Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Quail Season 2011-2012

 It is no secret that South Texas is in the middle of one of the worst quail seasons in a long time. The quail numbers at the ranch are the lowest we have recorded in 20 years. For this reason, we have done very little quail shooting. 

Many ranches and camps have shut down for the season or reduced their hunting significantly. It is a good example of hunters self-regulating their season to fit the conditions. Over the years, this is very common in South Texas. Most quail hunters don't need anyone in Austin to tell them to do the right thing.

There is a good explanation for the low quail numbers in South Texas. It is a direct result of La Nina and the record drought and heat in Texas during the last year. A large part of Jim Hogg County had 7 inches of rain in 2011 which is less than 40% of the average rainfall. Even the best range and quail management can not overcome that lack of rain.

Any bad season gives the critics and experts a chance to express their opinions. Recently, Mike Leggett, who writes an outdoor column for the Austin American Statesman, called for a multi-year ban on quail hunting. Here is an except from that article:
"I spent a miserable afternoon last week trying to hunt quail in a driving rain at Hidden Lakes, near Lake Fork Reservoir east of Dallas. 
The reality of the situation is this: If you're going to shoot a quail this year, you're probably going to have to do it at some kind of shooting resort. 
If you don't want to do that — I'm serious — put the guns in the safe and the dogs on Craigslist and move on. 
Quail are done. 
Blame the weather, land fragmentation, coastal bermuda, aflatoxin in deer corn, drought, fire ants or pesticides. It doesn't really matter, because quail, bless their little hearts, are hurting, down so low they may never get up. 
Texas Parks and Wildlife biologists know it, and they plan to suggest to the commission that it shorten the season by about a month and set up an eastern hunting zone with more restrictive limits. 
It's not enough. My own modest proposal: Close the season. No quail hunting in Texas for at least a year, if not two or even three. Give nature a chance to get back into a rainy cycle — and for the tiny numbers of surviving quail to repopulate where they can. 
I know. I can hear the complaints now. An overreaction. But these are hard times. 
Quail numbers are at an all-time low. Quail hunter numbers are at an all-time low. If that doesn't call for drastic measures to interrupt the slide into oblivion, what would?"

Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but Mike is taking it a little too far. In the first place, to address the situation in terms of the entire state of Texas makes no sense. Texas is a big place and South Texas is very different than most other parts of the state. There has been no overall decline in the bird population in the Hebbronville-Falfurrias area. In fact, we recorded the best quail numbers in 30 years during the 2004-2005 season.  Ranches in this area have been managing their quail for decades with great success. We don't need any help or suggestions like that.

 Many of these ranches can afford to manage for quail because of the income that comes from hunters and hunting leases. Take this income away for multiple years and you will see a negative effect on the habitat and the quail population.

More importantly, local economy depends on the annual boost that comes from quail hunters. Jobs at hunting camps would be reduced, as well as revenue at motels, gas stations, convience stores and Frank's Cafe. Make the hunters stay home for a few years and it will not be a pretty picture in many of our small towns.

I know Mike is worried about the decline of quail in many parts of Texas and I share his concern. I don't think he needs to worry about South Texas. With a little rain, things are going to be fine.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

January 20,1968: Bob Returns

When Bob Dylan played at the Tribute to Woody Guthrie on January 20, 1968, he had been off the stage for almost two years. As it has been well documented, after the Tour 66 and his infamous motorcycle accident(?), Bob retired to Woodstock to be with his family and recuperate from the stress of his fame and the world tour.

 When not playing family man, he played and recorded music with the future members of The Band at a house called "Big Pink" near Woodstock. These songs later became known as the Basement Tapes. He also ventured once to Nashville to record John Wesley Harding which was released a month before the show.

When he took the stage on that cold January afternoon at Carnegie Hall in New York City, it was the first look at another new Bob. This one was the Country Bob variety with a wispy beard, short hair and a plain suit. Gone was Electric Bob with the houndstooth suit, big hair and shades. Little did we know how many new Bobs were to come.

Bob and The Band were on their game that day. The set list included three Guthrie classics: I Ain't Got No Home, Dear Mrs Roosevelt, and Grand Coulee Dam. Each song was played to perfection. If Bob or The Band was nervous, it didn't show.

 Although the audience didn't know it at the time, the sound that day reflected what had been going on in the basement of Big Pink. When the Basement Tapes leaked out, The Band released Music From Big Pink later that year and Bob released Nashville Skyline the next year, music fans everywhere got a taste of what had been happening in Woodstock over those past 18 months. This new sound was very influential to the course of modern music for the years to come.

I have been reading Outlaw Blues by Jonathan Taplin over the last few days which reminded me of this anniversary. As a long time book collector, I have been resisting the iBook concept. In fact, I had never read one. Outlaw Blues is only available in this form, so I had no choice. I have to report, it wasn't that bad. Taplin was there for many of the most interesting musical events of that era, so the book makes great reading.

It is hard to believe that it has been 44 years since that show. Bob is still on the road and I am still listening to his music. I am glad we are both still here.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Let's Get It On by Marvin Gaye

Marvin Gaye's follow up to his very successful and ground breaking album What's Going On was the sexually charged  Let's Get It On. It was a record that was just as forward thinking as his previous one, but in a different way. Instead of taking on the problems of the world, Gaye turned his attention to the interaction between men and women and once again created a landmark album. No record has even covered the subject with better lyrics or music. From the opening sensual notes of Let's Get It On, which sold a million copies as a single at the time, he set a new standard for sexual ballads.

In the fall of 1973 when this album was released, the Floyd's Hotel staff was turned on to this album by the great Buddy Wolf. The Don, as he was know in the day, was a little rougher cut than most of the hotel staff. He added many things to hotel culture including his great appreciation and knowledge of soul music. Buddy swore by this album as a part of his seduction process, calling it the best sound track for a night of love ever recorded. After a few spins, we all agreed. The hotel staff might not have known a lot about the language of love, but we did know good music when we heard it.

Almost 40 years later, Let's Get It On is still the gold standard because of it's seductive sound, lyrics and soulful groove. Many singers and songwriters have worked this ground since, but nothing can compare to this masterpiece. Dust off your old copy and give it a spin or buy a new one now. It is a true classic.


Monday, January 2, 2012


Happy New Year. I want to recognize the best new music of 2011. These are the albums that made the most spins on my iTunes.

1. Robert Earl Keen's Ready For Confetti.

 Ready For Confetti is the 16th album of Robert Earl Keen's prolific career. Like his last two outstanding albums, What I Really Mean (2005) and Rose Hotel (2009), the record is a great mix of original songs and well-selected covers.  Confetti was produced by Lloyd Maines who also produced The Rose Hotel. It includes 10 Keen originals, including a remake of my all time favorite REK song, Paint the Town Beige which was first released on Bigger Piece of Sky (1993).

With the title track, I Gotta GoShow the World, and Waves on the Ocean, Robert continues to solidify his position as one the best songwriter from the great state of Texas. Like all great songwriters, he has an incredible ability to take vignettes from every day life and write them into songs that paint pictures in your mind.

Ready for Confetti is a CD that you will continued to play in 2012.

2. Glen Campbell's Ghost on the Canvas

Ghost on the Canvas is the final album of Glen Campbell’s amazing career. Earlier this year he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Faced with this reality, he decided to record one final album and organize a farewell tour.

The facts of his career are well known. Originally a hot handed guitar player, Campbell was a member of the famed Wrecking Crew in the 1960’s. This group of studio musicians played on many of the big hits of the day including records by the Beach Boys, Sam Cooke, The Byrds, as well as the Wall of Sound records of Phil Spector.,

Later he teamed with songwriter Jimmy Webb who wrote his signature hits Wichita Lineman, By the Time I Get to Phoenix. These two along with Rhinestone Cowboy helped him sell over 45 million records.  Although these string filled, slick country hits may sounds a little dated today, they still sound great to my ear.

Ghost on the Canvas has a more contemporary country sound that comes from Campbell’s collaboration with several artists including Jacob Dylan (little Bob), Paul Westerberg, Chris Isaak, and Billy Corgan. Some of the songs look back to Campbell’s string filled past, but others have a more modern feel. The lyrics on several of the songs address his current situation in a very powerful moving way. This is particularly true with songs like A Better Place and There’s No Me.... Without You.

Although familiar with his classics, I have to confess that this is the first Glen Campbell record I have ever owned. It is a very moving, beautiful album and one of the best of the year. I recommend it highly.

3. Sons of Fathers

They main players behind Sons of Fathers are David Beck and Paul Cauthen. They came together as a duo but have now added another guitar and drums to round out the band. It is their original compositions and vocals harmonies that make Sons of Fathers such an impressive debut.  The production by Lloyd Maines, who did the same for Robert Earl Keen on his last two albums, captures a clean, authentic sound that compliments the great songwriting on every cut.

All of the songs on the album are good but several are real standouts. The opener, Weather Ballons, has great lyrics and a very catchy tune. Listen to it more than once and it will be stuck in your head. David Beck's upright bass gives the song a nice bottom and teams well with Cauthen's guitar. Someone does a good job on piano as well. Adam and Eve is another great track with more good piano that compliments the lead guitar and singing.

The band has a sound that is hard to categorize. Is it country, alt-country, folk? I’m not sure what to say other than that it has the depth and quality of real roots music. It’s not loud, but it still rocks. There isn't a bad cut on the whole album. The record has a real ensemble feel to it that reminds me of the early work of The Band.

Sons of Fathers is a very impressive debut as well as a great album. I recommend it highly.

Two other CD's worth mentioning:

KMAG YOYO  by Hayes Carll

Future Blues by Johnny Nicholas