Friday, August 31, 2007


A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
August 31, 2007

“An explorer of the mind and a pioneer of the heart”

That’s how Kinky Friedman described Roky Erikson, founding member of the ’60s group the 13th Floor Elevators, when introducing the psychedelic warrior at the 2005 Austin City Limits Music Festival. Roky, bless his troubled soul, looked strangely dignified, though not a little bemused, as he ripped into a version of “Cold Night for Alligators,” a powerful song of paranoia and horror from a tumultuous period in his life.

Of course, most of Roky’s life has been tumultuous, as is made clear by director Keven McAlester’s documentary You’re Gonna Miss Me, recently released on DVD.

This is a must-have for Roky fans. In addition to the documentary itself, the DVD contains loads of extras, including musical performances (though not nearly enough with full bands); weird poetry readings; and an unbelievable Erikson home movie — made by Roky’s mother, Evelyn — in which Roky is crowned “King of the Beasts.”

This isn’t your typical rockumentary. Sure, it features lots of famous folks — Patti Smith; members of ZZ Top and Sonic Youth; and even Santa Fe’s Angry Samoan, Gregg Turner — praising Erikson’s wild talent and piercing voice. There’s some sentimental gushing over the rise of the 13th Floor Elevators — credited with being the first band to use the word psychedelic to describe itself. And McAlester includes a black-and-white clip from the band’s mid-’60s appearance on American Bandstand, with Roky singing the hit that provided the film’s title.

There’s also an interview with Dick Clark.

“Who is the head man of the group here, gentlemen?” America’s Oldest Teenager asks.
Jug player Tommy Hall doesn’t miss the opportunity. “Well, we’re all heads,” he deadpans.

But the DVD also shows how the psychedelic pipe dream went sour. The drugs got harder, and the trips got crazier. And when Roky got busted for marijuana possession — then a felony in the great state of Texas — he pleaded insanity and ended up in a hospital for the criminally insane. McAlester interviews Roky’s psychiatrist from that stint, who recalls that Roky joined a band made up of patients. The doctor recalls, “one had killed his parents and one of his siblings. ... He played guitar.”

For years after his release, Roky’s mental state was iffy at best. In the late ’70s, he recorded what is hands-down his greatest album, The Evil One, which features frightening lyrics about devils, ghosts, and monsters of the id. Interviews with those who knew him then indicate that such apparitions were very real to Roky.

By the 1990s, Roky had hit bottom. His hair was matted, his teeth were a mess, he was overweight, and he looked dazed and confused. In his small apartment in Austin, he used an array of radios, televisions, and other electronic devices to create a weird cacophony intended to keep the demons away, and he would catalog pieces of junk mail as if they were priceless documents.

McAlester delves into what became a struggle between Evelyn and three of Roky’s brothers. Dead set against giving Roky medication for his mental problems, Evelyn is portrayed as being crazier than her infamous son. She’s a frustrated artist herself — she wrote poetry and filmed her own plays (some of those films are included in the DVD extras). With her scrapbooks, her Hobby Lobby artwork, her maudlin piano playing, and her long-abandoned swimming pool — cracked and overgrown with weeds — the well-meaning Evelyn starts to look like the villain in McAlester’s film.

All sorts of family shadows come to light in the film — depression, drugs, alcoholism, abuse, and other manifestations of dysfunction. Roky’s brother Sumner talks about, as a child, having to yell before going into the kitchen, in order to scare away the rats. A disheveled Roky reads a disturbing poem called “I Know the Hole in Baby’s Head,” which tells the story of a family helpless in the face of constant fighting, crying infants, accumulating garbage, and bad smells.

Sumner got into a court battle with his mother over guardianship of Roky and, in 2001, won the case. Roky moved in with him, started a regimen of medication, and even began to play music again. In one of the film’s final scenes, from 2002, he’s singing a haunting song with the refrain, “Goodbye sweet dreams, goodbye sweet dreams.”

But there are two postscripts. One is about Roky’s performance at the Austin City Limits Music Festival in 2005. In the footage, he still looks pretty spacey but seems happy, soaking up the cheer from well-wishers in his hometown. But more surprising is a sequence shot earlier this year. Roky, Sumner, and Evelyn are back in the courtroom, but this time everyone is happy. Roky is off his meds and, according to everyone there, doing great. The judge agrees that Roky is doing better, rules that Roky is “fully capacitated,” and restores all his rights.

Outside the courtroom, Sumner nods adoringly as a new psychologist, one we don’t see in the main film, talks about his philosophy of mental illness.
“This whole concept of mental illness is a metaphor for physical illness, and it doesn’t really exist,” he says. “Schizophrenia is a made-up, garbage term that’s used to describe people who are troubled or troubling or that are in extreme states of mind that we don’t understand and are afraid of. ... Roky’s not mentally ill and never was. His story needs to be reinterpreted, and that’s why I’m here.”

In other words, Sumner has come around to Evelyn’s way of thinking about psychiatric medication.

So it goes, as Kurt Vonnegut might have said.

But while watching this part of the DVD, something twisted in me reminded me of one of my favorite songs from The Evil One, and in my head I could hear the voice of the old, haunted Roky: “I am the doctor/I am the psychiatrist. ... I never hammered my mind out/I never had the bloody hammer.”

Thursday, August 30, 2007


A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
August 30, 2007

A new Web site called Wikiscanner — which can trace the source of changes to that increasingly omnipresent online encyclopedia that anyone can edit known as Wikipedia — has been called a muckraker’s dream and an Internet spin-doctor’s nightmare.

This recent Internet sensation was invented by Virgil Griffith, a Cal-Tech graduate student and a visiting researcher at the Santa Fe Institute. Griffith created a system whereby you can look up a company or government agency and determine what if any changes have been made to Wikipedia articles by people using computers that have Internet IP numbers registered to those companies or government agencies.

Thus there have been news stories about corporations changing their own Wikipedia articles.

Someone with an IP address registered to Exxon edited the Wikipedia article about the Valdez oil spill. Meanwhile someone at an IP address registered to Philip Morris deleted a sentence from a history paragraph of the Marlboro Wiki article. Someone at Diebolt reportedly removed 15 uncomplimentary paragraphs from the article about Diebolt’s voting machines. Recently the prime minister of Australia was busted by Wikiscanner. His staff, or at least people with IP addresses belonging to his staff, made hundreds of changes in Wikipedia, many of them pertaining to Australian government controversies.

Surely people working for the state of New Mexico couldn’t resist the temptation of puffing up certain politicians on Wikipedia or at least editing out embarrassing information.

But I was disappointed. Doing a Wikiscanner search of the name “State of New Mexico,” with the location of Santa Fe, I found relatively little activity from state computers related to politicos.

Someone from the state added a small American flag image to the article about Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley, Jr. Another added a line in the Harrison Schmitt article about an elementary school in Silver City being named for the former astronaut and U.S. senator.

On April 10 someone used a state computer to add Lt. Gov. Diane Denish to Wikipedia’s “List of Notable Democrats.” Two days later, someone removed her name from the list.

Wacky for the Wiki: But that doesn’t mean state employees have shied away from editing Wikipedia. I found 537 edits from state government IP numbers going back to 2004. Our state government computers have been used to offer their expertise on a wide variety of subjects, most of which has little if anything to do with New Mexico or state government.

Among the subjects weighed in on by people using state computers include the movie Highlander, astronaut Leroy Gordon Cooper, the Hog Farm commune, movie director Frank Oz, the Battle of Stalingrad, Jehovah’s Witnesses, the late heavy metal star Dimebag Darrell, artist M. C. Escher, the Soapbox Derby, the Treaty of Frankfort, Michael Moore, the “List of people from West Bengal,” serial killer Ed Gein, the barn owl, American Idol winner Carrie Underwood and Dante’s Inferno.

Someone on a state computer contributed a single line to the article on 9/11 Conspiracy Theories. In the section on President Bush’s remaining in a Florida classroom for 10 minutes reading to children after learning about the World Trade Center Attacks, the state worker added, “Run Georgie RUN!” The next day someone (one of the “true” conspirators?) removed the wisecrack.

Someone in state government apparently is an expert on video game culture. The same state computer was used to make 15 edits on Wikipedia articles concerning 8-Bit Theater, a web comic based on the video game Final Fantasy I. Wiki Scan shows that the same computer was used to make edits in articles including “Mythology of Final Fantasy X,” “Final Fantasy Magic,” Tetris, Mario (the video game character, not the Albuquerque blogger), Mega Man and “The Force (Star Wars).”

Another state computer was used to make 12 edits on the article about The Legion of Christ, (a Catholic religious order established in Mexico), and six edits in the article about Marcial Maciel, the founder of the order, who has been accused of sexual abuse.

There’s one state computer used to edit Wikipedia articles on several professional wrestlers including Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, Richard Rood (better known as “Ravishing Rick Rude”) and golden-age grappler Bruno Samartino, as well as on entries for musicians like the late singer Jim Croce and the band Widespread Panic.

But this computer also was used for more serious topics on Wikipedia. It was used to edit the article on Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, adding a section about a controversy that occurred in 2003 when Barbour spoke at a rally to raise funds for the Blackhawk School, a private school established in reaction to the integration of public schools. The same state computer was used to edit the article on the Council of Conservative Citizens, adding, among other changes, the description of the group as “a contemporary incarnation of the racist U.S. movement of White Citizens' Councils.” Apparently this section has been changed several times since.

So what’s the problem?: If it was against the law to goof off on the Internet at work they couldn’t build enough cells to hold us all. But is it against state policy for employees to use state computers to update Wikipedia entries on Monty Python & The Holy Grail or college basketball?

Roy Soto, secretary of the newly created state Department of Information Technology, did not seem overly concerned. State policy, he said Wednesday, does allow “incidental personal use as long as it doesn’t interfere with their work.”

Said Soto, “We block some sites, but not Wikipedia. Our librarians use it a lot.”

Tuesday, August 28, 2007


The Albuquerque Tribune is for sale!

There have, of course been rumors about the fate of Albuquerque's afternoon daily for years. This means, if a buyer isn't found, that the Journal will be the only daily in town.

That would be wrong.

Read the official story HERE


Last week I got my hands on correspondence from Rio Arriba County Magistrate Tommy Rodella to the state Judicial Standards Commission indicating that Rodella, husband of state Rep. Debbie Rodella, D-Espanola, is under investigation by the commission.

The only issue mentioned in the document was the July 4, 2005 incident in which Rodella drove to Tierra Amarilla to free a DWI suspect.

That incident eventually led to a spat between Rodella and Gov. Bill Richardson, (who had appointed Rodella earlier that year), and eventually to Rodella's resignation. However Rodella ran for and won the magistrate seat in 2006. (An old story about that resignation can be found HERE.)

My story on the investigation was in Sunday's New Mexican and can be found HERE.

In today's paper I have a story about allegations by Rodella's lawyer, former state Supreme Court Justice Tony Scarborough. He claims Judicial Standards actually has expanded its investigation and in fact is "“conducting a wide-ranging, illegal and secret investigation into the conduct of present and former state legislators, other public officials and candidates for public office from Rio Arriba County, as well as ordinary citizens” -- which JSC denies. That story can be found HERE.

Always lots of fun in Rio Arriba!

Monday, August 27, 2007


This man was a champ!

I was stunned this morning to learn of the death of Bob Johnson, a founder of and the driving force behind New Mexico Foundation for Open Government.

I knew Bob as a voice on the phone years before I met him. He's the one a reporter would call whenever some tin-horn bureaucrat tried to keep public information from the public.

Sometimes FOG would instigate a lawsuit if some agency wouldn't budge. Whatever the case, Bob was always good for a quote, a concise explanation why openness not only is a good idea, in most cases, it's the law.

When I began covering the Capitol in late 2000, I got to know Bob better. He was there nearly every day during a legislative session, usually on his never-ending crusade to convince lawmakers to put an end to "the last bastion of secrecy," closed conference committees -- — panels made up of members of both houses to iron out differences in bills that have passed both chambers.

Bob would always look pained when senators made their ridiculous arguments against open conference committees. ("We can't open conference committees until the governor opens all his meetings." "How come the press wants open conference committees when newspapers don't open their editorial meetings?") And it was always a kick in the teeth for Bob when the foxes in the Senate inevitably would vote against installing a new light in the hen house.

Of course Bob didn't see it that way. He would say -- quite rightfully -- that it a vote against openness was a blow to democracy, not just an affront to him.

Last week I attended a ceremony in which the state treasurer named a conference room after the late radio reporter Bob Barth. (For my column on that, CLICK HERE and scroll down). That gives me an idea.

a) Open the damned conference committees!

b) Designate a room in the Capitol "The Robert H. "Bob" Johnson Conference Committee Meeting Room."

Johnson, of course had a long career before FOG. A couple of years ago I wrote about his experiences during Watergate. (CLICK HERE and scroll down.)

Bob, you will be missed!

UPDATE: Thanks to a friendly reader who alerted me to some typos. That's always appreciated. They've been fixed.


Sunday, August 26, 2007
KSFR, Santa Fe, N.M.
10 p.m. to midnight Sundays Mountain Time
Host: Steve Terrell

Now Simulcasting 90.7 FM, and out new, stronger signal, 101.1 FM
email me during the show!

OPENING THEME: Let it Out (Let it All Hang Out) by The Hombres
We Can't Be Killed by The Floors
Down the Drain by Monkeyshines
Caveman by The Blood-Drained Cows
A-Bomb Bop by The A-Bones
Gonna Murder My Baby by Pat Hare
Loaded Heart by The Gore Gore Girls
Blindness by The Fall
Searching by The Omens

Way Down South by The Dynamites featuring Charles Walker
Hook and Sing Meets the Funky Superfly by Sharon Jones
The Flag Was Still There by George Clinton
No Regrets by King Kahn & His Shrines
Petey Wheatstraw by Nat Dove & The Devils
Cissy Strut by The Meters
Guitar by Prince

King Cobra by The Budos Band
Path of the Blazing Sarong by Ravi Harris & The Prophets
Jon E's Mood by Jon E. Edwards & The Internationals
Got to Have it by Soul President
How Do You Sell Soul to a Soulless People Who Sold Their Soul? by Public Enemy
Stool Pigeon by The Soul Deacons
Steam Train by Lee Fields
Total Destruction of Your Mind by Swamp Dogg

You're Just About to Lose Your Clown by Joe Louis Walker
Lonely Just Like Me by Arthur Alexander
Ana by Los Straightjackets with Little Willie G
Poco de Todo by King Richard & The Knights
Shocking Curse Bird by The Mekons
Do You Realize by The Flaming Lips
Down Where the Valleys are Low by Judee Sill
CLOSING THEME: Over the Rainbow by Jerry Lee Lewis

Saturday, August 25, 2007


Friday, August 24, 2007
KSFR, Santa Fe, NM
10 p.m. to midnight Fridays Mountain Time
Host: Steve Terrell

Now Simulcasting 90.7 FM, and our new, stronger signal, 101.1 FM
email me during the show!

OPENING THEME: Buckaroo by Buck Owens & The Buckaroos

Bye Bye Boozoo by Beausoleil
I've Always Been Crazy by Waylon Jennings with Travis Tritt
Bad News by Johnny Cash
Jason Fleming by Neko Case with the Sadies
Cocaine Blues by Holy Modal Rounders
Tequila Shiela by Bobby Bare
The Heart of California (for Lowell George) by Terry Allen
Drinkin' Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee, Drinking Wine by Johnny Burnette & The Rock 'n' Roll Trio

The Eggs of Your Chickens by The Flatlanders
Looking for a Job by Todd Snider
Bonapart's Retreat by Glen Campbell
I Cast a Lonesome Shadow by Hank Thompson
A Girl in a House in Felony Flats by Richmond Fontaine
She Baby by Heavy Trash
Flavor on The Tongue by The Gourds

Don't Lose My Trail by Eleni Mandrell
Empty Bed Blues by Maria Muldaur
Dancing on the Ashes by Robbie Fulks
Dancing with the Ghost of William Bonney by Bone Orchard
Molly Crow by Hundred Year Flood
Another Place, Another Time by Jerry Lee Lewis
Final Straw by John Egenes

Elijah's Church by Low Red Land
White Stone Door by The Mekons
Underneath the Stars by Peter Case with Carlos Guitarlos
No Earthly Good by Billy Joe Shaver with Kris Kristofferson
The Kiss by Judee Sill
Young Wesley by David Bromberg
CLOSING THEME: Comin' Down by The Meat Puppets

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

Friday, August 24, 2007


A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
August 24, 2007

Good God, ya’ll! Do you hear that funky sound? There’s a soul revival going on!

Truth be told, there probably is always a soul revival going on somewhere on the outskirts of American music. At any given time in the past couple of decades, some venerated old soulster from the days of yore was making a comeback, and a bunch of new, obscure bands are doing their best to carry on the traditions of the J.B.’s or Bar-Kays, while some cool underground labels are specializing in funky sounds (think Soul Fire in the early part of this decade or its predecessor Desco in the late ’90s).

Even though the current crop of soul revivalists doesn’t attain the heights reached by James Brown, Otis Redding, or Aretha Franklin, and there’s little, if any, chance in today’s musical climate that a revival will break into mainstream popularity like it did in the golden years, there are some cool, funky sounds coming down that definitely are worth hearing. They include the following albums:

* Kaboom! by The Dynamites featuring Charles Walker. This record CD represents both a new band specializing in good old soul as well as a comeback vehicle for a respected vet.

Charles Walker has been in the music game for many decades. One of his songs, “No Fool No More” (by Charles Walker & the Daffodils) was included on the second volume of Night Train to Nashville, that wonderful collection of R & B, blues, and soul hits from the country music capital.

Walker’s voice has grown deeper and a little rougher since his Daffodils days, but it’s no less powerful. He’s a perfect match for this horn-heavy Nashville ensemble. All the songs here are original numbers, and all but one were penned by Dynamite chief guitarist Leo Black.

One of the highlights is the seven-plus-minute “Way Down South,” a slow-cooking, swampy protest song in which Walker moans about crooked judges and hurricanes “with beautiful names.” Then there’s the up-tempo, muscular “Killin’ It,” which concludes the album. It’s sheer madhouse funk, with Black’s guitar and Tyrone Dickerson’s organ rising over the horns.

*The Budos Band II by The Budos Band. As the name implies, this is the second album by this 11-piece instrumental band from Staten Island, N.Y., that blends soul, funk, and an ominous touch of crime jazz with a discernible West African pop sound. It’s like a soundtrack Fela Kuti never made for a great blaxploitation movie that exists only on the astral plane.

There’s definitely an undercurrent of danger here. The album cover shows a scorpion about to strike. One of the song titles is “King Cobra” — both a dangerous arachnid and a malt liquor.

Horns and percussion dominate the Budos sound, but organist Mike Deller’s slinky riffs also stand out. His solo on “Deep in the Sand” sounds like it came straight out of The Arabian Nights, while the hook on “Ride or Die” sounds like it owes a debt to ? & The Mysterians (or perhaps to the contemporary psychedelic Cambodian American rock band Dengue Fever).

In the middle of the album, you might think you recognize one of the melodies — or at least the pulsating bass intro. But you might have a hard time placing it. “His Girl” is a minor-key rearrangement of “My Girl.” The Temptations never sounded this evil.

*Skippin’ Church by The Soul Deacons. Yes, Santa Fe has a bird in this cockfight. Brother E. Clayton and the boys, who live here, are as friendly and inviting as The Budos Band is sinister. But that’s not a bad thing. This high-spirited record is almost as irresistible as the band’s live performances.

Unlike The Dynamites or The Budos Band, members of The Soul Deacons don’t write much of their own material. But they have a good knack for choosing songs that aren’t that well known or overcovered, so the band can make the songs their own.

At the moment my favorite tune on the album is “Stool Pigeon,” originally performed by Kid Creole and the Coconuts. Steve O’Neill’s Stevie Wonder-like clavinet is nice and subtle, while Nick Thompson’s sax solo is exquisite. And among the background singers is none other than Chris Calloway.

While most the tracks are upbeat and danceable, Clayton slows it down on the closing song, “You’ve Got to Hurt.” It’s sweet and packed with soul, with Clayton accompanied only by piano, organ, and sax.

Also recommended:
*Lonely Just Like Me: The Final Chapter by Arthur Alexander. Back when The Beatles was a cover band, one of the group’s most powerful numbers was the mournful “Anna.” When John Lennon sang the line, “So I will set you free, go with him,” you could tell even then there was a primal scream building up in the guy.

The song was written by Arthur Alexander, who is best known as a behind-the-scenes songwriter whose songs were recorded by The Rolling Stones, Johnny Rivers, and all sorts of rock, soul, and country artists. His own solo career never quite took off, though his understated, earnest voice perfectly fit his solemn songs of heartache.

This is a reissue — fortified by bonus tracks — of Alexander’s 1993 comeback album. True to his reputation as one of soul music’s saddest hard-luck stories, Alexander, died shortly after the album’s original release.

The original album, which featured sidemen like Spooner Oldham, Dan Penn, and “Funky” Donnie Fritts, includes some of his best-known songs — “Every Day I Have to Cry” (Rivers did my favorite version of this), “In the Middle of It All,” and “If It’s Really Got to Be This Way.”

One of the most gripping songs is “Lonely Just Like Me,” which unexpectedly turns into a murder ballad. The studio version sounds almost like a Marty Robbins song, but there’s also an a cappella version recorded in a hotel room that’s stark and startling. And, yes, there’s a live version of “Anna” that’s just heartbreaking.

Students of soul should get well acquainted with Arthur Alexander.

Thursday, August 23, 2007


A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
August 23, 2007

Possible 2010 lieutenant governor candidate Javier Gonzales might have hit the nail on the head this week when asked about Santa Fe County Sheriff Greg Solano’s announcement that he’s running for the “light guv” when he said, “In politics, three years is an eternity.”

Solano, of course, has his reasons for starting so early. While well-known in Santa Fe County (where he won big in last year’s primary and faced no opponent in the general election), the sheriff needs to build up name recognition in those other 32 counties.

And of course, while there haven’t been any formal news conferences like Solano’s, he’s not the only candidate working on the 2010 election. Lt. Gov. Diane Denish has said straight out she’s running for governor. Albuquerque Mayor Marty Chávez has an exploratory committee for a possible gubernatorial run. One of the world’s shortest books would be about exploratory committees that didn’t turn into full-blown campaigns.

But Gonzales and others with whom I’ve spoken in the last couple days agree that there are a lot of “what-ifs” out there with the potential of shaking up the political ecology in this state.

First of all, before we get to the 2010 election, there’s something called the 2008 election. (Remember that?)

True, no state offices are up for election next year. All legislative seats are up, and theoretically, any legislator planning to run in 2010 could be defeated in 2008. But assuming next year is like most previous elections, there will be little legislative turnover and an embarrassing number of incumbent lawmakers will face no opposition in the primary or general election.

The real “what-if” is next year’s national election and what ripple effects it might have for New Mexico.
Gov. Bill Richardson is running for president. Even if he doesn’t get the nomination, there’s speculation he could end up on the Democratic ticket. Or he could end up in the Cabinet if a Democrat gets elected. Or — and this is just pure speculation on the part of some political junkies — he could end up running against his old rival Pete Domenici for U.S. Senate.

(Richardson, for the record, has repeatedly said if he doesn’t get the nomination, he’ll go back to “the best job I’ve ever had,” i.e. governor of New Mexico. However he also told the New York Daily News last week, “I never preclude anything.”)

If Richardson, for whatever reason, doesn’t complete his term, Denish would become governor. That would mean she would have the advantage of the incumbency. No incumbent New Mexico governor has been ousted in a primary, at least in the near 40 years I’ve lived in this state.

Under the New Mexico Constitution, there’s no provision for choosing a replacement lieutenant governor. There have been attempts to change that in the past two legislative sessions, but both have stalled. It’s possible though such an amendment could pass in the next session and be approved by voters in November 2008.

That would mean if Denish became governor, she would choose her lieutenant governor, who then, assumedly, also would have the advantage of the incumbency in 2010.

But Richardson is not the only New Mexico Democrat who — at least according to the rumor mill — could be tapped for a federal office. There’s some chatter about U.S. Rep. Tom Udall becoming interior secretary — his dad Stewart Udall’s old job — if a Democrat is elected president.

If that were to happen, that would create the biggest political stampede among Northern New Mexico Democrats since Richardson gave up his congressional seat to become U.N. secretary. That actually could help Solano because some of the potential candidates looking at the lieutenant governor’s job might switch their sights to Congress.

Even if none of these particular “what-ifs” come true, three years indeed is a long, long time in politics.

Voter ID: An independent report released Tuesday found that 80 percent of New Mexico voters surveyed rated their voting experience with the new state paper-ballot system as “good” or “satisfactory.”

The poll was of 471 voters in the 1st Congressional District (which mainly consists of Albuquerque).

However, according to the executive summary, the same study indicates there is confusion among poll workers and voters about the voter identification requirements under the new election law that went into effect last year.

That law requires some identification be provided at polling places. The ID can be “verbal” — a statement of the voter’s name, address, birth year and last four digits of the voter’s Social Security number.

During legislative debates on the law, Republicans argued that verbal identification amounts to no identification at all. As it turns out, a big number of voters weren’t even asked for verbal ID.

“Although many poll workers asked for voter identification, many did not,” the study said. “The voter survey confirmed this finding indicating that almost 65 percent of voters showed some form of voter identification, while 35 percent did not.”

The summary goes on to say, “Voters should be treated equally by poll workers and given the politics around this issue and the clear confusion by poll workers, more effort should be made training poll workers on voter identification election laws.”

Monday, August 20, 2007


I just got word that Santa Fe expatriate Tommy Trusnovic will be back in Santa Fe for a visit and has lined up a reunion for the last three (!) bands he was involved with here.

Monkeyshines, The Floors and The Blood-Drained Cows (that one featuring Gregg Turner, who I believe was fired by Manny Aragon from The Angry Samoans or something) will be playing at CKs -- right next door to Cheeks -- on Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2841 Cerrillos Road. Don't know about exact time or cover charge yet.

I realize most of the readers of this blog are at Cheeks every weeknight anyway, so pull yourself away and wander in next door to check out these bands on Sept. 5.


Sunday, August 19, 2007
KSFR, Santa Fe, N.M.
10 p.m. to midnight Sundays Mountain Time
Host: Steve Terrell

Now Simulcasting 90.7 FM, and out new, stronger signal, 101.1 FM
email me during the show!

OPENING THEME: Let it Out (Let it All Hang Out) by The Hombres
Give Her a Great Big Kiss by The New York Dolls
London Boys by Johnny Thunders & Wayne Kramer
Wild Wild Lover by The A-Bones
Psycho Daisies by The Hentchmen
Psychedelic Love by Big Ugly Guys
Carolina Hard Core Ecstasy by Frank Zappa & Captain Beefheart
Teddy Bear by The Residents
Crazy Little Thing Called Love by Orion

Zina Marina by Gogol Bordello
Otono No Himitsu by Go!Go! 7188
This Town Belongs to Me by Thundercrack
Scorpion by The Budos Band
Frankie & Johnny by Kajik Staszewsky
Goodbye My Roller Girl by Mummy the Peepshow
Indian Johnny by Robert Mirabal
I Got Something For You Girl by Hot Nuts
Half a Boy and Half a Man by Queen Ida

Grinnin' in Your Face by James Blood Ulmer
I'm Not Your Clown by Hubert Sumlin
Sinner Girl by Benny Spellman
Slinky by The Dyamites featuring Charles Walker
She's Not Just Another Woman by The Soul Deacons
Johnny Heartbreak by Arthur Alexander
One Kind Favor by Canned Heat

Good Shepherd by The Jefferson Airplane
Lynch Blues by Corey Harris
Borracho by Mark Lannegan
The Indifference of Heaven by Warren Zevon
That Feel by Tom Waits with Keith Richards
CLOSING THEME: Over the Rainbow by Jerry Lee Lewis

Sunday, August 19, 2007


I haven't actually seen this morning's debate at Drake University in Iowa. Due to some weird local programming decision, Channel 7 isn't showing the debate until 4 p.m. Mountain Time. ("Action 7 news! We keep you way behind the rest of the country ...")
But judging from the official transcript of the debate, it looks like Gov. Bill Richardson might have done pretty well.

He avoided any serious gaffes and weird nonsequiturs (no gay relationships with undocumented workers), he was able to jump in and engage the other candidates over the issue of the Iraq War.

He was able to land a couple of good laugh lines and applause lines. And he even poked a little fun at himself for his previous verbal blunders.

He desperately needed this after a week of apologizing to the gay community and dealing with his former Nevada staffer, the former bordello manager wanted on hot check charges.


When questioned about his position that all troops could be withdrawn from Iraq in six to eight months, Richardson said many (unnamed) generals and security expert Anthony Cordesman agree with him.

That might give the impression that Cordesman, a former director of intelligence assessment at the Pentagon, has endorsed Richardson's plan.

That's not the case. Cordesman did recently say that troops could be withdrawn earlier than the military is advocating. Here's an Associated Press story about Cordesman's recent report.

Saturday, August 18, 2007


Friday, August 17, 2007
KSFR, Santa Fe, NM
10 p.m. to midnight Fridays Mountain Time
Host: Steve Terrell

Now Simulcasting 90.7 FM, and our new, stronger signal, 101.1 FM
email me during the show!

OPENING THEME: Buckaroo by Buck Owens & The Buckaroos
Reprimand by Joe West
Henry by New Riders of the Purple Sage
Beaucoups of Blues by Ringo Starr
Crying Tramp by Heavy Trash
Guv'ment by Roger Miller
The Ballad of Roger Miller by Homer & Jethro
Black Rose by Billy Joe Shaver
Get Thee Behind Me Satan by Billy Joe Shaver with John Anderson
Briars & Brambles by Chipper Thompson

Paul by Bobby Bare
Lumberjack by Willie Nelson
Summer Wages by David Bromberg
Lumberjack Song by Monty Python
Love of the Common People by Waylon Jennings
Mom's Tattoo by Cornell Hurd with Johnny Bush
All in the Pack by The Gourds
Catch Me a Possum by The Watzloves

Tomorrow Night by Elvis Presley
Tell the Killer the King is Dead by Ronny Elliott
Listening to Elvis by Ed Pettersen
It Took Four Beatles to Make One Elvis by Harry Hayward
En El Barrio by El Vez
So Glad You're Mine by Elvis Presley
Love Me by Nicolas Cage
Birth of Rock 'n' Roll by Carl Perkins & Class of 55
Elvis is Everywhere by The Pleasure Barons

The Open Road Song by Peter Case
Cold + Dark + Wet by Gregg Brown
My Wildest Dreams Grow Wilder Every Day by The Flatlanders
It Must Be You by Dolly Parton
CLOSING THEME: Comin' Down by The Meat Puppets

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

Friday, August 17, 2007


A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
August 17, 2007

If The Pogues were Ukrainian — if The Clash had been raised in a Gypsy caravan — if Brave Combo had a New York snarl — then they might be Gogol Bordello, whose latest album, Super Taranta!, is a lusty, vodka-fueled stomp.

GB is a nine-member, New York-based band led by singer Eugene Hütz, whose family fled Ukraine in the 1980s, after the Chernobyl nuclear accident. He ended up in New York City in the early ’90s and founded a band that specializes in a sound he calls “Gypsy punk.”

Comparisons to The Pogues are frequent and on the mark. Hütz and his crew — an international cabal that includes members of various nationalities and instruments including accordion and fiddle — do for Eastern European music what Shane MacGowan and his merry men did for Irish drinking songs.

And like The Pogues, Gogol doesn’t limit himself to a single ethnic influence in his music. Super Taranta! not only has the band’s trademark Gypsy craziness, but also delves into dub reggae (in the Clash-like “Dub the Frequencies of Love”) and Italian music. I almost want Francis Ford Coppola to make another Godfather sequel, just so he could include a wedding scene with GB’s “Harem in Tuscany (Taranta)”.

Gogol is known primarily as a wild party band, and many of its partisans swear you’ve got to see the group live before you really can claim you’re a fan. That might be true. But there’s plenty on this album (and albums past) for we uninitiated to love.

Hütz is not only a crazed performer but a good songwriter as well. He’s got a philosophical bent. For example, on “Supertheory of Supereverything,” he meditates on religion. With a chorus of “I don’t read the Bible/I don’t trust disciples,” this song can be seen as an Eastern European take on “It Ain’t Necessarily So” — the Porgy and Bess tune that opened a whole new world of skepticism to me when I heard Cab Calloway sing it as a child.

Hütz also got a great sense of humor. “American Wedding” is a sardonic look at a culture that he finds repressed. Starting out with a riff from Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust,” Hütz spits, “Have you ever been to American wedding? Where’s the vodka, where’s the marinated herring? ... Everybody’s full of cake staring at the floor. ... People got to get up early, yes, they’ve got to go.” And worst yet, “Nobody talks about my Supertheory of Supereverything.”

More recommended rock from around the world

*Best of Go!Go! by Go!Go! 7188. This is the latest Japanese girl-punk group to emerge on the great Japanese girl-punk label Benten. The trio has been around for nearly 10 years and have released right albums before this “greatest hits” collection.

Go!Go!7188 isn’t quite as harsh and aggressive as many of the Benten groups, like Mummy the Peepshow or (my current favorite) Lolita No. 18. In fact, some of the more power-poppy songs here might even be compared with the Go-Gos. This is especially true of most the earlier cuts on the record.

But don’t think they don’t rock. Tunes like “Thunder Girl” and “Jet Ninjin” are fine basic guitar/bass/drums throw-downs. “Otona No Kusuri” starts out with a bass riff that sounds almost like the band is going to go into a hopped-up version of Roy Orbison’s “Oh, Pretty Woman.” That’s followed by “Otona No Himitsu,” a mad pogo-polka.

*6 Mighty Shots by various artists from the Bang! Bang! Recording Organization. From Nancy, France, and London comes a promising new label that’s released this dandy sampler.

The Bang! Bang! gang apparently is led by King Automatic, who also records on the Swiss Voodoo Rhythm label. He’s billed as a one-man garage band, playing organ, drums, harmonica, and who knows what else — all at the same time.

But just because he’s a one-man band doesn’t mean he’s a hermit. He’s on every cut here (including his own Yardbirdsy “My Shark”) except for one by another one-man band, Monsieur Verdun. That’s a banjo-driven stomper called “Blind Man With a Pistol.”

There’s some cool Nuggets-style fun with “I Got Something for You Girl” by a band called Hot Nuts (no, it’s not the same band as Doug Clark’s classic dirty-minded frat/soul crew) and Thundercrack’s “This Town Belongs to Me,” which features a strangled, Standells-like fuzz-guitar hook and tortured vocals.

Perhaps my favorite mighty shot is a sweet lo-fi sleaze ballad called “Nothing Works,” by British singer Rich Deluxe.

Automatic, Verdun, and Deluxe team up under the name of The Bang! Bang! Organization for a banjo/organ/guitar dirge called “Stay Drunk.”

All in all, an impressive collection.

*In the Blood by Robert Mirabal. Here’s some “world music” from right here in New Mexico. This is the first album in four years from Taos Pueblo’s Mirabal, the most acclaimed Native American musician from the state, and, come to think of it, one of the most prominent in the world.

I’m not sure why, but nearly half of the songs on this album have appeared on previous Mirabal works. Some, like “The Dance,” “Medicine Man,” and “Little Indians” have been on at least two previous albums.

Several tunes are just too synthy and adult contemporary for my peculiar tastes. But I love “Indian Johnny,” which starts with a shotgun blast and is carried by some fine, raunchy guitar by Larry Mitchell.

And “Theo’s Dream,” which also appeared on Mirabal’s underrated 2003 album Indians Indians, is a moving tale of a relative forever changed by the Vietnam War.

Thursday, August 16, 2007


When I was off checking out a cool little country band called Public Enemy last Friday during my Santa Fe Opry shift KSFR played the pre-recorded show that Laurell made last month -- which had never aired because I got back from my vacation in time to do it live.

Unfortunately there was some kind of Robojock glitch and most of the last set never aired. Laurell sent me the songs that did play.

I'll be back from the shadows again on Friday night for this week's Opry.

Friday, August 10, 2007
KSFR, Santa Fe, NM
10 p.m. to midnight Fridays Mountain Time
Guest Host: Laurell Reynolds

Now Simulcasting 90.7 FM, and our new, stronger signal, 101.1 FM

OPENING THEME: Buckaroo by Buck Owens & The Buckaroos
Your Flag Decal Won't Get You into Heaven Anymore-John Prine
Whiskey River (live)-Willie Nelson
Fire on the The Mountain by The Marshal Tucker Band
If I Could Have Her Tonight-Neil Young
Mama's Opry-Iris Dement
Open Up/Panama Hat-Michael Hurley
Country Pie-Bob Dylan
Same Old Man-Holy Modal Rounders
Tulsa Twist-Dickie McBride and the Village Boys

Through the Eyes of an Eagle-Janette & Joe Carter
Wayfaring Stranger-Burl Ives
Red River Valley-Don Edwards
Cowboy's Lament-Slim Critchlow
Tulsa Queen /Pancho & Lefty-Emmylou Harris
Nothin' /Waiting Around to Die- Townes Van Zandt

Not the Lovin' Kind-Buffy Sainte-Marie
Ode To Billy Joe-Bobbie Gentry
In the Ghetto-Elvis Presley
Together Again-Buck Owens
Rhinestone Cowboy-Glen Campbell
Someday Soon-Judy Collins
Rose Garden-Lynn Anderson
Sundown-Gordon Lightfoot

Live Forever-Billy Joe Shaver


A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
August 16, 2007

Gov. Bill Richardson made national headlines and created a true Internet buzz last week when at a gay-issues forum in Los Angeles he said he believed homosexuality was a choice, not something a person is born with.

But the next day, while trying to explain and apologize for that answer, Richardson said something that could be even stranger.

It was on the Michelangelo Signorile Show on the gay-oriented OutQ channel on SIRIUS satellite radio. Signorile asked him if he agreed with a statement by another Democratic presidential candidate, Mike Gravel, that “love between a man and a man is love, is beautiful too.”
Richardson agreed. “I think that gay relationships are human decency, they’re love, they promote families. I’m for gay adoption. I think it’s very healthy because there are millions of kids in this country that have no homes.”

Fair enough. But then Richardson went on: “I’m for gays having relationships with undocumented workers, and I’ve always felt that way.”


That’s right. You can listen for yourself. (Go to and click on the audio clip labeled “Gay relationships are love.”)

There you’ll also hear Richardson declare, “I’ve been a Hispanic,” before he catches his mistake and says, “I am a Hispanic.”

I’m not sure what he meant by that or what “undocumented workers” had to do with anything being discussed.

Earlier in the interview, in trying to explain why he didn’t understand the question that tripped him up, Richardson told Signorile that he’d just flown all night from New Hampshire.

One has to sympathize somewhat with Richardson in one respect. Most of us puny mortals would crumble if we tried to keep up with the schedule to which Richardson is subjecting himself.

Still it raises the question: Is Richardson — whose public-relations staff for years have used the word tireless to describe him — flirting with exhaustion from the endless campaign?

Would this explain the isolated non sequiturs in his public appearances, such as his unexplained reference to “OSHA protections” in a recent debate when he was asked what he’d do to prevent factories from shutting down.

In a profile last month, writer Walter Shapiro noted that Richardson told an Iowa audience, “My mind is mush” when he lost his train of thought while answering a question about immigration.

“It is so easy to imagine how that self-deprecatory moment would look — taken out of context — on YouTube,” noted Shapiro.

Little sympathy from public: I asked uber pundit Larry Sabato — director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics and author of the upcoming book A More Perfect Constitution, what he made of this.

“I’ve been surprised at how poorly Richardson has performed in the various debates and forums,” Sabato said in an e-mail response. “Sometimes candidates appear better than they are. Arguably, Richardson is the opposite — he’s much better than he appears. Part of it is clearly lack of preparation. One gets the sense that some of these candidates read big briefing books and have mock debates, practicing their sound-bites, while Richardson is almost winging it. (As a college teacher of 29 years, I’m good at spotting that!)”

Sabato suggested Richardson go easier on his public schedule and spend more time preparing for debates and forums.

“No doubt, the exhaustion of the campaign trail is contributing to this,” Sabato said. “At the same time, the presidency is the most exhausting office on earth, and the campaign is a measure of how well a person will bear up under the strain.”

“Over the years, staffs always attribute a poor performance by their candidate to tiredness or exhaustion. The public has little sympathy, though. Every presidential contender has asked for the job, after all.”

Well Bob, here’s your conference room: The state Treasurer’s Office is naming a conference room after the late Santa Fe newsman Bob Barth.

Somehow that seems appropriate. After the scandals at the Treasurer’s Office, you’ve got to wonder what kind of weird deals went down in that room. Now maybe the spirit of a roly-poly guy with a tape recorder will guard over that room and exorcise some of those less-than-savory spirits, at least in a metaphorical sense.

Barth, who worked for years as a reporter for the old KVSF radio station and later a long-defunct talk station called KMKE, died in 1990 at the age of 43.

He was just a few years older than me. I first met Barth when I was in high school and he was dating a woman who worked with my mother. He’s the guy who turned me on to Waylon Jennings, loaning me several albums years before most people ever heard of Waylon.

One of those albums was called Love of the Common People. I didn’t realize at that time how that title could apply to Barth’s career. He was on a first-name basis with governors and mayors, but he never forgot how to relate to everyday Santa Fe folks.

Years later, we’d cross paths again as fellow reporters. I’d always see him at City Council meetings. We’d sit together at the press table in the council chambers, Barth from KVSF, me, then from Journal North. And, yes, there was still room for Tom Day of The New Mexican.

He was a gentleman and he was a pro — even if we teased him about his habit of not editing out “Well, Bob ... ” from his audio clips of interviews. I’m convinced the politicians felt obligated to start off every interview with “Well, Bob ... ” any time Barth stuck a tape recorder in their faces.
State Treasurer James Lewis will officially dedicate the conference to Barth in a ceremony beginning at noon Tuesday at the Treasurer’s Office, 2019 Galisteo St.

Lorene Mills — widow of Barth’s radio colleague Ernie Mills — will officiate. She said former Govs. David Cargo, Bruce King and Toney Anaya will be on hand to share some Barth memories as will other assorted politicos, several old news hounds who knew him and lots of those “common people” who loved him.

Blog Bonus:
Here's Jon Stewart's take on the Human Rights Campaign debate last week, including Richardson's "choice" gaffe. Comedy Central will yank this in a few days, so enjoy it while you can.

Monday, August 13, 2007


I loved the Washington Post eulogy for the soon-to-be-departed World Weekly News. Especially this quote:

"Mainstream journalists read WWN and dreamed about killing the county sewer-system story they were working on and writing about a swamp monster or a 65-pound grasshopper," says Derek Clontz, who was a Weekly World News editor for 15 years.
What can I say? It's true. Wouldn't a session of the state Legislature be a little more lively if we could throw in some stories about the Mole People living secretly beneath the Round House or reveal that Ben Lujan actually is Elvis Presley living under a new identity?

The bad thing about the WWN is that every time I'd pick up one up in line at the grocery store to check out some crazy story, someone -- sometimes a friend, sometimes a complete stranger -- would suddenly appear to rib me: "So THIS is where you get all your stories ..."

Back in the late '80s or early '90s I actually got to write an article for The New Mexican based on a WWN cover story. It was something about an underground UFO base in northern New Mexico revealed. This was based on a speech given by some "expert." I actually tracked down the guy and it turned out he was pig-biting mad at the WWN for that story. He indeed had given a speech, but he had mentioned the New Mexico base in a disparaging way. He believed in some other theory of UFOs and looked down on those who believed in the New Mexico base.

Yes, I was disappointed.

Better go. have to check out a story about zombies running a slate of candidates in Taos County.


Sunday, August 12, 2007
KSFR, Santa Fe, N.M.
10 p.m. to midnight Sundays Mountain Time
Host: Steve Terrell

Now Simulcasting 90.7 FM, and out new, stronger signal, 101.1 FM
email me during the show!

OPENING THEME: Let it Out (Let it All Hang Out) by The Hombres
Lightning's Girl by Nancy Sinatra
Pablo Picasso by Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers
Who's Been Driving My Little Yellow Taxi Cab by The Lincoln Street Exit
1976 by The 50 Kaitens
Jet Ninjin by Go!Go! 7188
Viva del Santo by Southern Culture on the Skids
Transcore by Chopper Sick Balls
Ravioli/Red Red Whine by The Dick Nixons

Ultimate by Gogol Bordello
Love Pipe by Zee Rok
Blind Man with a Pistol by Monsieur Verdun
Herpes Simplex by Rosa Yemen
W Czarnez Urnei by Kult
Lust Strings by Les Claypool
King Cobra by The Budos Band
Harder Than You Think by Public Enemy
Bring The Noise by The Unholy Trio


R&B Skeletons in the Closet by George Clinton
Who Says a Funk Band Can't Play Rock?! by Funkadelic
Everything is on the Move by Parliament
Something Stank by George Clinton featuring Sativa
Mr. Wiggles by Parliament
Free Your Mind and Your Ass Will Follow by Funkadelic

Tower of Song by Leonard Cohen & U2
New Amsterdam by Elvis Costello
The Hawk by Tom Verlaine
Theo's Dream by Robert Mirabal
The Body of an American by The Pogues
CLOSING THEME: Over the Rainbow by Jerry Lee Lewis

Sunday, August 12, 2007



Saturday was the second time I've seen George Clinton live. He played the Santa Fe Muzik Fest with his current line of P-Funk or whatever he's calling it these days.

The first time I saw him was the 1994 Lollapalooza in Phoenix. I remember that show as a weird and wonderful blast of funk.
But -- 13 years later -- Clinton's band sounded even stronger. Bootsy, Bernie, Maceo, etc. are long gone, but his current band (including greybearded long-timers like guitarists Garry "Starchild" Shider -- the guy in the diaper -- and DeWayne "Blackbyrd" McKnight) are tight but maniacal.

Clinton is the front man, though others handle most of the vocals. He's the benevolent, grandfatherly embodiment of the spirit of the band. (Speaking of grandfatherly, his granddaughter Sativa is now part of the troupe. )

Check out my photos of the Muzik Fest over on my FLICKR site. (Gobs of Clinton and Public Enemy photos.)

Saturday, August 11, 2007


PUBLIC ENEMY NUMBER ONE! Just about my only disappointment with Public Enemy's performance at the Santa Fe Muzik Fest last night was the fact they still have that verse, "Elvis was a hero to most" in the song "Fight the Power" and they still call him a racist.

I had read a couple of years ago that Chuck D no longer believes this. That fact is brought up in this excellent New York Times opinion piece by Peter Guralnick that Jim Terr sent me this morning.

So what's the deal with Elvis as racist? There's this nasty rumor, repeated for decades as fact that Elvis had once said something to the effect of "“The only thing Negroes can do for me is buy my records and shine my shoes” in some interview somewhere.

I first heard this back in 1976 when I was doing student teaching at Albuquerque High School. I was talking music with one of my students, a Black girl. When I mentioned Elvis her whole demeanor changed. "Why don't you like Elvis?" I asked. She told me the awful thing he supposedly said, using a stronger word than "Negroes."

As Guralnick points out, this "shine my shoes" statement never has been documented and Elvis specifically denied it.

So come on, PE, if we can forgive Professor Griff for anti-Semitic statements he really did make, let's give Elvis a break for something he likely never said.

UPDATE: I just read a 2002 interview with Griff denying he said that Jews are "responsible for a majority of wickedness in the world" or whatever he was quoted saying. I'm not sure of the truth of the matter. But he apparently doesn't agree with the alleged statement. Maybe we all should take a step back from rushing to judgement.



My story in Saturday's New Mexican on Gov. Bill Richardson's gay damage-control effort can be found HERE

His Friday interview with The Advocate is HERE

His Friday interview with the blog Queerty is HERE


I missed just about everything else because of work, but I was excited to see Public Enemy at the Santa Fe Muzik Fest tonight.

They brought the noise! It was a wonderful, energetic show. i'm not even a huge hip-hop fan, but this is an example of a group making music so sublime that it truly transcends genre. Crazy, chaotic funk, sometimes angry, sometimes celebratory. Timeless and funky, an urban apocalyptic -- out at the Downs at Santa Fe.

Several times during the show Chuck D mentioned that this year is Public Enemy's 20th anniversary.

What a coincidence -- Friday, August 10 was my 20th anniversary for working at The New Mexican. Yep, I started there in 1987, same year Public Enemy was born. That;s so profound I don't know what to say.

Check out my photos of Friday's show on my FLICKR site.

Friday, August 10, 2007


My story on Gov. Bill Richardson's "homosexuality-is-a-choice" gaffe at last night's debate sponsored by the Logo Network and The Human Rights Campaign can be found HERE.

Other video clips of Richardson at the debate can be found HERE. (and if you click around you'll find the other candidates too.)


A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
August 10, 2007

Let Us Now Praise Sleepy John not only is Peter Case’s first album of new material in five years, it’s his strongest work in a lot more years than that.

This album — which is almost all acoustic and is named for the late Tennessee bluesman John Estes — harks back in spirit to Case’s early solo albums. You hear echoes of The Man With the Blue Post Modern Fragmented Neo-Traditionalist Guitar (which on most days I think is his greatest album) and even Sings Like Hell, his early ’90s collection of old folk songs and blues. Case sounds fresh and confident. He’s got a lot to say and feels an urgency to tell these stories.

Sleepy John is a pleasure from the first song, the Brit-folky “Every 24 Hours,” a duet with Richard Thompson, who backs him on acoustic guitar and vocals. Producer Ian Brennan fortunately doesn’t let Case get upstaged by his guest stars (who include Merle Haggard’s steel guitarist Norm Hamlet on the final song, “That Soul Twist”).
The best way to listen to Sleepy John is while reading his recently published As Far As You Can Get Without a Passport, the first installment of Case’s autobiography, which deals with his busking days on the streets of San Francisco in the mid-’70s. Throughout his career Case has recalled and mythologized this cheap hotel/cheaper wine period of his life in his songs, but somehow it never sounds old.

On “The Open Road Song” he sings of his deep-rooted romance with the ramblin’ life. As a child with his father he spies a ragged man on the street. “Son, that man’s a bum,” his dad says. But the boy is fascinated. “I looked again and saw the rapt expression/’neath the floppy hat he tipped back with his thumb/The aura of a world’s ragtime adventure/I said ‘When I grow up I want to be a bum.’”

And yet that romantic notion of life on the road doesn’t cloud his sense of reality. Case, with Carlos Guitarlos harmonizing on the chorus, takes an unflinching view of the other side of bumhood on “Underneath the Stars,” describing the death of a homeless woman in a park near his home.

Although Case has never been known as a topical songwriter, one of the finest songs on this album is ripped from recent headlines. “Million Dollars Bail” is obviously based on Phil Spector’s murder trial. The singer is angry about the special justice for the rich and famous that the Spector case represents. “Every one is talking ’bout the night he spent in jail/Today he’s free out walking on a million dollars bail.”

Wisely, Case doesn’t dwell on the details of the case. He uses it as a springboard to explore deeper truths. In fact, he turns to the hope of some kind of old-fashioned divine justice. “Eternity is longer than one night inside a box/And if you’re heading toward the jailhouse, now’s the time to pick the locks/ But there’s a sentence passed on every soul, someday we all must die/ And the question’s not who pulled the switch, it’s how you lived and why.”

It’s good to know that troubadours as vital as Case are still among us.

Also recommended
* Noble Creatures
by The Gourds. Austin, Texas’, finest are still sounding mighty fine. On this album the band seems as if it’s trying to expand its happy go-lucky funky back-roads sound. There’s a horn section on the opening song, “How Will You Shine,” giving it an almost poppy feeling.
Of course the lyrics don’t sound like any Top-10 teen tune: “Jammin’ on the old cartoons with the swagger of the immune/Sleeping like a fat raccoon, diabetic on a honeymoon.”

On the next tune, “Kicks in the Sun,” a roller-rinky organ (played by accordion man Claude Bernard) dominates, aiming toward the Blood of the Ram garage-rock vibe the band took a couple of albums ago.

But there’s no mistaking this for anything but a Gourds album. “Red Letter Day” is solid roadhouse honky-tonk, with a couple of unexpected chord changes thrown in, while the banjo-driven “Flavor on the Tongue” showcases the group’s fondness for bluegrass.

“Cranky Mulatto,” which has been part of the band’s stage repertoire for years, is a good-time Cajun stomp with swampy apocalyptic lyrics like “Heaven’s radio makes a sound like a brown banjo/Opossum sittin’ in the limbs/Devil’s gonna wait for him.” Likewise the rocking “All in the Pack” is firmly rooted in the bayou.

And speaking of swampy, the song, “Spivey” is such pure Creedence/Tony Joe White swamp rock you might suspect it’s being played by Polk Salad Annie’s no-count brothers.

The band also knows how to sound sweet, soulful, and downright purdy. “Steeple Full of Swallows” (another road-tested tune) and “Promenade” are slow and emotional ballads.

Unfortunately, nothing on this album reaches the sublime level of Gourds’ tunes like “Burn the Honeysuckle”) from their last album Heavy Ornamentals) or “Ants on the Melon,” (probably my favorite Gourds song of all time.) Still it’s a Gourds record, and that’s always enough to brighten a day.

* Catch Me a Possum by The Watzloves. This is a crazed, hopped-up Euro version of country and Cajun music led by German singer, accordion player, and circus-poster artist Silky Toss (aka Silky Watzlove, aka Silke Thoss) and her boyfriend, Louisiana expatriate DM Bob, who plays drums, guitar, and sax. According to the album cover, “In real life she’s a badass truck driver and owns a fish fry and a hot-dog stand.” Lurking in the background is slide guitarist/trombonist Jakobus. It might not be “authentic,” but by the ghost of Clifton Chenier, it works!

It’s hard to find any country rock lately halfway as infectious as “Always the Same,” a duet with Silky and Bob. Only a European could get away with singing “Let’s go out tonight and get something to bite.”

NOTE: In the print version of this I said DM Bob was Silky's husband. I just doublechecked and the Voodoo Rhythm site says he's her boyfriend.

Thursday, August 09, 2007


* A Hard Night's Day by The New York Dolls. I downloaded this right after watching the DVD of New York Doll, a bittersweet documentary about the death of bassist Arthur "Killer" Kane, shortly after the 2004 Dolls reunion.

(Quick movie review: I loved it. Kane, who left the music world soon after the Dolls broke up in the '70s, lived for years in bitter alcoholic poverty. He found solace as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, working for the LDS Family History Library in Los Angeles. He is a damaged but endearing figure who grabs your heart. I also came away admiring the Mormons in his life. They are completely supportive and non judgemental of Kane's dream of reuniting with the Dolls. No "Devil's music" gibberish. They even raise money to get his bass out of hock. Director Greg Whiteley himself is a Mormon, which could explain this sympathetic treatment of the church, but the Mormons he interviews seem sincere in their love and support of Kane's crazy rock 'n' roll dream.)

This album consists of demos of some of The Dolls' greatest tunes -- "Personality Crisis," "Bad Girl," "Vietnamese Baby," "Jet Boy," "Pills," "Trash," "Give Her a Great Big Kiss." The sound quality is good and the energy is amazing.

*Gang War by Johnny Thunders & Wayne Kramer. I stumbled across this album last weekend while searching for an outlandish version of "These Boots Are Made for Walking" to play on my tribute to Lee Hazlewood on Terrell's Sound World.

It's a 1979 marvel Team-Up of these former New York Dolls/MC 5 icons. Kramer had just gotten out of prison and Thunders was pretty far along the Lost Highway, evident from his bitter misogynistic rant in the intro of "Ten Commandments of Love." But it's a fun listen, even if the "Endless Party" they sing about had its toll.

*NY No Wave by Various Artists. Artists here include James Chance (aka James White & The Blacks, The Contortions), Teenage Jesus & The Jerks (plus solo Lydia Lunch), Lizzy Mercier Descloux (aka Rosa Yemen), Suicide, Mars, Art/Neto (featuring Arto Lindsey.)

This is loud abrasive, sometimes even hostile sounding music, or "anti-music" as some have called it. Sometimes rays of humor shine through, though these are almost always very subtle.

This album inspired me to rent the movie Kill Your Idols, a documentary about the No Wave era that makes a good companion to this album. (You can see this month how my eMusic and Netflix accounts feed off each other.) Funny thing is, some of the icons of No-Wave come off sounding like a bunch of crotchety conservatives. "Kids these days, they don't know nuthin' ..." Fun little doc though with some bitchen footage of Lydia, Suicide, Sonic Youth and even Gogol Bordello.

*Super Taranta! by Gogol Bordello . Speaking of Gogol Bordello ...

If Shane MacGowan was a Ukrainian, if The Clash was raised in a gypsy caravan ...

Fans of Gogol's previous works won't be disappointed. Leader Eugene Hutz, a Ukrainian immigrant to the U.S. not only is a crazed performer but a good songwriter as well.

"American Wedding" is a sardonic look at a culture he finds to be repressed. "Supertheory of Supereverything" can be seen as an Eastern European take on "It Ain't Necessarily So," (which opened a whole new world of skepticism to me when I heard Cab Calloway sing it as a child.)

*The Budos Band II . This is an 11-piece band from Staten Island, N.Y. that blends African pop with soul, funk and just a spooky touch of crime jazz.

The horns and percussion dominates, but organist Mike Deller's slinky sound also stands out.

One caution: I think some of the song titles might be mixed up. I've read reviews that say "His Girl" is a remake of "My Girl." However the song labeled "Mas O Menos" sounds just like a minor key "My Girl." In fact, upon further investigation, all but the very last track appear to be scrambled. Hope eMusic fixes this soon.

Good news: The final track, "The Proposition" was FREE when I downloaded it. Last I checked, it's not but "Chicago Falcon" is, although it's mislabeled. It's actually "Deep in the Sand." Whatever you call it, it's worth trying out.

* A bunch of tracks I didn't already have from Funkadelic's first three albums (Funkadelic, Free Your Mind...And Your Ass Will Follow and Maggot Brain.) I was putting together and burning a P-Funk compilation for a friend, which set me off on one of my recurring George Clinton kicks. Then I stumble across an e-Music feature spotlight called "A User's Guide to Funkadelic." (Guess what e-Music marketing folks -- these damned things work!)

I'm sure it's weird music biz contractual stuff, but eMusic has plenty of Funkadelic albums and a handful of George Clinton titles (I downloaded a live Clinton album last month) -- but no Parliament.

These early tracks emphasize the psychedelic half of the Funkadelic equation. This was the prime era for guitarist Eddie "Maggot Brain" Hazel, who was a lot like Jimi Hendrix but crazier. Among my downloads here are three 9-10-minute acidic epics --"Mommy, What's a Funkadelic?" the song "Free Your Mind ... And Your Ass Will Follow," "Wars of Armageddon" and an alternate take on the immortal title song of Maggot Brain. The latter is not quite as developed as the "official" version, but Eddie Hazel still takes you to some strange places. There's what sounds like a kalimba solo towards the end of the track.


I found a couple of good freebie albums this month:

* Funk/Soul Revival: Classic Tracks & the New Breed . I'm not sure there are actually any "classics" here. These nine tracks are by fairly obscure acts old and new. There's one from The Budos Band, "Chicago Falcon," (which seems to be correctly labeled here unlike the one on eMusic's version of Budos Band II.) There's also one by Clarence Reid, who some of you might recognize as the secret identity of Blowfly. "Funky Party," unlike any other Blowfly song you've ever heard, is completely clean. Not even a hand job! He does shamelessly lift several hooks from Isaac Hayes' Shaft theme. Lots of fun on this album.

* Congo by Various artists . This is a compilation of songs by Congolese bands. No big revelations here, but good solid African band music.


Sunday, June 9, 2024 KSFR, Santa Fe, NM, 101.1 FM  Webcasting! 10 p.m. to midnight Sundays Mountain Time Host: Steve Terrell Email...