Friday, March 31, 2006

Lawsy Sez ...

This is the top 10 country albums in Australia this week. Note Van at number 9. It isn't yet gold (350,000 units) but still, how many non-greatest hits would Van normally shift? Will this be his biggest selling album? (eta: in Australia)

You Van fans have one man to thank.

There is one reason for this surge: John Laws has been flogging the album mercilessly. There Stands the Glass has been getting a spin daily, sometimes more than once. Back to back.

1 1 8 1 WALK THE LINE Soundtrack
3 3 17 2 RING OF FIRE: THE LEGEND OF Johnny Cash
5 6 2 5 SLIM DUSTY LIVE Slim Dusty
6 7 79 1 BE HERE Keith Urban
7 5 5 5 DUETS Johnny Cash
9 8 2 8 PAY THE DEVIL Van Morrison
10 9 10 1 THE WINNERS 2006 Various

Update: Incidentally. Whatever else you think of him (and you're probably right), I reckon Laws is just about the best interviewer I've ever heard. Seriously. Yeah, he's got an ego the size of your average contintenal shelf but when he's interested in the topic, particularly with musical guests, he's really good. I still recall a joyous talk he had with k.d lang about six years ago. You can hear him wtih Kris Kristoffersosn and Neil Diamond here, two I'd recommend.

Billboard Sez ...

Gillian Welch is currently in the studio hashing out her fourth solo set. The effort, which is as-yet-untitled, will likely be released by the end of the year.

What "fourth solo set" means I do not know. It will be her fifth album, all with David.

Other welcome releases news: Guy Clark Workbench Songs due out in August. His first for Dualtone.

Melbourne, Do Yourself a Favour

Rob Luckey and the Lucky Bastards do Melbourne. For all your honky tonking needs. New album Hungry Man out now.

Fri 6th Lomond Hotel, Brunswick, Melbourne 8:30 pm
Sat 7th Rainbow Hotel, Fitzroy, Melbourne 8:30 pm
Sun 8th St Kilda Bowling Club, Melbourne 5:30 pm

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Another Buck Story

Just hours before he died, Owens was on stage Friday night with the Buckaroos singing at his $5-million Bakersfield nightclub and restaurant, Buck Owens' Crystal Palace, something he'd done routinely since opening it almost 10 years ago.

"He had come to the club early and had a chicken-fried steak dinner and bragged that it's his favorite meal," Shaw said. After dinner, Owens told band members he didn't feel up to performing and decided to drive home. On his way to his car, fans on their way in told him that they had come from Bend, Ore., and that they were really looking forward to hearing him sing. Owens turned around and did the show.

"He mentioned that onstage: 'If somebody's come all that way, I'm gonna do the show and give it my best shot. I might groan and squeak, but I'll see what I can do,' " Shaw said. "He died in his sleep — they figure it was about 4:30 [a.m.] — probably of heart failure. So he had his favorite meal, played a show and died in his sleep. We thought, that's not too bad."

LA Times

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Bingo with Bob

A new Dylan tour starts in three days which means a new Dylan Pool starts in three days. If you're not familiar it's simple: each Dylan song is given a number of points based on how likely it is to be played -- Highway 61 Revisited, 1 point. Dear Landlord, 18 points -- and they are divided into groups. You pick one song from each group and if he plays it you get the points. At the end of the tour there are prizes for the highest totals and lots of other prizes for other random things.

It's fun. I always do appallingly, I pick too much on sentiment. I took part in the first one back in 2001 and it has grown heaps since then. Think you've got about three days to sign up.

My picks are over the fold. I'm "dotball" at the pool, look me up.

Sing Me Back Home is a little indulgence since half the tour he will be appearing with Merle Haggard and the Strangers.

Song Group 1: Tomorrow is a Long Time (17 points)
Song Group 2: Knockin' on Heaven's Door (14 points)
Song Group 3: Shooting Star (9 points)
Song Group 4: The Times They Are A-Changin' (4 points)
Song Group 5: Highway 61 Revisited (1 point)
Song Group 6: The Wicked Messenger (12 points)
Song Group 7: Down Along the Cove (4 points)
Song Group 8: Desolation Row (10 points)
Song Group 9: High Water (For Charley Patton) (4 points)
Song Group 10: Every Grain of Sand (9 points)
Song Group 11: Senor (Tales of Yankee Power) (8 points)
Song Group 12: Drifter's Escape (4 points)
Song Group 13: Masters of War (6 points)
Song Group 14: Man in the Long Black Coat (10 points)
Song Group 15: Simple Twist of Fate (16 points)
Song Group 16: Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again (3 points)
Song Group 17: Lay, Lady, Lay (3 points)
Song Group 18: Blowin' in the Wind (14 points)
Song Group 19: Sing Me Back Home (18 points)
Song Group 20: I'll Be Your Baby Tonight (3 points)
Song Group 21: Summer Days (1 point)
Song Group 22: Pancho and Lefty (18 points)
Album Group 1: Blonde on Blonde (1 point per song)
Album Group 2: Nashville Skyline (1 point per song)
Album Group 3: Oh Mercy (4 points per song)

Monday, March 27, 2006

Don't Touch that Dial

One way to get country radio to play your songs. Own the station.

[Buck] Owens had made smart investments in real estate, music publishing and management, a recording studio and television station -- as well as a pair of radio stations, one in his adopted home. Problem was, listeners were calling and asking those stations to "play less Buck Owens, Dwight Yoakam, Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, Hank Williams Jr. and other artists like that," Owens recalled with glee during his 1989 stop here. Apparently those listeners had no idea who owned the stations.

So, Owens asked, "Do I play raucous honky-tonk music, raw with that edge and gusto, or do I take the edge off, soften up the songs, change the instrumentation and be something that I ain't?"

For the man whose first No. 1 had been the insistent "Act Naturally," to be something he "ain't" was never an option. "We ought to get those people rockin' chairs, put 'em out back with some old Eddy Arnold records and say, 'Here you are, baby, now turn my radio station off. Don't be listening to me. I don't want to play for you.' "
For relaxation I like to read books about killing people, one of my favourite authors is Val McDermid. Just finished reading her new one The Grave Tattoo which was a bit on the disappointing side actually but then, I did have very high hopes. The bit where that bloke did that thing, I couldn't buy it. Anyway, at her website I came across this from February:
Later this year, Poisoned Pen Press will be publishing an anthology with a difference. A Merry Band of Murderers is a collection of short stories which are all inspired by a song. And accompanying the book will be a CD where each of the writers performs the song in question. I'm doing The Long Black Veil, which has been recorded by an eye-watering range of artists from Johnny Cash to the Rolling Stones. Try not to get killed in the rush to buy this excellent product!

Coolness. It will be out in September apparently.

This is Val left, here with the rather delicious Robson Green from Wire in the Blood.

(For excellent book reviews, visit Fuschia Reads!)

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Friday, March 24, 2006

May, My New Favourite Month

A few weeks ago there was a story about "The Hendersonville Tapes", home recordings by Johnny Cash in the '70s dug up by John Carter-Cash when they were clearing out the house for sale. The Man, Chet Flippo at CMT has details now, it's being released in May as Johnny Cash:Personal File which sounds like a '60s detective show to me. In the Tennessee criminal justice system there are two seperate, yet equally important groups. The country singers, and the ostriches who kick their asses. These are their stories.

Anyway. It sounds as amazing as we might have hoped.

Apparently at the time he recorded them, he thought no one would be interested in such a stripped-down sound. When he later cut his first CD for the American Recordings label with producer Rick Rubin (1994's American Recordings), he remarked that he had made a similar record in the 1970s but could interest no labels in it.

Walk the Line was released in February here so it's still at the cinema. In my office I am (annoyingly) placed to hear conversations from all over the room and have involuntarily heard three different ones recently about people seeing it, thinking it was awesome. All people who had no interest in the topic before. Just this morning some random guy who sits behind me said he knew nothing about Johnny Cash before seeing the movie last night but he was a quote genuine badass unquote and was speechless when his cubicle mate informed him they actors were not lipsynching. He liked the music, but I could tell he was still struggling to come to terms with liking something "country." Cash compilations in the Top 10 charts next to James Blunt and ... um, who ever else is in the Top 10. Never thought I'd see it. Quite a development. They also made some inaccurate statements about the chronology vis a vis Elvis but I was a good anonymous office drone and stared straight ahead and said nowt.

I can't find a convenient link for the ostrich thing, the info is always buried pars down in an article. Google if you wish.
Latest Hickory Wind podcast, this one dealing with the iconic Heartworn Highways DVD and the newly released soundtrack CD. If you're not familar with the film and have any interest at all in what is now called it's an essential document. Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark, Rodney Crowell, Steve Earle, Steve Young, right back where it all started. One of the places it started anyhow.

Sidebar in IE?


update: now the links are fugly orange instead of discreet grey. Sigh.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

I was at Gleebooks for a function last night and noted they had a copy of Rednecks and Bluenecks: The Politics of Country Music by Chris Willman. I've read very good things about it. There were alot of aging Trots between me and it so I left it on the shelf, but I may have to go back. (first: check Borders who, if they have it, will have it alot cheaper. My apologies Independent Australian Book Retailers but I still have Stones concert merchandise to save up for. I'm sure you understand.)

Back to Billy

Reading this article in the Chicago Tribune (requires registration, alas) about Billy Bragg and Richard Thompson (connection: both "veteran singer songwriters", both "fellow countrymen" and both have box sets out). I was a Billy Bragg freak for a time, but I must confess hadn't listened to him for years until a few weeks ago when an old track was included on an Uncut Cd. It sounds simplistic to say I drifted from Billy when I discovered Dylan but, uh, that's kinda exactly how it happened. But I loved hearing that song again (embarrassingly, I've gone blank on which one it was) and will dig out Talking to the Taxman ... again. I also had a bootleg tape of a gig he did at the Mean Fiddler in London on the night of the 1997 Labour election victory, with the and the crowd reacting to the results on a big screen. Stirring stuff at the time but, oh, seems so long ago now ....

I had a Billy tour shirt with the Woody picture right on it. I loved that shirt. I left it at Moscow's Sherementova-1 Airport in 2003 in circumstances too traumatic to recall here.

That concert incidentally was locally memorable for other reasons. I was inside the Enmore Theatre all night, preserving my place in the front row and so blocked off from the world. On the taxi home down Anzac Pde to Randwick I looked idly at the three foot of water we were travelling through and thought "Hmmm. Looked like I missed a bit of a shower." It was the night of The Hail Storm.

New(ish) diary entry at Tom Russell's place ... he has a new album out which I have not heard but I don't need to to tell you it is brilliant and you should buy it.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Blogging Ennui Ends Here!

Seriously. I'm going to dedicate the rest of my afternoon to thinking of something to say. All I can think of it that today I'm having a minor medical procedure to clear up a problem which I'm told has caused "minor deafness." Perhaps this is why I've been so wrong about Van Morrison, but I don't think so.

Lazy blogging stand-by of filching news from Expecting Rain turned up this about Lucinda Williams and her father, Miller. Miller has a beer drinking soul.

Lu has recently been doing almost-solo shows, just her and sideman Doug Pettibone. Doing a bunch of new songs. Usually I would add "gee, I hope we get to see her here soon. That would so rock." But I've given up on that. She's not coming, y'hear? NEVER!
Is the left side links etc column sidebar not there for you? (Assuming after a week and a half of no posts, people are still visiting)

I can’t see it on IE but can on Firefox. Is that the problem?

Friday, March 10, 2006


Pleased to tell you that Cletis Carr is starting a hopefully long lived residency at the Merton Estate in Rozelle from this Sunday. He'll be joined by various special guests, this week it's Val Gray. A very satisfying addition to the scene. Go Cletis!

Thursday, March 09, 2006


I must say when I heard The Boss's new album was going to be covers of (or songs "inspired by") Pete Seeger I was a little underwhelemed. Brucie doing trad folk in his own way, very cool. But ... Pete Seeger? Not my first choice.

But this Backstreets report (second story down) makes me just a little bit excited. The listening party was at B.B King's in NYC where, incidentally, I saw the Del McCoury Band in 2001.

It's a party, folks. Played with traditional instruments like banjo and fiddle, the sounds on Bruce Springsteen's upcoming Columbia Records release, We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions, conjur images of an old-fashioned hootenanny. Sound-wise, think more along the lines of The Band and the collaboration between Wilco and Billy Bragg for the two volumes of Woody Guthrie compositions rather than Springsteen's contribution for the covers of Seeger songs in 1998. At a March 7 advance listening party for the album, Springsteen said the songs are equal parts "street corner, parlor, church, and gutter."

Out Anzac Day.

Monday, March 06, 2006

"Heroes Happen When You Need Them"

Crossposted at HickoryWind.

It was a very great privilege and pleasure last year to see Kris Kristofferson live last year. He’s not exactly kept up a hectic pace of touring, North American gigs are rare enough let alone antipodean ones. But --mirabile dictu! – he came. He brought the kids and had a family holiday, stayed for more than a month and played some out of the way places. The press was uniformly positive, genuinely warm and respectful which made me unutterably happy. The bloke deserves it and is was so nice to see.

And a new album of original material, This Old Road. And it’s very good. Don Was is probably my least favourite producer ever, but happily he has kept his everything-he-touches-turns-to-banal mitts off the thing, and it’s the voice and a ringing guitar that dominates. A bit of mandolin and harp here and there, some harmony vocals. Jim Keltner and Stephen Bruton are in the band.

I heard Kris speaking somewhere on the interwebs recently, recalling Johnny Cash and he told a story. He was sitting next to Johnny at June’s funeral, some random came up to give his condolences and he also told Kris he thought he was a great singer. After he left, Johnny leant over and said, “Well, that makes one.” A lovely story about Cash – wheelchair-bound, physically tormented and full of grief, but still up to a jab at his old mate. And also a self-deprecating apology for his own voice, which would make Pro Tools crash if they tried to “correct” his dodgy notes. But that’s why we love it. He is a great singer, in all the ways that really count.

Kris’s political leanings are no secret. Despite (or perhaps, because of) loving music and being political, I don’t much care for “political songs.” Even (or perhaps, especially) when it echoes my own view, which most of them do. It has to be a good song first, second and only. Otherwise, you might as well just get a blog. They are on the same page politically, but it’s Kris’s poetic sensibility I think which makes his “message songs” much better than, say, Steve Earle’s. He can do sloganeering, but can’t stay there for too long before he brings it back home. “In the News” is the most speechifying (Burnin' up the atmosphere and cuttin’ down the trees/A billion dollar bombin' of a nation on its knees/Anyone not marchin' to their tune they call it treason,) but it starts and ends with a single act of domestic violence: the Lacy Peterson murder. The words Kris has returned to most over his whole career are justice, mercy and beauty, with perhaps mercy the greatest of these.

There are some affecting personal songs too, as befits a man nearing 70, he’s looking back and looking around and is grateful for what he sees. “The lonely singer in a world turned deaf and blind” is the big hero of This Old Road. On “Wild American” (a variation on the “To Beat the Devil” theme) he namechecks Earle, Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard, later on “Final Attraction” he urges the singer to “go break a heart” in the name of Hank and Johnny, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Ray Charles, Harlan Howard . . .

Value folks like this while they’re still around, people.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Unfortunately I couldn't make John McEuen at the Bluegrass Soc event, had to work. But Woodshed Willie was there lucky thing and you can read about it here.

This Is A Test

Inspired by Shaun and my amigos at Hickory Wind my procrastination of choice today was recording a podcast. It's rough and rushed (dashing out in a minute for the A League grand final). The voice is a bit low because I don't have an external mic, just the one in the computer but I don't think its too bad. I should learn about things like equalising the volume between my voice and the song so one is not ten times louder than the other but ... another day. Also, more fading in and out but that got a bit fiddly and it was taking longer than I expected.

It's in MP3 because that's the smallest I could get it but I suspect there's a better way.

15MB. Goes for about 17 mins.

Downloadable at You Send It.

Oh, and a minor explicit language warning since I had to refer to this Stones bootleg.

Thursday, March 02, 2006


"Stones forced to axe sexually explicit songs for China concert"

What on earth are they going to do? A tribute to John Cage's 4'33?


One for the Melbournites. Many of you will already know about the Andy Baylor Benefit Night on this Saturday. Beloved genius musician and gentleman of the Australian scene for years, Andy's been undergoing treatment for cancer recently causing us to miss him greatly at Tamworth.
Scroll down on the front page for the unbelievable line up, 12 solid hours in three rooms and all for $10.

Noise Bar
291 Albert St Brunswick 1pm-1am

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Gram Wednesday

BBC Radio feature this weekend -- 9.30am Sunday Sydney time. Is it likely to be archived for later listening?

Bob Harris presents an hour long exploration of the life, the music and the influence of Gram Parsons. Includes a previously unheard interview with Parsons himself.

(thanks Chris)

Exceprt of new Parsons bio at CMT. Lord knows the world needs another, this one is Polly-Approved and reads rather clunky.

But it was obvious to both him and Nancy that their love had become a small sad thing between them, fading into nothing as they watched, each of them helpless to stop its diminishing. One night in bed, Nancy turned, her arms outstretched to hold Gram, and he flinched when she touched him, his skin pulling away from the warmth of her hand. In that moment, that last loose link between them snapped, and Nancy knew with cold clarity that it was over between them, that Gram didn't love her anymore.

The Flop Eared Mule Politburo canrecommend this one instead.

I Hope They Don't Mind "Non-Playing Gawkers"

Rather cool news from Bluegrass Australia:

The Sydney bluegrass society kicks off with a roar this month! Visiting will be founding member of the world-famous Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, John McEuen! He's going to be joining us to pick some, jam some, and share some of his 30-plus years of knowledge of the roots music business.

If you're in Sydney on Saturday 4th March come and join the Bluegrass and Traditional Country Music Society

Where: Annandale Neighbourhood Centre, 79 Johnson St, Annandale
When: Beginner's workshop 7pm, open mic concert 8.30pm, jamming all evening till late
How much?: Our normal rate: $5 for members of the BTCMSA and $7 for others
Members only?: No, everyone's welcome. Bring an instrument to jam or play in the open mic concert if you want