The River's Badge

Thursday, July 3, 2014

My Country Music Novel

Write what you know, right?

I took that advice to heart, and therefore I am writing a country music novel.

As with all inspired ideas, it started out with a song - a George Strait song, by the by - and it turned into something a bit - okay, a lot - more involved.

My protagonist is an overnight disc jockey. She's landed in a dead-end town and she spins records in the wee hours. Meanwhile, she's being stalked by someone. At least everyone has convinced her that she is.

I am halfway through my story, and, oh yes, I do have a playlist. All inspired novelists have playlists - don't they?

Sometime, in the future, I'm going to link videos to my playlist - just because the visual medium helps me stay focused - but for now, here's what I've got:

1.   Heartland - George Strait
2.   There Goes My Heart - The Mavericks
3.   Fast As You - Dwight Yoakam
4.   Up! - Shania Twain
5.   Does He Love You - Reba McEntire and Linda Davis
6.   I Breathe In, I Breathe Out - Chris Cagle
7.   I Cross My Heart - George Strait
8.   Need You Now - Lady Antebellum
9.   Mama Tried - Merle Haggard
10. A Better Man - Clint Black
11. Indian Outlaw - Tim McGraw
12. T-R-O-U-B-L-E - Travis Tritt
13. Crazy - Patsy Cline
14. Mama He's Crazy - The Judds
15. I'm Movin' On - Rascal Flatts
16. I Hope You Dance - Lee Ann Womack
17. Wagon Wheel - Darius Rucker
18. I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry - Hank Williams

These don't necessarily represent my "favorite" songs. But they're songs that fit within the story. I guess you'd just have to read it.

And here's the deal - if I don't manage to land an agent - and that's pretty hit or miss, to be honest - I'm going to self-publish. So, if you're a country music fan, you can still read this thing. One caveat - it could take me another six months or so before I finish it, and another 30 days before I figure out how in the hell to turn it into an e-book. But I'll get there.

Just a hint - number 15 is the one to watch for. That's the one that pretty much seals the deal.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Ever Wonder ~ Why Wasn't This Song a Hit?

In 1994 I was ensconced in a corner office, through no effort of mine. My boss decided, on a whim, to just bestow it upon me. The first and last time I ever had a corner office. It was nice. At least I can say I once had one. Most of my working life has found me buried behind the grey prefab walls of a cubicle. It's all what you get used to - neither good nor bad. But a corner office is way better.

I was rather isolated, not in a bad way, but more in a "time to think" way. My employees were only a couple steps outside my door - I could walk out and shoot the breeze with them anytime I wanted. Some bosses don't do that; I did. Sure, I could close my door if I needed to, but how often does one really need to? A closed door becomes a crutch. I liked the people I worked with. I was just a naive fool anyway, bewildered by how in God's name I ever got put in charge of anything. To this day, I still don't know.

We had piped-in music where I worked. Most of it was annoying. If you've ever been subjected to Muzak, you know how it feels to want to reach up into the speakers and rip Andy Williams' guts out (no offense to Andy Williams). The music was just loud enough that it could not be denied. I heard it.

We didn't have the internet then - what the heck? A time when there wasn't an internet? We had computers, but all we did on them was compose Word documents and plug numbers into Excel spreadsheets. We barely had email. Our attention spans were much longer as a result.

I kept hearing this one song over the speakers, and I didn't know who was singing it (I had apparently banished all memories of Urban Cowboy from my brain). I stopped whatever numbers I was punching every time that song exploded out of the speakers. Who was it? It was a really excellent song!

I stopped into my local record store - I think the store was called Music City - and I asked the guy if he knew who sang that song about the bird. Fortuitously, the clerk knew what I was talking about, and he led me over to the "S" section of the CD rack and pointed out Boz Scaggs. Duh! Of course!

I loved this song from the first time I heard it and had no earthly idea who the singer was, and I love it now. Fate didn't make it a hit, I guess because fate prefers Mariah Carey or somebody. Fate has really bad taste.

But just listen to it. Boz didn't make a music video for the song. Music video? What the hell was that in 1994? Why, that was as alien as having a place where one could type in virtually anything and get information about any obscure topic one could conjure. Absurd!

Just so you don't have to ask your local record store clerk (as if there was such a thing as a record store!), the song is called FLY LIKE A BIRD:

Yes, you are most certainly welcome.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Obviously, This Could Complicate Things



Did you know Hayden Panettiere is pregnant? I didn't! Cool for her! Real life is not a Nashville soap opera. However...

How is this going to play out? I predict doom. Knowing how "Nashville" operates, nothing turns out happy.

I'm just too caught up in this show.

This needs to stop.


Monday, May 26, 2014

Is Country Music Dead, Asks Collin Raye

Well, sure.

That's not exactly news.

It's not that country music is dead, really. It's that "country music" is dead.

Country music is just different now. It's a whole different genre from what many of us used to call "country". I'm okay with that. I know that the music I like, those two words that used to trip off my tongue, is now called Americana. It just takes some getting used to. Old habits die hard.

I never wanted to become one of those old-timers, the ones who say, "In my day..." Because the people who say that are simply sugarcoating the past. I've been listening to country music since the sixties. Sure, there were some poetic songs - simple poetry like the kind Merle Haggard wrote, and the more literary stuff that Kris Kristofferson penned. But there was also a whole lot of junk - throwaways - kinda like most of the Top 40 songs of today. Those songs didn't set out to be timeless; they set out to make a buck - kinda like most of the Top 40 songs of today. Collin Raye is romanticizing the past, which is what all of us do.


Taken as a whole, yes, the country music of yore was eons better than the country music of now. I agree with Collin that there's far too much of the "yee haw", pickup truck, redneck blah blah blah stuff on the radio today. C'mon people! You can't possibly be that shallow? Can you? People today still have "feelings", right? How about writing about that?

What? You're telling me that the whole "feelings" stuff can't get played on the radio? Well, shame on corporate broadcasting! You're making kids look like a bunch of possession-obsessed androids. Kids aren't really like that. I have kids, so I know.

But enough railing. It simply is what it is. What do I care, really? I have all the "good songs" on CD and safely tucked away inside my computer. I can listen to them anytime I want.

Nevertheless, if you would like to read what Collin Raye has to say on the topic, click on "Is Country Music Dead?"

I could have thrown in a bunch of awesome country music videos here, but really, you can just envision your own. Mine would be different from yours anyway.

I do want to add, however, that if you think Collin Raye doesn't know whereof he speaks, then you haven't heard "In This Life".

Oh, shoot. I have to include it here, since I just mentioned it:

Friday, May 9, 2014

Nashville ~ On The Record

Here's what I like: Nashville (the TV show) - the music. The soap opera aspect of the show simply frustrates me. If you watch Nashville, you've probably noticed the disconnect. It's as if the writers forgot what they wrote only one episode before.

Take, for example, this week's saga. Deacon sidles up to Teddy at Rayna's concert and asks him to ruminate on his (their) daughter's birth. Now, mind you,only an installment or two before, Deacon had punched Teddy's lights out because Teddy and Deacon's "girlfriend" had engaged in a rendezvous in said girlfriend's SUV. Well, I guess, a few days later, all has been forgiven, because now Teddy is more than happy to wax nostalgic about their (shared) kid's entree into the world.


And everybody? Stop telling me how Deacon and Rayna really "belong together". I don't give a damn. I like the character of Deacon, but I'm sick to death of him latching onto the crumbs that soulless woman sprinkles across every middle-aged male country singer's county line. I'll accept that Connie Britton is a good actress - everybody keeps telling me she is - so all I am left to conclude is that she is supposed to come across as a heartless bitch.

Don't even get me started on Juliette and Avery. He's a decent guy, and she's just ripped his existence to shreds for no logical reason, especially seeing as how she "loves" him.

Scarlett? What can I say? Every viewer hates her - do the writers get that? The writers keep trying to get us to sympathize with her, but they are apparently staring blindly at some shiny object, while we're all left to hurl heavy objects at our TV screen. Scarlett's whiny and a self-imposed victim. Good singer, though.

Sign me up for Team Gunnar. Sure, he hasn't had much of a storyline lately. They all assumed he was too boring, so instead they tried to pump up Will and whatever-his-fake wife's-name-is story. But Gunnar is at least a songwriter and normal.

Nobody puts Gunnar in a corner. We all kinda like the "normal" people.

Which leads me to the original point of this post - THE MUSIC. Did you catch the Ryman episode? The one with the actors actually performing songs from the series?

If you missed it, check out YouTube.

Annoyingly, I've had some of those damn songs stuck in my head for a couple of weeks now - because they're really good songs. That, however, doesn't negate the irritation of having them swirling around in my brain.

So, taking the advice of some "expert", I've decided to banish those earworms by featuring some of those songs here.

And who better to start with than Gunnar?

This, however, is the song that has been bedeviling me. Stupid perfect song. Perfectly written. Perfect chorus, perfect verse, perfect transition. Damn.

I need to rid myself of this song - because it's too damn perfect:

Trust me - just buy this live album. Help me out here. Maybe if you listen to it enough times, I will finally be rid of it.

I can't take much more of this excruciating, sublime madness.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Beauty (Sorry - Absence) of Video Clips - 2014 ACM Awards

As you know, I hate watching awards shows. And yes, I realize the ACM Awards were broadcast April 5. I've been busy - sorry.

Generally, awards telecasts feature a bunch of inane scripted chatter that is supposed to pass for "humor", but instead creates twinges of embarrassment, and I'm referring to the poor viewers who have to witness it. I say, speed things up. These shows could be wrapped up in an hour, with a judicious producer. Omit the inside jokes that nobody gets unless they're a crazed web fanatic with nothing to do all day but peruse country music gossip sites.

Ditch the "medleys". Whose brainchild were those? The problem with medleys, aside from the fact that, well, they're medleys; is a) just when they start a good song, it abruptly stops and transitions into some soporific tune that the poor artist being honored couldn't even manage to break the top 40 with; and b) the producers always trot out some kid singer wanna-be, who butchers what originally was a really great song. If it's imperative to include medleys, please let the original artists perform them. And don't give me that, "we're here to honor....". No, you're not. You're here to snatch some screen time. Quit trying to jazz up a classic song. Who do you think you are? Reba McEntire? with your laughable note-bending and your southern rock mimicry? Just do the damn song the way it was intended. Show-off.

Three, don't include Faith Hill. I have nothing whatsoever against Faith Hill, and I realize she's a package deal: "McHill". But she hasn't been relevant since the turn of the century.

Finally, and this really goes without saying, stop panning the camera to Taylor Swift whooping it up in the audience.

All bitching aside, let's get to the clips, shall we?


This just in:

Sorry - it seems that the ACM's or CBS or whoever's in charge doesn't want anyone to watch their videos. I'm not sure why. I've never understood why these folks remove their online content. It's free advertising, after all - and you network people know the show's already been broadcast, right? It's not like you're going to lose advertising dollars.

By the way, the ACM's were created by the late Dick Clark, who actually was a big country music booster, as a way to compete with the CMA awards. It's not as if the ACM's are an "industry" function; they're a TV show. Which is fine. I just wanted to point out the distinction.

Anyway, here's a video. It has nothing to do with the Academy of Country Music Awards, but I found this during my search - and WOW!

Back to the ACM's, I also understand that some guy named Garth got the crowd to sing Happy Birthday to some guy named Merle (I don't know - there is no video evidence of this anymore).

I am just hoping that I have better luck with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction performances. Because I have a lot to say about that.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Review - Fargo (the series)

When I read about the new FX series, Fargo, I was a bit leery, but intrigued. The Coen Brothers movie is a classic, and I hate TV remakes of popular movies, because I've already identified specific actors with specific roles, and the "replacement" actors are never as good.

Nevertheless, I decided to DVR at least the first episode, on the off-chance I might actually like it.

I love it!

In fact, I watched it twice.

My concerns were eased immediately, because no one is reprising characters from the movie. These characters are all new. Yes, there is the William H. Macy "type", but he's a whole different guy in a whole different set of circumstances. There is no Marge, but there is a female deputy sheriff - again, not like Marge at all; more wide-eyed, less self-assured.

And there's no Steve Buscemi - and I loved Steve Buscemi's character - easily riled, quick to anger, hair-triggered.

There is, however, Billy Bob Thornton. Now, let me just say, I don't care for Billy Bob personally - it all harkens back to his hubris during a radio interview that went horribly wrong - however, as an actor, in this role - superb. He is the stranger in town, a contract killer who takes a detour to "help out" someone who has been wronged. Let's just say things go downhill from there.

Yes, the show has some violence and some blood - murder isn't known to be neatly packaged. But there's also dark humor, and quirkiness abounds.

I'm not a native Minnesotan, so I am not as offended by the fake accents as some of my neighbors are. To be generous, some of the actors manage the accent better than others. But FYI - nobody says, "fellas". "Yea, I know that fella." "He's a strange fella." No, we just say "guy". Also, we do not say "Uff da". Maybe in the nineteenth century, the locals said that. They don't now. Seriously.

I guess I also don't mind so much that the show makes it appear as if we have snow twelve months out of the year. Perhaps this winter felt like that. But, no, we actually have all four seasons.

Also, we don't wear heavy rubber galoshes - you know, the kind with the buckles. C'mon.

But all quibbling aside, the show is fantastic (and I'm notoriously difficult to please).

I can't finish this post without commenting on the music. The man's name is Jeff Russo. I waded through the final credits just to find out who composed that music.*

*It's important to note that the music deserves prominent billing - it's such an integral part of the show. Just beautiful; haunting, atmospheric. Big big kudos to Jeff Russo.

I can't recommend this series highly enough. If you missed it on FX, or you don't have FX, or you can't find a rerun of the premiere episode (although I have a strong suspicion FX will be rerunning this a few times before Episode 2), you can watch it online here

I was looking for a trailer that includes at least a bit of the music. Here's one: