Monday, November 24, 2014

Pointergate AKA Signs of Anarchy Can Have A Silver Lining: Time for State and Federal Officials to Reopen Metro Gang Strike Force Corruption Investigation

Kudos to Jon Stewart and his intelligent and savvy staff at the Daily Show for doing so effectively the job that conventional news outlets have been so woeful at:  confronting the spin, half truths and in this instance flat out falsehoods used by powerful and monied elites to manipulate the audience aka the electorate.  I am humbled and envious of the manner in which Stewart and the Daily Show time and again takes on seemingly divisive issues, lays out the facts and surrounding context in a truthful manner.  What once looked like a divisive issue at an impasse, when exposed to the bright sunshine of the truth, often becomes a no brainer and hilarious to boot.

I found especially brilliant the way Stewart takes on the ridiculous positions of powerful interests, whoever they are, in this instance a union for the Mpls Police and a media conglomerate, Hubbard Broadcasting and KSTP.  On several occasions Stewart did not have to say a word, but rather, used to greater effect, pregnant pauses and let the ridiculous arguments and conclusions based on fear, misinformation and racism collapse of their own weight.  I know its been said many times before but it is bad omen for a democratic society when entertainment outlets have to become more like news outlets because the news outlets have become more like entertainment.  Whether intentional or through serendipity, the effect is the same, a dummy downed, increasingly passive audience and electorate which is easier to manipulate and control.

Shame on KSTP and its billionaire owner Stanley Hubbard for reflexively defending its shoddy journalism with arrogance and insecurity instead of dealing with a mistake in judgment with honesty and humility.  Surely Stanley Hubbard, a man who built a media empire is more intelligent and sensitive then the angry, illogical and ridiculous caricature of a human being impression that one gets when listening to his interview on Minnesota Public Radio on November 14, 2014  Listen to it at

Lastly there is nothing funny about gang violence and the scourge it can be to a city.  One only needs to look at contemporary Chicago to see the impact and effects it can have.  But even more dangerous is the tendency in this country to go overboard with a law enforcement response to a gang problem.  I would hope that all the attention devoted to Minneapolis and the issue of gangs could have a constructive outcome, a silver lining.

I would like to say the country could learn from the approach taken in Minnesota with the Metro Gang Strike Force but to our great shame not only was the Metro Gang Strike Force the most corrupt, out of control law enforcement entity in state history, I would submit it was the most dangerous criminal organization period.  They broke the law with impunity, lacked supervision, mocked the very citizens and constitution they were sworn to protect and uphold and most dangerously never held accountable by county attorneys and the state attorney general.  Please read the excellent reporting in the Minneapolis Star Tribune , by Lora Pabst, Randy Furst  and staff writers:

Sheriff tried to dissuade Gang Strike Force audit

Bob Fletcher says he changed his mind after cash and vehicles could not be found.

April 5: Several officials criticize Gang Strike Force's publicly funded Hawaii trip

The new strike force leader called the tab "ridiculous," but his predecessor labeled critics "nitwits."

Metro Gang Strike Force had illegal meeting: Experts

Board members e-mailed each other to get agreement on a statement to preempt an editorial on Hawaii trip.

Suit: Gang Strike Force seized money without cause

A young Honduran says Gang Strike Force officers took $4,500 from him last year at an impound lot with...

Gang Strike Force cops shredded documents

A written account by the Strike Force's commander said a dumpster behind the Strike Force's offices in New Brighton...

Document shredding puts Strike Force in doubt

The integrity of the team of 34 officers and supervisors from 13 local law enforcement agencies, who focus on...

Gang Strike Force seizures criticized

The state's Legislative Auditor raised new questions about how the Metro Gang Strike Force disposed of vehicles that it...

Minneapolis, Metro Transit police pull out of Gang Strike Force

Minneapolis police said the decision is financial, but it is more bad news for the anti-gang unit.

Gang Strike Force shut down after audit finds $18,000, 13 cars missing

The decision to immediately close the offices was made after some Strike Force investigators turned up at the agency's...

Strike Force was rife with misconduct, panel charges in new report

Report details breadth of misconduct, saying officers took home property that had no proven connection to crime.

Two top strike force leaders part of inquiry

The Star Tribune has learned the identities of 16 officers reportedly under investigation.

Crime fighters gone rogue

The Gang Strike Force racked up many victories; then stardom turned to ashes.

Seized money: One man fought back

Wilbur Haisley had $3,319 - until a Metro Gang Strike Force officer took it.
the final report

Next read the entire review panel's report including their thoughtful and well reasoned recommendations to abolish all similar multi-jurisdictional (i.e. uncontrolled) task forces and a change in the forfeiture laws as well as links to recent articles on the trials and tribulations of the Metro Gang Strike force see

Then ask yourself "Why werent these criminals with badges held accountable or at the very least prosecuted?"  Hell they were not even disciplined.  Is there any wonder why the citizens and especially the poor and communities of color, the ones most likely to be the victims of bullies, thugs and organized criminals be they street gangs or strike forces, have poor relations with and do not trust law enforcement.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

For all the Xenophobes, Bigots and Rednecks, You Know Who You Are, Word Up!

Immigrant Song
(as told by B. Obama)

Ah, ah,
We come from the land called Mexico
From the midnight sun where the tequilla flows.
The hammer of the roofers will drive our desire to work,
To fight the bigot bores, singing and crying: California, I am coming!

On we sweep with threshing oar, Our only goal will be the western shore.

Ah, ah,
We come from the land called Mexico,
From the midnight sun where the tequilla flows.
We work in your fields so green, working jobs where the pay is lean,
Of how we calmed the tides of the drug war. We are Not drug overlords.

On we sweep with threshing oar, Our only goal will be the western shore.

So now you expect us to rebuild all your ruins,
For peace and trust can win the day despite all your losing ways.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

St. Louis Grand Jury Will Not Hand Up An Indictment Against Ferguson Police Officer in the Killing of Michael Brown But Outrage Should Be Directed On Murder of Kajieme Powell

As a long time (26 years) criminal defense attorney, based upon the information I have gleaned from the media, which if substantially correct, I fully expect that the St. Louis County, Missouri grand jury will not hand up an indictment in the killing of Michael Brown by Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson.  I say this not out of any allegiance to law enforcement or along racial lines, quite to the contrary I am a harsh critic of law enforcement, have established groundbreaking precedent on police liability and despise bullys, bigots and cowards with every fiber of my being.  But I also acknowledge the police have an extremely difficult job that often does not pay enough to attract the caliber of human being whom we entrust with discretion to use deadly force.  From what I know of the facts of the Michael Brown case and the lack of objective evidence as to the events leading up to Michael's death, sadly the fair and correct decision may in fact be not to indict.  The fact of the matter is though, until this process is completely over, we as the public simply do not know.

Rather than focusing our outrage over this tragedy I strongly suggest that the U.S. Justice Department look into another St. Louis area Police shooting that is not by any stretch of the imagination a close call:  The cowardly murder of Kajieme Powell.  I know that is strong language and I don't use it lightly. 

Please watch the following cell phone video and ask yourself:  "If this was a white young man would the police have backed off, used tasers or simply shut their squad door rather than execute a mentally ill young man of color?"  Further ask yourself "why would the officers handcuff a dead body?"

May God Bless and give strength to the families of Michael Brown and Kajieme Powell and the numerous other persons of color betrayed and killed by those sworn to protect and serve. 

We need to have a serious discussion in this country over the rules of engagement and use of deadly force by law enforcement.  At a minimum we should have a minimum age of thirty years of age to be a law enforcement officer entrusted with the discretion to use deadly force so they have some life experience with which they can make reason of a situation without being so quick to escalate to lethal force.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Billionaire Stanley Hubbard Gives Neanderthals A Bad Name While His News Station KSTP Is Laughing Stock Of the Industry

Billionaire bigot (or at a minimum, tone deaf and insensitive) Stanley Hubbard went on Minnesota Public Radio last Friday to defend the indefensible, his lame station's shoddy journalism covering a nonevent and being used as a pawn in the Minneapolis Police Union's war on Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges.  See and listen:

Note that Hubbard blatantly lies in the interview repeatedly stating that they just reported the news as reported to them by multiple law enforcement agencies.  Absolutely false.  The two people quoted in the story are John Delmonico, the person who brought the matter to the attention of KSTP.  Delmonico, although a Minneapolis police officer, was acting in his capacity as President of the Minneapolis Police Union.  A police union is not a law enforcement agency.

Most crucial from a journalistic standpoint, the mayor and the police union are at war because the mayor had the audacity to concede in an open letter to the community that in the past, actions of some officers were such that did not always engender trust in communities, namely minorities and communities of color. Hardly an earth shattering revelation but enough for the police union to start a propaganda campaign against the mayor.  It was in this environment and context that Delmonico handed the story to KSTP.  This should have set off alarm bells at any competent newsroom.

But Hubbard was emphatic that they were told the ridiculous conclusion that the mayor was throwing down gang signs from multiple law enforcement agencies.  As far as I can tell from their reporting, KSTP's only other form of corroboration came  from a so called expert, a retired cop, from that denizen of street gang activity Omaha, Nebraska.  Hardly what one would call a law enforcement agency.

But Hubbard, in a fit on anger, during his interview with Minnesota Public Radio, showed his true colors with his "I am not a racist I have a black friend" logic by pointing out his news station was the first in Minnesota to have a black anchor.  I guess in Stanley Hubbard's world that gives him and his station the right to suspend all notions of credible, good journalism and make fools of themselves.  To this I can only remind Mr. Hubbard that all plantations had its slaves or put another way even billionaires make mistakes and when they do, have the good sense and humility to admit it.

 But don't take my word on it, watch how Jon Stewart dealt with the topic last week on the Daily Show

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Cousin Tom Welcomes Home Little Brown Jug in Honor of his Father, My Uncle Phil Belfiori

The annual battle for the Little Brown Jug is the oldest trophy in college football, dating back to 1909. The Minnesota Golden Gophers defeated the Michigan Wolverines this season on September 27, 2014 to bring the Jug home to Minnesota for the first time since 2005.

Above is a video that includes my cousin, Tom Belfiori’s telling a story about his father, my Uncle Phil, who played quarterback for the Gophers from 1936-1939. Tom tells a story of a little jug passed down in his family after the 1938 homecoming game:

“This little jug is from the homecoming in 1938. It says ‘Jug Michigan’ on it and the Gophers beat Michigan here 7-6 and these were passed out,” says Belfiori.

“It’s great, when I had my picture taken I had them turn it to the side where the 1930s football scores were on there to see the scores from when my father played,” says Belfiori.

My father, Tom's Uncle Bill, was the student manager of both the Gopher football and basketball teams in the early 1940s before joining the Marines in 1943.  One of my early childhood recollections is going to Memorial stadium aka "the Brickhouse" with my father and brother to see the Gophers play football on Saturday afternoons in the fall.  At halftime we would gather with M Club Alum in a cold and dank utility room in the bowels of the Brickhouse for orange pop for the kids, coffee for the adults and horrible cake donuts.  A far cry from the posh digs and edible food at TCF Stadium.

If the Gophers were playing Michigan my father would sing the chorus to a song the Glen Miller Orchestra revived for a movie in 1939:

Me and my wife live all alone
In a little log hut we call our own;
She loves gin and I love rum,
And don't we have a lot of fun!
Ha, ha, ha, you and me,
Little brown jug, don't I love thee!
Ha, ha, ha, you and me,
Little brown jug, don't I love thee!
When I go toiling on the farm
I take the little jug under my arm;
Place it under a shady tree,
Little brown jug, 'tis you and me.
’Tis you that makes me friends and foes,
’Tis you that makes me wear old clothes;
But, seeing you're so near my nose,
Tip her up and down she goes.
If all the folks in Adam's race
Were gathered together in one place,
I'd let them go without a tear
Before I'd part from you, my dear.
If I'd a cow that gave such milk,
I'd dress her in the finest silk;
Feed her up on oats and hay,
And milk her twenty times a day.
I bought a cow from Farmer Jones,
And she was nothing but skin and bones;
I fed her up as fine as silk,
She jumped the fence and strained her milk.
And when I die don't bury me at all,
Just pickle my bones in alcohol;
Put a bottle o' booze at my head and feet
And then I know that I will keep.
The rose is red, my nose is too,
The violet's blue and so are you;
And yet, I guess, before I stop,
We'd better take another drop.

I can just hear the chorus in heaven as Dad and Uncle Phil sing the chorus... ha ha ha indeed!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Move Over Replacements for the Return of the Best Band to Hail from Minneapolis: Willie & the Bees Reunion October 10 @ Cabooze Bar

As Much as I appreciate Paul Westerberg's songwriting skills and the Mats last 3 albums before calling it quits, the reason I never caught one of their drunken, self-indulgent hit or miss concerts back in the day was because I was usually on the funky West Bank having a beer at the 5 Corners or a dark and tan at Palmers, talking music with Joel at the Viking (God I miss Joel, I had just got to know him pretty good after spending an evening talking music while a mutual friend pitched investors for her restaurant shortly before he passed away) or more likely seeing Willie and the Bees at the Cabooze, Union Bar, or my favorite venue Moby Dick's.

As good as the Hayes brothers, Doug Maynard and Mr. McCabe's bands were in the late 70's and 80's nobody could touch the musicianship, original material and authenticity of the incredibly under appreciated Willie Murphy and his phenomenally funky band the Bumblebees later simply the Bees.  Other than James Brown's music with its unique concept of time and the earlier incarnations of NRBQ and their unique groove they called the zibiglia (sp) Willie and the Bees are about the only other band that I can think of that could take any song and put their own unique stamp on it.  It was like someone took a great soul record from Hi or Stax and then speeded up or slowed down the turntable to give it just the slightest hint of dissonance like a Parker, Coltrane or Miles bop record, it made you appreciate the sweet parts by contrast.

Whether it was Zoogies (formerly the Longhorne), the Cabooze show with Dr. John which was a rehearsal for the Survivor's movie at the Blues Saloon, the Union, the  countless Cedar Fests and River Flat Jam out door shows or those incredible shows at Moby Dick's (10 year anniversary show with special guests like Bonnie Raitt and Tony "the Grinch" Glover) where the crowd would demand "Cheerleaders on Cocaine"or later solo piano shows at the 400 or happy hour at the Viking, Willie Murphy and the Bees:  Maurice, Joe, my old friend  Howard, Jose (the heckler) and the horns always played as if it was their last show.

One of the music highlights of my life was the reunion show at First Ave which was the last performance by Koerner, Ray and Glover who warmed up.  If there was ever one show, one encore from a Minneapolis band not to be missed, it would have to be Willie and the Bees.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Neil Responds to a 911 Conspiracy Theorist Colleague


Now you’ve done it:  A bridge too far.  Lord knows no one despises GWB and his travail of incompetence and corporate cronyism more than eye (said the blind man) yet not even I will swill the poison Koolaid of the Patriot AM 1280 and Alex Jones let alone that cracker Hannity and his nattering nabobs of negativity.  Ms. Thomas, in your heart of hearts do you really believe that our own government purposely killed over 3000 of its own citizens for a little more scratch when they already have the system gamed?  More compelling is the number of accomplices that such an undertaking would involve and not one of them have sold their story to TMZ?  Hardly.
Where is the evidence of the crime of the millenium?  “Loose Change” you say.  More like “Loose Screws”.  “But what about the WTC Towers and Building 7 collapses?” you say.  More than sufficiently explained in NOVA special and National Academy of Scientists investigations.  The so called experts with their cherry picked arguments and photographs do not hold up under the weight of truly scientific evidence. Over simplified “common sense” analogies are the last refuge of scoundrels who profit from their misinformation whether they are called conspiracy theorists, Tea Partiers or Republicans.

When the truth becomes too hard to swallow, the easy out is to not handle the truth as that great patriot and retired USMC officer Jack Nicholson so famously said.  What?  Oh, that was only a line in a fictional movie?  "Well there you go again Mommy", trying to tear down the greatest false hero in the pantheon of fake Amerikan leaders Herr Rotten Ronnie, Ronnie Rotten.*


*Hey hey, my my
The USA can never die
Sometimes there isn’t more to the picture
Than meets the eye.
Hey hey, my my.

Out of the
red and into the black
You pay for this, but they give you that
And once you're gone, you can't come back
When you're out of the
red and into the black.

The king is gone but he's not forgotten
Is this the story of Ronnie Rotten?
It's better to burn out 'cause
Alzheimer never sleeps
The king is gone but he's not forgotten.

Hey hey, my my
The USA can never die
Sometimes there isn’t more to the picture

Than meets the eye.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Excerpt from "The Ideal Lawyer" by David Brewer circa 1906

...So I sum the matter up with the statement that the ideal lawyer will not be thoroughly honest in all his relations to individuals and the public; that he will be a constant student; that he must possess brain power and common sense; and that he will never forget that he is a citizen, and that the weal or woe of the public depends largely on his loyalty to high ideals.

Does any profession appeal more strongly than that of the lawyer? The minister speaks for the life beyond. The doctor cares for our bodies. But the lawyer takes social and business men as they are, and strives to adjust their actions to the present well-being of all. Truly, without disparagement, I may claim for the profession to which I have given fifty years of constant devotion, that it makes high appeal to every brainy, honest young American; and add that to the great roll-call in the last assize the response of the ideal lawyer will be, Ever present and on duty.

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Alvins Prove It Is Never too Late for Brotherly Love: Phil and Dave Alvin and the Guilty Ones – Dakota Bar (Minneapolis, Minn. – July 26, 2014)

I knew going in it was going to be an emotional night at the Dakota Bar in Minneapolis.  Phil and Dave Alvin were performing together for the first time in Minnesota for a long time.  Had it really been nearly thirty years since they last played together here?  Having attended their previous shows with the Blasters at First Avenue and later warming up for Eric Clapton at the St Paul Civic Center, it seemed like it was just yesterday that the Alvins and their brash band, the Blasters, from California stormed the music world with one of the best debut records to come out in ages.

Like anything of quality and substance, this was no fluke.  The core of the band, the Alvin brothers, Phil, the elder of the two, possessed one of those voices that you are only born with.  His little brother Dave was already something of a monster on guitar and showed an early knack for writing.  Both Alvins had an encyclopedic knowledge and appreciation of the roots of American music which they used to their great advantage not only on their self-titled first album but its follow up “Hard Line” three years later.  But just when it looked like the Blasters had success in the palm of their hands, the brothers, as sibling rival brothers often do, agreed to disagree and Dave departed to pursue  a critically acclaimed solo career.   By a strange twist of fate, life paralleling art if you will, I find myself being fortunate enough to witness this reunion of two incredibly talented  and headstrong sibling rival brothers and musicians thanks to my sibling rival brother.

The night got off to a tasteful if not overly energetic start with an acoustic set by singer songwriter Jay Souza and Bosco Sheff.  The duo form the core of California roots inspired band, Patrolled by Radar.  Souza performance consisted of interesting material in which, admittedly, the woman always seemed to get killed in the end.  Let’s hope there is some counseling in Jay’s future, if for nothing else to give his characters some dimension.  Accompanist Sheff played beautifully understated slide and overall Souza and Sheff set just the right mood for what was to come with their pleasing performance.

At precisely 9: 00 P.M. the Guilty Men and woman assembled on the platform, not for an execution but to execute as if their lives depended upon it.  As applause built up the Alvin brothers donned the stage and quickly launched into the opening track of their new cd tribute to Big Bill Broonzy , Common Ground, “All By Myself”.   Both Alvins played acoustic guitar to start leaving the fiery electric work on the opener to Guilty Men guitarist Chris Miller.  As Phil began to sing the opening lines it was instantly apparent he still had his legendary pipes.  The song ended with a wink and a nod with the famously combative brothers, after trading verses,  shared the line that sums up their creative, if not personal relationship “I didn’t have no one to help me, had to do it all by myself”.

Dave, who acted as emcee throughout the night, introduced the next number, the Broonzy classic “Key to the Highway” with the story of how Phil, at the tender age of twelve, had taken harmonica lessons from the great Sonny Terry and was now going to show us what he learned, to which Phil quipped “…or more like what I forgot”.  Phil was being more than modest as he reminded the crowd that in addition to that magnificent voice he was also one hell of a harp player.

The band got to stretch it out a little on the next one, the tasty Broonzy instrumental “Saturday Night Rub”.  Next Dave announced that they would be taking a brief departure from the Broonzy catalogue with the next two numbers, a cover of the singing brakeman Jimmie Rodgers “Never No More Blues” and Dave’s self-penned song for his mother “King of California, during which Phil departed the stage to give his little brother his deserved spotlight.

If there was ever any doubt as to whether Phil’s voice had fully recovered from the infection  from an abscessed tooth which entered his bloodstream and nearly killed him on a Blasters tour of Spain they were quickly laid to rest as Phil channeled the yodeling Rogers holding a note for what seemed like an entire minute.

Things got really interesting the moment Dave switched over to his 1964 cream color stock Stratocaster that he has played onstage since 1983.  For those who have never seen Dave Alvin play guitar they really have to put it on their bucket list like seeing Nolan Ryan pitch or Michael Jordan play basketball because this mother can play.  Perhaps the greatest thing about Dave’s playing, in addition to the gorgeous natural tone and the fact that he does it all without any gimmicks or fancy pickups but just sheer talent, is that he always keeps his playing within the structure of the song.  As an accomplished songwriter there is none of the jam band pointless noodling to Dave’s playing.  Incredible and ferocious are two words that come immediately to mind.  He had me muttering “shiiii-it” in absolute awe on numerous occasions throughout the night.

Dave and Phil ripped through the next four Broonzy numbers, “I Feel So Good”, “You've Changed”, the bawdy “How Do You Want It Done?” and poignant “Southern Flood Blues” with complete authority.  Talk about “run what you brung” these cats “rode it like they stole it” to borrow a couple of old biker sayings.
Suddenly it was 1982 again as Phil reminded everyone how much we missed his voice with the Blasters favorite “Border Radio”.

The next number was a reminder of why I love the blues, the fact that fans and musicians alike share a knowledge of the history of America’s greatest art form.  From the heroes like Johnnie Ace to the scoundrels like Don Robey, founder of my favorite label Duke.  Robey was so notorious for mistreating and taking advantage of his artists that many people, including myself, once believed that Robey had actually killed his labels biggest star, a belief since dispelled by research.  Nevertheless it makes for interesting subject matter for a songwriter of Dave’s ability on “Johnnie Ace Is Dead”.

The Broonzy tribute continued for two more great covers “The Stuff” i.e. money and the young Alvin brothers' fascination, like most children, with songs with naughty lyrics “Truckin’ Little Woman”.
For me the next number is when, as expected, things got a little emotional.  Ever since Dave came out with his song “What’s up with your Brother?” it has been something of an inside joke between my brother and our many shared friends.  I am somewhat ashamed to admit that my relationship to my older brother and sibling rival is more traditional and the reverse of what the perception of the Alvin brothers’ relationship appears to be in that my older brother is the more responsible one.

Like the Alvins, my brother and I have had our ups and down and I know that I have been mostly to blame for that.  I will never be able to repay my brother for all the times he has saved me from myself or been there with money or tickets to shows he knew I could not afford.  Despite the fact that those around us thought our relationship was irreconcilable, our mutual love of music brought us back from the abyss.  So when Dave poignantly told the story of how close he had come to losing his brother and how thankful he was to be sharing a stage with him tonight, I just about cried.  Then Dave added his personal wisdom reminding the audience not to let a day go by without telling the ones you love that you love them, whether it’s your brother, your sister, your parents, your children your dog or your cat before launching into “What’s up with your Brother?”.  Amen brother.

I don’t think my brother or I could look at each other for fear of losing it.  Thankfully the band followed up with the highlight of their second Blasters album “Samson and Delilah” which again reminded us what a great instrument Phil’s voice is.  Just when you think Phil might steal the spotlight Dave follows with one of his beautiful songs “Dry River” which he introduced with a geography/hydrology lesson before ending with an homage to one of my personal heroes, the great Big Joe Turner, with “One Fat Stuff”.

Despite teasing the crowd that they only had time for one more number, the band, whose performance was brilliant all night, ended the night with a sustained rush of pure joy with the Blasters signature song, “Marie , Marie” followed by Dave’s beautiful original “4th of July” before ending with an instrumental medley of the Blasters traditional show ender “So Long Baby Goodbye” with a sample of “When the Saints Go Marching Home” thrown in perhaps as another reminder to not take things or people for granted.  Amen brothers Phil and Dave and God Bless.

Phil Alvin, vocals, acoustic guitar, harp;
Dave Alvin, vocals acoustic and electric guitars;
The Guilty Ones:
Brad Fordham, bass;
Chris Miller, electric and slide guitar;
Lisa Pankratz, drums.

Set List
All by myself
Key to the highway
Saturday Night Rub
Never No More Blues
King of California
I Feel So Good
You've Changed      
How Do You Want It Done?
Southern Flood Blues
Border Radio
Johnnie Ace Is Dead
The Stuff
Truckin’ Little Woman
What's up with your Brother?
Samson and Delilah
Dry River
One Fat Stuff
Marie Marie
4th of July

Instrumental Medley:  So Long Baby Goodbye, When the Saints…etc.

Hear this Performance:
Dave and Phil Alvin and the Guilty Ones Live at The Dakota Bar & Grill on 2014-07-26 at  

This review initially appeared on my music blog at: 

The Alvins Prove It Is Never too Late for Brotherly Love: Phil and Dave Alvin and the Guilty Ones – Dakota Bar (Minneapolis, Minn. – July 26, 2014)

Sunday, July 13, 2014

MLB and MNTwins Can't Handle the Truth

The MLB and MNTwins had no problem taking my money at the marketing orgy that was the All Star Sunday event at Target  But when a life long Twins fan who is more than a little miffed over the wealthiest owner in baseball showing his gratitude for the public building him a half a billion dollar stadium by not having one televised game shown on local antenna television neither organization had the guts to deal with the issue.  Instead the gutless cowards removed the following tweet from their twitter accounts:

Best value $11 soda @ Sunday and public funded stadium maybe richest owner in could afford to broadcast 1 game on tv

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Three Videos That Will Change Your Life (Why Ohio Needs More Mental Health Funding)

If you have not seen this campaign speech by Phil Davison seeking the nomination of the Stark County Ohio Republican Party Executive Committee for Stark County Treasurer you are in for a real treat.  The speech is, well, intense.  The next video is the auto tune version and lastly an apparent homage to Mystery Science 2000 is Phil Davison for President.  I submit this evidence as proof to my friend Chris that he's wrong, the Democrats are not just as nuts.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

"Wide Open": An all Original Testament to the Immense Talent Of Guitartist Jimmy Thackery

If my math is correct, "Wide Open" marks the 22nd album released by Jimmy Thackery both during and since leaving the legendary D. C. based blues band, the Nighthawks to pursue his own career with various side projects like the Assassins, duos with the likes of John Mooney and David Raitt and fronting his backup band the Drivers.  At 61 years young, Thackery shows no sign of slowing down with one of his strongest efforts in years and even more impressively, his first cd of all original material.

 Jimmy's voice is in fine form on "Wide Open" and his playing has never sounded better.  The tracks were recorded over a period of about a year at Tony's Treasures in Cadiz, Ohio, and from the sound of it, it is no wonder that Jimmy calls it his favorite studio of late as the production is simply gorgeous.  However, it's the material on "Wide Open" that sets this one apart.

Clocking in at a generous hour and 12 minutes, "Wide Open" opens with a tasty shuffle, "Change Your Tune", that is reminiscent of some of the strong lyrical material he co-wrote with the great Keith Sykes back on "Sinner Street" but with a more nuanced delivery.  The strong opener is followed by the beautiful uptown jazz of "Minor Step", one of three tracks on “Wide Open” that illustrate why every young guitar player should listen to his playing.  “Wide Open” features some of his most mature and realized work to date.  Young players could learn much from tracks like “Minor Step” , “You Brush Me Off “and “Swingin' Breeze” which showcase Thackery’s virtuoso jazz phrasing and dynamics which are on par with the greats, not for showy gimmicks, but rather a tone that goes straight to your soul, simply beautiful.

 After “Minor Step”  Thackery changes gears and subjects on the next track , "Coffee and Chicken", a knock off  ode  to gastronomy on the road which will surely cause Feat and Butterfield fans to grin with its lyrical homages (which I leave up to the listener to figure out).   Next up is about the only track on the disc of suitable length for radio play, the 3:49 minute “King of Living On My Own”.  Jimmy hits just the right spot lyrically and music wise on a topic that should be familiar to his fans, dealing with suddenly finding yourself single again and trying to put a brave face on it.  “King of Living On My Own” weds light hearted, humorous lyrics set to rootsy Americana music that should, if there is any justice, garner it some commercial radio play.
For fans whose tastes lean more toward the hard stuff and power chords, Jimmy lets rip with “Hard Luck Man” complete with a fat, fuzzy guitar sound and his trademark sonic sculpting towards the track’s blistering end. 

I won’t ruin the surprise by previewing every track on the disc but will simply state that there is not a clinker in the lot.  If you had to be critical about something one could question the length of a few of the tracks on an album where the majority are in the 6-8 minute range.   I for one like the flow and pacing on the album which gives continuity as opposed to so many of today’s cds that seem to be just a compilation of singles thrown together.

 All in all Mr. Thackery & his Drivers (Jimmy never bothered to get a driver’s license over the years, hence the name) comprised of Mark "Bumpy Rhoades" Bumgarner on bass and George Sheppard on drums (in addition to their chauffeur duties) have good reason to be proud of this great sounding disc of all original material.  For fans of guitar driven  American roots music with the right tone, “Wide Open” would make the perfect soundtrack to  your summer road trip!

This review initially appeared on my music blog at:
"Wide Open": An all Original Testament to the Immense Talent Of Guitartist Jimmy Thackery

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Viva Las Ranas!: The Mastersons and Steve Earle & the Dukes

Texas husband & wife led band, The Mastersons, are Chris Masterson, guitars and Eleanor Whitmore, multi-instrumentalist.  Said duo are also 2/4ths of Steve Earle's latest edition  of the Dukes.  Tonite they are both as the Mastersons, fresh off the critically acclaimed success of their first cd "Birds Fly South" and gearing up for the release of their  sophomore release, the aspirationally titled "Good Luck Charm" opening for, then backing Steve Earle at the Minnesota Zoo.

Having witnessed this exact same lineup last August on a road trip with my son, tonite I am doubling down on the Mastersons with Steve Earle to again make my music bets payoff big.  My son and I had such a fun and memorable time I thought I would spread the family love this time taking my daughter.   See my review of that show, chosen by No Depression as one of its blog "greatest hits":  "The 'Low Country' Comes to Wisconsin with its Message of Truth, Hope and Solidarity".

The only question mark concerning tonite's show is whether Steve will again try his hand at frog herding as he did a couple years back at the MN Zoo during Los Lobos' set.  Vivia Las Ranas!

Please Donate to the Dennis Fund @ US Bank Eagan Branch

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Memorial Day Weekend 2014: A Time for Friends and Family

It was a hectic Memorial Day weekend for my son and I this year.  On Saturday my 19 year old son drove up to join me for the memorial service for our dear friend Charlie Carlson in Finlayson.  Following the official memorial at the community center there was an impromptu gathering in the pasture across from the Carlson farmstead where many of Charlie's closest friends came to say their final goodbyes.

On Sunday my nephew and his wife had a get together for my deceased oldest brother's siblings and offspring.  It was a very enjoyable evening with the main course, turkey , supplied by my niece's,  nephew's and my employer for which we were all thankful.

On Monday, Memorial Day, my son and I were men on a mission.  First on the itinerary was Hillcrest Cemetery in Minneapolis to pay respects to my friend Timothy Gerard Shelley who left us way too early this past February.  I was devastated when I learned months after the fact of Tim's passing.  I therefore made paying respects to my good friend Tim my priority this Memorial Day.  Although there was not yet a headstone for Tim, my son and I, with the assistance of a nice young woman in a golf cart were able to find Tim's grave which was covered by a biodegradable mat used to spur grass growth..

Next it was off to the Crystal Lake Cemetery in North Minneapolis to visit the graves of my father's parents.  We found my grandfather's marker without problem but needed the assistance of a very kind and considerate maintenance worker to uncover my grandmother's marker.  I know it would have made my father very happy that my son and I honored his parents, especially since their children are all gone and if we did not do it no one else would.

Finally we topped off our weekend at my friend Patricia's Memorial Day family and friends gathering. Patricia is the sister of my very good friend Ralph and one of the kindest and most generous people I know.  It is always extremely humbling the way Ralph and his family have included me and my children in their family get togethers for which I will be eternally grateful.  A fine ending to a most Memorable Memorial Day weekend.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

America's Tragedy of Gun Violence: What You Get When You Mix an Inherently Violent Culture with Dysfunctional Government

There was a memorial service yesterday in Finlayson for Charlie Carlson, my friend who recently lost his two year battle with cancer.  Charlie had come to the greater public's attention last fall when he lawfully defended himself during an attempted home invasion robbery wherein he killed one of his armed attackers.  My son and I wanted to thank his many friends and family who contributed their time and loving effort preparing picture boards, food and music all making for a fitting tribute to a good man.

As my friend Charlie was a firearms enthusiast and proud supporter of our country's expanded notion of Second Amendment Rights, I would be disingenuous if I did not note the bitter irony of how stories of gun violence in the media have seemingly shadowed Charlie's personal story.  For those of you who may be thinking, perhaps somewhat smugly, "live by the sword...die by the sword", I would suggest some honesty and thoughtful consideration before jumping to knee jerk conclusions.

First and foremost, how about a little self-reflection and honesty America.  Let's face it, we are a violent nation both historically and in terms of our culture.  Born in the blood of revolutionary war, baptized in the even greater bloodletting of the Civil War only to be confirmed by the blood baths that were the World Wars, America's story has been a violent story and any story with that much violence is naturally going to involve guns; if for no other reason than guns have been one of the most efficient and readily accessible tools for carrying out violence.

Secondly, let's be realistic and practical about the solution.  America's greatness can largely be attributed to the practical realism of our Founding Fathers (and mothers) whose wisdom did not come out of a vacuum.  Rather our previously functional form of government was predicated upon the practical and realistic assessment and acknowledgement of human nature.  It should be no less obvious and apparent today that any policy, any law or any form of government, to ultimately be successful must be reined in by the realities and practicalities of human nature.  Therefore any solution to America's problem with violent crime must be realistic in accessing and acknowledging its inherently violent character and one of its chief manifestations, gun violence.

Let us again be honest, realistic and practical by acknowledging that banning or greatly limiting access to guns is not the solution.  Guns are way too prevalent and reducing their prevalence would involve such intrusive, intolerable methods by law enforcement, that a constitutional amendment, realistically, would never see passage.

Frankly, in light of the polarization of the body politic in this country these days, we should thank our lucky stars for that.  The bigger danger, I would suggest , is that either party would become sufficiently powerful so as to get their way, without compromise, on everything.  Again, human nature (and Dalberg) has shown us that "...power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely".  To have all access to guns controlled through the executive branch of government would be frightening and the more one thoughtfully and honestly ponders this fact leads inexplicably to the conclusion that the Second Amendment is a check on government.  When I speak of gun ownership as a check on government power I do not speak of it as some kind of individual check, some immature, delusional Tea Party, sovereign  tax protester notion that the individual has the God given right to use a gun to defy government and get their individual, selfish way.  No, I think of the check of gun ownership as a collective right of the individual to join with his and her fellow citizens to convey the collective check that their are limits to government power, if we are truly a government of the people.

So if the practical and realistic solution to America's problem of violence does not lie in demonizing and outlawing guns, where does the solution lie?  In ourselves.  Let me repeat that because it sounds too simple. The solution to America's violent crime problem lies in ourselves.

A solution will only come when we all grow up, quit hiding behind simplistic slogans, party ideology and the like and take a hard, honest look at ourselves and realistically acknowledge the short comings of our policies, both social and economic.  The epidemic of untreated mental illness in this country is not a partisan issue and neither is the intolerable disparity in wealth.  The solution to all these issues does not lie in the extremes, but for the sake of everyones interests, the solution lies in a politically active, thoughtful and respectful majority free of  class and partisan interests.  But until that time comes...

Friday, May 16, 2014

The Why: Semi-Twang and the What For: Great Live Music The Where: Lees Liquor Village, Minneapolis

If the GPS on my handheld device wasn't there to remind me I am in Minneapolis, I might think I was in Austin, Memphis or New Orleans.  Last night the Blasters were at Lees Liquor Village and  tonite Lees is on a roll with the long hoped for return of Semi-Twang.  For the uninitiated, John Seiger's band, Semi-Twang out of Milwaukee, was one of the most tasteful and talented bands to come out of the upper Midwest.

Seiger along with his brother Mike were original members in the great R n B Cadets (Along with Paul Cebar and Robyn Pluer) before breaking off to head west in the late 1980's with a great album Salty Tears.  With the release in March of only their third album in roughly 25 years, this is a rare chance to catch one of America's best underexposed bands.  Cheers.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Dylan, "Desire" and the (other) Story of Hurricane: A Lesson In Fatherhood

Reading of the death of former pro boxer Rubin "Hurricane" Carter today awoke an old memory which reminded me how lucky I was to have, what in retrospect, was a pretty cool father.  I should add by "cool" I do not mean some kind of "over the hill hipster" who, in a desperate attempt at trying to stay relevant smokes pot or acts in some other immature, out of character way.  No, I merely mean a father, that despite whatever busy schedule he may have, when he senses that something is of importance, at least to his kid, takes the time to listen and if possible, act on his child's request or concern.

The time was the mid-late70's (circa 1976-77) and my father had a new job working for the LEAA after years working as chief counsel of a Senate Judiciary subcommittee and later as a staff counsel for the full judiciary committee.  The Law Enforcement Assistance Administration (LEAA) was a short-lived U.S. federal agency within the Justice Department.  It administered federal funding to state and local law enforcement agencies, and funded educational programs, research, state planning agencies and local crime initiatives.  My father really had no qualifications for working for the LEAA other than being one of the principal authors of the Senate's Amendment to the Omnibus Crime Control Act and needing a job.

At the time I was a long haired, anti-establishment teenager with a new favorite lp, Bob Dylan's "Desire".  My motivation for purchasing this album was the wordy but endearing protest song which was the album's featured single, "Hurricane" written by Bob Dylan and Jacques Levy:

Pistol shots ring out in the barroom night
Enter Patty Valentine from the upper hall
She sees the bartender in a pool of blood
Cries out, “My God, they killed them all!”
Here comes the story of the Hurricane
The man the authorities came to blame
For somethin’ that he never done
Put in a prison cell, but one time he could-a been
The champion of the world
Three bodies lyin’ there does Patty see
And another man named Bello, movin’ around mysteriously
“I didn’t do it,” he says, and he throws up his hands
“I was only robbin’ the register, I hope you understand
I saw them leavin’,” he says, and he stops
“One of us had better call up the cops”
And so Patty calls the cops
And they arrive on the scene with their red lights flashin’
In the hot New Jersey night
Meanwhile, far away in another part of town
Rubin Carter and a couple of friends are drivin’ around
Number one contender for the middleweight crown
Had no idea what kinda shit was about to go down
When a cop pulled him over to the side of the road
Just like the time before and the time before that
In Paterson that’s just the way things go
If you’re black you might as well not show up on the street
’Less you wanna draw the heat
Alfred Bello had a partner and he had a rap for the cops
Him and Arthur Dexter Bradley were just out prowlin’ around
He said, “I saw two men runnin’ out, they looked like middleweights
They jumped into a white car with out-of-state plates”
And Miss Patty Valentine just nodded her head
Cop said, “Wait a minute, boys, this one’s not dead”
So they took him to the infirmary
And though this man could hardly see
They told him that he could identify the guilty men
Four in the mornin’ and they haul Rubin in
Take him to the hospital and they bring him upstairs
The wounded man looks up through his one dyin’ eye
Says, “Wha’d you bring him in here for? He ain’t the guy!”
Yes, here’s the story of the Hurricane
The man the authorities came to blame
For somethin’ that he never done
Put in a prison cell, but one time he could-a been
The champion of the world
Four months later, the ghettos are in flame
Rubin’s in South America, fightin’ for his name
While Arthur Dexter Bradley’s still in the robbery game
And the cops are puttin’ the screws to him, lookin’ for somebody to blame
“Remember that murder that happened in a bar?”
“Remember you said you saw the getaway car?”
“You think you’d like to play ball with the law?”
“Think it might-a been that fighter that you saw runnin’ that night?”
“Don’t forget that you are white”
Arthur Dexter Bradley said, “I’m really not sure”
Cops said, “A poor boy like you could use a break
We got you for the motel job and we’re talkin’ to your friend Bello
Now you don’t wanta have to go back to jail, be a nice fellow
You’ll be doin’ society a favor
That sonofabitch is brave and gettin’ braver
We want to put his ass in stir
We want to pin this triple murder on him
He ain’t no Gentleman Jim”
Rubin could take a man out with just one punch
But he never did like to talk about it all that much
It’s my work, he’d say, and I do it for pay
And when it’s over I’d just as soon go on my way
Up to some paradise
Where the trout streams flow and the air is nice
And ride a horse along a trail
But then they took him to the jailhouse
Where they try to turn a man into a mouse
All of Rubin’s cards were marked in advance
The trial was a pig-circus, he never had a chance
The judge made Rubin’s witnesses drunkards from the slums
To the white folks who watched he was a revolutionary bum
And to the black folks he was just a crazy nigger
No one doubted that he pulled the trigger
And though they could not produce the gun
The D.A. said he was the one who did the deed
And the all-white jury agreed
Rubin Carter was falsely tried
The crime was murder “one,” guess who testified?
Bello and Bradley and they both baldly lied
And the newspapers, they all went along for the ride
How can the life of such a man
Be in the palm of some fool’s hand?
To see him obviously framed
Couldn’t help but make me feel ashamed to live in a land
Where justice is a game
Now all the criminals in their coats and their ties
Are free to drink martinis and watch the sun rise
While Rubin sits like Buddha in a ten-foot cell
An innocent man in a living hell
That’s the story of the Hurricane
But it won’t be over till they clear his name
And give him back the time he’s done
Put in a prison cell, but one time he could-a been
The champion of the world

Like any teenager with a new record, "Desire" was in heavy rotation and much like the songs off my early Springsteen collection, "Hurricane" was one of those songs you had to memorize the lyrics to.  (My poor parents!)  So after about a month of this constant barrage I honestly can't remember who approached whom, whether I asked my Dad or Dad came to me and said something like"...if you just stop playing that damn song, I'll see what I can find out...".  Which ever it was, in retrospect it was pretty damn cool of the old man and I know it did not win him many friends at his new job poking around this subject with state and federal law enforcement officials.

Out of respect to the friends and family of Mr. Carter and in all fairness, I will not repeat the hearsay my father reported back to me other than to confirm the early acknowledgment by those in law enforcement (F.B.I.) of serious problems with the State's case.  The thing that is important to me today, some 15 years after my father's passing, is what a cool thing that was for my Dad to do for his son.  RIP Rubin.  I'm so glad you got out of that cell. 

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Mats to Play Minneapolis at Target Field: Hold All Rainchecks.

Speculation has been swirling like snowflakes this past week in the Mill City as to when the Mats will make their long awaited return home to play a concert.  Well the wait may soon be over.

One does not have to be a Guy Noir to know that the key to solving any mystery in America is follow the money.  Where is the money these days in the music industry?  For artists, it sure as hell isn't in music sales, whether cds or digital downloads, the cut taken by distributors and platforms leave just a pittance for the people who created it.  No, the gold lies in licensing your bands name for a line of clothing and needless bobbles and shiny objects that can be sold online and at your shows.

A quick google for the band name that gave Minneapolis its well deserved reputation as the home of the post punk, pre Grunge sound leads you to a slick commercial website complete with a link for concert dates and a store.  Do ya think a summer tour is in the offing?  Does it snow in Minneapolis in the Spring time?

I learned long ago that marketing foreshadowed the direction where a for profit organization was headed.  Remember the Minnesota North Stars?  Remember that piece of shit shopping mall developer from North of the border, Norm Green?  As soon as he rebranded the team that was the Star of the North to simply the Stars, I knew the jig was up.

Now before I start hearing all the pink Mohawks and safety pin faces who were 10-15 years too young to ever be part of the original scene screaming "sell out", hey kiddies I got news for you, that ship sailed long ago.  Riotfest wasn't about live aid and Coachella ain't exactly the 7th Street Entry or CBGBs.  Hell I commend the guys for reforming for a noble purpose, helping Slim and I begrudge no one for making a living.

It's just that you cannot read t-shirts like they're tea leaves.  Leave the amateur prognosticating to the professional grifters like palm readers and politicians and take this to the bank:

The Replacements are NOT going to play Target Field despite the 3/4 length baseball tee with 1960's Twins styling.

No, it doesn't take a Sid Genius to figure out that the corporate shills that got Minnesotans to pay for the wealthiest owner in baseball's stadium with public money, whose red neck idea of "Muzak" is Kenny Cheesedick are not ever, in any lifetime, going to let the band whose next album is tentatively titled "Feculent" desecrate their hallowed "Field of Mediocrity".  And that's the truth! PBBBBBLLLLLLTTTTTTTTTT!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Living in America: I Feel Good

I am extremely happy to report to that my cousin Phil, who provided me my middle name, and was a decorated corpsman in the Vietnam War, had successful kidney transplant surgery down in Phoenix this past weekend. That makes the third successful recipient which combined with two living related donors, a total of 5 successful kidney transplant operations for my extended family.  Only in the United States could this be possible.  Just a reminder to be grateful that you are living in America.  I feel good.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Tales of a Road Dog The Lowdown Along the Blues Highway by must read for fans! Get book & music

Alejandro Escovedo: The Artist of the Millenium & "Sensitive" Boys Deliver at the Dakota

"That's it!  I give up.  No Mas! No Mas!   I am never going to see a better live performance so I might as well stop..."

I have been telling myself this after attending almost every one of Alejandro's shows ever since my brother dragged me to my first Alejandro show at the 4oo Bar on Minneapolis' funky West Bank back in the late 90s.  Having very particular tastes in music, I can be like a mule sometimes when it comes to going out to see something new live.  However on this occasion I was somewhat intrigued by all the hype I had heard through the musical grapevine, specifically a little known industry magazine which had anointed some guy named Escovedo "Artist of the Decade".

 "Yeah right..." I thought to myself.   I had heard it all many times before.  Ever since Jon Landau famously wrote his "I saw the Future of Rock and Roll" review, many artists would be burdened with similar hyperbole, but really, no one had been right since then... .But then again, what if like Landau they're right?   Little did I know how much that show would change my life.

Fast forward a couple decades and I am reading an interview with AE in this week’s City Pages.  Someone or thing with the moniker Gimme Noise is asking the questions and was evidently so unfamiliar with Al's current work that it actually asked the following:

Gimme Noise:
I think folks are stoked about seeing you at a more intimate kind of space like the Dakota. Will it be some of your mellower stuff? You playing solo at all?

"Mellower stuff"'?  "Playing solo"?  Gimme Noise you can thank your lucky stoked stars that you didn't try and peddle that line  to the AE of old, cuz it wouldn't have been pretty.  Instead the older, healthier, wiser, kinder and a most grateful AE lets his music make the statement and then practically, no literally apologized (mockingly) between songs, dead panning:  "Are we playing too loud for you?"  Despite a resounding "Nooooo" from the folks supposedly Stoked for something mellow, "I'm sorry...a faux earnest AE continues "...but that's how we play!"   But wait, I get ahead of myself and this show is deserving of a blow by blow description if there ever was one.

Taking the stage to the strains of the late great No Show Jones and "He Stopped Loving Her Today" Alejandro emerged onto the stage dressed dapper as always from his jet black, well-coiffed, hair (hair so thick I would kill for) down to his pointy black Beatles boots.  Waiting as if out of respect until George's song is nearly done, and after one last minute instruction the band starts with a faint, haunting beat that builds into "Can't Make Me Run", a song about drawing your line in the sand, standing your ground for love, off of his latest release Big Station.   For the "Don’t give up on Love" call and response towards the end of the song,  AE switched over to a dispatcher's mic, most commonly associated with harp players, to get a distorted, disemboweled sound fitting of the song's sentiment.

The next number, "Tender Heart" off his previous album Street Songs of Love is one of many songs AE has written over the years with the great Chuck Prophet and continues the relationship theme with the song's protagonist asking the musical question "I got a dream do you want to be in my dream?"

Next up was one of my faves off the new record "Bottom of the World" about how Austin, like any place, changes (all the California License plates) but hopefully never to become another, God forbid, Houston.  Alejandro asked if there were any people in the crowd from Houston and then said in advance he was sorry, not for the sentiment of the song but for them being from Houston.  I get it completely.  In my line of work I deal with a lot of big firm attorneys out of Houston and whenever I proclaim my love of Austin to them, more than one has made the comment :  "Do you know what we refer to Austin as down here in Texas?  320 square miles surrounded by reality".  I could not agree more with the sentiment conveyed in "Bottom of the World" with its disdain for Houston and its overemphasis on  money and the superficial and their need to denigrate the good people of Austin.  Touché.

Speaking of bottoming out, in his introduction to "Bottom of the World"  Alejandro told the first of several hilarious stories.  AE told about playing Minneapolis many times over the years and back in his early days staying at a "seedy hotel by the bus station", Minneapolis' version of the Chelsea, my words not his.  (I think he was referring to either the Inn Towne motel and its seedy Hubcap Lounge or the  Seville Hotel above Red's Roost Bar, all three establishments long defunct).  AE told about the time he checked in to a room there only to find a still lit cigarette in the ashtray, still warm bath water drawn in the tub and still warm takeout pizza box.  But the worst thing he ever saw at this hotel was Slash doing his laundry while wearing Daisy Duke short shorts.  It gives you the willies just thinking about it.

 AE then masterly slowed things down a bit with the beautiful “San Antonio Rain” a lush, slow burn number also off of Big Station.  Next up was “Sensitive Boys” and AE’s funniest introduction of the night.  AE told a story about a trip to Minneapolis very early in his career (I believe 1987) with his then band the True Believers (which band also featured his little brother Javier)  to play a Cinco De Mayo show warming up for Los Lobos at First Avenue.  Arriving in town early, the True Believers picked up a gig the night before in downtown Minneapolis.   The next day at the Cinco De Mayo show he met the headline act and drummer Louie Perez tells him that the night before they had witnessed the worst Country Western band they had ever seen/heard, you guessed it, the band the great Louie Perez was referring to was the True Believers.  Ouch!

Following "Sensitive Boys" AE and the songs namesakes played an autobiographical song from his Hand of the Father project, "Wave" before which he reminded the audience of his family's history, his musician grandfather and how his father ended up in Texas from Mexico.  It was while working the fields in Texas that Alejandro's grandmother would make up stories about the people in the passing trains and how they would pretend they knew them and wave to them. AE also told the story of when, as just a child, his parents abruptly pulled up stakes for a "vacation" to California (where they worked in the fields) eventually winding up in Huntington Beach, never to return to their pets and belongings back in Texas.  It is a poignant story that you can tell still affects him to this day.

Ever aware of pacing and dynamics, AE followed the heartfelt with some "Rock and Roll" with a Ramones like cadence to the chorus on "Castanets" but with the blistering guitar that is the songs signature.   Alejandro described "Castanets" as being about architecture...("I liked her better when she walked away")  Following the title track to his latest album, Big Station, was a particularly invigorated version of the staple "Everybody Loves Me But I Don't know why".  Maybe at one time, but the "moody little bastard" as one promoter once described him, always makes a point each show to genuinely thank those in the online community and others that helped defray his medical bill following his near death experience a few years back in Arizona (also title to song about the long struggle back, which he also played).  But every once in a while a little bit of the punk rock cynicism slips out and he lets off a zinger like his Lady Gaga reference (shit!) from the previously mentioned interview by Stokely Carmichael for Gimme Noise or like during the band introduction when someone yelled out "Who are you?" and without missing a beat he quipped back "Huey Lewis".

The last song before encores was an absolutely stunning version of Young's "Like a Hurricane".  The dueling guitar work between Alejandro and Jon Sanchez, an absolutely phenomenal guitarist from Baton Rouge who makes it look so effortless.  Rounding out the band was the rhythm section with always solid Bobby Daniels on bass and top notch and in demand Austin drummer, Matt Strmiska.  Alejandro came back alone to give a dedication to recently deceased Stooges drummer Scott Asheton before delivering a moving version of "Sister Lost Soul" his homage to all his fellow music travelers who are no longer with us. The band was then brought back up for the evenings closer, a raucous version of the Tom Waits’ "Goin' Out West"* inviting the audience to join in "I'm goin' out west where I belong, Where the days are short and the nights are long..." but never long enough when it's Alejandro and his Sensitive Boys!

Set List Dakota Jazz Bar 3/30/201

(Tape:  He Stopped Loving Her Today)

Can't Make Me Run
Tender Heart
Bottom of the World hotel slash mt room ch smoke pizza
Rain San Antonio
Sensitive boys (Cinco de Mayo Louie Los Lobos worst true believes)
Big station
Everybody loves me
Like a hurricane
Sister lost soul
California Sun*(Correction:  Tom Waits' "Goin out West" but hey I'm Human)
John Sanchez
Bobby Daniel
Matt schrimsca
Who r u Huey Lewis
Sent from my iPod