There always has been a turmoil going on inside of my own mind as to who was the greatest song writer ever. Some days I am stuck on Kris Kristofferson. Sometimes, I think Townes Van Zandt might just be the best. Steve Earle is responsible for the infamous quote:
“Townes Van Zandt is the best songwriter in the whole world, and I’ll stand on Bob Dylan’s coffee table in my cowboy boots and say that.”
What if Townes hadn’t died so early? Imagine the masterpieces he would have written if he only had a little more time? Or Gram Parsons same as Townes, gone too soon.
Ray Wylie Hubbard is most likely in my top 20 and of course Willie is in there somewhere. There is Steve Earle and there was Billy Joe Shaver and Jerry Jeff. Dylan was great. I could switch genre and throw in so many more, Paul Simon, Graham Nash, McCartney, Stephen Stills, even Lennon. Oh, and don’t forget Keith Richards.
Guy Clark once sang,
“There’s no rhyme or reason
Ain’t a damn thing you can do
Some days you write the song
Some days the song writes you.”
I consider Guy Clark one of the best ever. He wrote so simple and natural. He had a knack to tell a story and to draw on one’s emotions. His song lyrics might make one laugh and cry in one single song.
Today I guess the Wolf in my brain that is winning would pick the Guy, as the greatest songwriter ever. You never know though. Because my mind is like the weather in West Texas and it will change in the blink of an eye.
I love music from all generations and genres and I have enjoyed talking about it here in Under The Sound. I hope you enjoy reading these as much as I have enjoyed writing. Drop a comment and let me know!
Today is singer/ songwriter Steve Earle’s birthday. He was born on this day in 1955.
Earlier this month Steve Earle and his band the Dukes released a new album J.T. in tribute to Steve Earle’s late son, Justin Townes Earle.
J.T. released January 4, 2021 on what would have been Justin Townes Earle’s 39th birthday. The album covers 10 songs from the Justin Townes Earl catalog, and one new song by Steve Earle, “Last Words,” that he wrote in tribute to his late son.
Steve Earle has released tribute albums in the past. Tributes to Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark who were his friends and mentors through his earliest days in music. J.T. was different. Not only was he reliving the pain of losing his son and fellow band member, he began working on the album only months after his son’s death.
Townes was released in 2009, it won a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Folk Album.
Guy released in 2019, the album is a reminder of the greatness of the words and wisdom of the Great Guy Clark.
Justin Townes Earle died alone in his Nashville apartment of what is reportedly an accidental drug overdose August 23, 2020.
J.T.’s middle name Townes was given to him by his father and yes, he is affectionately named for the late Townes Van Zandt. In my opinion Justin Townes music is very similar to the darkness of Townes.
Justin Townes Earle began writing at an early age. He spent some time on the road with his father’s band the Dukes and was also part of the bluegrass band the Swindlers and of the rock band the Distributors. He created his own style of music a mixture of folk, blues, and country.
“I see it the same way that Gram Parsons did,” he says. “There’s this idea of moving forward and playing with newer sounds and different modes, but at the same time making sure you keep one foot firmly planted in the past as you feel out the future. I think it’s really important to leave a trail, you know? Put down some breadcrumbs behind you.”
Besides Justin Townes Earle’s debut album, Yuma, He released eight full-length albums. In 2009, Justin was recognized with an Americana Music Award for Emerging Artist of the Year. In 2011 he received Song of the Year for “Harlem River Blues“.
“All my records have been written to be records, rather than writing a group of songs and seeing if they fit together.”
Justin Townes Earle
When this old world seems to be spinning out of control, I am grateful that I have music to fall back on. Life is a little smoother with artists like Steve and Justin Townes Earle streaming music to my ears. Though J.T. may not be here in the physical earth, his spirit and his music will live on for many moons to come.
You made me laugh, you made me cry You showed me truth, you told me lies You tore my heart apart and then You brought me back the piece again Now I don’t know what I’ll do Until the day I follow you Through the darkness to the light ‘Cause I loved you for all your life
– Steve Earle “Last Words“
I cannot say it any better about some of my favorite musicians,
Chorus: “Stuff That Works”. Written by Guy Clark and Rodney Crowell
If I could have written any song, I wish I would have written this one. “Stuff That Works” is a place that I can go when nothing else seems to be working. The song is about gratitude and appreciation for the things that we already have. How many times have I taken someone or something for granted only to later realize that I miss it/them when no longer around.
I got an ol’ blue shirt and it suits me just fine
I like the way it feels so I wear it all the time
I got an old guitar, won’ t ever stay in tune
I like the way it sounds in a dark and empty room
The song opens up with this verse. The old blue shirt. Perhaps Guy’s signature. Wrangler Denim. Faded cotton. On the Album cover of his debut album Old Number 1, there’s a painting done by Guy’s wife Susanna Clark of this “old blue shirt.” The shirt hanging alone offset in the portrait. On the album cover, a young Guy Clark stands proud near that painting wearing what else? “An Old Blue Shirt”
I have a shirt like this myself. It is most likely the most comfortable shirt that I own. I can think back to my childhood and recall my own father wearing similar shirts. The old blue shirt is stuff that works. I don’t suppose they have ever gone out of style. The shirt is worn and holds up to the times. I have seen the shirts worn by Welders and Cowboys, Mechanics, Country singers and regular guys like me.
I got an old pair of boots and they fit just right
Well I can work all day and I can dance all night
I got an ol’ used car and it runs just like a top
I get the feelin’ it ain’ t ever gonna stop
I have driven the same ol’ pickup truck since 2013. Sure I have to replace a transmission, serpentine belt and a water pump. More recently I got new brake drums and front rotors. I have wrecked it and repaired it. It still runs good and it gets me where I need to be. Sure I would like something a little newer, a little fancier. I had a pretty good offer not long ago when I thought I needed something new. The trucks I am looking for today, are the cost of what I think my house is worth! I don’t know how anyone can afford to drive the top of the line Ford or Chevy. Sometimes I feel jealous or envious but that is beside the point. Responsibly I chose to keep my “ol’ truck.” Hell it is paid for. I got the feelin’ it ain’t never gonna stop.
My ol pickup, “silver”
I got a pretty good friend who’s seen me at my worst
He can’ t tell if I’ m a blessing or a curse
But he always shows up when chips are down
That’s the kind of stuff I like to be around
I am usually a pretty likeable guy. I am easy to get along with. Mostly, I am non judgemental towards others. I like to think these are pretty good qualities about myself. I am blessed to have a few. Perhaps three or maybe four men that I can think of that fit this quality. “A pretty good friend who’s seen me at my worst.”
The man I consider my very best friend has a wife who likes to say that I have no filter. Yet even being filterless, he chooses to be my friend. I can talk to him about anything on my mind. Sometimes I don’t want to hear what he chooses to tell me back. He calls me on my bullshit. He can be as honest with me as I am with him. He gives sound advise based on his own experiences of this place we call life. I know he will be here until the end. Every time, I need him.
Friends for life are a treasure. Hold on to that.
I am blessed to have some ‘pretty good friends”
I got a woman I love she’ s crazy, paints like God
She’ s got a playground sense of justice, she won’ t take odds
I got a tattoo with her name right through my soul
I think everything she touches turns to gold
Of course, when Guy wrote this line, he is talking about Susanna. Susanna was a brilliant painter. She was a friend to any and all. She had qualities that influenced many other singer/songwriters. Townes Van Zandt loved her as much as Guy himself did. Rodney Crowell and Steve Earl would later agree that a song wasn’t completely written until it had Susanna’s seal of approval.
I’ve got a woman I love. It took me many years and many women. This certainly isn’t my first marriage. I pray each day and work harder than I ever have on this relationship so that it will be my last.
We aren’t always perfect. Is anyone’s marriage perfect?
We try and try again. I met her many years ago and for many years, we were just friends. I think that our friendship is one of our biggest bonds. I could consider her in the previous verse she could also fit into that category of someone who has seen me at my worst. She makes me my best. When I am with her, I have the strength and the courage to do anything I set my mind to do.
We have a marriage that is strong because we work hard each day to put God at the center. We are learning to communicate, to listen to each other and to hold each other accountable. I knew from the moment I saw her that I loved her. I have worn that “Tattoo” across my soul for the last 12 years and I will wear that for the rest of my life.
Stuff that works, Stuff that holds up, That’s the kind of stuff I like to be around.
Kay Toinette Oslin, better known as K.T. Oslin died today at the age of 78. The award-winning singer/songwriter had battled Parkinson’s in the last few years and was residing in a nursing home. She had been diagnosed with Covid-19 recently, but at this time medical authorities are unsure if this was a factor in her death.
Although she was born in Crossett, Arkansas and spent the latter part of her life in Nashville, Tennessee, K.T. Oslin said she would always consider Texas home. Oslin’s mother moved her to Houston as a young child. The sudden move came after the singer’s father died when she was only five years old. K.T. attended college, majoring in drama, at Lon Morris in Jacksonville, Texas. She played in a folk music trio with Texas songwriter Guy Clark and David Jones. The trio recorded an album, but it was never released. K.T. was inducted into the Texas Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2014.
In 2018 She was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.
K.T. was most widely known for writing and recording her hit song “80’s Ladies.”The song was released in April 1987. It was the second single and title track from Oslin’s debut album 80’s Ladies.
The single won Songof the Year at the 1988 CMA Awards. K.T. Oslin was the first female songwriter to ever win the award.
Oslin who had previously made her living writing commercial jingles and acting in New York City musicals began writing songs in her New York apartment. Oslin was already 45 years old when she made it big in Nashville. She had first visited music city to sing backup for her old friend Guy Clark on his 1978 self- titled L.P.
K.T. Oslin is yet another in a long list of artists that we have lost this year. This was the music I grew up on. K.T.’s songs are catalogued in the soundtrack of my life.
The Mercury Nashville label released the album Starting Over last Friday. (November 13,2020)
Starting Over is Chris Stapleton’s fourth studio album. The album features the title song “Starting Over” which released as a single earlier this year.
Out of the 14 songs on the album, Stapleton wrote or co-wrote 11 of them.
The album features two songs originally done by Guy Clark. “Old Friends,” and “Worry B Gone.”
When Guy originally recorded the Old Friends album in 1988, he enlisted Roseanne Cash, Vince Gill, Emmylou Harris, and Rodney Crowell. Stapleton considers Guy one of his own personal heroes. He had some pretty big shoes to fill with this song.
Chris Stapleton met the challenge with a first class performance of the old song. It is my opinion, that Stapleton is among the last country musicians in Nashville that still sounds a little bit “country.”
“Old Friends, they Shine Like Diamonds Old friends, you can always call Old friends, Lord, you can’t buy ‘em You know it’s old friends, after all”
“Worry B Gone,” was originally released by Guy Clark in 2006. It was on his Workbench Songs album.
The songs lyrics are perfectly fitting for the world we are living in today. A world where the media is trying to control the way we think. This country has been in division because of different political views. The rioting and the uncertainty of the market has been a huge stress factor on me. I have had fears. Some are real and some are probably irrational. I am not sure at times to believe the media, the conspiracists, or my own intuitions.
2020 has been a rough year on all of us. This has been a year that none of us will ever forget. The year of the pandemic. This political unrest and negativity has started to take it’s toll. The racism on both sides has been intense. What good is it serving for any of us to tear each other down?
“Everywhere I look Trouble is all I see I can’t listen to the radio And I hate TV Trouble with the air Trouble with the water People ain’t treatin’ one another like they oughta.”
The final song of the album that was not written nor co-written by Chris Stapleton is a fantastic cover of the John Fogerty song “Joy of My Life.”
“Some may have their riches Some may have their worldly fame Long as I have you I’ll treasure each and every day.”
It is time for us all to start “Starting Over.” We all need to pull together to begin re-building. We can start by building each other up. Enough is Enough. I am out with the negativity and in with positivity. We all need some holiday cheer. I am just living my life one day at a time today.
Thankfully, my music has been my escape. I am appreciative of singer-songwriters like Chris Stapleton who are willing to tell their truths through song.
Chris Stapleton’s official website describes the albums fourteen tracks as an examination of life’s simplest joys and most serious struggles.
These songs all tell a story. A story that we all need to relate to.
“Give me just one more puff Of that worry b gone, I’m planning on feelin’ much better Before too long”
I’m planning on feelin’ much better before too long.
Guy Clark was born on this day, November 6, 1941 in Monahans, Texas.
Finding Guy Clark was to me like taking that first drink. I heard Guy’s music and I couldn’t stop after just one. I eventually did sober up, but I have never quit Guy Clark.
If it weren’t for Guy, I don’t think that I would have the passion for music that I carry with me today. He influenced many other great singers and songwriters in his lifetime.
Today, I love the discovery of the root of the song. I find pleasure in hearing the original versions, and through reading the songwriters lyrics. I want to know what the writer was thinking, feeling, and what place he must’ve been in that inspired him or her to compose a certain piece of music or song.
So many other artists have covered songs penned by Guy Clark over the years. In my earliest childhood memories, I recall that music was an important part of my life. Back then, I didn’t even know who Guy Clark was. Even back then, I was hearing his music.
In 1972 Townes Van Zandt released ,“Don’t let the Sunshine Fool Ya.”
This song was written by Guy Clark. It tells a story about two friends. Guy often said that Townes was one of the biggest influences in his songwriting. More importantly, the two were best friends for a big part of Guy Clark’s life. They were friends up until Townes died of a heart attack on New Years Day in 1997. Even when death took Townes, I think that Guy carried his spirit along until his own last breath. Almost every single album that Guy ever recorded included songs by Townes Van Zandt, and Guy has released more than twenty albums.
Guy’s childhood was in Monahans, Texas. In the early 1950’s he moved with his family to Rockport, Texas. After graduating high school in 1960, Guy moved to Houston, where he spent almost a decade in the music revival that was going on there.
Guy and Susanna moved to the East side of Nashville from L.A. in November of 71. He and Susanna were married in 1972.
While living in Las Angeles, Guy signed a songwriting contract with Sunbury Dunbar. Sunbury Dunbar was the music publishing side of RCA. They gave him the option of continuing his residence in L.A. or moving to Nashville. He chose Nashville partly because his friend Mickey Newbury was there.
Upon arriving in Nashville, Guy, Susanna, and Townes Van Zandt lived together in a white stucco house at 1307 Chapel Ave. It was in that house, that Guy would complete the song “L.A. Freeway.” He had originally written “If I could just get off of this L.A. Freeway without getting killed or caught” on a burger sack while still in L.A.
Guy first played the song for Jerry Jeff Walker who released it as his first single for MCA that year.
In 1973 Guy Clark wrote a song about his Grandma’s boyfriend. Jack Prigg was like a grandfather to Guy and influenced him with his worldly views. “Desperados Waiting For A Train.”
Jerry Jeff Walker released it on Viva Terlingua in 1973.
Guy’s songs, “L.A. Freeway” and “Desperados Waiting for A Train” may have launched his career, but he had already began making his way in music. He was already influencing other singer-songwriters in their careers as well. Guy was a mentor to artists like Steve Earle and Rodney Crowell. He and Susanna had an open house to anybody who wanted to come in.
Rodney once said that a song wasn’t complete until it had the approval of Susanna Clark.
The Hearworn Highways videos that were filmed at Guy and Susanna’s home give a good indication to what it must have been like. I cannot fathom how it must have felt to be surrounded by such great talent. If only I could’ve been a fly on the wall I would have been more than satisfied.
In 1977 Johnny Cash charted with Guy Clark’s tune “Last Gunfighter Ballad.”
By 1982, Ricky Skaggs was topping the charts with “Heartbroke” which reached the #1 spot. Steve Wariner took Guy’s Song “Baby I’m Yours” to the #1 position in 1988. Rodney Crowell did it in 1989 with “She’s Crazy For Leaving.”
Rodney Crowell co-wrote “She’s Crazy for Leaving” with Guy Clark. It was the 3rd of 5 straight #1 hits in a row for Rodney.
Bobby Bare, Vince Gill, and John Conlee all saw top 10 on the charts with Guy Clark’s songs.
1985 saw the Highwaymen, Willie, Waylon, Kris, and Johnny re-release “Desperados Waiting For ATrain.” This brought the old song to a whole new generation. I had been raised listening to these outlaws who banded together to form the Highwaymen.
I had first heard “Desperados Waiting For A Train” being performed by Jerry Jeff on an album that I had found discarded in the trash. It must have been about that time, that I discovered the real Guy Clark and when I began to admire him for the works he had written. (Read the entire story of my dumpster diving days here on my blog from 10/24/20 “Viva Terlingua.”)http://www.pinkieandpancho.com/viva-terlingua/
Jimmy Buffett had two Guy Clark songs in 1997. “Boat’s to Build,” and “Cinco De Mayo in Memphis.”
John Denver recorded Guy’s tune “Homegrown Tomatoes” in 1988. It was then that I fell in love with John Denver’s music.
Guy also turned me onto John Prine and Emmylou Harris. They recorded a version of “Magnolia Wind” in 2011. Somewhere around that time, I also found and began to follow Tom Russell.
Tom Russell’s style in his own songwriting shows many characteristics of Guy’s work.
Steve Earle, who I had first heard on the Heartworn Highways album, recorded Guy’s song El Coyote in 2013.
Guy Clark continued to influence songwriters and write songs himself all the way up to his death May 17,2016.
Even after his death, the final song that Guy Clark wrote was released by Angaleena Presley. It was on the 2017 album Wrangled. Her song, “Cheer up Little Darling,” was co -written by Guy.
Guy Clark’s own recordings are catalogued on his multiple albums. His first album, Old No #1 recorded by RCA was done in 1975. The year I was born.
His final album was Guy Clark:The Best of Dualtone Years released in 2017.
I suppose that I have always been a fan of Guy Clark. Even before I didn’t consciously realize who that was. I appreciate all that Guy has done for music. He helped to create the Americana genre. A genre that will outlive us all. His 2005 AMA Lifetime Achievement Award for Songwriting doesn’t even give enough credit for all of the lives that his music has impacted. Guy loved to write music and he loved to share his musical talent with others.
“I have no reason to sit home and write songs all day without going out and playing for the folks and I have no reason to play for the folks unless I’m writing new songs…”
Happy Birthday Guy Clark. Thank You for the memories and for the music.
Last August, On behalf of Rodney Crowell, his daughter Hannah accepted the Poet’s Award for him at the Academy of Country Music award show. The Poet’s Award is a special songwriter award that goes to those who have contributed musically and lyrically throughout their careers.
“This is a very fitting award for my father, because he is truly a poet to his core. He is a poet in the songs that he writes. He is a poet in the way he plays with his grandbabies. He is a poet in the way he used to peel into the parking lot at our conservative Christian school with a top hat on, blaring Bob Dylan. (I knew he did that just to instill in my little brain the importance of being on the outskirts and being who you are.) He is a poet in his friendships. He is a poet in what a beautiful mentor he is to young artists. He is a poet in his deep commitment to being truly authentically himself. As an artist, and as a human being.”
Hannah Crowell is the daughter of Rodney Crowell and Roseanne Cash. Granddaughter of Johnny Cash. She is an interior designer.
The “Poets Award” places Rodney Crowell at the top end of a long line of singer-songwriters including Guy Clark. Guy and Susanna Clark were mentors to Rodney since his earliest days in Nashville.
This morning, I listened to Rodney’s newest Poetic Work. “The Damage.”
The Song was released earlier this year for the soundtrack of the film, Once Upon A River. It is Rodney’s first single, since releasing the album Texas in 2019.
The lyrics are certainly poetic. I found them rather chilling.
Rodney was originally selected for a role as one of the film’s main characters. Due to health issues he had to opt out of that role. I believe that his contribution of “The Damage.” to the soundtrack was enough.
Rodney Crowell was born August 7, 1950 in Houston, Texas.
He was born into music. One grandfather lead a church choir, while the other was a blue grass banjo picker. Rodney’s father James Walter Crowell sang in bars and honky tonks. By the time Rodney was 11 he was a drummer in his father’s band.
In 1972 Rodney Crowell moved to Nashville. He was discovered by Jerry Reed, and soon had his first job as a songwriter.
Emmylou Harris recorded Rodney’s song “Bluebird Wine.” Rodney accepted a position in Emmylou’s, The Hot Band. Rodney played guitar and sang backup vocals for Emmylou.
“Early on, Emmylou recorded three or four of my songs and had hits.”
Crowell told Vanity Fair in a 2015 interview, about him spending an entire day writing a song that he wanted Emmylou Harris to record.
When the song was done, he went to her house, pulled out his guitar, and played her the song he made especially for her.
Emmylou rejected the song, saying to him, “That’s really nice, but man, I heard a demo for your song- ‘You’re Supposed to be Feeling Good,’ I want to record that.”
“That’s the only time I tried to write a song for somebody.”
Rodney and Emmylou have been friends since the earliest days of their careers. Together, they received Album of the Yearfor, Old Yellow Moon and were named Group/Duo of the year in 2013.
In 2015, the duo again made music together, releasing The Traveling Kind.
Diamonds & Dirt, Rodney’s critically acclaimed album from 1988 produced five consecutive number one singles in 1988 and 89. His album in 1989, Keys to the Highway produced two top 5 hits.
Other songwriting success for Rodney Crowell in the last decade include top ten hits “Song For Life,” for Alan Jackson, “Making Memories of Us,” performed by Keith Urban, and “Please Remember Me,” recorded by Tim McGraw.
In 2003 Rodney Crowell was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.
In 2006 Rodney won the “Lifetime Achievement award in Songwriting.”
In 2009 Rodney wrote “Sing.” It was released by Wynonna Judd on her album Sing:Chapter 1. It peaked at number four on the Hot Dance Club Songs chart.
“It Ain’t Over Yet” written by Rodney, and featuring his ex, Rosanne Cash would become 2017’s song of the year. It is probably my favorite Rodney Crowell song of all time.
The sheer brilliance of Rodney’s lyrics in this song remind me of Rodney’s early beginnings with Guy Clark and Townes Van Zandt.
I first fell in love with Rodney after hearing him perform on Guy Clark’s Heartworn Highways.
This song is a gift, so simple, so sweet so deep.
Rodney is truly a poet and a songwriting genius.
I hope and pray that we get more out of him before he leaves this old world.
I may be getting old, but it ain’t over yet. – It ain’t over yet Rodney, your music is going to live forever.
When I was ten, my dad built a fort in our backyard. He used the existing picket fence to make up two sides of the structure. My fort was “two story” and had a roof which I sometimes climbed up on and used as my “third story.” The first floor was actually a doghouse, but the second and third were all mine.
From the “third story” I had a great lookout of what was going on in and around the neighborhood. I could see about 4 or 5 dumpsters, who was coming and going, and what they were throwing away. Being a dumpster diver at ten wasn’t a bad thing. I often found useful items to keep in my fort.
The best find I ever had was one day when the man across the alley, which I later learned was getting divorced, was moving out. He threw boxes and boxes of good stuff into the dumpster. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.
It was on this occasion that I found a bright yellow sign that read: Lower Turtle Creek Road. The sign hung for years near a windmill and stock pond that my family owned. Later it hung at our lake place at Oak Creek Lake near Bronte Texas. Today the sign is proudly displayed in my back yard overlooking my hot tub.
I also found a whole collection of Playboy magazines, which until right now I am sure that my parents knew nothing about. My mom often reads my blog, So mom if you are reading this now, I am sorry and I only read the articles.
The greatest treasure I found in this dive, was a record album. Jerry Jeff Walker’s “Viva Terlingua.” I would have to say, that this album was my first taste of Texas Singer- Songwriters. This is a passion that I still carry with me today, 35 years later. I still have that original album.
Viva Terlingua is a live album that Jerry Jeff Walker and the Lost Gonzo band recorded at the Luckenbach Dancehall, August 18, 1973. The album was released in November of that year by MCA Nashville Records. It’s genre is outlaw country, and it captures Walker’s laid back country base with notes of “outlaw” rock, blues and traditional Mexican norteno and Tejano styles.
Side one features Guy Clark’s “Desperados Waiting for a Train.” A song I thought for many moons actually belonged to Jerry Jeff.
Side two gave me my first taste of Ray Wylie Hubbard with “Up against the Wall Redneck Mother”.
Side two opens with Jerry Jeff Walker’s Voice.
“This song is by Ray Wylie Hubbard”
Jerry Jeff Walker
The album ends with, “London Homesick Blues,” a song by another great Texas Music Pioneer, Gary P. Nunn.
I learned through a text message from my dear friend Jody this morning, that the world had lost Jerry Jeff Walker. The musician died Friday, after a battle with throat cancer.
Walker was a pioneer in the Texas music scene. He gained popularity for his 1968 song “Mr. Bojangles.”
Mr. Bojangles was inspired by a street musician Jerry Jeff Walker met in a New Orleans drunk tank.
A few years ago I built a dog run in my back yard out of pickets and I gave the dogs a window to look out into the rest of the yard.
I have been collecting signs, ever’ since I found the “Lower Turtle Creek” one. I began to proudly display these on my fence. This idea came from the Viva Terlingua album cover and of Luckenbach, Texas.
I think I accomplished the look I was after.
Jerry Jeff, Thank You for the years and the miles of giving me companionship with your words and music.
“Well, when your down on your luck /And you ain’t got a buck /In London you’re a goner/ Even London Bridge Has fallen down /And Moved to Arizona /Now I know why”
“I wanna go home with the armadillo/ Good country music from Amarillo/ And Abilene/ The friendliest people and the prettiest women you ever seen.”
About this time last year, I recall going on a trip with my oldest daughter. I had made a playlist of all my favorite songs. I titled the playlist “songs I like to sing.” I pressed the shuffle key on my iPhone and off we went. It seems we heard Guitar Town more times than any of the other songs on the list.
“Hey pretty baby are you ready for me It’s your good rockin’ daddy down from Tennessee,” blasted from the speakers in my Chevrolet truck.
“Are you going to play that song again dad?” My daughter questioned.. rolling her eyes.
I simply turned the volume up a little louder and kept moving on down the highway.
It wasn’t until 1986 that Steve Earle had written and recorded “Guitar Town“, the first single from his first full length album. “Guitar Town” was the song that defined Earle as a solo artist in Nashville. Although, his influence had already been in Guitar Town for over 10 years.
Steve Earle once ran away from his home in San Antonio Texas with expectations of meeting his idol singer-songwriter Townes Van Zandt.
A few years later he did get to meet Townes. Steve Earle was only 16 but had already dropped out of school and moved to Houston with his uncle who was also pursuing a career in music.
One of Steve Earle’s most noted quotes is:
Townes Van Zandt is the best songwriter in the whole world, and I’ll stand on Bob Dylan’s coffee table in my cowboy boots and say that.
In 1974 at the age of 19, Steve Earle moved to Nashville Tennessee and began working by day and playing his music by night. He became a staff songwriter for the publishing company Sunbury Dunbar, and became the bass player in Guy Clark’s band.
While in Clark’s Band, he sang on Clark’s 1975 album “Old No. 1.”
Guy Clark became one of Steve Earle’s greatest mentors and greatest friends.
Steve Earle then made an appearance on the 1975 film Heartworn Highways, a documentary about the Nashville Music Scene.
The Heartworn Highway soundtrack includes Steve Earle’s, “Mercenary Song” and “Elijah’s Church”.
Mission Mary near Balmoreah Texas. This is what I think about when I hear Steve Earle sing “Elijah’s Church“
Heartworn Highways included David Allan Coe, Guy Clark, Townes van Zandt and Rodney Crowell.
I have been a fan of this group of musicians all of my life. So many people have heard the songs they wrote but have no idea who the original artists were. Everyone of these guys became great song writers and in my opinion, no-one else can do their songs like they do them.
I have a low tolerance for mediocrity in music and life. I’m into pain and joy and the in-between doesn’t interest me.
Since those early days in Guitar Town, Earle has released 15 studio albums. He has received 3 Grammy awards. His songs have been recorded by artists like Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, The Highwaymen, Travis Tritt, Bob Seger and Emmylou Harris.
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and Everybody told me you can’t get far on 37 dollars and a jap guitar.
Today at Noon Central time I was able to tune into Tom Russell’s First International Folk Festival. This Facebook Live event was just one of many live shows that Tom has done in this season of social distancing.
Tom opened the show with a version of “Railroad Bill” and went into a medley of hits by other remarkable folk musicians. He covered Van Zandt’s “Pancho and Lefty” along with Guy’s “L.A. Freeway“
I felt that the show was successful with 2.6K viewers watching with me and Facebook comments streaming into my feed from around the globe. Tom has been a light in the darkness by finding new and innovative ways of promoting his music and that of others in this uncertain time.
Tom wore his signature bandanna around his neck a purple one on this day.. one commenter weighed in that Tom Russell was wearing masks before wearing a mask was cool. The masks have been the new normal as this global pandemic continues to spread worldwide. I’m so over it already and I hope these wonderful musicians who spend their lives out on the road making music for us to enjoy will have the freedom to do so in the very near future.
Tom Russell’s wife Nadine helped him in making this project possible she filmed him from the beautiful back drops of Switzerland as he told his tales and sung his music for the world to enjoy.Tom told of his song “U.S. Steel” a one armed gas station attendant in Pittsburgh inspired him to write this song.. An end of an era, the man Tom met at the gas station that day had lost his arm in the mill and later would lose his job when the local steel mill had shut down.
The first guest on the show was David Massengill who sang about growing up in an orphanage. The stunning video shot in the beautiful green forest of the United Kingdom.
Tom introduced Australian songwriter Eric Vogel. His rosy cheeks and bubbly smile along with Vogel’s Soprano voice belting out lyrics “Sing while he has a voice/ sing while he has a choice- sing/ sing/ sing” The Vogel song made me smile It seemed I was floating out of my chair in time with the harmonies.
Austin musician, Eliza Gilkyson , daughter of the songwriter and folk singer Terry Gilkyson joined the festival and sang “Take off your old Coat” . This song is a tale of life traveled on a rough path but being able to still expect the gifts and blessings we will receive in the after life.
Three Hat Trio did a great performance from the Zion National Park in the picturesque state of Utah.
“Their musical style is a taste of Africa with a Cowboy Banjo”, Tom described.
I felt that it was the kind of bluegrass string music that would make the late great Bill Monroe want to tap his feet in time.
Songwriter Bernie Taupin , who has spent much of his career writing for Elton John, spoke of his own musical inspirations. Bernie said that he still listened to The Marty Robbins Album “Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs” at least once every other week.
“El Paso, had me at Hello” , Taupin explained “ it was the song that made me want to write songs”.
Taupin said that the song “El Paso” took him from the cold in the North of England to the hot deserts of Texas.
Tom reflected from his personal studio in Switzerland. I love Tom’s space. The studio walls are adorned by Tom’s art work. He paints the most wonderful abstracts of musicians like Townes Van Zandt. His paintings of Indian Teepees, and one of a lone white rooster caught my eye today.
Rosie Flores joined in live from her own space in Austin, Texas. She was wearing a Dylan T-shirt and red diamond studded glasses that would make Elton John drool with envy. Rosie did a fantastic cover of the Joan Baez song “Love is just a four letter word”.
Rosie has a new album out now. “Simple Case of the Blues”. You can support her and her music at rosieflores.com
From a front porch in the green hills of Switzerland, Florian Schneider swaps songs with Tom. Tom’s song the “Rose of Roscrae” was recorded in Swiss German by Florian.
“And a time to cut the wild dogs loose“, echoed across lush greenery in the background.
Joe Ely joined the festival from Texas to promote his new album “Love in the Midst of Meyhem”
Ely performed his song “Indian Cowboy” .
Joe Ely stated that the song came to him “via Guy Clark and the Wringling Brothers Circus“.
He sang, “When the white horses leap the ring of fire”
Tom Russell introduced instrumentalist Fats Kaplan. The introduction showed Tom under an umbrella on a rainy afternoon In a cow pasture near his Swiss home. A red cow could be seen in the video feed grazing away, unaware or unbothered by Tom’s presence.
Tom relayed what Rambling Jack would say about “buskers”. The word comes from the Spanish word “Buscar” which means to seek.
Fats harmoniously played from his accordion a Tex mex sound.
Bill Hearne joined into the festival from Santa Fe, New Mexico. Hearne has a new cd coming out called “A very short time”.
Hearne did a wonderful job performing the Tom Russell/Ian Tyson tune “Navajo Rug”.
This section of the festival was a tribute to the late Dave Van Ronk. Van Ronk is known as The Godfather of 60s Folk.
Tom told of his time spent touring Europe along with Van Ronk and vocalist Nanci Griffin.
A street in New York was renamed Van Ronk in his memory.
Dave Van Ronk played the outcast role on Tom’s album “Man From GodKnows Where”
Tom Russell calls Dave “The mayor of folk heaven“.
The festival featured Ralph McTell from the UK. although I am not familiar with this artist , I decided that he looked like somewhat of a pirate as he had a large hooped earring. He strummed a great tune, and i enjoyed heraring him sing with British accent “ it’s a long way from Claire to here”.
I’ll plan to visit RalphMcTell.co.ukin the near future to learn more about this songwriter.
The online folk festival ended with a live feed from Caffe Lena. This coffee house in Saratoga Springs, New York has proudly hosted Folk Music since 1960.
Steve Gillette , who used to open for Ian and Sylvia Tyson , and his partner Cindy Mangsen picked the classic folk song “Darcy Farrow” to end the show.