Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Day 2008

A vote is like a rifle; its usefulness depends upon the character of the user.
Theodore Roosevelt

Okay, I like that quote...it implies that we need to have some reason for casting a vote one way or the other. Where do we point that gun? And why? Do our sights include race? Or gender? Today people of many colors walked into voting booths all over the country and cast their vote based solely on the color of a man's skin. And some people pushed some buttons or blackened a circle based on a candidate's gender.

I've never been a fan of those who think everyone should go vote. It's like singing, cooking or hitting a fastball: some are better at it than others. And why? Because they care. They take the time.

A crooked and corrupt man can not only drag a horse to water, but if the horse is thirsty enough, he can piss in his mouth and tell him it's champagne.

It is our job as citizens to be ever vigilant, to question those who want us to trust them with the power and authority that an elected position gives them, and not to blindly accept their slogans for truth. Mark Twain said that the government's function is "to obey orders, not originate them."

So no matter who you vote for, hold them accountable. Our opinion of our elected officials are at an all-time low, so don't let up.

I am not a fan of putting political signs in my yard.

My wife put an Obama sign out this week. It was given to her by a friend we camped with at Magnolia Fest the other day, and my wife had promised to put it out. Why don't I like it? Because our current political culture has things broken down into soundbites. Hey, I have an Obama sign in my yard, so I've just allowed people to project their opinions about the presidential race onto me. Never mind that I may have some slightly nuanced beliefs that aren't captured in that blue piece of plastic stuck in the grass.

Oddly enough, I have no problem with the Bulldog banner outside.

I voted early, at the rec center a few blocks from w&rk. It's across the street from the rocky moonscape that was a crime-ridden housing project and a stone's throw from a shuttered high school. While I was in line, I saw an elderly woman helped to the front of the line and I saw a blind man with his wife gently holding his arm as his cane tapped along the sidewalk. I saw a man with one leg use his crutches to navigate himself out of the building after casting his ballot.

I don't know who they voted for, but I do know this. If the person who leads our country for the next four years has half the character of his supporters, then we have a very useful rifle.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Rattlesnake Confusion - September 2008

Rattlesnake Confusion
September 2008

There's something happening here
What it is ain't exactly clear
There's a man with a gun over there
Telling me I got to beware
Stephen Stills - “For What It’s Worth”

August 21, 1968 – The dramatic blossoming of democratic, cultural and social reforms in Czechoslovakia are squashed when 200,000 troops from the Soviet Union, Bulgaria, Poland and Hungary invade and occupy the country. What became known as the Prague Spring was a testament to what happens when people are given the freedom to think as they wish, associate with like-minded individuals and criticize the government.

And it scared the hell out of those in power.

“The policeman isn’t there to create disorder; the policeman is there to preserve disorder.”
Chicago Mayor Richard Daley

In a land that's known as Freedom
How can such a thing be fair?
Graham Nash - “Chicago”

August 26-29, 1968 – Police clash with protestors at Chicago’s Democratic National Convention. A 17 year old shot dead by the police, nearly 700 arrested and almost 200 officers injured. Earlier that year, the country had suffered the assassinations of the Rev. Martin Luther King and then-presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy. Negative sentiment for the Vietnam War was growing.

And it would have scared the hell out of those in power, but three weeks earlier, Richard Nixon was declared the Republican nominee for President.

Because something is happening here but you don’t know what it is?
Do you, Mister Jones?
Bob Dylan - “Ballad of a Thin Man”

Well, I damn sure didn’t know what was happening. I was 8 and I had spent the summer reading comic books in my father’s upholstery shop. Hell, my first experience with what was “happening” came years later in my sixth grade class when the Savannah Police came in and passed around a small, smoldering mound of dry leaves on a small screen and told us that was the smell of marijuana. That and Three Dog Night’s “Joy to the World” are my main memories of sixth grade.

If I were the king of the world
Tell you what I'd do
I'd throw away the cars and the bars and the war
Hoyt Axton – “Joy To The World”

August 25-28 and September 1-4, 2008 – At both the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, protesters are once again corralled into “free-speech zones,” a grammatical constriction that even Orwell never imagined. They are set aside out of the view of the television cameras, the press and the world.

If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, is it still a constitutionally guaranteed right?

Ain’t that freedom for you, freedom American Style?
Todd Snider – “TV Guide”

And now, nothing scares those in power.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

August 2008 CD reviews

Here's the reviews you'll find in the August 2008 issue of Playgrounds Magazine:


TybeeDawg’s Pick of the Litter
August 2008

S’ac Passé?
Sidewards Records

Their name is Swampadelica, and on their new release S’ac Passé? the New Jersey-based roots band unexpectedly whips up a cultural stew that includes the jamband influences of Deep Banana Blackout and Donna The Buffalo, but also ventures farther afield, dropping into ports of call like New Orleans, the Caribbean, San Francisco and Africa.

Lead vocalist Nadine LaFond, guitarist Brian Herkert, founding member Damian Calcagne on keyboards, bassist Paul Kuzik, and Bill Rust on drums unfailingly lock into the groove, whether it’s the sinewy rhythm of “Blueberry Street,” the languid sway of “Cloth of Time” or the bouncy title track. Recorded at Phish’s Trey Anastasio’s Vermont studio, the Barn, S’ac Passé? features twelve tracks that weave through soul, rock, funk and Cajun while maintaining an internal cohesiveness that is more difficult to achieve than you’d think, and it’s a compliment to the band’s talent that they do it so seamlessly.

The CD’s title is a Haitian Kreyol phrase that means “What’s going on?” and the response is “N’ap Boule!,” which means “Our fire is burning,” and in the case of Swampadelica, it couldn’t be more true.

This is a new feature, one designed to highlight the music that touched the Dawg in a special way…finding the spot that makes his hind leg start kicking and scratching behind his ear uncontrollably.

Dan Adams Band
The Hard Way

In 1999, Dan Adams fronted a band called 1401 and in a review of their second release, Bittersweet Voyage, I described their music as “alternative…acoustic pop/rock.” Who knew that nine years later much the same style would be considered modern country music? That’s not to say that Adams has been recycling the same material. With the release of The Hard Way, Adams has only sharpened his skill, painting his character-driven songs with a finely bristled brush, and the tunes bear a more finely-honed edge because of it.

Most of the ten tracks here were written or co-written by Adams, who also produced the last six tunes. Whether it’s the rear-view philosophy of “One Too Many Times” or the outlaw imagery of “That’s How I’m Going Out” or the even the faded Naugahyde of the rockin’ “Green Couch”, Adams rolls through the songs effortlessly, recalling at times Edwin McCain, Shawn Mullins or Reckless Kelly. The single, “Drinkin Out Loud,” is a standout track and deserves a listen (Radio station programmers, are you paying attention?).

The Hard Way is available on iTunes, Rhapsody, Napster, and eMusic.




Lauderdale hails from the musically fertile Muscle Shoals, Alabama area, a name that brings its own set of memories and influences, a melting pot that holds rock, R&B and country comfortably. And true to their roots, so do Lauderdale.

The band serves up fourteen muscular but tasty tracks on their self-titled debut, large helpings of well-marbled rock and roll mixed with country, blues and pop influences. The young band, vocalist/guitarist Niles Lee, drummer Patrick McDonald, Corey Hannah on bass and lead guitarist Daniel Stoddard, is flush with heart and talent, and could easily mature into an outstanding rock-n-roll outfit. Favorite tracks are “Take Me Home,” “Falling,” and “Wasted Life.” Fans of the Drive-By Truckers, the Drams and Jason Isbell already know who these guys are and with friends like that, what else do you need to know?

Grab some Lauderdale and dig in.


Jason Beckham
Union Park and Magnolia Street

Sometimes you can’t define what makes a good rock n roll record, but I think we can all agree on some of the ingredients: It needs heart and soul in large quantities, as well as brains and balls, and Athens, Georgia-based singer/songwriter Jason Beckham has them all in just the right proportion on his first release Union Park and Magnolia Street.

Musically, Beckham works off from a blues/roots-rock base, combining insightful, Southern-tinged songwriting and humid vocals along with fine, expressive guitar work to pull it all together on ten tracks recorded at Pigpen Studios in Athens with Five-Eight’s Patrick Ferguson on drums. Think Shawn Mullins with a chip on his shoulder.

Union Park and Magnolia Street may be a fictitious intersection, but to me, it looks like a pretty good neighborhood. This is one of those records that you want to recommend to friends, and after a listen, I’ll bet you’ll feel the same way.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Rattlesnake Confusion - Alternative Energy Version

Kind of like Phoenix radio
We used to listen. Where did it go?
It went off the air so
More Sheryl Crow could be on.

“East Nashville Skyline” – Todd Snider

There’s this one particular sort of people in our world and they have jobs that allow them to sit around and think of ways to screw other people. They gravitate to these jobs like scum finds a pond. These people cut across all socio-economic, racial and cultural lines, they could be thieves, or politicians…and in the case of the latter, very often both. But the people whose jobs are to sit around and think of new ways to screw struggling musicians deserve a special place in hell. I’m thinking front-row VIP seating at an eternal Kenny G show, however, I’m open to suggestions.

The musicians in question aren’t heard on the radio, because of restrictive, inbred formatting and least-common-denominator programming, but they are likely highly respected and wildly creative and influential songwriters.

The musicians in question aren’t on the lucrative corporate-branded shed circuit where they pimp out front row VIP tables at VIP prices where the big business tickets pay for the Eagles to re-re-re-unite or tell Jimmy Buffett to sway his fins to the left.

So if you can’t be heard and you can’t be seen, what can a poor boy to do ‘cept to sing for a rock and roll band? Lots of them loaded up the car or the van and rolled from town to town, playing gigs here and there in a bar or coffeehouse, an occasional house party or benefit and they were doing all right.

Until gas went to four dollars a gallon on every corner.

Now they’ve found a whole new way to screw with the musicians and, by extension, with us and our listening pleasures. Now they can’t afford to get to us and we can’t afford to get to them. Is this possibly the most sinister conspiracy since Chad and Jeremy left us hanging? Can this be a way to corral creativity? To saddle up individuality and reign it in? Or is it all horseshit?

Consider this: What if someone manipulated the global financial structure so that we couldn’t afford to go out to the clubs and hear live music, so that we couldn’t afford to do anything but listen to rotting and festering classic rock in the car on the way home and then settle onto the couch with our significant others to stare at the endless commercials that use those same damn songs to sell us insurance, tires, beer and sleep aids?

Viva Viagra, indeed.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Updating the ol' blog

From October of '06 until late '07, I wrote a series of columns for Playgrounds Magazine gathered under the umbrella "Rattlesnake Confusion." It was intended to be more personal explorations than simply writing CD or performance reviews. I think for the most part, it succeeded, although I had a couple of hiccups along the way.

I just uploaded to this site all the Rattlesnakes that hadn't been posted already.

With any luck, in '08 I'll try to continue confusing those rattlesnakes.

(and I'm thinking about uploading my Y2KT10 columns from waybackwhen...my premise was that at the stroke of midnight 2001, all the world's music would cease to exist. Then I asked for input as to what ten CDs you would save. I had a blast doing it, and hope to post that soon. Yeah, it's derivitive of Desert Island Discs, but what the hell. It was fun.

Rattlesnake Confusion - Dec 2006

I had another dream about the old home place last night. It was one of those typically disjointed sequences where familiar scenes are intercut with impossibly surreal situations. That’s what happens when the subconscious wrestles with Morpheus for the director’s chair. I’d like to say that Frank Capra, John Ford or Orson Welles wins, but inevitably my dreams are directed by either David Lynch or Tex Avery.

In this dream and in all my other dreams, the road that runs in front of the house is still dirt and the woods across the street have not yet been replaced with projects, losing lottery tickets and discarded fast-food wrappers didn’t swirl on the wind and then collect in the corner of the yard, and the kids on bikes weren’t runners for the crack dealer down the lane.

In these dreams, I am grown, yet the world around me is still that of my childhood. Albert Einstein believed that “the distinction between past, present and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion” and nowhere is this more evident than in dreams, where we slice open the past, insert the present and stir it with a spoon our subconscious picked randomly from the day’s events.

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” George Santayana said it and everyone quotes it, but hardly anyone practices it. Those who willingly wallow in the past by constantly reliving it are just as wrong as those who think that in order to live for the future they need to deny their past. Where we come from is part of what we are, but it is not all we are.

So the next time I dream of the old home place, and I feel the rich black dirt between my toes and I grab a handful of muscadines growing in the woods and I smell the salt marsh two blocks away, I’ll enjoy it. I’ll revel in it. I’ll savor it. I’ll remember it.

But I won’t remain in it.

The past: a great place to visit but I wouldn’t want to live there.

For Yesterday is but a Dream, And Tomorrow is only a Vision; But Today well lived makes Every Yesterday a Dream of Happiness, And every Tomorrow a Vision of Hope.Look well therefore to this Day!Such is the Salutation of the Dawn!

Rattlesnake Confusion - November 2006

I was 14 and we were in Macon to visit my mother’s sisters, Aunt Frank and Aunt Cooter. Their real names were Francis and Aileen, but no one called them that, it was always Frank and Cooter and my momma Wynokie. In those days, the trip from Savannah took awhile. I-16 hadn’t been completed all the way between the two cities, so you had to exit and take the two-lane till you could get back on the fancy new interstate. I don’t remember listening to any specific music on that long drive, but I’d be willing to bet it was country.

At home, there were few records. There was a Luke the Drifter record, with “Be Careful of Stones that You Throw,” a compilation that included Buck Owens singing “The Race is On” and an Elvis gospel album next to a Jesus Christ Superstar soundtrack that the neighbors gave me, because they were too religious for it. So what little musical background I had did little to prepare me for a joy ride with one of my older cousins. I don’t remember where we went, what kind of car we were in, or any other detail except the music coming out of this 8-track player.

Friends, I’m talking about Heavy Metal: Superstars of the 70’s: Volume 2, a Warner Brothers product that not only introduced me to Jimi Hendrix, Black Sabbath, Alice Cooper, Led Zeppelin, Yes and the Doors, but also the Allman Brothers Band, Delaney and Bonnie, Dr. John, Van Morrison and the Grateful Dead. If there was a Rosetta stone, a ground zero, an A. afarensis, a gateway drug, this was it.

Spinning off from one record, I found the heavy metal sludge of Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man,” the slamming proto-punk garage rock of MC5’s “Kick Out the Jams,” the fabled power chords of “Smoke on the Water,” the funk of T. Rex’s “Bang a Gong,” “Give it to Me” (J. Geils Band), the swampy night-tripping music of Dr. John and Led Zeppelin’s “D’yer Mak’er.” Not only were there the big stars of the day, but I was also introduced to bands like Blues Image, War and Delaney & Bonnie. In a time before MTV and even widespread FM radio in Georgia, this was like shining a flashlight in a possum’s eyes; the reflection was luminous. This treasure map led me down so many paths, but each one was worth it. I was now condemned to a life of collecting records, reading liner notes to see who wrote a song, attending concerts, filling my brain with musical minutiae, haunting record stores and methodically searching through their bins for that one record I didn’t know I needed till I found it.

So, here’s what I want to know: any chance I can sue Warner Brothers for not putting a warning label on Heavy Metal: Superstars of the 70’s: Volume 2? I mean, it’s been 32 years and I still can’t give it up.

Rattlesnake Confusion - Oct 2006 Riverfest – MIA (Missing In April)

She was dressed in her finest when she courted admirers numbering six figures. She was the hottest thing going and everyone wanted her phone number. Sure she’s 37, and people got used to her, but how can a festival that one year makes hundreds of thousands of dollars as a fundraiser for the Historic Columbus Foundation find herself without a date in 2007?

Dusty Nix, in a September 27 editorial in the Ledger-Enquirer, asked the question “Is Riverfest worth saving?” I agree with Mr. Nix that it is – and that changes need to be made. As Will Rogers said “If you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is stop digging.”

In the festival biz, you’re playing a game of chance. You roll the dice on weather, location, music, food and the local political climate. Riverfest has been dealt some crappy hands, and still persevered. Till now.

I’m not sure what the HCF board is going to do, but I do know that outdoor street festivals are integral to a city’s health, and if they decide not to continue, then someone else should step up and keep this celebration going. And I don’t know about fundraising, the political wranglings, or any back-room, behind the scenes stuff. But I’ve been to one or two festivals, and I know what I like and don’t like, and what works and what doesn’t.

Food: Not another corndog stand, please. And step away from the cotton candy machines. We have an annual fair if you have to have fair food. Stick to the BBQ competition, encourage local restaurants to vend, and have a variety of portion sizes and prices. Offer regional beer choices instead of plastic cups of warm Budweiser. I wouldn’t mind sipping a cold Red Jacket Ale from the Cannon Brewpub while watching the Chattahoochee roll by on a spring afternoon.

Music: Rather than present the same tired acts that use festivals as a convenient overnight stop and painless paycheck between casino gigs, offer local and regional bands with a following and some press behind them. If you have the cash, bring in a bigger name one night, but not a ringer band whose one remaining original member secured the rights to the name in nasty court skirmish. Build a reputation of bringing in artists that go on to have number one records (all together now: Dixie Chicks). A lot of people are going to come anyway, regardless of the lineup, so why not give them some quality, and they can say “we saw them when.”

The same buzz works for bands, the more respected your lineup, the easier it will be to attract better bands. Athens is full of talented bands that would love the chance to play on a large outdoor stage. Work with someone who has the contacts to bring in these bands and partner with the clubs and coffee shops downtown to book musicians as part of the celebration.

Children: Festivals should be for all ages, so make it exciting and unique for the kids. Forget the inflatable slides and castles. Interactive activities like painting, pottery, making music, and storytelling can be fun and educational. Focus on things they can’t get at the Greater Columbus Fair.

Location, Location, Location: True enough. Between the fine Phenix City Amphitheatre, both Riverwalks and downtown Columbus streets, there’s plenty of room to stretch out. Work with the city governments on both sides of the river to ensure consistency.

Explore alternatives. Are there private-public partnerships that haven’t been taken advantage of? What can Columbus State bring to the table? What makes Riverfest unique, what can differentiate it from other festivals in the state?

It’s a fallacy that you can be all things to all people. That’s an impossible compromise, where you agree to have, as Lyle Lovett says, “an acceptable level of ecstasy.” This is somewhat unavoidable in a street festival because you can’t narrowly focus on one group, but what you can do is present everyone with quality choices on every level.

I hope Riverfest resurfaces and reinvents itself as an event that will not only excite locals but draw in people from the surrounding region. She may be unavailable next year, but I hope she and I can hook up in ’08.

With luck, Rattlesnake Confusion will be a monthly column about various aspects of music, the people who make it and those of us lucky enough to listen. If you have any suggestions, I’d love to hear ‘em. - C

Last Call - Rattlesnake Confusion - September 2007

Last Call

The band had played its last waltz and the dancers were finishing up their drinks, laughing and hugging their partners. She admired the way a Cajun band summoned up the music that held people in its sway, as if they were marionettes and the rhythm tugged the strings and spun them around. She was watching the last two dancers silently working out a two-step move when her view was suddenly obscured by a broad expanse of human sporting closely-cropped red hair and a LSU football jersey.

“Hey honey, I’m Taurus…like the bull…you know, in the Zodiac?” He looked at her blankly, wanting to make sure that she knew what the Zodiac was, and also that she wasn’t confusing him with a mid-size Ford.

Taurus took her silence as acquiescence and leaned over the bar to instruct a 22-year old chemistry major to bring him a bourbon and coke. “And when I say bourbon, I mean good bourbon; don’t be tryin’ no tricks back there, darlin’!” He settled his bulk against the bar and turned to her again. “You gotta watch ‘em, they’ll charge you for the top shelf and then pull the ol’ switcheroo on ya!”

She resolutely studied the beads of condensation sliding down her martini glass, quickly glancing sideways at the man next to her: mid-thirties, only slightly out of shape, he played some high school football but didn’t have the grades to stay in college, she’d seen his type before. Tonight, however, his playing field was Rooster’s Cajun Cabin and she knew he was thinking of her as the goal line.

His phone chirped. He studied the display for a moment, answered and barked “hold on” as he drained his glass. He gestured to the chemistry major and walked off toward the bathrooms as the bartender came up, winked at her and poured Taurus a well brand.

It wasn’t long before Taurus walked back up to her, leaning in even closer. In the glow of the video poker machine, he stared into his drink and swirled the glass, what he told himself was a thoughtful, refined gesture. He had palmed the pills while in the bathroom and now only had to distract her and slip them into her drink. He was actually getting good at this. He looked into her eyes and…

“Hey, where’d the big guy go?” the bartender asked, as she scooped up the bills under his half-empty glass.

“He asked me out.”

“And I turned him down,” she paused as she ran a manicured fingernail around the edge of a flattened Red Bull can, “you know how guys like that are, their ego gets crushed SO easily.”

Rattlesnake Confusion - July 2007

If I ever die of a heart attack, I hope it will be from playing my stereo too loud. ~Anonymous

Now there’s a quotation I whole-heartedly agree with! And in the interest of working toward that goal, I got myself a birthday present: The Logitech Wireless Music System for PC (http://www.logitech.com/), acquired through Amazon for forty-five bucks, is considerably less costly than any of the competing systems.

So what’s this thing do? Well, it wirelessly streams music from your PC or laptop to your home stereo system. This is important to me for two reasons: One, I download tons of music (all legal, thank you very much) and in order to listen to it in my living room, I have to burn a CD and cart it to the other side of the house just to blast it from decent speakers at the afore-mentioned heart attack inducing volume. And two, there are great radio stations out there that I listen to online, but I wanted the freedom to hear them throughout the house and in the backyard.

The gadget showed up on my doorstep one Friday afternoon and installation was so quick and simple even a Georgia boy could do it. There's a small transmitter that goes into a USB port and a receiver that plugs into the stereo. I used the tape input jacks. It fired right up and started working even without the included software. Using Winamp, I first cranked up some live Drive-By Truckers, and then I logged onto WWOZ from their website (http://www.wwoz.org/). It really sounded great, although there was some distortion at louder volumes. And when I say loud, I mean palpitation levels, although that could be due to several things, not necessarily my new toy.

Next, I installed the software, which is meant to offer an added degree of control. Specifically, this equipment hijacks your computer speakers and runs everything through to the stereo, including the Windows sounds, and the software lets you decide what goes to the speakers and what stays at the PC. However, after installing the software, it quit working! So after playing around with the controls a little, I uninstalled it and it worked fine. At some point, I may reinstall the software, but for now it does what I want it to do. I’ve had no problems with the sound dropping out and it doesn’t seem to interfere with the speed of my PC or my internet connection. There’s a kinda cheap looking remote control, and I’ve only had spotty success getting it to work. I’ve used Winamp and Windows Media Player to play several types of music files, including wav, flac, shn and MP3. Some people have complained about interference from cordless phones and microwaves as well as wireless internet, but I’ve had no issues at all.

Next step: getting my wireless outdoor speakers to work with it. They didn’t immediately talk to each other, so I played around with it and found that by moving the speakers’ transmitter from the tape out jacks to the VCR out jacks I was able to get them to play flawlessly and I'm here to tell you right now, brethren and cistern, I'm typing this on my laptop while listening to WWOZ in my very own backyard!

Anonymous, you got the right idea, my friend.

2/5/08 - update: the microwave and my wireless internet connection on my laptop both have effects on the signal.

Rattlesnake Confusion - June 2007

“Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends…”
”Karn Evil 9” ~ Emerson, Lake & Palmer

Feels a bit pretentious to be using that as this month’s title, but as I’ve never been much for self-reflection and soul searching, I’m wondering why I’m starting now. Originally, it was going to be one of those “the more things change, the more they stay the same” rants about the death of Jerry Falwell, presidential candidates’ debates, and the Iraq War. I never made it there. The truth is that this didn’t start out to be about my birthday, but I’m writing part of it on that day, so I guess you’ll forgive me if I self-indulge. On this birthday that I share with Bob Dylan, I always listen to his music. I doubt he’s returning the favor by reading my stuff, but hey, he’s a busy guy.

Modern Times isn’t my favorite Dylan record by any means, but it was the only Dylan CD in my 200-CD changer. Nashville Skyline was sitting on my turntable, but I’ve already spun that one a few times because a friend recently sent me a pristine half-speed mastered vinyl copy (Thanks, Donelle!) so I sat in the backyard in the growing darkness and listened to Dylan’s newest record. The Dylan on Modern Times is a far, far cry from the young, angry poet-folkie who spat out his lyrics like he believed in the power of a fascist-killing machine, but you gotta admire someone who avoids burning out while figuring out new ways to sneak around the fading away part.

In his younger days, Dylan wrote that “he not busy being born is busy dying.” It’s not that you need to completely reinvent yourself, but why deny yourself the rush of pleasure that comes with a new experience? Aristotle said “wonder implies the desire to learn,” so use a sense of wonder to help keep a fresh viewpoint and an open mind while staying true to your roots. I have a few constants: family, Hank Williams, Levi’s and my library card, but a lot of the rest is negotiable. We should always strive to learn something new, from old farts like Aristotle or Dylan, or even me…and my lesson for you is:

Just because rust never sleeps doesn’t mean I can’t take a power nap, dammit!

Rattlesnake-recommended June events:
June 1 – Sean Costello & Precious Bryant – Uptown Concert Series, Columbus GA
June 2 – Paul Thorn, the Loft, Columbus GA
June 8 & 9 – Alex City Jazzfest, Alexander City AL
June 22-24 – Athfest, Athens GA

Rattlesnake Confusion January 2007

Originally printed in Playgrounds Magazine - January 2007

Rattlesnake Confusion – 2007

By Curtis Lynch

Jeff Beck and Jimi Hendrix may be used to feedback, but I ain’t. To all y’all who said nice things about these first couple of Rattlesnakes, thank you. I wanted to try something a bit more personal and a bit more opinionated and I hope to keep that up in 2007.

This one, unfortunately, is going to be a quick regurgitation of what I liked this past year:

Best CDs 2006:

They’re sorta in order, but after the first three or four, it gets fuzzy for me.

Will Kimbrough – Americanitis – Easily my favorite record of the year. Kimbrough mixes humor and biting social commentary with a sensitivity for humanity that is too often lacking in today’s world.

Darrell Scott – The Invisible Man – This Nashville songwriter has recorded an amazing album of roots-rock that you really just need to hear to believe.

Drive-By Truckers - A Blessing And A Curse - America’s best live rock band trades sprawling Southern narrative for conciseness and maintains their integrity in the process.

T-Bone Burnette – The True False Identity – Burnette’s first record since 1992. Knife sharp lyrics over immaculate production.

The Mammals - Departure – Completely irresistible and infectious, the Mammals mix traditional instrumentation with forward-thinking songwriting to forge a sound somewhere between bluegrass and high-energy contemporary folk music.

The Drams – Jubilee Drive – A band comprised of 75% of Slobberbone has more balls and heart than 75% of all the other bands combined. The slight pop sheen does nothing to diminish the power of Brent Best’s music.

The Duhks – Migrations – Like the Mammals, the Duhks acoustically combine a world of influences and somehow garnered a Grammy nomination for “Best Country Performance by a Group or Duo” for a track from this one.

Todd Snider – The Devil You Know – Todd’s songwriting continues to get better. Three or four of these songs are among his best, but the whole album is a great listen.

Whigs – Give ‘Em All a Big Fat Lip – This Athens band’s combination of rock and pop with a slice of punk won’t insult your intelligence and will keep you intrigued.

Papa Grows Funk – Live At The Leaf – Sweaty funk recorded over three nights at the Maple Leaf in New Orleans. Pass it!

Best Festivals 2006:

Mucklewain, Harriman TN – A festival that focused on Southern roots-rock didn’t try to overachieve their first year, but they did anyway. It’ll be hard to top a one-day lineup that was as strong top-to-bottom as any festival (Steve Earle, Todd Snider, Jason Ringenberg, Tommy Womack and Will Kimbrough, Lucero, Caddle and Southern Bitch), but I’m going to be there next year to see if they can do it.

The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, New Orleans LA – Bruce Springsteen and the Seeger Sessions Band brought a much-needed catharsis through music to the crowds. The crowds brought a much-needed influx of money and tourism back to the town that Katrina and FEMA couldn’t kill.

Blind Willie McTell Blues Festival, Thomson GA – Seems like we enjoyed the smaller festivals the best this year. This one had everything except overflowing crowds, overpriced beer, plastic food and anemic music.

Best Club Shows 2006:

Drive-By Truckers, 40 Watt Club, Athens GA – Two nights in Athens in January with this band is a tradition that’s probably taking a break in ’07. The sold-out, sweaty, appreciative hometown crowds won’t know what to do with themselves.

Caddle, SoHo, Columbus GA - These guys have country-rock swagger confidently nailed. Best band that makes regular stops in town.

I’m looking forward to 2007. Just like America, I’ll be another year older and deeper in debt.

What would I like to see around here next year? A radio station, either community or college based, that programs a wide variety of artists and local interests, a music festival that combines local and regional talent and makes people excited about coming back, a grass roots support for live music that goes beyond cover bands and open mic nights (there’s absolutely nothing wrong with either, by the way) and Sweetwater 420 on tap.

Oh, and that whole peace on earth thing.