MERICANA GAZETT E A February / March 2013
FEATURE STORY: The Bluefields Shawn Camp Dustin Welch Kathy Mattea Anne Gravel Sullivan Bobby Bare Sr. Dale Freidig Jeffrey Foucault The Shitty Barn Verlon Thompson The Dunns, Aaron and Monica Booka Michel Bobby's Guitar Corner CD Reviews and much more
AMERICANA GAZETTE Greetings all! Here we are already at the end of the first month of 2013. I hope everyone had a good holiday season and that 2013 will be a good year and healthy year for all of you. Andy has been very busy at Action Guitars, and that is a good thing. Andy and I are very excited about going out to see some new music and artists this year. We also will be taking a couple of trips to Nashville later on, probably to Door County again with the Hodges and I am venturing out to Las Vegas in April to attend my niece’s wedding. Yes, I will not be taking Andy, but my friend and co-worker of 25 years is going with me. Everyone is trying to talk me (us) into doing the zip line thing! Haven’t made my decision on this yet……still thinking about it.
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Litt Dubay Our dear friends Warner E. Hodges and Joe Blanton were up from Nashville to perform with some of the local guys. It was great, but how could it be anything but with these two professional guys and our talented local guys!!!! Be sure to come on out to Schwoegler’s Sugar River Lanes in Belleville, WI on March 8th to see the Bluefield’s perform, Dan Baird, Joe Blanton, Warner E, Hodges and Keith Brogdon. If you miss this, you have missed an opportunity of a lifetime for musical entertainment!
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Americana Gazette TABLE OF CONTENTS WHERE TO LOOK 4 5 6 8 9 10 11 12 14 16 17 18 20 21 22 24
Shawn Camp Dustin Welch Kathy Mattea The Bluefields Women In The Round Anne Gravel Sullivan Litt DuBay This Year I Resolve Rosemary Ziehli Bobby Bare, Sr. Dale Freidig What’s In A Name? Robert Hoffman Rick Recalls - Paydirt Jeffery Foucault The Shitty Barn Bob's Guitar Corner #8 Verlon Thompson GROP - Andy Ziehli
The Other Side of Nashville Rev. Keith Gordon
Think It - Live It Jim Smith
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Aaron and Monica Dunn Booka Michel Robert’s Ramblings Bob Hoffman CD Reviews
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The Americana Gazette is printed by: The Print Center • Brodhead, Wi. 53520 AMERICANA GAZETTE % Andy & Joyce Ziehli P.O. BOX 208 • Belleville, WI. 53508 OFFICE: 608-424-6300 Andy Cell: 608-558-8131 Joyce Cell: 608-558-8132 w w w. a m e r i c a n a g a z e t t e . n e t
CHAT TIN W ITH
SHAW N CAM P
AT BROW N’S
"Let’s meet at Brown's Diner and I'll buy ya a burger", read the text on my phone from Shawn Camp. I had wanted to check the place out for a long time since moving here and felt I finally had my chance.And to visit it with a musician I greatly admire, made it even better. So while I was trying to decide what to eat, singer songwriter Nanci Griffith, who just happened to be sitting at the bar near us had just finished her meal recommended the soup to me. Seizing the moment, I saw that it looked pretty good to me so that’s what I ordered. Shawn leaned over and said ' Man, I tell you, you're going to want to come back for one of these burgers.' Indeed I will. I guess hard decisions like this are made in the Music City everyday. Shawn Camp is a great example of someone who had to fight the music industry ideal and ended up doing things on his terms. He is an incredibly gifted musician, getting sideman work with top names in bluegrass and country like the Osbourne Brothers,Alan Jackson, Jerry Reed,Trisha Yearwood to just name a few of the many. His songs have been picked up by other big names.Yet one listen to his voice, you'll wonder why he isn't a household name. I was excited to talk to Shawn about the release of 'This One's For Him- A Tribute To Guy Clark’ which he co-produced and played on as well.An album nominated for a Grammy, but more importantly than that, it’s an album where you can hear and feel the love of everyone involved putting their heart and soul into Guy's song they rightfully deserve. Travis: Congrats on the Grammy nomination! The tribute album is an excellent artist interpretation of some masterpiece songs. Can you tell us how you got involved as co-producer and musician? Shawn: Well, thank you! Tamara Saviano was asked by David Gardner at Icehouse Records.Tamara is a dear friend of mine and was a manager of mine for awhile. She was great at bringing the right people in. So she turned to me to put some music together. At the time I wanted Verlon Thompson to be the coproducer rather than me. Because he's Guy Clark’s right hand man and knows the music so well. But there was going to be times where he was going to be gone, but he was amazing and I couldn't have done it without him.And all the great artists came in and really helped to pull off those amazing songs. Travis:Was it more or less obvious what artists would be chosen for the lineup? Shawn: Tamara did the selection of the artists.And then it was mainly the artists who got to choose their own songs.And they're all friends of Guy's or the majority being close to him. They had a good idea about how they wanted to do
it. And having a 'core' band helped kind of keep the thread together. And the thread runs deep on all Guy's songs, so it was easy to pull off. Travis: And you chose to do the song 'Homeless'.Was there any specific reason you chose that one? You did a fantastic job on it! Shawn:Thank you. I had been doing this musical with the Nashville Symphony and Nashville Ballet, of Guy's and Darrell Scott's songs. Darrell was out on the road with Robert Plant and Guy was sick. So we did 7 or 8 songs for the ballet. And one of those songs was 'Homeless'. So the timing was perfect that I had been working on the song with the string section and I asked them to be a part of the recording of it. It was a natural fit. Travis: Was the ballet project different than the songs you wrote about Sis Draper that you planned to do a project or album around? continued on page 34 w w w. a m e r i c a n a g a z e t t e . n e t
Duin Welch, A new breed of Texas Troubadour To say that Texas produces some of the best singer/songwriters today is an understatement. Either from the born and bred to the transplants Texas is and was the singer songwriter capital of the world! Dustin Welch falls under the latter of someone who moved to Texas to make his musical dreams come true. He was playing and writing more in Texas than in Nashville so he made the move. Welch relocated a few years ago to the land of Willie Nelson,Waylon Jennings, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, and Joe Ely. Like these excellent storytellers, Welch has learned his trade well and can spin a tale set to music that reaches out and grabs your attention from the first note to the last line. Dustin Welch is one of the new breed of Texas singer songwriters spinning tales of adventure and life on the darker side of town. His songs reflect the inner demons most folks don’t want to talk about let alone bring to song. A keen ear for a story Welch weaves a tapestry of tales in each of his songs, not unlike Faulkner weaved in his stories of Southern Gothic life. I was introduced to Welch through a You Tube video of the song Whisky Priest and I was instantly hooked! Welch is by far one of the most interesting songwriters today and his new CD Tijuana Bible Welch dives deeper into a world of pain and second chances. An excellent musician and multi-instrumentalist Welch is poised to step beyond the borders of Texas and expand his fan base to all corners of the US this year. I got the chance to talk to him at length about his life and career. He was open to everything. AG: How are you doing today? Welch: Very good thank you. Where in Wisconsin are you folks based? AG: We are in Southern Wisconsin about 16 miles south of Madison. We live in a town of about 2400 people. Welch: I really love all the time I’ve spent in Madison and all of Wisconsin. For a few years I would travel up to Sturgeon Bay and play at the Steel Bridge Songwriter’s Festival. I got to know a lot of local writers. One guy Jeremiah Nelson was from Madison and he has a couple of co-writes on my new CD. He is very cool songwriter. The whole thing that Pat and Melody Jane have started up there is so cool and has led me to be able to write with a whole bunch of very cool songwriters. AG: How old were you when you started writing songs? Welch: It took me a while before I was writing my own stuff. I think I was about 15 or 16 when I started writing. I’ve been playing guitar since I was eight. I had already been in a band up until that time. Cary Ann Hearst from Shovels & Rope played and sang in that first one. She is a fabulous songwriter and she was writing incredible stuff back then, so there was not a lot of need for me to be writing. I slowly started developing my own kind of approach to it. When I was 16 there was a song I had written and just put it away. My dad was going through some notes and papers looking for songs when he came across it. He said he didn't remember ever writing it, but he started working it up and soon realized that I had written it. So that song Glorious Bounties went on his record Millionaire. That song gave me a little legitimacy and for the next ten years I worked on my writing. I had never planned to have a band w w w. a m e r i c a n a g a z e t t e . n e t
of my own or even be a front man. I had planned on being a sideman or just writing songs for others, which is sort of typical for Nashville. I had some cuts and holds and was doing okay, but writing in the Nashville songwriting machine style never really worked for me. I did a lot of co-writing with folks who had publishing deals and I did enjoy that. I moved to Austin when I was 25 and went to a lot of songwriter’s nights like I had done in Nashville. As a result of playing these events, people started telling me to put a band together. I had never thought about fronting a band. I did not sing particularly well and was not the front man kind of guy. I looked around the club I was playing at regularly and thought "Well, there are a lot of great musicians working here as doorman, sound guys, waitresses and bartenders" so I put together a band of my co-workers. It was very cool. Every week it let the employees get up onstage and play. Shortly after that we started working on my first record Whiskey Priest. AG: Did you record that record in Austin? Welch: Yea there was this local producer who, on his days off his schedule, would record us pro bono. It was very cool thing of him to do. AG: When you were younger was your dad an influence or did you run the other way? Welch: Absolutely he was an influence along with all of his buddies. I was always welcome to sit in and play with those guys. All his band mates would pull aside and show me stuff, new licks and chord voicings. As I got older I got to write with a lot of those same folks. I really learned the ropes from that exposure. I try to write songs which follow the a more commercial song structure which make them more broadly appealing, but I want to write in a way that continued on page 24
The Call of Home
Kathy Mattea is sitting quietly at her kitchen table in Nashville, reflecting on the recent change in her career. She remembers the precise and painful moment when she knew she would take this unexpected dive, this shift in focus from commercial country music to the sweet and sorrowful sounds of Appalachia. Actually, some of us would argue, the change may not be quite as dramatic as it first appears to be on the surface. But with her last two albums, the Grammy-nominated “Coal,” released in 2008, and the even more personal “Calling Me Home,” released last year, Mattea’s music is now fully tied to the “reluctant activism” that has tugged at her heart for nearly twenty years. The turning point came in a moment of horror. On January 2, 2006, a coal mine exploded in Sago, West Virginia, a hill-country town about a hundred miles northeast of Charleston. Carbon monoxide flooded the hole, making it nearly impossible to breathe, as griefstricken families gathered in a tiny Baptist church only a few hundred yards from the mine. Then, improbably, just before midnight, word of a miracle reached the church. Rescuers had discovered one body, but twelve other miners were said to be alive. “The church bells ring and people pour out rejoicing,” reported Frank Langfitt of National Public Radio. “Reporters at the scene beam the story around the globe,‘Miracle in the hills of West Virginia.’” But then just as suddenly around 3 a.m., company officials came to the church, looking grim-faced, maybe even afraid. Sadly, they said, reports of a miracle had been wrong. Only one miner had managed to survive.Twelve others were dead,
apparently from breathing the poisonous air. Cries of anger erupted in the church, shouts of “Liar,” as the officials quickly retreated from the crowd. For many of the people in the church that night, this was West Virginia in microcosm – a place of stark and endless contradiction, of beauty and strength, but also of exploitation and death; of indifference and greed and a callous disregard for the people and the land. Kathy Mattea was surprised at first by the force with which she felt these things. A native West Virginian, she listened to reports coming out of Sago, sharing at first in the soaring hopes, swept away so completely by the sadness and rage. “I was feeling a grief that shocked me,” she remembers. “I burst into tears in the middle of the afternoon.” And soon her connection became more direct. The news show, Larry King Live, covered the funeral on CNN, and Mattea was asked to provide a song to close out the broadcast. She chose one of her own, a mournful ballad that she had co-written, and the heartbreak of it was nearly unbearable as she sang her epitaph for the miners. The memory of the smile, the tear The slender threads that bind us here Nearly seven years later, at her home in Nashville, she remembered how, soon after that, an irresistible notion began to take hold, even though she tried to fight it at first.“For years,” she explained,“I had had an idea in my head about some kind of record about home or the mountains or Appalachia or something. But after the Sago disaster, I thought,‘I need to do an album about coal.’ I didn’t want to. It was like, ‘no, no, not coal-mining. It’s going to be depressing. It’s going to be twangy.’ I had a few songs squirreled away, like ‘Dark as a Dungeon’ by Merle Travis, and ‘Coal Tatoo,’ by Billy Edd Wheeler, who was w w w. a m e r i c a n a g a z e t t e . n e t
also a native West Virginian. So, reluctantly, I began to search for other coal-mining songs.” One of those she discovered early on was “Lawrence Jones,” written by a southern folk singer by the name of Si Kahn, who was soon to become one of her closest friends. Kahn, a community organizer as well as a songwriter, had worked in 1973 on the Brookside strike in eastern Kentucky. For more than a year, as the chilly winds blew through Harlan County, the coal miners walked the picket lines, trying to secure a contract with Duke Power Company, the owner of the Brookside mine. For more than a year, Duke Power resisted, determined to drive the United Mine Workers Union from the company’s mines. The standoff grew increasingly bitter, increasingly violent, until finally a young miner named Lawrence Jones was shot in the face in an early morning clash. He died soon after, leaving behind a teenaged wife and a baby, and only then did the company finally come to the table. Kahn wrote a song in memory of Jones, and it became a centerpiece of Kathy Mattea’s new album, “Coal.” And there were others, reflecting the deep ambivalence with which many people in southern Appalachia now regard their greatest natural resource. In his iconic “Dark as a Dungeon,” Merle Travis put the feeling this way: Like a fiend with his dope and a drunkard his wine A man will have lust for the lure of the mine When Kahn heard Mattea sing that song, as well as his own, he was impressed, as most people are, by the beauty of her voice. But he also thought he heard something more – a depth of conviction – confirmed when he met her in Charlotte, NC, not long after the release of her album. “We met backstage after one of her shows,” Kahn remembers.“We traded CDs, and I loved her version of ‘Lawrence Jones.’This was a young man who was shot for no reason – and for a reason – because Duke Power wanted to control their own coal. Kathy is very people-oriented. She has a big heart, and she hates violence of any kind. I think she felt a moral call leading up to this album, this new direction in her career, and you can hear it in every one of her songs. I’ve heard her refer to herself as a ‘recovering country music star,’ which is funny and a great reflection of her sense of humor. But it also has several different layers. There’s self-deprecation, maybe a little bit of regret because she’s not on the country charts anymore. But there’s also a strong sense of purpose.” Carefully, without trying to sound self-important about it, Mattea tends to agree with that assessment. “I feel like these last two albums are part of what I’m supposed to be doing,” she explains.“I grew up in West Virginia, where both my grandfathers had been coal miners, and the more I listened, the more this music rang true to me. Overall, the synchronicity of my ‘Coal’ album was so great that I felt like I was sitting in some kind of rocket ship. My biggest fear was that most of these songs were not written for commercial purposes, and I was worried that having grown up in commercial music, I would sound smarmy. But somebody suggested Marty Stuart as producer. He understood this kind of music … and when he said he would produce it, I relaxed. I knew he would serve the music first.We used nothing but Appalachian instruments, except for a cello on Billy Edd Wheeler’s ‘Coming of the Roads,’ and a little bit of piano in one other place. We tried to make it as organic as it could be.” And yet, it’s also true that whatever its anti-commercial intent,“Coal” enjoyed a clear measure of success. Perhaps because of its very boldness – the decision, for example, to close the album with maybe the most depressing coal song of all time, the heartfelt Hazel Dickens dirge, “Black Lung” – “Coal” was nominated for a Grammy as the best folk album of 2008. I still remember the first time I heard it. I was struck initially, as most people are, by how deliberately uncommercial it sounded, with its banjos and high lonesome fiddles and even a few moments of pure a capella. But the more I listened, the more it seemed that this was fundamentally an extension – much more that than a basic departure – of the music Mattea had made all along. Her career in Nashville had come together around the records she made with Allen Reynolds, a producer who always seemed more at home with the folk music side of the Nashville sound. Reynolds had enjoyed great success with artists such as Don Williams, Garth Brooks, and Crystal Gayle, and he and Mattea proved to be a good fit. On her 1986 album “Walk the Way the Wind Blows,” produced by Reynolds, Mattea had her first major hit, a Nanci Griffith song called “Love at the Five and Dime.”To Mattea the song was like finding a literary gem – “a lifetime in three minutes,” as she later put it.“All the big life moments are covered.” Somehow it seemed appropriate that Griffith, when Mattea met her back in those days, always seemed to have her nose in a book, often something by the great southern writer, Eudora Welty. Thus did an affinity for music as story become a trademark of Mattea’s career. Her string of hits included “Eighteen Wheels and a Dozen Roses” about a truckdriving man who was ready to retire and spend time with his wife, and “She Came from Ft. Worth” about a Texas waitress with a heart full of dreams who runs away with one of her customers to a cabin in the Colorado Rockies. And perhaps more powerfully than any of the others, there was the Grammy-winning song,“Where Have You Been?” co-written by her husband, Jon Vezner. It’s about a love than endures through every phase of life, even the final stages of dementia when an old woman lies alone in her hospital bed and a nurse brings her husband to her room in a wheelchair.
Given her love of those kinds of songs – folk songs, really, that tell a human story – it should have come as no surprise that Mattea would be drawn to the songs of Appalachia. For one thing, this was her place, the heart of her cultural DNA, and she knew that “Coal” would not be her last attempt to explore that connection. As she began recording “Calling Me Home,” her latest album, released in the summer of 2012, she felt, if anything, as if she were digging even deeper in the same fertile soil. Perhaps it was because she had gotten to know the legendary Appalachian writers – people like Jean Ritchie and Hazel Dickens – whose songs she was now beginning to sing. She first met Ritchie at the Philadelphia Folk Festival, and on that occasion and others Mattea found herself, as she put it later,“sitting at her feet and asking her questions.” But if Mattea at first was a little awestruck (a state of mind that is not her style) it was clear right away that Jean Ritchie was not. She regarded Mattea not as a country music star, but simply as a fellow singer of songs. Ritchie, a Kentucky native who turned 90 last year, was the youngest of fourteen children born on a Cumberland Mountain farm. In 1946, she graduated from the University of Kentucky and moved soon after to New York City, where she began hanging out with such folk-singing legends as Pete Seeger, Leadbelly, and Woody Guthrie. A skilled musician in her own right, she played the dulcimer and became known over time as “The Mother of Folk,” writing her share of iconic songs. Kathy Mattea has added several of those songs to her standard repertoire, including “Black Waters,” which is, on its face, a protest song against strip-mining. …the hillside explodes with the dynamite’s roar And the voice of the small bird is heard there no more Then the mountain comes tumbling so awful and grand And the poison black waters run down through my land continued on page 35
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Bluefields Dan Baird
Warner E. Hodges
When one thinks of what makes up a great rock & roll band, many things come to mind. A fantastic lead singer, check, a fiery fast lead guitar player, check, a bass man that plays thunder and can hold down the groove, check, and a drummer that shakes the heavens with his right foot, check. All four of those checks add up to one of the best rock & roll bands ever assembled The Bluefields! Joe Blanton, Warner Hodges, Dan Baird, and Brad Pemberton make up the Bluefields and they can rock your socks off! continued on page 28
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My friend Anne Gravel Sullivan A lady who wears many different hats! Now you probably already recognize this name, besides being my friend,Anne is a singer, songwriter, musician, wife, writer for this magazine – Americana Gazette, a hundred other things and one hell of a cook; she make’s the best homemade pizza!!! I have known Anne for a number of years and have a ton of admiration for all this lady has accomplished in her young life and has yet to accomplish in the future. Anne just released her first CD “Pathologies” and I was lucky enough to attend her CD release party in Madison, WI. It was a great show. But now I am getting ahead of myself. Let’s let Anne tell us her story in her own words. Joyce: Anne, tell us a little bit about yourself. Anne: Well I was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan and grew up in the Midwest for the most part. I do consider myself a Midwestern gal. I attended high school in Dekalb, IL. One of my favorite memories from childhood was the year my family spent in Greece on a tiny island; my Dad was an Anthropologist. After High School I attended Beloit College and studied Anthropology. After that I went on for my Masters in Communication Studies and then on for my PHD in Speech Communication. Joyce: When and where did becoming a musician come into your life? Anne: Ever since I was little I have always been into writing and music, though they were two separate endeavors. I was writing my first story when I was 6 or 7 years old, it was a mystery. I lived in a neighborhood where all the dogs had gone missing and I was trying to solve the case! My parents had me taking lessons and had me singing when I was in elementary school. In middle school I attended all the solo ensemble contests, the regular routine. When I was in high school, I got more involved with music in the community theater. I was in Chorus and the marching band and later attended Northern Illinois University and was involved with the whole theater production from music, make-up, lights to costumes. The sense of community was great. Joyce: Anne, what instruments do you play? Anne: I play piano, but what I don’t play anymore and really miss is the flute. Dan (Anne’s husband) bought me a flute for a birthday present once, and I haven’t picked it up in quite awhile. I really need to do that again. I play a little guitar, but not the greatest, so I rely on the others like Doug, Dan and Andy to help me out with this. I attended Ladies Rock Camp last year and played drums. I love to play drums. That was a blast! Joyce:You just released your first CD,“Pathologies”. Please tell me about how this came about. Anne: I have always loved music and always am trying to discover new artists. I have also been writing for a long time. I never felt that I had the talents to accompany myself that well or to be able to record a CD. After Ladies Rock Camp, Beth Kille encouraged me to really try to bring these songs to life. She had just purchased her own home recording studio software and she invited me to take the plunge by offering to produce a CD of my songs. I never felt I could produce a CD myself, and Beth was looking for a doable project with a w w w. a m e r i c a n a g a z e t t e . n e t
Anne Gravel Sullivan
flexible musician, given that she was about to have her first child. Beth needed to work with someone who could be patient and work around schedule issues with the baby and I said, “That would be perfect for me”. Between my crazy work schedule and her being a first-time mom, it took about 18 months to complete the project, but I am very happy with it! Joyce: Anne, Andy and I were at the CD release party and the night was magical. You looked so happy. We love your songs and are so happy we could be a part of your evening and even happier to help you sell your CD’s at Action Guitars. Anne: Thank you Joyce. I’m glad you and Andy were there. You guys are always so supportive of me and the other local musicians. You are an inspiration for me and all the work you do with the Americana Gazette. And thanks for selling “Pathologies” at the guitar store. It will also be available at CD Baby. If you would have told me two years ago that I’d be having a CD come out I would have called you a liar. I would have thought you were joking! But it came out so beautifully and with heartfelt thanks to Doug, Jim and Beth – they brought my dream to life! Joyce: Will there be a CD #2? Anne:Absolutely! Of course. I am already working on it. I have 9 or 10 songs already “half-baked” already for another CD. I get so excited sometimes about doing this that I jump right out of bed and start writing some days. I’m getting to live my musical dream life. I just hope it doesn’t take another 18 months to get it finished. continued from page 33
Rant! by Litt DuBay
Hello Litt Dubay here and its 2013! Dumb ass Mayans and all their dumb ass followers! I could have told you the world was not going to end; The IRS would not let that happen! Also the History Channel still had at least 10 episodes of prophecy shows to show in 2013. When did prophecy become history? Kind of an oxymoron don’t you think!
cially annoys me to have someone yell at me at my home. I don’t mind constructive criticism, but yelling really pisses me off to no end!!! I’m 60 plus years old and I don’t need the aggravation anymore. There should be a rule that once you reach age 30 no one can yell at you anymore. The next thing that has been pissing me off lately is that people don’t do what they say they are going to do. You know you do something for someone and they say they are going to do something for you but it never happens. I call those people no doers. It’s French for I’m a lying arse hole! It’s like being kissed with no chance for second base. It’s like doing all the work and not getting paid. It’s really like going on a blind date hoping that she looks like Penny on The Big Bang Theory and finding out she looks like Olive Oil! I hate those people! Lastly I want to vent on people who go the Post Office to get passports and take up the whole morning because they don’t have all their paperwork in order and you can’t get to the counter because of it. First of all stay here! There is no reason for you to leave the US unless you were not born here. The idea of going back to the “mother country” does not hold water when you were born here. The reason your family left Europe in the first place is because they were horse thieves or some other kind of criminal so going back to the scene of the crime will only cause ill will and create a new world hotspot for violence. Canada our, next door neighbor. Hell they are just like us only more polite and have to speak a dual language. Mexico hell half the country is here already so why go there? Switzerland New Glarus enough said! Ireland just wait for Irish Fest in Milwaukee and you’ll see more than enough drunken Irish folks and blarney being spread, and finally Italy go eat at the Olive Garden! There I solved your travel problems and you don’t need a damn passport so you won’t be blocking the window at the post office anymore! You are truly getting older when you would rather watch a movie with sex in it than actually take the time to have it! See you in two months! Litt Dubay
Ziehli opened a guitar store and has been selling guitars on eBay. He got an obnoxious email from a buyer who wanted all the specific details on a very low priced guitar, neck radius, tuner ratio, string length, etc. “The final question he asked was what the guitar was made out of. Ziehli replied “wood”! Never heard from the feller again. Ran into an old friend the other day I had not seen in 35 years. We got to talking about our lives and he asked how many kids I had. I told him none I used my head. He then asked me if “wasn’t that hard on my ears!” According to a local philosopher friend of mine that there is a fine line between cuddling and holding someone down! Saw a video on you tube of Jimmy Voegeli sledding down his driveway. I was impressed that old Jimmy could film, slide, and scream all at the same time! The man is talented! Ziehli went to buy a new pair of pants the other day and had the most obnoxious clerk in the world. He told the young lady that he wanted a pair of those new “skinny” jeans, and wonder if they came in a 52 waist and 30 inseam. The young lady looked puzzled and asked Ziehli the size again in which he repeated 52 waist and 30 inch inseam. She told Ziehli that they only came in skinny sizes and that for sure the legs would not fit him. Ziehli asked what constituted a skinny size and she answered 26 to 34 would be a skinny size, and that Ziehli was not even close to those measurements. Ziehli thought a minute and said to her I’ll take two pairs one for each leg and you can keep the extra eight inches for another pair! The first big snow hit in December and gave us a white Christmas. Everyone was cheery and happy. Then we got our property tax bills. My question is how come Santa does not pay those for a Christmas present instead of stuffing our stockings with useless junk! Well for my rant I’m going to talk about people yelling at me. I don’t know why people think they have the right to yell at me when I’ve done nothing to deserve it! It espe-
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4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10.
Enjoy life to the fullest Stay Fit and Healthy Learn Something Exciting Quit Smoking Help Others In Their Dreams Fall In Love Spend More Time With Family
Most people will fail at their resolutions. In a study done in the United Kingdom by a Professor Richard Wiseman he tracked over 3,000 people who had made a number of resolutions. These ranged from losing weight to quitting smoking. At the start of the year 52% were very confident that they would achieve their goal. One year later he reported that only 12% were successful. Here in the United States the results were different. One in two Americans made a resolution in 2012 but 48% gave up at some point. 31% of the participants gave up within the first 30 days.These are figures from a report by Rory Vaden a self-discipline expert. If you can make it past 30 days you may make it all the way. Both men agreed on why we don’t make it. Pick one resolution. If you pick more put your focus on the one that is most important to you. And do not be vague about it. Don’t say “I’m going to lose weight.” Consider the things you have to do to achieve that goal. Say “I’m going to lose X number of pounds by a certain date.”You should evaluate the progress of your efforts at least once a week. To achieve your goal you should stay motivated about making progress and not perfection. Men are more likely to succeed when they do small goal settings such as losing a pound a week instead of saying they would lose weight in general. Men seem t o have unrealistic expectations so goal setting helps them achieve more according to the study by Wiseman. He said that women benefit from support supplied by family and friends. So they tell others of their goal. Men and women do differ in what makes them keep their resolution. After reading and digesting all this information I don’t even know if I want to make a resolution again. Caesar sure started something way back when. Will I be one of the 12% that succeed or will I be in the 48% that don’t? Will I be able to make it through the first 30 days? Most importantly do I want to? Resolutions can be made at any time. It doesn’t have to be only on January 1. By the time you read this the month of January will already have been gone. I guess I will make the same resolution that I make every year and I know that I can keep. I RESOLVE IN THE YEAR 2013 TO NOT SMOKE ANY WEED, DRINK ANY SCHNAPES,AND I WILL WATCH NO PORNO FLICKS.This has worked for me in the past and I believe in the old adage “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.
In the beginning of January 2013 I looked back on the past year with some misgivings and looked forward to the New Year with great anticipation.And the question in my mind was once again should I make some resolutions? I have never been too successful in the past at keeping them. I start out o.k. but then revert back to my old self and the resolutions kind of go by the wayside. This year I thought maybe if I knew a bit of history about these resolutions and how the universal action all began that I could improve on my promises to myself.
Written by: Rosemary Ziehli.
I found the best definition of a New Year’s Resolution in an article by a Washington pediatrician by the name of Howard Bennett. Bennett said that “A New Year’s resolution is a decision to do or not do something in order to accomplish a personal goal or break a habit. It comes at a time when people look back at the past year and make an effort to improve themselves as the New Year begins.” How did this all come about and why? That was my next question. Researching the item a bit further I found that the Babylonians were the first group of people to celebrate New Year’s some four thousand years ago. Although they did not have a written calendar historians believe that they celebrated when there was equal amount of sunlight and darkness. This would put the day in late March. When the Romans came in power they changed the calendar to what it is today making January 1 the first day of the New Year.They called the first month January after the Roman God Janus. They believed Janus to be a God with two faces: one facing forward and one facing backward.This allowed him the power to look backward and forward at the same time. Janus was the God of doors, gates, arches, beginnings and endings.At midnight on Dec 31 the Romans imagined or believed that Janus was looking back at the old year and forward to the new. Julius Caesar is credited with making this new calendar and is credited with making resolutions for the upcoming year. At the time resolutions were more of the moral issues such as being kind to others and working together. The most popular New Year’s resolutions today are ten in number 1. Lose Weight 2. Get Organized 3. Spend Less Save More
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Bringing It Back to the Bare Essentials: The Making of Darker Than Light
If you know the name Bobby Bare, it’s as likely as not because you know the song “Detroit City.”With its low-twanging signature lick and forlorn account of a man geographically displaced by economic need, the 1963 hit cemented Bare’s career in country music—which became his primary place of residence, despite his pop beginnings and his broadminded musical sensibilities. Just as the blue-collar character in “Detroit City” longed for his home, so has Bare experienced the discomfort of being constrained by a musical classification that was never a completely comfortable fit. He managed better than most, though, employing his restless artistic bent to carve out a niche as one of country music’s more unconventional successes. His concept album Bobby Bare Sings Lullabyes, Legends and Lies, a collaboration with famed left-field songwriter/poet Shel Silverstein, is often regarded as one of country’s first conceptual works (and is certainly one of its bravest), preceding Willie Nelson’s 1974 landmark album Phases and Stages by a full year. Like Nelson, Bare would become known, if not as widely remembered, as one of the questionably-labeled “Outlaw” movement’s early practitioners. Music historians including the Americana Gazette’s own Frye Gaillard, in his nowclassic book Watermelon Wine, point to Bare as a free thinker who helped reconcile the once-strained relationship between country and folk music in songs such as Bare’s co-written “500 Miles Away From Home” and his hit version of Canuck folkie Ian Tyson’s “Four Strong Winds.” It mattered not a whit to Bare that folk music had previously been viewed by Nashville industry principals as being too politically progressive to make nice with country’s conservative listener base. Bare’s “folk-you” attitude about such artistically arbitrary designations makes him first-line kin with Johnny Cash, who also refused, somewhat more famously,
to be corralled by industry-imposed boundaries. Also like Cash, Bare began to score increasingly lower chart numbers as the 1970s morphed into the 1980s, when the country industry chased the cash cattle unleashed by the runaway success of the movie Urban Cowboy.The execs at Columbia Records, to which both Cash and Bare were signed at the time, stopped putting promotional clout behind acts who were older, more established and—perhaps most significantly—weren’t known for being compliant. In a 2006 conversation with writer Rick Kelly, Bare was direct and dryly humorous about the inevitable changing of the guard.“When they were playing my records, I was glad they were playing them,” he told Kelly.“But that meant they weren’t playing Hank Snow or Roy Acuff or Lefty Frizzell. Eventually they started playing newer artists and stopped playing me.” Bare goes on to say that “there was no real reason to do albums anymore because there was nowhere to go with them.They basically told me,‘Come back when you’re younger.’ Bare eventually parted ways with the standard “star” system, maintaining ageappropriate dignity and a lower profile, and letting 22 years pass between solo albums. Had his son Bobby Bare Jr. not persuaded him to return to the studio to capture his earthy eclecticism on 2005’s critically acclaimed The Moon Was Blue, the 77-year-old singer might still be between projects, happily casting a line from the bass boat he favors these days. But an artist so comparable in spirit and gravitas to the iconic Johnny Cash is worth luring out of retirement, and it was with a concept similar to the one behind Cash’s stripped-down American Recordings series that music historian/author, professor and Plowboy Records co-founder Don Cusic sparked Bare’s interest in once again getting behind a recording studio microphone. w w w. a m e r i c a n a g a z e t t e . n e t
“I saw all the stuff that Johnny Cash did before he died, with [producer] Rick Rubin,” says Cusic, seated behind the piles of pages and projects-in-progress crowding his spacious office in the former CBS Records building on Nashville’s Music Row. Cusic, who was both friend and biographer to country legend Eddy Arnold, says he had initially approached Arnold with the idea of doing a project similar to Cash’s unvarnished Rick Rubin sessions. Arnold, whose smooth, mild-mannered way with a song was distinctly unlike Cash’s, wasn’t convinced. “Eddy, before he died, he wanted to do another album,” says Cusic,“and he was doing love songs and doing full-production [recordings]. I said,‘You know, what you need is just some story songs,’ and he said,‘Well, [love songs] are great stories,’ Cusic recalls, chuckling warmly at the recollection.“’Cause, you know, he was kind of the romantic, leading-man type.” Even while unsuccessfully attempting to cajole Eddy Arnold down a road less traveled, Cusic says it occurred to him that “the perfect guy to do this would be Bobby Bare. So I carried that idea around.This was before Plowboy [Records] was even an idea, when Eddy Arnold was still alive.” Plowboy, the indie imprint to which Cusic refers, was started last year in honor of Eddy Arnold.The author/professor is a partner with Arnold’s grandson, Shannon Pollard, and—get ready for this one—punk-rocker and former Dead Boys founding member Cheetah Chrome, forming an unlikely triumvirate that sounds like the setup for a music-business inside joke. Snicker if you like, but the trio has already won considerable respect and praise for Plowboy’s debut release, Bobby Bare’s Darker Than Light. True to the label’s mission of releasing worthy American music with no regard to genre, the album combines lesser-known alternative-country numbers with new compositions and folk songs of various vintages, ranging from the venerable “Shenandoah” and Woody Guthrie’s “Going Down the Road” to the sturdy latter-day blues standard “House of the Rising Sun.” Bare, along with a handpicked Nashville band that includes Randy Scruggs, Buddy Miller and some of Miller’s cohorts from Robert Plant’s Band of Joy, re-purposed these and other tunes into a pleasingly dark, potently rootsy brew. It’s a concoction well suited to Americana tastebuds, yet deeper and historically richer than most current roots-music, evoking the flavor of the Johnny Cash sessions that served as the album’s initial inspiration. Bare’s version of U2’s “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” for example, is a brilliant stroke that Rick Rubin may be wishing he’d have thought of first—it would have been an ideal fit for the Man in Black in his grey-haired days, and its inclusion here further underscores the kindredspirit bond connecting Bare and Cash. Cusic, confirming the similarity between the two artists, says, “Both of them had integrity about the music they did.They weren’t just after hits; they were after songs that said something. Their tastes were quite similar in songs. And Bare brought that up several times [saying],‘Yeah, Cash would like that.’” Darker Than Light, though, boasts a gritty, often easygoing vitality that distinguishes it from the stark stoicism of Cash’s latter-day works. Don Cusic’s concept, as it turned out, met and exceeded the potential he had envisioned; just as importantly, it all fell together without undue force or hand-wringing, as inspired ideas—and inspired music—sometimes have a way of doing. It took little effort from Cusic to convince partner Pollard that his concept for Bare would make an ideal project with which to launch their new label, as well as one certain to garner plenty of media attention. It took even less effort to persuade Bare after the two met by chance at Nashville’s Loveless Barn, the venue where fast-burgeoning radio show Music City Roots is performed, filmed and streamed live. “I happened to run into Bare backstage at Music City Roots one night,” Cusic says, picking up the story.“It just so happened that Shannon and I had been talking about [the prospect of a Bare album] just shortly before, and I said, ‘What do you think about this idea?’ and man, his eyes lit up. It just kind of snowballed from there.” Cusic and Pollard lobbed song suggestions such as Bob Dylan’s “Farewell Angelina,” Alejandro Escovedo’s “I Was Drunk” and the aforementioned U2 selection—which Bare had somehow never heard.“The U2 song, that was my idea,” explains Cusic, recounting his and Bare’s near-comic exchange. “I played that for him, and I said, ‘What do you think?’ He said, ‘Who is it?’ [Cusic:] ‘It’s U2, this was a worldwide hit.’ [Bare:] ‘How long ago?’ Cusic says Bare, once his curiosity had been quenched, then made the proclamation, “That’s a country song.” If it wasn’t before, it is now: with Bare’s craggy, wizened vocal and a simple, organic treatment miles removed from the digital guitar effects reverberating across U2’s 1987 original, “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” becomes a rustic expression of cowboy-outlaw restlessness worthy of folksong posterity. Conversely, hoary chestnuts such as “Tom Dooley” and “Boll Weevil,” rendered all but toothless through the decades by over-familiarity and anemic whitebread cover versions, are convincingly enlivened by Bare and crew. Not unlike the rope that wrought vengeance upon the real-life murderer memorialized in “Tom Dooley,” Bare’s version of the saga swings loosely and roughly, while his take on “Boll Weevil” is a rhythmic romp that stands as one of the album’s most joyful and gratifying tracks, gliding on a spacious and slippery Levon Helmstyled groove. More often than not, though, the tone of Darker Than Light reflects its sober title. As Cusic notes,“[Bare] likes the dark stuff, he likes the edgy stuff. He didn’t want to cut—none of us wanted to cut—a Music Row album.”They made w w w. a m e r i c a n a g a z e t t e . n e t
that objective clear enough on the closing track,“The Devil and Billy Markham,” a nod to Bare’s late friend and collaborator Shel Silverstein. Not only does the song—an old Silverstein poem set to a minor-key melody by Bare—brandish the Grand Poobah of forbidden words, it also levels a none-too-subtle indictment at the country music industry and its tendency to foster insincerity and cowardice in the artists who cash in by hedging their bets. Because Bare has proven his mettle as an artist who does otherwise, the song’s appearance on the album is emblematic of artistic liberty and Bare’s lifelong commitment to it. “We had to decide whether to put [“The Devil and Billy Markham”] on the album or not, cause it had the F-bomb in there,” relates Cusic.“And we tossed around ideas about not having it on the CD, [or only] putting it on the vinyl, ’cause you can’t get it in Wal-Mart that way.And finally we said,‘This has got to close the album.’ While Cusic was the album’s de facto instigator, he maintained responsibility for aligning himself with Bare’s musical personality. His role, as he saw it, was “to put Bare in a situation where he could be Bobby Bare. . . . [where] he could let his integrity show.”To create a sonic context consistent with that role, the professor-turned-producer consulted with Buddy Miller and Randy Scruggs, who tag-teamed as session leaders.Together, they located musicians who would intuitively know what to do. Then, Cusic gave them room to do it.“Producing is not something you do by yourself,” he says.“It’s a collaborative process.You’ve got all those guys that are so talented. . . .” Cusic’s main caveat was that no keyboards were to be used on the sessions. “I didn’t want it to be so smooth, I wanted some rough edges to it,” he emphasizes.“The songs are pretty straightforward, and the musician lineup sort of dictated the sound.” The sound to which Cusic refers is centered around the album’s unfussy arrangements, tracked live inside Bare’s old haunt, the now-historic RCA Studio B—where he started his country career a little more than five decades ago. [“The sessions] really seemed to bring full- circle that era where you cut songs live.We didn’t just put down a drum track and then a bass track and then phone in something from Vancouver,” cracks Cusic, who noted that the overdub sessions consisted of little more than adding backing vocals.“We cut it all live, and the musicians could feed off each other. Obviously, we used Pro Tools and all that, but we basically did it the old-fashioned way.” In 1962, you’d have found extraordinarily talented musicians gathered in the same room and cutting tracks live, but you wouldn’t have found them doing it without taking careful and necessary aim at making polished, radio-ready records. Not while on the clock, anyhow. But those clock hands have done some turning since Bare last exited Studio B in 1977. In a Rip Van Winkle-like twist, the indie-music aesthetic for which Bare once waged battle has come into its own while he wasn’t looking, with a committed cadre of non-conforming singers, songwriters and musicians now espousing his fringe-dweller way of thinking. If today’s Americana movement has given Bobby Bare the gift of a ready outlet—and a willing audience—for his particular brand of rough-hewn rootsifying, Bare, as one of Americana’s most legitimate progenitors, has given the movement something of arguably greater worth: a first-hand stamp of validation for a musical genre that, while on an upswing, is still in need of galvanizing, larger-than-life figures.Weighing in on Bare’s effortless alignment with the core values of the movement, Cusic says a mouthful: “Of course, when Americana talks about what it is, it talks about blues, it talks about country, it talks about rootsy music, and man, we’ve got rootsy music on [the album].We’ve got songs that go way back. It’s really kind of a history lesson,” he proposes. “For young ears, all that stuff’s brand-new. When you can make history brand-new, you’ve got something, because those sounds and those songs are timeless. “The problem with Americana,” he offers,“is that it’s everything that isn’t something else.” Cusic offers the notion that Darker Than Light is a kind of one-stop solution for a genre that, in his opinion, has experienced “an identity crisis [and] an acceptance crisis.” Says Cusic,“It’s like they say about Hank Williams— if you want to know what country music is, listen to a Hank Williams album. If you want to know what Americana is, listen to this Bobby Bare album.” For his part, Bare seems enthused by his affiliation with the Americana camp. During his release-week appearance on Music City Roots, he offered high praise for Buddy Miller and the other musicians on the album and declared to the crowd, “This is a brand-new movement, folks—this is what’s happening in music.” His contribution, as he aptly described it, involved “[taking] folk songs and treating them like honest-to-God songs”—probably as good an assessment of Americana’s objectives as any. One suspects that Bare was unprepared for this rejuvenating development in his career, unfolding just as his breakthrough hit, “Detroit City,” nears its 50th anniversary.All these years later, the classic song’s lonely protagonist, of course, has no choice but to remain forever marooned. Bobby Bare, however, seems to have found his way home. Story by Steve Morley Photo of album by Jack Spencer Photo of Bobby Bare outside Studio B by Peter Mroz.
Dale Freidig: Music Archivist & Artist
When someone extends an invitation to see what is arguably the most complete collection of Beatles memorabilia in the state, one doesn’t refuse. At least not me. As I walked down the stairs, I saw the furnished basement was lined with shelves full of books, stacks of records, life-size posters and tiny figurines. The hot pink satin of John Lennon’s bedazzling Sgt. Pepper’s jacket instantly caught my eye. Carefully arranged all around the room, on tables and walls as well as shelves, lay an amazing panorama of Beatles merchandise, recordings, and artifacts. From 45s and concert playbills touting their first USA tour, to collectors’ cards and Yellow Submarine action figures, the sheer volume and variety of items paying tribute to the Fabulous Four was nothing short of daunting. But the main feature: in opposite corners sit two Hofner bass guitars—Paul McCartney’s favorite model—one a ’65, the other a ’67. They bookend this remarkable collection. To Dale Freidig, the Beatles epitomize the dream of most musicians: they shared the rare fortune of having raw talent, devoted audiences that crossed borders, and an insatiable thirst to continually develop as they created music. The fact that their talent—and timing—generated a tidal wave of change in pop culture (think the Beatles haircut) and politics (yes, holding a bed-in is political) tends to overshadow the role of each individual’s personal drive. Indeed, with his quiet respect and ability to articulate musical insights, Freidig himself exhibits these attributes—with a strong dose of modesty thrown in. A close observer of the performing musician, Freidig has accomplished as much as he has aspired. A native of rural Belleville, Freidig has followed Paul McCartney more closely than the other Beatles, appreciating the long trajectory of McCartney’s evolution as an artist for the commitment to music and personal growth it shows. Freidig’s musical resume goes back some forty years; as bass guitar player for South-Central Wisconsin’s enduring rock band Summer Haze, he experienced the heady excitement that a large fan base can provide a musician. As the occasional drummer for several local bands, he’s learned much and grown from
stretching himself by adapting to the widely different styles of band and his band mates’ levels of skill. In his current role as bassist for Electric Blue, a blues band with a rock edge, he’s authoring more original work and enjoying the pleasures of fine-tuning the band’s live performance. Dale’s musical career began when one of the Freidig family’s neighbors, Doris Steiff, a local accordionist who frequently performed in New Glarus, taught him how to play the challenging instrument. Dale credits Doris with sparking his passion for music; the accordion, at age eleven, was just the first among many instruments he would come to play. Dale met Doris’ brother Ronnie, who used to play guitar during intermissions at the concerts at which Dale and Doris’ other accordion pupils would perform. Having grown up on the uptempo Buck Owens and Johnny Cash, who made a strong impression on him in 1966 when he saw them perform in Madison, Freidig become enamored of the deep tones, resonance and long neck of the bass guitar. Thanks to Putt Short, a neighbor and a guitar player, Dale was quickly introduced to the bass guitar. He bought a $40 Montgomery Ward electric six-string, which upon returning home, he realized he couldn’t hear very well when he played it. Dale’s grandpa Bill generously gave his mom the money to buy him an amplifier to go with it. This early passion compelled him, along with his schoolmates Doug and Duane Sies, to experiment with the different instruments’ range and sounds. After launching The Red Barons in high school at the tender age of 15, the boys gained enough skill and popularity to earn a place in Madison’s Battle of the Bands in 1968. Freidig recalls how nervous he was when the boys took the stage that evening at the Coliseum; host Rick Pott noted that they were the youngest of the band competing. “It was just such a thrill to be out there in front of an audience that size,” Dale recalls; the experience sealed his dream of touring with a top-notch band as a goal to this day.The Red Barons eventually became Summer Haze in 1971—he came up with the idea for the name when he came across it in a library book—and enjoyed a two decade long rew w w. a m e r i c a n a g a z e t t e . n e t
spectable career as southern Wisconsin’s most popular festival band. Today, Freidig and Doug and Duane Sies, Franz Jaggi, Scott Allen, and John Remy continue the regional rock ‘n roll legacy of Summer Haze at their popular occasional reunions. Freidig enjoys the collaboration that music and playing with a band affords him.“There’s nothing like the live energy and feedback from the crowd—and the camaraderie of being with a band,” he maintains. “I’ve learned a lot just by watching different performers.” The precision it takes as a bassist to lay a song’s rhythmic foundation for the band while still speculating on a few key gutsy wails is no small feat. Add to that the need to be a close listener to your partners in music-- the interdependence between a bass player and drummer is especially critical—and you have the makings of either a ticking bomb or a tight groove. Freidig says he’s enjoyed the privilege of working some exceptional drummers, including Electric Blue’s Bob Winkelman. In addition to Paul McCartney, Tommy Shannon--the bassist for Stevie Ray Vaughan--is one of his favorite bassists; locally, he admires John Wartenweiler from The Jimmys, and the late Jerry Francois. When I ask him about his favorite experience as a performer, he tells me about the time that Mauro Magellan from the Georgia Satellites filled in for Summer Haze’s missing drummer. Dale had just seen the Satellites at the Coliseum with REO Speedwagon, and when their drummer couldn’t make the Brooklyn Beer Tent that weekend, Dale dared to wonder whether the remaining members of Summer Haze just might ask Magellan to play with them. They asked and he accepted.“Just to share the stage with someone that good was incredible,” Freidig marvels. Drummers who can keep tight alignment with a band’s bassist aren’t common; it’s clear Dale appreciates the opportunity to play with the best of percussionists. And Electric Blue has that right now. For the last three years, Dale has collaborated with band mates Tony DiPofi (lead singer) Tim Haak (lead guitar), w w w. a m e r i c a n a g a z e t t e . n e t
Scott Hare (lead guitar) and Bob Winkelman on drums. They plan to release a CD in 2013 of original work, something that Freidig has done in the past with Summer Haze, but continues to hold out as a personal goal. Good songs begin with a lick, well out of a jam session and become concrete when they ready it for performance, Dale reports, like polishing a gem out of a gleam of quartz you spot in the earth. Today, Dale says he wouldn’t be seen onstage with an accordion. But there’s not much else that this hardy musician won’t try. Like McCartney, his courage to experiment and desire to explore his potential is palpable. I look forward to hearing the CD when it’s released; if his partners in Electric Blue hold half the confidence and trust in the process that Dale does, it should be terrific. Freidig is an observant and patient man, willing to invest his time and attention to all aspects of life as they pertain to music. Whether it’s waiting for the chance to catch that rare piece of Beatles’ paraphernalia that show the impact they had on peoples’ lives—or nurturing the skill to master a new instrument sufficiently to partner with others to bring music to new heights—it’s a rare dedication and a discerning ear that make a success of it. There’s not much of life that can’t find voice in music—that’s pretty much the lens through which Freidig sees the world. “Football games don’t last—they’re over and done with real quick,” Dale is credited with saying. “Music-that lasts forever.” Now, looking at his Beatles collection, I find myself marveling at the impact that they had and know he’s right. Despite all the things developed to commemorate the Beatles, it’s their music that left their mark on people, on history. Still, there’s one thing that eludes Freidig that he’d like to add to his collection. “A pair of their boots,” he says, grinning. “The standard-issue black.” If anyone out there can find a pair, be sure to pick them up to send to Dale. He more than most knows just how difficult those boots are to fill. Photos and story by: Anne Gravel Sullivan
What’s in a Name? Robert! Bobby! Bob! Bobber! Teacher Teach Teacher Bob! Library Bob! Roberto! Mr. Hoffman Can you list that many names to which you answer? I suppose Robert is one of those names that does create a variety of versions. But throughout my life I have answered to all of those, and there a few others that I would blush as I wrote them down for all to see. At home it was always Bobby. To this day my cousins and aunts and uncles use Bobby in reference to me or in speaking to me. A couple of friends jokingly call me that because they first heard me referred to as Bobby by an elderly woman. They thought it amusing, and they started calling me that, too. In school it was Robert. In our seventh and eighth grade classroom a girl Barbara was often in trouble for talking to her fellow classmates; the teacher would yell out, “Barbara! Stop talking to your neighbors!” I would jump in my seat for to me “Barbara sounded like Robert”. To this day I have attempted to say the two names and they don’t sound a bit alike to me, but that teacher’s shouts certainly made me think he was scolding Robert when he was really scolding Barbara. In high school Bob became the norm except most teachers still used Robert. In college it was Bob or a variation of my last name which secretly upset me. I tried not to show that, but I suspect that I did as they used that variation constantly. Those were the same classmates that tried to play jokes on me while I was student teaching in Monroe. I had a second grade art class, and I was explaining the lesson which was to draw to the music that I would play. One girl in the front room seemed to be focusing on something behind me rather than on my explanations. I stared at her and realized she was mouthing words she was reading behind me. “Mrs. Hoffman”. I turned around and there on the wall behind me was the famous Marilyn Monroe calendar picture with the words “Mrs. Hoffman” scribbled above it. I backed up and reached behind my back as I continued my explanations of the lesson. I grabbed the edge of the poster and pulled it down and let it slide to the floor. At that very moment my supervising teacher walked in for a classroom observation. She never saw the poster as my feet slide it under a desk. But my classmates were not done with their jokes for that day. There was no electrical outlet in that classroom, so I had run an extension cord under the door to a hallway outlet. My fun-loving classmates pulled out the cord, and the music crawled to a slow stop making some very weird sound for my students to draw to. I think this happened about three times before I spotted a classmate and told them I was being observed. The teacher doing the review made no mention to the music interruptions. I have no idea what went through her mind, but I was most grateful she had not seen the Marilyn picture. Apparently not one student mentioned the picture to their parents as there was no mention of that at any time after the event. Mr. Hoffman became the norm for my forty-five years of teaching. Occasionally, it would be Teach or Teacher that some student used, and to my ears if it was used, it sounded like a kind way of calling out to me. Library Bob and Bobber came during my reign as a library assistant at the Belleville Public Library. I first heard Library Bob as I was pumping gas on Belleville’s main street, and a little voice called out,“Look there is Library Bob.” Smaller children related you to a location. If they see you working in a place, then to them you are always there. So seeing you elsewhere is a big surprise. If I shopped in Brooklyn or Oregon while teaching there, students spotting you there were in shock seeing you doing such an ordinary common thing. That same girl that called out at the gas station saw me in church the next weekend, and she was equally shocked to see “Library Bob” out of the stacks of books and sitting in church. Roberto came from the Spanish teachers that taught with me in Oregon. The connection is obvious. To this day I am Roberto to them. Even one of my meal delivery patrons calls me that. Somehow that name has really grown on me.
In preparing to write this issue’s contribution I went to my computer for some research on names. And this is what I learned about names from the one source I used: Meaning of names and origin of the name and meaning: Robert from the English meaning bright fame (is there any doubt?) James from Hebrew meaning supplanter Andrew from Greek meaning manly (is that true, Joyce?) Joyce from Latin meaning merry (so appropriate) Marie from French meaning sea of bitterness (so not true about my mother) Walter from Teutonic sources meaning rule the people Rose from Latin meaning, of course, the rose blossom Richard from English meaning powerful Kay from Green meaning pure Kenneth from Irish meaning handsome Carol from Old French meaning melody Lois from German meaning famous warrior John from Hebrew meaning God is gracious And as for last names? Hoffman means farm laborer or gardener; someone who worked at the hof which is the manor farm. Smith is, of course, a metal worker, and Elmer has three possible sources: from the Elm region of Switzerland or anyone who lives near an elm tree, and the third meaning listed said Elmer means noble and famous. That is a good point to end this article. What’s in your name? Story by: Robert Hoffman or Robert Hoffman or Bobby Hoffman or Mr. Hoffman or ?????????????????????
Ghosts in the Room Americana & Roots Rock & Roll Ghosts in the Room is a six piece Americana/Roots Rock Band out of the Madison WI area. The six members are multi-instrumentalists playing top-notch covers and originals. Their three hour shows are filled with top notch material and musicianship. Ghosts in the Room is: John Fahey
Bass & Vocals
Acoustic Guitar, Vocals, Keyboards, Harmonica
Lead Guitar, Mandolin, Keyboards, Vocals
Rhythm Guitar, Accordion, Keyboards, Vocals
Lead Guitar, Organ
Ghosts in the Room is currently booking jobs for 2013. If you are interested in having Ghosts in the Room play your event or at your club you can call 608-558-8131 for info.
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RICKRECALLS Pay Dirt This is number 5 in my pay-dirt series. I hope you are all enjoying my listening suggestions, and maybe even finding a little sweet inspiration. And please don’t hesitate to dig a little deeper when you find something that you really like. It’s like finding buried treasure, and it’s tax free! Let’s go! SISTER ROSSETTA THARPE (DIDN’T IT RAIN) She was the first superstar of gospel music.Touring the UK, Sister Rosetta made a lasting impression on a generation of young British musicians eager to put their own spin on American R&B. This 1964 film footage was shot live, in the rain, at an unused railway station in Manchester England. It’s a miracle she didn’t electrocute her-self playing electric guitar, wearing a clip-on mic, and walking through puddles. A great singer, master performer, and check out that guitar break! J.D. LOUDERMILK (TOBACCO ROAD) 1960 Loudermilk wrote many fine songs in his career. This is my favorite. I first heard it in the 60’s by a British invasion group called the NASHVILLE TEENS. It wasn’t until a few years later that I got to hear the real deal version. Love them both.
ALEXANDER HARVEY (DELTA DAWN) Alexander Harvey and Larry Collins wrote this familiar song. It’s been recorded by a long list of performers and through the years I’ve pretty much considered it a light weight tune until I heard Harvey perform it live in a small local club. It was a stand out in a great show. I got an opportunity to talk to Harvey at length. He’s quite a guy, and a fine songwriter and musician to boot.
SON HOUSE (GRINNIN’ IN YOUR FACE) Son House was a powerful performer and is one of my favorite country blues artists.” Just bear this in mind, a true friend is hard to find.” AMEN! Also check out his tune American Defense. A bluesy, WWII , patriotic folk tune set in waltz time. Very interesting for sure.
THE PRETTY THINGS (DON”T BRING ME DOWN) A cool tune featuring Dick Taylor (original Rolling Stones lead guitar player). Pretty they weren’t, rough and raw they were. I love the early British blues sound and the drums at the end are just too much. I read about this recording session being done in a flooded basement. Apparently the Brits had a real standing water and electricity issue in the 60’s.
J.B. LENOIR WITH FREDDIE BELOW (THE WHALE HAS SWALLOWED ME) A unique song, and a performance of great subtly. As always, Lenoir’s voice has a razor’s edge and his guitar playing and hand percussion is incredibly effective. And as if that wasn’t enough, that’s FREDDIE BELOW on the kit. He played drums on most of Chuck Berry’s recordings. I got to sit literally 2 feet from his left hand one night in a tiny club in Milwaukee. I was a drummer in those days and his single stick rolls blew me away. FRED MCDOWELL (SHAKE EM ON DOWN) I remember buying the first LP on ARHOOLIE! I played it, played it, and played it. If you like this sort of thing please check out everything this guy has ever done.That rhythm will not let go.
LITTLE WILLIE JOHN (I’M SHAKIN’) Quirky lyrics, oddly timed stops, and an unrelenting groove drive this classic tune. It’s one of my all-time favorites.That’s right…..it’s going to the island with me when I go…….”YA,THAT’S RIGHT…………AND I’M NOI-VUS.” By: Rick Harris
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Mining the Darker Seams of Country and Blues
If you’re not familiar with the sometimes soft, always poetic, fiercely soulful and “quietly brilliant” music of Jeffrey Foucault, I hope that after reading this interview you will be. We are a generation that is preceded by a wealth of musicians. We wake up to music, work with it, play with it, and go to bed with it. We bathe in guitars (well, not really…that would be uncomfortable). As time goes by, the number of musicians roaming this blue marble are bound to be exponentially greater. The proliferation will be as noticeable to us as it was to the generation that preceded us. All the more reason to have publications such as the one you’re holding in your hands to help sift through the clutter and get to the core of which true, good-spirited and talented musicians deserve your ear time (can I copyright that expression?). The cream rises to the top and that expression (not mine) certainly rings true for Wisconsin native, Jeffrey Foucault. Chance favors the prepared, and I was prepared with a selection of vintage guitar amplifiers when I received a call at my guitar shop from Jeffrey a few weeks ago. Jeffrey now lives in Massachusetts, but happened to be on a tour that took him throughout the Midwest. I like to think he made the thousandmile journey to visit my shop, but that’s the narcissistic side of my brain talking. Jeffrey did however, pay a visit to Lake Mills looking to possibly find a vintage tube amp that would speak (or sing) to him. Jeffrey showed up at my shop on a slow day that was ideal for scattering various tube amplifiers all about. It was a great way to get acquainted and to see which tones resonated with this cordial and genuine musician. Here’s what I distilled from our serendipitous meeting:
house. My Dad started out on the trumpet as a youngster and then later learned to play guitar in college, in an even trade for academic probation. He had an old plywood guitar – Japanese knock-off of a Hummingbird, once partly run over by the car – that he left in a corner of the living room and would pick around on now and then, over beers with a buddy from work or in the evening after supper. Folk songs, Don Williams, that sort of thing. He played the piano now and then too, and it seemed to be when he was most himself, most comfortable in his own skin, playing music. Or when he was fishing. In the car, in the garage, it was always Don Williams and Gordon Lightfoot. Dad sort of sings like Lightfoot, with that kind of fulsome bravado. My mother’s a lovely singer, come of age during the folk and singer-songwriter booms of 60’s and 70’s. In one of my earliest memories she’s singing along with the turntable spinning a Judy Collins or Linda Ronstadt record, wearing a red kerchief over her hair, moving around the bedroom in the sun. Between them they’d acquired a polyglot vinyl collection that started my musical education, starting around 11 with early rock n’ roll - Elvis, Little Richard - and on up through the 60’s, from Meet the Beatles up through Highway 61. Every few months I’d go rummage around in the basement crates and find a few more. One thing led to another, and I had the equivalent of a baby boomer childhood there on the turntable, condensed into about 5 or 6 years. In terms of the environment itself, the grounding physicality of the place, the Midwestern landscape settled my sense of language. My home county is where all my songs are from, even when I write them in London and record them in L.A.
DM: Do you prefer Jeffrey or Jeff? JF: Jeffrey, thanks. DM: Where did you grow up, and what were some of the environmental conditions that helped to shape who you’ve become and your draw to music as a career? JF: I grew up in Whitewater, Wisconsin, and there was plenty of music in the
DM: Were your social circles always centered around acoustic music or were you persuaded to learn and perform music that was more of an electric style?
JF: I didn’t have much of a social circle, at least musically, through most of the formative years. It was just me and John Prine, private religion kind of stuff. I’d pick with my Dad, but no one I knew played acoustic guitar, and if they did it w w w. a m e r i c a n a g a z e t t e . n e t
was the Violent Femmes, or Beatles covers, rhythm and barre chords.That stuff didn’t interest me much. I listened to a lot of punk and new wave music in but its relationship to the music that I played at home was opaque.
do… and we should be glad that they do’. I always liked that, and I try not to pay much attention to press quotes.There’s no upside. DM: Why the move to Massachusetts?
It wasn’t until I was older that I could go back and learn the fundamentals of rock n’ roll – the country and country blues players like Muddy and Wolf and Hank Williams, Big Bill Broonzy, Jimmy Rodgers, John Lee Hooker, John Hurt, Lightnin’, etc – on an acoustic guitar, and that naturally led me to electric guitar. I’d already made records with guys like Bo Ramsey (Lucinda Williams, Greg Brown) and Eric Heywood (Son Volt, Ray Lamontagne, the Pretenders) before I got my rig together and started playing electric in earnest. Now it’s half of what I do at home. It’s always seemed to me a strange distinction people make between electric and acoustic music. It’s all pretty much the same thing; it all bleeds together. Doc Watson’s first paying gigs were on the electric guitar. Blind Willie Johnson rocks as hard as Crazy Horse. DM: We’ve discussed geographic elements that influenced you, would you care to tell us who some of the musicians were who inspired you? JF: I was inspired by a lot of stuff. The first blues I heard that really killed me was Willie Mae ‘Big Mama’Thornton, when I was about 10. I went down to the drugstore looking for her and bought Little Richard’s Greatest Hits on cassette when I couldn’t find her. Spent my own money. Later when I started to play it was writers - John Prine, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Hank Williams, Richard Buckner, Greg Brown, Lucinda Williams, Townes… really anyone who tried to lay it down as close to the bone as they could, the life and death stuff, no fooling around. I loved to hear my folks sing together on the old Gary Davis song ‘Samson and Delilah’, loved the harmonies of the Beach Boys, loved to hear Little Richard blow out a ribbon mic. For me, there’s always been some tension between the impulse toward the expression of joy (Louis Armstrong, for example) and the expression of pathos (someone like Skip James perhaps). My first love was the ecstatic joy and danger of early rock, and though the joy and pathos are interdependent, most of the songs on my first records relate more directly to the pathos, the desperation at the heart of the blues. So I’m always trying to get back to that kid, find a way to temper the pathos with joy.The recent work I’ve done with my band Cold Satellite has been at least partly an opportunity to find a road back to playing rock n’ roll.
JF: I moved out East to get married. My wife was part of the Boston/Cambridge scene and didn’t want to get too far away, while I didn’t want to live in a city. So we compromised and she moved a hundred miles west and I moved thousand miles east. We live in Western Massachusetts, in the eastern foothills of the Berkshires, and you can’t get to my house without crossing at least a few rivers worth fishing, so it’s not all bad. I miss the Midwest but I try to just live where I live. DM: If you could perform on stage with any one musician (living or dead), who would it be and why? JF: That’s a real tough question. I’d probably be just as happy to get to stand close up and hear Ray Charles sing, or any of my heroes, as to sing and play with them. Honestly I’d probably rather have a drink and just talk to them. DM:When did you meet Peter Mulvey, and what was it that drew the two of you together musically? JF: I met Peter Mulvey at the Café Carpe in Fort Atkinson,Wisconsin, around ’99. I opened a show for him and we stayed up all night playing guitars in the back room, talking about songs and writers and such. He asked if I’d recorded any of the songs I’d played him and when I said no, he told me I’d better, and that he’d help me any way that he could. We’ve been friends since that night, traveled all around the country and overseas together. He played on my first record (Miles from the Lightning, independent 2001), and when it was done passed a copy on to his management.They took me on, and real quick I was out on the road opening for anyone and everyone, seeing the country. Mulvey’s a genuinely great musician and human. He works hard, and he’s always trying to become a better player. I still respect and admire him, and I think he’s one of the best live performers out there. DM: Where do you see yourself in ten years?
DM: Please give us an idea of what the typical Jeffrey Foucault audience looks like.
JF: I have a real good life and I’d like to keep living it, maybe travel a little less and make a little more money. I have a couple of literary irons in the fire and I’m hoping to publish something down the road. I’ll keep on making songs and records, fly fish when I can, try to get outside as much as I can, literally and figuratively. I have most of what I need to live, but there’s a lot to learn.
JF: The make-up of the audience pretty much depends on the town and the venue. In Chicago and Portland folks are younger. In Hastings, Nebraska they’re farmers and teachers. In New York they dress up. In Amsterdam they’re Dutch. I’m not sure there is a typical audience. Maybe I should find one? Sometimes I worry that my mainstay is 55 year-old white men, but then I make a lot of records and I figure I ought to lose and replace about a quarter of my fans with each one if I’m doing things right. The folks I bring along will find it worthwhile, and the ones I lose weren’t hearing what I was hearing. No hard feelings.
DM: (Now, I believe every good writer should develop some kind of signature style that puts him or her, apart from other writers. Thinking that should go for sometimes lame and lazy writers such as myself, I came up with the yet-to-be infamous ‘last question.’ The intent is to make the musician being think a bit and maybe lead us to where the bodies are buried…and I hope no one ever takes that in the literal sense!)
DM: Do you notice a difference in audiences on the east coast versus the Midwest? JF:Traveling all over the States it seems like the divide is less regional than it is between urban and rural. That said it’s true that by and large Westerners are more laid back and wide open, Midwesterners are friendly as hell but they don’t get personal, Easterners are slightly more taciturn. I love to play in the Midwest because I understand people. I still make the bed before I check out of a hotel room. DM:When I listen to your music, I sense that you must take great pride in your lyrics – when writing, what usually comes first, the melody or the message?
You crash-land on an island…the only survivors are you and a punk band. Surprisingly, all of your gear made it – theirs didn’t! Six months later are you: a. Playing punk music on acoustic instruments? b. Leading a whole new band of country/folk musicians? (they’ve converted) c. Living on separate ends of the island? d. Some other scenario? JF: My band’s gear is the same as a punk band’s: just standard rock quartet format plus an acoustic guitar and a pedal steel. I’m sure we’d all get along fine. Punk bands love beer and Johnny Cash just like I do, and it’s all music. DM:Thank you, Jeffrey. JF:Thanks David – I appreciate your taking the time.
JF: My wife, the songwriter Kris Delmhorst, often jokes that we divide up pretty squarely as hunter and gatherer. She wanders along collecting this and that, and I know what I’m after. I often find some phrase (‘Horse Latitudes’, for example) that seems to encompass what I’ve been thinking and writing about, something that’s open enough, mysterious enough, to pose endless questions, and it becomes the organizing principle for a cycle of tunes. In terms of process, generally a line or a lyric fragment gets paired up early with a figure on the guitar and then the two get worked out together in terms of language, meter, form, etc. Sometimes they go fast and sometimes they take a few years.
In Closing: Perhaps as I meet singer/songwriting guitarists in the future, the first question I’ll ask is; which tube amp is your favorite? For the record, Jeffrey did not purchase an amp from me that day, though he seemed particularly taken by the 1964 Gibson Skylark. I chose not to take out the lack of a sale on Jeffrey after being swept up in “Ghost Repeater,” one of the nine CD’s Jeffrey has released to date! (That was the honest, benevolent and sincere part of my brain working) Keep up with Jeffrey Foucault online at: http://www.jeffreyfoucault.com An interview by David Mathias Photos courtesy of Studio H Guitars
DM:You’ve been described as;“Part John Prine, part Dylan, part lonely cowboy swilling whiskey out on a moonlit prairie…” Does that pretty well sum you up or is there another element (or descriptor) that comes to mind? JF: That’s colorful, and while I enjoy being described as an alcoholic cowboy, I’m not sure what that quote means. I remember playing a show once with Greg Brown back home at the Carpe (Café Carpe, Fort Atkinson,WI), and at one point while talking about music critics, he said, ‘These people have a job to w w w. a m e r i c a n a g a z e t t e . n e t
THE SHITTY BARN
Not long ago someone asked me if I had ever played the shitty barn. I answered that I had played many shitty barns in my years in music. No they said. The Shitty Barn is a music venue in Spring Green,Wisconsin.When I stopped laughing I realized I had to find out more about a place bold enough to call itself The Shitty Barn. I was sure there was a story to be had. I did a little research and arranged to meet Chris Staples the barn’s owner/operator. At first glance it really didn’t strike me as a barn at all. It looked more like some kind of machine shed.Although it was painted red and it was definitely shitty. But as I was given the grand tour I began to see the beauty of the thing. Lots of posts and beams, white paint, overhead door, a make shift little bar, cement floor, and some really nice posters from past shows on the walls. It really did have its own warm charm.Amazingly so considering it was a cold, grey, and damp December morning. After the tour we sat at his dining room table (heat on) for this interview.
allow us to fund other choices we make. RH: How do you get people here? CS: It’s already in the Madisonian consciousness that you can leave work, come to Spring Green, see something, and be home at a reasonable hour. The APT, House On The Rock, the river, and Taliesin have been drawing people for years. Approximately 40% of our audience is local and approximately 60% is from Madison and its environs. We discovered that there is a lot of competition for people’s attention on weekends but not much on a Wednesday night. Even though it’s a work or school night we start early, end early, and people get home early. We don’t advertise other than social media, newsletter, and posters. RH: What’s in the Shitty Barns future?
RH:The Shitty Barn is certainly an interesting name for a music venue.Tell me about it. CS:Well, it was a natural name in the beginning. It’s also a memorable name. So when thinking about naming something, the natural and the memorable seem about right. People have warmed up to it now so it’s just stuck. I’m always interested in the artist’s initial reaction to the place. They are either, completely comfortable and relaxed, or they have a look of total panic on their faces. RH: I’ve been told you’ve had some great shows here. From where do you draw the talent? CS: In the beginning we just begged. We are a small venue with a capacity of just 100, in an industrial park, in a small town, in Wisconsin. But as our reputation spread, in particular, that the venue sounded good, we treated artists well, and we could draw an audience, our talent pool increased dramatically.We now receive any number of submissions a week. We have between four and five hundred artists that have expressed an interest in playing here. Last year we had about 45 slots and this year a few less so we’re in a nice position to draw talent to the barn. We have enough credibility at this point to reach out to some bigger names, agents or artists that are a little better known. RH: What about genre. Do you lean in a certain direction? CS: I’m a fan of music. My ears are open and I can find things to like in almost any genre.This last year we had turn table guys, hip-hop, and a couple of pretty heavy bands. But our main focus is Americana. The environment is just better suited to listening rather than partying. People come, settle in, feel comfortable, and are ready to listen.There’s also a lot of phenomenal artists locally and touring nationally. And there are a lot of artists that really appreciate the venue. I would say that Americana is about 60% of our schedule.
CS:That’s a good question.This is a labor of love, and as such it’s dependant on a couple of things.Times are tight and it’s not a thing that pays for its self.That’s ok as long as we can afford it. I’ve been around here long enough to understand the rhythm of the area.Things get real quiet around here at least three months of the year. Our plan for the coming year is to keep focused on doing Wednesdays, and doing less on the weekends. Whatever we do on the weekends will be event focused. As an example we did a fund raiser for the CSA Fare Share Coalition. So the Shitty Barn will continue for at least this next year. Then my wife and I will make a decision as to its sustainability.There are other ways the Barn could change or evolve. Right now it’s one stupid guy’s idea and about 20 other really capable people who back that person up that make this happen. That brings this place to life. My wife and I pay the mortgage and I turn on the lights. Beyond that it’s really just a labor of love because this really doesn’t make a lot of sense. These people have lives and other things to do. Without their particular talents this thing just wouldn’t work. RH: Now I know that you are one of the founding fathers of Furthermore beer. CS:Yes, that’s true. RH: But I notice that you are drinking a Hamm’s beer. How do you explain this? CS:After 6 yrs of doing Furthermore, and drinking some of the best beer in the world, it has come to me that sometimes it’s a marathon and not a sprint. On a game day, when the Packers are playing the Bears, and it’s 11 o’clock in the morning, I’m probably going to have a beer that’s going to allow me to have several other beers during the course of the day. RH: Live to drink another day? CS:That’s it.
RH: Are there many slots for local artists?
CS: We try and split the schedule into thirds. One third for local artists, these tend to be Madison area musicians who have not been over exposed in the Spring Green area, another third, touring artists that we think are spectacular but are not well known, and the final third for artists with name recognition for the right audience. It’s wonderful when a Bo Ramsey, Amy Helm, or a Pieta Brown can come to the Barn. These are marquee spots on the schedule, and
Check out www.shittybarnsessions.com
Story by: Rick Harris Photo supplied. w w w. a m e r i c a n a g a z e t t e . n e t
Bob’s Guitar Corner #8
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VERLON THOMPSON A SONGWRITING LEGEND
Let's set one thing straight from the get go, Verlon Thompson's talents don't take a backseat to anybody. It's one thing when you attend a Guy Clark concert and the songwriting legend you are witnessing, from laughter to tears, to shaking your head in disbelief. I mean if Dublin Blues, Desperadoes Waiting for a Train or The Randall Knife don't get to you, your soul may truly be made of stone. But then, there's Guy's secret weapon of more than 20 years. After laying down beautiful tasteful guitar lines and sweet harmonies to Guy's classic songs, Guy always takes a breather during the show to let Verlon show his stuff. So instead of just one musical genius, you're seeing two greats work their craft. As one writer has stated, Verlon's pens stories with a ‘novelist eye'. It’s all delivered with not only a voice that’s believable and has seemingly lived every line he has written, but he keeps you riveted for each line. With all these qualities, they may all be trumped for how cool, classy and friendly Verlon is. He was gracious to spend almost 2 and a half hours talking with me and here's some of what we talked about. Travis: Hey Verlon, I’d like to start by asking you what it was like for you when you first arrived in Nashville from growing up in Oklahoma. Did you have connections to help you along at first or was it a time of searching and sort of fumbling around in the dark? Verlon: I knew 2 people. One was a guy who used to own a studio out in Denver where I lived before I came here. I had a band there and the drummer had
gone to Nashville and was touring through Denver. And he goes, "Man, do you know that they pay people to sit around in a room and make songs up? And get paid for it!" He told me he thought I should do that. So about 2 weeks later I was here. Ultimately, I was on my own, knocking on doors. I worked a landscaping job. On bad weather days, I spent them on Music Row. Eventually I wound up at Loretta Lynn's place, 3 or 4 months after I got here. This would have been 1981. Which is pretty quick, to land a staff writing job. Travis: The list of big names that have covered your songs is impressive. Kenny Rogers, Jimmy Buffet, Del McCoury to Alan Jackson to name just a few. Despite the hardships on a songwriter that Nashville can bring, did you always feel encouraged by the cuts you were getting and were you able to feel that you were keeping the integrity of what a great song was? Verlon: You know...in the beginning, I was just glad to get any kind of a cut. My first was by a Canadian band.They won a Juno award up there for it. Of course, it did nothing here. I was getting B-side cuts here and there. Looking back now, I see the songs weren’t really that good. But you know, it was a start and it got me goin'. During the late 80's and early 90's I started getting some more popular artists cutting my songs like Randy Travis and Trisha Yearwood. I had gotten on kind of a roll there. It's crazy...you always try and maintain the integrity to your work. But you can get caught up in that assembly line part of the business. I reached a point where I was getting cuts, but they didn't really mean that w w w. a m e r i c a n a g a z e t t e . n e t
much to me. Like when I went out to perform, I wouldn't do those songs. I slowly started shifting towards something that meant more to me, something I could use. I could tell the story behind each song and why I wrote it.... Travis: Bringing back the more personal aspects of it.... Verlon: Yeah, instead of some 'clever' written song... and yeah, there’s a market for those. Trust me; they bought me a home and my groceries. But I think it's the natural progression of a writer. Write for the right reasons.You make your living and then you feel like you can get a little more artsy about it. But actually, it’s less artsy and more natural. My songs nowadays feel more like this conversation. Not so much a clever hook line wedged into a song. Travis: So in your approach to writing, what are some of the ways you harness that inspiration? Verlon: If I were to go back, there were some really good writers coming out of Oklahoma. Roger Miller would be number one. He lived about 30 miles from me. So I was hearing him on the radio and his songs were always clever and fun. And he had more serious songs that were excellent. Merle Haggard had a lot of Oklahoma roots. I was drawn to him and his story type songs.Woody Guthrie came a little later on.There was Jimmy Webb... I realized he was the one writing those Glenn Campbell tunes. I loved him too. Wichita Lineman and By the Time I Get To Phoenix.... Travis: Those songs have such great arrangements to them! Verlon: Oh! Incredible! Back then and even now. When I left Oklahoma and was in the service, I went on a road trip with a buddy of mine and he plugged in a Jackson Browne 8 track. But man, when I heard that album, I wept. Something about it, I just hadn't heard before, so soulful and from the heart. That’s when I knew about my direction. Those were great years for singer-songwriters. James Taylor, etc.And so when I came to Nashville and met Guy, I just happen to fall into working with one of the great Americana,Texas folk songwriters of all time.That was during his 'Old Friends' record.We were both staff writers at CBS songs.And Guy heard me pickin' around the office one day and he said, "Man, I’m making a record and I have zero budget. I'd sure love it if you came and helped us with this record.And he asked me to go on the road after it was done. He was trying to show me that you didn't need a whole band, just great songs and you could go out there and do it. It really changed my world. It’s a challenge sometimes, because I don't always want to be known as Guy's sideman. But that’s ok. It's been good. Travis: But as I was listening to your Everywhere...Yet album I didn't think of the 'sideman' aspect to what you do.That part stands alone and what’s so cool is how you guys can compliment each other. Verlon: Well, that's what it’s all about. It's all for the sake of the song.... (Smiles) Travis: It seems to be sort of a religion in Nashville that co-writing is king. I see some value in it, where 2 or 3 people are out there performing and pushing where a song might have more of a chance to be heard than one. Even with those benefits, I have a hard time being interested in doing it; I'd love to hear your thoughts on it. Verlon: (Long pause) I think it has to do with what angle your approaching it from. From the commercial side, it’s the best way to make that happen. For some of the reasons you stated. So anytime you collaborate, you’re going to have to compromise at some level.And with every compromise it’s something a little less personal.There are some great songs where you would never know. But when you look to the iconic writers we know and love, you would just say Kristofferson. Maybe Lennon and McCartney but they worked from one band. I just think one person most times is more potent.
writing came with people who have never written a song before, there's no rules.There's excitement and freedom. I slowly try and zero in on how I might be able to work with someone, what’s meaningful to them. What I didn't get were the guys who would come into a session with just pages of hook lines, just rattling off anything.And I'd think..."well, what is THAT??" (Laughs) Do you have anything that MEANS anything? Travis: Your newest album is "Works" which includes the song 'The Ballad of Stringbean and Estelle'. It's quite a story anyway. Can you tell us how that song came about? Verlon: Guy and I used to talk about how that story on how the way Stringbean got murdered is so...like an old time murder ballad. But you know, it's such sacred ground. We didn't want to hurt any feelings and so many people loved him. So Sam Bush came over to Guy's to write and Sam pulled out this old article that Sam's dad had saved. The article was about Stringbean's old overalls being auctioned off.And Guy and I just looked at each other and thought, 'this is the time.' We did some fact checks to get it right and a couple hours later, we had it. And Sam said he was going to cut it. Travis: I was very fortunate to see the old house and land when I interviewed Leroy Troy a couple issues back. Verlon: The new owner of the house had a tribute party for Stringbean. And I had just written the song. And Leroy was there. And Earl Scruggs was there. Stringbean's son was there. Later in the evening, it was early fall and a huge full moon. I was about to leave and got the request to play the song again. I stood in the doorway of the cabin with the bullet holes under my feet.And the few people that were still there were weeping. It was amazing. Travis: I understand you're teaching songwriting classes at the Fur Peace Ranch. It must be very challenging to teach and sometimes even critique it. Can you discuss what the teaching aspect is like? Verlon: (Laughs) You knew you were going to get me with that one,Travis! Well, you've heard me say that you probably can't really teach songwriting. But I do think you can inspire it. Most people that take the classes know that it’s more than just verse, chorus and bridge. It's something...I dread before I do it. On the way to the class, I break into a sweat. And I'm always nervous. What I found though...people just want to be heard. So first, is really listening to what ideas they have, then if you can corral that into a song.Teaching the presentation is big, the actual performance of it. There's always a different level or goal that each person wants to do with it, from writing a song for their wife or loved one, to taking it to the stage, to the business side. Travis: One story I do love is the way the song 'The Guitar' came about, which I believe was a product of the Fur Peace Ranch. It may be proof that some people's 'forgotten about' songs may actually be better than what some of us will ever write (Laughs). Verlon: Well, it sort of goes back to what we were saying about co-writing.We wrote it in a workshop there. It basically became a conversation between a few of us. If I recall, Guy and I were just kind of catching all these ideas.We edited as we went along and after it was done, I remember thinking it was pretty good. And we performed it at the end of the workshop, put it away and never really thought about it again. So 2 or 3 years go by and I got a call from a student asking if I remembered the melody to the song, he was going to do it with his band. It caused me to pull it from the file and I thought, 'this is pretty damn good!' So I picked up my guitar and started playing with it. I called Guy and said I'm coming over with this song. At first, he didn't really recognize it and then he did. And then he said, 'Man, I'm cutting that!' (Laughs) Within weeks, we recorded it.
Travis: It’s funny, I have a friend who's more of a melody guy. And I do more with lyrics and poems and I don't see many approaching it that way here. It’s weird.
Travis: I remember being at the Legends and Lyrics show in Nashville here seeing you guys perform that song. It was the first time I had heard it. My jaw hit the floor, man. Instant goose bumps! With Guy's tribute record out now, can you point to any favorite moments making that record?
Verlon: No! And you're right, in that respect, it can be a really valid thing. The old Tin Pan Alley guys did that, a melody guy, then a lyricist.The songs couldn't have existed with one without the other. I've only done that myself 3 or 4 times. Usually with me writing the music to a lyric.The funny thing is Travis, when I do that, I never end up thinking about the song again.
Verlon: Every track was great.We worked on it off and on for 2 years.We'd go to Austin cut some tunes. We'd cut some here in Nashville, most of the time we'd just gather in a circle. We'd run through the tune a few times then turn on the red light and go. Some of the moments were just stunning.And some of it has been caught on film. Some interviews before and after. I think Tamara plans to release that with her book on Guy.
Travis: I tried it recently, writing lyrics to a nice melody. I told him, give me a couple weeks and let me think on it. I had been reading some Raymond Carver and one of his stories really hit me hard as most of them do. And I thought I need to write a song about that. I stayed disciplined to his arrangement and sent him the words and he said, 'Don't change a thing.' It was very rewarding. Verlon: Wow! I got goose bumps there.That’s as good as it gets! You think back to Bernie Taupin and Elton John and how they worked that way.The songs they made couldn't have worked any other way. I can't imagine getting back the work tape of the music that Elton had put to his lyrics! (Laughs) Travis: So, speaking of that teamwork, did it come natural with people like Guy, or Darrell Scott or any that you have chosen to work with; did that chemistry come fairly quickly? Verlon: Yeah. Almost every time. Believe it or not, some of my greatest times w w w. a m e r i c a n a g a z e t t e . n e t
Travis: With how busy you have been, what’s on the agenda for the New Year? Verlon: Well, I have thoughts about a new record. I am thinking about a different approach musically, maybe a full blown band, maybe electric. I want to grab some of the great musicians I know and work with them. I love using Mike Bub on bass, and Shawn Camp.There's so many of them. I also have a series of songs about a girl who lived during the Civil War. I'm trying to decide if it’s a record or a musical or a play.There's a lot to it. Travis: We'll be watching for what you do next Verlon. What an honor to talk to you today. Written by: Travis Cooper Photo supplied by Verlon Thompson.
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everyone could relate to individually. As if they feel like I'm talking directly to them. AG: Would you say that you write darker songs? I noticed that the theme to most of them runs that way, kinda Carter Family ballad style. Welch: Sure. I think it does. It’s a lot more fun to rock to a song, but I think it’s a lot more powerful to take them to hell and back in a song and make people think. In a lot of those songs the struggle is about redemption and the achievement of coming out on the other side. So hopefully there is an uplifting side to the songs. I’m not denying that there is a lot of darkness in the characters I write about. It’s interesting that I don’t write about my own life that much. I like getting into the heads of characters and create stories about them. The range my voice works in is another element that lends itself to the sound or darkens of the songs. AG: As an artist today trying to get jobs and secure dates, how important is Social Media? Welch: Well that’s an interesting question. I’m really a little more removed than most folks about self-promotion. I try to use Facebook and Twitter and YouTube. It’s a form that I have been learning a lot more about and use more. My family tends to use it a lot more. They get up and check to see what is going on and who is talking about what which keeps them informed. It is very interesting that you can keep up with what everybody’s up to. From the perspective of a fan it gives them a glimpse of what goes into an artist’s life and all the work it entails. AG: As an artist how would you describe a Dustin Welch fan? Welch: Gosh, I’m still trying to learn what qualifies that for me. I’ve spent a lot of time on the road playing with my dad so I tend to have a little older audience and fan base than most folks my age. I have been playing a lot with Ray Wylie Hubbard and used to go out with James McMurtry some so I have a little more literate audience. They like rock & roll too, but tend to like the more story or literary songs. I guess what I’m trying to say is that they appreciate the song content more. I am meeting more and more younger folks that really dig what we are doing. I’m trying to cater to that more. In general I think that Americana audiences are older and more informed, if that makes sense. AG: I think that your songs are very well written, tell a story, and aren’t the June Spoon Loon rhyming types of song. They are deep and you have to use your head and imagination to see the characters like you do in a good literary story. That’s the kind of song I love. I talked to your dad a month ago and he spoke quite highly of your writing. Your dad is one of my favorite top three songwriters. Welch: Thank you I love hearing that about my dad. AG: To have him say that about you is quite a compliment. Is it hard to go play jobs with Ray Wylie, James, and your dad? Welch: Well not necessarily. It’s more validating. It’s like there is a new guard coming up and those guys are getting ready to pass the torch. I’ve talked to a lot of my contemporaries and told them that we need to study those guys more and take what they can teach us and use it in our music. The goal is to really expand Americana music not just in style but to a younger audience. I feel that it's happening. There are a lot of really good literate younger writers and performers out there. They are writing and performing for a younger audience and that’s great. AG: What advice would you give to someone who wanted to strike out on their own today? Welch: Well that would constitute the fact that I actually really know what the hell I’m doing! (Laughs) In a lot of ways it’s really difficult to stand apart from whatever else is out there today. So as much as possible try to be different. Don’t try to cater to any paradigm or market. Be your own voice, be yourself. There are already a lot of clones out there. Be you as an artist, and it will define you. AG: Thanks Dustin! Welch: Thank you! Check out dustin at www.dustinwelch.com. Story by: Andy Ziehli Photos supplied by Dustin Welch.
Making Resolutions without calling them Resolutions! As I sit here and write this on Christmas Eve Morning 2012, the Mayans and the History Channel were wrong, Santa has snow to get around this year, I just fed Mulder the cat for the third time, and I am reflecting on 2012 while dreaming of 2013. This last year we lost a couple of great local musicians Karl (with a K) Gmur and Paul Gruenenfelder whose shoes will be very hard to fill. Besides being great musicians they were great guys! They made music for the sake of creating it, not for the money. I respected both of these men for their talent, integrity, and mostly for their attitudes about music. You see, Karl and Paul just liked to make music. They did not label it, package it, or categorize it. They just made music. So my first goal/resolution/objective/plan for 2013 is to just make music! Have fun with it, create it, stretch it, and relearn it for all the reasons I started making music 43 years ago! My second GROP (goal/resolution/objective/plan) is to go out and experience live music on a larger scale than in the past (that’s right Beth Kille; I will show up at one or more of your shows in 2013). Time and energy always seems to get in the way of going out to see shows, but I am going to make an honest attempt to improve on my record of catching local music in 2013. Thirdly I am going to play more jobs in 2013 than these past few years. Got a new band, a CD coming out, and I really do want to play some shows. The band is getting better all the time,The CD is very good if I do say so myself, and I got the itch again. This past year my friends Doug Sies and Jim Smith have been getting together with me and writing and recording a wonderful CD of Americana Music that has really turned into a labor of love for the sake of music. We were lucky enough to have some great folks sing and play on it. Andrew Pulver did a fantastic job engineering the whole thing, and I am very proud of the final product (which by the time you are reading this should be mastered and getting packaged). The jobs for the new band Ghosts in the Room will be fun. We (Doug Sies, John Fahey, Reed Johnson, Bob King, Mark Schwoegler, and myself) are taking a new approach to booking and concentrating on only 3 hour shows with a mixture of originals and some very cool covers, stuff that has not been heard or played around here before. So check out Ghosts in the Room in 2013. Fourth, I am going to practice the guitar every day. I will learn “new” licks and jams in 2013. Being 55 and have been playing guitar for 43 years I have become complacent in my practicing and learning new material. In 2013 that all changes! New stuff makes for a better show. Old licks out – hot licks in! Warner E. Hodges will be proud of me! Lastly I’m going to retreat back to my childhood and reclaim all the reasons I wanted to be a musician/songwriter in the first place. The joy, expectations, calmness, excitement, sense of pride from accomplishing that hard lick off a 45, coolness, inspiration, stage fun, camaraderie, and peace I experienced from being a musician. Long after I’m retired/put out to pasture/buried/ or just gone I hope that I can leave the legacy of being remembered as a musician. Someone who brought joy and smiles to others with the music I played and created. Nothing would be better to be remembered by, or to work towards in 2013. Just be a musician! By: Andy Ziehli
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The Foe of Music Row: The Rev. Keith A. Gordon
Don’t let the “Reverend” prefix lead you astray: it’s an authentic title, all right (though that’s another story), but this Reverend’s fervor isn’t deity-driven. Rather, rock ’n’ roll is what most often inspires Rev. Keith A. Gordon to offer praise, though the longtime rock journalist is also a relentless voice of support for music of virtually any stripe whose makers are unjustly overlooked or undersung.
Rev. Keith Gordon
Gordon, a Nashville transplant from Erie, PA who is perhaps the Music City’s only bona fide link to the rock-critic royalty that emerged in the 1960s and ’70s via such magazines as Creem, Crawdaddy and Rolling Stone—spent years toiling at small and struggling publications that helped midwife the Nashville rock scene. It was not an easy birth.As Gordon tells it, the local rock contingent encountered a mostly closed-minded country music industry, which exuded disdain for its young locals and exercised its power in an attempt to squelch their selfexpression. “The traditional industry,” he explains, “had a lot of influence on the local government and other institutions. This made it difficult to open rock-oriented clubs, to promote certain types of rock ’n’ roll shows, even for bands to get their music heard.” Gordon, one of the first writers to champion the local rock scene, is an outspoken type who eventually found himself regarded as a pariah among the country music industry.“I refused to write [exclusively] complimentary reviews about country records and attend [the labels’] parties,” he says. “Like the early rock bands, I was loud, obnoxious, opinionated, and had a forum that I wasn't afraid to use to call ‘bullshit’ on their antics [such as] attempted censorship of bands. I soon got a reputation among the ‘grownups’ as an incorrigible ‘loose cannon.’ “I probably deserved a fair amount of their disdain,” Gordon allows,“because my early writings lacked subtlety and tact, but I’d do it all over again . . . with a blade rather than a bludgeon,” says the writer, who cites radical thinkers such as Abbie Hoffman and Frank Zappa among those who influenced his journalistic voice—a force which would unexpectedly rise beyond Nashville in the 1980s via the local rock rag The Metro.“What really cheesed [the country industry] off,” he explains,“was that my penchant for self-promotion helped earn [Metro] magazine and, by extension, myself, a national reputation. By the end of the ’80s, as improbable as it might seem,The Metro was taken seriously by all sorts of people unbeholden to Music Row.”
Rev. Keith Gordon
Warner E. Hodges
Improbable, as Gordon puts it, because The Metro (now long defunct) was frequently a fly-by-night, shoestring operation. These days, he continues to write and also self-publishes anthologies drawn largely from his own backlog of work. Even as a former Nashvillian now living in upstate New York, he remains passionate about the rock scene in his longtime Tennessee home base. Recently, he published The Other Side of Nashville: An Incomplete History & Discography of the Music City’s Rock Underground, 1976-2006, the most ambitious project of his career thus far. The book—an encyclopedia of the Nashville rock scene during its rise and peak years—is a 620-page beast that took Gordon more than six years to complete, compiling it from decades’ worth of interviews, articles and reviews from the local Nashville rock press and beyond. “I was honored to have been able to cover the growth and evolution of the Nashville rock scene as a music journalist during the period the book covers, and have always been a big champion of the city's musical talent,” he says.“What began as a ‘love letter’ to a music scene that I was proud to have been part of and documented,” continues Gordon, “would later become an obsession in the drive to finish the project. I wanted the world to know that Nashville rocked long before the Kings of Leon, Paramore and Ke$ha began selling truckloads of records.” The gargantuan task of finishing the book wasn’t enough to sour the scribe on the subject; he’s following the oversized volume in quick succession with a small but similarly inspired compilation in tribute to the band that many contend first cranked Nashville’s rock scene up to 11: Jason & the Scorchers.The seminal country-punkers, who have since been recognized as forerunners of the Americana movement, received the Americana Music Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008, and are currently active in a revitalized lineup that features founding members Jason Ringenberg and Warner Hodges. Though Gordon says the connection wasn’t an entirely conscious one, he agrees that his Jason & the Scorchers Scrapbook (available in print and as an e-book) makes sense coming on the heels of The Other Side of Nashville. As he recalls, Jason & the Scorchers “were the first local band that I really got behind. Their impact on the Nashville rock scene, and in getting people outside of Davidson County to listen, cannot be overestimated,” asserts Gordon, whose previously published writings (including the band’s very first appearance in the national press) comprise the majority of the book.“They were really the first local rock band to earn any sort of national—and later, international—fame and respect.They opened the door and built the foundation for later bands to enjoy and succeed [upon].” The Scorchers have gone on to become an institution of independent musiccontinued from page 35
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Think It = Live It
The energy of the holiday season is winding down as I write this. It is December 31st 2012 today. Tomorrow brings another sunrise and for some, the hopeful beginning of something “better”. The blue sky is filled with rolling gray and white clouds. The trees stand naked but not ashamed, alone or in groups. The fir and pine trees are glorious explosions of rich green color against the sparkling white snow that both adorns them and covers the ground. I can see the waves easily now thanks to the season of sleep for the trees and grasses. Here at the kitchen table I look out the living room windows through the screen porch out onto this beautiful scene. The house is quiet. I can feel from here the energy of Lake Superior as I pinch myself (gently) realizing I am both ending my best year ever and beginning what I know will be an even better one, here in Bayfield, Wisconsin. This marks our third visit here this year. Normally we motor north for 4-5 days near the end of June for a once-a-year visit. This year without really forcing the issue, Bob and I and travel companion Kay have found our way north three times. Each visit a different season. This is my first visit here in the throws of winter. My walk into town this morning had me bundled in many layers to remain comfortable in near zero temperatures. In the midst of my 2+ mile walk to breakfast at the wonderful Egg Toss Café, I simply spoke out loud, “There is no other place I would rather be than right here, right now”. I was making a declaration of my desire. I was acknowledging my willingness to not need anything to be different to experience joy in that moment. If I had a million dollars in the bank, the moment would be just the same. If I had a new excellent car in my garage, the moment would be just the same. If I were wearing different clothes, the moment would be just the same. The simple experience of the joy of being fully present in a moment was mine. A face book “friend” of a friend of mine recently posted all the things that went wrong for him in 2012. He did mention a thing or two that went well, but then he went right back to the negative as if shouting about all his misfortune would somehow make the New Year treat him kinder. My initial thought was,“Well, my friend, get ready for more of the same.” I am willing to bet everything I own that if this individual spent as much time and energy shouting about all the things he loves about his life, all the moments of joy he has every day, all the things that he has asked for and are now a part of his life, and spent very little time speaking of the things that have happened to help him learn more about himself (the contrast or “things gone wrong”) within a matter of 30 days his life would turn around for him. And by turn around I simply mean, he would be enjoying his life’s moments as he was living them rather than waiting for this or that to happen so he could be happy. He would find he was happy NOW. My experience of acknowledging that I was right where I wanted to be at that moment, just as I was, felt so good. I could feel the power that was available to me with thoughts like that. The rest of my day unfolded with joy and love front and center in my experience. I don’t have more money in my bank account or a new car in my garage because of my declaration. What I do have is the confidence of knowing when I am ready, really ready, I will find my way to those experiences. The practice of being happy in my moment NOW is turning the tide in my life. My chronic (just meaning often said) answer to your inquiry of how I am doing is now and forever more will be,“Very well, thank you.” Why not? The more I
say to myself and to others how I want my life to be (very well!) the more moments I will have of feeling just that way. If you may be wondering why I revisit this subject so often, the reason is simple. We always have a choice about how our lives are unfolding, always. I never knew that until recently. I grew up without the knowledge of the power of my thoughts. Somehow the phrases available to me just went over my head. “Do what you love and the money will follow” was one of them. I could not get my mind to agree because so much of what I was doing in my life I was unhappy about. I understand it now. I can see beyond the words into the deeper meaning. If I am thinking about things I enjoy and if I am doing things I enjoy, then I am open to all kinds of ways for my life to reflect the joy I am feeling including allowing more money into my life. If I am willing to ask myself many times during the day, “What am I thinking about right now” and/or “What am I feeling right now” I have just unlocked the secret to living a life of amazing experiences. Paying attention to my thoughts and feelings right now is the best way to ensure the “then” will be filled with experiences I find mostly joyful. Perhaps you have heard similar expressions, thought they were nice for the person who said it who probably has all the money they could want (for example) and just shrugged it off. My moment on that walk in Bayfield when I was really happy was exactly what the phrase was talking about. I was doing what I loved. I was not thinking about being somewhere else or being 20 pounds lighter or a million dollars richer. I was thinking,“I love this moment just as it is”. The rest of that day was filled with more moments that felt a lot like that. I was building momentum thought by thought. If this is not new news to you, great! You are already living a life of deliberate creation aware that what you think and how you feel is the only thing creating your life experiences. If this idea stirs something in you that feels a little bit uneasy, wonderful! You are joining me in considering the real power we each have. We really do have a choice about our life experiences; we really do. That is the news I am most eager to share in this New Year. I have a tendency to overcomplicate and over think things. This simple idea of “Think it = Live it” just seems too easy. Where is the challenge? Where is the effort? Isn’t there more to life that that? Of course there is. However there is a jumping off point to every experience. The high dive swimming athlete must first jump off the platform then execute the beautiful contortions before splashdown. This simple awareness of “Think it = Live it” is the platform I did not know existed. I just kept walking off the edge and getting wet and did not know why. I did not enjoy the ride down. If this is the right moment of you, like it is for me, me I am happy to have you as traveling companions. As we ask ourselves what we are thinking and feeling RIGHT NOW, we take ourselves off auto-pilot. Then we have the fun of being just like those others who we have looked at for so long and wondered how they were living such great lives. We will be the ones others will be talking about. Get ready, friends, 2013 is going to be the best year ever! Written by: Jim Smith w w w. a m e r i c a n a g a z e t t e . n e t
AARON and MONICA DUNN
If the Mineral Point area has a favorite band (and it does) it’s POINT FIVE.They have a fine instrumental line-up with:Andy Hatch, his playing sensitive and controlled yet still able to deliver a blistering mandolin break, Paul Biere, the instrumental soul-man of the group, on banjo, dobro, lap steel and harmonica, and Carol Spelic, playing her straight ahead, no-nonsense, locked down standup bass. And riding on top of this musical freight train are the lead vocals and sweet harmonies of Aaron and Monica Dunn.This article is based on a taped interview I recently did with the Dunns at their home in Mineral Point Wisconsin. RH: Where did you two meet? Monica: We met in college. A friend of mine said that I just had to hear this singer Aaron Dunn. So we went to hear him. I was very impressed. RH: Did you perform together in college? Aaron: Monica was a music major singing arias and classical stuff and I was doing my folk stuff. She really wasn’t very comfortable with my kind of material but she grudgingly agreed to give it a try.We did have a little fun singing together in college. We did some open mics and some small performances but that’s about it. I began working with my brother.The Dunn Brothers did a ten song CD and we performed around the campus. RH: How did POINT FIVE start? Aaron: Some years later we married and moved to Mineral Point Wisconsin.We met a musician named Willy Sterba and started to work with him. Monica: He was a great front man and a really good organizer. Eventually Willy left the group and Paul Biere joined. Then a guy named Dave Irwin joined Carole Spelic, Aaron, and myself, and we became Point Five. RH: POINT FIVE has been very successful but you still occasionally perform as a duo.Tell me a little about that. Monica: We don’t actually seek out those gigs but if someone wants us to play and the venue is just too small for the whole band or some band members can’t make it, we will play it. Sometimes we’ll do wedding ceremonies. Aaron:As far as us being our own act, that’s a pretty new thing. Because of the band we have a lot of material we can rework. We also have some of our own material that we don’t use with the band so we really have enough songs to make it work. RH: Aaron, I know that you are working on original material. Talk about that a little. Aaron:We would really like the next POINT FIVE CD to be original material. It feels like that should be the next step for the band. I think it would help us stay interested in the music, to make something of our own, to grow.We really don’t know how that will work yet. Who will be contributing what, who will be singing lead on what. So we will see who throws what into the pot. I’m just not that prolific. I just don’t have the time. Monica: We’ve had a really good response to the songs Aaron has written. I think that’s given him a boost of energy. Aaron: It’s been really nice. I had never written a song that was performed by a band before.To do that for the first time feels pretty cool. Monica: When we played SIMPLY FOLK we got emails asking us if we had recorded Aaron’s song: HILLS OF WISCONSIN. People wanted a copy. RH: I heard the band’s performance on public radio. I thought you guys sounded great.Tell me about the experience. Aaron: It was both exciting and scary. Monica: It was live radio and that was really the scary part. Although the host Stephanie Elkins was very gracious and tried to make everyone feel comfortable. She was very sweet. Aaron: There have been a few things that have happened this year that have been really validating. The radio show and some higher profile gigs for example. Some things that have told us we are on the right track. When we started people would come to see us because they knew us.They would applaud because they were our friends. And that was great. We needed the encouragement. Believe me, I know how hard it is to impress a stranger as an entertainer. We’ve recently had some opportunities where we really had to put on a show for groups of people who really expected to see and hear something of quality. To get a positive response from people in that situation has really helped build our confidence and reinforces the idea that the band is heading in the right direction. It’s hard to maintain that level of energy with everyone being so busy and having other lives. I think after this summer we know that what the band is doing is ok and that if we keep pushing, people will have fun and keep showing up for our performances. RH: I’m very impressed that even as your family grows you continue to perform. Aaron & Monica
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I do know that it gets harder every year and the logistics of touring get a lot harder too.
These four top notch musicians lay down rock & roll like the Gods want it done. Blanton’s clear voice with the range most vocalists can only dream of is enough of a selling point, but when teamed with Hodges fiery guitar work and Baird's low and stomping bass work and vocals the Bluefields are a band to be reckoned with. Joining them recently on drums Pemberton shakes and rattles the rafters and lays down some of the steadiest drum work you have ever heard.
Blanton: There ain’t nothing like the real thing baby! That being said, the writing, recording and production of something that didn’t exist before is perhaps the most fun I have in my life. Don’t get me wrong I love playing live as well but I’m a tekkie who can’t wait to twist the knobs and push the faders. As far as the validity of touring, if I’m having fun and it makes sense, it’s valid to me. Plus, I’m a loudmouth who likes to scream every once in awhile so the stage takes care of that urge.
The Bluefields came together as a project that stemmed from Hodges wanting to make another solo record. He had gotten together with Blanton to write songs and record demos. Baird heard about the project and said he would come and lay some bass parts down to help out. After a couple of songwriting sessions together the three of them knew they were onto something and they dove head first into creating an album. Drummer Steve Gorman was brought in to lay down the drum tracks and the guys became The Bluefields named after the street where Blanton lives and has his Underground Treehouse Recording Studio. The CD was released to enthusiastic fans and a CD release party was held at the Mercy Lounge in Nashville Labor Day Weekend 2011. Joining Blanton, Hodges, & Baird were Gorman and Audley Freed on guitar. In 2012 the Bluefields played four shows at the HI Watt Lounge in Nashville with Keith Brogdon on drums. They are now getting together and finishing writing their second CD, planning a small US tour, and traveling to Europe in March/April for a month long tour. With all this going on the guys sat down with me to tell me about their upcoming project, touring, and their secret to longevity in the music business.
AG: Are long tours still the way to go or are short regional tours better?
AG: How has the road changed for musicians the last five years?
Hodges: Well it’s a rock & roll band, and I get to drive how and where it goes musically. It’s so cool that they allow me to do that. We are all over the map rock wise.
Hodges: The biggest change I saw from when I toured in the 90’s was that it had all changed. First the promoters don’t’ really promote shows anymore. It’s almost completely up to the band to take care of that now days. That’s really difficult to do when the show is 1000 miles from your house! Shy of the internet there is really no way to do it. In Europe they seem to do little better job, but that’s changing too. Baird: The last five years is only because I’m getting older. You have to take care of yourself more. You really have to safeguard those two hours you are on the stage. AG: Why start a project like the Bluefields at this stage in your career? Baird: Well there were three things. First it was musically interesting. It allows me to do things that I would not normally do. I don’t have to be the singer on every song, that’s fantastic. Joe is a fantastic singer and the best one in the band so it’s cool not to have to worry about being the singer. Musically it started out as Warner’s solo record and evolved into the Bluefields. There is a piece of that that has never gone away. Musically and movement wise it’s Warner, Joe and then me which is great! It’s really a lot of fun! I get to play bass and sing backup. I stood next to a really great bass player for over 20 years and I learned a lot from Keith Christopher. It pushes me to be a good bass player. Blanton: We didn’t start the project with the intention of forming a band, although I secretly wanted that to happen all along. I’ve always admired Warner and Dan and was thrilled when things fell together so quickly. Plus we’re friends and get along great! That never hurts. Bottom line is that it’s truly a pleasure to write music with musicians you respect who know how to bring the best out of you.That’s my short answer (Laughs)! AG: With three very strong songwriters how do you guys pick which songs are going to be recorded? Hodges: The way it has worked for the Bluefields is that we just write them all and record all of them. Anything when we get done we are not happy with we just don’t use it. Between the three of us whenever we hit a brick wall writing, someone has been able to come up with the right line or riff to make the song go forward. If we come to a point and we can’t move forward we just toss that song away and move forward with another. The great thing about the three of us is that no one gets offended if someone says that a part or line does not work for them. We are professionals and the ego thing is not part of this band or the writing process. What it comes down to is that we are all friends and respect each other’s talents so we don’t have those hiccups when we write or record. Blanton: We are all highly productive and prolific. Whoever comes in with a line, idea, or riff starts the process and we all contribute to each song. We respect each other and know each other’s strengths and let nature take its course in the writing process. Warner is gonna come up with a smoking guitar lick, but he will surprise us with coming up with lyrics when Dan and I get stuck. We work through each song and record it. If it sticks it stays! We rarely leave a session with a song unfinished. AG: How do you decide who sings each song? Baird: Somebody usually has an idea and brings it in. We work through it with everyone contributing to it so it becomes a band song. Everyone’s ideas and opinions are important to the three of us, so the contribution levels are always high. Joe is the lead singer and sings the most songs. I sing a couple that were tailor written for me. Warner sings a song that was written for him. It really works out well. AG: Is it still valid for bands to go out and tour today, versus the guys that just sit in the studio and record and release CD’s on the internet? Hodges: Once again I’m coming at this as an older performer who grew up hitting the road and playing. For a band like ours I would say yes it’s valid for us to tour. I’m a live guy and so are the others. We like to play live and tour.
Hodges: The logistics of touring today really force you to do shorter tours. It’s just easier on the band. It also is better financially if you can put together a tour of great shows in a shorter period so you don’t have the expense of staying out for long periods of time. Baird: We (Homemade Sin) just finished a seven week tour in Europe. Because we don’t live in the lap of luxury we had to stay out and make some money. The last two weeks were hard just because you get worn down and tired out for being gone and working so hard. Short tours are better, but it’s hard to make any money on short tours. I think four to five weeks is perfect. You still have the energy to play and the ability to be able to make some money is still high. Longer than that you start running out of gas and you get worn down easier.The trouble is that at that point there is not a lot you can do about it. AG: How would you describe the Bluefields music?
Baird: Whew next question (laughs). I did it perfectly right there. It’s really that there are not a lot of rules because we say so! That’s that. We can go anyway we want to with the music. We don’t have a formula or map on what we do. We get to write and play music the way we want to make it! Blanton: We were careful not to box ourselves in and this record is a great example of that. It’s a direct reflection of our individual creative guilty pleasures as songwriters and performers sort of mashed together and the result of what three guys can come up with when they let things flow freely and naturally. It sounds easy but having no boundaries can actually make things harder. At least for me anyways. AG: As far as the record goes I can tell you that it’s getting a terrific response up here. Everybody who hears it loves it. The show on March 8th at Schwoegler’s in Belleville is generating a huge buzz. Hodges: We are really looking forward to playing Mark’s club. The Scorchers show there was a blast. We can’t wait to get there! AG: How is your European tour coming together and how long will it be? Hodges: It’s coming together pretty well. It will be about four weeks long. We’ve got some shows in Spain and Portugal. It’s our first tour as the Bluefields so we don’t really know what to expect. We have some shows in Britain too so that will be a lot of fun. We are looking at playing a couple of festivals and hopefully there might be more. AG: Having been musicians your whole lives, has the industry changed in the way you put together a band today? Hodges: Once again the logistics of doing a band thing has changed. The band members have to be willing to do more than they have in the past. You don’t have the luxury of roadies anymore; we no longer have guitar techs traveling with us, house PA’s are more common, shows are harder to get so you really have to want to do it. The days of big money are gone so the guys that do this really want to. Baird: In the past nobody was able to do any decent recordings. It was just too expensive. It cost $100,000.00 to do a decent recording/record back in the 80’s. Now you can go buy the equipment and have everything you need for under $10,000.00 and make the record yourself. The number of venues has seemed to have dropped drastically especially for young bands, so I don’t know what they are doing. There is no place left to hone those skills you need to get better and grow. It’s great that we can all record today but playing in mom’s basement does not let you develop the songs live and then record them. It’s just changed. You can’t find those $100.00 gigs, gear is a lot more expensive, and the opportunities to climb the ladder of getting better gigs do not exist. Our generation’s input on the music won’t be equaled again. The music in the future and now won’t resonate like the things we created with the people today. It will be on different things in the future. It’s not their fault. There is just nowhere for them to see emerging bands today. There is no scene building today. So we can look at that Seattle scene that blew up in the 90’s as the last place to really garner talent and bands. There just isn’t the clubs today to support a music scene anywhere. I don’t know the answer to getting one going, but I’m not supposed to I’m 60 this year (laughs)! Blanton: Back when we started, the process was simple.You get instruments, take lessons and form a band.You get some gigs and play out until someone with a studio or some money or both, decides to take a chance on you. Plain and simple.That’s the only way it worked. Now, you can record music in your bedroom or Underground Treehouse with great results for little or no money. Hallelujah for that! It makes getting your music out there a lot easier and much less expensive.There are downsides to everything but I’ve only seen w w w. a m e r i c a n a g a z e t t e . n e t
positives from my perspective. AG: How do you explain your longevity in the music business? Hodges: Maybe I’m just too stupid to quit (we both laugh)! The desire and drive are still there. After all these years I still think we have something to say and to offer. I’m still continuously trying to expand the musical envelope. Baird: Not dying! To stubborn to quit. There is a believer of belief that we don’t take out and examine. I used to feel that way about NRBQ. Even though they are in a place musically that does not seem to expand; there are plenty of people who still find them interesting and valid. When you come to see me play you get to see a traditional music form pushed to its limits. The important thing is that that stays a challenge. This last tour we did three new songs that had not been recorded so we still offer new material and surprises at our shows. One thing is that you have to keep the band excited and interested in playing the music and shows. It’s not always easy to do, but it’s very important that you do. Blanton: I’ve tried to quit but I can’t just lay it down. Once it’s inside of you it never goes away. I love it and I just can’t lay it down and walk away. Warner & Dan were born to do this. They are naturals and I can’t see them doing anything else. As for me, they’ll have to pry my guitar from my cold dead hands! AG: I think it’s a testament to the talent you guys have! Being in your 50’s you guys are still out there giving it hell and playing. There are a lot of guys who gave up and walked away when things slowed down and got tougher. You’re still filling clubs and playing shows. People still want to hear you and that‘s fantastic. Hodges: I really appreciate the fact that we still get to do this. Being able to share the stage with your friends and be able to make music for your fans is such an honor. We are lucky to still be able to put on great shows night after night and give our all. The fans make you or break you and we’ve been lucky that they seem to like us.
Hodges: Find a group of buddies that are like minded and go out and do it! It’s crazy not to! Age should not be a deterrent to going out and making music and having fun. Do it at a level that you can accomplish the things you want to accomplish musically. If you only want to go out and play once a month at your local bar that’s what you should do. If you want something bigger work towards that. Don’t let age get in the way of playing music. Baird: Don’t try to please anyone but yourselves. I think that where most of us made a fatal flaw in trying to please other people, and not hearing the voice inside us saying “I’m trying hard to make this guy happy and not myself!” It’s not the guy that takes a 20 minute guitar solo. He thinks it is, when in reality he’s spent after two rounds. He knows it because he’s gonna get another one in five minutes. If you are going to make music do it for the right reason, for you or each other (band). Try to get people interested in your music and make them followers and believers in what you do. Age should not be a barrier to doing the things that make you happy. You should copy the people you admire and cover their songs. It’s okay to play covers. Just quit thinking about it and do it. Blanton: To quote Dan,“We’re about as famous as we’re gonna get!”That helps to extinguish the pipe dreaming so you can concentrate on what is important to you as a musician and a band and it gets easier to make and play music. You have real expectations on what you are going to get out of it. I do believe there is validity in making music in your 50’s and beyond. You can concentrate on getting your music in films or television or you can write for others. With age comes a wealth of experience to draw from and there still is a large demographic that loves live music so you can still play shows. They may want you to play a little earlier or a shorter show, but that’s okay. The bottom line is that you can and should make music at whatever age or stage of your life you are in. If nothing else do it for yourself. Go for it! www.thebluefields.com www.facebook.com/TheBluefields Written by: Andy Ziehli Photos supplied by The Bluefields.
AG: Is the thrill of hitting the stage just as big as ever for you guys? Baird: That’s changed. It depends how good you feel, your health level, how you feel about the house engineer. That’s playing a much more major part. My whole thing is getting based on the emotions behind the song again again and again. I want to fall into the song. That’s still exciting when I can get into the songs that way. I don’t have any control over it, it just happens. I wish I did. As far as “hey we get to play tonight” yes I still get pumped to do a show it’s just in another form today. Blanton: I don’t think you can ever go back to the first excitement you felt when you first started playing. There’s something about not knowing the business and you think that you’re the best band in the world playing shows for your friends. If you draw big crowds, say a couple of hundred people it’s the biggest thing you have ever done in your life, so it’s huge. Once you go up the ranks a little bit and you draw a couple of thousand and you were expecting five thousand the let downs get bigger. I guess the thrill is still there about playing but the focus is different. Today it’s about performing the material as well as I can versus tearing up the stage with a hammer like I did when I was younger. AG: What advice would you give to other “older” guys about playing today? w w w. a m e r i c a n a g a z e t t e . n e t
If I asked you how many of you have heard of Booka Michel and know anything about him, what would you say? Well I asked myself the very same question? And to find out more about this interesting fellow my friend Lance Cowan set up an interview for me with Booka. Booka Michel has been a behind the scenes fixture in Austin for years, and has contributed to the community in many more ways than just with his music.
orchard in California. Joyce: If you had a visual of me right now, you would see my eyes bulging out. I was going to ask as part of my interview, what do you do to relax in your spare time? What spare time I’m thinking? Do you ever sleep? Booka: (laughing) Sometimes I do sleep.
Over the years, Booka has been the accompanist with a wide array of legendary artists, including Butch Hancock, Carrie Rodriguez, Champ Hood, Lester Bangs, Allen Ginsberg, Cindy Cashdollar, David Halley, Don Walser, Doug Sahm, Flaco Jimenez, Hoyt Axton, Angela Strehli, Jesse Taylor, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Joe Ely, Michael E. Johnson, Odetta, Ray Benson, Townes Van Zandt and Walter Hyatt, just to name a few. Booka and his wife, Edythe, have been involved in producing independent films. Most recently Booka produced the soundtrack for the independent film, Jeremy Fink & The Meaning of Life (starring Academy Award Winner Mira Sorvino and Emmy winner Joey Pantoliano) and a couple of years ago did the award-winning independent film, Baghdad Texas (which screened at Cannes, the Screen Directors Guild, and won prizes at many international festivals). Booka's Loudhouse Records has released many acclaimed records: Mike Kindred's "Handstand" (#8 on the Blues Charts), R.C. Banks' "Conway's Corner" (Austin Chronicle's Album of the Year and the #1 Blues Album of the Year according to Groove Magazine), Dave Olney's highly praised "Wheels" album, and Ponty Bone and the Squeeztones' "Fantasize”. And Booka and Edythe have been quiet contributors to many Austin charities, as well as Austin public radio KUT. And what I found most amazing is that Book and Edythe own and manage a pecan ranch in Hunt, Texas. And I absolutely love anything with pecans in it. In fact Booka sent me a couple of bags of pecans and I’m going to make a pecan pie with them!!! I did have to share with him the story of how I once ate a whole pecan pie – yes the whole pie!!! Joyce: Booka, thank you so much for speaking with me. Please tell our readers a little bit about yourself and what you have been up to. Booka: Well, I’m a percussionist. I’ve been playing professionally in Austin for over 35 years. I’m a recording artist and a trained musician for many, many years, in fact decades. I own an independent national recording label and put out mostly Austin artists. I belong to the DGA, Director’s Guild of America and I produce movies. I do film scores and I have an organic pecan orchard where I30 have 300 pecan trees that I harvest. We are working on setting up a Asian pear
Joyce: Oh my, I thought I was busy. Compared to you I’m on a vacation!!!! (we are both laughing now). Booka, who have been some of the artist’s that you have performed with over the years? Booka: Butch Hancock, Carrie Rodriguez, Champ Hood, Lester Bangs, Allen Ginsberg, Cindy Cashdollar, David Halley, Don Walser, Doug Sahm, Flaco Jimenez, Hoyt Axton, Jesse Taylor, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Joe Ely, Michael E. Johnson, Odetta, Ray Benson, Angela Strehli, Townes Van Zandt and Walter Hyatt, just to name a few. Joyce: Are you still playing out or are you doing more with the movie making these days? Booka: I am still playing out some. I do some festivals, but am primarily doing the movies and this takes a lot of my time. Joyce: Tell me about your project Jeremy Fink & The Meaning of Life film. Booka: I produced the soundtrack for the independent film, Jeremy Fink & The Meaning of Life (starring Academy Award Winner Mira Sorvino and Emmy winner Joey Pantoliano). There is this group of musicians I call the Flaming Geckos out of Austin. It consists of veteran recording/touring musicians, multi-instrumentalists, so when I do the film scores, I can bring in this core group of musicians and we can cover a lot of ground because of the musical backgrounds. We cover a great variety of musical genres. Jeremy Fink is a children’s book written by Wendy Moss and was on the New York time’s Children’s Best Seller List 8 or 9 years ago. Then our group secured the rights for a movie. We shot the film in Manhattan, New York, in 21 days. It was released in March of 2012 and has been keeping me quite busy with promotion, etc. (Check out some reviews by other magazine at the end of this story.) continued on page 34
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and events that he covers in his writings to be so familiar. I have met similar characters in my life in the Belleville area. I have lived or heard about similar situations and events that he mentions. Tom is one of those handymen that can fix anything and can visualize a solution to your problem and then search around in his warehouse of parts and pieces and uses welding to create something to solve that problem or need. But it is Tom Hartwig’s look at life, his way of life, and the tales he shares, that gives Perry the information to write an entire book VISITING TOM. Tom and his wife live off the land, and Perry’s family does the same. As to the subtitle of this book, well,Tom is the man, the highway is the interstate highway that runs almost an arm’s length away from Tom’s farm, and road is the dead end road Perry uses to get to his home and farm. Tom had to fight the government to protect his farm, and Perry is fighting the county government in their attempts to change Roughneck Grace, and in doing so they will make it impossible to access Perry’s home and farm in any kind of snowfall. You have heard of “you can’t fight city hall”? Many readers will be able to relate to Perry’s efforts from their own experiences “fighting city hall”. It could be that VISITING TOM might appeal more to men than women. I highly recommend this book.
In the last issue I wrote about attending the Green County Normal in Monroe as part of my teacher training. I had some inquiries about the name normal school. The name came about because the schools were created to teach teaching standards to norms. Norms meaning what was expected to be normal procedures or teaching practices. Thus came the name normal school.
What did you do in the blizzard of December 2012? I bet most of us simply stayed put as what was suggested we do. Just like everyone else we headed to the grocery store the day before to have on hand what we thought we would need, and, of course, to stock extra stuff just in case. We got through the day in good fashion by enjoying the view from inside the warm house. We had naps, we read, we listened to music, we ate well, and we watched some television shows that we had recorded, but that came to a screaming halt at 6:30 that Thursday night when we lost power. Had you been in the den with me at that moment, you would have seen the lights dim, a flash like lightning to the west of the house, and the television screen fade to nothing, and you would have heard me say, “Well, that doesn’t look good.” We reported the outage, and I simply crawled into bed at 7:11 as I figured bed would be the warmest spot, and what else could I do without electricity? Our power was not restored until 11 A.M. the next day, and it was gratifying to see how quickly the house warmed back up. Our neighbor Mike came to our rescue and plowed our driveway open, and we were able to get out and head to town for breakfast that Friday morning. Now we have the claim that we had a version of winter camping; that is, if you can count sleeping in a cold house in a bed warmed by your own body heat as a form of winter camping. Thus if one of you should suggest winter camping to me, I will reply, “Been there, done that, so, no thanks!”
It is very gratifying to me to see some of my personal favorite movies of last year are on lists of recognition by “experts”. Especially THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER and SEARCHING FOR SUGARMAN. But I was also very entertained by ARGO and LINCOLN, and both of these movies are getting award nominations. But I want to add another personal hit: SILVER LINING PLAYBOOK. Comedies rarely win awards, but this one is winning awards and deserves them. This movie combines brilliant acting by Cooper and Lawrence and add in a brilliant script with twists and turns to surprise you, and you have a prize winning comedy. Not to be missed is the work by Robert DeNiro as the relative that nearly drives everyone around him bonkers. And the movie does a good job emphasizing the absolute zeal of pro football fans and how that blends into a family’s life, and you have a winning formula for an award deserving comedy. You also have an entertaining time at the movies! Another film that I saw in December was HITCHCOCK. The reviews have not been kind to this movie, but I was really fascinated by it, and I liked seeing the behind the scenes creative efforts that led to that amazing movie PSYCHO. Of course, the Wisconsin connection to PSYCHO is especially interesting to us in the area that lived through the days of horror when the Plainfield, Wisconsin, events were revealed. On a final note I read of the passing of two female singers that were favorites of mine in my growing up years. Both Georgia Gibbs and Patti Page were pop singers with hit records in the 1950’s. My simply saying their names brings back the melodies and words of the songs I so enjoyed. If I dig enough, I am sure I can find some 45’s of both Gibbs and Page. I saw Patti Page at the Chicago Music Festival some time in the late 1950’s. TENNESSEE WALTZ was a big hit then, and she sang that as well as her other recorded songs as part of that festival. She entered Soldier’s Field to a blaze of spotlights while sitting on the back of a convertible which circled the track around the field so every section of the stadium had a fairly good close-up of her. She was dressed in a gold sparkling gown with her blonde hair pinned up sporting some sort of tiara. Life was not as kind to Ms Gibbs as it was to Patti Page. She grew up in an orphanage, was blacklisted, and was a victim of a harsh physical attack. Remember TWEEDLE DEE? That was her trademark song. Both that song and KISS OF FIRE by Georgia Gibbs are featured in the new HITCHCOCK movie that I mentioned a few lines above. Thanks for the memories, Patti Page and Georgia Gibbs. Written by: Bob Hoffman
My very favorite recent reading is Michael Perry’s latest book VISITING TOM: a MAN, a HIGHWAY, and the ROAD to ROUGHNECK GRACE. Many readers feel that Perry is Wisconsin’s master story teller living in our midst. He lives a simple life on his farm with his wife and two daughters, and he observes what is around him and in his life and then tells us all about it so eloquently in his very popular books. In case you have forgotten them, they are POPULATION 485, COOP, TRUCK: A LOVE STORY, and OFF MAIN STREET. All of his books have subtitles that give you a clue to the thought behind the entire book. I find that his characters, locations, situations, w w w. a m e r i c a n a g a z e t t e . n e t
CHRIS STAMEY LOVESICK BLUES YEPROCK RECORDS
As the founding member of THE dbs, Chris Stamey is no stranger to great reviews, and this one will be no exception. This whole record is a monument to good songwriting. Intimate lyrics and hooky melodies wrapped in lush string and woodwind arrangements. My personal favorite, OCCATIONAL SHIVERS, is a slightly McCartneyesque tune that drips with vibraphone as the up-right bass walks you through a landscape of love and memories. The gently distorted guitar break in the middle is just the right touch to remind you that this isn’t one of your dad’s jazz favorites from the 50’s. This is pop craftsmanship of the highest order. Review by: Rick Harris Lisa Matassa ♪♪♪♪ Somebody’s Baby It is what it is records Modern Country Lisa Matassa is part of the new crop of country singers with more a Rock & Roll influence than a Traditional Country background and it shows on this CD. The production on this CD spares no expense or leaves out any tricks. Distorted rock guitar and studio magic. The CD starts off with the title song. It seems to be tailor made for Matassa and her wide vocal range. The hook and chorus bode well for her. All the songs are really tailored for the 20 something crowd and fan base. They rock and stomp in that all too familiar sound of new country today. I feel Matassa is a fantastic singer and her slow songs really stand out. Her cover of Bryan Adams’ Heaven is a real keeper! She has an excellent voice and is a true talent. Dolly Parton’s I will always love you is also done acapella for the first part of the song and is a very nice treat. It’s too bad these younger singers don’t stick with what they do best and give up the recycled 80’s rock that Country music has drifted into lately. Matassa is too good of a singer to be stuck with the up-tempo material she recorded here. I’d change up and work on some more traditional or even early 90’s type country with her voice. Love the singer! Review by: Andy Ziehli Mark Brine ♪♪♪♪♪ Mark Brine and is FOLKBILLY BLUEZGRASS Wildoats Records Americana/Singer Songwriter/Folk Mark Brine is an interesting artist. I would describe his music as very traditional in a Jimmy Rodgers style, in fact if Jimmy Rodgers and Hank Williams were cloned into one artist I would have to say that Brine is it! His music is clever and really hits that old timey Country bones a lot of us have that tend to stay hidden until we get a treat like this CD. I fell in love with this CD and Brine halfway through the second cut Factory Blues. I was taken over by the spirits of all the greats before Brine by the end of Hey, LIL Girl!!! This is a wonderfully recorded CD with no over the top production. The songs are all top notch and Brine should and deserves “big” pat on the back for putting out such a wonderful CD. I love all of them! With not a bad song on the CD Mark Brine shows that he is a talent to be reckoned with. He may not be your cup of tea if you like fast Country Rock songs, but if you love old timey country and country blues this CD is sure to satisfy. I hope to hear more from Brine in the future. He’s that good! Review by: Andy Ziehli
Mary Gauthier ♪♪♪♪♪ Live at Blue Rock Americana/Singer Songwriter/Folk Live records can be hits or misses depending on the artists who record them. This record is a HIT!!! It’s bare and sparse in its use of tricks to hide anything. It is a true representation of Mary Gauthier and her talent as a songwriter and performer! With the on stage help from Mike Meadows on percussion and Tania Elizabeth on fiddle and background vocals Gauthier has released a real winner here! The CD starts off with Your Sister Cried and great song written by Fred Eaglesmith and does not stop there with wonderfully written and performed songs. Other highlights of the CD include Last of the Hobo Kings,The Rocket, another Eaglesmith song, Karla Faye, I drink, Drag Queens in Limousines an autobiographical account of her early life. Gauthier co-wrote or wrote eight of the 11 songs on this CD. This CD is a great way to get into Gauthier’s music if you have never experienced it before. You’ll see why other artists sing her praises, as I do. Gauthier’s gutsy honest partial of life and its experiences on her and her friends is therapeutic to listen to. She may not ever be a household name, but Gauthier is certainly capable and deserves to be one! If you love honest heartfelt music then you should go out and buy Live at Blue Rock, because I don’t think you’ll find an equal anywhere! Review by: Andy Ziehli MASON BROTHERS GHOST SEASON INDEPENDENT RELEASE The Mason Brothers press release said,“rooted in classic rock”, and that ain’t no lie. But this folk/pop group from Richmond Virginia has a lot more going on than that.The soft, almost Paul Simon treatment of James Mason’s fine voice, floating on a sea of powerful churning guitars and swirling organ gives this record an almost disorienting quality. Brother Christian Mason’s tasteful use of lap and pedal steel guitars really puts the frosting on the cake for each of these ten self-penned songs. Nice record, keep goin’ bros. Review by: Rick Harris
Sometimes Ya Gotta… ♪♪♪♪♪ Stacie Collin’s maverick honkey-tonk rock first took Nashville by storm in 2001 with the release of her self-titled debut. Since then, Stacie has been turning heads with her killer harmonica and dropping jaws over her high-octane performances. Over the last ten years, Collins has also garnered both critical attention and earned a loyal fan base throughout the U.S. and Europe. Known for her hallmark harp playing and stage brass, Collins has cultivated an audacious and iconic profile among what amounts to a smattering of women performing Southern rock. On her most recent album, Sometimes Ya Gotta…, Collins partners with Warner E. Hodges, among other friends, to create an album of songs with stories that range from sympathetic concessions to the pervasiveness of depression, alcohol and other “little things” to sly swipes at our collective cultural buttons. The album holds a nice mix of songs, equal parts dance music (Give It Up) sassy blues (Hey Mister) and ballads (Don’t Doubt me Now). Sometimes Ya Gotta sports more than a few surprises, the pleasure of which is the listener gets full scope of who Stacie Collins is and what she has to offer. On the surface, the album’s style—from title to graphics--is largely iconic, featuring a couple of honkey-tonk anthems with a fate-tempting gritty metal piece thrown in for good measure.With line of skilled musicians, however, from Dan Baird on the keys to Eric “Ebo” Borash on the lap steel, Collins’ impressive vocal repertoire gets the showcase it needs to move beyond the visual styling, which has the potential to pin prospective listeners to a type. A skilled songwriter working with husband Al Collins, who also serves as the bassist with the band, Collins masterfully moves between the elegance and anguish of Patsy Kline and the irrepressible energy of Cindy Lauper. Collins takes some decisively creative turns in the course of telling her musical stories. Mid-album, the joyful Carry Me Away, amplified by its polka rhythms, elevates our spirits into an irresistible abandon. I defy anyone to stay still listening to the song. In Cool, Collins achieves the edgy social critique characteristic of the ironic portraiture crafted so effectively by the Eagles in their album Hotel California. Tied to You blends simple Lucinda Williams lyrics with the in-your-face fatalism of Glen Frey. Little Things details eloquently and philosophically the relationship we cultivate with those “things” that may get us through the rougher parts of life—and for which we pay a price. The smoky undercurrent emanated by the lap steel line the lyrics with an appropriate eeriness; that we create these co-dependencies, whether with our Starbucks’ Lattes or that favorite TV show, doesn’t go unnoticed. Indeed, recognizing such contradictions and other foibles of human behavior is a theme that runs through many songs on the album. One of my favorites, It Hurts to Breathe, is a gorgeous broken-heart ballad fashioned out of the lap steel, organ and drums, each tracing Collins’ vocals to build up to that agow w w. a m e r i c a n a g a z e t t e . n e t
Tift Merritt ♪♪♪♪♪ Traveling Alone Yep Roc Records Americana
nizing moment of truth so well-mastered by Patsy Kline and Willie Nelson. In order to reach a broader audience, it’s important that Collins’ listeners be able to find meaning beyond the iconic bad-ass rocker image so many musicians in this genre enjoy. This image is as common—and as cultivated-- as Harley-Davidson’s across the U.S; it seems to serve as Americans’ favorite alter ego. In this respect, Some Times you Gotta doesn’t disappoint. Between them, the Collins’ have a knack for packaging an interesting and socially relevant message in Hail Mary songs whose power to rock doesn’t diminish the point. In addition, underlying the dozen pieces on the album is a cool defiance of conventional gender roles in country rock. Rather than opting to don the mantle of the masculine to achieve her goal, as so many women country rockers do, Collins approach is a substantially more provocative hybrid of the blues and roots rock. I Won’t do you Like That casually debunks the myth of the successful boot-grinding man-tamer cultivated by women in the genre—mere substitute for the once-conventional stilettos. Unlike many of her contemporaries, Collins doesn’t have to rely on Nashville’s conventional vocal stylings or sheer volume to express the vision and feeling behind her songs. With more growl and wit than Shania Twain, more guts than Gretchen Wilson and more acuity than most of their sister rockers, the audacious Stacie Collins may well leave her mark on the history of Southern rock. Review by: Anne Gravel Sullivan
Tift Merritt is one of the finest songwriters and singers hitting the road today! I was fortunate enough to meet her and hear her in concert this past summer before this CD was released. She was opening for Mary Chapin Carpenter at the Barrymore Theater in Madison,WI. I had long been a fan of her music and talent and it was a real treat to see her perform live at last. Merritt is one those artists that as soon as you hear her music you instantly become a fan. The second cut on Traveling Alone Sweet Spot is a perfect example of that. It’s nectar to your ears. Merritt can rock it up too which she proves with Still Not Home and To Myself (my favorite cut)! She is one of the few writers today who can write smart catchy songs along with highly intelligent lyrics and very cool hooks. I put Merritt in the same league as Mary Chapin Carpenter, Rodney Crowell, Hal Ketchum, Rosanne Cash, and Kathleen Edwards. Traveling Alone is a wonderful CD and should be in everyone’s collection. Great songs, fantastic hooks, superior vocals, and some of the smartest lyrics you’ll e3ver hear. I can’t say enough good things about this CD and Merritt as a talent! So get off your butts and go buy it!!! Review by: Andy Ziehli
THE 1861 PRODJECT VOLUME 1: FROM FARMERS TO FOOT SOLDIERS COHESION ARTS THE 1861 PRODJECT VOL: 1 is a collection of 17 original songs based on the real life stories of people who lived and fought through the American civil war.This volume of acoustic music was written and performed by an amazing group of Nashville artists including Grand Ole Opry star Marty Stuart and country music legend John Anderson. The musician line-up includes members of Ricky Skaggs Kentucky Thunder, Delbert McClinton’s band, and Willie Nelson side-man Mickey Raphael.Two stand-out tracks for me were: FREEDOM TRAIN, the story of a run-away slave’s flight north to freedom, and Marty Stuart’s mandolin drenched SOLDIERS DREAM. For anyone interested in the personal side of the civil war or just great acoustic music, this CD is for you. Review by: Rick Harris
THE 1861 PROJECT VOLUME: 2 THE FAMINE TO THE FRONT COHESION ARTS THE 1861 Project vol:2 is the second release in this ongoing series of original acoustic music based on the real life stories of the men and women who lived and fought through the American civil war.This second volume centers on the stories of the Irish immigrants and Irish Americans who fought and sacrificed through this bloody period of our nation’s history. Dobro master Gerry Douglas and Country Music Hall of Fame member Connie Smith are both featured on this beautifully written, performed, recorded, and packaged second volume. For music history buffs or just plan lovers of acoustic music, this CD is highly recommended. Review by: Rick Harris
Todd May ♪♪♪♪♪ Rickenbacker Girls Peloton Records Americana/Country/ Roots Todd May is a longtime songwriter and guitar player out of Columbus Ohio. A fine musician and one heck of a songwriter. His first CD Rickenbacker Girls is a wonderful collection of Bluesy Roots Music. It is filled with a lot of hooks and great melodies. His style and voice remind me of the music coming out of Austin Texas today ala Band of Heathens, Hayes Carl, and Corb Lund. It’s got a real earthy sound and backbone to it. There are some very good ballads St.Albans Girl and Why don’t you come out lately are fine examples. They have a Stax’s kind of vibe to them. Left to our own devices is a fantastically written true country song. It’s my favorite song on the CD! Telling lyrics and a great story. It’s too bad that radio won’t play a song like this anymore. The title cut Rickenbacker Girls is a fantastic story song that really hooks you in. May has the talent and the chops to make a big splash if he can get out and get seen and heard. Rickenbacker Girls is a great start! With a few tours and a few breaks Todd May could easily climb the Americana Charts and sit right along those Texas boys! Review by: Andy Ziehli
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Joyce: Besides CD #2, what else is on your bucket list? Anne: Oh wow. I would like to learn how to play another instrument or two. I’d like to pick up the bass guitar or the upright bass and try to master one of them. I would also love to produce a jazz album some day. I will be taking some lessons from Maggie of Harmonious Wail in early January; I’m hoping her talents can help me learn and loosen up!. I’m also hoping to eventually get back into educational consultation and maybe set up some online learning services to help people learn how to communicate more effectively. Joyce: And what do you do for fun and relaxation? Anne: I love to read history and mysteries and listen to music. These things inspire me. And I love to go sailing with Dan as well as walking with our dog, Thunder. I can honestly say I never get bored! Joyce: Well,Anne thank you for your time on this snowy December night where we are experiencing the worst blizzard of 2012. I really appreciate your time and wish you the best in your future adventures. Have fun shoveling tomorrow! It looks like we have about 18 inches out there already. Anne:Thank you Joyce. Yes, we will have lots of fun shoveling in the morning, I’m sure of it. Please check out and purchase Anne’s new CD, “Pathologies” at: www.cdbaby.com Story by: Joyce Ziehli Photos supplied.
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Shawn: Yeah, that’s a different project.We have 8 or 10 songs for the Sis Draper story. But that project is down the road a piece...
Joyce: Booka, which is more fun, performing music or producing a film?
Travis: Your musical prowess is pretty evident from the recordings you've made and from the live shows. Can you talk about how your songwriting has developed for you? Shawn: I feel like I'm still developing as a songwriter. I'm just whittling along. I came to town January 13th 1987 and was playing fiddle for the Osbourne Brothers on the Opry.Then it just kind of evolved me writing songs. One of the first guys I started writing with was Dean Miller, Roger Miller's son. We met at the Bluebird and before the night was out we were sitting on a tailgate of my truck on 16th avenue writing songs.We ended up writing about 40 songs.After that, I started writing with everybody. I got to feel like I could write a song with anyone I sat with. I've learned a lot from the many I've worked with. Travis: Speaking of working with the Osbourne Brothers, with you coming from a traditional music roots background, to having someone like Garth Brooks cut one of your songs (Two Pina Colladas) did you have aspirations to become a more mainstream artist? Shawn: I just wanted to get into the music business any way I could. So I had a lot of irons in the fire. I was working as a utility guy, fiddle, mandolin, guitar or sing harmonies. Over that time, as soon as I would stop working with one artist, I end up getting another one pretty quick. I worked with Suzy Boguss, Shelby Lynn. I was Alan Jackson's first fiddle player and worked with Jerry Reed. I put Trisha Yearwood's band together. And I was writing songs or making demos. So when the opportunity came to sign with Warner Brothers, I was ready to do it. So, I tried that and it worked for a bit. Then it didn't work. (Laughs) But it got my foot in the door and got my name established. And another benefit I had was the writing with so many people. And theirs was lots of publishers working and pitching the songs. I thought that was a logical way to build a catalog up. It wasn't always the most artistic way, but I tried to make it as artistic as I could.
Booka: Did you say which one was less stressful? (laughs) Performing music is by far less stressful. You have 5 or 6 people to deal with, making a movie you are dealing with a crew of 125 or more. Joyce: And all 125 get along great, right? Booka: Oh yea. No drama at all. (laughing) Joyce: What might be some things on your bucket list or future goals? Booka:We are currently starting a pear orchard in California, so we are busy getting this up and going. I am still keeping busy with the Jeremy Fink project. We have been nominated for some awards and this is pretty exciting. Booka and I went on to discuss several other topics including some bar playing jobs from long ago. Booka told me a real funny story about “The Split Rail” bar and it included chicken wire fencing, flying booze and broken beer bottles and one hell of a “great time” had by the performers. Ask him next time you see him. It’s a good one and funny! We also discussed some mutual friends we have in Nashville, with lots of kind words spoken of our dear friend, Mr. Peter Cooper. I agreed to send Booka some good old cheese and sausage and he agreed to send me some freshly harvested pecans in return. After the pecan pie story, I think he was daring me to do a repeat, which I haven’t done yet. But I did get a Belgium Waffle maker for Christmas and I have made me some tasty pecan waffles from his gift. And they are the best pecans ever!!!! Thank you Booka and good luck to you in 2013. Please check out Book Michel at: www.loudhousemusic.com/booka Interview by: Joyce Ziehli
Travis: Did the label let you be you or did you have to follow the rules?
Background information provide by: Lance Cowan LC Media
Shawn: Oh yeah, there's all kinds of major label rules that you have to follow that I didn't know were going to happen (Laughs) But there came a breaking point with the second record I turned in. Emory Gordy produced it. I had James Burton, (fiddle master) Bobby Hicks, Jerry Douglas on dobro, Roy Husky Jr. on bass and Patty Loveless singing harmonies on it.They wanted me to take off all the fiddles and dobros on it and replace it with electric guitars. So the effect that had was an album that was shelved for 16 years. But it’s out there now. It’s the album, '1994'.
Travis: Can you name some of the artists or players over the years that you've loved since you were a kid that you were able to record with or perform with? Shawn: I played on Eddy Arnold's last record.That was a real treat.We hit it off. Cowboy Jack Clement produced the record. Eddy was a cool guy, but there have been a lot of them. Cowboy Jack opened so many doors for me. When Porter Wagoner was put in the Country Music Hall of Fame, we were the band. I was there when Porter and Dolly had gotten together after so many years. Hanging out with Johnny Cash, riding down the road in a Cadillac with him, things I would have never dreamed of. I've met almost all my heroes. I met Roger Miller and I had agreed to be in his band before he died. I'm friends with Bobby Bare and get to write with Loretta Lynn. I got to meet all the musicians who have played on all those records over the years. It's a real blessing. Travis: As you continue to do more shows with Guy and promote the tribute record, what other projects do you have on the agenda for this coming year? Shawn: Well, I'm going to be doing quite a bit of stuff on my own. I'm going to working on my own recordings and Loretta Lynn's new record. We've cut 62 songs before we started this new project that aren’t released yet.There'll be 5 or 6 records that come out from that, I'm assuming. But this latest project is an Appalachian record, real old timey. I'm playing a lot of mandolin on it.And Guy Clark's new record is going to be amazing. He's singing so good...I'm just real excited about it. I have 3 co-writes on it. It's going to be one of his best ones. He's feeling better and it's showing in the music.
Some excerpts from other reviews; Booka and the Flaming Geckos Baghdad Texas: Music from the Motion Picture Soundtrack “Booka” is Austin percussionist, producer and Loud House Records label owner Booka Michel; the Flaming Geckos is the ad hoc collection of hotshot players he assembled to tackle the intriguing mélange of musical styles demanded by a movie about a Middle Eastern dictator who convalesces in Texas after his plane crashes on the Mexican border. Baghdad Texas: Chris Neal / Country Weekly BOOKA AND THE FLAMING GECKOS! The Not So Meaningful Songs In The Life of Jeremy Fink (Loudhouse Records) After that title, there’s only space left to say this literary /cinema inspired multi-genre (blues, folk, “acid western”) recording features percussionist Booka Michel, Cindy Cashdollar on steel, lap steel and Pogreba Weissenborn, and guests like guitarist Kenny Franklin. Different, but darn good. — Rick Allen Vintage Guitar A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange by Mark S.Tucker Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life started out as a well-received book by authoress Wendy Mass, a long pensée about exactly that: a teen-ager discovering what life is. This year, 2011, the movie version with Mira Sorvino and Joe Pantoliano issued, and Booka Michel was chosen to score the music.This CD is the exemplary result, an almost-completely instrumental grand tour of a blend of styles basing itself in updated takes on all the usual root modes and even an "acid Western" approach, a kind of Sergio Leone-esque environmental twang finding many affinities with the Grateful Dead, Kaleidoscope, and others past and present.
Travis: Shawn, I can’t wait to hear your upcoming music and projects! Always love to see you play around town. I can’t thank you enough for taking the time to talk to me. I truly wish ya all the best! Written by: Travis Cooper Photo by Judith Hill.
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You’re the only person I’ve ever seen do an entire gig with a baby carrier strapped to the front of you. Monica: Well, we did take some time for one of our kids and Paul had injured his hand and Dave had left the group.The band took some time to regroup. RH: Do either of you play other instruments? Aaron: I play a little piano but I’m pretty much just a guitar player. Monica plays a ukulele on one tune. And she’s playing more percussion now. Monica: I could really use some drumming lessons. I sometimes have a little trouble singing while playing certain rhythms. RH:You do some bluegrass material and have a pretty straight forward bluegrass instrumental line-up. So……….are you a bluegrass band? Aaron: I don’t think so.We are a string band for sure. It’s true we do some bluegrass but really our material is all over the place. Monica: I think it’s more fun for the audience that way.They never know what’s coming next. RH: So, if you could realize your wackiest musical dream, what would that be? Aaron: I think I would like to do a summer tour of folk festivals all around the country.
that you find in Appalachia in the rural places, this combination of innocence and fierceness. “I told her that learning to sing ‘Black Lung’ changed the way I think about singing. She just looked at me and paused and told me the story of her brother having black lung. She would not engage on the level of ‘kiss my ring.’That’s not who she was.” Many of Mattea’s friends see some of those same qualities in Kathy, the same lack of pretension, the same sense of place, tender and fierce, embodied by Dickens and her peers.“I’ve known for some time,” writes best-selling author Barbara Kingsolver, herself a native of Appalachian Virginia, “that Kathy is no stranger to that kind of gumption.” Kingsolver and Mattea have developed a friendship in recent years through the crusade against mountaintop removal, a modern technique – strip-mining on steroids – that continues to rain devastation on the mountains. “The particular genius of Kathy Mattea,” Kingsolver wrote in the liner notes of “Calling Me Home”,“is to call up the touchstones of hope and heartache. Even if these mountains are not yours, the fact is everybody has a home stretch, where you feel a little torn up because no matter which way you’re headed, you are going towards home and also leaving it behind. Believe me, this is the soundtrack for that journey.” For Mattea, meanwhile, it seems clear enough that never in the course of her long career has the journey been richer than it is today. Written by: Frye Gaillard Photos supplied from Kathy Mattea’s website.
Monica: I think I would like to do a concert of classical music with only piano accompaniment.And I’d also like to record a CD of lullabies. I think that would be a great thing as a parent to do. RH: So do I.Thanks for talking with me.
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There’s a lot more POINT FIVE info to be had on their website. www.pointfiveband.com and if you get a chance, check out one of their live shows. They’re terrific.
making, yet ironically, notes Gordon, they remain representative of the way Nashville rockers are generally regarded by the country industry. “During the 1980s, the country music establishment hated bands like Jason & the Scorchers, viewing them as some sort of bastardization of a hallowed musical tradition. Little has changed in the decades since . . . rock ’n’ roll is still largely ignored by the labels on Music Row.”
Story by: Rick Harris Photos supplied.
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The thing, however, that drew Mattea to the song and made it fit so perfectly into “Calling Me Home” was that it was so much more than a ballad of protest. In the largest sense it was a song about life – about an Appalachian farmer’s love of the land, and the cycles of sadness that weave their way through the ordinary joys. In the coming of springtime we planted our corn In the ending of springtime we buried a son Mattea says her conversations with Ritchie have deepened her feeling about such songs, cementing the sense of a legacy that needs to be preserved. Once backstage a few years ago, when Ritchie was still performing periodically, but starting to feel the weight of the years, she told Mattea,“I can’t get around like I used to. I can’t get out and play as much.” “That’s okay,” Mattea told her,“we’ll keep singing your songs.You rest now.We’ll carry the torch.” She feels the same way about other folk legends she has met in recent years, people like Alice Gerrard, whose ballad,“Agate Hill,” is one of the most beautiful cuts on “Calling Me Home.”And she may have felt an even closer kinship to her fellow West Virginian, Hazel Dickens. Dickens, who died in April 2011, was born in 1935 during the depths of the Depression and raised in poverty in the coal camps. Her father was a Primitive Baptist preacher, her brothers were miners, and one of her sisters cleaned house for the superintendent of the mines. As a young woman, Hazel moved from West Virginia to Baltimore, where she spent most of her life, but her heart and soul – and certainly her music – belonged to West Virginia. In the 1960s, she and Alice Gerrard formed a bluegrass duo called Hazel and Alice. But Dickens’ piercing solo laments, like her song “Black Lung, which she wrote in memory of her brother, are clearly at the heart of her legacy. She sang her songs for the people back home, sometimes taking her place on picket lines, and defined herself and an activist much more than simply an entertainer. “I had met Hazel in passing,” says Mattea, “but my first real encounter was in 2008 when we inducted her into the first class of the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame.Allison Krauss did the introduction of her.Then at the Folk Alliance in Memphis in 2009, I got to interview her in front of an audience. She had lived her life as an expatriate, having left West Virginia physically, but it was the lens through which she viewed everything. Unlike Jean Ritchie, Hazel did not have the same formal education, so there was no filter.There was such a directness w w w. a m e r i c a n a g a z e t t e . n e t
It’s a moot point now, though, as regards the Scorchers; as Gordon points out, “Their influence on the Americana genre puts it all in perspective. After almost 30 years playing together, Jason and Warner can still crank out an album as vital as [2010’s] Halcyon Times and play to a rabid European fan base, so it really doesn't matter what Music Row thinks of them anymore.” Gordon agrees with the notion that today’s Americana artists are contemporary kin to the seminal Nashville rockers. Like them, Americana’s practitioners are as likely as not to be passed over by the country industry—but unlike their predecessors, their presence is harder to ignore.“I don't think that Music Row really knows what to do with the Americana genre,” says Gordon,“but whether they like it or not, it’s beginning to exert an influence on the so-called traditional artists. Considering that folks like Jason & the Scorchers,Webb Wilder and Steve Earle influenced the first wave of Americana—No Depression artists like Uncle Tupelo and Slobberbone during the 1980s—we're seeing, I believe, the third generation of Americana artists beginning to emerge. I think that it's funny that T Bone Burnett, one of the granddaddies of alt-country, is picking the music for the hit TV show ‘Nashville.’ Like much of the recording industry, Music Row is waning in influence, and it must seem [to the country music establishment] that the inmates are running the asylum.” (Gordon’s new books can be found at amazon.com or purchased directly from his website, othersideofnashville.com.) Story by Steve Morley Photo by Tracey Dooling/Ninjakitty Studios
Published on Jan 22, 2013
The Americana Gazette is a print and online interactive FREE music and arts publication. Each bi-monthly issue features Americana, Blue Gras...