Jan 232012

Lee Briante of The Far West talks about the importance of having video and internet media available for today’s audience; how it made him feel to move to Los Angeles; and how recording in an American Legion hall brought their debut self-titled CD to life.

The Far West Promo Pic

The Far West

TPR#72 Lee Briante from The Far West – Interview and Music (MP3)

Show Notes:

Recap of Lee Briante Interview

Lee Briante talks about how no one from the band is from Los Angeles. Everyine moved there from somewhere else. Everyone in the band is an experienced musician from other projects but this is the first CD issued from The Far West.

Lee Briante says some songs on the CD are written by him and some are written by the bass man Robert Black. Lee walks through the CD’s original line up and the band’s current line up.

Lee Briante introduces “Bitter, Drunk, and Cold,” saying it described how he felt when he first go to LA and had to deal with being alone at first.

[plays “Bitter, Drunk, and Cold”]

Lee Briante talks about how that song has a little bit of a Bakersfield sound to it.

Lee Briante talks about the documentary that was made while the band was recording the CD. They had been playing many of their gigs ate a local American Legion hall and he felt like many of the songs came alive in that hall. The American Legion Hall was a visually interesting place so they decided to have a documentary made of the recording. Lee works in video production and they knew the camera man, so they were comfortable with him being there. Lee says these days you have to have a whole collection of media to keep people interested.

Lee Briante introduces the song, “Bound To Lose.” He describes it as a moving song. It’s about packing up your duffle bag and heading out and not being sure where you’ll end up.

[plays “Bound To Lose”]

Lee Briante talks about how the band tried playing “Bound To Lose” a couple of different ways before they settled on the sound. He says that at first they were trying a more bluegrass approach to the song. But when Robert Black switched to electric bass, the song came together better. But they wanted to keep the banjo bits because it gave the song a rolling moving feel. Lee says he likes how the song has a road vibe to it.

Lee Briante describes Dylan, Townes Van Zandt, and John Prine as song writing influences. He talks about “St. James Infirmary” being the first song he ever played in public.

lee Briante talks about hos there is a definite alt.country/americana scene in L.A. and there is a core set of bands that play  together once or twice a week.

Lee Briante introduces “I’ll Never Drink Again.” He says he’s trying to boil things down and keep it simple. In this song he limits it to girls names, drinks, and promises that can never be kept.

[Plays “I’ll Never Drink Again”]

Lee Briante notes that the band is getting ready to play South By Southwest and is working on putting together some more theatrical, staged videos.

Lee Briante advises independent artists to treat their music like a small business. He says an internet presence is crucial but there are so many online services for managing a band it’s hard to keep up with them all.

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The Taproot Radio Podcast is copyright 2011 by Taproot Media. The music and interviews in this episode are used with permission of the artists. The Taproot Theme music is called “Meltdown Man” by Derek K. Miller of Penmachine.com. The episode as a whole is copyright 2011 by Taproot Media.


If you have any feedback for this episode or any other episode, please send mail to feedback@taprootradio.com.


TPR#71 John Lilly – Interview and Music

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Jan 162012

John Lilly talks about meeting Bill Kirchen and Bill’s help on his most recent CD, Cold Comfort; how he funded the CD by winning a songwriting contest; working at the Country Music Hall of Fame and getting to visit “the cathedral of Country Music”; his yearly Hank Williams Tribute show; and introduces us to three songs on his Cold Comfort CD.

John Lilly

John Lilly

 TPR#71 John Lilly – Interview and Music (MP3)


Jack Benny PSA on the importance of racial and religious tolerance.

Show Notes

John Lilly Interview Recap

John Lilly talks about Cold Comfort, his most recent release, which debuted at the top of the Freeform American Roots Chart. He talks about how the technical production and the fullness of the sound came together and the musicianship of everyone on the CD.

John Lilly talks about Bill Kirchen playing on the CD. He tells the story about how he met Bill Kirchen at a party in the Washington DC area in 2002. So John Lilly introduced him self and talked about how much he liked the Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen era of his music Bill Kirchen invited him to get guitars out and started playing music right away. They’ve been friends for a long time and Bill Kirchen helped him line up the producer and some of he musicians on the CD.

John Lilly introduces “Come and Go,” the track that finance a big part of the CD. He entered a songwriting contest that was being sponsored by Midas Muffler and Spin Magazine. They were looking for the “Next Great Road Song.” So John wrote a travel song. It was an online voting thing. He had to pester all his friends and family and Facebook Friends to vote. He sent out press releases to media outlets to try to get it to be a statewide pride issues and on the last day of voting he surged from #4 to #1 and won it. The prize money helped finance the rest of the CD.

John Lilly talks about his gig as a tour guide at the Country Music Hall of Fame. He says it taught him how to talk and walk backwards. He said it was interesting and tedious. He says it was kind of like a Country Music College. The first two weeks they let him do nothing but listen to music. And John Lilly is interested in early country music. John Lilly described it as “the cathedral of country music.”  He was amazed that he could listen to music from his some of his favorites like Molly O’Day, Skeeter Davis, and Jimmy Work.

John Lilly said the most interesting thing he learned while working at the Country Music Hall Of Fame was that Nashville wasn’t always the center of country music. It was a deliberate decision to consolidate the country music industry together so they could pool their resources and stand up to the increasing popularity of rock and pop music. So consolidating in Nashville enabled them to have radio conventions and fan gatherings etc to build it back up. The “Nashville Sound” was part of that to keep country music viable.

John Lilly told a story about giving a tour to a group of fourth graders and Tammy Wynette was one on the chaperons. So he enjoyed getting to ask Tammy about some of the memorabilia. He also got meet people like Kitty Wells, Bill Monroe, and Harold Bradley.

John Lilly introduces the title track, “Cold Comfort.”  His co-producer, Tommy Detamore. He lined up the musicians. This cut was recorded  Detamore’s studio in Forestville Texas. He knew all the best Texas honky tonk musicians. John told Tommy he wanted to recreate “that Ray Price shuffle” and he knew exactly how to put that together.

John Lilly talked about the harmony on “Cold Comfort” and how they had to tune it to A-flat. He talks about the relaxed aching quality of the vocals for that style of music. It’s not tense like bluegrass. There’s a ringing sound in the formation of vowels.

John Lilly talks about his Hank Williams tribute concert that he does in West Virginia every year. Hank Williams was found dead in Oak Hill West Virginia on New Years day. John Lilly’s day job is editor os the state’s history and folk life magazine, called Goldenseal. They did a big report on Hank Williams’ death because a lot of the people who were involved in reporting and investigating his death were still alive and in the area. (You can parts of the article in the Winter 2002 issue of Goldenseal.) John’s friend Rob McNurlin started to do a Hank Williams tribute in one of the small towns in West Virginia. It turned into an annual event that grows every year. This year it’s on January 7th in Charleston West Virginia at the Clay Center for the performing arts.  (See John Lilly’s tour calendar for details.)

John Lilly introduces “Somewhere In Texas,” It’s a guitar and vocal CD. He slept in Detamore’s recording studio the last night of the recording. And Detamore had to slam the door because it had been raining and the door had swollen. That door slam triggered the opening line of the song.

John Lilly talks about working as an independent artist. He says that on each CD he does try to go through the motions of pitching it to labels, but they always decline. And then he puts it out independently and has success with them. He says working independently enables him to make a lot more money per CD sale than  he would with a label. He also talks about how working independently enables him to pick the musicians he wants to work with.

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The Taproot Radio Podcast is copyright 2011 by Taproot Media. The music and interviews in this episode are used with permission of the artists. The Taproot Theme music is called “Meltdown Man” by Derek K. Miller of Penmachine.com. The episode as a whole is copyright 2011 by Taproot Media.


If you have any feedback for this episode or any other episode, please send mail to feedback@taprootradio.com.

Jan 092012

Lydia Loveless talks about how much she enjoyed going into the sound booth to “scream until I almost passed out” when recording her CD, Indestructible Machine; her admiration for the songwriting of Sunny Sweeney and the guitar work of James Wilsey; her advice to aspiring artists; and why punk rock wasn’t a rebellion for her.

Lydia Loveless Promo Pic

Lydia Loveless

TPR#70 Lydia Loveless Interview and Music (MP3)

Show Notes

Recap of Interview with Lydia Loveless

Lydia Loveless talked about writing the songs for her latest release, Indestructible Machine. Some of the songs were written before she signed with Bloodshot. She says that her songwriting didn’t change much after signing with Bloodshot but maybe she edited her swearing a little once she knew she was going to be on Bloodshot and might have some chance of radio airplay.

Lydia Loveless talked about how going into the studio was much more enjoyable this time because she got to pick her own band that she felt good about. She was able to go into the sound booth and “scream until I almost passed out,” which was a lot more fun then doing an over produced CD.

Lydia Loveless introduced “Bad Way To Go”. It was written at an event called Rock Pot Luck, which where this guy in Columbus gets about 40 musicians and puts them together into about 8 bands. Each band has to do two originals and one cover. Bad Way To Go is one she wrote at that event.

Band Lineup Ben Lamb on bass, Parker Chandler on Drums, and Todd May on guitar.

Lydia Loveless talked about how she looks up to Sunny Sweeney. Lydia feels like Sunny she writes very honestly about topics many people would not be comfortable writing about.

Lydia Loveless also talked about how she likes the guitar work of James Wilsey. He is most famous for the guitar work on Chris Isaac’s “Wicked Game.” She likes the surf guitar sound of his and she says’ she’d like to snag him for her next album because she’s like to may a “Chris Isaacy deserty kind of album.”

Lydia introduced “More Like Them,” which she says is “your average break up song.”

Lydia Loveless says she grew up in the country on a farm. She said you had to be creative and entertain yourself out there and singing is one of the things you could do. She says she didn’t start playing music for years and at first she’d fantasize about singing in front of millions of people, singing songs she had not written yet.”

Lydia Loveless said the first punk album she heard was London Calling by The Clash. She says that her mom used to play it every time they got in the car. So for here punkl rock wasn’t about rebelling.

Lydia Loveless introduced the song “Learn To Say No.” This is the song that has the “indestructible machine” line in it. This song is about the social anxiety that has plagued her her whole life. It’s about a time where she was having trouble making herself leave the house and join society.

Lydia Loveless said the tough part of live shows is not being on stage, but waiting to go on stage. She said that her recent show in Chicago made her feel like she had broken into the scene. She talked about how she’s looking forward to touring with her label-mate, Scott H. Biram.

Lydia Loveless says that her advice to aspiring artists is to stay focused on the creative stuff. Hire a good manager to deal with the business stuff for you and stay focused on being creative.

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The Taproot Radio Podcast is copyright 2011 by Taproot Media. The music and interviews in this episode are used with permission of the artists. The Taproot Theme music is called “Meltdown Man” by Derek K. Miller of Penmachine.com. The episode as a whole is copyright 2011 by Taproot Media.


If you have any feedback for this episode or any other episode, please send mail to feedback@taprootradio.com.



Jan 022012

Cam Penner talks about his motivation for writing songs when he was younger, his roadtrip across North America, getting stopped by the police, his time with Jesus People USA, and how he set up the recording of his latest CD, Gypsy Summer.

Cam Penner Promo Pic

Cam Penner

TPR#69 Cam Penner – Interview and Music (MP3)


Show Notes

Recap of Interview with Cam Penner

Cam Penner talks about how his latest CD, Gypsy Summer, came together. He says they came together over the past spring an summer. His sweetheart was playing a lot of Al Green and MoTown. Between that and lots of tequila and 8 hours a day in the studio he came up with the music. Back and forth between listening to the music and making his own.

Cam Penner introduces “Driftwood.” This is the first track he wrote for the CD.
Cam Penner talks about growing up in a small Mennonite town in Manitoba. It was a very religious environment. No music except family singing gospel songs.

Cam Penner talks about how he got into writing songs. He wrote songs playing acoustic guitar, writing songs, to be interesting to women when he was around 16 or 17

Cam Penner spent a year traveling North America. He and is girlfriend took a road trip in a van. Left in January in Canada. Traveled from Calgary To Quebec, to New Orleans, To San Diego. The cold was a challenge but they loved it. They learned how to be self-sufficient. He says they stayed at Opryland’s parking lot. They went down to the lower 9th ward in New Orleans. They went to Chicago and many other places.

Cam Penner says his music comes across as “I, I”, but really he sees his music as an expression of the people he’s meant.

Cam Penner introduces “Ghost Car”. He talks about how they got stopped by the cops and were afraid they’d get searched. After that he immeidately wrote Ghost Car.

Cam Penner joined a commune called Jesus People USA.  Worked at homeless shelters there to help the commune. He imersed himself in helping the homeless. While he was there, he heard lots of raw stories. Cam says you can hang out with the ultra rich or ultra poor. Cam Penner did that from 18-31 and then took all that knowledge from working with the homeless when he chose to spend a year on the road. Gypsy Summer CD speaks to that simple life.

Cam Penner introduces, “Hey My My My,” he likes the lush background strings

Cam Penner talks about self-producing the CD. He discusses how he does his own tour bookings. Cam talks about renting a ranch house in southern Alberta so far out  there was no cell phone reception. He hired some musicians and had just a one day rehearsal before they started recording. Cam talks about this being a cohesive album.

Cam Penner talks about his recent tour to Ireland, UK, Netherlands, and Germany. He enjoys the fact that audiences are quieter and pay more attention to his music and what he has to say.

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The Taproot Radio Podcast is copyright 2011 by Taproot Media. The music and interviews in this episode are used with permission of the artists. The Taproot Theme music is called “Meltdown Man” by Derek K. Miller of Penmachine.com. The episode as a whole is copyright 2011 by Taproot Media.


If you have any feedback for this episode or any other episode, please send mail to feedback@taprootradio.com.


Dec 262011

Special audio show about the making of The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams. 13 singer/songwriters were given the opportunity to set lyrics from Hank Williams’ notebooks to music and perform them on the CD. On this show hosted by Alejandro Escovedo, we hear the artists such as Jack White, Rodney Crowell, and Alan Jackson talk about what it was like to “collaborate” with Hank Williams.

lost notebooks of hank williams cover

TPR#68 The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams – Radio Feature (MP3)


Show Notes

The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams on iTunes

Recap of The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams Radio Feature

Alejandro Escovedo introduces the show:
Hank Williams wrote a lot of songs he never got to record. He kept notebooks of lyrics and song ideas. When Hank Williams died in 1953, the notebooks were locked away for many years. Now 13 accomplished singers and songwriters have been given the chance to complete a Hank Williams song.

Patty Loveless performs “ Your Through Fooling Me.”

There are more tributes to hank than there are Hank Williams recordings. When he died he had only released a few dozen singles. His notebooks contained lyrics for 66 more songs.

Michael McColl is a writer at the Country Music Hall of Fame. He says the Hank Williams notebooks are treated like the lost scrolls and treated with reverence.

Bob Dylan performs “The Love That Faded.”

Mary Martin is a country music industry exec. She felt that every participant in this project must be a songwriter because Hank Williams wrote both lyrics and melodies.

Peggy Lamb is a music publisher says they made sure they protected Hank’s legacy by ensuring that the collaborators didn’t change the idea of the song. They know each of the artists and trusted them but they also put it on paper of the agreement.

Rodney Crowell found a snippet of a gospel that was reminiscent of Hanks gospel alter ego, Luke The Drifter. Rodney found a couplet in the Notebooks called I hope you shed a million tears. He wrote an old style Sunday morning recitation to go with it. He worked with Vince Gil who put it to a Hank Williams waltz. They got Williams’s original steel player Don Helms to play on the session. It was his last session before he died.

Alan Jackson talks about what a thrill it was to be listed as a Hank Williams’ collaborator. He talks about how some of them were cool lyrics but didn’t have the structure of a song. He chose one that had a good lyric structure already.

Alan Jackson performs “You’ve Been Lonesome Too.”


Hank Williams started playing early. Had his first show at 14 with band the Drifting Cowboys until most of them were drafted into World War II. Michael McColl talks about Hank Williams starting out in Montgomery Alabama and publishing his first song with Acuff Rose Publishing. That was the first publishing company in Nashville. A few years later his wife sent several songs to Acuff Rose. Fred Rose saw the songs and recognized the talent Hank Williams had. Fred Rose became a mentor for Hank Williams and the reason we have Hank Williams songs is because of Fred Rost.

“Lovesick Blues” by Hank Williams

Hank Williams had one of his first hits wiith “Lovesick Blues.” That got him an invitation to the Grand Old Opry. On his first performance he got six encores that night. The Grand Old Opry was made more famous by Hank Williams. They sort of had a symbiotic relationship formany years until 1953 when he was fired for habitual drunkenness.

“You’ll Never Again Be Mine” performed by Levon Helm.

Jack White says Hank Williams represents all that is good about country music. Jack White says Hank Williams almost seems alien because everything about him is all so unbelievable. His looks, his delivery, the stories you hear about him all seem so exaggerated. And Hank Williams had a tendency for exaggeration. His alcoholism was probably due to a rare spine condition that kept him in pain a lot.

Rodney Crowell says there was something very worldly about the simplicity of his deep Alabama message. He was a voice that a son of a sharecropper could relate too.
Hank Williams was the soundtrack to poor Southerners’ lives

“You’re Cheatin’ Heart” by Hank Williams

Alan Jackson says it’s hard to sit down and write like Hank Williams did. He kept it simple, which is tough to do. Rodney Crowell says Hank Williams invented the “Saturday Night Sinning, Sunday Morning Redemption” style of country music that fit the times.

“Sermon On The Mount” by Merle Haggard

Rodney Crowell says no one is more natural in their delivery, and that Hank’s delivery influenced Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan.

Colin Ascott wrote a biography of Hank Williams. He says that when Hank Williams was alive, there were several country singers that were much bigger than Hank Williams was, including Eddie Arnold and Red Foley. They were more popular because they wrote for people who didn’t like country music. They smoothed over their sound to make it more appealing. On the other hand, Hank Williams kept the edge in his sound and that’s why his sound is still popular today while the other guys’ music sounds so dated.

“How Many Times Have You Broken My Heart” by Norah Jones.

Hand Williams’ influence has spread far and wide. Jack White has produced both rock music and country, including albums for Wanda Jackson and Loretta Lynn. Jack White says that when he signed up for this project, he just wanted to be an antenna for Hank Williams. Didn’t want any of himself in the song. He played it first for Bob Dylan who told him that it sounded like it came straight out of the 50’s and that’s how Jack White knew it was done.

“You Know That I Know” by Jack White

Holly Williams is Hank Williams’ Granddaughter. She is reminded at how prolific Hank Was at 29 compared to herself and most artists. She found that playing her grandfather’s music took a lot more than learning the parts. He didn’t do any crazy minor chords, but wrote melodies.

“Blue Is My Heart” by Holly Williams

Hank Williams Jr. says “It would be like we found more Shakespeare.” He says you could imagine every one of Hank Williams lyrics.

“I’m So Happy That I Found You” by Lucinda Williams

Hank Williams Jr talks about when they took him to Hollywood to sign a movie contract. He wasn’t impressed by the movie stars he saw at the studios and he made some disparaging remarks about the owner of the studios and that was the end of the movie contract.

“Angel Mine” by Sheryl Crow

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The Taproot Radio Podcast is copyright 2011 by Taproot Media. The music and interviews in this episode are used with permission of the artists. The Taproot Theme music is called “Meltdown Man” by Derek K. Miller of Penmachine.com. The episode as a whole is copyright 2011 by Taproot Media.


If you have any feedback for this episode or any other episode, please send mail to feedback@taprootradio.com.

Dec 192011

Jonathan Harkham talks about trying to capture the textures of the southern California landscape and latino culture, listening to his mother’s country music while growing up in Los Angeles, and why he chose to cover “Green Green Grass of Home.”

Jonathan Harkham and PaladinoTPR#67 Jonathan Harkham from Paladino (MP3)


Show Notes

Recap of Interview with Jonathan Harkham

Jonathan Harkham talks about how he’s been writing songs for 15-20 years but has never been part of the “folk scene”.

Jonathan Harkham walks through Paladino’s line up. Chris Isom on guitar and back up vocals. He also writes songs. Adrienne Isom  plays guitar and sings. She was in art punk bands in the past. Annie Rothschild. Is also in the band. She grew up with a blues-centric upbringing. She plays stand up bass. Jon Rygiewicz plays drums. Jonathan had been playing country songs for a while and Chris and Adrienne told him they wanted to work on them with him. Then through friends of friends they pulled the rest of the band together. The do feel like a crazy family

Jonathan Harkham introduced first track from Paladino,  “Lonely Mountain.” Jonathan said it comes from some hard times when his best friend passed away and he went through a period of isolation.

We talk about Jonathan Harkham’s vocal style. Jonathan said it’s an honest way for him to sing. He’s been pushing himself to project more. But his style feels honest to him.

Jonathan Harkham writes the songs and then brings it to the band to work with them. The band fits music to it. Most of his songs come from a solitary place so he write alone currently and then brings it to the band.

Jonathan Harkham introduced “Mexacali Rainsong” from Paladino’s CD.  He wanted to say something about the textures of the landscape in southern California, the mountains, oceans, and deserts. The Latino presence also speaks to him. He’s interested in music / art that says something about the place where it is made.

Jonathan Harkham talks about growing up in the LA area. It’s home to him for most of his life. He got into folk and country. His mother always had it on the radio. Her favorite musician in the world was Johnny Cash. So it was “three chord craps” for them growing up. When he got to high school he had his punk rock phase.

Hank Thompson is one of his all time favorite inspirations, especially his early career. He thinks Thompson’s music is dark and powerful. Hank Williams and Johnny Cash are also big influences because they lived what they sang about. It’s not making a statement but it’s just about being yourself. He cites Porter Wagoner’s “Green Grass of Home.” and how they absolutely felt it he sang that song.

Jonathan Harkham approach “Green Grass of Home” on Paladino was based on his grandfather because it was his grandfather’s favorite song. Jonathan wanted to show his grandfather’s ghost that he could do it well.

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The Taproot Radio Podcast is copyright 2011 by Taproot Media. The music and interviews in this episode are used with permission of the artists. The Taproot Theme music is called “Meltdown Man” by Derek K. Miller of Penmachine.com. The episode as a whole is copyright 2011 by Taproot Media.


If you have any feedback for this episode or any other episode, please send mail to feedback@taprootradio.com.



Dec 122011

Ted Hefko talks about the extremely competitive music scene in NYC and how that’s a positive influence on artists, how Dylan’s early work was a huge inspiration for him, riding the Greyhound Bus to move to New Orleans when he was just out of high school, and learning to “fix his face.”

Ted HefkoTPR#66 Ted Hefko – Interview and Music (MP3)


Jack Benny PSA on the importance of racial and religious tolerance.

Show Notes:

Recap of Interview With Ted Hefko

Ted Hefko talks about moving to NYC in 2003 and putting out his first CD a few years later. But he spent his formative years in New Orleans and that’s always the center of his musical focus. Egyptland was specifically looking at New Orleans and its changes. This CD If I walked on water is a lot more playful.

Ted Hefko talks about how competitive NYC is and how that’s a good thing because it pushes you. New York is all about original music. It’s not background music. It’s on a stage to say “This is something I created.”

Ted Hefko introduces the title track, “If I Walked On Water”. It’s got a gypsy jazz flavor. Ted had to push himself on clarinet on this on. A playful song of courtship done in the language of the King James Bible, with Old Testament reference.

Ted Hefko talks about the band and how the CD is really a group effort. Trumpet player Satoru Ohashi. Was in New Orleans with Ted. He has a very positive spirit. The guitarist Luca Benedetti and he is not a straight ahead jazz guitarist. He does bluegrass also. He put out an instrumental telecaster CD And Ted wanted to pull something like that on to the CD to show him off some. Scott Ritchie great bass player in New York, “people sound a lot better when Scott’s around.” Moses Patrou plays drum and a little bit of piano. They went to grade school together. His dad is a singer of old time blues and Moses gets a lot from that. Guests: Billy Blend on  Hammond organ. Neil Thomas plays on accordion.

Ted Hefko talks about the name of his backup band, The Thousandaires. First heard the word on a Saturday Night Live skit “Who wants to marry a ten thousandaire.” so he took off from there. .

Ted Hefko talks about his neighborhood. Williamsburg at northern end of Brooklyn which has become a popular area for music with good paying gigs. They also like to play The Shrine in Harlem.

Ted Hefko introduced “You Gotta Take Steps If You Want To Get Started.”

Ted Hefko talks about his inspiration. When he was a kid we worked on songwriting. Then focused on sax for a while. Then he started back into songwriting. One of the first albums that got to him was Dylan’s Nashville Skyline. Ted also has a Dr. John influence. Howlin’ Wolf and Willie Dixon speaks to him. And of course Duke Ellington and the lyricists that worked him.

Ted Hefko starts with the lyrics and then lets them take him where they need to go musically and this time he was fitting the music into the band. But he doesn’t see himself as a strictly jazz guy. He does like the whole CD to fit together and not sound like individual songs

He introduces Greyhound Coach. He rode one at 18 when he moved to New Orleans. Spent the trip next to a call girl twice his age who explained to him the ins and outs of the business. Went to New Orleans with a foot locker of personal stuff, a sax and a couple of guitars. Ted says that New Orleans is very welcoming, everything smells moldy, but the thick air is also like a blanket.

I asked him if these hard economic times makes people more receptive to his feel good music. Ted said he tries to create a good value with his music and making sure his music is entertaining. He’s not so much into the cult of personality in music.

He talked about a lesson he learned in New Orleans. Some of the old guys would tap him on the shoulder and tell him to “fix his face.” By that they mean he needs to smile an remember that the audience came to see and hear him and he needs to act like he’s having a good time.

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The Taproot Radio Podcast is copyright 2011 by Taproot Media. The music and interviews in this episode are used with permission of the artists. The Taproot Theme music is called “Meltdown Man” by Derek K. Miller of Penmachine.com. The episode as a whole is copyright 2011 by Taproot Media.


If you have any feedback for this episode or any other episode, please send mail to feedback@taprootradio.com.


Dec 052011

Mary Flower talks about the Piedmont blues as “band in a hand,” how she met Elizabeth Cotten, her square-necked Gibson and when she works it into her shows, playing everywhere from bars to Merlefest, and talks about three tracks from her Misery Loves Company CD.

Mary Flower

TPR#65 Mary Flower – Interview and Music (MP3)




The Night of 100 Elvises


Show Notes:

Recap of Interview With Mary Flower

We talk about Mary Flower winning the Cascacde Blues Association award for Best Acoustic Guitar. She’s the first woman to win it.

One of the things she’s known for is being a master of the Piedmont Blues style of picking so I asked her to describe it. She says her own original music is based on that style of blues. It’s based on Piedmont area. Based on Ragtime. She describes it as “band in the hand” because the hand plays both rhythm and melody. So complex it was danceable. Blind Blake, Rev. Gary Davis, Blind Boy Fuller. Merle Travis also played a similar alternating thumb and melody style. Mississippi John Hurt was not from the area, but he had a similar style.

We talked about local Piedmont Blues legend Elizabeth Cotton. Mary recorded “Shake Sugaree” on her new CD. Elizabeth Cotten came to stay with Mary Flower in the 70’s when she came to play at the Denver Folklore Center. She was in her 70’s. Was supposed to only play two sets, but she kept playing on and on. Mary teaches Cotten’s “Freight Train” to her students as a precursor to more complicated music. That song is called pattern picking because the melody falls in the same place on every measure. Once you learn that you are on your way to learn more melody style picking.

Mary Flower introduces the song “Jitters” because it’s a good example of the Piedmont style blues.

Mary Flower talks about playing with the acoustic blues group at Merlefest. She will be returning to Merlefest in 2012. She has taught at Swananoa in North Carolina.

Mary Flower sets up “I’m Dreaming of Your Demise.” Dave Frishberg is playing on the song with her.

We talk about Mary Flower’s work with an acoustic version of the lap steel. Hers is a square-necked Gibson. For her it’s kind of a substitute for bottle-necked blues. Makes a great accompaniment instrument. She uses it to break up the pace of a show.

I asked her to talk about her sense of stage presence and performing and what she tells her students about developing their confidence. She talks about how her students are just beginning and she would advise them to let your heart and soul come through your playing and not let the audience get between you and the music. And of course the more you play in front of an audience the more confidence comes. She also recommends playing in a bar because no one listens.

Mary Flower introduces “Death Letter.” It’s a Son House tune and a good example of the lap/slide guitar.

Mary Flower talked about her recent tours and upcoming tour to California in December. She’s doing a Honey Boy Edwards tribute show soon. She’s going to be teaching two weeks at the Augusta Heritage Center in Elkins, West Virginia. Teaching at Centrum in Washington State in Port Townsend.

Full Transcript of Interview With Mary Flower

Calvin: My guest tonight is Mary Flower. She is an acclaimed blues guitarist. She is formerly a nominee for the Blues Music Award and she was in the Colorado group, the Mother Folkers Collective, and she is a blues teacher. Her most recent album is called “Misery Loves Company.” Mary, welcome to the Taproot podcast.

Mary Flower: Thank you so much. I’m very well pronounced, I might say.


Calvin: I understand that you just won another award.

Mary: Well, yes, I won a local award here in Portland, Oregon from our blues society called the Cascade Blues Association, and it’s quite a wonderful group. It’s a big well-organized group that has been going on for years, and I was presented with the Best Acoustic Guitar Award. It’s officially been given to a couple of different guys in the area. This year, it went to a woman, so I was thrilled to be the recipient of that.

Calvin: Yeah, congratulations. That’s exciting news.

Mary: Thank you so much.

Calvin: Now, I understand that one of the things that you’re known for is being a master in the Piedmont Blues style of picking, and I was wondering if you could share with our listeners what the Piedmont Blues is exactly.

Mary: Sure, and I don’t know if I’m a master. I’m certainly a supporter and somebody who really reveres that kind of music and teaches it. My own music is based on that sound.

What exactly that is is… Piedmont Style refers to the Piedmont region, where you are, up and down the east coast of the United States, between the mountains and the water. That’s where many of the solo guitar players lived who played this style of music.

It’s synonymous with rag-time, really. Usually, the players were soloists and they have this style on my right hand I like to call “band in the hand.” Your fingers play the melody and then there’s rhythm in there too.

There’s a lot going on, and it was so good that it was danceable. So one person… And many times… This person was blind and they were just phenomenal, like Reverend Gary Davis, Blind Boy Fuller and somehow these guys were just amazing. But this style has always fascinated me because there’s so much going on and it’s really a complete style. There’s no room for a bass player. You’re kind of doing it all.

Calvin: Now, that’s about the best way I’ve ever heard it described. It’s like a band in one guitar. A single person could make a performance that other people could dance to all from the one guitar.

Mary: Right, right, that’s the idea.

Calvin: You have the melody and the rhythm all together coming out of the one instrument.

Mary: Yup. Then, you could also look at this in terms of some of the guys from the Appalachian mountains… I mean, Mark Travis plays… I don’t want to call it Piedmont Style, but it’s definitely finger picking with alternating melodies and he had a little bit more of a jazz sound.

But still, you could trace it back to that area. Then, you can also look at Mississippi John Hertz who is not regionally a Piedmont Style and that term really had not been invented when he was around but that’s what he was playing. There you go, it’s pretty interesting stuff.

Calvin: Our local legend, of course, in that style is Elizabeth Cotten. Do you ever cover the music?

Mary: As a matter of fact, I just recorded on my new CD, one of my favorite tunes, “Shake Sugaree,” which I’ve always loved. It’s kind of a children’s tune and Elizabeth Cotten came to stay with me back in the ’70s. I believe it was the early ’70s.

I was living in Colorado and she came to play, a place called the Denver Folklore Center. It was pretty funny because she was in her 70s and she was scheduled to do basically two sets and be done by 10:00. It was a Sunday night, and she got up there and she just kept playing. All of a sudden, she started repeating songs and it got to be 10:30. The owner finally went up and says, “OK. Well, you can stop playing now,” and she looked at her watch and her watch had stopped at 10:10.


Mary: She kept going boy, and it was pretty funny. But she was a lovely woman. So many times… The song she would call freight train is the tune I would teach as sort of a precursor to a lot of the more complicated things and that song in itself is a… It’s called pattern picking.

The melody falls in the same place every measure so that’s kind of an easier thing for people to grasp, it’s complicated but it’s just kind of a… Once you learn that, you’re kind of on your way to learning more melody style finger picking. Yeah, it’s kind of cool.

Calvin: That’s really interesting…

Mary: She was wonderful, she’s a great lady.

Calvin: Let’s hear a song from your most recent CD, “Misery Loves Company.” What shall we play first?

Mary: Well, I think what would make sense would be to play my song called “Jitters” because we’re talking about Piedmont Style. This is kind of the heart of it and it’s an instrumental of mine and it has all the elements we’ve been talking about and I think it would be a good example of a Piedmont Style to play.

[song plays]

Calvin: I understand that you’ve been to North Carolina not too long ago. You got the chance to play what we sort of think of the Big Kahuna of the Folk Music Festival’s Merlefest. Can you tell us what you’d like to play there?

Mary: It’s an incredible festival. As a matter of fact, I will be back in 2012. I’m scheduled to be back there then and that will be really fun. We’re sort of the underdogs of the festival, I’m with the acoustic blues people and there are only six or eight of us. Roy Book Binder is sort of our fearless leader.

Then there’s Emy Lou Harris and Sam Bush, and there’s the whole other elements but which is pretty amazing. But I think it’s a jaw-dropping festival. There are so many stages and there’s so much good music that it’s quite something.

Calvin: We will have to try to get you online for an interview when you come out in 2012 that would be terrific.

Mary: Oh, sure. I would love to do that. Yeah, it’s always great to be back there and I’ve played a few other places in North Carolina and I’ve taught at Swannanoa numerous times and played a few other little gigs here and there. I love coming back to North Carolina, it’s a great music place. They’ve got great players.

Calvin: What should we play next from your CD?

Mary: Well, I was thinking… We talked about the finger picking and you mentioned that my compositions have their own character. I thought we’d play “Dreaming Of Your Demise,” which is a fictional song so I don’t want anyone out there to get afraid me.

It’s kind of a fun piece and it’s a musical. It’s got a real interesting progression to it and playing with the great Dave Frishberg who is a local guy, he just actually lives down the street from me.

And he’s a phenomenal jazz player. But he writes these quirky little off-beat songs of the zone and I thought, “Boy, this would be perfect to get him on this CD because it’s kind of right up his alley.’ That’s what’s going on in this tune, so keep in mind that I’m not such a bad gal. It is totally fictional.


[song plays]

Calvin: Now, one of the things I was reading about you which kind of surprised me a little bit is that, in addition to being accomplished in this finger picking style, you actually are quite skilled at the lap steel. It just seemed to me like the other end of the spectrum in terms of styles of playing. I was curious what kind of gave you the taste for the lap steel?

Mary: Well, I actually don’t play so much lap steel as an acoustic version of the lap steel which is a lap guitar. Mine is an old Gibson that it’s a square neck so it’s got raised action. I have been playing for a lot of years and, basically, it’s not too far off the spectrum because, if you think of it, there’s bottle neck guitar playing and all kinds of blues.

This is kind of my substitution. I play lap guitar a lot better than I played bottle neck and it’s just easier for me. It’s a little more limiting in terms of what you can do, but it makes a great accompaniment. It’s really better in groups, so it’s kind of harder to find pieces that work on the lap slide because you’re missing… Well, it’s complicated but… Anyway, it is a great instrument and it’s a different feel.

When I do shows, I have another instrument to kind of break up the monotony if there is monotony, so I do love it. Actually, I do have numerous lap steels that I can sit in with the bands on a lap steel, and that’s always really fun.

Calvin: I’ve been watching some of the videos that’s around your website and YouTube, and one of the things that always strikes me in every video of yours that I see is this sense of stage presence and sense of really performing a piece of music rather than pandering to the audience or something.

It’s like you’re giving the audience this music and it really, I think, takes a lot of confidence to get up there and really perform in that manner. I’m curious, what do you tell your students in terms of developing a stage presence or developing that level of confidence in their playing?

Mary: That’s a really good question because I’ve never gotten to that point with my students.


Calvin: Well, you’re good at picking it, then.

Mary: That’s another whole class. I think many of my students are just too nervous to perform in front of these people and they’re just not ready for it yet. But I think, if I were asked this question, I would talk a lot about heart and soul and being true to yourself and letting your heart and soul come through the music. Try to not let the audience be in the way or, in any way, affect your playing.

But I used to get nervous, or I’ve been nervous from time to time. I think, the more you do it, the more you play in front of an audience, the better or the more that goes away. But I just think you need to be very well practiced, and sometimes it’s really good to just sit and play in front of audiences that aren’t listening. Go play in the bar and see what that does for your playing because that’s humiliating, might as well get out.


Mary: I did it recently and I thought, “Boy, I haven’t done this in a long time.” You go from playing in front of thousands of people to playing in a place where nobody knows who you are and little do they care.

There’s some talk about a spectrum, that’s a big one right there but I think that’s a great place for people to cut their teeth if they want to get in front of people. It’s a terrible gig but it’s a great place for them to kind of ease into it but I don’t know if that answered your question.

Calvin: Yeah, it sounds like it did a little bit. Let’s get back to music, let’s play one more track from your CD, “Misery Loves Company.” What should we play last?

Mary: Well, we were talking about the lap slide guitar, and “Death Letter” is kind of a long song but I think it might be worth it. I’m playing with one of the guys, Alan Hager, who is a local guy around here who is also up for the same award that I won last week for the Muddy Awards. He’s playing guitar, backing me. This is one of my favorite fun-house tunes and it’s a good example of the use of the lap slide guitar.

[song plays]

Calvin: That is a beautiful song, and I wanted to ask you… You said you were coming to Merlefest in 2012. Will you be touring to support the CD, what’s next from the calendar?

Mary: Well, I have been touring. Yeah, I was just out for two weeks in Michigan, Indiana and Illinois. I go to California, let’s see, in December and also in February for different things. I’ve got a lot playing up in Seattle next week and have a bunch of local gigs for some real interesting kinds of things, a Honey Boy Edwards Tribute and just some unusual different groupings of people. It’s like the next nine days are all gig everyday and everything is different. In the bigger picture, I do teach at these guitar camps that happened around the country.

And I’ll be teaching two weeks at the Augusta Heritage Center in Elkins, West Virginia. One is for Blues Week and one is for Guitar Week and now I also teach at Centrum in Washington State and that’s a wonderful place, an important town, right on the water. It’s an old army barracks, Fort Worden State Park, it’s an old military base. And it’s a wonderful place to be. It’s called Centrum.

That’s all July for me, pretty much. We’ll see what’s beyond that, but it’s looking like a pretty good schedule coming up. It keeps me busy.

Calvin: We’ll have links to your website on the show notes page so that people can find out more details about where these various camps are and things like that.

Mary: Wonderful, all these guitar players need to know about these things because they are really quite wonderful. They really kind of light a fire under you if you’re a musician with any promise at all. It’s pretty fun.

Calvin: Cool. Well, a lot of times, when we think of the blues, we think of folks down and out of the sidewalk, moaning and wailing and trying to get us to feel their pain. One of the things I really enjoyed about your CD is, you kind of show us that blues music can be downright beautiful also, so I wanted to thank you for that.

Mary: Well, thank you so much. That’s wonderful to hear. Yeah, I don’t want to drag people down too much. I want to make it happy and fun and upbeat, so no use for me to share my misery.


Mary: Keep everybody happy.

Calvin: Yeah, thank you for being my guest on the show.

Mary: Thank you so much, Calvin, for having me. It’s been a pleasure.

Get More!


The Taproot Radio Podcast is copyright 2011 by Taproot Media. The music and interviews in this episode are used with permission of the artists. The Taproot Theme music is called “Meltdown Man” by Derek K. Miller of Penmachine.com. The episode as a whole is copyright 2011 by Taproot Media.


If you have any feedback for this episode or any other episode, please send mail to feedback@taprootradio.com.



Nov 282011

Todd Jagger and JR Harrell talk about listening to border radio stations when they were kids, their own radio show, the joys of Texas swing, and their experience recording in Sun Studios with ghosts looking over their shoulder.

The Border BlastersTPR#64 The Border Blasters – Interview and Music (MP3)


The Night of 100 Elvises


 Show Notes:

Transcript of Interview With The Border Blasters

Calvin Powers: I’m happy to have as my guest on the Taproot Podcast J.R. Harrell and Todd Jagger, better known as The Border Blasters. They are veterans of Texas music. I am glad to have them on the show. J.R. and Todd, welcome to the Taproot Podcast.

Todd Jagger: Hello, everybody.

JR Harrell: Howdy.

Calvin Powers: I understand, we were just talking a little bit ago; you guys had your own radio show for a while. One of you guys wanna tell me about that?

JR Harrell: Go ahead, Todd.

Todd Jagger: Sure. We did what was called the Border Blast Revue. We did that for five years on Marfa Public Radio. We just decided back in March of this year to take a little hiatus from doing this radio show. It’s a long ways from where both of us live, a little longer for me. We had a great time doing it. It was a weekly radio show where we played a lot of the same kind of music that you play on the Taproot Radio. It was a lot of fun. We had a lot of guests.

JR Harrell: Marfa is a destination. You get all kinds of artists that show up that you’d never believe.

Calvin Powers: That’s cool. We will link to that station in the [inaudible] page. Most of our listeners are based on the East Coast and the North Carolina area. A lot of people might not know what a Border Blaster is. One of you guys wanna kind of give us just a basic explanation about what that is?

Todd Jagger: Go for it, Jimmy.

JR Harrell: Back in the ‘40s and ‘50s, there were these stations on the other side of the border in Mexico like in Monterrey and El Paso and Juarez.

Todd Jagger: And Acuna.

JR Harrell: In Acuna, absolutely. They were high-powered radio stations at 500,000 watts. At night they would turn the power up and blast al these different kinds of music. Of course, do all these big sales pitches for baby chicks and all kinds of operations you probably should never do. For me growing up when I was growing up in Austin, I heard that stuff on the radio when I was 6, 7, 8 years old. The first time I ever heard blues music and it just blew my mind.

Calvin Powers: That’s interesting. The first time you heard blues music was on a border blaster radio station?

JR Harrell: Yeah, probably it; I’d say either XEG or Radio Monterrey, which got me listening to WLS and KVLO and all the other stations that you could get at night that would be either the clear channel stations here it would get so clear at night you could hear all that different kind of music.

Todd Jagger: The most famous one was the one in Villa Acuna, Mexico which was started by Dr. Brinkley who was run out of the United States basically because he had this operation where he would fuse goat glands to male parts.

JR Harrell: That’s a big thought, ain’t it?

Todd Jagger: He started this station in Acuna and had his hospital in Del Rio, Texas. In order to get people to listen to the pitches for all the operations and the medicines, and the physic readers and all that stuff that they did where people would actually send money, they brought the musical artist from the United States that really couldn’t get mainstream recognition. That’s where the Carter Family got their start; that’s where Cowboy Slim Rinehart. It was this really weird conglomeration of blues, hillbilly, gospel.

Pretty soon in the ‘50s when these were very famous and you could pick these stations up in Europe, even Elvis and very mainstream artists, Hank Williams and all the big stars would make over to [inaudible] to the border radio in Monterrey and Acuna.

Calvin Powers: These were sort of the melting pot of all the different musical influences on your work, right?

Todd Jagger: Exactly, that’s where we take the name because we grew up listening to all those kind of weird different styles of everything from western swing to blues to gospel to straight country and hillbilly music. That’s what influenced our style of music.

JR Harrell: I have to add to that. Play and dances, we played in so many different parties and different little small shows where it’d be just me and Todd and people wanna dance. You think about just two people getting people to dance. Usually there’s a band or orchestra or something like that. That’s another little part of it too though is making wherever there’s kind of danceable. It makes you wanna ting-a-ling.

Todd Jagger: That’s the thing. All those styles of music, that’s what they had in common, is that they were very popular oriented, entertaining, danceable.

JR Harrell: Dancing is very infectious. Sometimes it only takes on couple. Nobody will be dancing and you’ll be just playing your tails off and nobody will get up. Finally maybe one couple gets up and then everybody’s up.

Calvin Powers: Let’s talk about your latest CD a little bit because given that background your latest CD really is kind of a different change of pace and different turn. It’s called The Sun Sessions. Why don’t you all kind of tell us a little bit how this CD came to exist?

Todd Jagger: Was it two or three years that we went to International Folk Alliance in Memphis?

JR Harrell: I think just two, Todd.

Todd Jagger: Two years, okay. When we were up there, we went around town a little bit. I called up Sun Studios when we were gonna go the next year and said, “I hear y’all are still a active studio.” They said, “Yep, we sure are.” I said, “How do you go about getting time?” He said, “You just book it.” So I did. I booked some time when we were gonna be there right before we left. We had nine showcase performances at the International Folk Alliance.

We did our last show and hopped in a cab and went over and took the little tour of Sun Studios. I had three hours of studio time booked and went in there and just knocked them out one after the other; got a rough mix, bought a t-shirt and went home.

Calvin Powers: It’s like to rough mix with your souvenir you took home, huh?

Todd Jagger: It was.

JR Harrell: Yeah, exactly.

Todd Jagger: It was.

JR Harrell: It was almost surreal because you go through the museum part of it and there’s Howlin’ Wolf and Jackie Brenston and Ike Turner, just one thing after the other with all these guys who started it out in ’50, 1951. You get that before you go in the studio and then you get in the studio and these huge posters of Elvis and Johnny Cash and Roy Orbison.

Calvin Powers: There’s no pressure at all.

JR Harrell: No, you’re just dwarfed by all the posters. It’s amazing. It’s amazing. It has all the old feel. We got to use all the old microphones. It was amazing experience.

Calvin Powers: I’m sorry. Go head.

Todd Jagger: No, I was gonna say, like he said, it was an amazing experience because you’re standing and like you said, no pressure at all because you’re standing there underneath snapshots that are blown up to three foot of people like Howlin’ Wolf and Roy Orbison standing where you’re standing and creating all this iconic music that is basically part of our DNA. I look over and I’m singing into a mic and there’s a picture with Bono standing there singing into the same mic. He’s singing into a mic that Elvis was using. It was a little intimidating to be quite honest.

JR Harrell: We had played so much that week, which was really a good part of it. We’d done so many showcases. We had to be involved with all the things we were doing that week that to be able to do that time was really way good.

Todd Jagger: Even the engineer, it was quite a [inaudible]. Had we to do this over again we might’ve brought a few friends over there because it was basically just us and the engineer in the whole building. Everything else was shutdown. There was nobody else anywhere around.

JR Harrell: Us and the ghost.

Todd Jagger: We even said, “Are there ghosts here?” He says, “You bet there are.” Then he proceeded to tell us stories about things going weird in the studio. He said, it was about halfway through the session and we were listening, getting a playback on something and he said, “Y’all are doing real good. I’ve had name people come in here and just not be able to get it. They’re so intimidated by standing in this room that it just affects them.” We felt pretty good about that.

Calvin Powers: Let’s give people a taste of that CD. Let people hear what came out of that three-hour session. What should we [inaudible] first from the CD?

Todd Jagger: How about let’s do Ain’t Hurtin’ Nobody? How does that sound?

JR Harrell: That’s a good one.

Calvin Powers: Tell us the story. Tell us the story behind that one.

Todd Jagger: This was John Prine’s song. Jimmy, you’re the one that brought this to the bands.

JR Harrell: Oddly enough, we ended up kind of running with it. We heard it maybe three or four times and wrote it down and then forgot that version, which is really kind of the most way when we take a cover song we kind of listen to it once or twice and try to forget it and then do it the way how we’re gonna do it. That’s kind of what happened. We got our groove going on it and for months I kept thinking it needs a tuba. We happened to know a friend who is this wonderful double base player and tuba player.

We happened to run into him after we’d done the session and I said, “Will you play tuba on this?” He said, “But of course.” We had to do a couple of songs with tuba. That kind of took us to another place too.

Calvin Powers: I was wondering about that because Ain’t Hurtin’ Nobody covered John Prine off of the The Border Blasters CD the Sun Sessions.

Considering the fact that you had just three hours to lay down, what is it, ten tracks and you’re in this historic studio with legends of music surrounding you, at least their ghost are; how is it that you manage to make a CD where the music feels so relaxed and easy going and just back porch style? How did you manage to do that?

Todd Jagger: That’s just our style, actually.

JR Harrell: We’re unconscious most of the time.

Todd Jagger: It really is. This was a lot easier for us then trying to do a studio type album where you’re worried about a lot of multiple takes and over dubs and whatever. We just decided this is what we’re gonna do, we’ve got a little short span and quite honestly, that’s the way music used to be done. Elvis would walk into Sun Studios and say, “You know what? I wanna cut this 45.” They weren’t worried about a yearlong album project or anything like that. They were coming in and they were laying down the tracks.

JR Harrell: Twenty-five bucks you got your 45 [inaudible].

Todd Jagger: That was kind of the spirit in which we approached this was going in there and laying it down, words and all. There’s little things in there that we had a producer standing over us or somebody like that and they said, “You know, let’s polish that a little bit.” That’s not the way music outta be in my opinion. I think it’s nice to have it be real with all the blemishes left on.

Calvin Powers: Since you guys are veterans of so many musical styles from that era, I wanna talk a little bit about Texas Swing for a second. For folks who live and breathe in Austin or whatnot, they’re well familiar with it. A lot of times outside of the area people only think of the very stereotypical honky tonkin’ two-step. You guys, at least in my opinion, you’ve got a couple of tracks on this CD that are at least what I think you would call a Texas Swing. I was wondering if you could kind of tell us about that style of music.

Todd Jagger: What I would say about it is there again, we hear that growing up, I did on the radio. My dad had Hank Williams records and Bob Wills and Tex Woody and Ernest Tubb and we listened to that. Ernest Tubb primarily with Bob Wills, they were such purveyors of the honky tonk swing style Adolf Hofner to really give it [inaudible] more local runs. Milton Brown before Bob Wills. Milton Brown was an incredible influence on everybody because he saw the melting pot. Leah Jordan saw the melting pot.

That’s what it was, bringing all these styles that everybody got to hear and put their spin on it. Bob Wills did that really well. Asleep at the Wheel has carried different heights as Ray Benson does. They interpret it that way.

JR Harrell: That was all about dance. It’s still all about dancing.

Todd Jagger: I would contend that the Western swing that we’re thinking of and certainly what you’re thinking of also has a lot less to do with what people would call Western swing today. The stuff back then was really kind of hillbilly.

JR Harrell: It was jazz. They listened to [inaudible] and Moody. They listened to Linda Reinheart, that’s who they listened to. They all pulled from that. Grapenny was a total influence of Jesse Ashlock. Look where Sweeny and Cotton Collins where were Cotton Collins [inaudible] for the player. Cotton, the same thing. They were the jazz part of it and made it swing.

Todd Jagger: They were all drunk too.

Calvin Powers: That would make anything swing, I guess. Let’s play another track from the CD the Sun Sessions. Maybe one that’s got a little bit of that swing feel to it. What should we play next?

JR Harrell: Moonlight in Ojinaga.

Todd Jagger: Yeah, there you go, let’s do Moonlight in Ojinaga.

Calvin Powers: How’d you come up with that one? What is Ojinaga?

JR Harrell: You say it better than I do. I could never say it right, Todd.

Todd Jagger: Only when you’re singing it, right?

JR Harrell: I could do it. I sing Spanish pretty well.

Todd Jagger: Ojinaga is a little border town about 88 miles away from where we live out in West Texas.

JR Harrell: Right across from Presidio, Texas.

Todd Jagger: Often the hottest spot in the country. This is just one that basically is done in the Western Swing style in every sense of the word and that is basically an adaptation of songs that probably evolved. We put our own spin on it.

JR Harrell: Stole it fair and square.

Todd Jagger: Yeah, that’s where I was going with it, stole it fair and square. When we do it live we typically have what we call the Ojinaga horns, which is basically us pretending to do trumpet and trombone with our mouth. We decided that was not acceptable on the recording.

JR Harrell: Thank goodness.

Todd Jagger: Moonlight in Ojinaga.

Calvin Powers: When you guys are on the road these days, I know you travel a lot and I know you’re kind of aiming for that dance crowd, what is your favorite kind of place to play? If you could pick your favorite venues, what would that venue look like?

Todd Jagger: I think for us, places where people both listen and depending on whether or not we’ve got the full band with us then. We like people to dance but we also like folks to listen.

JR Harrell: We’re kind of getting spoiled now on house concert kind of situations or these coffee house things where you play to church or the smoke free, alcohol free thing, which goes from 8:00-10:00, which is kind of nice and everybody’s always really nice and the sound’s good. We get spoiled with those.

Todd Jagger: We love playing acoustic without any amplifications. The house concerts are a wonderful way to do that and it’s also a really great way to really get to know your fans and to talk to them and interact with them and have a good time and have them listen to the songs.

JR Harrell: A crowd of 20 people instead of 200, it’s really a nice switch.

Calvin Powers: I know out in our area the house concert thing is really booming. There’s several house concert series that are really taken off. Now some of the music venues are actually designing house concert like nights at the nightclub. They’ll bring in old couches and try to create a living room type setting there at the club and they’ll limit ticket sales to like 45 people.

JR Harrell: People actually listening, isn’t that interesting? Sometimes it takes a little prodding or it’s making them experience what it is and not just be a party time and actually sit and listen to somebody.

Todd Jagger: One of our personal big influences was a band around Austin in the ‘70s and ‘80s called Uncle Walt’s Band. Do you know those guys?

Calvin Powers: No, I don’t. Tell us about them.

Todd Jagger: Go find them. Two of them aren’t with us anymore. They both passed tragically. David Ball who’s kind of making the circuit in the country store now is the third member. Uncle Walt’s was an acoustic trio; two guitars and David Ball on the upright bass. Champ Hood playing guitar and Walter Hyatt playing the other guitar.

JR Harrell: I believe they were all up from your area. They were up from North Carolina, South Carolina area.

Todd Jagger: Yep, they were. They were from –

JR Harrell: – Greensboro.

Todd Jagger: Something like that.

JR Harrell: Greensboro, wasn’t it?

Todd Jagger: yeah, Greensboro, I believe it was.

Calvin Powers: Now I’m gonna be on a mission to look them up. Thanks for the pointer.

JR Harrell: They were incredible and such performers.

Todd Jagger: You are gonna love them. Getting back to the whole point of that was that they had a thing, of course this was all before pick ups on your acoustic guitar, anything like that so they worked with all mics. When the crowds got a little loud in the places, they would just turn their PA down a little bit. They really forced people to listen to them, which I thought was always very interesting and a neat way of doing it. You can do that in a bar if you’ve got the huevos to turn your PA down when the crowd gets hot, gets loud.

JR Harrell: Now everybody plugs in, of course. To play an acoustic music but they have to plug in, what’s wrong with that picture?

Calvin Powers: Let’s play one more track from the Sun Sessions CD. What should we play for the [inaudible]?

JR Harrell: The Next Life, Todd.

Todd Jagger: All right, let’s play The Next Life. In about ten days, I guess, we’re gonna be back in Austin for the Southwest Regional Folk Alliance Conference, which takes place every year in Austin, Texas. It’s a really neat event. It’s kind of like Folk Alliance in Memphis only smaller, 200 or 300 of your closest friends. Every year when you go do your registration and get your packet, there’s a little fish bowl on the registration counter and it’s got things that look like fortunes from fortune cookies in there.

You reach in there and you pick it up and it’s your song assignment. These little things on there and they can be just total off the wall stuff or who knows what they’re gonna be. I don’t know how these people come up with it. By the time you pick that thing out of there on Thursday evening or Friday morning or whenever it is, people perform their songs that they’ve written on Sunday morning during brunch. You gotta write and come up with a song by that time.

JR Harrell: It’s amazing.

Todd Jagger: It is absolutely amazing.

JR Harrell: People are the most creative you could imagine.

Todd Jagger: I’m blown away by the level of talent of the people there.

JR Harrell: You talk about with a gun to your head, that’s it.

Todd Jagger: This particular song was my song assignment.

JR Harrell: We had the gun to Todd’s head as I recall or was it the [inaudible]?

Todd Jagger: I don’t know.

Calvin Powers: What was the phrase?

Todd Jagger: The phrase was how would you do things different in your next life. Basically, I just blew off the thing thinking that, “I can’t do this. I’m not much of a song writer,” etc. Literally, Sunday morning about an hour before we were to go to the brunch and we weren’t gonna perform anything because neither of us wrote a song. I was in the shower and it just kind of came to me and I keep a diver’s slate in the shower to write down ideas.

For all you songwriters or writers, that’s my tip for the day is go to your local dive shop and pick up a diver’s slate and you can keep it in the shower. I wrote down two verses in the chorus and got out of the shower and Jimmy helped me with the music part of it and we went there and performed it literally with wet hair.

Calvin Powers: That’s hilarious.

Todd Jagger: Everybody loved it. I forgot who it was. One of the other songwriters came up and said, “That’s a keeper, boys.” It has been a keeper. Here it is. I always say I dedicate this one to my momma and you can decide which one it is whether it is my momma or my momma.

Calvin Powers: All right, In the Next Life. What’s on the calendar next for the Border Blasters?

Todd Jagger: We’re doing the Folk Alliance Conference next week. Then we’ll be going back out to West Texas for a little bit and we have got some local gigs around there. We’ll go back to Austin in October to do Threadgill’s. We should have some other stuff around there that weekend. I’m not exactly sure what’s firmed up at this point. I need to talk to our booking agent and see what she’s got lined up for us. After that we’re not real sure. We’re just really looking forward to coming to your house and playing for you and 20 of your favorite friends.

Calvin Powers: If you make a trip to North Carolina I’ll round up 20 of my neighbors and we’ll do a house concert, that’d be great.

Todd Jagger: What part of North Carolina are you in?

Calvin Powers: Chapel Hill in Carrboro.

Todd Jagger: Our good friend Tom Pittman, the [inaudible], just moved to Nashville.

Calvin Powers: Listen, thanks for sharing your stories today. Most importantly, thanks for sharing your feel good music with us. We look forward to hearing much more in the future.

Todd Jagger: Calvin, thank you. We really appreciate it.

JR Harrell: Thanks for having us. We enjoyed it.

[End of Audio]

Duration: 26 minutes

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The Taproot Radio Podcast is copyright 2011 by Taproot Media. The music and interviews in this episode are used with permission of the artists. The Taproot Theme music is called “Meltdown Man” by Derek K. Miller of Penmachine.com. The episode as a whole is copyright 2011 by Taproot Media.


If you have any feedback for this episode or any other episode, please send mail to feedback@taprootradio.com.


Nov 212011

Scotty Alan talks about living in the wilds of Michigan, his punk rock days, making music at home, how he found himself in Los Angeles to record his CD, Wreck and the Mess, and his “Irish roots.”

Scotty Alan

TPR#63 Scotty Alan – Interview and Music (MP3)



The Night of 100 Elvises

Show Notes

Recap of Interview with Scotty Alan

Scotty Alan talks about composing the songs on Wreck and the Mess. He says the CD has a full band, but he wrote the songs alone in his cabin. He was just writing them for himself ad not thinking of them as sing along sings.

Scotty Alan introduces the bittersweet song, “Long Ways From Laughing.” The line came to him one day while he was cutting wood and the song just wrote itself from there.

Scotty Alan responds to queries that his vocal style sounds Irish. He says he’s been told that since he started singing at 15 years old. But he insists there’s no Irish family history. In fact his family is Finnish. He just developed a style of singing from the chest that comes out sounding that way.

In his early days, Scotty Alan started in high school in a punk band. Mostly played in private house basement. After a while they did some public gigs.

Scotty Alan has been inspired by Paul Westerberg of the replacements. Not in terms of performing but just as an inspiration. Also inspired by Ramones and Wire. But overall he just does his own thing.

Scotty Alan introduces “Says Lately.” This is a fun song. Was played on Delta Airlines in flight music service for a few months. It’s a little more electric than most his songs. Sitting at his table one day he hit that chord and just followed from there. When he went to LA he told the producer he wanted to build this one up a little more.

Scotty Alan talks about living in the wilds, 8 hours north of Detroit on the southern shore of Lake Superior on 10 acres outside the small town of Marquette. Has to maintain and plow his own road. He says it’s a lot of work, but he enjoys it. Lives without electricity and his whole family has been into self-sufficiency, including hunting, fishing, gardening. The thing that takes the biggest part of the day. He talked about preparing for winter and heating his cabin with wood he cuts himself.

Scotty Alan talks about how he got from the wilds of Michigan to recording in Los Angela. Started in ’92 when his punk band played at an art gallery there. Bernie Larsen, a producer in LA, was there and liked the band. So Bernie helped the band produce their first band the Muldoons. Scotty stayed in touch since then. So when it came time to record Bernie was a natural choice. A big part of the transition to the acoustic sound came from moving out of his Mom’s house and into a cabin that did not have any electricity.

Scotty Alan introduces “Barn Dance.” He talks about the burning barn on the cover of the CD. He’d written the song based on a trip he took out west with his father.

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The Taproot Radio Podcast is copyright 2011 by Taproot Media. The music and interviews in this episode are used with permission of the artists. The Taproot Theme music is called “Meltdown Man” by Derek K. Miller of Penmachine.com. The episode as a whole is copyright 2011 by Taproot Media.


If you have any feedback for this episode or any other episode, please send mail to feedback@taprootradio.com.