Feb 15

Guest Post – Americana, Five Example by Scot Isom


Today’s Guest Post is by the ever humble Scot Isom.  Take it away, Scot!


When Mark asked me to do a guest blog, I didn’t hesitate. Since I knew he occasionally had guest bloggers, I already knew what I would write about should he ask. I share Mark’s passion for music, though clearly my taste is better (EDITOR’S NOTE: “Hey, now!”).

First of all, I have degrees in art and art history, was an airborne infantryman in the 82nd Airborne and write poetry and fiction. Somehow I ended up in Kansas City and deliver mail to pay the bills.

I could have chosen the Boss, or Neil Young, the rapper Brother Ali, or Pete Seeger. Instead, I am writing about Uncle Tupelo and Americana. I love Americana music because it continues the great storytelling of Faulkner and Steinbeck. Americana songs are all well written narratives which set you into the scene.

So, I will set the scene. My taste in music has been a continual evolution as my life evolved. I dwelled for awhile in the world of arena rock. In the army, I passed through heavy metal and found a home in punk which lasted into college. My taste in music became tastes in music. I now have eclectic tastes which are shaped from all my past music loves.

I was in grad school studying art history in Columbia, MO when I noticed another student wearing an Uncle Tupelo concert t-shirt. He had seen them the night before. His passion for their music triggered my curiosity. That evening I bought both Uncle Tupelo albums (they made a total of four). Over the next few years, I would catch them every time they came to Columbia and I continued to follow the two groups which formed when Uncle Tupelo broke up. Uncle Tupelo was at the forefront of the genre of music called No Depression so named after the title track of their first album. Now more commonly known as Alt-Country or Americana, the genre is still going strong and is always on my playlist.

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Jay Farrar and Jeff Tweedy of Uncle Tupelo were influenced by everything from The Carter Family and Leadbelly to Husker Du. The song “Still Be Around” written by Farrar is off their second album Still Feel Gone.

Uncle Tupelo imploded just after they landed their big record contract. Farrar continued Uncle Tupelo’s country influence forming the group, Son Volt. Their first album, Trace is on my top ten list of favorite albums. In the opening track, “Windfall,” Farrar writes a classic short story.

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Tweedy went a completely different direction and formed Wilco. Their first album was Americana, but with the second album, he looked more to The Beatles than The Carter Family. He opens the second album, Being There with the song, “Misunderstood” a which has become a concert staple for the band. Wilco was no longer Americana.

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No Depression became a rock genre with Uncle Tupelo, but it has been around since the 1960’s. Gram Parsons brought country to rock with the International Submarine Band and The Byrds. The opening track of his last album “The Return of the Grievous Angel” is an excellent example.

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Finally, you can’t write about Americana without looking toward Texas and Townes Van Zandt. He wrote several albums full of great songs and still found a way to never make any money. On the album, Together at the Bluebird Cafe (live with Steve Earle and Guy Clark), he describes losing his gold tooth in a poker game and pulling the wrong tooth to settle his debt. One of Van Zandt’s many great songs is “Tecumseh Valley.”

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Americana is alive and well with the music of Ryan Adams, Gillian Welch, and newer artists such Blitzen Trapper and Blind Pilot. I have eclectic tastes in music, but, at this point in my life, I find myself most at home in a scene set by an Americana singer.

Feb 14

26. Don’t Change


I found a love I had lost
It was gone for too long
Hear no evil in all directions
Execution of bitterness
Message received loud and clear


I fell in love with INXS before many others did.  It was the early days on MTV when they actually played music, talked about music and it wasn’t an afterthought.

Thefirst song on the album “Shabooh Shoobah” was ‘The One Thing’ and was the first video I saw.  The video itself, like many video’s from the time, was sort of “well, we gotta do something, so let’s do….THIS!” and it made no sense.  However, I loved the song.  So, I bought the tape and it became a part of my life soundtrack then.

Time passed, and the last song on the cassette became my favorite.  For many reasons, but at first it was it was so anthematic, so bombastic and so 80’s. Heavy keyboards, what sound like electric drums, and super fast guitar strumming combined to make a timeless song of its own time and place.

At least to me, it did.

I still love to turn this one up, turn it loud and bellow along…

Thanks for reading and be here tomorrow for another Great Guest Post!

For other entries in the iPod Challenge Series, click here

Feb 13

27. Under the Cold Streetlights


Come now, I’m leaving here tonight
Come now, let’s leave it all behind
Is that the price you pay?
Running through hell, heaven can wait


Is this a song of victory or a lamentation?  Based on the lyrics, it’s difficult to tell.

Still, having known a wide variety of people through the course of my life, I have seen that long road to ruin in people’s eyes.  It’s typically a loss of hope.  It’s a road with many exits, yet many people elect not to take an off ramp as that means change and change is scary.

Which can make this song an anthem of sorts, a victory march with a kick-ass guitar solo that ends right when it’s supposed to.  This song, like life, is what you make of it.

Thanks for reading!

For other entries in the iPod Challenge Series, click here

Feb 12

28. Penny Lane


Penny Lane is in my ears and in my eyes
A four of fish and finger pies
In summer meanwhile back


Quite possibly the most British of their output, the nostalgia evoked in this song is done so well, that it crosses oceans, cultures, times and peoples.  The feelings it evokes for that which is past makes this one of the most effective songs of this style.

It’s also just a damned good record and quite possibly my favorite by The Fabs…

Thanks for reading!

For other entries in the iPod Challenge Series, click here

Feb 11

29. The Passions of Jealousy

new miserable experience

Cause all I really want is to be with you
Feeling like I matter too
If I hadn’t blown the whole thing years ago
I might be here with you


Memory is strong.  It also lies.  Or at the least, misguides you.  Then again, sometimes a song comes along that you’ve known all your life that you’re hearing for the very first time.  It pulls up scenes from your past, real or imaginary, that strike a series of chords and you create a music video in your head.

I first heard this song in the booth at KFMZ back in 1993.  I was a part-time air talent at the time and as I’d not been paying attention to new music for a few years as I’d been working in country radio, there was a lot of new to my ears stuff to be heard.  Much of it, I was playing on the radio!

I was 10 years out of high school and the last vestiges of viewing life through that lens was still upon me. This song became very personal to me, in a vague sort of way.  If this doesn’t make sense to you, it doesn’t to me either just go with it.

The sound and fury of the guitars represented the angst of those years perfectly.  The vocals caught that half child/half man feeling for me as well, plus I remember well cruising around town aimlessly as a kid.  There were hurts along the way, given and received and the song is about a plea for redemption or at the least, forgiveness.

One of the memories I hold dear is driving around with my daughter, playing this song loud and singing at the top of our lungs. It’s fun to share some musical commonality with your kids, y’know?

Thanks for reading!

For other entries in the iPod Challenge Series, click here