Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A TMC Christmas Compilation Vol. 1

Over the last few years, I've enjoyed many music compilations offered by other bloggers. When it comes to Christmas tunes, some compilations can be very predictable with their inclusion of traditional carols. Others such as A Truer Sound have offered creative, funny and generally off-the-beaten-path Christmas songs - even when many of the songs are sung by well known performers.

With inspiration from ATS, Rockstar Aimz, the Feel Bad For You crowd, etc., I now provide my own Christmas Compilation. Not only is it my inaugural Christmas compilation, but its my first compilation since Because Whit Happens began three years ago.

Most of the tracks were sourced from live show recordings I've collected the last few years. Not all are from boots, and in the spirit of Christmas I hope I don't get Scrooged by the music po-po. All are my gift to you.

Santa Claus Is Back in Town - Jon Randall - Nashville Unlimited

Carol Of The Bells - Nashville Mandolin Ensemble - from their out-of-print release Gifts

The Grinch Song - Slaid Cleaves- recorded 2009-12-10 at The Cactus Cafe in Austin, TX

Christmas in Nashville - Bob Walkenhorst - recorded 2007-12-19 at The Record Bar in Kansas City, MO (Bob fronted The Rainmakers in the 80s and 90s and again with their 2011 reunion.)

Jingle Bells Womack Style - Elmo Buzz & The Eastside Bulldogs (better known as Todd Snider & The Nervous Wrecks - recorded 2006-12-23 at Three Crow Bar in Nashville w/Dakota Montana (aka Tommy Womack) on vox

Peace Call - Eliza Gilkyson - recorded 2004-12-10 at St. David's Episcopal Church in Austin TX

No Room at the Inn - Jeff Porter - 2007-12-19 The Record Bar

Rudolph with Cousin Eddie greeting the neighbors - National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation soundtrack

Little Drummer Boy - Chicago - recorded 1998-12-08

Relatively Speaking (I've Got The Blues) - Darrell Scott - Nashville Unlimited

Luigi The Lonely Christmas Bear - Tommy Womack- recorded 2008-12-20 at Norm's River Roadhouse in Nashville, TN

The Spirit Of Christmas - Ray Charles - National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation soundtrack

Silent Night - Bob Walkenhorst - 2007-12-19 The Record Bar

Merry Christmas to you; try new music; see live bands; and hug your folks, significant other, young'uns, and your pets.


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Limping into Year 4

December 20 historical events:
  • 1803 - The Lousiana Purchase is completed.
  • 1879 - Thomas Edison privately demonstrates the incandescent light bulb.
  • 1945 - Original KISS drummer, Peter Criss, is born.
  • 1957 - Elvis Presley was given his draft notice for the U.S. Army.
  • 1996 - NeXT merges with Apple COmputer.
  • 2008 - The Because Whit Happens blog goes live.

Really? Three years ago? Yep. And to be mentioned in same breath as those other events ... well, that's pretty lame.

Make your own drawings at SketchfuMore from this artist at SketchfuShare this drawing from Sketchfu

After a reasonable number of posts the first couple of years, I slacked way off in year 3.
  • I didn't attend as many live shows.
  • New music? Almost non-existent for me this year.
  • My racing-related blog, Bench Racing, got more attention than this one.
  • Twitter has become my primary outlet for random thoughts. Where I once wrote several paragraphs about an opinion or happening, now I most often condense my observations into one or more 140-character tweets.

Yet, the blog is still here. And I hope I'll continue to post periodically. I'm under no illusion that many folks follow me here regularly, and that's OK. A great piece of guidance I got a few years ago was to blog things of interest to me and to blog them when and how I wanted. I've kept that advice front and center the last three years.

If you are reading this now and have read anything else I've posted the last three years, thank you.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Feel Bad For You Pumpkin Edition

This blog has become as stagnant as the American economy, as trailer park pool water, as my exercise regiment, or as Blackberry's market share.

Thank goodness someone else still blogs new stuff so I can reference it and re-post it as a new entry. A Truer Sound has again posted the monthly edition of the Feel Bad For You mixtape compilation. The October edition has an all ... err ... mostly instrumental theme. Phil Norman (Twitter) once again gets props for the nice artwork.

As stated in the past, the concept is rather simplistic. Several of us have formed some sort of whacked, 'X' degrees of separation kinship through blogs, Twitter, Facebook, e-mail, restraining orders, etc. We submit one song of our choosing each month. The fact many of us have common interests in music doesn't suck when it comes to compiling the submissions.

So now that the calendar has flipped to October, don your shades during the day or a light jacket at night, enjoy a pint of your favorite Oktoberfest seasonal, carve your jack-o-lantern, load up on the candy for the kiddies, and listen to FBFY here (or click here to download the compilation).

My contribution this month was Townsend, TN by Nashville's The Royal Court of China. The band had two distinctly different commercial releases - a self-titled debut and a second harder-edged release named Geared and Primed. After a multi-year hiatus, the band reunited a few years ago for a knock-down, drag-out show at Nashville's famed Exit-In at which I was elated to be present.

Townsend, TN is an actual place and is perhaps best known for being the gateway to Cade's Cove - an undeveloped, tranquil, tourist trap. Yes I used undeveloped, tranquil and tourist all in the same sentence. I've never listened to Townsend, TN while driving through Townsend, but I can visualize the song would work doing so.

RCC broke one single, Half The Truth, from their second album Geared and Primed. Having once worked for someone who lived his professional life telling about half the truth 100% of the time, I've never forgotten about this song.

Because this is the month of Halloween, here is an RCC treat for you. Remember though - no tricks in return.


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Feel Bad For You Sweaty Edition

A Truer Sound has posted the August edition of the monthly Feel Bad For You compilation. Phil Norman (Twitter) gets the props for the nice artwork for this month's edition.

The concept is stupidly simplistic. Several of us have formed some sort of whacked, 'X' degrees of separation kinship through blogs, Twitter, Facebook, etc. (kind of like one of those distant cousins you avoid even at once-a-decade family reunions). We submit one song of our choosing each month. The fact many of us have common interests in music doesn't suck when it comes to compiling the submissions. (As an aside, Compiling The Submissions sounds like an awesome goth band name if you ask me.)

In addition to sampling each others' choices, you too are a winner. Treat the compilation like loading your plate at a weird wedding reception. Take multiple helpings of some, taste a bite of another before tactfully returning the rest to your plate, smell some and recoil in horror, etc.

So with the continuing - yet to be expected - heat and humidity, mop your brow, deodorize your pits, swig a cold brew, and listen to FBFY here (or click here to download the compilation).

My contribution this month was One More Summer by Kansas City's The Rainmakers. After a 14-year hiatus, the band reunited (less one founding member), released a CD of all new material, and toured several joints in Norway. NORWAY??? Yes - Norway - who supported the band early and often in their prime time. One More Summer is from the band's second release - Tornado - from way back in 1987. (Seriously? 1987? When 100% of my college loans were still due?) But here is a version of the song from one of the band's spring Norwegian shows.


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Feel Bad For Your Heat Rash Edition

A Truer Sound has again posted the compilation of Feel Bad For You - July edition. Popa2unes (Twitter) designed some hilarious artwork for this month's edition.

With much of the country enduring insufferable heat and humidity this month, perhaps these tunes will provide some soothing, ointment relief ... to your ears. Listen to it here (or click here to download the compilation).

Incredibly, 2011 is already half-way done. As a result, I submitted a song titled The Fifty Percenter by Rich Hopkins and Billy Sedlmayr. For several years, Hopkins was lead guitarist for the Tucson, AZ based band The Sidewinders. (The band later changed its name to the Sand Rubies after an unfortunate, ridiculous lawsuit over the Sidewinders name by another band.) Today, Hopkins records and plays more often with his band The Luminaros.

This video will give you a second helping of Hopkins' music - the great, title track of an album he did with The Luminaros: Dirt Town.

I'm pretty sure I forgot to blog about the May and June editions. So take a listen those compilations at the FBFY site as well.

Stay cool. Drink plenty of fluids. Stretch your mind. Enjoy different music.


Saturday, July 2, 2011

City Songs Saturday - Freedom Edition

July 4, 2011 - The 235th birthday of the most incredible, liberty-filled, freedom-rich nation on the earth. I'm immensely grateful to the founding fathers, the Continental Army, and the military branches of the United States for visioning it, declaring it, earning it, and defending it.

This week's City Songs Saturday focuses on some of the key cities at the flashpoint of the revolution then and at the epicenter of government today. As has been the pattern, I've included 5 songs. But to be honest, it was a bit of stretch to go with five and still cover multiple cities. Songwriters haven't exactly been forthcoming with songs about places like Lexington, Concord, Saratoga, and Valley Forge. Perhaps I could have included one about Quebec, but I've tried to focus this series on U.S. cities. So away we go...

I'm Shipping Up to Boston - Dropkick Murphys - I'll lead with this one because (1) the song is short but fun to scream and (2) I'm giving a nod to fellow blogger - the music diggin', straight shootin' Rockstar_Aimz - who currently claims Boston as home.

I'm a sailor peg / And I lost my leg
Climbing up the top sails / I lost my leg!

I need to create a "to do" to blast this song later this September on Talk Like A Pirate Day.

Brasilia Crossed With Trenton - Bob Mould - I have no idea if Mould's Trenton is meant to be about the New Jersey city. But in this case, I'm going to make it so.

I see buildings / With laundry hanging out of the window
Never in my wildest dreams would I think I'd see
Brasilia crossed with Trenton

Streets of Philadelphia - Bruce Springsteen

Philadelphia Freedom - Elton John

The Ghost of Old D.C. - J.B. Beverly & The Wayward Drifters - This one was a stretch for me. I didn't have what I believed to be a blog-worthy song title about Washington, DC. But in searching around for one, I found this band. From what I've heard of this video and other song samples, I'll be listening to them more ... a lot more.

...well, there is a patch of train tracks outside of Silver Spring
it used to be the freight line right into old DC...

Happy Independence Day folks. Never - ever - take your freedoms for granted.


Saturday, June 25, 2011

City Songs Saturday - Border State Cities

Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Washington, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. That should be plenty of territory of border states to explore a few city songs. Right?

Spokane Motel Blues - Tom T. Hall

El Paso - Marty Robbins

Saginaw, Michigan - Lefty Frizell

Brownsville Girl - Bob Dylan

Helena, Montana - Terry Allen - Strong song...even if the video isn't


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Thankfully Semi-Twang is not Fully Twang

More than twenty years ago - seriously? can it really have been that long ago? - I picked up the debut release by a band called Semi-Twang. I don't recall exactly how I learned about Salty Tears. It was likely a review in Rolling Stone or Pulse, the Tower Records magazine.

I had already latched onto my share of twang by getting into artists and bands such as R.E.M., Blue Rodeo, Joe Ely, E.I.E.I.O., The Rainmakers, Lone Justice, The Silos, etc. No question the band's name caught my attention. If twang was involved, I was convinced it would align nicely with these other artists I'd really begun to enjoy.

It turns out the first half of their band name was the part I underestimated. The band was only kind of ... that is, semi ... twangy. But that was OK. I really enjoyed the CD - and still do to this day. I enjoyed it enough that I kept my eyes open in the store bins and in magazines for info about a follow-up release. But it never came.

Over the years, I've pulled Salty Tears off the shelf and listened to it many times over - not something I can say about everything in my collection. (Click here and scroll down about half-way to listen to a couple of band-provided tracks from their debut.) In the pre-web days though, it was weird not knowing how this talented band could end up as a one-and-done.

Then the e-mail arrived several weeks ago. I'm not sure if the publicity folks found me through this blog, tracked me down through my monthly contributions to Feel Bad For You, or what other sources they used. Either way, the news was so surprising I had to read it a couple of times. After a 23-year absence, sure 'nuff Semi-Twang was back with their second release, Wages of Sin.

As was the case 20+ years ago, my attention was snagged. One, because after a 23-year absence, I was floored to realize a second album was actually here. Two, Wages Of Sin was also a song title by The Rainmakers - so the hook was set.

You might think after a two-decade pause between recordings, a second release might move Semi-Twang to Fully-Twang. Listen to a few of their tracks, however, and I think you'll find Semi is the part they continue to embrace best. Some bluesy riffs, a nice dose of organ without going overboard, and generally a mature sound and vocals - to be expected from performers who have added a good bit of gray to their look. Yet, there is enough distortion, fuzz, and nasally tone to qualify for the twang portion. Musically, the band is very tight as a unit while still playing a bit loose for their style.

Song listing:
  • Sonny Liston (MP3)
  • Do Right - Organ starts > guitar with slight distortion > drum fade-in > 2nd guitar > vox - all seamless with great groove
  • The Wages of Sin (MP3)
  • Just A Train - conjures a bit of Little Village (John Hiatt, Nick Lowe, Ry Cooder, Jim Keltner) from ... guess what ... yep, 20 years ago
  • I Can't Read Your Mind - hints of Marshall Crenshaw or Elvis Costello
  • When the Wind Kicks Up
  • Its That Time Again - first of the back-to-back, most enjoyable tracks for me
  • Nervous Energy - has a Todd Snider'esque vibe to it for me
  • Your Name Was In It (MP3)
  • Move It Or Lose It
  • Doubting Thomas - Guilty as charged. Never thought I'd see another release by these guys - maybe they didn't either!
  • When My Angel Smiles - the longest track of the album at 4 minutes even with somewhat of a haunting-sound.
As is common with many folks, I generally learn the names of band members whose albums I listen to over the years. With Semi-Twang's single release, however, I never really took the time to learn about the individual members. I just listened to the CD, shelved the jewel case, and didn't think much more about it.

This time, though, I tried to dig around a bit more about the band. Lo and behold, Mike Hoffman who was and still is in Semi-Twang was in E.I.E.I.O. back in the day - one of the bands that helped cement my interest in twang. Tonight, I pulled their 1988 CD Land of Opportunity off the shelf, opened the liner notes, and ta-daaa there he was.

Furthermore, Hoffman has contributed recently to Florizona, the latest album by The Silos. Walter Salas-Humara has been known to change the members of the The Silos over the years about as often as I change socks. But it was cool to learn yet another connection between multiple bands I enjoy.

My suggestion? Go ahead and get both Semi-Twang so you can be fully twanged. Besides, I'm not sure any of us can wait another 20 years for release number 3.


Saturday, June 18, 2011

City Songs Saturday - A States

Without a logical theme coming to mind for today, I figured I'd stick with the simple. Here's a sampling of city songs from the "A" states of the good ol' USA.

Alabama: Angel From Montgomery - John Prine

Alaska: Anchorage - Michelle Shocked

Arkansas: Little Rock - Hayes Carll

Arizona: By The Time I Get to Phoenix - Glen Campbell

Arizona Bonus: Goin' Back to Tucson - Supersuckers


Saturday, June 4, 2011

City Songs Saturday - Big Ten edition

With all the drama surrounding [snark] The [/snark] Ohio State University, Jim Tressel, Terrelle Pryor, tats, weed, jerseys, and cars, I thought a Big Ten edition of City Songs Saturday might work.

Before anyone unleashes on me, yes I realize these cities aren't the homes of Big Ten universities. I'm just trying to get in the general vicinity of the states.

Detroit Rock City - KISS

Cleveland Rocks - The Presidents of The United States of America

Champaign, Illinois - Old 97s

What's Made Milwaukee Famous - Jerry Lee Lewis

The Dry Cleaner from Des Moines - Joni Mitchell


Friday, June 3, 2011

Memories One Year Later

One year ago this morning - June 3, 2010 - I was at my parents' house. Their suitcases were packed, and we were about to leave for the airport. I'd booked seats on Southwest to fly them to Jacksonville to visit my sick uncle, my mother's youngest brother.

As we finished a cup of coffee and finished loading the trunk of the car, the phone rang. Too late. The battle was lost. He had died in the early morning hours. Flights and hotels were canceled, and the bags were unloaded. That day sucked.

Its hard to believe a year has passed. I miss conversations and visits with him immensely - even though I know his absence to me pales in comparison to what it means to my aunt and my mother.

One habit I developed the last 2 or 3 years of his life was to call him as I grilled steaks. Every few weeks, it was just a neat opportunity to talk with him from my deck for 20 minutes or as I sipped a beer and waited for medium-well.

A memories have popped back in my head in recent months. I started a draft of this entry months ago when the first one hit, and I continued to add to it with a target publish date of today. Here are a few stories that still make me smile.
  • In spring 1984, I needed to land a summer job between college quarters. My uncle said he could arrange a job in the accounts receivable department with his employer. Because I was an accounting major, this would be great practical experience - plus give me the chance to live in Florida for the summer. I quickly accepted and quit looking around Nashville. With about a week to go before the spring quarter ended, he called to say that because he was in sales, the company's nepotism and other control policies prevented me from working in receivables. Instead, he offered me the chance to work in the warehouse loading trucks in non-ventilated trailers. What could I do? So I went from having an air-conditioned desk job to working in trailers that seemed hotter than the seventh level of hell.
  • July 4, 1984. My aunt's boss was retiring, and she was about to be promoted to his position. She and my uncle scheduled a retirement party/picnic for him and a ton of co-workers at their house. I offered to help - mow the grass, man the grill, refresh ice on the beer, whatever. A day or two later, my uncle admitted he'd had two tickets to the Firecracker 400 NASCAR race in Daytona. He knew he couldn't go because of the gathering, but he didn't tell me about them because he didn't know if I'd want to go alone. It turns out it was no ordinary race as my racing hero Richard Petty won his 200th career race. Instead of my being there, the tickets went unused on his night stand.
  • My uncle, a long-time friend of his, a long-time friend of mine, and I went to a local beer joint in Jacksonville the night before the Daytona 500 in 1994. A table of girls had their eye on my uncle's friend and got him to dance. The others were okay from a distance - but we just kept our seats, drank our beer and continued our conversation. A few songs later, another one claimed my uncle and it was down to my buddy and me. As the two of us continued to talk, we kind of just forgot about the two of them. Let 'em have a good time. Whatever. But then suddenly, my uncle grabbed me by the neck and dragged me to the dance floor. He had recruited a midget - I'm telling you a MIDGET - to dance with me. Now I'll never be mistaken for an NBA player, but I'm hardly in the midget category. But he and his friend were doubled over in laughter while I had to figure a way to wrangle myself out of this awkward situation.
  • One of the neatest phone calls I ever received was in summer of 2000. I answered and heard the following challenge: "Hey, guess where I went last night." Now how am I supposed to answer that? So I immediately gave up with "I dunno. Where?" He excitedly said "the Billy Graham Crusade!" He talked a lot that night and much more in the years to follow how his faith was strengthened beginning about that time. He eventually started a men's small group Bible study class on his screened-in porch. He told me they had a great core of guys who enjoyed wrestling with scripture and drinking beer as they discussed it.
  • He was a huge sports nut. Lifelong Celtics fan - including sitting 2 rows behind the bench at the old Boston Garden as a 40th birthday gift to himself. Season ticket holder of USFL Jacksonville Bulls and NFL Jacksonville Jaguars for many years. Played fantasy baseball before it became the rage. He attended MLB, NFL, NBA, NASCAR, 'wrasslin', and just about everything else in professional sports - except hockey. I'm glad to say I took him to his one and only NHL game - the Tampa Bay Lightning vs. our Nashville Predators - about 5 or 6 years ago. Unfortunately, the Lightning mopped the floor with the Preds that night. But we had a great visit, shared a number of brews at the game and at a few of the lower Broadway honky-tonks after the game, and he crossed the NHL off his list of sports events to see.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

City Songs Saturday - NASCAR edition

Greetings from Concord, North Carolina where I'm spending the weekend enjoying the festivities of Coca-Cola 600 NASCAR weekend with friends a'plenty and Schaefer beer a'many.

The theme for today's City Songs Saturday focuses on various cities having NASCAR tracks. Click here if want to read/listen to other City Song Saturday entries.

Indianapolis - Bottle Rockets

Pocono Joe - Mark Miklos

Oh Atlanta - Little Feat

Dallas - Jimmie Dale Gilmore (performed here by Flatlanders' bud Joe Ely)

Ooh Las Vegas - Gram Parsons (covered here by Jason & The Scorchers)


Saturday, May 21, 2011

City Songs Saturday - Port Cities edition

Despite my settings, this blog template will not display tags. So click here if you want to see my other City Songs Saturday entries.

Galveston Bay - Bruce Springsteen

City of New Orleans - Steve Goodman

Corpus Christi Bay - Robert Earl Keen

Jacksonville Skyline - Whiskeytown

San Diego Serenade - Tom Waits


Sunday, May 8, 2011

A Mother's Day Pup

The first entry I posted to this blog not quite three years ago was about the loss of my dog. Its not as if his passing had just happened. He had been gone a few years - but I tried to convey how much I still missed the ol' hound.

A couple of months ago, I sent the link to a co-worker. She read it, paused and then said something to the effect of "well, that's the most depressing thing I've ever read" to which I replied "that's kinda what I was going for."

With that as background, I've been thinking about how to re-visit the subject but spin it to the positive. So let me give this a shot.

I got my pup on Mother's Day 1992. We were living in Chattanooga, TN at the time, and I went to Nashville for the weekend to visit with my folks, kiss my mother on the cheek and wheeze with red eyes as my dad filled the living room with smoke from his hand-rolled cigs. We'd hit that point of the visit where the three of us kind of just sat there in silence. My mother was likely pondering what to prepare for the next meal, my dad was gently rocking in his recliner and I was cruising through the Sunday Tennessean - including the want-ads.

Growing up, my sister had a dog. Daisy was a dachshund-beagle mix. I played with her, but she was definitely my sister's dog. Throughout junior high and high school, I took care of 'my' dogs by living vicariously through others. I took care of neighbors' dogs all around us as they took various weekend and vacation trips. Sometimes I was paid a little bit - sometimes not. But I didn't really care because I simply enjoyed time with the pooches.

When I finally got a house of my own, one of the first things I wanted was my own dog. As I flipped through the classifieds that Sunday morning, one posting jumped off the page: Labrador-golden retriever mix pups for $25. (I would've clipped the ad and kept it if I could've foreseen blogging back then.) I called the guy, he said the pups were still available, and off my brother and I went to get me a dog.

7 weeks old. 5 pounds. Slept on the front seat of my Toyota Corolla all the way back to Chattanooga.

To provide some context about size, here he is very much interested in my wife's dwarf rabbit.

Sleep was the name of the game in the beginning.

It didn't take long for that 5 pound pup to hit 35 pounds - and then 50 pounds - and then eventually around 80. As he rapidly gained weight, I'm pretty sure it was concentrated in his legs ... and his tongue. He often had the funniest facial expressions.

For a couple of years, I took him to have a Christmas picture made. The cost went towards a pet rescue organization or something like that. Like kids, it was damn near impossible to get him to look at the camera at just the right time. Fortunately, a quick treat was enough in this instance to freeze him for just the right snap. Both years, I took him and our neighbor's golden retriever. As a reward after the photo shoot, I fed them Krystal hamburgers in the parking lot as people drove by laughing.

For the first few nights we had him as a puppy, I tried to follow the advice of books I'd read. Put the puppy in a cardboard box, add some towels and a stuffed animal, and include a clock to simulate the mother's heartbeat. This will help ease any separation-anxiety the puppy may have. Baloney. Despite doing all that, Winston whined worse than my trying to beg out of my annual prostate exam.
  • After only a night or two, he figured out how to jump high enough to crush the edge of the box to escape.
  • So then he was moved to a half-bath - where he proceeded the claw the crap out of the sliver of carpet showing between the bonus room and the bathroom vinyl.
  • Then he got booted to the garage on a pile of towels - that he destroyed within a matter of days. Not learning a lesson from this incident, my wife reasoned he might like having one of those fluffy cushions from L.L. Bean, Eddie Bauer, or whatever it was. "Umm, really?" I asked - "How much is it?" Just $50. *sigh* It lasted 90 minutes - long enough for us to put it down, go to dinner and return to a smiling pup sitting amongst shredded poly-fill and fabric.
  • From there, he was incarcerated in a chain-link dog run in the backyard for overnight stays. He loved being there during the day so it only made sense he stay there at night too. Or so it seemed. After a few months, the remnants of a Gulf hurricane hit in the form of a bad thunderstorm. Winston went ape in his pen as the rain pounded and thunder boomed. I had barely cracked the gate open when he smacked it against me and made a bee-line for the garage - which is where he stayed pretty much at night for the next 5 to 6 years.
  • As a last resort, I built a simple wood box and filled it with cedar shavings to hedge against fleas. Who woulda guessed it? After all that trial and error, this was the fix. Not only did he enjoy it, but the neighbor's Krystal-eating golden, Jazz, enjoyed it too. She ended up spending more nights in our garage than she did at their house for the rest of the time we lived there.
As a labrador, he did a pretty nice job of learning to retrieve. He excelled, however, at keep away. After getting whatever ball I threw for him, he'd go get it. But he enjoyed baiting me into taking it from him vs. quickly bringing it back for another round. The only exception to this was if I disappeared. If I threw the ball and quickly ran inside, hid behind a car, etc., it would drive him crazy trying to find me.

But one day, my attempts to outwit a mutt nearly put me on the disabled list. See the 4x4 post in the picture below? One spring afternoon, I zinged the ball out the garage, and he took off like a shot. To play my trick, I turned to head for the door to the house. Except...I misjudged where I was, turned, and ran full-force-face-first into that post. I remember laying on the floor with his licking my face - however, I don't remember getting to the floor. No blood and no double-vision. Just dog slobber on my face. So all things considered, I was very lucky. Dog 1, TMC Zero that day.

Some of the neighbors called me Maestro after I trained many of their dogs along with mine to sit orderly, shake and await their milk bone. I was like the neighborhood milk bone crack dealer. There are only 3 dogs in this picture, but there were three others who also knew where I kept my stash - and what it cost to get one. A paw shake without teeing off on another dog as they got it.

Once Winston was booted to the pen and garage, he was an outdoor lifer. He had those rare occasions, however, when he'd get a bath and be allowed for a brief time in the house. His ability to understand was uncanny. He used his "inside voice" and always acted as if he belonged there. I'm sure it was a lobbying effort on his part to make his stay full-time.

When our son was born (who turned 16 about 10 days ago. sigh...), I let Winston in briefly to see how he'd handle things. No growling, no barking, no biting and frankly very little sniffing. Instead, he instinctively bonded by laying down and enduring whatever tugs or drooling was to come his way.

He minded his manners inside and understood his life was outdoors. But his favorite time seemed to be those rare times in Tennessee when it snowed. The deeper the snow and colder the temps - the better he liked it.

In 1993, Chattanooga got a snow for the ages - about 2 feet. A day later, the temps plummeted. What started out as a fun time for sledding and such turned into a hmm, well this could get interesting experience. We lost power for 2 days and quickly burned through what little firewood we had left. But while we tried to conserve energy, think how we'd salvage frozen food, and wonder how cold it would be while we slept, Winston ran non-stop from sun-up to sun-down. With a 24" thick white blanket, it was easy to spot his black goat galloping from one yard to another.

He was such a wonderful pet. 13 years. Lots more memories that could be shared here. Maybe I'll blog another handful in the years to come each Mother's Day weekend.

Hopefully, this entry was more uplifting than the one I wrote a few years ago. I know I smiled a lot as I scanned the various photos and thought about so many fun times.


Saturday, May 7, 2011

City Songs Saturday - Plains states

I want to thank each and every one of you who commented on last week's City Songs Saturday blog debut. Yes, all zero of you. Thank so much for the feedback. The message was loud and clear - 100% of no one suggested to move forward with the series, and for that I'm grateful.

How about a CSS theme shout-out this week to the Plains states - places like Kansas, Nebraska and Oklahoma.

Kansas City Star - Roger Miller

Tulsa Time - Don Williams

Wichita Lineman - Glen Campbell

Idabel Blues - Stoney LaRue

Back Home in Omaha - Todd Thibaud


Saturday, April 30, 2011

Fence cleaning mold killing iPod listening talking blues

Mea culpa: I started writing this entry last Tuesday, edited it a bit more Wednesday, and polished it today. As I edit/re-write it, I realize how shallow my story about cleaning a fence reads when so many folks got wiped off the map in Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, East Tennessee and other areas affected by this week's tornadoes. My deepest sympathies go to those folks and their communities as they figure out where to go from here.

A couple of weeks ago, I finally got my mower up and running for the 2011 Grass Cutting Championship Season. Its highly probable that will be my easiest 'honey do' list project of the year.

This week, I began one of the most time-consuming, brain-numbing projects. No - I'm not referring to the watching of the British royal wedding or an analysis of The One's birth certificate. The one home project I dread like no other is cleaning and sealing our cedar fence.

It takes me the better portion of 3 days to knock out just the cleaning part. Then I have to wait several days (or weeks) for it to dry fully so I can seal it. I've yet to find a simpler, more time-efficient process to get it done.

The project is not just time-consuming - its also dollar-consuming. Like a redneck at a poker machine, I throw good money after bad. Sure, I'll take yet another jug of cleanser. $16 per? Whatever. And sure, I'll take yet another 5-gallon barrel of sealer. $150 per? Hey, what's money when it comes to the protection of my natural wood fence, right?

The only time I can recall really looking forward to cleaning the fence was 10 years ago. How do I remember that far back? I had requested 'vacation' days from work and allocated them to fence duty. The dates? September 12-14, 2001. I didn't look forward to the project at all - until September 11. The project gave me three days away from the world to clean and mentally wrestle with just about every human emotion - many times over - wash, rinse, repeat.

To help balance the time and money required, I've started stretching the number of years between re-sealing. For a while, I was cleaning and sealing every other year. Since 2005, I've chosen to go three years between rounds. Its definitely cheaper this way. When that third year rolls around though, the fence really needs a good detox like Charlie Sheen after a Vegas bender.

'Best practices' suggest I shouldn't use a pressure washer to clean the wood because it'll harm the wood's grain. Even the cleaner bottle says water from a hose should be sufficient. But that approach just gets the fence wet - not clean. I blast away with the pressure washer, and our fence holds up fine. I compare my efforts to drying towels. Some of our towels we've had for 10+ years. Even though we may remove a pound of lint from the dryer trap, the towels remain as fluffy and absorbent as they ought to be. On the other hand, some of our cheap towels, well... Let's just say as many times as they've been dried with a Bounce sheet, its like trying to dry off with a sheet of waxed paper. But I digress...

Before cleaning...

CLOSE-UP! Ewww...

After cleaning...sealer yet to come.

Comparison of TMC's work on the left and our neighbors' fence on the right...

There is one thing I don't understand though. I sprayed all those mossy, mold spores with a commercial, bleach-laden, cleansing solution and allowed them to soak for about 30 minutes. Then I pounded the nastiness with a pressure washer - being careful not to make the mark of Zorro in the panels. Yet, even after poisoning the mold with chlorine bleach and who knows what other toxins AND giving it a direct shot from pressurized water, many spores still hung on to my fence boards. How do they do that? Its as if those Little Monsters had little mandibles and yelled to one another in support "Hold on boys!"

If your professional career title involves the letters 'ologist' or 'tist', perhaps you could help me better understand. I'd like to be generally informed because its pretty humbling to have your ass kicked by a mold spore.

One aspect of the cleaning sessions that made them bearable was all-day listening to my iPod. With a busy life, its rare to have an opportunity for an extended listening session. For whatever reason, I went to "S" music Tuesday. I played the following during Day 1 cleaning:
  • The Silos
  • Scott Miller & The Commonwealth
  • Sidewinders
  • Sand Rubies
  • Son Volt
  • Slaid Cleaves
  • The Steeldrivers
For Friday and Saturday, I stayed in the same general vicinity since S's were so rewarding.
  • The Rainmakers
  • Rich Hopkins & The Luminaros
  • Robert Earl Keen
  • Rodney Crowell
  • Todd Thibaud
  • Tom Freund
  • Tommy Emmanuel
  • The Tragically Hip
  • Walkenhorst & Porter
  • Walter Salas-Humara
As an example, playing an hour or more of Hip tracks like Little Bones definitely keeps you moving. If you can't get into this level of rock-and-roll, you might want to have friends and family look for your name at

When all is said and done in a few weeks, I hope my completed triennial project will be analogous to a recently-waxed car. I hope it'll be 'shiny, shiny'...


City Songs Saturday - Tennessee edition

Thought I might try this theme beginning today and on Saturdays to follow. Songs with U.S. cities in the title. With this being the inaugural post in the series and my being a native Tennessean, songs about cities in the volunteer state seemed the logical place to begin.

I'm open to suggestions. Multiple songs about a specific city? State? Region? Single artist - multiple city songs? Solo artists or bands? Comment away.

For this entry, I specifically made sure the song was available on YouTube. Clearly not all songs are represented there. So some weeks I may just have a link to the audio. Who knows - let's just see where it takes us.

East Nashville Skyline - Todd Snider

Up Memphis Blues - Tommy Womack

Midnight Train to Memphis - The Steeldrivers

Knoxville Girl - The Wilburn Brothers

Nutbush City Limits - Tina Turner


Thursday, April 28, 2011

Drum tracks for songwriters

Unbelievable. This year is 2 days short of being one-third DONE. Did your list of New Year's Resolutions include trying your hand at writing a song? How about going the next step of putting lyrics and guitar or keyboard chords together on tape or digital recording?

Hmm, OK. So both of those are going well. Cool. How about adding a rhythm section? Don't know any drummers? Too expensive to hire? They drink all your beer? No interest or no skills in multi-tasking yourself?

Here may be an affordable and relevant solution to try. Over the last few months, drummer Brian Doherty released two sets of drum tracks. No fake, "pleather", synthesized drums - this is the sho-nuff thing. You have to buy and download the original track(s), but from there the tracks are royalty-free to use with songs you write.

Brian was the drummer for The Silos early releases, Cuba and their self-titled RCA release (better known simply as The One With The Bird On The Cover). Later, he drummed for notable bands such as XTC, They Might Be Giants and Freedy Johnston. Here is a bit of his handiwork while jamming at home.

If interested, read Brian's blog for info about volumes 1 and 2 and how to download them.

Of course, if you write a great song, add three chords, sample in Brian's drumming, get in the van, tour every night in front of 12 people, you'll have the satisfaction of knowing you are an artist - even if you end up as that guy.


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Intro to the Duct Tape Messiah

I've been a fan in one way or another of Americana - - singer/songwriter - 'grunge country' - or whatever you want to call it for over 25 years. About 10 or 15 years ago, I started to notice how one songwriter after another consistently mentioned someone named Townes Van Zandt as an influence. Sometimes the reference was to a Townes song they were about to cover - or simply as an inspiration for a song they wrote. Either way, the name was often spoken almost in reverence with sometimes tear-filled eyes and a catch in their voice.

Yet I didn't get it. I listened to latter day songwriters, and I even enjoyed songwriters of days gone by such as Roger Miller. Yet, somewhere along the way I had missed Townes. About 5 years ago, I finally started listening to him myself and was stunned by what I heard and what I'd been missing.

As I started listening to Townes and learning more about him, the name Blaze Foley popped up often. I still don't know much about Blaze, and I'm not sure many folks do (at least the truth about him). But I do know he was a running partner of Townes and a damn good songwriter in his own right.

Blaze lived a paradoxical life - the simple life of a homeless vagabond yet with as many complicated tangles as a bowl of spaghetti. Songwriter, performer, committed, aloof, here, there, yonder, lover, abandoner, irritant, compassionate.

He was murdered in 1989 by being on the wrong end of a .22 caliber rifle. At the time of his death, he was more than a half-decade younger than I am today.

Lucinda Williams penned her song Drunken Angel for Blaze. Also, a few years after his death, Townes released a song in tribute to his friend titled Blaze's Blue. Sadly, a couple of years after its release, Townes too was dead.

For the better part of the last 10 years or so, an electrical engineer turned filmmaker, Kevin Tripplett, has worked on a documentary about Blaze. The movie is about ready for release and is titled Blaze Foley: Duct Tape Messiah. Saturday night, a condensed version of the movie was screened at Nashville's Douglas Corner Cafe. About 40 to 50 people came out to see it. To the rest of Nashville? Your loss folks.

Following the screening, singer-songwriter-instrumentalist-producer Gurf Morlix played a significant number of tracks from his recent tribute release Blaze Foley's 113th Wet Dream. Morlix is more than just a fan of Foley's. He often accompanied him at his shows by playing guitar.

Right before the movie began, Sybil Rosen was introduced and asked to come to the stage. To say she knew Blaze in an understatement. She was Blaze's true love...for a while. Her time with him is documented in her book titled Living in the Woods in a Tree: Remembering Blaze Foley. She read a couple of passages from her book before the movie began.

After Sybil finished and sat, Kevin Tripplett quickly raised a movie screen and turned on a projector. With that, the documentary Blaze Foley: Duct Tape Messiah began.

The trailer...

The opening...

I'll try not to ruin the enjoyment of others in watching it by giving away a bunch of spoilers here. But I think I can note a few things without ruining the overall movie.

Blaze admired the songwriting of John Prine; however, his running buddy and real songwriting inspiration was Townes. Based on some video footage included in the movie, when Blaze and Townes were together, Blaze's antics could make Townes look like the 'straight guy'. And that had to have been a tall task.

As great as the Austin songwriting and performer scene is now, the early 80s had folks such as Joe Ely, Billy Joe Shaver, Townes and Blaze amongst its songwriting residents. Amazing.

The movie aired for around an hour. Before Gurf Morlix took the stage to sing, Tripplett offered to answer a couple of questions and stayed around the rest of the night to answer additional ones. I approached him after Morlix's performance and commented about the length of the movie. With so many years of preparation and the various interviews and research he did, it seemed the movie would last longer. He told me the 1-hour condensed version was shown to couple with Gurf's set. The idea was to hold the audience's attention with a healthy dose of both. The final cut will likely include another half-hour or so according to Tripplett.

He also told me that while he never met Blaze, he feels like he knows him through stories told to him my relatives who had met Blaze and through the research and interviews done for the documentary.

Gurf arrived on stage with no introduction or fanfare. I was actually in the middle of checking Twitter when suddenly I realized he had just walked on stage, said a couple of introductory comments, and began.

Set List:

Big Cheeseburgers and Good French Fries
Clay Pigeons (Gurf noted this song has been covered by Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard and Lyle Lovett. He also noted John Prine covered it on his Fair and Square release.)
If I Could Only Fly
  • Story about meeting Blaze in 1976, watching him perform in an NYC disco and becoming friends with him. He joked that Blaze was homeless and Gurf had a home. So Blaze had an immediate friendship connection to Gurf.
  • Story about Blaze hitchhiking. Gurf told a story that Blaze was hitchhiking and no one in a long stream of traffic would stop for him. Finally, the traffic backed up, and a woman found herself stopped next to him. She reached over to the passenger side of the car, and Blaze thought she was going to let him in. Instead, he pushed down the door lock. As a tribute the woman, he recorded...
Wouldn't That Be Nice?

  • Story of Gurf's parents meeting Blaze for first time. He had cautioned them that a large, drunk, smelly, bearded, homeless singer slept on his couch. His parents arrived at Gurf's place before Blaze rolled in from an all-night bender. As he introduced his parents to Blaze, Gurf's mother supposedly said "Wait. Did we just see you hitchhking earlier this morning?" Gurf said he wondered sometimes if perhaps... his mother... door lock... song.... naahhhh.
Ooh Love
Oh Darlin'
For Anything Less
Baby Can I Crawl Back to You?
Picture Cards
  • Gurf said he wrestled a bit with the title for his tribute album. He didn't want a primary title and a secondary, smaller, obscured "tribute to the works of Blaze Foley" or something like that. Finally, he realized the title he needed had already been written. Blaze titled one of his songs Blaze Foley's 113th Wet Dream. Gurf realized he simply needed to roll with that one for his release.
Blaze Foley's 113th Wet Dream
  • Gurf neared the end of his set by mocking other performers and bands who close a show, step to the shadows, leave on the stage lights, wait for a bit of audience applause, and the return with fake humility to perform an encore. Douglas Corner has a relatively small stage and not much of a place to get in the shadows. He dead-panned "I could go outside to the street and just back in. Or I can just stay here, pretend you applauded for me to return, and just play my last song." After the laughter settled, he closed with what he said was his favorite Blaze song.
Cold Cold World

As the movie continues to be screened around the country, get out to see it if possible. If nothing else, look for its full release in late May according to Tripplett.

Meanwhile, head over to YouTube and get lost in the various Blaze performances and covers uploaded there.