Scott Link
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Scott Link

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"Stephen King throws me some love!"

This is a sad story about how good you can be in America and still not be quite good enough to make it. It's about an alt-country band called Diesel Doug and the Long Haul Truckers. Please don't confuse them with the Drive-By Truckers, a fine alt-country band that's still going strong; you can only experience Diesel Doug on a retrospective CD — available on the Net at cornmealrecords.com — called Mistakes Were Made.

Although I'm an alt-country freak (think Steve Earle, Dwight Yoakam, Uncle Tupelo, and Ryan Adams' old band Whiskeytown), I never heard of DD and the Truckers when they were still trying to make it, even though I live in Maine and they were a Maine band. Maine, you see, is a big state divided into two parts: Portland and all the rest of it. The Long Haul Truckers were Portland-based and I live considerably north of there, in that part of the state where everyone's favorite color is John Deere green.

In late 2005, soon after the Long Haul Truckers' retrospective album was released, the Portland Sunday paper did a piece on the band, which had released two surprisingly well-reviewed indie-label albums, The Fine Art of Carousing and An Angel Not a Saint, during their 10-year run. These things interested me, but what persuaded me to actually buy the new album were the titles of the first two tracks. My CD collection would not be complete, I reckoned, without ''If I'd Shot Her When I Met Her (I'd Be Outta Jail by Now)'' and ''I'd Like to Quit Drinkin' (But I Live Over a Bar).'' How bad could such songs be, I wondered, especially for a survivor of Robbie Fulks' interpretation of ''Bury the Bottle With Me''?

Well, the CD turned out to be terrific. I'm not flogging it as The Next Big Thing, and if your idea of great music is U2 you'll probably want to steer clear, but if you like tight loud roadhouse rock with a little tang of country, this is just your ticket. The ballads are sweet without ever getting stuck in the syrup, there's a great cover of Robert Earl Keen's ''Merry Christmas From the Family,'' and the close-out number — ''My Girlfriend Is a Waitress'' — is a euphoric proletarian anthem.

So where are Diesel Doug (real name: Scott Link) and the Long Haul Truckers (Charlie Gaylord on Telecaster, John Davison on drums, Scott Conley on kick-ass bass) these days? Well, Gaylord runs Cornmeal Records, Conley builds guitars, Davison works for a health care company. And Diesel Doug? Well, Diesel Doug sells real estate. And while they no longer harbor any major-label illusions, they still get together to play once a month or so. But how did a band this good, this tight, fail to make the big time (or even the middle time) in a country where a no-talent, off-key screamer like William Hung could sell hundreds of thousands of records?

There may not be any satisfactory answer to this question. We like to say that talent somehow always finds its way; the idea is as American as Mom's apple pie and li'l ole Sun Records down there in Memphis. A truck driver cutting a record for his mama can become a star. An itinerant Greenwich Village folksinger can become the voice of his generation. A struggling boardwalk rocker from New Jersey can release his breakthrough album soon after his label almost drops him (or so the story goes) and be playing sold-out arena shows five years later. You can hear a hundred similar rock & roll stories, and if you widen your field of focus to include books and movies, you can make it a thousand. But you have to wonder how many bands like Diesel Doug and the Long Haul Truckers may have been left largely unheard, except by their small cadre of fans. Worse — how many potentially searing talents may now be pushing paper in offices or teaching band in Ohio high schools? Because sometimes mistakes are made. Sad, but true.

In his CD liner notes, Scott Link, a.k.a. Diesel Doug, is extremely articulate about both the good times and the missed chances. ''Ten years of bars, clubs, the occasional arena, glass ceilings, Wild Turkey, four-dollar ASCAP checks, no sound checks, blown monitors, rooms with 150 people in them who couldn't give a s---, and rooms with 15 people in them who were having a great time....

''[We had] one glimpse of the show. It was in July 1999, opening for Willie Nelson at the Bangor Auditorium. Ah yes, the Willie show. I still have the bottle of Cuervo from our dressing room.... There were four or five thousand people in the hall and we walked onto a blackened stage to thunderous noise (they thought we were Willie, I guess). I got chills. I could've gotten used to that.''

And, given the quality of the 16 tracks on Mistakes Were Made, maybe they should have gotten that chance. Link says the Long Haul Truckers got about as far as Double-A on the alt-country circuit before their particular upward curve topped out. You'd have to listen to the record and judge for yourself if that was far enough, or if they got cheated — by the system or just blind fate. All I know is that talent is a lightning rod and America is a thunderstorm. You go running around like crazy, you get soaked, your arm gets tired holding that damn thing up...and still, lightning, all too often, strikes half a block over, electrifying someone else.

Told you it was going to be a sad story.
- Entertainment Weekly


"e-mail sampling"

Here is a sampling of e-mail response I got upon the release of My old bands final record. I hope to have a bunch of these for "Coming Around" very soon!

“After reading Stephen King's article in EW concerning Diesel Doug and the Long Haul Truckers I immediately jumped on-line and ordered a copy of Mistakes Were Made.

It arrived today and...

DAMN!!

I mean...DAMN!!!!

It has been in the CD player since about noon and I just can't stop playing the darn thing. I know exactly what my family gets for birthday and Christmas gifts this year. (Heck, it's coming on to my 13th wedding anniversary. I know my wife is eye-ing that diamond necklace, but she just may unwrap your CD instead!)

A few adjectives for you concerning this CD.

Brilliant!

Rocks!

A masterpiece of the genre!

...DAMN!

Come on guys, TOUR!! Get down here to sunny Florida or my wife and son and I are going to spend our summer vacation in Maine instead of Disneyworld.

Thanks for the music. “


“greetings from Perth Western Australia. have just discovered you guys. love
it"


“ i rec'd "mistakes were made" today ...good stuff.....exactly the kind of music i enjoy..... thanx for the cd.....i'll add it to my cd magazine
playlist....”


“Stephen King said you guys were good And he was right man! You guys are great, I love your sound. Keep on
truckin'”


“Stephen King said great things about this band in his column in the back of Entertainment Weekly, so I ordered it. And he was right - you nailed it. My husband is a truck owner/operator, as are a lot of his friends, and we can't wait to pass this great sound on. We'll be ordering more as gifts.”
- the web


Discography

2006 - Scott Link - Coming Around (?)
2005 - Diesel Doug & the Long Haul Truckers -
Mistakes Were Made (Cornmeal)
1999 - DD&TLHT - The Fine Art of Carousing (Sad bird)
1997 - DD&TLHT - An Angel Not a Saint (Sad Bird)

Photos

Bio


Scott Link is the most famous musician his fans hardly know. That’s because he’s the former Diesel Doug, frontman for the hard charging and much loved alt-country pioneers Diesel Doug and the Long Haul Truckers. Over the course of a career that made him and his talented band alt-country cult heroes, Link cashed plenty of four-dollar ASCAP checks, but he also thrilled through the experience of opening for Willie Nelson and found himself the object of Stephen King’s admiration in the monthly back-of-the-book column he writes for Entertainment Weekly.

King was wowed by Mistakes Were Made, a greatest hits collection (really) celebrating the songs that made Angel Not a Saint and The Fine Art of Carousing so well reviewed and among the best-selling local albums of the past 20 years. They appear alongside live tracks and a Christmas novelty tune that only begin to present a picture of just how fun it was to sip a beer, laugh with friends, and enjoy Diesel Doug tunes that recalled everyone from Dick Curless to George Jones to the Rolling Stones.

As Link led a roots-music movement that put Portland’s music scene on No Depression’s map, there was a time, 10 years of good times in fact, for playing someone else. Now, 20 years after he first picked up his father’s Gibson B-25, it’s time for Link to play himself.

Over the course of the past two years, Link has crafted with gifted producer John Wyman (As Fast As, Ray LaMontagne) a debut solo album, Coming Around, and now he’s put together a powerhouse band full of the best the vibrant Portland music scene has to offer to help him promulgate its inspired songwriting. Guitarist Matt Robbins is the premier rockabilly picker in Maine as a 15-year veteran of King Memphis, paired with fellow axeman Keith Tasker, who’s been seen all over the country touring with Jess Tardy and NYC’s Brilliant Mistakes. They’re supplemented by the keyboard lines of Joe Boucher, a veteran of beloved local pop-rock bands the Troubles and the Frotus Caper.

The rhythm section features a former Long Haul Trucker in Scott Conley, who’s found his own measure of post-Trucker success. As guitarist for old-timey bluegrass band the Muddy Marsh Ramblers, Conley is considered a gifted songwriter in his own right, thanks to fan favorites like “The Old Railroad” and “Above the Timberline,” both featured in the Greetings From Area Code 207 series of Portland alt-country compilation discs put together by Diesel Doug guitarist Charlie Gaylord. Conley is paired with Ginger Cote, quite simply Portland’s most in-demand drummer, a former Nashville session player, and the personal choice of long-time roots rocker Cindy Bullens.

As Link and the band storm through familiar territory all over the Eastern seaboard and Midwest, long-time fans will recognize a heart-felt and ironic country twang, and fans new and old will find it hard to resist his honky-tonk swagger, refined and softened since he first took his art-school aesthetic to a sawdust-strewn barroom stage.

With his new work, Link opens up and lets us inside that formerly manufactured Diesel Doug persona with hints of the naked joy of pure pop and the introspection of indie rock, without ever straying from the guitar-based Americana that first inspired him. It’s honest, and real, and proof that there’s always a place for stories of hard work and simple pleasures. “Done” will remind you of the first time you were really floored by the girl across the room; “End to End” will make you wonder if she might just be too much of a good thing.

That is, if you can think about anything while the fat-bottomed guitars tug at your belt buckle. Link’s a master of the beer-soaked slow burner, good for last-call swaying on sweaty summer nights, and he’s got a mean nostalgia streak. “Picture of You” is a flat-out stomp to “free me from this wasted time.” There’s a simple poignancy to couplets like his title track’s “There are answers right in front of us, if we dare enough to be bold/ Should we fall, a strong hand to grab hold.”

Link has dared to step out from behind the curtain. Dare enough to join him.

"How did a band this good fail to make the big time in a country where William Hung could sell hundreds of thousands of records?" -Stephen King, Speaking of Scott Link's former band, Diesel Doug & the Long Haul Truckers in Entertainment Weekly March 3, 2006