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and blessed to find what I did. When I found the picture of the guy with the guitar and the harmonica, I said, 'I think I have an album cover!' Also, the black cowboy was great, and then the picture of the guys in front of the train was too perfect! It says on the back of the train photo, 'Rock Island Line 1906' That meant it had to be on the album! The mountain photos could be the Missouri or someplace like that, I'm not sure. I wanted a shot like that. The civil war soldier photo is my great, great uncle who died at Andersonville,  Essa Powell. (Dave's song ANDERSONVILLE on the 1991 Blue Blvd album (HighTone), is about that great, great uncle.)
Joe Terry, "It was a real treat to record with Dave.  He's a hell of a singer that guy, and you tell him I said so.  Everyone had a good time making the recording, with zero stress.  If you take a record like that and try to play everything just like it was played on the original recording back in the twenties or thirties, then it's gonna sound like THAT record recorded in the year 2000.  Hell they can do that without musicians." Dave made the same point, "The main thing I thought I had to do was make these sound like my songs. They don't belong to anybody; they are Public Domain."
Later on through in-depth song searches, some songs were determined not to be in the public domain. Some songs have writer credits by people trying to claim a song that is no longer registered. For example, a song like WALK RIGHT IN credits three songwriters besides Gus Cannon. Those three other songwriters weren't even born when Cannon recorded the song in the twenties. For some songs, the original writer was never known. For example, when A.P. Carter of the Carter family claimed he wrote ENGINE 143. There were a few versions that came out 20 years earlier than the Carter Family recording back when the train wreck happened. Dave: "It used to be that you would have to renew your copyright every so many years, so it doesn't slip into the public domain. Now the law states any song after 1978 is yours forever. So there will be no more Public Domain songs." 

SHINE EYED MISTER ZEN       is     Kelly Joe Phelps
Letters to words to phrases to stories to songs from memories in the mind of Kelly Joe Phelps
--By Billy Davis

Kelly Joe Phelps has gained an international reputation as one of most unique guitar players of modern times. His technique on acoustic lap slide guitar and his "banjo" finger-picking style on regular acoustic guitar falls somewhere in the folk or blues category. He performs by sitting on stage with only his guitar and his gruff low voice. Dave Alvin fans will remember Kelly Joe from the three tours they did in 1996 - 97. Kelly Joe opening Dave's shows and accompanying Dave in an acoustic set. Much overshadowed by his virtuoso guitar technique is his brilliant lyric writing. On his SHINE EYED MISTER ZEN (Rykodisc) album, Kelly Joe has beautifully translated his lyrical vision to song. Here in this interview in May of 2000, Kelly Joe gives us an in-depth look at his songwriting, and unique interpretations of traditional songs on SHINE EYED MISTER ZEN. It's obvious that Kelly Joe writing and performing music is a spiritual release for him. Get SHINE EYED MR. ZEN and give it a good hard listen.
THE HOUSE CARPENTER - "I've just returned from the salt, salt sea and it's all for the love of thee." (lyric)
KJP: That's an old folk song that is two or three hundred years old. There is a debate on whether it's a traditional Irish or Scottish song. It was a tune that was carried over on the ships, and it stayed around up in the Appalachians played mostly by banjo players. It's been played as a ballad as well. I am aware that there are a lot of alternate verses depending on the source of the song. But, I used Clarence Ashley's version. He was a banjo player from West Virginia or North Carolina. The reason I got into that song was that I liked the forward motion of the lyrics. It was a story song. I was studying those kinds of songs to better my own songwriting abilities in terms of how to propel a story forward. Also, the way that Clarence Ashley plays and sings it, there is a lot of power beyond the lyrics. It pulled me in as well. That's the way it is with a lot of the traditional tunes for me. I play them for two reasons; First: The lyric has something that I can attach myself to. And second, the example of the song I have in my head is a powerful performance. I can borrow something from both of those elements to project some sort of emotional involvement.
RIVER RAT JIMMY - "We wrapped our bloody fingers like a shine eyed mister zen."

he realizes and accepts that he has to spend the rest of his life waiting for this thing that he had and couldn't keep a hold of. That's the HOBO'S SON - wanting her more than anybody in the world but knowing he couldn't possibly hold onto it.
KATY - "Sharpened up my razor, picked a piece of ground. One of these dark and moonless nights, be the last around."
KJP: In the interest of wanting to be an honest writer, I wanted to explore different experiences and present them in picture form, so to speak. KATY is somewhat related to HOBO'S SON, although it's an entirely different theme. The guy in the story is married with a child and has a fling with this girl. Then he decides in technical terms: 'Kill the bastard' (laughs). He realizes he shouldn't have had this fling and feels bad. The girl he had the fling with, isn't about to let him go or forget about it. She's ready to create any amount of trouble it takes to either get him back, or make him pay. Over the course of time, he ends up with two options. Now mind you, it's about building a story so there are always more options than this (laughs). He gets to the point where there are only two ways to get out of this. He can kill her, or kill himself. He wasn't about to kill her, so in the end he decides to kill himself to keep from causing his family more grief. I guess he is really the crazy one in the end.
BD: I thought there are slight insinuations he may kill everybody involved. The lyric says 'be the last around."
KJP: I think that's all in there, and that's how it ends up a bit vague.
WANDERING AWAY - "Will I shed one more tear for my broken family, and have a glass of whiskey with another friend that has nowhere to be. Get my feet on the road, they feel much better there."
BD: If anything in this song is fictional, it still seems very much like YOU.
KJP: Yeah, it is. It feels more direct, because I am speaking from the view of myself. There is a certain metaphorical quality in the other
songs that is not always direct, but this is simple and straightforward. This represents something I have had firsthand contact with (laughs).
BD: The line, "All these broken promises in a shoe box full of bones," seems to relate to the central theme of the song.
KJP: That's another way of saying, 'skeletons in the closet,' or the 'baggage' that you carry around with you - or things I've done in the past, that may not have helped or hindered the situation that I'm in. 'All these broken promises in a shoe box full of bones' is about a person who is feeling sorry for themselves, but thinking back about all the ways they screwed up.
BD: Tell us how the song title came about?
KJP: (Laughs) That ties me in with the Dave Alvin newsletter doesn't it? Well, it was on one of the tours I was doing with Dave and it might have been in Toronto. This the way the tour worked: I opened the show, then we took a break. Dave would go on and play four or five tunes on his own, then he would call me out to back him up on slide guitar. Each night he would work through a rough set list, and decide which song would be last before I would come up, so I could get ready -- like a cue song. So this particular night, Dave walked out and I said, 'Hey what's the song cue?' and he sort of turned half back and said this thing that sounded like 'Wandering Away.' I laughed and thought, 'he doesn't have a song called Wandering Away.' I thought through it and realized he said WANDA AND DUANE. Somehow that stayed with me, and I think that night I started putting together that song. I started putting together a set of lyrics incorporating 'Wandering Away.' The first verse came rather quickly, which is rare for me. I tend to pore over songs bringing words in and out and twisting things around. So, I went home with just that verse. I was thinking of someone in particular and it kept coming back to me. I usually don't write on the road. In fact I wrote one song on the road in my entire career -- a song called GO THERE on my Roll Away The Stone album (Rykodisc). I wrote that on tour with BB King. I needed another song for my set and needed something rhythmic. I wrote it for that reason. For some reason writing on the road doesn't work for me.
DOCK BOGGS COUNTRY BLUES - "Just soon as my pocketbook was empty, not a friend on earth could be found."
KJP: Dock Boggs is another banjo player from the Appalachian area. This was a song he was known for. He plays and sings with amazing force. It's very scary sounding and strong. Especially with subject matter that he

could explain to me why things are this way and what I can do about it. Because the family was that way, we just couldn't get close to one another. So, the premise of this song is a person standing alone, looking for someone to talk to, and asking questions and those people not being there.
BD: What is the 'piece by piece'?
KJP: 'Piece by Piece by lonely piece the mountain side tumbles away,'
says that each time this situation arises, where I want some help from somebody, I either can't get it or I won't allow myself to look for it. It's a very indirect piece of writing. It's supposed to represent the sensation of not knowing what to do.
BD: On this song you have another musician playing. You've never had anybody else on any of your albums.
KJP: There is a harmonica player on there who plays with me named Dave Mathis. Before I was traveling, I was just playing around Portland, OR, doing five or six gigs a week. He was one of the few musicians I've ever played with. In that context, he was someone I really gelled with. There was some magic in there. During the recording of the album, we recorded 4 or 5 tunes. PIECE BY PIECE was the best of the bunch. I think we might have done a version of WANDERING AWAY together, too. When I record my next album in the fall, I'm pretty sure it's not gonna be solo. I think I'm ready to move beyond that. But at the same time it seemed that it took me three records to get the point across. I'm looking to interact with other musicians, but certainly not the band thing, maybe one or two players. I would like to see that happen. I've done it a few times and I think there is good potential for finding music in there that I haven't found yet.
MANY A TIME - "Understand better the weight of the cross. Only believe, thou gonna be saved."
KJP: That is a bit of a carry-over. The Roll Away The Stone album (Rykodisc 1997) was pretty heavily invested in gospel music influence. What I felt wasn't represented through that was that someone could embrace the notion that the answers won't actually be found, and that studying about it-- being a rabbi, or a minister ---doesn't  always provide the answers. It's not such a bad thing. Part of the magic is knowing that right around the corner there are great things to discover. MANY A TIME is sort of my new version of a gospel song. That's not saying, 'let's grab hands and walk through the clouds.' Maybe it would be nice to be in a cloud (laughs). But, I'm also looking for a rock to hide under, too (laughs). In the end, he is saying, 'I don't know what this means. I thought I did, but maybe I have come to a different decision about it.' Maybe the process of having the answer then finding out you don't, is maybe the answer in and of itself. I got very tired of hearing other people say they knew the answers to these questions. So I decided that was BS, and you couldn't possibly know the answers. You may know what you feel about it, but there is no way in hell I'm gonna base something so important on what they believe. On the other hand, I don't know what the answers are. But I'm gonna accept the fact that I don't.
BD: Does this mean you are willing to stop looking?
KJP: I wouldn't say I'm willing to stop looking, but instead I'm willing to look in different ways.
GOOD NIGHT IRENE - "Sometimes I have a great notion to jump in the river and drown."
KJP:  I started doing this song only because I liked it and I liked Leadbelly. I started playing it and the crowd response was good.
BD: Some people may see the song title on your album and think, why choose such a common song? But I believe you have succeeded in making this a fresh and original rendition. How did you approach it?
KJP: I felt I could get underneath the lyric because it meant something to me. Because of that, I could sing it with a level of conviction that felt honest -- whether or not anyone wanted to hear it. When I started recording the album, that was a song I took out. I was willing to leave it out because it was so common. But someone at the record label liked it and was bothered that I decided not to include it.

For tour dates and info on Kelly Joe Phelps check out
WWW.Kellyjoephelps.com  ~~AM

MARK HAGEN recalls the Blasters historic 82 London live recording.

It doesn't seem like eighteen years ago, but I suppose it was. The Slash album had been released in the UK by Elvis Costello's label F-Beat, & The Blasters were making their European debut supporting NIck Lowe & His Noise To Go on a tour of England & Scotland. At the time my friend Lindsay Hutton was running The Legion of the Cramped & also at the time Art Fein was managing both acts. So we took ourselves off to Night Moves in Glasgow to meet Art & to see this band that we'd heard of, but not really heard.
It didn't take long to get the message. The basic Alvin P/Alvin D/Bazz/Bateman/Taylor line-up absolutely scorched, to the extent that they more or less ran out of songs & had to do an unplanned "So Long Baby Goodbye" with Phil's harmonica replacing the sax part (pretty much the same arrangement that they use today in fact). It seemed a bit pointless staying to watch Nick Lowe after that, so we left, but not before I introduced myself to Dave, kicking off a friendship that's lasted to this day.
The following night the Edinburgh show was cancelled, but we went anyway & spent the evening in an assortment of pubs & bars with the band, something of a recurring theme in my Blaster relations, I'm afraid, & promised to go to London in a couple of weeks to catch their only headlining show of the tour.  That was at The Venue, a converted (& now disappeared) cinema opposite Victoria Station & an excellent club holding around 1000 people. It took place on May 21st 1982, not, you might notice, the date for the show given on the subsequent record sleeve! I particularly remember Art taking me for a meal at the hamburger joint next door & charging it to Warner Brothers, my first experience of record company largesse!
The show itself was a blinder, the basic Blaster line-up augmented for one night only by the sax attack of Lee Allen & Steve Berlin; it was also very very loud & my most abiding memory is of seeing Dave soaked in sweat sinking lower & lower as his solo in Roll 'Em Pete got longer & longer. This is what they did: This Is It/Crazy Baby/No Other Girl/Ain't No Telling/Border Radio/I Don't Want To/Rock Boppin' Baby/Tag Along/I Love Her So/Got Love If You Want It/Walkin' With Mr Lee/I'm Shakin'/Hollywood Bed/Go Go Go/Stop The Clock/Marie Marie/American Music/So Long Baby Goodbye//Roll 'Em Pete/High School Confidential/These

AMERICAN MUSIC -editor: Billy Davis       
editorial assistant: Craig Frischkorn       format and layout: Tristan Currie-Davis
From the editor: And thanks to the band members for their participation, and all my friends who write articles, submit photos, newspaper reviews, donate the contest prizes, and all the other stuff I'm forgetting. Let's keep on spreading the word and making friends along the way.   --Billy Davis
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#1. Blastory part 1, James Intveld profile.
#2. Phil Alvin interview Part 1, Dave Alvin's "Museum" tour
      review, Faultline Syncopaters profile.
#3. Phil Alvin interview Part 2, complete Blasters Discography.
#4. James Harman interview, Blasters 91 Finland tour.
#5. Lee Allen tribute issue. Dave Alvin interview. Lee Allen
      profile. Phil Alvin Foothill club review.
#6  Rockin Ronny Weiser interview, Bobby Mizzel & James
      Intveld CD review, State of the 1995 Blasters story.
#7. Phil Alvin on the Making of County Fair 2000. An in
      depth look at Blaster cover songs.
#8. James Intveld interview, The making of Sonny Burgess'
      and Dave Alvin's Tennessee Border Cd.
#9. Blasters/Beat farmers '95 tour reviews, Intveld Cd review.
#10 James Intveld ex-Blaster, Dave Alvin on the Knitters,
       Remembering Country Dick, Q&A for the band.
#11 Gene Taylor interview, Sonny Burgess interview
#12 Dave Alvin song by song on Interstate City, reviews.
#13 Drummer issue Interviews w/Angel, Bateman, Hicks.

#14 Keith Wyatt Interview, Pleasure Barons history.
#15 Dave's poetry mentor Gerald Locklin interview, Dave
       Alvin/Kelly Joe Phelps '97 east coast acoustic tour
#16 John Bazz interview, Blasters visit radio station KUCI,