Friday, September 4, 2009
But what does in mean to "make money" in this sense? All you have is a bunch of fancy pencil-pushers doing the equivalent of casino gambling (and they are the insiders, the House, as it were); nobody is actually creating any tangible wealth. Farmers produce crops, manufacturing plants make finished goods, and miners dig coal and iron ore. But these financial big-wigs spend their days accumulating large numbers of electronic "dollars" that are linked to nothing we can actually hold in our hands or put to any practical use. Yet they are considered the wealthy among us, the self-proclaimed "best and brightest."
But the day is coming when they will in vain try and trade some of those trillions of electrons for something tangible, say, a loaf of bread. Then we'll see if they're really The Masters of the Universe they claim to be. At that point, I'd say that the plain old farmer might have a bit of advantage on them.
I must admit that I'll relish seeing the "suits" squirm. Too bad a lot of innocent folks will probably go down with them. Live well . . .
Saturday, August 29, 2009
As I was driving back to north Alabama through the mountains of NC and Tennessee last weekend, the Muse began calling (not on my cell phone). When I got home, I unpacked, kissed my wife (aka the real Muse) and daughter, ate a bite of supper, and then went to work writing a song that was percolating in my head. When my "boys" came over for our weekly practice/jam session, I played them the song--"Don't Fight Fair"--and we ended up working on it for about three hours. Everyone seems to think it's a pretty good song. I really don't know what group/artist the song reminds me of; but, as the Bible tells us, there's nothing new under the sun.
Since then, I have written another song called "The Devil's Chasin' Me." It is full of frightening imagery but resolves well into the "light." I hope the boys like it, too. We'll see Wednesday night, God willing.
So far, we've done mainly covers--several Yardbirds' songs--"Shapes of Things, "Mister, You're A Better Man Than I," "For Your Love," and "Heart Full of Soul." Soon we'll start on "Over, Under, Sideways, Down." Also, we can do "The Weight" (The Band), "Willin'" (Little Feat), "Drive My Car" (The Beatles), "Dead Flowers" (Stones), "For What It's Worth" (Buffalo Springfield--the first song I ever played on stage at the age of 15). We also do a lot of free-form fusion and blues. I really like Jeff Beck.
One day, we'll be ready to take the stage (at least for an hour). All of us miss it (except Bill, who already plays with two other bands--but he really likes playing with us, too).
We're all old, as you might guess from the above titles. But we can still rock! I love having the Muse around. Live well . . .
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
According to the Law of Preemptory Accusation, whatever traits the accuser attributes to the accused, you can be sure fits the former and not the latter. Simply put, if the accuser calls you a liar, he is really the liar. If he calls you a hater, he is the real hater. And so forth . . .
My contention here is simple: the U.S. government, since it quit abiding by the Constitution, has been in rebellion against us, the American people. If some action is unconstitutional it is, by its very nature, unlawful. And what is unlawful is, ipso facto, criminal. Hence my reason for calling the U.S. government an Organized Criminal Enterprise, Gangster Government, etc.
We, as dissenters against criminal government, are not domestic terrorists or rebels striving unlawfully to bring down a legitimate government; instead, we are patriots seeking to rein in an overbearing and rebellious government that threatens both our liberty and prosperity. There are several ways of protecting ourselves. My preferred method is secession by the States. It is a time-honored and Constitutional remedy (no matter how loudly the Establishment may deny it).
In other words, we have the moral high ground, regardless of what the U.S. government or its lap-dog media might say. Live well . . .
The U.S. government (and its many minions) is an Organized Criminal Enterprise. Let that soak in for a minute.
As a bit of evidence, see the following blog article: http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2009/08/real-economy-versus-fake-economy-of.html
Lying has apparently become a virtue in DC. However, in the case of the current financial/economic mess, the math will win out over the lies in the end. I suggest you and your family be prepared. Live well . . .
Friday, July 24, 2009
Three friends and I got free tickets. It's hard to beat that! One of my friends, Tom "Pizza" Hillmeyer was actually offered the job of playing bass for the DBT when they first started. He politely turned the offer down because he didn't want to tour anymore. He previously played all over the South with his punk band called The Chromatics. He is a marvelously talented musician. We play with a couple of other friends every Wednesday night. Once we get an hour set list down, we'll try and do some local gigs in the Shoals . . . Yardbirds, Beatles, Stones, and other old stuff.
By the way, Patterson Hood is a first rate entertainer. Mike Cooley reminds me somewhat of the late Gram Parsons. If you haven't seen the DBT yet, I recommend you do so. They are a great act, Southern to the core! Live well . . .
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Back in 2003 when Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore refused to obey a federal court order and remove the Ten Commandments monument from the State Judicial Building, I had the opportunity to address that issue on several radio talk shows across Alabama.
These were "conservative" talk shows, and most of the callers were evangelical Christians. A typical response to the ruling went something like this: "Yes, I support Judge Moore and want the monument to stay where it is. But the court has made its ruling and we have to obey the law whether we like it or not."
To counter, I made the following points: (1) it was not the business of the federal courts to rule on such matters and (2) that a federal court ruling (even one issued by the Supreme Court) was not necessarily the final say on a matter of law because the Legislative and Executive branches, as well as the States, also have the right to a say themselves. However, I did not get far with this argument (even though it was correct).
I had to fall back on something a bit more simple and direct. I said something like this: "Well, let's suppose that a federal court rules that you must close the doors of your church and stop worshiping God on Sunday. Would you consider this a legitimate ruling and would you obey it?"
The reaction stunned me. Instead of saying "no," most of the callers said that this was America and something like that "could never happen here."
How do you reach such people? Do they really believe that we, as Americans, have received a cosmic King's Exemption from the realities of history that effect the rest of the world? Can really bad things like tyranny just not happen here? Are there no evil men in American public life who would like to control us all? Is our "democratic" nation indispensable to the outworking of God's providential plan for His Creation? Or, are we merely fools for believing such infantile rubbish?
Live well . . .
Monday, July 13, 2009
In May, The Chosen One (aka Barry Obama) signed off on a writ that permitted banks to "restructure" loans in Mortgage Backed Security bonds (MBS bonds) with no legal consequences from MBS bondholders. In the past, MBS bondholders could sue if the bonds they held were altered or changed. No more.
What does this all mean? It means that "loan modifications" will be allowed that will permit banks to carry bad mortgages (those that are either "underwater" or in arrears) on their books as worth 100 cents on the dollar after they are "restructured." Nevermind that many (if not most) of these mortgages are worth less than 50 cents on the dollar. Under Obama's Writ, the banks will not be forced to do "mark to market" accounting on these assets. The result? Inflated balance sheets for the banks and more hefty bonuses for the fat cats who run them.
Because of this accounting trick, I'd be willing to bet that the second quarter earnings of, say, a Goldman Sachs or JP Morgan will be just as rosy as their questionable first quarter stats.
How long can the "smoke and mirrors" approach to creative accounting continue to fool the American taxpayer? Probably for a while. But those in the know in Europe and Asia will not be fooled; and they are the ones the Fed and Treasury depend on to buy our debt instruments. And they cannot be happy about the official policy of lying about asset valuations being perpetrated by DC and Wall Street.
Our fantasy world of finance may be about to crumble. It can't come too soon. Then perhaps some sort of rebuilding can begin.
Live well . . .
Thursday, July 9, 2009
"I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around [the banks] will deprive the people of all property until their children wake-up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered. The issuing power should be taken from the banks and restored to the people, to whom it properly belongs."
We had better heed his words. Live well . . .
Lord, you know it makes me high
When you turn your love my way,
Turn your love my way . . ."
(now imagine Duane Allman's beautiful solo . . . )
From "Blue Sky, " Richard "Dickie" Betts, The Allman Brothers Band (1971)
Thanks for all the good times, Muse.
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
It is remarkable how good real food tastes! I'm glad no one was videotaping me; I ate like a hungry barbarian.
Soon, God willing, my okra and Mississippi pink-eye purple hull peas will be ready. We've already had a good crop of blueberries, and the muscadines are plentiful for the autumn harvest.
So far, I've shot two rabbits that were eating in my garden. The second kill was a head shot--using iron sights--from forty yards with an old Springfield .22 rifle given to me by my grandfather when I was ten. I used .22 long rifle hollow points. I am justifiably proud of that shot! The target was only partly visible behind a large tomato plant. I can't shoot a pistol very well, but I am still deadly with a rifle (and have been since all those childhood hunting trips with my Daddy, Granddaddy, and Uncles).
I hope you all eat well from your gardens this summer (and into the fall and winter, if you put things up). And watch out for those pesky rabbits. Live well . . .
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
I ate leftovers with my wife for dinner ("lunch" to you non-Southerners) while we talked about her latest writing project. I worked at my job. I went to the bank and post office and filled up my car with gas. But I did not watch coverage of Michael Jackson's funeral.
I called my oldest daughter and wished her a happy birthday. I watched a video of my two-year grandson (her son) say "Roll Tide, Pop." I picked a fresh tomato from my garden. But I did not watch coverage of Michael Jackson's funeral.
I had a phone conversation with an old high school friend. I picked up a few things for supper at the grocery store. I cut my grass. But I did not watch coverage of Michael Jackson's funeral.
I ate supper with my wife. I watched a war movie from Netflix. I checked my e-mail. But I did not watch coverage of Michael Jackson's funeral.
All in all, I had a good day. Hope you did, too. Live well . . .
Sunday, July 5, 2009
PSALM 2 (KJV):
"Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing?
The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against his anointed.
Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.
He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision.
Then shall he speak to them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure.
Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion.
I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.
Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.
Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.
Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth.
Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling.
Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him."
Powerful and ambitious men often forget where the real power lies and who owns every bit of the Creation. They also forget there is such a thing as true justice. May God's will be done in this and all other matters. And may He have mercy on all those suffering from the criminal actions of the Gangsters.
Live well . . .
Let's apply the above to the current economic/financial scandal. We are being robbed by the equivalent of lawyers, guarded by men with guns. It is, as it were, a double whammy on us. If the American people understood the extent to which they were being robbed, there would be a revolution tomorrow (at least I'd like to think there would be). But the robbers have obscured their game in such a fog of technical jargon and impenetrable financial shenanigans that the average man on the street has no idea of what's going on. And that's the way the Establishment elite likes it.
Now, I'll be the first to admit that I'm no financial or economic guru. I did teach some classes in American economic history on the college level, and I do understand some of the fundamental issues involved. But I do know where to go to find men who do understand what the Gangsters are doing to us. These men can talk all the jargon (and that's why they understand the con game that's going on) but they also can cut through the bullshit and explain things in laymen's terms.
Two of the best sites are Tyler Durden's "Zero Hedge" (http://zerohedge.blogspot.com/) and Karl Denninger's "The Market Ticker" (http://market-ticker.denninger.net/). Both Durden and Denninger are great at exposing the con game in such a way that you and I can understand it. Morever, they research and report on issues that the Mainstream Media will not touch. I don't know much about either man's politics, but I do know that they are against the corruption that is going down in DC and on Wall Street. That's enough for me.
I have been following both men (and others) since last fall, and they have helped me connect the dots. The picture that has emerged is not a pretty one (but one I suspected all along was there). It is this--the bankers (including, of course, Bernanke and Geithner), the banks (especially Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan), and the US government (including the regulatory agencies who should be monitoring this con game and the enforcement agencies who should be prosecuting the criminals) are all in cahoots. They are robbing us blind with impunity. And the Chosen One--Obama--surveys it all.
Oh, and back to the man with the gun in my opening quote. He may not be doing the actual robbery but he is there to protect those who are. A pertinent question--who is going to march into the halls of power in DC or New York and bring these criminals to justice? What do we, the concerned taxpayers (many of whom have been tarred as potential "domestic terrorists"), do when the criminals have the armed forces and law enforcement in their back pockets? They also have the courts. Hell, they control all the institutions that might be used to stop the con game. How does one begin to reform such a monster when the monster itself controls all the avenues of reform? States Rights and secession, anyone . . . ?
Just a little something to ponder on this day after Independence Day. Live well. . .
Saturday, July 4, 2009
Secession, or, more bluntly, independence from DC, is a growing movement in America.
I wonder how many folks celebrating this holiday really understand what it means? Let's hope that number is growing larger with each passing hour. We may not have much time to act to restore our liberty and prosperity.
Today, my family and I will raise a toast to Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, George Washington, and a whole generation of men who were willing to pledge their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor so their descendants could live free. I hope you'll do the same. Live well . . .
Thursday, July 2, 2009
I can't decide if the US is becoming fascist or socialist--maybe a little of both? I do know this, however: it's time that reasonable people think about secession and independence. It may be the only sane course. Let DC and its corrupt allies stew in their own juices. The rest of us can do better on our own.
Question for the day: How much gold is there in Fort Knox?
Quote for the day: "That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."--Thomas Jefferson, The Declaration of Independence (1776).
Thought for the day: The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; the fear of death is the beginning of slavery.
Live well . . .
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Message to Congress: Call the bastard's bluff!
See full story here: http://www.prisonplanet.com/bernanke-threatens-economic-collapse-if-fed-audited.html
Live well . . .
The Gangster regime (otherwise known as the American Empire) sees its subjects as three things: taxpayers, consumers, and cannon fodder. To legally oppose this regime, you can logically do three things: (1) reduce your tax liability; (2) reduce your consumption of consumer goods; and (3) keep yourself and your loved ones out of the US military.
Numbers 1 and 2 center on your dollars and how you decide to use them. Seeing that the dollar has lost about 90% of its value in the last 40 years, it does not take a Ph.D. in finance to understand that holding dollars makes no sense. But rushing out and spending them indiscriminately only props up the consumer economy and the vampire businesses that profit from such an economy. What to do? Consider bartering with friends and neighbors. Of course, to be lawful about it you must report the transaction to the tax authorities; however, I'd bet that most people don't. Buy needed goods at yard sales and flea markets. That way, you help your neighbors by keeping money in the community and cutting big business out of the equation. Buy things that last. We live in a throw-away society. Refuse as much as possible to be a part of such wastefulness.
Trade those depreciating dollars for gold, silver, tools, guns and ammo, non-hybrid seeds, land, and other goods that will get you through hard times. Cut your consumer spending down to the bone--only buy those things absolutely necessary for day-to-day living and survival. This also cuts your tax liability in two ways: (1) sales taxes are not paid on items you don't purchase; and (2) you need to earn fewer dollars to make it, thus reducing your income tax obligations. Financially strangling bad government and predatory businesses is a positive activity.
If we use the power at hand--the decision about how we employ our dollars--we perhaps can force the Gangsters to come clean. Remember, consumer spending is about 70% of the economy. We--the consumers--have direct power over this part of the economy. Let's use it for our benefit and not our oppressors. Live well . . .
Thursday, June 25, 2009
A question: what does the average American do to protect his livelihood and life itself from the gangsters who are running our political, economic, and financial systems? If you look closely at what has happened over the past decade or so, you will see that we've become a Third World banana republic (and I use the term "republic" as it was used in, say, the old USSR). The American people have been and are still being robbed in broad daylight by the Elite Insiders who pump up and then deflate one bubble after another. They win and the little guy loses. And it's all sanctioned and protected by DC. The next bubble? Cap-and-trade. You can bet that the Insiders have already positioned themselves to screw us in this multi-trillion dollar scam over the next few years. Bank on it.
As I've said before, these criminals are not going to stop until we make them. Withdraw your consent from this corrupt regime (Democrat and Republican), get your assets out of their grasp (i.e. turn your money into tangible, usable things that will assure your survival), and prepare to tell them to go to hell when they come around trying to loot you (0r worse) in person.
John C. Calhoun, the greatest American political philosopher, once said that "only power can check power." He was right. Gangsters and criminals in high places understand only one thing--power. We have the numbers if we have the will to use them. As Charlie Daniels once said: "There's more of us [rednecks] than there are of them." Get up off your sofa and get busy. Your liberty and prosperity are at stake. Live well . . .
Monday, June 22, 2009
Are they telling us the truth? I don't think so. Is it because they are trying to fleece us or is it because they simply don't know what's going on? In other words, are they knaves or fools? I suspect the former. Does it really take a balding Fed Chairman to understand that printing trillions of dollars will eventually cause terrible inflation? Does it take a baby-faced, curly-haired Secretary of the Treasury to see that, despite "quantitative easing" (printing money to buy our own Treasury debt) there is a growing liquidity shortage and virtually no new economic activity? Can only The Terminator himself know that California--the sixth largest economy on earth--is on the verge of bankruptcy (and there's not Chapter 9 or 11 for States)? I could go on, but you get the general idea. If you and I can see these things why can't the "experts?"
On the one hand, if I am wrong and these people are merely fools, they should be immediately replaced in their positions of responsibility by adults (and then given a good spanking and sent off to bed without any champagne and caviar). Then perhaps we could at least begin to find a commonsense way out of this mess. If, on the other, they are knaves guilty of starting and managing this crisis for their own power, ambition, and wealth, they should be treated as common criminals.
Let me state my opinion plainly--the US government and its allies in banking and big business constitute an organized criminal enterprise that has pulled off the biggest con job in the history of the world. And they're still at it.
But the real culprits in this sorry episode will be us--We the People--if we let them continue unopposed with the swindle. The American ruling elite will stop their looting only when we make them stop and not a second before. Remember, they work for us and not we for them. Constitutionally speaking, we, the citizens of the separate and sovereign States, are the Master and the general (or federal) government is the Servant. Somehow, things have gotten reversed. It's time to turn things back right-side up. In other words, we need a true revolution to put the Master--We the People--back in our constitutionally-mandated place on top. If that doesn't happen soon, the Republic is lost (perhaps it already is). Don't let the knaves and fools in DC and on Wall Street destroy every shred of our dearly-won liberty and prosperity. Act like a free man or woman. Your ancestors did. Time may be short, so don't delay in doing your duty to yourself, your family, and future generations.
Oh, I forgot one other solution--secession and independence from DC. Let them loot and plunder each other while we start over. Live well . . .
Sunday, June 21, 2009
Andrew Nelson Lytle, one of the Twelve Southerners who contributed to ITMS, admonished his fellow Southerners in 1930 to “Throw out the radio and take down the fiddle down from the wall.” I now live in a place that, though perhaps unwittingly, has taken Lytle’s sage advice for some four decades. The Shoals, a four-city area (pop. 63,000) in northwest Alabama, is comprised of Florence (on the north bank of the Tennessee River) and Sheffield, Tuscumbia, and Muscle Shoals (on the south bank). It is a largely white but poor region set in a naturally beautiful river valley bordered on the south by a range of hills and mountains along the Tennessee River Divide. Since NAFTA, the area has lost some 5,000 textile jobs and the economic prospects of the Shoals are not favorable. Life has always been tough here for the Scots-Irish and others who settled afterwards because of poor soil and rugged terrain. But the hard conditions have produced a character in the people that spills out into their music. It is rough, passionate, sweet as honey, sharp as vinegar. It can knock you down like a set of brass knuckles at a country juke joint. But it can lift you up again like a choir of heavenly angels. Like the South, it is its own contradiction
I’m sure that when Mr. Lytle admonished his readers to “take down the fiddle” and make their own music, he didn’t exactly have in mind the types of music—soul and R&B, rock and blues (in addition to bluegrass, country, and gospel)—that has come out of the Shoals. But those musical genres, like the traditional music of Lytle’s South in the 1920s-1940s, come out of the folk traditions of the rural parts of Dixie. It is not the vapid, deracinated product that comes out of Los Angeles, New York, and even Nashville today; rather, it is the story of real people—written, sung, and played by real people—set in song.
Having grown up in this rich and fertile musical setting in the 1950s and 1960s, I couldn’t wait to get back here after some thirty years in exile. Upon my return in the spring of 2003, I began to establish (and in some cases, re-establish) contact with the folks in the Shoals music community. My first contact was with famed Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section bass player David Hood. Hood, along with guitarist Jimmy Johnson, drummer Roger Hawkins, and keyboardist Barry Beckett, were immortalized as “the Swampers” in Lynyrd Skynyrd’s anthem “Sweet Home Alabama” in the 1970s. Hood also is chairman of the Muscle Shoals Music Association (MSMA) and currently plays bass with The Decoys, a local five-piece group that I will discuss a bit later.
Anyhow, my contact with Hood and the MSMA gave me an opening into the Shoals still vibrant and vital music scene. Though things have certainly changed since the mega-hit days of the 1960s and early 1970s when the likes of Aretha Franklin, Percy Sledge, Wilson Pickett, Bob Dylan, and the Rolling Stones could be seen on Jackson Highway and Avalon Street, there is still something truly special about the place and its music.
Understand this. Though there are many “stars” in the musical constellation hereabouts, this ain’t Hollywood or New York City. In other words, these folks are approachable and often quite humble, considering many of them are recognized worldwide by name (if not by face) as the creators of something known and revered as the “Muscle Shoals Sound.” I’m sure that a young Van Morrison, way over in Ireland, would have swam the ocean to have been in the Shoals in 1965 instead of only listening in on European radio to the soul and R&B hits coming out of northwest Alabama.
A particular event held a few years back in the Shoals will illustrate my point that the music makers here see themselves as merely kinfolk and friends and not as some type of rock & roll royalty. A local bar in Florence hosted a Hurricane Katrina relief jam on a Sunday afternoon and evening in mid-September 2005. As I got out of my car in the overflowing parking lot, the first person I saw was Spooner Oldham (since inducted as a sideman into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame), the legendary songwriter and keyboardist. Growing up in Center Star, Alabama, about six miles from where I live at present, Spooner collaborated with Dan Penn (Pennington, of the Pennington clan of Lamar Co., Alabama, which makes him my distant cousin) on such soul classics as “I’m Your Puppet,” and “Out Of Left Field.” I told you all this stuff was close and personal.
Upon entering the crowded bar, I literally ran into Scott Boyer, lead singer and guitarist for The Decoys. They were scheduled to play a set that afternoon. Scott had founded a Southern rock band back in the 1970s called Cowboy, toured and recorded with Gregg Allman, and penned a hit song for Eric Clapton called “Please Be With Me.” To describe The Decoys as merely a “local band” is to give the impression that they are small time. But everyone and every band must be from somewhere. This reminds me of when I was at the Atlanta Pop Festival in July 1970 and explained to a fellow sitting next to me from New Mexico that the group taking the stage was a “local band” from nearby Macon—the Allman Brothers Band. He was amazed that a bunch of local boys could be so good!
So, The Decoys, too, are a local band from the Shoals. Besides Scott Boyer and David Hood, the band lines up with Kelvin Holley on lead guitar (the Little Richard Band, Bobby “Blue” Bland, and The Amazing Rhythm Aces)—one of the most incredible players I’ve ever seen live; N. C. Thurmond on keys (Percy Sledge, Gregg Allman, and Hank Williams, Jr.), and Mike Dillon on drums. On this particular day, The Decoys played a crisp 45-minute set of both originals and covers and then backed acclaimed Shoals performer Donnie Fritts on some of his tunes. Besides being a terrific songwriter for the likes of Ray Charles, Charlie Rich, Waylon Jennings, Jerry Lee Lewis, Dolly Parton, and The Box Tops and one of the original movers and shakers in the Shoals music scene (along with Rick Hall of FAME studios, Billy Sherrill, Norbert Putnam, Arthur Alexander, Jerry Carrigan, David Briggs, and Dan Penn), Fritts co-starred in several 1970s-era Sam Peckinpah movies, including a role (along with buddy Kris Kristofferson) as a motorcycle tough in the cult classic, “Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia.”
Fritts, who stood and talked with Wayne Counts (of The Midnighters, and the damn best slide guitar player in town) and me before taking stage with The Decoys, held forth on just how real and natural it was playing in such a venue and mixing with his friends, fans, and fellow musicians in such an informal manner.
The Shoals area has many events each year that bring the local musicians into close contact with their fans and friends. The world-renowned W. C. Handy Blues Festival is an annual weeklong celebration of north Alabama’s rich musical heritage. Over the past several summers I have had the pleasure of seeing (and occasionally being allowed to play with) some of the talented performers who grace the many stages throughout the area. One of the most loved and admired local bands is The Midnighters, a sextet that includes brothers Wayne (guitar) and James Counts (drums). Their business, Counts Brothers Music, is one of the favorite hangouts for local players in the Shoals. On a typical day, there is no telling who you will see strolling into the place from the local music scene or from out of town. The Midnighters have been around now for nearly twenty years and play some of the best down home soul and funky blues you’d ever want to hear. Not only do the Counts Brothers hit the note at the local nightspots but their store provides a crucial hub for musicians to meet and to acquire the goods and services to keep them playing. And by the way, all the fellows who work there are great players themselves, especially bassist extraordinaire Terry Richardson. Feel like playing? Just walk in and someone will surely oblige you.
The tight-knit Shoals music community benefits greatly from places like Counts Brothers Music in Muscle Shoals and Max’s Music in Sheffield. The latter, owned and operated by local music legend Max Russell, is a Mecca for impromptu late night jams and recording sessions by some of the Shoals best pickers, including famed California transplant bass player and vocalist Tom “Pizza” Hillmeyer. The jams that happen at Max’s and other venues best illustrate what Mr. Lytle meant when he advised Southerners to eschew “canned” entertainment and to make their own.
The creative genius of true “folk” music, as opposed to the antiseptic forms of popular music such as pop, hip-hop, rap, and heavy metal, among others, has always been found in the musicians’ ability to work improvisations off of a skeletal framework. While some musicians make a career by recording three-minute songs in the studio and then duplicating them note for note night after night in live performances, this formula does not allow for the spark of creative genius that gave us, say, a Duane Allman. Allman, the founder and leader of the Allman Brothers Band from 1969 to his untimely death in October 1971, was known for his brilliant, highly original extended guitar solos. Along with Jimi Hendrix, Allman was unquestionably one of the two most original electric guitarists of the period.
What Allman, following the path blazed by jazz impresarios such as Miles Davis and John Coltrane, did for “rock” music can still be seen (or rather heard) in the many late-night jam sessions in towns like the Shoals, Memphis, Macon, and countless other places where the music communities pay homage to the old forms and structures of blues, jazz, R&B, and soul. On any given night hereabouts, one can find several jams open to anyone who can play. There is no pretence, no professional jealously, no egotism. Rather, there is a celebration of the good music that permeates this place like hickory smoke does good pork barbecue. Hell, you might even find yourself jamming with Bobby Whitlock, keyboardist for Derek and the Dominos and co-author of the classic rock anthem “Layla.”
The Shoals is but one small point on the map in today’s burgeoning worldwide music scene. And though the glory days of the 1960s and 1970s are well behind her now, this northwestern corner of Alabama still has some magic left, at least on certain warm, humid nights when the cicadas find themselves competing with the sweet notes of a blues guitar and vocals so deep and soulful that you’d swear that they were oozing up from the mud of the Tennessee River. People here may not be familiar with Mr. Lytle’s words, but you can bet they know the music. Live well . . .
Friday, June 19, 2009
The three basic needs are, of course, food and water, clothing, and shelter. Be sure to store away at least a three-month supply of non-perishable food items such as rice, dried beans, pasta, grits, flour and cornmeal, canned meats, fruits, and vegetables (rotate your supply of these items), salt, sugar, coffee, lard, etc. Don’t forget to store up a supply of non-hybrid seeds for planting a garden. You might want to plant some fruit trees, bushes, vines, and canes as well. Also, you might consider some sort of camp stove and fuel or a grill and a good supply of charcoal for cooking. If you have a well or spring you are pretty much set for drinking water. Be sure to make provision for getting water from your well minus an electric pumping system, however. If you don’t have a well or spring, I suggest you store up some bottled water for the short term; however, for a longer duration you might consider getting a high quality water purification system such as those used by missionaries and others who regularly travel to Third World countries. These things will make muddy water drinkable in short time and have the capacity to handle several thousand gallons of water before a filter change is necessary.
Make sure you have a good supply of sturdy clothing (including boots, shoes, and plenty of laces) for all weather conditions and seasons. When hard times come, you’ll most likely be spending a good deal of time out of doors. Also, make provision to mend items you will not be able to replace. Fashion will be out and practicality will be in.
As for shelter, the first thing you should do is pay off your mortgage and own your home and some land (even if it’s just a half an acre on which you can plant a garden or have a few chickens) free and clear. Make sure you do needed repairs before the trouble begins. Remember, too, that if the power goes there will be no air conditioning and that most modern houses are not constructed to deal with the Southern summer heat minus AC. It can get miserable in a hurry. As for heating, don’t count on a ready supply of natural gas. Rather, you will need to have access to a steady supply of wood for fireplace or wood stove or heater. That means stockpiling several cords or having the implements to cut your own. If possible, you might be able to have on hand enough gasoline and oil to power a chain saw for a while; however, don’t neglect those old fashioned axes and crosscut saws.
A few closing thoughts. . . . First, get yourself in decent physical shape and get off any unnecessary medications. The foundation for sound health is eating good, natural food. Change your eating habits, if necessary. Second, buy a gun and lots of ammo (.223 or .308 caliber is the most common for long arms and 9mm, .357 or .45 for side arms) and learn to shoot and defend yourself and your family. Be sure to abide by your State’s gun laws. Third, begin forming local communities. If you live in the heart of a big city or even the suburbs, consider getting out to a small town or rural area, preferably an area in which you know someone already living there. You don’t want to be “behind enemy lines” when the trouble starts. Fourth, get out of debt as soon as possible. The debtor is a slave to the lender.
Live well . . .
Thursday, June 18, 2009
For an aspiring eighteen-year-old guitar player
The first day of music was truly an inspiration—Hendrix, B. B. King, Ten Years After, Mountain, Procol Harem, Spirit, Bob Segar, and a local group from nearby Macon, the Allman Brothers Band. Looking forward to another dose of rock & roll and blues on Saturday, I had no idea of what was in store. My buddy and I made our way in the general direction of the performance area. On the north edge of the huge pecan grove that bordered the raceway we stopped to check out the wares displayed on the numerous vendor tables. Suddenly, and to my great astonishment, there before my eyes were the six members of the Allman Brothers Band. They had put on a tremendous show the previous afternoon and were not scheduled to play again until Sunday evening.
Gregg, Dickie, Butch, and Jaimoe were browsing at the vendor booths as Duane and
Muscle Shoals was the music
My encounter with the man I considered as rock’s premier guitarist in the summer of 1970 struck me simultaneously with delight and trepidation. I surely was not going to miss the chance to say hello, shake his hand, and tell him how much I admired his craft. The hundreds of other folks milling around in our immediate area either did not recognize Duane & Company or simply were not awed by their presence. Gathering my nerve, I approached him and
The things I took away from my conversation with Duane Allman spurred me to an appreciation and enjoyment of popular music that has not waned over past thirty odd years. Three distinct points come to mind: 1) Don’t be afraid to take chances with your music. Improvisation, working off a skeletal framework, is how you learn to “hit the note.” 2) There is something to learn from every guitar player with whom you play. Jam whenever you have the opportunity. Never miss the chance to learn from another player, and, when possible, play with those who are better than you. And 3) no matter how good you get, there is always somebody out there who is better than you. Some of the best musicians will labor in relative obscurity for their entire careers. Playing music is not a competition; rather, it is about reaching your own potential and giving pleasure to your audience. Duane’s final words to me on that occasion were “Keep on playin’ everyday, man, and you’ll find those sweet notes that’ll make it all worthwhile.”
Though Duane Allman was born in
But perhaps more significantly than all the tracks he laid down in
Perhaps we Southerners have taken this blessing for granted. When you live amidst something special it sometimes tends to become commonplace. From time to time we need to be reminded of just what a rich musical—and overall cultural—heritage we possess in the South. When life gets heavy and begins to weigh us down, all we have to do is open our ears and listen. There is much joy and familiarity there. This wonderful music, and those who continue to make it, is readily accessible. These folks who sing and play it are not the unreachables of rock royalty. They are our family members, friends, and neighbors who came up just like the rest of us. That makes our Southern musical heritage, be it Rock & Roll, R&B and Soul, Blues, or Country and
In these days of financial, economic, and political turmoil we often forget those things that make life worth living. We tend to worry too much about things way beyond our control. Consequently, life becomes a burden rather than a joy. This is not to say that we ought not be concerned about things going on around us--we certainly should. But the way we choose to react can make the difference between a life of misery versus one of happiness and contentment.
THE PROBLEM WITH MONEY
The Bible tells us that the love of money is the root of all evil. I believe this with all my mind and heart. It is idolatry, pure and simple. But money itself, at least the modern manifestation of it in federal reserve notes ($FR), can be a great evil. Let's look at it this way. He who creates the money owns not only the money but also those who use it. In our system, it is fiat money, which means that it is "money" because the government says it is. And if you choose to participate in the economy you doubtless will have to use it. When we use the American Empire's money, we give power to those who created the money.
But there is more. We also give great power to those who are in positions to manipulate the money through laws and arcane mathematical machinations (lying about asset values, cooking the books, setting interest rates, etc.) These are people who have never had any dirt under their fingernails, and thus have never produced anything really usable for anyone's benefit. You know the type. But under cover of all this abstraction, they deal out more misery than a marauding army. The proof? In the past year, everything denominated in $FR has lost about one-third of its value. By the end of 2009, its likely to be much worse.
How do you live well under these dire circumstances? First of all, make a determined effort to exchange those depreciating $FRs for things that are actually useful to you. The longer you wait, the less you are likely to receive in real value for your paper. But once you understand that money--$FR--has little to do with real wealth and happiness, then you can quit worrying about the rat race and the accumulation of something that actually enslaves you. Remember, he who creates the money controls those who use it.
OVERCOMING THE PROBLEM OF MONEY (AND ALL ELSE)
So stop worrying about someone else's money and get busy living well. And how, you might ask, can I do that? No matter how threatening the future looks, I recommend the following: (1) Quit running yourself ragged. Slow down, get plenty of rest, and enjoy the simple things around you. (2) Don't live your life by the punch-clock. Modern industrial and post-industrial society demands that our work be separated from our real lives. That's not how our ancestors lived in a much simpler time. Don't consent to be a rat in this race. Life and work should be one seamless endeavor, and they both should be pleasurable (note: I did not say "easy"). (3) Be flexible. If you are the sort who has to do everything from a pre-arranged list, then you will miss opportunities to enjoy life. I'm not saying to avoid making any plans at all; rather, I am urging you to be willing (and able) to move in a different direction at the spur of the moment. (4) Avoid the "herd mentality" that ensnares most of society. There are unscrupulous people out there who make their livings by giving you false information which, unfortunately, becomes the "conventional wisdom" of the day. Learn to think for yourself and take the consequences. Life is no fun when you are a mental robot. And finally, (5) be happy in spite of all the bad stuff going on around you. Smile and be thankful for the blessings you do have (and they likely are many). Also, draw unto yourself other happy people, while avoiding those who are always glum and pessimistic. Life is too short to frown.
Thanks for reading my first post. Now, I'm off to listen to some Led Zeppelin and cook a couple of range-fed, hormone-free ribeye steaks on the grill. Live well . . .