Thursday, May 31, 2012

DIRTY ROOTS RADIO - May 31st Playlist

Tune in to Dirty Roots Radio every Thursday night from 8 to 10 p.m. (central) on WGRN 89.5 FM. Listen online from anywhere in the world at

Roy Acuff – The Great Speckle Bird
Led Zeppelin – Moby Dick
Led Zeppelin – Heartbreaker
Townes Van Zandt – Who Do You Love
Scott H. Biram – Lost Highway
Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros – Man On Fire
Little Walter – Mean Old Frisco (Alternate)
Tom Waits – Mr. Siegal
R.L. Burnside – Poor Boy
Mink DeVille – One Way Street
The Bottle Rockets – Hard Times
Doc Watson – Tennessee Stud
Muddy Waters – I’ve Got My Mojo Working (Live at Newport 1960)
Ryan Bingham – The Weary Kind (Theme from Crazy Heart)
Metallica – Mama Said
Southern Culture on the Skids – Zombified
Buddy Guy – Baby Please Don’t Leave Me
Justin Townes Earle – Harlem River Blues
Justin Townes Earle – Memphis In the Rain
Bob Dylan – Beyond Here Lies Nothin’
Mike Ness – Let the Jukebox Keep on Playing
Ronnie Hawkins – Who Do You Love
Statler Brothers – Flowers on the Wall
Howlin’ Wolf – Three Hundred Pounds of Joy
Ray Wylie Hubbard – Coricidin Bottle
Norah Jones – Happy Pills
Isaac Hayes – Walk on By
Roger Miller – Engine Engine #9
Motorhead – Louie Louie
The Head Cat – Fool’s Paradise
The Clash – (White Man) In Hammersmith Palais
T-Model Ford – Let the Church Roll On
Muddy Waters – I’m Your Hoochie Coochie Man
Marty Stuart – A Matter of Time
Rev. Lonnie Farris – Peace In the Valley
The Sir Douglas Quintet – Nuevo Laredo
Supersuckers – Roadworn and Weary
Dr. John – Ice Age
Jack White – Love Interruption
Bobby Womack – Please Forgive My Heart
The Cramps – Zombie Dance

Background Music: Oliver Sain - St. Louis Breakdown


"My girl is more dead than alive.  She ain't got no love in her eyes.  She says, but she don't cry...My baby been zombified!"  - Southern Culture on the Skids (Zombified)

"At the Zombie Dance, here's Ben and Betty.  They tap their toes, but they don't get sweaty.  They don't give a damn...They're done dead already."  - The Cramps (Zombie Dance)

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Otis Ryan Productions Featured in RFT Music Blog

The Riverfront Times is a weekly entertainment/culture/news periodical in St. Louis.

Their RFT Music Blog just published a profile piece on this here little blog.


Monday, May 28, 2012

CHARLIE LOUVIN: STILL RATTLIN' THE DEVIL'S CAGE -- Interview with Filmmakers Blake Judd & Keith Neltner

If you're not familiar with the music of the legendary Louvin Brothers, find a copy of their classic album "Satan is Real".  Look at it.  Study it.  Absorb it.  Then play it.  That album cover says it all.  It sounds like it looks.  A weency bit on the hokey side (only in the since that most vintage country sounds hokey to the modern ears of many jaded listeners).  But the starkness and sincerity overwhelms any small amount of hokeyness.

It's an undeniable fact that sibling harmony is on the short list of sweetest sounds on the planet.  Charlie and Ira Louvin were startling.  Their high and low parts blended into a beautiful whole that was so authentic and real and at the same time so stark and disarming.  They influenced generations of musicians who came after them.

Put in the imagery they were so fond of in their music, the devil hounded brother Ira.  And the devil won.  

Charlie Louvin fought back against the devil.  

When Ira was killed in a car crash in 1965, Charlie carried on.  He enjoyed solo hits and thankfully for young folks like me, experienced a late-career rennaisance with the release of his 2007 album on Tompkins Square Records. 

Charlie lost his battle with pancreatic cancer in January 2011.  But not before he completed his autobiography with the help of Benjamin Whitmer (you can read my interview with Whitmer here) and a documentary on his legacy and influence with filmmakers Blake Judd and Keith Neltner.  View the trailer below:

I had the opportunity to speak with Judd and Neltner (who did all of the incredible graphic design pieces you see throughout this post) about the film and their experience working with Charlie Louvin.

(L to R) Blake Judd, Satan, and Keith Neltner

RYAN MIFFLIN: Tell me about “Still Rattling the Devil’s Cage”

BLAKE JUDD: Keith and I met Charlie several years back in 2008 and stayed in touch.  When we found out that he had pancreatic cancer, we both wanted to jump in and do something.  They had a benefit for Charlie and Keith sent some prints down to auction off to help raise a little money and I contacted him about going in together and getting a group of guys that we trust and know really good to bring in and maybe to a documentary on Charlie’s life.

Charlie Louvin

KEITH NELTNER: The one thing we did decide to do was film what ended up being Charlie’s last show at the FUBAR in Nashville.  We just planned to do a live DVD to commemorate the 50th anniversary of “Satan Is Real”. 

We were trying to raise some funds to take a crew to Nashville.  So we decided to use Kickstarter, which is kind of a creative forum where people can donate to basically fund creative projects.  We had a really modest budget of $3500 and the plan was to do the DVD and give Charlie 1,000 of them so he could take those out on tour and kind of offset some of his health care bills and things like that.  That was the original intent, but Charlie’s health progressively got worse through the six weeks after we did the interview at his house.

Throughout that time, Blake stayed in close contact with Charlie.  We decided to kind of make the film more about his resurgence.  Blake called him up and said, “Charlie, we’d like to include some of your friends” and he gave us the short list.  He basically gave Blake phone numbers for George Jones and Alison Krauss and some of the other guys that are in the film.  And from there it just kind of grew.

The documentary crew with Louvin at his home.(From left: Blake Judd, Charlie Louvin, Keith Neltner, Todd Tue, Brian Steege, and Kurt Strecker)

Film crew with the angelic Emmylou Harris (far right)

Crew with the legendary George Jones. (From left: Kurt Strecker, Keith Neltner, George Jones, Blake Judd, Jacob Ennis, and Brian Steege)
When you hear these folks – well-respected people like George Jones and Emmylou Harris – talk about Charlie, you can really tell the huge impact he’s had on them.  The Louvin Brothers are so legendary and have such an incredible legacy down through the years.  Did you get the sense that Charlie was aware of that?  If so, how did he walk around with that knowledge?

BLAKE JUDD: Charlie was pretty modest.  I mean, very down to earth.  When Keith and I met him the first time, we stopped to see him at his house on our way down to Montgomery, Alabama to visit the Hank Williams Museum.  I had written directions down on a napkin.  I’m not a big GPS kind of guy, I still like to do the old school thing and hunt it out.  Charlie was like “Why don’t you guys take my GPS?  It’s out there in the garage.  You guys can just mail it back to me or whatever when you’re done with it.”

He probably recognized it on some level but at the same time, he was a very, very humble man. 

Ira (left) and Charlie Louvin performing for a WSM Radio broadcast

KEITH NELTNER: I think one of the things that was pretty interesting was hearing different people, like John McCrea from Cake – who you wouldn’t expect to be a huge Charlie Louvin fan – talk about going on tour with him.  They were in these huge venues.  And Ira and Charlie, even in their heyday, were playing these really small clubs.  Sonny, Charlie’s son, said, “Dad wasn’t used to that.  He didn’t know what a green room was.  He didn’t know that there was catering and that people took care of you.” 

Charlie came from this place of being salt of the earth.  You worked for it.  Just like you worked a construction job, you know?  It was such a real thing for them.  It never affected him like it might affect artists today who are aware of who’s listening and who’s watching.

The Louvin Brothers at the Grand Ole Opry

BLAKE JUDD: Back then, the only way you knew what was going on was through the local papers.  But you were on such a move as a touring artist you usually didn’t catch the local paper.  And rarely did you make the national paper.  Those guys weren’t blitzed with all this media and social networking and access to information at your fingertips.  Like Charlie said, “We weren’t looking 60 years down the road, we were just trying to pay the bills and provide for our families.”

I think a lot of guys from that generation really never were and probably still aren’t aware of the impact that they were having then and they still have now.

I’m always struck by something Rhett Miller said in concert once, when Charlie was the opening act for the Old 97’s.  He said something to the effect that in a just world they would be opening for Charlie, not the other way around.  In the last few years, he released those great albums with Tompkins Square Records, there was the book with Benjamin Whitmer earlier this year, now the movie.  What did it mean to Charlie to have this late career renaissance? 

KEITH NELTNER: I think Charlie was kind of aware that things were coming to a close, and I think he wanted the legacy to be remembered.  If you read the book, it’s definitely present.  Those were kind of his last words.  I think that was really important to him.

When we met with him, he was really weak.  But, as soon as the camera turned on and we started asking questions, he was strong.  He didn’t take anything for granted; his family or his career.

BLAKE JUDD: I agree totally with Keith.  Even when we were with him that day in December – he passed away on January 26th – he was obviously down some weight and was a little weaker.  But if you would have said then that in 4 or 5 weeks, he’s going to pass on, I would have said there’s no way.  You just don’t see that coming.  I think Charlie himself knew.  He didn’t know when.  And those things needed to be got out.  I think he was appreciative before and appreciative when we were there.  He was very appreciative of people respecting and liking his music.

Tell me about the title of the film, “Still Rattlin’ the Devil’s Cage”.  I love that phrase.  Where did that come from?

KEITH NELTNER: I think one of the most stark images is the cover from “Satan is Real”.  Even for a newbie to the Louvin Brothers, it’s a little bit of a shock.  That idea of the devil in this resurgence just felt appropriate.  Charlie, at 83 was still out on the road and he was still giving him hell.  That phrase  came about and it ended up kind of becoming the mantra that we always came back to in making the film.

Like a lot of people, when I think of Charlie or the Louvin Brothers, the first thing I think of is that “Satan Is Real” cover.  The imagery is kind of hokey, but at the same time, as you said, it’s stark and it’s startling.  You can tell they meant it.  There’s also a sense in the book and this film that the devil really had it in for Charlie’s brother, Ira, and was really after him, and that Charlie fought hard against that.  He was obviously a man of faith, but it didn't seem to be in a “traditional” sense. 

BLAKE JUDD: I think Charlie was just real.  A lot of people think that when you have a spiritual belief system that you have to walk this really, really tight line.  To some degree you do, but at the same time, we are who we are and we’re all human.  Charlie was very, very human.

I know he wouldn’t’ sign gospel records.  If you had the country records, he would sign those.  But he would not sign the faith-based gospel records, which was always kind of interesting.  But he had a code that he did and he was a faith based man.  Everybody’s going to have their vices, which Charlie did as well.  But at the end of the day, he strongly stood behind what he believed in and it was evident in his work and his music and in his personal life.

Poster illustration and design Keith Neltener

What was the biggest thing that each of you took away from this experience?

KEITH NELTNER: I think its how the project came together and the support through Kickstarter that helped move this thing forward.  There were fans from basically all over the world who stepped up financially.  In Charlie’s passing, there were a lot of things that were left unresolved.  People like Emmylou Harris and John McCrea – who was very emotionally touched by Charlie’s passing…everyone said “yes”.  If we needed a second interview, no one felt inconvenienced. That’s a tribute to Charlie. 

Every DVD that is sold on the film’s website, the money goes directly to Betty’s account.  Betty is Charlie’s wife.  It’s been positive and it came from a good place.  There’s a lot of good energy around it.

BLAKE JUDD: I feel like it was one of those things where a group of guys came together to do something positive with no ulterior motives, with all right intentions, and a group of celebrities and behind the scenes people did the same, and the stars aligned.  When a lot of people come together to do something for a great cause, genuinely, something like this turns out.  It’s just a tribute to all the people involved and the impact that Charlie had on them.

This project has been very well received, hasn’t it?

KEITH NELTNER: Yes.  We were just featured in the Nashville Film Festival.  It was showcased and sold out one of the showings.  We had a panel discussion with Rodney Crowell and a few other folks from Nashville.  We’re in discussions to show the film in Sand Mountain, where Charlie and Ira were from.  There may be a screening down there later in the year.

Film crew at he Nashville Film Festival with Rodney Crowell (left) and Jim Lauderdale  (4th from left)

From left: Steege, Neltner, Tue, Judd, Satan, and Jeff Chambers at the Nashville Film Festival.

To find out more about “Still Rattlin’ the Devil’s Cage”, or to purchase a copy, visit  All proceeds from DVD sales directly benefit Charlie Louvin’s family.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

DIRTY ROOTS RADIO - May 24th Playlist

Tune in to Dirty Roots Radio every Thursday night from 8 to 10 p.m. (central) on WGRN 89.5 FM. Listen online from anywhere in the world at

Sending all our thoughts, good vibes, roots, and love to our pal
T-Model Ford as he recuperates from another stroke.

Bob Dylan – Maggie’s Farm (live)
Bob Dylan – Leopard-Skin Pill Box Hat (live)
Danny Johnson & the Rhythm Makers – Tired of Working for the Other Man
Bristow Hopper – Hate That Bear
X – Soul Kitchen
Johnny Cash & June Carter – What’d I Say
Wynonie Harris – Bloodshot Eyes
Willie Nelson – Crazy
Andre Williams – Jail Bait
Rolling Stones – Far Away Eyes
Bob Log III – All the Rockets Go Bang
Tom Waits – God’s Away on Business
Junior Kimbrough – Most Things Haven’t Worked Out
T-Model Ford – Hi-Heel Sneakers
The Gore Gore Girls – Fox in a Box
Scott H. Biram – Down Too Long
Jim White – Handcuffed to a Fence in Mississippi
The Yayhoos – Love Train
T-Model Ford – Ask Her for Water
T-Model Ford – To the Left, To the Right
The Deadstring Brothers – Sacred Heart
Rolling Stones – All Down the Line
Rolling Stones – The Last Time
Jason & the Scorchers – 19th Nervous Breakdown
Bob Dylan – Mississippi (Unreleased “Time Out of Mind” version)
Southern Culture On the Skids – Let’s Invite Them Over
Southern Culture On the Skids – My House Has Wheels
The Carolina Chocolate Drops – Starry Crown
Mike Ness – Funnel of Love
Hank Williams – Six Miles
Neil Young – Down By the River
Wanda Jackson – Busted
The Boxmasters – Knoxville Girl
The Louvin Brothers – Satan is Real
The Louvin Brothers – Great Atomic Power
The Clash – Jail Guitar Doors
20 Miles – East St. Louis
Betty Davis – If I’m in Luck I Might Get Picked Up Tonight
Tav Falco’s Panther Burns – Snake Drive
R.L. Burnside – Snake Drive
Dr. John – My Children, My Angels
Joan Jett & the Blackhearts – Have You Ever Seen the Rain?
Tom T. Hall – Me and Jesus (Happy 76th birthday tomorrow, Tom T. Hall)
Bill Withers – Grandma’s Hands
Dwight Yoakam – Oh, Lonesome Me
Alabama Shakes – Hold On
Bruce Springsteen – Death to My Hometown
The Cramps – Lonesome Town
Buck Owens – Waitin’ In Your Welfare Line
Buddy Guy – Feels Like Rain
Marty Stuart – Tear the Woodpile Down
Louvin Brothers – In the Pines

Background Music: Assorted Instrumentals from Grave Wax Records


"If music be the food of love, play on."  - William Shakespeare

"Music doesn't lie.  If there is something to be changed in this world, then it can only happen through music"  - Jimi Hendrix

"It is cruel, you know, that music should be so beautiful.  It has the beauty of loneliness, of pain, of strength, and freedom.  The beauty of disappointment and never-satisfied love.  The cruel beauty of nature and everlasting beauty of monotony."  - Benjamin Britten

BUCKAROO BOB'S TROUBADOUR LOUNGE: Cap Wilhelm-Safian with Los Dudes


Buckaroo Bob’s Troubadour Lounge is a feature on the Otis Ryan Productions blog and the Dirty Roots Radio Show, highlighting independent artists around the world, who have made contact with Dirty Roots through social networking mediums. The goal of the feature is to highlight unsigned talent and to illustrate the power of social media.

I first realized the power of social media through my contact with Cap Wilhelm-Safian.  A few years back, I hosted author and filmmaker Antonino D'Ambrosio on my Dirty Roots Radio Show.  D'Ambrosio had just released a book about one of my heroes, Joe Strummer ("Our Patron Saint" at Dirty Roots), and had a book about another of my heroes, Johnny Cash ("Our Founder" at Dirty Roots) on the way.  D'Ambrosio was also beginning work on the now-completed film "Let Fury Have the Hour". 

The feedback I received during and after my radio show that night, through the Dirty Roots Facebook page, peaked considerably.  Clueless at that point as to the impact of social media, I didn't realize that D'Ambrosio had alerted his fans to his being on my show through his own Facebook page.  Cap Wilhelm-Safian was a fan of D'Ambrosio, listened to Dirty Roots to hear him, enjoyed the program, became a fan of the show on Facebook, and eventually became my friend on Facebook.  

At the time, the Dirty Roots Radio Show was connected to a non-profit organization that I directed, called the Dirty Roots Revolution.  Cap also became a fan of/friend to that organization and a great champion of the cause. 

Cap and I are motivated by the same things socially and politically.  We're moved by much of the same music.  He's become one of my closest friends that I've never actually met in person.  He's a talented artist who deserves to be heard and, as this feature is designed to promote independent music and illustrate the power of social media, I can't think of anyone else that I'd want to highlight as the introduction to the new Buckaroo Bob's Troubadour Lounge.


ARTIST/BAND NAME:  Cap Wilhelm-Safian with Los Dudes

LOCATION:  San Jose, California


Cap Wilhelm-Safian: Hard at Play



When I turned 18, I wanted to be Phil Ochs, or Bobby Dylan, or Joni Mitchell when I grew up. I kept looking backwards. Found Woody and Pete. Then Hank and Patsy.

My retro style and political content were a big-time anachronism in the early Reagan years. I kept on keepin' on, as Zimmy advised, writing antiwar and antinuke tunes in a world that was falling in love with Journey and Flock of Seagulls.

I was at risk of completely devolving into a zither playing self-parody, when I encountered three forces of nature: Muddy Waters, Bob Marley, and The Clash (proof positive that there is some benevolent force at work in the universe). The power and urgency of this music pulled me into its orbit. Finally, somebody was confronting the fascists full on in a visceral way. Also in the early 80s, I met my good friends Brian Redden, Phil Sadler, and Michael T. Kirstein. In some chemically induced stupor, one of these fine gentlemen dubbed us Los Dudes.

LOS DUDES: Philip Sadler, Michael T. Kirstein, Brian Redden and Cap Wilhelm-Safian.

I played in my first band with Mike and Brian. After some stupidity, the band broke up and I moved to NorCal where I lived in the woods and survived on a steady diet of Albert King, Bob Marley, The Clash, and the Beat writers. Spent five years reading and writing music. While living in the redwoods, reunited with my old pal (and amazing songwriter) Brian Redden and once again began playing music in earnest.

Returned to school midway through Reagan's reign. I formed a band in Santa Cruz CA while studying Politics at UCSC. Did a lot of busking. We went by the name Age of Reason. We played whatever style we felt like. Folk rock, reggae, blues, country, space jam. Kind of gave our audiences whip lash. Not a good strategy in a music world looking to pigeonhole you. After playing our big gig at the Catalyst in Santa Cruz, the band promptly broke up as different members pursued different educational paths. Brian and I tried unsuccessfully to reform the band, but could never find the right personnel. Got married. Hung up the guitar and harmonica for 25 years.

I rediscovered a real passion for playing and writing after hearing Lucinda William's "Car Wheels on Gravel Road". Wrote my first song in 20 years: "East of Eden". Enter social media. Was convinced by Brian to record a CD of my songs. (Thanks to Cheney and W, my old folk and roll antiwar songs were once again relevant.)

As I started to conceive of the CD, I realized that the theme of that song, two lovers unsuccessfully trying to find some meaningful connection was a reoccurring theme, but with a political doppelganger.  Decided to craft an album about a fallen nation struggling to find common cause and find its way toward a more just world.


I'd call what I play folk, folk rock, or folk and roll. If Neil Young, Phil Ochs, Joni Mitchell, and the Byrds could have a baby, it might play music like this.


See above.  Add some Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young and John Prine. I tried to be more Strummer-like (as he was a big time hero), but it turned out that I had too much troubadour blood. I love playing with a bigger band, but don't currently have one.


I've just released my album "East of Eden" through CD Baby. The album has been up on my MySpace and ReverbNation profiles in its entirety for about two years. Life has conspired to present quite a few obstacles to putting out the CD. I now have all my ducks in a row, and am ready to move forward. I have met many kind and warm hearted people who have stopped by to listen to my songs. Nothing is better than when a song resonates in the heart of another. This happens about once a month for me and it's a bit of a miracle.


Well, for starters the title track "East of Eden". The odd thing is that it isn't in the slightest a political song, while most of the others are. "Frontiers of Sorrow" is another one that means a lot to me for its optimism. It was inspired by folks like you who get out there and confront the horrors of the world. It's always interesting seeing what resonates with others.  Maybe "Johnny Joined Up" or "Winter's Seed"?


There's lots more groovy stuff on and  I can also be found on Facebook.


It's available for free download right now through my ReverbNation site.

Physical copies of the CD can be purchased HERE from CD Baby,as well as on Amazon and iTunes. 


I've been told often, by reliable sources, that I talk too much.


Artists interested in being featured on Buckaroo Bob's Troubadour Lounge may complete the questionnaire below and submit the answers to: or send a message directly to Dirty Roots Radio on Facebook.

Those selected for inclusion will be profiled on Otis Ryan Productions and, when appropriate, one of their songs will be featured on Dirty Roots Radio to coincide with the appearance of their profile on the blog.

Direct all questions to











Contact Name:
Contact Email:
Band/Artist Website:
Artist Facebook page:
Links to key songs:

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Update on T-Model Ford & How You Can Help


As you may have heard,legendary Delta bluesman and frequent guest on my Dirty Roots Radio Show, T-Model Ford, has had another stroke.  Our friend Roger Stolle, of Cat Head Delta Blues & Folk Art, posted the following update today:

"Hi y'all. I just talked to T-Model's wife Miss Stella. As many of you know James "T-Model" Ford has unfortunately suffered another stroke over the past week. He is to undergo angioplasty and start physical therapy "soon." Since the medical bills are adding up, and he is currently unable to work/play, the Ford family is seeking donations to help with expenses. At 91 years old, T-Model is one of the last Delta bluesmen of his generation. He's also a heckuva tough old dude, and as he sings, "Nobody Gets Me Down!" Please keep him in your thoughts and prayers, and send him a little something if you can. (Red Paden is also talking about trying to put together a blues benefit for T down the road, so stay tuned on that.) Thanks."

If you'd like to send donations to help with T's treatment, you can send them directly to the bank:

James Ford
Routing# 084205708
Account# 4700445890
Planters Bank
424 Washington Ave
Greenville, MS 38701
PH: 662-335-5258
FX: 662-378-4429

Or, you can mail contributions, get-well cards, etc. to: 

James Ford
443 South 7th Street
Greenville, MS 38703

If you're able, please take a minute and send T-Model a get-well greeting!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

DIRTY ROOTS RADIO - May 17th Playlist

Tune in to Dirty Roots Radio every Thursday night from 8 to 10 p.m. (central) on WGRN 89.5 FM. Listen online from anywhere in the world at

(RIP Donna Summer)
Donna Summer - I Feel Love
(RIP Donald "Duck" Dunn)
Booker T & the MGs - Green Onions
Albert King - Born Under a Bad Sign
Otis Redding - Respect
Blues Brothers - She Took the Katy
(RIP Chuck Brown)
Chuck Brown - Bustin' Loose
(RIP Doug Dillard)
The Dillards - Dooley

Andre Williams & the Goldstars - Nightclub
Alex Chilton - Jumpin' Jack Flash
Mike Ness - No Man's Friend
Tom Waits - Tango Till They're Sore
Isaac Hayes - I Stand Accused
Bob Reuter & Alley Ghost - St. Louis
Joey Ramone - Rock 'N Roll Is the Answer
The Goldstars - Purple Girlfriend
Hasil Adkins - High School Confidential
Hasil Adkins - I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry
Elmo Williams & Hezekiah Early - Mother's Dead
Head Cat - Crossroads
The Clash - Police & Thieves
Lou Reed - Walk On the Wild Side
Smith - Baby, It's You
Leonard Cohen - Darkness
Steve Earle - I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive
Billy Bob Thornton - That Mountain
The Byrds - I Am a Pilgrim
Tav Falco's Panther Burns - She's the One That's Got It
Black Diamond Heavies - Loose Yourself
Bristow Hopper - Hate That Bear
The Standells - Dirty Water



“Without music, life would be a mistake.” ― Friedrich Nietzsche

“Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible.” ― Frank Zappa

“The only truth is music.” ― Jack Kerouac

Stupid Cell Phones

Every day when I leave my office, there are other coworkers departing at the same time.  Almost without fail, every single one of them is on their cell phone before they make it across the sidewalk between the building and the parking lot. 

There’s a woman who walks to her job every day and I pass her almost daily on my own way to work.  She’s on her cell phone every morning.

Who are these people talking to?  What is so important that the call has to happen right then?  In the case of those leaving work, they just walked away from a desk that had a phone, which they didn’t use.  So I don’t figure it’s an “emergency”.  I presume that they’re heading home after the workday, where they’ll probably see whoever it is their talking to, anyway.  For the woman walking to work…didn’t she just leave home?  Is she calling work already, which she’s walking to?  Does she talk to the same friend at the same time every day?  Must these calls take place?

And what did they do before cell phones?  It wasn’t important enough then for them to find a payphone or use the phone at their desk.  Just because it’s convenient, does it make it necessary?

Every time I go to a concert now, I have to watch the performance through a sea of blue squares.  Cell phones.  It seems like everyone in the audience except me has to record the entire show on their smart phone.

I’m not against using your phone to snap a couple of photographs of the show to have as mementos, but do you need to record the whole thing?  The audio on those recordings is horrible.  Because of the stage lighting (which I can’t even enjoy because of a million cell phone lights), the video is also very poor quality on cell phone recordings.  What happens to these videos?  The ones I’ve seen on YouTube are unwatchable.  So, are you sitting on your couch every night after the concert, reliving your experience, watching the video with horrible audio/video?

I maintain that seeing a band live in concert is a magical and very special thing.  If you care enough to plunk down the high cost of tickets, why in the world would you want to sully your concert experience by watching the entire show through a viewfinder ON A PHONE???

I could go on and on with the offensiveness of poor cell phone etiquette (talking loudly on a cell phone in a store, etc.), but you see where I’m going with this.

I came to the realization yesterday that my cell phone was what was making me crazy.  (It’s what was making me crazy THAT day anyway).  I felt rushed, anxious, spinning out of control.  Work was calling my cell on my lunch break.  My wife was sending me texts.  I’d just picked my four-year-old up from preschool, so she was trying to tell me about her day and excitedly asking me a million questions a minute.

I snapped at my daughter, ignored the work call, and yelled at my wife as her texts came in.  And I realized…the phone was the source of my stress.

It wasn’t wrong for work to call me.  They needed some information.  Yes, it could have waited until I returned in THIRTY MINUTES, but there was nothing specifically wrong with them calling.

There was nothing wrong with my wife sending me texts.  She knew I was on a break from work and thought it would be a good time to send me some information I needed. 

And there was absolutely nothing wrong with my daughter wanting to talk to me.  But she received the worst of my frustration.

Because all of these things were happening at once.

If this was 15 years ago and I hadn’t had a cell phone in my hand, my daughter would have had my complete and undivided attention during our lunch break together.

If work hadn’t been able to call me, I would have had a full thirty-minute break, as is required by law, and as I’m sure we all can agree is good for the mental wellbeing of all of us.  I mean, really…does your work need to have TOTAL access to you?  Do you need to be reached by phone AND email at ALL hours of the day?  Is it really T-H-A-T important?

If my wife hadn’t been texting me, you know what would have happened?  We would have had to have a conversation about whatever it was she was saying when I got home.  Maybe she would have actually been looking forward to…maybe even EXCITED…to see me at the end of the day.  Because she had something to tell me.  We would have had to genuinely talk to each other when we got home.

As it was, we’d corresponded throughout the day, so it was like we hadn’t been apart for 8 hours.

I went out to dinner with my family a few weeks ago.  And while I will admit to checking my Facebook on my phone, in minutes of boredom while we waited for a table, I was amazed to see three girls out to dinner together, all on their cell phones the ENTIRE time they waited.  They looked to be older high school students or early in their college careers.  And each was playing games on their cell phones.  Different games.  They weren’t even playing together.  They were out on a “fun girls’ night” and not talking to each other. 

What did we do before cell phones?

Oh, right….we talked.  We looked each other in the eye.  We had boundaries between the various areas of our lives.

Don’t get me wrong…as much as I’m frustrated by cell phones, I get their benefit.  I’m the father of a daughter.  And you’d better know that as soon as she’s old enough to spend any real time alone, after school or whatever, that she WILL have a cell phone.  She will NEVER be behind the wheel of a car without one.  She won’t go on a date without one.

But, alas, because she has one, the boundaries will be blurred.  She’ll go on dates and check Facebook while they’re waiting for a table.  She’ll probably text and drive, and hopefully she’ll get away with it.  She’ll get a job that will be able to contact her instantly any time they see fit.  She’ll be with her family and receive calls and texts while she should be spending quality time with her loved ones. 

Why does balance have to be so hard?  Why can’t we restrain ourselves?

Just because we CAN doesn’t mean we SHOULD.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

ALBUM REVIEW: Wille Nelson - "Heroes"

At this point, a new record from Willie Nelson almost always elicits the same two-point response:
  1. It’s not great. 
  2. Even though it doesn’t compare to what he released during his creative peak, it’s still Willie.  And Willie at his absolute worst is infinitely better than so much of what passes as music these days.
A new release from Willie is almost always a generally enjoyable experience.

In their advance publicity, Legacy Recordings billed Willie's new album, "Heroes" as “his homecoming to Legacy Recordings. No themes or gimmicks to this album, just 13 brand new recordings produced by Buddy Cannon.”

Willie’s last several records have all featured some kind of theme/gimmick: duets, a blues record, a reggae record, classic country covers, jazz records, celebrity producers, etc.  Some worked better than others.  His “Countryman” reggae album surprisingly blew me away.  His “It Always Will Be” album is one of my all-time favorite records.  “Run That By Me One More Time”, his duets album with his old friend Ray Price was a solid and enjoyable affair.  Ditto for “You Don’t Know Me: Songs of Cindy Walker.”  His albums produced by Ryan Adams and Kenny Chesney, however, remain the two exceptions to the “almost always enjoyable” rule.

Willie’s greatest strength and his downfall, at the same time, is his willingness to record almost anything with almost anyone, anytime, anywhere.  While this results in some mediocre product, you gotta love a guy who loves music that much.  And, as Norwood from Fishbone told me in our interview last week, Willie is basically “living the dream of a child”.  If I could spend all of my time making music with my friends, you bet I would.

This album is a family affair, with Willie’s sons Lukas appearing on almost every track.  His son, Micah, appears on one.  Other guests include Ray Price, Merle Haggard, Billy Joe Shaver, Kris Kristofferson, Jamey Johnson, and Snoop Dogg.

I first heard “Roll Me Up” a few weeks ago when I saw Willie in concert in St. Louis.  It’s a great song; a well-written tune that pokes fun at Willie’s reputation while celebrating his legacy all at once.  The version here, though – a collaboration with Johnson, Kristofferson, and Snoop – calls into question the “no themes or gimmicks” claim made by Legacy Recordings.

I braced myself for the worst, but ended up loving it.  Snoop actually sings rather than raps (he doesn’t exactly sound “good”, but it is fun).  And while I prefer Willie’s solo version I heard live, the version on “Heroes” is a fun take that begs the listener to sing along.

The other standout track for me on “Heroes” is Willie’s cover of Pearl Jam’s beautiful “Just Breathe”, performed with his son Lukas.  The first time I heard this track, it brought tears to my eyes.  It’s my favorite “latter-day” Pearl Jam song and Willie takes it to a whole other level.  Eddie Vedder’s look at a life that is blessed despite bumpy roads is much more poignant when told from the standpoint of a weathered 79-year old.

Another track getting a lot of attention is a cover of Coldplay’s “The Scientist”.  It is one of the better cuts on the album (a straightforward, beautiful solo rendition), but I’m not a Coldplay fan and am completely unfamiliar with the song, so the juxtaposition of this to the original version is lost on me.

Ultimately, this most likely won’t end up being anyone’s favorite Willie Nelson record, it won’t dent the country charts, and it won’t sell a million copies.  There are hits and misses here.  In my opinion the album would have benefited from fewer duets.  But hearing Willie sing with his old pals Merle, Kris, and Billy Joe will always be special.

Willie Nelson won’t be here forever and he’s one of the last of his kind.  His purpose is to make music.  And he’s still making new stuff.  For us.  As I said before, for me it all comes down to the fact that a fair-to-middlin’ Willie Nelson record is almost always enjoyable and almost always better than so many others’ very best.  Enjoy his new stuff while it’s here.