ratsodylantulsa
(Photo by Chris Davis)

On June 11, we had the pleasure of watching a premiere of Martin Scorsese’s “Rolling Thunder Revue: a Bob Dylan Story” at the Circle Cinema in Tulsa. (More about Tulsa in a blog soon. Some great things are going on there, and it/they keep drawing me to this city. The Bob Dylan Center is coming soon with all of Bob’s papers and archives being housed close to the Woody Guthrie Center.)

This was a great evening of great music and entertaining while catching some unseen footage of this rollicking good time that Maestro Dylan put on back in 1975.

The film is a uber entertaining, and I found my self laughing throughout. The newer interviews, especially with Bob, are fascinating and hilarious at the same time. I don’t want to spoil some of it, but it’s even funnier when you realize that some of the film is a hoax. Dylan sums it up early on when he says, “Everyone is wearing a mask.” And, really it’s true. We all wear masks and let people see whichever version we want them to see. At different times in our lives, we wear different masks. We’ve all put on a “brave” face or acted happy when we were dying inside. We’ve all had times where our poker face didn’t last five seconds.

The live concert footage is compelling and there are some great renditions of Desire-era Dylan tunes. His visit to Jack Kerouac’s (shout out Ti Jean) grave in Lowell, Massachusetts with poet Allen Ginsberg is three rivers of poetic charisma intersecting. Also, the “Night of Hurricane” and his visit to meet the falsely-incarcerated boxer Rubin Carter reminds one that artists have been speaking out for as long as there have been artists.

Another poignant scene was footage from the previous film “Renaldo and Clara” featuring Dylan and Joan Baez. They talk about love, and when Bob says Joan got married on him to someone else, she replies that she “thought she was marrying the right person” to which Dylan quickly corrects this mistake by advising that you have to love with the heart and not the head. While there’s some of the typical acerbic Dylan in that, it really hit home with me. How many times does love defy logic? Almost on a daily basis. You can see it everywhere. I know I have seen and felt it in my own life when I thought I was unlovable and know the times that I still am hard to be around and deal with, I’ve still been enveloped with the love that helps me endure another day thanks to my wife. But, I’ve also been carried through by the love of friends and acquaintances that gave me a smile or the gift of time or friendship.

Making the premiere even more fun was the attendance of Larry “Ratso” Sloman, who chronicled the original Rolling Thunder Revue for Rolling Stone and wrote a seminal book on the topic. This was the first chance I’ve had to visit with Ratso, although I’ve felt that I’ve known him for years through the writing of Kinky Friedman and am looking forward to seeing both he and Kinky again in January.

The movie is on Netflix, so check it out. It’s well worth your time and gives some great glimpses into that era.

johnhiatt_brady(photo: Chris Davis)

Just got back last night from a whirlwind trip to Tulsa to see the great John Hiatt at the Brady Theater. What a great evening and great show! I’ve seen a ton of shows at this venue from Mr. Dylan to Joan Baez to Bon Iver and Ray LaMontagne. It’s got great acoustics.

Unfortunately, it was a very small crowd to see such a great songwriter and interpreter of the muse. However, John Hiatt hit all the notes and played a great set featuring songs from every era of his career including some new ones. I’ve always wanted to catch him live, but never have had the chance until last night.

The usual suspects: “Drive South”, “Tennessee Plates”, “Have a Little Faith in Me”, and “Memphis in the Meantime” were all highlights of the set. But, other more poignant and funny songs including, “Perfectly Good Guitar” and “Crossing Muddy Waters” balanced everything out. New song “I’m in Asheville” was particularly a highly for me, as anytime a master craftsman is working on their art in front of you, it makes you sit up and take notice.

I throw this around a lot, but if you’ve never heard of John Hiatt or haven’t seen him live, do yourself a favor, run don’t walk and get into his music. These times are tough right now. Plenty of political and social upheaval. We need music and art now more than ever. Immerse yourself in it and let it heal your soul.

I hope everyone had a great April. Mine was chock full of work and prep of new music, which is a great thing. It’s also a tedious thing. I’m anxious to get some new songs out for everyone to take a listen to, but I also went back to the drawing board on a few. It will get here shortly, but in the meantime, there has been some great tunes released recently.

Jeff Tweedy, whose show in OKC I wrote about last month, has the follow-up volume of his latest work entitled “Warmer.” It’s exclusively available at dBpm records and is a killer follow-up. I highly recommend anything by Mr. Tweedy, but this is grittier and even more to the core than “Warm” was last year. I’ve been a fan since Uncle Tupelo, but the music keeps pushing the boundaries and keeps having a charge to it that is irrepressible.

I had the chance to catch one show this month and that was the Brothers Osborne at Jones Assembly in OKC, thanks to my good friend Dave O. Their show was high energy and had some great musicianship. I went to the show not knowing a whole lot about that band but walked away impressed with them. One of the standout moments to me was the cover of the Steve Earle classic “Copperhead Road.” That’s not an easy song to cover and make sound like your own, but they did it. I’d recommend checking out their catalog and seeing them some time live in the future. I recently read that the Brothers were added to dates with Chris Stapleton and Willie Nelson, so I know they are doing something right.

I’m looking forward to a couple of private gigs in May and refining some tunes along the way. Hoping by this Fall to hit the road for a little more extended touring than I have been able to do in the past and hope to see some friends out there on the road.

Take care and peace.

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(photo: Chris Davis)

It’s always good to see Jeff Tweedy in concert. March 1st in Oklahoma City was no different. A great newer use/repurposed venue in the Auditorium (formerly Douglass High School) was the site of the show.

Just Jeff and his guitar made it an intimate evening and a good time. He was feeling good and sounded great, as well. Opening with one of my favorites, “Via Chicago,” it was a lively 90 minute tour through the Wilco catalog, along with some songs off his latest solo record “Warm” and even a couple of songs from the Uncle Tupelo years.

Highlights of the show included “Jesus, Etc.” (Mr. & Mrs. Davis’s favorite), “Misunderstood,” “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart,” “California Stars” (from the Billy Bragg/Wilco collaboration of Woody Guthrie lyrics), the aforementioned “Via Chicago,” “Impossible Germany,” and “Acuff-Rose” (an Uncle Tupelo diamond in the rough).

There was great banter with the crowd, which you don’t get a ton of at a Wilco show, and this kept things light. The crowd seemed to hang on every song, and it made for an overall good time. Opening act Buck Meek was an interesting choice for the tour, but Tweedy is well known for introducing up and coming stylists to his crowd (a Wilco show in Kansas City was the first time I saw Andrew Bird).

But, the overall feeling I took from the night was that the music of my young adulthood is still standing the test of time. Tweedy is fast becoming an elder statesman of the alt-country genre and the role fits him well. He, of course, has the history and the experience that this is a no-brainer.

But, like most things for me, it always goes back to the songs. Wilco and Son Volt, the off-shoots of the Uncle Tupelo breakup were both seminal bands for me during my college years. I still remember buying “AM” and “Trace” at the old Target on Penn & Memorial when I visited my brother who was studying at the University of Central Oklahoma. I thought it was the big-time because it was. Being able to find music like this when I came from small town Oklahoma. This was pre-Internet and way pre-Amazon or iTunes days. Back when you bought the whole album and listened to every track.

Jeff Tweedy’s songs have been there for me for a long time, and they’re still there. When I hear “Name me a song that everybody knows, and I’ll bet you it belongs to Acuff-Rose” or “Tall buildings shake, voices escape, by singing sad, sad songs,” I am always taken back. Back to times, places, people, and experiences.

I still need those songs to help me get through the day to day of life. Thanks, Mr. Tweedy.

toddsnidertowertheater(photo by Chris Davis)

“A smokin’, long black cadillac, the engine windin’ down…”

Todd Snider, cosmic Americana cowboy played the Tower Theater last Saturday night, and I had the pleasure of attending. The few times I’ve gotten to see Todd, I always walk away feeling better and happier about the world. He is the true embodiment of the modern folk troubadour. His style is part of the East Nashville sound that has given us so many other great performers today. 

“He’d park it up on the sidewalk, like he owned the whole damn town…”

Starting off with some new songs, he spoke of his latest record and how he recorded it at Johnny Cash’s old studio because he had a dream where Johnny Cash kept pointing the way. He and his other band Hard Working Americans went out to the studio to spend the night, and that’s when he got the “inspiration” to make the record there. I’m anxiously awaiting this album, as Todd’s the giant of a songwriter where every song makes a difference.

“I’d hear him talkin’ to some chick through a thick ghost of smoke…”

The rest of the show was pure Todd Snider…lots of stories and jokes and fun. And, the fun is always the songs. “D.B. Cooper,” “Alright Guy,” “Too Late to Learn,” the list goes on and of course, my personal favorite (hence the subliminal lyric insertions), “Play a Train Song.” You can feel the truth in Todd’s songs. They pass the test of great songwriting in that they make you feel glad to be alive while at the same time they make you reflect on the harsh realities of this world.

“Through a thicker haze of Southern Comfort and coke…”

Go see Todd if you have a chance. Buy his latest records and some of his older ones, too. I almost wore out my copy of “Live: The Storyteller.” It’ll make you feel better and reflect on the value of this life, or as Todd says, “at least be a distraction from our impending doom.”

“Play a train song, play a train song.”

Todd Snider’s Cash Cabin Sessions Vol. 3 will be released on March 15, 2019.

 

I recently had the chance to finally see Margo Price in concert. We caught two shows and a live interview on the Outlaw Country Cruise. I’ve been listening to her music and watching her from afar for the last few years, but let me tell you, she’s the real deal. Singer, check. Songwriter, check. Bandleader, check. Boss, check.

Margo commands the stage with her songs and style. She reminds me of some of the greats in country music such as Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton, and even Patsy Cline. She is clearly having fun, but she’s also clearly in charge. Her songs are catchy, funny, original, but also address some of the things she’s seen in the business.

It’s no secret anymore the challenges that women face in the music. The stories are hard to bear of what they often have to put up with, and Margo’s not afraid to share the truth, three chords or not. These challenges are important to address across society and business, as a whole, but the country music world has seen it’s unique share of challenges.

I love many of the older country tv shows. From the Wilburn Brothers to Porter Wagoner to Ernest Tubb, they all have entertained me through the years. However, the moniker “girl singer” was often added to phenomenal talents that happened to be female. Margo Price is part of the generation that is exploding this mold. She’s a businessperson and a great artist and writer, a real force to be reckoned with through the years to come.

If you get a chance to go see her, please don’t take your time like I did. My wife and I had a chance to meet her, also, and she is a phenomenally nice and generous person. The kind of person you want to pull for to have even more success. I’ll be watching, as I know bigger and bigger things are going to come from her.

(photo by Chris Davis)MargoPriceOutlawCruise

The cold weather has arrived here in Oklahoma, and the polar vortex has kept me inside a lot the past few weeks. While I’ve not been able to be out on the porch or enjoying the outdoors, this has given me the time to reflect on some good music and to get back around to writing some new music of my own.

This time of year is a time of new beginnings, and a time to refocus our energies on the goals that we always want to accomplish but never seem to get around to. I’ve had some songs bumping around in my head for awhile, and now their starting to firm up. But, it takes time to do it. It’s easy to be distracted away from your craft, and if your not careful, those distractions can become habits. I know this first hand.

I’ve had a lot going on over the last year personally and professionally, and I haven’t had the time to write songs. If I’m truly honest, I haven’t made the time. That cuts to the bone, but it’s the honest truth.

But, I’m taking that truth and recommitting to my craft. I’m challenging myself to spend more time writing and more time reflecting. It’s something that’s important to me, so I know I’ll make more time for it. I hope that whatever you need to make time for, you will do so, as well. Now’s the time where we need more creativity and more art. Life’s a one-time shot. Let’s all make the best of it.

I don’t do the typical New Year’s resolutions because, not to sound too corny, but I feel like I need to try to be a better person year round, not just at the first of it. There’s always time for self betterment, and I don’t want to try to sit in any kind of judgment seat on anyone, anyway.

But, I did put together a list of Music New Year’s Resolutions-for everyone to enjoy:

  1. Support more local music – this means getting off the phone and off the couch and showing up to support local artists and venues. I’ve been there, and it sucks to show up to play a gig and have 5 people attend. You still play your guts out for them, and some of the best shows I’ve ever played have been for small groups, but we gotta all do our part to keep this music thing going. Pick out some artists and follow them. Pick out some venues you’ve never been to and go to a couple of shows there. I always take the chance to plug the Blue Door in Oklahoma City. It’s one of the best live venues and so much fun to see great shows. I’m stoked to finally catch a show at the renovated Tower Theater next month (Todd Snider, anyone?), but there are awesome venues and artists in your town. Another way to support the artists is to buy their merchandise. Merch is the most profitable way for the artist to make money, and it’s also super cool. Why go to some mall or website to find cool t-shirts, hats, or mugs when you can get awesome stuff from artists at their shows?
  2. Spend more time on your art –  I won’t lie. I love writing songs. It’s one of the hardest and most frustrating things you can do, but so rewarding when the chords and words work right and when you can convey how you feel. It’s even better when you see it resonate with others. I love studying songwriters and songs and ascribing meaning to them. Because you see the song is always up to what it means to the hearer. It can mean different things to different people. The same goes for your art, whatever it is. If it’s building websites, shooting videos, scrapbooking memories of your children, or painting, it’s your art and treat it as so. Spend time with it. Work on it. I know from my experience the longer I do without trying, the hard it gets to complete the next step. You gotta get your chops back.
  3. Go see something you always said you would, before it’s too late – Loving music, I tend to equate this to artists that I haven’t seen. I’ve seen the Rolling Stones, but I still want to see them again this summer, while I can. I saw Tom Petty several years ago, and it was a phenomenal show. His 40th tour rolled around in 2017, and I said to myself, “I’m too busy, I’ll catch him next tour.” Then he passed on. I’ll never get to see Tom Petty again. It might be Mount Rushmore or the Mona Lisa or the sunset over your hometown, but go do it. It could be that friend or family member that you haven’t seen in awhile. Make it a priority. Don’t put it off. You’ll feel better for the experience. You never know when your bingo number is gonna be called.
  4. Learn a new instrument – This can be a bit of challenge, but pick out some instrument you aren’t familiar with and try to learn it. It’ll be hard at first, and you may never master it, but the ride is worth the price of the ticket. I’m working on ukulele and lap steel guitar this year. It’s pretty rough, but you know, different instruments always remind me to look at life from different perspectives. When you can see things differently, maybe it’ll help you have more empathy for other people and their plights.
  5. Love more – The older I get the more I realize that life is really all about love. Love what you do, love your spouse or partner, love where you are. I know this is pie-in-the-sky and sometimes life is hard. And, there are plenty of people that are going through some tough times right now. But, 90% of us complain about things that don’t matter. Stop and listen to the singer. Throw some money in the tip jar at the club or on the street corner for the busker. We get one shot at this, and those of us that are blessed with so much plenty ought to enjoy it. Spread some love to someone that needs it.

 

Not that you asked, but I’ll tell you my pick for album of the year is “Bit Logic” by the Bottle Rockets. If you don’t know the music of the Bottle Rockets, then go and go now to your favorite place to buy music and buy everything they’ve done. They’re not only one of my favorite bands, but are quite simply one of the best bands in the world that not enough people know about.

I first “discovered” the Bottle Rockets through their front man Brian Henneman’s connection with Uncle Tupelo (he was a member at the end and also sold merch) and then had the pleasure of catching them live in the early 2000s opening for Lucinda Williams at the old Beaumont Club in Kansas City. I was hooked, but that also started a long span of me trying to see them again and not having it work out schedule-wise.

I think they may have played the Blue Door in OKC many years ago, but I ended up having a gig or something else where I missed it. Same thing happened when I had the chance to catch them in Dallas or Wichita. Finally two years ago, my wife and I were on the Outlaw Country Cruise (highly recommend), and low and behold a last minute add were the boys from St. Louis. We caught every set they played, and got to visit quite a bit with them…having breakfast with John on the back deck one day. I could go on and on about my favorite songs, “$1,000 Car”, “Indianapolis”, “Wave that Flag”, and of course, “(I Love My) Dog.” These guys rock it every night and make you feel great to be alive.

Seeing them this year at VZD’s in Oklahoma City was one of my 2018 concert highlights, along with seeing Ramblin’ Jack Elliot. Their show was, as always, fun, fast-paced, and rambunctious. I sang along with every song, and as one does at a Bottle Rockets show, I felt like part of the family.

Which brings me to my album of the year…their latest “Bit Logic.” Full disclosure, I participated in crowdfunding this record as an “executive producer,” but this was the most anticipated record of 2018 for me, and it doesn’t disappoint. Kicking off with the title track talking about technological changes we all face and transitioning right into “Highway 70 Blues,” which feels like an update on Indianapolis, and it keeps on country rockin’ from there. “Low Fi” is another great track and any musician in the alt-country field can relate to the music business struggles relayed in “Bad time to Be an Outlaw.”

This record is 14 tracks solid of great Americana, Outlaw, alt-country, or whatever you want to call this music. The bottom line is, it’s just damn good. Do yourself a favor and buy this record (and as I said earlier, buy their other records, too). Also, go see these guys live. Bands like this are awesome and great, but their gigs are what pay their bills. It’s their main source of income, so do what you can to support them. The Bottle Rockets will be embarking on a tour starting in January. I’ll miss their Oklahoma City show, as I’m already booked out of town, but I’ll catch another one of their shows somewhere. You should too. “Bit Logic” is well worth the listen, and it’s my album of the year.