Joseph E Bird

Let's talk about reading, writing and the arts.

hillbilly elegy

It seems that you can’t be from Appalachia (as I am) without weighing in on the new Little Opie Cunningham (Ron Howard) movie, Hillbilly Elegy. Based on the best-selling memoir by J.D. Vance, Elegy tells his story of escape from the horrors of Appalachia. Seems like everyone has an opinion. I haven’t read the book or seen the movie, so I’m no position to offer any thoughts. But, hey, here’s a bunch of hillbillies playing some amazing music. Looks like they could be from Clay County. No disrespect to Clay County. In fact, Clay County is actually a hotbed of good music in West Virginia.

But guess what? These guys aren’t real hillbillies. Not even from West Virginia. Or the United States, for that matter. They’re from Finland.

what to do when you forget the words

I’m sitting in my office this morning working and listening to music, when one of the songs makes me stop and replay again and again at about the 2:35 mark. It’s a live performance of the Avett Brothers and Scott forgets the words to the song. He stops for a second, it comes back to him, and he keeps going. You can hear a little chuckle as it happens. And I had to stop what I was doing and get this life lesson down.

Lately I’ve been spending a lot of time in my basement learning to sing and play songs. I have a set list of about 12 songs I can play. And sometimes, just like Scott, the words aren’t there. I’m surprised it doesn’t happen more often with the Avetts, given their catalog and complicated lyrics and phrasing.

Long story short, mistakes sometimes happen.
Keep going forward and give them a smile.
All the wrong notes will soon be forgotten,
Play for today, and do it with style.

hows bout some woody guthrie?

via the Avett Brothers.

Written by folk legend Woody Guthrie, the counter-culture revolutionary. The bros do it true to the original version, but the black and white portraiture is a bonus.

I didn’t know this, but Woody died of Huntington’s disease, which was passed down from his mother and then passed on to his daughters.

desperados waiting for a train

Another Darrell Scott song. This guy knows how to tell a story.

Here’s another one if you don’t believe me.

a little less conversation

all this aggravation ain’t satisfactioning me.

Yes, it’s true. I’m Elvis. Just a hunka hunka burning love.

I knew a man Bojangles and he danced for you.

Jerry Jeff Walker, who wrote Mr. Bojangles, passed away today. It is said that Walker met a homeless street performer in New Orleans when they were both locked up in the parish jail. The street performer used the name Mr. Bojangles to keep his true identity from the police. While in lock-up, they talked, of course, and by and by, Mr. Bojangles told the sad story of his dog who had traveled around the country with him for years, but at some point, had died. They asked Bojangles for something to lighten the mood, so he danced for them. Here’s maybe the best version of Mr. Bojangles ever. Enjoy.

keep your hand on that plow, hold on

or maybe this version…

todo esta bien chevere

It’s cool, baby.

A loose translation.

A song from back in the day by Steveland Morris, aka, Stevie Wonder. He’s laying down the patter at the very beginning of the song, trying to impress a lady by telling her everywhere he’s been, including Ufrasia, wherever that is. Then he tells her he speaks very fluent Spanish, proving it to her with the phrase, todo esta bien chevere. That’s cool, baby. Don’t you worry ’bout a thing, sugar.

A little Latin flavor for my six-string. A fun song to learn to play.

i killed sally’s lover

So here we have a provocative headline. And also a dramatic photo that has nothing to do with the headline. Except it does.

I haven’t killed anyone. Don’t even know a Sally.

It’s an Avett Brothers song. Yes, I do listen to other music but the Avetts just keep drawing me in. This song is a cautionary tale about getting caught up in a crime of passion.

Now all you ramblin' fellas
You listen close to me
That woman gonna bring you pain
Your heart is gonna bleed
But it ain't worth the trouble
The sufferin' or the grief
A bleeding heart is better than the penitentiary

So, yeah, don’t do it.

But it’s a heck of a fun song. Just watch this live version.

Ok, so maybe this is just backwoods hillbilly music. But it looks like so much fun, especially when played at the frenetic pace of their live version. Naturally I want to learn to play it like that.

I’ve been playing guitar for most of my life but it’s only been in the last six months or so that I’ve really begun to learn songs from beginning to end. I’ve even learned to sing while I play. That may not sound like a big deal, but try patting your head and rubbing your stomach at the same time. That’s playing and singing. It doesn’t come easy.

I’ll never be a star. But there’s a great deal of personal satisfaction in trying and learning and getting better and reaching your goal. I’ve got a play list of 12 songs now.

Sally’s Lover will be one of the harder songs I’ve learned. The chords are easy – G-C-D – but there’s some fast picking I have to learn that’s really going to be difficult. But I’ll get there.

The photograph?

A relatively simply structure I built on the back of my deck. It’s a result of my experience over the years with even simpler projects.

I’ll never be a contractor. But there’s a great deal of personal satisfaction in trying and learning and getting better and reaching your goal.

Now all you ramblin’ fellas
You listen close to me
This life is gonna bring you pain
Your heart is gonna bleed.
But it’s surely worth the trouble
The sufferin’ and the grief
To do that thing you want to do, don’t quit till you succeed.

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