Monday, February 1, 2010

Sibling Revelry

Not many nights ago, on a patio of a bar that used to be my favorite, some friends and I were in full on music geek reverie, discussing our earliest musical memories, and what turned us on for the first time. Sure we were drunk, and we had smoked something someone snuck in from Afghanistan, but it was a good night. I haven't talked music in forever, and it was great to hear what other guys (and the one girl) remember as their first favorite tunes.

The first song I remember liking was a song called "Alley Cat", which I heard off of one of my dad's Chet Atkins records. I think Dad only had one Chet, tucked in there with the Nat King Coles and Erroll Garners. But that's the one I liked. And then came The Beatles, on Ed Sullivan. "Meet The Beatles", their 1964 Capitol Release, was the first Album I owned, purchased for me by Mom at White Front.

But a key part of our conversation, and one that made me think the most, was the role our siblings played in shaping our musical tastes. There's five years difference between my older brother Don and myself, and growing up, we were more pains in each others' asses than friends, but when he would leave the house, I'd have free reign over his collection. Here are ten albums I first heard via my brother's collection. I own copies of all of them now, and since I've dug them for going on fifty years, I don't think there will ever be a time when I don''t love these.

1) The Dave Clark Five "Glad All Over"

I think these cats were on Shindig! or Hullaballoo! or Hootenanny! or one of those other shows with exclamation points.

I loved those two drum kicks in the hit "Glad All Over" (the bit right after "And I'm feelin..." and right before "Glad all over!") and the song "Bits & Pieces". I have a multi-disc collection of the DC5, but it's overkill. This is the one I'd keep.

Dave Clark was the drummer. I wonder how many times the lead singer had to say "No, Dave Clark's the drummer."

2) Chad And Jeremy "Sing For You"

I loved these guys. They had an album before this, but this one was the best pre-psychedelic Chad and Jeremy release (Cabbages And Kings was their magnum psychedelic opus).

This one had a Lennon & McCartney song "From A Window" --the best Beatles song not recorded by the Beatles---and one of my all time favorite songs, "Four Strong Winds".

Also, a song called "Donna, Donna" which sounds pretty until you realise it's a bird taunting a calf on his way to market and slaughter. Even the winds get a laugh out of the poor guy's plight. Whatever.

Chad & Jeremy further cemented themselves into my young psyche when they appeared as "The Redcoats", a singing group booked on the Alan Brady Show and greeted with Beatlemania-style results, meaning they had to lam it out in New Rochelle at Rob and Laura's house, where only Millie Helper could bug them. Yes, it's The Dick Van Dyke show, the finest sitcom television has ever known.

3) The Byrds "Turn, Turn, Turn"

My first exposure to Dylan was through this album. It contained more palatable (to my young ears) versions of "Lay Down Your Weary Tune" and "The Times They Are A-Changing".

This album also sparked my love affair with The Jangle, which has stuck with me through my whole life. The Jangle is that sound that twelve strings or six strings make. Jangle-pop.

The hit (and hence the album title) was "Turn Turn Turn", a Pete Seeger version of a passage from Ecclesiastes. I remember contemporary press proclaiming the Byrds the "American Beatles", and that always ticked me off to where I held it against the Byrds on subsequent releases. As I grew up, I realized the Byrds were one of the best rock bands in their own right. Crosby's haircut on the cover of this one makes Paul Simon's on "Bookends" seem tame.

4) Simon & Garfunkel "Parsley Sage Rosemary & Thyme"

This was my introduction to Paul and Artie. It's their second album. Here, Paul Simon's writing talents were really starting to bloom. He was only 24 years old.

His best early song, "Homeward Bound" is on here. Also "The Dangling Conversation", which is a bit pretentious in the lyric department, but still one of my favorites. "As you read your Emily Dickenson, and I, my Robert Frost..." All that's missing is the pipe and tweed jacket with felt elbow patches.

The one that affected me most as a kid was "7 O'Clock News/Silent Night, which has Artie's clear voice singing the classic carol while a newsreader announces the disturbing headlines of the day. Listening to it today, it's still moving to me. This album also contains Artie's finest moment until 'Bridge Over Troubled Water", which is the song "For Emily Whenever I May Find Her". It is the perfect showcase for a pretty near perfect voice.

5) Simon & Garfunkel "Bookends"

Another S & G. My first reaction when I saw this album in my brother's collection was "Whoever told Paul that bangs was the way to go does not have his best interests at heart." Well, maybe I didn't, but it's a silly haircut. No matter, this album knocked me on my eleven year old ass.

Starting with the brief instrumental "Bookends Theme", on into "Save The Life Of My Child" all the way to "At The Zoo", I was hooked.

This was the first time that I really noticed production. Roy Hallee deserves a lot of credit. Strings, sound effects, just magical.

This one has "America", "Hazy Shade Of Winter", and is the second album in a row to feature "Mrs. Robinson" (the first was their previous album, the Graduate soundtrack). It is the only album I know of that contains a track recorded live at The Home For Aged Hebrews in New York. ("Voices Of Old People")

6) The Rolling Stones "Big Hits: High Tide And Green Grass"

This is where you learn my brother was not some no-ball havin' folkie. The first time I ever heard the Rolling Stones, one of my all time favorite rock bands, was through this album, their first "Greatest Hits" package. And hits they were. Twelve songs, all the big ones. "Satisfaction", "Get Off Of My Cloud", "Nineteenth Nervous Breakdown" and "The Last Time".

My favorites on the album were "Tell Me", which had some great vocals from Mick and Keith and beautiful guitar parts, and "Play With Fire", which was a slithering ballad that made me wonder about parts of London. In the pre-internet youth, it was hard to get information on Knightsbridge, Stepney, and Saint John's Wood. I was able to determine that St. John's Wood was where the money was. If there was ever any doubt about how bad-ass the Stones were, Brian Jones puts them to rest with his FUCKING RED CORDS. Red corduroy trousers took balls to wear.

7) The Kinks "Greatest Hits"

Of all the things I'm indebted to Brother Don for, this might be the biggest---he turned me on to the brothers Davies, and ruined my young mind forever. Thanks, Don. This was the first Greatest Hits package that Reprise put out. It came out in 1966, and was even stronger than The Stones one directly above.

I'd never heard these guys before, and I can remember my nine year old jaw turning slack, with bits of drool pooling on the coffee table as I first heard "You Really Got Me", "All Day And All Of The Night" and "Till The End Of The Day". The campy "Dedicated Follower Of Fashion" was on board, as was one of my enduring Kinks favorites, "Something Better Beginning". These guys meant business.

8) The Rolling Stones "Their Satanic Majesties Request"

Where to begin with this one? First, the cover. 3D image, and if you turned it a certain way, you could find all four heads of The Beatles. It was seen as their answer to Sgt Peppers, but I think that it was their answer to Acid, which was making the rounds I'm told.

Then the songs. Two stony masterpieces, "She's A Rainbow" and "2000 Light Years From Home" laid my pre-drug infested mind out. I would put this one on and listen for hours, trying to isolate vocal bits and figure out what the hell was going on. One song had snoring in it. (The Gomper). Another one had Bill Fucking Wyman singing lead. When did that happen on a Stones album? NEVER AGAIN. Not a bad song, really, "In Another Land". The vocal effect was a bit much, but it's still a good song. Surprisingly, this ranks very high in my Best Stones Album list. Not surprisingly, my best experiences listening to it have been when I was very high myself. (Thank you, I'll be here all week. Try the veal)

9) The Doors "The Doors"

1967. My favorite year in pop music. It gave us the record above this one, as well as Sgt. Peppers. The Bee Gees first album, Procol Harum's debut, The Who Sell Out, Hendrix...and this one, The Doors debut.

I was fascinated by this one. Prominent keyboards, non-existent bass player, and very obtuse lyrics. It's the first time I've ever been scared by a song---"The End", in which it is implied that a kid kills his parents and sister. At least that's where my drug-free mind went with it. Plus, it was eleven minutes long. I think I liked everything on this album except "Light My Fire", the big hit, and I even liked that one a little bit. Over time, I came to see the Doors as a vastly over-rated band, with pretentious lyrics and a pretentious lead singer, of whom it can be said that death was a very good career move. But this album still works for me, and although I like a few songs from later in their career, this is the only one I really care about. And it's a good one.

10) Creedence Clearwater Revivial "Bayou Country"

OK, this wasn't in Don's collection. By the time this one came out, Don had moved to San Jose for school and taken his records with him. But, I include it because I wanted an even ten, and because I'd never heard Creedence before Don bought me this album as my 12th birthday present. I didn't like it at first, but later that summer I remember laying in the grass in the back yard, the living room windows open and this album playing. "Born On The Bayou" led it off, and that had swampy guitars and those growly Fogerty vocals that were new to me. The other hits were "Good Golly Miss Molly" and "Proud Mary", but the one that I liked to play over and over was the spooky eight-minute song called "Graveyard Train", which was a simple bass riff, some guitar fills, and an old blues style 'bad train to hell' vocal. In retrospect, one of my best birthday presents.

I'd be nowhere without my love for music. In hard times like these, I sooth myself with it, and motivate myself with it, and cry to it and fuck to it and lose my mind to it. Thanks to my brother, these 10 records were launching pads to further explorations and discoveries and a rare gift even if the person who gave it to you doesn't even know he gave it to you.

I owe you big, Don. I love you.

Friday, January 1, 2010

The Complacency And The Regret

News comes to me second hand that someone I held dear and who always brought a smile to my face has died.

I cannot tell you how horrible I feel. I am sad for him, his lovely wife, and his son and step-son, both of whom he loved dearly and helped mold into fine young men.

Mostly though I'm sad because of me. I have spent my whole life trying to avoid "heavy shit". This includes confrontation, life's inconveniences, and deep feelings and/or love. I guess that's cowardice.
I flee from things that might make me feel something real.

A few months ago, I learned he had cancer. I called him and we chatted for an hour, while he waitied in a doctor's office for his weekly chemo. He sounded great, and assured me I hadn't heard the last of him.
We made nebulous plans to get together, and although I knew he was sick, I didn''t take the time to drive down to the Bay Area and see him. One of my dearest friends.

Dan Cotler had a hell of a good life. Too short, of course, but full nonetheless. I met him many years ago when we worked in the Tower Books Warehouse in the corporate compound in West Sacramento. I was the defacto manager of the place, and Dan was the guy who bought remainders (cheap books).
We often ate lunch together, and found lots of common ground. He was smart, and knew all there was to know about the book business. He taught me a lot. He'd been a bigwig with a major book company, but retired when his first wife Carol took ill with cancer. He took care of her as the disease took its toll and she finally passed away. He went back to work as a sales rep, in which capacity he met his second wife, Heidi. Heidi was in charge of Tower Books, and was a single parent. They courted over release books and cocktails at the legendary Candlerock Lounge, a few steps away from the Books office on Watt Avenue. Eventually, they married, and as all good couples do, complimented each other perfectly.

At their beautiful Sacramento home, they hosted legendary 4th Of July parties, weddings, funerals, demolition derbies and all manner of bacchanalia in the back yard. People came early and stayed late.
Some of my most treasured memories are of small gatherings on the deck for al fresco supper, wine flowing freely. Kinky Friedman, Sue Grafton, and Wavy Gravy all hung out in that yard at one time or another.

Then came the move to Benicia, and the visits became less frequent but still wonderful---sitting on a smaller, chillier deck and watching the sunset and the lights come up on the Carquinez Strait. Dog parks and Point Isabel with Dioggi and Chet. Then unemployment for me, and visits from The Big Black Dog, and no visits to the Cotlers.

As I lay in bed last night, trying to remember everything I could about Dan, wishing I'd gone and seen him, I found myself laughing more than crying. But crying too.

* When we first worked together, he had examples of young Aaron aka Sparky's artwork hanging near his desk. The pride he took in Aaron and the genuine kick he got out of his son really made me love him.

* His dad was Ben Cotler, and he grew up in rural Jersey. No, I don't remember which exit. Ben loved newspapers, and Dan shared that love as well. When we travelled together, our morning coffee would feature Dan reading me items from the local rag, which he usually read cover to cover.

* Dan was in Korea, and drew hazardous duty----climbing to the top of water towers to check if they'd frozen over.

* Dan muttered to himself a lot. He had an eternal internal running dialog between "Clear Headed Dan" and "Confused Dan", which often became external via audible mutterings. Our mutual friend Javier once said "Heidi put a muddle-spell on Dan, and he failed his roll." One of my favorite memories of being his cubicle neighbor at Bayside involved one such argument between Clear Head Dan and Confused Dan. Dan came in to work, set his keys down, and began a long discussion with himself as to whether he remembered to turn the stove off at home. "Wait, did I?....I thought I did because....No, of course I did...I think I did....Did I?" He slowly worked himself into a lather that included newspaper headlines that went "HOUSE BURNS DUE TO OWNER NEGLIGENCE" ... Finally, I heard the swoop of him picking up his keys and marching out of the building. An hour or so later he returned, and went about his business. I said "Well?" and he said, quietly.."Oh yeah, it was off..."

* In 1962, Dan and a friend drove from Detroit to California and Tijuana, living out their own Jack and Neal fantasy.

* Dan lived in Detroit during the 1968 riots.

* Dan hated peaches. This was because in his youth, he worked the Jersey peach orchards and couldn't get the itch of the peach-fuzz off of him.

* Dan called Heidi "She Who Must Be Obeyed", just like that British guy on that one show.

* Dan loved the Oakland A's, and made an annual pilgrimage to an early A's game with Hal, Pally (Glen Shelton), and Ken Krieg. Pally and Ken are both gone now too.

* Dan knew Forrest Gump would be a huge hit movie, based on the way he used to sell the paperback version of the novel years before.

* Dan taught me about "Salesman's Luck", which is when you find a parking spot right near the door of the customer you're calling on.

* Dan loved hot dogs. I remember how his face lit up when he bit into a good one, and he'd wink and say "Nice crunch..."

* Dan and I once drove to Fresno in Heidi's car, and got a Tom Waits tape stuck in her player, and spent almost an hour and a half on our knees trying to remove it, lest she kill us both.

* I was with Dan the first time he died. We were in San Diego opening up the La Mesa book department, and staying at this pricey hotel in Mission Bay. We finished work and rushed back to the hotel, had a quick drink and went up to my room to watch the series finale of "Cheers". That makes it 1993. We were watching the show, enjoying it, and at one point, Dan stopped laughing. I looked over at the other bed where he was lounging, and he looked dead. Not asleep, Dead. His chest wasn't moving, he didn't appear to be breathing, and I began to panic. I thought he was dead. I imagined Heidi calling (She was supposed to call after the show) and me having to tell her "I'm sorry. Dan is least he died watching a show he loved..." I thought how lame that sounded, and was trying out alternative dialog when the old bastard snarked and woke up. My adrenaline was going, and he got a little ticked that I thought he'd died. "I"m not THAT much older than you, Koch. And I'm in better shape."

* Dan got yelled at by Gene Simmons on the phone once, making me instantly hate Gene Simmons.

* He liked a good vodka martini. I didn't, and don't, but last night I drank several because he couldn't.

I will miss the man for the rest of my life, his type don't come around all that often.

As I wait for 2009 to enter the past in just a couple of hours, I send my thoughts to him, and my Stepfather, who was every bit a father to me as my own. I lost two good men this year.

Resquiat In Pacem, old friend. Hope you're laughing wherever you are.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

My Top Ten Albums of 2009

2009 wasn't such a good year for me (sure, there are 25 more days in which a turnaround could occur, but I ain't holding my breath...) but there was some great music popping out. For the first time in a few years, I had lots to choose from. My guidelines were that it had to come out in 2009, and no live albums allowed. That's about it. I even ranked them for a change.

#10- Boo Hewerdine - "God Bless The Pretty Things".

Boo Hewerdine was in a nifty British pop group called The Bible in the 80s, and later in the 90s. He hung out with American songwriter Darden Smith and put out a good album of songs called Evidence in 1996 that I thought was good enough to make my top 10 that year. So 13 years later he does it again, nailing the last available slot on my roster.

"God Bless The Pretty Things" is an album of spare acoustic arrangements, lovely lyrics, and a breathy voice that suits them . "Suits you, sir. Suits you."

Interestingly enough, or not, there's not much about Dick Taylor's band The Pretty Things on this album.


#9 Imogen Heap - "Ellipse"

Imogen Heap comes out of a group I found somewhat annoying called "Frou Frou", but this album hit me at the right time. Moody, loopy, broody, and lots of other "oo" words I'm sure. She inhabits that "Goil Singah" niche somewhere between Kate Bush and Jane Siberry on the landscape. More poppy.

This is Imogen Heap's third solo album, and though the others are a nice listen, this is the one where she hits all her marks in my opinion.

I've heard her called "laptop folk" which is a pretty good description. It certainly fits on "Ellipse. Check it out.


#8 Lyle Lovett - Natural Forces

Lahl. You just have to love Lahl Lovett.

I know I do. I like this album very much. I think it's his best album since "The Road To Ensenada".

Contains a couple of sweet Lyle-penned ballads, a Townes Van Zandt cover, and an hilarious double entendre-laden ditty called "Pantry".

Lyle is an American treasure. One day he'll die, and you'll say "Oh yeah, Lyle Lovett...I have ALL his records." Do yourself a favor and get this one.


#7 Ian Hunter - "Man Overboard"

Ian Hunter, of Mott The Hoople fame, has been making great records for years, and it seems to me the older he gets the better he gets. 2009 found him at 70 years old with an excellent follow up to one of my favorite Hunter albums, 2007's "Shrunken Heads".

If you don't know Ian Hunter, you suck, but impress your friends by knowing he's the guy that gave us "Cleveland Rocks", or "Theme To The Drew Carey Show". Assholes.

Hunter has always written good lyrics, and here he adds the old wit and charm to such subjects as the world economy, life as a rock n roll grand-dad, and even a song that would get him a firm lecture from HR if he actually worked in an office, called "The Girl From The Office". Not Pam Beasley nor Dawn Tinsley either.


#6 Monsters Of Folk - "Monsters Of Folk"
If you'd told me in 2008 that 2009 would see me owning an album that has Connor Oberst on it, I'd have grabbed a ball point pen, rammed it into the side of your neck, and watched you bleed out, all the while laughing. But your death wouldn't have changed the fact that you'd have been right.

This album is off the hook good. Conor Oberst doesn't even annoy me that much, although I find that I do skip his contributions almost automatically. I just don't like him. He's like Devandra Banhart, only more so. But back to the Monsters of Folk. Yim Yames is the anti-Conor, and he can do no wrong. Mike Mogis, one of Conor's men, and M. Ward are the other guys. This album is full of 70s hippie references, and they pull off the CSN routine well enough to make my top 10 for the year. Good work, men.


#5 Yusuf Islam - "Roadsinger..."
Yep. Cat Stevens. It looks like my list this year is all stuff that reminds me of music that came out when I was young and vital. If that's the case, so be it. It is after all my list, and I can pick what I want. Effers.

So our boy Yusuf released an album in 2006 called "An Other Cup" which I enjoyed a few times and then ignored. I even gave it to some relatives for Christmas, and they didn't like it. And not because he's a terrorist, either.

So 2009 gave us "Roadsinger..." which is a much more solid effort. Cat was the ultimate spinning hippie in the early 70s, and just about everybody liked him, even though he couldn't rock his way out of a paper sack. He still can't, but that beautiful voice is still in full effect, and I'm not ashamed to award him the five position ahead of all that other stuff we already discussed. Vintage VW bus on cover too. So he's got that going for him, which is nice.


#4 Cornershop - "Judy Sucks A Lemon For Breakfast"

You probably know these guys from the kickass Fatboy Slim remix of "Brimful Of Asha". They've always been the kings of South Asian Britpop, and this album does nothing to dim their glowing star in that firmament.

I had the song "Who Fingered Rock N Roll" which opens the album stuck in my head for weeks, and I'm sure my neighbors considered legal action on those days when I put it on endless repeat. Only later did I realize the whole album was as good as anything they've done. It always makes me happy when I play it. Gotta get it at the Cornershop Shop though. Worth tracking down, I promise.


#3 Imaad Wasif - "The Voidist"

WTF? Who's this guy? Have terrorists invaded my top ten? Nope. Imaad Wasif used to be in an incarnation of The Folk Implosion, and was a touring guitarist for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. I had never heard of him either. But then some guy said give this a listen. Oh. Yeah. This guy is pretty intense. Crunchy, stinky guitars. And you can almost smell the reefer. Which usually signals something good to me. This is no exception. Go to the link, and give a few tracks the perfunctory listen. It might be something you'd enjoy.


#2 The Rolf Lislevand Ensemble - "Diminuito"

In my early teens, I heard an album of lute music that haunted me. I didn't know the title, nor who did it, nor where to find it. I never found it. But I did roll the dice on a few lute albums I found in the cheap bins. I loved them all. In fact, every so often I buy an album of lute music. I've never not liked one. A few years ago, I bought a Rolf Lislevand album. The Norwegian lute player-- I'm sure you've heard of him?

His 2009 release, "Diminuito" is pretty spectacular. Diminuito was the renaissance practice of improvising over well known melodies of the day. Early jazz, and that. Soothing without being boring, the lovely music on this CD is my current favorite stress-reducer. Besides a nice wank. It's on the ECM label, a label that I am usually wary of, due to its association with "experimental" jazz releases like "Suite for Cello and Engine Block" and shit like that. This is renaissance lute music, brought alive and right next to you. No engine block required..


My number one album of 2009? Yep.

1) Madness - "The Liberty Of Norton Folgate"

Madness' brilliant debut album, "One Step Beyond", which came out in 1979, is one of my favorite albums of all time. It's fun, infectious, and still holds up today. I often go back to it when I need to energize.

Sadly, I didn't like much stuff by them after that, not even "Our House". They have always been likeable chaps, so I gave everything they did at least a listen, but nothing ever measured up to "One Step Beyond".

So, thirty years on, they release a double concept album about a neighborhood in London, and it's bleeding fantastic. In fact, this is their magnum opus. Bleeb dat shit, Jigga. Three years in the making, they earn a pass from me forever, because I know that at least every thirty years, they release a perfect album. An easy choice for me for my "Album Of The Year" for 2009.

"Honorable Mentions"

There were some live albums that were automatically rejected as per my rules, but I loved Thea Gilmore's live cd "Recorded Delivery" and Tom Petty & The Heartbreaker's four disc live retrospective "The Live Anthology". My hero, Richard Thompson, released a live version of his fine album "Sweet Warrior" called "Live Warrior" on his website, but couldn't be included either, although I love it.

I also disqualified Rosanne Cash's wonderful "The List" album, because it was all cover versions. My list, my rules. But I love that album. New albums by Elvis Costello, Levon Helm, The Decemberists, Cheap Trick, Echo & The Bunnymen, Jill Sobule and Robert Earl Keen were considered for my lists but didn't make it because the ten I picked were better, in my opinion (which is the only one that counts for the purposes of this list.

The hardest cut of all, and perhaps the unkindest, was the debut album by The Big Pink called "A Brief History Of Love". Time may make me wish I'd included it instead of the Cat Stevens one, but what the hell. It's a fine album, and you 4AD kids will be well pleased by it. Thank you for your attention. Bring on 2010.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Classic Album: Sweet Warrior by Richard Thompson

While getting ready to compile my "Top Ten of 2009" album list to share with my equally geeky pals and palesses, I checked my iTunes library to see what I've listened to the most. Not surprisingly, the 2007 album by Richard Thompson, "Sweet Warrior" was the album I listened to the most. I hereby name it the best album of the last five years, and quite possibly my favorite Richard Thompson album, no mean feat.

A critical darling and a "guitarist's guitarist", he's never had big hit album. He gets some nice royalty checks, I'm sure, from the cover versions of his songs by such people as Patty Loveless, Emmylou Harris, Bonnie Raitt, The Corrs, The Pointer Sisters (!) and lots of other folks. I went to see him at the long-lost Palms Playhouse in 1985 or so on the strength of the Rolling Stone magazine review of his current album at the time "Across A Crowded Room", and I haven't looked back since. I've seen him dozens of times since, by himself or with a band. Anyone I've ever introduced to his concert experience has been lightning-bolted like Saul on the road to Damascus.

He's that good.

But back to "Sweet Warrior". I've neglected it over the last several months because it was completely intertwined with my last failed relationship. In fact our last "date" was to see him in Santa Cruz. Of course he was fantastic, my beloved was blown away too, and I thought that it was right and good in a perverse way that Mr. Gloom & Doom himself, Richard Thompson, would serve as the punctuation to that bittersweet stab at rekindled love.

But I couldn't listen to him for awhile. My favorite artist, and I couldn't bear to listen to him. The horror.

But last night, I manned up and decided to give it a spin. Then another. Then another. Then some tequila. Then another tequila. Then tequila some more. Then another spin. Then muted foggy daylight. Sigh.

If you don't have it already, you need to buy it. That's an order. Then you have to listen to it. Tequila optional.

Track 1 - "Needle & Thread".

This jaunty number describes in humorous fashion various relationships gone wrong after which the singer must get a needle and thread to sew his heart back together again. He gets extra credit for using names of girls who rarely make it into rock songs, like Caitlin and the beautiful Welsh name Myfanwe. (Myfanwe runs off with a guy named Dai.) Nice crunchy guitar solos.

Track 2-"I'll Never Give It Up"

He's pissed at somebody. Maybe a stalker? (I'd better watch out). Nice line "You're someone I can't help but betray / Because you built me up that way..."

Track 3-"Take Care The Road You Choose".

The heartbreaker. My favorite on an album of favorites. Still a bit tough to listen to, but its overwhelming beauty compels me. Every verse of the beautiful lyric is punctuated by his fluid, melancholy yet uplifting guitar work, and the solos give me chills. Chills, Jerry.

Track 4 "Mr Stupid"

From the sublime to the ridiculous in one song. Ridiculously good song though.
Clear the streets and book your seats, Mr. Stupid's back in town.
I like this line:
"When your friends point out your stuck with a Neanderthal for an ex
Don't fret about it, darlin, I still sign my name on cheques..."

Track 5 "Dad's Gonna Kill Me"

This is the one that got all the (limited) press. NPR highlighted it on "All Songs Considered" and he played it for Terri Gross on Fresh Air. It's from the point of view of a soldier fearing for his life in Baghdad ('dad for short.) I think it was a single. I can't see the kids dancing to it, but a great song nonetheless.

Track 6 "Poppy Red"

This beautiful song is about a girl who died. Par for the course for Mr. Cheerful and lighthearted. Not.
"Now my love makes her bed
Where poppies grow over her head
There in a field, there in a field
Warm and red - as the blood she shed"

Track 7 "Bad Monkey"

Very fun very catchy song with sax and accordian solos. Don't hold that against it. It's advice to someone about ditching their loser boyfriend.

"Where's the joy in a boy who dribbles when he drinks his tea
I've seen better manners from a baby chimpanzee..."

Track 8 "Francesca"

A broody number praising Francesca. Nice beat. This one snuck into my favorites on the album upon repeated listening.

Track 9 "Too Late To Come Fishing"

Has RT added a fishing song to his oeuvre? Nah. This one's about somebody
fake. Sweet harmony by Michael Hays on this one.

"But now you want to make a new start
I'm so touched by your change of heart
But my diary's fit to overflow
Find yourself another gigolo..."


Track 10 "Sneaky Boy"

This one's dressing down some sneaky boy. Handclaps, unique melody, and this couplet. Top this, Bernie Taupin:

"Spleen of Mammon, Spleen of Midas
Now you scold us, now you chide us.."

Track 11 "She Sang Angels To Rest"

Very sweet ballad about a summertime love. How do you fall when you already fell for the best?

Track 12 "Johnny's Far Away"

The album closes with three monsters right in a row. If it weren't for "Take Care The Road You Choose", the next three songs would be in a dead heat for favorite song on the album. Kicking off with "Johnny's Far Away", a modern sea shantey about a guy in an unhappy marriage who signs on with a cruise ship as part of a Ceilidh band. (Ceilidh pronounced "Caley" is a Scottish traditional dance form. Some cruise ship, huh!) While Johnny's far away on the rolling sea, his unhappy wife is making time with someone on the side, in their own bedroom after she puts on a video to babysit the kids. Meanwhile, while the cruise ship is turning hard a-port in the Bahamas, Johnny's helping some matron out of her pyjamas. At the end of the song, Johnny stumbles home with "eleven battered roses", perhaps my favorite image on the album. My beloved pointed out to me that she saw it as he fished them out of a trash bin on the way home from the pub. I agree with her. The couple reconcile at the end of the song, and "get down to the job of man and wife..."

Track 13 "Guns Are The Tongues"

This fine lyric is complex and full of imagery. The tune is swell too. It's about Carrie, a woman in the IRA who has a little gang that attacks British soldiers. She gets recruits by seducing them in her bed. She comes across a guy named Joe who is a dullard, but very tall. The other guys derisively call him "Little Joe" because his head scrapes the ceiling. Carrie tells Joe she'll "lie like a rose on his pillow, and will twine the laurel in his hair." Don't know about you, but if a woman told me that, I'd be putty in her hands.

Joe's mission is to drive a car-bomb into a roadblock full of soldiers. He is supposed to jump clear at the last moment so he doesn't get blowed up. But Joe's a dullard, remember? He's worried that he'll scrape his knees on the pavement if he jumps out. So he blows up. Soldiers investigating the explosion "marvel at how far his boots had travelled". Simply a great song.

Track 14 "Sunset Song"

This one's another heartbreak. A beautiful finger-picking intro on the ol' acoustic. The singer is taking his leave of a lover in yet another failed romance. Someone who wants him to love her in total depth, and yet that's not good enough.

"You said if I held my breath, and dove down deep enough, I might grow fins.
Seems to me I've held my breath, held my breath to please you ever since..."

The perfect ending to a pretty perfect album.

I can't recommend it highly enough.

Friday, October 16, 2009

High Weirdness Honky Tonk; or Country and WTF---Eddie Noack

"I seen my ex again last night, Mama

She was at the dance at Miller's store

She was with that Jackie White, Mama

I killed 'em both and now they're buried 'neath Jenkins' sycamore..."

That's how Eddie Noack tells his mother about the first two of six murders he commits during the course of a three and a half minute song called "Psycho", which might be just about the most perverse song ever recorded. The other four murders are his younger brother, the little girl who lives next door, a crying baby, and in the "twist ending", that same mother he is singing to. Oh yeah. He kills a puppy too.

I first heard this song years ago at an Elvis Costello concert. Since I had never heard it, I assumed it was a Costello original. But it was written in the 50s by the blind Texas songsmith Leon Payne, who'd written a couple of songs for Hank Williams that were big hits. Understandably, it wasn't a very well known song. In 1968, it was covered by Eddie Noack.

Eddie Noack was a songwriter himself, with a degree in Journalism and English from the University of Houston, the town that gave us the legendary Townes Van Zandt. He worked for the Nashville songwriting houses, and even for those "song poem" labels---the labels that would take out ads in the back of magazines saying they'd set your poems to music, and send you a crummy pressing of your song for a fee.

Since there's no readily available CDs of Eddie Noack, nor anything downloadable on iTunes or Amazon, I turned to the back alleys of the internet once again to secure a compilation made by some anonymous country music collector. Five discs worth, supposedly his entire recorded output.
With snaps, crackles and pops, as well as occasional skips, which only added to the authenticity of the stuff.

Turns out Eddie was a fine Honky Tonk singer, but with a weakness for some flat out crazy songs, that even in their day must have been VERY politically incorrect.

There's "The Poor Chinee" (bowdlerized on the label as "The Poor Chinese".) This little ditty is sung in pidgin chinese, such as "ship make a Chinaboy feel queer." and "little girl make wishee washee". A definite headscratcher as to commercial viability. But the weirdest thing about this song is that perhaps the finest country singer of all time, George Jones, chose to cover it.

If that's not enough to make you wince, there's "Firewater Luke", about what else? A drunken injun. Or more accurately, a man who sells "firewater" to drunken injuns (or the paleface, it matters not to him).

He wrote some great songs that weren't so weird, like "He's Gettin' Smaller (With Each Drink)" about a guy who's sitting around at a bar watching a pretty girl who happens to be with a date. So he keeps drinking, and with each passing drink, he gets more and more convinced he can kick the guys ass. THAT will impress her. So barkeep, make it a double and as Eddie says "Leave out all that fruit..."

But the big legacy for Eddie was his Batshit Crazy Trilogy of the aforementioned "Psycho", as well as "Barbara Joy", and "Dolores".

"Barbara Joy" is kind of like "The Long Black Veil", where a man wrongly accused of murder says nothing in his own defense because on the night in question he was "in the arms of his best friend's wife." Rather than besmirch her honor, he keeps mum and goes to the gallows. On dark lonely nights, the woman puts on a long black veil and mourns at his grave.

I say "Barbara Joy" is KIND OF like that, because in Barbara Joy the guy accused of a crime is guilty, and that crime is rape. He's asking Barbara Joy to "say that you were willing" so he doesn't swing. Yeah, Good luck with that, Eddie. Hey, guess what----George Jones covered this one too!

"Dolores" is just as weird as "Psycho".

We've got Eddie begging "Dolores" to stay inside the house tonight, because "lately there's been some violence in the streets..." He goes on to say how there's been a madman out and about, when he sees a woman, he "just goes berserk". He also mentions to Dolores that she's "just the kind of woman that he preys on." He's really worried because he has to work nights, collecting on insurance premiums. Again, he begs her to stay inside. Unfortunately, the police call him one morning and ask him to identify a body. It's Dolores. He laments, saying "Dolores, how could I know that it was you..." You see...HE WAS THE KILLER.


If on your travels you see any Eddie Noack, any at all, pick it up. If you don't like it, send it to me. I'll thank you for it.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The King Of The Honky Tonks: Gary's Greatest

On my journey through my country music collection these past few weeks, I soaked myself in Merle, Buck Owens, Porter Wagoner, Ferlin Husky and many others. Then I found my copy of "Gary's Greatest", a compilation of the one-time "King Of The Honky Tonks", Gary Stewart. I first found out about Gary Stewart when I worked at a record store in the late seventies. RCA was trying to market him with their "Outlaw Country" artists, like Waylon and Willie, and Tompall Glaser and what not. Only thing is, Gary was TOO outlaw for those people. And he rocked a little too hard, even for "outlaw" country. His music was single minded, and used the country cliches "Drinkin", "Cheating On" and "Being Cheated On" and "Gettin' Some" exclusively. Not many other subjects in a Gary Stewart song. Listen to Gary sing, and he'll convince you that he lived these songs, even the ones he didn't write. He had this unnatural vibrato, it sounds like someone with the shakes crossed with an ornery goat of some kind, and I mean that in the best possible sense. Gary will come to the end of a line and all that's left is that voice shaking out the last syllables. THAT my friends, is a country voice. Looking at the cover shot of this album, he looks kind of like the comedian Steven Wright, if Steven Wright looked like he might be drunk enough to punch you. Looking at various shots of him on the web, he was a handsome guy, but there was always something a little off.

Gary never had the fame he should have, although he had some country hits. He had a problem with speed and pills, and lived for a long time in a trailer painted jet black out in the woods. He'd get it together from time to time, but when the woman he'd been married to for nearly 40 years passed away, Gary was lost. All those songs about cheating, drinking, and living that life, but he couldn't function without her. So he cancelled the few gigs he had lined up, sat in an easy chair in his living room, and shot himself to death. Luckily for us, there's this CD. Let me walk you through it:

1. Your Place or Mine
The subtext of this song is...there is no subtext. He's at a bar, the woman he's trying to bed is nearly comatose ("your head's on my shoulder") and he himself is "feelin' fine". The bartender asks if he wants another round, but Gary thinks the time is right to ask the eternal, titular question. This collection starts off relatively tame, with only a passing "drinkin'" reference.

2. Whiskey Trip
Now we're talkin. Still only the "drinkin" card is played, but the booze soaks the song. Whiskey in the title and in every verse. In this one, Gary's missing his woman, who is apparently no longer in the picture. Where's Gary? Three guesses, but here's a hint: They sell Whiskey. Every time he takes a sip, he is transported to tropical climes with the woman. So he keeps sippin.

3. Brand New Whiskey
Gary adds the cheatin piece to the drinkin card. He's been dumped, "done dirty" by the woman he loves. He proposes that there ought to be a brand new whiskey available to him, and begins to list what properties it should contain. Great hook: "They oughtta make a brand new whiskey, and give it a WOMAN'S name..." He sings "woman" with a kind of angry snarl and hurtin' whimper that sells it completely. Brooks & Dunn covered this, but that one is one hundred percent ersatz. This is the deal, and a great one.
4. Out of Hand
Drinking is only implied in this, as Gary admits to being "a hard-livin' kind of man." This one is all about cheating. He's at a bar chatting up a woman he deems "my kind of woman." And as opposed to being "done wrong", Gary's "doin' wrong". He's cheating on the little woman at home, but he swears this is the first time he's done it. He also points out that he was really only flirting, and never intended it to "get so out of hand". But it does, and he feels bad about it, but not bad enough to not do it. Why? Because, as a hard living kind of man, he "needs more to keep (him) going than this gold wedding band..."

5. Ramblin' Man
This is a cover of the great Allman Brothers song. You know the one, "Lord I was born a ramblin' man..." This is the only song on the collection that doesn't reference any of the Big Vices, but still an admirable choice. If you need vicarious thrills, the narrator's father is murdered, and is apparently fond of casual sex. He warns the woman that he's bound to leave at a moment's notice, as he is a ramblin' man. And he also lets her know that he's looking forward to getting some from the bayou women who find him charming.

6. In Some Room Above the Street
He didn't write this one either, but it's a cheating song of the first order. Gary, married, is meeting his lover "In Some Room Above The Street". She's married too. He complains that it's wrong, and he compares them to common thieves and beggars on the street. Can't quit though. It feels "too sweet". The ante is upped in the final moments, when Gary suggests that if her husband should desire sex, go ahead and do it, but be sure to think of Gary whilst in the midst. Classic.

7. Ten Years of This
Bob Dylan allegedly loved this song so much he listened to it over and over again, moved to a trance-like state. (side note--it's not obvious to me that he's come out of it) Jackpot, content wise. Singing about a marriage that's gone bad---she's out cheating he thinks, and he's "sitting here stoned". He sings about it being good he's not sure she's cheating, because if it is confirmed, he's liable "to start talking with my fists."
And a great hook---after noting that "what ain't dead by now is dying", he wonders "What in hell kept us together for ten years of this..." I'm with Dylan. Great freakin' song.

8. Let's Go Jukin'
This cookin little number is Gary asking "good-lookin'" to accompany him out Jookin'. He knows a dive (no, really?) where they can "party" and dance. "Drink it up, baby let the good times roll!" She's a gamer too, tight dress and slathered in perfume. Excellent roadhouse piano solo as well.

9. Little Junior
Like his Daddy, in this song, Gary is 'no count'. (Of no account). A chip off the old block, he finds pleasure wherever he goes. Amongst his cravings listed within the lyrics of this song are "Tall naked women, diamonds, cars, old-age whiskey and all night bars..." He advises the local citizenry to "keep their daughters in the yard", as he has been to jail, is out on bail, and really doesn't care what kind of trouble he gets into. Also, "strange things happen when he's around." Why would he behave this way? Simply: "I'm only goin' through once, and I'm going through in style.."

10. Drinkin' Thing
Gary has "this drinkin' thing". Why? Well, his (younger) woman is carrying on. Gary thinks of asking her to tell him the truth about what she's been up to, but figures she'll probably tell him if he asks. So, he drinks.

11. Flat Natural Born Good-Timin' Man
Wherein Gary dons his Two-Tones, and heads down to Whiskey Row for some serious drinking with the free-wheelin' goodlookin' high heeled honies that are sure nuff a friend of a Flat Natural Born Good Timin' Man.

12. Stone Wall (Around Your Heart)
Here Gary covers a song by the fantastic Louvin Brothers. Someone once loved him, and now treats him like a stranger on the street. We'll take the drinking as a given.

13. She's Got a Drinking Problem
Gary tells us about a fashionable woman, with a taste for foreign cars. She eschews the bars, as she is too high class for that. But alas, she has a drinkin' problem. Guess who that is. "She's got a drinkin' problem, and it's me!" Despite his alcoholism, she sticks with him. "The one mistake she ever made comes home to her each night." At least he's faithful.

14. Single Again
Gary's Single Again. Why? His hot mama has taken up with a stranger new in town, with a black moustache and a red Cadillac. He's screwed. "Now he's got you, and I got two...divorce lawyers on my back..." Running to escape "the alimony man", Gary drifts from bar to bar, but runs into friends who remind him of her. So he's single again, and "livin from drink to drink."

15. She's Actin' Single (I'm Drinkin' Doubles)
Gary notices other men flirting with his woman, and notices her flirting back. "Acting single" as it were. So, "While she pours herself on some stranger, he pours himself a drink somewhere." This song is great, full of self-loathing and the realization that he's "not man enough to stop her from doin' him wrong". So, his heart is breaking, like the tiny bubbles. She's actin' single, he's drinkin' doubles.

16. Empty Glass (That's the Way the Day Ends)
This is actually a very nice ballad. The sweetest ballad you've ever heard where the singer admits to being "drunk again" in the first verse. He misses his lady so much. Every night he's in some bar, "pouring whiskey on a heart that's on fire..." It's fine that he rhymes "bar" with "fire". or "Fahr". Makes me love him even more. When I feel wronged in love, this is a song I often linger long over, with my own empty glass in front of me.

17. Quits
This is a great break-up song to close out the collection. An epitaph of a failing marriage, it goes:
"What do we call it now, it's not a marriage anymore.
Call it new and different, it's not like it was before
Out of all the words to choose from, there's only one that fits
Call it what you want to, I just call it 'Quits'."

Everyone who likes hardcore country music needs some Gary Stewart in their collection. This one, unfortunately, is out of print so you'll need to check used bins. Or, you can approximate it by purchasing the in-print "Essential Gary Stewart" which has most of the same tracks.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Sh*t Happens: Songs Of Everyday Life

Today, in a run-down litter strewn part of the internet, I came across a country music compilation called "Shit Happens! Songs Of Everyday Life". Of course, I had to have it.

They should have called it "Shit Happens: Songs Of Everyday Life for REALLY UNLUCKY PEOPLE"


1) Eddy Arnold tells the sad tale of a woman who ignores her baby's pleas of "Mommie Please Stay Home With Me" instead of going out a-drankin'. When she stumbles home later, the smell of booze on her breath and music still ringing in her ears, she finds the baby near death and feverish. The doctor comes, and looks sadly on as the little nipper in his fevered delirium repeats his plea for his mama to stay home. Then the baby dies. The mama feels bad.

2) Dolly Parton's kids need clothing, so she walks them down to the Goodwill store in the snow. She turns the corner and runs smack dab into Porter Wagoner, in the role of "Daddy", who is in the midst of begging for booze money. She tries to reverse course quickly, but the astute kids notice him, and say "Mama, Ain't That Daddy?". Then Porter takes over, and tells what it's like to spend your days drinking "Whiskey, wine and gin." Some cocktail.

3) In the first of many Hank Snow songs on this comp, Hank deals with an unruly child by sending him to bed early for his crimes. The child resists, saying "Don't Make Me Go To Bed Papa and I'll Be Good". But Hank stands firm. Later, Hank and the Missus check on him only to find him lying in bed in intense pain. They sit up with him all night and half the next day. He dies

4) George Hamilton IV (untanned ) George runs into "Little Tom" at an all-night diner, raggedy clothes and no shoes, selling papers to help the family survive because Daddy spends all the money on booze and "gets fired all the time" from his various jobs. The little fellow is still cheerful despite his lot in life. As the song ends, George asks "Little Tom, what will be your fate?"

5) Dolly Again---this time she's telling us about little Jeannie, who keeps asking to sleep with her parents, as she is afraid of the dark. They take her to visit relatives graves, where she remarks that if she were to die, please don't bury her because the dark of eternal death would make her afraid. Porter takes over the song, to tell us that guess what----Jeannie Died. On a dark stormy night. But her parents made sure to keep a light on her little grave because of her fears.

6) Hank Snow tells us the cheerful tale of "Little Blossom", who is wondering where her Daddy is one night, and hopes he's not in that "long place with glass bottles" that make him "stumble home at night". She decides to go find him, and unfortunately for her she does. In a drunken rage, Daddy bashes Little Blossom's brains in with a nearby chair.

7) Not content to let the matter rest, Hank recorded "The Answer To Little Blossom". Same story, but from the point of view of Daddy. It seems when she found him, the drink made him think he was seeing a demon meant to do him harm. Only after he smashes her head in with a chair does he realize its his little girl. If Hank recorded a third version of the song from the point of view of the chair, they didn't include it on this comp. Thankfully.

8) Hank Snow, three in a row. In "The Drunkard's Song", he tells of the time he "wandered into the dusty attic of an old tenement house" (who "just wanders" into a tenement attic?) where a sickly little boy lies in filth. He is hiding from his daddy, who just that morning beat him up. Daddy beat him because he would not steal. His mama, of course is dead. Hank runs off to get the boy some help, but when he returns, the boy is dead. That's his story anyway.

9) Guess what! Hank Snow! Hank, again, is "just passing by" an Orphanage, where he finds a boy crying because he's "Nobody's Child". No mama's kisses, no daddy's smiles. Nobody wants him. He's Nobody's child. The other orphans all get adopted, but he never gets picked. Why? Because he's blind, that's why.

10) Eddy Arnold returns with a cheerful tale of a little boy asking returning soldiers "Did You See My Daddy Over There?" In France, or the like. One of the soldiers, turns out, DID see his Daddy. He saw him shot and killed.

11) The Louvin Brothers are going off to war, and before they go, they say "Mother Thank You For The Bible". She gave them one to keep them company in the fox holes. They read it out loud so their buddies can enjoy the scriptures too. The Bible takes a bullet for one of them, and saves their lives. Perhaps the happiest ending in the collection.

12) What do you know, it's HANK SNOW! In "The Blind Boy's Dog", Hank tells us about a blind boy giving up his dog for the war effort. I guess to lead blind soldiers into battle. They get a telegram from Uncle Sam that the dog has been killed in action. The blind boy begs the government to send his dog's body back home so he can bury him.

13) Hal Lone Pine and Betty Cody sing "O Lord Please Tell Me Why", about a little girl crying at her mother's grave, wondering why God took her away. Leaving a small child all alone. With no guardian to prevent her from crying her eyes out all day long at the gravesite.

14) Ted Harris sings "Pickin' Flowers" about a little girl picking flowers on the roadside. He stops to help her. Turns out her little brother is "awful sick, and the doctor says he's gonna die" He's her only playmate. Her mother says that "God wants another fresh flower for his bouquet" hoping it will explain why the child is dying. The little girl is picking flowers in the hope that God will like her flowers well enough to spare the little brother. I hate to tell her...

15) A duet with Webb Pierce and Red Sovine, "Little Rosa". Guy sees a man kneeling at a grave, weeping. He's an illegal. In broken English, he tells Red and Webb (doing a very bad vaudeville Italian accent) "he looka at her with one bigga smile..." that he got the flower at a cut rate because the flower shop lady found out he was going to put it on his little girl's grave. He said "Tenk you, boss---tenka you very much..." I shit you not.

16) Jim Reeves learns that "Mother Went A-Walkin'" In the same sense as a dog one's parents don't want is "now living on a big farm in the country..."

17) Johnny Cash doing the classic "Give My Love To Rose". Guy lying by the side of the road, nearly dead, asks passerby to tell his wife and kid he loves them. Dies. The usual.

18) Webb Pierce tells us the story of "The Hobo And The Rose". Guy falls in love with a rich girl, who's daddy disapproves and marries her off to a more suitable mate. Jilted guy becomes a Hobo. Wears a single rose on his jacket to remind him of the woman. Comes back to his hometown after some years, to find the woman has five kids. He gets run over by a train.

19) Red Foley does his hit "Old Shep". "Just a boy and his dog...." For me, the dog owner, this was the one that choked me up. Dogs should outlive us. Shep, of course, does not. "Jim", the owner, goes to shoot him in the head with his gun, but can't do it. Instead, he sits down and puts Shep's head in his lap. Shep, knowing he's dying, licks the guy's hand. Then he goes "where the good doggies go".

20) Hal Lone Pine and Betty Cody. "Dear Sister". In the form of a letter to a beloved sister. The beloved sister, when they were children, would either steal or break the other sister's toys. She was also smarter, and presumably prettier. Later, the "Dear Sister", not content with the memory of toy breaking and humiliation, decides that she should steal the now grown sister's man. She does.

21) Johnny Horton, later to be decapitated for real in a horrific road accident, tells us the sad story of the woman who learns that "Another Woman Wears His Wedding Ring". Johnny meets this girl in a honky tonk, and wonders why she's getting hammered. Turns out that her man, who fathered her child, left her for someone new. Now she has no future. To top it off, the kid looks just like the daddy. So, she's drinking. Wouldn't you?

22) Perhaps my favorite Porter Wagoner song comes next. "The Cold Hard Facts Of Life" was the name of Porter's hit, as well as the album that contained it. The cover art is priceless, with Porter standing forlornly in a doorway, one hand on the doorway and the other holding a cigarette and a suitcase (Or bowling ball) while a surprised couple looks at him from the sofa. The song is even better. Porter has been away on business, and decides to "surprise the wife" by not calling to say he's coming home early. He stops to get some booze, and the guy in front of him in line is talking about a party he's going to at this woman's house who's husband is out of town. Porter thinks nothing of it, until he notices that the guy's car is heading for his neighborhood, and even worse, pulls into his driveway. Porter decides to teach them "The Cold Hard Facts Of Life" by murdering them both. With a knife.

23) Ed Bruce gives us "Tiny Golden Locket" about a little boy going into a bar, clutching a Tiny Golden Locket. It contains a picture of a woman. Turns out it's his mommy, and has Ed Bruce seen her? She's all he's got in life. Ed sadly watches the kid leave the bar, and then hears the squeal of brakes. He runs out to find the boy has been killed by a car while crossing the street. The best part? The driver was his mother.

24) If there's one thing I love, it's the Country Music Recitation. Porter Wagoner was the best at this, but other guys tried it. Ferlin Husky gives it a shot with "Drunken Driver". Sad, twangy violins accompany the spoken word account of how a couple of kids, who had a hard life because their daddy R-U-N-N-O-F-T to spend his time drankin' and carryin' on, and their mama died. As they're walking along the state highway, they are killed by drunk driver, who has the presence of mind to yell out at them before he hits them "Git outta the road, you little fools...." Turns out the driver is....Daddy. The little girl is killed instantly, but the son lives long enough to say "I always told sister we'd see you again, Daddy---why'd it have to be this way? How come you run us to the ground? Why Daddy? Why?" This might be the most over the top one in the collection. A keeper for sure.

25) We close out the collection with Porter's classic "Carrol County Accident", where his cheatin' daddy is killed in a car accident with the woman he's cheating with. I think they should have ended the collection with the previous number, Drunken Driver. But maybe that's just me.

All in all, this is the kind of collection that needs to be heard to be believed. Two enthusiastic thumbs way way up.

For further reference, here's that Porter cover: