Happy All Hallows Eve and first day of Day of the Dead a.k.a. Dia de los Muertos to all y’all! On the occasion of these two celebrations, I wanted to shine a spotlight on a couple of songs that I think are appropriate for these two holidays.
Zac Brown Band and Dave Grohl- “Day For the Dead” (from The Grohl Sessions, Vol. 1)
So Zac Brown Band made an album with David Grohl. That’s right- Dave mother f**king Grohl! “Day For the Dead” is one of four songs from that joining of forces, released in 2013. I have a ton of respect for Dave Grohl, as a musician and as a fellow Virginian (though he was technically born in Ohio his formative years were spent in V to the izz-A). Everything this guy touches turns to gold- from Nirvana to Foo Fighters, so naturally when he teamed up with ZBB, they made some pretty darn good songs, including this one about the “day for the dead to dance among the living.” You can watch their performance of this song from the 2013 CMA Awards here.
I would like to know when The Grohl Sessions, Vol. 2 is planning to come out. Seriously, I’m waiting!
“I see them rise From beneath the ground Life was lost but now it’s found The ghosts want somethin’ To take their turn To dance around the stone Work the fingers to the bone Hold on to nothin'”
Ruston Kelly- “Black Magic” (from Halloween)
I wrote about this song back in June on my first “The Tracks I’m Playing” post but it’s perfect for Halloween so I’m posting it again. Do I need any more proof that this is an ideal Halloween song besides the fact that it’s from an album titled Halloween?? No, I don’t. But I’ll give you another reason anyway- the first line in this song goes like this, “Halloween is here with me you left it in this home, stitches on my body, closets full of bones.” Pretty spooky, huh? While the song isn’t actually about Halloween, it’s about black magic (kinda) and love, which seems fitting enough for me for today.
I also want to take this opportunity to say congratulations to Ruston Kelly and Kacey Musgraves on their wedding, which took place earlier this month! The pictures are gorg! See for yourself here. Congratulations to Mr. and Mrs. Kacey Musgraves!
“Halloween is here with me you left in this home Stitches on my body, closets full of bones Blood that won’t stop running ‘cause this wound won’t ever clot Like the ringing in my ears that don’t ever seem to stop”
Other great Halloween and Day of the Dead songs include:
You can find all of these on my “All Hallows Eve” Spotify playlist here. While these songs may not hold a candle to Monster Mash in the category of Halloween anthems, I think they’ll make a perfect addition to your Halloween playlist. Also, does anybody really know how to do the Monster Mash??
I hope everyone has a great Halloween and Dia de los Muertos! And if you don’t celebrate either, Happy October 31st!
Currently listening to: Werewolf Bar Mitzvah. Because I can’t think of something being spooky, scary without this song coming to mind! If you watch 30 Rock, you get the reference!
If Sundays are for (Eric) Church, then Halloween is for Erica Church. Who is Erica Church, you ask? Well, she’s the female version of Eric Church and my finest creation to date. She made her debut on Halloween in 2015 and has only come out a few times since then. Much like her male counterpart, Erica enjoys wearing black leather jackets and American flag scarves and keeping her sunglasses on inside. On occasion, you can find her recreating one of his album covers (see below).
Erica Church 101
With just two days left until Halloween, you might still be trying to decide what you’re going to be. Or, if you’re like most people, you probably went out last night, in which case, you can use these costume tips for next Halloween. Well, might I suggest Erica Church for the ladies? (Sorry fellas, this post is mostly for the ladies.) If you’re not sure how to compose your own Erica Church costume, don’t worry, I’ve got you covered! It’s a pretty simple costume and you probably already own some of the pieces.
First things first, you’ll need a pair of sunglasses. Try not to go with heart-shaped lenses or any funky colors. A simple pair of aviator glasses will do the trick. Be sure to wear these all of the time. Yes, even when you’re inside. Yes, even if it’s not bright where you are. No, I don’t care if you can’t see. Keep them on (or at least try to!)
This next piece might cost you but I promise it’s a worthwhile investment. It’s a black leather jacket and it’s a great addition to any wardrobe. Not only is it perfect for crafting your Erica Church look but can be worn on many different occasions- a night out on the town, a biker rally, a wedding, you name it. You can pretty much wear it anywhere. If you prefer a different color leather jacket, like burgundy, that will also work as Eric has been known to rock this look himself. Underneath the jacket, I would go with a black t-shirt. In past years, I’ve worn a Johnny Cash t-shirt but I think a plain black t-shirt will work well.
Pledge allegiance to the American flag scarf! Though not absolutely necessary for this look to work, you’re gonna want it. Trust me. It really completes the look and gives it a little more Church-y feel à la “Springsteen.” It can also double as a blanket on those cold late-October nights.
Tip your ballcap! Again, not totally necessary. Since Eric himself can be seen both with or without his hat, you can feel free to do the same. Especially if you wanna avoid hat hair! BUT if you own a Von Dutch hat then you MUST wear this. Those are the rules! See picture below for the explanation as to why.
If hats aren’t your thing, or you don’t feel like buying one, you can also feel free to wear a black snow cap like the one he wore in the “Springsteen” video. But again- hat hair! Or I guess cap hair in this case.
These Boots! No other footwear will do. It’s gotta be boots! And if the soles are worn out on ’em, even better! This is probably a pretty easy one for most of us ladies. Good thing Halloween takes places in the fall so it’s already boot-wearing season! If you don’t already have a pair (really ladies- who doesn’t own a pair of boots?!), you can order some from Eric’s boot line, These Boots (online store here.) But I’m gonna warn ya, these will cost you a pretty penny!
Mad Props! The best way to give your costume a little something extra is to add some props. If you want to carry around a bottle of Jack, that would be totally acceptable, though probably not allowed by a lot of establishments. It might be a good idea to empty out some of the mini plastic bottles of Jack and carry these around. Either way, if you really want to be in character, you must drink some Jack, otherwise how else will Jack Daniels kick your ass?
A chief badge necklace would also be a nice finishing touch on an Erica Church costume (you can find one on Eric’s website for $20 here.) I don’t own one of these but have considered making the investment.
Have a record year! Another great prop, especially if you’re having a record year, would be some of the records he sings about in his song “Record Year.” A few weeks ago I found a used copy of Songs in the Key of Life at my local record store and picked it up as I thought it would be perfect for this occasion. It’s also a classic Stevie Wonder album that I now own so a win-win for me! Bonus points if you’ve got Red Headed Stranger or are getting down with old James Brown and finding New Grass Revival (and their albums!) Another great Erica Church prop is a guitar. Though my reservation with this is carrying it around it public. Not only would you get tired of toting it around but you would probably keep hitting people with it and you don’t wanna be that person!
If you wanna switch up this look and add a few extra things to customize it to tailor to your inner-Erica Church, by all means, go on right ahead! Just remember to always keep “WWECD?” in mind. What Would Eric Church Do? If it doesn’t scream “Chief!” then leave it!
I know some of you ladies might be thinking that this doesn’t sound like the most feminine costume. So if you wanna make this costume a little female (more Erica, less Eric), I suggest wearing a black mini-skirt, maybe with some tights if it’s cold. The skirt will also look great with the boots!
The most important part of this costume is not a piece of clothing like a leather jacket or a prop like a record, but it’s your personality. If there’s a specific Eric Church song or album that you’re trying to channel, be it Chief or Mr. Misunderstood, go with it! Embrace your inner Chief! Or rather, your inner Chieftess! Be Mrs. Misunderstood! Have a record year! Catch yourself a round here buzz! Put a drink in your hand! You get what I’m saying!
I realize this costume is for women but men can also try this look out if they want to be Eric Church. But gentlemen, I’ve got to warn you, if you’re trying to be Eric Church, you’ve got a lotta boot left to fill!
Other Church-inspired Halloween costumes include: “Chattanooga Lucy“ – another one for the ladies
“Hungover and Hard Up” – this one does not require an actual costume, just simply wake up the morning following your Halloween celebrations
“Country Music Jesus” – for all you long-haired, prophetic types
My own Erica Church hasn’t come out for this year’s Halloween but we’ve still got a few days left. Even though Halloween is on a Tuesday, she’s got nothing against having the club going up on a Tuesday!
Happy Halloween, y’all! No matter what you dress up as, have fun and be safe!
Since we’re now in the second week of October, and pumpkins and Halloween candy are everywhere, I think it’s safe to say that are definitely in the fall season, even if the weather in Washington, DC hasn’t received the memo yet. Seeing as this is my first “The Tracks I’m Playing” post this season, it makes sense to write about the songs I’m fall-ing for. Here they are!
The Tracks I’m Fall-ing For
Paul Cauthen- “Saddle.” When I first saw Paul Cauthen (on the picture on his album cover) I thought he was Amish, or a mobster, or an Amish mobster (which is totally a thing- Amish Mafia was an actual show on the Discovery Channel which means it must be a real thing.) Come to find out he’s actually from Texas and as far as I know there are no Amish there (though there may be mobsters.) Not that any of this matters, so I’ll quit my mindless rambling. In an article from last September on “10 New Country Artists You Need to Know,” Rolling Stonerecommended Paul Cauthen to people who are fans of Waylon Jennings and seeing as how Waylon is one of my faves, it makes sense that I’m also now a fan of his. In fact, Paul and Cody Jinks (another one of my recent favorites) cover Waylon’s classic “Luckenbach, Texas” here, if you want to take a listen and decide for yourself how Waylon-esque he is.
Chips off the Old Blocks
Shooter Jennings- “Outlaw You.” Aside from having the greatest Fourth of July song of all time, titled, well, “Fourth of July,” I hadn’t really listened to much (or any) Shooter Jennings. Why? Well I’m not really sure, especially considering that his dad, Waylon Jennings, is one of my all-time favorite artists (you may remember me saying this in the paragraph above.) And together with Jessi Colter, his parents are my favorite country couple of all time. It would only make sense that I would also love their son’s music and well, from what I’ve heard so far, I do. “Outlaw You” addresses the current state of country music and how many of these so-called country singers should be outlawed. They wear baseball hats but they couldn’t hit country with a baseball bat and they wear boots but they’re only from their record label’s image group. He ends the song by talking about his dad and his struggles to make it Nashville, referencing two of his records, This Time (1974) and the Wanted! The Outlaws (1976),which I very much appreciated as this is my favorite album. Like if I were stranded on a deserted island and could only have one album to listen to for eternity, it would be this one.
“Hey pretty boy in the baseball hat You couldn’t hit country with a baseball bat Country ain’t just about where you’re at It’s about bein’ true to what’s inside You say you’re an outlaw with your perfect boots That you got from your record label’s image group Sing another man’s song with a big drum loop Listen, son, you ain’t got a clue You can’t buy true, tell you what they should do They should outlaw you”
There is one line in this song that I’m a little confused by: “Those old boys with long hair and braids (Waylon, Willie, and Tompall Glaser, obviously) stayed true to their sound and freed the slaves.” What slaves exactly, Shooter? Maybe I’m missing something here.
Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real- “Find Yourself.” The first time I ever heard a Lukas Nelson song was also the first time I ever saw Lukas Nelson perform. That performance was at the Outlaw Music Festival, which I wrote about here, this past September. Lukas and his band, Promise of the Real, played several songs from their self-titled album which just dropped in August. This song stood out to me from that performance because Lukas had the crowd join him in singing the chorus- “I hope you find yourself before I find somebody else to be my love.” I also just learned that Lady Gaga is the woman singing the backup vocals on this song! I’m a big fan of Lady Gaga (or Mother Monster, if you prefer) so I was stoked to learn that was her in the background. There are several other songs on the album that I really enjoy- “Forget About Georgia,” “Four Letter Word,” and “High Times.” Don’t be fooled by the fact that Lukas Nelson is Willie Nelson’s son because he’s got a sound that’s all his own! The hair is pretty much the same though, just needs some braids!
I’ll be seeing them in Baltimore next month and am excited to actually know the songs that they’ll be singing this time around!
Rodney Crowell, Roseanne Cash, John Paul White- “It Ain’t Over Yet.” I’ve included this song under “Chips Off the Old Blocks” because Roseanne Cash if of course the daughter of Johnny Cash. Chips off the old blocks aren’t always sons, sometimes they’re daughters! Looks like we’ve got the kids of three quarters of the Highwaymen represented this week.
On this award-winning song, Rodney Crowell is joined by his ex-wife Roseanne Cash and one half of The Civil Wars, John Paul White. I found out about this song last month after it won “Song of the Year” at the Americana Music Association Honors and Awards. Everything about this song is beautiful- from the way Rodney sings with so much truth in his voice, to Roseanne Cash and John Paul White adding their voices; from the lyrics, to the melody of Rodney’s guitar and the harmonica that comes in at the end of the song. You don’t win “Song of the Year” by not having these things!
I Keep on Fall-ing…
Ray Wylie Hubbard- “Lucifer and the Fallen Angels.” I can’t find a video for this song but if you go on Spotify (you can find the Beltway Boots Spotify playlist here), you can have a listen to Ray Wylie Hubbard singing about one of his favorite topics- The Devil. I wrote about Ray’s song, “Conversation with the Devil” a few months back in this post. Much like that song, which takes you through a conversation he has with the devil in a dream, in this song he is also conversing with the Lucifer, or Lou, as he’s given permission to call him, and his fallen angels after picking them up on the side of the road. Ray Wylie is heading to Nashville to get a publishing deal and Lou and the fallen angels are heading to Mobile. Along their drive, Lou tells Ray Wylie that nobody is going to want to publish his songs- he might be cool but he’s old. They also stop to pick up some Seagram’s Seven and Lou winds up robbing Nervous Charlie’s Fireworks and All-Night Liquor Store, after which he asks, “how do you think that clerk likes take your sons to work day now?” (This is why I never pick up hitchhikers!) He also tells Ray Wylie about getting thrown out of heaven and delivers the best line in the song, “it’s better to reign in hell than serve in heaven.” You got that right, Lou (if I may)!
This song is off Ray Wylie Hubbard’s latest album, Tell The Devil I’m Getting There As Fast As I Can. As I already said, this man loves singing about the devil.
Aaron Lee Tasjan- “Little Movies.” Just looking at Aaron Lee Tasjan, you might think he’s a bit eccentric with his big sunglasses and sparkly suit (as he wears in this video). This look would not fly in mainstream country but seems to work just right for him in Americana. It’s because of artists like Aaron Lee Tasjan that I now listen to Americana and have really stopped listening to mainstream country. In fact, Rolling Stone featured a story on how he’s breaking the mold in this genre. This same story also discusses how some of the material from his album Silver Tears, which features this song,was compiled while he was micro-dosing LSD. Far be it from me to judge how an artist gets their inspiration, I mean, after all, some great music has been made through the help of drugs- have you ever heard of The Beatles or Fleetwood Mac? I thought so.
Nikki Lane- “Right Time.” I’m hesitant to write that this song has gotten stuck in my head because I don’t think that’s necessarily a sign of a good song. Just because a song is catchy doesn’t mean it’s got substance. In fact, the problem with so many “hit” songs today is that they are only hits because they’re catchy and tend to get stuck in your head, not because the song actually has an important message. Thankfully, while this next lady may get stuck in my head, she’s also got something to say, so I’ve got no qualms about including her here. For example, in this song, she’s saying that “it’s always the right time to do the wrong thing.” Here’s to hoping that Nikki Lane gets stuck in my head again this week…even if she is a bad influence!
Nikki will also be performing with Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real next month and I can’t wait to see her perform!
Amanda Shires- “You Are My Home.” Amanda won “Emerging Artist of the Year” at this year’s Americana Music Association Honors and Awards. And with songs like this, there’s no doubt that she deserved this achievement. When collecting her award, Amanda said, “Thank you to the Americana fans, because, without you, there might be no other place for me.” I’m also thankful for the Americana fans for providing a home to so many wonderful artists like Amanda Shires and her husband, Jason Isbell. These two are becoming one of my favorite couples in music right now though I doubt they’ll ever reach Waylon and Jessi status. Sorry but those are tough boots to fill!
“Your six-one frame My address is your name High ceilings, grand halls Walls are just walls You are my home”
I hope everyone enjoys listening to these songs and fall-ing in love with them like I have.
Currently listening to: John Prine- “Picture Show” featuring Tom Petty. Since many of us are still mourning the loss of Tom Petty, I thought this song made sense for this week. It’s featured on John Prine’s The Missing Years album which was released on Friday as a double LP 180 gram vinyl and features Bruce Springsteen and Bonnie Raitt in addition to Tom Petty.
I usually start these posts with a cheesy pun about Church but this Sunday is different. Given the horrific attack that took place exactly one week ago in Las Vegas at the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival, this week’s “Sundays Are For Church” post is taking a more serious tone. My heart goes out to everyone who was the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival last Sunday and to everyone who lost somebody because of this heinous attack. My heart also goes out to the artists who were part of this festival, especially Jason Aldean and his band members who were performing when the shots began. Despite my changing musical tastes as of late, Jason Aldean will always hold a special place in my heart. I saw him in concert (with Eric Church as one of his openers) back in 2011 and his songs are still on the iPod I’ve had since 2008. (Not that my feelings on Jason Aldean matter- I wouldn’t wish this type of thing on anyone no matter what place they held in my heart!) Jason opened Saturday Night Live last night by saying, “This week we witnessed one of the worst tragedies in American history. Like everyone I’m struggling to understand what happened that night and how to pick up the pieces and start to heal.” He then played Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down,” which I think relayed an important message that Jason, and the country music community, won’t back down to the hatefulness that led to this attack. Well, I won’t back down either!
Two Empty Seats
On Wednesday, October 4th, Eric performed at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, giving a moving speech about the attack in Las Vegas before his performance. Forty-eight hours before the shooting last Sunday, Eric performed at The Route 91 Harvest Music Festival in Las Vegas. He spoke about how the people in that audience were his crowd- they held up their records during “Record Year” and they held up their boots during “These Boots.” During “Springsteen” he even went out into the crowd and shook people’s hands. A place that had brought Eric and his fans so much joy witnessed carnage just 48 hours later. Despite not wanting to perform on Wednesday night, Eric did so anyway, because of a video that someone sent to him of Heather Melton, the wife of Sonny Melton, who died protecting her on Sunday night. The video was Heather’s interview with Anderson Cooper on CNN, in which she is wearing a Church Choir t-shirt, and talking about her husband Sonny. When asked what brought them to Las Vegas, Heather replied that they were there to see Eric Church because he was Sonny’s guy- he was “his guy.” She then mentioned that they were supposed to see Eric that very night at the Grand Ole Opry. Eric then pointed out two empty seats in the audience meant for Heather and Sonny. The reason that Eric showed up to play on Wednesday, despite not wanting to, was because of Heather and Sonny, and all the people that were in that crowd. Eric saw those people, he saw them with their boots in the air, and said “what I saw, that moment in time that was frozen, there’s no amount of bullets that can take it away.”
“Why you and why not me?”
Eric ended his speech by saying, “That night something broke in me, on Sunday night, when that happened, and the only way I’ve ever fixed anything that’s been broken in me is with music.” He then played a song that he wrote for the Las Vegas victims called “Why Not Me.” When tragic events like this happen, we often find ourselves asking questions like “why did this person die?” and “why not me?” It’s those types of questions that this song touches on.
“Why you from Tennessee did life capture, And me from Tennessee get away?”
You can listen to Eric’s speech below along his performance of “Why Not Me” at the Grand Ole Opry.
Last Sunday, this country witnessed its largest mass murder by a firearm- 58 people were killed and nearly 500 were injured. The fact that people were killed and injured at a concert, an activity that many of us participated in, makes me sick! The fact that people are killed in movie theaters, elementary schools, college campuses, nightclubs, etc. because of mass shootings in this country makes me sick! Something needs to be done about gun control in this country. We are way past the point of needing to have a conversation about these types of acts because every time something like this happens we talk and talking gets us nowhere. Actions and real legislation involving gun control and access to guns needs to happen. In this day and age, when we are constantly bombarded with news, it’s easy to forget these types of events as our attention turns to the next big news story. But we have to remember these events, and how we felt hearing about them, because if we keep forgetting them, nothing will ever get done. And sadly, until something gets done, another mass shooting is right around the corner. And as we’ve seen, these things can happen anytime, any place, and to anyone. The people attending the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival were just going to a country music festival, the parents who sent their kids to school at Sandy Hook thought it was going to be a normal school day, and the next mass shooting that happens will also be talked about in this same way. I’m glad to see members of the country music community speaking out about gun control like Roseanne Cash (Roseanne Cash: ‘The NRA Funds Domestic Terrorism’) and Caleb Keeter of the Josh Abbott Band. Caleb was there on Sunday night and spoke out saying, ““I’ve been a proponent of the 2nd amendment my entire life. Until the events of last night. I cannot express how wrong I was.” In a genre that so often glorifies guns, I hope that more country artists speak out like Roseanne and Caleb have.
Currently listening to: Tom Petty- “You Don’t Know How It Feels,” from his album Wildflowers. This week, the world lost one of its most iconic singer-songwriters. Tom Petty influenced musicians across genres, including Eric Church. In a 2012 interview about his most influential albums and songs, Eric named Tom Petty’s Wildflowers, saying ‘”Seriously — the first record I made out to in high school. ‘Nuff said.”
“Let me run with you tonight I’ll take you on a moonlight ride”
Happy first Sunday of fall, y’all! It’s time to go to (Eric) Church!
“Three Chords and The Truth” -Harlan Howard
It’s been said that “country music is three chords and the truth.” That saying probably comes from the fact that country music isn’t afraid to discuss the difficult issues that life throws at us. Sure, all genres deal with heartbreak, loss, and grief, but when it comes to songs about things like cancer and Alzheimer’s, I don’t think any other genre can compare to country music. Since September is World Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, I wanted to use the last “Sundays Are For Church” post of the month to bring awareness to this disease.
Many people don’t know that Eric Church not only writes his own songs, but he’s written songs for other artists as well. He wrote “The World Needs a Drink,” which was recorded by Terri Clark and he also helped to write “All Alright,” which was featured on the The Grohl Sessions, Vol. 1, an album from Zac Brown Band and the legendary Dave Grohl. Another of his songs was just included on William Michael Morgan’s album Vinyl. That song is “I Know Who He Is” and it fits perfectly with this week’s theme.
The Original Chief
While William Michael Morgan might’ve been the artist who got to record this song, Eric actually sang it first. It was unofficially titled “Alzheimer’s” and Eric performed it at the Country Radio Seminar in 2015 (video below). In this song, Eric describes a situation that many people know all too well- visiting a friend or family member who can’t remember you anymore because of their battle with Alzheimer’s. For Eric Church, that person was his maternal grandfather, Rusty, the original Chief. Rusty served as the chief of police in Eric’s hometown of Granite Falls, North Carolina and he’s the man the Chief album is named after (read more about how Eric got this same nickname here.) When Eric was ten years old, his grandfather was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and his experience dealing with this comes through in this song.
This song describes the conversations that one has with doctors when visiting their loved ones suffering from Alzheimer’s. While listening to the well-meaning doctor talking about your loved one’s condition and throwing around medical terms, all you can think about is how happy you are that they’re still around. Sadly, I think many of us can relate to the emotions that Eric is feeling in this song. For me, this song brought back memories of my time working in a retirement home throughout high school and college. In my seven years there, which was largely spent working in assisted living, I saw firsthand what Alzheimer’s and Dementia does to a person. This disease doesn’t care if you’ve got kids, a spouse, or loved ones. Or, as was the the case for Eric, if they’re “your dad, your coach, your friend.” Or “the voice behind ‘boy where the hell you been?'” Just as Eric Church watched his grandfather suffer from this disease, I saw many people’s grandparents also dealing with it. It’s a sad thing to witness up close and personal and anyone who’s ever had to deal with this can understand the words of this song all too well.
“I don’t wanna hear “he’s going downhill,” What about “thank god he’s around still?”
Looking right through me is not at all the way I see him,
I don’t mind at all remembering for him,
He don’t have to get why I adore him,
He don’t have to know me, ’cause I know who he is”
Country music is sometimes described as being depressing, probably because of songs like this. But I don’t think these songs are meant to make you sad but instead they’re to help you realize that you’re not alone in whatever it is you’re going through. I hope this song has helped others to know that they are not alone.
“My Dad, my coach, my friend The voice behind “Boy where the hell you been” The lover of my mamma through thick and thin The best man I’ve ever known All time quarterback when us kids were in a bind Cheek full of Red Man in a duck blind And no offense Doc But if you don’t mind I’d like some time alone”
Hear William Michael Morgan’s version of this song in the video below.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, more than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s and by 2050, this number could be as high as 16 million. For more information on the Alzheimer’s Association and to donate, please click here.
Currently listening to: Glen Campbell- “Rhinestone Cowboy.” Glen lost his life last month to Alzheimer’s. R.I.P. Rhinestone Cowboy!
“Like a rhinestone cowboy Riding out on a horse in a star-spangled rodeo”
This morning, for the first time in my life, I ordered an extra shot in my (venti!) Americano at Starbucks. The reason why? I didn’t get home until almost 1:30am last night after driving home from the Outlaw Music Festival in Camden, New Jersey and I had to drag my butt to work this morning. But was it worth it? You bet!
I had been wanting to go to this concert for weeks (maybe even months) after seeing the lineup. I mean, Eric Church AND Willie Nelson. Plus Sheryl Crow, who I’ve been listening to since the nineties. I’ve also been writing about Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats on the blog lately so figured getting to see them live would be cool as well. And I know a few songs from The Avett Brothers and my friends have told me they’re great live. I figured with this many quality acts in the lineup, I couldn’t go wrong. Despite wanting to go for so long, I actually bought my ticket very last minute, like the day before. I was hoping one of my friends would decide to come along but after many desperate pleas (including on social media), I gave up. And you know what? Going solo was fine (I’ll get into this more at the end of the post.)
Like Father, Like Sons
Particle Kid was the first act at the festival. And of course, since I’m early to everything, I was there before he even went on, which meant I got to watch his entire set, which was only like 30 minutes. He sang some weird songs, which he even admitted to. I was wondering why he was included in an “outlaw” music festival as nothing about him really screamed “outlaw” or even “country.” I later found out, during Willie’s set, that Particle Kid is Willie’s Kid (his son, Micah). When they advertize “Willie Nelson AND Family” that’s the family they’re talking about.
Particle Kid wasn’t the only son of Willie’s performing at the festival as Lukas Nelson was also in the lineup. Once again, I did not realize that he was Willie’s son, though this one should have been a little more obvious from the last name and the amazing locks of hair. Oops. Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real were the second act and they were really good. He even got the crowd (or at least what was there of it at that point) to sing along to “Find Yourself.” Lukas made the crowd laugh by talking about an ex-girlfriend of his named Georgia and how he has to play “Georgia On My Mind” with his dad every night and how that’s a bitch of a situation. That same girl led to him to write the song “[Forget About] Georgia,” which he played right after telling that story. He even played guitar with his teeth at one point- I didn’t even know that was possible! This kid isn’t just riding on his dad’s name- he’s a talent in his own right with a powerful voice and great guitar playing skills. I was impressed!
Both Micah and Lukas joined Willie on stage during his set at the end of the night and played with him throughout its entirety. I was wondering why they called it “Willie Nelson and Family.” Well now I know.
Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats Sweating it Out in the Day
I’ve written about Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats on this blog a couple of times now. Though I don’t consider them country, and they’re definitely not outlaws, I think they have a unique sound and deserve recognition. The variety of instruments that the Night Sweats use is impressive in and of itself. In a world where music is so often done on a soundboard and is so overproduced, it’s nice to see musicians playing actual instruments, like the saxophone. I was happy that they played the three songs of theirs that I really like- “Look It Here,” “I Need Never Get Old,” and “S.O.B.” – the latter being a big hit with the crowd, myself included.
Brothers in the City of Brotherly Love
Micah and Lukas weren’t the only brothers who got to perform together at the Outlaw Music Festival. Brothers Scott and Seth Avett a.k.a The Avett Brothers were next in the lineup, along with bandmates Bob Crawford and Joe Kwon on cello. They started off by singing “Clay Pigeons” – a Blaze Foley song that I recognized from the John Prine cover. That wasn’t the only classic country song they covered as they also did George Jones’ (and apparently also The Grateful Dead’s?) “The Race Is On,” which was also covered by Sawyer Brown in 1989 and is the version I’m most familiar with. I actually enjoyed watching them- I think both of the brothers are great singers and they even sang my favorite song of theirs, “Live and Die.” I was, however, a little disappointed that they didn’t sing “I and Love and You,” which is probably their most popular song. I think the crowd at the Outlaw Music Festival would’ve been way more receptive of that song than the one they did where they rapped.
If a Sheryl Crow Concert Makes You Happy, It Can’t Be That Bad
In her set, Sheryl Crow sang some of her new stuff that the crowd and myself were unfamiliar with. But she didn’t disappoint because she still did all of her classics. I’m talking about “Strong Enough,” “If It Makes You Happy,” “My Favorite Mistake,” and “All I Wanna Do.” You remember those songs from the radio back in the ’90s, right? I know I sure do. In fact, she was probably the artist there that I have my oldest memory of. I’m not sure what my first Willie memory is but my I can remember Sheryl Crow’s music from when I was a kid. After twenty years of listening to her, it was pretty cool to see her live. Including acts like Sheryl Crow in the festival meant that I got to see people that I probably wouldn’t have paid to see on their own.
Lukas Nelson made another appearance during Sheryl’s set, coming out to help her play “Midnight Rider” by The Allman Brothers Band. Lukas definitely has the voice to sing that song!
Sundays Are For Church
I bet you guys thought you’d never see it but I actually went to Church on a Sunday!
This was my seventh time seeing Eric Church in concert and my first time seeing him perform an entire set acoustic style. It was just Eric and some guitars- no Joanna, Craig, Jeff, Jeff #2, Driver, or Lee. Just Eric. He started off his set with “Mistress Named Music”- THE SAME VERSION THAT HE DID AT RED ROCKS! (Sorry for yelling!) A.K.A. the “Mistress Named Music-Red Rocks Medley” that I wrote about here complete with Bob Seger, Loggins and Messina, Little Feat, Billy Joel, and George Strait worked into the middle of it. Getting to witness that was worth the ticket price, the price to park, the gas, the drive, and the overpriced food and drinks alone!
Since Camden, NJ is practically Philly, he did Bruce Springsteen’s “Streets of Philadelphia” before jumping into “Springsteen.” I had hoped that he would play this song since we were in Philly and since he always plays a song from The Boss before “Springsteen.” Well, my wish came true!
I would also like to point out, especially for people who think I’m an obsessed Eric Church fan, that I probably saw some of the biggest Eric Church fans ever at the show last night. One woman had his face (from the Chief album cover) tattooed on her back shoulder. If there were a competition for the craziest thing a fan has done, I think getting a tattoo of someone’s face is a good contender for winning it. I can understand getting song lyrics, which I think this woman also had, but someone’s face is on another level. There were also people there who had seen him the night before in Alabama and came all the way to Philly to see him again. According to their sign, they saw him three nights in a row, so Tuscaloosa and Orange Beach, Alabama (or as Eric likes to call it LA- Lower Alabama.) I might’ve driven from Falls Church, VA to Camden, NJ but the people who drove from LA (remember, that’s Lower Alabama) to Camden have definitely got me beat!
Despite it being an acoustic performance, Eric made sure to include all of the Church Choir’s favorite things about his live shows into last night’s performance (many of which I wrote about in my post, “A View from the Church Pew.”) People held up their boots during “These Boots,” he took shots of Jack from the mini bottles that fans brought for him after singing “Jack Daniels,” and he messed up his own songs.
I will say that I was disappointed that he didn’t sing “Leave My Willie Alone.” This would have been the perfect opportunity for it! At least he sang “Record Year,” which references the Red Headed Stranger.
Having a Willie Good Time
Excuse me while I go put a checkmark in the box beside Willie Nelson‘s name on my country concerts bucket list. If you want to see a musical legend, and I’m not just talking about a legend in country music, but a legend in all genres of music, then look no further than Willie Nelson.
For an eighty-four year old, Willie has still got it. As he sings in “Still Not Dead“:
“I run up and down the road and makin’ music as I go They say my pace would kill a normal man But I’ve never been accused of bein’ normal anyway And I woke up still not dead again today”
You got that right, Willie!
As I previously mentioned, his sons Micah and Lukas also joined him on stage for his set, playing guitar and other instruments and singing. Since this was a “Willie Nelson and Family” affair, Bobbie Nelson, who Willie calls “Little Sister” also joined in on piano. While he may call her “Little Sister,” she’s actually two years older than him and yes, she’s biological sister. I guess “Big Sister” just doesn’t have the same ring? Bobbie was also recently inducted into the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame. (Congratulations, Bobbie!) One thing I would like to say is that the Nelson family has got some good genetics when it comes to hair!
There’s still one other family member who was up on that stage with Willie that I haven’t mentioned yet and that’s Trigger. Trigger is Willie’s guitar that he’s had since 1969. As Willie says, “Trigger’s like me, old and beat-up.” I don’t know anything about guitars but this one is a Martin N-20 acoustic and if it’s the one Willie has been using for the past 48 years, then it must be a good one. He’s named after Roy Rogers’ horse Trigger because as Willie says, “it’s kind of my horse.” One time, when Willie’s house caught on fire, he ran inside and two saved things: a pound of weed and Trigger. If you wanna learn more about good ole Trigger, there’s a Rolling Stone exclusive documentary about him here.
At the very end of Willie’s set, The Avett Brothers and Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats joined him on stage. They got the whole pavilion to join them in singing “I’ll Fly Away.” If I tell people that I got to sing with Willie Nelson it wouldn’t be a lie!
A poor quality video of Willie singing part of “Always On My Mind” is below. Look at how close I was!
Let’s Get Political (sung to the tune of Olivia Newton John’s “Physical”)
Maybe it’s the times we live in but I feel like that kid in the “The Sixth Sense” these days except I see political messages. That’s not a complaint because I think it’s important for artists to speak out and use their microphones for good. The first political message that stood out to me at the festival was in The Avett Brothers’ “Head Full of Doubt/Road Full Of Promise,” especially in the following lines:
“There’s a darkness upon me that’s flooded in light In the fine print they tell me what’s wrong and what’s right And it comes in black and it comes in white And I’m frightened by those that don’t see it
When nothing is owed or deserved or expected And your life doesn’t change by the man that’s elected If you’re loved by someone, you’re never rejected Decide what to be and go be it”
It’s not just the lyrics, as they were definitely not written for the Orangutan in Office, since the song is from 2009 but it was the hand motions that Seth made when he sang that line about the man that’s elected. You know the hand gesture someone makes to indicate that someone talks too much where flap your four fingers against your thumb. Maybe it’s just me but I saw this as a reference to Trump since the man does talk way too much.
Not only that but Willie Nelson’s “Living in the Promiseland,” which he sang with The Avett Brothers and Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats, has some pretty relevant lyrics to the political times we have found ourselves in (see the lyrics below). The music video for this song starts off with an old news story in black and white about refugees, victims of Nazi persecution, arriving from Europe by boat. As the video points out, many of the children are orphans. As Willie starts to sing, with an American flag bandana on his head of course, images of a diverse array of Americans appear throughout the video. Including this song on the setlist each night of the Outlaw Music Festival seems like a way of getting a message out about refugees and immigrants. Especially when you take into consideration Willie’s own politics. He spoke about this song in an interview from January of this year saying, “I recorded a song called ‘Living in the Promiseland.’…It’s about welcoming everyone: ‘Living in the promiseland, our dreams are made of steel. The prayer of every man is to know how freedom feels. Bring us your foreign songs, we will sing along. …’ Come on, America. We love you. We’ll help you. We’ll find a spot for you.” And when asked, “so you’re not for building walls?” Willie responded with “Fuck no.” I won’t get too much more into politics now since this is a concert review so I’ll save my thoughts on this subject for a another time.
“Give us your tired and weak And we will make them strong Bring us your foreign songs And we will sing along
Leave us your broken dreams We’ll give them time to mend There’s still a lot of love Living in the Promiseland”
Also, whatever happened to the “Willie Nelson for President” campaign? That’s a serious question. If anyone knows what the status of this is, please let me know.
With so many great artists, and merchandise available for each of them, my poor wallet definitely took a hit. I got an Eric Church t-shirt that I had been thinking about for a while and since I know for a fact that it’s not for sale on his website, I decided to go for it. It’s the “Eric Fucking Church” t-shirt. Yes, I realize this is the second shirt I’ve bought in the past few weeks that has the f-word on it (the other one being my “Who The Fuck Is Sturgill Simpson?” t-shirt). No, I do not care. Nor do I give a fuck. I also got a Willie Nelson t-shirt since I couldn’t not. A poster for the show and an Eric Church koozy also made the (figurative) shopping cart.
What was unique about this experience was that it was the first concert I’ve ever done solo. And I didn’t just do a concert solo, I did a whole daylong festival solo. Plus the drive to and from Philly all by my lonesome. And you know what? It was actually kinda fun. Thankfully I sat next to some cool people and they obviously had great taste in music so we had a lot to talk about. I walked away from the festival having learned an important lesson- don’t be afraid to do things by yourself. In fact, every once in a while, do something like going to a concert alone. If you really wanna see a performance, seeing it alone won’t make it any less enjoyable. And it’s good to spend time alone for personal development. It also forces you to meet new people.
The Pit or Bust
This was also my first time sitting in The Pit. Like I’ve never been that close to a stage at a major concert in my life. Sure, I might’ve paid a pretty penny for my seat but if you think about how much a pit seat would be to see each of those artists separately, it was a bargain! After getting to see this show up close and personal, I don’t know if I can go back to nosebleed seats.
If you guys ever get a chance to attend an Outlaw Music Festival, I highly recommend it. Also, take me with you! Or you can just do like I did and go alone. Either way you’ll have a Willie great time!
AND if you’re interested, Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real will be coming to the DMV area in November, performing at Rams Head Live in Baltimore on Wednesday, November 15th. Get your tickets here.
Currently listening to: Waylon Jennings- “Ladies Love Outlaws.” Oh yes, they do! This song is also the inspiration behind this post’s title, if you were wondering.
Apparently going to bed the night before a Sturgill Simpson concert is more exciting than going to bed on Christmas Eve. After counting down the days until I get to see him in concert for what seems like forever, the day has finally arrived! I’ll be seeing “The Sturge” in concert tonight at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Maryland and wanted to do a post on the man himself for the occasion. I’m not sure if there’s anything I can say about him that hasn’t already been said. As Jason Isbell said (in an article that accurately called Sturgill a Country Philosopher), “Sturgill writes and sings songs exactly as a man named Sturgill should. He’s the genuine article, and his work reminds me of the country music I fell in love with as a kid: ornery, smart, and soulful.” And according to some commenters on YouTube, “Sturgill Simpson might be the greatest thing that ever happened to country music” and “goddamned philosopher ole Sturg is.” (Well said!) These comments pretty much describe what I think about “ole Sturg” so I won’t spend too much time talking about him as I would rather talk about his songs and let the music speak for itself. I’ve compiled a list of my top 10 favorite Sturgill Simpson songs below so that you can see for yourself what a great songwriter and singer this man is. But before I begin, I want to congratulate “The Sturge” on winning Album of the Year for A Sailor’s Guide to Earth at the Americana Honors and Awards this week. This is in addition to his Grammy win from earlier this year for “Best Country Album.”
The Sturge’s Top Ten
9 and 10. In his song “Life Ain’t Fair and the World is Mean,” from his first album High Top Mountain, Sturgill sang about hitting the road and finding the end of that long white line. Well, on his next album, Metamodern Sounds in Country Music, he followed through, releasing a song about doing just that in “Long White Line.” I enjoy the consistency found in Sturgill’s music and how certain themes flow from one album to the next, this being an example of that.
The former song also contains some great life advice because life AIN’T fair and the world IS mean!
“You ain’t gotta read between the lines you just gotta turn the page”
I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again- I’m not sure what a metamodern sound in country music is. Whatever that sound may be though, I’m totally into it, as it’s probably the sound that describes “Voices” and all of the other songs on Metamodern Sounds in Country Music. How many of us can relate to wanting the voices inside our head to go away? After all, as Sturgill says, “they ain’t got much to say.” As will be evident in the songs mentioned below, Sturgill is an incredible lyricist and “Voices” is a great example of where this talent shines through.
“I hear voices all around me in society’s depression Over and over they recite their first impression The rivers are all crying but the ocean cannot speak Until her waters crash into uncharted shores so dark and bleak”
This might be Sturgill’s best known song as it’s his only song I’ve ever heard playing in public. To fully understand this song you might actually need to be strung out on drugs since this is what the song is about (he said so himself!) With that being said, I don’t fully understand what he’s singing about, but the Religion Major in me loves all of the religious references found in this song- from Jesus playing with flames in a lake of fire to Buddha showing him a glowing light within. Learning about the infinite regress problem of “turtles all the way down” in cosmology might also help you understand this song but I still say you need to be on drugs.
If you need a good laugh, watch minute 3:04 of his NPR Tiny Desk Concert as he winks after performing this song. I’m hoping he does that same wink at the concert tonight!
“So don’t waste your mind on nursery rhymes Or fairy tales of blood and wine It’s turtles all the way down the line”
Are y’all ready for a political song? Well Sturgill has got ya covered! He starts off the song by listing the countries of Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, and North Korea and asking how many more people are we going to send. He talks about sending our sons and daughters off to die for oil and to control heroin. His criticism doesn’t stop with the government though as the whole of society is also targeted in this song. He criticizes the average citizen saying, “nobody’s looking up to care about a drone, all too busy looking down at our phone.” I love that Sturgill isn’t afraid to sing about controversial topics like the ones found in this song. If there was ever an artist who was going to bring about a country music revolution, it would be this man and it would be because of songs like this.
This is the first song that really stood out to me on A Sailor’s Guide to Earth. Not only did the lyrics grab my attention but so too did the wide variety of instruments found in this song like trumpets, trombones, and even bagpipes!
A hint of fatherly advice also comes through in this song as he sings, “well son I hope you don’t grow up believing that you’ve got to be a puppet to be a man.” Well said, Sturgill! (More about the fatherly advice found in this album below.)
“Wearing that Kim Jong-il hat While your grandma’s selling pills stat Meanwhile, I’m wearing my ‘can’t pay my fucking bills’ hat”
If you’ve ever wondered what life in the Navy would be like, just listen to this song. Sturgill’s speaking from experience in this song as he spent some time in the Navy himself after high school, getting some salt in his veins. He describes his military years as “thrilling and monotonous.” The more thrilling aspects included partying in Tokyo, which he describes as “out of control with women, drinking and fighting.” His time as a sailor is not only seen in this song but rather throughout the entire album (hence the title A Sailor’s Guide to Earth), which was written “from the perspective of a sailor going to sea and not knowing if he’s ever coming home.” This is a theme found in Sturgill’s family as his grandfather served in the Army and was in the South Pacific during World War II. He had written a goodbye letter to Sturgill’s grandmother and his newborn son while overseas as he thought he was going to die (he did wind up making it back home- five years later!)
It’s the last line in this song that’s my favorite and the cherry on top of a song that’s already great throughout- “but flying high beats dying for lies in a politician’s war.” Once again, ladies and gentlemen, here’s Sturgill singing about things that not a lot of other country artists will. I salute you, Sailor Sturgill!
This song will also give you a great Asian geography lesson!
“When I hit the ground running in Tokyo From Kawasaki to Ebisu Yokosuka, Yokohama, and Shinjuku Shibuya, Ropongi, and Harajuku Aw, from Pusan and Ko Chang, Pattaya to Phuket From Singapore to Kuala Lumpur Seen damn near the whole damn world From the inside of a bar”
Many a country song has been written about being a dad. Take “There Goes My Life” by Kenny Chesney and “He Didn’t Have to Be,” a song about stepdads by Brad Paisley (which I wrote about for Father’s Day), for example. While there may be a plethora of great dad songs already out there, I think this song takes the cake. After all, the whole album A Sailor’s Guide to Earth is about Sturgill becoming a father, being described as a “musical letter to his wife and kid.” Sturgill says, “I also wanted him [his son] to know that it’s very important to me that he doesn’t have to grow up and be this numb, callous person to feel like he’s a man.” This hope for this son comes through in this song, especially in lines like “I’ve been told you measure a man by how much he loves.” If Sturgill’s sons (since writing this album, he’s had another one) take the lessons from this album and apply them to their lives I’m sure they’ll grow up to be upstanding men.
The strings and horns in this song are also on point! Country music does not use enough horns, in my opinion. Thank you Sturgill for giving us horns (and great music!)
“I’ve been told you measure a man By how much he loves When I hold you I treasure each moment I spend On this earth, under heaven above”
Some people use music as a form of therapy and with songs like this it’s easy to see why. If there’s ever been anything you needed to let go of, this song will speak to you. It’s another one of Sturgill’s metamodern songs and contains references to Buddhism like transmigration and the bardo or “intermediate state.” This article can explain the concept of “bardo” a lot better than I can but to put it simply, “bardo refers to that state in which we have lost our old reality and it is no longer available to us.” The idea of letting go is important in the bardo, and as the same article also states, “when we have to let go, at times of great loss or when we depart from this body, then something else becomes possible. This is what emerges in the bardo—presence as the ground of being.” My background is not in Buddhism so the concept of the bardo is brand new to me, however, hearing Sturgill sing about this has made me want to learn more about it. A great songwriter will introduce you to new ideas and ways of thinking and that’s exactly what Sturgill does in this song.
Religion major nerd alert on full effect again!
“Am I dreaming? Am I dying? Either way I don’t mind at all Oh, it feels so good you just can’t help but crying
Oh, you have to let go so the soul may fall”
“They call me King Turd up here on Shit Mountain but if you want it you can have the crown”
Despite all the great lyrics discussed above, I still say that this is the best line in any of his songs. In “You Can Have the Crown,” he sings about the struggles of being a songwriter, and “trying to write a song that’ll pay the bills.” If only he could just get himself a record deal he wouldn’t have to rob a bank (kinda extreme, right?) This song is off his first album High Top Mountain and I think that now, with three stellar albums under his belt, it’s safe to say that he’s gotten over his struggle and written a good song or twenty.
I wonder if he ever figured out what rhymes with Bronco….
“Well, I been spending all my money on weed n’ pills Trying to write a song that’ll pay the bills But it ain’t came yet so I guess I’ll have to rob a bank
I guess it could be worse it ain’t that bad At least I ain’t sitting in old Baghdad in the middle of the hot damn desert sitting in a tank”
Coming in at number one is “Water in a Well” off of High Top Mountain. Before performing this song on the NPR Tiny Desk Concert, he said that this one was for the ladies, then he later corrected himself and said they’re all for the ladies. On behalf of us ladies, we say thank you!
“Water in a Well” is a song about moving on after a love has ended but articulated and sung about in a way that only Sturgill can. When you find your love drying up like water in a well just put this song on and let Sturgill’s voice wash over you. I could write more about why I love this song or you could just listen to it for yourself and try to figure out why. Seeing as how I’ve included the video below, I think I’m gonna leave this one up to you!
“Lord knows I’ve tried to move on And get you out of my mind You find your way in to all of my songs Every memory I manage to find Someday if I’m standing on some big old stage And you’re down in the crowd Trying to tell your friends I used to know him when But in your heart you’ll know it ain’t true somehow Trying like hell but it’s too soon to tell If our love has all dried up like water in a well”
Here’s to hoping Sturgill plays all these songs in concert tonight! Who knows? Maybe I’ll find some new favorite songs after the night is over. Also, if you’re at the concert, look for me! I’ll be the girl wearing the “Who the Fuck is Sturgill Simpson” t-shirt!
Currently listening to: Willie Nelson- “I’d Have to Be Crazy.” Sturgill covers a version of this song on High Top Mountain and does a damn good job!