Archive for April, 2009


I’ve taken a lot of shit over the years, a good amount of it deserved, for my tolerance for sappy folk music. I tend to fall for what I conceive to be the non-sappier variety of contemporary folk, but it’s hard to find one entirely free of the other. And everyone’s got slightly different definitions of sappy.

I like Lyle Lovett and James McMurtry a good deal and Dave Alvin more than a little and I tolerate Townes Van Zandt‘s sometimes deeply sappy indulgences the way I’d tolerate the occasionally embarrassing farts of a great and wondrous god, if I particularly believed in one, which I don’t, but still, and I think a lot of people can comfortably keep up with me this far.

Alejandro Escovedo‘s most cringingly adult-contemporary moments are earned in context. Even Rodney Crowell’s

I start to really lose the more punk-inclined of my friends at, say, Greg Brown, to whom I once spent at least six months straight listening, possibly not to my ultimate benefit. I mean it was Dream Cafe. That record aged me 10 sap years the second time I heard it. Slant 6 Mind is a far less sappy record, but even so, it’s got “Spring and All.” And “Vivid”, for fuckssake. See what I mean?

I don’t care. I like a lot of that shit. I like old folkies from Houston you’ve never heard of, like Eric Taylor and David Rodriguez. I mean, I can’t listen to Nanci Griffith, or Shake Russell OR Dana Cooper—who could?—so it’s not like I’m indiscriminate, but I do possess what I understand to be an unusual tolerance for Houston-pedigreed singer-songwriters of a certain vintage that was several Houston-scene evolutions prior to my brief time being a young adult and paying attention.

Oh well. I do like Vince Bell. Check this out.



Long time ago.

That’s his new book above with the cheesy cover, which you forgive, because it’s not about the book cover. He’s got a new record and a new one-man show, too. Here’s a clip from that. It’s a long one.



He’s kind of a ham. I dig him.

I wrote about him when he released Phoenix in 1994. That’s a pretty seriously great record. Listen to “Frankenstein.” Hell if I can figure how to make it play here.

I just wrote about him again.

He tells his own story here. 

It’s a hell of a one.

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Well it’s not much to look at yet, or even to read at this point, but WE’VE STARTED A BOOKS BLOG over at the place that’s currently kind enough to employ me, The Texas Observer. Because I, you know, don’t spend enough time blogging about books yet. I wanted to call it GALLEY SLAVE, but THAT WAS TAKEN, and nobody in the office thought it was the right kind of funny anyway.

The focus OVER THERE is a little different from the one over here, more oriented toward Texas, broadly interpreted, but equally welcoming to random visitors.

It’s called TEXAS BOUND and who knows, maybe it’ll be of interest to someone.

Visitors, comments, tips and other feedback more than welcome, as ever.

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3233334235_d6314960a5As promised, here’s more musing on the Great American Newspaper Meltdown, coupled with sort of a review of the sort of new (January) biography of William Randolph Hearst, at left, as published recently in The Texas Observer. 

And, also, as weirdly presaged a few days ago in a Jack Shafer Press Box column (in Slate) titled “Bring Back Yellow Journalism.” 

(And no, despite some strangely similar turns of phrase, I hadn’t read the Shafer piece before I turned in my copy.)

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