DRR diitdFor a dedicated collector of rare cds like myself there's nothing more frustrating than an infinite set. You will survive knowing that you probably never will complete a collection, but it's unbearable not knowing if an album has been released or not (and, in theory, are in circulation). Specifically, I have the Devil's Ruin Records (DRR) label in mind, read more here (opens in a new window). You may now ask the obvious question: how hard can it be to figure this out? Let me tell you about it. I've spent many hours searching, comparing, triangulating, double-checking, speculating and rejecting. It's an advantage to have a monomanic disposition and be disinclined to changes. If you put in the time, the results will come. That's what the management textbook says, anyway. Despite the huge effort, the facts and evidence are inconclusive. Further research is needed. But, this year I actually made a major breakthrough. Six months ago, a large part of the DRR catalogue came up for sale on Discogs. I quickly purchased five albums (see image). It cost me a lot of money (price, registered shipping, import tax and fees) and is by far the most expensive purchase ever for me, but it was worth every penny. Never seen the cds for sale before. The knowledgeable seller gave me information about the last remaining days of the label that could be used for narrowing the gap between an infinite and finite set. Let's start with the basics. Discogs (reputable website and crowdsourced database) has 37 DRR-albums listed. After the above-metioned purchase I have 34 of them. One of three missing albums is JB Nelson's "Animal Extracts". According to Discogs no one else has a copy either. With reference to unconfirmed information on internet I asked the seller about a few other "DRR-albums" not listed on Discogs. Among them, two JB Nelson albums "A Letter To My Enemies" and "Animal Index". The seller replied: "The last order I made with Devil's Ruin was those two JB Nelson CDs. The guy soon disappeared and never sent them to me. According to JB Nelson, he has a copy of each. But I don't think anyone else does. It's sad. JB later released them on DIY CDR." This part of the mystery is hereby solved. The empirical evidence supports this. The albums were re-released on Cheap Wine Records. I also asked the seller about Botanica “Who You Are”, reportedly releasead on Devil’s Ruin Records, May 25th 2010. The seller replied: "Botanica I think was a "Special release". If you paid a certain amount a year you would get an exclusive release each month. Those releases never came out as far as I know. Some others that were supposed to be exclusive were "Before You Die..." and "Death's Head Hearth". Since I lack all boundaries when it comes to hard-to-find cds I contacted all three bands in this matter. I got a reply from "Before You Die..." and "Death's Head Hearth" with the same message. They never saw a glimpse of any album. I assume this goes for Botanica as well. If that is the case then this solves the other part of the mystery. This means both clarification and relief. I can probably forget the three JB Nelson albums and conserve my resources to the other two missing albums. What makes DRR so fascinating? The label was active between 2008-2010 and released over 30 albums of which five were compilations. The high production rate has an explanation. A reliable source revealed the story behind. It's expensive to make professional cds. Reportedly, the owner had direct access to pressing equipment. Therefore, he managed to press both quickly and a whole bunch. The copies were cheap. On Discogs, all but three DRR-albums are listed as cds. According to my source they're all cdr. Devil's Ruin Records went belly up in 2010. The owner vanished from the face of the earth. Another obscure detail. When the pressing equipment wasn't used for making DRR-albums it was used for making pornography. Well, the Devil's in the details. 


neiltheyoungonesSad bastard has a certain ring to it. I think it's safe to say that "sad bastard" is a derogatory term. The academic definition: a person considered to be ludicrously contemptible or pathetic. The colloquial definition: a person who wallows in self-pity. I think you get the general idea. For him - it's always a he - awaits endless disrespect, ridicule, humiliation and mockery. The saddest of all bastards must be Neil Pye, the hippie character in the British sitcom The Young Ones (1982). One example of his sad bastard one-liners: "I won't say anything 'cause no one ever listens to me, anyway. I might as well be a Leonard Cohen album." No one wants to be, or admit that they are, a sad bastard. At least, not openly or publicly. However, I'm a sad bastard. Rather that than a happy jerk. I have always had a very strong suspicion against people that like happy or upbeat music. Why? Well, Patrick Bateman liked Huey Lewis and The News in "American Psycho", didn't he? It seems like people are hiding something behind their happy façade and forced smile. Sad isn't bad. A developed emotional setup isn't wrong. There's more to sad music than sadness. Sad music actually makes you happy, read more here (opens in a new window). This academic finding sounds like a contradiction in terms, but it's true. Moreover, the scientific community think that they found the answer to why we love sad songs, read more here (opens in a new window). The gothic country genre is filled to the brim with sad bastards. One bastard is sadder than the other. But where did term "sad bastard" come from? The term was maybe not coined, but definitely popularized, by the film adaption of Nick Hornby's book High Fidelity (2000). This is heavy irony, since I kind of like this feel-good movie. The "sad bastard" scene is hilarious. Rob (record store owner) is heartbroken and not fit for purpose, Dick (record store assistant and fact-oriented music lover is treading on eggshells) and Barry (record store assistant and fact-resistant music lover is not knowing and, if he knew, not caring) are trying to handle the awkward situation. Here is the dialogue in its entirety: 
Rob: "What's this?"
Dick: "It's the new Belle And Sebastian. Do you like it?" 
Barry: "What the fuck is this?"
Dick: "It's the new Belle And Sebastian"  
Rob: "It's the record we've been listening to and enjoying, Barry"  
Barry: "Well that's unfortunate, because it sucks ass!"
[Barry takes off the tape, and replaces it with another - Katrina And The Waves' Walking On Sunshine.] 
Rob: "Turn it off, Barry."
Barry: "Sorry, "it won't go any louder."
[Rob switches the tape off.] 
Barry: "OK, I was just trying to cheer us up. So go ahead - put on your old sad bastard music. See if I care."
Rob: "I don't want to hear old sad bastard music, Barry. I just want something I can ignore."

 

 

vicchesnutt4Christmas Day. Ten years ago today, dark americana artist Vic Chesnutt died from an overdose of muscle relaxants that had left him in a coma. Whether his death was accidental or not isn't important. More important is his impact. His music has been described as "skewed, refracted version of Americana that is haunting, funny, poignant, and occasionally mystical, usually all at once". Read the article about Vic here (opens in a new window). Vic Chesnutt was a productive artist and released 14 albums under 19 years: "Little" (1990), "West of Rome" (1991), "Drunk" (1993), "Is The Actor Happy?" (1995), "About To Choke" (1996), "The Salesman And Bernadette" (1998), "Merriment" (2000), "Left To His Own Devices" (2001), "Silver Lake" (2003), "Ghetto Bells" (2005), "North Star Deserter" (2007), "Dark Developments" (2008), "At The Cut" (2009) and "Skitter On Take-off" (2009). I have all albums in the cd format. 14 albums constitute an impressive production. However, according to Soundscan (official information and sales tracking system), he sold - in total - 104 000 copies, which is not even 7 500 copies per album. This is simply outrageous. In addition, at the time of his passing he peaked artistically. The albums "North Star Deserter" and "At The Cut" clearly showcased this fact. In the above-mentioned article I presented a playlist with his absolute best songs (which amounted to 33). Initially, I planned that the memorial playlist below should consist of "the best of the absolute best". Instead, I decided to do a new list with none of the 33 songs. And it's still an exquisite list. The list ends with "Grim Augury". A man awakes from a nightmare. His wife accuses him of being with someone “during the dream” and wants to know who she is. He denies forcefully and then reluctantly tells her the truth. Some stones are best left unturned. Horrible stuff, indeed. Vic Chesnutt wasn't afraid of turning any stones. In an interview for the New York Daily News in 2005 he declared: "Other people write about the bling and the booty. I write about the pus and the gnats. To me, that's beautiful." I unequivocally agree.  

No

Song 

Album

1

Bakersfield 

Little

2

Speed Racer

Litttle

3

Sponge

West Of Rome

Miss Mary

West Of Rome

Aunt Avis

Drunk

6

Thailand

Is The Actor Happy?

Ladle

About To Choke

8

Duty Free

The Salesman & Bernadette

9

Scratch, Scratch, Scratch

The Salesman & Bernadette

10

Maiden

The Salesman & Bernadette

11

Deeper Current

Merriment
12

Twelve Johnnies

Left To His Own Devices
13

My Last Act

Left To His Own Devices
14

I'm Through

Silver Lake
15

Sultan, So Mighty

Silver Lake
16

Got To Me

Ghetto Bells
17

To Be With You

Ghetto Bells
18

Glossolalia

North Star Deserter
19

You Are Never Alone

North Star Deserter
20

Fodder On Her Wings

North Star Deserter
21

The Mad Passion Of The Stoic

Dark Developments
22

It Is What It Is

At The Cut
23

Granny

At The Cut
24

Feast In The Time Of Plague

Skitter On Take-Off
25

Dimples 

Skitter On Take-Off
26

Worst Friend

Skitter On Take-Off
27

Sewing Machine

Skitter On Take-Off 
28

God Is Good (with Victoria Williams)

Sweet Relief II: Gravity Of The Situation 
29

Grim Augury (with Danger Mouse & Sparklehorse)

Dark Night Of The Soul 


 

keep calm the best years are yet to come yeah rightA new year and a brand-new decade is waiting around the corner. This time a year the newspapers and internet are filled with contradictory facts whether the world has become a better place. Be that as it may. One thing is for sure. The best years for the gothic country genre have come and gone. And if you don't know this, well what do you know? You can deal with this fact in a number of ways: denial, frustration, anger, apathy or - more unexpectedly - with optimism. Your choice depends on your mindset. I'm not an avid social media user. But, needless to say, to be able to manage this website I sometimes have to stare into the abyss of narcissism and inappropriate expressions of recognition. Personally, I value my privacy. My personal information is limited and the digital tracks left are few. The platforms need more information in order to filter out relevant content. And the result? The algorithms have targeted me as a vulnerable person in great need of uplifting and self-reinforcing messages, words of wisdom, pensive thoughts, aphorisms and truism. Hmm. Let's just say that there's room for calibration. Back to the fact that the best years have come and gone. I've seen it coming for a long time. Now, let's face the music and dance. When I summarize the year I can establish that it was a minor catastrophe in terms of quantity. Very few albums were released in 2019: "Evil Seeds" by Those Poor Bastards, "Songs Nine Through Sixteen" by DBUK and "No Justice" by Federale. They first two were pretty good releases, but the latter release was a huge disappointment for anyone who likes gothic western music. In terms of quality, I assess a slight deterioation compared with 2018 and 2017. The only album that exceeded my expectations in 2019 was "Doom Blues" by T.K. Bollinger And That Sinking Feeling. Great posthumous album. 


What about next year? Is all hope in vain? I've had the same three wishes for four years in a row. The first wish: a new gothic country album from Christian Williams. This will probably never happen, since he changed style to experimental electronica a couple of years ago. The second wish: a new album from The Victor Mourning. This can actually happen since all band members are located in Austin again, playing and recording for all it's worth. The third wish: to acquire at least one of the hard-to-find four missing albums (read more here) and to get all albums from the defunct label Devil's Ruin Records. The first part failed. But, surprisingly I managed to get a hold of five (5) rare Devil's Ruin Records albums. I also acquired information from the knowledgeable seller (more in an upcoming blog post). The complete Devil's Ruin Records catalogue is (maybe) within reach. I wish for the same three things in 2020. What about new releases 2020? Next year is empty as Satan's heart. Maybe Sons of Perdition will find time and place for a new album. Attentive followers of the blog posts will notice that this was also my pious hope last year. And then it strikes me. Maybe there's a miniscule receptiveness for positive thinking in me, after all. And maybe the algoritms, in fact, are doing their job perfectly and knows far more about me than I give them credit for. My mind boggles when I think about it.  

 

 

self leadership storI'm chastened and jaded before my time. I have seen and experienced things that I wish for no one, namely personal development courses. They seem to respond to certain basic needs. I'm too young to have taken part of sensitity training in the 1970s. People were supposed to scrutinize and reveal each other and thereby gain self-knowledge and the ability to openly interact with one another. Reportedly, through nonverbal excercises like snake pit cuddling on wrestling mats. The training often ended in tears and sometimes in visits to psychiatric clinics. Well, some say there's a learning in everything. However, no learning seems to have taken place. In the beginning of the 1990s self-improvement courses became popular in Sweden. Most disreputable was Landmark Education. The original concept for the courses (EST) was invented by Werner Erhard, a former car salesman. In 1991 he sold his intellectual property to his employees, who formed Landmark Education. The company quickly expanded like a Hydra over the world. The courses were built upon sleep deprivation, testimonies, group pressure and a home-made potpourri of religion and philosophy. The course participants paid top dollar to be humiliated and humbled. An important part of the business model was to make participants attend more advanced (and expensive) courses and, not surprisingly, recruit new course participants among friends and relatives. Sometimes in an aggressive, unsensitive and mechanically way. Just like car sales. The Swedish expansion became shortlived. Investigative journalism came into play. Landmark Education was described as a dangerous cult and accused of not taking responsibility for any negative effects of their business, i.e. mental breakdowns among participants. The meeting between dream and reality could be quite brutal, as you can imagine. The company tried hard to refute the allegations, but crisis and media management didn't work. The company did the math, closed shop and left Sweden for more fertile pastures. But this is not the end of the story. Over the years I have participated in many work-related courses. I can't say I like it. On the contrary. I'm not impressed by people who get high on their own yackety-yak. I've become very observant of the warning signals. A change management consultant recently said "all popcorn's pop, but on different times". Did she know that this is part of the course content of Landmark Education? Did she attend the courses herself and is now spreading the word? I don't know. Nonsense always tends to come back, but in different shapes and forms. The newest of nonsense is self leadership, a management trend which has spread like a plague. Actually, a huge and socially important public agency in Sweden has spent a ridiculously amount of money on this new age trend. The expanded definition of self leadership is having a developed sense of who you are, what you can do, where you are going coupled with the ability to influence your communication, emotions and behaviors on the way to getting there. In short: how to get your shit together. What would happen if you asked a musician in the gothic country genre: who are you, what can you do and where are you going? You would probably get a punch in the face. 


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