Merle Meets Ornette

My favorite new CD is a recent release from Brian and the Haggards. Basically a jazz quintet, they do covers of Merle Haggard favorites, but with a big twist... with two sax players and a free jazz bent, the Merle tunes take on an Ornette Coleman flavor.

This is wild stuff. Blazing Telecaster, western swing drumming, free sax interplay, and, yet, lots of emotion. The flavor of the Haggard tunes still comes across strongly, even in this jazz context. Each tune features a different member of the group, everyone gets his chance to solo.

"Swinging Doors" begins with some great bluesy country playing, then the saxes go places, but the blues flavor always stays with the tune. Same with the guitar solo. This may be the most straight ahead country blues cut on the CD... because... "Working Man Blues" soars way, way out there. Alto sax beyond belief... All in all, this CD contains a fine set of musical flavors.

Country purists may want to drag these guys behind a pickup truck down a gravel road, but, that's so provincial. This stuff works. The musicians are excellent. Brilliant idea, and very well done. And the liner notes, info on Merle's early years and meeting Ornette, are worth the whole CD purchase.

Get the CD on iTunes or from CDBaby. Best of the year so far.


There is no god...

...there's only noise!

The rallying cry of the punk rock group, the Atheists, from 1981.

I've worked on an Atheists CD project off and on for many years. Gathering documentation was difficult, but now I'm close. Of course, an actual CD may never happen, it's mostly to archive the results of a recording I did many years ago.

Back in April of 1981, during Easter Weekend, the American Atheists, with Madeline Murray OHair, held their national convention in Salt Lake City. The contrasts... atheists, Mormons, Easter, was not coincidental, I'm sure, but deliberately provocative. What was coincidental was the local popularity of a punk group, the Atheists, a homegrown musical scowl at the dominant culture. During the convention, a concert was arranged at a local club, the Roxy. I used a cool Dolby cassette recorder in those days to capture concerts, and I did so this night. I can't remember the sound man's name that night, but he was exceedingly helpful in mixing a great soundboard feed. A hellova great show!

Since then, I've dumped the tape to digital and played with mastering the files. My goal is a future web site where folks can download various formats of my recordings, with the Atheists part of a collection of SLC punk that will include the Classic Assholes and NuSpeak. Maybe enough folks will show interest that I can pay off web server costs, my tequila habit, and dinner with my ladyfriend.

Here's an mp3 of the Atheists signature tune, "There is No God, There's Only Noise."


Solar Groves

Read a great article recently about a project/company that wants to make solar cell electrical generating facilities out of parking lots. Parking lots are actually wasted space in terms of exposure to the sun. Why not make lots do something useful beyond holding cars for hours? And provide shelter for the cars as well! And especially with more hybrid/battery cars needing recharges while parked. The concept is called a solar grove.

Anyway, during a recent trip to downtown L.A., I saw one of these facilities as part of a bank building. Way cool! Giving a little back to balance the carbon footprint.

And it helped that this solar grove was a half block from the Disney performance hall, one of my favorite buildings. I actually got a decent pic of this building.


Blues Discovery

Somewhat embarrassing... was invited to a party Sat. nite (happy 60th, Jim) but a friend and I cobbled together our nickles and dimes for a jug of cheap tokay and headed for the freight yards. Finishing the bottle, we passed out under a shady tree, not wakening until after dark. Maybe it was the hangover, but something definitely felt strange. I wandered down the line until I found an open Soo Line boxcar.

I peered inside, and discovered four bodies... four older men, probably expired from the heat. There were some empty guitar cases, someone had been there before me... A glint of moonlight on a dark object caught my eye... an old 78 recording mostly hidden under one body, the hard shellac protecting it from the heat.

I grabbed the recording and took it home, spending the rest of the night recovering the audio and converting it to an MP3. Never heard this music or group ever before, nothing on the Internet. So here, for the first time, a rare 78 recording from an unknown, and now forever unknown, blues band...