Hating On Twang

I browsed the newsstand this morning before heading to my last day at my job in Jersey City and I scanned Rolling Stone (can’t suck all the time) and there was a positive review of the new Lucinda Williams CD “West” (Feb 13). But the tone the praise took the form of an attitude I’m finding more and more outside of No Depression. I’ve read it in reference to artists that have their past formally in country and roots but take the genre to new, interesting and sometimes odd places. Ryan Adams, Neko Case, the Dixie Chicks and Calexico that have taken chances in their sound to mixed success. What gets my goat is the condescending tone taken that the reason these artists are so much “better” in their cultural gatekeeper eyes is that they’ve finally shaken the unseemly twang thang. Bullshit!

When Miles Davis did Bitches Brew did the press say “Thank god he finally stopped that jazz garbage.” The twang hating reminds me of when Dylan went electric but in reverse. Instead of Dylan being ostracized by the folk purists the press would be yelling “Turn it to eleven for god sakes!”

Artists that do the same thing time after time can be dependably consistent or annoyingly boring. So for every Wayne Hancock there’s a Jim White. The roots are firmly planted in tradition but the branches move in many directions, but always to the sky.

It’s the yin and yang of twang.

Jonesing for Naked Trucker and T Bone Show

I can’t explain it and readers of thois blog know I would’nt anyway. I can’t wait the debute if the Naked Trucker and T Bone Show on Comedy Central (1/17). Yep, like a taste for pork rinds, slim Jims or Mountain Dew it’s hard to explain, if you don’t get it, you just don’t get it. I think this show will sweep the Emmy’s. Remember, you heard it here first.

2006 Best One More Useless Time

I want to take a moment on this first day of 2007 to add some other great releases that slipped my 2006 list:

Kris Kristofferson, – This Old Road
Tom Russell – Love & Fear
Dale Watson – Whiskey or God
James McMurtry – Childish Things
Loomer – Wild West Island
Elvis Costello & Allen Toussaint – The River In Reverse
James Hunter – People Gonna Talk
Hem – Funnel Cloud
Bruce Springsteen – We Shall Overcome: Seeger Sessions
Guy Clark – Workbench Songs

Twangy Holidays

Happy holidays to all my readers and lovers of the music that thread us together as one adoring seething mass…okay now I’m creeping myself out. I’m always a little morose after a 12 o’clock nog. Anyhooo..

I hope all of ya’ll got what you wanted and were able to unload those gifts you didn’t. So put on the Johnny Cash Christmas album and hoist a few to Christmas past, when music was necessary, inspiring and dangerous. And here’s hoping the past kicks the future in the ass.

Rednecks On Ice!

How do you make something good even better? Why put in on ice of course! Disney films! The Nutcracker! Ballroom dancing! and now country music.

I kind of like Gretchen but this is some sad, silly shit.

from CMT – Gretchen Wilson will stage a 12-song concert as Olympic ice skaters perform to her songs on Nov. 8 at Philadelphia’s Wachovia Center. The event is being taped for a two-hour ice skating special, Gretchen Wilson’s Country on Ice, to air Dec. 23 on NBC. Skaters confirmed for the special include four-time world champion Kurt Browning, two-time Olympic medalist Irina Slutskava, five-time U.S. champion Todd Eldredge and three-time U.S. titlist Michael Weiss. Lucinda Ruh, who holds the Guinness World Record for the longest and fastest spinner on ice, will also perform.

Useless List of Top 10 – 2006

List of “bests ofs” are bullshit. They’re either obvious, random or self-serving (I’m looking at you Letterman), but people like ’em and I like people. Especially the people that are good enough to show up at this site and spend a little time here. I’ve put together what I think is the cream of the crop and with some to spare.

First off the thread that runs through this list is the same as runs through everything else on this site. Call it Alt.Country, roots, freak folk, ya’llternative, twang-core…whatever. It’s great music from people that care enough to do for people that know the difference. You know, stuff that would give Carrie Underwood a the night sweats and Keith Urban a nice case of substance abuse (doh!). So let’s get to it:

10. Ray Wylie Hubbard: Snake Farm – This is a gritty, nasty, boozy release in the same vein as the Rolling Stone’s “Sticky Fingers” and early ZZ Top. Hubbard and his great band – Gurf Morlix on guitar, Rick Richards on drums and George Reiff on bass comes off as laid-back and dangerous simultaneously. The songs are rich in narrative with spare but choice lyrics sung with Hubbard’s wry, weary growl.

9. Solomon Burke: Nashville – When I was in Nashville in October listening to a compilation and “Does My Ring Burn Your Finger” came up and sent chills across my skin. Here was the voice of pain and accusation. The voice of bomming, baritone judgement. Like Ray Charles before him, Salomna Burke takes the skills he’s broight to R&B all those years and makes these songs his own and this follow up to the 2002’s Grammy winning “Don’t Give Up On Me” is a slow burning slice of country.

8. The Bottle Rockets: Zoysia – Deep-fried rock with hooks and passion galore makes this one of the best releases ever from the greatest bar band in America.

7. Scott H. Biram: Graveyard Shift – The one guy that can make Ray Wylie Hubbard seem safe would be another Texan, Scott H. Biram. No frills, just Rio Grande muddy guitar and hell raising vocals and metal attitude. Biram’s songs can also showcase the occasional straight ahead country weeper fit for the like of Hag.

6. Drive By Truckers: A Blessing and a Curse – Truth be told it took a while for this to grow on me. I loved the moonshine and blood drenched mythos of Decoration Day and Dirty South so the more grand stories unifying the release. The Skynyrd triple-threat guitars are there in force but the songs seem more tighter and the stories are more contained within each of the excellent songs.

5. Willie Nelson: You Don’t Know Me – Songs Of Cindy Walker Willie Nelson: You Don’t Know Me – Songs Of Cindy Walker – The Texas Yoda sings a Texas legendary songwriter (“Bubbles in My Beer,” “Take Me in Your Arms,” “You Don’t Know Me,” “Sugar Moon,” “Cherokee Maiden,” “Miss Molly,” and “It’s All Your Fault.”) Willie could cover this classic material in his sleep but he plays it with passion and respect each of the songs deserves.

4. Gob Iron: Death Songs for the Living – Tweedy who? Jay Farrar was the soul and heart of Uncle Tupelo and this passionate and soulful collaboration with Varnaline’s Anders Parker brings new life to these somewhat remodeled traditional folk songs glued together my spacey, spare instrumentals.

3. Hank III: Straight to Hell – Not many people are doing the what Hank III is doing by fusing traditional framework of honky-tonk with punk, metal and large doses of controlled substances and making something old sound new and , well, dangerous. Name dropping legends (George Jones and David Allen Coe) and talking trash (Kid Rock) he sounds more like a hip-hop performer than a hillbilly. By breathing new life into the outlaw spirit that has always existed outside of the Nashville factory Hank III is doing his namesake proud.

2. Bob Dylan: Modern Times – Dylan has always been a conduit for American music and on “Modern Times” he does a great job of reflecting the spirit of Willie Dixon and Hank Williams through his singular prism of storytelling and takes what’s old and familiar and applies current events of war, mortality, devotion, the profound and the profane and all things human.

1. Johnny Cash – American V: A Hundred Highways – By the 90s Nashville, in their infinite wisdom, had turned their back on Cash. But producer Rick Rubin had the vision and intelligence to allow master and simply do what had come naturally for him for over five decades. His delivery weak and rasped gives truth to the traditional “God’s Gonna Cut You Down” and the song Cash last wrote “Like the 309,” about a train taking his casket away.

Fittingly released on the fourth of July and recorded in 2002-2003, with overdubs added by Rubin after his death on September 12, 2003, at age 71, American V: A Hundred Highways is the last musical document of a dying man and is an honorable finale to a great career.

Honorable mention:
Alejandro EscovedoThe Boxing Mirror
Ray LaMontagne – Till the Sun Turns Black
Willie Nelson – Songbird
Neko Case – Fox Confessor Brings The Flood
Vince Gill – These Days
Lonesome Spurs – Lonesome Spurs
Jenny Lewis With The Watson Twins – Rabbit Fur Coat
Joey Alcorn – 50 Years Too Late
Chatham County Line – Speed Of The Whippoorwill
Old Crow Medicine Show – Big Iron World
Lucero – Rebels, Rouges, and Sworn Brothers
Scott Miller – Citation
Chris Knight – Enough Rope
Rosanne Cash – Black Cadillac
Juilie Roberts – Men and Mascara
Todd Snider – The Devil You Know
Shooter Jennings – Electric Rodeo

Willie + Chesney = WTF!

I heard the rumor, but I just couldn’t believe it. It just couldn’t be true. But there it was, but there was a sliver of doubt in my mind. “Yes, based on past behavior, this could be true.”

And then there it was.

Kenny Chesney Producing Willie Nelson’s Album.

Kenny Chesney! WTF! Willie, in your long and prestigious career you’ve become known as a serial collaborator. Some of these collaborations were brilliant – George Jones, Ray Price, Ray Charles, Kristofferson, Cash and Waylon with the HighwayMen, Emmylou Harris and Daniel Lanois on the brilliant “Teatro” and recently with Ryan Adams on this years release “Songbird.”

And some were a bust – Don Was on the Reggae disaster “Countryman” and though the duet with Julio Iglesias “To All the Girls I Loved Before” might have sold a lot of records, it is total schmaltz. Ditto Toby Keith, sold a lot – total crap!

Your a living legend in Country music and nothing is ever going to change that, but I don’t get the upside for you in this arrangement. You get introduced to a demo that wouldn’t know a Hank Williams song even if it was covered by Rod Stewart on one of his saccharine “standards” products? You don’t need that kind of exposure. They won’t appreciate you anyway. Your not young, pretty or slick enough and you use drugs openly. The soccer moms that eat up country pop garbage like Chesney are not going to want an old hillbilly hippie around their SUV.

You have something that Chesney and that crowd will never have – you have a legacy. Why not use that legacy to bring other great talent recognition and into the spotlight. Artists that embody the outlaw spirit that ledyou out of Nashville and back to Texas and changed the industry forever and made you an icon.

William Elliot Whitmore, Scott H. Biram , Wayne Hancock could all benefit from sitting at the side of the Texas Yoda. And the last two even live in Austin!

Chesney and all the other Nashville hat-acts are the products of everything you walked away from in Nashville back in the 70’s. You were right to do so. It was the best career move you ever made. Don’t now offer your legendary status to the highest bidder and give undeserved prestige on undeserving and mediocre talent.

Record Labels Enter Jurassic Period

There is an interesting article in todays Wall Street Journal about how EMI and Blunote
will allow a single,”Thinking About You,”  from the upcoming Norah Jones album to be bought from Yahoo Music in the MP3 format. This has so far been a contested move for the major labels because MP3 files have no inherent anti-piracy qualities and can be easily shared with friends.

The labels are late the game in this. They’ve allowed Apple years of market lead time
to satisfy an obvious market demand and now they, like Microsoft with the clearly  inferior Zune, are too little too late.

EMI is hedging the piracy concerns on the older demographic of Jones. The thinking goes they are less likely to steal or share music. They are either more ethical or more technologically ignorant.

The concept of containing a song in a physical form and therefore controlling the distribution is long gone. The labels need to figure out a way to bring better music to more niche markets (Like Twang!) and incubate their eggs in many baskets instead of continuing with a model that is obviously dead.

EMI and Bluenote are calling making the MP3s available an “Experiment.” I call in desperate.

Dear Larry the Cable Guy – Blow Me

I got an email today that Larry the Cable Guy is coming to the Radio City Music Hall. Larry the prick guy is both the Amos and the Andy of Southern comics and makes Southerners look like slope-browed hick idiots. As a resident of New York City and a Native son of the South I’d like to take a moment to send a big fuck you to this wanna-be piece of crap and his lame grandma fart jokes. Ron White has more talent in his whiskey sippin’ hand than Larry the idiot guy has in his entire fat body. Git “this” done, bitch!