The Back Roads of Indiana

IMG_4868The tires couldn’t spin fast enough as I pulled out of Kentucky. Just after loading up on coffee and chocolate chip cookies at Please & Thank You, my favorite record-store-cum-bakery-and-café, I headed north on a course made of winding country roads, and headed for home. And then, a strange thing happened. Somewhere in Southern Indiana, where I spent four years of a college education mostly trying to outdrive my youth, I was stopped dead in my tracks, staring at a horse that — no kidding — I’d met before.

While in college, I’d ride a bicycle all over these backroads, sometimes with a buddy, but mostly alone, usually around 50 miles at a clip, but sometimes up to a century or more. When I could, I rode longer on a sunny Sunday not unlike the one I was experiencing. I’d pack a portable CD player with a fresh mix of tunes I’d compiled that week, and I’d stuff it in my jersey pocket, along with a few Powerbars and a carrot or two for sustenance. And every now and then, I’d stumble onto this horse.

Indiana (7 of 8)Magical. It was a mottled white horse with a big black birthmark and bit of gray at the tip of his snout. If I hadn’t already scarfed it down, I’d pull the carrot from my pocket and gently call for the horse. Well, on this road trip, I didn’t have a carrot, but I did have a camera. Felt wrong to steal so many photos of someone’s pride-and-joy. And yet, I marveled that I didn’t recall doing it before, while in college. After dealing with that, I called for the horse, and we spent about five minutes reconnecting as though not a day had passed.

Indiana (8 of 8)Finding that horse, more than a decade on, put me in an altogether contemplative mood, and so as I revved the car’s engine, I was transported back to a time when things were simpler, when life was ahead of me — rather than all around me. I remember those bike rides fondly, the inner dialogue I’d have with myself, thinking I had to figure everything out right then and there, on this county route. I was hell-bent on solving all life’s problems. And so it was, while driving a rental car from Louisville to Chicago, I had the wild notion to create the perfect playlist for a meandering drive through some Indiana backroads. What follows is the fruits of that labor. These are songs I’ve been listening to virtually nonstop since that fateful day last fall. They took me — quite literally — from Louisville to Chicago, with several stops to revisit old haunts, old memories, old loves. It’s my hope you’ll take these tunes and apply them to your own slow and introspective road trip. And maybe, as I’ve found, you won’t even need the road for the rumination.

Indiana Days
1) Harry Jackson – Morning Grub-Holler
2) Marion Summer – Lost Indian
3) Willie Nelson – Whiskey River (Live at the Texas Opry House)
4) Rory Block, Stefan Grossman – Crow Jane
5) Paul Simon – Rewrite
6) Emmylou Harris, Rodney Crowell – Bluebird Wine
7) Rodney Crowell – Leaving Louisiana in the Broad Daylight
8) Emmylou Harris – New Cut Road (Live)
9) Guy Clark – Come From the Heart
10) Ryan Adams – Lucky Now (Live)
11) Lyle Lovett – Loretta
12) John Prine – That’s The Way The World Goes Round
13) Fleetwood Mac – Never Going Back Again
14) Levon Helm – Kingfish
15) Aretha Franklin – Good Times
16) Aretha Franklin – The House That Jack Built
17) Wilson Pickett – Toe Hold
18) Jerry Reed – Amos Moses
19) Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose – Treat Her Like a Lady
20) Jackson 5 – Doctor My Eyes
21) Lee Dorsey – Yes We Can
22) Jeff Lynee – Mercy, Mercy
23) Don Covay – I’ll Be Satisfied
24) The Meters – Here Comes The Meter Man
25) Eddie Harris – Get On Up And Dance
26) The Silvertones – True Confession
27) Clifton Chenier – One Step At A Time
28) Richard Berry – Louie, Louie
29) Ornette Coleman – Ramblin’
30) The Doc Watson Family – Down the Road
31) Lucinda Williams – Ramblin’ on My Mind
32) Dwight Yoakam – Nothing’s Changed Here (Acoustic)
33) Dwight Yoakam – Train In Vain
34) 7Horse – Meth Lab Zoso Sticker
35) Steve Earle – Hometown Blues
36) Bobby Horton – Dogue Creek
37) J.J. Cale – Golden Ring
38) John Martyn – May You Never
39) Marvin Gaye – Need Your Lovin’ (Want You Back)
40) Tim O’Brien, Darrell Scott, John Prine – Paradise
41) Eric Clapton – That’s No Way To Get Along
42) Lane Hardin – Hard Time Blues
43) Dave Van Ronk – St. Louis Tickle

Indiana Nights
1) Waylon Jennings – Gold Dust Woman
2) Little Feat – Roll Um Easy
3) The Band – Atlantic City
4) John Mayer – Call Me The Breeze
5) Heartless Bastards – Only For You
6) Allah-Las – Long Journey
7) Willie Nelson & Tom Petty – Goodnight Irene
8) Rodney Crowell – When the Blue Hour Comes
9) Linda Ronstadt – I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight
10) The Soul Searchers & Jake Wade – Searching For Soul – Pt. 1
11) Average White Band – Your Love Is A Miracle
12) Funkadelic – Can You Get To That
13) The Impressions – Fool For You
14) Tony Joe White – Hard to Handle
15) The Shouting Matches – Seven Sisters
16) Joe Cocker – Living in the Promiseland
17) Feist, Constantines – Islands in the Stream
18) David Byrne – I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Live on Austin City Limits)
19) The Be Good Tanyas – When Doves Cry
20) Dottie West – Last Time I Saw Him
21) Barbara Lynn – You’ll Lose A Good Thing
22) Irma Thomas – Ruler of My Heart
23) Jackie Moore – Precious, Precious
24) Freddie King – Going Down
25) Minutemen – Cohesion
26) Glen Hansard – Drive All Night (featuring Eddie Vedder & Jake Clemons)
27) Billy Bragg – Swallow My Pride
28) Willie Nelson – Night Life (Live)
29) Little Feat – On Your Way Down
30) Neil Young – Don’t Let It Bring You Down (Live at The Cellar Door)
31) Neil Young – See The Sky About To Rain (Live at The Cellar Door)
32) Dr. John – Gris-Gris Gumbo Ya Ya
33) The Coasters – Down in Mexico
34) Shovels & Rope – Hail Hail
35) John Mellencamp – Paper in Fire
36) Roscoe Holcomb – In the Pines
37) The Blind Boys of Alabama w. Justin Vernon – Every Grain of Sand
38) Bruce Springsteen – Pony Boy
39) Robert Parker – Barefootin’
40) Derek & The Dominos – Blues Power (Live for The Johnny Cash Show)
41) Eric Clapton – Double Trouble
42) Genuine Spares – Proper Stranger
43) Sophie Zelmani – Most of the Time
44) Neil Young – Pardon My Heart
45) Johnny Thunder – Teach Me Tonight
46) Otis Redding – It’s Too Late
47) Johnny Cash – Wayfaring Stranger
48) The Dominoes – Sixty Minute Man
49) Lester Young, Nat King Cole, Buddy Rich – I Cover The Waterfront – Take Two
50) Wayne Shorter – Deluge
51) Wayne Shorter – House of Jade
52) Ry Cooder – Dark End of the Street
53) Jeff Beck – Sleepwalk
54) Levon Helm – Anna Lee
55) John Martyn – Over the Hill
56) Willie Nelson – I’d Have to Be Crazy (featuring Steven Fromholz)
57) Richard Strauss – Four Songs, Op. 27: IV. Morgen
58) Fred McDowell – Keep Your Lamps Trimmed and Burning

Merry Christmax & Happy Neu Jeers

ChristmaxMerry Christmax & Happy Neu Jeers

Last year, I shared The Holidays Are All Plaidout. This year is a bit different. I began a playlist on December 26th of 2012, adding to it songs I’d hear, songs I’d read about throughout the year that reminded me of Christmas or of New Year’s Eve. The edited list includes many new discoveries and other songs like Joni Mitchell’s “River” or The Zombies’ “This Will Be Our Year” which have not appeared on a Christmas mix of mine. Speaking of, in addition to last year’s list, using Spotify I have also created a mix I shared with friends in 2005 of my family’s favorite Christmas songs, another mix of true Christmas Classics (all of these songs appeared in the Billboard Top Ten upon their initial release), an unedited list of music for New Year’s Eve Parties, and of course a mix of Christmas music sung by Willie Nelson, who, it turns out, may actually be Santa Claus.

This mix lacked a title until a couple days ago when I mistakenly typed “Merry Christmax” in an e-mail. With that, I give you this year’s slightly edited playlist of holiday tunes, broken up into suites.

Merry Christmax & Happy Neu Jeers

A Country Christmas Suite
1) Buck Owens – Santa Looked A Lot Like Daddy
2) Loretta Lynn – Country Christmas
3) Peter Rowan – Christmas Time’s A-Coming
4) John Hiatt – Wintertime Blues
5) Alabama – Christmas in Dixie
6) The Everly Brothers – Christmas Eve Can Kill You
7) Elvis Presley – Santa Claus Is Back In Town
8) Merle Haggard – Goin’ Home For Christmas
9) Tammy Wynette – Blue Christmas
10) George Jones and Gene Watson – Silver Bells
11) Johnny Doe – Go Tell It On The Mountain
12) Dick Dale – It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas
13) Townes Van Zandt – Snowin’ on Raton
14) John Prine – A John Prine Christmas
15) Robert Earl Keen – Merry Christmas From The Family
16) Hayes Carll – Grateful For Christmas
17) Willie Nelson – December Days
18) Tim O’Brien – Christ Was Born in Bethlehem

The Strings Suite
19) Jorma Kaukonen – Downhill Sleighride
20) Earl Scruggs – Jingle Bells
21) Elizabeth Cotten – New Year’s Eve
22) John Fahey – Irish Medley
23) John Fahey – Joy to the World
24) Branches – Holy, Holy, Holy
25) Early Music New York – New-Year’s Eve

A Sprinkling of Jazz and Soul Suite
26) Vince Guaraldi Trio – Greensleeves
27) Russell Malone – O Christmas Tree
28) Ray Charles – The Snow Is Falling
29) Bobby Darin – Christmas Auld Lang Syne
30) Ella Fitzgerald – The Secret of Christmas
31) Shirley Horn, Dimitri Tiomkin, & John Wallowitch – Come a Little Closer / Wild is the Wind
32) Otis Redding – White Christmas
33) The Swan Silvertones – Great Day in December
34) Victoria Spivey – I Ain’t Gonna Let You See My Santa Claus
35) Rev. J.M. Gates – Gettin’ Ready for Christmas Day
36) Carla Thomas – All I Want For Christmas Is You
37) Leon Redbone – Christmas Island
38) Dion – Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree
39) Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings – Ain’t No Chimneys in the Projects
40) Over The Rhine – All I Ever Get For Christmas Is Blue

A Suite of Baez
41) Joan Baez – Ave Maria
42) Joan Baez – Christmas In Washington

The Twee Suite
43) Catherine Feeny – The Christmas Song
44) The Head And The Heart – Winter Song
45) Oh, Starling – Come
46) Hey Rosetta! – Carry Me Home
47) Sleeping At Last – Snow
48) Birdy – White Winter Hymnal
49) Ray LaMontagne – Winter Birds
50) Iron & Wine – Winter Prayers
51) The Dodos – Winter
52) The Civil Wars – I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day
53) Eef Barzelay – Joy to the World
54) Justin Jones – Christmas Night
55) The Lower Lights – Oh Come, All Ye Faithful
56) Beta Radio – The Song the Season Brings
57) Summer Fiction – Christmas Eve for Two
58) Camera Obscura – The Blizzard
59) Blitzen Trapper – Christmas Is Coming Soon!
60) Great Lake Swimmers – Gonna Make It Through This Year
61) Voxtrot – Warmest Part of the Winter
62) The Felice Brothers – Murder by Mistletoe
63) Glen Hansard and Mark Geary – Christmas Biscuits
64) Zach Gill – Silent Night
65) Gordon Lightfoot – Song For A Winter’s Night
66) Leona Naess – Christmas
67) Fiona Apple – Frosty the Snowman
68) Bahamas – Christmas Must Be Tonight

Some Favorites Suite
69) Jimi Hendrix – Little Drummer Boy / Silent Night / Auld Lang Syne
70) Prince – Another Lonely Christmas
71) Prince – A Case of You
72) Joni Mitchell – River
73) The Chieftains and Jackson Browne – The Rebel Jesus
74) Regina Spektor – My Dear Acquaintance
75) The Zombies – This Will Be Our Year

Season’s Greetings to you and yours. Between now and New Year’s, raise as many glasses as humanly possible with the ones you love.

The Johnny Cash Christmas Show, 1977

My newest holiday tradition: watching The Johnny Cash Christmas Show, circa 1977.

AV Club’s Undercover Summer Break with METZ


At one point, someone leaned over to me and said, “What song is this?” Not knowing, and not able much to tell as everything was being fed into the monitors and not so much the speakers, I simply shrugged my shoulders and said, “It’s the song of the summer, man.”

I’m grateful to the folks at AV Club for inviting me to bear witness to the insanely cool rock ‘n roll being made by Canada’s own METZ (All Caps, All the Time). Their bone-crushed cover of The Damned’s “Neat Neat Neat” is melt-your-face-on-a-hot-summer’s-day good.

Thanks, too, to the good folks at Parson’s Chicken & Fish for loading me up with Negroni slushies first thing on a Sunday morning.

Five bucks to the first person to spot me in the video.

JJ Cale

Saddened to learn of the death of one of rock’s great songwriters, JJ Cale. In addition to writing tunes for the likes of Lynyrd Skynyrd, Waylon Jennings and Tom Petty, he’s perhaps best known for having penned Eric Clapton’s hits “After Midnight” and “Cocaine.”

I had the unique opportunity to see him perform in New York City several years ago, and in the middle of his performance of several of his hits for others, I was thrilled that he made time in his set to play my favorite of his tunes, “Crazy Mama.”

He performs it here with friend and fellow Tulsa, Oklahoma native Leon Russell.

###

His obituary in the New York Times.

His official website.

An interview with Cale on NPR.

Guy Clark

Guy Clark sings “My Favorite Picture of You.”

When I’d come home from college with a new mix tape for the three-hour drive in my Jeep, at some point on the visit, I would pick up my high school girlfriend for a catch-up over lunch or dinner or coffee or drinks. She’d dig her fingers into my dad’s hand-me-down sheepskin seat covers. Over the car speakers, Guy Clark would croon “Oh, Susanna, don’t you cry, babe. Love’s a gift that surely handmade,” and she’d smile and scoff, “I thought you didn’t like country music,” a reference to my poohpoohing The Dixie Chicks* while we were still together.

“This? This is different. This is real.”

Towards the end of my sophomore year of college, one of my mentors handed me a photocopy of a bunch of short stories from the singer-songwriter Steve Earle, saying something to the effect of, “Here. This is what you’re trying to do,” referring to my piss-poor attempts to write stories of the American West. Also, it didn’t hurt that the girl I had a crush on at the time was really into Steve Earle.

By the time I was a junior, in effort to channel Mr. Earle, I might have been found walking around campus with a giant afro and sideburns, wearing bell bottoms and a pearl snap, a shiny, vintage pair of pointy-toed cordovan cowboy boots, and amber colored aviators. I most likely had a guitar case at my side.

Guy and Susanna Clark

But this is a story about Guy Clark.
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Questlove’s Mo’ Meta Blues

Mo Meta Blues

The Roots’ drummer Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson has just released Mo’ Meta Blues, his memoir which serves several functions. Part historical retelling of his life, growing up the son of Lee Andrews of the doo-wop group, Lee Andrews & The Hearts, part autobiographical discography — in addition to his encyclopedic recounting of the music in his life, the guy is a massive Prince fan — and part self-effacing recounting of several, what he calls, “Forrest Gump moments” in his life. Through various opportunities, first as the drummer for “the last great hip hop band” and now as the house band for Jimmy Fallon’s Late Night program, Quest has found himself at several of history’s focal points. As he points out on Fresh Airwhen President Obama slow-jammed the news, a segment in which Fallon hypes the news being read — typically by NBC’s Brian Williams — that though the event was a big deal, he’s learned to curb his enthusiasm. “I don’t mourn the bad. I don’t celebrate the good. Just walk forward.”
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Rick Rubin

Rubin 2Legendary record producer Rick Rubin made Kanye West’s Yeezus, which took over at number one on the Billboard charts this month for another Rubin production, 13Black Sabbath’s first album in thirty-five years. Andrew Romano, senior writer for Newsweek and recent contributor to the Things My Father Taught Me, explained in his interview with Rubin, “Few, if any, other producers have ever managed such a feat.”

Like anyone my age, you too are a Rick Rubin fan. As the title to Romano’s piece suggests, “You listen to this man every day.” As I read his piece, I recalled when I first heard of Rubin.
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Bobbie Gentry

Screen Shot 2013-06-24 at 10.36.02 AMIn the fall of 2002, cast as Doc Porter in a college production of Beth Henley’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play, Crimes of the Heart, I received the following note from our director:

Go make a mix tape for your cast-mates.

What a gem of an assignment. Because the play takes place in Henley’s hometown of Hazelhurst, Mississippi in 1974, I spent a week researching music that would’ve emanated from the area’s popular music radio stations in the summer and fall of 1974, and — in addition to discovering that one of my favorite songs, Rufus & Chaka’s “Tell Me Something Good,” was the most-played song in Mississippi that year — on these smelly, old microfiche copies of handwritten playlists from a Jackson radio station, I discovered the smokey-voiced, insouciant, beautifully crafted songs of Bobbie Gentry.
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The 30th Anniversary of Huey Lewis & The News’ Sports

Huey-Lewis-rolling-stone-cover
In the past month, something has happened. Something that I never saw coming. Huey Lewis is in the news again.
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