Billy Joe Shaver died on October 28. He was a true outlaw. I won’t go back over his outlaw resume—I covered most of it in a post last year. The outlaw country music movement Mount Rushmore only has two faces on it—Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings. But Billy Joe Shaver is in the second-tier of the movement, one short step back from Willie and Waylon. He wrote most of the songs on Waylon’s landmark outlaw country album Honky Tonk Heroes. His album Old Five and Dimers Like Me, which shares four songs with Honky Tonk Heroes, is a part of outlaw country canon in its own right.Continue reading “Music Monday: RIP Billy Joe Shaver”
It wasn’t Tonya Harding’s white trash roots that sold me on I, Tonya as a country noir flick, or even the homemade fur coat. It was the intense incompetence of the men tasked with doing the deed against Nancy Kerrigan. Incompetent crooks hold a special place in the subgenre. There are archvillains, to be sure, but country noir storytellers recognize that most criminals are knuckleheads (which certainly reconciles with my own time working in the criminal justice system).
Hillbilly Hustle has a knucklehead for a protagonist, Knox Thompson. He doesn’t stand a chance once he is in the web of archvillain Burl.Continue reading “Country Noir: Hillbilly Hustle by Wesley Browne”
Whelp. It is 2020 and the hits just keep on coming. Davis died last week after heart surgery and will be laid to rest today.
Not that I am a fan with a deep and broad knowledge of Mac Davis’ body of work. Outside of It’s Hard to be Humble (which I didn’t realize was his song until many, many years after discovering it), my Mac Davis fandom starts and ends with Texas in my Rear View Mirror.
But Texas in my Rear View Mirror is one of the most finely crafted country songs ever written, so it’ll go a long way. (I do still need to watch North Dallas Forty.)Continue reading “Music Monday: RIP Mac Davis”
Raymond Turner has a problem. The New Orleans-based private investigator crawled into a bottle when his wife died and has only crawled out with considerable effort and grace on the part of his partner.
The town of Comanche, Texas has a problem. Over one hundred and thirty-five years ago several townspeople killed the Piney Woods Kid and desecrated his corpse. Now the ghost of the Piney Woods Kid is exacting his revenge on the descendants of those townspeople, haunting the grounds of the historic depot where his body was dismembered—newly renovated and opened as a diner by the town mayor.
Fortunately, the mayor’s wife is Turner’s sister. Turner’s chance for redemption is Comanche’s chance for salvation.
I wasn’t planning to post today, but I just saw that Justin Townes Earle died. The news came out yesterday, apparently, but I am not sure exactly when he died. No cause of death is given, but Justin Townes Earle was about my age, and when men about my age die it is usually of a drug overdose. He is named for Townes Van Zandt, the singer-songwriter who died young of substance abuse related issues, is the son of Steve Earle, who has had his own substance abuse issues, and has had substance abuse issues in the past.
When These Mountains Burn may be David Joy’s best novel yet. Fires are burning across the mountains of North Carolina in late 2016, and wildfire smoke casts a heavy pall over even the unburned areas. More figurative fires are burning as well, with an equally heavy pall cast by the opioid epidemic. Those figurative fires will touch Ray, a mountain of a man, a retired forester, and the father of an addict, and Denny Rattler, an addict himself, a petty thief, and a Cherokee.
(If you heard about these fires on the news, and you probably didn’t, it was likely only when they hit Gatlinburg.)
“The way these mountains have been burning, I knew there was some kind of end coming. I knew it. I just couldn’t see it. I come here to kill you.”
The use of the fires as a literary device is both obvious and effective. Coyotes provide a minor literary device, with Ray ruminating that “he’d watched mountain people and culture be damn near extirpated over the course of a few decades, while those dogs had been persecuted for a century and thrived.”
You guys. I did a thing. I just can’t seem to set still for more’na few years without my feet itching for those hillbilly highways. Although this last trip might be for good.
Sort of. I took a job up in the mountains I call home, but I gotta start work long before I can sell the house and get the family moved down, so I’m gonna be heading up and down those hillbilly highways between the Rust Belt and Appalachia every couple weeks for a spell.
Ron Rash is a master of the short story, but a reader’s conclusion on In the Valley will depend on the title story, a novella set in the world of and featuring the title character from Serena that takes up half the volume.
I am not the target audience, to the extent it is possible for me to not be the target audience for a Rash work. Serena remains my least favorite Rash novel, and any attempt at another story featuring Serena is handicapped by the novel telling the end of her story. Nonetheless, I was pleasantly surprised by In the Valley, and it is well accompanied by the preceding stories.
My 20s weren’t a great time in a lot of ways, but I had a lot of great times on a pontoon boat on Lake Norman. There was a period where we were out on the lake almost every summer weekend.
Naturally I jumped at a chance to go out on the boat last weekend. I do have to say that going on the boat in your late 30s with a toddler is a very different experience. (I would strongly encourage anyone not to go out on a boat alone with a 4-year-old.)
I wasn’t going to do a Music Monday post this week, but I just heard Charlie Daniels died. It continues to be a hell of a year. It would be enough to make a man get stoned in the morning and get drunk in the afternoon if he didn’t work for a living.
At least I can say I had the opportunity to see Charlie Daniels live. One of the best concerts I have ever been to. Daniels sawed on a fiddle so hot he would blow through a bow in a few songs. He’d flourish an old bow with broken horse-hairs sticking out all over the place and someone would run up from stage right with a fresh one.