Foster's Satchel/Screen Syndicate

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December 24, 2018
To Everything Turn Turn Turn. 
Our new band Foster's Satchel is gelling well after a few practices.  We’ve definitely passed the “is this thing going to work” stage and into excitement about the possibilities.  The band’s mission is to give listeners a new perspective on America’s most important songwriter, Stephen Foster (you can read the full band bio here).

The Salt Kings are essentially disbanded after what for us has been an incredible thirteen-ish year run.  We didn’t know what would happen with historical based music but found a surprising number of people wanted to hear it.  We thank the countless friends made all over the world and hope to continue some contact with you with Foster's Satchel.

And Screen Syndicate, well, we really like the record, which may be our best recording ever and wish the players had time to play the music live and travel.  It will be a studio only band and you can still hear the record here

March 27, 2018
Hear the new record from our new band Screen Syndicate.   After three years of occasional work the long rumored Screen Syndicate record, "Roberta Stars in the Big Doll House" is finished and you can listen to it and download for free for a limited time.  Some are calling it a 1970's B-movie, American Drive In Movie rock opera and I generally agree with that.  The song cycle focuses around the life of promising actress Roberta Collins who never broke out of minor roles.  But more than that it's a celebration of 1970's drive in movie culture and the films of Roger Corman and Quentin Tarantino.  Of course it's a concept album, that's all we do.  Sonically it's our best recording to date we like the songs quite a bit.

What's next?  I've arranged quite a few of the unknown songs of Stephen Foster, something I've always wanted to do and hope to begin work on that this year.  It's likely a new band project sans Salt Kings and Screen Syndicate players.  Those guys are busy!

Although, our bass player and primary vocal arranger Ron Johnson has got me re-hooked on the sixties big vocal band The Association, and I must confess the wheels are turning about writing songs with their approach, like 6 vocalists and Phil Spector Wall of Sound type recording and live performances with those vocals.  Thanks a lot Ron . . . :)

And, I resume sporadic announcements here as in doing my part to save American democracy I've S-canned Facebook for good, probably not the best business music move.  I'm not sure how many brick bats have to get smashed over our collective heads for us to ditch the platform, suffice to say there are better and more meaningful ways to communicate that aren't existential threats to our dignity and way of life.  Besides, Trump has those areas covered in spades.

February 3, 2014
C'mon Springsteen, We Can Do Better .  .  . America, Illinois on the FAR Chart for January, 2014.

January 31, 2014
Well, Maybe We Like This One Most of All.  The Salt Kings were pleased to appear on the Illinos Roots Radio Airplay Chart comprised of roots artists from Illinois receving airplay in different markets, and also pleased to be on anything with local greats The Bankesters.  We did feel we should have gotten extra credit for having Illinois in the title . . .

January 8, 2014
America, Illinois on Euro Americana Chart.  A tremendous thanks to our radio and press friends overseas who helped AI hit the January Euro Americana Chart.  It’s an honor and we greatly appreciate when anyone gives our music a good listen and feels it merits some mention.

November 26, 2013
America, Illinois Now Available.   Even though our official release date on the Rankoutsider Records coop is January 14, 2014 as independent nobodies we can sell the CD now without upsetting anyone's apple cart. Makes a great stocking stuffer . . .

We love selling downloads as their are easy for the customer and environmentally friendly, most burn to their PCs and phones anyway.  Pick it up at iTunes, Google Play, eMusic or other location and look at the artwork here.

October 15, 2013
Our official CD release date is 1/14/14.  We’re not even sure what that means anymore but if  you’ve got to have a date, that’s it.  We’ll have CDs available to our friends by mid November. 

Our first performance of the America, Illinois show with film will be Saturday, November 9  at the Embarras Valley Film Festival at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston.  It’s a great fest run by great people and we’re honored to be asked back after playing our Oscar Micheaux material there a couple of years ago.  Show time is early, 6:30 p.m.

And this is a twofer for me personally as the documentary film I produced, Confidence Man, The Hugh DeNeal Story will be showing right after our performance.  So we hope our friends in the Charleston area can make it out

May 26, 2013
Well we’re slow learners but have concluded blogging is incredibly pretentious and completely unnecessary (the music should speak for us) but will try to do better at giving some regular updates.

Our America, Illinois CD is progressing slowly but we should be ready for a fall release.  Quite happy with the sound and general direction and again plan some extensive liner notes.  Check back for details and we’re greatly honored by everyone's interest.


September 26, 2010
Viva Italia!  Our enormous thanks to everyone at the Salento International Film Festival in Casarano, Italy for their invitation to play the festival and warm welcome upon arrival. It is safe to say a great time was had by all. The fest was extremely well organized and we had the pleasure of playing at the lovely Cinema Teatro Manzoni in Casarano.

Italian Director Francesco Zippel filmed the entire performance with a high end three camera crew for an Oscar Micheaux documentary he is currently producing. Francesco is a great guy and became a confident and interpreter for other parts of the trip.

We also had the great pleasure of having dinner in Rome at the home of filmmakers   Ariana de Giorgi and Jason Goodman, who released the critically acclaimed "Eternal City" in 2008. Southern Illinois themes continue to take us to some remarkable places.

Many people are asking us what our next CD will be about. We think it will be a song cycle based around the tiny village of America, Illinois in Pulaski County. The song possibilities are endless. We'll keep you posted.


June 3, 2010
Salt Kings On Public Broadcasting.  Our thanks to WSIU and producer David Kidd for a really great 15 minute video piece that aired last week on WSIU Public Broadcasting. David and his crew spent months on the story, following us to several live performances and interviewing people familiar with our music. Quite an honor for us and you can see it here.


January 9, 2010
As Ari Shapiro says, "potato, potahto" . . . Our enormous thanks to everyone at NPR's Weekend Edition for airing a piece about our CD on January 2nd. It was great fun talking to guest host Ari Shapiro, who I've been listening to for years, and interacting with producers Peter Breslow, Ed Wharton and Jenni Bergal. They are all consummate professionals just as you'd expect. We also want to thank WSIU in Carbondale for the hook up that allowed me to speak to Ari in Washington. You can hear the story here.

Weekend Edition producers anticipated letters about my pronunciation of Micheaux's name and sure enough, they came in. There is debate about how Micheaux pronounced his name and additional debate about how others who knew him pronounced it. Patrick McGilligan talks about this in his book Oscar Micheaux, The Great and Only (read a New York Times excerpt on the issue here). All this adds to the mystery of Micheaux, as if he needed anything more - people can't even agree on what to call him. I said Ma-Show after quite a bit of initial research (others say Me-Show), but during our recording sessions I was able acquire a rare documentary made in 1981 about Micheaux featuring actors Bee Freeman and Lorenzo Tucker, who starred in many Micheaux films. They say Me-Shaw and Ma-Shaw, and since these are people who new him for years I "corrected" myself and adopted what could be argued to be the Little Egypt or southern pronunciation of Ma-Shaw. You can hear a clip of Tucker pronouncing the name here.

At any rate this turned into an NPR twofer for us as today Weekend Edition Saturday aired story about the issue in its Letters piece. It's quite interesting and you can hear that story here.

I invite those around the country much more scholarly than myself to contact me with other documentation but can assure all we try hard to get these details correct. Thanks again to NPR for two interesting pieces on the CD.


January 1, 2010
Much to report over a busy few months. Our performance at the St. Louis Art Museum as part of the St. Louis International Film Festival was the most fun and interesting show in memory. We were able to play our film score live with a showing of Within Our Gates to an appreciative crowd. Adding to the evening was meeting Patrick McGilligan, author of Oscar Micheaux, The Great and Only, the book that put us on our on Micheaux journey. Our thanks to Cliff Froehlich for arraigning the performances and giving us such a great experience.

We also want to thank Landee Bryant for having us at the Rivers Edge International Film Festival in Paducah, Kentucky in November. This is a great little festival that will continue to grow in the years ahead. The festival screened Under These Same Stars, a film done by our friends Dan Johnson and Bob Streit.

And thanks to The Southern, the regional newspaper here in Little Egypt for giving The Amazing Oscar Micheaux a nod as one of the Finest Things in 2009 in their year end rap up. Local support like this really means a lot to us.

And finally our thanks to Thomas Kaldijk for giving us a CD of the Week nod on his "Blueprint" radio show in Groningen, The Netherlands. The Symbol of the Unconquered is currently featured as the single track available at the show's Myspace site.


October 12, 2009
At the Movies.  Much activity to report in the last two months or so including our first film festival performance at the Rome International Film Festival in Rome, Georgia on September 5. We had a great time and also played well, giving us confidence in the live multimedia show. Rome is a very nice town; hopefully we’ll have the opportunity to return some time.  Some media coverage here.

We also really enjoyed our local CD release show at the Liberty Theater in Murphysboro, Illinois on September 19. The official national release of The Amazing Oscar Micheaux with Rankoutsider/Burnside is January 19, but it was nice to get things moving and sell some CDs. Thanks to friends The Black Fortys for opening and proving why they are one of the best bands in America.  Extremely impressive.

On Saturday, October 17 at the Yellow Moon Café in Cobden, Illinois we will screen the Oscar Micheaux film Within Our Gates and perform an original score commissioned by the St. Louis International Film Festival. We’ll play our full multimedia set afterward. Within Our Gates is consider by many scholars to be Micheaux’s most important work, as it was his original push back to D. W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation, and lost for decades.

Finally I spent a very enjoyable day last week in Cairo with adventurist/reporter Neal Moore who is canoeing the entire length of the Mississippi and doing a series of reports for CNN’s iReport, and many segments including this one are appearing on CNN somewhere around the world. The piece is quite interesting, see it here.


August 24, 2009
And Now For The Harder Part . . . Our new CD, The Amazing Oscar Micheaux is mixed and mastered and has been sent off to the manufacturer. Our enormous thanks to Mike Lescelius (the 5th Salt King) at Misunderstudio in Murphsyboro, Illinois who engineered and produced the CD along with the band and Heather Smith for extraordinary artwork in another 16 page booklet, which has now become our trademark. We will be able to offer pre-release copies for sale from our official website beginning September 8.

The official regional CD release show is Saturday, September 19 at the Liberty Theater in Murphysboro, Illinois with the fabulous the Black Fortys. This is a free show in a great venue so please come out and join us. We will be showing clips from eight of Micheaux's films as we perform live.

Our first film festival performance will be Friday, September 11 at the Rome International Film Festival in Rome, Georgia at the restored DeSoto Theater. Yours truly will be giving a lecture on Oscar Micheaux's legacy at 3:00 p.m. at Heritage Hall before our evening performance.

Finally we were extremely pleased to get a nice mention of the project at the Turner Classic Movies website, see it here.


July 19, 2009
The Pilgramage Has Gained Momentum . . . Perhaps reaching obsessed fan status I was able to visit the Oscar Micheaux star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame this week. Proof here.  Micheaux was awarded the honor in 1987, thirty six years after his death as a nod to his importance as one of the first Africian American feature film directors.  But this was before the 1991 rediscovery in Europe of two astonishing films, Within Our Gates and The Symbol of the Unconquered, both counter attacks to D.W. Griffith's completely racist The Birth of a Nation.  The discovery of these films, lost for over sixty years, confirmed Micheaux's legacy as an envelope pushing genius.  In fact I believe Micheaux in his early years was the American über envelop pusher.

We also paid a visit to Pierce Brothers Cemetery, final resting place of Marilyn Monroe, Dean Martin, Jack Lemmon and many others.  Interestingly Frank Zappa and Roy Orbison are buried near each other in unmarked graves, perhaps a testament to the ego integrity of both.

The new CD, tentatively titled The Amazing Oscar Micheaux is now in the final mixing stages and I'm staying out of the way and letting producer/engineer extraordinaire Mike Lescelius shape the sound.  I've also stayed out of the way and let him produce sessions with with rest of the band and the results have been quite spectacular.  Dane has brought in percussion devices I have never heard or heard of, Ron's harmonies are incredible and Charlie's arrangements and guitar work have raised his own bar, something I did not think was possible.  This is the most enjoyable CD I've ever done and we are all pushing each other's creative envelops with satisfying results.


May 18, 2009
On With The Micheaux.  Work on our Oscar Micheaux Project is proceeding on schedule and since we have had so many questions about the direction and intent of the project we have made the brilliant marketing decision to expose the public to unfinished tracks, something no musician likes to do.  But on our Youtube Channel those interested can see rough cut video from Micheaux’s films and some of our songs.  The music in each case is about 25% complete and we will be uploading new versions as progress is made on each song.

It’s our great pleasure to announce an invitation to play at the prestigious Rome International Film Festival in September, in Rome, Georgia (making travel much easier).  Events will include a lecture on Micheaux by yours truly and full band and multimedia performance at the beautifully restored DeSoto Theater.

We are also extraordinarily pleased to announce that author Patrick McGilligan has agreed to do some liner notes for our Micheaux CD.  McGilligan wrote the superb Micheaux biography, The Great and Only Oscar Micheaux published by Harper Collins, the book that totally hooked this writer on the subject.  It’s an honor to have him participate.

We are tentatively scheduled in several more film festivals and will update as those are confirmed.

February 14, 2009

Micheaux Must Go On!  One of the nice things about having a great band (The Salt Kings) and a flexible record label Rankoutsider) is that you can pretty much indulge about any creative whim that strikes you. In that spirit we are pivoting away from the Chittlin' Circuit project and into the remarkable life of Metropolis, Illinois born filmmaker Oscar Micheaux.

Micheaux's astonishing story sounds like the stuff of myth and legend, but it is all true. After leaving Little Egypt he spent time as a Pullman porter, traveling all over the US and as far as South America. He then became the only African American to homestead a farm near Gregory, South Dakota. In his isolation he began to pen semi autobiographical novels, starting with The Conquest in 1913 and The Homesteader in 1917. A small, black owned movie studio approached Micheaux about making the standard short film of the period based on The Homesteader, he instead formed his own film company and wrote, filmed, produced and directed the sprawling epic, The Homesteader in 1919. It was a sensation in Chicago and other cities. Then, in a direct challenge to D.W. Griffith's racially charged Birth of a Nation Micheaux released his masterpiece, Within Our Gates in 1920. Audiences were stunned. The film remained lost for almost 60 years until a single copy was discovered in Spain in 1990. His triumph was the equivalent of making Citizen Kane without any financial backing from Hollywood or other connected sources. Micheaux bested Orson Wells in accomplishment, and by two plus decades, yet he is virtually unknown to most Americans.

Micheaux made 43 films during his career and is best known to his small circle of admirers (including me) for his uncompromising vision and his unflinching mission to take on difficult subject matter - no matter what. Staying one step ahead of his creditors he made the films he wanted to make, regardless of commercial viability. He angered as many African Americans as whites, and the film God's Stepchildren, released in 1938, was picketed by the Communist Party at a showing in Harlem as a "racist" movie.

All but six or seven of Micheaux's films are lost to history due to the small number of copies produced outside the normal studio system, and their frequent use.

The songs based on Micheaux are coming fast and furious so we look forward to the journey and adventure on this remarkable subject.


December 15, 2008
Chittlin's Anyone? (Or, How I Learned to Love Fried Hog Intestines, Or, The Most Real, Genuine Music In America). I have to give The Salt Kings props and credit for following me to some extremely odd musical places, and it appears they are willing to plunge into the Chittlin' Circuit too, god bless their adventurous souls.

Why the Chittlin' Circuit? Like the proverbial mountain, because its there, or remnets of it, but more importantly because it is the most real music in music in America at the moment bar none, and I don't make that assertion lightly. The Chittlin Circuit itself was a large network of clubs in the American South and East that gave black performers and their fans places to play and party during segregation. Those clubs are largely gone now but a close knit group of artists continue to flourish in the genre, packing venues throughout the South while remaining completely off commercial radar. Almost no web, no Soundscan, little airplay - just some fliers and word of mouth announcing shows. It reminds me of college indie rock in the 1980s.

The music is southern soul and R&B, not traditional blues. What is fascinating about the blues in America is that African Americans, by and large, have moved on. Blues in the US has essentially become party music for middle aged caucasians (not that there's anything wrong with that), not an important cultural expression from it's originators. Go to Clarksdale or Greenville, Mississippi and you will hear hip hop blasting from car stereos; you won't hear a note of blues unless you seek it out at ever dwindling blues venues, largely remaining open for a handful of locals and tourists. Or as Memphis Magazine put it, "Hawaiian shirt, sandal/sock combos one glimpses at the blues festivals in Clarksdale, Mississippi, or Helena, Arkansas."

But what you will hear in the American South, in additional to hip hop and rap is what has become known as "Adult Blues" or southern soul known as Chittlin' Circuit music and the clubs are packed with rabid fans. It is genuine, it is real and it is undeniable and pure. The real deal. No pretension, no posing, no marketing conferences with showcases, no posturing, no hangers on.

Our plan is to record some obscure gems by CC artists (I'm a big fan of Tyrone Davis and Ollie Nightingale for example) and original songs about artists, cities and places on the circuit. We will have a song about the King of the genre, Bobby Rush, and the Queen, Denise LaSalle. I know some of our alt-country fans will question this move, just like our Slave House adventure, but I can simply say there is no more American music being played right now than Chittlin' Circuit soul. It is the real Americana. We report, you decide . . .

Also we have a few minutes of lo fi video from our recent German trip, see it here .


November 6, 2008
Witness to History - Barack Hussein Obama President Elect of the United States of America. A disclaimer: I did not vote for Barack Obama or John McCain (Obama lost me with his yes vote on Bill HR 6304 to amend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978) so officially I had no dog in the hunt, nevertheless one is profoundly humbled to witness the arc of history.

Oh, I've seen plenty of American history in my life, but little of it positive and none of it transformative. The assassination of Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. Watergate. Limping out of Vietnam. Challenger explosion. Clinton impeachment. 911. Iraq war. All of those events were important historical markers, but none transformational like Obama's election. I was too young to comprehend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 so this is the one true milepost in my conscious lifetime.

Two of my bands, The Cairo Project and The Salt Kings explored racial questions in depth on both Greetings From Cairo, Illinois and Salt Sex Slaves because writing about America without including them is absurd, incomplete and frankly, offensive. Even now some listeners are uncomfortable with our music because it's easier not to think about race and how it has shaped our country. Our band dealt with the question of slavery on the CD Salt Sex Slaves, much to the puzzlement of some and the enlightenment of others, though the prism of the Old Slave House near Equality, Illinois. We say deal with racial inequality head on, in the full light of day, no hedging or rationalizing, no quarter. On Tuesday America did just that, and at the moment I could not be prouder to be an American.

The founding fathers punted on the question of slavery knowing full well the country would be wrenched apart by it in the years ahead. Thomas Jefferson said "maintaining slavery is like holding a wolf by the ears: you don't like it, but you don't dare let go." Lincoln felt the Civil War was penance for the original sin of slavery, a horrible and ultimately necessary trauma to move the country forward. I have always been amazed that it took one hundred years after the Civil War to pass the Civil Rights Act, and then fifteen more of sometimes violent struggle, even in places like tiny Cairo to move the country toward some semblance of racial equality. Obama's election finally, it seems, fulfills the true intent of those founding fathers. All men were not created equal in the United States before November 4, 2008. Now, all these years later, they are.

George W. Bush prepares to leave office, tightly clutching his Harry Truman biographies, dead certain history will view him in a positive light. It will, but not for the reasons he thinks. The astonishing catastrophe of the Bush administration created the exact conditions in which an inexperienced, eloquent young African American with a funny name could be elected President of the United States, and the country is profoundly better for it. This is Bush's unintended lovely parting gift to America.

I don't know if Obama will be a good president but he appears to have the temperament and judgment to succeed, unlike his predecessor. Americans of all stripes should support him and respond to his call for service and sacrifice.

Obama's speech in Berlin earlier this year was a political mistake, still, the sight of thousands of Germans waving American flags made me feel a deep sense of pride. In October the Salt Kings played a show in Lauchhammer, Germany. As we entered the music hall my band was stunned to see a giant American flag on the wall. The idea of America and the possibilities it represents are still powerful and important to millions of people around the world. It is our duty as citizens to live up to that ideal, not just for our own children, but for those across the globe. President Elect Obama, you did not receive my vote, but I am very, very glad you will be my President.


October 11, 2008
The Salt Kings have just returned from Europe and it is quite safe to say "a good time was had by all". Night one in Dusseldorf, Germany was notable for its "altbier" or old beer brewed with a top fermenting process mostly unused now and extraordinary German food. In fact after eating filling but often bland American-German cusine in the states we were stunned by the food at Zum Schlüssel, a building constructed in 1640 and a brewery since 1820.

Night two found us in Deventer, Holland a charming, small Dutch city with a classic European square and friendly people. We played at Burgerweeshuis, a former orphanage and now top city music club. Good crowd, good sound and great political conversation with the locals afterward over good beer. Extremely pleasant night.

Night three took us to Cologne, Germany, a major manufacturing center and home to the magnificent gothic Köln Cathedral. We arrived at Die Kantine to find a bit of a screw up between our agent and the club, but nevertheless made the best of the visit with a good show and tour of the city.

On night four it was on to Lauchhammer, just north of Dresden in the former East Germany. This stop was the most interesting culturally and the best night musically. Lauchhammer was run down and seemed in a bit of a depressed state, the first we'd seen of this in Germany. Real Music Club, in a restored old church, turned out to be a terrific club, with pristine sound and American flags on the wall. It was sold out (about 550 people) and the crowd was noticeably older, we then realized most of the people in attendance would have grown up under communism, and seemed very appreciative of the show. We sold a ton of CDs had a great night and a very memorable experience.

On night five it was on to Roding to play Grammaphon in the lower eastern part of Germany. Roding looked like it jumped off a post card, and proprietor Jörg Hintermeier treated us like kings. The beer her was astonishing, particularly the Hacker-Pschorr. I literally had an Elaine from Seinfield moment, from the Soup Nazi episode, having to sit down after taking a sip. CD sales were great at this show too so all was well.

On day six we decided to cross the Czech Republic border for a brief visit, but were pulled over in our tour van for a cursory check about a mile away. We then discovered that the van rental company had not placed registration paperwork anywhere in the vehicle, so we were asked to follow the two policemen to the station and were essentially impounded, on a Sunday. Fortunately I was able to reach our agent who called the van company - they faxed paperwork to the police and after about an hour we were on our way.

Day seven was a long drive to Rotterdam to drop the van and gear. There we discovered Belgium rail workers were on strike, screwing up our plans to take the train to Brussels for some R&R. We decided to rent a car for the short drive to Brussels.

Day eight was a rendezvous with Belgian filmmaker Sofie Benoot who will be coming to Little Egypt in early November for to produce a new documentary about life along the Mississippi river, starting in Cairo. We were able to do some pre-production planning on our segment and get the insiders tour of Brussels.

The band played spectacularly with everyone up a notch in approach and intensity. It is truly and honor for me to play with Dane, Charlie and Ron - Charlie as usual was greeted with roars of approval from appreciative crowds. Our audience is small, but extremely loyal and I can say without bragging that when the Salt Kings step onto the stage, there is no other band in the world doing exactly what we do. Hopefully we'll be able to continue this fascinating ride for awhile longer.


July 30, 2008
Salt Mavericks. Probably the most interesting review we've gotten on on SSS appears this month in the UK's Maverick Magazine, dedicated to country and roots music. We venture to say that Ricky Skaggs listeners probably won't know what to make of our record or the review but we've gotten quite a response from the region on this, see a .jpg of it here.

Long time no post, but we are busy planning our now confirmed second trip to Europe set for October with dates in Holland and Germany. The itinerary presents some interesting possibilities including a side trip to the Czech Republic. Note to John McCain, Czechoslovakia no longer exists.

Also of note: Sugar Buzz Magazine recently had power pop maestro and fellow Rankoutsider Recording artist Hutch on it's illustrious cover and also called the company the "coolest record label in America." We agree and hope the CD buying public begins to agree.

And to adventurous listeners everywhere we say, thanks for hanging with us!


May 15, 2008
The Salt Kings have had a lot of fun with SSS, wondering where and when the music will turn up, and most recently we find a great review in the Italian blues magazine Il Popolo del Blues. Out thanks to Salvatore Esposito for the piece - he also wrote a glowing review of our Cairo CD. We hope to have a decent translation soon but see the review in Italian here.

Also the noted musicologist and, we think, hell of a writer the Reverend Keith Gordon gives the CD a great review this month at his Trademark of Quality site, his article on Jason Ringenberg is equally enjoyable and we get a mention there too, see it here.


March 18, 2008
Just back from two performances at SXSW in Austin, Texas – the world's largest music festival. The laid back city of Austin seems to handle the influx of thousands of bands remarkably well. I opened the Rankoutsider Records showcase at Room 710 on Red River Street in Austin and performed at Kick Butt Coffee the following day. In addition we were able to see quite a bit of music and one of the highlights was AKA COD, a new band from ex-Morphine sax player Dana Colley, really quite remarkable with the addition of Monique Ortiz on bass and vocals. Also caught Bobby Bare, Jr. and a very good young band on Bloodshot Records called Ha Ha Tonka from Springfield, Missouri.


Februrary 10, 2008
Truth Is Stranger Than Fiction? You bet, that's why we make the CDs we do. No one could make up the story of the Old Slave House or Cairo, Illinois. In a quite strange and true twist journalist/music critic Dylan Gibbs writes a review of Salt Sex Slaves, and it turns out he is a direct descendant of John Crenshaw, the Salt King. See it here.

The reviews of Jason Ringenberg's Best Tracks and Side Tracks are starting to roll in and they are universally stellar, as they should be (4 stars in UK's Uncut for example).  I have the honor of being mentioned in quite few of them including the review in Billboard and Americana Roots, click on the links to see them.  For a devout Christian, Jason is does a remarkable job of spreading good karma all over the globe.


January 24, 2008
Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death! The Jason Ringenberg/Woodbox Gang show at Liberty Theatre was one for the ages and I will let others comment and write about it, but suffice to say a good time was had by all. If you weren't there you missed something special and important, and I bet these guys are on stage together again sometime this year.

"I've Got 935 I'm a Penny Short Again Satan."  And I trust the Woodbox Gang and their fans will forgive me for bastardizing a line from their great CD Born With a Tail, but as a person who works with statistics every day I was interested to see someone assemble the numbers on selling the three trillion dollar never ending Iraq adventure. Specifically the Center for Public Integrity (a pipedream of a title for an organization) reports that Bush Administration officials made 935 "false public statements" in their successful efforts to sell the war. Here in Little Egypt, false public statements are known as lies.

Most egregious were rhetorically skillful (and successful) attempts to link Iraq to 911 (28 false statements by Bush himself) resulting in 69% of dumbass America believing the ludicrous assertion that Osama Bin Laden was in cahoots with the infidel Saddam Hussein.  Forty one percent still believe it, an encouraging 28 point improvement in dumbassness. Bush himself was forced refute the idiocy as far back as 2003 but with no consequence, the suggestion planted with a traumatized nation willing to follow had already served its purpose.  Maybe it's simply psychological cover for those that have hung with the President all the way, just like the "died fighting for freedom" tag figuratively embroidered on every occupied body bag shipped home. Only the families of those heroes are at liberty to engage in such tragic rationalization. I would do same.  God be with them.

It is mind numbingly common for elected officials of both parties to abuse the public trust (Clinton's FBI filegate also comes to mind) – we now expect it – but what I continue to find absolutely frightening is the remarkably easy time they have manipulating public opinion.  Even after the bloody, unnecessary disaster in Iraq 52% of Americans supported air strikes on Iran in October 2007 after listening to the exact same sales pitch from most of the exact same discredited sales people using equally discredited information. Perhaps the long vanquished liberal media wasn't such a bad thing after all.

"So I've told people that if you're interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them from have the knowledge necessary to make a nu-cu-lar weapon," said President Bush. Bush apparently feels the United States must prevent Iranians from using Google and having the ability to translate English into Farsi (or it's bombs away); here's how to build your own, it's remarkably similar to making Egyptian Moonshine.


January 12, 2008
. . . I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring My people, the children of Israel, "into" Egypt?  I was asked to comment recently by the St. Louis Post Dispatch (my thoughts did not make the final piece) on the fascinating, absolutely astonishing story of fifty five African American residents of Cairo converting to Judaism. Their remarkable odyssey of travel to St. Louis and Memphis for study, instruction and conversion is making headlines around the world. This is a song worthy story for sure, see it here.

It's nice when we get nods at sites like Americana UK.  But back home for us in Egypt (personally I've dropped the Little because there's nothing small about this place) The Salt Kings received two local honors, CD of the Year in The Southern's Flipside entertainment publication, and also at Nightlife joint honors for Best Local CD of 2007 with Skinny Jim and the Number 9 Black Tops great Horse Power! Horse Power! produced by Southern Culture on the Skids' Rick Miller.  We also get a nod as runners up Musicians of The Year behind Woodbox Gang and it is a high honor for us to mentioned in the same breath as both of these acts.  Click all the above links to see the the various write ups.

And I have been remiss in mentioning our delight at having singer extraordinaire Chris McKinley joining us for upcoming live shows; this sweet heart of a human being has got some remarkable pipes.


December 22, 2007
Oceans Eleven.  Salt Sex Slaves shows up as number 11 on the European Americana and Roots Top 13 in December along with artists with, ah hem, slightly larger promotional budgets.  Our enormous thanks to all our friends overseas for their remarkable support.  See it here.

And for those back home in Little Egypt mark your calendars for one of the most significant shows in years, the Jason Ringenberg/Woodbox Gang concert at Liberty Theatre in Murphysboro on Saturday, January 19.  Jason, the father/creator of the alt-country genre, got  his musical start right here in Egypt.  The event is the national CD release show for his new CD, Best Tracks and Side Tracks, a remarkable collection of his best post Scorchers work.  BT & ST has numerous southern Illinois connections; a new Woodbox Gang recording of Broken Whiskey Glass (the most beloved song in the Scorchers cannon) done at Misunderstudio, Prosperity Train from my last CD, Greetings From Cairo, Illinois, a Shakespeare's Riot recording, one of Jason's Carbondale bands from around 1980 and his Buckminster Fuller song recorded at Bucky's dome home in Carbondale.  See more info about the show here.

All this, plus the Salt Kings will be playing an after show party in full rock glory . . . come on out and hang with the glitterati . . .


November 25, 2007
La Cappella Sistina è bello.  Back from Italy now and still sufficiently jet lagged but a good time was had by all. We think the cleaning of the Sistine Chapel was a good thing, and I'll say it again, Michelangelo's David, housed in Florence, is one hell of a statue . . .

Thanks to our many friends overseas for the continued airplay and CD reviews, especially Chris Kinje on his great Down From the Mountain program on VPRO and Paul van Gelder.

And on Saturday, December 1 if you're in the southern Illinois region please join us for a much anticipated performance at Pizza King in Carbondale, one of most genuine bars in the United States. In all my years here I have never played PKs, but I did record a song called PKs about the bar about 1995. Maybe we'll dust if off for the performance. We open for the great Jackhead, the primary band of our equally great guitarist Charlie Tabing. Cheap beer and no cover, and smoke 'em if you've got 'em . . . until January 1.


November 6, 2007
"On" The Chart.  Salt Sex Slaves checks in at Number 6 on the Euro Americana Chart for November, and we find ourselves in some pretty good company. The Chart is compiled by DJs, journalists, retailers, promoters and others interested in Americana music from all over Europe. Our enormous thanks to Robbie Klanderman for getting the CD to the right ears and all our industry friends overseas for such a high honor.  See it here.


November 3, 2007
Bright Antenna Bristle With The Energy.  Thanks to our many DJ and radio programmer friends in Europe for great activity in the last two weeks, especially in Holland, where SSS landed on the Dutch Roots Radio Top 20 this week. We appreciate the support from Paul Van Gelder at VARA, Johanna Bodde at Radio Winschoten, Roel Stäbler at Havenstad FM, and Flying Shoes Radio in the UK among many others. Thomas Kaldijk at Radio Parkstad also gives us CD of the Week honors at on his show in Veendam, Holland. Jacques Spiry at Americana Music Club on the RCF Network in France even gives us a spin.  Collectively a nice launch in the region for our November 13 release date and greatly appreciated.


October 27, 2007
Benelux Redux.  The Salt Kings get a couple of pre-release nods in Holland and Belgium this week, first a nice review from Freddy Celis at Rootstime and some airplay from Thomas Kaldijk's great Blueprint show on Radio Parkstad.  Both were big supporters of our Cairo CD.  Our thanks to both, playlist here.


October 19, 2007
Mall of America. While the mall is about my least favorite place on earth there are exceptions. The traveling New Harmonies: Celebrating American Roots Music exhibit from the Smithsonian, currently at University Mall in Carbondale, Illinois is absolutely terrific. Watch for this exhibit when it’s in your town and if you’re in southern Illinois you should definitely pay a visit. The Salt Kings will be playing in the exhibit space on November 9 at 7:00 p.m. It’s a double treat as the African American Museum just a few store fronts down has it’s own great music exhibit now with a focus on blues and soul, the Stax stuff alone makes it worth stopping by.

There was a great opinion piece in the Edwardsville Journal this week that does a nice job of telling the salt production/Illinois slavery story, see it here.

September 23, 2007
Our enormous thanks to everyone who made it out to Hangar in Carbondale, Illinois on 9-21 for our local CD show, and special thanks to our friends Woodbox Gang for including us on the bill. Those unfamiliar with Woodbox Gang should seek their CDs out immediately, post haste. There are a ton of jug punk, washboard using Americana acts traveling the country (if you can even classify WB into something) but none, and I mean NONE with the lyrical power and brilliance of this band. And family patriarch Gary DeNeal gives us the skinny on the band name at his Springhouse Magazine site, always figured it was something like this and nice to know the story.

We also want to thank Brent Stewart at Flipside and Dianna Glenn at Nightlife for the great press this week, you can read those articles at our Press Link here.

For those in the region please get out Friday, September 28 to see the great Jackhead, the primary band of our fabulous guitarist Charlie Tabing - they're at Hangar in Carbondale.

And the New York Times article on Cairo that mentions our Cairo CD is now available on line without charge, see it here.


September 14, 2007
No Lights, Camera, Action. A very interesting day for yours truly back in Cairo to film a segment for Wales based Green Bay Media's Rivers of Life series Mississippi River segment. The series will focus how various river systems affect the lives of residents along them and the camera crew had already been to China, India and Brazil for other work. The Mississippi segment has a music focus which is how I got asked to participate.

I was interviewed by Cerys Matthews from Wales, former singer of the UK band Catatonia which scored a number of top ten hits in the late '90's and early this decade, and she even had a hit duet with Tom Jones. Mathews has lived in Nashville for several years but her UK solo career is on an upswing she is moving back soon. Cerys and the entire crew were professional and charming, and it was certainly a new experience for me to be on a 6+ hour shoot with real professionals. It appears the television documentary will be aired in the UK and France. We're unsure if the film will ever be available in the states but would certainly like to see the finished product. My thanks to Greenbay Media for including me.


September 6, 2007
Salt Sex Slaves Now Available Here!  It's our pleasure to make special pre-release copies of our new CD Salt Sex Slaves available on this website only.  Get yours now before our official November 13 street date and all purchase money goes directly to the band.  Heck, we'll even autograph it.  Go to our Buy Link to get yours and listen to a few tracks here.


August 20, 2007
Green Bay On The Mississippi. Wales, U.K, based Green Bay Media has asked me to appear in a documentary about the Mississippi River from Cairo to New Orleans; my portion will be filmed on September 13 in Cairo and include an interview and acoustic performance. The six hour program is slated to air on Wales BBC 1 and then other European channels. The series, Rivers of Life, will feature other rivers around the globe including the Amazon, Nile, Rhine, Ganges and Yangtze. 


July 22, 2007
It's a Date.  The official national release date for our new CD Salt Sex Slaves is November 13, 2007. The CD will be released in the US on Los Angeles based Rankoutsider Records (our new home) and distributed by Burnside Distribution Corporation.

We'll likely do something in southern Illinois a little before that so those in the region can watch for an official CD show Septemberish; we’ll keep you posted.


July 10, 2007
"Emmylou who?  It's my great pleasure to report that vocalist extraordinaire Wil Maring recently sang on our track Shawneetown and to say we're delighted would be a dramatic understatement.  I would never run out of superlatives to describe Wil's voice, but a few are evocative, gorgeous, willowy  . . . I've said for years it's a voice that can melt glass.  This high honor turned into a 2 fer when her colleague Robert Bowlin, widely known in Nashville circles, came along and put down guitar and fiddle with exquisite tone.  This along with Lee Brothers' pedal steel has turned ST into a great track.  So our thanks to all for taking time out of very busy recording and touring schedules to brighten our lives.  You can listen to a rough mix of the song on our MySpace page here.

And New Yorker has the best piece I've read on the bizarre Dick Cheney presidency , I knew I had odd empathy for Harriet Miers for some reason, as the decider is not the Decider.
And just to prove musicians can be complete idiots too read about Al Gore's Private Jets for Global Warming Concert , yeah, that should help . . .

June 5, 2007
"Hot Nights In Nashville". We've returned from our performance at the Jason and the Scorchers reunion show in Nashville, Tennessee – what a remarkable night which just kept getting better and better. Charlie Tabing, Ron Johnson and I opened the sold out show at Exit In at 8:30 p.m. to an almost full and appreciative house. We even made it through a credible version of the song I'd written about the band called Rock and Roll Must Be Dead, with the crowd singing along on the choruses. I felt it next to impossible to win over The Scorchers home crowd with two guitars, no bass and no drums but we seemed to pull it off, and I've gotten numerous requests for the song to be recorded.

Right after our performance JATS drummer Perry Baggs appeared to a heroes welcome with his bluegrass group and energetically burned though some classic gospel songs. Then the Scorchers took the stage, and well, my God - unless you've seen this band you have no idea of the energy and power they unleash. The first set was quite good, but during set two they hit that mystical zone attained by a tiny handful of bands in the history of rock music, where no one could touch them. It was similar to a religious experience for many - the crowd was in a state of rapture, alternatively cheering and weeping; just a remarkable thing to witness I have trouble putting into words.

The evening was a rare Scorchers performance; Perry is in need of a kidney transplant and the night was a benefit to help defray medical costs. Baggs held is own during the whole evening, playing on about 50% of the songs. What an honor for us on the most memorable night of my entire music career. On top of all that, the famous Hatch Show Print on Broadway in Nashville printed show posters with the words (among others) Jason and the
Scorchers, Sold Out and, Stace England . Unforgettable in every sense of the word and our thoughts are with Perry as he faces the battles ahead. See some of the many picture postings by fans here.


May 20, 2007
"The Gift That Keeps On Giving." A direct quote from Greetings From Cairo, Illinois co-producer Mike Lescelius after learning I'd been contacted by Pulitzer Price winning columnist Dan Barry from the New York Times for a story in today's Sunday edition (circulation 1.8 million). Barry now does a travel column every Sunday on weird, oddball places around the United States. Barry called me midweek and indicated he started out doing a story on river flooding, took a "fateful left turn off I-57 into Cairo" and he and his photographer found themselves amazed and fascinated (happens to the best of us). He said they seek out obscure odd stories then said, "we've been here for two days and cannot get our brains around it." I told him he'd stumbled in the Cairo conundrum.

The story appeared in the Times front section on page 15, the lead story in the National Report.  You can read it and see a great multimedia presentation here, but you must sign up for the New York Times Select, as their best columnists like Barry and David Brooks are not part of the free website. There is a 14 day free trial and it is well worth doing to view the multimedia content, which includes photos and an audio clip from our version of Cairo Blues.


April 23, 2007
Jason Ringenberg Confirmed As CD Participant. Well, it goes without saying that we're delighted about this; alt-country legend (and all around good guy) Jason Ringenberg will officially sing a track on the new CD. JR will be doing Freedom's Star, an old abolitionist song dating from the 1840's which we think will be a good fit for the project. We'll be recording the song with Mike Lescelius at Misunderstudio in Murphysboro around Memorial Day weekend, and I'm just as excited about mandolin player extraordinaire Mark Stoffel playing on the track as well.

Both Jason and Mark are taking time out from incredibly busy schedules to do this, including trips overseas and we really appreciate them signing on. GFCI listeners will recall Jason's vocal on a storming Prosperity Train, but this particular track will be much more delicate and show that side of his talent.


April 19, 2007
A Good Day. It's my pleasure to report that Friday last I was able to visit Hickory Hill, now known as the Crenshaw House and my enormous gratitude to those who made this rare, authorized visit possible. I won't post the persons involved or path taken to secure the visit out of respect for them, as they receive numerous requests, but suffice to say they were very gracious and are trying to do the right things to restore the house and re-open it to the public.

Whew! The house is a cross section of where unbelievable history, mythology and hucksterism all converge and it's all so thick it just about knocks you over when you step on the grounds. In some ways it feels like a living organism. It was wonderful to be able to reabsorb it all and I came away from the visit even more fascinated by the place, if that's possible.

And how wonderful to reconnect with George Sisk, former owner of the property and current resident caretaker. Sisk is an immediately likable, gregarious man with a charming P.T. Barnum quality and gave me some rare newspapers and articles about the house including an issue of Iliniwek from 1972, which is the best piece I've ever read on the history of salt production in the region and the Crenshaw story. You can read the Iliniwek article here (be advised it's a large .pdf file if you use dial up).

My great thanks to George and others involved in securing my visit. We have resumed recording and can report we are re-energized by my resent visit to "The Old Slave House" in southern Illinois.


March 24, 2007
Our thanks to Pat Todd, founder of Rankousider Records, for having us play at the Rankousider Records showcase at SXSW in Austin last week. A good time as had by all, and we saw some remarkable music from Pat and his band, other Rankoutsider acts like Gravy Boat and the Born Liars, Buddy Miller over at the New West Records showcase, Peter Case and one diva train wreck, Rickie Lee Jones who was probably the most ungracious, unprofessional performer I've ever seen.

The Jason and The Scorchers show we're doing on June 2 in Nashville is already sold out. We're glad to be on the bill just to get to see them perform.


March 3, 2007
The Salt Kings have been busy preparing new songs for our trip to SXSW in Austin on March 14. We're playing at a showcase event for our new US label, Rankoutsider Records, and hanging around with the glitterati for a few days. Yes, SXSW is a totally ridiculous meat market, but we'll make a good time out of the trip.

I've also just received an invitation to play at the Jason and The Scorchers reunion show in Nashville on June 2nd, and can say without question this is the highest musical honor of my entire life. The show is a benefit for Scorchers drummer Perry Baggs, who is in poor heath and in need of a kidney transplant. I was approached by Jason Ringenberg on this and asked about doing a solo acoustic set to open the show. I never, ever get nervous about any performance, but frankly, I don't have the cojones to get on stage, by myself, just before The Scorchers destroy the building. So the show producer, guitarist Warner Hodges, agreed to let me do it as a duo, and Salt Kings guitarist Charlie Tabing will be joining me on lap steel. I now have some back up, and my thanks to Warner for acquiescing.

Please join us at the Yellow Moon Cafe on Friday, March 9 for our first show in southern Illinois in quite some time, it's free.


February 4, 2007
Music critic Richard Marcus references GFCI this month in a review of a high profile Virgin Records release in the US and Britain from The Good, The Bad and The Queen, featuring former Blur and current Gorillaz frontman Damon Albarn and Clash bassist Paul Simonon. It's nice to be a small touchstone on something, read it here.


January 8, 2007
"We're gonna need a montage, even Rocky had a montage." Thanks to our drummer Dane Spalt for putting together a bit of video from our Holland trip. The clip contains some performance video, trains, radio show etc. Click the viewer below to take look.


December 21, 2006
Our thanks to Gardenia Albrecht at FEMUZ Your Festival & Musiczine for posting a great review of our show at Crossing Border.  The review is in Dutch but we'll post a translation soon and also have a video clip greeting on site in a few days.  See the review here.


December 13, 2006
The best piece on what's left of the war of the ten thousand or so I've read,


  Three year
s from now even private citizen John McCain will be writing the same.


December 5, 2006

We have posted a track from the new CD on our Myspace page, listen here.

We've also shown up on longtime Village Voice (now Rolling Stone) music critic Robert Christgau's 2005 A List on Emusic in some pretty good company, see it here.


November 22, 2006

Dutch Treat. We've returned from our trip to The Netherlands and can say without equivocation that - a good time was had by all.

Where to start? Probably with the Dutch people themselves who we found to be very gracious and friendly everywhere we went.
Crossing Border Festival in The Hague was enormous fun on many fronts. We met and hung out with musicians we respect and admire, including Jon Langford and Sally Timms from The Waco Brothers, Willy Vlautin from Richmond Fontaine, and John Wesley Harding. Langford pulled off a remarkable multimedia performance called The Executioner’s Last Songs in two parts like the seasoned pro he is. And Harding, who's real name is Wesley Stace, told me how he'd wanted to meet me after seeing my name in the European press and learn more about our CD and show. He went on to explain how most people had the surname of Stace in his village in England. Slobberbone fans had better check out The Drams because they were remarkable.

Our own performance at
Crossing Border on November 17 was a sold out night and well received (see VPRO show review
).  Festival organizers made a giant screen available behind the stage for our multimedia.

In Enschede near the German border our club set went great, then a local we were hanging with picked up my acoustic guitar and staring playing Woody Guthrie songs, which everyone knew. Before long we had a priceless late night semi-drunken sing along going with most of the bar patrons, passing the guitar around to the willing until the wee hours.

The whole band played well, but our versatile guitarist
Charlie Tabing
drew roars of approval from appreciative audiences at the mere mention of his name, and rightfully so.

We also had the pleasure of having Mike Lescelius from
Misunderstudio along for the ride. And I will again publicly state in addition to Charlie it was my high honor to share those European stages with bassist Ron Johnson and drummer Dane Spalt.

As we flew back to the US our flight path to Memphis passed near the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio rivers, giving us a spectacular view of Cairo and the southern tip of Illinois, which looked like a living map illuminated by the setting sun. It was a remarkable close to a great trip, and impossible at that moment not to be in awe of the fact that the little, struggling town below had taken our entire band across the big pond for such a great adventure. Thank you Cairo, you’re one hell of a town and we are in your debt.

Now some rest over the holidays before we resume recording.


October 31, 2006

We have been ramping up our multimedia for our shows in The Netherlands and preparing for the trip. Lot's to do when you have no Tour Manager, and everyone over the seems to assume we do. Dutch accounts, exchange rates, hotels, backline and other stuff is just part of the planning stages. We leave on November 14 and look forward to a productive trip.

Plus, we have started recording the next CD about
Hickory Hill. I think we're all quite pleased with how the tracks are developing. Part of the need to record was to have a very good demo of some of the tracks to take to Europe with us. So far so good with Mike Lescelius at Misunderstudio doing his normal superb job at the board and great back up vocals on one track from Chris McKinley.

Please join us for our last US show for awhile at
Starview Vineyards east of Cobden on Saturday, November 4 with show time about 3:00 p.m.


September 27, 2006
All Things Must Pass. Marking the true end of a remarkable era blues legend and Cairo native Henry Townsend has died at age ninety six.

Townsend was born in Mississippi but raised in Cairo. His bio indicates he ran away from home at age nine and ended up in St. Louis, learning both piano and guitar. Townsend evolved into a powerhouse and recorded music in eight different decades beginning in the 1920's, an accomplishment no other blues musician has matched according to numerous sources.

One of my most cherished Cairo memories is seeing Townsend perform in Cairo at the Jenn Jam Blues Festival several years ago. He had not played in Cairo in decades and his appearance and remarks were very touching. Henry was ninety two at the time and was brought on stage in a wheelchair, where he sat barely tapping his foot as his band started. No one knew what was going to happen with his performance, but once he started he attacked the piano and guitar like a young man. At one point Henry asked his "boy" to get him some "throat juice" which turned out to be whiskey. This young kid about fourteen years old walks on stage and delivers the juice, and we all assumed he was a grandson, or even great grandson. Henry's band clarifies it was actually Henry's own son, and invites us to do the math. Ah, the sexual power of the blues.

Our recorded version of
Cairo Blues mimics Townsend's classic recording and he was an inspiration during the entire recording process. Godspeed sir, see his obit here.



September 22, 2006
It’s our great pleasure to report some very positive news out of Cairo for the first time in years.
Bunge Ltd. in partnership with Renewable Energy Group of Ralston, Iowa has announced its intent to build a $60 million dollar biodiesel plant in Cairo which will create 30 permanent jobs when operational. Officials from both companies cited the rail, interstate and river transportation links as a major factor in their decision. This is particularly sweet news as Bunge debated the idea some years ago of closing all operations in Cairo. Our congratulations to the people of Cairo on this great news and we hope this sets an example of Cairo’s promise to other businesses.

We also thank Kevin Schraer for posting some great photos of the
Cairo Music Festival a few weeks ago. Take a look here


September 19, 2006
This is a music blog/diary but I can't help but drop in some thoughts about the bizarre landscape we now inhabit in this country under the very, very curious leadership of George W. Bush. For me there have been many surreal moments during his presidency, the most memorable being the awarding of the
Presidential Medal of Freedom to George Tenet, L. Paul Bremmer and Tommy Franks, failed architects all of the of the most through-the-looking-glass event of my entire lifetime, the war in Iraq.

Today Mr. Bush topped the remarkable Presidential Medal of Freedom
ceremony in surrealishness, a feat I formerly thought impossible for him, or even Mr. Rove. In a speech to the United Nations General Assembly Mr. Bush lectured the Syrian government about its behavior stating, "Syria's leaders have made their country a crossroads for terrorism" one day after a Canadian government commission confirmed the accuracy of, and its culpability in the saga of Maher Arar, an innocent Canadian citizen "rendered
" by Mr. Bush's own CIA operatives without charge from JFK airport in New York and transferred by them to that same Syria, where he was tortured and held in a "coffin size dungeon" for over two years according to dozens of mainstream media sources including Fox News.

Well done sir.

Generic conservative/liberal tags now have little relevance in the United States, and have been reduced to exclusive use in boring, feigned arguments on cable news shows, newspaper columns by profoundly embarrassing, well paid hacks of all stripes and tired slogans at election time. In true to curious form we have Mr. Bush to thank substantially for the destruction of those labels. We can hope that over the long haul, and in his odd way, he's a uniter after all.

Of course, Mr. Bush is no conservative – he's an evangelical, and an evangelical leader without equivalent wisdom represents a significant danger to any society, free or otherwise. Alas, Mr. Bush has repeatedly demonstrated he lacks the necessary balance.  The world, especially the Mideast, is full of evangelicals in many flavors. Mr. Bush should meet with Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in New York this week. Mr. Bush does not have the intellectual capacity to recognize a kindred spirit. Ahmadinejad, to his wild-eyed credit, does.

As for real conservatives, I know many, they're my friends and I agree with them on numerous issues. They are men and women of honor, scientific explorers, fiscally responsible, good conversationalists and honest – regrettably Mr. Bush is none of those things. Forgive me for being quite nostalgic for the comparatively light reading of the Ken Starr report.

I'm no particular fan of Keith Olbermann, but I am of fan of intellectual honesty. It's in short supply in the United States these days but occurs on both sides of the political spectrum for those willing to hunt for it, and few Americans have the inclination. I have been a fan of William F. Buckley for decades.  True conservatives, like Buckley have already voiced what Olbermann said recently about Mr. Bush; Buckley just received fewer kindergardenish emails/blog posts. I applaud them both. You can watch their commentaries below.  After that, back to the music . . .





September 6, 2006
Our thanks to Tom Irwin for setting up our joint show in August at
Underground City Tavern in Springfield, Illinois. Tom is real wordsmith; a farmboy with an eye for detail. I particularly enjoyed a song about his father - writing such a thing is almost impossible to do properly and his seemed effortless. We'll get him down this way ASAP.

We also want to thank our European agent Bas Flesseman at
Belmont for his efforts in securing a show at Crossing Borders this year in The Hague and nice mention on his website, see it here

August 18, 2006
Our thanks to writer/musician Tom Irwin for his nice mention of our upcoming Springfield, Illinois show at Underground City Tavern on Saturday in
The Illinois Times. We have the pleasure of sharing this bill with Tom and are working to get him down this way too. See it here.

August 14, 2006
A Job Well Done. Our congratulations and thanks to Kevin Scharer from the
Delta Center in Cairo and his wonderful staff of high school students for a successful Cairo Music Festival at Box Field Saturday night. It was well attended, well organized and a very positive event for the community.

As we begin to change musical directions a bit playing the festival was a nice semi conclusion to our Cairo musical journey, and what a journey it has been. It was our honor to play and we hope the city can make this an annual event.

We'd also like to thank
Marleen Shepherd at The Southern and Matt Sanders at the Southeast Missourian
for both covering the event and mentioning our band and CD. You can find both articles by clicking the link on their names above.

July 21, 2006
Well folks, as much as we love Cairo, Illinois and as much has we have enjoyed performing this show any musician will tell you they get bored after awhile with the material and are ready to move on. Even though we look forward to taking Cairo to Europe in the fall we are ready start playing some new material and are rehearsing new songs for our next CD, which will be another historical project about
Hickory Hill, or "The Old Slave House" near Shawneetown, Illinois.

Why Hickory Hill? Dozens of reasons, but the main one is that it's a fascinating place with the same through-the-looking glass qualities as Cairo, Illinois. The house was built in 1842 by
John Crenshaw
, known as the Salt King for his production of salt on the local "salines." Although not salt mines, the production of salt here was done under hellish conditions, requiring slave labor to keep fires and furnaces burning to boil the salt brine water down to dry salt. Crenshaw owned slaves, leased slaves, sold free blacks for profit and in general profited from numerous despicable practices. The stories surrounding the home, which is still standing, are important and remarkable.

Our approach will be quite different this time. Instead of using numerous bands and dozens of musicians the core group, now the Cairo Project, will be renamed and record most of the songs. The music itself will be more groove rock and seems to be taking on an
Exile On Mainstreet feel. It's fun to play these songs and flesh out the arrangements. And let me again state it is my high honor and privilege to play with this band, drummer Dane Spalt, bassist Ron Johnson and guitarist Charlie Tabing
. This time around these talented guys will be an important part of song composition and production. We'll keep you posted on our progress.


July 14, 2006
We were honored recently by the purchase of GFCI by the library at
Columbia College in Chicago. Columbia College is Chicago’s visual, performing, media and communications arts college and its our pleasure to have the CD available to students and staff.
Resource listing here.


July 7, 2006
Death Valley Radio in New Jersey gives Prosperity Train a spin last week and we appreciate their continued support of the CD. Playlist here.

Speaking of Prosperity Train we had the pleasure of visiting the Honorable Jason Ringenberg on his farm in Tennessee on July 4th. In addition to hearing the new Farmer Jason CD (which will be released by Rhino Kids in September) and seeing the rough cut of the first video, a spirited croquet match ensued with JR, his spouse and two children. A good time was had by all . . .


June 21, 2006
Our thanks to Kate and Scott Sensmeier at
Starview Vineyards near Cobden, Illinois for having our band last Saturday. This is the first winery we have played, mainly because their festivals are usually five hour gigs, and as we do mostly original material we've never had enough songs. But Scott and Kate accommodated that and everyone had a great time. Let us say unequivocally this is a beautiful place that fits very well with the landscape and region, and everyone needs to visit. Their product is excellent too, quite impressive for a new winery.

In other news, critically acclaimed New England poet Martha Collins has a new book of poetry out called Blue Front, about the Will James/Henry Salzner lynching in Cairo in 1909. GFCI listeners will recognize this as the subject of the song Equal Opportunity Lynch Mob.

Incredibly, Collins' father witnessed the James lynching as young boy in Cairo and it left an indelible impression. Collins heard the story over the years and began investigating herself, which lead to this remarkable book. Martha bought our CD before her book was released, then her publicist at Graywolf Publishing was nice enough to send me a copy, which has been greatly enjoyed. This is very high profile literary release from a great publishing house and Blue Front is highly recommended by this group of musicians. More information here.


June 16, 2006
Our thanks to Ron Arden at
Death Valley Radio on WNTI in Hackettstown, New Jersey for airing "The North Starts In Cairo" last week. We were on his play list with some greats including one of my favorite songs ever, Glen Campbell's Wichita Lineman. Play list here.


June 10, 2006
We've learned that former Cairo resident and long time broadcaster Bill Page has died at age 39 in Kennett, Missouri. Bill was a huge supporter of our CD and even played tracks on his news program on KBOA down in the Missouri boot heel. He called me one day out of the blue after getting a copy of GFCI and after introducing himself on the phone said, "you absolutely nailed the story of my hometown." Bill was from a prominent Cairo radio family, knew everything about Cairo, and regaled me with many remarkable stories from a news perspective, confirming many things I'd heard on the street. Godspeed Mr. Page.


May 21, 2006
Our thanks to writer and sometimes DJ Roy Kasten for airing "The North Starts In Cairo" on his
Feels Like Going Home program on KDHX in St. Louis. Roy was kind enough to describe GFCI as "wonderful"; high praise indeed from a writer of his caliber. Roy also did a review of the CD in No Depression which we really appreciated - see his play list here.


May 12, 2006
In the double edged sword category the recent AP story about Cairo which featured our CD was picked up across the United States and by some international papers, including the influential
The Guardian in the United Kingdom. While I appreciate mentions of the CD in the press it’s always tinged with some sadness that a town I love gets such bad press. See The Guardian mention here.

We're also pleased to learn that GFCI is now available in Japan via our European distributor. Priced at 2596 Yen or about $23 US we're glad to see it available in another market. Listing here.


April 30, 2006
GFCI in Associated Press Story. In what seems to be a reoccurring theme the CD and final track, Can't We All Get Along, is mentioned in an AP story about the situation in Cairo. I'm glad reporter Jim Suhr included my affection for the people of Cairo in the article and not just all the discord. He did get my name wrong, although Shane England has a nice ring to it if I ever enter the Witness Protection Program. Our thanks to Jim for including us and see his story


April 23, 2006
On Thursday, April 20th I had the honor of playing my first true educational performance at the
Teen Reach after school program in Cairo. Program Coordinator Kevin Schraer invited me down and it was a pleasure spending some time with these great kids.

I was struck by two things during the evening - the kids' lack of knowledge about their history and heritage, and more importantly, their desire to learn. Many had great questions and at times seemed transfixed by the photos I displayed during the performance. Kevin and I discussed the fact that Cairo has an enormous opportunity to instill pride and a sense of community in the younger generation by simply talking about Cairo's amazing history and its importance to our country. It is my sincere and passionate hope that civic, church and school leaders embrace this notion and start showing these kids why they should be proud of being from Cairo, Illinois. Maybe some of that pride will rub off on the adults.

Mayor Farris and members of the City Council – give these kids a safe building and turn 'em loose; let them build a Cairo African American Heritage Museum or other appropriate enterprise. You'll be amazed at what they can accomplish for themselves and your city.



April 17, 2006
Our music in Republican politics? Proving the old adage "truth is stranger than fiction" we find that a Republican candidate for Governor of Idaho, Dan Adamson, is featuring the song "She Loves Kurt Cobain" from my CD
Lovey Dovey ALL The Time on his My Idaho Rocks campaign site. We're not sure if he's angling for the Cobain worshiper vote or Cobain detractor vote, as email about the song was about 50/50, "the song is brilliant satire" or "it's sacrilegious." Adamson was polling about 10% for the May primary at last count, but maybe "She Loves Kurt Cobain" will put him over the top.  See it here.

Speaking of Lovey Dovey ALL The Time, the CD has gained a second life in the download world, with my top selling song from any CD being the afore mentioned Cobain track, followed in a close second by my cover of The Association's
"Never My Love"
, with Dan Fox on piano.


April 5, 2006
GFCI In Chicago Tribune Again. Our thanks to reporter Ed Torriero for a mention of GFCI and some quotes from yours truly in an expansive front page article in Monday’s
Chicago Tribune about the unfortunate political dysfunction in Cairo. I’m quite confident it’s the only time I will mention Dr. Phil in a high profile newspaper article. Ed compared Cairo to Baghdad in my phone conversation with him, as he had just returned from Iraq; smart guy but I hope he’s wrong. See the Trib article here.


March 21, 2006
GFCI Live Across the Pond. It's official: The Cairo Project will be doing its first European shows in November 2006. We've just been booked into the famous
Crossing Borders Festival in The Hague, The Netherlands which is perfect for our Cairo show. Crossing Borders is one of the premier European multimedia festivals and includes music, film, spoken word and other media over four busy days.

We plan to do five + shows in the region on this trip and ask our European friends to check our
Shows tab for updates as dates are added. We look forward to seeing you all this fall.


March 12, 2006
Our thanks to Luke Torn at
Pop Culture Press in Austin, Texas for his great review of GFCI in Issue #61. Any time our CD is compared to something from the great Johnny Horton we say, we musta done something right . . . see it here.


March 5, 2006
GFCI Reviewed in No Depression.  Our thanks to writer Roy Kasten for his extremely cool review of GFCI in the March/April issue of
No Depression. We're glad to get this mention in the Americana bible as it were. Roy also writes for The Riverfront Times in St. Louis, and we've gotten very positive feedback on the CD from that publication as well.  See the No Depression review here.


February 26, 2006
Our versatile guitarist, Charlie Tabing, recently uploaded some performance video from our show at the
Yellow Moon Cafe of the song Dust On The Water, a tune written by my friend Dave Schultz. As hard as it might be to believe, other songwriters have written tunes about Cairo in the last decade.

For my money Dave, and Hugh DeNeal from
Woodbox Gang, are the two finest songwriters to ever emerge from the region. Schultz's back catalog is incredible, and his band Octobers Child, later re-christened Bucktown
, was at the forefront of the modern alt-country/Americana movement. It was later my high honor to play with Dave in his new creation called Jubilee Songbirds, and the bands' one CD, Birds of North America, featuring all but one track by Dave is thought by many to be a criminally overlooked gem. I learned a lot about songwriting from Dave including perhaps his best lesson, "never waste a line." Amen.

I had the good fortune to see Dave play on our Chicago trip at Horseshoe the night before our show there, and he continues to amaze and inspire. Our thanks to him for use of the song which is a nice interlude in our set.
See the video here


February 20, 2006
Our maiden voyage to Chicago was great - the Horseshoe was packed and both bands played well.
Jackhead sounded great as usual and we appreciate them making the pilgrimage with us.

We have two prominent Chicago music journalists to thank. First, Andy Downing at the
Chicago Tribune for his excellent piece on GFCI in Fridays On The Town entertainment section. This is probably the best article written about the project to date, and in one of the America's great newspapers. See it here

Also, writer Mary Houlihan gave our gig recommended show status in the Club Hopping section of the
Chicago Sun Times Friday weekend pullout section. We were hugely honored to be in that group with Rascal Flatts, Buckwheat Zydeco, The Undertow Orchestra and one of the great American (and unknown) bands, Marah. Both articles featured a photo of the band taken by Elaina Spalt. See the Sun Times mention here
, and our thanks to Mary.


February 13, 2006
Our thanks to Jill Haverkamp at Chicago based
Illinois Entertainer for a brief mention of our CD in their local Around Here column for the month of February, and we look forward to our show in the city on Saturday with Jackhead. I did an interview with the Chicago Tribune which is supposed run Friday, but I'm not sure if it will appear in downstate editions.

Many thanks to the
Yellow Moon Cafe and Gypsie Huggers for a thoroughly enjoyable Friday evening. The Moon was crowded and a good time was had by all. David More gives us nice kudos too in his always readable Carbondaley Dispatch. We also posted a few photos of the performance in the Photos
area of this website.


February 11, 2006
GFCI on Greil Marcus Top Ten in Village Voice Critics Poll. We've had some interesting developments with the CD since its release in April 2005 but the one I personally find most remarkable is its appearance on rock critic
Greil Marcus' Top Ten in the 2005 Village Voice Pazz and Jop Critics Poll.

Although Robert Christgau
tags himself the Dean of American Rock Critics many would give that nod to Marcus. One of the original writers for Rolling Stone, Marcus has gone on to write some of the definitive books on rock music and American culture including his most recent, Like A Rolling Stone: Bob Dylan at the Crossroads. 

We are of course grateful to Christgau for giving the CD "Pick Hit" status in The Village Voice back in October.

Marcus dropped a note to a colleague months ago and described GFCI as "amazing," but since he now concentrates on books and lecture tours we'd seen nothing in print and hadn't expected to. It's truly an honor to get this mention by Greil and our thanks to him for including us.
See it here.


February 7, 2006
It's our great pleasure to announce an addition to our show this Friday at the Yellow Moon Cafe in Cobden. A new acoustic group from Carbondale will open the show called Gypsie Huggers. This is another band from Mortimer of the
Bourbon Knights - I don't know how this guy does it but every one one of his bands has been extremely interesting and we're sure Gypsie Huggers will be no exception. Mort describes their sound as dark acoustic with interesting harmony so we're really looking forward to this.

Besides The
Bourbon Knights is one of our our favorite bands from anywhere, not just southern Illinois so Gypsie Huggers get big bonus points for any association. They'll start at 8:00 or so - come on by.

February 4, 2006
GFCI on MySpace. We've finally gotten around to setting up a
MySpace account but have not done much to promote it - we have found it invaluable for networking with other bands. Hey, if it's good enough for Billy Corgan it's good enough for us. See ours here.

Also our thanks to David More for mentioning our project and show at the
Yellow Moon in Cobden on February 10 in his always interesting Carbondaley Dispatch Blog, which we're told is quite popular and for obvious reasons. See his recent entry here


January 28, 2006
Notes about GFCI have appeared in some odd places, including Cairo, Egypt news websites, but perhaps the oddest is at
Thanh Nien, a site based in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam with information about business, politics and entertainment in that country. We appear in an article on concept/historical albums along with Sufjan Stevens and Ry Cooder. See it here.


January 21, 2006
GFCI appears on another 2005 Best CD list; this time at Belgium's
Radio 1.  Our thanks to Mark Lefever for including us on his year end list along with Bright Eyes, Ry Cooder and Bettye Lavette, see it here.


January 18, 2006
It's our great pleasure to have GFCI appear as #3 on Jan Donkers'
2005 Top Ten CD list. Donkers, a celebrated author, DJ, producer, journalist and musicologist based in Amsterdam visited Cairo in November and produced a radio documentary called "Welcome to Cairo, Illinois" about our CD, which aired December 1st on VPRO 747 Dutch broadcasting.

Visiting with and Jan and hearing stories about his career was a real treat, like hanging out with Gram Parsons, interviewing John and Yoko at the Amsterdam Hilton, recording Lucinda Williams and a project with murdered Dutch filmmaker
Theo van Gogh.

We appear on his best of list along with James McMurtry, John Hiatt, Marah and John Prine among others,
see it here


January 13, 2006
In our view the highest honor we've had associated with GFCI is its recent selection as the
Best Local CD of 2005 by editor Chris Wissmann at Nightlife, the premier arts and entertainment publication in southern Illinois. This means a lot to us for many reasons, not the least of which is the stellar quality of local CDs this year, particularly from Nathan Clark George, who did the mastering on our project.

Although I tried to do a good job of songwriting the nod from Nightlife is more a reflection of the power of the Cairo story and the participation of so many talented people here, starting with studio owner/engineer/co-producer Mike Lecelius at
Misunderstudio and the remarkable cast of players (see the list here), many of which show up in Nightlife as the top in a category or Honorable Mention.

To our readers around the country and other parts of the world please note the southern Illinois music scene is genuine, dynamic, unique and full of amazing talent. It's the real deal, and you can hear that reflected on GFCI. For example, we don't have people simply playing Americana music; we have musicians living it - big difference. Please visit the websites of others on Nightlife's Best of 2005 list, buy their CDs and enjoy their talents. A CD of this type could not be made anywhere else in the world but southern Illinois. 
See Nightlife's 2005 review here

January 10, 2006
Our thanks to reporter Wes Wallace at
KFVS Channel 12 (the CBS affiliate in Cape Girardeau, Missouri) for airing a story last night and this morning about GFCI. The station was nice to us, showing both the cover and CD face and a brief interview with me.  Our story aired just after a segment on the conflict between the Mayor and Cairo City Council.

The Mayor vs. City Council wars continue, although most folks can't figure out what they're fighting for. We wonder if they know. Some would argue things have gotten pretty bad when you have to call in a musician to get a positive story, but we did our best to make it positive. Can't We All Just Get Along? See Wes's notes about our story here.


January 7, 2006
GFCI Included in Top Albums of 2005 By Sonic Rendezvous/Robbie Klanderman. This one really means a lot to us, as GFCI is included in the Top Ten albums of 2005 by Amsterdam based Robbie Klanderman of
Sonic Rendezvous, our distributor in Europe. The company distributes hundreds of CDs annually, and Robbie personally works with some of the biggest names in the business. Klanderman, known as THE Americana/Roots promoter in this part of Europe, embraced the CD early on and has worked very hard on our behalf. GFCI is on his year end best list along with James McMurtry, John Hiatt, David Olney and Chatham County Line among others. See it here.


January 2, 2006
We've been informed that the
RBF Dome Sessions CD is now available for purchase. The project was initiated by RBF Dome NFP to raise funds for the restoration of Buckminster Fuller's dome home in Carbondale, Illinois.

I've been playing and recording music for over twenty years and cannot remember a more pleasant musical experience than this project. From the mission, to the organizers to the musicians it seems to have been blessed from the beginning. First I was honored to be asked to contribute a song, than further so by having such great people play on my track including Dane Spalt from the Cairo Project, Sam Boss, Stacey Camden, Kathy Livingston and Chris McKinley. I also had the great pleasure of singing on
Jason Ringenberg's song, along with players Hugh DeNeal and Alex Kirt from Woodbox Gang, and watching one of my favorite Carbondale bands record, the remarkable, irrepressible Bourbon Knights. All this, with every note recorded in Bucky's former home by producer/engineer extraordinaire Mike Lecelius. This guy is right up there with Mike Mogis from the Saddle Creek/Bright Eyes scene.

CDs are now available for order – please check
this link
for more information on all the bands and place your order for a great cause.


2005 News/Blog Entries