Graveyarded: Arkansas Cemetery Tripping

I have not been to many cemeteries lately because I have been so busy teaching and writing. I am not working on any articles right now, but I have been writing fiction and teaching six classes. In between grading journals and discussion boards, I have not had the time to do much except listen to a few records and take walks. When I lived in Illinois, Amanda and John and I would go to cemeteries all the time, searching for famous and infamous people. In fact, I still have to post many of those pictures, including pictures from Showmen's Rest in Woodlawn Cemetery and the Haymarket Martyrs in Forest Home Cemetery. I miss going on these trips with them, but now and then, Carrie and I make it to local cemeteries. We visited three this weekend, including Rose Hill, Rest Haven Memorial Gardens, and Helms Cemetery. We visited several famous local graves in Rose Hill Cemetery include Harris T. Flanagin, Arkansas State Governor from 1862 to 1864, and Reverend John McLaughlin who founded Hen…

Arkansas Past Midyear

Reading Palookaville. Arkansas past midyear. I'm waiting for fall to begin. Far away from winter snows, Metaphorically and literally. In the enduring humidity, I turn away. I'd give anything for a cold rain or a sad autumn day. I think I just wrote lyrics to an emo song, circa 1996. Don't hold that against me. 2020 needs to end.

Track This: Wilson Pickett's "Cole, Cooke, & Redding."

This lesser-known Wilson Pickett song is a eulogy to lost friends and fellow entertainers that influenced him. The 1970 song is the b-side to a fun, yet lightweight cover of the Archies's "Sugar, Sugar. "Cole, Cooke, & Redding" has a slower southern soul vibe than many of his big hits and is fairly reminiscent of Redding's sound. The thoughtful lyrics and music riff on Dion's "Abraham, Martin, and John,"a tribute to Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., John F. Kennedy, and Robert Kennedy that Dion recorded in 1968 in a more upbeat manner. Dick Holler wrote the original song in reaction to the deaths of King and Robert Kennedy and is given song-writing credit for this one.  Pickett transforms the song in his inimitable style to remember these lost musical greats, referencing their lyrics and songs. In remembrance, he mentions the last thing they told him in song; for example, Sam Cooke tells him "that a change was gonna come," then…

Track This: Kathleen Edwards's "Options Open."

Kathleen Edwards's new album Total Freedom (Dualtone) is her first album in eight years, but she has not missed a beat. Her songwriting is still warm, evocative, and thoughtful. Wry observations about relationships, character studies, and songs about death and aging set a familiar tone for an album that is realistic yet positive despite the darker subject matter. Not as complex as Voyageur, my favorite record of 2012, it is still a strong contender for my best record list of 2020. 
The first single "Options Open" is one of her best both lyrically and musically and capturing doubts similar to those that led her to stop making music and open up her coffee shop, Quitters. The song is both optimistic and realistic and could be as much about career changes as relationships. She sings, "There were some things behind me / An open door I did not close when I was lonely / But I swore I wouldn't go near you with a ten-foot pole / It's not my fault that I wasn't …

Track This: E's "Fitting in with the Misfits"

Before Mark Oliver Everett started the Eels, he released two albums under his moniker E on Polydor records: 1992's A Man Called E and 1993's Broken Toy Shop. Both are long out of print, and this is a shame because they both reach the level of excellence of his later work in the Eels. 
Both albums are chock full of E's wry sense of humor and penchant for self-deprecation. They also look ahead to his love of peculiar instrumentation and experimentation with programming. One quick takeaway is that E loves glockenspiel, melodica, and accordion. He plays many of the instruments on these records himself, building an atmosphere of longing and regret amidst a foundation of catchy melodies. However, the records do feel more traditional and warmer than most of the Eels catalog. 
A Man Called E quickly prepares the listener for E's worldview with a pair of songs that privilege his outsider status ("Hello Cruel World," "Fitting in with the Misfits") while acknowl…

A College House By Any Other Name: Stevens Point, Circa 2001: Part One

I moved in that summer, not prepared for a hot, festering several months in a strange, small house that had seen its share of drunken, college parties. I moved in with three other guys who I had known awhile: Dave, Joe, and Jeremiah. We were a motley crew: a punk rock English major, a brusque music major, a science major, and an opinionated psychology major. I was the progressive English major that flirted with anarchism, like a less obnoxious version of Rik from The Young Ones. In some ways, we resembled that troupe, except with far less humor.Joe was a more conservative psychology major who liked to argue. We were both from the same hometown and had honed our friendship as outsiders. Dave majored in teaching music; he was the authoritarian taskmaster that wanted to keep us in line. Jeremiah, the science major, added a new flavor to our little group of outsiders. We met Jeremiah when he took a room in the house the previous January. He and I would move into another house, The Lost Ho…

The Art of Long Walks

I've been taking long walks most of my life. I have many reasons: to clear my mind, to enjoy the outdoors, to exercise. Ah, who am I kidding, it is mostly to clear my mind and think. I like to walk for hours and take different routes each time, exploring each city and town I have lived in and taking stock of my surroundings. I want to explore each nook and cranny of the town because I am never sure what I will see or hear. It's exploratory surgery of the soul and feels akin to listening to a favorite old record that you have heard a thousand times but are always prepared to appreciate in a new way. Maybe you hear a wonky note or a backing vocal that you never noticed before. Or a fuzz box, drum fill, or exotic key change that never resonated.

Discovering where the trails are is as important to me as finding a new back alley path or steps to nowhere that invariably lead to a private yard. These moments of discovery make my walks worthwhile. I sometimes take trails that I should…