Round the Dial
Thursday 04 September @ 14:51:46
by Tom Hallett
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “After air, food, water and fucking, I think music is the next human necessity. People think music is a luxury. In actual fact, music is a necessity.”
SONG OF THE WEEK: “The Clouds Are Full of Wine (Not Whiskey or Rye)”
Noise, glorious noise! Trucks, trains, planes, cars, motorcycles, buses, helicopters and sirens, sirens, sirens everywhere. People screaming, bass boxes bumpin’, phones ringin’, alarms beeping, buzzing, ringing, screeching: WAKE THE FUCK UP!! Summer’s almost over and you haven’t even started to make a dent in that monstrous pile of “To Review” CDs piled precariously next to your desk like a stack o’ slightly skewed waffles!! Oh, wait, that’s my trip, not yours. But beware! If you do have any projects, promises or plans you swore you’d stick to this year but haven’t tackled yet, remember that we seem to be caught in some kind of cosmic time warp, and although the sun is shining and the skies are blue today, we could wake up tomorrow to the cold, grey, pre-winter hullaballoo of Halloween! Brrr! I think I’ll take advantage of the weirdness that is Labor Day (an annual holiday that seems to serve no real purpose except for reminding everybody how cool it would be to not get out of bed every Monday from the ages of 6 to 70 years old, or until we drop dead, whichever comes first) and knock out some of these albums I just KNOW you’ve all been dying to read reviews on. In the meantime, you might as well dig out the rakes, snow shovels and thermal underwear now, so when you do crawl out of bed on some cold, not-too-distant morning, you’ll be completely prepared for the previous night’s warp. Onward ...
Jack Of All Heartache
Big Ol’ Records - 2002
Ubiquitous L.A. session drummer Mike Stinson (he’s played on such disparate releases as Christina Aguilera’s Stripped, Vic Chesnutt’s Silver Lake and Liz Phair’s latest) makes his solo debut with a batch of dreamy, down-to-earth country songs. A longtime pal of über-sessionaire/skinman Don Heffington, Stinson takes advantage of his connections in the music world to back himself up with a sturdy crew of fellow pickers and grinners. Handling acoustic guitar and vocal duties himself, Mike slides Hef into the drum stool, Lone Justice/X axeman Tony Gilkyson on lead guitars, Dwight Yoakam sideman Kip Boardman on bass and piano, and manages to squeak Minnesota guitarist Randy Weeks, roots/country fave Ramsay Midwood, and bassist Charlie McGovern on board for good measure.
The Yoakam tie-in is pretty obvious, once you suss that Stinson contributed one of this album’s tracks, “Late Great Golden State,” to Dwight’s recent (and critically acclaimed) album, Population Me. Dwight’s version features former Eagle Timothy B. Schmidt on backing vocals and has been hailed as a “return to the drugstore cowboy” ethos of L.A. in the early ‘70s. That might be true, if you see the Eagles, Poco and Linda Ronstadt as “drugstore cowboys.” Me, I’d be more inclined to say that Stinson’s original version of the song (and the rest of this album) is a lot closer to something an ACTUAL drugstore cowboy like Gram Parsons or Keith Richards would groove on. Nothing against Dwight—I actually like his music—but let’s be real: There ain’t nothing like the real thing, baby, especially in music.
Kicking off with the title track, Jack Of All Heartache immediately establishes itself as a liquor-soaked, honky-tonkin’ jukebox record. “I Can’t Call Virginia” hearkens back to the lazy, sun-soaked International Submarine Band sessions, with whiskey-clouded lines like, “I’m sure I’d slur the words I yearn to tell her/And by now, that’s all she’s come to expect.” See, I just can’t imagine a line like that sounding authentic coming from Don Henley or Timothy B. Schmidt. Or, these days, even Yoakam. Speaking of which, the song Mike contributed to Dwight’s album, “Late Great Golden State,” is one of the top tracks on this collection. A shuffling, laid-back romp through absolutely shimmering pickin’ and hypnotic percussion, the song is a perfect vehicle for Stinson’s gritty, authentic singin’ voice—which reminds me of a bizarre cross between Terry Anderson and Festus from the old “Gunsmoke” TV series. It isn’t going to blow away some besuited Sir Pump-A-Loaf at a major label, but man, it’d sound damn fine wafting across a smoky bar a bleary hour or so before closing time.
“When My Angel Gets High” rolls out like an anti-Ryan Adams rant (though not a specific one like Ol’ Yeller’s “I Can’t Hang!” which we’ll discuss in an upcoming column) from the belly of the (real) country beast and proves that even grizzled old scene veterans can pen a chillingly authentic heartbreak anthem for the modern cosmic cowboy/girl. “She can make me wanna die ... ” Stinson croons matter-of-factly, and there’s not a trace of smarmy, “alternative” monkeyshines to be found. “And I know that it’s my turn to cry, when my angel gets high ... ” he sighs, leaving you with no doubt that he’s lived and breathed every goddamn word of it.
A smart, warm, REAL collection of sweet American country from a guy who’s got about as much chance to get a video on GAC TV as I do to get this column syndicated in Australia. But Mike’s not cryin’ in his beer about that or about anything else outside of his late-night honky-tonk world, and I think he says it best in “The Good Old Days”: “These will be the good old days for me/The days that I will linger on sentimentally/These will be the happy times of old/The times when all my love songs went gold ... ” Well, at least here at my desk, they’re all gold, Mike. Tasty!
Note: RIP tough guy actor Charles Bronson, who passed away last weekend at the age of 81 after a bout with pneumonia. We’ll miss ye, Charlie. You were to movies what Black Sabbath was to Top 40 radio—big noise, bad-ass ‘tude, and raw, untamed power!! Until next time—make yer own damn news.
If you have local music news/gigs/events that you'd like to see listed in this column, or you'd just like to dip your verbal peanut butter in my aural chocolate, send replies to: TMygunn777@aol.com.