Monday, April 16, 2012

Social Networking From the Dogs...

Admittedly, this isn't sporting dog specific, but Texts From Dog is still pretty danged hilarious.  For those Twitter inclined, this feed from Cooper the Bird Dog is fairly entertaining as well.

Anyone else have online silliness that pertains to bird dogs (other than the usual rantings on upland message boards) that's good for a chuckle until the season starts again?

Update: an alert 8MM reader also suggests Maddie the Coonhound, which stars Maddie (not surprisingly) in some very surprising photography.  Think of it as canine planking.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

What I'm Listening To: Spring 2012

It's been way too long since I've done a music wrap-up.  Here goes.

Alabama Shakes - Boys & Girls
The new "it band" for 2012, this quartet hails from northern Alabama and actually lives up to the hype of music hipsters everywhere.  The old-school soul grooves are indeed cool, but it's the pipes of vocalist Brittany Howard that really makes the group radioactive.  Hell, there's really nothing I can say that hasn't been said, so I'll leave it to one of their tweets from earlier today: "Remembering when we had less than 100 facebook fans and didn't know what twitter was.. 8 mths later.. we are releasing our first album! So blessed." Long live the Internet.

Jason Eady - AM Country Heaven
Now this was a bit of a surprise.  Eady, a Mississippi native, was known (by me at least) as more of a swampy, Delta blues sort of guy, and he does it well.  But from the first note of AM Country Heaven, Eady establishes himself as a bona-fide country music star -- circa 1973.  Produced by Kevin Welch, AM is rife with Waylon Jennings bass lines, pedal steel from Lloyd Maines, and a killer duet with Patty Loveless.  Eady manages to tie it all together with an easygoing Don Williams baritone.  There's a lot going on, but it all works, and works very well.

Ray Wylie Hubbard - The Grifter's Hymnal
After what felt like a couple of uneven efforts, the original Redneck Mother is back, and man is he a badass.  Hubbard has always been a man comfortable in exploring spirituality, while keeping one beat-up cowboy boot planted firmly in the hedonistic, hell-raising side of life.  To wit: what other musician do you know that can name check Lazarus and Neil Young in a matter of ten minutes?  If you've never listened to RWH, this is a great place to start.  If you're a longtime fan, you'll recognize this as the culmination of 40-some-odd years living as a rough and tumble troubadour.  Stop reading, and start downloading.

Shurman - Inspiration
No question about it, this is perfect roll-down-the-windows-and-crank-up-the-stereo music -- and what better time of year to do so?  It's a shame these guys aren't more recognized.  They're gritty, loud, and a hell of a lot of fun.  They lyrics are well constructed and thoughtful, but in truth, these guys could read an eTrade prospectus and still make it rock.  They put on one hell of a live show, too.

Bruce Robison and Kelly Willis - Name TBD
This one isn't even out yet, but I've already heard it, and it is on constant rotation at Casa Scampwalker.  Bruce Robison and Kelly Willis are shining Americana stars in their own right, but despite (or maybe because of) 15 years of marriage and four children, they've never cut an album before.  About six months ago, they started up a Kickstarter campaign, and we helped fund their project.  The results speak for themselves.  In addition to a handful of original tunes, they do a great cover of Dave Alvin's Border Radio and Robert Earl Keen's No Kinda Dancer.  The final album is set to drop in June, so mark your calendars -- it's worth it.

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Senior Tour

The buggy rolled to a stop, and Steve and I surveyed the ground ahead of us.  It was a good looking draw, at least by Midland, Texas standards. More of a dry creekbed, it definitely looked birdy and manageable enough for us to put down our two older dogs for a brief run.  The sun was shining and things were warming up quickly, but this would only be a 45 minute walk or so.

Steve put down Em, his then-11-year-old black and white pointer, and I readied Dot, my 9-year old lemon and white counterpart.  I stopped to wonder how many birds these two old girls had between them -- the different species, scents, and locales that they've collectively hunted.  This walk would be dubbed the Senior Tour.

We loaded up with shells and water, and the brace began.  Neither dog was running the way they did back in their younger years, but they didn't need to.  Fanning out across the creekbed, they knew just what to do. Wisdom always trumps enthusiasm (at 43, I'm finally starting to learn that lesson).

Not five minutes into the hunt, Em locked up near a gnarly patch of prickly pear.  Dot was 30 yards behind, staunchly honoring (never a sure bet).  The covey of scalies rose, and two quickly fell.  I don't recall any remarkable retrieves -- there certainly weren't any from Dot, who only cares about living birds, a trait I've learned to accept in her older years.  Either way, we collected our birds and continued chasing singles for the next 30 minutes or so.  It was an impressive show, and all four of us were soaking in every minute of it.

I've killed more birds on a single walk before, and I've certainly seen dogs cover more ground than these two did.  But it's the memory of two veteran dogs that hunted with the prowess that only age and experience can bring.

I'm not sure, but I think that might've been one of the last times Em went to West Texas, having mostly retired from Steve's traveling team.

I got a text from Steve yesterday letting me know that Em had died in her sleep Wednesday night at age 14.  We spoke on the phone, and I extended my condolences, feeble as they were.  Nothing really helps when you lose a hunting buddy, save maybe the solace in knowing the guy on the other end of the phone has experienced that same pain, and is destined to again as long as he's got a bird dog.

That's the contract we all sign, willingly or not.  We'll miss ya, Em.