Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Cowboys Are Secretly Frequently Fond...

Thanks to Willie Nelson and Ned Sublette for helping me out with the title for this post. Brave man, Willie. Or just too old and cussed to give a big redneck damn. Anyhow, that's old news.

It's the day after Indpendence day as I write this, and what could be more American than cowboys and Hollywood? Well, blowing things up would be close, but we skipped the big fireworks display the nite before to attend a nifty little Jello Biafra lecture (Jello did have a bunch of fireworks displayed on the table behind him, so, you know, no question about the man's patriotism). So no pyrotechnics today. Just a little bit about a singing Hollywood cowboy.

Rex Allen, Gene Autry, Hopalong Cassidy, Roy Rogers, and even, unfortunately, Clint Eastwood. All of them can be seen at some point strumming an acoustic guitar and singing wistfully on celluloid. On a horse, by a campfire, or in the bunkhouse. It is the nature of Hollywood to present a fantasy world where we both believe, as the willing suspension of disbelief, in what we see in front of us as truth, but easily toss away as false when emerging from the cavernous theater (womb?) into a colder reality. But there's some truth to the singing cowboy, even if magnified by the silver screen, that notorious herald of myth-making and half-truth. The archetypical measure of masculinity and "don't fence me in" bravado leavened by the sensitive campfire troubadour that would give poor Robert Bly his greatest wet dream probably did not exist but for mythos, but certainly song has carried its weight in the tradition of "mighty male adventure", from the oral tradition and bards of yore to battlefield marches and military hymns of the not so distant past. Not til metrosexual dude ranchers shied away, embarrassed at any form of emotional vulnerability, did the concept of the cowboy campfire singalong get stripped from the shared story of the American West, relegated to old Hollywood serials and quaint remembrance of days past. Or something. Ask Baxter Black or U. Utah Phillips.

Tex Ritter may, very arguably, be the most talented of those Tinseltown tune wranglers. Certainly he's less associated directly with his film work, now, than with his body of song that coincided with, and outlasted, his oater persona. Ritter still clung successfully, after leaving film to focus exclusively on his music career, to his dogie-roping, range-riding cowpoke character, scoring a string of country and western hits before riding off for his final sunset in the mid-70's.

"Hillbilly Heaven" is a name-dropping paen to the golden age of forgotten westerns. "Blood on the Saddle" is an eerie narrative piece. And "High Noon" is, well, yeah, what you think it is.

Tex Ritter is the father of John Ritter.

And, for the record, I'll maintain that the greatest movie cowboy song of all time is "My Rifle, My Pony, and Me" from Rio Bravo and featuring the vocal talents of Dean Martin and Ricky Nelson. But that's for later.

Tex Ritter: Hillbilly Heaven (mp3)

Tex Ritter: (I've Got Spurs That) Jingle Jangle Jingle (mp3)

Tex Ritter: Blood On the Saddle (mp3)

Tex Ritter: High Noon (mp3)

Tex Ritter: Lady Killin' Cowboy (mp3)

Please support your local, independent cowpokes

Friday, June 23, 2006

Doodle Doo Do


Gee whiz, today's my hap hap happy birthday (and stop the presses for this late update: I share my birthdy with JUNE CARTER CASH (RIP)!!!!!!! I'm not worthy. really, I'm not trying to be coy. I'm really not worthy). So, you know, I really want some cake, chocolate if you please. To celebrate we're gonna head out tonite for a little Andre Williams and some burlesque, all under the same roof. What better way to spend the night of your slow demise than with the Black Godfather himself. I'll have a full report later. You know, since I don't post enough about Andre Williams already.


Del Reeves is maybe the second-most famous truckin' troubadour, after Dave Dudley. His song "Girl On the Billboard" is a stone killer classic of lust and wheels. Bless him. Doodle do do. But didja know that Del recorded a whole sleeper cab's worth of non-trucking songs? Yep, shore nuff. Sporting an impeccably twangy baritone, occasionally reminiscent of Roger Miller, paired with the best 60's country chug and lug instrumentation, Reeves weaved like an out of control semi around his tunes, spinning the best bumpkin meets white line fever this side of the musical highway. Reeves never took himself too seriously, never tried to be, say, Johnny Cash, but that's not really the point. Veering dangerously close to novelty, which truck driving songs have been accused, but never sacrificing a good song to goofiness, he threw down some classics, both in and out of the driver's seat. He even had the self-deprecation to mock his own tendency to doodle doo too much (see below). So these are some non truckin' sides for y'all, from a master of the genre, and pretty durned good performer otherwise. Who says I'm just a gear jammin' daddy?

Del also recorded a batch of duets with another Mountain favorite, Billie Jo Spears.

Oh yeah, and keeping with the disturbing trivia of the last couple of posts, Reeves was also partly responsible for getting Billy Ray Cyrus signed to his first record contract. We're trying real hard not to hold it against him. Instead I figger I'll let his songs speak for themselves.

Del Reeves: Gettin' Any Feed For Your Chickens (mp3)

Del Reeves: This Must Be the Bottom (mp3)

Del Reeves: I've Used Up My Doodle Do Do's (mp3)

Del Reeves and Billie Jo Spears: On the Rebound (mp3)

Please, for the sake of the song, support your local, independent businesses

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

New York Secretary's Life

Got some exciting news brewing here at the Mountain (no, I'm not going daily...I have a life, ferchrissakes). But your gonna have to wait a couple weeks. I guarantee (money back if necessary) it will be well worth your time and patience. Keep your eyes peeled.

Today we wanna hear us some Charlie Walker. Another honky tonker with a string of minor, often regional, hits, Walker is probably best remembered, if at all, as a country music DJ back in the 50's, billing himself, according to the Opry link above, as "an ole poke salad, cotton-picking, boll-pulling, corn-shucking, snuff-dipping Charlie Walker." Sounds about right, so far as we're concerned.

As a musician, Walker scored his biggest hit with "Pick Me Up On Your Way Down", and that'd be just about it for chart successess, with a minor hit here and there. CMT's (very) brief assessment of Walker's career is, to be kind, a little unkind. Pity, because a broader take on Walker would show a solid honky tonker with a pretty impressive list of sides that helped define what we think of as being honky tonk now, the classic twang and shuffle songs about dogs, bars, cheatin', lovin', and dancin'. Bear Family, who know a thing or two about obsessive record collecting and archiving, seem to think Walker's a worthy addition to the history of country music. I agree.

As a further note, it appears that Walker was a Mason. So, you know, look for any conspiracy theories where you may in his lyrics.

Charlie Walker: Last Call For Alcohol (mp3)

Charlie Walker: God Save the Queen(of the Honky Tonks) (mp3)

Charlie Walker: Soft Lips and Hard Liquor (mp3)

Charlie Walker: Let's Go Fishin' (The Girls Are Bitin') (mp3)

Please support your local,independent businesses. Thanks for stopping by.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Dirty Blue

Summer in Chicago. Well, not quite summer yet, but it might as well be. The festival season has begun, and nuthin' beats free music. All frakkin' summer long, every damn weekend, from big fests to neighborhood block parties. Shit, this is the city of live music (yeah, I'm talkin' to you New York).

Chicago's annual Blues Fest is this weekend, and while it's scaled back it's allowance of "freelance" performers (I still think the best blues you're gonna hear outside of strongholds like Mississippi jukejoints and back porches, and New Orleans, bless her soul, is found on the street corners and subway stations...some unknown beating out a rhythm on a shitty guitar), we've still got some prime history on tap on the "smaller" stages. I've already got my fix of James Blood Ulmer, Super Chikan, Bobby "Blue" Bland, David "Honeyboy" Edwards, Robert Lockwood Jr., and Homesick James mapped out for the weekend. And that's just the beginning. Each of those, and many more, deserve their own posts, and it'd be prudent for me to feature one of them today.

Instead I'm gonna throw a little Bo Carter your way. There's not a whole lot out there about Carter. He's one of those ghostly, disappeared artists, whispered about but rarely proclaimed. No spot in blues heaven reserved. No 72 virgins. Which is a shame, cuz ole Bo would have loved him some 72 virgin action. Dirty bugger, was old Bo. When mentioned at all, it's his legacy of raunchy, suggestive sides that come of note. He's not the godhead of guitar and/or harmonica magic of, say, a Robert Johnson or Little Walter. Nah, he's a lyrics guy, with a deep-rooted classic(whatever that is) blues voice...lonesome, desperate and keening. Remember, you couldn't really say "I fuck that bitch hard" back in the day. You could, I guess, but you might not get to commit that particular confession to wax it that particular style. Nah, you had to be creative in your sexual braggadocio. Methinks it made for a more creative and entertaining adventure in sound sensations. And that's Bo Carter. A master of the sexual metaphor. Of course you knew(know) what he's talking about. It's just more fun this way. I'm really not sure if anyone did it better, Squeeze My Lemon aside.

For your hot and sweaty summer needs, when we're all tryin' for a piece of action, you can't go wrong with a little Bo Carter. Git to gittin', then.

Bo Carter: Banana In Your Fruit Basket (mp3)

Bo Carter: Don't Mash My Digger So Deep (mp3)

Bo Carter: What Kind of Scent Is This (mp3)

For the love of god, please support your local, independent businesses. If you don't, the terrorists and immigrants will have won.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Barstool Mountain

I'm back. Actually I was back a couple of days ago, but two nights of free Cubs tickets beckoned. How can one say no to Wrigley Field?

This post goes out to my madman brother-in-law John, who saved my life during my sojourn in Lincoln, Nebraska. Not in the literal sense, but in the "you will not die of boredom while I'm around" sense. From karaoke dive bars in little towns like Sprague (where I performed kick ass drunken versions of "Like a Rolling Stone", "It's the End of the World as We Know It", and "King of the Road", almost joined the locals in a brawl against a gang of "slumming" frat boys, and ended the night politely averting my eyes from a bachelorette party who didn't want to keep their clothes on while doing "I Touch Myself" (well, maybe I peeked once. Or twice)) and Malcolm ("Chug a Lug", "Keep Your hands to Yourself", "...Rolling Stone" again, and $4 dollar pitchers (!) of PBR) to some damn fine bbq and outdoor grilling. Thanks John.

John's a good ole boy in all the best ways, and the man should be a country music star. If he'd just learn to play his guitar. It's his version of "Barstool Mountain" that got me thinkin' it was about time for a Johnny Paycheck post.

I'd recommend checking out Living In Stereo's repost of list entitled 20 Easy Rules for Writing About Country Music The Way the Pros Do It! by Cheryl Cline before reading further It's a really fascinating and drippingly sarcastic treatise on the way country is written about these days.

I mention the above link because Paycheck represents some of the quandaries involved in how folks approach his work. While Paycheck is no David Allen Coe, he's had some, how do you say, issues. And the tendency seems to be to either gloss over or glorify. He was who he was, he made his own decisions, and I'll leave it to the scholarly types to parse his legacy in what way they see fit.

I'm more concerned with his astonishing string of barroom country perfection. A traditionalist with a flair toward the modern rockist side of country, he's the link between "The Fightin' Side of Me" and "Copperhead Road". Merle to the Earle, with a John in the middle. His biggest success, of course, was Coe's "Take This Job and Shove It", but don't let's forget his classic sides throughout the 1960's and 70's, where he followed the George Jones model with a booming twang as pure as mountain dew. Naturally adopted by the "Outlaw" movement for his songs about trouble and drinkin', Paycheck stayed slightly removed, preferring the voice of the "regular folks", less interested in remaking and reinterpreting than in simply making great country music. Period.

Johnny Paycheck: Barstool Mountain (mp3)

Johnny Paycheck: I'm the Only Hell Mama Ever Raised (mp3)

Johnny Paycheck: Fifteen Beers (mp3)

Support your local, independent record stores. If there are any left.