August 21, 2014

I saw Caitlin Rose performing this unreleased song with a singer named Pete Lindberg last month at Newport Folk Festival. I don’t know who Pete Linderberg is, and I don’t know if this song will ever get released (hope it does). All I know is it’s one of the prettiest, most heartbreaking duets I’ve heard in a long while.

August 17, 2014
"I love the National. They have these certain songs where it’s just a piano and a vocal, and then they add all these soundscapes. With our new record, we sort of said what happens if you do that with a rock band. Bon Iver and the National do that really well, but they do it with very delicate music, you know? That’s not the type of music we play in the Gaslight Anthem, we’re not that kind of band."

That’s something Brian Fallon told me when I interviewed him earlier this summer about his new record. That quote didn’t end up getting published, but I think it’s the best description of what the group is trying to go for on Get Hurt. 

I do wonder if Fallon limits himself (and his art) by sticking to this idea of “the type of music we play in the Gaslight Anthem.” The Gaslight Anthem will never be able to take the type of risks and sonic chances that they seem to want to take so long as Fallon holds on to this idea that his quiet, moodier side needs to be reserved for side projects separate from what he does with Gaslight Anthem. 

July 1, 2014

In the fall of 1929, a young cowboy crooner named Gene Autry strolled into New York City and recorded a couple of songs in a German . One of them was called “My Alabama Home,” which sounds an awful lot like what “Sweet Home Alabama” might’ve sounded like had it been written thirty-five years earlier. 

I’m longing for the old plantation, where they sing “Sweet Adeline,”

The best place in all creation, that Alabama home of mine,

It seems I can wait no longer, for the sun to shine,

'Till I get back to my mammy, and that Alabama home of mine.

Written by his songwriting partner Jimmy Long, Autry’s “My Alabama Home” is an infectious blend of country pop and minstrel balladry. In Autry’s tune you can hear the high-lonesome dusty yodel of Jimmy Rodgers, the sophisticated song-craft of Stephen Foster, and the anxious showmanship of Al Jolson. I discovered the song six months ago and haven’t been able to forget about it since.

I was able to buy the song a few months ago, but for some reason it now seems to be unavailable for purchase, digitally or physically, anywhere in the United States, so this stream’ll have to do.

I talk more about “My Alabama Home,” and many more songs about fraught “Alabama homes” in Sweet Home Everywhere. (Kindle version)

June 24, 2014
Sweet Home Everywhere

Here’s the link to the pretty-looking multimedia version of my latest story on “Sweet Home Alabama.”  

June 24, 2014
Hey folks,
I can’t tell you all how excited I am to share with you a piece I’ve been working on for the better part of the last year. It’s called Sweet Home Everywhere, and it’s an alternative history of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama,” the perplexing, irresistible, annoying, resilient song that was released as a single exactly 40 years ago, to this day.
My story on the song, which runs at just under 13,000 words, was published by a really cool new project called The New New South. Every few months, they release top-notch, stand-alone stories about the modern American south that are all well worth checking out.
Sweet Home Everywhere is available now as a Kindle Single.
There’s also a nifty multimedia version of the story on the way with audio, photo, video, etc…, but I’ll share that with you all in due time!

Hey folks,

I can’t tell you all how excited I am to share with you a piece I’ve been working on for the better part of the last year. It’s called Sweet Home Everywhere, and it’s an alternative history of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama,” the perplexing, irresistible, annoying, resilient song that was released as a single exactly 40 years ago, to this day.

My story on the song, which runs at just under 13,000 words, was published by a really cool new project called The New New South. Every few months, they release top-notch, stand-alone stories about the modern American south that are all well worth checking out.

Sweet Home Everywhere is available now as a Kindle Single.

There’s also a nifty multimedia version of the story on the way with audio, photo, video, etc…, but I’ll share that with you all in due time!

April 11, 2014

"Sham-A-Ling-Dong-Ding means sweetheart, Sham-A-Ling-Dang-Dong does too"

That line gets me every time, but today it just kills me. RIP Jesse Winchester.

March 28, 2014

I just got an email from Tumblr telling me I’ve been running this ramshackle little page for five years, to this day. I guess that means I’ve been writing about music, in one small way or another, for about five years now, and that feels alright.

Thanks to all you followers for liking and listening and putting up with lots of John Prine.  Hell, let’s say another prayer for the pretender.

March 19, 2014
"

When I meet other people my age and tell them what I do for a living (only after unsuccessfully avoiding it), after the usual what kind of music, name of the band questions, etc., things turn to my thoughts on the merits or lack of in today’s pop music. Sometimes I think they want me to reassure them that they are not just turning into old assholes. Saying the same things old assholes said about them and their music. In order to determine if you’re turning into an old asshole, you have to accept the fact that the rate at which a society progresses can be measured by the rate at which it’s old assholes die or accept their irrelevance. Since we can’t change your life expectancy let’s focus on relevance.

Why was your music all that anyway? If you’re thinking “because they played their own instruments” you may be becoming an old asshole.

Why?

Ted Nugent plays an instrument. What is he? You guessed it. I was even young enough once to think he had something meaningful to offer the world.

Basically every generation deserves a chance to get it wrong! And if you think the one coming up is going to get it any more wrong than yours did; congratulations!

You’re an old asshole.

Don’t be an old asshole.

"

— Mike Cooley, poptimist

March 1, 2014
John Prine’s early draft of “Donald and Lydia,” one of my favorite finds at the Country Music Hall of Fame. The first two lines got scrapped, but they’re fun to sing along to the melody:
"In a town located in the upper Midwest
With a population of three hundred-fifty or less”

John Prine’s early draft of “Donald and Lydia,” one of my favorite finds at the Country Music Hall of Fame. The first two lines got scrapped, but they’re fun to sing along to the melody:

"In a town located in the upper Midwest

With a population of three hundred-fifty or less”

February 14, 2014

"Life is a blessing, it’s a delicatessen"

February 11, 2014

"I was at a show and I heard someone play a murder ballad that they wrote, and it was about the age-old thing of shooting your woman down. I had already been thinking a lot about it, because a lot of kids that play music on the street in New Orleans sing a lot of old blues songs and there’s a lot of beating your woman, “ain’t it a shame to beat your wife on Sunday” kind of thing. I was just thinking about it and I was like wow, we’ve dissociated from what this means. It feels like it’s just this joke, and when you’re a feminist songwriter, you have this very different lens that you’re seeing everything through. When I hear those songs, I don’t have a filter that makes me think that’s not real. Why would you do that to this woman? As opposed to having a filter and being like “oh he doesn’t really mean it, it’s just a joke song.”

-Alynyda Lee Segarra of Hurray for the Riff Raff, explaining to me why murder ballads could, uh, probably use some updating in 2014.

December 11, 2013
"

Melissa Block: So you wish that last verse weren’t there?


Guy Clark: Yeah, because it’s too much. It’s not necessary, it clutters up the listener’s imagination. You’re trying to tell them too much, what you want them to do is imagine.

"

— Songwriting genius Guy Clark, explaining why his new song “Rain In Durango” was one verse too long. You can hear co-writer Shawn Camp’s take on the song here.

December 8, 2013
"The movie takes the form of a folk song: there’s a first verse, then a series of verses—in each of which something awful happens—and finally the first verse comes around again, seeming changed."

— John Jeremiah Sullivan, with the best summary of the new Coen Brothers movie yet. Sullivan’s short, promotional essay about Inside Llewyn Davis is well worth reading. Bonus: its called “Daft Folk.”

December 3, 2013

Here’s a find. Jason Isbell & Amanda Shires singing “Mutineer” by Warren Zevon. 

December 3, 2013

I interviewed Mike Cooley about the new Drive By Truckers record for Rolling Stone. My favorite part of the interview got cut, so I wanted to share it here. Cooley compares one of his new songs on the record (you can hear a live solo take above) to Springsteen’s “Glory Days.”

Cooley, on “First Air of Autumn”:

It’s kind of along the same lines as “Glory Days” and all those songs, and I’m not going to make as much money on this as the Boss did on “Glory Days,” I’ll tell you that right now. I always hated that song, I hated that song. But the experience I had made me realize how real it was. Bruce has that ability to take something real sad and make it sound like a party song, and that takes a lot more talent than actually making the song sound sad like I did. 

It’s about people who peak too early, and who leave that time of their lives when everything makes perfect sense and everything else is a bitter disappointment. And a little bit about the best looking guy and the best looking girl getting married, and when nobody gives a damn anymore, they realize they can’t stand each other, and it’s no longer…it’s no longer special when they’re not the king and queen.