Volume 2-2012



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THIS WEEK'S RAR TUNES:  Listen by clicking on the links or covers below.

Yours truly is offering up a little Jazz-Pop confection, with all admiration for the ancient Greeks, who knew a thing or two about winging it philosophically. Use this link or click on poor Democritus below to hear "A Simple Explanation".

Oh perversity at the county fair! I'm sure involvement with the Future Farmers of America has ruined more than a few young boys, what with all the glamour and all, and the exposure to breeding stock... Use this link or click on the good people below to hear another in a nauseating string of RAR originals - "(You Do) That Thing That Sets Me Free".

Yours truly has been all about myself of late, which is why I am behind on record reviews and most everything else, but I do have a new batch of recordings, starting with "Betty from Memphis", a tribute to stable types such as my actual Aunt Betty (Olita) in Memphis (not shown here), as well as to all those weary road warriors out there playing the soundtracks to everybody else's movies.

Call it "creative destruction", like Mitt Romney does. "Until Sam Walty's Dead" is a cowboy yarn about a villain - personified by the late and wonderful Warren Oates (below) - who has left an unfortunate legacy for himself (see chorus...). Walty is my metaphor for early 21st Century predatory capitalism, a force that must be dealt with so that honest souls can carry on.

Glory be unto Angie Omaha, whoever she is, pictured below on the cover to my next- generation version of "The Glow of Your Dark Eyes",  introduced several years back as a tune about "the dark side of loving a dark soul". Our girl Angie may not let me exploit her in this way for long, but as long as she does isn't she perfect? I mean, for this song?

"Just Eleven Minutes"  comes from a few years back, and from the same box as "The Glow of Your Dark Eyes", but the versions provided below come much closer to my ambitions for this story of a booze-fueled cuckold speeding toward a crime of passion and revenge. The song is almost entirely played around the single chord of E, with occasional transitions through A-B, for those keeping score. The "psycho" version was the original inspiration, but the Nashville chicken-pickin' version has some nice qualities. Unfortunately it also shows that as a guitar player I am no Randy Barker, though I hope to be when I grow up. (Randy Barker played with Michael Woody and the Too High Band, which in the end gave him way too little exposure, but those who heard him play remember it even 30 years later as something special.)




(Click here)

New Releases on RARadio: "Darkness" by Leonard Cohen; "Sweetbread" by Simian Mobile Disco and "Keep You" from Actress off the Chronicle movie soundtrack; "Goodbye to Love" from October Dawn; Trouble in Mind 2011 label sampler; Black Box Revelation Live on Minnesota Public Radio; Apteka "Striking Violet"; Mikal Cronin's "Apathy" and "Get Along"; Dana deChaby's progressive rock




"The Musical Meccas of the World"








Original Musical Compositions and Select Covers

Fiction and Non-Fiction

Special Projects







Bonnie Bramlett - Beautiful As Always

Nashville, Tennessee - One of RAR's all-time favorite singers, Bonnie Bramlett, is back "on tracks" with her new CD release Beautiful (Rockin' Camel Music), the title tune from which is composed by another of our favorite singer-songwriters, Steve Conn.

Bonnie Bramlett has played a major part of rock 'n' roll history. At 16, she became the first -and only white Ikette with the Ike & Tina Turner Revue. In the late '60s, she and then-husband Delaney formed Delaney & Bonnie & Friends, the first real rock 'n' roll traveling road show, whose onstage members included George Harrison, John Lennon, Eric Clapton, Duane Allman, Dave Mason, Gram Parsons, Leon Russell and Rita Coolidge. She co-wrote "Superstar," a hit for Karen Carpenter and nominated for a Grammy. Her new CD, "Beautiful," reunites her with producer Johnny Sandlin and such musicians as Randall Bramblett, Scott Boyer, David Hood, Bill Stewart and the Muscle Shoals Horns. 

"This new disc is, pure and simple, a gem," wrote Steve Morse in The Boston Globe. "Bramlett can still belt with bravado. This is a wonderfully mature record that shows Bramlett still has a relevant touch." In the same review, Morse wrote "But the standout is the title song (written by Conn) in which she exposes her vulnerability: "I need some love/And I need someone to tell me I'm beautiful."

Bonnie Bramlett will be interviewed with Bob Edwards will air on XM Satellite Radio's Channel 133 on Thursday, June 12 at 8:00 AM Eastern Time, with encore presentations immediately following at 9:00AM and 10:00 AM Eastern, as well as 8:00 PM Eastern that night, plus a replay of the show the next day (June 13) at 7:00 AM Eastern Time.

You can also listen to the Bonnie Bramlett interview by clicking on the following link and submitting for a free trial subscription to XM Satellite Radio:




Digging Indie Messiah Dennis Logan



Part Pink Floyd, part Dr. John, maybe a little Bob Dylan, some "Crazy Horse" Neil Young and John Fogerty and a little Clash meets Ray Wylie Hubbard, LA-Nashville Producer Dennis Logan put together a 12-piece band, complete with horns, to record his own LP, S.O.S.. Tracks from the LP became an immediate hit on MySpace, scoring thousands of hits per day, and the tune "The Whole Thing Is Going Down" shot to the top of Internet play charts.


Glendale, California - Dennis Logan's music is lyrically smart, extraordinarily current (as in current events) - he has been quoted as saying "The folk rock artist is the town crier of music. It's music for the heart and soul. You're delivering a message about society" - and phenomenally catchy. Six-time Grammy award winning Producer Tom Pick helped put the LP together and in May Logan started supporting the LP with club dates.

Logan came to the attention of Producers through Shaolin Records call for submissions of original folk-rock material, and his stuff truly stands out. One track after the next is radio friendly, upbeat even when reporting some truly downbeat stories, and utterly absorbing. He sounds like what radio sounded like when he was a kid: honest, free of artifice, and filled with musical joy. 













Click here to go to Dennis Logan's MySpace. His LP S.O.S. is available at CD Baby, CD Universe, and elsewhere.








For the vast majority of musicians and songwriters, success is all about figuring out what the successful are doing and emulating it. The record companies like that and it is part of why pop music tends to run in waves of sameness, cycling from one "sound" to the next. You get the avatar and the hordes of sound-alikes (which are even categorized and made available under many music services, like Musicmatch). 

That is why when you hear someone doing signature work it tends to stop you in your tracks, particularly when it is delivered with clarity and self assurance; authenticity. So it is with MINTON SPARKS, the brilliant spoken word artist out of Nashville.

Minton, whose name is an amalgam of family names ("Minton is my grandmother's maiden name, Sparks is her married name"), has been adjunct Professor of Psychology at Tennessee State University for the past 15 years. She has also taught Women's Psychology at Middle Tennessee State University. In 1991 she was awarded a "Leonard Bernstein Fellowship" and used the funding to teach poetry within the Tennessee high school system. She has a degree in Psychology along with a Master's of Education in Human Development Counseling. 

This background shines a fascinating light on Minton's songwriting and performance style. Imagine if Raymond Carver were born in the Mississippi delta, married Eudora Welty, gave birth to Flannery O'Connor and had her grafted to Lucinda Williams. There you have Minton Sparks, a poet/performance artist who naturally portrays the sound, even the soul of the underbelly South. She is an observer who understands the subtext of each of her subjects' actions, and she is an "empath," fly-on-the-wall in narrative but fixed-to-the-heart in feel. Her carefully crafted language is selected for its "music," which coming through her rustic filter has rending powers of sorrow, sadness and violent banality. When she off-handedly references some indiscretion it at first lights on the ear as mere information, then dawns like a smart bomb. Minton connects on a deep, deep level that is more than a little scary. You really need to want to explore humanity and its nature when you sidle next to her, because that's where she's going. And you've got to love that about her - that she is going someplace of her own volition and in her own way.



From her website - " In 2006, Sparks unique brand of poetry and music was featured nationally on the NPR's All Things Considered and internationally on the BBC's Bob Harris Show, along with the syndicated Woodsongs' Old Time Radio Hour. Sparks was thrilled to open for John Prine this year. She performed at the 2006 Americana music festival MerleFest, receiving a thunderous reception. This spring she wrapped up a four part Tennessee Performing Arts Series, Minton Sparks and Friends featuring Jessi Colter and Rodney Crowell, and played to sold-out houses and rave reviews each night."


Minton Sparks has several MP3 clips on her site. Listen to them and hear one of the most uniquely powerful artist on the music scene today. You can also listen to a couple tracks from her MySpace site at


Minton released Middlin' Sisters in 2001, This Dress in 2003 (and there is something about the way this woman wears a dress-RAR), and, in 2006, sin sick. "Sin Sick Soul" features the piano work of Links friend Steve Conn, who has been a collaborator of Minton's. They played recently at TPAC, "Nashville's primary venue for theatrical and musical productions."

It’s been none other than the stories of my friends and relatives that have convinced me of the validity of relativism. Determining what’s right and what’s wrong oftentimes “depends”. “Thou shalt not kill”…well…unless it’s a “just” war. My prayer in recording “Sin Sick” is that we will never let the idea of absolute truth strong arm us back into dark ages of feeling powerless to question, individually and collectively, the rules and regulations that some are always trying to mount on stone tablets. Be ye a questioner. Break open rigid rules and holding them in the hand of experience discover a guideline. 

–Minton Sparks, from her liner notes to sin sick

RAR NOTE: Minton has done an interesting thing with her EPK. She has included the camera ready version of her jacket for her sin sick CD, and it is wonderfully revealing, as artists liner notes occasionally are. Minton is married and has two children, referenced in the following. As you might expect, her word choices say much about who she is. It's cool, just like her. Her liner notes:




Again, I thank my family, especially John, Jonas, and Liza. May you always wind up wandering home into your very own Promise-land. Thanks so much to my live foil—fabulous guitarist, John Jackson. For the brilliant landscapes you painted here, thanks a million to Steve Conn, and to mandolin-ist extraordinaire, Chris Thile, who can play outside time and space…thanks to each of you for catapulting the musical

conversations with these poems to places I only hoped existed. Special thanks to manager, Kristin, and friends Nikki, Kelly, and George for helping me hear the undersong of these stories, those that I didn’t hear by myself—couldn’t have done it otherwise. Extra special thanks to Gary Paczosa for lending his ears, hands, heart and precious time to this project. Engineered and mixed by: Gary Paczosa. Recorded at: Minutiae Sound Studio, House of David, and Omni Studio in Nashville, TN. Produced by: Minton Sparks and Gary Paczosa. Assistant engineering, Brandon “Heber” Bell. Mastered by Don and Eric at Independent Mastering. Photography, Mary Beth Cysewski. Graphic design by the wonderful Christa Schoenbrodt. *Chris Thile appears courtesy of Sugar Hill Records,

a Welk Music Group Company.



Goofing With the Stars

Cowboy Jack Clement's Home Movie Release

BLESSED ARE THE GOOFY: In 2005, the "home movies" of "Nashville's legendary Cowboy Jack Clement" were packaged into a film titled "Shakespeare Was A Big George Jones Fan," which was screened at the Tribeca Film Festival and in Nashville. In what Elvis Costello calls "one of the funniest and most touching music films that I've ever seen...” Clements featured such friends Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, George Jones, Dolly Parton, Charley Pride, and Bono performing skits. 

Now Austin-based Sin City Social Club is promoting the DVD of the film, which will be available for popular consumption September 4, and their press release quotes Kris Kristofferson as explaining - “Jack would like to make a circus out of life.” Kristofferson also appears in the film. The Grammy-nominated filmmaking team of Robert Gordon and Morgan Neville spliced together the film in which Shakespeare romps through private rehearsals and rowdy sound stages, stands next to John Prine and Waylon Jennings as they create songs, and captures unlikely stars goofing around in unlikely roles. In his ode to Jack, Johnny Cash hearkens, “Come along and ride this brain.” Some have likened the film to "riding the trail between Monty Python and Blazing Saddles."

Producer/performer/artist Cowboy Jack is noted for many accomplishment in the music industry, including recording Elvis Presley and U2. He was Sam Phillips’ right-hand man and is credited with discovering Jerry Lee Lewis, Charley Pride and Townes Van Zandt. 

Cowboy Jack is still around as the host of “The Cowboy Jack Clement Show” on Sirius Outlaw Country (Saturdays from 2 pm – 6 pm EST). He was a recent artist in residence at the Country Music Hall of Fame, and he received the Americana Music Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2004. Writes Sin City's Shilah Morrow of Jack - "His home, The Cowboy Arms Hotel And Recording Spa, is always open to his friends, who drop by at all hours. With all his rooms wired for recording and filming, and a swimming pool in the yard, visitors know that the coffee’s always on and a good time is ready to be had." The photo (left) was taken when Cowboy Jack played with The Sin City All Stars during the AMA conference of 2004!



One could hardly have hit the ground running any faster than MINDY SMITH did back in 2004. Before releasing her debut album, she got a booking on "The Tonight Show" and appeared on the Lifetime Network’s "Women Rock" special. She had a video in top rotation on CMT. And she had the lead-off single on the acclaimed Dolly Parton tribute album, Just Because I’m a Woman, putting her in the company of Norah Jones, Sinéad O ’Connor, Melissa Etheridge, Alison Krauss and others. Her rendition of the Parton classic "Jolene" got special notice from Dolly, who tagged her an artist to watch.

The adopted daughter of a preacher, Mindy's residence on the Nashville Links is circumstantial. She was raised on Long Island in New York but in 1998 relocated to Tennessee, with her father, following the death of her musically talented mother. Still trying to figure out who she was to be, she attended college in Cincinnati for a time before electing to move to Nashville and give songwriting her all. A reception was waiting, as it turned out. She took first prize in the 2000 Tin Pan South songwriting competition, which helped land her a writing staff position with Yellow Dog Music.

Mindy released One Moment More in 2004, which included her version of "Jolene" and yielded her first hit in "Come to Jesus." That tune, which sounds more "evangelical Christian" than it really is, received airplay on country, Christian, AAA rock and adult contemporary radio, climbing to #32 on Billboard's Adult Top 40 chart. 

Even with those successes, one gets the feeling the still evolving Mindy didn't feel satisfied with that freshman effort. Her 2006 release, Long Island Shores, feels more individual and assured. Mindy has a voice that is smooth and easy to listen to, and a polished radio-friendly sound. Long Island Shores has been 

well received by critics. It hasn't yielded a big hit, though the single "Out Loud" has gotten airplay on AAA radio and CMT. Mindy has been back on national television of late, playing the Tonight Show again in January.










Mindy Smith's MP3s can be heard at


Long Island Shores (2006)

One Moment MOre (2004)


"Prozac Made Me Stay" 

Antsy McClain and The Trailer Park Troubadours  

Weird things happen along the road to American modernity. Yesterday's "dream catchers" morph into today's standard appliances. So it is now with the mobile phone, which 40 years ago represented the achievement of an elite class and today are as common as dirt. So it has also been with that most powerful artifact of American mobility, the "trailer" or "mobile home" (the "caravan" in the U.K.). 

When the Airstream, the little silver art deco trailer designed to be pulled behind one's car, was introduced in America in 1931, it was one of the more portent-laden moments in American manufacturing history. Coming out of the economic expansions of the 1920s, Americans were flexing "new" muscle in machinery, factories and the revolution of standardized mass production. The term "conspicuous consumption," coined in an 1898 treatise (The Theory of the Leisure Class) by economist Thorstein Veblen, became commonly known and understood. Previously unimagined wonders such as radio became a part of this new world, and motion picture theaters proliferated. Electric appliances started to become available, and the automobile became more generally affordable. The stock market crash of 1929 seemed a blip in 1930, as Wall Street rebounded to pre-"crash" levels, but the world economy had been staggering since 1928 and the U.S. wouldn't realize the bottom until 1933. When the Airstream arrived in 1931, a great number of Americans could still imagine open roadways of opportunity stretching on forever.

For most it was a chimera, and by the 1950s fewer people were pulling vacation trailers around the country behind their cars, and more and more were living in them, permanently on blocks. The more spacious "mobile home" started to be manufactured in greater number, then came "double-wides" and finally today's "manufactured housing." In 1980, about 5 percent of all households in America were situated in what could broadly be defined as "mobile home parks." By 1990, that number had climbed to 7 percent. In their 75 year history, "trailers" have gone from being an early entry in high-end consumer high-tech luxury and convenience to becoming ironic symbols of economic immobility, their residents often derided as "trash."


Click on the link below to hear Antsy McClain and The Trailer Park Troubadours at MySpace:  


Antsy McClain and The Trailer Park Troubadours: Antsy McClain grew up in trailer parks around Kentucky and knows those communities well. Now a Nashville resident, Antsy has fashioned a multi-veined career out of exploring the subculture of his childhood. Written in his "folkabilly" style, Antsy and his crew have produced seven Trailor Park Troubadour albums. The most recent of which, Trailercana, features tracks by such notables as Lindsey Buckingham (Fleetwood Mac), Bobby Cochran (Steppenwolf), comedian/folk musician Tommy Smothers, and the legendary vocalist Bonnie Bramlett (Delaney & Bonnie).

Antsy's show, samples of which can be seen on YouTube (click here), is a musical theater romp in the form of a tight rockabilly band. Antsy uses his rich baritone to deliver a steady stream of anecdotal insights into the under class in all their eccentric ways. What makes a concept that seems so fraught with pitfalls (the possibility of mean-spirited political incorrectness, not to mention cliché) come across so well is that Antsy is sincerely funny, upbeat and clever, and wry without being cynical. He doesn't disrespect his subjects, and he writes good songs. That last part can be lost amid all the clever image and wordplay: Antsy's melodies represent a strong body of professional work.

National Public Radio's "All Things Considered" did an interview with Antsy that can be heard by clicking here. RAR would encourage everyone to have a listen. The segment includes several entertaining song clips, plus Antsy comes across as a thoughtful, seriously silly guy.

What the NPR spot did not go into is Antsy McClain's other talents, which include a solo career - he produced a well-received album (Time-Sweetened Lies), the publication of three humor books (most recently It Takes A Trailer Park), and his work as a visual artist "whose drawings and paintings have appeared nationally in magazines and books..." (from his MySpace site). Click here to see Antsy's work as a visual artist.


Be Your Own Pet

Growing up in Nashville doesn't necessarily restrict a kid's vision to the country music the city is famous for. Witness Be Your Own Pet, a "jungle punk-rock" (this being their MySpace self description) unit made up of youngsters who have gone from a garage band to a unit whose members, while still in their teens, are playing some of New York City's most high profile music clubs, such as Joe's Pub.

Jemina Pearl is the band's front person, and she reminds many of Kathleen Hanna of Bikini Kill, while the band as a whole trends more toward the sound of The Buzzcocks. They are, in short, your standard issue 21st Century punk rockers, not to be confused with their more authentic predecessors, but not to be dismissed either. Be Your Own Pet is a "mature" act in terms of execution. They take pride in their professionalism and have earned the respect of some of the music business toughest critics. (See the note to the right on the Sasha Frere-Jones review of the band in The New Yorker.)

Guitarist Jonas Stein provides the thrash metal sound, but the engine of the band is really bassist Nathan Vasquez and drummer Jamin Orrall.

Be Your Own Pet started out playing low profile gigs around Nashville under the name the "Night Shift Nurses." Drummer Orrall's brother was playing bass in the band at first, before giving way to Vasquez, the tall guy with the Afro in the picture on the right. He turned out to have the concept they needed. The band produced some MP3s, one of which ("Damn Damn Leash") caught the attention of Zane Lowe of BBC Radio One, and off they went. London-based XL Recordings released the track, gaining further distribution for the band, who made strong appearances at the CMJ showcase in NYC and at the South by Southwest festival in 2004. Those exposures led to recording of an LP, produced by Steve McDonald of Redd Kross. The result was titled damn dman leash

The New Yorker's Sasha Frere-Jones reviewed Be Your Own Pet in a July 2006 issue (Pop Notes in the Goings On About Town section), which can be read at


Be Your Own Pet MP3s can be heard from their MySpace site at




RIGHT: From garages and pizza parlors to NYC limos in the course of a few years. Be Your Own Pet may have trouble surviving for much longer without a hit. They have recorded with Infinity Cat Recordings, an indie label managed by drummer Jamin Orrall's family. Jamin has recently turned his attention to another band, "Jeff," which he has formed with his bassist brother Jake. He hasn't completely abandoned BYOP, who just played NYC last month.


Pink Spiders  

The Pink Spiders are one of the nicer things to happen to power pop-punk for awhile, joining Jet, Fratellas, and other of a new wave of uptempo urban libertines. Singer/songwriter/guitarist Matt Friction (pictured left) is just so right as a purveyor of this sound. This music has been around long enough for there to be a recognizable quality of timelessness when performed with a certain gusto and precision that Friction and his mates do well. 

Like the kids in Be Your Own Pet, profiled above, the Pink Spiders surfaced out of Nashville as a wild counterinsurgency that seemed in spirit to be more coastal than Bible Belt. They arrived with a concept derived from some gauche European sensibilities informed by the French New Wave cinema of their parents' (maybe even grandparents) generation. Posers? Well, if they are they are doing it right. Their posted response to that ridiculous MySpace "Sounds Like" category is "the Pink Fucking Spiders."

The Pink Fucking Spiders are still very "new," having only surfaced in 2004 with the release of their EP The Pink Spiders are Taking Over!  There first LP, Hot Pink, was released a year later. Geffen Records signed them in 2005 and in 2006 they were named one of the "100 Bands You Need to Know" by Alternative Press.

Teenage Graffiti, their first Geffen release, was produced by Cars' front man Ric Ocasek.

The Pink Spiders Hot Pink release was decidedly retro graphically, with a cover that, for people of a certain age, will bring to mind Dino, Desi and Billy. Pop as they are, The Pink Spiders don't profile that middle of the road. They enjoy taunting their audiences, spewing beer on them and flipping them the bird, and they get a lot of practice, touring extensively behind their debut LP. Teenage Graffiti includes songs from Hot Pink, but with the Ocasek touch. Some have found that touch a little heavy, Ocasek accused by some of having ripped the edge from the sound the band had on Hot Pink. The Pink Spiders aren't really a musically edgy band. In fact, they are all ages in that regard.

The Pink Spiders are singer/guitarist Matt Friction, drummer Bob Ferrari, and bassist Jon Decious. So who's the kid on the Squier strat?



The Pink Spiders have MP3s on their MySpace site at


Vickisue and the Dissonance  
Vickisue and the Dissonance began in the early months of 2006 after Jeremy, who had been working on recording a solo album for Vickisue, began playing percussion for her on recordings and at shows. Months later, while working on their debut release Everyone is Welcome, the two asked Shane to put down some cello tracks for the album. After a couple practices, Shane was offered a full-time position. Currently the band is playing shows around Nashville and the surrounding metropolitan areas, promoting their debut release, and working on their second album in their free time.

"Pulling influence from everything between Bjork and Jeff Buckley, Vickisue and the Dissonance will challenge your ears and your views, all while making you feel welcome in their world. Vickisue and the Dissonance's debut release, Everyone is Welcome is now available at their shows, as well as for Internet purchase at the link below. It will also be available for download from iTunes, Napster, Real Rhapsody,, etc., and special order through your local record store, within the next couple of months."-from their website

Vickisue and the Dissonance is: Vickisue Gunderson - Vocals, Acoustic Guitar, Shane Minter - Cello, Jeremy Graham - Drums, Percussion, Noise, Piano and Keyboard, Electric Guitar. 

Interesting to see a couple other big-time L.A. acts featured among Vickisue's MySpace friends: award-winning folkie Elke Robitaille and the outrageous country-punk artist Jason Punkneck. See the L.A. Links for information on them.





Vickisue and the Dissonance MP3s can be heard on their MySpace site.




Vickisue and the Dissonance released their CD Everyone is Welcome in 2006.



Gretchen Peters is really the whole package: brains; a voice that sounds crossover classic, fitting comfortably in country but capable of other genres (check out her website for the list of artists who have covered her tunes) and with a feeling that connects - I relate to Gretchen Peters when she sings, I feel her; and, finally, she is a superior crafting songwriter, the real deal.

Vancouver, March 2004, photo by Make Wakefield, North Shore NewsIt all makes perfect sense, who Gretchen is. I encourage you to go to her website and read her bio, which I'm sure was written by her because it is really good. She is the progeny of a writer (poor thing), and you can hear a certain informed upbringing in her work. (Class will tell, some might say.) I hear qualities in Gretchen that I also heard in another upper middle class songwriter - Gram Parsons. Both found their gifts early. Both mine some pretty blue territory using more than minor chords. And both range from tender ballads to saloon stomp. Gretchen seems the more introspective of the two, and maybe that's why she has lasted.

See the KBCO Songwriting Competition story in the Archives for more information on Gretchen's background as a songwriter.

WINE, WOMEN & SONG: (Left to Right) Matraca Berg, Gretchen Peters and Suzy Bogguss perform in Glasgow, Scotland, 2007.


Independence Day - Gretchen's breakthrough hit - a modern country classic about breaking through

The Aviator's Song - a beautiful exploration of turning points in life and how choices made impact those who love, and need to be loved by, the sojourner

On A Bus to St. Cloud - live performance of the song Gretchen lists as her favorite among all the songs she has written - the search for the familiar

Copyright © Gretchen Peters, all rights reserved

ABOVE (From left): Gretchen Peters releases - Trio (2005), the European released Halcyon (2004), and the re-release of The Secret of Life (2001) that included the bonus track "Independence Day." 

LEFT: Gretchen Peters (2000) and the original release of The Secret of Life (1996).


Fans Select Nashville Songwriter...

Gretchen Peters FolkWax Artist of 2007 

Reprinted from March 2008 Artist News page

FolkWax Magazine, the largest subscribed weekly in the singer-songwriter genre, announced today that their readers have selected Links favorite Gretchen Peters as FolkWax Artist of the Year 2007 and her album Burnt Toast & Offerings as FolkWax Album of the Year 2007

Through the month of December, Folkwax readers and contributors nominated artists and albums for a final ballot of five artists and five albums. The final ballot for FolkWax Artist of the Year was: Patty Griffin Matt & Shannon Heaton, Gretchen Peters, Josh Ritter and Eric Taylor,

Write the editors of FolkWax - "What a stellar group of some of the best singer-songwriters in the world! We congratulate each one for being nominated. With record voting in both categories again this year, you have selected Gretchen Peters as FolkWax Artist of the Year. Peters has continued to impress with her heartfelt songwriting and performing. We tracked down Gretchen Peters via email and she had this to say: 'I just walked offstage from the last date of our latest U.K. tour and am getting ready to come home tomorrow. I am simply overwhelmed. This is the first award I have ever won as an artist and it is such a full-circle moment for me; to have received the honor from fans of a genre, which really ignited my passion for music from the very beginning. This has been an amazing year for me and this is the icing on the cake."


Peters and Russell

Cowboy Duets from the Heart and Head

Nashville, Tennessee - Texas singer-songwriter Tom Russell and Nashville's Gretchen Peters have teamed to produce a new CD, One to the Heart and One to the Head. The CD features western themed works written by an interesting group, including Barry Walsh, Mary McCaslin, Bob Dylan, Ian Tyson, Townes Van Zandt and Jennifer Warnes, among others. Boulder, Colorado songwriter Rebecca Folsom gets a credit on one track.

San Francisco Bay Area readers of may remember Tom Russell, who graduated from the University of California-Berkeley, as a member of the popular 1970s duo Hardin & Russell, who played the San Francisco clubs regularly. Russell moved on to New York, after he and Patricia Hardin split, but re-established himself on the east coast, particular through association with Grateful Dead veteran Robert Hunter. Russell eventually moved on to Texas, continuing to expand his musical legacy while maintaining a correspondent relationship with outsider L.A. writer Charles Bukowski, who influenced so many romantics and bohemians. Russell recorded rock, folk and blues LPs over the years, electric and acoustic, solo and with the Tom  Russell Band. His tunes have been covered by including Joe Ely, Suzy Bogguss, Dave Alvin and Jerry Jeff Walker. His song "Outbound Plane" was aTop Ten country hit for Suzy Bogguss.

Gretchen Peters is a RARWRITER favorite, a singer-songwriter of exceptional power and insight whose song "Independence Day" gave her a spot in the Country Music Hall of Fame.

The CD was recorded at Congress House Studio, in Austin, Texas, which is owned by Mark Hallman, whose musical associations with Gretchen Peters go back to 1970s Colorado. Gretchen has a video of the making of the CD on her website,

The CD is available at and CDBaby and download will be available through and iTunes.  There is a release party planned for One To The Heart, One To The Head on February 28 at the Swallow Hill Music Association in Denver, Colorado. For tickets, go to



This Links page contains a lot of talk about the Boulder, Colorado music community of the 1970's and early '80s and about the amount of optimism that existed there. One of the people for whom that optimism was founded was Cactus Moser, who for the last 20 years has been at the heart of the revolutionary Nashville country-rocker band Highway 101

Cactus had star quality as a member of Michael Woody and the Too High Band. (You can hear a track of the Too Highs below.) Tall, blond, handsome, athletic, and not lacking any in personality, he was a force behind the kit and at the mic - Cactus can sing. And he can also write songs.

Highway 101 was a "Nashville" sensation, though they were formed in Los Angeles, primarily as a unit to back charismatic vocalist Paulette Carlson. Cactus was recruited by manager Chuck Morris when the band had only a development deal to release singles. That stage didn't last long. The band's 1986 release of "The Bed You Made For Me” earned an album deal with Warner Brothers and their "eponymously" titled 1987 album paved the way for the modern country revolution of the '90s that created crossover superstars like Garth Brooks. Highway 101 scored two #1s on the country charts ("Somewhere Tonight" and "Cry, Cry, Cry"), and two other top five hits. That year they played the Country Music Association awards show with Hank Williams, Jr. Their 1988 release Highway 101, Vol. 2 scored them another #1 hit with "(Do You Love Me) Just Say Yes," and the Top Ten hits "All the Reasons Why," "Setting Me Up," and "Honky Tonk Heart." Highway 101 soared to #1 again in 1989 with "Who's Lonely Now."

Since then the band has gone through personnel changes, losing and then regaining Paulette Carlson, and has been unable to duplicate the hurricane waves of success they had in that late-80s period. They remain on the boards, though, and continue to be one of Nashville's big music machines.

ABOVE: Cactus Moser, October 2005, looking very much like a guy  who would hit you with a stick. 



Just before this update of the Links Tim O'Brien made news winning two 2006 IBMA Awards: Male Vocalist of the Year and Song of the Year ("Look Down That Lonesome Road"). 

Tim, of course, was/is a member of the contemporary bluegrass legend Hot Rize, which just about bottom lines it for you when it comes to talking about musical talent. Formed in 1978, Hot Rize was a super group engineered in reverse - Tim, Pete "Dr. Banjo" Wernick, guitarist Charles Sawtelle and multi-instrumentalist Nick Forster hadn't come together from previous super groups, they were all just heavy dudes right out of the box - and then they started innovating. They were smokin' traditional bluegrass and they were western and comic as Red Knuckles and the Trailblazers. Hot Rize was the International Bluegrass Music Association's first Entertainer of the Year in 1990, and in 1993, O'Brien took his first IBMA Male Vocalist of the Year honor.

Since moving to Nashville, Tim has branched out still further to become a hit songwriter, having charted a couple Hot Rize tunes -  "Walk the Way the Wind Blows" and "Untold Stories" - with Kathy Mattea performing.

Tim then established himself as a collaborative songwriter, working with Darrell Scott to write "When No One's Around," the title cut of Garth Brooks' critically acclaimed 1997 album.

ABOVE: Photos from Tim's CD releases Fiddler's Green (left) and Cornbread Nation

Tim just keeps expanding his musical realm. Back in the '80s he worked with his sister Mollie doing antique country tunes, cowboy songs and western swing. More recently he has gone back to his Irish roots to record well-received LPs recorded with Ireland's top musicians. I would encourage you to visit his website for more information.

Tim continues to perform with Hot Rize, who played the recent IBMA awards but don't work together regularly any longer. 



I used to know a guy in Boulder whose favorite thing to do socially was get all his redneck friends and their wives together and go see The Dan McCorison Band. This was one top-flight professional country unit, which featured Junior Brown (see profile in the Austin section) on steel guitar. I used to join this rowdy crew occasionally, but it was typically more intense of a country experience than I really wanted. There were a lot of good bands around Boulder in those days, but McCorison's unit was way at the top end of the spectrum - pretty serious business, musically. They tended to attract some pretty serious country folk. I tended to think of them as the serious country side of Dusty Drapes and the Dusters.

Dan McCorison is a Denver native who teamed with Steve Swenson to front Dusty Drapes and the Dusters, the heralded western swing band whose theatrical premise skewed toward the high, more than the country life. Big McCorison fan Peter Rodman remembers Dan and the Dusters this way - "Dan sang lead in the Dusters, sharing the spotlight with Dusty (Swenson). While Dan's deep baritone skewed towards trucker romance, Dusty's 'howdy' demeanor and song selections were determinedly 'Western Swing.'  Where they intersected was in the jazz core of the music."

And there it is - Dan McCorison is a really sophisticated musical entree. Continues Rodman - "To this day, Dan McCorison uses jazz chords as creatively as anyone I've ever seen. He's as likely to toss off a complete Larry Carlton arrangement as he is Gordon Lightfoot's 'Cold On The Shoulder.'"

Dan McCorison first appeared on the national music scene in 1974 with two Hot 100 single releases - "I Carry Your Smile" and "Diamond From Your Heart." He co-wrote "Playing the Fool" with Chris Hillman for Hillman's Clear Sailin LP, which was produced by Jim Mason, also in 1974. Then in 1977 MCA released his Bernie Leadon/Chris Hillman-produced LP titled Dan McCorison, off which came two more singles - "Don't Forget the Man" and "That's the Way My Woman Loves Me." As Dan recalls it - "...I was 'discovered' by Chris Hillman who took me to LA and got me signed to MCA. I did an album for them (self titled) that Chris produced. It was a critical success but suffered from lack of support from Nashville and management issues. We had great players on it including James Burton, Al Perkins and even Steve Cropper among others."

Dan moved to Nashville many years ago and has continued to have success as a songwriter. He co-wrote "Don't Come Back" with former Nitty Gritty Dirt Band singer Chris Darrow for Darrow's Slide On In LP. He has also contributed to several country gospel LPs (see Christian Nation below).

"If maple syrup itself sat next to a fireplace with a suede-fringe jacket on, it could not sound more cozy or romantic than Dan McCorison - a true Boulder classic" - Peter Rodman in his other role as Journalist

When I listen to Dan McCorison's songs (hear the MP3s below) I am taken by two things - first, how traditional country they are. They harken back to the golden period of country music in their gentlemanly manner and their respect for song craft. They put me to mind of early Willie Nelson compositions. The other thing that I am taken by is just what a wonderful singer Dan McCorison is. I'm with Rodman on McCorison. - RAR

Working out of Davlen Studios - another "link" in that Jim Mason (see the "At Large" section) and Poco recorded in that L.A. facility - Dan charted two singles in the Billboard Hot 100 in 1974. In 1977 MCA released the Dan McCorison (left) LP. Two country singles were released - "Don't Forget the Man" and "That's The Way My Woman Loves Me." The LP is now a sought after collector's item.
Dan McCorison operates McCorison Homes home-construction business in Nashville. If you want to see some nice homes, take a look at his company site at


I Carry Your Smile - originally titled "Hackensack"

A Diamond for Your Heart

El Norte


Copyright © Dan McCorison 2007. All rights reserved.

Dan's Notes: "A couple of years ago I did a project here in Nashville A Diamond for Your Heart which is where "El Norte" came from. I wrote all the material and I produced it along with my buddy Scott Neubert. That was me on guitar on the basic track for El Norte with Scott playing the beautiful lead stuff.  Scott is a local session player and producer and a very good friend. Whenever I play out I drag him along. We had some other great people on that cd including Cactus Moser on percussion and Andy Leftwich on fiddle and mandolin. Andy's currently playing in Ricky Skaggs' band, Kentucky Thunder and just released a solo album.  I also had Bryan Grassmeyer on bass who played recently with Michael Woody at the Too High Band reunion."



Lest those of us who don't live in Nashville forget, Music City is near the geographic center of the Bible Belt and gospel music has always been central to the region's life style, culture and spiritual nature. As long as there has been a country music industry there has been a branch devoted to worship LPs (think Elvis).

There is some irony, at least to my mind, that some of the baby boomers whose music was at the center of the '60s revolution(s) are in truth profoundly "conservative" people who have been very active in gospel. Former Byrd-Flying Burrito Brothers Chris Hillman is a case in point. He produced a series of gospel LPs in the early '80s, working primarily with his core group of Bernie Leadon, Al Perkins, David Mansfield and Jerry Scheff. Richie Furay, of the seminal band Buffalo Springfield and later with Souther-Hillman-Furay, is another.

Dan McCorison has co-written and contributed tracks to various of these releases. Dan is something of a Chris Hillman protege, Hillman having taken Dan to L.A. to record his first album. Their music relationship, and Dan's relationship with the Leadon-Perkins consortium, extended on in to the gospel arena. Here are examples:

  • Various Artists: God Loves Country Music - Original release: 1981. This is a Leadon-Perkins effort. Richie Furay and Bob Bennett contributed "Search Me, O God," Furay "Psalm 5," Chris Hillman "Create In Me A Clean Heart" and Dan McCorison "Freely, Freely."

  • Various Artists: Country Praise - Original release: circa 1981-1983. Leadon-Perkins formed the core band. Dan McCorison contributed "Clear My Mind," co-written with Cindy Baxter. Two other interesting names here: Maria Muldaur, of "Midnight At the Oasis" fame and (along with her brother Geoff Muldaur) a special place of honor in San Francisco Bay Area music history, and Bonnie Bramlett of Delaney and Bonnie fame. Eric Clapton, who played in the Delaney and Bonnie band credits his learning to sing to time spent listening to Bonnie Bramlett.

  • Various Artists: Gospel Cannonball - Original release: 1984. Leadon-Perkins again. Dan McCorison sang the title track as well as "Our God Reigns." Richay Furay's "Search Me, O God" showed up again. You also get a vocal from Steve Hill, who would later become Chris Hillman's hit making writing partner with the Desert Rose Band


The Woodys are another example of the Christian influence in the country music community. They have both become licensed ministers of Religious Science International.




Michael Woody and the former Dyann Brown were prominent on the Boulder scene when I lived there. Michael won local songwriting competitions and both fronted happening bands. They are now husband-wife and a major force in Nashville traditional country. 

There is an interesting account, on The Woody's website, of how Michael and Dyann's vocal compatibility resonated with big-time country producer Brian Ahern. He is a big Everley Brothers fan and had long been looking for a duo with that kind of chemistry. Dyann took a tape and Michael and her singing together and Ahern heard what he'd be listening for. The Woodys have an interesting, creative website, and I would encourage you to take a look.

Michael penned a hit for Chris Hillman and the Desert Rose Band a few years ago in "He's Back and I'm Blue." Michael also created  "Message From Michael" from an open, cautionary letter written by dying Byrds drummer Michael Clarke (see above) intended to warn teens of the dangers of alcohol abuse; an eerie and important classic.


See the KBCO Songwriting Competition story on the Colorado Links for more on Michael Woody.

The Woody's performing in 2005 at The Sutler in Nashville


The Woodys MP3:

Sin City


Copyright © The Woodys, rights reserved


The Woodys are licensed ministers in Religious Science International, which as their website explains "... is a metaphysical, spiritual teaching that studies the truth found in all major religions, the wisdom of great philosophical thinkers like Ralph Waldo Emerson, and the laws of science as applied to human needs and aspirations. Religious Science does not tell people what to think, but rather it teaches people how to think. Dr. Ernest Holmes, the founder of Religious Science and author of the textbook 'Science of Mind' influenced such notables as Norman Vincent Peale."  Go to for more information on this new calling.

Dyann Woody MP3:


Softer Side


Copyright © Dyann Woody, rights reserved

Dyann Woody's solo release Softer Side features 11 songs she either wrote or co-wrote, plus well-chosen covers. Ranging from soft jazz to blues to folk-rock it has received strong reviews and demonstrates the fine range of this "country" chanteuse. Michael Woody co-produced and played trumpet on the CD.

Michael recently (June 2006) held a reunion of his Too High Band, which featured such luminaries as drummer Cactus Moser (Highway 101), guitarist Randy Barker, and bassist Bryan Grassmeyer.



The Too High Band's LP has been re-released and is available through The Woodys website

The Too Highs playing a 25 year reunion show at the Taos Solar Fest

Too High MP3:


Chased by the Moon


Copyright © Michael Woody and the Too High Band, rights reserved

THE BEVERLY HILLS BROTHERS*: It is interesting the way this Everley Brothers theme resides within the Michael Woody story (see The Woodys profile above). Michael used to work in a duo called "The Beverly Hills Brothers" with another singer/songwriter, Robert Anderson.  They sang Everley Brothers and Buddy Holly songs. See more on Robert Anderson in the Catseye story on the Colorado Links.


Dyann and Michael Woody

Telling Michael Clarke's Cautionary Story

Nashville, Tennessee - "I am doing an educational presentation on alcoholism at the school where I am a counselor," singer-songwriter Dyann Woody wrote recently in an email to friends. "I put this video together to tell Michael Clarke's story - it was his dying wish to get this message out to kids. Woody (singer-songwriter Michael Woody, her husband) & I wrote the song to tell the story."

The story is that of Rock'n Roll Hall of Fame drummer Michael Clarke (pictured right), who rose from being a San Francisco street urchin to become a member of one of the seminal acts in rock history, The Byrds.

Michael was the son of artist parents and a guy who seemed fated to high profile success, which he achieved at a young age with The Byrds, then continued with the Flying Burrito Brothers, Firefall and other bands. It was a pretty extraordinary run for a guy who was supposedly just recruited into The Byrds on the strength of his looks, which closely paralleled those of Rolling Stones founder and '60s heartthrob Brian Jones. Michael was a bongo player when he first joined McGuinn and boys, but over time morphed into a real power drummer. Go to the RARWRITER archives for additional info on Michael Clarke and the impact he had on those he met. Look for "Others We Miss".

Michael was extremely accessible and those who met him, but didn't know him well, may have mistaken his bawdy exterior nature for being the entirety of who he was - he was like Ready Teddy in the energy department, a 24/7 kind of animal . This would have been wrong, for Michael was extraordinarily sensitive and artistic beneath all the bluster, bravado and partying life style.

Sadly, Michael Clarke died in 1993 at 47 years of age, the result of liver disease caused by decades of excessive alcohol consumption. It was too early for him to go and he knew it, asking on his death bed for his story to be told so that maybe young people would hear it and temper their ways. This is what The Woodys have done with this video, which can be viewed by clicking here or going to their site at

RAR NOTE: This Henry Diltz/CORBIS photograph from 1972, titled "Michael Clarke Smoking a Cigarette", looks like the Michael Clarke I knew back in Boulder, Colorado in the 1970s and early '80s. Michael was an undeniable presence, a "force of nature" to re-employ a cliché that is apt in this case. He was really rather beautiful, almost iconic of a period, and Diltz' photograph captures that. So does The Woody's wonderful tune, "Message from Michael," and I would encourage you all to watch this video.




The Blue Chip guys provide links to a wide range of resources of relevance to Nashville and Austin-based music people, including information on agents, manager, publishers, record companies, lawyers and lists of chart topping songs and their writers, among many other links.


Texas transplant JACK INGRAM sold 30,000 CDs on his own label before moving to Nashville. Jack's music is raucous country along the lines of early Gram Parsons. He is bold and testosterone-laden, a little prone to reach in wordplay, but he's got a double-lead guitar sound that rocks. He also has an interesting promotions team. They are enlisting local advocates to do media outreach and get the word out about young Jack.


Jack Ingram has a number of full-length songs you can hear on his website, plus MP3s for download. Worth checking out. Jack is a lot of young buck up-tempo country rock fun.



Andy Peake was a top drummer on the Boulder music scene of the late '70s and '80s. He was in Chris Daniels band Spoons and with Sam Broussard in Catseye, the greatest band that never was before becoming part of the great exodus from Boulder in the '80s and moving to Nashville to become an in-demand session and touring pro. Andy's major act touring credits include Don Williams, Nicolette Larson, Gary Burr, Lee Roy Parnell, Delbert McClinton and Kathy Mattea. The Delbert McClinton gig got Andy an opportunity to appear on the Conan O'Brien show, performing with Jim Horn and Becca Bramlett.

Andy's studio work has included Walt Disney Records' The Best of Country Sings the Best of Disney CD, which featured many major artists performing the Disney songbook. Allison Krauss received a Grammy nomination for her version of "Baby Mine" from that LP. Andy also played on the critically acclaimed "Love Slave" album for Ms. Marshall Chapman on "Margaritaville/Island" records the year after touring with Marshall as Jimmy Buffet's opening act for the summer of 1995. 

Andy has shown additional stage chops, appearing as a role actor and member of the onstage band in the Ryman Auditorium's very successful production of "Always" Patsy Cline featuring Mandy Barnett and Tere Myers

Recently, Andy appeared as a member of the rhythm section for the Nashville Chamber Orchestra's Ryman Auditorium CD release performance backing up artists like Amy Grant and a host of others. 

Andy has produced a number of CD releases with his Big Little recording studio, and he has served as sound engineer at Nashville's Acts Music Hall. The hall hosts acts ranging from the Nashville Chamber Orchestra and Gospel Choir to Tim McGraw.

Andy is proud to endorse Vater drumsicks, Aquarian drumheads, Pearl drums, Zildjian cymbals and Peavey audio products.



Former Byrd, Manassas, Hillman-Souther-Furay member Chris Hillman is rarely mentioned among top songwriters, though he is credited with co-writing the Byrds' classic "So You Want to Be a Rock'n Roll Star." How many times has that been covered? And how about this string of hits he and Steve Hill wrote for the Desert Rose Band: 2004 Publicity photo
  • Love Reunited - # 6 - 1987
  • One Step Forward - # 2 -1988
  • Summer Wind - # 2 - 1988
  • I Still Believe In You - # 1 - 1989
  • Start All Over Again - # 6 - 1990
  • In Another Lifetime - # 13 - 1990
  • Story Of Love - # 10 - 1990
  • Will This Be The Day - # 37 - 1991



©Rick Alan Rice (RAR), March, 2012