Outlaw Country and Rodney Crowell

Rodney Crowell Close Ties album coverSteve Earle’s Hardcore Troubadour Radio recently aired a show from Outlaw Country Cruise 3 featuring a session with Rodney Crowell. I am new to Rodney Crowell’s music and enjoy any chance to hear him play live.

One of the songs Crowell played, I Don’t Care Anymore, is from his latest album Close Ties. What to say about this song? Mainly, it causes one to stop and listen in a way that hasn’t come along in awhile. It seems honest but without dull recitation of mundane self discovery. It’s also specific to the singer, yet identifiable by the listener. Quickly, I wanted to listen to the whole album and hear what else Rodney has in mind.

During the show Steve and Rodney spoke of Susanna Clark and a quote they attributed to her caught my attention. She said, “songs aren’t finished until you play them for an audience”. This is so true! Several times when I’ve played a ‘finished’ song for the first time – there have been discoveries.

Perhaps it’s the tension in live performance and a live audience that bring out previously unrecognized and unforeseen strengths or weaknesses. Though, I’m the type of person that lives for the end result rather than the process. So performing a song is much more rewarding to me than the pleasure of writing a song.

If you don’t have the chance to hear Steve Earle’s broadcast, Texas Monthly has a nice interview and segment on I Don’t Care AnymoreRodney Crowell on Growing up in Houston, His Rise in Nashville, and Writing Honest Songs.

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Artist / Musician / Band: Rodney Crowell
Song: I Don’t Care Anymore
Album: Close Ties
Genre: Country, Americana, Singer Songwriter
From: Crosby, Texas
Website: www.rodneycrowell.com
Next Texas performance: Third Coast Music Festival

Autumn Affections: Song Fishing

It’s beautiful and crisp outside today. Inside it’s a slow morning with hot coffee.

So much has happened since we last spoke (vacation in Oregon, Harvey, Tom Petty) that I don’t know where to begin.  Most of it made plenty of news so lets skip over big headlines and talk about the monthly songwriting challenge.

Miraculously, I’ve been keeping up with a new song each month. Even though it’s been difficult, having something to regularly work towards and also complete, is rewarding.

For instance, Tom Petty said to Randy Lewis during his final interview for the Los Angeles Times, “…If I don’t have a project going, I don’t feel like I’m connected to anything. …I like to get out of bed and have a purpose.”

fishing for songsPetty also said that songwriting like fishing, “…you just have to keep your pole in the water.”  His thoughts rang true for me and I recommend the full article. It’s a good read.

So far, the fish that have turned up each month have had personalities of sad folks going through hard times. These characters have been telling me stories of lost love and life gone astray.

The irony of this is that I’m as happy as ever! It’s amusing – the happier I get, the sadder the song. For example, “The Saddest Song” is October’s title.

Surely before long I’ll catch some cheerful fish.

Vacation!

August is vacation month and I’m so, so excited. How excited?

Here’s the song of the month for your listening pleasure: Eddie Boyd – Vacation from the blues 

Please don’t try to find me
I’ll be travelin’ all the time
Please don’t try to find me
I’ll be travelin’ a long time
I can’t leave you no address
I’ve got ramblin’ on my mind

When I do come back from vacation – hopefully I’ll get on top of recording the monthly challenge songs. Stayed tuned.

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Artist / Musician / Band: Eddie Boyd
Song: Vacation from the Blues
Genre: Blues
From: Mississippi, United States

Song Challenge Update

You may recall my challenge to write a new song each month this year and play it at the local open mic. Since June is the halfway point of the songwriting challenge, I thought to check in with you and let you know how things are going.

In your mind’s eye, you may be imagining the song challenge as sunshine and butterflies with a stream of lyrics flowing freely like a summer dress in a breeze of unrestrained melody.

That’s a good guess and I appreciate you giving me that much confidence! However, here’s how the song challenge looks like in my mind’s eye.

Joking aside, this exercise has been enjoyable. Some songs have turned out better than others, of course. But the frequency of turn over has become a big benefit, surprisingly. Instead of stagnating in the quest to make a single song perfect, I now create one and move on. Good enough is the new perfect. Plus, there’s a hidden bonus: each good-enough song has inadvertently opened a door for the next song to be better.  Though, the absolute best part is open mic. Others have joined the challenge. It is great fun to hear the monthly debut of songs and witness others create, grow and improve.

Thirty days is not a lot of time to take a song from concept to performance. So I haven’t been able to also prepare and post a recording each month. Hopefully soon I can get a few ready so you can follow along at home, too.

In the meantime, here’s the results starting with January as number one.

  1. Out on My Own
  2. When This is Over
  3. Love Intention
  4. Hey Darling
  5. In It for Love (aka The Spy Thriller)
  6. Pending title (I’ve got eight more days to decide on the name, ha)

Moving, Keep on Moving

The internet says individuals move 11.7 times in their lifetime. I wonder what the .7 represents? Maybe .7 accounts for the .5 child of the average household. May through September is peak moving season. This year, I got a jump start on the season and moved in April. Since moving is on my mind, I thought it the perfect topic to write about.

For the fun of it, I looked up the word moving in the thesaurus. Some of the results include: propelling, poignant, gripping, far-out (really?) and sententious. I’ve never heard of sententious and looked it up, too. Sententious means: given to or using pithy sayings or maxims.

You may be wondering how this is relevant. And the answer is that it’s not exactly. You have just witnessed my creative process. When I’m not sure what to say, I usually poke around until lightning strikes – or until the internet serves up the word I didn’t know I wanted.

The internet served up the song “Moving” by Supergrass, which is terrific because I hadn’t thought of Supergrass in many years. In the past, I listened to their self-titled album over and over for hours.

Inspired to revisit Supergrass, I found out they disbanded in 2010. However, Gaz Coombes is performing as a solo artist. Here is an interview you might like. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy moving as much as I do.

SUPERGRASS – ‘MOVING’

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Artist / Musician / Band: Supergrass, Gaz Coombes
Song: Moving
Genre: alternative rock, indie rock
From: Oxford, England
Interview: Gaz Coombes on life after Supergrass, Britpop’s ‘marketing plan’, and avoiding cash-grab reunions

February Song: When This Is Over

This year I decided not to make New Year’s resolutions. They only last about 7 days anyway. Still wanting to participate in the fresh excitement of bettering oneself, I thought instead to propose a challenge.

And that challenge is to write a new song each month and play it at the local open mic.

If a song I really like is called forth in this creative endeavor, then I’ll post it here so you can follow along at home.

“When This Is Over” is my February song and in keeping with the spirit this recording is a one shot, one mic, no mixing, no editing take. Just like open mic.

The album cover for my single song "When This Is Over" - Jodi Jenkins– More Info –

Artist / Musician: Jodi Jenkins
Song: When This Is Over
Album: Recorded as a single
All Rights Reserved. Copyright February 2017
SoundCloud: soundcloud.com/jodijenkins/
Playlist of My Songs: soundcloud.com/jodijenkins/sets/mysongs

Frost – Don’t Lose This

The cold weather has me thinking about frost, which can be described as fragile white crystals near the ground. I like the sound of that – fragile white crystals.

Frozen meadow plant, natural vintage winter background, macro image with sun shiningTo me, these delicate branched patterns are synonymous with creativity. In the form of inspiration, they most commonly appear overnight and then dissipate as the sun removes the insulation of the dark.

This winter, I’ve been looking for ideas in the frost each morning. Though near the ground, I lose them. They dissolve as my mind turns to menial tasks of the day.

Today was different, thankfully. The temperature is so low, I’ve been lazing around all day and it allowed for plenty of imagination to write the flowery prefix to this post, ha!

My fortunate free-time discovery is the Pops Staples album “Don’t Lose This”. The unfortunate (and perhaps embarrassing) music discovery is that I didn’t know about Roebuck Staples or the catalog of The Staples Singers.

The Guardian obituary praises Pops with the opening line: “There is no more recognizable sound in gospel music than the aching harmonies of the Staples Singers, underpinned by the husky murmur and throbbing electric guitar of Roebuck Staples”.  Wow!

It turns out, the tracks on this album are the last recorded by Pops in 1999. His daughter, Mavis Staples, collaborated with Jeff Tweedy (of Wilco) fifteen years later to release it posthumously in 2015. Immediately, when I heard “Somebody Was Watching” I could tell there was an authenticity about the vocals you don’t hear in today’s singers. What was intriguing was the mix of modern sounds similar to those in Buddy and Julie Miller’s work or perhaps, Whitehorse. After reading more on Pitchfork, it all made sense. And, I love it!

Here is the full album.

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Artist / Musician / Band: Roebuck ‘Pops’ Staples
Album: Don’t Lose This
Genre: Gospel, R&B, Blues
From: Winona, Mississippi
Articles by Pitchfork:

Masterpeace of Mind

I’ve been thinking a lot about how to think less. My thought patterns are essentially streaming media, which is defined as: multimedia constantly received by and presented to an end-user while being delivered by a provider. In this case, I am both the end user and provider.

Sometimes I’d like a little peace and quiet. To reduce this never-ending mental content, I’ve unsuccessfully tried meditation and still occasionally try yoga. But mostly, I just sit and stare over coffee each morning.

Too bad staring at the wall over coffee doesn’t really reduce much stress or increase grey matter in my brain the same as real meditation or exercise.

So, I decided to get out and go to a sketch group where people come together to draw as a creative and social outlet. This being my first time, I wasn’t prepared with a photo or idea in mind as subject matter.

I sat down and stared at a blank white page for at least 20 minutes which was deja vu of this morning’s coffee/wall staring session. Starting to feel frustrated, I thought perhaps a chocolate cookie and Topo Chico from the coffee shop we were patronizing would help jump start an idea.

While both tasted good, I was becoming worked up about not having an idea to work on and wanted to leave. To keep from bolting, I started drawing the Topo Chico bottle. Mental dialogue between me and myself:

“Ok, now what?”
“I don’t know.”
“You have a giant blank page and one bottle.”
“I know.”
“So, what are you going to do?”
“I don’t know, I guess draw another one.”
“And, then what?”
“Maybe keep drawing them until time is up.”

For lack of a better idea, that’s exactly what I did. Draw the bottle over and over. Surprisingly, I became engrossed in this exercise and completely lost track of the clock. Funny thing is, when it was time to wrap up I wanted to still keep going.

Afterwards, I realized the exercise was successful. Once I had become engrossed in the drawing, my head was finally quiet. Ahhhhhhh. I’m definitely going again.

It’s not a masterpiece, but at least it gave me peace of mind.

Bottle drawing exercise

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Wine, Steak and John Fullbright

Bryan, Texas recently hosted the 10th anniversary of the Texas Reds Steak & Grape Festival. According to their website, the Texas Reds Festival is a celebration of two major industries in Texas: beef and wine. Throw in craft beer, original music and a renovated downtown historic district and you have everything you need all in one place for a stunning weekend.

But, I’m here to talk to you today about the music. Bryan hosted a fantastic lineup including Rodney Crowell, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Ian Moore, the amazing Shinyribs and previously-unknown-to-me John Fullbright.

Since I had never heard of John Fullbright, I won’t fill you in on his background and life story like he and I are pals. You and I can both learn together from Wikipedia and John’s own website.

What I will tell you – Fullbright is an incredible live performer! From the first note to the last, John had you wrapped around every word and hanging on the edge of your festival chair. He was also exceptionally versatile. With a well-worn voice, he let out a full spectrum of emotion as witnessed in “Gawd Above” and “Satan and Saint Paul”. The biggest surprise, though, was his skill on piano. The first thing that comes to mind regarding contemporary, pop piano is Ben Folds Five. So, you may be thinking I’d had too much to drink at this point. But, No Really! Check out “Ain’t Nobody’s Business”. (Just ignore the part with the harmonica, if you can.)

If John Fullbright performs at a town near you, definitely go to the show. You won’t regret it.

“Ain’t Nobody’s Business” (Live at WFUV)

“Gawd Above”

Satan and Saint Paul

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Artist / Musician / Band: John Fullbright
Genre: singer/songwriter, Americana, pop, rock
From: Okemah, Oklahoma
Website: johnfullbrightmusic.com/tour

Now I ain’t sayin. Go ahead. Get down.

Lately drum and bass have been occupying my mind. All I can think about is the beat. I mean, apparently there are an unlimited number of ways to count to four. How am I ever going to explore all of them?

Let’s get started with Ray Charles. He pioneered soul music in the 1950s. How? By combining blues, R&B and gospel styles (aka beats) into his music. And 50 years later, one of his most notable hits “I Got a Woman” lives on. Wikipedia says: “I Got a Woman” included a mixture of gospel, jazz and blues elements that would later prove to be seminal in the development of rock ‘n’ roll and soul music”. No kidding!

Now let’s listen to Ray Charles live on through “Gold Digger” by Kanye West featuring Jamie Foxx. Released in 2005, “Gold Digger” broke a record for the most digital downloads in a week and was also the fastest-selling digital download of all time.

Ok enough with the facts and the blah blah blah!   Go ahead, get down.

– More Info –

You already know about Ray Charles, Kanye West and Jamie Foxx. Here’s 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Kanye West’s ‘Gold Digger’