Here we go, stepping boldly into 2011. Or typing forward, one character at a time. I’m not one for resolutions. If you’re living your best life, doing the best you can, even if it’s moving forward at your own pace, that’s what matters. Jon Dee Graham wrote in “Robot Moving” on 2004’s CD The Great Battle , “Everybody says put one foot in front of the other/Course the irony is that’s the only way feet work/What luck!” The song ends with Graham reassuring, “Now don’t be scared,” seemingly as much for himself as for the listener. Graham’s music is full of similar revelatory moments. His music and his luminous hope in the face of adversity have become my life preserver. “False hope is still hope” is one of his mottos. His 2010 disc It’s Not As Bad As It Looks was carved from Graham’s true survival tale of crawling from the mangled wreckage of his vehicle after a late-night Interstate crash. He was driving home to Austin from a solo gig in Dallas. It’s Not As Bad As It Looks hit the Number One spot on national music journalist Geoffrey Himes’ Himes Hundred: Best Albums of 2010 for Himes writes for Washington, D.C., Baltimore and Nashville publications covering various genres. Graham’s CD beat out Bruce Springsteen’s The Promise , which landed at Number Two on Himes’ list and the reissue of Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew: 40th Anniversary Collector’s Edition at Number Three . Himes wrote that Graham “swears that when the Texas state trooper pulled him from the wreckage, he wisecracked, ‘It’s not as bad as it looks.’ It’s that ability to stand unbowed and unsobered in the face of heartbreak and mortality, to convert a death’s-door joke into an album title … [and] the small glimmers of hope that Graham latches onto on It’s Not as Bad as It Looks [that] register as major triumphs. Having survived not only a brush with death, but also a hundred lesser stumbles, he’s willing to acknowledge life’s shortcomings. But on ‘My Lucky Day,’ if Graham can find three [shiny] dimes or hear Neil Young and the Clash back-to-back on the radio, he’s ready to set his and Mike Hardwick’s guitars ringing from the steeple in victory. All the more poignant for their rarity, such moments of joy underscore what may well be the album’s core message: ‘If this is it, let’s get it while it’s there.’” That’s a fine philosophy to keep in mind as we move into 2011. Graham calls It’s Not as Bad as It Looks the best recording of his solo career. Before going solo Graham was a member of The True Believers with another seminal roots musician, Alejandro Escovedo. Go to to check out this disc and Graham’s other music. You’ll also find Graham’s newly released live recording Chupacabra available for digital download only. It’s a full band effort recorded live at Austin’s Saxon Pub including Graham’s right-hand-man Michael Hardwick on electric guitar, John Chipman on drums and Harmoni Kelly on bass. Chupacabra is a pay-what-you-want download, in the spirit of Graham’s JonDeeCo Music Co-Op, a vehicle for fan donations that helped fund the mixing and mastering of It’s Not as Bad as It Looks. Visit New Lift Blues Thursday, Jan. 6, The New Lift Lounge presents the Levi William band at 5 p.m. followed by Wildfire at 7 p.m. Wildfire is a blues-country-classic rock band featuring Sue Murray, Joe McCarthy (of Little Joe & Big Trouble), Carlos Figueroa, Clark Ewalt, Jimmy Ray Pearce, Mike White and John Rodelander. Thursday, Jan. 13, catch award-winning, Pacific Northwest jump-blues band The Insomniacs. Zoo Bar Music The Zoo Bar features the Lil’ Slim Blues Band Friday, Jan. 7, at 9 p.m. after The Heartmurmurs trio plays 5-7 p.m. The legendary Magic Slim plugs in Wednesday, Jan. 12, 6-9 p.m. and Son of 76 & The Watchmen and Omaha’s funky Voodoo Method gig after 9 p.m. Son of 76 is led by occasional Reader contributor Josh Hoyer. The Insomniacs hit the Zoo Wednesday, Jan. 19, 6-9 p.m. Hot Notes Saturday, Jan. 8, 7 p.m., see Sarah Benck at Pizza Shoppe Collective along with the Weisenheimers Comedy Troupe in a benefit for the Autism Society of Nebraska. Also Saturday, Jan. 8, Reader colleague Andrew Norman hosts a benefit for his website at O’Leaver’s. Performing are The Answer Team, Irkutsk and All Young Girls Are Machine Guns. The non-profit site is designed to promote the Nebraska music scene and launches Jan. 24. Find out more at The Kris Lager Band rocks the Barley Street Tavern Friday, Jan. 7. The Stir bar at Harrah’s gets funky with The 9s Friday, Jan. 7, and Satchel Grande Saturday, Jan. 8. Cody Canada from Cross Canadian Ragweed is at the Horseshoe Casino’s Whiskey Roadhouse with his band Cody Canada & The Departed Wednesday, Jan. 12.

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