There is often either an overt, or sometimes tacit, link between music and political/social issues. what with the protest songs of the Fifties and Sixties, Woody Guthrie before that, the whole punk thing… I recall being thrilled to hear that Bonnie Raitt and John Hall had both been part of a No More Nukes benefit back in the late Seventies, and there have been whiffs of rebellion in the ranks from time to time in the intervening years, though none of it seems to have influenced those with influence to do the right thing.
So bear with me here, because there are some somewhat divergent threads that are coalescing in the meninges and the connections might not seem coherent from the outset.
So I play around with guitars, a lot of it pretty simple stuff, though there have been times when I actually pursued it and gained a bit of traction. I have also listened to a ton of mostly really wonderful playing and continue to enjoy a wide variety of (especially guitar) music.
I played with some folks for a short stint over the winter of 93-94, in the course of which the host played us some Danny Gatton, brand new to me, partly because I had never been a fan of twang, and Danny’s stuff, covering many genres, always had that little taste of twang, even when he was pumping club jazz with organist Joey Defrancesco. Gatton was extra capable and would let you know it, often fierce and frenetic, but capable of playing pretty when the situation demanded. I went on a quest for all his stuff, and there’s a ton of it out there, more than enough of it on YouTube to satisfy most people’s curiosity, but I sought out all I could find on LP, on CD, on downloads.
Of course, contact with Danny Gatton lead to the discovery of a host of other fierce pickers, and recently, I’ve listened to a lot of Guthrie Trapp, and through him, Luke McQueary, both Telecaster Terrors operating out of Nashville (Go back and listen to the Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Nashville Cats” from about 1966), whose live recordings on Youtube are a treasure, sometimes exploring new tonal possibilities, sometimes revisiting a plethora of Merle Haggard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Buck Owens kind of tropes, most of which tends to float on the opposite end of the social spectrum from the snowflake sensibility sometimes ascribed to serious musicianship.
And so it came to pass that I kept looking at Luke McQueary’s videos until I ran across a quickie set he did with Kelly’s Heroes at the Ryman Auditorium (former home, for those who don’t follow this stuff, of the Grand Ole Opry) in Nashville, which seems a natural haunt for this crowd, the hitch (for me) being that it was closing out a talk by Dr. Jordan Peterson, a figure of some controversy, a person who, again for me, personnifies the desire on the part of those of privilege to eternalize that position in society. I disagree with him on most counts, but I know some thoughtful and intelligent folks who seem smitten with his aura. In any case, it set me to wondering whether the presence of Kelly’s Heroes constitutes and endorsement of the Peterson Program, and sets off a niggling little voice in the back of my brain that says I shouldn’t listen to McQueary any more (all the more perplexing because I have watched the film “Kelly’s Heroes” several times and have always associated it with a level of quirk and nose-thumbing at the general establishment, particularly the Donald Sutherland character, that should place that cultural artifact squarely in the camp of the loose gooses).
Finally, I guess that I can’t be too wrapped up in such considerations, given the general state of the world.