To What We Have Been Listening

MS CroppedIt’s summertime. Everyone here in Houston is indoors because it’s too @#$%& hot and humid to go outside unless it’s to immerse yourself in a body of water. I’ve heard a lot of music swirling through the house this week, so let’s go around the horn and find out to what we have been listening.

Reverb Raccoon: Fluffy, I’ve heard some good things coming out from under the bed. To what have you been listening under there?

Fluffy The Idiot Cat: I’ve been listening to the new Neil Young album, Son Volt – A Retrospective: 1995-2000. It’s great! I didn’t know Neil Young had recorded a new album. But this is the best thing he’s done since Harvest Moon!

RR: Uh, wait, you think Son Volt – A Retrospective: 1995-2000 was recorded by Neil Young?

Fluffy The Idiot Cat: Well, yeah, who else would have recorded it? And it’s obviously new because I only listen to new cutting edge stuff. And I have to tell you, Neil Young must have discovered the Catnip Bush of Youth [insert your own Daryl Hannah joke here] because he’s singing better than he has in decades, and he isn’t doing that Grumpy Old Man act like he has for the last ten years.

RR: Fluffy, I don’t even know where to start on this one. But, yeah, Son Volt – A Retrospective: 1995-2000 is a tremendous album. Until recently I hadn’t paid much attention to this branch in the Uncle Tupelo family tree. But this album made me sit up and wonder if Jay Farrar wasn’t the real winner in his Uncle’s divorce. Sorry Jeff Tweedy. Here’s a cut from a long-gone Son Volt appearance on Austin City Limits…

RR: OK, Milkshake, to what have you been listening?

Milkshake: Fluffy, you dumbass, everyone knows Son Volt – A Retrospective: 1995-2000 was recorded by REM. You need to stop chewing on that ball of green yarn before the dye rots your brain. And speaking of Neil Young, Food Guy, I’ve been listening to you and The Food Lady absolutely butcher ‘Helpless’ and ‘Heart of Gold.’ Her bass playing isn’t too bad but you play guitar like Richie Havens on acid and when you get that harmonica thing going it’s like cat claws on a chalkboard. And the worst part is that you’re blocking the best litter box in the house, the good one beside the piano. But, seriously, I’ll bet Neil Young is spinning in his grave right now.

RR: What? You think Neil Young is dead? No, I’m pretty sure he’s still alive.

Milkshake: Are you kidding me? Have you listened to A Letter Home? That was obviously recorded after he died.

RR: Yeah, well, I don’t think my readers are cutting edge enough to get that joke. The only people who read this are The Food Lady’s Facebook friends. And look here, hairball, I don’t think I sound so bad. Listen to this:

Milkshake: Like I said, ol’ Neil’s earthly remains are whirling faster than a pinwheel at the county fair.

RR: Thanks for your support, Milkshake. Good luck opening your cat food can tonight without an opposable thumb. OK, Diann, to what have you been listening?

Diann (The Food Lady): I’m embarrassed to say. Oh well, not many people read your blog [yeah, thanks for reminding me], so I’ll go ahead and share. I’m a fan of disco and funk. I’ve tried to kick it [that’s a terrible pun] with a 12-Step program, but got stuck on Step 2: stop singing ‘Shining Star’ in the shower. When I’m mentally drained and need a boost, I listen to BRICK by Dazz. That usually gives me the kick-in-the-butt that I need. Better than caffeine! It wakes up my motivation, and nudges me to get back to the grindstone. Actually, it’s more than a nudge. It’s a slap on the cheek. “Thanks, I needed that.” And If you got that reference, sorry to say this, but… you’re old.

Milkshake: Hey, Food Lady, he didn’t ask for your life story. What have you been listening to lately, as in This Century?

Diann: Milkshake, don’t you have something else to do, like shedding on The Food Guy’s office chair? Anyway, stress, as you can see, it just part of my job description. Stress follows me on my travels to Chicago, San Francisco, Philly, San Diego, Phoenix, Dallas, Birmingham, St. Louis, Denver. Well, maybe not Denver. I drop my stress off at the dispensary on Brighton and pick it up on my way back to the airport.

Milkshake: Yeah, I read about your Adventures in Wonderland, ‘Annie.’ The EMTs at Red Rocks are probably still talking about your visit. If anyone out there hasn’t heard about it, you can read about it here. Now can we wrap this up, Tolstoy?

Diann: OK OK. I’ve been listening to Closer to Home, which features Mike Herz and Emily Barnes. Their music is very calming, almost as good as a trip to Denver. It gives me the same great feeling that I had as a kid, walking out of school on the last day of the year. Their lyrics are real; I can relate to them. Stress tries to creep in, but the occasional banjo or harmonica solo guards the door. None shall pass. And if you catch that reference then you are seriously a geek and we should do lunch.

Milkshake: It’s a good thing I have nine lives because I used up at least two of them waiting for that.

RR: Milkshake, I swear to god I’m going to drop you off at the dog pound if you keep this up. Mike and Emily are no strangers to this fine blog. My review of Mike’s first album, Overgrown, from way back in 2013, contained this bit of prophesy:

I asked Mike Herz, “If you could sing a duet with any living singer, who would you choose?” Mike’s first choice was his friend, Emily Barnes. Stevie Nicks was his second choice. And that is what separates Mike Herz from the daydreamers…

I reviewed Mike’s single, ‘Smoke Your Smoke (Drink Your Drink)’ in 2014, and earlier this year The Food La- I mean, Diann, reviewed Closer To Home’s debut album.

Last Sunday we were fortunate to catch Mike and Emily in Austin at Radio Coffee and Beer. Here they are performing one of our favorite songs, ‘Good Days.’

We’re looking forward to hearing Mike’s next album, Acrobat. Be sure visit Mike’s website and Emily’s website for more information about Closer To Home and about their solo projects.

Milkshake: So what kind of litter box clumpings have you been listening to, Food Guy?

RR: Milkshake, I don’t have your refined tastes, but I’ve somehow stumbled onto some good music anyway. I recently discovered Songs: Ohia only three years after singer-songwriter Jason Molina’s death as a result of organ failure brought about by years of alcohol abuse. His classic album, The Magnolia Electric Co. was reissued as a deluxe version, containing bonus tracks and demos, in 2013, eight months after Jason passed away. Here’s my favorite track, ‘Whip Poor Will,’ featuring Jennie Benford on vocals and mandolin.

So that is to what we have been listening. Join us here next week when Milkshake will tell us how many lives she has left after spending a few nights in the dog section of Houston’s BARC Animal Shelter.

Bonus Video 1: Emily Barnes performing ‘Merry Go Round’ at the North East Regional Folk Alliance.

Bonus Video 2: ‘Tear Stained Eye, another great performance by Jay Farrar and Son Volt on Austin City Limits.


A Plethora of Videos About Which to Tell Your Friends

Happy Fourth of July! Today we celebrate the moment we cast off the Cloak of Oppression draped over us by our British Overlords. Had this momentous event not taken place, we would never have experienced The British Invasion. All of that great music that arrived in 1964 would have just been Some More Stuff That We Did. Our children would have grown up speaking English. And New York City would be a mirror of London: a rat-infested sewer swarming with South Asians rather than the rat-infested oasis swarming with South Asians that it has become.

Tomorrow? Tomorrow you will return to your dreary life and meet your “friends” in the break room as the meager scrum collectively stares with vacant, hope-lost eyes at a pitiful stream of “coffee” filling with interminable slowness the cup – bearing the logo of a now-defunct enterprise – of a person whose name no one knows nor cares to ask. And with all the conversational creativity of toilet paper addressing the cardboard cylinder around which it is bound, someone will piteously drawl, “So what’d y’all do yesterday?”

Thus will dribble forth the pathetic activities with which the undead occupy their pathetic lives: a picnic with the children, fireworks with or without dismemberment, binge-watching Seinfeld, and the obligatory consumption of meat-like substances.

And when the lifeless eyes turn to you with upraised eyebrows, inviting you to part your lips and allow a string of Existential Spittle to drip upon your chin, you will instead say… “Let me tell you about the cool videos that I saw on Reverb Raccoon!”

First up… Feral Conservatives and ‘Round the Corner.’ These guys are right at the edge of Next Great Thingness. Get on board while you can still claim to be Ahead of the Curve. Visit the band at to hear, see, feel the experience.

Next… Ex-Uncle Tupelo, ex-Son Volt Jay “You Won’t Catch Me Smiling” Farrar and Ben “I’m in Death Cab for Cutie But Don’t Hold That Against Me” Gibbard with a live version of Bob Dylan’s ‘Absolutely Sweet Marie.’ I’ve had this thing on a continuous loop for a couple of weeks now. This is what Rock music is or should be about. The dramatic arc is … this is where the Reviewer reaches for the Thesaurus. Insert your own modifier.

Also from the extended Uncle Tupelo family: Wilco featuring Jeff “If You Hang Around Me Long Enough You Will Learn To Hate Me” Tweedy and a live version of ‘New Madrid.’ This song just says “America.” There’s a reason the genre was called “Americana.” If Good Pop Music means that a tune will stick in your head, then this is the True Cross of Pop. It will be in your head tomorrow, which is good because tomorrow you will need something to take your mind off the bombed-out miasma of your surroundings. And for those unfamiliar with the vagaries of Rural American English, the Missouri town and the fault zone is pronounced New MAD-rid. Jeff almost gets it right with MA-drid, but that’s OK: he’s from Chicago. Also in the “I was born there but I got out as quick as I could” folder of diction: the Tennessee towns of Lafayette, pronounced “Luh-FAY-uht” and Lebanon, pronounced “Leb-nun.”

Going back to the Dylan oeuvre… It’s getting more and more difficult to find Dylan videos on the Winternet. Fortunately, one of the best is still out there: The Rolling Thunder performance of ‘Shelter from the Storm.’ This was Dylan’s peak as a rock singer. I love the way the song starts with Bob seemingly fooling around with the slide, then T-Bone Burnett picks up and everything takes off. Interesting note: rhythm guitarist David Mansfield is playing with a taped index finger. Not sure what that story is. Mansfield composed the music for mega-flop-flick Heaven’s Gate, whose director, Michael Cimino, croaked on Saturday. The drummer is the late great Howie Wyeth. After the Rolling Thunder tour, Wyeth was replaced by Ian Wallace (ex-King Crimson), who was the party responsible for the uninspired metronome beats of Street Legal. Bassist Rob Stoner said something like (I’m misquoting from memory here), “Wallace had a beat like a cop. He couldn’t swing if he had a rope around his neck.”

The thing that strikes me about this performance is how different it is from the album version. But, as Bob has told me many times over the years, usually after multiple beers, his recorded versions are just templates that he can use for future creations.

Note: I do not know Bob Dylan.

Continuing in the theme of Bob Dylan videos unavailable on YouTube: from way back in 1992, ‘My Back Pages’ from Bob’s 30th Anniversary Concert. Here Bob is joined by a plethora of music veterans including Roger McGuinn, George Harrison, Tom Petty, Eric Clapton and Neil Young. At the time of the concert, these guys were solid pros who had not yet reached that sloppy, “I Can’t Sing or Play Like I Used To But You Should Still Respect Me Because I Used To Be Good” stage that marks the sunset of every musician’s career. Eric kicks in a solid solo and we’ll forgive him for blowing the lyrics. Neil’s solo is Powderfinger-eque (Weld version). I’m glad he dressed up for the occasion. The smiley guy with the weird hair is bandleader G.E. Smith, ex-SNL, ex-Hall and Oates. I would like to know what his gestures mean and exactly what he’s doing other than, you know, leading the band. Maybe Bob can explain it to me next time we talk.

Note: I do not know Bob Dylan.

And a contrast… The rehearsal footage prior to the concert. The audio isn’t great but you get the idea. Items to note: the differences in the guitar solos vs. the concert, Bob’s seeming disengagement (I guess I’d be disengaged, too, if I’d been playing the same song for 30 years), the fact that Neil may not have changed clothes before the show, and the singers not knowing the lyrics at rehearsal. The backing band is Booker T. and the MG’s featuring Steve Cropper on guitar, Duck Dunn on bass, and Booker T. Jones on keyboards. For an “if you can’t play, write about it” reviewer, this is a fascinating insight into the world of Real Musicians. It is worth sitting through all 9-plus minutes. Don’t be surprised if this video disappears in the near future.

And finally… From the Shameless Self-Promotion Department, Ex-Cops with ‘Invocation of My Demon Brother’ from the self-released classic, White Women. This was back when the band was still recording in bedrooms on an ancient Mac.

The footage was filmed by Ivan Besse in Britton, South Dakota around 1938-39. Besse managed the local theatre. He would go around town and film the indigenous species, then screen the footage, with humorous narration, before the features. His films are now recognized as important records of life in a small farming community prior to WWII. I especially like the scenes of the football players lining up in the single wing formation. And it’s difficult to catch but, in the schoolyard scene, boys in the background are doing exactly what boys always do in the schoolyard prior to class: playing football.

I just extracted some of the more interesting footage and spliced it together to cover the length of the song. I think the result was very interesting. Slide guitar by Dan Shapiro.

And there you go. Tomorrow, when you’re standing in the break room and your “friend” starts blathering on about Game of Thrones or some nonsense about which you don’t give a crap, throw up your palm and say “Stop! Have you ever heard of Ivan Besse….?”


A Plethora of Videos Pertaining to My Good Friend Chris Barron

If you were alive in 1993, you heard and saw the Spin Doctors. My daughter – born on the anniversary of Billie Joe McAllister’s leap off the Tallahatchie Bridge – was seven months old when “Two Princes” was released, and she probably knows the song’s lyrics. Well, she probably knows “Just go ahead now” anyway.

The band – fronted by Chris Barron, aka That Guy In The Funny Hat – was ubiquitous. They even appeared on my daughter’s second favorite (after Barney the Dinosaur) television show…

Since then, Chris and the guys have been somewhat more difficult to encounter. But I’m happy to report that my good friend Chris Barron is alive and well and still making great music. He turned up recently on a mountain near Stavanger, Norway performing “Steal a Little Time” with The Canoes…

The studio version of the track, from the 2013 album Booze and Canoes, reveals “Steal a Little Time” as a classic track with that I’ve felt this song before quality that marks the best pop music…

So who are The Canoes? The best description is found in a 2011 post by Norwegian journalist Knut-Øyvind Hagen, as mangled by Google Translate. The amount I’m quoting violates all standards of Fair Usage, but Google’s rendering is just too good to pass up…

 The fires personal resumes is almost scary strong.

Chris Barron and his band Spin Doctors had two songs that has asserted itself in the top of the world’s most prestigious hit list, the American Billboard list: “2 Princes” and “Little Miss Can not Be Wrong.” The band has been nominated for both Grammy and American Music Award. In 2011 they toured in Europe and marked its 20th anniversary as a band, and published an anniversary edition of their first album, “Pocket Full of Kryptonite”. Chris Barron has also released a solo album, from 2009.

Hans Petter Aaserud has published seven albums together with colleagues in Trang birth. The band has stood for radio hit songs like “Italic”, “Hippie”, “Life is all right” and “Drømmedame.” For “Italic” were also Grammy-nominated for the award for the song. Aaserud has participated as a songwriter in Eurovision past two years, respectively Sunny and Heine Totland. Heine Totland song he wrote with The Canoes colleague Arne Hovda.

Arne Hovda played from 1994-2001 in the group The Getaway People. The band released two albums on the American label Colombia, and was known for songs like “Give Me Love,” “There She Goes” and “Six Pacs”. Sistnavnte song found its way to American television screens through participation in the television series Young Americans. Hovda has worked as a studio musician in a number of big-selling albums for artists such as Robbie Williams and Stavanger pop king Morten Abel. He has participated as a songwriter in the MGP in 2004, 2010 and 2011.

Last Man Erik Røe had great success with the group Baba Nation. The band served radio hit songs like “Ragamuffinmini,” “Too Bad” (17 weeks on the charts) and the ballad “Time To Heal,” and released three albums in the period 1994-1998. Roeser solo album “Under The Same Sun” came in 2004, and led to him being compared to himself Lenny Kravitz. In 2012 he makes finally its Eurovision debut!

The Canoes marks the four successful gentlemen have moved into a new phase of life:
“We’ve all been successful and lived rock’n'roll life with fine ladies, now we are in 40 years, established and adults. But it should not be on humor and nonsense that reason,” said Chris Barron with distinct twinkle in his eye.

Don’t be misled by the translation: the vast majority of Norwegians speak perfect English, though they may be stumped by Americanisms such as The whole thing went south on me and You’ve got a real exploding stove on your hands.

The article was written in the runup to the 2012 Melodi Grand Prix, the competition that selects the Norwegian entry to the Eurovision Song Contest. Here we see Chris and the guys belting out their entry, “It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time…”

Alas, The Canoes were eliminated in the semifinals. So how did Chris Barron go from MTV to MGP? I don’t know, but I think the lesson is, Life is a full 18 holes, so you might as well enjoy the course.

Chris travels the world and you never know where you will stumble across him. You might encounter him performing “Two Princes” on a plaza in Madrid…

Or you might run into him in Hong Kong, translating “Two Princes” for Scottish singer Laura Kenny…

Or he might even appear on Fox News…

To translate what you just saw: professional wrestler Mick Foley (great choice on your talking heads, there, Fox) thinks Chris Barron, head of the gay conservative group GOProud, is our boy. I’ll give Mick credit: at least he tried to do some show prep. And credit to the unseen producer who was obviously screaming into the host’s earpiece, “Say they sounded like Steve Miller! Say they sounded like Steve Miller!”

So there it is. Maybe my good friend Chris Barron is not so difficult to find after all. And even if you never leave the comfort of your couch, you can find Chris on Twitter, on Facebook, on his website, and on Bandcamp.

And be sure to visit The Canoes website, where you can stream Booze and Canoes. The album is available on CD Baby, and on iTunes.

A Plethora of Bonus Material That Did Not Fit the Narrative…

“I Love You, I Love you, Good-bye,” a great track by Chris Barron and the Time Bandits. A timeless, classic song. Be sure to download from Chris’s Bandcamp page.

Laura Kenny performing “My Love is Like a Red Red Rose.” This stuff never goes out of style. Nice hair, Laura.

“Missing My Muse,” music and photographs by Reverb Raccoon (shameless self-promotion). The video features scenes from Stavanger and Oslo, and a few other places. You will notice the European’s strange version of the King Bed, which is two twin beds that you have the pleasure of shoving together. Norway is a nice, though expensive, place to visit. Two cheeseburgers, fries and drink at McDonald’s will set you back about 15 USD. But everyone speaks English and the trains are easy to decipher (though I never figured out the buses or trams). If you fly into Oslo, take the Flytoget train into Oslo Sentrum. The airport is in Sweden, so if you take a taxi you will blow your entire vacation budget before you ever get to town.

And finally, for anyone who was living under a rock in 1993, that video for “Two Princes,” featuring my good friend Chris Barron.


Fluffy the Idiot Cat Reviews Some Bands from North Carolina

a0727776324_10Hi. I’m Fluffy. My friend Milkshake calls me The Idiot Cat. Sometimes I listen to music and then I write about it and The Food Guy puts my writing on the Winternet. The Winternet is like a big litter box. Everybody in the world poops in it and then they all sit around and look at everyone else’s poop. And speaking of litter boxes, I forgot where mine was for a few weeks, so The Food Guy took me and Milkshake to the doctor. Milkshake said “I don’t know why I have to go to the doctor, I’m not the one who’s been peeing all over the house” and The Food Guy said “Milkshake, just shut up and get in your crate.”

Anyway, the doctor said I was stressed about something so she gave me some Kitty Prozac. The Food Guy put out some extra litter boxes so I would always have one nearby, and I got under the bed with my green yarn and chilled out listening to some cool bands from North Carolina. I don’t know where North Carolina is, but The Food Guy said it’s close to where I lived when I was a kitten, which was near Mylanta, Georgia. Wherever that is.

The first band I listened to is called Aunt Sis. They have a new album out called These People. My favorite song is ‘I Want Everything.’ It is about someone who has a lot of stuff but isn’t as happy as he could be. He wants to be more like his sister. I think this song is about me. I have food and lots of toys and a nice house but then I went and peed all over it. I should relax and be more like my friend Milkshake. Of course Milkshake wasn’t very relaxed when I was going all over the house, especially when The Food Guy blamed her for it. The Food Guy was like, “Milkshake, what is your major malfunction?” And Milkshake was like, “Hey, man, I haven’t done anything but if you keep this up I’m gonna claw the heck out of the sofa!”

You can download These People, or buy the CD, on Bandcamp. And visit Aunt Sis on their Facebook page! Or is that her Facebook page? I don’t know anymore; it’s all pretty confusing with these bathroom laws and all. I mean, I have enough trouble figuring out where to use the bathroom without worrying about what ginger I am. Sometimes humans just make things too complicated.

A couple of the guys in Aunt Sis are also in a band called The Sweets. Or maybe they were, I don’t know. Anyway, Milkshake and The Food Guy interviewed The Sweets a couple of years ago. Last October they put out a new album. The Food Guy meant to review it but he never got around to it. Just like sometimes he never gets around to cleaning my litter box which is maybe why I decided that the kitchen table would be a nicer place to use the bathroom. It was hard to pick one favorite on this album so here are two good songs.

The Food Guy calls The Sweets’ sound ‘NC Surf’ and he thinks it is a big deal that he invented that label. I wish he would spend less time thinking about the interesting things he has thought and more time thinking about whether a cat really wants litter that is scented with Glade air freshener. If I was an Outdoor Cat I would not use the bathroom on the flowers, I would just go and dig in the dirt. Think about that, Food Guy.

The Sweets’ albums are available on Bandcamp or through Bleeding Gold Records. And you can be friends with The Sweets on Facebook!

The last band I want to tell you about is called Petey. Their latest album, The Flying Dutchman, was released last summer. This music will really get your paws moving! The Food Guy says it sounds like the Ramones, the Clash, and Richard Hell all got together but I’m not sure The Food Guy ever knows exactly what he is talking about. After all, this is the person who gave me and Milkshake a covered litter box. You don’t see lions and tigers going into a cave to poop. No, they live in the cave and go outside to poop.

The best song on the album is ‘Fresca.’ The Food Guy says Fresca is something people drink so they don’t get fat. I have no idea what the song is about because I can’t understand the words. On their Bandcamp page, Petey says, “All of the lyrics are about: Fresca, driving our cars, friends from high school, our dads, our friends dads, our friends dads individual relationships with fresca, partyin, Fresca.” Whatever it is about, it’s a good song and I enjoyed listening to it and imagining myself playing the guitar which might be a problem since my pads aren’t very good for fretwork.

Petey’s albums are available on Bandcamp and from Bleeding Gold Records. And I’m sure they would like humans and pets of all varieties to Like them on Facebook!

So that is my review. After I listened to these bands I felt better about myself and maybe I felt better about The Food Guy, too. So I took my ball of green yarn to him so he could play with it. Everything is better with yarn!




What the Eeph?

If you cranked up a television on a Saturday night in the early 70’s and flipped through the channels, you inevitably encountered a show called Hee Haw. And if you lingered there long enough, you beheld a strange and wondrous sight: two men, often standing in a barn or cornfield, one rhythmically slapping his thigh and chest, the other having an asthma attack. If you were born into a more culturally uplifted era, this is what you missed…

The thigh-slapping act is called Hamboning, The asthma attack is called Eephing. Or eeephing, eefing, or eefin’. The practice originated in Tennessee over 100 years ago, where the inventor must have suffered from a serious medical condition. The genius who translated his disability into a sort of music was probably unable – due to illiteracy or the unsteadiness of hand that followed his spasmodic wheezing – to write down the name of his creation, thus rendering the correct spelling a source of debate. Jennifer Sharpe, in a surprisingly sympathetic NPR portrait of the aberration, dubbed it Eephing so I’m going with that.

Hee Haw, created by Canadians but taped in Nashville, ran on CBS from 1969 to 1971 and in syndication for an additional 21 years. Each episode alternated country music with documentary footage shot on location in the rural counties of Middle Tennessee.

Hee Haw’s musical acts could be quite good: Buck Owens and the Buckaroos before the death of the great Don Rich; Grandpa Jones and Stringbean Akeman, last of the great frailing style banjoists (and for you high school history teachers who are frantically scrolling down to the comments to tell me that either Grandpa, String, or both were actually clawhammer stylists and not frailers, all I can say is: “Get A Life.”); guest appearances by legends such as Roy Acuff, Johnny Cash, George Jones, Conway Twitty, and Loretta Lynn; the Hee Haw Gospel Quartet; Roy Clark, a fantastic multi-instrumentalist when not acting the clown; and the Million Dollar Band featuring Clark, Chet Atkins, Floyd Kramer, Boots Randolph, Danny Davis, Jethro Burns, and Johnny Gimble.

The documentary segments provided viewers with a stunningly accurate depiction of life in Middle Tennessee circa 1970. In the video below, we see a junior high school band concert. You will notice that the students are exclusively female, all school-age males in the region having been killed off in the Civil War which ended in 1965. The band members are older than the pupils of a typical Northern junior high, since they are able to attend classes only one or two months a year, with most of their lives devoted to shucking corn, scrubbing clothes with lye soap, butchering hogs, pulling suckers off the tobacco crop, making moonshine, and running from their fathers.

Our next video highlights the entrepreneurial travails of a car dealership owner who is attempting to introduce modern transportation into a culture still dominated by mule-drawn conveyances.

Although 5-digit telephone numbers remained the standard in Middle Tennessee until 2005, they were rarely used since virtually no phones had rotary dials. Calls were initiated by lifting the earpiece, hammering the switchhook several times, and yelling “Sarah? Gimme Mount Pilot!”

Ironically, the subjects of the filming rarely saw the finished product, as very few Tennesseans outside the major cities had televisions or even electricity. Older women typically spent Saturday nights, when Hee Haw aired, darning the flour sacks that would be worn to church the following morning, while the men spent Saturday evenings chasing their female children around the outhouse.

In the early 70’s, eephing and hamboning were common methods for musical expression in Middle Tennessee. Few aspiring musicians could afford real instruments, and even fewer could sing since most citizens were toothless. Eephing, however, offered a means of vocalization that did not require enunciation, accurate pitch, or any semblance of embouchure. The Hee Haw documentaries brought eephing to the attention of the general public and made stars of Jackie Phelps, the hamboner, and Jimmie Riddle, the eephist.

Riddle was a master of his craft, using eephing to breathe new life into old standards. Observe the subtle nuances with which he enhances the Carter Family’s “Wildwood Flower.” Renaming the song “Wildwood Eeeph,” Riddle transforms a staid lover’s lament into a kaleidoscope of conflicting emotions.

On “Yakety Eeeph,” Riddle overhauls Boots Randolph’s “Yakety Sax” to create a symphonic restroom of white marble and gleaming brass fixtures where once stood a forlorn outhouse of faded pine boards.

Sadly, Jimmie Riddle passed away in 1982 at the age of 64. Rumors that his final gasps were an eeph are possibly true.

Bonus Video 1: Jimmie Riddle and Jackie Phelps were, when not eephing and hamboning, talented and respected musicians. Here we see them performing “Sittin’ on Top of the World.”

Bonus Video 2: Jackie Phelps was famous for his two-fingered picking style using only the thumb and forefinger. Here is an excellent demonstration of the technique. Phelps died in 1990. Like Jimmie Riddle, he was 64 years old.

Join Jimmie Riddle and Jackie Phelps on Facebook!

Historical note: Reverb Raccoon was born and raised in Middle Tennessee. His family has lived there since the early 1800′s, being among the first settlers of Giles County, And, no, he does not want to be buried in the family cemetery.


Feral Conservatives – Here’s To Almost

a3494301061_10“Why are you dodging like this? They couldn’t hit an elephant at this distance.”
- The almost-last words of Union General John Sedgwick before getting shot in the head

Everyone can use a little Almost. The bullet almost missed General Sedgwick (probably not, but you’d like to think he had a chance). I almost won the lottery, missing a $10 million payout by only 6 numbers. And I almost got this review written back in January when Feral Conservatives released their second LP, Here’s To Almost.

Feral Conservatives make almost-great music that is fresh, engaging, and almost amazing. You can empty the entire bag of Reviewer’s Superlatives here and they will all apply. When I started writing this blog almost three years ago, I wanted to avoid the trap of saying “This band sounds like that band and this song sounds like that song.” I just wanted to say, “This is Good Music and you should listen to it.” That is absolutely – not almost – true of Here’s To Almost. You should listen to it and if you don’t you are missing out. I’m convinced that these guys are about one klick away from being famous, and you need to get in on this while you have the chance.

Feral Conservatives have come a long way – instrumentally, lyrically, and emotionally – since we reviewed their first LP, Breaks and Mends, way back in November 2013. My favorite song in the new release is “Bus Driver.” Guitar, drums, mandolin solos… If this track doesn’t knock your socks off, then you must already be barefoot.

Feral Conservatives should-not-be-a-secret weapon is the voice of Rashie Rosenfarb, the best singer of whom you have never heard. If there’s any justice in the world, Rashie will be singing the National Anthem at the next Super Bowl. The stops are all pulled on “Wait for Me.” In your face, Lady Gaga.

My only (very minor) complaint about Feral Conservatives is that they sometimes seem bent on parlaying a single mandolin riff into a Body of Work. But, hey, that’s just part of the Art. You do you, FC! Some critics complained that every song in Exile on Main Street started with a Keith Richards guitar riff, and that Body seems to have held up pretty well. On “Little Pieces” the sound is fleshed out with violin provided by Rashie’s sister, Mishah.

If you have thus far missed out on the Feral Conservatives Phenomenon, here’s your chance to get with the program. You can download the band’s entire digital discography from Bandcamp for the low low price of just $15.59. Don’t be the last one in your class to own this amazing collection!

Feral Conservatives
Rachie Rosenfarb: Vocals, mandolin, bass
Matt Francis: Drums, guitar, organ
Dan Avant: Bass

Be sure to visit the Feral Conservatives website. Friend the band on Facebook,  follow them on Twitter, and check out their Tumblr page.

And BTW: I have no idea why the album cover for Here’s To Almost is so funny. Somebody’s gonna have to explain that one to me.