Playlist #38

Last week was a rough week, if I’m being honest. I was mostly over my case of covid, but still couldn’t return to work, and my wife…well, we had to take her to the hospital on Thursday because her O2 sats dropped dangerously low frighteningly quick. It’s only been in the past day or two that we’ve come to find out just how bad off she was. If we hadn’t taken her to the hospital when we did, she would not have survived the night.

So, she’s still at the hospital (in a covid isolation room where I cannot visit her), but thankfully on the mend. On Saturday, my old college advisor passed away suddenly from a brain aneurysm, which…yeah, still haven’t processed it. All of that probably explains the slower tempo and more downbeat list of songs on this week’s playlist.

  1. The Horrible Crowes, “Sugar”: I always thought it was more than a little daring to open the album with this song, which is by far more downbeat and subtle than what follows.
  2. Iron & Wine, “Hard Times Come Again No More”: I don’t know how I found this particular recording. I think it’s from the TV show Copper, if anyone remembers that (I never actually saw it, but still somehow heard this version of the song).
  3. Jars of Clay, “Faith Enough”: A song filled with contradictions and paradoxes.
  4. Jason Isbell, “Cover Me Up”: Beautiful and heartfelt and far more subtle than most of the songs I prefer by him, but no less glorious for it.
  5. The Wallflowers, “Up From Under”: If Breach isn’t the best Wallflowers album, it’s definitely top two. And while this isn’t my usual go-to song from that record, it’s still simple (for a song with a string arrangement) and beautiful.
  6. Willie Nelson, “The Rainbow Connection”: A voice and a song that I’m surprised it took so long to put together, though I have to ask – aside from this one and “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” just how many songs are there out there about rainbows?
  7. The Beach Boys, “I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times”: “Sometimes I feel very sad.” Sometimes Brian Wilson just cuts right to the damn chase.
  8. The National, “I Need My Girl”: I would like my wife home from the hospital now, please.
  9. The Flaming Lips, “Do You Realize??”: The happiest song about death that I know.
  10. Glen Phillips, “Train Wreck”: This one just sorta…feels right at the moment? That’s probably not good, is it?

Playlist #37: Covid Edition

So, as must come to pass eventually for all, I’ve gotten sick. I’ve gotten Covid. I blame Tennessee. But I have not forgotten you, and in my fever-hazed mind, I have put together a playlist for this week.

  1. Neko Case, “Fever”: So actually, I had a fever late last week, but it broke pretty quick and I’ve been fine since then. The Wife, on the other hand, keeps getting fevers of upwards of 103.
  2. MC Hammer, “U Can’t Touch This”: Please keep your distance, I might still be contagious.
  3. The Police, “Don’t Stand So Close To Me”: Did you not hear what I just said? Stay at least six feet away at all times. Further, honestly, if you don’t mind.
  4. AC Newman, “Miracle Drug”: I’ll admit, I think the vaccines are pretty damn amazing and I’m glad I got them. If there were something I could take right now to get rid of feeling like garbage, I would.
  5. Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, “Something In The Air (Live)”: What, another Tom Petty song, after last week? Yes. It’s on-theme.
  6. Toad the Wet Sprocket, “Something’s Always Wrong”: I’ve felt like crap since last Wednesday. It’s always something new.
  7. They Might Be Giants, “I Hope That I Get Old Before I Die”: There’s still lots I want to do before I’m ready to kick the bucket, and I hope I get old enough to do at least most of them.
  8. Ted Leo & the Pharmacists, “The Pharmacist v. The Secret Stars”: I’ll be honest, I really like Ted Leo and I mostly chose this song because his backing band is called the Pharmacists.
  9. Spoon, “Everything Hits At Once”: I was fine last Tuesday. Woke up Wednesday feeling kinda meh. By Thursday, I was spending the entire day asleep because I felt absolutely awful.
  10. Van Morrison, “And The Healing Has Begun”: Given Van’s recent bizarre rants about Covid and lockdowns and whatnot, it seems a little silly to include him on this playlist, but I do feel like I’m on the mend now. Still definitely not 100%, but improving every day.

Playlist #36 – Tom Petty

Happy New Year, folks! And happy snow week here in Northern Virginia, where we were supposed to start back to school on Monday and still haven’t (and won’t before Friday at the earliest, though I’m pretty sure we’re just out all week). This week’s playlist is all Tom Petty, all the time, and I tried to find songs that maybe folks aren’t as familiar with.

  1. “Walls (Second Version)”: Sure, the original version that comes at the beginning of the She’s the One soundtrack is amazing. One of my favorite Petty songs ever. But this one has a certain something to it, a certain wistfulness and bittersweet quality that’s hard to pin down, and I love it.
  2. “Louisiana Rain”: Damn the Torpedoes is my favorite Tom Petty album (well, or maybe Wallflowers. Don’t ask me to play favorites with my children!). This song, which closes out the album, is a pretty good argument for why it’s one of the best albums in rock’n’roll history. You’ve got a bit of Petty’s Florida twang in the vocals, the amazing guitar and keyboard parts, and the whole thing is just so heartfelt and heartbreaking (see what I did there?).
  3. “A Thing About You”: This is a dangerous song to drive to, as I’ve frequently looked down at the speedometer while listening and found myself doing nearly 90 MPH. It just gets the blood pumping.
  4. “Swingin'”: I didn’t really care much for Echo when it came out back in ’99, but that has transformed into a deep and abiding love. This song also features the best pun I’ve ever heard in the line, “And she went down swingin’/like Glenn Miller.”
  5. “Crawling Back To You”: “I’m so tired of feelin’ tired/as sure as night will follow day/Most things I worry ’bout/never happen anyway.” I would eat my own liver to write a verse that good.
  6. “Like a Diamond”: We could easily have a discussion about how The Last DJ is hands-down the worst of Petty’s albums, but there are still a couple of bright spots: this song, and “Dreamville,” specifically. And the title song is pretty fun, too.
  7. “It’ll All Work Out”: More songs need mandolin in them. Just sayin’.
  8. “Southern Accents”: Okay, I’m not usually big on the whole southern philosophy of the Lost Cause and the noble rebels and all that, but there’s something about this song that sits well with me. It’s beautiful and sad and I kinda love it.
  9. “Poor House”: Okay, a bit of a cheat, as this is a Traveling Wilburys song, but Tom takes the lead vocals and it’s just too much damn fun.
  10. “Built To Last”: A beautiful song off of Into the Great Wide Open. I don’t feel like the album cuts from that one get as much love as they deserve.

Playlist #35 – New Year, New Playlist

I’m in Oklahoma this week visiting family before school starts back up again this week. But that doesn’t mean I forgot to put together a playlist for y’all!

1. The Black Keys, “Year in Review”: It’s been a long and frequently difficult year, I think we can all agree.

2. Juliana Finch, “This Year”: Who doesn’t love a Mountain Goats cover? I know I do.

3. Turnpike Troubadours, “Ringing in the Year”: How do Okies celebrate the New Year? Drink too much and set off explosives, the way we celebrate everything.

4. Steely Dan, “Reelin’ in the Years”: Like I wasn’t gonna include this song.

5. George Harrison, “All Those Years Ago”: The end of the year always makes me feel introspective and retrospective, and this particular song hits the nostalgia centers pretty hard.

6. Third Eye Blind, “Losing a Whole Year”: Did you expect a Third Eye Blind song on this list? You did not. Does it still apply eerily well? yea, yes it does.

7. Tom Waits, “New Year’s Eve”: It sounds exactly like you’d expect a Tom Waits song about New Year’s Eve would sound.

8. David Bowie, “Five Years”: Does it exactly fit the premise of the playlist? Not really. Is it a damn good song nonetheless? Yes, yes it is.

9. Foo Fighters, “Next Year”: “I’ll be coming home next year,” the chorus goes, and it’s true.

10. Andrew Bird, “Auld Lang Syne”: Just a beautiful rendition of the classic.

Playlist #34: Christmas!

It’s Christmas week for those who celebrate (and also for those who don’t, they just don’t have to pay attention to it). As such, here’s this week’s Christmas-themed playlist.

  1. Darlene Love, “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)”: Best. Christmas song. Ever. I will broke no arguments. It’s all downhill from here, people.
  2. Calexico, “Hear the Bells”: Calexico released a Christmas album! Well, sort of. More a wintertime seasonal album with a couple of Christmas songs thrown on (including covers of Tom Petty and John Lennon). It’s Calexico. It’s good. I don’t know why the previous two sentences are both there, since they say the exact same thing.
  3. Elton John, “Step Into Christmas”: When you want to make a joyful noise, Elton John is your guy.
  4. Neko Case, “Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis”: It starts off, “Charlie, I’m pregnant,” and I’m just gonna have to stop you there. I had nothin’ to do with it. Beautiful Tom Waits cover.
  5. Run-DMC, “Christmas in Hollis”: Who doesn’t love rap songs about Christmas? Commies, that’s who.
  6. Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, “Christmas All Over Again”: If for nothing else than the way he pronounces “Rickenbacker” at the end.
  7. Paul McCartney, “Wonderful Christmastime”: Yes, it’s a terrible song. Yes, it sounds like something McCartney wrote simply because all he had in the studio that day was a Casio keyboard. And yes, I once put together a Christmas playlist that was just this song repeated twenty times.
  8. Weird Al, “Christmas at Ground Zero”: Who else but Weird Al would give us the song about post-nuclear-fallout Yuletide we all never knew we wanted?
  9. The Royal Guardsmen, “Snoopy vs. the Red Baron”: Okay, so this one takes some explaining. When my brothers and I were wee little kids, we had a cassette tape that featured the Royal Guardsmen and a series of songs (yes, there’s more than one of these) about Snoopy fighting against the Red Baron in World War I. The final song in the trilogy features the Red Baron whipping out a Christmas present and wishing Snoopy a Merry Christmas.There was a second side to the tape that didn’t feature a big-nosed beagle fighting a German aerial ace, but we never listened to that side. We did wear that tape out, though.
  10. Barenaked Ladies with Sarah McLachlan, “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen/We Three Kings”: I love this version of these two songs. This mashup is just one of the best Christmas songs out there, and it bops, my children. It bops.

Playlist #33: Meredith’s Birthday Playlist

It’s my sister-in-law’s birthday this Thursday, so this week’s playlist is a Meredith playlist!

  1. Cher, “If I Could Turn Back Time”: I’ve yet to meet a Branco who doesn’t love this song.
  2. Mumford & Sons, “Little Lion Man”: Does it ever bother anyone else that his guitar strumming doesn’t seem to be in time with the rest of the song? ‘Cause it bothers me to no end.
  3. Glen Campbell, “MacArthur Park”: Have I featured this song on another playlist? I don’t recall. It’s a bizarre song, though, and I kind of love it. So does Meredith.
  4. Men At Work, “Who Can It Be Now?”: When I asked Meredith what she wanted for her personal ringtone on my phone, this was the song she picked. It’s a good ‘un.
  5. The Offspring, “Staring at the Sun”: Who doesn’t love rock’n’roll singers who also have PhDs?
  6. Muse, “Starlight”: I’ve never really listened to Muse much. I always kinda thought they were a bargain-bin Radiohead. I was wrong. They’re pretty catchy.
  7. Coldplay, “In My Place”: Re-listening to this song inspired me to go back and listen to the whole album again. It’s still pretty damn good.
  8. Cake, “Short Skirt/Long Jacket”: Who doesn’t want a girl with smooth liquidation?
  9. Green Day, “King For A Day”: An uptempo song about being a crossdresser that doesn’t get all weird and transphobic about it.
  10. Linkin Park, “One Step Closer”: I’m about to break.

Playlist #32

New week, new playlist!

  1. Pearl Jam, “Black”: I learned to play this song last week, only 20-some years too late for it to be relevant.
  2. Jonathan Edwards, “Sunshine (Go Away Today)”: Also learned this one last week. It’s fun and folky.
  3. Sting, “Shape Of My Heart”: I just really like the guitar figure in this one.
  4. The Decemberists, “Sucker’s Prayer”: I mentioned this one the other week, and then just put a different Decemberists song on the playlist instead. Here’s this one now.
  5. Big Red Machine, “Renegade (featuring Taylor Swift)”: Am I sucker for recent Taylor Swift? Yes. Is this song really gorgeous? Also yes.
  6. The Beatles, “For You Blue”: I dig George Harrison songs, and this one is just so much fun. John’s slide playing is gleeful and too much fun.
  7. The Avett Brothers, “Ain’t No Man”: I dig these guys, and this song is tub-thumpin’ good times.
  8. Wilco, “Everyone Hides”: I like how Wilco has eased into their dad rock years and are just hummin’ along, making laidback music and having a good time.
  9. Yael Naim, “New Soul”: Pretty sure this was a song featured in an iTunes commercial back in the day? I don’t remember. But it’s cute and lovely.
  10. The Horrible Crowes, “Mary Ann”: Sometimes, you just need Brian Fallon shouting someone’s name in the chorus.

Playlist #31 – Loooooong

Happy Monday after Thanksgiving, AKA “Online Consumer Armageddon.” I posted a list of stuff you can buy that benefits me back on Friday, for those who are curious. And now here I am with this week’s playlist, a set that features songs that are all about being long (but most of them are actually quite short).

  1. The Beatles, “Long, Long, Long”: Off the White Album, this quiet George Harrison gem is gorgeous and simple.
  2. Bruce Springsteen, “Long Time Comin'”: Features two of my favorite Boss lines: “Let your mistakes be your own” and “I ain’t gonna fuck it up this time.” Good stuff.
  3. Counting Crows, “A Long December”: With one of the best opening lines in any song, “A long December/And there’s reason to believe/Maybe this year will be better than the last.” Your lips to God’s ears.
  4. The Doobie Bros., “Long Train Runnin'”: My brother and I used to try to perform this one back in college. I…could not sing it then, and maybe sorta kinda can now, just not the way they do it.
  5. Green Day, “Longview”: I love how this song is mostly about the bass.
  6. The Hollies, “Long Cool Woman (In A Black Dress)”: That one song that you always kinda thought was CCR but you weren’t 100% sure.
  7. Jars of Clay, “The Long Fall”: I’ve been a fan of these guys since I was back in high school dating a preacher’s kid. I kinda fell off for a few years, but their most recent stuff is still pretty darn good.
  8. Little Richard, “Long Tall Sally”: How do you not include Little Richard on this playlist, hmm? That’s the real challenge here.
  9. Bob Dylan, “Tomorrow Is A Long Time”: I originally had a different Dylan song here (“The Man In The Long Black Coat”), but I think this one fits the general vibe and intent of the playlist better.
  10. Charlie Sexton, “It Don’t Take Long”: The train horn at the beginning of this song always throws me off, but it’s still lovely and all that.

Holiday Gift-Giving Guide

Hey, everyone! It’s that time of the year again where everyone asks you, “what’s your Amazon wishlist again?” But what do you get for the friend or relative who has everything except my books? You get them my books, of course.

There’s the Hazzard Pay Series, which is currently six books (I’m still working on #7, honest). They are all available in Kindle or Paperback and include:

The Invisible Crown

The Hidden Throne

Death Comes Calling

Crooked Halos

An Ill Wind Blows

The Long Fall Into Darkness

Who are they ideal for? Someone who enjoys snarky protagonists, a good mystery, and lots of head injuries.

I’ve also written a short chapter book, Doctor Jayne and the Missing Unicorn Horn. It’s short and sweet and still full of humor and a hornless unicorn named Herman.

Who is it ideal for? Do you have a kid who can read short (like 100 pages) chapter books? Do they like magical creatures and whimsy and a will-o-the-wisp named William? Then they’ll probably love this book. There’s adventure and excitement and just a touch of scariness, but not too scary, and it has a happy ending.

Want other stuff? Well, in addition to writing books, I’m also a cartoonist and a songwriter and musician! You can commission me to create art and music for you! Just, y’know, give me some heads up time, ’cause that stuff takes a while.

Who is it ideal for? Do you find the comics I’ve posted here funny? Or like the music I’ve posted over here? Then you might like for me to create something original for you!

Remember, everyone’s talking about how terrible the supply chain is this year, so maybe get out ahead of the holiday shopping and snap these up early!

What do we get you? Oh, gee golly, that’s sweet of ya. Your love is really enough. However, you can buy my books or even just leave reviews on the ones you’ve read already. If you’re really insistent on a gift, there’s always that Amazon wishlist.

Playlist #30: “Poor, Hard-Working Televangelist”

Happy Turkey Week, folks! Just two days of work for me this week, then it’s off to Ohio to visit some family and stuff myself with more food than is advisable because, hey, Thanksgiving. Before that, though, we have this week’s playlist, which features songs about religion!

  1. Jeremy Messersmith, “Jim Bakker”: The song that inspired this list all about the life of that “poor, hard-working televangelist.” If you don’t know, Jim Bakker was a snake-oil salesman of the worst sort and fleeced his lovely old congregants for every dime he could.
  2. Genesis, “Jesus He Knows Me”: Could also be about Jim Bakker, for all I know. I just remember how tongue-in-cheek this song sounded when I first heard it, and it still resonates with its strong anti-bullshit message even today.
  3. The Doobie Bros, “Jesus Is Just Alright”: I mean, he’s okay, I guess.
  4. Norman Greenbaum, “Spirit In the Sky”: How confident do you have to be in your soul’s eternal destination to write and record this song? Confident enough that Greenbaum, who is Jewish, said he had a friend in Jesus. That’s ballsy.
  5. George Harrison, “My Sweet Lord”: Admittedly, George was the most spiritual of the Beatles. While Paul was tossing out pop songs like most people breathe and John was pushing avant-garde art on anyone who came to close (and Ringo was…um…Ringo), George was the one who got into Transcendentalism and Eastern religions and the sitar and all that. “My Sweet Lord” isn’t the end result, it’s a symptom.
  6. The National, “Gospel”: What does this song actually have to do with anything related to the Gospel? Nothing, as far as I can tell. But it’s a beautiful song and lovely and I really like it, okay?
  7. Bob Dylan, “With God On Our Side”: Dylan’s a man who knows what’s up. This song was written in like ’64, which is damn-near peak Cold War (or near enough as it doesn’t matter), and he’s coming out so strongly anti-war that I’m surprised the FBI didn’t have a file on him a foot thick.
  8. Billy Bragg & Wilco, “Blood of the Lamb”: I love me some Mermaid Avenue, and this one – off the second collection – is a stompy, apocalyptic slice of what made the collaboration great.
  9. Aretha Franklin, “Son of a Preacher Man”: Damn, if this don’t just send tingles down your spine, I think you might be dead.
  10. Blind Faith, “Presence of the Lord”: More for Steve Winwood than Eric Clapton, really, ’cause Clapton’s finally shown his true (rather hateful) colors and eff that guy.