You’ll Be Hearing From ME

MEJ at barI met with Mary-Elaine Jenkins last night for the first ever TRS audio interview. Everything went swimmingly–I do not know why things going swimmingly is a thing, but will not look it up because productivity & discipline. If I leave this page for a Google search I just know I’m going to wind up with a new pair of shoes & one of them fancy blankets with the sleeves they got nowadays.

Anyway, I’ll be chopping up & editing our little talk this weekend to post early next week. So, everyone try to just go about your business & live your lives like normal until then.

Hugs,

J

Vox Jody

I’ve been thinking about the upcoming Mary-Elaine Jenkins interview & how this is going to be the first time my actual voice is heard, & it’s got me weirded out. I’m not shy, though I think plenty of people would assume that about me, so, it’s not that. I think it’s because I’m best, as in the best me, is represented in text. Because, I have edits & rewrites & I’m as comfortable on a keyboard as a, what? Pig in slop? Bug in a rug? Point is, writing me good at.

In conversation I’m a goofball, though. Not that I’m not going to let MEJ speak her mind & bless us with her formidable mind. It’s just that you’re probably going to be wondering why the intelligent & talented singer/songwriter (Mary-Elaine) is in conversation with mealy mouthed fool (Jodykins!). You’re going to be all, “Did Jody haphazardly save her life despite his dim wits & utter lack of grace, & now she owes him some sort of life debt?”

But, like most fears of ways things will go, I’m sure it’ll play out in real life fine just fine. At any rate, it’ll be more of MEJ’s voice in the world & that ain’t no bad thing.

Happy Thursday, Y’all!

Because we celebrate every single day because of it is a day, right? Because today is IT! Yesterday is gone as hell & tomorrow is too damn late!

Ugh, I don’t see myself as a cynic, but maybe I’m too much of one for this sort of opening. I can’t just say, “Hey. Sup?” Like in the ’90s. Maybe: YOU GUYS, HAPPY ALMOST FRI-YAY!!!!!!!!

Th’hell did I get on here for, again? Oh, yeah.  Re-newed dedication to the blog.  What are some things for here?

Oh, here’s some actual big news. Like, BIG-big. Like, the Lord ain’t made enough exclamation points for how ALL CAPS BIG this news is. I’m gonna interview Mary-Elaine Jenkins! She’s even going to let me wire her up for an honest-to-goodness boney-fied audio recording of us talking at each other! The first for The Road Southern blog. Yep, stepping out of the year 2003 & right into shortly thereafter. Here’s to one day achieving the present! I wonder what day of the week it’ll fall on?

Love you guys, & I’ll see you in church! (You’ll never see me in church)

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Spaghetti del Alma

So, you guys digging The Road Southern’s renewal? I know, I know. We’re only, like, two posts in, but they’re good ones, no? I’ve decided in its new incarnation I’ll be doing some journal blogging (j’ogging?), because this site is my wall & I got all this spaghetti to throw at it. Spaghetti that’s inside me. Soul-sketti.

Wow, I had this idea of doing an epic stream of consciousness post, but it turns out I just wanted to justify the term soul-sketti. Shit, what else?

My after thoughts of the last installment, that being about Mary-Elaine Jenkins, are these. I didn’t recognize anybody at Rockwood save for MEJ & her mama. I thought I’d feel uncomfortable, but I  enjoyed it. Perhaps because most, maybe all, of the South Slope, Brooklyn singers & pickers I used to write about are gone. In my mind the community, as it were-as it was, had come to an end. This isn’t true, though. Roots Cafe‘s new operators are wonderful people: artists, photographers, & poets. The packed house at MEJ’s showed me the Americana scene is plenty strong & enduring. Good things.

It does not do to bemoan loss & vacancy in this city for too long. If I haven’t written before that this town is like a river, well, let me do so now. All that rushes out is replaced by all that rushes in.  All the good people I seen go are duly missed, but here come some good people around the bend. That’s comforting. Know what I mean?

Jeepers, I got a little deep there. What else?

I got a new bicycle!

Love, love, love,

J

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One of the first pics I snapped when I moved here. These bikes & the one I’ve had for all ten years in Brooklyn are gone now. It’s cool tho, I got a new one. It’s better. Because rivers.

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The Monster & Mary-Elaine

I’ve always been afraid this blog might be taken for a fansite, since (early on, at least) my reporting has largely been of praise for some of the same people.  Having said that, I’m writing this piece the morning after the Mary-Elaine Jenkins record release show at Rockwood Music Hall while listening to her debut album Hold Still, &, muh dudes, I am sporting a Mary-Elaine Jenkins t-shirt (I really wasn’t planning on writing anything today & laundry is overdue). I’ve only my pleas to you all to not take me as a fanboy though I’ve currently no evidence to the contrary—which might make Mary-Elaine wary of me had we never met. The point is I don’t critique art & culture here. My aim is to support it.

So, let us breathe deep & take for granted that what I’m about to say I would have said anyway, regardless of current playlist & band tee. Mary-Elaine’s show was pretty fucking great!

I’ve seen MEJ play quite a few times since this blog’s early days. The more I’ve watched her, the more I’ve seen something grow in her. Not from an unblossomed bud or tiny spark. It doesn’t feel like it originated in her at all. Whatever it is it wandered in & not as some pretty, wispy unhurt thing. I can hear it in her smokey voice. You can see it in her steely eyes. Whatever it is it’s older than she.

ME touched

ME4Her music has evolved since I first spotted the singer/songwriter four years ago. It’s not just her & an acoustic guitar anymore. This gives that ineffable monster inside her room to bang around as it does in the album’s opening track “Rooster.” Mary-Elaine’s patience & diligence in finding the right producer has paid off. The songs on her album are robust without bloat. She’s picked up an electric guitar, as well, turning her song “Iggy” into a juke joint classic. The title track “Hold Still” would be just a sweet & pretty song as it’s slowed down with pining strings & tinkling mandolin, but there’s too much of an ache, & it’s here I feel that the monster has found solid shelter in Mary-Elaine Jenkins. The muse is not a beautiful pixie that comes to bless us with divine inspiration, that’s your stupid ego. The muse is the unquelled beast inside, tired, broke down, & fightin’ mad. But neither monster or gal linger in anger or ache as they pick themselves up to clown around a bit with “Six Skinny Toes,” an ode to her guitar.

Mary retouchedIt is due to this symbiotic relationship of beast & singer that I recommend MEJ’s record. The first thing I wrote about MEJ was in part an apology for near dismissing her. I could have written about her during different iterations of her musical life, as she’s acquired more experience & upped the number of members in her band as required by a growing monster. But I was worried about being mistaken for a fansite. Hold Still is a fantastic & rewarding reason for you to get up, check out some new music, & for me to begin again this blog that aims to support the impressive southern talents in this most yankiest of cities.

You can still see Mary-Elaine Jenkins live AF, & you should, the first Sunday of every month during her Pete’s Candy Store residency!

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The Road Southern Breathes Again

Jesus. It’s been a couple of years. Sorry. After a very long time of riding the fence on what I’m going to do with this WordPress account I keep paying for, I finally made a drunken text to TRS’s fearless photog, Andreea, that we’ll be back on these NYC streets making record of its country folks & Americana scenes.

ME Album release flyer

To solidify this promise, I also drunk texted Mary-Elaine Jenkins that we’d be there to cover her album release show this Saturday at Rockwood Music Hall.  Needless to say, The Road Southern is as happy as we can be for her! Did I normally use exclamation points in these posts? Looks weird. Whatever. Show’s at 9pm! Tix here.

I first heard Mary-Elaine’s smokey voice & spooky tunes a lifetime ago, at least 4 years feels like a lifetime in this city. The venue, Goodbye Blue Monday, doesn’t even exist anymore. Nor does the Super Collider where I’d write of her & others while I sipped a beer or two or three; however many it takes to get the job done. A semicolon? I haven’t bothered with them in so long they look weird & probably wrong, too. Anyway. Just about everyone else I’ve covered in this blog has moved away, packed it up for some place “easier.” But not Miss Jenkins. Too much grit. She keeps marching right the hell on. That’s my favorite thing that people do. So, I’ll march myself over to Rockwood & hear me some great music by the well practiced but still wild Mary-Elaine Jenkins.  Why not go see my NYC-lifetime friend kick a lot of ass with a lot of people who’ve come to get their asses kicked by her? No reason to not. I mean, we’re still here, too.

The Drunken Text: “First, me & Andreea will def be at your Rockwood show. Second, but also first, grats! ‘Proud of you’ seems condescending. I’m glad to know you. I’m glad 4-5 years ago I stopped to listen. Your stick-to-it-iveness was inevitable. So, I’m proud I’m intuitive enough to make you a friend. I’m grateful that you, as far as I know, call me one, too.”

 

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The Girl on the Balcony (short fiction)

            It’s stopped raining, and with that I take the last beer in my fridge to my apartment’s small balcony. I like the earthy aroma that rains kick up, which I’m told is from bacteria spores lying dormant in the ground until a summer storm churns them into the air. In Brooklyn, you don’t always get such a natural delight, especially in smells, but my tiny balcony overlooks Greenwood Cemetery, which is old and larger than most of the city’s parks. The brief afternoon storm has driven everyone off the grounds. Usually, at dusk I see art students in groups with their sketch pads and charcoal, tourists, neighborhood walkers, and, here and there, one or two folks paying respects to the deceased.

The dead are not in the well-kept ancient graveyard, either. But, they wouldn’t be. That’s not where they horribly died, if they died horribly. I’ve been privy to dealing with and studying the dead for nearly twenty-five years. They don’t hang around cemeteries.

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Holy Shit, I Have Something to Post!

I wrote a short ghost story! Soon I will have edited it! Then, I’ma gonna post it here! I’ma gonna post it here so good, y’all are gonna lose your natural minds! So, all 1 to 0 of you that catch this post, get rapt. Get rapt, y’all!

To be clear, this is a short story with a ghost in it. Not a story about a short or otherwise diminutive ghost. Damn it, it is in fact about a ghost of someone who was short, but that isn’t what I’m talking about when I say “short ghost story.” You diggy?

Stay rapt?

How Long’s It Been?

A year and a half-ish. That’s a long time for a blog to go quiet. Most of the people I’ve written about in these pages are gone. Nearly every one of them. You’re all gone now. It makes sense. This was mostly about Southern and/or country-ish music. I don’t really get out to see anybody play anymore. No time.

I write now. I’ve been working in earnest on a novel. I think I’ve mentioned it a couple of times in previous posts. It’s a ghost story. I like it so far. Maybe I’ll make this blog about that. Is that interesting? To talk about my wannabe writer life? Maybe I’ll comment on some shit I see out there in the world and on the news. I’ve decided not to let this blog die, even though with everybody gone I feel like it should.

We’ll see.

Here’s a Southern gent I can’t get enough of right now.

A Love So Vast and Shattered

leo3A thousand years ago I was a kid in a trailer park hoping to hear a voice. I had thought it’d be Jesus. He was who all the other park kids were hearing. But no Jesus ever came knocking on my heart.

I watched the Christian Slater movie Pump Up the Volume, a film about having a voice. My young self ate it up. Slater as Happy Harry Hard On broadcasted a pirate radio signal out from his basement bedroom, and played all the music our parents were afraid to let us listen to, telling us we are all fine, we’re ok. Talk hard, he said. There I heard a voice. To open every broadcast HHH played “Everybody Knows” by Leonard Cohen.

Back then, a thousand years ago, in my Podunk hometown I had to go searching desperately for Leonard Cohen. They didn’t carry his CDs at Walmart or Kmart. They had the soundtrack to the popular flick, but Cohen was not on it. Just a Cowboy Junkies cover of his song. However awesome the official movie soundtrack was, it wasn’t giving me the voice I was longing to hear. It wasn’t until I could drive and have access to Atlanta that I finally possessed Cohen’s album “Various Positions.” Probably the first thing I sought out and bought in Atlanta’s ultra-hip Little Five Points neighborhood from a record store that I’ll love forever, though I can’t remember its name. The CD doesn’t contain “Everybody Knows.” I bought it for “If It Be Your Will,” also on the Pump Up the Volume soundtrack, and the one to ensnare my baby bear heart.

I skipped school just to listen to the record over and over. That’s not an exaggeration. I did that.

I started writing then.

I met a girl, introduced her to his music. It helped more than I could to make her mine. We would lie down in bed and just listen to his records as we acquired them. We laid and listened through our young love, through our not as young love; through the parting where we remained friends, and through the rekindling where we finally learned who we are and what the words meant. We listened in her health, and in her sickness. I laid and listened while I mourned. “Suzanne” was our song, but “Take This Longing” was always my song to her.

I’m not much for pilgrimages, but on my way to meet a friend in Manhattan I passed in front of Chelsea Hotel.  I knew I’m where I’m meant to be. I wished she were here.

I have studied Leonard Cohen. I listened to his records so much that I don’t listen to them anymore. They’re all in my head. I poured over his poetry. I went hungrily to his ancient website The Leonard Cohen Files, which still exists to my surprise. I read both of his novels, and a few biographies on the man. I’ve heard a few things from his very first band, a Canadian country outfit called The Buckskin Boys. I read of his time as a monk on Mount Baldy, this Jewish man who loved Catholic imagery so.

I didn’t tear up for Bowie, or Prince. They’ve held my enormous respect and interest, but L. Cohen has my baby bear heart. His passing is the only “celebrity” death to garner real tears from me. Well, maybe Gene Wilder’s death, but only in tandem with Gilda.

Anyway, I loved the man, or the myth of the man we all delighted in. I’m glad he was at peace with death. It’s nice to think that death was kind enough to have made an introduction, to have sat and drank tea with L. Cohen before carrying him up to the tower of song.

Sincerely, J. Callahan

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