Talent ain’t what it’s cracked up to be because talent is an opinion. And opinions are like the leaves on the trees. When the wind blows they all turn the same way. Talent is subjective, talent is an excuse, talent is for the taking, talent is green with envy.

Talent is overblown, talent is confused with something else, or many else’s. Talent is lazy, and hides from the steady pursuit of excellence which is a talent. Talent is on a marquis advertising talent. Talent can be confused, talent can be ignored, talent is a liability, talent is a sham, talent is an exaggeration, talent is a boast, talent is a ruse, talent is a lie, talent is a guess. Talent is a wager, talent is a dream, talent is a millstone around your neck. Talent is an advertisement in a magazine, talent is a way to get you to buy the ticket, talent is an advice from a friend. They say talent is rare, but that’s what they want you to believe.

But no one really knows if what they see is talent, or something tricked up to look like talent, they are talented at that, too. You never hear the word talent if you’re talented. You don’t wanna break the spell, you don’t wanna let on, you don’t wanna let them know who you are.

Still, an appetite for talent only comes along here and there. But talent can be made, talent can be bought, and talent can be engineered to look like talent. But talent can’t be taught and talent can’t be easily steered, because talent is headstrong and talent is singular as far as the talent is concerned. Though it’s really something that comes with every single person, you just have to look for what your talents may be.

Try your talent on something difficult, work your talent on something that needs fixing, make your talent benefit everyone you see. Decide what your talents are. Make your talents benefit you. If talent won’t get it, figure it out the old fashioned way…work at it till it’s done, and everyone thinks you did it because you’re talented. You’ll do more before 9 o’clock in the morning than the US Army.

Talent is an edge in an argument, some people are just good at being ugly, talented at being an ass. Back when I was talented. Sometimes it won’t make any difference even if you are talented. Talent show, talented monkey. It’s not that the talented monkey looks like a man, it’s that the talented man looks like a monkey. Talent my rosy red butt. Talent ain’t the reason you’re here, you’re just good at something. Same diff.

I live for her talents. Take me home, I’ve got a talent I’d like to show you. She’s got the most admirable of talents, maybe two. Talent doesn’t. Talent won’t. Talent is not everything, but a little talent will go a long way. A talent for finding talent. You get awards for talent, but all you have to know about awards is that Mozart never won one.

You get respect for talent, you get money for talent, you get doted on because you’re talented, talent will get you a date, nevertheless you get just as forgotten after a while because someone comes along differently talented than you. Talent helps, talent works. Talent will take you to the top, of what? You can ride talent like a pony, till the pony throws you off.

Some talents are for a lifetime. Some talents are for a moment in time. A talent can come from your heart. A talent can be skin deep. A talent can be abused. The talent the world gave a planarian. No talent at all, no talent because, no talent anywhere in sight. He was more talented than me. She was more talented than him. We all suffered a lack of talent when it finally came down to it, so we did something else. Smoke this, you’ll grow wings on your feet.

Throw some talent at it, throw some hard work at it. Throw the precious talent down, or out the window, and go get a paying job. That’s a talent, too. A talent for trouble. A talent for staying away from talent. A talent for staying out of trouble, yahoo. It didn’t look like talent, but we treated it like a talent. So he acted like he was talented though he didn’t know what the hell he was doing. Let him have his talent.

So talent is a fancy, and talent is a confidence, and the tolerance for talent only comes around every once in a while, or so they say. So talent is misunderstood, and talent is rewarded, but talent is not something you can put your finger on. Why be talented when you can be well with less talent? This is the bottom line with being talented. You can be ever so adorably talented, but not be the least bit talented at paying your rent.


No beating around the book. Write a book, read the book. Books and wine,
books and bread. Books in the hall, books in the car, books on the table.
Books in the bookcase, books in a paper bag.

Books abound, books cost, books weigh you down. Books float your boat,
books turn you on. Books leave you flat, books disappoint you. Books turn
you on to stuff you didn’t know. Books let you sleep, books when you don’t
sleep. Bookseller, book binder, book stop, book mark, book jacket. Rack of
books, bevy of books, wall of books, or two.

Room full of books, shelf full of books, how many books? Who knows. The
holy books, the ends of books, the only books, the other books, the
picture books. The coffeetable, the window seat, the shelves in the
kitchen, every available space, every room in the house. Every time I go
to the mailbox, special delivery, delivery on Sunday, delivery from UPS,
delivery from FedEx, delivery from Amazon. Day time, night time, anytime
now. Maybe it’ll come tomorrow.

Book check, for the book, of the book, make the book, girly book. When I
write my book. When I found the book. Curl up with a good book, curl up
that book and put it in your pocket. Book me a room, book the band, book
‘em Danno. Booking your trip, booking your gig, rocking n rolling. Booking like a bandit, booking like a fast car, booking with determination. Book up the time. Book down to the bar. Book it. Don’t wait for me to book it, if he can book it.

Leave the book on the table, leave the book in the car. Take the book with
you, hold the book up, nice picture. Scan the book, skim the book. Bring
books back. A book is just a book until you like something about it.
Something about that book, the worst books sometimes make the best movies. I have friends in books, some have their own books. Some are writing a book, some are editing a book, some are touring their books. Some are not.

Sometimes a book is all you have. You can like books, you can stand books, you can endure books, you can loan books, whether you want to, or not. You can share books, you can buy books, you can pawn books, but I don’t know any. A book like an album, a book like a bible, a book like a bestseller. A book like a brochure, a book like a codex. A book like a compendium, a dictionary. A book of fiction, like a novel, a book of novel fiction, a thesaurus, an encyclopedia, a volume, a tome, a chapter, a hero, a villain, the love interest, a scroll, a speller, a book of books, a good book, on the books, turn the pages of a book.

Turn the pages of the book. If you can’t get the hardback get the paperback, the paperback is cheaper. When it comes to the internet it will be free, imagine that. Something worth everything that doesn’t cost anything?

Off print, print both sides, times Roman, justified, both sides, 200 pages, 600 pages, 6000 pages, which volume do you want? Is it on microfilm? Do they still have microfilm? Is it seasonal? Is it a cookbook? When will you get the book? When can I get the book? That book, the one with the cover. I guess they all have covers unless they’re manuscripts. Do they have pictures, or illustrations? The monograph, the omnibus, the agenda, the record, which one is the good one? Which one do you like? Which one do you like the most? Which one should I get? Which one is free? Two, for less than that.

Books rule someone’s life, books rule many people’s lives, maybe it’s because they’re predictable like a mystery, like the imperceptible mechanism of a clock, but without the hands. Maybe it’s because they don’t talk back, they just tell the story, and maybe they have a story to tell. One worth your time, one worth the buck. That’s not very much to pay for a good book, is it? Some of my best friends are books. But I wouldn’t introduce my sister to a book. Y’can’t trust ‘em. Book on round the corner, and get me a paper, and a beer. D’ju ever notice you never start a book in a bar? Why do you think that is?

Who booked this tour?

Yes, I contributed to the whole mess.

The Real Deal

Sal Valentino

If it’s real you can touch it, hear it, see it. If it’s real it’s like a bird in your hand. If it’s real you can find it on a fretboard, maybe. If it’s real it’s a comfort, if it’s real it’s something you can depend on. If it’s real you can bet your bottom dollar, if it’s real you can bet your life on it, if it’s real you can marry the damn girl. If it’s real you can do it again in real time.

If it’s real you can ask your songwriting friends to show up in the mountains of New Mexico. In Texas everything is big, in New Mexico they don’t talk about big, because things are so big you can’t see that far.

If it’s real you trust it like a tuned up guitar. If it’s real you always come back for more. If it’s real you might even applaud so they play another song. If it’s real you might do it all year long, but not much in the summer. If it’s real you might just hang stage curtains and play music for a decade where you park your car.

If it’s real you’ll have to rent the chairs, every time. If it’s real you’ll have to put on your gloves and stack the chairs you put out. If it’s real you’ll have to take them back, every time. If it’s real the writer stays in the guest room. If it’s real they’re playing tomorrow night in Taos, or Albuquerque, or Los Alamos.

If it’s real there is no sound check, if it’s real there are great lights. If it’s real there’s not another seat in the house. If it’s real everybody brings food.

If it’s real all the money goes to the musicians, real money, and you don’t charge for the room. If it’s real it’s worth being the best gig in the state of New Mexico. Somebody’s gotta do it. How come when you say that, it sounds like you’re talking to me?

If it’s real you gotta sell their merch. The real writers, the real authors, the real players, the real people that would appreciate them, sounds like a dream. Good gig is just a good gig. If it’s real you have to make room for all the parked cars, if it’s real it won’t snow the night of your show (The only cancelled show: Peter Case…too much snow).

If it’s real enough people will show up, if it’s real you sweat enough people will show up, every time. If it’s real your act won’t break a string, if it’s real you’ll have to do the first set after putting out the ice, and the chips, and the free beer, if it’s real that won’t matter. If it’s real you’ll probably trade tunes later.

If it’s real that won’t stop you, if it’s real you can do it your own way. If it’s real it might just be gooder’n hell. If it’s real it might just be how it has always been done, simple, ingenious. No smoke, no mirrors. Just the music, and the road. The Real Deal, 2003-2013. Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Don & Victoria Armstrong
The Banded Geckos

Eric Brace & Peter Cooper

Bill Browder
Scott Cadenasso

Dana Cooper

Layton DePenning

Jerry Faires

Steven Fromholz & Tommy Elskes

Butch Hancock

Bill & Bonnie Hearne

Michael Hearne

Sarah Hickman

David Moerbe

Geoff Muldaur & Bob Neuwirth

David Olney

Mark Olson & Ingunn Ringvold

Chuck Pyle

Sam Richardson

Donald Rubenstein

Shake Russell

Keith Sykes

Eric Taylor

Trout Fishing In America

Sal Valentino

Ben Zeller

If it’s real you can also put on a Writers in the Round and read from books, recollections and cowboy poetry, and you can take the Real Deal to Hyde Park Theatre, in Austin, before all was said and done: Geoff Muldaur, Bob Neuwirth, and I got real on stage together, and Austin’s Denim and I did an encore date after that. Oh, yeah. Got real if you want it.


“Funny what’ll happen to you
when all you’re trying to do
is sing the right notes
and get the chords right.”

“Phoenix” is my first album. Geoff Muldaur and Steven Bruton play guitars, John Cale plays piano, Bill Rich plays bass, and Victoria Williams and Lyle Lovett sing. Bob Neuwirth is the Producer. It’s a helluva first album for anyone. But I’ve told you that story. We move to the Texas Hill Country, reviews come, gigs appear, and I play my tunes in Europe, the US, and Texas, all over the radio. There’s a border collie named Katy on a long lead in the side yard next to the house. Tennis ball dog.

Business as usual over the next few years, driving miles and miles of dear
old Texas, then on the way to Nashville, Tenn. When we get to that Country & Western town, we pull into the shaded gravel drive of a cabin on the 100 Highway, ten miles outta town. It’s a charmer in a hollow in the deep woods that drape over the little place like a huge green, leafy umbrella. In the summer it’s cool in the shade. Where the sun shines it’s hot and humid. We rent it from a good fellow named Hooter. He says a rental house is a road manager’s retirement fund. He road managed the Everly Brothers for thirty years. Pleasure doing business with him.

The cabin has a window in the bedroom that used to be tricked out like a counter in order to sell beer to the drivers passing by. Rumor has it they were growing a little smoke up in those hills, and might have passed some across that ledge too. We’re there for a couple of years before we change the license plates from Texas to Tennessee. Don’t ask.

I put out two albums and a book while we’re in that cabin. Robin Eaton produces “Texas Plates” for Paladin/Warner Bros. It’s an ingenious CD with a compliment of Nashville’s finest: Al Perkins is on this recording. Maura O’Connell and Kami Lyle do the harmonies this time. Pat Berguson, Pat Buchanan, Chris Carmichael, Dave Jacques, Brad Jones, Ross Rice, Aly Sujo, and Eli Shaw is E-bow and Engineer. Robin Eaton with bass, the percussionist Mickey Grimm, and I take that show to SXSW…Mickey brings the plastic trash can from the hotel on stage: he likes the sound.

The book is the first edition of “One Man’s Music,” self-published, and funded by Wayne and Lisa Lawrence. The story of my accident and recovery, I begin it in Berkeley, write 30 pages, and say I’m done. It grows in Texas, and I write 212 pages in 180 days: the goal is a page a day. Sometimes I get six pages, sometimes I get none.

One day the phone rings and Vince Pawless, whom I’ve not met in person yet, says “Let’s make a guitar.” We do, but that’s another story. The day the V2 is finished, I pick it up in Texas, walk it across the street, and sit down and play a house concert: the recording, done famously by David Byboth, is “Live in Texas.”

That cowboy town soon fills the rear view mirror and we take the border collie, a little button-eyed dog, and three cats to Santa Fe, NM. That’s a lotta animals on a motel bed. We drive back out of the forest in the hollow and into the mountains of the West where you can see for days. In good time I record an album, “Recado,” with Cam King as Producer and guitar player, in my garage. He brings the board, mics, the whole kit and kerfluffle in the backseat of his car. Cam is brilliant, and better off the cuff than most with fair warning and a rehearsal. He can also build a pyramid with a yardstick.

Cam ingeniously hangs bedding sheets around the three car space to create sound barriers in the now tent-like setting, and we record the album like we are in complete silence on top of a mountain…in a large residential area. There’s a basketball court in the driveway next-door . He takes the tapes back to Texas and adds Bill Browder, Freddie Krc, Tammy Rogers, and Michael Woody. The cover for “Recado” is a Peter Hurd watercolor, painted and handed to my father-in-law in 1945.

Then my pal, publicist, and literary agent, Kevin Avery gets my now two books published by University Of North Texas Press. Karen DeVinney and the University’s President suggest “One Man’s Music” and “SixtyEight TwentyEight,” be edited together into one book. (“SixtyEight TwentyEight” is a series of essays/blogs I’ve been running on my website, “Out Here on the Edge of the Desert,” along with a podcast, a decade before there were podcasts: LiveMusic’sCool/InLiveMusicSchool, with friend Jim Alderman on toy piano and plastic swimming pool: there’s something about those percussionists…nobody more free than the drummer). The two books together make the definitive volume of “One Man’s Music.” and I record CD of the same name, of the songs mentioned in the book, with Ned Albright as Producer and piano player. Gardner Knight is our Engineer. I turn the book into a one-man play — you guessed it, with the same name. Ghost Ranch Films makes a DVD of a live show, recording songs that had gotten lost between my accident and Phoenix: “New Lamps for Old.”

After a trip to New York, I write a longish collection of prose poems called “Empire Of Storms,” and a song called “Ojo.” Bob Neuwirth, Dave Soldier, and Patrick Derivaz record me in an abandoned bank on Wall Street for three…but that’s the story that’s in the telling these days.

From Phoenix to Ojo.

“Funny what’ll happen to you
when all you’re trying to do
is sing the right notes
and get the chords right.”

[I’ll be in deep voodoo with management if I don’t at least mention that these are all for sale at the store]