I like seeing you here for the December Flog: Special Okie Music Edition. Despite the title, I don’t have a musical in the works. But that could be pretty interesting, yeah?
In a perfect world, the holiday season is supposed to remind us to be grateful, to make us more aware of blessings, and then help us find joy that can be made complete by giving that very joy away to others. That’s what I’ve learned in my time on this rock, at least. This is a long overdue Flog Post about the blessing of music in my life and the joy that flows from it.
Since the third book took off this fall I’ve participated in several interviews with the media. Perhaps the most common question I get concerns music. All three of my books have soundtracks that augment the story in some way. Perhaps that sounds weird. Let me explain, by telling you about the first time music took its hold on my pen:
In 2008 I left Tulsa the day after a Bob Dylan concert and began to drive back to Ardmore, where I lived and worked as an attorney. I put the radio on scan because I couldn’t find any good music on the usual stations. I was struck by the sound of a haunted song. The voice was deep, the song simple; it had a rockabilly bass line that grabbed me. It was Sanford Clark singing The Fool. I was mesmerized. The song ended and then a voice floated from my speakers that made my ears catch fever and my face turn red. You know those voices in music that cannot be mistaken? You hear the very first note and you know who’s singing? Neil, Bob, Leon … this voice was like those. I’d never heard a voice so velvety, inviting, and somehow knowing. I could tell this guy had some knowledge that I really needed. The connection on my end was immediate. The radio host was Steve Ripley. He spoke with great passion about Leon Russell and Will of the Wisp and played a track off that album. I can’t explain it exactly, but somehow the inspiration Steve conveyed in his radio show set off some strange combustion in my own brain. In an instant the outline of an entire fiction novel appeared in my head. I could see it like a movie and scrambled to write down this unexpected gift.
It’s a long story and I’ll spare you the details, but eventually Steve Ripley was the first artist to recognize something in me and my work. He invited me to enter a door into a world of artistic creation that I didn’t believe I deserved to walk through. He will likely not be tickled by this public reference because he is such a private person, but he remains the single most responsible party for my inspiration to write for a career. When I picture the whole thing in my mind-dreams, Steve opens the door wearing a top hat and that trademark smile. Thank you Steve, for sharing your joy with me. I promise to keep giving it away.
Recently I came across a quote from one of my favorite writers, Michael Ondaatje. It explains the music and literature connection better than anything I ever came up with: “The rhythm of music has been the biggest influence on my writing – it’s not Wordsworth, it’s Ray Charles. Music has been such an important part of my life. The elements that I have when I’m writing is closer to music than anything else I know. The music in the words.”
If music brings joy to your life, and surely it must, please explore these Okie artists who so generously contributed to my latest book. They comprise a list of incredible talent. Just tapping your toe doesn’t pay the bills, you know? So spend some dough on the music that you dig this year. Many of these artists released albums in 2018 and/or have upcoming releases scheduled for 2019.
They are, in order of appearance in Now I Lay Me Down:
Carter Sampson Lauren Barth Kalyn Fay Wink Burcham Samantha Crain John Moreland Evan Felker
Buffalo Rogers Nellie Clay John Calvin Abney Tequila Kim Reynolds John Fullbright
Looking for something super fresh? Check out the debut album from the West Coast band Dark Mondays on Itunes and Spotify, headed up by lead vocalist (and Cherokee citizen) Natahne Arrowsmith. Her voice is sublime and rich, like dessert (listen and you’ll hear what I mean). This dark jewel carries a moody vibe that lives up to the band’s name. Dark Mondays also offers up several interpretations of classic Christmas tracks with innovative vocal acrobatics from Arrowsmith. It can be a most satisfying experience to start a new tradition.
Now hear this: mark down two more upcoming 2019 albums from my dear friends – The Red Dirt Rangers release their 10th recording, described as “the live sound they’ve been looking for since Cimarron Soul, with lead and rhythm accordion players” in 2019! Follow their Kickstarter and release dates on Twitter and Facebook.
The Okie musician’s musician, Joe Baxter, drops his vintage collection, The Weather,in 2019. I was lucky to get an early glimpse of this album. It is GORGEOUS, full of yearning, dark romance, vulnerability and as always with our old pal J.B., it is quintessential Okie Folk. I daresay it is Okie Noir. Just my style.
Here are my last two book dates of the year and then I’m DONE for quite some time:
Tuesday, Dec 11 in McAlester, Oklahoma, accompanied by the former prosecutor from Now I Lay Me Down, Judge Maxey Reilly and the acclaimed Okie singer/songwriter Nellie Clay. We’ll be at the public library there at 11 a.m. and then at Common Roots that afternoon for a signing from 4 – 6 p.m.
Friday, Dec 14 at The Branch in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, 7 p.m. This time the real performance will come from our beloved and talented Buffalo Rogers. I get to be the lucky sidecar. Oh, how I relish being the lucky sidecar. Seriously.
Ok, it is past time to sign off now. Thank you so much if you stuck with me through to the end. You take care now and give that joy away.
“Listen, I shew you a Mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be transformed.”