Wilco put out a new album in 2019 called Ode to Joy. To talk about it, Colin brings back historian and music expert Court Carney, a professor at Stephen F. Austin State University in Texas and a longtime Wilco fan. Together, Colin and Court discuss not just Wilco's new record, but the band's 25 year history.
Court was a fan of Uncle Tupelo, an early-90s southern Illinois alt-country band that featured songwriters Jeff Tweedy and Jay Farrar, who would go on to form, respectively, Wilco and Son Volt. Initially, Court was on "team Jay" before becoming enamored with Jeff Tweedy's music.
Since putting out his first Wilco record, Tweedy has been involved in various side projects, including Golden Smog and Loose Fur, as well as the memorable Mermaid Avenue sessions, where Wilco and Billy Bragg interpreted unfinished Woody Guthrie songs. Tweedy has also done solo work by himself and with his son Spencer.
But Wilco endures. And how has the sonic journey of Wilco compared to other great bands, such as the Beatles, Dylan, and Led Zeppelin? Does Wilco's recent work measure up to expectations? Whether or not you love the latest record, Wilco still loves you, baby.
Musician and actor Ben Dickey is the star of the 2018 biopic Blaze, where he played the doomed, legendary singer-songwriter Blaze Foley. Blaze was from Arkansas and so is Ben. As he tells Colin, he learned music from his grandfather, who sang and played guitar, turning him on to country stars Jimmie Rodgers and Lefty Frizzell. Ben drew on many influences growing up, and by the time he was in high school, he was playing and recording for the math rock group Shake Ray Turbine.
Ben left Little Rock for Philadelphia. A day job as a chef helped him pay the bills, while he played live gigs and recorded several albums with Blood Feathers. In Philly, he met his lifelong sweetheart, who was friends with Ethan Hawke's wife. Ethan and Ben became friends, and Ethan would direct Ben in Blaze later. It was Ben's first major role, and his turn as Blaze won him an acting award at Sundance.
These days, Ben tries to balance a life as a busy actor and musician. Music remains his first love, but he is working with Ethan Hawke again on a cable series about abolitionist John Brown. The show will air in 2020 on Showtime.
Ben's been around the country and back, a journey that has involved everything from gigging in a Bob Wills cover band in Arizona to playing with John Prine and sharing the screen with Kris Kristofferson. Among his many talents, he also does a killer Bill Clinton impersonation.
Music in this episode: Ben Dickey and cast, "Let Me Ride in Your Big Cadillac" from Blaze soundtrack; Ben Dickey, "The Bizzy Waltz," from A Glimmer on the Outskirts; Ben Dickey and cast, "Clay Pigeons" from Blaze soundtrack; Ben Dickey; "Down the Shore," from Sexy Birds & Salt Water Classics.
Winston Hodges is a Richmond comic. He started doing comedy and experienced quick success back in 2015. A native of rural Virginia, he graduated from Virginia Tech before winning a contest at the Funny Bone, where he riffed on roller coasters. It was his first time doing comedy on stage. Ever.
Recorded at the Fuzzy Cactus in Richmond, Colin and Winston talk about the local comedy scene, doing blue material vs. working clean, fast food, commuting, and what it's like to get laughs around kids. They also tackle some heavy stuff, such as losing a family member to cancer.
Winston has a comedy album, Rad Bod as well as a podcast, the Winstmas Games. Here, you can hear him talk about his comedy influences and why he's exhausted with Louie CK. Also, this episode gives Colin a chance to pull out his impression of Bill Hicks's mom. You can check out Winston's upcoming dates at www.winstonhodges.com.
Wiseguy Adam Bulger stops by for an unprecedented third American Rambler appearance to talk about Martin Scorsese's new flick The Irishman. Adam thinks Scorsese is the best filmmaker of the 20th century, but how has he fared in the 21st? Does The Irishman measure up to expectations? How does it fit into the Scorsese canon?
This Siskel & Ebert-ish discussion soon evolves into a talk about other Italian-American directors, The Sopranos, and The Wire. Also, no conversation would be complete without a Dennis Miller impersonation courtesy of Mr. Bulger.
Virginia native Ben Cleary is the author of Searching for Stonewall Jackson, a non-traditional military history of one of the Civil War's most famous generals. As Ben tells Colin, his interest in "Old Jack" stems from how different the general seems to modern students of the war.
Ben's book builds on a career spent writing and teaching. He began his work on Jackson after writing articles for the New York Times "Disunion" feature during the Civil War sesquicentennial. He is also a veteran of the Richmond writing scene and has taught at public schools in the area and in the juvenile justice system.
Ben and Colin discuss Jackson's campaigns as well as the general's thoughts on slavery, religion, and family life. Ben talks, too, about his early writing career in the "Scarytown" era of Richmond and how he learned Russian literature from a chain-smoking countess at VCU.
Recorded earlier in the fall, Colin talks about his love of stand up comedy as well as his recent trips to the Funny Bone in Richmond, where he saw T. J. Miller and Doug Stanhope.
In the intro, the Rambler examines how there's no great way to travel from Virginia to Massachusetts by car. Hope you've digested all the turkey by now!
And hey, check out my blog post on Massachusetts comedy: