Essays: On The Road (And A Little Off)


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Florence, AL, February 15, 2003, maybe - - Aleia the
Babe, happy and unassuming in her role as the current
prettiest chick in town, dentition flashing, greets me
and Dick Cooper as we come in the door of Bayou Blue.
It is joyful to embrace a sweet young thang, always, of
course, and I enfold her in my arms in worship at her
altar. Dick probably said something dirty.

We have shown up here this evening to book a date for next
Thursday and shake hands with the bar's owner, Paul Peden,
and though a verbal contract is, of course, not worth the
paper it's printed on, I have had few problems in that
area and have never failed to get paid.

I been down here in Muscle Shoals, which could maybe be
a song title in itself, ever since Tuesday. I and my
friend, the negative-about-everything Cooper, have
been working on a record, the working title of which is
ChoiceBuds. It is a process, let me tell you. But I
have been fortunate in having some choice buds here in
Alabama-a-i-o, who have agreed to help a ole white man
make a record.

Yesterday Spooner Oldham, the relaxation guru and famous
piano player, came over and ended up playing on three
tunes, which was how many we had basics down on at that
time. Today Shonna Tucker and Drive By Truckers dude
Jason Isbell came by and totally helped out immensely.
So, at this moment, which is actually two nights later
than the scene with Aleia at the bar, Cooper and I have
amassed six tunes. I think. Maybe only five.

I've also written one song with Donnie Fritts and Scott
Boyer called "Women(I'll Tell You About 'Em)", which the
ever-negative Cooper says is cheesy. Probably watching
my back, actually.

Shoals Creek, dammed up before it confluences with the
Tennessee, forms a kinda non-lake called Spring Cove,
which is where Cooper lives in a sort of hunting lodge
setting sans the taxidermy along with Scott Boyer,
the dude from Cowboy. I mean they live together, but
they don't live together you know what I mean. They
both rabid heterosexuals.

Anyway, downstairs in Scott's half of the house is
Scott's studio, which he has been generous enough to
make available, along with some bass playing and
engineering whenever necessary. We're not goin for
finished product here, just a picture of where we stand.
Which is in an interesting place.

I came here to do a kinda folkie record, I mean only
Panama would go to Muscle Shoals in mind of doing a
folkie record. Anybody with any sense come here, they
wanna do a Muscle Shoals record. But these dudes, they
roots go back to the real shit, you dig? So where better?
Still, the songs ARE tending more than somewhat toward
the backbeat.

I like Alabama-a-i-o. Oh Sweet Home. But the skies
ain't been blue here lately. They been Confederate
gray. Rain pourin' down like...well, rain. Cooper says
rain pourin down like rain is too obvious, but I say I
don't know if it's too obvious or if he's just too

For the two of you who care, here's what we've done so
Doctor Doctor
Over You Now
All of My Dreams
Wyoming County Catamount
and a little bit, a start, on Bottom Dollar.

Anyway, Spring Cove has been filling up lately, what
with it raining and Shoals Creek coming down full from
Tennessee and all. Down at the other end they got a dam,
which releases the runoff, but it's been releasin slow,
so as to not make it too treacherous even farther
downstream I guess, so I've watched the non-lake fill
up as the day has gone by, with things floating by on
the current. I haven't seen a cow on a henhouse roof,
though. Just an umbrella on a pier drifting merrily
down. And the prettiest babe in town, of course.

Monday I will head back North to Nashville, returning
Thursday for my Bayou Blue gig and more writing and
recording over the weekend.

It has been a very strange thing, feeling my way along
this record. Though Dick is here to inspire and enable,
I have these various decisions only I can make, and a
lot of thought ahead before I make them.

Still, you know, these things are canvasses and not to
be tossed off lightly. Or maybe they should be. The
songs can stand the strain, certainly, but can the poor
poor artistic Panama? So brilliant. So tortured.
Well, we'll figure it out and our demographic will say
it's good and above all, honest. Otherwise, why bother?

Therein lies the rubaiyat, I know.