republican hair

Nashville feel-good rock band Republican Hair keeps it high and tight
for The Oklahoman / NewsOK

by Casey Pierce

Luke Dick talks a lot about perspectives, and he’s lived enough lives to have a few. He’s been an adjunct philosophy professor, a forklift driver and a documentary producer: The forthcoming “Red Dog” chronicles his own childhood spent hanging out in a topless bar. Currently, the 39-year-old Oklahoma native fronts the shimmering, punky rock band Republican Hair while making his living penning country hits for artists like Dierks Bentley, Eric Church and Miranda Lambert.

For Dick, the road to the Country Music Awards was paved with Sweet’N Low. He broke into the professional (read: paid) songwriting world by writing a different kind of commercially successful music: music for actual commercials. From there, the leap to Nashville’s Music Row wasn’t as drastic as one might think.

“A lot of people at ad agencies who develop commercials are frustrated English majors, and I get along with frustrated English majors,” Dick said. “They’re artistic in the sense that they have creative aspirations for selling ketchup and Sweet’N Low, and I could indulge that and had fun with it.”

Having a goal for songwriting — not “banishing the muses,” per se, but being able to translate another person’s perspective into song — is something Dick said carried over from his agency work to writing for country artists.

“I’d written so much music for myself and thought I had a vision, but I honestly don’t even know what I was writing about or if it connected with anything,” Dick said. “Strangely, writing about ketchup was connected to the world somehow. When I write with other people, with the artist in the room, they have something that they want to say. To use all of my creative powers to help them be a character or create something, that became a skill, a perspective … one that I started learning musically and sometimes lyrically by selling ketchup.”

That skill has been key to the arc of Dick’s career, of late. Songwriting often has a mysticism projected onto it. People who don’t do it imagine that it’s more translating latent talent and inspiration into notes than it is a craft to be learned, nurtured and challenged. Dick’s songwriting perspective falls somewhere in between, at once supernatural and down-to-earth.

“It’s not like I don’t have some level of romanticism, but that radical perspective on songwriting … it makes me roll my eyes,” Dick said. “I take songs seriously, but ‘Good Golly Miss Molly’ was pretty f—— good, you know. And most songwriters won’t get a ‘Good Golly Miss Molly.’ To imagine that a songwriter has an answer they can unlock if they connect to a muse or conduit seems pretty pretentious to me. Music makes you move, and it’s so magical, and that’s pretty great. Just focus on that versus some wild inspiration you’re privy to.”

Republican Hair focuses on that magic pretty intently. It’s easy to mistake this project as tongue-in-cheek, more so if you talk to Dick and hear the equal mix of deadpan punchlines and belly laughs he gives while discussing it. But if you let yourself listen without trying too hard, the Republican Hair discography possesses a signature brand of magic that doesn’t require too much analysis: It’s candid and absurd and has a refreshing lack of irony. Dick sings as a protagonist who’s, like, really glad you’re here, as long as you’re gonna be cool about it. The band is an exercise in proving that anything can be a song if you let it, and the formula has worked since the beginning.

“I sat down with another guy named Luke, and I could tell by the look on his hands that he couldn’t write country music, so I wasn’t going to force a country song,” Dick said. “I wanted to write a song that had two awesome guitar parts, went by in one and a half or two minutes, and that I was done recording it in six to eight hours. So that’s what I did. The first song that was ever a Republican Hair song before Republican Hair was even a thing is called ‘I Don’t Care,’ and it’s about the end of the world. I finished it and really liked it, and I liked the perspective, and it turns out there was this whole other side of my brain, my creativity, this sort of chaos, rat’s nest that I needed to explore more.”

Other treasures from that rat’s nest include “Whatever Blows Your Hair Back,” from 2016’s debut full-length “High and Tight,” sparked by Dick and his son blowing a leaf blower in their faces. Then there’s “Miss Prince,” from 2017’s “The Prince & the Duke,” a funk-laced, falsetto-filled party track about — what else — missing Prince. It isn’t country in the least, but the song, or the idea of what makes a song, remains the same, at least a little.

“I would say country at its best, or maybe always, strives for some kind of lyrical narrative,” Dick said. “There’s a focus in this intellectual endeavor, songwriting — though I don’t consider Republican Hair an intellectual endeavor — and even at its most flippant, I can’t get away from thematic writing. That’s country.”

What sets these songs apart, then, is the result of slight modifications to Dick’s philosophy.

“I try to make decisions quickly with Republican Hair, and if something is not happening quickly, I’ll abandon it,” Dick said. “It’s all an outward expression. There’s not too much singer-songwriter-y, inside-the-head situation happening. The lyrics have gotten a little more nebulous to where I’m OK with just throwing similar colors from the palette at the wall rather than trying to make the story be so cohesive. You don’t have to understand it but should at least want to enjoy it in some capacity.”

This sentiment is driven home across Republican Hair’s whole aesthetic, from the band’s psychedelic, Technicolor music videos, directed by Nashville artist Casey Pierce, to the live-and-let-live mantra that echoes through so many of the band’s lyrics.

“Oh, don’t wanna hear about your problems,” Dick croaks on the appropriately titled “Don’t Be a Drag.” “Oh, can’t we just have a good time?”

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waxahatchee

Waxahatchee’s Katie Crutchfield talks moving on, moving forward
for The Oklahoman / NewsOK / LOOKatOKC

Nearly regardless of who you ask, Waxahatchee, also known as 29-year-old songwriter Katie Crutchfield, put out one of 2017’s best albums.

Seminal rock critic Rob Sheffield wrote about “Out in the Storm,” which landed at #14 on the year-end best-of list for “Rolling Stone,” calling it a “punk rock answer to Carole King’s ‘Tapestry.’ ”

“That made my day,” Crutchfield said. “I feel pretty fortunate because even when all else is going wrong in my life, usually record critics will like my records for the most part. I do feel very blessed in that. It’s not super frequent that it’s a horrible review, at least — knock on wood — not yet.”

It’s this silver lining outlook that makes “Out in the Storm” unusual for, as Crutchfield calls it, “a breakup record.” What sets it apart is its laser focus on honest reflection, two-party blame and moving forward. There’s no painful wallowing (see: Ryan Adams’ “Heartbreaker”) or that other, less tactful trope of breakup songs, revenge (see: Beyonce’s “Lemonade” or any other woman taking a “Louisville slugger to both headlights”). Instead, Crutchfield’s songs focus on the other side of what Sheffield called “gnarly emotional wreckage.”

“I wanted it to be hopeful. It’s about heartbreak, and it’s about picking yourself back up,” Crutchfield said. “It’s not really about longing or missing the relationship. It’s kind of about the frustration, the relief, but also having a lot of anger to get out. I want people to, as they take the record off the turntable, to be like, OK, now I can move on.”

In other words, it’s just over a half-hour of the feeling you get for the first time after the hard part of a breakup, the first morning where you wake up and realize you’ll be fine. And when you take the record off the turntable and feel a little better, Crutchfield does, too.

“Long before I ever made money writing songs, the big reason that I did it was to process emotions,” Crutchfield said. “I’ve always used it as this tool to kind of get my feelings out; it’s always been cathartic. This record is a big example of me needing a vehicle to get through this hard thing.”

Songs already in hand, Crutchfield called on her longtime live band (twin sister, Allison Crutchfield, drummer Ashley Arnwine and bassist Katherine Simonetti), percussionist Joey Doubek and old friend and indie rock go-to guitarist Katie Harkin, known for her work with Sleater-Kinney and Flock of Dimes in addition to her own projects.

“Typically, I’m sort of like a sheepdog, herding everybody into the direction I want, but with this one, I worked with my live band and Katie Harkin and wanted to lean on their personal styles of playing,” Crutchfield said. “Me and the rhythm section of my band have been playing together for a long time, and we’ve turned a lot of old songs into a new thing and have a specific energy I wanted to capture.”

 Producer John Agnello (Dinosaur Jr., Kurt Vile) also lent his expertise, and, all hands on deck, “Out in the Storm” ended up becoming the record Crutchfield secretly wanted to make in the first place.

“I self-consciously went in thinking I wanted to make a rock record, and then when we were in the studio, I thought, ‘Oh, ha, this is definitely a rock record,’ ” Crutchfield said.

It is a rock record, coming out of the gate with punchy stunner “Never Been Wrong,” on which Crutchfield sings, as a sometimes-antagonist, “I love being right / especially with you,” or the bass-heavy “8 Ball.” There are also extreme pop leanings, as on “Sparks Fly,” an expansive, effects-laden anthem, or the satisfyingly snarky “Brass Beam.”

“I think some of the most groundbreaking music being made right now is definitely pop music,” Crutchfield said, noting that two of her favorite albums of 2017 were Lorde’s “Melodrama” and SZA’s “Ctrl.”

“It’s something I study and am constantly inspired by. I think back about me and my sister, in our early teenage musical renaissance, we’d listen to the Velvet Underground but also radio pop, usually unabashedly. That music is important; it defined our generation.”

Allison Crutchfield, a solo artist as well as sometimes Waxahatchee band member, is also a primary source of inspiration for Katie, who notes her sister’s influence doesn’t always reveal itself in obvious ways.

“She’s been such a big part of my musical journey from Day One that everything I do feels like it’s a little bit her, and vice versa,” Crutchfield said. “I’m not sure that I could pinpoint, like, Allison always does this in her songwriting, and that’s where I get that from, but if she hears a song I wrote and says, ‘This is really good, Katie,’ that’s all I need to put it out into the world. That’s the big strength of our relationship; we make things for ourselves and for each other, and if that feels good and feels right, then we feel like we can share it.”

Calling her back

“Out in the Storm” has Crutchfield sharing a turning point, a substantial lyrical pivot for a songwriter formerly known for intense vulnerability, now giving way to a self-actualization, of sorts. This may explain why, after years of bouncing around the East Coast, Crutchfield recently moved back to her home state of Alabama.

“A lot of the early Waxahatchee songs, the setting is Alabama; it feels Southern. I think I was resistant to that being the narrative because I had really abruptly left and was excited to be in New York or be in Philadelphia and be away from the South,” Crutchfield said. “But as the years have passed, it’s been calling me back. I’m starting to write another record, and I have a lot of ideas, and it’s kind of hard to describe, but I feel like my early voice felt like it needed to be there. It’s a wavelength, and I need to go get back on it.”

The Crutchfield returning to Alabama after a few short years seems vastly different from the one who left, firmly in control of her own narrative now, regardless of geography. Her run of shows through the South, in fact, including Feb. 21’s Tower Theatre performance, are solo performances after a year of performing with her band. “I’ll go back south, I’ll leave it all behind / See myself clearly for the first time,” she sings on “Sparks Fly.”

And, perhaps in a pre-emptive response to fans or record reviewers trying to keep up from city to city, sound to sound: “I know you don’t recognize me,” she sings, breathlessly, “but I’m a live wire, finally.”

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jd mcpherson

Of the music firmament
for The Tulsa Voice

by Joshua Black Wilkins

While writing his new album, JD McPherson didn’t wear his heart on his sleeve, he said, but he “exposed maybe one or two chambers.”

A lifelong Oklahoman who relocated with his family to Nashville last year, McPherson recorded the deeply personal Undivided Heart & Soul with his band at the historic RCA Studio B, recording home of Chet Atkins and Elvis Presley and a major player in the creation of the Nashville sound. Permission to do so was an unexpected, saved-by-the-bell twist of fate that capped a series of creative frustrations and false starts. The album is full of lyrical tension and release, experimental work with equipment steeped in history, and, in terms of McPherson’s career, unprecedented levels of collaboration in production and songwriting.

McPherson and band (guitarist Doug Corcoran, keyboard player Ray Jacildo, drummer Jason Smay, and bassist Jimmy Sutton) will play Cain’s Ballroom Saturday, Dec. 16, at the tail end of two months of intense touring in support of the album, which was released in October.

Becky Carman: You’re calling this a “truly romantic garage rock record.” What does that mean?

JD McPherson: I was a little more transparent with thoughts and experiences. I love it when music is sort of jagged and maybe even a little abrasive, but it’s coming from sort of a tender place, and I kept thinking about music like that when I was writing. It was almost like I had this fear of the music being an unexpected twist for fans of our band, and somehow I was already in the muck and decided to let more personal things out. I guess it’s probably the most vulnerable I’ve allowed myself to be yet. When you think about garage rock or any kind of loud fuzzy stuff, it doesn’t usually conjure images of vulnerability. I kind of wanted it to be a little of both.

Carman: The record seems to be doing really well critically. At what point in your process are you most at peace with the finished product?

McPherson: I am happy with it, but I’m still a bit haunted by some of the inner-band politics that happened during the making. The band was having a really hard time when we were making that record, and it was probably because of the nervous breakdown vibe I was putting out. I felt like I was dragging a refrigerator across a parking lot. There were some tough decisions that had to be made, and we’re still feeling that on the road. Looking back, it was a fond experience, but the other side of that is you’re still trying to play these shows with the band, and you put them through a lot. We’re gonna be okay, though.

Carman: You had a plan to record in a different studio. What happened?

McPherson: I’ll play both sides here. It was very detrimental to morale and to the budget, but the producer pulled the plug after the first day. Nobody’s making Van Halen bucks anymore, so record budgets are pretty small, and when the session gets canceled and nothing comes of it … that was a huge loss, and it just made everybody feel bad. Everybody was like, wow, one day, and we can’t cut it?

On that producer’s side, the songs really weren’t ready, and the band wasn’t, as far as morale goes, in shape. I guess it wasn’t moving fast enough for the producer, so he pulled the plug. I’m actually quite happy with the way it ended up, even though for a while it felt like we were just the scum of the earth. It took a little bit of nursing our wounds, but being invited to RCA Studio B was the best thing that could have happened. For history nerds like us, you couldn’t have picked a better spot.

Carman: What are a couple of specific things on the record that only happened because of RCA Studio B?

McPherson: Anytime you hear a vibraphone. We put a vibraphone track on pretty much every song. The bell sound on “Lucky Penny”—that’s vibraphone. The marimba on “Style (Is a Losing Game).” The Floyd Cramer piano was the reason Ray and I started writing together. That piano was a really magic piano. Two things about it: The studio staff has to clean out the piano, because people will come on the studio tour and dump a relative’s ashes into it. The other thing: One day we pulled the music stand out to write a chord chart, and the light hit a certain way, and there were decades of ballpoint pen remnants of people writing out charts. Indentations from the golden days.

Carman: There are many influences people have picked up on on this record. As somebody who hoards musical knowledge and really loves those subtleties, has anyone drawn any parallels or noticed something that surprised you?

McPherson: The one word that 80 percent of people use—incorrectly—is “rockabilly.” I’m not purposely excluding rockabilly as an influence; it’s definitely a thing in my mind, and we’ve never done that thing. But as long as people are talking about the album, I’m grateful. In Birmingham, Alabama, this guy came up to me and said, “You guys really remind me of my favorite band, Sonic Youth.” I couldn’t figure it out but also was really pleased.

Carman: You did several co-writes for this album. Do you have a dream co-writing partner?

McPherson: Yes, and what’s really, truly sad about it is that I already had a crack at it and failed miserably. I was Nick Lowe’s first co-write. Nick Lowe visited Nashville, and his manager called me and said Nick was flirting with writing with other people and “We’d really like you to be the first guy.” So I’m in Nick’s hotel room, and he’s lying on his bed in his socks with a guitar, and the news is on, and I didn’t really have any ideas. If you told me there was gonna be a co-write with Nick Lowe, I would have taken a year to prepare for it. I played him some songs I was working on, and he played songs he was working on, and, you know, what do you say? Like, oh yeah, there’s another brilliant example of perfect songcraft. I was punching myself in the forehead on the elevator. I don’t think there’s anybody better or cooler than Nick. Maybe one day I’ll get another shot.

Carman: How do you feel about Cain’s Ballroom? For somebody with your appreciation for the history of music, it seems like it might mean a little bit more to you than it does to others.

McPherson: The first shows I ever went to were at Cain’s. At that time, there were pews. It sounds really, really hokey, but in the back of my brain, there was some sort of church-like image I summoned up whenever I thought about going to Cain’s. It became my favorite place to be, to play. I think it’s pretty much everybody’s favorite place to play.  To me, the music firmament of the United States is an example of what can be right and what can be good, and Cain’s is my favorite example of that. I think about that every time I’m there.

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jen kirkman

Comedian Jen Kirkman brings her personal-meets-political comedy to the women of Oklahoma City
for The Oklahoman / NewsOK

Jen Kirkman is a “feelings comedian.”

The New York Times best-selling author, television writer and stand-up performer’s signature comedy style highlights the absurdity of her personal experiences, from street harassment and solo travel to menstruation and marriage. Kirkman, who calls herself a “flaming liberal feminist,” also has found comedic respite in modern American politics, including election night sadness and the so-called Bernie Bros.

A sample joke from her Netflix special, release in January and titled “Just Keep Livin’?” illustrates the personal-meets-political bent she’s perfected in her two-decade career: “I don’t have time to be afraid of ISIS. I’m just busy being afraid of plain old men.”

To that end, Kirkman is performing a comedy show for a female-only audience (trans-inclusive) in Oklahoma City, to benefit Planned Parenthood’s Central Oklahoma City Clinic. In Kirkman’s words about the show, “87% of women have reported being sexually harassed … in real life and online. I want to provide a safe space for women to laugh loudly, speak freely and feel safe — and a space where I can see what it’s like after 20 years to perform to a roomful of people that have similar experiences just being on planet Earth in our bodies.”

I spoke with Kirkman at length about the show, her material, social media and the wisdom of Matthew McConaughey.

Q: How did the idea to do a show benefiting Planned Parenthood’s Central Oklahoma City Clinic come about?

Jen Kirkman: Obviously in areas like San Francisco and New York, I think there’s better access to programs like Planned Parenthood and probably people doing things for them all the time, so I wanted to find somewhere it seemed like they needed the support.

Q: This is the only all-female audience show you’ve done. Where’d that idea come from?

Kirkman: I was inspired by the “Wonder Woman” screenings and things like that, but now I sort of feel like an old lady who’s 10 steps behind as we keep growing and changing. People have been emailing me saying they’re not binary, or they’re agender, so can they come? What do I mean by women-only and trans-inclusive? What about all the other things? I’m a white, straight woman; I have privilege and blind spots. We’re all learning so fast.

 My whole point was trying to find somewhere people who have been harassed because of their gender, whether they express that subtly or overtly, can come and laugh without worrying. Not every man coming would be shouting us down or trying to hurt us, but when I taped my Netflix special last year, the women were laughing, and the men were quiet. I’ve had trouble at my shows with boys who think they know better, who think they’re feminists. I wanted to see what it felt like for everybody if they weren’t there for one night. It might be more than a show. I hope people will speak, and I’ll bring the mic around, and people can tell their #MeToo kind of stories. Honestly, a show where men come and watch that might be really informative, but that’ll be next.

Q: Americans look to their comedians as an extension of their identity politics. How do you broach that expectation?

Kirkman: Honestly, I don’t feel any expectation. It’s an interesting question, and you’re right; I can look at it as a big picture thing and see that society has an expectation. Or look at Jimmy Fallon, who doesn’t do politics, and I’m like, “Dude, why not capitalize on this time to be cool and do the right thing, or even just take an opportunity to talk about what’s on everyone’s mind?” Some people still want entertainment without politics.

I’m always preparing for my next album or special, so my material has to not be stuck in a certain period of time. In my Netflix special, I talk about street harassment and how we’re not supposed to talk about our periods. … I’ve always been sort of the personal-as-political female comedian. I talk about the generation gap, and how sad I was on election night, and I do a really silly bit about watching a Hallmark movie instead of the election results. It’s politics, but it’s really not hard-hitting. I’m a feelings comedian. I don’t want to talk about anger, but the sadness underneath it. It always comes back to me.

Q: How has being an American been different in all of your travel pre- and postelection?

Kirkman: I think people root for us because they know we’re not all terrible. In Canada, I got some booing and some guys coming up to me after shows because they love Bernie Sanders so much they didn’t want me to tell my experience. I have jokes about how his supporters harassed me and told me they were feminists; I have one about a guy who chased me into a parking garage to tell me he’s a feminist, and when I pointed out that what he was doing scares women, he said it shouldn’t because he’s one of the good ones. I was talking about aggressive male feminism that doesn’t listen to women and ironically got booed during it onstage.

Q: From a public personality’s standpoint, and someone who, when you started your career, it didn’t exist: Is social media good or bad?

Kirkman: For as much hell as social media can feel like, it’s really helpful. Is it bad to hear everyone say horrible things to me? Yes. I keep my filters on, though, and try to use it very strategically. I use it as a promotional tool, but I’m very careful now; I don’t go looking for trouble.

Also with the stuff we were talking about earlier, I get to eavesdrop and learn from people who are different than me all day long. I don’t talk to 10 people of color a day and 10 trans people or 10 gay guys, but I can on Twitter, so I can learn. Just like anything now, it’s a terrible environment for women: Whenever a new world emerges, we’re as scared as we are in a parking garage or whatever. I don’t enjoy the things everyone hates about it, but I find more positive than negative. Overall it’s evil, and also my experiences with it, at the end of the day, are mostly positive.

Q: You have a tattoo that says “JKL,” which is a reference to Matthew McConaughey’s slogan, “Just Keep Livin’.” Is that well-known? Do people know what you’re talking about?

Kirkman: No … (laughing) I think if it were more mainstream or my initials weren’t JK I probably wouldn’t have done it. It came from the writers’ room on “Chelsea Lately,” where anytime he came up, I would rush to his defense, like, “Guys, he seems really nice.” He started saying it after his dad died, and he has foundation for kids or whatever. It turned into a joke where whenever I would have a touch of good luck, like catching a flight someone else missed, my friends would say, “Oh, that’s JK livin’.” I never thought of myself as someone who had good luck, so it was sort of this moment in my life where I realized I don’t have to be who I always thought I was; I don’t have to be this sort of negative person. It’s really dumb, but it’s symbolic to me of how at any point you can change your perception of yourself. Now I think of myself as someone who’s really lucky. It means a lot to me on a weird level, and it’s technically a funny story.

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stories from the resistance

Excerpt. Originally published in The Tulsa Voice.

Planned Parenthood Great Plains Votes

“When Donald Trump was elected, we began the fight of the century,” said Aaron Wilder, media officer for Planned Parenthood Great Plains and the organization’s political affiliate, Planned Parenthood Great Plains Votes. “The election was bleak for us. Pence has a record of being one of the most anti-women legislators of all time.”

Once the results were in, Wilder said both organizations hit the ground running.

“I know what losing feels like as a progressive in Oklahoma, but typically, win or lose, you get an opportunity to take a breath and decompress, relax, think and plan again,” Wilder said. “For Planned Parenthood and lots of organizations, that breath never came.”

Prior to his current position, Wilder was the Oklahoma organizer for PPGP and PPGPV. He said the challenges, however daunting, came on the heels of two years of steady growth leading up to the election and an influx of support afterward.

“Since November, we’ve identified more than 4,000 new supporters in Oklahoma, a 29 percent increase,” Wilder said. “We’ve been able to translate that into real political power for Planned Parenthood Great Plains Votes and reproductive rights in Oklahoma.”

In January, PPGPV trained 300 Oklahomans to become activists in the federal fight over the Affordable Care Act. In April, they activated protesters to attend Republican Representative Jim Bridenstine’s town hall. The organization endorsed two candidates, Jacob Rosencrants in Norman and Karen Gaddis in Tulsa, in special elections this year. Both won seats in the State House.

Wilder said the expansion continues with new staff positions open, including the Oklahoma organizer role he vacated. A new health center is slated to open in Oklahoma City in March, with another breaking ground in Tulsa next year.

“We’ve been part of Oklahoma’s fabric since 1937,” Wilder said. “Planned Parenthood Great Plains is strong and isn’t planning on going anywhere.”

Levi Parham

by Pete Lacker

During last year’s Standing Rock protests over the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), Oklahoma songwriter Levi Parham found himself at a crossroads.

He released his 2016 album, These American Blues, with Music Road Records, a label co-founded by Austin songwriter and former Oklahoman Jimmy LaFave and funded by Kelcy Warren. Warren is the CEO and chairman of Energy Transfer Partners, the operators of DAPL.

Protestors demanded Parham and other artists sever ties with Warren’s label. The songwriter called his contract with Music Road “basically like charity.”

“Nobody was going to make any money,” he said. He had never met Warren and landed at Music Road only by way of LaFave’s support.

For Parham, it was a gray area: He had no relationship nor any connection with Warren, only assistance from the label’s small staff. He credits songwriter Samantha Crain for putting the issue into perspective.

“She told me, ‘You’ve got to stand on the right side of history,’” he said. “I had to make a decision.”

In November 2016, Parham opted out of the second album in his contract and made a statement on Facebook, a subtle move with heavy implications.

“It meant publicly separating myself from people … who wanted nothing more than to help me and giving up knowing … I’d have the opportunity to make art,” Parham said. “Jimmy was going through cancer at the time. It was all a whirlwind of emotion.”

Music Road still owns These American Blues, which Parham did not have the funds to buy back. He said communication with the label about the album has been difficult but that his decision was the right one.

“I don’t regret it,” Parham said. “It was the best way I could stand in solidarity with Standing Rock.”

LaFave passed away from spindle cell sarcoma in May. DAPL began shipping oil to customers in June.

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wild heart ranch

Wild and Free
for Oklahoma Today

By Lori Duckworth

Those who visit Wild Heart Ranch, a wildlife rehabilitation facility outside Claremore, likely will meet Pat. Pat looks something like a half-shaven turkey or a miniature ostrich. Curious and docile, she has probably seen better days, but it’s hard to say, because nobody even knew exactly what Pat was when she was rescued in April.

“She was found running around a shopping center with no feathers,” says Annette King, Wild Heart Ranch founder. “We weren’t sure at first, but we know now that she is a Cornish hen.”

Pat’s in good company with Wild Heart’s other residents: several talking birds, a free-roaming crow, the office bulldog, a pig, a donkey, and Keebler the lemur, a circus veteran who spends much of his time snuggling with teddy bears.

With this motley crew of unlikely mascots, it’s easy to see what King means when she says, “We take the odd kids, the hopeless. We fall in love with all the broken ones.”

Wild Heart Ranch began on a lark in 1996. King, then working for an insurance company, started rescuing horses, cats, and dogs. She brought so many to her land that she had to move permanently onto a larger property to care for them and eventually had to purchase the farm across the street to accommodate all her rescues. When a friend brought her a pair of orphaned baby raccoons, she decided to get her wildlife rehabilitator license.

“I had no idea what I was doing, but I had to figure it out,” King says. “The first seven months, I was brought 860 wild animals.”

Since its founding, Wild Heart Ranch has rehabilitated 57,000 animals. King says she owes the ranch’s above-average save rate to Google and help from veterinarians like Claremore’s Lesleigh Cash Warren, as well as some of her own twelve years’ experience as a veterinary technician.

Last spring and summer, King and her volunteers—including her husband Dan Hardt—cared for, among others, baby armadillos, skunk kits, cottontails, ducks, chickens, possums, raccoons, owls, turkeys, and bottle-fed fawns. All orphans are housed indoors at first and, once old enough, are moved outdoors into pens. If healthy, they’re eventually released into appropriate natural habitats.

Wild Heart takes as many as 250 calls per day, and King and her crew refer and offer advice to some and take in animals from others. Occasionally, she’s asked to assist in a capture, and many of her emotional stories are detailed on Wild Heart’s website: a hairless raccoon runt mistreated as a house pet; a wolf kept chained around the neck; and a terrified cougar cub that had been caged and abused.

King worked several jobs—vet tech by day, bartender by night at one point—to fund her efforts, even borrowing against her own home. During a period of financial struggle in 2001, the local game warden asked her to take in a mother dog and nine puppies that had been dropped at the home of Sandy Brooks, then-wife of Garth Brooks. She reluctantly accepted as a favor to the warden and found facilities to take care of the dogs. When Brooks later called to adopt one of the puppies, King explained she wasn’t a dog rescue and gave Brooks the number to the shelter. The pair ended up spending hours on the phone discussing wildlife rehab, and a week later, Brooks showed up to volunteer, sparking a friendship that has been fundamental to Wild Heart’s continuation.

“I couldn’t borrow any money for my facility after the real estate market crashed,” King says. “I was ready to close down. Sandy suggested I become a nonprofit and offered to fund my paycheck and pay the bills. She’s been making that donation for the last ten years. It’s more than incredible.”

On a relative shoestring budget of donated funds, Wild Heart Ranch matches the capacity of much larger facilities. It’s not glamorous and often is thankless, but King says saving creatures like Pat at Wild Heart Ranch is where she’s supposed to be.

The Buffalo Run Casino and Resort in Miami is hosting a fundraiser for Wild Heart Ranch November 4. Tickets are $50. (918) 230-2134 or buffalorun.com. Wild Heart Ranch, (918) 342-9453 or wildheartranch.org

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berry

Band Q&A: Berry
for The Oklahoman / NewsOK

By Josh Newman

For 15 years, Midwestern indie pop band Berry has been writing and releasing its intricate, experimental pop songs. From the band members’ early days as Chicago roommates, beyond the frustration of the music industry and to the members’ current lives, spread across the country in a variety of careers, Berry’s creative nucleus has maintained its pull.

The band, which meets by phone regularly and travels to create music together annually, has completed a new album, “Everything, Compromised,” along with producer Paul Klimson (John Legend, Erykah Badu). In celebration, Berry is embarking on a brief tour of some of some of its members current hometowns, as well as Oklahoma City, in which Berry’s long had creative partners.

All four members of the band answered some questions for The Oklahoman about Berry — past, present and future. They’ll perform at Speakeasy on Thursday with Samantha Crain and new band WAD, featuring members of Student Film.

Q: Berry seems like it was a pretty prolific, active band for so many years when you lived in the same place. What eventually pulled you all in different geographic directions?
Joey Lemon: Living in the same house together had kind of an equal-and-opposite-reaction effect on us. Our nucleus had become so tight that we kind of had to explode. We’d pushed and pushed and pushed as a band, and it was hard to see any progress with music as a “career.” I think we were all a little tired of that prospect, so we had to go find other “careers” in order to make music a “joy,” together, again.

Q: Relocation is something that has pulled a lot of bands apart. Was it always clear that you planned on collaborating long-distance?
Lemon: We left our last full-length album, “Blue Sky, Raging Sun,” unfinished when we dispersed. We knew we had to finish that, and we did. We eventually released the album, and we toured, but it wasn’t clear how we’d actually proceed from there. We never said that we were “breaking up,” so I think that helped. Shane has always been a driving force in our continuation, though. He came late to the Berry game, so he’s always had a little more motivation to re-create our unique time together in Chicago.
Paul Goodenough: In hindsight, it is easy to say it was clear all along we should find our way back into regular, sustained, intentional, musical collaboration. There is a powerful force we are all drawn into when we work together, and that I think we all desire very deeply to connect with.

Q: What are some ways the band’s physical separation has informed the way you work together?
 Shane Bordeau: Supporting each other and being in touch has become crucial. Times when we haven’t been in touch for two weeks or more really put a strain our ability to work together. We have to put intention into staying connected.
Matt Aufrecht: The time we spend together physically is precious and focused. We can essentially create the outlines for entire albums in a handful of days.
Goodenough: I have learned to be more emotionally invested in my bandmates’ lives. It is just as important that we celebrate each other’s highs and console each other’s lows in daily life as it is for a certain percussion track to get recorded or for a particular press inquiry email to get sent.

Q: With so many self-produced records in your catalog, why was it the right choice to hand “Everything, Compromised” to Paul Klimson?
Lemon: PK mixed our first full-length album. Since then, he’s always been this distant source of inspiration. With “Everything, Compromised,” I was really struggling (with the) live tracks we’d recorded as a band. I was fighting a lot of depression that led to apathy, and PK started kicking my a– … not literally. He’d heard about these songs, and he wanted to hear them. PK is probably the only person I’d trust to help out, so as I finished up vocals and overdubs, I just started dropping everything on him. We haven’t looked back.

Q: What’s your connection to Oklahoma? And to the other artists on the Speakeasy show’s roster?
Aufrecht: We first played with Student Film at a festival in Texas, and they became one of my all-time favorite bands. I made it my mission to play with them as much as possible. Now, whenever we get the chance to play shows, Oklahoma is pretty much mandatory.
Lemon: We met Sam Crain unrelated to the Oklahoma scene. She was studying at a small music program that Paul and I went to on Martha’s Vineyard. I remember hearing her sing around campfire and thinking, ‘Damn, she’s good.’ A year or so later, I booked a solo tour with her. She was a workhorse and an awesome person to collaborate with, so we later booked a Berry tour with her. I recorded her first EP and her full-length album.
Goodenough: There are some appreciable similarities between downstate Illinois where we started and Oklahoma. Lots of weekend piety and church camp, conservative politics, racial injustice and mostly latent, some notably and tragically explicit, white supremacy. Cultural force-feeding from MTV and SPIN. I don’t think it is a big stand I’ve taken or anything, but I have always gravitated towards other people who are similarly fed up, and are seeking other ways of being faithful, political, social and artistic. Sam Crain, the Student Film guys, and lots of people we’ve met through them; we just really vibed with them. We’re kindred spirits.

Q: What happens after this run of shows (and with this new album finally complete) for Berry?
Goodenough: We have poured the foundation for eight more songs. I’ve been really eager to get working on them, as I know we all are. I look forward to us continuing to make new friends and collaborators.
Lemon: More of the same, I hope. We have a start on another album; this one PK has been with from the beginning, so we’re all pretty excited about finishing that. We’re also feeling a certain level of urgency. In the current political/social climate, it seems important to maintain our voice. I think we’d like to keep gathering and recording and playing shows. Maybe we’ll actually try to sell some music instead of giving it away.

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ludivine

I got to sample the new brunch menu at Ludivine. All of it. At a table of food writers and Instagrammers, people who use words like “offal” and don’t flinch when a Bloody Mary (or Russ, in this case) has a tentacle sticking out of it. Dream Sunday.

I wasn’t on an official assignment; in fact, most of the publications I freelance for were well-represented at the table. I, on the other hand, was just there to eat, squeal with delight, and formulate opinions. A few of my notes:

The Bloody Russ: The octopus braising liquid is in the tomato cocktail. Some bitters, Worcestershire…very traditional except for the pleasant seafood aftertaste. Totally into it.
Lobster and Grits: It is what it says it is. The grits were excellent; flavorful, with separate grains instead of just the mushy pile of cheese grits usually are. Pleasant and light.
Lox Bagel Benny: A freaking EVERYTHING BAGEL-FLAVORED bread pudding with a sweet, smooth corn cake texture, house-smoked lox (very high in salt; I’m into it), and poached eggs with a cream cheese fondue. Beautiful presentation, and very rich.
Huevos con Tamales: I know this is sacrilege, but these are the best tamales I’ve had at any restaurant anywhere. Super crisp masa, and a rich porky filling made of offal—hog’s head. Great balance in the salsa verde.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Those four items make this absolutely worth the trip during the brunch’s six-week trial run. Other highlights: Pain Perdue using Esca Vitae’s perfect brioche (skip the foie gras, totally unnecessary), goat bacon, and the waffle is…the best waffle I’ve ever had. Perfectly crispy, Belgian-style, with an ultra-sweet Madeira syrup. The kind of waffle that makes your kids want to eat sweetbreads. The Croque Tartine was excellent but fairly standard, and the steak and eggs were surprisingly anti-climactic compared to the boldness of the other dishes.

Here’s their shot of the menu:

Wondering what we have lined up for our Summer Brunch? Check out today's menu!

A post shared by Ludivine (@ludivineokc) on

 

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wirwar

Brussels spouts
for The Tulsa Voice

By Greg Bollinger

Dim lighting, antiqued damask wallpaper, ragged frames housing paintings of cowboys on the range. In the air, the din of conversation, clinking glass, classic country, and the aroma of … fries?

The Dutch word wirwar means “hodgepodge.” It’s a fitting name for Wirwar Tulsa, a Belgian honky-tonk, where Belgian beers and street food and American hillbilly music collide.

Broken Arrow native J.D. McPherson, a partner in Wirwar Tulsa, tours Belgium often and frequents Wirwar Turnhout, the concept borrowed for the Tulsa edition.

“I always go in there and hear old American country music; that’s a pretty common thing to run into,” McPherson said. “That’s a neat thing when you’re far from home. It helps you feel grounded.”

McPherson accidentally pitched the concept to partners Mike McLaughlin and Alex Desai, who were already in talks to bring a restaurant to The Boxyard.

“I mentioned in passing to Mike that I had a dream of someday opening a Belgian steakhouse,” McPherson said. “They called me back and said, ‘We want to do that.’”

Wirwar boasts a wide selection of Belgian and Belgian-style beers, many sourced from monastic breweries in Belgium.

“Belgium has the oldest, greatest beer culture. Every type of beer has its own glass—the ephemera is a big deal,” McPherson said. “They use wild yeast. It’s never the same and infinitely more exciting than any beer on the planet.”

The complexity and wildness of the Wirwar’s beer menu touches both sides of the price—from $2 to $20 or a little more—and flavor spectrums. There’s something for everyone here.

“If someone doesn’t know about beer, but they want to try a Belgian, I’d go with Achel,” a Belgian Trappist blond, said General Manager Chase Cline. “If they’ve tried everything, I might go with [Ommegang’s] Rosetta. It’s a sweet, interesting style that isn’t carried everywhere. Kind of a dessert beer.”

But you have to have a meal before you have dessert, and Wirwar offers an array of Belgian-style street foods, like a rich beef carbonnade (eat this with a strong, dark quad beer), liege waffles topped with speculoos, Burn Co. sausages, and the quintessential Belgian street eat, frites (which, McPherson implores, are to be eaten with mayonnaise and not ketchup).

Beyond Wirwar’s June 24 grand opening, there are special events in the works in partnership with the Belgian-owned New York brewery Ommegang, including a “Game of Thrones” tap takeover and a music video series.

A hodgepodge it might be, but other than the fry mayonnaise, “nothing we’re offering is unfamiliar to the Oklahoman palate,” McPherson said. “It’s steak, potatoes, waffles. It makes a whole lot of sense to dress this up as an Okie-friendly environment. Belgian beer, all the food that goes with it, and country music … it’s kind of a perfect little scene.”

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the hop jam

Concert review: Hop Jam Beer and Music Festival 2017
for The Oklahoman / NewsOK

By Nathan Poppe

I’m not a festival person.

By that, I mean the crowds, the chaos, the parking, the sheer length of time people stand outdoors in a constant barrage of smells and sounds. I once watched a row of portable bathrooms catch fire, the resulting plume of black smoke curling through the sky behind the stage. None of that is for me.

On the other side of my first Hop Jam — Sunday’s craft beer and music festival founded by Tulsa pop-rock band Hanson four years ago — I’m happy to report I might’ve met my festival match. In the vein of Nathan Poppe’s Hop Jam recap from last year, here are a few observations from the fest’s fourth edition:

  1. When I spoke with Taylor Hanson before this year’s Hop Jam, he said the festival had no specific inspirations, only that they wanted it to be “world-class,” of the caliber of other festival events with longevity like Coachella and Bonnaroo. Hop Jam is tiny by comparison, and that works to its advantage. I arrived shortly before the official public start time of 3 p.m. to see a line from the craft beer area stretching all the way to the main stage at the other end of the festival. But only a short time later, everyone had gotten where they needed to go, in a shockingly orderly fashion. I revel in that level of organization. (Hanson bingo: I spotted all three brothers at different times, carrying radios and appearing to deal with various festival management ins and outs.)
  2. Sixty-five breweries is a lot of breweries. Ticketed beer patrons were given a small Hop Jam tasting cup on a detachable lanyard, and word has it the Alcoholic Beverage Laws Enforcement Commission was out and about watching the size of the beer vendors’ pours. That’s probably for the better, since theoretically, one could sample 200-plus types of beer in the five-hour tasting window, were he or she methodical about it. (I did not do this. But for the record, my favorite new beer I tried was the Anderson Valley G&T Gose.) Taylor Hanson noted that many of the craft breweries they contact for the festival are only now looking into distributing their goods in Oklahoma because of the industry’s brief tenure here. Hopefully Hop Jam proves the existing market for them.
  3. When you’re standing in a parking lot for three hours, 76 degrees might as well be 90.
  4. Props to whomever is curating the Hop Jam main stage lineup. It’s a healthy mix of local talent (this year’s Oklahoma artists were Count Tutu, John Fullbright and Johnny Polygon) and national acts. This year’s offerings, South African alt-rock band KONGOS and neo-soul act Mayer Hawthorne, are famous enough to draw a crowd and polished enough to entertain festivalgoers unfamiliar with their music.
  5. Hanson fans love Hanson. Hop Jam fell on the fourth day of a long Hanson.net member weekend, where “fansons” from across the country flock to Tulsa to participate in a number of private events, including a Hansonopoly tournament, karaoke and a concert only available to fan club members. Even though their Hanson cups had runneth over at this point (just kidding, ABLE!), dozens of dedicated fans parked it in front of the main stage hours before the music actually started, in order to get a prime spot for Hanson’s headlining set over five hours later.

Hop Jam drew an impressive crowd on a Sunday when downtown Tulsa had at least two other concurrent festivals nearby. Despite a sanctioned five-hour drinking session for many attendees, the crowds remained fairly tame, and many of last year’s complaints about long lines seem more or less resolved. As Hop Jam continues, it’ll be interesting to see how and if the festival affect the craft beer industry in Tulsa and elsewhere in the state, and whether it takes on a life more its own and less connected to Hanson, the band.

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