September 2008

TENNESSEE TENDERNESS

September 30, 2008

Hawks Axiom #43 states that the goofier a club’s name, the greater the chances of a cool show. Axiom #9 states that feelings of trepidation at sound check are often harbingers of that same cool gig. So Rhythm N Brews in Chattanooga is delivering a double dose of axiomatic data. The club is dark and cavernous, on a recently gentrified downtown street that’s eerily deserted. It’s a Sunday evening. It’s very quiet.

We meet the Bohannans, brothers Marty and Matt, drummer Jeremy, Josh the bass man. They are regular guys, super nice, and they’ve set everything up for us, including loaning us their great gear. Paul L is reunited with a Fender Deluxe Reverb with working tremelo, and couldn’t be happier. The soundman Doug gets the best onstage sound we’ve had in a long time, dialed up in about 5 minutes. We’re good to go.We walk to the riverfront and cross the Tennessee River on a half mile wide pedestrian bridge, largest in the U.S., as dusk yields to darkness. A four level riverboat, looking like an old Queen minus the rear paddlewheel, is the picture of slow gentility passing beneath us far below on the black still water, its white clothed dining tables lit by glowing lamps. Civilization. We stroll the bridge to the other side, come back on the highway bridge.

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US 41 AT ACWORTH

September 30, 2008

We’re rolling on a handsome and very wide interstate, I-75 to be exact, connecting Atlanta and Chattanooga. Rob’s cell phone can go online, and so: as we slice through densely wooded hills and ridges, Rob finds the Starbucks locater website and dials in Acworth, Georgia. And lo–tucked into these rural hills are not your naïve imaginings of banjo pickers on lonely cabin porches in grassy clearings, but rather 53, yes, 53 Starbucks within a 20 mile range. This is mindboggling. Fifty three Starbucks in a small patch of rural South Carolina. We’re far down this road to the future. There are wonders to be seen in the palm of your hand.

Rob has located a Starbucks. We’re exiting for Cartersville. At 605 Main Street, we are promised a Starbucks. We stop at the access road. In every direction are tall pines. Surely we will see the maiden Hiawatha treading a cool shaded trail. No. There’s a fresh red dirt gash in forest slope, and a pastel gas center. With a very long line.

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Zig is a very cool guy, grizzled, sharp, and tall enough to see the big picture, the forest and the trees. His 10 acre spread of trees and permanently parked RV’s is set up for FES-TAA-VULLL! He’s proud of his 1951 GMC bus, which logged millions of miles as a Greyhound, then in service of the Lord as band bus, with bunks and kitchen for gospel group The Singing Apostles. It still gets 13 miles to the gallon. A faded Jesus walking on the water is painted on the rear. Only four forward gears, the shifter connected by a single long rod running the length of the bus to the transmission in the back. To get reverse you put the bus in first gear, hit a solenoid switch, and shift into second, which has been electro-converted into reverse. Let us weep a moment for ingenious mechanical solutions that die with the 21st century. Good. That’s enough. Reader, weep no more.

For we are at Albino Skunk Fest, jacked up on Waffle House coffee and carbs, and good times are here. Zig and his mythical pal Toothbrush conjured this musical celebration about six years ago, and it’s really hit a stride. We pull into the hardening red mud parking area and hear powerful bluegrass harmonies wafting through the pines and the steamy but pleasant air. Down a meandering path through big bamboo stand passageways, and we’re in a little hollow. A laid back audience on lawn chairs on the grassy slope surrounding the wood stage is digging the banjo/fiddle/guitar virtuosity. We’re sandwiched between two newgrass bands, complete with drums and aggressive six string fretless bass. The fusion scales n the woodsy setting are jarring to our overly sensitive and luddite musical ears, but the energy and chops of these guys are undeniable, and the crowd loves it. And when the fiddle kicks the band into a I IV V standard, they own it.

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Darkness. Pillows. A stumble to the bathroom. Digital clock on the little table between the Comfort Inn beds proclaims 10 a.m. Across the beige divide, Shawn slumbers, the enviable deep sleep of the good and kind man. Turn on CNN. The bailout is reaching agreement in Congress. There’s no agreement. Nancy Pelosi and Christopher Dodd are our best and brightest hope. In other words, we’re screwed. A knock on the door. Open the door. Jeez. It’s a bright and shiny Saturday morning in Greer, South Carolina. Rob W is blindingly backlit by pale blue sky and puffy clouds, a kudzu choked yard of an auto repair garage in the bg. Zoom to RW. “Waffle House?”

Salvation. As the TV pundits babble, Bill O’Reilly denounces CEO’s, George Will declares McCain unfit, and Obama sounds like young George W, hungry for fresh blood in Afghanistan, it’s hard to avoid the fact that madness is the order of the day. We’d quote Yeats, but HBO’s idiotic “Heroes” just did, so that noble vision of 2008 and beyond is cheapened beyond repair. Fulfilling its own dire millennial prophecy. And yet — Salvation is At Hand.

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NO GAS IN CHARLOTTE

September 28, 2008

We’re flying U.S. Airways to Charlotte. Dear reader, we’ve bagged enough on the state of air travel of late, so we’ll spare you. Okay, there were moments of unpleasantness, and inappropriate hubris by Airways staff at the gate. But we’ll leave it at that. We left hot sunshine and disembarked to a steady rain at […]

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NASHVILLE – ST. PAUL – D.C.

September 7, 2008

an opinion piece by Hawks guitarist Paul Lacques Our new American Age is the ascendancy of warped rural values.What made us strong, what gave us soul, what defined us and defended us, went sour, and weird. All of us born after 1950 are defined by comfort, TV, and the safe and dazzling haven of the […]

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FAR WEST ALMANAC review by JR SAGE

September 3, 2008

This is one of our favorite reviews, and you’ve got to check this magazine out, lots of great articles and ideas, found in hip places all over Southern California:

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