Sunday, November 17, 2013

RUGGEDLY ACCURATE: Frontier Art by the great GARY ZABOLY!

Albie's Note: I first encountered the amazing artwork of Gary Zaboly back in 1997, when as a student in Bible College I checked out a great book called  Texian Iliad: A Military History of the Texas Revolution [authored by Stephen L. Hardin-- great book!] from the Tempe [AZ] Public Library.

To use a common modern expression--- I was blown away!  I never forgot those first images, and since then I have followed his work wherever i could find it. I really appreciate the amazing  attention to detail in his workYou almost feel like you are looking at a contemporary woodcut made by a peculiarly gifted eyewitness.

Here are some samples from his work that I was able to collect from a simple Google search.. Check it out!



Mountain Men, unsettled land and lawless characters first kindled this artist’s desire to create credible illustrations that would preserve Old West history.

“It is less about bravery and courage than it is about the challenges suddenly thrust upon mostly ordinary people in the wilderness,” Gary Zaboly says. “They were forced to discover the reserves of strength and bravery within them—not to mention a host of other human characteristics, not always admirable ones. That ‘ordinary’ zone is one I prefer to depict—not the moment when the zealot dies gloriously cradling his flag, or the defenders of a fort, portrayed in godlike fashion, holding off the enemy tide, and having such extraordinary courage that none of us could ever hope to match them.”

Wanting to be an illustrator ever since he began watching B-Westerns as a kindergartner, Gary Zaboly wrote to historians who inspired him and included his sketches with the letter. “After a while they called upon me to produce original artwork for their new books and other media,” he says. “And voila! I had my first published historical illustrations.”

Since then, he has illustrated well-known figures from Gen. George Custer to Teddy Roosevelt, but his undeniable favorite is frontiersman Davy Crockett, whom Zaboly has admired since the release of the 1950s Disney mini-series. His fascination with the iconic folk hero has led him to illustrate books covering the history of Texas, such as the Blood of Noble Men: The Alamo Siege and Battle; Texian Iliad: A Military History of the Texas Revolution; and, most recently, An Altar for Their Sons, which took 18 years to complete.

“I learned that there remains much unexplored documentation concerning the story of the Alamo, and that the fort itself was not the rubbly wreck of a place that movies, artists and modelers have made it out to be,” he says. “The word ‘strong’ was constantly used in 1835 and 1836 to describe it.”

Zaboly will continue to illustrate the raw reality of the West, from its dirty buckskins to its architecture, without resorting to glamorization or romanticism. “I’m currently illustrating a book on the Mexican-American War, and am about to produce a series of illustrations depicting a certain Western tribe,” he says.


Saturday, November 16, 2013


Albie's Note:  I never actually appreciated the poetry of this Mick Jagger/ Keith Richards composition until one of my oddball heroes Skid Roper recorded this beatnik/country interpretation with his band The Whirling Spurs on the album TRAILS PLOWED UNDER back in 1989.  The lyrics have been much debated over the years, but I like to think of the piece as a sort of beat poem about loss and grief... and that endless cyclical phenomenon where humans are always trying to project their pain into the world outside of them.

But then again... maybe I should warn you that Skid's version actually features a prominent Kazoo, so how I took such a serious message away from it no doubt says a lot about me. :) 

The excellent female lead vocal here is by band-mate Jayne Robson.  Enjoy.

“Paint It Black”
I see a red door and I want it painted black
No colors anymore I want them to turn black
I see the girls walk by dressed in their summer clothes
I have to turn my head until my darkness goes

I see a line of cars and they’re all painted black
With flowers and my love, both never to come back
I see people turn their heads and quickly look away
Like a newborn baby it just happens ev’ryday

I look inside myself and see my heart is black
I see my red door and it has been painted black
Maybe then I’ll fade away and not have to face the facts
It’s not easy facing up when your whole world is black

No more will my green sea go turn a deeper blue
I could not forsee this thing happening to you
If I look hard enough into the setting sun
My love will laugh with me before the morning comes

I see a red door and I want it painted black
No colors anymore I want them to turn black
I see the girls walk by dressed in their summer clothes
I have to turn my head until my darkness goes
Hmm, hmm, hmm…

I wanna see it painted black, painted black
Black as night, black as coal
I wanna see the sun, blotted out from the sky
I wanna see it painted, painted, painted, painted black


Saturday, November 9, 2013

BIG AL's JOVIAL JUKEBOX #20: "Brave Mountaineers" by Gordon Lightfoot, 1972

Albie's Note:  Not only is this my favorite Gordon Lightfoot song [and choosing a fave from THAT man's amazing catalog is a bit of a feat in itself!] but it is-- I think-- my all-time favorite song about childhood.

Maybe that's because my memories of a rural childhood are astoundingly similar.   I know it's a long way from western Canada to southern Arizona, but this song really always has-- and forever will-- make me think of my boyhood in Sonoita, AZ. like no other piece of writing-- right down to the image of climbing through old train trestles in the dusty afternoon!

Gordon Lightfoot turns 75 on the 17th of this month.  Here's a shout-out to the old balladeer... my life would have been a little poorer without his music and poetry!

From the classic 1973 album DON QUIXOTE.

Born in the country and I like that country smile
Of the little girls and boys, they remind me of a child
That I knew and a big harvest moon
That shone by suppertime in the dusty afternoon

And I need to be there
When the autumn wind goes singin' through the trestle we would climb
Like brave mountaineers
We never were much bothered by time
Born in the country and I like that country song
We played for just a nickel every time we got to town
And I bought you a dime diamond ring
In the hayloft we would play, we were princesses and kings
And I need to be there
When the world gets too heavy and the shadows cross my mind
Like brave mountaineers
We never were much bothered by time
Born in the country and I like that country way
Of the uncles aunts and cousins and the card games they would play
While the young ones slept overhead
Beneath the quilts that mother made, when all the prayers were said
And I need to be there
When the autumn wind goes singin' through the trestle we would climb
Like brave mountaineers
We never were much bothered by time
And I need to be there
When the world gets too heavy and the shadows cross my mind
Like brave mountaineers
We never were much bothered by time

Tuesday, November 5, 2013


Kepler, the great astronomer, who laid the foundation of much of our knowledge of the stars, one day exclaimed, after spending hours in surveying the heavens, "I have been thinking over again the earliest thoughts of the Creator," and surely every time a man sacrifices himself, or takes up the cross for another he is thinking over again the earliest, deepest thought of the love of Christ.

    Every time you do a gentle act for another who does not deserve it, every time you lay down your life to save others, every time you endure shame and spitting and scorn to rescue lost women and lost men, in the glow of your human interest, and amidst disappointment and rebuff you say, "Well, thank God, I am seeing deeper than ever I saw before into what Jesus has been feeling for me." Abraham learned more of the love of God the day he was led up Mount Moriah than anything else could have taught him.
    Perhaps there are men and women who have been hearing all this, and who are saying, "Well, well, my life has been so dreary, so perplexed, that I cannot think God loves me." I pray you remember a text which says that "we have known and believed the love that God hath to us" (1 John 4:16).
    Standing upon the granite block of redemption and providence, and the blessings which have come to our life, we must dare to face the inexplicable, the dark, and the mysterious; and reason that the pathway of love lies through these also, and when we have traversed them we shall look back on a trail of light. The love of God has never once failed me, and though I cannot see it, or how that trouble which menaces me is consistent with it, it is only the text over again, "The love of God passeth knowledge."
    You cannot know it, you cannot tell its great track. "Thy way is in the sea, and Thy path in the great waters and Thy footsteps are not known" (Psa. 77:19). You cannot always follow Him, but you may always believe that there is love, though it passeth knowledge.
    We need a baptism of love today. We all need it. Many are leading such a miserable life of repression; they are ever flying to jealousy and hatred and ill will and suspicion and dislike. Of course we do not admit these things, and yet they incessantly torment us and follow our footsteps, as the dog which we meant to leave at home, but which follows us. And in so far as they are permitted in heart or life they exclude the consciousness of our Saviour’s infinite love.
    Let us absolutely and for ever put away all these: wrath, anger, malice, ill will and all uncharitableness. Let us reckon that such have neither part nor lot in our new resurrection life. Let us give up our ill will about each other and all who may have injured us, or at least tell Christ that we are willing to be channels through which His love may flow to them.
    And when this is so, and in no part of our heart there is cherished anything that is inconsistent with perfect love, we shall not only understand as never before the unsearchable love of Christ, but we shall be able to claim a baptism of the Holy Spirit, who sheds abroad the love of God in willing, obedient, and believing souls.
          "The Exalted Christ" subtitled "Addresses and Bible readings Delivered at Mildmay Conference" by Rev. F.B. Meyer ; with a preface by J.E. Mathieson, Published by J. G. Wheeler  in London.   

Sunday, November 3, 2013

SONGS THAT TELL A STORY #6: "Ya Gotta Quit Kickin' My Dog Around" by THE EMPTY BOTTLE STRING BAND featurung KRISTAL HARMON, 2012

Albie's Note: I first heard this old song back in the 1980s, when my college friend Bob Cavera, a roots music fan if there ever was one, owned it on a vinyl LP collection of old 1920s "78" recordings of songs by Gid Tanner & His Skillet Lickers. I always liked it and later grew to be downright fascinated by it-- particularly by how many people I would run into who had actually heard it sung before, usually from old family members or in the Army.  I figured it must be a pretty pervasive folk tune to have gone so far and wide.  

If you go on-line and research it you'll usually find people saying it was written in 1912 and used as a campaign song by an old Arkansas politician named Champ Clark.  Well, Clark did indeed use the song in his run for president against Woodrow Wilson, and he definitely seems to have made it an enormous hit in 1912 by doing so, but the song itself-- which has nothing to do with politics whatsoever-- apparently goes back much further.  An earlier hit was a copyrighted in the 1870s by James Bland, a popular Negro entertainer of the 1800s, but even his version-- which is the one most copied by later musicians-- was probably not original, as there are very similar songs going back to the 1700s, and someone even claims to have found a 17th century German poem whose lyrics,  when translated, tell almost the identical story. 

WHEW!  Confused yet?  Well...  all of this is certainly very interesting to myself and other like-minded geeks, but the main reason I have made THIS post is that I really like this young bluegrass group THE EMPTY BOTTLE STRING BAND and their various YouTube vids.  The vocal reading by this young female singer-- one Kristal Harman-- gives a phrasing that really makes the STORY of the song come alive.  The performance is live at some fun-sounding place called The Pickin' Porch in Bristol Virginia.

In any case... That ol' Jim musta been some kinda dawg!

Check it out.  I think you'll dig it too.

Me an' old Lem Briggs an' old Bill Brown
Took a load of corn to town;
My old Jim dawg, the onery cuss,
He just started to foller us.

As we went by old Johnson's store
A bunch of boys come out the door;
When Jim he stopped to smell a box
They started throwin' sticks and rocks.

Ev'ry time I come to town
The boys go to kickin' my dawg aroun';
Makes no diff'rence if he is a houn',
Ya gotta quit kickin' my dawg aroun'.  

They tied a tin can to Jim's tail
Ran him past the county jail;
That just naturally made me sore!
Ol' Lem, he cussed an' Bill he swore.

Me an' ol' Lem Briggs an' old Bill Brown
Wasted no time in throwin' down;
There came a man stompin' on the ground--
I said, "Hey Jim, go take him down!"


Well ol' Jim saw him standing there,
He jumped up on him like a bear;
He shore messed up that court-house square
With rags an' meat an' hide an' hair!

They say a dawg won't hold a grudge,
But when given too much he'll shove.
Them town boys tried to do us up,
But they did not count on old Jim pup!

Every time I come to town
The boys go to kickin' my dawg aroun';
Makes no difference if he is a houn',
Ya gotta quit kickin' my dawg aroun'.