Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Wrinkle Neck Mules

Crossposted at HickoryWind.

It's nice to go on holidays, and it's nice to return from holidays and find a mailbox stuffed full of good things. One of the happy packages of musical delight this week was an order of CDs and a shirt from the Wrinkle Neck Mules, a band with roots in Virginia and North Carolina. I was put on to them by a blog reader and I couldn't be happier. Blog readers rock.

You know, I do love the banjo in roots/country rock. It adds such a buoyancy under the melody, you can go a bit thrashy on the guitars and drums without losing a lightness of touch. WNM have a classic alt.country rock sound in the Uncle Tupelo vein but which also diverts into bluegrass (I listened to "17 Miles of Bourbon" about eight times in a row last night) and sometimes the territory of a less scary 16 Horsepower. The songwriting stands out too, covering comfortingly familar tears and beers country with great style and substance.

Minor Enough is the band's debut album from way back in 2003, and Liza a 6 track EP featuring four live songs which indicate they don't lose anything in person. Of course, it's unlikely I'll get to see them live anytime soon so you Americans will have to make up for me. A new album, Pull the Brake, is out March 7 on Atlanta's Shut Eye Records.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Back to normal in the next day or so. Got a Tamworth round up to get through, saw Walk the Line, and gotta tell you about a couple of great new CDs from these blokes and these blokes. No "Random Ten" for a while though since I managed to erase my entire iTunes collections. File under: D'oh.

Meanwhile, my blogrades over at Hickory Wind have their first podcast for downloading. Fabulous new music and Americana chat.

New blog added: Music for Your Eyes

Monday, January 23, 2006

Blogging on holiday not as enticing as I though it might be. Dear diary, could I be well-adjusted after all?

The temperature thing left is a joke. It's like 38 degrees C, but the breeze is nice.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

OK, so I know I just made a grand exit but I can't not post this. Thanks to Chris.

Happy birthday Miss Dolly!

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Training it to Tamworth tomorrow morning. There was a surprisingly quick internet cafe last year and its a nice quiet interlude to sit in the cool and blog so expect updates. Hopefully I will even have photos, although I'm not sure of the logistics of downloading them on random computers. Ain't got no fancy laptop to take.

The picture is from here, the only nice ones of the area -- and it is beautiful -- online. See also: My old home town and the lamest newest standing stones in the world! Nostalgia abungo.

I'll leave you with Paul Wookey's Peel St Blues, which I may or may not acquire.

Monday, January 16, 2006

All is Forgiven

Cool. And coincidental. Van Morrison has signed with the Lost Highway label, home of some country singers you might have heard of: Lucinda Williams, Ryan Adams, Mary Gauthier, Lyle Lovett, Willie Nelson and The Jayhawks. His new "country-dominated" album is out in March:

"Pay the Devil" is rounded out by songs popularized by Webb Pierce ("There Stands the Glass"), Hank Williams ("Your Cheatin' Heart"), Conway Twitty ("What Am I Living For"), Emmylou Harris ("'Til I Gain Control"), Big Joe Turner ("Don't You Make Me High") and George Jones ("Things Have Gone to Pieces"), among others.

Off the top of my head, these looks like classic country covers too (full list at linked report): My Bucket's Got a Hole in It, Once a Day, Back Street Affair, Big Blue Diamonds.

More Tamworth

Walk the Line premiere which sadly I will probably miss:

Australia's first screening of the Johnny Cash biographical movie, Walk The Line, is the latest jewel in the crown of the 2006 Telstra Country Music Festival.

This special advanced screening is on Saturday, January 28, at 2pm at Tamworth's Regent Cinema and is being run by the Australian Country Music Foundation as a fundraiser for the Australian Country Music Hall of Fame project.

I'll be careful not to let the excitement get to me:

"A lot of the people that come out for the Festival lead fairly passive lives. But during the Festival their days start quite early and finish up late, which means they get quite fatigued and that can lead to poor health."

Someone should tell the local paper ...

January 2006 Events
Sorry, there are currently no Entertainment events listed for this month.

Be part of the Peel St madness via webcams. Just like being there but without the heatstroke and yodelling toddlers.

The official programme is online in PDF.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

World of Lucinda

Williams says she plans a new studio album this year to follow 2003's World Without Tears.

Sunday Thought

Following yet more prompting I finally got around to expading my pitiful Van Morrison collection. Bought Astral Weeks and Inarticulate Speech of the Heart. Disturbed to see the latter dedicated to uberkook L.Ron Hubbard. Apparently he had some dabblings in that area, one hopes he has now come to his senses.

Anyway, I can report it wasn't just Christianity which forced people to make bad music in the '80s.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Via Boney's place, I just discovered The Celestial Monochord blog.

Journal of the Institute for Astrophysics and the Hillbilly Blues

I like it.

Also interesting is Chet Flippo's CMT piece on what sounds like an interesting new book, Get Carter: Backstage in History from JFK's Assassination to the Rolling Stones.

And, mesmerising: Kris Kristofferson talks about Johnny Cash. Seriously, listen to this.

Not mesmerising. Zoe made me do a self-revelatory meme. It is below the fold if you're bored enough.

Four jobs you've had in your life:
Box factory worker
ESL teacher
Exploited flunky at a Pakistani restaurant
My current one which I'm not telling you about

Four movies you could watch over and over:

North by Northwest. There is a lovely story on the delectable Eve Marie Saint in the Herald today.
Best in Show Just ask me to start namin' nuts.
Masked and Anonymous Natch

Four places you've lived:
In my head, mostly.
Moscow, Russia.
Balchik, Bulgaria
Lithgow, NSW.

Four TV shows you love to watch:
Battlestar Galactica. (new version) If I were at high school I would be doing this during science double period:

Flop Eared Mule
William Adama
Boo! It works better with my real name.

Arrested Development
God bless American cultural supremacy I say.

Four places you've been on holiday:
St Petersburg, Russia
New York City
The DMZ in Korea
Swan Lake Caravan Park, Sussex Inlet, NSW south coast

Four websites you visit daily:
Expecting Rain

Four of your favorite foods:
Lamb shanks
Ham, cheese and tomato sandwich with wholegrain mustard

Four places you'd rather be:
New York

I am supposed to pass it on, if you wish to do it in comments be my guest.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Bruce Elder Watch #6534

Crossposted at HickoryWind.

Review of Dwight Yoakam Live from Austin TX in the Metro section of the Sydney Morning Herald today.

You need a good understanding of country music to appreciate how radical Dwight Yoakam is. To the untutored ear he just sounds like a typical "yee-hah" down-home performer. In fact, this concert, recorded for a TV show in 1988, is a powerful assertion of Tex Mex and Californian Honky Tonk. Yoakam demonstrates that country can be raw and edgy, rather than just sentimental rural mush.

(3 out of 5 stars)

OK, so putting aside the downright confusing bits ... ie Dwight's not radical when he's easily placed in a long and popular tradition of the genre. Non-Nashvegas maybe but I don't think those are the same things. And what is the "untutored ear?" Even the sad masses without a "good understanding of country music" must be able to spot the difference between Dwight and Faith Hill when placed next to each other.

My main whinge today though is one I've made many times before. Why -- especially in a capsule review with less than 50 words to play with -- must every artist identified with country carry the burden of the most commercial and/or least affecting segment of the genre?

Why waste your words on "sentimental rural mush"(tho' I think me and Bruce might disagree about the definition of that too) when you could more usefully refer to Buck Owens? Or actually tell us about the bloody CD? In the many complimentary articles popping up recently about, say, Antony and the Johnsons no one says: "He proves not all pop music is sentimental Mariah Carey mush." He gets to be judged on his own merits, or refered to in context with similar artists. No one says "U2 proves rock music does not begin and end with Nickleback." Iggy Pop does not have to take responsibility for Good Charlotte.

Every country singer however has to forever answer for Achy Breaky Heart.

Anyway, I have the CD myself. Five stars! In your face Elder.
Tantalising, but no further info.

4/25 Gillian Welch "Revival" double disc deluxe

Via New Music Tip Sheet

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Life imitates Bob. Again.

See also.


Is it Friday yet? No, well it's lazy blogging time anyways. One of the good things about being as a leper in this world recently has been the opportunity it presented to basically read for a week -- in between watching the cricket, the second season of Battlestar Galactica, every episode to date of Veronica Mars, various movies and much napping.

Also, music. A recent flurry on eBay bore fruit in the form of packages in mail most days so I've been listening to new acquisitions by Lee Roy Parnell, Mike Bloomfield, Charlie Rich, Jay Farrar, Janis Joplin. And sometimes I just put iTunes on shuffle and let her go. Below the fold is the last 90 minutes of music thrown up this way.

Brand New heartache Gram Parsons
The Ballad of Smokey and the Bandit Jerry Reed
The Dark End of the Street Gram Parsons
Jole Blon Waylon Jennings
The Bottomless Hole The Handsome Family
The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face Elvis Presley
Good Morning Little Schoolgirl Paul Butterfield
Highway 61 Revisited Bob Dylan (Alternate Version on the No Direction Home soundtrack)
New Year's Day Charlie Robison
Pouring Water on a Drowning Man James Carr
Run George Strait
7 Deadly Sins Travelling Wilburys
Start Me Up The Folksmen
Dust Down A Country Road John Hiatt
Orange Blossom Special Flatt & Scruggs
A Boy Named Sue Johnny Cash (At Madison Square Garden concert)
Mardis Gras Song John Delafose
Weary Blues Fred Neil and Vince Martin
Southern Cross Crosby, Stills & Nash
I Know Where Love Lives Hal Ketchum
Four Strong Winds Neil Young
Ring of Fire Dwight Yoakam
Fancy Bobbie Gentry
Garbage Man Tab Benoit
Whiskey Before Breakfast Yonder Mountain String Band
I Don't Believe You Bob Dylan
Big Boned Woman Little Milton
No Fool Like an Old Fool Billy Joe Shaver

Shakey Ground

Neil Young fan? I fall into the "favourably disposed on principle but sometimes unexcited in practice" box. The Neil Young News site is a good one though, a few refs to it have been turning up on Expecting Rain. A little embarrassed by some of my fellow Dylanites in the "Ten Reasons... " thread. If you're that dull and humourless you should just stick to being a Beatles fan.

The picture above is from backstage at the Bob 30th Anniversary Shamblaganza. I have a dim memory of there being some issue where Bob's cigarette (right hand) was airbrushed out of some versions of the photo. ?? Can't remember.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

A few special gigs.

Thanks to Paul of The Ramalamas for the tip on this one.

Saturday No Direction Home: A Tribute to Bob Dylan at the Sando in Newtown.

Feat The Ramalamas + Jon Reichardt + Ryan Coughlin + Karl Broadie + Kitty Adams + Andy Gordon + Cass Smiles + Michael Azzopardi + The Straw Man + Sam Buckingham.

$10 8pm-12am

My friends at The Dolly Rocker Movement have a few shows coming up too. On Friday they're at Candy's Apartment in the Cross, and next week they're appearing with The Re-Mains at the Empire. See the gig guide for details on those. Click on the poster for a bigger version. They're launching their new album Yellow Moon Highway which I've been privileged enough to hear. Chock full of blissed out psychadelic country sounds. Listen to a few tracks here.
Sadly too late for Christmas, but check out these unique, handmade origami earrings.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Portrait of the Guitarist Part II

Part 2 of a series by Shaun Cronin about his adventures in LA. Part One is here.

Episode 2: In which Shaun joins another country band and moves one rung higher in the local scene, experiences the wondrous mysteries of an Elks lodge, is asked by cops whether he is carrying drugs or guns, sees one way to diffuse a fight and gains revenge by kicking the drummer out of the band.

I linked up with a singer-songwriter who recently had one of his songs on a George Strait album. The mists of time have shrouded his pen name and the name of the song but I assure you it was true. Again Gary was an ex-serviceman who wanted to be a country singer. And he wasn’t a bad songwriter or singer. We got along well, found a drummer and snagged whatever bass player we could find at a moments notice and started gigging.

Given that Gary was a member of some sort of lodge in Santa Clarita (North of LA) that is where we started to play a lot. A residence so to speak. And it was good fun. Warm, friendly crowd is not a bad place to test material and get some good feedback. The drummer in this band was very good. It was a pleasure to play with him as the beat was strong and true and he provided the push when needed and could lay back nicely at other times. The only trouble was occasionally he would get all polyrhythmic during the guitar solo. Now personally I don’t mind that. Gives me something to feed off and can be fun. However as you all know country bands only exist to serve line dancers. There was more than one gig where we would have to placate angry line dancers after a song who did not appreciate the rhythmic possibilities of deviating from standard 4/4 time.

With a revolving bass chair gigs could often be interesting. For example you have a bassist that doesn’t know quite where the song is going. It is not so much a problem during the vocals as a decent bassist will be able to anticipate where to go from the melody. But during the all important solo (Hey, I am a guitar player) things could get interesting. Atonal country excursions would result as the stand in bass player would play his own esoteric lines in another key. It was a tad frustrating. But eventually we did settle on a regular bassist and even engaged in the quant practice of rehearsal.

I do recall one pick up gig well. A local singer basically hired the drummer and myself to back him up at an Elks lodge. It was a ‘Key of G and 1,2,3 and 4’ sort of gig. All in good fun and no-one was hurt by erratic chord changes. At around 11:00pm though the gig stopped. And we then all stood in a circle holding hands some sort of Elk elder recited a toast (I think this was the one). And by no means do I mean to disparage the Elks but it was slightly surreal. Though standing for the Ode of Remembrance at the local RSL would seem perfectly normal.

We also had a regular gig at a small bar up in Palmdale which was always interesting. The regulars at the Palmdale gig were your typical salt of the earth, beer drinking, hell raising, knives openly carried in back pockets type of crowd. Quite a friendly folk actually and I enjoyed playing there. We didn’t need chicken wire, the locals liked us and there was never any trouble. Except for one night.

I’m not sure how it all started. But two of the regulars were starting to direct strongly worded sentiments at each other. It escalated to the point where physical violence was the next obvious course of escalation. This all occurred just before we were due to start a set As a band we had our instruments ready but were awaiting the outcome of the argy bargy before continuing. Also we also didn’t have any good country fighting music in our set at the time so it was best to remain silent. The atmosphere was tense with anticipated violence. You could cut it with a knife (of which there were many). The two protagonists were sizing each other up. It was going to be on. And then.........

One guy leaned over and planted a huge kiss on the other guy’s lips. He then bolted out of the bar. The other guy spluttered, wiped his mouth with is hand and desperately grasped for a can of Bud to wash away his embarrassment. Meanwhile the rest of the bar created that perfect moment of stunned silence that was broken by waves of laughter.

Being a poor and impoverished musician in LA I drove a wreck of a car. It got me from point A to point B (most of the time – there was one spectacular failure on the freeway and had constant issues with the radiator). It also had a faulty taillight, guaranteed to attract attention from cops driving behind you. This happened to me one night driving home from a Palmdale gig. To compound the matter I also had a broken headlight and a few weeks expired California driver’s license. I wasn’t feeling too good about things. One cop came to my window and had a look at my license and registration (which by some fluke was still valid – I’ll only explain why if you buy me a beer). His partner was walking around the car inspecting the faulty lights. He seems to have some arcane knowledge of electronics as well. This was revealed to me by his action of banging on the broken headlight with his flashlight. The thinking was that he could intimidate said headlight back into glowing goodness. Alas the headlight was not so easily intimidated.

I really though that I was gone. I expected to be in trouble for the license and faulty lights. I even suspected I may have to spend a night in the local lockup or something (yes I was a bit paranoid). At the critical moment the cop said to me “Did you know you license is expired?” I mumble some vague acknowledgement. “Well I suggest you get it renewed. Also get those lights fixed.”

I’d dodged a metaphorical, traffic rules bullet. I was free until the cop decided to ask me one more question. “Are you carrying any drugs or guns?”

A little surprised I truthfully said no and was then on my way. I have always thought it was a curious question. I wonder if anyone has actually answered along the lines of “Funny you should ask. I have a kilo of blow under the seat and an AK-47 in the trunk.

The Palmdale bar also was the site of an incident that led to the demise of the band. Now as I mentioned the drummer was freakishly talented. But what I didn’t mention was that he was teetotaler when I met him. In the normal course of a gig Gary, me and whoever was playing would nurse the odd beer over during a set. We never got drunk and made sure that we were able to play and drive home.

After a few months we noticed that drummer would occasionally appear with a beer in his hand. After the initial surprise we thought nothing of it. He was still playing well and seemed to be in control. Until one night in Palmdale. There were no obvious problems first set. However things seemed a little amiss second set. Nothing major but it was noticeable. I asked the drummer if he was ok and ‘no problem’ was the reply. By the third set things were becoming quite non- rhythmical. This prompted an intervention before the fourth set. ‘I’m sorry. Had a few vodkas. I’ll be right.”

The fourth set was a disaster. Especially when the drummer left his chair in mid-song to go to the toilet. That was unusual. And the song sounded a little empty without the drums. Later we found out that compounding the alcohol was marijuana that was most definitely not being used for medicinal purposes. While only another case of musician having trouble with the bottle it was sad and disappointing. I’m not sure exactly what lead our drummer down this path but it fell on me to kick him out of the band. I did call it revenge in my episode preview it wasn’t something I relished but it had to be done.

After than the band meandered around with another drummer but then went on a hiatus. This was pretty much the end. Gary and I collaborated on a few songs which were interesting and I played on a few demos for him (gutted when a beautiful R&B style guitar hook I came up with got buried in the mix –damn ignorant producers).

The one thing I really enjoyed around this period was starting to write songs. I hadn’t done much of that before. Gary helped to flesh out a few ideas I had and we collaborated well. Nothing came of it but it was good fun. Also, playing gigs only helps to build the skills and repertoire. And we were getting paid for the gigs which is always a good thing.

But it was over and I was wondering what would happen next.

Episode 3: In which Shaun finds a new band, starts gracing the same stages in Hollywood and the Valley as his heroes, meets one of his guitar playing heroes, writes the drinking song to end all drinking songs and finds himself on a plane back to Australia.

Lucky Oceans is launching his new album Secret Steel at the Basement tomorrow night (see gig guide) and thanks to Graham Griffith for pointing out you can listen to snippets of it at the Head Records website.

Heartworn Highways

I don't know what Americana is let alone when it was born, but if you want to say it was here, I won't argue. Something was definately happening. I speak of James Szalapski 1976 documentary Heartworn Highways which anyone interested enough to perservere with this blog will definately be needing to see. Capturing some of the icons of the genre -- Townes, Guy Clark, Steve Earle (looking about 12, swigging Jack Daniels from the bottle), Steve Young, John Hiatt (in the DVD but not the video) -- at work and play, it's an amazing document of that incredibly fertile time in American music. We're still reaping the rewards of it today.

I have the VHS bought from the Townes Van Zandt site years ago but somehow, inexplicably now I think about it, never picked up the DVD which has added scenes and extra songs.

Now a CD sound track is being released:

Rather than doing a literal soundtrack, HackTone started from scratch, compiling an album from all of the recordings made during filming in order to create a stand-alone listening experience that captured the essence of the film. They eliminated songs featured in the film that were irrelevant to the new wave of artists it was conceived to document; they also included several tracks from artists that were omitted from the original film. All of which says nothing of the meticulous audio restoration, done by GRAMMY®-award nominee Alan Silverman and Heartworn Highways editor Phillip Schopper, which restored all of the recordings to their original length and captured all the richness and warmth inherent in their original performances. It's this exacting attention to detail that makes the Heartworn Highways CD a deeply intimate listening experience as well as a historical document of incredible value.

Catalog Number: DK 37457
Price: $18.98 SRP
Release Date: March 14, 2006

1. "LA Freeway" (Guy Clark)
2. "Ohoopee River Bottomland" (Larry Jon Wilson)
3. "That Old Time Feeling" (Guy Clark)
4. "Waitin' 'Round To Die" (Townes Van Zandt)
5. "I Still Sing The Old Song" (David Allan Coe)
6. "Desperadoes Waiting For A Train" (Guy Clark)
7. "Bluebird Wine" (Rodney Crowell)
8. "Alabama Highway" (Steve Young)
9. "Pancho and Lefty" (Townes Van Zandt)
10. "Texas Cookin'" (Guy Clark)
11. "Gamble's Story" (Gamble Rogers)
12. "The Black Label Blues" (Gamble Rogers)
13. "River" (David Allan Coe)
14. "One For The One" (John Hiatt)
15. "Darlin' Commit Me" (Steve Earle)
16. "Ballad Of Lavern And Captain Flint" (Guy Clark)
17. "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" (Steve Young)
18. "Mercenary Song" (Steve Earle)
19. "Elijah's Church" (Steve Earle)
20. "Silent Night" (Guy Clark, Rodney Crowell, Susannah Clark, Steve Earle, Richard Dobson)

I've had an homemade copy of the soundtrack for a while, I'll update with an MP3 just as soon as I can get it working. Here's a slap up singalong, you can definitely make out Steve and Guy, that didn't make the CD.

MP3 Stay All Night, Stay A Little Longer (2.4mb)

Monday, January 09, 2006

Invented Meme: My Favourite Photo Ever

Posting this picture because I do love it so. It's my sister (on the right. Ha Ha) in Rwanda with the most bored accommodating gorilla in the world. Yeah, work those tourists honey.

She's right, I'm insanely jealous

Sister No 1 also has a blog. She writes about books she's read, rather brilliantly in my opinion. Ignore the drunk photos of me. I said ignore!

Also brilliant, a little monkey themed blues for you.

MP3: The Monkey -- Dave Bartholomew (2.2mb)

Yeah, yeah. Gorillas aren't monkeys. Whatevs.

David Byrne radio show: a rather wonderful country playlist.
Further to my Gillian motherlode below, via the same system you can also download an internet-only live Jay Farrar gig. They come in MP3 and flac, flac is better quality and therefore a bit more expensive but I'm just going to bung it on the iPod anyway so I went cheap. Cost about AUD13.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

The Yearlings who released the well received album Wind Already Blown this year are playing a gig with King Curly at the Vanguard. Unfortunately I'll be in Tamworth by then but you should check it out.

Friday 20th January
9pm $12 (gen admission, dinner packages available)

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Fluids and Rest and Downloading

The real tough thing about my chicken pox-related quarantine (another week to go. Liquor and cash please, no flowers) is going to be not killing the time buying things off eBay. And elsewhere.

I discovered Gillian Welch's site has a facility to download songs for 0.99 US cents a go. Viva PayPal. Viva sick pay. Three minutes later and these were on my iTunes:

"I'm Not Afraid to Die" with Willie Nelson recorded for the film The Journeyman
"One Monkey" recorded live 08/16/03 Galway, Ireland
"In Tall Buildings" from “A Tribute to John Hartford: Live From Mountain Stage”
"Wind and Rain" from the soundtrack album "Songcatcher"
"Summer Evening" from "Going Driftless: An Artist’s Tribuhttp://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gifte To Greg Brown"
"Dusty Boxcar Wall" - Live in London, England on 5/23/96
"Fifty Miles Of Elbow Room"
James Alan Shelton (with Gillian Welch) from the album "Song For Greta"
"Black Star" - Live in Minneapolis, MN on 9/24/2004

They also have Beulah Land from Avalon Blues: A Tribute to the Music of Mississippi John Hurt but I've already got that. Plus all the studio albums and the Revelator Collection DVD .Fifty Miles is the Iris Dement song.

All truly lovely, but nothing like a whole new album would be ...

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Tomorrow Night


FRIDAY JAN 6TH 2006 ....DOORS OPEN 8PM...... $15.00


Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Thanks to Roo in the comments below (I'm confined to quarters with an evil contagious disease for a few days so there is still time to make suggestions ...) for pointing me to this nice bit of reportage at the Dylan Pool message board. Nice for our kind of people, anyway.

It's a roll call of people at the 1965 San Francisco press conference, including folks like Jim Marhsall and Bill Graham, as well as the clueless journos. Will be familiar to you if you've seen No Direction Home.

Who can forget this charmer?

Check out the comments thread for more.