Saturday, August 29, 2009

No Sound Returns to Me

Artist: Leo Kottke

Album: Greenhouse

Song: "Tiny Island"

Nowhere, Nevada. An ancient ring of jagged mountaintops pierces an afternoon sky so blue that even Crayola doesn't have the equivalent. Overhead, an orphaned puff of cumulus floats to nowhere. The Mojave's dry air lingers still, hot, and invigorating. Alluvial fans deposit their sediment on the desert floor. A streak of black highway slices through the hard land as it escapes to civilization. Jutting off this lifeline is a parasitic track that stretches into the expansive sea of Mormon Tea and sage. Far from the sight of passing motorists, secluded in this rural bastion of raw nature, is a lone cabin, its occupant finding nourishment in a crate of Merle Haggard LPs; a copy of Zen Flesh, Zen Bones; and the daily connection to a land of ceaseless revelations.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

You're Just Like a Chariot

Artists: Sutherland Brothers & Quiver

Album: Reach for the Sky

Song: "Love on the Moon"

Professional wrestling explains all. When two boys are drifting south on the mid-card, or worsecurtain jerking, repackage the talent as a tag team and see if there's newfound chemistry. Such an arrangement worked for the Sutherland Brothers and Quiver. Talk about a patch job. The two factions didn't even christen the partnership with a new name. But that's OK. Their captivating balance of mellowness and groove is worthy of a Barry Horowitz pat on the back.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Houses of Whitened Wood

Artist: Steve Young

Album: Honky-Tonk Man

Song: "Traveling Kind"

Steve Young must've seen a parallel between "Ramblin' Man" by Hank Williams and his own song "Traveling Kind" when recording both for his 1975 album Honky-Tonk Man. "Ramblin' Man," of course, is iconic. With its frosty lyrics and loping gait, ol' Hiram crafted country's definitive drifter song. "Traveling Kind" doesn't reside in such historical airs, however. But what Young wrote feels like an examination of the ramblin' man's very soul. Perhaps there's motivation more compelling than just an endless stretch of road or rail. And underneath that cool exterior, maybe, his defiant heart beats aflutter.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Maybe an Aluminum Cat

Artists: Crack the Sky

Album: Crack the Sky

Song: "Robots for Ronnie"

A geeky outcast, school bullies, and overly concerned parents with advanced engineering degrees. Did Crack the Sky write a power ballad or the pitch for an ABC after-school special?

Friday, August 7, 2009

If He Outran the Wind Itself

Artist: Tom T. Hall

Album: One Hundred Children

Song: "Pinto the Wonder Horse Is Dead"

There is an inevitable conclusion to Bobby Bridger's ode to childhood heroes. Tom T. Hall's song is the epitome of Bob Dylan's poignant "broken mirror of innocence" image. Heroes die and nostalgia is born. But what of our unbridled dreams and youthful imagination? Have we made those thoughts come to fruition? Or have they been filed away like last year's tax return, something to trip over while rearranging the deck chairs? Hold on to your dream. Feed your imagination. Drag your feet as the Machine marches you to oblivion. Pinto the Wonder Horse may be dead, but I believe his essence lives on. Just grasp his reins and heel your spurs.