Saturday, January 27, 2024

When the Pills Wear Off (TOTR 465)

-originally aired on WTTU 88.5 FM The Nest on Saturday, January 27, 2024

-listen to the audio archive here:

Stream episode When The Pills Wear Off - TOTR 465 by Teacher On The Radio podcast | Listen online for free on SoundCloud

The Collection - Medication

Palmyra - Happy Pills

Average Joey - Indifference

Willi Carlisle - When the Pills Wear Off

Steve Earle - Hillbilly Highway

Tyler Childers - Whitehouse Road

The Black Angels - Grab as Much (as you can)

Green Day - Dilemma

Findlay - Stoned and Alone

S.G. Goodman - Supertramp

Holly Williams - Drinkin'

Jaime Wyatt & Butch Walker - Ain't Enough Whiskey (feat. Butch Walker)

Trampled by Turtles - Whiskey

American Aquarium - Burn Flicker. Die.

Josiah and the Bonnevilles - Appalachia

Justin Townes Earle - Appalachian Nightmare

Colter Wall - Sleeping on the Blacktop

Old Crow Medicine Show - Methamphetamine

Wyatt Flores - Orange Bottles

Benjamin Tod - Using Again

Swamp Dogg- Sam Stone

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit - King of Oklahoma

49 Winchester - Get Clean

American Aquarium - One Day At A Time

Thursday, January 25, 2024

I am going with Willi Carlisle to a place called Critterland. Join us.


Critterland. 10 songs. Out everywhere on 1/26/2024

For folks who are new to the renegade heartland vibes of Willi Carlisle, I want to introduce you to him and encourage you to listen to him. Now. He offers an Illinois/Kansas/Missouri/Arkansas counterpoint to all the great music currently coming from Kentucky and West Virginia or the always reliable Asheville-to-Nashville-to-Atlanta-or-Austin axis of evil.

For folks new to Willi’s memorable and magnetic voice, he has haunted small clubs and festival fields and Spotify streams for a few years now, and he has slipped comfortably into a faded pair of overalls decorated with the home-made sewn patches of his lineage: from Woody Guthrie to Utah Phillips, from Bob Dylan to John Prine. And likewise, we know Willi is ready to share yet more festival stages -- or breathless phrases of press-agent-ready praise --with his contemporaries, the names like too many colorful stickers decorating a mandolin or fiddle case, names like Jason Isbell or Tyler Childers or Molly Tuttle or Adeem the Artist or Nick Shoulders or Mya Byrne. I could go on.  

Willi’s literate and literary lyrics also make him part of that traveler-meets-treehugger activist-bard lineage that could include Whitman and Kerouac, Thoreau and Snyder.  Even though Carlisle may never have listened to this 90s folk-punk pioneer, he definitely reminds me more of Casey Neill’s 1990s and early 2000s albums than just about anyone I have listened to recently. While this new record is more hoedown than throwdown, the spiritual connection to the tattooed folk-punk traveler lineage cannot be understated. 

In someone else’s otherwise strong review of the new Willi Carlisle record, they say that Critterland is technically not a concept album, maybe because it’s not a seamless narrative for the same protagonist in the same places, maybe because it’s not a folk opera ready for off-Broadway, maybe because it’s not American Idiot with fiddles and banjos. Maybe some might say that Critterland is not a concept album because Willi might have implied as much in the pre-release album-cycle of excellent interviews with independent media that they have been dropping on their socials every day for the last few weeks. 

Yet Critterland is a concept album for the crunchy cottagecore post-apocalypse, but first you must travel every unmarked gravel road to the back of every hippy hillbilly hollow to the gardens and the porch jams and the homemade jam of communal survival,you must travel there with trauma and tragedy and with equal parts ecstasy and joy, despite all the addiction and grief and toxic systems. 

But Critterland is a revelation and a transformation and a collective menagerie of multi-species liberation coming out of our mental and emotional hibernation! Critterland, it’s a DIY acoustic and radically inclusive concept album for me and other counterculture refugees from the South and Midwest and other dirty dirt heartlands that the media says want to kill us. Willi writes such sticks-in-your-gut memorable patch-or-sticker-ready couplets for the ragtag riffraff weirdo choir in the church of wonderment and woe. So many hymns and anthems -- and the entire album is a songbag and songbook, a Rise Up Singing for queer lefty folkies --such countless quotable banners could be strident or cringe with less wise words but in the gentle loving lyrical hands of Willi Carlisle, they are honest and humble and brilliantly boundless and spilling over the brim. 

Critterland collects songs like I collect old rusty metal garbage trinkets on my long walks. Critterland collects memories and metaphors into larger-than-life stories, then makes them sound small and intimate and heartbreakingly relatable. Within the narrative universe of Critterland we find: granny witches and their tinctures; compost piles and mason jars; wheatfields and coal mines; Dungeons & Dragons and unnamed motels; psilocybin and rodeo; heroin and fentanyl; codependency and Al-Anon coins; blame and forgiveness and every intangible emotion placed in a tangible place. These are the sad songs to make you happy because like life, there are dead people and people in active addiction and the inevitably of dead addicts, where, as Will sings, we learn that the proverbial “rock bottom” is really “six feet under.” 

In “The Arrangements,” Willi pours one out for “the bastard,” for a character that appears to be the narrator’s father, finally confessing “I am my own father now.” I don’t know the backstory, and everyone’s is different, but the thing about death and mourning, they are also the common denominators that bind us all together. From the song where he says he is own father now, he also admits he will never father others, in the stunning testimony for remaining forever childless called simply “I Want No Children.” 

Critterland is an audio component to the bursting genre of literary masterpieces, primarily novels, sometimes called rural gothic, sometimes called grit lit, sometimes called hillbilly noir, filled with sensuality and drugs and violence, but always in specific beautiful settings, by authors like David Joy and Bonnie Jo Campbell, I could go on and on. You also see this genre in film and TV in places like Ozark and Winter’s Bone, Breaking Bad, and Bloodlines; the weirder, wilder, dustier, and dirtier, the better. Critterland is a concept album that could include all that. The album’s coda combines song with spoken-word-spit-story, rolling it all up to smoke, making the narrative into a ragged riff on the wild side of the weed world, back when it was more illegal and less socially acceptable. It perfectly captures the hillbilly-meets-hippie paradox to which all these songs are gloriously adjacent. 

Critterland might not be a concept album, but it probably used to be a commune, and one day it could be the alternative entire country and continent that Harry Smith prophesied and Greill Marcus named “the old weird America.” Willi himself describes the denizens of this place from a post on the socials six years ago: “Clowns, drag-queens, punks, weirdos, trad-masters, overeducated floozies, wobbly-grandpa-music lovers, I love you, and can't wait to meet you. I can't wait to see you. I can't wait to work with you. I can't wait until we are all old friends.” The title track opens the album and was the first single released and encapsulates this narrative universe of the concept album, old time music commune, and alternative country. It’s a singalong and a manifesto, and while it may not be utopia, it’s a place I’d rather live than the everyday mundane dystopia that occupies too much of our worlds today.

Even as a seasoned adult with too many t-shirts and receipts, from trying to create our beloved community and finding oneself on the wrong-end of repression and fear, I cling to redemptive hope and joy more than ever before. Like all great mystics and poets before him, Willi Carlisle creates that world by inhabiting the paradox with profound musical and cultural integrity and an unleashed imagination of abundant love. So I don’t know about any of y’all, but I am going to Critterland. Maybe I’ll see you there? Andrew/Sunfrog 1/25/2024

Saturday, January 13, 2024

Hot Sauce (TOTR 464)


-originally aired on WTTU 88.5 FM The Nest on Saturday, January 13, 2024

Black Artists in Country Music for MLK Weekend 2024

Deford Bailey - Davidson County Blues

Miko Marks & The Resurrectors - Water to Wine

Carl Ray - Hallelujah I'm Ready

Ray Charles - Take These Chains From My Heart

Charley Pride - Kiss an Angel Good Mornin'

Lionel Richie with Little Big Town - Deep River Woman

Darius Rucker - Fires Don't Start Themselves

Willie Jones - Country Soul

BRELAND - Hot Sauce

Reyna Roberts - Stompin' Grounds

Flo Rida & Jimmie Allen - No Bad Days

Mickey Guyton - Heaven Down Here

BRELAND & Mickey Guyton - Cross Country

Willie Jones - Down by the Riverside

Blanco Brown -  Nobody's More Country

Lil Nas X with Billy Ray Cyrus - Old Town Road

Rvshvd - Dirt Road

Dom Flemons - Old Desert Road

Carolina Chocolate Drops - Knockin'

Tré Burt - 2 FOR THA SHOW

Chapel Hart - You Can Have Him Jolene

Joy Oladokun - jordan

Allison Russell - Requiem

Rissi Palmer - Seeds

Yola - Walk Through Fire

The War and Treaty - Up Yonder

Aaron Neville - Fragile World

Cleve Francis - Love Light

Saturday, January 6, 2024

This Will Be Our Year (TOTR 463)


-originally aired on WTTU 88.5 FM The Nest on Saturday, January 6, 2024

-includes motivational readings from Adam Gnade
The DIY Guide To Fighting The Big [Blank] Sad

-you can listen to the audio archive here:
Stream episode This Will Be Our Year - TOTR 463 by Teacher On The Radio podcast | Listen online for free on SoundCloud

Bruce Robison & Kelly Willis - This Will Be Our Year
Jim Croce - Tomorrow's Gonna Be a Brighter Day
Iain Matthews - Old Man at the Mill
Willie Mitchell & the Desert River Band - Birchbark Letter
Dave Carter & Tracy Grammer - Tanglewood Tree
Felipe Baldomir -  Ocean is Calling
Jack Broadbent - On the Road Again
H.C. McEntire & Amy Ray - Turpentine
Roseanne Reid - Made Just For You
Jess Williamson - Time Ain't Accidental
Summer Dean - The Sun's Gonna Rise Again
The Teskey Brothers - This Will Be Our Year
Brother Dege - Too Old to Die Young
Whiskey Myers - Broken Window Serenade
Goodnight, Texas - The Railroad
Jason Hawk Harris - Jordan And The Nile
Nolan Taylor - Life/Love
Croy and the Boys - The Tunnel Has No End
Zach Russell - I Thought I Was the Trees
Harp - I Am The Seed
The Coral - Cycles Of The Seasons
Dougie Poole - The Rainbow Wheel of Death
The Tallest Man On Earth - New Religion
Parker Millsap & Gillian Welch - Wilderness Within You (feat. Gillian Welch)
Will Johnson - Of Passengers and Plight
Lincoln Durham - Did You Find Your Way Home?
TRÚ - Wild Mountain Thyme