Saturday, March 25, 2023

Beautiful Noise (TOTR 449)


Shea Diamond by zanetookapicture on Instagram

-aired on WTTU 88.5 FM The Nest on Saturday, March 25, 2023
-A mixture of celebration & determined action after the #LoveRising concert at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville on Monday, March 20, 2023
-You can listen to the audio archive here: 
Stream episode Beautiful Noise - TOTR 449 by Teacher On The Radio podcast | Listen online for free on SoundCloud

Jake Wesley Rogers - Under the Sun
Adeem the Artist - For Judas
Sheryl Crow - Hard To Make A Stand
Autumn Nicholas - On A Sunday
Brittany Howard - Stay High
Joy Oladokun - Changes
Mya Byrne - It Don’t Fade
Fancy Hagood - Don't Blink 
Interview with Billy from the Tennessee Equality Project 
Jason Isbell & The Rainbow Coalition Band - Keep On Smilin (live fan recording)
Amanda Shires - Take It Like A Man
Hozier & Mavis Staples - Nina Cried Power
Shea Diamond - I Am Her
Alicia Keys & Brandi Carlile - A Beautiful Noise
Allison Russell & Brandi Carlile - You're Not Alone
The Highwomen - Crowded Table
Yola - Stand For Myself
Hayley Williams - Inordinary
Wrabel - The Village
Maren Morris - Better Than We Found It
Sister Sledge - We Are Family

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

#LoveRising Setlist - Nashville - 3.20.2023


Monday night
20 March 2023
Bridgestone Arena

Benefit concert for Tennessee Equality Project & other lgbtqia+ organizations!
**notes and corrections and additions accepted

-pictures are from @zanetookapicture on Instagram. Please go follow them!

Jake Wesley Rogers

Adeem the Artist
"For Judas"

Sheryl Crow
"Everyday is a Winding Road"
"Hard To Make A Stand"

Julien Baker
"Man" (Neko Case cover) 

Autumn Nicholas
"On A Sunday"

Brittany Howard
"Stay High"

Joy Oladukun

Mya Byrne 
"It Don't Fade" 

Fancy Hagood
"Don't Blink"

Izzy Heltai - ?

Jason Isbell
"Cover Me Up" (Amanda on fiddle)
"Keep On Smilin" (Wet Willie cover) with the oRainbow Coalition band
Amanda Shires
"Take It Like A Man"

Hozier & Allison Russell
"Nina Cried Power"
"Take Me To Church"

Shea Diamond
"I Am Her"

Allison Russell, Shea Diamond, & Ruby Amanfu
"Beautiful Noise"

Allison Russell & company
"You're Not Alone"

The Highwomen
"Crowded Table"
"Stand For Myself"

Hayley Williams
"Did I Shave My Legs For This?"
(Deana Carter cover)

"The Village"

Maren Morris
"Better Than We Found It"
"The Middle"

Yola & everyone
"I'm Every Woman" (Chaka Khan cover)

"We Are Family"

Playlist is based on this great show, close to this but not precise! Some of the added songs fit the spirit, to be sure!

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

A Man, the Spirit, and the Sea: A Conversation with The Waterboys’ Mike Scott

Seeing some particular pictures posted by Carol Shapiro in the “I Miss Play It Again Records” Facebook group, these images sent me whirling and tumbling again into the mid-1980s rabbit hole of my musical obsessions. Yes, that’s me in that picture with that singer! We had stayed up so late, almost until dawn, doing an interview in his hotel room. Joe, not pictured, one of two close high school friends who mentored me most in all things rock n roll, must have snapped the shot. 

It’s hard to imagine being more addicted to live music and music fandom than I am now in late middle age, but then I remember my teenage abandon and passionate early days as a DIY music journalist and DJ, during the last two years of high school in the Detroit suburbs. There’s something about those days and those artists that keeps drawing me back to revisit, rediscover, and even crash into things I never heard or forgot about. Critiques of nostalgia and memory aside, I am going there. 
The perpetually prolific Scottish singer Mike Scott continues to record and perform under the banner of The Waterboys, and although he doesn’t often make it to the States, I did see him perform once at Nashville’s 3rd and Lindsley, in this century. Although I have dug by dabbling more than devouring the last few decades of his extensive output, it’s all still so stunning and topical, with Scott being as much a mystic and rebel as ever.

Back then, This Is The Sea undid us and remade us, at times heavy and earnest, yet soaring and ineffable, such a strong diet for a few denim-wearing, fist-waving teenagers searching for the truth on vinyl and cassette. I found The Waterboys because they were opening for U2 on the Unforgettable Fire tour. I found The Waterboys because theirs was the “big music,” like U2, like Simple Minds, like Big Country, like the Alarm. In retrospect, Waterboys were at least as rootsy and authentic as any of those peers and would find their own unparalleled trajectory.
Anticipating their opening set at the Fox Theatre for the first leg of Unforgettable Fire, I might have written Mike Scott some handwritten paper fan mail, and I might have tracked down his label reps in New York, as was my custom as an ambitious young rock writer who had recently figured out how to work the phones for all kinds of perks. Somewhere I have the photo set of my dear friend and fellow music-freak Scott Greenberg and me dancing in my second-floor loft-style suburban bedroom and reading that handwritten reply from Mike Scott. I still get the gloriously goofy chills when I recall how much we reached out to all our favorites back then and how many of them reached right back. 

The advent of streaming services and enough income for concert tickets have made my middle-aged music fandom as varied and immeasurable as ever. Although I remained an avid listener through the 1990s, I really only got my hands on a handful of new records during those days. In the early 00s, I depended on others to give me tips, but soon the bug would bite me fully, incurably again. 

A Man, the Spirit, and the Sea: A Conversation with The Waterboys’ Mike Scott
originally published in Disoriented Rain Dance # 3, Summer 1986

THE WATERBOYS played Traxx last November [1985] in support of the record This Is The Sea. It was raining early Sunday morning when JOE and ANDY had the following conversation in Mike’s hotel room. The dialogue lingered well into the morning, but through tired eyes came the following expressions. 

Joe: You seem to have a pretty good memory, to take in a lot of things.
Mike: Yeah, I got a good memory.
Andy: Last time we talked, you said, “I don’t really consider myself a spiritual person, but that doesn’t mean I’m not” and not it seems you’re talking about that a real lot now....
Mike: (after long pause) Well, when we last spoke, these kinds of ideas were in the songs, songs like “The Big Music” and so on, but I hadn’t been able to articulate them as well as I have now. Like the song “Spirit” especially. I think I was able to compress a lot of my thinking into one short song. And I get asked about that song a lot, and I can talk about it. And that I wrote that song -- was able to write it and receive it like that -- taught me a lot. I don’t know if that answers your question.
Joe: Even if it didn’t, the song speaks for itself, almost. Your writing shows a sort of fervor for improvement, for you and the people in your life. Is that a goal of yours, to constantly improve?
Mike: Yeah, well I always want to improve myself. I think every human has a duty to life to be worthy of the life that he’s been given. The best thing you can do with any gift is to make full use of it and to learn from it and to do good with it. We get given life, and it’s our job to improve ourselves and to grow and to learn. Everything that happens to us in a life is a lesson: every incident or situation we’re in has got it’s own opportunities or problems. I just wanna get better at what I do and improve as a human being. That’s important; that’s the best thing you can do.

Joe: So do you think it would help other people; it’s rub off of you and onto them?
Mike: Well, anyone who changes themselves positively and works to improve themselves will rub off on other people. Yeah, if they’re doing it right. But it’s easy to kid yourself. Man’s capacity for self-illusion is huge -- not to be underestimated. You can spend years thinking you’re improving yourself and wake up one day and find that you’ve just been kidding yourself and that you’re bleaker than you’ve ever been.
Andy: Who rubbed off on you?
Mike: My mother.
Andy: You used to do a fanzine yourself. What rubbed off on you enough to put a magazine out.?
Mike: I went into a record shop one time in my hometown and saw -- this is in 1977 -- and saw a bunch of fanzines. That was punk rock, y’know? I think I saw “Sniffin’ Glue” and “The Next Big Thing,” which were two of the first fanzines, and I thought, “Oh, I could do that,” so I did.
Andy: Who was the person you were most glad to talk to?
Mike: (pauses) Richard Hell and the Clash on the same night, they were touring together. I met Patti Smith, sort of through the fanzines, but not for an interview or anything. She was the best.
Joe: She’s one of your heroes.
Mike: Heroines
Joe: Heroines, yeah.
Mike: Well, not really. I don’t think of her like that. I wouldn’t idolize her or put her on a pedestal. I think she was a great artist. I don’t know what she’s doing now, artistically. But she was great and she never got the recognition she deserved. She was really damn good. 
Joe: She’s a mother now, isn’t she? 
Mike: Yeah.
Joe: Maybe that’s her art now, rubbing off on her children.
Mike: I’m sure.
Joe: You could only hope.
Mike: I’m sure you’re right.

Joe: What about Van Morrison? You speak a lot of him. Is that the same type of thing? 
Mike: Well, I like him. He’s a musician. Like Patti Smith wasn’t really a musician, she was something else. Van is a great musician. When he was young, you know he used to sing in clubs and he grew up in musical families, so he’s got rhythm and blues and folk music in his blood. So when he performs and works, he’s drawing on all that. He’s really a great musician.
Joe: Maybe there’s more of a technical inspiration.
Mike: No, because not only is he a great musician, he’s a great singer, and he’s also a very inspired musician. He closes his eyes and lets something else speak through him.
Joe: Do you think you’re a good singer, a good musician?
Mike: I don’t think I’m a very good musician. I think I am a better singer than I am a musician.
Joe: The feeling is obviously there.
Mike: I’m getting better.
Joe: You can only get better?
Mike: No, you can get worse, too. You can slide.
Joe: If you’re not paying attention, but you seem to be paying attention.
Andy: You seem to have a lot of awareness. I mean, if you’re aware of the people around you, your surroundings, it’s a lot better than just doing your own personal thing.
Mike: Oh, you’re right.

Andy: What kind of role do you think the weather plays in your music?
Mike: Weather?
Joe: The elements, you seem to be consumed by the elements.
Mike: The weather’s really useful because if you want to set a scene in a song, you can describe what the weather’s like, and everybody knows about the weather. I can say that it’s raining or it’s a cloudy day or the sun is shining or the leaves are falling or whatever you want. Everybody knows day like that, so it usually gets into a song as a tool. It sets the scene. It draws people in.
Joe: You seem to have a fascination with [indigenous Americans]. How did you acquire that fascination?
Mike: I don’t really know, it just happened to me. It’s not like that. I’m not fascinated by them now, it’s something I went through. I was really mad keen on them for a while and just devoured books and everything that I could. Now it’s something that, something that I learned along the way. I’d still like to go to reservations and so on. I’m still interested, but it was a phase for me about four years ago. Maybe it’ll come alive again as a fascination. For about six months, I was living in the year 1860. You know, it was like that.
Joe: I saw Medicine Bow on a map [Also the name of a Waterboys song].
Mike: There really is a place named Medicine Bow?
Joe: Yes, there is!
Mike: I made that up, you see. Quite funny that it exists. In Canada?
Joe: It’s in the states. Do you have a map?
Mike: No.
Joe: It’s maybe in Montana or Nebraska.

Andy: How does the river become the sea? Does that have a parallel in your own life?
Mike: Lots of them. For example, I’m here in America touring, and my life as a musician is a lot more serious than it’s ever been before. I’ve got more responsibilities, I’ve got more problems. I’ve got more things to work out. There’s more money involved, be it record company money that’s put out to support the group or potential money that can be made.

There’s more people involved because there’s a bigger audience. There’s more people on the road with us. It’s a much more serious thing than say, it was last year when we were touring with U2. 

And I could say that, that tour, THAT was the river, but THIS is the sea, because that was just something that led to here. In two years time, when it’s a different situation again, I’ll look back on now and say THAT was the river, but THIS is the sea. It’s like, life always changes. It keeps getting different and the things that are solutions this year won’t necessarily be solutions next year, because one has to adjust to new situations. And that’s what the song is about, a person who is adjusting to new situations. And you try to make sense, but you know that you once had the key, and, of course, you can get the key again, you just have to assimilate to a new situation. The song can be applied to any situation where change happens.

Joe: I was happy about the album title because the sea seems to be pretty much the only perfect place left on Earth, because [humanity] can’t be there. [Humanity] seems sometimes to be God’s mistake.
Mike: [adamantly] [Humans are] not God’s mistake. [Humans are] God’s greatest creation.
Joe: It’s just an opinion.
Mike: No, no it’s not an opinion. One can have an opinion on what kind of creature [we are], but [humans are] the only creature we know of in the Universe that has a reasoning brain, that is conscious of [themselves], and is able to consider [themselves]. And as such, the Universe sees itself through our eyes. We’re the only creature that can look at the Universe and ask questions about it.
Andy: This creation, that we’ve kind of, [humans] have made a mistake of a lot of it.
Mike: Yeah, of course [we have], but [we’re] learning.

Joe: Is there a goal you want to reach in music?
Mike: I just want to get better. I just want to get closer to home.
Joe: So you can say what you’re saying.
Mike: So people will understand it. And I think that the best thing a musician could hope for is to be a good tool, a good instrument, not the guitar. The musician is the instrument through which music speaks, like I choose the notes I play.
Joe: The guitar doesn’t play itself.
Mike: No. The best music is either written or played when the musician has the least thoughts getting in the way, when it’s coming down pure. Van Morrison was really good at that.

Joe: Is there a time or situation when you write best?
Mike: When my mind is not busy; when my mind is calm.
Andy: What do you do to clear your mind?
Mike: I haven’t cleared it for so long. My mind hasn’t been cleared for over a year; there’s a lot of debris floating around.
Joe: Do you ever agonize over songs?
Mike: Sure, I spend months on ‘em. Some of the one I like best are the ones that come out easy. The songs “Spirit,” “Savage Earth Heart,” or “A Pagan Place” are three of my favorites.
Joe: “Spirit” seemed like something that came out in a moment.
Mike: I can’t remember writing it, but I have it on a piece of paper, so I must have done it.

Andy: What is the connection between “Savage Earth Heart” and “The Pan Within”?
Mike: (after long pause) Well, maybe you believe that inside every human, there is a soul, and the soul is a drop out of the ocean that is the body of what we call God. Those two songs are both about getting to the soul. “Savage Earth Heart” is what I named the soul in my ignorance when I wrote the song. And “The Pan Within” is an aspect of the soul that in the song is reached by a selfless and positive love between two people.
Joe: Would it seem . . . like it would all tie in?
Mike: What do you mean?
Andy: Everything kind of ties together in your life?
Mike: Mmmmm....Everything everywhere ties in together. I can think of a lot of worthy concepts and put them in songs like “Spirit.” But translating it into your everyday life is quite different than that. It’s hard. If I could do that, I’d be Mahatma Gandhi. I wouldn’t be a rock n roll musician, you know? I wouldn’t be smoking a cigarette.

Joe: Do you have set ideas for your lyrics, or is it pretty much ambiguous?
Mike: You mean does a song mean one specific thing?
Joe: Yeah.
Mike: I think the best songs are the ones that either, well . . . I like songs that can be open to different interpretations, that can relate to a number of different situations. But then I think of Bob Dylan who wrote songs like “It Ain’t Me Babe” which is about a very definite situation. There’s no mistaking what that song’s about, and that’s a great song-- better than any other he’s written.

Joe: You seem to admire Bob Dylan a lot.
Mike: Sure.
Carol: You seem to be “religious.” I was thinking of what you think of Dylan and the way he considers religion?
Mike: He’s pretty smart.
Andy: What do you think of his whole trip, though?
Mike: I think he was trying to find himself.
Joe: He seems to be exposed more than most people.
Mike: It must be pretty difficult living with the legend of Bob Dylan for 20 years.
Joe: Maybe he wishes he was still Robert Zimmerman working at his father’s store.
Mike: He must have such moments, yeah. His father was a carpenter [actually, he ran a furniture and appliance store, with his brothers].

[Pictured - fanzine spread of Waterboys interview; Carol & I with Mike after our wee hours interview. Mike live at Traxx.]

Monday, March 6, 2023

Americana Sunrise - A Short Story


This is a work of fiction. I would not want to be a successful American singer songwriter right now, in this climate. Please forgive any resemblance to real people or real events, especially artists that I love and admire, as do y’all.

Americana Sunrise
Henry Woods sat in a mood on the tour bus. He refused to go by Hank for obvious reasons, but folks did call him Woody sometimes, especially his friends. He remembers being back in his bedroom, back in the hollers of East Tennessee as a teen, learning to sing “This Land Is Your Land,” discovering all those extra verses about private property and stuff, wanting to write one like that one day, to be just as scandalous. 

But his albums always displayed his full name Henry Walker Woods, because just like the vests and the boots and the faded sunsets or the blurry and stone-washed rural apocalypse vibe, next to an abandoned filling station, he always knew that he was selling a version of that rural misfit, a concept of the authentic, the brand and the vibe as much as his songs. He had yet to write one as cutting as his nickname’s namesake, but he did try. He did try to remember when he was punk rock once, but that was back at the end of the last century, back before these gritty concepts met a mellower palette and an acoustic guitar made him a star.

Ever since Americana Sunrise dropped in 2010, everything changed. People were hopeful back  then. Okay, at least more hopeful than today. People wanted to hear songs about working class people getting sober and about the struggles to maintain analog humanity in a digital age. If those newly sober, newly hopeful songwriters also tackled human rights and toxic masculinity in subtle yet biting ways, all the better. The best American folk music always had that left-of-center side, and if it originated in the rural south, that was a whole thing that could sell records.

He didn’t want to do another show in Alabama, but here we were in Birmingham. He didn’t want to do another podcast, but the label kept calling, asking him to talk to Billy Jay Hester from Stone Water magazine, again. “We need you to say something,” Susan Sharp shouted over the cell. Woody snapped. “I don’t want to say anything. You know that my songs say enough.”

“But you are still on Twitter,” Susan bit back.  
He turned it all around in his head. He thought. He mulled. 
Her tone softened for a second. “Take as long as you need. I won’t hang up.”

He continued to talk to himself. I am sick of writing songs about police brutality that don’t offend the cops who come to my shows. I am sick of writing antiwar songs, if they are only ever from the perspective of the veteran with PTSD or the widow with a flag on the casket. I am sick of writing male feminist songs, ever since Stacy left me, he thought. I might have the best snarky activist stickers on my guitar case, but I am lonely and mad, and even after going back to 90 meetings in 90 days, online of course, because we are on the road, and I still want to throw back several shots of Jack. 

As the streaming-service sensation who said it was okay to let people listen for free as long as they bought the all-cotton, fair-trade t-shirt for 50 bucks, Woody was sick to his heart of the dance and the duty of being the liberal American voice of Americana music. The benefit concerts were not working. The fiery Twitter game with cutting clapbacks was definitely not really working, except as emotional outlet, and might be making things worse.

Susan leveled with him. “You are already allowing Lavender Jones to open up shows in Oklahoma and Texas. Did you see what the Governors of Oklahoma and Texas are saying about people like Lavender? Did you see what Lavender said about leaving the country? They said they would never cancel this upcoming tour, but they don't want to raise their kid with queer parents in a place that passes laws like these. Can’t you just say something?” 

Woody bit back, “I am not freaking Rage Against The Machine. My career arc is more like Bono or the Boss. I am not the boycott guy. Did you see what I tweeted back at that furious fan about Florida? I said it simple. I am not going to cancel shows because one stupid politician wants to cancel us. Just like I was a misfit in East Tennessee and needed Michael Stipe to feel human, the weirdo kids in Oklahoma and Texas and Florida need us.”

“But people are speaking up,” Susan insisted. “Other bands and artists, but their megaphone is not as big as yours.”
“Yes, yes, but some folks have a different way about it. I did see what that one band did, what are they called Hobo Wine? That is a great name, but no, we are not dressing up in dresses to protest the drag law. I am a heterosexual misfit from rural Tennessee whose look isn’t that different from these assholes who always cover my songs, like that bro-country singer from the poorly named band Jackson Whole. These people disgust me but I take the royalties. I already feel like a hypocrite. Anything I say or do now will seem so flipping extra, so performative.”

“Maybe you could retweet Lavender? Or I can call their people, maybe you could help them privately? I am not sure how, but we have to do something. What if the Proud Boys and their ilk come to the shows? Letting Lavender open is great as one kind of solidarity, but the community is hurting, and our entire operation is based in the place where some of the worst laws and worst politicians are. Maybe we are not Oklahoma or Texas or Mississippi or Florida, but in some people’s eyes, Tennessee is worse than them all.”

Woody got out his notebook and poured more seltzer water over ice. 
“I know a song is not the answer, Susan, but it is the best we can do. Contact Lavender’s people about us doing a song together. That I can do. They and me can come up with the storyline that works.”
There was silence on the other end of the line. Susan was crying. 
“Even when I am mad and up your ass sometimes, you always make me grateful to work for you.” 

Saturday, March 4, 2023

The Deal (TOTR 448)

-aired on WTTU 88.5 FM The Nest on Saturday, March 4, 2023
-pre-recorded in West Cookeville, an all-vinyl edition in which the Teacher reflects on all things hippy & spiritual including a recent journey to New Mexico for the Dead Scholars Caucus

Thunderclap Newman - Something in the Air (from The Strawberry Statement)
The Chamber Brothers - The Weight
Floyd Westerman - World Without Tomorrow
AMBR - Homesick for Albuquerque Blues
CJ & Friends - Sunset from Santa Fe
Grateful Dead - Next Time You See Me - 5/4/1972
Grateful Dead - Sugaree - 5-3-1972
Grateful Dead - Space (with Sunfrog spitting “ABQ Medicine Freedom Poem”) 
Grateful Dead - The Deal -1980 from Dead Set 
Earth Opera - Time And Again
Earth Opera - When You Were Full Of Wonder
The Burning Incense - Forever Young
The Burning Incense - Meditation
The Byrds - Wasn’t Born To Follow
The Holy Modal Rounders - If You Want To Be A Bird
The Electric Prunes - Kyrie Eleison
Promise - My Soul Is Free (from a folk mass from 1976)
Promise - You Are Love (from a folk mass from 1976)
Lawrence Reynolds - Jesus Is A Soul Man
Indigo Girls - Blood and Fire 
Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit feat. Brandi Carlisle & Julien Baker - Kid Fears
Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit - Driver 8 
U2 - I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For
Dawes - Didn’t Fix Me