Hallelujuah! I'm back doing my thing with the fabulous Nora O'Connor once again. Balladry, ribraldry, assonance, frottage!
That Guy Who's Seen "2000 Maniacs": The artist who wrote and recorded the brooding Civil War song "Heroes" is the great Jimmy Arnold. Jimmy was a master of the banjo, the guitar, and various other instruments. He sang and wrote very well too, but I don't think many people knew about that until he put out his Confederacy-themed record, "Southern Soul." That one is a dynamite LP. In the last years of his life, Jimmy's addictions got out of hand; he put on a lot of weight and tattoos; married a girl during a drunken blackout; disappeared for months at a time (once, some say, to Africa!); became unhealthily obsessed with the War of the Northern Aggression; expired.
Roscoe V: I conceitedly share your nice estimation, that there's no one else very much like me making music, and actually I think that's rather true of most of the musical acts I esteem and emulate. Who sounds very much like John Hartford, Thelonious Monk, Jenny Scheinman, Emmett Miller, Levon Helm? But from the point of view of marketers, as well as the averagely interested consumer, some of the folks who'd be pressed against me in the pew would be: Rodney Crowell, The Mavericks, Jerry Jeff Walker, Hayes Carll, Todd Snider, Tim O'Brien, Phil Lee, the Two-Dollar Pistols, and something called Ashes and Roses. I am pulling all those names from the friendly reference-providers at Amazon.com. My new agency doesn't represent any of those people or "anyone like them," if you know what I mean.
Also Roscoe V: I'll continue my battle of good taste against Ryan Adams, posting comments as they ferment and rise over the months in my lower organs and spill by physical force from my mouth.
Antoine: There are four songs from 50-vc. Doberman that appear on my forthcoming platter. I'm normally ashamed to recycle, but in this case I think I warned buyers of 50-vc. that I might cull some of its high spots for future, higher-visibility projects. The four tracks are by no means radically reinvented, but they are fresh versions with different players, engineers, etc.
Dee: I'll tell you why that little film festival duo show with Jenny and me stands out in my memory of past gigs -- it sounded to me at the time like the best I had ever played the guitar, at any gig, ever. Having heard enough board tapes of myself I know not to put much stock in that impression, but I felt great about my performance afterward, and to be blunt, I secretly wished my unexpected burst of instrumental clarity and cleanness had happened at a higher-profile gig! What an inhospitable thought -- put it back! Walter was nice to have us there. Don't tell him that the lady who scans my membership card at the gym, as well as the guy who sells me fish at the supermarket, both pointed to my blue "Frederick Film Festival" T-shirt and were overcome by hilarity. Some people seem to find more dignity in being a fishmonger than presenting high culture to our rural citizenry.
Me: Did I mention I have a new record album coming down the pike?
You: Only half a million times. Here on the site. At shows. In newspapers. I'm only glad you don't have my cell phone.
Me: Sorry. But I'm the kind of guy who, if he doesn't promote himself loudly, who will? Also I never meant for so much time to elapse between preparing to make the record, which is when I started excitedly blabbing, and now. By release time, it will have been almost two years of anthemic throat-clearing.
You: Why so long?
Me: Lots of reasons. First, I tried a new way of recording. I recorded many takes of 20 titles with a small group, over a couple days, live to digital, not listening back as we went. Then I let a couple months go by so as to forget all about it. Then I listened to the 20-some hours of music we recorded with unweary ears. After a month of listening and figuring out what I liked and didn't, I booked a mix session. We transferred to tape at that point, by the way. So now, here we are after mix and assembly, a full 6 months from tracking. The rest of it, the other year and a half, just got eaten up by the usual things....mastering it, shopping it, working on art, setting a street date, general laziness.
You: What's it called?
Me: Gone Away Backward. A charge God hurls at the Israelites in the first chapter of Isaiah, King James version. And which describes a lot of the characters on the record, who try with various levels of determination to improve, or at least to move, but feel themselves to be stuck or slipping, and all the while rather at the mercy of unseen, uncharitable forces. Backward is also the direction in which one tends to turn one's focus as life goes into Act 2. And "gone," you know, that's one of the all-time country music words.
You: What does it sound like? Not that you haven't told us half a million times previously.
Me: It's a small-group acoustic -- er, almost all acoustic -- record. "Bluegrass" is not exactly inaccurate, but there's not a lot of banjo picking, and there's probably more melancholy, low-pitched singing and grey scenarios than hard-core fans of Bill Harrell would like! Five people played on it: Robbie Gjersoe, Jenny Scheinman, Ron Spears, Mike Bub, and me. But more than half of the songs are duets or trios; most of it's not all five of us at once. So overall, compared to what I usually turn out, it's on the quiet side.
You: Are you all old and depressed now?
You: Well, when does this come out, and through whom, and how can someone buy it, in the event that there are people left in the U.S. with disposable income by the time of release?
Me: Mid to late summer, on Bloodshot. You can get it through my site, through their site, at itunes, Amazon, my shows, whatever record stores exist by the time --
You: O.K., I get it. So, Bloodshot huh? You're slinking back to the revolutionary cadre of ex-youngsters who broke your name to all of hellbilly geekdom some twenty years ago, are you?
Me: I never exactly divorced them, you know. Though this will be the first time I've formally committed to a multi-record agreement with Nan and Rob since I guess 1996, they've helped me in marketing and distributing four CD releases since that period ended. And I've contributed to some projects and shows of theirs. We're all friends.
You: Sure you are, sucker. Now, this will be your first real release in...how many years?
Me: I don't know what you mean by real. Although my Michael Jackson record, Happy, was self-released, and the one before that, 50-vc. Doberman, was an online-only collection, I consider them real albums. Those came out in 2010 and 2009, and as I mentioned I did GAB in 2011, so I disagree with this implication I've seen floating about that I've stepped it back much. But, if it makes the new one feel more momentous to put it like this, then: this is my first outside-label release of original studio-recorded music since 2005! Wheee!
You: Will you be out and about, touring and shilling Gone Away Backward?
Me: Thanks for saying the whole name again. Gone Away Backward. Doesn't it just cascade from the palate?
You: Especially if you have a God complex.
Me: Damn you! Yes, I'll be out there. Just like always, except more so. I have a new agency, Conway Entertainment. I'm glad to be with them. Their acts include The Grascals, Julie Roberts, Monte Montgomery, Mandy Barnett, Dean Dillon, and Johnny Rivers, and I think that breadth -- all country, all good, all different -- speaks well of them. They don't have anyone else like me. Call or email Brandon over there if you want to book me.
You: Great! I'm getting married next winter, and my favorite music --
Me: Not for that don't call him. I especially like playing festivals, house concerts, and any rooms where the setup motivates reasonably attentive listening.
You: How the hell old are you?
Me: Old enough to have been alive when JFK was killed, not old enough to remember where I was at the time. Any other questions? I need to get back to writing songs and practicing guitar.
You: Are you playing at the Hideout this Monday night?
Me: Nope! Thanks for the interest.
I play swing, bluegrass, country, and folk music with the mandolin master Don Stiernberg.
I attack the theme "Culturally Insensitive Country Music," using only my vast mental storehouse of offense-giving artworks and a hapless quartet. I'd give you some examples of what we'll do, but it's hard to say, pending the difficult procedure of deciding what not to do. There's so much of this stuff! That there's a lot less of it since about 1975 is good news, I guess, in a boring moral sort of way, but, speaking as a resident of an earlier uglier time, I admit to some bone-marrow nostalgia for the days when fare like "Filipino Baby," "I'm No Communist," "High Behind Blues," "They're Cutting My Coffin At The Sawmill," "Black Diamond," and "Made In Japan" rang inanely in every decent American's ears. "High Behind Blues," in which the future governor of Louisiana trains a gleaming, approving eye on the buttocks of the corpulent ladies of Mexico, is a shoo-in on Monday. What else may be played -- you'll have to be there to find out!