Eight Dollars

I had a long talk with my mother yesterday. Such talks are pretty common as we usually connect every Sunday, but I could tell from the outset that this one would be a fairly long one. There's been a lot going on in our lives, especially on the family front and there was a lot of ground to cover. I told her about an unreal experience I had Friday night. With a lot on my mind and a fair amount of stress weighing me down, I walked into a Polk Street pub at around 6pm. As the bartender handed me a drink, I heard the first notes to Wilco's "Summerteeth," a song that opens to the sounds of birds chirping and a river running. It nailed me. When Jay Bennett's organ came in mid-way through the song, I lost it for a few seconds. It was the most hopeful and dare I say, spiritual moment I've felt in a long, long time. Kinda like that morning on that beach in Ponte Vedre, Florida or that Friday night sitting below a massive starry sky down in Sunnyvale. Yes, it was one of those moments.

Back to the Sunday chat. As we were covering a few upcoming events that have brought on anxiety in my family, I did my best to put things into perspective for my mom. She seemed to be doing ok. Then we talked about Ted Kennedy. A few nuggets about a couple of my cousins came next. On to other family issues, which are ever-present on either my mother or father's side of the family. There's always something that has someone rattled.

But then came a little story about my stepfather's cousin. She's been living alone up in Rhode Island for many years. Due to a number of ailments, she's been on disability for many years and rarely leaves her tiny apartment. From time to time, my mother sends her a little care package. The smallest box of cookies and cashews will make this woman's day, if not month. My mom said that she recently called, and sounding slightly shaken due to nerves, finally found the courage to deliver a small request. She needed eight dollars to get to an appointment in town. Eight dollars. You see, every penny she receives is accounted for and there isn't a spare dime for unplanned costs. She just needed eight bucks. Since she can't make it to the bank, my mom had to send cash. "I hate sending actual cash," mom said, "but I didn't have a choice. I put a ten dollar bill in the mail. I hope it made it." It's amazing what a story like this can do to one's perspective. Not only will it help a distant cousin get to an appointment, but its left a relative she's never even met with a lasting imprint. And it was only eight dollars.

Monday Photo


, originally uploaded by ccsbandwagon.

Sunday Photo


, originally uploaded by ccsbandwagon.

Sixteen Book


Cometbus #52 : The Spirit of St. Louis, by Aaron Elliott, 'Zine, 2009 : 8.3

It Feels So Good When I Stop by Joe Pernice, Fiction, 2009 : 7.7

A Good Man Is Hard To Find


Let's see, Edward Kennedy has spent nearly his entire adult life championing civil rights, education and health care for all Americans. It boggles my mind that these are issues that are still under debate. Every politician in this country should be fighting these fights. This country will sorely miss this man's leadership, heart and unyielding convictions. Rest in peace, Senator.

Out Today


"Your Name Goes on the Front, My Name Goes on the Back"

My friend Eric "Roscoe" Ambel on being produced by the late Jim Dickinson:

In 1990 I was summoned to Memphis, Tennessee to play on Mojo Nixon's first solo record to be titled "Otis". Mojo and his manager Bullethead told me about the record. Mojo had put together his dream band of roots rock guys. John Doe on bass, The late great Country Dick Montana on drums, Bill Davis and myself on guitars. The record would be done at a studio that used to belong to Chips Moman that had been built in a big old purple old firehouse just off of Beale Street downtown.

This was all pretty darned exciting. I knew John Doe from my pre Joan Jett & the Blackhearts Hollywood days and the Del-Lords had done a bunch of shows with Country Dick's Beat Farmers. I'd also seen Dash Rip Rock but hadn't really met Bill Davis. I had been producing some bands in NYC and I was really excited about playing guitar on this record for Mojo. I got a call asking about gear for the sessions. I told 'em I'd bring a Les Paul and my Parsons-White equipped Telecaster. They asked me about amps and I said that if we had a '62 Bassman, a '65 Deluxe Reverb and a 50 Plexi Marshall we should have the basic food groups of the rock and roll amplification very well covered.

The first time I ever saw Mojo he was the guy in the local band when the Del Lords played in San Diego. We had a little tv in our van and we had convinced ourselves the Miami Vice was a fantastic thing. I got out of the van a little into the show and walked into the club to see a possesed rock and roll madman holding court frenetically on stage in a full bunny suit. That was in '84.

Back to the Mojo record. They explained I'd be flown to Memphis and met at the airport. I'd have my own room and I'd be making more money than I'd ever made playing guitar in my life. That and the record would be produced by The Jim Dickinson.

Back then it took a little more work to be a rock and roll fan than it does at this point with 'teh internets' and all, but I was pretty acquainted with a fair amount of the Dickinson cannon (and I mean Cannon) of work but I got filled in on the fine points by my upstairs buddy "The Hound" who was a rock writin', record colectin' DJ. (you can read an amazing piece on Mr. Jim Dickenson written by the hound here). I got the music and the history down and some Dickinson likes and dislikes too and prepared to go to Memphis.

I got there and went straight to the studio. The rest of the band had already been there for a day and had cut a song already. Dickinson told me to have a seat in the control room with him and the engineer Bob "Cruiser" Krusen. I had a guitar in there and started to take some notes on the songs then I got the drift from Dickinson that that wouldn't be needed. I heard that Jim liked to smoke a little weed so before I flew down there I had sourced out 2 bags of the 2 best varieties that I could find in New York City. Jim and the engineer had been nursing a joint so when that one was done I offered to roll one of mine. Turns out my 2 new best friends were the only other guys on the session that liked that stuff so things were pretty comfortable in the control room. I could see that they had the band going pretty good so I continued listening from my position on the couch..... for days. I mean days.

I watched Dickinson (lot of people called Jim "Dickinson" it wasn't a sports thing, it was a name) work the band. He had a blackboard out there in the studio and they'd work up the arrangement of the songs with the map on the big blackboard. They'd keep the first track that didn't have any huge fuck ups and maybe do one more. We'd stop and have a break, stories would be told (relevant ones weather you knew it at the time or not) then it was back to work. I'd heard stuff about Dickinson's producing usually including his one Shakespearian "Freakout" but there was no freakout on this one.

I sure as hell got to hear some good rants and raves in the control room. One in particular was his rant on "Co-Production". Jim was going off about what fucking egotistical insult and waste of time it was for an artist to "Co-Produce" their own record. He said it was never a good idea and that whenever anybody asked he just told 'em "Your name goes on the front, My name goes on the back"

A couple years later I was at my parents house in Illinois visiting for Christmas talking to Nils Lofgren on the phone about producing his next record that would become "Crooked Line" when he asked me what I though about co-producing. I remembered Dickinson's rant and calmly said "Look Nils, you are gonna write the songs, sing them and play lead guitar. I'm gonna help you make a great record. Your name goes on the front and mine goes on the back". I sorta held my breath until I heard "Ok" come from the other end of the phone.

Ok, so I've been in Memphis for days making the most money ever, sitting in the control room smoking pot and watching this amazing guy make this record come together.

And on the seventh day........ there was a gig. A gig at the Omni New Daisy just a couple blocks away. Jim had me go into the studio with the band and rehearse. In addition to the rest of the guys I was on guitar and Jim was playing keys. We went over did the soundcheck. Jim and I were on the same side of the stage. A couple hours later we did the gig. It was a blast. Memphis was always good for Mojo and this night was really good.

After the gig Dickinson gave everybody the next 2 days off but told me to be at the studio the day after next. I got there and
we ran through all the songs. All the songs that I'd been listening to all the week before from the control room. At the gig playing next to me Jim recognized that I'd heard what everybody else was doing and had pretty much naturally come up with my own part that fit in with what everybody had done.

There was some whacky stuff. At one point they were talking about the harmonies for this song "Big Foot Trucks". Mojo was there and said "Roscoe can sing the high stuff". I went in there and sang my idea which was pretty darn high and I saw Dickinson's face light up. He hit the talkback button and his cracking laugh kept him from speaking for a minute then he was like "That is fucking Great! I haven't heard anything like that since Danny & The Juniors! Can you double it?"

At one point he asked me to do a Hendrix-like fill in the middle of Don Henley Must Die and I really couldn't get it. Just couldn't get it. I'm just not a Hendrix guy. A little later Jim introduced me to his boy Luther who came down to do the Hendrix part. He played it cool. It came out cool.

The day after my overdubs I went back to the couch as some other overdubs were going down. The day after that Dickinson came to the studio with a couple little Supro amps and told us we were gonna be "Blues" today. He showed up with the tiny amps and we were "Blues". After that I was done with all of my stuff but I was invited to stay till the tracking was done, hanging out, making the most dough ever so far for me.

It was a great couple weeks. When I got back to NYC I knew I had been "Produced by Jim Dickinson".
Jim Dickinson got the best out of me.

I kept in touch with Jim Dickinson. Never had the opportunity to work on another record with him but after the Hound and I had opened our bar the Lakeside Lounge in the East Village he called to tell me that his kids had a band and if it was cool he'd like to have them come to NYC to play. He wanted them to play at my place. They had a band called the North Mississippi All Stars. They played at the Lakeside as a duo that first time. Their bass player Chris Chew couldn't make it up to NY. It was a fantastic gig with a great crowd. Cody and Luther played great together then and that was in '96.

Few years later when Jim was putting out his first solo record in a long time he called to see if he could come up and play a gig at the Lakeside with my band as his. That was ridiculously fun. Keith Christopher, Steve Holly and I backed Jim who was playing Wurlitzer and some guitar. I'd heard him refer to both tuning and rehearsal as "Decadent European Concepts" before. We did rehearse the night before but I don't think we played any songs that we played the next night at the gig which turned out to be Jim Dickinson's NYC debut. It was mostly some musical messing around and some stories.

Jim told great stories. After he had been invited to come and play on the Bob Dylan's "Time Out of Mind" he had a few good ones. That record was the first time Bob Dylan had gone back to working with Daniel Lanios after Oh Mercy which was recorded 8 years earlier. Legend has it Bob had gotten into a few rubs with Daniel when the Producer asked him to 'redo' things. Jim and Bob were the same age but had never really met. They'd been on different long, musical roads for years but they had never met and for some reason Bob picked Jim to be part of this particular record. Anyway, they get down to Criteria in Miami with this big band. 2 drummers, 2 bass players, guitar players, keys including Jim. Everybody is getting ready to get it going.

So a Daniel Lanios, the Producer, comes over to Bob to say hello and starts talking to Bob, the artist, about the "plan" for the album. When Daniel stops talking Bob says simply, "You'll have to talk to my friend Jim"

I sure am thankful I got "Produced" by Jim Dickinson.
My heart goes out to his boys Cody and Luther and his lovely wife Mary Lindsay.
Jim Dickinson RIP

Top 50 Albums of the 2000s : 10-1

And now to the top ten.....

Instead of posting why I think these records are so great and other mundane crap, I figured I'd try and highlight why each record played such an important role in my life at some point. I mean, those are generally our favorite records, no? I love Springsteen's Born To Run mostly because I grew up hearing it blasting from my father's living room every other weekend. Uncle Tupelo's Still Feel Gone was a life-changer because it opened my eyes up to an entire world of music.

I would say that I've spent the past ten years listening to more music than in any previous decade. The mid-to-late 90s were the pinnacle for me, likely never to be matched, but the past ten years have turned music into far more than a hobby. It's now something that I simply can't live without. It's my therapist (when I'm not actually paying a trained one); it's my partner; it's the one medium that brings understanding, hope and just about every emotion that the mind elicits. And for the last ten years, the following records have done the most.

#10 Elliott Smith : Figure 8 (2000)
This is the first Elliott Smith record that catapulted me into my "Elliott Smith period." I was able to catch Smith live three times, one of which I believe was his penultimate performance. That show was pretty awful as Smith appeared to be nearing the end; he stumbled and mumbled over words and looked frail and desperate. But on the Figure 8 tour, I saw him with a full band at Irving Plaza and for about 65 minutes witnessed a great artist in peak form. He charged from one song to the next with nary a five-second pause in between songs. There was no fluff, no chatter, just songs. And it was perfect. Those songs hit me that night, and to this day, Figure 8 remains my favorite Elliott Smith record.

#9 Josh Rouse : 1972 (2003)
I could write forever about my year-long love affair with this record, but when I look back on this time, I think of one line: "Catch the last ride on the Brooklyn train. Thirty years old and nothing's changed" from the final track "Rise." At the time, I was going through a rough period. I was unhappy in my work life, couldn't figure out how to pivot to the next stage in life and felt at an utter standstill. And it lasted for months, if not a few years. But when I first heard that line, something changed. And I heard it over and over. I recall standing on the F train platform one night with a belly full of beer and *blasting* that line. And playing it over again. And at that moment, I'd convinced myself. Within a month or so I left my job, settled on volunteering for a political campaign and in a matter of less than 12 months moved 3000 miles away.

#8 Okkervil River : The Stage Names (2007)
This one is about the songs. If you're not moved by "Savannah Smiles," "A Girl In Port" or "Plus Ones," well, a pulse check may be in order. If "Unless It's Kicks" or "John Allyn Smith Sails" doesn't prompt you to form-tackle the person nearest you due to being pumped, well, it should. This is a collection of perfect songs on a perfect album. No other way to put.

#7 Eels : Blinking Lights and Other Revelations (2005)
When I moved from New York City to Sunnyvale, CA in 2005, despite the excitement of starting over, I quickly came to the realization that I was indeed living in the suburbs, surrounded by little other than Starbucks, Barnes and Noble and other tedious crap. Most of my free time was spent listening to music in my lifeless apartment or going to the gym (yes, seriously). But this one record (along with another which is on the way) provided all the comfort and inspiration I needed. Whenever I listen to this record I think of the 2-3 late-night drives I made to Las Vegas to visit my brother. I brought this record with me each time and as I plowed through hills at 3am with Vegas not too far off, this record meant the world to me.

#6 Wilco : Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2002)
I remember friends from Philadelphia visiting me in New York right after Sept 11th and one of them saying, "If not for 'Foxtrot.'" It sounded ridiculous at the time, but I later understood. It was a distraction, and given the huge sound, cryptic lyrics and artistic breath, it was where some of us turned. Add to that lines such as "Tall building shake, voices escape singing sad, sad songs" and "Phone my family, tell them I'm lost, on the sidewalk, and no, it's not OK," and the knowledge that these songs were penned before that fateful day, and the eeriness only grew. But historical tie-in aside, this is a monumental album and one of the most important artistic expressions of the past 20 years.

#5 Centro-matic : Love You Just the Same (2003)
The best straighforward rock record of the decade. "The future is brimming, buzz with excitement" Will Johnson assures us on the gradually furious "Biology Tricks," a song I must have spun about 1000x in Brooklyn from 2003-2004. I think it was the late Jay Bennett who, when asked if he could pick one song he wished he'd written, answered "Flashes and Cables" from this record. On nearly every track, Will Johnson's emphatic lines summon a spirit that is missing in nearly every ass band-of-the-moment today. "Nobody told us, that the bastards were here," "Conventional hassles, they are all gone" and, of course, "I was tired, you were reeling" because, as Will knows, we were "Picking Up Too Fast."

#4 Aimee Mann : The Forgotten Arm (2005)
It's as if Raymond Carver suddenly became a recording artist. Mann's collection of short stories loosely based on the trials and tribulations of a retired boxer, is one of the most underappreciated records released in recent memory. When critics point to her best work, rarely is this masterpiece mentioned. It's rare that a record consists of great songs top-to-bottom, and even more rare when that collection of songs adds up to a story as compelling and moving as the best in PT Anderson or Larry Brown. But on "The Forgotten Arm," Aimee Mann does both, and seemingly with ease.

#3 The Arcade Fire : Funeral (2004)
Around the same time that Blinking Lights was helping me through a tough few months came Funeral. I initially discarded the record, but vividly recall leaving a diner on a Saturday morning, hopping on El Camino Real for a long drive to nowhere, tossing in this record and suddenly being overtaken. I must have spent about five hours on the road that day, listening to this record over and over and over. In the months that followed, I'd drive up to San Francisco and 280 or 101 would be my own byway to Funeral. I'd howl the opening track, move through Neighborhoods 1-4 and by the time "Rebellion (Lies)" began the city lights were usually in view.

#2 Josh Ritter : The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter (2007)
The closest thing to Dylan's Highway 61 Revisited ever produced, and the soundtrack of my life for two years. From the Bay Area through the woods of Oregon to Mendocino, Los Angeles, Crater Lake and all over the Pacific Northwest, this record rarely left the CD player. There's no record in my adult life that will bring on as many memories. Singalongs, yelling at the sky through the sunroof and feeling something for the constellations. And in conclusion, the words to "Right Moves" is where I'm left.

#1 The Wrens : The Meadowlands (2003)
Opening with crickets and street noise, "The House That Guilt Built" sets the stage for perhaps the greatest record ever about maturity and the uncertainty and responsibility that comes with adulthood. You can hear the strains of suburban life, dreams lost and the lust to recapture what you never even had. The guitars take minutes to take off, the lyrics ask you questions before allowing you to move forward and the songs ultimately explode. The build-up from 2:30 to 4:10 on "Happy" is remniscent of the spirit of Nirvana, if not the band, just the feeling. There is no question that this is the best record of the decade. We've heard very little from the band since, and like an athlete who retires in his or her prime, maybe that's ok.

Top 50 Albums of the 2000s : 20-11

Tomorrow morning brings the top ten in all of its ridiculous glory. If you have a hard time sleeping tonight in anticipation, you can probably just toss on any record that made my list and you'll likely doze off in no time.

#20 Slobberbone : Everything You Thought Was Right Was Wrong Today (2000)

#19 Spoon : Girls Can Tell (2001)

#18 Okkervil River : Black Sheep Boy (2005)

#17 Richard Buckner : The Hill (2000)

#16 Bonnie "Prince" Billy : Master and Everyone (2003)

#15 Beck : Sea Change (2002)

#14 Robert Becker : Lot #99-0038 (2000)

#13 Songs: Ohia : Magnolia Electric Co. (2003)

#12 The Strokes : Is This It? (2001)

#11 Damien Jurado : On My Way To Absence (2005)

Top 50 Albums of the 2000s : 30-21

#30 Thao : We Brave the Bee Stings and All (2008)

#29 Kenny Roby : Rather Not Know (2002)

#28 Brakes : Give Blood (2005)

#27 Bobby Bare Jr. : Young Criminals Starvation League (2002)

#26 Magnetic Fields : 69 Love Songs (2000)

#25 Solomon Burke : Don't Give Up On Me (2002)

#24 Sufjan Stevens : Illinois (2005)

#23 Bonnie "Prince" Billy : The Letting Go (2006)

#22 Marah : Kids in Philly (2000)

#21 Damien Jurado : Where Shall You Take Me? (2003)

Health Insurance Windfall

For all the hell that the major health care providers have reaped on their customers for decades, this story in the LA Times is simply sickening. I'm starting to wonder if Obama's more in bed with big business than his predecessor. Change? Really? If Barack Obama continues to spend countless hours of each day trying to appease every crook in this country, well, good luck on that second term. I know if the election were held today, I would not vote for him again. Am I representative of the typical knee-jerk reaction that seems to come from all angles of late? Maybe, but his first seven months are adding up to a pretty severe disappointment. Oh, I still like the guy, but the candidate who rallied us all, is not the same person we're seeing in office. He's barely a shadow of that person. Bringing change to Washington? Washington's brought change to Obama. One of Obama's key advisors on health care is Tom Daschle, a man who is employed by United Health.

Enough is enough. I know that Bill Maher among many others has often said that we no longer have a left and right in Wasshington; we have the center-right (democrats) and the certifiables (republicans). When Barack was elected, I disagreed with Maher. As each day passes, I'm willing to concede.

Add To Wish List

Sunday Photo


Top 50 Albums of the 2000s : 40-31

#40 Josh Rouse : Under Cold Blue Stars (2002)

#39 Josh Ritter : Hello Starling (2005)

#38 Easton Stagger Phillips : One for the Ditch (2008)

#37 The White Stripes : White Blood Cells (2001)

#36 South San Gabriel : Welcome, Convalescence (2003)

#35 Apollo Sunshine : Apollo Sunshine (2005)

#34 Eels : Daisies of the Galaxy (2000)

#33 Wilco : (The Album) (2009)

#32 Cat Power : The Greatest (2006)

#31 Joe Henry : Civilians (2007)

In My Dreams

There are certain songs that likely play a key role in why I'm agnostic and not atheist. These are songs that fill my thoughts, dreams and emotions in a way that almost nothing else can. These songs make me remember hundreds of moments past and give me hope for those to come. They remind me, as Bruce Springsteen said, that "it ain't no sin to be glad you're alive." This is one of those songs.

EELS "In My Dreams" from The MySpace Transmissions

Top 50 Albums of the 2000s : 50 - 41

#50 Tim Easton : Break Your Mother's Heart (2003)

#49 Gillian Welch : Time (The Revelator) (2001)

#48 Rhett Miller : The Instigator (2002)

#47 Bruce Springsteen : The Rising (2002)

#46 Panda Bear : Person Pitch (2007)

#45 M. Ward : Post War (2006)

#44 Beulah : The Coast Is Never Clear (2001)

#43 LCD Soundsystem : Sound of Silver (2007)

#42 M.I.A. : Arular (2005)

#41 The New Pornographers : Electric Version (2003)

Top 50 Albums of the 2000s : Others Receiving Votes

Let me preface this whole spectacle by stating the following in advance:

1. I will forget certain records and later be very upset over this.
2. Some may find this list terrible, and at some point in time, I will probably agree.
3. Now at the age of 35, my taste certainly follows a certain pattern. Then again, it was the same when I was 21.
4. Aside from the top 10-15, the whole damn thing is pretty much interchangeable.
5. This is the best list you will find anywhere.

And now, 22 records, in no particular order, that just missed the cut:

Jay Farrar : Sebastopol (2002)
The Go-Betweens : Friends of Rachel Worth (2000)
Absentee : Schmotime (2006)
Scott Miller & The Commonwealth : Thus Always To Tyrants (2001)
Sun Kil Moon : Ghosts of the Great Highway (2003)
Star City : Inside the Other Days (2001)
Iron & Wine : The Creek Drank the Cradle (2002)
Old 97's : Blame It On Gravity (2008)
The Shins : Oh, Inverted World (2003)
Son Volt : Okemah and the Melody of Riot (2005)
The Avalanches : Since I Left You (2001)
Andrew Bird : Armchair Apocrypha (2007)
Okkervil River : The Stand Ins (2008)
Jay Bennett & Edward Burch : The Palace at 4am (2002)
Emmylou Harris : Red Dirt Girl (2000)
Alejandro Escovedo : A Man Under the Influence (2000)
Bruce Springsteen : Devils & Dust (2005)
The Pernice Brothers : The World Won't End (2001)
Bob Dylan : Love & Theft (2001)
Damien Jurado : Ghost of David (2000)
The Gourds : Cow Fish Fowl or Pig (2002)
Bonnie "Prince" Billy : East Down the Road (2001)

Health Care Reform on the Ropes

As I was set to turn in for the night, as I do every night, I turned to the iPhone one last time and turned to tomorrow's NY Times editorials. Whenever Bob Herbert's up to the plate, I know I'm going to get something good. But this piece left me turning over repeatedly in bed. I couldn't find sleep without writing or e-mailing folks the article or calling Nancy Pelosi or changing my party affiliation at midnight on a Monday in August.

When that whole crazy presidential race began in early 2007 or so, you may recall (if you've stuck around this blog that long, which clearly no one has (Mom?)) that I was a John Edwards supporter. As nearly every friend of mine fell for Obama, I was still with Edwards. Well fine, that wasn't the greatest call, but I had my doubts about Obama. But over time, I did grow to like him, and when Edwards' hopes faded, I moved swiftly into the Obama camp. And as I've sad about 100x since November, the night of 11.4.08 was one of the most joyous nights of my life.

We're now seven months into the Obama presidency, and I, for one, have been disappointed. This country handed the democrats both houses and the executive branch and gave them the opportunity to FINALLY (I mean, good lord, we had to sit through eight years of Bush, Rove, DeLay, Cheney and the rest of those crooks) put forward an agenda that democrats, liberals and educated Americans have long waited for. But so far, I've seen very little. Sotomayor was a nice little win and Barack's pushed through a few nice legislative wins, but this is our turn and we want more. A lot more.

Obama has let FOX News, a slew of gun-wielding rednecks, FreedomWorks and a bunch of self-serving, sickening fringe groups take over this fight. And they're winning. Despite Obama's intelligence, emotional depth and elastic mind, he hasn't been able to outmaneuver these dolts. How could Obama not, in plain words, convince the American public that health insurance and drug companies are well, the bad guys. That should've been easy, despite living in a country awash in complete morons. But he couldn't. And now the public option appears to be history. And with that, the hopes of many of the 60 million people who put their energy, dreams and time behind his campaign for the presidency. It's not too late, but it's getting there.

Gump (Video)

Sunday Photo


, originally uploaded by ccsbandwagon.

Fourteen Book


Boonville by Robert Mailer Anderson, Fiction, 2001 : 7.5

The Alcoholic by Jonathan Ames, Graphic Novel, 2008 : 7.4

Jim Dickinson, 1941-2009


A glance at Dickinson's massive credits is awe-inspiring.

Perfomed with: Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan, True Believers, Big Star, Ry Cooder, Chris Bell, Mudhoney, Golden Smog, The Flamin' Groovies, Slobberbone, Los Lobos, Primal Scream

Produced: The Replacements, The Rolling Stones, Green on Red, Jason & the Scorchers, Mudhoney, Alvin Youngblood Hart, Tarbox Ramblers, John Hiatt, Lucero, Scott Miller & The Commonwealth

The Archives : Son Volt "Wide Swing Tremolo" (1998)

When Jay Farrar bid farewell to Uncle Tupelo in the spring of 1994, most onlookers and alt.country nerds (see: this blog and everything I've done daily since 1992 or so) predicted that Jay Farrar's post-UT career would easily outshine that of his suddenly-former bandmate Jeff Tweedy. Although opinions still differ on that front, Farrar's first four years outside of Uncle Tupelo were somewhat remarkable. His new band, Son Volt, produced one of the finest americana albums ever with 1995's Trace. 1997's Straightwaways was somewhat of a sequel to Trace with many moments that almost tapped the greatness of its predecessor.

With his creative juices still running at a furious pace, Son Volt tossed us Wide Swing Tremolo in 1998, a record that was immediately met with a bit of a collective raised eyebrow. Fans were used to, and well, in love with, Farrar's perfected sound that married Gram Parsons to Neil Young's Comes a Time. It was a simple sound, but honed and beautiful in its writing. He was William Faulkner with chops, a voice almost as deep as Waits and a sensibility that brought on chills. But Wide Swing Tremolo was something very different. The first track, "Straightface," is an in-your-face rocker, somewhat akin to Young's move to the Crazy Horse-era. And then comes "Driving the View," perhaps the greatest driving song ever written. "From different levels, just pieces together, never had a fall, that didn't burn with laughter" opens the track accompanied by blazing guitars. This is an epic song, one that grabs every piece of the listener and elicits well, euphoria. The up-tempo high-volt numbers continue with "Question," "Medicine Hat," "Flow," and "Right on Through." But interspersed are the traditional and stripped-down gems that his fans simply couldn't do without. "Hanging Blue Side" is a standout, but it's clear that Farrar had little interest in slowing down on this record. And he doesn't.

Son Volt @ The Paradise, Boston, 1995

Jay Farrar's legacy will likely be that of one of the better songwriters of the 1990s, and of course, one of the forefathers of the contemporary alt.country movement. But often lost in that sweeping overview is Wide Swing Tremolo, a record that not only reveals Farrar at his core, but represents his finest and most poignant writing to date.

Eels "In My Dreams" (Video)


A Song For You

If this tune doesn't jump-start your weekend, well, there's a good chance you're an asshole.

The General


Upcoming Stuff

  • Top 50 Albums of the 2000s
  • Top 10 Albums of 2009
  • New Website
  • More Writing Samples
  • More Organization
  • More Bob Seger Clips

Random Greatness

With just shy of 20,000 tracks on the big iPod, for the first time in perhaps a year, I decided to just chuck it on random. This is always a risky move since I certainly have a plethora of absolute crap all over this iPod. But what a surprise:

"Anesthesia" Luna
"Dance Away" Roxy Music
"The Delicate Place" Spoon
"Papercuts" The Havenots (where the hell is Mick Spencer??)
"Poison in the Walls" The Go-Betweens
"I Gave You" Matt Sweeny & Bonnie "Prince" Billy
"Chain Gang" Sam Cooke
"Jumpin' Jack Flash" The Rolling Stones
"All Over Again" Jay Reatard
"Gasoline Drinks" Damien Jurado
"Sin City" Beck & Emmylou Harris
"Make Me a Pallet on Your Floor" Gillian Welch
"My Heart's Not In It Anymore" The Steinways
"Born a Woman" Nick Lowe
"Holding Back the Year" Lou Barlow
"Mr. Churchill Says" The Kinks

Welch, Rawlings & O.C.M.S. "The Weight" (Video)

A Song For You

The Archives : Steve Earle "I Feel Alright" (1996)

When Steve Earle was let out of the pen after a two-year sentence for all sorts of drug activity, he absolutely exploded with creative energy, recording three consecutive gems from 1995-1997. The centerpiece, 1996's I Feel Alright, is arguably Earle's best record, and to my ears, among the ten best records of the 90s. After years of battling heroin addiction (among countless other substances), Earle followed up the more tame Train a Comin' with this somewhat explosive Americana sound. The self-proclaimed "Hard-Core Troubadour" compiled a raucous mix of 12 perfectly-paced tracks. From the in-your-face declarations in the lead track "I Feel Alright" to the almost Badlands-inspired love-on-the-run "Billy and Bonnie," almost 15 years later, this record sounds as fresh as it did in the mid-90s.

Steve Earle is still recording records at a frantic pace, most recently tossing out Townes, his tribute to his old Texas buddy and mentor. Most of his records released this decade have offered up mixed results, each usually having a few stellar tracks and a slew of duds. But during the alt.country heyday of the mid-to-late 90s, Steve Earle's music was as important, vital and inspired as that of his younger brethren. I Feel Alright is a testament to that.

Lowe & Costello (Video)

First time in many months that I've gotten chills from a YouTuber.

Jeff Tweedy's Ten Best Songs

1. I Am Trying To Break Your Heart (2002)

2. Misunderstood (1996)

3. Via Chicago (1999)

4. Sunken Treasure (1996)

5. Laminated Cat (2003)

6. Gun (1991)

7. The Long Cut (1993)

8. How To Fight Loneliness (1999)

9. Ashes of American Flags (2002)

10. I'll Fight (2009)

Today's News

Scott Miller "Dear Sarah" (Video)

Ignore the comedy intro.

Walking Down Noe

Following a dreadful run and a trip to Streetlight Records, I was walking home when I found myself on one of those amazing San Francisco blocks. I guess I was on Noe a few blocks before Duboce. There was just something, well, a lot of things, about this block or two. There were flowers everywhere. All of the apartments were filled with books, dogs, life. The wind was moving at a perfect pace. The trees hung over the streets and had beautiful red and orange-colored bulbs interspersed. It was quiet and peaceful. I slowed my pace.

As I made my way to the end of the block, I thought about returning home to grab my camera. But then I realized that I didn't want to capture these moments to reflect on. The images collecting in my head were just fine.

Today's Vinyl Haul


Paul McCartney Ram
Thao We Brave the Bee Stings and All
Elliott Smith XO
Nick Lowe Jesus of Cool
The Beach Boys Endless Summer
Paul McCartney & Wings Band on the Run
Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band Stranger In Town
Wilco You Never Know b/w Unlikely Japan