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Outlaw Country Cruise a dream vacation

Posted on February 12, 2020 by Richard Amery

I have been MIA for the past week on a much-needed vacation cruising with kindred spirits from all over the world, but mostly from the U.S. The Outlaw Country Cruise sponsored by Sirius XM’s Outlaw country is an excellent opportunity to visit places I’ve never been and see some of my favourite bands who never play here.
As Texas-born/New York-based songwriter Outlaw Country host Steve “Copperhead Road,” “Someday” Earle noted, “When you’re from New York, it does not suck to be on a cruise ship in January.” The same goes for being from Lethbridge. While I missed auditions for Shakespeare in the Park’s summer production of the Merry Wives of Windsor, One Bad Son and Eamon McGrath’s return to Lethbridge, I did not miss the latest bout of snow, cold and wind. I also did not miss people complaining about the latest health scare, Trump, Trudeau and traffic. The Outlaw Country Cruise is literally a departure from all that.
This year, we went from Miami to the Florida Keys, to Jamaica and back from Jan. 29- Feb. 3 and it was fabulous. In addition to non-stop music on board, there were day trips to war correspondent and renown author Ernest Hemingway’s house in the Florida Keys, a former naval based that has been repurposed into expensive condominiums. I saw Hemingway’s study where he wrote “A Farewell To Arms” and “Old Man And the Sea.” Six-toed cats, the descendants of Hemingway’s original pets, wove their way through the legs of hordes of tourists crammed into Hemingway’s rooms, listening to a bellicose guide relate a well-rehearsed diatribe about Hemingway’s life and wives. The cats even crawled onto Hemingway’s bed to get their bellies scratched by adoring tourists.
I also got to visit Jamaica, particularly reggae legend Bob Marley’s home. His home town of Nine Mile has become a tourist trap with residents eager to sell trinkets, T-Shirts, pot brownies and some of the most massive bombers I’ve ever seen to tourists eager to take in a slice of reggae and music history in the land of homegrown fun. You can photograph everything except the inside of the mausoleums of Marley, who died at 37 of melanoma cancer, and his younger brother who was killed by police in Miami in 1990, and a separate mausoleum for his mother. They’re buried on site next to a tiny chapel.
I had to do it. It’s so important to take some time to disengage, set the brain to neutral and just enjoy the ride instead of being overwhelmed by the trials and tribulations. I listen to bands even hipsters have never heard of, so it is just cool to share a knowing grin with somebody else wearing a Govt. Mule T-shirt.
As usual, I return home with a bag full of new music discovered on the boat including new bands, familiar faces with new bands and people I haven’t heard of. I found a great band call the Yayhoos featuring Dan Baird of the Georgia Satellites. He also played bass with Jason and the Scorchers’ Warner Hodges this trip and fronts Dan Baird and Home Made Sin, who also feature Hodges and who were on the boat last year, as well as with his band.
I found another great band, called the Waco Brothers, who add more of a Celtic feel to country rock music and still remind me of Edmonton punks the Raygun Cowboys. As a bonus they feature the coolest, most groovingest bassist I’ve ever seen. And Jesse Malin, who was in a band called D Generation in the Late ’90s opening for Green Day. Now he’s gone country-ish. I had to pick up an old Bottle Rockets live CD and a new Supersuckers CD and Jason Ringenberg’s new solo CD. You can hear them all on my radio shows on CKXU Disco Sucks Punkin Old School, Wednesdays from 10 a.m.- midnight and Saturday night’s Hotrock Blues Beat 8-10 p.m.
I love seeing these new bands as much as I love hearing the Steve Earles, Lucinda Williams, Bottle Rockets and other cats I go to see.
And while Trump’s impeachment trial we being broadcast on board, most people kept their politics to themselves, though most Outlaw Country patrons tend to be on the anti Trump side. Most people would rather discuss The Bottle Rockets’ three sets, or express how cool Mojo Nixon’s jam with friends featuring the Mekons/Waco Brothers/Jon Langford and Skull Orchard’s Jon Langford’s spontaneous set of Tom Jones covers, which prompted me to suggest some new friends check out D.O.A.’s cover of “It’s Not unusual,” after they asked me if I knew Corb Lund, upon telling them I was from Lethbridge.
Another popular question was if the new members of NRBQ were related to the original members. Keyboardist Terry Adams is the only remaining original member of the band, known for their minor early ’80s hit “Me and the Boys” and being on the Simpsons several years ago. They still sing beautiful multi-part vocal harmonies and can write a pop hooks sharp enough to hang your hat on. Music festivals are where people are at their best. I maintain music and art is the only reason aliens haven’t destroyed the Earth. As much as I hate large groups, a group of people tuned in to their favourite band create a beautiful, peaceful, harmonized vibe that is unmatched.
It’s all bout the music on the cruise. Because no matter who you are, who you vote for and where you’re from, music brings us all together.
I got to fulfil a dream I had since my first cruise three years ago, which was to get up on stage and play Ray Wylie Hubbard’s song “Stolen Horses.”
You can meet and chat with the artists on board as they are enjoying the same shows and eating at the same buffet and fighting with the same on-board computers as you are, which is where I met Ray Wylie Hubbard. They are also just as excited about the chance to see some of their favourite artists who they never get to see, because they miss each other due to constantly touring. I asked him how to play the song, but he couldn’t remember how, but I figured somebody should play it as it’s an ideal Outlaw song, and about reincarnation of all things.
So this year, one of the on board activities was a passenger jam, where anybody interested in getting up on stage could form a pick up band and play. While my band didn’t know how to play “Stolen Horses” either, they were happy to let me teach them. Mission accomplished and I even got a standing ovation for it, with people asking me how long the band had been playing together.
Hubbard was playing a set right after our jam and somebody actually requested “Stolen Horses,” which Hubbard still couldn’t remember, confessing “I think it’s in open F sharp or something.” I played my version in standard tuning.
I love how music brings people together, whether at the jam session, or just watching the pros interact with each other.
Outlaw Country host Elizabeth “Apron Strings” Cook enjoyed an in depth Sirius at Sea interview with Carlene Carter, who talked about growing up surrounded by music as the daughter of June Carter and Johnny Cash and knowing she was destined to play music for a living. She has been keeping the Carter family music catalogue alive, but noted “I missed my electric guitar.” Cook almost melted in her seat as Carter confessed Cook was her favourite new female country artist, noting she gave Cook a lot of her old clothes. There were a lot of offspring of Outlaw country legends on board. Shooter Jennings kept the spirit of his dad Waylon Jennings alive, while showing he is carving out his own path as a musician and a producer. Willie Nelson’s family was represented by his daughter Paula Nelson, whose band played more of a jazz and blues set, and another daughter, Amy Nelson, who has a hilarious folk duo Folk Uke with Woody Guthrie’s granddaughter and Arlo Guthrie’s daughter Cathy Guthrie. And Kris Kristofferson himself played a single show.
Mojo Nixon had a lot of inspirational moments, namely leaving the stage in the middle of a Sirius session at sea broadcast called “what is alternative country anyway,” leaving the Bottle Rockets Brian Henneman, Supersuckers’ Eddie Spaghetti, Jon Langford and Jesse Dayton to fend for themselves on stage without a host. Spaghetti joked, “What am I even doing here, when we have Jesse Dayton.” So they just played a few songs.
Later on, in a guest heavy set, Texas icon Jesse Dayton played some sweet harmonized guitar leads with the Supersuckers lead guitarist Marty Chandler in a set also featuring Rosie Flores adding extra lead guitar and Jason and the Scorchers Jason Ringenberg singing “Dead Inside” with the band. I love seeing that sense of community with artists showing up to play with other artists, It is the closest thing to real life magic that you’ll ever see.

Week’s preview
Now I’m back from vacation, there is a lot to look forward to for live music.
Shaela Miller’s Windy City Opry returns to the Slice on Wednesday, Feb. 12 with Carter Felker. Miller will be opening up as usual at 8 p.m. sharp. There is a $10 cover. Miller has a busy week as she is also opening for the Dungarees on Valentines Day, Feb. 14, one of many shows happening for singles awareness day.
Karen Romanchuk continues a busy week. She was at Casino Lethbridge this past weekend, but returns to Mortar and Brick for their annual Travelling Dress Project, Feb. 14 at 7 p.m.. She is also playing the Bavaru Brunch on Feb. 16 at 10:30 a.m.
Sheena Lawson and the Herb Hicks Jazz Quartet play a special Bavaru Valentine’s dinner at the Old Firehall, Feb. 14. Dinner is at 5:30 p.m. It costs $130 per couple. Local synth pop musician Tyler VandenDool kicks off a mini tour with Adequate celebrating an Adequate Valentine’s Day at the Slice, Feb 14. If you miss that show, Adequate play next week, Feb. 21 at the Owl Acoustic Lounge with Funk Phenomenorm
If you eschew Valentine’s Day as I do, then rock out with Calgary rockabilly band Peter and the Wolves at Casino Lethbridge, Feb. 14 and 15.
There is lots of local music happening Feb. 15.
Over in Coaldale, a battle of the bands will be happening at the Coaldale Inn. Bands include Good Time Charlie, SI, the Waterfront Band and Saints and Sinner competing for recording time with Muldoon Studio. The music begins at 6 p.m.
Local rock bands Webb and Biloxi Parish join Edmonton’s Good Rumour at the Owl Acoustic Lounge, Feb. 15.
Over at the Slice, local roots rock band Dark Wrangler and Penelope Rose join Ponoka country musician Markus Sommer, Feb. 15. The Dark Wrangler also host the Slice’s open mic, Feb. 20.
The following week, HBO3 return to the Owl Acoustic Lounge to host a jazz jam beginning at 8:45 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 19.
Uncovered are at Casino Lethbridge, Feb. 21 and 22.
The Slice has a couple big rock shows coming up. Edmonton’s Loser points and Reifer madness plus Lethbridge punk band the Hockey Moms play Friday Feb. 21. The show begins at 9 p.m. There is a $10 cover.
The Next Night, Red Deer power trio King Bull return to The Slice with local punk/surf rock band Chief Mountain.
And the International Peace Powwow is at the Enmax Centre, Feb. 22 and 23. There will be plenty of drumming and dance competitions with MCs Tommy Christian and Tony Delaney plus MC Hal EagleTail and head dancers Livia Manywounds and Ellery Starlightt. Weekend passes cost $29 for adults. The excitement begins at 10 a.m.
Two big plays also premiere in the next couple of weeks.
The University of Lethbridge’s third main-stage production of the year is Alberta playwright Meg Braem’s “Blood: A Scientific Romance,” which runs Feb. 11-15.
New West Theatre artistic director Kelly Reay directs this story about twin sisters Poubelle and Angelique, who are orphaned by a car accident. Dr. Glass brings them home after they recover, and explores the bond between the two through experiments. His practices are questioned by a young doctor.
“‘Blood’ is a play is full of heart and love. It’s also very haunting, with elements of early melodramatic storytelling,” says Reay. “I expect the audiences’ imaginations will be taken to some very visceral places,” he described in a press release.
Tickets for “Blood: A Scientific Romance” are available at the University Box Office, Monday–Friday (12:30 p.m.–3:30 p.m.), by calling 403-329-2616 or online at uLethbridge.ca/tickets. Tickets are $18 regular, $13 senior and alumni and $12 students. Themes are mature with scenes depicting graphic medical procedures.
The following week, Playgoers of Lethbridge take on more serious fare in their production of Sean Levine’s play “Daisy,” running Feb. 19-22 in the Sterndale Bennett Theatre.
The timely production explores the effect of negative advertising on public perception as they tell the story of the infamous “Daisy” ad which pushed Lyndon Johnson over the top over Opponent Barry Goldwater in the 1964 presidential election.
“The Daisy ad changed political ads. The Daisy ad was like a hard punch to the gut versus blah, blah, blah, political speech, blah blah blah,” noted Playgoers of Lethbridge veteran Allen Gibson, who plays Bernbach ad agency boss Bill Bernbach.
“I’ve spent most of my life in advertising, so it was an ideal part for me,” Gibson continued, describing his character as ambitious and confident.
He noted the parallels between 1964 and today.
“Back then, if you didn’t understand the power of television, you weren’t going to win election. Today if you don’t understand the power of social media, you’re not going to win,” he observed, adding he is glad to be back on stage with Playgoers.
“It’s an interesting change from the ‘Odd Couple’ (in which he played Manolo, in Playgoers’ 2013 production of the show).
The cast includes a lot of new faces to Playgoers of Lethbridge, though familiar for fans of Shakespeare in the Park and the University of Lethbridge Drama program.
“It’s two weeks from opening,” said director Rita Peterson, who was immediately drawn to the script because of the timeliness of the subject matter.
“The cast has been great but there is a lot of technical stuff,” she added,
“It’s a political story that parallels what is going on today, especially in the United States.”
“It’s the story of the ad agency that was hired to get Lyndon B. Johnson elected in the 1964 election. He became president after John F. Kennedy was assassinated, but he was never elected so he need a win and he needed to win big,” she continued, adding the “Daisy ad” was the result — a harrowing clip of a little girl plucking the petals of a flower while a countdown to a nuclear explosion echos in the background.
“So it is also the story of the men behind the ad,” she said, noting Karl Airey, who was in Hatrix’s Production of Neil Simon’s “Rumours” last year plays Tony Schwartz, who devised the first attack ad against Republican candidate Barry Goldwater.
“It’s been a challenge. But I hope audiences will come away with a better understanding of their responsibility as voters,” she said, adding while it is primarily a drama, it also has some funny moments
“It has quite a few funny moments,” she said.
“Daisy” runs at the Sterndale Bennett Theatre at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 19-22. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets are $23 in advance $26 at the door.

Feb. 12
Beaches — open mic
Slice — Windy City Opry with Carter Felker
Feb. 13
Slice — open mic with Corduroy Brown
Feb. 14
The Slice — Vandendool Mini Tour kick off with an Adequate Valentines Day $10
Owl Acoustic Lounge — The Dungarees
Honker’s Pub — open mic
Old Firehall — Bavaru Valentines Day dinner with Sheena Lawson and Herb Hicks 5:30 p.m., $130 per couple
Mortar and Brick — Karen Romanchuk Travelling Dress project
Casino Lethbridge — Peter and the Wolves
Feb. 15
Coaldale Inn — battle of the Bands Good Time Charlie, SI, the Waterfront Band and Saints and Sinner 6 p.m. no cover
The Slice — Markus Sommer with Penelope Rose and the Dark Wrangler
Owl Acoustic Lounge — Good Rumour, Webb, Biloxi Parish
Honker‘s Pub — afternoon open mic
Casino Lethbridge — Peter and the Wolves
Feb. 17
Owl Acoustic Lounge — open mic
Feb. 18
Good Times — comedy open mic
Feb. 19
Beaches — open mic
OwlAcoustic lounge — Jazz jam with HBO3
Feb. 20
Slice — open mic with the Dark Wrangler
Feb. 21
Slice — Loser Points with Riefer madness and Hockey Moms
Casino Lethbridge — uncovered
Owl Acoustic Lounge — Adequate with the Funk Phenomenorm
Honker‘s Pub — open mic
Feb. 22
Casino Lethbridge — uncovered
The Slice — King Bull With Chief Mountain
Owl Acoustic Lounge— Tyson Ray Borsboom with Kevin Giron
Honker’s Pub — open mic
Enmax Centre — International Peace Powwow
Didi’s Playhaus — Drunk Improv
Feb. 23
Enmax Centre — International Peace Powwow
Feb. 24
Owl Acoustic Lounge— open mic
Feb. 25
Yates Theatre — Alan Doyle and Kelly Prescott
Good Times — comedy open mic
Feb. 26
Beaches — open mic
Owl Acoustic Lounge — Comedy open mic
Feb. 27
Slice — open mic with Devin Gergel
Owl Acoustic Lounge — Boots and the Hoots with Broken Brothers
Feb. 28
Casino Lethbridge — Horizon
Owl Acoustic Lounge — God Spilt the Milk, the Cayley, 21st Avenue
The Slice — Pits Planet Earth, Homeless in Hawaii, MTBC
Honker’s Pub — open mic
Coleman Grand Union — Andi Roberts Band
Casino Lethbridge — Horizon
Average Joe’s — Rock your Youth fundraiser

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