REVISITED: POSSESSED BY PAUL JAMES – FEED THE FAMILY

I wanted to revisit this post today because it was just announced the the album won the Independent Music Awards award for Best Alt-Country Album Of 2010 and I felt that should earn it a rerun for those that missed it the first time. One time I said something about Possessed By Paul James and I feel this would be a good time to quote it, “a lot of people won’t get Possessed By Paul James but those that do will have found a musician who’s albums they’ll be listening to for years to come and that’s a special thing.”

Congragulations to Konrad and all the Hillgrass Bluebilly folks.


The last time I wrote about Possessed By Paul James I was relatively sure no one outside of my little Deep Blues circle had any idea who he was. Flash forward a couple of years and a stint on the last Revival Tour, and people on my alt.country/punk-folk circle have at least heard of him and a few lucky ones have seen him live.

Possessed By Paul James is one Mr. Konrad Wert, currently living in Texas but hailing from my home state of Florida. His past two albums, Possessed By Paul James and Cold and Blind, coupled with his live shows have garnered him a cult following as rabid as any, and one I am proud to call myself a part of. That said, the albums have also fallen into the “love ‘em or hate ‘em” category. It’s an issue I can relate to because for the longest time I loved Cold and Blind but found Possessed By Paul James utterly unlistenable. That was, until I managed to catch him live 2 times at the Deep Blues Festival 3 years ago.

Konrad is best understood if you’ve seen him live, that’s an undeniable fact, but it’s become less of a requirement with each album, and now with Feed The Family I think he’s managed to make an album accessible enough that the live show isn’t a requirement for those with a slightly more confined musical palate. Feed the Family captures everything that makes Possessed By Paul James great without spending too much time in that challenging area that requires knowing him live to be able to truly “get it”

So, what does that get you? For long time fans, the stomps, vocal quakes and yelps are still present. For the potential newly indoctrinated (slash Konard live virgins), said stomps, vocal quakes and yelps are mixed more into the background, with Konrad’s picking and passion out front for display. The results are a surprisingly restrained sound that manages to capture the immediate and passionate nature of Konrad’s music. I think with all that said, it’s clear that this is seriously some Essential Listening. If you’ve heard PBPJ before and didn’t like it, listen again ‘cause this is easily the best album he’s recorded to date, as well as a done deal for a slot on the 9B Top 10 of the 2k10.

Possessed By Paul James – Feed The Family
Possessed By Paul James – Shoulda’ Known Better
Possessed By Paul James – Color Of My Bloody Nose

Possessed By Paul James’ official site, Possessed By Paul James on myspace, Buy Feed The Family

GUEST POST: T-MODEL FORD & GRAVELROAD – TALEDRAGGER

Autopsy IV is on his annual pilgrimage to strap a board to the bottom of his feet and slide down mountains. While he is away 9B will feature a collection of guest posts. Today’s post comes from our good buddy Chris Green.


I’m sure that a lot of ninebullets.net readers are familiar with the legendary T Model Ford and the band GravelRoad from their appearances at the (late, lamented) Deep Blues festival and previous coverage on this site, but I’ll give a brief intro. T Model Ford is an elderly blues-man whose raw sound was first brought to a larger audience by his recordings with Fat Possum records, and who has inspired and influenced many of the artists covered here. T Model started his recording career when he was in his 70s, and there’s a lot of colorful lore about him and his life out there on the internets. GravelRoad is a great 3-piece band from my hometown of Seattle whose sound is a blend of blues, hard rock, and psychedelia, and who have also been performing and collaborating with T Model Ford since 2008.

T Model Ford had an interesting 2010. He started off the year by releasing The Ladies Man, an album full of stripped-down acoustic blues that he recorded with his long time backing band, GravelRoad. This excellent album was recorded live with minimal studio work and featured out-takes between the songs of T-Model talking to the band and telling some stories, providing the listener with the feeling of hanging out at a casual jam between blues musicians. He did a lot of touring in 2010 as well with GravelRoad, playing both small clubs and larger festivals. He also suffered a mild stroke which required him to work hard to regain his full right-hand dexterity for playing his guitar. T Model might have celebrated his 90th birthday in 2010 (no one, including T himself is 100% sure what year he was born). He also got married (for the 6th time) to his longtime companion Stella (who is mentioned in several of his recordings).

And, this past summer, he went into the studios again with GravelRoad for the recording sessions that resulted in a new album, The Taledragger, releasing on 1/11/11 on the Alive/Natural Sounds label.

The new album is a loud electric affair with dense instrumentation. The opening song, “Same Old Train” is a driving 7 minute long groove broken up by T’s singing, guitar solos, and some pounding piano courtesy of guest musician Brian Olive. This track broadcasts to the listener the essential difference between this album and the previous one – while The Ladies Man usually sounds like GravelRoad acting as a backing band with T Model front and foremost, on Taledragger, I’m hearing one seamless band of great musicians.

When corresponding with Marty of GravelRoad, he told me that when they recorded Ladies Man, they had played less than 10 shows with T Model, but that by the time the new material was recorded, they had done 8 or 9 tours with him, and that Marty has drummed with him for something on the order of 150 sets. So it’s not surprising that the new album sounds so much more like a full collaboration.

The second song, “Comin’ back home” introduces another new sonic element, with some fine saxophone playing augmenting the shuffling groove. The sax playing stays with us as they pick up the pace on “How Many Years”. Then things take an interesting turn. “Someone’s Knocking On My Door” opens with some echo-ey, distorted wah-wah guitar, and when T Model’s voice comes in, it’s augmented with a trippy echo. For the next 3 songs, the psychedelic and rock elements of GravelRoad’s sound come through loud and clear, melding seamlessly with T’s juke joint sound. While I love every song on this album, I find these 3 tracks the most exciting.

Then, things shift again. On the rollicking “Red Dress”, T’s opening wailing vocals bring to mind some of his earlier rawer recordings. The album finishes with a slow traditional blues number, “Little Red Rooster”, which was first recorded by Howlin’ Wolf.

I think this a very fine album indeed, that I will be listening to for a long time to come. And, despite it’s early January release, I expect it to show up on plenty of best album lists at the end of 2011.

GravelRoad is planning extensive touring this year, and I highly recommend going out to see them when they visit your town. They will also be doing some dates with T Model Ford, with the first one being in Phoenix in February. One of the high points of 2010 for me was having the privilege of seeing them both together for a great, inspiring Seattle show and getting to talk to T for a bit. I urge anyone out there who has a similar opportunity to take it. If there was a poll for the musician most likely to be still playing 2-hour sets at age 100, T Model Ford would be at the top of the list, but you can hardly treat this as a certainty.

T-Model Ford & Taledragger – Someone’s Knocking On My Door
T-Model Ford & Taledragger – Same Old Train
T-Model Ford & Taledragger – Red Dress

T-Model Ford’s Official Web Site, Gravelroad’s Official Web Site, Buy Taledragger

T-Model Ford and Gravelroad performing at Deep Blues Festival III:

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POSSESSED BY PAUL JAMES – FEED THE FAMILY


The last time I wrote about Possessed By Paul James I was relatively sure no one outside of my little Deep Blues circle had any idea who he was. Flash forward a couple of years and a stint on the last Revival Tour, and people on my alt.country/punk-folk circle have at least heard of him and a few lucky ones have seen him live.

Possessed By Paul James is one Mr. Konrad Wert, currently living in Texas but hailing from my home state of Florida. His past two albums, Possessed By Paul James and Cold and Blind, coupled with his live shows have garnered him a cult following as rabid as any, and one I am proud to call myself a part of. That said, the albums have also fallen into the “love ‘em or hate ‘em” category. It’s an issue I can relate to because for the longest time I loved Cold and Blind but found Possessed By Paul James utterly unlistenable. That was, until I managed to catch him live 2 times at the Deep Blues Festival 3 years ago.

Konrad is best understood if you’ve seen him live, that’s an undeniable fact, but it’s become less of a requirement with each album, and now with Feed The Family I think he’s managed to make an album accessible enough that the live show isn’t a requirement for those with a slightly more confined musical palate. Feed the Family captures everything that makes Possessed By Paul James great without spending too much time in that challenging area that requires knowing him live to be able to truly “get it”

So, what does that get you? For long time fans, the stomps, vocal quakes and yelps are still present. For the potential newly indoctrinated (slash Konard live virgins), said stomps, vocal quakes and yelps are mixed more into the background, with Konrad’s picking and passion out front for display. The results are a surprisingly restrained sound that manages to capture the immediate and passionate nature of Konrad’s music. I think with all that said, it’s clear that this is seriously some Essential Listening. If you’ve heard PBPJ before and didn’t like it, listen again ‘cause this is easily the best album he’s recorded to date, as well as a done deal for a slot on the 9B Top 10 of the 2k10.

Possessed By Paul James – Feed The Family
Possessed By Paul James – We Welcome You Home
Possessed By Paul James – Color Of My Bloody Nose

Possessed By Paul James’ official site, Possessed By Paul James on myspace, Buy Feed The Family

RED CLAY RIVER -COVER OUR FACES WITH SOOT AND DREAMS


Red Clay River proudly comes out of Roanoke, Virgina and could very well be one of the most popular bands ever prior to releasing a full length album. My Red Clay River experience came at Deep Blues Festival ’09. My buddy from here in Florida had already tipped me off about them and made me promise to catch them live while I was there, and being a man of my word, I did. Afterward we went back, met the guys (and gal) and picked up their music. Nothing, neither of the two EP’s I picked up nor the live show I saw last summer, prepared me for what we’re getting from this album.

Now I was admittedly mostly drunk for the bulk of the ’09 incarnation of The Deep Blues Festival, so my recollection of Red Clay River there was of a pretty standard (albeit solid) country/folk effort. The cd’s we picked up were from miscellaneous other incarnations of the band, but if we’re painting in broad strokes the description is pretty much the same as above. So imagine my surprise when this cool little cd shows up full of all these neat percussive beats and sounds coupled with this sometimes plaintive balladeer and at other times Waits-esque rumbling ringleader, all stacked on a quiet & calm traditional folk/country skeleton. It’s enough to catch a man off his guard now, lemme tell you, and while this album may not contain my favorite version of “Rattlesnake Mountain”, it is certainly one of the most surprising and exciting albums so far this year. It’s also a shoe-in for the next Essential Listening collection. Check it out. Tell me what you think:

Red Clay River – Rattlesnake Mountain
Red Clay River – Stompin’
Red Clay River – Hold On


Red Clay River on myspace
, Buy Cover Our Faces With Soot and Dreams

R.I.P. DEEP BLUES FESTIVAL:


After 4 years, 200+ bands, mounting debt and plenty of rain storms Chris Johnson announced yesterday that he would no longer be doing the Deep Blues Festival. I can’t say I am really all that surprised, the festival was always an ambitious undertaking that at times seemed to feature more band members than actual paid attendees, I guess I just always held out hope that Chris and crew would figure out how to scrape together another year.

The funny thing about The Deep Blues Festival was that it suffered no lack of support from the international / out of town community and it seems it’s ultimate failure may lie solely at the feet of the people in the Twin City area. Not that it matters at this point.

I just wanted to make a post to thank Chris for his efforts with DBF. I made it up there for two of the 4 festivals and had a blast both times. I met some fine folks, made a few friends and I saw bands like Charlie Parr, Possessed By Paul James, Davina and the Vagabonds, A Night In The Box and Jawbone whom I’ll likely never get to see again.

So, thanks for the memories Chris. I wish it would have worked out better for you.

Here are some bands that played DBF over the years:

A Night In The Box – Rich Man’s Table
Black Diamond Heavies – Smoothe It Out
Chris Cotton – The Gambler
Reverend Deadeye – Fuck the Devil
Jawbone – Saucy Sauce
Left Lane Cruiser – Big Mamma
Possessed By Paul James – Ferris Wheel
Scott H. Biram – Time Flies








AUTOPSY IV'S FAVORITE 20 ALBUMS OF 2009 (today):

Well, I guess it’s my turn. Kasey and RSV have already dropped their faves of the year (here and here) on y’all, so there’s just no avoiding it for me now. This year was particularly difficult due to the sheer amount of great music that came out, and had I made this list tomorrow it would certainly change. That said, you can edit forever but eventually you have to settle on something and call it your list. So, with out further ado I am gonna steal RSV’s formatting and get this show on the road:

20. Eilen Jewell – Sea of Tears
19. Those Darlins – Those Darlins
18. Strawfoot – How We Prospered
17. Justin Townes Earl – Midnight at The Movies
16. Malcolm Holcombe – For The Mission Baby
15. Jon Snodgrass – Visitor’s Band
14. Ben Nichols – The Last Pale Light In The West
13. Cam Penner – Trouble and Mercy
12. The Fox Hunt – America’s Working So We Don’t Have To
11. William Elliott Whitmore – Animals In The Dark

Top 10 (with mp3s) are under the cut…

Continue reading “AUTOPSY IV'S FAVORITE 20 ALBUMS OF 2009 (today):”

THE ROCK REPORT: SLIM CESSNA'S AUTO CLUB

To be honest, I was a little torn. I mean, I’d flown up for the Deep Blues Festival and I’d done a shit ton of hype for it, too, so to abandon one night of it to take a taxi to St. Paul to see Slim Cessna’s Auto Club seemed kind of wrong.  However, as my guilt ebbed and flowed, I knew I had to go. SCAC never comes to Florida, so the fact that they were in the same town I was in was the kind of fate that couldn’t be ignored, and my guilt faded before the taxi was a mile down the road.

I’d long imagined what a SCAC show would be like. I’d watched plenty of live videos on myspace and I was exceptionally jazzed to finally be seeing them by the time we got to the venue. With my SCAC shirt procured, I proceeded to have a few drinks while the opener played. In the downtime before SCAC’s show I refreshed my drink and took a perch up in front of the stage. The next hour and a half or so is a blur of hand-clapping, sing-alonging, whiskey-swilling, sonic orgasmic awesomeness.

Slim Cessna’s sound is just as big and robust live as it is on cd, while Slim & Jay’s back and forth banter is even more enjoyable in a live environment. They sang on the stage, they sang in the middle of the crowd and they sang at all points in between. Our friend said she felt like they were Pied Pipers and had they took off out the front doors the entire crowd would have followed.

I know I would have.

I also know that the competition for Best Show of 2009 is over. Slim has taken that crown and nothing short of Ronnie Van Zandt going zombie and Lynyrd Skynyrd going on a brains and reunion tour is gonna get it back.

Slim Cessna’s Auto Club – This Is How We Do Things In The Country
Slim Cessna’s Auto Club – Port Authority Band
Slim Cessna’s Auto Club – This Land Is Our Land Redux
Slim Cessna’s Auto Club – Americadio

THE ROCK REPORT – DEEP BLUES FESTIVAL

It’s taken me quite some time to get around to writing this recap. Personally, I find that when writing about festivals it’s best to marinate on them for a while after they’re over. This lets the truly enjoyable moments rise to the top, and such is the case with the Deep Blues Festival.

My personal experience for this year’s festival was night and day from last. See, last year I went up to Minneapolis alone and didn’t know anyone. So as a result, it was all about the music. I saw every song by every band. This year things were different, not only did I take the wife and her friend with me, but over the past year I’d managed to become decent friends with many of the bands playing the fest. An added distraction was that the festival was in a bar this year, which not only allowed for simultaneous shows to be occurring inside as well as outside, but it also allowed a person to drink just as much as they pleased (and we did). So, while it was as much a social event as it was a music event for me this year, it was also 100% more fun. I think Chris has really struck gold by moving the festival to The Cabooze. It’s right on the light rail line with easy access to downtown restaurants and hotels and was a mighty upgrade from the field it was held in last year. Even the weather gods smiled upon this change and mostly kept the rain away. Enough about that though, let’s talk about the music a little.

Thursday night, after being up since 5:30 in the morning, we pounded a few drinks at the hotel and headed out to The Cabooze for a little Left Lane Cruiser / Radio Moscow action. We’d caught Left Lane in an empty bar here in St. Pete a few days before, so it was nice to catch them in a packed house where everyone knew all the words to all the songs. The band was obviously feeding off this energy as the show wore on, playing requests as well as a healthy selection of songs from their upcoming album. At one point during their set, Brenn (drummer) missed his drum and broke his finger on the edge of it. Instead of calling it a night, Brenn just duct taped the drumstick to his hand and soldiered on…if that ain’t rock and roll then I don’t even know what is. Unfortunately we were only able to catch 2 songs from Radio Moscow, but the early hours & excessive whiskey finally got the upper hand and we had to find a bed. I think I was asleep before my head hit the pillow.

Friday morning came and some seriously cold (for a Floridian) weather came with it, so after breakfast/early lunch I sent the wife and our friend downtown to buy us some warmer clothes. All of this resulted in us getting to the festival a lot later than we’d planned, but what are you gonna do? I’m from Florida- I do heat, not cold. We got there in time to see everyone I needed to, so let’s run through some of the highlights.

One band that came highly recommended from my buddy here in Florida was Red Clay River. Their mournful country sounds were exactly what I needed on a chilly Friday afternoon. Friday was a weird day. As I’ve said before, it was cold (even for Minnesota) and my wife and her friend were drinking at an utterly freakish pace. I mean, I’m not complaining, it was just sort of weird to see her bringing me a fresh beverage while there was still 1/4 of a drink left in my current one. While reminiscing about the festival this week, my wife had this to say about Friday, “I remember at one point thinking, I’ve never been this fucked up in public before in my life and the sun is still up.” As the day wore on, we drank with Brenn from LLC, Parker from Radio Moscow, Scotty from Poopdeflex and there is cloudy recollection of there being others, but nothing concrete. One of the “must see” bands of the festival for me was Davina & the Vagabonds, and I was center stage when they got started. Davina & The Vagabonds. In a word: sexy. In a tweet: “Davina and the Vagabonds. Music you should fuck to.“ These guys (and gal) are truly an undiscovered gem hanging out in Minneapolis. Between trips to the bar, greenroom, inside stages, outside stages & BS sessions with folks, we caught bits and pieces of Smokestack, Gravelroad, Deadeye and Porkchop, before settling in at one of the outside stages to catch the last ever performance of American Relay. They rocked the stage like there was no tomorrow and our little scene will be worse off without them. After the American Relay show we managed to catch a little bit of the T-Model Ford show before we had to leave to catch the Slim Cessnas Auto Club show in St. Paul (more on that tomorrow).

A neat story. On the way home Friday night I get an email from Matthew Dean Herman (wrote about him here). Turns out, he was in Minneapolis from Anchorage, Alaska so his daughter could attend a hockey camp. He was interested in checking out DBF before he had to leave on Saturday. I send an email back telling him how cool that would be, gave him my cell number and told him where we were staying. Turns out he was staying literally 4 doors down from us. It’s a small world indeed.

Sunday morning came and the revelry of the prior day and night had a price that needed to be paid. I finally got the wife and co. up and moving and we got to DBF in time to get a few whiskey drinks in me before Poopdeflex took the stage. Now Poopdeflex had come highly recommended from fellow Ft. Wayne resident Brenn (Left Lane Cruiser) as an act that needed to be witnessed. Poopdeflex plays a version of the blues that dabbles in metal and punk as much as it does the blues, while his treatment of the crowd is planted firmly in “hostile”, dropping nuggets such as, “God damn, they make folks ugly up here is Minnesota”, “I hear there’s are really good band playing inside, maybe you fuckers should go in there and check them out…I won’t mind” & “I hate critics, and I hate fans too”. We thought it was hilarious, but the bulk of the Minnesotans failed to see the humor in it. As the day wore on I managed to match the drinking pace the wife set the night before, while she limped along. We wandered back and forth between the inside stage and the outside stages until an (at the time) unknown gem by the name of Tom VandenAvond grabbed us by the backs of our heads. He also plays in The Woodsboss, which is the band that formed in the wake of The Weary Boys…a fact (him being a member) I didn’t know until I was talking to him later in the day. Later came the highlight of the entire weekend, The Black Diamond Heavies. Anytime the Black Diamond Heavies are in the house, odds are they’re the highlight and it’s a burden they’re proud to carry. They managed to put on the typical show, which is to say it was fucking awesome. After the Heavies I gotta be honest, my night devolves into a whiskey induced haze….a byproduct of this year’s fest being as much a social event as it was a musical event, which is to say it was fucking awesome.

Sunday, instead of going to the Gospel brunch, we elected to spend our last few hours in Minneapolis sight-seeing. We had brunch at this place called the Uptown where we drank Bloody Marys in pint glasses we got to keep and ate burgers with bacon and eggs on them. All in all, while some of the evenings started to blur and the lineup wasn’t as heavyweight-studded as last year’s, it made up for that by ramping the fun level up tenfold. As we boarded the plane to come home Sunday afternoon, the wife and her friend were already making plans to return for the fest next year.

Hopefully, there will be a next year.

Next week I’ll post a photoblog of the weekend and an interview or two.

Left Lane Cruiser – Big Mama
American Relay – Bonedry
Davina and the Vagabonds – St. Michael Vs. the Devil
Red Clay River – Letters To The Sky
Tom VandenAvond – Bones
Black Diamond Heavies – Smoothe It Out

NINEBULLETS.NET JULY PODCAST:

Holy. Crap. Talk about getting one in right under the wire. No matter. We’re here. tt’s still July and the podcast is live, so let’s talk about it.

This month’s podcast is divided into two halves. The first half is all about new music. In that section we have a song from the upcoming Lucero cd, 1372 Overton Park, as well as a phenomenal cover of Lucero’s “Better Than This” by ninebullets.net faves, The Fox Hunt. Incidentally, the new Lucero album is currently up for preorder. If you do preorder it, not only will you get the physical cd a few weeks prior to the “official” release date, you’ll also immediately get to download a six song preview of the album (from whence the song on this podcast came). While we’re on the preorder tip, there is a also song on the podcast from the new Chris Knight album, Trailer Tapes II. Like the new Lucero, Chris’ album is up for preorder, but if you preorder it now you’ll get to download a digital copy of the whole album immediately.

The second half of the podcast features bands from this year’s Deep Blues Festival, which I plan on posting a complete recap of next week. I featured American Relay in this segment who, unfortunately, played their last show ever at the Festival. I believe they have a new album coming out, but there will be no touring to support it. Also featured is Davina and The Vagabonds. I had high hopes for this band and they lived up to every one. Matter of fact, during their set I tweeted the following, “Davina and the Vagabonds. Music you should fuck to“. I also decided to include Woodsbossman, Tom VandenAvond. He looks like he could be Scott H. Biram’s little brother and he writes some fine, fine music.

I closed this month’s Podcast with a track from Gainesville’s The Takers. Their new album has finally been released and you can get it at all your favorite digital outlets, plus you can read about the album here.

And that does it. Another month comes to pass. I am pretty happy with this month’s podcast and I think y’all will like it. Do me a favor, though. If you listen and you enjoy the show, please tell other people about it. The website’s stats have been increasing this month, but the podcast’s stats have been in decline. I am gonna try to do more advertising of the show this month, but nothing beats word of mouth.

Thanks, everyone. ~Autopsy IV (twitter: @autopsy4)

Tracklisting:

  1. Drive-By Truckers – Nine Bullets [00.00.00]
  2. Lucero – Hey Darling, Do You Gamble [04.03.00]
  3. The Fox Hunt – Better Than This (Lucero Cover) [08.36.00]
  4. Autopsy IV Commentary [11.56.50]
  5. Truckstop Coffee – Ghost or an Angel [13.00.00]
  6. Drive-By Truckers – Zip City [19.09.00]
  7. Chris Knight – Highway Junkie [24.25.00]
  8. Autopsy IV Commentary [28.57.00]
  9. Matthew Dean Herman – Southern Belle [30.25.00]
  10. American Relay – Bonedry [34.13.25]
  11. Left Lane Cruiser – Amy’s In The Kitchen [37.19.25]
  12. A Night In The Box – Rich Man’s Table [40.38.50]
  13. Autopsy V Commentary [44.07.25]
  14. Davina and The Vagabonds – St. Michael Vs The Devil [44.46.25]
  15. Red Clay River – Rattlesnake Mountain [49.36.00]
  16. Tom VandenAvond – I cant help It If Im Still In Love With You [52.44.00]
  17. Autopsy Commentary [55.06.00]
  18. The Takers – Taker Easy [56.09.00]

Download this episode (right click and save)

[GUEST POST] RURAL NOIR: DIRTY BOOKS WITH A LOT OF TWANG

Well. We’ve arrived in Minnesota and caught Restauvant, Left Lane Cruiser and Radio Moscow at the opening night of the Deep Blues Festival. I am gonna have some guest posts for y’all over the next few days and I thought, “Why not start it off with someone from Minnesota?”.

Enter Neil Smith to add a little class the site. Hope y’all enjoy.

Thanks to Autosy4 for letting me stick my nose in over here and sniff around.  This is one of my fave sites, a necessary stop on an almost daily level to recharge with some high voltage twang.

When I surf on over to ninebullets.net, I’m absolutely certain that I’ll find something every time to help me groove while I’m working on a new novel.  Be it Slim Cessna, Seasick Steve, The Fox Hunt, Biram, John Paul Keith and the One Four Fives, or some good ol’ DBT, I’m telling you that this shit goes smoothly with crime fiction.  Especially when you’re reading some funky, red-clay covered, sweaty and sexy rural noir.

So I’m going to give you some surefire good reads to go along with the ripped speaker deep blues blasting out your ear pods.

Of course, I won’t mention my own novels, like Yellow Medicine and Hogdoggin’, both badass rural noirs following the exploits of dirty cop Billy Lafitte, who gets a second chance after Hurricane Katrina to start over again a thousand miles away in Southern Minnesota.  What does he do with it?  He goes right back to being a dirty cop.  And then it gets weird.  Malaysian wannabe terrorist trying to fund their terror plots with meth money, plus Billy’s love for a girl in a psychobilly band, leads him deeper and deeper into dangerous shit.  Not to mention that in the sequel, Hogdoggin’, he joins a cult biker club.

But no, let’s not talk about those, or about The Drummer (heavy metal drummer fakes his death to fool the IRS, and is discovered fifteen years later in New Orleans), or my first novel, Psychosomatic (First line: “Because Lydia didn’t have arms or legs, she shelled out three thousand bucks to a washed-up middleweight named Cap to give her ex-husband the beating of his life.”).  Really, that wouldn’t be fair, would it.

The first name on my list is Joe R. Lansdale, the brilliant and ridiculously funny author of the Hap and Leonard series, set in Lansdale’s home stomping grounds of East Texas.  Hap’s a good ol’ boy who can kick a few asses now and then, while Leonard is his gay black, Vietnam vet best friend.  Together, they burn down a crack house, go chasing sunken treasure, and generally stumble into situations where they get the living fuck beat out of them.  Highly entertaining.  Start with Savage Season and The Two-Bear Mambo and you’ll blaze through them up until the most recent, Vanilla Ride. But Lansdale is also know for his horror writing, including the story that spawned the movie Bubba Ho-Tep (editor’s note: Bubba Ho-Tep is a GREAT movie).  If you want a fantastic and creepy rural noir that contains perhaps the most skin-crawling image I’ve ever had to conjure up, try Freezer Burn.

Next, in a more serious (but just as warped) vein, would be Mississippi’s late great Larry Brown.  He died several years back at the height of his powers.  Young, only around 50.  But his novels are brutal enough to make you flinch.  I’d start with Father and Son, about an intensely angry man just out of prison in 1968 who goes right back to killing, then move on to Joe and Fay, and for an equally tasty snack, you have to take a look at where he shines most–in the short story.  His collections are Big Bad Love and Facing the Music.  I’m also a fan of his essays in Billy Ray’s Farm.

Back to the funny side of things, even if we’re talking about some dark, dark funny.  One of my all-time favorite authors, James Crumley recently passed away, leaving behind some of the wildest “gonzo noirs” I’ve ever read.  Everyone must start with his classic The Last Good Kiss, featuring an alcoholic bulldog and a detective wandering around the American West.  You’ll get the same melancholy noir/western/black comedy out of The Wrong Case, but I especially love the under appreciated later novels The Final Country and The Right Madness.  I mean, when you’ve got someone hanging herself, only to have the head pop off the body, the body fall on the detective, and them both rolling out the door while the detective is vomiting and laughing at the same time, well…hard to top.

Take a steamy trip down to Florida with Vicki Hendricks’s steamy redneck noir in Miami Purity, which begins with a woman killing her white trash boyfriend with a boombox to the face.  Or Iguana Love, which involves scuba diving, steroids, lots of sex, and, you guessed it, an iguana.  Vicki’s a good friend and a great, whacked-out writer.

To keep you busy for years to come, I’d suggest Southern Louisiana via James Lee Burke’s Dave Robicheaux series, starting with The Neon Rain and stretching through nearly twenty more until you get to the aftermath of Katrina in The Tin Roof Blowdown, and Dave’s Montana fishing vacation in Sawn Peak.  If you like one, you’ll like them all, as Burke has a particular lush style that leans heavy on the description of Southern weather, bayous, and the land, while also displaying his unique take on dialogue.  It’s an art.  A bloody, inspired art.

And let’s not forget the master: Harry Crews.  Not officially a noir writer, but I doubt many Southern Gothic tales of crime and misery in the new American South could have been written without him.  Start with The Gospel Singer and soak in the sensuality of backwoods religion.  Try Scar Lover for one of the weirdest love stories this side of Wild at Heart.  And then there’s Body, which moves the hicks off the mountain and into Miami Beach and women’s bodybuilding.  He will creep you out.  And that’s part of the pleasure of reading Crews.

I could go on and on, but a lot of these you either know or will stumble into along the way (Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men, Dorthy Allison’s Bastard Out of Carolina, Jayne Anne Phillips’s Lark and Termite, Scott Phillips’s Cottonwood, Jim Thompson’s Killer Inside Me, Flannery O’Connor, and old Gold Medal titles from Harry Whittington and John Faulkner, brother of William), but I can’t leave you without mentioning a writer so good that once you discover his work, you’ll mete his name out only to those people in your life you trust most.  You’ll become a disciple.  And that writer is Daniel Woodrell.  He came screaming out of Missouri Ozark country with jaw-dropping novels like Tomato Red, The Death of Sweet Mister, and his most recent Winter’s Bone.  Find them.  Devour them.  You need them.  And all the while in the background, you’ll hear the haunted strains of all those dark fire and brimstone bands you find here on Nine Bullets.

Hope that keeps your library card or local bookstore busy this summer.  But take a break from the pages to head on out to some concerts and soak it all in like New Orleans humidity.  But one thing I’ve learned from being raised in Mississippi, hanging around Southeast Louisiana, and now living all the way up here in Southwest Minnesota’s farm country–the accents may be different, but rural is rural.  We all understand each others’ stories easier that way.