Tuesday morning, steady rain. As I watch out the window on the second floor at 113th Street, Manhattan, slowly waking up… We are building a trio here – a repertoire and a cohesion. The trio is me, Jessica Lurie, and Mark Ettinger. It’s sounding really good, bass and guitar and saxophone/flute. Mark is the bass player and also the studio owner/engineer. Jessica plays the winds, and I of course guitar and vocal. I’ve worked with Mark on and off over the last twenty years, Jessica only since last spring. We are digging in our heels and mining for sound.
We’re gonna make a record in this process as well. I still call them records because that’s what they are – recordings. “CD” is just the delivery system, like cassette or thumb drive. There’ll be a drummer of some of the tracks as well as a few over dubs. But man, I tell ya, the sound is pretty cool. I’m really into it. I’ve written a bunch of new songs, some of which will be included and some that won’t. I don’t think there’s anything that this configuration can’t handle. For an example go to the website tab “The Trio” and look around. There’s not much there yet because it’s new but it’ll give you an idea.
Okay, I have to get back to waking up. The car horns are like big city birds in a concrete tree. I need to go feed them.
It’s been a while since I posted anything here, guess I’ve been kinda lazy. Or distracted, doing other things. Life is like that. I remember saying to somebody back in 1981 that it was like one of those glass paperweights with the snow inside. Shake it up and see where it settles.
Anyway, a lot has been happening since I was last in this little digital niche. I’ve make a record – I still call them that because its short for recording and that’s what they all are. CD is just the delivery system. You can see all about that on the home page. I’ve done a lot of gigs, written a lot of songs. And recently I’ve developed a new sound, at least for me. Not a permanent “this is all I do” sound, of course. Life is too short for that. But a beautifully possible roadway where strangers make familiar patterns in living sounds. For a long time I’ve played on and off with Mark Ettinger, a great bass player from New York. I’ve recorded 4 albums with him. And just recently I’ve developed a musical relationship with Jessica Lurie, a world class saxophonist who lives part time in Seattle and part time in Brooklyn. Jessica is a composer and arranger, jazz player with rock sensibilities, and a fearless improvisor who will jump in at anytime anywhere. I first met her (I think) around the time of the WTO events in Seattle – she was part of the “Anti Facsist Marching Band.” We recorded my WTO song, along with Dale Fanning on drums, and Brad Hauser on bass. I’ve been trying to find those tapes, they’re around here somewhere… So there’s a little trio thing that happens when the planets align and all the itineraries are in order. We have plans to record at Mark’s studio in October, a date which may or may not be set in stone. It’ll be good though, whenever it happens. Keep your lights on.
So I’ll leave that there for now and get back to work on the update/booking side of things. I promise not to let this slide for so long anymore…
Time to make another record. And yes, they are all “records.” “Record” is short for “recording,” and that what you have to do if you’re going to get anything – MP3, WAVE, CD, vinyl, cassette, 8-Track, anything. Even if you just throw it away when you’re done with it, it’s a still a recording. Listen on your phone, your MP3 player. Download it, buy it hard copy. Doesn’t matter, they are all recordings and a recording is a record. So I’m gonna make another record.
So I’m heading down to Portland next week to talk with Billy Oskay, at Big Red Studios, my favorite. I’ve got the repertoire and the basic idea. Keep an eye on this space. I’ll be doing a crowd funding thing of one kind or another so it’ll be obvious. The weather’s getting darker and turning cold soon. Good time to hunker down and do something constructive.
I’ve recently been spending a lot of time on YouTube watching Luke Kelly, the great Irish ballad singer, front man of the Dubliners. Luke died in 1984 and I’ve never been able to figure out if I met him. I might have, much of those days is in a haze for me. He might have been in and out of the scene I was involved in in the late 70s and early 80s. The Dubliners never crossed my radar until recently, when I accidentally came across a video of The Auld Triangle and was amazed. Luke sang with a unusually strong, clear, and completely unadorned voice. Always on key, never going off pitch, you could hear him across town without a sound system. The get older I get the more I find myself being turned off by vocal gymnastics and obvious music school tricks. I want to hear the song sung by a human being for other human beings to hear. And that’s where Luke comes in, for me.
The Auld Triangle was written by Brendan Behan for a play called “The Quare Fellow.” The term “quare fellow” refers to a condemned prisoner, soon to executed. I think it’s old prison slang. Here’s Luke Kelly and the Dubliners doing that song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aa7birRBmNM
Here’s an interesting one from an Irish TV show, don’t know what the name was. Here’s from the YouTube description: “Luke Kelly explains how he met Patrick Kavanagh in The Bailey pub in Dublin. During this encounter Kavanagh told him he had a song for him. First broadcast 10/01/1979.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gYJO5fJgNSQ
And this is a great documentary, only a few years old. Lots of good stuff here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fzfswNa7ZTk
Every once in a while when you walk around Dublin, or Cork, or Galway, you’ll see a 12 or 13 year old boy singing a cappella on the walking street. Sometimes an older brother watches from a short distance away, just in case. And you’ll be amazed at the clear and strong singing that comes from such a young voice. There is a direct line to Luke Kelly.
We’re melting our way out of February and the days are getting longer. Soon spring will be here and life will begin anew. I’m gearing up my booking for April/May trip to California. You can see what I have right now – not much but I usually slam it just a few months ahead, so it’s all on time.
I had a great first gig at Ballard’s own “Grumpy D’s” coffee house. Hopefully i can do that one once a month, or as close to that as i can get with my travel schedule. It’s a fabulous little place, with good sound gear, good food and drink, and good friendly people working behind the counter. What more could you want? For the last few years I’ve been building up a roster of community venues, places where the neighborhoods are represented. It feels good to work like that.
I have some new songs to memorize and a recording project to get together. This on’e going to be different than the rest. So keep checking back and see what’s up. I’ll post the news as it comes in. And by all means STOP TRUMP!!
Putting to finishing touches on a California trip, leaving on the 8th and coming back toward the end of the month. I love traveling but it’s always nerve wracking coming up to the actual departure. I know I have enough guitar strings and enough socks, but what’s missing? Is the pass going to be snowed in? Will the roads be clear? Will anybody come to the gigs?
You can see a complete listing by checking the calendar. They’re all good, with a couple of great double bills: Don Quixote’s, in Felton, where I’ll be sharing the stage with Peter Case. And Terrapin Crossroads, in San Rafael, where Barry Sless and I will be flying without a net at 4:20 Happy Hour. Then there’s the Monkey House with David Gans, Tesorra’s Wine Bar, three house concerts, a new pot dispensary in Hopland, a grange hall in Willits, and the famous Logger Bar in Blue Lake. The only thing missing is a gig in San Francisco itself, though that may change as the days go by.
So to all my California friends – if you can make it to a gig or two please do! And if you can’t, that’s okay too, but please help to spread the word. It’s a long road and it gets lonely out there.
It’s hard to keep this thing updated, not very good on my part. Had a great time at the Oregon Country Fair this year. Two stages, plus the Midnight Show and our traditional Sunday night pathway gig. I say “our” because it’s a trio set – Billy Oskay, Mark Ettinger, and myself. And I have to say that we outdid ourselves this year. We were superb! Mark got it all recorded on his phone for reference, and we committed to the audience to making another CD. We passed around a signup sheet for people to keep informed and to help with logistics. One of the signup people said they could help with a Kickstarter. I’ve never done one of those before but there’s no other way to pay for it, so here goes. Watch this spot for further developments.
I had a great time at the California Autoharp Gathering, saw some old friends from last year and made some new ones. Caroline Hester was a special guest and it was cool to see her. We traded CDs. I did a couple of workshops where we learned songs and improvised verses on “Goodnight Irene.” The idea was to come up with a song about the gathering. We came up with a few verses and ran out of time. Next morning I got up early and found a place to play guitar without bothering people who were trying to sleep. I figured it would be better to use the tune to “Acres Of Clams,” since Irene was probably still under copyright to the Lomaxes, and the spacing was basically the same. I put a whole song together, using the verses we had come up with the day before plus others, and we played it at the second workshop later that day.
Long drive back up to Seattle, including a visit with my 92 year old father in Medford. Real good to see him. Also a great gig in the wonderful intentional community of Takilma, just outside of Cave Junction, OR. They had embarked on creating their own radio station and this was a benefit/launch gig. There’s a lot to be learned from intentional communities and I’m honored to be included to the extent that I am.
I got into Seattle Thursday night at about 9:30. This is Saturday, the second day of the NW Folklife Festival. We have a panel today called “Busking in Theory and Practice.” It’s about the mythologies of the art form vs the civil realities. Or something like that. Should be interesting…
Great gig last night with Peter Case and David Gans. It was a benefit for Modern Times Bookstore in the Mission District, San Francisco. It took place in the bookstore itself and we had a nice little crowd. David played some of my favorite Gans tunes, including Who Killed Uncle John and High Guy. Peter was on target as usual, playing a song that I am going to have to learn called “Poor Old Tom.” Great song. I did an improv about the bookstore and what these places mean to us and why we are unstoppable. It got recorded but now the digital chip that it lives on seems to have vanished.
Heading down to Dunlap now for the California Autoharp Gathering. I won’t have my computer so no updates till I get back.
I’m down in California now, in San Francisco tonight but heading out tomorrow for the Autoharp Gathering in Dunlap, about 4 hours southeast of here. There’s a serious drought going on which has everybody water and fire conscious. I take a shower every 4 days or so, something I’ve always wanted to do but decorum held me back.
I’m going to clean up the opening page of this web site, so you’ll just see this post and whatever else I put up as the days go by. I’m doing a gig tonight with Peter Case and David Gans at the Modern Times Bookstore in the Mission District. Maybe I’ll post about that when I get back later tonight.