Sep 7, 2022
Aug 25, 2022
Jun 29, 2022
Jun 10, 2022
By Kevin Broughton & Jeremy Pinnell
Let's do the fight stuff first, with a look back before we look ahead. UFC 274 featured the worst title fight of all time, where my gal Thug Rose lost the belt in five rounds of bizarre inactivity. What's worse, her boyfriend/coach/groomer, Pat Barry, told her after every round she was doing just fine. What in the heck can we make of this?
Was she protecting her belt? People hate her boyfriend. It’s really just a bummer. Bad coaching? Probably. I believe I was traveling and I heard how bad the fight was so I didn’t even go back and watch.
Moving on, the company is taking its show to Singapore for UFC 275, which will feature a couple of title fights. Jiri Prochazka -- from the Czech Republic -- is one of the two or three scariest guys in all of MMA. He faces 40-year-old (brand new champ) Glover Teixeira for the light heavyweight belt. My prediction: lots of blood and an early stoppage. Jiri is a 2-1 favorite for a reason; what say you?
I’m not predicting anyone anymore; my picks are terrible! I like Glover because his Jiu Jitsu is strong, but yeah, Jiri is a scary dude. I believe I have a pull with the universe. I lose at gambling, so may the best man win, Kevin.
The co-main event is a battle for the women's flyweight strap. No one has seriously challenged Valentina Shevchenko in her title reign, and she's a nearly 6-1 favorite here. Taila Santos has an impressive 19-1 record, but as Daniel Cormier once said, "There are levels to this game." Any chance for an upset?
There’s always a chance for an upset. It’s a fucking war. But Shevchenko is such a killer. This might be a solid challenge.
Finally, there's an enticing rematch of 115-pound ladies. Weili Zhang and Joanna (I'm too lazy to try & spell her last name -- it's the Polish lady) had one of the most epic UFC fights ever. Joanna got her head temporarily reshaped. Vegas has these odds the closest. Each of these ladies, interestingly, has lost to Thug Rose twice. Who gets her hand raised?
Joanna might be past it? I’ve always like Weili, so I’ll say her -- and we’ll see what the universe does -- and then I’ll know if I have a say or not. Also, don’t be lazy, Kevin.
Fine. It’s Jędrzejczyk. Neither of us can pronounce it, though.
As we pivot to music, it turns out you and I are both big Lyle Lovett fans -- though you more than I if body art is any indication. He recently released his first album in a decade, The Twelfth Of June. I was going to love this album unconditionally, and the jazz/big (or, "Large") band vibes remind me a lot of my favorite record of his, Joshua Judges Ruth. Have you broken your recent musical celibacy long enough to give a listen? Your thoughts?
I am a huge Lyle fan and I obviously listened to his new record the day it came out. But we were in a tour van, and it was drowned out by highway noise so I didn’t get a good read. And no, I haven’t broken my music celibacy. I’m just bored. I don’t know what’s wrong with me.
Closing things out, for this edition: A good writer I know recently did a review of Blackberry Smoke's EP of Rolling Stones covers. Assume you have a week of free studio time and any set of players you could ask for. What five songs -- regardless of artist or genre -- would you most like to put on a J.P. EP?
That’s a tough one. Maybe I’d go with… George Jones, “The Grand Tour”; Merle Haggard, “Misery and Gin”; Billy Joe Shaver, “Ragged Old Truck”; Mel Street, “Lovin’ on Backstreets”; and Bob Wills, “Faded Love.”
How’s that? You wanna pay for it? I’ll give you a co-producer credit.
Hmm. Maybe we can crowd-fund, but I still get a credit for the awesome idea. And geez, a Mel Street reference! What a great way to end this edition.
Kev’s barely over .500 on UFC bets here lately, but his value plays for UFC 275:
Jiri Prochazka, -200;
Jiri by second round stoppage, +450
May 26, 2022
Atlanta’s Blackberry Smoke released Stoned, an EP of Rolling Stones songs, back in November (as a Record Store Day release) to little fanfare. Under the radar or not, this is the way to do a cover record.
At least that’s what discriminating Stones fans will think. The first thing that got my attention was the track listing for the seven-cut set; Charlie Starr and the boys put some serious thought into it, and it shows in the distribution: Three songs from Sticky Fingers (“Sway,” “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking,” “I Got The Blues”); two from Exile (“All Down The Line,” “Tumbling Dice”); and one each from Beggars Banquet (“Street Fighting Man”) and Some Girls (“Just My Imagination.”) This last is a cover of a cover, a song first made famous by Smokey Robinson – and the best cover the Stones ever did.
It spans a decade of Stones history (1968-78), with one song each from the Brian Jones and Ron Wood eras, and a supermajority rightly plucked from the band’s golden (a/k/a “Mick Taylor”) age.
The tributes in song themselves are exquisite in form and true to the Stones’ blues-based vision of rock ‘n’ roll. “All Down The Line” kicks the record off with a faithful sendup of Keith’s stop-go riff for six bars, and the rhythm section falls right into the pocket. “Tumbling Dice” is so true to the original that you can appreciate why Blackberry Smoke is one of the few bands who could credibly pull this off; they’re just that good, top to bottom. (The Black Crowes could have done this once, but Robinsons.)
My favorite cut might be the aforementioned cover/cover, “Just My Imagination,” one I was exposed to as a 15-year-old on the Tattoo You tour. “What the heck,” I thought. “Why is Mick playing a guitar, and how have I never heard this Stones song before?”
As faithful as the Stones were to Smokey, Blackberry Smoke is to the Stones. And on “Sway” and one or two other numbers, the rough edge to Starr’s melodic voice adds a hint of Keith to all the vocals. So much in fact I found myself wishing for a cover of “Happy” or “You Got The Silver” or “Before They Make Me Run.” For that matter, Blackberry has but scratched the surface; Stones fans should be reasonably optimistic about a sequel. Because for all the great renditions on this seven-song EP, they can now envision at least twice that many for any follow-up effort(s).
Stoned is available on Spotify, Amazon, etc.
Apr 15, 2022
Feb 17, 2022
Feb 2, 2022
Dec 29, 2021
By Kevin Broughton
1. Jesse Daniel – Beyond These Walls
If FTM had a “follow-up album of the year” category, this one would win it unanimously. Stretching his legs from the Bakersfield love fest that was Rollin’ On, Daniel – by focusing on the simple things in life – has broadened his focus, showing a grateful audience just how great country music can be. He’s made a great leap forward with his vocals and songwriting, and those were already high bars. There’s not a weak cut on this album.
2. James McMurtry – The Horses And The Hounds
He’s just the Godfather.
I picture a room full of accomplished singer-songwriters trading shop talk when McMurtry walks in, and all of a sudden you can hear a pin drop. It’s been six years since his last album, and just like last time, there’s an effortless feel to this magnificent work of art. McMurtry combines imagery, geography and unrequited love better than Guy Clark, Lyle Lovett or Townes. I literally listened to “Canola Fields” seven times before moving on to the second cut. It’s on par with “Tangled Up In Blue.”
3. Mike & The Moonpies – One To Grow On
I’ll be shocked if this one doesn’t win the FTM overall prize. It’s merely flawless.
4. Charles Wesley Godwin – How The Mighty Fall
Speaking of great follow-ups, Geez. Seneca, Godwin’s stellar breakout record from 2019, was just a warmup, it seems, for his 2021 offering. There’s an intensity to his writing this time around that solidifies a rightful claim to be mentioned in the same breath as his Appalachian brethren: Simpson and Childers.
5. Jeremy Pinnell – Goodbye L.A.
One of the best pure country albums of the year. Ties of Blood and Affection in 2017 was a phenomenal record, but with a solid assist from quirky producer Jonathan Tyler, Pinnell has written his masterpiece. We should all give thanks that there’s a longer road in front of him than there is behind. And, who wants a monthly FTM Q & A with this jiu-jitsu practitioner on the intersection of mixed martial arts & country music?
6. Zach Schmidt – Raise A Banner
This was a record a long time in the making, but the Pittsburgh-born artist made the most of his time. Is it nice to walk into a studio with The 400 Unit for a backing band and Sadler Vaden producing? Sure. But this writing stands on its own, and even if You Don’t Know Zach Schmidt…you know the deal.
7. Blackberry Smoke – You Hear Georgia
Twenty years strong. Only a small handful of artists* can begin to make Southern rock like these guys. They’ve added some personnel to fill out the sound and become one of the darlings of the elite Yellowstone set-list crowd, but what you hear is what you get. “Hey Delilah,” one of many gems, is a love letter to Lowell George.
8. *Rob Leines – Blood, Sweat & Beers
This legit blue-collar rocker fronts a power trio turned up to ELEVEN, reminding the world and his Los Angeles environs of his proud Georgia roots. Skynyrd and CBD fans, step on up.
9. Tennessee Jet – South Dakota
A toned down follow-up to (my #1 in 2020) The Country gives the listener an even more intimate setting to sample this man of letters’ writing. “William Faulkner,” just like the author, indeed.
10. The High Hawks – The High Hawks
What started as a fun thing for a collection of jam/string band guys became a passion project – with tours to boot. Open, free and joyous, smart money says this ain’t a one-off.
11. Mac Leaphart – Music City Joke
Just outstanding writing that leaves folks wanting more.
Dec 18, 2021
Dec 3, 2021
Dec 1, 2021
Blackberry Smoke played an intimate, acoustic show at MadLife Stage and Studios in Woodstock, Ga. Monday night. After frontman Charlie Starr told the story of meeting a legend at a Wisconsin music festival years ago, he said, "God bless Charlie Daniels." Then the band delivered a fitting tribute. ~Kevin Broughton
Nov 4, 2021
You need to suspend more than just disbelief, okay?
By Kevin Broughton
About three years ago, I started getting text messages from a friend back in Mississippi: “Have you watched Yellowstone?”
Well, of course I hadn’t. “Isn’t Kevin Costner the lead actor?” I asked. “You know, he’s not really known for his…well, acting.” My friend assured me that this didn’t matter. I remained unconvinced. A year went by.
My friend, who knows I write for this site, upped the ante. “You like Whiskey Myers, right? Bro, they’re all over the soundtrack.” My friend – we’ll call him “Johnny” -- knows me too well. Sure enough, just a few minutes into Season 1, episode 1, I was treated to Stapleton’s “Tennessee Whiskey,” then this gem from the aforementioned Dallas rockers:
“Johnny” used excellent music like a 3/0 treble hook on my inner cheek, and I now I couldn’t shake loose from this soap opera if I wanted to. Indeed, it’s complicated.
Let’s get down to business, which is letting FTM readers know all they need to about Sunday’s premiere of Yellowstone, Season FOUR:
1. THE GREAT
Here are just some of the artists who have appeared on the soundtrack through the first three seasons:
Ryan Bingham (more on him in a moment:)
Whitey Morgan and the 78s
This list isn’t close to exhaustive. It is a fair sampling, though. The soundtrack is exquisite. Perfection.
2. THE VERY GOOD
Anyone who’s visited Big Sky Country knows what a wonderful backdrop any cinematographer will have to work with. Montana is ready-made cinematic beauty, and the guys behind the cameras on Yellowstone do not disappoint. Watch a few episodes, and you’ll want to visit Montana; I know it’s made me crave a return trip. It’s some of the best photography on television, period.
3. THE MERELY MEDIOCRE
Have you noticed that we’re a couple hundred words in and we haven’t discussed what Yellowstone is actually about? Things get dicey here.
The “Plot.” (Spoilers ahead)
Yellowstone is the name of the ranch owned by John Dutton, the unluckiest man alive. The plot? In each of the first three seasons, it’s this: SOMEONE IS TRYING TO TAKE JOHN DUTTON’S LAND!!!1!
In Season One, it’s the Injuns. Seriously. Not the scalping kind, but their honorable, suit-wearing and casino-owning descendants. Never mind that it’s 2018; forget the Bureau of Indian Affairs and gaming licenses. Heck, forget the civil court system. Those would get in the way of a classic cowboys-and-Indians narrative.
Seasons two and three feature corporate raiders and hedge-fund dudes who want to build an airport (two) and city (three)…ON JOHN DUTTON’S LAND!!!!
At first, they all offer John Dutton money; filthy lucre to make him wealthy beyond the dreams of all avarice. They also beat up his daughter and blow shit up. But so far, THEY HAVEN’T TAKEN JOHN DUTTON’S LAND.
4. THE BAD
Go ahead and pour a drink.
The characters and “actors”
This is typically called “the cast” in show business, but it’s helpful to break them down. Getting back to my initial concern when my pal pitched me the show: Yes, Kevin Costner is the male lead, playing the eternally besieged John Dutton. Costner has a 40-plus year body of work to judge.
Here’s one of the most memorable scenes in the first three seasons of Yellowstone:
There you have it. Kevin Costner, ladies and gentlemen. Actually, that’s not quite fair. Costner had the role of a lifetime in The Big Chill. It’s an accomplishment that will stand out long after he’s shuffled off this mortal coil.
Dutton has three kids. Well, he had four, but the oldest son – whose name is unimportant – got ventilated in the series’ first episode. That poor actor really got hosed on residuals.
Here are the three remaining Dutton offspring:
Kayce (pronounced “Casey”) is the untamed free spirit. He’s a war hero because of course he is. (Navy SEAL, natch.) He’s so alienated from his dad that he hooks up with an Indian woman (would you believe she’s absolutely gorgeous?) makes a baby with her, and lives in a trailer on the reservation. In the very first episode, his hot Indian wife gets a job teaching college, which can only make Kayce feel even more inadequate. He’s actually considering going back overseas and they’re arguing about it in the truck, when a meth lab explodes right next to them. Just a typical day on Yellowstone.
Jamie is a stupid guy who does lots of stupid shit. He’s a lawyer – manages to get himself appointed Montana Attorney General a few episodes in – with a wide sociopathic streak, forever doing self-destructive things. He murders a lady reporter in Season One. In Season Three, we learn that he’s not really a Dutton after all. No, sir. You see, John Dutton may be a gruff man, fighting off all those who want to TAKE HIS LAND, but he has a heart of gold. Many years ago, he adopted Jamie, the welp of a white trash dad and addict mom, when the former beat the latter to death. When Jamie finds out, his reaction isn’t profound gratitude to John, but resentment. He finds his biological dad – living in filth – and decides to turn against the Dutton family.
Beth is John Dutton’s only daughter. She’s a corporate raider, and we get a taste of her ruthlessness in an early boardroom scene; she reduces titans of industry to sniveling wretches with her acid tongue. But her hyper-capitalist days are soon behind her. John Dutton has called her home to fight THE PEOPLE WHO ARE TRYING TO TAKE HIS LAND. She deals with stress the way any woman in high finance would: By having a lot of casual sex with the ranch foreman. Beth can’t have children because when Jamie took her to get an abortion when she was 15, the doctors told him (but not her) that she would never be able to have kids if they do the procedure. Jamie being Jamie, he says “Fine by me.”
Rip is the ranch foreman. Another stray John Dutton picked up, he usually channels his anger into his work, or the occasional grudge-banging of Beth Dutton. Then again, he’s committed or been complicit in a half-dozen murders through three seasons. He’s the son John Dutton never had.
Jimmy goes from being a meth head in Season One episode one, to being duct-taped to the saddle to learn how to ride the next week, to a competent rodeo cowboy by the middle of the season.
Governor Lynelle Perry bears more than a passing resemblance to North Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem in real life. On the show, she’s banging John Dutton, because of course she is. In Season Three, she sides with those TRYING TO TAKE JOHN DUTTON’S LAND.
Walker is a ranch hand we see a lot of in seasons one and three. Oh, and he’s played by Ryan Bingham, far and away the best actor on the show. Yes, I know that’s counterintuitive. Back when The Sopranos dominated the popular culture, I had an unpopular opinion: James Gandolfini was not a great actor. How hard can it be for a fat, Italian Yankee to play a fat, Italian Yankee? Yes, Ryan Bingham was an actual cowboy in real life. And he’s the only actor in the entire cast of Yellowstone who comes across authentically. That says less about Ryan Bingham than it does the casting director.
5. THE PUTRID
The sad thing is, Yellowstone doesn’t have to be awful. It’s a choice made by the showrunners.
The Horrifically Lazy Writing
Years ago, a lady friend roped me into watching several episodes of Grey’s Anatomy. I was relieved of this duty after six or so instances of being able to recite the actors’ dialogue before it was said on screen. Just one hackneyed cliché after another.
All soap operas are essentially the same, whether the setting is an operating room or a roping pen.
In “Cowboys and Dreamers,” (Season Three, episode five) Kayce (newly installed Livestock Commissioner) breaks several laws to do the “right” thing. Some poor cowboy has killed himself – there’s actually blood and brain matter on the foreclosure notice. Kayce, with the acquiescence of the sheriff, sells the string of ponies and delivers the cash to the grieving widow. “Cowboys and dreamers,” she says, with wistful regret. “That’s all I’ve ever fallen for.” Ugh. But it gets worse when Kayce chats with the dead cowpoke’s son.
“Are you a cowboy?” asks the urchin.
“My daddy was a cowboy. I’m gonna be a cowboy, too!”
The Need for Extreme Suspension of Disbelief
Look, I get it: It’s television. Make-believe. Fiction. Not real stuff.
All narratives in TV and movies require the suspension of disbelief to some degree. But it’s to what degree that tells the tale. NWA wrestling in the 1980s was fake, and everybody knew it, but with its blue-collar/redneck sensibility, the NWA was still slightly plausible. But along comes the WWF, completely tipping the gaff with its ready-made backgrounds for each wrestler. The message: “Not only is this wrestling totally fake, we’re gonna turn the ‘sport’ into a cartoon for six-year-olds.”
Justified was six seasons of great television. Let’s stipulate that it strains credulity that a Deputy U.S. Marshall in Kentucky kills someone every single week. Yeah, that’s just a little much. What made such an outlandish concept digestible, week after week? Well, actors and writers (see above.)
Timothy Olyphant, Nick Searcy, Walt Goggins and others in that stellar cast distracted from the absurdity with their on-screen skills. And the writers used perfectly timed humor to highlight the stupidity of some real shit-for-brains criminals like Dewey Crowe.
Either Costner is doing all the writing, or the writers’ room is staffed with room-temperature IQ dullards. Here are some of the things we’re asked to accept.
Remember Jimmy, the meth head-turned-saddle-bronc-rodeo guy? Well, he hooks up with a really hot barrel racer (because of course.) So, it’s only natural that when she (played by Josh Brolin’s daughter) goes for a roll in the bunkhouse hay, her similarly hot, 20-something friend decides to knock boots with 60-something Lloyd, another ranch hand. It’s totally plausible.
Kayce, the war-hero SEAL, at another point when he’s considering joining back up, says, “Yeah, I’ve been talking to my sergeant about it.” Hey, dullards in the writers’ room: There are no sergeants in the Navy.
You think the bunkhouse romance between meth head Jimmy and the smokin’ hot barrel racer was a stretch? Hold on to your Resistol, Cowboy. I’ll see that and raise you a tale of true love between Colby – the one black dude on the show – and Teeter, a snuff-dipping, pink-haired skanky white girl.
Then there’s just the sheer amount of mayhem that takes place in this corner of Montana. Multiple murders, explosions, countless acts of eco-terrorism, and corrupt law-enforcement officials everywhere you look? Big Sky Country would be crawling with FBI, and maybe a couple of infantry brigades. But no. This is just the way things are, when someone is TRYING TO TAKE JOHN DUTTON’S LAND.
It’s not just disbelief you have to suspend. It’s also taste, and a chunk of your self-respect.
Season Four promises to be even dumber, if this “meet the new cast members” video is any indication.
An animal-rights activist (Montana is fertile ground for them, after all,) a lady with a New England Brahmin accent (who’s trying to TAKE JOHN DUTTON’S LAND,) and some new kid (“Everyone just calls me ‘boy,’” because of course they do) will doubtless combine to add all the authenticity one expects from a Costner-led cast.
In the Season Three finale, the people who are TRYING TO TAKE JOHN DUTTON’S LAND really ratcheted up the pressure. Beth’s office in downtown Helena is bombed. If the external shot of the explosion into the street is any indication, a pink, misty substance should be the only thing left of her. Other gunmen attack Kayce in his law enforcement office. We see him upend his desk for cover and draw his sidearm. John Dutton, having helped a lady change the tire on her minivan, gets turned into swiss cheese by a couple of dudes with MP5s. Rip frantically calls Jamie: “I can’t get anybody on the phone,” he says. “Rip, you probably shouldn’t call me anymore,” replies the sociopathic doofus.
Could this be the end for John Dutton? Will the people TRYING TO TAKE HIS LAND finally TAKE HIS LAND?
Tune in Sunday night on Paramount, for the craptacular Season Four premiere!
Yes, it’s complicated. Yes, it’s downright bad television, save the music and scenery.
And yes, I’ll watch Season Four with every bit of self-loathing I deserve.
Damn you, “Johnny.” Damn you, Andrea von Foerster, brilliant music supervisor that you are. Without your stellar – nay, flawless – musical taste, I wouldn’t have written this misanthropic screed.
And I guess part of it’s my own fault for loving Whiskey Myers, et. al. so much.
I feel like Charlton Heston at the end of Planet of the Apes.