Heading back to Austin from a brief tour of Louisiana. I will catch up on posting when I am home. I did see a sign in a gas station today that said: “Jefferson Davis Law – No Alcohol Sold Between 2 and 6am.” So that happened. I am glad that the ghosts of the Confederacy are attempting to keep me sober in the wee hours of the morning.
In Denis Johnson’s book Tree of Smoke, his epic Vietnam novel, one of the characters come to the conclusion that different parts of the world are governed by different deities. Each area operates under its own unique set of supernatural laws. When one travels the United States, one can’t help but feel the same way. Louisiana is not Texas is not Colorado is not wherever. It isn’t just different cultures and economic forces shaping human behavior, but almost nature itself. The haunted swamps of Louisiana create a different emotional context than the comforting greenery of the Texas hill country. “God is alive and magic is afoot.” The only question is what god and whose magic? Anyone that claims to know is deluding themselves…
James McMurtry’s new album Complicated Game is out today. McMurtry is one of the best songwriters in America. I probably won’t be able to review the new album until next week. In the meantime here is one of the tracks off of it. I’m really looking forward to diving into this record when I get the time.
Today I am hitting the highway for some weekend Shinyribs dates. Being in a band one thinks nothing about driving to get somewhere unless maybe it happens to be over 10 hours. However, having lived in both Texas and Pennsylvania I know that geography and population density play a role in how far away somewhere feels.
Even though Pa is not small, Texas is a gigantic state. People will think nothing at all of driving an hour or two to hang out with friends or go to an event that they want to attend. Even driving to a city four to six hours away is not that big of a deal for many people, if there is a concert, sporting event, or some other event that appeals to them. Some people will even drive further than that for a weekend without much thought put into it.
Pennsylvania is the state of a thousand small towns. I lived in a small town, but my town pushed right up against other small towns on the borders. People seemed less inclined to drive somewhere spur of the moment. A show an hour or two away would be more like driving from driving from Houston to Dallas in Texas. Even for large concerts or events, events that would only happen once every few years, people seemed less willing to drive long distances for. We were about two hours from Philly, about four hours from Pittsburg. Although we drove to Philly many times for large events, I can only remember driving once to Pittsburg for a large concert. In my experience that was typical for a lot of people.
I’m not saying this is scientific proof, or that there aren’t always exceptions to the rule. There are also cultural reasons for this, as well as reasons having to do with topography and weather. Driving somewhere in Texas, where it doesn’t rain, on flat roads, is easier than driving through Appalachia, especially in winter. However, I do think that people will adapt to their surroundings. When I am in Texas I think personally think nothing of driving long distances. When I go home to visit families the old mentality takes over to a degree.
If any readers have any feedback or thoughts on this, I would love to hear from you. I have to approve all comments, so if you reply you can let me know if you want your comment shared or not.
All ATX – The British Invasion
Tonight at 9pm Central the PBS station in Austin will be showing the All ATX – British Invasion tribute show. I participated in this event with Shinyribs and Shawn Sahm. I also somehow got to sneak out on stage for the final number and sing backup vocals with Eric Burdon and The Animals. (Try getting the words right, even to a song you know very well, when Eric Burdon is a few feet from you! It was surreal.) A multi-hour show was cut down to 56 minutes, so I have no idea what footage will even make the final cut. I also volunteered to make some political phone calls today, so I don’t have time to research how and if this footage will be available to those of you not in the Austin area. However, I thought I would at least mention that it is on tonight, because there were some really great performances at this event.
I’ll also be on the road with Shinyribs this weekend. You can view the dates here:
Shinyribs Shows Page
In the future when all’s well…
James McMurtry Interview
There is a new James McMurtry interview in the Austin Chronicle about his upcoming album Complicated Game. McMurtry has long been one of my favorite artists to check out in Austin, and is really one of our country’s best songwriters right now. The new album drops on February 24th. I’ve posted the above video before, but for those of you that missed it, or have never heard McMurtry before, this is the single off the new record.
On my kitchen table sits the book Hillingdon Ranch: Four Seasons, Six Generations by David K. Langford & Lorie Woodward Cantu. It’s a book featuring astounding photography that deals with one family’s ranch in the Texas Hill Country, but also with the larger themes of nature and conservation. At some point I want to write a comprehensive piece on this book, but I’ve been slow to, as the visual arts, and photography especially, are not ones that I am as intellectually prepared to comment on. Although I have some understanding of the machinations of film and television, with the other visual arts I often know what I like, but I don’t know as often how to describe it. I am not as well versed in the technical language and the processes that go into painting or photography.
I do know that the photography in this book is absolutely stunning in the way that it hits you on an emotional level. Langford has captured the Hill Country and the different seasons in all of their natural glory. Anyone that has spent time in the Hill Country knows its allure. There are many places in nature that are beautiful. However, many places are filled with a lonesome kind of beauty, whereas the Texas Hill Country has a warm and friendly beauty to it. There is something often comforting about it. If you are interested in this region or photographs of Texas in particular, then I think this book is definitely one you should check out.
I think even if you are not familiar with the Texas Hill Country there are things that this book has to offer. If you like nature photography in particular, there are many photos that look painterly in their composition. The Hill Country has a wide ranging color palate from season to season.
I also think the book’s message of conservation and stewardship of the land are important ones to understand. Not only is this aspect something that needs to be part of the larger environmental picture, but it is also a way to possibly reach people that might otherwise not be as inclined to act.
This book makes you see how nature is worth preserving, if for nothing else than the aesthetic beauty that would be hard to imagine living without.
I wanted to mention to any of you in the Austin area that I’ll be performing solo, with drummer/percussionist Alex Moralez backing me up, at the Google Fiber building tomorrow at 4:00pm. (201 Colorado) We will be performing before the great Ramsay Midwood. There will be free food and drink at this event as well. I have worked with Ramsay in the past and he is one of my absolute favorite acts to catch live. Hope to see some of you there as this is a show that I’m extremely happy to be a part of.
Here is one of my favorite Midwood tracks and videos: