307: “March of the Dirty Razors” by Big Ass Truck

Memphis mingling.

BAT and Rufus Thomas

A young American talks with his grandfather, a veteran of the second World War, a self-made man, a leader in his community. They have a somber exchange, after a hearty meal of meat, potatoes, and maize on the cob. The grandfather says to his progeny,

“Grandson, there are two wolves living inside the heart of every man.

“One of the wolves is sustained by feelings of joy, peace, love, hope, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, and compassion.

“The second wolf thrives on fear, jealousy, anger, bitterness, and basically the second wolf is a huge d-bag. Like a Totes-McGoats-Gertrude-Huffernuffer. For izzies, dropping major slog right on the trail where all the other metaphor wolves walk, and this sack of fur won’t even fight the good wolf directly, because this second wolf claims ‘the situation is much more nuanced than good and evil’ and that it ‘just has bouts of depression’ and ‘doesn’t want to be the bad wolf, anymore’ and all types of such nonsense.

“These two wolves continuously fight a battle every day inside each of us.”

The young American stares wide-eyed at his grandfather, “Grandpa? Which wolf wins?”

Grandpa looks his descendant in the face, and says “March of the Dirty Razors” by Big Ass Truck, from Who Let You In Here? (1998). It was a band formed in Memphis in the 19 and 90’s and its members continue to create new music to this day.

The boy says, “I don’t get it. Is that a song? There is a band called Big Gas Truck? The quotes weren’t proper and your words became unfastened. Grandpa, are you all right?”

Grandpa starts to dissolve and swirl like an expensive video editing plug-in effect, and says, as he spins into a syrup of 10 million fading pixels, “Just enjoy the music, kid. I’m off…

Song: March of the Dirty Razors
Artist: Big Ass Truck
Album: Who Let You In Here?
Label: Terminus Records
Buy from: Amazon | iTunes
Listen: MOG | Spotify

164: “I’m A Ram” by Al Green, Gov’t Mule

This is right before Al Green roundhouse kicked all three of them in the back of the head.

This is right before Al Green roundhouse kicked all three of them in the back of the head... And then healed them.

Al Green is a ram.  One of the greatest soul singers ever.

I had the great pleasure of seeing him preach at his church, the Full Gospel Tabernacle, in Memphis, TN in 1995.  I was a college student and a huge fan.  I grew up Southern Baptist, but had never been in a church with such a… strongly affected congregation.  We were warmly welcomed by very normal people, but when the service started, ladies started fainting and several people spoke in tongues (there were also small kids imitating these goings-on), all of which was foreign and somewhat amusing to me. But the music was something else.  There was a full electric band on the small stage, and Al’s pulpit provided lead vocals.

Reverend Al Green transmogrified his sermon that day into several improvised choruses, which segued into traditional hymns.  It was righteous and it was funky and it made me wave my hands in the air before I had time to remember I was white.  I sang along when I could pick it up, and my face began to cramp from smiling.

My heart was full, and I was incredibly hungry for Sunday lunch.

Gov’t Mule is another band with a couple of guys named Warren Haynes and Allen Woody in it.  They do a solid cover of Al’s “I’m A Ram” on Mighty High (2007).


Song: I’m A Ram
Artist: Al Green
Album: Gets Next To You
Label: Hi Records Under Exclusive License to Fat Possum Records
Buy from: Amazon | iTunes

Song: I’m A Ram
Artist: Gov’t Mule
Album: Mighty High
Label: BMG/ATO/Red Ink
Buy from: Amazon | iTunes

15: “I Can Dig It” by Alex Chilton

Alex Chilton gazes into the great beyond.Wow, I just now found out from Wikipedia that Alex Chilton died in March.  I don’t guess it was in the news much.  RIP, Alex.

Alex Chilton (1950-2010) is best known for singing lead in the band Big Star.  A lot of his solo work is good, but not all.

Here’s one of his most rocking tunes, with one of the grooviest phrases ever turned into a chorus.


Song: I Can Dig It
Artist: Alex Chilton
Album: Lost Decade (1986)
Label: Last Call Records
Buy from: Amazon | iTunes
Listen: YouTube

6: “You’ve Got A Booger Bear Under There” by Ollie Nightingale

Ollie Nightingale, Pimp As Purple ItselfI lived in Memphis for a while, and was introduced to the music of Ollie Nightingale, who was still alive at the time.  He was part of what was still called “The Chitlin’ Circuit” by folks I knew, and which I took to apply to a certain style of performers touring the Southeast US, namely, “off-color” (woefully under-descriptive!) African-American musicians/comedians playing to largely African-American audiences.  I saw Bobby Rush, another musician I’d considered part of that scene, at a great show at the New Daisy Theater.  Some consider the term “Chitlin’ Circuit” applied to modern musicians to be derogatory, but I certainly mean no offense by it.  I enjoyed several “Chitlin’ Circuit” artists very much, and spent money on them, so I care where it counts.

Here’s a quintessential example of the type of song that would be heard on the “Chitlin’ Circuit,” as we called it: “You’ve Got A Booger Bear Under There,” by Ollie Nightingale.  No matter how you might judge the poetic content of the lyrics, it’s a soundly-written song and was often covered by the illustrious Alex Chilton.


Song: You’ve Got A Booger Bear Under There
Artist: Ollie Nightingale
Album: The Best of Ollie Nightingale
Label: Ecko Records
Buy from: Amazon | iTunes
Listen: MOG

Watch Ollie performing “Are You Lonesome” at a place and time unknown…