The Same River Twice: Tender Mercies and Crazy Heart

Crazy Heart poster

Recently I finally caught Jeff Bridges’ Oscar-winning performance in Crazy Heart. And while he was certainly very good, I couldn’t shake the sense that I’d seen this movie before, when it starred Robert Duvall and was called Tender Mercies. Naturally, I’m not the first viewer to notice that. The similarities are striking. Even the protagonists’ names are similarly short, sharp, … Read More

Giants of West Tennessee: An Interview with Memphis’ own Southern Avenue

Southern_Avenue_Photo_Credit_David_McClister

NOTE: This is the latest in an ongoing occasional series about notable figures from my home region. This one is unique because, instead of a nostalgic look back, it’s about something brand new. This interview needs two introductions to set up the context. Number one: when I was growing up, WHBQ-AM out of Memphis was the radio station, a Top 40 melting pot … Read More

Guest post: the Strangest Guitar Modifications Out There

Guitar Lesson

When I spoke with music writer, guitar teacher and session guitarist Natalie Wilson about doing a guest blog, I asked her to write about the strangest guitar modifications she’d run across. What she came up with was amazing; it always pays to ask an expert. So please, if you like it, leave Natalie a note in the comments. ### If you … Read More

Interview: the Lucky Nows

The Lucky Nows

The music in the Tufa novels comes from three main sources: classic folk music, modern indie music, and me. By that, I mean that if I can’t find lyrics to quote from in the first two sources, then it falls back on me to create them. I’m under no delusions about being a songwriter, and I don’t necessarily consider my little … Read More

Godfather of Green: Danny Mullikin of Tuatha Dea on the Green Album

Green Album cover

Last year, in one of the greatest bits of synchronicity I’ve ever been part of, the band Tuatha Dea released Tufa Tales: Appalachian Fae, an album based on and inspired by my first three Tufa novels. I was also lucky enough to appear at four different events with them, to be featured (briefly) in their video for “Wisp of a … Read More

Ode to Billie Joe: the value of the hidden

ode to billie joe single

Yesterday was June 3rd, or as Bobby Gentry describes it: It was the third of June, another sleepy dusty delta day…. That is, of course, from her magnificent ballad “Ode to Billie Joe,” a song as much about what’s unsaid (or unsung) as it is about what’s said. Billy Joe McAllister jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge; the singer, a young … Read More

Inspiration and “Copperhead Road”

Copperhead_road

When I teach writing classes, I often play the song “Copperhead Road,” by Steve Earle for the students. If you don’t know it, here’s the video.   When it’s over, I point out what makes the song so extraordinary. It tells the story of three generations of men named Conlee* Pedimore; grandfather was a moonshiner, father was a bootlegger, and … Read More

How everyone, deep down, is “Like Me”

Chely Wright with flag

So one time I met Chely Wright. It was around 1998. I worked in a Nashville mall at the Bombay Company, a repulsive chain store that sold overpriced foreign-made furniture and faux artsy knickknacks. I was the assistant manager, and took it as seriously as I did most of my other jobs, which meant that I worked no harder than … Read More

The Music of Release Day

Long Black Curl cover

So today, the third Tufa novel, Long Black Curl, hits stores and devices. The pre-release reviews have been good ones, and that’s always a comfort. But the finally judgment really comes from the people who buy it. Hopefully, you. Like Wisp of a Thing, the prior novel in the series, this book also features song lyrics by contemporary indie artists. Here’s … Read More

Guest Post: Touching from a 35-year Distance

joy-divisionrehearsal

April 30 marked the 35-year anniversary of Joy Division’s video for “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” in many ways their most defining, and certainly best-known, song. I discovered their music shortly after the death of singer and lyricist Ian Curtis in 1980, and they’ve been one of my touchstone bands ever since. But I wondered if they were simply a … Read More