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Things I missed

Some time after I got out of high school, I hooked up with a roommate who was really into music. One of the bands he introduced me to was the Allman Brothers. I used to kick myself that they were making all that really cool music and I could have been in on it, but I just didn’t know about it. I spent days listening to the Fillmore East album. It’s still one of my favorites.

There have been other artists I’ve felt the same way about over the years. I was behind the curve with Peter Gabriel, Warren Zevon, the Psychedelic Furs, Depeche Mode, Phish, Widespread Panic among others. I guess that’s the way it goes. Lately, I’ve been indebted to Howard at the Smedley Log for introducing me to Over the Rhine.

Mostly, I listen to instrumental stuff, or at least to bands whose songs are mostly excuses for instrumental breaks between verses. In part, this is because I have a real hard time picking out words in most songs. Then again, part of it is that so many songs are just plain inane at best and downright stupid at worst.

I was watching a concert by Michael Franti and Spearhead the other night. I kind of like their music. They’ve got some talent. Most of their lyrics (the ones I could pick out) were pretty innocuous. Then they got off into some “heavy” philosophy with lyrics like “Don’t fear your father, because a father is just a boy without a friend.”

What?

Oh well, maybe I just haven’t smoked enough dope, constantly, for the last 30 years for that to be profound.

What I do like in the way of vocalists are artists whose music is uncluttered enough that I can hear the words. I also like lyrics that, while perhaps not profound, have that “little slice of life” feel to them. John Hiatt comes to mind.

I am now indebted to TJIC for introducing me to James McMurtry, who I’ve somehow missed out on for all these years. Decent music, and lyrics that can almost make me cry:

Strap them kids in
Give ‘em a little bit of vodka in a cherry coke
We’re going to Oklahoma to the family reunion for the first time in years

Damn, that’s a thing of beauty…

Uncle Slayton’s got his Texan pride
Back in the thickets with his Asian bride
He’s got a Airstream trailer and a Holstein cow
He still makes whiskey ’cause he still knows how
He plays that Choctaw bingo every Friday night
You know he had to leave Texas but he won’t say why
He owns a quarter section up by Lake Eufala
Caught a great big ol’ blue cat on a driftin’ jug line
Sells his hardwood timber to the shipping mill
Cooks that crystal meth because the shine don’t sell
He cooks that crystal meth because the shine don’t sell
You know he likes his money he don’t mind the smell

Before you ask, no, this isn’t a portrait of my family. There’s been no moonshiners in my family in living memory and no meth labs either. Although as a kid I did help my grandfather cut walnut trees to sell to a lumber buyer. He always got a good price because the stand of walnut trees was back on a rocky slope that was a good 100 yards from the nearest fence. The lumber buyer knew it was clean wood; straight, thick and no chance that there was a strand of barbed wire in the trunk that the tree had grown around.

Update:  Turns out I could have seen McMurtry up here in Kansas at an outdoor festival a couple of weeks ago, although from his website, it looks like it may not have been the best of times.

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