Monday, October 29, 2007

Manic monday (parte dos).

Too much to do and not so much time. The Universe has altered for the good. 2 World Series championships for the Red Sox in 4 years with the prospects of more to come. How do you like them (Big) apples, George?

(Ed Andrieski/Associated Press)

After some early morning work in Mitchell Memorial Library at MSU, I headed home to complete yardwork delayed by the almost non-stop rains we had for much of last week. Finally the ground is firm enough to mow my grass. After a lunch of red beans and rice and some leftover garlic mashed potatoes with hombrewed iced sun tea (Peppermint Lemon Earl Grey), I headed to Starkville Public Library for Clyde V. Williams' discussion of Mississippi's own Dana Andrews' role in Otto Preminger's 1944 noir classic Laura.

Not quite sure what tonight will bring, although I assume it will involve Ted, Barney, and their pals . . .

COR-REC-TION[Intoned In My Best Adenoidal Drone]

The show was a re-run, and besides I was attending this lecture by a very smart man.

High Concept Costume of the Day:

Stanley Kowalski
Bud Man . . . Red Sox Fan!

Coda 10/30/07

Well the Pinker talk was a fantastic success, at least in terms of attendance. People spilling into the aisles; it's a good thing the Fire Marshall wasn't around. Given the number of kids getting IDs electronically scanned after the lecture, I suspect some extra credit bribery was involved (probably explicit rather than the supposedly superior implicit kind discussed by Pinker). Still better that than the half empty auditoria which have met many a speaker at MSU back in the day. I would say the Faculty turn-out beyond invited dignitaries and dinner guests was sparse, a testament to the intellectual curiosity of the faculty in general! The talk itself was only so so. Fun and, when he gave examples off script, quite fascinating, but a demonstration of what Ian Parker in The New Yorker famously complained about PowerPoint presentations: their absolute cookie cutter structure. By the end of the talk, we had heard all of his poitns in identical language at least three times. A bit much methinks!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

On the cover of rolling stone.

Hats off to the late lamented Dr. Hook for our "Dark Entries" title. Last night Saturday, October 26th, Young Agent Jones had their long delayed, much anticipated 3rd CD release party.

The gear is ready

Here's Jason's Mighty Gibson Flying-V and pedal effects set-up.



This is Todd's set-up.


The Rhythm Section . . .


Some YAJ fans are shy . . .



but most aren't!





The bartenders kept busy.



And then the show began . . .




For all the show photos visit my photo set YAJ CD Release Party 10/26/07.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

California dreamin'.

A prayer for the folks of the Southland from a 10 year resident of the Bay Area:

God grant you the serenity
to accept the things you cannot change
(droughts, natural topography, Santa Ana wind patterns);
the courage to change the things you can
(Coastal overpopulation, a flawed water policy, non-sustainable development);
and the wisdom to know the difference!


Monday, October 22, 2007

The book I read.

Who's tripping down the streets of the city
Smilin' at everybody she sees
Who's reachin' out to capture a moment
Everyone knows it's Windy

And Windy has stor-my eyes
That flash at the sound of lies
And Windy has wings to fly
Above the clouds (above the clouds)
Above the clouds (above the clouds)
"Windy," The Association

An association copy is a special copy of a book owned by somebody associated with its author and providing a true provenance.

According to the web site of The Chaucer Head Bookshop in Stratford-Upon-Avon:

Books once belonging to the author, signed or annotated by the author, or someone associated with the author of book in some way. Book inscribed by author to famous person, or owned by someone of interest, or someone connected to the book or author.

I have collected books since I could read at the age of three. This is a small gallery of my association copies. I don't have a staggering collection like this former Stanford English Professor. I was never a student of Jay's in any proper sense of the word. But during my decade in Northern California, I came to cherish our casual conversations around Building 40 and in the Green stacks about books, history and popular culture. I can attest to Jay's wide-ranging brilliance like his "Real" students. This visual essay is in a small way my tribute to some things he taught me.

Willie Morris, The Courting of Marcus Dupree. Cloth 1st edition. Excellent.

One of my absolute favorite books written near here about several phenomena arising out of Neshoba County and the infamous town of Philadelphia. Here he displays his love of the "place" of the South:
Elsewhere I have written of my own affair with my home region.

I first met Willie, when he addressed a Welty Weekend crowd at the "W" and attended a post-speech dinner at President Rent's home as the guest/escort of Dr. Ann Balazs. Her husband, my good friend Peter Wood, was out of town on a professional trip.

After dinner Willie and I were secreted away in the library with a little Bourbon and we talked and talked of football (especially the essential brilliance of Herschel Walker in Athens) and favorite Southern Authors (George Washington Cable, Thomas Wolfe, Lewis Nordan . . .). This is probably my rarest and most valuable association copy. Here's what Lemuria says an unsigned first edition is worth. It certainly is my favorite one!

Maurice Sendak, Where The Wild Things Are. Cloth 1st edition. Fine.

A Funny Story
Sendak was at Harvard for one of those one month visits where he was lecturing to Theater students about the sets for his recent opera in NY. He did a small House reception in Currier that I was lucky enough to finagle an invitation to. I asked him to autography my copy of the book. He asked my name and I replied, "N...No, just your signature, please." He got quite huffy in that paranoid Joisey/New Yawk way. "Who was I? Did I think he was a putz? Should he sign the book just so I could sell it?" I calmly pointed out that I had had the book since it was first published in the 1960s, that he didn't know me and writing some hackneyed cliche to (fill in the blank) went against everything his art stood for, and that I swore on my Mother's honor never to sell this book. He relented, graciously pointing out both my chutzpah and my reasoning skills. Maurice, I stand true to my word 23 years later. Your book holds pride of place in the section of my great uncles' green lawyer book cases—where I store they very best of my children's literature collection, and there it will remain until I die. Unless of course I or some kid is reading it. That after all is the The POINT!

Here's a shot of the book and the cover story on Sendak's visit in my old college paper, the weekly Indy.

The Collected Ann Kirn.

Ann was a professor of Art Education at Florida State University and my neighbor atop the heights of San Luis Ridge, where we both lived and where DeSoto probably wintered for the first Christmas in North America by a non-pagan. She both writes and draws her books, often drawing on what would now be trendy multicultural sources (Congo folk tales/anthropology/biological animal traces and the like). There is a wisdom, simplicity, and beauty in her work that has seldom been matched. That they are all out of print is a criminal indictment of the publishing industry in America today who only wants the new, not THE BEST.

In a Garden Cloth. 1st Edition. Fine.

Either this one, Beeswax Catches a Thief, or I Spy were my childhood favorites.

The Rest

My very first association copy from 1968, when I was 4.

A six-year old's favorite new book.

Alexander Welsh, The Hero of the Waverly Novels. Cloth. First edition. Excellent.

Alexander Welsh took his Ph.D. in English from Harvard, studying under Albert Guerrard, Jr. This is a presentation copy of the book that arose from his thesis. The story of how I now possess it required Al to leave Harvard and return to his ancestral, childhood campus of Stanford. No skullduggery was involved. When I arrived at Stanford in September 1986, Albert was an eminence grise in both senses of the phrase. Retired to his beautiful campus estate, he cleared out his library by donating it to the book sales fundraisers run out of Meyers undergraduate library. I was lucky enough to snag this very special book. Especially special to me, since my undergraduate History and Literature thesis, "The Novel Uprising: Sir Walter Scott and Revolution", relied on it heavily as an Ur-Text. I know Jay would have been proud that I found and snagged it for something like $0.75. Should Professor Welsh see this, the book is rightfully yours now and all you have to do is ask . . . even if you have gone over to the Dark Side up there in New Haven.

Simon Frith, Sound Effects. Paper. 1st edition. Fine.

I taught one of the first popular classes on rock and roll in the English Department at Stanford. One set of students even formed their own punk band for a presentation, which was suitably loud and annoying (I believe they only knew two chords!) to the Latin and Greek classes happening at the same time in the building 70 of the Stanford Quad.

Donald Mabry beat me to the punch by a decade here in the Golden Triangle. When he retired he graciously doubled the size of my then popular music collection with the contents of his personal library. This was my favorite new edition because I had first heard Simon lecture in 1986 at the University of York with an early version of his and Angela McRobbie's work on rock and sexuality. Since that time I have carried on a very pleaurable, if intermittent correpsondence with Simon about everything from the essential brilliance of the Gamble and Huff 45s of the early 1970s to the trouble with phasing on AM radio as another influence on Kevin Shield's tonal palette for Loveless. Simon is an extremely kind person who has often offered me encouragement to continue working on and thinking about popular music.

Lewis Carroll. Through The Looking Glass and What Alice Found There.
Cloth NY Undated (as early as 1895 and no later than the 1920s). Fine with 50 illustrations by John Tenniel.

The most special book in my collection. It was first owned by one Elizabeth McBride of Roanoke, VA. In the early 1940s, she gave it to her daughter, Jenn Kosko (as the pencilled-in inscription reads). In 1984, she gave it to her son, George Evans Light, then of Cambridge, MA. Someday, he will pass it along to the right son or daughter.

Marcus Mabry, White Bucks and Black-Eyed Peas. Cloth 1st edition.

Marcus was a student in the very first section I ever taught of George Brown's "History of the English Language" class. He is now a famous ex-patriate Newsweeek Senior Contributor. Back then he was a little more "Super Fly!" The inscription references that class section.

We were all a little thinner and with bigger hair back then . . .

and finally two by Greil Marcus. First up Mystery Train Paper. 2nd Edition Revised. Fine.

I got this book signed at Kepler's in Menlo Park after a reading for the paperback version of Dead Elvis which is significant for several reasons. First, it was Greil's childhood haunt. Second, it is one of the Bay Area's great independent bookstores. Thirdly, Greil was a key supporter in bringing Kepler's back as a collectively-owned and run indy bookstore. For that act alone, he is a MENSCH!

and finally Lipstick Traces. Cloth 1st Edition. Excellent.

He kindly signed this at his 1991 reading of Invisible Republic at the late lamented Printer's Inc. on California Avenue in Palo Alto. Sorry Greil, I always refer to the book's original titles.

One of two books, that along with that continual moneymaker The Loeb Classical Library Green and Red series, kept Harvard University Press not only afloat but rampant during a difficult period for academic publishing. The other was of course Eudora Welty's One Writer's Beginnings, based on the lectures she gave at Radcliffe in 1983, that I was lucky enough to hear. Apparently that copy even unsigned has some value!


A brief word about the multiple ownwership of the same book (be it exactly identical editions or not). That's why they call you a bibliophile. I don't try to set records, but my personal one is 4: 2 1967 1st pressings of The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's (mine and William A. McClung's), a 1981 reissue that doesn't skip, and the mid-90s era CD release. Below is my best doubled association copy of E. M. W. Tillyard's classic The Elizabethan World Picture. When I first moved to Starkville, I haunted the stacks of Mitchell Memorial Library not having much else to do and befriended the soon-to-be-retired William P. Allan, a reference librarian, who specialized in Early Modern English literature and history. Nearing retirement, he offered to let me cherry pick his collection. He was proud of owning the Tillyard book. I didn't have the heart to tell him I had a 2nd copy that actually still had most of the paper dusk jacket intact. Here's all I know about R. F. Elmes. When he died, he sold his book estate to a shop in Ripon, North Yorkshire (St. Margaret's 10-11 Kirkgate on the Minster Square), where I found it and acquired a number of classic mid-century texts by such authors as J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S Lewis, J. E. Neale, G. E. Bentley, Douglas Bush (whew finally somebody without initials) and — wait... for... it — G. R. Elton.

Finally a Note About Mistakes (i.e. Capital Alienated From Labour) after Marx

For collectors, especially numismatists and philatelists, mistakes are where the real action is. The same can be said for some areas of English Literature. Obviously Charlton Hinman made a career out of the variations in the First Folio of Shakespeare (1623). I had an extraordinary copy of a book which I lost in the blind attempt to replace it with a corrected text. Ah, the folly of youth. You see I had the mother of all screwed up paperback editions of Simon Schama's masterly The Embarassment of Riches. And how appropriate a title as we shall see. In a book of 698 pages, I had 4 lengthy sections of an average of 75 pages completely missing. What?!? you mean The War of Spanish Succession is just a myth! In their places, one section repeated the same 15 page run over and over and over and over and over until it ended with its final quire missing. So no holy hosanna coda . . . Another one read like Schama was riffing on Sterne or Cortazar: its pagination ran 698, 697, 696, 666(!), 403, 404, 333, 334, 207, 91 et cetera et cetera et cetera. If I'd only I been a bit wiser on that trip to "Bezerkeley" and not visited the UC Press Book Shop in a snit, I'd still have this not-so-small gem of an "edition," rather than seeing it be pulped. Now whomever produced it surely is the working definition of alienated labor. But perhaps the Bard was right in reminding us that Rumour
is a pipe Blown by surmises, jealousies, conjectures, And of so easy and so plain a stop That the blunt monster with uncounted heads, The still-discordant wavering multitude, Can play upon it.
King Henry IV Part II, "Induction"
Here endeth the discourse on association.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Love, peace, and happiness.

This week's "One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer" is a Janus-faced radio show, looking back to some classic blues tracks and forward towards our musical future, having been inspired by Sasah Frere-Jones thoughtful New Yorker essay and podcast about race and music. This piece more than atones for his small part of the Stephen Merritt EMP Conference kerfluffle a few years back. I am an optimist and yes live in Southern exurbia; he is a more pessimistic Urbanite. Funnily enough I disagree with almost nothing he says about the acts he discusses, especially the gorgeously definitive diss of the Decembrists and their pompous frontman Colin Meloy. But I still think there's a lot of crossmixing of "colors" in modern indie rock. Here's the Playlist:

The Blues

Mic Break

The Chambers Brothers, "Love, Peace, and Understanding," Greatest Hits
Albert King, "Born Under a Bad Sign," King of the Blues Guitar
Muddy Waters, "Mannish Boy," His Best 1947 to 1955

Mic Break

Jelly Roll Morton, Buddy Bolden's Blues (I Thought I Heard Buddy Bolden," The Rose & The Briar: Death, Love And Liberty In The American Balla-Edited By Sean Wilentz And Greil Marcus
The Staples Singers, "Will The Circle Be Unbroken," Oxford American - Southern Sampler 1998
Mahalia Jackson, "Take My Hand, Precious Lord," The Essential Mahalia Jackson
Sam Cooke & The Soul Stirrers, "Jesus Gave Me Water," Portrait of a Legend 1951-1964

Mic Break

Commodores, "This is Your Life," Commodores' Greatest Hits
Harper Brothers, "I Ain't Got Nothin' But the Blues," You Can Hide Inside The Music
Big Joe Williams, "Don't Leave Me Here,"

Mic Break

Big Joe Shelton, "Black Prairie Blues," Black Prairie Blues
Lightnin' Hopkins, "Shine On, Moon," Mojo Hand

SF-J Musical Essay

Mic Break

Lookin' Back
TNA Intro
The Rolling Stones, "Can I Get A Witness," England's Newest Hit Makers
The Beatles, "Hey Bulldog," Yellow Submarine
Led Zeppelin, "Communication Breakdown (2)," BBC Sessions Live
Grand Funk Railroad, "We're An American Band," Harley-Davidson Cycles: Road Songs, Vol. 2 (Disc 1)

Mic Break

Burnside Exploration, "Knockin' on Heaven's Door," The Record
NWA, "Express Yourself," Straight Outta Compton

Mic Break

Tripod Jimmie, "Autumn Leaves," Datapanik in the Year Zero:Pere Ubu Rarities (Terminal Drive) Box Set (Disc 5)
Young Marble Giants, "Searching For Mr. Right," Colossal Youth
Young Marble Giants, "Wurlitzer Jukebox," Colossal Youth
Minutemen, "It's Expected I'm Gone," Double Nickles On The Dime
fIREHOSE, "For The Singer of R.E.M.,"
Echo & The Bunnymen, "Do It Clean" (Recorded Live at The Royal Albert Hall London July 18th 1983 The Killing Mooon 12" B-side cut)

Mic Break

The Pet Shop Boys, "Can You Forgive Her?," Very (Orange Lego disc)
Minor Threat, "Cashing In," Complete Discography
Fugazi, "Bad Mouth," 13 Songs
Pavement, "Debris Slide", "Westing (by musket and sextant)"

Mic Break

The Present: More or Less

The Magnetic Fields, "I Thought You Were My Boyfriend," i
LCD Soundsystem, Tribulations," lcd soundsystem (Disc 1)
Scritti,"Perfect Way," Cupid & Psyche 85

Mic Break

Wire, "Twelve Times U" (2000 Live remix on 7" vinyl)
Von Südenfed, "The Rhinohead," Tromatic Reflexxions
Mekon's, "Only Darkness Has The Power," Mekon's Rock'N'Roll
My Bloody Valentine, "Honey Power," Glider e.p.

Bringin' It On Home

The P Funk All Stars, "Flashlight," P Funk All Stars Live at The Beverly Theatre in Hollywood


For those not residing in the Golden Triangle, WMSV streams on the www here.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

That's how I escaped my certain fate.

A few short song reviews:

Seconds: Perfect Moments In Pop

"I'm Not Always So Stupid"
The Wedding Present
Nobody's Twisting Your Arm e.p. (Reception 1988)
George Best Plus (Cooking Vinyl 1997)

David Gedge is known for his blitzoid guitars, his work with Steve Albini, hipping John Peel to Pavement during their Treble Kicker 7" self-produced e.p. days, and a tasteful and interestingly diverse collection of cover versions (The Close Lobsters, Elton John, Orange Juice, Angelo Badamenti, and Penetration for starters). But what made The Wedding Present great from day one was his gift at lyricizing the obsessive angst of love, the pitfalls of lust, the stuff of relationships. Yup, he beat Stephen Merritt to the punch by a decade.

Often topping fan polls of favorite Weddoes songs, "I'm Not Always So Stupid" began life rather as the fourth and last track on a 1988 e.p.; now kids you can best find it as an extra to the 1997 reissue of the Wedding Present's debut album, George Best. The first time I heard the first verse of the song

Every time a car drives past I think it's you
Every time somebody laughs I think it's you
You changed your number and my phonebook's such a mess
But I can't bear to cross your name out yet
Each time the doorbell rings it might be you
Each letter the postman brings might be from you

I said to myself by gosh that's me. Her name was . . . well none of your business really. She's twice married now and a successful orthopedist (ironically a not very ethical profession apparently) and that's the end of that story.

Shaking myself out of a nostalgic reverie and getting back to the song, "I'm Not Always So Stupid" represents the quintessence of what made the original C-86 Pete Solowka-driven Wedding Present the classic lineup: Hard driving guitars madly strummed as if they were one of Earl Scruggs' patented "overdrive" banjo breakdowns and Gedge's plaintive almost in tune warble. Sure it was a simple and repetitive sound featured on those great Reception records "Once More", "My Favourite Dress", ""Everyone Thinks He Looks Daft", Shatner", "The Boy Can Wait", "Why Are You Being So Reasonable Now" … , but what a sound.

The song starts with several bars of guitar work by Gedge, a quick drum arpeggio, and then Solowka comes in maniacally strumming. The tension of the song's lyric is mimicked in the battle between Solowka trying to speed things up and Gedge leisurely reminiscing about a long lost love: "Somebody told me you went to work down South / as far away as you can from my big mouth." Then it's another epochal guitar workout that sounds like a history of rock 101 riffs and a fast close with the first two lines of the song doubled and repeated as a kind of refrain. If this music doesn't move you emotionally, get off the Xanax and live a little.

"That's How I Escaped My Certain Fate"
Mission of Burma
Vs. (Ace of Hearts 1982)
A Gun to the Head (Rykodisc, 2004)
Snapshot (iTunes 2004)

I was lucky enough to have shown up as a wide-eyed freshman in Cambridge, MA in the fall of 1981. While exploring Boston and environs, I noticed some maniac had tagged anything tied down and even some MBTA rolling stock with "Mission of Burma." Knowing Boston's liberal rep, I assumed this was some kind of protest against General Ne Win and the BSPP. Then on WFNX, I heard "That's When I Reach For My Revolver" and everything changed. For the next two years, when time and money allowed I caught the all ages shows of Mission of Burma including the glorious afternoon gig at the Bradford Hotel. My favorite song by this band was the one I always referred to as the other "That's" song. And on many a day I deemed it the better "That's" song.

Here's what Roger Miller had to say about "That's How I Escaped My Certain Fate":

Pure Punk Power Pop. For Vs., the tape ran out before the end was over. We decided we liked that. In the mix, we opted for overdriving the living hell out of the vocals and guitar track in the board. Some thought this was a bit extreme at the time.

That snap, crackle, pop ending is indeed one of the song's highlights. But I'd also look at the beginning, where Roger Miller insistently intones the title twice and the an almighty noisy ruckus breaks loose for about 2 minutes of aural bliss. And that's the point Mission of Burma was always about playing live; their recorded output was slim and I'm not really sure ONoffON adds that much to it. Buy yourself the Rykodsic anthology and then rush home, log on and get the iTunes-only Snapshot ep, easily one of the two or three best items of the year; it is, as Douglas Wolk wrote in The Seattle Weekly, the sound of "the sky being torn open.… that amazing noise." The version of "That's How I Escaped My Certain Fate" has Miller again invoking the title twice, interrupted only by a knowledgeable in-studio fan excitedly gasping "Yeh" and a guitar flourish, and then it's off to the races for 2:13 of Clint Conley's hollered lyrics and walking bass lines, Peter Prescott's brutally metronomic drums, Martin Swope's tape loops, and Roger Miller's smeary guitar brilliance. It is "the sound that American indie bands have been tinkering with ever since" as Rolling Stone's Rob Sheffield once noted. Do yourself a favor and be sure not to escape "this certain fate".

Slightly south of the border.

In honor of the Mekons 26th long player, Natural, which returns to mine the vein of Americana running through their previous work, I'm releasing the full text of my essay about punk rock and which was requested by the editors of a forthcoming critical anthology on alternative country. Below is what I gave them. One editor didn't like or perhaps understand it. Her main question, "Why do you keep talking about rivers?" I'll leave it to you to decide whether you like or understand my "Honky Tonkin'"

In the future I look forward to reading and reviewing the aforesaid volume, now tentatively titled Old Roots and New Routes: A Reader on Alt.Country Music and 'Alternative' Cultural Consumption and under consideratioon at Oxford University Press. To read the essay click on the entry link to the right

Honky Tonkin’ in Leeds, Nashville, and Chicago: The Place of Punk in Alt.Country

Play my song on the Nashville radio,
My life will never be the same.…
They threw me off the Grand Ole Opry,
Cuz I couldn’t behave.…
They don’t play my songs on the radio,
It feels like I never was.
–“Nashville Radio,” Jonboy Langford

Rivers Run Through Them

Many commentators have long noticed the connections between London punks and their West Indian reggae brethren in Brixton and Notting Hill (Coon 71, 79, Gray 229, Hebdige 25–9,Marcus 1993, 30, and Savage 330, 398, 488–9). But what of the Northern branch of punk rock with its roots in Liverpool, Manchester, and especially the Leeds art school production line of the Gang of Four, Delta 5, and the Mekons. Do they have a similar musical wellspring? Or more interestingly a distinctly different one? Both towns are sited by rivers. London exists at the first place the Romans could successfully ford the Thames and through the Second World War was England’s major commercial port. As Tom O’Rage notes in Mekons United:

Were it not for the river Leeds would not be there. At first only a rough Celtic settlement in the marshes — Leeds simply meaning a wet place — the conquering Germanic tribes from Saxony built a settlement where the parish church now stands and the river could be crossed. The a bridge was built across the Aire and it became a place.… A cross current at the heart of the heart of the country almost equidistant on a north–south axis from London and Edinburgh, and east-west from Liverpool and Hull, Leeds was made by the industrial revolution (15).

Two rivers, two cities, two different yet linked economies. Conversely, think of the potentially nice distinctions between cosmopolitan southerners and their linkage to urban decay, decades of immigration, and post-colonialism and provincial northerners and their roots in post-industrial blight, centuries of emigration, and the concomitant colonialism in the Americas and beyond. Contrast the vastness of London that infernal wen with the relative closeness of Leeds, which “is like a small town with loads of industry.….[[and] a big, huge university/polytechnic right in the
center of the town” (Hargus). These Northern punks then look to North America, specifically the southern United States (not the Caribbean) and country (not reggae) to express their outrage and politics musically. That’s the kind of clever concoction Greil Marcus would make of Hank Williams, Bob Wills, and the Mekons. But, as Jon Langford himself might say in that South Wales accent whetted and hewn to a harder edge with some West Yorkshire lime, that story is a “load of shite!”1 Ever feel like you’ve been cheated?

Here are the two most obvious problems with this fantasy. First, while the Clash clearly demonstrated some connection to and consciousness of reggae on their very first record, covering Junior Murvin’s “Police and Thieves,” the original “punk” Mekons broke up in 1982. Only after reforming in 1984, and adding guitarist Dick Taylor, violinist Susie Honeyman, and singer Sally Timms did they venture into the country world featured on such releases as 1985’s Fear and Whiskey. Second, the impetus to mine ore from a country vein came from outside the group, outside Leeds, and, yes, even outside the UK. As Jon Langford remembers it:

A DJ from Chicago [Terry Nelson of WZRD] came over to find his two favorite bands, the Pretty Things and the Mekons, and got us hooked up with [ex-Pretty Thing] Dick Taylor (who would join the Mekons for a while) and told us we were a country band . . . drinking songs, simple structures, bare-bones approach, singing for your peers, politics through the personal (Nickson).

So if there’s no direct spiritual connection between Northern British punks and Southern US country muses, what then is the connection between punk and the Mekons and the genre dubbed, for now, As recently as 2001, Robert Christgau made the questionable claim that the Mekons’ 1985 Sin release, “Fear and Whiskey invented alt-country” ( ro-not.php). If you define the term "alt" as decade specific to the 1980s; there's some truth to the claim or, at least, the truth as Christgau states it is that "Fear and Whiskey does it [alt country] right." Surely, however if you define the genre less restrictively, it dates at least to the moment when Graham Parsons left daddy’s citrus plantation and flew his burrito to LALAland (Dolan; Malone 2002, 306–7, n.90; Peterson and Beall). A contrarian might even argue that Alt.Country’s true roots lie in early Sun 45s, especially those by Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley. However, the notion of the late 1980s Mekons and various later side projects as exemplifying either or the Bloodshot label preferred “insurgent” country remains sound. First, I will set some historical parameters for my narrative and define some terms. Then, I will examine the connections between the Mekons’ “country” records and the burgeoning scene of the late 1980s as a response to the problematic nature of “Nashville Radio.” Finally, I will focus on new side projects for Jon Langford and Sally Timms as they move to Chicago in the mid 1990s and join the anti-Nashville record label, Bloodshot. This narrative will explain the connections between at least one geographically significant branch of punk music and the current day phenomenon of

Alt.Country/Insurgency/No Depression—Some Terms and Historical Guidelines

One should tread lightly when defining terms and even lighter when doing so in a volume whose very purpose is said definition. Without trying to reinvent the subject of this book, let me make a few points, both definitional and historical, about, No depression, and insurgent country. First and foremost, although I will wander further back in time on occasion, the subject matter of this book can loosely be contained within the time period from the 1980s to the present. Despite my previous one-upsmanship of moving alternative country, whatever its rubric, into the 1950s, you really first need a Nashville business model (focused on certain types
of sounds and a specific radio industry) before you can develop an alternative. If we go preindustrial, then I’m just writing a different take on Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music and Greil Marcus’s “Old, Weird America” (1997, 87). Second, the artists under consideration must feel a palpable alienation from said music and radio industry. This obviously works for Johnny Cash in the 1990s (think of his famous one-finger-salute-to-Nashville ad on the back page of Billboard after Unchained won a 1997 Grammy with virtually no commercial Country airplay) but not so in the 1950s. I doubt Graham Parsons gave a thought to what Nashville made of his SoCal strummings. These artists needn’t necessarily self-identify as a group, but it helps. Here I’m both buying into and tweaking E.P. Thompson’s famous notion of “class struggle without class.”2 It really is only at the nag’s end of the 1980s that critics and fans began talking about a variety of musical movements (many of which picked up steam in the 1990s and beyond) that defined themselves against everything they saw wrong with the whole Nashville ethos and consciously chose to avoid its malign influence by forming their own record labels and producing their own music elsewhere, whether in Chicago, the flatlands of Southern Illinois, or Seattle. Thus the 1970s outlaw phenomenon of the Highwaymen and what Barbara
Ching calls “Hard Country” is an altogether different beast than the horse whose teeth and gait we are inspecting. Having thus limited our historical parameters, what then are these things called “,” “insurgent country, “and “No Depression”? or alt-country or the more bombastic alternative country is the most fraught term and I won’t have much to say about it. Obviously it is an umbrella term that covers a variety of musicians who seem to have similar feelings about the Nashville system. Beyond that, I am pretty sure that any attempt to define some kind of meaningful generic coherence in the musical styles these allied artists produce is doomed to fail, although I’m open to the possibility that this volume will trump my skepticism. Jon Langford remains skeptical: "You have to have a box to put things in.…it's a bit of a discredited term.…there's always been people [making music]outside the mainstream"(Phone Interview). There are a variety of related names: Americana, Country Rock, twangcore, Roots Rock, y’all-ternative, and cow-punk, to list but a few. I now focus on two terms by which major figures in this essay choose to define themselves, negatively and positively. “No Depression” of course takes its name from Uncle Tupelo’s 1990 debut (which borrowed the title of an old Carter Family gospel number they cover) and from a magazine founded in 1995 (which in turn borrows the Uncle Tupelo title).3 Jon Langford specifically distances himself and his band The Waco Brothers from the “No Depression” label:

I don't think the No Depression movement sees the Waco's fitting in to it very well. We're to brash, too noisy, and possibly from the wrong background. I mean, I have done things that people have accepted really well over here (in the United States). I can't really complain about that sort of thing, but I think the No Depression thing is more about a singer songwriter-y sort of thing. And it is veryrespectful towards serious artists.…It's not really about the same sort of thing. A lot of our content is very political and it's sort of a brash and explosive live experience. I think the No Depression scene is more represented by technical expertise and introspection - things like that (Gross).

In seeking rigor and specificity, Bloodshot records has coined the term “Insurgent Country” for their acts. Since two of the main players in this story, Jon Langford and Sally Timms, are connected to the Bloodshot label, I thought we might spend a bit of time on this one now. Insurgent Country” is Bloodshot’s self-created term for “music that is as informed by George Jones as it is The Clash—if not in sonic content, then in aesthetic outlook”( faq.html). A bit more should fully define the idea and the attitude:

It is our reaction to the stagnation of the commercial country establishment, as well as to "indie" rock's recent willingness to be slopped at the corporate troughs.… but all [our artists] are dedicated to fighting the grim battle against line-dancing, smoke machines, and 7th generation Nirvana rip-offs singingearnest professions of emptiness. Also, we're all probably in agreement that The Eagles should be publicly flayed.

And with that manifesto it is time for us to cast our minds back in time to Leeds (the one in England not Alabama) circa 1985: “In a back street in Leeds, the rehearsal studio of the Mekons.”


Punk music has always been about accommodating a variety of musical styles: hard rock, reggae, metal, Northern Soul, and pub rock, for starters. Hebdige has focused specifically on the connections working class white youth (especially in London) felt to West Indian Reggae culture (see esp. 25–9, 62–9).4 I would argue culturally and geographically a similar link connects Northern England’s punk scenes and the Celtic fringe to the “folk” mountain music of the Appalachian spine, which traditionally underlies notions of hard country music, non-commercial, non-Nashville, Another thing that connects the two musics is their innate sense of belonging to something from which you want to escape knowing at the same time you will eventually inevitably return. As Jeff Farrar and Jay Tweedy wrote on “Chicakmauga” off Anodyne: “Appalachian, so patient / The lessons we've traveled / As soon as we're out we're kicking our way back in.” Finally both punk and country share similar attitudes. According to Jon Langford:

When I started listening to Jimmie Rodgers, Hank Williams, Merle Haggard, George Jones, Ernest Tubbs and Buck Owens—that stuff was amazing. It really made sense to me. It was no-bullshit music. And there is absolutely a connection between this music and punk. The good stuff, like good punk, is stripped and raw and really trying to deal with life directly and feels very sad. It’s not contrived. It’s about defeat and pain in a really true-feeling way. It’s not escapist pop music. Also, the stance of the performer in great old country is like that in punk—he’s singing to his peers about their lives. There is no gap between the audience and the guy on stage. Everybody is coming from the same place (Bottoms).

How Jonboy came to this realization and when he started listening is where our narrative now takes us.

This essay focuses on one collective of art students cum musicians who became the
Mekons in 1976. Around the time of the Miner’s Strike of 1984, the Mekons had ceased to exist as a going concern (touring and recording), but they continued to jam together. As Jon Langford told me, the music they tended to play was traditional country: “We listened to a lot of Country music … When the band did exist again, it was kinda like what will the Mekons do.… We were just kinda steeped in it. We would just take what seemed to fit for us: we recognized a lot things in country music like the subject matter, the pool of lyrics.” Here both Jon and I are agreeing
with Marcus’ notion that "the question of ancestry in culture is spurious” (1989, 21). Sally Timms similarly sees the connections between punk and country thusly:

just the usual ones that have been made a million times. !that both are blue collar, deal with the day to day and the harsh reality of life rather than just love songs. !the chords are usually simple, it's often protest music in a low key way. !as with folk music, it has a functional purpose, can be played in small rooms by pretty much anyone and sometimes you can dance to it.

They really had even hinted at such a turn on their earlier compilation The Mekons Story, where the atypical instrumentation gave a dadaist, pomo take to the traditional jug band of mountain fame (itself a kind of found instruments experiment). Younger and perhaps “hipper” readers might connect this phenomenon to the Athens, GA Elephant 6 Collective and especially to Neutral Milk Hotel’s masterpiece In the Aeroplane over the Sea.

From this starting point, the Mekons recorded three seminal albums: Fear and Whiskey (1985), The Edge of the World (1986), and The Mekons Honky Tonkin’ (1987). In discussing Fear and Whiskey, I will reference Original Sin, which is a 1989 reissue of said album with contemporaneous e.p. sessions. The Mekons purposely named their Sophie Bourbon-funded record label, Sin, and set out to parody Sam Phillips every move. Unlike the reverential treatment
accrued Sun by such New South rockers as the Drive-By Truckers5, (see for examples “Carl Perkins’ Cadillac” on The Dirty South), the Mekons feel free to note the inherent contradictions in this Memphis institution. They start with that most famous of record labels: brown and yellow replacing it with pale pink and baby blue. The edge of the label is a sequence of bucking bronco cowboys that could either be a strip for a Zoetrope or the outside ring of a Phenakistoscope.


This sequence seemingly places a more country spin on Eadweard Muybridge’s famous Stanford farm horse gait sequence. The central rooster crowing at the rise of sun (records) has been replaced by a lone gunslinger peering curiously over his back shoulder as if fearing an ambush with somesort of skyline in the distant right. To assure us further that this isn’t a Sun record, there’s a quarter moon over the skyline thrown in for good measure. Building on this contrast, the one cover song on Fear and Whiskey goes back beyond Sun records to the legendary 1947 MGM Sessions of Hank Williams and his classic “Lost Highway.” Tellingly their other covers from this era were Gram Parsons “$1,000 Wedding,” which appears on the Slightly South of the Border e.p. (1986) and Original Sin, and Merle Haggard’s “I Can’t Hold Myself in Line.” The album cover itself seems to offer a road to somewhere, but where isn't exactly clear.

From the album’s opening quartet, “I was out late the other night/Fear and whiskey
kept me going/I swore somebody held me tight/But now there's just no way of knowing,” in a song ironically titled “Chivalry,” we have entered a world of fear and whiskey, of darkness anddoubt, a place where it is hard to be human. A central thematic of much of the Mekon’s oeuvre is darkness/doubt/desperation, and they do seem to have a quarrel with a pop culture history that does not garner them a larger audience in the US; however, I think Greil Marcus overstates the case for bitter sentimentality (1993, 300–1). I’d position their desire in the same way Walter
Benjamin was “to brush history against the grain” (257), as a response to the apparent barbarity of civilization where a man dies “While the witless upper classes attended the boat race” (“Hey! Susan,” Original Sin).

Another reason the sentimentality argument does not wash is the very rootedness of this disc in all kinds of collectivity: the original T J Clarke/Guy Debord Situationist International inspired Leeds Art School collective as punk rock; the contemporary connection with the great Dutch kollektiv and punk band, The Ex; the multi-various collective instrumentation, which resembles nothing so much as a cross between a shambolic Celtic folk band and a traditional jugband.6 On one famous occasion, a one-off gig at the late, lamented Kennel Club in San Francisco during the F.U.N. 90/Curse of the Mekons era (January 7, 1991), the band gained and shed members almost every song and seemed like they were going to play all night long. I stopped counting the number of “encores.” There is, of course, a less artistic, more political angle to collectivity as well. It is the way of the miners and other unionized British labor; it is the way of hardscrabble miners in Appalachia, too. It’s also the only real way for noncommercial combine farming to survive. And it is at the intersection of those two related but distinct cultures (farming and mining) that the truest marriage of punk and exists.

In writing about The Edge of the World, Greil Marcus sees a kindred spirit with The Band’s seminal Music from the Big Pink, itself a work that figures importantly both in Mystery Train and Invisible Republic. He notes the album’s dedication to Richard Manuel, a rock and roll suicide that year. “Mekons records are …. A dramatization of the wish to make history, to live as if something actually depended on what one says or does .:… the Band’s music, out of old styles, out of what had endured, was made as a way back into [the country]. The Mekons are a lot like the Band in their seamless melding of rock ‘n’ roll, old country music, and ancient British folk music” (Marcus, 1993, 334). This disc masks Sally Timms emergence as a major player in the Mekons. She had sung a joint lead with Tom Greenhalgh on “Hey! Susan” recorded in late 1985 and originally released on the Crime and Punishment ep (1986). Her first solo lead occurs on the disc's third track "Oblivion."

For its first nine numbers, Honky Tonkin' appears a rather straightforward country rock outing, but then magically it veers HARD LEFT into "Danceband on the Edge of Time"territory. The rest of the CD becomes a veritable encyclopedia of folk musics. "Sympathy for the Mekons" is nothing less than a revelation from the moment Jon Langford warbles "Here's to a band that deals in the facts of life / In their ten short ugly years/ I wish the Mekons good fortune." Really the song is nothing more than a traditional Medieval vice parade of Pride, Lust Fever, Plague and riding behind on a pig the devil hisself. A la Robert Johnson, the Mekons apparently met Ol' Scratch at the crossroads where he "sold them fame and riches—and good health." The song of course alludes in its title and lyrics to the famous Stones' Altamont death number. But unlike that tune, it's not at all clear who the narrator of his song is. Surely not the Devil! Jon Langford then, but he's a Mekon and the pronouns don't work? Some kind of Chief Magistrate? Maybe that's what the last line business now" is all about? God (and not necessarily a benevolent one)? Trying to unravel the mysteries of the Mekons apocalyptic edge-of-the-world vision is a bit like untang- ling William Blake's mythography. Threads come apart but where exactly does each one lead? The next song 'Spit" seems like some kind of doxological benedictus. From there, we get amongst other things Northern Industrial brass bands (see Brassed Off). a traditional 19th century protest song–"Trimdon Grange Explosion," Music Hall/Tin Pan alley effects, waltz time, dirges, two steps, reels, Honeyman hard fiddlin' not really heard again until The Mekons Rock 'N" Roll, and, apropos Jimmy Rodgers, a West Yorkshire yodel ("Please Don’t Let Me Love You"). Here
endeth the Mekons offertory.


Like all the cities under consideration in this essay, Nashville has its own river—the Cumberland. On high bluffs, the original settlers were unknown ancient mound builders and then Shawnee. Modern European settlement arrived in the form of Fort Nashborough in 1779. By 1784, the name had been Americanized to Nashville. It became Tennessee’s state capital in 1843. Its position on the Cumberland which links to the Mississippi River system plus its location at the crossroads of some major rail lines insured Nashville’s importance both during and after the Civil War. The Maxwell family set up their world famous coffee business and in 1925 began broadcasting a barn dance from the Grand Ole Opry which lead to Nashville’s eventually becoming “The Country Music Capital of the World” and “Music City, USA” ( destinations/ north_america/nashville/ history.htm). We should note that what despises about the “Nashville Sound,” its poppy frivolity, is not just a late 1980s phenomenon of Big Hats, wireless wraparound mikes, and HNC. The very move to Nashville as a centralized hegemonic location for the production of country music limited regional differentiation in musical styles and field recording techniques; in other words, when country went to Nashville’s burgeoning Music Row in the 1950s, it had always already gone pop (Malone, 1985, 256–7).

The real problems has with Nashville have little to do with the music and
much more to do with the very nature of this city at the heart of the country music industry since at least the 1940s, when Fred Rose left ASCAP during a bitter strike, joined BMI, and incorporated with Roy Acuff in October 1942 to created the famous songwriting empire Acuff- Rose (Malone 1985, 180). Nashville is hardly a country town: It’s the town of bullish petit bourgeois overreaching boosterism which sees fit to build a faux Parthenon to mark its Centennial Exposition in 1897 ( parthenon/) and lay claim to the moniker the “Athens of the South” ( Statistics.aspx?menu=Visitors); the town of starched linen Belle Meade and the Frozen Tomato; “America’s Friendliest City … 4th Best American City for Holiday Travel and Culture and 6th Best American City for Fall Destinations” (; home to burgeoning health care, finance, and insurance industries; in a word, the town which brought us Republican Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist not Al Gore's new best friend Robert Ellis Orrall, late of Boston (Remnick).


For an alternative urban history of country music, we need look no further than Chicago, Illinois, like Leeds itself, a city founded on a river and at the geographical and economic center of a transportation nexus. In telling this tale, I follow Elijah Wald’s lead in discovering the true roots of country music and its original but long forgotten popular performers. Where he found urban female blues singers and orchestras rather than the solitary Delta bluesman, I find the World's Largest Store (Sears) National Barn Dance and an urban recording industry in Atlanta that predates Nashville's hegemony (Peterson 99–101, 12-32). The former Chicago institution will be our hook to Jon Langford who found its detritus as well in the form of another Chicago institution, The Sundowners, once fronted by none other than West Texas playboy and legend Bob Wills.

Moving to Chicago in the early 1990s, Langford discovered further connections to classic American music through the older performers who once graced the airwaves on America’s oldest country radio show, The WLS National Barn Dance ( WLS20/). Jon and his band The Waco Brothers hung out at such country bars as “this place called The R&R Ranch, The Sundowners Ranch” (Langford). Jon went on to tell me:

In the late 1980s when the Mekons visited Chicago, people would take us out to redneck bars. I think they thought it would be a laugh. But we heard some really good music and took it seriously .… Actually we really got into it, even started wearing the uniform [embroidered shirts and ten gallon hats ].… And these guys would recognize us as a band and get us on the stage. Then I started going there on my own and performing with these real country musicians.

Later Jon credited his backing band on a Johnny Cash covers album as The Pine Valley Cosmonauts. This looser conglomeration of artists includes a who’s who of such singers as guest vocalists Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Neko Case, Dave Alvin and Steve Earle among others.

Langford’s projects include solo recordings, collaborations with The Sadies, The Pine
Valley Cosmonauts, and The Waco Brothers and cover compilations of Johnny Cash, Bob Wills, and WLS Barn Dance staples not to mention a burgeoning folk art career around images of country including a recent show "Three Britischer Cowboys" at yarddog in Austin, Texas (www.yarddog. com). Each of these solo and group projects illustrate another facet of Jon Langford's fascination with the harder-edged country music of his adopted homeland. His most recent solo effort (with occasional collaboration from the Pine Valley Cosmonauts) All the Fame of Lofty Deeds (2004) fully represents his descent into country insurgency while retaining a punk flair. And the odd Mekons reference abounds. This song cycle concerns Langford's mythical alter ego who quits his band and heads to Nashville and "gets his own show." On "Last Fair Deal Gone Down" "the little calm, this precious quiet / gives way to a riot," the riot one supposes that the Mekons claim never to have been in! The Dickensian "Hard Times" is a field day of verbal pyrotechnics surrounding all the possible connotations of the word "hard," including the hard in hard country. He even roots into Jimmy Witherspoon/Big Bill Broonzy country blues territory with a live Pine Valley Cosmonauts cover of "Trouble in Mind."

Sally Timms follows a similar career pattern from an early appearance with Pete Shelley, a major role with the Mekons from 1985’s Fear and Whiskey forward to a 1990s career as Cowboy Sally on TV and disc. Here she recalls her growing connections with the band for me:

i met the mekons in 1979.!my cousin shared dorm rooms with jon langford's girlfriend at that time.!i didn't start singing with them until 1983 and then started in a more full time capacity around 1986 or 87, can't actually re- member.!mostly my early interaction with them involved hanging around in the fenton pub as friends.

Beyond her vocal work for the Mekons, Sally Timms fronted an all female band the Shee Hees.

She fronted another band the Drifting Cowgirls on the 1987 ep Butcher's Boy. Her first full length release was 1988's Somebody's Rockin' My Dreamboat. Her solo career picked up more steam with 1994's To the Land of Milk and Honey. But it was with the 1997 creation of her Cowboy Sally character that she really highlighted her country stylings. She describes the evolution of this performing persona as an outgrowth of a Pee Wee's Playhouse stepchild:

cowboy sally is a character on a now defunct cartoon/live action show "rudy and gogo's world famous cartoon show" which was directed by our friend barry mills for tbs. !i played a slightly malicious cowgirl who rustled goats. !i decided to go under the name cowboy sally for the country stuff because it felt a little like a persona, and since i'm english there is a faux quality to the whole thing. !also it differentiates between the stuff i would do normally under my own name and the country stuff.7

Her 1999 release Cowboy Sally’s Twilight Laments for Lost Buckaroos "features songs written for her by Robbie Fulks, Jon Langford, Handsome Family, and Jeff Tweedy" ( sallydisc.htm). That list of artists should fully realize the entertwining and commingling of American and English punk, post-punk indie rock, and performers in the early twenty first century. All these groups play “insurgent” country, Bloodshot’s self-created term for “music that is as informed by George Jones as it is The Clash—if not in sonic content, then in aesthetic outlook” (www,

Austin 2006 and beyond?

Only one question remains: Whither from here? Austin seems as good a bet as any. Every other musician is moving to the “Live Music Capital of the World” (www. Even Jon Langford has been seen showing his art at local gallery yarddog. Austin also has its own rebel country tradition around Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, and Asleep at the Wheel,( htm). And, of course, a river runs through it.


1 Just such facile comparisons and contrasts are still extant. The (formerly Manchester) Guardian even devotes an on-going section to the North-South divide( /northsouth).
2 For a listener-focused study which reaches different conclusions about "class
unconsciousness," see McLaurin and Peterson, 60.
3 For two subtle but opposing viewpoints on No Depression’s significance, see Bartling and Hill.
4 The standard narrative of these facts is somewhat contradicted by Mick Jones and Joe Strummer’s personal testimonies in The Clash—Westway to the World (Letts) which
suggests that reggae was more of an alien and exotic interest than an organic part of their everyday experience. Granted Paul Simonon grew up in Brixton, but then he only ever wrote one notable Clash song, “Guns of Brixton,” even though he was the only original member throughout the band’s entire decade-long run.
5 Themselves the progeny of the famous Muscle Shoals studio band.
6 For a fuller discussion of The Ex, see my “’We use volume as an instrument’: Displacing Rock/Placing Noise in the Nineties,” PerfectSoudForever.
7 There's a parallel narrative here: from punky Pee Wee's Playhouse to Captain Kangaroo, and then through the person of Bob Keeshan as Clarabell the Clown to the original idol, Howdy Doody.


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Ching, Barbara. Wrong’s What I Do Best: Hard Country Music and Contemporary Culture. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2001.
Christgau, Robert. “Curse of the Mekons.” Grown Up All Wrong: 75 Great Rock and Pop Artists from Vaudeville to Techno. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1998. 313–18.
———. “Liner Notes to the Mekons: ‘Rock ’n’ Roll.” cdrev/mekonsro-not.php>. May 23, 2003.
———. Personal Email Communication. November 30, 2004.
Club Mekon. May 11, 2003.
Coon, Caroline. 1988 New Wave Punk Explosion. London: Omnibus, 1982.
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Hill, Trent. “Why Isn’t Country Music ‘Youth’ Culture?” Rock Over The Edge: Transformations in Popular Musical Culture. Eds. Roger Beebe, Denise Fulbrook, & Ben Saunders. Durham, NCZ: Duke UP, 2002, 161–90.
“The History of WLS radio.” . July 16, 2003.
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———. “Culture Hound” Along for the Ride show questionnaire. ride/jlangford/007.html.>. July 13, 2003.
———. Phone Interview. August 5, 2003.
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———. Don’t Get above your Raisin’: Country Music and the Southern Working Class. Urbana: U of IL P, 2002.
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———. Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the Twentieth Century. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1989.
———. Mystery Train: Images of America in Rock ‘n’ Roll Music. 2nd ed. NY: E P Dutton, 1982.
———. Ranters & Crowd Pleasers: Punk in Pop Music 1977—92. NY: Doubleday, 1993.
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The Drive-By Truckers. The Dirty South. New West, 2004.
Langford, Jon. All the Fame of Lofty Deeds. Bloodshot, 2004.
Langford, Jon and The Sadies. Mayors of the Moon. Bloodshot, 2003.
Langford, Jonboy. “Nashville Radio.”
The Mekons. Fear and Whiskey. Sin, 1985.
———. The Edge of the World. Sin, 1986.
———. The Mekons Honky Tonkin. Twin/Tone, 1987.
———. Original Sin. Twin/Tone, 1989.
Neutral Milk Hotel. In the Aeroplane over the Sea. Merge, 1998.
The Pine Valley Cosmonauts. Barn Dance Favorites. Bloodshot, 2004.
———. Misery Loves Company: Songs of Johnny Cash. Bloodshot, 1998.
———. Salute the Majesty of Bob Wills. Bloodshot, 1998.
Timms, Sally. Cowboy Sally’s Twilight Laments for Lost Buckaroos. Bloodshot,1999.
———. To the Land of Milk and Honey. Feel Good All Over, 1994.
Uncle Tupelo. Anodyne. Sire, 1993.
———. March 16–20, 1992. Rockville, 1992.
———. No Depression. Rockville, 1990.
The Waco Brothers. New Deal. Bloodshot, 2002.
———. To the Last Dead Cowboy. Bloodshot, 1995.
———. Waco Electric Chair. Bloodshot, 2000.


Thanks to Bloodshot Records and especially Lee Gutowski for help connecting with the
artists and a cornucopia of merchandise. Thanks to Nobby for the JPEG of the Sin
Records label. Thanks also to Jon Langford and Sally Timms for talking. For comments
and suggestions I thank Robert Christgau and John G. Norman. For the impetus to write
this essay, I thank Barbara Ching, Renee Dechert, and Pamela Fox.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Dropkick me, Jesus.

Thanks to Bobby Bare and his "goalposts of life" for today's entry title. The weather has been perfect the past few days (kinda like it is almost every day in Northern California . . . but that's a story for another day). MSU didn't embarass themselves yesterday, but a loss is still a loss. After last weekend's brilliance (FSU getting packback from the 70s over 'Bama; Harbaugh and the Cardinal stealing one from the University of Spoiled Children/Second Choice), this week stunk. That's the kind of team the Nole's are right now; no longer dominant talentwise in the ACC. Stanford will be Stanford (always able to play down to or below the level of their competition). At least the mighty Crimson have both a winning streak and are undefeated in the Ivy League. You gotta love a year where USF is second in the first BCS poll.

Angel of mercy

I went down to Jackson with my parents to see the new Mississippi Museum of Art's debut show: Between God and Man: Angels in Italian Art. It was absolutely fantastic in a way that the somewhat overblown previous Jack Kyle extravaganzas never were. My favorite painting was by the relatively obscure Francesco Maffei. Entitled L'incatamento di Satana, its ambiguously almost featureless figures predate/prefigure Impressionism by 200 years. Much like Beaumont's The Knight of the Burning Pestle prefigures Pirandello's Sei personaggi in cerca d'autore or Tristram Shandy prefigures modernist and post-modernist metafictional authors like Flann O'Brien and Robert Antoni.

3 of Sterne's most Shandean pages

The other three shows at MMA were nice as well: String and Things (capitalizing on the Gee's Bend resurgence for quiltiing), Icons (especially the Georgia O'Keefe spooky oak "self-portrait") and the Mississippi Story (especially the Eudora Welty photos and the multimedia piece "Eudora" by a West Point native whose name escapes me).

We had a few nice meals in Jackson: old school lunch (large limeade, toasted pimento cheese sandwich, basket o' fries) Tuesday at Brent's Drugs Soda Fountain, dinner (ginger marinated maple leaf duck breast) Tuesday at Schimmel's, and lunch Wednesday at Walker's Drive-In, highlighted by a seat on the patio, their delicious unsweet tea, and an order of portobello fries with spicy comeback sauce.