Thursday, July 17, 2014

RFSC #30

So all throughout my blog blackout, Radio Free Song Club has been chugging along, putting out podcasts of wonderful songs by exceptional songwriters. #30 has just gone up today, for your edification and enjoyment. Be sure and pick around--pretty much every episode has had incredible songs to present.

Sunday, July 13, 2014


The struggle

We decided to bring bicycles to Lake Arrowhead last week, anticipating much family riding (like at our Chincoteague camping trips). We bought a brand-new fancy bike rack for the minivan which we felt would be a worthy investment as there are more bicycles to tote now.

How exciting!

The day we left on the trip, I extracted the new bike rack from its box and began the process of mounting it. In small letters in the instructions I discovered that, in order to mount children's and women's bikes on it, there was an (optional, unadvertised and, you guessed it, unpurchased) crossbar needed. So it went back in the box, and the old one went on.

I am convinced that the ultimate anathema to anyone preparing for a family vacation is fitting bikes on a car bike rack. After our week with the extended family, we had planned to leave Lake Arrowhead for home at 7:30 a.m. so as to arrive in time for pizza/movie night in the air conditioned comfort of our own home. Getting the bikes up on the old bike rack took the better part of 45 minutes (two bikes, one women's, one kids') so we ended up getting in too late for pizza or movie after the drive from Pennsylvania--granted, I also failed to pack my computer bag which I fortunately realized before we turned in the key for the gated lake development in which we were staying, and that added more time as well. I fought with the plastic locking straps, trying to get them around the bike frames; I struggled with keeping the carrier's straps taut inside the hatch door frames. It was a hard fight, Ma, but they stayed on for the whole trip with only a little attention.

And just how much did we bike, you may be asking? Apart from the 10-year-old going out on his for about 3 minutes, not one bit.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The new bass

I took the leap and got my first Fender Precision Bass a few weeks ago. (This, from the guy who's not really doing music anymore, right? Yeah. You can see how THAT is going.) A whole world opened to me by doing this. After a couple years of bumping along on a pretty-but-ultimately-not-completely-convincing Squier Modified Jaguar bass, I saw a blue P-bass hanging in my local Guitar Center at an unbeatable price. They gave me next to nothing for the Jag, but it really was of minor consequence; I knew I needed to upgrade, so I did.

First, I found that I could actually 'walk' on the P-bass with almost no effort. Having tried to do that with the Jag, I had never been able to feel comfortable without using a heavy pick or my thumb (ala Brian Wilson). The spacing between the strings on the P was so much more natural, and I was capable of effortlessly using my fingertips and coming out with a consistent and rhythmic sound. Can popping be far behind? Well, maybe not--the flatwounds are likely going on soon.

Also, the tone was a LOT more controllable. The Jag had some sort of active control that I never quite mastered, so much time was spent monkeying around to try to keep it from overdriving my amp. To hell with that. The P-bass is very simple. Pickup. Volume knob. Tone knob. Ideal for my small brain to wrap around.

OK, it is a little heavier, and I will have to do something about getting a case for it (I'm using a gig bag for the moment) since I plan on keeping this one.

But I feel as though I have finally obtained the correct tool for the job with a Precision Bass. It's not like I would ordinarily sit around and play bass unamplified while I'm hanging out, as electric bass doesn't seem like that kind of instrument in my mind. But I have done that with the P-bass, and it's delightful.

As many of you all have known about me, despite all the instruments I play, I have always been a frustrated bass player. Now I've been running bass in Baron Von Rumblebuss for a couple years, and I'm at last using the exact bass I have apparently always needed. Hooray!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Gerry Goffin R.I.P.

Sad to hear of Gerry Goffin's death this week at 75. He and Carole King wrote such great goodness.

Continental Drifters recorded "I Can't Make It Alone" on the debut album, featuring a career-high vocal performance from Susan Cowsill. At the end of my one live 'appearance' at Radio Free Song Club back in Ought-Eleven, we had a lot of fun with "Wasn't Born to Follow," my most favorite in their canon. I'm especially excited at the attention that the Carole King musical Beautiful is focusing on their work.

Sadder still am I to read the Rolling Stone obituary on Goffin online.  Days have gone by, and no effort has been made by the author or the magazine to correct several errors that have been brought up in comments on the piece. It's disrespectful and lazy, and to my mind, makes Rolling Stone finally seem irrelevant. What was once a leading light has become a waning glow stick. 

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Then, three and a half years later...

Great googly-moo, has it really been THAT long?

I guess it has. Time flies when you're having fun.

I could tell you all I've done in the past three and a half years, but that would be sort of stultifying. How about if I tell you what's going on for me presently, which will likely involve some dredging through the recent past in small doses?

Still married to Smart Wife. That's been the fortunate constant in my life over the past decade plus, and I am grateful every day that I have her. She's working full-time now, she's been involved with the kids' various extracurricular pursuits and she's kept the family moving forward without wondering where our next mortgage check is coming from. I am beyond lucky.

The various children have gotten older. The smallest just bridged from Daisy to Brownie scout this week at a ceremony where I felt more emotional than I'd imagined I would. She is a rising second grader and is constantly singing. Perhaps the introduction of The Sound of Music to her repertoire was not such a great idea, as the number of renditions of "Do Re Mi" I hear in a day has increased exponentially. The lad is now a 10-year-old Boy Scout, which he enjoys. He's going to middle school this fall where he's asked to learn trombone. That should be interesting to live around. The eldest is enrolled at a community college for a medical technician-type course load. She has lived between Louisiana and Mississippi for some months and has finally come back to roost in NOLA. I am proud of all three and their progress through this life.

And me? I thought you'd never ask.

I got a better job at DPAC, one which my co-workers like to describe as 'the hardest job there.' I am Management Assistant which is something of a dogsbody gig. Much of my work is in customer service, and I've been schooled well by my boss who is unparallelled with his ability in that milieu. There are some wonderful ways to make a pissed-off guest feel like they've gotten resolution, and it's been amazing to learn them and put them to use. Anyone who knows me already realizes that I am non-confrontational to a fault, so smoothing over the rough spots has been a great talent to learn. Tonight, I will be going on WUNC-TV during their pledge drive to help promote a Frankie Valli show at DPAC, so I also get to be the 'public face' here; that gig came my way largely, I think, because I can get on a camera and mic and not lose my shit completely.

I'm still part of Radio Free Song Club which trundles on infrequently. There's a song due there mid-June, so with my new drum mic purchases and some hoodoo, I'm in the midst of making a new song happen for that deadline. My little studio has not seen a ton of use recently, mostly because of laziness and distraction by The World At Large. But I'm hoping that, having squared away a regular and controllable drum mic path, I'll spend more time in the room downstairs, letting whatever creativity is left inside me squeak out.

As far as playing music goes, I'm largely retired from that game. The business of music has changed so much in the past decade, timed exquisitely with my need to keep my family fed, housed and clothed. What it would require to keep on keeping on in the field of rock music involves more time than I can devote presently, and the travel, much as I enjoy it, is a hardship on my family having me away. So after decades of being a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants itinerant musician, it became fairly evident that it was time to make a diametric shift. Also, to be perfectly honest, the level of success that I achieved during my tenure as a musician never really ascended to where I believed it should exist; the emotional taxation every time a new record came out grew debilitating. Do not for a moment believe that I have ever felt anything but gratitude for the attention and love my music has gotten over the years. But it gets wearing at my age to keep reaching for the brass ring, especially when I know that a.) younger riders have a better shot and are more resilient to repeated tries, b.) the popular forms of music among today's listenership really doesn't have a lot to do with what I write and c.) the income streams for recorded music have narrowed down to a weak trickle. I don't think I have the wherewithal to tilt at these particular windmills in 2014. So overall, I think I picked a good alternative, working in a theater--I'm still surrounded by 'the business' but I get to approach it from an entirely different angle, and I get to use parts of my brainpan that have lain fallow for a long time.

Thus, while you haven't heard the last of me, you won't need to see me as a 'professional musician' anymore, just a hobbyist. I have little reminders pop up, like the R.E.M. Unplugged package that are  artifacts of another era. (That's a great sounding record, by the way. Very proud of what was done there, and I'm happy that it has remained vital and lively some twenty-plus years later.) But overall, it was time to hang up the stage clothes, which I don't fit in anymore anyway, and scale back my involvement. I still rock the bass guitar for Baron Von Rumblebuss on the occasions we play 'for the kids.' And I still do the infrequent Hootie show, of which there is one this August. Just don't look for a new band or new album any time soon, because it just ain't going to happen. I've enjoyed the ride, but my train was heading into a dark tunnel I don't wish to experience, at least for now.

I will, however, attempt to be a better correspondent at this page again. I've promised that before, yes, I know, but having eliminated Facebook from my regular habits, I should have enough time to come up with some interesting posts for you once more. Like the drive-through funeral home, though, 'remains to be seen.'

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas report, 2010

This post comes to you over half a year since the last one. Much has changed, mostly for the better.

I have all three of my beautiful children here with me in the house we bought this summer. My Smart Wife is poking around in the kitchen, preparing to cook a roast for the evening meal. There's about five inches of snow on the ground here in Durham. I have been working at a new job at the Durham Performing Arts Center as a ticket salesperson; I'm also able to help with the construction of emails and website entries.

Musically, I've been a little less active than in the past. The dB's album is not finished yet, six years on. We work on it when we can, but everyone has busy schedules. Will and his family have relocated here from Ohio, and that should make forward motion more plausible. Luego continues to record and play, and I'm called upon when I'm able to perform with them. I took on bass guitar duties with a local children's music band, Baron Von Rumblebuss and the Redd Zeppelin. That's been great fun; Smart Wife also constructed a fab outfit for shows.

Most exciting is the continued and thriving existence of the Radio Free Song Club. They've posted nine shows so far, but I've sent in a dozen songs now, each under the monthly deadline. Some of the new songs are just passable, but a few of them are really good, in my humble opinion. My colleagues' tunes are great impetus to create and do it well, never in any competitive sense but only as a personal best/quality control manner. I'm thrilled about RFSC and hope you all have been listening too.

My usual M.O. would be to apologize for not posting more and promise to be better at it; I think I won't do that this time as it seems grossly insincere, having done it many times here. Instead, I will say that I plan on being more organized and more career-focused in the year 2011 and will try to make this hangout a better place for you to see what I actually am doing.

Happy new year to you all!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Alex Chilton

Alex Chilton died today. His music and production profoundly influenced me and a generation of my peers and their bandmates. I feel fortunate to have known him a little and to have worked with him live and in the studio. Alex knew music inside out. He could sing it, he could play it, he could write it and he could record it. O my soul.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Newsflash and a note about Robin Holcomb

And the second installment has 'dropped'

Radio Free Song Club

My tune, "Don't Ever Leave", is referred to by me as an 'homage to Robin Holcomb'. If you're not familiar with her vast catalog of wonder, please go to her website and do some exploration. I was fortunate enough to get to record with Robin and her husband and collaborator Wayne Horvitz for her album Rockabye, having been stunned by her 1990 Elektra debut. Her latest album is John Brown's Body. I remain in complete awe of her originality and ability to convey a mood through matching lyric and music. Robin Holcomb is as original a songwriter as they come.