Wednesday, July 26, 2006


Hey. If anyone's in town, or coming into town, for the big Tom Waits show (August 9th!!!), let me know ( I lack the funds and/or corporate sponsorship to host some kind of official Tom Waits pre-show party or whatnot, but I work right around the corner from the Auditorium Theatre and plan on having a few beverages at a nearby drinking parlour to be determined before the big event. Anyone who wants to join in and form a wee unofficial Waits-fest are welcome. Let me know, and I'll get some kind of announcement as the date nears.

Now. Mr. James Hand.

I had a really hard time narrowing down two songs from James Hand's album, The Truth Will Set You Free, to post here. So I cheated, and am giving you three. And, frankly, this is the second best album I've heard all year (more on ole number 1 shortly). I guarantee you're gonna see this album again on this site sometime in late December.

I've spent way too much time bemoaning the lack of great, classic, honky tonk country music being made in these here modern times. Sure, there's plenty of that there insurgent stuff filtering through the haze, some of which I'm quite keen on, but it often has too much of a nudge and wink, we're really punk rock but we like ol' Hank quality to it. Country as an excuse or a clever tool. Some of the current darlings of cares what that is) are so completely bland that they barely make for wallpaper. But James Hand....well, damn. No pretense, no irony, no sly slight of hand (hah! sorry). It's honky tonk country through and through. Perhaps it's his age (53), or four decades of working the bar'n'singing circuit. Regardless, Hand has laid down one of the finest country records I've heard in a long, long while. Writing about music always requires a modicum of hyperbole, but I'm not being coy about this one. This is the real deal, a genuine long player worthy of the wax (aluminum) it's pressed (lazered?) on.

A native Texan and horse trainer(?!?), Hand finely drags the soul of Honky Tonk out of retirement, taking a staid and cliche-ridden form and molding it into something both exciting and uniquely Hand's own. From the creepy, brilliant "Shadows Where the Magic Was", with the refrain "....who can tell what the devil does, when he walks on haunted ground" (Frank's Wild Years fans take note), to the barroom lament of "In the Corner, At the Table, By the Jukebox", and every point between, this album hits on every note, every twang, every lyrical device. If this album had been recorded 30 years ago, we'd be whispering Hand's name in the same sentence as Lefty, Merle and Willie. As it stands, it will probably be lost to diffusion of taste. A fucking shame, really. I'd stand on the streetcorner with a bullhorn if I thought it would send the masses in a frenzy on a James Hand binge. But it'd all be show for nought, alas. Country's not dead, folks, it's hiding. How to wake the sleeping beast, strip it of pretense, and into a new golden age? Well, that last sentence was ridiculous, but that's what Hand's album does to me, sends me shivering and frothing at the mouth. Just when I think country's died on us (skewered by the dreaded "Americana"), Hand redeems an entire genre. He's more than worth your time. I think the word essential is overused. I'm going to apply it, in any case, to Mr. James Hand. It fits.

James Hand: Banks of the Brazos (mp3)

James Hand: In the Corner, At the Table, By the Jukebox (mp3)

James Hand: Shadows Where the Magic Was (mp3)

As ever, when your penny jar gets full, please consider supporting your local, independent record stores. Or buy direct from the artist, or their website.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Video Killed the Juke Box Star

Phew. Got 'em. The Mountain managed to score Tom Waits tickets. Not so spiffy seats, but considering the horror stories I've read about other folks' debacles with Ticketmonster, I'm all a-quiver just to be getting in the door. 'Course I'll rest easier once the tickets are physically in my hands. You've all just been spared a 3 week period of whining and pleading. Nothing like a little obsession. And Waits fans, well, we're a peculiar and slightly possessive lot.

I would be remiss, before hopping off to our music star today, if I didn't note the passing of the genius, and polarizing, Mickey Spillane. If you like your boiled very hard, Mickey's the man for you. One of my favorite writers.

Weldon "Juke Boy" Bonner is one of them fellers that should have been picked up (posthumously) by Fat Possum, before they went all bland garage and "experimental" rock on us, ahem. A thwackin' thumper of a hollering one man band that would rightly school the current crop of pretenders and achievers in the ways of Jesus, the Devil, and the blessed sacrament of dirt floor jukejoint swiveldance fuck'n'sweat. All electric distortion and wheezing harmonica workout, Electric Mud a thousand times over(and don't think Muddy wasn't listening), Bonner's recorded output sounds like the kind of booze-soaked, smoke-clouded, madman, twisted and raw performance kissed away by the homogenisation (BB Kingization?) of blues into the quaint, cliche-ridden, safe for adult contemporary radio dreck we hum along to while driving the kids to soccer practice in our SUV's.


With his harmonica racked tight up to his mouth, and his geetar amp cranked to 11, Bonner must have been a force to reckon with live. Slightly less psycho than Hasil Adkins (I said slightly) and not quite as breast obsessed as Mr. Robert Log, Bonner's a proper blues man in the vein of a T Model Ford, minus any backing help. Maybe two of his album titles, which I pulled tunes from, sum up what you can expect from Bonner: Ghetto Poet and Life Gave Me a Dirty Deal.

"Sportsman's Luck" goes out to our good friend Mr. Cheney. Yep, liberal bias.

Enjoy. Stomp.

Juke Boy Bonner: Psycho Jump No. 1(mp3)

Juke Boy Bonner: Houston the Action Town (mp3)

Juke Boy Bonner: Sportsman's Luck (mp3)

Juke Boy Bonner: Railroad Tracks (mp3)

Juke Boy Bonner: Tired of Greyhound Blues (mp3)

Support your local, independent juke box manufacturer and dealer.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Madcap Sleeps

Sleep in peace, Syd.

Syd Barrett: Dark Globe (mp3)

Bats in the Belfry

Fire Jim Tracy now. While you're at it Mr. Littlefield and Mr. McClatchy, fire yourselves and give Mark Cuban a shot.

All apologies to those who have no idea what the hell I was just talking about. Call it a case of a frustrated fan's notes, with more apologies to Frederick Exley.

But that makes a swell transition to today's musical treats.

Tonight's the Baseball All Star Game and all it's pomp, ceremony, and self-importance. But I'm still a sucker for it. What can I say? It's a bunch of guys standing around with big sticks, playing with their balls. Wholesome family entertainment. Pills and topical creams included.

So, yes, more baseball songs. I'm not stalling one little bit. This goes out to my good pal Paul, who's originally from Philadelphia, another Pennsylvania city mired in Major League woe. And, of course, props to the greatest baseball player of all, Charlie Brown.


Del Reeves: The Philadelphia Fillies (mp3)

Marah: Rain Delay (mp3)

King Curtis: Take Me Out to the Ballgame (mp3)

Support your local little league team.