Showing posts with label Steve Earle. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Steve Earle. Show all posts

Dec 19, 2017

FTM's Best Songs of 2017 (12-30)

I pick these myself (~Trailer) because with 5 contributors, there'd be no easy way to come to a consensus on best songs, so you'll just have to live with these selections. …Which are pretty damn good by the way. I'm listing 12-30 today, then 1-11 tomorrow. Why? Because I felt that the 11 tunes really stood out as my favorite songs of the year and couldn't narrow it to 10. We do whatever we want around here. 

These are in no particular order.

Andrew Combs - Lauralee

Steve Earle - Fixin' to Die

Vagabon - Fear and Force

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit - If We Were Vampires

Shinyribs - I Don't Give a Shit

Drew Kennedy - House

Travis Meadows - Sideways

Jul 13, 2017

Alex Williams Performs "Ft. Worth Blues"

This guy's on Big Machine, but I won't hold it against him if he puts out songs like this and covers songs like this:

Jun 19, 2017

Jun 16, 2017

Steve Earle and I Are Fighting: a Review of So You Wanna Be An Outlaw

by Robert Dean

I wanted to start this review talking shit about Steve Earle. I really, really wanted to. He talked trash on Oasis, which offends me because I’m an Oasis fanboy. To wit, I will take my jab by saying Steve’s theme for The Wire is unlistenable. It’s so awful, it makes every fiber of my being weep with sadness; to say it sucks would be a blessing because it’s so terrible; it’s almost as bad as the abortion that is the theme to Justified. (Different topic, but whoever green-lit that song for such a great show is a complete asshole.)

Ok, so I got that off my chest. But, this ain’t about Steve Earle’s distaste for excellent Britpop, nor his terrible theme song rendition, it’s about his new record, So You Wanna Be An Outlaw. And like I said, I wanted to dislike it, I couldn’t. It’s pretty damn solid.

Steve Earle is a workaholic road dog, and that’s worthy of anyone’s respect. After pumping out an impressive 16 records, you’d think the guy would be phoning it in by now, but nope. The guy who refuses to get a haircut is writing better record than anyone on pop country radio.

So You Wanna Be An Outlaw is a collection of songs that range from bummer country ballads to dirty rock and roll foot stompers. It's good to feel the tangibility of the record and see that the dude is still empowered by his craft.

"The Firebreak Line" sounds like it could pour out of any honky tonk from Austin to Memphis where folks two-step to bands playing for beer money, which is exactly what you want out of a Steve Earle record. While his slow jams are quality, Earle is at best when he’s going for it, playing fast, lighting a match.

The Dukes are definitely on their A game in this instance and deliver the goods for each track on the record. "Fixin’ to Die" is bold, filthy and feels more Jack White inspired than anything else on the record, which all told, would be a refreshing combination were it to happen. The spirit of "Fixin’ to Die" doesn’t feel constrained, but loose and almost like a driving rockabilly-cum-snake handling preacher warning the world of its transgressions.

Say what you want about Steve Earle, he’s effective when he’s playing the role of soothsayer, preacher of the madness, the bringer of truths – he’s had that knack for over thirty years, and that’s when he’s at his best. There are no throwaway tracks on So You Wanna Be An Outlaw, which says a lot about the band’s mindset going into the project. Instead of writing a record to use an excuse to hit the road, the songs feel vital, and personal, which bodes well for audiences who’ll head out to see the shows. There’s an underlying attitude, and it’s obvious Earle went into this record with an ear to the ground of what the slices of America feel right now, red and blue states, included.

All in all, the record is solid. So You Wanna Be An Outlaw is absolutely worth a few spins and maybe hitting a show for. You can’t go wrong with Steve Earle firing on all cylinders but damn him, for liking Blur better than Oasis.

You and me, Steve. We’re fighting.

So You Wanna Be An Outlaw is available is all the usual spots.

Feb 22, 2017

Little Known Facts: Outlaw Country Cruise Edition

Little Known Facts: Outlaw Country Cruise Edition
AKA 'Rubbing It In Trailer's Face That He's Not Going'

By Jeremy Harris

While at sea, Donald Trump will sign an executive order preventing 
Steve Earle from reentering America. Steve won't mind.

Shooter Jennings will be late for at least one show because 
Jessi Colter will forget to sign him out of daycare.

The Band Perry are a late addition to the cruise. 
Luckily for them they all got the same shift in the kitchen.

There is a waiting list of seagulls that want to play 
in Chicken Shit Bingo with Dale Watson.

Crew members will have to move the Mojo Nixon swear jar 
to the center of the ship to prevent capsizing.

Nobody will wonder where Luke Bryan is. They also won't give a shit.

Brian Kendrick will not be on RAW on February 27th.

The cruise will last several additional days after 
Elizabeth Cook overtakes the captain.

When asked if he's bringing any produce aboard, 
Eddie Spaghetti will hope they mean vegetables.

Brantley Gilbert tried to get on the cruise but you have to 
have a bank account to purchase tickets.

Pirates around the world have warned each other not to mess with this cruise. 
Reason: Billy Joe Shaver

Jan 13, 2017

Is Farce the Music Democrat or Republican?

People are always wondering which side of the political aisle we claim here at Farce the Music. 
Well, I hope this clears things up.

Oct 20, 2016

Album Review: Erik Dylan - Heart of a Flatland Boy

A review by Trailer

If you're like me, one of the first things you'll notice about Erik Dylan is his vocal similarity to 1990's Steve Earle. It's undeniable. There's also some Chris Knight, some Guy Clark, and some John Mellencamp in there.

Don't let that dissuade you though; this guy's no cheap imitation, and he's got "it." "It," as in songwriting chops, a singular point of view, and an indefinable gravity. He's even got a blessing of sorts from the Earle family by way of Steve's niece providing backing vocals on lead single "Pink Flamingos."

Dylan's written songs for or with Nashville acts like Thompson Square, Eric Paslay, and Kip Moore, but his own music hardly fits the mold for radio airplay. Not to say radio isn't moving his direction, but Dylan's sound would still be considered edgy by Top 40 standards. It's not squarely in the realm of Americana either - there's a clear commercial bent to the sound - he resides somewhere in the middle ground.

And the writing… the writing is pure heartland. Downtrodden blue collar souls, broken hearts, and small town dreamers populate his songs with a depth that's detailed enough to carry a songwriters' night, but a universal appeal to grab more commercially-oriented souls.

All that said and I haven't even mentioned the album yet. Heart of a Flatland Boy is out Friday, and if the first four paragraphs perked your ears, you need to click play or download on this record.

The aforementioned "Pink Flamingos" is "Feel Alright" (Earle) meets "Goodbye Earl" (Dixie Chicks) and if that ain't the formula for a killer tune, I don't know what is. It's a backroads justice tune with a little dark humor and a lot of devil-may-care attitude.

"Astronaut" is a dreamer's anthem. It's a little fanciful and a lot of fun. A working man dreams of getting out, whether by rocket ship or lottery windfall, but he's stuck in a map dot town with a "Copenhagen habit and a GED." And that line there is the hook that will stick in your head long after the album is over, whether you want it to or not.

The album's most moving song is "Fishing Alone." It's a recounting of regrets after losing a close family member that touches the heart and sets the most important things in life in proper order. Give it a listen and then go call your dad.

Heart of a Flatland Boy is a bold debut, full of stories and emotions. It deals less in platitudes than it does in reality, more in grit than gloss, but there's still more than enough catchiness to appeal to even the most passive listener. Dylan is a promising talent who's landed with an album that already surpasses many artists' potentials. It's well worth your time.

RIYL: Steve Earle, Chris Knight, John Mellencamp, Reckless Kelly.


Heart of a Flatland Boy is available on iTunes, Amazon, etc.

Sep 22, 2016

Willy Braun of Reckless Kelly: The Farce the Music Interview

Doing What They Do at the Sunset Motel
By Kevin Broughton

It might strain credulity that a couple guys shy of their fortieth birthdays would be considered elder statesmen of a music scene. Unless, of course, their last name is Braun. Reckless Kelly’s Cody and Willy Braun have a musical pedigree that’s genuinely hard to fathom. Grandpa Musty was a roadhouse piano player & singer in rural Idaho who in his childhood learned to play accordion from a neighbor named Lawrence Welk. Father Muzzie toured the Mountain West with his brothers before forming Muzzie Braun & The Boys, a western swing band featuring his four sons.

Practically before they were out of short pants, brothers Cody, Willy, Micky and Gary had played the Opry and Johnny Carson, and opened for the likes of Haggard and Cash. So, yeah, it makes sense that Reckless Kelly – two decades into a professional music career – are viewed as an institution in the (pick one) Red Dirt/Texas Country/Roots Music scene.  

Sunset Motel, the band’s 11th album and their first on the Thirty Tigers label, premieres Friday, and it’s what anyone familiar with them has come to expect: tight instrumentation and arrangements; damn near perfect lead vocals from Willy that fit just as snugly in a plaintive ballad or driving rocker; and the kind of comfort level found in a pair of 10-year-old Justin ropers. It is – like seemingly all their records – vintage Reckless Kelly. It’s what they do.

We caught up with Willy (young for a musical greybeard at 38) while he chilled in Austin in advance of an upcoming East Coast tour. Topics included longing for the days of big-hatted musical clichés, a new record label and the state of the country music industry, and the virtues of turning off the water whilst brushing one’s teeth.

Your brother Cody mentioned through your publicist that you wrote “30 or 40” songs for this album, y’all recorded 20 of them, and 13 made the final cut. Sounds like at least another album’s worth of tunes are at the ready; is there any chance of y’all going Physical Graffiti, so those outliers are on a future album?

Yeah, there’s quite a few that we ended up recording that weren’t too bad you know, that turned out good, and we just had too many to put on one album. That’s kinda the first time we’ve ever really done that. We’ve had a couple leftover songs in the past, we’ve never had that many. There’s probably gonna be a collection of kinda outtakes, demos and stuff like that somewhere down the road. We’re not sure. We were kinda thinking about doing it for our 20th anniversary, but that’s this year, so we missed that boat. (Laughs) We might do it in a few years or something like that. There’s some stuff that’ll probably get seen.

Over what time period did you write these songs?

Well, let’s see. I started writing I guess maybe not long after Long Night Moon came out which was September 2013, so between then and about a year ago, I was writing kind of up until we went into the studio this spring but I wasn’t doing a lot after maybe last summer. Kind of got the bulk of it out of the way.

Reckless Kelly is one of those bands with an unmistakable sound.  I mean, within a couple of measures of the intro, then a couple more with your voice, it’s “Well, that’s a Reckless Kelly song.” Y’all have your own distinct style. How, if at all, would you say Sunset Motel is different?”

Man, I think it’s probably just a little more the modern version of the band. We’ve been doing it for about 20 years and we never really wanted to stray too far from what the people liked about us in the first place. But you can’t go making the same record over and over, so you have to slightly reinvent yourself every time; try to write about different things. Like I said, you don’t want to go too far off the rails because you know that’s what got people involved in the first place. I don’t know, it’s kind of hard to put your finger on that Reckless Kelly sound, it’s just 5 guys who’ve been playing together for a long time, it’s just something that’s evolved over time. It changes a little bit every year, probably, but nothing really too fast.

I want to get into a couple specific songs and then jump around some.  First, “Radio.” There are some brief snippets of songs at the very beginning before things crank up, and they’re just too quick for me to pinpoint.  Are one or more of them y’all, sounds like there may be a girl too? This is uber-trivial, but I’m curious.

Actually, none of them are us. It’s the people that came into the studio, we had a few guest musicians on the record. A couple of people came in and we recorded some stuff that didn’t end up making the album. We thought it’d be cool, we wanted to do like a radio thing… we thought it’d be cool if we used our friends who were kinda on the record so …it’s a Mickey & the Motorcars song “Tonight We Ride.”

Mickey and a couple other guys from the Motorcars came in and played some acoustic guitars on a couple of the tracks. Then there’s a Rosie Flores tune on there. She didn’t end up actually being on this record, but we cut a version of “Wild Horses” with her and Keith Gattis ‘cause they bopped by one day and we were just messing around. So the Keith Gattis song on there too, his version of “El Cerrito Place,” I think it’s the first one you hear. And Chris and Eleanor Masterson also, Eleanor played a bunch of strings and fiddle stuff and Chris did a guitar part on “Sad Songs About You” so there’s a little piece of a Mastersons song on there too.

I should probably know this, and a better reporter would have researched this better, but where did y’all record this and who produced it?

We produced it ourselves. My brother Cody, and Dave, our guitar player, and I have pretty much produced the last 3 or 4 records we’ve done. We recorded it here in Austin at Arlyn Studios. That’s the studio we made our first record at 20 years ago…they were kind of… they weren’t closed down but they were doing more like editing and video production for a long time and they just reopened the studio as a recording studio. It was kind of cool to go back there and kind of revisit the past a little bit.

I interpret the song as somewhere between tongue-in-cheek/good humor and a big ole middle finger to Nashville. Where would you put it on the continuum? Or am I just missing it completely?

No, you’re right, it’s tongue-in-cheek and …it’s not really so much of a middle finger to Nashville. It’s kind of more, it’s making fun of people in Nashville but not just Nashville, kind of kids today, for lack of a better expression. Any genre you want to talk about, there’s gonna be kids who don’t really do their homework, didn’t really put the time in that it takes to become a really good musician. A lot of people these days think you can learn 3 or 4 chords, and write 10 songs, and make a record and then you’re a rock ‘n roll star.

Well, they’ve got a bit of a point. Sad freakin’ thing…

 (Laughs) Yeah. But the guys that we looked up to looked up to guys before them, and they did their research and learned about…you know… we’ve played in jam sessions with people sometimes and they don’t know any Merle Haggard songs, and we’re like man how did you even get to this point where you’re playing guitar in front of people and you can’t play anything but like the six songs that you wrote. Just kind of blows my mind.

I heard somebody one time, I wish I could remember who it was, on the Buddy and Jim Show on Outlaw Country (Sirius XM). It was an old songwriting hand and he said “You know, it used to be you’d go to Nashville and they’d audition you with a tape recorder and now it’s like they’re doing it with a video recorder.” I thought that summed it up pretty well.

Yeah, it’s kind of amazing, there’s just so much competition and so many people out there these days, YouTube and things like that, where it seems like the bar has been lowered really far. It’s weird for guys who grew up playing music and really respecting the people who came before us …and worked really hard to learn how to play and write and sing, and I’ve been doing it for a long time and then to see people who don’t really have the respect for history – the craft…

Seems there are certain facts of life for acts like Reckless Kelly. Does it still just rub y’all the wrong way that bands with actual integrity and quality songwriting aren’t gonna see the airwaves, but for Sirius XM?

Yeah, that’s a bummer you know. It’s been going on for a long time. Our first album Millican, I wrote a song called “Hat Acts” about the Nashville ‘hat acts.’ That was 20 years ago and it was kinda focused on what I used to call cliché country when people were writing a song all based on a pun on a cliché, which seemed like the thing. Twenty years later I wrote another song about it and that’s “Radio.” Looking back, it’s kind of funny, the guys that I wrote “Hat Acts” about seem like awesome artists at this point. I’m always like “Man I’d take those guys over the crap that they’re putting out now.”

Now it’s like you ought to do one called “Backwards Ball Cap Acts.” You can use that, by the way.

I might, might have to update that one. You know, you really can’t get too annoyed with it. The bummer is that there’s a lot of guys in Nashville, everybody kinda picks on Nashville, but there’s so many great musicians and songwriters and artists in Nashville that you’ll never hear of, just because the mainstream thing is getting crammed down everybody’s throats. Kinda bugs me when people say “Fuck Nashville” or “Nashville sucks” because you’re only seeing like five percent of what that town has to offer. There’s some similarities between that and the Texas scene. The more and more people that start to play music down here …the cream’s gonna rise, but sometimes the people that are making more money are going to get more attention than guys that have more talent.

Y’all recently found a new home with 30 Tigers, a label that just keeps stockpiling more and more quality talent.  How important was the label’s stability and commitment to y’all retaining your independence when y’all made the decision to sign with them?

We started our own label a couple years ago and got a couple records out on it now. We took everything in house for a long time because it seemed like the way the industry was moving, and the fact that we could do a lot of stuff on our own, and keep a little more of the dough is why we did that. But this record, we early on recognized that we’re kind of proud of it and thought there were some good songs. We’re getting to the point where it’s, you never know when people are actually going to stop making records these day. ‘Cause people aren’t buying music anymore and we’re kind of thinking this may be one of our last opportunities to make an actual record that people will buy a physical copy of.

We might be able to get a couple more out of it, but who knows? So we were thinking that this might be a good opportunity to give one more try with a major distribution deal. Those guys have a great track record with bands like us that are sort of outside the norm. The guys that they’ve got on their roster had some real good success with people like that that fit into the same ‘straddling the fence’ category that we’re in. We figured it’d be a good fit so we’re gonna give it a shot and see how they do. Won’t know until it happens, but so far so good. They’ve been on top of everything and they’re easy to work with. I think it’s gonna help us out.

And you’ve mentioned that the band is now in a place where y’all aren’t “killing yourselves to pay the bills.” Can you point to a time in your career that you realized that was the case? When did you know y’all could relax a little bit?

It kind of happened over a long period of time. Back in the old days, we’d play every night, six or seven nights a week. The older you get and the more miles you get traveling around… really we were trying to just tour smarter, so we’re not going out and beating our heads against the wall playing gigs that really weren’t paying off, whether financially or exposure-wise. It took us a while to figure out how to do it, but we basically just wanted to cut those gigs out, or as many of them as we could and focus on the ones that mattered, the ones that got us in front of people or some exposure or paid well. It’s kind of a tricky thing to do, and it’s a lot easier said than done. We’re still working in that direction to try to play less and make more and kind of maximize the exposure and make every gig count. It’s a long process that we’ve been working on for years so it wasn’t anything that we wanted to do overnight.

I have a couple of fan boy questions to get out of the way. First, can there ever be a better murder ballad than “Crazy Eddie’s Last Hurrah?” I mean, it’s perfectly sectioned off: Cheatin’ and leavin’; drinkin’ and drunk-dialin’; and killin’.

I don’t know, that’s such a funny song to me. I probably wrote that thing in less than an hour. Never in a million years would’ve guess that that one was gonna be the big hit, the one that people talked about. It still kind of blows my mind that people like that song as much as they do. It’s kind of a throwaway song to me. I still like playing it, never really disliked it, but I feel like I’ve got a lot better stuff.

There’s no doubt, but when Sugar Hill put out the Best of Americana Series, I don’t think it’s insignificant that the one live cut they put on there was that one. I just think it’s fantastic.

Thanks man. Ragweed recorded that and that made it more popular than we ever would’ve. They had a lot going on at that time. When they put that on their live record , that gave us a little boost.

I noticed that too and …you guys to me are like kindred spirits and you and Cody even sound alike I think, singing. I think there are worse comparisons to be made. Also, has there been an instrument invented that your brother can’t play? The Gourds had Max Johnston, Son Volt’s always had a multi instrumentalist. It’s like y’all have two.  How big an asset to the band is he?

He’s irreplaceable. He’s a great fiddle player, he’s a great mandolin player, he can play harmonica and he’s learning piano and B3 right now. It’s kind of surprising it’s taking as long as it is, because usually …like, he doesn’t play guitar but sometimes he’ll pick up my guitar when it’s just sitting there and then play better than I can and he doesn’t even claim to play guitar and he doesn’t know any chords. 

If he wants to pick out a solo, it sounds like he’s been playing it for 20 years and it kind of pisses me off. Also, I think one of his biggest assets, one of the things he brings to the table most is he’s such a great harmony singer. He and I being brothers and singing for such a long time, he can kind of fall into the pocket with me without even trying at this point. He’ll put three or four parts on some songs. You know, whatever the song needs, he really good about finding that right part or parts and not overdoing it, and knowing when to overdo it. He’s definitely the best harmony singer I know.

Muzzie Braun, JR Cash, and future members
of Reckless Kelly & Micky and the Motorcars,
"at some county fair in Oregon many moons ago."
You and Cody have a well-reported musical pedigree, and were serious about what you were gonna do musically from an early age, getting your GEDs at ages 16 and 17. That’s serious discipline and determination. Assess your career path to this point, and do you still have some concrete, definitive things you want to accomplish going forward?

We always knew we were going to be musicians. That’s what the family business is, and we started playing music in dad’s band before we even realized it. We did home schooling so it was kind of concentrated, so that’s why we were able to get out of school a couple years early. Mom (or her tutors) were only dealing with a couple of kids instead of 35. We were able to do it a little faster than everybody else was. Our main goal starting out, and still is, was to making a living at it.

Our dad always made a living doing it, and my grandpa did and my uncles do, so it’s always just been something that …it’s more important to us to make good music than it is to make money. Basically, our goal and our focus is to make records we’re proud of, and put on good shows, and just be able to make a living at it. And anything that comes on top of that is just kind of gravy, you know. Then, there’s a bucket list of things of course. You wanna play Madison Square Garden and Saturday Night Live and go on tour with Bob Dylan, things like that. You never know if they’re gonna pan out but it’s never too late to accomplish little things like that along the way.

K: Is there a band out there whom y’all have opened for or toured with where you said “dadgum, we’re opening for (fill in the blank)” and it was just awesome?

Yeah, we used to go out and do a lot of shows with Robert Earl Keen and he kind of took us under his wing when we got to town, and I remember thinking about that. When we were going up the east coast with him on this 3 or 4 week run, hanging out with all those guys, and becoming friends and every once in a while we’d get up and sing an encore with them or something. At that age too, it’s quite a while ago, just kind of being in awe of their company and their talent.

There’s been a few times where we got to record a couple songs with Steve Earle one time. I remember listening back to the tracks, we backed him up as the band on a couple of tribute tracks for a Warren Zevon tribute and an Alejandro Escovedo track. Once we got done with that, we recorded them in one day in Nashville. I never listen to our music very much just because once it’s done, I’m kind of sick of it, but I sat and listened to those two songs all night. Like I can’t believe we backed up Steve Earle, he’s always been one of our biggest influences.

Sunset Motel has that traditional Reckless Kelly balance between rockers and ballads, but the bulk of the songs are about relationships. Is this something you set out to do purposefully, or an organic thing?

You know, this record in particular I just had so many ideas for songs that I didn’t get to use on Long Night Moon ‘cause about halfway through Long Night Moon, I realized it was all songs about traveling and I took that route and made a little bit of a theme out of it. So I ended having a bunch of left over ideas and half-written songs that were good, but were just in a different theme. I actually had a bunch of leftover stuff that I wanted to use, and so I decided while I was writing that I wasn’t going to push it in any direction whether it be ballads or rockers or country, love songs, or break up songs, anything like that.

So there’s all sorts of different subject matters. I just wanted to have all the best songs right off the top. We picked about 20 of those, worked them up, and just kept whittling it down until the best ones were the ones that made it on the record.

And let’s talk about “Volcano,” (and I hope you don’t hang up on me or anything) your nod to the issue of climate change.  It’s about as subtle as a punch to the throat…


..and one of the reasons I asked about the time for writing these songs is that we’re in an election year, and a stranger and more polarizing one than normal…

…it’s nuts, man…

…so did that have any bearing on the release of this song?

Actually, I’ve been working on that song for quite a while. I’ve probably had, not even joking, like 15 versions of it, four different melodies, and four different chord progressions. I kept tinkering with it for a long, long time because I always liked the idea, and I loved the sound of the word volcano. My place up in Idaho where I do a lot of writing is right across from the tallest mountain in Idaho, Mt. Borah. There was an earthquake back in the 80s when we were kids and you can still see this big fault line that runs across the bottom of the mountain where the valley floor dropped like 8 feet and the mountain rose a foot or two.

So that’s where I got the idea for it and it kind of became this song about climate change. Honestly, we’ve done a couple songs that were political in the past and this …at the very last minute we decided to put it on the record because I wasn’t sure I wanted to have this conversation over and over and over. We knew if we did put it on the record, it was gonna happen, that people would be asking us about it. The funny thing is we don’t really want to be known as a political band, but you can only write so many songs about …love songs, or breaking up with a girl, and “Volcano” just ended up being …it sounds cool and I think the song is cool and it’s also a conversation that I think people need to have. We kinda bit the bullet and decided to put it on there and now that it’s out there, I’ve come to peace with the fact that this is probably going to be just one of many political conversations we have to have over the next six months or so.

With that in mind, let’s break this down a little. It’s a catchy as hell song. At the beginning of the song you say, “Not to question your beliefs, not to be rude,” then in the second verse you take a lyrical blowtorch to anyone and everyone with an opposing view. I mean, you seem to openly mock Christians with talk of “God’s plan;” a “flat earth” mentality; “monkeys into man;” and imputing homophobia to anyone not on the same side as you. That’s a pretty broad brush, isn’t it?

Yeah, I think so. I kind of opened the song with the punch line from the old joke, you know, “the water’s cold, and deep too.” It’s saying about this election, it’s literally a pissing contest. I feel like it’s probably gonna piss a few people off. I remember when I was a kid, people used to just throw their beer bottles out the window and that was just totally acceptable. And now 30 years later, you can’t believe that people used to do that. Some people would just dump their old cars in the river. I feel like may in another 20 or 30 years down the road, we’re gonna be talking about this same issue and people will be saying “Well God, I can’t believe people used to use plastic water bottles.” A million different environmental issues that we could go into. I just feel like, a little at a time, over the course of the next few years, or several years even, people will probably start become more aware of it as the problem keeps growing. Whether or not it’s a man-made thing or it isn’t, there’s no harm in, you know, turning the water off while you’re brushing your teeth.

(Laughing) I’ve done that since I was six, I’m from Alabama, and a lifelong Republican.

So just in case, you know. Who knows if it’s gonna help or not, but man. One of these days if we run out of water, you’re probably going to think back on a lot of water that you wasted. Just for an example, you know what I mean?

Is politics/policy a big part of your life, and if so, has it always been? Or did it maybe rub off on you, living in an enclave like Austin?

It definitely rubs off on you. This day and age with Facebook especially, and Twitter, and that kind of stuff where that’s where people get their news. Myself included, most people my age watch John Stewart and John Oliver. I don’t consider myself a really political guy, mostly because I don’t really like having political conversations with anybody that doesn’t agree with me. It’s the same with religion, you’re never gonna change the other guy’s mind. Never seen anybody have an argument about politics or religion where the other person walks away with a new opinion. It’s always a fight. It’s one of those things you’ve just gotta chip away at; you’re never gonna changes somebody’s opinion with just one Facebook post, but maybe if they hear the song 30 times they might start turning the water off when they brush their teeth.

You mentioned in the bio that y’all were part of the “second wave of the movement,” and that Trace by Son Volt had a big impact. That’s a top-5 all time album for me, irrespective of genre. A couple questions along that line. First, can you name a couple other albums for you that are so impactful you’ll never stop listening to them?

Trace is definitely one of those. Guitar Town.  That’s always gonna be one of my favorite records. I was like 10 years old when I heard that album and I don’t think I’ve ever been that impacted by a record since that day. Still listen to it. Our old bass player Shifty and I sat in back of our tour bus one day a few years ago and we – he had his bass and I had my guitar – and just for shits we decided to see if we could play every song on the record and without even thinking about it, we did. All of Guitar Town. 


We’d played a few of them before of course, but we knew it that well. We’d heard it that many times. We didn’t even have to look to see what song came up next. It’s like that important of a record to us. That one, and then Billy Joe Shaver’s Live at Smith’s Olde Bar was another one we listened to a ton when we started the band. That combination between Billy Joe’s lyrics, and his country voice, and Eddie’s just rock ‘n’ roll guitar made it like hearing a rock band play country songs, like it’d never been done before. That was another huge record for us when we got started.

And if a generation is roughly 20 years, I guess we’re in and around a new one right about now. Who are some of the emerging artists, particularly in the Red Dirt/Texas Country scene, who’ve grabbed your attention?

Let’s see, there’s a guy named Parker McCullom who’s, he’s got one record out and I’ve only seen him play a few times, and met him a time or two. He’s really good. I think he’s gonna make some waves. He’s a really good songwriter, and he’s young, got a lot of talent, good singer, and all the ladies love him …so I think he’s gonna go places. Let’s see who else is out there right now… there’s a great band called Sons of Bill. They’ve actually been around for quite a while at this point, but I still kinda consider them up-and-coming. They’re great; I think they should be a lot more famous than they are. Really great songwriters, and I love their production and the whole ball of wax.

In the past couple years there’ve been some artists getting mainstream acclaim and awards with virtually NO airplay, and decent sales to boot. No thanks to Nashville, in other words, Isbell, Sturgill & Stapleton are defying convention.  Are these apparent outliers reason for hope for the likes of Reckless Kelly?

Yeah, absolutely. It gives you hope to see somebody say with no real support from the mainstream at all come and makes such big splashes. You know, one minute, Sturgill Simpson was opening up for us out in L.A. and now two years later, you’re watching him on Jimmy Kimmel, and Fallon.


Letterman, yeah. Watching his songs climb up the charts and selling records, and selling out huge shows; doing two nights in a row at the biggest venue here in Austin. It’s awesome. It’s great to see guys who have some integrity and musical chops buck the system and make it work. And that comes back to one of the reasons we decided to give Thirty Tigers a shot, because they did so well with guys like him and Isbell. It’s good to know it still could happen, you know.

What did you think by the way, because you’re a pretty savvy social media guy… about Sturgill dropping elbows? First about the naming an award after Merle, and then on Garden and Gun… I thought it showed not only balls, but absolute integrity for him to say, you know, what the hell?

It’s a ballsy move to say something just that out there and honest, you know. I really respect what he said and how he said it. I think he’s right when he says these guys, the same people who wouldn’t play Merle Haggard on the radio or wouldn’t give him his last moment in the sun before he passed away, are all of the sudden, you know it’s kinda like seeing all the Cubbies hats all of the sudden. The Cubs are doing really well and everybody’s wearing the hat.

You know, Merle Haggard dies and everybody’s playing Merle all of the sudden; and some of us have been listening to him and playing him our whole lives. It’s not annoying really because it’s great to see him get recognized and obviously everybody’s bummed out that he’s gone, but it’s kind of a little late to the party and then to take an award and put his name on it and hand it to some of these people that he openly trashed.

And by the way I saw Jason Isbell, his first tweet, he’s like I don’t know what Sturgill said but I agree with him 100%. Then an hour later he’s like oh, I saw what Sturgill said and I still agree with him 100%.

(Laughs) That’s funny. I think he’s right on, and it’s a ballsy thing to say, especially when he’s probably in line to win some of those awards. He’s kind of biting the hand that feeds him but that’s kind of what being an outlaw’s always been about. It’s what Merle would have done.

Finally, your new album is out Friday. What’s in the works for a tour to support this record, and what are you doing next?

The first big tour we’ve got coming up after the album drops is going up the east coast with Mickey and the Motorcars for a couple weeks. And then right after that, Wade Bowen and I are going across the pond to England for about 10 shows in November, just the two of us. That should be interesting. And then, man, when I get back from that, I probably start writing again. We’re not exactly sure what our next project’s gonna be; it’s either gonna be another album or maybe a collection of outtakes and old stuff, like we were talking about earlier. We kinda need to circle the wagons again and figure out what we’re gonna do next ‘cause we’ve got a lot of ideas but just need to pick one. 


 Sunset Motel will be available on Lonestar Music, iTunes, Amazon, etc.

*photos courtesy of Willy Braun's twitter account, Missing Piece, and ???

Jul 25, 2016

Top 10 Things I'd Rather Have Played On Country Radio Than Steven Tyler

List by Jeremy Harris - "Graphics" by Trailer

Top 10 Things I'd Rather Have Played
On Country Radio Than Steven Tyler

10. Gary Levox singing about the new Chicken McGriddles

9. An announcement about a Chris Gaines comeback tour

8. My grandma talking dirty to me

7. Steve Earle and Rush Limbaugh talking politics

6. "All shows/music have been cancelled and 
we will play Bobby Bones on repeat 24/7"

5. A news update listing me as number 1 on the FBI's most wanted list

4. Aerosmith

3. "All NCAA schools except one have been given bowl and tourney bans,
making Ohio State national champions in all sports"

2. Brantley Gilbert.... no wait, that's too far

1. Morgan Freeman reading my porn search history

Nov 19, 2015

Top 10 (More) Less Successful Americana Bands

10. Sturgis Simpson

9. The Safe Spaces

8. Donnie T. and the Immigrants

7. The Head and The Fart

6. Los Zurullos

5. Sexually Assaulted by Turtles

4. Wally Chains and the Flatbills

3. The Bearded Film Curators Club

2. Steve Earle Just Complaining About Capitalism for 2 Hours

1. Crosby, Stills, and Kevin Nash

Mar 2, 2015

Album Review: James McMurtry - Complicated Game


By Kevin Broughton

“Honey, don’t you be yellin’ at me when
I’m cleanin’ my gun,
I’ll wash the blood off the tailgate
when deer season’s done.
We got one more weekend to go,
And I’d like to kill one more doe.”

[Note: It’s come to the author’s attention that a goodly number of FTM readers are consumers of mainstream “country” music. The couplets above are the opening lines of James McMurtry’s Complicated Game. On paper, it’s as “bro-country” as you can get, right? But he ain’t pretty, and he don’t shake his ass. Here’s your chance to learn something.]

James McMurtry hasn’t made a studio album in six years. And a quarter-century after Lonesome Dove author Larry’s son hung out his Texas songwriter’s shingle with Too Long in the Wasteland, he may have come full-circle. There are some constants, at least.

Wry humor. Desperation. Anger, sometimes the fist-shaking, political kind. Characters on the margins, and love just out of reach. These are what McMurtry fans have come to expect. But it’s always poignant. Funny or sad, you’re getting touched in the stomach. The new one turns it up a notch, and sets a new standard.

Complicated Game, on a label that bears the same name, is a stripped-down departure from Childish Things  and a slew of records on the Sugar Hill label. McMurtry came into his own in the 2000s, combining sharp – and often overtly political – lyrics with top-flight rock musicianship and arrangements.

This time, there’s arrangement-muscle in only a couple of cuts. “Deaver’s Crossing” and “How’m I Gonna Find You Now” (the latter a happy little speed-freak/stalker tune) are the only songs where discerning McMurtry fans will recognize the layering he’s subtly made his recent trademark. “How’m I Gonna Find You” is reminiscent of his frenetic, borderline hip-hop rants “Choctaw Bingo” and “Airline Agent;” just a little more desperate and a tad more funny.

But it’s the longing that sets this album apart. Longing for a different, better time, or a just-missed love. The comfortable love that peppers a couple songs is still looking for a little something better, whether it’s one more doe or a way to cash out before the Wal-Mart’s built.

Oh, there’s wisdom and reflection in every cut. The kind that makes you nod, smile and say, “Fuck. Of course. This.” There’s a trio of love songs that tie the thing together, though.

“Copper Canteen” opens the record, and we’re left with a good sense of middle-aged contentment. As borderline-rough as things might be, they’ll still be okay. And hell yes, I’ll wash the blood off the tailgate. (I imagine I’d have said that more than once, had I ever been married. ‘Nuff said.)

“These Things I’ve Come to Know” is the most romantic cut on the record, and with the most common touch. Who among us doesn’t know a hot-mess bartender who somehow keeps it together? And who among us hasn’t had that crush from a familiar barstool. You just…know. (Author’s speculation: She’s the same gal who said “Sit your drunk ass down" in another song.)

Any displaced Southerners among us who envisioned different lives for ourselves, long before we became middle aged? “Long Island Sound” will induce tears for a while. And it’ll be a while before you realize why…if you listen.

Which brings us back to you, Mainstream Country Fan. Do you have the stones to be emotionally challenged? Can you shake off the visual template of Nashville, long enough to listen in a discerning way?

This is McMurtry’s best record, and it ain’t close. And that was a high bar. He could put his pen and guitar down now, and his name will forever belong beside those of Lovett, Clark, Earle, and yes, Van Zandt. If you know those names, you know what the comparison implies.

If you don’t, listen to Complicated Game, and get a frame of reference. This one’s a crowning moment for one of the true and elite Texas craftsmen.


Complicated Game is available at iTunes, Amazon, Lone Star Music, and all the usual spots (but probably not Wal-mart).


Related Posts with Thumbnails