Archive for the country music Category

“I Saw The Light” (Sunday A.M. Punk Rock Gospel)

Posted in country music, I Heart Holidays, Rock & Roll, Spirituality & Religion, Sunday AM Punk Rock Gospel, The wisdom of the universe, Top 2% of Coolest Mofos with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 18, 2010 by alphabetfiend

“No more darkness , No more night . Now I’m so happy , no sorrow in sight . Praise the Lord, I saw the Light .”

Happy Birthday, Hank Williams!

It doesn’t matter who you are, whatever you’re into, if you have even a modicum of cool then you hafta give it up for Hank Williams.

Hank Williams is a country legend with punk rock rising.

Hank was/is mournful country heart with gospel soul, rock & roll charisma, and punk as fuck aura. 

Williams was regal and rebellious at once.

He had a dignified air and sexy masculinity, despite his rock-a-billy suits bedecked with glitter or musical notes.

Hank Williams, you magnificent mofo, thank you for all the gifts you’ve bestowed on us.

Happy Birthday.

In honor of Hank’s birthday, I’d chosen “I saw the light” for this weekend’s Sunday AM Punk Rock Gospel. Cause Hank is divine and ’cause it’s “I Saw the Light,” C’mon! It’s a perfect punk rock gospel selection. Thing is, Hank’s birthday is today. What’s stopping us from having a Friday P.M. Punk Rock Gospel? Nothing! That’s the best part of a temple with no walls or a religion with no rules. You do like Johnny Cash and make it your own personal Jesus, whatever “it” may be. However it may happen, you are open to illumination.

 

Hey, it’s a bit dim in here, can somebody hit the lights?

(Hank Williams, singing “I Saw the Light” with The Carter Family. Listen… can you hear June’s voice?)

I SAW THE LIGHT
I wandered so aimless , life filled with sin.
I wouldn’t let my dear Saviour in.
Then Jesus came like a stranger in the night .
Praise The Lord , I saw the Light .

CHORUS
I saw the Light , I saw the Light ,
No more darkness , No more night .
Now I’m so happy , no sorrow in sight .
Praise the Lord, I saw the Light .

Just like the blind man, I wandered along ,
Worries and fears , I claimed for my own.
Then like the blind man, that God , gave back his sight .
Praise the Lord, I saw the Light .

CHORUS

I was a fool to wander and stray,
For straight is the gate and narrow the way.
Now I have traded , the wrong for the right .
Praise the Lord , I saw the Light .
CHORUS

“Smoke Bend” Dollar Bill Johnston (Sunday P.M. Punk Rock Gospel)

Posted in country music, I Heart My Love-Tribe, Music & Life & Sundays, politics, Republicans scare me, Spirituality & Religion, Sunday AM Punk Rock Gospel, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 30, 2010 by alphabetfiend

Now it’s winter on the river, and a cold swift swollen tide meets a warm southern breeze from the gulf of memories.  

Every year, around the 9th of October, I fall into a funk. This blue mood is a complete mystery to me until the part of myself that’s been trying it’s best to keep the date from me will lag,  inevitably exhausted, and it will hit me. Oh! Right. That. The day that my father left this lousy place for good. The day that changed everything. The day that was so swollen with uncontainable sadness that even now, all these years later, it still will not be contained.    

      

I have another tough week in the spring. Another mysterious doom. “So?” Steffe’ll ask, pensively. “How are you? You always get down whenever y’know… me too. I miss him too.” And then it’ll hit me. Oh. Right. That. The week that our friend Paul had a heart attack in Florida, while shacked up with another poet on a houseboat.     

   

Souls have a secret calendar of agony.  

The Robot fades to black every year ’round labor day. The holiday serves as a hard-to-suppress reminder of the weekend his cousin/ little brother/best friend put a gun to his own temple. He was drunk and fighting with his girl friend, suddenly desolate, momentarily stupid. Maybe he meant to mash the trigger, maybe not. Those kind of over-wrought emotional moments can color the future with what is really just a temporary explosion of too too much. I keep a close eye on RB as the holiday nears. He wouldn’t do something so drastic but still, the date itself is a reminder of how hopelessness can swallow a grown folk whole.  

Like a snake eats an alligator.   

The gator goes down easier than you’d think.     

   

(Though I did see a story where a python tried to eat an alligator and the snake exploded… so that’s oddly comforting.)     

These last few days, I was hit by another mysterious gloom. It began with three days of insomnia — I was amped & aimless, annoyed with TV, avoiding the computer –followed by 15 hours of boulder-like sleep. It was a sleep-monster Saturday: ’round 4, Robo put me down like a toddler in need of nap; I reluctantly dozed off at the approach of 6; woke up at 3am to finish/post the gospel but mostly spent 2 hrs staring vacantly into space; then came Gospel!? We don’ need no stinkin’ gospel!; at 10am the Robot woke me with my favorite breakfast. I’m still annoyed and considering sending him back for reprogramming. It wasn’t until I finally got online that I ran smack dab into the Oh. Right. That.     

 Katrina.     

   

There, on the wordpress dash sat a letter from a reader/ friend, bummed about the anniversary of Katrina and wondering where-o-where was the Sunday AM Punk Rock Gospel? Ah. Arggghrr. (That’s an argh that becomes a grr.) In a split second of watery blinking, I decided to forsake my previously planned song in favor of another song which we played constantly in the wake of that fateful & fatal storm. Before too, but so so often after. This song has meant the world to myself and the loverman (why, he was just a little robot, maybe 8 or 9, when he first started reading The Times Picayune; wishing he could get into the city, good old Big Easy, to see Black Sabbath at City Park.)     

We played that record ragged. That album was our refuge in the storm. That smoking Piggie was a good gentleman friend to us. The song is “Smoke Bend.”  The album is The Gourds 2002 release “Cow Fish Fowl or Pig.”      

   

Yes, I know we’ve just done The Gourds recently but we’re talking about Katrina today and for me, there is only one Katrina song.     

 “Smoke Bend” by the Gourds with Dollar Bill Johnston.      

Dollar Bill Johnston joins The Gourds on stage

Dollar Bill is the father is the father of Gourd, Max Johnston (also of Wilco and Uncle Tupelo.)  Interestingly, Max’s sister and Dollar Bill’s daughter is singer/song-writer Michelle Shocked, who I love.       

        

They’re sandbaggin’ the levees     

They’re shovelin’ night and day     

It’s the year of ’27     

Gonna wash us all away     

 This song was not written about Katrina. Which in my mind, for my purposes, makes it better. Rather it’s about the ever-present worry that the levees might break and if so, then what?    

 The levee gonna bust     

On your side or mine     

A little dynamite on your side     

Help the river make its mind     

It’s about the day that you hope never comes. It’s about the risks we all take in life whether it’s living in the basin of New Orleans or loving even when you know know how much losing is gonna hurt.    

 Folks left that west bank town     

 Left it all behind     

 Start life on higher ground     

 Gonna get out just in time     

 I didn’t grow up in New Orleans, but I was worried by my own what-if’s.    

Even as a small child, my attachment to my father was so enormous that I was haunted by his mortality. This what-if stayed with me through-out my life. In college, laying in bed one night, I tried to picture the cruel day and could imagine no future for myself beyond it. I saw myself in my messy closet, tucked in the fetal position, refusing to come out. Ever. By the time it happened for real, that closet was long gone, and I was living in Austin, but I could still find the fetal position.     

It must’ve been crazy growing up in New Orleans in the shadow of what if?    

 After all, that’s was the place I wished to be.     

   

I’m a corn-fed midwestern girl (by way of A! I! Ohio!) so I’m not native to the south. But I wanted to be, oh I wanted it so badly, always, and I think that counts for something. It always made sense, jived with my version of self. I’ve kinda secretly way-down-deep-in-me thought of myself as the Delta Lady, the epitome of southern eccentricity. When I was very young, probably too young to long for such obscenity, I’d listen to Joe Cocker’s “Delta Lady” and think “That’s me! There I am! Standing wet and naked in the garden.”     

   

So it’s no surprise that this secret self-appointed Delta Lady found herself a mint julep of a southern gentleman.     

The Robot’s often spoke of the hurricane parties people have while weathering out the storm. They drink hurricanes, play cards and hope like hell. His stories were always punctuated with “Oh, you’d love it. You especially would love it!” ??? 

A hurricane party?     

   

It did sound like something I’d adore — the enforced play, the mandatory leisure; the tendency towards hedonism or at least too many hurricanes; the chaotic familiarity of community and iffy festivity of gatherings; kids running wild, adults divulging secrets; all that human energy, all that snap crackle pop, and over-top — the bristling electricity of sky & fear.      

But after Katrina, I dunno… it sounds too… scary.      

Robotboy grew up in Mississippi, just outside of New Orleans, so his family was hit. The eye of the hurricane passed directly over the family home. It was scary and it was scary even for us, waiting to find out if everyone was okay. They were. They lost a roof and few 100 year trees, a prized pecan, but our people were all very lucky. But then they weren’t depending on the levees…       

    

“Smoke Bend” is about the day that we hope will never come, and yet we know it will, and still that changes nothing.     

Now there’s mint juleps at Oak Alley     

  There’s poison in the air     

 There’s new dangers on the river     

 It’s so good to be from there      

    

We continue to love whatever it is we’re so afraid to lose. Once we’ve lost out, the love goes on. That’s another little something we can count on.     

{{MP3 17 – Part II – Smoke Bend}}   

Smoke bend 

CHORUS:

Now it’s winter on the river

And a cold swift swollen tide

Meets a warm southern breeze

From the gulf of memories

Missouri and clear Ohio

Give their currents to the tide

Now the river’s Louisiana’s

For the willow tree-lined ride

From cruel Angola down to Venice

Scatterin’ horseshoes everywhere

The river’s Louisiana’s

With no glory or bank to share

If the river had its way

The Atchafalaya’d be its home

Straighten out them horseshoes

Find another bank to roam

There’s cane fires up the bank

Of that horseshoe of Smoke Bend

The smoke was double thick

And the fog was rollin’ in

Tie your boat to a willow tree

Climb the bank so high

Above the blanket on the river

See every star in the sky

Smoke fog and family

Kept to that west bank town

Smoke and fog would burn and blow away

The folks they’d stay around

There was catfish with the Kingfish

And a culture spice gumbo

There’s coonass music playing

On a glowin’ radio

Klan and crackers on the side

At the Last Chance Cafe

Crawfish etouffee

Warm red river Beaujolais

CHORUS

They’re sandbaggin’ the levee

They’re shovelin’ night and day

It’s the year of ’27

Gonna wash us all away

The levee gonna bust

On your side or mine

A little dynamite on your side

Help the river make its mind

Folks left that west bank town

Left it all behind

Start life on higher ground

Gonna get out just in time

Now there’s mint juleps at Oak Alley

There’s poison in the air

There’s new dangers on the river

It’s so good to be from there

CHORUS

**************************************

Stay ahead of the snake, y’all, don’t get swallowed up cause really that’s silly, a gator in the belly of a snake, c’mon? Even a python! C’mon! And it’s not safe for the snake either. So just lift yer snout outta the swamp n’ hum a little cajun tune or maybe that one about the river, who did that one? The potatoes? The parsnips? The Gourds! With Dollar Bill Johnston!   

 So whaddaya say, alkies, got a hankerin’ for hurricanes? Well, why’ont you whip us up a pitcher!     

  

Thank’s to Mike — fellow Austinite, who grew up in Chalmette — for documenting his own (from afar & helpless) vigil during the storm and subsequent obsession with the recovery of his homeland. See his story and more of his storm photos (like above.) 

Immerse yourself in gourdy goodness at the band’s sweet sight, complete with wood round rekerd playa.   

If you’re in love with “Smoke Bend” (and you should be) the song can be downloaded for 99 cents. A great song for the price of a candy bar. The album “Cow Fish Fowl or Pig” available on amazon.  If you’re not ready for the I couldn’t nor wouldn’t begin to suggest where future aid should be sent so I open comments to suggestions.  

*************************************************   

Today’s edition of the Sunday AM Punk Rock Gospel is dedicated to everyone who saw Nola through that storm as well as to those who continue to be with her now. To those who lost lives, loved ones, homes, schools, churches, haunts. To those still healing and still helping in the aftermath.     

My heart aches for all of you, for your families wherever they may live, and for every one who had their heart mangled by that hurricane (even if “only” in an an empathic human way)  

Today was hard for people, people’s hearts are still hurting. Even those not directly affected by Katrina, even those hearts are clenched like angry fists. In a strange sad way, Katrina became a shared trauma, a throbbing dated ache that yearly seizes up. Katrina blew through our TV screens and flooded our family rooms. Which is not to diminish the unfathomable experience of being in New Orleans both during and after that storm; nor the losses borne by other areas hit by Katrina.

Sunday Morning Coming Down (Sunday A.M. Punk Rock Gospel)

Posted in country music, Friendship, I Heart My Love-Tribe, Music & Life & Sundays, Sunday AM Punk Rock Gospel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 15, 2010 by alphabetfiend

On the Sunday morning sidewalk, wishing, Lord, that I was stoned.
‘Cos there’s something in a Sunday, makes a body feel alone.

Some sad-sacks say this song is depressing but not me.   I say it’s breathtakingly beautiful. 

 

A feeling doesn’t have to be “happy” to be worth something. 

A Sunday doesn’t have to be “joyous” to be well, a SUNDAY.  

I think this song — this “sad” song — is very life-affirming, very human, and very very AUSTIN.   It’s everything I’ve come to know and love about my life in this stony Texas town: Saturday nights spent with people I adore, music that moves me, drunken 6th street hugs as we all disperse after a great show.   

Maybe in the morning you will feel achey or godless or lonely but that’s okay because you are an Austin punk-rock darling who loved Saturday too much and now Sunday is giving you the cold shoulder.  

Have a smoke, eat an egg, enjoy being alive.  

Make amends with Sunday.

Now go pick a handful of yer neighbors posies and see how easily Sunday forgives. 

Sunday Morning Coming Down

Well I woke up Sunday morning,
With no way to hold my head that didn’t hurt.
And the beer I had for breakfast wasn’t bad,
So I had one more for dessert.
Then I fumbled through my closet for my clothes,
And found my cleanest dirty shirt.
An’ I shaved my face and combed my hair,
An’ stumbled down the stairs to meet the day.

I’d smoked my brain the night before,
On cigarettes and songs I’d been pickin’.
But I lit my first and watched a small kid,
Cussin’ at a can that he was kicking.
Then I crossed the empty street,
‘n caught the Sunday smell of someone fryin’ chicken.
And it took me back to somethin’,
That I’d lost somehow, somewhere along the way.

On the Sunday morning sidewalk,
Wishing, Lord, that I was stoned.
‘Cos there’s something in a Sunday,
Makes a body feel alone.
And there’s nothin’ short of dyin’,
Half as lonesome as the sound,
On the sleepin’ city sidewalks:
Sunday mornin’ comin’ down.

In the park I saw a daddy,
With a laughin’ little girl who he was swingin’.
And I stopped beside a Sunday school,
And listened to the song they were singin’.
Then I headed back for home,
And somewhere far away a lonely bell was ringin’.
And it echoed through the canyons,
Like the disappearing dreams of yesterday.

On the Sunday morning sidewalk,
Wishing, Lord, that I was stoned.
‘Cos there’s something in a Sunday,
Makes a body feel alone.
And there’s nothin’ short of dyin’,
Half as lonesome as the sound,
On the sleepin’ city sidewalks:
Sunday mornin’ comin’ down.

***********************************

I’m on the road, heading back to Austin from my dog days in Mississippi. I hate to go. I hate like hell to be separated from Thing 2, my baby niece who is at the cutest age (almost 2) and will grow too much before I’m back. We’ve forged quite the juicy bond. Uncle Robot sez, “She loves you! Your name is an exclamation of joy to her. Dia! Dia! She says ‘Dia’ like most folks say ‘hooray’.”

Who wouldn’t miss that?

Anyway, back to Texas I go and so I have chosen this post ( another repost* “Sorry” gulps the gasoline gypsy) because it was a love letter to Austin and I need to feel some of that love. But it’s also a love letter to Saturday nights and Sunday mornings, wherever you may be, and an ode to the punk rock good life.  

*An inferior version was originally posted on the 21st of September 2008 as one of the very first punk rock gospels. Back when the idea still had wobbly newborn legs. Back when I tried to keep things brief. Do y’all prefer a shorter gospel? Let me know! 

If you’ve read this before, don’t despair. Check back in the next couple days for I hope to post a brand new special “Belated-Birthday” edition in honor of my Dad’s August 9 birth. So you know it’ll be a good one, being as I am a daddy’s girl who loves that man more than books. Fur reals.

Alphabetfiend is Dia VanGunten — a writer & wanna-be circus freak living in Austin, Texas.

“Cracklins” (Sunday P.M. Punk Rock Gospel)

Posted in country music, I Heart My Love-Tribe, I Heart Tricksters, Music & Life & Sundays, Mythos, punk rock, Rock & Roll, Spirituality & Religion, Sunday AM Punk Rock Gospel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 26, 2010 by alphabetfiend

I gotta find some weed and some wine! I just got to find some trouble sometime!  

They’re called The Gourds. They say their music is for “the unwashed  & the well-read.” I’ve oft-referred to them as “Austin in a can”…frothy, cold and startin’ to sweat straight outta the icebox. Pop the top and out comes the sound of Austin in a musty, malty swoosh.  

The Gourds are (left to right): Max Johnston, Claude Bernard, Jimmy Smith, Keith Langford and Kevin Russell.

Goof-damn, there’s been so many good gourd-carved memories!  

Hearing ’em live for the first time ever at the tiny Cactus Cafe, a room as big as y’all’s den; dancing with Leah at Antones, on one of her last A-TX visits before she got married and became Sophia’s momma; flirting with Cha by the lake at twilight as The Gourd’s tore it up cuntry-style.  

Then there was that sticky sunset, driving into El Paso on my way to The Unified Science of Consciousness Conference in Tucson (University of Arizona.) After a long blistering day on I-10, I celebrated crossing the Texas border (finally!) by repeatedly cranking “El Paso.” Cigarette on a rumble seat, drive all day got nothing to eat. I’m Drivin’ all day,  got nothing to get me to where I’m going to. El Paso I’m going to, El Paso I’m going tooo….  

Let’s see? What else?  

Ah, the annual New Year’s Eve Masquerade Ball. One in particular, at The Parish. I wore my elaborate indian headdress & daisy yellow tights under a black mini-dress (trusty LBD of the day) and all night long I played the hell outta my tiny toy accordion! We passed a bottle of bubbly (my prize for best-dressed) and we sputtered laughing cause it was just the kinda New Year’s Eve that you expected to have as a kid, while all the Grups were out partying and you stayed home to watch the ball drop with Grandma. The RobotBoy had a robot mask and we danced all night –rung in the new year right.  

Yep, so many of the gourds-soaked memories are romantic: like “Hallelujah Shine” on the radio those days, those nights in a dark dash-lit car, when the Robot and I were first falling in love.  If you want to meet the Jesus, you gotta go down there brother. If you wanna meet Muhammad, you gotta get in the water. If you want yer hallelujah shine, you gotta go under. You gotta go under Jordan’s mighty waters. This hallelujah shine is mighty dark & old!

If we ever get married — the ‘bot and I — we’d love to have an old-fashioned country carnival: snake-charmers, burlesque dancers, fried chicken and gin-soaked watermelon. RobotBoyLoverMan would don a seer-sucker suit and candy-striped socks. My dress would be all sweet & kicky; something shorter, since a long train would collect grass-stains. Instead of flowers —  as my “bouquet” — I’d tug a swaying, bobbing bunch of balloons. My bridesmaids would sparkle beneath paper parasols, six gorgeous faces shadowed from the Mississippi sun. Speaking of that sun! Let the sucker set! As the sun melts like a butterscotch, The Gourds’ll kick off a raucaus set with “Cracklins!” (Maybe later they’d indulge with a cover of Cohen’s “Dance Me to the End of Love.”???) 

(At this point, after 11 loyal years together, it’s worth waiting until gay marriage is legalized or until we have the budget for The Gourds.)
 
  
I’ve only  just arrived back here in Podunk, Mississippi, having come from Austin, Texas (at this point, I call both cities home… each one homey for different reasons) and after a long roadtrip, I’m thinking damn if it isn’t high-as-hell time that we featured “Cracklins” by The Gourds as a perfectly punk-ass Punk Rock Gospel selection. 
 
The song makes me wish I was a wicked cracklins connoisseur but no. I’m no fan of real-life pork skins. They’re stinky and they’re furry. I prefer my snack foods to be hairless. But hey, I got nothin’ but good things to say ’bout some weed and some wine and some trouble some time.
 

 

“Cracklins” is about recovery, reinvention, redemption! 

Reincarnation! Resurrection!! 

“Cracklins” reminds us that “living out loud” (as G*word would say) is a joyous & good thing — a great big noisyness, a holy ruckus, a prayer the gods are sure to hear!!!
 
I just gotta find a little trouble sometime.
 
When Blood of the Ram first came out( in 2004) I played “Cracklins” for my friend Mary Knott and she thought I was nuts! Especially when I started crying at the end — weeping really, like a stone statue of Mary. All overwrought & goof-touched. All giddy & awe-struck.
 
It’s been years and “Cracklins” still gives me chills.
 
Them Mississippi state police chased me, Pascagoula all the way to Metarie. I robbed a federal bank with a rack of ribs. A jar of sauce, some white bread and a bib.
 
“Cracklins” is an anarchist psalm & a trickster yodel. A holy hell holler & a crooked halo.

An ode to the outlaw! 

A sly nod to all that’s mysterious & mischievous & miraculous about the human spirit.

 Hot DAMN! 
 
Come all ye holy hedonists, this shit’s for you!

  

Listen up! 

Don’t read the lyrics until you’ve listened to the song or you will spoil the surprise at the end which is the very best part and the reason why “Cracklins” makes for good gospel.   

   

Cracklins  

31 days my fingers feel like rain. 

This jail was built on cracklins and cocaine. 

Policemen knocked me down and then charged me, 

With smokin and inciting vagrancy,

yes ‘ey did, yes ‘ey did. 

***

Chicken sneezed, eatin’ my cracklins. 

Buttercup, bloomin in the badlands. 

Kaboom kaboom, piss on the curses. 

Hospital, kiss all the nurses. 

I got to find some weed and some wine. 

I just gotta find some trouble sometime. 

***

Them Navasota troopers ran me down, 

Escorted me right out of town, 

For cherry pickin’ squirrels and feedin’ dogs, 

And dreamin of Jamaica in a fog.

Yes I did, yes I did.

***

Chicken sneezed, eatin’ my cracklins. 

Buttercup, bloomin in the badlands. 

Kaboom kaboom, piss on the curses. 

Hospital, kiss all the nurses. 

I got to find some weed and some wine. 

I just gotta find some trouble sometime.

***

Them Mississippi state police chased me, 

Pascagoula all the way to Metarie. 

I robbed a federal bank with a rack of ribs, 

A jar of sauce, some white bread and a bib.

Yes I did, Yes I did.

*** 

Chicken sneezed, eatin’ my cracklins. 

Buttercup, bloomin in the badlands. 

Kaboom kaboom, piss on the curses. 

Hospital, kiss all the nurses. 

I got to find some weed and some wine. 

I just gotta find some trouble sometime.

Time, time. I’m gonna find ya, I’m gonna get it.

*** 

I was eatin cracklins as the Feds were closin’ in. 

They watched the water as my car went rollin’ in. 

They dragged the river and notified my next of kin. 

But brother, pigs do fly and so can a man! 

When he’s full of fried pork skins!!

Yes, sir! 

Whew!

**********************************************************   

Love love love! 

How ’bout a talisman to honor The Gourd’s teachin’? By PaganGypsy, only $5 bucks on etsy.  

 

In the mood for pork cracklins? See Emeril Legasse’s recipe for homemade cracklins!  

 Go thee to the gourds website  

Death Don’t Have No Mercy (Sunday A.M. Punk Rock Gospel)

Posted in country music, Lipstick Shamaness, Music & Life & Sundays, Sunday AM Punk Rock Gospel, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 11, 2010 by alphabetfiend

This weekend — shadowy due to the solar eclipse perhaps? — has been morbid and over-wrought and thus Devo’s Fresh really wasn’t gonna hit the spot.

 

Due to the ache of the last couple days — Nightmares, Roadside Tragedy and other Ick — I really don’t have my usual Goof-given gratitude and all-around zest for life. And yet I do. You bet I do. It’s just that I’m all too aware of how easily that life can end in a split-second convergence of circumstance, timing and (bad) luck. 

Okay, fine, I’ve got gratitude and zest, sure, but no words. My eyes are red and my sockets are dry from too many tears. Every tear I shed took one word with it and now there’s no words left.

Rather than “Fresh” by Devo, I’ve chosen the blues classic “Death Don’t Have No Mercy.” Actually, I was too spent even for the making of choices, but after I read my last post aloud to RB, he suggested I do “Death…” as it’s one of my all-time heart-wrenching favorites and unfortunately apt. Of course! “Death Don’t Have No Mercy” indeed.

“Death Don’t have No Mercy,” originally done by Reverend Gary Davis, has been covered many times by everyone from The Grateful Dead to, more recently, Ramblin’ Jack Elliot. I’m especially partial to the version by the late great, John Martyn. Martyn did the song in the late 90’s, covering a Portishead song on the same album. (The song was Glorybox, the album was The Church With One Bell.)

I first fell in love with “Death Don’t Have No Mercy” when Martyn did it and so I was hoping to share his version with you but no luck. Nevermind.  The song is amazing, period, and both of the following versions are great. That said, I urge you to check out Martyn’s version, should you take to these. 

I often promise a less-wordy week than usual and then pull words like handkerchiefs from a magician’s pocket but not this week. I mean it. Seriously. I’m shutting up now. (If you crave the usual Sunday A.M. chatter, check out that last sad post.)

And now, the genius Reverend Gary Davis.

And now, my beloved Ramblin’ Jack Elliot.

Death Don’t Have No Mercy

Y’ know death don’t have no mercy in this land
Death don’t have no mercy in this land, in this land
Come to your house, you know he don’t take long
Look in bed this morning, children find your mother gone.

I said death don’t have no mercy in this land.
Death will leave you standing and crying in this land,
Death will leave you standing and crying in this land, in this land, yeah!

Whoa! come to your house, y’ know he don’t stay long,
Y’ look in bed this morning,
Children you find that your brothers and sisters are gone.
I said death don’t have no mercy in this land.

Death will go in any family in this land.
Death will go in any family in this land.
Come to your house, you know he don’t take long.
Look in the bed on the morning, children find that your family’s gone.

****************************

Death don’t have no mercy, but sometimes Death’ll take a raincheck, as was the case with the man who fell nearly 500 feet off a cliff and lived to respect the hell outta Senor Death. So keep hoping and keep loving, my mutant mystics, until that day when Death comes calling.

See you next week for another Sunday A.M. Punk Rock Gospel.

Goof willing.

Your Own Personal Jesus (Sunday AM Punk Rock Gospel)

Posted in country music, Music & Life & Sundays, Mythos, Spirituality & Religion, Sunday AM Punk Rock Gospel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 20, 2010 by alphabetfiend

Have your personal Jesus call my personal Jesus and we’ll work somethin’ out. How’s Sunday work for ya?    

For this week’s Sunday AM Punk Rock Gospel, I’ve chosen a song that’s gone through quite a transformation since its early 90’s hey-day. Originally done by Depeche Mode, “Personal Jesus” got a whole new spiritual life when covered by the late great Johnny Cash.    

    

Johnny Cash recorded “Personal Jesus” for his 2002 album American IV: When the Man Comes Around. Brilliantly produced by Rick Rubin, the album is a masterful collection of Cash covering songs by such diverse artists as Nine Inch Nails or Simon & Garfunkle. (Hurt; A Bridge Over Troubled Water) It’s clear from Rubin’s song selections that he’d listened to a lot of old Johnny Cash records. Each song is a glimpse into Cash’s psyche, soul and sound.    

    

“Personal Jesus” was an especially perfect choice and yet not at all obvious.    

Johnny Cash? Depeche Mode? Whuuut?    

C’mon, think about it! “Personal Jesus” was made for Johnny Cash. It’s a Jesus song! And damn can Johnny sing us some Jesus.    

“Gospel music is part of what I am and part of what I do,” — JC    

By 2002, singing about Jesus was old hat to Cash: he’d struck an earthly aching chord with songs like “Redemption”, “I Saw the Light” or (my fav) Billy Joe Shaver’s “Old Chunk of Coal.”    

Sinner? (Johnny Cash)

Johnny was the sinner striking out towards redemption.    

There was a sadness in Cash: an ill-healed injury, a bruised history. Yet Cash wasn’t brow beat or beat down. He wasn’t ashamed or unwilling to change. Johnny Cash was a work in progress… he was “Us”. For all the hurt his voice conveyed there was also yearning, learning and hope.    

Before I heard Cash’s cover of Personal Jesus, I never saw the song as spiritual or even especially meaningful. It seemed, to me, to be more about SNARK than SPIRIT.   

With that voice like an open gash, Cash gave it gospel. Personal Jesus” was never meant to be a spiritual hymn or religious statement. Dave Gahan reportedly wrote the song about heroin, after battling a nasty addiction to the stuff. (Guess that explains the snark.)   

Saint? (DM's Dave Gahan)

For me, the Depeche Mode version elicits memories of an illicit afternoon of stolen sex with my high-school boyfriend who was supposedly my ex-boyfriend (who should have definitely stayed an ex.) He’d shown up with his shiny new CD, hot to trot, hopin’ to be my very own personal Jesus. While he sang along,  fancying himself as unholy savior, I sat there thinking A) This again? What am I doing? and B) He bettah not be thinkin’ he’s my personal Jesus. Until I finally busted out with “Y’know you’re really not” and he said, “Oooh, yes I am.”    

Let us take a moment to thank our blessed father who art in heavan, for it was Johnny Cash who took ultimate and final possession of “Personal Jesus.” Sorry DM fans, sorry MM* fans, but it’s true. “Personal Jesus” is Johnny’s. Always will be. Sorry ADC but you aren’t my personal Jesus. Never waz.    

Everyone must find something to give their life texture and meaning, be it Jesus or Johnny Cash. We’re all setting our own moral barometers and looking for guidance — in the pages of The Koran or in the pages of Nietzsche. Whether we find peace in ancient psalms or Ginsberg poems, we’re all in search of the joy that obliterates pain, the light that illuminates the dark.    

    

What is more personal than Jesus?    

Often, when someone’s found what they’re looking for, they’ll become convinced that they have what the rest of us need. But spirit is a private matter. No one can save another’s soul. Even those belting out “Jesus Loves Me” beneath the same rain-pelted church roof  are singing to their own singular versions of God’s first-born.    

Historian/Author Stephen Prothero explored the many-faced Jesus in his book American Jesus. The book examines how Jesus has affected our culture and how our culture has affected Jesus.    

No religious personality has captivated so many Americans for so long as Jesus. Indeed, as Boston University historian Prothero demonstrates in this sparkling and engrossing book, Jesus is the one religious figure nearly every American, whether Christian or not, past and present, has embraced. From Thomas Jefferson’s cut-and-paste Bible to Jesus Christ Superstar, from the feminized Christ of the Victorians to the “manly redeemer” of Teddy Roosevelt’s era, from Buddhist bodhisattva to Black Moses, Prothero surveys the myriad ways Americans have remade Jesus in their own image.    

(Publisher’s Weekly)      

    

Whether you view Jesus as a diety or not, there’s no denying that Jesus has become an American icon. Chances are, you too have your own personal Jesus. We should all have our own personal Jesus! Who doesn’t sometimes need to reach out and touch faith?    

Personal Jesus    

Reach out and touch faith
Your own Personal Jesus
Someone to hear your prayers
Someone who cares
Your own Personal Jesus
Someone to hear your prayers
Someone who’s there    

Feeling’s unknown and you’re all alone
Flesh and bone by the telephone
Lift up the receiver
I’ll make you a believer    

Take second best
Put me to the test
Things on your chest
You need to confess
I will deliver
You know I’m a forgiver
Reach out and touch faith    

Your own Personal Jesus
Feeling’s unknown and you’re all alone
Flesh and bone by the telephone
Lift up the receiver
I’ll make you a believer
I will deliver
You know I’m a forgiver
Reach out and touch faith
Your own Personal Jesus
Reach out and touch faith    

This video is beautifully done — sun-faded familial shots of Johnny & June intercut with raw b+w photos of haggard looking celebs. (Kris Kristofferson, Kieth Richards, Dennis Hopper, Billy Gibbons, Kate Moss, Sheryl Crow, Justin Timberlake, Johnny Depp, Chris Rock, Lisa Marie Presley, Travis Barker and Kid Rock.)    

   

Who or what does your Jesus look like? Who’s listening to your prayers? What do you reach for when you’re all alone, just flesh and bone by the telephone?   

I sometimes suspect that Johnny’s personal Jesus was June.    

    

After June died, after they buried her, the Robot Boy was reading the paper when tears welled up in his green eyes. I was… surprised.     

Wow, he said. Johnny’s not long for this world.    

RB passed the paper and pointed at a photo of Johnny Cash at June Carter Cash’s funeral. Cash, in a black suit and tie, was seated in a wheelchair; his face was graven and distant. A man was offering condolences, hand out-stretched, but Johnny saw right through him, as if he were in a whole other plane of existence. As if one or both of them were ghosts.    

They’ll be one of those couples, predicted RB. It won’t be long, now that June’s gone.    

And it wasn’t. It wasn’t long at all. I cried and cried the day Johnny died but having seen that picture, I’d say I was prepared. I could see the peace in it.    

    

*Marilyn Manson also covered “Personal Jesus.”    

The Holy Banana is from Stuff That looks Like Jesus, a gallery of one Jesus after another, whether in a dusty moth-wing or in the chocolatey layers of a kit kat candy bar.     

“Dead Characters” (the Jesus Big Boy painting) is by the ever-brilliant Mark Ryden.“Jesus with Desk Lamp” is by Branden Martz (just one of many amazing multi-media artworks on view at his website.) Expect to hear more about Mr. Martz!    

American Jesus by Stephen Prothero is available at Amazon.

Elvin Bishop’s “Fishin'” (Sunday AM Punk Rock Gospel)

Posted in country music, Lipstick Shamaness, punk rock, Rock & Roll, Spirituality & Religion, Sunday AM Punk Rock Gospel, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 30, 2010 by alphabetfiend

This is my first Sunday A.M. Punk Rock Gospel since my return to Cream Scene Carnival. The night I slipped back in, after posting my first new piece, I went out for another one of my dark highway drives. I listen to late-night fm and come up with absurd destinations. A pitch-dark dog park. The pink neon of the nighthawk diner that sells egg custard pie by the slice. A bundle of brand new socks for my RobotBoy. Sometimes the dogs join me, hanging their heads out the window and surfing through the cool moon-sticky breeze.    

I give myself over to the Radio Gods.

They unwind me from my bandages and wash my open sores with a warm sudsy cloth.  

 The Robot doesn’t care for radio.

Why, he wonders, would a grown ass person, with advanced tastes and an extensive music collection, ever choose to be at the mercy of radio again? 

His dial stays at NPR.  But never for long, not when I’m around. Cause I am an omen-seeker and as an omen-seeker, I worship the randomness of radio. I love that jolt of joy & recognition as my hand jumps to the volume dial. I love being suddenly enveloped in old skins. If the 80’s band “When in Rome” comes a-tinkling with their one hit — The Promise — then I’m 15 again and falling in love with Anthony Castro.

What does RB say of that?

He says, “Promise me I’ll never have to hear that shitty song again.”  

Radio is my own cosmic jukebox… colliding with the cosmic playlists of others. I often turn to radio for comfort and for guidance.  

Charlie Daniels once sang about "Elvin Bishop sitting on a bale of hay...he ain't good looking but he sure can play"

When they played Elvin Bishop’s “Fishin’ ” at 3:23 am, the tune clamped on my barbed hook like a cartoon carp. It was the only choice for today’s Punk Rock Gospel.

Elvin’s right. We should be spending our Sundays doing whatever makes our spirit soar or whatever brings our weary hearts some peace. For some of us, that involves a church with song & sermon. Others look elsewhere for their song & sermon. They don’t need pews and gory stained glass to make their symbols resonate. That’s what the Sunday AM Punk Rock Gospel is all about …. it wants to celebrate that elseswhere, it wishes to be that elsewhere.  

Elvin Bishop’s elsewhere is a quiet creek side spot:

I got me a nice little spot picked out down there on the crick.
Boy, them perch is bitin’ like crazy. Yassuh. Powerful. 

I’m goin’ fish-fish, fish-fish, fish-fish, fishin’.
I’m goin’ fishin’… hook, sinker, an’ line.
I said, fish-fish, fish-fish, fish-fish, fishin’….

Now some folks say that fishin’ on Sunday’s a sin.
If a fish bite my line on a Sunday, I’m gonna reel ’em on in.
Believe I’ll take ’em on home, fry ’em up good an’ have a ball

Cause I don’t see nothin’ wrong with fishin’ on Sunday at all

We ought to all go fishin’, want to have a nice time, fish fish fishin’… hook sinker & line….

I’ll take my pole an’ my jug down to the river,  set up on  the bank.
Every time the fish start to nibble, I’m gonna take me another drank.
  

Speaking with church choir modesty, Bishop said,

“My voice is very plain. It’s better suited for Blues. It’s been good for me, because it’s made my songwriting strong, because to really get over with a voice like mine, which is not a thrill in itself – the quality of the voice – you have to have a strong story and really good words to capture people’s imagination.  (Songfacts.com interview with Bishop.)  

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