Archive for the ‘Music that doesn’t suck’ Category

I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon

January 3, 2019

No wonder the Chinese aren’t wasting their money on iPhones. They’ve been saving their pennies to debut a Pink Floyd space opera.

Nollaig shona duit

December 25, 2018

I love this maple in the back yard. It always seems to be reaching out for something. Probably the warmer weather toward the southwest.

Here we are again, gathered around the old bloc na Nalloig beneath the freeway, trying to keep both warm and unnoticed by The Authorities, which is not an easy thing in these days of modern times.

Herself and I enjoyed our traditional Christmas Eve dance last night (one of us was limping a bit), and this morning while sipping our coffee we listened to my cousin Joseph Thompson and his colleague James Bishop-Edwards performing their arrangement of J.S. Bach’s “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring,” from their album “Baroque Masterworks for Two Guitars.”

We’ve downsized the old solstice tree. The cats are less likely to try climbing this one.

Now “Performance Today” is rocking the house, ’cause that’s how we roll on Christmas.

There are no gifts under the tree. There’s not much room beneath it, for starters. And we’ve been fortunate enough to be able to buy things as we deem them necessary, rather than delaying gratification until Dec. 25. It helps that we really don’t want much.

So instead of littering the floor with wrapping paper we jotted down some notes about organizations in need of financial support. This year we went heavy on animal rescue, free speech, independent journalism, justice, and outfits that help those whose tribulations often go unnoticed because they don’t have free internet, scads of executive time, and a nice big White House from which to make their case.

Happy happy joy joy to thee and thine. May your days be merry and bright. And if you feel like kicking up your heels a bit, give a listen to “The Rebel Jesus,” from The Chieftains and Jackson Browne. I bid you pleasure and I bid you cheer, from a heathen and a pagan on the side of the rebel Jesus.

King Holly, King Oak

December 21, 2018

It’s a maple, not an oak, but it will have to do for now.

“You were just starting to get into your groove,” the dog-walker said apologetically as I yielded the trail, interrupting the run I had just begun.

More of a rut than a groove, I thought. I run this trail pretty much every Monday and Wednesday, and then lift weights afterward. On Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays, I ride. On Fridays, I brood. Especially when the Friday in question happens to be the shortest day of the year, followed by the longest night.

If I ever actually found a groove and was getting into it, I mused, it would probably be something like the groove on an old vinyl LP, spiraling in at 33 1/3 rpm toward the black hole in the center. Stairway to heaven? More like highway to Hell.

Now ruts I know. I had been in an actual rut the day before I encountered the dog-walker, climbing Trail 341 counterclockwise on my second-best Steelman.

Anyone who saw me lurching upward in the 36×28 might have thought me a lost, loopy roadie, Trail 341 being a narrow, serpentine climb, sometimes featuring actual serpents; rocky where it isn’t loose, fenced with cane cholla, with a couple-three blind corners, no passing lanes, and the occasional rut just to keep things interesting.

But I was in the best mental health I could summon in December, especially this December, and as I said, it was my second-best Steelman. Plus I was climbing, not descending, which lets me ease into trouble rather than diving in headlong.

I had been descending Trail 341 when one of these ruts caught me unawares back in July 2017. I was aboard the Voodoo Nakisi, which with its plump Bruce Gordon Rock n’ Roads is ordinarily more than a match for this short, not particularly technical descent.

But my mind had wandered, as it will, and it didn’t wander back until after I had bitten the dust, grabbing a handful of cholla as I went down.

“What the hell are you doing?” my mind asked.

“Oh, shut up,” I replied, yanking spines from my left hand. “This is your fault.”

“What, I told you to yardsale in a rut?” my mind chortled. “I was just trying to get a little work done while you were dicking around. Jeez, I can’t leave you alone for a minute.”

Ever since taking that little digger I’ve ridden Trail 341 as a climb instead of a descent, though the neighborhood Singletrack Sanitation Service has ironed out a few of its nastier wrinkles. It leaves me in something of a metaphorical rut, true, but it’s a problem I don’t need to solve; a nettle I don’t care to grasp.

Especially in December, when there’s never enough sun to really warm your bones, and what there is of it hangs low in the sky, either blinding you to the path or cloaking it in shadows.

My rides and temper shorten with the days. I get up in the dark and by the time I‘ve gotten a handle on current events — what has the Arsehole-in-Chief managed to shit on today? — it’s dark again and time to go back to bed. This makes for unsettling dreams.

Dreams. The ancient Celts saw the solstices as battles between twin kings, Oak vs. Holly, warmth and light pitted against cold and dark.

Neither king is ever truly vanquished. The Holly King is ascendant as the old year wanes, but as the new year approaches the Oak King reclaims the throne.

It was a murky morning as this year’s winter solstice came to Newgrange, and the Oak King did not make an appearance. But this doesn’t mean that the Holly King has finally triumphed. The struggle continues.

And I recall another Irish legend, who once said: “We are not here to curse the darkness, but to light the candle that can guide us through that darkness to a safe and sane future.”

Don’t curse the darkness. Light a candle. Grasp the nettle.

• Editor’s note: I had planned to make this an episode of Radio Free Dogpatch, but various ruts kept tripping me up. At least you can give a listen to the music I had in mind for the background — “King Holly, King Oak,” from Johnny Cunningham via “Celtic Christmas,” a Windham Hill sampler I’d forgotten I owned. And happy solstice to you.

Thousands are sailing

December 8, 2018

Hm, we seem to be on something of an Irish-music kick here.

They’re sailing in the other direction these days, at least some of them. Zio Lorenzo and The Professor are settled in Italy and not missing Sioux City one iota, unless I miss my guess.

And now our friends Mike and Liz are bidding adieu and relocating to Lyon, France.

We had them over for green-chile stew last night and caught up. They’ve bought an apartment there, the house here is for sale, and come springtime they will be well positioned to observe Le Tour in its native habitat. Stage 8 will be right in their backyard, or arrière-cour, as we say in le français.

Novelist and poet Jim Harrison thought highly enough of Lyon to write, “If I were given the dreary six months to live, I’d head at once to Lyon and make my way from bistro to bistro in a big stroller pushed by a vegetarian.”

The place suffers from a dearth of New Mexican-style green-chile stew, however, and thus we were compelled to revive them after the house-hunting excursion. We couldn’t find a vegetarian with a two-seater stroller to push them home, though.

Cold blow and the rainy night

December 7, 2018

The transition from fall to winter is always a sketchy time around here.

I’m not a fan of shorter, colder, darker days. They remind me at a genetic level of why my people invented uisce beatha. And since I no longer indulge in that miraculous restorative I’m at sea without a paddle on these chilly gray mornings, when the hangover is outside my head, at large and in charge, and not even aspirin is of any use.

This is when I await a tot of bad news, the way I once awaited a shot of good booze. The life of the free-range rumormonger is wild and free, until it isn’t, and it’s generally around this time of year when editors count and cull their herds.

“Oh, that one’s got to go. Dumber than three mules, eats like six of ’em, and shits all over the place. Fetch my .30-.30.”

It was fall 2017 when I got the word that Bicycle Retailer and Industry News would no longer require my “Mad Dog Unleashed” column. This was not a surprise. The industry-news biz, and the industry itself, was not exactly flush. Flushed was more like it. And shortly thereafter the publisher who gave the order and the editor who carried it out were no longer with The Organization.

About the same time Adventure Cyclist guessed that they wouldn’t need me at Interbike Reno, the Last Dance in Sin City having demonstrated all the intoxicating power of a half-can of O’Doul’s, a two-wheeled version of P.T. Barnum’s This Way to the Egress. When I heard nary a word about the show afterward I assumed Management had made the right decision. A bored and sober Dog makes a poor companion indeed. Whining and snarling and pissing on things.

And an old Dog, too. Set in his ways he is. ‘Tis a wee bit late to be training him so. Is there a .30-.30 to be had somewhere, d’ye think?

Well, p’raps. But not right now. Until I hear otherwise, I’m to deliver the first “Shop Talk” cartoon of 2019 to BRAIN next week. And a fresh Adventure Cyclist review bike awaits me down at Fat Tire Cycles, one of the few Duke City shops I have yet to visit.

And thus we have this week’s edition of Radio Free Dogpatch: “Cold Blow and the Rainy Night, or Whatever Floats Your Boat.” Give it a listen.

P L A Y    R A D I O    F R E E    D O G P A T C H

• Technical notes: This episode was recorded with a Shure SM58 microphone, Rogue Amoeba’s Audio Hijack, and the old 2009 iMac. Cap’n Whitebeard used an Audio-Technica ATR2100-USB mic. I edited the audio using Apple’s GarageBand on a 2014 MacBook Pro. The background music is “Into the Sunset” from Audio Hero via ZapSplat.com. Sounds of the sea courtesy Freesound.org.

• Editor’s note: The very day I recorded this episode BRAIN announced that the bell had tolled, not for me, but for Interbike, both show and staff. That shit will roll downhill — just how far and fast remains to be seen — and I feel the pain of all those who saw the business end of that .30-.30. Marc Sani, one of BRAIN’s founders and presently its interim publisher, has a few thoughts on the whys and wherefores. As for me, I wrote about the final Vegas show in 2017, and you can read that after the jump.

• Off to see the Wizard in 2017

A friendly gesture

November 22, 2018
Shut up, kid.

Shut up, kid.

There’s a chain across this dump and a big sign that says “Closed on Thanksgiving.”

Here’s hoping that you’re all having a Thanksgiving dinner that couldn’t be beat. Don’t forget to pick up the garbage. Look out for Officer Obie, the judge, and the seeing-eye dog.

And if the “Alice’s Restaurant Back By Popular Demand Tour” comes around on the guitar, well, remember — if you want to end war and stuff you gotta sing loud.

Beer run

November 13, 2018

No more PBR? Good Gawd awmighty. It’s like a tariff on beard oil*, running out of gluten-free kale wraps, or finding out that your mom washed your skinny jeans in hot water.

* Gleefully and shamefully stolen from Steve Frothingham of Bicycle Retailer and Industry News.

San Luis

October 17, 2018

Apropos of nothing in particular we have this lovely Andy Mann video in which the country around the Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve serves as the stage for “San Luis,” by Gregory Alan Isakov.

I stumbled upon this at NPR’s “World Cafe” while clambering down various rabbit holes, hoping to escape the wind.

Waiting for Columbus

October 8, 2018

This can’t go on forever

September 29, 2018

Back in August Friend of the Blog Carl Duelmann asked: “Do you ever listen to Jason Isbell? He might be too country for you but he is one of the best songwriters I’ve ever heard.”

The Guardian’s David Taylor caught up with the Grammy-winning Nashville musician and former Drive-By Trucker ahead of a gig today in Noo Yawk City and the interview is well worth your time.

Isbell is critical of our current “administration” without being shrill, and he doesn’t waste a lot of thought on the “shut up and sing” crowd. (Just how the hell are you supposed to shut up and sing at the same time, anyway?)

Isbell doesn’t even try, though he does prefer to let his music do the heavy lifting.

Asked if he intended to get political during an upcoming six-night run at the Ryman Auditorium, Isbell replied: “Well, my job is to write songs and if I feel like it is an emergency and I feel like I need to say something political between the songs, then I’ll do that.

“But normally, if it doesn’t rhyme and it doesn’t involve me introducing my band, I’m not gonna say it, because I’m not a standup comedian, I’m not a lecturer and I don’t give TED talks. If there’s not a melody and some rhyme there then you probably won’t hear it from me. But I think the songs speak enough.”

While we’re on the topic of songs that speak enough, FOTB Pat O’B. forwards an NPR note about a music video for John Prine’s song “Summer’s End,” the centerpiece to his latest release, “The Tree of Forgiveness.”

It must take a lot of practice to sing a song like this without bursting into tears.