2018 in Review | The Books

In 2018, I finally sought therapy for the anxiety that has plagued most of my life. 
Doing so was one of the best decisions I have made and I am grateful to have access to a really good therapist, as well as the support of my inner circle.

Getting mental health help can be daunting. Looking back, I felt like if I was committed to getting help then I would no longer have anxiety as an excuse or explanation for some of my more anti-social and self-destructive tendencies. 
I was wrong, of course. Well, I was right about not having an excuse or explanation, but that was true before I sought help.

I was wrong about therapy being daunting. It is a lot of work, which is good. BJ Barham and I talked on Episode 1 of The Marinade about the value of hard work. The phrase 'hard work' evokes images of the grindstone and a swinging hammer. 
The work I have done on myself this year has been equally exhausting but also liberating.

I am far from done. This work is a never ending cycle of discovery, struggle, and revelation. 
One such revelation has been that I know I am at my best when I write, read, and exercise regularly. That's it. If I do those things, the other stuff takes care of itself.

So, I set out to read more. I have always devoured books but my heroes are voracious consumers of words and ideas. I knew I could do more.

I did not keep count of the books I read. I am too prone to competition to do something like that. It would interfere with my enjoyment. 
Safe to say, I read as much as needed. This list reflects the books that really stuck with me.

Cheers and love in 2019, y'all.

Album Review | Hawks and Doves "From a White Hotel"

Kasey Anderson sets the tone for his record From a White Hotel within the first minute. Just over forty seconds in he sings, “They gonna stack up the dead till they black out the sun/These white boys with money make the whole world run”

The establishment is clearly in Anderson’s cross hairs on From a White Hotel, the first release from his band Hawks and Doves. Not strictly a protest record, but one that will not overlook the current administration’s bigotry and absence of empathy. From a White Hotel’s agenda feels rooted in hope and opportunity, a commitment to examining the ugly bits along with the good, in finding humanity from characters who American society puts in boxes convenient for cognitive dissonance - freak, degenerate, lazy - and throws into a forgotten pile with others deemed unfavorable.

This is a record that lays the characters, the listener, and the album’s narrator bare. It is a record of unification- bringing together what it means to be “American,” to be human. From a White Hotel is a white-hot rock n’ roll record. It is a return to form for Anderson, the writer and performer who just embarked on his first tour in several years. From a White Hotel is also the best thing Anderson has done in his critically acclaimed career.

The album has no holes. Its sequence takes the listener on a hopeful journey through heartache, confusion, loss, lust, love, and resilient fight. Anderson’s tunes are tough for this author to leave as background music. Every stanza is dripping with imagery to which those of us who write regularly aspire.

We could pluck examples from nearly any spot on the record to illustrate this point. The title track provides one such example. The song begins with spare percussion and the strum of a guitar chord. The arrangement of the tune lays Anderson’s gravelly voice and powerful imagery bare. He paints a scene of national disaster in the first verse. The second brings us closer to home, letting us into the narrator’s intimate fantasies.

“Way back in my travelin’ days I kissed a girl in San Antone/She was every faded fantasy I called upon when I was alone/But I’ll leave that here in this old house with everything I own and set it on fire”

Moving on, not just away from the past but toward something better, more meaningful. “From a White Hotel” is perhaps the most personal song on the album and one to which there is so much for the listener to attach. This album is not only our favorite Kasey Anderson effort, it is one of our favorite albums of the year thus far. If enough great records come along to knock it from its perch in the next six months, well that will be a very nice problem to have.