Wonder Valley California

Telling lies and spilling whiskey on the floor

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Artist Spotlight - Doug Strahan

Ronnie: Doug, we met years ago in Austin and I miss it a lot. I'm really loving this new record Sadie. Tell me a bit about how it came together…

Doug: It goes back five years I believe to when Johnny Dango and I had an acoustic residency at the Westin. Wrote Sadie over Rollin’ and Tumblin’ chords as a funky bluesy tune, but with a honky tonk barroom theme. I was also getting into the idea of writing songs around one person as opposed to several. Kept churning out tunes about Sadie. Sounds nerdy or maybe pretentious, but I was thinking each song would eventually lead to a fully developed character. It’s hard to get to the complexities of a person in a song. Wasn’t working towards a concept record or anything, just messing around. Two of the Sadie tracks were recorded with Chili Cold Blood on Cabin Sessions (recorded 2016). Rehashed those with different grooves for the neighbors’ live sets and subsequently, this record.

Otherwise, I wanted to have some straightforward country and singer songwriter “backyard” tunes, but also wanted the mix of grooves etc to still reflect the gamut we run live. 

I see our live set as several 20 minute sets, each being country-funky-blues-rock-n-roll-moody, rotate. Keeps it moving, limits any extreme jumps that could lead to schtick, and eases the task of writing setlists for 2-4 hour gigs. The record reflects this dynamic.   

Ronnie: It was just released May 12. What are your plans for the release?

Doug: We’ll follow the official release with weekly content such as remote neighbor jams and one-off videos of the songs. It will be available on vinyl, digital online everywhere, CD. 

Ronnie: What do you as a songwriter like most about the songs and do you have a favorite?

Doug: I wrote Old Footsteps after having to put down my dog, Honeybee. It was a release and a prayer to write Footsteps.  Cot’n Was Cool Rain is a co-write with Jordan Matthew Young. He sent me the music and I wrote the lyrics. That one is close to me as the painkiller epidemic hit my home area hard. I’d never written anything like Silver Alert, so I guess I’m glad that one turned out a keeper. 

Overall, I think it’s part writing what you know but also never being afraid to venture in new directions, play with song forms, etc. 

Ronnie: I'm loving "How To Crawl" and it's honky-tonk goodness. There are a few country gems in Sadie. New directions?

Doug: Thank you. An old direction if anything.  I dig country and listen to it on the regular and I enjoy writing country tunes, but I’m too all over the map to stick to one style. That said, I’ll be writing country tunes until I’m no longer able to write. It’s a constant for me just not all-consuming.  

Ronnie: Tell me a bit about "World Full Of Strangers" came about. Is it about our divided country? It has such a buttery southern vibe.

Doug: I'm pretty thrilled with how World Full of Strangers turned out--the eventual arrangement, the Emmy Lou-Rodney Crowell style vocal harmonies and the twin guitars. I wrote it as an easy going solo acoustic number, but eventually changed the vibe to really wear the Allman brother influence on my sleeve. Dave Wesselowski and I tightened up the arrangement and were sure to make room for piano and guitar solos without it feeling too long. He and Beth Chrisman sang the harmonies and are both astute at the craft of harmonies. Jon Grossman’s piano solo, to my ears, is perfect. The twin guitars--Dave Biller and I wrote those parts. Any chance I can get to trade solos with Dave Biller, I’m in! We got it in three or four takes, can’t remember. In the end we decided to not fade the ending solos--leave that choice to the listeners/DJs. 

Divided country--the world really is full of strangers. I was thinking on some amicable break ups that took place after hanging out a few times—these are the minutes between the moments. Sometimes they stick with you as in the song and are deeper than you thought. Anytime I try to write a song with an arcing political metaphor, they come out trite, but hey, I’m glad you heard a different spin. 

Ronnie : Times are tough for traveling musicians right now, how are you coping?

Ronnie: Well I made banana nut bread yesterday, ha. We’ve been staying focused--garden beds and such, listening to a lot of music, trying to exercise, and reading--with a moderate intake of our chosen vices.  Music wise, I’ve been trying to mix up the weekly social media thing--one week of live streams, one week of one-offs, and so on. All that said, I plan on keeping steady with Saturday noon (CST) shows for our friends in Europe. 

Otherwise, I’ve been staying in touch with friends and family, staying informed without being completely eaten up all day by it, and being diligent about protecting ourselves and others from us. Times are tough and uncertain for everyone. 

Ronnie: Thanks for doing this buddy, let's let folks know where they can buy it!

Monday, March 16, 2020

Artist Spotlight - Eric Hisaw

I met Eric Hisaw when I lived in Austin Texas. Austin is chock full of great musicians and Eric is one of them. His music for me brings feelings of warm summer nights on a dusty porch drinking burbon with a big dog sitting beside you. Since that's a picture of my current life it comes as no surprise Eric's music is on constant rotation here at Cosmic Ranch. I was in touch with Eric last week and we decided to do a little catch up and interview.

Ronnie: Hey buddy! Good to talk to ya, you probably know my unhealthy obsession with the film Almost Famous, with that in mind, Eric.. what do you love about music?

Eric:   Good question, because when you do it for so long it kind of just becomes like breathing and it's easy to lose sight of what got you in to it to begin with. The first music that really hooked me was early rock'n'roll like Elvis, Buddy Holly and Eddie Cochran and also some hillbilly stuff like Johnny Horton and Hank Williams. I think I was drawn to how music could take you on a journey. It is like literature but using more of your senses to get the message across. A way of telling stories that is both intellectual and physical. That is what grabbed me as a listener. As a player, I really enjoy having a discipline, something to strive for everyday. I also like the outsider, rebellious, revolutionary aspect of living immersed in the arts.

Ronnie: We met in Austin, how did you end up there and how has it played a part in your music?

Eric:   I had done a bit of traveling around before I came to Austin, living in Louisiana and Tennessee. I was very much romanced by the Woody Guthrie/Jack Kerouac mentality, wanting to see and do everything possible. Austin became an easy choice to look in to as I was a big fan of some music coming from there, in particular Joe Ely, The LeRoi Brothers, the True Believers and a record Ely had produced for Will Sexton which really succeeded in getting the dirty Stones rock'n'roll meets country vibe that I was going for. Austin has influenced my music by being home to so many great guitar stylists, Johnny X Reed, Denny Freeman, the late Jesse Taylor, the late Eddy Shaver, the late Joe Eddy Hines. There is kind of a seamless melding of country and blues that happens with players here that doesn't happen anywhere else. Texas is obviously home to tons of great songwriters though I believe I'm more influenced by Californians than Texans in the lyric department (Los Lobos, Dave Alvin, John Doe, Merle Haggard etc.)

Ronnie:  I'm a big fan of your music and latest record.  Tell me a bit about how it came together and your writing process:

Eric:  I spent a few years working much more as a sideman and got to do a lot of really cool and interesting gigs and go lots of places. When the gig I had came to an end I got re-motivated to start my own band. It took a couple of years to get it together. I met a great bass player and harmony singer named Neal Walker at a Doug Sahm tribute show in San Antonio. We started playing together regularly and through Neal's longtime association, Shawn Sahm offered to record us. Most of the songs I'd had kicking around for awhile, they were the staples of our live set, though the first two tracks "Hurry it Up" and "Streetlamp" were brand new. The songs all touch on the same themes that have been running through my writing all along, family dynamics, romantic situations, class struggle, addiction.... I did set out to do it with a more economical approach to the lyrics and really focus on the rhythms. We cut the record in Shawn's studio almost like we were playing a gig, then I'd overdub a second guitar for texture, Shawn would put on a keyboard part and then on two tracks the great accordionist Josh Baca of Los Texmaniacs added a part.

Ronnie:  If someone hasn't heard your music how would you describe it?  I always hear something new ever time I listen.

Eric:  I think as a rule we are the worst at describing our own music. I told a radio dj one time in a long roundabout way that I was trying to create songs that had the imagery and detail Sam Shepard stories crossed with the eclectic southwestern rhythms of Doug Sahm. The DJ blurts "oh, like Joe Ely, he does that!"  I had to agree, yes he does, so much for my revolutionary idea. It seems various key words hit home in different ways for people depending on their own frame of reference. Living in Texas I feel like I have almost nothing to do with hardcore country western music, which to me is Ray Price and Johnny Bush playing shuffles and waltzes to dancers, but in New England states I have been told that my style was "honky tonk purist".  By the same token to me rock'n'roll means the Flamin' Groovies and the MC5 where to a kid in a small town it may mean Metallica and Judas Priest. That said I usually tell people we are influenced by the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan.

Ronnie:  Which guitar players are your heros?

Eric:  I have a lot of favorite guitar players who mine similar territory. I mentioned above a slew of Texas guys who I have seen live hundreds of times which impacted me quite a bit. The guys who pretty much built the foundation of what I play would have to be Keith Richards and Ron Wood, they both mix lead and rhythm guitar and use a lot of Chuck Berry licks and country bends to enhance the groove and build songs with the instrument. I've never been much for dazzling soloists. I like the tight little dynamic bits James Burton played on Rick Nelson records and with Elvis. Same with Steve Cropper at Stax. Jesse Ed Davis who played with the Taj Mahal band and did tons of sessions is a big influence. Both guitarists from Los Lobos, David Hidalgo and Cesar Rosas, are constant sources of inspiration as well.

Ronnie:  Our country is so divided, I miss protest songs a lot.  Do you feel like I do, that we need artist's voices in the battle?

Eric:  Yes, I believe it is important for artists and filmmakers and authors and poets to have a socio-political voice. It's really difficult to write good songs in that vein and it is important that the songs be of quality for anyone to hear the message or be moved by it. I've never worked in that area on a literal level, but it has always been important to me to have stories in my music that address the division of wealth and the way people are affected by politics and war. I've made it a point this year to spend time listening to every Dylan album in chronological order. His work on The Times They Are A-Changing is really incredible protest writing. There is a real flow of energy going on there. We could certainly use a new person of that depth to write about today.

Ronnie:  Austin is the live music capitol of the world ... Does that make it easier or harder for musicians living there?

Eric:  I'm not sure with how much the general demographic of Austin has changed over the last few years that it is the Live Music Capitol but a musician can play a lot of gigs here. It's a good and bad thing. I think because of the saturation of talent it is hard to get noticed and easy to get put in a box here in Austin. On the other hand a player can really develop by having the opportunity to play out more often than in other towns. I like to play a lot so it has been a good fit for me.

Ronnie: What are you currently working on, any new songs coming down the road?

Eric: I have been working with a new rhythm section and we have come up with a good chunk of new material we are planning to record this spring. A cool label that does vinyl called Flak Records is going to release the album when it is done. There are some pretty uptempo songs in there that are really fun to play live.

Ronnie: We sure would love to see you on the west coast, any plans for a trip out west?

Eric:  I would certainly like to get around a little bit more when we get a new record out. I love the west coast and have always felt like it was a great place to play my music. I will keep you posted first!

Ronnie: Eric, thanks for doing this my friend, let's show the readers where to get your music!

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Artist Spotlight - Richie Allbright

As my readers know I like pure country honky tonk sounds and I am always on the lookout for good stuff.

I met Richie back when I was spending lots of time in the Honky Tonks in Texas. Richie is the real deal and he has lived it friends. Richie and I discussed his new record and how it came about.

Ronnie: Richie, what do you love most about music 

Richie: That it moves us all in some way. Whether it's happy, sad, or sappy. I think good music is relatable. In a world where folks disagree on so much, music is the common ground that touches all of us because we've all lived through good times, hard times, heartaches and loss. It can bring us a smile, sadness and even peace and comfort. And if we're really lucky, it can bring about change and healing for us.  

Ronnie: I know you have spent time in Texas and Nashville.. Tell me how that has influenced your music. 

Richie: As far as style goes, I was much more influenced by the music I heard growing up in South Texas. The stuff by my heroes that made me want to play music to begin with. Of course, alot of it was made in Nashville, Bakersfield and L.A. By the time I got to Nashville in 1994, country music had changed so much that there wasn't room for guys like me anymore. The same can be said for the situation when I came back to Texas 15 years later. For a guy who's known for being obsessive about organization and punctuality, it seems that I'm always showing up 20-30 years late where music is concerned. 

Ronnie: That's not a bad thing (laughing), is the new record more Nashville or more Texas? 

Richie: Good question. Maybe a little of both. I took a couple of songs by one of my favorite Texas songwriters and friends Jarrod Birmingham with me to Nashville. Along with an old Haggard song written by the late Mark Yeary who played piano for Merle for 20 years, as well as one of my favorite Dolly songs that was written by Porter Wagoner. I only wrote one on this new "Back To Nashville"  EP. And it's a song about traveling musicians and marijuana called "Reefer Road". 

As far as production goes, I think people would call it more "polished" and less "raw" than some of my previous stuff. But I attribute that to great musicians, a great studio and great engineering and producing by Aaron Rodgers. If that makes it sound "polished" to some folks, then so be it. But it certainly isn't the kind of music that usually comes out of Nashville these days. Or Texas for that matter.

Ronnie:  I agree, hey.. Loretta Lynn recently said Country Music is dead.. what do you think?

Richie: I don't think it's dead. But it's certainly on life support. It's just harder to find, and you have to know where to look. There are many of us still playing it out here. And we'll always be here. Will we ever be what's most popular and on top again? Probably not. But there's a huge independent scene where we can exist, have creative control and if we're lucky, make a living.  

Ronnie: I was addressing that in last week's column so I wanted your input. Ya know I love the prominent honky tonk feel of the new one... What are some of your favorite honky tonks to play?

Richie: I started out playing little, smoke filled, rough joints in South Texas when I was 14. And I'm still most at home in those kind of places. I enjoy playing anywhere people want to hear real country music and the owner of the establishment supports it and treats me fairly. There are many here in Texas and other places. Some legendary ones here in Texas as you know. 

Since we've moved to New Braunfels now, I hope to play places like Gruene Hall and Riley's Tavern more. I was just up at Coupland Dancehall with my friend Jarrod Birmingham a few weeks ago and will be playing Luckenbach for the first time later this month. 

Ronnie: What's the best thing about your new record? What are you most proud of?

Richie: Other than the fact that I finally got around to recording some things that I've been wanting to cut for a long time, my favorite thing is how it all came about and was done with old friends of mine in Nashville. Some that I've known for 25 years and shared the stage with there back in the 90s. Guys who played with some of my heroes and legends. And others who I just met when I got to the studio that were also great to work with. But the best part is that Aaron Rodgers reached out to me and said "I want to produce your next record at my studio. We'll use some of our common friends that know and love you and will be glad to do it". There was no big financial backer needed. No rushing me through it to get on to the next sucker who would write a big check. No one thinking that they knew better than I do about what and who I am. 

My Wife Kim was involved as always. My 24 year old guitar player Tyler Fink got to play on an album in a Nashville studio with some of the best. These are the things that matter to me in this business. I never know which one will be my last. Could be this one. Who knows? At the moment it looks like it could be. But it's looked that way before. If it is, I'm proud that it will be part of what I leave behind in this world. 

Ronnie: Well let's hope there are plenty more, where can people download it?

Richie: All the usual places. Apple/iTunes, Amazon. Streaming on Spotify, YouTube etc. Hard copies are in the works. 

Thanks buddy, folks download Richie's new record, I guarantee you will love it.

[ Booking Info ]

Book Richie 

Richie Allbright

Kim Allbright- 361-254-2588

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Hey Loretta! You are partially right!

Just the other day this article about something one of the queens of country music Lorreta Lynn had to say about the state of country music today has been getting a lot of commentary so I figured I would write about my thoughts.

First let's talk a bit about where Loretta is coming from. Back in 2004 Lorreta was all but forgotten by the general public and the industry. Her latest record in 2000 was her first in twelve years and didn't do that well, enter Jack White of the White Stripes as producer for 2004's Van Lear Rose and all of a sudden her career is back on track. 

This should remind you of Rick Rubin's work with Johnny Cash who had also been abandoned by his record company and the Nashville establishment.  Jack White has since produced other records for country artists like Margo Price to critical acclaim. 

So as a baseline I understand where Lorreta is coming from especially as a woman because Nashville has a misogyny problem unlike producers such as Jack White and Rick Rubin. Things may be turning around, Dean Miller, son of Roger Miller has done a great record with Georgette Lennon, daughter of George Jones and Tammy Wynette. Tanya Tucker's first record in ten years produced by Brandi Carlyle and Shooter Jennings (yeah.. Waylon's kid) won Country Song of the Year at the Grammys last week.
Where I differ with Loretta, or maybe have a more nuanced view is I think the music industry in general has lost its way.

Somewhere along the way, over the last two decades, music in general has become something to work out to or just listen to on the car radio. Folks just stream play lists from Pandora or Apple Music, in fact as we know people don't buy music anymore they buy subscriptions for their background music. Classic Country is not music to work out with on the treadmill in fact that's why the bouncy pop country sounds of the day are popular. There are two kinds of music now, radio, streaming friendly and music to seriously listen to. Sure many listen to serious music through their smart buds by Apple, Google and Bose but most still stream that through one of the services.

How did all this start you might ask?  My opinion is it started with the Music Industry's wrong headed response to Napster and digital music. Had they embraced Napster and possibly even bought the company things may have been different. Think about how it would have changed the outcome if every CD purchased included unlimited streaming and MP3 files to download?  That instead of trying to sue kids and parents for copyright infringement.  This was exactly when kids (now adults) started viewing music as a commodity instead of a CD or record to cherish. 

Back now to present day.

The industry and it's talent procurement side are looking for music that is stream friendly. Bouncy pablum for the work out crowd not the serious listener. CD sales are at an all time low and it's due to decisions made years ago.

Country Music is not dead, it's just not on FM radio. Now if you want to hear Margo Price on your radio you must buy a subscription which keeps kids from buying the music they like. Subscription or a few CDs a month is the choice. Most people are choosing the former not the latter.

So now how do artists survive? Well, they have to either tour non stop selling T-Shirts they have printed or ball caps they have made or they have day jobs.  Some lately, like Margo or Kacey Musgraves, get picked up by labels (Thanks Jack White for signing Margo) but most must struggle to get CDs produced that sales of will never equal a rent payment.

I will finish with this... Good music is not dead but the music industry is dead to great musicians and that friends is damn sad.

Ronnie Ruff
Wonder Valley, California

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Mermaid Avenue the Journey Of A True American Hero

When Billy Bragg and Wilco released Mermaid Avenue way back in 1997  I didn't know all that much about Woody Guthrie's vast catalog of work. There was a huge collection of songs and poems all written from his hospital stays.  Much of the work had been offered to Dylan in the 60's but remained below anyone's radar.

Starting in 1996, twenty-nine years after Guthrie’s death, first Bragg and then Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy and Jay Bennett began to sift through the pages, looking for the lyrics that spoke to them, that needed to be heard, that were just too good to leave to the archives.

In the documentary Man in the Sand, that details Billy Bragg and Wilco's project to turn the forgotten Woody Guthrie lyrics into songs, Bragg visited Guthrie's hometown of Okemah, Oklahoma, trying to get some idea of what inspired Woody's songs. As Bragg wanders through the now deserted streets, talks to folks, and even discovers what's left of Guthrie's birthplace that's now just pieces of wood stacked in the corner of a local shop, he chats with the owner of an antique store, hoping to find anything that might bring some light to Guthrie's early life as an Okie before he started his journey across the country writing about his adventures. Delighted to show Bragg a link to Guthrie, the owner pulls out a sign displayed in front of the store that identifies Okemah as Woody's hometown.

The sign was in bad shape, Woody's name was covered with spray paint and the words "Commie Red A Draft Dogger" in it's place. The vandals couldn't spell but the message was certainly clear.. This was how Woody was to be remembered in his home town and state many years after he died.
When Wilco and Bragg decided to take on the difficult project of selecting only a small portion of the thousands of lyrics and write the music to turn them into songs Wilco's Jeff Tweedy had this to say; I'd have a really good feeling about things if the result leads a certain number of people back to discover Woody Guthrie.

Bragg, a songwriter based in the UK had been chosen by Woody's daughter, Nora, to bring life to writings that were purely American. Guthrie however, in 1997, was still viewed as a virtually unknown left wing folkie, mostly known for writing "This Land Is Your Land".  Bob Dylan was a fan but most Americans had no idea who he was.

After the release of Mermaid Avenue in 1998 that changed, the posthumous songwriting team of Guthrie, Bragg, Tweedy and Bennett turned out to be brilliance not many would have imagined.

American Songwriter Magazine has said; "The Mermaid Avenue project is essential for showing that Woody Guthrie could illuminate what was going on inside of him as well as he could detail the plight of his fellow man".

The collection of three volumes was voted number 939 in Colin Larkin's All Time Top 1000 Albums 3rd Edition.

Oklahoma has finally come to embrace old Woody as a state treasure and now even has the Woody Guthrie Folk Festival that brings fans from all over the world to Okemah to celebrate a truly American hero. In the state house of one of our most conservative states a painting of Woody hangs, something  far different than that defaced sign in the town of his birth.

Billy Bragg and Wilco didn't just alert folks to the brilliance of Woody Guthrie. No... They brought Woody home to the land made for you and me...

All lyrics written by Woody Guthrie; music composers are listed below.

"Walt Whitman's Niece" (Billy Bragg) 

"California Stars" (Jay Bennett, Jeff Tweedy)

"Way Over Yonder in the Minor Key" (Bragg) 

"Birds and Ships" with Natalie Merchant (Bragg) 

"Hoodoo Voodoo" (Tweedy, Bragg, Bennett, John Stirratt, Ken Coomer, Corey Harris) 

"She Came Along to Me" (Bragg, Tweedy, Bennett) 

"At My Window Sad and Lonely" (Tweedy) 
"Ingrid Bergman" (Bragg) 

"Christ for President" (Tweedy, Bennett) 
"I Guess I Planted" (Bragg) 

"One by One" (Tweedy)

"Eisler on the Go" (Bragg)

"Hesitating Beauty" (Tweedy)

"Another Man's Done Gone" (Bragg) 

"The Unwelcome Guest" (Bragg) 

Monday, January 13, 2020

Jeremiah and the Redeyes at the Palms

Some of my favorite music is about the road and sky. Jackson Browne did a great live record "Running On Empty" his fith album that details his life on the road; Motels and truck stops, where the road and the sky collide. It's all about railroads and road houses, back roads and the long haul.

This past Saturday I had the privilege to hear Jeremiah and the Red Eyes at the Palms Restaurant in Wonder Valley.

Jeremiah Sammartano, Flagstaff based, Emmy nominated singer/songwriter who fronts the bluesy/Americana and sometimes one-man band, Jeremiah and the Red Eyes, has covered many miles over the past several years. Saturday it was Jeremiah on guitar, kickdrum and vocals and  Angela on fiddle and backing vocals.

I think Jeremiah accurately describes his music as "Delta Blues and Twangy Grooves" and I would only add his is the sound of the road.  

My friend Kevin Bone gave me a hollar in advance that Jeremiah was right up my alley and lord knows he was right.  Tasty slide guitar and Angela's fiddling with some mighty fine road songs made for a great evening of music with friends. Sitting in the back room of the Palms on a dark Saturday night I couldn't help but think how great this would have been on the back patio and when Jeremiah, with Angela on harmonies, closed their first set with Woodie Gutherie's "California Stars" I couldn't have wanted that more.  I've always enjoyed the Wilco - Billy Bragg version off the great album "Mermaid Avenue".

I’d like to rest
My heavy head tonight
On a bed
Of California stars
I’d like to lay
My weary bones tonight
On a bed
Of California stars
I’d love to feel
Your hand touching mine
And tell me why
I must keep working on
Yes, I’d give my life
To lay my head tonight on a bed
Of California stars

I've since listened to all of Jeremiah's music online and a CD order is warranted.  I'm including links to his music so you to can check out some pretty damn good stuff yourself.

I must also mention Grey Hill who always gets the sound just right at the Palms. Its not easy to do that night in and night out but Grey gets it done. 

Band Website

Band Reverb

Ronnie Ruff
Wonder Valley, California 

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Get your kicks 40 miles south of Route 66

This is how we celebrate a birthday in Wonder Valley!  Our friend Sunny Steven Downer put together this cooler than cosmic capricorn shindig last Saturday night January the 4th.  The party was hosted at the Palms on Route 62 in Wonder Valley only 40 miles south of Route 66.

Jennifer, my beautiful bride, and I arrived a tad before starting time to get a good seat and Laura's special for the night... a fantastic feta, spinach, mozzarella and garlic quesadilla that was sublime. 

Kelly Hake kept us in double shots of Jim Beam all evening so we were in a grooving mood by the time the music started. That's always true of the Palms by the way... groovin' and a double shot.

First up was local singer-songwriter Lauren Downer  with Jimmy Fink on the Rickenbacker bass.  Let me say my favourite songwriters tell stories with their songs and Jimmy's songs about his hometown Chico California and lost love were warm and engaging, his voice and guitar playing a joy to experience.  See him around our desert music community when you can!

Next up on this winter evening was JJ Jones of the Needs.  JJ is a great guitarist and writes some great songs.  I was thinking just recently that I rarely hear protest songs anymore, JJ came through to address my jonsin' for the protest tune!  Not only that but hell, teamed with Nicci Carrannante to do one of my favorite John Prine tunes "In Spite Of Ourselves".  You can catch that further down.
Next up was the birthday boy's band Be Ja who got a cosmic groove going. Nothing is really more cosmic than a good George Harrison cover and Be Jah delivered the chill vibe.  Performing with Be Jah were Jimi Fink, Jessica Berryhill, Loren Downer and Michael Perez.

There is not much better in my opinion than hanging with friends at the Palms but all good nights must come to an end and tonight ended for us with more great bands to follow. As I get older the limits of age keep me from finishing many a great lineup. I'm going to try again soon to see Victoria Williams, it's been too long. Happy Birthday Sunny Steven Downer, keep up the fight pal!

Ronnie Ruff
Wonder Valley, California