I Forgive It All

mud2I don’t know how my heroes do it – the ability to sit down and pen another gorgeous, heartbreaking tune. Tom Petty has always had a way of pulling on the heartstrings at command, from “Free Fallin'” to “Insider” to “Only a Broken Heart” to “No Reason To Cry.”

On the new Mudcrutch record, he does it again. It’s “I Forgive It All” – simplistic in its melodic beauty, and – oof! – heavy on the subject matter. The lyrics are left open to interpretation. The verses suggest a man at the end of the line, in what respect I’m not so sure. Why is he giving his things to his niece Dora? Prison? Disease? Self destruction?

But the chorus, man… simple, powerful: “I forgive it all / I forgive it all / With her / I forgive it all.”

Sean Penn and Samuel Bayer directed a very interesting video for the tune, which stars Anthony Hopkins taking (what seems like) a final drive from Rodeo Drive to L.A.’s skid row. Before watching this video, maybe listen to the tune on its own (the 1st video below) and let it conjure up whatever images your mind decides..

Breathtaking in its simplicity…

Check out Mudcrutch 2 on Amazon.

Remembering 9/11

Remembering 9/11… all those who lost their lives, and the loved ones affected.
God bless them, and God bless America.

“I woke up this morning
I could barely breathe
Just an empty impression
In the bed where you used to be
I want a kiss from your lips
I want an eye for an eye
I woke up this morning to the empty sky”


A couple weeks back, I finally got a couple of good CD display cabinets, mounted them on the wall, and released my CD’s from years of exile in plastic storage bins. It’s nice to have them in my face again, and it’s making me revisit a lot of favorites from my past that haven’t yet made it to the iTunes rip machine.

One such CD is Neil Young & Crazy Horse‘s Rust Never Sleeps, which I initially bought because of my love for the song “Powderfinger”. But upon listening to it recently, it was the beautiful lyrics, intense imagery and the simple & sweet melody of “Thrasher” that hit me.

The amazing lyrics have undoubtedly been absorbed and closely studied by longtime fans of Neil, but I’m still trying to wrap my head around them – even just the last few lines:

Where the vulture glides descending
On an asphalt highway bending
Thru libraries and museums, galaxies and stars
Down the windy halls of friendship
To the rose clipped by the bullwhip
The motel of lost companions
Waits with heated pool and bar.

But me I’m not stopping there,
Got my own row left to hoe
Just another line in the field of time
When the thrashers comes, I’ll be stuck in the sun
Like the dinosaurs in shrines
But I’ll know the time has come
To give what’s mine.

There’s magic in those words. And the sort of melancholy, matter of fact style in which Neil sings it…  Wow… Such a good tune…

Neil Young & Crazy Horse – Thrasher (mp3)

Buy Rust Never Sleeps

Back Porch Hand Me Down Tunes

This Labor Day weekend, the temperature here in the Arizona desert finally dropped below 100 degrees for two straight days. Some rain, lots of clouds, and best of all, a chance to venture out to the back patio for one of my favorite pastimes: listening to my oodles of music on Shuffle. It seems I discover something new each time. If you’re constantly gathering music from all sources – ripped CD’s, ripped vinyl, eMusic, iTunes, the Amazon MP3 Store, etc – there’s little chance you listen to everything in your music collection. Especially more than once or twice.

Therefore, it’s important to me to spend a lot of time with the iTunes on Shuffle, and let it flow. Yesterday morning, as I wrapped up the yard work, and relaxed on the patio chair with a bottle of water, the tunes did flow: “Black Man’s Cry” (Fela Kuti & Ginger Baker), “Gypsy Woman” (Bruce’s version), “Don’t Go Away Mad” (Little Village)…

Then a soft acoustic tune came on – a rocking chair on a rural country porch kind of tune. I didn’t recognize it. And those are exactly the moments I look for: hearing something great in my collection, and having no idea who it is or where it came from. Turns out it was the Avett Brothers, and the song was the final track on their last full length album Emotionalism – “Hand-Me-Down Tune”.

Take a listen…

The Avett Brothers – “Hand-Me-Down Tune” (mp3) – from Emotionalism

September is a big month for the North Carolina-based Avett Brothers. Their latest full length, I and Love and You will come out on September 29th. During the month, starting Tuesday, they’ll release 13 video pieces on their web site – combining live footage, fan and band interviews – each of them dedicated to a a song on the new album.

Pre-order I and Love and You by clicking on the cover…

The Backroom

I finally bought a capo for my guitar, so I pulled out this enormous stack of songs w/ the chords transcribed. I went on a frenzy about 10 years ago and printed a bunch out. I had completely forgotten about this Bap Kennedy tune. In fact, I had completely forgotten about Bap Kennedy.

This song comes from his 1998 solo debut, Domestic Blues, which he recorded after several albums with the band Energy Orchard. This is one of those songs that carried me through a breakup back in the day. I found it therapeutic to play sad and lonesome tunes on the guitar in my 700 square foot apartment on the railroad tracks.

Now I see the tune a bit differently. He’s just infatuated with a stripper. We’ve all been there at one time or another.
“Dude, I think she digs me!”

Lovely tune still…

Listen: Bap Kennedy – The Backroom (mp3)

Check out Domestic Blues (click the cover):

Up the Hill: Bruce Cockburn @ the Orpheum Theater in Flagstaff

There are two Bruces in the music world I am very fond of. One is Springsteen, the other is Cockburn. This weekend, the perfect storm of shows came to pass: the Weekend of Bruce.  Friday night was the Boss. And on Saturday, the wife and I took off for Flagstaff on an anxiously awaited 24 hour getaway to see Bruce Cockburn.

I discovered Cockburn in 1994, when his great album Dart to the Heart was being played on local radio. It was an amazing discovery for me – his albums date back to 1970 (the year I was born), and I snatched most of them up. Masterful guitar playing, a clear and soothing singing voice, and a very diverse range of subject matter when it comes to the lyrics: from affairs of the heart to land mines, the metaphysical and spiritual to the eradication of Native American culture. He’s a very intelligent and thought provoking man.

It had been about 10 years since I last saw him live, so I made sure I scored tickets early when I heard about it. And that paid off, because we found ourselves in the front row last night (man, what a weekend for great location!).  The setting was the Orpheum Theater in Flagstaff, a great little theater on Aspen Street. It’s a nice long room with a large stage in front, and a bar area in the back which runs a good way along the side of the theater. We were bummed to discover that it closes at the end of April – permanently. Another great venue bites the dust (like they always seem to).

Bruce had three acoustic guitars set up, along with a dobro and a tiny 12-string guitar called a tarango (which originated in the Andes of South America). Out he came in army/cargo pants and a tan jacket, with his gray hair pulled up into a pony tail on the top of his head, and his signature specs. Speaking of gray hair, there was quite a bit of it in the crowd. There were a few scattered “younger” folks like me and my wife, but I would say most of the crowd was 50+ (Bruce undoubtedly has many more younger followers up in Canada, where he’s very revered and well known, as he should be).

On to the music. With a catalog that spans back to 1970, Bruce had plenty to choose from. He reached as far back as 1979 for “Wondering Where the Lions Are”, from one of my favorite albums of his – Dancing in the Dragon’s Jaw. The crowd stayed pretty silent throughout (at the venue’s request, being a quiet solo acoustic show), but Bruce implored the crowd to sing along to the chorus on this one. Nice moment. He also reached back to “How I Spent My Fall Vacation” – a highlight from 1980’s Humans, for the opening song of his encore.

But most of the two sets focused on his tunes from the last couple decades. It was great to hear a handful from Nothing But a Burning Light, Dart to the Heart, and Charity of Night, which were three of the albums that cemented my love for his music in the mid 90’s. “Night Train” and “Pacing the Cage” came from Charity (you may know “Pacing the Cage” from Jimmy Buffett’s version). “Kit Carson” and the show closer, “Child of the Wind” came from Burning Light – the latter song has a simple powerful lyric that I had in my head when I woke up this morning: “I love my sweet woman down to the core.” And from Dart to the Heart, Bruce pulled out the tarango for “Bone In My Ear” – one of the many songs that had me mystified at how this one man can make so many sounds come out of an instrument.

It’s hard to describe Bruce’s finger picking style, but I’ll try. His right hand is fixed in sort of the Hawaiian “hang ten” look – with his thumb providing the bass lines on the top strings, and his pinkie finger resting on the guitar under the strings. The jaw-dropping part is that his middle three fingers look like they’re completely still when you’re facing him. But holy jeebs, the sounds – the amazing picking that generate from the tips of those fingers underneath! I’m always in awe seeing him play live, and even more so last night sitting 15 feet from him. See it for yourself right here.

Other highlights for me: “Last Night of the World”, “Beautiful Creatures” (featuring a hauntingly beautiful falsetto in the chorus), “Elegy” (a slow and sublime instrumental), and of course it’s always great to hear ‘If I Had A Rocket Launcher”.

It’s almost midnight on Sunday night, the end of an amazing weekend of music. It was a once in a lifetime “perfect storm” of Bruce Music, and how satisfying to the soul to sit back and reflect on these past two nights – experiencing two great musicians up close, soaking up all their years of musicianship – such experts at their craft.

Thanks Bruces.

Set List

Set I
World of Wonders
Last Night of the World
See You Tomorrow
Night Train
Pacing the Cage
Lovers In A Dangerous Time
Bone In My Ear (on tarango)
Elegy (on dobro)
Wait No More (on dobro)

Set II
Jerusalem Poker
Beautiful Creatures
Call Me Rose
Kit Carson
Put It In Your Heart
If a Tree Falls
Wondering Where the Lions Are
Celestial Horses

How I Spent My Fall Vacation
If I Had A Rocket Launcher
Child of the Wind

Northern Exposure: The Great Outdoors, “Winter”

Savour the Flavour of Winter.Canadian folk-rock collective The Great Outdoors have completed their ambitious project to write, record and release an EP for each season. The three preceding EP’s managed to perfectly capture the tone of each respective season and Winter introduces elements of blues and roots music to the mix to a stunning effect. “The Winter’s Touch” plaintive tenor closes the door and invites you in from the cold as Melisa Devost‘s beautiful voice warms your heart. “The Garbage Man Song” rambles along and features some distinctly Tom Waits influenced moments provided courtesy of guest vocalist Nickle City Slim. “No Bells” swings with a bluesy swagger that pays off with an in your face guitar accompaniment that would otherwise seem out of place. “Edison’s Genius” picks up where the previous track leaves off with its blues-tinged delivery but in place of place of guitars is a horn arrangement that recalls Monk‘s “Abide With Me”. The set wraps with “Snowdrop” a slow burn ballad. Check out “The Garbage Man Song” here and you can catch the rest of the release on the bands MySpace page.

The Great Outdoors – The Garbage Man Song” (mp3)

Links: on Last.fm | on MySpace