And Happy B-day to Willie

Willie Nelson turns 74 today. He holds a special place in my heart - my dad didn't really like Willie back in the day, probably because my dad's never smoked a joint in his life, and I had to turn him on (just to the Willie). My own musical journey started with my parents' oldies and old-school country, then to the cock rock of my youth to alt/indie rock in high school until I finally started discovering more roots-based music, including Willie. I was able to come back around to some old-school country and change my dad's mind, not through talking, but by the music itself. Willie has a gentle, delicate touch with both his playing and songwriting. He picks and strums his beat-up old guitar Trigger with a loose, lively, jazzish feel, and once you learn to recognize it, his guitar playing is as unique as his voice. The jazzy vocal and guitar flourishes and constant nods to the old masters separate his music from standard country fare, and he and his music are national treasures that should be appreciated. If you've never seen him live, or even if you have, don't pass up an opportunity if he comes to your town.

Insound lists 168 albums with Willie Nelson - show the love if you don't actually own any Willie albums. I would start with "Willie and Family Live", seminal versions of lots of his songs including the whole Red-Headed Stranger Medley. The following show was recorded for possible release as "Willie and Family Live 2" but was scrapped and instead just leaked to fans, possibly because of the slightly reverb-y venue. The show was in an actual tent in Germany, called Sternenzelt (Star-tent), in the city of Bad Reichenhall. It was quite a long show, the entire thing fills up three CDs. This is about a third of it, several of the better tracks including a cover of Django Reinhardt's "Nuages" and the rare "Beer-Barrel Polka" for the German crowd. If you're interested in the entire show, it is still available on DimeADozen in lossless format - if you're not familiar with BitTorrent and want to download tons of great concerts like this one completely free and legally, check out the white BitTorrent How-To link on the right.

Happy Birthday, Willie!

Willie Nelson
& Family
May 24, 1998
Sternenzelt, Bad Reichenhall, Germany

1 Whiskey River
2 Stay All Night
3 Good Hearted Woman
4 Hello There
(Ain't It Funny How Time Slips Away)

5 Crazy
6 Night Life
7 Me & Paul
8 Me & Bobby McGee
9 Blue Eyes Cryin' In The Rain
10 Blue Skies
11 All Of Me
12 Stardust
13 Spirit of E9
14 Poncho & Lefty
15 Milk Cow Blues
16 Nuages
17 The Beer Barrel Polka
18 Everywhere I Go
19 The Party's Over

And if there weren't enough albums at Insound for you to buy, Willie's own site links to this Texas Roadhouse page with a few unique Willie CDs. And Willie also sells high-quality recordings of his concerts from his webpage. Several quality shows with varied setlists, but I bet you can count on a version of "Whiskey River"

Let's hang out with Willie and stay a little longer...

For Willie's 70th birthday bash (available on DVD) he was treated to perhaps the best Willie tribute song ever written:

...and here's Willie with some interesting things to say on the PBS program NOW:

... a tribute to Willie's ability - note that he's not completely familiar with the old Johnny Cash tune "Country Boy", yet manages to pick away a beautiful accompaniment anyways:

... one of my favorite Willie tunes:

... and finally, if you didn't catch the album where Willie did reggae (Countryman) and didn't totally suck at it, here's the video of his version of Jimmy Cliff's "The Harder They Come":


John Peel Started 40 Years Ago

A wave of nostalgia is coming up as the 40th anniversary of the Summer of Love approaches. Let's look back at one of the events that truly changed music. Forty years ago right now, John Peel had only been back in the UK for a few months, after spending several years in America. A wonderful synopsis of the story along with audio samples of early John Peel can be found HERE. He was hired by a pirate radio station based in the North Sea called Radio London, and filled in where he could. Until he was given his own show, called the Perfumed Garden (hey, it was the 60's). What he began to do on this show in May of 1967 is what he would continue to do throughout his career: play what he liked and look for what he hadn't heard, bucking convention for what sounded good to him. Even towards the end of his career in this century, his radio show on BBC1 was not like anything else on the whole of the radio. BBC executives let him keep going, because, well, he was John. It was sometimes, to be fair, hard to listen to. He would play anything. But you knew you would never hear these songs anywhere else, and his record collection surely, to paraphrase Indiana Jones, "belongs in a museum." He'd play the craziest futuristic breakbeat thing you've ever heard followed by some local noise-thrash demo he just got in the mail followed by some obscure countryish track from the thirties followed by the Fall followed by African pop. It was forty years ago that he started playing what he wanted to play, changing the world of music more than he would ever realize.

Here's a few tracks from New Order playing Joy Division songs at the John Peel tribute a couple of years ago. Your homework for this history class will be to listen to these songs and further research John Peel (and the history of these tracks if you're a youngin').

New Order plays Joy Division
at the John Peel Day Tribute Concert
Oct 12, 2005 Royal Festival Hall, London


Holy shit, you're a dad now!

To my best friend:
Sorry I can't be there with you to celebrate what has to be the happiest day of your life. I'll see you soon, and anyways, I'm sure y'all need time to get settled in and adjusted. Until I get a chance to talk to you again, nothing much else to say here, really, and not much I can do about the whole thing... except make a mixtape. Themed mixtapes are fun, ambiguous lyrics and such.

Mix for the New Family


Klock is gone.

On April 10, one of music's most promising young talents took his own life. If you didn't read my February post about DJ Klock, please do so in memory and for what is still some incredible music:


Bow Before This Mix

Just a little something I made: a little new, middle-aged, and old.

I put it on Sendspace, so the link won't last long.
(the link is next to the flashing red arrow)


Hag's 70

Sorry I missed your 70th birthday yesterday, Merle. I was hitting the bottle. Actually, it was cans of Lone Star, but I'm sure you'd approve. There's lots of things I could thank you for - childhood memories of singing "Rainbow Stew" and "Big City" with my dad during excursions through South Texas, getting together with Ray Price and Willie for your current tour when many others your age are getting settled down, the "Bakersfield Sound", all of your great songs...

For the rest of y'all: sorry I haven't been keeping this blog updated, I've been a little busy. And after a temporary upgrade in space, I'll be going back down to a cheaper file-server package, so don't expect as many large posts as there have been lately, but I should always be able to give you something good at least once a week. And for Merle Haggard's 70th birthday yesterday, I think we'll find the room for another big one. Not for the reasons listed above, but for this story:

I've only seen Merle live once. His songs were omnipresent in my childhood. But this was 1999 - all my school days were gone and I'd become a twenty-something alt-music snob. I think my brother and I went to the show not so much expecting a great show as much as just the opportunity to say "I saw Merle play live". Merle came out on the stage at the large modern dancehall - fuuucked up. He was wearing black sweat pants tucked into his brown cowboy boots. But his walk slurred more than his speech. He stepped up to the microphone and busted out the opening lines of "Silver Wings" with passion, and I got physical chills. The show was smoking, more upbeat than the following recording, especially Hag's oft-used lead guitarist (and Texas legend) Redd Volkaert, who played snaking, almost psychedelic lines around the songs I had known so long. Merle looked right at me and my brother when we howled for "Rainbow Stew" and he winked and played it. And after the show I got my acoustic guitar from my car, and Redd was happy to be the first to put his signature on it. He and the band hung out by the buses, chatting with fans - Bonnie Owens was there, too. After a short while, my brother and I wondered over to Merle's bus, where he had been since the moment the show was over, and we launched into an impromptu, drunken, sloppy version of "Mama Tried" - had we been even one or two beers more sober we would have been (rightfully) too embarrassed to play a great man's great song in his vicinity. But Redd appreciated our enthusiasm (or got tired of hearing us butchering the song), and went into Merle's bus. A minute later the bus doors hissed open again, two thirty-something groupies spilled out, followed by black sweat pants tucked into brown boots. "Merle Hag 99" he scribbled out onto the top of my now-priceless guitar. He looked dead tired, but I remember he smiled and returned our "thank yous" with sincerity. And for that and everything else, this big 'ol post is for you, Merle - Happy Birthday, and many more.

If you are going to burn this to a CD, please write "mp3" or 'mp3 sourced" on it somewhere, and do the same on any copies you burn, so somebody doesn't think it is lossless high-quality. If you're interested in getting high-quality recordings legally from the internet, it's easier than you think - just check out the white "bittorrent how-to" link on my sidebar.

And I do listen to what you, gentle reader, have to say. This show isn't zipped like the last one, although I do like zipping for a reason - it prevents internet trolling software from grabbing and hotlinking to songs, and if you like the artist anyway, you should want the whole show. Hopefully if you aren't too familiar with Merle you'll be interested enough to listen to this show in its entirety, preferably with some alcohol, it really is more satisfying than listening to one or two tracks - a sense of the event happens, like when Merle asks about how the boxing match on TV is going. "Knocked on his bingo card." And the jazz flourishes in songs like "Old Fashioned Love". I liked this show a lot more when I listened to it strait through than I did by skipping around, have some patience with Merle, folks who normally don't like country, he deserves it.

Amazon has a few hundred albums with Merle Haggard, including the highly acclaimed new album with Willie Nelson and Ray Price, "Last Of The Breed"

"I wound up out here a lot more sober than I meant to be, has anybody got anything to drink?"