Thursday, March 31, 2005

Hot Walker Hot Potato


Brief first thoughts on Tom Russell's latest.

Debated vigiorously on at least two mailing lists I'm on, including Tom's own, and panned in americana Bible (if the Bible were a monthly magazine) No Depression but not without some heavyweight supporters, Hotwalker has certainly raised more than your average fuss.

The controversy is thus: There are 18 tracks on the album, but only three actual songs. The rest is a spoken word (with musical excerpts and accompaniment) journey through, as Greil Marcus would have it, old, weird America. California mostly, with a detour via (where else) Greenwich Village.

It's Woody meets Steinbeck meets Kerouac meets James Ellroy with a supporting cast of amyl nitrate popping circus midgets, displaced okies, corrupt politicians, folkie troubadours, Nudie suited Bakersfield brawlers, outlaws, Lenny Bruce. And Bukowski, always Bukowski. One of the songs Woodrow is a cranky, bitter, beautiful pean to Woodie Guthrie and ranks up there with Tom's best.

It's compelling and dangerous. I love it.

So, yes, I recommend it with my usual fangirl enthusiasm, but know what you're getting.

Update: Five star review at Uncut.

Update: Now I've had a night to digest it. Actually 19 tracks and ... how many "actual songs?" (whatever that means) Two that Tom sings (Grapevine and Woodrow), one bit that Dave Van Ronk does, Gretchen Peters does America the Beautiful. So, three and a half? Four?

Update: Also I was going to be snarky about the galahs on the Sydney Morning Herald letters page the last few days, recycling every banal joke about country music ever. ie. I like BOTH kinds of music. Play a country song backwards and your truck starts again, your wife comes back etc etc. Various white trash references. I was going to, but I don't want to bump Tom from top of the page.

Update: Also, if you're in Sydney and not catching Fred Eaglesmith tonight, why the hell not?

Banner stolen from Blast Radius. There is also a Blogger Meetup April 7th 7.30pm at Kelly's on King.

Dig It #2

Press release. Launch of Dig Country Radio at The Vanguard with Lucky Oceans and The Flood. Free! I think one of the gushers quoted is me.

ABC Radio launches new country music channel


Fans of country music can now hear a wide selection of high-quality music twenty-four hours a day as ABC Radio's adult contemporary music service, DIG, announces the arrival of DIG COUNTRY.

The specialist channel has joined the dig stable and will include a phenomenal range of country music styles, ranging from traditional through to bluegrass, western swing, honky tonk, country folk and alt. country. And of course, there will be plenty of great Australian country music artists in the mix.

Music on DIG COUNTRY comes in a high-quality broadband stream from

DIG COUNTRY is being officially launched at the Vanguard Hotel in Newtown, NSW on Tuesday April 12. Grammy Award winning country artist and broadcaster LUCKY OCEANS will launch DIG COUNTRY, followed by a very special performance from THE FLOOD. Entry to the gig is free and the Sydney public are encouraged to come along, as ABC Radio National is recording the performance for Live On Stage. And you'll be able to hear the concert again later on demand at DIG COUNTRY website.

DIG COUNTRY has been running quietly for the last month and already the audience reaction has been overwhelmingly positive:
- "This station is awesome!! The alt-country was what first attracted me to dig. Now I can have it all the time. Thank you so much." - Daniel
- "Great to see dig has set up a dedicated country stream. What a "just played" list! Hard to imagine it getting much better than that." - Amanda

DIG COUNTRY joins DIG JAZZ and the DIG main channel in offering a diverse mix of great sounds - ranging from blues, soul, country, roots, world music, jazz, rock & lots in-between.

The DIG and DIG JAZZ channels are also available via digital television, set-top boxes and Foxtel digital (cable and satellite). The DIG website has been consistently receiving over 200,000 accesses per week in 2005.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

I have added a gig listing for The Bob Dylan Show. Me and a few hardcores went to see it at Coogee RSL a year or so back without hopes being too high. We are hard to please where Bob is concerned. But - mirabile dictu! -- it was actually really good. Recommended for a fun night out.

Monday, March 28, 2005


Fred Eaglesmith is on this week in Sydney, Thursday at the Vic on the Park in Enmore and Friday at the Bridge, Rozelle. I'll be at the latter. $30, I wouldn't recommend such a lay out lightly. You should go.

Speaking of hymns, courtesy of Honky Tony Highway I came into possesion of Eaglesmith doing Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah. Praise be, indeed. It's takes the old chestnut (beautiful, wonderful sublime old chestnut, to be sure) out of the clouds and on to the back porch, a darkly down home psalm guaranteed to break your heart.

It's on some Canadian CMT Christmas collection, perhaps you can find it in the filesharing badlands.

Updated: to prove I do know how to spell chestnut despite getting it wrong twice in the space of six words.
Gospel music is the best form of apologetics ever, the closest I ever come to Belief is listening to, say, Mahalia Jackson or Rev. Cleophus Robinson. I don't know why George Pell doesn't just get up there of a Sunday, press play on a Soul Stirrers compilation and be done with it. You ain't gonna top that, padre.

The title of Johnny Cash's My Mother's Hymn Book is not just poetic, it is literally a collection of songs from Carrie Cash's much loved hymnal. That's it he's holding on the front cover. An acoustic collection of surpassing beauty and substance, Johnny described this album as the favourite of his ever. Included is "I Am Bound for the Promised Land" which Carrie Cash sang to her children as they made the arduous journey in 1935 from Johnny's birthplace in Kingsland to the New Deal settlement of Dyess. The overgrown patch of scrub was not the promised land perhaps, but represented for Ray Cash at least a shot at least at self-sufficiency and dignity after years of precarious Depression living for his family.

It is available as part of the Unearthed box set or seperately.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Ye Shall Be Changed

Random Seattle punk rockers share their thoughts on Johnny Cash. Those crazy kids are quite sweet.

At the age of 18, being “punk-as-fuck” and thinking country music was only for old people, I was shopping at my favorite local underground music store when I first heard American Recordings. “Delia” came on the loudspeakers, and I hadn't heard such a sad, evil and dangerously exciting song since the first time I heard Black Flag’s Damaged. I had to know who this was.

The guy at the counter told me matter-of-factly, ‘It’s Johnny Cash!’ like I’d been living under a rock for my entire life. Up to this point I had only heard 'Ring of Fire' or 'I Walk the Line' which to me were the exact over the top commercialized 'I'm a cowboy, Hear me roar!' crap that I hated about country music. But by the time the disc got down to track 6, “Thirteen,” originally penned by one of my favorite front men in punk rock, Glen Danzig, I lost it.... This stuff was amazing!

From there, I could never look at music the same. Soon enough my record collection was taken over by the likes of Merle Haggard, Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson...all the “crap” my mother had introduced me to during my childhood. To this day, nothing makes me as simultaneously happy and sad as when I put on any of Johnny’s records and listen to the love and pain he puts into every song he sings.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Easy and Slow

Tom Waits has good taste in music, no shocks there. He repeats the claim Frank's In the Wee Small Hours (one of my favourites too) was the very first concept album. I dunno.

I'd like this on my tombstone:

6 The Basement Tapes by Bob Dylan (Columbia) 1975
With Dylan, so much has been said about him, it's difficult so say anything about him that hasn't already been said, and say it better. Suffice it to say Dylan is a planet to be explored. For a songwriter, Dylan is as essential as a hammer and nails and a saw are to a carpenter. I like my music with the rinds and the seeds and pulp left in - so the bootlegs I obtained in the Sixties and Seventies, where the noise and grit of the tapes became inseparable from the music, are essential to me.

House Burnin' Blues

Odetta can be scary. I never knew, but after seeing the brilliant blues doco Lightning in a Bottle (currently on at the Chauvel in Sydney) I sure won't be getting in her way. Yes, ma'am, whatever you say, ma'am. The film documents -- in a Last Waltz-esque way of interspersing the music with backstage shenanigans and comment -- a Radio City Music Hall concert of in 2003, marking the 100th anniversary of W.C Handy first hearing the blues, on a train station in Tutwiler, Mississippi. It seems an odd date to mark, but I guess they didn't want to wait until 2012 or 2017 for the centenary of Handy's most influential work. Whatever, the array of talent is awesome. Let's just say when you've got Dr John noodling away quietly in the house band, you're pretty set for talent.

Superhuman Crew

Last night's monthly Dylan gathering, apart from the usual attractions of beer, laffs and great company featured a spontaneous performance by Cyndi Boste, the brilliant Melbourne singer/songwriter. Such happy suprises make life worth living. She is in town opening for Eric Bibb, not a bad gig. Tonight and tomorrow at the Vanguard.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Before there was Flop Eared Mule, there was Honky Tonk Highway and now it's back. The Tonker has the inside track on everything happening in Sydney and beyond, and can make you feel like you were at the gig yourself. Hunter and Suzy are back, how cool is that? I was too lazy to get over to Balmian on Friday night meself, sounds like it's gonna be a great venue, pencil me in for 1st April.

About to listen to the new Solomon Burke. Produced by Don Was, whom I positively hate. He messes this up, he's dead man.

Oh and -- again -- if anyone can help me understand Blogger's "Read More" code, please help. It has defeated me. I appealed publically for help once before but got not one reply. Oh yes, it's alright to leave random comments bitching about it but offer to help? Don't be stupid. Hurrumph.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Dylan gets grumpy/weird -- just the way we love him -- on this compilation, orginally from Radio National, now at Dig.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Make sure you take time to acknowledge Stagolee Week. The link is to Monday's post, check out also the updates.
Speaking of Tamworth. According to the SMH, Eve Marie Saint (and some fellow called Brandon Routh) has flown into the country capital of Australia to film the new Superman film. It's being being directed by Bryan Singer which bodes well. But ... Eve Marie Saint! One of Hitchcock's classic blonde ice maidens and Cary Grant foil in one of my favourite films, North by Northwest. 81 and still going strong, you go girl.

Now kids, Smoking is way uncool. But that picture is, well, cool.

Musicians who sound like they're from Krypton #54: Jo-El Sonnier, Cajun accordian legend.
Some Australian content. Yay! Rockbottom James' Tamworth Diaries included in their mailout but not on their website so, um ... here it is. I told you it was hot. Hopefully this is not a gross breach of copyright or anything, I don't think that's a man you want on your enemies list. Click that "read more!" tucked away down there, still trying to figure out that feature. And ignore it on all other posts, I can't get rid of it. Grrr.

NOTE: The actual article is not here anymore because of my continuing "read more" dramas. If you want to read Rockbottom James' Tamworth diary send me an email.

Thursday 13/01/05. Full concert rehearsal the night before, depart Melbourne by 11am. With a forecast of 35 degrees, we knew what lay ahead, highway 31 and even hotter temps and Rockbottom at the wheel. Rockbottom is relieved at Albury, which by now was stinking hot. Lunch was purchased then assembled in the bus as we pushed on to Sydney. Finally arrived 9:45pm, Sydney was even hotter than Melbourne. Found a nearby pub, relaxing drinks, hit the sack, tomorrow Tamworth.

Friday 14/01/05
. The recuperative powers of the younger members amazes me. Another scorcher in Sydney, it's 10:45, I'm still not sure if I'm in the sleeping bag, over it or under it. I can hear the buses horn, and the young members are in it, yelling out their ready to go.
Arrive Tamworth 5:15pm, establish base camps, ours opposite South Tamworth Bowls Club and ready for the first concert at the Southgate Inn, just nearby. With Vernon doing the FOH mix, The Dets kick off the Tamworth campaign. The Gate Bar is air-conditioned which is just as well, cause the car park must be around 35 degrees at 8:30pm.
The young Dets needed no encouragement, as they were relieved to be back on the tools, and we ploughed straight ahead into our recipe of raw, real, roots rock n roll. Caught up with heaps of friends including Zorba and his King Reef Hotel crew. Concert over, Rockbottom relaxed his grip and decided the crew should catch Johnny Greens Blues Cowboys to round off the sultry night.The hot and thirsty Dets relaxed over hard earned drinks, sipping on the sound smorgasboard erupting from the Blues Cowboys. The night was done for, so we headed back to our base camps. Rockbottom and three younger men were billeted in a one bedroom flat, with one fan and t.v. giving 1 1/2 channels. Agreed, it was hot and cramped and the boys were still chatting excitedly as RBJ hit the final light switch, and day one was done.

Saturday 15/01/05. Day off for Rockbottom but you wouldn't guess - there was shopping to be done, the flat had no shit wrap, no food etc. That all done, it's off for the first Gatorbait gig at 8.00 pm again at the Southgate Inn. Must keep rehydrating.

Sunday 16/01/05.
Hot still Hot, Dets first gig at West Diggers Roots and Blues Bar, with Frank doing the front of house and Brendon gibing everyone the shits with his cheesy cornball announcements between sets. Must keep rehydrating.

Monday 17/01/05. Day off for everyone, have tremendous lunch with Zorba and crew, first non take away meal consumed with much liquor under the belts, off to see Matt Scullion and the Lost Moments at the Courthouse Hotel. Mightily impressed by young Matt. Getting a bit tanked too.

Tuesday 18/01/05. Another stinker, the festival is beginning to feel a bit like ground hog day. At least the young ones are getting breakfast and washing their clothes. Off to the Southgate Inn, for another Dets gig. Must keep rehydrating.

Wednesday 19/01/05.
The weather, if nothing is consistent, hot. Back to the Southgate Inn for a Gatorbait concert. Must keep rehydrating.
Following concert off to see Rob Luckey and the Luckey Bastards at West Diggers then the Remains at the City Tavern. At the end of a huge day Paulie the Kid collapses on the South Tamworth Bowling Green, with his chops completely removed. With a man down, Rockbottom directs the crew to remove the Kid.

Thursday 20/01/05. Same, same everything's the same, another Dets gig at West Diggers Blues and Roots Bar.

Friday 21/01/05. Same, same, hot as stink, an early afternoon gig at Joe Maguire's pub for Gatorbait, I'm glad its them and not me. The stage must be 40c as the sides and roof are made of galvanised tin.

Saturday 22/01/05. You guessed it, same, same, even hotter, Gatorbait head for a concert at Joe Maguire's, Rockbottom must attend the Hohner Golden Harmonica Championships at the Southgate Inn. Rockbottom has done many gigs, but none as daunting as this, given the skills displayed by the competitors on the chromatic harp, be it Jazz, Country or Blues. With the gracious help of Ewan Somerville (harpman with Johnny Greens Blues Cowboys) Rockbottom uses his harp amp, does the required two songs and waits. To walk out of the Southgate Inn with the Hohner Golden Harmonica was not something Rockbottom envisaged, but it did happen, and a dazed and surprised Rockbottom proudly displayed the trophy to the slack-jawed Dets. Fully fed by Karen Waters and Matt Scullion, off to West Diggers for the final Dets concert.

Sunday 23/01/05. Final day for everyone, last Gatorbait concert at Joe Maguire's and still stinking hot. Unlike Rockbottom, Noray Guillian (Front man for Gatorbait) does not rule his stage members with an iron fist, and Gatorbait members appear in a variety of shorts, sarongs and cowboy boots. Concert done, final farewells, back in the bus to Sydney.

Monday 24/01/05. Another day in the bus on Highway 31, somehow the hours pass and we're safely home by 9.30 pm.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Life Lesions

Forgot to mention previously. There is a lot to be gleaned from his songs. A double CD greatest hits puts Dr Phil in the shade for useful life strategies. Like, "let the hurtin' run off your shoulders," "don't need to say please to no man for a happy tune" and "if you're expecting the furniture to answer back during your existentialist monologues, dude needs to get out more."

The one that works for me also comes from that stone cold classic, I Am .. I Said, a perfect cue to strengthen your soul and selfactualize your real self:

Did you ever read about a frog
who dreamed of bein' a king and then became one?
Well, except for the names and a few other changes,
if you talk about me the story's the same one.

My internal mantra often goes like this: You know Angelina Jolie? How she's really gorgeous, fabulously wealthy, reasonably talented and has all the world's most desirable men throwing themselves at her? Well, except for the names and a few other really minor changes ... that's me!"

Try it. It works.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

I'm not going to preface this with a defensive disclaimer designed to preserve my hip quotient at its usual high level. I like Neil Diamond. Deal with it, or skip this post altogether. (And yes I know about Bob's apocryphal smackdown at The Last Waltz but Bobby ain't the boss of me.) I count Neil as an important station on the way. In retrospect Done Too Soon may not be the deepest of philosophy but at one time it boggled with its profundity. I have always loved his voice, his long and wide streak of kitschy melodrama (and after this week I'm all for some focused melacholy), his ability to laugh at himeself. That Geeky Semitic look is always quite irresistable too.

When I am god emperor, I'd ban the underwritten-and-overproduced light romantic thing and make him record a solo acoustic record. If he was very good he could have some organ or a harmoniser or two. But that's it. No Bob Gaudio allowed.

So, the Sydney Superdome last night. The stage was initially bare, save for a single guitar which had me wondering where everyone was. All was revealed when the lights went down and the band emerged up through the stage floor. Kinda cool, I don't get to many gigs where the full rawk showbiz schtick is pulled out. And then:

Arise Neil, bespangled.

Crunchy Granola Suite gets up off to an approriate classic Neil start. The second song Desiree, not so much. I have never liked this song. I dunno, there is something about the losing-your-virginity theme which creeps me out. The whole "went in a boy, came out a man" thing has a high ick factor. But did I sing along? Why yes, I did. The setlist was the same as in Wellington the other night. Over two hours, lots of lovin' from the stage. It was a whole mess of fun.

Happy to hear Play Me. The more A List and high brow corners of the ozblogosphere have recently been all aflutter with the controversial issue of exposing children to the Facts of Life at a too early age. Well, let me just say if you want your children to remain pure of thought and untroubled by strange and confusing feelings, don't let them lie in their room listening to Neil Diamond sing Play Me over and over again.

That's all I'm sayin'.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005


When I was 12 I wanted to marry Graeme Garden*, possibly that is where it all started to go wrong for me. Anyway, I mention it only because as I was googling for Goodies related matter, I came across an Aus music website Stand and Deliver which also has a cool interview with the above mentioned Garden.

* even before I knew he played the banjo!

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Quote of the Week

Parton, who has sold millions of records but gets little airplay anymore, told radio programmers, "I think of country radio like a great lover. You were great to me. You bought me a lot of nice things, and then you dumped my ass for younger women."

Heh. Classic Dolly quote #1 was when she did Dolly Parton's Top Ten Pet Peeves on Letterman one time. Number one was: Nobody notices but I've got a great ass, too.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Writer of Songs

The Johnny Cash box set Unearthed is glorious, both in music and presentation. I'll have more to say about it later. One of the stand outs is "A Singer of Songs" which was recorded during the Solitary Man sessions. How it made it's way to Cash is one of those round about good luck stories songwriters must dream about.

The picture: Johnny and Joe Strummer who duet on Bob Marley's "Redemption Song"
Melbourne folk get out and see the one of the blogosphere's best do her musical thang.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Martin Scorsese was robbed -- again -- at the Oscars. I loved The Aviator, but then I also loved The Gangs of New York so you might say I'm a Scorsese tragic. Marty's blues kick is well known, and his soundtracks are always perfectly chosen to propel the dynamic visuals. A recent Uncut included an entire CD of songs from Scorsese films.

The Aviator is no exception, featuring the Leadbelly oddity Howard Hughes and all three Wainwrights: Loudon, Rufus (below) and Martha who are not only on the soundtrack but appear as club singers. Also reborn neopunkglamcrooner David Johansen (subject of my second ever F.E.M post. Bless.)

And the best St. Clint could come up with? Some classical crap. Bah!