Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Jun 04 email newsletter
Vol. 1, No. 1

1. Two electric guitars duel like a pair of scorpions on a desert floor, with a sax soaring above like a breeze. The bass is, perhaps, sorta like distant thunder. Drums play some sort of primal role. It’s the Jay Johnson Band on Tuesday night in a sports bar, The End Zone, in unlikely Plano. It’s a 35-minute version of "Perfect Villain," and it is good. It is rock ‘n’ roll. It is one of those times when you can lose yourself, for a while.
2. I listen to Sarah Lynn Fisher for the first time in a couple of years. Keyboards. A high soprano voice, a little tentative or perhaps even fragile. Complex. Often melancholy. I cannot describe the sudden feeling that came over me that her music feels, somehow, like my poetry feels to me; I could be the only person who believes that. Sarah Lynn is about to go to graduate school (musicology) to learn how to write about, among other things, listening to music.
3. Jazz remains a mystery to me, but not so much of a mystery as it once was. After seven years of writing about American roots music, and after a lifetime of listening to country fiddle and to folk music and to whatever stuck, temporarily, from whatever radio station I was listening to, I’m finally beginning to get it. I can’t articulate it yet, but I will. Later.
4. Kids. I went to a birthday party for a little girl turning nine. I sat on a sofa in the den, where (she told me) her mother usually sits. The girl announced to the room in general that she would sit, today, in the middle of the sofa. And within 30 seconds she was up against me sharing a story she wrote for school. I was honored. Later, I went home and drank maybe half a bottle of Bacardi Premium Black rum. I woke up during the night, sick.
5. Too many writers seem to confuse style with attitude. On National Public Radio today, A screenwriter mentioned "attacking" a subject. For a moment, I liked that thought. But I decided "probing" is a better word. I like information, context, and perspective. I believe that what’s left out of any piece of writing is almost as important as what is included. I am not opposed, sometimes, to purposeful ambiguity. A friend I treasure can find paragraphs of meaning in my writing that I never put there. That’s okay; it means she’s reading it and thinking about it.
6. To close, here is a poem I wrote for a young friend who is trying to follow a dream. Some of you may have seen it before.


she dances
on a moonlit strip of sand
on the shore of a great ocean

dances slow
to the ocean’s sounds
for hours that won’t end

dances faster
and faster around her reality
of stars too far to reach

"I will be beautiful forever," she sings,
as the wind wraps its arms around her
and caresses the small of her back;
she dances thought away, in the arms of the moment

"I will touch the stars like the wind," she sings,
as the moon gives its heart to her
and begins to whisper the secrets of the sky;
she dances with the moon’s light touching her beautiful face

"I will drink the moon like pale silver," she sings,
as the sea birds flow, chanting relics of ancient spells
and calling to her with meaningless promises;
she dances, with her beautiful arms raised to hold the chalice

"I will flow free over the ocean," she sings,
as the tide wets every grain of sand
in its longing rush to taste her beautiful legs;
she dances, wishing for wings to fly away, fly away

"I will be the very ocean itself," she sings,
as the wind dies in the mourning sun
and she dances and she dances into the light;
she dances into the passion of her beautiful body’s heat

she dances
in the truth of her own movement
until myth begins to wrap its arms around her

she twists herself free,
dances faster
all day on the shore under the sun;

"I will be the very stars themselves," she sings,
as the sky begins to darken again

JUNE CD REVIEWS: Terri Hendrix, Brian Burns, James Hand, Ed Burleson, Aaron Watson

Terri Hendrix
The Art of Removing Wallpaper
Wilory Records
Tapping ever deeper into the vein of angst, Terri Hendrix finds another fine CD. Adding small bits of gospel, bluegrass, and pop -- and even a bit of rap -- to her wide, folk-based repertoire, Hendrix shares songs that are, at the same time, universal and very personal: vulnerability, futile love, looking for something better, seizing the day, a bitter-funny commentary on aging and individuality, and coming to terms with who you are. It’s familiar territory.
"Time" is an upbeat-sounding, self-plea to let nothing get in your way. "One Way" is a pensive, longing love song.
There’s a little bit of social consciousness here, too, as there is in the music of many other musicians today. "Judgment Day" is a moving, gospel-pop commentary on "hands that kill and hands that pray." "Monopoly" rails against corporate conformity in all its forms.
"Quiet Me," written by Jeff Barbra and Sarah Pirkle, grabs the listener by the heart and soul, and won’t let go. Its exploration of the human psyche and potential is deep and sweet. K.S. Taylor’s "Long Ride Home" is almost as strong.
The oddest song on The Art of Removing Wallpaper is Hendrix’ half-rapped, half-sung version of LL Cool J’s late ’80s hit "I Need Love."
Musically, Hendrix (guitar, harmonica, mandolin, papoose) and partner Lloyd Maines (guitar, mandolin, dobro, steel, papoose, banjo) venture once again into an ever-widening circle with Glenn Fukunaga (bass, upright bass), Paul Pearcy (percussion), Adam Odor (accordion), Riley Osbourn (keyboards), Matt Wiedemann (drum programming, samples), Bonnie Whitmore (cello and harmony vocals), and Eleanor Whitmore (violin). Maines, the Whitmores, Ruthie Foster, and Cyd Cassone add harmony vocals.
While she taps deep into angst again, Hendrix – one of the hardest working people in the music business – also tapped so deep into her 50,000-person mailing list that this new CD was paid for through pre-release orders before it ever hit the streets. It’s a good investment for anybody with broad musical tastes, and likely to continue building Hendrix’ national and international audiences.

Brian Burns
Heavy Weather
Presidio Records
Weather -- literal and metaphorical -- speaks to the human condition. It’s been speaking to Brian Burns for at least four years now, coming to voice on his fourth studio CD, Heavy Weather.
I think of Burns as a craftsman rather than an artist -- a builder rather than someone who grabs inspiration out of the air -- although I’m not sure why that’s so, and, really, what the difference is because both create. Perhaps the difference is in the concrete stories craftsmen build while so-called artists’ work is a little more ethereal. If that were true, then how could Burns write imagery about the red dirt farmer whose fields are cracked and dry in the silence before the hurricane, or about the aging eagle who claims there are times when the best light comes from the burning bridge?
Burns delivers all of the songs with a smooth, sincere baritone.
Other highlights, in addition to the title song, include the love song "Hurricane Casey," the not-Charlie Robison-song "Indianola," and "The Mistress of Storms," which deftly summarizes romance on a rough sea.
Burns also does a sounds-like cover of the old Gordon Lightfoot song "Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald."
One exception to the weather-related theme is "Nothin’ to Say (Austin vs. Nashville)," which criticizes the mindlessness of much corporate music and then goes on to do the same to much so-called "Texas music" -- "it’s as easy as one-two-three, drink beer, throw-up, let’s cut a CD."
Burns crafted 13 of the 16 songs, did all the vocals and ably played all the instruments (accordion, acoustic and electric guitars, bass, drums, keyboards, and percussion) except for pedal steel guitar (Gary Carpenter) and harmonica (Gary Grammer). Veronica Burns added back-up vocals.

James Hand
Live From The Saxon Pub Austin TX
Knight Klub Records
Ed Burleson
The Cold Hard Truth
Palo Duro Records
Aaron Watson
The Honky Tonk Kid
Sonnet Publishing
James Hand, who should have been. Ed Burleson, who’s chance is now. Aaron Watson, who might become. That’s the cold, hard truth for each of these three fine singer-songwriters -- an aging one, one in the middle, and a young one. All three should be getting steady airplay on real country radio stations.
Willie Nelson calls James Hand "the real deal."
The Tokio, Texas, native grew up not far from Willie’s hometown writing a lot of songs and performing (sounding and almost looking like Hank Williams The Original) in local venues while waiting to long to be discovered. On his new CD, Live from the Saxon Pub Austin TX, a mix of a dozen of his old and new songs and two Johnny Cash covers, Hand wonders if it’s worth the trouble any more, claiming "I’m Just an Old Man with an Old Song."
It is worth every honky-tonk, danceable song on the CD, from the shivery "Shadows Where the Magic Was" to "The Pain of Loving You" to Cash’s "Get Rhythm."
Burleson’s previous CD got a big boost from Texas legend Doug Sahm, whose untimely death only weeks after the release party strongly affected the baby-faced, nasal-voiced, sixth-generation Texan.
The simple truth is that Ed Burleson songs should be played on every traditional country radio station in the world -- on their own merits and for the guidance they give to wannabes.
From the opening "Honky-Tonk Heart" to the bluegrass-tinged title song to Willis Alan Ramsey’s "Northeast Texas Women" to "Heart Break Highway," Burleson is, like Hand, the real deal. Kudos, too, to Tommy Alverson’s production.
Watson’s The Honky-Tonk Kid sounds just as genuine, with appearances by Willie Nelson, Dale Watson, and producer Ray Benson’s "side project" Asleep at the Wheel. The CD’s 13 original tunes -- a dozen of them co-writes with Neal Lowry -- celebrate everything Texas country, from fiddle and steel guitar to Charlie Pride to God Awmighty (surely he’s a Texan, right?) to cheatin’ songs to honky-tonkin’ blues.
All three CDs are consistently good, with a welcome absence of filler.


I am a poet who lives in Dallas, Texas, and writes about American roots music. I lead creativity workshops and speak on creativity, working with adults and with children. I produced a compilation CD, Moments of Grace, that succeeded both critically and financially for a non-profit organization.
As a business communicator, I have won 100 awards for results-oriented work, was president of the Dallas chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators and was an elected member of IABC’s executive board, with members in 50 countries. I published frequently in professional journals, and made speeches and led workshops all over North America. As a business communication consultant, I have worked with Fortune 500 and other companies to improve the abysmal quality of the way people relate to one another in organizations.
I was photographer for Dallas Ballet for two years, and owned a photography gallery, Still Light, in the bohemian Deep Ellum neighborhood of Dallas. As a journalist, I covered the civil rights movement in Louisiana in the late 1960s and the U.S. space program when it put the first man on the moon. I once won the Dallas YMCA’s racquetball championship and played on championship softball teams until I stifled most of my competitive urges. I was an emergency room volunteer at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas, one of the busiest and best public hospitals in the United States. I believe that, while poets may not always "get" the best women, we at least love the best women.


"Tom Geddie's poetry falls somewhere between Wallace Stevens’ subtle layers of thoughtfulness and the blunt, brutal grit of Bukowski." -- Nathan Hamilton

" . . . an iconoclastic creative thinker in a world of derivatives." -- Mark Hughey

"Good poetry knocks us out of our conditioned rut. Tom’s work does that." -- Jim Bush

"How do you stay true to your inner voice, when the world around you places such a strong emphasis on conformity?" -- Rene West

" . . . one of the most unconfused people I’ve ever met." -- Kimmie Rhodes

" . . . a complete artist with his use of language." -- Terri Hendrix

"It strikes me as jazz-like -- with all its freedom, and expression and passion and rhythm -- both on the beat and off." -- Lynn Adler

"You meticulously splash bold red hues throughout a seemingly transparent, fragile piece . . . never seeming to allow the bold to overtake or even bleed into the pristine thought patterns you are weaving." -- Tina Marzola

" . . . spending hours with my nose in your writings (studying, analyzing, digesting) . . . What an amazing teacher you are to me." -- Tiffany Shea

"There is no place anyone can go to learn to write like that. It is something that seems to rise more or less effortlessly out of the depths of one’s soul but, at the same time, finds a way to devour it." -- Joe Parsons

" . . . a beautiful soul who writes beautifully . . ." -- Susan Gibson