Playlist For A Bad Day (And One For A Good Day)

I didn’t watch the inauguration.  I knew that it would make me ill to see such an unworthy, unqualified person become president of our already great nation (which, of course, has room for improvement, but not in the ways indicated by our new president).  I knew that I would be able to read about what happened without having to hear the new president’s arrogance or watch his preening, and I did (American carnage?  Really?)

Instead, throughout the day, I posted songs on my personal Facebook feed with lyrics, or in most cases, admittedly, just titles, that somehow struck me as appropriate for the day.  Not much thought went into the list–as something popped into my head, I found the video, and posted it.  Here they are:

The Mountain Goats–“This Year”

Most of the lyrics aren’t really relevant, but the chorus is: “I’m going to make it through this year/If it kills me.”

Steve Earle–“The Revolution Starts Now”

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My Favorite Music of 2016 (plus)


It struck me this year that my music listening habits have really changed over time.  I’m still not interested in streaming services, because although I understand that they give access to broad swaths of music, I still prefer to own and not rent.  And I’ve gradually moved away from buying CDs (although I still buy some) to downloads.  I rarely listen to albums all the way through anymore, something which I had done regularly since high school.  Back when I was commuting, I had my stuffed iPod Classic set on random, and listened on both legs of the trip to and from the office, but now, the iPod is mostly used to distract me from how much I don’t enjoy going to the gym.  The other thing, interesting to me, at least, is that when I worked for other people, I pretty much always had music playing in my office, usually WFUV.  Now, even though I work for myself, I don’t often feel the need to play music while I sit at my desk.

Meanwhile, despite the fact that I write about music here, there and elsewhere, I find that increasingly I’ve never heard of most of the albums that make year-end “best ofs.”  I’m at the point in my life that what is popular doesn’t interest me, what interests me isn’t popular, and there is just too much music, and too little time (and money), for me to search out every great album.  I’m not happy about that, because I know that it limits my exposure to good music, but it is reality.

Which is why this article is titled “My Favorite Music of 2016” and not the “Best Music of 2016.”  It is a list of what I liked, based on what I have heard, and frankly it gnaws at me a bit that I know that there is a ton of great stuff out there that I’ve completely missed.  So, here we go:

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Year End Cleanup


Richard Thompson: Time To Ring Some Changes

I started Another Old Guy back in March intending to mostly write about music, but somewhere it began to veer off to include lots of politics.  While I intend to keep writing about politics and other things in 2017, I will try to write more often in general, and more often about music in particular.

Before I get there, though, I wanted to close the books on my music writing for 2016.

I didn’t get around to writing any more Cover Me features after my Hem piece, although I did contribute to  a Q&A about the Muppets, and to the year-end “Best Covers” compilation.  And my article about covers of John Prine’s “Angel From Montgomery” turned out to be the second most popular on the site in 2016.  For 2017, I’m thinking about writing a piece about Sting and one about The Mavericks.

This year, the number of my contributions to Star Maker Machine have dipped, but since the last roundup, I posted the following:

Harvest/Fall–a piece about Guy Clark’s “Homegrown Tomatoes” and my family’s garden;

My First Album–about Cat Stevens’ Tea For The Tillerman (which now sadly makes me think of the president-elect’s nominee for Secretary of State);

Politics–days after the election, I wrote about the  David Bowie/Pat Metheny collaboration, “This Is Not America,” from the soundtrack of The Falcon And The Snowman, quoting liberally (pun intended) from Hillary Clinton’s concession speech, which embodied what I thought was America;

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I’m Princeton Famous!!

I’m a proud member of the Princeton class of 1982.  My class was chock full of very gifted writers, a number of whom have forged successful careers from their talents.  I thought about linking to some of their work, but was afraid of leaving someone out, so I decided not to.  I chose to limit my writing in college to classwork and my senior thesis, marching band shows and a couple of radio commercials.

So, I was very excited when the Princeton Alumni Weekly interviewed my for a feature about my various amateur blogging efforts, kicking off a series on alumni bloggers.  You can read it here.

I’ve been mentioned in the PAW a few times over the years, mostly in the class notes, but back in 1981, I was part of a joke party, the Antarctica Liberation Front, which ran for student government as a combination protest/work of performance art.  I inexplicably was elected, and my friend Phil wrote an article which opened by describing my anguished wandering around the campus in the dark bemoaning the foolishness of the electorate.  It turned out to be good practice for the night of November 8, 2016.

The video above is Men Without Hats’ song “Antarctica.”  Yes, they had more than one song.

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What The Hell Does It Mean?

[Support Jill Sobule’s My Song Is My Weapon project]

My wife cried herself to sleep last Tuesday, woke up crying, and left for work on Wednesday in tears.  My son found himself at work on Wednesday, watching Hillary Clinton’s concession speech, sobbing.  I’m seething.  America had the chance to elect a compassionate, intelligent, hard working person who had devoted her life to public service and improving the lives of the American people, and instead elected a bully whose campaign was fueled by every base hatred possible, who had no articulated plans to govern, and who had devoted his life to his own personal aggrandizement, usually at the expense of those less powerful.

It made me wonder how this great country could elect someone whose apparent view of appropriate behavior is the exact opposite of how I was raised and how I raised my children.  I know that he is a liar, a bully, a sexual predator and a man who had no compunctions mocking a person with a disability, the parents of an American serviceman who died in action, and women who fail to meet his personal standards of beauty, but whether or not the candidate himself is actually a racist, homophobic, antisemitic, misogynistic, white supremacist, that’s the rhetoric that he used to fire up his supporters. And I’m not at all mollified by the fact that Clinton actually got more votes, or that so few eligible voters actually voted.  In fact, that troubles me even more, because victory was in our grasp. Based on the popular vote as I write this, an additional 120,000 Clinton votes in Florida, 68,000 votes in Pennsylvania, 12,000 votes in Michigan and 27,000 votes in Wisconsin would have resulted in the election of the first woman president, 307-231.

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Drive-By Truckers-American Band


[purchase American Band]

In this politically charged time, Drive-By Truckers have released a politically drenched album that doesn’t forget to rock.  American Band is an incredibly powerful political statement communicated through propulsive songs filled with poignant and thoughtful lyrics.  It is an album that grabbed me immediately and has held on–the last one that did that in the same way was former Trucker Jason Isbell’s Southeastern, but for different reasons.

The Truckers have long been one of my favorite bands.  At their best, their songs are able to appeal to both your brain and your gut, sometimes addressing issues of politics, race and personal relationships directly, and other times, more subtly, through finely observed stories.  It is almost obligatory in writing about the band to reference their breakthrough, Southern Rock Opera, for its ambitious attempt to come to grips with what co-founder Patterson Hood calls “the duality of the Southern thing.”  That album didn’t shy away from politics, but it appropriately focused on Southern issues, particularly the civil rights movement and George Wallace.

Since then, although they haven’t shied away from both direct and indirect political songs, the Truckers have never gone as all-in as they have with American Band.  And while they continue to analyze the “Southern thing,” their vision has widened to address national issues including race, gun violence, political division, mental health and changing gender roles.  Which you might expect from good songwriters, as they grow and broaden their experiences. Although American Band continues to be grounded in the Southern rock that is the basis for their sound, it also is filled with other influences such as the Clash, the Stones, the Replacements and Springsteen,  who the Truckers grew up listening to, as much as, if not more than, Lynyrd Skynyrd.

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Uncle Tupelo–Gun


Uncle Tupelo: Gun

The other day, I started writing a rant about the terrible press coverage of the election, and about halfway through, I realized I was not only repeating myself, but I was saying things that better writers have said better, so I decided to leave it in the draft folder and not subject you to it.

But a blogger needs to blog, and I was searching for something to blog about if I wasn’t going to write about politics.  Then, one of my favorite bands, Wilco, put out a new album, the amusingly titled Schmilco, and I’ve listened to it a couple of times.  So far, I’m not in love.  I mean, it’s OK, and there are some memorable songs, but I suspect that it is being considered a “grower.”  Wilco posted an article on its Facebook page, by Steven Hyden from Uproxx, in which he attempts to answer the Passover-like question, “What makes Schmilco different from all the other Wilco records,” by looking at Schmilco in the context of Jeff Tweedy’s entire career. It’s a good article, and rather than try to distill it down to a pithy phrase, I suggest that you read it, if you care about the new Wilco album.

Hyden starts, appropriately, with Uncle Tupelo, Tweedy’s first real band.  He mentions “Gun,”  the first song from the band’s underrated second album, 1991’s Still Feel Gone, and all of a sudden, I remembered that this is at its core, a music blog.  So, I’m going to write about “Gun.”

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