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Chris Goering

My musical soul was crushed this year in several ways. First and foremost, my main squeeze and constant source for inspiration and new music vanished without warning from my satellite receiver. XM's Cross Country became another murder ballad in the longstanding war against anything decent on the radio. Replaced with "outlaw country," Cross Country is a loss for their live shows, countdown shows, and specialty shows featuring artists like Robbie Fulks, Robert Earl Keen, and Dave Alvin to name a few. There is a hole in my heart that this radio station often filled. I have about 30 hours of it recorded on my Pioneer XM Radio so I guess I will be stuck with that as a souvenir. After the first three days of "outlaw" country, I haven't turned it on again and WILL NOT renew my subscription. It makes me sick mad so I will just move on, bottle it up, and probably pour it all over someone if I ever get a chance.

The second most jarring blow came in the form of records that missed me (and I argue, missed in general) as their audience. I did turn 30 this year but most of the stuff I listen to is either ageless or aimed at my age range. Ryan Adams, Drive By Truckers, Chris Knight, and the Old 97's are easily four of my top six or seven acts. Each released new material this year and in each case, the new material wasn't up to their previous work. This isn't to say I have thrown these artists under the bus nor do I ever intend to but this year's stuff didn't do it for me. DBT's release had too many sleepers and was a significant downward shift from my favorite of theirs A Blessing and A Curse too.

While I could wallow in all this for a bit, I am going to try to see the silver lining. I saw five of my top ten in concert this year and saw several other more than noteworthy concerts. I am thankful for the opportunities afforded me to listen to outstanding groups and continue pursuing the next dose of auditory enlightenment.

Top Ten:

1. James McMurtry-Just Us Kids

The wrinkled face of Americana is contorted into a snarl as McMurtry croons his latest creation, Just Us Kids. The title track is the best song of the year. McMurtry's characters and situations come to life throughout the CD, noted for the protest "Cheney's Toy," through his masterful writing. His music is timeless because it is built on some of the very best word by word songwriting. This guy is an English major's dream.

1. Band of Heathens-Band of Heathens

Three songwriters met at an open mic in Austin and started playing together a couple of years ago, the BOH is full of perfect harmonies, perfect melodies, and lyrics which can make you laugh in one song, turn you in a second song (refer to "Cornbread"), and make you cry in a third, the BOH has been on my radar for about 18 months after, thanks to XM CROSS COUNTRY, I heard the song I still consider their best, "Judas Scariott Blues." As Ray Wylie Hubbard said about these folks, "they are so funky you can hammer a nail with them." What does that mean anyway? He repeated it like everyone at Gruene Hall would know exactly what he meant. That show was my best of the year; all apologies for not writing it up and posting it. I saw it at my busiest time of the year.

3. Scott MillerAppalachian Refugee

If this is just the crappy demo to Scott's next album, we are all in for a treat. This stands alone; it is a release that if nothing else is an example of songwriting most artists only aspire to. Somewhat surprisingly Miller does cover three songs on the 12 song demo, shipped in a self-decorated cardboard CD sleeve. Maybe he forced his family into a decoration day (sic) to pump those out?

The title track is killer. "Knoxville Viceroy" is a combined biography of Miller and a history of the town. The CD doesn't get any better sonically than it does on his full band, ball-rocking cover of "Wildcat Whistle." "Hubbardville Store," though acoustic and a cover, is equally incredible.

4. Conor Oberst-Conor Oberst

No matter how much I wanted to hate this guy when I saw him live and couldn't and no matter how much I try when I listen to this CD, I love this music. Lyrically and sonically challenging, Oberst may not be a guy I want to hangout with, but I will continue to cherish this album as the gem it is. It feels good but it has something to say too. Why do I still hate Bright Eyes but like this? I am drinking the Kool-Aid on this effort by Oberst and loving it. "I Don't Want to Die (in a hospital)" is the worst song I have heard in years though.

5. Rodney Crowell-Sex and Gasoline

While many other records on this list (and off of it) rocked me in various ways, this was the most musically and lyrically beautiful CD. I have never listened to Crowell before, at least by name. After hearing the title track, I was interested but figured the rest of it would be a fleeting glance. How wrong I was. "Moving Work of Art," "The Rise and Fall of Intelligent Design," and "The Night's Just Right" are three of my favorites. This is as good as it gets.

6. Old Crow Medicine Show-Tennessee Pusher

I agree with most of the pundits on this; it is solid. These guys are growing up and are headed in the direction of being one of the all time old timey bands if they can stay true to the sound and stay together. There isn't a "Wagon Wheel" on this record; I heard Toby Keith is cutting that now. Kidding, but someone poop country will and it will further their infantile fame. Rather, I hope they continue to get attention for this and subsequent maturing efforts. "Methamphetamine" is my favorite track, but it is solid throughout and easy to listen to at once.

7. Justin Townes Earle-The Good Life

Besides being a scrawny little punk and one who should dropkick his dad for his middle name, this generation of Earle is off to a much faster start than good ol' Steve. I had a few late night musings considering some unsolicited advice we could offer Steve Jr. 1. Don't get so with being political that it limits what you do. 2. You are a musician, not a prophet. 3. If your first marriage doesn't workout, just keep trying.

But I digress. This is a solid little CD with minimalist production and maximum songwriting. "Ain't Glad I'm Leaving" is an entry point but "Far Away in Another Town" is every bit as good.

8. Reckless KellyBulletproof

This is the national "red dirt" band I listened to before I knew what Red Dirt from Oklahoma and Texas was all about. I don't consider them in that category though they are Austin-based and often pigeon-holed into that like Chris Knight. They are alternative. This CD is better than anything they have put out since The Day. I still listen to Wicked Twisted Road with some regularity too. "Ragged as the Road" was the bulletproof single and the album charted at 22 on the US Country charts (normally that would disqualify any band I listen to) but not in this case. Who knows, Randy Rogers Band played David Letterman last week too.

9. Jason Ringenberg-Best of Jason Ringenberg 1979-2007

I am not really sure if "best of" CD's can make a list like this but Jason's effort goes above and beyond any rules. This is a phenomenal retrospect on a legendary career. Would there have been an Uncle Tupelo, Whiskeytown, or Old 97's without Jason? Would it have sounded differently? To paraphrase Neil Young, I think the tracks Ringenberg left (and is leaving) in the sound will be forever heard.

10. Hayes Carll-Trouble in Mind

This effort by Carll received some deserved critical claim. I saw him at George's in Fayetteville and he seemed to have that golden boy (poop country) charm which would surely take him far. I very much still enjoy listening to this record and think it and the artist will be around for decades. Major props to Hayes, he opened for the Old 97's for a bit and is opening for the Drive By Truckers later this year. His taste is improving.

HM: John Mellencamp-Life, Death, Love, and Freedom—"If I Die Sudden" is one of my top ten songs of the year. I like this CD.
HM: Old 97's—Blame it on Gravity
HM: Chris Knight-Heart of Stone—Much has been said about this. It is the weakest effort of Knight's career in my opinion.
HM: Ryan Adams-Cardinology—I will continue to try to like this.
HM: DBT-Brighter than Creation's Dark
HM: Brandon Jenkins-Faster than a Stone- I feel honored to have opened for this legendary songwriter. His music will be around for decades even if he as an act isn't.

Three efforts standout as assured 2008 Top Tens except for the fact they were released in 2007.

Walt Wilkins-Diamonds in the Sun—This is my most played CD of 2008 and I would highly recommend it to anyone with ears. Beautiful harmonies and songwriting are lifted by soulful rhythm and graceful guitar work. "Trains I Missed" is a Top 25 all time song. John Hiatt (seriously old dude) and Elliot Randall were the two others slated for the Top Ten of 2008 until I realized they had aged by the time I heard them. All threee were XM finds before their dreams were bought and sold.

Thanks for reading and listening. I look forward to your comments and questions.

G

here in Little Rock.

Going to see Ben Nichols (Lucero) tonight, solo, at the legendary Juanita's.

Promises to be a large time.

Solid as a stone.

Drove a super-hybrid (don't tell my brother) Toyota Prius here yesterday. All I have to say is "wow." I was getting a little tired of burning fuel on the way down so I switched it to B (battery). It was like driving a Mac (no stalling).

Baby wait and see.

The Buick Riviera could be in her final death throws. The odor of burning oil is unmistakable rising from the manifold. I hypothesize that this is from the supercharger which is often the first to go on these cars. The charging computer) system seems to be failing too. The squeaking coming from under the hood is either the alternator, supercharger, or more than likely (thus explaining all of the symptoms), both. 190543 miles and counting. If this is, in fact, the end of the "Riv" and the signs I am reading tell me it could very well be, I will be sad to see this car go. I have owned and driven several different cars, arguably much cooler cars than this one. For a bit there I changed them often and drove with a fickle foot. Now, I am committed to a car and if they made them still, I would own a new one. As it is I am think I will look hard for a low mileage gem from the late 90's.

Without you, baby there's no me.

This car was 7 when I bought it and is still the newest car I have owned (1984, 1986, 1992, 1995, 1997, 1997). I did get incredibly fortunate with it in terms of maintenance--brakes, oil changes--for 110000 miles. And she isn't going to win the Al Gore car of the year award for fuel economy but 22-26 on the highway is still decent.

I consider myself to be environmentally minded but this TOYota Prius isn't for me. Brother Gabe called the other day with a smoking hot deal on a 2008 Pontiac G8. I should have snapped it up but stammered, hesitated, and said as politely as I could, "thanks, but no thanks." While it would be all sorts of cool to own and drive a car like that, it also would displace a large sum of cash per month. Cheap cars are the (purple?) wave of the future.

Back to Little Rock and this conference. Wish me luck tonight getting into see Mr. Nichols. It is, after all, "Nights Like These," that "make me sleep all day."

g

114 I Walk The Line
217 Waffle House March
217 Waffle House March
217 Waffle House March
217 Waffle House March
217 Waffle House March

Pretty much the best dollar I’ve spent lately.

The local Wafflizzle Hizzle looked like it needed a bailout plan. My jukebox shenanigan, for which has brought me great notoriety and infamy at Waffle House corporate meetings, nearly backfired this morning. Strolling towards the jukebox with that unfamiliar jingle in my pocket, I selected "I Walk the Line" as my escape song, then "Waffle House March" five times as my statement, and headed to the register to pay. It wasn’t all that long ago that WH only accepted cash. They finally caved but the existing structure, evidently, wouldn’t support such frivolousness as a second phone line, or (gasp) a cable/DSL modem through which they could process credit cards.

Not good.

The manager was on the phone. The phone line was occupied. A crowd gathered as I waited in disbelief. Cold sweat started to form under the waning peach fuzz left on my bald head.

Cash’s signature baritone belted out verse, chorus, verse, chorus and finally the manager ended his backroom 1-900 wake up call and the debit card transaction processed.

I told the hungover college crowd behind me who had watched me select songs on the jukebox while apparently leaving to, “Wait for the next song before you leave, it will change your life.”

They chuckled and as I pushed open the door the trumpets blared the opening notes of the Waffle House March. I marched on.

**********

Whatever happened to the jukebox? I often tell a story of a teacher friend of mine who bought a killer jukebox a couple of years ago only to see it fall on the deaf ears of his wired-in students. They had a jukebox the size of a credit card in their pockets containing at least 1000 times more, not to mention, their songs.

Whatever happened to main street? Take a listen sometime at www.myspace.com/chrisgoering

Whatever happened to capitalism?

Whatever happened to America?

Whatever happened to the neighbor down the street whose lawn is two feet tall?

Whatever happened to making plans?

Whatever happened to the five-paragraph essay?

Whatever happened to the white picket fence and living off the fat of the land?

**********

Waffle House Sunrise

Bar flies drank OJ by the carafe
Missed they are not by the wait staff
Whiskey and water, waffles and wine
Vomit and violence without a spine.

***********

Riddle

__________ +Grape Kool-Aid = Green

***********

Does anyone believe Fox News is fair and balanced? If so, they need to take a course in media literacy. Prey on the weak, it is the right wing way.

***********

Ryan Adams, excuse me, The Cardinals, in Tulsa tonight. They canceled the KC show last night due to the flu. At 47.50 a ticket, I must wonder if the flu=low ticket sales.

Here's hoping the flu bug didn't hit the Tulsa area yet,

G

http://www.nbc.com/Saturday_Night_Live/video/clips/couric-palin-open/704042/

Here is Tina Fey from last night. While this is funny, the striking similarity of the beliefs represented in this skit to the vice-presidential candidate's beliefs is nothing short of terrifying. I am convinced that John McCain might have won the election if he hadn't botched his choice for vp as badly as he did. He likes the proverbial hail mary, fine, but when the quarterback take the snap and the throws the ball towards the opposite end zone, we all must wonder about his competence.

g

As James McMurtry says in Choctaw Bingo, "We're going to have ourselves a time."

Right on James. I can't wait to be back in town tomorrow.

I can safely speak for the ATB to say we are all thrilled about opening for Brandon Jenkins and having another opportunity to play at Longhorns.

Personally, I couldn't be more excited. I have liked Jenkins' music for as long as I have known about Red Dirt Country (whatever the heck that is).

While he may be most widely known as the guy who wrote several hit songs for Stoney LaRue and Bleu Edmondson ("Feet Don't Touch the Ground," "Down in Flames," "Finger on the Trigger," etc.), alone, that tag doesn't do him justice. The guy is great guitar player, songwriter, and has a rocking little combo out of Austin. I sincerely hope people in the Manhattan area turnout for his show--the last time I saw him the crowd was disappointing.

Hope everyone has a great day and is ready to "have themsevles a time" tomorrow night.

g

This has to be one of the guttsiest protest songs to date.

They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.
-Benjamin Franklin

When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross.
-Sinclair Lewis

With those thoughts in mind, I direct your attention to the website www.wastelandofthefree.com

Folksinger Iris Dement makes McMurtry seem kind of tame. I heard this song on XM's Cross Country a few weeks ago and thought I needed to hear it again. The website has a link to a YT video (of course) and an MP3.

"We got preachers dealing in politics and diamond mines/
and their speech is growing increasingly inkind.
They say they are Christ's disciples
But they don't look like Jesus to me
And it feels like I am living in the wasteland of the free."

-Dement

Here we have a couple of links to some ATB or ATB related youtube videos. Enjoy. The first one is sort of proof to those in attendance at Anthony Lake I can actually play my song "Dear Oklahoma Rain." The second is a clip of "24 Feet at a Time."

I just had a thought I should probably keep to myself...I wonder if any shoe stores use that song as motivation for sales.

"If everyone sells twelve pairs of shoes today, we will reach our goal...24 feet a time." g

Just talked to our drummer. He was pulling into Denver for a two night stand. Check out www.myspace.com/guserock

New Chris Knight is up on his myspace: www.myspace.com/chrisknightmusic off his forthcoming album called Heart of Stone. Of course, I am geeked up about this.

See you at 1 or 2 in Anthony so I am told.

g

It isn't quite two weeks but this will have to suffice. No, no I am not quitting.

So I am hanging out in Fayetteville the other day when Mason Powell called and asked if I was up for a 4th of July show in Anthony, KS.

I said, "heck yes," or something close.

Here is the deal, the ATB will be playing with Guse, Mason's face melting progressive rock band, for the Fourth of July in Anthony, KS. Guse has continued to rock and will be coming back from a regional tour when they hit Anthony on the 4th. Come to the lake for a little rock with your country or for a little country with your rock.

Good friends and good times will be had by all...

g

Your ears will be ringing like mine.

I have collected a few songs here that I cannot stop listening to. I find a lot my music on XM Satellite Radio's Channel 12 Cross Country station. It feels like some of my kindred spirits are there spinning the tunes. Here goes. Songs are listed in no particular order.

"Haley's Comet" by Tom Russell

This is a delectable treat from Tom Russell, very simply one of the best songwriters you don't know. Often mentioned in the same breath with Dylan, Russell scores with this song about the end of Bill Haley's life. It is funny at times, sad at others but terribly well written.

"How to Get Old" by Elliot Randall

I don't even know what I don't know about Elliot Randall but heard this song several weeks ago and it stopped me in my tracks. Randall captures Ryan Adams a la Gold and if this tune is anywhere close to the rest of what he has done, I found another favorite.

"Abilene" by Dave Alvin

This is nothing new but it was new to me and resonated with my spirit. Alvin demonstrates here why is so highly regarded as a songwriter; this could be a Nashville hit too but it isn't cliche so it probably won't make it.

"Big Cheeseburger" by Blaze Foley

Blaze Foley is another new artist to me. He passed away a few years ago and this is one of his best known songs from the 70's. He toured around with the likes of Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark and was a nomad by all accounts. He also penned the oft covered "Snowing on Raton" (Van Zandt and Robert Earl Keen).

"Claude Dallas" by Tom Russell

Tom appears on my list again here with a story of stories about Claude Dallas, the famed last outlaw who in 1981 killed two game wardens in Idaho. This reminds me of Todd Snider's D.B. Cooper and is well worth checking out.

"Bad Liver, Broken Heart" by Hayes Carll (songwriter Scott Nolan)

"In this line of work no one retires/ You come in clean and leave torn apart/
Bad liver and a broken heart"

The song captures the essence of traveling around the country and Lost Highway artist Hayes Carll delivers it to a much broader audience than Nolan had previously. Look for this one and for the entire Carll album.

"Your Sister Cried" by Mary Gauthier

Mary is another songwriter few could match. This song stood out to me but check out "Camelot Motel" too.

"Bible and a Gun" by Jason Ringenberg (Jason & The Scorchers) and Steve Earle

Jason & The Scorchers are credited with inspiring such bands as Forty Twenty and the Old 97's and their influence on the genre of alternative country music is as heavy as anyone's according to much of what I have read. Ringenberg is the father of Cow Punk and purveyor of alt-country. This is one of his finest tunes, a Civil War tale underscored with Earle's vocal takes.

"Drinkin' Days" by Slaid Cleaves

Listen. Slaid relates the end of the road for a drinker in this tune following a bar fight where the narrator flattens a cop. "My drinkin' days are over/ No more nights at the Carousel"

"Wishbones" by Slaid Cleaves

Here is another tune by Cleaves and this, along with "Broke Down," would be well worth the time to find it and listen.

"Cry Lonely" by Cross Canadian Ragweed (songwriter Chris Knight)

While I liked this song as Knight released it, the sound Ragweed captures with their take on it, engineered by Mike McClure of course, adds to what Knight had.

"Prozac Made Her Stay" by Antsy McClain and the Trailerpark Troubadours

If you are looking for something a little less serious, McClain delivers here. This is tongue in cheek comedy in the style of Ray Stevens and so true, so true.

"Ruby and Carlos" by James McMurtry

I was fortunate enough to hear this tune live last Friday in Fayetteville, AR. McMurtry isn't everyone's cup of tea but he is mine. This tune particularly combines some of the most vivid imagery with a melodic tune to create an awesome platform for storytelling.

"Hurricane Party" by James McMurtry

While McMurtry scored with his political anthem "Cheney's Toy," he doesn't get any better than this tune. While the entire album Just Us Kids is worth your money, try this one out first and tell me this guy isn't a genius.

Enjoy.
G