Saturday, November 28, 2009

Rewind to the mid-80s

A few weeks ago I was at curling bonspiel (which is curling-speak for tournament), and this guy brought out his mini-boombox and his cassette tape collection. He had everything from AC/DC's Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap (1976) to Pavement's Wowee Zowee (1995). Who still owns AC/DC and Pavement on cassette? My folks tossed my cassette collection years ago. This dude goes around looking for cassettes for his collection. He told us that when Sam the Record Man closed, he bought all of these tapes for like one dollar total, and he was pretty much the only person in Toronto purchasing cassettes.

He ended up bringing the mini-boombox out on the ice during the curling matches, and we all shook our butts to some of the tracks below. Curling is such a glorious sport, and its even better when you get to dance to the Beastie Boys while sweeping. I miss the 80s.

Beastie Boys - Rhymin & Stealin.mp3
Buy: Licensed to Ill (1986)

Violent Femmes - Promise.mp3
Buy: Violent Femmes (1983)

Dead Milkmen - Bitchin' Camaro.mp3
Buy: Big Lizard in My Backyard (1985)
(I can't believe that this album is still in print. Ha ha ha ha!!!)

The above cassette montage kills me because I distinctly remember having most of New Order's albums dubbed onto the tape in the top row, center (the pink, yellow, and blue Memorex).

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Americano

On this fine day I am very happy that all of you read my blog! I really enjoy my blogging hobby, and I am so glad that you drop by! I am spending the holiday in Detroit Rock City hanging out with Kid Rock, Eminem, and my family. My folks are morning people, which means that we are registered to do the Turkey Trot at 7 freakin' a.m. this morning, which I am not thankful for. However, I am thankful that Thanksgiving cocktails start immediately after the run.

Here are the only two Thanksgiving songs that I can think of. The first I posted a few weeks ago, and while it isn't exactly a Thanksgiving song, the third verse perfectly describes the Rockstar family back in the day.
Now granny she's yelling.
She's ready to eat.
She's havin' conniptions.
Cause they won't take their seats.
But she's got 'em all gathered
now under one roof.
With her camcorder loaded.
She's gonna get proof.
"But do you have to wear that?"
"Well I just don’t see why."
"Please pass the potatoes."
"Aw, eat shit and die."
"Did you hear about Ellen?"
"She’s leaving, you know"
"How 'bout those Packers?"
"Think it’ll snow?"
And the minute it's over
They'll scatter like quail.
Off down the freeway
in the teeth of a gale.
Silent and shattered
and numb to the core.
They count themselves lucky
they got through one more holiday.
James McMurtry - Holiday.mp3
Buy: Childish Things (2005)

Eric Rhame is a folksinger from Duluth, Minnesota, who frequently writes about life in the upper Midwest, like how friggin' cold it is next to Lake Superior. This song is the only true Thanksgiving song that I know of, and it perfectly describes the Midwest family Thanksgiving experience. The other track has nothing to do with Thanksgiving, but I just like it! He has a gig coming up in Superior, Wisconsin, on Dec. 4. I also happen to know that he just got himself hitched. Congrats Eric! And thanks for letting me use your tunes.

Thanksgiving Day.mp3
Tahoe to Texas.mp3
Buy: Timber and Steel (2008)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Ottawa Bluegrass: Huntley Slim and the Suburban Cowboys

Bluegrass has often been described as music for common people. You will usually see a bluegrass band hovering around a central microphone, with no electric instruments in sight. The songs are highly narrative, with the traditional themes of home, family, love, and religion. The golden age of bluegrass may have been in the 1950s, with Bill Monroe, Flatts and Scruggs, and The Stanley Brothers, while the North American consciousness really started to appreciate the genre with the wildly popular soundtrack to the movie O Brother, Where Art Though?

Given that musicians of my generation are more likely to buy the first Fender Deluxe Fat Stratocaster that they see on Craig's List (seriously, this was the first guitar listed today), than to pick up a banjo or a mandolin, I'm always thrilled when a young bluegrass band comes along and adds to the tradition. Huntley Slim and the Suburban Cowboys formed in the Ottawa area in the mid-2000s. They are headed by Chris Mellor on guitar and Seamus Mulready on banjo, both of whom share lead vocals. The name Huntley comes from the township west of Ottawa where Mellor grew up. In 2007 they put out an EP called Sherway Sessions which they self-recorded in 3-4 hours one Sunday "instead of going to church." Sherway Sessions is available for download here.

This summer they released their first full-length album entitled Songs From This Chicken Coop. The album was actually recorded in an old chicken coop (right) in Carp, Ontario, where Mellor's father was building a boat. According to Mellor, "We recorded the instruments live off the floor, mainly we found it too difficult to use a click track, but the natural feel of the album goes well with the type of music we're playing. The vocals and harmonica were added later, but still recorded in the chicken coop. April 10, 2009, was when we did the instruments. It was a cold day, we had heaters going in the chicken coop beside everyone between takes." You don't get any more DIY than that!

Although Huntley Slim's MySpace page lists "whoever we can borrow" as musicians after Mellor and Mulready, for this recording they had help from Lisa Hanes on upright bass, Jason MacDonald on Mandolin, Steve Stacey on harmonica, Steph Clementine on backing vocals, and Dan Deslaurier on Dobro. Deslaurier also produced, engineered, mixed and mastered Songs From This Chicken Coop. Mellor's wife Taryn made the cover quilt (top photo).

The songs themselves are wonderful traditional bluegrass arrangements with ever-present country music themes of love gone wrong, whiskey, regrets and heartaches, and plus more modern day lyrics on the misery of living in suburbia, feeling old at age 30, and road tripping across Canada. One of their songs is even bilingual. Parlez-vous français?

If you need some old-time acoustic alternative country music from the capitol of the great white north, and who doesn't need this, I highly recommend Songs From This Chicken Coop. Its an incredibly enjoyable album to listen to, and highly complements traditional bluegrass music. Put this album on your Christmas list pronto!

Bottom Floor.mp3
Good Old Days.mp3
Have You Ever...?.mp3
Buy (CD Baby): Songs From This Chicken Coop (2009)

Huntley Slim and the Suburban Cowboys perform tomorrow night (November 25th) for the 5th annual Feed the Homeless benefit show at Zaphod Beeblebrox, 27 York Street, Ottawa. $5 cover goes toward Christmas meals for the homeless.

Above: Huntley Slim and the Suburban Cowboys record their album in a chicken coop on a cold April day next to half of a hull of a boat. Note the twelve of Upper Canada Lager - its never too cold to drink beer in Carp, Ontario.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Concert DVD Review: Corb Lund Live at the Edmonton Coliseum

As regular readers of my blog will already know, I got really sick, landed my sorry ass in the ER, and missed Corb Lund's Toronto gig. The upside is that I got some morphine and percocet and had some sweet narcotics-induced hallucinations. The downside, obviously, is that I missed the show. And I was so sick that I couldn't even dump my ticket off on a friend. So when I received Maple Music's e-mail update a few weeks ago, I was very intrigued by Corb Lund's new live DVD, Corb Lund and The Hurtin' Albertans Live at The Edmonton Coliseum.

This DVD features Lund and his band performing in April, 2008, at the Edmonton Coliseum, a.k.a. Rexal Place, a.k.a. the home ice of the Edmonton Oilers. Being the music snob that I am, I am generally opposed to arena shows, and I only make exceptions for Bob Dylan (who I saw at the Air Canada Centre in Nov. 2006. The Foo Fighters opened. It ruled.), Neil Young (who I saw at the ACC in Dec. 08. Wilco opened. It fucking ruled.), or Bruce Springsteen (I've been too broke to afford his shows every time he has been to town). But being that this DVD cost less than what I paid for the Oct. 23 ticket, and the fact that Maple Music's offices are on my route when I walk to work (no shipping charges), and that this DVD would cost less than the amount that I would have spent on beer at the October show, I figured, what the hell.

The first disc is the April 2008 show, edited down to 19 tracks (roughly an hour and 15 minutes), with commentary by Lund between every 4 to 5 tracks. The very first thing I noticed is that the sound is fantastic. In my experience, the sound at arena shows usually sucks, even for Dylan or Young (maybe that's just the ACC?). And the sound for a lot of rock show DVDs, in general, is mediocre. For this recording, you can turn on this DVD and just listen. Wonderful sound. Kudos to the sound engineer, or whoever is in charge of sound, or whatever. (Clearly, I don't know shit about recording.)

The second thing that grabbed me is the guitar playing by Grant Siemens. Sweet merciful crap, can this guy play! I didn't truly appreciate Siemens' talents until seeing this DVD. Two of my fellow bloggers got to see Lund and the boys this summer in Nashville (A Truer Sound and Too Much Country), and they both concurred that Siemens is a phenomenal talent. For this concert Siemens plays banjo, various electric guitars, and lap steel. Plus, he wears a killer purple embroidered suit. Very Gram Parsons.

Hurtin' Albertan.mp3
Buy (Maple Music): Hair in My Eyes Like a Highland Steer (2006)
Buy (Amazon): Hair in My Eyes Like a Highland Steer (2006)

Its not to say that the rest of the Hurtin' Albertans are slouches. Kurt Ciesla rules on the upright bass. Man, I wish more bands would use upright bass. It sounds so good. Though, as a former tuba player, I can imagine that its a total pain in the ass to travel with. Drummer Brady Valgardson rounds out one bad-ass rhythm section.

Big Butch Bass Bull Fiddle.mp3
Buy (Maple Music): Hair in My Eyes Like a Highland Steer (2006)
Buy (Amazon): Hair in My Eyes Like a Highland Steer (2006)

Disc one ends with the encore (duh), and there is a pee-in-your-pants funny moment at the very end, which I won't ruin for you.

Disc two is where things get really fun. First, it contains a music video anthology, so you don't have to watch your favorite Corb Lund video on a 5" x 3" YouTube video screen. There is also "pregame" footage of the tour manager and crew setting up the Rexall Place in preparation for the show. Plus, the DVD contains all of the songs from the Edmonton show that didn't make the original edit (mostly for cursing), including Lund singing Stompin' Tom Connors' "The Hockey Song." Awesome.

My favorite part of disc two is seeing a mini-doc of their East Coast tour, in March of 2008, prior to the Edmonton gig. They tour the Canadian parliament with Alberta MP Rick Casson, and as they are panning around the building, they tag "Hayes Carll, Texan," who was opening their gigs. Hold on. Hayes Carll is one of my favorite musicians. How the hell did I miss them when they came through Toronto in '08? (Aimz checks her calendar from March '08 and discovers that she was skiing in Lake Louise when Lund and Carll were in Toronto. Ski trips and hospitalizations are the only acceptable excuses for missing Corb Lund/Hayes Carll shows.)

Lund also comments on how Toronto can be a difficult place to play for country musicians as the shows are often attended only by other musicians, journalists, record label people, and other industry types. This statement made me chuckle because in my experience its true. I can specifically think of three amazing country/alt country shows from the last two years at the Horseshoe Tavern that have been criminally under attended: Chris Knight, Justin Townes Earle, and Rhett Miller. In fact, the Rhett Miller show was part of the Horseshoe's 60th anniversary party and there were maybe 50 people there, including Jim Cuddy, Justin Rutledge, and that guy with the goofy French-Ontario accent who runs

All Corb Lund fans should pick up this DVD, especially if, like me, you have never seen him and his band live. I can only hope that my vacation schedule and my immune system are a little more cooperative the next time they roll through Ontario.

Buy (Maple Music - $20 CND): Corb Lund and The Hurtin' Albertans Live at The Edmonton Coliseum (2009)
Buy (Amazon): Corb Lund and The Hurtin' Albertans Live At The Edmonton Coliseum (2009)

Corb and the boys also have a new album out, and its really good.

Buy (Maple Music): Losin' Lately Gambler (2009)
Buy (Amazon):Losin' Lately Gambler (2009)

Friday, November 20, 2009

What Would Willie Do?

Yesterday THE MAN busted me for posting a 1993 Willie Nelson MP3 that no one listens to anyway. I can't imagine that Mr. Nelson gives two shits about a 16 year old track being posted on a random website, and I also can't figure out why the record company does. Its not like people are running out to buy Across the Borderline. Its currently selling for $6.99 (US) on Amazon, and is rated #22,528 on Amazon's music sales list. Dudes, I'm giving you free advertising! Do you hire interns to scour the internets for old Willie Nelson MP3s? I'm baffled.

Bruce Robison - What Would Willie Do.mp3
Buy: Country Sunshine (2001)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

November Feel Bad for You Comp

From our friends at, this month's forum comp. Download the zipped comp for one week only. Enjoy!

1. Chuck Prophet - "American Man"
Let Freedom Ring (2009)

2. Willie Nelson - "Still Is Still Moving to Me.mp3"
Across the Borderline (1993)

3. The Dustin Bentall Outfit - "Three Thousand Miles"
Six Shooter (2009)

4. Lucero - "Other Side of Lonesome"
Unreleased Demo (2009)

5. Blitzen Trapper - "Big Black Bird"
Black River Killer EP (2009)

6. Richard Betts - Long Time Gone.mp3
Buy: Highway Call (1974, reissued 2001)

7. Coconut Records - "Any Fun"
Davy (2009)

8. The Demon Beat - "Millionaire"
Shit, We're 23 (2009)

9. Left Lane Cruiser - "Hard Workin' Man"
All You Can Eat (2009)

10. Charlie Pickett - "All Love All Gone"
Bar Band Americanus (2008)

11. Merle Haggard - I'm Bringin' Home Good News.mp3
Buy: Mama Tried/Pride in What I Am (1969, reissued 2006)

12. Pieta Brown - "Precious Game"
In The Cool (2005)

13. Micah Schnabel - The Stage Lights.mp3
Buy (Suburban Home Records): When The Stage Lights Go Dim (2009)

14. Have Gun Will Travel - "Salad Days"
Postcards From The Friendly City (2009)

15. Cam Penner - Thirteen.mp3
Buy (CD Baby): Trouble & Mercy (2009)

16. Carolyn Mark & NQ Arbuckle - "Officer Down"
Let's Just Stay Here (2009)

17. Carolyn Mark & NQ Arbuckle - "Saskatoon Tonight"
Let's Just Stay Here (2009)

18. Curtis Stigers & The Forest Rangers "John the Revelator"
Sons of Anarchy: North Country - EP (2009)

19. Miranda Lambert - "That's the Way the World Goes Round"
Revolution (2009)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Forbidden Fungus

As you may or may not have heard, the Canadian garage rock duo The King Khan & BBQ Show was recently busted for possession of hallucinogenic mushrooms in backwoods Kentucky. Oops. One of my buddies is a guitar player who self-recorded a handful of albums as a hobby. King Khan's arrest reminded me of one of his tracks. The below track is an electric guitar instrumental that is reminiscent of early Metallica. Mr. Ridley is a recovering metalhead residing in Kitchener, Ontario, who lists his biggest influences as early Black Sabbath and pre-Bruce Dickinson Iron Maiden.

Dan Ridley - Forbidden Fungus.mp3
From: New Age Noodlefest (1996)
If you ask me nicely, I may be able to set you up with this album!

The King Khan & BBQ Show has a new album out. Now that they are out of clink, they are resuming their tour tonight in Los Angeles.

The King Khan & BBQ Show - Invisible Girl.mp3
Buy: Invisible Girl (2009)

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Gurf Morlix: Last Exit to Happyland

Not familiar with singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer extraordinaire Gurf Morlix? Here are just a few bits of his resume:
  • Plays the guitar, bass, mandolin, mandocello, dobro, pedal steel,lap steel, Weissenborn, banjo, harmonica, organ, and drums.
  • Produced albums for Lucinda Williams, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Tom Russell, Butch Hancock, Ian "Mac" McLagan, Slaid Cleaves, The Pinedogs, The Setters, Robert Earle Keen, Mary Gauthier, Hot Club of Cowtown, and BettySoo among many, many others.
  • Played on various recordings by Julie and Buddy Miller, Slaid Cleves, BettySoo, The Band of Heathens, Sam Baker, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Tom Russell, Mary Gauthier, Ian "Mac" McLagan, Linda McCrae, Eliza Gilkyson, Robert Earl Keen, Mojo Nixon, Lucinda Williams, Michael Penn, Jerry Lee Lewis, Peter Case, among many, many others, including a ton of compilation and tribute albums.
  • Co-wrote and/or contributed songs to many of the artists listed above.
  • Produced, engineered, mixed, mastered, and played various instruments on six solo albums.
  • Was recently named Americana Music Association Instrumentalist of the Year for 2009.
His latest album came out in February, but I just got around to it this weekend. Wow! The stunningly beautiful track below features Patty Griffin on background vocals. Morlix has several more tracks available for download on his website, but I suggest that you pick this one up pronto.

She's a River.mp3
Buy: Last Exit To Happyland (2009)

Friday, November 13, 2009

Concert Review: Private Drive-By Truckers show in T.O.

This may be a news flash to some of you, but I am not cool. I have serious envy of bloggers who are better writers than I am, who have their shit together enough to post every day, who get lots of free CDs, tickets, backstage passes, and other swag. Most of the people who solicit me for a review for their new album clearly don't even read my blog. My most recent e-mail solicitation was from an Australian group who describes themselves as a "blend of hip-hop and electro-pop." I have nothing against this type of music, but it just isn't my thing, and anyone who reads even one page of my blog knows this fact. So I was fucking thrilled when someone finally paid attention and gave me a free ticket to see one of my favorite bands, the Drive-By Truckers, at the Phoenix last Sunday (Nov. 8).

This show was sponsored by Jack Daniels, and I guess it was supposed to be for bar/entertainment industry types. When I entered I got two free drink tickets, and there were buffets of finger food all around. I have to admit that I don't even really like Jack Daniels. I'm more of a Jimbo drinkin' kind of gal. But, the great ones play through the pain. (Note: I am currently out of the bourbon, so if anyone wants to get their favorite blogger an early Christmas present, please e-mail me at rockstaraimz at gmail dot com for delivery instructions.)

The Warped 45s opened the show. I'm embarrassed to say that I am not familiar with their music. They are from Toronto and apparently won a big prize at NxNE this year. How the hell did I miss them? According to their band bio, they have a "formidable arsenal of musical weapons, as they feature four vocalists, two songwriters, and multiple multi-instrumentalists," including three, count 'em, three banjo players. They play a mix of country/rock/bluegrass, and although they compare themselves to Wilco in their band bio, don't hold it against them. I just downloaded their debut 10 Day Poem for Saskatchewan from eMusic. They are playing at the Dakota on Dec. 5, and I will report back.

Funny quote from the show: one of the singers says, "This is our first time at the Phoenix, but not the first time drinking Jack Daniels." LOL.

10 Day Poem for Saskatchewan.mp3
Buy (Maple Music): 10 Day Poem for Saskatchewan (2009)

I've seen the Drive-By Truckers four times in the last three years. They are easily in my top four live acts, along with The Hold Steady, Okkervil River, and The Sadies. The first thing I noticed was that the Truckers are now touring with a keyboardist. An idea they picked up from The Hold Steady during their last tour? I love rock piano, and keyboardist Jay Gonzalez added a lot of texture to otherwise familiar songs.

Not that I am complaining about familiarity. When it comes to the Truckers, familiarity is fucking awesome! And the DBTs dug into their back catalog playing several tracks from their 1999 release Pizza Deliverance, and their 2001 opus Southern Rock Opera. Guitar bad-ass Mike Cooley put on one hell of a vocal performance during "Love Like This," and played killer blues-rock during "Guitar Man Upstairs."

One of the highlights for me was my main man Patterson Hood leaving it all on the stage during "Puttin' People on the Moon." And, for the fourth time that I have seen them, he changed the lyrics to make it topical, "Goddamn Bush was in the White House, and no one gave a damn!" Fuck yeah!

But the Truckers weren't stuck on the oldies. They played several new tracks which may or may not be included on their March 2010 release A Big To Do. John Neff played some sweet blues on the new track "Get Downtown." Bassist Shonna Tucker sang lead on "I Told You So" which sounds like it will be a fantastic song. For the new song "This Fuckin' Job" Hood said that this was the first or second time ever that they had played it live (edit: according to the One of These Days set list database, they also played "This Fuckin' Job" in Charlotte, NC, in August 2009).

Only two issues from my end. One, the sound was a bit off. We can thank the fuckheads at Delta Airlines for this problem. Hood said that Delta "lost a bunch of their shit." How frustrating is that? And second, the Truckers usually close with a rousing fan-favorite, such as "People Who Died" or "Buttholeville" or "Lookout Mountain." This time they closed with a cover, "Everybody Needs Love" by the late Eddie Hinton. This song was fantastic, but no one in the audience knew it like they know the Trucker's originals. We couldn't close with a spastic rock-out like usual, so it felt anti-climatic. But I can't complain. For once, I felt like one of those cool, hip, in-the-know bloggers! Hopefully I can fool them again.

Quote of the night from Patterson Hood during "Let There Be Rock," "Fuck that shit! I ain't sorry!"

Set List
1. Self Destructive Zones - Brighter Than Creations Dark (2008)
2. Feb 14 - A Blessing and a Curse (2006)
3. One of these Days - Pizza Deliverance (1999)
4. Sinkhole - Decoration Day (2003)
5. Love Like This - Pizza Deliverance (1999)
6. George Jones Talkin' Cell Phone Blues - The Fine Print (2009)
7. Great Car Dealer War - The Fine Print (2009)
8. I'm Sorry Huston - Brighter Than Creations Dark (2008)
9. Women Without Whiskey - Southern Rock Opera (2001)
10. Puttin' People on the Moon - The Dirty South (2004)
11. 3 Dimes Down - Brighter Than Creations Dark (2008)
12. This Fucking Job - maybe on A Big To Do (March 2010)
13. Get Downtown - maybe on A Big To Do (March 2010)
14. Dead, Drunk and Naked - Southern Rock Opera (2001)
15. Guitar Man Upstairs - Southern Rock Opera (2001)
16. I Told You So - maybe on A Big To Do (March 2010)
17. Hell No, I Ain't Happy - Decoration Day (2003)

18. Zip City - Southern Rock Opera (2001)
19. Let There Be Rock - Southern Rock Opera (2001)
20. Marry Me - Decoration Day (2003)
21. Everybody Needs Love - forthcoming Eddie Hinton tribute record (Nov. 24)

One of These Days.mp3
Buy: Pizza Deliverance (1999)

Dead, Drunk, and Naked.mp3
Let There Be Rock.mp3
Buy: Southern Rock Opera (2001)

I do want to thank the fine people at Jack Daniel's for giving me the ticket. Just because I don't really like your product, doesn't mean that I don't appreciate what you do. Here is a fabulous JD track from The Devil Makes Three. This is one of the many songs that makes me want to learn how to play guitar.

Old Number 7.mp3
Buy: The Devil Makes Three (2007)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Remembrance Day

Its Remembrance Day in Canada, Veteran's Day in the US. Having lived in both countries, Canadians take Remembrance Day very, very seriously, much more so than in the US. Perhaps it is because Canada doesn't have a formal Memorial Day like the US does. November 11 is recognized internationally as Armistice Day commemorating the formal end of World War I in 1918.

Most people in Canada don bright red poppies on their left jacket lapel, above the heart. Many will read the poem In Flanders Fields written by Canadian Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae in 1915 after witnessing the death of one of his friends. In Toronto, after the formal remembrance ceremonies, people will place their poppies at the war memorial in front of old city hall, similar to the above photo.

Here are a half dozen song about veterans. The first song may be one of the best songs of the year. Kasey Anderson wrote this song about Lance Cpl. James Blake Miller after seeing an article about him in Rolling Stone. Anderson wrote a short essay on why he wrote the song, which was posted on in July. NineBullets also posted the lyrics today.

Kasey Anderson - I Was a Photograph (Blake's Song).mp3
Buy: Nowhere Nights (2009)

I find this Jason Isbell track to be so remarkable because it tells a story of the realities of war without being judgmental or opinionated. This version is a bootleg from when Isbell was still with the Drive-By Tuckers. I found it on the Truckers message boards. It was recorded live during a Truckers show in fall of 2006 (I think). To me the solo acoustic version is more powerful than the recorded version.

Jason Isbell - Dress Blues (bootleg).mp3
Buy: recorded version appears on Sirens Of The Ditch (2007)

This song isn't all about veterans, exactly. I think its actually more about blue-collar family holidays in general, be it Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, etc. I saw James McMurtry do this song live in winter of 2007, just him and an acoustic guitar. He did the last verse a capella, and you could have heard a pin drop. It was seriously one of the most moving musical moments I have ever witnesses. Here are the lyrics to the last verse:
Departing Chicago at 9:52
In clean desert camo all baggy and loose
Sits an Iowa Guardsman alone by the gate
The place sure looked different, in 1968
When he traveled with mom, first time on a plane
To visit some kin, he’s forgotten their names
But he remembers the soldiers, still in their teens
In their spit polished boots and their pressed army greens
With the creases so sharp, and their faces so smooth
But their eyes looked so heavy, he wondered how they could move
Now he’s got that same look, like his insides are black
He’s in his mid forties and he has to go back
And he can’t even smoke while he waits for his plane
The uniform’s different, but the mission remains
To do like they tell you, don’t make a fuss
Why’s not an issue, so don’t think too much
Just do what you have to, shut up and drive
If you come apart later, well at least you’re alive
You can get you some help, you can deal with it then
And life will be better, ‘til it happens again

‘Cause there’s something inside us that won’t let us be
In stalks through our days ‘til it’s too dark to see
And it’s damn near as deadly as Texans on ice
Lord don’t they beat all
Y’all have a nice holiday

James McMurtry - Holiday.mp3
Buy: Childish Things (2005)

Ben Nichols of Lucero frequently writes about the experiences of men in the military. In the below song he writes from a perspective of a 19-year-old joining the World War II effort in 1943, and the trials that he goes through, and the regrets that come with war. Also check out "One the Way Back Home" (the narrator sleeps in his car so that his buddy on leave from the army can get laid), and "Joining the Army" (the narrator doesn't feel that playing guitar lives up to his grandfather's accomplishments, presumably in WWII).

Lucero - The War.mp3
Buy: Nobody's Darlings (2005)

In this song Matthew Ryan contemplates how the decisions of rich politicians who have never been in the military effects the families of the men who risk it all.

Matthew Ryan -Veteran's Day.mp3
From: Hopeless to Hopeful (2002, out of print)

My main man Johnny Cash sings from the perspective of a Vietnam vet trying to live in everyday society. He remembers being scorned when returning to the US from the war, tells how he still has nightmares from the 'Nam jungle, and wishes that he could explain his feeling and experiences to his children.

Johnny Cash - Drive On.mp3
Buy: American Recordings (1994)

Monday, November 9, 2009

Matthew Ryan Video: City Life

A few weeks ago Matthew Ryan sent out a facebook message asking his fans to participate in his upcoming video. After e-mailing the posted address, I received a little jpg "Paper Ryan" (see left). Unfortunately for me, the color printers at home and at work were both broken, so I had to print B&W Paper Ryan. And I couldn't get any good Toronto-centric shots as it was raining and cold the entire week preceding the deadline. Regardless, two of my photos made the cut! Whoo-Hooo! The video for the song "City Life" came out today.

Ryan's latest album Dear Lover came out last week. You can listen to it streaming on his web site, or order it directly from his web site. Mine just arrived a day ago (lousy international shipping) and I haven't had a chance to fully digest it yet, but so far I like what I am hearing.

And here's one of my photos that didn't make the cut. Understandably, as its sort of obnoxious. Its me vaccinating Paper Ryan against the H1N1.

Sunday, November 8, 2009


By some miracle I won tickets to a private Drive-By Truckers show tonight. I'm so excited! This makes up for missing Corb Lund a few weeks ago.

The Truckers put out two new-ish albums this year. The first is a CD/DVD combo of them performing for Austin City Limits on September 26, 2008. The CD is good, but the DVD is great! The DVD is completely different from their 2004 DVD Drive By Truckers - Dirty South - Live at the 40 Watt (2005). Live at the 40 Watt is also excellent, but its raw concert footage interspersed with interviews with the band. Live from Austin is more glossy, as it was filmed specifically for Austin City Limits, and it shows an older, more mature band. However, they can still rock just as hard as they did for their Dirty South tour in 2004.

Here's one of my favorite Truckers songs originally from the Dirty South.

Puttin' People on the Moon.mp3
Buy: Live from Austin Texas (2009, CD/DVD)

In early September the Truckers released an album of rare tracks, alternate versions, and covers. A lot of it comes from studio cuts from around the time when they were recording The Dirty South, which is my favorite DBT album. This album is fantastic. If you can only get one of these 2009 releases, pick up The Fine Print. But you should really get both.

This track has been floating around for a while. Its the first time where bassist Shonna Tucker had lead vocals on a DBT recording. I love Bob Dylan, and this is one of the few cover versions of this song that does it justice.

Like a Rolling Stone.mp3
Buy: The Fine Print (A Collection of Oddities and Rarities, 2009)

Friday, November 6, 2009

Trending Marshall Tucker

(Note: drunk post)

The blogger at A Truer Sound and I are trying to make Marshall Tucker a trending topic on twitter (#MarshallTucker), without spreading any rumors about death. Two jackasses twittering does not a trending topic make. Help please!

The Marshall Tucker Band had its heyday in the 1970s with hits on both the rock and country charts. According to our friends at Wikipedia, they still tour and play about 150 to 200 gigs a year. In fact, they play tonight at the Youkey Theater in Lakeland, Florida.

Check out A Truer Sound's excellent write-up of the 1975 album Searchin' for a Rainbow.

Don't forget: #MarshallTucker

Searchin' for a Rainbow.mp3
Can't You See (Live).mp3
Buy: Searchin' for a Rainbow (1975, reissued 2004)


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Those Darlins

My current vote for best new artist of 2009 is Those Darlins. These hard drinkin', hard rockin' ladies from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, put out a great country rock album this summer. The twelve tracks sound like they could have been recorded in their neighborhood bar, and for all I know, they were. All three of the Darlins (Kelly, Jessi, and Nikki) co-write and co-sing all of the songs. The songs are about the eternal country themes of love, drinking, love and drinking, craziness, Mama, trains, binge eating while drunk, and living in the sticks. Unfortunately no songs about prison. Maybe next album. They are unpolished, raw, and wild. How country music should be.

Red Light Love.mp3
Wild One.mp3
Whole Damn Thing.mp3
Buy: Those Darlins (2009)

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Hurtin' Ontarian

I was supposed to go see Corb Lund and his band The Hurtin' Albertans on Friday, Oct. 23, but I got the plague something fierce and I missed the show. My immune system sucks the big one, and I am finally coming off of the antibiotics today. I was really disappointed. But, I found the next best thing. The blogger over at Alt-512 Music Musings posted a Corb Lund show from Austin, TX, on Sep. 9, 2009. Head on over to this site and and check out Corb live. Grab a bunch of beers, round up 300 of your closest friends, turn down the lights, and pretend you are at the Horseshoe. Yeeee-Haw!

Talkin' Veterinarian Blues.mp3
Buy: Losin' Lately Gambler (2009)

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Concert Review: Carolyn Mark and NQ Arbuckle

Carolyn Mark is my new hero. I'd never seen her live before she and NQ Arbuckle played a double, actually triple, bill at the Dakota Tavern in Toronto on Thursday, October 22. The Dakota is exactly the kind of place you want to see this show. Its like a dusty Texas saloon, only downtown in a major metropolis. The capacity is maybe 200, and it was only two-thirds full that night, the second night of their CD release party for Let's Just Stay Here.

The show started with the Vancouver-based Mark doing a few solo tracks with a drummer. She strutted around the stage with her guitar, posed for the photographers, flirted with the crowd, and showed her gregarious personality. She played four of her own songs including "Pirate and Shotgun" and "Not a Doll," before NQ Arbuckle joined her on stage to be her backing band. They played six more of Mark's originals including "Fuzzy Slippers," "Chumpville," "North Country Fair," "Don't Come Over Baby," and "2 Days Smug and Sober." Mark and NQ Arbuckle lead singer Neville Quinlan exchanged hysterical stage banter. This fantastic opening act was just a hint of what was to come.

I ran into Mark in the washroom between sets and I told her that I thought she ruled. She was so happy and smiley and appreciative. Definitely my new favorite female performer.

Carolyn Mark - 2 Days Smug and Sober.mp3
Buy (Amazon): The Pros and Cons of Collaboration (2004)
Buy (Maple Music): The Pros and Cons of Collaboration (2004)

After a short break, Mark and NQ Arbuckle took the stage together to perform all of Let's Just Stay Here in order. Quinlan took the centre mic while Mark switched between keyboards, guitar, tambourine, and cowbell. They sounded fantastic. Quinlan and Mark's voices blend remarkably well. And they were having so much fun on stage! In their cover of Justin Rutledge's "Too Sober to Sleep," Quinlan changed the lyrics to "And I'm too drunk to drive," which made me giggle. He also gave a shout-out to the now defunct Edmonton-based band Jr. Gone Wild before performing a rocking cover of their song "Downtime." This was the first time that I heard the new album in its entirety, and it sounded great. It may crack my top ten this year.

Carolyn Mark and NQ Arbuckle - Saskatoon Tonight.mp3
Note: Corb Lund on background vocals.
Buy (Amazon): Let's Just Stay Here (2009)
Buy (Maple Music): Let's Just Stay Here (2009)

Lastly, Toronto-based NQ Arbuckle performed some their original songs. Unfortunately, by this time is was after midnight on a school night and about 1/3 of the patrons left after the second set. Fortunately for me and others, this left us more room for dancing and getting up close to the stage.

Being a home-town band, NQ Arbuckle had dozens of very knowledgeable fans in the crowd, and many of their song evoked mass singalongs. They played 13 songs spanning all three of their albums including fan-favorites "In Another Time" from Hanging the Battle-Scarred Pinata (2002), "Cheap Town" and "Goodnight Irene" from Last Supper in a Cheap Town (2005), and "Marco Polo" and "Don't Remember Me" from XOK (2008). Mark joined them on stage for "Fireworks," a song they did for Mark's 2005 album of duets called Just Married. When she wasn't performing, Mark danced with the audience and even hugged a few fans. Everyone was having a blast.

The last song finished at 1:40 a.m., for a total of 34 songs or over three hours of music. For a $10 cover, a $20 CD, a $2 sticker, and $20 in beer. It was another case of highway robbery - I thought I was ripping the artists off.

NQ Arbuckle - I Liked You Right From the Start.mp3
Buy (Amazon): XOK (2008)
Buy (Maple Music): XOK (2008)

All photos by Steffen from Turn it Up or Turn it Off Photography. Scan of the Carolyn Mark sticker from my crappy HP 3-in-one.