Colvin and Lovett? Love it!

Last night I saw Lyle Lovett and Shawn Colvin in concert at the Taft Theater in downtown Cincinnati. I brought along the missus because it was a perfect date night show: acoustic, sit-down, 8 p.m. start time on a “school night.” Plus, my wife is a big fan of Lyle, and I love Shawn… win-win.


Both of them took turns joking around with each other… and playing songs from their rich catalogs, with the other person adding harmony vocals on quite a few tunes.

Just for fun, Shawn threw in bits of a couple of show tunes (“Edelweiss” from The Sound of Music and “Try to Remember” from The Fantasticks) because those were the type of albums her parents had (along with albums from folk singers like Pete Seeger and The Kingston Trio). She also played the Talking Heads “This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody)” during the encore – brilliant! [Sidebar: She’s always been great at covering songs from other folks. Steve Earle gives her a lot of credit for helping him turn his life around: “When my [drug] habit had taken me out of everything, she recorded my song, “Someday.” That was a little light in a lot of darkness. Part of me originally starting thinking that maybe I was worth saving.”]

A few observations about the gig:

  1. Both Lyle and Shawn have 30+ years of performing under their belt (Lyle’s debut album came out in ’86, Shawn’s in ’89) and their voices are still amazing. (Videos below are songs from their respective debuts.)
  2. Lyle could easily have been a stand-up comedian, in the Richard Wright mold… he’s got a deadpan delivery that lands subtle punchlines every time, and is a master of the pregnant pause.
  3. They were able to command an audience of 2,000 with just their voices and their acoustic guitars because their songwriting is so strong.

Toward the end of the show, Lyle mentioned “Shawn and I would be doing this anyway if we went over to each other’s houses… thank you for letting us pass this off as a ‘show’.” But he’s being too humble, as usual. Sure, if I were picking the set list, I might’ve chosen a few different tunes than the ones they performed, but there’s a magic in their words and their voices that’s rare indeed.

This is NOT the view from our seats… we were in the nosebleeds.

Lyle also said that being able to do what you love every day is truly a blessing. Here’s hoping they keep sharing their incandescent talents with us for many years to come.


Hawk(ing) eyes

World-renowned physicist Stephen Hawking passed away last week. He left us with several gems worth pondering:

This seems like a fitting song for Professor Hawking…

Basketballs out my eyeballs

I took vacation days this past Thursday and Friday, and have spent the last four days camped out in my basement man-cave, watching college hoops. Three TVs and a laptop… feasting on the Madness of March (I had to put it that way to avoid the trademarked term… aw, what the heck: March Madness. March Madness.)

Yesterday’s action didn’t end well. First the University of Cincinnati Bearcats (a 2-seed), blew a 22-point second-half lead. Then my beloved Xavier Musketeers (a 1-seed) blew a 12-point second-half lead. Worst sports day in the history of the city, easily.

But it’s still the best sports weekend ever invented. A 16-seed knocked out a #1 seed in the first round, for the first time ever.

Loyola-Chicago and their 98-year-old nun chaplain are headed to the Sweet 16.

DALLAS, TX – MARCH 17: Sister Jean Dolores-Schmidt celebrates after the Loyola Ramblers beat the Tennessee Volunteers 63-62 in the second round of the 2018 NCAA Tournament at the American Airlines Center on March 17, 2018 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)


Buzzer beaters galore.

Tons of favorites getting knocked off. It truly is madness.

Earle is a King

I saw Steve Earle perform at the venerable Mercantile Library in downtown Cincinnati last night.

It wasn’t a full-on concert, it was a “Words and Music” performance, meaning Steve did about eight songs, and also read from his novel and collection of short stories, then took questions from the audience.

He talked about his heroes – Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt, Bob Dylan. He mentioned how the Vietnam War changed not only those who went and their families, but the entire country… and inspired his album Copperhead Road. He played his song “Devil’s Right Hand” after telling a funny yet moving story about his then-14-year-old son (Justin Townes Earle – a great singer/songwriter in his own right) stealing one of his guns, and how it changed his views on gun control.

Steve dropped out of school and ran away from home at age 14. He talked about how he regretted his lack of formal education, and often wished he could be a Writer (capital W)… until someone pointed out that as a songwriter he was writing stories that people could sing along to as they’re riding in their cars. Damn straight! One of the songs he did last night is probably my favorite tune of his, called “Someday.” In four minutes, it paints a vivid picture and captures the yearning of small-town kids better than any novel I’ve read.  (The lyrics and a live performance are below.)

I saw Steve in a similar intimate, small-room setting back in the early 90s, at McCabe’s Guitar Shop in Santa Monica, California. That was back when he was hooked on drugs. He wound up homeless, then in jail.

He’s been sober for 20+ years now, and I’m sure glad he’s still around to share his Writing with us.


Here’s the song wrote for Guy Clark after he passed away:

Back in my day…

The whole “we had to walk ten miles to school, barefoot, in the snow, and it was uphill… both ways” trope is played out; it’s useful only for comedians and great-grandparents. But, believe it or not, my siblings and I have a similar story… and it’s totally true!

I was reminded of it recently when I saw a sweet Ford Ranchero in L.A.

Ford Ranchero. Accept no substitutes (looking your way, Chevy El Camino). 

My wife wondered why I was taking pictures of an old car… but then again, she wonders about a lot of the stuff I do (e.g. saving dryer lint… it’s great for starting fires in our fire pit!) But seeing that car reminded me of the white Ford Ranchero we had back in my grade school days.

Not our actual car… but you probably already knew that.

On cold mornings, it wouldn’t start. So my three siblings and I had to push it down our driveway (a short stretch, but with a decent downhill slope) so my dad could pop the clutch and start it. Usually that brief launch would work, but if not, we’d have to give it another push, down past the Church of Christ and onto the dirt road, where there was another downhill run. So before we even got into the car (OK, truck, but barely) to go to grade school at Holy Redeemer (which was, you guessed it, 10 miles away), we were winded and tired. It’s a handy story to use on my kids when they want me to drive them to the bus stop (~200 yards from our house) on winter mornings.

Also, you might be wondering why my dad thought a mini pickup with only a bench seat would be a good vehicle for a family of five. You’re not alone – I wonder the same thing. The most likely reason is because that was only car on the used car lot that fit our meager budget when our previous clunker bit the dust.

I can’t quite recall how we all fit into the cab… memories are hazy nearly 50 years down the line. I think there was enough room behind the seat for one or two of the kids to stand up and ride. I’m sure we looked like a clown car when we were unloading at school… or one of those overloaded bicycles or mopeds from a third world country.

I never gave it much thought back then… it was just how we rolled (and sometimes pushed). But now it’s great leverage to use on my kids. And it allows me to state equivocally that Subaru Brats, with their fancy-pants extra seats, were for mollycoddled whippersnappers.

Back in my day, we didn’t need extra seats. We didn’t have a seat at all… and we liked it!  Now get off my lawn!






Get Smart about what you pay attention to

  1. Good news: we have unfettered access to all sorts of knowledge via the Interwebs.
  2. Bad news: we have unfettered access to all sorts of bile via the Interwebs.

Seth Godin knows that the best way to deal with the latter is to not deal with it at all. Here’s a recent blog post of his:

Your kitchen table

You open the door and the vacuum cleaner salesperson comes in, and dumps a bag of trash in your living room.

Or a neighbor sneaks in the back door and uses a knife to put gouges on the kitchen table.

Or, through the window, someone starts spraying acid all over your bookshelf…

Why are you letting these folks into your house?

Your laptop and your phone work the same way. The reviews and the comments and the breaking news and the texts that you read are all coming directly into the place you live. If they’re not making things better, why let them in?

No need to do it to yourself, no need to let others do it either.


Be Smart.

Don’t give in to the chaos (or the KAOS).

Take Control!

Create your own Cone of Silence.





It’s not called Selection Saturday

College hoops fans, want to free up about 30 hours of your time? Here’s how: instead of spending all that time over this past week (including today) worrying and wondering about where your favorite team will be seeded (or if they even will be in the field at all) and where they might be playing, and who they might be playing, just tune in tomorrow evening for the official selection show.

Because any time spent on the “what ifs” before that is wasted worrying. And I hate to burst your bubble, but unless you’re one of the 10 folks in New York City who are part of the selection committee, your vote doesn’t count (talk about gerrymandering!).

I know “bracketology” has become a cottage industry. Heck, there’s even a site that rates all the bracket predictors. (FWIW, ESPN’s alleged expert Joe Lunardi isn’t even close to being the most accurate.)

But none of their brackets matter come Sunday night at 6 p.m. (Also, the official selection show is on TBS this year, not CBS… and don’t forget to spring forward!)

So you can spend countless hours searching for “expert” brackets, and watching talking heads chattering about “last 4 in” and “first 4 out” all you want… or you can take a hike, read a book or three, play with your kids, call your grandma, paint a masterpiece, read boring blogs (thanks!)…




Let Me Come Over

This past weekend, my wife, my oldest son Gabriel and I went to L.A. so that he could visit college campuses (or is that campi?).

The fact that my favorite band happened to be playing a concert in L.A. on Saturday night was purely coincidence. (And by “coincidence” I mean “the main reason for the trip.”)

Yes, faithful dubbatrubba readers will know that I’m talking about Buffalo Tom. They play very infrequently these days, and usually only the left and right coasts of the U.S. of A. When I read that the west coast dates would feature two sets, including them playing their 1992 opus Let Me Come Over in its entirety, I figured I had to go see them… I’m not getting any younger and neither are they. As the opening track of the new album Quiet and Peace says “now my time behind is greater than my time ahead.” Besides, my son wanted to visit UCLA and USC… “Father of the Year” + Concert of My Dreams = win-win.

The cover of the Let Me Come Over album. 

I won’t bore you with the details… chances are good that 70% of the 10 folks who actually read this blog don’t know who Buffalo Tom is and don’t care. Suffice it to say it was a fantastic evening, a borderline religious experience. They sounded great. I loved and savored every damn moment. They’re not the biggest band in the world by any stretch of the imagination. They’re semi-retired for all practical purposes. But to the 500-some-odd true fans in the Teragram Ballroom, most of whom are in their 50s, the three guys in their 50s up on stage crushed it.

Bill, Tom and Chris… just three average Joes playing some tunes for their friends.

For the three readers who do care, here are some links:

Great profile in the L.A. Times. (You can — and should — stream the new album there.) Love this quote:

Instead they live their lives, occasionally regroup, record and head out to perform for a fervent fan base. Some fans are simply enjoying reheating the embers of the heady club days of their alt-rock youth and others are following along with each album.

Super fan Mike O’Malley is in the latter category. Quite frankly, the actor-writer-producer — likely familiar to some for his comically poignant performance as Kurt’s dad on “Glee” or the early 2000s CBS sitcom “Yes, Dear” — is much more perturbed than the members of the band that Buffalo Tom has not achieved a higher level of mainstream recognition.

“I feel a little bit like Arthur Miller, ‘attention must be paid,'” O’Malley says with a laugh on the phone from New York, where he is putting the finishing touches on the book for the new Jimmy Buffett Broadway musical “Escape to Margaritaville.” “But, attention must be paid! I don’t understand why they’re not Wilco or The National. They deserve to be as well-known by a new generation of people who love music.” (emphasis mine.)

A profile in the Boston Globe.

Lead singer Bill Janovitz was a guest on Marc Maron’s WTF podcast. (Bill comes on about 31 minutes in. Marc Maron was at the show – I said howdy.)

And this mini-review of the new album in the Boston Herald nails how I feel when it says the new album is as good as their older material:

Jed Gottlieb Saturday, March 03, 2018
Most songwriters peak. Few fans think Bob Dylan improved after “Blood on the Tracks.” Nobody champions Bruce Springsteen’s “Wrecking Ball” over “Born to Run.” But subtract the nostalgia you feel for Buffalo Tom’s “Let Me Come Over” and you’ll likely find the new album “Quiet and Peace” as great as anything the band has done — don’t doubt my claim until you have listened to the quintessential Buffalo Tom track “Lonely Fast and Deep.”

The Boston trio of singer-guitarist Bill Janovitz, singer-bassist Chris Colbourn and drummer Tom Maginnis have nothing to prove. The guys will never make the band a full-time gig again — their ninth album comes after a seven-year break. Maybe it’s this freedom that allows them to write clear-eyed, adult rock ’n’ roll. (Note: This is not meant as a pejorative.)

They fill “Quiet and Peace” with tight rock about complex relationships. “Roman Cars” captures something between mature and playful, an aesthetic between the Kinks and R.E.M. “In the Ice” features a melody and melancholy that echoes Janovitz’s deeply underrated solo album “Walt Whitman Mall.” Flirting with folk, punk and rock drones, the band sounds endlessly comfortable with its art.

Buffalo Tom returns to the Paradise on April 20.



It Never Rains in Southern California…

… except for 2 of the 3 days we’ll be there.

That’s OK, we’ll still have fun.



I gave up whine for Lent

Thank you for reading.

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