Mahan Withdraws After Wife Goes Into Labor

OAKVILLE, Ontario — A stunning development unfolded early Saturday at the RBC Canadian Open, with 36-hole leader Hunter Mahan withdrawing from the tournament after getting a call informing him that his wife, Kandi, had gone into labor.
“I received exciting news a short time ago that my wife Kandi has gone into labor with our first child,” said Mahan. “As a result, I have withdrawn from the RBC Canadian Open to return to Dallas. I would like to extend my very sincere gratitude and appreciation to RBC and the RBC Canadian Open.

“Kandi and I are thrilled about this addition to the Mahan family and we look forward to returning to the RBC Canadian Open in the coming years.”

Mahan grabbed the lead at Glen Abbey after shooting 67-64 to take a two-shot lead over John Merrick heading into Saturday’s round. With Mahan’s WD, Merrick played alone in the final group.
The final group was delayed 80 minutes due to an earlier storm, so Mahan and Merrick were one of the few groups who had yet to tee off. Golf Channel showed images of Mahan taking a phone call on the range, and moments later, he departed from the premises.

Brandt Snedeker surged into the lead with a 63 on Moving Day, and only learned Mahan had withdrawn when he didn’t see Mahan’s name on the leaderboard while waiting to hit on the seventh tee.

“With him leaving, it left the leaderboard wide open,” Snedeker said. “It changes the complexity of the tournament. The way Hunter was playing, he was going to be hard to catch … anyone can win now.”

Mahan had played his best golf of the year this week in Glen Abbey. He was in good position for his first win of the year after a solid summer that produced top-10s at both the U.S. Open and last week at The Open Championship.

Dustin Johnson, who eagled 18 to shoot 63, played with Mahan in the first two rounds. He said the news was unexpected, but wished his PGA TOUR colleague well.
“I actually didn’t know that [his wife was due] until my caddy Bobby told me on 18,” he said. “Hopefully everything goes all right. I know it’s one of those situations where you probably wouldn’t expect him to have to leave.

“But sometimes that’s just how it works. He’s playing really well right now, but yeah, I mean, things happen, and obviously I’m in a good position for going into tomorrow.”

Colombia features courses designed by Nicklaus, Player

BOGOTA, Colombia — Colombians are a friendly people, full of passion for their country and for life; they exhibit a joie de vivre, which, despite hardships, allows them to look on the bright side and keep perspective. Sure, the birthplace of PGA TOUR player Camilo Villegas, 30, has its problems, but that’s only part of the story; it’s also a place rich in coffee, culture, history, and yes, even golf.

Golf in Colombia is gaining ground. Villegas’ success — he’s won three times since joining the PGA TOUR in 2006 — has spawned more interest and growth in the game. Still, the golf scene there is not that well-known outside the country. Yet, famed architects such as Jack Nicklaus, Robert Trent Jones, and Gary Player have all left their designs on Colombia soil. When it comes to golf in this fourth-largest South American country, the only risk is you’ll have so much fun discovering the various campos, you’ll want to linger on the links longer.

Country Club de Bogota, the host of this week’s season-opening Nationwide Tour event — the Pacific Rubiales Colombia Championship presented by Samsung — is just one of 50 courses in this charming country of more than 44 million people. Colombia’s capital of Bogota boasts more than 7.3 million inhabitants alone. It’s a modern, metropolitan city with fine-dining, shopping, world-class theater, museums and vibrant barrios such as the Zona Rosa and Usaquen.

Leave Bogota by car and within 20 minutes you’ll encounter yet another postcard featuring more shades of a green than the paint aisle at your local hardware store. A few other noteworthy courses in Bogota, and its surrounding savannah, include: Los Lagartos, San Andres Golf Club, and La Pradera de Potosi Club.

Golf in Colombia is an extraordinary and unique experience — from sipping a tinto (small black coffee) on the tee to having a caddy carry your bag and give you tips and camaraderie throughout your round. Since Colombia has no true seasons, the temperate climate allows you to play golf year-round.

Where else can you play a Nicklaus-designed course (Ruitoque) in the province of Santander near Bucaramanga in the morning, then drive for a couple of hours and board a 6.3 km cable car to cross the Chicamocha Canyon to view spectacular panoramic vistas in the afternoon? Another course in Santander is the Club Campestre de Bucaramanga.

Ruitoque is filled with many classic Nicklaus’ design traits — from large fairway bunkers to strategic pin placements. The most interesting tale about this private course, which opened in 1997, is why it was built. As the story goes, a well-heeled developer, who was a member of the Club Campestre Bucaramanga, showed up late for his tee time for the annual club championship and was refused entry into the tournament. So, to spite his former friends and members, he built an exclusive condominium development — locating it up a winding mountain road.

TINTO ON THE TEE

A tinto in Colombia sparks conversations and is drunk anytime of the day. The black, aromatic liquid is ingrained in the culture. The Coffee Triangle (Triangulo del Cafe), which consists of the departments of Caldas, Quindio and Risaralda, produces some of the best coffee in the world.

Everywhere you turn, it’s a postcard. Imagine sipping a tinto before you tee off, gazing out at green, lush mountainous landscapes and coffee plantations. Above, the towering trees such as the grand eucalyptus look down on you — forcing you to take time to ponder what life means and Mother Nature’s beauty.

Besides its friendly people, Colombia’s charm resides in its landscapes. It has diverse climates — from the tropical Cartagena that borders the Caribbean Sea in the north to the Amazon jungle basin in the far southern reaches of the country. In between, the Andes Mountains define the Colombia’s topography; it’s the only country where this mountain range breaks up into three chains.

Go beyond the one-sided headlines. Discover for yourself Colombia’s enchanting beauty, both on and off the fairways, and you’ll soon subscribe to the tagline of Proexport Colombia, which promotes tourism in the country: “The only risk is wanting to stay.”

Villegas Confident Golf Will Continue to Grow in Colombia

Editor’s note: Camilo Villegas is all-too familiar with the misconceptions many have about his birthplace. As a Canadian married to a Colombian, McPherson has been fortunate to travel to this El Dorado of South America; he, too, can relate to these one-sided, negative headlines. In advance of the Nationwide Tour’s season-opening tournament — the Pacific Rubiales Colombia Championship presented by Samsung at The Country Club de Bogota — he chatted with the Nationwide Tour graduate about golf in his homeland, his thoughts on the launch of PGA TOUR Latinoamerica, and how to change these negative stereotypes of his homeland.

BOGOTA, Colombia — Colombia has more than 50 golf courses and Villegas grew up playing at the oldest of these campos de golf — Club Campestre, Medellin. His parents still live in Medellin, which is Colombia’s second largest city and is situated in the northwest part of the country in the department of Antioquia. In a region where people are fervent for futbol, Villegas, 30, says he was lucky to take up golf.

“My dad joined a golf course when he was 35 and I played with him on the weekends,” he recalled. “I loved the game and before long I started playing in competitions and representing my country.”

One of the many opportunities golf gave the young Colombian was the chance to travel throughout the country and see first-hand all of its beauty.

“When I was a junior, I traveled around Colombia, from city to city, playing in tournaments,” said Villegas, who at 16 became the first player in Colombian history to win his country’s Amateur Grand Slam in the same year. “I would play five, six, seven weeks in a row … that’s where I planted the seed to all the good stuff that has been happening the last six or seven years on the PGA TOUR.”

A few of Villegas’ other favorite Colombian courses include: La Macarena (Medellin), El Country Club in Bogota, and the Club Campestre Cali. Growing up at Club Campestre, Medellin, Villegas practiced on a polo field.

“Some might say it’s boring, but when you have a caddy with a shag bag, you can always work on your numbers,” he explains of this makeshift driving range. “You could see how far the caddy walked to pick up your ball to judge your distance.”

Villegas says his home course did not have the best conditions, but as a kid, he didn’t know any better. “It’s cool to know that so many of the guys on the PGA TOUR come from pretty average golf courses,” he said. “It shows that it’s not only the facilities, but it’s your heart that can take you to the next level.”

So, what will it take for more Colombians to make it to the big show? Villegas thinks the newly created PGA TOUR Latinoamerica, which was announced last October, and begins this fall, is a great start.

“This will give a lot of South American players the opportunity to take their game to the next level,” he said. “I’ve always said I don’t want to be the only Colombian playing on the PGA TOUR. Five or six years down the line, I’m sure there will be a few more guys, Colombian or non-Colombian, that will come from that Tour to the Nationwide Tour and eventually to The PGA TOUR. It’s a stepping stone to the next level and it will definitely grow the game.”

According to Villegas, this new venture should also help break down those negative stereotypes and perceptions of Colombia. As more international players travel to the region for tournaments, they will see and learn more about the rich and diverse cultures of these Latin American countries.

When he’s not playing and competing, Villegas does his part to help grow the game in South America. He returns to his homeland as often as he can – giving clinics and playing in exhibitions. Each time he returns home, he sees golf growing in popularity.

“I see more and more kids involved and more and more talented players just playing the game,” Villegas says. “It’s nice to see other kids get involved and hopefully get through the same process as I did. I’ve only been on TOUR for six years, so it will be interesting to see how many kids have gotten involved in the game because they see a fellow Colombian out there working hard and accomplishing goals.

“It takes time, but maybe in four or five years, you will see the affect of that growth on the game and see more Latinos on the PGA TOUR.”

When it comes to Colombia, Villegas prefers not to preach; he would rather let people come and see for themselves the beauty that his country offers. His simple advice for visitors: don’t be scared, go and enjoy, and have fun.

“One of my main goals is not to tell people how good my country is, but to encourage them to visit,” he concludes. “Everyone from around the world that has had the chance to visit Colombia sees how the reality differs from what the media focuses on. It’s not necessarily the best country in the world, it has its problems, but it’s the place where I have my heart, my family, and where I grew up.”

Raul Midon: Lyricist’s Lounge

With performances on David Letterman, The Tonight Show With Jay Leno, and The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson behind him, plus rave reviews already in for his major label debut State Of Mind, New York-based songsmith Raul Midon continues to turn heads. His live performances are known to leave people breathless and hypnotized with his soulful delivery and accomplished percussive finger-style guitar playing. Midon’s father was a professional dancer, originally from Argentina and he tried to get his son to dance, but Raul was too self-conscious. Instead, he admits that he banged on things as a kid and that’s how he developed his unique guitar style, along with a lifelong love for songs and songwriting.

ChartAttack: As a blind person, how do you “see” the world?

Raul Midon: The closest way that I see the world other than living in it is through literature. In literature pictures have to be described with words, so it really helps me imagine a lot of things, which is what you have to do when you are blind. In a way, it’s also a disadvantage as a songwriter because I tend to be very psychological as a writer. I mean, I ask myself, “Can I write about a sunset if I’ve never seen one?” The answer is that the sunset has to be symbolic in some way for me to write about it… maybe it always is anyway. I know that I’ve worked with DJs and they are always looking out and seeing how the audience is responding to something and performers do that. Maybe it’s better to just be yourself and let them respond the way they are going to respond.

What makes a great song?

I think there has to be a central idea that you’re talking about… an idea with a twist. I always like to be surprised. I like good melodies somewhere in there and then the twist in the lyrics, a song that you thought was about a great relationship turns out to be about a relationship that never was, anything like that is something that I love. And I just love great wordsmiths.[Midon quotes the Cole Porter love song “Laura”]”Laura is a face in the misty light/ footsteps that you hear down the hall/ a laugh that floats on a summer night/ that you can never quite recall”
That’s an incredible lyric.

Writing a song is not writing poetry, the words have to sound good and they have to sing good. You may have a lyric that is very meaningful, but it doesn’t sound good. There is a lyric that I love from Tapestry. I always love the song “Too Late”… “Something inside has died and I can’t hide and I just can’t fake it…” It just sounds great to sing, it’s a great lyric.

Who influences you outside the world of music?

I’ve always been influenced by people who transcended. I mean Martin Luther King knew he was going to give his life for what he did. Malcolm X, Gandhi is a transcendent person, maybe some people who died for what they believed in. It wasn’t a media hype thing. What is so ironic about it is that they died; yet they are immortal. They are going to be influencing people from now until the end of time.

Corb Lund: Embraced By the Old-timers

Corb Lund is a lover of all things country — well at least all things that are not mainstream Nashville country. That, he could do without. Lund is all about staying true to his rural Alberta roots and using his experiences as a way to explore universal themes in his music. On his latest disc, Hair In My Eyes Like A Highland Steer, the roots songwriter was lucky enough to work with some veterans of the country and folk music industry, namely Ian Tyson and Ramblin’ Jack Elliot. While driving through Saskatchewan, Lund recently took time out from staring at the endless fields of wheat to chat about his relationship with these musical icons, his thoughts on Nashville and the buzz of playing live, whether for 12 or 1,200 people.

ChartAttack: Your most recent album was recorded in Nashville, but I know you don’t characterize your music as mainstream? How did you end up in the Music City and what are your thoughts on this musical milieu?

The thing that is interesting to me is that in this day and age a lot of the straight country stuff is pretty formulaic. My thing is that I’m a real fan of regionalism. I know guys that are shooting for that mainstream radio play and they write songs about Nashville and they write songs about California… I’m not criticizing it, but it’s just not how I would approach it. There are so many people making fake music and I just don’t relate to that. I write about what I’m familiar with. Nashville really does have a really cool underbelly. There are guys that go there because they are great players. There is also a really wicked history there with The Grand Ole Opry and Patsy Cline and stuff. The other thing is that when you record there if you need a wicked ragtime piano player there are three of them in your Rolodex that you can just call up. Harry [Stinson, producer] knows the right guy to get the right vibe on a particular song.

Tell us about your relationships with veterans such as Ian Tyson and Ramblin’ Jack Elliot, both of whom make guest appearances on your new album?

One of the most satisfying things of this whole thing is meeting the older generation. I got to know the Good Brothers last year and that was cool. With Ian it was inevitable that we would meet eventually. We both live in Alberta and we both have the same Western themes in our songs and we are on the same label. I met him a couple of years ago and he’s been a really good friend, he’s a sweetheart. He’s been very supportive and helped me out with a lot of press, helped me on the front end of a lot of important shows. He’s become a really interesting friend to hang out with. After the first couple visits… every once in a while it will dawn on me that this is the guy that wrote, ‘Four Strong Winds’ We have good talks. He’s like a walking encyclopedia of cowboy history.

And Ramblin’ Jack Eliot?

I met him when we played some shows together a few years ago and we hit it off. I called him up and asked if he wanted to sing on this blues song (‘The Truck Got Stuck Talkin’ Blues’) on the new album and he said sure. His whole thing is talking. We did a few takes of the song in the studio and he’s telling all these amazing stories, so finally we just said hit the record button because the story before was even better than the one before. He lived with Woody Guthrie when he was in his teens and he was a big part of the New York/Toronto folk scene in the ’60s.

I’ve heard that playing live is the ultimate high for you. What is it about the live experience that makes it one of your favourite things?

One of my favourite things to do is sit in front of like six people and just play songs and chat. The communication aspect of it is what I really like. I’ve always felt sorry for painters and novelists because someone might come up to them and say they’ve read their book or that’s a fantastic painting, but with music you get instant feedback. You play for an hour and a half and it’s like a conversation. And you can feel it when you are connected with people. It’s a rush and I love it. We have all been to one of those special gigs as an audience member and it’s even better if you’re the one playing… if it’s going well. When I was a kid and getting into bands, the guys I always thought were the real thing were the guys in the punk rock band that would pull up to your town in a dirty old van and get out all scruffy and walk out and they could kick your ass. The guys that could pull it off live were it.

Rhett Miller: Stories & Girls Over Politics

When I speak with Rhett Miller he’s enjoying some rare quiet time at his home in upstate New York’s Hudson Valley. Things are especially quiet today because his wife took their two-year-old son Max and one of his friends off to the mall to get their pictures taken. As 2005 draws to a close, Miller can especially use this R&R since next year is set to be a busy one. The singer/songwriter is currently taking a break from his Old 97’s mates, but that doesn’t mean his muse is slowing down. Miller will release his second solo disc, tentatively titled The Believer, on the relaunched Forecast/Verve label at the end of February. He’ll tour behind this release with a new hand-picked band. He’s excited to be on a label that was once home to seminal artists Frank Zappa and Velvet Underground one – of his favourite bands growing up. Miller and the Old 97’s also recently played a part in the romantic comedy The Break Up, starring Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston. The brainy Miller took time recently to chat with ChartAttack about this Hollywood experience, music and politics, amongst other things.

ChartAttack.com: Tell us about your experience working on the upcoming Vince Vaughn/Jennifer Aniston romantic comedy The Break Up?

Rhett Miller: The penultimate scene takes place at an Old 97’s show in Chicago where [Aniston’s character] gets stood up and sits in the front row of the balcony crying. It was pretty cool… it was kind of a big deal. It comes out the same week as my solo record, so I figure it will do some good for the whole enterprise. Vince Vaughn is a fan and the guys he wrote the movie with are fans and apparently they listened to us a lot as they were writing the movie. The Old 97’s performed four songs in front of like 1,200 extras. It was bigger than filming a video because there were all the extras and Jennifer Aniston’s security team were presidential in scope. It felt like a big deal because this many years into your career without having any gold records or huge success, it was nice for the little perks to come along and remind you that you haven’t been entirely forgotten.

What inspires you to do a solo record?

I’ve always known that I would do solo stuff because the Old 97’s are such an opinionated, democratic situation. There is a lot of “no” that got said. There still is, but that’s the nature of a band because it’s the four different takes on what sounds good that makes a specific sound. So, I finally got to do it because the other guys were starting to have kids and we had been together long enough that it felt like we didn’t have to be constantly out there killing ourselves on the road. Artistically it’s been great because I get to do all sorts of stuff. On this new record coming out in February there are a lot of strings and some bigger, grander sounding moments on it that I never would have been able to do with the Old 97’s. It has kept the whole career fresh for me because I can do everything… I feel lucky that I get to have both.

How do you feel about Texan George W?

I don’t know if you’ve noticed but our president is a joke … it’s a little embarrassing. While I’m a proud Texan, I’m not so proud of the Lone Star State representative in the White House. I felt so bad during Bush’s first term when one of your politicians [Carolyn Parrish, a former liberal who remained in office as an independent] got drummed out of office because she called Bush an idiot.

How do you reconcile your personal politics with the music?

I don’t talk politics at Old 97’s shows. I’ve done it a few times and I ran into trouble. I did contribute a few songs to a pro-John Kerry, anti-Bush project before the last election. It’s a weird time now where you can point out so many things going wrong in our world, but I don’t feel you can do anything about it. And, frankly, I’ve never felt like it was the job of the musician to constantly comment on society. I would rather write an op-ed piece for The New York Times, rather than sing about it. I don’t like to listen to songs about politics, so I wouldn’t want to sing them. I just sing about girls and stuff like that.

What do you like to read and where do you find inspiration for your songs?

I like stories… the arc of a good story. You can’t escape the truth and there is a lot of non-fiction out there that is interesting and moving. But I really like fiction, contemporary stuff like DeLillo and David Foster Wallace and older stuff like Nabokov. I read a lot, but there is so much in life that you go through personally and you watch your friends and loved ones go through that there is never a shortage of fodder.

Tom Wilson: The Age of Battles

Tom Wilson has just risen from a midday nap when he calls. The TV is playing in the background and the songwriter starts into a rant about pop culture and its need to put everything into a list. He’s allowed a little rant though. He’s survived 30 years in the business they call rock ‘n’ roll, battling for sobriety and success all the while.

ChartAttack: What is it about people and lists?

Tom Wilson: My video is supposed to be playing on MuchMoreMusic these days, but each time I turn it on I find a list show of the top 10 things and I don’t understand it. It’s like the top 10 cocaine snorters and the Top 10 rock star car accidents… that kind of thing. Then, if you go over to CNN, they have all these polls… everything seems to have to do with lists. Not only do I not understand what’s going on in the world of music, I don’t understand what’s going on in the world when people are not dealing with creative issues or world issues. They are just making lists.
Instead of saying what we really have to do is clean up the water on native Indian reserves where people are dying of sickness outside our major cities, we would rather put together a list of the top 10 natural disasters that are going on in the world. Instead of saying “Let’s put together some solar power and let’s purify water that way” and “Let’s start it out by setting up the Six Nations indian reserve outside of Hamilton.”

It’s the same thing with music. I don’t think people have time to be getting involved in enjoying music because they are too busy trying to make lists of what is cool or what they think they should be listening to rather that what they are listening to.

Speaking of cool, you told me you don’t consider yourself cool. Why is that?

My whole goal in my creative life was just to be able to play music. I’ve never been too concerned about being cool and I never have been cool. When I was out playing Larry’s Hideaway and touring with Teenage Head in the late ’70s and early ’80s, I wasn’t in a cool band. I was in the Florida Razors. Two of the guys in the band had beards in a time when it was a pretty slick punk look and our sound was really what we made up at the time. When Junkhouse came out we were really uncool. It was at a time of shoe-gazing and alternative music. I never understood what any of that was and Junkhouse was kind of a rock ‘n’ roll band from Hamilton and we didn’t fit in because you were supposed to be an independent band. I was already in an independent band in the late ’70s so I don’t know what anyone was talking about.
I think Blackie And The Rodeo Kings is the coolest band on the planet, but it’s not a cool band. Even though people like the late Buck Owens and the late Johnny Cash were big fans of ours, we aren’t considered a country band even though we got to play the Country Music Awards. We aren’t a folk band because we have matching suits. And, we aren’t a rock ‘n’ roll band. If there is anything uncool in the world it’s probably a real musician.

How have you managed to survive 30 years in the music business?

I’m surviving with the people that I understood and related to 30 years ago who are still around playing music. I started playing music with people like Fred Eaglesmith. I think that my survival is just the desire to continue to play music rather than having a groovy haircut. My goal was never to be popular as much as it was to keep stepping on stones that allow me to keep playing music.

One of the reasons I’m doing three different projects at once is because I would like to consider myself an artist. Instead of getting on the phone to you and say “I’m an artist because I made a record” I would rather you could stand back and talk to me a year from now and be talking to me about another different record or two different records I’ve made. I like to have myself in a constant state of creativity rather than work on creating one thing that I think will be commercially right and having to stand on that for the next six years. I was with a record company that had to do business and I understood that and as a result I only got to do three records in eight years with them.

Tell me about your battle with sobriety?

I’ve gone six years now without a drink of alcohol and this is my third year without cocaine. I’m also in love again… not only with a new gal, but I also have my kids in my life again. You know, like the Buddhists say, nothing is permanent. There is nothing we can wrap our arms around for too long. Family is something, though, you definitely have to pay attention to. If I wasn’t an alcoholic or into drugs I’m definitely a workaholic also and I think that I’ve been able to find some kind of spiritual balance in my life, but I’m working on it constantly. When I say I was able to find it, it’s because I’ve been able to clear up my life a little bit and clear up my mind a little bit, but finding it is just the first step. It’s like keeping a ball up in the air or working a muscle. The battle is completely an enjoyable battle when you consider the reward is being with your kids and being with your loved ones and doing exactly what it is you want to do creatively in your life. If this is a battle, then I’m ready to put on the gloves every morning.

Josh Ritter Letter From America

When ChartAttack catches up with Josh Ritter, the singer-songwriter is enjoying life’s simple pleasures at home in rural Moscow, Idaho. Following many months on the road, the 29-year-old is happy to be “back doing the dishes and stuff like that.” The Animal Years was recently released on V2 Records and the finely crafted set of songs finds the songsmith straying from the love ballads of his previous release, Hello Starling. He talked about this evolution, the influence of Samuel Clemmons and the role of the artist in times of turmoil.

ChartAttack: Right from the opening cut, “Girl In The War,” to the grand opus of “Thin Blue Flame,” there is a clear sense that politics was on your mind when you recorded The Animal Years. Was this a conscious decision?

Josh Ritter: It was on purpose. I suppose it was done to try to make me feel better about things in the world right now. What’s the job of somebody who is an artist or a writer in a time like now when it seems like everybody is asked to have all the answers? I was thinking a lot about that because I didn’t want to make another record like Hello Starling right away… that’s just not the place right now… I don’t feel that it’s my job. My job is to write about the things that are really bothering me.

My whole thing with this record was that I wanted to talk about serious political issues, but I also didn’t want to tell people what to think. That’s a major drawback to a lot of political songwriting… that’s a major drawback to debates going on in the States and the world right now. There is just fundamentalism everywhere. We chalk it up to Christian fundamentalism and Islamic fundamentalism and Jewish fundamentalism, but it’s more than that. There are also liberal fundamentalists and conservative fundamentalists. I believe it dumbs down art when we are asked to take part in that debate and tell people what to think in a song. I think it’s amazing when you can get any kind of real life into a song. You are trying to get the most confusing thing there is, regular life, into a system that makes sense, a quatrain with two couplets that rhyme.

With “Thin Blue Flame” I was fighting against that idea. It’s the difference between looking at a picture of wartime and writing a caption for it. A lot of people are looking to just write captions. Instead, let’s take something that is big, bloody, weird and strange and let’s look the beast in the eye.

You’ve described your new album as a silent film. Why this analogy?

What I love about silent films, and how they relate to songs, is that in silent films you have a character that has to be able to bring across a whole range of emotions and a whole history without talking. They have to do it all with action. I think that is similar to songs, especially. I was trying to do that with “Lillian, Egypt,” “Monster Ballads” or “One More Mouth” where you try to tell as much of a character as you can in such a small space. You are limited by the space and how long you want the song to be and how complex you want it to be. But if you can do it you can get a lot about a character and their history into a song. I also think the period when a lot of those movies were made is very similar to the period we are living in now with U.S. imperialism for the first time and Teddy Roosevelt with corporations owning a fair amount of everything. It’s weirdly a similar time.

I understand you recorded at Bear Creek, a big barn outside of Seattle. Tell me about this.

I’ve had really good luck recording in barns. It’s a beautiful studio, but it’s definitely a barn. It’s in a horse-farming area in the mountains near Seattle, with lots of old dogs, which are great to have around. Old dogs totally recalibrate you since they’ve seen everything. You can get relaxed real easily around an old dog. All the effects in the voice were natural effects because of the hugeness of the barn and the way Brian Deck was able to place microphones.

What books inspired The Animal Years?

Mark Twain’s Life On The Mississippi and Letters From The Earth are two really big ones. Also Candide by Voltaire. Letters From The Earth is a beautiful book about a demon that is sent to Earth and writes back about all the stuff that he sees. It was written later in Mark Twain’s life when he was angry and a little disappointed in the U.S. and where it was going. I really like the idea of removing somebody from their body, so they can see more than they can normally see. Those were a bunch of books that made me feel you can comment on your country and comment on your religion as long as you also say, “But listen, I’m a part of this place and I love it and what I’m saying is a reaction and a disappointment, but it’s not a rejection.” There is so little of that right now. People moving away and saying I hate this place… it’s so easy and so disposable. We are saying America is the best or we are the worst. People that live in this country have the responsibility to hold it to account and I think that is far more difficult than dissing it or just extolling it.

Bruce Cockburn Speechless No More

After his instrumental disc, Speechless, songwriter Bruce Cockburn returns with Life Short Call Now, a politically charged record that mines the themes he’s made his constant composition companions over his 40-year career. Cockburn weaves his way through loneliness, spirituality, world affairs and the life of the artist finding his way in a messed-up world.ChartAttack caught up with Cockburn via his cellphone in St. Paul, Minnesota the night before he left for the Winnipeg Folk Festival.

ChartAttack: The song “Slow Down Fast” with wordplay such as ‘oil wars water wars TV propaganda whores,’ and its urgent rhythms, feels like an apocalyptic song. Are there times when you look at the world around you and think, “Where is it all going to end?”

Bruce Cockburn: You bet. I do that a lot. It just seems that there are so many things going on in the world that each by themselves carry the capacity for disaster and then you add all these things up and you think, “Which one is going to get us before the other ones do?” Some people are bravely trying to address these issues, but not enough people and not enough effort. I don’t see that we are in very good shape in terms of the future, but I also think that there is room for surprises there, so I don’t like to give up on us. Sometimes things happen better than you think they are going to and sometimes in disaster there is the beginnings of something new and good. But I still think we are all in for a lot of pain. It may not be me because I may not live long enough, but I hope I do. I don’t plan on checking out anytime soon, but you never know about that.

In “Tell The Universe” you speak about Bush and the U.S. involvement in the war in Iraq without attacking him too directly, but rather giving him notice and laying on the guilt that he will have to face a higher power one day for his actions. Why did you opt for this more universal approach when you wrote this song?

The reference to him [Bush] is pretty specific — “the dunce’s grin” — and I guess that is not that complimentary now that I think of it, but I didn’t feel like it was appropriate to just point fingers and call names. Other people are doing it and it’s great that they are, but I didn’t think that I needed to do that. That would have been easy to do in the circumstances because I feel very strongly about it. It was more worthwhile to frame it in larger terms than just the personal.

Was recording at Puck’s Farm a new experience? What made you decide to record there?

It was [a new experience] for me. John Goldsmith, who produced the album, had worked there before and it was his idea to record there. I was a bit skeptical because I had never worked there and it was like, “Puck’s Farm, what’s that?” But, I went out and looked at it and I got excited when I saw it because it’s a fantastic place. It is an actual farm where they invite school trips and have hayrides and a petting zoo, so there are all these animals around. There is a barn and you drive in a laneway and there is a farmhouse and some out buildings and a there is nothing that looks like a studio. But, you go into the barn and go down the corridor and through some doors and all of sudden you’re in what Goldsmith described to me, absolutely accurately, as a perfect recreation of a state-of-the-art 1970s studio with two-inch tape and all the old gear, old mics. There’s digital stuff there too, but the ability to record the way we did when we started was part of the appeal and I think we got pretty good results.You enlisted the help of jazzman Kevin Turcotte on this record.

Tell us about that experience?

He did a really great job. In “Mystery” when you hear what sounds like the Salvation Army horns, there is a bunch of the Toronto jazz guys, including Kevin, playing these antique horns and the one he was playing was this old alto horn that I think was pre-U.S. Civil War and the valve springs were gone in it, so we had to gaffer tape his fingers to the valves so he could lift them up again after he pushed them down. There is a great photograph of him with his fingers taped… it was pretty funny.You’re 40 years and 29 albums into your career. Did you ever think after dropping out of Berklee Music School you would still be following this dream living the life of a songwriter?
I hate using the word “career” because it doesn’t seem like that for me. But, whatever that thing is, it started at the beginning of 1966. I dropped out of music school at the end of 1965 and went back to Ottawa and joined a band, and from then on I was a professional musician. I never made any plans or any idea what it would turn into. I don’t think I allowed myself to think of it as a passion back then, but it was. I followed it without being conscious of it.

Re-Trace: Jay Farrar Looks Back on 20 Years of Son Volt

In 1995, No Depression printed its first issue with a story by co-founding Editor Peter Blackstock leading the way. Titled Dim lights, small cities, the article examined the debut album, Trace, from Son Volt – the band formed by Jay Farrar after leaving alt-country pioneers Uncle Tupelo.

Now, 20 years on, Farrar is working on a package of demos from the Trace era for an anniversary reissue. “It’s been an interesting last couple of months,” he says over the phone. “I’ve been listening to demos and the four-tracks … and trying to find a machine to play a Son Volt show that was recorded at The Bottom Line in New York, in a mobile truck, back in 1996.”

Farrar is excited about these two projects in the works – the Trace demos are due in June and the 1996 Bottom Line show is expected on vinyl later this year. But, at press time, Farrar was still in what he calls the “gathering stage.”

“I’ve made it through four-track demos and there were also some half-inch demos from Pachyderm Studios in Minneapolis,” he says. “Those both sound quite good – as good as the versions that wound up on Trace, whereas the four-track demos have a more organic, Guided By Voices vibe.

“It’s interesting,” he adds, waxing nostalgic in the face of this project. “You see the development of the songs a bit, especially the four-track stuff since I was the engineer and I never had engineered anything before … it was kind of an interesting ride.”

In fact, an “interesting ride” is a good way to describe how his career has played out since Trace set him down a new road. The now 48-year-old Farrar has released eight Son Volt records. As a solo artist, he’s put out two full-length albums, two EPs, one film score, and various live recordings. Most recently, in 2013, he added another Son Volt album Honky Tonk to his canon, plus New Multitudes – a collaboration with Jim James (My Morning Jacket), Will Johnson (Centro-matic) and Anders Parker (Varnaline) that was inspired by the work of Woody Guthrie.

But, let’s go back to the sort-of beginning.

Son Volt’s debut made Rolling Stone’s critics list Top 10 in 1995, though it barely cracked the Billboard 200 album chart, peaking at #166. Farrar remembers that time well. Asked whether he ever considered himself a trailblazer for taking musical lunges that led to a resurgence in the Americana and roots music scene — pushing new musical boundaries in what was then dubbed alt-country – Farrar demurs. “Not really,” he says. “We were just soaking up influences and putting our own stamp on it. Ultimately, rather than a new movement, it was just a continuum … we were continuing the movement.”

One need look no further than Farrar’s early influences for the source of that continuum. He grew up listening to everything from classic rock to garage rock and country. All of these styles weaved their way into his songwriting. “One of the first things I started playing was the Beatles and The Rolling Stones,” he recalls. “Then, I got into American garage rock such as The Spandells and The Chocolate Watchband … that kind of stuff.”

Later, Farrar dug further back into the old musical treasure chest to discover the true roots of the bands he was digging. “I did a 360 and started to get into the music of my folks – country and folk music like Hank Williams and Buck Owens,” Farrar says. “It all got thrown into the mix.

Though he’s considered one of the luminaries of what was once an alt-country movement, it took more than a decade for Farrar to find his way to one of country music’s most trademark instruments. In preparation for the release of Honky Tonk, he spent a year and a half learning to play the pedal steel guitar, working with St. Louis multi-instrumentalist Gary Hunt, who played mostly fiddle on Honky Tonk and helpe inspired the more country-leaning sound of the disc.

It’s that same mix that no doubt inspired his previous band, Uncle Tupelo, to dig into folk classis like the Carter Family’s “No Depression in Heaven,” and breathe in new life. That innovation was so arresting that, two decades after that band’s infamous split got set in stone, as Farrar released the first disc with his new band, many fans still wonder if Uncle Tupelo will ever reunite for another tour or album.

To hear Farrar tell it, that’s doubtful. “That’s certainly not something I think about,” he says. “Interestingly enough, looking back at this Trace reissue I’ve reflected a bit on what went into the making of that record, [and] I do want to talk about the mixing of the Trace record a bit.

“The mixing of Trace was difficult because Jeff Tweedy basically interfered with the mixing of that record,” he continues. “I don’t know if you remember, but back in 1994 when Tom Petty’s Wildflowers came out – the whole world liked the way that record sounded and the way it was recorded. I looked to work with Jim Scott and David Bianco, but for whatever reason those two guys couldn’t do it, so that left Richard Dodd [who won Best Engineer Grammy Award for Petty’s Wildflowers]. He was available. I entered negotiations with him to mix Son Volt’s Trace record; Jeff caught wind of that and called Richard and flat out asked him to not work with Son Volt.

“I don’t know if Jeff’s motivation was insecurity, malice, or both, but the end result was the same,” Farrar adds. “Richard Dodd was an advisor on that Son Volt record and not the mixer. Special language was even put into a contract to appease Jeff [Tweedy]; it stated that Richard Dodd shall not touch the knobs on the mixing console for the Son Volt Trace record. I didn’t have a problem working with the same people, but for some reason Jeff did.”

By now, the falling out between Tweedy and Farrar that took place back in the day is well-known and well-documented. Still, Farrar “was aghast,” he says. “It made no sense, but that’s what went down.”

Certainly, along the way, I realized the more I talk about Jeff the less I’m going to talk about Son Volt.”

Fair enough. So, let’s get back to talking about Son Volt and the Trace remixes. Farrar says a lot of the demos will need to be mastered, but he has already mixed the 4-track. The other project, the Son Volt Bottom Line show from 1996 will also need to be mixed. Until then, Farrar is still doing some touring, primarily as a duo with Hunt, who plays fiddle, mandolin, electric, and steel guitar. “He is a very versatile guy and plays lots of stringed instruments,” says Farrar. “It provides for more flexibility. After doing a bunch of touring off the Son Volt Honky Tonk record, it was nice to have a bit of a break, without a full band.”

And, as the songwriter approaches 50, one wonders if the muse is still visiting Farrar as often. “I still write, but I don’t know if I would characterize it [as being] with the same frequency as I used to,” he admits. “In the past, I just carried on with the momentum of what was going on. Writing was something I did all the time. Now, I’m focused in more limited amounts. I do have a couple projects in the works though.

“I’ve always followed inspiration wherever it may go,” he adds. “It’s an interesting time. … I’m looking to do some other projects. Write some more acoustic songs, more of a folk record with even an Irish tune thrown into the mix. At the same time, I’m looking to write songs for potentially another Son Volt record.”

Two decades since the critically-acclaimed Trace showed there was plenty of life left for Farrar’s musical career following the acrimonious split with Tweedy & Uncle Tupelo, one thing is clear: the wind still carries him and his muse away to new and exciting places.