Bob Dylan performs during Shadow Kingdom.

It was clear that it would be huge when the word came out that Bob Dylan would be performing in his first virtual concert on July 18th, 2021. It was titled Shadow Kingdom: and clearly Bob Dylan is Back. While the description of the show said he would have an opportunity to perform songs off his latest album “Rough and Rowdy Ways,” instead Dylan opted for a pre-recorded set of deep catalog songs, many of which have not been performed for years. In any case, it was awesome to have Bob back.

Clocking in at under an hour, fifty minutes to be exact, this 13-song set that was shot in black and white proved that Bob has had time to rest his vocal chords during the pandemic, as his voice sounded great. Set in a jazz club/speakeasy vibe, with audience members smoking and a completely new set of musicians backing him, Bob also featured new arrangements of many of the songs. Anyone that has followed Dylan over the years knows that this is nothing new as he has been rearranging his songs forever. Whether it’s a natural evolution or just boredom of the road, you can count on Bob to come up with different interpretations on almost every leg of each tour.

The setlist included these songs:

  • When I Paint My Masterpiece
  • Most Likely You Go Your Way and I’ll Go Mine
  • Queen Jane Approximately
  • I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight
  • Just Like Tom Thumb Blues
  • Tombstone Blues
  • To Be Alone with You
  • What Was it You Wanted (from Oh Mercy)
  • Forever Young
  • Pledging My Time
  • Wicked Messenger
  • Watching the River Flow
  • It’s All Over Now Baby Blue

Particular highlights to me included “When I Paint My Masterpiece,” “Queen Jane Approximately,” “Tombstone Blues,” and “Pledging My Time.” The concert was highly entertaining and with editing, it moved rapidly between songs. There was a notation that this was the first volume, so the assumption could be that there will be other editions. However, Dylan’s autobiography “Chronicles” also said Volume 1 on it, and it came out in 2004 without a peep about the second volume since.

Shadow Kingdom was a fun event to participate in and be a part of, and it was satisfying to sit back and appreciate the 80 year old bard’s stage presence, phrasing, and overall slyness in performing in this medium. It reminded me of what I’ve been missing and how much I can’t wait to get back out there and see some live music. Let’s beat this pandemic and get back to normal and get back to concerts!

Cover Art

Cooley, Hood, & Isbell Together Again – and I’ve got the goods to prove it!

The Song that Started it All For Chris

I’ve been a huge fan of Drive-by Truckers since I was driving through a Nashville cemetery back in 2003 or 2004 looking for Roy Acuff’s grave when “My Sweet Annette came on my radio. I about wrecked the car. It was like nothing I’d heard before, and I wanted more. I immediately left the cemetery and headed to a local record store in Madison, TN and found a copy of the album “Decoration Day” and also picked up a copy of “The Dirty South.” Both records changed my life. When I heard that a new release Thirty Tigers would be featuring a reunion show of the three main songwriters and singers for the band from that era, I had to have a copy.

Info about the Record

Released by Thirty Tigers, this album “Live at the Shoals Theatre” documents a reunion show between the three from June 15, 2014. Much has been written about Jason Isbell leading the band, and it’s not my purpose to rehash that here. Having been in a band myself, I know that people and tastes evolve, and it sometimes gets the point that a change is needed. Jason’s gone on to a meteoric rise and DBT has continued to churn out great music, as well. It’s been a things of beauty for fans to witness the creative output.

This show has all the great songs and is played in a songwriter in the round format. It’s pure joy to listen to, as the sound quality is great, and the artists are clearly enjoying themselves. Nothing is worse for music than for people to produce it together and to hate every minute of doing it. Been there, done that. It sucks the creativity and fun out of the room. This show is the complete opposite.

Song Highlights

“My Sweet Annette,” the song that hooked me to begin with his here. Other highlights include “Outfit,” “Puttin’ People on the Moon,” “Heathens,” “Danko/Manuel,” and “Zip City.” I put this album on in my back room when it came in, and I listened to it without being distracted by anything else. I was absorbed in the music, and that’s how it should be. I know that the pandemic has caused me to have withdrawals for live music, but live albums like this can get you close to the feeling.

Check this album out for a fun collaboration through people that clearly love playing music with each other and songs that still stand the test of time. Cooley, Hood, & Isbell – Together Again, and it is magical!

Cover Art for Surrounded by Time
Album Cover – Surrounded by Time

Tom Jones is back, and yes, I’m writing about him. I was listening to Outlaw Country on Sirius XM awhile back when I heard a song that sounded very familiar. It was the song “Talking Reality Show Blues.” But, it was way more funky and included sound effects than the Americana version I was familiar with. I had first heard this song from the songwriter’s original version. That songwriter, of course, is the great and cosmic Todd Snider.

However, this new version of the song grabbed me. I had to double check via Google that I had heard correctly and that the song had been done by Tom Jones. It certainly sounded like him, but this was different than anything I’d heard from Tom “What’s New Pussycat” Jones! I had to find out more.

I sought out the cut on YouTube, and that led me to the 2021 album Surrounded by Time. The Ethan Johns produced album was recorded just before the pandemic was officially confirmed to be upon us in early 2020, but the release was held until 2021. It’s an action packed album full of great songs. John’s product and Jones’s performance are fantastic and produce something unique that makes one stop and want to know more.

Album Highlights

The aforementioned “Talking Reality Show Blues” was the first single and is really the standout tune. Snider was album to percolate down where we are in society and how we got to the point of the former president of the United States. Other standout tunes are the Bob Dylan Desire cover of “One More Cup of Coffee,” Tony Joe White‘s “Ol’ Mother Earth,” and the Cat Stevens’s penned “Pop Star.” All that being said, the whole album merits a listen. I bought a physical copy because that just me, but if you stream, go seek out this album and these cuts. You won’t be disappointed.

He’s Still Got It

At 80 years young, Tom Jones still has it, and I can distinctly say that Tom Jones is back, and I’m writing about him. He’s a unique cat that can combine singing, performance, and artistic license to create true art. I never thought I’d be writing a blog about him, but I’m better for having heard this album. It also made me want to go re-listen to his earlier work. He’s still performing and still delivering. Thanks, Tom!

Kris Kristofferson and friends perform on the Outlaw Country Cruise 5 2020

Previously, I’ve blogged about what live music means to me, but with this blog, I will outline specifically What Chris is Missing about Live Music. Of course, Chris is me, but it could be you, as well. Are you missing live music as much as I am? Do you promise yourself you won’t take it for granted again? I know that I do. What will the post-pandemic music scene look like? Will shows be as prevalent as they were before? Will small venues re-open? There are lots of things to consider. But, below is what I’m most looking forward to…providing everyone gets their vaccines, and we stamp this virus out.

The Never Ending Tour

I’ve seen Bob Dylan over the years more than 30 times. It usually involved at least one show a year. At the most, it would be between a year or a year and a half between shows. Bob changes the setlist and the arrangements of his work so often that each show is different, so it is crazy good. I always feel like I’m seeing an old friend whether the show is at the Beacon Theater in New York City or a casino show. I’m hoping Bob is still charged up about getting back out on the road and looking forward to seeing him some time soon.

The Horse Rides Again

Here’s hoping that Neil Young and Crazy Horse are back on the road again, as well. I recently wrote about their 1990 live album Way Down in the Rust Bucket and listening to that album made me want to see them again even more. Poncho has retired to Hawaii, but early and frequent Neil collaborator and E Street band member Nils Lofgren has stepped in and the Horse will be stronger than ever.

Singer-Songweriter Shows

Oklahoma City is well known for a great venue called the Blue Door that is super intimate and limited seating. There are several other similar (but in my opinion not nearly as good) venues all over the USA. Listening to a singer-songwriter bear their soul and getting to see them in a great venue like this is well worth your time. The last show I saw at the Blue Door was Ramblin’ Jack Elliott. Find one of these close to you and check it out.

Festivals

There are festivals for just about every type of music out there. They can be overwhelming and too big for some people’s tastes. However, if you find the right festival that is in the genre that you enjoy, they can be a ton of fun. I’m looking forward to hitting some bluegrass festivals (maybe DelFest this year or next) and possibly some other music festivals/events like Willie Nelson’s 4th of July picnic. I’m excited for the Outlaw Country Cruise to return in February of 2022. It’s the 6th voyage and a festival at sea.

Medium and Smaller Theater/Venue Shows

I love these types of venues as well, and we are blessed in Oklahoma City and Tulsa to have a lot of these great venues. Cains Ballroom, VZDs, the Tower Theater, and the Tulsa Theater are just a few of these. Some times, I have been surprised by a show being added to one of these venues at almost the last minute. It gives music fans the chance to catch a great band or artist in your own town. The Bottle Rockets added a show a couple of years ago, and it was great to be able to catch them.

The Bottom Line

We are hopefully soon going to be through the worst of the pandemic. Hopefully, everyone gets vaccinated, and live music makes a big comeback. Once these things happen, let’s get out and support artists and venues. What Chris is Missing about Live Music the most is the music.

Way Down in the Rust Bucket Cover Art

I’ve written before about how much I love Neil Young’s music and how much I love his work with the band Crazy Horse. In particular, live shows with Crazy Horse are some of Neil’s best work. With the recent release of their live album Neil Young and Crazy Horse: Way Down in the Rust Bucket, my love for Neil with the Horse has grown even more solid. The band’s 1990 iteration during this album featured Billy Talbot on bass, Ralph Molina on drums, and Frank “Poncho” Sampedro on guitar.

Warm-up for the Arena Tour

This album was recorded during a warm-up show for the live tour and road work following the album “Ragged Glory.” It was recorded in the fall of 1990 at Catalyst, a northern California 800-seat club. To see a Hall of Fame musician with a band of this stature, in such a personal and intimate venue is very rare. I once saw Bob Dylan play a tiny club in Little Rock, Arkansas, when ticket sales were so light at a larger venue. But, this show at Catalyst was class Neil and Horse in that it was unpredictable and feels like it could go off the rails at any time. Yet, it’s clear that the band was happy to be be back together and that the overall mood was loose and light.

Album Highlights

Highlights to me include some obscure tunes like “Homegrown” and “Let’s Roll Another Number for the Road.” Classics like “Cinnamon Girl,” “Like a Hurricane,” and “Cortez the Killer” do not disappoint, either. However, there is new material at the time, which is clearly being road-tested to see what stands up. These new songs include “Ragged Glory” cuts “Fuckin’ Up” and “Mansion on the Hill.” This new material fits well into the show and the Horse seems to be, as usual, feeding off Neil energy and enthusiasm for the material.

The setlist seems to be designed for dedicated fans of Neil Young and Crazy Horse, not the typical tour crowd that comes out expecting to hear the hits. This is great for Neil-philes like myself, as it gives other material a chance to breathe and be heard. One obscurity that is particularly awesome on this show is “Danger Bird” from the album Zuma.

Recommendation

Even those that may be new to Neil Young and Crazy Horse will find this album enjoyable. I highly recommend that you give it a listen. Take a chance to sit back and listen to musicians actually enjoying themselves. It’s a reflection of what concerts used to be. It also reminds me how much I love live music and how much I miss it. Check out Neil Young and Crazy Horse: Way Down in the Rust Bucket. You won’t be disappointed.

Gordon Lightfoot: If You Could Read My Mind
The Lightfoot Documentary Poster

I finally caught the Gordon Lightfoot – “If You Could Read My Mind” on a Sunday morning the end of January 2021. I’ve been meaning to watch it for at least a year or more and haven’t had the time to do so, but it was well worth it once I was able to catch it. It brought back many memories and gave me the advice from years ago, “Sundown, you better take care.”

Gordon Lightfoot’s music has been in and around my life and musical sphere for as long as I can remember. I don’t really trace it back to one certain instance, but I probably recollect “If You Could Read My Mind” being the first song there.

George IV

Having had the chance to know and tour with super-underrated Country Legend George Hamilton IV, I got to know a ton more of the deep catalog of Lightfoot. The Fourth had major country chart success with albums full of Lightfoot songs, in particular the awesome, and monumentally influential on me, “Early Mornin’ Rain,” a gale force of a song that is covered in the documentary. The Fourth was such a huge fan, and I had many a car trip with him where we talked about Lightfoot and Bob Dylan’s influence on both of us.

The Songs

The movie traces Gordon’s humble beginnings to his rise on the folk scene in Toronto to legendary status. I’ve already mentioned Early Morning, but “If You Could Read My Mind,” “Sundown,” and “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,” are just a few of the timeless classics featured here.

The Influences

There are appearances by Steve Earle, Ian & Sylvia, Bob Dylan, and many others talking about the influence that Lightfoot had and continues to have on them and the music scene.

Even more than the songs, this documentary puts Gordon Lightfoot the man front and center. He’s honest about his personal failings and humble in a way that most superstars are not. In the early part of film he speaks about how much he admires hip bop artist and Toronto native Drake. Lightfoot lays bare the instances when addiction and infidelity wreaked havoc on him and his family. He’s not afraid to address and admit the way that he hurt people. I admire him for the responsibility that he takes.

The film wraps with a scene of Lightfoot playing at Toronto’s venerable Massey Hall prior to it closing for renovations. You can tell the way that he admires his audience and his audience admires him. It’s a connection that any performing artist can relate to. The give and take is the relationship that and the high that keeps performing fun.

Here’s to Gordon’s Future

Gordon Lightfoot keeps on keeping on and his songs continue to resonant today. He made me want to pick up my 12-string and work on the chords for “Sundown” immediately. May he continue to be a guiding force for us all. I highly recommend you stream the Gordon Lightfoot Documentary – If You Could Read My Mind as soon as you can. You won’t be disappointed.

Chris Davis and Billy Joe Shaver - Singer Songwriters In Memoriam 2020
Chris Davis and Billy Joe Shaver 2008

Rest in Peace – In Memoriam 2020. May each of these special souls rest in peace. This is a blog that I hate to write, but I wanted to remember some of the icons we lost this year. 

I know I will leave someone out, but these are the ones that hit me the hardest. – In Memoriam 2020.  

Billy Joe Shaver – He will “Live Forever” just like his song says. Music and songwriting legend that always took time for his fans. I wanted to write a blog when he passed, but I couldn’t write the words. Billy Joe meant a lot to mean and was a constant encourager to me in songwriting and keeping the creativity going. I can remember a lot of sweaty hugs after his shows where he told me loved me and to keep going. He never knew how much he meant to so many.

John Prine – Another void that will never be filled was created when Mr. Prine left us. Songs like “Sam Stone,” “Lake Marie,” and “Paradise” all coming from one writer? Are you kidding me? This guy will be remembered like Cole Porter or Shakespeare long after we are all gone. His Midwestern joy showed through in every thing he did. He was another hero that encouraged me to keep writing and keep going. Every album he did got better, and he was truly like a fine wine getting better with age. 

Charley Pride – He was a trailblazer in country music that was known for chart topping songs and a country styling that was bar none. “Is Anybody Goin to San Antone?” and “Snakes Crawl at Night” were two of my favorites. Who can forget to “Kiss an Angel Good Morning?” He will be remembered for breaking down barriers and taking music by storm. 

Jerry Jeff Walker – Writing “Mr. Bojangles” alone would make JJW immortal, but there were so many other songs like “Taking it as it Comes,” “LA Freeway” and on and on. Add to that the “gonzo” lifestyle, and Jerry Jeff proved what it meant to be an artist. 

Little Richard – No one influenced Rock and Roll more than Little Richard. Elvis and Bob Dylan all copied him. He continues to influence generations. We all know “Tutti Fruiti” by heart. One of my big regrets was not going to see him in Vegas one time when I was there.  I should’ve skipped that business meeting. He will be wailing away on a piano in the great beyond now. 

Johnny Bush – Texas dancehall stalwart, wrote “Whiskey River.” He was a very underrated talent all around. 

Justin Townes Earle – He left us much too soon. His body of work is outstanding for the short time we had him here. We’ll never forget. 

Joe Diffie – Nice guy and native Oklahoma, I can remember him before he had the hits. And, he had plenty of hits. Still was a nice guy, through and through. The last time I saw him was in the Las Vegas airport and was his usual friendly self. 

Paul English – If Willie Nelson writes a song about you, you know you are something special. Long-time drummer and moneyman for Willie, Mr. English had a rough exterior but was friendly, too. ‘They said we look suspicious, but I believe they like to pick on me and Paul.”

W.S. “Fluke” Holland –- Original drummer for Johnny Cash in the Tennessee Three. This guy saw a ton of music history. He will be missed. 

May God bless the families of all these special folks. May their spirits know how much them meant to each of us – In Memoriam 2020. 

vinyl player of 2020 albums of the year

It’s been a while since I last wrote anything for the site. I’ve been recording some covers and a few originals for YouTube and will be posting them on Facebook periodically. So, now’s the time to talk 2020 Albums of the Year!

Yes, I have grown out the beard. I’m still waiting on inspiration to see if it will make it into next year. I’m looking forward to a great 2021. Hopefully, the vaccine kicks in, and we can move back to some semblance of normal.

That being said, the vacuum created by 350k+ lost lives in America alone will leave an echo for the ages to come. Music has always gotten me through the hard time, and it was no different in 2020. Here are my top albums of the year.

2020 Album of the Year

Bob Dylan – Rough and Rowdy Ways – I’ve written about this album before, so I won’t repeat all that. I’ll just say Bob was back and better than ever, just when we all needed him most. “Murder Most Foul” still makes me tear up. This was my number one in the 2020 Albums of the Year!

Honorable Mentions (in no particular order) 2020 Albums of the Year

Keith Richards and the X-Pensive Winos – Live at the Hollywood Palladium – An awesome reissue of this great concert shows why Keef is so great in his own right. “Happy” and “Connection” are clear favorites, but every song is a keeper with other standouts being “Too Rude” and “Take it So Hard,”

Elizabeth Cook – Aftermath – EC is back with a vengeance and rocking it through and through. I put this on the first time, and it blew me away. It continues to do so. Why she is not a bigger star, I don’t know, but you should check her out. Stand out tracks are “Bad Decisions” and “Girls of Perfect Pop.”

Jesse Dayton – Gulf Coast Sessions – Get it, son! This is a rollicking good time from one of our favorite Texas Rockers. He took us to his hometown of Beaumont and showed us what it was all about. “Mardi Gras Shake” was my favorite track, but put this one on and enjoy the evening. I’m a believer in Jesse Dayton, and I didn’t have to do it, and I do like it. 

Drive-by Truckers – The New OK – Right now, we need an album from DBT. They are speaking truth to power. “The Perilous Night” was a Record Store Day issue a while back about the Charlottesville White Supremacists. We need to reckon with the things going on in America, and DBT takes us there. “The New OK” title track and the Ramones cover “The KKK Took my Baby Away” are standouts. 

Old 97’s – Twelfth – One of my favorite bands is back with a new collection of songs that make you feel like you know them, even though they are new. These guys continue to bring it. “The Dropouts” and “Happy Hour” are the great ones here to me. 

Gillian Welch & David Rawlings – Boots No. 2 & All the Good Times – These two are one of my all-time favorite duos, and they showed up strong with the first collection of reissues and then the collection of covers. Awesome songs, and there are too many to mention. Check them out if you don’t already know them. 

Supersuckers – Play that Rock-n-Roll – The greatest rock-n-roll band in the world was back with a new collection of awesomeness. The boys rock hard and make you want to get in a van and head out. “Bringin’ It Back” and “Dead Jail or Rock-n-Roll” are my favorites on this collection. 

Neil Young – Homegrown—I’ve written about how much I have been waiting for this album, so I’ll link to that and let you know here that this is just a damn fine record. Neil was at his best in this era. 

Tom Petty – Wildflowers & All the Rest – This reissue with unreleased tracks was a project that Tom wanted to release and tour before his untimely death. Wildflowers still ranks up there as one of my all-time favorite records. I can remember shooting pool at the bowling alley in Miami, OK and hearing “You Don’t Know How It Feels” on the jukebox for the first time. The outtakes are incredible and insightful. The live album makes you want to get back out (post-Covid) and see a real rock show. Long Live the Memory of Tom Petty!

I don’t know about you, but I’m missing live music. I miss seeing and experiencing it, and I miss playing it. There’s nothing like the connection between an artist and their audience. When the songs hit and the connection is there, energy exists that doesn’t exist anywhere else in the universe.

I love what Todd Snider says many times about music helping us escape our impending doom…at least for 75 minutes. But, it’s easy to get lost in a concert or lost in a song. This will be the first year in a long time that I haven’t seen Bob Dylan somewhere along the way. He just released a new episode of the “Theme Time Radio Hour” on SiriusXM, so at least I’ve got that, but I still miss seeing His Bobness on the stage and being constantly amazed at the metamorphosis occurring before us.

Of course, there’s a good reason that we’re not seeing live music now. COVID-19 is serious and continues to be a serious issue that we all have to face. If we ever want to see live music again, we need to adhere to what the scientists are saying and wear a damn mask, social distance from people, and be responsible. It’s not an outlaw thing to do to avoid wearing a mask — it’s stupidity personified.

Live venues are hurting. Artists are facing financial crises. Crews are missing income. Music industry employees being laid off. It’s up to us, the people, if we want to get back to having live events again. In the meantime, check out artists that are performing virtually. If you have the means to do so, send them some money to their virtual tip jars. Contact your Congressperson about the bills out there designed to help support live venues.

When the pandemic first hit, i had a burst of songwriting that I hadn’t had in quite a while. I’ll be doing some live versions of those songs soon and releasing the videos here.

In the meantime, stay safe out there, take care of your love ones, and let’s look to see each other sometime soon down the road.

Peace.