Monday, May 29, 2017

Remembering Gregg Allman



Again the morning's come,
Again he's on the run,
Sunbeams shining through his hair,
Appearing not to have a care.
Well, pick up your gear and Gypsy roll on, roll on.
When I was 19 years old I moved from South Carolina to Oklahoma. I grew up in the south as a counter-cultural punk rocker with a chip on my shoulder towards the bigotry associated with the region. My behavior spiraled out of control in the summer of ‘07 to the point that I needed some rehabilitation so I asked my brother if I could come stay with him in Tulsa for a while. I left with the clothes I was wearing, my guitar & amp, and $20 from a junkie friend of mine. I left my music collection behind because I decided it would be a sober decision not to have a reminder of what I was trying to get away from.

Within a few days of my arrival in Tulsa, I started getting antsy so I asked Mark what kind of music he recommended. I was open to new possibilities. He gave me three records, “Amorica,” by the Black Crowes, “Live at the Fillmore East,” and “Eat A Peach” by the Allman Brothers. When I popped in Fillmore East and heard the introduction to Statesboro Blues I was hooked. Being from the school of punk rock I wanted my music to be fast and loud. I lived under the impression that blues was slow with improvised riffs that made no reference to any melody. The Allman Brothers changed that for me. Statesboro Blues was fast and a band with two drummers has no choice but to play as loud as they fucking can. Where melody is concerned, just listen to the call and response between Gregg and Duane when Gregg sings a line and Duane emulates that with his slide guitar. It’s nothing short of supernatural.

The Allman Brothers were a huge turning point for me. They introduced me to Blind Willie McTell, Elmore James, Miles Davis, and a slew of other blues and jazz artists no one before them had dared try and intertwine. They were kids when those records hit the shelves. They didn’t know any better. When I started researching their history I read about how they had to sign contracts stating venues weren’t liable for any violence because they had a black guy (Jaimoe) in their band. Not only were they loud and fast, but here was a band from the same region as me that was trying to put a stop to the same bigotry I hated but in a gentler way. They taught me to embrace where I was from. They showed me to look past the prejudice and embrace the beauty of the rich cultural tapestry which lies underneath.

I’m not trying to subtract from the integral role Dickey Betts played in the Allman Brothers because there was a time early on when, if not for Dickey Betts, the Allman Brothers would’ve ceased to exist but Gregg’s voice dominated for the first three albums (save a song here or there for Berry Oakley). You heard instrumental contributions like Liz Reed from Dickey but Gregg’s voice was the lightning that prefaced Duane and Dickey’s thunder on “Trouble No More,” “Dreams,” “Whipping Post,” “Revival,” and “Midnight Rider.” Dickey Betts didn’t make a lead vocal presence on an album until “Blue Sky” on Eat A Peach. Again, I’m not denying Dickey’s contribution, just saying Gregg was everyone’s first impression.

I read several times Gregg Allman was very insecure about the way he sang. He never thought his voice stood out. That used to blow my mind. In a testosterone driven era of rock and roll where people like Robert Plant came out with these high-pitched squeals, here was this fucking 20-year-old who sounded like the Johnny Cash of blues rock. His voice was deep and menacing but it demanded your respect and attention. He could sing the blues but he was equally capable of sentimental moments like Melissa. It unnerves me when people say Duane Allman was the lifeblood of the Allman Brothers. The Allman Brothers were a very complex band with a lot of moving parts, each one as important as the other. Gregg’s voice was a huge and necessary part of that.

When Mark texted me on May 27 to tell me Gregg was gone I experienced a plethora of emotions in a single second. I was sad because Butch Trucks passed away earlier that year. I also hoped to see Gregg and Dickey Betts make amends one day and possibly perform on the same stage together again. I mean, Axl and Slash buried the hatchet, right? At the same time, I was happy because now I know that any time I hear a thunderstorm that’s Gregg and Duane working out new material. There’s a hell of a reunion taking place on the other side of this mortal life. One day I’ll get to see it but today it feels sort of empty. Gregg, you were my fucking hero. Your legacy hasn’t escaped my heart! I’m really going to miss your voice. You taught me so much about the south and what there is to love. Thank you for helping me fall in love with where I’m from again. “Please call home if you change your mind.”

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 facebook.com/westmorelandsounds
Share:

Monday, May 22, 2017

Camera Shy by Bruce Harris



Camera Shy



Speed 15mph, streets narrow. Stevie eased the Nova along. It was a friendly argument, black or brown. Stevie was partial to the black. For Phil, riding shotgun, it was the brown. The brothers had just finished their weekly volunteer stints at the animal shelter. The debate centered around two of the shelter’s greyhounds and the question, if you could only take one home…

“That black one looks so sad. She really needs a loving family.

Phil shook his head. “Maybe. But, I’m sure I lost a bundle on her the last time I went to the track in Miami."

“That could apply to any greyhound you’ve ever bet on! You…Shit!”

“What?”

“I’m getting pulled over.”

Patrolman Belcher peered into the Nova’s rolled down window. “License and registration.”

Stevie reached for his wallet. “What did I do, officer?”

Belcher took the paperwork. “Do? First off Yankee, you’re drivin’ with New York tags.”

Stevie gulped. “Is that illegal?” He regretted asking the question.

A sickening grin crossed the trooper’s thin mouth. “’tis in Beaufert County sometimes.” The patrolman hitched up his belt. “Didn’t you see that woman in the crosswalk? Yall nearly killed her.”

Stevie was shaken. “N-noo,” he stuttered. “I didn’t see her. Where…”

Belcher pointed with a pen. “Right there! I watched her cross and then I saw you practically hit her. I was in my cruiser ‘cross the street. I gripped the steering wheel so tight my knuckles turned white as grits. Son, it was a damned miracle you didn’t hit her.”

Belcher completed the ticket and handed everything back to Stevie. “See-ins as I’m in a real good mood, on account I’m off duty soon, I won’t take you in. Watch it next time.” The cop walked back to his car.

“Shit,” said Stevie. “I really didn’t see her.”

Phil boiled. “That’s because no one was there.”

“What?”

“There’s no way we both could have missed someone in the crosswalk that close to the car. He’s full of shit.”

Stevie saw Belcher in his rearview mirror. “Forget it. It’s just a ticket.”

“Fuck that. He isn’t getting away with this.”

“What are you going to do?”

“Watch. Make sure you videotape everything.”

Phil approached the cop. “You’re full of shit! There wasn’t anyone in that crosswalk and you know it.”

Belcher licked his lips. This was a dream come true. He turned off his body camera and got out of the police cruiser.  “Get back in your car and go. I told you I was in a good mood. Don’t change that.”

Phil stood his ground. “I can prove it,” he lied. He pulled out his phone. “I’ve got it on camera. Nobody was in the street when we drove through.”

Belcher thought for a quick moment. Kid has a gun. Self-defense. “Give me the phone. If it’s evidence, yall’ll be obstructing justice if you refuse.”

“Don’t think of touching this phone. This shows you are a liar.”

Belcher reached for Phil’s phone, but Phil pulled it away. Belcher put Phil in a bear hug and violently dropped him to the ground. Twenty feet away, Stevie heard the deadly thud as Phil’s head hit blacktop. A pool of blood spread from the shattered skull. Belcher grabbed Phil’s phone and tossed it into his patrol car. He looked up toward the Nova. Stevie stood outside the driver’s door, capturing everything on his cell phone. Belcher barked orders into his radio. “Ambulance needed. And backup.” He gave the address and then beelined toward Stevie. “Hand over that fucking phone!”

Stevie jumped back into the Nova. Before he could throw it in gear, Belcher pulled his police automatic and fired one shot. Stevie slumped over. Sirens could be heard in the background. Belcher hurried over to the Nova. He checked on Stevie, but it was clear he’d never be able to testify against anyone. Belcher found Stevie’s cell phone and pocketed it. He then placed a hot automatic on Stevie’s lap. Belcher always carried the piece in case of emergencies. He went back to his patrol car and waited for reinforcements.

Belcher feigned nervousness. “I’m shaken captain, but I think I’ll be fine.” He explained to his superior that the kid in the car had pulled a gun on him and that the little punk on the ground had physically assaulted him.”

“Good work,” said the captain. “I’m sure your body camera documented everything.”

Belcher explained how it had accidentally been turned off.

The captain noticed the Nova’s license plate. “That’s okay, Belch.” With a wink, “I’m sure we’ll find a witness or two.”

Turned out there were millions of witnesses. The video Stevie shot was all over social media.

-End-

Bio Bruce Harris is the author of Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson: ABout Type.
Share:

Monday, May 8, 2017

Music Review: Big Bad Luv by John Moreland


A true songwriter’s success cannot be calculated with numbers. You can’t determine their legitimacy by the amount of likes they have on Facebook or the number of followers they have on twitter. That’s not to say that a great songwriter can’t have popularity or money because even Miranda Lambert publicly endorses the artist of this discussion. A true songwriter’s success has more to do with their ability to grab a person’s soul with their lyrics, as well as their music (not an easy combination), and not let go! John Moreland is a truly successful songwriter by those standards. His lyrics are full of intuitive one liners that will send every listener on an introspective journey. Enthusiastic pursuers of meaningful art can end their search for 2017 with his new record Big Bad Luv!

Headquartered in the beautiful city of Tulsa, Oklahoma, John Moreland responds to the curtain call with all guns blazing on his opening statement "Sallisaw Blue." He’s in good company with folks like Rick Steff of Lucero manning the keys! It is this reviewer’s opinion the first song hearkens back to the glory days of Tulsa when people like Carl Radle, Leon Russell, and JJ Cale were forging new territory with their laid back twelve bar shuffles in smoky beer joints. The song begins with a countdown and concludes with one of the band mates asking, “It ends right there?” indicating this track was recorded live in studio. Believe me when I say these guys caught lightning in a bottle! If you can listen to this first track without tapping your foot you should surely have your pulse checked.

For the next four songs; "Old Wounds," "Every Kind of Wrong," "Love Is Not An Answer," and "Lies I Chose to Believe" it’s best not to deprive the listener of the opportunity to interpret what these songs mean to your own heart. The delivery is very gentle but the lyrics equally aggressive. Take, for example, the lines, “Love’s a violent word, don’t you forget it.” “Remember what we read about redemption? Well, now I’m paying off my soul.” And, “I used to say I love you, then wonder who I’m talking to.” There’s no lightweight content here!

The album picks back up with "Amen, So Be It." Those who were fortunate enough to hear of John Moreland before this record will love “No Glory in Regret” because it's reminiscent of the solo acoustic days from his humble beginnings. This song is heartfelt and heavy. If you listen to Chris Shiflett’s podcast Walking the Floor you were one of the lucky people to hear him debut this song at the end of the interview. Ain’t We Gold returns to the smoky beer joint vibe with some stellar guitar riff over some incredible piano and harmonica boogies. "Slow Down Easy" and "It Don’t Suit Me (Like Before)" deliver more heavy songwriting content.

As we conclude this review please bear in mind this is a very weak song by song analysis of the actual album in its full glory. In no way would we want to deprive the listener of the experience this album provides. Hopefully, you chose to abandon the review after the first paragraph in favor of listening to the record itself. It is our guarantee here at Story and Grit that Big Bad Luv will surely have you preaching the Gospel of John for years to come!

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 facebook.com/westmorelandsounds

Share:

Friday, May 5, 2017

Six Simple Questions With David Joy

One of my goals for when I started Story and Grit was to interview southern authors that have impacted the south with their stories. David Joy was gracious enough to agree to be the first author interviewed for our Six Simple Questions series.

I tried to give him questions that were unique and would maybe get some answers out of him that he’d not normally give. I don’t know if I succeeded in that but he exceeded my expectations. His answers are so thoughtful and honest that I couldn’t believe this would be an interview I would be publishing on my own site.

I owe David Joy a lot of gratitude and a six pack of beer.

Yall enjoy.

What compelled you to tell the story of The Weight Of This World?

I like that verb compelled because that’s exactly what it is: it’s a compulsion. In a lot of people’s minds you just sit down at a desk and say, Well, I’m going to write a novel today. That’s not how it works, or at least that’s not how it works for me. I always have some sort of image that comes into my head that won’t leave, an image that lingers around and haunts me, and that’s where the stories come from, from following that image out, from seeing who’s in the picture and trying to discern who they are and how they got there. With The Weight Of This World it was an image of two addicts at a house buying drugs. I knew they were buying dope from someone they’d known all their lives and I knew he’d been taking in stolen goods—firearms, televisions—as payment. The image I had was this guy dead on the floor having accidentally blown his brains out and these two addicts sitting there dumbstruck with a pile of drugs, money, and guns on the table in front of them. I didn’t know anything else about them really, but I had to jump in the car when they tore off out of there. I had to see where they were going. I never know where a story’s headed. I just blindly follow one page to the next.

What sort of research did you do for The Weight Of This World, and how long did you spend researching before you began writing?

I’m not a writer who does a lot of research. That’s just not the kind of stories I tell. That may change down the road, but with everything that’s come out so far, there hasn’t been very much research done at all. Sometimes I look things up to make sure the details are right. Ron Rash told me one time you have to get the details right in order for the reader to believe the big lie, and I think he’s right. That’s true for me when I’m reading. If the writer gets one thing wrong then it all falls apart. So I work to get those details right, but I don’t spend a great deal of time researching in the traditional sense. I think the kind of writer I am, I’m more like a sponge. I soak up everything around me, every detail, every conversation, and it all just forms this sort of collective memory and that’s really what I’m pulling from. I’m a lot more likely to be found in a bar than an archive.

If you could no longer write tomorrow, what would you do with your life?

Fish. I’m better at that anyways.

What’s the one book you wished you’d written and why?

There are a lot of novels that I think are damn near perfect—Cormac McCarthy’s Suttree, Daniel Woodrell’s Death Of Sweet Mister, Larry Brown’s Joe—but I don’t wish I’d written them. I wouldn’t want to live in a world where Woodrell didn’t write Death of Sweet Mister or Tomato Red. That’s where I’m rooted. I’m grateful and indebted to those writers. If I could mimic one writer on the page, though, it’d probably be James Galvin in The Meadow. That’s one of the most beautiful novels I’ve ever read. He’s a poet and so he carries that attention to language, that poet’s eye and ear, to the novel in a way that a lot of people can’t. I’ve always been interested in sound, the way words sound on a page, and with someone like Galvin there’s a music to his language that I want to find in my own.

What’s the best piece of advice you have for writers that they don’t want to hear?

No one ever wants to talk about talent. A lot of times it seems like successful writers are fearful of saying that word, of saying, I’m able to do something that most people will never be able to do. Only a handful of writers I’ve ever heard say that openly, Reed Farrell Coleman being one of them. Harry Crews said it as well. Crews said, “Your chances of being a renowned brain surgeon are better than your chances of being a renowned novelist.” He has that wonderful interview where he tells a story about being at a cocktail party and talking with this doctor and the doctor telling him that he’s going to write a novel. Crews said what he wanted to say was, “What if I was to show up at your operating room tomorrow and just come in and say, ‘No, no, just back off here. You’re doing an appendectomy here, right? Give me a smock and something sharp and I’ll just take it out for you’…And I’d sort of do the job on that guy on the table that he’d sort of do on the novel. The guy on the table would be dead and the novel would be dead.” I guess what I’m saying is that what a whole lot of people don’t want to hear is that not everyone’s a writer, and that’s okay. The world needs folks who can take your guts out and sew you back up just the same.

How do you see Southern fiction evolving in the coming years?

I wrote an essay for Signature Reads about this recently, about the evolution we’re witnessing in Southern fiction. I think what I love about the current state of the South is the diversity of our voices. My favorite novel I’ve read in the past few years was T. Geronimo Johnson’s Welcome to Braggsville, an absolutely brilliant look into race in the South and how that plays out on a national stage. One of the best anthologies I’ve come across in ages was The Queer South, edited by a writer named Douglas Ray. It had some big names like Dorothy Allison, whose Bastard Out of Carolina should’ve long been on everyone’s bookshelf, but it also had a lot of new voices, people I’d never heard of, and that’s incredibly promising. I think we’re witnessing a dismantling of the old tropes, of the old grandmaw-in-a-rocking-chair, magnolia-blossoms-and-bourbon bullshit that has clich├ęd this region into absurdity. All of that is being ripped apart quickly by incredible new voices and that’s an absolutely beautiful thing.

Check out David Joy's latest novel The Weight of This World. You can buy it at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Indie Bound
Share: