A lifetime of walking down
 Edward Abbey's road

    The first time I met Ed Abbey, he monkeywrenched a perfectly good draft beer, a Heineken, by taking the light and dark versions and pouring the two bottles into one glass. In my view, one of the more unnecessary acts of eccentricity I'd ever seen him perform ... and it's a long list. I had met him in Tucson, Arizona, for an interview for the UofA campus newspaper, The Arizona Daily Wildcat, where I was a reporter who preferred to ditch a class than miss a story. Abbey's included. We met at The Big A, an off-campus burger joint that he always used for interviews. A strange fact by itself, in many ways, since it was a sports bar and he thought football was a pox on the earth (but then, what wasn't a pox on the earth, as far as Abbey was concerned?). Yes, he'd done many, many interviews at The Big A, and I can't tell you how many times I cringed whenever the next reporter described Abbey's iconoclastic persona with the following observation: mixing light and dark drafts of Heinekens.

     I had just discovered Abbey's "The Monkeywrench Gang," a fictional story about a group of misfit sabateurs operating in the Four Corner's region, while working the previous summer at the El Tovar Hotel at the Grand Canyon Village. I read many chapters with my feet hanging over the edge of a cliff while I drank boda bags of wine. I had already read "Desert Solitaire" and made a habit of bringing a notebook with me on hiking trips.

     The second time I saw Abbey was on the first night of class at the University of Arizona in 1982. The creative writing department at the UofA had snagged the writer to teach his wannabe writer fans how to write non-fiction. A few years after I graduated from the University of Arizona, I asked Abbey about his teaching methods, and his was pretty self-deprecating about the whole topic.

     "It's gotten worse," he said. "I still feel I'm a lousy teacher, but I make the students work hard, so I don't know if they have time to realize how bad I am. I'm a little dubious about this whole creative writing business as something to be taught in college. I'm not sure whether it does more harm than good."

     On that first night in Abbey's non-fiction writing class in the Language Arts Building, he taught me one of the only things I can remember about so many of such classes. Well, actually, three.
They are, as he wrote on the chalk board that first night after being about 10 minutes late: "1) Write right; 2) Write wrong; 3) Write on."

     Short and sweet, it was, and the same could be said for that first night a la Abbey. A few minutes later the grizzled, jeans-clad author was distracted, as we all were, by something going on at the plaza. He rushed over to the second floor window of the classroom, and after seeing a bunch of anti-nuke protesters go by with candles, exclaimed, "Hey, I gotta go see that!" And with that, he rushed out the door and did not return. We wannabe monkeywrenching writers sat there at our desks for just a short, stunned moment.  We were all probably wondering if perhaps a lesson on how to write about cactus and coyotes might be included on the syllabus. But he was in the classroom only a moment, and then was gone.

     We caught up with him at the candlelight vigil in front of the old ROTC building at the center of the University. He was singing with the anti-nuke protesters. That was Abbey, the spontaneous one, holding a candle, and I can still see the light flickering on his beard and in his eyes. He was performing, for us, for his students, for those who had not known he was the latest new campus celebrity. Certainly, no foe to publicity of any kind, Abbey well understood the necessity of being an outlandish personality. His greeting card was his frequent call at public gatherings to blow up the Glen Canyon Dam. But that was just part of the performance.

    I believe he took an interest in me. Once we were given an assignment to write something on the "wild side." Everybody else assumed that meant practice writing about cactus and coyotes and the call of the lone wolf student writer. Always one to color outside the lines, I decided to write about downtown Phoenix as viewed from a general walk around the Greyhound Bus station. In the course of my study of the terrain, I went by the Phoenix Convention Center and discovered a couple who had slipped away into some bushes to have sex. This, of course, was too good to be true, considering my idea for the assignment, and I turned it in as a metaphor about Eden and life in the city.

     Nobody in the class believed that it happened, though. My classmates, during another one of those awful round table critiques (always to be taken with a grain of salt), told me it was non-fiction we were supposed to be writing, not fiction. But Abbey believed me. He even came to my defense, saying, "This is all just an exercise. All of this is."

     There was, in fact, one item distributed at his second class in mimeographed form that proved to be a great boon. The Edward Abbey reading list: Barry Lopez, John McPhee, Tom Wolfe and Hunter S. Thompson. Two nature-loving Luddites, a city slicker, and the patron saint of the New Journalism. But there was one other name that took me years to appreciate: 16th century author Michel de Montaigne. The French writer was one of the first to try to express himself, via highly literary means, by writing about himself, and it was he who popularized the term essayer, as in essay. It means "to try."

     In hindsight, remembering those classes with clarity, still, after 30 years, I'd have to say Abbey was a better teacher than he knew. The benefit of being his student wasn't just getting a chance to rub elbows with a literary legend at regular intervals. He was a true authentic. And it was more than the after-class get togethers at the local pubs, or the parties at his home. He was, in fact, a rigorous critic when it came to grading the essays written for the class. In that regard, he was as tough of a teacher as they come. I can remember one particular essay I'd written as a kind of imitation of Abbey, about a hike down Hermit Trail, in which the teacher had eviscerated my copy with red ink. Indeed, he wanted students to write like themselves, not their hero. He frequently made all kinds of interesting comments on assignments that were turned in. Once, I wrote an essay about how the right wing and the left wing could come together on the political spectrum, and he had penciled in, "Hey, I believe that, too!" But another essay on the anniversary of the death of John Lennon was ripped apart for its sentimentality. His classes were a mix of vindication and shame. He wanted people to be real, just like he was. His favorite student, I recall, was a man who lived part-time in a cave who wrote with a rugged honesty.

     The last time I saw Abbey was in Prescott, where I was a reporter for The Courier. The novelist had been invited to read from his upcoming novel, which would eventually be published as "The Fool's Progress." Reading from his opening chapter, Abbey set the packed house at the Hassayampa Inn into roaring laughter with his incredibly honest tale about breaking up with a girl and, in anger, shooting his refrigerator with a shotgun. Afterward, someone called the reading "portrait of an artist as a dirty old man."

     Just a few years before his death in 1989, Abbey was still game for making outrageous statements. Among American authors he, like Norman Mailer, knew the importance of being a notorious character in real life, keeping his name out there. By then, perhaps, he had mellowed. For example, during that trip to Prescott, I saw him tell a little old lady that he was sorry about his legendary threat to blow up the Glen Canyon Dam because people might get hurt by the act. Then, he said, "All environmentalism is a defensive action."

     And one might wonder how he might fit in with today's political divisions. Perhaps his beliefs these days would be called libertarian. To call him a bleeding heart liberal would be a mistake.
At our last meeting, he said, "On many issues I'm on the same side as [Arizona Governor] Evan Mecham and Sam Steiger [a conservative Arizona congressman], I suppose.That puts me in some pretty unpleasant company. But I never felt I joined any particular group or faction. If they [the right wingers] started welcoming me with open arms or inviting me to conventions, I might get a little worried. I might think, 'God, maybe I have gone too far the wrong way.' "

     In the time since his death Abbey's legend has only grown and the appreciation of his writing has blossomed. In the time since his death, I can't count the number of times I've met people in the Southwest who had met him and remember him well. By my own evidence collected as a student, I would have to say he wasn't all that comfortable in the university laboratory of civilization.

     “The best thing about graduating from the university was that I finally had time to sit on a log and read a good book,” he once said. But I'd also say the best thing about having a class with Abbey was the profound memories that linger. Many times over the years, especially in terms of where and how I have decided to work and live, I have asked myself, "What would Edward Abbey do?" There are teachers and then there are those who teach. Abbey was the latter. Who knows how many people have dangled their legs off a cliff with a notebook in hand because of him. Considering this has led me to realize how so many of us are walking on Abbey's road.

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Psychedelic Furs with The Church is a revenge of the post-punks

     When Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols broke upon the music scene with a ferocious guitar assault, screaming about the queen and how there was no future, the whole question of artistic integrity in rock was revived. If anything, punk was about opposing authority. The pre-existing rock stars in Britain had become, in the punk view, too much like a form of aristocracy.

     Growing up in London in the 1970s, brothers Tim and Richard Butler, the first in secondary school and the second enrolled in art school, loved the intensity of the Sex Pistols. The example of Johnny Rotten (Johnny Lydon) starting a cultural revolt by only knowing three chords on his guitar was a revelation.

     "A whole new world opened up," says Tim Butler from his current home in Kentucky. "Music was the only way out. There was mass unemployment. As soon as you left school, you were immediately unemployed. Kids didn't have any hope. When we formed, we were influenced by the energy and the attitude of the Sex Pistols. But everyone was playing three-chord, three-minute songs, and we started to look for something else."

     A few years later, on the other side of the world, in Sydney, Australia, Steve Kilbey formed a band with a bloke from Liverpool, England -- Marty Wilson-Piper -- originally calling the band The Church of Man, later shortening it to The Church. By that time punk had led to new wave, but neither Kilbey nor Wilson-Piper wanted anything to do with such fashionability. By that time many of the new bands had eschewed the whole idea of a guitar solo. The Church pursued a twin-guitar sound, creating a kind of post-rock psychedelia with extended instrumental sections.

     "We were deliberately trying to buck the trend," Kilbey says over the phone line from Sydney. "We were classicists trying to find our way back to Yes, Genesis, to the Beatles and Bob Dylan. We kept playing the guitar solos, doing the long hair, even to the point of wearing paisley shirts."

     Considering their different attitudes about how to approach music in a post-punk world, it's ironic that the Psychedelic Furs and The Church have become a successful double bill for nearly two years.

     The Psychedelic Furs had disbanded in the early 1990s because, according to Butler, they were tired of playing such hits as "Love My Way" and "Pretty in Pink." The Butler brothers then formed a new band, Love Spit Love, and the pressure was off. "Nobody knew who we were and we could play what we wanted," he says. But in the late 1990s, they got invited to play a short set for a punk and new wave era nostalgia show.

     "We had an offer to play with the B52s and the Go Gos. They asked us to do a 50-minute set," Butler says. "We did that and found out that people remembered us, that people needed to hear us. We started to hear how younger bands were influenced by us. We were finding we were getting the respect that we had sort of lost."

     The Church never stopped making albums, but at around that same time in the late 1990s, they were ready to break up the band. But the popularity of a farewell concert tour caused them to change their minds.

     "We were always going in and out of fashion," Kilbey says. "There was always something that would wipe us out, and then we'd decide we'd keep on doing shows. We had lots of times when we almost called it quits. Everyone has that frustration, whether it's in a marriage, a business relationship or a band. And then after that, we would say it was a mistake. It becomes a little embarrassing to say you are going to call it quits and then come back. We kept deciding that we still had more music to contribute."


     The Psychedelic Furs responded to the three-minute blaster style of punk by trying to do something different. Instead of raging for three minutes, they would just play one song with ferocious energy for 10 minutes.

     "When we started out, none of us could really play," Butler says. "We would go into the studio and just jam and say, 'Everybody play at once.' Our first album ... someone (a music critic) called it 'beautiful chaos.' It was cacaphonous but it seemed to draw an audience."

     Butler says the band had the good fortune to get teamed up with a hot young producer, Steve Lillywhite, who had already produced one of the early solo albums for Peter Gabriel, as well as U2's first album, "Boy."

     "He was the first person to help turn those jams into songs," Butler says. "Richard would be singing with a ton of anger and he (Lillywhite) would say, 'Try singing it more and calm it down.' "
That first self-titled Psychedelic Furs album, as well as their follow-up also produced by Lillywhite,

     "Talk, Talk, Talk," features washes of dissonant guitars, straight-ahead drumming, brash bursts of saxophone and Richard Butler's growling vocals, with his skill for finding a kind of roundabout melody above the din. The noise-drenched cacophony was still there. So was the anger.

     The song "Pretty in Pink" caught the attention of director John Hughes, who used the track for a hit film of the same name. But Butler says the original song isn't about a girl who was pretty but didn't know it. He says it was about a girl who "slept around and didn't respect herself" and "nobody wanted to know."

     The success that the "Pretty in Pink" soundtrack brought to the band was a bit problematic, however.

     "That was a blessing and a curse," he says. "We got more of a following but we lost some of our hardcore fans. There were all of these young girls showing up in 'Pretty in Pink' t-shirts. The old fans left us as we gained a huge audience, but it was a very fickle pop audience. In that respect it was a downside."

     But as the Psychedelic Furs rode the MTV generation into international fame with a sort of new wave pop laced with cynicism, The Church spent the early 1980s pursuing artistic integrity while fighting the trends. This made them something of a rock critic's misfit. Their songs were ethereal, cerebral, tending toward mysticism. Not the "dumb rock" of AC/DC, says Kilbey.

     "The source of that was my study of Greek and Egyptian mythology, a study of ancient history. I even studied Latin in school, things like art movies," Kilbey says. "I just wanted to get all of that into rock'n'roll."

     But it wasn't easy. They weren't punks but the attitude was anti-social, and very anti-commercial. They were signed to Capitol Records, only to find that the record company executives didn't like the brainy sort of art-rock they were doing. Kilbey recalled the day one record company official asked them to sound more like another Australian act, the Little River Band, an easy listening sort of group.

     "It's always a struggle," he says. "It was in the early days, was in the middle days, and still is now. All the record companies do is sign you up, say they like you how you are, then try to do everything they can to change you. They want you to wear different clothes. Different hair. They will say 'I love you, now change.' "

     Even during their most successful days, the members of The Church were anti-authoritarian, an attitude usually expressed in the form of resisting the advice of their handlers and their record producers. After some up-and-down experiences with producers and record labels, the band was able find its signature sound on Arista Records with "Starfish." The album's spacious sound has arching, twining twin-guitar interplay with a shimmering sort of chiming, chimerical brilliance. The track "Under the Milky Way" became a hit. That was followed up with another successful album, "Gold Afternoon Fix," which includes several other pieces that are still part of their regular set list. This was recorded during a period of their regular rebellion against their producer Bob Clearmountain and their settings in Los Angeles.

     Disenchantment became a kind of artistic muse. As Kilbey stated at the time: "The Church came to L.A. and really reacted against the place because none of us liked it. I hated where I was living. I hated driving this horrible little red car around on the wrong side of the road. I hate that there's no one walking on the streets and I missed my home. All the billboards, conversations I'd overhear, TV shows, everything that was happening to us was going into the music."

     Throughout their career, The Church has remained out of sync with their generation of MTV bands from the 1980s. For example, prior to touring with the Psychedelic Furs, they were teamed up with a reunion of Duran Duran, perhaps one of the most beloved and hated pop groups of their time.

     "That was terrible. That was the worst tour ever," Kilbey says. "They were the worst band in the world. I hated touring with them. What an absolutely hopeless bunch of girlies. It makes my skin crawl just listening to them ... That's one of the reasons I really like touring with the Psychedelic Furs. It's a much better fit."

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Blues-punk The Yawpers are the best new thing I've heard in a year

A standard conversation with someone espousing a lifelong passion for guitar-based rock'n'roll might go like this: "What do you think of music today?" says the first, with the response being "it sucks," or, "I can't think of one good new band today." As long-time Village Voice music critic Robert Christgau recently put it, while espousing the primacy of hip hop and world music, if you are into guitar-based rock, which is to say, the blues turned up, then you are "shit out of luck."

 And this is more than American Idol disease. If you scan the zeitgeist of such modern music web outlets as Pitchfork.com, you might learn that all music began with David Bowie and was perfected by Sonic Youth. The site's collective vibe about a miraculous number of new performers, none of whom you've ever heard of (for one pretty sure that all rock began with Robert Johnson and was then appropriated by Elvis and Mick) pretty much eschews the blues. Steve Earle, after releasing the album "Terraplane Blues," said recently he couldn't understand why some critics said it was "derivative." How can an approach to expression that snaked its way into the 20th century to change the world's tune, well delivered on a raw Dukes' recording, be derivative, instead of traditional, Earle asks. One wonders: like Fox News Papa Bill O'Reilly's mournful "War on Christmas," is there a war on the blues?

Well, if there is, the Denver-based band The Yawpers might be able to turn the tide. Or, a lot more bands like the power-trio would. Even lead singer and songwriter Nate Cook has felt the sting of the war on the blues on the new record "American Man" released on the Bloodshot label. He says some of the early reviews criticized the new release -- "some bad reviews" -- for some of the same reasons as what Earle yawped about as being "derivative."

"Our music has been a paradigm for the better part of the twentieth century," he says, agreeing that after all that time, there might now be a "backlash."

But blues-based rock, now charged up by a new generation with punk and heavy metal running through the veins, is in good hands with The Yawpers, who are capable of adding a fresh intelligence to the lyrics and, knowing how to build the momentum, to produce mountains of focused and gritty blues-bashed goodness like only a great three-piece can.

The really scary thing about The Yawpers is they do hard-edged Americana with two acoustic guitars and drums. The low grinds of the two guitars make you feel like there's bass there, when there isn't, and cascades of steel pedal riffs make it hard to believe the instrument hadn't been modified for Zepped-up electric amps by R.L. Burnside. The record, produced fully live by Johnny Hickman, the guitarist for Cracker, has a crackling authenticity, with the teamwork for pacing and volume heavy youthful abandon reminiscent of one of their heroes and musical forebears, The Meat Puppets. Reviewers have taken amazing leaps to describe their sound, most of it having to do with dirt, blood, beer, cavernous bars or the 70s bands Mountain, MC5 and Blue Cheer (who knew?). But The Yawpers' Cook leaves all of that journalistic poetry splicing to greater minds, saying reviews of music are "like trying to describe architecture."

Yes, The Yawpers dish out punked up blues with a thought in its head, lyrically speaking. Cook says he wasn't sure about how the band's name aesthetic would work out, but he's now much more comfortable with the fact the name came from a poem by Walt Whitman, from "Leaves of Grass": " “I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world.” Linking the pre-literate age of America to the current post-literate, in a world neutron bombed with musical ditties suited for waiting in line at the store to buy the newest smart watch, Cook says the Denver music scene, where waves of folkies had been coming out snack food crisp, is finally breaking away into a more rumbling, rocking era. Great sounds will always float over the land of just plain stupid, and yawping frequently seems to be the cure. Regarding Whitman, Cook now says the band name works because the title, and their music, is about "the blessed individual. The individual as sacrament."

As in: "The death of the individual," says Cook. "It is an intentionally brash record, but it's not outwardly un-PC. It's not a manifesto, but it does draw from a set of guidelines with songs about the state of the individual in the Western World."

The title track, "American Man," and a song about how real freedom comes when you can work "Nine to Five" all feature themes of the vacated belief that not only can a single individual not make a difference, a person cannot even be an individual. Not, at least, in the epic American way of thinking about it. With the tough economic backdrop, he sings of the burned out land: "This is my home but I’m a stranger here / If I had any left I’d cry American tears."

Cook grew up in a small town near San Antonio that he described as a "gun-toting, right wing" dystopia. So he's picked up a few things about how yearning and desperation are two sides of the same coin. He attended classes at Northern Arizona University 11 years ago before moving on to Colorado, where he latched onto the recession era bumcore sound of Denver's Colfax Avenue music scene and such bands as Bluebird Theater regulars American Relay, which blasted walls of Jimi Hendrix style blues with just drums and guitar. "I never met them," Cook says, "but I did see them play."

Another banjo-and-washboard minimalist folk-riot, Reverand Peyton's Big Damn Band, also fits the organic elements inspiring The Yawpers assault on American roots rock. A small band, which didn't evolve with a bass because there wasn't anyone around to play it by the time they were doing shows, is just good economic sense. Cook had adopted his parents love for Bob Dylan, the Beatles, Neil Young, and especially Bruce Springsteen, and now there's a lot of the Boss in the way he creates characters for his common man themes on "American Man."

"I always had an interest in doing proletarian music with more of a literary slant," he says. "We have a twisted take on the blues, a more high-minded approach to the blues. We like recording things totally live, and for whatever reason that has worked out for us."

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Dale Watson thinks country music is a crazy whore and wants a divorce

    So where and when did country music cross the line? Just ask Dale Watson, perhaps one of the leading critics of the genre. With his taste for fine western wear and trademark pompadour, he's a purist, for sure. There was no evolution in Dale Watson's music. He started out thirty years ago as an authentic, and if you want to know what authentic is, you still listen to Dale Watson, with his bass-tenor range and brilliant phrasing of the great American twang. And then, when you ask him what he's doing, he'll say it's something else, not country. Country music, he says, agreeing with Tom Petty, "has become bad rock'n'roll with a fiddle."
     Oh, it's worse. Much worse. Petty was just being polite. Watson is not polite. In fact, his first album produced a bit of an alt-country hit, "Nashville Rash," which only goes to show that Watson has made a career out of being impolite about the whole drift of the country music game. As he sang, in 1995:

Help me Merle, I'm breakin' out in a Nashville rash
It's a-looking like I'm fallin' in the cracks
I'm too country now for country, just like Johnny Cash
Help me Merle, I'm breakin' out in a Nashville rash

Shoulda' known it when they closed the Opry down
Things are bound to change in that town
You can't grow when you rip the roots out of the ground
Looks like that Nashville rash is getting 'round

     So yes, songs like "Country My Ass" indicate a gift for inspiring the rebel in anyone who prefers George Jones and Johnny Cash to the radio ready salutes found on mainstream country radio. According to the Austin Chronicle, "country music's a crazy, gold-diggin whore, and Dale Watson wants a divorce." Asked if this sensationally colorful line might be included in one of his songs someday, he responded, "I kind of think I already did ..." then taking a pause, saying, "It's not a bad idea, actually."
    Watson says country music went off the rails well before he released his first record, "Cheatin' Heart Attack," in 1995. That was the beginning of his career as an outspoken outsider.
Actually, he blames Dolly Parton, as well as Kenny Rogers. He blames the success of the film "Urban Cowboy," which, if it had been a serious, thoughtful, sociological masterpiece, would have said a lot more about the drift of the population from the rural areas into the cities. Somewhere along the line, country plugged in, and before you knew it, Garth Brooks was leap-frogging around the stage for fully amplified shows before tens of thousands of people, like David Lee Roth with a cowboy hat.
     "Antler rock'n'roll," grouses Watson over the phone from his home in Austin. "It was a bunch of L.A. guys, and before you knew it, we had Hootie and the Catfish. When I came out, it wasn't so unbalanced as it is now. There is just no reverence when you put out fake music. If there is any reverence, it's fake. They'll call some old guys onto the stage during the show, but it's a fake reverence."
     In order to make the art form formerly known as "country" great again, Watson has coined a new phrase, "Ameripolitan," dedicated to themaintenance of four musical styles: "Honky-tonk, western swing, outlaw and rock'a'billy," he says. "I do bits of all four. If you don't want to be associated with country music, then hey, come up to the Museum Club show to hear some Ameripolitan music."
     If honky-tonk music is about a style of music, it's also about a place for music. Watson says his music doesn't translate as well before thousands of people on a big amphitheatre stage as it does in the smaller Museum Club-like venue.
     "Ameripolitan means small cities, small communities, intimate places that exist everywhere," he says.
     Based out of Austin, Watson's "Ameripolitan" movement even has its own rewards show, now entering its third year.
     Watson comes from an Ameripolitan place, Pasadena, Texas, south of Houston. He grew up poor and started sneaking into bars to hear live country music in the area at an early age.
     "I got to hear the good music at the age of 14, when I first started going into honky tonks," he says. "The first show I snuck into was Willie Nelson at Gilly's," ironically, the same citified country bar made famous by a bull-riding John Travolta. "There was still Conway Twitty on the radio. Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard were still on the radio," recalling it as if it were a distant dream.
    He considered the military as a career but an eye injury when he was 12 (since corrected) kept him from enlisting, so he worked for the Shasta Bottling Company in Houston. At the same time, he was playing in local country bands in clubs. "I finally decided I was making more money playing music than working at that warehouse job, so I started playing music full time."
     His first group was called The Classic Country Bandin.
     "We did the shuffles, George Jones, we played Texas honky tonks," he says. "The more time that passed, the more the likes of Merle Haggard became an old timer thing. The neighborhood changed so much. It drove people out that had a different style. It was in frustration to what country music was doing that I went back to driving trucks. I enrolled in truck-driving school but shortly into that the record company called and said they liked the album that included  'Nashville Rash,' and it became the independent album of the year."
     There is a little bit of Hollywood, too, in Watson, he admits. After his first record came out, he moved on to Los Angeles, at the suggestion of Rosie Flores. He teamed up with John Jorgenson of the Desert Rose Band and the burgeoning alt-country scene at Curb Records.
     "That was a really important learning experience," he says. "When I got to L.A., I was able to write my own songs and sing them."
     His new record, "Call Me Insane," produced by Lloyd Maines, remains true to the roots of his rural music heroes. Dedicated to George Jones, Watson says he wrote most of the songs for the album just after Jones had passed away.
     "I miss the presence of George Jones," he says. "What he meant and symbolized. The roots of the music keep dying, and the roots of the country music today are being firmly planted in thin air. It's gotten to the point that now I'm ashamed to be called country music."

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