Shine A Light: Johnny Cash

Wow, it seems like before there was dirt there was Johnny Cash ! He is fixed in my memory with his trademark “Hello, I’m Johnny Cash” introduction on the Johnny Cash Show. Pretty cool stuff. What is even cooler than I didn’t understand then was just how brave his guest list was.

This was the late 60’s and he has folks like Bob Dylan on his show. That may not seem like a big deal now but in those days here in the Country Music Capital, they weren’t diggin’ the hippies ! But Cash didn’t care, black, white, hippie, redneck or conservative, he loved them all, and especially loved their talents. There’s good reason for argument, that the Oak Ridge Boys might have called it a day,  if it hadn’t been for support financially and tour wise from John R. Cash. The list of Cash helping folks would go for miles.

Johnny’s career spanned decades as well as genres. From the Rockabilly days at Sun Records with Charlie Rich, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Elvis Presley, to “I Walk The Line”, and the San Quentin shows; from gospel to his TV show, to the dark days of the mid 80’s when Cash found himself looking for a way to fit in with an ever changing musical landscape.

So why not hang out with some good friends and make music ! So they did, Kris Kristofferson,  Willie Nelson, former room mate Waylon Jennings and Cash formed the Highwaymen. After a great run, with several hits and worldwide tours, the Highwaymen came to and end with Waylon’s failing health and ultimate death.

Enter Rick Rubin, big time rock producer and possibly the last person one would think would have an interest in Johnny Cash, much less a person that would have a pivotal role in Cash’s career, and a role that sold him into one of the coolest cats forever !

Rubin was smart enough to get the essence of John Cash. Honesty was what provided the ride all along. That voice full of honesty and grit. Rubin stripped everything down and essentially left that voice…..and boy did folks respond, especially the younger market. As Cash closed out his journey here, he left this world the way he should have. An icon. A spiritual giant always wearing his faith and his failures on his sleeve. Go John Cash. Check the last couple of records that Rubin did. If you think you know Johnny Cash’s music and you haven’t heard “American Recordings” or “The Man Comes Around”, then you haven’t heard the whole deal. You may not find anything more honest on the market today.

Shine A Light: Paul Thorn

My sister called from California the other day asking if I’d ever heard of a guy named Paul Thorn. Well, yes I told her, about 12 years ago. a friend had turned me on to Thorns music and I was instantly a fan of his music.

Tupelo born Paul Thorn writes of many of our struggles. The tension between the dark and the light, good and bad, holy and sinful ! Raised by a Pentecostal preacher father, but drawn to the outside world, his writing constantly circles those struggles and observations.

I live in Nashville and write myself, so I find myself listening to new music and many times can hear exactly where the writer is going and can finish the sentence. It’s no big feat as the writing these days isn’t blazing any new trails. But Paul Thorn is quite different. His subject manner as well as how he presents it, is fresh and unique.His life story is awesome, including a boxing career that pitted him against Roberto Duran ! There is a new record out called “Pimps and Preachers”

Go check out Paul Thorn. http://www.paulthorn.com. buy some of his music and check him out live. It’s a great show, and I promise you will have a good time ! I promise.

Shine A Light: Otis Spann

Do you like Blues music? If so, here’s a name you might be familiar with. I first heard Otis Spann’s recording of “Burning Fire” 30 years ago and it just blew me away. His smoky voice and awesome right hand on that piano is amazing and will stop you dead in your tracks to listen !

Jackson Mississippi native, Otis Spann spent most of his professional career as the piano player for Muddy Waters. Spann died way too early at 40 years old from liver cancer, but he left a wonderful musical legacy. Check him out, it’s the real deal !!!

Shine A Light: Kris Kristofferson

Back to the poets for this post. We’re talking songwriter of the first magnitude here. A guy that turned Nashville songwriting on its ear. A guy that wrote about real life and said things in ways nobody else had. That’s Kris Kristofferson.

So Brownsville Texas native, Kris Kristofferson has a little more to him than you may know. He earned a Rhodes Scholarship at Oxford studying literature. Joining the army Kristofferson rose to the rank of Captain and was a helicopter pilot. He also cmpleted Ranger school. He was offered at position at West Point as a literature professor. Well, being the bright guy that he was, he turned that down and moved to Nashville and took a job at Columbia Records sweeping the floors! Can you imagine breaking that news to Mom and Dad !

He was honing his songwriting skills, drinking (to get the good songs of course), and generally doing whatever he had to do to get his songs heard. He even borrowed a helicopter and landed it in Johnny Cash’s front yard saying he wasn’t leaving until Cash heard his song “Sunday Morning Coming Down“! Is that crazy enough for you??

But the songs were coming and within a couple of years he had classics written in a very short span. Songs like “For The Good Times”, “Sunday Morning Coming Down”,”Help Me Make It Through The Night” and of course, “Me And Bobbie McGee“. “For The Good Times” won song of the year by the ACM and CMA in the same year. A feat never done before and to my knowledge not since.Those tunes became all time genre hopping classics.

There were plenty of other number #1’s in that same era that may only be more recognizable to country fans like Waylon Jennings’ version of “The Taker“, Roger Millers version of “Best Of All Possible Worlds”, recently cut by Norah Jones.

Kristofferson went on as most of us know to act in several top box office movies, such as a role originally offered to Elvis Presley for A Star Is Born.

So writer, movie star, performer and hard core activist for any injustice he sees, Kris Kristofferson has lived a really full life and has made a way when no way seemed apparent. We don’t have to agree with all of his politics or think he has a great voice, but oh what a career.

If you think you are a songwriter, go check out Kristofferson’s writings. Check out the lyrics to “The Silver Tongue Devil and Me”. It’s where the men get separated from the boys !

What’s A Patriot?

By definition a patriot is “a person that feels or voices patriotism, support for their country”. That seems like a simple definition, but it sure has sparked battle lines in our country the last few years.

So how do you define someone who is a patriot? And what would that person be patriotic to? So he could be wearing a uniform and in many cases isn’t. Can we successfully support our boys and girls in harm’s way and yet speak out against an administrations choices for war? If we go back to the definition then we should be able to. That perhaps all that are raising their voices love this country, but don’t care for the leadership at a given time. If they didn’t love this country I don’t think we’d hear from them.

Are we all fighting for what we want our country to look like? It gets complicated quickly doesn’t it? So many different sides to look at and it gets harder as time goes on. Our country becomes more and more of a gumbo every year. A natural progression if you ask me. Native Americans were the last indigenous folk. After that everybody is a new comer. The English, French, Swedes, Germans. We were all good with that because most of us couldn’t remember anything different. Then came the Vietnamese, and now the Mexicans ! If I was a Mexican, I’d be trying to get here any way I could !

So it keeps changing as everything has to. It brings new cultures and new religions. New ways of looking at life. It seems unfair to say this is where the change will end so we can hold on to some idealist memory. That brings the question of what kind of America do we want to fight for? What is worth risking our children’s and their children’s and their children’s lives?

That is always the question for me. What would seem like a suitable reason for my children to give their lives?  The world wars may have been the last time I would have felt like that was an honorable death. But to die for a political strategy is a hard pill to swallow. Life is too precious and I don’t believe my Creator wants us killing each other, I just don’t. I don’t believe every other option has been exhausted. I’m all for finding Bin Laden, but that seems like a war we are not in to win, and Iraq, well that’s just a whole other issue.

I would venture this idea. Maybe if no one country had to be the top dog, it would open up everyone’s ears and we could listen to each other. Just like in any relationship, we have to listen too. We are in a relationship with the world.

I know there will always be evil in this world and sometimes we have to draw an arrow. I’m good with that. I’m good with being a warrior to protect my family and my country when someone is drawing an arrow against me. but after those arrows fly, I’d like to know if it could have been avoided. For the next generation. The world can grow and it can seek humbleness if it wants. I hope it can start with you and I. The reason our country is great is because it really is made up of wonderful folk that want the same things. We all pray for peace. I like this Willie Nelson quote “The worlds problems will never be solved politically, but spiritually”.

Worship: How Do You See That Word?

I suppose before we even begin to answer a question about the definition of worship, maybe the initial question would be how do we see our relationship with God.

Am I nothing without God? Is adoration and worship the same thing? If someone is in awe of this creation made by God, is that person in worship?

Our Christian faith has always used terminology like “God is our Father and we are his children”. If that is how we are to look at God, then I have difficulties with the “adoration” approach. I want my children to be in relationship with me. I want them to love and respect me. I want that lifeline to always be in play, but I don’t want them to “worship” me. Now I know I’m not God. but more of Gods example of imperfect man.

So where does that leave me? Does it mean I am arrogant? does it mean I think I’m on equal footing with God? There might some who’d say since I don’t sing out, cry out in public, follow the well worn path, that my relationship with God doesn’t exist. There are those that if they don’t see the result they way they think it should be, then they don’t think you’ve “got it”.

I saw a description that said worship was an acknowledgment of God. An understanding of it all. I don’t think I need to tell God how great he is, because I don’t think that’s what he wants to hear from me. He wants me honestly, raw, angry, happy, confused, peaceful, searching, and homebound. but that’s just me. And maybe that’s the beauty of God. He wants us to “worship” him in our own way, allowing everyone to sing out, cry out, preach out, walk quietly, watch the morning wake up, etc, etc.

Maybe it’s humans that makes things difficult. We usually do. I usually do. Live and let live and know that there are some who won’t. Some roads are narrow and some are wide. I will continue to greet God in the morning, with the trees full of birds, a cool breeze and a cup of coffee. This is a big part of my worship, where I am quiet and God is letting creation do his talking, or better yet, he is in the wind and birds. We are both just enjoying the moment.

I am thankful, on the post 4th of July, to be living in a country and society where I have the freedom of worship and the freedom to express my views openly.

I have much to learn and re learn. I have much to shape into fuller thoughts. I don’t think anyone should ever apologize for searching and digging for truths, and asking questions of themselves or the world.  I welcome thoughts and reflections on this.

Thanks for the ear !

Shine A Light: The Oak Ridge Boys

Country fan or not, I don’t know how someone could have been alive in the early 1980’s and no have heard of the Oak Ridge Boys. It seems like they were everywhere. As some other groups, they might be more famous for songs that were catchy, but I wouldn’t consider their best, like ELVIRA and BOBBIE SUE. However for the time ELVIRA reached #1 on country, pop, and soul charts. A feat that hadn’t happened before.

Strong stuff. You bet ! There was the best version ever done of Rodney Crowell’s “Leaving Louisiana in the Broad Daylight”. “Ya’ll Come Back Saloon“. Remember “TRYING TO LOVE TWO WOMEN”, “FANCY FREE” or I WISH YOU COULD HAVE TURNED MY HEAD“. When that stuff hit the radio all bets were off and if anyone could sit still just meant they were dead and didn’t know it. The ORB sure didn’t stop there. There was “AMERICAN MADE” and one of my personal favorites, “OZARK MOUNTAIN JUBILEE”. A force to be reckoned with for sure.

Beginning in the 1940’s as the Georgia Clodhoppers,  and shortly after became the ORB, with  current lineup in order in 1973. Traditionally gospel artists, baritone William Lee Golden, ever the visionary, encouraged a new direction into country music.  It was a move that would bring them worldwide success and plenty of gold records, and set the stage for an amazing ride!

So for 0ver 35 years of making great country records you’d think they’d all be sitting on a porch somewhere. Hardly the case. They are still working and still putting on a great show. They will be coming to a town near you, so go see the OAK RIDGE BOYS. It will be a great trip down memory lane and you’ll hear a few new songs to add to your memory bank.

i hear a rooster crowin’ – it’s a frosty mornin- i can almost see the sign

goin’ so fast i can’t stop – i’m just a stones throw from little rock- headin’ for that missouri line