Posts Tagged ‘country music’

Anything Can Stop Me Now!

May 11th, 2017

I am happy for my friends.

I am happy for Jake aka CasOne. CasOne put out an album with his friend Figure, So Our Egos Don’t Kill Us. Strange Famous Records, Sage Francis’ label, put it out. To promote the tour, CasOne went on a North American tour for about four weeks, with Figure joining him for most of the dates.

 

I’ve known Jake for years. We’ve recorded some of the worst songs in the history of electricity together (my fault). For example, I once tried to get him and Figure to collaborate with me on an LMFAO parody album. We never did that. Why make shitty LMFAO-type music with me when they can make pretty decent without me? For what it’s worth, CasOne was also with me on the Night I Played In Front Of a Bunch Of Juggalos While Wearing ICP Makeup.

 

I am happy for my friends.

 

Charles is also on tour. You might know him. He wrote “Hey” and “Monkey Gone To Heaven” and a bunch of other songs you like. He did the thing that some people didn’t want him to do and recorded and released new Pixies music and it was greeted by those people like it was a turd that came via UPS. Music that fits in with the rest of his famous band’s classic catalog. Music that is neither the greatest thing since sliced bread or the complete and utter nadir of recorded sound (c’mon, they’re not doing LMFAO pastiches or anything).

 

Charles is on tour with his famous band, intermingling the new songs with the classics. I saw them in Covington and it was the best show I’d seen them play since their initial reunion. The intensity was in the playing. Some nights are just magical and you can’t control whether they happen in Ohio or thereabouts. He is living his life, playing for people who want to see him and his band.

 

I am happy for my friends.

 

Colter Wall. I just met him last year. His debut album comes out today. A young kid with a weather-worn voice and the world on his shoulders. All of twenty-one years old. Already being trumpeted by Rolling Stone and No Depression for his songs. He’s on tour and has been for some time, with a three-piece band behind him and Mary managing him. They’re going to kick this album in the ass touring all over. The buzz is on him right now. I am genuinely excited for him and Mary that this is happening.

 

I am happy for my friends when good things happen for them.

 

I don’t feel happy right now, though. Because I’m not out there.

 

I have taken a lot of wrong turns, walked into a lot of dead ends, made a lot of bad decisions. I have lived a long time and not learned, earned, or gained what I needed along the way. Anything could stop me now. It has taken me all this time to understand that when I was twenty-one years old I could not sing like Colter, nor write a song like Charles, nor string together raps like Jake. The only thing I had was that I wanted to. I wanted to be famous and I also wanted to be good.

 

I have put in a lot of effort in order to learn how to be good. I just kept working at it. I got better at singing and writing songs. For a time, I was even an okay rapper but I was never as good at that as I was at singing. I sang lead on six TVH albums. I made a Kentucky Prophet album and an EP. I played a lot of shows, solo and with the band. I am a great singer. I sing like an angel. I am a dynamo. I should be heard. I should be doing something.

 

The problem is, while I was slowly getting better at music I also slowly let myself go. I let myself go and then I let myself go some more and by the time I realized how far I’d let myself go I was too far gone. I was so far gone I could barely perform. My body struggled with all the weight I had gained. I still struggle with it. I had taken a hands-off approach to my own health, and then I stopped caring about other things. I stopped caring about contributing to my band in a meaningful way. I was simply along for the ride. Yeah, I was good at music but so what? Who needs one more singer who writes songs trying to play in the world? I figured the way I was living things would either work themselves out or I would eat myself into an early grave. I decided that I was not necessary unless someone or something demonstrated otherwise.

 

But do you know who needs me right now? I need me. I need to be here. I need to sing and write and play. I need to keep going. Because if I sit around and just wait to die I’m only wasting all the talent and potential I have. And a part of me wants to chastise myself for what feels like wasted years but. . . that’s just wasting even more time.

 

I was unhappy because I am jealous of my friends who are chasing a dream, finding it and living the dream. But I have my own quest right now. I’m on the slow track back to a healthier existence. I’ve lost about twenty pounds in the last two months. I’ve got a lot more to lose but even now I feel a difference. I’m staying on it. I have a lot of catching up to do with my friends.

 

I have the songs, when the time comes and I am ready. I know because I have written them and I will keep writing them.

 

Anything can stop me now.

Silver Wings Can’t Be Curdled

November 19th, 2016

I took a little time out of my weekend to go to a family event. My in-laws, that family. When my mom married my stepdad, she married into a very large family. The Farmers could fit into a passenger van with room with for more. The stepdad’s family needs a giant hall to accommodate everyone. They don’t get together all the time but when they do, they try to make it count.

 

My stepdad sang with the family band tonight. They put on a show and set up baskets for donations for an 8th grade class’s trip and a thing where you can give a canned good for the less fortunate. For the donation, you got some music something to eat, a nice feeling.

 

He walked up there and sang “Silver Wings” by Merle Haggard followed by “Ruby” by Kenny Rogers. It was a heart-warming feeling for me to watch somebody I love perform for a change. I felt like the proud papa for once because I knew what it was like to be up there. All the pre-show anxiety, that feeling when you stand up there in front of everybody and your mind just goes away. That moment when you have to deal with the microphone feedback and figure out how to hold it and where to stand and how close to stand to it when you sing. Been there a million times, fella.

 

 

I felt like a freak at first. Still have this long hair. This crazy long hair. I also can turn small talk into the McLaughlin Group if I’m not careful. You talking about Kentucky football? I’ll turn it into an indictment of the entire NCAA college-athlete system. I’ll point out how UK spends more money on Midnight Madness for men’s basketball then their annual football budget. Then I’ll segway into a rant about what it means to be a “student-athlete” when the labors of such are profited off by major networks, cable TV, advertisers and video game outlets. . . and by this time the person I’m talking to just wants to move along to another subject, another table, another planet.

 

You wanna talk about “Ruby” by Kenny Rogers? Great song, huh? You know that song is about a veteran who’s bed-ridden pleading with his wife not to go out on the town gallavanting with her face all painted up like some kind of tart. Think about how badly our veterans have been treated after they come back from their tours. Some of them are so shell-shocked they never completely get over it. Our V.A. hospitals are so understaffed it’s a crying shame. . . and by this time you just want to disappear because I got too real too fast I’m sorry.

 

I was beaming with pride and joy after my stepdad sang. Nothing could curdle this moment. At least not for another three songs because that’s when they started playing an Eagles song. And that, folks, was my cue to leave.

 

Apparently you can’t have an event with more than fifty white people in the same place without hearing an Eagles song. It must be a law somewhere. Everybody has a peaceful easy feeling except me, because I’m out the door.

I Guess I Live Here Now

October 17th, 2016

This is my life now.

 

I live on the outskirts of a small town by the park with a big red train caboose in the front. I’ve started a weight loss program and attended a lesbian wedding/anniversary party. I’ve sold merch in a redneck bar for the next big country star. Two of my friends paid for me to get a lap dance from a girl named Samantha and it was great. Maybe, just maybe, things are starting to turn around for the better.

 

This is my life now.

 

I have an instagram account (@mikewritesandsings) but I barely post on it. I haven’t posted in about eight days. Mostly I click the heart button on other people’s pictures, which tend to be of babes. It’s no Twitter, which I have flogged the holy hell out of. In the course of my Tweet career, I have probably tweeted 20,000 things. That’s 20,000 thoughts I would have said to nobody. Thoughts that would have stayed in my mind and just festered and died a slow aching death. Thoughts I would have had to tell to small groups of people over and over again, like a focus study.

 

Am I. . . happy?

 

I am getting closer to happy and that is a strange thing to feel. I’m not used to it. Have you read this website lately? Ever? It will take some time to get to the point where I realize that it is okay and I deserve it.

 

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” My research tells me that Eleanor Roosevelt said that. My research also tells me that Eleanor Roosevelt was a floppy-tittied dyke, but that’s irrelevant. I just like saying that. Sometimes I sing it to myself: “Eleanor Roosevelt was a floppy-tittied dyke, yeah-yeah, uh-huh.” I haven’t turned that into a song because where I am going to go from there. If you see me out somewhere, ask me about the Eleanor Roosevelt song and I’ll sing it to you quietly.

 

What was I saying? “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” People will treat you bad but you can’t let them stay in your head. When they hurt you, you’ll feel it. But you can’t linger on that hurt. Some people have to be cut loose. Because “fuck them”, that’s why. If you mean so little to someone that they can hurt your feelings and not give much thought to it, then why obsess over them and what they did to you?

 

Am I talking about something that happened to me? Yes. Will I discuss it now? No, because fuck them. Yeah, it hurt my feelings but I’ll get over it. Sometimes I think about it and ARGGHHHH I get mad again but those moments are aftershocks and they get further apart from each other.

 

Life can be so nice.

Opportunities

May 8th, 2016

(cue the Pet Shop Boys song)

 

Sunday evening is a big night for some friends of mine old and new. Mary dove into artist management and is working with a young singer-guitarist from Saskatchewan named Colter Wall.

 

For the last few months, they have been on a path of destruction. Colter as the live performer and Mary as the handler who helps him navigate through this strange America in the election year of ’16. Dive bars, shotgun shacks, saloons and other places where songs are performed. . . you name it, she has taken him there where he has mowed them down with his old-soul voice and songs.

 

May the 8th, Colter has a high profile opportunity. Opening up for Lucinda Williams at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. Lucinda Williams, a heavyweight of Americana. The opportunity came up early last week and was too good to pass up.

 

For the last month, Colter has been steadily gigging around the country. This is the culmination of this touring stint and it snuck up on everybody. Will it lead to something in the future? I hope so for both of them. I need more friends to leech off. Seriously.

Three Day Weekend

November 17th, 2015

I was not an isolated creep last weekend. I went out Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Normally, I may go out once a. . . month? for some social function.

 

What got me out of this hermit life, even if temporarily? Or who? Well, it was my very good friend Young Mary, who curated a three-day series of events. I will try to sum up highlights from a whirlwind weekend.

 

Jesco White, the Dancing Outlaw came to Bowling Green to dance at the Spillway. Earlier this spring, I closed for him at a show in Louisville put on by Will Russell (which is a story all in itself). I went to Spillway but left before Jesco went on. Spillway’s legal capacity is somewhere around 300 and it felt like they reached it and then some. 300 drunken hillbillies standing around watching a genuinely crazy West Virginian tap dance for forty-five minutes. Some old guy kept asking me where my brother was. I don’t have a brother. Another old guy kept yelling at me calling me “Eddie”. I got the claustrophobia real quick and had to leave to keep from screaming in terror.

 

The people seemed to be enjoying themselves, so good for them. I would have been the idiot that made the scene because I freaked out. I was one of a handful of sober people in that bar. That was actually the second time I left the bar that night. I left the first time to make a #2. Can’t make #2 in a redneck bar where they don’t have locks on the bathroom stall. Call me crazy.

 

Perhaps this was all some cosmic payback for all the times in my youth I tried to make people uneasy. I thought I was doing performance art by being a weird dickhead, and here are these hillbillies twenty or more years than me that did it without even trying.

 

Saturday was my day to perform. Mary hosted an event at White Squirrel Brewery. Me and about a dozen other performers all going 20-30 minutes a piece. It ran so efficiently I started twenty minutes earlier than my start time. Clearly none of these other singers know how to pull a Technology Vs. Horse and go “we’ve got 45 minutes which means we’ll play 52 minutes.”

 

I did pretty well. In my 20 minutes, I played four songs. Got a good response. While I set up my piano, a guy with a djembe came up to me. He had shown up to accompany the previous two guys’ sets without apparently asking first. He had banged on his tuneless bongo during the end of Tanner Elias’s set, then did the same thing throughout Shane Tutmarc’s set. Shane decided to roll with it and even gave the guy a solo. Let’s just say Djembe Donny would not have lasted long in Fela Kuti’s Africa 70.

 

So the Djembe djork walked up to me while I was plugging up the keyboard and got as far as “Hey maaaan, I was just wondering if maybe. . .” before I said “NO.”

“But I got the beat.”

“No you don’t. You don’t know my songs.”

 

I’m glad he asked me upfront so I didn’t have to embarrass him publicly. . . until this blog, of course.

 

Sunday I went to a poetry reading at Mary’s house. I voluntarily went to a poetry reading. I’m afraid of poetry. What if someone I like as a person writes poetry and I think it’s lousy? Am I a bad person? Of course I’m a bad person but not for that reason. But I am a good friend.

 

I’m such a good friend that I was prepared to pretend that Mary’s poems were great even if they weren’t. Fortunately, she is talented enough to write and sell her poems when she recites them that I wish she would focus more on that. I was so happy that I could applaud sincerely for her. That writer side is a piece of her that I wish she would showcase more often, as opposed to the non-stop Periscopin’ music business would-be-conqueror. The vulnerable side that we all have but don’t all have the ability to express in formats of art and performance. Shut up, Mike. She is trying to help you. Someone is on your side and you’re telling them not to do it so much.

 

Mary was the warmup for Travis Blankenship, a writer, poet and professor. He did two poems, the second of which was a long-form piece. A good storyteller can adapt to the format they use. He told a good, compelling story in poetic form. A lesser writer would try to employ tricks like internal rhyme schemes or let the whole thing fall into prose. Travis’ long-form tale of a neighbor with a revolving door of adopted haggard pets could have worked as in story form as well. As paragraphs as well as lines.

 

And when I say “long-form”, I mean somewhere like 15-20 minutes. I don’t mean to make it sound more epic than it is. This was not a Homeric soothsayer epic. I don’t think those words should be put together like that. I would be a shit poet.

 

I hate watching other people perform, especially when I am not performing. I want to be entertained just like anyone else but I feel snobby and judgey in ways most people aren’t. I’m half critiquing it in my head. It is a relief to just be able to listen and watch and enjoy myself. Good art will take you out of your own head. Whether it be low or high art, the best stuff makes you forget about your own neuroses and problems even for a few moments.

 

In case you were wondering, I played four songs Saturday night. “The Concept Of You”, “Learning To Live Without You” and “Mountain Music” had all been played before. I debuted a new song called “Runaway Star” and that went well. I’ll probably play it in Louisville next Friday.

 

The next album I put out will have this credit: “Nobody played djembe.”

The Future’s Not What It Used To Be

March 12th, 2015

It’s a quarter after one in the morning. I’m listening to Mickey Newbury. If I had a floor full of empty bottles, it would be the perfect picture of sadness.
Wait, I do have a floor full of empties. Diet soda, not beer. I bag them up once a week or so and take them to the recycling bin by the fire department. I promise I’m not a total degenerate. I have never allowed more than three pizza boxes to accumulate at one time. I used to know a couple of guys in L.A. who had Shaq-height stacks of pizza boxes but then again they both took a lot of speed so whaddyaknow.

 

Mickey Newbury is why I’m writing this. Specifically, an album he recorded in 1971 called Frisco Mabel Joy. The album is named after a song Newbury wrote called “San Francisco Mabel Joy”, which took on a life of its own after everybody from Kenny Rogers to Joan Baez to David Allen Coe covered it. John Denver covered it. It’s a flexible song to have such a variety of artists cover it. Newbury had more success as a songwriter than as a recording artist but his recordings are worth checking out.

 

Have you ever heard that Elvis song “An American Trilogy”? That’s a Mickey Newbury song, or rather Newbury’s clever arrangement of a minstrel song, a Negro spiritual and “Battle Hymn Of The Republic”. I’m surprised Fox News doesn’t close its’ broadcast day by playing the thing each night. Not one of my favorite Elvis recordings. Elvis was deep in his Vegas-Evel-Knievel-white-suit-take-a-bunch-of-pills phase. The performance is bombastic, flamboyant, and Elvis sings with the power of a roaring brushfire on a mountainside.

 

 

Now listen to the Newbury original. Elvis is a roaring fire, Mickey is a fragile candlelight. The King’s strings and backing vocalists are almost oppressive, performing a Concerto for an Imaginary Republican Convention. Mickey is more sensitive and contemplative. These words mean something. There is a thoughtful reason for contrasting these three songs: “Dixie”, “Battle Hymn” and “All My Trials”. The cognitive dissonance of flag-waving patriotism smack with the painful history of America’s treatment of non-whites.

 

That’s track one on Frisco Mabel Joy.

 

Track two is “How Many Times (Must The Piper Be Paid For His Song)”, a Newbury original.

 

Lord, I wish I was blind

and could not read her mind

and see all her pain.

But from here where I lie, I can see

the tears in her eyes

as she quietly cries out for him.

Not for me.

How many times must the piper be paid for his song?

 

What a brutal thing to hear. It’s almost too much. Captivating and bracing. Who writes this kind of song now? I don’t see how this guy can be categorized as anything other than “songwriter”. He didn’t fit in a folk or country or folk rock or any other easy box to be marketed in. That’s probably why he had more success as a writer. Let the suits and the producers figure this stuff out. Let them decide out how to sell it. As long as they keep it true and don’t filter out what connects with the listener. Luckily there have been many performers who have found something in this material.

 

Good news: An American Trilogy is a 4-CD box set featuring three Newbury albums and bonus disc of rarities came out in 2011. You can track it down, probably. I assure you that Frisco Mabel Joy is worth the price of admission.

Country Music Where It Doesn’t Belong

May 25th, 2013

On several occasions this spring, I’ve taken in a sporting event. You may not care for hockey or baseball or pro wrestling but these are my ideas of a good time and I like to check them out when they are in my radius. And yet I’m as likely as not to be at an event that has some bonus entertainment preceding the game, in the form of some up-and-coming country singer performing a short set.

 

I went to a hockey game. Before the game, some country singer went on the ice and played a song about children fighting cancer. He yelled for everyone to stand up from their seats in support of the fight against cancer while he played the song.

 

I stayed in my chair.

 

Fuck him and his pandering, shitty song. I sat in the FRONT ROW not standing up against cancer. The Tim Ash Band. That’s who it was and they were hawking CDs and going on tour promoting their CD. Using a cause to promote your band? How disgusting.

 

I went to a pro wrestling show last night and (wonder of wonders) there was another country singer stinking up the joint. I won’t trash this guy because he was merely peddling his music on its’ own merits and not propping himself up on a charity like children with cancer, or the troops with cancer, or snails with spina bifida.

 

Country music tries to sneak in where it isn’t needed or really wanted. A guy with his guitar and that old redneck pop chord progression and overdone twang is just cockblocking the audience from the entertainment they spent their hard-earned money for. “Hey, do you like country music? Wanna hear it done poorly by a complete stranger?”

 

How would you feel if you went to a Brad Paisley concert and they opened the show with ten minutes of five-on-five full court basketball between two A.A.U. teams? I went to see Dierks Bentley at the Coliseum and before the opener came out two teenage ping-pong prodigies who are trying to raise money to go to South Korea for a big tournament played a friendly game to eleven. YES, IT WAS TOTALLY DISTRACTING.

 

Country music, fuck you. Go where you’re supposed to be. How you feel about gay marriage is how I feel about you.