The “Field Notes” cowpunk radio hour
This Friday (June 25), the next installment in the deftly named “Grant Alden’s Field Notes” will air on WMKY-FM at 7 p.m. EST. The theme for this hour, recorded so many months ago that I can’t even find the script so as to be sure what songs I played (so I’ll fake it, from my iTunes folder), is the cowpunk ancestors of alt.country.
At the time I conceived these shows, I sort of imagined they’d run weekly. It hasn’t worked out that way. I don’t think WMKY has weekly time to air them, and I clearly don’t have weekly time to produce them. Or I haven’t made the time. Nevertheless, I’m still a half-dozen shows ahead of what’s airing, and so if I keep at it maybe they’ll run them closer together.
Anyhow. What follows is my idiosyncratic playlist summarizing cowpunk, as I remember it. Keep in mind that I’m a West Coast guy, and so some of what happened out east didn’t really fall into my ears. And it may well be that this isn’t exactly the playlist. Sometimes I get in the studio and change songs to make them fit, or my mood calls for inspiration, or whatever. No matter. Here ’tis:
1. The Rank & File, “Rank & File.” The only track on which Alejandro Escovedo has a co-writing credit, if memory serves. I remember a guy coming to a party at my old house/typesetting studio on Roosevelt and telling me about this great band he’d seen (probably at the Fabulous Rainbow Tavern, for whom I typeset a newsletter, and so I could have known), only by the time I got to hunting their LP I discovered they’d broken up. Alas. But I do have the first three LPs on vinyl, still. Not that it matters.
2. Green On Red, “That’s What Dreams Were Made For.” Chosen in hindsight, because I remember having really liked Dan Stuart’s solo album more than a decade back.
3. The Long Ryders, “(Sweet) Mental Revenge.” A Mel Tillis cover, innit? An homage to my old friend, now at Warner Bros. (I hope, at least, that he’s still there), Rick Gershon, who ran their fanclub and worked his way up the foodchain from there. Seems like I had Thanksgiving at the Gershons with Sid Griffin, but maybe I remember it wrong. I know I broke my finger that day playing basketball.
4. The Blasters, “Border Radio.” Could’ve been any number of songs. I remember seeing them, long after the day, at the Backstage, or maybe at the end of the day (I think the brothers were still gigging as the Blasters, would’ve been the late 1980s, and the irreplaceable Mary Schuh almost certainly told me to go and made it easy for me to get home.
5. Los Lobos, “One Time One Night.” From By the Light of the Moon, still my favorite album by one of America’s most underappreciated bands, no matter the accolades heaped upon them. Another band Mary Schuh directed me to, I suspect.
6. Beat Farmers, “Red Headed Legend.” I saw the Beat Farmers first on the campus of West Virginia University in Morgantown, in the company of my best friend’s wife. He’d gone off to an expedition in Nepal or Tibet, and some friend of hers (she’s now a long-time ex-wife, but I had nothing to do with that) had won tickets. So we went, since I was still crashing on their couch, part of my couch-surfing tour of America in my 1967 Dodge van. I had no idea who they were, but was most impressed. The Smithereens opened? Probably opened. I was not impressed by them.
7. Dwight Yoakam, “Bury Me.” Chosen for the segue as much as anything.
8. Lone Justice, “Working Man’s Blues.” Never too much Haggard. Never quite understood why so many people were so drawn to this band, nor to Maria McKee after. It can’t simply have been that she was an attractive woman, can it?
9. The Screaming Blue Messiahs, “You’re Gonna Change.” Great band. I saw them open for somebody at the Paramount Theater in Seattle. Phenomenal band. I think Mary may have suggested them, too…you do know this magazine would never have happened without Mary Schuh, right?
10. Mekons, “Lost Highway.” OK, so I like covers…I also like the Mekons. I came late to the party, but was surprised to find it was still a party and I wasn’t too late after all.
11. The Jitters, “Don’t You Remember That You Are The One That Burned Down The Bridges That I Built Over The River O Tears That I Cried Over You.” Mostly just so I could say that title on the radio. And because they were the very first rock band I ever interviewed, out at Crow Studios. And because PK Dwyer chose to cover “The Witch” as an encore the night they opened at the Showbox for Pearl Harbour & The Explosions, still one of my top-20 shows.
12. Jason & The (Nashville) Scorchers, “Absolutely Sweet Marie.” Forgot this was a Dylan cover, but I won’t hold that against the song.
13. True Believers, “The Rain Won’t Help You When It’s Over.” A bookend, of course.
14. The Del Lords, “How Can A Pour Man Stand Such Times And Live?” Not sure this one fit, probably had to be cut for space. But it should’ve run. So I’ll leave it here.
15. K.D. Lang & The Reclines, “Turn Me Around.” Another Mary Schuh-directed find. I saw her on this tour at the Moore Theater, and she was terrific.
16. Cowboy Junkies, “Mining For Gold.” Not sure this ran either. It’s possible I picked another, longer song, to make it fit. The whole office at the old Rocket magazine (especially Michelle McM…our ad rep) were wild for this band, for this album. I’ve never thought Michael Timmins’ songs stood up to their early covers, but that’s an argument for another time.
Blast. It’s raining again. Never going to get any gardening done this way, but at least I’m getting a few blogs ahead.