east tennessee shape shifter

A quick note before I get my ass out of bed. Got back late last night, pretty jacked up on coffee I guess and some godawful arby’s meatwad I made the mistake of eating somewhere around Waco. Anyway, I have a lot of work to do and not much time to do it in. Tonight we play a benefit for the veterans program Dustin is doing, so we can maybe buy more guitars for any of those who need one. But I was just thinking about this one moment while Dustin and I were driving down a two-lane over in east tennessee the other day. We had just passed Strange Road, and I was feeling that hillbilly hoodoo feeling you get over there, when we both saw a small animal crossing the road ahead of us, at a diagonal angle from our right to the left side. I saw a black cat. Then it changed to a possum. Then it changed to a dog. At the same time Dustin saw a black bird which changed into a dog. Then we passed it. It’s just like that over there sometimes. Over and out.


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Rollin again

Just a fast note. Driving east tomorrow with Dustin, probably to Nashville. The next day we’re in Rockford, the next just over in Clinton. I don’t know if I’ve been to those towns. I’ve gotten to where there’s a lot I don’t know. Anyway, both house concerts, oughta be cool. Saturday night yet another house concert in Nashville, at the Wolfgrams, with their daughter Lindley playing before us. Then back on the road the next day for the long haul back. Be good to have some time with Dusto. A sunday drive. So, that’s all for now. Told you it was gonna be fast.


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that’s what I get (for thinkin’ about it)

(Pulled this out of the pile of drafts I have here. This should hook into the bit about going on the road with reckless kelly.)

Yesterday I bought a little blond blues jr amp. I had woken up with the intention of going into town and shopping for an amp, and I actually did it. First I bought a bench-mounted router from a guy with a guitar repair shop. Ok, let me start this again. Lately since I’ve been home, it’s become my habit to fall asleep with an all-talk station on my iPhone turned down real quiet, just enough to hear a voice. Macon Georgia about 1961 we stopped traveling for a bit and my folks found us the coolest place we probably ever lived, at least in my memory. I actually have memories of that place, and one of them is that me and my little brother david shared a big bed, and that I would get him to tell me stories to help me fall asleep. I was 6, he would have been 3, 4 at the latest. It was great. I would give almost anything to have a recording of any of David’s stories. If I did, I would play them at night instead of the far-away BBC, but these days the BBC is as close as I can get.

So that’s what wakes me up eventually. Well actually, having to take a leak is usually what wakes me, then the goddamn radio news makes sure I don’t ever really fall deep asleep again. So, I finally give in, get up and make my coffee, get back in bed and check my mail and look around the world a little. If I ever have a couple of bucks, which I did the other day, I like to scroll through local craigslist stuff. I like how good craigslist is at recycling perfectly usable stuff that would probably otherwise go to waste. Literally. Plus I just like used stuff I need if the price is right.

Anyway, I usually look through tools, and antiques, musical instruments if I’m really tripping, but normally more like gravel delivery and cars for sale by owner. But in Craigslist the other morning, I found the bench mounted router I’ve been wanting, for 60 bucks, and since this guys guitar repair shop was so close to a bunch of the best Austin music stores I ended up picking up the router and then, sure as hell, I started going into amp shops, and pretty quick I bought one. I wanted this 65 deluxe reissue, which I swear to God, it might as well have been a real 65 but in perfect shape. This is an amp that loves a telecaster. Let me say it this way; they are siblings. But the damn thing was 800 bucks. I know, not a lot for all you gear pigs, but I’ve come pretty close to not spending any money on musical equipment for almost 30 years. No wait, not almost, over 30 years. So for now I’m buying a blues jr, which I’ve gotta say, is breaking up a little early. It might be speaker time.

I say all this because last night after I had some food and unloaded my van from the big craigslist haul, I started absolutely  blasting away on this box, down here on the first floor on mexican tile under a 30 foot roof, with a ton of reverb on the amp for starters. I played for so long that my beer got warm. I played so long that my beer got warm. i said that twice to be sure you would catch it. This went on for hours.

At some point an important thing happened. I have been searching for a dignified way to describe this but finally I can’t. I went back to the kid who just wanted to rock. I reverted. And I could see it for the first time in a long time, a real long time, the big stage, the power, the kingdom…man, I remembered.  I remembered the want, the fantasy. I remembered that I either have to do that or die just slightly pissed off.

Anyway, the funny thing is that today Willie Braun called, asking me to jump in and sub for David Abeyta, who’s wife Dorothy just went into labor a week early. That’s what I get for thinking about it.


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You’re still here?

Well, I forgot to come here and write for a pretty good while. I’ve decided to start again, but I’m not going to worry about having much of a reason to. I think I’ll just make little boring notes about what’s going on. So, friend, if you come back here to read, keep those expectations low, ok? I also have a ton of stuff sitting in here that I didn’t publish, probably with good reason.
Anyway, for example, this morning it was still raining. I saw deer running through my place which is unusual, because usually they are just nibbling on whatever they can find to eat, including any flower or potted plants they can get to, or maybe leftover vegetables I throw out for them sometimes. So I went out to check and found three brand new dogs pooping and peeing and moving in. That would be fine with me, I love dogs, but my friends often bring their dogs out here to live while they travel, so I figure it’s their territory. I chased the new dogs off. Where would three new dogs come from? I really thought I knew them all around here.
So, see? That’s what I mean. It’s gonna be THAT dull.
Today my son Dustin is coming out so we can rehearse a bunch of his stuff. He’s gonna let me be sideman for him tonight at a house concert hosted by Robert Hurley, about an hour from here. A couple of days from now we drive to Knoxville, couple shows around there and then one in Nashville, then home. Those long drives aren’t as attractive to me as they used to be. I said I’d rather avoid the wear and tear, since I’m already worn and torn. But there’s no other way to do this particular run. After that, a couple more shows, benefits actually. We’re doing one as soon as we get back in San Marcos for the Vets program Dustin is involved with. He provides music lessons and songwriting lessons to PTSD sufferers. Makes me proud. Then there will be a benefit for HAAM, Health Alliance for Austin Musicians. Christmas songs. I’m doing Santa Had A Dream, a strange song I wrote with Savannah when she was a kid, where Christmas, the toys and elves part, is just a dream this lonesome coal miner has one night. In hindsight, the thought of that is a little bleak to be writing with a kid. But it sounds very cheerful, and I told her that probably once the coal miner woke up he started making toys and turned into Santa. And then Dustin is doing that Tom Petty song It’s Christmas Time Again.
I may be babbling by now, plus I have to kick it in the butt and get ready for rehearsal. Cheers!

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focal on that dystonia

Thursday Sept 8, BNA, Nashville airport.
Long layover today in Nashville, of all places. I have spent a lot of time over the last 35 years in this place. Always one of my favorite airports actually, mostly because it was never terribly hard to get to. Kind of like Austin. Not like Denver, where the birdhouse is way way out of town, out on the plains. Or Oslo. That airport used to be pretty easy, but they built a new one and now it’s way the hell up north as I recall. I just know that it’s a long way now.
They have made so many changes here that I almost don’t recognize it anymore. Good changes, near as I can tell. Lots more places to eat and shop, and if you’re a smoker they have a pretty nice looking lounge. I didn’t go in but you can tell it’s not like some of those holding tanks they put you in at the rare airport that still has a place to smoke. Ok, the Denver airport again, they do have a big bar you can smoke in, and if you hurry you can get in, get your fix and get back out before you’re forced to buy anything. And right across the way there is a Mexican stand where you can customize a nice plate of black beans and rice, with maybe a little beef or chicken on the side, for less than 10 bucks. And it’s good.
Made it as far as somewhere about an hour north of Charlotte. Flew into Greensboro SC, picked up a renter and drove for a few hours. Grabbed a burger at a drive through and a 12 pack at a hot stop and just kinda felt like catching some of the first night of pro ball, so I pulled off and got a room. Still have to put in 4 or 5 hours tomorrow and be in Ashland, Ashland Coffee and Tea by 4:00 for soundcheck.

Another long sleepless night, but I made it in pretty easy. While driving these days I tend to listen to my iPhone, either podcasts or books on tape. I was listening to an interview with the Gray….something….Reverend, a good singer songwriter. He was talking about how he lost the proper use of his left ring finger and little finger, and had to change guitar styles so he could still play guitar. What he was describing was exactly what has been happening to my right thumb, which I can’t use to fingerpick anymore. At least not like I used to play. For a long long time I had a solid hammer of a thumb, but over the last year it’s started curling in toward my palm on the down stroke. I can’t play Something Bout You for instance. No pain, which is a blessing, but I can’t control my right thumb for shit. So I’ve been either avoiding certain songs or trying to play them differently. It’s been weird. I’ve mentioned it to a few people, mostly anyone who was sitting still for 4 or 5 seconds, hoping that someone might recognize my symptoms. No one has so far. Everyone suggests acupuncture. And I mean everyone. Anyway, what the Gray Reverend was describing sounded a lot like what I was feeling. So, I got to where I was going, a gig in Ashland Virginia, and I sat in my renter and googled the thing he said, Focal Dystonia, and the stuff I read only made me more curious. I read all these testimonials and medical journals and so forth, and right now I’m pretty sure this is what I have. They don’t really have a cure figured out, it’s a neurological thing. I figure, I’ll fix it, and if I can’t, I’ll learn other ways to play. I played like that a long time anyway, maybe it’s best to move on. I’m using a flat pick a lot more now. I suck, but I’m trying and getting better. I think it’s helping some of the songs actually.

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Good Mornin’ America How are ya?

Something about high altitude makes me lay awake all night sometimes, feeling like I can’t get enough oxygen. I start to try and regulate my breathing, which doesn’t work, because breathing is supposed to be involuntary. So, no matter how tired I get, just as I’m drifting off it feels like I stop breathing, and I wake up in a panic gasping for air. This sucks. It’s 3:30 am now. This is the third time over the last couple of weeks. So, ok. Instead of fighting it I’ll just bang away at the typer, as Bukowski used to call it.

I left out of Red River the other day and drove up here to Cuchara, to the home of my friends Michelle and Claude Appel. This is a very beautiful part of the Rockies. On the eastern slope of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, in the Cuchara River Valley. You need 4 wheel around here sometimes just to get up peoples driveways. Lots of bear, deer, elk, raccoon, the hawk and the raven. I’ve seen them all in the last day or two. Fat little chipmunks darting around from woodpile to brush. Tonight the wind is really up and working the aspens over pretty good. This area is in drought still, but at least they’re getting some rain, and it’s greening, though they say they need years now to catch up. Like a lot of places. Basically like anywhere that hasn’t been washed away by floods. Extreme times we live in now.
Claude and Michelle have a beautiful little theater room downstairs and occasionally have house concerts. Last night was my third time here. Had a nice time but my thumb is acting crazy and I was forgetting a lot of words. That’s kind of charming maybe if you do it one time, but I got a little shook and started thinking about it, and that made it worse, so that I had to just stop and give up on a couple songs. I went back and played them on second tries, but that’s only partial vindication.
We got up this morning and drove to LaVida, another nice little town about a half hour from here. We boarded the Rio Grande Scenic train club car, one of the old original cars from the famous City of New Orleans. If you want to read a good page or two about it, go to http://www.highonadventure.com/hoa11jun/sylvia/coloradooutbackbytrain.htm. The photo of the locomotive above is from that site. the exterior and the interior of the club car were taken earlier today, with Claude and Michelle in the background.  Our reason for riding up to Fir on this old train was to see The Rifters, a great band I first and last heard several years ago in New Mexico. Don Richmond is a great multi-instrumentalist and general all round good guy. So are the other guys, but my brain is too fried to recall their names for sure right now. I’ll try to fix that soon. It’s now 7am and I still haven’t slept, so I’m gonna give it another shot. I have a show in Alamosa this evening with Don and I’d like to get some damn rest. I may be feeling a little cranky right now…..

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Back in Red River

I think it might have been about a year ago, in the deepest part of the summer, when I figured out that I should always leave Texas for the month of August. I’ve actually already spent a lot of Augusts away, seems like usually overseas somewhere. I only remember this because my birthday is in August, and I hardly ever seem to be home for that.

I was home for it last year though, and the year before that too, and I thought enough is enough. So about 6 months ago I asked my dear agent Gigi to start looking for something in the mountains, or by the sea. Right along in there I heard from my old friend Captain Bob Tasse, skipper of the Timberwind Schooner, which I sailed on last year out of Rockport Maine. It was something I’ll never forget. A 90-something foot 2 masted schooner immaculately restored, Captain Bob charters about 15 people at a time and stays out for about 4 days and nights. He was inviting me to come back up. Bob I said, how about August. Perfect he said.

Next I called my old friend Steve Stone, honkin his horn about finding me a house concert in his little town of Brooklin Maine, where I’d hung about a bit also. He said to come up anytime. Steve, I said, how about August? Fine, he said.

So, that took care of the second half of the month. Gigi went to work and put a few shows together over here in Colorado. I called my other friend named Steve (Heglund) who, along with his wife Priscilla, owns The Lodge at Red River. August? August. I’m even in my old room, the only one I’ve ever stayed in here I think.

Current temperature in Austin Texas:  104

Current temperature in Red River New Mexico: 75

I’m just gonna go ahead and publish this, and keep writing….




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Patience rewarded


Mr Frog seems to have plenty of company tonight. Click on the ‘Memo-9′ thing and listen. Lemme know if it works.

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Brown Eyed Susan 2

Saturday. In the evening she stood on the porch and surveyed the mud, and it seemed to be congealing a bit. Off to the north side of the drive was a low lying field that sloped down to the tree line that ran along the creek. All of this bowl was filled with mist, and all through the mist hung thousands of fireflies caught in the web of water and air. They twinkled like Christmas, and the bullfrogs and crickets chattered and spoke.

All her boxes were stacked, taped and labeled in the front room, lumpy towers of cardboard and whisky labels. All her art lay leaning against the front wall in a disarray of frames. The vacuum sweeper, the broom, the bucket. A suitcase, a small pile of clothes on hangers draped over the tallest tower. The microwave was temporarily plugged in to the outlet by the gas log fireplace, and she had eaten something from it an hour ago, without tasting it. She hadn’t started to load up. It was just all too much.

The kitchen screen door squeaked and banged shut behind her as she went out back to ponder the refuse lined along the wall, rusting quietly within the embrace of the weeds and the spiders. It was the stuff that didn’t need to be thrown away, nor stored, but was still important enough to keep within view. Solvents mostly. Paint, paint thinner, left-over polyurethane. Several used air-con filters, some scrap pine.
She was picking each container up, hefting it, moving to the next and doing the same, the light fading making it harder to read the labels, so she flicked her bic lighter for the last couple, the air silvery and flammable. Then she unscrewed first one, then the next, and the next, and began layering them one on one, all along the back wall, first pouring out this, and then the next thing, carefully pouring a continuous line, and then, standing off to the side all awkward and jumpy, she reached in and lit the edge of the solvent milkshake. The results were an immediate whump and puff of blue flame and crackles and all of a sudden she was loading her stuff out the front door like she was the American Team for Packing Up And Leaving Quick and she was in the running for the Gold Medal. The flames towered over the rear roofline and grinned down at her and she threw the last unpacked drape of curtains on top of her boxes, unrolled a gleaming white middle finger, and gunned the truck straight in and out of the bog, bouncing and fishtailing up onto the hardtop, where she floored it and fled. The lovely flames yawned, cackled and spread, leveling everything, and they eventually died, sadly, from neglect.

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Brown Eyed Susan

Tuesday. The sweet sound of the rain on the tin roof was muffled by the wind in the cedars, the white noise whooshes rising and falling, coming out of the west and loaded with thunderballs. All night off and on she had slept, waking to unholy nightmares and the whipcrack of southern thunder, and finally she opened her eyes to a gray light in the room and knew that it was morning, and arose.

Suddenly all grew quiet and still, the rain slowed and stopped, and the thunder was no longer overhead but way down in the valley rolling away. And then a shaft of sun buzzed up under the blinds and illuminated a picture of herself, smiling at the beach on President’s Day. She saw it as an omen, a sign of something.

She took her coffee cup out to the porch and surveyed the muddy drive that led off the main road to the cabin. It was a mess. Nothing was coming in or going out for a day or two, nothing with wheels anyway. Ah well, she thought, so much for omens…

Early last week her brother said he saw a UFO, right out there across those fields. He was a pretty normal guy, and whatever he said he saw, he saw. She had missed it. She was at a movie with Heather, his wife, and Arthur was out here killing time waiting for them to get back, and that was when he saw it. She thought about it now.

Shit, she whispered, beam me up.

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