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 . . . :)
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
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
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
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
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.
CD is progressing slowly but we should be ready for a
fall release. Quite happy with the sound and general
and again plan some extensive liner notes. Check back for
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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'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
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
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.
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
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
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
Also the noted musicologist and, we think, hell of a writer the Reverend
Keith Gordon gives the CD a great review this month at
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
Bare, Jr. and a very good young band on Bloodshot
Records called Ha
Ha Tonka from Springfield, Missouri.
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
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!
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
See it 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
Michelangelo's David, housed in Florence, is one
hell of a statue . . .
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
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
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,
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,
October 19, 2007 Mall of America. While the mall
is about my least favorite place on earth there are exceptions. The
Harmonies: Celebrating American Roots Music exhibit from the
Smithsonian, currently at University
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
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
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.
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
For those in the region please get out Friday, September 28 to see the
Jackhead, the primary band of our fabulous
guitarist Charlie Tabing - they're at Hangar in
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
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
Buy Link to get yours and listen to a few tracks
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
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
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.
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
June 5, 2007
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
Treat. We've returned from our trip to The Netherlands and
can say without equivocation that - a good time was had by
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
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
Our own performance at Crossing
Borderon 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
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 Johnsonand drummer Dane Spalt.
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.
some rest over the holidays before we resume recording.
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
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.
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
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
mimics Townsend's classic recording and he was an inspiration during
the entire recording process. Godspeed sir, see
his obit here.
It’s our great pleasure to report some very positive news out of Cairo
for the first time in years. Bunge Ltd. in partnership
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.
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
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,
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
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
for his efforts in securing a show at Crossing
Borders this year in The Hague and nice mention on
his website, see it here.
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
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.
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,
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
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
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
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.
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
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 . . .
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
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
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.
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.
Our thanks to writer and sometimes DJ Roy Kasten
for airing "The North Starts In Cairo" on his Feels Like
Going Home program on KDHXin 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
which we really appreciated - see
his play list here.
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
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 here.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
the video here.
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
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
Also, writer Mary Houlihan gave our gig recommended
show status in the Club Hopping section of the Chicago Sun
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.
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
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
We also posted a few photos of the performance in the Photos area
of this website.
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
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'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.
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
Corgan it's good enough for us. See ours here.
Notes about GFCI have appeared in some odd places,
including Cairo, Egypt news websites, but perhaps the oddest is at Thanh
Nien NEWS.com, 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
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'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
We appear on his best of list along with James McMurtry,
John Hiatt, Marah
and John Prine among others, see
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
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.
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.
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
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.