Saturday, July 26, 2008

BLOODY MARY MORNING

One of my favorite Willie Nelson songs is Bloody Mary Morning from his 1974 release Phases and Stages. I originally got turned on to this tune by Johnny T.L. Jones III, who is quite a country music aficionado.

 As many of you know, Phase and Stages is Nelson's concept album about the end of a (his?) marriage. Recorded at Muscle Shoals Studio under the direction of the great Jerry Wexler (who I met once at The Stephen Talkhouse in Amagansett, NY... but that's a story for a different post), Phases and Stages is unusual in that one side of the record is written from the man's point of view and the other side from the woman's. Bloody Mary Morning kicks off side two with a Deliverance on steroids sound from the band and Willie's great lyrics:

Well it's a bloody mary morning
Baby left me without warning sometime in the night
And I'm flying down to Houston forgetting her the nature of my flight
As we taxi toward the runway the smog and haze reminding me of how I feel
Just a country boy who's learning that the pitfalls of the city are extremely real
All the night life and the parties temptation the order of the day
Well It's a bloody mary morning cause I'm leaving baby somewhere in LA
Well it's a bloody mary morning...

Well our golden jet is airborne flight fifty cuts a path across the morning sky
And a voice comes on the speaker reassuring us flight fifty is the way to fly
Now a hostess takes our order coffee tea or something stronger to start off the day
And it's a bloody mary morning cause I'm leaving baby somewhere in LA
Well it's a bloody mary morning....
Well I'm flying down to Houston with forgetting her the nature of my flight


I love the inverse wording of the line: "Well I'm flying down to Houston with forgetting her the nature of my flight". A great song from a great album. If you don't have Phases and Stages, you should pick it up. Available at Amazon and on iTunes.


Thursday, July 24, 2008

HELLO DOLLY

People who own or live on ranches in South Texas tend to be a little out of step with people in the rest of the country. It is still a lot less civilized in this part of the world. That almost mandatory "Politically Correct" BullSh**t hasn't taken hold around here. Blame it on living in the brush country, the Mexican food, or the beer. We are different.


I am thinking about this because for the last two days I have been praying for Hurricane/Tropical Storm Dolly to come straight to Hebbronville. Is it normal to want a giant storm to go right over your ranch house? In South Texas it sure is, because it is all about the rain. Getting 10-15 inches of rain this time of year is like having hundred dollar bills falling from the sky. The grass will grow tall, the tanks will be full, the cows will get fat, and there will be a covey of quail under every mesquite tree this winter.

Do I care if the roof blew off the lab kennels and the shed is now on the other side of the railroad tracks? Not a bit. All I can think about is this wonderful rain and all the good it will do for the country and the wildlife. It's a beautiful thing.

Hunters, you better start making your plans. It is going to be a great season.

FYI: We have gotten about 12 inches and it is still raining.

Monday, July 21, 2008

DAN PENN

I first became aware of the song writing of Dan Penn through the work of James Carr. (See my post on Carr from June 2) Penn wrote The Dark End of the Street, which was Carr's biggest selling single. It is a great song. After hearing it, I wanted to learn more about Dan Penn. 

Dan Penn grew up in Vernon, Alabama and became interested in music and song writing at an early age. He wrote I'm Your Puppet, which was a charted hit for James and Bobby Purify in 1966. He moved to Memphis the same year and began writing for Press Publishing and working with Chip Morman at American Studio. They wrote Dark Side of the Street together.

 Not long afterward, Jerry Wexler brought an unknown Aretha Franklin to Memphis and Dan and Chip wrote Do Right Woman, Do Right Man for her 1967 breakout album I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You. In 1967, Penn produced The Letter for the Box Tops and wrote their hit, Cry Like A Baby with Spooner Oldham. He also wrote You Left the Water Running for Otis Redding.

Although known for his song writing, Penn may be one of the best white soul singers you have never heard of. Some say that his demos were actually better than the versions by some of the great soul singers of all time. This is a big statement, but his album, Do Right Man supports the idea. It is one you need to own and is available from iTunes. At the least, you need to have these Dan Penn songs on your playlist:

  1. The Dark End of the Street
  2. Do Right Woman, Do Right Man
  3. I'm Your Puppet
  4. Like Pouring Water on a Drowning Man
  5. Cry Like a Man
  6. You Left the Water Running
  7. It Tears Me Up

Monday, July 14, 2008

RAIN IN SOUTH TEXAS













We finally got a good rain in South Texas. Between July 5th and 8th, we received over 6 inches at our headquarters. This is our first significant rain since last September.  It came at a great time for the quail. Not only does it help the young birds we have on the ground, it will kick off another hatch. 


We have now observed young quail of two different ages. Some coveys appeared to have birds that are 5 to 6 weeks old. Others have birds that are only 2 weeks old.

 Although it has been very dry, we have a lot of breeding stock from last year. I think we are going to have a good season, particularly if we can get a little more rain this summer. I am starting to get excited about the season. Hope to see you in Hebbronville.

DAVE ALVIN

Although I was familiar with the music of the Blasters a long time ago, I only became aware of the solo work of Dave Alvin within the last few years. My initial interest in his song writing came from listening to the cover of his best song, Fourth Of July, on Robert Earl Keen's album Picnic. Robert has a real knack for picking great songs to cover on his albums. When you write as well as Robert, you don't need any filler on your records. It is a good reason to take notice of any song he chooses to cover. (His versions of the McMurtry tunes Out Here in the Middle and Levelland  are other good examples )

Fourth of July is a memorable song. The moody, sad setting is portrayed by Alvin's strong singing and nice work from the band. I love these lyrics:


   
 She's waiting for me when I get home from work
But things just ain't the same
She turns out the lights and cries in the dark
Won't answer when I call her name

On the stairs I smoke a cigarette alone
The Mexican kids are shooting fireworks below
Hey baby, it's the Fourth of July
Hey baby, it's the Fourth of July

She gives me her check when I want her lips
And I don't have the strength to go
On the lost side of town in a dark apartment
We gave up trying a long time ago

What ever happened, I apologize
So dry your tears and baby walk outside
It's the Fourth of July



Intrigued by that song, I bought the King of California. It is a fine CD. Filled with well written songs and great playing, I would recommend it to anyone who likes good roots music. It is as good as it gets.

Essential Dave Alvin releases include The King of California and West of the West, which is an CD of covers. A Dave Alvin iTunes playlist should include:
  1. Fourth of July
  2. Nine Volt Heart
  3. Every Night About This Time
  4. Blue Wing
  5. Border Radio
  6. King of California
  7. Abilene
  8. Little Honey
  9. Ashgrove
  10. Kern River (Merle Haggard)
  11. Sonora's Death Row (Kevin Farrell)

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Texas Parks and Wildlife and Dove Season













The early dove season in the brush country of Jim Hogg and Brooks Counties has always fit like a badly made boot. When the season starts in the South Zone, unless you are shooting over a cultivated field, all you have is a few native birds hanging round each windmill or tank. Once the first shot is fired, off go the birds to the next water hole. Your hunt is over. This is the way it is every season.

Every year in late October, after the cold fronts start rolling down from the middle of the country, there is an abundance of big fat northern dove in South Texas. Now it is possible to have some very good shooting. Unfortunately, the early season ends within two or three weeks. Not very good timing for the hunters.

For years, I have been lobbying for a longer dove season in November. Why not keep the season open until the end of Thanksgiving weekend? There are several good reasons to do it. First, there would be more hunting days when the birds are actually in South Texas. Second, it would take some of the pressure off the quail for the first month of that season. If people are concerned about declining quail numbers, this would certainly be a help.

All of a sudden, Texas Parks and Wildlife has a new proposal for the coming season. They want to move a week from November to the late season in January. This doesn't make any sense for many reasons. Don't let them take away some of our best November dove shooting days. If you agree with me, please contact someone at Texas Parks and Wildlife. We need to make them understand this is not a good idea.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

LONG BLACK VEIL

In August of 1968, Johnny "Guitar Johnny" Nicholas took me to Roberts Records in New London, CT to buy blues albums. I had become a big Dylan fan about two years before, so I was probably adding to my Dylan collection as well. It is amazing to remember now that buying records in those days was such a process.


At the time, I was completely taken by Bob Dylan. During the previous cold winter while incarcerated in Pottstown, PA, I had spent most of my free time listening to the early Dylan albums on headphones at the school library. John Wesley Harding came out that winter and I played the grooves off my copy.

Music From Big Pink had just been released in July. When we saw it at Roberts, Johnny suggested that I give it a try. He knew that the musicians in The Band had backed Dylan a few years earlier. That fact along with the weird Dylan painting on the cover was enough of a reason to bring the album home. Within a few spins, I knew it was a very special record. I became a huge fan of The Band and remain one to this day. (I was lucky to see them live twice in the next two years----but that's a story for another Blog entry.)

Among the Dylan and Band originals on the album was a cover of Long Black Veil. Although I didn't know anything about the song at the time and was initially more interested in the Dylan compositions on the album, it is a song that I have now loved for almost 40 years. Written by Danny Dill and Marijohn Wilkin, it was first recorded by Lefty Frizzell. In 1959, his version reached #6 on the country charts. Since then, it has been recorded by The Band, Johnny Cash, Joan Baez, The Birds, Emmylou Harris, and Bruce Springsteen among others.

The song is the story of a man who was hanged for a murder he did not commit because his alibi would have revealed his affair with his best friend's wife. Written from the point of view of the dead man, it has all the elements of a perfect country song. It is simple in lyric and story, but also very sad and moving because of this point of view. Consider this verse:

The scaffold was high and eternity near
She stood in the crowd and shed not a tear
But sometimes at night when the cold winds moan
In a long black veil she cries over my bones

The Band's version of this song is incredible. Rick Danko's haunting lead vocal mixes with Hudson's funeral home organ parts to capture the essence of the song. It is an essential country song that you should have on your playlist.