Saturday, February 28, 2015

Finding Horse Skulls on a Day That Smelled of Flowers 
Tom Hennen

At the place where I found the two white skulls 
Sunlight came through the aspen branches.
Under one skull were 
Large beetles with hard bodies. 
The other one 
I didn’t move.
Around them new grass grew 
Making the scent of the earth visible. 
Where the sun touched shining bone
It was warm 
As though the horses were dreaming 
In the spring afternoon 
With night 
Still miles away.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Eamon Grennan 

The dead bee lies on the window ledge, a relic,
its amber-yellow body barred in black and its head

tucked in, dust gathering on every follicle
and on the geodesic dome of the head-all tucked in

and tucked away, so neat is death. And the many
flies too, all sizes, lying on their sides as if

asleep, just a quick nap and they’ll be up and off
about their business. Souls, we used to say:

bees, butterflies, moths, wasps, all sorts of flies,
the air crowded and loud with leftover angels-

but not the spider in its complex web, fallen
from grace but walking on air, vigilant in ways

that harden the heart, getting its appetite back.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

This quote always comes to mind when a discussion of songwriting rules is going on. 

For the artist, the dilemma seems obvious: risk rejection by exploring new worlds, or court acceptance by following well-explored paths. 
Art & Fear-David Bayles, Ted Orland

Every time you present a song for critique that doesn't follow
certain crafting guidelines you can expect to see that noted on your lyric sheets.
And most definitely will hear about it during the discussion period.

I attend a session hosted by a Publishing Company based in Nashville.
They spoke about needing the next new thing. Something different. Songs to stand out from the crowd. Told us what were are hearing now is already old;
if you wrote to mimic current radio songs by the time your song was recorded and released it would be passe. They wanted the next new thing now.

After the lecture they held a critique session.
Songs were judged by their idea of acceptable structure ( verse, verse, chorus, verse, bridge, chorus ) and content ( tailgates, tan lines, tattoos, tequila ).
I sat there wondering how they were ever going to find something 
new and different.

Ten or twenty years from now songs may not have verses. They could be nothing but choruses and bridges. The new acceptable guidelines might be chorus, bridge, chorus. Nobody knows what the future holds. Especially now a days!

Nothing new will ever be created if we are held captive by current acceptable crafting guidelines. This is true of all art forms.

The audience doesn't care about the structure or the names of the parts. 
Words and music put together make a song.
They want to be entertained. 

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Naomi Shihab Nye

Townes Van Zandt kissed me on the cheek
after I guarded his guitar.
He had stayed in the bathroom a very long time.
I asked if he needed food 
and he said, I never eat.
Dark bar, people milling and mingling. . .
From Townes we learned the potency 
of the word “mingle.”
Learned that nuthin’ was not nuthin’.
That night he walked me outside. 
You could always feel his need to get away.
I turned the key in my car as he stood there,
his voice blaring from the stereo.
This shook me up.
In those days, I never removed his tape.
He smiled sadly.
OK then, bye.       Bye.

He was wearing a brown suede jacket.
I touched my cheek in the huge dark,
sat a long time before driving.
When he died, on New Year’s Day 1997,
I entered the Internet for the very first time.
Shocking, how much was already there.
Where did it come from?  
Obituaries mingling with family photos,
bio notes, music reviews, reports on his tour.
I stayed at that screen the whole day,
transported, lost, then rose in a blur.
From that day on, we would always have
so much more than we needed.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Last Wednesday, February 18th, I posted the opening paragraph of Tomato Red by Daniel Woodrell. It was a stunning example of hooking your readers right out of the gate. I have to tell you, Daniel has an unique way with words. Here is the start to chapter 14.

     Sometimes nature has this look where you want to hoot and shout accusations because the look seems so unbelievable, an obvious fake. I study these looks for the brief reward of them, and that night nature tossed me such a look. Rain clouds , all dark and muttering, were mobbing up out west, but long finger bones of sunlight showed through and played the range of colors like a range of musical notes, making a tune of colors from pink to plum and back to yellow all across the rim of the world.
     Then the look went down, sank away, and night took control. You could smell the rain marching this way, and hear it, but you couldn’t see the clouds.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Writing prompt for today.

Here is the 1st line of your song titled Badlands.

Shadows slowly hid from the rising sun

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Love the Indian way of explaining the world. Sometimes I wish we could go back......

Legend Of The Rainbow Path

The Iroquois Indians believed the sky was a land of its own, a lush and bountiful terrain where animal and man thrived. They viewed the Sun and the Moon as man and wife, a married couple who descended to the earth through an aperture in the sky and returned back through another hole to a better land at night.

Heng, the Thunder God, grew angry at the Sun as he viewed the Moon growing thinner and thinner and finally fading away. He believed that the Sun was mistreating his beautiful bride and so cast a giant black cloud across the shining face of the Sun. The heat from the Sun's face melted the cloud, the result being a beautiful, big rainbow.

When the animals saw the glorious rainbow and all its colors, they thought it a bridge to the land in the sky. They went to their king, Old Turtle, and pleaded with him to let them ascend the path. Old Turtle waned them of the possible danger in doing this, however the animals in their excitement ignored him. They didn't realize that once the rain stopped the rainbow would disappear, and they would be left in the sky with no way down.

The Iroquois claimed the gods outlined the animals' bodies in stars and some of our constellations are known for the animal shapes they represent. 

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Grab a pad & pencil and write down how you would explain this to someone who was blind.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Sweater Weather: A Love Song to Language
Sharon Bryan

Never better, mad as a hatter,
right as rain, might and main,
hanky panky, hot toddy,

hoity-toity, cold shoulder,
bowled over, rolling in clover,
low blow, no soap, hope

against hope, pay the piper,
liar liar pants on fire,
high and dry, shoo-fly pie,

fiddle-faddle, fit as a fiddle,
sultan of swat, muskrat
ramble, fat and sassy,

flimflam, happy as a clam,
cat's pajamas, bee's knees,
peas in a pod, pleased as punch,

pretty as a picture, nothing much,
lift the latch, double Dutch,
helter-skelter, hurdy-gurdy,

early bird, feathered friend,
dumb cluck, buck-up,
shilly-shally, willy-nilly,

roly-poly, holy moly,
loose lips sink ships,
spitting image, nip in the air,

hale and hearty, part and parcel,
upsy-dasiy, lazy days,
maybe baby, up to snuff,

flibbertigibbbet, honky-tonk,
spic and span, handyman,
cool as a cucumber, blue moon,

high as a kite, night and noon,
love me or leave, seventh heaven,
up and about, over and out.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

I am aficionado of opening sentences in novels that hook you deep. Really get you excited about your journey, like an exotic island travel brochure loaded with sandy white beach pictures and underwater shots of tropical fish, sea fans and elk horn coral. I started reading Tomato Red by Daniel Woodrell last night. I think it might be the longest sentence my eyes have ever scanned. The trip Daniel is taking you on seems a bit scary but, you definitely want to ride along.

Tomato Red
Daniel Woodrell
Your're no angel, you know how this stuff comes to happen: Friday is payday and it’s been a gray day sogged by a slow ugly rain and you seek company in your gloom, and since you’re fresh to West Table, Mo., and a new hand at the dog-food factory, your choices for company are narrow but you find some finally in a trailer court on East Main, and the coed circle of bums gathered there spot you a beer, then a jug of tequila starts to rotate and the rain keeps comin’ down with a miserable bluesy beat and there’s two girls millin’ about that probably can be had but they seem to like certain things and crank is one of those certain things, and a fistful of party straws tumble from a woven handbag somebody brung, the crank gets cut into lines, and the next time you notice the time it’s three or four Sunday mornin’ and you ain’t slept since Thursday night and one of the girl voices, the one you want most and ain’t had yet though her teeth are the size of shoe-peg corn and look like maybe they’d taste sort of sour, suggests something to do, ’cause with crank you want something, anything, to do, and this cajoling voice suggests we all rob this certain house on this certain street in that rich area where folks can afford to wallow in their vices and likely have a bunch of recreational dope stashed around the mansion and goin’ to waste since an article in The Scroll said the rich people whisked off to France or some such on a noteworthy vacation.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

This poem is odd enough to be freakishly interesting.

Margaret Atwood   

Winter. Time to eat fat 

and watch hockey. In the pewter mornings, the cat,   

a black fur sausage with yellow 

Houdini eyes, jumps up on the bed and tries   

to get onto my head. It’s his 

way of telling whether or not I’m dead. 

If I’m not, he wants to be scratched; if I am   

He’ll think of something. He settles 

on my chest, breathing his breath 

of burped-up meat and musty sofas, 

purring like a washboard. Some other tomcat,   

not yet a capon, has been spraying our front door,   

declaring war. It’s all about sex and territory,   

which are what will finish us off 

in the long run. Some cat owners around here   

should snip a few testicles. If we wise   

hominids were sensible, we’d do that too,   

or eat our young, like sharks. 

But it’s love that does us in. Over and over   

again, He shoots, he scores! and famine 

crouches in the bedsheets, ambushing the pulsing   

eiderdown, and the windchill factor hits   

thirty below, and pollution pours 

out of our chimneys to keep us warm. 

February, month of despair, 

with a skewered heart in the centre. 

I think dire thoughts, and lust for French fries   

with a splash of vinegar. 

Cat, enough of your greedy whining 

and your small pink bumhole. 

Off my face! You’re the life principle, 

more or less, so get going 

on a little optimism around here. 

Get rid of death. Celebrate increase. Make it be spring.

Monday, February 16, 2015

It is said that 12 string players spend half of their time tuning and the other half playing out of tune. Well two six stings out of tune can mimic that sound.

In 1965, the Byrds took Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man,” added a rhythm section featuring Roger McGuinn’s distinctive 12-string electric Rickenbacker, and wound up with a Number One smash. Right away, Columbia Records attempted to repeat the formula by grafting a rock backing onto “The Sound of Silence,” an acoustic ballad by newcomers Simon & Garfunkel. Session guitarists Al Gorgoni and Vinnie Bell were tapped to give the song a Byrds-like feel. “Except we didn’t have a 12-string electric!” recalls Gorgoni. “So Vinnie and I just went at it together, and they mixed it onto the same track. The thing is, if you listen carefully, you’ll notice that the guitars aren’t even tuned properly - they’re just awful! On the other hand, all the things that are wrong with the recording didn’t stop it from becoming a huge success. So there you go.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Up all night struggling with a song.

Just can't find a rhyme for four simple couplets.

Here are the end words:






Feel like I'm stuck on a wall.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Those kids now a days...teaching me a lot about songwriting.

Valentine's Day
Mal Blum

I’m hungover
It’s valentine’s day morning
What a perfect day to continue my courting of you
We’ve been dating for so long
I love you
And in the local drugstore I feel a bit like moses
Walking through a red sea of greeting cards and roses
If I’d only known what you were up to or who

Cause I got you the paper, I got you the news
I got you some of that odwalla green juice
That you seemed to like cause you know how I like you
But haven’t you seen the paper haven’t you seen the news
Now there’s something I’ve got to say and I’ve got to
Say it to you
What do you send when flowers just won’t do?

Let’s stop cheating on each other
This valentine’s day

I came over to borrow a loofah
How was I to know you would be schtupping her?
I guess it’s kind of weird and maybe too soon for ya
I know
Don’t get me wrong I mean I know you’re an aries
And you’ve got commitment issues and you get kinda scary off your meds
I think I like it but I like it because
on some level I like to create emotional distractions in my life to prevent myself from Dealing with my real issues

Let’s stop cheating on each other
‘cause the community
isn’t that big
And they will always find out
Let’s stop cheating on each other
And just break up right now
I mean, I’m not even thirty yet

I’m not even 25, or 24 or 23
But I’ll stop cheating on you if you stop cheating on me
Don’t get me wrong I’m not opposed to being poly
But I think that we should talk before you go and screw somebody else!
Stop cheating on me!

Let’s stop cheating on each other
Let’s stop cheating on each other
Let’s stop cheating on each other
And happy valentine’s day

Friday, February 13, 2015

Superb lyrics. Packed full of similes. 

The Windmills Of Your Mind
Music by Michel Legrand
 Lyrics by Alan Bergman and Marilyn Bergman

 Like a circle in a spiral
 Like a wheel within a wheel,
 Never ending on beginning,
 On an ever-spinning reel
 Like a snowball down a mountain,
 Or a carnival balloon
 Like a carousel that's turning
 Running rings around the moon
 Like a clock whose hands are sweeping
 Past the minutes on its face
 And the world is like an apple
 Spinning silently in space
 Like the circles that you find
 In the windmills of your mind!

 Like a tunnel that you follow
 To a tunnel of its own
 Down a hollow to a cavern
 Where the sun has never shone
 Like a door that keeps revolving
 In a half-forgotten dream
 Like the ripples from a pebble
 Someone tosses in a stream.
 Like a clock whose hands are sweeping
 Past the minutes on its face
 And the world is like an apple
 Spinning silently in space
 Like the circles that you find
 In the windmills of your mind!

 Keys that jingle in your pocket
 Words that jangle in your head
 Why did summer go so quickly?
 Was it something that I said?
 Lovers walk along a shore
 And leave their footprints in the sand
 Was the sound of distant drumming
 Just the fingers of your hand?
 Pictures hanging in a hallway
 or the fragment of a song,
 half-remembered names and faces
 but to whom do they belong?
 When you knew that it was over
 Were you suddenly aware
 That the autumn leaves were turning
 To the color of her hair?

 Like a circle in a spiral
 Like a wheel within a wheel
 Never ending or beginning
 On an ever-spinning reel
 As the images unwind
 Like the circles that you find
 In the windmills of your mind

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Writing prompt for an algid February day.

I'm excited. I see a lot goin' on.

I almost feel like I am ease dropping.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

In the Shallows of the River
Tom Hennen

 After one o’clock in the afternoon
 Ice still 
An eighth of an inch thick. 
Night never disappears. 
A glimpse of fur 
Under the dark brush on the bank.
 The aspens unmoving. 
The goldenrod too 
Is stripped down to its bare stalk. 
In the cold 
Even my thoughts 
Have lost their foliage
 And appear alone 
Dry and narrow In the flat air.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

It's almost time to get those fingernails dirty.

The Garden Song
Dave Mallett

Inch by inch, row by row
Gonna make this garden grow
All it takes is a rake and a hoe
And a piece of fertile ground

Inch by inch, row by row
Someone bless these seeds I sow
Someone warm them from below
Till the rain comes tumbling down

Pulling weeds and picking stones
Man is made of dreams and bones
Feel the need to grow my own
Cause the time is close at hand

Grain for grain, sun and rain
Find my way in nature's chain
Tune my body and my brain
To the music from the land

Plant your rows straight and long
Temper them with prayer and song
Mother Earth will make you strong
If you give her love and care

Old crow watching hungrily
From his perch in yonder tree
In my garden It's as free
As that feathered thief up there

Monday, February 9, 2015

Packed full of life's pictures and memories.

Farm Auction 
by Amy Fleury 

Contrails scrawl the sky under which
sawhorse-and-lumber tables offer up
the hoard and store of fifty years.
Neighbors have come to scour house
and barn and implement shed.
Yes, we’ve come to haul it all away-
their nests of pillows and quilts
and feather ticks, the glazed plates
and bread crocks, a washtub rimed
with bluing, the saltcellar and gravy boat,
her cross-stitch sampler and figurines,
canning jars, seals, lids. And spools
of baling wire, seed drills, spades,
coffee cans of bolts and bent nails,
a burlap-wrapped schnapps bottle
he kept back of the barn’s fuse box and all
his spare fuses. An aerial photo of their farm.
And even the rusted harrow in the ditch.

The auctioneer works to disperse
all their worldly goods, singing hey
somebody give me twenty now, twenty
as his wife hands over odd boxes
of cribbage boards and crucifixes
to the ladies fanning themselves
with sale bills by the tilting lilacs.
From the porch the 4-H club sells
plates of peach pie and waxy cups of pop.
Inside, the smell of silage still clings
to his chambray shirt hung
on the backdoor peg after choring.
How, in stocking feet, he loved to step
on the warm place where the dog had lain,
where dilapidated hips collapsed her
in a sleeping, yellow heap.

Now all is echo where once they sat
together with the ledger, adding columns
of crop yields and prices per bushel,
or thumbing rosaries like they shelled peas-
dutiful, dutiful to the ceaseless seasons,
to their tillage and cattle and kin.
Through the window screen comes little gusts
and the sound of the gavel coming down.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Bob Dylan's acceptance speech at MusiCares is a must read.
Packed full of songwriting truths.

I’m glad for my songs to be honored like this. But you know, they didn’t get here by themselves. It’s been a long road and it’s taken a lot of doing. These songs of mine, they’re like mystery stories, the kind that Shakespeare saw when he was growing up. I think you could trace what I do back that far. They were on the fringes then, and I think they’re on the fringes now. And they sound like they’ve been on the hard ground.
I should mention a few people along the way who brought this about. I know I should mention John Hammond, great talent scout for Columbia Records. He signed me to that label when I was nobody. It took a lot of faith to do that, and he took a lot of ridicule, but he was his own man and he was courageous. And for that, I’m eternally grateful. The last person he discovered before me was Aretha Franklin, and before that Count Basie, Billie Holiday and a whole lot of other artists. All noncommercial artists.
Trends did not interest John, and I was very noncommercial but he stayed with me. He believed in my talent and that’s all that mattered. I can’t thank him enough for that. Lou Levy runs Leeds Music, and they published my earliest songs, but I didn’t stay there too long.
Levy himself, he went back a long ways. He signed me to that company and recorded my songs and I sang them into a tape recorder. He told me outright, there was no precedent for what I was doing, that I was either before my time or behind it. And if I brought him a song like “Stardust,” he’d turn it down because it would be too late.
He told me that if I was before my time — and he didn’t really know that for sure — but if it was happening and if it was true, the public would usually take three to five years to catch up — so be prepared. And that did happen. The trouble was, when the public did catch up I was already three to five years beyond that, so it kind of complicated it. But he was encouraging, and he didn’t judge me, and I’ll always remember him for that.
Artie Mogull at Witmark Music signed me next to his company, and he told me to just keep writing songs no matter what, that I might be on to something. Well, he too stood behind me, and he could never wait to see what I’d give him next. I didn’t even think of myself as a songwriter before then. I’ll always be grateful for him also for that attitude.
I also have to mention some of the early artists who recorded my songs very, very early, without having to be asked. Just something they felt about them that was right for them. I’ve got to say thank you to Peter, Paul and Mary, who I knew all separately before they ever became a group. I didn’t even think of myself as writing songs for others to sing but it was starting to happen and it couldn’t have happened to, or with, a better group.
They took a song of mine that had been recorded before that was buried on one of my records and turned it into a hit song. Not the way I would have done it — they straightened it out. But since then hundreds of people have recorded it and I don’t think that would have happened if it wasn’t for them. They definitely started something for me.
The Byrds, the Turtles, Sonny & Cher — they made some of my songs Top 10 hits but I wasn’t a pop songwriter and I really didn’t want to be that, but it was good that it happened. Their versions of songs were like commercials, but I didn’t really mind that because 50 years later my songs were being used in the commercials. So that was good too. I was glad it happened, and I was glad they’d done it.
Purvis Staples and the Staple Singers — long before they were on Stax they were on Epic and they were one of my favorite groups of all time. I met them all in ’62 or ’63. They heard my songs live and Purvis wanted to record three or four of them and he did with the Staples Singers. They were the type of artists that I wanted recording my songs.
Nina Simone. I used to cross paths with her in New York City in the Village Gate nightclub. These were the artists I looked up to. She recorded some of my songs that she [inaudible] to me. She was an overwhelming artist, piano player and singer. Very strong woman, very outspoken. That she was recording my songs validated everything that I was about.
Oh, and can’t forget Jimi Hendrix. I actually saw Jimi Hendrix perform when he was in a band called Jimmy James and the Blue Flames — something like that. And Jimi didn’t even sing. He was just the guitar player. He took some small songs of mine that nobody paid any attention to and pumped them up into the outer limits of the stratosphere and turned them all into classics. I have to thank Jimi, too. I wish he was here.
Johnny Cash recorded some of my songs early on, too, up in about ’63, when he was all skin and bones. He traveled long, he traveled hard, but he was a hero of mine. I heard many of his songs growing up. I knew them better than I knew my own. “Big River,” “I Walk the Line.”
“How high’s the water, Mama?” I wrote “It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)” with that song reverberating inside my head. I still ask, “How high is the water, mama?” Johnny was an intense character. And he saw that people were putting me down playing electric music, and he posted letters to magazines scolding people, telling them to shut up and let him sing.
In Johnny Cash’s world — hardcore Southern drama — that kind of thing didn’t exist. Nobody told anybody what to sing or what not to sing. They just didn’t do that kind of thing. I’m always going to thank him for that. Johnny Cash was a giant of a man, the man in black. And I’ll always cherish the friendship we had until the day there is no more days.
Oh, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Joan Baez. She was the queen of folk music then and now. She took a liking to my songs and brought me with her to play concerts, where she had crowds of thousands of people enthralled with her beauty and voice.
People would say, “What are you doing with that ragtag scrubby little waif?” And she’d tell everybody in no uncertain terms, “Now you better be quiet and listen to the songs.” We even played a few of them together. Joan Baez is as tough-minded as they come. Love. And she’s a free, independent spirit. Nobody can tell her what to do if she doesn’t want to do it. I learned a lot of things from her. A woman with devastating honesty. And for her kind of love and devotion, I could never pay that back.
These songs didn’t come out of thin air. I didn’t just make them up out of whole cloth. Contrary to what Lou Levy said, there was a precedent. It all came out of traditional music: traditional folk music, traditional rock ‘n’ roll and traditional big-band swing orchestra music.
I learned lyrics and how to write them from listening to folk songs. And I played them, and I met other people that played them back when nobody was doing it. Sang nothing but these folk songs, and they gave me the code for everything that’s fair game, that everything belongs to everyone.
For three or four years all I listened to were folk standards. I went to sleep singing folk songs. I sang them everywhere, clubs, parties, bars, coffeehouses, fields, festivals. And I met other singers along the way who did the same thing and we just learned songs from each other. I could learn one song and sing it next in an hour if I’d heard it just once.
If you sang “John Henry” as many times as me — “John Henry was a steel-driving man / Died with a hammer in his hand / John Henry said a man ain’t nothin’ but a man / Before I let that steam drill drive me down / I’ll die with that hammer in my hand.”
If you had sung that song as many times as I did, you’d have written “How many roads must a man walk down?” too.
Big Bill Broonzy had a song called “Key to the Highway.” “I’ve got a key to the highway / I’m booked and I’m bound to go / Gonna leave here runnin’ because walking is most too slow.” I sang that a lot. If you sing that a lot, you just might write,
Georgia Sam he had a bloody nose Welfare Department they wouldn’t give him no clothes He asked poor Howard where can I go Howard said there’s only one place I know Sam said tell me quick man I got to run Howard just pointed with his gun And said that way down on Highway 61
You’d have written that too if you’d sang “Key to the Highway” as much as me.
“Ain’t no use sit ‘n cry / You’ll be an angel by and by / Sail away, ladies, sail away.” “I’m sailing away my own true love.” “Boots of Spanish Leather” — Sheryl Crow just sung that.
“Roll the cotton down, aw, yeah, roll the cotton down / Ten dollars a day is a white man’s pay / A dollar a day is the black man’s pay / Roll the cotton down.” If you sang that song as many times as me, you’d be writing “I ain’t gonna work on Maggie’s farm no more,” too.
I sang a lot of “come all you” songs. There’s plenty of them. There’s way too many to be counted. “Come along boys and listen to my tale / Tell you of my trouble on the old Chisholm Trail.” Or, “Come all ye good people, listen while I tell / the fate of Floyd Collins a lad we all know well / The fate of Floyd Collins, a lad we all know well.”
“Come all ye fair and tender ladies / Take warning how you court your men / They’re like a star on a summer morning / They first appear and then they’re gone again.” “If you’ll gather ’round, people / A story I will tell / ‘Bout Pretty Boy Floyd, an outlaw / Oklahoma knew him well.”
If you sung all these “come all ye” songs all the time, you’d be writing, “Come gather ’round people where ever you roam, admit that the waters around you have grown / Accept that soon you’ll be drenched to the bone / If your time to you is worth saving / And you better start swimming or you’ll sink like a stone / The times they are a-changing.”
You’d have written them too. There’s nothing secret about it. You just do it subliminally and unconsciously, because that’s all enough, and that’s all I sang. That was all that was dear to me. They were the only kinds of songs that made sense.
“When you go down to Deep Ellum keep your money in your socks / Women in Deep Ellum put you on the rocks.” Sing that song for a while and you just might come up with, “When you’re lost in the rain in Juarez and it’s Easter time too / And your gravity fails and negativity don’t pull you through / Don’t put on any airs / When you’re down on Rue Morgue Avenue / They got some hungry women there / And they really make a mess outta you.”
All these songs are connected. Don’t be fooled. I just opened up a different door in a different kind of way. It’s just different, saying the same thing. I didn’t think it was anything out of the ordinary.
Well you know, I just thought I was doing something natural, but right from the start, my songs were divisive for some reason. They divided people. I never knew why. Some got angered, others loved them. Didn’t know why my songs had detractors and supporters. A strange environment to have to throw your songs into, but I did it anyway.
Last thing I thought of was who cared about what song I was writing. I was just writing them. I didn’t think I was doing anything different. I thought I was just extending the line. Maybe a little bit unruly, but I was just elaborating on situations. Maybe hard to pin down, but so what? A lot of people are hard to pin down. You’ve just got to bear it. I didn’t really care what Lieber and Stoller thought of my songs.
They didn’t like ‘em, but Doc Pomus did. That was all right that they didn’t like ‘em, because I never liked their songs either. “Yakety yak, don’t talk back.” “Charlie Brown is a clown,” “Baby I’m a hog for you.” Novelty songs. They weren’t saying anything serious. Doc’s songs, they were better. “This Magic Moment.” “Lonely Avenue.” Save the Last Dance for Me.
Those songs broke my heart. I figured I’d rather have his blessings any day than theirs.
Ahmet Ertegun didn’t think much of my songs, but Sam Phillips did. Ahmet founded Atlantic Records. He produced some great records: Ray Charles, Ray Brown, just to name a few.
There were some great records in there, no question about it. But Sam Phillips, he recorded Elvis and Jerry Lee, Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash. Radical eyes that shook the very essence of humanity. Revolution in style and scope. Heavy shape and color. Radical to the bone. Songs that cut you to the bone. Renegades in all degrees, doing songs that would never decay, and still resound to this day. Oh, yeah, I’d rather have Sam Phillips’ blessing any day.
Merle Haggard didn’t even think much of my songs. I know he didn’t. He didn’t say that to me, but I know [inaudible]. Buck Owens did, and he recorded some of my early songs. Merle Haggard — “Mama Tried,” “The Bottle Let Me Down,” “I’m a Lonesome Fugitive.” I can’t imagine Waylon Jennings singing “The Bottle Let Me Down.”
“Together Again”? That’s Buck Owens, and that trumps anything coming out of Bakersfield. Buck Owens and Merle Haggard? If you have to have somebody’s blessing — you figure it out.
Oh, yeah. Critics have been giving me a hard time since Day One. Critics say I can’t sing. I croak. Sound like a frog. Why don’t critics say that same thing about Tom Waits? Critics say my voice is shot. That I have no voice. What don’t they say those things about Leonard Cohen? Why do I get special treatment? Critics say I can’t carry a tune and I talk my way through a song. Really? I’ve never heard that said about Lou Reed. Why does he get to go scot-free?
What have I done to deserve this special attention? No vocal range? When’s the last time you heard Dr. John? Why don’t you say that about him? Slur my words, got no diction. Have you people ever listened to Charley Patton or Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters. Talk about slurred words and no diction. [Inaudible] doesn’t even matter.
“Why me, Lord?” I would say that to myself.
Critics say I mangle my melodies, render my songs unrecognizable. Oh, really? Let me tell you something. I was at a boxing match a few years ago seeing Floyd Mayweather fight a Puerto Rican guy. And the Puerto Rican national anthem, somebody sang it and it was beautiful. It was heartfelt and it was moving.
After that it was time for our national anthem. And a very popular soul-singing sister was chosen to sing. She sang every note — that exists, and some that don’t exist. Talk about mangling a melody. You take a one-syllable word and make it last for 15 minutes? She was doing vocal gymnastics like she was on a trapeze act. But to me it was not funny.
Where were the critics? Mangling lyrics? Mangling a melody? Mangling a treasured song? No, I get the blame. But I don’t really think I do that. I just think critics say I do.
Sam Cooke said this when told he had a beautiful voice: He said, “Well that’s very kind of you, but voices ought not to be measured by how pretty they are. Instead they matter only if they convince you that they are telling the truth.” Think about that the next time you [inaudible].
Times always change. They really do. And you have to always be ready for something that’s coming along and you never expected it. Way back when, I was in Nashville making some records and I read this article, a Tom T. Hall interview. Tom T. Hall, he was bitching about some kind of new song, and he couldn’t understand what these new kinds of songs that were coming in were about.
Now Tom, he was one of the most preeminent songwriters of the time in Nashville. A lot of people were recording his songs and he himself even did it. But he was all in a fuss about James Taylor, a song James had called “Country Road.” Tom was going off in this interview — “But James don’t say nothing about a country road. He’s just says how you can feel it on the country road. I don’t understand that.”
Now some might say Tom is a great songwriter. I’m not going to doubt that. At the time he was doing this interview I was actually listening to a song of his on the radio.
It was called “I Love.” I was listening to it in a recording studio, and he was talking about all the things he loves, an everyman kind of song, trying to connect with people. Trying to make you think that he’s just like you and you’re just like him. We all love the same things, and we’re all in this together. Tom loves little baby ducks, slow- moving trains and rain. He loves old pickup trucks and little country streams. Sleeping without dreams. Bourbon in a glass. Coffee in a cup. Tomatoes on the vine, and onions.
Now listen, I’m not ever going to disparage another songwriter. I’m not going to do that. I’m not saying it’s a bad song. I’m just saying it might be a little overcooked. But, you know, it was in the top 10 anyway. Tom and a few other writers had the whole Nashville scene sewed up in a box. If you wanted to record a song and get it in the top 10 you had to go to them, and Tom was one of the top guys. They were all very comfortable, doing their thing.
This was about the time that Willie Nelson picked up and moved to Texas. About the same time. He’s still in Texas. Everything was very copacetic. Everything was all right until — until — Kristofferson came to town. Oh, they ain’t seen anybody like him. He came into town like a wildcat, flew his helicopter into Johnny Cash’s backyard like a typical songwriter. And he went for the throat. “Sunday Morning Coming Down.”
Well, I woke up Sunday morning With no way to hold my head that didn’t hurt. And the beer I had for breakfast wasn’t bad So I had one more for dessert Then I fumbled through my closet Found my cleanest dirty shirt Then I washed my face and combed my hair And stumbled down the stairs to meet the day.
You can look at Nashville pre-Kris and post-Kris, because he changed everything. That one song ruined Tom T. Hall’s poker parties. It might have sent him to the crazy house. God forbid he ever heard any of my songs.
You walk into the room With your pencil in your hand You see somebody naked You say, “Who is that man?” You try so hard But you don’t understand Just what you’re gonna say When you get home You know something is happening here But you don’t know what it is Do you, Mister Jones?
If “Sunday Morning Coming Down” rattled Tom’s cage, sent him into the looney bin, my song surely would have made him blow his brains out, right there in the minivan. Hopefully he didn’t hear it.
I just released an album of standards, all the songs usually done by Michael Buble, Harry Connick Jr., maybe Brian Wilson’s done a couple, Linda Ronstadt done ‘em. But the reviews of their records are different than the reviews of my record.
In their reviews no one says anything. In my reviews, [inaudible] they’ve got to look under every stone when it comes to me. They’ve got to mention all the songwriters’ names. Well that’s OK with me. After all, they’re great songwriters and these are standards. I’ve seen the reviews come in, and they’ll mention all the songwriters in half the review, as if everybody knows them. Nobody’s heard of them, not in this time, anyway. Buddy Kaye, Cy Coleman, Carolyn Leigh, to name a few.
But, you know, I’m glad they mention their names, and you know what? I’m glad they got their names in the press. It might have taken some time to do it, but they’re finally there. I can only wonder why it took so long. My only regret is that they’re not here to see it.
Traditional rock ‘n’ roll, we’re talking about that. It’s all about rhythm. Johnny Cash said it best: “Get rhythm. Get rhythm when you get the blues.” Very few rock ‘n’ roll bands today play with rhythm. They don’t know what it is. Rock ‘n’ roll is a combination of blues, and it’s a strange thing made up of two parts. A lot of people don’t know this, but the blues, which is an American music, is not what you think it is. It’s a combination of Arabic violins and Strauss waltzes working it out. But it’s true.
The other half of rock ‘n’ roll has got to be hillbilly. And that’s a derogatory term, but it ought not to be. That’s a term that includes the Delmore Bros., Stanley Bros., Roscoe Holcomb, Clarence Ashley … groups like that. Moonshiners gone berserk. Fast cars on dirt roads. That’s the kind of combination that makes up rock ‘n’ roll, and it can’t be cooked up in a science laboratory or a studio.
You have to have the right kind of rhythm to play this kind of music. If you can’t hardly play the blues, how do you [inaudible] those other two kinds of music in there? You can fake it, but you can’t really do it.
Critics have made a career out of accusing me of having a career of confounding expectations. Really? Because that’s all I do. That’s how I think about it. Confounding expectations.
“What do you do for a living, man?” “Oh, I confound expectations.”
You’re going to get a job, the man says, “What do you do?” “Oh, confound expectations.: And the man says, “Well, we already have that spot filled. Call us back. Or don’t call us, we’ll call you.” Confounding expectations. What does that mean? ‘Why me, Lord? I’d confound them, but I don’t know how to do it.’
The Blackwood Bros. have been talking to me about making a record together. That might confound expectations, but it shouldn’t. Of course it would be a gospel album. I don’t think it would be anything out of the ordinary for me. Not a bit. One of the songs I’m thinking about singing is “Stand By Me” by the Blackwood Brothers. Not “Stand By Me” the pop song. No. The real “Stand By Me.” The real one goes like this:
When the storm of life is raging / Stand by me / When the storm of life is raging / Stand by me / When the world is tossing me / Like a ship upon the sea / Thou who rulest wind and water / Stand by me
In the midst of tribulation / Stand by me / In the midst of tribulation / Stand by me / When the hosts of hell assail / And my strength begins to fail / Thou who never lost a battle / Stand by me
In the midst of faults and failures / Stand by me / In the midst of faults and failures / Stand by me / When I do the best I can / And my friends don’t understand / Thou who knowest all about me / Stand by me
That’s the song. I like it better than the pop song. If I record one by that name, that’s going to be the one. I’m also thinking of recording a song, not on that album, though: “Oh Lord, Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood.”
Anyway, why me, Lord. What did I do?
Anyway, I’m proud to be here tonight for MusiCares. I’m honored to have all these artists singing my songs. There’s nothing like that. Great artists. [applause, inaudible]. They’re all singing the truth, and you can hear it in their voices.
I’m proud to be here tonight for MusiCares. I think a lot of this organization. They’ve helped many people. Many musicians who have contributed a lot to our culture. I’d like to personally thank them for what they did for a friend of mine, Billy Lee Riley. A friend of mine who they helped for six years when he was down and couldn’t work. Billy was a son of rock ‘n’ roll, obviously.
He was a true original. He did it all: He played, he sang, he wrote. He would have been a bigger star but Jerry Lee came along. And you know what happens when someone like that comes along. You just don’t stand a chance.
So Billy became what is known in the industry — a condescending term, by the way — as a one-hit wonder. But sometimes, just sometimes, once in a while, a one-hit wonder can make a more powerful impact than a recording star who’s got 20 or 30 hits behind him. And Billy’s hit song was called “Red Hot,” and it was red hot. It could blast you out of your skull and make you feel happy about it. Change your life.
He did it with style and grace. You won’t find him in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He’s not there. Metallica is. Abba is. Mamas and the Papas — I know they’re in there. Jefferson Airplane, Alice Cooper, Steely Dan — I’ve got nothing against them. Soft rock, hard rock, psychedelic pop. I got nothing against any of that stuff, but after all, it is called the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Billy Lee Riley is not there. Yet.
I’d see him a couple times a year and we’d always spent time together and he was on a rockabilly festival nostalgia circuit, and we’d cross paths now and again. We’d always spend time together. He was a hero of mine. I’d heard “Red Hot.” I must have been only 15 or 16 when I did and it’s impressed me to this day.
I never grow tired of listening to it. Never got tired of watching Billy Lee perform, either. We spent time together just talking and playing into the night. He was a deep, truthful man. He wasn’t bitter or nostalgic. He just accepted it. He knew where he had come from and he was content with who he was.
And then one day he got sick. And like my friend John Mellencamp would sing — because John sang some truth today — one day you get sick and you don’t get better. That’s from a song of his called “Life is Short Even on Its Longest Days.” It’s one of the better songs of the last few years, actually. I ain’t lying.
And I ain’t lying when I tell you that MusiCares paid for my friend’s doctor bills, and helped him to get spending money. They were able to at least make his life comfortable, tolerable to the end. That is something that can’t be repaid. Any organization that would do that would have to have my blessing.
I’m going to get out of here now. I’m going to put an egg in my shoe and beat it. I probably left out a lot of people and said too much about some. But that’s OK. Like the spiritual song, ‘I’m still just crossing over Jordan too.’ Let’s hope we meet again. Sometime. And we will, if, like Hank Williams said, “the good Lord willing and the creek don’t rise.”

Saturday, February 7, 2015

"Keep close to natures heart; break clear away once in a while and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods.
Wash your spirit clean."

John Muir

Get outside! Today in eastern Kentucky we will enjoy brilliant sunshine and a temperature of 57. Forget about the salty car, wash your soul.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Mickey Newbury talks songwriting........

“I got a call from a famous writer while I’ve been in town, now I’m not gonna call his name, but he called to congratulate me on the new album,” Newbury starts off our conversation. “Then he asks me how the hell I’m still writing after all these years. I asked him why he doesn’t write and he said he didn’t have anything to write about anymore.”

Newbury pauses, as he must have when he heard that statement from a fellow songwriter, then continues.

“I asked him if he’d ever given any thought to writing a song about not having anything to write about? Just sit down and say he has nothing to say.”

Newbury explains that he writes just the way he suggested to his songwriter friend – when he sits down to write, he writes what is on his mind.

“The reason none of my songs have hook lines is ‘cause I don’t start with any story or hook line. If I wake up and feel like writing and the sun is shining, I might start off with ‘… I woke up this morning and the sun is shining…’ or ‘… I woke up this morning and it was raining …’ Seldom does that wind up being the lead line, but it creates a thread that goes through the song and somewhere down the line the sounds starts.

“It’s an old way of writing and I really believe in it because it’s the only way you can get into an unconscious flow. If you ever want to study a song and see if it’s inspired, take the lines and switch them around and see if they still have content and still make sense.”

Newbury illustrates with “Sweet Memories” – “My world is like a river, as dark as it is deep…night after night the past slips in, and gathers all my sleep…my days are just an endless stream, of emptiness to me … filled only by the fleeting moments of the memories.’ Now take those line and switch them around.

” ‘My days are just an endless stream, of emptiness to me…filled only by the fleeting moments of the memories … my world is like a river, as dark as it is deep … night after night the past slips in, and gathers all my sleep’.”

Newbury contends that the unconscious mind is what writes lines like those, as opposed to the conscious mind, which comes up with the hook lines and clever innuendos.

“The unconscious mind, which retains 100% of its input, as opposed to the conscious mind, which retains only 15% of its input, is crazy as hell,” he says. “I loved that kind of writing…’cause you never know what’s gonna come out. Free flowing is the way to go (for writing a song)…but you can’t take credit for it and your ego doesn’t get stroked when you write like that. But it’s the source of the greater art if you can tap into it and are able to tap into it when you need it, you do it when you need it and then when you don’t need it, you are on another level.”

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Good Stuff!

Billy Collins

When it’s late at night and branches
are banging against the windows,
you might think that love is just a matter

of leaping out of the frying pan of yourself
into the fire of someone else,
but it’s a little more complicated than that.

It’s more like trading the two birds
who might be hiding in that bush
for the one you are not holding in your hand.

A wise man once said that love
was like forcing a horse to drink
but then everyone stopped thinking of him as wise.

Let us be clear about something.
Love is not as simple as getting up
on the wrong side of the bed wearing the emperor’s clothes.

No, it’s more like the way the pen
feels after it has defeated the sword.
It’s a little like the penny saved or the nine dropped stitches.

You look at me through the halo of the last candle
and tell me love is an ill wind
that has no turning, a road that blows no good,

but I am here to remind you,
as our shadows tremble on the walls,
that love is the early bird who is better late than never.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Regular readers know I love a first paragraph I can see, feel, taste, hear, smell or touch. Well, here is another killer example.

"IT WAS AUGUST, so she had to bury him quick. Soon she would be able to smell him, a thing she didn’t know if she could endure—not the live, biting odor he brought in from a day in the fields but a mixture of turned earth and rot, an odor she associated with decaying possum and coon carcasses, the bowl of a turtle she’d overturned as a girl and then tumbled away from, vomiting at the soup of maggots pulsing inside."

Yeah, I'm gonna keep reading.

Taken from Tom Franklin's, Christians 1887. 

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The topic for tonight's 52 Club meeting was waltz. 
So, I wrote a nice feel good song in 3/4 time of course!

Dancin’ The Blue Sky Waltz
Walt Sample

I keep my mind open my spirit free like a red tailed hawk on the wind
Ridin’ the breeze takin’ my time don’t wanna’ leave nothin’ behind
It’s an old story but I know it’s true the turtle beat the hair
So enjoy the trip have some fun cause were all gonna get there

I’m livin’ in three four time
Dancin’ the blue sky waltz
I’m livin’ in three four time
Dancin’ the blue sky waltz

Maxwell house can fresh dug garden worms watchin’ the bobbers dance
Bluegills are biting bending bamboo throw in ‘em back for another chance
Donald duck mugs ice cold sun tea blanket spread under the oak
Lilac breeze blowin’ southing our souls true love never grows old

I’m livin’ in three four time
Dancin’ the blue sky waltz
I’m livin’ in three four time
Dancin’ the blue sky waltz

Runnin’ through the sprinkler again and again laughing till I cry
Pushin’ my son on the park swing till his feet tickle the sky
Cut up fresh peaches for homemade ice cream mmmm it’s gonna be good
My arms getting tired maybe 30 more cranks then we’ll take a look

I’m livin’ in three four time
Dancin’ the blue sky waltz
I’m livin’ in three four time
Dancin’ the blue sky waltz

Monday, February 2, 2015

Writing prompt in honor of Groundhog Day.

Even a white rose has a black shadow.

No kidding, when I searched for rose pictures and the page came up with hundreds of images, the fragrance of roses hit my nose like a white squall.

Sunday, February 1, 2015


Barn member Roger Wheeler will be featured this morning

on Atlanta's WRFG 89.7. 

Tune in at

His music will be featured from 9 to 11 am this morning.

Congratulations Roger!

At the age of 5 I was “playing” a tennis racket while I blasted Beatles music on the old Magnavox stereo in the living room on S. 4th St in the mill village of Lanett, AL.  I was the youngest of 4 kids and my brother had a really cool Harman Kardon stereo in his front bedroom and all the cool albums of the 60 and 70’s that I listened to constantly  He also had a big right handed cheap classical nylon string guitar that he had restrung since he was left handed.  Being left handed myself I thought I’d try it out and the rest is history.  I was 12 years old and I’ve never looked back!!  I will never forgot the day a buddy of mine pulled out the weirdest looking album cover I have ever seen with the strangest title of “Quah”.   I had never heard of Jorma Kaukonen but I was mesmerized!!!!   I literally wore that album out and he became my hero along with my other influences such as James Taylor, Dan Fogelberg and Pure Prairie League.  Wrote some tunes in high school but went to college, got married, had kids and my music was put on hold.   In the year 2001 I got my copy of “Acoustic Guitar” magazine and saw an ad for Jorma Kaukonen’s Fur Peace Ranch.   I knew at that moment I was going to go and in 2004 I was lucky enough to get in Jorma’s class.   Drove all the way from Birmingham to Meigs County OH. nervous as a cat laying next to a rocking chair and found a little slice of heaven on earth and my musical self was reborn!   Had never played mandolin before but saw that Chris Hillman of the Byrds and Manassas fame was going to be teaching a mandolin class.  I signed up, bought a lefty Collins MT mando and hit the road back to heaven.  This weekend literally changed my musical life and Hillman’s Mad Mountain Rangers was born.   Not only did I get some excellent instruction but I met someone who was to become a great friend and influence, Marty Zundel as well as Dan Chute.   The Rangers assembled 2 more times at the Fur Peace with new friends made in Walt Sample and Kate Nord among others.   My writing came back alive and I started getting out and playing and having the time of my life.  Became friends with Anthony and Savana Crawford of a local duo called Sugarcane Jane.  Anthony is originally from Mountain Brook, AL and was a member of and toured with Neil Young’s International Harvesters band as well as Steve Winwood, Dwight Yoakam.  He has a studio in his Dog Trot house in Loxley, AL and has been kind enough to record some of my songs.   I continue to write and play and feel extremely lucky to be included with the other talented musicians on this web site!

Check out all more of roger's songs in Baragie Hall.

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