Rick Holmstrom

 

Rick Holmstrom is my hands down favorite guitar player.

Legend is Howlin' Wolf sent a 19 year old guitarist Hubert Sumlin, to study with a 66 year old "opera guitar" player. Makes perfect sense somehow. The language of the blues guitar is ancient. Rick speaks it. Rick speaks the secret language. Spoken by guys who beat on fences with sticks. Blues maestro's who invented fucking, spontaneity, and the diddley bow. There's some kind of goofy middle class novelty to the blues now, but it wasn't always that way. Rick is living proof.

 

A pile of shit has a thousand eyes…

 

 

Michael Dean

Michael Dean's DIY or Die DVD

A relentless self promoting/self-made monomaniacal sex troll. I've known Michael for years. Somehow, when Miles Montabelo loaned me a copy of the DVD he edited for Mr. Dean I still had enough morbid curiosity left in me to slip it into the DVD player and see what the "Slishman" was up to. I'm happy to say that Michael has indeed succeeded in making a meaningful contribution to society with his latest ego trip through Indie America in spite of himself. I learned a lot. You want art? According to these sources, art is taking your life and trying to make it better. There's your art. Amen. And if I'm to believe Ian Mackaye, it turns out everything I've even done is a success. Just doing it makes it a success. I feel better already. Although, the curious subjects who pride themselves on not "selling out" are some of the least artful, who exactly was it waving the checkbook at them when they turned their backs? David Geffen? Rueben Kincaid? Cite your sources gentlemen. Running away from the money faucet on full blast isn't always righteous—Sometimes it's dumb. Next time, point that fucker at me. I'd know what to do with it. I'd give Alison Anders money to make her next film.

 

Alison Anders

Sugar Town

A Rock-and-Roll coming of middle-age story. Saw this on Virgin Air originally back in 97 or so? One of those between- the-cracks, straight-to-video movies that never had a chance. Who's gonna go see it? Not my nephew. Me, I loved it! Later I found the video on a blanket for like a dollar. It's now in the C and S permanent library. No one seems to know about this Alison Anders film. Alison herself is a great filmmaker, but in all fairness, movies about Rock-and-Roll are without fail, hopeless. Georgia? A Star is Born? Howard the Duck? Streets of Fire? Pleeeeeeeaaaaaaaase! However, there are exceptions and Alison I applaud you. Stand up and take a bow. And the acting; aside from the nothing less than soulful performance from Rosanna Arquette, there are great performances form first time actors/long time musos, Michael Des Barres, John Taylor and especially Larry Klein as Bud the producer. Who knew? This movie holds up. She nails the mid-nineties painfully real artifice that we were forced to suck on. This is what we call a coming-of-middle-age Rock-and-Roll masterpiece. Come to think of it. I do believe that Green On Red appears briefly in Ms. Anders' first movie Border Radio. We also had an album called Gas Food Lodging years before her movie by the same name. But hey, tricks are for kids. Drummers being drummers, Sugars Town's drummer only wants to know, "Has she got big tits?"

 

 

Lee Hazlewood

I met Lee Hazlewood before he knew he was famous.

Recently, my pal Jason Carmer and I were talking about some new high rotation KMEL hip hop track we found inspiring in all its minimalist glory. Jason said, "It's just a machine and like one guy rapping. The machine sounds like an electric typewriter". 

I got to thinking about Lee Hazelwood and how he probably would've dug it too. I recounted meeting Hazlewood in what had to be the craziest of chance meetings, in a recording studio in Scottsdale, AZ, sometime in 1988 or so. I was a record collecting, Lee Hazlewood geek with an encyclopedic knowledge for Hazelwood's artist/producer maverick output. Dan Stuart and I were cutting in the same studio with Naked Pray, getting high and helping Van Christian and co. midwife the record that killed them. From Duane Eddy, to Waylon, to Lee's Swedish years... I knew my shit and I was ready to grill Lee when we heard he was coming into the studio.

Lee arrived in a Porches 914, looking every bit like the way you'd expect Lee Hazelwood to look. We commenced to hanging out, literally around the water cooler and drilling him for info (Nancy and Lee, Waylon, Sinatras, Gram Parsons), he spilled the goods: "Gram would have shot up watermelon seeds if he thought it would get him high". 

When it came to contemporary music, his taste was a little less PC. He gushed enthusiastic over Bobby McFerrin's, "Don't Worry Be Happy" (a big hit at the time). Huh?! Now I think I'm closer to understanding where he was coming from. In all fairness, while "Don't Worry" was a huge international hit, and not your cup of tea I imagine. It was a stone-cold, freak novelty, purely acapella, beneath the underdog, smash. Not unlike "Boots". Those kinds of records can change the world, if you believe in that kind of thing. 

As I recall, Lee was in there producing a local country hat act. He had some housewives assembled from the union book to do a background vocal part imitating a train whistle ("Whoo Whoo"). One woman turned to me and asked, "Is this some kind of joke?" Lee had no idea who he was. Or at least to say, he had no idea of his legacy.

I still have the business card he gave me in the top drawer of my desk. Years later, Nancy and Lee did a reunion tour and Lee refused to give any interviews. But man did he spill it that day around the water cooler. "Drugs are a reward son, after the work is done." If only it were that easy.

Beth Lissick, Tony Joe White and Milos Forman

 

Tony Joe White

Tony Joe White at the Café Du Nord

He comes from so far deep within the swamps of Louisiana, to him Mill Valley may as well be England. And San Francisco, the moon.

 

Last Thursday night at the Café Du Nord, Tony Joe appeared from the back stage closet, sat down, plugged in his Strat and spun a wicked web. Those in attendance were held rapt. At least until his amp blew up that is. I myself was under his spell enough to not hesitate for a second to run home and grab my own personal tube amp so Toni could carry on. All in all about a 10 minute interruption. The man got his groove right back in no time. In fact, come to think of it, my amp never sounded better. 

 

I don't remember the verse in original Pork Salad Annie about "hanging that shit on the clothes line, drying it out and smoking it". Huh? She's a bad girl that mean, vicious, wretched, spiteful, straight-razor totin' woman. that Annie.

 

It was a veritable who's-who at the Du Nord. From high priest of lounge, Dick Bright, down the to the lowliest little Muskrat, Jay Rosen. I can get down there for sure, but by comparison, I sound like I'm singing high on helium. All of us were down at his feet looking up Tony's nose wondering where does that voice come from? From deep down the well of love, I imagine.

 

Beth Lisick

Everybody into the Pool : True Tales

Hey kids, did you know that in Saudi Arabia women can't drive a car but in the USA they can strap on a dildo and drive it anywhere they want....? 

 

Like a lot of people Beth has a band. Somehow, maybe as an act of defiance, she gets through the whole book refusing to even mention her band but once. I dug her band a whole lot. Particularly that "teen model" song where she would do a kind of roller girl moonwalk while performing.

 

I loved this book as the alternative to the alternative it is. Know this: She's got zero issues with her mommy and daddy. Don't ya just hate her? Well don't, as you'd be missing out on this great collection of spewage. A smart, funny and brutally honest read. All that funny sad shit you know you love. Yeah, there's some obligatory lesbo action but, a girls got to do what.... after all, she's on the same press as Scott Peterson's ex. Fear not, she spares us the most obvious of details. Oh yeah, she's a performance artist too. Not the kind that gives performance art a bad wrap. Really, she's funnier than eight Carrie Bradshaw's . Got some real heart. I identified. Maybe it's because I grew up with three sisters, maybe it's because B and B's aren't my idea of a good time either. The humor, misadventures, the heinousness of it make her book the perfect 10 van reading of the year. The rhythm of her language agrees with me, she talks like people from the neighborhood I grew up in. A rare thing. Turns hanging with the Nuns a kind of you-had-to-be-there kind of trip. Anyone who can make minimum wage drudgery sound half that interesting... Not 24 hours after being crowned prom queen and within hours of parading around the football field sporting a crown, she learns one of life's most valuable lessons: Everyone wants a blow job from a 14 year old girl.

 

Betty Harris

Soul Perfection

 

Betty Harris made a handful of singles in the 60's. First with the great Bert Berns behind the glass in NYC and later with the elegantly funky Alan Toussaint masterminding. The Toussaint produced records were cut in N.O.LA. and employed the Meters as the rhythm section.

 

I'm not sure where I first heard Betty Harris, maybe on a cassette comp. Paul Bradshaw made me. I was hooked. This was some divine shit. Soul perfection. Or better yet, Soul Imperfection. Funky yes, but dramatic too. Betty sings like some unbridled genius. And like a soul George Jones, milking just a few words for all they're worth. She'll feed you and leaving you hungry for more. And with Leo Nocentelli playing the bent guitar fills around her pleas for love, those singles were pure unrequited, untamed, longing at it's best.

 

It doesn't get any more heart wrenching than Nearer to You. Like a mystery I could never solve -- I'm still listening for clues. There's probably not two records out there that I've memorized to the point of closing my eyes and recreating the entire landscape in my head. 

 

Betty Harris cut those records and disappeared. Was she was dead or alive? Very very little was known about her (and believe me, I dug around). Unbelievable, she was recently found alive and well raising her family up north somewhere.

 

The way I heard it is that her daughter, while attending college, was doing some googling and stumbled on a fan site dedicated to her mom. The word got out. "Hey Mom, you're famous!"

 

An appearance at the Ponderosa Stomp in NOLA made it official.

 

My close pal Andy Taub, had no choice but to crack open his ample piggy bank and book her for his wedding. A wedding Stephie and I were lucky enough to attend. Straight from the airport after a nasty flight back from Spain, we arrived in Manhattan just as the band kicked in. Like something out of a dream, fireworks exploding over the water behind us, seated around the white table cloth dinner table on the edge of the dance floor, she came out off the bandstand up to our table with a hand held mike and looked right into my face. I dropped my fork, paralyzed. A magical night.

 

Congratulations Andy and Sue! We still owe you a gift. To try to match the one you gave us is a hell of a challenge.

 

Wacky Jacky's Charter Fishing Boat (Fisherman's Wharf)

Deep sea fishing the San Francisco bay and beyond. Me and my good pal Mark Kozelek boarded the Wacky Jacky at 5:00 AM recently in search of big salmon. Losing our minds and melting in the sun—it wasn't until after four or five hours before Mark and I were in the swing of things baiting each others hooks and talking to the fish and our fellow seamen like were knew what we were doing. Guess we should've brought a camera, but we didn't. Can't imagine going out and doing it again on any other boat than the Wacky with Jacky and her loyal crew (some of whom go back DECADES). A well kept secret and yes, I'm sure it'll stay that way. Unless, the next time we play the Starry Plough and load out at 3:00 AM we load up everyone in the van and head for Fishermans's Wharf. What do ya say?

 

Milos Forman

Black Peter

I found myself on a kind of Czech obsession of late. We at CP inc. have always carved out enough time on our Europeon tour itineraries to include a couple of dates in the Czech Republic. Not sure why, the money isn't "all that" and the drive is without fail, a trial. And come to think of it, the crowds have been of the few-and-proud variety. Guess I've got a sweet spot for all things Czech.

 

It only took Netflixs a couple of months, but they finally got around to sending me Czech director Milos Forman's first film, "Black Peter". Although made in `64 or `65, or so, I was immediately struck by what seemed a kind of meandering primitiveness. Watching this film that amounted to a quirky, non narrative, wobbly, dare I say, ART FLICK. Not really sure why I was surprised or what I expected, but what I found in Black Peter was a cool movie that doesn't seem dated. It's no wonder that the American film making intelligentsia looked to him as a guiding light.

 

The DVD had extras of course. An Australian Film Society interview that followed with Forman circa pre Oscar Amadeus, provided some strange revelations. Milos' loves: Splash, Airplane ("those guys are honest, love what they're doing"). 

 

Forman goes on to defend Heavens Gate excess. "It's not the directors fault, he'd only directed one film—blame the people that gave him the money." Forman, as I'm sure you know, went on to direct One Flew Under the Cuckoo's Nest". Did you know "Cookoos Nest" grossed like 100 million and cost a mere 4 to make. 

 

I learned that although exiled in 1968, Forman's has no score to settle. The system in Czechoslovakia couldn't have been further from Hollywood. Which, having said that, it should really come as no surprise that they managed to make films like this one as well as a boatload of cool, influential films. As Forman tells it: "...no commercial pressures, no ideological pressures". The "the powers that be" if you will, would only look at your script and decide if you have good intentions to do quality work.

 

Once you were given the `go word', they sent you on your merry way minus any meddling whatsoever. The most ideal system ever! Of course, the only drawback is that you can spend two or three years developing a script only to have it rejected upon which, you GOT NOWHERE ELSE TO GO!!

 

Whereas in Hollywood you can bang on doors until your knuckles are raw and then ask your dental surgeon neighbor if he'd like a producers credit.

 

Static and the final word. Or: If it goes without saying, why say it?

 

Bob Dylan

Chronicles aka "The Dylan Book"

Didn't I tell ya he'll never let you down? Where do I start? It's crazy, sane, wicked funny, big hearted, cryptically poetic and straight up all at the same time. A mindfuck of a book. And just like... ah... flat out good fun. Dylan reveals surprises one after another. His peers? Frank Sinatra Jr., Johnny Rivers. His loves: Mickey Rourke, Rubber band sling shots (the kind they don't make anymore). Mentors: Gorgeous George, Jim Dickinson. A full meal and damn satisfying in so many ways. Dylan gives us the last word on Dylan and he's only getting started. A random insight: After years soaking up every thick book he could beg borrow or pull down from the shelf of the heaviest cat's in the east village, Dylan taps into the holy grail, when he strikes gold with an acetate John Hammond Sr. gives him of a poisoned dead blues singer who died by misadventure (Robert Johnson who was poisoned by a jealous woman- legend says he was on all fours, barking like a dog when he drew his last breath). Dylan's insight into all things Robert Johnson is alone worth the price of admission here. Ever the original, his dissertation quickly dismisses the whole tired Hollywood sold-his-soul-to--the-devil mythological/made for the big screen corniness and mathematically breaks down the genius of the King of the Delta blues. He sight's his admiration for the throwaway lines. This comes at the end of the book but only marks the beginning of a body of work that eclipses everything he set out to emulate. Dylan spells out how among other sources of inspiration, he distilled his own voice out of the 20 songs that Robert Johnson's recorded and incorporated them into his own bag off tricks in ways no cornball Dylanologist could have guessed. Dylan was eager to turn his mentor Dave Van Ronk on to his discovery -- but alas, Van Ronk wasn't feeling it. This is where Bob Learns to trust himself. It's a monster moment and just one of many moments big and small that stack up on top of each other page after page. Dylan let's us into his mindspace as he pokes around the past with an amazingly vivid memory or imagination (whichever the case may be). An unlike most instantly disposable showbiz books, he let's a lot of people off the hook and resist's the temptation to settle scores. Although I chuckled a little, bracing myself for a little dirt, when he recounts that somewhere during the Oh Mercy session in New Orleans, after fighting over how to cut a song till three AM, upon setting out the door, he turns to the high priest of pretense Lanois and asks, "Danny, are we still friends?" Day-um! Bobs got feelings too! I couldn't help but feel for the dude. I guess that's why we love him.

 

JJ Cale

Naturally

When I first heard JJ Cale, he sounded to my ears like he was from another galaxy or at least another planet. As well he should, he's from Oklahoma you know. I've heard this record by chance twice in the last few weeks. Once at 3 AM as we were loading out of the Du Nord—Kelley Stoltz was DJing and laid the needle to rest for the whole of side one after a long unrewarding night of humping gear and songs, (the drudgery, those steep steps, urgh!) it changed the mood of the room and immediately lifted my spirits. Heard it again last night spilling out into the St Francisville cabin park, after three days of rain, the air was hanging thick—the crickets were cricking and the major 7th chords of Magnolia mixed in with the sticky atmosphere. It sounded beautiful and smelled heavenly. Made me wish I could freeze the moment. Got me thinking back to seeing JJ live at the GAMH in San Francisco with Stephanie and Rolly Salley so many years ago, I remember overhearing someone over my shoulder whisper, "which one's JJ?"

Mystery man? I got your mystery man.

 

Angola State Prison Rodeo

Today is the 40th annual Angola prison rodeo. Just a few miles down the road from the Magnolia, this is where convicts dressed up in cowboy duds are dared, (sign up for the chance actually), to successfully grab a red poker chip from between a Brahma bulls horns for a shot at $1,000. And then there's "dead man's hand" where the last guy sitting at a fold up table clutching his playing cards while being terrorized by angry bulls gets a prize. The gnarliest blood and guts rodeo out there bar none. Angola state pen was once the home of Leadbelly after he was convicted of first degree murder. The legend is that the warden gave Leadbelly a pardon for singing so good. Louisiana has a history of stories like this—I'm told of one where the sheriff personally takes a blues singing prisoner to his Friday night gig only to pick him up 2 AM and return him to his cell. They've got this odd respect for musicians down there. The rest of the country should take notes. Angola is also the scene of real horror. Wandering around the Angola Museum gift shop where I purchased a cool hat, I know it's hardly an original thought, but I can't help but wonder, how can our government kill to show that killing is wrong? How does that make sense? And why is it that without exception, every person who's ever been executed in the history of USA is dead poor. Period.

 

Featuring Howard Tate

Hal Wilner's Randy Newman tribute at Royce Hall

Speaking of Louisiana. The most riveting—the most emotionally devastating musical moment (the best kind) this year had to be hearing Howard Tate sing Louisiana 1927 at Hal Wilner's Randy Newman tribute at Royce Hall on the UCLA campus back around the holidays 2003/2004. His voice clear and true and pure as anything I've ever heard sang of `rain and water 6 feet high in the streets of Evangeline'. At the time, I was in L.A. trying to cut a record and it wasn't exactly flowing. My soul brother Greg Leisz invited me down to this star studded event. Sitting in the balcony all by my lonesome, I was as the kids say, feeling it. Maybe Tate's performance was made all the more poignant knowing that he had himself crawled from the wreckage of his own life to be there to sing it. Later in the show he returned to sing Every Time it Rains. It hurt. Made this boy rather homesick. Everyone brought those songs home that night. It was godhead. Transcendent even. And the singers that didn't bring `em all the way to home plate—the songs brought them home. Victoria Williams, Davey Farragher, Vic Chestnut, Gavin Friday, Rip Torn, Bob Neuwirth, and a bunch of others, I can't remember. Lotta love up there.

Randy, you missed out dude! (Newman had played the night before but was a no show for the tribute) I know you think you would have hated it, but I think you'd have been surprised—I know I was. Just about the sweetest circle jerk a Randy Newman fan could hope for. Me? The session I was in LA for? I cut bait and went home the next day.

 

The Clash

London Calling reissue

I originally bought the cassette issue of this record second hand at Rasputin's in Pleasant Hill. It was still five bucks or so (it was a double album after all). I remember because they used to identify the price with a little colored Avery label dot --yellow in this case. I had saved up and purchased one of the early ghetto blasters from some electronics place on Main St. in Walnut creek. I listened to this cassette and nothing else. For a short while there, I had a job at a flower stand and I actually dropped the cassette in a bucket of water. I freaked. Warped the hell out of it but not enough to get me to stop playing it. I think I still have the cassette. Strange, all the things I don't have anymore. Anyway, I always heard more than a little Dylan in Joe Strummers phrasing and snickering spittle. On the bonus CD of rehearsal demo's AKA the Vanilla Tapes, I was thrilled to hear Strummer leading the Clash through a Police and Thieves like, ska'd up version of Dylan's the Man in Me from New Morning. That song was always a backroom at the Albion staple. I suppose I got some satisfaction in knowing that I'm wasn't crazy about that connection. This record is still a kind of blueprint for the kind of records I aspire to make. Taking their cue, I learned to embrace all the music around me. Country music, disco music, top 40 whatever you want to call it music, anything goes. These Clash guys—the Four Horsemen of the punk apocalypse. Anything goes. There's the ragtimey folk music of Jimmy Jazz. The straight up disco of Train In Vain. The Bo Diddley goes to Jamaica of Rudie Can't Fail. Rockabilly's Brand New Cadillac. Themes of survival that spoke to me, (I was living with my folks at the time going to a fairly posh school but hey, it's was all about survival man! and this was the soundtrack). Identity crisis's, endurance and even a bit of history, (Spanish Bombs). Rambunctious, righteous, religious and rocking. Heck, they could really play! The grooves! The horns! And just for grins a (huh? what?) hit song! (don't forget the record closes out with a almost straight up little disco number called Train In Vain). A bona fide smash. Instantly timeless and contemporary all at the same time. Do you know how hard that is to do? Sing Michael SING! A rare thing. A minor miracle. Can't name a bigger record right now. If they re release it in another 25 years I'll but it again.

 

Ghostface's Take Me Back Morrisey's First of the Gang To Die

The World is Full of Crashing Bores and How Can Anybody Possibly Know How I feel?

The record that ups the ante set by Johnny and June with Jackson. It's hip hop. It's theatre. It's pretty damned engaging. Ghostface is one sensitive dude. Don't let him tell ya otherwise. He may not know it himself, but I do. Sure he roars out of the gate pissed off, spitting at his bitch, but he does an about face within 32 measures, "You want me to take you back? "No disrespect but you were psycho honey -- you want ME to take YOU back?" He goes on to bitch about the price of jumbo shrimp ("a buck fifty for eight!). And indignantly spits, "That wasn't right calling the cops on me!" Ghost's girl retorts: "Your sex wasn't wow but I dealt with it/three was a crowd but I dealt with it. Who loves you baby, breaks up your weed...? Ghostface breaks down: "Remember when you was drunk, you went behind a tree and pee'd . Damn I miss that shit!" Take me back. Take me back pretty please!" Take him back why-don't-ya?

 

 

 

I don't know hide nor hair of the Smiths. I spent a season or two in England back in the day when they were ever-present. Green On Red's crew/agency's management overlapped into their world. But, I was a snob, if it wasn`t Bob Dylan I didn't want to hear about it. I recently heard this track on the radio and had to hear more. "We are the pretty petty thieves!" sings Morrisey in a song about some gang banging character named Hector, over a kind of electrified Ronettes thing with like 20 guitars—it's weirdly cool. Cruising music 2004. The tell me he's got a loyal following in the Latino community. Multo bizzaro.

 

Phil Crumar

Phil Crumar CDR

Phil Crumar is originally from DC. I think he's been creeping around the Mission district for years now. He comes off like Ghostface on the shoulders of Kris Kristopherson. I can only fantasize writing songs this great. He burned me this CD of a record he's working on and it's brilliant. 

This song really killed me.

 

Six Feet Under

SFU revision

I wished I could run a revision on my SFU ravings from the previous Chuck's Corner installment. So, here it is. Seems like I turned around, I blinked and it went all Melrose Place on my ass! Sucker punched! How was I to know they'd pull more than enough soap opera tricks to make Aaron Spelling blush? Oh my! the shame! The hypocrisy! The spiritual decay! Rip the mask off of a seemingly normal family with more than it's share of kinky conflicts and what do you get? Tori Spelling! How could I have been such a chump?

 

Burt Bacharach

Studio Sessions

I hate to front, but Yo, I got this CD from a faithful supporter at a show recently. What can I say, it's one of the perks of the gig. A CD of Burt Bacharach and Dionne Warwick studio sessions. Most of the tracks are sans vocals. Just a rhythm section and string overdubs. Listening to these arrangements up close and getting inside the nooks and cranny's is really something. It's like a breathtaking view into Bacharach's brain. Rock and roll it aint --of course it never pretends to be, but make no mistake -- it rocks. The guitar chinks cut with a diamond cutters precision—you could set your clock to `em. There's even a Dionne Warwick stunt double on one track. Why dude? Presumably, Dionne was on the road pimping previous masterpieces. Gorgeous, fascinating shit.

 

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