Yellowstone – A Television and Country Music Review

Camera Girl is a remarkable human being but she is, foremost, a woman. And any husband worth his salt will tell you that’s not an unalloyed blessing. One of the many things that separate women from rational human beings is their love of soap operas. And this includes that bane of late 20th and early 21st century life, the nighttime soap. Luckily when we were young, we had children so we were too busy in the heyday of nighttime soaps to watch Dallas, Dynasty, Knots Landing, Melrose Place and the rest of that bilge.
But now that we are mostly empty nesters it’s no longer safe. And every once in a while, Camera Girl will reach beyond her annoying predilection for cop shows and look for something truly awful. And so it is that I have been dragged kicking and screaming into the demented saga that is Yellowstone. Kevin Costner and a mostly unknown cast (at least to me) ride horses and shoot guns up in Montana trying to preserve their Ponderosa sized cattle ranch from the real estate speculators, Indian tribes, disloyal cowboys, hedge fund pirates and other assorted lunatics who all seem to need killing. And kill them they do. Their enemies end up shot, stabbed, drowned, blown up, or pushed off cliffs more or less with impunity. And within the family, hatred and dysfunction are on full display. The daughter is a foul-mouthed man-eating lawyer. The lawyer son is her foil that she despises, berates and occasionally assaults. The cowboy brother is the hero, I guess. He’s a decorated war hero and his Indian wife and son have left the reservation and live on the ranch now.
The show truly is a ridiculous nighttime soap with egregious plots and ridiculous dialog. That being said, I was pleasantly surprised when I started hearing some of my favorite country artists on the soundtrack. Colter Wall, Tyler Childers, Chris Stapleton, Ryan Bingham and a bunch of other good to excellent country acts provide at least an interesting aural experience to go along with the annoying goings on at the Dutton family ranch.
One other saving grace that the show possesses are the vistas and landscapes that seem to surround you wherever you look in that magnificent big sky country. The juxtaposition of soaring snowy mountains, cascading rivers, verdant plains and technicolor blue skies can be seen sometimes all in one shot. You often find yourself wanting to yell at the actors to shut up and get out of the camera’s field of view and stop ruining the experience of just seeing and hearing the grandeur on display. But unfortunately, thy will go on yammering about whatever crime or deal they are conniving that week.
So that tells you all you need to know about the show. And honestly there is no way I can say I recommend this train wreck of a television experience. It’s a ghastly offense against story-telling. If you’re an enormous Kevin Costner fan I guess you can justify watching it to see him. He is one of the better parts of the show but even that isn’t saying much. And you can just listen to the soundtrack without watching the show. And I’m sure National Geographic has tons of documentary footage of Montana and Wyoming wilderness to watch anytime you want.
I, on the other hand, have to watch. Camera Girl is a woman and therefore barbarically cruel. I can always hope it will be cancelled soon. Damn you Costner.

Hell or High Water Soundtrack – A Country Music Review

So this is the companion to my review of the movie “Hell or High Water” movie.  The film brings up to the present day the Texas outlaw genre.  The music is a mixture of evocative movie background instrumental and then songs from various artists that speak to the theme.   The artists, Townes Van Zandt, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Waylon Jennings, Colter Wall,  Scott H. Biram and Chris Stapleton are far from uniform in their styles or even genre.  I believe Van Zandt is considered a folk music singer/songwriter but the songs fit the theme and even the instrumental pieces provided by Nick Cave & Warren Ellis fit together well and qualify as actual music and not just sound effects.  I’ve listed the non-instrumental songs below.  All in all, an enjoyable album of music.  Recommended for when you’re feeling like an outlaw which for me lately is most of the time.

Dollar Bill Blues
by Townes Van Zandt

Dust of the Chase
by Ray Wylie Hubbard

You Ask Me To
by Waylon Jennings

Sleeping On The Blacktop
by Colter Wall

Blood, Sweat and Murder
by Scott H. Biram

Outlaw State Of Mind
by Chris Stapleton

Hell or High Water – A Movie Review

Hell or High Water is a movie about two brothers in West Texas, Toby and Tanner (played by Chris Pine and Ben Foster), that plan and carry out a bank robbing spree.  Jeff Bridges is Texas Ranger Marcus Hamilton who along with his partner Alberto are investigating this carefully planned series of robberies.  The movie follows both sides of the story.  We get into the heads of all four protagonists and understand their motivations and idiosyncrasies.  I won’t spoil the plot details or the ending but I would say this is one of the better movies I’ve seen in a few years.  It’s not a big movie and there is nothing very surprising about plot or character.  But the acting is good and the plot and dialog are spot on.  Another aspect of the movie that I really enjoyed was the soundtrack.  Unsurprisingly it’s country music and it even includes a track by Colter Wall, a young country singer songwriter that I enjoy.  But all the cuts fit into the action and enhance the movie for me.

The movie gives you both points of view.  The law enforcement officers, intent on stopping the crime spree and the outlaw brothers in their desperate attempt to get even with a system that they see as rigged against them.

I highly recommend this film.

Colter Wall’s Songs of the Plains – A Country Music Review

Last November I reviewed Colter Wall’s self-titled album.  To say I liked it would be a gross understatement.  It had such stand outs as Kate McCannon, Bald Butte and Fraulein.  But the whole album was worthy.  Colter has a new album and I got my copy yesterday.

This is a theme album that can best be described as a country western celebration of the Great Plains.  Colter is from the Canadian Plains and he concentrates on Canada but he does include a ballad to Wild Bill Hickock.  I’ll list the tracks followed by a short comment or two.

In addition, I’ll summarize that as a whole the album is a good traditional country western collection.  And it suits me.  Hopefully I’ll provide enough information for the reader to make up his mind.

The full track list to Colter Wall’s Songs of the Plains:

  1. “Plain to See Plainsman” (written by Colter Wall)

Straightforward acoustic guitar and harmonica western.  An ode to home on the great plains.

  1. “Saskatchewan In 1881” (written by Colter Wall)

Upbeat Canadian folk song with a touch of humor.  Where else could you find a rhyme like, “Don’t pick no fights with Mennonites?”

  1. “John Beyers (Camaro Song)” (written by Colter Wall)

This is a short little revenge song.  Very catchy and fun.

  1. “Wild Dogs” (written by Billy Don Burns)

This is a song by Billy Don Burns and it’s literally a song narrated by a wild dog about his life.  The music has some good spots but it’s not something I care for.

  1. “Calgary Round-Up” (written by Wilf Carter)

A western about a roundup jamboree.  You could easily imagine the Sons of the Pioneers singing this song.  It even has yodeling.

  1. “Night Herding Song” (Cowboy Traditional)

It sounds like a spiritual mixed with a lullaby for the cows.  Most of it is acapella.  I like it.

  1. “Wild Bill Hickok” (written by Colter Wall)

Western ballad chronicling Wild Bill’s life.  Well done.

  1. “The Trains are Gone” (written by Colter Wall)

A dirge to the changing world of the old west.  Kinda downbeat.

  1. “Thinkin’ on a Woman” (written by Colter Wall)

A song a bout a trucker brooding over a lost love.  Amusing enough.

  1. “Manitoba Man” (written by Colter Wall)

A cokehead bemoaning his fate and thinking about his next score.  Not my thing.

  1. “Tying Knots in the Devil’s Tail” (Cowboy Traditional)

This is an upbeat western about two drunk cowboys tying, branding and knotting the devil’s tail.

High Top Mountain – Sturgill Simpson – A Country Music Review – Part 1

There is a lot of bad music out there.  And there is a lot of bad country music.  One of the ways I try to find good music is by association with other good music.  Case in point, a friend of mine at work told me about Colter Wall so I checked out his music and really liked it.  One of his songs is a cover of the old song Fraulein.  On that song is a second singer and looking him up it turned out to be Tyler Childers.  So I checked out his music and really liked it.  Looking over Childer’s album Purgatory I noticed it was produced by Sturgill Simpson.  Now I knew of Simpson.  I had his “Metamodern Sounds In Country Music” album and there was one song on that album called Panbowl that was extremely good but overall I was undecided if I was a fan.  But now I decided to take another look at Sturgill’s catalog.  I listened to his latest album, “A Sailor’s Guide To Earth,” and didn’t really care for it.  Then I went back to his first album, “High Top Mountain,” and really liked it a lot.  I’ll listen to a lot of it for the next few days and then I’ll finish up this review.  But I can say already it’s a solid country album and Simpson is a good singer songwriter.  The fact that I didn’t care for his later stuff as much might mean High Top Mountain is more or less all of his stuff I’ll like.  That’s okay.  Even finding a whole album you like is a feat worth noting.  This album is definitely a win.

The Raven is a Wicked Bird

“Well the raven is a wicked bird

His wings are black as sin

And he floats outside my prison window

Mocking those within

And he sings to me real low

It’s hell to where you go

For you did murder Kate McCannon”

(Kate McCannon, Colter Wall,  2017)

The Raven is a Wicked Bird

 

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When we got to the Visitor’s Center at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon this fellow was giving me the evil eye from a low hanging perch on a nearby tree.  He was croaking some kind of a challenge at me.  He probably wanted me to acknowledge his suzerainty over the whole South Rim of the Grand Canyon.  These ravens are enormous and don’t caw like crows.  They croak and bellow.  And anything you leave loose in your campsite is fair game.  They’ll steal anything smaller than a duffel bag that’s interesting looking, especially anything shiny or edible.  And just about anything is one or the other from their point of view.  One sat in a tree above our campsite and serenaded us with abuse at sunset and again at sunrise.  All in all, a very impressive creature.  Almost thirty years ago I read a book called “Ravens in Winter” by a guy named Bernd Heinrich.  He was studying ravens in Maine.  He described how intelligent and social the birds were.  I’ve always wanted to see them up close.  Now I’m jealous of those living in the west where they are very common.

Tyler Childers’ Purgatory – A Country Music Review

I heard of Tyler Childers by seeing his name as the accompanying singer on Colter Wall’s song Fraulein. Since I liked the sound of his voice on that song, I looked him up (on Amazon.com of course!) and saw that he had a few albums.  I ordered his most recent one (Purgatory) and gave it a listen.  It’s really very good.

BEGIN RANT – But what the hell is it with these Millennials and drugs?  I mean, almost every song is saturated with dope, cocaine and pills.  Understand, I know artists always adopt a bohemian outlook on substance abuse but it seems this guy is continuously stoned.  How does he manage to write and practice his music with most of his brain soaked with opioids or worse?  And if he isn’t really that much of a stoner why are his songs so filled with them?  Is it just required from his generation?  I grew up in the seventies and drug use was rampant back then but I don’t know, this seems even more exaggerated. – END RANT

So, putting the whole drug thing aside (dirty hippies), I like this Childers guy’s music. Lots of interesting instrumental stuff, good vocals, good story telling. All of the songs are good but if I have to pick a few favorites I’ll go with :

  1. I Swear to God
  2. Purgatory
  3. Honky Tonk Flame

There seems to be a generation of Country musicians who you don’t hear on the radio but play very original stuff that’s more closely related to traditional country music than most of the commercial country you hear on the radio. I wonder if the drug content in the songs is keeping these guys off the radio?  Well, whatever it is they are producing good music.  I just won’t be playing it around my grandkids. And get off my lawn!!!

 

Since my readers don’t always stop by every day I figured I’d paste this poll on each post for a while to see what folks call themselves.  This is the post the poll came from  Who Are We?

… And that got me thinking. Who are the people who read my blog?  I thought it might be fun to see what the cross-section looked like.  If you feel like saying what you believe in, feel free to leave a comment and/or pick a label from the poll below.  I think it might be interesting.

 

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