The Choctaw Ridge 50 

A Southern Gothic Mixtape

Here's something I worked up for my South class at Centre, an outline sketch of some roots and branches. Even though books and movies have held the big flags for Southern Gothic over the years, it's more than a little interesting to lend an ear to the soundtrack that's been out there in the swamps, hollers, and airwaves all the while.

1.  Bobbie Gentry, "Ode to Billie Joe"

The gold standard. The handwritten 1967 ms. of the original 11-verse version is in the Faulkner Room at…

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Grits and Redeye Gravy 

I must've been about five. This was small-town Kentucky, 1958, and my dad was letting me tag along to Saturday breakfast. He'd meet up with his pals and they'd shoot the breeze over sausage, hash browns, country ham, fried pies, grits and gravy. It was all bonhomie and that great lard-fried smell behind those plate glass windows.    The grownup talk mostly went over my head. I did pick up that bless her heart wasn't exactly good. There was also a mystery language from back in the kitchen. Flop two, frogRead more

Shall Be Released / Notes on BONES 

I dreamed my friends staged an intervention. Enough is enough, they said, and then they ripped the song mixes from my hands, put them in an envelope, and wrote FINISHED across the seal.   When I woke up, someone had taken wirecutters to my guitar strings.     And so Uncle Bones is with the mastering engineer at last and will soon see the light of day.  Which is good for at least two reasons.  The first is that I can stop working on it.     * * * * *   Big thanks here for the playing of Bleu… Read more

A Certain Slant of Light 

To: The Lucas List and All Our Inmate Friends

Salutations from the dark heart of winter. Are you about to lose your mind in the light-starved frozen woe of it all? You are not forgotten. Because here's a little something to push you on over the edge: "Graveyard Day"--free download at the bottom of the music page.   Mark Twain flung down the gauntlet long ago: "Everybody talks about the weather," he said, "but nobody does anything about it." Well, another Mark has done what he can: it's a weather song.… Read more

Notes on DUST 

DUST. Dust of Eden, dust motes in a movie-projector beam, dust to dust. The word just kept showing up. There's a legend that when Adam and Eve were expelled from paradise some loose grit blew into the outer darkness. If a grain gets in your eye, you’re never the same after.   “Down in the Swamp.” In keelboat days the rivermen gambled and brawled in a section of New Orleans called The Swamp. I’ve moved it from Girod Street to the Vieux Carée but other than that, dead true.    "Lost John." Folk song by… Read more

Theodore O'Hara RIP 

      He was on a plaque outside the Danville courthouse. That was the first I heard of him. The usual bronze recitation that leaves little impression:  native son, born 18-something, lawyer, etc. Another politician, I figured. But then some words that did make an impression:

         On Fame's eternal camping-ground
         Their silent tents are spread,
         And Glory guards, with solemn round,
         The bivouac of the dead.

The man was a poet.  A dark-minded, brooding one at that.  Personified glory…

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Some Old Friends 

People ask me what kind of lyric I like. This kind. Where the words are veiny. Cut them, they'd bleed. Items are in no particular order, though some hammered steel from St. Townes will more than do for a start. Press play in your head.

Living on the road, my friend, / Is gonna keep you free and clean /
 Now you wear your skin like iron /
 Your breath as hard as kerosene—“Pancho and Lefty”

Kerosene breath. Harder than hard liquor. In the word according to Townes, the freedom of the road comes at cost of a…

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