Very nice piece in today's Star Tribune. Man do I miss Minnesota.
1 Bruce Springsteen 1,622
2 Wilco 1,157
3 Son Volt 951
4 Eels 758
5 Townes Van Zandt 575
6 Tim Easton 525
7 Richard Buckner 511
8 Damien Jurado 469
8 Bonnie "Prince" Billy 469
10 Josh Ritter 452
11 Neko Case 403
12 Nick Drake 383
13 Jay Farrar & Benjamin Gibbard 371
14 Bob Dylan 339
15 Josh Rouse 329
16 Neil Young 320
17 The Gourds 300
18 Chip Robinson 262
19 Joe Henry 259
20 Uncle Tupelo 257
21 Slobberbone 250
22 Okkervil River 237
23 Leonard Cohen 225
24 The Magnetic Fields 222
25 Thao 214
26 Yo La Tengo 212
27 Arcade Fire 197
28 The Beatles 190
29 Big Star 187
29 Steve Earle 187
29 Sam Cooke 187
32 Johnny Cash 182
33 Andrew Bird 172
33 John Prince 172
35 Brakes 169
36 M. Ward 166
37 Matthew Ryan 160
37 Nathan Moore 160
39 Pernice Brothers 159
40 The Handsome Family 156
Edward Kennedy, 77
Jim Dickinson, 67
An incredibly rewarding morning. A few weeks ago, I submitted two photos to the New York Times for its upcoming feature Documenting the Decade. This morning, the feature went live and both of my photos made it. I don't know if the review process was strict or lax, but whatever the case, it's an absolute honor to see my photos on their site.
My photos can be found within the March 2004 (the 12th) and August 2008 (the 17th) sections.
Jim O'Rourke entered Jeff Tweedy's recording life at the exact right time. Not only did he help in putting beautiful touches on Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, but he opened up Tweedy to a world of sounds and exploration that changed the way Tweedy played and viewed music. Tweedy and O'Rourke's side project, Loose Fur, released their self-titled debut in 2003, and although it's a mixed bag, Tweedy offered up one of the best songs he's ever written. Formerly known as "Not For the Season," when performed by Wilco or Tweedy solo, Jeff and Jim renamed it "Laminated Cat" for its official release. The more passive Tweedy/Wilco fans may not know that some of Jeff's best songs bypassed both Wilco and Uncle Tupelo. Songs such as this one, "Blasting Fonda" (Feeling Minnesota soundtrack), "Please Tell My Brother" (Golden Smog) and "The Family Gardener" (The Minus 5) represent just a sampling of the fantastic songs that are a bit hidden. But "Laminated Cat" is on a completely different plane.
A unified theory of everything
Love left over from lovers leaving
Books, they all know they're not worth reading
They're not worth reading
I took the above shot during Golden Smog's cover of the Split Enz tune "I Got You." This raucous affair of the self-proclaimed "stupor-ground," was one of the most memorable shows I saw while living in NYC. Golden Smog was comprised of Gary Louris (The Jayhawks), Jeff Tweedy (Uncle Tupelo/Wilco), Dan Murphy (Soul Asylum), Kraig Johnson (Run Westy Run), Marc Perlman (The Jayhawks) and Jody Stephens (Big Star). I don't care what they call(ed) themselves, that's one hell of a superground if I've ever seen one. They were friends, some of the most important musicians of the time, a number of the forefathers of the alt.country "scene," and shit, they were just a blast.
Today I was able to locate their performance at The Paradise in Boston three nights later. And here it is for your download. Enjoy it.
Golden Smog @ The Paradise, Boston, MA, 12.8.98
12. Looking Forward To Seeing You
13. Ill Fated
14. Won't Be Coming Home
15. Lost Love
16. Signed D.C. (Love cover)
17. White Shell Road
18. To Call My Own
19. Glad and Sorry (Faces cover)
21. Walk Where He Walked
23. I Can't Keep From Talking
24. Jennifer Save Me
25. Pecan Pie
26. Fooled Around and Fell in Love (Elvin Bishop Cover)
27. If I Only Had a Car
28. All the Same To Me
29. Until You Came Along
30. Radio King
31. Please Tell My Brother
33. Revolution Blues (Neil Young cover)
In a few days another decade will close. In usual fashion, I will probably be asleep an hour or two before the ball drops in Times Square. Oh wait, I'll probably be awake for that, but I'll be sacked out by the time it hits midnight out west. Or I'll be reading, listening to alt.country or maybe flossing.
This has been a crazy year, though I guess that can be said for most years. But this year has felt even more dramatic and full of changes, shifts, anxieties, and on and on, than years past. And I mean this on a grander scale. Many friends and loved ones have gone through very trying times, as has what seems like the whole planet.
Now that all the lists are done (I think), I'll just note some things that I remember and that made this year, well, 2009:
- I read somewhere that our friendships change up approximately every seven years. While this may be somewhat true, I can point to a number of friendships that have now reached three decades. To Bob and Dave, I do feel blessed. From Bob's driveway to the G to all the Son Volt shows, we're now mid-30s and still great friends. Buries that seven-year rule.
- The inauguration of Barack Hussein Obama. We've had some disagreements Mr. President, but I'm still behind you.
- The music. What an incredible year for discovery. 2009 releases may have been a bit light, but I have discovered so much excellent music from years past and rediscovered old favorites. Artists that played a huge personal role in my life: Tim Easton, Townes Van Zandt, Blaze Foley, Eels.
- Thank you to Mohammed for not turning Fillmore Grind into some crap coffee shop. It's my second home.
- Photography. I've never enjoyed it more than I do now.
- San Francisco. I've finally fallen for you. And it had to happen when I'm thinking that my time here may be coming to a close. Can't say for sure, though. Whatever happens, it's been a beautiful and incredibly enriching place to live.
- Animal Care & Control. You people do great work. Thank you for letting play a small role.
- My trips back east. I always feel at home. Thanks DB, SC, SH, SW, BM, LB and all the rest. Oh, and thanks to damn Springsteen.
- Support. Many of you have helped me through some of the crazy changes, disappointments and personal mistakes. Thank you.
- My sister. I am very proud of you.
- Records. I'm just getting started.
- The Yanks. Eh, you had to spend $900 million, but thanks for the title. It was a blast.
- Books. Man I've read some great ones this year.
- Getting close. 2010 will be the year that I release my novel and collection of photographs. I hope one or two of you will get something out of one or both.
- Lyrics. They've gotten me through so much.
- Everyone else in my life. You know who you are and I wouldn't be where I am without you. You all give me strength, clear my vision and help me to put things into perspective. And you never fail at it. Thank you.
Thank you to Andrew Sullivan of The Atlantic for providing so much powerful footage and information. His blog, The Daily Dish, is listed to the right under my favorite blogs. I highly recommend reading.
Michael Appleton for The New York Times
This image seems to sum up the year of 2009. With two wars burning, an economy near collapse, corruption and lies burying the executive branch of our government, Barack Obama, a 47-year-old African-American man took over as the 44th president of the United States. On the day that he took the helm, it was as if not only all Americans, but people the world over looked to Obama to help get us all back on track. From world peace to the environment and corporate greed to health care at home, a deflated country turned to this young man to lead the way.
The results are still uncertain, but the spirit of what his election brought to many of us won't soon be forgotten.
eMusic is a major destination for music afficionados and those looking to actually "keep" their music, as opposed to fans who go the way of streaming services (many do both). I've been a subscriber since 2005 and I've generally been very happy. Although they upped the price nearly 50% in the past year after adding "premium" content, most of which is not appealing to their audience (obvious exceptions (Springsteen, Dylan, etc.)), I still get 50 downloads for $20/month. That's about $5/record. But keep in mind, despite the "indie" feel of the site, eMusic is owned by JDS Capital, not exactly the kinda fellas you're going to see pouring cash into the jukebox at Great Lakes in Brooklyn.
These things can happen fast, or they can take months or years, but given the current climate, similar companies have been gobbled up with little notice. imeem was swept up by MySpace for a few bucks, lala seemed to make out okay with iTunes and who knows who's next. But if you're a subscriber, and especially if you've been so for a long time, I'd get those tracks on a hard drive asap. As imeem users know, the service can disappear in an instant.
Or you can be like me: Get it all on a hard drive and go back to buying physical.
On a lazy Sunday afternoon, I was looking through documentaries on Netflix when I came upon this spectacular yet horrifying documentary. Errol Morris' 1988 masterpiece documents the erroneous conviction of Randall Adams for killing a Dallas police officer. At one point, Adams was within 72 hours of being executed, yet the United States Supreme Court began the lengthy process of saving his life. One year following the release of the film, the case was reviewed and Adams was exonerated. And the state of Texas, through corruption (really, Texas is corrupt?), false testimony and a testosterone-fueled district attorney nearly put this man to death for doing absolutely nothing. George W. Bush should watch this film. And Errol Morris has paid a lifelong deed to society.
A must see, no matter where you sit on the issue of capital punishment.
The words, the lights, the string section, the brevity, the spirituality. "In a rainbow, in the sky, in the middle of the night, but the signal's coming through, one day I will be alright again," Everett assures us. And as the strings pick up, you can't help but believe in his words.
"Wooden Nickels" Eels
"Walt Whitman's Bridge" Marah
"Barstow" Jay Farrar
"Rose Parade" Elliott Smith
"So. Central Rain" REM
"Make Me a Pallet On Your Floor" Gillian Welch
"From the Morning" Nick Drake
"Colorado Girl" Townes Van Zandt
"You Love Me" Devotchka
"Settled Down Like Rain" The Jayhawks
"Black Cowboys" Bruce Springsteen
"The Family Gardener" The Minus 5
"Spirit" The Go-Betweens
"Back Into Your World" Son Volt
"A.M. Slow Golden Hit" Hotel Lights
"So Long, Marianne" Leonard Cohen
"I Am Not Willin'" Wilco
"Powderfinger" Neil Young
"Honey Child What Can I Do?" Isobell Campbell/Mark Lanegan
"Baby I" Amy Milan
"Turn Me Loose" Nathan Moore
"Living Proof" Cat Power
"Until the Led" Vic Chesnutt
"Screen Door" Uncle Tupelo
"Written on Every Hour" Mayflies USA
"Here Comes the Sun Again" M. Ward
"Loaded @ the Wrong Door," Richard Buckner
"Valley of Tears" Solomon Burke
"Wall of Death" Richard & Linda Thompson
"Many Rivers To Cross" Jimmy Cliff
"Blasting Fonda" Wilco
"Our Time Has Passed" Pernice Brothers
"Hundred Dollar Pocket" Chappaquiddick Skyline
"Love In Vain" The Rolling Stones
If you're interested in helping Vic's family pay his medical bills, you can donate via Paypal right here. Thank you to Kristin Hersh for setting this up.
If you'd like to hear a recent interview with Vic, where he discusses his insurmountable bills, despite having health insurance, here's the NPR interview. I hate to get political, but I'm going to: If this interview doesn't make your blood boil regarding the state of health "care" in this country nothing will. I won't go so far as to say what I want to say because I clearly don't know all the factors, but I'll just say this: Our current system is responsible for many, many preventable deaths in this country. We need single-payer. Anything short of this is criminal and inhumane. End of story.
According to the New York Times, singer-songwriter Vic Chesnutt has died.
I stepped out of my car last night to meet a friend for dinner and suddenly arrived a text from a friend in New York: "Vic Chesnutt is in a coma." My stomach sank. After not listening to Vic's beautiful music for some time, I listened to 1998's The Salesman and Bernadette about six times this week. If you look to the right, it's been my "Now Playing" for about five days. While browsing the racks at Amoeba yesterday, I actually had his new record At The Cut in my hand, before changing my mind at the last moment.
For those who don't know, Chesnutt has been confined to a wheelchair since the age of 18, following a car accident. Chesnutt's songs have been covered by REM, The Smashing Pumpkins, Garbage and Madonna, to name a few.
Vic Chesnutt was 45.
Alejandro Escovedo : A Man Under the Influence, Deluxe Bourbonitis Edition
Barbara Manning : Lately I Keep Scissors
Dutchess/Duke : Sunset/Sunrise
Waylon Jennings : Are You Ready for the Country
George Jones : My Very Special Guests
Arcade Fire : Neon Bible
Bruce Springsteen : Chimes of Freedom
Buck Owens & The Buckaroos : Roll Out the Carpet
Bruce Springsteen : Dream Baby Dream
Gavin Bryars : The Sinking of the Titanic (1969-)
The Cairo Gang / Emmett Kelly
Apologies again. I hope those early reports of his passing were false.
15 Deep Water (2006)
14 Finding Nemo (2003)
13 Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001)
12 21 Grams (2003)
11 Good Night and Good Luck (2005)
10 No Direction Home (2005)
9 American Splendor (2003)
8 Requiem for a Dream (2000)
7 Mystic River (2003)
6 Lost In Translation (2003)
5 High Fidelity (2000)
4 Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
3 The Wrestler (2008)
2 Sideways (2004)
1 You Can Count on Me (2000)
"The same old thing over and over again is kinda self-defeating," howls Dave Bielanko on the opening track to Marah's phenomenal 1998 release Let's Cut the Crap and Hook Up Later on Tonight. Yes, different decade and different artist, but the message rings the same. Over ten years ago, as I fell madly in love with Marah, that line had little impact on me, but I did remember it. With age and a bit of wisdom, that line, and perhaps to a greater degree, the Tim Easton song I mention here, offer messages that even the deepest introspection may fail to locate. Easton's clearly talking about alcohol and drug abuse, but this could really apply to anything. Perhaps it's a destructive relationship or friendship, maybe it is booze, or maybe it's something else that's gripped you and just won't let go. There's a time when you have to let go, even with the knowledge that the immediate and near pain could be nearly impossible to bear. But somewhere in the depths you know it's time to bid farewell. And when you find your way out, you hope that the wounds that remain remind you of the courage of the fight.
This fine pup is Essex. I played with him for about an hour in the backyard of Animal Care & Control this afternoon. Amazingly, he has been at the shelter since October. Why? I really have no idea. He is happy, fun, gentle and goes absolutely manic when you play ball with him. If I'd stop for a bit, after dropping the ball at my feet, he'd pick it back up and put it on my lap. When I went to leash him and bring him inside he had no problem with it. On his kennel door there is a note about him needing some sort of medication but his problem is under control and is not contagious to other dogs or people. Just a wonderful dog.
The above photo is his pose while he's waiting for me to chuck the ball.
If you're interested, Animal Care & Control is located at 1200 15th Street (at Alabama). Their phone number is (415) 554-6364.
And, of course, there are many more dogs and cats available, all of whom need homes. I will be back later in the week. And my honest hope is that Essex is not there, because that will mean that someone's taken him home.
I'm only 14 songs into disc one and I may be ready to declare this the best box set I own. The alternate takes of "Give Me Another Chance," "My Life is Right" and others are simply breathtaking. Many could very well outdo the versions that made it onto the official releases. And the liner notes are wholly comprehensive and tell the story of a band that never, ever got its due. Had Big Star not experienced so many problems on the label and distribution fronts, they could have been the biggest band in the world. These songs are that good.
When considering the other phenomenal box sets I own, I'd point to the following:
The Faces Five Guys Walk Into a Bar
Anthology of American Folk Music
George Jones The Spirit of Country
But this Big Star set is just a gem. If only Chris Bell were around to see this. I can only hope that he'd be proud. What an amazing band.
I love this song more for its longing for days past more than anything else. I know I'm romanticizing a world/life that's mostly gone, but it's hard to not feel nostalgic for these times. This is probably why I'm drawn to songwriters like Hank Williams, Nick Drake, Bob Dylan and even contemporary throwbacks like Richard Buckner and Jeff Tweedy. I can watch The Grapes of Wrath over and over and I feel at home in the worlds of Faulkner and Russo. I guess I wish we lived in simpler times, and on this sweet folk song, Nathan Moore wishes for the same.
Re: Robert Byrd
You must be a very unhappy and angry man to say such a thing about a 92-year-old man. He's fighting to *help* the American people and you wish harm on him. What a sad and heartless thing to say. How on earth you found your way into our government is beyond me.
Oh, and your hair is absolutely ridiculous.
One of my favorite musicians, Tim Easton, lives in Joshua Tree, California. About a year ago, N and I took a trip to Joshua Tree and one plan (well, my plan) was to see Tim play with the All-Stars. As we sat at the bar talking to the bartender, we noticed that Tim was absent. Turns out, the bartender was Tim's wife. She told us that he was home sick and couldn't make it that night. A few days later, I blogged about my trip to Joshua Tree and Tim commented apologizing for missing us. I'd never met him before, but this suggested he's probably a good fella.
A few days ago, Tim and his wife saved the above adorable pup from what appeared to be a living hell. Instead of trying to take pieces and make a story, I'll just share Tim's words.
From Tim Easton:
The story of this dog's former owner is too harsh to tell. He lives with us now. Surgery for his broken leg and subsequent neutering will cost over $1000. Any assistance is appreciated...send it to KATIE SHAW P.O. Box 1976 Joshua Tree, CA 92252 Thanks.
As he said in another note, even $5 - $10 will be a huge help.
I think it was 2003 or so when I saw Rouse play back-to-back shows at the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan. My girlfriend at the time was an enormous fan, and when they allowed us to stay for the second show, without paying a second ticket price, she was thrilled. And that night we heard "Michigan." Rouse recorded so many beautiful songs throughout the 2000s, but it's "Michigan" that rounds out Rouse's spirit as a writer. He's always had a keen understanding of people's emotions, and this song captures one person's need to leave a town that won't accept him. The visuals this song creates are nearly impossible to miss.
Thanks, mom. Merry Christmas!
, originally uploaded by ccsbandwagon.
As we witnessed another decade of war ravaging the Middle East, Steve Earle's "Jerusalem" took an almost unsolveable complex set of issues, religious beliefs, territorial claims and deep-seated hatreds and boiled it down to a simple call for peace. Perhaps it's impossible, but this song offered hope for a region that so desperately needs something to believe in, and something to help foster community, forgiveness and understanding. You just never know.
I have downloaded/traded so many Springsteen shows over the years that some just get lost in the shuffle. Tonight, with iTunes on random, on came a stunning, stripped-down version of "Sherry Darling." I clicked to see where in god's name this was from, and there sat the entire set. This is a pretty amazing show from the Devils & Dust tour, which I think was a pretty breathtaking tour. I saw his May 5, 2005 stop from the first row of the balcony in Oakland and was completely floored.
And since more people need to hear this, well, here you are:
Tunnel of Love
Reason to Believe
Devils & Dust
Long Time Comin'
Part Man, Part Monkey
One Step Up
I Wish I Were Blind
Racing In the Street
Further on Up the Road
Jesus Was An Only Son
It's Hard To Be a Saint in the City
Ain't Got You
The Promised Land
Dream Baby Dream
I've been getting really depressed lately about politics. I was at first depressed because the public option was dying, but now I'm much more depressed because of the anti-Obama frenzy I've been seeing coming from progressives.
I don't know if these progressives are not old enough or simply have chosen to forget the year 2000, but there was a sizable disenchantment on the left with the Democratic mainstream then as well. And it manifested itself as both lack of enthusiasm for Gore and a movement for Nader. The lesson is clear -- if you're not willing to settle for a moderate and fight for a Gore, then you will get eight years of a Bush. I hate to think who that Bush could be in the next cycle.
But, but, but, Obama is so disappointing! Sure. I get it. And we should let him know it. But withdrawing support from Obama? When he has to deal with birthers, and tea partiers, and beckites, and the assorted nuts du jour? It's bound to backfire. There is absolutely no
upside to vitriol against Obama, and there is so much downside. Think of how much better off this country would be if we had a centrist, semi-corporate-friendly Democratic president from 2000 to 2008. Not ideal by a long shot, sure. But we lost so much in those years.
Another Republican future scares me.
The myth of the equivalency of the parties, that it will be easier to make things better if we let them get worse -- these are the most dangerous ideas to us at this point. It's the biggest threat to my hope, at least.
Jokes aside, Howard Dean is one of the only voices on the left speaking the truth. If he ran against Obama for the democratic nomination in 2012, I wouldn't hesitate to back him.
I just found this recording on a good pal's site. And boy is it a find. And the most remarkable thing, personally, is that this show apparently took place on November 9, 1973, two days before I was born. Thanks for the welcome, Townes.
1. Intro 0:29
2. I'll Be Here in the Morning 3:09
3. Cuckoo Song 3:17
4. Hobo Bill 3:06
5. Where I Lead Me 3:13
6. Broke Down Engine Blues 5:12
7. For the Sake of the Song 5:02
8. Nothin' 2:46
9. Talkin' Thunderbird Blues 2:22
10. Pancho and Lefty 3:40
11. Mr. Mudd and Mr Gold 2:35
12. Tecumseh Valley 4:26
13. The Ballad of Irah Hayes 3:58
14. (Quicksilver Daydreams of) Maria 4:21
15. Tying Ten Knots in the Devil's Tail 2:27
This may be the most staggering statistic I've heard since Bush and Wall Street imploded this economy. Fifty percent?!?!??! It's almost unimaginable. How is this city not under 24 hour riot alert? When folks can't feed their kids, themselves, find shelter, etc., how does civic turmoil not ensue? Even as I type this, I can't get that statistic out of my head. This truly sounds like a completely failed city, despite the auto industry bailouts that have helped stabilize some of these companies.
On the home front, sometimes San Francisco doesn't feel far off. I usually spend about one hour every other day walking around different parts of the city taking pictures. Every trip seems to bring on more boarded-up shops, for sale signs and homeless folks sleeping in retail entrances that were open just weeks ago. Although people downtown and venture capitalists are tossing parties, this city, at least while walking its streets, appears to be crumbling. It's widely known that Gavin Newsom is a disaster of a mayor. This week's SF Weekly actually covers Newsom's horrific reign in depth. But any resident of the city can walk just a few blocks and see it all firsthand (above photo was taken on Market Street a few months ago). A stroll through The Tenderloin is a chilling experience, and just about every neighborhood is now touched by desperation, drugs and social services that have been unbelievably poorly managed.
I have rambled. But this story on Detroit has me wondering more and more where we're headed as a country. I know folks who work on Wall Street, and just like the media portrays them, they're all doing just fine. Actually, better than fine. It's the rest of the country that's spiraling, and it's happening at a rapid, rapid pace. When will this turn around? The more frightening question may be, will it turn around?
In ways both good and not so great, this record, and almost to a damn tee, this song, have defined the past six months of my life. I simply can not stop listening to both, no matter the trials and tribulations that may be attached. The most personally I've been impacted by a song in a long, long time. Every single line, while clearly my own interpretation, makes perfect sense to me. It plays the exact role that music and art should play in our lives.
I caught a matinee of Up In the Air this morning. This is, I believe, the first time I've gone to a movie theatre this year. All in all, it's a good movie. Clooney is great and some of the moments of folks losing their jobs and how corporate America is heartless in such matters, are actually quite moving. The writing suffers midway through as it's clear that they're temporarily abandoning a fairly strong/moving script to give you some Hollywood crap, but in the end, it's a good movie. A serious subject turned romantic comedy gets a bit perplexing, but it's better than most of the garbage out there nowadays. Fine, I can't say that because I don't see any of the crap, but it has to be.
I then went to the record store to complete my Son Volt collection and overheard two questions that nearly brought on a brutal panic attack:
"Do you have the deluxe version of the new Alicia Keys album?"
"Have you heard of the Dead Weather, man? You know, Jack White's side project. Do you have that on vinyl?"
The second guy, I almost challenged to a full-on brawl in the elevator.
Given a slew of reasons (fewer paychecks, preferring to sit at home and listen to records/read/take bubble baths, etc.) my nights out in rock clubs decreased pretty significantly in 2009. However, I do believe that this is temporary. There's still nothing as therapeutic and soul-grabbing as a live performance and 2010 will likely see me out much more. Like every year since 1993 or so, I was fortunate enough to see some amazing live shows. I'm probably forgetting some, but off the top of my dome, these are the most memorable:
1 Son Volt @ The Fillmore, San Francisco, CA, 12.9.09
2 Wilco & Okkervil River @ The Berkeley Theatre, Berkeley, CA, 6.27.09
3 Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band @ Giants Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ, 10.3.09
4 Brian Jonestown Massacre @ Coachella, Indio, CA, 4.18.09
5 Damien Jurado @ Bottom of the Hill, San Francisco, CA, 5.5.09
As I continue to lean towards walking away from the game of baseball, I would like to bid farewell to my favorite Yankee of the past few years, Hideki Matsui. A true class act, gentleman, team player and incredibly clutch hitter. #55 will be missed. Good luck out west.