OCMS: “50 Years of Blonde on Blonde” and Coming to Terms with “Carry Me Back”

source: amazon.com

After Old Crow Medicine Show’s triumphant Carry Me Back and the hey-that’s-damn-catchy Remedy (both with ATO Records), I have paced in anticipation, I have salivated, I have hoped and dreamed of the next Old Crow release. And, lo! It cometh!

On April 28, 2017, Old Crow released their first record with Columbia Nashville, 50 Years of Blonde on Blonde. I had hoped to write a full review of the new album but what’s the point? 50 Years of Blonde on Blonde is a live, bluegrass-ish, track-for-track cover of Bob Dylan’s 1966 album, Blonde on Blonde. The zeitgeist of Dylan-cred has haunted Old Crow tracks from “Wagon Wheel” to “Sweet Amarillo.” Old Crow’s frontman, Ketch Secor, even shares co-authoring credits with Dylan for “Wagon Wheel,” making it less of a cover and more like a collaboration with a 25-year gap between writings and recordings. 50 Years of Blonde on Blonde is not “Wagon Wheel” but a forgettable tribute album at best. Do you know what’s more fun than listening to Old Crow’s 50 Years of Blonde on Blonde? Listening to Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde. Old Crow really dialed-it-in on this one. 50 Years of Blonde on Blonde is as interesting as Faith Hill covering “Piece of My Heart” or (dare I say?) Darius Rucker covering “Wagon Wheel.”

Instead, carry me back to 2012 and Old Crow’s Carry Me Back

Continue reading “OCMS: “50 Years of Blonde on Blonde” and Coming to Terms with “Carry Me Back””


To Shit in the Woods: Theory and Practical Application

source: amazon.com

At long last, Barky has shat in the woods! Archivists take heed for History trembles, prostrate to the deeds of great adventurers. 

To put this momentous occasion into perspective, Barky has spent numerous multi-day excursions in the backcountry – trips that include lots of coffee and carb-heavy food. Yet, until April 2017, at the tender age of 30, Barky had never taken a shit of any kind in the woods.

It became a joke. I laughed for want to weep, watching Barky bolt to the nearest toilet as soon as we returned from the woods to our civil comforts. One Christmas, I gifted Barky a roll of toilet paper, an orange-plastic trowel, and a copy of Kathleen Meyer’s seminal masterpiece, How to Shit in the Woods: An Environmentally Sound Approach to a Lost Art. Coincidentally, that was the very day that I met the woman whom Barky would wed. I am uncertain whether she found the gift humorous or thought that Barky should invest in new friends. Either way, we’re still friends and I feel that my encouragement has added experience to Barky’s life.

Shitting in the woods is a practical and perfectly human skill. Humans have popped backcountry squats for tens of thousands of years before indoor plumbing and the first flush toilet ushered our bumbling species into the modern-era. Pooping is a natural function of the natural world. I shit. Therefore, I am.

Continue reading “To Shit in the Woods: Theory and Practical Application”

2… 3… Haints: Revisiting Ghost Dance 10 Years Gone (Album Review)


To say that the Pine Hill Haints are the greatest artists to ever come out of Alabama would be unfair in that it limits the Haints to Alabama.  Their vision can, at times, be hard to swallow. Not quite familiar and not quite foreign, the Haints tap elements of bluegrass, classic and alt country, honky tonk, rockabilly, American and Irish folk, calypso, punk, and grunge. They play in Genre Purgatory. To describe their sound, the Haints themselves have coined the phrase “Alabama Ghost Music” but such a label suggests that there exists some subculture, some ghost-music scene, in the Yellowhammer State. Really, Alabama Ghost Music is a genre of one, the Pine Hill Haints — or maybe a genre of five if you include Rise Up Howlin Werewolf, the Natchez Shakers, the Wednesdays, and Counter Clockwise (though all these bands are overshadowed by and even share musicians with the Haints).

On stage, I’ve heard guitarist/lead-singer Jamie Barrier say that they play “country music,” “sittin’ music,” “dancin’ music.” Their various roots-music influences are easy to hear. I did not tune-in to the grunge flair until Jamie started strumming the chords to Nirvana’s “About A Girl” (“I need an easy friend…”) during a soundcheck before a show in Mobile. I caught myself singing along and forever after listened to the Haints in a whole new way. Closer to the truth, Jamie has also called it “dead music.” The Haints sing the ghosts of Alabama, of the southern condition. Ghost Dance is their masterpiece. 

Continue reading “2… 3… Haints: Revisiting Ghost Dance 10 Years Gone (Album Review)”

Sit, Breathe, Read: An Open Commencement Address to the Class of 2017

Graduates of the Class of 2017, I am sorry. On behalf of humanity, I apologize for humanity. The sky is falling, the well has run dry, the end is nigh, and you have come too late to party at the emerald-goggled, cluster-fuck kegger that was the modern age. For that, for all of humanity’s irrevocable misdeeds, I apologize. Those who remain are left with one final task as our species slips from its autumnal years to wintry dementia and ultimately to darkness. We must sit and breathe and read.

Continue reading “Sit, Breathe, Read: An Open Commencement Address to the Class of 2017”

“Decisions with John Wayne – Ducks Unlimited 1973” by Ducks Unlimited Canada

“I’d just like to talk to you about life in general and what’s happening to that life on this shrinking planet with dwindling resources because, no matter what the nature of the force that created this earth and its inhabitants is, it deserves our deep and abiding respect.” – John Wayne

Continue reading ““Decisions with John Wayne – Ducks Unlimited 1973” by Ducks Unlimited Canada”

Bridging Cucumber Gap: A Smoky Mountains Thanksgiving

A simple kindness can have a profound impact.

White-capped, high water swelled the last creek crossing on Cucumber Gap Trail before the Little River Trail Junction. It had rained and then snowed all week. Now, the clouds cleared, a balmy 41˚F, and the snow began to melt on the sunny side of the Smoky Mountains. The day was Thanksgiving, 2013.

Continue reading “Bridging Cucumber Gap: A Smoky Mountains Thanksgiving”

Surrogate Wolves: We Must Kill Large Game or Else They Might Die Some Other Way!

I took my first deer at age 16. I had hunted duck and dove for years but I had never invested much thought in deer. My father and uncle reasoned that deer hunting would be a healthy enterprise for a boy who was prone to flatcaps and shell-and-leather chokers. (What? I was hip, just ask Hollister circa 2002.) Also, venison jerky is unspeakably tasty…

So, somewhere northwest of Dallas, Texas, I saddled-up in a blind — like those pre-fabricated sheds that you’ll see in any Home Depot parking lot. It was spray-painted “camo” and situated in a clearing engulfed by pine. I waited 30 minutes before a buck and a doe pranced out of the brambles to graze below a battery-powered corn dispenser that sprayed kernels twice a day, at sun-up and again an hour before sundown. I had my pick.

I chose the buck and steadied the bead just above and behind his shoulder. It dawned on me that I had never shot this rifle or (really) any rifle before. My experience with firearms did not extend much further than two hand-me-down shotguns, each nearly a century old. Would this rifle fire true? What were its quirks? My shotguns had many but this rifle felt weighty and expensive. It was my uncle’s and, knowing him, I surely wielded a finely tuned instrument. Still, I stalled and thought. The deer browsed long and unbothered. I tapped the plywood wall of the blind with the toe of my boot. No response from the deer. I kicked the wall, making a sound like a kettle drum. Still, no response. I shouted, “Hey!” I suppose that I felt obligated. I wanted to like this. My dad wanted me to like this. I closed my eyes and squeezed the trigger…

Continue reading “Surrogate Wolves: We Must Kill Large Game or Else They Might Die Some Other Way!”

“Reexamining the Forest” by Mark Wyatt

Reexamining the Forest from Mark Wyatt on Vimeo.

“The red cedar tree was, to our people, the tree of life…Everything was made out of the red cedar.” Joe Martin, Tla-oqui-aht First Nation

“Forests sustain many communities around BC [British Columbia]. In fact, some regions are entirely dependent upon forestry. But cutting a forest down comes as a trade off. When you cut a forest down, multiple other ecosystem services are negatively affected.” – Ira Sutherland on the study of Ecosystem Services in Pacific Rim National Forest

Challenge: Look Up and Listen

Raven Rock State Park in central North Carolina is small but lively. Despite yesterday’s late start, I saw deer, warblers and sparrows, battling squirrels, and droves of human hikers with their canine best friends. Raven Rock Loop Trail (2.6 miles) with it’s many tributaries (Little Creek Loop Trail, 1.5mi; Fish Traps Trail, 0.5mi there/back; and Northington Ferry Trail, 0.9mi there/back) make for an easy morning’s stroll through the woods. These trails wander the beech and sycamore forest above the bluffs that fall to the lazy rapids of the Cape Fear River.

Raven Rock SP Map (source NCparks.gov)

Where the trail turns from the bluffs between Raven Rock and the Fish Traps Trail junction, I heard a distant hammering — unmistakably, a woodpecker. I stopped and listened. On the river side of the trail, two doe nervously spied me. Step-pause-step, they measured my threat. From deeper in the woods, two hairy woodpeckers — locked in aerial fisticuffs — flapped and flailed to a shortleaf pine. They paused and hopped around the tree’s trunk before engaging again and flapping to the next tree, jockeying for territory and foraging rights.

Continue reading “Challenge: Look Up and Listen”

“Mule Deer Migration” by Joe Riis Photography

Mule Deer Migration from Joe Riis Photography on Vimeo.

“It’s 2013 and, for large mammals around North America (esepecially the lower 48), we typically think we kind of know what’s going on and here we have hundreds of animals migrating 150 miles across public and private lands, right underneath our noses, and we didn’t even know about it.” – Hall Sawyer, Research Biologist