BY JONATHAN HOULON FOLK MUSIC EDITOR I was always surprised that Tom T. Hall wasn’t recognized during the Great Alt-Country Scare of the 1990s in the way that, say, Johnny Cash and, to a lesser extent, Willie Nelson were.  Sure, there was the obligatory tribute album to The Storyteller (as TTH was often called) that included No Depression stalwarts at the time such as Richard Buckner, Joe Henry, Iris Dement, and Whiskeytown.  They called it Real: The Tom T. Hall Project and it almost seemed like a reclamation effort to rescue the great man from obscurity.  Hall was an […]

IN MEMORIAM: Charlie Watts (1941-2021)

  NEW YORK TIMES: Indeed, Mr. Watts was a man of contradictions — a jazzman in the world’s greatest rock ’n’ roll band, an old-fashioned gentleman among pirates and bad boys, a homebody who spent much of his work life on the road. It was also his contradictions — his loose, swinging style combined with his love of precision; his idiosyncratic technique combined with his remarkable versatility — that made him such an exceptional drummer, and the perfect musical partner for Keith Richards in forging the Stones’s signature sound. As the band’s former bass player Bill Wyman recalled: “Every band […]

RIP: Dusty Hill, ZZ Top Bassist, Dead @ 72

EDITOR’S NOTE: To mark the sad passing of ZZ Top bassist Dusty Hill [pictured above, center], we’re re-posting this 2012 concert review that even back then read like an epitaph. Rest in power, Mr. Hill. BY JONATHAN VALANIA FOR THE INQUIRER It is a well-known fact that only two things will survive the coming Apocalypse: cockroaches and Keith Richards. A betting man would add ZZ Top to the list. After 40 years of chrome, smoke and BBQ’d blooze licks, their party time ubiquity shows no signs of diminishing. Wherever there are men on scaffolding, they will be there. Wherever Harley […]


  BY JONATHAN HOULON FOLK MUSIC EDITOR 2020 was a brutal year all around and the folk ghetto here at Phawker was hardly spared:  John Prine (covid), Jerry Jeff Walker (cancer) and Billy Joe Shaver (stroke).  And, then, they had to take down one more hero on the way out the door:  legendary bluegrass singer/guitarist Tony Rice died on Christmas … of all days.  In bluegrass circles, Rice was long acknowledged as one of the greatest ever, both as a picker and as a vocalist.  But outside that rarified jurisdiction, he is almost completely unknown to the general public.  Well, […]

BRIAN WILSON GOES TO THE MALL: An Appreciation Of Edward Lodewijk Van Halen RIP

  BY BILL HANGLEY JR. Eddie Van Halen dies, and the word that comes to mind is “joy.” That’s m’lady’s word for his music, and she’s right. She’s a huge fan, and many are the nights we’ve spent with a bottle of wine and the pounding rubbery cartoon violence of 1984. What Eddie embodied, she always said, was “pure, male joy.” Not the meathead glower of your modern vomit-vocal metal. Not the prosthetic-penis fakery of your day-glo hair bands. But instead, from Eddie Van Halen, godfather to them all, true joy; the jolly roar of a chainsaw crossed with an […]

AMERICAN GHANDI: John Lewis Rest In Power

  ESQUIRE: Congressman John Lewis (D-Georgia) is a Civil Rights icon and a Mt. Rushmore-worthy American hero. At the dawn of the Civil Rights Movement, Lewis marched fearlessly into the maws of the Jim Crow South, through angry, racist mobs and truncheon-wielding state troopers, armed with nothing more than the courage of the righteous and unconditional love in his heart. Lewis shed his own blood to shame this country into living up to its founding promise that “all men were created equal.” This remains a work in progress. At 76, he is the last man alive who spoke at the […]

NPR 4 THE DEAF: We Hear It Even When You Can’t

  FRESH AIR: People who have been taking antidepressants for several years sometimes hit a wall, a point when that treatment no longer seems to ease their symptoms. Psychiatrist Julie Holland says that’s where psychedelic drugs could help. Holland was in charge of Bellevue Hospital’s psychiatric emergency room on the weekends from 1996 until 2005, and currently has a private psychotherapy practice in Manhattan. She’s a medical monitor on the MAPS studies, which involve, in part, developing psychedelics into prescription medication. Her new book, Good Chemistry, explores how she thinks psychedelic drugs, including LSD, psilocybin, MDMA and marijuana, might be […]


VIA BANDCAMP: Long Lost Solace Find — the first Mike Polizze solo release for Paradise of Bachelors, due out July 31st — finds the Purling Hiss frontman and Birds of Maya shredder stepping out from behind the wall of guitar noise into the bright sunshine. Performed entirely by Polizze with longtime friend Kurt Vile and recorded by War on Drugs engineer Jeff Zeigler, this intimate Philadelphia affair clarifies the bittersweet earworm melodicism of Dizzy Polizzy’s songwriting, revealing bona fide folk-pop chops. Long Lost Solace Find finally harvests the wild local honey from the buzzing hive of Hiss. “Cheewawa,” the second […]

CINEMA: Casualties Of War

DA 5 Bloods (directed by Spike Lee, 154 minutes, USA, 2020) BY DAN TABOR FILM CRITIC Films often take years, even decades to come to fruition, so it’s rare when a filmmaker manages to make a movie that is perfectly timed to comment on a moment. Spike Lee has done just that with his latest, Da Five Bloods, which is also his most ambitious since Malcom X. Illuminating as it is entertaining, the film is supercharged by our current sociopolitical climate as it dissects Trump, race, family and war. I found it reminiscent of The Irishman in that it’s a […]

CINEMA: The Mad King

THE KING OF STATEN ISLAND (dir. by Judd Apatow, 136 minutes, USA, 2020) BY DAN TABOR FILM CRITIC In The King of Staten Island, now streaming on VOD, director Judd Apatow returns to the formula that worked so well with Trainwreck : creating a vehicle around a comedian’s perceived public persona. This time around he’s chosen SNL’s resident bad boy Pete Davidson, who’s been going through a bit of a rough patch recently. After a very public and messy relationship/separation from Ariana Grande, he then went on to bite the hand that feeds by publicly criticizing SNL during a sit-down […]


  BY JONATHAN HOULON This week’s Wire is dedicated to the memory of Bruce Langfeld, musical associate and friend of our subject, Go To Blazes.  I swear that I selected Blazes (as they were sometimes called by their fans) before these incendiary, recent days.  By the way, starting a fire can, indeed, be a component of anarchism.  Fetishizing, coveting, and collecting commercial merchandise (is there any other kind?) is decidedly not.  Not sure what — if anything — that has to do with the below but … really, folks? In any case, when I moved up to Philly from Austin, […]

Q&A W/ Anthony Bourdain, The Lou Reed Of Eating

[Illustrations by ALEX FINE] EDITOR’S NOTE: This interview originally ran back in November of 2011. We are re-posting it today on the second anniversary of his untimely death. Good night Mr. Bourdain, wherever you are. BY JONATHAN VALANIA Anthony Bourdain is a man who needs no introduction, but for those not in the know or without a consumptive cable habit, understand that he is the enfant terrible of the foodie world who came of age on the Punk Rock Planet of New York ‘77 simultaneously pogoing to the likes of the Ramones, Talking Heads, Television, and Patti Smith and shooting […]

REST IN POWER: Little Richard (1932-2020)

Photo by MICHAEL OCHS NEW YORK TIMES: Richard Penniman, better known as Little Richard, who combined the sacred shouts of the black church and the profane sounds of the blues to create some of the world’s first and most influential rock ’n’ roll records, died on Saturday in Tullahoma, Tenn. He was 87. His lawyer, Bill Sobel, said the cause was bone cancer. Little Richard did not invent rock ’n’ roll. Other musicians had already been mining a similar vein by the time he recorded his first hit, “Tutti Frutti” — a raucous song about sex, its lyrics cleaned up […]