Living too close to town

Edward Abbey died 20 years ago today.  The American Spectator has a nice essay that sums up my love-hate admiration for the Conservative Anarchist of the Desert Southwest:

Cactus Ed was a prickly sort; a conservative anarchist, if you will, who on one hand could support eco-terrorism (a favorite motto was: “Keep America Beautiful — Burn a Billboard!”), and on the other supported the National Rifle Association (NRA), and restrictions on immigration.

Much commentary on old Ed Abbey focuses on his essays, in particular the visionary  Desert Solitaire .  I’d heard the name before a friend of mine gave me a paperback when I was living in Bozeman, MT.  Still, Desert Solitaire hit me hard at that particular time and place.  I’ve been a Conservative all my life, yet I also have a deep, abiding love of the land, in particular that large landscapes of the American West.  Snow-capped mountains of Colorado.  Trout streams gracing the Big Sky of Montana.  Haunted kivas of New Mexico.

In Edward Abbey, I saw both the evil of environmental relativism and the promise of reconciliation—with those of us who value individual freedom and respect above mindless groupthink and junk science.

I don’t know the collective feeling at Patagonia regarding junk science, but their blog highlighted a special event this week for Abbey fans.  The host of The Risky Biscuit Hayseed Hoot radio show does an annual special memorial show, an “incomparable blend of tasty instrumentals, blues, folk, outlaw country, and a generous helping of Mr. Abbey…”

Starting Saturday morning, it will be available for a full week via podcast at the Hoot website. You can also listen live Saturday morning, 8 – 10 a.m. Pacific, by going to and clicking on the “Listen Live” button (on the right).

Kill your television and crank up the podcast.  If you don’t make it before the week is up, go find Tom Russell‘s song “The Ballad of Edward Abbey” on the album Indians Cowboys Horses Dogs; it’s a good take on a complicated legend.

Alison and Robert Sand the Grammys

Last year I was Grumpy about the 50th Annual Grammy Awards. I can’t be grumpy this year. My gal Alison Krauss cleaned up. Producer T-Bone Burnett worked his magic on her duet album with Robert Plant, Raising Sand [ Rounder].

  • Record of the Year
  • Album of the Year
  • Best Pop Collaboration With Vocals
  • Best Country Collaboration With Vocals
  • Best Contemporary Folk/Americana Album

Alison Krauss is simply the best thing out there right now.

And I’m conflicted about that.

I don’t “get” Raising Sand. I don’t dislike the CD. I’m a long-time fan of Robert Plant from Led Zeppelin days. I just don’t “get it”. The plethora of gold record players gives me an idea why and it’s as obvious as the beard on my face.

I like to keep my music close to the roots. Songwriter. Guitar. Maybe a stand-up bass. Tell me a story, maybe one I can do a two-step to. I like my Alison closer to her roots—her high lonesome done-me-wrong songs. But she’s been there and done that. It’s only appropriate that she wants to grow as an artist, to challenge herself and try new things.

There’s nothing like finding a new artist that you connect with . It’s very much like making a new friend. In today’s flattened world of internet radio and social media, it often is making a new friend, or at least adding them as a friend on FaceSpace. However, we also all grow up. There are a few of my childhood friends that I’ve kept up with, more now with the latency of FaceSpace. There are many more whom we have gone our separate ways. Maybe I’m just jealous of all her new friends. I don’t know.

I am concerned. It’s not appropriate to sully your hard-earned reputation fawning over a “Pop Collaboration With Vocals”. I’m not sure if it’s a sorrier statement on the ill health of popular music, country music, or Americana. I could celebrate that Krauss, Plant & Burnett were able to put together a production that successfully bridged the chasms. That would be the pragmatic thing to do. I’m not a pragmatist. I’m a strong believer in the quality of music and the musicians craft.

Here’s hoping Alison comes back around to visit her old friends soon.

Other Kudos from the 51st Annual Grammy Awards

  • Best Pop Instrumental Album: Jingle All The Way, Béla Fleck & The Flecktones [Rounder]
  • Best Male Country Vocal Performance: Letter To Me, Brad Paisley. Track from: 5th Gear [Arista Nashville]
  • Best Country Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocals: Stay, Sugarland. Track from: Enjoy The Ride [Mercury Records] (Was there ever any question?)
  • Best Country Song: Stay, Jennifer Nettles, songwriter (Sugarland) Track from: Enjoy The Ride [Mercury Records; Publisher: Jennifer Nettles Publishing]
  • Best Country Album: Troubadour, George Strait [MCA Nashville] (I can’t keep up with George)
  • Best Bluegrass Album: Honoring The Fathers Of Bluegrass: Tribute To 1946 And 1947, Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder [Skaggs Family Records]
  • Best Traditional Blues Album: One Kind Favor, B.B. King [Geffen Records]
  • Best Long Form Music Video: Runnin’ Down A Dream, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers; Peter Bogdanovich, video director; Skot Bright, video producer [Warner Bros.]

Of the others, I would have liked to see Kathy Mattea recognized for her concept album, Coal, even if I haven’t actually heard it.

p.s. After I initially posted this on, I got a Tweet contemplating a good question about release dates for Raising Sand. gives ’em a release date of October 23, 2007.  Now I’m wondering: Plant & Krauss won a Grammy LAST year for Pop Collaboration. How can they repeat? My guess is it’s single release vs. album release. Anyway, artists, not all release dates are created equal.  Remember that.


(updated & cross posted from )

Happy Birthday, Abraham Lincoln

[Abraham Lincoln, U.S. President, looking at a photo album with his son, Tad Lincoln, Feb. 9, 1864] (LOC)

Abraham Lincoln was one of my first heroes.  Growing up in the rural Midwest, he was a man of my people.  As a young conservative, he was the founding father of the Republican Party.  As an American, he was the man my ancestors fought for—the man who saved the Union.

Get the books, and read and study them till you understand them in their principal features; and that is the main thing. It is of no consequence to be in a large town while you are reading. I read at New Salem, which never had three hundred people living in it. The books, and your capacity for understanding them, are just the same in all places…. Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed, is more important than any other one thing.

Abraham Lincoln, 1855

The man and and the myth of Honest Abe Lincoln is as valid today as it ever has been.  Any one of us can raise ourselves up from nothing to become President of this great nation.  We can say what we will and do what we will.  We can try new things, fail and live to try again another day.  We each have the right and responsibility to serve a purpose greater than ourselves.

Abraham Lincoln was born on 12 February 1809.  So far we have come in 200 years.  So far we have yet to go.

Happy Birthday, Ronald Reagan

Now, so there will be no misunderstanding, it’s not my intention to do away with government. It is rather to make it work—work with us, not over us; to stand by our side, not ride on our back. Government can and must provide opportunity, not smother it; foster productivity, not stifle it.

If we look to the answer as to why for so many years we achieved so much, prospered as no other people on earth, it was because here in this land we unleashed the energy and individual genius of man to a greater extent than has ever been done before. Freedom and the dignity of the individual have been more available and assured here than in any other place on earth. The price for this freedom at times has been high, but we have never been unwilling to pay that price.

President Reagan’s First Inaugural Address

President Ronald W. Reagan would have been 98 years old today.  Rest in Peace and may we once again find “willingness to believe in ourselves and to believe in our capacity to perform great deeds, to believe that together with God’s help we can and will resolve the problems which now confront us”.