Five On Friday: Team Avett

I am a little short on time this week, but I thought I would pop in this morning and share a quick Five on Friday playlist.

On the 25th of October, my wife and I – along with a small group of friends and our nephew – went to see an Avett Brothers concert. It was incredible. Their genre-defying music was great, and the amount of raw talent and energy that they exhibit at a live show is breathtaking. Yet, many of my other friends still don’t know who they are! It’s a shame really. So instead of wishing that you all knew what you were missing, I decided to give you a short, 5-song sample.


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Five On Friday: 1991

Two decades ago my life and popular music both changed forever – almost simultaneously.

My biggest concern at the time was that my marriage was ending. I was too young to be a divorcee, but then again, I was too young to be married and have a baby girl too. But sometimes things just are what they are, and you do the best with what you’ve got.

(This blog was originally much longer, going into much more detail about my life in 1991, but I decided this morning that it was just too personal to post on the internet. That’s also why I’m a bit later than normal getting it out there.)

But since music was and is part of my life (see previous post) – that very painful year had a soundtrack. Two of my favorite bands in the world released fantastic albums that even many critics hail as among the best in their respective catalogs. REM released by far their biggest commercial success, Out Of Time – and U2 released the incredible Achtung Baby.

But as much as those two albums mean to me personally, it was the less established bands that really made that year what it was. They came out of nowhere and injected a much needed spark into a music scene that was getting old and worn out. 1991 was the year of plaid flannel and dirty hair. It was the year that Grunge and Alternative Rock rose to power.

Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Matthew Sweet all released albums within just a few month time-frame that affected me on a very deep and visceral level – and also affected the trajectory of the music industry as a whole.

For me – it was personal. These albums exhibited the energy, emotion, and youthfulness that I needed to deal with the situations that I faced at just that moment. And for that reason, they will always be a part of who I am.

Here is just a taste of the soundtrack that was 1991:

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Five on Friday: Keep Fighting that Foo

We spent last weekend in one of our favorite places, St. Louis. While we were there, we went to the St. Louis Blues training camp, watched our daughter run a 6K race at Busch Stadium for the Cardinals Care charity, and went to a concert featuring one of my wife’s favorite bands, Foo Fighters.

Personally, when the Foo Fighters first came out, I resisted them. I was mad at Dave Grohl for moving on so quickly from Nirvana following Kurt Cobain’s death. I was a huge Nirvana fan, and was sincerely heartbroken when I heard the news of his suicide. And for whatever reason, I took it out on Dave’s new band. Some of their music was catchy when I heard it on the radio or saw the videos, but I refused to give it more than a passing glance.

Turns out though, that it was my own loss.

My wife continued to follow the Foo’s throughout their career, and eventually I too found myself listening to their albums more and more. The thing is; they’re just good, unadorned, consistent, not overly produced rock and roll. And the concert just served to drive that point home. Apparently Dave’s a pretty good song writer too – though you can definitely hear a Nirvana influence especially in the early stuff.

So, I am a fan. And the show was awesome! They played for something like 2 hours and 50 minutes not including the two opening acts (who were okay at best).

Here are a few of my favorites from their catalog including one from their new album (which is totally worth picking up if you were wondering):

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Five on Friday – Postmarked

There has been quite a bit of talk lately about the possibility of the US Postal Service disappearing from our national landscape. If things continue to go the way they are now, the USPS could lose as much as $10 Billion this year. They have already set plans in motion to close a number of local post offices around the country. And personally, that makes me a little sad.

The post office is an integral part of that Norman Rockwell-esque image of utopian rural America that is so near and dear to many of our hearts. For many people in the small town where I live, seeing each other at the post office is just part of their daily routine. I love to see the old-timers driving their riding lawn mowers to town to get their mail. It makes me smile inside.

I know being a computer nerd that I should embrace the technology/electronic revolution – and I have to some extent – but I hate the fact that by embracing one thing that another thing has to die. It doesn’t seem fair. I don’t even like the fact that when they made a movie based on Jimmy Stewart’s The Shop Around the Corner, they had to update the story to change letters to emails (You’ve Got Mail).

I know this may sound old fashioned, and maybe it is, but I feel like the art of letter writing is a thing of the past. You can send all of the emails and facebook messages your thumbs can type, but it will never have the same personal feeling or sentiment as a hand-written note, letter, or card. It just won’t. And if the Post Office goes away, it will make it just that much more difficult to get them to the recipient. It will be just one more nail in the coffin of our already struggling small towns.

This is a list of songs that wouldn’t exist without the mail:

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Bonus Song (And possibly the best one on the list):

Five on Friday: SysAdminDay

It is officially the last Friday in July, so you know what that means!

You do know what that means, right?

Well, maybe not – considering the number of gifts, lunch invitations, cards, cakes and thank-you’s I have received so far today… (Zero, in case you’re wondering. I got zero. Same as last year. And the year before that. Not that I’m complaining or anything.)

Today is Systems Administrator Appreciation Day! Or SysAdminDay for short, because you know us geeks – we like to abbreviate!

So in honor of the day – today’s FoF goes out to the SysAdmins around the world, because we are the often unrecognized heroes! (At least in our own minds we are!)

Superman Statue: Metropolis, IL

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Five on Friday: Rain on the Scarecrow

It wasn’t until I was a freshman in High School that I went to my second real rock concert. And it was my first without parental supervision. Well, they did drive me there since I was still pre-driver’s license, but they dropped us off – so it still counts, right?

So my second rock concert was John Cougar Mellencamp’s Scarecrow Tour. Post “Johnny Cougar” – Pre “John Mellencamp” – At this point he was using all three names.

I have had a hot/cold, on-again/off-again relationship with JCM’s music throughout my life. There have been times that I have loved it and other times that I was “over” it. But that is kind of how I feel about him as an artist. He has always teetered on the line between being a really good singer/songwriter and being an over-blown caricature of himself.

Typically, if I really like an artist, I like their body of work. I want whole albums and not just greatest hits compilations. But with JCM, even with those, I tend to only really enjoy a little over half of the songs.

But, even after saying that, I like JCM. He has some great music in his catalog. I was a big fan when a lot of my peers were listening to the spandex-clad, hair & glam rock – a genre of music that I never really got into. I think that the kind of music I was listening to back then (JCM, Springsteen, Tom Petty, etc.) was the beginning of my love for Americana and alt.Country. And I will always respect him for what he has been able to accomplish with the Farm Aid benefit concert & organization, along with Willie Nelson & Neil Young.

And I’m glad I got to see him live.

Here are some of his better tunes (in my opinion)…

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Five on Friday: Rock and Roll All Nite

Okay – I have exposed my country & bluegrass side quite a bit here lately and as a result, I am feeling an overwhelming need to turn the amp up to eleven and ROCK! So I decided late yesterday that I would do a short series on my concert history – starting the journey exactly where I started in 1979, with KISS.

My parents took me and my brother to our very first live rock concert when we were both just kids, just about a month short of my eighth birthday. Judas Priest opened up for our favorite band in the world, KISS. The show had a profound impact on me and my musical history. I still absolutely love live music of all shapes and forms. There is just something about that shared experience of standing in a crowd of people, feeling the beat, screaming, singing along – it pulls you in and makes you a part of it. It is amazing. And for me, KISS started it all.

It seems like an eternity ago – and it was – but I still think about it occasionally. I was too young to remember a lot of details about the show, but there are definitely some memorable moments that can never be erased; like the band rising from beneath the fog-filled stage, Gene spewing blood and fire, Ace’s guitar flying from his hands and exploding over the crowd, Peter Criss’ massive drum solo…

Yeah, I kind of got upset at them in the 80’s when they changed their style a little to better compete with the hair-metal bands that were so popular at the time. But now I can look back at some of those songs that I was so critical of back then and realize they aren’t nearly as bad as I thought they were.

Here are four awesome “love” songs – and one of the many KISS tunes that anytime I hear it, makes my heart beat a little faster and makes me want to uncontrollably pump my fist in the air.

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Man, if it wasn’t for the Friday music posts, I wouldn’t be blogging much at all here lately. I really need to write more! Maybe I will soon… maybe.

Five on Friday: Plunk your magic twanger, Froggy

One of the more bizarre twists and turns in my extremely wide-ranging musical tastes goes down the path of Bluegrass. More specifically, I tend to prefer what is commonly known as “Progressive Bluegrass” or “Newgrass” which uses elements of rock & roll, jazz, and other musical genres to create a more modern, fresh sound. I “discovered” my love for Bluegrass a few years ago as a result of my love for Gillian Welch. I was completely enamored with her first studio album Revival  which (as an information junkie) made me want to learn as much as I could about her.  That is when I found out that she and her guitarist/songwriting partner David Rawlings were working with a young “Old-Timey String Band” called Old Crow Medicine Show. I loved it so much that it instantly threw me into a spiral of banjos & mandolins.

Here are some of my favorites, plus one of my favorite Gillian songs from Revival

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I have a request

When it came to my own musical tastes, for a number of years I drew a very solid distinction between the kinds of music I liked and the kinds I absolutely hated. I left very little room in between for music that I kind of liked but didn’t really love. One of the things that I always said was that I HATED country music. Unfortunately if you looked at my iPod right now, that statement wouldn’t hold water. In fact over the years, that line in the sand has become blurry; blown around by the winds of time, washed away by the crashing waves of maturity… and a few other corny sounding metaphors.

A more accurate statement is that I dislike most of what can be categorized as “modern” country. I still feel like the stuff they play on local country radio is mostly drivel. In fact, I keep my alarm clock tuned to it so that when it goes off in the morning, I want nothing more than to get up and turn it off just to make it stop! MAKE IT STOP!!!

But I love a lot of classic country as well as “alt. country” and americana – not to mention bluegrass and folk. But for the majority of my life there has been one man – one singer/songwriter – that has walked that line brilliantly. His studio albums make a considerable footprint in my CD collection and get plenty of iPod play-time. That man is Lyle Lovett.

And for the first time ever, I have tickets to see him live on Tuesday sharing a stage with another long-time favorite, John Hiatt.

I am a little bit excited.

Lyle is a master – a legend. He is the penultimate example of smooth, Texas gentleman country. And in the 80’s, he had epic hair AND Julia Roberts.


Dad introduced me to his music in my youth with clever, often funny, and musically masterful songs like “If I Had a Boat” and “She’s Hot to Go”. It’s tough to forget such easy to identify with lyrics like “she was ugly from the front” – isn’t it? And as much as I still love those songs, my tastes tend to lean more towards those hauntingly beautiful, dark, and melancholy tracks. I am not sure why, but those are the ones that really stick with me.

So since my voice doesn’t carry very well, especially in a place like the Fabulous Fox Theater in St. Louis, I thought that today I would use my blog as a platform to shout out my requests:


1.  She’s Already Made Up Her Mind is one of those haunting songs. It is about that soul-crushing moment in a relationship that you realize that the relationship is over, but the coroner dwarf has not yet read the proclamation. It is such a personal and accessible feeling for many of us that no matter how many times I listen to it, my heart breaks a little each & every time.


2.  L.A. County is a dark and brilliantly written story song. It has one of those driving rhythms that starts off kind of slow but builds slowly, like the story itself, to a dramatic climax that you never really see coming.


3.  If I Were the Man You Wanted is another heart-breaker from Lovett’s eponymous debut album. It was actually recorded by (the awesome) Nanci Griffith before he released his own version. “if I were the man she wanted, I would not be the man that I am


4.  (Please ignore the cheesy video – it’s the best I could find unfortunately.) Private Conversation seems to be about regret, or getting over those relationships above and moving on with your life. I’m not sure, but I love it. My favorite song from the Road To Ensenada album is a close race between this one and “I Can’t Love You Anymore”.


5.  Lyle Lovett is an amazing songwriter, so I will be perfectly satisfied if he only plays his own songs – but if he decides to play one cover, if there is a God in Heaven, it will be one written by Townes Van  Zandt, like the unbelievably beautiful If I Needed You.

Look Who’s Talkin’

It has definitely been a busy month, and it looks like June isn’t shaping up to be much calmer.

I was out of town all last week. The company I work for sent me (and a couple hundred of the people that do my job in other business units around the world) to Phoenix Arizona for an IT Conference.

Information Technology is a bit of a thankless job. We are kind of like morticians or oncologists; the only time we are recognized is when something is wrong. When things seem to be running smoothly they ask, “what does he do anyway?” instead of, “thank you.”

And God forbid I change or upgrade anything!

It seems similar to being a goalie. The other players on the field can mess up and miss their shots through the entire game, make one single goal and they’re instantly heralded as the hero. A goalie can block everything thrown at him but let one single shot slip by and they’re labeled a failure.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my job. I enjoy what I do and will continue to learn and improve so that I can do it better and more efficiently. But would it kill you to throw a little gratitude my way occasionally? Luckily for me I work for a large decentralized conglomerate who recognizes the importance of IT, and they also know that as a result of that kind of corporate structure, the best resource any single one of us has… is each other. If I have a specific issue that I don’t know how to solve – I can turn to the “hive-mind” and chances are good that someone else has already dealt with it and can point me in the direction to solve it.

That is why tech support message boards or on-line forums are often quicker and more reliable than actually trying to contact a tech support person.

Unfortunately, it was in Phoenix. I had never been to Phoenix before. I had never been that far west. So this was my first trip to the desert – the Valley of the Sun. Everyone kept warning me that it was a “dry heat”. As it turned out though, it was at least 15 degrees cooler than average… and it rained… in the desert. Fun.

So anyway – that’s what I was doing last week.

This week I am working; but after the holiday on Monday, I will work one whole day before attending another conference in Northern Illinois as a representative of my church for the rest of the week and part of the weekend. Out of three weeks I will have worked a total of six days – and none of it because of vacation.

Eventually I will get to take some time off for a vacation that doesn’t involve being stuck in a giant windowless conference room… Eventually.

Oh yeah – and since it is Friday – let me post a Five on Friday list that I made a few weeks ago and never posted.

A few days ago the incredible Bob Dylan turned 70 years old. In honor of one of the world’s finest and most influential singer/songwriters I have assembled a playlist of five of my favorite Bob Dylan songs covered by other artists.

Nearly every singer or band in every genre of popular music has covered Dylan at one time or another; George Harrison, the White Stripes, U2, Emmylou Harris… the list is limitless. Here are some of my favorites:

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Have a fantastic holiday weekend, everyone!