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Showing posts from February, 2008

Junior

I'm now the proud owner of an Epiphone Les Paul Junior. Very exciting, and it's another one pickup guitar. I think I can do pretty much everything I'm trying to do with one pickup, like my little Squier Bullet . (Mine has a real Gibson humbucking pickup in it, courtesy of Mark Bryan . Mark's got a new album coming out shortly so please go to his site and give it a listen.) The Epiphone, too, will have a real Gibson P-90, thanks to Bob Northcott, my Little Diesel bandmate and lifelong friend. Here's a link to Bob's current band in Atlanta, Loose Change . I firmly believe that Epiphone has the right idea about Juniors still being affordable good quality guitars for a semi-reasonable price, which was what the Gibson Juniors were all about to begin with. I don't mean to disparage Gibson because I know the high level of quality of the work they do in all their guitars; I merely point out that the Epiphones can be had at half the price, give or take, and

Microwave, R.I.P.

Among the characters I met during my R.E.M. tenure, Mark "Microwave" Mytrowitz stood out like a jewel. He worked as Peter Buck's guitar tech and had done so for Steve Morse of the Dixie Dregs before that. Microwave was a big ol' teddy bear of a guy, but he could inflate to seemingly twice his size when something or someone around him was being threatened. The quality of his work was nonpareil, and his dedication was strong and true. Microwave was never anything less than sweet and kind to me, and I appreciated his friendship more than I ever got to tell him. At one gig on the Green World Tour, the opening act was Micro and the Melons, with Microwave leading the crew band through "Get Up" and "Wild Thing". He was so pleased and proud. I just read his obituary today. Micro died on February 15 at the age of 52. He will always be loved and missed by me and the people he worked with. Godspeed.

Spinach

Last night's dinner, I arranged the spinach into little hearts. The first portion fell onto the plate in that shape, so I made the other ones look like that too. What else says 'love' like cooked spinach?

Spring?

All around our yard and in our neighborhood, the daffodils are coming up fast and furious, even though we're not even out of February yet. As beautiful as they are (and yellow is my favorite color), I have to wonder if they are seasonally challenged at the moment, thinking that they are in the bosom of springtime. For now, I will simply drink them in as they pop out around us. That big crack in the side of the house? Oh, don't worry about that. I did for a couple years until Smart Wife (who knows about these sort of things) informed me that it wasn't a problem with the foundation of the house. Still somewhat unnerving from time to time, having seen all sorts of horror movies where the family gets sucked into the earth after the house cracks and the ground opens up.

Busy weekend

Sorry I've been remiss as a correspondent, but the passage of time has a way of prioritizing one's activities, especially with a busy weekend. Thursday night, I performed several blocks from my home at the Broad Street Cafe . I've done kids' shows there and the family likes to come and drink coffee and let the four-year-old play on the Thomas table (usually with an oversized jet fighter, making real the issue of strafing the Island of Sodor). This evening, I played with Jason Herrod and a duo called the Water Callers . We held a strategy meeting before the show, and all the acts were unsure which slot they got. It occurred to me that both the other acts had called people and told them when they were going to be playing, so since I had done nothing of the sort, I took the last slot. The Water Callers had a lovely vocal blend, somewhere between the Louvin Brothers and Seals & Crofts. They are highly recommended to hear, if you get the chance. Jason Herrod

52

Today is my fifty-second birthday. Technically, I'm not worth as much as a Corvette the same vintage as me, but it hardly matters. I awoke to find the four-year-old nestled into the bed with his mother and me, thrashing and kicking like a butterfly trying to escape a chrysalis. The six-month-old was making her snorting noises in the co-sleeper. I'm not sure how my wife sleeps through this mayhem, but I hear her softly snoring in the background. I look across them and think that life could be a lot worse. It's going to be a sunny day here in North Carolina. After I drop the four-year-old off at school, I'll fill up Smart Wife 's diesel Rabbit, then head to Winston-Salem to share a couple cupcakes with my mom. A nice day for driving, although I'm going to have plenty of time behind the wheel this weekend as I head to a solo gig in Knoxville on Friday. That trek will be also occupied with listening to songs I'll be playing on bass at a gig on Satur

The Grease Band

One of my favorite all-time albums is the debut from the Grease Band on Shelter Records. Most people know the Grease Band as Joe Cocker's backing band at Woodstock, but they made their own albums which were rich and laden with great songs and fun performances. I've rescued countless copies of the Grease Band's debut album from bargain bins across America and in Europe for many years. The dripping grease on the wallpaper on the back cover and the lovely rendering of hanged bodies on the inner sleeve are wonderful and dark. Imagine my thrill to find the first two albums on iTunes recently. My cd of the first album bit the dust in Katrina, and I've not been doing a lot toward replacing physical cd's these days, what with the Holsapple economy being what it is. But $9.99 for two timeless records seemed like a worthy investment. Principal members of the Grease Band were Henry McCullough, Alan Spenner, Neil Hubbard and Bruce Rowland, each with a pedigree the len

Hearing the Beatles in everything

My mom watched the Grammy Awards the other night. I'm trying to picture her sitting through Kanye West and Amy Winehouse, but even my imagination has its limits. What she was actually waiting for was the Beatles segment, part of the Cirque Du Soleil's Love production, to hear some Beatles songs that she knew and loved. After my big brother had clued me in to their first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, the Beatles were a big touchstone in our family, Dad excepted, who I don't think ever learned all four of their names. We would ride around in our Falcon convertible after school with the radio tuned to WTOB-1380, hoping for a new song or even an old one that we could sing along with. I bought Mom Sgt. Pepper's (insert included) for Christmas the year it came out, although I think I played it more than she did. She got me the White Album (numbered, poster, photos) another Christmas, and I know I played it more than she did. (Mom was into Dusty in Memphis a

Model cars

This is a picture of where I used to make my car model kits in the basement of the house on Knollwood Street. It's an amazing fraud of a picture for a number of reasons: 1.) it looks clean and orderly 2.) there are several completed car models on display on the shelf 3.) there's no big box of parts visible beside these shelves (Also, the two trophies I won in competitions are nowhere to be found, but it could be that the picture was taken before that.) Ever since I was old enough to apply glue to plastic, I was a model car kit guy. Mainly AMT because Revell and Monogram kits had far too many little parts to lose. I rarely read the directions, which is probably gender-related. I filed the little extra nibs of plastic off after I took the part off the 'tree' it came attached to. I usually painted the cars with Testors' PLA , sometimes in groovy metalflake finishes. I tried to learn how to 'wire' engines, using thread to give the look of cables run

Tow

There once was a mid-level Rock Musician who had suffered all kinds of indignities and humiliations at the hands of the Music Industry. He had achieved what anyone unfamiliar with the business would assume was a plausible strata of success, although the Rock Musician saw it as eking out a living. The Rock Musician had been party to one successful song of his own (partial) composition, the remuneration for which was copious at the beginning and marginal presently. It was a song you could hear while shopping for plywood at a big box hardware store, which he did once. He told the cashier that that was his song playing and that was why he could afford to buy all the supplies and lumber he had on his cart. The cashier was interested until his credit card purchase didn't get approved, then she and the manager were more interested in following that up. He complained to anyone who'd slow down long enough to listen, and his tiresome tune began to take on an unpleasant modulation

The $100 Guitar Wall, third in a series

This is the four year old's funky little Tiger Electronics Power Tour guitar and amp which he got for Christmas. It has a Gibson headstock and it looks like a miniature SG. But there are no strings, only touch pads. There are knobs that control various things like tone (Punk, Metal, Rock and, amazingly Indie) and Jam, Band, Learn and Speaker. "Learn" is interesting as the young would-be rocker has to follow the lights on the "fretboard" as they flash in time to "Smoke on the Water" or the song's count-off will start again, followed by a hearty chorus of boo's rising out of the amp. The whole thing is touch-sensitive, and there's some wicked divebomb sounds accessible, too. High impact plastic, as is the tee-tiny amp with color organ speakers (four three-inch woofers, imagine the bass response). Both, of course, go to eleven. The functionality of this kit is not terribly versatile, but the whole outfit was about $45, thanks to Sma

The $100 Guitar Wall, second in a series

This is a Yamaha FG-Junior (as an olde Gibfon fan, I love faying that) which belongs to my four-year-old. We keep it in an open G tuning so that random bashing at least begins with a musical surface. The action is low and the scale is small. It is a surprisingly fun guitar to play. I carry a travel guitar with the Hooties, an Olympia that had my Telecaster neck pickup installed by master luthier and Hootie consort, William Chapman of Columbia, SC. It's handy, especially for demo recording, and it plays fine since techs have monkeyed with it since I brought it on board. The Yamaha has played smoothly since I found it in the window of a pawn shop near where my mom lives. Once again, I had to come back to get it, but was able to convice Smart Wife fairly easily that this guitar, at $45, was a really good buy. It has been. The four year old pulls it out regularly. "We haven't jammed in a long, long time, Daddy." So we jam. They start as two-guitar jams, b

Giants 17, Patriots 14

What a game. Yeah, I know. That's not what you might expect from Mr. Artiste here, having determined years ago that I do not have the sports chromosome in my genetic code. But the years on the Hootie bus have given me more inadvertent sports understanding than I ever thought possible; much of it seeps through while I'm just happen to be in the lounge when a game is on. Everyone in that band, and much of their crew, really knows their shit about football (and most other sports as well). They know so much that, when I ask what I sheepishly feel is a dumb question, they patiently sit down with me and explain the answer clearly, so that I can get it, even with my limited knowledge. And the NFL on a television serves as a nice legal narcotic for me. Smart Wife has come in on me, transfixed before a football game on a Sunday afternoon, and after her initial shock, she notices that I don't appear to hear her talking to me. The television was otherwise in use tonight

A night at the Bluebird Cafe

Last night, I participated in my first 'writers in the round' at the Bluebird Cafe in Nashville, TN. I knew the reputation of the Bluebird, and I'd seen the movie The Thing Called Love a long time ago, but I guess I wasn't prepared to find the place in the midst of a small shopping center. The first show let out, and my friend Annie Clements and I went inside and out of the cold. Annie is bassist and background vocalist for the band Sugarland , but I've known her for years. She used to babysit my eldest daughter back in New Orleans where Annie grew up the daughter of one of the city's finest guitarists, Cranston Clements. Then, after she'd shown considerable aptitude on the instrument, I had her play bass with me at my record release party for Out Of My Way at Tipitina's . ( Carlo Nuccio , who was the drummer that night, asked me "Why, in this city full of great musicians, is the best bass player going a FIFTEEN YEAR OLD GIRL??!!")