For Tramps & Thieves (Steal This Song)

At a memory place called the Spirit Room
See the mining town slip off the mountainside
See the day go long in bikers attire
into the Saturday gloom as the vultures stare
and two birds return to their tenuous wire
after a crazy night in Jerome, Arizona
two art thieves with their hair on fire

Tramps & Thieves are playing tonight
Smell like an animal, it's quite all right
We'll find our shoes in the morning light
Tramps & Thieves are praying for sight

Hard to explain love with a difficult dame
May the desert sky dry our tears for what we're worth
She dropped off the shelf from my savage breath
then broke into pieces now I'm lonely to death
I howled out loud hoping it would fix itself
then leaned into love songs with bass for breasts
then sold my guitar at the pawn shop or at the bar
Took the train across the country but I went too far

Tramps & Thieves are playing tonight
Smell like an animal, it's quite all right
We'll find our shoes in the morning light
Tramps & Thieves are praying for sight

Me chasing her, her chasing him
I beat 'em all off with a stick
but I'm not made of tin
Tried to write a poem
but I typed it with mittens
tried to write a book
but it's already been written

(guitar solo here)

The girl, the witch, is gone for good
though you might see her wandering
a mystical waif in your neighborhood
Gone underground gone for good
How I long for those old creosote sounds
Pile-driving guitar and Southwestern twang
of cactus and trees and reasons for singing
of desert beings only out for the evening

Tramps & Thieves are playing tonight
Smell like an animal, it's quite all right
We'll find out shoes in the morning light
Tramps & Thieves are praying for sight


Down the Road from Crawfordsville

Somewhere at the end of the road
Down where the railroad used to go
In her trailer she slept with a frown
Trying to stare her demons down
The statue of libertines came around
The wolf had already walked the town
I wrote poetry without much sound
Except for a laugh
from all of the dumbing down

Down the road from Crawfordsville
the broken motor man turned to stone
like Apache copters a'rotoring on
and wagons circling from raging clowns
they argued the point
till the town burned down

Though they paid the rent
for ten dollars a week
the world was shred
by wolves among sheep
as smokes he borrowed
he burned to keep from weeping
and anhydrous ammonia
came up from the deep
and she worshiped her stars
when lacking sleep
while pine needles fell
in symmetries at her feet
before the dogs all howled
in the morning light
down the road from Crawfordsville

They all got a book out
about self-proclaiming,
about water-board wording
and daylight savings,
burning bushes, barns,
the hay needle's laughter
about the unicorn dying
while the Republican Party's
secret headquarters
has gone to rust
down the road
in Crawfordsville

Yeah, down the road
from that tiny Ta'Iowa town
a pig farmer named Lester
is happier than hell
He's driving by
with a sleeping hawkeye
his parallax view
can tell no more lies
and the good book sold now
to the controverted
stands in the way
of truth's memory
of the local sounds
in Crawfordsville
Cardinal square in sharp-cut corners
the coroner croons with each hard winter
turning summer waters cancer cluster bitter

Down the road from Crawfordsville
"climate is dead" for the motorhead,
fertilizer falls from the fire-up sky,
we need not ask for the season of why

Down the road from Crawfordsville
the maharishi's prayer is for a limo
in need of more corn-fed gasoline
and up the road: the Wal Mart roadkill
is churned up dust from that shuttered
restaurant full of crap for the ghostly haunt

Down the road from Crawfordsville
that old shack is burning still
with bushels full of Monsanto seed corn
breaking your teeth on porky porn
as the Synergy trucker waves goodbye
but even with buckets full of energy
we want heroes, well here are three
with eleven cups of free coffee, cigs,
some sanity for satiety, a kind kinda
Fire Safety Week society
for squeaking toys and dogs
to run free

Down the road from Crawfordsville
there's good folks out there, out there still,
while the eye in the sky is scorching 'em dry
they don't even ask the reason why
since loose lips sink ships, Holy Reagan cow!
The washing machine's roll is terror, Wow!

But the tenderloin's pound is a tender drum
of country folk who ain't ho hum
Can you hear them tommy tum tums
of the super farmer's food taught, like magic,
by a hand-held Fibonacci sequence tool

Down the road from Crawfordsville
the Big Box trucker armies
broke 'em up bad,
so forget those things
you learned in school
about how Frodo kept the ring
and the Golden Rule,
about how mega Hertz
made German tanks,
cause techno Teotihucuan
gives good thanks
at the dinner table, to the cops,
to your loan at your banks

Just let it roll by, let it fire its blanks,
'cause down the road from Crawfordsville
you can still greet the sun in sacrificial light
and the morning moon will come a day too soon,
so swim with the shore you supper fools ...

Down the road from Crawfordsville
worms from the air get carved up, cool,
the super farmer's just awe right
'cause disinformation is far outta sight
and William Shatner just plain lied

to those poor folks in Riverside
and east to west the buffalo returns
to beat the dust from the Bible belt's urn

Down the road from Crawfordsville
a bard's lament is the ever-giving quest,
despite the wormwood, yer guns, yer tongue,
you'll give great thanks when mourning is done,
when her sacrificial second sight is Mary singing
about storms to come, about enough blood to drown
the terrorists of shock, awe, the dumbing down,
just can't avoid the daily bank scam man
who hits the train station burned to the ground
and the bump in the road will kill you if found

Meanwhile the ranch gets saved up the road
from Crawfordsville, where sileage choppers
look like haircut machines by day, E.T. by night,
like giant Sandworms harvesting spice,
and the golf course tanned Dan
is a thousand miles away, tinkering
with puppets to sway, like bobcats
shot and killed and made into hats,
the collection plate is eternal
as the frightly nightly news
the heroes go on despite these views
when asked how she feels she sighs and says,
"Peaceful," she says, "and peaceful is nice."

~ Ames, Iowa
Note: The first private meeting of what would become the Republican Party came when Whig Party defectors met privately in Crawfordsville in February, 1854. The meeting was to lay the groundwork for the creation of a new political party. The first public meeting was held in Ripon, Wisconsin one month later.


This is Your Facebook Page Bursting into Flames

Match to match, tree to tree, soul to soul,
disembodied faces roiling into a roar:
This is your Facebook page set on fire. 

Coffee house man. In his black danger shirt.
A style set alight in Cambridge and San Francisco.
Distant and divisible. Locked into his spacey game face.

Day traders with caps on backwards.
Facing each other at a table, but not seeing,
talking, an electrical frenzy feeding.

Headphones plugged in.
Tommy knows where to put his cork
as more vacant ghosts enter each door.

Crew cut hipster male in a tight T-shirt
walking up and down the caffeine freak floor.
Waving his arms. Speaking to the invisible ether.

No one calls for the men in white suits.
No one says this is the quickening,
the fall of the robot on his auto-pilot throne.

Pressing all buttons! Pressing all buttons!
Faster fire faster fire! See and Say toys
pressed into weapons for desire.

Help me! Help me! 
Look at me! Look at me!
Immersion is art is affirmation,

One faces suicide as one faces toast,
another's salad has done and gone soft,
another selfie's on a yacht and you want it to sink.

Political rage. Monkeys in a cage.
The narcissist echo going ping ping ping.
The troll leaping out like a jack-in-the-box,

Eternal documentation for our verification.
The anniversary meme bounces back
like a bad dream. What were you thinking?

There's a rumble in the hacking.
Is this Rome for the sacking?
The lit-up void gone paranoid for peeping.

The click-per-minute pace.
The ache in your back
as the moment is breaking.

Disembodied avatars burning brown
as fake news reels as real news keeps faking.
God is the cyborg but God is just joking.

You sit still so long you can't take a shit.
A leader who will take us all down
just for the clicks.


Of God and Garbage

Mountain Dew container
rolls free along the road
in the hot Sonoran wind
Going tink, clink,
Plucky and determined
Heading up
the down lane
With courtesy
to stop for the light
as the summer breath
stalls for a sec
Then moves again
as the rambling goes on ...

By the year Twenty Fifty,
at this crunched pace,
it will make
the Mogollon Rim ...
Returning to the mountains
from where it began

God loves
the tenacity
of the aluminum can


9 Trumpidor

On 9 Thermidor Year II (27 July 1794), the French politician Maximilien Robespierre was denounced by members of the National Convention as "a tyrant", leading to Robespierre and twenty-one associates including Louis Antoine de Saint-Just to be arrested that night and to be beheaded on 28 July.

The tyranny of the son
arrests the tyranny
of the father, who arrests
the tyranny of eternity

I am the punisher of the son
I irradiate the wind anhydrous
So no one smiles, no one cares
no one dares to challenge me
and no river meets the sea

I am the revolution
to dissolve the ancient regime
and blood soaks the land
and lies dissolve reality

I am the fear of the wreck
as we wreck ourselves

I once was a painter
and I put on the helmet
of Cortez to conquer
the land with golf courses

But now a balancing woman
looks over her shoulder,
naming a guillotine date
for me

She is pitiless and swinging free
as my fun house mirror mind
is cut loose
from the body of the world


Going Underground (for William Blake)

Let us all retreat now into the secrecy of poetry,
into the pedestrian road rage of incomprehensible symbols,
into pages white burned pages black, into rambling mangled encryption,
away from a world rendered remorseless of mad made up words,
just as the morning blues-hued crows squawk to each other
for no reason other than to announce, "the fool is here,
the fool is there, the fool in the clouds is everywhere."

And if the dog has howled, 
then is promptly disemboweled,
then let us read the entrails as real history.
It comes from below, like thunder so we know
the lingering echo of the empty minded sound
is the most profound mystery
of the poet gone underground

Does he know from where it came,
as a bargain with his shame,
from me, and most certainly not her,
maybe him or not him,
from the stomach or the groin,
from the heart but not the brain,
from the sunshine on the hot moon,
from the mirror of private imagining?

Get out of the way! 
Get out of the way!
Get out of your own way!

Down, down, down we go, down we go, down we go
into the immense pinprick of angels set to wandering,
beneath the surveillance of prying sick society
to save ourselves with muffled ringing bells
made of murky meanings, dual and dark,
from the molten core, a sacred fire,
a revolution that starts at home


Bank American Blues

The pedestrian road rager
sat down and listened to the deaf man,
can to string to broken cracked can man,
confessing he worked with Steven Spielberg's dad
in 1957, when they were drumming up plans
for a main frame computer program
to undo the earth, the heart, our American home,
from Huns to Hunstra, who came to a Southwestern
desert, house-built by the mob, dreamed up in Vegas,
to the compromised creosote landscape
of horny toads and rattle snakes nabbed
in trash cans, tumbleweeds built up
along fences, a witch hunt for the wilds;
He who came to town for General Electric,
He who died on a Sunday afternoon
in a small plane crash in New Mexico,
flying back from the East, when Gee Hee,
very shortly thereafter, gave up on taikos
and the remaining Promethean games
games to come, working for golf putter
designers, golf coursey hunters of the bank
of American dreams as I now enter
the sleek confines, the cat box catcher
of red and white walls and fixed furniture,
with not much blue anywhere, not much else
but blue type spelling "Bank of America,"
lots of beeping noises, alerting the authorities
of the dangerous Danton armed to rob you,
with his big ass damn scary pen, strange
and haunted, shell-shocked eyes,
home loads of red, charged off years ago,
in overdraft fees that should be given back
to the people you croaked, the dead peasants
you croaked with check systems given out
like blankets to nineteenth century Apaches
to gather accounts made up of less than zeroes,
for third-party collection companies,
as the wind cries Mary ...


Old 97s ... Longer than you've been alive

Always the best little band that could,
since the days alt-country-rock
to a train beat was born

If you want to know anything about Old 97s chief songwriter Rhett Miller, all you need to do is go to their most previous album, "Most Messed Up," his mid-life crisis masterpiece, and listen to "Longer Than You Have Been Live." Just do it. What are you doing here? He gives it all up with quite confessional dash as the band gets all flexible to a train beat and desert rock guitar ...

Well it must be hard to get partnered with me
some narcissism some O.C.D.
but love that comes easy's a fake or a fluke
love is a marathon sometimes you puke
speaking of which there has been alcohol
oceans and oceans but that isn't all
mountains of weed a handful of pills
none of the hard stuff that shit kills
we've been doing it longer than you've been alive
twenty good years of about twenty-five

When the Old 97s came out of Dallas in the early 1990s they were associated with a new term at the time, alt-country, and it proved to be no mere fad. The durability of the post-alternative field of acts that the Old 97s has proven to be pretty strong. Such artists as Ryan Adams, who started out with Whiskeytown, as wells as the Drive-By Truckers (and, oh Lord, the Jayhawks), Wilco and the group of musicians who eventually became Son Volt all succeeded with their brand of cranky, homespun sincerities, all seeming to call from somewhere out in the Mid-west driven by what Old 97s guitarist Ken Bethea calls "big desert guitar" and "train beats."

"Every one of those artists still do kick ass gigs," Bethea says of the genre his band helped to pioneer. "Considering how nobody has become famous, maybe the biggest of them is Wilco, but how many people are there who really know about them? ... When you look at something like new wave, how many of those bands have made a relevant record in 20 years? But guys like us, and Ryan Adams and Jeff Tweedy (Wilco) knew what they were doing. I just like to think that we are all just better at it."

The four members of the band have been together for the entirety of the band's history. So when the band lost its drummer for a few weeks due to injuries suffered a fall, it felt pretty strange not to have a practical member of the family around during the tour.

"Since the very beginning we just fundamentally like each other. We love this band and we are really focused on it. We need the creative cool it creates for us. We need to make music that sounds like nobody else," he says.

In the early '90s, Bethea joined band members Rhett Miller (vocals, guitar), Murray Hammond (bass), Philip Peeples (drums) after he quit a job in the defense industry training programmers building big-winged B2 bombers.

"I quit my job, I was so sick of it, and at the same time I had been just drinking beer and playing songs with Rhett and Murray," he says. "Two weeks after I quit we booked a gig at a little coffee shop in Dallas and it just never stopped. Three years later we were playing on David Letterman."
Critically acclaimed but never having what could be called a hit single, the Old 97s are basically the little band that could. Never sounding too big for arena rock, with a few exceptions during a period where they were trying to stretch their boundaries, have kept a kind of hot band with a club sound intact.

The new Old 97s record, "Graveyard Whistling" finds the band still playing to the "big desert guitars" and the train beat, and is essentially the same approach to their sound that began with their first records. With the exception that instead of doing boy-meet-girl songs, they are now men in mid-life crisis songs. And enough doomed, odd-ball songs about Jesus to make you wonder if they were auditioning for Christian radio.

"There's a lot of dealing with our own mortality," Bethea says.

The album was recorded in Tornillo, Texas, where there is a veritable bed-and-breakfast style venue for bands about 40 miles outside of El Paso. The band had recorded their first record there. And when they recorded this time they stayed in the same room and found notes in a drawer that they had left there more than 20 years before.

The album begins with "I Don't Want to Die in This Town," a title taken from a Frank Sinatra anecdote about him refusing to be treated for a serious health condition while he was on tour because he hated the place. Bethea says he could relate to the story because of the transitory life of a musician.

"When we do these shows we will wake up in a cool town like Eugene, Oregon, and we might go do the coffee shops and see what there is to see, and then by the time we do the show it's like the greatest feeling in the world. But we don't want to wake up the next day in that place. It's like what could we possibly do in Eugene, in that point, that we haven't done already?"


Son Volt goes blues-core

The trouble all started in Belleville, Illinois. It was sometime during the late 1980s, early 1990s. As the pearls jammed and the Janes got addicted, as thin white dudes from Britian to Australia were leading the alternativeland wave, the whole hip of it was in jeopardy. Partly because of two insurgent types in Belleville, Jeff Tweedy and Jay Farrar. The two, who formed a band called Uncle Tupelo, basically hijacked country and rock, and all of the critics raved for it, due to the music's cranky intensity, and alt-country was born as a good short-hand to describe the movement around 1993. But then Farrar and Tweedy proved to be just too damned prolific for their band's own good, so they split into two bands, Wilco and Son Volt.
Between the two, Wilco has made the most of its under-the-radar status, but comparing that band's last album and Son Volt's latest, "Notes in Blue," maybe the later has more stayin' power, as the tortoise to Wilco's hare.
After a focused effort to produce a record of pure honky tonk songs, Son Volt's latest is more blues-core. And if the earth tones of Son Volt have proven to be a little too rustic over the years, the new live shows are turned up loud and uptempo, indicating signs of a great little rock band gaining confidence in its purist sensibilities.
"I was aiming at the convergence of where blues, folk and country meet," Farrar says in a telephone interview prior to his show in Flagstaff. "The process in the studio is pretty intuitive. I don't do a lot of verbalizing about what direction we take."
The album includes a few rockers and many more down-in-the-dust acoustic numbers tending toward melancholy. The uptempo tunes such as "Lost Souls" and "Sinking Down" have a perfect crunch and that straight-forward punked-up-blues energy that's hard to get right in a studio. On "Notes in Blue" there's a lot of good crackling energy going on.
But digging down into the roots of the national sound is a certain specialty for Son Volt. They have an out-of-time style that once existed and never existed, where the stream of Farrar's consciousness views America through a dirty windshield. Farrar is an artful authentic, a heartland impressionist. His musician's tools are antiques that haven't blown out or fallen apart yet.
"On 'Sinking Down' I played a bottleneck slide with a quintessential blues tuning," he says. "The recording was primitive and straightforward. The approach was to make an organic recording. One example was for us to use an old amplifier which we actually used on the album cover for our first record, 'Trace,' which we had modified. It is an ancient sounding amp and that was the right aesthetic."
Another rave-up tune, "Lost Souls," could be about Son Volt, the band, existing in the space of some under heard sub-pop genre, where they are most certainly cool but they aren't household names, with Farrar singing, "Let the music play on/This world won't give us the time." But he says the song is more about others, about those far less fortunate than Son Volt, as far popularity goes.
"I was looking at it from the perspective of where a lot of bands and performers fall by the wayside. Not so much from my own but their perspective," he says.
The best aspect of any Son Volt record is Farrar's voice, which has that quality Neil Young might describe as "real as the day is long." On how he was able to sing with a kind of world-weary soul that's completely unteachable, Farrar says "My mom would have a lot of opinions on that. And in the early days I sang a lot angrier, since I was listening to a lot of punk and rock, but (his voice) got taken over by age and wisdom. Plus I haven't smoked cigarettes for 30 years. I tried that, but it didn't work for me."
And what is the source of their mythic-Americana spirit?
"I used to read a lot as a teenager working at a used bookstore that my mom owned. I do a lot of stream of consciousness," he says. "Everything from the Minutemen to the Flying Burrito Brothers. It's all part of the big continuum. That's where we came from."


Delicate Thunder: The 'Gospel' according to Paul Cauthen

You go looking for Paul Cauthen in Wichita Falls, Texas, a woodsy, verdant tornado-torn country where weeping echoes of steel pedal guitars run with the winds through the trees, and what you find in that stormy songwriter's mind is a passion for dissing the country mainstream, but also someone who is not necessarily your standard brand neo-outlaw redo. Because at the root of his talent is the angst of the somewhat lapsed choirboy, perhaps even a kind of reclusive genius who likes to push on the boundaries of the terrain, the expectations, of what it is to be in country music field.

"I'm an odd character," he says during a telephone interview from his home in Wichita Falls. "I'm very moody. I'm telling you I live in these f...ing songs. I'm that f...ing crazy."

So he admits it. He's a somewhat flawed guy. One who certainly doesn't give much tow to mainstream country (Naturally, he's opening for Social Distortion just before he gets to play in Flagstaff at the Museum Club). He lives on that jaded edge where a lifetime of hard road creates that hole in the roof where the rain pours through, and the result is an album like "My Gospel." The record reveals his artful vulnerability. As he said recently, “You don’t have to write about tan-lines and flip-flops and cold beer and the sand every f...in’ day … Write about your feelings, for once.”

He says the intent of the record was to be "timeless and righteous," and that's pretty much the motto for the band. A group of musicians who, he says, he'd be perfectly willing to go to a show just watch them play.

"We've got the recipe," he says of his band mates and his producer, Beau Bedford, who managed to pull together sessions at three different studios into a seamless record, right down to the old-tyme gospel look of his album cover. "We were able to get these guys to kill themselves for the part, to the point we were almost beat down, but right there. We want to be timeless and righteous every time we are in the building. When you get the Muscle Shoals type sound, it's like a bunch of angels are helping you."

"My Gospel," released last year, features Cauthen's booming baritone and a swamp-country groove on "Still Drivin," which is a little Dire Straits like, with yes that Waylon Jennings roll. For the rest, there is an intelligent, gospel style to the music with a submerged spirituality, as if he might be country's Van Morrison, considering all of the things he can do with that booming voice. "Marfa Lights" captures the mystery of the the desolate West Texas town to the point it's downright spooky with its lyrics sung in minor keys. He says the song is about the UFO-like phenomenon of perhaps gas lights known to hang in the sky in the region. “It’s a mysterious, cosmic love song,” Cauthen says. "My Saddle," with its vocal also in a minor key, has a kind of anthemic quality that, when punched up live, is a real crowd pleaser.

"They love that one," he says of audiences about "Saddle." "It's a showstopper. That shows our love for hanging out on the line like nobody's business. I was going for Jimmy Rodgers on peyote. Or a Quentin Tarantino movie. My head is all visual. It's a big canvas."

On the day of the interview he described his day this way: He spent the day obsessing over his catalog in his music room upstairs, then reminded himself to relax and "just kick it" with his two dogs and his fiance. Because when he gets into the studio he can get so absorbed he can forget to come out for air.

"I'm going over my catalog and doing what I need to do," he says. "It's been great, but it's also pretty low key. We are trying to make it more than just keeping it low key because right now we are just barely getting by. We are thinking about moving to Fort Worth or Nashville, because this is my job and when I look at these heavy writers out of Nashville, the roots of their (success) comes from a real work ethic. So I really try to grind. We want to make it a machine, per se."

He says the freedom of his private time in the music room allows him to isolate and focus.

"That leads it open for me to write. I want a rock feel, a gospel feel, even though I feel like its a country aesthetic since I grew up here in east Texas. I want to get my voice to the point where it's almost a whisper. With singers like Curt Cobain of Nirvana, Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, Elvis ... they have a delivery that's almost frail and nimble."

Therefore, in the future, Cauthen albums may indicate a desire for more exploration, as opposed to an affirmation of classic country.

"I feel like so many people play like they are in a box," he says.

So, based on these details, Cauthen's "country" is based on a broader palette than the Luckenbach, Texas crowd. Not so much stark and traditionalist as rich, almost to the point of being jazzy, like a Marc Cohn (who made a hit of "Walking in Memphis") or Lyle Lovett, who adorned his alt-country records with jazz and swing. This is all because of instead of growing up in honky tonks, he grew up learning to sing in an a capella gospel choir.

"I grew up singing in a gospel church, and it didn't believe in instruments. It was all about singing," he says. "I started out singing old bluegrass tunes that my granddad liked, stuff like Woody Guthrie or even earlier, Grimm's fairy tale tunes. That got my imagination going, using these building blocks of harmony. It was 'Amazing Grace.' It was that album, 'Elvis Sings Gospel,' and then it was Willie Nelson's 'Red Headed Stranger.' I come from a Scottish, Irish, a mixed, definitely Anglo-Saxon type thing coming from five or six generations of people who were all preachers."

His grandfather encouraged him to sing loud at the Church of Christ.

"It was almost like being raised in an opera. You had to belt it out to be heard. My grandfather said for me to find an object in the back of the room and sing toward that. If that certain thing can't hear you, you are not doing your job."


Cody Jinks: master of country music doom

A decade ago Cody Jinx experienced trial by fire fronting a thrash metal band called Unchecked Aggression. He has the tattoos and the Wild West beard to prove it. But after the Dallas-Fort Worth area band broke up during a tour to Los Angeles, he decided to go into country music ... and then, nothing happened. 

He released a half-dozen recordings of his songs, but it was a struggle. For 15 years he played in empty bar rooms with his empty pockets. His CDs failed to reach any music chart. Even the 2015 release, "Adobe Sessions," which perfected his doom-struck sound fusing Johnny Cash style traditionalism with a kind of epic, tragic balladry, call it dark Garth, well that got attention with the critics but again, no chart action.

However, six months ago, everything changed for Cody Jinks. His second album recorded at the remote Sonic Ranch in Tornillo, Texas, released in August, suddenly took off, selling 11,000 albums. The new album, "I'm Not the Devil," dominated the Billboard charts. It went No. 4 on the Country Albums Chart, No. 3 on the Independent Albums chart. Cody Jinks was no longer, well, jinxed.

"I felt fortunate as much as anything else," he says during a telephone interview from his home in Denton, Texas. "We debuted at number four, and that was a good thing for us. I was surprised charting as high as we did. We are still hanging around (on the chart) pretty good. I felt gratified.

"But I don't worry as much about chart placement as much as just being on the chart for a while. I'd rather have some longevity, staying there at around eighteen or twenty."He says the longevity of the music was really dependent on the integrity of the effort, and he felt like "I'm Not the Devil" reflected that. The edge of his recent records, he says, came from the realization that there's not much difference between Metallica and Hank Williams Jr.

"What I found is there's a lot of similarity between traditional country, metal and punk," he says. "That's why you see so many punk bands covering Johnny Cash."He credits the spaciousness of the rootsy country sounds on "I'm Not the Devil" to the band, called the Tone Deaf Hippies, to the group getting more comfortable in working in the small studio outside of El Paso. The Sonic Ranch studio kind of has that romantic sensibility about it, as if they went way the hell out there to find the real thing to begin with.

"We were able to come out with a bigger sounding album and were able to manipulate the room a little better," he says. "It was basically just a little adobe room. The main complex out there is really quite large. But where we recorded was like a mile away and it's the only freestanding building around. It's probably a couple of thousand square feet  with everything, I mean everything in there, the recording area, the booth. We were out there for a couple of weeks."

Jinks learned a few licks of country music from his father at the age of 16, and learned from him a little about Cash, Waylon Jennings and Merle Haggard. But at that time he wanted to be the next James Hetfield of Metallica. Even so, he says he was often found in some back room before his metal band performances, strumming country songs on an acoustic guitar.

Unchecked Aggression played around the Dallas-Fort Worth "metro-plex" for the most part, covering such influences as Metallica. Megadeath, Anthrax and Pantera."Those guys are fantastic," he says.

When the band broke up he didn't know what to do. So a little over 10 years ago he was coming out of his last day job, working 30 hours a week, getting gigs three times a week. He started to do more acoustic guitar shows in Denton, and pretty soon was able to live, somewhat, playing shows in that style, perfecting his baritone country singing voice. Then started to do some recording, starting with his best first effort being "Cast No Stones" on his own label in 2010. After five years of relative futility, he he it big with "I'm Not the Devil," again made on his own label.

The album is about more than trucks, honky tonk life and cheatin' hearts, the standard fare of country. Take, for example, the song "Heavy Load," which was the last song recorded for the record. As he sings:
The train jumped track some time ago
You can't root that heavy load
It's all downhill from now
And be sure we paid the toll
The train jumped track some time ago

I heard the voice of the fourth beast say
Come and see
And I looked and behold a pale horse
And his name that sat on him was Death
And Hell followed with him

With a song like 'Heavy Load,' that sounds definitely apocalyptic," he says. "With all that about the rider and the pale horse, I draw back to something from metal and punk. I still like that intensity a lot, the social commentary. I'm always drawn the the heavy subjects. I do it without distortion now."

Now he's, along with Whitey Morgan, who he often tours with, one of the twin towers of the new dark bearded and tatooed dudes in alt-country. He's writing new songs with Morgan, as well as a host of other songwriters he's met with the newfound attention from the success of "I'm Not the Devil."

"I've been picking the brains of other writers, my contemporaries," he says. "I'm working on (a new album) right now. It's going to be drastically different because I'm learning how to hold back, getting more focused on the songwriting."