Wednesday, March 28, 2012


Earl Scruggs, perhaps the greatest banjo picker in the history of bluegrass, is dead.

Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs
Scruggs, 88, apparently died yesterday in a Nashville hospital.

To people my age, North Carolina native Scruggs, and longtime partner Lester Flatt, were bluegrass music in the 1960s. More so than Bill Monroe or The Stanley Brothers. They brought bluegrass to living rooms all over the country every week playing the Beverly Hillbillys' theme song. (Sometimes Earl and Lester even played themselves in epsiodes.)

And later, they brought bluegrass to the Top 40 with "Foggy Mountain Breakdown" from the movie Bonnie & Clyde.

Both Flatt, who died in 1979,  and Scruggs started out with Monroe's Bluegrass Boys back in the '40s when Monroe was in the process of inventing bluegrass. Scruggs is credited for introducing his 3-finger style of picking, transferring the banjo from a rhythm instrument into a lead instrument.

He and Flatt left Monroe in 1948 establishing their Foggy Mountain Boys as a premier bluegrass act. They parted ways in 1969.

By some accounts, politics divided them. Scruggs appeared in 1969 at an anti-Vietnam war rally in Washington, D.C. Flatt, as were most most country and bluegrass artists at the time, was a supporter of the war.

U.S.A Today in its obituary noted,

"... when staunch fans of bluegrass — a genre that would not exist in a recognizable form without Scruggs' banjo — railed against stylistic experimentation, Scruggs happily jammed away with sax player King Curtis, sitar virtuoso Ravi Shankar, piano man Elton John and anyone else whose music he fancied. 

"He was the man who melted walls, and he did it without saying three words," said his friend and acolyte Marty Stuart in 2000.

But it was in pure bluegrass where Scruggs excelled. Just last week laid up in my own hospital bed, I watched a couple of episodes on the Old Flatt & Scruggs Grand Old Opry tv show, which is offered on Netflix's streaming service. For that hour, I forgot all about what ailed me.

Rest in peace, Earl.

Here's some videos:


Here they are with "Little Ricly" (Skaggs!)

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Free Music? Oh si!

Thee Oh Sees
Dueling drummers
One of my favorite new discoveries from my recent trip to Austin was Thee Oh Sees from San Francisco. (I say "new discovery" meaning that I just discovered them. They've been around for a few years.) I saw them at the new Emo's East on the same bill as The Gories and Kid Congo Powers & The Pink Monkey Birds.

As I suspected, Thee Oh Sees have a bunch of downloads over at WFMU's Free Music Archive.

So get over there and listen and/or. download to your heart's content. Or if you're too lazy for that, enjoy a rocking 2009 concert below.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

eMusic March

Here's my latest batch of downloads from eMusic:

  * Bluegrass Classics by Various Artists. This is one of those eMusic bargains that keeps me paying my $19.99 every month. What we have here is 48 tracks of bluegrass -- and some proto-bluegrass -- artists, mainly from the '40s and '50s, but some even earlier

I've been on a bluegrass kick lately. But -- call me a cranky old purist if you want -- I don't like much of the modern bluegrass music. So much of it seems cold and intellectual -- virtuoso musicians who seem more highfalutin than high and lonesome, lacking in that true hillbilly spirit that fueled the original masters.

This collection features very few artists whose names might be recognized by casual fans -- do Sonny Osbourne and J.E. Mainer ring a bell? But mostly there are singers and pickers who never got as famous as Bill Monroe, The Stanley Brothers or Flatt & Scruggs.

But it's full of great songs. There's "I'll Roll in My Sweet Baby's Arms" by Buster Carter & Preston Young (and fiddler Posey Rorer), cronies of Charlie Poole. This version is at least a decade older than Flatt & Scruggs' more famous version.

There's "Wild Bill Jones" by Wade Mainer & The Sons of the Mountaineers. This is the song that contains the line, " “I pulled my revolver from my side / And I destroyed that poor boy's soul," which inspired the name of  Trevor Jones' one-man band.. Wade, by the way is J.E. Mainer's brother.

But my favorite has to be "Missing in Action" by Jim Eanes &His Shenandoah Valley Boys. It's the story of a soldier who was wounded in battle, left for dead and taken prisoner by the enemy. But the narrator escapes and makes it home. Nobody was home, but when he goes in he finds a wedding photo  -- his wife had married another guy. He then finds a letter to the Mrs. from the Army saying that her first husband was missing in action and presumed dead. The sad soldier doesn't want to spoil his wife's happiness, so he decides just to move along without letting his wife know he's still alive.

Wow! What a good sport.

* Singin' in the Rain: The Best of Cliff "Ukulele Ike" Edwards. He was the voice of Jiminy Cricket, the sweet-voiced guy who crooned "When You Wish Upon a Star" and "Give a Little Whistle"in Walt Disney's Pinocchio.

Like Mark Twain, Edwards was from Hannibal, Mo. Starting out in vaudeville and later moving to Broadway, he played the uke to accompany his singing. Some say he learned to play the instrument when he was a newsboy to draw attention to himself while hawking papers on the street.

Edwards' golden years were in the '20s and 30s. He reportedly sold some 74 million records. He specialized in the pop hits of the day, doing versions of the pop standards of the day -- "Hard Hearted Hannah," "I Can't Give You Anything But Love," "Dinah" "It's Only a Paper Moon," "I'll See You in My Dreams," and of course "Singin' In the Rain."

He also was known for his novelty songs like "My Dog Loves Your Dog," "Paddlin' Madelyn Home," and the risque "Who Takes Care of the Caretaker's Daughter?" Often Edwards would scat, then break into a bizarre falsetto "human trumpet" sound.

But though most of his songs had a carefree and happy aura, Edwards' life was a mess. Alcoholism, morphine addiction and financial troubles plagued his life. He tried his hand at acting, but never got any significant roles.

But he did manage in 1940 to score a gig that would win him -- or at least his voice -- immortality: providing the voice of Pinnochio's conscience in the classic cartoon feature. "When You Wish Upon a Star" won an Academy Award. And Edwards' recording of it was his last hit record.

It might be cruel irony that Edwards' musical legacy is largely forgotten while the cartoon cricket to which he gave voice is a household name 70 years later. But the truth is that Ukulele Ike's music is a delight. This collection of 25 songs, including all the ones I mentioned here is a great testament to the singer.

* Help Me Devil  Here's how I stumbled across this album on eMusic:

A few weeks ago when writing my review of Andre Williams' new album Hoods and Shades, I was trying to find an early version of the song "Mojo Hannah" by an R&B  singer I'd never heard of named Tami Lynn. Searching eMusic for Tami I came across Help Me Devil, which features her on a couple of tracks.

I liked what I heard.

 The group behind this self-titled effort is a Spanish trio heavily influenced by rockabilly.

The group is led by Juan Carlos Parlange, who has led Spanish punk bands in the '90s.

It's just cool, basic rock with titles including "Girls Today Don't Like to Sleep Alone," ,“We Sold Army Secrets For Dope," and "Rattlesnakes Don't Commit Suicide." (which you can hear on the latest Big Enchilada podcast. ) They even cover a Hasil Adkins tune, "Chicken Walk."

 Matt Verta-Ray of Heavy Trash produced the album and played on some cuts. But an even more impressive guest here is Miss Tami who kills on the old fashioned boogie "It's Great to Be Here, It's Great to Be Anywhere."


* 3 Songs from Ricochet by The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. Ricochet was The Dirt Band's second album back when they still were toying with the idea that they could be the West Coast version of The Jim Kweslin Jug Band. Most the songs on the album, however, were fairly uninteresting folk-rockish pop. But I still love the crazy words-crazy tunes of their jug-band stuff.

The ones I downloaded were "Coney Island Washboard," "Happy Fat Annie" and "Teddy Bear's Picnic," a demonic stomp that I shamelessly ripped off for the arrangement of my own "Potatoheads' Picnic." There's three or for other kazoo, banjo and washboard-heavy tracks here I'll probably nab in the future.

* "Old Original Kokomo Blues" by Kokomo Arnold and "Kokomo Blues" by Scapper Blackwell. When I was writing my Terrell's Tuneup column about President Obama singing "Sweet Home Chicago" at a White House blues concert a couple of weeks ago, my original idea was to write about the history of the song. (Hint, these tunes, especially Kokomo Arnold's, were huge influences, to use a kind word.)

The column took a different turn, but I'm still glad I downloaded these country blues classics.

Monday, March 19, 2012

SXSW 2012 Final Report

Country break dancing at the Austin Moose Lodge
I spent Saturday night, my last night in Austin, at The Austin Moose Lodge.

Moose Lodge? Isn't that the kind of place where your folks would play bingo in the '50s and '60s? Don't their roots go back to prehistoric days when Fred and Barney belonged to the Bedrock lodge of the Loyal Order of Water Buffalo?

That's right. The Loyal Order of Moose, by God. It's an off-the-beaten track venue on the east side of Austin. There was plenty of parking and few, if any, people there actually part of the South by Southwest festival.

It was a perfect place for the "Saving Muddy Hillgrass" party.

This was a two-day event (unfortunately I missed the first day) organized by three institutions of the "underground country" scene -- Saving Country Music, The Muddy Roots Festival, and Hillgrass Bluebilly Records.
Calamity Cubes

I arrived at the Moose Lodge just in time to see The Calamity Cubes, an acoustic trio from Kansas.

They look like villains from a Rob Zombie movie. Singer/guitarist Brook Blanche is a huge hairy guy who, if he was a pro wrestler would be named "Man Mountain" something,

When they pick up their instruments, you might expect them to be a raucous punk-bluegrass band. And indeed, they are capable of that. Their first couple of tunes Saturday fell into that category.

But the Cubes' most memorable songs are Blanche's slow, soulful, mournful country weepers. Many, perhaps most of the songs they played Saturday were from their upcoming album Old World's Ocean. I'm not sure of the titles but among my favorites is a minor-key dirge that starts out, "You and I, we're like cattle in the slaughter house." Nothing short of stunning.

Also excellent is the one I think they call "Empty Bottle" (it starts out "I'd rather have an empty bottle than no bottle at.") At first you might think is going to be a funny drinking song. But it's much deeper than that.

 I bought a CD-R copy of "rough mixes" of the album and my favorite songs they did Saturday are on it. When I get back to doing my radio shows next month, I'll be playing it.

Other bands I saw at Saving Muddy Hillgrass were:

Soda Gardocki
Soda & Friends
* Soda Gardocki: He's a singer/banjo picker from Knight's Ferry, California with a gruff voice and punk-rock past.  He performed many songs solo, but my favorites were those in which he was joined by various friends.

On several songs he had a fiddle player, but a few included mandolin, guitar, accordion, stand-up bass and drums. On song, he said, he wrote with his late grandmother, who was 97 at the time.

Hellbound Glory
Hellbound Glory

* Hellbound Glory. This is a good, rowdy country rock (they call it "scumbag country") group from Reno, Nev.  featuring a lap steel and a stand-up bass -- but no drummer on Saturday  (except singer/guitarist Leroy Virgil, who sat on an played a bass drum on some tunes) Opening with Billy Joe Shaver's "Georgia on a Fast Train" they show a fine grasp of the spirit of '70s outlaw country. Though playing mostly originals, Hellbound later in the show did a fine version of David Allen Coe's "You Never Even Called Me By My Name" (with an updated verse to make it the "perfect country western" song.)

* James "Slim" Hand. While I was watching Hellbound Glory, a man in a cowboy hat came up to me and shook my hand. "I'm James Hand," he said. A friendly gesture for sure, but I couldn't figure out why.

But later, during his set at the party, he said he wanted to shake the hands of everyone in the audience. I guess with me, and probably others, he was just getting a head start.
James Hand (Speedy Sparks, right)

Hand is a long-time Texas honky tonker (a real Waco brother!) who never got famous beyond the Lone Star state but is well-respected and loved in Austin music circles. (Hell, he has a testimony from Darrell Royal on his website!)

With a band that included bassist Speedy Sparks (he's played with Doug Sahm, the Texas Tornados and jillions of others) Hand delighted with a mix of country and rockabilly standards (fine, fine versions of Johnny Cash's "Get Rhythm"; "Mona Lisa," which sounded like it was based on Carl Mann's arrangement; and a hillbilly blues take on Jimmy Reeds' "Take Out Some Insurance."

There were a couple of more acts on the bill, but I was a tired old man with a long drive home the next day. And I couldn't think of a better way than James Hand to end my 2012 South by Southwest.

UPDATE: You can find my snapshots of the music I saw last week HERE.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

SXSW Friday Report

Jon Langford and Bill Kirchen Reenact the Battle of Waco
Jon Langford and Bill Kirchen Reenact the Battle of Waco

J.C. Brooks
JC Brooks
The first part of Friday I went to the annual Bloodshot Records party at the Yard Dog Gallery. I got there just in time for JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound. He's Bloodshot's entry into the soul-revival -- a revival, like I've said before, that has been going on for years and hopefully will be for a long time.

Brooks is a young guy from Chicago, but he's obviously well versed in the book of Otis Redding, Wilson Picket and other founding fathers of southern soul. His band -- guitar, bass, drums and keyboards -- is nice and tight.

Brooks plays mainly original tunes but one real crowd pleaser is their cover of Wilco's "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart," which is the first song by J.C. I ever heard. I never envisioned that tune, (which starts out, "I am an American aquarium drinker ..." ) as a soul workout when I first heard Wilco do it all those years ago. But I'm glad J.C. Brooks did.

The Waco Brothers with Paul Burch
Paul Burch with the Wacos
It just wouldn't be a South by Southwest trip for me without seeing The Waco Brothers at the Yard Dog. I've seen them every SXSW I've attended since 1996. And yesterday I passed over Roky Erikson, T. Tex Edwards and many other shows to see them again. And the Wacos, fronted by The Mekons' Jon Langford --  foul-mouthed, self-mocking and charming as ever --  didn't disappoint. I knew they wouldn't.

Amazingly, The Waco Brothers haven't released an album since their 2008 live set (released just before the last time I saw them.) But now, they're about to release a collaboration with Paul Burch, a wonderful country singer himself. Unfortunately on most the songs Burch sang yesterday were severely under-miked. I guess I'll have to wait until the album to fully appreciate them.

Probably the highlight of the show was when then band was joined by Bill Kirchen -- former guitarist for Commander Cody & His Lost Planet Airmen. With Kirchen, The Wacos unleashed a downright apocalyptic version of "Folsome Prison Blues."

That was the afternoon/early evening. For the night shows, I spent all my time at the new Emo's -- Emo's East, where the former Sixth Street punk rock institution presented a free show (not associated with SXSW) hosted by In the Red Records.

The Oh Sees
Thee Oh Sees
I went for The Gories and Kid Congo Powers & The Pink Monkey Birds -- two bands I saw a couple of years ago in New York. But I was surprised and impressed  with another band Thee Oh Sees.

This San Francisco band has two drummers as a well as a male and female singer. They're hard-driving, playing songs based on tasty garage-rock riffs.

My only complaint is that the last song they played, a droning psychedelic excursion (sorry, I'm not familiar with the titles) was too long and repetitive. The sets at Emo's on Friday tended to be short and they probably could have fit in two shorter snappier numbers here,  But overall, I still want to check out more of Thee Oh Sees.

Kid Congo has to be one of the most under-rated, under-appreciated musicians working today. His rock 'n' roll resume is impeccable (The Cramps, Gun Club, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds.)  But his music with The Pink Monkey Birds is wildly original -- mostly original instrumentals or songs in which the only vocals are the Kid speaking the lyrics.

He does often pay homage to his old bands though. last night he did a version of "I'm Cramped." His set was finished though before I even had a chance to shout a request for "Sex Beat." (He did that Gun Club classic when I saw him in New York.)

Hey Hey We're The Gories
Hey Hey We're the Gories!
The Gories are as loose as The Pink Monkey Birds were tight. But that's their heritage, a proud tradition since the 1980s they must uphold. The group -- guitarists Mick Collins and Dan Kroha and drummer Peggy O'Neill -- broke up in the 90s, but a few years ago got back together for a reunion tour. This, I believe is their third such reunion. They aren't ready for the casinos yet, but they were just right for Emo's.

 They romped and stomped through most of their best songs, including "Hey Hey We're The Gories," "Thunderbird ESQ," "Idol With the Golden Head" (a Coasters song, but played as if filtered through Bo Diddley) and a ragged but right take on "Mona," (a Bo Diddley song as filtered through The Gories.)

Unfortunately the all-ages crowd began to seriously thin out by the time The Gories went on.

Kids these days ...

Friday, March 16, 2012

SXSW Thursday Report

Bonaparte at the Dog & Duck
Thursday was a great day for rock 'n' roll spectacle at South by Southwest. Though most of the music I listen to -- be it rock, country, blues or whatever, is performed by artists with come-as-you-are fashion sensibilities, sometimes it's fun to see a full-blown costume party on stage.

That was certainly the case with a German band called Bonapart, who played an afternoon party organized by Saustex label of San Antonio. They were already in to their set when I arrived and I couldn't believe what I was seeing on stage. There was a guy in a horse costume. One of the guitarists had a mask that looked like a  terrorist  gorilla (that's correct -- not guerrilla.) The keyboardist, to quote the Bonzo Dog Band,  had "a head on him like a rabbit.." A woman with a Plasmatics-style Mohawk was charging out from the stage into the audience.

Several costume changes ensued during the next few songs.

The music was frantic and hard driving. I liked it well enough to buy a CD (My Horse Likes You) -- though on first listen it's not nearly as exciting as what I heard on stage.

Pinata Protest
Bonaparte was followed  by Pinata Protest, a San Antonio band I've described as a Chicano version of The Dropkick Murpheys. (They do a fantastic punk version of "Volver, Volver") I saw them last summer in Espanola, where their opening act was The Imperial Rooster. (Here's a video of one of their songs from that show.)

Although the German crazies was a hard act to follow, Pinata did the job. At the Dog & Duck show, I heard some songs I hadn't heard them do before, including a cover of "Jesus Doesn't Want Me For a Sunbeam" originally done by The Vaselines, but made famous by Nirvana.)

Although the German crazies was a hard act to follow, Pinata did the job.

I guess Thursday was Saustex day for me. After the D&D party, I went to the label's official showcase at a downtown club called Karma. Unlike my bad experiences from the night before, I was able to get in by paying a cover charge -- an incredible $5.

Glambilly had just started its set when I walked in. This is a San Antonio trio that infuses a basic cowpunk sound with a New York Dolls style glam-rock sound.

Michella the Fire Eater
Glambilly concentrated on tunes from their album White BBQ Sauce, including a blazing version of "I Must Be the Devil." (I'm not kidding about "blazing." the performance was aided by a beautiful dancer/ fire-eater, who provided some real "glam."

Glambilly was extremely tight. My only complaint is that they didn't do their cover of Bob Wills' "Stay All Night."
A San Francisco punk band called The Grannies followed. This was the second great costume-party band I heard Thursday. The members appeared on stage in granny drag -- bad wigs and even worse dresses.

And their show was downright feral. The singer frequently charged out into the audience to get the moshing started.

But the set was way too short. Apparently some technical problem caused them to start 15 minutes or so after they were supposed to. Oh well, they were fun while they lasted.

The last act I saw was The Hickoids, the band fronted by Saustex owner Jeff Smith and one of the first real-live cow-punk bands of the 1980s.

The group includes Santa Fe punk hero Tom Trusnovic (Monkeyshines, The Floors, Blood Drained Cows, 27 Devils Joking).

When they played in Santa Fe last year, Tommy was playing drums with The Hickoids. However, he's since switched to acoustic guitar. The band was bigger than the one that played at The Underground (Evangelos' basement). At one point they had four guitars blaring on the stage.

As always they were loud, funny, obscene and rocking. They even make Elton John's '70s clunker "Bennie & The Jets" sound exhilarating.
The Hickoids ponder the Universe.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

SXSW Wednesday Report

I learned a couple of valuable lessons for SXSW yesterday.

1) Austin traffic during the festival either has gotten a lot worse during the past 4 years, or at least is a lot worse than I remember it. And parking is even worse.

2) Not having a badge or a wristband is a lot harder than people say, at least for the nighttime, officially sanctioned events.

The first lesson I learned after trying to get from my daughter's house in south Austin to Lovejoy's where Kid Congo Powers was playing a free show at 5:15 pm. After dealing with the traffic crawl and finding a $10 parking space about 6 blocks from the venue, I got there just in time to hear Kid Congo thank the crowd.
Hubbard & son

I also arrived too late to see Eric Burdon (yes, former singer of The Animals)  play a free show in the Hotel San Jose parking lot. That was my own fault though for stopping for a nice Mongolian BBQ dinner downtown.

But then the badges deal: I figured my musical taste was so obscure there wouldn't be big crowds for some of the bands I wanted to see -- such as Lee Fields, a soul singer I like.

I was wrong. The line was so long in from of Red 7 that the SXSW looked at me like I was crazy when I asked if I could pay a cover charge.

Then I hiked several blocks uphill (with my soon-to-be-replaced arthritic hip) to the Presbyterian church where Giant Sand was playing. Even though there wasn't a big line, again it was a badge-or-wristband-only show. I even tried to play the crippled old man card. Sorry. Policy is policy.

By now it was midnight, so I trudged back to my car, down near I-35 and drove to East Austin where I knew that Ray Wylie Hubbard and Billy Joe Shaver were playing at a bar called The White Horse.. I found a parking spot nearby (free!) and I didn't need a wristband to get in. In fact it was a free show. And Ray Wylie Hubbard was onstage with a full band.

The funny thing is that I'd started out the day with Ray Wylie Hubbard. He had done a short solo set around noon at Threadgill's, where I'd just had brunch with family. I didn't mind  For one thing, Hubbard sounds best with a band. His songs stand by themselves but they sound best with bass and drums and electric guitar. His son Lucas does that job, both on stage and on the record. And the boy can pick. I remember seeing an impromptu set by Hubbard four years ago when I was in Austin during SXSW, Hubbard and son, then about 14, I think, did some blues tunes at Threadgill's. He's learning well.

For another thing, his soon-to-be-released album, The Grifter's Hymnal, is the first great album of 2012 as far as I'm concerned. It's got Hubbard's trademark style of snarling, cosmic blues he's perfected during the past few years. Lots of slide and attitude.

As I said in reviewing his previous album, " ... unlike his fellow cosmic cowboys of the ’70s, Hubbard stayed cosmic. Since the ’90s ...  his best material has been concerned with the wrath of God and the temptations of the devil, of earthly delights and heavenly light. And it’s mostly done with wry humor."

(I didn't get close enough to shoot a decent video myself, but check out this one Ray made himself.)

Bass Drum of Death
Earlier in the day I did catch a pretty cool band over at Waterloo Records. They're called Bass Drum of Death. No, thy aren't some techno band. It's a trio from Mississippi that play a raw blend of blues rock and pop. I couldn't make out any of their lyrics, but they played with spirit.

But some of my favorite part of SXSW  is hearing music just walking down the street. For instance I came across a fun little jazz band -- trumpet, guitar, snare drum and accordion -- playing "Mack the Knife" and other tunes, on Sixth Street Wednesday afternoon. They sounded a lot better than the one happy guy banging on an acoustic guitar just up the street.

And there was a fairly competent metal band called Broken Teeth, playing a free outdoor show on Seventh Street   I heard while eating a BBQ chicken Korean taco on my way between being denied entrance to Lee Fields and being denied entrance at Giant Sand.

So far today I've been hanging out with my grandson on his first birthday. We'll see what music awaits this evening.

UPDATE 3-16-12 : The original version of this post misidentified the venue where I saw Ray Wylie Hubbard do his solo set.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

SxSW 2012

Here's a couple of great musicians who unfortunately I won't be
seeing this year. (R.I.P Doug & Freddy!)
AUSTIN, TEXAS -- I'm here at the Live Music Capitol of the World for the South by Southwest Music Festival, my first time at SXSW since 2008.

I'm off to a great start. I rolled into town about 1 am and went to the motel I usually stay at. But to my surprise, when I booked the room in January, I boneheadedly booked the chain's other Austin location -- way way up on the north side, miles away from anything. And, as fate would have it, the northside location doesn't have wi-fi in my room. (I won't name the motel chain, but let's just say that NRBQ was WRONG!)

But I won't let a little thing like that stop me. I'll just camp out in the lobby and blog away.

Unlike past years, when, like other media elites, I'd have a press pass for the festival (and my own dear friends with me would refer to me as a "badge-wearing scum"), this year I'm trying something different. I'm going to try doing it like a regular plebeian -- hitting the free parties shows and/or paying a single cover at bars and staying all night instead of running all over the downtown area. We'll see how that turns out.

Hopefully I'll see this guy this year.
So check back here every day and I'll let you about the bands I see.

(Here's a handy link to all my SXSW posts -- going back to 2004)

Monday, March 12, 2012

Rising from the Tar Pits, the New Big Enchilada


You bet Jurassic, there's no stoppin' the dinosaurs from hoppin'! Get hip to the prehistoric jive of this month's Big Enchilada featuring giant reptilian rock 'n' roll. Shake your dinosaur bones to The Hickoids,   J.C. Satan, Persian Claws, The Terrorists, The Mighties and Bedrockin' New Mexico bands like The Blood-Drained Cows, The Dirty Novels and -- from the tar pits of time, Jimmy Gilmer & The Fireballs.


Here's the playlist:
(Background music: Jurassic Beat by Eddie Angel)
Brontosaurus by The Hickoids
Quick Joey Small by Kasenetz-Katz Singing Orchestral Circus
Two Girls (One Bar) by Pere Ubu
Garage Pusher by The Mighties
Bad News Travels Fast by The Sextress *
Bottle of Wine by Jimmy Gilmer & The Fireballs

(Background Music: Godzilla by The Monsters)
Prehistoric Love by J.C. Satan
Murder City Shakedown by Black Furies
Mi Amore Es Electrico by The Dirty Novels
Sick of Sex by Daisy Chainsaw
Big Boss Man by '68 Comeback
No No No by Die Zorros

(Background Music: Brontosaurus Stomp by The Piltdown Men.)
Digging Up My Date by The Blood-Drained Cows
Fall on You by The Plimsouls
Shoot it Up Baby Doll by The Terrorists
Fly Paper by Persian Claws
Rattlesnakes Don't Commit Suicide by Help Me Devil
Centreville by Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires
I'm a Little Dinosaur by Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers

* This song from the Italian garage rock compilation  Fresh Meat . You'll find a song by The Mighties there too. For a free download of the compilation, send an email to . Thanks to Freddi at the Kicks from the Boot podcast for finding this.

 Play it here:

Sunday, March 11, 2012


Sunday, March 11, 2012 
KSFR, Santa Fe, N.M. 
10 p.m. to midnight Sundays Mountain Time 
Host: Steve Terrell
101.1 FM
email me during the show! terrell(at)

 OPENING THEME: Let it Out (Let it All Hang Out) by The Hombres
Diggin' Up My Date by The Blood Drained Cows
Love is a Dog from Hell by Help Me Devil
Harm's Way by The Ugly Beats
Brand New Baby by White Pagodas
(segment from Don't Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me The Pliers by The Firesign  Theatre )
Devil's Stomping Grounds by Southern Culture on the Skids
We're All Water by John Lennon, Yoko Ono & Elephant's Memory
(segment from Don't Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me The Pliers by The Firesign  Theatre )
I'll Follow Her Blues by The Gibson Bros.

Blood Veil by The Mighties
(segment from Don't Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me The Pliers by The Firesign  Theatre )
Losers, Boozers and Heroes by fIREHOSE
Evil Thing by Thee Headcoatees
I Ain't Dead Yet by The Breakers
(segment from Don't Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me The Pliers by The Firesign  Theatre )
Shake Your Tailfeathers by Ray Charles & The Blues Brothers
Howard Johnson's Got His Hojo Working by NRBQ
Her Incredible Shoes by Dan Melchior und Das Menace
Abigail by Johnny Dowd

Anna by Rocket from the Tombs
Life Stinks by Pere Ubu
Caught With the Meat in Your Mouth by The Dead Boys
Venus de Milo by Television
Bury You Alive by The Batusis
Carne Voodoo by Rocket from the Crypt
Six and Two by Rocket from the Tombs

The Old Main Drag by The Pogues
The Black Velvet Band by The Irish Rovers
Captain Kelly's Kitchen by The Dropkick Murpheys
Forty Deuce by Black 47
The Likes of You Again by Flogging Molly
Whiskey in the Jar by The Dubliners

Substitute CLOSING THEME: Lucky Day by Tom Waits
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Friday, March 09, 2012


Friday, March 9. 2012 
KSFR, Santa Fe, NM 
10 p.m. to midnight Fridays Mountain Time 
Host: Steve Terrell 
101.1 FM
email me during the show! terrel(at)

OPENING THEME: Buckaroo by Buck Owens & The Buckaroos
Eye to Eye With a Fool by Leon Payne
I Wish I Was a Single Girl Again by The Maddox Brothers & Rose
Club Temptation by Tom Armstrong
Whistle Bait by Larry Collins
El Corrido de Jesse James by Ry Cooder
Sparkling Brown Eyes by Webb Pierce
Detroit City by Bobby Bare
Dodo Blues by C.W. Stoneking
Missing in Action by Jim Eanes & His Shenandoah Valley Boys

Coricidin Bottle/ South of the River by Rat Wylie Hubbard
Can't Go to Heaven by The Dirt Daubers
Magic City Stomp by Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires
Corn Liquor Made a Fool Out of Me by The Bad Livers
What's Patsy Cline Doing These Days (Parts 1 & 2)  by Marvin Etzioni with Jon Wayne & Grey DeLisle
Nashville Casualty and Life by Kinky Friedman & The Texas Jewboys
I Just Don't Care by Halden Wofford & The Hi Beams

If I Knew Now What I Knew Then by Big Sandy & His Fly-Rite Boys
Shootin' Straight by Dan Hicks & The Hot Licks
Cootchie Coo by Charlie Feathers
Walk It By Myself by Blonde Boy Grunt & The Groans
Down South Blues by John Schooley & His One Man Band
She Do the Taboo by Jason Eklund
Pocket Dial by The Possum Posse

Drinkin' Thing by Gary Stewart
Brown Eyed Handsome Man by Waylon Jennings
Lake of Fire by The Meat Puppets
Sad Songs and Waltzes by Willie Nelson
My Pillow by Roger Miller
Train of Life by Merle Haggard
I'm Just an Old Chunk of Coal by Johnny Cash
Where Will I Shelter My Sheep by Flatt & Scruggs
I'll See You in My Dreams by Ukulele Ike
CLOSING THEME: Comin' Down by The Meat Puppets

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

TERRELL'S TUNEUP: Rocket's Red Glare

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican 
March 9 2012

Two of the most overused misused words in music journalism are “legend” and its adjectival brother “legendary.”

Read almost any rock rag, and you can find those words used in reference to any singer, picker, or band that existed more than 10 or 15 years ago. Eddie Money is a legend! The legendary Stone Temple Pilots! The living legend, Little Peggy March!

I’ve railed about this in the past and cautioned several younger writers to avoid it. If you want to write about legends, do a book about Paul Bunyan, Robin Hood, or Johnny Appleseed. So here I am now about to explain to you that a certain Cleveland band from the ’70s is kind of a (gulp) legend — or at least was for several decades.

Rocket from the Tombs
Early days
I’m talking about Rocket From the Tombs, a highly influential proto-punk band that included singer David “Crocus Behemoth” Thomas, later of Pere Ubu; guitarist Gene O’Connor, better known as Cheetah Chrome, who would join The Dead Boys; and the late punk-rock forefather Peter Laughner, also an early member of Pere Ubu.

Not only did Rocket hive off into two great bands, the group inspired an unrelated but very cool band across the country, San Diego’s Rocket From the Crypt, to take its name — kind of.

The reason I’ll break my own rule and use the “L” word here is because for 30 years or so after the band broke up — after being together about eight months — all anyone ever knew about Rocket From the Tombs was through word of mouth. There were scattered bootlegs, but the band never recorded a proper album during its brief existence in the mid-’70s. Those who never saw the group live and couldn’t find the boots just had to imagine how the band sounded. You had to create the Ubu/Dead Boys convergence music in your mind. And tell your friends about it. Thus, a legend was born.

A couple of Rocket From the Tombs’ songs, “Amphetamine” and a seven-minute recording of “30 Seconds Over Tokyo,” surfaced in a 1990s Pere Ubu box set, Datapanik in the Year Zero. But it wasn’t until 2002 that an actual legal album emerged. That was The Day the Earth Met the ... Rocket From the Tombs, a compilation of lo-fi live recordings and demos released by Smog Veil, Ubu’s record label. It included some tunes later to become known as Pere Ubu and Dead Boys standards as well as a couple of Stooges covers — “Search and Destroy” and “Raw Power” — and a crazed version of a Velvet Underground song, “Foggy Notion.”

It might sound harsh, but I’d argue it was at this point that Rocket ceased to be a legend. Though the group had been defunct for decades and though the release was barely publicized and basically ignored by the mainstream media, Rocket’s music was now accessible to anyone who knew how to search for it. Rocket no longer existed only in the mists of legend.

Apparently that album sparked something. Original members Thomas, O’Connor, and bassist Craig Bell got together with Richard Lloyd (from the band Television, which was lege ... oh, never mind) filling in for Laughner and drummer Steve Mehlman for a Rocket reunion tour in 2004. That tour resulted in an album called Rocket Redux, consisting of ancient RFTT classics recorded in the studio.

Finally, late last year, the 21st-century version of Rocket From the Tombs brought the world Barfly, a studio album with a bunch of new songs. And it’s a decent effort.

The album starts out strong with a song called “I Sell Soul.” Mehlman is storming on the drums while Thomas croons in his trademark warble, and O’Connor and Lloyd play showdown riffs. The band slows down a bit with “Birth Day,” which, without Thomas’ vocals, would actually sound more like a Television song. “Six and Two” is another one in which Lloyd’s Television influence really comes out.

My favorite tracks on Barfly are the crazy rockers. “Anna” falls into this category. So does the minor-key “Maelstrom,” which starts out with a guitar hook that has echoes of original Rocket killer “30 Seconds Over Tokyo.” You can hear a nod to The Velvet Underground in “Good Times Never Roll.” Like the song that precedes it, “Butcherhouse 4,” there’s a pervading blues-rock vibe.

One of my favorite songs is one that’s so good that Rocket included two versions. “Sister Love Train” (and the nearly identical “Love Train Express”) is a soul-infused tune. The main version is fortified by a horn section, while “Express” is a rawer, fast and furious guitar-dominated take.

Even the original Rocket didn’t play at breakneck speed all the time. The current band slows it down with “Romeo & Juliet” and “Pretty,” which starts off with a guitar lick that reminds me of (I’m not kidding) The Band. “Romeo & Juliet” seems plodding at first, but eventually some intense guitar solos emerge.
Rocket from the Tombs
These days

As you might have gathered, I like this album. It’s good rock ’n’ roll with some catchy tunes. If you like the music of Pere Ubu, The Dead Boys and/or the original Rocket From the Tombs, definitely buy it.

But it would be a stretch to call Barfly innovative and an even bigger stretch to call it anything close to dangerous — or even adventurous. The original Rocket was all those things. I guess it’s nearly impossible to live up to a legend.

For $10 you also can download a 1974 Rocket From the Tombs concert (Extermination Night) .

Don’t cry for me ’cause I’m going away. But I’ll be back some lucky day: Because of a vacation and a hot date with a surgeon, this is my last column for a few weeks. Please don’t cancel your subscriptions! But I will be blogging next week from South by Southwest. I haven’t been for four years, and for the first time I’ll be there without a press pass, so it should be an adventure. Watch this blog!

Enjoy some videos

Sunday, March 04, 2012


Sunday, March 4, 2012 
KSFR, Santa Fe, N.M. 
10 p.m. to midnight Sundays Mountain Time 
Host: Steve Terrell
101.1 FM
email me during the show! terrell(at)

 OPENING THEME: Let it Out (Let it All Hang Out) by The Hombres
Quick Joey Small by Kasenetz-Katz Super Circus
Heart of a Rayt by Rocket from the Crypt
Earthquake by Butthole Surfers
Hippie Hippie Hoorah by The Black Lips
Poison by Hundred Year Flood
Leave My Kitten Alone by The Detroit Cobras
Baby I'm Your Dog by Stomping Nick & His Blues Grenade
Grits Ain't Groceries by '68 Comeback

Swimsuit Issue by Sonic Youth
Weekend by New Bomb Turks
C'Mon by The Dragons
Jump Jive and Harmonize by The Plimsouls
Roadrunner by The Modern Lovers
Little Miss Contrary by Wild Billy Childish & The Musicians Of The British Empire
Talking Main Event Magazine Blues by Mike Edison

Mr. Krushchev by Bo Diddley
Shoot it Up Baby by The Terrorists
Love Train Express by Rocket from the Tombs
Axis Abraxis by Mark Sultan
Fly Paper by Persian Claws
Sky is Black by The Hustlers
Porn in the USA by The Parents
We Sold Army Secrets for Dope by Help Me Devil
Lutin Au LSD by The Curlee Wurlee!
Hot Head by Captain Beefheart

Stranded In Your Love by Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings with Lee Fields
Preacher's Blues by Lee Connors
What a Nice Way to Go by NRBQ
Mojo Hannah by Andre Williams
The Thunderer by Dion
Country Boy by The Band
CLOSING THEME: Over the Rainbow by Jerry Lee Lewis
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Friday, March 02, 2012


Friday, March 2, 2012 
KSFR, Santa Fe, NM 
10 p.m. to midnight Fridays Mountain Time 
Host: Steve Terrell 
101.1 FM
email me during the show! terrel(at)
 OPENING THEME: Buckaroo by Buck Owens & The Buckaroos
Shake a Leg by Kim Lenz
Cowboy in Flames by The Waco Brothers
Yodelin' Rhythm & Blues by Halden Wofford & The Hi-Beams
Hell, I'd Go! by Dan Hicks & The Acoustic Warriors
You're Bound to Look Like a Monkey by The Great Recession Orchestra
Rainmaker by Eliza Gilkyson & Tusker
Work on the Railroad by Trailer Bride
Whatever Kills Me First by Joey Alcorn
Hell Came to Killville by Angry Johnny
She's a Hum Dum Dinger by Gov. Jimmie Davis

I Was There When It Happened by Johnny Cash
Pigfork Jamboree by The Imperial Rooster
A Little Too Old (and a Lot Too Ugly) by Trailer Radio
The Devil Gets His Due by The Dirt Daubers
Foggy Mountain Breakdown by Flatt & Scruggs
Home Sweet Home by Reno & Smiley
Take This Job and Shove It by Eugene Chadbourne
Colorado Cool-Ade by Johnny Paycheck
The Teddy Bears' Picnic Nitty Gritty Dirt Band

I Want My Mojo Back by Scott H. Biram
Side by Side Doublewides by The Hickoids
Honky Tonk Carnie by Lone Wolf OMB
Crow Holler by The Shiners
Broken Man by The Goddamn Gallows
Bring The Nose by The Unholy Trio
Swinging From Your Crystal Chandeliers by The Austin Lounge Lizards
I'll Roll in My Sweet Baby's Arms by Buster Carter & Preston Young

Wild Bill Jones by Wade Mainer & The Sons of The Mountainers
Burn Down That House by Poor Boy's Soul
I'm Ragged But I'm Right by George Jones
Weird by Dr. West's Medicine Show & Junk Band
I Push Right Over by Rosie Flores
Your Hearty Laugh by The Defibulators
Almost Persuaded by Etta James
CLOSING THEME: Comin' Down by The Meat Puppets

Subscribe to The Big Enchilada Podcast! CLICK HERE
Steve Terrell is proud to report to the monthly Freeform American Roots Radio list

Thursday, March 01, 2012

TERRELL'S TUNEUP: Politico Rock!

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican 
March 2 2012

After three years of a terrible economy, a downright hostile Congress, and basically being forced to prove he’s not some sort of foreign impostor, President Barack Obama showed that he knows something about the blues.

B.B. King and The President
He recently proved it at a White House concert in honor of Black History Month, which featured an all-star blues band — B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Mick Jagger, Shemekia Copeland, Gary Clarke Jr., Jeff Beck, and others.

After thanking the musicians, the president stepped off stage. Guy, noting that Obama had recently sung a few bars of “Let’s Stay Together” at an Apollo Theater event attended by Al Green, coaxed him back. Obama demurred at first, but after Jagger handed him a microphone, the Leader of the Free World started singing the chorus of “Sweet Home Chicago.”

“Hey, baby, don’t you want to go,” Obama sang, muffled at first but at full force when repeating the line. Then he handed the mike to B.B. King, who sang the next words, “Back to that same old place.” The president, who by now seemed to be enjoying himself, finished the chorus: “Sweet home Chicago.”

Reviews of the performance -- like everything else in these poisonous political times --  probably broke along party lines. Most of the people I talked to thought it was kind of cool.

But one Obama critic I know tweeted that it made him “look like a clown.” And it only took a day or so for the Republican National Committee to produce an ad with a 15-second clip of the song with a chart of rising gasoline prices superimposed over it, ending with the message, “Obama’s Got America Singin’ the Blues.”

Not bad.

For reasons far beyond me, it is usually controversial when a political leader shows any musical talent.

Singing or playing popular music in public doesn’t destroy a politician. But political opponents will imply that it should.

After Obama’s Apollo appearance, Newt Gingrich sniffed, “I’m not going to compete with Obama in singing, because I’m not running for entertainer in chief. I’m running for president.”

There was similar scoffing by Clinton critics in 1992 when the sax-blowing, sunglasses-wearing future commander in chief played “Heartbreak Hotel” on The Arsenio Hall Show. At the time, Clinton was badly trailing in the polls. Some believe the moment helped him turn that around. Greil Marcus, in his 2000 book Double Trouble: Bill Clinton and Elvis Presley in a Land of No Alternatives, boldly declares, “Elvis Presley won the 1992 election for Bill Clinton.”

It doesn’t always work.

John McCain got little political advantage when he sang a line from a song associated with The Beach Boys. Of course, the Arizona senator substituted some lyrics: “Bomb bomb bomb/Bomb bomb Iran.”

Some folks just don’t want to take a politician seriously — especially a politician they’re not fond of — if he opens his mouth to sing something other than “The Star Spangled Banner” or “God Bless America.”

Roberto Mondragon sings on Plaza 2009
New Mexico Supreme Court Justice Charles Daniels and I talked about this a couple of years ago. Before he was appointed to the high court, Daniels was a guitarist in the Albuquerque band Lawyers, Guns & Money. What’s the big deal? Daniels pondered. Some people play golf. He plays guitar.

The first public official I ever interviewed at the Roundhouse, in 1980, was then Lt. Gov. Roberto Mondragón — he had just released one of his albums of Spanish-language songs. Mondragón told me that he got so tired of people asking him “Where’s your guitar?” that he started bringing it to work.

There have been some notable musician politicians. The late Sen. Robert Byrd played fiddle, releasing an album called Mountain Fiddler backed by ace bluegrass pros including Doyle Lawson.

In college, (or was it high school? ) Sen. John Kerry played bass in a surf band called The Electras, though he never played it publicly when he ran for president in 2004.

And don’t forget Kinky Friedman, who ran for governor of Texas in 2006.

Gov. Jimmie Davis
One politician known as much — perhaps more — for his music as for his politics was Jimmie Davis, a two-term governor of Louisiana, who co-wrote and performed “You Are My Sunshine.” When he first ran in 1944, Davis sang the song on the campaign trail. However, some of his earlier, raunchier songs stirred up a little trouble. In his 1977 book Country: The Biggest Music in America, Nick Tosches writes, “The opposition ran advertisements in newspapers listing some of his older, profaner songs. (His 1936 ‘Bed Bug Blues’ was called ‘depraved vulgarity.’).”

There were plenty of these kinds of songs to choose from. Among Davis’ risqué repertoire were tunes including “Red Night Nightgown,” “Tom Cat and Pussy Blues,” “Organ-Grinder Blues” (with lyrics like “Gonna get me some monkey glands / Be like I used to was”), “High Behind Blues” and “She’s a Hum Dum Dinger From Dingerville.” Tosches notes that before the end of the 1930s, Davis had become more of a mainstream crooner. “By 1938, the dirty songs had ceased.” But when he ran for governor again in 1960, “the dirty songs were dragged from the closet.” But again, Davis won.

There was no uproar from decent citizens last year when, on his talk show, bass-playing former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee backed Ted Nugent on “Cat Scatch Fever” and the Nuge sang -- right there on Fox News, "I can make a pussy purr with the stroke of my hand.

But just imagine if Obama and his White House blues band had sung a more menacing blues standard like John Lee Hooker’s “Crawlin’ King Snake” or Muddy Waters’ “Rollin' Stone” instead of “Sweet Home Chicago.”

Imagine the “Obama promotes the occult!” hysteria on talk radio had he sung “Hoochie Coochie Man” or “Who Do You Love.”

“Sweet Home Chicago” was a safe choice. In the end it probably will have no effect on the outcome in November. I just wish I could have been there for the show.

Enjoy some politician music:

Here's Obama ...

Gov. Jimmie Davis

John Kerry was a surf rocker

Kinky coulda been a governor

Everyone remembers "Heartbreak Hotel," but Bill Clinton also did this Billie Holiday classic.

Get them pussies purrin', Huck!

Remember this guy?


  Sunday, July 14, 2024 KSFR, Santa Fe, NM, 101.1 FM  Webcasting! 10 p.m. to midnight Sundays Mountain Time Host: Steve Terrell Em...