Monday, June 30, 2008

Music To Read By......

How cool is it that? - As i'm reading the first Townes Van Zandt biography - one of his most sought-after and impassioned albums gets a re-issue. Live At The Old Quarter is - you guessed it - a live recording of Townes at his best (before his destructive ways started to effect his live shows). It came out on June 17th, but i had to wait to get it until today when my eMusic downloads refreshed - and promptly used 'em all up.

The Old Quarter was a dive bar in Houston, TX where "blue jeans and blue collars came together for the good music and cold beer." (Earl Willis - producer and engineer of the album) It saw the likes of Lightnin' Hopkins, Jerry Jeff Walker, and - of course - Townes come through in the early parts of their careers. One hot night in 1973, Townes gave the packed house a 27-song set filled with some of his most classic songs.

John Kruth, the book's author, mentions how Townes' studio recordings were often mauled by bad production as well as sub-par studio players. The problem, according to John (as well as accounts from Kevin Eggars and Guy Clark, among others), was that his labels were unsure of how to market Townes' albums - so they mucked 'em up in order to fit them better into a genre. It's a square block in a round hole trying to genre-fy Townes. He was, after all, a live performer who liked life on the road and always managed to wreck some part of his life as soon as one place got too permanent.

That's why The Green Album - as it's often called - remains one the true-est momentos of The Late Great Townes Van Zandt. Not only is his guitar work sharp as ever, but Townes was talkative and charming on this night. [By the way - if you've only heard a few TVZ songs here and there, you may be under the impression that, albeit an amazing poet, he was a lazy guitar player. Not the case - like i said, his hard-livin' began to take a toll on him later in his life, but in the first decade of Townes' career, he was admired as much for his intricate finger-picking (he carried a set of metal finger picks around in a purple-velvet Crown Royal bag) as he was his songwriting.]

Here's just one of the jokes Townes tells during song breaks:

"There was this drunk walkin' down the street. He walks up
to this cop and he says
'Man, somebody stole my car.'

The cop says 'Well, where was it?'

And he says 'It was right on the end of this key.'

The cop says 'Why don't you go down to the precinct and file a report?'

Guy says 'Okay' and he starts to walk off.

The cop says, 'Before you go downtown, you better zip up your fly.....'

The drunk says 'Aw, man. They got my girl, too.'"

If you're already a Townes Van Zandt fan - you MUST have this record....
If you're new to Townes - this is as good a place as ever to start......

[eMusic] Free 14-day trial with 35 mp3 downloads - FREE!
[Amazon] $23.98 hard copy/$11.49 mp3

mp3: Townes Van Zandt - Two Girls
mp3: Townes Van Zandt - Lungs

i'll probably be inspired to write another TVZ post when i finish up the book.

Friday, June 27, 2008

New Digs.......

Most of the music that's recently been added to my library has actually been older stuff (thanks to the folks at Cover Lay Down, Setting The Woods On Fire, and Ceci N'est Pas un Blog) - Buddy Holly, The Beatles, Creedence, Emmylou........

i have, however, picked up a couple new discs - some in the mail and some digitally.

Here's some of the best new additions:

mp3: The Dedringers - Sideman Blues
pick up Sweetheart of the Neighborhood FREE!!
The lead-off and stand-out track from The Dedringers first full-length disc.
"i used to have a job as a sideman/playin' with a blues band/down on the coast/
i played Mr. Cale/rockin' the blues scale/bendin' out the notes"

more Dedringers here.

mp3: Reckless Kelly - God Forsaken Town
buy Bulletproof (2008)

Known for their in-your-face, roots-rock, Reckless Kelly has long since set the standard for bands that fall somewhere between Rock and Country. Somehow, though, i end up diggin' the more mid-tempo, lyrically driven songs Willie Braun and band deliver so effortlessly. This one is from the band's latest (7th) release.

mp3: Ben Sollee - How To See The Sun Rise
buy Learning to Bend (2008)
By now, everyone has heard Ben's cover of Sam Cooke's A Change Is Gonna Come. The other songs from this acoustic cello specialist's debut album are just as moving. Ben got his start in The Sparrow Quartet - Abigail Washburn's band.

These next two songs are from bands who have been raved about all over the music blog community - and i hate to jump on the bandwagon, but they really are good. i don't own either album, but from the small sampling of tunes i have from each, i'm definitely thinkin' about it.

mp3: Fleet Foxes - He Doesn't Know Why
buy Fleet Foxes (2008)
Sub Pop has once again turned out an amazing band. Along the lines of Band of Horses, The Shins, and Iron & Wine, the cosmic vocals from Fleet Foxes will take you to another world.

mp3: Mason Jennings - Fighter Girl
buy In The Ever (2008)
The dry deliver and literal songwriting of Mason Jennings is actually his appeal.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Ryan Adams: The Destroyer Sessions.....

i know it's been a while between installments of my Ryan Adams Artist Spotlight, but i've been doing things like graduating, moving, vacationing, and starting a new job. But now that i'm sorta in one place for a while, i can attempt to get back to my regular schedule - weekly New Digs, weekly Playlist Pulse, and the occasional RA post.

We left off on a review of the first of many of Ryan's 'unreleased' albums - Exile on Franklin Street. The idea of this extended Artist Spotlight was to chronologically review RA's oeuvre for the sake of:
1. exposing some new people to Ryan Adams
2. supplying my readers with hard-to-find Ryan Adams tracks
3. further instilling my admiration of his music through an in-depth back review

But........ i got a little out of order by posting my Gold review directly after Heartbreaker. The simple fact is.... shortly before Heatbreaker and up to the recording of Gold, Ryan recorded 5 or 6 'studio sessions' that never made official releases. A lot of the songs on these sessions were re-cut and appeared later on his first 4 solo albums.

To be completely honest, the only reason i stumbled across the world of Music Blogs was because i was trolling around for b-sides/ unreleased songs from Ryan, and (judging from the majority of my referrals on SiteMeter) that's also how many people find This Mornin'......

Ok, now i'm just rambling........
i've said before that i don't consider myself the most eloquent person, nor am i an expert music review-er - so maybe that's why i stall when it comes to things like this. But i like to think i have great taste in music and simply want to expose a few people to the stuff that keeps me going throughout the day.........


Unlike Exile on Franklin Street, The Destroyer Sessions are composed of real songs - no crazy guitar-wailing or screamo stuff - these are well-written, well-composed tunes that range from the omnipotent plaintive RA ballad to groovy, driving acoustic numbers.

This session was recorded just a few days before Heartbreaker at Pilot Studios in NYC. Gillian and Dave helped with the recording and their influence (and input) are present on a lot of the tracks. This was early enough in Ryan's carrer that his strong roots/folk style is still very noticeable - in fact, aside from Whiskeytown's stuff, this collection is his folkiest, which is probably why it continues to be some of my favorite material in his catalog.

By far my favorite unreleased Ryan Adams track, Poison & The Pain, shows up here. An echoey, backwoods tune, the song contains some well-placed harmonies and hand-claps that add a ghostly effect. How this one hasn't seen the glory of an official release is beyond me, but then, i've never claimed to understand many of Ryan's musical choices.

Only two songs from Destroyer reached an album: the masterpiece, In My Time of Need, and Bartering Lines - both mentioned here. The collection also includes a couple songs that received a lot of live play during Ryan's extensive solo-touring around Heartbreaker: Born Yesterday, Statuettes With Wounds, and Hey There, Mrs. Lovely - that eventually morphed into These Girls and appeared on Easy Tiger. He caps off the session with a rare cover song - a dizzying, electrified version of Gillian Welch's venerable Time (The Revelator).

The Destroyer Sessions
Fall 2000

mp3: Dreaming's Free
mp3: Poison & The Pain
mp3: Time (The Revelator)

all zipped up.....

Be sure to check out the rest of my Ryan Adams Spotlight:
1. Whiskeytown
2. Heartbreaker
3. Gold
4. Exile on Franklin Street - or, just click here
for all of them on one page.


Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Guest Post: Desolation Row - The Early Songs of Jeff Tweedy

A friend of mine, Tim Regetz – with whom i generally need to have a dictionary handy just to have a conversation with – told me he wanted to write a sort-of guest post here at This Mornin’. A grad student in English, if Tim isn’t the smartest cat i know, then he sure knows how to talk like it.
While choosing Jeff Tweedy as the topic of his piece fits right in with the theme of this blog, i was a little anxious over his decision. i consider myself an Uncle Tupelo fan; however, i tend to favor Jay Farrar’s output (both with Uncle Tupelo and since) quite a bit more. Maybe it’s because most of Son Volt’s stuff is initially catchier, sonically, than Wilco’s (this does not ring true for the most recent efforts from each band, though). But with just one read through of Tim’s words, i was immediately excited to begin my exploration of Tweedy’s work. Tim delves deeply into the most introspective songs that Jeff has recorded, all the while deciphering the puzzle of lyrics he uses as a release.

Without further adieu, here is Tim’s superbly insightful look into the muse of Jeff Tweedy (complete with mp3's):

Desolation Row: The Early Songs of Jeff Tweedy

There are some artists who I wouldn’t want to sit down with, not because they wouldn’t be insightful, but because what they had to say might leave me really depressed. I think of Jeff Tweedy as that kind of artist. Sure, alt-music in general is full of its share of sad-bastard sorts, but very few (e.g. Ryan Adams or Joanna Newsom) who should be mentioned in the same breath of contemporary greats like Tweedy in terms of their artistry and the maturity with which they treat their lyrical content.

What makes the Wilco front man so sad? For one, I think he gets the contentious, sometimes funny, always disputatious conundrum that is the male-female relationship, an understanding which makes him prone to the effects of some pretty stark observations about the way we treat the ones we love and how we deal with ourselves. It makes sense, then, that the early work of Jeff Tweedy displays, as far as I can tell, almost no straightforward love songs, fitting for an artist who wisely rejects conventionally held, romantic notions of idealized relationships and self-respect.

Consider one of Tweedy’s most successful interpretive efforts with Uncle Tupelo, “I Wish My Baby was Born,” a song about a man considering his life after his wife’s death. It’s not a song about the baby, and that he ignores the regenerative capabilities normally associated with newborns reveals his dissatisfaction with those “healthy” modes of grieving. Instead, he’s struggling with how he’ll live without someone who grounded his life, hinting at both a return to the ways of a man left unchecked and “the day… / When you and I will walk as one.” Suicide? Maybe it’s a stretch, but at least a man with a pretty good reason to look forward to death, and the second-half of all of this little song’s 1:40 running time is instrumental, providing a backdrop for reflection on those despairing few verses.

mp3: Uncle Tupleo - I Wish My Baby Was Born

Probably my favorite Wilco track, “We’re Just Friends” makes Tweedy sound absolutely at rope’s end: he can’t do anything else to promise his woman of his fidelity. His voice is deliberate, worn-out. The only beautiful vocals are the harmonies, which boost his promises (“I can’t imagine ever being apart / I’ll come back to you / It’ll be brand new”) in contrast to his debilitating reflections, but even these sentiments come across like they’ve been delivered by the same man to the same woman scores of times. Taken as a whole, if this woman doesn’t give him another shot, Tweedy sounds like he’s about run out of options.

mp3: Wilco - We're Just Friends
from the Summerteeth Demos

On a somewhat lighter note, the bar-stomp of “Casino Queen” follows the formulaic downfall of the new groom. The line “The wife that I just met / She’s lookin like a wreck” sets up the predicament quite nicely: man gets hammered at the casino, finds himself at the table, married to his mirror image. But Tweedy, avoiding any of the lyrical pitfalls of such a perfect country song premise, focuses on the other woman in his life, the dealer: “Casino Queen! / My lord you’re mean / But I’ve been gambling like a fiend / On your table so green.” What does a man do when he realizes his relationship is a wreck? He tries to change his fortunes with another woman. Considering the context of his predicament, his lyrics (coupled with a complementary stomping beat and guitar/fiddle riff) are humorous in spite of the song’s weight and severity. As like most dreams realized in a bar, this one doesn’t seem like it’s likely to pan-out.

mp3: Wilco - Casino Queen
from A.M. (1995)

One thing I’ve always had against commercial country singers is their insistence on trying to come-off as the ubiquitous badass. A brief overview of the songs and topics discussed on this blog should be evidence enough of some of those problems the discerning taste has with a country-machismo stance. One of the most endearing qualities in Tweedy’s music, the one which drew me especially to his early Wilco work, was the fact that I didn’t have to dumb myself down or lower my expectations of the artist for my enjoyment of his music.
Rest assured, Jeff Tweedy can tell you about being a man: it’s lonely, you question your behavior and (im)maturity, and your only goal is to be with someone who doesn’t remind you so much of your shortcomings. As the title suggests, “How to Fight Loneliness” is the perfect example of Tweedy’s zeitgeist: this should be the anthem for any guy who feels like he doesn’t fit-in. His solution is dry, morose, and sarcastic, but it also seems to work: “Just smile all the time / Shine your teeth till meaningless / And sharpen them with lies.” If you’re smart enough, you can bullshit the room and get away with it (note: Jeff Tweedy is smart enough; of course, singing about it kinda gives away your secret). But maybe that’s the point: he’s tired of hiding, and his art is his catharsis, his confession. Maybe I shouldn’t fear Jeff Tweedy, since he’s a self-confessed chameleon, doing his best to conceal (not fight, mind you) his loneliness.

Wilco - How To Fight Loneliness
from the Summerteeth Demos

Oh, it gets worse. “A Shot in the Arm” examines the depths to which he’s willing to follow a friend into self-destruction. “The ashtray says / You were up all night / When you went to bed / With your darkest mind / You’ve changed.” It sucks realizing you’ve lost a friend, and he does what is convenient and painless for that problem: he considers shooting up. Tweedy perfectly realizes the druggie’s solution to all problems: “Maybe all I need is a shot in the arm… / Something in my vein bloodier than blood.” That he repeats the line seven times consecutively, each line delivered with growing intensity until it becomes a howling confession, convinces us that he’s convincing himself. Sad part is, if he went through with the horse-ride, he probably would forget the friend and accomplish his goal of avoiding the confrontation. But he realizes something much more about himself and the friend by coming up with that perfect, confrontational one liner probably heard on every episode of Intervention: “What you once were isn’t what you want to be anymore.” He’s addressing everybody: the subject of the song, himself, and an audience that, in 1999, was preparing for the sonic deconstruction which he would front into the next millenium. As Townes once said “I’m through with that kind of living.” I think, at the end of “A Shot in the Arm,” Tweedy shows that he acknowledges this same sentiment, but much like the former, he may be embracing only part of the solution to his own problems.

mp3: Wilco - A Shot In The Arm
from the Summerteeth Demos

To close with, I chose another song from Uncle Tupelo, this one a Tweedy original, “Black Eye.” The song, like much of Tweedy’s early(-ier) work, leaves us with a plethora of examples of reflection and despair but little hope of where to go. What always affected me in this song, apart from what would become those trademark illusively haunting (read: depressing) Tweedy lyrics, was the incessant pace of that guitar picking; it’s like a headlong pursuit of this guy’s life, his coming to terms with the masculine legacy which he cannot escape, to the point that “he took down / all the mirrors in the hallway / and thought only of his younger face,” leaving us with a distinct sense that it’s not just the character noticing these things, it’s the artistic self-reflection of a man who may have never resolved some of these issues.

mp3: Uncle Tupleo - Black Eye

For the forum in which to discuss this art which all your readers embrace, many thanks to the proprietor of this site, a man of inscrutable musical taste and a member of that noble crusade which seeks the accumulation of and appreciation for all great music.

~ Tim Regetz


Sunday, June 22, 2008

More FREE MUSIC from Austin.....

The Dedringers are a band out of the Austin, TX area that i have had the pleasure of watching grow (their hair, and) musically over the last few years. Much like their friends, The Gougers (posted about here), the Dedringers are releasing their latest album for FREE.

The band started out as simply as Sean Faires & Jonny Burke and their guitars. They have since filled out with a rhythm section (Josh Garner, John Michael Schepf).

The first time i saw The Dedringers, they were a duo opening for Mike McClure (who produced their first release - Definitely, Purposely Infinite [EP]. They came out on the dark stage of Saengerhalle - a now defunct, but at one time unique venue in New Braunfels, TX - and proceeded to play 30 minutes of the most haunting tunes i'd heard in a long while. The lights never brightened and all the while the two young guys were sharing sips of an unknown beverage from a red solo cup placed between them, singing lines such as "mama died givin' birth to me/daddy left, said he couldn't stand the sight of me" & "i ain't bad, baby/i just ain't no god damn good". Only later did i find out that Sean and Johnny were only 18 at the time. The eerie lyrics mixed with perfect timing on the guitars and spot-on harmonies stole my attention for the entire show. Since that first concert, i've caught the band a few times here and there and, with each show, their guitar skills have multiplied while their songwriting continues to grab my attention.

Again similar to The Gougers, Sean and Jonny share the songwriting and lead vocal duties. Their sound - if i have to compare it somewhere - sounds like a grittier Stones fronted by a darker Neil Young. Seriously.

Ok, enough of that. What about the FREE MUSIC??

Just head over to and click the Dedringers banner. You'll be taken to a page with simple right-click, save-as mp3's for the taking. Plus, if you're planning on being near Austin any time soon, you can join the band's mailing list and receive a coupon to get the hard copy of Sweetheart of the Neighborhood for only $7.99 at Waterloo when it's officially released on July 10th.

But to get you interested, here's a couple tunes off the aforementioned EP:

mp3: The Dedringers - Little White Lies

mp3: The Dedringers - I Ain't Bad

buy Definitely, Purposely Infinite

Check out The Dedringers' MySpace

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Super Photo Post: Costa Rica

i've just about finished going through the hundreds of pictures taken while in Costa Rica.
If you like a laid-back place with lots to do, and some of the most amazing scenery - get your ass to Costa Rica. The locals are super-friendly, everyone accepts the American dollar, cabs and vans are cheap and plentiful, and - according to our driver, César - every town, no matter how small, has at least one bar, and one soccer field. They got their priorities lined up down there.

So to show off my newfound hobby of photography (my family kept begging me to take pictures of them, but i feel that people just mess up the shot - trees don't blink), i've decided to post some of the best pictures of Costarrican scenery with a related song (or two) to accompany it.


(pictures are thumbnails - click them for full size)

mp3: Charlie Robison - Sunset Boulevard
mp3: Old 97's - She Loves The Sunset

mp3: Creedence Clearwater Revival - Run Through The Jungle
mp3: Old Crow Medicine Show - Big Time In The Jungle

mp3: Cross Canadian Ragweed - Flowers
mp3: The Great Divide - Wildflower

mp3: The Avett Brothers - If It's The Beaches
mp3: Ryan Adams - Waves Crashing

mp3: Squeeze - Tempted (by the Fruit of Another)
mp3: Bright Eyes - Lime Tree

mp3: South Austin Jug Band - Falls So Fast
mp3: Reckless Kelly - Floodwater

mp3: The Rolling Stones - Monkey Man
The Beatles - Everybody's Got Something To Hide Except Me & My Monkey

*Scroll down to my slideshow at the bottom to see even more pictures.....
Stay tuned for the first-ever
This Mornin'..... guest post.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


Buenos Dias de Costa Rica.

The internet is kinda spotty here, so (as always) i don't wanna say much.

It hasn't been as relaxing as i expected. We have been doing really cool, but very tourist-y things: hikes to waterfalls, horseback riding on the beach, general sight-seeing. But we've also taken full advantage of the country's resources: comida typical, Imperial & Casique, and other....... more organic things.

i made an extensive Costa Rica playlist before we left. i started by gathering all my reggae and island-sounding songs (ukulele's and soft-plucked guitars), and it expanded to include anything i thought i would like to hear whilst layin' in a hammock. i still haven't found one yet, but i have enjoyed To Live's To Fly from my balcony.

Here's a sampling of some of the best that have popped up so far:

mp3: Israel Kamakawiwo'ole - Somewhere Over The Rainbow
mp3: Joe Purdy - Wash Away
mp3: Matt Powell - Manzanillo Shoals
mp3: Toots & The Maytals - Pressure Drop
mp3: Rodrigo y Gabriella - Tamacun

**in another ploy to get you to come back, i'm gonna post this before uploading the songs.

Way too many pictures have been taken as well. If i could upload in any sort of a timely fashion, i would. But i'll wait 'til i get a better connection (or develop some patience....)

Pura Vida.

Friday, June 13, 2008

The Gougers - Free Download.......

The Gougers are a band out of the Austin/San Marcos area. Lead vocal duties are split between Jaime Wilson and Shane Walker. With voices as different as Sam Quinn and Jill Andrews, Jaime and Shane complement each other in a way that at first seems implausible. Jaime has an angelic, warbly yodel and Shane sings with a laid-back ease the likes of Gram Parsons. The duo is backed by Cody Foote on bass, John Ross Silva on drums, and most recently, Lance Smith on additional guitars.

The Gougers' sound (just like everyone else i talk about here) is quite difficult to categorize. This isn't because they are are extremely versatile, but more because they are extremely dynamic. With each album/EP they have put out, their sound, as well as lineup, has been completely different. The band's debut, Runaway Scrape, is most easily genre-fied as bluegrass - heavy on the fiddle, mando, and laden with extended solo's. Between that release and their newest - Long Day For The Weathervane - the group dropped the 'Sidehill' off their name, put out an EP, a live bootleg collection, and my favorite - Jaime's solo sampler. Each output has a feel slightly unlike the other.

For a band comprised of such a young group of folks, the writing consists of themes far beyond their time. References to John Henry, Sylvia Plath, and Mac Davis are just a few of the topics that help to fill out the well-crafted poems that are the songs of The Gougers.

Interested Yet?? Well you're in luck because after releasing Long Day For The Weathervane independently in October of '07, the band has decided to give away the album digitally for the summer. Simply go to and put in a couple of friends' emails and get your free download.

If you're into instant gratification (and free downloads at another site aren't instant enough), check these out:

mp3: The Gougers - Steal Away
from Runaway Scrape (2004)

mp3: Jaime Wilson - A Little Too Rough
from Jamie's Demo - previously available on their MySpace

Check out their Myspace

Another Day, Another Blogger...........

My birthday is officially over now.........
This is the first year that i really haven't been all that excited for it. Maybe it's because my birthday was also a dreaded deadline for a looming online class. Maybe it's because it sorta also marks the beginning of the rest of my life and the real world. Who knows??

Today i got to:

• wake up early and go to the dentist
• run a few errands
• drive 2 hrs away just to pack up some shit and drive back

But i did get to spend some quality family time and have a nice dinner. And i got a badass new camera. Thanks to the glory of Facebook, i did get about a million birthday wishes. Thanks.

But i'm going to officially celebrate the date of my birth this weekend in.......

Costa Rica. Oh yeah, six days of reclined bliss in a Rain Forest that just happens to butt up to the Pacific Ocean.

This will most likely be my last post from this country, cause i got another busy day tomorrow. So (hoping i can find some sort of Internet service in the jungle) the next time you hear from me, i'll be layin' in a hammock with my new copy of To Live's To Fly and a piña colada.

P.S. - expect a ton of kickass pictures like this one upon my return.........

Until then, enjoy some tunes especially picked out for today:

mp3: The Everybodyfields - Birthday
buy Nothing Is Okay (2007)

mp3: Neil Young - Old Man
buy Harvest (1972)

mp3: Todd Snider - Age Like Wine
buy East Nashville Skyline (2004)

mp3: Slaid Cleaves - One Good Year
buy Broke Down (2000)

mp3: Ryan Adams - Born Yesterday (since it's now way past midnight)
from Live At The Brewery (1999)

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Black Crow Blues......

One of the other blogs i read has features called Compare & Contrast as well as one called Homonym - both highlight songs that have the same name, but sound different. i'm not really clever enough to come up with a title that is different (or better) than those, so here are a couple songs for you to consider..............


i find it interesting that so many bands names, band logos, song titles, etc. are inspired by the fabled CROW. Going back even before Poe and his Raven, the black bird has long symbolized death (or is at least an omen for it) in mythology and folklore. So what better way to pay homage to the ghastly bird than for two of the greatest folksters to sing the blues for him.

mp3: Bob Dylan - Black Crow Blues
buy Another Side of Bob Dylan (1964)

One of those beautiful oddities wherein despite the up-tempo nature of the tune, the feeling of the blues still comes through......

"black crows in the meadow,
across a broad highway.

though it's funny, honey,
i just don't feel much like a scarecrow today."

mp3: Townes Van Zandt - Black Crow Blues
buy In The Beginning (2003)

i don't know if anyone can evoke sadness like TVZ. Not only does Townes himself sound lonely, the reverb behind him makes him sound like he truly is alone in some dark chamber. This is the blues if i've ever heard 'em.....

"well the black crows are screamin'
the yellow sun's warm
and the grass tumbles tall down the hill.
but there's a cold wind a buildin'
it's bringin' a storm,
when the call of the black crow goes still"

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Artist Spotlight: Mike McClure (part 3)

Part 1 ~ Part 2

The time between Camelot Falling and Mike's McClure's next album, Foam, (nearly 2 years) was time well spent. Now very comfortable at the production reins and with no label to answer to, Mike was able to take his time and carefully piece together a new record.

Feeling the need to spend more time with his wife and two daughters, he converted a room of his home in Ada, OK into a personal studio. 'The Library', as he calls it, is a place where Mike can go to goof off (being an avid reader of his rambles, i know he does this a lot), get away, or simply lay down some vocal tracks, guitar licks, or pieces of ideas for songs. He began to spend less time at the Dirtybird Recording studios and devised a plan for sending his recordings electronically to other folks, having them tweaked, and getting them back. One of these 'other folks' was legendary engineer Joe Hardy. Mike began sending Joe his vocal tracks and they would come back perfected with slight effects that seemed to only accentuate Mike's style.

The bulk of Foam, however, was recorded in Houston, TX at The Foam Room - Billy Gibbons' (ZZ Top) famed recording studio. Mike, being a sucker for 80's rock, was just a little excited to be working in such a storied studio. This excitement translated into inspiration that came through on the record. Foam is highlighted by some of the finest guitar work Mike has a ever put together - with just a touch of that classic ZZ Top swagger.

November 2006

mp3: Mike McClure Band - I Know
mp3: Mike McClure Band - Saints In The Twilight
mp3: Mike McClure Band - Belly of the Beast

Foam is 10 tracks of superb production. If the beginnings or ends of some of the songs sound funny, that's because the CD rolls continuously throughout without track breaks. I Know is track 1 and Saints is track 2, so check 'em out back to back. Mike resurrected yet another Great Divide song here with Floods. Although released back in 2000, it's one of Mike's best writing achievements to date. Personally, i prefer the theatrical feel of the original recording of the song - it has a long intro of sounds of rain that Mike recalls recording into a tape player while standing on the porch of the Will Rogers Theatre where the band's Afterglow was recorded.

The album is the first to feature the new three piece MMB - Mike and drummer Eric Hanson dropped their lead guitarist (Mike took over the duties) and hired a new bass player. Tom Skinner had been milling around the Red Dirt scene since its inception. He and Mike met at 'The Farm' - an old farmhouse that served as a haven for many Oklahoma songwriters, young and old. Skinner penned the song Used To Be (recorded by The Great Divide) that has become the unofficial anthem of Red Dirt music. His impeccable timing and upper-range tenor perfectly complement Mike's fine-grained gravel voice.

May 2008

mp3: Mike McClure Band - Like An Idiot
mp3: Mike McClure Band - The Eagle and the Crow

Mike's most recent album, did7 (don't ask me what it means....), was just released on May 6. i feel like, on this one, Mike held back on the Rock N Roll, and put together a record with impeccable writing. Sometimes the lines are simple, but sometimes simple works just fine.

"guess i should start at the top/seems like a logical place."
"let me dance like an idiot for you/you laugh, you laugh/yeah you always do."

While preparing for this record, doctors found a tumor in Mike's daughter Marleigh. Possibly due to Mike's heavy spiritual side, the tumor was removed and all is well. The constant hopeful demeanor she maintained throughout the ordeal is expressed in Little Sister Sunshine.

"little sister standin' in the sunshine laughin'/reminds me it ain't no good to be sad/little sister runnin' through the backyard yellin'/yellin' at big sister and your dad."

Mike's ability to take a simple metaphor and expand it into an entire song is one the most characteristic and impressive traits he possesses. Wildflower, Comin' Up Crows, and Break in the Storm are just a couple of examples of this style from back in The Great Divide days. He continues to show his narrative talent in his solo career with songs like Wicked Game of Hearts, Via Dolorosa, Jack of Diamonds, Open My Door, and on did7, The Eagle and the Crow.


Mike has absolutely nothing more to prove to be considered one of the most influential and prolific writers in the Texas/Red Dirt scene, yet he continues to put out records that simply amaze me. It still confounds me that his name hasn't spread throughout wider circles in the alt-country world (and that i'm the only one that can be found on The Hype talking about him). Maybe his day will come; and, until then, i'll do my best to spread the good word.

Get Mike's music straight from him:

Evolution of a Song........

i've got plans for a new recurring post here at This Mornin'....
It's called Evolution of a Song and it will consist of different versions of a song highlighted chronologically. Sometimes the songs have changed titles, lyrics, or arrangements and often are done by various artists.


First up is Rock Me Mama/Wagon Wheel
Made most famous by Old Crow Medicine Show's Ketch Secor when he put original verses to a chorus that Dylan recorded during the Pat Garret & Billy The Kid sessions (1973), this song is quickly becoming a contemporary folk standard.

1973: Bob Dylan - Rock Me Mama
from The Genuine Bootleg Series, Vol. 1
Just a simple impromptu recording of one of many snippets of tunes that Dylan had running through his head.

2000: OCMS - Cumberland Gap
from Greetings From Wawa (out of print)
The original Old Crow recording of a tune that would carry them to folk/bluegrass popularity.

2001: OCMS - Wagon Wheel
from Troubles Up & Down The Road [EP] (out of print)
Another version of the song Ketch re-worked, this time with a swing-country feel.

2004: OCMS - Wagon Wheel
from Old Crow Medicine Show
The version most of you have probably heard. Their self-titled debut is stellar, so go get it yourself.

2005: Against Me! - Wagon Wheel
from PROTECT: A Benefit for the National Association to Protect Children
A band of Punk Rockers slow their pace to cover Ketch's version of the tune.

2007: Jason Webley & Reverend Peyton - Rock Me Mama
from 2 Bottles of Wine (out of print)

This one is really cool. In the Dylan bootleg, he sings a verse, but it is nearly inaudible. Jason Webley took what was barely heard and created a whole new song out of it.

If i missed one that you know about, hit me up.....

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

New Digs.....

This past weekend i got to let off some steam and relax whilst floating the Guadalupe River with some friends. For those not familiar with how you float a river - well.... you sit in an inner-tube connected to a chocked-full ice chest and let the river do the grunt work.
While down there, i stocked this new computer up with a stash of new tunes - some ripped off from friends, and some i bought.

i've mentioned how i buy a lot of my music from before. The store's home base is in the quaint hill country town of Gruene, TX. If you're ever in that neck of the woods, go in -----> cool people and free beer (and sometimes cd's).......

While i sort out all this new music (and, if i can get to it... my life), here's a sampling of some the best so far:


mp3: The Replacements - Can't Hardly Wait

mp3: Bob Dylan - Who Killed Davey Moore?

mp3: Travis Linville - Hard Knocks
buy See You Around (2008)

mp3: Hayes Carll - Wild As A Turkey
buy Trouble In Mind (2008)
for jojo.

i had always seen The Jayhawks mentioned with the likes of Uncle Tupelo and Whiskeytown as being big players at the start of the alt-country scene, and picked up a track or two, but never really listened to 'em. At the lonestarmusic store, i picked up their last album, Rainy Day Music, and was immediately blown away.
i still can't find a song to skip, but try these on......

mp3: The Jayhawks - All The Right Reasons
mp3: The Jayhawks - One Man's Problem

Monday, June 2, 2008

Exclusive: The Kites.....

The Kites
Carousel Lounge - Austin, TX

Got some exclusive tracks here.

The Kites are a band out of Austin. i'm a little biased when it comes to these guys, so i'm not gonna say a lot.

It's sad folk music. It's groovy alt-country. It's greasy Rock N Roll.

mp3: Surely a Queen
mp3: Sweet Emma & My Lucky Coin
mp3: Like A Canyon
mp3: Down on 24th Street
mp3: Bear Mountain

Levy Johnson writes, sings, plays guitar and piano. John Logan fills in with guitar and harmonies. Cody Johnson provides the thump while Buzzy Wendtland bangs skins.

Check out their Myspace.

Leave a comment if you dig it.