Flight DL372 from Detroit to Buffalo

The travel guides have finally smiled on me after having to endure two Trump morons and a bucket of fried chicken for the past three hours with a vacant seat beside me on the final flight on my journey home.  It’s only a 40 minute or so flight and it just so happens I have a 35 minute Texas-inspired album to fill that void successfully: the self-title debut album by …And They Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead.

Originally hailing from Austin, Texas, the chief members of the band are Jason Reece and Conrad Keely.  The two actually switch between drumming, guitar and lead vocals, both on recordings and live shows.  According to the band’s website, their name is taken from an ancient Mayan ritual chant, which shows a striking similarity to an ancient Egyptian chant.  This explanation, however, is said to be merely an ongoing joke.

Released in 1998 on Trance Syndicate records, the album vies for that piece of scarred, post-punk real estate somewhere between The Who and chucking a whirring blender full of bolts straight into a jet engine.  So if something happens to this flight somewhere over the mid-North, you’ll know why.

There is definitely lots of Sonic Youth inspired distortion and white fuzz noisescapes to keep one on the edge of their seat, specifically ‘A Gargoyle Waiting‘  and ‘Prince With a Thousand Enemies‘ which are the albums stand out.  Then there’s Novena Without Faith‘  that proves just how many gears of the rock machine these guys have mastered with a mellow, yet driving, dreamy quality…it’s right out of ‘Bad Moon Rising‘. 

I will definitely be listening to more of this band on future trips, or maybe my inspired fartlek runs for sure!

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Flight DL3963 from San Antonio to Detroit (Part 2)

One of the Trump morons has now decided to break out an entire bucket of KFC to chow down on.  Excellent!  Because sitting beside two loud, obese Trump zombies isn’t bad enough but now I have to bare witness to them polishing off a bucket of greasy fast food chicken.

God help me.

Time for more audio stimulus to keep me distracted and, hopefully, keep them alive.  I’m going with the ‘Light Is Faster Than Sound‘  album by Big Brother and the Holding Company (featuring Janis Joplin).

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Yes, again, I recognize that one likely wouldn’t think of a 60’s era “flower power” hippie band from San Francisco as “Texas-inspired”.  My justification is that front person Janis Joplin originally hails from Port Arthur, Texas, the daughter of a registrar at a business college and an engineer at Texaco.  Sure, it’s a stretch…but I’m rolling with it.

Often with this album, Janis may get the sole billing here while Big Brother and the Holding Company are relegated to sidemen status, however, given that this February ’66 concert was recorded right when Janis had joined the group nothing could be further from the truth – it’s 100% a team effort.  If anything, at this point in the game Janis was more or less a member on equal footing with the other Brothers who were still heavily into their avant-rock and not exactly catering to Janis’s caterwauling tendencies. The quality’s rather good considering the now-stone aged technology of the times.

While the who performance is memorable including ‘Ball and Chain‘ and ‘Call On Me‘, there are two incredible highlights:  the amazing ‘All Is Loneliness‘ and the catchy title track ‘Light Is Faster Than Sound‘.  Total ‘Like WOW, man!‘.

The real success is now that we’ve landing, the two Trump morons are still alive (the bucket of chicken not so much) and I didn’t go all Jeffrey Dahmer mid-flight.

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Flight DL3963 from San Antonio to Detroit (Part 1)

We’ve finally boarded and we’re underway, time to block out everything else and zone into my ‘Natural Born Heroes‘ (Christopher McDougall) in the attempt to stave off any mid-flight murders given my seatmates are engaged in a loud conversation on why Donald Trump is the only logical choice as the future president of the United States.  Now, I could deal with sitting next to just about anyone, but Trump supporters?

“WHY OH LORD, WHY ME?” 

The only obvious remedy at this moment in time is the ‘Shut Up and Die Like An Aviator‘ by Steve Earle.

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The album was released in 1991 and recorded live in London and Kitchener (misspelled in the liner notes at “Kitchner”) Ontario, Canada, in October of 1990.  So how’s that for an interesting turn of fate?  A Canadian travel flying from Texas to Canada and listening to a Texan performing in Canada?  AND  it has an aviation theme.

Mind.

Blown.

After Earle’s 1990 album ‘The Hard Way‘  stumbled in the marketplace and his drug addiction became a poorly kept secret in Nashville, he was on the outs with his record label, MCA, who decided to let him out of his contract in the time-honored fashion, with a live album.  At the same time, Earle had become an arena-level star, and features him and his band rolling through a set of his biggest hits.  The show is amazing and there great examples of where he’s sharp and committed.  He literally wrenches every ounce of drama he can from ‘Billy Austin‘, and his short but pointed cover of Jimmie Rodgers’ ‘Blue Yodel #9‘  is great as is his version of the Rolling StonesDead Flowers‘.  However, it’s the awesome long and ominous creepy crawl through ‘West Nashville Boogie‘ (easily trumps the version on ‘The Hard Way‘ album) which is the highlight for me and, likely, the only reason why the Trump morons beside me are still alive.

Equally awesome is Earle’s backing band the Dukes, especially guitarist Zip Gibson and Bucky Baxter on steel and six-string.

This is what I would refer to as a “dangerous” album; a real, honest-to-Pete rock n’ roll record.  It sounds as if it could blow apart at any second, and just maybe take this entire Canadair CJ1 jet with it.  Not that the world would be any worse off without these two numb nuts in Seats 27A and 27B in it, mind you.

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San Antonio International Airport

I admit it:  Seeing as how it’s been stupid hot with 100% humidity, I’ve done sweet fuck all this week aside from pound back the protein, poop, and shovel ice cream into my mouth while lounging around my hotel room in my underpants within inches of the air conditioner. I didn’t visit Woodlawn Lake even once.  In fact, my running shoes didn’t even leave my suitcase, however, zero fucks is what I give.  So here I am, once again, sitting at the airport with a bellyful of bad Tex Mex and little Townes Van Zandt, namely his debut album ‘For the Sake of the Song‘.

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Townes wrote songs with an uncommon grace and poetic clarity, and he sang them with a voice that was at once straightforward, eloquent, and mindful of the arid beauty of his images.  A decade after Van Zandt released his first album, there would be dozens of singer/songwriters following his example, but he was a rather unusual commodity when ‘For the Sake of the Song‘  was released in 1968.  And truthfully, this isn’t my favorite album in Townes’ catalogue.

The 11 songs on the album are all fin but they still reek of that “new guy trying to find his craft”.  Even the popular tunes that would go on to become staples in his live repertoire like ‘(Quicksilver Daydreams Of) Maria‘  and ‘Tecumseh Valley‘ still have a feeling of a somewhat awkward production as I’m sure producers Jack Clement and Jim Malloy didn’t really know what to do with Van Zandt at the time.  They don’t suck mind you, but it wouldn’t be until later albums where they found their stride with the Fort Worth native.

The albums saving grace if you ask me is the humorous ‘Talkin’ Karate Blues’.  Basically, it’s a spoken word tune about Van Zandt’s foray into the martial arts…and, it’s fucking hilarious.  So much so it has me laughing my ass off here at my gate and I’m probably at a very real risk of having the airport security being called to deal with the nutcase at Gate A2.

Take this example:

“Then a giant jape came through the door
He must have been about seven foot four
And he looked like he’s prone
To easy aggravation

He said, “Lee Hung Chow, ah kee dung”
That’s Japanese for fee fie foo fum
I tried to explain
My entire situation

He said, “Number one course, Yankee, self defense
Two hundred dollars and twenty-five cents”
I said, “What’s the twenty five cents for?”
And he said, “Repairs”

THIS  is why I love Townes Van Zandt so much. For this sole reason alone (not to mention that I simply respect Townes too much), I am opting to not put this album on my Shit List.  I’m just not likely going to listen to it much in the future.  fortunately though, ‘Talkin’ Karate Blues‘  appears on many of the live bootlegs and shows I have which, inevitably, I WILL listen to.
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Flight DL315 from Minneapolis to San Antonio (Part 2)

There’s about an hour left in this flight and after OD-ing on the Da Blues so in an effort to snap out of this post blues funk and ensure that I don’t off myself upon landing, I’m listening to something a little more upbeat and, well, cheerful, like the ‘Rock + Soul = Genius‘  album by Ray Charles.

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Nope…he’s not Texan.  I understand that.  But the grey and white bungalow at 2642 Eugene Str. in Dallas, Texas where Charles lived, practices and composed for five years in the mid-50’s still isl and that qualifies this album as “Texan” to me.  After all, how many classic Ray Charles tunes were given birth to inside those walls (state).

The album itself was actually recorded in Paris On October 21st and 22nd in 1961  which makes it about as well removed from being Texan as possible but, still, who knows where the crafting of the music actually took place.  It could just have well been over his backyard smoker in Dallas as some Parisian recording studio.  I’m choosing to go with the former.

The album is ripe with lots of Charles’ classics to prevent me from slitting my wrists including ‘Let the Good Times Roll‘, ‘Georgia On My Mind‘, ‘The Right Time‘, and ‘What’d I Say?‘ which ultimately brought gospel and R&B to a crossover audience and forever changed the course of popular music.

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Flight DL315 from Minneapolis to San Antonio (Part 1)

I barely made my connection thanks to the old woman (half Betty White, half Gimli from Lord of the Rings) on my last flight who bullied her way down the aisle from the back of the plane only to pause at the very end to grill the captain for a half an hour about God knows what (wind direction?) and, thereby, preventing the rest of us from exiting the plane in a timely fashion.  Thanks, old woman!  I would have tried to excuse myself past her had I not been worried that she had a battle axe in her oversized purse.  But here I am about to embark on the last flight to my San Antonio destination so I’m plugged into a little Da Blues for the duration of the flight with a collection of songs by Blind Lemon Jefferson.

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Jefferson was one of the most popular blues singers of the 1920s, and has been called “Father of the Texas Blues”.  Jefferson’s performances were distinctive because of his high-pitched voice and the originality of his guitar playing.  His recordings sold well, but he was not a strong influence on younger blues singers of his generation who could not imitate him as easily as they could other commercially successful artists.

Jefferson was born blind, near Coutchman in Freestone County, near present-day Wortham, Texas. He was the youngest of seven (or possibly eight) children born to sharecroppers Alex and Clarissa Jefferson.  Jefferson began playing the guitar in his early teens, and soon after he began performing at picnics and parties. He became a street musician, playing in East Texas towns, in front of barbershops and on street corners.

In the early 1910’s, Jefferson began traveling frequently to Dallas, where he met and played with the blues musician Lead Belly.  He was one of the earliest and most prominent figures in the blues movement developing in the Deep Ellum section of Dallas. It is likely that he moved to Deep Ellum on a more permanent basis by 1917, where he met Aaron Thibeaux Walker, also known as T-Bone Walker. Jefferson taught Walker the basics of playing blues guitar in exchange for Walker’s occasional services as a guide.

Jefferson died in Chicago at 10:00am on December 19, 1929, of what his death certificate called “probably acute myocarditis”.  For many years, rumors circulated that a jealous lover had poisoned his coffee, but a more likely explanation is that he died of a heart attack after becoming disoriented during a snowstorm. Some have said that he died of a heart attack after being attacked by a dog in the middle of the night. The book ‘Tolbert’s Texas’  claimed that he was killed while being robbed of a large royalty payment by a guide escorting him to Union Station to catch a train home to Texas. However you choose to slice it – he dead.

As you might expect from a poor, blind pre-Depression era Texas blues singer there’s lot of blues to go around.  There’s ‘Stocking Feet Blues‘, ‘Shuckin’ Sugar Blues‘, ‘Easy Rider Blues‘, ‘Jack o’ Diamond Blues‘, ‘Teddy Bear Blues‘, ‘Rising High Water Blues‘, ‘Hangman Blues‘, ‘That Crawlin’ Baby Blues‘…shit, you name it and ‘ol Lemon gots the blues for it.  In fact, there’s a good chance that when I exit this plane I’m just going to suicide leap head first off the jetway onto the tarmac I’m going to be so fucking depressed.

“Welcome to San Antonio!”

SPLAT!

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Buffalo International Airport

It’s 5:05am and once again I’m sitting in an abandoned airport gate waiting for a flight.  Can’t you see how impressed I am.

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And while I’m on the subject, it must be Murphy’s Law that whenever you do happen to be sitting alone in an empty airport terminal that the next ass hat with a cell phone who passes by will feel compelled to sit directly beside you and proceed to carry on with their conversation at the top of their lungs.  Why is that?  You have all these seats to choose from – why directly next to me?  And why are you talking so loud?  At the volume you’re speaking at the person you’re chatting with could likely hear you from wherever they are.  I think I’m going to begin drinking my coffee out of a spray bottle so that when one of these moolyaks should try to take the seat next to me I can ward them off with a squirt of hot beverage to the face.

Anyway, I’m going to try and cool off now with the first of my Texas-inspired albums, ‘Cold Dog Soup‘ by Guy Clark.

Sadly, Guy shuffled off this mortal coil just a little over a week ago after a decade-long battle with lymphoma.  So memorializing this great songwriter with my first trip selection this morning seems appropriate.

The album, released in 1999, follows it’s predecessor ‘Dublin Blues‘  in its poignant observations of life, love, death, and all the states in between. Clark’s voice may be a little worn (as I feel right now), but his songwriting skills are sharper than ever here.  Just check these lyrics out from the opening title track:

“Townes Van Zandt standin’ at the bar
Skinnin’ a Hollywood movie star
Can’t remember where he parked his car
Or to whom he lost the keys
Full of angst and hillbilly haiku
What’s a poor Ft. Worth boy to do
Go on rhyme somethin’ for em’ man
Show him how you really feel”

Classic.

And then there’s the chorus:

“Ain’t no money in poetry
That’s what sets the poet free
I’ve had all the freedom I can stand
Cold dog soup and rainbow pie
Is all it takes to get me by
Fool my belly till the day I die
Cold dog soup and rainbow pie”

I could go for some of that shit.

uses a group of musicians that revolve around longtime collaborators Verlon Thompson and Darrell Scott and the backing vocals of Emmylou Harris.  In addition, there are two new Clark songs and a trio of covers that are awesome and very different interpretations of the originals.  There’s Steve Earle‘s ‘Fort Worth Blues‘, written as an elegy for their late friend, songwriter Townes Van Zand (how’s that for Texas inspired?  A Texan songwriter covering another Texan’s song about a great Texan songwriter.  That’s Texas³!).  Then there’s a gorgeous read of Richard Dobson’s ‘Forever, for Always, for Certain‘; and the album closes with the old-time folk song ‘Be Gone Forever‘, written by Anna McGarrigle and Keith Sykes.  Performed as a duet, it is one of the most traditional pieces of music Clark has ever recorded.

The tragedy ‘Water Under the Bridge‘ feels a lot like the folk-blues of Bob Dylan‘s ‘Ballad of Hollis Brown‘, and in its own way is just as harrowing, with the mandolin fills floating around the guitar lines. ‘Bunkhouse Blues‘ is a cowboy blues complete with yodels that gets to the high and lonesome that you can almost smell the baking beans over an open fire somewhere on the Texas prairie.  ‘Men Will Be Boys‘  is a good-time anthem that could have been written and recorded during the Austin era with Jerry Jeff Walker and the rest.

And thus begins my trip to San Antonio.  It’s a hell of a lot better than listening to this dipshit beside me talk about whatever it was his brother-in-law’s sister’s roommate’s cousin had for dinner last night.  Seriously dude, if I had that spray bottle right now I’d given you a blast of scalding hot coffee to the puss like the bad kitty you are.

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