Gone fishing

If you are feeling up to it, feel free to write a country song about me:  Living in the swampy, hot south, plagued by severe storms and tornadoes.  Lost a tooth (trust me it’s a story you don’t want to hear).  Lost my man.  Am all bruised up (related more to the tooth and not at all to the man).  I’m hanging it up for a while.  Sitting on the porch, sippin’ whiskey and watching the lightning and the fireflies until I’m calm and life doesn’t feel like a utter disaster.  Hiatus.  Summer vacation.  Mental health break.

In the meantime there’s some new albums you should be listening too: Continue reading

Not exactly an interview or a review, but full of love

A night that ends with Jon Snodgrass (of Drag the River) singing for you is a very good night indeed. Even better if he is actually singing live for you and not just playing on the old Ipod.

Jon had a quick layover on his way to Memphis to play with Cory Branan (a show that I could not attend, no I don’t want to talk about it, I might cry). [Seriously, we need to find a way to supplement our income so that we can pursue our rock star lifestyle because the day job thing is getting old. What gives, universe?—Daisy] We met up for drinks with a couple other friends. [Which I could not attend. No, I’m not at all bitter, why do you ask?—Daisy] There wasn’t time for a podcast or really even a formal interview but I did learn a few things about Jon, about myself and about the world. Here they are in no particular order: Continue reading

All definitely worth more than $5

If you are a regular reader of this blog, then you know at least two things about me: I love Lucero and I love Drag the River. The other things you may have gleaned about me from reding these pages are probably better left undiscussed.

This week I’ve been rattling around, as I do, slightly disorganized and trying to do way more than I have time for. As always I start my day by reading 624,729 blog posts from various sources. Often I make lists of things I want to share with you all and mostly I never ever get around to doing that. I swear, I’m working this I am totally going to get better about it. Sometimes I don’t share because it’s just too personally depressing. Like this post about Lucero’s Ben Nichols at SXSW. These are the moments in life that I knowing I missed them just breaks my heart. If nothing else to have heard new songs and finally have seen Last Pale Light in the West performed live [You’re missin’ out, lady. Although it’s comparable to any time Ben closes out with an acoustic, my love of the book bumps those songs up a notch–Mick]. You know, assuming there is the possibility of a Lucero related show that I was sober enough remember. Which would totally happen at SXSW, right? Right? Yeah, maybe it’s better that I wasn’t there…

Speaking of Ben Nichols, you all know about $5 Cover already, right? If not, as far as I can tell, it’s sort of a faux/extra real reality show in which actual musicians play themselves and their own music and “act” in loosely scripted scenes making up a show about how musicians in Memphis live ( assuming that real life really is like a soap opera). Well they’ve got the Nichols’ behind the scenes video up. Mostly he talks about how easy it is to play himself. Hee hee hee. It’s damn amusing. Probably not as great as having been at SXSW would have been, but it’s something, right?

So I suspect you all actually regularly check the Suburban Home Records site? So you know that in addition to lots of other wonderful things, there is also a new record from Drag the River’s Jon Snodgrass, Vistor’s Band. No, I don’t have it yet, if I did, instead of these tiny bits of news you would all be reading my long, incredibly spastic love letter to Mr. Snodgrass. But, hey, 9bullets.net has a streaming version [Plus Drag the River’s posthumous collection of rare 7″ and B-sides, also worth a listen or twelve–Mick]you can listen to! So go on over there, give it a listen, get acquainted with the music and then after you buy the album, you can put it on a listen while you read my future musical love letter to Jon.

Three for the choir

At the very second I am writing this it is pouring rain in Tennessee, cars are rushing by and a loud plane is flying overhead. It’s like a momentary metaphor for how I’ve felt all week: overwhelmed. It’s been a week full of darkness and light for my friends, for me it’s almost as if time has been standing still. In the end, it’s all good however, because I’ve had some amazing music to listen too.

My continuous play list this week is all joy for my ears and my heart. To begin with, the super fantastic Todd Snider has a new EP, Peace Queer, which he is giving away for free through Oct. 31. It is a political album, but not one to be missed. Everyone and their brother has posted about this already, so at the risk of rehashing, I will point you to ninebullets.net who sums it up here, quoting the man himself. I am so sick of the current elections, [I say anyone who isn’t at this point has been living under a rock…which we maybe should have looked into. – Daisy] but Todd’s societal commentary always makes me feel like maybe everything will be alright, like someone out there gets it. We’ve discussed Todd here before, he’s a brilliant man, you should go grab his free music, and while you are there, stock up on his past releases if you don’t have them already (and check out the Todd Snider Archives, there’s a ton of good stuff to download there too).

We mentioned in the recent post on the Lucero Family Picnic that Ben Nichols, Lucero’s singer, has a solo album out. The Last Pale Light in the West, though an EP, is an epic concept album. The songs are stories of a sort, told from the points of view of the characters in Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian. You do not have to have read the novel to enjoy and really get the album. [I can attest to this, though now I want to. (I just totally pictured a Ben lolcat: I’m in ur cd playr, promotin’ ur literacy)—Daisy] In a sense it’s just story(re)telling in a different format (though I do recommend the book if you are looking for something to read besides my online blathering). I know many of our readers are Lucero fans and probably already have this album on constant replay. [I have to say, this doesn’t sound like Lucero. Obviously it sounds like Ben, but the album has a wholly different feel to it. An old-timey storytelling feel, if you will. – Daisy] If you don’t, it’s available online now for immediate digital download, with the CD to follow in early 2009. And maybe some of you aren’t hip to Lucero yet. Well, this is a good gateway drug. [Or, if you’re maybe not so crazy about Lucero, you still might really dig this album. Unless it’s Ben’s voice you don’t like. Then it’s just snaps on you—Daisy] The mythological, mischievous and peculiar Todd Beene (steel) [I have mentally dubbed him The Magical Mr. Beene—Daisy] and the heroically wonderful Rick Steff (accordion) accompany Ben here to incredible effect. I’ve heard tell of people that don’t like Nichol’s voice. I find that incomprehensible, but if that’s you, then I suspect you won’t like this much. Everyone else, go get it right now.

The new Lucinda Williams album, Little Honey is out this week. Though I did it for West, it seems ridiculous for me to try and review a Lu album. She has been the soundtrack of my adult life. She is, at least in her musical persona, the woman I have always wanted to be and always tried so hard not to be. Her beautifully nuanced anguish always seems to speak to me in times of need. Her songs manage to mirror my misery and yet somehow uplift me and pull me through. [Heh. You’re so amusingly emo—Daisy] The new album is no different, although I feel almost like Lu has set out a bright new course in life and I am still struggling to catch up with her. Many of the songs here on Honey are happy, filled with more joy than agony. And I confess, I’m not quite there yet, although I’ve been working hard to get there for a long time. Now, rather than being a parallel for me I feel like her songs are showing me the light at the end of the tunnel. (Ha! This is why I shouldn’t review this– it’s just a bunch of introspective crap and gleeful squee of Lu love.) I made the mistake earlier today of reading a bunch of reviews of this album and certainly I can’t agree with anyone on which songs are the great ones and which and merely good. Though most folks seem to agree with me that this is the best album since World Without Tears which saying a lot since I loved West.

Blasphemously speaking, I have to say this is something of an unexpected holy trinity for me: Todd, Ben and Lucinda. And I assume I am preaching to the choir here which is why I haven’t bothered to do a full review of any of these albums. [Laziness justified! –Daisy] I feel like you are already going to get them, or you’re not. I just wanted to make sure you didn’t miss any of them if you are already in the ‘gonna get them’ camp.

Lucero Family Picnic version 2.0, the revenge of Arkansas

Daisy and I boldly braved predictions of flash flooding to drive the long, desolate hours to Batesville, Arkansas for the Lucero Family Picnic. It was worth it. So worth it. First off, before I tell you about the show, let me fill you in on the news we gleaned while there:

As many of you maybe know already, Lucero’s Brian Venable is expecting his first child any day now. He was primed to leave, even mid-show, should his lovely lady, Sam, have gone into labor. We saw ultrasound pictures of Henry, the boy they are expecting to join their family soon. So everyone keep them in your thoughts for an easy delivery. I know Brian can’t wait to meet Henry (we can’t either!). Seriously, if every expectant father was as happy as Brian appears to be, the world would be a much, much better place. [It really is just about the sweetest thing ever how excited he is.—Daisy]

There is a Ben Nichols solo EP, The Last Pale Light in the West, arriving soon to the internet near you. Like the most recent Lucero release, this will be available for digital download, with a CD to follow later in the mail (with purchase of the download). What’s that? You didn’t know Nichols’ was making a solo album? Well, neither did we. Apparently it came together very fast. And if what I hear is true, it’s a somewhat thematic album, based loosely around characters from Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian. So exciting, I mean, you all know I live for shit like this, right? [The unexpected gift of new Ben Nichols songs? It’s like our reward for having to do, like, work and stuff.—Daisy] Hooray! There will be an extensive solo Ben tour this fall as well. No excuses people, even the West Coast gets some play this time. I have no firm date on the EP release, but I hear tell it could be as soon as this week.

I did not get any confirmation on the new Lucero album, which many folks were hoping for this fall. I do know they signed an excellent four album deal with Republic/Universal. I know the new album has songs already (anyone who saw the last tour heard a couple of them) and the boys are looking forward to making it. I don’t have details on when they are going into the studio, but I’m guessing they will probably hold off at least Brian’s baby arrives and everyone gets settled in after Ben’s solo tour.

So! Picnic! Rockin’ awesome! Oh yes. The line-up was great. We sadly missed The Good Fear and Dan Montgomery (it’s long drive from Nashville and we had to stop to eat). I heard from many folks I trust that we definitely missed some good music. I have since checked out the sites for both acts and, well, goddamn our refusal to speed through rural Arkansas, I wish we’d seen them!

Cory Branan was up next. He was/is/always awesome. [By the way, we love Cory. In case you didn’t know.—Daisy] His set was short. I heard “technical difficulties” which might have meant broken guitar strings, or might have meant ‘oh shit, hurricane Ike really is headed here, should we keep playing?’ The five or so songs he played were certainly crowd pleasers, and he was joined by the lovely Amanda Shires on fiddle and the superlative Rick Steff on accordion. [We love them, too.—Daisy] Also I spent the last two hours of the drive talking about how I wanted a cheeseburger. Got to the show and FREE CHEESEBURGERS! Which I ate while watching Cory. So I’m gonna go on record as saying it was the best Cory Branan show ever. Even if it is just the cheeseburger love talking.

Cory cleared off to make way for Justin Townes Earle. You know, we’ve been incredibly remiss in not talking about Justin here before. He is, I’m sure you’ve heard, ♥Steve’s♥ son. He is incredibly talented in his own right and has no need to trail on his father’s career (which he is definitely not doing). I have had his EP, Yuma, on heavy rotation for months. His recent release, The Good Life, is so exactly the kind of troubadouring that we are always seeking out here. Seeing him live is a treat. There’s a pervasive sense of real Americana– real roots music in his sound that translates to his show. He is touring the rest of the month, you should try an hit up a show if you can. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.

The line-up for the Picnic seemed to be all excellent and sort of just getting better and better and better. After Justin, Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit played a lovely long set. The weather was starting to get iffy, rain, though light, was coming in and the sky was getting more threatening. Jason played right through it. You’ll recall maybe that, last summer, I wasn’t as impressed as I’d hoped to be with Isbell’s Sirens of the Ditch release. It is a great album and it has grown on me. The thing about Jason is that some people are going love him no matter what because of the Drive-By Truckers connection. Some people are really going to get how good he is just from listening to his album. Some people, like me, need to see him live to fall in love. His is still touring, so if you don’t fall into the first two categories of Jason love, you have chance to redeem yourself like I did. Also, girls, I am not going to lie. He is cute. [True story.—Daisy] We met him briefly backstage and, yes, I confess I have known weakness for Alabama boys, but he is also charming and friendly. So, go see him, there are at least four reasons why you should.

What could possibly follow this goodness? Why Lucero of course! [Hooray! —Daisy] The usual suspects were joined by the stupendous, wonderful, ticklish, cheerful, sweet, alluring, winsome Rick Steff (who we ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥) on keyboards and accordion [Double hooray!—Daisy], and by that mythical creature, Todd Beene, on pedal steel. (If you don’t know, Todd Beenes are native to the mid-south, though found all over the world. They are characterized by mischievousness and incredible musical talent. There have only been sightings of the one, but if you encounter him, be careful! He’s as likely to tease you mercilessly as he is to play awesome music for you.)

It was a Lucero show, a good one. Ike was seriously rolling by that time, the wind whipping Roy’s hair around as he played, making it hard for anyone to smoke a cigarette and making me worry that the lights would fall and kill crew. The fanboys sang along and screamed for Ben’s attention. Brian rocked despite surely spending every second wondering if his baby was going to arrive right then. John C. spoke nearly incoherently into the mic about how grateful the band is for their fans. New songs were played, old favorites could have been sung by the audience, and I decided one of my preferred parts of Lucero shows is watching Roy play (he looks like he’s made of rubber!!). I’m pretty sure a good time was had by all, and the oncoming hurricane added strange, but wholly pleasant sense of melancholy to the entire show.

There was an after party and the club by the park, just like last year. This is a more intimate gathering, like a Ben and Cory acoustic tour, with periodic appearances by any of the cast of characters that played the rest of the picnic. I drank, talked to tons of people and had mostly a good time. The stage is badly placed and hard to see, unless you are in the insane crushing crowd in front of the stage. The audience is so drunk as to be more interested in yelling requests than actually listening to them. It’s kind of a clusterfuck. [Though slightly less clusterfuckish than last year.—Daisy] I’m glad we went. I had fun (and lots of beer which leads gives one the idea of fun, even if it isn’t being had). I’m glad they do that afterparty, but I’m not sure we’ll go again next year. Picnic, yes, afterparty, maybe not. [Yeah, we feel that way now…—Daisy]

So there it is. We wish you were there. We encourage you to go see everyone who played if they ever come near you. And now we have to go rest up, Arkansas can take a lot out of girls like us.

rumors, news, and tours

I am full of the news of big changes here at HCT. Coming soon. See this space. Hmm, it could be coming even sooner if I was working on it, instead of posting here. But I love you guys and I don’t want you to think we’ve just wandered off and stopped posting, as we so often do (none of that in the future though, I swear). And once again, if you are interested in writing for HCT, email me. This is an unpaid, though very prestigious, exotic and exciting job. What do you get out of it? Free music to review. What do we get out of it? Your awesome, smart writing. Call me, you know you want to hook up with us.

The 2nd annual Lucero Family Picnic was announced today. September 13 in, yep, you guessed it, Batesville, Arkansas. Will the HCT girls be there? Can they manage another day’s drive through Arkansas? That remains to be seen, my friend. Luckily for everyone not near Arkansas, the Lucero tour starts today. Dates are here, and while I’m super excited that I get to go right away, I’m a little jealous of y’all who get Justin Townes Earle on the bill. Seriously, Justin lives in Nashville and we don’t get him on the bill here? BOOO!! Anyway, no matter where you see them, there’s rumors of new songs to be heard, so get up, get out, and go to the show!

It is summer tour time, though I swear hardly anyone seems out this season. I’m not sure if it’s gas prices keeping our bands down or what, but don’t let it keep you down too. Get out and see some people. Even if you have to take the bus to get there. Don’t know who to go see? Might I suggest The Magpies, Hayes Carll, The Old 97s (!), Bruce Springsteen (if you are up for stadium show and you already have tickets), Steve Earle, Wayne Hancock, The Avett Brothers, Lyle Lovett and dozens of others that I am too woozy to think of right now.

The new Hank III album, Damn Right and Rebel Proud, is coming at you on October 21, 2008. That’s my mom’s birthday. I doubt she’s impressed with this coincidence. The first single will be “Long Hauls and Close Calls.” I can seriously barely contain myself. Now if only he’d play Nashville, my summer would be complete.