Tramp the Dirt Down

Yesterday Shinyribs participated in a taping of a podcast for the Texas Tribune.  I had taken Mucinex DM in the morning for a horrible cold, so the names haven’t so much been changed to protect the innocent, as to protect me from looking like a dumbass.  I was in outer space, picking up more of the overall vibe than the specifics.  But it was a truly amazing experience that I hope to repeat again at some point.

Being a transplant in Texas, even though I’ve been here almost 8 years, I have always found it hard to crack the political Da Vinci Code that is this state.  I think that is partly, if not wholly, by design due to the firm grip of the GOP on state power.  It was really interesting and stimulating to hear some local and state political discussion.  The Texas Tribune podcast is now using Shinyribs’ Texas Talking as its theme song.

I can’t imagine being in a better place than yesterday.  Hearing interesting political talk while playing songs that make people clap and dance and get free.  It’s really the best of all worlds.

In the weeks leading up to this Kevin has been trying to tell me that I need to start reading the Texas Tribune and the Texas Observer, as they are really the best places to understand what is going on at a state level.  Let’s just say that I am a political junkie and finding a good Texas news source is like looking for a needle in a haystack.  My experience yesterday has confirmed to me that Kevin is right.

Before the show yesterday Kevin and I were trading some friendly jabs about the whole North\South thing.  I am from Pennsylvania and he is from the Louisiana\Texas Border.  Kevin is a much more proficient verbal arguer than I, and my girlfriend will attest that pretty much anyone is.  I think half the reason I write songs is to make up for this deficiency.  I need time to think and ponder and because of this I represent my beliefs best in writing.  I’m too introverted and inward looking.  Every once in a while the clouds will part and I can dance with the best of them, but often I realize the things I could have said to win the argument about ten minutes after it happened.  I did mention to Kevin that he should have been wearing a grey shirt instead of a blue one, and he got a good laugh out of that.

Last night after watching some bubble gum action movies, I returned to Ken Burns The Civil War.  I found one thing particularly interesting.  Jefferson Davis knew that if the South were to win the Civil War that he had to have the same kind of sweeping powers that Lincoln had.  He had to have broad federal like powers to get the South moving in a unified direction to defeat the North.  Because of the Confederate states were so set on States Rights this never happened.  It was their anti-federalism that helped to spell their doom amongst other things.  I can’t help but thing that the current GOP could learn something from this.  By being so anti-government, in ways in which even moderate conservatives realize are insane, they are dooming themselves more and more to the fringes of American politics.  There are still enough old white voters, and they still have things redistricted enough in their favor in certain places, but eventually the damn is going to break.  If they don’t modernize they are going into the wilderness for a long time to come.  They will have no one to blame but themselves.  People like Rick Perry, Ted Cruz, and Sarah Palin are singing a death song for a way of life that is slowly fading.  In closing I would like to quote the Elvis Costello song Tramp the Dirt Down.  It was originally written about Margaret Thatcher, but I think it works now as well:

Well I hope I don’t die too soon
I pray the lord my soul to save
Oh I’ll be a good boy, I’m trying so hard to behave
Because there’s one thing I know, I’d like to live
Long enough to savor
That’s when they finally put you in the ground
I’ll stand on your grave and tramp the dirt down


Cross the Green Mountain

I cross the green mountain
I sit by the stream
Heaven blazing in my head
I, I dreamt a monstrous dream

Something came up
Out of the sea
Swept through the land of
The rich and the free

I look into the eyes
Of my merciful friend
And then I ask myself
Is this the end?

Memories linger
Sad yet sweet
And I think of the souls
In heaven who will be

Alters are burning
The flames far and wide
The fool has crossed over
From the other side

They tip their caps
From the top of the hill
You can feel them come
All brave blood do spill

Along the dim
Atlantic line
The rapper’s land
Lasts for miles behind

The lights coming forward
And the streets are broad
All must yield
To the avenging God

The world is old
The world is great
Lessons of life
Can’t be learned in a day

I watch and I wait
And I listen while I stand
To the music that comes
From a far better land

Close the eyes of our captain
Peace may he know
His long night is done
The great leader is laid low

He was ready to fall
He was quick to defend
Killed outright he was
By his own men

It’s the last day’s last hour
Of the last happy year
I feel that the unknown
The world is so dear

Pride will vanish
And glory will rot
But virtue lives
And cannot be forgot

The bells
Of evening have rung
There’s blasphemy
On the end of the tongue

Let them say that I walked
In fair nature’s light
And that I was loyal
To truth and to right

Serve God and meet your full
Look upward beyond
Beyond the darkness that masks
The surprises of dawn

In the deep green grasses
And the blood stained woods
They never dreamed of surrendering
They fell where they stood

Stars fell over Alabama
I saw each star
You’re walking in dreams
Whoever you are

Chilled are the skies
Keen is the frost
The ground’s froze hard
And the morning is lost

A letter to mother
Came today
Gunshot wound to the breast
Is what it did say

But he’ll be better soon
He’s in a hospital bed
But he’ll never be better
He’s already dead

I’m ten miles outside the city
And I’m lifted away
In an ancient light
That is not of day

They were calm, they were gloomed
We knew them all too well
We loved each other more than
We ever dared to tell

Cross the Green Mountain by Bob Dylan.  I am watching the Ken Burns documentary about the Civil War tonight.  I’ve seen parts of it before, but not for quite some time.  It’s fantastic.  In tribute of it I thought i would post these Bob Dylan lyrics.  This is a song about the Civil War and it is one of Dylan’s best songs, and least well known.  

Late Night Prayers III, The Sunday Edition

Dear Lord, I pray that I am never in a fatal car accident, but if I am I hope that it meets this criteria:  I hope that my car is going at a speed that can only be described as “unguided missile”.  I hope that it connects at terrible velocity with a truck that is pulling livestock, preferably horses.  May the carnage be so horrific that they can’t tell man from horse when they are cleaning up the crash site.  I hope that they then bury me as half horse and half man.  That would be fun.  I would like that.  You gotta have fun in life.  

Out on The Wire

Although I love music that features uncomfortable dissonance, like PIL’s Albatross, my first inclination is towards pop music.  I love well written melodies that stick in your head.  If they feature intelligent lyrics and a groove that can make you dance like a child on electricity, all the better.  I have heard the first new pop song that I love in quite a while.  It is a song called The Wire by the band HAIM. 

Before I get to why I love this song allow me a moment of criticism.  This song is a pop song in the truest sense.  The lyrics seem written as if for no other reason than supporting the melody and creating endless hooks.  I could not tell you what they are, and don’t think that they would bring much enlightenment to my life if I could.  The song is also not any kind of grand step forward in music.  It’s a pop song, a glorious one, but nothing more.  It sounds like it could have been written in the 80’s although there are some slight modern production touches. 

HAIM is a group of three sisters in their early 20’s.  They excel at writing and singing the kind of pop songs that used to be staples on the radio.  Songs that when you are ten beers in, make you feel like you are way sweeter than you are. 

If it seems like I am downplaying something by saying it is a simple pop song, I am not.  I love pop music.  Music is an emotional medium first and foremost, as I have stated before.  A song that instantly makes you feel something is really all that one can ask for.  If a song can make you think on top of that, then all the better.  I prefer intelligence in my pop songs, but I don’t require it. 

There has been a trend in recent years for detachment in pop vocals.  A lot of indie bands that lean towards pop music either can’t sing, or bury the vocals in the mix.  The voice becomes just another instrument.  Meanwhile in mainstream pop the vocals are often auto tuned and treated in such a way that they lack the humanness that connects on an emotional level.  There is nothing more emotional than the sound of a human voice singing with passion.  No amount of production can overcome this. 

At the other end of the spectrum has been the trend that has come out of the R&B world.  This is where singers feel that they have to show off their vocal power in every line.  They make a meal out of every note and it is unbecoming of the singer.  The vocals become more about showing off the singer.  This is ego driven music of the worst kind.  A well written song can potentially express many emotions depending on how it is delivered.  When the singer gets in the way of that song and melody, they get in the way of the emotion that is inherent in that given piece. 

When I heard this song, I got excited.  Maybe this band will take off and they will bring others with them.  It would be nice to turn on the radio again and hear pop songs with people singing with their natural voice again.  Again, this is a pop song.  It is nothing more and nothing less.  Such a simple and beautiful thing should not be taken for granted.  

Upcoming Shinyribs and No Show Ponies Shows

Shinyribs – tonight, Sept. 27th – Strange Brew – Austin, Texas – 10pm
Shinyribs – Sept. 28th – Sam’s Burger Joint – San Antonio, Texas – 5pm
Shinyribs – Sept. 29th – KUT Texas Talking Radio Program – On air 1:15pm
Shinyribs – Oct. 2nd – Mainstreet Crossing – Tomball, Texas
Shinyribs – Oct. 4th – Threadgills – Austin, Texas – 9pm
Shinyribs – Oct. 6th – ACL Festival – Austin, Texas – 5:30pm
No Show Ponies – Oct. 12th – Lee Harvey’s – Dallas, Texas – 9pm