Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Hillgrass Bluebilly on XXX, the Stupid Idea Shooter Jennings Had...

I feel the importance to properly address my feelings, as cofounder of Hillgrass Bluebilly Records, on the subject of this proposed "XXX" from Shooter Jennings & "No Depression" writer Adam Sheets. I feel I state the facts as I see them, and as many of you think I may take things to an extreme, that is whats always been here...since day 1 HB, seemingly extreme. Extreme is never the case, the strange & dangerous times we live in does not welcome the sign of any beast, on my fight of the (re)introduction of roots music. Hillbilly, Bluegrass, Blues, Country, Country Blues, Hillbilly Folk, Hillbilly Blues, from uptop the Hillbilly Mountains down in the thicks of the Hillbilly Swamps and last but not least... good ol' heart, that is the combination of our success! The times, they ain't a changin', the people are...the MEN are.

Shooter Jennings will never be a part of anything successful. I knew he was a 5000lb anchor when I first looked into him, and "man"... you know it too. I never was a sleepwalker and I swept the streets of Phoenix for .50 a driveway 1.00 includes the sidewalk and curb, When I was a kid. So when I set out to sweep the street, onreader, I must have felt the importance of this, the desensatization of this, the hokeyness in this... a calling for my mouth. This is the same old song & dance of anyone that has a "name" and a mouth. I am not going to sit and watch some absurd reasoning of Hank III's thoughts, signature, whatever...as an all welcomin' to XXX. Believe me readers. It is time to let everybody know, but you have to listen to the music and be your own judge, and not be weighed down with all these "names" and bullshit recordings, and bullshit admittings to bullshit recordings. I ain't got NO time for that, and they are really not worth my addressing them. I am offering a service here, an insight to a man that will never give up, never misrepresent.

Hillgrass Bluebilly is here to represent, and that is exactly what I am going to do. I can sit here and bash folks, but just go buy and album and listen, you'll know what you don't believe... you will know what you don't like. I don't need to hold your hand, and I do not need to lead you in by the ear. I ain't your father, my boy aint going to have problems... So men, work on being just that, follow your gut, be a man about things. Let it go in your ear and then let it go to your gut. Leave the heart to the artist and your head out of misinforming, misguiding beasts that do nothing but destroy, what men like me are trying to build and improve on.

Hillgrass Bluebilly aint shit but a stepping stone to the truth, Yes, we are aggressive, and yes we arent ready for folks to "get it" on their own, we have to help... and we are... by delivering solid albums from solid people spitting their hearts out in our efforts to help speed up the process of elemination. The truth wins, the heart is light, people come. It's not about the fucking money, it never was, it was always about heart, truth, never recording a song that someone didnt believe. It was about celebrating through music...what you believe, what you live, what you experience. Why fluff that up with foggy misrepresentations? Why drop a bunch of names? All the sudden these XXX ARTISTS are going to save everybody? Yeah fucking right.. its 50/50 people (rar rar). Has their ever been fair compensation for standing up for what you believe in? XXX is going to deliver? Not without us they aint.

You have to fight for whats right and stand up and discipline the red handed. Shooter needs to be spanked or something because he is fucking it up for everybody. He is taking a "name". If he was Shooter Smith, y'all wouldn't give a rats terd about him. Everyone is too hopeful of some figure to come in and lead the march, huh huh... it's just us people, look to your right and left at a show. More importantly...look at who is NOT at the show, where the show is at, where are the people that would like this at?

The system in place is not built for us. We have our own "American Pickers" and the hauntings of them surviving/thriving in a system that has ALWAYS shoved them away. Noone is taking the measures to just flat out build something for whats in demand.

I believe Shooter & Matt both forgot what "work" is and are in survival mode with a trap. They are looking to ride a system that is not built for us. Y'all can eat off that plate all you want, that is not the dirty foot way. I believe we need to cut the life support of this system that has created humdrum shows, where bartenders walk out with the same amount as the artists because the promoter worked their ass off... to make it work. Our job. There is no compensation because people are sucking each others dicks (paying compliment) before defending and cleaning up their profession, simply just because it needs it. (one might get the same pleasure from painting a house for an old broke lady, or being a big brother/sister to someone who needs it). Refreshing... a job well done.

This is DO or die, not CONFUSE and complicate. Very simple. People start making buffers and go betweens and ammendments and bends and adjustments to the most simple thing and you do nothing but promote another failed attempt before it happens. You start running your mouth in a system that is pushing out promoters and using all monopilizing sister companies to Clear Channel, Viacom.... all these companies & venues & booking agents are working hard for THEIR system. Not ours. Shooter and Adam Sheets are really digging a hole... their own, and taking folks down with em. Dead

Now to DO, would be to build you own system and start on the local level. To DO, would be to use their system against them. Use a system that is in place, AGAINST them. Noone owns the fans, and they are working harder to get at them before you do. Why don't you just talk to every lil fucker that drives around with "Brad Paisley (who I like) & Taylor Swift" (see Adam Sheets remarks below) blaring out the window. They are really easy to spot. They live in the small towns, and have some kind of Mossy Oak dashmat, pocket knife or hat and maybe a fishing sticker on their truck. Start there, real hard. From there, turn around and look at the VFW that has gone to shit, right with Hank Jr. in 1983. The beginning stages of MTV, CMT, Signature Series, all this made up, fairy tale, trying to sell me something. bullshit. XXX is trying to sell me... this is bullshit too.

I demand you put an end to this today, you don't have to say anything, just take down the bullshit website and leave yourself out of our community on your quest to fluff things up. Show rigerous truth, a sweating back, a look in the eye, a song in your throat... fuck... you'll have the ladies... can you do that? Can you make every mother fucker cry in that room? Why dont you come in that room with me. You can tie my hands behind my back and I guarantee you Shooter will be saying "Hillgrass Bluebilly" before "XXX" then on out. Bring your friends too, Adam... and anyone else you dont give a fuck about.

LOCAL VENUES - obtain local venues, your 200 max occupancy and your 1000 max occupancy space. VFW's, Elks Lodge, Mooslodge, a lot of them have the space and the stage (now storage, etc). These VFWs and Mooselodges are diappearing fast. The community has abandoned them. I believe we can revive concerts, dances, bingo, everything they used to represent and stand for..old ladies cookin up hamburgers, Dwayne, the big funny dude in the cowboy hat workin the door... the good. Community, paying dues & RESPECT. Shooter will not revive things like this with XXX. Hillgrass Bluebilly can. Our heart is in the right spot. I am willing to organize this... Is Shooter & Adam going to back my approved of and easily backed suggestions? Are they going to stop all this nonsense and quit finding ways to a sour milked teet? Farm fresh man. Bring that shit home. We aint living in the highrises down here in Austin, TX. Making things happen on your own is a movement, bringing good representation to the people is a movement. Again, You not only need to stop XXX, you need to strip down what you think you got and take it somewhere else for ANY kind of recognition. THEN you give back to a community, you start something, something wholesome. Booking agents are pushing folks like me out of the picture, so they can piss all over our talent, but it's not going to work. What I can build, very easily will beat out the system you are trying to work with. I do not know when all of this will happen, but I know it will friend. I dont have the clothes to unfortunatley sell myself past a fat secretary or a business door right now, so my options on who I can address are limited. We all need money... but we need to make a difference for it and not just work for it. Pride and commitment happens...and is written about... not by you, about you... kinda like I am doing here, but I am more believable than you.

LOCAL RADIO - I dont have XM, but Austin Texas is BLESSED with radio stations like KVRX/KOOP, even KUT in a smithsonian type of way and programs like "The Roadhouse" which have ALL been very friendly in playing our releases, because I tried, I'm real, and gave the right presentation... some even "gettin it" on their own by mistakingly walking into a show on the way home, random stop. (Possessed by Paul James / Chris Mosser "Roadhouse" on KVET radio 98.1 - a full on country radio station... Possessed by Paul James.... the MUSIC won.) If I can hear a bunch of ki yi yi'n on 5+ radio stations, im thinking picking up local airwaves and using their system (airwaves) to transmit to the peoples, is not a hard thing to do... you are lookin for easy outs (ins) Shooter. Not making a difference. Start venues & radio stations (real ones) in Austin, Nashville, Los Angeles, Seattle, Atlanta.... then come on back...and I'll give you the next tasks....

MAGAZINES - I cannot think of a better example than Lubricated Magazine. I wish I had a link, but there is no better example.

How many more bad decisions are to follow this dirty money driven XXX?


Here is some copied & pasted back and forths between me, Shooter & Adam on the savingcountrymusic.com website:

Hillgrass Keith January 16, 2011 at 6:07 am
and I will always support Jashie, Outlaw, Saving & Trig. You are right, I will not NOT like anyone, because of something else they support that I may not. The idea aint bad, but I will be the 1st to put a stop to a “movement” that aint with me or I with them. If they start with XXX tours and/or a festival, it could grow on its own. THEN we arent losing any fans, interested sponsors, airtime etc…. xxx (symbol) resembles no faith, drugs, rape, deadbeat dads, not welcome,PORN, solicited sex, alcohol made to destroy, …ok…maybe that is a bit much, maybe not. A man that walks a line and plows his own course is a maverick, unmarked & meaningful (imagine Johnny Cash reading about XXX) The mens just need to have a look in their eye and a song in their throat. Start there. But XXX is 1 up a dirty sanchez. Can ANYONE imagine the bullshit one would have to put up with THIS agencies booking agents? Do we, as promotion companies get to pay an extra $100 + because of the XXX endorsement? What about the shit ass merch and XXX flag, Hey Kids… go look “XXX country music” on google images and tell me what you find

….. Americana, done.


Denise January 16, 2011 at 7:40 am
That was so well said Keith I’m not sure what else to say other than thank you for conveying the image in the proper way. A maverick does plow his way, stays the course and thinks about the implications down the road. XXX is not the image JC would have liked. Nor Hank. If it’s about the music and supporting the musicians that’s one thing most everyone would agree with. But Shooter said it himself: xxx is a catchy theme. I personally ain’t lookin’ for catchy. I’m looking for honesty in the strings. Escape from the pain. Joy in the art. You can leave catchy to the glaring lights of hollyweird and trashville.

Adam Sheets January 16, 2011 at 9:10 am
How would Johnny Cash feel about XXX? I don’t know and assuming you didn’t know the man, neither do you. But I think it’s telling that both his son and his godson are on board.
BlueRibbonRadio January 16, 2011 at 9:23 am
Assuming what a dead man would think about something is both absurd, and borderline disrespectful.

BlueRibbonRadio January 16, 2011 at 9:42 am
And Hillgrass Bluebilly has artists that sing about murder, suicide, drinking, and drugs. And they’re great, but you can’t try and take the moral high ground when that laundry list of what bad “XXX” can stand for is featured in your own artists songs.

The Triggerman January 16, 2011 at 10:16 am
Keith may be taking the point to an extreme, but I think it is a fair and valid argument, and one I raised myself initially and continue to. Does that mean we should throw the XXX ‘baby’ out with the ‘bathwater’ bad name? I don’t know. Maybe dropping the name down to two X’s or raise it up to four X’s will get it out of the bad connotations that people have with ‘XXX,’ but it still won’t resolve his deeper concerns about the fundamental issues that might arise with the formation of a new entity. One of the reasons grass roots are so effective is because they are deep and true and hard to kill. However it can also make deconstruction and re-alignment difficult.

On Friday night I was hanging out with Keith in a bar in Austin, watching two Hillgrass bands. I stopped down writing a review/uploading videos to join this discussion. Possessed by Paul James, a Hillgrass artist, was voluntarily put on the XXX list as a potential artist. Scott Biram, who is a member of the Hillgrass family, is the first name on that artist list. These roots run deep. And in both directions.

Adam Sheets January 16, 2011 at 10:24 am
But, again, I do not see any problem whatsoever with the name. Think for a minute, not what Johnny Cash would think of the name, but what would Hank 3 think of the name (maybe what would he think if Shooter wasn’t on board). Would a guy who uses as much profanity in his songs and even led a “Fuck Curb” campaign, really give a shit about being associated with something called XXX? Give me a fuckin’ break.
And also, as I have already pointed out, most “outlaw” country fans have never spent one day in prison and you can apply the same argument to the “dirty blues,” “stoner rock,” or any number of other labels that seem to have worked out just fine.
KAK January 16, 2011 at 3:05 pm
I have to agree that I will NEVER tell anyone I listen to XXX anything. I am a mother. I am a college professor. I am the faculty sponsor of an organization that raises funds for rape victims in Uganda. I would be humiliated to tell people I go to “a lot of XXX shows”…being a grown up sucks but it comes with a price, unfortunately.

XXX doesn’t ever make me think of moonshine. It makes me think of sex.

D.S. Troubadour January 18, 2011 at 6:33 pm
I think it’s awesome the response is so massive on this thing. However, if a bunch of underground country “nerds” (and let’s face it, that’s what we are) can’t agree on something as benign as a name, how in the hell are people going to jump on board who are nominal fans. People on the fringes. The 50,000 Shooter says he wants. Names and labels may be silly in some ways, but they can be important. XXX seems very problematic to me. Not the concept, but the name. Googling XXX is never going to bring up a music site. It will ALWAYS bring up porn. As a publicist and marketing guy, that is the first thing I thought of. It’s just bad planning. I do like the idea. I will support it, but I think a name change would be beneficial.

Adam Sheets January 18, 2011 at 6:39 pm
D.S., as I’ve stated below, we’re willing to change the name to something a bit less controversial, but since XXX has already been put on the table, been covered on this site and many others, and will even receive some newspaper coverage this week, we must stick with the name in some fashion, whether it is the “main” name or not. Otherwise it just creates confusion......

Tmac January 15, 2011 at 5:47 pm
I joined the Facebook page. I totally agree w/ Pete Berwick. Bottom line is that it can’t hurt. It’s a start and it contradicts my earlier comment but we gotta start somewhere. The only need for labels and genres in my opinion is so we can find your music in the music store or iTunes etc…

Hillgrass Keith
January 16, 2011 at 11:49 am
ok, extreme, yes. apologies to JC. I am personally pleased that is your only argument. distasteful sure, but not disrespectful. lead by example, never put out a shitty album. never put on a shitty show, unless there are understandable circumstances of course.but are these artists not busy enough to have to start alliances with confusing branding?
stage – truth, soapbox, gavel holder, time on the stand, supporters mobile ground zero, THE MUSIC.

off stage – if anyone offstage thinks they are ANYTHING other than a stepping stone or a contact to the TRUTH on stage, then take HB, you deserve it friend. I am still fighting for Americana, Blues & Country genres…. as simple as ABC. I will not abandon it, I will fight for it. We have sand bags, effecient stepping stones, effecient walls, effecient shelter. XXX is not wholesome and full yet..therefore only a bag of dirt, a dirtbag. XXX Country, cmon… quit fucking me here, I will take it personally.

I personally feel this is exclusion and is only for the betterment of those on board, yet creating another monopilization (kindly pardon any misspellings) and another blinding element for whats supposed to take place on stage. and the only thing that takes place on stage… the truth. I am not here to entertain in the true essence of the word. I am here to represent, host and work for what I have found myself to believe in. I really am starting to think I don’t have any business explaining in detail what it takes to unbrand and only bring truth in representation in the genre of Americana.

Im sick of everything that aint spelled out and real. I try hard everyday, not to confuse people. A monkey can figure out the meaning of “Hillgrass Bluebilly” by attending 3 – 5 shows. any one person can figure out “Muddy Roots”, “Farmageddon”, “Deep Blues”. Truth is, those names have physically bled, to push all this, as not to confuse but to promote, aid, and gain respect by leading….by example, not creating fluff until a real geniune hard-on is achieved on it’s own.

Shits gonna die on its own. 100% of ALL “Blues Societies” will be reformatted or non exsistant as that generation dies off. Truth takes over… what people actually believe in, “Mustang Sally” will finally have tombstone. But there will be Blues Clubs.

Country – go play in a club/bar/venue where country people go, walk the owner through it, lead by example abd buy one, build one and quit feeding the system…. last time I checked, Clear Channel ownes a lot the venues that Shooter was performing at, that III performs at…. so on and so on. Country fans aint coming cause noone is playing to the country people, so suck on that greasy pecker and realize what “agencies” are creating here, ways into the bullshit, instead of convertin folks with common sense, stripping it down, and doing shit where it belongs, playing it to who will listen. I for one think there is a lot of laziness and people wanting to dig their paws in some jackpots, instead of workin that shit.

I am going to stop for now, because all I am going to do is create problems for people, not me.

xxx – ok a home for country & rock, I get it. you have to go the the rock section to buy Biram, Whitmore, Hiram & Huddie. I know. its fucking weird. take an x out or add one, and bring some shit to the people via “tours”, “shows” & “events” and let the “movement” happen on its own. I’ll sign that. Take this coalition and outbid Mexican Radio for LOCAL OPEN AIRWAVES, radio stations starting in Austin, Nashville, Atlanta, Dallas. I’ll sign that. Be meaningful in your sponsors, fuck vitamin water, budget ads for our working class… the struggling working class of local business owners that actually listen.

Give us something to believe in. People aint followin HB because I have a big ol finger sayin “c’mere”…. I do not have paths in branding. We have a flag.. not a brand of more publisher clipart with no heart.

argh, I am in for different reasons than most, I need to hire a PR person so I can get back to work


Adam Sheets
January 16, 2011 at 12:38 pm
First of all, I just want to say that I’ve always respected what your label has done, but I must answer a couple of points.

What the hell is Americana as a genre? Over the past few weeks there have been numerous discussions about just that subject on No Depression and nobody seems to be able to reach a consensus other than agreeing it is a MARKETING label hijacked by the mainstream labels and used to market slightly roots-influenced music to white, urban, middle-class liberals. This is NOT the traditional country or blues audience and that is who we think deserve to hear their own music and their own culture. Americana and roots stations will never play Hillgrass Bluebilly. NPR will never get on board. Rolling Stone will never review them and even the more mainstream “Americana” audiences will never hear these artists.

Talk about how great podcasts and sites like this are all you want (and I’ll mostly agree with you), but the fact remains that 85% of the people in the country still listen to radio and that number goes up to 93% if you factor satellite radio in to it. You say “shit’s gonna die on it’s own,” but it’s not as long as the kids are being force-fed Taylor Swift and Katy Perry.

Furthermore, XXX has nothing to do with exclusion. The list on the website doesn’t feature every artist and neither would a list Triggerman made, nor would a list you make. It’s a guideline. We know there are dozens of other great artists who fit in to the format and just because you don’t see them on the site doesn’t mean they aren’t on our radar.

Your problem is that you are judging the movement before you see it in action. Wait until the festival, the web series and possible TV series, the radio shows across the country, more podcasts and internet programming, etc and then talk to me about “converting people.”

The bottom line is we want you on board. We want your artists on board. We love what you do and we welcome your ideas. So give us some ideas instead of simply pointing out what we’re doing wrong. That doesn’t help anybody, including you.

Hillgrass Keith
January 16, 2011 at 12:09 pm
please do not mistaken me for someone who gives a flying fuck what Hank III thinks. If anything, Im bettin he escapin from all of this bullshit branding and figuring out how to rebring the meaning of truth in what’s within him, I hope. But if I see XXX, Stanton Levy or who the fuck ever, hell or demons or common references to porn in my fucking ABC’s of americana, blues & country you can thank my Jesus for my not taking action on you…. and Id advise you pray to him, if you cannot, I will lead by example there too, alone, against all of you and anyone who defies faith & truth in American Roots Music. ARMS are for embracing & defending. create with balls friend and BE MEANINGFUL. BE REAL, BE A MAN. Bring filthy shit near me and watch what happens! Adam Sheets wants to bring porn into our country music everybody!!! read all about it, read all about it….


January 16, 2011 at 12:50 pm
I’m sad and sorry that you’re so upset about this. To think there’s any part of this that could be me trying to make money, or have ANYTHING to do with porn is ridiculous. I stand to make as much money as any other artist on that list, and really porn has nothing to do with this. (if you search for XXX in google, the first two entries are the stupid Vin Deisel movie). If anything, my neck is the one on the chopping block, and I totally am aware of that and I’m willing to leave it there. I know alot of these artists personally and I see how hard of a time they’re having out there, and a lot of them are jumping on board because I think it makes them feel like there’s something happening that they can actually embrace. Whatever… My point here is that this was an idea that I had over five years ago, and just felt right about sharing. I reached out to Adam because I knew he was someone who knew the landscape really well, an area in which I really needed collaboration. Since then, I’ve been lucky enough to meet the folks on here and make some friends and really get a better idea of what needs to be done (as well as being made aware of the significant legwork that SCM, OR, CBN and all these others have done in the past, and the importance of trying to get us all to work together). I really respect you and your label, you have many artists on that label that are so talented and deserve exposure, and I’m sure that’s what you want for your artists. And you deserve to be as much of a strong part of this as anyone else who believes in these things. We’re not coming along saying that we’ve got some kind of answer, or we’re trying to discover some golden city long forgotten, or for ANY reason be exclusionary. You can’t try to liberate and be snobby at the same time, and we are definitely not doing that. Our list is clearly marked as partial, and there is no ultimate goal of who is cool enough and who is not. You make this sound like XXX is against your label, which is absolutely silly. We’re FOR your label. We’re FOR everyone who hangs out on this website instead of having to google all the artists SCM cover’s separately. It’s about a home. We would love to have your input in all of this, as well as support. As for your demanding that Phoenix have “No Shooter”, for whatever reason that is, I can’t help you there, but I can tell you that this has nothing to do with my own personal agenda or wallet. It started as an idea of how to separate the music I was playing on my radio show from the Americana/Outlaw Country playlists which focussed on more middle of the road type music or on older and legacy artists. But it really seems to be something that people like to hear being said, and that is enough for me to believe in it. We also think it was important not to put a “Country” “Blues” “Americana” etc label on it because it defeats the purpose. All of these artists have been shut out because it’s not what the mainstream world associates with the defined genres. If so Hank III, Justin Townes Earle, North Mississippi Allstars and Ryan Bingham (not to mention tons of others on there) would be household names… Look it’s not about fighting, and if you keep thinking this is some personal attack on your label, then it’s never going to get anyone anywhere. But the door is ALWAYS open for your input, collaboration, label, taste and criticism. Please, take a beat and try and see that this isn’t some angled creation. I’ve been called alot of things on this site and on many others, but the one thing I am not is motivated by anything but creative freedom and justice. It’s what my dad fought (and died) for and, whether doubting eyes believe it or not, he and I were very close, and I saw how he cared about music. He cared more for it than anything on the planet, and the music industry broke his heart, many times, and when he was young enough to fight back, he did and he won, and I feel like there is an entire generation of artists that have come from the bloodshed of that battle, and simply hoping that the right people will come around looking for them is not enough. They must be exposed and given the credit and careers they deserve.

If you disagree with me still, please feel free to rail me, and I’ll read every word and try and find every bit of truth i can in it. But I want you to understand that I care about this very much and only want to finally give the Old Media fucks and their puppets something that they cannot control or contend with. In our Civil War, we are all wondering around on one side of the battlefield (with encampments scattered across the hills and valleys like SCM, NBN, and all the other fine establishments), but the enemy are WELL ORGANIZED and WELL ARMED, and if we can just find a way to all organize, we can make a stand like no other, because we have the heart and soul. That includes you, HB, and all the artists you love and support.

Okay I’ll shut up.


BlueRibbonRadio January 16, 2011 at 1:07 pm
This is why I’m supporting it. You guys came here and welcomed input from everybody. That’s what turned the corner for me.

If this was some sinister plan to make a buck off the work of others it would make no sense to get all of us involved. This, in theory, is what we’ve all been trying to do but we didn’t have the resources to do it.


January 16, 2011 at 1:19 pm
Thanks for the support BlueRibbon. You’re a big part of it, as well as everyone else here. For sure everyone’s input here and other places like this who REALLY know the landscape, will help get this to the next level. We don’t have much better resources I don’t think than anyone here, I just think getting all the artists on board is the first key. Hopefully Hillgrass Bluebilly can see positive in this. What they do is really fucking respectable, so it would be awesome to have them on our side!

KAK January 16, 2011 at 3:08 pm
I for one appreciate your comments here, Shooter. I also appreciate your emphasis on being an advocate for others. Folks do need to earn a buck and I see that you see this. I just hope you all come up with a different name if you proceed with this…

Hillgrass Keith
January 16, 2011 at 12:37 pm
Blue Ribbon: drinkin & druggin is fine, it happens..I tweeked, I snorted, I smoked, but I wasnt taping myself fucking to country music while doing so, and I grew up, and I know that system and how to destroy it. was it really murder…or was it a good decision, listen, it may have been a story, a dream… a thought, but it was real and it was geniune if you see HB, guaranteed! suicide is a real issue, but sometimes, real mother fuckers dont want to be here anymore, and maybe make a bad decision, I have come close twice, I’ll scan and post the papers…. finding the truth is the scariest thing folks, you know it and you are probably afraid of it, like me. but dont hide from it….. It will find you. (not you Blue Ribbon). but I back my shit up and do not have to worry about what anyone digs up on me and especially Hillgrass Bluebilly. we represent the good. Noone here or exsisting can call that out on us…..

Hillgrass Keith
January 16, 2011 at 12:39 pm
to Adam:
“Hillgrass Bluebilly will turn the world of music upside down” – John Carter Cash

Hillgrass Keith
January 16, 2011 at 1:20 pm
Adam, I agree and thank you for the opportunity to help and calling me out on the bashing. but XXX will be blocked in todays parental security programming. You are right about Rolling Stone, holy fuck are you right…

refine XXX for the people that it bothers and you will have our support. with the right presentation from the community, maybe you can sway me on not taking xxx for the worst possible meaning… but I am very negative too. I dont even think I can work on the way my mind works. But I cannot get past XXX. and our fight is still a fight with that name. I look to step over and continue every battle I pick, which is most of them by nature. But I am here to help the good first.
cXtry MusiX RoX
CouXtry RoXs by Xample
Southern Stoned on the Rocks

i know those suggestion suck


January 16, 2011 at 1:27 pm
This is what someone said a long time ago to me.

County Rock Southern

I’m sure someone said the same thing about naming that movie XXX or the silly country song by one of those pop country bitches xxx’s and ooo’s. I even found an old badass record called “‘Dirty Dope Infected Blue Grass Hillbilly Hobo XXX Country Music”

For now the XXX still doesn’t bother me. To me it’s, if anything, taking back the XXX name. Besides nobody searches for porn by searching for XXX. They look for “ass licking” or whatver, haha. It’s one the second page of GOOGLE now with XXX. Enough discussions and it’ll be on the first page. Look up AAA music (Adult Album Alternative, the top 40 adult contemporary/katy perry ballad airwaves that flood our radios) that was why it stuck for me in the first place. There’s a Billboard AAA chart. I’d love to see Left Lane Cruiser or Hiram and Huddie on an XXX chart.

I won’t hammer the name right now tho because I think it just gets everyone crazy.


BlueRibbonRadio January 16, 2011 at 1:33 pm
Zerno Tornado! Fuck yes, I love that record!


BlueRibbonRadio January 16, 2011 at 1:35 pm

Ojaioan January 16, 2011 at 1:34 pm
I like the premise, not crazy about the name though. Shits still in developement but I’am on board to see where this X-rated ride goes. sheeeeesh!

Hillgrass Keith
January 16, 2011 at 1:43 pm
Shooter, I had no rhyme or reason to your bashing, if you must know. I have an ex, now in OK who would drive to no end to go see you, but never lift a finger for my productions and I had to FIGHT for Biram to leave your tour in Phoenix so we could not stop what we created in Phx for him and my vision with folks like Bob Log and such, I accomplished that twice with Biram, you and Phoenix (if I recall right) but he rocks the fuck out, and belongs in that line up of the proposed XXX, and he encompasses more than what HB can offer him, but folks like him need something more. I am very sad to say, but HB has realized our stepping stone, and Biram has got by on ours and needs to continue with organizations of the right support and with better opportunities. Put Jesse Dayton in there, get Billy Bob to endorse it, he needs a home too. But my point aside not being able to use you in our rootsy format (or budget) and not listening past that 1st CD did not call for me saying I do not like you. I simply dont know you. I talked to your mom a few times, I sat with her at her table during a Billy Bob Thorton/ Holly Williams show YEARS AGO. We shared small discussions at the Rhythm Room too… X can work…. but lets use our good resources with good names. Plus I have had ex’s pop up in the porn industry… I have some verifiable backline to my issues with the XXX industry and my issues with country music industry… I let this get personal, as I always seem to do.


January 16, 2011 at 1:53 pm
It is ALL water under the bridge. Here’s the way I look at it. I’ll include you in the links section, and when we get this going, we will need to have a kind of “Great Panel” discussion on how to pool all of our resources to make this move forward, and I definitely would be honored to have you on board with that as well as your partner in HB (and whoever else you thinks is necessary). I appreciate your honesty, as I think everyone does. We all have our own motivations in this, and our own reasons for caring so much… Ambivalence gets no one anywhere. It’s that PASSION that is exhibited on this website so much and which is why it’s such an important part of this. Triggerman’s passion hasn’t always been in my favor, nor has many others (I don’t think we’ll EVER get Autopsy4 on board with this, talk about passionate! Ha!) But the real reality is, everyone has their own tastes and they have their own beliefs. If we can find away to give everyone a handle to hold onto, we will have one motherfucking big and strong merry-go-round here. I’m gonna throw up a link to your site (do you prefer the myspace site?) on that Links section, to make people aware of your cause. Let me know what we can do, or who we can add to make this thing even stronger.

Thanks man,
Hillgrass Keith
January 16, 2011 at 1:52 pm
ok…. good point. I do actually type in ass licking and not XXX, and I stayed away from the XXX in moonshine…. and I believe in taking back a name.

and XXX is close to maverick type branding (if that makes sense)

welp, another case of maybe, MAYBE keeping my mouth shut is a good thing? Maybe not. But all my friends, I was mean too until I figured out I liked them…. its the way it is.

Jason 3.14 January 16, 2011 at 1:53 pm
There seems to be a lot of passion on this subject. I don’t know much about it but I do know myself and Muddy Roots. I work in marketing and merchandising and ponder classifications of music, food, drink, any damn thing that get’s sold to you daily. As an American I believe in capitalism, hard work, and feeding your family. As artist I can’t stand the very same “classifications” used to compartmentalize our music and arts. When I study music I learn that the artists I love are all the same. They are all influenced by the next one. Prime example of Charlie Feathers looking up to Junior Kimbrough. Now go ask a “rockabilly” kid what he thinks of the blues. You’d be lucky if he even knew who Charlie Feathers was but if he did he’d probably think they were oil and water. That’s because the very same machine that helps us identify the bands and music we might like becomes the defining force on what it is. It’s my job as a promoter to “Muddy” up the lines between these genres to show that it’s all just rock n roll. Hell it’s older than rock n’ roll but that’s the word I describe the soul and energy in this music. I don’t stand for or against any “scene” but I promise to show everyone that it is just a blend of 5 others.

Hillgrass Keith January 16, 2011 at 4:14 pm
the “Fat Possum” is “Alive” when “XXX” marks the spot where the the “Deep” “Muddy” “Hillgrass” grows on the “Farmageddon”, is this how it works?

the cause aint bad, the name sticks….in my craw. We need no more issues. Its like the people who dress sexy or even wear weird make up and wonder why people stare at them, or they know exactly what they’re doing, or really (sadly) dont..too much confusion. Or its like the girls who dress sexy and wonder why they cant be taken seriously. I cant take Dale Watson in Phoenix in July wearing a big black trench coat… I cant fuckin do it. I cant see him get massages and die his hair black and think of him as country, when I have Roger Wallace & James Hand real dealin it. But I can sure as shit listen all day to “you lie” or take your pick of a DW hit. So point is, imagry plays a big part. the masses live by perception, my swimming pool service customers think I do rockabilly music. there are so many things I can answer with “take a CD” and “come to a show”.

Here is my commitment. Drop me off in Tomball, Texas with nothing but 72 CD’s, a few pens, and a shitload of napkins. I will have 1000+ people within a 15 mile radius come to the Tomball VFW for a night of American made country & blues infused rock and roll. Point is we have to build away from the current. We are doing nothing to bring our music to the people who doesnt know any better yet. We are trying to fit in to a system that aint built for us…

I say VFWs & State Fairs, Circus Tents, Revivals, continous Muddy Roots festivals (and the like, if possible) are really big tickets to a rumble on the ground, yes, a STAMPEDE on this movement. The music will win… we just have to go to them….. the burbs. This is probably not the answer either. We need Venues….. Venues, Venues, Venues. How about we pull our resources and do planet rootswood type venture in the music cities… Nashville, Austin, Los Angeles, Seatlle… we need venues…. we need alcohol sales!

Or we sell out to sponsors and sell our music to money…. not people…. what can we do to actually change things?

we can all make something work… but we all will have to agree to defend the xxx name and control it, can that be done?

I am obviously back and forth, I need a breaky break and want to read some more of the fans input. If everyone is really down to make a difference, then lets do it.


Shooter January 16, 2011 at 4:21 pm
I LOVE the way you think Keith! You sound like the kind of warrior of days of old! I see how your passion drives you too! Let’s find a place in the middle where we can all meet and plan our attack(s).


Hillgrass Keith January 16, 2011 at 6:06 pm
that lonely stretch of road in Mesa is familiar to us both, a common respected ground, about smack dab in the middle of the place if I remember right, sounds good to me. This warrior was parked there every Wednesday for a couple years on my pool cleaning route for a few minutes, payed respects and reflected my life and doins many a time there over a bowl…. but im in Austin, bout ready to be a father. We should meet. Noone should be alone in their struggle for the betterment which is what we all want, I want to believe. But know I never danced, so with 36 fast approaching, and as much smoking as I do, I have to stand up fight and protect against anyone at anytime when I feel threatned… and Im a defensive guy, there is no winning with me… only fighting and accomplishing right now. when i rest, I ask myself why I am fighting, but I still accomplish, and still today i do not know why. If I didn’t care, I wouldn’t be at the beheading, but if you know your head is an option for the chopping block, do you really care who pulls you free when you ask for help? Will they tax you for it? Will there be any cost of any kind? When does this (not us, this, HB, XXX) but this, life, music, turn cutthroat? I have nothing, you got a $1000… maybe a little more, I honestly think it will take 1 more cat to walk by before this dog is off the chain. All HB chapter owners, yes, are in agreeance to NOT feed this system any longer until we have our own! On 4/12/2011 we go all exclusive, no bookings agents allowed, I already NEVER signed a contract or rider agreement, and we will cater to artists, their right hands or family so to speak. I do not know why I am doing this, but I am in survival mode and doing what god (or the operater of this particular SIMS game) gave me to help this survive. I have verifiable “signs” (ooOOOoooOOooOOo *ghost sounds) and stories best told by members of the Williams family themselves, or myself, as far as me personally, and my slot as a promoter. My heart & gut are hunting for the greater good, there is only one thing that settles me, it’s the good… and if I don’t get it… I am payed off somehow, and its cost will come to all of the sudden and I will be convinced of the justice I seek, hopefully it just being a learning experience for me, which is 95% of the case. I am a fucking pool guy and the other founder works Sunday – Thurs and as I type installing cable, internet & phone. He has a wife and three daughters and I stepfather 2 with my legacy 10ish weeks away. I look at things, maybe even a bit drama queen, but everyone knows I mean it, and they understand that. So are we going to have a beheading on my watch? Caveat Emptor brother, savings and sacrifices is a fine line with us. All of us at HB.

******* end

So that was the beginning of me getting all fired up about this. Plus, now, I am already bored with it. Thanks to blogspot for initiating some closure for me.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Live Review - Boomswagglers & Possessed by Paul James

Live Review: Boomswagglers & Possessed by Paul James
Original Link: http://www.savingcountrymusic.com/live-review-boomswagglers-possessed-by-paul-james

(picture is not from event)

Hillgrass Bluebilly Lunch Party, but because I was too busy managing the live internet audio stream during the Boomswaggler’s set, and the stage was so surrounded by teeming “dirtyfoots” for Possessed’s nightcap performance that I couldn’t steal even a peep, I headed down to Beerland in Austin, TX Friday night to take in the double bill of Hillgrass artists.

The Boomswagglers are a band on the rise people, mark my words. For an act with no formal release, and up to this point no major touring or even residency in a local scene, they have created quite the buzz and following. There were people there that night just to see The Boomswagglers, many of them singing along to songs and screaming out requests.
Unfortunately the sound was pretty muddy, and the beginning of their set was a little rough. But when they were joined on stage by Possessed by Paul James, they rallied:

A similar observation I had seeing them previously is that they are both extremely-talented guitar players, but their use of tones and volume doesn’t always lend to that being translated to the audience. Same could possibly be said for lyrics. But this one song emphasizes both:

And be aware, The Boomswagglers do have a big release and tour coming, but they are making sure to get it right, because they are worth it, so no specific details just yet on either.

Next was Possessed by Paul James, and of the three times I have seen him live, this was by far his most inspired performance. Not that the previous two were bad, but this was just a different, more rowdy energy. Konrad is a school teacher, and my guess would be a damn good one, but he mentioned during the show his frustrations for the red tape involved in teaching, and wondered aloud if his future wasn’t better cast in music. Like I iterated

in my review of Feed The Family:

Possessed certainly has the chops to be a full-time performer if he wanted to, but he’s chosen his path from a belief of what is best for his family, and because of a dedication to service that was instilled in his Mennonite upbringing. I respect Possesessed’s decision, but I hope he understands that his music is a service as well; a touching, uplifiting, empowering experience that the world is a better place because of.

Regardless of the reasoning, Possessed was on fire on Friday. His gear was dogged by technical difficulties, but instead of adding hiccups to an otherwise good show, it created moments of spontaneous beauty, like when he couldn’t get his banjo and amp to work together, so he headed out into the crowd to make sure energy didn’t die:

When I posted this year’s Muddy Roots lineup, there was a reason I put Possessed by Paul James’ name second to the top. He is a headliner, and an elder of the fusion of country, folk, and blues, and has the songs, stories, road time, wisdom, and bald spot to back it all up. The lighting wasn’t good that night, and as per usual of a PPJ show, the front of the stage was crashed by rabid fans and sight lines were few if any. But the music and energy was great as always, and below are a few more vids worth checking out. I don’t know, but for some reason I am really digging what the bad lighting and sight lines created. I think they capture the magic of the night better than a clean video could.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Deep Blues on Possessed by Paul James

Album Review: "Feed the Family"
Artist: Possessed by Paul James / Konrad Wert
Record Label: Hillgrass Bluebilly
Original Link:http://realdeepblues.blogspot.com/2011/01/possessed-by-paul-james-feed-family.html

Konrad Wert, aka Possessed By Paul James, is a musical iconoclast. As Brian @ Nine Bullets blog (re: PPJ playing The Deep Blues Festival '08) so aptly puts it:

"Watching him was more like watching a person give birth to music than it was watching a person play music".

Live, Possesed By Paul James is an experience like no other. Raw, challenging, literate, thoughtful and free. This recording, while somewhat more controlled than his live show, is no less powerful and just as thoughtful. The intensity of the live performance still shines through bright and clear but slightly more refined. Drawing from the deep well of American roots music, PPJ takes the immediacy, vigor, and grit of old timey country music, melds it with the soul of early gospel and blues, and channels it all thru the power of punk rock.

Feed The Family (Hillgrass Bluebilly Records) is already at the top of many Best Of lists (mine included) and deservedly so. At once unique and original sounding and, at the same time, familiar and inviting, Possessed By Paul James' new release is a powerful document that grows with each listen. In performance, live and otherwise, Konrad lays his heart and soul out on the stage and sings, kicks, howls, grunts, grinds and wails the dirt off 'em until they stand clean, shining, and glowing and on fire. It's real, raw, and wholly honest music played as if it might be the last time. And for me that's what it's all about. If you are not prepared to die for the song then get yr ass off that stage and don't play it. I'm sure Konrad/Possessed By Paul James would agree.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

You Oughta Know Me By Now

Tom VandenAvond
Album: "You Oughta Know Me By Now"
Record Label: Hillgrass Bluebilly Records

Author: James G. Carlson
Original Link: http://www.examiner.com/indie-music-in-philadelphia/tom-vandenavond-releases-fifth-full-length-album-you-oughta-know-me-by-now-review

It is no secret that country music has really gone downhill in recent years, both in the mainstream and underground alike. In fact, many of the late, great progenitors of the movement – Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Woodie Guthrie, Waylon Jennings, and Merle Haggard, to name a few – would undoubtedly roll over in their graves if only for a moment they were subjected to what passes as country music these days. Like a piece of depreciated real estate, no one wants to live anywhere within close proximity to modern country music anymore, save for a few brave souls scattered about the globe who have dedicated themselves to rescuing the genre.

One of those brave souls is singer/songwriter Tom VandenAvond, whose latest release on Hillgrass Bluebilly Records "You Oughta Know Me By Now" proves just how far he's willing to go to do his part for country and other roots-related forms of music. This soft-spoken, cool-mannered, scruffy-faced Texan is all trucker caps and flannel shirts, and his songs sound the way he looks…with the help of Larry & His Flask as a backing band this time around.

Tom's songs are as real and down-to-earth as the patrons that populate the dive bars he frequents. Indeed they are as potent as the shots of liquor he throws back, as bittersweet as the beer chasers that follow, and as muddy as the cups of coffee that no doubt serve as so many early morning remedies. His sound doesn’t just possess the spirit of VandenAvond himself but that of Texas as well. All such comparisons aside, it is quite simply a sound that is rustic and romantic, gritty and honest and raw, with a bit of alt-country twang and folky balladry. And between his smoky, mellow vocals and a little crooning, the stripped-down notes and chords of VandenAvond’s acoustic guitar and the combined instrumentation of the backing band, great songs such as “Rustbelt,” “The Landlady,” and “Dear Dirty Dublin.” Also worth a mention are the album’s opening track “Knights Ferry,” the title track “You Oughta Know Me By Now,” an upbeat Spanish number titled “Vacilando” (which literally translates into hesitating), and the closing track “Even the Olives are Bleedin’.”

In a way Tom VandenAvond’s songs are of the sort one might hear playing on a barroom jukebox at two o’ clock in the morning, last call having been announced, as the last few tendrils of cigarette smoke drift up into the dimly set light fixtures, a tired couple shuffles through the last few drunken steps of a slow dance out on the floor, and the remaining whiskey is sipped from tumblers and beer drained from bottles. They are also the sorts of songs one might hear on the drive home after leaving the bar at two-thirty in the morning, emanating from the old, battered speakers of an equally old and battered Chevy, while the early morning scenery goes by in a blur outside, and the country road goes on like a winding ribbon of asphalt to the horizon. ‘Course, he also writes and plays the occasional foot-tappin’, hand-clappin’ number, with the all energy and excitement of just starting out for the night, the winding down portion of it all a seemingly distant eventuality…more like bonfire shindigs with good pals, beautiful women, fiery gulps of Mason jar moonshine, and deep pulls on roll-your-own cigarettes than the former scenario.

"You Oughta Know Me By Now" is Tom VandenAvond's fifth full-length album to date, after a self-titled release, "A Gambler's Prayer," "A Broken Home Companion," and “The Right Time.” Truth of the matter is, the self-titled album, for which VandenAvond had The Weary Boys as a backing band, was his courageous first step out into the scene, and it remains a fan favorite to this day. "You Oughta Know Me By Now," however, for which he had Larry & His Flask as a backing band, may just be Tom VandenAvond at his very best. Then again, he is also at his best on the two songs he contributed to Hillgrass Bluebilly’s two-disc tribute to Hank Williams and Leadbelly, “Hiram & Huddie.” And his accomplishments as a singer/songwriter don’t stop there, as he made an appearance in M.A. Littler’s film “The Folk Singer,” along with John Konrad Wert (Possessed by Paul James), Scott H. Biram, Ghostwriter, and Reverend Deadeye.

At present it is my understanding that a tour is being planned for Tom VandenAvond and singer/songwriter Soda. I for one will be checking the locations and dates in hopes that he will hit the East Coast and pass through Philadelphia in doing so.

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Monday, January 10, 2011

"the Folksinger" is NOW available in the U.S.A.

Click the link above to purchase your very own copy of "the Folksinger" DVD/CD combo set.


Possessed by Paul James

Uncle Tom VandenAvond

Scott H. Biram

Reverend Deadeye

Cade Callahan


Steve Dean

and many many more~!

An exclusive interview with Possessed by Paul James

One Man Band Series #12 feat: an interview with Possessed by Paul James

Original Link: http://www.nodepression.com/profiles/blogs/oneman-band-series-12?xg_source=activity
Author: James G. Carlson

January 2011

Almost every artist involved in the one-man band movement does things his own way, making his endeavor wholly individualized. He selects the type of instrumentation he is going to use, develops a sound often by combining more than one musical style with his own, and then slaps some sort of moniker on it. Both the sound and the setup with which he creates his sound range from simple to intricate. And though there are a handful of directions from which to choose, he more often than not either adopts a purist approach or a more experimental approach to crafting his songs.

One singer/songwriter whose sound is both unique and pure is John Konrad Wert, or Possessed by Paul James. An exceptional vocalist and multi-instrumentalist, John Konrad Wert assembles the components of his sound into a seamless whole with acoustic guitar, fiddle, banjo, an old suitcase and tambourine for stomp percussion, and an incredibly powerful singing voice. Just as much a bluesman as he is a folk artist, Wert’s songs possess both traditional and modern qualities in abundance. In addition to that, he is one of those rare singer/songwriters who is equally in his element busking on a crowded city sidewalk or on a subway platform as he is at a local hole-in-the-wall punk venue or large folk festival.

Wert’s sound can be described as soulful and primal, worldly and spiritual, raw and thoughtful and uncompromising. It is real life music, his compositions and their subject matter. And though he seems to somehow transcend himself and his humanity through song, he remains irrevocably human, and so too does his music. Music is something called forth from the innermost depths of the artist, after all, at which point it is communicated to his fingertips, his voice, his feet, and the other parts of his body that go into creating the song; a perfect mergence of an artist’s inner and outer self…a crossroads, if you will, where the physical and immaterial intersect. Few know this better than John Konrad Wert. And all one needs to do to come to that realization is attend one his live performances, as it is one of those experiences that stays with one for a long time to come.

“Feed the Family,” the third and most recent album by Possessed by Paul James, is a collection of twelve original and important songs released on the Texas-based Hillgrass Bluebilly Records. Wert’s earlier releases have appeared on Italy’s Shake Your Ass Records and Switzerland’s Voodoo Rhythm. He has also toured extensively, sharing the stage with many of today’s notable bands and singer/songwriters.

Recently I had both the opportunity and pleasure of interviewing John Konrad Wert for my One-Man Band Series. What follows is that interview in its entirety.

In the interest of giving the readers of this piece a better understanding of the artist I am interviewing, I would like to begin in an introductory fashion and ask you: Who is John Konrad Wert (aka Possessed by Paul James), not just as a singer/songwriter but as an individual, as a human being of this mad world in which we live?

Well, first off, I'm a daddy with two boys; and second I'm a schoolteacher. I've been working and involved with non-profits like Boys and Girls Clubs, gang prevention gigs, community development, case management, and now teaching since the late '90s. James, I guess I mention that to give reference to why we approach music. It's meant to be a social service, so to speak. It allows us as a family to subsidize the income a bit, exorcise life's frustrations and gather together with friends and strangers for some singing, drinkin' and pickin', ay. I find it even more of a release now as a father. When your children come about, such opportunities to pick are pretty limited, so when it does come it's always a good time.

Your youth was spent in a rather unusual way compared to that of much of the rest of the world's youth at that time, when you resided in Immokalee, Florida, with your family and their very spiritual ways. How has that experience shaped you as the artist you are today? And how is your way of life today in comparison to the one you knew in your youth?

Good question.

The thing here to remember is that our particular family, like many others, was a household built on faith, specifically within the Mennonite Church. The cultural dynamic is interesting when there are very few Mennonite congregations south of central Florida on the Gulf side. Now, our church community was in Immokalee, where I was born, but we soon moved to Lehigh Acres. My parents worked there in the Church nearly ten years prior to moving to Lehigh, but still attended prayer meetings, Sunday service, potlucks, caroling, etc.

It taught us community. It taught me very early how to sing, or at least follow along in music. It taught me about diversity and understanding at a real early age, and what it means to see poverty and hope, what it means to see people working with and for one another, and what it means to hear music in the Haitian churches nearby, or recognize the smell of orange blossoms along the citrus groves, and so on.

I think now as an adult and parent our approach is to take with us what was most beneficial as opposed to the dogma of the church. I'm not a person who believes in a religion, so I no longer identify with such a group. But with that said, I think there are some very true teachings regarding what it means to 'serve' one another, what it means to live simply (less is more), what it means to think globally and act locally.

In writing there's always the danger of coming off too preachy or standing on a soapbox. I think there's a trick to it, and sometimes we figure it out and other times not so much...ha.

Having listened to your songs absorbedly and again and again I am rather confident in referring to you as one of today's genuine living bluesmen. Of course, there are also bits of folk, country, and even punk in your sound, but the blues seems to be the dominating style overall. How did your sound come about? Experiences? Influences? Etc?

I tell ya what, I don't identify with the blues more or less than other genres, but I do favor writing about regret and lament. The double thumb bass picking style I do enjoy when fingerpicking. I think the punk and folk flavors cross paths with blues, but it's a different demographic. It's not.

Chicago or Delta black men and women, nor is it Prine, Biafra or Christopherson; rather, we throw those styles in a pot, add some Hank Chinaski and apostle Paul, and there ya go. Artist-wise and music-wise I'm most influenced by the other players I meet or share bills with at the shows. I think that's a fun thing about playing when ya really dig another artist and what they're about.

The actual performance or “sound” came from busking, honestly. We would go down S. Congress, or when on the road, and make a little cash and share conversation. When the first show came about it wasn't planned out; it just came about – the alternating of the instruments, using the suitcase to smack like off S. Congress, the growling or yelps and whatnot are just a feeling or fun way to add melodies. I also think the early touring overseas in Europe helped tremendously since it was much more of a cultural representation in the eyes of the Europeans. I better identified with and understood what we were trying to share when folks appreciated the roots and raw style that came about.

"Feed the Family," your latest album on Hillgrass Bluebilly Records, has only been available for a few months now. In that time I have come across a lot of favorable reactions from both fans and press alike. Now, most of the songs on the album have appeared on your previous recordings on Shake Your Ass Records and Voodoo Rhythm, save for one or two, though they sound decidedly more polished and produced than before. Did you re-record all of them for this album?

Well, actually we only re-recorded four tracks – "Old Man Souls," "When it Breaks/Vodka and a Fight," "Take Off Your Mask," and lastly "Color of My Bloody Nose." The other eight have never been recorded on an album we've released. I like the fact that those previous four songs were able to share a different feel and intent. For example, the fingerpicking in "Old Man Souls" felt real strong and fitting to the tone and meter of the song. "When it Breaks" feels like the finished version of "Vodka and a Fight." See, that song was originally recorded while I was drunk after fighting with Jen. Though I like the way it originally sounded, I wanted to put more structure into it and add our catch phrase, so to speak, with "What you gonna do when it breaks, I'm gonna keep on coming." Haa haa. A friend of mine said he was listening to that track while makin’ out with his lady and they kept laughing because it sounds like we're talkin’ about a condom...ha ha. Lastly, "Color of My Blood Nose" is my favorite love ballad. When it was first sung in '06 it came out real raw and even primal, not melodic or inline with it's real meaning. Granted, folks dug that version, but I wanted to add it again since the recording was so nice and it brought a slight edge to the somewhat contemporary overall feel.

See, the themes I enjoy the most when writing are recognizing the flaws and failures in all of us but adding lines of acceptance and strength. We can sing about our shortcomings, but we can't hide from them when they're declared. In answer to your question about the remaining tracks recorded for this album, yes they're from sessions in Austin, Elgin, San Francisco, and one from the film “The Folk Singer” by M.A. Littler’s Slowboat Films.

Now, I know you don't exactly consider yourself a one-man band, though you have been included in that scene, as well as others, for some time by fans, press, music enthusiasts, labels, etc. With your methods of making your music – strumming your guitar, picking your banjo, playing your fiddle, stomping on a block of wood, and singing – most would say that those things constitute a one-man band. As a matter of curiosity, why did you choose to go it alone, rather than take on fellow musicians for your musical endeavor?

The intent was to simply play music. In Austin we started pickin’ at Pizza Shops and busking around. Then we found some real opportunity pickin’ with friends, and writing, but sadly that went south. We didn't want to stop pickin’, so we threw a show together in 2005 – 2006, and this is what came out. Didn't really intend for a solo act; it just worked it's way into being as the response for the songs slowly grew. But if I had my choice, I'd much rather pick with friends. Some of the coolest things about music are the conversations you have with other musicians. And I don't mean phonetics; I'm referring to playing and reading off one another's playing. When you stick pickers in the same room who enjoy it as much as you do, I tell ya what, it's simply amazing, man. It's orchestral and fun and creative, and you can share those travels and experiences with folks. The kicker here in Boerne, Texas is I haven't found too many cats to play with, and the closest ones who do either live in Austin or New Braunfels. No worries, I think in time it'll work it's way out.

In your lyrics there's a recurring theme of everyday life, sometimes in general, sometimes presumably quite personal. The album's title track "Feed the Family" is pretty much self-explanatory, while songs like "Color of My Bloody Nose" need to be interpreted by the listener to an extent. What goes into your songwriting process as far as the subject matter and the feeling the accompanying music creates?

Good question, brother.

So here's my opinion, I think a song should first be colorful, pose either a question or a solution, grab the attention of listeners by the imagery or wording, oftentimes recognizing our universal connection with what is ugly – and by ugly I mean our failures, our challenges, our heartache, and our battered achievements. I think if ya can lock onto that you've got a nice formula for a meaningful song. Also, the interpretation is the best part. We tend to say 50/50 when playing a show 'cause it really is just that. Without the listening audience, what have ya got? Ya got nothin'! See, without the freedom to interpret anything, why would anyone want to listen? And if they do listen regardless what are they really hearing?

I have my ideas and intent, but it takes on another level or presence when someone else tweaks it to meet their need or interest.

Since you've become a husband and father your touring schedule has decreased considerably, with you rarely venturing outside of Texas for shows, no doubt so you can stay close to your family. Is that how you plan to keep it indefinitely? Or can we hope to see in our hometowns sometime in the future?

I have no bloopin’, bleepin’ idea. Ha haa. This new adventure in life, having children, is crazy man! We've talked about being a family on the road, living overseas, etc. But right now, this very time frame, we need to be close to our surrounding family for support and community. It's a wonderful thing to have a cousin nearby, an uncle, a Grandma, etc. Know what I mean? Strange enough, we could make a good living on the road, but look at what's being given up. See? So I think music is always going to be played and written, but regarding how often we pop up in a city...no clue.

Now, if it's just pop out and about, sure enough I'd be first runnin' to Canada for a tour, then down to Florida (my home state) and up to Pennsylvania, etc, etc. I miss that, of course, but once again the tradeoff is missing those early stages with your kids, figuring out the financial aspect, leaving yer partner alone, always on the road. Ya know?

I don't think folks always realize that touring takes a lot of sacrifices in your personal life. For us the intent has always been that music should better our lives, and sometimes it's really rocked us. I mean when yer out there pickin’ in the venues and crowds we find ourselves…well, it's not always the best situation, ya know?

At around the same time you released "Feed the Family" you also made available a Possessed by Paul James songbook…which is very cool, by the way. How did that idea come about? And has it proved a much sought after item for your fans so far?

Well, it came about as a result of receiving e-mails from folks here in the states and overseas regarding the written songs. I think it's a nice way to share personal ideas, as we added a little bio of each song on a neighboring page. No chords were added since I think it's always better to challenge your ear more and more. Also I don't really know what key the songs are in as we jump that capo all around when picking. And yes, the response has been very nice. We only had 100 - 150 made to mainly sell them at the shows. See, our merch sales are a funny thing, as we only play about thirty shows a year, so we do a lot of our sales via the website and online. Our intent is to try and put out a songbook every time we put out a record, kind of a nice added thing to throw around.

A while back you were the subject of M.A. Littler's documentary "The Folk Singer." Having seen it several times, it seemed like it was a rather difficult time for you – emotionally and spiritually speaking, that is -- with the upcoming arrival of your baby and a host of intense thoughts and feelings surrounding it, with your wife at home with child, with the possibility of putting the singer/songwriter life behind you for a more conventional occupation, and with several other things weighing heavy on your head and heart. Will you please talk a little about that experience and what it entailed, as well as the inner struggle that was taking place within you at the time, and what it was like to work with M.A. Littler?

Sure enough. Well, not to disappoint, but “The Folk Singer” was a fictional depiction of examples from being on the road. And by the road that too was a staged part of the filmmaker's process. I'll back up.

The entire experience was wonderful. I mean...come on, it's pretty cool when a small German film group, Slowboat Films, wants ya to be a part of a project like that. I'm small potaters, so anything in the realm of what they were doing I thought was freakin’ great and still do think they're great. But we did enhance and attempt to properly stage certain scenes and dialogues among the characters involved, and I think that went well considering none of us are actors and we've never been a part of something like this before.

Case in point, there is a rather large section within the film where I've lost it emotionally. We specifically wanted to capture that somehow on film since there have been plenty of times where you're gonna lose yer shit in life because of all the heavier shit backing up on yer shoulders. We ended up shooting that segment in a small, middle of nowhere Louisiana motel, I think. We told Mark I'd have to be pretty wasted and in-tune with the emotion to do what we wanted to do, so we started drinking. Mark started referencing some of the very real questions coming up, at which point I started to dive into the feeling of it, and we did all right. I remember after that shot, though – we, the crew, me and Mark, were all pretty taken aback by what transpired, but there was definitely a feeling of, "Yeah, we got somethin’." That was our intent, and they worked it out so well.

What's next for Possessed by Paul James, both musically and whatever else may be in the works?

See, since we like writing there's always more to write. I think it would be fun to figure out how to get another record out by February or March. I like this past album, but it still feels like we're shaping something together, as if the finished product still hasn't come about.

I hope to pick a little more out of state again, and I'd love to head back overseas. We sadly had to cancel this past summer's run to the UK and Central Europe as Kai (our second boy) was coming. We hope to have “Feed the Family” pressed via LP by an interested label this upcoming year. So we shall see. There are projects in the wings, but of course they need to fit into this puzzle of an elementary school teacher and father.

Lastly, if there's anything I failed to cover, or if there's anything you would like to discuss or express, please feel free to do so now. The floor is all yours, Mr. Wert.

Ok, hmmmmmm. So how ‘bout this: I think, though I'm a hypocrite and an ass from time to time, that we need to figure out where the industry of music is going. I think we as an audience need to really push for the artists we appreciate. I say that because everything is changing in a real weird way lately. Has it changed for the worse? No, not necessarily. But there feels like an air in which music will lose the purpose of serving others. And by that I mean not only entertaining but also challenging and motivating others.

If you look at it like music is a way an artist expresses himself or herself, the way he or she better understands love, or relationships, or religion, or battles with society or celebrates it, etc, then ya would hope that when we listen we pick up on the intent or it's very process. Not only are we there on a Friday night to get fucked-up and hoot n’ holler, but it's also an amazing opportunity to do something so socially and historically important during a time when we're glued to the ideas of separation and individualization.

Music cannot be the idea about "me, me, me, us, them, better than, worse than." If it really is 50/50, then we all need to do better and recognize that these Friday and Saturday nights are times when we share both wine and stories. Where we share our burdens and our celebrations. Where we share our failures and our attempts to succeed.

While saying this I realize I'm a failure in many ways, but that's ok. I'll try and make the better choices in life next time. I'll come on Friday night and try to clean my head free of shame and guilt. I'll toast another brother in the same boat and we'll look 'em in the eye and say, "Yup, yer a dickhead, but that's ok. You won’t always be a dickhead."

That's what it's about. Nothing more or less. It needs to be about lifting one another up and encouraging one another when we fail over and over again. I think when we leave that outlook behind we really cheat music. And I don't want to do that anymore. Music needs to embody what is most helpful at the time. It needs to make us better as people, as pickers, as families, as listeners. And when we take advantage of it and forget what it's all about…well, then we need to recognize that and try again, damn it.

Cheers James, and thanks again for both the interest and the time.All the best.


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

I Get Blamed For Everything I Do is "Saving Country Music".com

Original Link: http://www.savingcountrymusic.com/album-review-ten-foot-polecats-i-get-blamed
Album Review: "I Get Blamed For Everything I Do"
Artist: Ten Foot Polecats

January 4, 2011

The Ten Foot Polecats on Hillbilly Bluegrass Records are more straight blues than I would normally cover around here. Usually a band needs at least a little something contrified for me to get behind them–a small piece of fried chicken hanging from their beard, or a gravy stain down the front of their shirt–something. But because they are participants in this year’s Muddy Roots Festival, and were there last year, and honestly, because they are just so damn good, I am making an exception.

With I Get Blamed For Everything I Do, the Ten Foot Polecats aren’t reinventing the wheel, they’re just helping it find its groove. This is high-octane punk-inspired driving blues music. If you’re a tragic audiofile like me, that like a drunk whose spent years and years in the bar building up a huge tolerance, the normal stuff they peddle on the radio has no effect. The Polecats are the wickedly pure stuff in the bottle with X’s on the front that your uncle keeps out in the woodshed that is able to bust through. Even to the most reserved music listener, when The Polecats start to screeching, your legs start twitching worse than a dog that’s got to piss like a Russian racehorse. This is raw, infectious, booty shaking, head banging shit that makes you boogie like a meth head on the business end of a stun gun.

The key to The Polecats magic is the groove and tension. They find the perfect tempo and rhythm that nestles right into the human heartbeat and drive it home. Without getting too music nerdy on you, music is made up of chords, and the way music works is by building “tension” and “resolution” with chord structures. All music does this, but what makes the Polecats unique is they know how to create unbelievable amounts of tension, to where the song feels like it’s about to bust it’s buttons, and when the resolution finally does come, the payoff is orgasmic. The only other groups I’ve ever heard use tension so well are jazzy fusion bands like Phish, or someone like Frank Zappa.

Anybody can get up there and play Mustang Sally. These guys get it. Jim Chilson is one of the most unheralded blues guitarists out there today. When I saw The Polecats live at the Hillgrass Bluebilly launch party, I said about Jim & Co.:

The best flat out musician from the night, on a night filled with so many great ones, might be Jim Chilson . . .The seemingly effortless trance-inducing guitar rhythms with ridiculous fingerwork put the blues in this Bluebilly event, and was accompanied by balls out singing from Jay Scheffler and expert drumming. Who needs bass?

You could not fit a bass in this music; there’s not enough space and range in the mountain of noise that Jim squeezes out of his guitar. Singer Jay Scheffler and drummer Dave Darling do a great job of letting Jim do his thing and not getting in the way, but still adding their color and uniqueness to the band in irreplaceable ways. Dave’s drumming matches the same “Don’t just listen. Feel.” approach as Jim’s guitar playing, and Jay is there to remind you that all this noise is actually about something; blues is blood as they say, and this music came from the heartaches he sings about from the depths of his gut.

The songs “Big Road” and “Dryspell” are probably the best examples of The Polecat’s up-tempo, punk-infused, tension-building blues, but with a band like this the true measure of their talents is if they can slow it way down and still keep you enthralled. They prove they can shift gears with the best with the song “Couple More Miles.” It includes the title lyric of the album, which only seems fitting because it might be the best track on the project.

Again, don’t expect anything mindbogglingly groundbreaking here, beyond Jim Chilson’s fingerwork, but I Get Blamed For Everything I Do reminds you that you should feel music first, then listen, and then not be afraid to succumb to its magic.

Two guns up!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Original Link: http://www.bostonblues.com/features.php?key=storyBeck-Interview

Ten Shots with Brenn Beck of Left Lane Cruiser
By Georgetown FatsJanuary 2011

The term “deep blues” tends to give purists agita as it is a sub-genre full of musicians who push all who believe blues have to reflect the I, IV, VI Chicago sound. The majority of these “deep blues” artists trace their roots back to the blues sounds of the North Mississippi hill country sound with punk, hard rock or roots influences.

Hailing from Fort Wayne Indiana, Left Lane Cruiser is a two piece deep blues act blending high energy hark rock and punk with obvious North Mississippi hill country roots. Rather than stick to standard 12-bar blues conventions, Left Lane Cruiser’s sound has obvious blues roots while taking a sledgehammer to standard 12-bar blues. LLC is loud, brash, trashy and entirely refreshing.

Having been provided the opportunity to learn more about the band this blues movement which is being met with open arms from a younger, non-target demographic for contemporary blues I gladly took the opportunity to line up Ten Shots with Brenn Beck, percussion and blues harpist with Fort Wayne Indiana’s Left Lane Cruiser.

Georgetown Fats: Brenn, thank you very much for the interview but let’s get right down to the questions. As you may know, nothing is sacred with my Ten Shots columns and the questions run the spectrum of what ever comes to mind or is solicited from colleagues to make someone squirm. So let me start this: on the new disk I see you’ve been given both percussion and blues harp credit. In a live situation will you be performing both at the same time like Hezekiah Early, or is the harp work only for the studio?
Brenn: Yeah I will be going Hezekiah style and playin’ it live. We have done several songs in the past with harp, and I always play ‘em live. It is important to us that what you hear on the record is what you see in person. Plus, people eat that shit up when your playin’ multiple instruments on stage.

Georgetown Fats: How has your new addition and Joe's new addition to your respective families affected touring?
Brenn: It’s definitely gonna slow us down a little. We’ve been taking a hiatus since March, and probably wont hit the road again till this upcoming March when the new album drops. You gotta put family first. We love the road though, so while it will slow us down a bit for a while, we will be back at it soon. We're just gonna try and keep the tours shorter, and try and make some money doing it.

Georgetown Fats: Given how Alive Records has both T-Model Ford and The Black Keys on their roster, how has this helped provide exposure to Left Lane Cruiser?
Brenn: The whole experience of being part of Alive Records has been fuckin’ amazing. Joe and I both owned the (Black) Keys album The Big Come Up, long before we could have even dreamed of having our album on a shelf with it. Having their name so close to our’s has definitely helped us. On all the download sites we are recommended listening on their page, so we've sold quite a few albums from that. T-Model, though, is a whole other story. We've gotten the chance to know T real well over the last couple years, and that has meant more to us than selling any amount of albums. T-Model is one of the last remaining true bluesman from the hill country, and one hell of a guy on top of it. Sitting on my front porch listening to T-Model tell stories has got to be one of the best moments in my music career--not to mention sharing the stage him.

Georgetown Fats: Are there any tales from the road you care to share? Names can be changed to protect the guilty, but I am either looking for something that makes the lay-fan understand playing music professionally is actual “work,” or a humorous road tale? In a pinch, ratting out a roadie or Joe would be perfectly acceptable.
Brenn: Shit-.if you name it we probably seen it. We have drank moonshine with hillbillies from Tennessee to Serbia, played shows on the back of moving vehicles, ridden on homemade roller-coasters, narrowly escaped riots, and hell, we've even been deported. It’s a hell of a lotta fun, but it sure as shit is work. When we toured the US with Bob LOg III and Scott Biram, we did something like 38 shows in 40 days, and flew to France for a 3-day festival in the middle of it. For anybody that don't think it’s work I'd say: Get in your car, drive for 8 hours, drink about 15 shots of whiskey, do push ups till your drenched in sweat and your hands are raw, drink five more shots of whiskey, sleep for four hours in the backseat of your car in a Wal-Mart parking lot, wake up hungover and don’t take a shower, and then repeat this 40 days in a row. Call me when you get you get home and tell me how you feel.

Georgetown Fats: Though LLC is signed to Alive Records, there seems to be a strong working relationship with the guys at Hillgrass Bluebilly. Would you be able to extrapolate on this unique relationship between one band and two labels?
Brenn: We met Keith Mallette, owner of Hillgrass Bluebilly Entertainment, in Phoenix on our first tour we ever did. He treated us like every musician outta be treated when they are on the road. We had always looked up to the bands that HBE was working with, and really wanted to be a part of what they were doing. When Keith offered the chance to play a show we jumped on it, and he did not disappoint. The show he put together for us that night was one of the best shows we have ever played, and really gave us a lot of hope for the future of music. Keith is the kind of guy that would give you the shirt off his back, and has done more for us in the few years we've known him than most people will in a life time. Keith has single-handedly pushed underground blues music into the faces of thousands. And the guy does it all simply cause he loves music .I would take a bullet for that fucker. Anyway, we have always worked with HBE on shows across the country. We put two albums out with Alive Records when Keith called and said that HBE was becoming a record label. I had hoped he would want to do an album with us, and he did. He re-released our first independent album, Gettin' Down On It. He since has put out quite a few amazing albums that you would do yourselves a favor to buy. (available digitally worldwide, and hillgrassbluebilly.records@gmail.com)

Georgetown Fats: I am testing out a theory here; your input is appreciated. The type of person who puts Kid Rock songs, Godsmack songs, Nickelback songs, and a pop country song all in a row on a bar room juke box is the same type of person who believes there is a “homosexual agenda,” President Obama is not American, all Republicans are racists, and that Keith Olbermann and Glenn Beck speak the truth. What do you think?
Brenn: Yeah, I know a few of those folks. I have to say though, if you’re at a bar that has those songs on the jukebox, you might wanna find a new bar, brother.

Georgetown Fats: Touche. Sometimes I miss the obvious and perhaps I should relocate or strongly consider a juke joint of my own. While I admit this is a recycled question, it has always elicited great responses: What term on Left Lane Cruiser’s rider will have to be met in order for your two to know you’ve “made it?”
Brenn: Shit, if we could get a hotel room, and more than $400, I'd be happy.

(added by Keith M. /not a part of this interview - That last comment by Brenn was about the best thing I ever read)

Georgetown Fats: Bourbon, Scotch or Irish whiskey?
Brenn: If your buyin’, we'll take all three. Me and Joe are both Jim Beam fans, but we’ve been known to drink our fair share of Jameson’s too.

Georgetown Fats: So with the strategically early release of the teaser/single titled “Lost my Mind” from the forthcoming “Junkyard Speedball” full length, what message are you trying to pass along to your existing LLC fans, and what message do you want to extend to those who have yet to be hipped to your material?
Brenn: Well, “Lost My Mind” just tells some tales of touring Europe, drinking grappa in Italy, bribing the border patrol in Serbia, and getting deported in London. Most of our songs are just stories about shit that has happened to us. We do have a tendency to write a lot of songs about food though. I guess we really just want people to come out to the shows, get drunk, and stomp their feet. The blues is somethin’ that has evolved past a slow 12- bar. We try and bring a rowdier, more get-down kind of party to the table.

Georgetown Fats: If you were not right now part of LLC working to push the envelope of blues, where would you be?
Brenn: Probably working a nine-to-five and actually making some money. Fortunately for me, LLC is something that Joe and I have always had fun doing, so we aint going’ anywhere, and I will never have to seriously give this question any thought.

Georgetown Fats: So how about some current or updated info on the new LLC release? When can your fans get ahold of it?
Brenn: Junkyard Speed Ball is due out March 1. This album is a little different for us. We still have a lot of dirty rockin’ shit on it, but we added quite a few mellower tunes. Joe is playing a few standard tuning songs on this one, and we laid down a shit ton of overdubs on this one. I think the most exciting part for us though, is John Wesley Meyers from the Black Diamond Heavies came into the studio and laid down keys on four tracks. Joe and I are both really excited about this album. It has a little something for everybody.

The Boston Blues Society is in the process of securing an early release version of Junkyard Speedball for review. Please make sure to stay tuned for the forthcoming review or for additional information on Left Lane Cruiser.