Sunday, December 30, 2007

Life is what Happens When you’re Busy Listening to Live Music - 2007

January – New Year’s Eve with the Drive-By Truckers @ the Variety Playhouse – Okay, mostly 2006, but still a great rock show with lots of friends and Jason Isbell was still with the band.

February – Bela Fleck and Chick Corea sat down onstage at the Rivercenter and kept the audience spellbound for a couple of hours and could have done it all night. Glad to see the Rivercenter booking acts like this. Keep it up.

MarchTommy Womack @ Eddie’s Attic and Patterson Hood @ Andrew’s Upstairs in Buckhead…if you’re a fan of literate and visceral songwriting, it was one of the finest twofers you could hope for in one night. The end of the month was four days on the Suwannee for Springfest with Jorma Kaukonen, Darrell Scott, Ollabelle, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Dan Hicks, and Will Kimbrough. Springfest is the best festival on the planet.

April – If February’s Fleck/Corea show was the Rivercenter’s finest moment of the year, the Nickel Creek show was surely close. They are an inventive and talented band, and I can’t say enough about Chris Thile’s ability. First time at Waverly, Alabama’s Old 280 Boogie, but not the last. DBT @ The Georgia Theatre for the first show of their acoustic The Dirt Underneath Tour, which took the band in a new direction with the departure of Isbell.

May – We braved the smoke from the wildfires to take in Tampa’s Tropical Heatwave where we caught Paul Thorn, James McMurtry and Unknown Hinson. The frenetic Hackensaw Boys and ever-improving Packway Handle Band @ The Loft were a treat.

June – A trip to Athens for Athfest w/ the Drive-By Truckers, Dexateens, Sleepy Horses, Jack Logan, The Whigs, and Perpetual Groove. Athfest has a dizzying array of local music in a single weekend. The free Alex City Jazzfest featured Jon Cleary, the Lee Boys and Edwin McCain, and you can’t go wrong with Paul Thorn @ The Loft.

July – Newly relocated from Australia to Atlanta, Geoff Achison brought his blues guitar to The Loft and the Chattahoochee Folk Music Society hosted Rock Killough for a very special show.

August – Okay, I give up. It’s certainly possible I didn’t see any live music in August, but I won’t make that mistake in 2008.

September – We trekked all the way to Texas for the Austin City Limits festival to find Trucker Patterson Hood (anyone keeping track of DBT shows for me?) with members of Centro-Matic sitting in. Bela Fleck, Steve Earle, My Morning Jacket, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals and Mofro were among my favorites. Rhonda Vincent played the Phenix City Amphitheatre on a gorgeous fall night.

October - Autumn found us back on the Suwannee River for four days of Magnolia Fest featuring Donna the Buffalo, the Emmitt Nershi Band, Peter Rowan, the Duhks, Uncle Earl, and a reunited Snake Oil Medicine Show. I’ll say it again: there’s not a better music festival than Springfest. Well, except for Magfest.

November – While visiting family in Savannah, I realized that the bar I was watching the Georgia/Georgia Tech game at was hosting ex-Drive-By Trucker Jason Isbell’s band the 400 Unit that very same night. Between the game and the show, I spent about fourteen hours in that bar.

December – The Mosier Brothers brought some blueground undergrass to The Loft, and Delta Moon closed out 2007’s year in live music with the one-two punch of guitarists Tom Gray and Mark Johnson.

I already can’t wait for 2008, so join me by getting our lazy asses up off the couch, putting down the remote and getting out to hear some live music.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Pick of the Litter – 2007

I’m sure there are some records that should be on this list that I never got a chance to check out (Lucinda Williams’ West, Bettye LaVette’s Scene of the Crime, Levon Helm’s Dirt Farmer and Wilco’s Sky Blue Sky come to mind), but these are the discs that spent the most time in my CD player during 2007:

1. Tommy Womack - There! I Said it! – Womack lets it bleed all over this record, detailing his existential crisis (or nervous breakdown, depending on your terminology) and scrapes the thin covering of his life wide-ass open. “Alpha Male and the Canine Mystery Blood” is this year’s best song.

2. Delta Moon - Clear Blue Flame – Possibly their finest record yet. It’s focused and packed full of dual slide guitar goodness.

3. Jason Isbell - Sirens of the Ditch – Ex-DBT guitarist breaks out with his own roots-rock record. “Dress Blues” is THE definitive song about the human consequences of war, but the rest is sheer Muscles Shoals soulful southern rock.

4. Glossary - The Better Angels of our Nature – Who gives away one of the best rock records of the year? Glossary does. Download it here:

5. Todd Snider - Peace, Love and Anarchy -- How many rarities and B-sides compilations make year-end best of lists? This one does because Todd Snider is a singer-songwriter who is hopefully just hitting his stride.

6. Infamous Stringdusters - Fork in the Road – Shimmering bluegrass that’s at once meticulously constructed and loose enough for some white-hot picking in between the lines.

7. Dexateens - Hardwire Healing – Smart pop and rock from Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Cracker meets T.Rex and the Faces for bourbon drinks.

8. Tom Waits – Orphans – Sprawling is an overused adjective when it comes to multi-disc sets, but it applies here. Brawlers, Bawlers & Bastards are the individual titles of the three discs, the 54 songs are amazing and the sequencing is immaculate. You know what I said earlier about compilations?

9. Mavis Staples – We’ll Never Turn Back – A powerful, moving statement of humanity and freedom courtesy of one of the great soul/R&B voices and producer Ry Cooder.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Rattlesnake Confustion - August 2007

Rattlesnake Confusion

A white-haired, skinny black man precariously balances a cane pole and a five-gallon bucket on his bike as he wobbles toward the river. He knows the fish aren’t safe to eat, but he figures starving ain’t healthy either.

An upwardly mobile, fast-moving lawyer in freshly shined shoes and a three-hundred dollar suit gives a homeless Vietnam vet with two Purple Hearts and a Silver Star seventy-eight cents and a disgusted glare. He can now buy nutritionally bankrupt pre-packaged food, a lottery ticket, or a beer. He weighs his odds and opts for the latter.

A thirty-eight year old waitress surrenders her body in exchange for drugs and thinks that’s a fair trade.

The man behind the counter is the best mechanical engineer in three states. He can listen to a million-dollar machine and tell you exactly what is wrong with it. Since the mill closed he works third shift behind bulletproof glass, making change for street people buying cigarettes.

A middle-aged middle manager finds comfort in a bottle and a bottled blonde.

The woman closes her eyes tight and pretends to smile as she dances under multi-colored lights to a heavy metal song that’s older than she is. She loathes her job and the people, but the money’s good and the daycare bill for her two daughters is past due. Happy twenty-first birthday, girl, keep your eyes closed and make a wish.

A young priest wakes up in the middle of the night, slick with sweat, and prays.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Comics Curmudgeon

The Comics Curmedgeon is a pretty neat blog that comments on daily comic strips, doing so in a snarky, smart-assed way...which of course, is right up my alley.

I never cared much for Mark Trail until reading this blog (which I found via wonkette, another fine blog), which pointed out the startling, head-shaking, truly bizarre happenings therein. The current "plotline" involves crooked county commissioners, an airport, and some ne'er-do-well named "Buzzard" and will most likely end with Mark breaking out the fisticuffs to solve the problem.

Oh, you can read most of the comics online at the Houston Chronicle's website. You can also set up a customizable page with just your favorite comics, too.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Drive-By Truckers The Dirt Underneath Tour 4/28/07

This past Saturday night, I was witness to the rebirth and the rededication of a band of scruffy, rock and roll musicians. It was the second show of a two-night, sold-out stand for the Drive-By Truckers at the Georgia Theatre in their adopted hometown of Athens, Georgia. Outside, spandex-clad bicyclists were careening around the corner of N. Lumpkin and Clayton at crazy speeds, vying for position in the Twilight Criterion. Inside, fans in denim and black t-shirts were trying to find seats, something a bit unusual for followers of a band that thrives on the visceral chaos of rock and roll.

Patterson Hood, just one of three songwriter/guitarists in the band but the most articulate advocate of the redemptive power of rock and roll since Springsteen, had already kicked around the idea of doing a few stripped down shows that got back to the intimacy of playing for people who cared about the songs. The fact that these shows, christened The Dirt Underneath Tour (after a line in “Bulldozers and Dirt” on Pizza Deliverance) were talked about before guitarist Jason Isbell inevitably left the band to pursue a solo career didn’t deter the rest of the boys (and girl, bassist Shonna Tucker) from moving forward with the idea. So not only were they already looking to try something different with a more acoustic based approach, they were also faced with a lineup change. Without Jason, the band went in two directions: backwards and forwards. They played old songs; they played brand-spanking new songs. But mostly, they enjoyed being on stage in front of a friendly, if sometimes boisterous, crowd. Longtime sideman and pedal steel wizard John Neff assumed a greater role, and they reached back into their Muscle Shoals lineage to draft keyboard legend Spooner Oldham into the band for this excursion.

The Friday and Saturday night shows were different, as are all of their sets: they work from no setlist, just nodding at each other and following along, but in this case, there was at least a framework. Both nights started with “Bulldozers and Dirt” and ended with the elegiac “Angels and Fuselage” from Southern Rock Opera. I’m sure that the latter song was chosen with a purpose, because in the context of SRO, it signals an end, but I believe that the line “I’m scared shitless of what’s coming next” is a lie.

The Drive-By Truckers ain’t afraid of nothing.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Lucky You... NOT an adaptation of the Hiaasen book dammit.

instead, its a f*cking poker movie, like we don't see enough poker on TV now?

ok its got Drew Barrymore in it, so I'll probably see it, but still...

they list a lot of actors as poker players...hmmm that's clever casting....but I'm thinking

Michelle Hummel
Woman carrying shoes

will steal the flick...unless

JD Piché
Chain-smoking casino patron

has a star-making turn.

you never know.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Rattlesnake Confusion - April 2007

Radio Radio

They say you better listen to the voice of reason
But they don't give you any choice 'cause they think that it's treason.
So you had better do as you are told. You better listen to the radio.
And the radio is in the hands of such a lot of fools
tryin' to anaesthetise the way that you feel
– Elvis Costello

Elvis angrily spit out those words way back in 1978, but they are even more relevant in 2007. The control of the airwaves is in the hands of fewer and fewer people every day. Decisions are made about what you will listen to by people who think that music is simply something to occupy you between commercials. These are the people who think that even the lowest common denominator is too diverse. The “product” needs to come in easily digestible, American Idol-style segments. (See? It’s not even art, it’s a “product,” a commodity.) At first, these corporate executives thought that the worst thing that could happen was that you change the channel. But then they got smart: They said if we own all the channels, it doesn’t matter which one you listen to, and they won’t turn us off because we won’t give them an alternative! I can just hear the gleeful cackles and greedy hand-rubbing now.

So how do they keep listeners hooked on their unique brand of blandness? By squashing anything that is new or different, or outside of what they consider to be palatable by the masses. Water is one of the most wondrous things on the planet, a substance responsible for the miracle of life, and everyone likes water. Everyone doesn’t like espresso, or chocolate milk, or tequila. What’s the difference? Each of those last three liquids are distinctive and appeal to something inside us. We appreciate a quality about it and it doesn’t matter that someone else may not.

However, this is a flawed analogy: the difference between water and modern radio is that water gives life, and the radio sucks it out of us.

Luckily, there are ways to discover music outside of the present monopoly. The internet has allowed bands to market their music outside of Clear Channel’s stranglehold of radio markets, booking companies, and ownership of auditoriums around the country. But at every turn, someone tries to thwart that access. Low power radio stations, internet radio, bit torrent trading, at every turn the FCC has been a tool of the corporations, attacking small community radio stations for perceived profanity violations or devising creativity-crushing regulations. Most recently, internet radio has been assaulted by the Copyright Royalty Board, which has the power to set royalty rates. This three-judge board, appointed by the Library of Congress, is wielding an increase in rates the result of which will force many small internet radio stations out of business.

By the way, Clear Channel is not the only culprit, just the largest and most visible.

If I were getting paid for this shit, I’d have done some research, listening to the radio three or four hours a day, but I know what’s there, or better yet, I know what’s not there. And what’s not there in our community is community radio.

Some of the best radio stations on the planet are community radio stations. These locally autonomous, non-profit, non-commercial stations are supported by listeners and with donations from businesses. WRFG in Atlanta, WWOZ in New Orleans and Tampa’s WMNF are all examples of how exciting, innovative music can be heard. Community radio can also promote local artists and get them some otherwise impossible airplay.

I don’t know what it would take to start a community radio station in Columbus, but given our success at public-private partnerships, the expansion of CSU’s music department downtown, and the proximity of Auburn University, it is certainly an idea within our means.

For your Rattlesnake homework, compare and contrast the stations below with what you’re listening to now. I’ll expect a plan for a Columbus community radio station on my desk in the morning.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Dream on, y'all

Rattlesnake Confusion

There are dreams that sail away to sea
And some that stay at home
There are dreams in need of company
And some that stand alone

-- Stephen Geyer

UPDATE: After last month’s Rattlesnake (“The Ballad of Hurricane Jimmy”) was completed, a mutual friend put me in touch with Jimmy. Seems he cut his hair, is looking for work as a Certified Court Reporter, and never picks up the guitar.

And that got me thinking about our dreams. Dreams imagined, dreams realized, dreams forsaken and abandoned.

And that got me thinking about a photograph.

It was the first thing I looked at each morning when I got to work and the last thing I saw when I left. It was tacked to a crappy shelf above my crappy desk, in my crappy office stuck in the back of a crappy loan business in downtown Savannah, where I held a crappy job. It was a photo of Five Falls, a spot on the Chattooga River in north Georgia, where I had been backpacking and camping a few times my senior year. After graduating, the best job prospect using my major was a CNN internship I couldn’t afford to take, so I moved back into momma’s house and hoped something worthwhile would turn up. It didn’t.

I ended up with a job thumbing through a box of well-worn 3X5 cards and calling people who were behind in paying a loan that they couldn’t get anywhere else and really couldn’t afford in the first place. When I wasn’t hassling poor folks, I stared at that picture. And I dreamed. My dream was a dream of freedom, of being someplace other than where I was.

One Saturday afternoon, after visiting a woman at her housekeeping job at a downtown hotel to collect her monthly payment, I went back to that crappy office, took my dream down from the shelf, and walked out.

Otis Redding had dreams to remember, Gregg Allman had dreams I’ll never see and The Drive-By Truckers’ Mike Cooley somewhat cynically remarked that “dreams are given to you when you’re young enough to dream them, before they can do you any harm.”

The dreams we have when we’re young can’t all come true; otherwise, the world would be full of football players, rap stars, princesses, cowboys, pirates and astronauts. I mean, does anyone really dream of growing up to be a middle manager or a plumber?

But dreams are realized in other ways. We can embody the daring of pirates, the valor of astronauts and the wild, brave freedom of cowboys in our everyday lives. If you are a loving parent, a caregiver or a volunteer, you are living your dream. If you give blood, if you give a thousand dollars to charity or if you give a dollar to the homeless guy sitting outside the convenience store, you are living your dream.

Dream on.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

An Open Letter to Music Lovers - Jazzfest

I’m currently reading The Great Deluge, a frustratingly accurate portrayal of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and its devastating effects on the Gulf Coast. Historian Douglas Brinkley painstakingly shows us the pain and suffering of Katrina’s victims, and how the government, at all levels, failed to protect those who needed it most.

In that light, and since Mardi Gras is upon us, and after that, Jazzfest, I thought I would bring back an open letter to music lovers I wrote that was printed in the April 2006 issue of Playgrounds Magazine.

One last thought: Does anyone else find it unsurprising that President Bush didn’t even acknowledge the issue of Katrina in his State of the Union address? Out of sight, out of mind is his motto apparently.

This is just as relevant now as it was a year ago. Unfortunately.

New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival

April 28-30 & May 5-7, 2006

An open letter to fellow music lovers:

Katrina was a bitch. She was a hurricane that finally, inevitably, brought her horrific force to bear down on the Gulf Coast, destroying lives by the thousands, and yet, even after her apocalyptic aftermath was fully realized, the first thing I heard was… “Well, I guess you won’t be going to Jazzfest this year, huh?”

Never mind that my enjoyment was the least of my worries, but I will admit that I’ve been considering taking a break from the New Orleans festival after going every year since 1990 or thereabouts. The early spring brings out music festivals as thick as the pollen on our cars, and many conflict with Jazzfest. I had been eyeing Merlefest ( in North Carolina, for example, but post-Katrina, I knew I had to go back this year. For the city, for the residents, for the merchants, for myself.

After landfall, I watched the levees break, and I kept watching as the news channels broadcast hours and hours and scene after scene of destruction and rescue and despair, and finally, as I watched the dissolution of an entire city, I watched myself sink into a kind of walking daze of depression where I shielded myself from the truth that this could happen in a city in the United States of America. Where were the people I knew? Were they okay? After many phone calls, emails and message board postings, one by one they got back in contact with each other. Some were in the Northeast; one couple was in a hotel somewhere in North Mississippi. One photographer stayed behind, but he was finally, thankfully, located. My friends escaped without harm to anything but their property, but I can’t say the same for the friends of my friends. I do know the first time I saw a “504” area code on my cell phone, I about ripped the cover off trying to answer it!

Things are not back to normal by any definition of the word, no matter how liberally that word is used in New Orleans. It will never be the same.

But one thing about New Orleans is that it will carry on, the spirit will prevail. Mardi Gras was by all counts a success. People came, people partied, and people spent money. And the locals needed that.

And now they need Jazzfest.

This year, the festival has been scaled back by one day, some of the stages have been rearranged, and corporate sponsors have jumped in to an unprecedented degree. The promoters aimed with a shotgun, scattering several large draws over the two weekends, including Dave Matthews (who brought in the largest ever single-day Jazzfest crowd), Jimmy Buffett, Bob Dylan, rapper Juvenile, Bruce Springsteen (in his first Jazzfest appearance), Keith Urban, Lionel Richie and Paul Simon. And although most of the treasured Louisiana artists are playing, the quintessential New Orleans band The Neville Brothers will not be closing out the final Sunday night.

Will things be different? Without a doubt.

But for those of us who have adopted New Orleans as a spiritual and musical home, how can you not go back and partake of the amazing sounds, the wondrous array of food, and reconnect with the people who feel the same way?

Come to Jazzfest. Spend money. Talk to people. Donate your time, money or energy to help out.

New Orleans needs us. And we need New Orleans.


Curtis Lynch

Music Lover

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Wait Till the Drugs Kick In

A little sumthin' I came up with the other night while walking at Britt David Park...not that that has anything to do with anything ;)

Wait Till the Drugs Kick In

The band is trippin, you know they ain’t rehearsed

The singer stumbled all through the second verse

Just when you’re thinking it can’t get any worse

That’s when the drugs kick in.


Wait till the drugs kick in

Wait till the drugs kick in

They wrap around you just like an old friend

(They whisper)

Wait till the drugs kick in.

You got two kids and they’re driving you mad

You’re thinking back on the old life that you had

But then again, this really ain’t that bad

That’s ‘cause the drugs kicked in.

You and your buddies are sprawled out on the floor

Cartoons are over, you can’t find any more

That’s when the police are knocking on your door

Damn, why’d those drugs kick in?

You’re standing at the bar, on your nineteenth beer

She’s smiling at you, your vision ain’t too clear

And now you’re thinking, as she gets real near

I hope those drugs kick in.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

The Ballad of Hurricane Jimmy

Familiar music floats through the open windows, beckoning the bustling tourists to step inside. The bar is comfortably dark and shabby, with a concrete floor and a few weary tables and rickety, mismatched chairs. The bar has taps that promise Michelob Light but dispense…well, who really knows? It’s cold, it’s cheap and the out-of-towners and the rowdy Rangers don’t care. The crowd, such that it is, is peppered with a few locals, some friends of the bartender and a couple of gift shop employees trying to sneak a drink on their break. A large black Lab stretches out beneath one table.

Backed into a corner of the former cotton warehouse sits a man with long black curly hair stuffed under a doo-rag, playing guitar and yelling out the windows to passers-by. His drum machine keeps the beat while a baseball game silently plays on the TV behind him. He’s halfway through “Cheeseburger in Paradise” when the crowd’s attention shifts. The guitar player looks over his shoulder as Braves outfielder Otis Nixon climbs the wall and makes a spectacular catch. The singer turns back around, flashes a crooked smile and finishes the song, never missing a lick.

Such is the life of a musician in a bar on River St. Such is the life of Hurricane Jimmy.

Scrambling for gigs, Jimmy plays several sets a week downtown for the tourists, picks up a few shows on Tybee Island in the summer and an occasional trip down to St. Simon’s Island when he’s lucky. He knows that the rent’s due, and he knows what fills the tip jar, so “Come Monday” and “Brown Eyed Girl” are trotted out every set. To feed his pirate persona, “Why Don’t We Get Drunk (And Screw)” and “The Asshole Song” show up so salesmen from Missouri can take a story back to the home office.

Over several years, a half-dozen original songs emerge, mostly derivative of a certain island-hopping, margarita swilling singer, but the songs are often clever (“I’ll be the captain, you’ll be the crew/we’ll get a Boston Whaler with an Evinrude”), sometimes self-serving (the pass the hat tune “Gimme Some Money”) and even includes a blatant attempt to get radio airplay by shilling a local station in the chorus. By and large though, the sets are filled with good-time covers so the tourists can drunkenly sing along, because that’s what keeps the crowds buying beers, and that’s the name of that game.

That’s the life of a working musician. That’s the life of Hurricane Jimmy.

Jimmy is his own boss, and entertaining a crowd, having a good time and partying till dawn is his job description. Playing a gig at Teeple’s in Thunderbolt, running his PA off his van’s battery because the restaurant’s power was out, that’s all part of a day’s work. You don’t play, you don’t get the pay is his mission statement.

Here in the 21st century, the lovable, scruffy musician who plays for tequila shots, tips and the sheer fun of it is an endangered species. His habitat has been replaced with karaoke nights and digital satellite jukeboxes, and there is little hope for his survival.

But once, just once, I wish you could walk into a bar, grab a cold beer and have Hurricane Jimmy tune up his guitar and play you side two of “A-1-A” straight through.

That’s the life.