Category: Music

Kill your radio. Seek out good music.

Music acquisitions

Stadium Blitzer, The Gourds. Not my favorite Gourds album, but then again, I probably haven’t given it a fair shake yet.

Shinebox, The Gourds. Excellent bluegrass cover of Snoop Dogg’s Gin & Juice. Shockingly enough to my friends at work, I had never actually heard the original. I’ve since corrected that.

Near Truths & Hotel Rooms Live, Todd Snider. If you’ve never seen a Todd Snider show you should. He’s an extremely talented songwriter and pretty hilarious in-person. The CD captures a bit of what that’s like–great songs and funny–sometimes lengthy–stories in-between. A bunch of us recently got together to go see him at Club Dada but that night there was a huge storm. Todd was trapped in Houston. We made the best of it, though. The road manager sold me a copy of his new one, East Nashville Skyline, and we convinced the sound guy to throw it in. I had already listened to my pal Jim’s copy so I already knew the words to greats like The Ballad of the Kingsmen and Iron Mike’s Main Man’s Last Request. I, along with a good chunk of his loyal Dallas following, had planned on singing along with Todd but the weather and the Wright Amendment put an end to that.

White Blood Cells, The White Stripes. I think I like Elephant better, but it is hard to go wrong with the White Stripes. It’s a nice change from my usual alt-country fare.

Recent music acquisitions

Stone, Steel, & Bright Lights, Jay Farrar. A great live album featuring mainly stuff from Terroir Blues and Sebastopol plus two covers. It also comes with a DVD called Live at Slim’s that contains 11 live songs (including both covers).

A Ghost is Born, Wilco. I love it. What can I say that hasn’t been said by countless music critics. One of my favorite aspects of it is the harsher guitar solos spread throughout the album.

Upside Downside, Scott Miller and the Commonwealth. Scott Miller is the former frontman from the V-Roys. The V-Roys are great so I knew I’d like it. I also bought Thus Always to Tyrants. I haven’t yet listened to the latter but I like Upside Downside. Patty Griffin sings backup on a couple of tracks.

Blue Sky, Bottle Rockets. I liked it from the first track, Lucky Break. It’s about a guy who’s thankful he’s suffered an on-the-job injury because he gets to collect workers’ comp. There are a couple of tracks sung by Robert Kearns. Good songs but I prefer Brian Henneman’s distinctive vocals. Robert was not on the album 24 Hours a Day. I’m not sure when he was added to the lineup.

Next in the To Be Listened To stack are two 1998 releases from The Gourds, the new live album from Todd Snider, and the White Stripes’ White Blood Cells.

Recent music acquisitions

ThirdShiftGrottoSlack, Jay Farrar. This is an EP from Solt Volt frontman and Uncle Tupelo founder, Jay Farrar. The five tracks didn’t make it on Sebastopol. I love it. My only complaint: it’s too short.

The Slaughter Rule soundtrack, Various Artists. I never saw the flick, but I shall add it to my Netflix queue directly. Any filmmaker that asks Jay Farrar to write the score for a soundtrack must have created something worth watching. Jay wrote the whole thing but only sings on one track. The rest are from alt country acts like Freakwater, Ryan Adams, Jimmie Dale Gilmore & The Flatlanders, and Vic Chesnutt. One Uncle Tupelo track, Blue Eyes, is also on the soundtrack. It’s a very mellow album.

Terroir Blues, Jay Farrar. The Farrar love fest continues. This is Jay’s latest release. If you liked Sebastopol you’ll like this one. I’ve heard complaints from others about the numerous “space junk” tracks but I think they’re cool.

24 Hours a Day, The Bottle Rockets. From the opening measures, I knew I was going to like this album. I also knew I’d have to add their whole catalog to my wish list. I also instantly began to compare them to the V-Roys. I’d say the Bottle Rockets are more rock and less bluegrass than the V-Roys. Cool guitar riffs and great lyrics make this one an instant favorite.

It’s Just the Night, The Del McCoury Band. I know next to nothing about bluegrass but I’m never disappointed by a Del McCoury album and this one is no different. A solid choice.

By the Way, Red Hot Chili Peppers. Hard to believe but I think I like it better than Californication. It’s very diverse–from the popular hits like Dosed and The Zephyr Song, to the quirky but very cool Cabron, I don’t get tired of this one.

No Depression: What it Sounds LIke, Vol 1, Various Artists. This is a compilation by alt country journal No Depression. My favorite tracks are by Alejandro Escovedo (Five Hearts Breaking), Buddy Miller (Does My Ring Burn Your Finger), Kevin Gordon with Lucinda Williams (Down to the Well), and Hayseed with Emmylou Harris (Farther Along). As a sidenote, I bought this one with my record company price gouging class action lawsuit settlement check. It seemed like the appropriate album to spend that money on.

Steve Earle Bio

Finished Hardcore Troubadour: The Life and Near Death of Steve Earle, by Lauren St. John, a couple of weekends ago. Man, I knew the guy had had some hard times (just listen to his lyrics) but this gives new meaning to “rock bottom”. The incredible part of the story to me is that he actually lived through it and is now making some of his best art, ever. We came amazingly close to never knowing more than a couple of album’s worth of Steve Earle. St. John kept me involved in the story, but at times, the littany of producers, managers, label execs, and legendary artists were a little much for an industry-outsider.

Recent music purchases

Countrysides, Cracker. According to the liner notes, Cracker spent several months touring as a country band called Ironic Mullet. This CD is a result of that experiment. Every Cracker CD has a couple of tunes with a little country flavor. With this one, every song on the CD (with one exception) is a cover of a classic country tune. They are all awesome. I love this CD. For Cracker fans, this is a sure winner, but even alt-country fans who haven’t given Cracker a shot in the past should give it a chance.

Just An American Boy, Steve Earle. This is a live, two-CD album. It covers live material from 2002(?) and 2003. It sounds like he must have made a bluegrass tour at some point that I missed. I think the rest of the material is from the same tour as the show I caught in Dallas. The CD suffers from poor sound quality in places but that doesn’t diminish my enjoyment of it in the least. The album’s got a ton of great tracks as well as a fair amount of the chattering that Steve does in-between songs. There’s a pretty funny part where some guy yells out, “Copperhead Road!” and Steve Says, “Dude, do you really think I’m not going to play that? I’ll bet you ten bucks you won’t be awake when I do.” Two thumbs up.

March 16-20 1992, Uncle Tupelo. This is Uncle Tupelo’s all-acoustic third album. I haven’t got tired of listening to it yet. Several of the tracks are on 89/93: An Anthology but I’d heard so much about the album I had to get it. It did not disappoint.

A.M., Wilco. Other than Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, this may be my favorite Wilco album. “Casino Queen” rocks. “Passenger Side” is awesome as well. Actually, I can’t think of one that isn’t good. I’ve listened to this one repeatedly for days on end.

Bourbonitis Blues, Alejandro Escovedo. I liked A Man Under the Influence but it isn’t one that I play all of the time. So, when I saw Bourbonitis, I decided to give Alejandro another try. I liked this one much better. It’s not as mellow and much more bluesy.

Nocturama, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds. I bought this one song unheard. Or at least song unremembered. I think I may have heard a track or two on Spinner or maybe I saw something in No Depression. In any case, I think this one is an acquired taste and I haven’t acquired it yet. 

Elephant, White Stripes. Although tempted, it’s probably a good idea not to listen to 100% of the time. The White Stripes offer an aural sorbet of sorts. “Ball and Biscuit” is probably my favorite.

Mother’s Milk, Red Hot Chili Peppers. For some reason, I didn’t get in to the Red Hot Chili Peppers until Californication. When I got that album, I realized I was a latent Chili Peppers fan. Ever since then, I’ve added a Chili Peppers CD every now-and-then.

Baby I’m Bored, Evan Dando. Evan Dando was the lead singer of the Lemonheads. I was a huge fan of the Lemonheads before they broke up so I decided to give Evan’s solo CD a try. If you’re an old fan, you’ll like it, but it’s not a must-have. A lot of the tracks sound the same. Maybe I was expecting too much.


My advice is to stay away from the low-end RF options. The sound quality is very bad and the reception is spotty. I like the WiFi idea and have been interested in doing this for some time but haven’t pulled the trigger yet.

Digital Networks: PC to Stereo. A new class of device that transmits music, photo and video files from the computer to home entertainment systems may play an important role as digital music and home networks really take off. [Wired News]

Here are some initial impressions on my recent acquisitions. This is the first time I used Amazon’s Marketplace Sellers (for all but the Gourds)–it worked out great.

Family, The Del McCoury Band. I knew I wanted another Del McCoury CD because I had enjoyed his stuff so much on Steve Earle’s The Mountain and McCoury’s Del and the Boys. So, I was looking forward to this arrival and it did not disappoint. I haven’t listened to it enough to know which I like more, but I’ve heard enough to know it will be close. The music is straight bluegrass and it is very, very good. I’m going to have to add the rest of Del’s catalog to my wish list.

Cow Fish Fowl or Pig, The Gourds. This one is the biggest surprise of the group. I’ve heard a couple of Gourds tracks on Spinner and one of my co-workers is a big Gourds fan, but, honestly, I had no idea what to expect. From the first few notes of the opening track, My Name is Jorge, I knew I was in for a treat. I was instantly hooked. The music is a full and rich mix that’s a little hard to describe. I’d say start with an alternacountry base and then mix in some Phish and then sprinkle in a hint of Buckwheat Zydeco and you’d have a good start. Accordian, mandolin, fiddle, upright bass, and a variety of other interesting instruments mix with quirky/intriguing lyrics to give you a CD you won’t want to take out of the changer.

89/93: An Anthology, Uncle Tupelo. I haven’t given this one the listen it deserves. It’s got my favorite tracks from Anodyne, a couple of previously unreleased tracks and a live version of We’ve Been Had. The album’s an easy way to pick up tracks from the UT albums no longer in print, but I think I’ll still wind up getting those used so I can enjoy each album in its entirety. The liner notes have a cool history of the band. Listening to the album reminds me how much I like Farrar and Tweedy.

Dog Days, Blue Mountain. A bit of an impulse buy. Amazon had recommended it a few years ago based on prior purchases but I skipped it at the time. I like it. It’s a mix of songs that vary between alternative country and those that are very bluesy. Some of the songs sort of remind me a bit of Whiskeytown.

Young Criminals’ Starvation League, Bobby Bare, Jr. Another pleasant surprise. I like the vocals–Bobby’s raspy voice is reminiscent of Paul Westerberg. On first listen, the album struck me as new and different–not your straight alternative country, although there are tracks with plenty of harmonica and steel guitar. For example, a couple of the tracks feature a horn section. Overall, another solid pick.

World Without Tears, Lucinda Williams. Car Wheels on a Gravel Road was and still is my favorite Lucinda Williams album. That’s because most of my CD listening is in my car and that’s just a quintessential road album. When Essence came out, it struck me as extremely mellow–much too mellow for driving–but still a good album. This one feels like it is somewhere in the middle. It’s got a good mix of slow, quiet songs and out-and-out rockers. Moreso on this album than others of hers I own, this one conveys a serious amount of pain and anger expressed plainly/bluntly through her lyrics. Lucinda has never been one to mince words, but this one feels particularly raw. It works.