Shine A Light: John Prine

I think John Prine may have skipped away with one of the sweetest careers in the music business. Here is a guy that never had his sights on being a “star”, or a household name. At his core, John Prine is a storyteller to me. One of the finest writers we have. Everyone has covered his songs. Bonnie Raitt had a great hit on “Angel From Montgomery”, and its been covered numerous times. He also co wrote “Love is on a Roll” for Don Williams and the big big David Allen Coe hit “You don’t have to call me by my name”.

Johns voice is like life worn, tattered, and full of soul. It has an optimism and a humor not found in most songs. He has been able to make a good living and  keep his art and soul. That ain’t easy to do !

If you find yourself distanced from music because you don’t feel like it speaks to your life anymore or you just want a break from what your listening to, give John Prine a listen. There is a saddness, a slice of life most of us might wish to turn a blind eye to. John sings for the misfits, the ones outside looking in, the old and forgotten folks. He sings stories for us all.

So hats off to a guy that has had a good deal. Lives his life wrapped around his art. Writes and sings what he wants and gets paid for it ! That’s hard to beat !

Shine A Light: Jackson Browne

Where oh where would I begin to say what Jackson Browne’s music means to me. I kind of came to Jackson late. I new “Doctor My Eyes”, “Running On Empty”, stuff like that from the radio as a kid, but I never really got inside it. Inside the lyric. Perhaps for a 15 year old kid it was too deep and full of the things of life that I had not yet experienced. But as they say “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear”. My old friend Paul Bryan is the one that opened the door, really opened it wide for me, to get Jackson Browne’s music.

Lyrically he is hard to touch. The depth, awareness, and pure poetry is amazing. His musicianship and melodies are simply beautiful. Even my friends that are players and the one’s that don’t gravitate to lyrics first dig his stuff melodically as well.

From “Daddy’s Tune”-

“No sooner had I hit the streets- Than I met the fools that a young fool meets/ All in search of truth and bound for glory/And listening to our own hearts beat-We stood around the drum/Tho it’s fainter now- the older I become/Living your life day after day-Soon all your plans or changes- Either fall or fade away/Leaving so much left to say”.

Many will say Jackson’s at his best writing about relationships, but I think he really shines on pieces like this acoustic 94 performance of “The Pretender”

I’ve seen Jackson several times in the last 10 years and one thing I’m constantly reminded and amazed about is how the songs still stand up. They have no fluff. Their relevance is a strong today as it was 25 years ago. Jackson continues to work, write and perform. His expression of what is important in his life and outlook on the world still permeates his work. While folks may not always agree with his politics, his passion and integrity is honorable and inspiring.

Jackson has become another of the “musical” old friends. The ones you go to when things get heavy and are not making sense. His voice can be uplifting and it can be the tear you are wanting to cry. For me it would be a much emptier world without the music of Jackson Browne. Thanks Jackson. Thanks Paul, it’s one of the sweetest gifts that has come my way.

Shine A Light: Bob Marley

When I was 20 years old, I discovered Reggae Music, more importantly, Bob Marley. I’m sure older folks along the Gulf Coast had long since heard Reggae, with the popularity of Eric Clapton doing Marley’s song “I Shot The Sheriff”, but I felt like I was right in the middle of it’s sweeping through our area. It hit me full force, like some kind of rogue wave that has left me spinning ever since. It is now such a part of the fabric of my soul, it’s inseparable from the outside to the inside. I can trace it’s sounds through  “Could You Be Loved” from a great beach band called “Avalon”, to a girl I liked but didn’t like me and she played the “Exodus” album all the time, to many mornings waking with “Natural Mystic” and “Kaya”. Now my wife, my family are all making new, wonderful memories together, and Bob Marley’s music is always a vital thread in our fabric.

It sank so deep in my spirit that I look upon it as one of the finest gifts in my life. My children are all lovers of music and naturally we have varying tastes. There’s a few that we all dig, but probably the one that we all share the deepest is Bob Marley’s Music. That pleases me deep down that they will take this gentle spirits music into their children’s lives one day.

It’s kind of a bummer that when most folks think of Marley they think of weed. “Oh Marley is cool man, lets smoke some”. If they only knew his life was totally dedicated to God and his spiritual beliefs, and weed was just part of that. His music was their spiritual form. Bob Marley’s earthly life was sadly cut short in 1981 to cancer, but if anyone’s spirit has lived on to touch millions in a uniting, loving, peaceful way, then it’s the spirit of Nesta Robert Marley. It’s pretty damn hard to have a bad day when you’re listening to Bob Marley.

Whenever my family is in a tailspin and things aren’t going they way we think they should, we remind each other of the lyric in “Three Little Birds”, “Don’t you worry, about a thing, ’cause every little thing, is gonna be alright”. One way or another, sooner or later, it usually is.

Are You In Or Are You Out?

What does the word “Exclusive” mean to you? I guess it would possibly matter in what context you read it or heard it, right? Perhaps this morning when I read it, it just hit me wrong. I was in the mall, a place I usually don’t go. This was Nashville’s upscale mall, and it was an advertisement for a pair of sunglasses. They were on a way too good looking young model and the slogan read “Isn’t it great to be exclusive”. It just made me think of that word for a minute. The night before I had been at a function in a very well to do neighborhood, like home in the 2-3 million dollar range. Of course it had the gate, guards, the whole bit there to keep the common folks out. Does the word exclusive make us feel special? Where do we look to be or feel special, affirmed, appreciated? Where should we look? How is exclusiveness or inclusiveness present in our lives?

I know it’s all just advertising, and the folks in those neighborhoods are good folks and deal with much the same problems that we all do. I know it’s not a big sinister plan, but it did make me think about 2 words….Exclusive and Inclusive. Do we want to buy into the exclusive side of things so we feel better about ourselves?. What’s the lyric in the Kris Kristofferson song “Jesus Was A Capricorn”?

“cause everybody needs somebody to look down on

who they can feel better than anytime they please

someone doin’ somethin’ dirty decent folks can frown on

if you can’t find nobody else then help yourself to me”

It seems like when I read about the great religions of the world, they are all inclusive, not exclusive. Christ was definitely inclusive. Being inclusive sure feels better to me. Sometimes it just feels like a subtle thought process permeating our world, a way to feel superior maybe or maybe a way to not look at what might be lacking in our own spirits and lives. I often feel like that’s the way it is for me.

No big deal. Just something that crossed my mind and wondered if it did anybody else’s. Tell me what you think or how you’d respond to those words.

Oh ho, Oh ho, Oh no, It’s Christmas

Well here we are again. Perhaps the most popular Holiday of the year. Shopping ! yeah ! Who wouldn’t love it….Oh I forgot for a minute that’s not really what it’s about. But everybody pretty much loves Christmas. In a weird sort of way it’s the one time Christians and non Christians come together !

As a child I was convinced I heard Santa on our Florida roof until I was close to 10 years old. We didn’t have a chimney, but that didn’t seem to factor in to my young innocent mind. My Mother made sure Christmas morning was special with a beautiful breakfast, even though that delayed and frustrated my sister and I. Presents seemed to be stacked to the ceiling.

It also seemed like back then we didn’t get stuff throughout the year. I can hear my Mother when I wanted some toy at the store. “Now remember to put that on your Santa list”, “Your birthday is right around the corner”, etc. I really thought someone had spaced out all of the holidays to where I wouldn’t get anything until one of them rolled around.

In Pensacola, it could easily be in the 60’s for Christmas. So white Christmases weren’t only a thought for us folks living in the South. But the snow isn’t what made it special. It was that feeling. That magic, that sense that even if for one day, everything in the world was alright, where everyone felt warm and cuddly ! I know now that just because the 25th of December rolls around, just because the birth of the Christ is here, doesn’t mean a thing. Crime still happens, pain happens, people leave and loved ones pass on.  But that little ole nugget abounds, right!, hope ! Hope is strong, and hope is unrelenting. Hell it’s hope , doing what it’s supposed to be doing. Children are born, lovers love, people make up, couples stay, and the sun does shine.

One day is better than none. It can start there, and become two days, or a week or a year. Maybe even a lifetime where we embrace hope, and we look to our brothers and sisters, our animals and our earth with love and respect.

Merry Christmas from the hills of Tennessee.

Shine A Light: Lee Ann Womack

There’s not too many bright spots for those of us that like good writing, great singing, and one foot still firmly planted in traditional country music. Lee Ann Womack is a wonderful, shinning example of the exception. It’s long been my contention that back in the day it was “country people singing about real life”. Nowadays it seems more like it’s people singing about some “thematic country world”, or fabricated life that they’ve never seen.

They have to be sure to include pick up trucks, dogs, pig roasts, half naked girls dancing around those fires, and those girls lovin’ up on some boys that they wouldn’t give the time of day to, if they weren’t paid to be in the video! It doesn’t feel real, and it just doesn’t resonate as real. For me personally its lost much of its soul.

I’m all for the youthful market, but now we have created acts instead of artists. It’s sad and embarrassing, but it’s that intersection of art and commerce, and commerce usually wins out.

If you find yourself left stale by what CMT or your favorite radio station is playing, go check out Lee Ann Womack. Lee Ann has a new single called “There is a God” and I hear will be touring pretty heavily this spring. So go check her out. Not only will you not be disappointed, but you will be given a tasty portion of hope and belief that your not the only one left, who digs the good stuff.

That’s my friend Randy Smith playing bass and singing harmony. We’ve been friends for almost 30 years. Always sounding good my friend. So get you some of that good stuff, go get you some Lee Ann Womack!

What’s In Your Ears ?

This morning I just wanted to catch up on yesterdays football scores. Instead of finding my mute button fast enough my early morning started off with Chris Bergman and his all time annoying voice. He was  screaming what he’s screamed a million times too many “HE COULD GO ALL THE WAY”. So I found the mute button with blurry eyes, aching ears and coffee in hand.

I fished my ipod out of my bag and scrolled thru the playlists. It’s 40, gray, light rain, in other words another typical winter day in Nashville and further evidence that I’m living too far north. I found a playlist called “Chants”. Ahhh relief from HE COULD GO ALL THE WAY! It’s got about 15 songs including, Traditional Hawaiian, Native American Flute, and Gregorian Chants. This is a much better way to ease into my day. So what’s on your playlist this morning? Did you hit the ground running or find some space? Tomorrow I work, so the chants won’t be the choice then.

I think music does for the soul of which nothing else can satisfy, except maybe meditation, but every time I meditate on the way to work, I take out a mailbox! So music works for me. How ’bout you?