FMF Episode #50 – The 50 States

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DJ: Fifty! Fifty episodes! Hello everyone and welcome to FMF’s special fiftieth episode! We bounced and boggled and toiled and toggled with all kinds of ideas on how to celebrate 50 and decided on something that might represent any one of us. We’re going a trip around America today, with a song for each of the 50 states in alphabetical order.  Remember America? Before it turned into a dumpster fire? Anyway, the episode runs about 3.5 hours instead of the normal 2, so prepare yourself for the journey!

As is the status quo around here at FMF, we made it a point to dig a little deeper for the song representing each state.  You won’t be hearing “Georgia On My Mind” today, or “New York, New York”.  In fact, we really wanted to avoid cities in this episode as well.  We might end up doing a US cities episode some day and didn’t want to double dip.

So, my friends, let’s begin the journey. We start with Alabama.  Alabama became the 22nd state in 1819, but less than 50 years later would secede from the USA and declare Montgomery, their state’s capitol city, as the Confederate States of America’s state capitol.  Alabama has some beautiful scenery, but is also one of the objectively worst states the US has to offer. According to the US News Overall Best States Ranking, Alabama suffers from poor education, poor healthcare, a high amount of crime and corrections, et al. The quality of life, however, is ranked 7th. The common theme with the lower ranked states is that the quality of life is still pretty high. Crazy how that works.

Anyway, moving onto the music. Phosphorescent is the alias of Matthew Houck, an Athens, Georgia to Brooklyn, New York transplant.  Matthew scored it big with his “Song For Zula” in 2013 off of Muchacho. From his previous LP, Here’s To Taking It Easy, here’s Phosphorescent with “It’s Hard To Be Humble (When You’re From Alabama)”.

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DJ: Marvin Gaye rounds out our first five states with an ode to the west coast paradise or hellhole know as California.  I suppose it depends on who you ask, or where you look. DTLA, maybe hellhole? Redwood National Park, paradise. Marvin Gaye’s M.P.G. album was a bit more psychedelic than his previous efforts thanks to Norman Whitfield’s songwriting and production.  The album’s biggest single would be the lead track “Too Busy Thinking About My Baby”, but we went with “I Got To Get To California” for thematic reasons , obviously.

Soul from the South played before Marvin with Tony Joe White’s “They Caught The Devil and Put Him in Jail in Eudora, Arkansas”.  Tony Joe made himself known with the swamp soul tune “Polk Salad Annie”, especially after Elvis started covering it at shows. If you’re into vinyl, pick up an album of his from the used bins sometime.  I’m sure it won’t be more than a couple bucks and it’ll be worth it for the soulful storytelling..

Kings of Leon hail from the South, the band being from Nashville, Tennessee. The Followill brothers Caleb, Jared, Nathan, and cousin Matthew Followill formed the band 1999.  After two perfect garage rock throwback albums, the band start to explore a more broader sound in the rock world.  They made their way to the mainstream in no time and by their third LP Because Of The Times, the band was an international name. The album closer “Arizona” made it’s way into our episode.

We played Sweden’s The Maharajas on our Yeah episode a while back. Their tune “Yeah Yeah” was actually sequenced right before the track we played today, “Alaska Beach”, on their album In Pure Spite.

Our next set has a bit of punk and a bit of blues, followed by the beautiful soul sounds of Gladys Knight and The Pips. Starting things off is the LA  garage rock group The Buttertones. Dakota Böttcher of Cherry Glazer joined the band in 2014 along with London Guzmán and the new five piece put out American Brunch in 2015. Let’s start off set two with “Colorado” from that album.

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DJ: Ooooh how sweet that tune is. 1973’s Imagination would give Gladys Knight & The Pips their first and only number one song with “Midnight Train To Georgia”.  We played a previous hit single “Friendship Train” on our Best Friends episode. Yeah, I know we said we were playing deep cuts today, but I figure jumping away from “Georgia On My Mind” and into “Midnight” was a big enough leap. There’ll be plenty of diamonds in the rough throughout the show.

Laura Jane Grace and Against Me! played an ode to their home state in hopes it would fall into the ocean.  “Sink, Florida, Sink” (the electric version) comes from the Rock Against Bush Vol. 1 protest compilation. The comp featured unreleased tracks from punk bands to raise awareness against the war-hungry administration led by George W. Bush.

George Thorogood & The Destroyers’ first LP broke necks with whiplash when critics heard it. What?! A white guy from Delaware?! The Destroyers were originally called the Delaware Destroyers in honor of their home state.  An 8-minute plus cover of John Lee Hooker’s One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer”, would launch George’s career and keep him a staple of 80’s radio. Great blues slide guitar from that guy.

Government Issue were a D.C. punk band that formed in the early 80’s, around the time Minor Threat was taking a hiatus. Brian Baker of Minor Threat joined up with Government Issue and recorded the 1982 EP Make An Effort with then before rejoining Minor Threat. A few years later in 1988, GI would release their final album Crash, including the song “Connecticut”.

The next set starts off with a couple of no-brainers. Surfing? Better check out “Hawaii”…

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DJ:  Eddie Dean spent the 1940s in nearly every country western flick you could see at the theater. He wrote 80% of the songs he sang in the movies he starred in, too! After a career of screens, Eddie moved behind the mic in the 50’s. In 1961, he realeased a third LP Hillbilly Heaven, which we took “Iowa Rose” from.

R. Dean Taylor put out a great blue-eyed soul album in 1970 called I Think, Therefore I Am.  The songs on the LP that weren’t soul covers were written by Richard Dean Taylor, with some songs having help from the Motown trio Holland-Dozier-Holland. Rare Earth Records put out the debut album under the Tamla umbrella. We heard “Indiana Wants Me” from that album, R. Dean’s biggest hit single.

Skip James recorded a plethora of singles in 1931, but due to the Great Depression the recordings and Skip faded away into obscurity. That is, until the 60s, when some blues enthusiasts found him in a hospital in Mississippi. Legend has it that the rediscovery of Skip and Son House around that time led to the blues revival of the 1960’s, especially the later years. Skip recorded four albums in the resurgence, mostly old tunes redone. We played “Illinois Blues” from his final album Devil Got My Woman.

There honestly isn’t a whole lot of great rock music about the state of Idaho.  Thankfully, The B-52’s recorded a song that would change that. 1980’s Wild Planet saw the band return to the New Wave/Punk styles of their previous album before fading into the 80’s synth mess. They had a return to the top again in the early 90’s when “Love Shack” hit the airwaves, though.

Procol Harum’s 1969 album A Salty Dog featured the title track as a single. We’re gonna go a little deeper, though and check out a tune called “The Devil Came From Kansas”. The album would be the last of the original lineup, before members left to pursue other things. Let’s get it started with Procol Harum.

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DJ: Mmmm, ice cream. Diamond Youth’s ode to Maryland Ice Cream also included walking in the sand and holding hands. What a beautiful date! From the appropriately titled EP Shake, that was “Maryland Ice Cream”.

The Deadly Syndrome had that sort of Silversun Pickups, tech-rock kind of vibe when they were active in the late 2000’s. Crash Richards was in the band, and after they split would become a full-time member of Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros. From their final LP All In Time, we played a shoutout to the most Northeastern state, “Maine”.

Garage rock throwbacks The Detroit Cobras rocked the middle of the set with “Down In Louisiana”. The comes from the 1996 Over My Head / Down In Louisiana single and was originally written by a guy named Polka Dot Slim.

Another guy who wrote songs that other bands covered for success is Neil Diamond. Along with hits like “I’m A Believer”, “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother”, and “Red, Red Wine”, “Kentucky Woman” would be a hit sung by many a mouth. Deep Purple famously covered the latter, with The Monkees, The Hollies, and UB40 perhaps being the most famous for the other three mentioned.

Fat Mike of NOFX is gonna tell us about why he moved from Massachusetts to the Bay Area as a kid. Spoiler alert, it’s because his parents moved. Nevertheless, a song to the state must be played! Here’s NOFX with a track from the super depressing Cokie The Clown EP, “Straight Outta Massachusetts”.

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DJ: EL VY is the side project from Matt Berninger of The National and Brent Knopf of Menomena. Much like electronic side projects from duos of the past, the album showcased Brent’s electronic programming with Matt’s trademark low-key vocals. We heard “Happiness, Missouri”, the oxymoronic title track from 2015’s Return To The Moon.

We heard a couple of Minnesota bands before El VY. The throwback stylings of The Cactus Blossoms landed them on the Showtime revamp of Twin Peaks. The duo plays an early-days-of-country toned music with big influences being heard from The Everly Brothers. Their debut album You’re Dreaming also came out in 2015.

Minnesota band The Shackletons put out an ode to the Midwestern mavens of MN with “Minnesota Girls”. Local radio station 89.3 The Current has picked up the song for heavy rotation this past year with the possible hopes of finding a new state anthem? I mean, we have plenty of art to go around here, but there really isn’t much talking about the beautiful Midwestern women of Minnesota…ecept for nearly all of Prince’s catalog, I suppose.

That K.M.C. Kru track is one of my favorite early rap samples.  I mean, who hears “The Devil Went Down To Georgia” and thinks, “Yeah, there’s a beat in there.”?! Regardless, what a jam! The song made it to the top 50, but Tracey “T The Sarge” Edmond was busted for slinging drugs and sentenced to 10 years. 10 effing years for drugs! Too bad, T.

Next up is Frank Zappa and The Mothers with one of their better known songs, “Montana”. The b-side to “I’m The Slime” comes from 1973’s Over-Nite Sensation and features Tina Turner and the Ikettes on backing vocals. Frank Zappa and Tina Turner in the same room. That energy, though. Here’s an ode to raising a crop of dental floss.

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DJ: Apparently the guys from Gainesville didn’t have the greatest experience in New Jersey and decided to never go back. They did, in fact, go back, though. “Never Going Back To New Jersey” comes from LTJ’s groundbreaking second-wave ska-punk album Losing Streak.

Sonic Youth’s 13th album Sonic Nurse showcased the band’s calling card in the song length with every song but one being between 5-8 minutes. “New Hampshire” name drops guitar legends Johnny Winters and B. B. King before suggesting that Steve and Joe were gonna “lead on”. I wonder who Steve and Joe are…?

Did you ever think you’d hear Clint Eastwood sing? Not too shabby, eh? Well, it was ok, I suppose but it wasn’t Tony Bennett or anything. Clint has acted in some great movies, he’s also directed some great movies. Clint Eastwood is now also famous for his childish stool arguement between him and a stool that represent Barack Obama. Anyway, that was “Sierra Nevada” from his country western songs album.

Low Hum released a debut EP in 2018. The fuzzy low hum of their guitars and sludging tempos leave a bluesy based taste in your mouth. The new single “Nebraska” not only fits FMF’s vibe well, but is a perfect addition for our trip around America.

A couple of originals grace the start of our next set. First, we hear Johnny Horton and his song “Out In New Mexico”. Another Johnny would cover this song for his 1964 album Original Sun Sound Of Johnny Cash. Let’s hear Johnny Horton’s original version from his 1959 Sings Free And Easy album.

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DJ: I know, I know. No CSNY?! I mean, that song is phenomenal, one of a kind. We just wanted to dig a little deeper, that’s all! Good thing we did, too, because we scored ourselves a Black Keys track. The track comes from an exclusive preordered 7″ that featured DEVO on the flip-side, Akron, Ohio’s other famous rock band.

Canada’s Thrush Hermit squeaked in with a song about their neighboring state, “North Dakota”. Thrush featured Joel Plaskett, who would go on to The Joel Plaskett Emergency and produce artists like The Flashing Lights. Thrush Hermit also hails from Halifax, Nova Scotia, home to fellow alt rock band Sloan.

You may be saying to yourself, where the hell is North Cackalacky? Well, it’s north of South Carolina. Cackalacky is a slang term for either of the Carolinas that no one really knows the origin of. The nickname first made its pop culture appearance in “Scenario” by A Tribe Called Quest. “East Coast stompin’, rippin’ and rompin’, New York, North Cak-a-laka and Compton, checka-checka-check it out…” rhymes Q-Tip. We played Greg Cartwright (of Compulsive Gamblers and Oblivians fame) and Reigning Sound with their tune “North Cackalacky Girl”.

Hello had a hit in Britian 1975 with their tune “New York Groove”. The British glam rock movement was in full swing and this song and band fit in astutely well with it. Three years later, the Kiss members would each release a self titled solo album.  Ace Frehley recorded “New York Groove” and scored his own huge hit right here in the US, topping all other Kiss members’ solo efforts.

Coming up in our next set is the legendary Oklahoman Leon Russell. Some other famous Okies include The Flaming Lips, Chet Baker, Hanson, Hinder, The All-American Rejects. Although Merle Haggard wrote the song “Okie From Muskogee” in first person, he was from California. Oklahoma voted to legalize medicinal marijuana in 2018, effectively contradicting Merle’s famous line “we don’t smoke marijuana in Muskogee”. Here’s the Asylum Choir founder and Okie piano legend Leon Russell with “Sweet Home Oklahoma”.

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DJ:  Richmond, Virginia group Black Girls changed their name after 3 albums under the moniker. They were receiving backlash from people over the name, which makes sense. The group is now called Rikki Shay, a much more family friendly and non-controversial name. They even have a tune called “America“!

The Front Bottoms have made their way onto the show a few times now, including a song from the same self titled album today’s tune is taken from. We played “Father” during our Father’s Day episode last year, though today we heard “Rhode Island”.

Pennsylvania’s craizest rap-rock-dance group The Bloodhound Gang played their ode to their home state, “P-fuckin’-A”. Well, it’s more of a description of a wasteland than an homage, I suppose. With lines like, “We are the queef after a porn star breaks the gang bang record”, you can’t help but think they have a love/hate relationship with home. Haha.

More Canadians crept onto the set with Yukon Blonde doing a tune about the beautiful shores of Oregon. Yukon Blonde hails from Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada, a town that actress Evangeline Lilly also hails from. Lilly is perhaps best known for her role in Lost, an ABC drama mystery show that a plethora of references to previous mysteries, including the 1937 film about Shangri-La, Lost Horizon. Some of the scenes from Lost Horizon were filmed at Oregon’s Mount Hood.

We’re gonna get quiet for a bit with an early demo from the genius of Liz Phair. Phair recorded three demo tapes before releasing her incredibly well done debut Exile In Guyville.  The three demos were rereleased in 2018 as part of the 25th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition of Exile. Here’s Liz Phair with “South Dakota”.

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DJ: There’s Bobby Womack doing the old jazz standard “Moonlight In Vermont”.  The tune was written by John Blackburn and Karl Suessdorf and published in 1944, and is unique in that not one line of the song rhymes. It’s also comprised almost entirely of haikus. Crazy.

Psychedelic country rockers Futurebirds buzzed in with the side 1, track 1 off of their debut LP Hampton’s Lullaby, “Johnny Utah”. Futurebirds have shared the stage with Blitzen Trapper, a band we’ve not only played a few times on FMF, but we also love their live shows!

There are a million songs about Texas. Many of them Country-Western, Blues, and Rock. Stevie Ray Vaughan’s version of “Texas Flood” is perhaps the most insane electric blues guitar playing you could ever feast your ears on, but it was actually a cover of an old standard first done by Larry Davis in 1958. Both versions are fantastic for their own reasons, though. 

I mean, of course we’re gonna play “Tennessee” by Arrested Development. Though, there were a few votes for “Tennessee Jed” by the Grateful Dead or Levon Helm. Arrested Development sampled Prince’s “Alphabet St.” without asking permission to, and apparently Prince waited until the song was popular before demanding $100k in royalties.

We’re nearing the end of our journey across America. Isn’t it crazy!? Coming up next is Jimmy Reed with the lone single from his 1959 album Rockin’ With Reed. The single made it into the top 100 and landed at 93. Pretty impressive for a standard blues track. That harmonica, though. Here’s “Down In Virginia”.

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DJ: The Western Collection: 25 Cowboy Classics compiled 25 of Gene Autry’s Western tunes. Not Country tunes. The difference being Western songs are more like songs you’d hear out on the trail after a long day of rounding up cattle and sitting by the campfire rather than the Honky Tonk of Country music. Showtunes, really. Capping off our show was “The Hills Of Wyoming” a song that capped off that compilation as well. Yeah, it was old and slow and quiet, but it was actually a tribute to my grandmother Jane who just passed away. The song was from her era.

Locksley hails from the college town of Madison, Wisconsin. On their most recent album, the self titled 2011 effort Locksley!, the band recorded an ode to their home state.  Madison hosts one of the country’s wildest Halloween celebrations every year, blocking off streets for people and such.  The college kids on acid those nights have some of the craziest trips, I heard anyway…

Charlotte, North Carolina, or Cackalacky, is home to Velcro Mary. Velcro Mary is the moniker of Jason Erb. Jason has released a few albums worth of material along with a handful of solo singles. His latest, Flight Risk, hit the net in May of 2018. We played “West Virginia” from the Velcro Mary 2011 debut Dead Horse Rodeo

Beach Vacation formed in 2013 after performing together in a high school talent show. A few weeks after formation, they released the debut Maritime EP. We played “Washington Weather” from that debut and if you enjoyed it be sure to check out their 2018 single “Gossamer Love“.

Holy cow, what a show! We’ll let Jimi play us out with his amazing rendition of a terrible national anthem, “The Star Spangled Banner”. I just really don’t think its that great of a national anthem. “Oh, Canada!” on the other hand…haha! Anyway, thank you SO much for taking the tour of the States with us today and celebrating 50 FMF Episodes! Amazing. If you’re headed out on a road trip this summer before the school year kicks in, be sure to check back next week when we take our Road Trip. Oh yeah, and school starts soon too… See you next time on Feel Me Flow!

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