Thursday, June 30, 2011

Mallard's Infinite Playlist: Iris DeMent

I discovered Iris DeMent completely by accident a while back while noodling around Last.FM looking for other stuff. I had been on sort of a female folky/Americana/Alt-Indie Country kick and was listening to stuff by the likes of Patty Griffin, Lucinda Williams, Neko Case, etc, when I stumbled across her song "Easy's Gettin' Harder Every Day." The hopelessness of the lyrics and the tired sadness of her voice just blew me away (unfortunately it's not on YouTube).

I had never heard of Iris DeMent, but interestingly enough - even though I was quite the fan back in the day - she first gained widespread notice when her song "Our Town" was played in the closing scenes and credits of Northern Exposure during that show's final episode. Here's a cool version of that song with backing vocals from Emmylou Harris, or, as I like to call her, the hottest gray-haired woman in the world.

Her music must strike some note of bittersweet finality, because more recently another of DeMent's songs, her version of the hymm "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms" was featured in the closing credits of the Coen Brothers' adaptation of "True Grit." Beautiful stuff, almost enough to make this secular heathen go find himself a god(s).

I wouldn't say DeMent has a classically beautiful voice. It is, admittedly, something of an acquired taste. Some may find it too twangy, a bit nasally, just a little too backwoods Pentacostal-sounding, but having come from exactly that kind of peasant hillbilly stock, I love it. I think it sounds like distilled heartbreak, a sine wave of working class hope and despair, the kind of music populated by Joe Bageant's  (and my) people. Good stuff.

I'm still poking around her body of work, but here's one of my favorites so far...

And if you're a Talking Heads fan (as I am) you might like David Byrne's (and Natalie Merchant's) cover.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Not Quite Back From the Dead...

But I'm getting there, albeit slowly. Every summer, it seems, I go through a period where I just sort of abandon the 'ol blog and let it swing in the wind for a few weeks.

This has been one of those periods, a combination of the boys and wife being out of school for the summer, a long list of around-the-yard-and-house projects (the "Stick-It-To-Big-Agri-Business Revolutionary Garden" is now up and running! In about six weeks look for the inevitable "Crawling-Back-To-Big-Agri-Business-After-The-Bugs-Ate-My-Revolutionary-Garden" sequel...) several trips, general summer malaise brought on by heat, the desire to read a few books and a natural regression toward my personal sloth-mean.

Plus, I'll be damned if I've really had anything to say the past few weeks, and if there's one thing that defines a useless and boring read, it's throwing up a blog post just for the purpose of throwing up a blog post.

So now, of course, I'm going to throw up a blog post just for the sake of throwing up a blog post. I am nothing if not consistent. I actually do have many fine blog topics lined up for your reading pleasure and/or ridicule. This just 'aint one of them.

One of the projects I've been working on the past several weeks is this...

It's a well-used 16-foot Carolina Skiff J16. This came about following an incident during the late duck season in which I very nearly drowned in about two feet of water and ice while busting through thick reeds with way too much decoy weight on my back. First I had a "You're shittin' me? I'm gonna die like this?" moment. I didn't. At least I'm pretty sure I'm alive. Then I had the obligatory "I'm too old for this shit" moment.

It was obvious I needed a boat. The places I normally hunted were simply getting too thick to reach by foot. Not only that, I've really been wanting a boat to take the boys and wife (who's a fishing fiend) out on local lakes. So I started cruising Craigslist and when I found the right boat at the right price, I bought it.

I'm hoping it will be perfect for my needs. Well, let me back up: first, I hope it floats. Once that's been established, then I'm hoping it will be perfect for my needs. I'm not a recreational boater and I'm not interested in that "my outboard is bigger than your outboard" status symbol bass boat crap. I just wanted a good, stable, basic boat, and I think I got it.

When I'm finished it's hopefully going to be my family fishing and fun, cast-n-blast rig. Right now, however, it's sort of in pieces. I took out all the seats and decks, yanked off the motor (a 25-horse Mariner tiller-steer), scrubbed it down inside and out, bedlinered the interior (it looks sorta blue, but it's actually gray), flipped it over and then coated the bottom and sides of the hull in an ultra-tough epoxy paint that the airboat guys cover their hulls with. It didn't have a rear deck when I bought it, so I'm planning on making one from plywood and fiberglass, and if I really go wild I might make a poling platform just so I can say I've got the only redneck flats boat in northwest Oklahoma.

Now I'm debating whether to go ahead and paint the whole thing camo, or just use grass and burlap to cover it during waterfowl season. At any rate, Tess is pleased she won't have to walk so far and stand up to her boobies in ice-cold water and I'm pleased that in the future if I do manage to drown myself while waterfowling, I'll at least have the dignity to drown at a respectable depth.

Sunday, June 5, 2011


                 "Nothing like this way out in west Texas, Galveston Bay is a whole other world."

                                                                       Jimmy Buffett, from Who's the Blonde Stranger?

If you've been wondering about my lack of posting activity or my complete lack of e-mail response (for those of you who have e-mailed me) over the past week or so, now you know the reason why...

My wife and I decided it was time the boys see the ocean (or gulf, for you sticklers) so last week we packed up and headed down to one of my favorite spots in the world, Galveston Island. Touristy? Yes, but that's OK. I like the place, anyway. I'm mostly a churlish, anti-social bastard when it comes to tourist destinations, but I make exceptions for Europe and anywhere I can fish.

So that's what we did. A little fishing, a little sightseeing, a little seafood and a whole lot of beachcombing. Had a great time. My eldest son caught several nice redfish and landed, after an extended fight, a big jack crevalle that - more than once -  I thought was going to spool him. It was great fun.

I've always liked Galveston, my wife and I even spent part of our honeymoon there, and since my new addiction to saltwater fishing, it's also the nearest outlet I have to scratch that itch. I'm already trying to figure out how I can go back down in July or August and fish for a few days.

Maybe it's the long-dormant Parrothead in me coming out, but if I ever get too old to keep up with the dogs, or if the birds ever disappear and with it my reason for living on the plains, I'm packing up and spending the rest of my days somewhere beside the sea, drinking beer and fishing. I can think of very few things I'd rather aspire to...

Anyway, if you've tried to get in touch with me the past ten days or so, be patient, I'll get back to you eventually, after I unpack, go pick up the dogs, mow the yard and wade through the pile of bills that were patiently, implacably, awaiting my return. Cursed reality...