Monday, July 26, 2010

Blaze Foley

With the likes of Roky Erickson, Willie Nelson, Daniel Johnston, Townes Van Zandt, etc., I doubt that there is a city with more per capita "oddballs" strewn out across its musical highway than Austin, Texas. And, yet, one of this town's biggest oddballs - Blaze Foley - is also, oddly enough, its most obscure one.

Perpetually homeless, sometimes sleeping under pool tables in bars, Foley was shot and killed in Austin in 1989 while allegedly trying to defend his friend Concho January from Concho's own son.

His songs have been covered by Merle Haggard and John Prine while Lucinda Williams and Townes Van Zandt have each written songs about him.

Earlier this month, Fat Possum Records released Blaze Foley: The Dawg Years and it is an excellent compilation of Foley's unique folk blues.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Fog of Racial Paranoia

"From now on, the Republicans are never going to get more than 10 to 20 percent of the Negro vote and they don't need any more than that. The more Negroes who register as Democrats in the South, the sooner the Negrophobe whites will quit the Democrats and become Republicans. That's where the votes are."
-Kevin Phillips(political strategist to Richard Nixon)

The above quote came from a 1970 interview in the New York Times and, yet, 40 years later, the far right wing elements of the Republican Party are still utilizing this tactic in its attempt to paint President Obama and anyone associated with him as a racist to discredit his presidency.

Their latest target is Agricultural Department official, Shirley Sherrod, who is being reviled as a racist after this video was posted by the conservative website -

What the video failed to mention was that she was recounting a story that took place some 24 years ago regarding a moral crossroads she had come to in regards to her own racial views. Instead, the video was edited to make it look like this was an official from the Obama administration who wasn't going to help out "whitey" when in fact, the white farmer in question, Roger Spooner, came out today in defense of Sherrod and said that he would have lost his farm without her help.

The repeated charges of racism against Obama are laughable. Look at this guy's Cabinet for chrissakes:

racism |ˈrāˌsizəm|
the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, esp. so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races.

As ridiculous as the racism charges are against Obama, it's even more ridiculous considering that these charges are often coming from the most racially insensitive people you have ever seen(Rush Limbaugh, Fox News, etc.). It's absolutely comical. And I'm not saying the Republican Party as a whole is racist, but it is absolutely, 100% guilty of pandering to racist elements in order to win elections.

And, yet, the worse thing to come out of this nonsense is the fact that Sherrod was fired and Obama claims he had nothing to do with it. Whether you believe him or not, and I don't, he has all the power in the world to not only reinstate her, but to issue her an apology for rushing to judgement.

Sunday, July 18, 2010


Director Christopher Nolan's Inception is a frustratingly brilliant film. At a length of 2 hours and 40 minutes, it surprisingly held my attention which is nothing short of miraculous considering my attention span. This film, however, is like a puzzle with a million pieces. I know it works. I'm just not sure I'm going to figure out exactly how it works after a second viewing and I'm quite sure I don't have the patience for a go at it after that. Having said that, I still highly encourage you to go see this film. I'm absolutely confident that there are many of you out there who will be far better at sifting through the many, many layers of this film than I was.

Merle Haggard

One of the most important country music recordings in history is Johnny Cash's live performance at San Quentin prison entitled At San Quentin. The recording was one of many shows he did there. Several years after a 1959 concert performed at San Quentin, country music legend, Merle Haggard, told Cash that he enjoyed that particular show. When Cash replied that he didn't remember him being on the lineup that day, Merle responded simply that he was in the audience as a prisoner that day.

While Johnny Cash was romanticizing the outlaw lifestyle in his songs, Merle Haggard was living it. And while Hollywood was tripping over itself to bring Cash's life story to the big screen, Haggard's is a far more complex and compelling tale and one that should be told. Hopefully, Merle will get his due someday.

For the time being, though, PBS will premiere: Merle Haggard: Learning to Live with Myself this Wednesday, July 21 at 8pm(CST). For those of you who are otherwise unfamiliar with Haggard, and even those who consider themselves fans, I highly recommend you watch this documentary on Wednesday.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Lightning Bolt

Last weekend, I finally got to see one of my favorite bands - Lightning Bolt - thoroughly redeeming myself from their last stop in Austin.

Three years ago, they played at Emo's. It was a ticketless show. I had to make a sudden trip to Louisiana and returned the night of the show, speeding like a mad man in hopes of making it on time, which I did, but to a sold out show. I was utterly deflated, which led me to Plan B - I tried to sneak in through a gate in the back and was instantly thrown out by a really large man who wasn't in the best of moods.

Looking back on it now, I realize that it just wasn't meant to be for me to see Lightning Bolt that night. In addition to the misguided ticketless show idea, they also performed a stageless show(which they are known for) in the middle of the crowd. This is a good idea for a house party, but not the best of ideas for a concert venue as the only people who can really see the show are those who are in the immediate circle surrounding the band.

Last Saturday night's show at Mohawks was far different. I had a ticket in hand and the band finally decided to utilize a stage much to my delight. Lightning Bolt's sound can be best described as an all-out sonic assault to the ears fueled by bassist Brian Gibson and my absolute favorite drummer in the world - Brain Chippendale. Excellent show!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Books and Foals

The Books are an experimental two-piece band formed in New York City in 1999. Their sound is basically strings, often distorted, mixed with random audio clips. Nothing else really sounds like them. Their debut album Thought for Food was released in 2002, but the first album I heard was its 2003 follow up The Lemon of Pink and it still remains one of my favorite albums to this day. The Books sound, however, doesn't really differ from one album to the next with the exception of their latest album The Way Out which is funkier and more upbeat and their best album since The Lemon of Pink.

Another album that has really been growing on me lately is Total Life Forever by the English 5-piece band Foals. I can't put my finger on who or what they sound like, but I like it nonetheless.