My new record is called I Thought I Was Fine. It’s great.
Right, I’m not going to say it stinks, am I. If you like me, you’ll love this new one. If you don’t like me, you might be surprised. If you’ve never heard of me (that’s most of you), this could be the start of a beautiful friendship.
It’s a rock and roll record. I’m categorized as Americana because this business loves putting labels on people. Yes, there’s a couple of country-ish songs on it, I do live in Nashville, and my southern accent is what it is, but I had an epiphany one day. I realized, hey, I hate dobros. And if I hear another song about a train in the key of G, somebody’s gonna get hurt. I realized I’m 58 years old, I’ve survived a horrendous car crash, I’ve had cancer three times, and this might be my final shot – so I wanted to go back to my first love while there’s still time.
I went into the studio with Jonathan Bright (Raelyn Nelson Band). He played drums and I played the guitars and the bass. This time I declared that there would be none of my skilled session friends on the record. They’re all great players, but I didn’t want great. I wanted ME.
Who ME is can be summed up by saying I’m a songwriter and an author. I’ve won the “Best Song” award in the Nashville Scene Critics Poll twice. My three books (including Cheese Chronicles, which I’ve been told is a cult classic) have four and five-star reader ratings on Amazon. I’ve written songs for Todd Snider, Jimmy Buffett, Jason & the Scorchers, Dan Baird and others. I played in Government Cheese from ’85 to ’92. I played in the bis-quits (with Will Kimbrough) from ’92 to ’94, and we had the honor of making a record for John Prine’s label. I’ve made eight solo albums since then (counting this new one) and I’ve made three albums with a side project band called Daddy (again with Will Kimbrough).
I’m 5’10”, I like Ray Davies, Bob Dylan and Randy Newman, I’ve been married 29 years (to the same woman, no less), Tourette’s makes me blink my eyes a lot, and I pulled my face out of a bottle nine years ago. I’m crazy (so people tell me) and my crazy self is what I write about, I write funny songs about fears (if you like what I think is funny), I write sad songs about fears, and sometimes those tunes are funny and sad at the same time. If I have any mission at all as a songwriter, some higher purpose, it’s that I seek to make other messed-up people feel less alone – the end result of that being that while I’m not everybody’s cup of tea, the people who like me tend to really really like me.
The songs? My new one starts off with “Pay it Forward”. It’s about perseverance in a world that wants to conquer you with apathy. “A Little Bit of Sex Part 2” is about the joys of post-cancer libido loss and finally the heat’s off. (I’m serious.) “I Got No Place to Go” and “You Don’t Get Over Love” are both about lost love. “Job Hunting While Depressed” is self-explanatory. “I Thought I Was Fine” is about my waking up the morning after a good gig, checking my email and finding out it wasn’t a great gig after all. (Thank God my drinking days are over.) “I Do” is about being on the road and missing your wife. “It’s All About Me” is about a narcissist in love, if such a thing can happen. “I Wish I’d Known You Better”, the only ballad on the album, is a salute to my late older brother. The record has two covers: “That Lucky Old Sun” and Cole Porter’s “Miss Otis Regrets.” I’ve never heard those songs done as rock songs before and they’re now two of my favorite tracks on the record. Oh… what else is on the record? I think that’s it.
Listen, if you write about me, or have me on your radio show, or invite me over to your house for a cup of coffee, that would be fantastic, and I’d be much obliged. But hey, in a hundred years we’re all dust. What matters most is my family and my friends. I’ve been broke all my adult life, but when it comes to friends I’m a millionaire. I’ll walk into Dee’s of the 5-Spot and wind up hugging a half-dozen people. THAT’S what’s important, I reckon. Shattering your pelvis and several ribs in a car wreck and then having to beat back cancer three times will teach you to appreciate what you’ve got.
If you’ve read this all the way to the bottom, I appreciate it. You know, maybe I’ll turn out in my dotage to be some revisionist hero for college listeners, like Mississippi John Hurt of something; then again, maybe I’ll flap my arms and fly to the moon. Have a nice day and