Monday, December 29, 2008


He used to send me messages in the middle of the night. Emails. Both of us couldn't sleep. I didn’t sleep much for a year back then, and Mickey was dying. He'd talk to me about my record, "The Man From God Knows Where," and what it meant to him. I'd tell him how much I loved his songs. He was the master of the middle tempo ballad. "San Francisco Mabel Joy," and "She Even Woke Me Up to Say Goodbye." ("Baby's packed her soft things and she's leavin'…..") Killer songs and sentiments. A lot of rain between the grooves. You can trot out words like "deep" and "dark" and "chilling," but they're cheap little tools to describe great songs. We shouldn't try. We should listen. There was a newer one that I'd play over and over: "Nights When I Am Sane." ("My moments of insanity are never like a chain, I only know I am not free, the nights when I am sane….") Man, I hear that. I'm right with that. And then the killer, final nail in the coffin: "I'm just one man, Lord, sometimes I wish I were three…. I'd take a forty-four pistol to me… Put one in my brain, for her memory, and one more in my heart…then I would be free.") Few of us would have the guts to write like that. Love and insanity and what it does to people. Us people. Us.
No, I never met Mickey Newbury in person, but we passed a few lines back and forth in the middle of the night. When we both couldn’t sleep. After he passed away, his daughter wrote and told me that Mickey had kept "The Man From God Knows Where" by his bedside up there in Oregon. That meant more to me than ever shaking his hand. I'll keep "Nights When I am Sane" close to the bed. I'll think of Mickey on those long winter nights when sleep doesn’t come easy, and the wind pushes the mesquite trees against the windows. It's just Mickey sending me a line or two. ("What will I do, in the dead of the night....when she turns out the lights..." Mickey Newbury)

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Nothing But A Child

"Nothing But A Child"
by Steve Earl

Once upon a time, in a far off and
Wise Men saw a sign, and set out 'cross the sand
Songs of praise to sing, they traveled day and night
Precious gifts to bring, guided the light.

They chased a brand new star, ever toward the west
Across the mountains far, but when it came to rest
They scarce believed their eyes, they'd come so many miles
And the miracle they prized, was nothing but a child.

Nothing but a child, could wash those tears away
Or guide a weary world, into the light of day
Nothing but a child, could help erase those miles
So once again we all, can be children for awhile.

Now all across the world, in every little town
Every day is heard, a precious little sound
And every mother kind, and every father proud
Looks down in awe to find, another chance allowed.

Happy Seasons. TR, El Paso

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Black Rock

Walking along the beach of Monterrey Bay. Sea Lions barking from distant piers. The smell of Doc Ricketts lab; all of Steinbeck's Cannery Row characters sail around in the morning breeze. Crustacean music. Sea weed jabber. Monterrey show the night before - the only foul one on the tour; I'm feeling disjointed and ponderous. I see a smooth black river rock lying on the sand. Pick it up. Pocket it; thinking of Georgia O'Keefe. She became an ex-patriot within her own country. Disappeared into the New Mexican desert… I like that notion. Georgia collected shiny black rocks, and I run my fingers over the smoothness in my pocket; I feel like I'm carrying around her hardened, mummified, glorious soul. It keeps me going. Georgia became the landscape she painted: parched, serious, caustic, poisonous, eternal. She spoke in poetry; held little use for poseurs. She fled New York and reinvented herself in the wilderness; made art that floats above the changing landscape of an America illuminated by gas station signs. I'm not as big a fan of her art as her enormous, matchless spirit. And I finger the smooth black rock in my pocket and keep shuffling down the beach like Prufrock; trying to some to terms with the morning and the far off barking of the sea lions, and praying for the strength to write a few more songs that will fill up a record that will resonate and feel as wild and permanent as the shiny black rock; the relic of O'Keefe's spirit. Later, craving something to read, I find the paperback copy of Joan Didion's: "Slouching Towards Bethlehem" in my war bag. "It's easy to see the beginnings of things, and harder to see the ends." There are two masterpiece essays in the book from 1966, and '67:
"Some Dreamers of the Golden Dream," and "Goodbye to That." Didion saves me that afternoon, as I read those two essays over and over and hold the black rock. "We tell ourselves stories in order to live," says Didion. Stories and songs and long walks on the sea lion beaches of memory. And now the black rock rests on Didion's book; next to my bed. And the blood dimmed Steinbeck tide is loosed, and the ceremony of innocence is drowned.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Little Red Book

One of our readers mentioned Dylan, and a "cabin in Minnesota," holed up and writing an album. "Blood on the Tracks," I assume. Let me tell you the story of "The little red book." Sounds like a nice Christmas story, eh? It must have been around 1992. I was living in Brooklyn; in a little storefront I called "the bunker." A friend of mine, named Steve, called up and told me about an investment banker who lived up the street. The cat had a treasure trove of rare Bob Dylan manuscripts. Steve asked if I was interested in seeing the stuff. Of course. It involved having dinner with the investment banker and his family, so they could ascertain if I was safe enough, or worthy enough, to view the rare goods. I went over to this swank apartment, near Norman Mailer's place in Brooklyn Heights. I sat down to dinner with the banker; his wife and kid. Pleasant folks. "Pass the mash potatoes." Etc. I passed the test, because after dinner he seated me at a large table; then went to unlock the safe. He brought in the goods on a silver tray. One piece at a time. I think the first manuscript was the hand-written words to "Blowin' in the Wind," with Dylan's notes and changes in the margins. Out came more early songs, napkins and matchbooks; then recent road journals. Actually they looked like diaries; they contained Dylan's road sketches and notes on life and gigs. Who was sleeping with who. It seemed too personal for somebody else to be looking at, so I handed them back. I was beginning to feel funny about it all. How did this guy get the stuff, and where did it come from? I can only imagine Dylan had been ripped off, throughout his career, by hotel maids, roadies and friends. But here it all was. Probably purchased for hundreds of thousands. Then he brought out the red book. The high point of the collection. It was a little notebook with a red leather cover. Small enough to fit in the palm of your hand. This was the book in which Dylan worked on most of the lyrics to "Blood on the Tracks." All the songs were in there, plus about seven extra that have never seen the light of day. They were scrawled in very small handwriting on every page. The book was glowing in my hands; on fire. I felt like I was holding the Gospel of St. Thomas, dug up from a cave in Egypt. "That's the book," said the Banker. "I've confirmed it with sources like his ex-girlfriend, Carol. Dylan would go up into the attic of his Minnesota farm house every day and write lyrics in this little book. Lyrics to 'Blood on the Tracks.' It's priceless." Yeah; well about that time I needed fresh air. This same banker also collected rare medieval tapestries. It was all about the collection; not the songs. Medieval tapestries and Dylan lyrics. Worth about the same on the high-end market. Adios Brooklyn Heights. Last I heard, Dylan's people had contacted the banker…he was persuaded to give back or donate the collection to a museum. My hand is still burning; and don’t ask me what those seven rare songs were. I'm in San Diego…."still on the road, headed for another joint." And that, my children, is the story of the little red book.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Thanksgiving on the Bravo

In 1598 Shakespeare wrote "Much Ado About Nothing" and "Henry V." On April 20th of that year Don Juan de Onate reached the Rio Grande near today's El Paso. Twenty of the horses drowned in the water; others "drank until their bellies split." The Spanish had endured a scorching pilgrimmage across the Chihuahuan desert; El Original Camino del Muertos. Onate rode to the edge of the river, made the sign of the cross, and took possession of all lands watered by the Rio Grande. For God and King Phillip of Spain. Onate's horse reared in the air; the conquistador crossed the river with six thousand head of beef, a few fighting bulls, and hundreds of colonists. Famished and thirsty, the folks were ready to party. Don Juan called for a thanksgiving feast; the boys carved up a dozen beeves, threw chilis in a pot and handed around the tortillas and Spanish brandy. A half-bred gypsy sang the songs of Spain, and men wept for their homeland. The first thanksgiving on American ground. This thanksgiving transpired nine years before the pilgrims landed at Jamestown. I prefer our cowboy version here on the banks of the Rio Bravo. Now the tallest equestrian statue in the world stands in front of the El Paso airport. It's Don Juan Onate on a tall Andalusian horse crossing the waters of the Rio Grande. We crossed with him. And so we give thanks. We made it. So far. We crossed the deserts of love and hatred and fear. We swam the rivers and rode the twisters (as Rosalie would say.) We came this far. And "out there" is a new world and we're riding towards it. Always riding towards it. We give thanks for our families, our two sets of twins here and on the way, our music, and the people who come to listen. And for the songs…Forty years ago Bob Dylan was staying in a motel in Kansas City. It was thanksgiving day and someone called to invite him to their house for dinner. "I stayed in the motel," he said. "And wrote 'Just like A Woman.' " Thanks for that, Bob. Thanks for all of it. Time to stuff the turkey with celery and apples, and uncork the Rioja. A toast to Don Juan and Dylan. Jessica, Quinn. Nadine. Ole! Y Amor Y Gracias.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Flatlander Moon

Flatlander Moon….Winter comes to the desert. The mountains glow like that old mission wine. Four days on the train with the Flatlanders; renewing my faith in American music. Gut level, dust-blown truth; honest voices. Stories drenched in red wine realism. Butch Hancock, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Joe Ely. No pretense. A guitar and a song. Not many can do it anymore. Kids wanna buy the truth inside a magazine; wannna buy an image with a tattoo and micro-wave attitude. Youth caught inside an I-pod; deaf to the call of The Raven. These guys from Lubbock - they delivered. And you shoulda' been there at the Bob Dylan - Townes Van Zandt song-swap and the Canadian prairies rolled by frozen windows. There was no need to talk much; the songs flowed: from Butch singing "Frankie Lee and Judas Priest," To Jimmie singing "She Belongs to Me," to Joe calling up Woody's "Pretty Boy Floyd," Back to Butch doing Townes' "No Place to Fall," to Jimmie singing "Girl From the North Country," to myself singing "Love is Just a Four Letter Word," and Michael Martin summoning up "Dark Eyes. " Here, then, is your roots music. Here's where we come from. Voices and words, and no nodding out to the whining gods of lost economies and doddering crow-bleat about downloading and record stores. THERE ARE NO realities that undermine honest art. Tell it to Van Gogh, Picasso, Leonard Cohen, and The Flatlanders. There's just the eternal longing to tell a good story and paint a decent rhyme and vent, and bend passion into a sing-able truth. We're all blacksmiths, and some people don’t have the nerve to buy the anvil and the hammer. You might bloody your fingers and wince at the thought of your soul shivering. But those lads from Lubbock delivered and restored my belief in folksong and minstrelsy. We receive such illuminations in odd places: Pullman train cars and Mexican bars; dreams and nightmares and cold, foggy mornings. The third cup of coffee; the call of a magpie hopping across the snow. The clatter of the baggage car and the last echo of a Dylan song. Resonating forever.

Friday, November 7, 2008

One More American Moment

I shook Jack Kennedy's hand once. I was on the Letterman show with John McCain. That's about as close as I got to "politics,"until recently. I don't really have any "politics," but one night a few months ago I was horrified as I sat in a car in the parking lot of an American Mall and heard Sarah Palin's rightwing dog-trot. That's history now. You can read about that horror in an earlier blog. I felt John McCain, a decent man, had been forced to put a gun in his mouth. So I decided to vote early, and I think millions of other people did the same thing. It was a proud and very moving moment at 9pm the other night when Obama took the presidency. Now he has his work cut out for him, but I read him as a decent man and an example of why this country works in the end. The world applauded. As far as Christian Right Wing Conservatives, they not only shot themselves in both feet, they destroyed so called Republican Evangelical Christian Conservatism (as a political force) for decades to come, and probably forever. By forcing Palin on McCain and allowing all the jive "terrorist" and "thug" talk about Obama; by assuming that there were millions of "pro-life" fanatics out there (pro life for babies, but not for those on death row) who would now jump on the band wagon they "f....d up," as a Republican friend told me. What they succeeded in doing was drawing out millions of non political people like me and millions of blacks and Chicanos and, most importantly, millions of people under the age of thirty (both "liberal" and "conservative") who were appalled at the shoddy, ignorant and hateful way the Republicans had tried to turn the election. They were appalled by Palin. And now that the election is decided, those same Ultra Right Republicans who convinced McCain to take on Palin have turned on Palin - snapping like the cowardly hyenas they are. Doomed piranha fish in a barrell eating each other. You've got to feel a little sorry for poor Sarah; she was just being who she is. Like Dylan said about the man who shot Medgar Evers: "she was only a pawn in their game." So John McCain, who is a fine American, though he crashed three fighter planes in maverick moves, now crashed his biggest plane of all - a jumbo jet filled with Evangelical Republicans who perished in the flames. The only one left is poor Rush Limbaugh who's staggering around trying to find a few skin heads to back him up. Finally: those under-thirty voters who Republicans unwittingly lured out of the woodwork are gonna be around for a long, long time. What does that say about the future of Right Wing Politics? Adios, radical conservatisms; you all done did it to yourself. You violated the primal rule: you don't sh..t where you eat. So, no sir, dear blog reader, whoever you were - I don't have any politics. I have a built in bullshit detector that I use when I write songs. I turned it on during this election for a brief moment and it started ringing. Songs are my day job and I'm going back to it. I leave you to your "politics," or what's left of it. Let's move forward. We're God's children, aint we? (Has anybody got a rhyming dictionary for any of this rant?) TR

Sunday, October 26, 2008

My Life in a Stolen Moment

Newcastle; British Isles. Damp dressing rooms in olde Shakespearean Theaters that echo of Dylan's "To Ramona," forty years ago. Tea Kettles and tea trays with Kenyan Brown and Earle Grey. Biscuits. Cheddar. A bowl of British apples and Cuban bananas. Sour coffee. Red Bull. Monitor speakers wheezing from the strain of ten thousand rock bands. Sound checks. Hotels. Motorways. M1. A1. Roundabouts. The cold. Around and around. The same damp that bled into the bones of Dickens and a million doss house veterans. Near Gateshead: The Angel of the North; A cast iron and rust red lady with wings a hundred feet high. I've been driving on the left with a six speed stick shift. Two gears don’t work. A thousand roundabouts. Listening to new Dylan Bootleg series. Takes me back to 1962 and my sister handing me a promo pamphlet: "My Life in a Stolen Moment," by Bob Dylan. She was in charge of hiring an "act" for her College prom and Dylan was being considered. I read the pamphlet (wish I still had it) in which Bob claims he ran away from home dozen times, and "was caught and brought back all but once." He was a carny roustabout, and the whole other line of charming malarkey he was spinning out. I bought it all. "Hire him!" I told my sister. Didn’t happen. And now in this bootleg package there's a photo of Bob at age fourteen or so, standing with a group of his Hibbing cronies - all duck tail hair and attitude. Bob is in the center, holding a Sears F-Hole acoustic guitar. The chubby faced poet-prince who would conquer the world and re-shape lyrical history. And just the other day my own "Anthology" was handed to me. Two discs and a nice big booklet and 37 songs old and new and in between…and I'm somewhere out there on that well trod minstrel dog and pony road, playing the same theaters that The Bard played forty years ago. And the job is still the same; bringing forth what must be brought forth, and rhyming it with whatever duende can be summoned. Ignoring the dull, boring, dreadful, pain of a whining world gone wrong. Drinking the tea from Kenya. Working in a new song or two; the newest being "We've Become the Bloody People We Came Here to Escape." And: "East of Woodstock, West of Viet Nam." Made it home after five weeks, Road Flu, Food poisoning, battered rental cars…two news songs and a half dozen purple guitar picks. Leave for Vancouver at four in the morning. A train toward Winnipeg and the rattle and the clatter of steel wheels and guitar strings. My life in a stolen moment.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Crossroads of Ireland

The first song you hear in the morning are the crows. The Jack Daw Ravens of time and tide. Irish Magpies. Wild cawing news of Yeats resurrected, perhaps from the sea on hangdog Irish mornings. Next comes the sound of dead Guinness barrels scrapping across the wet alley pavement; loaded on fog bound trucks behind the Longford Arms Hotel. And the night before the bearded lads were staring into their Guinness pints until they thought up a song; sung them low and dreamy and a sad and drunk and wistful and all of it; don’t matter if it was "Ragland Road" or "Bobby McGee," for it all sounded timeless and Irish. No matter where it come from, lad. The sessions! "But the bottles are done…we've killed each one….." And the lads sang "The Parting Glass," and disappeared into the mist. And right around the corner; upstairs in an empty storefront: "the International Pentecostal Church of Lost Souls," full of displaced Africans shouting versions of old white Missionary hymns brought to Africa by the English and Americans, and now carried back to Ireland by the "saved" black tribesmen. Music everywhere. Fueled by a sharp passion and the reaching for an uncertain God. The gypsy man playing Parisian Café accordion while his wives work the streets for coins in long red dresses. Babies on their backs. The crossroads of central Ireland. All the waitresses are from Poland. Forget any Brogue served up with your toast and tea. Wild cross currents and shiftings and turnabouts. And America has transported its fast food across the waters to poison the cuisines of the Olde Country. Germ colonialism. Fat babies in Spain, Italy, Ireland and France gnawing on Hamburgers and fries. Jesus Christ! What has God wrought? Diabetes! This cross pollination of the good and the bad; the ugly. Hang the Earl of Hamburger! Melamine and poison in Chinese baby milk and candy. But music flaps it's ancient wings above all woe - it is the wail of the human heart trying to survive and rise above war, madness, disease, loss of love and money; death, poverty, politics and boredom. The melodies rising out of churches and pubs and restaurants and book stores. It is a more human sound then debating politicians and commercials for life insurance and the Catholic and Protestant and Jewish and Islamic sermons. It is the keening of humankind.
God invented man. The Italians invented food. The French invented "cuisine," and the Irish invented music. It is only the music that will save us. Embalmed by it we are! Yet still alive. Immunized.
"On Ragland Road…of an autumn's day….I saw her first and knew! That her dark hair would weave a snare….that I would one day roux…." (Patrick Kavanaugh)
"For I'm drunk today! And I'm rarely sober…a handsome rover….from town to town.
But I'm sick now, my days are numbered, come all ye young men….
and lay me down." (Carrickfergus)
And finally, the dead Guinness barrels sliding across the wet alley pavement…on another Irish morning. Amen, lads, amen.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Tales From the Faeroe Islands

Twenty years ago; Copenhagen, Denmark. I'm sitting in a Five Star Hotel bar at nine in the morning, drinking coffee with my friend Gunnar. We're waiting for a radio interview. Remarking back and forth about these well-to-do Danish businessmen who start their day with coffee and gamledansk; liqueur and caffeine. Stockbrokers and lawyers fueling up. There's a commotion at the door, and in staggers a bum; God's own hobo. He's got cigarette butts in his hair; beard and wine stains down his coat. He's muttering and swatting flies. Gunnar and I wait for the Hotel police to descend on him. They don’t. People smile and return to their chat. Okay - the tramp walks up to the bar and barks orders (in rough Danish) to the beautiful blonde bartendress. She pulls out a silver tray and places five bottles of the most expensive Brut Champagne onboard. The drifter barks again and she throws two cartons of cigarettes on the tray, then reaches into his pocket and pulls out a wad of Danish kroners that could choke a Clydesdale. He throws a stack of bills on the bar; staggers off toward the elevators, balancing the tray. There's a hooker waiting by the elevator. Together they get on board and disappear up into one of the best hotels in Scandinavia. You waiting for the punch line? So was I. Gunnar and I looked at each other and the bartendress; but it was back to business as usual. Finally I’d had enough and called to her: "What's the story on that guy with the champagne?" She laughed. "You do not know of him? He's is a famous man here. He is from the Faeroe Islands. He bet a rich oil man that he, the old man here, could paddle a kayak from the Faeroe Islands to Denmark in the dead of winter. Impossible distance. Big waves. But he did it. He won fifty thousand dollars, and now he has been here one month. Spending it! All!" That was it. Great story. I used to love telling it. The Faeroe Islands are so far out in the middle of the Atlantic it's impossible to get a take on it from a normal map. I've always wanted to go there. I figure the last bar on earth is out there. Pirates and madmen. Fishmongers. End of story? Not yet. A year or two ago I got a CD from Bill Bourne, a very cool Canadian songwriter. He's singing with a gal from the Faeroe Islands. Great singer. So I write her manager and tell her my old story about the old man and ask her if it's true.
Here's what she writes: "Yes! His name was Roma (I think). He was a big hero in The Islands. But, sadly one day he went out in his little boat into one of our quiet lagoons here. He fell overboard and died." End of story. Huh? Drunk? Suicide? The best sailor on the face of the earth? Metaphors? Punchlines? Naw….just another Tale from the Faeroe Islands. Raise up a jar to old Roma. You'll never hear about this on CNN.......

Monday, September 22, 2008

Sketches of Spain

Ten thousand people on the street at midnight. Street culture: tapas, raciones, jamon Serrano. Madrid once again. I pay 10 euros and watch a Mestizo barkeep build me a sangria. Recipe: Start with an empty cognac glass; add two tablespoons of sugar; then three fingers of Rioja wine; stir wildly in circles; add a finger of lemonade soda and another of orange soda; splash of Lemoncello or a white liqueur I can't make out; splash of cognac; handful of ice cubes; level off with more Rioja. The tint must match the wine-red sandstone of old cathedrals. Onward to the Museo Chilocote Bar, where Orson Welles and Salvador Dali hung out with Sinatra. Dali, in fact, grew up with the poet Garcia Lorca. Then Lorca went on to explain passion to us in whirling flamenco poetics... he was shot and thrown into a common ditch. Poetry is a hard way to go. Ask Leonard Cohen. Ate Paella at La Barraca on Reina Street, watching Japanese tourists take photos of lobster pies. Another meal at Casa Botin where the echoes of muleteer's carts rattle through the brick caverns. Can't forget the paella at La Barraca. I've learned to make it myself, you know. It's an exercise in alchemy and luck. It involves the exorcism of the Spanish soil; a ration of the right herbs and rice and saffron, a good white Rioja and deep song, conte hondo, wailing off the hi-fi player. Maybe the voice of "Aguates," the singing blacksmith who gargles with the kerosene of lost love. But you too can build your own paella! Go to and order up a paella pan, rice and some "pembrella" herbs. They usually throw in a recipe sheet. Impress your wife or girlfriend. Grandmother; husband; lover. Wail! Listen to "Camaron de la Isla," the flamenco junkie, who sings like a raw nerve inside the heart. Read Lorca's poem on the death of Sanchez Mejias when you've finished. "At exactly five in the afternoon!" Then walk backwards down the Gran Via in a dream and remember all the hookers from Ghana and the Chinese men who sell warm beer from cardboard boxes and Watusi's hawking bootleg Madonna DVDS. The Caterwauling white nights of Madrid. Sketches of Spain.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Down Where the Drunkards Roll

There are moments in your life when you turn a corner and stagger into a back alley; into your past. Backed up against the rear exit of a burlesque joint and a junkie's got a knife at your throat. Haven't I been here before? Sometimes you wake up. Sometimes it ain't a dream. We were on the road a few weeks ago in New England. We pulled up to a gig in one of those states above New York. On the waterfront. It said "Riverfront Café." This was supposed to be a place I've played before. I realized the agent had made a bad mistake. The place I played a few years ago was: "The Riverfront Bar and Grill." (I'm using pseudonyms here for protection.) She'd misread the phone book. Big difference. The other place was up in a better part of town. I knew we might be in troubled country from the twelve Harley Davidson's parked out front. Reminded me of the time I boarded a "People's Express" airline in Oakland and Sonny Barger and twenty Hells Angels got on board in full colors, carrying briefcases. (Adios, baby, we're goin' to Cuba to kick some ass.) Now back to this bar…I opened the door and saw the twenty bikers, and didn't figure any of 'em were my fans, and then I turned and saw the big Monitor Lizard flicking his tongue at me in a glass tank with a sign that said: "He doesn't Play Well with Other People. Watch Your fingers!" Later on I'd watch the owner, tough gent who owned a carnival, feed the lizard with clam strips. Like watching a pirate with a hook feed sharks. We were no longer in Greenwich Village, baby, nor Kansas. But the owner was nice enough, and I got over my dread, and he told me long war story about Link Wray doing his last gig on earth in this bar, and how they carried Link up on stage, and he exploded in a furious two hour set of rock and blues, then collapsed and they carried him out and away. Perfect. Link Wray. A beat Indian rocker in dark glasses.
We made it through OK, but it was close. I asked a biker if everything was all right, and he said "No." It was the most meaningful "No" I'd ever heard. Definitive. To the point.
Lew Welch, the beat poet, would have liked the quiet fury and weight of that rendering: "No!" Welch was walking through a winery one day, taking a tour, and someone's kid almost fell into a wine vat, and the tour guide, who was muttering a boring speech, suddenly woke up and screamed: "Whose kid is that?!" Lew Welch vowed that his poetry would always carry the emotional impact of: "Whose kid is that?!"
Some nights you have to be prepared for that old trap door to open up and you're dropped down a long tunnel, into your hellish musical origins: skid row bars, bikers, hookers, con men, drunk Mohawks, carny's and the like. Dues. Perspective. The minstrel trade can be a humbling experience. Good for the soul. Down where the drunkard's roll. TR
"See the boys out walking, the boys they look so fine, dressed up in green velvet, they're silver buckles shine. Soon they'll be bleary eyed, under a keg of wine…down where the drunkards roll." (Richard Thompson)

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Lenny Bruce Weekend

"To Rant: Speak bombastically, violently, theatrically. To declaim, pontificate, trumpet, preach, bellow. A tirade, diatribe, or rhetoric." (Oxford dictionary) Rant is in the dictionary right before "Rap." Yikes. This weekend I received feedback on the quasi-political rant I floated out. The best (and most adverse) was "Tom, stick to the songs!" I agree. I don’t want to turn into Joan Baez, Steve Earle or Phil Ochs. You might end up hanging yourself in Far Rockaway. Political rants are just: "old newspapers blowing down Bleecker street." Like Fame. The world is always better served by artists: Van Gogh, Cocteau, Geronimo, Dylan. Not politicians. The lasting stuff. But, hell, I had a momentary lapse - and now they found out ole Sarah Palin tried to ban William Faulker books from the library and goes to a "Pray Against Gays" church? I'll leave it all be. The reader who said "we get the leaders we deserve" was correct. George Bush reminds me of a lot of the guys I went to college with. Frat cats with slight beer guts. Sorta dumb. He truly does represent the average American male. He's got a difficult job. But, perhaps we deserve a change. And just when things were settling down here on the ranch…. this weekend NPR chose to run an old interview with myself on my song "Who's Gonna Build Your Wall?" That caused another minor shit storm with the white rednecks. You can read all the reactions on the NPR web site for "Weekend Edition." There's plenty of 'em. "If Mister Russell thinks that white people are lazy….well he is wrong." And how about: "The law is the law." I always enjoyed that one - seeing how I studied law a got a whacked out Criminology degree. I think we all learned everything we need to know about American law by watching the O.J. Simpson trial. The law is not the law. It's administered and interpreted by flawed mankind. It's on the take. It serves those who have the money to twist it. There ain't a lot of rich folk on death row. That being said, I'd rather live here than in Russia or Croatia. And white people willing to work at the same jobs illegals are covering? Give me a break. Most of all hard labor done on the border - this side - is done by illegals. Even on ranches owned by hard core Republicans. The wall in San Diego was built by illegals! Nobody else is gonna do the job. The wall began as a knee-jerk reaction after 9-11 when, with all our technology and CIA expertise, we couldn't find a bearded fanatic living in a cave in the third world. We better close up them borders! Protect ourselves. Well now they've run out of money and the wall sits there like a depressing black shroud over the landfill where I dump my tree limbs. In the end, folks, Lenny Bruce summed it up: "the truth is what IS; not what should be." The killed him for that one. And now I've had enough of the rant…believe me, I work on songs first thing in the morning before I vent my spleen on this stuff. Fun though! Adios. (Corky: just exactly why do I need to be doing a blog? You got me into this. )

Saturday, September 6, 2008

An American Moment

· I sat in my truck in the parking lot of a shopping mall in El Paso; the lights were going out at 9pm. Closing time. The Heart of America. My wife was in there exchanging something - or maybe she and her mom were robbing a jewelry store. I waited for gunfire. Sirens. Cops. I sat watching the dark glow of the mountains and conjuring up my next "rant." Maybe one more parting swipe at the whining shipwreck music biz. Enjoyable. Maybe tell how there are no more music cats like John Hammond senior who signed Bob Dylan, Billie Holiday, Count Basie, Bruce Springsteen and dozens of others, and stuck to his guns and let them develop. The Godfather. Music thrived. Creativity thrived. It used to be called "A & R."And then I thought I'd point to Nashville as the prime template for the ruination of The Song. I was thinking all you had to do was print out the Billboard Top Ten Country Charts for the past fifty years and you'd see that in 1988, or so, about the time Garth Brooks flew in on his wire, the whole thing went into the shit house. You won't recognize most of the songs after that. Disposable. And then I thought I'd dredge up a metaphor from William S. Burroughs' book: "Naked Lunch" and contend Nashville is a great example of the old carnie routine: "The Man Who Taught His Asshole to Talk." (Pardon my French.) It's a sideshow routine…except pretty soon the asshole begins to talk on its own accord and the man's head and brain and heart atrophy. Ya know? Like Nashville. Like when they told Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, George Jones and the boys they were now "credibility artists," not wanted on the air waves. But then, in that parking lot in the heart of America, I made the mistake of turning on the public radio station, and Sarah Palin was railing forth. John McCain's VP running mate? Most of you know I do not enter into political debates…but the drivel coming out of this person's mouth was on par with a white high school senior running for student body president in small town Mississippi circa 1962. Holy shit, John McCain, I use to respect you. Alaska? Governor? Credibility? Cool place, but they'd elect Old Dan Tucker governor, because "he washed his face in a fryin' pan." The dull, red neck, clichéd and infantile right wing banter emanating from this woman!…Lordy, Lordy!'s desperate times out there. Mighty desperate. Go ahead, folks, and vote with your fear in your belly. Order up your fear with your double burger with American cheese and ketchup. Kiss my ass, por favor. I'm gonna register to vote. I shook John Kennedy's hand once and I was on the Letterman show with John McCain and respected him…but…got to register…Holy God. Got to, if I'm ever gonna tour Europe again, with this passport, and expect any amount of respect, I reckon we need a change out there. Bob Dylan's candidate is good enough for me. I don’t abide the fear routine. I don’t abide the faux John Wayne swaggering. Don’t buy it. The breath of the elephant stinks of old shoes, fear, and piss water. The Republicans have wet the bed. It's time to change the sheets.
· My fellow Americans, I thank you for your time.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Adventures in the Skin Trade

The Road. Econo Lodges. Thin sheets. Thin soup. New songs. Forget the "road blog" deal. The road journey is worthwhile 'cause it centers around "The Song." The Minstrel trail; gone back to Homer and his autoharp. The Song! People whine about the demise of the album - the cd - the record store - the music biz - and, finally, downloading wiping out records.. Let me lay it on you: I told an executive at Capitol Records that digital downloading was perfect for young kids 'cause there are no young writers capable of writing 12 great songs for a full cd. I expected him to blanch. He looked me in the eye and said: "That's true." We are in the age when it's all about "form"and "concept" and not about content and great writing. (Ditto the art and literature worlds.) There are wonderful new "folk sounds" out there, and great cross pollinations of world music, and 20,000 celtic girl bands who are cute. There are no songs at the core of it all that give you "The Chill." We have lost our creative core. I'm speaking as a American music fan; not as a songwriter who should shut up and deliver. I'll keep trying to carve out a great song. Promise. We have created hundreds of bullshit magazines in the last thirty years that pretend to cater to songwriters and guitar players; we have folk alliances and SXSW conferences up the ass, and yet all this stuff has just led the young writer AWAY from the true journey of finding out who He or She is; as an artist. Doing the homework and learning fifty Hank Williams songs and 1000 year old folk songs, and building an individualistic-artist core; as Dylan and Van Morrison and Lucinda Williams did. The industry just wants to sell guitar tuners and tattoos to 10,000 core-less kids trying to establish a fake "edge." Tattooed kids are the new Middle Class. There is no "edge." All the digital paraphenalia in the word hasn't created the next Beatles. It's about heart and soul, and we're lost - wandering around folk alliances like zombies with cd's in our paws….praying for gigs and instant credibility. But I wax on….nothing more to whine about….everyone is whining….it's back to the pen and paint brush, the buck stops here; and somewhere in Hibbing or St. Louis or El Paso, a giant Sphyinx-like creature bats it's eye in the desert and moves toward Bethlehem, or the Newport Folk Festival, with a batch of songs that wipes out boredom, bullshit, songwriter magazines, conferences, rock and roll museums, and the booing that will certainly ensue from the Old Guard that tried to stuff wax into the mouth of Bob Dylan. It ain't about "looking back" at the '60's…it's about looking down into your heart and seeing if you have a soul that rings with a little truth, and then praying for the guts and the duende to make it rhyme and resonate, and finally, work as a song that might move The Tribe. Song!
Me? "I'm just on the road, heading for another joint…." Walking down those tracks with blood on them.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Crucifix in a Death Hand

Writing these short pieces feels like being a newspaper columnist. Hell, that's ok.
Let me tell you a little story about my favorite newspaper column, back when times where interesting and gas was thirty cents a gallon. In 1967 or so I was dating a nurse named Penny who had an apartment near Macarthur Park in L.A. That's the place Jimmy Webb sang about: "someone left a cake out in the rain." Oh really, Jimmy? Someone left a lot of winos and junkies out in the rain too. They were lying there smoldering in the Los Angeles heat; below the windows of those old worn out apartment hotels. This was no country for young men or civilized women. I used to sit in the park all day and talk to the Indians and pigeons. Waiting for something. Waiting for Penny to come home with the grub, maybe. One day here comes a man with a bunch of newspapers under his arm and he hands me one. It's "Open City," and it contains a column called: "Notes of a Dirty Old Man," by one "Charles Bukowski." Now I doubt if there's ever been a column such as this - now or ever. This gent Bukowski wrote about working for the Post Office and drinking and trying to date women; every rank American male frustration in the book. The read was highly entertaining. Consider: Jonathan Swift meets Mark Twain and Henry Miller at Raymond Chandler's house; with a savage dose of Celine and Nathaniel West. It was drunken rant; like he was putting words in the mouth of a million American blue collar workers. A touch misogynistic. But, oh the humor! I saved all the columns in a box in my garage. Later Bukowski's publisher, through a long grapevine, found out I had the columns and Bukowski had burned all of his. Could Bukowski borrow my stash? Of course. And that started a correspondence with Buk that lasted thirty years or so. You can find all of that in a book titled "Tough Company" on Black Shark-Mystery Island Press. Well…I don’t know what the hell I'd think of Bukowski now. Never read him anymore. He told me once that: "Hemingway is better when you're young." Well old Buk's stuff was probably better when you're young too. But, hell, I wish somebody wrote columns like that now or had something passionate to say on the news or in a magazine. Political correctness has choked us down and hobbled our guts and forced Spaulding Gray to jump into the East River. He left a note to that effect. But Buk wrote one classic L.A. poem….
"Crucifix in a Death Hand."
"Yes, they begin out in the willows, I think.
The starch mountains begin out in the willows.
And keep right on going, without regard
For pumas or nectarines."
Somehow, he nailed it. I leave you with that.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Long Time Rider

I was walking through the streets of Oslo, Norway one night and chanced to run into Steve Young. It was the early 1980's and I was singing seven nights a week in the oldest Honkytonk in Oslo. Steve Young I had known from his groundbreaking records; I'd also met him in Greenwich Village. He was, and remains, a pioneer who invented cross pollinations of country-folk-rock-blues-gospel music in the late '60's. Gram Parsons gets most of the credit for early country rock thing, because he died young and used to hang out with The Rolling Stones.
But Steve Young was there, and he drew from the same deep Southern Well that Gram had drawn holy water from. That night in Oslo Steve handed me a cassette of "new things" he'd been working on. "I don’t know," he drawled. "I've been writing these things on the synthesizer and I don’t know how people are going to take it." I went back to the nunnery we were staying in and listened. Hair raising. Chilling art. Steve sang about his divorce, his conquered drinking problem, and death. It was messianic. But it also had that "hearts of space" musical backdrop that a lot of folk-nazi's were not ready for. The Folk Club protégée's of Pete Seegar and the Lomax family were always waiting with the raised hatchets to cut synthesizer cords. And so it went - Steve tried to perform these classics on synth and was soundly told it didn’t work. Fast forward to yesterday in El Paso, when I received "Long Time Rider," in the mail from Steve Young. A signed and numbered re-released copy. Recorded in the 80's.
"In that bottle I have been a long time rider…" It shook me back to that midnight meeting on the streets of Oslo. The only thing missing on this cd is a song I heard that Oslo night called "Look Homeward Angel," about Steve meeting Thomas Wolfe at the pearly gates of the Promised Land. Fellow southern souls.
Let us now praise the folk music pioneers, madmen, and those with the artistic "cojones" to see deep into the future. This sound ranks with Leonard Cohen and Van Morrison: ethereal, deep hearted folk. Heavenly. Amen.
Available from

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Pistols Carved Out Of Soap

Back on the road. At least 60 in a row. This is my terrain. Querencia. We began in Tucson at the Congress Hotel; stayed there at the historic old railroad palace. The Congress bar is called the Tap Room; a bronc rider named Pete Martinez used to trade drawings for drinks. The drawings are still on the wall. Bony broncs and rank steers. Cowboys with cigarette butts in their mouths. Some nights the drinks are still a dollar a piece. The Margaritas are very excellant. Pete Martinez reminds me of the story of Guy Welch, the Picasso of the western saloon and whorehouse, who drove up and down the 1940's West, from Mexicali to Calgary, painting cowboy murals on saloon walls, in exchange for beer and a bed, and the odd dollar. Back in the Congress Hotel, John Dillinger was fleeing with the other guests during a fire... Dillinger bribed a fireman to go back up and retrieve the bags. Machine guns and stolen money fell to the street and Dillinger was caught. He later broke out of jail with a gun carved out of soap.
Onward we went to Las Cruces and the Rio Grande Theatre, which was full to capacity. And then to Santa Fe, where the streets are full of Indian Santos carved for the Indian Market. It feels good to be back on the road; trying out new songs. As Townes said "Living on the road my friend, is bound to keep you free and clean. Now you wear your skin like iron, and your breath's as strong as kerosene..." Or as Lowell George might say: "I'm still Willin'." Next stop Edmonton Folk Festival, and please check out the new face of our website at with new art work. We're going for a more user-friendly approach. Now we're off to a gig at a detox center. With that in mind, might I recommend one of the best music books ever written: Art Pepper's "Straight Life." You might enjoy that journey, and it was a rough one. Adios....TR

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

St. Anthony in the Desert

"I heard you're building your home
deep in the desert....
Hope you're keeping some kind of record."
Leonard Cohen
Coming home. Flying over the scorched Chihuahuan desert. From a thousand feet in the air the desert looks like custard pudding left in the oven too long. The Mesquite trees and the desert willows are black dots on orange-red sand. Flan. Crustulant. The Sahara of the soul. Somewhere below the desert surface are the largest crystal caves in the world (thanks to Mickie Merkens for this information.) There are also ancient Spanish swords and the lost verses to "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues." The heavy pull of things mystical and historic. I'm returning - like St. Anthony - into the dry wasteland where extremes meet. Where men balance their own aridity and desire for reclusiveness with that of the landscape.
Quoting James Cowan: "A Man did not escape to the desert to find identity, but to lose it, to eradicate his personality and become anonymus." Society is the cave....the way out is solitude.
It's the cowboy way. The shifting, whispering sands and old Walter Brennen recitations.
We're flying over John Wesley Hardin's grave and the best Mexican restaraunts in the world. Now we're landing one hundred yards from the largest equestrian statue ever concoted: Don Juan Onate astride a giant Andalusian stallion. Don Juan crossed the Rio Grande five hundred years ago and brought us the Spanish horse, Catholicism, and the first thanksgiving - which took place years before the East Coast version. Old Don brought us a cornucopia of mixed blessings. He wiped out entire tribes of must have taken a mighty large ego to survive 110 degree heat beneath that Spanish helmet. Heat stroke. The conquistadores went crazy on the deserts of the New World. Swords swinging high over heads; the desperate babbling to the gods of the Inquisition. Enter the Jesuits bringing up the rear. Then Cormac McCarthy with his pen.
Tracking or even undertsanding Mexican and Southwest history is a bit like tracking General Santa Ana's bloody severed leg through the streets of Mexico City...what led to all of this ? What does it mean? That's why we're in the desert - to make sense of it all or leave it behind. Around every corner, on the backstreets of Juarez, lurks another verse out of "The Streets of Laredo." Hell with it. Coffee up and get to work. And what did St. Anthony find as the meaning of life - after living alone in the desert for sixty years? Song! Chant and song. The stillness of inutterable speech. The inarticulate speech of the heart (to quote Van Morrisson.) Song being the only way to express the mystery of the inexpressible. The desert provides the mirror for looking deep within. So we're tracking this inner ground waiting for the winds of the spirit to blow.
Time to pick up the guitar. Two more cups of coffee. The job at hand. Welcome home.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Meat Science Essay # 1

Before I flew out of Switzerland, two days ago, I enjoyed the best meal of my life. At least the best meal I can recall since that joint in Madrid I wrote about. I'm not a big steak eater, though I come from Horse and Cow Folk who are known to eat beef four times per day. I zig zag toward an "In and Out Burger" and stick to yardbird and fish. But then again...the three best steaks of my life have been: 1. Tri-Trip on an open fire in Cuyama, California - at my sister-in-laws place. That's the far end of a sirloin, cooked over oak coals. Fresh air and Hank Williams music helps.
2. Peter Luger's in Brooklyn - aged steak and sliced tomatoes under the Williamsburg Bridge - go there...take a cab....disregard the snotty lawyers...enjoy...; and 3. Betley and Ollie's Chalet in Gstaad, Switzerland. Betley and Ollie are in their 80's. They used to run a cafe near the train station in Saanen, and now they cook private gourmet meals in their Chalet, which was built in 1754. Ursulla Andress eats at their house. She was James Dean's first girlfriend in Hollywood. Time flies. She's still ruggedly handsome. We all are.
We were sitting outdoors admiring the Alps and enjoying the salad Betley pulled from her garden: greens and tomatoes. Real tomatoes. They tasted like strawberries soaked in Sicilian oilve oil. Trains rolled by that looked like Lionell toys and the snow gleamed high up on the glacier. Then Ollie pulled out this giant propane cooker and Betley got the oil hotter than a
Pittburg slag burner... then she threw in the "entrecote." Two minutes each side. Meat science. Smoke. Alchemy. Mountain air. Or maybe it was the wine. South African whites to Italian Reds. I've lost my mind.
The last thing I recall was a glass of Dewar's Scotch and somebody smoking a Havana stogie.
Fade to pink and green. I am not a scotch drinker. Train whistles and toots. What a meal. What a life. Sabroso.
I think there was a desert of fresh berries. I cannot be certain of this. I do know that Betley and Ollie were singing romantic songs in German and French; then Ollie put on a record of some cat playing Hot Jazz on an electric saw in Paris sixty years ago. I think everyone was dancing in the garden. I'm pretty sure of this.
Betley and Ollie were in love. I was in love. The record began to skip.
I think we staggered home.
I cannot be certain....."between the idea and the reality, falls the shadow...."
Woke up. Caught a plane.
Dreaming of entrecote. Tomatoes. La vida extraordinario. Love.

TR El Paso...

Monday, June 30, 2008

Gone to the Dogs

In Madrid I wandered into a little used book store and bought Alexandra Fuller's "Don't Lets Go to the Dogs Tonight" for three euros. Just what I needed. It chronicles Fuller's family during the last days of Rhodesia and onto Zambia and farms in other African spots. They were tobacco farmers during the dying days of the empire. Fuller pulls no punches - she says she wrote at least eight or nine novel manuscripts trying to justify and expunge the guilt and deal with the truth about her mother's racism, and the hard truths of family life. She states: "The novels felt like lies, because in them I tried to soften the voices of the whites and write into full life the voices of the black men silenced by years of oppression. These works of fiction I realized were the writings of a woman who was csared to look the world in the face - so I made the decision to write my life exactly as it had been...passionate, wonderful, troubled, oppressive, chaotic, beautiful. It is not a political story or the story of the is the story of how one African came to terms with her family's troubled history. It is a love song for the continent.
Here's the last sentence of the book: "This is not a full circle. It's life carrying on. It's the next breath we take. It's the choice we make to get on with it."
It seems to me Fuller struck at the heart of what most writers cannot penetrate...because we've been crippled by political correctness in the way we talk about race, sex, politics, animals, food, family and all of human experience. She hits the note. It takes me back to my year in Nigeria but also deepens my undertsanding of the odd shaped nature of families and family hardships...Fuller does not put soft words in anyone's mouth. Her mother is a "hard living, glamorous, intemperate, intelligent, rascist who introduced us all to the works of Shaekspeare before we could walk."
"Don't let's go to the dogs tonight,
for mother will be there........"
TR Switzerland

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


Madrid has at least four great museums (where infinity "goes up on trial") and I picked La Reina Sofia because you have to be in a serious mood to tackle The Prado with all it's Goya's and Bosch's....dark paint. But the Sofia Reina has some Miro and Picasso and there in one large room sits Picasso's giant black and white "Guernica" with it's horses howling at the moon and bulls roaring and human fists raised in agony.... and bombs raining destruction and blood down on the town of Gernika during the Spanish Civil War.
I watched the people passing by, and they were shocked and amazed and sorrow-filled. Somehow I thought of the song "Desolation Row" and then I backed up into the hallway and looked into a glass display case of a Calder sculpture....and peering through the case I could see a film being shown in a room across the hall from the "Guernica," a black and white film documenting the attack and bombing of Gernika, and if you peer the right way through the glass you can see Picasso's "Guernica" superimposed over the real bombing of the town in the movie. Chilling. You want conceptual art? Here it finally was.....I don't know if it was all intended to be that way, but that's what I saw. Art and truth meeting life. A moment in time.
Picasso once said that his mother wanted him to be a pianist who would grow up to be a famous composer. "But I became a painter," he said, "and I grew up to be Picasso."
TR Switzerland

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Oldest Restaraunt in the World

(Yes, the answer to our last blog-saloon quiz was Hemingway's "Death in the Afternoon," last chapter, where he sums up everything he left out of the book. His best writing. )

With that in mind I just staggered back to the hotel from "The Oldest Restaraunt in the World," in Madrid, Espana. It's "Botin" on the "Avenue of the Knife Makers," just off the Plaza Mayor. I was here five years ago after my friend Allen Josephs recommended I show up and drop his name. He wrote "The White Wall of Spain" and a great bullfight book on Cesar Rincon. The cafe is mentioned in a thousand books, including "The Sun Also Rises."That night I dined with the ambassador from Brazil and his lovely wife and daughters. Tonight I dined alone on the menu of the day: Andalusian Gazpacho, Roast Suckling Pig, White Rioja wine and the bread of the region. This sits on a street where muleteers and traders rumbled through in the year 1561. The walls seem to curve and wave and molt, and the tile came in on the backs or Moorish mules. Back then even the women had scars on their cheeks. A sign of integrity. Deep song. Cante hondo. The waiter notices I don't touch the ice cream and to compensate, brings lemon sorbet and a very large glass of Spanish Brandy. I heard Lorca and Leonard Cohen ringing in my ears as I wandered out among the throng and called for a coach and horses. Drifting back to the hotel.....singing "Take this Waltz, this waltz, this waltz....with it's very own breath of brandy and death..."
"It's okay to leave some wine in the bottle," said my friend Eric Hillestad. Abrazos to all. TR

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Who wrote it? What Book? What Chapter?

"We've seen it all go, and we'll watch it go again.
The great thing is to last and get your work done.
And see and hear and learn and understand; and write
when there is something that you know, and not before;
And not too damned much after. Let those who want to
save the world. If you can see it clear and as a whole, then
any part you make will represent the whole if it's made truly.
The thing is to work and learn to make it."

There's your quiz for today. It sums it all up for the writer, young and
old. Speaks to learning your craft and keeping your mouth
shut until you do.

We're off to Spain, Italy and Switzerland. That should serve as
a clue to the above quote. I concocted a pitcher of sangria last
night to get me in the spirit. Beaujalais, oranges, strawberry
juice. Strauss waltzes and salmon stuffed with goat cheese.

"The garbled moil of whatever it is," Bukwoski wrote on a
recorded album of his poetry he gave me in 1969.

From inside the garbled moil.

"If you're going through hell, keep walking."
Shakespeare, as quoted by Winston Churchhill.

adios. adieu. onward towards

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Four Folk Tales for the Modern Age

1. I met Utaph Phillips (R.I.P) at the Kate Wolf Festival last year. I told him to wait around, I was going to sing him a song. I opened up with his great tune "Rock, Salt and Nails." After I'd sung one line he turned his golf cart around and sped away with an angry look on his mug. What the hell? Six monthes later somebody wrote me an anonymous email: "Utah hates that song! He wrote it about his ex-wife." Solved.

2. Rain Perry, who wrote the great little song "Yosemite," has a folk opera out about growing up with "bohemian nomad" parents. It's called "Cinderblock Bookshelves" and it's out on her own label, produced by Mark Hallman. Check it out at or Quiet masterwork.

3. Penny Lang's "Stone+Sand+Sea+Sky" has tracks that haunt me - like John Herald's "High Muddy Water." Chilling - especially knowing John killed himself a few years ago in upstate New York. This song is worth the price of admission. She also does Dylan's "One too Many Mornings."

4. And speaking of Dylan, I just finished Suze Rotolo's "Freewheelling" book about her days as Dylan's girlfriend in Greenwich Village. Interesting, but no new revelations. I think so many hundreds of people (like John Herald) were marked and moved by their association with Dylan - but they never quite knew what hit them. And they never recovered. She seems to still be searching for her "artiste soul"...well, you know what somebody told me once? "The store is open where you can buy the same colors that Van Gogh used...ya know?" Get with it. Get to work.
There is one revelation: she claims Ian Tyson turned Dylan on to Marijuana. Well, then if Dylan went on to turn on the Beatles to weed...that makes Ian Tyson a cultural (or cult) icon of the 20th century. The rise of the poetic lyric. He's coming here tomorrow to hang out so I'll ask him.
All the news that fits. TR

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Goodbye Hank Williams My Friend

Uncle Tommy Gabriel passed away last week. The same Uncle Tommy from "When Sinatra Played Juarez." Golden times on the border. The clinking of cocktail glasses. Cheap divorces.
Greyhound races. Jai Alai frontons. The Kingston Trio played in Juarez and sang "Tom Dooley."
Nat King Cole rattled the keyboard and sang "Route 66" and "Mona Lisa." They're killing people over there now inside one of the extended drug wars. I heard the rat a tat tat of tommy guns on the streets outside the Geronimo Bar a few years back. Geronimo would have been right at home. But they shipped him off to Florida. Dave Gahr also died last week. Or this week. He was 85. Photographed Bob Dylan and all the great folk writers. I have a signed book of his called: 'The Faces of Folk." Old Dave was a character among Brooklyn characters. One night Ian Tyson and myself shared a few bottles of wine and staggered over to Dave Gahr's brownstone studio in Park Slope Brooklyn. I was dating a gal named Edie, from Lone Wolf Oklahoma, and she came along for the ride. The photos from that night are wonderful, because Gahr knew how to get a rise out of even the most arrogant and stoic folksinger. He'd laugh at you and say: "Oh, you're such a hard ass. You are a very bad guy. What if Marilyn Monroe was sitting in your lap right now, Mr. Hard guy?" You'd crack up and Dave would snap the photo. He treated everyone that way. From God to Emmy Lou. The passing and the passing and the passing. Like a line from a Tim Hardin song: "Goodbye Hank Williams, my friend. I never knew you, but I've been to places you've been."

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Painting to Ian and Syvia

Every now and again I forget why I got into the song trade; then I hear a record or a group of songs, and that warm glow lifting off an old folk song reminds me why I'm here...still trying to dawn the suit of lights everyday. I've been painting a large blue-green agave to match the new kitchen...I put on the Vanguard boxed Ian and Sylvia set and there are a hundred songs, almost, on that damn thing that connect me to the core of why I signed up for the minstrel trade. Some people (Joan Baez on occasion) sang folk songs with too much reverence; tending to gloss over the real darkness and drama in the lyric. Fred Neil, Tim Hardin, Bob Dylan and Ian and Sylvia...seemed to mine the rich complexity and beautifful strangeness of the songs. That territory Greil Marcus calls "the old wierd America." It's all there, and that terrain or "querencia," is the base and root of where we write from. Where do we go from here? The Band extended it a ways....Dylan painted such a high water mark ( I tend to over-harp on this) that we need a spy glass to see it. But hearing Ian and Sylvia sing "Four Strong Winds," or Lightfoot's "Early Morning Rain," calms me down and pushes me onward. Happliy/with the glow....
On other fronts I completed a short set of questions from Susan Cane and Peter O'Brien which now are posted on check that site out....Peter also just published a wonderful interview with Pete Seegar in his Omaha Rainbo series...I also just sent some Aztec Jazz prints to and they have 'em available....also a new painting of Billie Holiday: "Strange Fruit." We're off to Austin to record song demos and work on a record with Gretchen Peters. Then Kerrville Folk Festival next Sunday night.....thanks for stopping by the old blog-hole saloon....and remember: "dead men walk the internet," to quote the bard. me. TR

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


Good news. Those of you looking for Borderland or Wounded Heart of America, they are now available on our new label Shout Factory .
We're excited about this, because they're reissuing the entire Hightone catalogue.
Please check out their website. They are also planning a double disc compellation of Tom Russell songs. This should be coming out in late fall. There might be some surprises on here.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Goneboy: A Walkabout

I don't read much fiction anymore. I can't suspend my belief when I think I'm being lied to....conned. So I scour the aisles for good non-fiction: from biography to True Crime. Where the hard edged characters hang out. So I'm in Santa Fe, at a small book store, and find an odd new book called "Hubert's Freaks." It's about the old Freak Show that used to be in Times Square, NYC. Lenny Bruce did a bit on it and Tiny Tim performed there. The book is by a guy named Gregory Gibson, and it's more deeply about a trunk full of Diane Arbus photos found in a storage bin by a book dealer. Good read if you're into Diane Arbus. She took photos like I used to write songs. Sorta twisted. I liked the book so much I bought the other two books the guy wrote. I just finished one of those. It's called "Goneboy: A Walkabout," and it's tragic, moving, and damn good. Gregory Gibson's son was shot and killed in a campus lunatic rubout in 1992, very similar to the recent Norfolk, Virginia shootings. The author digs deep and finds out everything he can about the circumstances, the murder weapon, and the Chinese kid who did the shootings. It's a dark pilgrimage that leads to a rather rugged form of catharsis. I admire the honesty and the conclusions he draws about guns. No simple solutions. The real villians here are the insensitive idiots who run Universities and have no clue how to relate to all the cut-off, psycho bent loners who populate the dormitories of academia. It's gonna happen again and again. I've been inside a maximum security institution, and in a cage with hand-raised wolverines, but dorms and student unions of college campuses have a scarier vibe. Death on the installment plan. Fear in 100 dollar running shoes.
The third book is about a mutiny on a whaling ship - I'm sure it's just as good. This guy Gibson seems to have wide tastes (he's a book dealer himself in Gloucester, Mass.) and he writes an honest sentence full of real emotion. Revolutionary act these days. We are a nation of zombies lining up at chain stores to be fed non-dairy creamer. Check out "Goneboy" and take it with you next time you leave the house.
You know what my mom said: "the secret to life is: never leave the house without a good book. Wherever you're headed, it's bound to be boring. Arm yourself with literature."
Your reporter.
In the trecnches of blood and dust. El Paso.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Crossing

Barry Walsh's piano record starts the day around here before the carpenters and electricians and tractors roll through.....Barry played with Waylon Jennings and The Boxtops and fashioned an instrumental cd that reminds me of Satie and Eno and a little of Uncle George thrown's available at my Uncle George's "In Between Films" cd is still available at
Somebody mentioned the Stones in a comment: I haven't see the Stones movie yet that Scorcese did...but I saw them a year or two in El Paso, as I've said and they kicked my ass. Charlie Watts rocked steady for three hours. The songs and guitar riffs are unmatchable. I just finished a painting called "Keith in the Desert," except it looks more like the devil sitting among agaves and prickley pears. I have to get it out of the house. It'll go cheap. Also did another bukowski and Ramblin Jack Elliott, circa 1953, with his wife staring at him. Saturday morning. No thoughts. Treading artistic water whilst others are engaged in that "awful rowing towards an unknown God." (Anne Sexton.)

Saturday, April 19, 2008


Chris Gaffney passed on a few days ago. One of the last Honkytonkers. I've seen George Jones in a big honkytonk in Texas, and I've seen Gaffney in a bar in Artesia California and I'd rate both experiences about equal. Gaffney was a Golden Gloves boxer, born in Austria, and seemingly raised by bob cats in the Arizona desert. A tough and tender guy and a blood curdling singer. He recorded my song "The Eyes of Roberto Duran," and coming from a boxer, it was chilling. He was Dave Alvin's best friend and my heart goes out to Dave. Dave and Chris stopped by my house here in El Paso about ten years ago. I was having deadly problems with the woman I'd moved out here with, and she had just bycycled away, probably looking for a store to buy a gun. Gaffney and Dave tried to calm me - then Gaffney looked up to the top of my adobe house, and spied what he thought was an old gun turret. "You could hide up there," he said, "and pop her off when she comes riding in." He didn't smile. He was a very funny guy with a deadpan delivery. Here was a man who had to make his living putting up dry wall and scraping the rust off the bottom of ocean liners in the San Pedro harbor. A cross between Charles Bukowski, Johnny Paycheck and Roberto Duran. A blood and guts American character. I recorded his great song "The Gardens," on the "Rose of the San Joaquin" record. You can read his obit at:,1,4527969.story?track=rss
Bless him. May the angels above San Pedro carry his songs on and on and on above the harbor lights at dawn. TR

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Mansion on O Street

Played in Vienna,Virginia and stayed at The Mansion on "O" Street in the heart of DC.
This ancient old house is filled with brick-a-brack, art, and rock 'n roll memorabilia. The most interesting piece in the house is a letter from John Lennon to the laundress (some laundry person somewhere) that they were ignorant bastards who "stained his new shirt." Lots of cheap guitars signed by rock stars. Working new songs into the gigs, losing my voice from a peach blossom allergy, and looking for a decent meal in Ashland, Virginia. It's hard in America. Cars full of people jamming deep fried sea food down their throats and washing it all down with diet cokes.
You've got to navigate your way across this country, careful not to step in the dog shit. Played a one hour concert solo on XM Radio's cross country with Jesse. Sang a bunch of new songs. I hear tell that XM and Sirius are merging.
I've been thinking about Fred Neil lately. "Everybody's Talking," etc. What happened to Freddy Neil, Paul Seibel, Peter La Farge, Karen Dalton, Phil Ochs, Tim Hardin and a dozen other good writers from the 60's? I guess Bob Dylan happened. Other people were terrified and bailed out. And anyone who doesn't think Alan Lomax and Pete Seegar were not pissed off at Dylan's total detonation of old, tired, folk music......but I rail on. The songwriter section is sinking in Borders.
I'm high on deep fried bush puppies. Pulled pork. The promised land. I think this blog is being read by about three of them a very literate truck driver roaming the States in a high powered Semi....the other is the ghost of Fritz Scholder. We're headlining Kerrville Folk Festival next month and we begin work on a few records - but I'm saving the originals. Gretchen Peters may cut "Guadalupe," which is my favorite of the new songs. The Mother of the Americas. Take a listen to Fred Neil's version of "The Water is Wide." "There is a ship that sails the's loaded deep, as deep can be.....but not as a deep as this love I'm in...I know not if, I sink or swim." Dig it.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Hurricane Season

Flew to Fort Worth for Bass Hall, and then down to Charlotte, and finally Myrtle Beach and up the beach to Southport, South Carolina. Swamp land and ocean. Dozen miniature golf courses and crab shacks. Played an ancient theater in Southport and ate fresh fish stuffed with crab. Then a six hour drive back up to Charlotte through swamp land bible belt. Eerie. Nothing moves on Sunday, til the folks come out of church in these small towns - and then they drive out to the highway to the nearest fast food place and have breakfast. Beautiful for spacious skies and grey waves of amber coffee. Towns now seem to exist on the edge of Walmart parking lots, instead of the opposite. Fear on the installment plan. Celine country. Pie in the sky. Baptist, Methodist. What have you. God doesn't seem to be bring people joy round here - except for the blacks.
Fundamentalist Black churches filled with praise, shouting and music. Soul. Laughter.
Charlotte was an oasis. Good crowd at the "Evening Muse" - hip crowd. When we'd left El Paso, the taxes were coming due; the water pump was out and they we're about to tear up our kitchen. I hope they find Don Juan Onate's sword underneath the house when they dig up the plumbing. The Carolinas are a long way from the desert. The rental car has Sirius Radio installed, so we've been listening to Outlaw Country. Some occasional Buck Owens and Merle and Lefty, and the echos of old passion and blood and guts in the grooves. You can request some of our songs on Sirius and XM using the links below. Digital seems to at least offer a platter of
music you might dig for an hour or so before you become dazed from counting the Waffle Houses.
"When Adam ate the apple, Eve tried to hide the core....they ran naked, fearful, wasted...and one thing more....they were as naked as the coat Hank Williams wore." New TR song. Your reporter in the swamps. Heading for the Capitol.

Links to requests on Sirius and XM:

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The Death of Jimmy Martin

Recieved this message on the My Space. It's from Jimmy Martin's former mandolin player.
"Hey Tom Thanks so much for The Death of Jimmy Martin song, and telling it like it is, he would love it. I had the honor of traveling many miles, and recording several sessions with Jimmy, and can assure you there will never be another like him. I remember playing the Opry with him when I first became a Sunny Mtn. Boy, and seeing him get three encores, and actually four but they wouldn't let us take the the fourth, because of the time limit. I can still see Jimmy standing at the end of the stage with both hands waving to the audience, with big tears streaming down his face. Jimmy knew how to entertain an audience, and would have been great for the Opry, but it just never happened. I just wanted to say THANKS for a great job. Hope you will add me to your friends list, and hope you will visit my website; www. ronnieprevette. com. If I can ever help you, just let me know. And THANKS AGAIN for a great job. Sincerely,Ronnie Prevette"
If you want a good take on Jimmy - look for the little book "A Night with Jimmy Martin" by Tom Paizzola (something like that). It's a wild ride. You can read it in a few hours. Jimmy gets drunk and goes backstage and chooses off half the Opry members, including Ricky Skaggs. The bastards. He was too real for 'em. Country music in the last twenty years has become strip-mall musac, sung by arch twits with faux country accents. Long live Jimmy Martin and passion.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Four Strong Winds

Drove hwy 25 up to Santa Fe to see Ian Tyson at the Lensic Theater. He's having a little throat trouble but still writing great songs. One of my original inspirations and mentors. Nadine and I spent a few days with him last month at the Tyson Ranch, and he's still up at five in the morning doing horse chores and writing songs. Bob Dylan sang him "Blowing in the Wind" in a bar in Greenwich Village in 1962 and Tyson said: "Hell I can do that," and wrote "Four Strong Winds" and "Someday Soon." That sort of high charged creative magic doesn't happen anymore in this vapid age. Tyson was one of those inventors of the modern "folk" song and went on to create "Country-Rock" and "folk rock" with folks like Dylan, Gram Pasons, Steve Young, Dilliard and Clark and Barbara Keith. All of these people (except Gram and Gene Clark) are still alive and making music. We call it "alt country" and "Americana" and all the other trash words - but the lyrical based song is at the core of it all. Listen to the Bob Dylan Live in 1966 (from the Columbia bootleg series) then Ian and Sylvia Tyson's "Great Speckled Bird" album, then on to Gram Parson's "Return of the Grevious Angel," to Steve Young's "Rock, Salt and Nails" on A & M records, to the first Barbara Keith record on Reprise. She's out there playing with her family's bar band somewhere. Steve Young is prowling the supermarkets at four a.m. and Tyson is feeding horses at sunrise and then playing guitar along with Tigres del Norte cds. I was fortunate enough to see all these folks as a kid - in the clubs along the west coast. I think of that everytime I pick up the guitar and try and write a few lines. Inspirators of the steel string code. Try and get on that train with Eliza Gilksyon and Ian Tyson and myself in October - I doubt wether we'll get Tyson to do another. Check maybe they'll accept payments.
Gotta go. My kitchen is being delivered.

Monday, March 24, 2008

La Fiesta Brava - The Brave Festival

Flew to Houston alone. Bagged a rental car and drove up to Conroe Texas listening to KPFT. Larry Winters scorching out the real news to the faithful. He played Ballad of Ira Hayes.
Did the "in the round" thing with Eliza Gilkyson and Ray Wylie Hubbard. OK. A Little awkward.
That in the round "pass the guitar" thing is more of a Nashville idea. It's hard to get the flow going. I'd prefer to sing all new songs - but you have to think about entertainment now and then. The adventures in the skin trade. Up at 6am to fly back. Listened to this collection of old Jerry Lee Lewis country songs that came out on Raven. Killer stuff from the killer. He sings the hell out of a batch of great hontytonk songs. Try his version of Mickey Newbury's "She Even Woke Me up to Say Goodby." Man. "Baby packed her soft things and she's leaving....lord she didn't mean to make me cry...." Arrived in El Paso and walked over the border bridge to the Easter corrida. Bullfight. Finally it all came in focus. Cormac McCarthy once told me "they're never any good!" As he skittled away in a book store. This time there was catharsis and beauty and color. The decent into the well. The attainment of the Aztec Head in the Kentucky Bar. Blanco Tequila 100% Agave. The giant stuffed Eagle starring down. Ana Gabriel on the jukebox. The Paisano del Norte quartette in the mercado singing "Valentine de la Sierra." The walk back over the bridge as the wind was holwing at 38 degrees. La Fiesta Brava. Restored my faith in those few times when God opens the door a half inch and glimpse a moment of eternity and art. Jesus walking on the water. Ali in Zaire. Dylan singing "Desolation Row" at the Hollywood Bowl in the mid sixties.
The bloom on an old agave. La Fiesta Brava.

Monday, March 17, 2008

The Passing of Uncle George

Finished tour in St. Cloud Minn. Bo Diddley's. Flew out as the snows were beginning again and again. Uncle George Malloy died yesterday in Ogden Utah. I doubt wether he knew where Ogden, Utah really was. 88 years old? We flew him out of New York City over a year ago and expected him to live a few weeks and pass on in the rest home....he survived for a year on Chocolate Milkshakes and the New York Times crossword puzzle. Uncle George was a pianist who lived on 72nd and Broadway in New York City for over fifty years. He drank speed-rack vodka tonics at Malachy's bar in between gigs.....we made a record with him six years ago called "In Between Films." You see he was in a few films in the 1950's and when asked about it said: "I'm in Between Films." Meaning he hadn't been in one for fifty years. Uncle George travelled all over the world backing up the stars of the classical music world: Roberta Peters, Todd Duncan and Camilla Williams. He brought back a camel saddle from Egypt. He played piano at the Martin Luther King "I Have a Dream" speech in D.C. right before Bob Dylan. On his milkshake bed in Utah he told me stories: said he saw Josephine Baker in Paris and his friend Todd Duncan bowed down to her. "I thought that was a bit much..." he said. Uncle George played in the Palaces of the world, and in basket houses and Opera bars in Greenwich Village. Played saloon piano in "Gunsmoke in Tucson."
You can find him somewhere on u-tube in a 1945 film backing up a jazz harmonica player named Larry Adler. That's my Uncle George and I was proud to be his nephew. That record we made with him: "In Between Films" is still availavble from
They're gonna bury his ashes near the Hudson river....might as well be the back of the bar at Malachy's. Man, could he play Chopin's Polanaise in A minor! Made my hair stand on end.
He smoked six cigarettes a day out on 72nd street, half a block away from where John Lennon was shot. I miss him.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Walls of Red Wing

"Oh, some of us will end up in Saint Cloud Prision, and some of us will wind up to be lawyers and things....inside the Walls....the Walls of Red Wing." Dylan. Tony Glover was in the opening band last night. Wise old owl harmonica player. His notes to Dylan's 1966 Manchester Hall release (The Judas concert) was brilliant writing. He also appears in the Scorcese Dylan film. Told me he liked "Hotwalker." Mumbled something about it being my "carnival piece." We played in the great hall of the Cedar Cultural center and Rosalie Sorrells was in town to do recording. She came up and sang Townes Van Zandt's "Snowing on Raton," with me. Wonderful lady. Her song "The Last Go Round," is one of the great cowboys songs of the last fifty years. Spent a wonderful evening years ago at Grimes Creek in Idaho at Rosalie's cabin - her father built it by hand. She heated it with four wood stoves - one of them a Basque sheepherder's oven. She served roast pork, and in between food courses pulled books out of vast bookcases and read poems from her favorite Beat Lew Welch (who walked off into the woods with a bottle of whiskey and a gun and hasn't been seen since.) "I saw myself as a ring of bone in the clear stream of things....then I saw ring as what a bell does." Lew Welch. Nights when I am sane. They told me that before he died, Mickey Newbury had my "The Man From God Knows Where" lying on his bedside table. I don't know why I thought of that. One more gig in St. Cloud, then home. Craving guy delivered a pizza a one in the morning last night and said "I like your boots, man. El Paso? You got sunsets there, right? It's all earth and sky down there....." Yep. All earth and sky.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Dylan Country

19 degrees in Niswa Minn. Gritty gig in Cleveland then three hour night drive - seven hour day drive to Cedar Rapids. Smokestack sunset. Art gig with Mel and John. Another seven hours to
Niswa Minnesota. Bob Dylan country. Saw St. Cloud prision out of Dylan's "The Walls of Red Wing." Ate Jambalaya and played the town hall. Back down Hwy 94 to the twin cities....then back up to St. Cloud to end the tour tomorrow. Bobby Vee lives St. Cloud. Dylan's first pro gig as a piano player in Fargo. Paul Bunyan statues and a report that it's 81 degrees in El Paso. Time to go home and irrigate my fruit trees. Been listening to Penny Lang, Amy Winehouse, Jim Ringer, Dave Moore and Tex Ritter. "If money was meat, we couldn't draw flies....from the Hubbardville Store." (Larry Murray)

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Hank Williams' Coat

Two days off in Cleveland. The skip loaders are still shoveling the snow away. Drifts four feet high on the sidewalks. Our friend Alec Wightman of Columbus got us into the secret vaults at the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame, where we saw Hank Williams' coat. In the basement, never on display. Inside, the label said: "Fashioned by Nudie of Hollywood." There was a small nude woman on the label. The coat was probably made in 1950. I remember meeting Nudie at a Gram Parsons and the Flying Burrito Brothers show in L.A. 1967 or 1968. Nudie drove a cadillac which had an interior covered in silver dollars. Huge set of longhorns on the front hood. The same guy who introduced me to Gram Parsons and Nudie, introduced me to the work of Charles Bukowski, who was writing for a newspaper called "Open City." I was the only person alive who had kept all those Open City columns, and Bukowski needed them one day. That's how we got to know each other. Now I'm looking out the window of a Holiday Inn in Cleveland; see two cops riding by on horses. It's a long way from Hollywood, as Steve Young says. And Hank Williams' coat hangs in a basement of the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame. Blues in every pocket. Leonard Cohen was just voted into the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame, a class act. Once again he recited "The Tower of Song." "I asked Hank Williams how lonely does it get, but Hank Williams hasn't answered yet...."
Yes, Hank's coat is hanging in a basement in Cleveland. And I'm glad I'm still on the road.

Monday, March 10, 2008

After the Great Blizzard of 08

Guy in a white beard claims the blog lacks blood and guts. Edge! Sordid details! You want Bukowski? He's a doornail now. Dead. I think we agreed to add a few more web blogs to see if we could extend out into whatever cyber-space is... and add a few minds and bodies to the listener base. But it's a pain in the ass and seems bloodless. The bottom line is we believe in the songs. The blog is just a daily excercise in road rage and trail work. Some people enjoy the boring details. Others expect literature and the level of song. The mysterious door to great songs will never be opened in a blog. The word "blog" is ugly. Go ask Alice. Well, what am I thinking, dear reader? Literaure is a dead pony. Bob Dylan killed poetry in America, or at least the need to even look at poetry, and every hack academic lit teacher at every community college knows that. USA Today and The New Yorker etc depend on the hope of new and happening novelists, poets and songwriters - the rickety card table of our culture is a collapsing. The high water mark was Dylan's "Highway 61 Revisited" and "Blonde on Blonde".....the great journalists were Grover Lewis, AJ Leibling, and Joseph Mitchell....the great boxer was Muhammad Ali....the great novelists Hemingway, Salinger, Greene....we've been smothered by political correctness (That's why Spaulding Gray jumped into the East River.).
At least the goddamn election is a horse race of the first courses should be turned into Buffalo reserves....Insurance salesmen are still pushing the heart attack machine....I won't record another record of new songs until I think I have 12 great ones. (from my own heart view)...songs I want to sing.
Those record exec's who claim downloading destroyed the business also know that most young songwriters cannot come up with enough songs to fill an one-song downloading fits the younger audience. The average NPR and Digital Radio listener still wants to hold an album in his or her hands.....still wants a work of art. We are all praying for that experience. Art! A wall filled with Van Gogh paintings.
Enough ranting....we survived the blizzard of 2008. We have a great tour of the UK solid in October...I want a case of Chalk Hill Chardonnay....can you arrange it? The guy with the white beard? Then I will continue to deliver the rant.....your reporter from the shadows of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Chicago and The Blizzard of 2008

Fitzgereld's was full Friday night in Chicago. Great show. Great sound system. Thanks plenty to Mary Lou Lowry and a bus load of folks she brought in from the Southern suburbs. Allan Shaw was there, who has a great website for old folk music Stayed in Oak Park across the street from the Hemingway museum, which was dissappointing. He was born right up the street in an old Victorian mansion. Anyone questioning the old man's lasting power as a story teller should re-read "A Moveable Feast" or, the best thing he wrote, the last chapter of "Death in the Afternoon," which speaks about writing and what was left out of the book (which itself is out-dated.) Drove off the next morning into a twelve hour nightmarish dance with "The Blizzard of 2008" which dumped a foot of snow on highway 70. Twelve hours into Columbus, Ohio. Would have been faster with Clydesdale horses pulling the car. Now we're looking out over Columbus, as salt trucks and tractors try to dig the city out. Show last night was cancelled, but it's on tonight in the old German hall. It's a long way from El Paso.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Madison Square Gardens

Cafe Montemarte in Madison. Had to fight off the loud enthusiasm of talking heads and
bad sound system, and come out of this fifteen round gig with a black-eyed triumph.
Some nights one gig can seem like three. The food was great. Madison seems to be a
cultural town. The Capitol is there - looming large over frozen streets and used book
stores. A lot of this sounds like hack writing and whining, but I'm gonna force my way
through to see if I can do a full tour journal. We are filming a bit as well. Three possible
films on the line: tour film, film of Ian Tyson and Tom Russell's workshop at Elko (lots of
great Dylan stories); and the big film on the west - a woman ranching alone in the West -
Claudia Russell. Half way there and need two hundred grand to finish it - if there are twenty
investors out there. Should turn a profit and garner a few awards. Chicago tonight. Columbus, Cleveland, Minnesotta. God's country. Dylan country.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Frozen Milwaukee

Chill-factor minus 50, 31 people snow-sledded into the show. Die-hards and relatives. Received two birthday cakes, and ate Thai food in the dressing room. The hotel walls were full of old 8x10 photos of comedians and transvestite strippers. Some nights life on the road hasn't changed for 100 years. But you've still gotta suck it all up and go down into the well. My cousins showed up, who wrote a book on chickens, and now they've written a book on cheese. Last time through I saw a good Francis Bacon exhibition at the Modern Art museum, I saw who influenced one of my favorite painters, Fritz Scholder. Tonight it's Madison, Wisconsin, which seems to be the hip music city around here. Over and out.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Ann Arbor

Enthusiastic crowd on a Monday night in Ann Arbor. This was voted the "Folk Club of the Year", so I sang them the "Song of the Year." It was freezing weather outside, winter holding on in Michigan. Sold a lot of Charles Bukowski prints. The American political race for once tonight is an interesting horse race. Here we are in frozen Milwaukee with a night off. Looking for a place to have a Martini. Last night I sang the new song "Criminology" about all the times I've had a gun pointed at my head. It went over. Stopped at a Borders and bought an Amy Winehouse CD to check it out, also discovered a Penny Lang record, that Gretchen Peters turned me on too. I think it's called "Sun, Sea, Silence", something like that. But it's got two great covers of Rosalie Sorrells songs on and a cover of Dylans "One Too Many Mornings." Funky production, really worth checking out. She's been around a long time, you can feel the miles in her voice. Over and out.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

The Sermon on Mount Olive

March 1. Mt. Olive, Illinois....historic Turner Hall. 340 people packed into a 1943 small town hall. They still use a human "pin boy" to set the bowling pins in a one lane alley where promoter Ed Becker bowled a 300 game 20 years ago.
This gig was something out of a Woody Guthrie song.
Gretchen Peters and Barry Walsh shared the bill and
two or three encores later we stumbled out into the frozen American night. The whole town was drunk and the gig was good. Drove nine hours to Ann Arbor and listened to Bob Dylan, Jim Ringer, Joe Ely and Paul Siebel. There really IS an America out there, and it's in the middle of the winter. TR

Friday, February 29, 2008

Confederate Rock

Gig tonight at Mojo's in Columbia, MO. Good Jamaican chicken. This is a college town. But guess what the local Vox newspaper had to say about the show? "Americana Crooner specializes in No-Frills, boot tapping, confederate-flag waving southern Country." Jesus, I thought I might get lynched. But the gig went well, although it was a Rock n' Roll club. Tomorrow we do KDHX radio in St. Louis, then onward to a gig with Gretchen Peters in Mt. Olive, IL, where Mother Jones is burried, and there's the last working gas station on route 66. Paying our dues.

Kansas City

Great Thursday night gig at Knuckleheads, it was good to see our old friends Corky and Bill from Village Records. These guys are your best resource for Americana music, also John Yuelkenbeck who runs our main website and is a Thursday bartender at Dave's Stage Coach Inn. Knuckleheads is located on the edge of Kansas City, but somehow it works. Freight trains pass by every half hour and the sound of moaning whistles melted in perfectly with the new songs like The Most Dangerous Woman in America about Mother Jones. We move on to Columbia, MO and Mt. Olive, IL through the Heartland. I've been doing new songs like "Don't Look Down", "Darkness Visible", "Santa Ana Wind", "Guadalupe", "Crosses of San Carlos", and "Mississippi River Running Backwards."

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Kick-off another Midwest Tour

Here we are in Kansas City beginning another Midwest Tour, alongside another US-Highway. Highway 70 East, there's a Taco Bell outside and 200 semi-trucks pass every 5 minutes. Stay tuned for further happenings! Just got back from Memphis, where we got the award for "Song of the Year" for "Who's Gonna Build Your Wall?" and sang with Ian Tyson when he got a life-time achievment award from ASCAP. Bob Dylan sent a letter of congratulations to Ian.