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.