Archive for the ‘Tulsa’ category

The Night James McMurtry Came To Town

April 26, 2009

Saturday afternoon I was playing with Braydon, my brilliant, beautiful grandson, anticipating a quiet evening at home, when Scott called wanting to know if we were planning to go to James McMurtry at Cain’s that evening. Oops. Louise, especially, been looking forward to it for months because she has a thing for ‘smart badboys’, but we’d thought it was still weeks away. Yes, yes, yes! we replied. Scott was thrilled that he wouldn’t have to go alone. We called Braydon’s daddy and told him to come get Braydon by 8 o’clock because we had a prior engagement.

There followed no less than six frantic phone calls from Scott over the next two hours. They were sold out. They had only two tickets left, but there were three of us. He was going to pull the “Folk Salad Card”. He was preparing to beg. Begging had worked! He’d be at Sound Pony having a Marshall’s & could we bring him a Big Mac because he, the poor beggar, hadn’t had anything to eat. Louise put her lips on and we left. Soon we were sitting at the bar and Scott and I were having the McDonalds Happy Meal for Adults, which is a quarter pounder with cheese, French fries, and Marshall’s Pilsner. We shared our fries with Aaron the bartender. Louise ordered a tequila. “Do you want the salt and the lime?” “If it comes in a kit, I want the whole kit.” She drank two. Smart badgirl.

On to McMurtry. It was crowded but not to the extent that would alarm a fire inspector. McMurtry took the stage and delivered songs for the next two hours with the unmovable stern countenance of an old testament prophet with bad news for sinners. When the first song began, a woman had a seizure and was carried out through the crowd, neck arched, shoes missing. Let’s hope she was okay. He wore a dark fedora, shoulder length dark curly hair, spectacles, and a long goatee & moustache. Louise thought he looked like a rabbi. Rabbi McMurtry? Oy.

Looking around the room, Scott and I decided, by a logic that even we don’t understand, that the room was filled with the Folk Salad Demographic. These were surely our listeners. One other thing we noticed about the crowd. It was populated with an unusual number of large men. Why? It’s a mystery. What about James McMurtry’s music appeals to large men? Large men who insist on standing shoulder to shoulder between you and the stage? All we could see for most of the first set was a continent of backs grinding against each other like tectonic plates.

Most of his set was songs from his latest “Just Us Kids” which I hadn’t yet listened to. He’s a brilliant lyricist, on a par with Townes Van Zandt. He’s also a first rate guitarist. The music –Two guitars, bass and drums— is very lean, with a powerful, driving, purifying groove. Many of the crowd knew all the words to all the songs. The song everyone was waiting for, of course, was the Oklahoma epic, “Choctaw Bingo”, and when we first heard those opening chords a mighty roar rose up. Large men pumped their fists into the air and high-fived. And the line in that song that everyone was especially waiting for, the line about getting in between his two sexpot cousins with a hard-on like a bodark fencepost that you could hang a gate from, brought the crowd to a fever pitch. Hats were thrown into the air. Women howled. A fight erupted up front when two plates collided, which surprised and amused McMurtry enough to force a quick grin. I’m not making any of this up.

When the set ended, McMurtry thanked the crowd, stepped offstage, the lights came up, and he fended off well-wishers without breaking stride or making eye contact as he strode to the bar, ordered a whiskey, and exited to the greenroom. The band had managed to slip away while all eyes were on him. He enjoyed his drink (we presume) in a leisurely fashion as the crowd chanted his name over the house music. After several minutes, long enough to make us wonder, he re-emerged for his encore. This is how an encore really should be done, don’t you think? Make ‘em wonder.

We left during the encore. It was not quite midnight when we got into bed. “The room is spinning,” Louise said. “Close your eyes,” I replied.


Red Dirt Music in the New York Times

January 25, 2009

Okay, this isn’t exactly news, but it’s news to us. We were browsing on Cross Canadian Ragweed’s website and found a link to a really well done article on the Red Dirt Music scene from the New York Times, November, 2007. Thought we’d share. For some reason, we can’t seem to manage to actually insert the link here, so just copy & paste the following url to read the NYT article:


Folk Salad On KOSU!

January 11, 2009

We are delighted to announce that starting on January 3, 2009, Folk Salad is now being broadcast over Oklahoma Public Radio’s network of stations, in addition to our longtime flagship station at Public Radio Tulsa, KWGS, 89.5fm.

Oklahoma Public Radio’s stations, and our timeslot:

KOSU Stillwater, 91.7fm, Saturdays at 8:00pm

KOSN Bartlesville, 107.5fm, Saturdays at 8:00pm

KOSU Okmulgee, 101.9fm, Saturdays at 8:00pm

Public Radio Tulsa, and our ongoing timeslot:

KWGS Tulsa, 89.5fm, Sundays at 7:00pm

This means that you can now listen to Folk Salad throughout most of Oklahoma, and parts of Kansas, Missouri, and Arkansas.

And, of course, we stream live on the worldwide web at the above-noted times.

Please visit our newspage for more information.


A Night On The Town

January 11, 2009

Hayes Carll & Corb Lund at Cain’s Ballroom, second stage, Tulsa:

It was standing room only. A loosely disorganized mix of chairs, tables, and floorspace. There was a small no-man’s-land in front of the stage where a few people tried half-heartedly to dance to the background music from time to time. Most of the crowd was there for Hayes Carll, but to my great satisfaction, there was a vocal contingent of Corb Lund fans present as well. He’s never played in Oklahoma before so we all considered it an opportunity. The Lund fans were definitely cowboy-culture types. When Corb first came in the front door wearing a t-shirt which read “WHERE THE FUCK AM I?”, a table of fans waylaid him to shake hands and pose for pictures –profane t-shirt and all. He disappeared in the general direction of the green room and emerged soon after wearing a plain black t and a cowboy hat that seemed to have been recently sat on. For quite a while. Like all the way from Wichita, maybe. Physically, he was different than I expected. He was taller, leaner, and more muscular, to be exact. Square jaw, big button eyes, dimples, biceps. All the women in the room got that look on their faces that women get sometimes without realizing it. A kind of a dazed smile that says they are happy to be there, and open for suggestions. I almost began to hate him. Then he and the boys began to sing and play. You can’t hate the guy. I knew most of the songs, and his between- song patter was just as unassuming, good natured and authentic as the songs themselves. I leaned against the bar and drank two whiskeys, tapping my foot and looking around. ‘Twas fine.

Before too long, I saw Scott, and a little later he saw me. He was there for Hayes Carll. Corb Lund ended his set to a raucous Cain’s Ballroom applause. I went over to shake his hand, and shake him down for cds (for the show, you know), but missed him. I forced Scott to lend me twenty U. S. dollars with which to buy a Corb Lund Cavalry tee shirt. It’s the dumbest t-shirt I’ve ever seen, and the pride of my wardrobe.

While Carll was setting up, Scott and I sat on a bench outside, with the smokers. We struck up a conversation with a Corb Lund fan, and I asked her where she’d even heard of him. “Sattelite Radio,” she explained. I see. It made me think Radio is passing me by on the way to the future.

We heard a roar from the crowd inside. Hayes had taken the stage and everyone was crowded around it whooping and hollering. I stayed for half a song. I could see his face in the harsh spotlight above the bobbing heads. He looked like a man who could use some time off. Might have been the lighting, but I thought he looked really tired. I wrote him a mental prescription: six weeks with no obligations, no booze, no smokes, no dope, a little pocket money, and lots of fresh air –somewhere above 8,000 feet. I bet he’d feel like a new man. Then again, maybe I was the one who was tired, boozed, smoked, doped.

I stepped outside and walked past Corb’s drummer who was standing in the street taking pictures of their van in front of the legendary Cain’s Ballroom in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I went home to a quiet house and a sleeping wife, made a pallet on the sofa and called it a night.


Red Dirt Harvest Festival 2007

September 10, 2007

Okemah, Ok. Sept. 1-2, 2007

The Red Dirt Harvest Festival held each September at The Grape Ranch, a vineyard six miles south of Okemah, Oklahoma, has, in just three years, become a major gathering of the tribe for Oklahoma’s Red Dirt musicians and fans. The festival is a unique opportunity to get a full dose of the pure, unadulterated strain of Oklahoma Red Dirt music. All the performers on this year’s roster are from Oklahoma, and most have known each other for years, decades even –as have many of their fans. Speaking of the fans, this may have been a watershed year for Red Dirt music, as it has begun attracting large flocks of teenage girls. The girls were there to dig the younger generation of musicians like Stoney Larue, No Justice, Dustin Pittsley, Randy Crouch (;-)), Mike McClure, and Okemah’s own rising star, John Fulbright, who is so young that it is rumored that two years ago he had to skip school to play at the festival. We hope that’s true.

Several of the bands performing at the festival have been dominating the Texas music charts this past year and it was clear that they have been working a lot. Brandon Jenkins, Stoney Larue, No Justice, and Mike McClure each put on a well-rehearsed show, settin’ ‘em up and knockin’ ‘em down, boom (Hey, y’all, it’s great to be back in Oklahoma!), boom (Y’all havin’ a good time?), boom (We got time for one more! This’n’s done real well for us on the Texas charts! We love ya!).

What their shows lacked in the kind of laid back spontaneity we associate with Red Dirt, they more than made up for in the solid high energy Rock & Roll delivery of one great song after another from the extensive and growing Red Dirt Canon. Those from an earlier generation of Red Dirt musicians, such as Tom Skinner’s Science Project, Randy Crouch, Bob Childers, The Red Dirt Rangers, Greg Jacobs, Bill Erickson, and other Reddirt Graybeards, were, as always, onstage to amuse and entertain themselves as much as the audience, sitting in on each others’ sets, tossing offhand jokes around the sometimes crowded stage, and conjuring that organic magic that always occurs when they settle into a loose, comfortable groove. This is the source of Red Dirt music -its communal sensibility, its groove, and its canon.

Missing in action this year: Jason Boland & The Stragglers, Jimmy LaFave, and Cross Canadian Ragweed.


“The sudden influx of teenage girl fans has greatly improved the Red Dirt fashion scene. Out with last year’s ubiquitous cowboy hats-and crocs ensemble, and in with short, short denim skirts, flipflops and toe rings. For campside morning attire, velvet robes and hightop tennis shoes never seem to go out of style. Onstage remained a fashion-free zone, where even the familiar pearl snap shirt was abandoned this year in favor of the musicians’ uniform of choice for outdoor work: tee shirt and jeans.”

*disclaimer: Terry Hutson is not really our fashion reporter, and this is not his dispatch, although he does, in fact, have a white beard. We just named him to mess with him a little. Sorry, Terry.


Stoney Larue

Greg Johnson, the emcee, and proprietor of the legendary OKC venue The Blue Door, caused a few titters in the crowd when he introduced Stoney Larue by welcoming him “back to the Blue Door!”

Is there any performer more at ease in the spotlight than Stoney Larue? He has a real presence onstage and seems to be genuinely having a great time up there. He also can really sing, writes great Red Dirt songs, and has assembled a crackerjack band. We predict he’ll be the next Red Dirt act to break out of Texas-Oklahoma regional fame into national prominence. If they could just get him to wear the danged hat instead of that red bandanna they probably would have already made him a star in Nashville. More likely he’ll do it his own way, ala CCR.

John Fulbright

Okemah’s own fair-haired, freckle-faced favorite son (well, maybe second favorite), John Fulbright astonished everyone again, as he did in July at the Woody Guthrie Festival “over in town”, with how much he’s grown in confidence and style over the last two years. He sings like Tom Skinner, knows a lot of great old songs, writes, and plays a mean keyboard as well as acoustic guitar.

To paraphrase Emerson to Whitman, we greet you at the beginning of a great career, kid.

Travis Linville

It’s kind of thrilling to watch Norman, Oklahoma’s Travis Linville play the guitar. Most guitarists become ultimately predictable, playing within the conventions of their genre. There is the time-honored contract of fulfilled expectations between genre artists and genre fans of all disciplines, be it detective novels, landscape paintings, horror movies, or even the amalgam that is Red Dirt music. The thrill is in never quite knowing where Linville is taking you although he knows exactly where he’s going with the music at all times.

Linville’s music is more descended from Bob Wills than most of his fellow Red Dirt musicians, so our relative unfamiliarity with the form may account for the unexpected turns in his playing. Regardless, his playing is nuanced, disciplined, and confident, and when he cuts loose it’s in short controlled bursts of pure hellfire that seem to come out of nowhere and are gone before you quite know what hit you.

Linville and his bandmate, fiddle player and vocalist Jeremy Watkins, are very simpatico in taste and style. Watkins sang a perfect reading of “Trouble In Mind”.

No Justice

Stillwater’s No Justice is a straight-ahead solid guitar band. Two electric guitars, one acoustic guitar, electric bass and drums. Nary a fiddle, mandolin or accordion within twenty feet of the stage. Their songs and their show are airtight. Boom, boom, boom. They developed such a momentum, such a faith in their prepared show, that they sang and played right through a sound outage without apparently noticing.

They’re among the youngest of the Red Dirt acts, and the teenyboppers were out in full regalia dancing and singing along to their music between the front row and the stage. We know from the Texas music charts, that No Justice is getting a lot of airplay in Texas, but how, we wondered, did these Oklahoma girls hear and learn their songs? Is No Justice being played on the radio in Oklahoma? On stations that teenage girls would be listening to?

Mike McClure Band

A story with a moral:

While the Mike McClure Band was setting up, a plan was hatched at one end and passed down the first row of patrons (who’d staked out our positions in the full afternoon sun and sweated it out until after dark, so we had an investment) for everyone to scoot their camp chairs all the way up against the stage to prevent the expected influx of mini-skirted teenagers from crowding up front to dance and sing along, thus obscuring our view of the band. For some of us this presented a real dilemma, so the execution of the plan only made it about halfway down the row, where it began to meet with halfhearted compliance, meaning our chairs got scooted up, just to go along, but not all the way, and the further along the row, the less compliance, thus creating a wedge of open space in front of the stage. This wedge was all the girls needed.

In retrospect, nothing could have stopped their grrl power from flowing in. Even at the supposedly sealed end of the row, they somehow filled the tiniest niches. They were oblivious to those of us behind them in their unrestrained Red Dirt Rock & Roll joy. Soon, all we seated patrons could see were young mini-skirted behinds waving enthusiastically mere inches from our faces. Some of the girls even had brief choreographed moves worked out. (They knew the songs! How?) We grumbled and rolled our eyes at each other up and down the row but with rapidly diminishing conviction. Soon, we were asking ourselves, “Who’s really being the assholes here, us or them?” Clearly it was us. Who were we to try to inhibit these fan girls’ fun?

The moral of this story is “Either get up and dance, or get out of the way!” We got out of the way.

How was the band, you ask? Well, I was kind of distracted. I’m sure they were great as ever. It was, after all, Mike McClure, Tom Skinner, and Eric Hansen.

Greg Jacobs

Jacobs is a real Oklahoma folksinger. His body of work is filled with stories that come right out of the history of Oklahoma, and form a foundation for the folk-end of the Red Dirt Canon. He’s also a teacher and a rancher. We talked for a while under the beer tent Sunday afternoon. Until this summer he hadn’t performed for about three years. In July he’d played a set for Okemah’s Woody Guthrie Festival, and hadn’t been at all pleased with his performance. But, since he’d decided to perform again, when and where it pleases him, he “got back on the horse” and accepted an invitation to play at the Red Dirt Harvest Festival. One of the great things about Jacobs is that he’s a musician you can talk to about things other than music. While we chatted about the weather, the cattle business, and the price of hay, several musicians came by to tell him how much they’d enjoyed his set, how great it was to see him back onstage.

He told us that in July a fan had come up to him and said, with evident concern, “Greg, it’s so good to see you out again. How is your health?”

“I don’t know. What have you heard?” Greg replied with surprise.

Tom Skinner’s Sunday Morning Gospel Sing

Mid-morning Sunday, the soulful and soul-stirring sounds of old fashioned songs of praise wafted gently through the pecan grove from the second stage. It was just what we needed to give us the strength and faith to get up and make coffee.


Six miles south of the small town of Okemah, turn right just before a notorious crossing of the Canadian River, then another mile or so west along a dirt (red) road beside the river. The stages and campground are set in the open shade of a mature thirty acre pecan grove in the bottomland alongside the Canadian. The river this year was flowing full, quick, silent, and thick as red-eye gravy. The grounds are meticulously mown and groomed, and outdoor showers are provided, as are plenty of strategically located portable johns. There are several large public fire rings in the shady grove with free firewood. The vineyard and tasting room is up the hill from the grove, providing an overview of the event. The hillside creates a natural amphitheatre for large crowds.


The weather was splendid. Cool starry nights lit by a fat moon for all-night campground picking, and warm sunny days for napping and lounging in the pecan grove, indulging in more campground picking, visiting with old and new friends, or enjoying the afternoon acoustic sets.


The Grape Ranch has an extensive list of wines they blend, ferment, and bottle from California grapes. This year they will offer their first homegrown vintage, from 2005’s harvest. They had hoped to have it ready by festival time, but it will be a few more weeks. Tip: The 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon is expensive –and worth it!

You Might Be a Red Dirt Musician If….

March 23, 2007

A lot of musicians are calling themselves Red Dirt musicians and fans these days, but no two people seem to agree just exactly what that means, so, how’s an up-and-coming young guitar (or, for that matter, accordion) player supposed to know if he’s Red Dirt or not?

You can help! Just for fun, complete the following sentence:

“You might be a Red Dirt musician if….”

Here’s a couple of example to give you the idea:

“You might be a Red Dirt musician if Tom Skinner has recorded one of your songs.”

“You might be a Red Dirt musician if you own a well-thumbed copy of the “Bob Childers Great Big Book of Guitar Chords”.

Have fun with it!


“The Colors Of Oklahoma Music” by John Wooley

October 31, 2006

John Wooley, long-time music writer for the Tulsa World, and the only writer to have been inducted into the Oklahoma Music Hall Of Fame, has just come out with a new book, entitled “The Colors Of Oklahoma Music —from the Blue Devils to Red Dirt”. In the interest of full disclosure, we must confess that he is a fellow deejay on KWGS, Tulsa’s National Public Radio Affilliate. Now, on with the unabashed plug!

The Colors Of Oklahoma Music, commissioned by the Oklahoma Arts Institute, is a sweeping history of the major musical trends and genres that have come out of Oklahoma to the world. I know that sounds grandiose, but read it. You may be surprised. It is an authoritative, useful reference work for anyone interested in the history of America’s popular music forms. It’s also a helluva fun, entertaining read. Buy it! –Rich