RAVEN MACK is a mystic poet-philosopher-artist of the Greater Appalachian unorthodox tradition. He does have an amazing PATREON, but also *normal* ARTIST WEBSITE too.

Tuesday, December 21

J.J. Krupert Top 13 Countdown – October ’10 #3: “Can’t Cash My Checks” by Jamey Johnson

I will be doing my holiday meal shopping today at the Kroger grocery store, for one simple reason – they still treat checks as checks, meaning that even though I am maxed the fuck out like any good American would be the week before Christmas, I can float a slice of paper at Kroger, and it’ll take at least the four days until my pay is cybertronically granted into existence through some sort of nefarious Learned Elders of Capital program. Thus, without having money, I can buy food. I am not sure how or where my family’s grocery buying got out of wack with my payday, but it seems that every other Tuesday, when I know the check is in floatable distance for sure (Mondays make me afraid it will go through fast, since robot money lords are probably mad hyped up on Mondays), I am pushing a cart full of edible thisses and that’s through the stank ass Kroger.
I do not know why many places (following the original lead of Wal-Mart) treat checks as a debit card for old-timers who are afraid of things that look like evil credit cards, but whenever I used to be somewhere where I did not realize they did it automatically and I’d write a check and they’d put it into their machine, it’d go BRRRRP, and then they’d print out a receipt and hand me back the check because it was over, and it made me have one of my “William B. Cooper was right” sweats, mostly internal because I hold it inside my body with a furrowed brow. Now, I am a beaten man, and assume all places do that shit automatically, to the point a box of checks will probably last me years. The only places I can really use them like you are supposed to use a check (in the ways I was raised at least) are the Kroger and paying my electric company bill. It’s a gamble when you are juggling, and sometimes you miss one of the things up in the air and you get hit with an extra charge, but hey, that’s the price of doing the business of being alive in America. Bounced check fees I understand, and remember fondly with uncomfortability going into Worsham Grocery where I would drop my buddy Chuck off daily after school, since his mom ran the joint, and my dad’s name would be on the list of DO NOT TAKE CHECKS FROM people. All this madness they’ve created to manifest fake money profits out of nothing that the banks and Learned Elders of Capital are driving down our throats like golden stakes we can choke on but aren’t allowed to taste, it’s disgusting. If my dad was still alive, he’d be bitching about it while shooting guns or playing horseshoes, and hopefully not still drinking a fifth of vodka a day or spending weekends snorting crank. But hey, that’s why people die.
[Strange aside which I probably mentioned at some point, but the internet is random, so it’s probably new to you since you’ve not read it specifically, but I had a vivid dream one time after my dad’s death, him and a bunch of dudes hanging out on couches doing lines off thrift store coffee tables, music blaring, and I realized it was under his old house in Victoria, like in a basement that wasn’t really there. But he was dead, so I was all like, “Whoa… you’re in hell,” and he just shrugged and started talking to the guy next to him about how the album Emerge The Litter was his favorite acid rock shit from back in the day (I can never remember if the band is called Emerge and the album is The Litter, or the other way around) and I walked out the basement hell, and he was peeking through a slat of an entrance, like the man under the stairs of the audience in that old Letterman gag, just ominous, and then I woke up. If there is such a thing as heaven and hell, I hope pops ain’t there. But there’s no heaven and hell, just emotional nonsense in our brains, and that’s why we have heaven and hell and dreams about our father’s going to hell so that we can pretend to gain some sort of understanding of our chaotic chemical emotional nonsense.]
Anyways, since his death there’s really only been like three albums I’ve thought to myself, “Man, pops would really love this.” Jamey Johnson’s two albums have been two of those three (other one was Straight to Hell by Hank Williams III). Now before I go any further, there are many amongst us who would have you believe that Jamey Johnson is a wonderful breath of reality into the façade of Nashville music, a real man who has struggled mightily with his own personal demons and somehow come out on the other side, scarred but alive, a true survivor, to sing songs for people like us who are born losers and never amount to shit no matter how hard we try so we usually just self-destruct in comedic meanders that ultimately are tragic as fuck. He is not all that. He does good music when compared to the rest of Nashville, but the hype is taller than the delivery, though you can see the signs of greatness would there be somewhere a man like him could really cut loose from the Learned Elders of Capital’s tentacle grip of the country music industry, long devoid of soul for the most part, far more than most music industry branches, which is why it remains one of the most profitable to this day. I wish there was something like Muscle Shoals Studios where Jamey Johnson could just disappear for a year and make what he wants to make.
That being said, the PR story is this double album is exactly that – what Jamey Johnson wanted to make but Nashville wouldn’t let him. Except they did. And I actually bought a physical CD copy (using a credit card, naturally, because you can’t float checks at Best Buy) the week it came out, brought it home, and the rest of the family was gone, so I loaded it into the family Itunes (didn’t buy it on Itunes because if I’m going to pay $10, I want the CD case too, in case I have another dream with my dad and he needs the case to do a line off of) and checked it out. Some was good, some was not good, and it suffered from standard non-live double album syndrome in that it probably would’ve made a better single album with half the songs, so long as somebody with some goddamned common real man’s sense decided what went and what stayed.
But when this song came on, it was epic, like hearing a Lynyrd Skynyrd anthem slowed down for the first time because it literally just came out to the public. I am not going to fucking lie, when this thing winds up into the music part after the initial singing, where you can tell it’s just digging in for an extended jam that is half-blues, half-anger, and all-rural rightness of path regardless of outcome even though you know it’s probably not going to end well for you, or your children, or their children, or really anybody except that one cousin who none of you like anyways, the shit made me want to cry. I was flooded with thoughts of my dad, thoughts of my own life, thoughts of how much it fucking sucks to live the life we live cut from the cloth we are cut from, and yet at the same time how fucking beautifully perfect the whole thing is as well, and how I wouldn’t change a goddamn second of it. That to me is what country music is supposed to be, but hardly ever has been for most of the past 30 years. That is also why a lot of Americana/alternative country does not do the same, because it misses that flood and seems too calculated – not from the same profit motive of Nashville music, but from a “let me take you to my conclusion” academic type of place. There is no conclusion to the real life bullshit we live; you just end up dying at some point, with a whole lot of things left undone, and all that you were juggling comes crashing down at once. And anybody close to you is forced to try to piece that together and see what’s salvageable, if anything, and they bury you and hopefully somebody opens a car door and blasts some sort of anthem at your funeral that will be fitting or appropriate. I have heard Skynyrd played like this multiple times, and it was as non-ironic and beautiful and perfect as hell. And at my dad’s funeral, they opened a car door at the gravesite and played “Keep on the Sunny Side” by Ralph Stanley. It was perfect. There’s not too many songs that would work in that type of setting, nor too many people left on this American Earth that are not too self-aware to do that type of thing. I could see this “Can’t Cash My Checks” song being appropriate, and I hope to fucking whatever there is that is as close to literal god as our emotional nonsense can create for itself, that there are still real enough people left who can still feel this song in their soul. Shit man, those people are fewer and farther apart, and even the darkest hollers got cul-de-sacs in these days.
Oh well. It’s a good goddamned song.
STEAL “Can’t Cash My Checks”
Pagan anthems to the night!


Andrew TSKS said...

Oh hey dude, I have that record and can tell you for sure: The band is The Litter. The album is "Emerge." It was their third album, and their first album, "Distractions," had the song "Action Woman" on it, which was on the Nuggets box set. "Emerge" is a lot heavier, but still fucking amazing and definitely worth your time. It was even on that Decibel Magazine list of "50 awesome forgotten proto-metal records" from a few years ago or whatever. Anyway, you can check it out here if you want--I'd say your dad had pretty good taste, because it rules.

Raven Mack said...

I actually have that same copy still... somewhere in the stacks.