Sunday music musings, 19.2.17

February 19, 2017

Well, this certainly answers some burning questions I’ve had since Lone Star Music moved their operations to San Marcos — namely why they left Gruene, and how they’ve been doing since. I had no idea of any of it — the fact that the Gruene building’s owners had jacked up the rent to untenable levels, LSM’s travails in relation to moving into the old Sundance Records building in San Marcos, or the issues they faced after the move, with the construction, landlords, and predatory towing company. (As for the last thing, putting the search term “San Marcos predatory towing” in Google, along with the towing company Zach Jennings mentioned, brings up some interesting results.)

In the interests of full disclosure, though, I must admit we never made the trek to Sundance. The trip to New Braunfels/Gruene is worth it for several things, as I have put it before, but the only reason to ever go to San Marcos would have been Lone Star Music. Since they moved up there I’ve done all my Texas music shopping through Amazon. I honestly don’t know why I never thought about the website, but as far as the physical store goes, the towing situation as detailed by Jennings makes me think we were better off not making the drive to San Marcos even if we’d ever really wanted to. The construction would have been worth dealing with, but having the vehicle towed by some asshole who was just out to make money by any means necessary would have been a lot more hassle than it was worth. It’d be interesting to see how many people in and around San Marcos had the same thoughts.

Regardless, though, I do hope it works out for them. LSM’s impact on Texas and Red Dirt music has been quite valuable and their music selection is second to none. If you look at the comments on the LSM Magazine post you’ll see San Antonio’s Pearl Brewery suggested as a possible location for them. As the commenter pointed out, the rent would probably be prohibitively high, but one can certainly dream!

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So with some Christmas Amazon gift card credit, I bought yet another multi-artist tribute album, Undone: A Musicfest Tribute to Robert Earl Keen, recorded at Musicfest, the big annual Texas and Red Dirt festival in Steamboat Springs. Colorado, in 2008.

So let’s get the meh out of the way: While not bad, REK has done much better versions of “Dreadful Selfish Crime” and “The Road Goes On Forever” elsewhere. (See: No. 2 Live Dinner.) And Cory Morrow did a better version of “I’ll Go On Downtown” on his first live album. Seriously, the version here was the second time he’s recorded a live version of that song, and then again on the Live Dinner Reunion album! Dude, it’s a good song, but really?!

Now, let’s get to the good stuff.

I love Robert Earl Keen’s own versions of songs dearly, but there’s a lot to be said for a good cover. And this set is jam-packed with them, from some of Texas and Red Dirt music’s finest artists. My favorite of the bunch is Cody Canada’s beautifully stark version of “Shades of Grey…”

followed closely by Max Stalling’s buttery-smooth “No Kinda Dancer”…

and Jason Boland’s subdued “Mariano.”

Also not to be missed are Wade Bowen’s “Lynnville Train,” Brandon Jenkins’ “Wish You Were Here,” Randy Rogers’ “I’ll Be Here For You,” Josh Grider’s “I Wonder Where My Baby is Tonight,” and, and, and…

…you know what?

Just go buy the whole thing. If you’re a fan of this music, you absolutely will NOT be disappointed.

Big applause for Fossil.

February 18, 2017

I would like to give a big shout-out to the Fossil Store at North Star Mall here in San Antonio. My watch band needed to be replaced, but the jewelry repair place to which I took the watch to get the band previously adjusted closed down. I took the watch and the band I ordered for it to the Fossil store and explained my situation, perfectly willing to pay, mind you…

…and they replaced the band and adjusted it to fit…for free.

Locals, next time you’re in the market for a watch or a nice wallet, you know where to go.

Sunday music musings, 29.1.17

January 29, 2017

Trigger at Saving Country Music, on Rolling Stone Country’s admonition to country stars to get political:

What is most dangerous here about Rolling Stone Country‘s assertions is this mindset that either you actively speak out and engage in political discourse, or somehow you are a party to the worst offenses of either Donald Trump or his supporters. In other words, you could have voted for Hillary Clinton, a third party candidate, or not voted at all. Yet if you don’t come out in vehement opposition to Donald Trump as an official stance as part of your pop country celebrity franchise, then you are complicit with racism, homophobia, lies, and environmental destruction. Even though Rolling Stone Country‘s Joseph Hudak at times tries to tell readers that if they disagree, the can feel free to stop reading, he also states, “You either accept that lying is wrong or you do not. You accept that mocking the disabled is wrong or you do not. And you accept that sexual assault is wrong or you do not. There is no middle ground.”

No middle ground, eh? Do you want a Donald Trump re-election? Because that’s how you get a Donald Trump re-election.

Seriously, this “all politics all the time” in every single thing is going to destroy us. You kinda should expect political commentary from Steve Earle or maybe (to a lesser extent) Jason Boland, but why should a George Strait or Randy Rogers be condemned for not going on anti-Donald Trump tirades in studio or on stage, or, fuck, anywhere else for that matter? It is grossly unfair to them as artists and to their fans, and as Americans they don’t deserve to be called out for bigotry they’ve never expressed by Progressive assholes who are all pissy about everyone not falling in line with their agenda.

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Speaking of Rolling Stone Country, and I know I’m late on this, what the hell was with their best of 2016 list? Maren Morris’ Hero at No. 1? I know the pickings were slim compared to 2015, but, “Oh, honey, no.”

I say that, but there was some good stuff there, among them the latest albums from the Randy Rogers Band, Sturgill Simpson, and Hayes Carll. But none of those albums really struck me on a level that all the great stuff from 2015 did. Not that they weren’t good — maybe I just need to go listen to them all again a few more times — but the only new albums I got that I liked right off the bat were Robert Earl Keen’s Live Dinner Reunion and William Clark Green’s Live At Gruene Hall.

Both of those are great, but if I had to pick a favorite it’d have to be the William Clark Green album, for the extended “Wishing Well” jam all by itself. That song just flat fucking rocks live.

Funny thing about that song: it was off his first album, that I didn’t even know existed for a long time. I had thought for a while that Green’s first album was 2013’s Rose Queen. I really like the original version of it too. “Still Think About You” was surprisingly moving live; it was presented as a tribute to Kent Finlay, the longtime proprietor of the Cheatham Street Warehouse, who died last year. He did leave an indelible mark on Texas music — indeed, all of American music — and Green was one of his last proteges.

But then, there’s something just really magical, that I can’t quite explain, about Joe Ely singing “The Road Goes On Forever.” Maybe it’s the fact that it’s a legendary Texas artist singing a legendary Texas song. Yeaaaaaah, that’s gotta be it.

Live Dinner Reunion was a really pleasant surprise, to be honest. I initially thought that it was just going to be a re-recording of Keen’s 1996 classic No. 2 Live Dinner, which would have been borderline blasphemous; as it turned out, it was a celebration of the 20th anniversary of that album’s release (like N2LD, it was also recorded at Floore’s Country Store), with a bunch of special musical guests, some of them doing duets and some of them singing lead. Good stuff, though it would have been insanely cool to have another Cody Canada version of “Shades of Gray.”

What? Cody Canada recorded that song once already?

Yeah, he did, and it was freaking AWESOME. From 2008’s Undone: A Musicfest Tribute to Robert Earl Keen:

2017 looks pretty good so far, though, with new releases on the way from, among others, Aaron Watson and Deryl Dodd. Really looking forward to that DD disc; it’ll be a celebration of his 20 years in the music, and the track listing on it looks promising indeed.

Seriously, “That’s How I Got to Memphis” with Radney Foster? SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY!

Thursday tech musings, 22.12.16

December 22, 2016

So I am fully assimilated, or about as assimilated as I’m going to get, anyway..

How so? Well, all these years I’ve owned a Mac, but never an iPhone…until last Monday when my HTC One bit the dust. And I definitely don’t have anything  against the Android — I had a couple of them and they were great — but with the less-expensive iPhone SE in Apple’s lineup now, I thought, why not?

It’s pretty neat, honestly. With the way I feel about local storage I’ll admit I had always pooh-poohed iCloud, but the way the phone and the Mac use it to integrate with each other is really cool. I use iCloud on the Mac for the Find My Mac feature, but I had forgotten that I had it set to sync my Safari bookmarks…until I signed in on the iPhone and all my bookmarks came over from my Mac. And when I got home I enabled the iCloud Keychain on both the iPhone and the Mac, and all my saved Safari usernames & passwords came over to the iPhone from the Mac. It was quite convenient, as is being able to respond to my text messages on the Mac instead of the iPhone.

I could set the Mac up to make and receive phone calls, but that’s just a bridge too far…

As far as getting everything off the old phone? Well….remember how I told you that I had that phone backing up to the cloud? Yup. I was able to get all my contacts & pictures back, more than 2,000 pictures from the day I got the phone to the day it kicked the bucket. I was able to download all the pictures onto the Mac, where they will stay. I was able to download all my contacts into a vCard file and import them into the Contacts app on the Mac, where they were uploaded into iCloud and synced to the phone. And, as the saying goes, nothing of value was lost.

phone

And as you see in the photo above, I put a heavy-duty case on it — the Griffin Technology Survivor All-Terrain. Drop-tested, water-resistant, all that good stuff. Sabra had one on her iPod, and we had one on the iPad as well (though the one on the iPad didn’t hold up well at all…)

“But it’s so pretty! Why put it in such an ugly case?”

Well, it’s not so pretty with a cracked screen, and I don’t have the money to be shelling out to fix said cracked screen, or God forbid get a new phone if it gets dropped that hard.

(Apologies for the crappy picture…)

I do still like my Kindle, though. I suppose I could get an iPad mini if I were so inclined, but the kindle is just the right size for a tablet for me. Maybe if Apple made a smaller one (iPad nano, anyone?), I might think about it…

On respect.

November 22, 2016

You know, sometimes I’m a bit slow…

…but I like to think that if I was on a plane, and the captain said a “special military family” had to deplane before everyone else, I like to think that I’d have some idea of what that meant and show some goddamned respect, or at least exercise some damn discretion and keep my mouth shut. I mean, really. You hear all these people talk about “supporting the troops but not the mission”…well, if you ask me, not booing a fucking Gold Star family as they’re getting off the plane is pretty basic support of the troops themselves — the absolute bare minimum, if you will. I mean, really, how can people do that and live with themselves?

Random drive-by rant: San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo

November 11, 2016

This? This is the lineup for the 2017 lineup for the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo? Sam Hunt? The Band Perry? Dan + Shay? Good grief. Last year the lineup included Alan Jackson, Gary Allan, and the Turnpike Troubadours.

At least they have Aaron Watson this year. And I suppose the final lineup might not be the dumpster fire it looks like right now, as several of those slots are still yet to be determined. But just…wow. Pretty much the only thing that’d fully make up for Sam Hunt would be a George Strait appearance — but I seriously doubt we’re gonna get that, as Strait has only played the San Antonio rodeo twice, in 1986 and 1990. Jason Boland? Randy & Wade? Another TT appearance? We’ll see, I guess…

Observations on last night.

November 9, 2016

A lot of people didn’t see this coming, and it’s not surprising when you think about it. I think there were a lot of people who kept their choices on the down low, and all things considered, I cannot blame them. How would you feel if someone you didn’t even know disparaged your character, called you racist, misogynist and any number of other epithets, solely because of your choices in the voting booth? More than that, how many of the things that were said about Donald Trump were said, albeit to a lesser extent, about every GOP candidate going back to at least Bob Dole? There are a lot of people — on the left, especially — who need to think about that last thing in particular, if they’re ever going to even begin to understand last night’s events.

And there were many issues in play last night, but I wonder how differently things would have turned out if Hillary had not only been so open about her agenda in relation to more gun control but also not brazenly lied to everyone about supporting the Second Amendment.

(Also, how crazy would it be if supporting the Fourth Amendment, or the Eighth Amendment, or the Fifth Amendment, were such a controversial thing? If it were so, you’d have people rightly shouting from the rooftops about how were were living in a burgeoning dictatorship or something. Some freedoms are definitely more equal than others.)

Also, I’d like to think that we won’t see any more shenanigans like running guns to the Mexican drug cartels, but as Sabra so astutely pointed out to me, Trump was a Democrat not that long before he was a Republican, so we probably shouldn’t hold our breath.

But since Trump is a Republican now, perhaps the media will do its job if this happens as opposed to turning into glorified PR hacks for the ATF.

An appropriate song for the day…

November 8, 2016

…right here.

First time I heard this song was back during the 2000 election season on Dallas country radio when I was living in North Texas. Still a great song, even if we’d have to bring Cash back from the dead.

“He would unite the whole nation, with his guitar and a song….”

And God knows that’s exactly what we need anymore.

Drive-by rant: Por que no los dos?

November 8, 2016

Seen on Facebook this morning, a meme with the following sentiment:

“Country music needs more of George Strait and Alan Jackson and less of the Dixie Chicks and Beyonce.”

Well hey, why not both? (Maybe not Beyonce, though I will say that if “Daddy Lessons” is played on country radio, I’d much rather it be with the Dixie Chicks.)

Here’s a proposition for you, Sparky:

If we still had the Dixie Chicks, we’d still have both Alan and George too. How’s that, you ask?

Well, let’s put it like this. I’ll readily acknowledge that the Dixie Chicks were at least a little controversial in their day even before The Incident, but I do not see how it can possibly be argued that they were not one of the most traditional acts the mainstream has seen in at least the last quarter-century. They managed to sell more than 6 million copies of an album that was not just traditional country, but almost pure bluegrass, in the era of Shania Twain and Faith Hill. With the musical leadership they provided, with the example they set on how to make actual country music and still have commercial success, they — along with George, Alan, Lee Ann Womack, and others I am probably forgetting right offhand — could have helped lay the groundwork for the next generation of traditional country in the mainstream. The level of quality control on Music Row would have been radically different, to the point that, as I have said before, the likes of Florida-Georgia Line, Sam Hunt, and Thomas Rhett would never have been given the time of day in Nashville, the latter two would have gone on to be the shitty pop music flashes in the pan that they should have been considered all along, and we’d still have quality music on the radio that at least bore some resemblance to country in addition to all the great independent stuff. Would that new mainstream music have been as good as Boland, the Turnpike Troubadours, et al? Probably not, but it would still be miles ahead of the swill radio’s peddling now.

And how would George & Alan still have been here? Well — and again, I’m probably just spitballing here — with the traditional music still getting played, there still might have been room for them on the radio.

But instead…we have what we have now. I don’t know what’s worse, that or the possibility that more than a few people still think it was worth the Chicks getting booted from country music because they didn’t agree with what the Chicks said. You know, I didn’t agree with ’em either, but some things are bigger than mere politics — or should be, anyway.

Thursday music musings, 3.11.16

November 3, 2016

So, about the CMAs last night…

Chris Stapleton winning Male Vocalist and Video and Luke Bryan getting completely shut out? Hey, I’ll take that. Like I have said before, I am not a Stapleton fan by any means, but as the old saying goes, any chair in a bar fight.

I also heard that both George Strait and Alan Jackson got full performance slots. Good for them. It sucks that they don’t get played on the radio anymore, but again, hey, little victories.

I gotta admit, I was quite surprised to see Garth Brooks take home Entertainer of the Year. A lot of people seemed to think it was Carrie Underwood’s time, and if I had to guess who would have taken it, I probably would have guessed she would be it. Not that I really give a damn one way or the other, really, but I thought it was pretty neat that Garth Brooks won just for another FU to Gary “if you’re not on country radio you don’t exist” Overton.

Finally, it was pretty cool that the Dixie Chicks got themselves a performance slot on the CMAs after a full 15-year absence from the show and more than a decade since their blackballing from country music — but then on the other hand I have to wonder if they’d have gotten that if they’d elected to sing one of their own hit songs (or a new song) as opposed to Beyonce’s “Daddy Lessons,” with Beyonce, even. I listened to the original version of the song, and I gotta say, I don’t get how people think it’s actually country. It sounds to me a lot more like, say, Dixieland jazz. Not that it’s bad, mind you. And I know the Chicks have done non-country covers before. Still, though, right or wrong, it reminded me of all the awkward pop star appearances on CMA award shows past, from Meghan Trainor last year to N-Sync with Alabama back in 1999. I thought about how Sammy Kershaw talked of how country music is seemingly the only genre that is ashamed of itself and how it tries to be everything but country. I thought about Dierks Bentley talking about how they weren’t all sitting on hay bales passing out the awards or whatever. And all of it is just another reminder that that attitude still seems to be there, and I have to wonder if it’ll ever subside to the point that mainstream country will ever sound, well, country again. Baby steps, I guess…