Not Bad For an Old Dude

Fig. 1: The author.

As you can see, I'm holding up quite well, despite just turning fifty. Could use a manicure, but Mrs. Chan just screams and runs when I enter the nail salon these days. Must be my new hairstyle.

A few weeks ago, the local paper (the venerable and always informative Oxford Eagle) ran a contest to name the 'best of' Oxford in various categories. One of the categories was writer.

Oxford is home to a number of renowned authors, both living and dead. William Faulkner lived, worked, and drank here, usually simultaneously. John Grisham was an Oxonian for a long time before moving away. Barry Hannah was a instructor on campus. Ace Adkins lives not far from me. These are big names with powerful followings, so I never expected to be mentioned.

But the votes were counted, and somehow I won the thing!

I'm not accustomed to seeing my name appear in a larger font than that of John Grisham. So, to all the locals who voted for me, THANK YOU! And I'd also like to point out that my status as a living author has been confirmed by the professional press. So put the mallets and the wooden stakes away. I'm just pale, people. And a lot of men wear capes nowadays. Fashions change.

The first edit of the new Markhat book continues. I hope to wrap it up this week. I'm eager to finish it and get started on the new Meralda and Mug book, All the Turns of Light.


But Frank you ask, in a stunning non sequitur of a transition, what music are you listening to right now?

Glad you asked, because I have a new album to rave about! See the cover below...

Yep, if you thought you recognized the name, you probably did -- Natalie Maines is/was the lead singer for the apparently dormant country group The Dixie Chicks.

I'm not a huge fan of country music. But some voices transcend genre, and Miss Maines is one of those rare talents.

Mother is a solo album, and of course my favorite track of the album (and I mean album as in vinyl, baby) is her version of Pink Floyd's legendary Mother.

But that's not to say the other songs are less worthy. Each is a tour de force. Maines can sing anything -- rock, folk, country, it doesn't matter. She sounds amazing just standing there silent. Yeah. That good.

The last time I was this happy with an album was when I first heard AA Bondy's brilliant When The Devil's Loose.

Look, I'm one of those hard-core nutjobs who believes vinyl recordings capture some magical essence of music that digital media simply misses. Mother is loaded with that special kind of musical magic. The songs soar. They march. They float effortlessly. They resound.

Gargoyle and Dragon approve!

The moods range from happy to melancholy to wistful to sad and back again. The quality of the recordings is top-notch. Listening to this record is akin to being hot and filthy and exhausted and being treated to a sudden cool rain. Or a sandwich and a beer. I'm trying to say it's a genuine journey, laid down with soulful sounds.

Do I recommend this album? Yes. Yes I do, in the strongest possible terms. If you have to crawl through swamps and bite snakes in half the whole way just so you can use the carcass to swat away giant leeches while fighting off mutant flaming crocodiles do so and get this album. It will be worth the effort, and anyway I for one could use the exercise.

I hope another album is in the works.

Natalie Maines, it's good to have you back.

I should get back to editing now. So all you crazy kids go listen to some good music while you read a good book, and I'll see you back here next Sunday!