Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Merry Christmas: "Mary" Redux With Additional Vocals From Leslie Newton [UPDATED]

UPDATE - posted the wrong version; it has been corrected.

I'm so proud to be posting work from my talented friends here at "History Lesson Pt. 2".  Last week, I posted something super cool - "Mary Had A Little Baby" by Kevin Reynolds and friends.  Just when I thought it couldn't get better, the lovely and talented Leslie Newton added harmony vocals from her cozy liar in the North Pole Denver area.  So you know I've got to repost.

Enjoy everyone, and Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Merry Christmas: Listen To Kevin Reynolds' Cover Of "Mary Had A Baby"

I'm not going to lie to you:  I'm really proud to be a part of this one even though my part in its greatness was the smallest.  It was Kevin's idea to cover Bruce Cockburn's great version of the spiritual "Mary Had A Baby".  It was Kevin who assembled and recorded this unknown supergroup.  It was Kevin who did the engineering.  And it sounds so.  Good.  This recording also marks my babies' recording debut, and I think it's a good one.  Throw in Dan and Joilan's vocals and everything about this song is damn near perfect.  I really hope you enjoy it as much as I do, and thanks Kevin - this song is a keeper!

Kevin Reynolds - vocals, resophonic guitar, mandolin, percussion, post production
Joilan Lewis - vocals
Dan Lodge-Rigal - vocals, accordian, acoustic guitar
Auggie O'Brien-Zink - backing vocals
Marina O'Brien-Zink - backing vocals, rattle
Matt Zink - bass


(Left to right:  Marina, Auggie)

Havin' some fun!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Off Topic: How A Bunch Of Vikings Taught Me The Christmas Message Of Peace And Love

There's a park near me where the nerds like to gather and practice - then stage - battles from some imaged medieval time.  There's shields, rapiers, two handed broadswords covered in foam, long bows with Nerf arrowheads, and though I've never seen it, I'm sure someone brings a crossbow to the party at some point.  After going through all movements in slow motion, the battle begins at full speed amidst the sounds of Nerf-on-Nerf swords crossing but sans battle cries and calls of the dying for their mothers.  As the Battle of Bloomingshire wages, I'm usually wrangling my kids, who're trying to invent new ways to hurt themselves on some playground apparatus. However, I find myself watching the nerds when I can.  As I take it in, I'm awash first in amusement - it is sensible to wear running shoes to battle as they are light and offer lots of support - then admiration.  I realize as I'm standing there making judgements on how dorky they look that they give zero fucks about what I or anyone else thinks.  And ultimately, I think that's great.  Being true to yourself means at least in part letting yourself go to your passions* no matter how dorky, weird or illogical they seem.  Being true to yourself is honest, and it is a value I hold in high regard.  That is why I refer to these folks as "nerds" - it's a term of endearment, not derision.  Nerds are true to their passions.  Nerds are, more and more, my heroes.

Other nerds to talk about:  earlier this week, I came across a sub-genre of heavy metal music called "viking metal".  It was referenced in a Howard Stern bit I was listening to.**  Now, the extraneousness of metal music in general has always given me a kick.  Everything is over the top - the ejaculatory guitar solos, the punk-as-done-by-suburbia aesthetic, the suicide by substance abuse lifestyle - about the only thing that's boring about most forms of metal is the bass playing.  The dawn of the Internet allowed fellow metalheads to network, and it gave them new things to obsess upon.  I'm guessing that played a large part in how we ended up with something called "viking metal".  Anyway, these fans up the ante of fandom by sitting down at shows and rowing an imaginary longship in unison.  Seriously - check it:

Isn't that hilarious?  Don't they look silly?  Aren't they nerds?  I think so.  I think it's funny as hell.  But look at them wave their freak flag (battle colors?) high - it's a massive, diverse group of nerds drawn together by a love of viking metal. It's a bunch of people having a blast.  It's a bunch of fans literally pulling the same make believe load, not hurting anyone.  IT'S A LARGE GROUP OF PEOPLE, FIRED UP BUT STILL GETTING ALONG.  Now, don't we all feel stupid for making fun of these fans?  I mean really - who is getting hurt here?  What's the problem?  Think about all the bonds that were made at this concert.  Think of all the beers (mead?) shared in love and brotherhood.  Think of how great these vikings felt when they went home.  Maybe some are just barely hanging on, and being around other vikings is the thing that get them through. Just. A bit.  Longer.  Among this noisy, sweaty mass of vikings, there is love.

Christmas is the only holiday of the year where peace and love even get lip service.  For that reason alone, I could call myself a fan of Christmas. I'm not saying it's necessarily taken to heart, but with each card that gets sent out with words like "peace on earth" and "joy to the world" and "good will towards all", it is a reminder that ultimately, this is what we should be striving for, and that its never too late to make it happen.  I think that peace, love and understanding is often modeled to all of us by nerds like these.  Even as they row their longship, even as they battle while joggers truck by and giggle to themselves, these people - diverse warriors drawn together by a common passion - show us something of the Christmas spirit every time they get together.

*-As long as you're not hurting yourself or others.
**-Not a regular Stern listener/fan, but the topic of this particular show was actually kind of interesting.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Merry Christmas: Enjoy Ally Hagenbuckle's "Brown County Christmas"

This is one of my favorite times of year at this blog because I get to post the dope Christmas-related stuff people have sent to me.  This year, Imma start off with the multi-talented Ally Hagenbuckle.  "Brown County Christmas" is pretty evocative for me because I lived there for so long and recognized all the places she name checked in the tune.  There is something about the quality of her voice and the recording itself that gives it some Brown County grit.  It's perfect, and I think it is a spectacular way to start the season.  I love the photo she supplied for this track too - it's somehow perfect.

Geography challenge:  find all the roads that Ally mentions in the tune on a map - for those folks playing out-of-state, you'll be needing an Indiana map.  Then find the nearest gas station.  Yeah, it's pretty rural there.

Merry Christmas everyone, and thanks to Ally Hagenbuckle!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Merry Christmas: A Christmas Playlist From Dylan

Time for some Christmas music, y'all!  This particular list was curated by the one and only Dylan Roahrig,  (read his "hate song" rant here - it's a real strong take!) so you know that shit's good.  Let this be the sound track for your weekend AND your holiday season!
Slow Club - "Christmas TV"
Teddy Vann and Akim - "Santa Claus Is A Black Man"
The Ravonettes - "The Christmas Song"
The Roches - "Hallelujah Chorus"
Lou Monte - "Dominick The Italian Christmas Donkey"
Star Wars Droids - "What Can You Get A Wookie For Christmas (When He Already Owns A Comb)?"

Thanks for sending this along, D!
Got a Christmas list I can post?  As long as it's not in fucking Spotify, I'd love to post it.  Let me know in the comments.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Songwriting 101: Strand Of Oaks "Goshen '97"

Posts tagged "songwriting 101" showcase what I think of as exceptional songwriting.  Today, let's have a listen to Strand of Oaks "Goshen '97".

Aside from sounding great (due in large part to solos by Dinosaur Jr.'s J. Mascus), this song has a great drive.  It's hard and contemporary sounding, but the synths give a nice little nod to the music of the '80s.  Besides being vivid, these lyrics have a lot of resonance for me - I can relate to this song so goddamned well.  At some point, I'll write about the first song I ever taught myself on bass from start to finish.  Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Have You Ever Seen The Rain?" as done by the Minutemen.  It was like this song - I was suspended from school, so I locked myself in my room and just made that room my universe for a few hours.  I was lonely too, but happy as hell.

Granted, I wasn't "singing Pumpkins in the mirror", but this song definitely translates to what I went through as a younger man.

"Goshen '97" by Strand of Oaks
I was rotting in the basement 
Buying Casios with my friend 
Then I found my dad's old tape machine 
Thats where the magic began 

I was lonely, I was having fun 
I was lonely, but I was having fun 

I don't want to start over again 

Singing Pumpkins in the mirror 
Porn and menthols under my bed 
Before I was fat drunk and mean 
Everything still lied ahead 

I was lonely, I was having fun 
I was lonely, but I was having fun 

I don't want to start over again…

Fat Friday Feature: Tracy Wormworth On The Waitresses "Christmas Wrapping"

The "Fat Friday Feature" is a semi-regular thing I do 'round here that features an outstanding bass player and/or bass part.  It's getting close to Christmas - let's dig on Tracy Wormworth's fucking amazing work on the Waitresses' "Christmas Wrapping".

I have always marveled at the bass line on this song but until today never even knew the bass player's name.  Google Tracy Wormworth - she's from a musical family and is definitely a musical heavyweight in her own right.  This is some slinky, bouncy, extremely original bass work for a new Christmas standard.  I love it!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

You Need To Grow Up And Be Okay With Fucking Casual Swearing

Let's talk for a few moments about sounds that bother some folks.

I had an incident a few months ago at work that still kind of annoys me.  I was helping someone connect their iPad to the company's guest wireless network, then configure their email client to collect email from her company account.  Because I've never really spent any time on an iPad, I was having troubles navigating to the settings. Once there, I was having problems inputting data.  It was mildly annoying, but we (the owner of the iPad and I) got a bit of a chuckle out of my ineptness at using a device that is designed to be intuitively easy to use.  The owner asked me a minor question - I don't remember what it was - and I responded with:  "I don't know.  I don't use these fucking things."  Her mouth came open a bit and she took a step back.  I'm sure she didn't actually do this, but in my memory of this incident, she covered her open mouth with her hand.

I later confirmed with her husband (who also works here) that she is "sensitive" to swearing.  And, though I didn't want to be, I found myself annoyed that she was shocked by my swearing.  Look, this is not the sort of thing that I need to draw a line in the sand over because let's face it: it's unprofessional to cuss at work.  In some cases, it's rude as well.  Had she demanded an apology (her husband swears it's not a big deal) on the spot, I would've done so "hat in hand" as the old timers say.  But we're all grown ass adults here.  Aren't we too old to be shocked by casual swearing?  Haven't most of us incorporated it into our speech to give it color, urgency, and/or elation?  And those of us who haven't - does it really offend us anymore?  I thought not. I guess I'm wrong.

My sixth grade English teacher Mr. Strophus taught us that cussing was for people who are inarticulate, and that cussing reflected a lack of education more than anything.  Here's the thing:  I agree with him.  We've all met people who cuss every other word, thereby rendering the power of cuss words useless.  You know, people who say things like "look at that fucking fuck who's fucking, I don't know, just fucking up shit, you know?  Shit.  Goddamn pisses my fucking ass off."  Sentences like that tell me nothing except that the person hasn't yet mastered English or cussing.  Using a cuss word every fifth word is presumptuous and disrespectful.  It just makes you sound like one of those folks with a legitimate mental issue, roaming the streets cussing their ass off.

But used correctly - sparingly, and in conjunction with vivid word choice - cuss words give your speech the rabbit punch, the humor, the accuracy that it needs to communicate effectively.  It's honest, and shows trust.  It strips away a veneer of formality and loosens things up.  In fact, there are plenty of people out there who DON'T TRUST those who don't (or won't) swear. I even think cussing can be beautiful, no lie.  I played bluegrass years ago with this guy Ric Hedrick.  I loved how he talked.  He KNEW how to cuss.  He selected the right word at the right time.  He was a damn artist.  Until I can get over to his house to record a conversation with him, you'll just have to take my word for it.

I'm not advocating for rudeness here. Don't cuss in front of your parents (they raised you better than that), your boss (he can fire you) or your pastor (unless of course they cuss more than you do)etc etc etc.  It's just not cool.  What I'm saying is if you're shocked by the occasional cuss word in informal conversation, you might need to grow the fuck up.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Links And Time Travel: Some Crap For You To Read While Your Food Digests

Happy Thanksgiving!  It's my favorite holiday and honestly probably the most overlooked one.  Although it's steeped in fake history, it is one of the handful of holidays that has yet to be effectively monetized (I'm looking at you, Christmas and Halloween) and militarized (I'm looking at you, pretty much every other holiday that showcases the U.S.'s military might).  It's about food and family; it's about gratitude and that is damn cool.  While you're contemplating your blessings, have a look at the kick ass links below.

Okay - that's it.  Go be with your family and eat some damn food!

Monday, November 17, 2014

It's Not Too Late

If you want to contribute some holiday-related audio to be posted here in December, it's not too late!  Details here.  I went to Kevin's house last night to work on my contribution.  I'm sort of excited about it - I think it will be pretty damn dope.  (Photos by Kevin Reynolds.)

Friday, November 7, 2014

Fat Friday Feature: Sting On The Police's "Bombs Away"

One of the semi-regular features here at "History Lesson, Pt. 2" is to take Friday and showcase a particular bass part/bass player of note.  Today, I'm going to look at Sting's bass line on the Police's "Bombs Away".

I've always liked the Police.  Always.  I've committed to memory every song on every album starting with "Zenyatta Mondatta", and eventually, I worked my way through their back catalog.  It's all great stuff.  They are a huge reason that I'm drawn to trios - there can be no weakness.  Everyone has to kick ass or the whole thing falls apart.  Try to think about removing Stewart Copeland from the Police.  Or Andy Summers.  It just wouldn't work, I'm positive of it.  Or go the other direction - add a keyboard player.  Or relinquish the vocal duties to someone else.  Most likely, it would be bloated and sucky.  The Police all pull together to make one kick ass song after another.  And as I've gotten older, I've become even more of a fan.

But I've never really paid much attention to Sting's bass work.  Don't get me wrong - I've never thought of it as bad.  In fact, Sting plays like a good bass player should:  his playing always serves the song.  Never too much busyness.  

One exception is "Bombs Away".  Sting shows us (okay, shows me) that you can be busy on the bass and still serve the song.  I love the originality of this line; I love how it creates the groove and unique feel (along with the drums) to this tune.  Check it, yo.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Monday, November 3, 2014

Photos From This Weekend's Recording Session

I got to spend two days this weekend recording with Amigo Fields in Russian Recordings.  It was immensely fun, and I thank Mary Beth for holding down the fort.  I know it's not easy, and I never, ever take for granted the sacrifices you make for me to take off and do this.

If I get a moment, I'll create a more detailed account of the weekend; but for now, here are some highlights:

  • This CD will mark my singing debut, though it's only harmonies and it's only on one song.
  • I got to play with some really fun folks this weekend.  Beyond being great musicians they just made it a lot of fun to hang out.
  • Russian Recordings is an amazing space.  You can just feel the creative vibe coming from every corner.  And Kyle (engineer) is about as cool and professional as they come.  He worked two very long days, and he was always upbeat and helpful.  So easy to work with.
  • I had far and away the best latte of my life from Hopscotch Coffee, the newest coffee shop in town.  Holy crap, I can't emphasize how amazing it was.  It'll change change your life - it changed mine.  And Hopscotch gets bonus points for the Lebowski reference on their home page - can you find it?
I'm not sure what happens at this point, but I imagine the material will be mixed down and reviewed.  I'll post something when the CD goes live.
View of control booth.

Twin Peaks reference, I believe.

Bessie in the live room.

Some of the studio's instruments in the live room.

These two freaks were hanging in an isolation
booth.  On the left is a Gibson Explorer
bass.  On the right is a totally bad ass Kramer
bass with an aluminum neck.

There is interesting art all around the studio.

Warming up in the live room.

The guitar on the left - an Electrical Guitars knock off of
a Guild - was my favorite instruments.

Me looking all casual and stuff in the green room.  Next to
a sculpture of a hamburger.

Me nailing it on the first take, I'm sure.  (Actually just
warming up.)

Love this hidden treasure - a Gibson RD Artist bass that belongs
to the studio.  Didn't get an opportunity to plug it in and mess
with it though.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

"Two Bros From Way Back": In Praise Of Metalheads

Though it's been circulating since the early 1990s, I only heard of "The Derek Tape" yesterday.  I have to tell you - it is a thing of beauty.  I'm not exaggerating when I say that to me, artifacts like this are as important to our cultural heritage as a Grandma Moses painting or an Aaron Copeland composition.  Like many great works of art, it clearly identifies the spirit of a distinct time and place* (and in this case, a subculture).  Like many great works of art it is entertaining, provocative and leaves as many questions as it answers.  And like many great works of art, there is something that resonates. We all knew dudes just like Derek.  Please, please, please - listen to this, but don't listen to it around those with delicate sensibilities.  Derek speaks the muthafuckin' truth, bruh.  Truth can hurt, and the truth can also contain the word "fuck" a lot.

So what exactly is "The Derek Tape"?  The full story is here, but basically it is this:  "The Derek Tape" is a recorded phone call between a very chill dude named Kurt and super excitable metalhead named Derek.  Derek does most of the talking.  He spends approximately half of the call talking about how he's going to kill this dude Terry because Terry stiffed him $20.  While that is amusing, it's when Derek shifts into his discussion of music that the clinic happens.  Derek expounds like a college prof on types of metal bands (hate metal versus straight Satanic metal), guitarists/guitar solos, drugs, higher and lower orders of demons, and the Necronomicon.  Unlike most college profs, Derek brings a unique enthusiasm to his exegesis.  He is articulate and thorough.  His word choice is brilliant, dude.  Listen to Derek.  When challenged on his assertion that the Grateful Dead is a Satanic band, he is specific and hell, even believable to an extent, arguing that there is no more effective way to spread any message (let along a Satanic message) than via an ear worm/music.  Put on some headphones and prepare to be dazzled.

I knew Derek.  Only his name was Tony Webb.  Tony and I went to St. Mary's together.  We were held back together.  We were in the same lower math class, and we were required to get tutoring together.  Although I don't remember the diagnosis being around at that time, I'm positive that Tony suffered from Attention Deficit/Hyperactive Disorder.  The kid moved a million miles an hour - in body and in mind.  He was intense and never half-assed anything except maybe school work.  But his true passion - the thing that jacked him more than anything else in the world - was metal music.  He was an evangelist for all forms of metal, from the hair metal bands that were emerging in L.A., to the classic metal bands like Black Sabbath, to the Satanic bands that were just starting to freak out middle America.  "Circus" magazine was the Bible, the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal all rolled into one for Tony.  He openly shared both his stash of Circus back issues and his opinions on what was and wasn't "metal".  When he spoke about heavy metal music, his eyes bugged out and his body vibrated.  The dark lord had taken him.  I'm not making this up.

One time after school me, Tony and about three other friends (sorry - "bros") rode our bikes to Tony's house.  He lived over the big bridge in our town - I forget the name of it - in the blue collar section of town in the shadow of the bridge.  He lived in a tiny two bedroom house with his mom and dad, heavy metal older brother, and hot heavy metal sister.  This particular visit, no one was home so we smoked cigarettes and raided Tony's brother's porno mag stash.  As we thumbed through old issues of Penthouse, Tony read Circus magazine.  I think Lita Ford did it for him more than Dorothy Stratten.  Or maybe Rob Halford did it for him - who knows?  All I know for sure is that he lived and breathed heavy metal.  He probably actually would've sold his soul if Satan required that of metal fans.  I don't think he does though.

Tony Webb is a common species of music fan, but metalheads (as this species is known) are unique.  They had a loyalty to their favorite artists and they put their money where their loyalty resided.  Punks did too, but the punk scene was slightly more fragmented (ask the Meat Puppets how L.A. punks treated them) and a lot more stoic than the metal scene. Metalheads saw drugs and booze as an avenue for more fully appreciating and intensifying the music and representing a lifestyle; hippies used it to mellow things out.  Metalheads knew more about their bands and scene than their Prog-fan cousins knew of theirs.  Guys like Tony were the Comic Book Guy of the Heavy Metal Parking Lot sans the elitism.  Only all metalheads were like that.  And that's bad ass.

It's hilarious to make fun of metalheads.  They're so delightfully out of touch, and so goddamned quotable.  But be honest:  have you ever had an all consuming passion like the Tony Webbs and Dereks of the world?  Was it what got your through the school day, your shitty minimum wage job, and the grim reality of a sub par home life?  Did it get you out of bed?  Maybe, but I bet not.  I'll continue to point and laugh at dudes like Derek and Tony, but I admire that passion that quickens them.  Keep rockin', Tony.  Keep rockin', Derek.  I know you are somewhere.

*-You like how I avoided using the word "zeitgeist"?

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Scavenger Hunt

See you at Storyzilla tonight at Rachael's Cafe!  There's a $10 admission price, but I'm sure it will be worth it.  Here's a story about the first one - see if you can spot the bass player sporting the white man's overbite.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Soliciting Ideas And Performers For Christmas Posts

Longtime readers know that starting in December, I like to post (or repost if no new recordings have been made) performances of Christmas-related audio here for all to enjoy.  Regardless of the audio quality of the end result, I've found it is something I've really enjoyed listening to and/or participating in as the case may be.  I always appreciate what people make because often it involves leaving their comfort zone to make the work.  And I feel grateful - it definitely gets me in the holiday spirit.

This year, I'd like for readers to suggest ideas for content.  What holiday related performances would you like to see posted here, and who would you like to hear performing it?  Would you,  humble reader, like to submit something?  Let's talk!

In the past, we've had:
 - original poems read by the author
 - covers of holiday songs
 - accounts of Christ's birth from scripture (read by my mom and dad - it gets me every time to listen to it)
 - selected readings from popular Christmas programs

What do you have?  Wanna do a radio play?  Sing a song?  Write and read a poem or story?  Start suggesting ideas below.  I'll follow up with whoever might be interested - I have ways of recording performances even if you live far from me, so don't be shy!

Past holiday performances:
 - A cover of Robert Earl Keen's "Merry Christmas From the Family" by the Creekdogs
 - A Creekdogs cover of "Spotlight On Christmas"
 - The Cosby Sweaters' cover of "Blue Christmas"
 - Christmas wishes from some very precocious youths from Ohio
 - I posted a prank call from a person I may or may not know
 - Yet another Creekdogs cover - this one is "Roving On A Winter's Night"
 - Leslie Donovan does a great version of "Silent Night"
 - Here's a Cosby Sweaters original entitled "Peppermint Stick Shiv"
 - My mom and dad read the story of Christ's birth - one of my favorites of the holiday contributions
 - And holy shit:  Santa (and Prancer!) left my son a voicemail!

Why limit it to just audio this year?  Got a cool movie or photo?  (Vintage shit always plays well at the holidays, right?)  Let's talk!  The tone and content of your works don't matter so much; they just have to be entertaining and related to the holidays.  Submit your ideas in the comments section.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Here's Your Seasonal Mix Of Trashcan Sinatras Tunes

Everyone has seasonal tunes.  They might go by different names - "beach jamz!1!!!" or whatever, but we all have certain artists or genres we go for when the weather changes.  As the year enters the homestretch towards Thanksgiving and Christmas, for example, I will move towards a musical diet that is rich in bebop.  I don't know why for sure - I think because there's an intimacy and warmth to the sound of drums, upright bass and piano that I crave as the days get short, cold and gray.  The move towards jazz is never really a conscious decision; it's really something that just gradually happens.  When I get my first longings for spring, I start to listen to twangy, surf-tinged songs.  Same thing:  it just sort of happens.

But we are at the height of fall, and fall has been exceptionally beautiful around here this year.  Fall is clubbing over the head with its, uh, "fallness".  For me, fall means listening to songs with a higher concentration of jangly guitars, layered harmonies and effects that give the songs a sense of spaciousness.  For years, the Smiths satisfied this urge; the past 15 years or so it has been the Trashcan Sinatras.

There's a lot going on in Trashcan Sinatras' tunes.  I tend to seize upon the complex, always interesting harmonies. But at any given time, there are three or more guitars layered into the tune.  You can hear a different guitar almost every time you listen to the same song, and I love this.  In some nonspecific way, their tunes conjure up their homeland of Scotland quite nicely.  I tend to think of foggy forests, greener than life peat bogs, and northern industrial mining towns.  They're reliance on word play and puns in songs can be a bit annoying, but it doesn't dampen my love for these tunes too much.  It's just something I notice from time to time.  Otherwise, the songs are sparkly pop gems, and since I'm shitty at describing them, let's listen to a few that will help you enjoy your autumn, shall we?

Use headphones for maximum satisfaction.

"Earlies" - hadn't heard this one until yesterday, and I love the laid back feeling it gives me.  Listen for the unexpected banjo (possibly a bantar?) towards the middle.
"Send For Henny" - another mellow vibe
"How Can I Apply?" - are you chillaxed yet?
"Oranges And Apples" - a nice "Penny Lane"-type song
"Blood Rush" - picks up the pace a bit.
"Hayfever" - trippy video, a little bit more urgency than the previous tunes
"Twisted And Bent" - this tune is riddled with wordplay and puns, but don't let that stop you from enjoying the solo and the fade out.  Wait for the funny Scottish guy at the end of the video.
"Only Tongue Can Tell" - this was the song that started it all off for me.  I never forgot how much I loved this song after seeing it on "120 Minutes" in high school.  Memorable because it sounded great, but also because the singer played a guitar with a Gibson SG body, but a Fender neck.  Trippy.
"I'm Immortal" - this one seems stripped down, but it's just as layered as any of the previous songs
"Snow" - oddly, the shitty falsetto singing towards the middle makes this song even better.  This song always draws me in without fail.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Audio Scratch Pad: "Redneck Riviera" - Birth Of A Hit?

Months ago, I sent to my friend Tyler a "talking blues" song about nearby Lake Monroe which I called "Redneck Riviera".  It was mean to affectionately poke fun at those salt-of-the-Earth types who hang out on the lake.  She liked the lyrics, but we never really did anything beyond taking a quick stab at throwing chords to it.  We were never quite please with it, so we shelved it and moved on.

I was at Tyler's house last night practicing for the next Storyzilla show.  You see, Tyler and I played music between the stories at the inaugural show last month, and both the music and the stories were raging successes.*   Usually our practices go pretty well.  We often enter them with apprehension - will we be ready in time for the next show?  will song x make the grade?  will we sound okay? - and leave pleasantly surprised at how the set has come along as well as completely re-energized at the potential for fun at such shows.  Last night, we were both just tired.  Don't get me wrong:  we weren't grumpy, we didn't suck, we just weren't firing on all cylinders.  As practice was waning, Tyler suggested we revisit "Redneck Riviera".  I figured what the hell.  She threw out a random chord progression on the spot and hummed a melody.  Next thing I knew we were doing harmonies and figuring out a chorus (my original version had no chorus).  We were both saucer-eyed:  this thing was coming together.  Holy cow.  It is nothing fancy, but it is coming together.

Embedded below is only our second attempt ever at singing it.  You'll hear lots of little imperfections, but I think you'll also hear why we are so attracted to it.  It's a fun, original tune that's perfect for this little coffee shop gig that features original stories (and music!) all night.  It's interesting to note that we also sing a song that Tyler wrote the words and music for called "M-22", which is about Leelanau County, Michigan.  It's sort of the anti-Lake Monroe.  Totally unintentional, but a nice contrast.

Anyway, as rough as this tune is, I kinda like it.

*-If our music wasn't a raging success, it was at a minimum good enough to be asked back.

"Redneck Riviera (Lake Monroe)"
Words by Matt Zink
Music by Tyler Ferguson

john boat
bait shop
outboard repair
breathing in Coronas
and drinking smoky air
life vest
Polar Pop
fuel mix
basement crop
Nerf ball
hot dogs
2 piece suit
jet ski
Everclear fruit
tackle box
fishin’ lure
propane grill
dance party
salsa spill
hook up
Mountain Dew
sunburned back
pickup truck
rifle rack
filet knife
slalom ski
gas station
pit stop
cricket chirp
golden sky
mud water high

Monday, October 6, 2014

Polyphonic Singing = Brain Fucking

My friend Pete tipped me off to something that is truly trippy:  polyphonic singing.  Polyphonic singing is essentially one person singing two notes/lines simultaneously.   It's really pretty neat.  Will the wonders of this world (and this woman) ever cease?  Stay with the whole video - she starts with basic examples of polyphonic singing, then gets more complex as the video goes along.  Truly cool stuff.

I have to admit to chuckling a bit upon hearing her singing.  Her voice reminded me a little of a Bloogle, which is this really cool toy my mom bought for us when we were younger.

Sunday, October 5, 2014


Yesterday was a very unusual day - I literally left my Uncle Jim's funeral to go straight to a wedding.  I couldn't stop thinking about the Jam's "Just Who Is The 5 O'Clock Hero?"

It also got me thinking about the music of the respective events; about how they served different functions.  This is hardly an original observation, I know.  But it is one that clubbed me over the head yesterday.

Uncle Jim's funeral was at St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church in Bedford, IN.  The church itself is one I like a great deal.  It is modest in scale and ornament, but it is built of (what I assume is) locally quarried stone.  The heavy stone and mostly Gothic architecture gives a sense of ageless stability and comfort.  It's also the church in which my parents were married, so immediately grim events like funerals become a bit more endurable because on some level, life for me began there.  So in a way, the table was set for the music.

Then the small church choir kicks in with some hymns*.  It's what you'd expect:  mistake free but dull, stoic, unemotional, and static. But it struck me that there is safety in such staid music.  Wandering minds (like mine) found the music and stayed there for a bit.  There is no proverbial teeth gnashing and hair pulling to be found anywhere in those hymns, and I came to see that for at least me, that was the point.  The routine of the ceremony and hymns manages to acknowledge the grief without letting it take over.  Besides being a statement of faith, I believe that is why those songs are so measured, so calming.  I was thankful for it.

Flash forward to the wedding reception:  there also the music was a known entity - safe songs on a playlist that was pretty much the opposite of ambitious.  I have to admit to rolling my eyes when I heard songs like "Shout", "Respect", and "Sweet Caroline".  Like the liturgical music, these are old ass songs that everyone knows; they are familiar as a very, very, very old pair of jeans.  Jeans that are ready for the museum, jeans that would need to be carbon dated to learn their age.  However, in this case, it was meant to lube the crowd and get them out on the dance floor.  Granted, I left early so they could've totally busted out the smutty, "grind your partner" tunes later, but when I was there, the newest, most "cutting edge" song was "MMM Bop".

Whatever/it's fine.  It's their big day, not mine.  They should play whatever the hell they want.  Anyways, you could've had a live performance from Vulfpeck and I probably still wouldn't've danced.  I just think it's interesting how what is familiar is supposed to achieve two different results.

* - I want to be abundantly clear that this is in no way a criticism of the choir.  I can't tell you how how grateful I am that there are folks who are willing to give up time on their weekends to get dressed up and come into church for events like this.  It is clear that this is a ministry for them, and I offer them much respect.  Thank you to all of those that sang at Uncle Jim's funeral.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Fat Friday Feature: Vulfpeck's Joe Dart On "Beastly"

Awwww yeah:  after such a long gap, it's so nice to be doing another Fat Friday Feature!  Long time readers (if there are any) know that Friday is the day we showcase a bad ass bass player and/or smokin' bass part.  Today we have Vulfpeck's Joe Dart melting the fingerboard of his beautiful Fender Precision bass on "Beastly".

Long about last week, I was thanking my brother Paul for hipping me to wefunkradio.com, which, seriously, is the dopest funk, soul and hip hop programming I've ever heard.  He mentioned if I liked We Funk, I should check into Vulfpeck.  I've literally been listening to Vulfpeck exclusively since we had this conversation last week.

Although I didn't make the connection until right before I started working on this entry, I was reminded through some light Googling that Vulfpeck released an album of silence on Spotify in order to raise funds to record an actual album.  Of course, Spotify yanked it because they didn't like getting played like that.  I remember thinking it was a pretty clever little gaming of the system, but I didn't really think anything of Vulfpeck until Paul told me to check them out.

Vulfpeck is funk, but don't let that scare you. They're not the same as the stuff that gets passed off as funk these days - stuff like the Red Hot Chili Peppers. For starters, their sound is stripped down to the essentials.  You get the sense from watching their videos that they might not even do overdubs.  They take what is great about 70s funk - the fucked up times, the slinky bass lines with fat tone, the Fender Rhodes piano - and drop it square into 1982.  There's an undeniable hint of 80s synth madness to what the do.  But never, ever do they come off as schlocky or novel.  They know what their doing, and it all sounds great.

Then there's Joe Dart.  He's pretty much everything you could want from a bassist, all in the same song.  Does he lay a groove?  Check.  Does he have great tone? Check.  Are his lines and fills totally unique?  Yep - check.  Can he solo?  Hell yes/check.  As I've stated before, I don't even really like bass solos that much, but he is definitely an exception.  Check out "Beastly" but for God's sake, don't stop there.  Vulfpeck has a truck load of kick ass to dump on you.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Bessie Is For Sale

I've been threatening to do it for some time, but now I'm finally doing it:  my beloved "Bessie" is for sale.  It's a great bass, but I'm hoping to upgrade.  She's a great bass - if you live in central/south central Indiana and are interested in buying it, leave a note in the comments section below.

For Sale: Englehardt EM-1
Englehardt EM-1, made in Chicago, Illinois. Gewa heavy duty padded case included - $293 value.
- Plywood bass, spruce top and maple back
- Rosewood fingerboard and tailpiece
- maple bridge
 - Ebony nut
- 3/4 (standard) size
- Strung with Innovation Super Silver medium tension strings - Great for slap and pizzicato playing.
- Fishman transducer pickup included 

Includes several upgrades by reputable luthiers.
- Adjustments/setup nut upgrade and fingerboard dressing by Lucas Marvell
- Adjustable sculpted bridge by Harold "Doc" Evans who also did adjustments/setup
- Setup/adjustments by Stephen Shock 

Good condition (normal wear and tear); there are markers painted with fingernail polish on the side of the fingerboard - this will fade with usage/playing. Considering upgrades and extras (like case and pickup) his is a great student or road bass! Need to sell before Oct. 15 if possible.

Let me know if you want photos or sound samples.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

What Music Is At The Cool Folder?

You might know that this site has a very active sister site on Tumblr called "The Cool Folder".  It's very active and full of super interesting stuff.  But what kind of music is posted there?  Dig on these selections - they're all kick ass or they wouldn't be in the Cool Folder, you guys.

The Bleachers - "I Wanna Get Better"
The Violent Femmes - "Black Girls"
The Barbarians - "Moulty!"
The Police - "Tea In The Sahara"
Mary Clayton's backing vocals on the Rolling Stones' "Give Me Shelter"
The Meat Puppets - "Magic Toy Missing"
Gloria's cover of Talking Heads' "This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody)"
Horace Silver 5tet - "Song For My Father"
Neil Young - "Revolution Blues"
Peter Gabriel's cover of the Magnetic Fields' "The Book of Love"
Robyn Hitchcock and the Venus 3 - "I'm Falling"

 . . . and there's tons more where that came from.  So check it out, yo.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Songwriting 101/Sociology With Steve Earle!

There's so much more to Steve Earle than "Copperhead Road" (click here and here for example), but let's face it:  his biggest hit kicks much ass.  The songwriting is evocative and blunt, and just about everyone I knew at my high school could've been John Lee Pettimore even if I didn't grow up in the Vietnam era.  If a song resonates with me, there's an extremely high chance I'm going to like it.

Another appealing thing about Steve Earle's song wrting - not just on "Copperhead Road" - is that it manages to paint a vivid picture that jibes with the cold, hard objective reality of a given situation.  To me, it's almost like he took a sociology course somewhere, then sought to write songs and put faces to the conclusions he drew from his studies.  In this way, Earle skillfully uses his story telling ability to expose you to his point of view, almost without you knowing.  Look at this example from "Copperhead Road" - this is an excerpt from probably one of my all time favorite verses of any song:

I volunteered for the army on my birthday
they draft the white trash first round here anyway

I did some light Googling and found this statistic from the Veterans of Foreign Wars:

  • 76% of those drafted were from lower/working class backgrounds.
Now, there's some questions about the source and some problematic language in that "fact" - what constitutes lower class?  working class?  why are they combined?  - but while the statement itself is sad, I doubt few readers would find it shocking or untrue.  The poor have always fought wars for the interests of a oligarchy; an oligarchy which seldom represents their interests.

Though those lines jump out at me, the whole song is amazing.  To me, it's a quintessntially American epic for better or worse.  So without further adieu:

Well my name's John Lee Pettimore 
Same as my daddy and his daddy before 
You hardly ever saw Grandaddy down here 
He only came to town about twice a year 
He'd buy a hundred pounds of yeast and some copper line 
Everybody knew that he made moonshine 
Now the revenue man wanted Grandaddy bad 
He headed up the holler with everything he had 
It's before my time but I've been told 
He never came back from Copperhead Road

Now Daddy ran the whiskey in a big block Dodge
Bought it at an auction at the Mason's Lodge
Johnson County Sheriff painted on the side
Just shot a coat of primer then he looked inside
Well him and my uncle tore that engine down
I still remember that rumblin' sound
Well the sheriff came around in the middle of the night
Heard mama cryin', knew something wasn't right
He was headed down to Knoxville with the weekly load
You could smell the whiskey burnin' down Copperhead Road

I volunteered for the Army on my birthday
They draft the white trash first,'round here anyway
I done two tours of duty in Vietnam
And I came home with a brand new plan
I take the seed from Colombia and Mexico
I plant it up the holler down Copperhead Road
Well the D.E.A.'s got a chopper in the air
I wake up screaming like I'm back over there
I learned a thing or two from ol' Charlie don't you know
You better stay away from Copperhead Road
Copperhead Road
Copperhead Road
Copperhead Road

Friday, August 1, 2014

Fun Time Is Over/Back To The Mines

Vacation is over for this blog - back to regular updating.  Let me get started by telling you some things that have been going on since I last posted anything.

Three On The Tree is pretty much done.  This is kind of a drag as we were picking up steam and generating some interest.  Leslie Newton (our very talented singer) is moving to Colorado.  As you can imagine, this makes getting together for practice and gigs pretty difficult.  Still, if we had to break up, this is as good a reason as any.  Life moves forward, and this is a positive development for her.  

Speaking of TotT, I've been meaning to share the helpful advice I got in the tip jar from the Easley Winery gig.  It is below.  Despite that feedback (Full disclosure:  I know the culprits.  They were trying to take the piss out of me.)

My trusty upright bass - an Englehardt EM-1 - is about to go on the market.  I love this bass but I think I'm ready to upgrade to a better plywood bass.  I'll post something once I get it on Craigs List.  If I can't get out of it what I need to get out of it, I'll be hanging onto it, loving it "warts and all".

Trowar has been staying busy with rehearsals.  We try to get together every two weeks or so.  We're really putting the songs under a microscope, trying to make sure everything is tight.  It's a little stressful, but these songs should sound pretty amazing the next time we play them out.  We're also moving our "headquarters" from Redmond, WA to Nashville, TN.  This is a bit more centrally located and at least for me, it works out great.  I don't have to burn time off to fly out west for rehearsals.  We will still get together from time to time at Ghost Train studios, but the bulk of our practicing should now happen in Nashville.  We've had one rehearsal there with another coming up next weekend - I'll let you know how it goes.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Beaten To The Punch

Sorry for the long absence, guys.  I've got plenty to say - gig updates, band updates (Three on the Tree is about to bite the dust - insert sad emoticon here), musings about disco, and many other things.  Many of the the blog entries are still in my head; some are half done, waiting for me to finish in my Blogger dashboard.  I'll do it, I swear.

One entry I've been kicking around for years is to do a sort of remembrance on the Great White Force that is Michael McDonald.  There was a time when you could not escape the former Doobie Brother's distinctive voice.  In addition to writing and releasing his own stuff, it seems like he was constantly doing backing vocals on others' hit records or possibly doing a duet with this celebrity or that.  Hell - I even remember seeing him on an episode of "What's Happenin'?" about musical piracy.  When I was young, McDonald's ubiquity bugged the shit out of me.  As I got older, I became amused.  Now I'm sort of jealous - the guy was money in everything he did, and he worked his ass off.  He can just sit back and enjoy his legacy at this point.

Well, someone beat me to the punch on the McDonald article.  And it's a good one - get on over there and read it.  It's got tons of amazing links on the current King of Yacht Rock.  I wouldn't necessarily say I was a fan of Michael McDonald (though some of it is okay), so any article I would've written wouldn't've had the appreciative tone that this one does.  But still - lots of fun, thought provoking stuff in this article.  You should go read it.

Now enjoy Michael McDonald takin' it to the yacht streets.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

My Summer Music Hall Of Fame: The LPs [UPDATED]

For me, mix tapes will always provide the official soundtrack of summer.  However, there were a few LPs from my past that got heavy rotation for a summer or two.  Eventually, even today, I think of or listen to these albums once the weather warms up.  And given that none of these are even close to being considered "new releases", you can correctly assume that most of these are deeply rooted in childhood memories of summer.

Mojo Nixon and Skid Roper - "Frenzy"
Tears for Fears - "Songs From The Big Chair"
Dire Straits - "Brothers In Arms"
Camper Van Beethoven - "Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart"
Camper Van Beethoven - "Telephone Free Landslide Victory"
XTC - "Skylarking"
XTC - "Black Sea"
The Kinks - "State of Confusion"
REM - "Murmur"
G. Love and Special Sauce - (Self titled)
The Who - "The Kids Are Alright"
Bruce Springsteen - "Born In The USA"
Billy Joel - "The Stranger"
Billy Joel - "Piano Man"
Simon and Garfunkel - "Greatest Hits"
The Eagles - "Greatest Hits, Vol. 1"
The Jam - "Sound Affects"
"Animal House" Soundtrack
The Police - "Zenyatta Mondatta"
Madonna - "Immaculate Collection"

. . .  and on and on - this list is not exhaustive.  What are your summer LPs?

Some more:
Midnight Oil - "10,9,8,7,6. . ."
The Moon and the Melodies - (Self titled)
The Red Hot Chili Peppers - "Uplift Mofo Party Plan"
Beastie Boys - "Paul's Boutique"
The Fall - "This Nation's Saving Grace"
Suzanne Vega - "Solitude Standing"

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Trowar Report: The "Dear Quack" Version

Dear Quack:
Thanks for asking about the Washington trip.  There's a lot to report, but musically, it all went down like this:
  • I got in Thursday morning and went directly to Ghost Train Studio and worked on the set with Fred.  In the L.A. rehearsals (which I never did write about - sorry) we had the song order and basic structure of each tune firmly established.  This was a huge help for me AND the band.  We can finally start concentrating on some fine tuning instead of learning new changes and orders.  We practiced for about 3 hours and it went smooth enough that for some reason, I began to get paranoid that things were not as they seemed.  That didn't stop me from going to Palmer's and eating a steak sandwich, then heading back to Chris Wilhite's (manager) house to go to bed early.  I had gotten up at 4:30 AM to make the flight in Indy; I was pooped.
  • I got to spend a little time with the Tone Hammer DI box that Chris had bought at my request.  The primary purpose of this purchase was to address one key problem:  to get myself heard in the band mix.  A secondary - but not as important - goal was to clean up the tone with the greater number of options that this box would give me.  The thinking was that I'd plug my bass into the Tone Hammer, then send two cables out:  one to my amplifier and one to the house PA.  This more or less turns my amp into a monitor for me while putting my bass directly into the house speakers, making it much louder in the mix for both me and the crowd. I'm still figuring out this thing, but it worked like a charm.  Turns out at both venues, the sound guys would rather mic the bass amp than go directly to the PA from the DI box.  But still:  there was plenty of volume to spare, and I've only scratched the surface of the tonal combos between the Tone Hammer and my amp.  (I actually "zeroed out" my amp, meaning I put everything on 5 just to see what kind of tonal variation I could get out of the Tone Hammer.)  I think Chris or Fred is shipping the Tone Hammer to me to keep working with it, and to have it for the Indy gig.  Never thought I could get this excited about a direct input box.  It was a pure delight that my bass was loud and the tone didn't sound like farts.  It actually sounded like a bass, with warm, round, full tone.
  • John's flight came in on Friday.  While we waited for John to get in from the airport, Fred and I worked with a vocal coach named Emily who we've worked with pretty steadily the past few practices now.  She's fun to work with, even when (especially when) she's pushing you outside your comfort zone.  She's very good at getting us to think about what we're doing and how we might look and sound to the crowd.  She seems to have no shortage of "tricks" for pushing us.  Fred and I both know that the vocals have a way to go, but we - particularly Fred - have come a long way.  Now that the songs and the set as a whole are coming together, we hope to really hit the vocals hard by bringing Fred's vocals up a bit in the mix and have the harmonies tight as hell.  I think we'll get it.
  • John came while Fred and I were working with Emily.  He set up his drums as we continued to practice vocals.  Once he was finished he jumped in as we worked.  Next thing I know the volume was up and we were off and running, drums and all.  I'd say our total practice time with John that day was about 45 minutes to an hour.  Everything sounded so good we didn't go much beyond that, opting instead to tear down our gear and get it in the truck.  We spent the rest of the day trying to relax and get rested up for the gig.
That is more or less how the practicing went.  I'm about out of time, so I'll wrap this up for now.  I'll post something about the two gigs very soon.  

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Off Topic: Miss You Already

I leave bright and early Thursday morning for two gigs in Washington with Trowar.  Of course I'm pretty jazzed about it.  What's not to like about traveling on someone else's dime to play original music with mind-blowingly amazing musicians?  I'm particularly excited about the next three Trowar shows (two in Washington, one in Indianapolis) because we've been drilling the same songs in the same order. The set may be short, but it should be nice and tight.  This is my hope; this is what we're working towards.

However, these trips are always preceded by a sort of ache in my chest.  I think that it is due in part to performance anxiety*, but mostly it comes from missing my wife Mary Beth and our two kids.  It happens this way every time:  once a gig is confirmed and the plane tickets purchased, this uneasiness/ache in my chest expands until I'm on the plane ready to head out.  Essentially, I begin missing my family before I have even left.  I get a bit squeamish when I leave the security and stability of our home, and this feeling gets so intense that I start to question whether or not I even want to carry on with a band that requires me to travel.  Yeah, I realize how crazy that sounds - travelling to play music is something I've fantasized about since I got my first bass.  I always enjoy it, but I hate not having my family along for the ride.  I want them to experience all the neat things I get to experience; I want them to take part in the fun too.  I know this will happen eventually - Chris (Trowar manager) has already tried to do it once - but until then, I'll just have to take as many photos as I can to show the family when I come home.

To be clear:  I'm not complaining about this amazing situation into which I have fallen.  I feel truly lucky every time I carry my bass through the airport.  But I did want to acknowledge the slight melancholy I feel every time I leave my family.  Guys - I, as always, will miss (am missing) you a bunch.  I love you dearly and thanks for making it possible for me to live this dream.

*-Although I do believe a little performance anxiety is good.  You have to stay sharp.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Amigo Fields On Local Live

I had mentioned in a previous post that my friends in Amigo Fields had made an appearance on WFHB's "Local Live" show, promising to link to or embed the show when it was available.  I wish I could embed, but alas:  I must instead link to it.  I'm listening to it now, and it's cool to hear them on the radio!  It sounds great, so check it out!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Trowar Report: Guitar Porn For Now

I returned from the Land of Lebowski (Los Angeles) yesterday evening.  I was out there rehearsing with Trowar for upcoming gigs.  We are very, very pumped at the progress we're making.  I will type a longer report soon; but for now, enjoy this guitar and bass porn from Guitar Center and Time Warp Guitars, both of Hollywood, California.

I can't stop thinking about the non-reverse body Gibson
Thunderbird (the red one, gringo).  What. A. Beauty!

The slot head on this Gibson EB-0 bass is pretty
rare.  In fact, I don't think I've ever seen one in
person until now.

You might know that I'm a total sucker for patina.
The patina on this Fender Precision bass is so
bad ass that I can overlook the white pick up
covers (which I normally loathe).

Ampeg Dan Armstrong bass.  I love this bass.  I fought
the temptation to plug it in. Why tempt myself with
something I can't afford?

A Gibson and an Ampeg.  I think the reason the Gibson
is so cheap is that it doesn't have all original parts (note
the tuning pegs for example).  EDIT:  Okay, I just looked
at a full sized version of this photo. The Gibson isn't
$499.  It's $1499.  That's about right.

Ampeg Baby Bass.  I played this for a moment.  Want.
Very badly.

A Rickenbacker Light Show guitar - another lovely that
I've only ever seen in books.  For those who might not know:
this guitar has lights mounted on the inside that pulsate
and blink through the finish.

Two electric sitars.  Would love to hear someone play
these sukkas.

A beat up (we'll call it "patina" again) Gibson SG.  One
of my favorites in the vintage room, and that's saying

This is what a bass should look like.  Gah I love this one

A 1917 Gibson harp guitar.  I couldn't believe
the great condition of this instrument!

Damn kids and their Legos/super glue.