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