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The Earl Brothers Impress Again

The Earl Brothers


When the Earl Brothers released their first album in 2004, the superbly-titled Whiskey, Women and Death, it was a shot of antique-sounding bluegrass in decidedly dark tones, as the recording’s name might suggest. Included on that debut disc were perhaps two of the finest original drinking songs ever recorded in the genre (“Been Sittin’ Here Drinkin” and “Bender”), as well as one of the finest and freshest takes on “Cluck Ol Hen” you’re likely to find anywhere.

Then in 2006 the band’s follow-up, Troubles To Blame, landed to a flurry of critical acclaim. The Earl Brothers had arrived and they played uncompromisingly traditional mountain music with attention-grabbing gothic undertones.

After just two offerings, a new disc from the Earl Brothers amounts to an event for a heap of bluegrass fans all over the country. In 2008, the band kept to its schedule of releasing a disc every two years with Moonshine. In it the California quartet is effectively sticking to its guns with twelve new tracks of original music.

At first listen, The Earl Brothers are easy to place. It’s gritty, gloomy, hillbilly music. This is a refreshingly simple bluegrass band that comes at the listener with no pretensions, just an honest take on life played with honest-to-God mountain music. In keeping with that theme, chief songwriter Robert Earl Davis seems uninterested in complex symbolism and extended metaphor. His formula is a simple one: See a thing, sing the thing, the thing’s the song. Consider these lines from Moonshine’s ninth track, “By the Side of the Road,” taken from the liner notes.

Billy was found by the side of the road
He wasn’t looking to good
Legs all bent from a bad accident
No one to call him there own

"By the Side of the Road" is a stand-out selection, as is the album's title track, "Moonshine" with its excellent first verse, which probably should have led off the album. Nevertheless Moonshine is thick with painful, gloomy and glorious twang that comes from another time - certainly the past, but maybe the future.

All of which amounts to pretty standard fare for an Earl Brothers album. Of course, standard fare from the Earl Brothers being as good as it is, this disc is a keeper for anyone that likes their bluegrass straight-up, with a twist of the wicked.

Podcast Appalachia: "Appalachian Abolitionism"

The latest episode of Podcast Appalachia is now available! It's a little known fact that Appalachians, both in the North and the South, played a major role in the early movement to abolish slavery. In this episode I look at this history and examine the role Appalachians played in expanding human liberty. You can listen here or view a transcript here.

God shines on Appalachia

A few pictures from a Memorial Day trek into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The rest of the set will be up at the Our Appalachia photo group at Flickr.

Country Church

Dyllis Baptist Church, Roane County, TN (cross posted at Appalachian Scribe)

The Queen of Quirks

My friend and fellow blogger, Angie, tagged me for a meme. I just don't know why she tagged me for this particular meme. Just because it is about "quirks" and I happen to be the Queen of Quirks....that shouldn't make me a definite shoo in. For some reason I think I am the subject of behavioral profiling.

Well, here are the rules for this meme:
1) Link to the person who tagged you.
2) Mention the rules.
3) Tell six quirky yet boring, unspectacular details about myself.
4) Tag six other bloggers by linking to them.
5) Go to each person’s blog and leave a comment that lets them know they’ve been tagged.

OK, this sounds simple enough. I just need to list 6 quirky things that I do. What, only 6? How will I narrow them down? Well, here goes; I'll do my best.

1) The food in my pantry is sorted by categories, like a grocery store. All of the soups are together; all of the vegetables are together; all of the grains are together; all of the baking products are together; and so on and so on. Also, if I have two of a particular item, say tomato soup, the cans are stacked one on top of the other with the labels facing out - of course!

2) The spices in the spice cabinet are sorted by herbs and singular spices (oregano, tarragon, paprika, chili powder, etc.); mixed spices and seasoned salts (Lawry's, steak seasoning, chicken seasoning, Mrs. Dash, etc.); dessert spices (nutmeg, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, etc.); and so on.

3) I am freaky about any type of body hair that is not connected to the body. You know the kind that sheds off onto the floor or in the shower. And don't even get me started about my freak out when I get a hair stuck to my hands when they are wet. EWW! (Yes, I could never make it as a hair stylist)

4) I organize the clothes in my closet by style, color and season. All of the short sleeve t-shirts are sorted by color and hung together; then the short sleeve collared shirts; then the sleeveless collared shirts; then the sleeveless no collar shirts; etc.

5) I always wash the loads of laundry in the same order. First the whites; then the light colors; then Barry's work clothes; then the jeans; and finally the sheets and towels. Don't know why - just do.

6) I have this thing about checking out people's feet - not a foot fetish - I just find myself looking at people's feet and toes. Men, women, kids, old and young, it doesn't matter. And in case you have never noticed, there are some really pretty people out there that have some pretty ugly toes. I'm just sayin'.

Oh gosh, that was my 6 quirky things quota. Honestly, I have so many more quirks; I could go on and on and on. But I would prefer you think of my as "Quirky" instead of "Freakish".

So now it's your turn. Enquiring minds are dieing to hear from you:


Splash Country - The Best Ego Boost In The South

Ya know, if you look over to the right side of my little Blog page you will find The Ever Growing List of Random Things I Hate. Well, about two-thirds of the way down the list I have mentioned my distaste for "Big Women in Bikinis." After spending a day a Splash Country yesterday, I do believe that I need to revise this dislike AND give it a little higher billing on my list. How about I change the dislike to, "Women Who Wear Bikinis And SHOULDN'T."

Now, let me start out by saying that I am NO frail flower. I have a little extra meat on my bones and could benefit by going back to Weight Watchers for, oh say, a year or two. It is because of my cottage cheese thighs and muffin top that I absolutely hate the idea of going out in public in a swimsuit. If I could find a fashionable Berka, that would be the beach/pool clothing of choice for me. However, since the Taliban has yet to get into the swimsuit business, I continue to settle for my girdlish Carol Wior suits that keep the bulging stuff, stuffed in, and the sagging stuff, lifted up. You see, I am brutally honest with myself and I use these things called MIRRORS when I try on a bathing suit. And yes, I have even looked in the ----- THREE-WAY MIRROR ----- in the fitting room before making my final bathing suit selection. Yes, I know that is a scary thought for some women out there. Looking in that mean ole three-way mirror that lets us get the view of everything comin' and goin', but as scary as the sight is, I always choose to take a look. The way I figure it is, I would rather have a private dressing room viewing of how bad things look so that I can opt out of the tankini that makes my trunk look a little to junky; as oppose to, oh say, several thousand people having a public viewing at a water theme park.

Now, back to Splash Country yesterday. I am convinced that the majority of the females that were there either (a) looked at themselves in a carnival mirror before leaving home, or (b) not only didn't own a mirror - they hadn't even heard of one, or (c) had way too much self confidence for their own good.

Now, I must say, it isn't just the big women/girls that I am referring to. Yes, there was a fair share of large women in all sorts of disastrous swimwear. Like, the very large woman in a bikini whose belly hung soooooo low that her bottoms (swimsuit, that is) were barely visible (oh, her other "bottoms" were VERY visible and, yes, she appeared to have more than one!) And then, there were the many young girls that had the unfortunate "dunlap" disease. And then there were the women that had WAY too much confidence in the strength of those little plastic bathing suit closures. We were one wrong stretch away from some major wardrobe malfunctions.

All you skinny ladies weren't immune to the unfortunate swimwear choices, either. Like the grandma in her bikini wearing a suit that really needed a good ironing (no, not a "bathing" suit that needed ironing. The "body/birthday" suit of the skin colored variety that she had on under the bathing suit). Then there was the pretty young soccer mom, with three kids in tow. She was wearing the skimpy little tiny weeny bikini and had stretch marks on her belly that resembled a road map of NYC.

In summary, I guess I learned a few important things yesterday.

  1. Everyone should own a full length mirror. Believe it or not, they are good, very good; mirrors are my friend. Keep them around - and lots of them; they will save me from unnecessary humiliation
  2. Just because you are a size 4 and you CAN wear a bikini, it doesn't necessarily mean you SHOULD wear a bikini.
  3. I don't look as bad as I could.
  4. And finally, whenever I start beating myself up about my weight, I will just pick myself up by my bathing suit straps and head on over to Splash Country. This will give me a new found confidence and I will leave the park feelin' pretty darned svelte!

Just A Little Redecorating

Yes, I got tired of the layout on this Blog, as well. So, I decided to get out the wallpaper hanging supplies and spruce things up around here. Everything is still here, it just got the ole spit-shine. I hope you like it. Don't fret though; I am sure I will get tired of this design eventually and it will change, too.

Prayers, Blessings and Gratefulness

This morning started like all others have this summer. Kaylea and I slept in and once awake, I meandered to the computer to fire it up and check the e-mail. Little did I know that I was about to read something that would be heart breaking and scary for both Kaylea and me.

You see, Sunday evening one of Kaylea's friends from Girl Scouts was involved in a head-on collision here in town. She and her mother were transported to UT Hospital where they are still recovering. Kaylea's friend received a broken wrist, a broken pelvis, a lacerated liver and a laceration across her abdomen that required 20 stitches. This little girl is only 9, the same age as my little girl.

The mother has undergone 2 surgeries since being admitted, one for her broken ankle/heel/leg and the other to put a metal plate in her broken arm. Oh, and she has a broken pelvis, also.

When I told Kaylea about the accident she immediately asked if we could go to the hospital to visit her friend. Kaylea was very concerned for her friend and asked many questions about her injuries. I emphasized that the little girl was recovering, but Kaylea was so concerned that while I was in the shower, she got on the computer to look at the e-mail herself. Afterwards she copied the web address for our local newspaper, which was included in the e-mail we received, and went to that web page to read more about the accident. I guess she was afraid I might be trying to "sugar-coat" the details for her.

We went to the hospital this afternoon and took her friend a balloon, magazines and a book. I don't think either of us were prepared for what we saw when we entered the room. The little girl was laying there hooked up to a lot of machines with a feeding tube in her nose. She was whimpering and moaning from the pain she was enduring. As she breathed, a rattle was coming from her chest, due to the fluids that were collecting. Her father was at her bedside holding her hand and trying his best to comfort her.

My heart broke at that moment. You see, not only is she Kaylea's friend, but she is probably one of the sweetest girls I have ever had in one of my classes at school. She always has a smile on her face and a bounce in her step. A truly kind hearted little angel that would do anything for anyone. Today, though, she was not herself, naturally.

Kaylea was very quiet while we were in the hospital room. Her friend did ask her to hold her hand though. I think Kaylea was very apprehensive because she was afraid of causing her any more pain. The little girl's father repeatedly thanked us for coming to see his daughter. He looked very tired and I could see the worry in his face. I can't imagine what he is going through. His wife undergoing 2 surgeries and his little girl in critical condition. I'm quite sure he hasn't slept much, if at all, since Sunday.

I couldn't help but think about this family's tragedy and realize that it could have just as easily been my family. Me going through the 2 surgeries; Kaylea in critical condition; and Barry trying to keep things together. I travel the same road where the accident happened. Kaylea and I are always together in the car, and normally Barry is not with us. It is hard to believe how our life could be changed in mere seconds. I think everyone likes to believe that they are invincible and nothing bad will ever happen to them. Accidents such as this really slap you back into reality.

Kaylea and I have both been a little quiet today, which is definitely not normal for us. There has, also been a whole lot more cuddling and one-on-one time. We cooked dinner together and played cards while things were finishing up. The TV wasn't on and we really got to enjoy each others' company. Then when we sat down for dinner, Kaylea said our normal blessing and then added a little prayer for her friend and her parents.

Please say a prayer for this family. They are hurting in so many ways right now and they need all the support they can get. Also, please take a moment to thank God for your happy, healthy and safe children. I know I have and will continue to do so.

******Since this has affected Kaylea and me in such a profound way, this post will be placed on both our blogs, My Crazy Little Mixed Up World and Curiously Kaylea. Sorry for the duplication, but I felt it was worthy of repeating.******

Love Is More Than A Hallmark Card

Today we had a Father's Day feast at our house and invited many of the Fathers in our life over to partake. The menu was grilled pork tenderloin, baked beans, corn, slaw, and three different kinds of dessert. We had fun visiting with and celebrating the awesome Daddy's in our presence. There was one person missing, though. A very important person - my Daddy! And yes, I know I am 40 years old and I just referred to my father as "Daddy". Well, that's what he has always been and what I have called him all 40 years of my life. So why change things now?

Though I was in a good mood and happy to have Bub, Pappy, Mr. Jimmy and Mr. Bob over for the afternoon, I couldn't help but be a little sad, also. You see, I have always made a big deal about Father's Day for Bub. Kaylea and I have gone shopping for his cards and gifts. Then there has always been some sort of special meal prepared in his honor. I guess I was a little sad because I don't remember ever doing those things for my Daddy when I was younger. I know we were always with him on Father's Day because it falls in the middle of June and we were always at his house for the summer by then. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure Nana took us out to buy him a card, but other than that (and maybe some homemade ice cream) I don't think much of a whoop-di-doo was made. And that is sad, for me.

I am hopeful that Daddy wasn't too disappointed with the celebrations - or lack there of - from the past. And I hope that he knows that just because I only gave him a card, it didn't mean I loved him any less than those kids that gave their father's the nice expensive gifts.

Daddy, I love you and I will always be your little girl!


Happy Birthday To You! Happy Birthday To You!

Happy Birthday to ThiThi, Happy Birthday to you!!!!!!!

Yes, 44 years ago today this world was graced with the presence of my sister Missy. Of course I was nothing more than a twinkle in my Daddy's eye when she was born, but I'm sure the day was one of celebration for the family.

I have been very lucky to have her as a sister, though I would have argued with you had you told me that when I was a child. You see, our relationship hasn't always been what it is today. With each year that has passed, our relationship has grown and matured with us.

When I was born, I don't think Missy liked me too much. This is more than natural, since she had been an only child and an only grandchild for the almost 4 whole years of her existence. She was the center of attention and wasn't going to relinquish the spotlight without a fight. Rumor has it that she tried to snatch the little bow from my bald little head after Mom and Dad brought me home from the hospital. From that point forward (for many years anyways) the gloves were off.

Don't get me wrong, we didn't fight all of the time. Afterall, we did have to sleep ya know. But our house was always filled with its fair share of, "Mom, make her stop!" "Mom, she's bugging me!" "I'm telling!" and "You just wait until Mom gets home."

I know I was a pesty little sister (and probably still am) but I always wanted to do what Missy did. I begged her to play baby dolls and Barbies with me. When she got a 10-speed bike, I wanted one. When she got a skateboard, I had to have one. When she cut off her jeans and rolled them REALLY short, I had to wear mine the same way. When she started wearing make-up, I would watch her put it on and then paint my face the same way.

As teenagers and young adults, a distance was put between us. This distance was caused by us having different priorities and taking different paths in our life. Though we weren't living with each other any longer and we were living totally different lives, we still had that bond of sisterhood that could not be broken.

Once Missy and I both were married, our paths rejoined and our relationship entered a different phase. We shared everything, from weddings to the birth of Kaylea. Yes, Missy was one of my labor coaches during Kaylea's delivery. She has been a part of all of the most important days of my life: my birth, my marriage, and the birth of my daughter. She is truly the best friend I have in this world.

So sis, here's to you on your day. Today is a day for us to celebrate you and all the wonderful things that you are. I love you and will never forget all of the things you have done for me throughout my life.

Your sister and friend,