Binge reading

Yesterday, I got an email from my good friend Tom Kuhl. (That’s “Mister Cool” to you.) He’s one of the few, the proud… the handful of folks who actually subscribe to my blog. (Poor fella.) And his note let me know there was something amiss:

While I hadn’t made any changes to my WordPress site, something definitely was screwy, and the email notifications weren’t going out each time I published a new post. Ghosts in the machine, I suppose. Tom’s email sent me down a rabbit hole as I tried to figure out what was wrong. The solution involved copious amounts of Googling, multiple emails to WordPress/Jetpack tech support, and getting into the belly of the blog beast via an FTP transfer site… don’t try this at home (unless you have to). But all appears to be well now.

However, if you are one of the lucky few (using the term “lucky” very loosely) who subscribe to this blog, you’ve got some catching up to do. Because what I lack in quality, I make up for in quantity. Brew another pot of coffee and dive straight into my latest posts:

  • Remembering Scott Hutchison, lead singer of Frightened Rabbit (5/10)
  • Paul Westerberg’s sister retires (5/13)
  • My son Peter sleeping (5/14)
  • Life imitating comic strip art (5/17)
  • George “Goober” Lindsey is my nemesis (5/18)
  • Singer Caroline Spence (5/20)

I won’t kid you – these gems are some of my greatest posts ever. Nah, just kidding, it’s the same old random b.s., as usual.

If, perchance, you’ve somehow stumbled upon this blog by unhappy accident (or maybe it was assigned to you as penance or community service) and you’ve yet to subscribe, you can do so via a form on the righthand side of the home page:

You’ll get an email each time I publish a new post. It’ll be like Christmas 2-3 times a week… the Christmas when you got mittens instead of Hot Wheels cars.

Don’t thank me, thank Tom.

Sweeter Caroline

Lucinda Williams. Emmylou Harris. Patty Griffin. It’s time to add another woman’s name to the alt-country pantheon: Caroline Spence.

Image result for caroline spence mint condition

I saw Caroline and her ace band live a few days ago. There were four folks on stage, and only about 24 folks in the audience.

But that audience count is going to keep going up, because Caroline is going places. Her new album Mint Condition is a stellar collection of tunes. It’s her third full-length release, and the first one on a legit label (kudos to Rounder Records for signing her).

Here are a few tunes from the album that showcase her range… first is an uptempo, rockin’ tune:

And here’s a live, acoustic version of the title track, a sweet song she wrote for her grandparents:

Finally, another beautiful ballad, with great lyrics, that reminds me so much of Lucinda and Emmylou and Patty:

Caroline and her band are on tour now, on an East Coast swing. Get off the couch and go check them out… and bring 25 of your closest friends.

George “Goober” Lindsey haunts my dreams

George “Goober Pyle” Lindsey (of The Andy Griffith Show fame… oh, and Hee Haw too!) saved Ernest Borgnine’s life.

But he took a few years off my life.

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Actually I’m to blame, not Goober. Check out the latest episode of the 97X podcast that I do with my old radio pal Dave for a true tale about Mr. Lindsey that involves the First Commandment of Celebrity Phone Calls.

Life imitates comic strip art

My son Peter has his final day of high school today. I imagine his last couple of weeks have gone something like this:

And then there’s Peter’s old man, the aspiring writer. This strip sums things up nicely:

Have a wonderful weekend, and keep chasing those dreams!

Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

Here’s my 18-year-old son, fast asleep in “stare at phone” mode.

Not many folks can pull this off, but Peter is a pro. When he’s not at school, at the gym, or at work, this is where you’ll find him – sprawled out on the couch. Many weekdays, he’ll wind up falling asleep there, and when I get up at 6 a.m., I’ll wake him to either get ready for school (weekdays) or head upstairs for another few hours of sleep (weekends).

Oh to be young again…

Grounded at last

A recent blog post from The Current, an indie radio station in Minneapolis, made me smile.

I’ve always loved that song, it has great lyrics…

Sanitation expert and a maintenance engineer

Garbage man, a janitor and you my dear

A real union flight attendant, my oh my

You ain’t nothing but a waitress in the sky

But as the blog post explains, Replacements leader Paul Westerberg wasn’t channeling his own inner rude passenger when he wrote it:

In Bob Mehr’s Trouble Boys, he explains that the song was actually inspired by stories songwriter Paul Westerberg heard from his sister Julie, a flight attendant. “I was playing the character of the creep who demands to be treated like a king,” Westerberg told Mehr. “I’d heard all the stories from my sister about how [passengers] would yell at the flight attendants and then how they’d ‘accidentally’ spill something on them.”

Now Paul’s sister has retired after four decades of putting up with all manner of passenger problems. I’m sure the stories would be even worse if Paul wrote the song today.

Congrats Julie… and thanks for sharing your stories with Paul, so he could share them with us.

Frightened Rabbit forever

One year ago, we lost Scott.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by RMV/REX/Shutterstock (9646726aw) Frightened Rabbit – Scott Hutchison Handmade Festival, Leicester, UK – 30 Apr 2018

Lead singer and chief songwriter of Frightened Rabbit, a brilliant band from Scotland. He battled depression for years, and ultimately couldn’t break free of its grip.

There are no casual Frightened Rabbit fans. You either love them or you’ve never heard of them. (The latter can be rectified, btw.) There was a sadness to Scott’s lyrics — that’s what drew us in. We are all damaged… lost souls in need of a friend… lonely hearts wanting love.

The sadness that drew us in also stole him away. Depression is a liar and a thief.

It’s been a year and I’m still torn up about it. I try to get through by focusing not on the darkness, but rather on the light. I think about the joy he brought to the world, rather than dwelling on his sad exit.

Mostly, I think of my friends who are also fans… Dale, Michael, Ric, Deuce, Sara, Reid, Maggie… We’re still here. And we can pay heed to Scott’s lyrics:

While I’m alive, I’ll make tiny changes to earth.

Scott’s family just announced that they’ve founded a charity to raise awareness about children’s mental health issues.

When it’s all gone… something carries on

2, 1, none better

Two women. One microphone. None better at bringing songs to life. I love Lucius.

Photo credit: Jon Calderas, CincyMusic.com

Lucius played Memorial Hall in Cincinnati on Wednesday. Actually, they wrapped Memorial Hall around their matching little fingers. Such powerful, pristine voices, such picture-perfect harmonies, such soul-stirring songs. For me, it was goose bumps all night long.

To the uninitiated, the matching outfits, makeup and wigs/hairdos can seem like a gimmick. But when you hear the voices of Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig intertwine and mesh so well, it totally makes sense. They are two, yet one.

But let’s not forget the other three folks on stage – playing guitars, drums and providing backing vocals that always served the songs, complementing them but never overshadowing them.

One woman at the show had traveled 600 miles to see Lucius. Totally worth it. If they come anywhere near you (and the show isn’t already sold out), you simply must attend.

A cool assignment

When I was six, my family moved from über-urban New Jersey (shout out to Jersey City!) to super-rural Arkansas (shout out to… the cows that lived next door?). Our new abode was in the foothills of the Ozark Mountains, so it got chilly, but we rarely experienced snow or ice. (I remember one year when we got nearly a foot of snow overnight and my grade school was closed for two weeks straight!)

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Cold-weather sports such as hockey weren’t really on my radar. Sure, I might read the occasional article about it in Sports Illustrated, but I’d never seen a live game and really knew very little about it. In college, I got a work-study job in intramurals, and had to be a linesman for broomball, the poor man’s hockey. It took me a long time to understand the “icing” penalty call.

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I’ve been to a handful of hockey games since then, but don’t really follow the sport. When my old friend John Fox — who is now the editor of Cincinnati Magazine — rang me up and asked me if I wanted to contribute to a photo essay about beer league hockey players for the April issue, my initial thought was that I was woefully ill-equipped for the gig. But I overcame my imposter fears and I’m so glad I did, because I got to interview a bunch of very interesting folks from all walks of life, united by their love of “the good old hockey game.”

The entire piece is online here on the Cincinnati Magazine website. A couple of clips are below. Just goes to show that when you get outside your comfort zone, cool things happen.