WALT WILKINS – “PLENTY”

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In 1977, Jackson Browne pleaded with himself, his culture and anyone else that would listen that we have enough. That we have love, and the lyrics of “The Pretender” are the echos of our souls groaning for truth and peace !

I’m going to be a happy idiot – And struggle for the legal tender

Where the ads take aim and lay their claim – To the heart and the soul of the spender

And believe in whatever may lie – In those things that money can buy

Though true love could have been a contender

Are you there? Say a prayer for the pretender

Who started out so young and strong…Only to surrender

So here it is 2012 and I’ve been listening to Walt Wilkins’ new solo record “Plenty”, and the same echos are there. The same yearnings to hold onto contentment, and let love do its thing. Let love be what fills our hearts and souls, not the desire for more and more and more, and wonder again and again and again why it isn’t ever enough. It was never intended to be. It’d be like pouring sweet tea into a ragtop Caddy and then wonder why your not cruisin’ down the highway !! Love is what makes us humans thrive, not the eternal chase for the legal tender.

This is familiar territory for Wilkins. An artist that I perceive as being more interested in the threads of life that the finished garment. A person that is fully aware that the tension between heart and mind, soul and shell, will always linger to challenge us. One way makes us feel accepted and the can nourish our souls if we trust in it. In “Just Be” he reminds us that we can slow down and just let all the nonsense pass right on by. Why fight it?, why struggle?, we don’t have to engage it…we can “just be”

I’m gonna sit right here- under this tree

sit right here under this tree and be, just be

stay in the shade for a while

in the shade for a while

and if trouble comes to find me

I’ll just lay back and smile

I would say Walt Wilkins is a son of Texas and not that that’s not true, but I see him more as a child of Texas. He holds the wonder of his home state with the awe as if seeing it for the first time. In “A Farm To Market Romance”, he laments “These are the fields and the hills that I love and if I ever leave it will be just for heaven above”.

Take yourself to that place, where peace abounds, where worry doesn’t live. Open your eyes to the beauty that surrounds you, to the love that is in a strangers smile, or hell, just slow down long enough to really, really realize just how good that enchilada you are eating with a cold Victoria beer is !!!!!

Things may not be perfect for us, but perfect really doesn’t exist, unless you let life unfold on its own. I’m gonna let “perfect” slip on by and pitch my camp under the sky of “plenty”.

I hope these thoughts have resonated in some way with you. I send these words out as if standing in front of a mirror. I am at the front of the line needing to live these thoughts. I thank you for allowing me to share. Find “Plenty” at itunes. I promise Wilkins’ music will be an investment into the ever flowing peace of your soul !!

Let me know what you think or better yet, go check out Walt Wilkins live and let him know !!!

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SANTA MARIA HOTEL

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When you hear a singer say this is the record he’s waited all of his life to make, well, I tell ya, that statement carries a lot of weight ! Davis Raines’ Santa Maria Hotel latest record started in the mind of Producer Milan Miller. Loving Davis’ writing and performing, Miller just never thought Davis’ sound had been fully captured. Good records had been made, but he wanted to make one that sounded like it fit his vision of who Davis Raines is ! Santa Maria Hotel is that record.

If Waylon Jennings were still around he would have lined up to cut Daylight on the Brazos” and Willie would have thought Davis was reading his mind when he heard “Seven Days” !! Also included is the song all of us songwriters wish we’d wrote, the classically simple and true “Cowboy Till I Die”. And talk about classic country “The Man Who Never Was” will have you running from your tears and straight to your beer !!!

Everybody in Nashville knows that Davis Raines is a master songwriter. When you have poets like Texas artist Walt Wilkins say Davis is his favorite writer then that’s saying something. Those kinds of comments and praise aren’t thrown around lightly.

So when Miller began mapping what became Santa Maria Hotel out in his mind, picking the songs was a tough part. Raines has written so many great songs to be able to whittle it down to a handful is a tough task. Miller spent months thinking of songs and arrangements, and what treatment he wanted for each song. When he began calling on Nashville musicians to play on the record, they turned out in spades. Everyone wanted to be in on this record and nobody would take a dime for their time. Fiddle extraordinaire, Eddie Lange, banjo master, Tim Carter. Chris Scruggs on Steel and former Brian Setzer bass player, Mark W Winchester. Miller is also the scorching guitar player on the project. Harmony singers were picked with extreme care like former BR549 member Gary Bennett, Buddy Melton of the Bluegrass band Balsam Range, and also Nashville favorites Adam and Shannon Wright. So everything from the photography of Alex McCullough to the voice and writing of Davis Raines has been crafted with care.

I guess I’m just trying to say that this a record of love and they hope it makes it to us with that sentiment in tact. Santa Maria Hotel is a true gem brothers and sisters, so scoot on down to itunes and grab you a copy. It’s where music is art and when art traveled down the road and hit the intersection of commerce, it just flipped commerce off and stayed its course !!

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Shine A Light: An Experience

Perhaps music is like many other things in the way that whatever you put into it, is what you can get out of it. I’m not sure I’d totally agree, maybe you just have to remain open to the possibilities that it could really move you.

I was at the famed Bluebird Cafe in Nashville Tennessee the other night, and had church, or what I think church should be like! It was a moving experience that seemed to bring the room together.  I’ve had church with this person before, so maybe a little of it was anticipated. It’s hard to explain because it’s easily an accumulation of the connection of artist and audience, as well as the quality of songs. Never for this artist, to be underestimated, the voice and inflections wrapped around his own words is a power all its own.

And the singer begin to sing:

When the sun hits it right on its way down- it was the prettiest thing in our little town. We’d all sneak a glance over at the plastic frame and cracked glass that holds the picture of Ruby’s two sad daughters. Last mill closed when I was nine and Daddy left and Momma cried again, I spent my nights cleaning Ruby’s floors, just another cafe on a wind swept highway- the farmers bitched, were no good football anymore.

In this land that knows no laughter -in this land that hold no water- we were all in love with Ruby’s two sad daughters.

We were there with him, like we knew Ruby’s daughters. We were there on that windswept landscape, where there ain’t a lot to look forward to, where life is hard, but like everyone, those living there it was all they knew. Hungry to move on maybe but knowing they would never be able to outrun their soul.

One went way out west, one went way wrong, one left at seventeen and the other couldn’t wait that long. Neither went anywhere with me, not to the games or the Dairy Queen. Both split with the first boy who lied sweet and looked vaguely mean.

And the guitars hit sad, reflective chords, lamenting a world gone by. An age that comes only once. An age that doesn’t have a big enough view to realize the perfection of the moment.

why so pretty and forlorn- why so permanently blue- I guess ours wasn’t much of a kingdom to rule. Now when the sun hits it right on its way down, it’s still the prettiest thing in our little town. Every hour I sneak a glance over at the plastic frame and I fix the glass that holds the picture of Ruby’s two sad daughters. Why did hope leave town with Ruby’s two sad daughters?

And so we moved on through other songs. Other vantage points of life and the journeys that bring us all together if even for a moment. The rich textures and fleeting moments that belong only to time and memory, but the moments that we cherish and connect us. The hugs of friends where a touch has something extra. Not the backslapping kind of hugs or greetings, but the ones that slide into our spirits quietly and become part of the fabric by which we navigate this life. These are the riches my friends, these are the moments and experiences to cherish.

If you find yourself out around Luckenbach Texas on this beautiful 4th of July, you can hear these songs and find this richness. Go see our friend Walt Wilkins, go let the words wrap around your soul like a gentle golden thread that tugs you into community, love and harmony.

Gracias !

Shine A Light: Mary Gauthier (Go-Shay)

When I first heard Mary Gauthier (Go-Shay) sing “I Drink”, I remember feeling uncomfortable, like I’d looked in someones window. It was so real and raw, this glimpse into this sad life she was singing about, that I could only listen to that one song, but I listened over and over again.

Mary’s story is a tough one. One she shapes and works at everyday. Read a little of her story here at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Gauthier.

She has had songs recorded by major artists like Jimmy Buffett’s recording of “Wheel Inside A Wheel”. Good news for sure when you are a singer songwriter going for deeper truths in your writing, and a performance life that usually doesn’t have you selling out Madison Square Garden. But that sure isn’t what she’s going for anyway.

Check out this video. It’s one of my favorite Gauthier tunes.

Mary is a stand up person in a town where that isn’t always the case. A true artist, and like it’s been said around here many times- “I’d like to write a song like, but I don’t want to live what you’d have to live to write it”. She’s a good one, be sure to give her a shot when you are perusing i tunes. Also she has a new record out called “Foundlings”. Support her and the artists like her. It all begins with a song and she makes fine songs.

 

Shine A Light: Dobie Gray

Everybody in the world knows “Drift Away”, the great hit by Nashville resident Dobie Gray. It has become a classic. But my favorite is a Dobie Gray song called “Loving Arms”. I first heard it on an Elvis Presley record from about 1974, but Dobie’s version is the one.

Here is a version of Dobie doing his big hit “Drift Away”, which Uncle Kracker also recently revived.

Despite Dobie’s great selling singles, he remained a dedicated songwriter penning songs for many top artists including Ray Charles.

Go Check out some Dobie Gray. It’ll do your soul some good…

Shine A Light: Merle Haggard

Merle Haggard would rather let his music do his talking and he is probably the smarter for it. Not because he isn’t a smart dude, he just doesn’t want to hear himself ramble on, and he probably remembers the old adage about opinions and how everyone has one!

So letting his music do the talking and it has done it quite well for close to 50 years !!! California born, Haggard had a rough go as a child. Losing his father at the age of 9, Merle turned to petty crime, which led finally to a 3 year stint in San Quentin. There he saw Johnny Cash 3 times and decided to turn his life around.

Merle Haggard’s first #1 in 1966 with I’m A Lonesome Fugitive” and three years later had one of the biggest hits of his entire career with “Okie From Muscogee”. in Merle’s words he was just trying to speak for some of the Americans that rarely had a voice. It’s a bit deceptive on the real spirit of the man. But make no mistake Merle Haggard is a patriot, and a seeker of truth. He doesn’t mind stepping on any toes to reach that truth.

I’m fond of Merle’s late 70’s to early 80’s period, with songs like “Kern River”, “Big City”, “Going Where The Lonely Go”, and of course “Poncho and Lefty” with his pal Willie Nelson.

Merle has had roughly 38 #1 hits. has toured endlessly, and worn his trials, victories and failures on his sleeve. If Haggard’s music is not familiar to you, then you owe it to yourself to check it out. He’s been called the “Poet of the common man”. An excellent writer and a voice that just drips truth.

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.