Posted in On Air

Cosmic Country Rocker Garrett T. Capps Believes that People Are Beautiful

Garrett T Capps, honky tonk owner and cosmic country rocker, believes things are getting better. It’s not because of the things he sees on the news or social media, where he sees fear, division, and lies running rampant. Instead, he turns inward and, much as he suggests on his first track, uses hope as a religion.

“I don’t subscribe to organized religion, so hope seems like a good one,” Capps explained.

People Are Beautiful is an album of peaceful, soaring rock and deep gratitude. It’s a look inside the mind of a man who considers it normal to see the faces of dead people from his childhood and believes that even feeling pain is something worth being thankful for.

“Being thankful for being alive is something I try to practice all the time,” said Capps

A big part of that life worth savoring is great music. As the owner of The Lonesome Rose, Capps is constantly booking great acts, including a few I’ve been lucky enough to have on my radio show.

“I’ve always been pretty passionate about booking bands, going to concerts, and knowing about the history of the live music world,” Capps said. 

He was able to find partners who wanted to open a honky tonk and became the creative force behind the operation. 

“We have a little tiny disco ball that’s always on no matter what,” Capps said of the vibe. “It’s somewhere between a total dive, a rock bar, and a classic Texas honky tonk.” 

The Lonesome Rose just celebrated its fourth year of operation with a show including artists like Dale Watson.

Capps’ lyrics are occasionally profound and unique, such as on the standout Happen Anytime where he’s hit with waves of truth and guilt. Other times, they’re more repetitive. But even on Time Will Tell, a song with exactly those three lyrics, there’s a statement being made. The cosmic country soundscape is gorgeous and there’s time to breathe and contemplate the statement. Capps is smart to have moments of relative quiet on the album. His guitar solos are rarely intense but instead contemplative and push the album forward gently, perfect for an album so focused on positivity, patience, and spirituality. A Better Place and People Are Beautiful do let him rock out a little more though.

Capps is at his most impressive on tracks People Are Beautiful because instead of providing examples of altruism and love, he’s showcasing pain and shitty behavior. His optimism and love for humanity are hard won and believable precisely because he acknowledges just how hard things can be sometimes. Instead of turning a blind eye to the pain, Capps is just grateful for it. When I asked him if all people are beautiful, he answered yes.

“It is beautiful to be a human being,” Capps said. “I think it’s the high road to take to realize that we are human beings trying to do our thing. Some people have a better moral compass than others, and some people are in better places than others, but personally I think everyone is beautiful, even the ugliest person in the world.”

Capps may be completely wrong to trust the species he considers beautiful. I’m more deeply suspicious of them as a whole, though there have certainly been moments where most of them have come together to do the right thing. There are still Ukrainian flags flying in my local shopping district. When those went up I was certainly feeling warm and fuzzy about my conservative neighbors for a while. I hope Capps is more right than my anxiety tells me to be. Time will tell.

Above is the full episode as aired on WUSB’s Country Pocket, including both my interview with Garrett and the songs we discussed, starting with Gettin’ Better, which begins the album. You can hear the show live every Monday at 11am on WUSB 90.1 FM or check the blog to watch it as a YouTube playlist. Visit and for more. I’d especially advise you to click on Garrett’s website. It’s done up like it’s still the 1990s and displays his profoundly weird sensibilities.

Posted in On Air

Paisley Fields Tells a Midwestern Coming Out Story on Limp Wrist

There’s a certain sort of mood one might expect out of an album called Limp Wrist that features a ripped chest decorated with a small amount of leather. Paisley Fields proves that you really can’t judge a book by its cover.

The title track is good for a satisfying smirk. It teases the hypocritical hyper-masculine guys who would tease Fields for being gay. They might be against sex with men, just so long as that definition doesn’t include their own hands. But it’s “Iowa” that holds the emotional focus of the album. For all the discrimination Fields faces, religious or otherwise, nothing is quite as serious as his recognition that what happened to Matthew Shepard in nearby Wyoming could easily happen to him.

“I want to say I was maybe 13 or 14,” Fields said. “I remember it pretty clearly. I remember people debating if he deserved it because he was allegedly hitting on the two guys who ended up murdering him. That was a real moment where I realized it was not safe for me to come out.”

Fields felt forced to leave Iowa as a result of it all. For the most part, the album explores aspects of coming out and a confused identity that was part religious redneck and part music-loving gay man. “Black Hawk County Line” begins the album with Fields’ story of how a ‘friend’ outed him. “Giddy up Saturday Night” serves as a reminder that Fields will always be a native Iowan, one who could hunt and throw down with the rest of the boys if not for their bigotry. 

“Plastic Rosary” is where those two identities clash most directly. He talks about his experience as a child praying for forgiveness and how he’s learned to accept every part of himself, though he still carries a bit of pain from these adults telling him that “heaven is a place [he’ll] never see.” Religion was an integral part of young Fields’s life

“My first job was playing piano in the church and I felt a lot of conflict,” Fields said. “I was playing music and I was supported by this little country church that I was a part of, but I was also getting messages that just my very existence was wrong. It was pretty difficult to wrestle with that.” 

Luckily, Fields was able to overcome the “deep rejection” he’d receive from his and other churches in the area, even if it came at the cost of losing his personal relationship with religion.

“At the time I tried to shut part of myself off and for a while I tried to fit in,” Fields said. “Then I fully rejected it without ever dealing with it at all. But now I’ve gotten to the point where I understand that I know who I am and I’m not going to hide that for some religion.”

“Dial up Lover” is another standout track, in part for its incredible specificity. It’s a song that recalls that phase many a queer person went through in the aughts finding the connection they couldn’t find in school through Internet chat rooms. Trust me. It was a thing.

“That was the only way to meet other people in my hometown,” Fields explained. “I would log onto those AOL chatrooms to see who was in there and try to find somebody to talk to anonymously and to also discover who I was and who other people like me were and if they were out there somewhere.”

It’s worth noting that Fields felt it necessary and appropriate to end the album on a note of hope. “Tomorrow Finds a Way” is a reminder that things may be scary right now, but progress has been made. For someone like Fields, that can come in the form of personal growth and musical expression.

Above is the full episode as aired on WUSB’s Country Pocket, including both my interview with Paisley Fields and the songs we discussed, starting with Iowa, which really sets the stakes for the album. We also play a couple of Lavender Country songs as Fields has been playing keyboard for that pioneering band. You can hear the show live every Monday at 11am on WUSB 90.1 FM or check the blog to watch it as a YouTube playlist. Visit and for more.

Posted in On Air

John McCutcheon Finds Poignancy and Humor in Stories of the Dead

The pandemic affected us all in funny ways. Folk music mainstay John McCutcheon found himself with more time to read the newspaper, including some sections he used to overlook.

“I don’t know if it’s only the pandemic or if it’s also due to my age, but I’m not skipping over the obituaries like I used to,” McCutcheon said.

Naturally, one of those obituaries inspired a song. It was that of Esther Cohen, a Greek Holocaust survivor who educated future generations on her ordeals.

“I thought of the people of that era, and not only Holocaust survivors, but World War II veterans, people who worked in the civil rights movement, people who endured amazing things and in some cases accomplished amazing things,” said McCutcheon. “Everything is going to be second hand as they pass on. Esther’s story really struck me. I figured she deserved at least one song.”

Memories of the dead have colored several of McCutcheon’s songs over the years, including two other standouts on Leap! “Song When You Are Dead” is a rare spinoff song. It stems from his 2020 track “The Night That John Prine Died” in that it led to another of McCutcheon’s other friends to ask him for their very own song of remembrance. Instead, the song becomes an absurd comedy that rhymes composing and decomposing. It’s corny at times, but charming.

Also funny, but much more profound, is “The Third Way,” the true story of his Cuban father in law’s experiences in a Georgia steel mill during the 1960s.

“Carlos was my father in law. He was born on a farm in Cuba and my wife was born in Havana,” McCutcheon explained. “Like most Cubans at the time, they supported the revolution until they couldn’t. They arrived here in 1964 and he took this job at a local steel mill. He certainly had never lived in a system that segregated basic services into white and colored.”

When Darnell, a black man assigned to train Carlos showed him to the bathroom, Carlos had an interesting reaction.

“There was an amusing moment of tension there when he realized he couldn’t use either bathroom. So as a matter of his own private protest, he just went out and pissed in the woods.”

It was an amazing act of protest that resonated across languages and cultures. It’s inspiring. In an age when ‘Let’s Go Brandon’ and pink knit caps qualifiy as clever political protest, it’s a reminder that certain bold acts can still make an impact.

“We are talking about a lot of non-binary things these days, but we often don’t talk about non-binary thinking,” added McCutcheon.

Speaking of our political situation, McCutcheon saw parallels between modern America and “The Troubles” in Northern Ireland after participating in a songwriting workshop in the region.

“I came home thinking that we have these things we digest from afar, where you have two groups who are essentially neighbors and these people are killing each other,” McCutcheon said. “The whole point of this song is to say it’s not just over there, it’s not just them. We have our own version of it right here.”

Elsewhere on the album, “The Ride” manages to be uplifting while sounding absolutely fantastic. On “Fuller Brush,” McCutcheon provides a vivid picture of a confident but drained door-to-door salesman and uses it to lament that entire institutions have come and gone over the course of his lifetime.

McCutcheon knows his way around a folk song. He literally owns the domain name for Leap! is a solid collection of 18 songs, most of which come along with a well-measured message of some sort. They were mostly written over the pandemic but rarely directly address it. The style is timeless and as pure folk as McCutcheon’s website would suggest, but the messages are almost all timely.

Above is the full episode as aired on WUSB’s Country Pocket, including both my interview with John McCutcheon and the songs we discussed, starting with Second Hand, which the song about Esther Cohen. You can hear the show live every Monday at 11am on WUSB 90.1 FM or check the blog to watch it as a YouTube playlist. Visit and for more.

Posted in On Air

Laura Benitez Talks Politics, Denial, and Breakups via California Centuries

Politics and denial can both be helpful for mankind if used correctly. People can vote for representatives who promise competent and efficient government. Even denial has its purposes. Laura Benitez, who performs with a backing band called the Heartache and who penned their album California Centuries, explained that we make good use of denial every day. 

“It’s best that you don’t think of your chances of dying in a car accident as you’re driving down the road,” said Benitez. “It’s fine to know those things, but it’s not helpful.”

Unfortunately, politics and denial are not so helpful when they mix. In the incisive “Bad Things,” Benitez channels her pre-pandemic angst into a warning that those of us lucky enough to live in America still need to vigilant. The last verse describes a crisis in which doctors and lawyers flee an increasingly terrifying strongman.

“A lot of people have talked about it as me talking about a refugee crisis,” Benitez explained. “I’m not not talking about that, but what I meant to say is that the refugees are us. In this country, we have this idea that we’re wealthy and first world and we can rest assured that truly terrible things don’t happen here. But I don’t think we can, and the past few years have truly taught that to me in stark terms”

The thought isn’t comfortable for many of us. The other kind of denial that shows up on California Centuries is all about that notion of discomfort. Conversations about topics like race, guns, and police brutality are difficult for people invested in a right-wing world view and downright terrifying for those trying to maintain an unjust status quo for their own ends. So the conversations are deemed inappropriate. Pundits say it’s too soon after a mass shooting to talk about guns; governors say that children are too impressionable to read about the experiences of minority groups. “Gaslight (We Shouldn’t Talk About It)” takes on that attitude by pointing out the reason for interrupting those conversations is to prevent any empathizing from taking place.

“They know when the conversations happen, we come together and we find solutions for the most part,” Benitez said. “If we have the conversation, we’re going to realize that this isn’t the problem. The problem is the people in power. I think we forget how much power we have in organizing, in getting together. That is our superpower.”

There are some non-political standouts as well. In “Plaid Shirt,” Benitez uses a left-behind article of clothing as a profound and amusing way to example a breakup. It’s one thing to be left for another person, Benitez explained. 

“I think we all understand wanting to be with someone else,” Benitez said. “If you’re in a long term relationship, it’s not like you don’t have attractions to other people. We’re all human. That’s all normal. But if they are just a different person, it’s way weirder for sure.” 

But for someone to change, for that person to no longer exist, that’s not as easy to grasp. For this man to have failed to take this plaid shirt when he moved out meant that maybe his tastes had changed, or he was only putting on a sort of costume for his ex. Or maybe, it’s just that his new woman prefers to dress him another way. 

“It’s also just a little bit of country pettiness to be like ‘Oh you’re going to dress all differently now,’” Benitez said. “You gotta have that.”

To close the interview, I asked Benitez to name her favorite California country song. The Bakersfield sound seemed almost certain to make an appearance, but Benitez quite literally had the city show up in the title of the song. As someone who lives in an area with congested roads, I’m partial to CALICO the Band’s “The 405,” which uses the infamous traffic of Los Angeles as a metaphor for that one giant problem standing between a couple and their happiness. It seems like they live a few miles apart, but the distance between proves to be a lot more impressive when all those brake lights come into view.

Above is the full episode as aired on WUSB’s Country Pocket, including both my interview with Laura Benitez and the songs we discussed, starting with Bad Things, which also kicked off California Centuries. Our California country songs conclude the playlist. You can hear the show live every Monday at 11am on WUSB 90.1 FM or check the blog to watch it as a YouTube playlist. Visit and for more. Photo by Emily Sevin

Posted in On Air

Lindsay Lou’s you thought you knew: A Busy Mind Contemplates Existence and Change

“Everything changes when it needs to.” Those words are oft repeated on “Ancient Oceans,” an unusual but clever song that documents geological transformations as a way of easing the listener into the comparatively small changes going on in their life. Lou has undergone quite a few changes of her own over the years, including moving through two backing bands and from a raw acoustic grassy sound to something more mainstream Americana.

Lou and I had an in depth conversation about change and human nature. Everyone has to change to survive, she explained, but everyone has an immutable part of themselves, their essence, that will remain consistent. On standout track “Still Water,” she essentially says that there are people whose minds will always be still water and others who will experience the rush of a river. We both identify as rushing river types, although Lou has made attempts to quiet her mind through meditation, a practice she explains as focusing on the breath.

The conversation on change and consistency is especially relevant given Lou’s transformation in sound toward something more polished and with percussion. “If you love an artist, even if something about what they’re doing changes, you will see and you will feel, and you will be able to connect with something in there that is still them,” Lou said. “But maybe you’ve changed. The beautiful thing about music is sometimes you’ll go back to it years later and realize that the essential thing in me that connected to the essential thing in that that was an extension of the essential thing in the person who made it is still there. I just needed to go through something.”

I’m all there for Lou’s change in sound. While this EP was more grassy than some of her recent efforts, her more Americana sound remains enjoyable. Her voice is strong as always, both literally and metaphorically, and some of the songwriting is top-notch. Her 2018 rendition of her and her friend Maya De Vitry’s co-write “Shining in the Distance” stands out as an example of how rich her new sound can be. Still, you though you knew is a welcome return to some of her original vibes.

“Freedom,” a co-write and duet with Billy Strings, is, to use a word that was tossed around often in the interview, essential listening. The lyrics are somewhat modern but the sound is a call and response take on a traditional bluegrass hymn. When I tried talking about genre with Lou, she defined the word as non-existent or fluid. But she did acknowledge that learning the bluegrass repertoire gave her a tool with which to express herself and that it takes many tools and some original thoughts to make a song. If that’s the case, Lou and Strings are excellent handymen.

Above is the full episode as aired on WUSB’s Country Pocket, including both my interview with Lindsay Lou and the songs we discussed, starting with Still Water. We also discuss a concert she is performing with Sierra Hull that takes place in New York on September 22, 2022. If you’re reading after the tour and didn’t get a chance to attend one of the shows like I did, I’m sorry you weren’t able to make it. You can hear the show live every Monday at 11am on WUSB 90.1 FM or check the blog to watch it as a YouTube playlist. Visit and for more.

Posted in On Air

Haroula Rose’s Catch The Light: A Filmmaker Sings Folk

I must admit that I don’t understand a whole lot about directing, at least when compared to the folk music Haroula and I discussed. But I think her cover of Chris Stapleton’s “You Should Probably Leave” shows that she’s superior at directing a song. Rose takes Stapleton’s lyrics and adds sadness, resignation, and a one voice/one piano soundscape. After hearing this song about being used and abandoned sung from such a solitary place, Stapleton’s version with a band and harmony vocals just doesn’t sound the way the video of that song should look. I should see someone lying in bed without anyone to comfort them. I should see one singer on stage hunched over a piano. The song should be “naked,” as Haroula puts it. Perhaps that’s the advantage of producing music after having directed a few films.

The rest of the album works just as fantastically with imagery and small details. “Happenstance” captures a moment at a funeral when all the people gossiping about the subject’s drug habit sit in stunned silence. “Summer Storm” uses a combination of low bass and sparse high notes on a piano to create a wide open and foreboding soundscape that matches the feeling of standing in the titular storm.

There’s a sharp tension between “The Nature of Things” and “Time’s Fool.” “The Nature of Things” is hopeful and mature, realizing that life moves in cycles and that this might be a low point. “Come close then pull away/Maybe we’ll come back around some day,” Rose sings. “Time’s Fool” is not ready to accept that reality. It’s a vulnerable gut punch that may be aware that nothing is permanent but isn’t willing to concede such a hard-won relationship to a silly little thing like the passage of time. I subscribe to the world that the former presents, but I’m drawn both to the fantasy and the songwriting of the latter.

Above is the full episode as aired on WUSB’s Country Pocket including both my interview with Haroula and the songs we discuss, starting with the track Happenstance. You’ll also get to see a music video Haroula directed. It features swimming in the nude, which is something Haroula believes is something deeply embedded in the human experience. I guess I do enjoy baths. You can hear the show live every Monday at 11am on WUSB 90.1 FM or check the blog to watch it as a YouTube playlist. Visit and for more.

Posted in On Air

Edie Carey Faces Life After The Lifting of The Veil

For Edie Carey, it was a car accident that shattered the veil. Carey told me that she’s used to having her guard up on cross-country tours but not so much driving around her neighborhood with her kids in the backseat. One violent impact later, that’s all changed. Many of us have had our veil incident in the last few years, be it a pandemic that invaded our country and our lungs, or the January 6th insurrection revealing to even the most apathetic just how tense our politics have become. Ironically, Carey has come to view her song “The Veil” from a place of determination. In her eyes, George Floyd’s murder has lifted the veil on racism and police brutality. Her original statement that we can’t go back anymore has changed from a negative into a call for progress. While it seems to me that many in this country are working as hard as possible to go back, I admire her optimism.

Change, vulnerability, and optimism summarize much of the album. “Hold on a little longer/holding on doesn’t mean that you can’t cry,” Carey says on the inspirational but realistic “Rise.” Tracks like “Who I Was” and “The Old Me” yearn to recapture lost magic, whether in a relationship or just in life.

“I Know This” is a pandemic era song if I’ve ever heard one, but one written from the perspective of a parent rather than that of a bored touring musician. The shift in perspective makes song devastating instead of cute. Of trying to raise her children through an era of COVID, mass shootings, and political turmoil, Carey sings: “They look to me to tell them what to do/But you can’t train for this/Blind shots in the abyss/I’m terrified but I’m supposed to be bulletproof.” Learning how to slow down may have been a universally relatable experience during the pandemic, but I can’t place in my mind any of the dozens of songs I’ve heard on the topic as easily as I can the above lyrics.

“The Cypress and the Oak” carries the strongest melody on the album and draws inspiration from a poem that describes a symbiotic relationship in nature. Carey wrote the song as a commission for a couple and changed a few details to make it more “universal” when releasing it on the album.

Above is the full episode as aired on WUSB’s Country Pocket, including both my interview with Edie and the songs we discuss, starting with the album’s title track. You can hear the show live every Monday at 11am on WUSB 90.1 FM or check the blog to watch it as a YouTube playlist. Visit and for more. Photo credit Tim Carey.

Posted in On Air

Musician and Lawyer Paula Boggs on Janus, Trump, and Hope

Paula Boggs wrote a song about her enslaved ancestor that ended on a note of hope. King Brewster was born to an enslaved woman and the white man who claimed to own her before being set free following the Civil War and the passage of the 13th amendment. He made a life for himself: he owned property, had a number of children, and registered to vote. When reconstruction ended, his hard-earned gains were stripped away by a newly emboldened white supremacist movement in the south. When I heard the song, I saw parallels to today. The Supreme Court gutted the voting rights act and unsurprisingly, white Southerners are working to wrestle basic rights back from people who look a lot like King.

But Boggs is steadfast in her belief that tomorrow could be better. That hope seems out of place to me, but Paula is informed, intelligent, and has her reasons. Slavery was ended, she explained, because the tools to make positive change were built into our admittedly imperfect system of government. Crazy as political times may seem, that same constitution that finally recognized King as a free man and a citizen still exists, and in a much stronger form than it did back in the 1860s. Boggs, who definitely understands more about the law than I do, thinks we can use those tools to do the right thing. I sure hope she’s right.

Above is the full episode as aired on WUSB’s Country Pocket, including both my interview with Paula and the songs we discuss, starting with the aforementioned King Brewster, which features the great Dom Flemons. Boggs also speaks about what outrage led her to resign from her government post to protest Donald Trump. She’s a real inspiration. You can hear the show live every Monday at 11am on WUSB 90.1 FM or check the blog to watch it as a YouTube playlist. Visit and for more.

Posted in On Air, Reviews

The Singing Butcher Kills It On Debut EP

I’ve thanked many artists for writing a song during my years hosting a radio show and for the most part I’ve gotten ‘thank you’s back. My conversation with Timothy George, who performs as The Singing Butcher, went differently in the most delightful way.

“That’s awesome,” George said. “I don’t have dreams of singing that song in front of 20,000 people. I have dreams of someone sending me a Facebook message to the band page and saying ‘Holy shit. That song really helped me.’”

“It also makes you feel a little less crazy,” George added after a brief pause.

George’s ambitions are made clear on his debut EP The Butcher Papers, a collection of five introspective songs with complex arrangements and deeply felt vocals that at times bordered on unconventional.

“I’m not classically a great singer,” George admitted. “I’m pitchy and gravelly, and I can be a bit nasally. But I don’t think those songs would’ve had the same effect if they were sung a different way. I don’t think you can convey the same emotion without sounding like every long note is destroying you

He had just been discussing his vocals on “Big Two-Hearted River,” a six-minute Western centered around a prisoner arrested for doing some butchering on something more human than the meats at the job George, as his moniker suggests, continues to work. He did have one critique for his vocal work, though.

“I feel like my performance on the record would’ve been a lot better if I hadn’t been so hungover every time I tried to sing vocals,” George said.

During an interview for the April 3rd episode of Country Pocket on WUSB, George was also frank about his struggles with anxiety. He wrote “Whatever Keeps Your Love Around” after seeing the effect his anxiety had on the women he’s dated. In the song he struggles with a significant other’s compliments, ultimately deciding to accept them while disagreeing with them.

“It’s whatever keeps you here. I need you. I don’t know what I’d do without you. But you probably shouldn’t be in this relationship.” George said of the song’s message.

The Butcher Papers has an unusually full and varied sound for a debut EP from a singer-songwriter. “Indiana Gal,” originally about a woman from Louisiana, features Dixieland horns in its second half. “Whatever Keeps Your Love Around” switches from fingerpicking to electric with backing singers. It’s only the wanderlust-driven “Early Morning Heat” that sounds conventional and entirely within George’s vocal range.

“I knew I was going to be performing predominantly as an acoustic artist for a while, but that wasn’t serving [my songs],” George said. “So I wanted to try to create different flows and different feelings and different movements to one song, so it’s not just one thing.”

George succeeds here. The five tracks feel as fleshed out as an album, and not just because they total 26 minutes long. Each is fully realized, and together they make The Singing Butcher a compelling act to watch as he gets ready to record his next project.