Tuesday, February 28, 2006

NORMAN PETTY'S MONITORS


No, this blog isn't turning into a classified ads section.

But a friend of mine Bill Simoneau -- a New Mexico rock 'n' roll behind-the-scenes guy who's worked as stage manager at the Thirsty Ear Festival and sound man for Al Hurricane -- has some pretty interesting equipment he's trying to sell. In Bill's own words:

"These four Altec 612a studio monitor speakers were in the Norman Petty Studios, in Clovis, New Mexico, from the 1950s through the early 1970s, when Petty upgraded all his equipment. They were used by artists such as Buddy Holly, Roy Orbison & The Teen Kings, Buddy Knox, The Fireballs and other artists who recorded at Petty's studio. They are in super condition. After Petty sold them, they were used in an Albuquerque studio for about 10 years and have been in storage since.

Lots of documentation will be included with these speakers, including:

correspondence letters from Petty, photos, canceled checks and loan papers from the party who originally purchased them from Petty, a Clovis newspaper article that discusses the sale, and more.

Will sell as a unit of four or in pairs of two.

Also selling Petty's Scully professional tape recorder from the same era.

Contact:
tunzter@aol.com"

Monday, February 27, 2006

TERRELL'S SOUND WORLD PLAYLIST

Sunday, February 26, 2006
KSFR, Santa Fe, N.M.
Webcasting!
10 p.m. to midnight Sundays Mountain Time
Host: Steve Terrell



OPENING THEME: Let it Out (Let it All Hang Out) by The Hombres
Video Violence by Lou Reed
Faster Pussycat by The Cramps
Wonder Why by The Stillettos
It Takes a Worried Man by Devo
Never Say Never by Romeo Void
The Temple by The Afghan Whigs
Bird Brain by Kevin Coyne
Springtime in the Rockies by Tiny Tim & Brave Combo

Hey Grandma by Moby Grape
The Ballad of You & Me & Pooneil by The Jefferson Airplane
Combination of the Two by Big Brother & The Holding Company
Here I Go Again by Country Joe & The Fish
Pride of Man by Quicksilver Messenger Service

Who Knows One? by Frank London's Klezmer Brass Allstars
Sumbawa by Sabah Habas Mustapha
Gunslingers by The Mighty Sparrow
Sumbula by Severa Nazrkhan
Punjabis, Pimps & Players by Anandji V. Shah & Kalayanji V. Shah
James Bond Theme by The Son of the P.M.
Pretty Thing by Nightlosers

Local Boys by Graham Parker & The Figgs
Christo Redemptor by Charlie Musselwhite
The Great Nations of Europe by Randy Newman
Homeland Pastoral by Mark Eitzel
World I Never Made by Dr. John
I Wish I Was in New Orleans by Tom Waits
CLOSING THEME: Over the Rainbow by Jerry Lee Lewis

Saturday, February 25, 2006

RALPH STANLEY/THE GOURDS

I've been meaning to post all day about the Ralph Stanley/Gourds concert I saw Thursday night at The Lensic.

In short, it was wonderful.

Ralph doesn't play much banjo these days. His friend "Arthur Itus," he explained. But the Clinch Mountain Boys is one precision unit. (And that bass player, Danny Davis is one crazy dancer!)

Surprisingly my favorite moment was his a cappella "O Death." When I saw him do this five years ago, it seemed like an obligatory bone to throw at the trendsters who'd never heard of him before O Brother Where Art Thou.

But on Thursday, Dr. Ralph seemed to take the old chant into strange dark dimensions. At the end, after the last "Won't you hold me over for another year?" he sang a solemn "Thank .... yoooooo."

That's when I realized that I'd just witness a man having a conversation.

Later in the show, Stanley said if he lived until Saturday he'd be 79 years old. As far as I know, he made it.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, RALPH!!!!!!

As for The Gourds, I loved 'em. I was a little bit worried that they might not get a great reception if there were too many bluegrass purists in the audience. But the crowd seemed pretty impressed.

I do get the impression that they were holding back some in their mainly acoustic set -- probably because of the audience. Several people were disappointed that they didn't play "Gin and Juice." My guess is that they figured that there were probably just a few too many "motherfuckers" in the lyrics for some of the older Ralph Stanley fans at the Lensic.

I didn't really care about that missing crowd-pleaser. My only disappointment is that they didn't do "Ants on the Melon."

But I was happy to hear "Burn the Honeysuckle," "O Rings" and "Cracklin's."

By the way, there's a new Web site for purchasing live Gourds shows. CLICK HERE

No, it's not free like the Live Music Archive, but there's nothing wrong with a band trying to make a little cash from their music. Besides, the prices aren't bad. And if you look hard enough you can find a Gourds version of the Three's Company theme.

Come and knock on their door ...

THE SANTA FE OPRY PLAYLIST

Friday, February 24, 2006
KSFR, Santa Fe, NM
Webcasting!
10 p.m. to midnight Fridays Mountain Time
Host: Steve Terrell


OPENING THEME: Buckaroo by Buck Owens & The Buckaroos
Sweet Soul Music by Run C&W
Shake the Chandelier by The Gourds
It Was the Whiskey Talkin' (Not Me) by Jerry Lee Lewis
Starman by Jessi Colter
Blues About You Baby by Big Al Anderson
Darlin' Companion by Johnny Cash & June Carter Cash
Caves of Burgundy by Boris & The Saltlicks
Los Tequileros by Los Pinguinos del Norte

Peggy by Eric Hisaw
Sam Bass' Blues by Danny Santos
Miller's Gulch by Jerry Faires
Take Me Home Poor Julia by Norman & Nancy Blake
Moon Song by Michael Hurley
Lift Him Up, That's All by Ralph Stanley

BLACK HISTORY MONTH SET
Cross That River by Allan Harris
When I Was a Cowboy by Odetta
Don't Let Her Know by Ray Charles
Just Between You and Me by Charlie Pride
Wabash Cannonball by Blind Willie McTell
John Law Burned Down the Liquor Sto' by Chris Thomas King with Colin Linden
There Stands the Glass by Ted Hawkins
Opportunity to Cry by The Holmes Brothers
Talacatcha by Alvin Youngblood Hart
Careless Love Blues by Butch Cage & Willie B. Thomas

Drop Me Down by Tres Chicas
Snake in the Radio by Mark Pickerel
The Death of Clayton Peacock by Fruit Bats
Wild American by Kris Kristofferson
Why Me Lord? by Porter Wagoner
Margie's at the Lincoln Park Inn by Bobby Bare
CLOSING THEME: Comin' Down by The Meat Puppets

Steve Terrell is proud to report to the monthly Freeform American Roots Radio list

Friday, February 24, 2006

TERRELL'S TUNE-UP: DESERT ROCK, GRUMP ROCK

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
February 24, 2006


Boris McCutcheon, the self-described “singer/songwriter/farmer,” actually comes from New England. But his music always has shown a Southwestern sensibility. To borrow one of his song titles, both the words and the music seem singed by volcanic winds. McCutcheon’s first album, inspired by a stay in Nambé, was called Mother Ditch. His second release, When We Were Big, recorded in Tucson, had song titles like “Diablo Waltz” and “Fine Suede.”

That Southwestern sensibility is even more pronounced in his latest album, Cactusman Versus the Blue Demon, recently released on Frogville Records under the name of Boris & The Saltlicks.

It’s acoustic-based desert-rat music, celebrating the harsh beauty but warning of the cruelty of the desert and its denizens. “I pity this poor place,” McCutcheon sings in “Volcanic Wind,” the album’s first song, “All these creatures have God on their face.” The tune starts out with a “crazy woman” on the side of the road feeding Alpo to the coyotes.

McCutcheon’s songs are sometimes somber, sometimes exuberant, sometimes sardonic. And often inscrutable, like the concept behind the title. (According to McCutcheon’s Web site, Cactusman and the Blue Demon were characters in a series of dreams he had in the early ’90s. And here I thought the Blue Demon was the old lucha libre star.)

He can be a straightforward storyteller. For instance, “Seeds & Candy” is a harrowing tale of a city couple who freeze to death in the mountains of Utah, sung over an irresistible Celt-rock backdrop, with McCutcheon himself on mandolin.

There’s lighter-hearted fare here, too. “Don’t Get Weird” is a bluesy number (Kevin Zoernig slinking in with some nice Jimmy Smith organ riffs) that starts out romantically. “The moon is rising and you delight me.” But trouble, not hot romance, seems to be ahead. By the end of the first verse, he’s pleading, “Don’t get weird, don’t get weird ...”

But the real masterpiece on Cactusman is “Caves of Burgundy.” With a melody that suggests some long-lost Steve Young tune, the lyrics suggest a supernatural encounter, like those spooky old British ballads Steeleye Span used to be so fond of, where malevolent beings seduce unsuspecting humans to follow them to Elfland, which ultimately turns out to be hell.

What I like best about this song, though, is the insane interplay between Zoernig’s tinkly-winkly toy piano and Brett Davis’ strangled, screaming guitar during the final fadeout.

It would be impossible to talk about this CD without mentioning the wonderful artwork on the front and back covers. A series of cartoons by artist Neal Cadogan depicts the cosmic showdown in the desert between the two title characters. Buy this album so McCutcheon can afford to pay Cadogan to make a Cactusman video.

McCutcheon is playing at 9 p.m. today, Feb. 24, at the Cowgirl, 319 S. Guadalupe St. (admission $5), and 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 25, at the Mine Shaft Tavern, 2846 N.M. 14, Madrid.

Also recommended

*Songs of No Consequence by Graham Parker & The Figgs. “Has rock ’n’ roll just died/Or does it just smell bad?”

Graham Parker on his latest album has a few bones to pick. He’s never been Little Mary Sunshine, but I haven’t heard him so pissed off in years.

In fact, Songs of No Consequence could be the grump-rock album of the decade. It is a virtual bouquet of splendid grouchiness.

Who invented grump rock? Was it Lou Reed, who perfected the form in his 1989 classic New York? Or was it nearly 20 years earlier when John Lennon, whose album Imagine balanced his weepy politically correct title song with blistering put-downs like “Give Me Some Truth” and “How Do You Sleep?” And surely, Randy Newman and Elvis Costello fit into the grump-rock pantheon.

And so does Costello’s contemporary, Parker. He gleefully rips into the entertainment media on the opening cut, “Vanity Press,” but before long, it is obvious he’s talking about the American press in general. “It’s got to be a puff piece/That only shows the best/About the war next door/And it’s a great success,” he snarls in the song.

Parker turns his ire to radio in “There’s Nothing on the Radio,” singing “I don’t want no ’60s junk/Or that ’90s cartoon punk ... I don’t want those whiny chicks/Or those cardboard country hicks ...” He concludes, “The future looks like toast/We’d better burn it.”

His fellow rockers are at the end of Parker’s ugly stick on “Did Everybody Just Get Old?” “That stranger who used to live for danger/is now acting like he never was a teenager,” he sings. “Those rockers with dirty pictures in their lockers/Now have ’em on their computer screens.”

Parker waxes acerbic on a traditional grump-rock target: life on the road. “Well, I can play a guitar just like wringing a neck,” he starts out in “Suck ’n’ Blow,” which is full of imagery of breaking down equipment and screeching air brakes. But I think this old grouch has a soft spot.

“Go Little Jimmy” is about a young blues harpist touring small clubs and wowing the girls. In a rare break in the mood of this album, Parker seems almost excited for the kid.

Of course, he seems to take more pleasure in putting down small-minded, small-town dolts who try to persuade a young woman not to pursue her crazy dreams in “Local Boys”: “Don’t leave here all alone/Don’t go to Paris, don’t go to Rome/Stay in town just like your sister Joyce/And don’t look any further than the local boys.”


Thursday, February 23, 2006

ROUNDHOUSE ROUND-UP: HAVE DEATH WILL TRAVEL

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
Februart 23, 2006

California is having trouble executing condemned murderer Michael Morales. Seems like anesthesiologists and other medical professionals in the Golden State are getting a little queasy about helping out in the fine art of lethal injection.

Something about the Hippocratic Oath or some other medical mumbo jumbo.

So why doesn’t California just do what New Mexico did in 2001, when the state performed its first (and so far only) legal execution since 1960?

Hire moonlighting executioners from Texas.

In 2001, when child killer/rapist Terry Clark’s days officially were numbered, the state hired two employees of the Texas prison system.

The $12,000 contract had to be one of the most macabre ever issued by the state:


“At approximately 20 minutes before the scheduled time for the execution, as directed by the warden, contractor shall insert the necessary catheters into the appropriate veins of the inmate sentenced to death. At the scheduled time of the execution, if directed to proceed by the warden, contractor shall administer the lethal injection to the inmate sentenced to death.”
A New Mexico Corrections Department spokesman said at the time that the two “execution experts” had also been hired to help out with capital punishment in New York, Montana and Kentucky.

So how come California didn’t do the same and hire some outside “execution specialist”?

One of Terry Clark’s attorneys, Brian Pouri — an Albuquerque lawyer who also is licensed to practice in California — said Wednesday that California’s laws governing executions are virtually the same as New Mexico’s.

But in the Morales case, a federal judge ordered restrictions on the lethal-injection process. Basically, Pouri explained, the court ruled that the state could either have an anesthesiologist on hand to make sure Morales wasn’t feeling pain — or in the alternative, give the condemned man a big enough dose of barbiturates to kill him.

“Once they got the doctors involved, that was it,” Pouri said.

Why didn’t that happen in Clark’s case?

Clark, who murdered 9-year-old Dena Lynn Gore in Artesia in 1986, wanted to die. He asked to stop any further legal proceedings.

“Nobody else had any (legal) standing,” Pouri said.

Speaking of medical ethics: The contract for Clark’s executioners included travel and expenses. But there’s one thing the Texas guys didn’t have to provide — the drugs used in the execution.

The sodium thiopental, pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride were purchased by the state Health Department — you know, that agency with the mission statement that says it’s supposed to “promote health, prevent disease and disability.”

But the federal Drug Enforcement Agency, the agency that licenses government agencies and private companies to buy controlled drugs, said it had no problem with the state Health Department supplying drugs to kill a man.

At least they didn’t give him something illegal like medical marijuana.

No announcement of an announcement: Gov. Bill Richardson has said since before Day 1 that he plans to seek re-election. He is already on the June primary ballot — unopposed.

So there’s no real need for a formal announcement. But can you imagine Bill Richardson giving up a chance to give a speech before an adoring audience cheering wildly every time he says he’s “moving New Mexico forward”?

Yet on Wednesday, when asked whether a formal announcement was forthcoming, Richardson seemed noncommittal.

His chief of staff (and 2002 campaign manager) Dave Contarino said there probably would be some kind of announcement. But Contarino noted that when Bill Clinton ran for re-election for governor of Arkansas, he never formally announced.

Last November during an interview on CSPAN2, Richardson said he wasn’t pledging to serve a full four years if re-elected.

On that show, he used the example of President Bush, who told voters when running for re-election as Texas governor in 1998 that he might run for higher officer. “I may do the same, but I haven’t decided that. ... What I will do is, I will tell my constituents the truth when I talk to them about whether I go beyond this.”

But Richardson said Wednesday that he’s not ready yet to have such a talk with voters.

The latest numbers: Richardson continues to do well in the SurveyUSA/KOB TV poll. The latest one, conducted Feb. 10-12 of 600 New Mexico adults, shows his best numbers in 10 months. The firm has been doing monthly tracking polls of the nation’s 50 governors.

Richardson’s approval rating was 64 percent. Only 32 percent said they disapproved of the way Richardson was doing his job.

For the first time, SurveyUSA shows Democrat Richardson getting a majority of Republicans giving him approval. That’s 52 percent to 42 percent who disapprove.

SurveyUSA’s margin of error is 3.9 percent.

Monday, February 20, 2006

TERRELL'S SOUND WORLD PLAYLIST

Sunday, February 20, 2006
KSFR, Santa Fe, N.M.
Webcasting!
10 p.m. to midnight Sundays Mountain Time
Host: Steve Terrell



OPENING THEME: Let it Out (Let it All Hang Out) by The Hombres
Leave the Capitol by The Fall
Ugly Band by The Mekons
Almost Dying by Kevin Coyne
Cigarettes by Greg Dulli
True to This by Concrete Blonde
Trouble Ahead by The Grabs
Is She Weird by The Pixies
Amphetimine Annie by Canned Heat
Do the Watusi by Cat

I Will Sing You Songs by My Morning Jacket
Bad Chardonay by Graham Parker
Little Floater by NRBQ
Goosebumps by Jerry Lee Lewis
Motor City Baby by The Dirtbombs
Tango by Bernadette Seacrest
Get Right Church by The Rev. Gary Davis

I Could Never Be President by Johnnie Taylor
If You Want Me to Stay by Devin Lima
Don't Call Me Nigger, Whitey by Sly & The Family Stone
My Mind's Playing Tricks on Me by The Geto Boyz
If Loving You is Wrong (I Don't Want to Be Right) by Isaac Hayes
Just Say So by Bettye Lavette

Earth Blues by Jimi Hendrix
You Don't Love Me Yet by Bongwater
Cryin' in the Streets by Buckwheat Zydeco
Make Sure They Hear by Mark Eitzel
Into the Mystic by Warren Zevon
CLOSING THEME: Over the Rainbow by Jerry Lee Lewis

Saturday, February 18, 2006

THE SANTA FE OPRY PLAYLIST

Friday, February 17, 2006
KSFR, Santa Fe, NM
Webcasting!
10 p.m. to midnight Fridays Mountain Time
Host: Steve Terrell


OPENING THEME: Buckaroo by Buck Owens & The Buckaroos
I Want to Grow Up to Be a Politician by The Byrds
The Education Song by The Gourds
American Trash by Betty Dylan
Blues About You Baby by Big Al Anderson
All You ever Do Is Bring Me Down by The Mavericks
Drinkin' Thing by Gary Stewart
Hot Dog! That Made Him Mad by Wanda Jackson
Long-Legged Guitar Pickin' Man by Johnny Cash & June Carter Cash
Ain't Got No Home by The Band

LUBBOCK SET
Midnight Shift by Buddy Holly
Stars in My Life by The Flatlanders
Stubbs Boogie by Jesse Taylor
Own and Own by Butch Hancock with Marce Lacouture
The Lubbock Tornado by Terry Allen
Hopes Up High by Joe Ely
Winds of Time by The Legendary Stardust Cowboy
Don't Let the Stars Get In Your Eyes by Jimmie Dale Gilmore
Boomtown Boogie by Butch Hancock, Terry Allen, Jo Carol Pierce & Joe Ely
One Road More by The Flatlanders

Pedal Steal by Terry Allen

The Burden of Freedom by Kris Kristofferson
The Revenant by Michael Hurley
Bootleg John by Ralph Stanley
Take Me by George Jones
Everybody's Talkin' by Bobby Bare
CLOSING THEME: Comin' Down by The Meat Puppets

Steve Terrell is proud to report to the monthly Freeform American Roots Radio list

Friday, February 17, 2006

TERRELL'S TUNE-UP: IT CAME FROM LUBBOCK

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
February 17, 2006



At 9:10 p.m. on Aug. 25, 1951 ... The night was clear and dark. Suddenly all three men saw a number of lights race noiselessly across the sky, from horizon to horizon, in a few seconds. They gave the impression of about 30 luminous beads, arranged in a crescent shape. A few moments later another similar formation flashed across the night. ... A check the next day with the Air Force showed that no planes had been over the area at the time.
— From ufocasebook.com


When you Google the phrase “Lubbock Lights,” the above passage is what you find on the first site listed.

This mysterious phenomenon is mentioned in Lubbock Lights, a documentary by Amy Maner showing this weekend at the Santa Fe Film Center. But that’s not really what the film is about. Lubbock Lights deals with the amazing musicians who came out of that unassuming little West Texas city, from Buddy Holly to the Flatlanders to The Legendary Stardust Cowboy.

I can’t help but wonder if there’s not some direct connection between the spook lights of ’51 and the talent that rose out of Lubbock in the years to follow. Joe Ely suggests it in the movie. Terry Allen was at a drive-in theater and saw the darn things fly over. Jimmie Dale Gilmore says he saw something similar about 10 years later.

Lubbock Lights starts out with images of West Texas highways, the Lubbock skyline, lightning storms, tornadoes, even a grainy, black-and-white local TV weather report. There are a few moments of what apparently was an old documentary about Lubbock history that starts out with square-dancing cowboys.

The movie is rich with musical footage. You can see Joe Ely’s band when they were in their late-’70s/early-’80s prime. There’s a young Allen ripping the hell out of his song “The Lubbock Tornado.” You’ll meet C.B. Stubblefield — aka Stubb, the tall barbecue cook, restaurateur, and mentor to musicians — and hear him sing “Summertime” and talk about feeding the world. You’ll marvel at a shirtless Stardust Cowboy going insane onstage.

There’s a fascinating segment on Tommy X. Hancock (no relation to the Flatlanders’ Butch Hancock), a Lubbockite who started out in the ’40s as a fiddler in a Western swing band. He later went to San Francisco, dropped acid, and started a group called the Supernatural Family Band with his wife and kids. His music took just a slight turn to the weird — there’s a video of the group playing a bluegrass rock stomp and dancing around the ruins of Machu Picchu, Peru.

One of my favorite parts was an old black-and-white clip of the Flatlanders — Ely, Gilmore, and Butch Hancock — playing “The Stars in My Life” in the early ’70s at the Kerrville Folk Festival. As was true on the band’s first record, the Plan 9 From Outer Space musical saw is too loud, but in a weird way it adds to their ragged charm.

Ex-Talking Head David Byrne pops up in a woolly Russian hat saying that the Flatlanders were to Texas what the Velvet Underground was to New York. “It was a group that didn’t sell many records, but ... anyone who heard them started a band — or started writing songs,” Byrne said.

I’ve heard the story of Lubbock music history a million times. But this movie only makes it more enjoyable. Everyone interviewed seemed so sincerely positive and warm toward each other — and not in a smarmy, show-biz kind of way. The laughs sound real, the love is obvious, and the music is soul-deep.

Lubbock Lights is showing at The Film Center, 1616 St. Michael’s Drive, at 5:30 p.m. and 7:45 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Feb. 17 and 18, and at 3 p.m. and 7:45 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 19. Call 988-7414 for more details.

You won’t find this DVD at ufocasebook.com so look for it at lubbock-lights.com.

Also recommended:

Pedal Steal by Terry Allen. Unlike your typical “album,” this isn’t a collection of a bunch of songs. It’s a 35-minute stage piece commissioned by the Margaret Jenkins Dance Company in the ’80s. Sugar Hill Records reissued it this month.

Songs and instrumental pieces weave in and out of spoken-word pieces eulogizing a steel guitarist named Wayne Gailey, who toured around Texas and New Mexico — and who did studio work with Rose Maddox and undoubtedly others — and died of a drug overdose in the late ’70s. (“Death by misadventures” was on the autopsy report.) Here he’s called “Billy the Boy.” Sometimes his myth seems to overlap with that of Billy the Kid.

Pedal Steal also is an irreverent tribute to 20th-century Route 66 culture. It’s all there: the drive-in theaters, the motels, the trucks, the beer joints, the trailer parks, the graveyards. There’s a recurring Navajo chant, strains of mariachi, lots of piano boogie, and “Sentimental Journey” performed by sax men Bobby Keyes and Don Caldwell. It’s also got a great overlooked Allen song, a sad and lovely tune called “Loneliness.”

The true magic of the West is summed up in the monologue about motels:

"Out west they’re always raisin’ holy hell, kickin’ in walls, shootin’ guns, havin’ fights and wild parties. Somebody’s always screamin’ bloody murder or [sexual intercoursing] their brains out in the room next door. Back east motels are different. You never hear nothin’, not a peep ... course they can kill your ass in either place. It’s just a lot more fun out west.”
If you’re only interested in the music, Allen distilled most of the songs from Pedal Steal onto a nine-minute medley on his 1999 Salivation album. But there you won’t hear about the spooky man in the Moriarty bar who warns of “The Creature” or Billy’s batty mom or the other lonesome ghosts of Pedal Steal.

Hear music from the lights of Lubbock — including the complete Pedal Steal — tonight, Feb. 17, on The Santa Fe Opry, 10 p.m. to midnight on KSFR-FM 90.7

Thursday, February 16, 2006

LEGISLATURE HEADING TOWARD OBLIVION

Just when I needed it the most, my New Mexican Legislature blog is having some kind of technical problem. This started sometime around 1 a.m. last night, which helped lead to my decision to go home. I lost one large post and so far the paper's site has caused both my home and work computers clog up.

Kind of like House of Representatives. It's been dominated by Filibuster Foley most the morning. Lots of things still out -- minimum wage, tax cuts, medical marijuana -- with less than an hour left.

There's a funny Xerox floating around the Capitol -- an Isletta Casino boxing ad with the faces of Gov. Bill Richardson and a famous cartoon character pasted over the boxers. The caption: "Porky Pig vs. the Flabby King."

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

ROUNDHOUSE ROUNDUP: IF I RULED THE LEGISLATURE

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
February 16, 2006

Earlier this week, I had to explain to editors several times one of the strange quirks of the Legislature, the “mirror bill” — how if the Senate passes a Senate bill and the House passes an identical House bill, neither bill becomes law unless the governor signs a bill passed by both chambers.

“It’s not the way I would have set it up,” I said during one of these conversations.

That got me to thinking. There’s lots of things about the Legislature I’d have set up differently.

Not that there’s a chance of instituting any drastic change in the legislative branch. These guys refuse to open conference committees and vote down bills that would have required telling the public more about their campaign contributors. They’re not about to do anything that would seriously change business as usual at the Roundhouse.

As a pure exercise in fantasy, here are some changes I’d make if I could magically restructure the Legislature:

* A unicameral Legislature: Why does there have to be two chambers in the Legislature? The current rationale for having two houses in Congress is that smaller states get a bigger voice in the Senate. But that’s not applicable with the states. Due to the one-man/one-vote doctrine, all districts in a state House or state Senate must have roughly the same population.

Some say the state Senate is designed to be a more “deliberative” body where members, who only have to run every four years (instead of two years like the House), can take a more long-sighted view.

You have to wonder if anyone who says that has actually witnessed a Senate debate.

Nebraska is the only state with a unicameral legislature. Minnesota, at the urging of former Gov. Jesse Ventura, considered it a few years ago but didn’t take the plunge. Currently, there’s a group called Unicameral Michigan working to force a vote on a state constitutional amendment that would abolish the Michigan state Senate.

Advocates say a unicameral legislature creates more transparency in government, eliminates legislative redundancy and saves taxpayer money.

Having two chambers creates more obstacles for bills, providing more opportunity to waste time to run out the clock and for using other procedural tricks to kill bills.

Granted, a lot of bills deserve to be killed. But if that’s the case, vote them down.

I would create one house with a nice, even 50 districts. Lots of House and Senate members could end up running against each other, a potential political bloodbath that would be fun to watch.

And with a unicameral legislature, the Senate chambers could be turned into a permanent large committee room for those really big issues that attract large crowds. (Unless, of course, the remaining lawmakers would want to turn it into a cockfighting pit.)

You wouldn’t have to open conference committees because there would be no need for conference committees. And I’d never have to explain “mirror bills” to an editor again.

* Limit on bills: I would put a cap on how many bills a legislator could introduce in a session. I’m not sure what number I’d impose, but something has to be done to cut down on the clutter of bills that seems to grow every year.

In this year’s 30-day session, there were nearly 900 bills in the House and more than 750 in the Senate. Most of these never got anywhere, and truth is, a good many really were never intended to go anywhere.

* Resolve to eliminate resolutions: I’d eliminate all unnecessary resolutions and memorials. Proposed constitutional amendments would still be allowed, and I suppose some of the studies mandated by memorials are justified.

And maybe the Legislature should have one more chance to pick a state cowboy song — but that’s it.

Seriously, there’s no reason legislators should be spending precious chunks of time debating unbinding memorials on quail hunting season (as the Senate did Monday night) while serious issues are waiting to be heard. If legislators want to honor some New Mexico athlete or spelling-bee winner or send condolences to the family of a prominent state resident who has died, they can send a card.

* Don’t share the love: One of the biggest wastes of time in a floor session is when some former legislator or other former state official is up for confirmation to some board or commission. Though I didn’t catch this happening during this session, all too often, the confirmation turns into an hourlong love fest with each lawmaker showering some former colleague with flowery praise.

That’s nice. But at the end of the session when lawmakers throw up their hands and say, “Sorry, we just ran out time” to consider serious bills, it’s hard not to think back to the day when they spent hours heaping sweet soliloquies onto some former colleague who was tossed out by the voters years before.

If I ruled the Legislature, the floor “debate” over confirmations would be limited to five minutes, unless there was actual opposition to the appointment.

* But share the food: On many days during the session, some community chamber of commerce or other well-meaning group will prepare lunch or dinner for lawmakers. That’s nice.

But it violates a basic principle we all should have learned in elementary school: Don’t bring anything unless there’s enough to share.

So if I were in charge, nobody could bring food for the legislators unless they share it with everyone else in the Roundhouse. State farm and ranch organizations do this every year, serving free barbecue and ice cream in the Rotunda. (Thanks, guys. The food was great Tuesday.)

Monday, February 13, 2006

TERRELL'S SOUND WORLD PLAYLIST

Sunday, February 12, 2006
KSFR, Santa Fe, N.M.
Webcasting!
10 p.m. to midnight Sundays Mountain Time
Host: Steve Terrell


OPENING THEME: Let it Out (Let it All Hang Out) by The Hombres
Bits and Pieces by Joan Jett
Gluey Brothers Creep by The Gluey Brothers
Hiding All the Way by Nick Cave
Don't Crowd Your Mind by Lorette Velvette
Already Forgotten by The Grabs
Porcupine People by Kevin Coyne
Chlorophorm by Graham Parker & The Figgs

Women is Losers by Big Brother & The Holding Company
Early Today and Later That Night by Greg Dulli
Eric's Trip by Sonic Youth
American Music by The Violent Femmes
Tornado at Rest by Concrete Blonde
Mad Bomber by The Mighty Sparrow
Stop the Violence by Wesley Willis

MY MORNING JACKET SET
What a Wonderful Man
Mahgeetah
Dancefloorz
Gideon
The Bear
One Big Holiday

Goodnight Josephine by The Tragically Hip
Room Full of Mirrors by Jimi Hendrix
Bastard by The Mekons
There is a Ghost by Marianne Faithful
Green Eyes by Mark Eitzel
In the Wilderness by Mercury Rev
Favorite Hour by Elvis Costello
CLOSING THEME: Over the Rainbow by Jerry Lee Lewis

Sunday, February 12, 2006

NM's ALT-COUNTRY HEROS IN NM MAG

My story about alternative country artists who live in New Mexico is in the March issue of New Mexico Magazine, which currently is on the stands.

In it, I profile Terry Allen, The Handsome Family and Joe West.

Sorry, I don't think it will be online. You'll have to go out and buy a copy.

Speaking of Terry, the movie Lubbock Lights, which is about all the crazy musicians to come out of that town will be playing at the Santa Fe Film Center at Cinemacafe this weekend. It's not on the Web site yet, but I was told by Boo Boo Bowman himself.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

THE SANTA FE OPRY PLAYLIST

Friday, February 10, 2006
KSFR, Santa Fe, NM
Webcasting!
10 p.m. to midnight Fridays Mountain Time
Host: Steve Terrell


OPENING THEME: Buckaroo by Buck Owens & The Buckaroos
Lookout Mountain by Drive-By Truckers
Dancing With the Women at the Bar by Whiskeytown
Rainbow Stew by Jason Ringenberg
Shanty by The Mekons
How Many Biscuits Can You Eat by Split Lip Rayfield
Sal Paradise by Dashboard Saviors
Old Time Religion by Marley's Ghost
Is Your Innerworld Like Your Outerworld by Oneil Howes

Trouble with a Capital T by Marshall Chapman
Baby's in Black by Destiny's Whores
Velvet and Steel by Jessi Colter
Take Me to the Country by James Talley
Hillbilly Hula Girl by Junior Brown
Bluebird Wine by Rodney Crowell with Steve Earle & Steve Young
Christine's Tune by The Flying Burrito Brothers
Act Naturally by Camper Van Beethoven

Pick and Roll by The Gourds
Pardon This Coffin by Jon Rauhouse
We're All Gonna Die Someday by Kasey Chambers
No Way Out But Down by Graham Lindsey
Dead Man's Will by Iron and Wine & Calexico
U.S. of Generica Blues by Danny Santos
Seeds and Candy by Boris & The Saltlicks
Wild Side of Life by Hank Thompson
Just Between You and Me by Charlie Pride

Dance of Death by Calexico
Pretty Boy Floyd/Stoney Point by The Duhks
Oooh Love by Blaze Foley
Another Place I Don't Belong by Big Al Anderson
Behind That Locked Door by My Morning Jacket
It's All in the Game by Bobby Bare
CLOSING THEME: Comin' Down by The Meat Puppets

Steve Terrell is proud to report to the monthly Freeform American Roots Radio list

Friday, February 10, 2006

TERRELL'S TUNE-UP: A RECENT MUSIC OBSESSION

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
February 10, 2006

OK, I’ve got to admit that I’m a Stevie-come-lately to My Morning Jacket.

Z, the latest album by this Louisville, Ky., band, released late last year, made it to critics’ top-10 lists all over this great land of ours, ranking 10th in the recently published 2005 Village Voice Pazz & Jop Critics’ Poll.

But I didn’t start getting into them until a few weeks ago, when out of curiosity I downloaded an old live show from eMusic. (I couldn’t resist. It was recorded Aug. 16, 2002, the 25th anniversary of Elvis Presley’s death, and it starts out with a mournful version of “Suspicious Minds.”)

I was hooked. I got copies of Z and It Still Moves (another critics’ fave that I basically ignored in 2003 despite the cool cover depicting a stuffed bear). The band started growing on me. As I said here last week, one of my favorite tunes on the recent Bloodshot compilation (For a Decade of Sin) was Jacket’s mysterious country weeper “Behind That Locked Door.”

Next thing I knew I was obsessed, a 52-year-old fanboy, downloading live concerts from the Live Music Archive, where they’ve got 55 shows, including a short one from 1999, very early in their career. Right now I’m loving the Nov. 23, 2005, show from Louisville.

The main voice behind Jacket is Jim James. (Gotta wonder if that’s his real name. Jimmy James was an early stage name for one James Marshall Hendrix. Could someone have actually named a baby James James?) His high-pitched voice gives the band much of its texture.

Texture, in fact, is one of the first words that come to mind when trying to describe My Morning Jacket. Their music is based more on melody than riffage. Often James’ melodies make unexpected turns. Instrumentally, songs often turn into fierce battles between guitarist Carl Broemel and keyboard man Bo Koster (both of whom joined Jacket in 2004).

Some have tried to define them as “alt country” — and in fact that steel guitar and honky piano sure sound pretty on Z’s “Knot Comes Loose.” Others have compared them to latter-day psychedelic bands like the Flaming Lips and Mercury Rev. Check out the alien synth jam that rises from the guitar thunder at the end of “It Beats 4 U.” But to get all metaphysical on you, while Mercury Rev’s main element is Air, My Morning Jacket is of the Earth. This band’s sound is thick and heavy, and as unique as it is, there’s something homey and familiar about it.

Other musical ingredients are detectable on Z. Neil Young (Crazy Horse model) definitely is an influence. You can hear echoes of Bono in James’ howl on the choruses of “Gideon” and touches of Brian Wilson’s sweet insanity (though that was more pronounced on It Still Moves). Reggae beats sneak in at various spots. There’s a slightly altered “Hawaii Five-0” riff on “Off the Record,” a twisted nod to doo-wop on “Wordless Chorus,” and a little bit of happy Meatloaf anthem pop in “What a Wonderful Man.” (I won’t even try to describe that bizarre falsetto “YEAH!” at the end of this song.)

The centerpiece of Z is a weird carnival waltz called “Into the Woods.” Bird chatter and insect chirping introduce the calliope-like keyboards that bounce in. James’ voice sounds world-weary as he begins spouting his black-humor lyrics: “A kitten on fire/A baby in the blender/Both sound as sweet as a night of surrender.”

I’ve still got some catching up to do. I haven’t heard Jacket’s first two albums (The Tennessee Fire and At Dawn). Also a little label called Darla has released a couple of rarity albums with lots of James originals plus covers of folks ranging from Hank Williams to Jefferson Airplane to the Pet Shop Boys. There’s even a My Morning Jacket Christmas EP .

This could be a long, happy relationship.

Also recommended

*Amber Headlights by Greg Dulli. This nine-song EP, clocking in at less than 35 minutes, sounds more like the Afghan Whigs than Dulli has in years. While his current band, the Twilight Singers, explores more layered, dreamier sounds, most of these songs offer that trademark angsty, Whigsy guitar — descended as much from ’70s blaxploitation soundtracks as punk/metal.

There’s a good reason this sounds closer to his old band. It originally was recorded back in 2001, but for reasons I’m not sure of only saw the light of day late last year. Some riffs and melodies from Amber Headlights have been reworked into other tunes on Twilight Singer albums.

Longtime Dulli fans surely will find similarities between this effort and Black Love, the Whigs’ 1996 masterpiece. As is often the case, the narrator of these songs is a shadowy cad, almost like a Steely Dan character, trying to lure young naked prey with slick talk and cocaine.

“Your weakness is my sweetness,” he sings with Petra Haden in an almost-mocking falsetto in “Pussywillow,” though he also sings, “sweetness is my weakness.”

“Used to feel love, now I wanna hurt you/real bad/real slow,” he confesses as the Shaft-like guitar starts to boil in “Early Today (and Later That Night).”

“This world is wicked/it’s beautiful,” he sings on “Wicked.”

But in the last song, “Get the Wheel,” Dulli, alone at a piano, sounds as if he’s gone soft on a skirt: “Last night was all right,” he sings in his cool rasp. “I wanna see you again.”

And you know she’ll be back.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

ROUNDHOUSE ROUND-UP: HEATHER & NSA

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
February 9, 2006

Congresswoman Heather Wilson made national headlines this week when she broke with the White House and said she had “serious concerns” about the National Security Agency’s warrantees wiretaps of American citizens and wanted a full investigation.


On Wednesday, President Bush reversed his position and provided the House Intelligence Committee with highly classified information about the operations. (Here's Wilson's latest statement on the issue.)

The New York Times, in a Wednesday editorial about the NSA wiretaps, called Wilson’s statement “one hopeful sign of nonpartisan sanity” and said, “With Karl Rove reported to be threatening Election Day revenge against anyone who breaks ranks on this issue, Ms. Wilson deserves support for a principled stand.”

But someone not lining up to support Wilson is her re-election opponent, state Attorney General Patricia Madrid, who in a news release said Wilson’s move is nothing more than an election-year effort to separate herself from the administration.

“Rep. Wilson could have stood up to this illegal program sooner,” Madrid said. “As chairwoman of House Intelligence Subcommittee on Technical and Tactical Intelligence, Wilson had direct oversight of this program, and she did nothing. She could have — and should have — taken action sooner.”

Madrid also blasted Wilson for voting in 2003 against repealing the “sneak-and-peek” searches on Americans allowed in the Patriot Act.

In addition to Madrid’s criticisms, the national Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee joined in.

“If Heather Wilson is trying to raise her profile by publicly taking on the Republican establishment, it must be an election year,” DCCC regional spokeswoman Kate Bedingfield said in an e-mail. “But when push comes to shove, she never quite gets around to putting her vote where her mouth is.”

Said Bedingfield: “She did this exact same song and dance with Abu Ghraib in 2004 and then voted against a congressional investigation.”

Wilson in 2002 made several statements against the abuse in that Iraqi prison, calling for open discussions on the issue.

However, a month before, Wilson voted against a move to establish a select committee to investigate the treatment of detainees in the war on terror — including allegations of abuse of Iraqi prisoners. That measure was defeated in the House with all Republicans voting no.

Wilson spokesman Enrique Knell said Wednesday that Wilson wouldn’t comment on the Madrid and DCCC statements.

Singing cowboys: We’ve got the official state song, "Oh Fair New Mexico," written by Elizabeth Garrett (the daughter of Sheriff Pat) and the official translated version of the state song, "Asi Es Nuevo Mexico," by Amadeo Lucero. There’s the official state bilingual song, "New Mexico Mi Lindo Nuevo Mexico," by Pablo Mares, and the official state ballad, "The Land of Enchantment," by former Taos resident Michael Martin Murphey.

So how about a state cowboy song? Rep. Gloria Vaughn, R-Alamogordo, has one in mind — one simply called New Mexico, written by R.D. Blankenship and Calvin Boles, now deceased. The House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee is scheduled to hear Vaughn’s HB232 today.


But in the Legislature’s apparent quest to proclaim enough state songs to make a box set, it’s been hard to settle on a state cowboy song.

One year in the 1990s, several songs competed for that distinction. None of them made it through the Legislature.

And in 2001, Rep. Dub Williams, R-Glencoe, tried to pass a bill to declare an official “state western song” — I think that’s pretty close to a “cowboy” song — called "Song For New Mexico," by James Hobbs of Capitan.

The soft-spoken Williams was surprised that year when he got an analysis of his bill from the Legislative Council, declaring the song to be “sexist, racist and religiously unacceptable.” For one thing, it referred to “cowboys” instead of “cowpeople.” (I’m not joking.) The bill passed the House that year but died in the Senate.

One of the co-authors of the latest would-be state cowboy song was something of an icon for popular music in southeastern New Mexico in the postwar era.

Calvin Boles, who died in 2004, started the Yucca record company in Alamogordo in 1958, according to an obituary in The Alamogordo Daily Times (and reprinted in hillbilly-music.com ) The company released 237 singles, including early work by an El Paso kid named Bobby Fuller, who later would have a national hit with "I Fought the Law." Boles and his wife/bass player, Betty, recorded eight albums with their band The Rocket City Playboys.

Betty Boles contacted Vaughn about the song, the lawmaker said.

The committee will hear a cassette tape of the song, sung by Calvin Boles. As a music critic and a connoisseur of old-time country music, I say they’re in for a treat. It’s a cowboy waltz with a strong steel guitar. Boles had a voice similar to that of Ernest Tubb.

Vaughn said Wednesday that she hasn’t heard any criticism of the words to New Mexico. It does use “cowboy” instead of “cowperson,” but it doesn’t have any lyrics about “a pretty, dark-eyed señorita,” which triggered the political-correctness police in 2001.

I guess someone could make something of the line, “Where missiles are flying, Spanish mission bells toll.” But come on; Boles was from Rocket City.

THOSE LONG-HAIRED BOYS FROM ENGLAND


Thanks to my internet buddy Phil from North Carolina who reminded me that 42 years ago this week, The Beatles made their first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show.

February 9, 1964.

I was in 5th grade.

My first reaction was surprise that they were white. They'd been playing "I Saw Her Standing There" and "I Want to Hold Your Hand" a lot on WKY in OKC and I just assumed they were a black R&B band.

When they did "All My Loving," I knew in my heart they were immortal.

(Anyone remember the guy who did card tricks who followed them on Ed Sullivan? I didn't either until I bought the DVD a couple of years ago. His name was Fred Kaps. Poor bastard!)

At school the next day the Beatles were all anyone talked about.

My grandfather became extremely fascinated with them. For the next few months any time a friend would come over he's say "What do you think of those long-haired boys from England?"

I was a little disappointed though the next week when "I Want to Hold Your Hand" knocked The Trashmen's "Surfin' Bird" off the number one spot on WKY's Top 50. The Trashmen were shortchanged, just like the card-trick guy.

Monday, February 06, 2006

TENT ROCKS


Helen left her photos of our Saturday hike at Tent Rocks National Monument on my computer, so I'll post a few here.


This was my first time there. Anton's too. We were all impressed. It's so otherwordly -- "the landscape of Pluto" is what I kept saying. (The "blue" photo below reminds me of a Van Gogh painting.) Hard to believe it's so close to Santa Fe (just down the road near Cochiti Pueblo.)



The hike was fairly easy too, which is good because I'm so out of shape. At some points though you have to pass through very narrow spaces between the rock walls. It's definitely not for the claustrophobic.




(Helen took the two top photos. A fellow hiker snapped the one below.)

LET'S SPEND SOME TIME TOGETHER


Boy, we've sure come a long way since nearly 40 years when Ed Sullivan made The Rolling Stones change the lyrics to "Let's Spend the Night Together."

Thank the almighty Lord Jesus that the censors at ABC (or was it the NFL?) were diligent last night in protecting America's youth from the foul-mouthed, lech Mick Jagger, who gladly would have exposed THE CHILDREN to sexual innuendos in the songs he sang at The Super Bowl.

From the Associated Press:

In "Start Me Up," the show's editors silenced one word, a reference to a woman's sexual sway over a dead man. The lyrics for "Rough Justice" included a synonym for rooster that the network also deemed worth cutting out.
Read the whole account HERE.

Despite those artless cuts (I thought my satellite dish was messing up when the sound cut out), I thought The Stones did a fine job. I especially liked the grungy version of "Satisfaction." Unlike the AP guy, I appreciated the "ragged" quality of their performance. It seemed like real rock 'n' roll to me.

TERRELL'S SOUND WORLD PLAYLIST

Sunday, February 5, 2006
KSFR, Santa Fe, N.M.
Webcasting!
10 p.m. to midnight Sundays Mountain Time
Host: Steve Terrell



OPENING THEME: Let it Out (Let it All Hang Out) by The Hombres
Dropkick Me Jesus by Bobby Bare
Stupid Girl by The Rolling Stones
Love Your Money by Daisy Chainsaw
Sex, Fashion and Money by The Grabs
Shame by P.J. Harvey
She Looks Like a Woman by The Fleshtones
10,000 Beers Ago by Dicky B. Hardy
Oblivion by Mudhoney
Jolie's Nightmare by Chuck E. Weiss
My Mammy by Al Jolson

Early Today (and Later That Night) by Greg Dulli
Jangling Jack by Nick Cave
Local Boys by Graham Parker & The Figgs
Wave of Mutilation by The Pixies
Witches by Bichos
Hothead by Captain Beefheart
Another Land by The Residents

Be With Me Jesus by The Soul Stirrers
Gather at the River by Davell Crawford
Joy by Isaac Hayes
Sing a Simple Song by Chuck D, D'Angelo & Isaac Hayes
My Troubles Are So Hard to Bear by Ethel Davenport
When the Saints Go Marching In by Eddie Bo

Into the Woods by My Morning Jacket
Hell Yeah by Neil Diamond
Road by Concrete Blonde
Roll Away My Stone by Mark Eitzel
Wishlist by Pearl Jam
Prairie Fire That Wanders About by Sufjan Stevens
CLOSING THEME: Over the Rainbow by Jerry Lee Lewis

Saturday, February 04, 2006

THE SANTA FE OPRY PLAYLIST

Friday, February 3, 2006
KSFR, Santa Fe, NM
Webcasting!
10 p.m. to midnight Fridays Mountain Time
Host: Steve Terrell


OPENING THEME: Buckaroo by Buck Owens & The Buckaroos
I'll Be Glad When You're Dead, You Rascal You by Hank Thompson
Rainy Day Women #12 & 35 by Jessi Colter
Come as You Are by The Mammals
The Glory of True Love by John Prine
Ashes of Love by Chris Hillman
Bean Vine Blues #2 by M. Ward
She Even Woke Me Up to Say Goodbye by Jerry Lee Lewis
What Made Milwaukee Famous by Johnny Bush
Give Him Another Bottle by James Talley

Bloodshot Anniversary Set
The Lost Soul by The Handsome Family
De-Railed by 16 Horsepower
Magnificant Seven by Jon Rauhouse
Behind That Locked Door by My Morning Jacket
I'd Be Lonesome by The Old 97s
Chicken Road by Kelly Hogan
Burn the Flag by The Starkweathers
Sputnik 57 by The Minus 5
I Fought the Law by The Waco Brothers

THE GOURDS SET
(All songs by The Gourds except where noted)
Burn the Honeysuckle
When Wine Was Cheap
Pickles
Weather Woman
2,000 Man
Virgin of the Cobra by Kev Russell's Junker
Blood of the Ram
My Name is Jorge

Ghost Riders in the Sky by Concrete Blonde
Death Grip by Boris & The Saltlicks
Nothin' But Godzilla by Will Johnson
Brass Buttons by Gram Parsons
Rosalie by Bob Neurwirth
CLOSING THEME: Comin' Down by The Meat Puppets

Steve Terrell is proud to report to the monthly Freeform American Roots Radio list
(except I spaced out and didn't report on time this month. Sorry, John!)

Friday, February 03, 2006

TERRELL'S TUNE-UP: VIVA EL GOURDOS

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
February 3, 2004

The Gourds’ new album, Heavy Ornamentals, is a weird little masterpiece, though that can be said about most of their records. Like their best work — and who knows, in the long run this could end up ranking with it — it’s fun-time, rootsy music with just the right touch of the bizarre.

Led by two twisted songwriters, Kevin Russell and Jimmy Smith, with master instrumentalists Max Johnston on a deadly arsenal of strings and Claude Bernard on keyboards and accordion — and don’t forget Keith Langford on drums — the Gourds live up to the motto you can find on their Web site: “Music for the unwashed and well read.”

I’m hardly the first to compare this Austin group with The Band, and that might be a good point of reference to start with.

But if you listen closely, you might hear faint, coded echoes of Firesign Theatre or maybe even the Three Stooges. The Gourds, even on their “pretty” songs, always seem on the verge of a huge, cosmic belly laugh, a joke that nobody, maybe not even the Gourds, is meant to fully understand.

Part of the Gourds’ charm is how effortlessly they can go from the mundane, like “New Roommate” (“My new roommate’s got him a green thumb/Queer fluorescent lighting and an 8-foot bong”), to the mythological. Take the first verse on “Burn the Honeysuckle” — Russell sings with only a marching-beat drum behind him:

“I was born in the summer with black gum on my heels/Full grown and cussin’ and bleach on my wheels/Killed me a panther before I was even grown/With a pocket knife and a guitar string and a live honeycomb.”

He’s Davy, Davy Crockett. He’s Big Bad John, Jumpin’ Jack Flash. He’s the Hoochie Coochie Man. He’s the one, he’s the one, the one they call the Seventh Son.

And by the second verse, Russell drawls about marrying a girl “raised on mustard greens and bears.”

On first listen, Heavy Ornamentals sounds more “country” than the group’s previous album, Blood of the Ram, which was a juiced-up joyride into garage-band heaven.

It’s not just the sweet, old-timey fiddle and mandolin workout of “Stab,” or the untitled, unlisted Hobbitgrass ditty that closes the album. There’s a country feel all over the place.

Some musical elements are showing. The intro of “Weather Woman” sounds a lot like Neil Young’s “Southern Man.” “The Education Song” has a melody that soul guru Dan Penn could have written. “Pick and Roll” has some keyboard licks I think were stolen from Vivaldi.

The Gourds were pals with the ascended master Doug Sahm, whose ghost is loud and proud on “Shake the Chandelier.” It begins like the funky reincarnation of “She’s About a Mover.” When Russell’s vocals start and Bernard’s greasy keyboards play off Johnston’s fiddle — and then a grungy guitar solo ends the song — you know it’s homegrown in Gourdsville.

The big sore thumb on this album is “Our Patriarch” — sticking out for its strange, wounded beauty. It’s a slow, mournful melody that starts out with a wistful acoustic guitar accompanied by a sad piano and stark drums. It’s almost like a Palace Brothers tune, until Johnston comes in with a fiddle that might remind old Jerry Jeff Walker fans of David Bromberg’s accompaniment on “My Old Man.”

In some ways, the Gourds can be seen as keepers of a hidden flame, a Skull and Bones Society of misfits disseminating vital secrets to those with ears to hear and the need to know. Either that, or just a bunch of good-time Charlies whose fun is transcendental.

The Gourds are scheduled to open for Ralph Stanley at the Lensic Performing Arts Center on Feb. 23. For a big ol’ dose of The Gourds, tune in to The Santa Fe Opry, 11 p.m. tonight, Feb. 3, on KSFR, 90.7 FM (also streaming on the Web.)
Also Recommended:
* For a Decade of Sin: 11 Years of Bloodshot Records OK, I’m not sure why the folks at Bloodshot didn’t do this a year ago, when it would have been their 10th anniversary. Either they wanted to be different or, more likely, it was some painful combination of Murphy’s Law and human error.


But that’s what I love about Bloodshot. Even though they’ve produced some of my favorite music in the past 10 or 11 years, the little Chicago “insurgent country” company has always done it on a human scale.

Like their fifth-anniversary collection, For a Decade of Sin has contributions from the usual gang — unrepentant beer crier (and former Santa Fe resident) Rex Hobart; the underappreciated Kelly Hogan (who does a stunning and sultry tune called “Chicken Road”); the Mekons’ angelic demon Sally Timms; those bluegrass bad girls called the Meat Purveyors; the hard-rocking Yayhoos (who cover “Love Train”); steel-guitar whiz Jon Rauhouse (whose version of the theme from The Magnificent Seven is a highlight); Wayne “The Train” Hancock (teaming up with Hank Williams III); pub-rock icon Graham Parker (who now has released two Bloodshot albums); and of course those Bloodshot standard-bearers, the Waco Brothers (who do a raucous, if somewhat predictable, “I Fought the Law.”)

There’s also an impressive visitors section, including Carla Bozulich (ex-Geraldine Fibbers), who does a country tear-jerker called “Lonesome Roads”; Richard Buckner, whose “Do You Want To Go Somewhere?” sounds like Twin Peaks country; that Japanese kewpie-doll duo Petty Booka; and My Morning Jacket, Kentucky alt-rockers whose “Behind That Locked Door” shows that this is a band with country music in its soul.

Some of the most impressive tunes are by lesser-knowns. Graham Lindsey is in his 20s, but his dark mountain tune “No Way Out But Down” sounds like the work of an ancient soul. And if the Starkweathers were more famous, their “Burn the Flag” would create a national outrage.

The only puzzling thing about this album is the absence of so many of the artists who helped build the company. Bloodshot alums The Old 97s are here. But where are Neko Case, Robbie Fulks, Alejandro Escovedo, and Melissa Swingle?

Hear selections from this collection around 10:30 p.m. tonight on KSFR’s Santa Fe Opry.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

NEW MEXICO MUSIC SHOWCASE



The Legislature's barely half over, but I'm already daydreaming about South by Southwest. (Actually I've been doing that for several weeks now ...)

The state Tourism Department and Music Commission are sponsoring a New Mexico Music showcase on Wednesday, March 15 at Las Manitas restaurant in Austin (where in 1997, Sandra Bullock served me a beer at a gig featuring Doug Sahm, Joe Ely, Rosie Flores and Rick Trevino -- a jam session that eventually led to the creation of Los Super 7. ... but I babble)

The New Mexico show next month will feature local faves Hundred Year Flood and Joe West.

There also are a couple of "kick-off" shows scheduled: Saturday, March 11 at Santa Fe Brewing Company and Friday March 10 at the Atomic Cantina in Albuquerque.

ROUNDHOUSE ROUND-UP: MEDICAL MARIJUANA NO ALBATROSS

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
Feb 2, 2006

Is Gov. Bill Richardson playing with political fire by backing the medical-marijuana bill? If SB258 — which passed the Senate by a huge margin this week — makes it through the House, would signing the bill come back to haunt Richardson if he runs for president in 2008?

Richardson told reporters he would sign the bill, which would establish a program for people with certain serious medical conditions to use marijuana to treat their symptoms. “It has very strong safeguards,” he said.

Could that be used against him up the road?

“Not in the Democratic primaries,” Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, said in a telephone interview Wednesday. “It would probably help him with the Democratic base.”

In a general presidential election, Sabato said, the bill probably would be discussed. But signing it, he said, probably wouldn’t be an albatross.

“I’ve seen national surveys where sizable majorities of Americans support real medical-marijuana laws where it’s really used to ease pain,” Sabato said.

Sabato said medical marijuana isn’t one of the “hot button” issues that polarize the electorate. He noted that many conservatives have backed such legislation — as Tuesday’s state Senate vote showed. SB258 was supported by commanding majorities of both parties.

“Even some people who are opposed to abortion and gay rights aren’t opposed to it,” Sabato said.

But if the bill does get to Richardson’s desk and he signs it, he might be the only governor in the Democratic race to have signed a medical-marijuana bill.

A spokeswoman for former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner — frequently mentioned as a probable 2008 contender — said Wednesday that the issue never came up in Virginia during Warner’s four-year term.

A curveball from the speaker: At least in the past couple years, medical marijuana has had a much easier time in the Senate than in the House.

SB258 hit its first bump in the road Wednesday. Advocates of the bill were encouraged when they read in Wednesday’s New Mexican that House Speaker Ben Luján said he’d probably assign the bill to the same two committees that heard a near-identical bill last year. (House Consumer & Public Affairs and House Judiciary.)

However, later in the day, Luján assigned the bill to House Judiciary and House Agriculture — a panel that has never heard it before.


The Grubesic factor: (Note: Most of this section appeared in my Legislature blog Wednesday) Just about everybody at the Roundhouse on Wednesday was talking about Sen. John Grubesic’s candid and not very flattering views of a favorite legislative watering hole, the governor and legislative life in general published as a guest column in Wednesday’s New Mexican.


Setting the scene, the Santa Fe Democrat described the bar of the Rio Chama Steakhouse, next door to the Capitol: “Lobbyists positioned near the entrance poised to pick off the politicians as they walked in, attractive women in the second tier and of course the governor’s minions protecting his corner table until he arrived to hold court and have the fops approach to kiss his ring.”

Referring to the governor’s table, Grubesic wrote, “One by one I see them line up for some face time with Bill. This bootlicking is not partisan; Reds and Blues alternate hoping to protect their pork.”

Grubesic said Wednesday that the reaction so far has tended to fall along party lines. “As far as the Democrats go, it was political suicide,” he said. “But the Republicans loved it.”

Is it political suicide? Maybe so, Grubesic said. “But (Richardson) was going to run someone in the primary against me anyway.” The senator is up for re-election in 2008.

Grubesic made headlines last year when he wrecked his sport-utility vehicle near his home following a visit to the Rio Chama bar after a legislative session. He later admitted that his initial story he gave police wasn’t true. A few months later, he made news again for cussing out a sheriff’s deputy who went to his home after a neighbor complained about his alleged speeding.

Grubesic later apologized for the incident and said he would seek treatment. Following a period of lying low, he came back swinging right before last October’s special session, admitting he has a drinking problem, blasting Richardson for calling the special session and denouncing some of the governor’s bills.

On Wednesday morning, a reporter asked Richardson if he had any comment about Grubesic’s guest column.

“Oh God, no,” Richardson said, laughing.

Later in the day, the governor’s office issued this statement: “Sen. Grubesic’s personal attacks and rants are childish and not befitting a public official, and are not worthy of a response.”

“Maybe I shouldn’t have called him ‘the flabby king,’ ” Grubesic said. “That was poetic license.”

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

BUT WASN'T HE IN THE POLICE?

This headline on my MSN home page under "New Mexico News" really grabbed my attention.

Sting snags second online predator



Oh ... not that Sting

(Here's the actual story: Click HERE)

PAZZ & JOP


The Village Voice's 2005 Pazz & Jop poll is out. CLICK HERE

Looks like the only one of my choices to make it to the Top 10 is Sleater-Kinney's The Woods. (Bettye LaVette and The Decemberists made it to the Top 40.)

You can find my ballot HERE

WACKY WEDNESDAY: Happy Birthday Mel Brooks!

Mel Brooks, center, as Gov. William J. Lepetomane in Blazing Saddles , 1974 Mel Brooks, the comic force behind some of the funniest m...