In a Van Again?

Damnedest things can happen when you think you know what you are doing… I was visiting family just outside Washington, DC when my cell phone rang at 11:00pm to tell me that I had a message. The number on the caller ID was familiar but from a long time ago.

Adam Musick, from the band Southern Bitch had called me. When I called him he told me that the drummer that had replaced me in the band had been out drinking, come home, laid down on the couch and died. A sweet, sweet guy, apparently he had made some sort of miscalculation about tolerances and his heart had stopped. The band had initially cancelled their shows that they had booked, but one of them was a showcase at the world famous music conference South By Southwest, and they were wondering- could I come and do their Texas shows?

I haven’t been out on the road with a band in years. But for the better part of the 1990s, I was in a band called Five-Eight and we used to do about 200 shows a year or thereabouts. It was a hell of a life- I was always broke, usually fighting some kind of cold or something, always tired, on the bad side of most of my family and completely unable to point at anything in my life and say “I own that and no one can take it away from me.” Do I want to go back to that?

“Sure,” I said, “when are we leaving?”

Southern Bitch is a southern rock band, in the style of the new wave of southern rock bands- The Drive-By Truckers, Slobberbone, Uncle Tupelo and their various offspring, the Bottle Rockets, there are mess of these bands out there right now. What sets Southern Bitch apart is their incredible musicianship. They are a truly smoking band,

In the years since I left the band they have been traveling the country and playing a bunch of the same dives that Five-Eight used to play. They even found some of the same restaurants that we used to eat at.

I drove home and picked up my dog at the kennel. My only stipulation on jumping into the van and hitting the road with these guys was that they let me load up my chow and bring him along, because kennel life is no kind of life for a dog.

We had one practice the next day in Athens and we loaded up the van with our ears still ringing. We have been driving towards Texas ever since.

Thoughts on getting back out on the road:
Man, it does feel good to be back on the road. Last night I looked out through the windshield into the hazy black velour in front of us, the smooth seam of asphalt slipping away beneath our wheels, Up ahead there was a steamy pool of light where the state of Mississippi had put up a stand of streetlights to illuminate a bridge shaped like a turtle’s back. We had the windows open because it was a cool night. Five-Eight used to ride these Mississippi, Louisiana and Arkansas backroads to scratch out some rent money. It’s like coming home.

On the other hand, the sunglasses in my pocket and the cowboy boots I am wearing cost me more together than I made in a month when I was touring full time. There’s no money in this life, but it made me pretty happy.

We slept in Shreveport last night, Buddha and I crashed in the van because there’s no dogs allowed in the hotel. We each had a bench seat, though I woke up at 5:30 with him lying on top of me. He’s scared of thunderstorms and one rolled through around then. I finally wrestled him off of me around 6:00. (H’e about 80 lbs.)

We crossed the state line into Texas before 10:30, these guys are blasting the Black Crowes. The thunderstorm washed the air clean and the sun is shining brightly, though the March morning is cool. I have been trying to sip a hot cup of coffee as we bounce down the concrete Texas highway. There is a little taste of diesel in the air. In every direction the green fields of East Texas stretch to the horizon.