Wattage and Brass: Drive By Truckers, live at the 40 Watt

Bgj18n7IEAA7yMX.jpg largeSadness is the defining element of Southern rock in 2014. Checking in on its leading modern purveyors in one of their main clubhouses reveals a melancholy running deeper than the double-deep cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon that liquidate the room. Theirs is a blues without the form, which sometimes seems to be all that’s left of the aging blues. This is palpable, consistent emotion driven through late rock conventions. The bluesmen say they’re glad or proud about their affliction. While the Southern rock folks don’t despair, they are resolved: this is the situation, and the stories must be told. Listen for yourself.

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That Saturday was my first visit to Athens’ famous 40 Watt Club, the third night of Drive-By Truckers’ “Homecoming” stand at the downtown venue. I saw the Truckers for the first time last summer, in Atlanta, and I was struck then by the degree to which a) they weren’t what I expected and b) their performance reoriented me to what they were doing. By the end of their short festival set I understood why people like them so much, and I jumped at the chance to hear them again last month in Athens when Magalan suggested the idea.   Continue reading

Friday Jam Approximately

February’s almost over, John Lee Hooker was almost a Chicagoan, (try Detroit) where the clip of this week’s Jam was set by someone who was not Harold Ramis (try Egon’s sometimes collaborator John Landis), who was directly involved in almost every other comedy movie of the last forty years.


If you need me tonight, I’ll be watching Stripes.

Baseball Notes: The Crux of the Statistical Biscuit

baseball notes

The purpose of the interrupted Baseball Notes series is to highlight just-below-the-surface baseball topics for the purpose of deepening the enjoyment of the game for casual fans like you and me.

In the interest of achieving that casual purpose, this series generally will avoid advanced statistical concepts. One need not grasp the depths of wRC+ or xFIP to enjoy baseball, of course, or even to think about the give-and-take between baseball traditionalists, who eschew advanced statistics, and the sabermetricians, who live by them.

Moneyball famously highlighted this debate, such as it is, and it arose in the 2012 season around the American League MVP race between Miguel Cabrera (the eventual winner, and the traditional favorite) and Mike Trout, and again last season in the context of commentator Brian Kenny’s “Kill the Win” campaign against ascribing significant meaning to pitchers’ win-loss records.

The reason this “debate”– the “eye test,” wins, and batting average versus WAR et al.– isn’t really a debate is because the two sides have different descriptive goals. In short, the traditional group is concerned with what has happened, while the sabermetric group is concerned with what will happen. The former statically tallies the game’s basic value points, while the latter is out to better understand the past in order to predict the future. The basic stats on the back of a player’s baseball card aim to tell you what he did in prior seasons; the advanced statistics on Fangraphs, Baseball-Reference, or in Baseball Prospectus aim to tell you something about what he’ll do next year based on a deeper understanding of what he did in prior seasons.

The previous paragraph represents an oversimplification, and probably a gross one, but I think it accurately highlights the basic, if slight, misalignment of initial points of view from the two main groups of people talking about how we talk about baseball today.

Read more…

ALDLAND Podcast

ALDLAND is back on the podcast track after a month-long break. Holidays kept us down, but they could not keep us away forever, and so we are back to talk NFL playoffs and NFL coaching changes. Expect podcasts to be more weekly from now on.

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Download the ALDLAND podcast at our Podcasts Page or stream it right here:

Winter Birthday Jam

Stephen Stills is one of my most favorite musicians and, like with Steve Winwood, I’ve enjoyed tracing his career through different ensembles and solo ventures and musical styles and phases. Somehow lesser-recognized today than bandmates David Crosby and Graham Nash, Stills was the guitar and vocal muscle that drove and textured CSN’s harmonies. Even though it eventually left him, relatively speaking, Stills’ songwriting muse burned bright in those early days too.

I could write another essay just on Manassas, my favorite Stills band, and their two albums, the first of which has been called “a sprawling masterpiece akin to the Beatles’ White Album, the Stones’ Exile on Main St., or Wilco’s Being There in its makeup.” Stills also played a critical role in bringing to life Al Kooper and Mike Bloomfield’s Super Session, which, like Sgt. Pepper’s, “ushered in several new phases in rock & roll’s concurrent transformation.” Even before all of that, he had penned one of the most lasting 1960s protest songs, “For What It’s Worth,” for Buffalo Springfield.  While Crosby and Nash were off on one of their collaborations, he got together with Neil Young for the underappreciated Long May You Run, a quiet offering that ultimately failed to hold Young’s interest, as Winwood and Blind Faith ultimately failed to hold Eric Clapton’s. Although the strength of his later solo recordings wavered over the years, I enjoy his self-titled solo debut, which coyly hides guitar offerings from Clapton and Jimi Hendrix. I also enjoyed his 2005 solo-comeback-of-sorts, Man Alive!, with its cameos from Nash, Young, and Herbie Hancock. In 2007, Stills issued one of the few truly insightful and valuable archival releases in recent memory, and if you’re still with me at this point, you’ll want to read more about Just Roll Tape.

For all this, though, there’s no better Stills winter record than 1975′s Live, a somewhat brief offering with an electric A side and an acoustic B side. (And by “winter record,” I mean a disc to which you repeatedly turn when you’re trying to use the CD player to kickstart your Blazer’s chronically dysfunctional heater core in January in Michigan.) Today is Stills’ sixty-ninth birthday. Here’s the meat of that A side:

Winter Jam

Bruce Springsteen is a prolific recording artist and live performer, but if you had to limit yourself to just one of his albums, the decision process would be easy: it’d be his Live at Hammersmith Odeon without question. I cannot imagine a better introduction to Springsteen and the E Street Band than that album and today’s selected Jam, which includes a literal introduction, in particular.

Without thinking about it too much, the E Street Band might be the tightest loose band I’ve heard, and on this album, which spans two compact discs, they play every song as if it’s their last– and this was 1975! Since then, sadly, a few members of the band– Dan Federici and Clarence Clemons– have played their last songs. Thankfully, however, high-definition video of this concert, during the band’s first overseas trip, exists and brings the Big Man, the Boss, and everyone else to vibrant life. Here’s the door: