Coyote Mercury

words, birds and whatever else by James Brush

Category: Music (page 1 of 10)

Chasing Headlights EP by Cwtch


Chasing Headlights is the latest EP from Cwtch (vocals: Marie Craven/music: Paul Foster). The lyrics are remixed from poems in my collection Highway Sky. Needless to say, it’s a bit surreal to have one’s work reinterpreted like this. Surreal and wonderful.

My academic background is in film production and screenwriting so the idea of having my words interpreted and reimagined and ultimately produced into a different medium by other artists doesn’t seem at all unnatural to me. I know that it may be uncomfortable for many poets working with a model that strangely exalts poetry, but this kind of thing seems so right to me. It’s why I released the Highway Sky poems (and everything on this blog for that matter) under a creative commons license.

But then there’s music (which I do confess to exalting a wee bit), and listening to how my poems were remixed into Cwtch’s sound in Marie’s voice and with Paul’s music just blew me away. This work is haunting and beautiful, and I am truly honored and humbled and filled with gratitude to Marie and Paul for finding something in my writing worth building upon, for taking the time to do it, and for putting it out there.

You can listen to Chasing Headlights on Soundcloud or download for free (or pay as you wish) from Bandcamp. I hope you’ll check it out.

And here is the video Marie made last summer for “I Drove to the River”:

“I Drove to the River” Video


This is the video for the Cwtch song “I Drove to the River” made by vocalist Marie Craven. The lyrics are based on my poem “God Bless Johnny Cash” from Highway Sky. You can also download “I Drove to the River” here, and I highly recommend Cwtch’s album Silver while you’re at it.

I Drove to the River


I was stunned speechless last night when I heard this lovely track made by Marie Craven and Paul Dementio working together as Cwtch. Stunned because the lyrics come from my poem “God Bless Johnny Cash” (from Highway Sky) and I am thrilled by what amazing music they have made with it and can’t wait to hear what comes next. This is what can come of Creative Commons and the sharing culture. Thank you Marie, Paul, and Cwtch. Now, have a listen.


ACL Fest 2014


Another wonderful ACL Fest. The weather couldn’t have been better. It was reminiscent of 2010, though without that year’s amazing, awesome lineup. I do miss the old days when there were more jam bands, jazz, and alt-country. The hip-hop doesn’t interest me much, but the upside was that with none of the nighttime acts being particularly compelling, it made things easier to do with with a three-year-old in tow. Still, another great weekend of music in the heart of Austin. And, finally, I got to see The Replacements.

Fri: Capital Cities, Paolo Nutini, St. Vincent, Foster the People

Sat: The Rosebuds, Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, Zoé, Interpol, Icona Pop, The Avett Brothers

Sun: KONGOS, Jhenè Aiko, Cults, The Gaslight Anthem, Real Estate, The Replacements

One More Saturday Night (The Dead @ RFK: 6.24.95)

Back in the early ‘90s, I always taped the Grateful Dead Hour at midnight on KGSR. Didn’t matter where I was or what I was doing, come 11:45, I was home to record it. I had never seen the Dead live, but I loved to hear their live sound. One Saturday night around April of ’95, some friends were over listening with me and while we were enjoying a particularly good “Fire on the Mountain,” I was hit with an overwhelming sense that I had to see the Dead. Now. Jerry just wasn’t going to around much longer.

Since they hadn’t played in Texas since the ’70’s, I knew we’d have to travel, and while four of us planned to go, two dropped out (“Next time,” they both said) and so it was that on June 21, 1995, R (who was not yet my wife) and I set out a little before midnight for Washington, DC where they would be playing RFK Stadium that coming Saturday. We had dry cereal, peanut butter, bread, a gas station card and a few bucks between us to get there.

We spent Thursday night in Knoxville and on Friday rolled into Washington where we planned to stay with an old high school buddy who was, incidentally, the person who introduced me to the Dead. We saw the sights and even visited the house in Springfield where I lived when I was a kid in the late ‘70s. And then, on Saturday night, we saw the Dead. Bob Dylan opened and underwhelmed as he tends to do, but when the Grateful Dead came out and opened with “Jack Straw” I had one of those I-can’t-believe-I’m-here moments. Quite simply, I had arrived at the promised land.

Longtime Deadheads pan these latter shows. Jerry was fading, and it was obvious to the band’s most dedicated followers that something was off, but for us, this first-and-only Dead show was magic. I have never been to any show before or since where I felt compelled to pay such close attention and where I was willing and able to just let the music carry me away.

The setlist included some of my favorites and some that I’ve come to love since then (h/t

Jack Straw
Little Red Rooster
Friend of the Devil
El Paso
So Many Roads
Promised Land

Iko! Iko!
Way to Go Home
Saint of Circumstance –>
New Speedway Boogie –>
That Would Be Something –>
Drums –>
Space –>
The Days Between
One More Saturday Night

Black Muddy River

I’ll never forget the energy and excitement of “Iko! Iko!” or the way Bruce Hornsby ran away with “Promised Land” or how they put the boogie back into “New Speedway Boogie.” Most of all, though, I’ll always remember the way Jerry sang “Days Between,” a real favorite of mine. It’s not on any of their official releases and was written only a year or two earlier, but it’s one of the best Dead songs ever, dark and longing, beautiful and terrifying. Jerry poured what little was left of himself into that strange, cryptic song and held the audience captive all the while.

Who knew it would be the last time they would play “Friend of the Devil” and “That Would Be Something” and “Days Between”? And what an unusual portent it was for them to close with the first “Black Muddy River” in almost 4 years. In fact, a few weeks later, it was one of the last songs Jerry would sing with the band, allegedly altering the lyric from “black muddy river” to “last muddy river,” an interesting change in a song about the realization that there are more days behind than ahead of the aging singer who now at the end must face his failures. It’s a song that aches in its beauty and that night, hearing them close with it, there was a certain finality we felt even if we didn’t quite understand.

And that was it. Just another Saturday night in Washington, DC. We hung around Sunday and drove straight through to Austin on Monday. A month and a half later, Jerry Garcia died. It was August 9, and we were at Lollapalooza. My other favorite band, Sonic Youth, was headlining and as the moon rose over South Park Meadows (before it was paved and turned into a strip mall), they closed with a new song, an epic trippy-sounding psychedelic punk jam, called “The Diamond Sea” that Thurston Moore introduced simply by saying, “This is for Garcia.” It was gorgeous, and a fitting tribute.

As the years passed, I’ve always wanted to hear our Dead show again and a few years ago, I downloaded it from the Internet Archive where a generous taper had uploaded it. I’ve been listening to it and enjoying it all over again. Perhaps not surprisingly, the things I remembered most clearly come through as powerfully as they did in person.

It was a wonderful moment in a strange and wild time. A beautiful time in which anything was possible and nothing seemed more important than racing across the country to see a band play on a Saturday night. A few months later, I quit the freelance film life and started a “regular” job to save money for grad school, and so that trip and that show seem kind of like a last hurrah for me in a lot of ways. It was an ending but a beginning too, as they usually are.

I’ll never know what I heard in that Grateful Dead Hour solo, and I’ve lost the tape anyway, but there was something there… a single note or a phrase maybe, something deep that spoke of the ephemeral nature of music and art and beauty and even life itself when you get right down to it. Life’s fleeting moments, experience and wisdom, gathered into song and then blown out on the wind like smoke in the air, flames on a mountaintop, those “headless horsemen vanishing with wild and lonely cries.” All that in one little bit of music that called us across the country to hear something glorious that was itself fading into darkness.

ACL Fest 2013 – Day 3


Beautiful sunny mild October day in Zilker Park. Noah & the Whale, Grouplove, Franz Ferdinand, JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound, Divine Fits, The National

ACL Fest 2013 – Day 2


Ahhh, cold front. What a beautiful day for Delta Rae, Silversun Pickups, The Joy Formidable, Wilco, and The Cure.

ACL Fest 2013 – Day 1


Fun., Okkervil River, Vampire Weekend, Kaskade, Depeche Mode

ACL Fest 2011

I usually write about ACL Fest on this blog if only so that years later I can provide definitive answers to such questions as “Hey, did we see Allison Krause a few years ago?” by saying, “Why, let me consult the blog.” The answer is that we did see Allison Krause along with Robert Plant back in 2007. And we saw her again, though this time with Union Station on Saturday of last month’s fest.

It was a different kind of year this time around what with a baby and all. We didn’t bring him, but our festival time was dictated by the availability of grandparents to babysit and so, we made it down for only a few acts this year. On Saturday, we saw Allison Krause and Union Station (but you already know that), Gillian Welch (who according to the blog, we caught back in 2009) and my favorite from this year, TV on the Radio.

I first really listened to TV on the Radio this summer and really liked what I heard (their album, To Science). They struck me as a warmer, slightly funkier, Radiohead. Their show did not disappoint. In fact, I consider them the revelation for this year.

Between TV on the Radio and Stevie Wonder, we got a message that a dear friend had died much much too young. We hung around for Stevie Wonder (and probably would have left had it been anyone else) but the wind was blowing Stevie’s music away toward the city and My Morning Jacket was drowning him out from our place in the back. We could just make out “Higher Ground” as we quietly left Zilker Park.

We had no agenda for Sunday. We caught a few bands we hadn’t heard before and came home.

This year’s ACL was good, the weather was okay. No points for endurance as in 2005 or 2009. It wasn’t as good as 2010 (the best one ever), but it was good. Solid good. And that’s fine with me. Next year it will be in mid-October again, and we’re hoping we can bring the little guy along for at least some of the festival.

Maiden & Priest

The night before our son was born, we were flipping through channels and caught a few minutes of the Iron Maiden documentary/concert film Flight 666. I used to love Maiden back in my metallic youth; in fact, the only thing I might have liked more was Judas Priest. I remember riding the bus to school in junior high swapping tapes with friends and discussing the relative merits of Priest classics British Steel, Screaming for Vengeance and Defenders of the Faith along with Maiden’s Number of the Beast and Piece of Mind. We also liked Michael Jackson’s Thriller, and even though we agreed the Priest could totally kick Jackson’s ass, we decided that Thriller was still pretty awesome in its own spooky right.

Somewhere along the way, I forgot or perhaps outgrew this music. Maybe it was the fact that the trappings of metal grew so cheesy and convoluted and dependent on hair (thanks, Poison and Ratt) that it just became an embarrassment. I moved on to punk and hardcore and never looked back, which is kind of a shame because when I downloaded and listened to Maiden’s “Run to the Hills” and Priest’s “Freewheel Burning,” I couldn’t believe how much I still liked these tunes. My god how these guys rocked, I thought, and then immediately started downloading old favorites from those albums mentioned above.

Amazing how music transports… Suddenly I remember those junior high years and the long bus ride from our little town up the coast from Naples to the DOD high school on the base. Listening to it again, the sheer intesity and power of the playing is something to behold, especially when Judas Priest starts shredding on “Freewheel Burning” or the raw speed of “Exciter” and “Rapid Fire” or Maiden’s manic “Aces High.” Sometimes the bus ride didn’t seem long at all.

I remember the anticipation we all felt for Iron Maiden’s forthcoming Powerslave. Even after it was out, you couldn’t find it at the base PX. Which is why when we took a family trip up to the UK, the main thing I wanted was to get my hands on Powerslave. I lived inside my headphones much of the way back to Naples on the train, Europe racing along outside the windows to the power and intensity of such classics as “Aces High,” “2 Minutes to Midnight,” and my introduction to Coleridge through their epic retelling of his “Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” Amazing stuff, and I think I was one of the first kids at Naples American High School to have Powerslave, which certainly didn’t hurt my all-important-for-an-8th-grader cool quotient.

Maiden’s lyrics always hooked me. This was a band of readers and history buffs whose interests in science fiction and classic poetry came out in their music. They sounded like nerds who had become cool and that appealed to a kid like me. With Judas Priest, though, the lyrics were almost irrelevant. It was the ax work, the blistering solos and shredding and the operatic glory of Rob Halford’s voice. I thought about Maiden and I felt Priest.

Now, decades later, I find that I still really like this stuff. I’m downloading and relistening, rediscovering these gems from my past. I doubt I’ll venture much further back into metal than these two bands, but I’m not sure I would need to. In my spare moments, I get my rock on and that’s probably the answer to the question of new-parent exhaustion: lots of coffee, some Maiden and a little Priest. And Coltrane too, of course, because the ’61 Vanguard recordings… well that would be a whole other post.

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