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Brian Wright "Maria Sugarcane"

The air is warming in Texas. This does not bode well for a temperate summer, when it is heading into the 90's, and it is only mid-April. Reports of particulate matter are high, not just with pollen from Oak, Ash, Willow, and Pecan covering one’s car in sprinkles of tender yellow green. But the weather folks also talk about burnings in Mexico and Central America setting stuff into the air. Agricultural burning happens at this time each year, and the strong spring winds carry the smoke up into South and Central Texas. Here is the NASA map from 2004's burnings. There is something so deliberate about this all, the way it feels, the hex it casts. There is a fabulous song from Mary Gauthier called “Sugar Cane.” Maybe it is the way we are wired, but the danger lurks just at the edge of this, with the senses heightened.

Brian Wright twists it some, as “Maria Sugarcane” is a good old fashioned murder ballad. Brian put out House On Fire just last week. He is Texas born and bred, but needed a change in venue and headed out west. For the last 6 years, he has fronted Brian Wright and The Waco Tragedies based in L.A. He is a rich songwriter, an articulate teller of tales. On this, his third album, he plays virtually all the instruments, too. When he came to the Music Fog Marathon, he performed solo, and the songs shone like embers. Brian plays tonight at The Basement in Nashville, and then the WZEW Hangout Festival in Mobile, Alabama on April 9th. Click here for more tour dates. Here is some inspiration, in the form of the Music Fog version of “Maria Sugarcane.”

- Jessie Scott

Maria Sugarcane - House On Fire


Dave Alvin & The Guilty Ones "Harlan County Line"

Looking back at the channel I programmed for XM Satellite Radio, X Country, I would have to say one of the things I am most proud of is the roster of artists that contributed shows to us. There was Robbie Fulks with Robbie's Secret Country taped live at The Old Town School Of Folk Music in Chicago. Robert Earl Keen did The Texas Uprising, Jack Ingram had his Real American Music Hour, Lee Rocker contributed Rumble and Twang, Threadgill's gave us the twice monthly live performance show, The Armadillo Radio Hour. And there was Dave Alvin's 9 Volt, named after his song homage to the transistor radio, "Nine Volt Heart." What a show it was. Dave is the consummate musicologist, with a specialty in California music history; but spanning the genres and flavors and decades from gospel to singer/songwriter, to R&B, to Blues, to Folk, to Rock & Roll, to Cow Punk and Rockabilly and Western Swing and Honky Tonk, all the way to 80's LA. Back and forth he cruised, offering a soulful, lucid and erudite insight into the music he was playing, and somehow connecting the dots between these seemingly disparate genres, eloquently making it all make sense.

Dave has morphed and grown from his days in the Blasters, X, and The Knitters; then with band aggregations from The Guilty Men, then The Guilty Women, to now, with Dave Alvin and The Guilty Ones. There is a new album heading in our direction this summer, and a song has been released as a teaser already. "Harlan County Line" continues Dave's great romantic story song tradition, it is one of his strong suits, fleshing out these characters so we see them walking among us. The song was written and recorded for the FX television series Justified, fictionally based in Harlan County, KY. Dave and the band appeared in an episode earlier this season.

We can't wait for the new CD Eleven Eleven to be released on June 21st. In advance, here is the Music Fog recording of "Harlan County Line." From Threadgill's a few weeks ago, here's Dave with Lisa Pankratz, Chris Miller, and Brad Ferdham.

- Jessie Scott

PS: 11/11 is Dave's birthday!

Harlan County Line - Harlan County Line - Single