Monday, December 19, 2022

Is Cookeville Ready For Its Homegrown Avant-Garde? The Revolutionary and Redemptive Graphics of Jesse Filoteo

I have a complicated relationship with my chosen home and the small city (or college town, if you prefer) of Cookeville, in Tennessee’s upper Cumberland region. That is to say, the larger political poisons of the last six years have infected us in their own cruelly contextual way. That is also to say how I hunger to celebrate the beautiful and amazing aspects of this place, when they sweep me off my feet, which most thankfully, is quite often, as of late. 

A short drive down Spring Street between Willow and Jefferson will expose you to a blossoming alternative arts and wellness scene. Not that there aren’t comparable epicenters of coolness on Cedar or Broad or elsewhere in town, but all the new galleries and shops (and such) along Spring speak to an expanding scene with a leading edge that we might not be ready for yet. 

In your own wandering around town, you might have missed The Silver Fern (@the.silverfern) in the suites at 145 East Spring Street, but now you can check it out, if you have not already. From jewelry to gifts to teas to cards to decks of wisdom, it’s a curated and eclectic space. That Cookeville got The Silver Fern around the same time we got The Tiny Cloak (where I am honored to sell some books and vinyl) is just sweet serendipity, a true “wow” to me. 

Now, I could start name-checking a bunch of our other new and needed niche spaces (maybe in a future post), but that would distract from where this review-essay is going. Because as cool as all the other new spaces are, that is not what I sat down today to write about. 

Because Cookeville currently has a provocative new exhibit of Jesse Filoteo’s original posters, sculpture installations, and protest art that can turn your world upside down, inside the Fiddlehead Gallery, which is a room inside The Silver Fern. This show could even turn our town or world upside down in ways that it needs. And it is only on display now, for less than a month to go as of this writing, until its closing party on January 14th. Even as I see the entire show as a kind of visual protest, or even direct action, Jesse emphasizes that his goal is “a point of conversation, not contention.” 

Start with the artist’s statement on The Silver Fern website (   ) or the teaser images over on the artist’s Instagram (@jesse_filoteo). But seeing these will hopefully draw you to see the show itself, especially for the 3D sculptures, which must be encountered and experienced, which are what Jesse calls “the final execution” of ideas first explored as 2D images.

Unlike many of our town’s artists and activists who moved here as adults for a whole host of reasons, featured designer Jesse Filoteo is from here for his entire life, and his training in the arts started at Cookeville High School and continued at Tennessee Tech. He is also a second-generation Filipino-American. When I first met Jesse more than six years ago, he absolutely blew my mind with his perspectives and aesthetics, expressed at that time with a poem about the ecological crisis, a poem that took first place in a writing contest that I was helping to judge. Full disclosure, he then worked with me lots during his time at Tech, largely as an undergrad teaching assistant in the now phased-out Treehouse learning village. 

Familiar as I am with Jesse and his work, I can imagine a world where new work from him would be expected, where it would not floor me, as if encountering Jesse Filoteo again for the very first time. But with this new show, Jesse is not just bringing any old thing from his already brilliant bag of tricks. This show has such a cutting and cohesive message that will stick in your mind long after you leave the gallery.  

“The Impracticality of Youth” is an assessment and indictment of what Jesse calls our “complex, cynical zeitgeist.” It might offend you with its take on the themes Jesse owns in his artist statement: “consumerism, nationalism, race, gender rights, and sexual identity.” The show might also floor you with its fierce vision and flawless technique and make you again furious with the frightful world depicted, because this is our world. 

Everything is skewed, and Jesse Filoteo skewers everything. His art carves its space in our consciousness with incisive insight and a masterful command of any and every software or platform needed to render his brutal and breathtaking vision through a digital and physical palette. 

The world that Jesses flips and flips again is cruel and chaotic, and his radical response is refreshingly, if at times disturbingly, revolutionary and redemptive. Don’t be deterred by the allusions to sex and violence, to racism and homophobia, but settle into the scathing and oddly salvific messages, beyond the brutality of the critique at first glance.

This show is also a kind of seminar in subversive art in general, an example of an emerging voice finding his place in the best lineage in radical graphics. I have not quizzed Jesse on all his influences for this show, but I could not help but to see the exhibit as part of a larger tradition of recontextualizing popular brands for the purpose of rhetorically toppling and mocking their brand management. In this show, I sense a solidarity with the “subvertising” style of the ‘zine scene, made most evident by the Canadian “super zine” Adbusters. Or we could go all the way back to the exuberant fliers, pamphlets, and graffiti of the Situationists (or any of their descendants, like the Zapatistas or the Occupy movement, to only namecheck some). 

Cookeville’s own Jesse Filoteo is looking way beyond our small city or college-town-culture with the vision of this far-ranging show, and I am not alone in hoping he takes this show to some galleries elsewhere, in bigger cities, down the road. Cookeville really isn’t ready for this show, and no disclaimer or trigger warning, which the artist and gallery gratefully provided, will protect one from being shocked by this show. I am secretly hoping that at least some of our local folks who don’t “get” what art like this is after, I hope that they see it anyway and experience all the therapeutic discomfort that an experience of this potency might bring. 

-Andrew William Smith / Andy Sunfrog
19 December 2022

Thursday, December 8, 2022

The Best of 2022 - Top 100 Albums

Here it is: this insane ADHD ENFP maximalist Top 100 (which was a top 75, which was a top 50....& so on). This is a TOP 100 ALBUMS, with an accompanying playlist of 100 songs. (The top 25 were also included in the December 5, 2022 radio show).

Warning -- I added some wild prog, sludge, & angry punk music in the last frantic hours of composition, most of it is super mellow folk music (playlist in the comments). 

Please remind me when you post your best of lists, too! All y'all list makers, check it out & then show us yours!!

Since posting this, I have been non-stop consuming everyone else's lists. At the end of the year, I will have a "Best of List from records that I only found out about yesterday & stole from other folks' Best of lists."

Listen to 100-song playlist here:

Teacher On The Radio's Top 100 of 2022

1 Adeem The Artist - White Trash Revelry

2 Willi Carlisle - Peculiar, Missouri 

3 Florence & The Machine - Dance Fever 

4 Lee Bains + the Glory Fires - Old Time Folks 

5 The Dead Tongues - Dust 

6 Avi Kaplan - Floating On A Dream 

7 Band Of Horses - Things Are Great 

8 Black Angels - Wilderness of Mirrors 

9 Tedeschi Trucks Band - I Am The Moon  

10 Amy Ray - If It All Goes South 

11 Tyler Childers - Can I Take My Hounds To Heaven? 

12 Ian Siegal - Stone by Stone 

13 Cloud Cult - Metamorphosis 

14 Mat Callahan - It Is Right To Rebel 

15 Jake Blount - The New Faith 

16 Miko Marks & the Resurrectors - Feels Like Going Home

17 Sam Burchfield - Scoundrel 

18 Will Hoge - Wings On My Shoes

19 Miraculous Mule - Old Bones, New Fire 

20 Dawes - Misadventures of Doomscroller

21 Greensky Bluegrass - Stress Dreams 

22 Bonny Light Horseman - Rolling Golden Holy 

23 Kevin Morby - This Is A Photograph

24 Mt. Joy - Orange Blood 

25 The Pinkerton Raid - The Highway Moves The World 

26 My Politic - Missouri Folklore 

27 Hayden Mattingly & Honeybrook - The Next Moonlight

28  Ghost of Paul Revere - Goodbye 

29 Ryan Adams - Romeo & Juliet 

30 The Hanging Stars - Hollow Heart 

31 Gungor - Love Song To Life 

32 Madeline Edwards - Crashlanded

33 Shemekia Copeland - Done Come Too Far

34 Sarah Shook & The Disarmers - Nightroamer

35 Wilco - Cruel Country 

36 John Fullbright - The Liar

37 St. Paul & the Broken Bones - The Alien Coast 

38 Fantastic Negrito - White Jesus Black Problems 

39 Jack White - Entering Heaven Alive 

40 John Craigie - Mermaid Salt 

41 Nikki Bluhm - Avondale Drive 

42 Early James - Strange Time To Be Alive 

43 Anais Mitchell - Anais Mitchell 

44 Shovels & Rope - Manticore

45 Bitch - Bitchcraft 

46 Ethel Cain - Preacher’s Daughter 

47 Erin Rae - Lighten Up

48 Damn Tall Buildings - Sleeping Dogs 

49 Flamy Grant - Bible Belt Baby 

50 Stillhouse Junkies - Small Towns 

51 The Brothers Comatose - Turning Up The Ground

52 The Sadies - Colder Streams

53 American Aquarium - Chicamacomico

54 Andrew Bird - Inside Problems  

55 Hurray for the Riff Raff - LIFE ON EARTH

56 The Harlem Gospel Travelers - Look Up!

57 Ruthie Foster - Healing Time

58 Jim Page - THE TIME IS NOW

59 Jeb Loy Nichols - United States of the Brokenhearted

60 Taj Mahal & Ry Cooder - GET ON BOARD

61 Deslondes - Ways & Means 

62 Mary Gauthier - Dark Enough To See The Stars

63 Valerie June - Under Cover 

64 Caamp - Lavender Days 

65 Paolo Nutini - Last Night In The Bittersweet

66 Ben Harper - Bloodline Maintenance

67 Drive By Truckers - Welcome 2 Club XIII

68 Ondara - Spanish Village No. 3

69 Paisley Fields - Limp Wrist 

70 The Boys of Perpetual Nervousness - The Third Wave of

71 Big Thief - Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You

72 Fireside Collective - Across the Divide

73 Jonah Tolchin - Lava Lamp

74 Seth Avett - Seth Avett Sings Greg Brown 

75 Amanda Shires - Take It Like A Man 

76 Joan Shelley -  The Spur 

77 Trampled by Turtles - Aspenglow 

78 Black Country, New Road - Ants From Up There 

79 Brent Cobb - And Now, Let’s Turn The Page

80 Zack Bryan - American Heartbreak

81 Jon Moreland - Birds in the Ceiling

82 Peter Rowan - Calling You From My Mountain

83 - 49 Winchester - Fortune Favors The Bold 

84 Old Crow Medicine Show - Paint This Town 

85 The Reds, Pinks, and Purples - They Only Wanted Your Soul

86 John Clark & Harry Waters - Sea Oddity

87 The Paranoid Style - For Executive Meeting

88 Cheekface - Too Much to Ask 

89 Frank Turner - FHTC

90 GA - 20 - Crackdown

91 The HU - Rumble of Thunder 

92 The Mars Volta - The Mars Volta

93 Morrow - The Quiet Earth 

94 The Dog’s Body - The Dog’s Body

95 Petrol Girls - Baby 

96 Soul Glo - Diaspora Problems 

97 Wild Pink - ILYSM 

98 Animal Collective - Time Skiffs 

99 The Smile - A Light For Attracting Attention 

100 Porridge Radio - Waterslide, Diving Board, Ladder To The Sky

image from one of Adeem's fans as excited about the new album as I am.

Monday, December 5, 2022

Warning Signs - Best of 2022 (TOTR 441)

Originally aired on Monday, December 5, 2022 on WTTU 88.5FM

Audio archive will be posted after the live broadcast. 

Some of the best music of 2022 - a totally subjective, imprecise science!

#25 - The Pinkerton Raid - "Merseybeat" from The Highway Moves The World 

#24 - Mt. Joy - "Evergreen" from Orange Blood

#23 - Kevin Morby - "A Random Act of Kindness" from This Is A Photograph 

#22 - Bonny Light Horseman - "Sweetbread" from Rolling Golden Holy 

#21 - Greensky Bluegrass - "Worry For You" Stress Dreams 

#20 - Dawes - "Ghost in the Machine" from Misadventures of Doomscroller

#19 - Miraculous Mule -"I Know I've Been Changed" from Old Bones, New Fire

#18 - Will Hoge - "Queenie" from Wings on My Shoes

#17 - Sam Burchfield - "Scoundrel" from Scoundrel 

#16 - Miko Marks & The Resurrectors - "Trouble" from Feel Like Going Home

#15 - Jake Blount - "Give up the World" from The New Faith

#14 - Mat Callahan - "Say Yes" from It Is Right to Rebel

#13 - Cloud Cult - "The Best Time" from Metamorphosis

#12 - Ian Siegal - "Onwards and Upwards" from Stone by Stone 

#11 - Tyler Childers - "Way of the Triune God" from Can I Take My Hounds to Heaven?

#10 - Amy Ray -"Chuck Will's Widow" from If It All Goes South

#9 - Tedeschi Trucks Band - "Fall In" from I Am The Moon

#8 - The Black Angels - "Empires Falling" from Wilderness of Mirrors

#7 - Band of Horses - "Warning Signs" from Things Are Great

#6 - Avi Kaplan - "Floating On A Dream" from Floating On A Dream

#5 - The Dead Tongues - "Garden Song" from  Dust 

#4 - Lee Bains + The Glory Fires - "God’s A-Working, Man" from Old-Time Folks

#3 - Florence + The Machine - "Girls Against God" from Dance Fever 

#2 - Willi Carlisle - "Rainbow Mid Life's Willow" from Peculiar, Missouri

#1 - Adeem the Artist - "Baptized in Well Spirits" from White Trash Revelry

Friday, December 2, 2022

Going to hell and heaven and to the protest and the church and the honky tonk and the trailer park with queer folk singer Adeem the Artist (they/them)

 Going to hell and heaven and to the protest and the church and the honky tonk and the trailer park with queer folk singer Adeem the Artist (they/them)

Music streaming services get buckets of bad press, especially Spotify. Forgive me for not rehearsing all the moral indictments against the model and confessing my sin as an addict. I am hooked to the tune of or to the statistics (according to them) of 87,000 minutes or almost two months of 2022, being spent with the streaming songs rocking my long walks on my Bose bluetooth headphones or shaking up my morning ecstatic meditations with an Alexa speaker shot through a banging sound system. I only say all this, because their Pandora-like abilities to suggest music are actually fantastic and factor into this long-winded review of an album that dropped today.

I am an ADHD maximalist, whose cup always overflows. My appetite for new music is so insatiable and then some. So when I was looking for more stuff in the Bob Dylan-meets-Utah Phillips-meets John Prine-meets-Pete Seeger lineage, but I wanted it to be a little weirder and wilder than my steady diet of Jason Isbell, Avetts, Brandi, et. al., the recommendations provided by the app on my phone were truly delivered. Were it not for the algorithm recommendations for a massive playlist I was building last January of agit-folk utopia, my audiophile soul may never have crashed into my radical sibling from a short eastern jaunt down I-40. 

Very early in 2022, I discovered a favorite album of 2021 that didn’t make my list, mainly because I had never heard it. 

“Cast Iron Pansexual,” by Knoxville’s “Adeem the Artist,” really got inside and changed me. The album has everything I adore about folk music, from the sonic scaffolding of addictive earworms, to adorably insecure and contagiously courageous expressions of gender fluidity, to their theological trilogy about the possibilities for an afterlife, to talking-blues takedowns of the heterosexist capitalist white supremacist patriarchy shit-show of post-Trump America. 

Wait, they also have a song about gentrification and Asheville hipsters from the perspective of a hick from Boone? I am head over heels already!

To say that “White Trash Revelry” (released today, wherever you get your music) was my most anticipated album of 2022 would be a gross understatement. I mean I was just hanging out waiting for it with a hunger not unlike the one described in their 2021 track “Fervent for the Hunger.” 

Discovered them in January, had to see them in February. In the dark of winter and early days of this phase of the Russia-Ukraine war, I drove to Nashville to see Adeem at the Basement where they are back, celebrating the new album tonight. I drove to the Exit In back in September, to see them open for Sarah Shook and American Aquarium during Americanafest (my first and hopefully not last of that amazing event). Then I drove to Newport, Kentucky to see them open a show in a converted church called Southgate House Revival. I would have seen them even more, if time or schedule allowed. So tonight will be my 4th Adeem show if I finish the review and get there, and I hope to continue to count myself as a superfan. Should we be dubbed Deemies? I deem that a possible nickname!! 

Basically gushing my heart out at their merch table in Newport, I begged Adeem for the review copy. Within minutes, I had the private reviewers’ link in my Soundcloud. 

In an ideal world I would write multiple record reviews each week. But music journalism is not my day job, so I only squeeze in a couple of proper record reviews each year, if that. And this one is more of a fanperson’s diary entry of biased beatitudes and sacred scribbles. But I must pause to celebrate this album. 

Yet yesterday, I got some really bad personal news, so that I almost jettisoned penning this review, but instead I am sucking expresso and sitting in a coffeehouse in South Indianapolis (after catching another show up here last night), before driving back to Tennessee for the album release. 

The real singalong even-in-your-sleep hit for me is “Going to Hell,” the third chapter in their aforementioned trilogy about the afterlife. Because they say “shit,” I could not play it on the college station where I am a volunteer DJ. The other two tracks in the trio--”Going to Heaven” and “Live Forever”--were on “Cast Iron,” and in recent sets, Adeem has placed all three together, interspersed with some high-brow theological banter. If you can imagine Adeem as a former music pastor turned Episcopal Atheist Evangelist turned witchy apostate, you can begin to grapple with the significance of all this. That the song successfully merges references to Robert Johnson and Charlie Daniels only verifies Adeem’s intertexual cultural literacy in their genres and the attendant messages about mystical and existential matters.

Keep in mind I love Adeem’s voice, charisma, melodies, all of it, but it’s their lyrics that are true genius. They just slay me, keep me listening again and again. They are already at the level of Bob Dylan and John Prine, Jason Isbell and Brandi Carlile, all to whom they have been compared by people other than me. This stanza from “Going to Hell” needs to be part of the grade school music and religion curriculum:

“Well, I met the devil at the crossroads and I asked if we could make a deal

He seemed puzzled, so I told him the story, and he said, ‘None of that shit's real’

It's true I met Robert Johnson, he showed me how the blues could work

But white men would rather give the devil praise than acknowledge a black man’s worth”

Their most popular single off the record is “Middle of the Heart” which is a tragic narrative disguised as sentimental bro-country. For someone unfamiliar with the rest of the Adeem canon, it is jarring, tricking you into thinking it is a crossover to the kind of Nashville radio ballads that get blasted by teary-eyed truckers. But the last stanza of the song is an anti-war sucker punch to the horrors of humanity just being humanity. As one chapter in this 11-song masterpiece, it truly digs. 

But I confess that I hate the truth that this is the introduction some people get to Adeem, as opposed to every song on this album’s predecessor, and that is just me, being like this “I loved him ten months ago,” a real fan snob. So forgive me. Adeem has made an expansive tent revival out of their subversive intervention with so-called Tennessee values turned upside down, and once a person tracks the whole record, they will not be able to think “Middle” is an indicative track, but rather a testimony to the far breadth of Adeem’s talents. 

Past the singles, some of the deep cuts are so profound and cutting. But it all breaks my heart, revs up my rage at injustice, and encourages me because I get to breathe the same air as Adeem and fight the fascists with them, arm in arm, their songs on our lips, their convictions in our hearts. 

Their songs also teach me about our shared experience as Christ-haunted heretics. The second track, even more than “Going to Hell,” lays it all out. It is speculative fiction about a gay love affair between Judas Iscariot and Jesus Christ, and it is emotional, heartfelt, believable, beautiful, exhilarating. Take that, all y’all homophobic and transphobic Chrisofascist jerks! This, not on your “Onward Christian Soldiers” on January 6th BS, it is the new wild hymnal, y’all. We are taking the American flag out of your churches and waving our trans and rainbow flags within the ecumenical ritual instead. 

“Heritage of Arrogance” is a stunning musical manifesto crammed into a country track, from and for folks who know by intimate experience that the KKK and white evangelicals are often the same people, and we cannot stay quiet about that anymore. This is lament and liturgy and prophetic plea:

“I saw Rodney King on the TV screen

Turn slowly into Trayon

I heard my parents make excuses

For the man who fired the gun” 

Both “Painkillers & Magic” or “Baptized in Well Spirits” are the funky fuel in the engine of this thing, the inebriated musk and mud of a working class Southern subculture soaked in whisky and tweaked on pills. They are each hootenannies of sorts, keeping up the reveling in this Revelry, reminding us that even amid such strident preaching, this shindig is a party too. 

“Rednecks, Unread Hicks” includes extra collaborations on vocals and banjo with the band that Adeem assembled for this recording. (Including Jake Blount and Jett Holden; there are many other collaborators throughout, and I apologize for not name-checking them all.) This track is another take on the all-inclusive queer-leftist social-justice takes that are the Appalachian babbling brook that this whole disc takes us swimming in. 

Even though I have listened countless times, I am still trying to track all the activism, religion, and pop culture references within just this one song. It’s got a slinky, side-two fuck-it-all jam-session groove to contain all the ridiculously rebellious references. I can’t say I have a favorite track overall, but this one packs everything I love about Adeem & is also another song that is singing in my head sometimes by surprise. 

The most heartfelt and comforting track for me is “Books and Records,” for it just resonates to other parts of me than the rest of the album. It’s a confession about not making your bills. Rather than going to the payday loan place or to sell plasma or to sell sex like in a Townes Van Zandt song, the narrator is selling, no please say it isn’t true, their books and records. See this is one of those tracks that kicks my heart in a harder way. When I had to say goodbye to the booze and drugs when entering the 12-step family so many years ago, of all my replacement vices, coffee and pastries among them, record and book collecting are obsessive habits to surpass them all. And to be blunt, I can imagine a world where I have to sell them all, just to eat or make rent. That just doesn’t seem even remotely far-fetched to me and the melody here makes me cry.

Even though I am close to 2000-words, this still feels like a rushed summary. If you made it to the end of my review and you have not listened to this album yet, please give it several spins to see if it carries the same kind of ugly cries and joyful flights that it does for me. It is the apostate gospel that makes us feel loved and seen and somehow makes it safer to be a southern leftist revolutionary mystical freak. Adeem, we love you and are grateful for this record in ways we are still just beginning to learn. 


2 December 2022

typing in a coffeehouse in Indiana

Monday, November 28, 2022

One Small Candle (TOTR 440)


Originally aired on Monday, November 28, 2022 on WTTU 88.5FM

Gareth Davies-Jones - Ring out Wild Bells
Xavier Rudd - Follow The Sun
Beta Radio - Winter Eclipse
The Bird and the Bear - As Soon as Winter Comes
Gordon Lightfoot with musica intima & Steve Maddock - Song for a Winter's Night
The O'Pears - A Candle Burned
Jessica Radcliffe - One Small Candle
Peter, Paul and Mary - Light One Candle 
Carrie Newcomer - Lean in Toward the Light
David Ramirez - Find the Light
Hiss Golden Messenger - As Long as I Can See the Light
Pete Sturman - Turn On the Light
Mason Jennings & Jack Johnson - Buddha Too
Dar Williams - The Christians and the Pagans
Steve Thorngate - God Is a Body
Garrett Viggers & a Thin Places Band - Our God Is Hungry
Sacramento Master Singers - Christmas Spiritual Medley
Odetta - Poor Little Jesus
Rev J.M Gates & His Congregation - He Was Born in a Manger
Jaqueline Allen Trimble - This Is Why People Burning Down Fast Food Joints and Whatnot
Daniel Deitrich - Hymn for the 81% 
Phil Ochs - Ballad of the Carpenter
Phoebe Bridgers w Fiona Apple & Matt Berninger - 7 O'Clock News / Silent Night
Noah Cyrus & Miley Cyrus - I Got So High That I Saw Jesus 
Miley Cyrus w Mark Ronson & Sean Ono Lennon - Happy Xmas (War Is Over)
Sandra McCracken - All Is Well
Jason Harrod - Come On Everybody

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Thank You (TOTR 439)


Originally aired on Monday, November 21, 2022 on WTTU 88.5FM

Special Guest: Adeem the Artist
Their album White Trash Revelry is out 12-2-2022;
Album Release Party at the Basement East

listen to the archive here:
Stream episode Thank You - TOTR 439 by Teacher On The Radio podcast | Listen online for free on SoundCloud

Sam Burchfield - Howl
Willy Tea Taylor & The River Arkansas - Damn Good Dog
Aidan & the Wild et. al. - Christmas in Prison
Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats - Thank You
Bob Dylan & Johnny Cash - Girl from the North Country
Arlo Guthrie - Chilling of the Evening
Jason Isbell - Souvenirs
James McMurtry - Operation Never Mind
My Politic - Buzzards on a Powerline
Adeem the Artist - Tiger Prince of Knoxville
[interview with Adeem the Artist]
Adeem the Artist - Redneck, Unread Hicks
Adeem the Artist - Books & Records
Adeem the Artist - Asheville Blues
Adeem the Artist - I Wish You Would've Been A Cowboy
Todd Snider - Vinyl Records
Iris DeMent - Wasteland of the Free
Lucinda Williams - Car Wheels On A Gravel Road
Brandi Carlile - Space Oddity
Zach Jones & the Tricky Bits - Let the Mystery Be
Bonnie Raitt - Thank You
The Jayhawks - Pray For Me

Monday, November 14, 2022

Reasons To Quit (TOTR 438)


Originally aired on Monday, November 14, 2022 on WTTU 88.5FM

Listen to the archive here:

Scott H. Biram - When I Die 
Jake Hoot - I'll Fly Away 
William Elliott Whitmore - Lift My Jug (Song For Hub Cale)
Phosphorescent - The Party's Over
Phosphorescent - Reasons To Quit
Trampled by Turtles - Quitting is Rough
Jerry Garcia & David Grisman - Whiskey In The Jar
Hank Williams & Drifting Cowboys - Alone And Forsaken
Tim Hardin - Tribute To Hank Williams
Blaze Foley - I Should Have Been Home
Blaze Foley - Election Day
Magnolia Electric Co. - O! Grace
Magnolia Electric Co. - Whip-poor-will
Gram Parsons - In My Hour of Darkness 
Gram Parsons - We'll Sweep out the Ashes in the Morning 
Nanci Griffith - Tecumseh Valley
Townes Van Zandt - Waiting Around to Die
Townes Van Zandt - Flyin' Shoes
Justin Townes Earle - Harlem River Blues
Justin Townes Earle - Ain’t Got No Money
Amy Winehouse - You Know I'm No Good
Janis Joplin - Kozmic Blues
Nick Drake - Time Has Told Me
Owl John - A Good Reason to Grow Old
The Raphaels - Too Many Ghosts
Neal Casal - Pray Me Home
Patty Griffin - Angels Are Falling

apparently i am only almost
ready for my annual early advent
but on this last day of so-called indian summer
(that was last week when this was recorded)
i am still obsessed with the saints & souls
of halloween & the day of the dead
the party is over the 
party is in heaven
come to join us 
to walk with the dead
stand with these sketchy saints
these certified sinners of questionable sanity
these backwoods backroads poets
of the american songbook

In memory of: 

Jerry Garcia (1942-1995)
died of heart attack in a drug treatment facility 

Hank Williams (1923-1953)
died of heart failure caused by the combination of alcohol, morphine and chloral hydrate

Tim Hardin (1941-1980)
died of heroin & morphine overdose

Blaze Foley (1949-1989)
died from gunshot to the chest

Jason Molina (1973-2013)
died of alcohol abuse-related organ failure

Gram Parsons (1946-1943)
died from morphine & alcohol abuse in a California motel room

Townes Van Zandt (1944-1997)
died of heart attack

Justin Townes Earle (1982-2020)
died from an accidental overdose of fentanyl-laced cocaine

Amy Winehouse (1983-2011)
died of an alcohol overdose - “death by misadventure”

Janis Joplin (1943-1970)
died of an accidental heroin overdose

Nick Drake (1948-1974) 
died from an overdose of anti-depressants

Scott Hutchison (1981-2018)
died by suicide

Stuart Adamson (1958-2001)]
died by hanging himself with an electrical cord from a pole in a wardrobe

Neal Casal (1968-2019)
died by suicide

Monday, November 7, 2022

The Grease Factory (TOTR 437)


-originally aired on 88.5FM WTTU on Monday, November 7, 2022

-listen to the audio archive:

-a unique episode of DIY punk & adjacent underground rock from Cookeville & middle Tennessee, mostly from the 21st century

-special co-host & curator is Blake Marlowe (pictured) of The Dog’s Body

-we keep saying this is #436 during the broadcast, but it really is #437

The Hosemobile - The Grease Factory 
Glomus - Deluge
Hellbender - Phil’s Dream Pit
Hellbender - Down The Mountains
Holy Mountain Top Removers - Karst 
The Dog’s Body - Kirk
Turbo Fruits - Keepin’ On
Majestico - Gimme Love
Megajoos - Hungry for Souls and Funyuns
Jeff The Brotherhood - Garbage Man 
Pujol - How High
Diarrhea Planet - Heatwave
Big Surr - Cosign Tangent
Denny and the Jets - Pain Pills
Meemaw - Blue in the Black Light
Western Medication - The Painted World
Western Medication - Big City
Faux Ferocious - Beating In My Head 
The Kindergarten Circus - Twin Evils
Bows and Arrows - Let’s Take On The Night
Bake Sale - As Predicted
Blank Range - Roommate’s Girlfriend
Fly Golden Eagle - Monolith

Friday, November 4, 2022

Perverse Redemption and Problematic Earworms -- The World Premiere of Crawlspace - the musical


I have been closely following the shows at Cookeville’s Backdoor Playhouse (BDPH) for 15 years, and I may have just witnessed their best production ever. 

Charismatic creative director, teacher, and friend Mark Creter’s choices for theatrical productions follow a wide range, from playful to provocative, silly to serious, and everything in between. When the venue was transformed into a creepy caged-asylum for Marat/Sade, we transformed one of our Open Mic nights into a “cage fight.” It was that -- or cancel our one-night variety show, because the set for the upcoming play had taken hours to construct and wasn’t moving anywhere. 

All this is to say that things can get very weird at the rear of the Jere Whitson building, just off the Tennessee Tech quad. For the first time in memory, the university recently meddled in the creative life of our thespian safe- space, by canceling by executive order the benefit drag shows which had become a staple for our LGBTQ etc community and their friends. 

Also, for the first time that I am aware of, just this season, Creter added a content-based trigger warning for the fall musical, currently live through November 12th. So it’s with some anxiety and much anticipation that I took my seat for the final dress rehearsal of Crawlspace: A True Crime Musical, currently making its world premiere in Cookeville, with writers Jason Spraggins and Matt Glickstein in the room.

I am not a “true crime” buff, though I watch more shows and movies and listen to more podcasts now in this genre than ever before, thanks to my wife’s love of the style and subject matter. Before seeing the show, I purposefully did not read the script or overdose on serial killer theories or histories, either. Although I did mainline the John Wayne Gacy Wikipedia entry over dinner at House of Thai, just across the road from the theater. 

To put it mildly, the source of my anxiety concerned the chances of being offended or grossed-out or just plain disturbed by the show, so much that I wouldn’t even be able to write this review. Though the topics are terrible, the play is not. Rather I was swept up into the universe of the story, moved by the songs, and shaken by the stunning set designed by Bob Cardana and his many associates. It’s a mind-blowing, immersive experience. 

Jason Spraggins has constructed a shocking, sickening, and yet subtly healing dose of truly dynamic historical fiction; Matt Glickstein has made catchy earworm musical magic with themes that seem problematically unfit for such treatment; Mark Creter has superbly interpreted this for an all-encompassing theater encounter, befitting of a world premiere. Also, the orchestra (directed by Mendy Richards) really lays down a gritty groove to hold the musical aspect in perfect vibe, and all the actors heartily belt out their singing parts with the feeling required. 

As everything unfolds, it is clear that the facts of the Gacy case are basically in-tact, but the names of all victims have been changed. The mystery of the play’s unique experience, though, pivots around a fictional psychologist (Doctor Judith Matthewson, portrayed expertly by Emma Olson) who interviews Gacy, in part to make sense and come to terms with the violence and abuse in her own backstory. 

We relive the horrors Gacy perpetrated through flashbacks, navigated expertly through “layers” of reality and unreality. The set itself embodies these layers, and oversized historical slides projected onto the show itself add a trippy quality to something that is already bonkers. Cranky voices in Gacy’s mind, his first and truest prison, are portrayed by different actors, including a cop and a clown. The entire effect pulls you into the monstrous mystery tour; if you decide to go, accept the horror as part of the plan, then suspend all expectations and assumptions and buckle-up for the carnival ride.   

Cookeville staple Ryan Steele becomes John Wayne Gacy. It is some messed-up mojo as an actor to take on a part like this, but Steele as a kind of trickster and troubadour himself seems born for roles like this, as he becomes a very bad man, but also a kind of funhouse freak, wack-job relative, and bad-Wonka-on-weed. Fans of Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker will identify the kind of metamorphosis that I mean to hint at here. This alone is worth your time, but it is not a one-man show. Every performer becomes their character, with all the emotional weight and disturbing connotations included. 

Because I came into this without having seriously studied the topic or script, I was ready for surprises. They were all there. But what messed with me (and impressed me) the most, and lingered long after the final curtain, were some of the theological implications. Real-life John Wayne Gacy was a devout Catholic. His meanness and madness intertwined with piety and shame. He sometimes recited the Bible when torturing his victims. Gacy was an antiChrist who thought of himself as a Christ. We are at least forced to see him as a human being and as a survivor of abuse by an alcoholic father. Chew on all that with your communion wafer. 

But throughout the play, there was an implied saga of redemption. The redemption is never realized and perhaps the entire arc of redemption is perverted by reality, with lethal injections and firing squads as modern-day crucifixes for damned people who cannot be fixed or rehabilitated, much less saved. The play leaves us with more questions than answers. 

But as an entire body of work, it does nudge us to ask deep deep questions about human nature, good and evil, the criminal justice system, psychology and psychiatry, bisexuality and homosexuality, Christianity and religion, and finally the death penalty. I believe a work like this does honor the victims of violence, but also asks us to soberly study the pervasive, all-too-human sources of violence, from serial killers and state executions. Whoa.  - Andrew William Smith, 11-4-22, Cookeville 

For more information:

Monday, October 31, 2022

By & By (TOTR 436)

 a show for Halloween & All Saints 2022

originally aired on Monday, October 31, 2022

interview with Erin Hoover of Sawmill Poetry

-reading on November 7 at 7pm with Anna Sutton at Plenty on Spring (35 W Spring, Cookeville)

Coleman Barks & Tuatara - A Grainy Taste
Anna & Elizabeth - Mother in the Graveyard
Stick and Poke - Creature
Loreena McKennitt - All Souls Night
Reclaiming - We All Come From the Goddess/Hoof and Horn
Lady Maisery - noughts and crosses
Chumbawamba - By & By
Michael Nesmith (1942-2021) & The First National Band - Bye, Bye, Bye
Loretta Lynn (1932-2022)- The Pill
Leslie Jordan (1955-2022) & Tanya Tucker - When The Roll Is Called Up Yonder
Old Crow Medicine Show - Will the Circle Be Unbroken - Live at The Ryman
The Devil Makes Three - St James
Scott H. Biram - Still Around
The Arcadian Wild - Carry on Wayward Son
Susto & She Returns From War - Dead Flowers - Live from the Royal American, Charleston, SC 2020
Dead & Company - Not Fade Away - Live at the Hollywood Bowl, Los Angeles, CA 10/30/21
Screamin' Jay Hawkins - Swing Low, Sweet Chariot
Noam Pikelny - Folk Bloodbath
Haley Heynderickx & Max García Conover - Francis
Dave Carter & Tracy Grammer - When I Go

Monday, October 24, 2022

Monster Mash - with The Tiny Cloak (TOTR 435)


Check out the Tiny Cloak:

Halloween Music & Meaning with Montana from the Tiny Cloak

Originally aired on Monday, October 24, 2022

Listen to the archive here:

The Hollies - Witchy Woman 
Donovan - Season of the Witch
Ozzy Osbourne - Bark at the Moon
Michael Jackson - Thriller
The Searchers - Love Potion No. 9
Stevie Wonder - Superstition
Mötley Crüe as Dr. Feelgood
Fleetwood Mac - Black Magic Woman 
Amc Orchestra - Addams Family Theme
KC & The Sunshine Band - I'm Your Boogie Man
Bobby "Boris" Pickett - Monster Mash
The Rolling Stones - Paint It, Black
Nitemayor - Vampire
Kiki Rockwell - Same Old Energy
Tim Curry - Sweet Transvestite
Matt Berry - Gather Up
Yaima - Gajumaru
Cannons - Spells
Des Rocs - Used to the Darkness
Screamin' Jay Hawkins - I Put a Spell On You

Monday, October 17, 2022

Welcome to Paradise: Recovery, Anarchy, & Punk Rock - TOTR 434

This episode features pre-recorded interview segments with Justin Veals of Cookeville's Recovery Kitchen and originally aired on WTTU 88.5 FM on Monday, October 17, 2022.

Listen to the audio archive here:

Nirvana - Negative Creep
Nirvana - Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge On Seattle
Ramones - The KKK Took My Baby Away
Dead Kennedys - I Fought the Law
Dead Kennedys - Let's Lynch the Landlord
CAKE - Satan Is My Motor
CAKE - Pentagram
R.E.M. - Orange Crush
Talking Heads - Psycho Killer
David Bowie - Rebel Rebel
The Cure - Boys Don't Cry
Slayer - Raining Blood
Green Day - Welcome to Paradise
Sex Pistols - Anarchy in the U.K.
The Clash - I'm so Bored with the U.S.A.
IDLES - I'm Scum
The Thermals - Here's Your Future
Against Me! - I Was a Teenage Anarchist
Against Me! - Baby, I'm an Anarchist!
Goldfinger - Superman
Dropkick Murphys - Worker's Song
Bad Religion - American Jesus
Descendents - Merican
Me First and the Gimme Gimmes - Sunday Morning Coming Down
Rancid - Time Bomb
Fugazi - Waiting Room

To connect with Recovery Kitchen:

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Autumn Wind (TOTR 433)


Originally aired on WTTU on Monday, October 10, 2022. A celebration of the DJ's 55th birthday!

You can listen to the audio archive of this show here: Stream Autumn Wind - TOTR 433 by Teacher On The Radio | Listen online for free on SoundCloud Seth Avett - Good Morning Coffee Carrie Nation & the Speakeasy - Autumn Wind Mischief Brew - Gratitude & Thanks Ramshackle Glory - Vampires Are Poseurs (Song for the Living) Dana Lyons - Prayer for This Land Dave Carter & Tracy Grammer - Ordinary Town Willy Tea Taylor - Wrong Way to Run Dan Reeder - Raft to Freedom Ida Mae & Marcus King - Deep River Possessed by Paul James - Come to the Water Jake Blount - Take Me to the Water / Prayer Charlie Parr - Jesus on the Mainline Tyler Childers - Way of the Triune God Paula Cole & Jason Isbell & John Paul White - Mother, Son and Holy Ghost Big Thief - Spud Infinity Jim James - My Sweet Lord Kaiak - I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For Mike Massé - Scarlet Begonias Jim Page - Now Is The Time Wild Ponies - Love Is Not A Sin Josh Ritter - Lark Buddy Guy & Jason Isbell - Gunsmoke Blues Ani DiFranco - Tis of Thee The Deep Dark Woods - The Place I Left Behind Ian Siegal & Jimbo Mathus - Gathering Deep Amy Ray & I'm With Her - Chuck Will's Widow

Monday, October 3, 2022

How It Ends (TOTR 432)


Originally aired on WTTU on Monday, October 3, 2022.

You can listen to the audio archive of this show here:

Nomadic War Machine - Hey Hey My My

DeVotchKa - How It Ends

David Benjamin Blower - Apocalyptic Lockdown Blues

Laura Jane Grace & the Devouring Mothers - Apocalypse Now (& Later)

Anaïs Mitchell & Justin Vernon & Ben Knox Miller - Wait for Me

Leslie Fish - Hymn to the Night-Mare

Rose with Teeth - Set This World On Fire

Rock Plaza Central - Anthem for the Already Defeated

Shane Speal - Jesus Is Coming Soon

Miraculous Mule - John The Revelator

The Hope County Choir - The World Is Gonna End Tonight

The Hillbilly Thomists - Floodwaters

The Deadly Syndrome - I Hope I Become a Ghost

Toh Kay - Watch It Crash

Jason Webley - Dance While the Sky Crashes Down

Jay Trainer - While The World Burns Down 

King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard - Gaia 

Puscifer - Apocalyptical

Ashley Cleveland - Gimme Shelter

Rasputina - All Tomorrow's Parties

mewithoutYou - The Angel Of Death Came To David's Room

Danny Schmidt - A Prayer for the Sane

[image - photo by Teacher On The Radio, debris collected on walks around town]

Monday, September 26, 2022

Strange Times (TOTR 431)

Originally aired on WTTU 88.5 FM on Monday, September 26, 2022
Listen to the audio archive here:

Florence + The Machine - Girls Against God 
My Morning Jacket - Welcome Home
Sultans Of String with Duke Redbird & Twin Flames - The Power of the Land
Karen Drucker - Thank You For This Day
The Hanging Stars - Red Autumn Leaf 
Blue Moon Marquee & Duke Robillard - Thick as Thieves
Mary Gauthier - Truckers and Troubadours
Carsie Blanton - In the Middle of It
Nicki Bluhm & Karl Denson - Feel
Cristina Vane - Strange Times
Erika Lewis - Wild Thing
The Deslondes & Riley Downing - South Dakota Wild One
Luke James Williams - Off to Get Lost
Bobblehead - Captain Save A Soul
Alex Dupree - Lawman
Peter Rowan - Penitentiary Blues
Lee Bains + The Glory Fires - Outlaws
Michael Weston King - The Hardest Thing Of All
Canyons & Highlands - Pushing On/Wolves
Miraculous Mule - We Get What We Deserve
Will Stewart - Bad Memory
Caleb Caudle,Jerry Douglas,Sam Bush,Carlene Carter,Elizabeth Cook - I Don't Fit In
The Outlaws - Knoxville Girl
Chris Kasper - Beyond Me
The Band Of Heathens & Butch Walker - Night Moves
The Brothers Comatose - When It All Falls Apart
Shane Watt & Marie-Noëlle Reyntjens - The World That We’re Unravelling On
Dan Knobler & Erin Rae - What a Wonderful World

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

"Oh, it's good to be alive." Notes from the spinning wilds of a Florence + The Machine concert.


“Oh, it’s good to be alive.” - Florence Welch

You get to be a consciousness wrapped in shimmering skin & a flower crown, standing on this paid-for patch of public field at the end of summer: gathering goosebumps, screaming lyrics, spinning childlike, shedding tears.

It’s good to be alive.

That is one of the many prayers that Florence sings at this lovely liturgy of a British ritual pagan dance cult for the Nashville thousands. If that seems a bit extra, Florence basically co-signed from the stage in her ticklish sparkly that we were attending a pagan ritual. In the Bible belt, during a culture war, no less.

It’s good to be alive.

At any moment, our ginger priestess could reach back into the fairy castle of her stage set & conjure any spell. If for only from 9:55pm until 10:45 pm, we were under her spell, but even if I didn’t get to sleep until 12:45am, I was up at 8:15am, humming her songs in my head.

It’s good to be alive.

You & your date love planning your outfit for a show like this, even if it is 90 degrees in late September. Looking forward to all the other costumes, fans, we did not disappoint. Did she invoke a trinity of Elvis, Dracula, & Jesus? Well yes, I think she did.

It’s good to be alive. Even if it is just to stare at your muesli midnight snack; yes you do understand that sometimes waging holy war is nothing more than staring at the floor. I want to be wrapped in these lyrics like one of her gowns, all the rising & all the falling. It picks me up, it puts me down. A hundred, a thousand, a million times a day.

It’s good not to drink alcohol at shows anymore (or drink alcohol anywhere), but that might be you mixing Red Bull & Liquid Death, over ice, sucking it down, just before pre-show lights dim.

When the white & blinding light begins, it’s not an oncoming train. The opening song is Heaven, & Florence is backlit like an angel. We might ascend at the Ascend Amphitheater, anything feels possible all of a sudden.

I have been afflicted with this spinning, spitting “dance fever” for a long time. It could get you like it got me.

So Florence sings, “Something's coming, so out of breath/I just kept spinning & I danced myself to death.”

From the first time I heard it, & carried it deep into the woods, on good bluetooth headphones & saved on the phone, because there is no data plan or reliable reception where I am going, the words of this record struck an inner chamber of my being & unwrapped & unleashed an unraveling part of me as gloriously still here, still crazy, but strangely okay with not being okay.

Stuff is so messed up. I mean for real wrong. But it’s good to be alive. So let’s dance anyway.

The communal dance has long been understood as sacred, & I could venture tonight & this tour in the lineage of it all. While I feel closest to Rumi turning desperate grief into dervish ecstasy or the devotional twirl of trippy deadheads, this communal dance could be every gay dance club of the post-Stonewall & pre-AIDS years, could be Detroit EDM festivals of the last many decades, could be countless remote & magical forest raves powered by the powerful hum of how many generators.

She is down in the pit, she is running in the crowd, stopping anywhere & everywhere to anoint or embrace or consecrate. Everybody seems happy to touch her. Is it like this at every show? It honestly seems like a miracle that she hasn’t missed a date yet on this leg for Covid or anything else she might have caught from such gorgeous vulnerable dangerous intimacy.

The energy rises & falls like so many of her songs, she asks us to leave it all here. I mean we have been lost on this arc of a two-hour rock show, drinking metaphor blood & shaking our bodies with the goddess out in public, maybe Florence is right, maybe we should leave it all here. But I am sure I am not alone in wanting to bottle something, bring it home, make a romantic altar for it, light a candle with it, to not let all the magical colored sand just fall through the sieve of time.

For more than two years, I have been in radical religious deconstruction from a part I once played, rural pastor. Wild-hippy turned part-time Calvinist. That journey had so many beautiful places as part of my path. But then we moved on.

Truth be told, Jesus still infects me like he does the lyrics on this album: Where Christ comes back in drag, & the church doesn’t even care that Jesus might not be straight & just shouts “Yes.”

Or even more this: “Oh like Christ up on a cross/
Who died for us? Who died for what?/
Oh, don't you wanna call it off?/
But there's nothing else that I know how to do/
But to open up my arms and give it all to you.”

Lyrics like these say one thing on one listen, another thing on another, but in every case it is abandon & surrender to a cosmic force that abides in the universe. Is that not already ready for the hymnal?

Strange things these are, I am talking about recovering from religious trauma & doing dogma deconstruction: it has not made me less spiritual. Not a bit. Now that I am not looking primarily into one tradition or into a particular theology niche with clear-cut boundaries, the sacred & divine are oozing from every crack of existence with ecstatic reminders of wild wonder & essential humanity. It was always that way, actually, but now it just has these bursts of tawdry technicolor & neurodivergent glee.

Now that I am not “in church,” like I used to be, church shows up everywhere, like hikes, yoga classes, 12-step meetings, but in this case, most acutely & especially, on a recent Florence + The Machine album & at her recent concert to support it.

There are other albums & shows of this year & this period that are taking me to this kind of rambling relentless reverie. It is happening on a regular basis with a wild array of acts.

But this Florence thing this year was something to inhale a little more fully, expansively, ecstatically immersing myself in certain songs, in the total vibe.

So yes, it was cool the other night to find a few thousand others that seem to feel the same way. It’s good to be alive at the same time as Florence Welch & as all these other fans.

[Photo from Nashville by Jason Werner]

These are the songs we heard: