I’ve been lucky enough to see Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, and Willie Nelson twice each. Exactly how lucky is that? I don’t know. They’ve all toured non-stop, but Destination Florida is always up in the air. There are some artists, though, that I’m thankful I’ve had the chance to see just the once, and that one show encompasses everything I hold dear about live music: the surprise, the intimacy, the times when you get so absorbed in the band, deciphering drumbeats and riding pedal steel riffs, that you finally stop worrying about people judging both of your dance moves. Perfect, untouchable nights, in the moment and in the memory. But at the same time, I’m always lustful for an encore show. These are the best one night stands I can think of:

5) Alejandro Escovedo — I saw the Austin TX stalwart in Austin the one weekend I’d happened to be visiting my sister and her new daughter. The best show I’ve ever seen with a full stable of background singers. He’s the man, total professional. Gun. Slinger.

Alejandro Escovedo – Gravity Falling/Down Again/Street Hassle

4) Neil Young — Duh. It was the most recent tour, for Le Noise. He’s been spooky on his own, acoustically, and he’s been spooky with Crazy Horse, but this tour was him being spooky all on his lonesome, electrically. Neil and his echoes, which is what he’s been all along anyway. Allan Toussaint opened. Nothing like the smell of weed wafting through the Hard Rock Casino. Rock on, sexagenarians.

Neil Young – Sedan Delivery

3) Ruby Coast — 3pm on a Friday, the very first show of the very first Harvest of Hope Festival in Elkton. Besides me, the only people there seemed to be the folks from the To Write Love on Her Arms booth trying to give me stickers. Ruby Coast played great songs, coming out of nowhere, in the middle of a fairgrounds in the middle of nowhere. It reminded me that afternoons can be fun. There are others whom I’ve only seen at Festivals like this: Glossary, Billy Bragg, The National, Hot New Mexicans, Avail. But, Ruby Coast was the show that made me felt like I’d earned it. They were all in high school at the time.

Ruby Coast – Liza Liza

2) The Pack A.D. — Not to be too incestuous about it, but the only time I had a chance to see Canadian duo The Pack A.D. was at the NineBullets 4th Anniversary Party. And they blew my face off. And I don’t even miss my face. Just guitar by Becky Black and drums by Maya Miller. It was all sweaty screaming hammering effort. Lots of interaction between Black and Miller, jumping on the drum kit, windmills. Not unlike a Two Cow Garage show. They put everything they had into a show where they were the oddball on the bill. Plus, Miller was willing to humor me a conversation about Star Wars and Sleater-Kinney afterwards. (By the way, the Pack has a new album on the way.)

The Pack A.D. – B.C. Is On Fire

1) Jonathan Richman — Slow as I am, I found out about Jonathan Richman coincidentally one week before he came to town because he was mentioned in Carolyn Mark’s years-old cookbook (she spelled his name Jonathan Richmond), from which I was preparing a delicious whiskey cake. Going into the show I knew only one song, “Dancing at the Lesbian Bar,” so everything was new to me. Richman had the whole bill to himself that night, and he played two sets, just him and his drummer Tommy Larkins. As each song passed I couldn’t believe how tight every lyric was, how complete of a grasp he had over his words, every one was so exact and so rightly chosen. I didn’t know lyricists were capable of that precision. The only people who even come close are Leonard Cohen, David Berman, Branden Barnett, and Franz Nicolay. What I needed was not so much to be loved, as to love, Richman sang. It was the first time I’d heard that, but it’s simple and true enough that it beats with familiarity. Songs he sang in Spanish, French, and Italian all hit as heavy. He sang about Vermeer and Picaso and Van Gogh and driving through suburbia at night out of boredom. He knows how to eschew all the false angles of approaching an emotion and doesn’t settle for a lyric until he finds the absolute core of what he’s trying to say. It felt like I was being serenaded, and I’d never been serenaded, so I wasn’t sure if that’s what it felt like, but I didn’t care. Favorite line of the night: We don’t want the past, we want the moment, just like bread, it’s gotta be fresh, even a day old is getting to be…too much.

Jonathan Richman – Since She Started To Ride


“If they wanted to call me Rumpelstiltskin, I would have done it to have the opportunity to make records. Johnny Cougar indeed.– John Mellencamp

Okay. Let’s get it out of our systems….get your John Cougar snickers…your “My Country” joke…your “Corporat…..ERR….Heartland rock joke….Get them all out of the way now. When you’re done we’ll talk about this release like adults.

Done? It’s okay, I get it. I’ll wait.
No, there is no need to apologize. Just get it out of your system and then give me a chance.

Okay? Ready?
Cool. I’ll start.

Somewhere between “John Cougar” and “My Country”, John Mellencamp became a punchline….

Oh, come On! What the fuck? I said get it out of your system and then give me a chance….
Okay? You ready? You sure? You really sure? Pinky promise? Okay….

Somewhere between “John Cougar” and “My Country”, John Mellencamp became a punchline. Hell, he became a punchline for me, too, and when I am honest, I don’t even know what the joke was. Truth is, Mellencamp was well played in my childhood home and I still like all of those songs. I don’t think I could name a single song between then and the infamous Chevy commercial, but that commercial managed to change my opinion of everything from “Rain On The Scarecrow” up to it. My opinion began to change back when Mellencamp’s Life, Death, Love and Freedom was released last year (review here). Seeing that his new box set, On The Rural Route 7609, was heavily populated with tracks from that album, I decided to look into it a little more.

On The Rural Route 7609 isn’t the typical ‘toss in the hits and a few b-sides, compiled money’ grab. Instead it’s a very well thought out and carefully assembled 4 disc release that seems more focused on theme and story than hit churning. Sometimes the collection lets you hear the birth and growth of a song, such as “Jenny At 16” and the demo for “Jack and Diane” that eventually became the “Jack And Diane” we all know. I was even amazed to find that when all the pizazz and pop polish was stripped away from the infamous “My Country”, it fits perfectly into what Mellencamp has been writing his whole life.

Look, I know the odds of anyone still reading this at this point are slim to none and I know I can’t change anyone’s opinion on what Mellencamp is all about, but I will ask you this: If you’re truly honest with yourself, do you know why you view Mellencamp as a joke? Was it ’cause someone else said he was? Was it for the clap track in “Jack and Diane”? Was it for the Chevy commercial? Regardless of the reason, check out his last album. Perhaps download this box set from AmazonMP3. Listen to them. Perhaps, like me, you’ll find that we might have treated Mr. Mellencamp unfairly over the years….

I am gonna close this piece with the same liner notes quote that Adam Sheets used in his fantastic review for No Depression, ’cause I feel it’s as poignant as he did: “If he has not been properly credited for that groundbreaking role, it is largely because he committed the unforgivable sin of actually having hits while making innovative music. Part of the No Depression mythology requires either a tragic early death or decades of unacknowledged masterpieces created during a life of grueling poverty. Writing and recording great songs that millions of people like and buy is not part of that sentimental picture- regardless of how comfortably the music itself sits within the genre’s parameters. As Neil Young pointed out, sometimes you are made to pay a price for having hit records.

John Mellencamp – Rain On The Scarecrow
John Mellencamp – To M.G. (Wherever She May Be)
John Mellencamp – Cherry Bomb (writing demo)

John Mellencamp’s Official Site, John Mellencamp on myspace, Buy On The Rural Route 7609


Hey guys. Sorry for no post yesterday. I was planning on doing a Top 5 but an unexpected road trip kept me on the long black ribbon all day yesterday. Our guy, Adam Fenwick, checks back in on this here Thursday morning with a review of a cd that came out this month but was recorded back in 2001. Sound confusing? I’ll let Adam take it from here:

It’s always a special day when a concert that you’ve attended gets released on CD. I got to enjoy one of those special days recently when Warren Haynes presents The Benefit Concert Volume 3 was released to record stores across the nation.

For those not in the know, let me school you for a split second. Warren Haynes, the lead man of southern rock/jam band quartet Gov’t Mule, hosts the Warren Haynes Christmas Jam in Asheville, N.C., every year as a benefit to the local Habitat for Humanity organization.

The event, which will be in its 22nd year in 2010, started in a small bar in Asheville and has grown into a multi-night event at the Asheville Civic Center featuring some of the top musicians from all over the country.

Back on topic, this particular record chronicles the happenings of the 13th annual Warren Haynes Christmas Jam on Dec. 21, 2001, for which myself and several other members of my family were in attendance.

Admittedly I’d forgotten much of what I saw during this concert by the time I heard they were finally releasing it to the general public, so I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the record and refresh my ears.

Those appearing at the show in 2001 included the host Haynes and his band Gov’t Mule, Phil Lesh & Friends, Blues Traveler, Drivin’ ‘N’ Cryin, Alvin Youngblood Hart and a number of other special guests (including Robert Randolph, Edwin McCain, Jimmy Herring, Oteil Burbridge and Audley Freed, just to name a few).

The two-disc effort does a good job sampling songs from each set during the show, which started early and ended VERY late in the evening. The final song on the second disc (and of the evening) is a rocking version of Neil Young’s “Rockin’ In The Free World” prefaced by a short “Masters of War” intro, performed by Gov’t Mule with the help of several other musicians.

It was a great way to end the show and really sums up what the show is all about: Making great music, having fun and supporting a good cause. Speaking of supporting a good cause, all proceeds from the sale of the CD will benefit Habitat for Humanity.

With that said, I suggest you go out and buy some good music for a good cause. You’ll feel good afterwards, I promise.

Buy The Album


Autopsy IV: This post comes from a long time reader, Adam Fenwick. It’s nice to see a review of the Truckers. It’s been so long since they’ve come to the Tampa Bay area I’ve almost forgotten what THE ROCK SHOW is like. Hope y’all enjoy.

It had been more than a year since I last saw the best damn band on the planet, the Drive-By Truckers, live in concert, which is far too long. So, when my brothers girlfriend emailed me asking if I knew anyone interested in attending a DBT show at the House of Blues in Myrtle Beach, S.C., on Aug. 21, I immediately thought of myself.

So, I took a day off of work and made the four hour drive to Wilmington, N.C., to meet up with my brother and his girlfriend before driving the additional hour and a half to Myrtle Beach. The trip itself was nothing compared to the party that would ensue in the House of Blues.

We arrived just as Tift Merritt was starting up her set before the ROCK SHOW. I’ve heard some of her music before, but I can honestly say I was never very impressed with her, but she was certainly a good opening act that warmed up the crowd before the main event.

When the Truckers finally hit the stage after the half-hour lull between sets, the crowd was more then ready. They opened with The Great Car Dealer War and the ROCK SHOW was on.

One Of These Days? Check. Love Like This? Check. Lookout Mountain? Check.

At one point, Patterson calmly stopped the show and began to talk about the recently past Jim Dickinson, the father of Cody & Luther Dickinson of the North Mississippi Allstars. He thanked Mr. Dickinson for all of his efforts through the years and dedicated “Let There Be Rock” to the legendary pianist.

In addition to all the regular DBT staples, like Road Cases (with extended intro), Heathens and Women Without Whiskey, a few new ones were pulled out. Shonna sang what had to be a new song since I’ve never heard it before and there was at least one other song, sung by Patterson or Cooley, that I wasn’t familiar with either. New material they are testing out perhaps?

As the show moved forward the band pulled out all the stops, including a booming cover of Neil Young‘s “Keep On Rockin’ In The Free World” that had the crowd in an absolute craze. In fact, the crowd may have been a bit too crazy, because for the second-straight time at a DBT show, a fight broke out right in front of me. One guy, who had been asked to chill by security once already, was being escorted out by being pulled over the front guardrail when all hell broke loose.

Two guys got to shoving and throwing punches and my brothers girlfriend was nearly thrown to the ground in the confusion (which didn’t sit well with him at all). But, just as he always does, Patterson took the incident in stride by saying as the hooligans were escorted out by security: “That’s what you get for trying to fuck up our rock show!”

Oh, and least I forget, one guy got on stage but was promptly ripped in half by two security guards. Ahh…what a fun night at the ROCK SHOW.

Anyway, the band closed with an amazing version of “Angels and Fuselage” which I’ve never heard live before. As the song wound down each member of the band, starting with Patterson, simply put their instrument down, waved to the crowd and exited the stage. It was a classy ending to a great ROCK SHOW.

Drive-By Truckers – Let There Be Rock
Drive-By Truckers – The Living Bubba
Drive-By Truckers – Perfect Timing

The songs are off the Truckers latest album, Live From Austin, Texas (9b write up) which can be purchased here.


This is a new thing I am trying out. Since I am now contributing to the music side of Creative Loafing’s website I am trying to post a rundown of what’s going on in Americana music and it’s related blogs over there every Friday and since I am posting it there…well, why not post it here. So, without further ado:

  • It’s been unseasonably cold this week which I’m sure has resulted in another cover or two on your bed. In the spirit of covers the Lucero Message Board put together a compilation of bands doing cover songs. It’s worth checking out for the Bonnie “Prince” Billy’s cover of Danzig’s “Am I Demon” alone. You can download it here.
  • In Drive-By Truckers news: In a recent article Patterson Hood mentioned that the band has began work on a new, as if yet untitled, album. And in even better news he said “I feel it’s time to make a big, loud, rowdy rock record“. Thank God! I’ve always liked the loud rocking Truckers over the newer kinder Truckers of recent albums. In other DBT news, NME had an article this week about the new Booker T album, Potatoe Head, in which DBT is his backing band. The album, out April 20 (420…get it…), also features Neil Young on guitar. Booker T, Neil Young and The Drive-By Truckers….how could this album not be awesome?