23, 2004

News on Willie Nelson's new album.

Despite being a big fan, I've rather lost track of Willie's stream of releases in the last few years. They seem to have come thick and fast, none of them making much of a dent. I actually think the last one I bought was Teatro way back in 1998. He toured here in (I think) January 2000 and I stood out in the rain for an hour round the back of the Sydney EntCent and got the CD insert autographed. I asked him how Johnny Cash was, he'd had a bout of illness around that time. Subsequently that CD, along with all my others, was stolen on 22nd November 2000. It was a Wednesday. Not that I still obsess about that or anything. Anyway, I haven't read all of this article because it requires registration and I can't be bothered but the opening paragraphs featured at Real Country Music are promising:

It Always Will Be marks the return of an introspective Willie Nelson, the artist who crafted quietly moving gems such as 1996's Spirit and 1998's Teatro. The new album plays like a soulful respite from the neon lights and whiskey-charged ambience of a honky-tonk.

It's also an about face from most of 2002's The Great Divide, the polished, much-maligned disc that paired him with young, big-selling duet partners such as Kid Rock, Lee Ann Womack, Brian McKnight and Sheryl Crow.

Simple Willie is best Willie, just him and that stuttery guitar. Mickey Raphael on harp. Maybe a bit of organ and some feathery drums. Of course he can honky tonk it up too but he needs a band that comes under his voice, rather than one that squashes over it.

One of my favourite albums (another casualty of the Great Massacre of '00) is the VH1 Storytellers with Johnny Cash. Just them two and their guitars and a small, adoring audience. Johnny's voice is like its anchored thirty feet down into the bedrock under the Atlantic and Willie's zips about over and under it. The perfect compound of all things musical.
Been meaning to say some words about the Alejandro Escovedo tribute album Por Vida, but Tim has done it for me.

After bagging Big Media for their doltish treatment of Bob, credit where it's due. A good review of Chronicles in The Age.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Current baseball events got me thinking about the Terry Allen song Red Leg Boy, an extremely hummable Cajun-style ditty about (if memory serves) his father.

Missouri born
Red leg boy
He just born
Yeah to playin the ball
Ain't much good
For much else at all
He just born
Yeah to playin the ball

Got too old
To play the ball
Settled down
But remembered it all
Lived it out
Until he died
Cussin the Yankees
Ah Satisfied

Allen is one of those genuine treasures who is almost too good to waste on real life. I hate these kind of comparisons but think Randy Newman out of Lubbock instead of LA. Good interviews here and here.

Local man's antique tractors star in new Johnny Cash film

If you attend the antique tractor show this weekend, you'll see one of the local stars of the new film chronicling the life of Johnny Cash, "Walk the Line." No, it isn't Joaquin Phoenix as the Man in Black or Reese Witherspoon, who plays June Carter.

Appearing at the Antique Power Association of the Ozarks Show and Tractor Pull Friday and Saturday is a 1954 Oliver Row Crop 77 tractor owned by Richard Walker of Mountain Home. In fact, Walker, president of the club, also owns the tractor's stunt double, which he bought and refurbished for the film, scheduled for release next year.


Not only was Walker's tractor in that film, Walker appears, too."If you watch in the first few minutes, you'll see me driving an old Moline in the background," he said.

He was paid $100 as an extra and got $300 for the use of the tractor.His latest venture was a little more lucrative, he says. How much did his tractors fetch for use in the $35 million budget film? He's not saying.

"They did put me up in the Marriott in Memphis," he said.

Walker said the amount of work that went into the scene calling for his two tractors was surprising. The scene calls for Cash to drive up to the lake on the tractor to talk to June. They have an argument, and Cash — who is angry, drunk and "pilled up" — can't get the tractor into gear, and it ends up going backward into the lake, Walker said.

"It was just like being in the Army. They worked on it for days setting up a three-second scene," he said.

The stunt double was used in the lake scene, with the production workers building a track down the lake's bank to the water.

What's Walker's favorite tractor?

"My '38 Model Massey Harris — with a six-cylinder Chrysler flathead," he said. The tractor sports its name, "Bits & Pieces."

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Kris Kristofferson was on the Today show (the Australian version) yesterday morning, being interviewed about the DVD release of Heaven's Gate. The usually inane Richard Wilkins was extremely respectful, even calling him "Mr Kristofferson" and raving about what a legend he is. He has skyrocketed in my esteem, admittedly from a pretty low base.

Wilkins also gets points for asking the question I really wanted answered, are you coming you here any time soon? Kris gave the usual reply, he loves Australia and would love to come.

Chuggy, get on the phone!

I was surprised again when Tracey Grimshaw went on about how handsome he was and what a beautiful voice he has etc. Speaking voice that is, she might not have been talking about his singing voice although that is beautiful too. Anyway, you go girlfriend. Big win for my heart and mind to Today.

Nine and Seven are engaged in a Death Match for morning ratings, if Kochy and Mel want to win me back they know what they have to do.

Damn Right I'm A Cowboy screens tomorrow night, Wednesday 20th October at 11pm on the ABC.

Damn Right I'm a Cowboy reveals the far-reaching personal and societal spin-offs from a deceptively simple community singing event enacted in a crazy ritual at a South Australian public FM radio station every week.

It documents the Hillbilly Hoot Radio Show, a shambolic attempt to foster a loose community of people drawn together solely by the love of acoustic music and Western whimsy. On this chaotic event, broadcast from a small open porch in the inner suburbs of Adelaide, an hour of live performance is squeezed onto the airwaves through three constantly open microphones without audition, programmed structure, a sound mixer or even the usual seven-second delay.

There is no song list. Rehearsals are a luxury. Backup singers and musos often choose themselves as the broadcast develops. It's not uncommon for a fresh song to be started solo and unknown only to end with a rousing final chorus taken on by professionals, non-musicians and those from the audience who stepped up onto the porch simply to give their support. At nine the last song - Will the Circle Be Unbroken - is sung by. all present, audience and performers, but few go home. They stay on to play to each other and try out ideas for another time. They stay on until midnight, or until the cops respond to someone complaining about some god-awful trombone noise.

When this weekly public radio broadcast took on a life of its own the cameras kept rolling - into joyful rehearsals, studio recording sessions, off-porch live performances, and into the homes and artistic lives of this unique and ever-growing group. The Hillbilly Hooters travel to new locations, invade the South Australian Folk Festival and participate in studio sessions. They write their own lives and loves into song and send them onto the airwaves. CDs are cut. Groups form and reform, they stage their own concerts - all the while maintaining the Hoot `traditions' of fun and Western fantasy.

We observe the Hooters developing new voices, friendships and musical diversity out of the confidence gained and the talent they discover in each other on that porch every week. Lives are gradually changed. The end result is a documentary of personal journeys, each one the result of years of gently supported immersion into the world of making moonshine music.

Damn Right I'm a Cowboy was shot with available video equipment - Super8 to DigiBeta - over almost four years. Most participants in the doco were unpaid, and many others deferred payment for this project. It was edited in several sessions over more than two years - a span dictated as much as anything by occasional small donations to the project, the producers' personal financial investment and the kindness of various Adelaide editing houses. Recently its completion for the screen has been aided by direct editing financial assistance from, and the use of post production facilities at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Damn Right I'm a Cowboy was premiered to a standing ovation and near riot at the Adelaide International Film Festival, March 2003. The film festival audience sang Will The Circle be Unbroken together at the end of the screening: 'the most amazing thing I've ever seen at a film festival' according to Richard Moore, ABC-TV.

Thanks to Gil for the info.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

An interview with Tom Russell by journalist Naomi Koppel, inexplicably not picked up for publication but reproduced here with her permission. The first few words are missing due to the tape recorder not picking them up, I'm sure you'll cope.

Tom Russell, Bern, Switzerland, June 3, 2004:-

… accompanying a book I have coming out of my letters and interviews with Charles Bukowski. He was sort of a wild, edgy, American, working-class beat poet that I became familiar with in the 70s and we had a correspondence and I interviewed him. Anyway he has become quite famous after he passed away and they’re putting out a book of my correspondence with him and letters and interviews. It’s not enough so they got me to write some – quote unquote – poetry, which I don’t consider I do. Basically they’re small short stories about a life on the road. So that’s coming out and now they came up with the idea of putting a CD with it of myself and maybe some actors and musicians reciting either Bukowski poems or some of the material in the book. We’re working on that. I’ll probably have that firmed up within two weeks. We’ll have to do that when I’m back in the States and then after that I’m touring again behind this cowbody record and working on a double album, Love and Fear I call it right now, it’s a working title. Hopefully that’ll be a bigger record. It’ll be out next year about this time.

I’ve neglected Switzerland, Austria and Germany for a couple of years and we used to do pretty well over here when I was with the Tom Russell band and the country rock scene was happening more than ten years ago you had the Frutigen festival, you had about ten major country festivals. That’s kind of on the wane since Nashville has killed country music – I have a lot of theories on that – but now there’s this alternative songwriter scene that’s surfacing big time in the UK. Uncut magazine did this review. It’s filtering here. Somebody handed me the German Rolling Stone yesterday and there was a four-star review on the cowboy record. The guy said they usually don’t care about this but because they’ve heard of you before. There is a growing awareness and interest here. We played Freiburg the other night and it was full. Uncut magazine said this guy is the heir to Johnny Cash, which of course is mighty big boots to fill. Also I think ten 15 years ago when I first started coming over here there was a language barrier on what I did so that I had to stick to really up-tempo country songs. Now that language barrier, I think with the European Union, with more awareness of American roots music. I can actually say a lot more on stage and I’m selling a lot more records and getting a lot more airplay, so that Switzerland is just as viable an audience for me, almost, as the UK. All of a sudden.

Q: What sort of people are your fans here?

A: It’s like the UK. It’s a cross-section of older people who liked country music 10 years ago but have become disenchanted with it but knew that I wrote songs for Suzy Bogguss and Johnny Cash, and people that have seen and come to festivals. But also younger kids – this is what’s exciting me. Everybody from 20 up to 35 who are sort of Springsteen-type fans, the younger, alternative rock and roll fans who like the lyrics because they’re hip enough to understand them, that these aren’t regular American lyrics, they have an edge to them. They have a political – they’re not so political but they have an interesting view of America that isn’t quite middle-of-the-road, to say the least.

Q: As an American artist coming to Europe, did September 11 affect you and the things that happened afterwards?

A: A little bit. They didn’t affect me per se. I toured, I did that tour with Nanci Griffith right after September 11, she was one of the few people who didn’t cancel her tour. You could definitely see a difference in security, getting out of America and coming into America and Americans being really freaked out about it, that security had been breached in such a wild way, but it didn’t really affect me. Even now, there is a lot of anti-American stuff going round, especially in the UK. People were trying to make me make statements about Bush. It’s too easy for journalists to do that, I told them look, I think it’s an unfortunate situation but I’m not really a political person, you know I don’t even vote. If I was really into it I would give you a more informed answer about American politics. But I see people treat me pretty well, one-on-one, not as an American but as a writer, composer who has something to say. And I’ve never written exclusively about America anyway, I wrote the Angel of Lyon and I wrote songs that took place in Norway and Spain. So I’m not a truly Americana writer. I don’t think America’s the center of the universe by any means.

Fifteen or twenty years ago Americans didn’t want to come over here. Major country artists and major folk artists thought the whole market was in North America. Well we had the opportunity to come over to Norway in the early 80s and then over to Switzerland to the first Frutigen festival, helped develop this roots awareness in Switzerland. Still people look on us as well why are you working Switzerland, because you can’t work in the US? Now 15, 20 years later all these acts, alternative country, straight country acts that aren’t at the top of the charts, want to tour Europe. They’ll go to my website, call up my agent and say can we open for Tom. In other words they’re not so proud any more or so chauvinistic because people basically are people. A good audience is a good audience. Actually you sometimes get better audiences in Europe because you’re actually outside of that American umbrella of hype that tells you what’s hip to listen to on the radio and what isn’t hip to listen to. Americans are really robots in a lot of ways about television, radio, print media. If you get away from that, it’s a fresher environment because the press is generally more unbiased and better over here, especially the UK.

I’m proud that we broke a lot of ground. I started playing a saloon in Interlaken, the Western Saloon, I think it was on the side of a disco, in 1981. You had to play Kenny Rogers songs and whatever was current on the country charts or nobody listened to you. That changed after six or seven years until today I think I’m one of the few artists that plays acoustically that sings in English that people really listen to over here, because we put the 20 years of work in. Whereas others come and go. I think the whole country festival thing, the country club with people dressing up as cowboys and Indians and firing a gun, I think that all died out a little bit, here and in the UK. This is more like a carnival routine. It’s back now to the basic roots of the music, which is the song.

Q: Tell me about the Bukowski project, how you knew him.

A: To be honest I didn’t know him that well, but I met him once and I corresponded with him. The importance of Bukowski: first of all, he was born in Germany, his father was German his mother was American and he ended up in the states, in LA, and he was abused by his father. He grew up an outsider and a loner. The important thing about Bukowski is he didn’t come out of the university system or the straight academic system. He came out of the post office – he worked in the post office for 20 years – so his angle is something peculiarly unique in America, of a working-class poet, which is really looked down on because American literature is controlled from either academia or the New York Times, the top papers, saying what is hip, what isn’t hip. Well he didn’t come from that. He came from the post office and skid row and he drank a lot. He didn’t affiliate with any scene, even the beat scene. A lot of women would consider him a misogynist because he spoke a lot about sex. It was all very tongue-in-cheek. When I met him he was very kind. I met him on the street in Hollywood. He was with his wife Linda, who handles his business now. He was sober and he was very polite, soft-spoken and was very thankful to me because I had given him some old columns of his that he didn’t own. They made a book out of it called Notes of a Dirty Old Man. He did something funny that day. I was with this woman I was singing with at the time, Patricia Hardin. He neglected to introduce us to his wife when we met him on the street. I said do you want to go have a drink and he said no, no we have to go home. We said goodbye, we gave him a record and we took off in our car. About ten minutes later this little Volkswagen came racing up to the side of us and he rolled down the window and he got my attention. I said do you want to go have a drink. He said no, this is Linda over here, and he introduced us to his wife. She had probably given him a lot of trouble. He came across as very human and his letters to me were very human. I liked his attitude. He had a very rock-and-roll attitude for an older guy. He would do these wild, drunken readings in front of students. He could be very – use any cursing, you know, in the book, just to shock, but if you got through all that he was actually a very good poet – sometimes. And I recorded I think one of his best poems "Crucifix in a Death Hand," a poem about old Los Angeles where I was born. I recite it with some musical backing, which is sort of what we’ll try to do in the record. And there are some Quentin Tarantino actors interested, Michael Madsen and maybe David Carradine. Our only stopgap here is we have to get permission from Linda, his wife. She’s already given me permission to publish the letters. It will be a very interesting project.

A lot of people are underground Bukowski fans, even women, because he loved women, even if he spoke a lot about sex or his lack of sex for many years. Later on – he was sort of, I hate to say ugly, he had a real pockmarked face. But women liked that, it was like he was the monster with the big heart. It was very unique that a guy like that would come out of the American scene and never be destroyed, and I was very drawn to him. I mean I wouldn’t want to write totally like Bukowski because of the shock value, but anybody who can survive the scene in America – because our regular poets really stink, and more recently our writers. We’re not producing great novelists or songwriters since the 60s.

Q: What’s the name of the book?

A: I think it’s called California Blood Lines: Charles Bukowski and Tom Russell. We’re shooting for Nov. 1 at the latest. The press right now is called Black Shark Press, it’s a small literary press in California. People can also check my website.

Q: CD at the same time?

A: Yeah. I have a lot of studio time booked in July. I want to work on these new love songs, but if we get the readings done in the next couple of months I can do the music pretty quickly because I have it in my head. It’ll be very unique project one way or the other. I think it’s gonna happen. But what form it will take requires me to talk to his wife. I may have to drive over to her house in Long Beach and talk to her. She’s very protective of his stuff, which is fine. It depends what we can use. I’m 90 percent certain the CD will come out in some form. Ten years ago there was a movie, Barfly, with Mickey Rourke and Faye Dunaway.

Love and fear. I’m calling it that now. Who knows what it’ll end up being called. I just started painting again eight months ago. I painted the last cover, for what it’s worth. Of course it’s very na๏ve, but I love folk art. I see the projects now in terms of songs and painting. I just see this big, primitive looking art, one side’s cracked, you know, but it has love and fear, the two sides of human experience basically. Myself I’ve been through three relationships in the last five or six years that have been eye-opening experiences, and a lot of that ends up on the records, like Borderland had a lot about the relationship with this woman I moved out to El Paso with six years ago, and it ended kind of strangely. And I just ended a relationship – or we mutually ended a relationship – with a musician, just because she lived in Austin, I lived in El Paso. She wanted a husband and kids and I think I’m over that. But it was a hurtful thing, so it’s kind of triggered these new love songs.

Q: So does that mean that the cowboy songs are on the back burner?

A: No, not at all, but I don’t want to be totally identified with that, it’s a side job for me. It’s amazing this record is getting the recognition it did, because to be honest I was going to put it out on my website as a little reward for my cowboy fans. Hightone Records wanted to put it out desperately, and it’s gotten more recognition right out of the gate than any record I’ve had out, except maybe The Man from God Knows Where. But no, I’m not done with the cowboy thing, in fact the biggest project, that I’ve been working on for five or six years, is like The Man from God Knows Where. It’s a history of the California West sort of through the eyes of woman, who happens to be my sister-in-law, my brother’s second wife. She grew up on a historic Spanish land-draft ranch, a very large ranch in California, has virtually lived round there all her life and is the sort of woman that’s had to kill two bears that got in her house. It’s like interviewing someone from 180 years ago. She has all the history of her family there, she has all the photos. She can tell you everything about the environment and the history of the ranch and she has a very, very articulate point of view about women and the west, so I’m going to base this sort of cowboy folk opera around her point of view. But it’s also going to be a book, so it’s taking a lot longer than I suspected. To me that’ll be the ultimate cowboy record. And I’m in no hurry because I’m going to have to spend at least another two years putting that together. So I’m not really done with the cowboy thing.

Q: You seem to have a huge number of projects going on, and yet you’re on the road so much. How do you fit it all in?

A: You know, I’ve really had to get a lot of things in my life together. One of them is being in between relationships has helped. I’m not going to rush back into a relationship because that’s just one more thing. You can’t have a girlfriend without devoting enough time to try to make it work. So I want to relax on that for a while. I’ve cut out drinking a couple of weeks ago. I wasn’t a huge drinker, but again it was another thing that got in the way. I’m really very focussed on my writing and painting. That’s what I get the most enjoyment out of and that’s what I’m meant to do, and I really have these projects I want to do. I’m not a normal person, let’s face it. I don’t need to be in a marriage. I have a wonderful house out in El Paso that needs a lot of work all the time, and I can do that. I have a painting studio and a writing studio and that’s what I want to do. The next five years I really want to devote my life to these projects. I’m able to get some of it done on the road.

I’m coming to the end of this kind of touring, I think, playing the smaller joints. I think if I come out with a bigger record – the Bukowski record then the bigger record and then the western record – I should be doing small theatres. I don’t need to be on a level with Bruce Springsteen or even Nanci, but I’d like to be up in 300-400-seat theatres all over the world, playing to serious audiences. That would be fine for me. Tour in large blocks, but less, you know, tour Europe and then take two months off. Now I have to do it this way. I put two records out in 10 months and the only way you’re going to sell them and get publicity is to tour every time. But it’s working. I did the David Letterman show last May with Nanci and he saw the Uncut review and now I’m going to do it again in September, and that goes out to 40 million people worldwide. It’s too small now, I mean I’ve done it. If I keep playing at this level I’m hitting my head against the ceiling. The records are selling more and more. I’m really beyond all boundaries of age or anything else, it’s up to me now to take it to another level. I’m talking to a friend of mine to manage my affairs and make the press kit bigger and do more TV and radio, but the bottom line is I have to deliver the record that I think will resonate with more people, in the way that certain heroes of mine do, Leonard Cohen and Dylan. You can do articulate, dark, meaningful songwriting and reach an audience without being a pop star. You remain a private individual.

It’s fascinating. I don’t even know either. I love the song. Most people think Rosemary killed Big Jim but I always think why is Lily taking the dye out of her hair. Did she impersonate Rosemary and set her up. Anything can happen. It’s an extremely well-written song for, like, a western song. It’s great that people debate it. It means they’re listening, trying to listen.

There’s something special about it because of the workshops during the day where we just talk like I’m talking here and people ask questions and songwriting and stuff, which I don’t really dig talking about, but it’s kind of call and the food’s really good, but the atmosphere is unbelievable.

Q:I need to check a few basic things. Your age?

A: I’m not going to tell you that.

Q: On your website it says you were born in 1950.

A: That’s pretty accurate. That’s about it. Let me just tell you why, in a way, because I’m superstitious. I could figure out how old I am because obviously I know, I don’t know because I stopped counting, but I know the year I was born, but I don’t like it put in pieces. I don’t think you have to tell a journalist anything you don’t want to tell, and I think it’s a negative factor in a piece because it influences what younger people think. In the same way as if you play something on the radio and younger people say "What was that?" But then they find out that this guy’s in his sixties, and they think well that couldn’t be hip. The more you can get away from typecasting and just getting people to listen to what somebody says, because in my country everything is youth-oriented. I could be on a bigger label but it’s a youth-oriented market. They don’t know that I’m going to do 10 more records. They think a guy like me is going to retire. So I don’t tell. It’s too bad because you’re just heading towards that, and then you get an obituary when you die. It’s just counting something that I don’t feel I’m a part of, to be truthful. And if I did believe it I’d be looking a lot older than I do. I just don’t see it as being accurate anyway. You could interview another guy who was born in 1950 and he would seem like he was 80, you could interview another guy and it would seem like he was 32, so I just don’t believe in the barrier. In the same way when journalists ask me about my politics, which I don’t have any, but they want it in the piece because they feel people can then judge where you’re coming from. There are certain things I won’t tell.

Q: Can you give me a potted history of your life?

A: Basically I went to the University of California at Santa Barbara and got a degree as a criminologist and sociologist. I was really into street-level problems and crime. I thought it was going to be really interesting. And then a friend of mine got a grant to go to Nigeria during the Biafra war, 1969-70, and offered me a job as a research teaching assistant. I was married at the time. I was very young. But we went to Nigeria as a year. I really didn’t do a lot of teaching. I collected art and hung out and played a lot of guitar, but by hanging out with the academic people I decided that wasn’t going to be the life for me. It bored me to tears, they bored me to death academic people. So I knew I wanted to be around musicians and ever since I saw Bob Dylan perform I thought that’s really what I am, a songwriter. I just didn’t have the guts to do it.

I came back from Africa and lived in Vancouver because we had friends there. I began playing in really bad Skid Row bars, six sets a night doing Hank Williams songs, Rolling Stones, and I worked my way up through there and started writing songs. I moved to Austin in the mid-70s when it was just being set up as a centre for alternative songwriters. Willie Nelson had just moved there, and Guy Clark. I recorded two albums with Patricia Hardin. We came very close to getting a major recording deal. I moved to San Francisco and recorded a record there and then we broke up and I moved to New York and kind of dropped out of the music scene. I had a developmental deal as a novelist with the William Morris Agency for a while, they shopped some of my manuscripts and not much happened, and I drove cab. That’s when I met Andrew Hardin, my guitar player. He was driving cab. He said "we’ve got to get out of this, you’re a great songwriter." I’d already written some pretty good songs like Gallo del Cielo.

The meat of the story is one night I picked up Robert Hunter, the lyricist of the Grateful Dead, and we started talking in the cab and I sang this song I’d written about cockfighting. He was stunned. He had me sing it again and again. The upshot of that was he got me up on stage a month later and said "I want to introduce you to a taxi driver who wrote this song," introduced me to a Grateful Dead audience. Got me back in the business really because he hired me and Andy to open some shows for him in New York, I mean top-level shows, out of the blue. So we instantly had an audience and we instantly were working and we’ve been working ever since – the last 20 years we’ve been touring 200 days a year.

I’ve made 18 records since then, all different kinds of records. I never ran into Robert Hunter again but I always point to him as one of the few people in this business that actually did something. Everybody promises something but he actually did something for me. He went off to England and for a couple of years I heard people say that he would sing the song and say "I learned this from a cab driver."

And then I stayed in New York 15 years. I finally had a novel published in Norway, eight years ago, a crime novel, and then I published a book with Sylvia Tyson on songwriting quotes that’s still available. Finally I got tired of New York five or six years ago. I was living with a woman in New York and she was born in El Paso, Texas, so we moved out to El Paso and found this beautiful, historic adobe house. And the relationship broke up – we weren’t used to seeing each other that much – and I kept the house and she moved back to New York, and that was about six years ago. I feel pretty firmly based there because it’s a semi-isolated place in the desert and I have three acres and my art studio and my writing studio. It’s not Austin, it’s not New York, it’s not San Francisco, and yet it’s one of the most historic towns in America and it’s right on the Mexican border, of Juarez, Mexico, and there may be two million people right across the border. A lot has happened. That’s my capsule bio.

Friday, October 15, 2004

If you came from Expecting Rain and are looking for the Bob rant, please scroll down.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Good news, thanks to a tip from Exit O, the Steve Earle mailing list. New West records has the rights to the Austin City Limits archive for CD and DVD release.

Steve Earle and the Dukes setlist from 1986 for the CD and DVD

1 – Sweet Little `66
2 – Goodbye's All We Got Left
3 – Guitar Town
4 – Hillbilly Highway
5 – Good Ol Boy ( Getting' Tough )
6 – My Old Friend The Blues
7 – Think It Over
8 – Little Rock `N' Roller
9 – State Trooper
10 – Nowhere Road
11 – The Week Of Living Dangerously
12 – Angry Young Man
13 – Fearless Heart
14 – I Love You Too Much
15 – San Antonio Girl
16 – The Devil's Right Hand
17 – Down The Road

A Beautiful Thing

Ralph Stanley museum (link courtesy of RCM)

This is becoming a Bob Blog which it isn't meant to be, however I did buy Chronicles yesterday (very reasonable $29.95 from Borders) and it is, indeed, brilliant. I'll share just a little. I've chosen this part because it is on topic, but there are examples of wry humour and thrilling prose on each page. Go to Expecting Rain for links to heaps of glowing reviews.
Once I was in the kitchen listening to Malcolm X talking on the radio. He was lecturing on why not to eat pork or ham, and that a pig is actually one third cat, one third rat, one third dog --it's unclean and you shouldn't eat it. It's funny how things stick with you. About ten years later I was having dinner at Johnny Cash's house outside of Nashville. There were alot of songwriters there. Joni Mitchell, Graham Nash, Harlan Howard, Kris Kristofferson, Mickey Newberry and some others. Joe and Janette Carter were also there. Joe and Jannette were the son and daughter of A.P and Sarah Carter and cousins to June Carter, Johnny's wife. They were like the royalty of country music.

Johnny's big fireplace was blazing and crackling. After dinner, everybody sat around in the rustic living rooms with high wooden beams and wide plate-glass windows that overlooked a lake. We sat in a circle and each songwriter would play a song and pass the guitar to the next player. Usually, there'd be comments like "You really nailed that one." Or "Yeah, man, you said it all in them few lines." Or maybe something like "That song's got a lot of history in it." Or "You put all of yourself into that tune." Mostly just complimentary stuff. I played "Lay, Lady, Lay" and then passed the guitar to Graham Nash, anticipating some kind of response. I didn't have to wait long. "You don't eat pork, do you?" Joe Carter asked. That was his comment. I waited for a second before replying. "Uh, no sir, I don't," I said back. Kristofferson almost swallowed his fork. Joe asked, "Why not?" It's then that I remembered what Malcolm X had said. "Well, sir, it's kind of a personal thing. I don't eat that stuff, no. I don't eat something that's one third rat, one third cat and one third dog. It just doesn't taste right." There was an awkward momentary silence that you could have cut with one of the knives off the dinner table. Johnny Cash then almost doubled over. Kristofferson just shook his head. Joe Carter was quite a character.

Train Song festival

Folk and blues artists belted out songs about train rides such as Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues," using instruments like a harmonica, upright bass and trombone.

As they performed classic rail tunes, a rare 1907 steam train ran along the 4.5 acre park's perimeter. Red-sashed bandits from the Apache Canyon Gang hijacked every other trip, allowing parents who feared the skit would upset their children to catch the next ride.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

I'm A Dylan Tragic, Who The Hell Are You?

Senator Helen Coonan is the Federal Communications Minister (for now). Her address is I urge everyone -- here in Australia or overseas -- to write to her and insist that when cross media laws go on the block a provision is inserted which forbids the new owners of Fairfax publishing any more than, say, three Bob Dylan and/or Bob Dylan-fan bashing articles a year.

That seems fair. Sure it's a deep cut to their usual hectic pace but think how it will free up space for less hackneyed topics.

Seriously, non-Sydneysiders may think I am exaggerating. I am not. It really is an obsession with the Sydney Morning Herald, when Bruce Elder is unavailable they swipe an article from overseas like today's by London Telegraph hack Sam Leith. Read it if you must. It is such a lazy article, even for the Smartarse Anti-Bob genre. It has absolutey nothing new to offer.

Dylan can't sing - check. [1]

Books with pretentious names have been written about Dylan - check.

"Bobsessives" treat Dylan like god - check.

Old hippies need to get a life! - check

Dylan made some bad albums in the 80s - check.

No really, those albums really sucked - check

Mention something obscure like Shot of Love just to show what a real pro you are - check.

And, can you believe, he actually became a Christian? - check

String together some unsupported generalisations on those topics and you too can be published in the city's journal of record.

In the interests of full disclosure: you won't be surprised to know I qualify as one of these much-maligned "Dylanologists." I have all the albums, some singles and promos, some bootlegs, the movies, about a dozen books (Marcus, Heylin and others but no Motion or Ricks), posters, t-shirts, ticket stubs, photos. I travelled to Germany solely to see Bob. I even went to Tamworth. I love Masked and Anonymous. And every month I go to Dylan "meetings" with fellow tragics here in Sydney. I am not middle aged or a man, or a middle aged man, but I suppose the SMH would say the exception proves the rule.

So may not be as august a forum as our nation's oldest newspaper but if I may I would like to put our side of the story. This is not to defend Bob Dylan, if you don't like him, fine, whatever. That just means more room on the rail for me. This is to defend us.

Simply put, whenever I read these articles I never see myself or my friends reflected. Clearly all these journos have had the terrible bad luck of meeting only the most boring of sad bastards among our ranks, and not the other 98% who are pefectly well adjusted socially and not only that, are some of the most interesting, caring and hilariously funny people you could ever meet.

And when I say "funny" that includes a very healthy sense of humour about our own obsession, rather than being the dour boffins of the popular journalististic (lack of) imagination. According to Leith and the others in the SMH, for us joking about Bob is heresy. Not so. In fact, it is almost complusory. After all, who better than a real "Bobcat" to make jokes about Bob? Believe me, we really know where the bodies are buried. If the worst Leith can come up with is Shot of Love, he just ain't trying. [2]

I have no empirical evidence for this but based on my knowledge of the world of Bob obsession around the world, I suspect the "gatecrashers, spooks, trespassers, demagogues" Leith refers to (and Bob writes about in Chronicles) are not the same people who are in the top rank of devotees today. The sort of fervour which motivates freakery like that tends to burn bright then flicker out or move on. It is too rigid to survive the hairpin turns of Bob's career. I could be wrong but I imagine those people dropping Bob as soon as someone more ambitious in the role of Saviour came along (like, say, Charlie Manson.) In 2004 in fact they are more likely to resent him for his unwillingness not to change or to answer their call. You need a sense of humour to be a Bob fan, which is an anathema to that kind of self righteousness.

Yes, we love to scruitinise the lyrics and his life. Yes, we love to argue about the relative merits of the '66, '82, '87 and 04' versions of The Ballad of Hollis Brown. Yes, we follow him around on the "Neverending bloody Tour", analysing set lists and harp breaks, deciphering his instructions-by-eyebrow to Tony and argue, oh how we endlessly argue, about the drummers.

But you know what? We do it because it is a bloody load of fun. We do it for the same reason footy fans paint their faces, dye their hair team colours, make silly banners, scream their lungs out and abuse the ref. Sure, you can sit back and cooly observe the play but that, surely, misses the point. There is a place for Richie Benaud, but also for the Barmy Army.

Every sporting league in the world has a Roosters/insert appropriate AFL team here. Collingwood?/Yankees/Man Utd -- a team everyone else loves to hate. [3] We have Joan (Oops. Sorry.) Why?

Because it makes it more fun. It's more fun to watch a big game surrounded by passionate supporters and friends than it is to stay at home by yourself. So, we Dylan Tragics also congregate to support each other and recap the match. So do cricket tragics, political tragics, Jane Austen tragics, blogging tragics and Australian Idol tragics. And, thank god, I say for people who are actually passionate about something.

We do it, too, because of the other people involved. I have friends on three continents other than this one because of our shared passion and a warm and welcoming circle here. And I have enjoyed some of the richest moments of my life with them. I still remember a place called Green Valley, where ... oh, sorry. Wrong emotional speech, but you get my meaning.

We do it too, because we can. Almost uniquely among popular musicians, Bob provides constant fodder for discussion. He has been releasing new material and playing dozens of live shows a year for over 40 years. What he is doing now is very different than what he was doing 10, 15, 20, 30 or 40 years ago. Bob has been academically and intellectually pummelled constantly from every angle and has emerged intact, always with something new to offer. No amount of overanalysis can scratch his surface. Well, we can scratch it, but we can't leave a mark. His own self has never been lost. He can cope with Christopher Ricks.

This human attraction to obsession and tribal formations, I'm sure there is a vital evolutionary reason for it (I'm sure someone knows). At any rate, it isn't us who need to "get over it", it's the journos who find something offensive about the way other people choose to make the most out of their lives.

The SMH is welcome to attend our next social gathering (As is everyone else: Monday, Oct 18th, Clare Hotel, Broadway, 7pmish) and get the facts. That, at least, would be a new angle.

[1] Oh and by the way, what's wrong with the sound of a digderidoo? Some people like it, you pommy tosser. Did the SMH endorse this insult to our iconic indigenous instrument?

[2] Sure, it's no Planet Waves, but any album which includes "Every Grain of Sand" and "The Groom's Still Waiting At the Altar" is hardly without merit.

[2] Joke: What three British football teams have swear words in their names? Arsenal, Scunthorpe and Manchester fucking United.

Monday, October 11, 2004

A cheering thought.

Remember: whatever happens, however bad things get:

we will always have Bob

Zoilus on Chronicles.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Please note the time for Morna's gig on Sunday is 3pm, not 8 as I had it. Hope to see you there.

Song for Weekend: Jim Reeves classic He'll Have to Go

An excellent venue for celebration or commiseration:

Don't sit at home this Saturday night (October 9) worrying about what might be or what might have been. Come on down to the Bald Faced Stag (on the corner of Parramatta and Balmain Rds - just one block on the city side of Norton St, Leichhardt) for a night of pure country honky tonk with the marvellous Murray Hillbillies and special guests, including Mark Lucas. If all's well with our preferred society we'll get a rousing version of He's In The Jailhouse Now along with four hours of the songs of Hank Williams, Lefty Frizzell, Wayne Hancock, Slim Dusty, Jimmie Rodgers, Webb Pierce and more!!!

Guaranteed to touch the centre of your country-music soul - starting at 9 pm and rollicking all the way through to 1 am on Sunday morning.

This venue is being touted as a possible country music venue if the numbers are encouraging and that's something we need given the recent decline in venues for country/hillbilly/bluegrass music. Please pass this message along and hope to see you there.


The Murray Hillbillies line-up:

MURRAY HILL - Vocals and rhythm guitar

ROD COE - Double bass, backing vocals

GARY BROWN - Slide guitar, Dobro, steel guitar

LES SCOTT - Lead guitar and backing vocals


Thursday, October 07, 2004

Blogs make Jeopardy. Tony Barber hosts a short lived series of it here, wish they'd bring it back.

Son Volt reforming and new album. Sort of.

More info:

Ex-Uncle Tupelo member Jay Farrar, as previously reported by Filter, is re-entering the studio with his band, Son Volt. While that plan remains intact, the band itself has not.

Farrar has announced that negotiations with original Son Volt members have not come to fruition, and a new line-up is in place, featuring musicians who have played with the Meat Puppets, Calexico, and Ryan Adams.

Farrar is set to enter the studio October 12, under the guidance of producer John Agnello. Playing with him are Brad Rice (guitar--Tift Merritt, Ryan Adams), Andrew Duplantis (bass—Jon Dee Graham, Meat Puppets, Bob Mould), Eric Heywood (pedal steel—Calexico) and Dave Bryson (drums—Canyon). As reported, the sessions will be available for live viewing, at

In other Son Volt news, an anthology is planned for 2005 release, alongside the new album and tour. The anthology will cull material from Son Volt's three Warner Brothers albums, in addition to previously unreleased materials.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Talkin' Bivariate Correlation Matrix Blues

From blog The Virtual Stoa, thanks to Carl Wilson for the tip. More on the country music-suicide story below. For me, good music is never depressing, whatever the subject matter. Simply by existing and being good, art is inherently life-affirming.

However, that said, for wonks this is fascinating. Statistics are not my thing though. Surely the correlation between trawling through statistics and suicide is undeniable.

In a follow-up 1994 paper ("'An Achy Breaky Heart' May Not Kill You") published in the same journal, Social Forces, a team of social scientists from Utah State University led by Gary W. Mauk mounted a fierce critique of Stark and Gundlach's findings: problems with ecological inference, they contended, were compounded by a weak causal model. It looked pretty convincing to me, anyway, on a quick skim. Here's the best bit:

Further, while Stack and Gundlach found a relationship between amount of country music airtime and suicide rates... they have not accounted adequately for directionality... Likewise, one cannot determine (1) whether whites who are divorced tend to listen to country music, (2) whether listening to country music tends to cause their noncountry music fan spouses to divorce them, or (3) whether country music makes romantic conflict and divorce seem more normal for those individuals who are contemplating suicide, thus increasing the likelihood that they will attempt suicide...

Reassessing the Link Between Country Music and Suicide
paper from Social Forces journal.

It seems likely any correlation with country music listening is a spin off from more solid predicators such as socio-economic and lifestyle (such as gun ownership) factors. As for making romantic conflict and suicide more normal and attractive, we can hardly single out country music for that.

You know who you are Shakespeare.

Or Charlotte Bronte.

Or the Bible.

A novel for all you uncultured swill who drop by here.

The author's [Silas House's] lifelong love of music runs through "The Coal Tattoo," from Buddy Holly and Hank Williams to Janis Joplin and The Beatles. House writes frequently for No Depression, the Nashville-based magazine devoted to the new traditionalist or "alt country" music scene, and has interviewed the likes of Hank Williams III and Lucinda Williams.

"I was just raised to really respect music. It was always present. I can't remember ever a time when I was a child when there wasn't some form of music going on. My mother was a gospel singer, so I traveled all over the region with her when she was singing. My aunt was a wild rock-and-roller, so she would take me to Bob Seger concerts and honky tonks when I was about 14.

Then my dad always really loved classic country music, so we were always listening to that on the radio in his truck when we were cruising around. And I had several family members who played the banjo and the fiddle, so I was exposed to all kinds of music. I use it a lot in my writing. It makes it so much easier to get to know a character if you know what kind of music they like. I show a lot about a character that way."

Saturday, October 02, 2004

All's Wrong With the World

There was a distressing story the other day about how perky country music had become. Instead of dwelling, as it should, on the general misery of our short sojourn in this valley of tears, today's country needs to be constantly uplifting.

A friendly warning: Don't turn on a mainstream country radio station unless you're prepared to be assaulted by uplift, pummeled with positivity. One hit after another will grab you by the collar, demanding that you value your precious, dwindling days on earth, embrace your loved ones while you can and, generally, seize the day.

Sadly academia has provided evidence that seems to confirm this worrying trend: country music no longer saps your will to live.

Jim Gundlach of the University of Alabama said he got hate mail when he first published his study showing that people who listen to country music have higher rates of suicide.

He said it does not hold true any more.

"The country music that we have today is not the same kind of country music that was related to suicide back when we did this," he said. "When we did that, there were songs like D-I-V-O-R-C-E. It was predominantly tears-in-the-beer types of music."

There is no-light at the end of the tunnel, however. Listen to real country music and you should still experience that glorious depressive effect.

More Buddy and God

But the raging volcano on the album is a nine-minute-plus version of Bob Dylan's "With God on Our Side." Miller sings it with a weariness born out of sorrow, but the song escalates in tempo and volume until his guitar is raging mad and driving his vocals, and the words fairly leap out of the speakers and grab you by the throat. Dylan wrote it in 1963 when the Vietnamese war was escalating into the quagmire it became, but it pretty much applies to any wars in progress. So now as I'm leavin' I'm weary as hell/The confusion I'm feelin' ain't no tongue can tell/The words fill my head and fall to the floor/If God's on our side he'll stop the next war. The words alone cannot conjure up the majesty and the fury in Miller's delivery.

The Return of Junior Brown He went away?

Friday, October 01, 2004

Kansas City Star Q&A

Q. When is Lucinda Williams’ new live CD coming out? – Willie
A. Her record label, Lost Highway, isn’t saying anything; nor is; nor Ice magazine. I’d be real surprised if it isn’t out in time for the Christmas rush, though.