Some Twangzine Reviews
by Jeff Wall


The Blacks
- Dolly Horrorshow

The Cd cover looks weird as shit. It's covered in what looks like flash art from Charlie Manson's favorite tattoo parlor. Then the first song, "Dolly", has a chorus of 'Won't you lay your head in my lap when you're back from the dead'. But they have a great country/rockabilly/roots groove going. The songs are catchy. "Teresa Leaves Lonesometown" had a nice blues groove. It had me tapping along, then it leaps into some wildass Earl Scruggs type electric guitar breakdown.

The songs are a bit twisted, gruesome and macabre, "Dear Little Girl", "Horrorshow", and "Crazy" for example, but the three part harmonies and the tight grooves just suck you in. Then the album changes direction, with the dark spiritual "Take Me Now", and the crunchy version of Bill Monroe's "I'll Meet you in Church Sunday Morning."

Bloodshot Records is the home of Insurgent Country, and this disc is as insurgent as they come. I like it. Killer grooves, Interesting arrangements, and weird quirky lyrics. It all comes together to make a very interesting album.

Jeff Wall 

Buddy Miller 
– Cruel Moon

"Buddy Miller is the greatest hillbilly singer in the world." That's what Steve Earle says. Steve should know, seeing as how he's been known to run with the likes of Guy Clark and Townes Van Zandt. Buddy Miller ain't just a great singer, he's also a great songwriter, producer, and musician. He's toured with Steve Earle, and is currently a part of Emmylou's band Skyboy. He's written hits for a bunch of people and regularly tours, records, and performs with wife
Julie Miller. Cruel Love is Buddy's newest hit record. This disc is even better than his previous release Your Love and Other Lies. It twangs, it rocks, it's does everything except shine floors. 

Joined by songwriting buddies and neighbors Emmylou Harris, Julie Miller, Steve Earle, Jim Lauderdale, and Joy Lynn White, Buddy Miller proves that Country Music can be hard country and still rock your ass off. Whether it's a love/killing song like "Does my Ring Burn Your Finger" or the Honky Tonk of "Looking for a Heartache Like You", this is music that should be played on commercial country radio. It's country enough to appeal to traditional country audiences like me, and rocking enough to appeal to the HNC crowd. There is the Bluegrass/Rock/Punk tune "Somewhere Trouble Don't Go", and even a rocking cover of Pop Staples' "It's Been a Change", This is a great album that should appeal to many. Miller's music is broad enough to cross musical boundaries without being a watered down mockery of itself. Despite the wide divergence of musical styles and genre's, Miller holds it together. This record should be played loud with all the windows open. Steve Earle just might be right, Buddy Miller may very well be the greatest hillbilly singer in the world today.

Buddy has a new website at

Jeff Wall 

Drive-By Truckers
- Gangstabilly
Soul Dump Records-

The music bidness ain't supposed to work this way. Country Music has rules, damn it, and rules are made to be followed. Someone needs to tell these assholes if they are going to play, they better play right. But, they're originally from Alabama, and everyone knows that Alabama ain't exactly overrun with Nobel Prize Winning Scientists.

It started off like this; Patterson Hood was doing some drywall work for a record studio. They paid him off with studio time. The problem was that he didn't have a band. So he called some friends together that he wanted to record with. No practice, no rehearsal, no nothing. Just plug in and play. They guys had so much fun that a band was born.

The Drive-By Truckers run the risk of being labeled as a novelty band. But that's not necessarily the truth, but it ain't necessarily a lie either. Patterson ain't right in the head no how and it shows in his music. The Republican National Convention inspired him to write the first anti-gospel country song "Demonic Possession". "18 Wheels of Love" with it's chorus of "Mama ran off with a trucker", was written as a wedding present for his mother who actually did run off with a trucker named Chester and got married in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Cooley shares some of the singing and wrote the wonderful "Panties In Your Purse". Adam wrote the beautiful "Late for Church" about a child's views of Church and organized religion. 

The lyrics of a lot of the Drive-By Truckers songs are a bit twisted. The best way to describe their music is Alabama, White Trash, Trailer Park Music. But they aren't trying to mock Country music. Instead, their brand of Country is a honest portrayal of life and small town feelings. Two of the most powerful cuts on the disc are "The Living Bubba" and "Sandwiches for the Road" The first is a tribute to the late Gregory Dean Smalley, about living with AIDS and that life is made to be embraced not endured. The other song is a tribute to the great Eddie Hinton, famed Muscle Shoal Session Picker, with the chorus of "Nothing can hurt you but yourself". 

Pick this disc up. You'll enjoy it. And be on the lookout. The Drive-By Truckers are coming
by to run off with your Mama.

Jeff Wall 

Jerry Douglas- Restless on the Farm
 Sugar Hill 

 Jerry Douglas redefined the role of Dobro in music. An alumni of such cutting edge Bluegrass bands  such as The Country Gentleman, J.D. Crowe and the New South, Boone Creek, and the Whites he  has gone on to become a much sought after producer and sideman. Currently on the road with  Alison Krauss and Union Station, he has contributed his signature sound to more than 1000 albums  to date, yet he still finds new ways to express himself musically.

 Restless on the Farm showcases Douglas's production and performing skills. The disc starts with  Tim O'Brien tearing a rousing bluegrass version of Don Stovers Things in Life. Next Douglas straps  on the lap steel, and along with Bryan Sutton, Victor Krauss, and John Gardner, gets funky on the  exotic Turkish Taffee. Next come the Blues with Sam Bush and Sonny Landreth showing off their  slide abilities with the master on Passing the Bar. Is there any form of music Jerry Douglas can't  master?

 The remainder of the disc covers the great Johnny Cash's "Don't Take Your Guns to Town" with  Steve Earle supplying the vocal magic. Maura O'Connell shows off her expressive pipes on Follow  On. Johnny Winter's TV Doctor is especially cool with the Sonny Landreth metal body slide dueling  with Douglas's Dobro. Then Johnny Cowan jumps in with his low down dirty vocals. This disc  jumps from Celtic ballads, to Funk, to Blues, to Bluegrass, to all kinds of things. Each new track is a  surprise. No wonder they are restless down on the farm. 

 - Jeff Wall 

George Jones- It Don't Get Any Better Than This.

 Beware all you pretenders to the Throne of Country Music. Your days are numbered. The True King of  Country Music has girded his loins for battle. He has come to deliver us from all the baby faced false  prophets. The infidels shall be purged from the land. All the temples to the false god Garth shall be  destroyed. Spread the message to the four corners of the earth: George Jones is here.

 The Country Music Industry has been deluged with mediocre releases from pretty boys. Physical  Appearance is more important than talent. What do you do when your wardrobe contains more  Sansabelt Slacks than asshugging Wranglers? When all your groupies get AARP discounts? When your  Grecian Formula Grey comes in 55 gallon drums? With songs like The Race is On, The Window Up  Above, A Picture of Me Without You, and He Stopped Loving Her Today, it would be easy for George  Jones to rest on his laurels and retire down to Branson. Instead, the Possum has decided to show the kids  what an old man can do.

 George Jones has released one of the most powerful albums of his career. When you consider the fact  that he's been making music since dirt was new, that must make this a mighty powerful record. Mighty  Powerful Indeed. Chock Full of Great Songs. "Over You" is another classic dying song from Bobby  Braddock, the writer of the immortal "He Stopped Loving Her Today", this is just one of three Bobby  Braddock contributions on the album. T. Grahmn Brown turns in a great duet on "Got To Get To  Louisanna". And George isn't afraid to put the Possum stamp on great songs that others have had hits  with. When Jones sings the George Straight "When Did You Stop Loving Me?", with legendary Pig  Robbins on piano and Larry Marrs background vocals, this song seems written for him.

 Jones also covers the great Hank Cochran "Don't Touch Me" that brings back memories of Jones in his  prime. The title track, "It Don't Get Any Better Than This", with guest vocal appearances by Waylon  Jennings, Merle Haggard, Johnny Counterfeit, Bobby Bare, and Willie Nelson recalls the greats and their  classic songs and sounds. With a chorus of "It just don't get any better than this, That's about as good as  good ever gets, If there's anything better it's something I missed, It just don't get any better than this"  reminding us all of the contributions to Country Music made by these heros and that their contributions  are far from over. George Jones, It just don't get no better than the Possum.

 - Jeff Wall 

Guy Clark 
– Cold Dog Soup
Sugar Hill

Guy Clark has a new disc out. That's all you really need to know. If Guy puts his name on something it's worth spending your money on. I've been a Guy Clark fan since I first heard the song "Texas–1947" from his initial RCA release, Old No 1,more years ago that I like to remember. I've bought everything he's released since. You should too. But If you've never heard Guy Clark before, this is a good place to start.

Joined by songwriting and picking buddies, Verlon Thompson and Darrell Scott, Guy Clark has given us another immediately classic album with Cold Dog Soup. Both Thompson and Scott are master instrumentalists and when these three old friends get together and pick, something magical happens. Thompson and Scott's harmony vocals are a perfect garnish to Clark's Texas drawl. This disc was recorded live with minimal overdubs, just those required due to a shortage of hands and fingers. 

Clark's songs are filled with imagery. There are songs of poets "full of angst and hillbilly haiku", love songs about Texas, Indian Head pennies, and fiddlers. There is a beautiful cover of Steve Earle's Fort Worth Blues, which is a tribute to longtime compadre Townes Van Zandt. There are songs about love, refusing to grow old, and songs about dying. But whatever Guy Clark sings, it's a love song. When you hear him sing, whether it's about living, dying, trains, or homegrown tomatoes, it's a love song. That's just the way Guy Clark is. His songs have a brutal honesty, and that honesty is filled with love. As for genres, You might call it Folk music, Texas Singer Songwriter, Country, or just Hillbilly Haiku, It doesn't really matter. Labels don't mean nothing. It's a new Guy Clark disc. That's reason enough for celebration.

Jeff Wall 

Hank Williams - The Complete Hank Williams

Ten Cd's, Over 220 recordings, over 50 previously unissued. All the MGM and Sterling Records recordings. Over 130 Non-Session, radio and television recordings. All digitally re mastered. Includes two booklets, over 130 pages, over 120 photos, Hank's handwritten lyrics, Original ads, posters, charts, LP covers, photos of artifacts and more. All for the low low price of $175. Don't let the price throw you off. Smart shoppers can get the set for around $120 via mail order. Besides, as the old song goes, "What would you give in exchange for your soul."

That what this collection of recordings is, a gateway into your soul. A gateway into the soul of Hank Williams. He had a recording career of about six years and was dead by age 28, but no one before or since has made such an impact upon American Music. He had the ability to bypass the ears and reach straight for the heart. Every time I listen to Hank Williams, it affects me emotionally. And you've never heard Hank better than what you'll hear on this boxed set.

These recordings have been digitally re mastered. The minor hiss and pop of the original acetate is still there, But you can hear every gut wrenching nuance of Hank's voice. Every fiddle lick, every bass thump, every bit of music. This is the most important collection of music ever released. Just about every known recording that Hank Williams ever made. It's worth every penny, and then some. This set receives our highest recommendation. Damn, this is beautiful. I've heard that there's only two things a person really needs to get through life, a Bible, and Hank Williams.

-Jeff Wall 

Hayseed - Melic

 hayseed- An awkward, unsophisticated, person regarded as typical of rural areas; yokel: a somewhat  contemptuous term. 

 That's how Webster's defines hayseed. But that description doesn't fit in this instance. Charming,  unsophisticated, nonpretentious would be a much more appropriate description. 

 This is country music. Country, country music. Really country, country music. Pure acoustic country music  that might be played on a porch somewhere. Joyous, happy music. Simple music. No explosions, no light  shows, no mosh pits. Hayseed is a person. He lives in Nashville. Nashville is not a town known for  low-tech stripped bare country music. Country music now even has a machine they can run vocals  through to clean them up and make sure no one flubs a note. That might make for technically perfect  music, but perfect music is also boring music.

 Technology might have brought us good things like microwave popcorn, penicillin, and dishwasher's, but  it ain't worth a shit when it comes to music. I would rather hear real music performed on my porch with  acoustic instruments than hear all that special effect, drum machine, processed stuff. Be it Country,  Bluegrass, Cajun, Zydeco, Rock, or Blues, simpler is better. Fingers, steel, wood, and voices are what  make good music.

 Hayseed has a wonderfully rich, warm, resonant voice just made for old-time country music. Although  using traditional bluegrass instrumentation, this is more Old-time than Bluegrass. The majority of songs  were written by Hayseed. This album is beautiful in it's simplicity. Highlights include "Walk This Earth"  with Joy Lynn White, "Credo" and "Precious Memories" with Lucinda Williams, "Wild Horses" (not the  Stones song), "Cold Feet", and "Keep it between the Lines." 

 This disc ranks up there with the great acoustic albums of all time: Bonnie & Delany's _Motel Shot_,  NGDB's _Will the Circle be Unbroken_, and Steve Earle's _Train A'Coming_. Until I received this disc,  I had never heard of Hayseed. After listening to his disc, I'm hoping that I hear a lot more of him.

 -Jeff Wall 

Bad Livers
- Blood and Mood
Sugar Hill

The SPBGMA (Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music in America) has put out a contract on the Bad Livers. The last I heard, the contact was up to about 12 dollars in cash money. In Bluegrass circles that's considered a fortune. I guess the Livers' days are numbered. It seems that a few of the purists are a bit upset by the Bad Liver's latest release and have been complaining about the band performing unnatural acts with a banjo. "This disc ain't no
part of nuthin" a SPBGMA spokesman was heard to say.

While searching for a real job in North Carolina, I made a stop at the Headquarters for World Domination, aka Sugar Hill Records and visited with my buddy Steve Gardner. We got to talking about what great guys the Livers were, even Mr Congeniality, Mark Rubin. Steve told me that the great Lloyd Maines had produced their newest record. Now Lloyd Maines is my hero. He has been single handedly responsible for producing most of the music that don't suck, at least that portion coming out of Texas, for the last several years. People like Robert Earl Keen, James McMurtrey, and Ray Wylie Hubbard. Thus, knowing Maines' work as well as being a longtime Livers fan, I had an idea of what to expect from this record. 

Brother was I wrong. When Steve first gave me the disc, he told me "You ain't gonna like this.
You're too fat, old and set in in your ways for music like this". 
"Does it suck?" I asked. 
"Nope, it's just different." 

I had no idea it was going to be this different.

When I popped this little plastic disc into my cd player, it changed my life. My foot oder went away. My wife started being nice to me, my kids started treating me with respect, all my credit cards got credit increases and this was before I even pushed the play button. 

I know how much some folks hate having to label their music. Music should come in two catagories; Music that sucks, and music that doesn't suck. If that were true, then this disc would belong in the Doesn't Suck section. However, a reviewers job is to try and describe the record. The closest I can come is Hillbilly Hip Hop. There is some punk rock feel to a couple of tracks, and one sounds like a duet between Marilyn Manson and Merle Haggard. What the Livers did was start off with a drum and bass record. First they laid down these killer rhythms. Then banjo, flatpicked guitar, spoken word, pedal steel, screaming electric lead, and tuba were all laid down at exactly the right places. 

Now I hate rap and I'm not a big hip hop fan. Most punk rock leaves me shaking my head and sticking my fingers in my ears. But I find that I have been playing this disc over and over and over again. Each time I play it, I pick out something different. Whether it's a phrase from Danny Barnes' banjo or just a perfect steel guitar lick from Lloyd Maines. The Bad Livers have just released the Album of the Year. 

That's one of the things I love about these guys. Just when you think you know what to expect, they come out with something completely different. I loved Delusions of Banjer, yet I hated Hogs on the Highway. Industry and Thrift was a wonderful record, but Blood and Mood is the best album the band has ever made. It should become a hit on both college and alternative stations, however, I don't think the band is going to be invited to play any SPBGMA gigs anytime soon and thats a shame. The Bad Livers aren't really a bluegrass band anyway. They are a Good Music band. If you like good music, then you will like this disc.

Jeff Wall 

Lyle Lovett - Step Inside This House

Lyle Lovett is a hell of a songwriter. His disc's have always been filled with witty, wry looks at life. His songs will make you laugh, cry, and confront your demons sometimes all at the same time. But on this two Cd release, he didn't write a single damn song. He learned his craft by the example of those Texas Singer/Songwriters before him. People who lived on the Texas coffee house circuit. People like Townes Van Zandt, Steven Fromholz, Guy Clark, Walter Hyatt, and Willis Alan Ramsey.

On this release, Lovett pays tribute to his mentors and contemporaries. This disc is a wonderful release for several reasons. This will be the first exposure many of Lyle Lovett's fans to these songwriters. Steven Fromholz is a great songwriter whose albums are difficult to find at times. Lovett covers his songs "Bears", and the "Texas Trilogy". It's enough to make me want to seek out more Fromholz. Lovett covers four of Townes' songs. His version of "Lungs" captures all the desperation of the original. It's still hard to imagine life without Townes. Lovett covers several of Walter Hyatt's songs, the Uncle Walt's Band songwriter who lost his life in the ValueJet crash. Songs by Guy Clark, Willis Alan Ramsey. Eric Taylor, Robert Earl Keen, and others are covered as well.

Another great thing about this disc is the musicians. Acoustic powerhouses Sam Bush on Mandolin, Stu-Bob Duncan on fiddle, Jerry Douglas on Dobro, Victor Krause on Bass as well as Russ Kunkle on drums,Matt Rollings on Piano, Dean Parks on electric guitar. And then there is Lovetts rich, warm voice and his outstanding guitar picking.

The last reason to buy this disc is the booklet enclosed. In fact, I recommend the booklet over the disc, and I love the disc. The Cd includes a 50 page booklet that contains all the lyrics to all the songs as well as a series of beautiful black and white photographs by Michael Wilson. It makes a wonderful book of poetry that I catch myself reading from time to time.

Step Inside This House, I think you'll like what he's done with it.

- Jeff Wall 

Marty Stuart
– The Pilgrim MCA

There are some things you need to know about Marty Stuart, things that are not readily apparent when you first see the Manuel jacket, big haired, hip swiveling party boy playing Hillbilly Rock. Marty grew up in Philadelphia, Mississippi. He joined legendary Lester Flatt's bluegrass band, as a mandolin picker, before he was even haired over. After Lester died, he became a part of Johnny Cash's band. He's a bigtime Clarence White fan, who owns and regularly plays Clarence's B-Bender Tele, the Holy Relic of the Hillbilly Twang Guitar Picker world. Marty has impeccable credentials. His first record, 1982s Busy Bee Cafe on Sugar Hill Records was a powerhouse of Bluegrass and twang. I had high hopes for Marty. I can't say I've been happy with all his MCA releases. They all seemed to drift too far away from his roots. That's not to say that he hasn't done some quality work. The bluegrass gospel records he has done with Jerry and Tammy Sullivan are killer. His work on Ralph Stanley's Clinch Mountain Country was excellent as well, but the Marty Party thing just never did anything for me. The Pilgrim however, has restored my faith in Marty Stuart.

This is the disc that shows all facets of the musician Marty Stuart. This is his concept album, based on a true story, about two men, a woman, a gun, and three broken hearts. It's got everything that good country music should contain. Mature themes, pain, pleasure, drinking, killing, and Jesus. There is Hillbilly Rock, B-Bender licks galore, hard core Honky Tonk, Country Weepers, and there is even Bluegrass. George Jones makes a short appearance, as does Emmylou Harris. Ralph Stanley joins Marty Stuart in a killing song. Pam Tillis sings some harmony. Dr Ralph comes back to sing accapela with just a few songbirds and the whistle of a lonesome train for accompaniment. Uncle Josh plays his dobro, Earl Scruggs plays his banjo and Marty plays his mandolin and they all rock. Johnny Cash reads Tennyson and makes it sound as if the end of time is upon us. 

I'm telling you, I love this sumbitch. This is Marty Stuart's showcase piece. Like Monet's Water Lilies, this will be the work that will remain and be remembered long after Marty's gone. Now if we can just get him to record us another Bluegrass record I'd be happy. Or at least record me hillbilly version of "Nashville West".

Visit Marty on the web at

Jeff Wall 

Sam Bush- Howling at the Moon
 Sugar Hill 
 Sam Bush has done it all. From winning fiddle contests as a child, to turning the Bluegrass world on  it's ear when a bunch of longhairs played rock tunes bluegrass style with the Newgrass Revival, to  being the musical director of Emmylou Harris's Nash Ramblers for many years, to electric lead guitar  in the world's greatest rock and blue's band, Duckbutter, to his stage group ManBoy, and now with  the Sam Bush Band, Sam Bush is doing what he does best- entertaining people.

 Sam Bush has the most distinctive mandolin chop and head bob in bluegrass. His phase shifted  fiddle is highly sought out in Nashville Studios. Howling at the Moon, His latest release once again  captures the eclecticism that is Sam Bush. From old time fiddle tunes like Big Rabbit, The Funk of  Funk 42, Soulful Rock as with Hold On, the Little Featish Beaver Creek Mansion, Old Timey/  Irish with Crossing the Transippi, Sam is a master in any genre. 

 This is the most positive album of Sam's career. After losing two close friends to cancer, bassist  extraordinare Roy Huskey Jr, and Newgrass alumni Courtney Johnson, Sam has examined the  fragility of life and personal relationships. This disc is filled with songs of hope and inspiration. The  most moving piece on the disc is Song for Roy, A tribute to Nash Rambler alumni Roy Huskey Jr, it  is made up of lines that Roy was always saying. The disc closes with Take Me Out To The Ball  Game, the last tune Sam and Roy recorded together. A perfect closure to a perfect album. When  the history of Acoustic Music is written, Just like Bill Monroe, Clarence White, and Roy Huskey Jr,  Sam Bush will be remembered as an innovator and a master of his craft.

 - Jeff Wall 

Townes Van Zandt 
- A Far Cry from Dead
Arista Austin

Dollar Bill Blues/ To Live is to Fly / Rex's Blues / Sanitarium Blues / Ain't Leavin' Your Love / Greensboro Woman / Snake Mountain Blues / For the Sake of the Song / Waitin' Around to Die / Many a Fine Lady / Tower Song / Squash

I met Townes Van Zandt once. I was living up in the Pacific Northwest, constantly getting rained upon and growing webs between my toes. Guy Clark and Townes Van Zandt were scheduled to play in Seattle. My wife had no idea who either one were, but I was able to convince her that we just had to go see and hear these two. Shortly before the show started, I realized that I had forgotten to bring any film. I ran outside and around the corner toward the drug store. I noticed Guy and Townes walking down the street toward me, carrying guitars. I stopped and said hello. Guy was feeling a little grumpy, but Townes acted like I was his best friend. He seemed tickled to death that someone recognized him, said hello, and Townes wanted to talk. I received such a feeling of love and warmth from that 10 second meeting, it's an experience I've carried with me ever since.

Townes was a wonderful poet and songwriter. Steve Earle said once that Townes Van Zandt is the greatest songwriter alive and that he would stand on Bob Dylan's coffee table in his muddy boots and tell him that. A few years ago, Townes lost a fight with his heart and died on New Years Day, The same day that Hank Williams passed on. Townes physical self departed this realm to roam the golden roads of Heaven. From 1989- 1996 he recorded a bunch of songs at Cowboy Jack Clements Cowboy Arms Hotel and Recording Spa. These songs, mostly reworkings of older tunes, were originally recorded with just Townes and an acoustic guitar. The decision was made after his death to release these songs. What is surprising is that it was decided to release it on a Major label. The Major Labels have largely ignored Townes. He never sang exactly in tune, He was not a person who would or could play the shuck and jive game that seems to be required from the major labels. Townes wasn't mainstream. Townes was a study in contradictions. He was plagued with psychological problems most of his life, but he wasn't crazy, or if he was, it's a crazy that I wish more people would try and emulate.

The powers that be decided to take these songs of Townes, and add a full backing band to them. It's an idea that challenges some of my prejudices. My preferred method of listening to Townes is with minimal accompaniment. All that is needed is Townes and his guitar. His words are so beautiful that anything else is just a distraction. On the other hand, this is the first time I have ever heard Townes backed by a full band. "Dollar Bill Blues" sounds incredible with the band backing. "To Live is to Fly" is performed as a slow blues, with heavy emphasis on the snare. "Sanitarium Blues" has to be the saddest, and most painful song Townes ever recorded. The band is funky and adds texture more than it distracts from Townes. 

This disc is great on a couple of different levels. For the newcomer to Townes Van Zandt is serves as a primer and greatest hits disc, all performed in a funky, bluesy, country rock style. For those of us that have been Townes disciples for a while, this is a collection of new interpetations of Townes' work. Either way you can't lose in picking this disc up. In addition to this disc, I would also recommend Live at the Old Quarter for a different veiw of Townes mastery. It is available through the Townes website at

Jeff Wall 

Waco Brothers - Wacoworld

If this was an instrumental disc, it would probably still suck. Though maybe not quite as bad. I don't think it would be possible for it to suck any worse. This disc was my first, and last, exposure to the Waco Brothers. Bloodshot is pretty proud of them. The Alt-Country community has embraced them as well. But I don't care if Jesus himself rides down on his golden chariot with this thing blasting out of the Holy 8-Track, this disc still sucks. 

The Waco Brothers are a band that hails out of Chicago. There's decent music up there. Steve Goodman and John Prine lived in Chicago. Special Consensus is a damn good bluegrass band from Chicago. Robbie Fulks lives there. Lets not forget Muddy Waters, James Cotton, Buddy Guy, and all the good blues that come from that area. Even Chicago, Styx and Cheap Trick can claim Chicago as a hometown. There's a hell of an alt-country/twang scene there. One that is rivaled only by Austin's. What I don't understand is why a band that I have only heard praise about, and who's newest Cd I was looking forward to hearing, could suck so bad. 

How does it suck? Let me count the ways. First and foremost, the vocals suck. I'm not sure which of the Waco's is the predominate lead singer, it sounded like there were several, but it sucked. They all sucked. Offkey grunting warbling that sounded like drunk pigs screwing. Second, a cowboy hat don't make a country band, and Americana or Alt-Country shouldn't be a dumping ground for rock that sucks too bad to get played anywhere else. Third, I can handle bad singing if the songs don't suck as well. Singer Songwriters are not known for having great singing voices. But if your songs AND your singing sucks, then you need to take one of those Sally Struthers home correspondence courses and learn TV/VCR repair, locksmithing, or how to be a music critic. 

I have been told by friends that the Waco Brothers are a great band. Both live and on disc. I was told that they are a hard drinking bunch who put on a great live show. I was told that their show was one of the highlights of the SXSW music festival and corporate sponser group masterbation ceremony. I was also told that once I got married, I'd get laid twice a day too. 

Basically, here's the deal. You can spend $10-15 bucks on this disc, or you can spend it on Tupperware. The Tupperware is a better use of plastic and is something you might actually use, Of course, I wonder if this disc is Microwave safe?. No dancing cows for the Waco Brothers. 

Jeff Wall 

Alejandro Escovedo
- More Miles Than Money: Live 1994-96

Last to Know / Slip / Pissed Off 2 A.M. / Sway / One More Time / She Doesn't Live Here Anymore / Broken Bottle / I Wanna Be Your Dog / She Towers Above / Five Hearts Breaking / Gravity-Falling Down Again-Street Hassle

In some music circles, Alejandro Escovedo is almost worshiped. For a while now I have been hearing how wonderful Escovedo is. He was a member of the 70's Punk band, The Nuns. He later went on to form the country punk band Rank and File. When he's not out doing the solo gig, he's playing with the garage rock Buick MacKane. I'd been curious about this guy for a while due to all the hype I had been hearing from my friends. When this retrospective was released by Bloodshot, I couldn't wait to review it. I should of waited. 

No, it's not that bad. After repeated listenings. I am starting to like bits and pieces of it. But Damn it's mellow. There should be a warning label attached to this disc that says "Do Not Listen to this disc while under the influence of Alcohol or other sedatives", That might help keep people from slipping into an Apathy Coma. But I doubt it. I just can't figure out what all the hype was about. The performance bores me. Most of the songs bore me. The disc bores me. That's not to say that it's bad, it's just so low key. Kind of folky. I kept waiting to hear a song about a dead baby seal or a whale or something. 

All my friends tell me I'm wrong. They love the way Escovedo lays his soul bare in his music. That his descriptions of lost love and wasted chances speak to their hearts. They love the sparse arrangements, the way he is accompanied by only a cello, violin, or occasional slide guitar. I'm told that Escovedo can hold an audience in the palm of his hand. That seeing him in concert is almost a spiritual experience. 

I think they've lost their minds. What do they know? Most of them are vegetarians and communists anyway. I was in touch with my feelings once too, but I stopped when I was told that it could lead to blindness. (at least that's the story I'm sticking to). If we weren't supposed to eat our little friends the animals, then why did God make them so tasty? I don't see the appeal. If I wanted to be depressed, I would call my mother, not listen to Alejandro Escovedo. Feelings are for pussies anyway.

My friends are planning an intervention. 

Jeff Wall

Jessie Winchester
The Gentleman of Leisure talks about songwriting

"Writing a song is pretty easy, it comes quickly. It's the editting that's hard and takes a long time. I have to sing it over and over and over again, literly hundreds of times to make sure that it all makes sense and flows so that it doesn't sound poetic or artificial, and instead hopefully it sounds like somebody talking to you. I try to write commercial songs, with more or less success. I'm trying to make a living instead of making any great artistic statement. However, It makes me feel wonderful when people come up to me and tell me how much my songs have meant to them." 

Jesse Winchester is a quiet little fellow with graying hair. He exudes humility and gentleness unlike anyone I have ever met before. Prior to meeting him I had been warned to be careful. Jesse had fled the United States and moved to Toronto, Canada to avoid the draft. It was a decision which he believed deeply in, but which would have serious consequences. As a result, for many years, he was not allowed back into the United States or his native Mississippi. As a result, he was unable to tour the States the draft dodgers recieved a Presidental Pardon. I don't care about the politics involved. I respect the man for following his beliefs. And before you get pissed off and decide to put a pipe bomb under my bed, you should know that I spent twenty years in the Navy and did more than my share of blowing up the Godless Heathens for Christ, my Country, and Exxon. Knowing that he followed his heart and fled to Canada, leaving behind everything and everyone he loved gives his classic song
"Mississippi Your on my Mind" a much deeper meaning for me. 

I ran into Jesse Winchester at Merlefest. A reporter with the Voice of America asked me if I would be interested in interviewing him. Hell yes. Jesse Winchester is a legend. He's just released his first new album of songs in over 12 years. Jesse Winchester is a legend in songwriting circles. You bet I wanted to meet him. I was told to behave and not do anything stupid. Damn, even the Voice of America knows about me. 

Jesse told us, "I am looking forward to meeting Jim Lauderdale, that was my main goal of attending Merlefest. I already know Jerry Douglas, Sam Bush, and a lot of these other people. They played on my record. But Jim Lauderale wrote that song that Patty Loveless and George Jones did, "You Don't Even Miss Me". That was the first I had ever heard of him, That song was so Country. I put my Cd player on repeat on that song and played it over and over and over. It was the most country thing I had heard in a long time. I knew that whoever had wrote
it was a real Country writer, so I knew I wanted to meet him." 

Jesse Winchester mainly makes his living as a sonwriter instead of as a performer. That's not saying he's not a good performer, it's just those songs of his. They get to you. My favorite tunes of his always seem to be the more spiritual numbers. I've never thought Gospel writers wrote good gospel songs. It's the Ralph and Carter Stanley type Gospel tunes that have always struck a chord with me. A man who can write songs about drinking and killing, then turn around and do something like White Dove or Rank Stranger. That's what I respond to. Jesse Winchester writes a good spiritual tune. "I'm going to get myself in trouble with the religous people, and I don't want to do that, but I think you've just got to be an ordinary person. People who think they know all the answers put me off. If you stop wondering and thinking about things, you kind of lose it. You lose your sense of humor, your sense of awe and mystery, and really what God is all about. He will not be proved. He said that himself." 

" I don't belong to any one particular church. I tend to favor the ones that shout at me for emotional reasons. I like emotions. I like emotions going into that sort of thing.. When I hear something like a Hank Williams gospel song, it seems to me a little bit more to me, to know that someone has hurt like that, that you've got to that point in your life where there is no place else." 

When asked about perfrming and other people covering his songs, Jesse said. " I don't do other people's songs unless I feel as if I could have written them. I love having other people do my songs, it's such a great ego boost. It's a little hard to be objective about my songs musically speaking, I'm so close to it, I can't tell whether if I like it musically or not, I can't get back far enough from it so I really can. The reason I made this last album, Gentleman of Leisure, was, I had told myself I wouldn't bother again, but I had these tunes that other people had done
over the last ten years or so, and I just wanted my own versions to be heard because a lot of times the feeling wasn't exactly what I had in mind. That's really what moved me to do it. I'm glad I did it, I'm having the time of my life, I'm having more fun than I've ever had before. It's one of the greatest blessings there is. The first greatest blessing iis having parents that love you. The second is having something to do that you enjoy. I'm truely blessed." 

Jesse WInchester is working on a new album right now. Hopefully we won't have to wait another twelve years to hear it. 

Jeff Wall 

16 Horsepower
 Secret South
 Razor & Tie

 What the hell is this? A cross between Ralph Stanley and Trent Rezner (that Nine Inch Nails guy)?  It sounds like Industrial Country. When the first tune, "Clogger' started up, I was ready to chunk the  disc into the Don't Bother Box. It doesn't do anything for me at all. Then the second track came up.  An Old Time clawhammer rendition of Wayfaring Stranger. That hooked me. At least on that one  song. Nothing else caught my attention until I cam to "Praying Arm Lane". I think it was the  clawhammer that got me there again

 Basically, I don't get 16 Horsepower. It's a little to Goth-Like for me. I don't care for the  arrangements, the instrumentation, or the lead singer's voices. If you get into the heavier  Industrial/Goth type stuff like Depech Mode, you might like it. I'm a Buck Owens and Jimmy Martin  fan. It doesn't do anything for me except cause me to exercise as I rush for the eject button.

 Just to fair however, I'll make a deal with you. If you are a fan of this band, and you like or even  love this record, then take a few minutes and sit down and write me a letter. I'd appreciate you  explaining to me what it is I'm missing. I've heard good things about this band but judging from this  record I can't understand why. Here's your chance. Write me a review of Secret South and I'll stick  it up here. below this one.

 Jeff Wall 

The Byrds
Live at the Fillmore - February 1969

The Byrds have been praised for all the wrong reasons. Unlike most, I don't think they were at their pinnacle when that little fat, bald headed geek sperm donor, David Crosby was trying to make them sing folk songs about dolphins screwing. They weren't great when Gram Parsons rolled his rich kid ass up from Buttholeville, Georgia and tryed to make them a Honky Tonk band. They came close, but it wasn't because of anything Gram Parsons did. In my opinion, Chris Hillman deserves most of the credit for that as he does for the Flying Burrito Brothers.
You see, Hillman was a Bluegrasser at heart. Being a Bluegrasser, he knew this amazing flatpicker who had recently bought himself a Telecaster and was doing some session work. This picker was hired to do some studio work on on a couple of Byrds albums. His presence can really be felt the classic Sweetheart of the Rodeo album. Just listen to that guitar ride in the background of 100 Years From Now. It was at this point that the Byrd's started approaching their greatness. When Gram Parson's up and left the Byrds, he took Hillman with him. It was then that the Byrd's finally achieved their pinnacle. 

That session picker was hired to join the Byrds. His name was Clarence White.

Gene Parsons, a machinist by trade who just so happened to play the banjo, guitar, drums, and just about anything else had built a device that would change the pitch on a guitar through the use of a lever and spring mechanism. Legend has it that he stole Clarence's Telacaster and installed it. Once he did that, he changed the face of music history.. 

Clarence was a Byrd from 1968 until he was killed by a drunk driver in 1973. By this time he was a bonafide star to those who followed guitar pickers. Jimi Hendrix was a Clarence White fan. Marty Stuart bought Clarence's Telecaster with the original Parsons/White Stringbender. Tony Rice bought Clarence's D-28 Martin. People have been searching for Clarence's main axe, a Martin D-18, like it was the map to the lost city of El Dorado.

Since this is supposed to be a record review and nor just an essay of me going off about how great Clarence White was, I guess I should mention the record. It's awesome. You should own it. It's all here Country Guitar, Psychadelic, and Rock and Roll. 

This disc is amazing. It kicks off with a Gene Parson's drum intro into Clarence's signature song, Nashville West. I've heard Clarence play half a dozen different versions of this tune, but I have never heard him stretch it out like this. This disc covers the Byrds transition between their folk rock honky-tonk sound and their later more psychedlic period. Clarence was at home with it all. On this recording he can be heard simulating pedal steel licks with his B-Bender on "You're Still on my Mind", and covering and wildly expanding buddy Don Rich's
guitar part on the Buck Owen's classic "Buckaroo". 

The first half of the disc has a country feel with the Byrds covering the classics "Drug Store Truck Driving Man"," Close Up the Honky Tonks" and "The Christian Life". the second half of the disc is where Clarence shows he is a lot more than just a shit hot country guitar player with his picking on "King Apathy" and "Bad Night at the Whisky". He's also a shit hot psychedelic rock guitarist. McGuinn says: "The greatest thing about Clarence was that he never played anything that sounded vaguely weak, or like a mistake. He was always driving - into the music - and that pulled the whole band up." 

I don't care what you think of the Byrds, if you consider yourself a fan of guitar playing, you need to hear Clarence White. Life at the Filmore captures him at his electric best. Clarence White belongs in the Rock and Roll, Bluegrass, and Country Hall's of Fame. a better guitar player or nicer human being has yet to come along since. 

Jeff Wall 

Star City
Star City

Star City is a band from New York City. I think that's where they're from. I don't know how to describe the way that they sound. It's not really country, and it ain't really rock, yet it's a little of both. And it succeeds without becoming cheezy ass country rock.. The best way I know how to desribe this record is enjoyable. I get a lot of records in the mail. Not a lot of those records get more than a half dozen listenings. I review them and throw them into a box in my den. This record, however, goes with me on the raod. It ends up in the cd player when
I'm cooking dinner or the few times I'm cleaning house. 

The songs are well written and loaded with hooks without being kitchy. They are songs about mature subjects such as losing a child, getting drunk and kissing a girl in a bar who reminds you of the girl you love but can't have, relationships that aren't working but you can't leave, and knowing that a broken heart won't kill you but wishing that it would. It's the kind of music that doesn't get played on the radio anymore because your average commercial radio listener doesn't have the attention span or the ability to think. 

The lead singer, Jason Lewis, has a voice that would work in either country or rock formats. The songs are great, the band is tight, and this record has made it into that short stack of Cd's that I listen to a lot. What higher recommendation do you need?

Jeff Wall