September 2008

Someone Not to Piss Off

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Miranda Lambert.jpg

Don't dismiss Miranda Lambert just because she's had the misfortune of being a participant on "Nashville Star." This fiery Texas broad has cited Steve Earle and Allison Moorer among her influences, even to people who probably don't even know who Allison Moorer is. She's covered songs by Patty Griffin and Gillian Welch and David Rawlings on her albums, as well as "Easy from Now On," a song made famous by Emmylou Harris. She claims Merle Haggard is her hero.

And as demonstrated at her show at Pechanga Resort and Casino last night (I'm sort of disappointed that I didn't see any Indians at the first Indian Casino I've ever been to), she combines singer/songwriter sensibilities with an explosive, high energy stage performance.

Also, she has a license to carry a concealed handgun, so if you still don't like her, it's probably best to keep that to yourself.

Well, since I'm writing this on Wednesday - a full four days after the last day of the AMA Conference, so you can assume a couple of things: one, that I had had far too much to drink on Saturday night, and two, that that made for a very miserable flight home on Sunday.

Perhaps you'll recall that I also probably had too much to drink on Friday night, so when Saturday morning rolled around, I was tempted to sleep in, but also determined to learn something, damn it, so I dragged myself out of bed and promptly arrived for the 10am panel on "Legal Paperwork for Songwriters," admittedly something I don't know anything about. My take away from that panel was mostly that legal paperwork for songwriters is a nightmare. I then attended a portion of a panel (I got stopped by a long-talker between panels) that was called "Setting Scenes: Stories of American Music Communities" and then left early to walk over to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum for the screening of "Meet Glen Campbell: A Documentary," based on Glen's new CD, Meet Glen Campbell, a collection of rock covers, followed by a discussion with Glen, his producer, and the video director. The documentary was free to conference attendees and museum ticket-holders, and it was the elderly museum visitors who mostly populated this panel; as the delightful Cary Baker from Conqueroo noted, "I feel like we're in Branson." It should be noted that Glen appeared to be sober at this discussion, at his performance later that evening, and on the plane to L.A. the following day (we were on the same flight).

I had lunch at Jack's Barbeque (a can't-miss for me, except for my last trip to Nashville, in which I was accompanied by my vegetarian co-worker, who I could not convince to abandon her values even for Tennessee Original Barbeque sauce), and then attended a final panel on "The Future of Music Media." I was happy to learn at this panel that there are a few print magazines covering music that are thriving (among them Elmore Magazine), and that No Depression, while transitioning from print to online media, will also publish a "bookazine" twice a year.

Since I clearly had not overindulged at Jack's just an hour before (yeah, right), I met up with Pam for ice cream at Mike's Ice Cream Fountain before she left for her flight, and then it was time for a nap. Altville's Associate Producer Lauren woke me so that she could take me to Yazoo Brewery before we hit the town that night. She ordered us the sampler:

Six Beers.jpg

And the night began.

We spent the evening at 1 Cannery Row, where two venues, the Mercy Lounge and Cannery Ballroom are located, so we could easily travel back and forth between showcases. The Duhks (who were a great band to begin with, but have evolved into an even greater, more diverse band, under the leadership of their new lead singer Sarah Dugas), were up first, followed by Buddy Miller, who was obviously fantastic (did I mention how happy I am that he'll have new music in March?!), then headed downstairs to the Cannery Ballroom for the Glen Campbell tribute, which included Jesse Dayton and Chuck Mead. Glen also performed, accompanied by Jim Lauderdale and Jesse. My view was partially obscured by Raul Malo, who was too busy making out with a beautiful woman I assume was his wife to pay attention to much of the show, but he's Raul Malo, so I guess I can forgive him.

A real treat was next - upstairs at the Mercy Lounge, Mark Olson and Gary Louris performed both classic Jayhawks tunes and songs from their forthcoming CD. I stayed for a bit of Chuck Mead's set, before heading back downstairs for the Thirty Tigers Chicken and Waffles Closing Night Party (I firmly believe that chicken and waffles could possibly be the best meal ever), before taking the shuttle back to my hotel and passing out from too many Pabst Blue Ribbons.

Overall, I had a blast at this conference. I'd gone with no expectations other than having the chance to hang out with some friends and hear some good music. And indulge in wonderful Southern cooking. All goals accomplished.

Women Bowling

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Women Bowling, originally uploaded by George Eastman House.

Click through on this photo to go see a great collection of photos from the 1890s and early 1900s that come from the George Eastman House Collection.

It gives me possible outfit ideas for Punk Rock Bowling 2009... ;o)

Throw Rag  at Alex's Bar

Sat, Sept 20, 2008 - Race To Hell Tour - Throwrag, Lower Class Brats, Roger Miret and the Disasters, The Heart Attacks, Viva Hate, Revolution Mother, The Generators, Stagger & Fall, Black Market Radio, Mad Marge & the Stonecutters, Roadside Bombs, The Girlz, Final Solution and more! - doors at 2pm - $15

Alex's Bar
2913 E. Anaheim St.
(Next to the Auto Zone, entrance in the back)
Long Beach, CA 90804

Americana Music Conference Day Four: A Good Day for Music

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I have to start this blog by saying that I am probably too tipsy to be writing right now. I apologize in advance for any mishaps or grammatical errors that may occur as a result of my imbibing.

But that's not how I wanted to start this blog! I wanted to start by saying, "You know you've had a good day when you've gotten to see Bruce Robison perform 'Travelin' Soldier' twice. In one day!" So pretend that that's the beginning of this entry.

My day started a little bit later, at 10:30a, at the Keynote Interview with Rodney Crowell. I only stayed for the first half hour, just enough time for him to discuss how one of his daughters' struggle with bulimia and the predominance of Paris Hilton and the like in the media was the impetus behind his latest record, Sex and Gasoline, and for him to perform "The Rise and Fall of Intelligent Design." A good start to a good day.

I then headed over to the "Listening Lounge," where Jim Lauderdale, Grace Potter, Robert Earl Keen, and Buddy Miller were doing an "in the round" session. Buddy's participation had not been previously announced, and while I'd initially been torn between making the decision between sticking around for the entire Rodney Crowell interview and the singer/songwriter session, when I saw Buddy there, I knew I'd made the right choice.

A nap (of course), then another panel, this one called, "The Lone Star Legacy: The Role of Texas Shaping Americana Music" (yes, Wanda - the premise was that Texas has shaped Americana music). After a brief discussion of Texas music history (did you know that zydeco music actually started in Texas, not Louisiana?), four singer-songwriters: Radney Foster, Rosie Flores, Cody Canada of Cross Canadian Ragweed, and Bruce Robison performed an in-the-round session, each explaining how Texas influenced their own music and then performing two songs each (even though Cody is technically from Oklahoma - we'll forgive him). The performances were a surprise for me - that had not been in the description of this panel, and since I was so sad over having missed Rosie Flores the night before, this was particularly exciting for me. (One of the songs Bruce performed was the aforementioned "Travelin' Soldier," recorded by the Dixie Chicks and subsequently the fastest descending #1 hit in the history of country music.)

Texas Songwriters.jpg

I had a meeting with one of the labels at the trade show, and then headed over to the Country Music Hall of Fame where Carlene Carter was performing. She sounded a little ragged, but her increasing resemblance to her mother is uncanny.

Carlene Carter.jpg

Dinner at Monell's (I was wearing my fat pants, so it was okay - pass to the left!), then time for the evening showcases. I started out at the Station Inn for some bluegrass with Chatham County Line, followed by an acoustic set with Bruce Robison (among his songs played: "What Would Willie Do?", "Angry All the Time," "Wrapped," and "Travelin' Soldier"...again), and then Kathy Mattea. I'd originally been ambivalent about seeing Kathy, but I am SO glad we chose to stick around for her set. Her latest CD is a dark one about the perils of coal mining, and after a few songs from that, she set into playing several of her "hits," at which point I was sold. She looks great, and sounds as good as ever.

Our next stop was the Cannery Ballroom for Cross Canadian Ragweed, who made the evening. I'd expected them to play for only 45 minutes (like the rest of the sets at the conference), but they played for a full hour and a half, and you're lucky I didn't drunk dial you and sing into the phone when they performed "Alabama." It is notable that the majority of attendees at this particular show were CCR fans - not AMA Conference attendees, as witnessed by the state of the floor at the end of the night. AMA members are environmentally conscientious, and typically believe in recycling. CCR fans are clearly not.

CCR's Fans.jpg

After having serious intoxicated discussions with some colleagues, we headed out to find cigarettes (not for me). I'm not sure what's happening with the rest of the country, but in Nashville (thanks to a rumor spread on the television), there is a very serious concern that gas stations will run out of gas, so earlier in the day, cars had apparently lined up for miles to get gas, and by 2am, gas stations in Nashville were sold out, and yellow tape prevented people from driving up to the pumps.

Gas Crisis.jpg

By the way, we also saw Elvis making crop circles tonight.

Americana Music Conference Day Three: The Momentum Builds

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I thought I was going to die when the alarm went off at 7:30 in the morning today, so I set it back another half-hour...and still thought I was going to die. I was one of three radio people and two record promoters on the Call Day Panel - in which we simulated actual calls between PDs and Promoters. A handful of radio people and record promoters were in attendance, but the majority of attendees at this panel were artists looking for radio play. Hopefully, they'll consider our pleas for CDs in jewel cases (not flimsy CD sleeves) and for taking the shrink wrap off the CDs before sending them. And, above all, do their homework and find out something about the station before asking us to play the record.

(We must have done a good job with the panel, because I had people coming up to me all day, saying what a great panel it was - and when I conferred with one of the other panelists, he gave the same report. In all my conference history, I do not recall ever going up to a panelist just to say how great it was. Apparently, we were effective and informative, or something.)

Appropriately enough, the next panel I attended was the "Songlines Music Meeting Panel," which is unquestionably the largest music meeting I attend all year. Approximately a dozen songs are played for panel attendees, followed by a group discussion of each song. Two standouts for me were "Thurman" by the Gourds, Buddy and Julie Miller's "Gasoline and Matches" and Todd Snider and Loretta Lynn's "Don't Tempt Me." Happily, Buddy Miller will have a new record out on March 3rd, featuring guests Julie Miller, Patty Griffin, Emmylou Harris, and Robert Plant - but it seems like six months in advance seems like an awful long time to tease us!

(Among the attendees at that panel was the always delightful Audrey Auld Mezera, and I could not believe she remembered me from our interview on Altville).

A nap, then more panels in the afternoon - one on "The State of Americana Radio," which revealed the results of a national survey of radio listeners indicating that there was an interest in having more Americana radio stations available - mostly from listeners of Classic Rock and Country stations. One of the suggestions to come out of the study was potential interest in syndicated specialty shows - much like the one I produce. The next panel I attended was "Live in Concert," which mainly discussed the very significant ways the economy has changed booking and touring. Very fascinating, and many heated rants against Ticketmaster and the like.


Another nap (I like naps), followed by the AMA Awards Pre-Party, where my new favorite band the Bittersweets played on the patio of the UMG building. Then the dreaded awards show. I HATE awards shows, especially this one - which runs way too late every year. AMA, please take note: Less awards (is an Instrumentalist of the Year Award AND a Lifetime Achievement Instrumentalist Award REALLY necessary?), and limits on acceptance speeches - and on introductory speeches! Three and a half hours is far too long - I was proud of myself when I made it two hours before leaving. Brevity is key, in this case.

My friend Jasmine (who is actually a neighbor of mine in L.A., but also owns a place in Tennessee and is living in Nashville for the next few months, had met up with Pam and I at the awards show, so after we ditched that, we met Altville's Associate Producer Lauren and her roommate at the Sunset Grill, a place, according to Pam, that we'd be bound to run into someone. And sure enough, who walked in but Chris Thile! Evidence suggests that he also left the awards early.

We lingered a little too long at dinner, so we missed most of the music I wanted to see (Rosie Flores, whose set had ended an hour before our arrival, looked super-cute, and when I saw that James Intveld - not on the bill - was dressed in matching attire, I was so sad that I'd missed what was obviously some sort of collaboration between them, not to mention our poor timing of walking in just as Joe Ely was finishing his set), but we did manage to see the Band of Heathens, who are clearly the current "buzz band" of the AMA.

The momentum is definitely picking up....

How can you not love a face like this???

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Americana Music Conference Day Two: Slow but Steady

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Things at the AMA Conference didn't really kick off until after 3p today - when registrants were allowed to pick up their credentials, and since my coffee plans had been cancelled - and the other meeting I was trying to schedule for Wednesday (since I knew today would be slower) got pushed back until Friday or later - I had some time to kill before my scheduled lunch (which did not get cancelled or pushed back). So off I went to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.

Now, perhaps you're about say, "But didn't you just go to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum three months ago?" Why, yes, I did. But NOW they have a Kitty Wells exhibit, which I felt was mandatory to see. And I got to revisit the Williams Family Legacy exhibit, again, so I thought the $16.50 admission (after the AAA discount) was well worth.

Lunch with record promotion and radio people, a stop at the Convention Center to pick up my credentials, and then a nap before heading over to the Marriott where Pam was staying, just in time for free beer and hors d'oeurves at the managers' reception. Since the bartender and Pam are good friends, we wound up staying there way too long, and didn't make it to the Mercy Lounge until after 10pm. The scene we found there indicates that registration for the conference is down, not surprising given the economy and the general state of the music business in general. Also, because there was no official kick-off party, it felt like an odd start to the conference. Rumor is more registrants will be arriving tomorrow. We stuck around to see Kane, Welch, and Kaplin; Marcia Ball, and an unexpected trio who sounded great together: Will Kimbrough, Kim Richey, and Mando Saenz, a grouping which came together after they were asked to do an in-the-round songwriters night together, at which Kim declared, "If I have to do one more in-the-round, I'm going to kill myself," so instead they formed a band.

So with all that said, I'm on a panel tomorrow morning which I think starts way too early (9:30am?! Are you kidding me?!), so I'm off to bed!

Weirdos by "Shanty" Cheryl

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Weirdos, originally uploaded by "Shanty" Cheryl.

Wed 09.17.08 - I love Flickr. I love how you can find great new photographers who are within your friends' circle of contacts and then make them your contacts.

After Punk Rock Bowling 2008, I found "Shanty" Cheryl on Flickr and I love her photos. Particularly this one, which is delightful to say the least.

Americana Music Conference Day One: The Arrival

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This afternoon I arrived in Nashville for the Americana Music Conference, and while I can't promise that I won't be too tired or too drunk at the end of every night to post updates, I'm going to try. And at least with this post, you'll at least get one update.

Shockingly, I had an awesome flight. I had a window seat, no one next to me, and you know how there's always one person who's snoring on the flight? That would have been me this time.

Upon checking into my hotel, the desk clerk with a slight speech impediment took a liking to me (he asked me why I was staying by myself; I said because I didn't like people, and he told me he'd be working until eleven if I needed anything - which I did not) and hooked me up with internet cable. Sweet! I met my friend Pam and a couple of the girls from Universal Records South for dinner and drinks at Morton's, before heading off to 3rd and Lindsley to see new Universal South artist Jonathan Singleton's showcase. I'm already a fan of his because he wrote Gary Allan's "Watching Airplanes," which contains the line, "That fence is too high; so am I," which caused my friend Denise and I to double over laughing more times than we could count.

Following that, Pam and I went over to Cadillac Ranch where Hal Ketchum was playing on Billy Block's Western Beat. He started his set with "Past the Point of Rescue," which prompted me to text my dad, as that's the song he taught me to two-step to when I was sixteen. After the show, I became a complete dork and told Hal that. He was very gracious, even though I was gushing like a total nerd. Michael Peterson was also in attendance, which was ironic, because Pam - who was a label rep for mainstream country for several years insisted that that was not him - while our pal Rick Star, who up until very recently programmed KFAN in Fredericksburg, Texas (a highly respected Americana station), picked him out right away.

Things are starting off well - I've only been here for eight hours, and I've still managed to hang out with several friends, see some good music, and eat fried food. Isn't that what I came to Nashville for in the first place?!

Record Weirdo - Sidewalk Score in Hollywood

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I know what you're thinking - anyone with some spare change in their pocket can score anything they want on the sidewalks of Hollywood. What's the big deal? I'll get to that.
It might help to show some alternate titles I considered for this piece:

"Giving It Away on Sunset Blvd" (pretty good)
"Amoeba Takes Out The Trash" (not as good)
"Free Crap" (not good at all)

I went to a Dodgers game last weekend. On the way home, the car automatically steered itself to Amoeba Records as it often does when I'm in L.A. I shouldn't have to tell you that Amoeba is one of my favorite stores. Now I have one more reason to like it.

As I was leaving the store with some newly purchased items, I noticed three boxes on the sidewalk labeled with the magic word "FREE." They were full of CD's. I was interested. I approached, tentatively at first, fully aware that free items often carry a hidden cost - a cost that one is not always willing to pay. Ah, what the heck. I dug in.

It wasn't too bad. It wasn't too good, but it wasn't too bad. I expected 100 copies of some vanity pressing by a sensitive singer-songwriter or some new emo-rap-metal-teenybop-polka sensation. To my relief, it was just a bunch of used CD's that Amoeba decided were unfit for sale - broken cases, water-damaged, scratched-up discs, out-of-style, etc.. - and they didn't want them used as landfill. Very environmentally conscious are those folks at Amoeba.

I was sorting politely with one other bargain-hunter, being fairly selective, and made it through about a box and a half when word hit the street and it turned into a feeding frenzy. I escaped with my life and these 18 free CD's.

David Bowie - ChangesBowie. This has all the hits you would want, like "Changes, " Suffragette City, " "Heroes," and so on. It also has "Fame '90's Remix" which no one would ever want.

Sex Pistols - The Swindle Continues. This is another repackaging of the Dave Goodman/Spunk demos from the early days of the band. There is some other stuff thrown on, like "Here We Go Again" and a version of "Silly Thing" which is different than the one on "The Great Rock and Roll Swindle" - I think. If this compilation had stopped here, it would be fine, but it goes on to include some really bad sound-alike songs that are obviously not the Pistols. I don't know what the story is there.

Spike Jones - Spiked. "Knock, knock. Who's there? Emma. Emma who? Emma gonna have trouble with you?"

Leon Redbone - Double Time. I remember seeing him on TV when I was a kid and being stupefied. He is really a good interpreter of old 20's-40's standards. He was sort of like Tiny Tim, only with a deep voice without the vibrato, without the ukulele, and without the creepiness. While we're at it, throw in a white suit, a panama hat, and a mustache. He was absolutely nothing like Tiny Tim.

Skatalites-Hi-Bop Ska. I don't understand why this was thrown out - it's really good. These guys were kind of like the Meters or the MG's of Jamaica. This is a mostly instrumental collection recorded in the 90's with guests including Toots and the Maytals and jazz guy Lester Bowie. This is in pretty good shape, too. I don't know why this wouldn't sell. There must be some twelfth generation ska revival backlash that I don't know about.

Ann-Margret - Let Me Entertain You. I wanted to read the liner notes and look at the pictures in the insert, but the pages of the booklet were stuck together. I'm not kidding. I'd like to think that it's only water damage.

Beck - Guero. Too 90's.

Jon Spencer Blues Explosion - Now I Got Worry. Too 90's in its 70's retro-ness. It makes me wonder whatever happened to Mojo Nixon.

Wham! -Make It Big. You know that you like "Wake Me Up Before You Go Go." Admit it. Even if you're being ironic, you still like it.

Jellyfish - Spilt Milk. I remember seeing these guys about the time that this album came out. They were really good and had some catchy songs, but insisted on wearing really goofy-looking Alice In Wonderland inspired psychedelic costumes with big fluffy hats. I guess they were looking for a gimmick and found the wrong one. It's really too bad. The album is too slick and overproduced. It sounds like they wanted to sound like Brian Wilson or Phil Spector but ended up sounding more like Toto meets The Archies -- only in a bad way. Somehow, that makes me want to like it.

Space Ghost- Musical Bar-B-Que Sampler. Not only is "Don't Send In The Clowns" a great title for a song, but it also happens to be the best song ever written. Case closed.

Bob Marley - Exodus. This has some hits on it - "Exodus," "Jammin'," and so on. It looks like someone used this for an ashtray, but it plays fine.

Jeff Buckley - Sketches For My Sweetheart The Drunk. I haven't listened to this and I probably won't. It looks too depressing.

Pizzicato Five - Made in USA. Wacky Japanese pop trio. Best song title: "Twiggy Twiggy/Twiggy vs. James Bond." You get the idea.

Esquivel - Cabaret Manana. You can't go wrong here. I know that the retro-lounge trend came and went a long time ago, but I will listen to this just to prove my sincerity. I liked this stuff before it was cool and I'll listen to it long after it stopped being cool.

Various Artists - Mambo Mania, The Kings and Queens of Mambo. I like Rhino compilations because they make me feel smart. I admit to knowing very little about Mambo, but there are plenty of names that I recognize here, like Mongo Santamaria, Desi Arnaz, Tito Puente, Cal Tjader, and Xavier Cugat. If you know as little about Mambo as I do, you probably recognize those names too. And you feel smart.

They Might Be Giants - John Henry. Their children's albums are better than their regular albums.

Cab Calloway and His Orchestra 1934-1937 - How many performers could ever sing "Hi-de-hi-de-hi-de-hi" in every song and get away with it? No one except Cab Calloway ever had the guts to try it. Combine that with a white tuxedo and you have a legend. He was so smooth that most people didn't even realize that his songs were all about drug addicts and prostitutes.

This brings it full circle back to my intentionally misleading but attention-getting title.

A Child Prodigy

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This made me cry today. In a world where there is much pain, there are miracles of joy. This is one of them. Enjoy!