Lenten Listen #7: Drive-By Truckers – Decoration Day February 28, 2012Posted by Matt in Lent.
Tags: Decoration Day, drive-by truckers, Lent, Marry Me
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Y’all knew DBT would make the list sooner or later.
I’ve been an obsessive follower of the Drive-By Truckers for nearly 10 years and it was this album, released in 2003, that vaulted them into the upper tier of artists in eyes. Over the years I’ve collected all of their recordings, seen them live 11 times, and even made my family take a detour on our trip to Atlanta two summers ago so that I could see the almost nonexistent community of Zip City, Alabama, to see the setting of one of my favorite songs, yet they never get old to me and I’m always first in line for their latest album or any concert in the general vicinity. Like I said, I’m a bit obsessive.
The band appeals to me because their tales of the dark side of Southern life are real and true, they don’t pass over the warts and blemishes, choosing instead to bring those things long kept hidden into the light. They’re loud, abrasive, and with people like Patterson Hood, Mike Cooley, and on this album Jason Isbell, they’re among the best songwriters working today.
One of my favorite lines on this album is from the song “Marry Me,” when Cooley sings:
There’s a fool on every corner, on every street, in every one
And I’d rather be your fool nowhere than go somewhere and be no one’s.
Shelter From the Storm January 23, 2012Posted by Matt in family, personal stories.
Tags: destruction, drive-by truckers, music, neko case, sirens, Southaven, tornado, warning
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The word itself strikes fear into the heart of men, women, and children across the land. Feet get antsy, ears and eyes go on high alert, and people begin scurrying for protection at the first sound of danger, the blaring tornado siren or the soothing voice of Dave Brown, weatherman extraordinaire. This scourge of the south attacks with reckless abandon, its path of wanton destruction arbitrarily striking here and yon, with no regard for the victims.
Last night was another of those type nights. We knew the meteorological attack was coming, we knew that, if chosen, our chances for saving our worldly possessions were next to nothing and that perhaps even our lives may be in jeopardy.
I kept the television on as long as our satellite worked, watching the ominous red line move closer and closer to our home, listening to reports of the shattering of civilization, the unstoppable bombardment from above, the crushing power of an angry mother nature. Like people in war movies (and presumably in real war situations) crouched in their foxholes awaiting the inevitable firestorm from the skies, hardening themselves against the chance of death and injury, we sat with bated breath, wondering how the die of fate cast in the skies might fall for us.
The sirens finally went off and I walked upstairs, shook the children awake and moved them to the master bathroom downstairs, presumably the safest room in the house. The groggily went along, pushed by fear of the unknown.
The electricity went out and we sat together, the inner bathroom illuminated by a lone flashlight and I tried to placate their fears of what the night may hold, of the unstoppable power from the skies, the vortex of doom indiscriminately destroying towns and lives, leaving behind the wreckage of hopes and dreams.
Minutes later it was over. The sirens stopped and the exhausted children lay in our bed, refusing to troop back to their own rooms upstairs. I acquiesced, kissed them goodnight, and retreated to the living room couch. We made it.
I tried to think of a good soundtrack for a tornado, but I could only come up with two good tornado songs: The Drive-By Truckers’ “Tornadoes,” and Neko Case’s “This Tornado Loves You.” What other tunes would you add to the playlist?
The Duality of the Southern Thing January 17, 2012Posted by Matt in personal stories, race.
Tags: drive-by truckers, duality of the southern thing, Martin Luther King, Mississippi, peace, racism, Robert E Lee, self-righteous indignation, the South
What does it mean to be Southern?
It’s an interesting question and one that I’ve been pondering quite a bit over the past 24 hours. After spending the first 26 years of my life in the great state of Arkansas, I moved across the river to Southaven, Mississippi, which in turn sits within walking distance of Memphis, some eight years ago. The process of leaving the safe confines of small town Central Arkansas and entering the urban/suburban area in which I now reside was an interesting one to say the least.
I’m an educated guy and have long considered myself to be an intelligent, progressive person, one whose mind is open to all sorts of views and peoples, one who believes strongly in justice and peace. That being said, these years of living in Mississippi have been challenging ones in a multitude of ways. In that time I’ve chosen to confront my own inner prejudices lurking back in my subconscious, the byproduct of being raised in a largely homogenous small town environment, and I’ve emerged a better person than before, one who truly tries to practice what he preaches.
But at the same time, having largely conquered feelings of prejudice in my mind, I often find the balance swinging too far in the other direction, that of self-righteous indignation. I think to myself, “I get this. Why don’t you get it?”
This internal struggle came to light again yesterday on Facebook as I wrote with some incredulity about my children’s school letting out for “King/Lee Day.” Yes, that Lee. Robert E. The famous Confederate General. Every year I see that and every year I have a similar reaction, shaking my head with consternation at the perceived backwardness of others, summoning that self-righteousness again to wag my finger in their faces.
This time, though, something interesting happened. Barbara, a friend, mentor, and someone for whom I have immense respect, put me in my place. I don’t think she minds me reprinting her response and I would rather do that than put it in my own words:
Oh, the need to explain that “dual” holiday. The date was historically for Robert E. Lee’s birthday and was a state holiday. When the day became a federal holiday to honor Dr. King on his birthday this is what happened. Now, if you object to honoring REL, a true son of the South, you can honor MlK, another true son of the South. If you want, you can honor both guys. Just think of King and Lee meeting in heaven on this day to share a beer and talk about how things have changed. Maybe not fast enough, but things have changed. I would like to think that we’ve learned that peace and nonviolence is a better way to address our differences (Dr. Kings message) than violence and war. But,I’m a dreamer…..
With my scorn sufficiently placated by Dr. Jones’ words, I decided to again look inward, to reflect on what this meant to me, as a progressive Southerner, one who loves the place and the people, but struggles with reconciling the past with the present. As often happens, this train of thought then brought me to a song, this time by one of my favorite bands, the Drive-By Truckers. “The Southern Thing” is found on their sprawling and incredible album Southern Rock Opera, a personal favorite of mine that once led me on a pilgrimage to Muscle Shoals and then on to the small community of Zip City.
In this particular song, Patterson Hood sings of this internal struggle for reconciliation between pride and shame brewing inside the hearts and minds of those below the Mason-Dixon Line while at the same time trying to deal with those who don’t understand, those to whom this seems so foreign, saying,
You think I’m dumb, maybe not too bright
You wonder how I sleep at night
Proud of the glory, stare down the shame
Duality of the southern thing.
“The duality of the southern thing.” I think that explains a lot. It may be impossible to define “Southerness,” but the inner struggle of those dueling forcing is certainly an aspect that cannot be swept aside.
Things are continually moving forward and changing in the South, and though that does not absolve us of nor does it cause us to forget the past, it aids us in building for a better future. As Hood later says in the song:
Four generations, a whole lot has changed
Robert E. Lee
Martin Luther King
We’ve come a long way, rising from the flame
Stay out the way of the southern thing.
So, while I may never venerate Robert E. Lee, certainly not to the extent of Martin Luther King, I can recognize and respect his place in the history of my people. And maybe, as Dr. Jones said, the two of them are having a beer in heaven talking it over right now.
Best Albums of 2011: 11-20 December 21, 2011Posted by Matt in Best of 2011.
Tags: albums, Best of 2011, Cults, drive-by truckers, Jay-Z, Kanye West, Mastodon, music, My Morning Jacket, Raphael Saadiq, Saigon, TV on the Radio, Wild Flag, Yuck
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It’s no secret that I’ve had a longstanding love, going back some ten years, of the Drive-By Truckers, but because I hold their earlier albums (Southern Rock Opera, Decoration Day, and The Dirty South) in such high regard, it affects my view of their more recent works. This was especially true with 2009’s The Big To-Do, which I really liked from the first time I heard it, but it took time and a few shows for that to grow into a true appreciation for it. This story repeated itself with Go-Go Boots because I must admit I was not particularly impressed with it at first. Over time, though, it has blossomed in my eyes and ears and now I am more convinced than ever that it belongs in the holy canon. There are several standout tracks, including a new live staple and probably the most uncharacteristic track on the album, an R&B-tinged cover of the late Eddie Hinton’s “Everybody Needs Love.” Others to check out are the dark title track, a very DBT-esque tale of an adulterous, murderous Southern preacher, and “Used to Be a Cop” with its bass line made to be played live and its story of a mentally disturbed former police officer, but the real highlight from the album in my eyes is the closer, “Mercy Buckets,” a song that really captured my attention with a transcendent performance earlier this year in Memphis. With lyrics like “I will bring you buckets of mercy / And hold your hand when you’re crossing the street / Pay your bail if you need it / I will be your saving grace,” it’s a love song as only the great Patterson Hood could tell it. If you want to know why I’m obsessed with the band, start here and work back. You won’t be disappointed.
Though it may seem like it at times, not all of the music I enjoy is gloom and doom, with intricate intellectual themes weaved through the notes and words. No, sometimes there are bands like Cults who blow the entire dark-hued obelisk to bits, the type of band who can act as the lone sunbeam on an otherwise dreary day. Much like other recent bands like Camera Obscura, Brooklyn’s Cults reach back to 1960’s pop for their influence, dispensing rays of upbeat happiness like a lighthouse in the dark. This is an album full of pop gems, of innocence and puppy love that are sure to put a smile on your face and skip in your step. The catchy sing-along lines of “Go Outside” (I really want to go out / I really want to go outside / And stop to see your day) will ingrain themselves in your brain and it’s borderline impossible to not tap your foot along to the nostalgic beats of “Most Wanted.” Just put this one on and enjoy yourself. My kids love it, too, so that’s an added bonus.
Some two decades ago, rap legends Public Enemy made the declaration, “Don’t believe the hype,” and it’s true that hype is a tough thing to reach. That being the case, when it was announced that two of the biggest and most revered hip-hop artists were going to join forces for an album, an impossibly high bar was put in place. It’s tough not to be guilty of high expectations, though, considering that Jay-Z is responsible for classics like The Blueprint and Kanye West released what I think may be the greatest rap album ever recorded, My Dark Twisted Fantasy. With expectations at that level, it’s hard for anyone, even those regarded as being among the elite, to reach that kind of height. Watch the Throne is a good album, one that may be regarded as excellent by another act, but it is hard to separate oneself from the legendary status of their past work when judging it. Jay-Z’s swagger is in full effect on songs like “Ni@@as in Paris,” when he doles out lines like “What’s fifty grand to a motha****er like me / Can you please remind me?” and in “Otis” (with its great Otis Redding sample” when proclaims, “I’m ‘bout to call the paparazzi on myself.” Kanye isn’t one to be outdone, though, when he blasts out in “Gotta Have It,” saying “LOLOLOL to white America, assassinate my character.” In the end, the album is somewhat underwhelming when compared to their past work, but it is still worth getting, with its great beats and rhymes from two of the best in the business.
First off, I must admit that I’m a bit of a late comer to TV on the Radio. Sure, I had heard some of their stuff in the past, but had never been moved enough to reach out and grab any of their albums. But the overwhelming positive reaction to the band was more than I could hold out on any longer and I grabbed a copy of Nine Types of Light soon after it came out. Needless to say, it was a great decision. This genre-hopping outfit is not easily defined, but that fluidity is perhaps their greatest asset as they effortlessly flit between soul to the sound of early 80’s post-punk to jazzy excursions, from electronic bleeps to distorted guitars, mixing it all together into a glorious whole, turning chaos into a sublime experience. You can feel the heartbreak in songs like “You,” where Tunde Adebimpe sings “You gave no reason for letting go / I just thought you might like to know / You’re the only one I ever loved,” and then the hopes for reconciliation in “Will Do,” (But I’ll be there to take care of you / If ever you should decide / That you don’t want to waste your life / In the middle of a lovesick lullaby). It’s a very personal work and one that requires several listens to fully appreciate, but once it reels you in there is no escape and that’s really the best thing you can ever hope for with an album.
Back in the late 1990’s, the riot grrrl movement of left-wing, feminist activism found an audience through the music of great punk-influenced indie rock bands like Sleater-Kinney. They certainly made their mark on the music scene, but by the mid 2000’s, many of those bands were no more and, though there were a number of great female-led groups, few matched the punch of those earlier ones. Finally, though, somebody stepped back in to fill the void. In 2010, Carrie Brownstein, guitarist and co-founder of Sleater-Kinney as well as a music contributor to NPR, announced her new project, Wild Flag, a collaborative effort between people from a few different riot grrrl era bands, and by September of this year their triumphant debut work was released. Despite having a sound that harkens back to a decade ago, the album sounds fresh and important, timely and needed, its indie pop calls for reckless abandon, for letting go of your worries and dancing without concern. When Brownstein urges the listener to “Shake, shimmy, shake,” you want to do it, regardless of where you are or what you’re doing. It’s a great throwback and a lot of fun.
At the risk of sounding like someone far beyond my years or mindset, they just don’t make music like they used to when it comes to soul and R&B, so there has long been a gap existing in the music community, waiting for some eager people full of that special, heart-wrenching spirit to fill. Last year hip-hop artist Cee-Lo stepped up, producing an album of incredibly fun tunes with a sound akin to a potty-mouthed Stevie Wonder. This year another artist who has been around for some time, Raphael Saadiq, is picking up the soulful baton and taking his own turn. Saadiq first came to prominence in the late 80’s-early 90’s R&B group Tony! Toni! Tone! (“Feels Good,” “If I Had No Loot”) and since then he has worked as a producer for other top-selling artists as well as creating his own acclaimed music, but this is the first solo work of his I have acquired. Needless to say, I’m hooked. Listening to Saadiq, I hear a huge Sly and the Family Stone influence, particularly on the opener “Heart Attack,” while other tracks seem to draw from the likes of Ray Charles and other greats of times past. Make sure and check out songs like “Over You” and the title track and I’m sure you’ll agree: this is old school soul at its best.
Over the past ten years, there have been a number of bands that have entered and become fully planted in my consciousness, so much so that I wait with great anticipation for every release and passionately yearn for them to visit our city. There are those like the Drive-By Truckers who I have seen numerous times and then there is a band like My Morning Jacket, who I follow religiously but have somehow not made their way to Memphis in the time I’ve been living here. Their latest release, Circuitous, is another stellar release, complete with their trademark hazy, reverb-drenched sound and a bunch of excellent songs from Jim James and the boys. Following the incredible Z and the psychotropic freak out of Evil Urges, which I loved even more, MMJ fans wondered about the direction in which the band was headed. Would they return to their earlier sound or continue down the rainbow hued path to the always-elusive hallucinatory nirvana? Well, the answer is somewhere in the middle and this may be just as good, if not better, than either of those releases. The trippy seven minute “Circuital” (Circuits / Connect the Earth to the moon / And link our heavenly bodies / Not a moment too soon) is a must hear, as is the wonderfully weird “Holdin’ on to Black Metal” (Oh black metal, so misunderstood / Don’t turn yourself into Lucifer’s fool), but it is the carefree joy over somber tones of “Wonderful (The Way I Feel)” (I’m going where there ain’t no fear / I’m going where the spirit is near / I’m going where the living is easy / And the people are kind / A new state of mind), that for the moment is my favorite cut on the album. Once again, MMJ strikes gold.
The story of Saigon is a rags to riches story of the best kind. While doing time for assault in the late 90’s, he became friends with a fellow inmate named Hakim, who rapped and employed both positive messages and an impressive vocabulary. After his release, he began to pick us some underground buzz and flew just below the mainstream radar for the next decade, collaborating with some of the biggest and most acclaimed artists in the genre while fighting with his record label over creative differences. So, the album sat on a shelf for some time before he was finally dropped by Atlantic in 2008, a situation he described in the song “Believe it” saying, “”They rather me pretend to be something that I’m not / I’m the new Public Enemy / I’m different that Young Joc.” The album finally broke through to the public earlier this year, having been released on an independent label, and this rap tour-de-force proved to be one of the best hip-hop collections of the year. His penchant for speaking candidly about social problems using the context of his own hard luck background shines throughout the work, though he’s certainly not above the braggadocio of hip-hop, claiming that “My flow is like the Cuban Missle Crisis” in “Come on Baby,” while saying in the title track that his personal story “is realer than 9/11 / I rhyme about lyin’ reverends / While showin’ all total respect to the Big Guy in Heaven / I rap about politicians, how money’s their acquisition / To get it they gotta keep us without a pot to piss in.” If you like good, socially conscious rap music, this is definitely one to check out.
Having come of age in the 1990’s, it’s only natural that I would be a bit nostalgic for the music of that era, so it is refreshing to find artists whose vision of the past is similar to mine. Over the years, the results of this endeavor have varied wildly, but occasionally a band breaks through the ever-thickening shroud of time and channels the energy of that fondly recalled era with such flair that you feel as though you’ve stepped into a flannel-covered time machine. Yuck, despite their name, is one of those wonderful memory-laden bands, their loud and fuzzy guitars eliciting a sense of euphoria rarely felt any longer. If Thurston Moore and Stephen Malkmus had a child who was then raised by J Mascis, it would sound like Yuck. It opens with “Get Away,” and a guitar that sounds as though it’s being played through a wall of white noise and the repeated intonation to “Tell me when the pain kicks in.” From that point on, the band rolls through a grunge litany long thought extinct, from the lovely “Georgia” to the distortion-filled “Operation,” making us believe again that stalwart indifference may be the answer to all of life’s questions.
As a teenager, metal music played a vital role in my music development, from Metallica (Black Album and earlier) to Megadeth to the savage violence of Pantera, but over the years I lost interest in the genre. Part of that may be from my aging sensibilities, but much of it, I believe, stems from my grumpy old man insistence that they don’t make it the way they used to. Then I heard Atlanta natives Mastodon and, once I recovered from the initial face-melting experience, I was hooked. The band made their mark with loud, intricate concept albums, Leviathan being loosely based on Moby Dick and their last album, 2009’s Crack Skye, telling the story of a quadriplegic traveling the astral plain before getting stuck in Tsarist Russia. The Hunter eschews the use of a central concept in favor of collecting a number of incredible songs showing their killer musicianship. It all kicks off with the guitar blast of “Black Tongue,” with its undeniably great riffing, then follows that up with the excellent, almost 70’s riff rock sounding, “Curl of the Burl” with one of the most awesome opening lines of the year, “I killed a man ‘cause he killed my goat. / I put my hands around his throat.” They may never be a household name like Metallica (and that’s a good thing because you can see how that turned out), but they have made an indelible mark on the world of metal over the past ten years and, if The Hunter is any indication, there is a lot more greatness to come.
A Thanksgiving Playlist November 21, 2011Posted by Matt in holiday, music.
Tags: drive-by truckers, Led Zeppelin, My Morning Jacket, Talking Heads, Thanksgiving playlist, Todd Snider, Willie Nelson
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It’s easy to come by playlists for some holidays, whether it’s finding spooky sounding tunes for Halloween or the neverending line of Christmas carols or the odes to patriotism on the 4th of July, but Thanksgiving soundtracks are few and far between. On my iPod I could find only one song out of ~16,000 that explicitly referenced the holiday and only a smattering of them about being thankful (I’m way to cool and snobby for Christian music, though I’m sure those of you who enjoy that genre will have many more choices). So, I put together five songs from my iPod with the words Thanks or Thanksgiving in the title.
1. Drive-By Truckers – The Thanksgiving Filter
“So put the food on the table and Papa says a blessing
They’re cutting up some turkey and gobbling some dressing.
My aunt’s praising Palin and my niece loves Obama
My uncle came to dinner wearing his pajamas.”
And one more that doesn’t have the word thanks in it, but that describes me pretty well.
“All of my neighbors are all up in arms
About something they saw on TV.
Seems some politician got busted for something
That won’t make any difference to me.
Now I’m sure it’s all true and I’m tired of this too
But I can’t pray for some guy to fall.
I say let all the people do what people do
I’m just happy to be here at all.”
What would you add to the list?
Still Truckin’ October 31, 2011Posted by Matt in concerts.
Tags: concert, DBT fans are the best, drive-by truckers, Memphis, Mercy Buckets, New Daisy, setlist, zip city
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I came, I saw, I went to another Drive-By Truckers show, my 2nd this year and 11th overall by my best recollection, and they continue to blow me away every time they take the stage. This weekend they played the New Daisy Theater in downtown Memphis, a place where singer Patterson Hood once worked long ago and that, I would imagine, holds a warm place in his heart.
I walked into the building alone, but it’s kind of unusual the way life is for diehard Trucker fans, for by the end of the night, it was as though I was surrounded by friends, people whom I had just met, yet felt a certain kinship towards, even after only 3 hours of loud music. As I mentioned earlier, I quickly fell in with people from Arkansas because of my Razorback hat, and soon I began to meet others. There was a couple from Muscle Shoals, Alabama, the hometown of several of the band members. When I found that out, the conversation went something like this.
“Ok,” I said, “So, Zip City?”
The guy looked at me strangely, the light reflecting from his shaved bald head, “Yeah?”
“So, we were passing through the Florence area a couple of years ago and I took a detour to see the town. Zip City.”
“You,” he looked at me with incredulous disbelief, “went to Zip City? Really?”
“Yeah, sure did.”
He chuckled, “Ain’t much there, is there?”
“No, but I did get my picture taken in front of the Salem Church of Christ. Other than that, all I saw was the Zip City Volunteer Fire Department. There wasn’t even a city limit sign.”
Then the woman that was with him chimed in, “You know all those people and things that write about are real, especially Jason’s (Isbell) songs.”
“Yep. You know Holland Hill (from the song “Decoration Day”)? He’s a real person. The Hills still live in the Shoals today.”
“Wow,” is all I can say, awestruck at the revelation.
The man jumped back in, “They’re a great band and I’m glad to see them do so well, but back home they’re just like anybody else.”
The opening band of the night was Them Darlins, a mostly female outfit (only the drummer was male) who played a really great mix of 90’s-esque Riot Grrrl type songs with a distinctly southern sensibility. I enjoyed their show a great deal and after checking them out on Spotify I am a certified fan.
The Truckers hit the stage after 9:00, ripping through the up tempo Cooley tune, “Get Downtown,” before heavying things up a bit with “Drag the Lake Charlie” and “Where the Devil Don’t Stay.” The band was in excellent form, as always, as they tore through an excellent blend of songs from across their career. One of the highlights for me was a newer song of theirs, “Mercy Buckets,” which came near the end of the set. It’s a wonderfully emotional number, and you could see Patterson Hood pouring his heart and soul into it as he sang:
When all your good days keep getting shorter, count on me.
When you’re about 20 cents shy of a quarter, count on me.
When you just need a place to hide out for a while.
I’ll help you hide the bodies in a little while
I will bring you buckets of mercy,
And hold your hand when you’re crossing the street.
I’ll play a song if you want it.
It was a transcendent moment, and suddenly a song that I liked but never paid that much attention to became one of my favorites. It’s kind of funny the way a live show will do that to you.
It took until the encore before they played my very favorite DBT song, and one of my favorite songs by anybody all time, the aforementioned “Zip City,” and as always, it was incredible.
Seriously, if you’ve never seen the Drive-By Truckers live, do yourself a favor and catch them as soon as possible.
Here is the complete setlist:
Drag the Lake Charlie
Where the Devil Don’t Stay
Two Daughters and a Beautiful Wife
A Ghost to Most
I’m Sorry Houston
The Tough Sell
Box of Spiders
Everybody Needs Love
Women Without Whiskey
Hell No, I Ain’t Happy
3 Dimes Down
Let There Be Rock
People Who Died
The Universal Language of the Razorback October 31, 2011Posted by Matt in Razorbacks.
Tags: Arkansas Razorbacks, drive-by truckers, faith in humanity, interconnectedness, Memphis, Mississippi
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Saturday night I had the opportunity to see one of my all-time favorite bands, the Drive-By Truckers, in concert again. It was an incredible show and I’ll have a separate post about that later (today?), but there was another phenomenon that took place prior to the band gracing the stage that captured my attention, something that again renewed my belief in humanity and interconnectedness of the universe.
I’m an Arkansan by birth, hailing from a small town in central Arkansas, so naturally I carry a strong affinity for the gridiron heroes of my home state, the Razorbacks. I have a deep and abiding affection for my fellow Arkansans, those who don plastic hog hats and pig snouts and give a great Woo Pig Sooie at any and all occasions, from weddings to funerals to just the general celebration of life. For nearly 8 years, though, I’ve been somewhat removed from my people, a stranger in a strange land, like the Israelites of old toiling away ‘neath the harsh rule of an Egyptian pharaoh. But, my predicament may be even worse, for these isn’t merely a totalitarian government seeking to enslave my people and kill our children, no, it is even worse.
I live in Mississippi, surrounded by Ole Miss fans.
Yet there is no prophet rising up to lead the people out of exile, to part the rushing waters of the Mississippi river and lead us back to the promised land, and away from the accursed calls of “Hotty Toddy.” The despair can sometimes be great, even unbearable, but occasionally my faith is rekindled.
Saturday, as you may recall, my beloved Razorbacks eked out a victory against the mighty Vanderbilt Commodores, in a game that may rank as one of the most entertaining thus far in 2011. So, as I chose concert-going clothes from my wardrobe (Is this clean? Not sure. Does it smell bad? No, so it’s probably ok.), I made sure to grab one article to proclaim my allegiance: a baseball cap with a Razorback featured prominently, glowing in its maroon majesty.
The friends with whom I planned on attending the show were all unable to go, but that did little to deter my enthusiasm. I mean, it’s the Drive-By Truckers, how could I ever miss that? So, I parked a short distance from the New Daisy Theater, and walked over to the building alone, but not feeling any real sense of aloneness. We’re all Trucker fans here and soon any subconscious unease was alleviated.
I walked into the theater, grabbed a PBR and strode down the runway, just one of a multitude fans beginning to fill the building. As I walked, I heard an unfamiliar voice call out from one side, “Hey, man! Woo Pig Sooie!”
I turned and saw a small contingent of young men smiling and waving. I waved back, “Barely, but we did it again.”
“Hell yeah we did!”
I nodded, gave a little fist pump, and walked on, eventually coming to a halt in the second section, the first elevated one from the stage. I had little desire to be in what would no doubt be a sweaty mass of humanity directly in front of the stage, so I settled into a spot where I would be able to easily see the band and have room to move around if I so chose. I stood in my place, sipping my PBR and enjoying the good sport of people watching (always interesting at a DBT show) when I heard another voice, this time a female one, call out, “Hey, you from Arkansas?”
Turning back, I saw a middle aged woman standing next to a couple gesturing to me. I walked the few yards over to them and answered, “Yeah, I’m originally from Beebe, but now I live here.”
After that there were numerous others, some serenading me with a “Woo Pig” and others with a simple “Go Hogs,” our common language and homeland binding us together with an invisible force, reminding me that I’m not in this alone.
Though separated by miles and invisible borders, we’re all Razorbacks and we wear it with pride.
Woo Pig Sooie!
Halloween Playlist October 27, 2011Posted by Matt in music.
Tags: AC/DC, alice in chains, Anthrax, Beck, Black Sabbath, Creedence Clearwater Revival, drive-by truckers, Faith No More, Halloween music, Hank Williams, Iron Maiden, Kanye West, Mastodon, Motley Crue, Outkast, Ozzy Osbourne, Pantera, Phish, playlist, Robert Johnson, Ryan Adams, Sufjan Stevens, Talking Heads, The Police, The Raveonettes, The Rolling Stones, Type O Negative
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As is true with any occasion, I always feel the need to compile a playlist best reflecting that specific time. With Halloween only days away, it is time for us to put together one reflecting that spookiest of holidays. I looked through my iPod library and these were the songs I chose – at least for now. My only rule was to only choose one song by a particular artist, though I would not be averse to breaking that rule if the songs were cool enough to do so. So, without further ado, here are 25 songs from iPod to go on a Halloween playlist. Your suggestions are always welcome.
AC/DC – Highway to Hell – Come on, a singer who died not long after recording this singing about being on the “Highway to Hell?” That’s messed up. (Runner up: Hell’s Bells)
Alice in Chains – Them Bones – “Gonna end up a big old pile of them bones.” Fatalism is essential for Halloween.
Antrax – Fight ‘em Til You Can’t – Possibly the only song I know about a zombie apocalypse (Runner up: Skeleton in the Closet, Belly of the Beast)
Beck – Satan Gave Me a Taco – Worst trick-or-treating ever. (Runner up: Devil’s Haircut)
Black Sabbath – Black Sabbath – Possibly the spookiest song ever recorded. The famous three note riff is a diminished fifth, whose music qualities were seen in the past as Satanic. (Runner Up: Children of the Grave)
Creedence Clearwater Revival – I Put a Spell on You – Witchcraft is always welcome.
Drive-By Truckers – Demonic Possession – Favorite lyric: “(The Devil) says the only thing that’s buggin’ him / is that hell’s filling up with Republicans”
Faith No More – Zombie Eaters – Not just zombies, zombie eaters. (Runner up: Surprise! You’re Dead!”
Hank Williams – Angel of Death – Williams never sounded spookier and more poignant than this tune recorded just a short time before his death at age 29.
Iron Maiden – The Number of the Beast – How can you have a Halloween list without Maiden? (Runner Up: Children of the Damned)
Kanye West – Monster – A truly twisted song featuring and introducing the amazing Nicki Minaj.
Mastodon – Divinations – Yes, they are the best metal band working today.
Motley Crue – Shout at the Devil – Sure, it’s totally over-the-top and campy, but it’s still an awesome good time.
Outkast – Dracula’s Wedding – Well, do you know of any other songs mentioning Dracula?
Ozzy Osbourne – Mr. Crowley – You have to include this ode to occult master Aleister Crowley in any Halloween list. (Runner Up: Zombie Stomp)
Pantera – Cemetary Gates – This song is quite possibly my favorite metal recording of all time. (Runner up: By Demons be Driven)
Phish – Wolfman’s Brother – Phish may not immediately come to mind when you think of Halloween music, but this is one of the only werewolf songs I can think of.
The Police – Spirits in the Material World (Spirits help Sting sneak onto the list)
The Raveonettes – Dead Sound – The Raveonettes first album is pretty spooky sounding anyway with its ethereal female vocals and crashing layers of guitars, but this song takes the Halloween prize.
Robert Johnson – Hellhound on my Trail – A truly terrifying song from a guy who supposedly sold his soul to the devil and died young. (Runner up: Me & the Devil Blues, Crossroad Blues)
The Rolling Stones – Sympathy for the Devil – The Stones: keeping the devil alive in rock music for fifty years.
Ryan Adams – Halloween Head – It may not sound spooky or anything, but it does have the word Halloween in it.
Sufjan Stevens – John Wayne Gacy, Jr. – A disquieting ballad about one of the most famous and deranged serial killers in American history.
Talking Heads – Psycho Killer – Not just a killer, a psycho killer.
Type O Negative – Black No. 1 – Back in about 1995 or so, I saw Type O Negative in concert opening for Pantera. It was, without a doubt, the most terrifying concert experience of my life and this song is one of the reasons why. (Runner up: Christian Woman)
What would you add to the list?
Ten for Tuesday: 2001 July 19, 2011Posted by Matt in top ten.
Tags: 2001, best albums, Bob Dylan, drive-by truckers, Gillian Welch, Jay Farrar, Jay-Z, Radiohead, Spoon, The Shins, The Strokes, The White Stripes
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It has been some time since we last stepped foot in our top ten time machine, so today seems like an appropriate one to take another look back. This time we will set the course for ten years ago, the year 2001. So, without further ado, here are my top ten albums of 2001.
10. Jay Farrar – Sebastopol
Whether in groundbreaking alt-country band Uncle Tupelo, his longstanding group Son Volt, or in his solo recordings, Jay Farrar’s voice remains one of my favorite in the music world. It has an organic, broken-down quality that pierces right to your soul and, though this release differs from his bands in sound, it is still quite good. Download: Barstow, Feed Kill Chain
9. The Shins – Oh, Inverted World
On their debut as The Shins, the band crafted one of the seminal works of indie pop for the early 21st century. The music didn’t really enter the public consciousness, though, until Natalie Portman told Zach Braff in the wonderful 2004 film Garden State to listen to the band and it will “change your life.” We did and it did, for the better. Download: Caring is Creepy, New Slang
9. Gillian Welch – Time (The Revelator)
Welch’s third release (not counting her work on the O Brother, Where Art Thou soundtrack), is an incredibly beautiful work of folk music that sure deserved the praise heaped upon it over the years. It’s dark and real and wonderful, with her backwoods voice blending with banjos and guitars perfectly and wonderfully. Download: Revelator, Red Clay Halo
7. Radiohead – Amnesiac
In 2000 Radiohead slammed the music world with a proverbial curveball when they released the incredible Kid A, an album that deviated so wildly from their earlier works that it left many past fans scratching their heads, and this album continued in that same direction. Their experiments with ambient sounds, electronica, and jazz probably turned off some listeners, but those who stuck around were rewarded well. Download: I Might Be Wrong, Knives Out
6. Spoon – Girls Can Tell
Austin’s Spoon creates some of the most fun and danceable tunes you’ll hear anywhere and this, their third release, is no exception to that rule. Britt Daniel’s band comes out strong with an 80’s inspired guitar riff in “Everything Hits at Once,” and never let up for the remainder of the album. Seriously try to listen to this and not at least nod your head. It’s impossible. Download: Everything Hits at Once, Me and the Bean
5. Jay-Z – The Blueprint
In case you ever wonder what the big deal is about hip hop artist Jay-Z, just pop in a copy of The Blueprint. With plentiful soulful samples and Jay-Z’s swaggering rhymes, this stands as one of the greatest works to ever come from the rap community. Check it out and I bet you’ll agree. Download: Izzo (H.O.V.A.), Girls, Girls, Girls
4. The White Stripes – White Blood Cells
The blues-based indie rock duo of Jack and Meg White had been around for a few years when White Blood Cells was released, but for many this was their first exposure to the group’s roof-blowing sound. Together, the Stripes blast through genres with great aplomb, from the aforementioned blues to country (Hotel Yorba) to the almost punkish “Fell In Love with a Girl.” Download: Hotel Yorba, Fell in Love with a Girl, I Can’t Wait
3. The Strokes – Is This It
The do-it-yourself garage rock ethic of the early 2000’s can be, in large part, traced back to this earth-shattering gem. Julian Casablancas’s lyrics were spot on for those of us in our mid-20’s, recent college graduates, coming to grips with a pasture that wasn’t quite as green as we had hoped. If the early part of the decade had a soundtrack, The Strokes would hold a prominent spot on it. Download: The Modern Age, Someday
2. Bob Dylan – Love and Theft
If 1997’s Time Out of Mind was a powerful, late career surge in creativity for the legendary artist, Love and Theft was the amazing continuance of that wave into the new millennium. This entry no doubt deserves a prominent spot in Dylan’s canon as a definite high point in the last chapters of his lifetime in the music business. Download: Mississippi, High Water (For Charley Patton), Moonlight
1. Drive-By Truckers – Southern Rock Opera
Could there be any doubt that the best album from my favorite band of the past decade would be at the top of the list? If there is one thing you can say for Patterson Hood, Mike Cooley, and the others, it is that they are ambitious. The fact that they released a double concept album revolving around the dual story of growing up in the South in the 1970’s and the rise and demise of Lynyrd Skynyrd, should be proof enough of that. But the band isn’t just ambitious, they are awfully good, one of the best musical ventures to come out of the South in years. Download: Zip City (one of my favorite songs ever), Let There Be Rock, The Southern Thing, Guitar Man Upstairs
Best of 2011 … So Far, Part 1 June 28, 2011Posted by Matt in Best of 2011.
Tags: Best of 2011, Cults, drive-by truckers, music, Okkervil River, The Decemberists, tUnE-yArDs
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As we reach the halfway point of Earth’s journey around the sun, it is again time to look back on the first part of the year and count those albums that have inspired and moved us so far in 2011. So far this year I’ve picked up 35 new albums, most of which have been very good. My list will include five honorable mentions today, and a top ten to be posted either tomorrow or Thursday. Let me know what you think.
Best of 2011: Honorable Mentions
Drive-By Truckers – Go-Go Boots
It’s no secret that I’ve had a longstanding love, going back some ten years, of the Drive-By Truckers, but because I hold their earlier albums (Southern Rock Opera, Decoration Day, and The Dirty South) in such high regard, it affects my view of their more recent works. This was especially true with 2009’s The Big To-Do, which I really liked from the first time I heard it, but it took time and a few shows for that to grow into a true appreciation for it. I have a feeling that is how my view of Go-Go Boots will be as well because I must admit I was not particularly impressed with it at first. Over time, though, it has blossomed in my eyes and ears and I’m sure that by the end of the year it will warrant a higher spot on the list. At this point, my favorite song from Go-Go Boots is probably the most uncharacteristic one on the album, an R&B-tinged cover of the late Eddie Hinton’s “Everybody Needs Love.” Others to check out are the dark title track, a very DBT-esque tale of an adulterous, murderous Southern preacher, and “Used to Be a Cop” with its bass line made to be played live and its story of a mentally disturbed former police officer. It’s definitely an album worth checking out, especially for fans of DBT and southern rock.
The Decemberists – The King is Dead
The Decemberists are a true oddity in today’s music world. Defying all notions of commonly held public perception, they have created a niche for themselves and their strangely beautiful and wonderful works. The King is Dead represents what may be seen as a step away from their more recent conceptual works, The Crane Wife and The Hazards of Love, and back to the more normal song structures found in their earlier albums. To this loyal fan, it is a welcome change, because Hazards, I regret to say, was bordering on being an overwrought mess. So, as vocalist Collin Melloy says in the opening track “Don’t Carry it All,” let’s “Raise a glass to the turning of the seasons,” for this highly literate band, sit back and enjoy. I like the folk rock sounds of “January Hymn” and “Rise to Me” a great deal as well. If you’ve ever been interested in The Decemberists, but were perhaps thrown off by the weirdness of an album built around a Japanese folk tale of a man who falls in love with a bird, this is probably the album for you. While it may not include a sure-fire single like “O Valencia,” it is their most accessible work in years. Now if only they would make a stop in Memphis…
tUnE-yArDs – whokill
The tUnE-yArDs are an interesting and strange experimental music project from Merrill Garbus, a former puppeteer and member of a band called Sister Suvi. This is she and partner Nate Brenner’s second release as tUnE-yArDs, and it is quite an eclectic feat, with layers of drum loops, ukulele, bass, saxophones, and vocals all stacked upon each other into a brilliant, noisy whole. The best comparison I think of for their sound would be a group like Animal Collective, though the music tUnE-yArDs is structured in a more traditional song format than AC, making it, in my opinion, much more listenable and enjoyable. With strong, danceable beats and Garbus’s incredible vocals, this group will be one to reckon with for some time. The intonations of “Don’t take my life away,” on lead single “Bizness,” will burrow their way into your brain and haunt you with their repetitive awesomeness for days afterward, and the almost reggae-ish vocals on gangsta (What’s a boy to do if he’ll never be a gangsta / Anger in his heart, but he’ll never be a gangsta) will have you moving to the beat. This type of music is certainly not for everyone, but if you are willing and ready to have your sensibilities challenged and changed, check out the tUnE-yArDs. They are one of a kind.
Okkervil River – I Am Very Far
Austin’s Okkervil River is another band that has been on my radar for several years now and I have quickly scooped up each of their releases with glee and anticipation. I Am Very Far presents a bit of a different path taken by Will Sheff’s group, away from the literate, rock music mythology of past work and towards something darker, deeper, and at times even psychedelic. The arrangements range from fairly simple to huge (according to Wikipedia, the band employed 45 classical guitars on one song), yet the album remains incredibly cohesive. Opener “The Valley” combines a driving drum beat and Sheff’s cadence-like vocals “We watch the sun in the sky, off and on, where are friend stands / Bleeding on the late summer lawn, a slicked back bloody black / gunshot to the head. He has fallen in the valley of the rock and roll dead.” For me, though, the highlight of this album and perhaps my favorite song of the year is “We Need a Myth,” a testimony to humankind’s need for stories, for narratives to understand the insanity of the world around us. When Sheff sings, “We need a myth / I feel my heart’s like a fist / I want words spilling out / From the blessed lips of any prophet or goddess” it makes so much sense to me and my oft-questioning mind. It’s another great work from a great band.
Cults – Cults
Not all of the music I enjoy is gloom and doom, with intricate intellectual themes weaved through the notes and words. No, sometimes there are bands like Cults who blow the entire dark-hued obelisk to bits, the type of band who can act as the lone sunbeam on an otherwise dreary day. Much like other recent bands like Camera Obscura, Brooklyn’s Cults reach back to 1960’s pop for their influence, dispensing rays of upbeat happiness like a lighthouse in the dark. This is an album full of pop gems, of innocence and puppy love that are sure to put a smile on your face and skip in your step. The catchy sing-along lines of “Go Outside” (I really want to go out / I really want to go outside / And stop to see your day) will ingrain themselves in your brain and it’s borderline impossible to not tap your foot along to the nostalgic beats of “Most Wanted.” Just put this one on and enjoy yourself. It’s worth it.
Coming Soon: The Top Ten