What I’ve been listening to most this year. In no particular order. It’s a fairly eclectic list methinks…which is a good thing. Any reaction but boredom is a positive reaction. These records are not boring…
The Bodeans – their entire ouvre
Buddy and Julie Miller – “Written in Chalk”
Adrian Whitehead – “One Small Stepping Man”
Bob Mould – “Life and Times”
The Bottle Rockets – “The Brooklyn Side”
Brendan Benson – “My Old, Familiar Friend”
Chris Richards and the Subtractions – “Sad Sounds of the Summer”
Cracker – “Sunrise in the Land of Milk and Honey”
Deadstring Brothers – “Sao Paulo”
The Dexateens – “Hardwire Healing”
The Drams – “Jubilee Drive”
The Gamits – “Antidote” and “Parts”
The Gourds – “Haymaker”
Graham Day and the Gaolers – “Triple Distilled”
AC/DC – “Let There Be Rock” and “If You Want Blood You Got It”
Len Price 3 – “Pictures”
The Gripweeds – “Strange Change Machine”
The Hold Steady – “Heaven is Whenever” and “Boys and Girls in America” and “Stay Positive”
The Hotlines – “The Hotlines”
James McMurtry – “Live in Aught-Three”
Jason and the Scorchers – “Halcyon Times”
The Jellybricks – “Goodnight to Everyone”
Paddy Keenan – “The Long Grazing Acre”
Los Lobon – “Tin Can Trust”
Lucero – “1372 Overton Park”
Mark Olson and Gary Louris – “Ready for the Flood”
Martin Sexton – “Live Wide Open”
The Methadones – “The Methadones”
Muck and the Mires – “Hypnotic”
Noel Gallagher – “The Dreams We Have as Children”
NOFX – “Coaster”
Old 97’s – “The Grand Theatre Vol I”
Over the Rhine – “Ohio”
Paul Thorn – “A Long Way From Tupelo”
The Pines – “Tremolo”
Punchline – “Delightfully Pleased”
The Red Button – “She’s About to Cross My Mind”
The Riverdales – “Tarantula”
Rufio – “Anybody Out There”
Sam Roberts – “Love at the End of the World”
The Shazam – “Meteor”
Slobberbone – “Barrel Chested” and “Slippage”
Son Volt – “American Central Dust”
Sugarcult – “Start Static”
The Vines – “Melodia”
The Waxwings – “Low to the Ground”
The Weepies – “Say I Am You”
Will Hoge – “The Wreckage” and “Blackbird on a Lonely Wire”
The Wonder Years – “The Upsides”
You Me at Six – “Hold Me Down”
16 Frames – “Where it Ends”
Had a great time at Old Lynn Saturday night. Great crowd. My friend Eddie Appnel did a sizzling opening set. Left some serious chips on the table.
Best venue in the state. Bar none. I’m honored to be allowed on that stage. Many thanks to Lorne and Esther and Rich and Lisa. And to Erin and John and Jeff for coming out and helping me along.
Anyway, here’s my setlist. Time just flies by…
Pleased to Meet Me
That Ring It Don’t Fit Your Finger Anymore
The Anthracite Shuffle
I’m Still Me
Song About a Train/Racing in the Street
Not Fade Away
In a bit…
I changed my strings last night so you know I’m serious. I never change my strings. I once played the same set until they started to rust and flake like paint.
I saw a band one time and watched the guitar player put new strings on between each set. I figured he either OCD or completely insane. Not a bad picker though, but for the rest of the night I felt more working class and looked at him like he was a bourgeois twit.
I’ve considered my willingness to play the same strings until they start to change the color of my guitar a badge of honor. Hell, Woody Guthrie wasn’t changing his strings riding the rails….right? Not sure about Dylan. But I know he never cut the ends off his. Top of his guitar looked like a porcupine with a hard-on. Get too close you’d lose an eye. Obviously Bob had other things on his mind back then. Being a generational spokesman and all that leaves precious time for such mundaneness.
I forgot what got me into all this. Oh yea, strings. New strings feel good. Makes you sound better. Makes you feel like you play better. Make you wonder why you don’t change ’em more often.
In a bit…
We dream goofy things growing up. We stand in front of the mirror pretending. Mostly to be someone else. To be somewhere else. To experience something else.
But it gradually dawns that we’re pretty much stuck with ourselves. So the dreams go hide and are replaced by things like jobs and bill collectors and empty beer cans in the backseat of yet another brand new used car. But it runs. Looking good getting there doesn’t matter so much anymore when you were born during the LBJ administration.
We grow up. We grow out. Hair either turns grey or slips away. For some poor wretches, both. We find our life partner. We have children that delight and inspire and infuriate and terrify. Sometimes all in the same day. We lay our heads down at night, too weary mostly to be anything other than content that we have a warm bed to lie in. And then, if we’re lucky, we have 8 hours to dream all over again.
And the cycle starts again. And that’s life. And somewhere in the middle, there’s guitars. And that makes it ok.
In a bit…
My brother was in for the weekend. From the great state of Texas. We talk music mostly. What it means and how powerful it is and how much it’s helped us up over the years, and brought us crashing down. We talk books too. Which means we usually make our way to Borders and drop serious credit on the counter. This weekend I was gracious and gave him the Keith Richards memoir to take home with him. The thought of each brother spending $30 on a book about an unprepentent junkie who refuses to die like a normal person was too much for me. So I just threw my copy at him. He was relieved I could tell, because in no way did he want to buy it, but he knew he’d have to read it in the same way a person who has a dead dog in front of their house has to go out with a shovel and scrape it up. He performed the same service for me when Neil Young’s bio came out. He bought it, being a little more brain damaged than I due to age, but then let me read it, which of course I did….every word on something like 600 ridiculous pages. It was an excruciating read, mostly because I think Neil Young is insane, but did contain some interesting tidbits on 60s acid casualties and how one deals with insufferable egoists like Steven Stills and David Crosby without purchasing a firearm and putting a hole in each of their foreheads. Neil walked the landmine admirably, mostly ignoring them unless they were completely broke or were in desperate need of body parts. Then he’d step in out of loyalty and lend his name to boost ticket sales and hasten organ donations. All in all quite a dreary read, but since it was given to me, I felt obligated, which is exactly why I’m sure my brother spent his day on the plane reading a book about a man once perfectly described by a music writer as resembling a “crippled spider”. I’m sure my brother is now safely tucked back into the bosom of his family, and if he remembers anything at all about the Keef bio I’m positive he’s got enough bottles of Stout waiting in his fridge to reverse his memory and thus remain a productive husband and father without the influence of a man who stays up 9 nights running sitting on his shoulder saying “there’s 30 pills, why not take 30 now and save time?”
Peer pressure. Keef style.
Great music lasts forever. Bad books about music last about as long as certain plane rides, which works out perfectly unless you’re the type who sits on the plane and plays “spot the muslim”, convinced that boarding an airplane in today’s climate is like trying to start a chapter of MoveOn.org in Louisville, Kentucky. But thankfully they’ve got drugs for such fixations now, and I’ve popped the requisite pills and thus read more bad rock writing on airplanes than anyplace else. Airplanes are the perfect place to read about spectacularly ego-driven excess because they give you plenty of time to think and get jealous that it’s not you tossing TVs out window and having fivesomes with groupies ……because the flights are always running behind and you’ve got nothing else to do but some deep thinking.
Well, it’s late and I’ve stopped making much sense. But I think I’ve made enough. Car-pool bad rock books amongst family members. The family that shares Keef’s memoir stays together. Or prays together. Or does drugs together. Something like that. The exact wording escapes me.
In a bit…
A real honor to play the Old Lynn Concert series. Extra special this time because my good friend Ed Appnel will open the show. I’d be just as glad if the order was reversed.
Gonna be a great gig. Plan on doing lots of the new stuff, and digging out some old chestnuts I haven’t visited in a while. Great crowds. Everybody brings food to share. And the series has always been free. Over the years it’s turned into one of the top acoustic music locales on the map.
Come out and say hello. I’m gonna whisper and stomp.
More info at the Old Lynn Concert series website
Springsteen didn’t always deliver. It just seems like he did. I grew up with Bruce. I remember trying to figure out my sister’s copy of “The Wild the Innocent and the E-Street Shuffle”. A few songs skipped so I’d tape a penny to the arm of the record player to try to drive the needle into the grooves deep enough to get past the blemishes. None of this sounded like anything else at the time. Here was some grungy kid from the Jersey Shore. We went to the Jersey Shore every summer. I didn’t think anybody actually lived there. My brother got his kite caught in telephone wires one summer and the next year when we went back down it was still there, which I thought was charming.
It might have been the same year Springsteen was on the cover of Time and Newsweek simultaneously, both articles suggesting that Bruce was a product of hype while somehow oblivious that the articles themselves may have been…you know, adding to what they were bitching about in the first place. This kid. Could he really be as good as they say?
Turns out yea, and then some. Born to Run and Darkness on the Edge of Town are two of the greatest rock and roll records ever released. The River wasn’t far behind…..a sprawling double record of frat-house rock and lonely desperation, sitting side by side and confusing just about everybody who loved to put labels on things. What did this guy want? Turns out he wanted everything. He wanted to be Elvis….but also Woody Guthrie and Johnny Cash. So he released a stunning folk record called Nebraska that sounded like something pulled off the shelves at the library of congress. Then he wanted to turn rock and roll into a 4 hour spiritual experience, and on certain nights he did just that. The sheer bombast of Born in the USA was off-putting to lunk-heads who thought Bruce was wrapping himself in the flag so Reagan could get votes. But Ronnie was shown the error of his ways, and Bruce continued to work with local food banks in every town he played. His politics were all local. Feed people who were hungry. Make a connection. Break through the isolation of the 6 pack and the TV, waiting for oblivion so you could get up and do it all over again. If only for those few hours. “It ain’t no sin to be glad you’re alive”. Fuck. Nobody else ever said that to me. I thought there was something wrong with myself. Damn sinner I was. “I ain’t a boy…no I’m a man.” Yea, that sounded alright. Surrounded by 20,000 others we believed every word Bruce said. Nobody wins unless everybody wins.
That was the promise. It didn’t come true. But we didn’t blame Bruce. Figured he did his part. We’d sit and drink beer in the summer rain with car doors open to hear the tape deck, and our lives would improve until the beer was gone and we had to go our separate ways. Then we’d be lonely again. None of this was long term stuff….but a little is better than none at all. And a 4 hour concert was better than a 2 hour concert.
When the promise is broken you go on living
But it steals something from down in your soul
Like when the truth is spoken and it don’t make no difference
Something in your heart goes cold
We grew cold. Attempted to warm ourselves with drink and maybe stronger things. Tried to keep doomed relationships alive just to avoid being alone. We grew old while being bombarded with being young, and could never age in reverse no matter what chemicals we tried. What did this music mean now?
“The Promise” is 22 songs from the Darkness of the Edge of Town sessions that were never released. Most for good reason. They’re not as good. But there are moments. The full band version of “Racing in the Streets” puts a lump in my throat (the stark version he did release makes me cry). I see that girl on the porch of her daddy’s house. In her torn dress. With dead eyes. There’s nothing left for her. Dreams become cruel. I know her.
And of course the song “The Promise”, which Bruce chose not to include on Darkness on the Edge of Town. For reasons unknown, as it may be his greatest single song.
All my life I fought this fight
The fight that no man can never win
Every day it just gets harder to live
This dream I’m believing in
I’ll never forget those days drinking in the rain with friends. All of us searching for what Bruce later coined “The Human Touch” (getting everyone made at him in the process). Dreams in those days may have been hangovers gone wrong. But it felt like fighting at the time. And it seemed worth it. All we needed to do was to look into the hard faces of our parents too see the fear Bruce was writing about, and we thought we could somehow become immune to the lines in the face if we held onto each other long enough. And hard enough. The night didn’t have to end. They could be endless. We could be young forever. And together, we could win the fights others lost by themselves. If the promise was broken, we’d all gather and make it right again.
Good to be young. Stupidity comes so easy. That may be what I miss the most. Being dumb makes it difficult to be bitter. Being bitter makes it impossible to keep our own promises. Maybe….just maybe, listening to these songs will make me feel like those days back when, when we trusted each other and were afraid to let go. For reasons we all know now.
In a bit…