The “Alt.Country Gospel” edition of Grant Alden’s Field Notes
Once again abject self-promotion of a radio show that very few people can hear. You can, of course, go to the WMKY website and stream the show this Friday at 7 p.m. EST. But the whole podcast thing costs more money than a small university in the hills of Appalachia can afford to pay, and so, like so much with which I’ve been associated these many years, it will happen and then disappear.
Which is kind of what I do, so I guess it all works out.
This one was recorded in the spring, I think, but they take a while to work into the rotation. It is an homage to a compilation disc which never happened. Originally I had conversations with Hayseed and Bill Friskics-Warren and another guy whose name I simply cannot remember (Hayseed may chime in and chide me for my forgetfulness…Dave…something, maybe?) proposed to assemble an alt.country compilation. I think Bloodshot might have been vaguely interested, but maybe I’m conflating it with the black country music compilation that Bill and I took a brief stab at before giving up. Maybe Bill wasn’t even involved in this one.
In other incarnations this idea was proposed (by me) as a follow-up to the ND CD compilation series Dualtone produced. If two is a series. The problem was that none of the three principals in ND would identify as Christian, best I can tell, and I was probably the most sympathetic…which is saying something.
The point was (is?) that what passes for contemporary Christian praise music seems, to an idle listener, a bad knock-off of contemporary pop music. Granted that it’s gotten smarter and better over the years, but it still seems, when the kids at work play it, to be (in the main) a pale imitation.
It’s also the case that the insular world of the evangelicals isn’t the whole world of Christian music, or of music made by Christians. I think Peter and Kyla finally tentatively bought in when I suggested mixing Robbie Fulks’ “God Isn’t Real” and that Freakwater song which sings “There’s nothing so pure/as the kindness of an atheist” (“Gone To Stay”) into the mix. But, again, it never came to anything.
Anyhow, the point was to find good songs about God. I’d have sought songs outside the Christian tradition, but there isn’t a lot of roots music about Islam or Buddhism, or if there is I don’t know it, or didn’t think it was good enough to play.
So I pulled what I could remember and what I’d found subsequently into an hour-long show.
Here’s what I think I played, with the caveat that my playlist on iTunes isn’t necessarily right, but it’s close. I’m going to add some other songs to the bottom which didn’t make the hour cut.
(1) “Is There Room on the Cross for Me,” Scott Miller (from Thus Always To Tyrants). I remember seeing Scott play this at the Sutler one night, and believe this was the song which sent me down this path.
(2) “Gone To Stay,” Freakwater (from Old Paint). A band which verged on greatness, toyed with it, and seems to have abandoned the search.
(3) “Bible,” Romi Mayes (from Sweet Somethin’ Steady On The Side). A reach, maybe, but I think this is at least half of a terrific record, and I think Romi Mayes may be a significant talent. Except she plays in Texas and Canada and I don’t live in either of those places, so I may never know.
(4) “Food, Water, Shelter & Love,” Gurf Morlix (from Diamonds to Dust). Gurf produced Romi’s album, and it’s follow-up. And did all that work with Lucinda. And isn’t half bad his own self.
(5) “Rather Not Know,” Kenny Roby (the title track). I still need to make time to listen to the other of his solo albums which I have here, and to the 6 String Drag albums which I only glancingly know.
(6) “Is this All There Is,” Los Lobos (from By the Light of the Moon). Still my favorite of their albums. I just downloaded an advance of their new one, Tin Can Trust, but haven’t played it yet.
(7) “Is Heaven Good Enough For You?” Allison Moorer (from Alabama Song). She is as good as I thought she would be, but not in the way that I expected. Which is even better.
Dave Perkins, that’s his name. Sorry about that.
(8) “Falls the Shadow,” Hayseed (from Melic). The album most tangled up in the Watermelon debacle. A pity. Hayseed’s now in the insurance business, and occasionally plays up in Ohio. And is working sporadically on at least two albums.
(9) “Spare Me a Set of Wings,” Hope Nunnery (from Wilderness Lounge). What do I have to say to make somebody listen to this woman? This is an astonishing record, a record straight out of a Silas House novel, except it’s very real, and beautifully rendered. Which, actually, is just like one of Silas’s books.
(10) “Black Wings,” Ray Wylie Hubbard (from…shoot, his new album is called…oh, right, A. Enlightenment, B. Endarkenment, Hint there is no C.) Easily his best album in years, to my ears.
(11) “Come On Up to the House,” Sarah Jarosz recasting Tom Waits, though I didn’t remember the original. (From Song Up In Her Head.)
(12) “Mercy Now,” Mary Gauthier (the title track). Another reminder that I need to go buy her new record.
That’s as far as the radio show went. Here are some others I’d have liked to play:
“This Little Light,” Mavis Staples
“The Devil is a Busy Man,” Tim Carroll
“Wreck on the Highway,” Waco Brothers
“Samson and Delilah,” The Blasters
“Working on a Building,” Cowboy Junkies
“We Shall Overcome,” Green On Red
“There’s a Higher Power,” Buddy Miller
“Lord, Give Me Just a Little More Time,” Marty Stuart & His Fabulous Superlatives. Another record I need to buy. His new one, that is.
“If I Had My Way,” Patty Griffin. Which is the same song as “Samson and Delilah,” mostly.
“Ain’t No Grave,” Crooked Still
“Moses Don’t Get Lost,” The Duhks
“With God On Our Side,” Buddy Miller
“Heaven Blues,” Lucinda Williams
“Leaning on Jesus,” Callie Chappel/Hayseed
and I just yesterday ran onto Mindy Smith’ “Jesus Christ,” which was, I think, on one of the original lists.
And there it ends, for now.