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.

Friday, January 31

SONG OF THE DAY: I'll Fly Away



Back when music was new as a form of commodity in America, it hadn’t yet been divvied up like it is now, and they just had a “jukebox singles” list, or the shit that got played the most in jukeboxes. It was a folksy mix of honkytonk white folks and bluesy African-American shit. I’d researched all this because I had been contemplating launching a podcast about the history of number one country singles, and the earliest history of what is now country, fell under that non-racially divided jukebox listing. It wasn’t until later, when the industry made a concerted effort to segregate music into racialized categories that this division became the standard. Organically, when it was just people putting a coin into a jukebox – a true democracy – it was far more mixed.
I bring all this up because bluegrass music is raw as fuck, and one of the weirdest folk contributions to American culture that came from an ethnic European subset, up in the nether regions of Scotland and Ireland, and all the settler-colonials who weren’t English enough to be fine and welcomed mightily into the Eastern strongholds of newfound American culture, so they got sent out into the native wilderness to help settle it. “We kinda hate you, but you’re better than non-Europeans, so go out there and make that shit safe for us all, and if you succeed, well glory be to god we have expanded our idea of what civilization is. And if you fail, well fuck it, it’s not like you’re fine English people anyways.” Bluegrass hyperspeed twang is a wonderful example of fermentation of old world shit plopped into strange environments of a different continent, and something amazing sprouting from that shitpile.
Ralph Stanley obvious is the God of bluegrass music. The music form sort of revived itself in recent years with fringe crossover from jam band circuits, and I’ll be honest, I don’t like a lot of that stuff. And it’s weird, because you can’t really define what’s not good about it, but it’s very much like when you hear some white dudes doing blues music or jazz music or hip hop, and sure it’s technically fine, but something integral is missing. Often times we just call this “soul” when we can’t put a scientific thumb on what it really is.
In our racial divisions of whiteness and non-whiteness, we sort of forget the fact that if you focus in on “whiteness” alone, there’s a lot of shades of difference within that too. A lot of cultures were oppressed and destroyed on the European continent alone, before global expansion of certain European empires. I mean obviously the history of the English in the British Isles is one of the best examples of this, with the Scots, Irish, Welsh, Cornish, Manx, and others all having been conquered by the English. All that just got laundered in the offshore investment operation of empire that ended up being called America into a vague whiteness.
But there’s plenty of examples, even within vague whiteness, where some white people just ain’t doing something else correctly that other white people have a long history of doing pretty great. Bluegrass is that. Shaggy-haired, oil bearded dudebros can learn the mandolin, can learn a banjo, but it doesn’t mean they’re doing it in a strong way. Something often times is still missing, which you can’t pinpoint, or teach, but would likely fall under that “soul” term.
There’s a lot of weird Appalachian identity memes online now, I guess people attempting to distance themselves from the dominant white culture that’s done so much damage. A lot of that memetics looks heavy-handed, and not real though. Ain’t all these people out here had somebody they called Meemaw. Some of y’all performatively complaining about people putting soap in your skillet bought that “skillet” at Target about three years ago.
But I ain’t here to complain (though I just did), because when real culture hits – not planned culture like an English garden, but feral culture that sprouts from the shitpiles of human existence, volunteering itself to make life feel better – when that type of shit hits the most dirtgodly high notes, it is transcendent. That’s Ralph Stanley in his finest moments. When I die, I hope y’all remember to cremate me and scatter my ashes around the 69th mile marker of the Rivanna subdivision line, between Scottsville and Bremo Bluff, right near the Seven Islands where I used to play dominoes with elven people. But I also hope y’all have a big ass party in a field somewhere, and remember me in good ways, and hopefully somebody has the sense to play “I’ll Fly Away” loud as fuck. Just do it from a car with the doors opened so everybody can hear the radio though if all you can find is unqualified dudebros to try and do a cover. If y’all have some raggedy ass shinefaces hiding behind false beards playing bluegrass at my “Raven is dead, let’s remember that fool” celebration, I’m gonna haunt the fuck out of you all.

1NV1S1BL3 GL4SS C31L1NGS...

invisible glass ceilings
due to pataphysical
beginnings as trash human

Thursday, January 30

SONG OF THE DAY: Utru Horas


Baobab is considered the tree of life in much of Africa, because of all they provide. Dating them is difficult using normal tree-ring analysis because of the wildstyle way they grow. Despite being notoriously fire resistant, they're not quiet so drought resistance, and have started to die off in some parts of Africa where warming and desertification has spread. They have a ridiculously seductive silhouette. It seems that the trees that provide the most are always the sexiest. That has been my experience at least. One time, while picking cherries that were freshly ripe in a thicket of volunteer/wild cherry trees, that shit was seducing me and I basically would've stripped entirely but I kept my raggedy shorts on because I had the basket I was collecting cherries in strapped to me with my belt holding up my shorts looped through the handle. It would've been too much to take off the shorts and put the belt back on my naked body just to hold a basket. Sadly, another natural and completely organic sensual experience stifled by societal norms. Being human is pretty fucking stupid.

D3S1R0VS 0F G4VD13ST...

desirous of gaudiest
delusions of polished life,
like manufactured shineface

Wednesday, January 29

SONG OF THE DAY: Standing at the Crossroads


People always talking about being at a crossroads, but roads are built along master planned grids. That's why intersect they at 90 degree angles. Ain't no 90 degree angles with rivers and creeks and shit. On top of this, crossroads mythologies always got this angel/devil dichotomy, good and bad battling it out, which direction will you go. It all feels very limited, in that both roads got built by somebody trying to make me follow that path, good or bad. Even the bad road probably was the good choice to whoever built it, and the good one is bad. Binaries. If you don't do one, then you gotta do the other.
Fuck a crossroads, I'm walking diagonally into the woods. And not even a straight diagonal but a cattywampus diagonal with chaos in every third step (so as to balance between right and left footed chaos steps).
But nooooo, the assholes put all the food stores and Goodwills right along the stupid fucking roads, at the crossroads, so I'll have to come back out and get some food and look for work clothes with the red tag because that's the tag this week. One day I'm just gonna wear poplar bark to work, fuck it. If they fire me it'd probably be a blessing. But the same people who built all the roads to intersect at imperfect 90 degree angles are the same one who build meticulous bureaucracy into everything else, so I wouldn't even get fired right away. They'd write up notes, and get filed with other people, and then official types would talk to me or make me do a training video and I'd have to send a screenshot of having completed the training video, and then sign a statement that says something official and legal sounding that is essentially a translation of "RAVEN, DON'T WEAR FUCKING POPLAR BARK TO WORK AGAIN" and fuck man, all of this is so pointless, isn't it?

"WH0 4M 1?" 1 0FT3N 4SK...

"who am I?" I often ask,
wandering this labyrinth
designed to entrap free will

Monday, January 27

SONG OF THE DAY: Learned From Texas



Saw last week that they’re making a DJ Screw tv show on some tv channel which won’t mean tv as much as streaming, and I was briefly excited but then thought about how weird that is to even care that they make a tv show about something you enjoy that’s not television at all. American culture is so weirdly channeled right now into these forms of digital consumption, where you don’t even end up with anything physical you can access again without trusting wherever you streamed it to have it still the next time you go to access it. And it doesn’t actually look like the people who make the shit actually get paid better for it. It seems to me the lesson of DJ Screw would not be for me to be excited about some dumbass semi-fictional biopic series like the Wu-Tang saga, which I watched finally and wanted to hate because I’m a natural contrarian, but actually enjoyed more than I expected, likely because I’m old and Wu-Tang is pop culture and consuming major pop culture about the things from earlier in our lives validates our earlier excitement in life, all while contributing to our current supplication and lethargy. But fuck man, DJ Screw literally got paid by making bootleg mixtapes and selling them out of his house like they were drugs, all of it off the books. He built an empire, so to speak, outside the mainstream, proudly so, and helped build a whole culture around that, not to mention the influence he had on all of music. It’s weird to me how the inspiration of people like that somehow gets filtered into programming that we all look at, but don’t have any actual inspiration to do anything. We just look at it and go, “Wow, that’s amazing,” and wait for the next thing to distract us. Anyways, my birthday is coming up in a couple weeks, so I’m looking forward to all my friends kicking a 37-minute freestyle over top the instrumental to Hard 2 Obtain’s “L.I. Groove” slowed down to 69 bpm.

N3V3R M34NT F0R MY M1ND...

never meant for my mind to
sit idle, with ideas
gone to rust, ripe beyond fruit

Sunday, January 26

SONG OF THE DAY: Summertime


Was talking with my gf before the big parade of gun dorks in Richmond, comparing and contrasting how that felt in the build-up to Charlottesville in 2017. I was talking about how it being cold as fuck was a benefit, "because it doesn't feel so good get punched in the fuckin' face in freezing weather." She suggested it never feels good to get punched in the face, but I don't know, coming from a hopeless, reckless, and self-destructive background, there's times where you just want to feel a small dose of violence, like an immunization against worst flare-ups almost, and getting hit in the fuckin' face is part of that. Summertime it don't feel so bad, if you're looking for trouble - you get into conflict, people smash on each other, everybody ideally feels a little less likely to smash on each other. I'm not sure in a world where a bunch of people have pretty frustrating and pointless existences that you can ever have an idealized utopia without shit like that. But I know I'm far more likely to be looking for a fight and hoping shit pops off in the summer than I am the winter. That's when cities with gun problems have more shootings, people are out more getting on each other's fuckin' nerves, all that.
Anyways, with climate changes and the current era being a bit warmer than historical recent eras, get ready for more people looking to punch each other in the face. If you're not about that, learn navigational skills, because you'll never stop it entirely. Warm weather ain't always about big breasts in tank tops and hypermasculine abs on full display. If life gives you lemons, everybody knows to make lemonade, but a lot of people out here ain't got no sugar to put in it.

"WH0 4M 1?" 1 0FT3N 4SK...

"who am I?" I often ask,
as a spiral energy
swirl confined between straight lines

Friday, January 24

SONG OF THE DAY: Mali Yo



I am not officially a “world music dude” but I do enjoy music from around the Earthball. Official “world music dudes” tend to identify with putumayo, which I think is Whole Foods Spanish for “weak fucker”. I refer to this particular band as Super Rail Band, though they were originally Rail Band and formed half a century ago, sponsored by the Malian Ministry of Information, to promote national traditions. They later became the Super Rail Band, likely because they fuckin’ slap so hard, big in the West African Afro-Latin jazz fusion jam style that packed stadiums, with multiple members of the group launching off into their own solo shit over the course of the lifetime. The band’s official full name is Super Rail Band of the Buffet Hotel de la Gare, Bamako.
A couple things here – African music’s traditions since the colonial independence movement is so amazing. You had this Afro-Latin jazz explosion come from The Congo, plus the whole equally insane Zamrock heavy as fuck rock bands from Zambia region. Of course Hip Life and Fela Kuti in West Africa come to mind, all the while traditional nomadic guitarists through the Sahel had been doing their thing the whole time too. Why the fuck are our choices of listening to music still so goddamned boring, even in this allegedly wide open era of streaming and sharing playlists? Because it’s still controlled by capitalism, and capitalism’s reach often limits itself through customs at the border, and what it does and doesn’t want to allow.
Secondly, the Rough Guide collections are the Democrats of world music to the Republican Putumayo compilations. That is to say, if you look for the Rough Guide to literally anything, it’s going to be more wide open than anything Putumayo gives you, but also all of it is bullshit curation. Fuck it, I’m quitting my job, getting a passport, and just gonna go crate digging through Africa for the rest of my life. If I make it across the continent safely, without settling down into a brand new life as some freak village American poet junkman wizard, then hopefully i can catch a steam ship to South Asia, and go tape digging there, bouncing between nation-states. I’m sure I’ll get embroiled in some sort of Sufi Islamist militia somewhere, likely Indonesia to be honest, but then I’ll finally just get to write wonderful poetry about the internal jihad between ungodly manmade order forced into all our lives, and true spirit of existence, which is about the power of lounge, and not giving a fuck about all this dumb shit, so that you can actually give a fuck about the real shit.