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L.A. Beat

Kindred spirits and six toed cats on Outlaw Country Cruise 5

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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 favouriThe Waco Brothers on the Outlaw Country Cruise. Photo by Richard Ameryte bands who never play here. As Texan 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 ’s return to Lethbridge, I did not miss the latest bout of snow, cold and wind, though I returned in time for the next bout of all of them. 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 departed from Miami en route 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. A six toed cat at Ernest Hemingway’s house. Photo by Richard Amery

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, who are all 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 —yet. I found a great band call the Yayhoos featuring Dan Baird of the Georgia Satellites. Baird also played bass with Jason and the Scorchers’ Warner Hodges this trip and fronts Dan Baird and Homemade Sin which also features Hodges and who were on the boat last year as well as with his band.

Elizabeth Cook on the Outlaw Country Cruise. Photo by Richard Amery
  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 Mavericks, Steve Earle, Lucinda Williams, Bottle Rockets, Robbie Fulks and other cats I  signed up to see.

And while Trump’s impeachment trial was 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.Jason Ringenberg singing with Warner Hodges on the Outlaw Country Cruise. Photo by Richard Amery


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, though the rest of the band have been together for quite a few years. They are 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 write pop hooks sharp enough to hang your hat on. Plus they can play everything from country music, catchy ’60s pop and even ’70s new wave and quirkier material like “Captain Lou Albano.”


 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 about 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 fulfill 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, three years ago. 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 Hubbard how to play “Stolen Horses”, 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.

Waylon Payne on the Outlaw Country Cruise. Photo by Richard Amery
 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 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, as Carter chuckled about her see through mini-skirt.Mojo Nixon and Friends on the Outlaw Country Cruise. Photo by Richard Amery

There were a lot of offspring of Outlaw country 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  grand daughter and  Arlo Guthrie’s daughter Cathy Guthrie. And Kris Kristofferson himself played a single show.


Mojo Nixon had a lot of  inspirational moments, including 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.

— by Richard Amery, L.A. Beat Editor

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