Red Ryder Rodeo, Pagosa Springs, Colorado

Red Ryder Roundup 2016The Fourth of July is also known Out West as “Cowboy Christmas”, since there are so many rodeos held that the bucking horse set has a pretty good shot at filling their boot socks with a Summer Santa’s stash.  Western Heritage Events Center, Inc. puts on the annual Red Ryder Roundup Rodeo each year as our entry in Cowboy Christmas right here in the mountains of Pagosa Springs, Colorado.

Maybe you weren’t around for the original Red Ryder comic strip, drawn by Pagosa-native Fred Harmon from 1938-1964, but I’m sure you remember the Red Ryder BB Gun.  You know… “You’ll shoot your eye out!” from A Christmas Story.  To prove the critics wrong, the Rodeo folks grant each youngster who ride the Mutton Bustin’ a piece of Ralphie’s dream—the kids walk away with a brand new Red Ryder BB Gun.  God bless America.

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Pagosa Folk ‘n Bluegrass Festival

Pagosa Folk 'n Bluegrass Festival tentGreat time was had by all at the 11th Annual Pagosa Folk ‘n Bluegrass Festival this year up on Reservoir Hill.  I even had a blast volunteering.  Having some trouble getting my videos off the fancy new iPhone now.  Hope to post more later.

See you at Four Corners Folk Festival over Labor Day weekend.

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Dori Freeman, Cactus Blossoms and Loretta Lynn—Winter’s Promise for Spring to Come

Last.fm Albums played Jan-May 2016

As spring draws us outside, away from radio and streaming out into Festival season, I’m finding myself still struggling to catch up with some great new Americana/alt.country/would have been Country before pop-Country killed Music Row releases.  Tops among these through about the first of April:  Dori Freeman, the Cactus Blossoms, and Loretta Lynn.  This Winter has given us a promise for many Springs to come.


Fast Tube

Dori Freeman

Hailing from the mountains of Southwest Virginia, 24-year old Dori Freeman‘s self-titled debut, released in February, earned early praise from the likes of Rolling Stone—but I gave her the benefit of the doubt any way, and am glad I did.  With a strong acoustic opening, the 2nd track “Where I Stood” is my favorite, with a haunting torch on “Lullaby”.  Dori builds on elements of Patsy  Cline and Peggy Lee with modern sensibilities of songwriters like Lori McKenna or Tift Merritt.  Dori Freeman gives me hope for the future of Country music built on a sold foundation of American Roots music.

Dori is playing HoustonFest bluegrass festival 10-11 June, which strangely enough is in southern Virginia, not Texas, but wherever it is the festival has a heck of a lineup.


Fast Tube

Cactus Blossoms

Jack and Page are brothers who like to play music that’s 30-years older than they are.  There’s a definite Everly Brothers vibe to The Cactus Blossoms that my parents first turned me onto, since the brothers hail from the Minneapolis-St. Paul area and play music my folks like.  Music I like, too, like Buddy Holly and Roy Orbison haunting Music Row.  In January, The Cactus Blossoms released their national debut, You’re Dreaming, produced by J.D. McPherson, following up on a 2012 self-titled self-release I played the heck out of in my truck’s CD player.  Two of those tracks made the new album, “Traveler’s Paradise” and my favorite, “Adios Maria”, both penned by Jack.

After Memorial Day, the Cactus Blossoms are playing a couple dates in Wisconsin before heading south thru Cedar Rapids, Kansas City, and OKC on their way to Austin City Limits Live 14 June.


Fast Tube

Loretta Lynn

The great Loretta Lynn comes Full Circle from her excellent 2004 album Van Lear Rose with her new March release.  John Carter Cash and Lynn’s daughter Patsy Lynn Russell produced this legacy album with a mix re-recording Lynn classics (i.e. “Fist City”), old-time mountain classics (A.P. Carter’s “Black Jack David”) with countrypolitan classics (“Always on My Mind”).  Hopefully, J.C. Cash does for the Loretta legacy what Rick Rubin did for Johnny’s legacy.

And believe it or not, at 80+ years old, Loretta Lynn is still holding events, with two Oklahoma casino shows 10-11 June, then 24 June up to Prairie’s Edge Casino at Granite Falls, a stone’s throw from my old Minnesota home.

And that’s not all folks…

Several other new album releases have caught my attention so far in 2016.  Caitlin Canty‘s Reckless Skyline was the year’s first good Americana release.  Margo Price‘s Midwest Farmer’s Daughter, and Jane Kramer‘s Carnival of Hopes caught my ear over the colder months.  I’ve also kept spinning Brennen Leigh Sings Lefty Frizzle and Sunny Sweeney‘s Provoked (along with their duet “But You Like Country Music”) from late in 2015.

I’m also really excited about my first Pagosa Folk ‘n Bluegrass Festival after Memorial Day.  Come on over Wolf Creek Pass 3-5 June and kick off festival season right.

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Springtime in the Rockies

Treasure Falls April 2016

Treasure Falls, below Wolf Creek Pass on US Hwy 160, Pagosa Springs, Colorado. April 2016.

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Disagreeing, Without Being Disagreeable


Fast Tube

Can we disagree, without being disagreeable?  US House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) thinks so.  Ryan flies the flag of Jack Kemp’s optimistic conservatism.  I wasn’t such a fan of Kemp back in the day (I don’t usually trust Quarterbacks).

“Ideas, passionately promoted, put to the test. That’s what politics can be. That’s what our country can be.”  With experience, I am much more appreciative of the importance of good governance and the hard work of debating ideas instead of attacking individuals.

This PBS Newshour video is a bit of a long read in our Twitter age.  The Speaker offers about 15 minutes, speaking to young people in the House Ways & Means chambers, with about 15 minutes of Q&A.  It’s worth your time in these troubling times.

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#NeverTrump

GOPlogo

I have been more-or-less politically active since I was young, but have mostly avoided politics in favor of policy (and the pursuit of Americana) on this blog.  I do follow conservative politics, and am professionally committed to good governance, but have not declared for a presidential candidate this election cycle.  However, in advance of Colorado’s caucuses (even in absence of a presidential preference poll), I am compelled to declare that I will never, never, never support the candidacy of one Donald Trump.

I believe that Eric Erickson makes the case in his new blog, The Resurgent:

 I will not vote for Donald Trump for President of the United States even if he is the Republican nominee.

He is an authoritarian blending nationalist and tribal impulses, which historically has never worked out well for the nation that goes in that direction or the people in that nation.

He will not win in November. He will not win because he turns off a large number of Republicans; he turns off women; he turns off hispanic voters; he turns off black voters; and the blue collar voters who support him are not a sufficient base of support to carry him over the finish line….

Trump is a liberal who has supported big government, interventionist policies. He defends Planned Parenthood, says he can cut deals in Washington, and believes in a socialist government run healthcare scheme.

At a time when so much is on the line for people of faith and conservatives, Donald Trump believes judges sign bills….

Trump is also a con-artist and the media, which has built his campaign is going to destroy his campaign. After he secures the Republican nomination, the media will trot out every victim and perceived victim of Trump’s actions. All the people hurt by repeated strategic bankruptcies, all the people swindled by Trump University, and anyone who got food poisoning from Trump steaks will be in a 24/7 cavalcade on national television.

By the time the media and Democrats, but I repeat myself, are done with Trump, he will be radioactive.

Donald Trump will not win in November. Period. End of story….

If there ever was an East Coast liberal RINO—Republican In Name Only—he would be the one.  If I believed in conspiracy theories, I would strongly suspect the Clintonistas had put Mr. Trump up to it, as a Establishment Trojan horse.  Unfortunately, that would be too neat a scenario.  The script was set by the coarseness of our national debate and the devolution of Reality TV infotainment.  Unfortunately, democracy too often serves up the candidates we deserve.

It may be too late to #DumpTrump, but it is never too late to take a stand for common decency.

#NeverTrump

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Biological Foundations of Politics

Fukuyama - Origins of Political Order / Political Order and Political Decay

“Political institutions develop, often slowly and painfully, over time, as human societies strive to organize themselves to master their environments.  But political decay occurs when political systems fail to adjust to changing circumstances.”
—Francis Fukuyama, The Origins of Political Order

In mankind’s mythical State of Nature, are humans solitary libertarian beings—the rugged individualist, who only comes to town when the social contract offers an advantage?  Or are we inherently social creatures, allowed to stray from the fold only when the greater good doesn’t need us?  And how do these contrasting theories help (or hinder) our understanding of how we govern ourselves?

Analyst Francis Fukuyama gained notoriety with his 1992 book The End of History and the Last Man.  Of course “history” hasn’t ended, and the title certainly did gain him attention, but since then Fukuyama has thought a lot about how we got to these particular ends, and where we might be going in the the realm of political economy.  In 2011, he published a thick tome, The Origins of Political Order, and in 2014, a second volume, Political Order and Political Decay.  If Fukuyama considered the end times to begin, he goes back to the very beginning of human society and throws a lot of history at us along the way.

The philosophy is as thick as the texts are heavy.  The kind of writing that is very good at bringing on sleep quickly.  The kind of writing that demands attention, and invites re-reading.  This winter I’ve been re-visiting the 2011 installment, finding context for the 2016 political silly season.  In particular, I’ve been thinking over Fukuyama’s observations on biological foundations of politics.

  • Human beings never existed in a pre-social state.
  • Natural human sociability is built around two principles, kin selection and reciprocal altruism.
  • Human beings have an innate propensity for creating and following norms or rules.
  • Human beings (also) have a natural propensity for violence.
  • Human beings by nature desire not just material resources but also recognition.

None of these ideas are new, but Fukuyama weaves them into an argument for how our inherent biology has influenced political development around the world and across the ages.  Generalizing broadly, contra-Rousseau, the author supports the idea man is a social animal, supported (imprisoned) by family ties (kin groups).  It may take a village to raise a child, but it is also very difficult to escape the tyranny of cousins.  Reciprocal altruism—you rub my back, I’ll rub yours—is an amazingly simple relationship, yet also amazingly difficult to overcome in the name of transparency, accountability, good government and the rule of law.

Fukuyama talks a lot about the rule of law, especially in terms of property rights and contract enforcement, as a key foundation for political order, and how political order is a key foundation for long-term economic growth and development.  People across history seem to want to follow norms, which helps offset the equal urge to just fight it out, often as not over ideas as much as stuff.  As a thought for Presidents Day, that, folks, is politics.

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2015 In Review

San Juan Mountains2015 was 150 years from the end of the Civil War, and 1 more year that I changed jobs and moved, this time back to the Centennial State of Colorado.  I started out continuing the daily journal of my ancestor Pvt. Orrin Brown, then relaxing my publishing schedule and finishing with some pretty good Americana music.  I had my busiest day ever, with 240 blog views on 16 January 2015.  Thanks for sticking around.

#1 Cheyenne-Laramie County, Wyoming, Historical Timeline:  I worked for 2 years on this keyword-rich listing of major events from 1833-1992, published before I left the Cowboy State in 2014, when it was my 2nd most popular post.  Glad to share.

#2 Diary of Orrin Brown—Dec 15, 1864:  The Battle of Nashville.  Orrin Brown was laying siege to Savannah, Georgia, while Sherman’s Union rear guard held off Confederate John Bell Hood.

#3 Where the Well Things Are #11 Bittersweet in the Bakken:  There’s Oil in them there Bakken hills (and in the Denver-Julesburg, and in the San Juan Basin…) and Natural Gas if you want it.  Even if it’s not paying out so well now days as when I wrote these posts in 2013 or even last year when one was my #1 most popular post and the other #7.

#4 Little (Lego) House on the Prairie (Style):  Perennially popular post from 2009, where Lego goes all Frank Lloyd Wright.

#5 All Things Shepard:  History meets genealogy.

#6/#1 new post Diary of Orrin Brown—March 20, 1865: Pvt. Brown joins the Battle of Bentonville, as far as I could figure the only sure time he picked up arms, and just two days before he was put on permanent disability.  The 14th Michigan Infantry held their own.

#7/#2 new post Meet Some New Friends Doing Interesting Things in Community Development: Shout-out to the good works of the Orton Foundation and Sonoran Institute.

#8/#3 new post At the Wilsall Rodeo:  In honor of Cowboy Poetry Week, I brought back my ode to the Northern Rodeo Association circuit in Big Sky Country.

#9 The Diary of Pvt. Orrin Brown: The initial post for the dairy, Marching through Georgia and the Carolinas with General Sherman.

#10 Diary of Orrin Brown—Dec 31, 1864: A keyword-rich review of the timeline of the Civil War, from 15 April 1861 to the end of 1864.

#12 Ten Albums for 2015 – Corb and Rhiannon, Bob Wills and More: My year-end review of my Top 10 Americana Albums made the dozen most-read posts in just the last two-weeks of the year.  Corb Lund, Rhiannon Giddens, Asleep at the Wheel, Ryan Bingham, James McMurtry, Jason Isbell, Gretchen Peters, Tom Russell, The Mavericks, and Nora Jane Struthers.  Great music from some good folks.

And for old time’s sake, here’s my 2014 Top Posts post.

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JC’s Americana Top Tunes Played in 2015

I played more music this year than last, thanks primarily to Spotify streaming…and having spare time between jobs last winter…and spending the holidays by my lonesome.  Mostly, though, because there was simply a LOT of good Americana-ish music released this year.  I track my music plays on the London-based last.fm and their Scrobbler app, 2015 is now over.  Stats served over-easy.

Top 25 Artists scrobbled (mostly via Spotify) in 2015

Johnny Cash has ruled my charts since I’ve had charts, but Corb Lund ruled my charts in 2015.  Overall, though I just had a LOT more plays among all artists, but in particular from the Americana Radio Chart toppers.  I was playing both Jason Isbell and Gretchen Peters‘ previous strong albums when their current releases came out.  I also revisited Audrey Auld/Audrey Auld Mazera‘s catalog upon her death this summer.  RIP Audrey, you brought such happiness and joy to many, many lives.

Top Artists 2015

Top Albums I played in 2015

Yes, did I mention Corb Lund ruled my charts this year?  I overplayed his late-year release, Things That Can’t Be Undone.  Yes, overplayed it like a Top 40 radio station.  My bad, but it is that good.  If he had released it earlier in the year I’m sure it would have reached more Best Of lists.  While I wasn’t as impressed with Jason Isbell‘s Something More Than Free as I was with his previous release, Southeastern, NoDepression website gave him their Top Album of 2015.  There’s also several Grammy nominees lurking in here, which is a big change for me.

For the most part, my album chart forms the backbone of my own Best Of lists for 2015 (Top 10, and 10 More).

Top Albums 2015

Top Tracks I played in 2015

My Top Tracks tracks my Top Albums a bit more closely this year.  I did a Spotify list of albums as they entered the Top 10 of the Americana Radio Chart (with some help from friends), then picked a favorite track after playing thru the album a few tries (which also increased my Scrobble rate considerably).  Lund, Giddens, McMurtry, Bingham, Peters, Isbell, you get the drill.  Interestingly, I ended up giving my favorite tracks about the same number of spins this year as last, though the top 20 or so are more closely clustered.  Too much good music to choose from!

Top Tracks 2015

That, my friends, is the 2015 edition of JC’s last.fm statistics.  Some serious navel gazing here.  Thanks for listening.  The upcoming Grammy awards have some interesting nominees, and  I hear there’s some more top-notch Americana productions scheduled for 2016 release.  Yeah, roots music.

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10 More Albums for 2015—Americana’s JV Team

Dwight's New Album Ad

Americana’s Junior Varsity Team was strong this year.  The starting line-up was stellar, but the underclassmen are nipping at their heels.  And I know some other coaches would (have) moved my players up to prime-time.  (Yeah, I’m watching college bowl games on TV and college basketball on the iGizmo while I’m streaming on the iMac…)

So here’s a few of the rest of the artists who knocked my ear-socks off with new releases this year and earned at least 100 plays on the old Scrobble-meter.

Dwight Yoakam — Second Hand Heart

Dwight returned to his rocking, rockabilly, go-go-go trademark ways with this release.  I liked it, but no one track caught my playlist early on.  Other than his cover of “Man of Constant Sorrow”, the tune featured in the movie Oh Brother Where Art Thou.  That one I unchecked off iTunes pretty darn quick.  I heard he sold out the casino in Ignacio, so bless him his current success.

Aaron Watson — The Underdog

Aaron Watson has been a solid Texas-Country underdog for some time now, working his way up with the honky tonk crowd.  He really impressed me with his tribute to rodeo cowboy Lane Frost, “July in Cheyenne”, and I just missed catching him live during Frontier Days.  My caveat on this release was, well, he went too far over to the Dark Side of Pop Country.  It’s a bit too polished, a bit too smooth…which paid off in a #1 spot on Billboard’s Country Chart on release.  Ride that pony long as you can.

Justin Townes Earle — Absent Fathers

A nice follow-up to last year’s Single Mothers, I think this just came out too early in the year and got lost in my clutter.  They’re really two discs of one work, and play well together.

Steve Earle — Terraplane

Steve Earle & the Dukes paid tribute to the blues on Terraplane.  And it’s not at all political (my usual beef with Steve Earle, James McMurtry and some other old hippies).  It’s just, well, the effort seems dialed-in.  Earle the Senior can do better than this.

Wrinkle Neck Mules — I Never Thought It Would Go This Far

I hate to admit it, but I don’t know much about Wrinkle Neck Mules.  They’ve just kind of floated about the edges of my sonic consciousness, four guitars and a drum kit.  This release took me a bit by surprise, especially the first (very) catchy track, “Whistlers and Sparklers”, which reminds me a lot of Fort Collins favorites Drag the River in a Son Volt sorta way.

Blackberry Smoke — Holding All the Roses

I came across this album late.  Some good friends like them, and I should have paid attention.  I think its a timing thing.  Just haven’t taken my Lynyrd Skynyrd albums off the shelf recently, although I’m glad Blackberry Smoke gave me the thought. (DJ warning on first and last tracks!)

Whitehorse — Leave No Bridge Unburned

No idea where Whitehorse came from (Canada) or who they are (folk-rock duo, more rock than folk).  As an urban planner-type, I basically couldn’t resist a song titled “Downtown”.  They’re catchy and fun.

The Honeycutters — Me Oh My

Kickstarter gave us this gem of an acoustic album from an Asheville, North Carolina, “original country roots band” fronted by songwriter Amanda Anne Platt, a Chris Austin finalist at MerleFest 2011.

Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell — The Traveling Kind

I know some artists don’t much care for online streaming, and Spotify in particular, but the service has been a godsend for musical variety on a tight pocketbook.  I’m also thrilled with Spotify’s partnership with last.fm, ensuring my streaming gets Scrobbled.  On the downside, Spotify doesn’t do duos.  C’mon people, the technology can’t be that hard!  So this album gets credited to Emmylou, not the two.  Then again, last.fm never did Various Artists very well either….  Oh, yeah, the music is sold, too.  Nice follow-up on 2013’s Old Yellow Moon.  Grammy nominations, that sort of thing.

Dale Watson — Call Me Insane

When Dale Watson comes on the my streaming radio jukebox speakers I know I like it, but I often forget if I’m listening to George or Merle or one of the other kingpins of classic country music.  Cause Dale Watson’s that good.  He’s got this weird “Ameripolitan” thing going now for anti-pop.  I hate the name.  Hate it. Hate it. Hate it.  But I love his straight old more-country than Country music.


 

I also have kind words for Mark Knopfler‘s Tracker. Mr. Knopfler doesn’t Spotify, otherwise I would have played this more.  In many ways, it is a continuation of his 2000 release, Sailing to Philadelphia.  This is an album, not a collection of singles, and deserves full attention anyway.  You’re going to hear more about Chris Stapleton‘s Traveller, too, before next year is out.  Grammy nominations, that sort of thing.

2015 has been a good year.  I understand that starving artists deserve to get paid, but for me the streaming isn’t displacing the buying.  It’s free advertising, displacing awful terrestrial radio.  I’m hoping folks keep showing up and playing the game even if the rules need a 21st century re-write.  I’m stretching the analogy, yes, but Americana’s Varsity is bound to get a bigger roster in 2016.

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