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.

"She has unrealistic expectation for love"

Well, Valentine’s Day is once again upon us, and we here at HCT headquarters had a few days there where we were undecided as to whether we would take the opportunity to be bitter single girls, sitting around the house watching Lifetime and listening to Jagged Little Pill over and over again [This is surely hyperbole, it’s never been so bad that we have to listen to Alanis for salvation.—Cric] [Nor will it ever be that bad.—Daisy]. But then we remembered that we’re awesome. Also, we hate to be so stereotypically lame. Anyway, everyone knows that the suckiest holiday for a single girl is Arbor Day. Nobody wants to celebrate trees alone. [Except tree perverts. Yikes.—Cricket]

So, instead of eating our weight in peppermint nougats, we thought we’d share some songs about love and relationships that we dig. It’s what we do. [In the grand tradition of Valentine’s Day, we give you this present which is something you neither need nor want, is completely last minute and yet, it’s the thought that counts, right? We love y’all.—Cricket]

Lucero, “Nights Like These” — You’re surprised the first song is Lucero? This is what I like to call an “Oh, Ben” song, because after the lyrics:

I’ve only got this one wish
That I was good enough to make you forget
The only boy who ever broke your heart

you can’t help but sigh and say, “Oh, Ben.” Though I think I speak for the majority of Lucero fans (I’m looking at you, too, fanboys) when I say that Ben is more than sexypants enough to make a girl forget her own name, let alone whatshisface. But I suspend my disbelief, because this song speaks to the tortured unicorns of my soul.

Cory Branan, “The Walkaround (Amnesia)” — Speaking of unicorns! Unfortunately, Cory doesn’t have this song up on his MySpace at the moment. But, it is on YouTube, so there you go. This is a song about unrealistic expectations, amnesia, Soultrain, walkin’ around and… other things. What’s not to love? This is my bad mood song. No bad mood can withstand magic flowers and a fucking golden unicorn. But really, for all its clever lyrics and upbeat tune, it’s a song about being lonely, and just wanting someone to go out and do stuff with. To which I can certainly relate.

Chris Milam, “Maria, Maria” — This song makes me ridiculously happy, maybe even more so than the last one. Not that it’s happy-go-lucky content-wise, but every time I hear it, I just want to hear it more, as is the case with all music I really love (much, I think, to Cricket’s chagrin when driver picks the music…) [We all know shotgun shuts his cakehole when driver picks the music, so I keep it to myself.—Cric]. I could go on for awhile about how great this song is, but instead, I’m just going to post the intro Chris tells when he plays it live, because it makes me almost as happy as the song does. In Chris’s own words:

I’m writing a book. It’s a how-to guide. It’s called ‘How To Successfully Navigate the Dysfunctional Relationship.’ I’ve done about ten years worth of research on the subject.

I think any good, meaty, ridiculously dysfunctional relationship has four stages.

Stage One is Attraction. Pretty self-explanatory. Upon meeting the person, do you think, “Oh, they’re pretty,” or “Oh, I’d like to see them naked,” or “I wonder what they’d look like in my t-shirt at four a.m.,” etc.

Stage Two is Infatuation. In this stage, your significant other can do no wrong. They have faults, but you don’t see them because you’re infatuated. Listen to Lisa Loeb a little too much? Doesn’t matter, you’re infatuated. Laugh too hard at a racist joke? Yep, still infatuated. Never miss a Zac Braff movie? Well, that MATTERS, but you get the idea.

Stage Three is Stagnation. This is the moment when the honeymoon’s over and all the faults you overlooked before are now impossible to ignore. You’re not in love, you can’t imagine that you ever were in love, and the only thought that ever goes through your head is, “If I move to Greenland, how long until she finds me?” It’s the great part of any Hemingway story, where the girl bats her eyes and plaintively asks our hero, “Isn’t love fun anymore, darling?” and he says, “No. No it isn’t.” And then goes trout-fishing for six weeks.

Stage Four is Damnation. Here, you make a list of three million ways you can sabotage the relationship and go through them one-by-one. “Step 3,407: Accidentally poison cat.” And so on. Stage Four is my favorite.

I usually write a song about one of these four stages, but this song’s about all four of them, in order, start to finish. It’s called “Maria, Maria”.

And yeah, it’s a true story.

If you’re in town, check Mr. Milam out live Wednesday, February 27th at Christopher’s Pizza and Thursday, March 13th at the Rutledge. (In the meantime, if you missed it, Chris did a HCT podcast over a year ago, which is almost as good as a live show.)

Tommy Womack, “I Couldn’t Care Less” — When I first got a copy of There, I Said It, I didn’t make it through the entire album before I hit the ‘repeat’ button on this song. It is, quite possibly, the best fuck-off song ever. And not just because of he grammatical correctness of the sentiment. It’s fantastically cheerful and upbeat in its message of apathy. To me this song that unequivocally states, “You’re not even close to worth my angst.” It really doesn’t get any better.

The Jayhawks, “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me” — I’ll never be all you want me to/ But that’s all right/ I’m gonna make you love me. I love this song for all it’s cheerfully aggressive optimism. Because who hasn’t had that Wayne Campbell moment of, “Oh, yes, (s)he will be mine.”? And sometimes it’s nice to think that love is something you have any sort of control over. Much like The Pretender’s “Brass in Pocket,” actually. Really, I just love the message of, “You don’t love me now? Just wait.” (Whoa, there was some evil laughter bubbling up inside me as I typed that…) [It’s also got a nice bit of that stalkery love that Steve Earle does so well.—Cricket]

Dolly Parton, “I Will Always Love You” — There are about a million and a half reasons to love this song. It’s the quintessential love song, for all it’s wonderfully teary-eyed inducing sappiness! It’s in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas! Lorelai sang it to Luke! But most of all, it’s Dolly! Need I say more? (Fail if you answered “yes” to that). [Dolly is love. Perhaps all one needs for V-Day is Dolly singing this song. Too bad about that other version, Dolly doesn’t get the play she deserves.—Cric]

Dave Matthews Band, “Two Step” — A friend of ours once expressed surprise to hear Dave Matthews playing in “the car of a Troubadour”. And I’ll admit that I’ve been mocked for my Dave love, but you know what? This is the band that made me love music in a way I just hadn’t before. And this is the song that made me love the band. It’s been over ten years since the first time I heard it, but the lyrics, Hey, my love, you came to me like wine comes to this mouth/ Grown tired of water all the time/ You quench my heart and you quench my mind still makes me sigh and feel a little swoony. I’m hard-pressed to find someone better with the dead sexy lyrics than Dave.

And, on that note, I’ll turn it over to Cricket!

The hardest thing for me here was not picking a bazillion songs about hideous, horrible, gut-wrenching heartbreak. [For me it was not picking all Lucero songs, which is kind of the same thing…—Daisy] Partly because I hate Valentine’s Day and partly, well, you know, if you ever read the site before, I love the gut-wrenching heartbreak songs. I tried to get some joy in here for y’all, but bear with me through the heartbreak, yeah?

Tom Waits, “I Hope I Don’t Fall in Love with You” — The first time I heard this song was twenty years ago (oh fuck me, really? that long?) in the midst of some teenage angst. I’d long since worn out my copy of the Violent Femmes self-titled album and was feeling around for something else to reflect my inner teenage heartbreak, loneliness and suffering. Digging through my dad’s vinyl collection I came up with big daddy Tom Waits. I was completely sold. Even today the song pulls emotions out of the dark parts of me I have been ignoring for so long. The song’s character who would rather suffer than risk rejection, who seems so hopeful at the beginning and so pathetically lonely at the end. You can’t help but fall into his fantasy and his emptiness at the end. If Tom Waits isn’t your thing (and really if you don’t dig this old Tom Waits, don’t tell, ’cause I’d hate to have to cut you), Amy Rigby’s “Knapsack” and Hayes Carll’s “Love at First Sight” both do an incredible job telling an original, new version of the same story.

Todd Snider, “Lonely Girl” — This song is like the antithesis to Wait’s, “Hope I Don’t Fall in Love with You.” We start the story with the lonely girl, alone, smoking, but wait!! There’s a lonely boy looking for a girl just like her! He thinks she’s the only girl for him. Oh joy! Rapture! They can run off and make lonely little babies who smoke cigarettes and are full of their own regrets!! It’s a beautiful love story. Okay, I confess, I know this was flip, but in fact this is one of my favorite songs ever. It strikes just the right tone in the music to make you feel the ache and longing of the characters in the song. And I can’t speak for everyone, but for me, yeah, I am lonely sometimes and waiting for that someone to come along and think I’m perfect. It’s almost as if the song was written as a hopeful poem just for me. Of course I feel that way about 90% of the songs I review here.

Amy Rigby, “Wait ‘Til I Get You Home” — This song is about sex. Yay! But it really is perfect love song. It’s perfectly that moment when you are settled and comfortable with someone but still so in love that you can’t keep your hands off each other. She paints a detailed picture of that swoony feeling of watching your lover and not yet being able to put your hands on them because of silly impediments like being in public. The song is so well balanced with a bouncy, clean bit of rock and roll behind it. You can feel in the music that hopped up, heart beating a little faster feeling of the anticipation of being alone with your own sweet baby. (Also, check it, Amy is blogging!)

Steve Earle, “I Thought You Should Know” — “I won’t tell you I don’t need you tonight.” Oh ♥Steve♥. I think we’ve all been there. Can’t even go there for more than a night because your heart is still so broken. It’s a love song and heart break song, and dirty one night stand, and romantic bit of new love all wrapped up in one. The part here that completely kills me is the:

I promise that I’ll do my best
To give you everything I got to give
And keep your secrets for as long as I live

It’s so sadly hopeful, it just breaks me every time. ♥Steve♥ is the master of the break-up song. It was a huge toss up between this song and “More Than I Can Do” (the ultimate stalker song, “just because you won’t unlock your door…”). [Yes, I almost picked this song, too, but I figured I could count on you for some Steve love.—Daisy]

Doug Sahm, “Talk to Me” — This song is a sweet, end of the night dance with the person you know you want to spend the rest of your life with. It’s looking beautiful, having the perfect dinner, a long slow dance by candle light and walking home, warm, in the moonlight. The song is Valentine’s Day, or at least what on would hope for it, if they were going to have ridiculously high expectations. As far as I am concerned Sahm is one of the original hardcore troubadours. Indeed, now that I’m thinking about it, maybe I’ll spend the entirety of V-Day listing to the man. “Talk to Me” is the perfect timeless, bit of romance for the day, for sure, so if you only listen to one song from this whole list, make it this one.

Johnny Cash & June Carter, “Pack Up Your Sorrows” — Right, like I was going to let love songs go by with out pulling out my man Johnny. And Johnny & June? Is there anything more romantic in country music? [Or the world?—Daisy] I have equal love for this version of the song, and the original by Richard & Mimi Farina, but the J&J version is happier some how. The instrumentation perhaps, being more country and less folky? Hard to pin down why. I so wholly embrace the sentiment here, lifting your lover’s burdens. It’s impossible and surely never works, but the idea of loving someone so much that you want to save them like that is romance.

Merle Haggard, “Wouldn’t That Be Something” — I can’t decide if I want the version from the recent Bluegrass Sessions or the one off 5:01 Blues. I’ve listened to them both back to back a couple times and I love the twangy, brilliant, albeit dated sound of the latter one, as it has a roughness, sort of an incredulousness to the lyrics, like he can’t quite believe the possibilities of lasting love, of changing love, of lost love found again. The newer version is musically more beautiful, but lacks the sense of surprise, it’s almost like Merle is singing it now knowing that all the possibilities are out there and all contain both pain and joy and he’s waiting to hear about you discovering it for yourself. So go on, listen to both and then go out and discover the possibilities for yourself on this day of love. So what if it could all fall apart, without love there’d be no country music and then where would we be? [Vancouver?—Daisy]

Steve Earle Wins a Grammy! (Hi, Mom!)

I have to admit I’m ambivalent about this. I mean, overall he deserves recognition for being such an amazing songwriter, old rocker and political guy. Maybe he deserves one just for being married so many times. Steve definitely deserved the 2005 Grammy he got for The Revolution Starts Now. It was his first Grammy, despite other nominations and I’m pretty sure it was the Best Contemporary Folk album in 2005. He’s an incredible guy, hell, we named the site after his brilliance. We owe the man and we don’t even have anything like a Grammy to offer him. How ever, I’m still not in love with Washington Square Serenade. It is growing on me and you might, someday in the future see me slavishly rambling on about the brilliance of it, but today is not that day. It isn’t bad. It just doesn’t do much for me. It sounds to me too much like a watered down, love-sick version of The Revolution Starts Now. When I listen I don’t hear the heart that Jerusalem has, or the rough emotion of I Feel Alright. I’m just not 100% convinced that Washington Square Serenade is the Best Contemporary Folk/Americana album in 2007.

I will say that against the other nominees, he did deserve to win (The Calling, Mary Chapin Carpenter; My Name Is Buddy, Ry Cooder; Children Running Through, Patty Griffin; Orphans, Tom Waits–though I did like the Tom Waits album better than WSS, but I think Earle deserved the award in this specific category more than Waits does). I’m amore excited about Levon Helm’s Dirt Farmer winning Best Traditional Folk Album, as that is a sensational album. Of course the Grammy voters gave Amy Winehouse four awards, so clearly the entire enterprise is fairly meaningless these days.

Congrats, Steve! We love you, for always and forever, even when we feel like maybe you didn’t give us what you wanted. We love you for doing what you want to do.

(I only wrote this because of a comment my mom left on the last post. She didn’t make me, believe me, if I did everything my ma asked, I’d be in a very different place today, but I felt since she pointed it out, it did deserve some comment here, even if I don’t have anything nice to say. And now I’m sure my mom wants to disown me, if for nothing else the run-on sentence that precedes this one.)

Meet me at the station

It’s strange how, in the modern day of air and car travel, the folkloric power of trains seems not to have diminished at all. It’s true I can get in my car and drive nearly anywhere in the country, yet the idea of hopping a train seems to hold more fanciful notions of freedom and escape from the everyday. [It’s because it is a myth, that’s why, exactly.—Mimi] But there’s more to it than that. There’s a wistful, lonesome sound of far-off train whistles which promise escape that is somehow out of reach. The sound now contains more nostalgia than ever before, though trains are still prevalent all over the world.

Where we live, you can hear the trains everyday, all the time. Though more at night when they aren’t masked by road traffic noise and the television or the iPod. Often the sound will wake me up in the night, which isn’t bothersome at all. It’s more like a reminder of the time and place I’m in. The rattle-hum of freight trains over the tracks sound like home. When I was little, the trains ran right along the far side of the field behind my grandparents’ farm. You could hear them coming when they were miles away and even miles past you could still sense the train when the whistle was too far to hear. I’m sure there’re many people who grew up hearing trains to the point where they hardly notice them, [Like me, for instance, the tracks ran along the bluffs and curved along the coast where I grew up a couple blocks down from my house.—Mimi] but pulled away from them would come to think of it (unconsciously) as a cradle sound, something calming.

In the last 100+ years, trains have driven imaginations in all different directions, in fiction and film and especially music. Train songs seem to exist in all genres of music. I’m going to rec my favorites, sticking (mostly) to the country/folk/bluegrass/alt-country realm. I bet you already know all these songs. Maybe this is a reminder to listen to songs you’ve lost, or perhaps you’ll find something new. This is the barest surface scratch of train songs, but when I think of them, these are the first that come to mind.

Uncle Tupelo – “Train” (from No Depression)
This is a war song as much as it’s train song. Jay Farrar uses the visual of the train to set you in small town America where boys are being dragged off to war. It’s quintessentially American, and pretty brilliant, even for Farrar.

Johnny Cash – “Wreck of the Old 97” (from The Legend)
This song has been covered by nearly everyone since Vernon Dalhart first recorded it in the 20s. It’s based on the wreck of real train, and is based, I believe, on an older, traditional Irish ballad (I’m sure I read that in book somewhere, but the internet isn’t producing the links I’d hoped for). Historically interesting because it was the first time song lyrics were involved in major copyright suit, as several people claimed to have written it. The last verse always seemed like some tacked morality lesson, but it’s doesn’t soften my enjoyment of the song. I could write an entire essay on the history of this song, but it’s all been said elsewhere and I’d probably start to bore myself. I picked Mr. Cash’s version to include here because currently I love it best, but I think the Hank Snow version is equally as famous, though both have shortened the lyrics from the original. [Oh, Johnny, Johnny, how much I love you! Just hearing him cue up on the iTunes makes me nostalgic and homesick just in a general way.—Mimi]

Steve Earle – “Texas Eagle” (from The Mountain)
A bluegrass styled song, performed with The Del McCoury Band. Right off, the typically Earle intro of him randomly talking to no one and everyone, saying: “You gotta put your hat on, boy. You wanna be in the band, you have to put your hat on,” just kills me. Oh ♥Steve♥. Then the song rides in with hard guitar strum like trains coming at ya and spins into fiddle and mandolin, twanging you through some time past, but not so distant that you don’t remember it, but you feel a little bit of longing for it. Bonus points for having a “granddaddy” reference. [You gotta put your hat on, boy! This is my favorite song off this album. This is a head swaying back-and-forth tune. This is also a stealthy political song, listen up.—Mimi]

Neko Case – “Train From Kansas City” (from The Tigers Have Spoken)
This cover of the Shangri-Las’ song is perfectly suited to Neko’s voice. She makes the song much more melancholy and thoughtful than I remember the original song being. The cover also retains a 60s feel while being very much the folky-country of the Sadies (backing Neko up here).

The Stanley Brothers – “Train 45” (from Complete Starday and King Instrumentals)
There’s a call and response of sorts in the beginning of this, everyone calling out where they are taking the train to (I assume home for each other them, given the places they list). [Amusingly, also, the train is leaving from Cincitucky. Where else would people going home to the hills be leaving from?—Mimi] The fiddle playing here is what wins me over. Obviously, it’s an old-time song, and one that manages to effectively tell the story without lyrics. You can hear the train winding through the hills and slowing down in the station through each instrument as it’s played.

Hank Williams – “(I Heard That) Lonesome Whistle” (from Gold)
I think the Johnny Cash version of this song may have actually surpassed the Hank Williams in popularity. Shocking, I know, but I swear I never hear old daddy Hank singing it anywhere anymore. A classic bit of tragedy, boys getting in trouble and hearing the whistle blowin’ while they waste away in jail. A poignant bit about how much the sound of trains means freedom.

Guy Clark – “Texas, 1947” (from Keepers)
This song manages to capture the childhood fascination with trains (and crushing nickels on the tracks!) and the adult nostalgia about them. Guy says it’s about the first time he saw a streamlined train, the whole town came out to watch it go by. The harmonies are really spectacular, and train theme aside, I think this actually one of Guy’s best songs.

The Delmore Brothers – “Red Ball to Natchez” (from Classic Railroad Songs, Vol. 2: Mystery Train)
This song is comforting in its nearly trite “taking the train home to my girl” theme. It’s a gleeful number about the happy hobo, an archetype that has definitely fallen off in the last 50 years. [Because of the rise in awareness that homelessness is not a happy-go-lucky state of unfettered freedom but rather a social pestilence, perhaps? My love of “Big Rock Candy Mountain notwithstanding.—Mimi] I think the idea of the ramblin’ man who goes off and does what ever he does ’til he finally comes home to settle down was at it’s peak with train stories in the early part of the last century. The Delmore Brothers make it a jolly story without angst or sadness.

Stephen Simmons – “Next Stop Redemption” (from Drink Ring Jesus)
I nearly swooned the first time I heard this song. Salvation and train metaphors together? Oh, be still my heart! Stephen croons out the tale of the train that takes all sinners through the night, no town in sight, that finally heads to the end—Hell or salvation. [He’s really beyond awesome.—Mimi] [Yeah, this song makes me feel a little swoony. I think it’s my favorite of the bunch.—Daisy]

Sleepy LaBeef – “Mystery Train” (from Rockin Decade)
Surely Elvis’ version is the most famous of all, but Sleepy kicks up the rockabilly just enough to make the song even more enjoyable. Another song of the train back home to the girl, this one is nearly danceable with its sense of joy, though both Sleepy LaBeef and Elvis throw in a little angst to the vocal delivery. [Yeah, I think he’s mimicking Elvis, actually.—Mimi] The origin of some of the lyrics of this song is mired in almost as much controversy as “Wreck of the Old 97.” The version here is credited to Junior Parker and Sam Phillips. The “mystery” in the title probably refers to whatever original source they gacked the song from. [Probably written by a black person.—Mimi]

The Waifs – “Crazy Train” (from A Brief History…)
What I particularly love about this is how the music and lyrics both seem to belong in some bygone era, and yet the singers’ voices, while not unsuited to the music, sound like they pulled song out of some ancient train barn and sped it right up into the present. There’s an old-timey, bluesy sort of feeling to the track, that captures the essence of old time, but is surely a brand new song. [Isn’t this a Black Sabbath song?—Mimi] [I’m shocked you would even know that. No, same title, different song.—Cric]

Kinky Friedman – “Silver Eagle Express” (from Sold American)
Though generally I associate Kinky with insane books, wacky politics, and other amusements, he really is a fantastic country musician. [Now, let’s not get too ahead of ourselves here. He’s a gimmicky song writer mainly.—Mimi] [But where does gimmicky fit best but in country music?—Cricket] This song manages to perfectly encapsulate the train themes of departure and forgetfulness. Musically, it’s subtly full of twangy steel and train sounds (well, subtle until the end). Lyrically it’s really much more than I would ever expect. All in all a beautiful country song, made more so by the train theme. [Yeah, I’m surprised he has a song that doesn’t make me think of Hee-Haw and midgets tying balloon animals, frankly.—Mimi]

Alison Krauss – “Steel Rails” (from I’ve Got That Old Feeling)
The theme of escape is heavy here. She sings about looking ahead to keep from remembering the past with shout outs to hobos. The visual of the train tracks ribboning through the sunny hills is perfect. This actually sounds almost like a Dolly Parton song to me, and by that I mean it’s excellent. [Yeah, it sounds like a Dolly track, for reals.—Mimi] [I thought Dolly as well the first time I heard it.—Daisy] I do believe this was one of the first songs to chart for Miss Krauss, and deservedly so.

Todd Snider – “Play a Train Song” (from East Nashville Skyline)
I listen to this song so often it borders on pathological. Indeed, it was sort of the inspiration for this post, since it’s stuck in my head all the time and I started thinking about what other train songs I like to play. Even though this isn’t literally a train song, only metaphorically, as with all Todd’s songs it’s the not just the brilliantly clever lyrics, but the delivery that sells it. This particular song tugs at my heart in a nearly inexplicable way. There’s a sense of loss here, but more about remembering the good in lost loved, rather than mourning, but all somehow darkly tied to drugs and tinge of sadness. [Really, a Todd Snider song about substance abuse? He rules. I think he might shop at the Kroger up the street, too.—Mimi] [Stalkerific! –Daisy]

All Muckled Up!

Mucklewain has been done. I came out of it without bug bites or sunburn. Mimi survived a chupacabra bite and I think she has some magical powers now. Okay, she didn’t get bit by a chupacabra, but she does look like she was mauled by a mythical beast. We’ll get to that in a bit.

So we rolled into Harriman, TN late as ever. Stupid time zone changes get us every time. Well, that and the whole not being ready and leaving late, but no one needs to know about that, right? We found our hotel (HCT girls don’t camp; it would be a disaster you don’t want to see) and hooked up with Sarita and Lulu (Cookie was already with us). We packed our bags up and headed up the road to Whicker Park where we were shuttled from the parking lot and summarily searched. Though not searched very well, thankfully. *cough* [Apparently the cloaking device on my huge orange backpack functions just fine.–Sarita]

We came over the rise into the park to find a nice sloping hill going down to a stage on either side at the bottom. There were hay bales around for leanin’ on, food vendor carts and an oddly out of place huge tour bus covered in Gibson guitar promotional images. We laid our blanket out right in the middle of the hill, between the stages and proceeded to get our drink on. [By the way, it is really hard to get the bourbon smell out of a Nalgene bottle. Or so I hear.–Sarita]

Looking down the hill to left.
Yes, it was more like being at house party in a field than a big festival.

Now I know this is about the music, but let me tell you, even though the sun never really came out and even rained a little (don’t let Mimi lie to you it barely rained, though to hear her tell you it was torrential–that was saved for when we were driving home through the mountains the next day)… Um, where was I? Oh it rained a little but it was hot. Sweat beads all over me. Sexy really, only, you know, not. It was so hot that we couldn’t be bothered to walk down and watch the bands for a bit, though we could hear them and discussed what they might have looked like, we can only report on the music for most of the show.

But before we paid attention to the music something magical happened.

I transformed into an actual cricket and jumped on Mimi’s hat! Okay, I didn’t, but it was kind of weird in a “Hey, there’s cricket on your hat” kind of way. And apparently all Crickets like Mimi ’cause he actually hung around for quite awhile.

Due to our tardiness we missed Mic Harrison & The Hi-Score, Dash Rip Rock, Brian Waldschlager, Caddle, Glossary, Patty Hurst Shifter, and all but one song by Less Honky More Tonkies. Kids, we’ll have to catch up with you later except Glossary, we’ll see you on Saturday. I’m sure something awesome happened at each of those shows we missed, but luckily for us there was plenty more to come.

Southern Bitch was great, though we all agreed we were expecting more girls in a band with a name like that. The Tennessee Rounders roundly rocked, [Man, that is a lame joke, doofus.–Mimi] as did Garrison Starr, who think got a bunch of new fans from the girls who were sitting with us. [Hell. Yes.–Sarita] We also missed The Katies, (and ah! Tragically) Jason Ringenberg, and Trent Summar & The New Row Mob, in favor of going over to the song writer’s stage for the Daddy Hour with Will Kimbrough and then a little set by our boy Cory Branan. [I’m pretty sure I was smiling like an idiot throughout Cory Branan’s whole set. His songs make me just that happy.–Lulu] [Me, too, even when I was getting clocked in the head by the fangirls behind me.–Sarita]

Cory Branan sings like he enjoys it as much as we do.

It’s a wonder that we were even standing up at this point. There were $2 Miller High Lifes to drink and I heard a rumor that some people might have snuck whiskey in and possibly even gotten us to drink some without us knowing. [Aww. You two are so trusting!–Lulu] We managed to hook up with Troublesome Girl and stagger back to our blanket on the hill and catch a bit of The Yayhoos, who I think I need to see more of.

Next up, Scott Miller and the Commonwealth whose drummer was wearing cut-off overalls and black socks. Who we perhaps roundly mocked for it when we saw him before the SM&tC set. Scott rocked, the crowd went wild. But wait, did Scott leave in that giant Gibson tour bus? Has he ascended to hitherto unknown levels of fame? Or did the bus just happen to split when he drove off?

Kevn Kinney’s set was sadly sacrificed in favor if bathroom trips and food and beer gathering for ♥Steve♥ Earle’s set.

Now you know what we were really at Mucklewain for: ♥Steve♥. It was, shockingly the first time Mimi and I have been together to see him play. A holy grail of songwriterly goodness for us to share. Lulu came down the hill to revel in the greatness with us. [It was completely freakin’ great. What else can be said? It’s ♥Steve♥–Lulu]

Yep, we were right there, up close. *swoon*

♥Steve♥ tragically did not tell his usual stories between songs, he said, because of the narrow timeframe, he gave up the stories in favor of the songs. So, indeed, my only complaint is that ♥Steve♥ did not play for a million hours. He did however play many of the song we really wanted to hear. We danced, shouted, held hands, nearly cried at the mini tribute he did for Townes Van Zandt before “Fort Worth Blues” and generally enjoyed the hell out of ourselves, while surely annoying everyone around us. [Man, we were obnoxious as hell. Way worse than usual, and stop telling people I cried at a concert.–Mimi] [I teared up a little, too. Shh.–Lulu]

Things begin to blur after that. A whole day of drinking in the heat takes a toll on even the most hearty of us. I know Todd Snider put on a rocking set. American Minor and Will Hoge, sadly faded off into the background. They too will have to go on the list of folks to check out in the future.

The Lucero set was damn incredible, though the chupacabra attacking Mimi during it was possibly even more spectacular. [I was there, it was ginormous! Teeth like razors!–Sarita]

Brian Venable and Ben Nichols of Lucero, unaware of chupacabras in the dark around them.

Okay, so it wasn’t a chupacabra so much as it was a hay bale. [Sorry, Mimi, I tried.–Sarita] And maybe it didn’t attack her so much as she went flying over it, only to be unwillingly rescued by a bunch a frat boys. But man, you should see the marks that hay bale left, you’d think it was a chupacabra, no lie. [I had blood all over me when we got back to the hotel. Oh well, it was a Lucero show, what can you expect? Much like the people standing near me who were feeding me Jim Beam from the bottle. Which might have had some little bit to do with the chupacabra attack. They are attracted by sweat and bourbon fumes.–Mimi]

Somehow we stumbled back through the dark, made it back to the car, were driven safely back to the hotel and fell down comatose. [We were not driving, don’t get all self-righteous up in this bitch.–Mimi] [Backseat driving, now that’s a different story.–Sarita]

The next morning, we stopped for gas and had the following conversation with the overly friendly gas station attendant, who had a thick east Tennessee accent and something of mullet, or perhaps leftover 80s rocker hair.

Gas Lady: Y’all out for the show? From where?
Cricket: Nashville.
GL: You know Todd Snider came in here this morning for coffee!
Cricket: Oh really?
GL: Yeah, I don’t know who he is but my kids tell me he’s famous! (She did too speak entirely in exclamation points, you don’t know.)
Cricket: I guess he’s kind of famous.
GL: Honestly though, at first (here she whispers) I thought maybe he was little queer!
Cricket: *chokes a little* What?
GL: Well he did have an earring and all, but what do I know. I mean he’s famous!
Mimi: *walks up* What?
Cricket: Todd Snider was here for coffee this morning.
Mimi: Oh?

And then I abandoned Mimi and Cookie to the poor lady and ran off to pump the gas and laugh myself silly. [She continued to regale us with background information on the event, such as the fact the show was put on “on the Sheriff’s land,” like it was maybe Nottingham Forrest or something.–Mimi]

The important thing here is we saw ♥Steve♥. [He sang “Tom Ames’ Prayer,” which is my very favorite song of his, and let me tell you, you’re glad you weren’t there.–Mimi]

Run, don't walk, down to the record store

We each chose five albums that you should absolutely own, listen to, learn and love. “Back catalogue” albums will be a regular deal here, as we explore not only new music, but music you may have missed because you were too busy watching Beverly Hills, 90210.

Mimi’s albums

Step Inside This HouseLyle Lovett

This was a hard one for me. I guess I’ll get around to waxing on and on about all of his records eventually, but let’s start here.

I hear a lot of people saying that the last decent country music was made in the 70’s. Hush your infidel mouths! What you mean is that country radio has sucked for a long time. Yeah, that’s sadly all too true. But it doesn’t mean there isn’t good country music out there.

This is Lyle’s 1998 tribute album to other Texas songwriters. [Mimi, you like an album with Texas songs on it? Shocking.–Cricket]

The three songs forming the “Texas Trilogy” (“Train Ride,” “Bosque County Romance,” and “Daybreak”) written by Steven Fromholz are a masterful lament for the vanished rural lifestyle of two generations ago.

“Rollin’ By,” written by Robert Earl Keen, echoes the sense of loss of the previous tracks but applies that to small town West Texas life where everything seems to have stagnated.

“Texas River Song” is by far my favorite song on this album, and one of my favorites ever, honestly. There is a legend that this song was written by a geography teacher. Probably just stolen by someone from someone too ignorant to realize they were being ripped off.

Some of the arrangements on this album are dated, but Lyle’s voice certainly is not. If you don’t love Texas now, buy this album and you will reconsider your position.

Heartbreaker and GoldRyan Adams

Ryan is the best example I have ever seen of how buying into your own press can go horribly wrong. These two albums are pure genius. You’ve heard it all before, blah blah blah. If you’re going to own these albums, you probably already do. You might hate this guy without giving him a shot, and if that’s the case, I am here to disabuse you of your hatred. [Disabuse me; I haven’t ever given him a chance outside of Whiskeytown. One of my life goals is to see him fall on his head.–Cricket]

These albums have a lot in common with each other. They are both thematically linked, being about the end of relationships. Heartbreaker is sadder and more wistful; Gold is angry and bitter. They compliment each other, moving through every stage of post-romantic grief.

Ryan and I are solidly divorced now, but these two albums will never be out of my rotation. From the very first time I heard “In My Time of Need” (Heartbreaker) I knew I was in this relationship for life, whether that was consensual on my part or not. This song is a traditional that Ryan wrote himself. A beautiful dirge to the farming life and a long-shared life that is coming to an end through death do us part.

“Call Me On Your Way Back Home” was a companion song to me during a epic break-up in my own life. I used to torture myself with it in the car. Hook this song up for the next time you’re going through that; you won’t hate me for it.

“Damn Sam (I Love a Woman Who Rains)” says a lot about Ryan, a side of him that we’d all get to know a little too well through Blender and Pitchfork, but this was him before all that, and the song is honest in the soul-bearing way that Ryan just kills at (more on this later).

“Come Pick Me Up” is one of my close friend’s all-time favorite songs. She is a music snob of the most rarified variety. She and I both endorse it. That doesn’t happen often. The song is just that phenomenal. (Wait, a second, this was on the Elizabethtown soundtrack? Oh, Ryan, you keep falling, where is the bottom of the abyss, brother, where is it?) The chorus:

I wish you would come pick me up, take me out
Fuck me up
Steal my records
Screw all my friends
They’re all full of shit
With a smile on your face and then do it again
.

And the critics hailed freaking Love is Hell as his masterpiece. They are all fired.

Gold is a totally different creature from Heartbreaker on some levels–there’s a more diverse sound, and I assume that has a lot to do with him moving from Bloodshot to Lost Highway, but I think “Come Pick Me Up” sounds like it could easily have been on Gold. As could, maybe, “Oh My Sweet Carolina.”

My current favorite track on Gold is the bonus track “Cannonball Days.” Yeah, I’ve been listening to it long enough that I’ve gone through pretty much every track as my favorite at one time or another. It’s that sort of album. I cry into my G&T out of sorrow there aren’t more like this one. All of the bonus material is fantastic, as a matter of fact. “The Bar is a Beautiful Place” is so Ryan, and if he had abstained from insulting his fans and falling off stages, it could have been just a classic song about drowning your sorrows (whatever those might be), but considering his most recent history, this is a tragic song.

I had given up on alt.country before this album even came out, and the only reason I gave it a go was the friend from above who pretty much shoved it down my throat. “New York, New York” got some radio play around 9/11, and it’s catchy as hell and songs about New York have a certain appeal no matter who does them, but I hardly think this track is representative of the brilliance of the album.

“Touch, Feel, Lose,” “Harder Now That It’s Over,” and “Gonna Make You Love Me” are definitely all in my favorite songs ever jukebox. Ryan manages, on this album and sometimes elsewhere, to not only turn the confessional/story song into true art, but his voice is so exposed and intimate that you walk along with him, empathetic and in need of a drink to kill the hangover from the night before.

Together at the Bluebird Café – Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark & Steve Earle and Train a-Comin’Steve Earle

Our love of stripped-down, spontaneous live music isn’t a secret. Together at the Bluebird Café is as close as you can come now to experiencing Townes and Steve together. Hitherto, we’ve been pretty silent about Steve, but this blog is named after one of his songs, so extrapolate what we think about him from that. We have almost as much love for Townes. [Indeed the song we chose is a song Steve wrote about Townes.–Cricket]

The reason that I linked these two albums is that many of the songs overlap. “Tom Ames’ Prayer” and “Mercenary Song” are two of my very favorite Steve songs ever–both story songs, which he is the current standard-bearer for–and Steve covers Townes’ “Tecumseh Valley” on Train A-Comin’ and Townes sings it himself on the live album. His version of this song set against Steve’s really is a small seminar on how vocal inflection can change a song in a fundamental way.

The introduction to “Sirocco’s Pizza” is a classic bumper track. This is Steve live, and if you haven’t ever had that experience, listen to this album and then carry your sad ass to his next show near you.

My favorite track on this album is “Randall Knife.” The fact that it’s a Townes song and not a Steve song might make just about anyone who knows me smack their mama, but, Christ, Townes was a once in a generation kind of man. There’s a good chance you’ve never heard of him, too. For shame.

Train A-Comin’ is Steve’s most straight-forward country album, heavy on story songs and starring “Goodbye,” probably his most well known song (since it’s been covered over and over again). [You’ve surely heard it even if you don’t know Steve; Emmylou and Chrissie Hynde have both done it.–Cricket]

The first track on this album is a blues number called “Hometown Blues” that shouts out to Thomas Wolfe and Doc Watson in typical Steve fashion before the song even starts. “Won’t nothin’ bring you down like your hometown.” It just gets better from there.

There is nothing bad about this album. Nothing. Every song is tight, well written, and produced in a really clean, understated way. Highlights include the tracks also on Together At the Bluebird Café and “Goodbye.”

I think “Goodbye” is one of the most perfect country love songs every written. It’s about Steve’s ex-wife (one of them, hello, he’s a country singer!), and he does a whole set of songs about her live, mocking himself (there’s a song about a colossal bitch, about someone ripping his heart out, then this one where he says something along the lines of “Now for the truth about it all.”), and that makes the song so much better because it’s obvious he wrote it after working through his anger and frustration. But even without knowing any of that, just for itself, this song is the prototype of the country love song.

It starts off with memory and moves on to self-recrimination. He admits guilt for his actions and regret for never getting a chance to apologize. There’s direct admittance that his behavior was related to substance abuse. He references Mexico and the Gulf. It’s got it all.

But then there’s the part where his vocal phrasing sells this as more than just some Nashville, plastic, cookie-cutter love song. This is about his life, about himself and a woman he misses and how knows he fucked it all up on his own. That’s the kind of 3 a.m. self-awareness we all have. (Live, he plays it on a dobro, too.) I think the succinct lyrics say a whole lot more than the crappy metaphor and analogy in most mainstream music.

“I can’t remember if we said goodbye.” Who has not been there? It doesn’t even have to be a lover, just someone you miss a lot that you know you’ll never see again, or who you know you could call and try to patch it up with but don’t.

There’s a reason the people in the industry cover this over and over. But Steve’s version is the best, because it’s his own life lived.

Cricket’s albums

I Feel AlrightSteve Earle

Picking a single Steve album was, hmm, maybe like choosing between my mom and my sister? Impossible to do. Although in the end I didn’t pick this one because it has “Hard-core Troubadour” on it, but because I think it falls right in the middle between his country stuff and his rock stuff. Steve certainly swings both ways musically, and on any given day I chose a different way that I like best. I Feel Alright covers all the bases.

Obviously “Hard-core Troubadour” is a song I greatly admire. We chose to name our site after it, partly in tribute to ♥Steve ♥, to Townes, and to the idea of hard-core troubadours every where.

Townes was surely one of a kind and Steve salutes the hard life he lived in this song. (“Fort Worth Blues” off El Corazon is also a song for Towne–and one of my all-time favorite Steve songs; perhaps there’s something chemical that happens with music between/about/by these two guys. Whatever it is, I can’t resist it.)

He’s come to make love on your satin sheets
Wake up on your living room floor
He’s the last of the hard-core troubadours
.

Steve’s vocal styling on this lacks the Texas I love to hear from him, but has a breathy, regretful quality that makes me imagine I can hear how much he misses his friend when he sings this song.

“More Than I Can Do” contains my most favorite lyric ever written: “Just because you won’t unlock your door/That don’t mean you don’t love me anymore.” My little sister persists in calling this “the stalker song”–which pretty much sums it up. Still the lost love sung about here, with the idea that you just can’t give up completely rips out my heart.

This album is thick with the theme of being a bad boyfriend who can’t give up and persists relentlessly to try and recover what he knows he’s fucked up, or of a man finally aware of what he’s lost (on “Now She’s Gone,” “Valentine’s Day,” “You’re Still Standing There,” “More Than I Can Do,” and “The Unrepentant,” and even to some extent “Hard-core Troubadour”). Pure Steve. Really, it’s the complete emotional honesty in all of his albums that make him so compelling. He plays the hell out of his guitar. His voice sounds like raw sex. And then he slaps down the lyrics that are so candid, sincere and full of messy humanity. It’s like the perfect musical package. [SIGH. We love you, Steve. There is no denying that.–Mimi]

Road SongsTownes Van Zandt

I’m always surprised how many people I run across who like country music or singer/songwriters or folk or any of the sub-genres of music we push here at HCT who haven’t heard of Townes. He has more than 20 albums out (many posthumous) and worked actively from about 1967 until his death of a heart attack in 1997. I’m sure you’ll be hearing a lot about him if you stick around these parts. About Townes, our man Steve has reportedly said, “Townes Van Zandt is the best songwriter in the whole world and I’ll stand on Bob Dylan’s coffee table in my cowboy boots and say that.” Word, Steve, I’m with ya.

Roadsongs is a cover album. The irony of touting Townes as one of the best songwriters ever and then presenting you with an album of other people’s music is not lost on me. You can hear Townes’ music everywhere (even if you don’t realize it’s his, you do hear it), and he has so many albums to choose from that are his own, I chose this one, because he chose this one. These are the songs that he, a total master of words, chose to sing, so we can find him everywhere in this album. The songs here were recorded all over, over many years and none of them, I think, are lesser than the others. He definitely loved each of these songs and it shows in his performance of them.

Hearing Townes sing “And I won’t forget to put roses on your grave” in “Dead Flowers” (Rolling Stones) is tragic given his own untimely demise. Hearing him sing the song is still great, though, for me, it’s certainly a case of liking the cover even better than the original. [I actually assumed he wrote this and the Stones covered it when I heard him sing it.–Mimi]

There are several great Lightnin’ Hopkins songs on this album, a bit of Bruce Springsteen, the requisite Dylan, and couple great traditionals, including “Texas River Song.” His delivery is 180 degrees from Lyle’s cover of this, but just as wonderful. Like Mimi, this is one of my favorite songs. If perchance you’re trying to woo me, I recommend learning this song and playing outside my window. [HAHAHAHA Woo? Oh, you’re a peach. I’d suggest, folks, bringing her a bottle of Jack.–Mimi]

Honky Tonk HeroesWaylon Jennings

Clearly, I wanted to torture myself with this top 5 albums exercise. Pick a single Steve album? A single Townes album? A single Waylon album? Yet I actually feel oddly satisfied, like choosing was an accomplishment. Maybe that’s because choosing was such hard work.

I’m sure you’re on the edge of your seat wondering what kind of magic criteria I must have used to choose a single Waylon album. I’ll tell ya, given a choice between pirates, ninjas, and cowboys I always choose cowboys. Given a choice between Waylon albums, I chose cowboys.

Honky Tonk Heroes is cowboy songs, mostly written by Billy Joe Shaver, but really brought home by our man, the outlaw daddy of country music, Waylon. Some of these songs might be more modern cowboy songs than others, but “cowboy” is stamped all over this, like a finely tooled leather belt. And that’s enough for me to say, yeah, if you’re only going to own one Waylon album then own this one.

There isn’t a song on this album that I ever skip when I’m listening to it, but “Omaha, “Ain’t No God in Mexico” and “Ride Me Down Easy” send me over the edge. “Omaha” actually makes me want to go to Nebraska. For real, it’s that good.

Well, pity me I didn’t find
The line in time like a fool
In front of God and everybody
I politely blew my cool
.

Yeah, Waylon has so much cowboy cool that singing about losing his cool actually makes him cooler. Though what I really love on “Ain’t No God in Mexico” is the line about how he wouldn’t curse the rain if he’d never felt the sun. [This song is one of my favorites ever, too. When we agree, we agree, that’s for sure. You need to try to review some punk music so people realize we really are different people and not one lunatic, schizophrenic Waylon lover.–Mimi]

Bobby Bare took “Ride Me Down Easy” to number one, and I love Bobby, but given a choice, I always want the Waylon version of a song. Especially if it’s a cowboy song.

[I also want to put in a word for “Because You Asked Me To,” which is one of about ten love songs that doesn’t make me puke.–Mimi]

BlacklistedNeko Case

Here’s a conversation I have approximately 76 times a week–

Me: …we cover non-mainstream country music, alternative country, all varieties of Americana…
Everyone in the world: Neko Case? Your site is about Neko Case?
Me: *shakes with rage* No, there’s lots of other artists covering that same territory. [Who can sing and not feel like a cheese grater on my soul, too. Oy, I can’t stand her voice.–Mimi]

But I do truly love Neko–and not just because she’s from my neck of the woods–but because her voice drills down deep inside me and lifts little broken pieces of my soul out and offers them to the stars. Yep. She’s grown a lot as a song writer during her career and improves with each album, but Blacklisted remains my favorite of hers.

I wonder how many mathematicians it would take to try and calculate how many times I could listen to “Deep Red Bells” before I got sick of it? I wonder if I could even live that long? “Does your soul cast about like an old paper bag/Past empty lots and early graves.” Well, Neko, if it doesn’t it certainly feels like it has, and thank you for finding the words to describe the way it feels. [In the great tradition of Leonard Cohen, someone should cover her songs to make them listenable.–Mimi]

Overall I think this album is maybe more modern country folk than alt.country (however one is defining that anymore). Some of the songs have a bluesy, almost R&B, old time nightclub feeling to them (most notably “Look For Me” and Aretha’s ”Runnin’ Out Of Fools”).

“I Wish I was the Moon” is in the top 50 songs of my life. I want to never be without the option to listen to this at any time I want.

There is so much melancholy in “Pretty Girls” and an undercurrent of “please learn from my mistake” in the lines “Don’t let them tell you you’re nothing/Don’t let them break your hearts too.” I have no idea if you have to have survived the gauntlet of growing up a girl surrounded by girls to really feel this song, or if it’s universal, but from my (female) perspective it’s damn fine song.

The most country song on this album is “Stinging Velvet” and if I didn’t excessively love the rest of the album, I would certainly wish for more songs like this, though perhaps only because I’m almost as much of a sucker for slide guitar as Mimi is.

TraceSon Volt

Yeah, I pretty much assume if you’re reading this blog, that you probably own this album. But then maybe not, maybe you missed it when it came out, or you were too cool for it back then or something? If so, you should totally pick it up now.

One of the reasons Trace works so well is that it meanders through country, folk, and rock in a seamless blend. Yes, right, everyone s doing that sort of thing now. But when it was first sprouting up, neatly labeled alt.country it was new and different and wholly welcome. While everyone else was first experimenting with this sound, Jay Farrar was clearly already perfecting it.

I’ve read over and over that this is a break-up album, albeit about the demise of Uncle Tupelo and not over a woman. And while I’m sure there’s much truth to that, I suspect the themes on this album come from a dozen sources, much in the way the music itself draws from so many genres.

The wistfulness on “Route” tastes like regret and longing. Clearly this is a song about transition, rather than lost love, but the emotions aren’t so different, and you can feel the painful tug of it in the song. “Ten Second News” feels much the same, though in different tone, another key, alternate memories.

“Drown” and “Loose String” are currently my favorite tracks on here, but I’ve listened to it enough that I cycle through favorites and couldn’t ever be called upon to choose just one. “Too Early” though, completely sums up why I love the music I do (including this album): “Like to hear your story told/With a two-step beat and rhyme/Could be Tennessee or Texas/On and on, that road winds.” Yeah, baby, just like that.

[I’ve always felt really bitter about how famous Wilco is and how people even know Uncle Tupelo, but for unknown reasons, Son Volt never got the same kind of love. Have y’all learned your lesson now that Jeff Tweedy is a giant asshole and overrated?

My favorite songs from Trace are “Live Free” (“Someday we’ll be together/Farther south than the train line/The Delta mud will be there/We’re just living this way/Because we know no other”–I just had to stop myself from quoting the entire song. To be somewhat melodramatic, this song changed my life. I was young, gimme a break.), “Tear Stained Eye” (“Like the man said, rode hard and put away wet/Throw away the bad news/and put it to rest/If learning is living/and the truth is a state of mind”), and “Drown” (“Happenstance is falling through the cracks each day/Too close now to change it/Fool’s gold is lighter anyway”). I think this album and Grace by Jeff Buckley were all I listened to for a couple years.–Mimi]

[I’m amused reading through this—we picked our top 5 without any discussion between the two of us. We just said “here are mine” and then laughed at us both picking Steve and Townes and pinning down some of the same songs to love. I guess there is a reason we are doing this thing together.–Cricket]