Monday, September 11, 2017

Music Review: Southern Blood by Gregg Allman

Earlier this year on May 27, 2017 (as my wife and I were celebrating my youngest son’s second birthday) my brother texted me with the tragic news that we lost Gregg Allman. Last Friday we got his final musical statement titled, “Southern Blood.” Previously I shared my thoughts on Story & Grit of how Gregg’s legacy affected me personally when I was in turmoil about the region of the world I grew up in. Instead of repeating myself I’ll go straight into the review. 

Southern Blood opens with the one original song, “My Only True Friend,” the album has to offer. Man, what an opening statement. The bridge before the chorus declares, “I hope you’re haunted by the music of my soul when I’m gone.” I got chills when I heard that line. The song is very reminiscent of the Allman Brothers which I found unusual since Gregg usually flirted with other territories in his solo work. I didn’t have to double check the personnel to know that was Warren Haynes playing lead and singing backup. If it’s not I would be surely shocked! The twin lead guitar is a great taste for those stuck in the “what might have been” of what another ABB album would’ve sounded like. Two minutes and fifty six seconds in there’s a guitar solo that literally made me grab my own and go to work with my ears and fingers to figure out what was going on. Gregg, your music still inspires even though you’re not with us anymore! 

The next nine songs are all covers that Gregg held in high regards. Starting with Once I Was, a song originally recorded by Tim Buckley, I get the feeling that Gregg, in his old age, was nostalgic and sentimental. There’s a great sax solo in this one and the song really sets the mood for the simplistic continuation the rest of the album has to offer. Normally I expect Gregg Allman’s work to be a deliverance of everyone’s technical profiency on their respective instruments but I actually found the laid back nature of this album to be quite enjoyable. Take for instance the acoustic Going Going Gone, a song which features elements of almost every American genre, a pedal steel and a dobro to double the country and blues feel, a horns section to bring the R&B flavor, and rounded out by a gospel choir. Gregg proves his diversity, a contributing factor to his staying power, once again!

Gregg offers up a personal take on a Grateful Dead tune, Black Muddy River, which I found to be very intriguing since I love the Dead as much as the Allman Bros. Once again the pedal steel maintains a country flavor which is accompanied by a mandolin. The diversity of instruments from track to track kept me on the edge of my seat. I really enjoyed Gregg’s take on this tune. I Love The Life I Live is more of what Gregg’s fans would’be expected from his output. He doesn’t disappoint with his guttural growl over the gritty blues guitar. I found Willin’ to be both an interesting and predictable cover to tackle but, honestly (please don’t write me any hatemail), I didn’t feel like anything new was offered up with this tune. If my honesty offends anyone please keep your comments PG. 

The next three tracks deliver the soul and blues that Gregg was notorious for. The last song we get is a duet with one of his closest friends, Jackson Browne, titled Song For Adam. I formerly read he related the lyrics of this song to the death of Duane and it almost sounds like he chokes up when he says the line, “Still it seems he stopped singing in the middle of his song.” To be honest, it may take me a few listens with this album before I can hear Gregg saying anything other than goodbye. Even the producer, Don Was, said it felt like that in the studio when they recorded it a little over a year before his passing.

I don’t know that I could’ve handled listening to this immediately after Gregg decided to move on. I’ve never been able to passively listen to music so this album was very heavy for me. I’ve lived to see a lot of my heroes die but none of them as close to home as Gregg Allman so that made this the hardest review I’ve had to write so far. If you share a mutual passion for his music hopefully you found this last album to be as fulfilling as I. It was amazing to me that an album consisting of mostly covers could still touch on a life filled with love & loss as well as lessons learned and the sentiment they leave you with. Southern Blood is a paradox because on the one hand it’s the final chapter of a life well lived and on the other it’s a reminder of a God size void that will be with us all until we see Gregg and Duane on the other side of what comes next someday.

Bio Matthew Westmoreland (or Matty, as his friends call him) was born in South Carolina, grew up in Georgia, and rambled everywhere in between. Currently located in Mendocino, California with his wife and two sons, he spends his days writing songs and his evenings listening to & reviewing albums for Story & Grit before gigs. Look for his debut album in late 2017 and keep up with him in the meantime at

Monday, September 4, 2017

The Sunset Flip by Tom Leins

The Sunset Flip

I first met Peter ‘Chicken Lips’ Delgado back in 1982 when I was wrestling down in Boca Raton. He was a 150lb weakling – out of his depth – and he got tossed around the ring like a rag doll. He barely lasted ten fights before his career flat-lined. 

I was the one who put him out of commission, with a Sunset Flip at a house show. Flipped him so hard I damn near broke his back. I was young and ruthless back then – more ruthless than I needed to be – and flattened him in front of less than a hundred people, just for the sheer fucking hell of it. The lipless shriek etched across his face as he was stretchered out of the auditorium haunted me – for a day or two, at least. Until I put the hurt on some other small town shmuck with ideas above his station. 

The Boca Raton News write-up referred to me as Killer McHann, but that was actually the name of the fat shit-bag who had his jaw shattered in the previous bout. I liked the name enough to take it with me when left town. That other motherfucker wouldn’t be needing it again anytime soon...    


The next time I saw Chicken Lips, he had washed up in Testament. It was 1985, and he was trying to establish himself as a manager. Everyone in the fight game washes up in Testament eventually – it is just a case of how hard you land when you come skidding down the shit-streaked career pipeline. He was wearing a mustard-yellow shirt and a brown polyester tie and was managing a guy named Bobbie-Sue Barraclough – a big drifter-looking bastard with eyes like an escaped mental patient. 

Bobbie-Sue fought under the name ‘Beast’ and was billed as hailing from ‘Parts Unknown’, despite the fact he grew up in a single-wide in Old Testament, with his two wet-brain uncles. His Testament accent was so thick he couldn’t convincingly record telecasts and had to grunt unintelligibly through all of the questions to conceal his prosaic background.

Beast wasn’t cut out for the rigors of professional wrestling – the company physician said his brain was infected with demons – and he was back on the carnival circuit in less than a year. He still managed to make his mark on me though: smashed three of my vertebrae on New Year’s Day 1986. Chicken Lips was at ring-side. He laughed like a drain as I was dragged down the runway on an old plank, and dumped in the private ambulance that lurked outside the auditorium like a prowler. 


My boss, Fingerfuck Flanagan, was the eleventh person to visit me in the trauma unit. He said he felt guilty about my pulverised spine and offered me the job of bagman for the Testament Wrestling Alliance when I was back on my feet – in charge of delivering his quarterly bribes to the state athletic commissioner. It was almost eight months before I was able to walk again, and even then, I needed a cane. Flanagan set me up with a used hatchback the colour of dried blood and paid me a lousy one hundred dollars a month to hand over the greasy stash of used banknotes to an octogenarian named Cheadle. 


We usually met in the parking lot outside the auditorium, but this morning – four months in – Fingerfuck invited me into his office. When I finally hobbled into the bowels of the building, I was sweatier than Satan’s scrotum. He was watching softcore pornography with Barry Boulevard, the Master of Ceremonies. It is only breakfast time, but Barry is already wearing a maroon dinner jacket and a ruffled evening shirt. I haven’t seen him in Testament since a scandal involving a couple of local schoolgirls, a gallon of vodka and a camcorder. The way I heard it when the cops turned up, Boulevard disappeared quicker than a cut-price magician – leaving nothing behind but a stained cummerbund, a pair of spit-shined wingtip shoes and a half-drunk tumbler of cheap booze.

Boulevard glared at me like a carnival freak but didn’t offer me his seat. He had a shaving cut on his jaw and kept dabbing at it with the sleeve of his dinner jacket. 

“Have I done something wrong, Mr. Flanagan?”

“No, son. Everything is working out just fine. How are you enjoying the work?”

I shrugged.

“I just appreciate the chance to stay involved in the business, sir.”

He nodded, approvingly.  

“Change of plan, son. There is a new commissioner in town. Here is his address.”

He passed me a scrap of paper, and I slipped it into my jacket pocket.

Fingerfuck nudges the briefcase across to me with a slip-on shoe and turns back to his video. 

As I limped down the hallway I heard Boulevard and Flanagan cackling like bandits.

“Killer, huh? I’d like to see him try,” Boulevard croaked.

“Crippled bastard’s career is deader than mine!”

They clinked glasses and laughed even louder.


The new address is in Testament Springs, a gated community in New Testament. The driveway alone is bigger than the damned trailer park I grew up on. I lean against my cane as the door creaks open, briefcase heavy in my right hand. 

I’m surprised to see Chicken Lips in a leopard-print bathrobe, gold jewelry clinking louder than the ice cubes in his vodka and tonic. He is wearing yellow-tinted sunglasses, which make him look shifty, like a recently paroled sex offender. When he recognises me, he slides the sunglasses up his forehead, into his thinning hair. His red eyes gleam like pools of fresh blood. 

He grunts slightly as he flicks through his mental Rolodex, in search of my name – real name or ring name – but he comes up short, and instead gestures down the hallway with his tumbler, sloshing booze over the parquet flooring. I follow the careerist bastard into his study, and he perches on the edge of the oak desk, letting his robe fall open.  

I’m horrified to see a tarnished-looking Testament Wrestling Alliance championship belt drooping below his gut. 

He notices my surprise. 

“This? Poxy costume jewelry. You can pick up this junk in pawn shops up to three states over. You ever win one of these things?”

I shake my head, wearily.

He giggles, and takes another sip of his booze.

“No. Of course not.”

He gazes at me again, then glances down at my cane. He prods me in the chest with a bony finger.
“My boy Beast ruined you, didn’t he? That was some damned fight! You were yelping like one of those cretins at the East Testament Lunatic Asylum when he was done with you!”

I drop the briefcase and reach for his throat. He drops his tumbler. It doesn’t shatter, merely rolls across the shag pile carpet and under his desk. He holds his hands up, pleadingly – then he sweeps my legs away. 

I crash into the glass coffee table, and a searing pain spasms up my ruined back.

Chicken Lips stoops down, heavy glass ashtray in hand. 

“You rotten bastard. I’m gonna mess you up like a truck-stop hooker.”

I reach underneath me for the Ruger GP100 tucked into the back of my khakis. I picked the gun up in a pawn shop after a pair of Samoan brothers tried to jump me outside the liquor store in Crooked Timber last month. The piece feels cold against the ragged scar where the surgeons repaired my back. 

I palm the Santoprene grip and jam the stainless steel gun barrel in his left eye socket. He squeals and I squeeze the trigger. His ugly face explodes in a welter of blood and bone, and he collapses on top of me, like a deadweight.

Motherfucker. My body feels like it has been ripped in two. I can’t feel my legs. I try to haul Chicken Lips’ scrawny corpse off me, but I can barely move.  

His dead skin feels warm against mine. The cheap, greasy metal of his title belt presses into my gut.

His skull-blood starts to leak into my mouth. I feel myself laughing. Laughing with a mouthful of blood.

I keep laughing until, eventually, I pass out.


Bio Tom Leins is a disgraced ex-film critic from Paignton, UK. His short stories have been published by the likes of Akashic Books, Shotgun Honey, Near to the Knuckle, the Flash Fiction Offensive and Spelk Fiction. He is currently working on a series of ‘Paignton Noir’ novels, including Boneyard Dogs, Thirsty & Miserable and All Is Swell In The Grinding Light. His first short story collection will be called Repetition Kills You. Work on a collection of wrestling-themed noir, called The Good Book, is now underway. Get your pound of flesh at:


Monday, August 14, 2017

Sure, Beautiful by Paul Stansbury

Sure, Beautiful

That’s Zade Johnson’s girl sitting at the end of the bar. Zade’s the Boss around this neck of the woods. But did I call her a girl? She ain’t no girl, she’s a woman. A real woman. The kind of woman you dream about on a winter’s night, then wake up in a sweat. She’s sitting there in jeans so tight, I don’t see how she walked in. She’s all alone cause Zade is spending some time in County for beating some poor sonofabitch into a coma. I can tell you how it’s going to go down.

You know the story. A boss’s girl is left all alone while he’s inside. She’s OK for a while, but not too long. She needs attention. Wouldn’t be a boss’s girl if she didn’t. That kind of girl likes bad men. They need guys to tell ‘em how beautiful they are. They need excitement, to go to fancy restaurants,  the hottest honkytonks. They need baubles and clothes and plenty of them; all those things that are in short supply when their meal ticket’s in lockup. So she’s looking.

She’ll sip her longneck. Won’t have to buy more than one. She’ll pretend to search for something in her clutch, not that what she’s really after is in there. Like I said, she’s looking. Looking for some sap. Some poor sucker who can’t see beyond the blonde hair, blue eyes and those red lips. A guy who won’t hear anything after she sits down at his table and asks, ‘Got a light?’ A guy who’ll open up his wallet without thinking twice. Maybe a guy who ain’t ever heard of her old man, or the fact he’s dangerous. Maybe a guy who thinks he’s smart enough to get away with putting the make on a boss’s girl. Maybe just a dumbass who can’t believe a chick who looks that good is sitting down at his table. So, he’ll just fish for a matchbook in his pocket and say, ‘Sure, beautiful.’

She’ll touch his hand while he lights her cigarette. After a long, slow draw, she’ll gently blow the smoke in his face, marking her territory. She’ll let him buy her a draft while she sweet talks him, then suggest they go somewhere that ain’t so boring. He don’t know it, but he’s already hooked and ready to be gutted. 

They’ll start out slow, meeting once in a while at sleepy joints a town or two over. But that won’t do for long because she’s that certain kind of woman. One who likes Pappy Van Winkle just cause it’s expensive. One who craves bright lights and shiny trinkets. One who likes the excitement of being on the arm of a guy with a pocket full of folding dough. That’s why she’s a boss’s girl. 

Eventually, maybe she forgets about her old man rotting away over in county or what he might do if he found out about her and the sap she’s stringing along. Maybe she don’t care, or maybe she just can’t think about nothing but spending some sucker’s long green on clothes and jewelry and good times at the finest clubs.

And all he’s thinking about is that look she gives him, just before she turns out the light. And it’s not too long before he’s shelling out cash like he’s feeding the chickens. And he keeps it up till he’s broke. But she won’t care. The way she sees it, his job is to get the money and hers is to spend it. So she keeps on spending. Next thing he knows, he’s in hock up to his neck. Not only to his bookie but to a nasty loan shark who likes breaking legs. And to top it off, she ain’t nowhere to be found. That’s when he hears her old man is out. 

So one night, he throws some clothes in a suitcase and slinks toward the alley where he’s stashed his truck. And he almost makes it. Just across the street, he can see the black opening, but before he can get there, a figure steps from the opening into the glare of the streetlight. Before he can turn and run, he sees a flash and hears the gunshot. He feels the sting of a bullet tearing through his gut. He falls to the ground, clutching his stomach, blood oozing out between his fingers. Another figure appears from the shadows. Even with a bullet in his gut, he recognizes her. Before he dies, he watches her blow out a gray cloud of smoke which swirls around like fog closing in on a cold night. So that’s how the story goes. 

Well, what do you know? Zade Johnson’s girl just sat down at my table. She’s putting a cigarette between her lips. 

“Got a light?” she asks.

“Sure, beautiful.”


Bio Paul Stansbury is a life long native of Kentucky. He is the author of Down By the Creek – Ripples and Reflections and a novelette:  Little Green Men? His stories have appeared in a number of print anthologies as well as a variety of online publications. Now retired, he lives in Danville, Kentucky.