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Another Call To Harry Crews & Beyond

Posted: Feb 19, 2008

...An Ongoing Pursuit & Recording of the Mystery And Manners Saga...Widespread Panic...Jim Dickinson...Harry Crews and beyond...

“In the time I was with Bronson, I came to believe that while he would not back off from trouble, he would go to considerable trouble to avoid bullshit. To fight over a fat lady you don’t know and have no interest in is bullshit and Bronson knew it, so he let the guy back him down the floor. There is so little bullshit in the man that he will do almost anything to keep from having to deal with the bullshit in somebody else. But after he’s backed as far as he can go, if pressed, he will break your arms for you. He is, in fact, the straight-on, tear your balls off kind of guy that he so often portrays with such power on the screen.”
                                        Harry Crews on Charles Bronson
                                       “The Knuckles of Saint Bronson”

Last weekend I made a trip over to Athens, Georgia. Bloodkin’s Eric Carter gave me a copy of William Tonks’ new CD Catch. Widespread Panic drummer, Todd Nance, met Danny Hutchens and I over at Eric Carter’s apartment and then Danny and I followed Todd out to his friend’s house on a little more than forty acres with a beautiful pond. Friday I finished transcribing my interview with Todd and it came out to about 71 handwritten pages. It proves to be a very extensive and interesting read. The Widespread Panic story proves a veritable saga of a great southern band. An assistant is typing up my hand written pages, and I hope to have the interview up next week.

There’s no doubt, the Athens musical community is a formidable collection of top-notch musicians which includes members of Bloodkin, Barbara Cue, The Drive By Truckers, David Barbe and Widespread Panic among various other utility players.

Then it will be onto transcribing my interview with the legendary Jim Dickinson that was conducted two days after the Nance interview. The Dickinson interview will be a serious history lesson, and there are more than a few touchstone moments during our Q & A. I'd say, by the first week in March, the Swampland/Mystery & Manners Jim Dickinson interview will be up for public consumption.

Dickinson’s sons, Luther and Cody's, band--the North Mississippi Allstars--are out on the road right now behind their new album Hernando. The Allstars cross paths with The Drive By Truckers, Ryan Bingham and Marc Ford before Luther Dickinson joins The Black Crowes. The Crowes release their new album Warpaint (watch for review) on March 4, and then they (with Luther Dickinson as an official member) hit the road. We’ll also be checking in on those boys periodically. Resort to Swampland’s Mystery & Manners for tour highlights, performances and first-hand news on the aforementioned bands this spring and summer as the tour circuit heats up with the weather.

In other news, I’m happy to report Stanley Booth’s wife, Alabama poet Diann Blakely, is recovering from a perilous health situation. She should be home soon and I intend to highlight her upcoming work and perhaps interview her when she feels up to it. Look for new fiction stories by April...and perhaps other book related news.

The John Sayles movie Honeydripper is a film that is catching attention, and I suggest you seek it out. I’ll be talking with Texas writer Bob Hardy regarding his new book on Townes Van Zandt. Also, I’m scheduled to talk with Texas musician James McMurtry regarding his new CD, Just Us Kids, set for release in April. Look for a profile on Daniel Lanois, who recorded with Emmylou Harris, Willie Nelson, Chris Whitley and Bob Dylan soon...

I’ll review Gary Louris’ new record, produced by Black Crowe Chris Robinson, which includes the fine musicianship of North Carolina native Jonathan Wilson. A new collection of Atlantic Records’ Margie Joseph arrived, which will earn some spotlight in the next week or so.

An interview with Lance Ledbetter, Atlanta label president of Dust To Digital, waits on the immediate horizon. Ledbetter released Goodbye, Babylon and the Fonotone Records box-sets, and I look forward to officially interviewing him.

Last, but not least, Mystery & Manners will be involved in and reviewing a new leg of the Never Ending Soul Food Tour as well as more film and book reviews in the coming weeks. Look forward to upcoming Swampland merchandise and advertising opportunities in the not-too-distant-future. For a journey through the past, read features on Sam Peckinpah, Sly Stone, Terry SouthernHunter S. Thompson (February 20 marks three years since his death), Cormac McCarthy and Sam Shepard...

...As if things are not interesting enough...

So, yesterday…during a break...I flipped through the channels and caught a brief scene of Charles Bronson’s Death Wish 3. It made me think of a story Harry Crews (classic photo above) wrote called “The Knuckles of Saint Bronson”. I decided it was time to attempt another try at interviewing Harry Crews. My friend—the great writer Paul Hemphill—warned me about visiting Crews: “Just watch out for his fucking dogs.” When I mentioned interviewing Crews to the ultimate professional John Sayles, he said: “That should be a fun date.” I’d left Crews two messages since our conversation last summer, and I planned on leaving another message this evening. Then, on the third ring, Crews’ female friend picked up the phone and handed it over to Harry.

Mr. Crews told me he gets up and writes every day “until I’m broken”. He’s suffering from a physical ailment which requires medication he’s not crazy about taking. I'm well-aware he hates phone interviews and I suggested I make the trek to Florida to go on the record with him. No doubt, at 73 he’s quite busy. One doesn't write 38 books in a lifetime and remain unfamiliar with the term busy. I told him the last thing I would do is pressure him, and the classic Crews spark flashed: “You ain’t gonna pressure me man. Nobody fucking pressures me. I don’t allow it—it doesn’t happen. Anyway, yeah we can do it.” Harry told me some movie people are going to visit him, so we must coordinate a schedule. I’d like to go down in two weeks...

“I’ll be in touch in a week or so,” I say
”Yeah, well, hurry up because I’m dying. Yes, be in touch. Come down and we’ll do it.”

So, the journey continues. It’s time to get back to work. Come back tomorrow... Your humble scribe,

James Calemine

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