Saturday, November 18, 2023

Happy Alone (TOTR 461)


Happy Alone (TOTR 461)

-aired on WTTU 88.5 FM The Nest on Saturday, November 18, 2023

-archive will drop after live episode

Marvin Gaye - Let's Get It On

Pink Floyd - Brain Damage

Eagles - Desperado

Bruce Springsteen - Blinded By The Light

Stevie Wonder - Jesus Children Of America

R.E.M. - Pilgrimage

U2 - Two Hearts Beat As One

The Police - King Of Pain

John Mellencamp - Warmer Place To Sleep

The Waterboys - I Will Not Follow

Nirvana - All Apologies 

Sarah McLachlan - Hold On

Ani DiFranco - God's Country

Nanci Griffith - Wimoweh

U2 & Johnny Cash - The Wanderer

My Morning Jacket - Golden

Drive-By Truckers - Outfit

The White Stripes - I Just Don't Know What to Do With Myself

Kings of Leon - Happy Alone

The Mars Volta - This Apparatus Must Be Unearthed

The Lumineers - Submarines

The Avett Brothers - Morning Song

Phosphorescent - A New Anhedonia

Vampire Weekend - Worship You

Mavis Staples - One True Vine

Tuesday, November 7, 2023

On Reading "No Spare People" by Erin Hoover


When I put down my copy of Erin Hoover’s new book of poems, I am surprised that my hands are not covered in scars. Not paper cuts, but cuts to the core of my being, reckoning with the humanity and heartbreak of 21st century poetic activism in the American south. This torturously beautiful thing is so raw and real that it might injure the reader with its tender and truthful rendering of reality, but at the same time, the language is so purposefully alluring and intensely real and wildly evocative, I will surely pick it up again, and again, to read and read over once more.

These poems fall from the page as the perspective of a single parent, yes, a mother, a professor, a poet, an activist, but is the narrator always Erin Hoover or also another feminist protagonist navigating the bewildering facts of Florida and Arkansas during the days of waning rights and rising seas and bewildering struggles, all said through a piercing selfhood that is neither this courageous archetype nor their demeaning stereotype, wrestling with each instance, as we go. 

I have spent decades in similar settings to these, as with other fellow activist poets, as we inevitably run into oddly familiar cul-de-sacs of consciousness, where we survive hurricanes and elections and protest marches to breathe another day, to write another poem. Yet as each setting calls to me with the too real, the poems are also new and unexpected.

So while each poem is at once jarring and strange for the ways Hoover’s daringly specific language turns any assumptions or desire for comfort completely topsy-turvy, there are also vulnerable assurances in the poems just the same. Maybe we call that solidarity or hope or just the audacity to say a thing, no matter the cost. 

Long disclaimer: I am a totally biased reader in favor of these amazing texts by this fierce and brave poet. The poet is my colleague and a bit of a personal shero of mine, as I have witnessed all the good she has given to literary culture in our interesting college town. 

Permit some backstory as to how I am biased. 

You see, I am a poet by calling but not necessarily by trade, since my faculty appointment is in general education courses, not creative writing. That is, while I am a poet and faculty, I am not the faculty poet. And I have some stake in whoever that person is, I am invested in them being an important part of our campus and community. And we had a previous beloved faculty poet, who died suddenly in 2019, just months after another dear faculty friend and mentor, also died.

Erin Hoover came to Cookeville to fill the vacancy left by the late Tom Saya’s passing, and she beat out dozens and dozens of other talented and dynamic poets to earn this position. Then, in her short time here, she has completely blown my mind with her talent and determination to do good and cool things in Cookeville. 

I was already biased in favor of the poet and colleague Erin Hoover without this amazing book, but No Spare People has taken me very specific places that I didn’t know I needed to go, to places that we all need to go if we are going to fully lean into the common irrevocable humanity implied by the book’s bold title.  --Book cover art by Ever Baldwin Ever Baldwin

Musical Mania for Spooky Season - Carrie (The Musical) Comes To Cookeville


With its recent production of Carrie - The Musical, the Backdoor Playhouse does it yet again. How grateful I am for decades of front-row seats to such a thriving campus and community theater experience!

For almost 50 years, the character of Carrie is a compelling cultural icon in the horror genre. The shy teenager suffers religious abuse at home and the horrors of peer pressure at high school. From Stephen King’s best-selling paperback to Brian DePalma’s acclaimed film, starring Sissy Spacek, the narrative is soaked in the apocalyptic blood of religious symbolism and feminine rebellion. 

Set apart from the novel and original film, Carrie the Musical was a terrible flop at its first try in the 1980s, but in this century, the play has achieved a kind of cult status, being the topic of books and podcasts. Yes, the script and songs were purportedly revised, and through multiple big city and small town revivals, the play has become a wildly popular production for colleges and community theaters. The bloody madness and catchy earworms of this ambitious musical drama have come to Cookeville, where our own Backdoor Playhouse is always boldly and bravely trying something edgy and new. 

This is not our campus theater’s first foray into musical mania for fall’s spooky season, and the disturbing spirit of the show reflects our internal anxiety as a response to the sadness and badness of our world. One academic critic described the plot of Carrie as a “dark baptism,” and I think this fits the play’s bloody truth for a world saturated in sexist repression, religious oppression, war, and inevitable religious deconstruction. The play is a parable, as religion reckons with its problematic perspectives on female power, where strongly written women characters twist and turn and sing and shout toward a total terrifying catharsis.

All this is done with catchy tunes, well-choreographed dances, and a communal feeling where the entire cast are trapped in their own emotional prisons and freedom has a total, supernatural, fatal cost. One thing that really strikes me about this show is that there are no cookie-cutter villains or protagonists. Sure, you can like some characters and loathe others, but everyone evokes enough sympathy that we all feel everything when the entire drama implodes catastrophically at a much-hyped prom. 

A sinister sendup more sickly than other coming-of-age ensembles, Carrie is the Breakfast Club on bad acid. Thanks to a deftly produced, tightly choreographed, and sonically catchy rendering, the Backdoor Playhouse brings all the panache of any big city production. With both newcomers to -- and veterans of -- Backdoor Playhouse productions, the cast of dynamic and talented young actors come together with a fierce dynamism that will draw audiences into its telekinetic web of theatrical magic. 


Tickets are available for each show at the door. The remaining shows are:  November 7, 10, 11, 2023 at 8:00 p.m. ; November 9, 2023 at 10:00 p.m.; November 11, 2023 at 2:00 p.m.

Sunday, November 5, 2023

Revenge of the Aughts or the Resurgence of Indie Dad Rock


I have been a Dad for 30 years, so maybe that is why I am recently obsessed with the concept of “Dad rock.” Now I am a grand-dad, too, but when I go down this rabbit-hole, I decidedly don’t mean the new Beatles or Stones.

Growing older is getting comfortable in your own skin, learning to admit that you like what you like, and truly appreciating those things for what they are. In music, it’s also admitting that as far as fandoms go, you are a friend of “dad rock.”

“Dad rock” is one of those weird niche sub-genres that is as much a mere demographic & one with a damaged reputation, at that. As a known genre, its origins are mostly pejorative, as some trace its roots to Rob Mitchum’s review of Sky Blue Sky back in 2007, where “Dad rock” means “receding into the comfort zone” or “the stylistic equivalent of a wardrobe change into sweatpants and a tank top.” 

While the impulse seemingly exposed by the writer is a tendency for domesticated-comfort as opposed to pursuing edgy experiments, it’s not a foregone conclusion or close to consensus among Wilco fans. In actuality Wilco has reclaimed & reframed it as something entirely irresistible, somehow defying the traps of soft safety or instigating irrelevance. Tweedy defended the tag with these insights: “When people say dad rock, they actually just mean rock. I don't find anything undignified about being a dad or being rocking, you know?”

It’s wild for me to contemplate the combinations that contribute to my listening binges. As a recovering addict & as an adult diagnosed with ADHD in my 50s, the beauteous breadth & stunning simplicity of streaming services are so welcome & can send me down many rabbit holes, taking back many layers to many mysteries, really getting into deep grooves & hours of happy distractions. Even contemplating my current obsessions with “Dad rock,” this fascination also admits that I have the free time to reflect on such idiosyncrasies of fandom, while making massive playlists to fit every mood, day, or season.  

For months, earlier this year, I was stuck in the musical dirt that stained my jeans & boots, becoming the genres that are as strong to my region as the soil on which we stand. For many moments, I thought I would only ever want to listen to scratchy raggedy folk & Appalachian alt-country for the rest of my days. Think Tyler Childers, Logan Halstead, Cole Chaney, or Charles Wesley Godwin. After falling for the new Zach Bryan, was I admitting that I actually liked “country” music, even sometimes without the “alt” prefix? 

But call it the revenge of the aughts or the resilience of dad rock, now I am stuck inside a 2020s resurgence of the endless mellowish indie alt-rock in the Dad demographic. Honest, it is sometimes a blurred line where our left-of-center country Americana ends & this misunderstood genre of “Dad rock” begins. 
Of course, to some folks, “Dad rock” is simply the music your Dad listens to or bands with Dads in them. As Gen X & Millennials age, “Dad rock” could just be admitting that I still listen to R.E.M. & U2 after all these years & still love them both. “Dad rock” could be just admitting that I was always a Deadhead despite my best efforts to deny this. 

But to me, just like Wilco & Jeff Tweedy were accidentally tagged as the torchbearers of the Dad scene, there is a subtler yet more obvious way to explain “Dad rock,” some precise on-point “Dad rock,” that is somehow warmer, sadder, fuzzier, more sparkly, more reliably comforting & addicting. It’s that kind of “Dad rock” that I am naming the “Dad rock” of my current indulgence. No shade toward other definitions or movements with “Dad rock,” but when we get to the list of artists and new albums, we will see the spin I am placing on this. 

From great new material & tours from the leading icons of “indie Dad rock” (the aforementioned Wilco, & of course, the National), I am hereby declaring 2023 the year of the great “indie Dad rock” resurgence & resurrection. I have cobbled together a list of new records that fit the vibe for me, & I want to see your suggestions to expand it out even further. But the focus here, these are artists with new music this year, which certainly relegates as ineligible, some of the other groups worthy for “Dad rock” tags.

Now some people will take this idea & automatically say the Stones, but that would be to miss the fundamental fuzzy to which I am currently moving. If the roots of this tree are Wilco & the National, it will also mean other alts from the aughts, who are also currently making a comeback, as well as groups that seem to fit that lineage like a comfortable slip-on house-shoe.

The self-doubting voice-in-my-head wants to say, please don’t think this modest listicle as a boring old-guy (goddess forbid) almost-as-bad as Jann Wenner move, because I am sure there’s also a feminist-in-flannel “Mom rock” emerging, too. Also, as an amateur music-critic with only nominal influence, my views here don’t have enough heft to go viral. I am, however, seeking other artists that belong under this general umbrella, keeping in mind it’s also an old blanket set down on the mossy ground for a picnic potluck of ideas where everyone brings their own.

Although there’s at least one “Dad rock” podcast that I found that combines parenting discussions with music discussions & is co-hosted by two Dads, the younger human that I helped raise turns 30 this week, so I am personally kind of past the how-to-juggle-parenting-advice with music fandom phase. That said, we are not limited to those who are partnered, or who co-parented kids, or even middle-aged, or approaching old age in my case, though accepting & leaning into these life-facts for those for whom they are real, these can be part of the “Dad rock” revelation. Some of us are certainly old enough to be “Granddad rock” by now (I am). We are also experiencing a revival in queer artists in indie-rock & psych & folk & Americana, in all of these & adjacent genres, so please no cisgender or heterosexual gate-keeping in so-called Dad rock, either. 

Just came here to acknowledge & celebrate left-of-center meaningful, literary mellow-rock being made by & for people who make the time to make massive playlists & rambling blogs accordingly. 

40 New “Dad Rock” Albums of 2023 - help add to the list with your suggestions

Wilco - Cousin
The National - First Two Pages of Frankenstein 
The National - Laugh Track
Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit - Weathervanes
Will Johnson - No Ordinary Crown
The Gaslight Anthem - History Books
The Hold Steady - The Price of Progress
Fruit Bats - A River Running To Your Heart
Deer Tick - Emotional Contracts
City and Colour - The Love Still Held Me Near
Animal Collective - Isn’t It Now
Sufjan Stevens - Javelin
Bonnie Prince Billy - Keeping Secrets Will Destroy You
M. Ward - supernatural thing
Susto - My Entire Life
Matthew Logan Vasquez - As All Get Out
Scott McMicken and the Ever-Expanding - Shabang
Glen Hansard - All That Was East Is West Of Me Now
Great Lakes Swimmers - Uncertain Country
David Wax Museum - You Must Change Your Life
Buck Meek - Haunted Mountain
Slaughter Beach, Dog - Crying, Laughing, Waving, Smiling
Bonny Doon - Let There Be Music
Cut Worms - Cut Worms
Hiss Golden Messenger - Jump for Joy
Josh Ritter - Spectral Lines
Kevin Morby - More Photographs (A Continuum)
Shakey Graves - Movie of the Week 
The Bad Ends - The Power and the Glory
Alien Eyelid - Bronze Star 
Fust - Genevieve 
Purple Mountains - Purple Mountains
Mapache - Swinging Stars
Cactus Lee - Caravan
A. Savage - Several Songs About Fire
Eyelids - A Colossal Waste of Light
James and the Giants - James and the Giants
Hayden - Are We Good
Sluice - Radial Gate
Wye Oak - Every Day Like The Last

Saturday, November 4, 2023

Late Hour (TOTR 460)

-aired on WTTU 88.5 FM The Nest on Saturday, November 4, 2023

-listen to the audio archive here: Stream episode Late Hour - TOTR 460 by Teacher On The Radio podcast | Listen online for free on SoundCloud

Bonny Doon - Let There Be Music

Slaughter Beach, Dog - Strange Weather

Wilco - Evicted

The National with Rosanne Cash - Crumble

The Gaslight Anthem - Autumn

Fruit Bats - We Used to Live Here

Deer Tick - Once In A Lifetime

Susto - My Entire Life

M. Ward - lifeline

David Wax Museum - You Must Change Your Life

Scott McMicken and THE EVER-EXPANDING - Reconcile

Matthew Logan Vasquez - Recognize

Fust - Late Hour

City and Colour - Things We Choose to Care About

Animal Collective - Gem & I

Great Lake Swimmers - When The Storm Has Passed

Hiss Golden Messenger - I Saw the New Day in the World

Cut Worms - Take it and Smile

Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit - If You Insist

Will Johnson - Conduct

Mapache - Reflecting Everything

Bonnie Prince Billy - Sing Them Down Together

Sufjan Stevens - Will Anybody Ever Love Me?

Purple Mountains - Darkness And Cold

Superviolet - Good Ghost

Buck Meek - Haunted Mountain

Glen Hansard - There's No Mountain