Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Quail Season 2011-2012

I finished the season last Saturday with an old friend from Denver on a great hunt near Benavides, Texas. JV just bought a ranch there from another friend of mine. It was fun to hunt an old familiar place with a proud new owner. Even better than that, we saw a lot of birds.

A front came through with a bit of rain in the early morning hours so the day was cool and the ground was wet. The dogs worked well and we saw 20 big coveys on the day. It was the perfect hunt to give hope and raise our spirits for next season. Maybe the quail world as we know it is not coming to an end.

Now the shotguns are in the safe and my gear is put away. The bird dogs are in the kennel and the labs are back at the house. Robe is very depressed. The worst season in the last 30 years is in the books. We have already had some good rain this year and I am looking forward to next season.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


I have been a fan of the music of Jesse Winchester since his first album was released in 1970. On hearing that album so long ago, I was impressed with Jesse’s songwriting and immediately intrigued by any album that included contributions from several members of The Band. I still listen to the album today. It has truly passed the test of time.

Until recently, I never had the opportunity to see Jesse play a live show. In fact, he has been on my short list, along with John Prine and Guy Clark, of artists I really like but have never seen live.

His show at the Mucky Duck in front of a small group of attentive and enthusiastic 50 year olds was well worth the wait. Jesse’s incredible songwriting was on display along with his beautiful voice and able guitar playing.

Drawing from his formidable catalogue, he mixed songs from his first album like Yankee Lady and Brand New Tennessee Waltz, with old favorites like Twigs and Seeds, Bowling Green and Nothing But a Breeze. All were delivered with his good-natured southern drawl and attitude.

He also played several tunes from his 2009 album Love Filling Station including Bless Your Foolish Heart, It’s a Shame About Him, Eulalie, and the Sham-A-Ling-Dong-Ding. I am not as familiar with some of these songs, but they were all great too.

He had the full attention of the audience for two sets and it was a pleasure to hear and see an artist of such talent up close and personal. It was a really nice evening of music and made me wish I had the opportunity to see more live music.

Repeated below from October of 2008 is post I wrote about his first album.

I bought this first album by Jesse Winchester when it was released in 1970. Since I was a huge fan of The Band, any album produced by Robbie Robertson easily caught my attention. Albert Grossman was managing Jesse at the time, so the album was released on the Bearsville Label. While writing this post, I have been listening to the album a lot. I had forgotten just how good  it is.

Jesse Winchester was born in Bossier City, LA, but was raised in Memphis. After graduating from Williams College in 1966, he received his draft notice and moved to Canada to escape the draft. He met Robertson and Grossman while living and playing in Montreal in 1969.

In the photo on the cover of the album, Jesse looks like the sixth member of The Band. On many of these songs, he sounds like he is just that. With both Robertson and Levon Helm contributing on the album, the backing is like a stripped down version of The Band. Some of these songs are not far removed from The Basement Tapes.

Jesse's songwriting reflects the contrast between his southern upbringing and his northern life mandated by his flight to Canada to escape the draft. His lyrics are well written and playful at times, although some of the songs like Black Dog address darker themes.

The album starts with Payday which is a joyful, bluesy romp. The playing of that "mathematical guitar genius" is immediately recognizable. Robbie also has a co-writing credit on Snow which is kicked along by crisp drumming that sounds like Levon to my ear.

Yankee Lady, one of his best songs, describes the plight of a man torn between the love of a woman and a need to travel back to his southern roots. This theme of wanderlust and escape figures prominently in many of his songs. Note the tasteful mandolin from Levon on the cut.

Jesse's inability to tour the United States until after Jimmy Carter's draft amnesty in 1977 may have affected his career. When he was able to gain more exposure by touring, the singer songwriter era of the '70's was passing. He has never gotten the recognition that his music deserves.

This has left Jesse with a loyal following and the designation as a musician's musician, because of the impressive list of artists who have covered his songs. These include Jimmy Buffett, Elvis Costello, Joan Baez, Bonnie Raitt, Emmylou Harris, Jerry Garcia, and Reba McEntire.

If you don't have this album on your playlist, you should add it immediately. It is available on iTunes and from Amazon. Other recommended titles include:

  1. Gentleman of Leisure (1999)
  2. Live From at Bijou Cafe (2006)

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Second Verse: Same as the First

As mentioned in a post from last December, I am very excited about a new band called Sons of Fathers. When I heard their debut record, I had a good feeling that they were on the way to something big. I was very pleased to hear one of their best songs Weather Balloons on Outlaw Country a few night ago. It was a good thing I wasn't driving or the suburban might have ended up in the ditch.

The album has been on the Americana Music chart for the last two weeks, which means it is getting a lot of play on stations across the country. That is pretty impressive for a debut record on an indie label. I guess I am not the only one who likes it.

The band has been on the road since the beginning of the year building their fan base. They had a successful trip to California and have recently played in Nashville. Check their website and go to a show when they come to your town. I know you will not be disappointed.

This video of Weather Balloons is from a recent show in Dallas at the Granada Theatre. Enjoy!

Monday, February 6, 2012



I became interested in the music of Gary Stewart in a very round about way. A few years ago, I heard Robert Earl Keen play the song Riding My Thumb To Mexico. When I heard the Johnny Rodriguez version on Outlaw Country (see my post from April 18, 2009), I added some of Johnny's music to my iTunes library. On his album Some of Mine, Some of Theirs, there is a cover of Whiskey Trip, which led me to Gary Stewart. Whiskey Trip is one of Gary Stewart's classic drinking songs.

With his unique vibrato tenor, Gary Stewart is consider by many country music fans to be one of the great honky-tonkers of all time. Some have likened him to Jerry Lee Lewis and I can appreciate the comparison. Even Time Magazine once referred to him as the King of the Honky-Tonks.

Originally born in Kentucky, Stewart moved to Florida as a boy and got his start playing in bars and bands there. At the urging of Mel Tillis, who he met in a bar in Okeechobee, Florida, Stewart moved to Nashville in the late 60’s and had some minor success as a songwriter.

Frustrated with songwriting and the ways of Nashville and influenced by a harder rocking crowd, Stewart returned to Florida and continued to develop his unique mix of county and rock and roll. He played piano in Charlie Pride’s band and became friendly with the Allman Brothers. Influenced by the Allmans and their sound, he returned to Nashville in 1973 and recorded a cover version of Ramblin Man. It went to 63 on the country charts.

His next release was Drinkin Thing, which was originally the B-side of his first single, I See The Want In Your Eyes. Re-issued as an A-side in 1974, it did well on the radio and became a top ten country hit. Stewart's unique voice fit the lyrics of this classic jukebox standard.

For Stewart it was the beginning a very successful association with songwriter Wayne Carson. Carson wrote many hits songs including The Letter, which was a number one hit for the Box Tops in 1967, Tulsa for Waylon Jennings and Always on My Mind, which has been covered by Brenda Lee, Elvis and Willie Nelson. Carson wrote several of Stewart's best songs including Drinkin Thing, Ten Years of This, Whiskey Trip and his biggest hit She's Actin' Single (I'm Drinkin' Doubles).

 When Stewart’s version of She's Actin’ single (I’m Drinkin’ Doubles) went to number one on the country charts in 1975, his place in honky-tonk history was secured. She's Acting Single along with Out of Hand and Drinkin' Thing all ended up on his great album Out of Hand. Many critics consider Out of Hand to be one of the great country albums of all time and I agree. It is one of the best to my ear. An album that combines great songs with Stewart's distinctive voice and interpretation is hard not to like.

In an interesting side note, it turns out that Bob Dylan was also a fan of Stewart’s music. It has been written that during his own time of marital misery, Bob became obsessed with Stewart’s classic ode to a bad marriage: Ten Years of This. He played it repeatedly and said that it put a spell on him. Bob even went to meet Stewart while touring with Tom Petty in Florida. It is a very powerful song and with lyrics like: What ain't dead, by now is dying/What in hell keep us together/for ten years of this? I can see why it grabbed Bob’s mind.

In spite of his unique voice and style, a great live show and many hits, Stewart never found a wider audience. Although he continued to tour with his band The Honky Tonk Liberation Army, as the 70’s ended, he returned to Florida and soon spiraled into a mess of drugs and drink. He believed in the rock and roll lifestyle and he managed to live it to the fullest.

Stewart made a couple of comeback albums and toured in the 80’s, but by that time his best work was clearly behind him. After the death of his wife in late 2003, Gary took his own life.

Although he is clearly under the radar now, Stewart made his contribution to the evolution of country rock and hopefully will get his credit in the future. I have been very excited to get to know his music over the last few years, I think you will be too.

If you don’t have any Gary Stewart on your iPod, I recommend you do something about it. Download the great album Out of Hand or look on Amazon for the Out of Hand/Steppin’ Out compilation. Both are great introductions to Stewart's impressive catalogue.