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.

Playlist #29

Happy Monday! Thanksgiving is fast approaching, and with it my lack of desire to do anything other than lounge around in bed all day. It’s getting colder outside and the days are shorter, so let’s listen to some music, what do you say?

  1. The Cactus Blossoms, “Mississippi”: David Lynch put this one in the revival Twin Peaks series. I liked the song, didn’t care for the show.
  2. Calexico, “Guero Canelo”: As previously stated, I’m a sucker for basically anything these guys wanna do, music-wise.
  3. The Decemberists, “We All Go Down Together”: Watched The Suicide Squad over the weekend. Loved the movie, especially the soundtrack, which featured a Decemberists song at one point. Not this one (no, it was “Sucker’s Prayer”), but I love this song regardless.
  4. The Georgia Satellites, “Keep Your Hands To Yourself”: If there’s a better song about waiting until marriage, I haven’t heard it.
  5. Glen Phillips, “Revelator”: Did not realize until quite recently that this is, in fact, a Gillian Welch cover. Live and learn, I guess.
  6. Golden Smog, “Until You Came Along”: I love the harmonies in this song. Love them.
  7. The Grass Roots, “I’d Wait A Million Years”: Every single song I have ever heard by the Grass Roots has been a banger. This one is no different.
  8. Hockey, “Song Away”: I don’t remember where I first heard this song. Probably on a TV show or something. But I dig it.
  9. Iron & Wine and Ben Bridwell, “This Must Be The Place”: I’ve said before that I dig it when Sam Beam (the guy from Iron & Wine) collaborates with pretty much anyone. I haven’t ever heard a bad song come from him collaborating, and if he and, say, Calexico wanted to spend the rest of forever working together again and again and again, I would not complain.
  10. The National, “Wake Up Your Saints”: “Wake up your saints, Jenny, I need them,” pleads Matt Berninger. Same, Matt. I could use a saint or two in my corner.

Playlist #28 – The Mansion on O Street

Back in the day, I used to play on Sundays at a place up in DC called the Mansion on O Street. It’s a neat museum/hotel that features loads of nifty musical keepsakes. I sat in with a band that used it as a practice space on Sundays, having been invited by the flautist/singer of the group. It was loads of fun, and I’m kind of sorry I stopped playing with them after a while (mostly, they wanted to turn it into real rehearsal time, and I wasn’t a member of the band, so…). Anyway, here are some of the songs we used to play there.

  1. Brandi Carlile, “Turpentine”: Having recently re-discovered Brandi Carlile (due in large part to her involvement in the Highwomen), I have to say this song is a fun one to play. As with many of the songs we played, it was an easy one, with just a few chords, but the harmonies in the chorus were always great.
  2. Ethan Hipple and Podunk Road, “Cakewalk”: The other guitar player (who was actually a bass player by inclination and training) sang this one. It’s a fun country blues number.
  3. Bonnie Raitt, “Angel From Montgomery”: A John Prine cover. Beautiful. Another one where the harmonies really came through.
  4. 4 Non Blondes, “What’s Up?”: Like I was gonna put this song in any position other than number four.
  5. Gin Blossoms, “Until I Fall Away”: They were always impressed that I knew all the backing vocals to this song.
  6. Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, “Breakdown”: You know me, I love a Tom Petty tune.
  7. The Animals, “House of the Rising Sun”: I have never been able to sing this one to my own satisfaction. The singer in the band, though, she could do it.
  8. Kate Wolf, “Across the Great Divide”: I prefer the version the band did to this version. This one is too polished and too ’80s-sounding. Our version was better.
  9. Linda Rondstadt, “When Will I Be Loved?”: The country covers band my uncle used to play in played this one every night, so I was pretty damn familiar with it when this group broke out in it and I was able to contribute to backing vocals.
  10. The Mystiqueros, “Good”: The band introduced me to this song, as to so many others. It’s beautiful, in large part due to the backing harmonies, which the band always killed.

Playlist #27

Good evening! As we roll into November, I have a new playlist full of tasty treats for you.

  1. Drive-By Truckers, “Daddy’s Cup”: When I saw these guys live about 15 years ago, they played this song, and damn if it didn’t blow me away back then. Who knew racing cars could make for compelling family drama?
  2. Yo La Tengo, “Deeper Into Movies”: I always feel like I should listen to these guys more. They’re very good at what they do, and what they do is quite nice.
  3. Wilco, “Handshake Drugs”: I enjoy playing this one on the guitar. It’s only got four chords and two verses, so even my tiny brain can remember it all.
  4. Rockwell, “Somebody’s Watching Me”: One of my freshman students was singing this song the other day. “How do you know that song?” I asked, as she did not strike me as the sort to listen to music that was more than six months old. “TikTok,” she replied, and a little piece of my curmudgeonly heart died.
  5. Bill Withers, “Ain’t No Sunshine”: When he repeats the “I know” over and over and over again, two thoughts run through my mind: (1) he forgot the next line and (2) how did he not pass out?
  6. Bruce Hornsby, “The Great Divide”: This guy writes good songs. I should probably listen to more than just this one and “That’s Just The Way It Is.”
  7. Bush, “Glycerine”: First of all, Bush is pretty terrible. Second, while this isn’t necessarily a good song, it’s at least entertainingly bad.
  8. Carole King, “Will You Love Me Tomorrow?”: Still one of the best, most underrated songwriters out there. Is there a bad song on Tapestry? No, no there is not.
  9. Charlie Sexton, “Burn”: Charlie Sexton, 80s heartthrob, Dylan guitarist, guy who puts out an album every decade or so. We’re way past due for a new one, Charlie. Let Bob spin his wheels behind a guitar for a few months, go record something for us.
  10. Courtney Barnett, “Pedestrian At Best”: Australian musician who has a wonderful off-the-cuff, relaxed lyrical style that I enjoy listening to, even if her voice is an acquired taste (and one the Wife has yet to acquire).

Playlist #26 – Spooooooky Tunes

Happy Monday, folks! As you probably known, this coming Sunday is Halloween, so for this week’s playlist I’ve put together songs from (mostly) 90s horror and Halloweenish movie soundtracks! I mostly wanted an excuse to put Toad the Wet Sprocket’s cover of “Hey Bulldog” on a playlist.

  1. Toad the Wet Sprocket, “Hey Bulldog”: From the I Know What You Did Last Summer soundtrack. Who doesn’t love a good Beatles cover?
  2. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, “Red Right Hand”: From the Scream soundtrack. Who doesn’t love a song about the devil?
  3. D Generation, “Helpless”: From The Faculty soundtrack. This was the band Jesse Malin was in before he went solo. They’re very punk and snarly and sneering. It’s fun, but it’s not a Neil Young cover.
  4. Stevie Ray Vaughn & Double Trouble, “Willie the Wimp (And His Cadillac Coffin)”: From the From Dusk Till Dawn soundtrack. Vampires and Texas electric blues go together better than you’d think.
  5. Nine Inch Nails, “Dead Souls”: From The Crow soundtrack. Part of the impetus for this playlist was just a glut of fantastic 90s soundtracks. This one is more specific than it could’ve been, since I could have added stuff from Empire Records, or Reality Bites, or any other seminal Gen-X soundtrack.
  6. Stabbing Westward, “Torn Apart”: From the Spawn soundtrack. Y’know what’s super-nineties? Spawn. Like, the comic, the movie, the whole thing. So 90s.
  7. Danny Elfman, “What’s This?”: From The Nightmare Before Christmas soundtrack. It’s classic Danny Elfman from a movie that, I’m ashamed to admit, I’ve never actually seen.
  8. Roger Daltrey, “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me”: From The Lost Boys soundtrack. Now, this one is a bit of a cheat, since The Lost Boys came out in 1987, but it’s Roger Daltrey and it’s my playlist, so deal with it.
  9. The Wallflowers, “Heroes”: From the Godzilla soundtrack. Soundtracks in the 90s were often an opportunity for a band to play cover songs. This isn’t the best David Bowie cover out there, but it is pretty solid.
  10. Heather Nova, “I Have The Touch”: From The Craft soundtrack. Who doesn’t love a Peter Gabriel cover? No one, that’s who.

Playlist #25

Happy Monday, folks. Here’s a new set of tunes to carry you through the week:

  1. Ben Caplan, “Southbound”: My friend Brandon got me into this guy a while back. It’s a weird mish-mash of folk, singer-songwriter, and klezmer music, and it oddly works.
  2. Ben Harper & the Blind Boys of Alabama, “Well, Well, Well”: I’m a sucker for Gospel-inflected harmonies, and the Blind Boys of Alabama (all of whom are, quite literally, blind old dudes) do it better than anyone else. And it’s a Dylan tune, too.
  3. Taylor Swift, “exile (feat. Bon Iver)”: A “he said/she said” song featuring the guy from Bon Iver. It’s pretty damn good.
  4. Zager & Evans, “In the Year 2525 (Exordium & Terminus)”: Fantasy space opera nonsense about the far-flung year 2525. Futurama used it to great effect in one of their time traveling episodes.
  5. Young Dubliners, “Last House On The Street”: My uncle’s band, the Regular Joes, used to play this song at shows. I always enjoyed hearing them play it, and I finally tracked down the (tremendously hard to find) EP that it’s on and listen to…well, pretty much just that song over and over again.
  6. Stephen Stills, “Wooden Ships (Demo)”: I love this demo. If they’d released the demo as the finished version of the song, I think it would’ve been one of the best studio tracks ever.
  7. Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox, “No Diggity (feat. Ariana Savalas)”: I dig me some ’40s-style, and I dig me the song “No Diggity.” Putting them together? *chef’s kiss*
  8. Robert Randolph & The Family Band, “Why Should I Feel Lonely”: If you ever wanna hear a guy just absolutely go to town on pedal steel guitar, Robert Randolph is your man.
  9. The Police, “Canary In A Coalmine”: There’s really not a bad song on Zenyatta Mondatta, is there? No, there is not.
  10. Jennifer Paige, “Crush”: For years, there was a song that came out back in like summer of ’98 that I heard on the radio over and over again that summer, and then…I forgot about it. And then I tried to find it again for years. I think this is it? I’m pretty sure this is it. It’s a great little pop song.

Playlist #24: Dance Dance Revolution

Happy Monday morning and Happy Indigenous Persons Day! Today, I feel like dancing.

  1. Elliott Smith, “XO (Waltz #2)”: “Here it is, the revenge to the tune/You’re no good” is just one of the best lines ever.
  2. Bruce Springsteen, “Dancing In The Dark”: Who doesn’t want to drag Courtney Cox up onto stage to dance with the Boss?
  3. ABBA, “Dancing Queen”: Oddly enough, not the first song I thought of when I came up with this theme.
  4. Frank Turner, “Four Simple Words”: This is the song that inspired the playlist. “I want to dance/I want to dance/I want lust and love and a smattering of romance/But I’m no good at dancing/But I have to do something.” C’mon, that’s a great chorus.
  5. Van Morrison, “Moondance”: Van has gotten progressively weirder and more irascible as he’s aged, but this song (and the whole album of the same name) remains solid gold.
  6. jeremy messersmith, “It’s Only Dancing”: Dude decided a couple of years ago to decenter his ego by no longer capitalizing his name, which…that’s not how proper nouns work, Jer. That’s not how they work at all. Still a good song, though.
  7. John Mellencamp, “Dance Naked”: Excellent advice, as long as nobody’s watching.
  8. Dire Straits, “Walk Of Life”: I’m pretty sure the walk of life is a dance. If it isn’t, it ought to be.
  9. Calexico, “Sunken Waltz”: Any excuse to include a Calexico song on a playlist is fine by me.
  10. Tom Waits, “Tom Traubert’s Blues”: Included due to the “Waltzing Matilda, waltzing Matilda/You’ll go waltzing Matilda with me” in the chorus. It’s sad and sweet and touching and heartbreaking all at once.

Playlist #23 – The All Bob Dylan Playlist

A new volume of the long-running Bootleg Series came out recently, which means I found myself digging into some new-to-me Dylan music over the weekend. My poor wife, bless her, does not care much for mid-80s Bob Dylan (it is an acquired taste), and got really upset with me when she thought I was about to subject her to it yesterday (I wasn’t, in fact, because I know it’s not her thing and I’m not a complete asshole). But it did inspire me to create this week’s playlist, which is full of lesser-known Dylan songs that I really like. These are by no means unknown songs; I’m sure several of you will recognize several of these right off the bat. But they’re not usually going to appear on any best of or greatest hits collection.

  1. “Girl From the North Country (Featuring Johnny Cash)”: Yes, Cash screws up and sings the wrong verse as the second verse, and yes, Dylan does that weird Nashville croon thing that he did for a while in the late 60s and early 70s. But this is still just a gorgeous read on this song.
  2. “Blind Willie McTell”: The latest Bootleg Series features a full-band workup of this song, and while it’s a neat treat to hear, I still prefer this stripped-down, piano-and-acoustic-guitar-only version from Volume 3 of the Bootleg Series. It plays up the melodic relationship to “St. James Infirmary” more (by which I mean it’s just “St. James Infirmary” with different words), and Mark Knopfler’s guitar work is just beautiful.
  3. “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues”: I’ve enjoyed playing this one on guitar for years (there’s even an old Youtube video of me doing it, if you’re so inclined), and the last verse, with its “I’m going back to New York City/I do believe I’ve had enough” just gets me every time.
  4. “Isis”: Yes, the name is problematic these days, but back when this song was written (for 1976’s Desire), that organization didn’t exist yet. It’s a story of grave robbery, revenge, and love.
  5. “Dead Man, Dead Man”: From the much-maligned “born again” series of albums in the late 70s/early 80s. This one’s a banger, if you ask me.
  6. “Up To Me”: From Biograph. It’s an interesting story song, though I still think I prefer the Roger McGuinn cover to the original.
  7. “Corrina, Corrina”: A subtle song from Dylan off of Freewheelin’. Yeah, I know Dylan’s usually about as subtle as a sledgehammer, but he manages to pull it off on this one. I like the faint drum and bass backing.
  8. “When the Night Comes Falling From the Sky”: Empire Burlesque suffers from 80s overproduction, but this song actually makes it work. The over-processed drum and the synthy horn section really work for me.
  9. “Song To Woody”: From his debut self-titled album. One of Dylan’s earliest originals, and still a sad, heartbreaking song.
  10. “Where Are You Tonight? (Journey Through Dark Heat)”: I love this song primarily for the guitar solo at the end. Whoever’s playing lead on this one just tears it up.