Thursday, December 8, 2016

Sharing a Six Pack with Walter Salas-Humara

Americana music is difficult to define. Few agree on it's origins either. Dylan? Woody Guthrie? Gram Parsons? Townes? Who knows. Who cares!

Regardless of those debates - a couple of albums from the genre hooked me in the late 80s. One was by a band called The Silos. I remember buying the CD at Turtles Music in Chattanooga, TN though I don't recall a specific review that led me to it. I soon backtracked one release to Cuba and then began buying their future releases as well as solo albums by Walter Salas-Humara, the band's guitarist, lyricist, and vocalist. (web | Twitter | Instagram)

After "the bird" release, the band's music went well away from what many would refer to as Americana. Yet the sound was unique to Salas-Humara, and I continued my enjoyment of each release.

Because of Walter's multiple connections, his name has led me to additional bands and songwriters over the years such as:
  • Michael Hall (web | Twitter) - former frontman of the Wild Seeds and long-time writer for Texas Monthly magazine. The two of them plus Alejandro Escovedo released a couple of albums under the name The Setters.
  • Tom Freund (web | Twitter) - a former member of The Silos and now a solo artist and talented bassist.
  • Jonathan Rundman (web | Twitter) - like me, a fan of The Silos. But he went a step further and worked with him on his fantastic album Public Library.
  • The Vulgar Boatmen (Twitter) - a band of which Walter was a member in his college days. He later produced their album You And Your Sister.
While Walter has toured for years - solo and with multiple line-ups of The Silos - he has only played Nashville a handful of times over his three decades as a performer. Fortunately for us middle Tennesseans, Walter is returning after about a long absence. He along with Will Kimbrough will play The Basement on Wednesday, December 14.

Walter was kind enough to share a six pack of Q&A with me in advance of the show.

TMC: Like many, my first intro to The Silos was "the bird album" on RCA. I then got Cuba and found an address for the Record Collect label - which turned out to be you! A mail exchange between us delivered me Lagartija on CD and the Boatmen's You And Your Sister on cassette (both of which I still have).

I'm pretty sure I've got every Silos and WSH release since then as well as a handful of releases from folks who've worked with you. What parts of the country - or maybe the world - do you tend to find the most fervent fans of your music?
WSH: It's pretty evenly spread out across the US and Europe primarily. Of course, the places where I performed most often I'm still able to reach the most people. I have great fans all over and wish it was possible for me to play in all countries of the world. I'm a very lucky guy to be able to travel and sing my songs.
TMC: 2016 saw the release of two albums - Explodes & Disappears as a solo effort and Work: Part One, a retrospective of sorts with new, acoustic versions of songs by The Silos from over the years. Did either bring you bit more excitement or joy vs. the other? New songs as opposed to new approaches to Silos classics?
WSH: These are two completely different animals. It's always exciting recording new material, especially when one has such a great cast of characters participating in the project. It's also exciting to get another crack at recording songs that you've been performing for many, many years. These songs change over time and have different meaning, particularly since I mostly perform acoustic these days. The Work: Part One album is produced by Richard Brotherton, an old great friend and very talented musician, so it was a joy to be able to work with him.
TMC: Though you've played Nashville a few times over the ages, the city hasn't been a regular stop for The Silos or you individually. It's hard to believe the last time you were here was about a decade ago. What is it about Nashville that has drawn you back this time?
WSH: When Drew Glackin passed away in 2008, I took a long hiatus from performing. I'm really just getting back into it over the last couple years, making new albums and getting out there as a solo artist. Nashville is such an important music city, so I'm psyched to be back and performing there again. I hear Nashville has changed a lot, and I have a day off. So I'm excited to check it out.
TMC: You've worked with other bands and songwriters over your career such as The Vulgar Boatmen (Twitter), Jonathan Rundman, Michael Hall, etc. Most of those collaborations had varying sounds and lyrical approaches. Was that a deliberate approach on your part - to work with distinct types of songwriters and bands? Or more just a case of randomness - "hey, we should do a record together!”?
WSH: Life just kind of happens and, and I connect with lots and lots of fellow musicians. Of course there are certain places that I return to over and over as the years go by and certain friends that I see more than others. Fortunately, nowadays it's so easy to communicate electronically and even collaborate that way. This has opened up a whole new world for me. Sometimes you just want to get a particular feeling or story down, and you sit by yourself and do it. You can take as much time as you want, work it over and over, and it's very rewarding when it comes out well. The experience of collaborating with others is very different, it can be like work or it can be like play, and sometimes you click and sometimes you don't. But when things go right, the sum is very often better than the parts, and the song goes in directions that one person could never have taken it.
 TMC: The Silos has had a number of different line-ups over the years, but it was always still a band. The last release was Florizona almost six years ago. Is The Silos still a thing? Or at this stage of your life, career and music's business model, is it primarily just WSH going forward? Do you consciously write songs that seem to fit you as a solo performer vs. those that may become a Silos song?
WSH: The Silos are still a thing, We still perform every once a while, mostly in New York City and the occasional festival. I've been performing mostly solo lately, and it's been really liberating both musically and logistically. I have so many great musician friends in so many different cities and towns, and when they are available I get to work with them. For example, in Nashville, the great Will Kimbrough will be accompanying me on guitar. These different collaborations make every concert unique and is a very exciting way to tour.
TMC: You've been at this for wow - *cough* 30 years. Longer I suppose considering any writing and performing you were doing in the your college days. Your base of operation has changed from Florida to New York City to Austin to Arizona and likely other places of which I have no clue. What have you enjoyed about having long stretches of 'home' in different places - yet also consistently riding the road?
WSH: I spent most of my adult life in New York City and have close family there. For me, it's the most exciting city in the world, the most diverse and the most culturally educated. There is always an adventure to be had anytime you leave your apartment. Today I live in Flagstaff near the Grand Canyon. The overwhelming beauty of the Southwest and of the West in general is something everyone, especially every American, should experience and enjoy. I’ve had so many incredible outdoor adventures since I've been living out here - camping, hiking, biking, rafting, skiing, etc - in the most amazing environments - mountains, deserts, rivers, lakes, geothermal areas, etc. In my life, I've been very lucky to experience a fascinating combination of the cultural and the natural. I feel that everyone should be aware and participate in both equally.
Though I've been a fan of Walter and the various iterations of The Silos, my opportunities to see them live have been scarce. I was fortunate to see The Silos around 2005-2006 at The Basement in Nashville. In October 2007, I happened to be in Philadelphia for work and fortunately caught Walter with Anders Parker at The Khyber.

That particular weeknight show was not well attended, but it remains special to me because of the echoes of Walter's songs in the building and because I got to hang a bit with Drew Glackin, at the time The Silos' bassist. Like me, Drew happened to be in town and simply came to enjoy the evening. We shared a beer, re-connected about the Nashville show, lamented the lack of folks at the show, and enjoyed the music. Sadly as Walter referenced, Glackin died just a few months later from a previously unknown heart condition.


Thursday, August 18, 2016

The Coal Men - Pushed To The Side

Dave Coleman and Dave Ray - two of East Nashville's nicest gentlemen - are also two of the most talented. Along with bassist Paul Slivka (another nice and talented guy by the way), the trio as The Coal Men (web | Twitter) will release their new album Pushed To The Side Friday, August 19th.

Though Dave squared have played together for over 15 years, I was introduced to their music only three years ago with the release of their previous album, 2013's Escalator. For Pushed To The Side, Coleman leveraged the talents (and niceness) of other East Nashville songwriters and friends including Stephen Simmons and Bob Delevante.

The title of the album's opener - Depreciate - may catch the eye of many CPAs. If so, they will likely be disappointed as the song has nothing to do with accounting. An aging, tour van serves as the metaphoric, contemplative vehicle. “It’s really about growing older gracefully and trying to find your self worth,” Coleman admits. “That’s part of what this band has tried to do. We’ve always been committed to being who we are and not chasing trends.”

I'm nearly ready for the junkyard
Counting down the miles
I can't remember all my travels
But boy I rode 'em out in style

All the luster and the shine
It's bound to chip and fade
The day you roll it off that line
You depreciate

Coleman co-wrote a trio of songs with West Virginia-to-Nashville transplant Jeff Wickland. The pair wrote three compelling "story" songs. In a pleasantly-paced 3/4 time, Willy Jett seems to be a hard-working coal man who enjoys partying harder. During one of his weekend adventures, the listener is introduced to Lilly, a one-night stand for Willy.

Willy came down from the coal camp
dreaming of a woman on his arm
And he found one down at the corner
Lilly took him with all of her charms

Two songs later, Lilly Hurst gets her own song. After perhaps getting dismissed as a rent-by-the-trick quickie for Willy, the listener learns of Lilly's much tougher ... and violent reality.

Nix came back one night needing his comfort and rest
He walked in on Lilly Hurst doing what she did best
Which man she was with, I guess I never did hear
Nix drew a line, left Lilly bleeding ear to ear

The trio of the Coleman-Wickland songs is completed with Travis. I've not heard The Coal Men play the song live yet - and I suppose it'll be a tough one to include in a set list. C'mon y'all, get up and dance! - nah, that's not gonna work with this one. Travis is one of the saddest, loneliest, searching, songs of loss you'll hear. I can only hope the song represents a truly fictional character rather than a true life experience of Coleman or Strickland. Unfortunately, however, Travis' story is an all too real one for many struggling young folks and those around them.

Travis lived across town by the railroad track
Just him and his dad and four dying walls of a shotgun shack
His mind was restless, it ached and it groaned
He walked this town, head hung down, most days he stayed stoned
He walked out alone deep into the black
Travis and a .38, the night he never came back

How could it happen to one of our own?
How did Travis live and die alone?

Though the aforementioned three songs are pretty deep, Speeding Like A Demon lightens the mood a lot. A co-write between Coleman and Simmons, Speeding is a fun, upbeat song about criss-crossing the state of Florida trying to make one gig after another. With Luther Perkins-ish guitar picking, I could imagine the song being championed by someone like Jerry Reed back in the day.

Pounding rain, orange cones, engine whines, the engine moans
Speeding like a demon to get to the show

Dotted lines, yellow lines, highway signs, and power lines
Speeding like a demon to get to the show

Coleman's guitar strumming and Ray's continual rim shot back beat give Faithless Eyes a bit of a Tell Tale Heart vibe - albeit with a false relationship commitment rather than a murder at the core. Careful when listening to this one though as to not self-incriminate!

Faithless eyes do not cry tears
Faithless eyes just mark the years
Of all the burdens brought on by lustful desires

Faithless eyes are not blind
They all see things that remind
The man that sees through them his love cast aside

The next-to-last song is Stones River. Co-written with Delevante, the structure of it reminds me a bit of Tennessee from the previous album. For me personally, Stones River hits even closer to home. Tennessee has been my life-long home. I grew up specifically in the suburb of Donelson - east of East Nashville. The Stones River separates Donelson from Hermitage to the east.

  • I permanently separated from several friends in junior high who lived on the other side of the river and were zoned to a different high school.
  • The Stones feeds Percy Priest Lake - a site of many fun times during my teen years.
  • The river is fed by McCrory Creek - a creek that ran behind the small Methodist church I attended as a kid. I spent many summer camp weeks splashing in that creek - waters that carried our sweat and laughter to the Stones.

The Singer (from Louisville) closes the album. Through the previous 11 songs of the album, Coleman's seemingly effortless guitar work, Ray's varied and generally subtle percussion, and Slivka's steady bass lines are ever present. But their consistency allows you to center in on the lyrics - to ponder and contemplate. A couple of seconds after Stones River ends, guitar feedback, Slivka's bass riff, and Ray's snare rim clicks throat punch you to realize it's time to wake up. The song is completely different musically than all others on the album yet tells another story.

The song features a local singer getting regularly heckled by his audience and is based loosely on a Tommy Womack short story. It's also possible this lyric from Womack's incredible Alpha Male and the Canine Mystery Blood may be embodied in Womack's story and Singer:

I'm singing all the songs I've sang for years
And when it's a band gigging, it's rocking
And when it's solo, the people talking while I'm singing
Make me depressed, you think I could take a hint

With Singer being so different from the rest of the album and slotted as the closing song, I'll still state the obvious pun by noting it was ... pushed to the side ... as far as it could go.

From start to finish - the eight songs noted here and another four - are compelling listens and make Pushed To The Side a must-get.


Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Tommy Womack - NAMASTE

I can say unequivocally, without hesitation, with favorable bias, and with complete transparency that I am a Tommy Womack fan (web | Twitter). For dang near 30 years, I've listened to his music repeatedly - first as a member of Government Cheese, then (and now) as a solo artist, and in his other bands such as The Bis-Quits and Daddy.

Tommy's songs aren't generally ones you'll crank at an outdoor, tailgate, societal type of soiree. Though if you and your pals are long-time Cheese fans, you can probably still rock Camping On Acid and Fish Stick Day for the masses. Otherwise, I generally advise folks to absorb Tommy's lyrics like a topical ointment - frequent application with slow but predictable and steady results.

In the Cheese days, I drank a lot of beer, laughed a ton, tried to make a move on the gal I eventually married, and talked throughout the shows. In Womack's post-Cheese career, I don't do any of those - at least to an excess.

Those who know me best know I like to talk. A lot. I'm not the best listener - never have been, likely never will be. Yet for whatever reason, Tommy Womack can alter my natural inclinations. I listen to his lyrics intently.
  • I do still laugh along with lyrics to many of his songs. 
  • Some of his songs have made me - and still do - tear up a bit. (Don't believe me? Listen to Willie Perdue 3x, and we'll meet over an uncut onion to see who is really real.) 
  • Some have made me say with relief Whew, glad I've met him, but I'm damn glad I live MY life.
  • Some have dropped my jaw and made me ask How in the world man...., and long to give him a comforting hug.
Womack's latest album NAMASTE delivers a bit of all of the above. The album has a true arc of intensity. Near its beginning and end are are songs about hair and hot flashes. In the middle sits a couple of songs with messages as thick as a Carnegie Deli sammich.

After the album's opener Angel, Tommy jumps right in the humor with both feet with Combover Blues. I'm not there - yet - but many men of similar age will likely relate and commiserate.

As a complementary track, Womack again offers up a healthy dose of humor - this time for his female listeners. Hot Flash Woman is the second to last song on the album.

As Combover Blues ends, Womack takes the tone up a notch with two back-to-back serious but enjoyable songs: End of the Line and It's Been All Over Before. For those familiar with his discography, the two songs remind me a bit of If That's All There Is To See and She Likes To Talk from his previous albums, There, I Said It! and Stubborn, respectively.

NAMASTE then hits its apex of relevance at the middle of the album.

I first heard God Part 3 a couple of years ago during an in-the-round, songwriter's evening at a now-departed West Nashville bar. After I re-hinged my jaw, I've been looking forward since that evening to hearing it as an officially released song. On the recorded version, Womack is backed with a rhythm section with a sound similar to the Tennessee Three - an appropriate sound considering Johnny Cash was another songwriter and performer who tussled regularly with his beliefs.

Back around 2007, I was at The Basement on 8th Avenue in Nashville for Tommy's record release show of  There, I Said It. The album was (and still is) incredible. He'd just been featured on the cover of the Nashville Scene, he was sporting an out of the ordinary beard, his voice was hoarse ... and he hugged me as he came into the place that night. I recall greeting him and offering him a handshake with congrats. He gave me a hug instead. That was fine and all, but I did chuckle in surprise. Only recently did I - and others - learn he had hit a wall about a week earlier. Badly. Little did we know...

Out of that experience followed I Almost Died. Musically, the song is an enjoyable listen. The transparency and pain of the autobiographical lyrics, however, makes it very challenging to absorb.

After the listener is left clearing his or her throat, rubbing his knee caps and looking around the room, Tommy does return you to the comfort of your couch and a good laugh with When Country Singers Were Ugly and the aforementioned Hot Flash Woman.

He then combines humor and sarcasm in the shaken-AND-stirred, jazzy, spoken-word commentary Nashville. Not a lot to watch here - just listen, visualize Music City, cringe and laugh.

NAMASTE will be available far and wide for sale beginning this Friday, June 24, through just about every conceivable channel. I recommend it at whatever max metric floats your boat.


Friday, May 6, 2016

Sharing a Six Pack with Wild Ponies

About three years ago, Wild Ponies released their raucous and compelling Things That Used To Shine. Though the album's songs varied musically, the ever-present theme was one of candor. Dark memories from some very tough experiences needed to be shared, and the songwriting duo of Doug and Telisha Williams did so wonderfully.

With three more years of touring under their belts, Doug and Telisha have returned with a new, eleven-song release, Radiant, to be released May 13th. Though the scars remain from the experiences that shaped much of the previous album, Radiant is much broader - lyrically and musically.

Doug (Twitter) and Telisha (Twitter) are joined by drummer Megan Jane (web | Twitter) and famed instrumentalist Fats Kaplin for a richer, more expansive Wild Ponies sound.

D&T and I recently shared a six pack as I learned more about the new album, songwriting, touring, etc.

TMC: Y'all dealt with some really tough and extremely personal subject matter on Things That Used To Shine. Radiant is a much more diverse collection of songs. Did you write, compose, ponder and then decide on songs for a particular theme this time? And how did you go about the process of whittling down your options to the 11 you chose to include on the album?
Telisha: We did deal with some tough and personal stuff on our last record, and this record seems to be in a voice of someone who’s healing, who can see things a bit more clearly now. The voice of Radiant feels more daring, less afraid, but maybe that’s because that’s how I feel now. As for whittling down the songs, we actually recorded 13, and listened over and over for the ones that seemed to fit together sonically and thematically for this record. I love the 11 that we ended up with. Those other 2 will find a place in a future record I’m sure. 
Doug: Yeah, it definitely feels like we were writing this record more with two feet on the ground. As far as song selection, that’s always hard. Because you love them all. In the end it just came down to fitting the arc, and I think these 11 songs do that. This is probably the most “sonically” cohesive record we’ve ever made. 
TMC: The title track - Radiant - was written with a bit of help or inspiration by a young'un, right? Recap some of the backstory for the songwriting collaboration through your service to the Country Music Hall of Fame.
T: Yeah, we volunteer with Words and Music, the songwriting curriculum program from the CMHoF. We LOVE participating in this program, and we’re actually scheduled to do it again in May. Often, the songs that are submitted are about tacos, pizza, summer vacation, or Mine Craft. Two years ago, Mariah Moore, a sixth grader at the time, submitted a song with incredible imagery and a wondrous vibe. We loved it. We put music to her words and saved it for the end of the Words and Music Program day, but Mariah wasn’t there to hear it. We couldn’t let the song go though. We came home and worked on it a bit more, added a verse and shifted some words. We love this song, and we’re happy to have collaborated with such a fine young woman. We’ve since met Mariah and her family, and they like what we’ve done with the song. Mariah has continued to write and we’re excited about what her future holds as a creative individual!
D: Yeah, we’re pretty excited about this one. We love the CMHoF, it’s one of the things we always tell friends visiting town to check out. And the Words and Music program is great. And Mariah is a great kid. We were stunned by what she wrote, and I love the way the whole song turned out. 
Old Catalpa Tree

The old Catawba stands alone with gnarled arms from broken bones
hatchet scars she’s tucked beneath her bark
She’s seen houses built, barns fall down, children playing all around, 
as families lived and died in her front yard
Winter snows, summer nights, burning fires electric lights, 
machines that turn to rust and fall apart
She’s held a thousand horses tied, she’s sheltered brides and grooms who’ve cried, 
she’s watched as lovers made love beneath the stars

TMC: Tower and the Wheel just slays me. It's a very visual song. Was there a particular tree you spotted that spawned the song - either recently or days gone by?
T: Doug, this one’s yours, though I will say that I identify with that ol’ tree when I sing that song. She’s a bad ass, and she’s been through hell. She’s still standing, and in many ways, she’s more beautiful than ever.
D: Yeah, this is about a specific tree. It’s a tree on my grandfather's farm just outside of Galax, VA. Both of my grandparents are dead, and nobody lives there anymore. But my mom and her sister still own the farm. Telisha and I took some time off and went out there by ourselves - just to be there and write without any distractions. Anyway, that tree has been there for… I don’t even know. It’s huge. Massive. It shades the whole front of the driveway, and it’s a good place to pull up chairs in the gravel and sit and play music. It’s also got a ring around it where we used to tie the horses while we saddled them. And, I do remember throwing hatchets at her trunk when I was a kid. Terrible, but she survived it. We cut our wedding cake right under those branches, too, so even thought it’s a pretty metaphorical song, it’s got a lot of literal imagery in it. 
- - - - - - -
Following Tower and the Wheel - based on the Virginia tree so very personal to Doug - is Mom & Pop.  The song is a wistful goodbye to a locally owned store that's been in the family for years and multiple generations. "Progress" - big box stores, shopping without employee assistance, paying the least amount post for the cheapest crap one can import, etc. - has driven the store to extinction. My grandmother used to work at a local grocery store in Estill Springs, TN. I recall a time or two as a kid helping her price and stock canned goods during my summer visits.

Our family didn't own that little grocery. Nor did my grandmother work at Garner's very long. Yet my brief time working with her brings back neat memories. The store disappeared decades ago as larger chains moved to town and gas stations became convenience stores with self-serve pumps. In that respect, Mom & Pop really resonated with me somewhat on a personal level.
- - - - - - -

TMC: Unplug The Machine immediately brought to mind Billy Joel's We Didn't Start The Fire. It's a bit unique as well. Y'all stomp the gas pedal during it, and the song differs a great deal style-wise when compared to many of your stunning ballads. Is it fair to say it took a few attempts to get the lyrics right with all the different references and syllabic alignment (how'd ya like THAT phrase)?
T: Syllabic Alignment? Don’t go talking over my head, now. Yeah, it’s safe to say that I sang that song 156 times before recording it. I guess this is the song Billy Joel would’ve done if social media had been around. I love that soft, soulful, magical-voiced Robby Hecht is the cowriter on this one. You should hear the iPhone voice memo recording of Robby on the day we wrote it. We definitely punked it up a bit. 
D: Ha! Yeah, it took some work. The hard part was trying NOT to make a strong statement on any one of the things we’re mentioning in the song, but instead let the whole song be a statement itself. Does that make sense? We’re just all so damn connected that we miss the things around us… But, the world has been spinning for a long time. 

TMC: The last few years, you have toured the month of December with Amy Speace and Rod Picott. And the opening song, Born With A Broken Heart, was co-written with Amy. How has time in the van with them affected your approach to songwriting? And how do you think you may have influenced either of them?
T: I don’t think you can spend time with other people, especially other artists and not have some influence seep in. We’ve written with Speace before, and we like writing together. We have different approaches, which leads to an intriguing balance. I don’t know how we’ve influenced them. They’ve both been at this music career thing a little longer than us, so I think we still bring an enthusiasm to the game. 
D: Well, you know, I think we make them nicer people. Sometimes we all four hold hands while we ride down the road. It’s great. No, seriously - Amy and Rod are two of our best friends. They’re both amazing writers. No bullshit type writers. Every word counts. They don’t just keep saying the same thing over and over after they’ve said it once, you know? Like, they’re great with economy when they’re making a point in a song. I hope their ability to really get in and get out of a phrase in a song without belaboring it is wearing off on me. Basically, I like that they don’t just go on and on about something from verse to verse. Also, I like that they both write stirring, poignant, potent, honest songs without using too many words. 
TMC: Home Is Where The Road Goes may be my fave track. Y'all have been at this biz a few years now. How do you find that right balance between being road hounds and playing your songs vs. the comfort of collapsing onto your own couch in East Nashville?
T: We’re still looking for that balance, and maybe we always will be. You have to be intentional about it. We have to find time to be a couple and family. Taking Hazel on runs and having friends over when we’re home helps us to settle in, but home is where the road goes. 
D: It’s definitely tough. God, we love the road. But we also love being in East Nashville so much. Life isn’t easy for anybody. If one of the toughest things I’ve got to deal with is how much I love both home and on the road. I think I’m petty lucky. 

Wild Ponies spend a great deal of time on the road. So buy their new album, check out their previous releases, check the touring schedule on their website, go see a show, talk to them a bit before and after the gig, and share a PBR and/or a shot of fine bourbon with them. I believe you'll find all of that to be solid advice.


Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Sharing A Six Pack with Ashleigh Flynn

A couple of years ago, I had the pleasure of hearing and then meeting Ashleigh Flynn (web|Twitter) in East Nashville. Her album, A Million Stars, knocked my socks off then and continues in rotation today.

Through many months and miles of touring, Ashleigh composed another gaggle of fantastic songs. She polished a bunch of 'em and compiled seven of them into a new, live EP.

Well no, not that kind of live.

Her new EP, The Low Arc of the Sun, is a truly rich collection of songs - lyrically and musically. It includes five new songs, an original song first released by Flynn over a decade ago, and a fun cover of Buck Owens' Tiger By the Tail. The album will be released April 19th.

I feel as if Flynn doesn't write her songs so much as she paints her lyrics. Her word choices are more than just a simple turn of a phrase. Many lines evoke one or more of the five senses.

Sweet grass and sage, heat of the day
- Swee Grass and Sage

A heart's made to rest
The sound of a bird singing high from her nest
- Sweet Grass and Sage

Leaves from trees cherry
Blossom petals falling
Like I am falling endlessly, endlessly
- Fallen

Wrapped around so heavy like a woolen blanket wet with rain
- Fallen

I put my boots on and a big downy coat
A hat, scarf and mittens of woven wool
We go out walking in our city turned white
Snowflakes dance under the evening street lights
- Winter Song

In the yard, yellow roses bloom

The EP includes very nice production work such that all instruments are noticeable in the mix - guitars, fiddle, bass, brushes on a snare, high hat, steel, etc. Striking the right balance is tough enough to do in a studio environment much less in a live recording setting.

I recently had the opportunity to reconnect with Ashleigh and share a six pack of Q&A about her new release.

TMC: The faint echos - both vocally and musically - resulting from the songs being recorded live are truly an enjoyable aspect of the EP. Was this a sound you were looking for in choosing to record and release a live album rather than one recorded in a studio?
Ashleigh: YES! I have found that working in a studio can at times be so tedious as to knock the soul out of a recording. I really like the energy that comes from playing live...although often times it makes it hard to capture a listenable performance - pitchy-ness, tempo, tuning issues all can hamper a live tracking of a song. But if you are able to harness that energy, I think it makes for a way. This is why I chose to make this EP live - in a nice room on a spiritual day. 
TMC: A Million Stars was a concept (ehh, thematic?) album about strong female characters - fictional and factual. A theme for Low Arc - if there is one - isn't nearly as obvious to me. Have I missed something? Ha. I'm curious if you had a collective idea for the EP as well the process of choosing from your songs the ones you opted to include.
Ashleigh: The Low Arc of the Sun is a nod to the winter solstice. The show at which the EP was recorded was based around this idea - and most of the songs have some reference to the passing of time (as least in my mind), so that's the thread. 
TMC: For all the knocks by many on Hee Haw (some...well, many of them deserved), the show really did have its relevance with appearances and performances by some great artists. My dad had the Best of Buck Owens: Vol. 2 on LP. Though I learned to dig Tiger By The Tail and Act Naturally through his playing of the album on his Zenith fold-down turntable, I most closely associate my listening of Buck with Hee Haw. What did the show mean to you growing up in Kentucky and then later with reflection after you settled in Oregon?
Ashleigh: I grew up watching Hee Haw and LOVED IT! Like clockwork on Saturday night, I would watch in my parents' room as my mom got ready to go out. I had no idea how misogynistic it was at times or how powerful and damaging the stereotypes that it celebrated were. I just loved the was like watching a cartoon. Regardless, I LOVE Buck Owens' songs and that Bakersfield sound. Like I say on the record, it was really part of the soundtrack to my childhood.  Tiger By the Tail made it onto the album because it is an utter joy to play. It tells the story of a woman who takes her fella and probably the world by storm, and he has to hang on for dear life! Sometimes I feel like time is a Tiger, and I'm clinging to its tail for dear life!
TMC: Your voice grabbed me from the time we first spoke in East Nashville a couple of years ago to your vocals on each song. I guess I'm at a loss as to how to describe it to folks without their hearing it themselves. Beyond your songwriting talents, what vocalists have shaped your approach to singing?
Ashleigh: Thank you! I grew up loving and listening to Motown and to my older sister's records, Fleetwood Mac - Rumors, Jackson Browne - Running on Empty, James Taylor - Sweet Baby James as well as my dad's Willie Nelson and bluegrass records. Then I became a Led and Deadhead in high school. In college out in Colorado, I went to the Telluride Bluegrass Festival for a bunch of years throughout the 90s. That's what really turned my sights to songwriting and singing. I'd hadn't ever sung before that. There I discovered Nanci Griffith, John Hiatt, Lyle Lovett, Shawn Colvin, Patty Griffin, Emmy Lou Harris. 

TMC: Barrow was previously released as the lead track on Chokecherry over a decade ago. For The Low Arc, you chose to slot it as the last song. Any particular reason for the book end slotting?
Ashleigh: The EP was recorded on the winter solstice of 2014 in front of an intimate audience at the Secret Society Ballroom in Portland, Oregon.  The effort included some fine local musicians. We wanted to honor the coming of the light with a curated song cycle.

Barrow was written about my quest to rekindle my late grandfather’s spirit (the only other working musician in my family who died of MS in Ireland) by following a footpath known as the Dingle Way to its most southwestern tip. After getting there, I had the good fortune to glimpse the summer solstice sunset as I pondered my bloodline and the passage of time as marked by the coming and going of the light.
TMC: The EP includes wonderful and strong musical arrangements and performances. Will you be in a position to tour with a band in support of the new release?
Ashleigh: I sure hope so! I really love the band. They are all outstanding musicians and great people. We are available for festivals and tours for sure - especially on the west coast. But you know, anything is possible under the right conditions.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

CXCW2016 - Jay Stott

Colorado's Jay Sott was a three-year vet of Couch By Couchwest. He has notched a fourth year on his gun with this year's submission to the micro-couch edition from his new record, Dirt & Headache.

The new album was officially released less than a week ago, and it's a good 'un. The opening to Jay's submission from it - Gotta Fool The Devil - reminds me a bit of another devil-titled song: Todd Snider's The Devil You Know.

Twitter: @jgstott
Instagram: jgstottmusic
Facebook: JGstott

Jay's performances from prior years of CXCW:

CXCW2015 - The River Don't Care
CXCW2014 - After The Flood and Stolen Cars
CXCW2013 - Remember When


Sunday, March 13, 2016

CXCW2016 - The Whiskey Treaty Roadshow

A couple of years ago, I was introduced to the music of Greg Smith and The Broken English. The band had just released a new album, and I liked it from the start. I encouraged them to participate in Couch By Couchwest. They did, and CXCW was better for it.

I reached out again this year to gauge their interest for a new CXCW2016 video. While Greg's band didn't have new music or a video to share, he did tip me off to a side project in which he is involved.

The Whiskey Treaty Roadshow is a collaborative effort of five songwriters from Massachusetts - Billy Keane, Tory Hanna, Chris Merenda, Dave Tanklefsky, and Smith. A novel way of helping underwrite the costs of their recent live album release, Heart of the Run, was partnering with New York distiller, Hudson Whiskey.

Twitter: @WhiskeyTreaty
Instagram: whiskeytreaty
Facebook: whiskeytreaty

Though these videos weren't specifically recorded for CXCW such that it is in 2016, I felt like the spirit (spirits?) of them fit the CXCW vibe quite nicely.

For those who may not be familiar with Greg Smith and The Broken English, I blogged a review of their last album, Ramblin' Road. And here are their performances from CXCW2014.


CXCW2016 - Charlie Harrison

Charlie Harrison is back for another year. After a couple of years of performing at Couch By Couchwest with his band, Charlie & The Regrets, Harrison has returned to a solo performance as he did in 2013 for his CXCW debut.

I'm also digging his Sun Records lid.

Charlie just wrapped up a Kickstarter campaign to help fund his next record. His pitch?
We need your help to record & promote a great sounding country record about everything from pot to prison, love and loss and politics.
Twitter: @CharlieHarris0n
Instagram: charlieharris0n
Facebook: CharlieHarrisonMusic

Charlie recently had a really cool gig. He got the opportunity to open for Joe Ely at the iconic Old Quarter Acoustic Cafe in Galveston, Texas.

Charlie's performances from prior years of CXCW:

CXCW2015 - The Gavel (Charlie & The Regrets)
CXCW2014 - The Company Song / Ease Away (Charlie & The Regrets)
CXCW2013 - Prison Song (solo)
CXCW2013 - Don't Know Why (solo)


CXCW2016 - Sci-Fi Romance

Sci-Fi Romance was a four-year vet of CXCW - missing only the inaugural year when the site was hosted on Tumblr. Though CXCW isn't being formally hosted in 2016, Sci-Fi Romance is back nonetheless with another original and striking video.

Twitter: @SciFi_Romance
Facebook: scifiromance

And for those now saying Yeaaahhh, gimme more of THAT, here are the band's performances from previous years.
Sci-Fi Romance released a new album earlier this year - Dust Among The Stars - and it is really, really good. The following video wasn't done specifically for CXCW, but it is indeed original. Vance Kotrla from the band did the incredible illustrations, and it is the official release video for Goodbye At The End Of The World from the new album.


Farewell Couch By Couchwest. Oh wait...hello!

For the past five years, a good time was had by all at the Couch By Couchwest on-line music festival. Though I had nothing to do with its operations, I've been all-in with the CXCW vibe:

  • learning about new bands and songwriters
  • taking random pics of tacos, French toast, and co-workers - though never in the same shot
  • developing new friendships, and
  • drinking beer. Plenty of beer.

The fine folks who ran CXCW did a helluva job soliciting original videos, collecting and watching them all, playing the tough guy role the few times when folks didn't adhere to just a handful of basic rules, building a page for each featured video, scheduling each video for its right time release, monitoring comments on the website and social media channels, etc. For a group of folks that celebrated slacking as an artform, they sure worked their collective asses off each March for our enjoyment.

But... all good things must come to an end. Or at least a pause. As announced recently on the CXCW website, it just ain't happenin' this year. The couch has been taken to the curb.

But...the absence of a formal CXCW in 2016 doesn't mean the discovery of great new music and bands end. I along with others believe it's the right thing to do to keep the spirit of CXCW alive in whatever meager ways we can.

I'll plan to feature videos sent to me or that I find along the way that would have been in the wheelhouse of CXCW had it continued. I'll do so through blog posts and tweets. Others are encouraged to do the same. Use Facebook, Tumblr, Snapchat, etc.? If so - leverage it. Those aren't my things, but I'd certainly recommend others use them to help spread the word for deserving music.

So how about getting things started with a couple of back in the day John Prine videos that would have fit perfectly with Couch By Couchwest ... had it existed in 1983.


Sunday, January 17, 2016

TMC cassette memories - post 3

More from my cassette cases buried deep in a far away closet...

The Pontiac Brothers: Doll Hut and Johnson: I found The Pontiac Brothers around the same time as EIEIO (see TMC cassette memories - post 2). Frontier Records released both of EIEIO's albums and The Pontiac Brothers' Johnson. As jangly as EIEIO was, The Pontiac Brothers was just raw and raucous ... and I loved it. I later picked up Doll Hut which was released prior to Johnson.

Johnson was upgraded via a CD purchase. I also bought Doll Hut on CD though it was packaged on a re-release with another album, Fiesta En La Biblioteca. After the band dissolved, frontman and guitarist Ward Dotson formed The Liquor Giants - another short-lived but fantastic band.

Across The Yard - Self-Titled. I have zero recollection of this EP or of the last time I listened to it. Sound familiar to you? If so, please leave a comment. Maybe a memory will be stirred.

Randy Travis - Storms of Life: I grew up in a house of classic country music though I quickly found my way to the rock-n-roll scene in my pre-teen and teenage years. Plus, in my opinion, country music in the 70s blew. The pop sounds of folks like Barbara Mandrell, Ronnie Milsap, Lee Greenwood, Anne Murray, Eddie Rabbit, etc. did nothing for me. My dorm mates and I rocked outlaw country such as Bocephus, Merle, Waylon, etc. Otherwise, I stayed mainly with my hard rock stuff.

Then one of my friends rolled into our apartment parking lot bumping Randy Travis' On The Other Hand from his Camaro Z-28. We were stunned by the sound, and I had to add it to my own collection. The album wasn't enough to convert me 100% to country, but it certainly led me to an eventual return to many of the country recordings of my parents.

The Coolies - Dig..?: I'm pretty sure I learned of The Coolies through db Records. db had so many great bands on their roster, and I'm guessing I was willing to take a flyer on just about whatever they had. Dig...? included punk'ish versions of several iconic Simon & Garfunkel songs. 

The Call - Reconciled: I knew little then (or now) about this band. Their album didn't hit my radar when it was released. During a couple of years of post-college, early professional life, however, Friday nights were frequently spent drinking pitchers of beer and chair dancing in a Chattanooga cover-band bar called Yesterday's.

A crowd favorite was a band named Sheba's Breakdown. The band later replaced its lead singer and renamed itself The Hammerheads. The second version of the band did an incredible cover of The Call's Everywhere I Go, and that is what led me to get the cassette (and later the CD).

The Vulgar Boatmen - You And Your Sister: As a college student at the University of Florida, Walter Salas-Humara was in a band called The Vulgar Boatmen (web | Twitter). He left the band and formed The Silos with Bob Rupe and others. The Boatmen continued with Robert Ray and Dale Lawrence as the two primary collaborators. After buying The Silos' self-titled RCA release and their previous album, Cuba, I started digging deeper to learn more info. Using the address for the Record Collect label I found on Cuba, I wrote a letter asking what else they had. I got a personal letter from Walter (which I truly wish I'd kept) and a list of what he had for sale. (I didn't realize at the time Salas-Humara owned the label.) Soon after getting Walter's letter, I sent him a check along with an order for a solo CD of his, Radaris, and the Boatmen's You and Your Sister cassette.

A few years later, I was more than happy to upgrade my oft-played tape with a CD. My inventory was enriched with the addition of the the Boatmen's second release, Please Panic.

Guadalcanal Diary - 2x4: This is one of many bands to which my college roommate introduced me. Though we didn't see eye to eye on all of his faves, I'll remain grateful for his introducing me to bands such as R.E.M., The Connells,  Jason & The Scorchers, Berlin, and others. But I digress...

As powerful as Guadalcanal Diary's music was, their live performances were off the hook. I saw them live three times on their Flip-Flop tour. The tour opened and closed in Nashville. Treat Her Right opened for them at the first show, and Government Cheese opened for them as the toured ended at Nashville's Cannery Ballroom. In the middle, I happened to catch them in Madison, Wisconsin while in town for a work trip.


Sunday, January 10, 2016

TMC cassette memories - post 2

Before MP3s and other "soft" digital formats, we had compact discs. Though loathed by many, CDs have been the premium format that most closely matched vinyl in sound quality and the durability and portability of other formats, namely tapes.

I still have fond memories of listening to the few 8-tracks that I had - even though they were a rotten format. But I was front and center with cassettes. CDs have always had advantages over cassettes. But as compact as a CD is, they've never been as compact as a cassette that be easily slipped into a shirt or jeans pocket.

With tapes, man oh man the options of recording and sharing were fantastic. I was mainly a TDK SA-90 guy though I often bought and used my share of Maxwell XLII blanks as well.

But I bought my share of pre-recorded tapes too. Here are a few more that brought back memories.

Night Ranger - Dawn Patrol: I remember seeing Night Ranger's video for Don't Tell Me You Love Me on MTV. I bought their cassette at the Record Bar store in Nashville's Hickory Hollow Mall. Then I got to see them in 1983 as the opener for KISS on the Creatures Of The Night tour.

Triumph - Just A Game: I became a Rush fan in high school, and I continue to listen to the band to this day. Another Canadian power trio that hit my radar shortly thereafter was Triumph. I was fired up when I learned they scheduled a tour date in Nashville. I bought a pair of tickets at the counter in the long-gone Castner Knott retail store in the still-struggling Donelson Plaza. Sadly, the show was canceled because of "unforeseen circumstances". I knew even then it was code for low ticket sales.

The Royal Court of China - Self-titled: Midway through my college years, one of my roommates began to clue me in to much more of Nashville's rock music. One band he'd heard of but not actually heard was The Royal Court of China. I remember buying this cassette as a complete flyer at Tower Records in Nashville. Incredible sound. I later replaced it with the CD, and it's a disc I still listen to some 30 years later. Joe Blanton fronted the band. Today, he partners occasionally with Warner Hodges (Jason & The Scorchers) and Dan Baird (Georgia Satellites) to perform as The Bluefields.

American Music Club - California: I'm pretty sure Tower Records' Pulse magazine led me to this one as well. No samples, no radio play. Just a biased pitch in a record store-owned magazine. But I'm so glad I bought it (and replaced it with a regularly played CD). The album is chockful of great songs - all of which have stood the test of time in my opinion. Many are dark and haunting but yet so captivating. Faves to this day include Firefly, Now I'm Defeated, Blue & Grey Shirt, and Western Sky. This cassette led me to buy many future AMC releases and Mark Eitzel solo albums - all on CD. The full California album is on YouTube. If you've never heard it, take the time to do so. Highly recommended.

EIEIO - Land of Opportunity and That Love Thang: As contemplative as AMC could be, EIEIO was just the opposite. This band's music was just flat fun listening.

Though I don't remember how I learned of the band (probably Pulse or Rolling Stone), I do remember the name of the song from That Love Thang that hooked me: Andy Warhol's Dead But I'm Not. While a great song with a catchy title, I'm not sure it's even the best one on the album.
Hey Cecille, the lead track on That Love Thang, throat punches you from the jump. It sets the listener up for song after song with driving beats, nasal vocals, a horn section, solid harmonies, jangly guitars, etc.

After buying Love Thang, I backtracked to get the band's solid debut, Land Of Opportunity... and later bought CDs to replace them both. EIEIO was a truly underrated band that lasted just the two releases - or so I thought. I learned recently the band reunited for a third, self-titled album released in 2007 - almost 15 years after Love Thang.

Mike Hoffman from the band later joined with others to form Semi-Twang, another fave of mine from near the same era.

Wild Seeds - Brave, Clean + Reverent: I bought the Wild Seeds second and final album, Mud, Lies and Shame, on CD at Turtle Records. After playing it constantly in the late 1980s, I picked up the Brave, Clean + Reverent debut on cassette after I couldn't find it on CD. Though I prefer MLS over BCR, I did upgrade my cassette with a digital download a few years ago.

After parting ways around 1990, frontman Michael Hall released a series of solo albums - most of which I have as well as an underrated album with alt-country legends Alejandro Escovedo and Walter Salas-Humara of The Silos under the band name The Setters. Hall has also been a long-time writer and senior editor for Texas Monthly magazine and is on Twitter at @mikehalltexas.

To be continued...


Thursday, January 7, 2016

Sharing A Six Pack With Nick Dittmeier And The Sawdusters

About a a year and a half ago, Louisville-based songwriter Nick Dittmeier (web | Twitter) hit my radar with his EP, Light of Day. He and his now-named band, The Sawdusters, are back with a full-length album to be released on January 15, 2016: Midwest Heart Southern Blues. And from what I can tell, there is no "and" or comma between the two phrases. So remember that as you rave about this 'un going forward.

Tee the thing up and hold on for a fast country-influenced but rockin' ride. Dittmeier and company don't give you much time to catch your breath as the album starts with a quick-paced opening pair of My True Love...

... and Centralia.

I had the opportunity recently to share a six pack (of questions) with Dittmeier and Sawdusters' guitarist Zane Hilton.

TMC: The band has played a bunch of gigs over the last year and a half or so since the EP was released. What kinds of big lessons did y'all learn about songwriting for the full album after playing in support of it? Or maybe just lessons about road life in general? Ha.
ND: It just allowed us a lot of time to be together and have opportunities to work on new music, have it in the front of our mind so much, maybe talk about it too. Through touring, outside of having opportunities to work things into the sets, we did things like video blogs that served as pre-production opportunities too. Lessons about the road - pack more socks than you think you're gonna need.
ZH: I think one big thing we learned was how to connect to each other personally on the road. You spend days on end with these guys and learn how to adapt to everyone's distinct personalities. You don't want to piss anyone off or go crazy yourself having very little privacy, so you learn how to act as a team. And I think that's a direct reflection of the construction for the record. We all have our own individualistic styles of playing. We each put our own individual pieces in to create this sound, our sound, and not step on each others toes. In the end you have this cohesive raw sound.  
TMC: How would you describe your approach to songwriting? Are you one to carry around random couplets, hooks and refrains for a while? Or perhaps prefer dedicated songwriting sessions?
ND: I'm always writing songs and trying to develop new ideas. It's always best to stay a few steps ahead of what you're going to be doing next. When I feel I have a solid outline of a song, then the whole band will start working on it. I write constantly when things come to me so I always have a few things going.
TMC: Were the songs for Midwest Blues Southern Blues written specifically for the album? Or did you have some of them on the shelf for a while as you looked for the right time to put them on an album?
ND: No, we knew we were going to have to put a full-length out so we just introduced new songs piece by piece. I just kept introducing what I felt was my best material to the band. There were songs I liked but didn't make the cut. One song in particular Rhythm of the Train was a complete rewrite as far as the melody went. The original was a New Orleans, second-line type song, but we just didn't feel like it meshed. 
TMC: One thing that caught my ear going back to the EP and continuing with the new release is the guitar work by you and Zane. Kind of a "deliberate picking" style that reminds me a bit of old school country and Southern rock feel - but with a contemporary quick pace. Tell me a bit about pickers or bands that have influenced y'all and what kind of experimenting you've done with string gauges and picks to nail your sound.
ND: Guitar players that influenced me would be Pete Anderson on all the Dwight Yoakam albums up until the early 2000s, Lowell George of Little Feat, and Willie Nelson. Just the way Willie adds a lot of chromatic notes and plays behind the beat. Also Vince Gill and Eric Clapton. As far as equipment goes, I keep the most basic set-up you can have - an American Telecaster and a Fender DeVille tube amp. After we got off stage in Cincinnati one time, a guy asked what kind of pedals I use and I just said "a tuner". 
ZH: For me,  Don Rich and Waylon Jennings. Sturgill Simpson on those early Sunday Valley records were monstrous. Nick and I really dug the Turnpike Troubadours also. The fiddle and guitar both play lead, but they do a fantastic job of playing off each other. For us, it just goes back to playing together so much and being individuals working as a team to build a cohesive song. Basic Stuff - Fender Teles through Fender tube amps. Gold. 
Pills, Jesus And War (TMC fave track)

TMC: Among my faves from the album is Stabbed To Death in Ohio. But where in the hell did THAT title and song come from?
ND: I wrote that song two winters ago back when we had a really cold one. We just dealt with a lot of snow and ice. I had a gig to play about an hour north in Central Indiana, and I knew it was going to snow pretty much about the time I would be finishing and driving back. I kinda fibbed to her and said that it's just supposed to rain because I needed money. So the song is really about lying to the wife to go play a gig and then getting killed. The word "Indiana" just had one too many syllables in it so I changed it to Ohio.
TMC: (I'm about to render a generalization that's likely way off base but here goes anyway.) With technology, it's about as easy as ever to lay down demos, record songs, design artwork, etc. But doing the promotion, booking gigs, getting the attention of those who can make a difference, riding the road, etc. is as tough as ever. The challenge has to be even greater for a band than one individual looking to eke out an living as an artist. How have y'all managed to keep moving forward with your art and still keep food on the table, gas in the tank, and booze in your belly?
ND: We've just tried to keep an open mind about everything and keep our nose to the grindstone. Things we've done well and places we've done well in we've tried to build on that, and places we haven't we've tried to learn about what we can do to improve things.
ZH: The music business is wild. There's no set guideline saying "This is how you do it".  It's all about hard work, trial and error. Putting in the countless man hours and believing in your product as a band. We are all making personal sacrifices to make the wheels bellies included. But at the end of the day, it's all about doing what you love.   
Dittmeier's album is solid from top to bottom. It includes plenty of twang, railroad brushes on the snare, the aforementioned fancy guitar picking, and more. In addition to the songs referenced here, other winners include Ever Since You Left Town and The Poet, The Priest & Me (a true guitar showcase for Hilton).

I appreciate Nick and Zane sharing a six pack of Q&A, and I look forward to sharing a sixer of another variety at their record release show at Nashville's The Basement on January 15th.


Sunday, January 3, 2016

TMC cassette memories - post 1

January. The first month of a new year. Time for New Year's Resolutions - that last about an hour. Time to perhaps revisit things of importance. But why go outside if it's cold, rainy, dreary, etc.? Instead, I recently buried myself in a spare-room closet going through my collection of cassettes.

One of my life's regrets is that I tossed my 8-track collection back in 1996. I should have kept them - or at least just one of them. Perhaps KISS Alive 2 ... or AC/DC For Those About To Rock ... or Rush Permanent Waves. Instead, I chunked them all.

Despite their being obsolete as well, however, I have not tossed any of my cassette tapes. The better releases were replaced with CDs or downloads. Others that earned an ehhh rating at the time have been left behind. And still others had all but been forgotten until I went back through my cases.

I'll share a few in the weeks to come with what memories I can recall about them.

Velvet Elvis - Self-Titled: A band with the band name Velvet Elvis just had to snag a few impulse buyers. Right? Well, they snagged at least one. Before the wholesale changeover to CDs, Turtle Records on Lee Highway in Chattanooga, Tennessee stocked a buttload of cassettes. Many a Saturday afternoon was spent just flipping through the "Various" of each letter of the alphabet. I later did the same with new CDs at Turtles and Tower Records and with used music at Nashville's Great Escape and Grimey's.

I recall laughing a bit when I spotted Velvet Elvis - though there was something captivating about the cover art. My "well hell, why not?" decision to purchase was rewarded. I'd compare the band's music in that era to something like Mitch Easter's Let's Active. I liked the release enough that I upgraded it later with a CD.

Hunters & Collectors - Living Daylight: I don't recall how I learned about Australia's H&C. The first CD I bought of theirs was the IRS Records release, Fate. After digging it, I sought out their previous album, Human Frailty. Living Daylight was an EP released between the two, and I could only find it on cassette.

Van Halen - 5150 and OU812: These are two cassettes I regret buying. They were the last two albums I bought of a band that rocked so hard when it first hit the scene in 1978. I should have known better after the mixed bag that was 1984 - yet I bought these two anyway. They were parked soon after I got them, and I haven't missed whatever was on either of them.

Marques Bovre and the Evil Twins - Medicine: I have zero recall of this band though I would have thought it many have been an impulse purchase at a merch table after seeing them in Chattanooga. But after a quick Google search, I learned Bovre was from Madison, Wisconsin. I worked in Madison in the early 90s, but I still have zero recall of how this one hit my radar.

Radio Berlin - It Takes A Pretty Smile To Sell A Song: I don't remember much about the band except they toured regularly through Chattanooga in the late 1980s-early 1990s. After seeing them two or three times, I bought their tape. I don't recall Turtle's stocking music of local or unsigned bands. But I'm also struggling to recall other record stores we had at the time - Cat's perhaps?

Hank Williams Jr. - hodge podge: My new college friends and I had quite the rowdy time my freshman and sophomore years in the dorm. When I hit campus at age 18, I knew of Hank Jr. but wasn't familiar with specific songs. By October 1 of my freshman year, however, I had the majority of his post-Ajax Mountain-fall songs memorized. While we also mixed in plenty of Haggard, Waylon, David Allan Coe, Cash and even Merle Kilgore, our go-to music when classes ended Friday was Bocephus.

To be continued...