Saturday, December 26, 2015

Top Twentysomething Albums of 2015

It's that time of the year again.

Like I did in 201020112012, 2013, and 2014, I'm providing my top twenty some albums that came out this year. After the top twenty, there's a list of albums that deserve honorable mention. 

As for the year in music, I see it as a decent year. On a personal level, halfway through the year, my car's cd player malfunctioned, so I've had the misfortune of having to listen to the radio stations around here. iTunes and my iPad have given me solace. 

The year saw some solid albums from artists who have been on my end-of-the-year list before, but there are some new bands featured. 

If there are other albums you would recommend, please let me know in the comments section.

1. Josh Ritter, Sermon on the Rocks


I listened to this album a lot this year. Like his other albums, Ritter puts together interesting arrangements and lyrics. On first listen, some of the songs will surprise you from a musical standpoint. Some sonic curveballs. This is one guy who has the misfortune of not getting noticed enough by the mainstream music scene. If we were still in the 90s, he would have racked up a number of hits. "Getting Ready to Get Down" is one of my favorite tunes of the year. 

Favorite songs: "Homecoming," "A Big Enough Sky," "Where the Nights Goes," and "Getting Ready to Get Down"

2. Jason Isbell, Something More Than Free


Some readers might be surprised that Isbell's album got second on this year's list. He shows off his songwriting craftsmanship again on this album. It's an opus that bears witness to listening to it from start to finish, especially the lineup of songs five, six, seven, and eight in the middle of the album. My only minor complaint is that I want more uptempo, rock-oriented songs. Isbell is a very good guitarist, and I wish he showed that off more often. Still "Speed Trap Town" is the best song of 2015, and in these times it's easy to understand these lyrics from "24 Frames": "You thought God was an architect./ Now you know he's something like a pipe bomb ready to blow./ And everything you built was all for show goes up in flames." 

Favorites songs: "Palmetto Rose," "Speed Trap Town," "24 Frames," and "The Life You Chose"

3. The Bottle Rockets, South Broadway Athletic Club


Huzzah for straightforward rock and roll. As is the band's character, this album gives you the perspective of the everyman, the regular joe who might visit the South Broadway Athletic Club in South St. Louis to watch wrestling matches. Themes include Monday sneaking up on you, just relaxing, building cars, and man's best friend.

Favorite songs: "Building Chryslers," "Big Fat Nuthin'," "Shape of a Wheel," and "Monday (Everytime I Turn Around)"

4. Punch Brothers, Phosphorescent Blues


This outfit has put out albums and EPs at a steady clip over the past few years, which makes me wonder what will happen once Chris Thile takes over for Garrison Keillor on Prairie Home Companion. Regardless, this is a stunning album with the usual intricate arrangements and soaring lyrics. I've sat on the couch and just let the album wash over me. It's something. 

Favorite songs: "Little Lights," "Magnet," "My Oh My," and "I Blew It Off"

5. Chris Cornell, Higher Truth


Soundgarden is one of my favorite bands, and Chris Cornell is one of the major factors why I like the band so much. I only have one other of Cornell's solo albums. I like this one much more. And it's not often you see an artist put out an album with sixteen songs. There's a lot to listen to here. The album's lineup generally alternates between slower and more uptempo songs. It's a fun ride. Lyrics to ponder: "Time ain't nothing if ain't fast,/ Taking everything that you ever had,/ Giving nothing in return but a cold bed in the quiet earth." It's a modern day "Thanatopsis." 

Favorite songs: "Before We Disappear," "Let Your Eyes Wander," "Our Time in the Universe," and "Murderer of Blue Skies"

6. Courtney Barnett, Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit

This is a fun record. Though this description could lurch toward an oxymoron, this album could be described as introspectively peppy. Barnett is an Australian singer-songwriter who was recommended to me by a reader of this blog. I guess if people are going to label her work, it could get filed under alternative rock or college rock. The songs certainly have a young person's perspective to them although the lyrics reveal an old soul. 

Favorite songs: "Nobody Cares If You Don't Go to the Party," "Dead Fox," "An Illustration of Loneliness (Sleepless in New York)," and "Pedestrian at Best"

7. Dawes, All Your Favorite Bands


Dawes' fourth album is another strong offering. If you like their sound like I do, you'll enjoy this album. Like Ritter, this band would have done well in an earlier musical era. They compose strong rock-pop musical arrangements and have good lyrics. "I Can't Think about It Now" is yet another song that makes me wish the band had more songs in which Taylor Goldsmith had guitar solos. That song has great lyrics too. 

Favorite songs: "I Can't Think About It Now," "All Your Favorite Bands," "Things Happen," and "Somewhere Along the Way"

8. Langhorne Slim & The Law, The Spirit Moves


Even if you're not familiar with this artist, you've probably heard the first part of one of his songs, "Changes," via a commercial for something I can't remember. Once again, Mr. Slim brings his distinctive voice to the fore often with jangling guitars that remind me of early R.E.M. (to a small degree). The album is gritty, fun, and jaunty. 

Favorite songs: "Strangers," "Bring You My Love," "Southern Bells," and "Spirit Moves"

9. The Bad Plus Joshua Redman


Combine one of the most innovative jazz trios with one of the best jazz saxophonists, and you get a fine album. Pretty simple math.

Favorite songs: "Dirty Blonde," "County Seat," "Lack the Faith but Not the Wine," and "Friend or Foe"

10. Brandi Carlile, The Firewatcher's Daughter


This young lady has some pipes. Offering a mix of rock, country, and bluesy tunes, this album is on par with Bear Creek

Favorite songs: "Mainstream Kid," "The Eye," "The Things I Regret," and "The Stranger at My Door"

11. James McMurtry, Complicated Game


The salty singer-songwriter put out another fine album this year. Like Isbell and The Bottle Rockets, he spins narratives about common folks. One of my favorite songs on the album, "These Things I've Come to Know," has the persona talking about and admiring a female bartender. 

Favorite songs: "How'm I Gonna Find You Now," "Deaver's Crossing," "These Things I've Come to Know," and "Carlisle's Haul"

12. Lucero, All a Man Should Do


Some fans of Lucero complain about the band's new sound. I don't. I certainly like the older albums that are gritty and very guitar oriented. But I like the more recent sound (with horns) that Lucero is putting out. I like this album better than Women & Work. It seems like a more complete album. 

Favorite songs: "Can't You Hear Them Howl," "Young Outlaws," "Baby Don't You Want Me," and "I Woke Up in New Orleans"

13. The Yawpers, American Man


This is one of the stranger album covers I've seen in a while. I have very little background on this band, but they play a strong brand of rock ~ no frills, guitar-oriented rock and roll.  They take their name from Walt Whitman's Song of Myself, and their music is reminiscent of "barbaric yawp"s. I'd like to see them perform. I imagine they'd put on a fun show. 

Favorite songs: "Doing It Right," "Burdens," "Deacon Brodie," and "Walter"

14. JD McPherson, Let the Good Times Roll


I got introduced to this artist this year. This is his second album, and it's a raucous, 50s-rock-inspired affair. Good stuff, people.

Favorite songs: "Let the Good Times Roll," "It's All Over But the Shouting," "It Shook Me Up," and "Mother of Lies" 

15. Radkey, Dark Black Makeup


The Wikipedia article on this band describes them as a "garage punk band." That's a fair description of what they do. The band consists of three brothers who were home-schooled in St. Joseph, Missouri. Their first major performance was opening for Fishbone. That's awesome.

Favorite songs: "Love Spills," "Le Song," "Feed My Brain," and "Glore"

16. The Railsplitters, The Faster It Goes


I always have time for some traditional bluegrass, and this album fills that need. The singers have beautiful voices backed by sometimes traditional sounding arrangements. 

Favorite songs: "It's a Little Late," "The Estuary," "Goosetown," and "Tilt-A-Whirl"

17. American Aquarium, Wolves


I've enjoyed AA's raucous rock over the years. Dances for the Lonely and Small Town Hymns are excellent albums. Wolves is a good one though some of the lyrics tend to either complain about the road or discuss personal demons. Those are decent themes, but the former can get tiresome. "Southern Sadness" is one of my favorites: "There's a certain kind of despair/ that hangs heavy in the air./ And everywhere I go I always smell the Piedmont pines./ There's a Southern sadness that won't let go of this heart of mine." 

Favorite songs: "Southern Sadness," "Wolves," "Wichita Falls," and "Old North State"

18. JJ Grey & Mofro, Ol' Glory


If this dude puts out an album, it's highly likely it'll be on my annual list. His soul-rock-funk sound moves me. I wish he'd play the harp more often because he's an outstanding harmonica player. Regardless, it's another fine album by Mr. Grey. 

Favorite songs: "Light a Candle," "Turn Loose," "Brave Lil' Fighter," and "Everything Is a Song" 

19. The Turnpike Troubadours, self-titled


Along with Sturgill Simpson and Hayes Carll, this outfit is one of finest country artists out there right now. There isn't Nashville-inspired pop-country @#$% smeared all over their sound. It's good stuff.

Favorite songs: "Bossier City," "Ringing in the Year," "Down Here," and "The Bird Hunters"

20. Joe Pug, Windfall


It's not that he ever had a weak voice, but on this album Joe Pug's voice sounds stronger. Maybe it's just me. If you like traditional folk-rock songs, this is a good choice.

Favorite songs: "Stay and Dance," "Burn and Shine," "Bright Beginnings," and "Veteran Fighter"


Honorable Mentions


Blitzen Trapper, All Across This Land



Ben Folds, So There


John Moreland, High on Tulsa Heat


The Lone Bellow, Then Came the Morning


Robert Earl Keen, Happy Prisoner: The Bluegrass Sessions


Death Cab for Cutie, Kintsugi



Jayme Stone, Lomax Project


Gary Clark Jr., The Story of Sonny Boy Slim


Justin Townes Earle, Absent Fathers


Calexico, Edge of the Sun


Craig Finn, Faith in the Future

Music Friday: "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town"

With the holiday, I forgot about Music Friday. 

To make amends, I'm offering a Xmas song, a video from 1978.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Music Friday: "Liar"

Henry Rollins was on The Late Show with Steven Colbert this week, which reminded me of the trio of albums I have from the Rollins Band.

Here's a famous song from Weight

Friday, December 11, 2015

Music Friday: "Stay and Dance"

One artist I haven't featured this year for a Music Friday post is Joe Pug. Windfall was his new album this year, and as usual, it's a solid offering. 

Here's "Stay and Dance" for your listening pleasure. 


Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Random Notes from a Crank

As someone who works at a university, I'm often astounded and frustrated how some people with PhDs and impressive credentials can be really @#$%ing stupid.

I would like to watch a sporting event on television without having to listen to commercials about boner medicine. Please stop the incessant marketing of pecker pills. 





I need to start a campaign. 





Because I've become a fan of the TV series Manhattan, which is about the making of the atomic bomb, I recently purchased and have started reading the 25th anniversary edition of The Making of the Atomic Bomb by Richard Rhodes. When I got it in the mail I was a bit surprised. I didn't realize it was 747 pages long. I'll be reading about this history for a good while. 




Another TV series I've been watching is Jessica Jones on Netflix. I was not familiar with that character until I started doing some online sleuthing. I remember her being teamed up with Luke Cage toward the end of Matt Fraction's Iron Fist series, but she's quite the character. I've had experience with the villain of the series, Killgrave, in a Daredevil comic recently. So it seems like the TV series is piecing together parts of old story lines to create a clean narrative. Though a major discrepancy is that Killgrave, aka The Purple Man, looks normal in the Jessica Jones series. 




Regardless, I've enjoyed the series so far (I'm about six or seven episodes in). In fact, I think I like it better than the Daredevil Netflix series because I have little prior knowledge about Jessica Jones. With Daredevil, I've been reading those comic books since I was a kid. 


Like Wolverine was, Jessica Jones is a drinker, in particular bourbon. As a bourbon aficionado, I've noticed the brands of bourbon she drinks. So far it's been Jim Beam White, Wild Turkey 101, Four Rose Yellow Label, and Heaven Hill Bottled-in-Bond, which she wouldn't be able to get in New York City because it's only sold in Kentucky and Indiana. 


Monday, December 7, 2015

Sunday Hangover: Florida--SEC Championship

Besides the return for a touchdown and the long pass play late in the fourth quarter, Alabama dominated this game. 

Two stats show that clearly:
  • First downs: Florida, 7; Alabama, 25
  • Time of Possession: Florida, 16:31; Alabama, 43:29
I've watched some games when time of possession was clearly in Alabama's favor, but this SEC Championship was an extreme case. 

It was good to see Kenyan Drake back in action, so I'm hopeful he'll be fully ready to go against Michigan State in the playoffs. 

The past couple of games I've gotten frustrated with the offensive playing because I'm tired of bubble screens and the prevalence of short passes, I'd like to see Henry run outside the tackles more often, O.J. Howard needs to be targeted more often, and I wanted to see more downfield passing to open up the running game even more. 

Complaints, complaints, complaints...


The good news is that Alabama won its 25th SEC Championship. Roll Tide Roll. 

Friday, December 4, 2015

Music Friday: "Interstate Love Song"

With the news that the lead singer of Stone Temple Pilots died, I thought I'd share one of my favorite songs from that band. 

Some people might label STP as a "grunge" band, but I wouldn't. To me, they were just a rock band in the 90s when grunge happened. Regardless, they put out a number of good albums.


Sunday, November 29, 2015

Fumbling Toward Culinary Talent: Chickpea Vegetable Soup

What follows is a variation on a recipe I found in a recent issue of cooking magazine.

Ingredients
1 bunch of kale
3 carrots, peeled and diced
3 stalks of celery, finely chopped
1/4 head of green cabbages, chopped 
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 jalapeño, finely chopped
1 yellow onion, chopped
3 tablespoons of rosemary, finely chopped
3-4 tablespoons of olive oil
6 cups of chicken stock
2 cans of chickpeas, rinsed
1 large can of crushed tomatoes

Process
Take the kale, cut the stems out, and pulse it in a food processor until finely chopped. Put that in separate bowl. Rinse out the bowl if you like because you'll be using it again. 

In a soup pot, heat the olive oil to medium-high heat. Add the carrots, celery, cabbage, garlic, jalapeño, onion, and rosemary. Add salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to medium, stir, and cover the pot. Periodically stir the veggies over a 10-15 minute cooking period. 

Add the stock, tomatoes, and chickpeas. Let that go for about five minutes and then transfer 4 cups of soup to the food processor. Pulse 4 or 5 times, so it's coarsely pulsed. 

Transfer that back to the soup pot, add the kale, and season to taste. Simmer for 15-20 minutes while stirring every once in a while. 

Sunday Hangover: Auburn

This one was entirely too close for my comfort. But a W is a W. 

While Derrick Henry probably would deny that he's tired, I'm sure he is. He was an absolute BEAST yesterday. 

His performance reminded me of the when Mark Ingram took over the South Carolina game and scored a decisive touchdown late in the game to seal a victory. 

Henry scored a touchdown in the last minute of the game, but the decisiveness of his work was milking clock and running the ball for first downs when the defense knew he was going to run the ball. 

Stats wise, Henry had 48 carries for 271 net yards and the one touchdown. The longest run he broke off was 30 yards, so the carries just piled up: 5 yards gained here, 8 yards gained there, 4 yards gained here, 12 yards gained there, and so on. 

And how about Adam Griffith. While I know Alabama wanted touchdowns instead of field goals, Griffith had field goals from 26, 40, 26, 50, and 47 yards. 

What surprised me in the first half was that Auburn was able to run the ball a bit on Alabama's defense, yet they turned it around in the second half and held the Tigers to only 91 net yards gained in the contest. 

Next up is Florida in the SEC Championship. 

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Music Friday: "No Rain"

Here's a classic from the past. 

Because it's been raining so much around these parts, these seems appropriate. 


Monday, November 23, 2015

Fumbling Toward Culinary Talent: Angel Hair con Zucchini

I had an extra zucchini from when I made the vegetable stew, so I decided to use it and follow the principle of KISS: Keep It Simple Stupid.

What follows is basic dinner you can whip up in about ten to fifteen minutes. 

Ingredients
1 medium zucchini, cut into medium-size half moons
1/4 cup of finely chopped yellow onion
1 garlic clove, chopped into big chunks
A couple of fistfuls of angel hair pasta (I used leftover pasta)
2-3 tablespoons of olive oil
1 tablespoon of butter
Healthy smudge of Italian seasoning - I used Penzey's Tuscan Sunset
Salt and pepper to taste
Parmesan
2-3 small lemon wedges

Process
Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. First, put in the onions, sweat those for about five minutes, add in the garlic for a minute, and dump in the zucchini. Cook until the zucchini is fork-tender. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add in the butter until it melts. Add the pasta and mix thoroughly with tongs, so the pasta sops up the olive oil and butter mixture. Move it to a plate or bowl, top with Parmesan, and then squeeze the lemon wedges on top. 

Eat and later take a nap. 

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Fumbling Toward Culinary Talent: Slow Cooker Vegetable & Bean Stew

Crock pots are wonderful machines. Just dump some stuff in them and slow cook away. What follows is a recipe for some vegetable stew.

Ingredients

1 46 oz. can of tomato juice
3 cans of diced tomatoes with basil, garlic, and oregano
1 can of beefy mushroom soup (or French onion might work well too)
1 zucchini, chopped into medium-sized chunks
1 yellow squash, medium-sized chunks
Half of a green cabbage, chopped well
2 small cans of baby lima beans, drained and rinsed
1 can of northern beans, drained and rinsed
1 can of red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
Half of a yellow onion, chopped finely and sautéed until brown
4 cloves of garlic, chopped finely
Strong smidge of ground cumin
Strong smidge of chili powder
Smidge of Penzey's Northwoods seasoning
Salt and pepper to taste

Process

Dump all of the juice and tomatoes into the crock pot. Chop the vegetables and combine into the pot. Add all of the drained beans into pot also. 

Brown the onions, take them off the heat, and add the garlic for a few minutes. Dump those aromatics into the slow cooker. 

Add the seasonings. Cook on low for 8-9 hours. 

Sunday Hangover: Charleston Southern

I was a little concerned about this game. I didn't think they'd lose, but Coach Saban's reminder in one of his press conferences about Georgia Southern running all over the 2011 squad got me skittish. 

Apparently, he did the same for the players. 

Alabama, as one would imagine, dominated the game - to the extent that the starting quarterback and running back weren't even playing at the end of the second quarter. 

Derrick Henry looked good as usual: 68 yards on 9 carries with 2 touchdowns.

But what I really wanted to see was the two backup running backs getting some solid playing time, and they did. Both Damien Harris and Bo Scarbrough had strong games. Harris is a shorter back and hit the holes pretty well. Scarbrough, though still reportedly not 100%, looked like a slightly shorter version of Henry. 

As for receivers, it was good to see Cam Sims play quite a bit. He's a big receiver who has a lot of promise. Next year I expect him to make a much bigger contribution. The Tide will have a solid receiving corps with Ridley, Stewart, Foster (who is out this season), Sims, and Charlot in '16. 

The star of the contest on Senior Day was senior Cyrus Jones. He had two punt returns for touchdowns, intercepted a pitch, and played well at his cornerback position. 

Next up is the Iron Bowl. The Tide must win this game. 

Friday, November 20, 2015

Music Friday: "Don't Come Around Here No More"

For the U.S. House of Representatives this week, this tune seems appropriate. 

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Sunday Hangover: Mississippi State

A score of 31 to 6 sounds like a blowout. 

The game in Starkville sort of was but wasn't for a good while. 

The Tide offense was bottled up for a good while until three big plays in the first half: A 69-yard punt return for a touchdown by Cyrus Jones, a 60-yard passing touchdown by Calvin Ridley, and 74-yard run for a touchdown by Derrick Henry. 

A big loss in the game, and season, is Kenyan Drake breaking his arm. He's out for at least three weeks. That's a big blow because the running depth behind him are freshmen who haven't seen much playing time: Damien Harris and Bo Scarbrough. 

They'll get plenty of reps this coming week and probably lots of playing time against Charleston Southern, the game in T-Town before Alabama travels to Auburn to play in the Iron Bowl. 

The most impressive part of this game was, once again, the Tide defense. They sacked Dak Prescott 9 times. They had 4 quarterback hurries, 7 passes broken up, and 11 tackles for loss for 58 yards. 

Friday, November 13, 2015

Music Friday: "Holiday in Spain"

A holiday in Spain sounds really good right now. I thought about this song after hearing "Raining in Baltimore" on my iPod's shuffle. 

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Sunday Hangover: LSU

Five in a row. 

The Crimson Tide has defeated the LSU Tigers five games in a row. 

Besides two mistakes--Mattias-Smith getting beat on a long pass via a corner blitz and Henry fumbling in the fourth--Alabama played really well, especially the defense that held Fournette to 31 net yards. That's the guy who has been repeatedly called "the best player in college football."

Derrick Henry's actions and stats might counter that talking point. Henry had 210 net rushing yards on 38 carries and three touchdowns. He's a beast and has the pundits seriously considering him, finally, in the Heisman race. 

Kenyan Drake had a good game too with 68 net rushing yards on 10 carries. He also had 40 yards on three catches in the passing game. 

Another big star in the game was the defense of Alabama. Except for a few plays, they just whipped the offensive line of LSU. It was beautiful. 

Next week's game is worrisome because Mississippi State has been playing well, and Prescott is a very dangerous quarterback. He's been running a lot more this season, and true dual-threat quarterbacks usually give the Tide headaches. 

Friday, November 6, 2015

Music Friday: "Burdens" & "Doing It Right"

I read about The Yawpers from a post on HearYa last week. 

I've been listening to the band's album, American Man, quite a bit since I picked it up. 

If you enjoy steady driving rock-n-roll, you'll probably like The Yawpers. The second video is macabre, so fair warning. 



Friday, October 30, 2015

Random Notes from a Crank

Since tomorrow is Halloween, I thought I'd share some topical cartoons. 

This comic explains why he never showed up. 



This appears to be a fair assessment of the clowns in the GOP primary. 



I'm really enjoying the second seasons of Fargo and Manhattan. The latter TV series inspired me to purchase The Making of the Atomic Bomb by Richard Rhodes. It's a monstrous book, but it's supposed to be one of the best books about that topic. 

My friend recommended The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness by Sy Montgomery. I'm reading that one before the Atomic Bomb book. 

Chris Cornell: "Murderer of Blue Skies" & "Before We Disappear"

Higher Truth, the new album by Chris Cornell, the lead singer of Soundgarden, came out a little while back. 

Much like his other solo albums, the tunes are more soft spoken and refective in contrast to the wonderful barbaric yawps he belts out on Soundgarden songs. 

Have a good weekend, folks. 




Sunday, October 25, 2015

Sunday Hangover: Tennessee


If you're not familiar with the Tennessee-Alabama rivalry, you might be wondering, "Why is Derrick Henry smoking a cigar beside Coach Saban?" 

The tradition is that if the Tide wins against Tennessee, one of its most storied rivals, the team smokes cigars after the game. 

Even though the Vols don't have a great record this year, they played with fire on Saturday. Alabama, on the other hand, looked tired. The upcoming bye week is coming at the right time or could have come sooner. And Tennessee, like Georgia and Texas A&M, had a bye week before they played the Crimson Tide. 

Tennessee played a good game, especially at getting pressure on QB Jacob Coker. 

When Tennessee went up in the fourth quarter after a quick-as-hell scoring drive, I had grave concerns.  

With 5:43 left in the game and starting on their own 29, the Tide then marched down the field to score. Key were two long passes on third downs to Stewart and Ridley. They finally got the run game going consistently, and Henry punched it in for a touchdown with 2:24 left on the scoreboard. 

Besides an interception Humphrey should have had early on during Tennessee's attempt at a drive, the Tide D played superbly. On one sack, Jonathan Allen got past the center and bull rushed a guard to slam into Dobbs. The very next play resulted in another sack by Ryan Anderson. But Dobbs lost the ball, and big A'Shawn Robinson nabbed the ball in mid-air with his left hand and rumbled his way to Tennessee's 4-yard line. 

Game over. 

Henry had a rough first half but did much better in the second half. He had 143 net total yards with two touchdowns. 

Statistically, Coker had a fine game: 21 pass completions on 27 attempts for 247 yards. However, I'm still concerned he's staring at certain receivers and not looking off the secondary. 

Both Eddie Jackson and Ronnie Harrison, the number one and two safeties on the depth chart, got banged up in the game, but Jackson was back out there in the second half. The week off will do them some good. 

I'm still concerned about the offense. 

Kenyan Drake has not be the multidimensional weapon like he was in the first half of last season before he got hurt. I hope he busts loose versus LSU in two weeks.

The blocking must get better, especially when passing the ball. 

Here's to some good rest and recovery. 

Friday, October 23, 2015

Music Friday: "Getting Ready to Get Down" & "Where the Night Goes"

Josh Ritter's new album, Sermon on the Rocks, came out recently, and I've been listening to it often this week. 

Check out these two tunes. 




Sunday, October 18, 2015

Sunday Hangover: Texas A&M

41-23. 

Texas A&M only scored a touchdown the traditional way after Cyrus Jones fumbled a punt in Alabama territory. The other score was a punt return. The rest were field goals. 

The Tide offense only scored 20 points in the game. The defense actually outscored the offense with three pick-6s: two by Minkah Fitzpatrick and a massive 93-yard pick-6 by Eddie Jackson. 

On the offensive side of the ball, when the Tide had it, my frequent refrain during the game was, "Just run the ball."  

And they did. Derrick Henry amassed a career-high 236 net yards and two touchdowns. 

Early in the game, the Aggies dared them to run by playing their nickel defense, which surprised the heck out of me.

Jacob Coker displayed a game manager type performance in the game, which resulted in a W. 

I hope Kenyan Drake's leg bruise heals up for the Tennessee game, or else we'll see Damien Harris get some significant snaps in the upcoming game. He better be ready.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Music Friday: "Building Chryslers"

South Broadway Athletic Club by The Bottle Rockets came out last week. 

It's a damn fine album. 

There aren't a lot of songs on youtube yet from the album, but I found this live performance. 

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Random Notes from a Crank

Chile is investing in alternative energy, building a smarter grid, and using a carbon tax, all to be sustainable but also to have an economy that grows in a smart way. Check out "Solar Power Lights the Way to a Cleaner Economy in Chile" if you're intrigued. 

Over at The Atlantic, Sarah Boxer published a detailed and interesting article about Peanuts: "The Exemplary Narcissism of Snoopy." I'm not a hater of Snoopy like some critics, but for me Charlie Brown was the best character of that strip even though I started reading the comic during the heyday of Snoopy. I also always checked out Peanuts books from the library that had the older strips from the 50s and 60s. 

I'm surprised about Coach Spurrier's immediate retirement. I agree with Ryan Nanni's sentiment from the EDSBS thread that "if he's leaving, I'm gonna miss the gel out of Steve Spurrier. Were not getting another one, and I suspect he knows that." The search of South Carolina head coach job will be a high-profile one, and it'll be a search that will probably make some current coaches get pay raises. 

After watching a bunch of MLB games over the past couple of weeks, I'm really tired of all of these pecker-pill commercials. 

Monday, October 12, 2015

Sunday Hangover: Arkansas

This defense could be really good. The Crimson Tide defense pretty much suffocated the vaunted Razorback running game and did a good job, besides one ridiculous play in the fourth quarter, defending the pass. 

Troubles in the red zone and two interceptions left Tide fans seeing their team down by four points at halftime. 

But the second half was a different story on the offensive side of the ball: better running of the ball, explosive plays in the pass game, and Coker getting his head out of his ass. 

The 81-long touchdown to Calvin Ridley was a thing of beauty. 

Next up is a trip to College Station for the CBS 2:30 game. We'll see what happens. 

Friday, October 9, 2015

Music Friday: "All Across This Land" & "Rock and Roll (Was Made For You)"

I've enjoyed all of Blitzen Trapper's releases. The band's previous release, VII, was full of country-tinged rock-funk, and the one before that, American Goldwing, was a solid album.

The new album, All Across This Land, might become my favorite of their discography because it's a more straightforward rock-n-roll album.

Here's a couple of tunes from the new album. 




Sunday, October 4, 2015

Sunday Hangover: Georgia

I had to watch the game after it actually happened because the Nasty family went to a wedding, but I followed the score via Mrs. Nasty's smartphone during the wedding reception. 

When I watched it last night and then watched it again with my son this morning, a number of points stand out. 

Jake Coker played better. He hit a long pass to Ridley, which was beautiful. 

Sans the long run for a touchdown in garbage time, our defense played stellar. 

Calvin Ridley looks really good. To me, he looks like a shorter Amari Cooper. I don't think he has that caliber of route-running skills yet though. 

Derrick Henry is a beast. 

Minkah Fitzpatrick had a great game: solid cb play, a blocked punt for a touchdown, and a sack. 

The Dline keeps batting down passes. 

I wish the right side of our offensive line was stronger. We seem to be running to the left a lot. 

Reggie Ragland should be in consideration for the Butkus award. 

I want Cyrus Jones to rip off a great punt return like Javy Arenas used to do. 

What would have been even sweeter is if UGA would have done a "black out" like they did in 2008 when the Tide whipped their asses. 

Friday, October 2, 2015

Music Friday: "A Murder of One"

I'm sitting here in a rocking chair at the Baltimore airport. My co-author and I gave a presentation and workshop at a focus group deal put on by our publisher. My flight doesn't leave until 10:30, and I get into the Indianapolis airport around midnight. After that I have  a two-hour car ride ahead of me until I make it home. 

It's rainy out there, folks. Lots of wetness happening here on the east coast. 

You would think that today's Music Friday post would be "Raining in Baltimore," but I've posted that before. Then there's "Baltimore Blues" by Deer Tick. Done that too. 

So let's go with the song after "Raining in Baltimore" on August and Everything After, which is "A Murder of One." 




A Murder of One
Blue morning, blue morning,
wrapped in strands of fist and bone.
Curiosity, Kitten, doesn't have to mean you're on your own.
You can look outside your window.
He doesn't have to know.
We can talk awhile, baby.
We can take it nice and slow.


All your life is such a shame.
All your love is just a dream.


Are you happy where you're sleeping?
Does he keep you safe and warm?
Does he tell you when you're sorry?
Does he tell you when you're wrong?
I've been watching you for hours.
It's been years since we were born.
We were perfect when we started.
I've been wondering where we've gone.


All your life is such a shame.
All your love is just a dream.


I dreamt I saw you walking up a hillside in the snow,
casting shadows on the winter sky as you stood there counting crows.
One for sorrow,
two for joy,
three for girls, and four for boys,
five for silver,
six for gold, and
seven for a secret never to be told.

There's a bird that nests inside you
sleeping underneath your skin.
When you open up your wings to speak,
I wish you'd let me in.


All your life is such a shame.
All your love is just a dream.
Open up your eyes.
You can see the flames of your wasted life.
You should be ashamed.


You don't want to waste your life.


I walk along these hillsides in the summer 'neath the sunshine.
I am feathered by the moonlight falling down on me.

Change, change, change.