steve ward

 

 

now playing: steve ward, “evergreen”

 

i gotta tell ya about this guy – i was driving home last night, late, listening briefly to wrvv during their local music show, open mike night…and they played a new track from this guy, steve ward.

now, i didn’t realize it, but i had heard a cut from this guys’ previous album that a steel player i was aware of had worked on…but that lone cut didn’t come close to scratching the surface of what this guy is capable of.

and, as i found out, his record apparently isn’t really new at all…it’s a year old…but i’m sold.

great stuff. check it out.

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the financial reality of original music

 

 

now playing: the olympics

 

i thought i’d relay a conversation that took place today via “reply to all” email between myself, keyboardist extraordinnaire diamond dave minnich, and phoenixville expatriate charlie degenhart:

charlie:
(attached to an email discussing potential philadelphia-area dates in october, including the famously frugal grape street pub…)

just a heads-up, boys!
i’ll keep ya posted!
your pal,
charlie

diamond dave:

cool man

are we playin’ for money or a hamburger? 🙂

hope you’re havin’ a great summer!

diamon’

yours truly:

hey, dave….

he’s talkin’ about the Grape here – i think you’d better bring your own hamburger, man.

and this, truly, is the nature of playing your own songs on this level of the food chain…it’s ironic that this cyber-conversation happened on the same day that my beloved white trash, trailer park, classic rock cover band was booked for a new years’ eve gig for a thousand bucks.

i can go play american band and sweet home alabama for eighty-five bucks an hour, or i can go out and play original music for….

…a hamburger.

these are both paths that i’m walking at the same time right now – i committed to at least one charlie gig on 10/29, and i’ve officially joined nik everett‘s band as well, and neither of these situations are going to make me rich, but they scratch an itch that isn’t going to be scratched otherwise.

my teenage twin

 

 

now playing: nik everett, “the rest doesn’t matter”

there seems to be this cloud of Offspring Turmoil hanging over the room in which i’ve spent the day…my shopmate is having a huge fight with her freeloader married-with-children son, whose shiftless wife is becoming a wedge between the two of them…and i’m having some Son Issues of my own.

i found out today – five days after the fact – that he took money from a wallet that his mom’s boyfriends’ 5 year old son found in front of their house and divided it up between himself and his friends. i use the word “divided” in a pretty liberal sense…there was a total of $43 in the wallet…dylan gave a dollar each to his three co-conspirators and kept the two twenties for himself.

this isn’t a new development….i’ve talked before about his liberties with the truth. it hasn’t gotten any better.

some days, he makes jon lovitz’s saturday night live character look like george washington at the cherry tree. this, plus there are problems he seems to have at his mothers’ house that i don’t have…and i got to listen to a phone call between the two of them via my answering machine that didn’t shut off this week, which was pretty telling….he’s very short with his mother, and you can hear the rage in his voice when he talks to her. there’s something pretty scary that comes out in his voice when you hear him talk to her.

there are some obvious questions that probably come to the minds of outsiders when they read things like this, and trust me – i’ve answered most of them many times over. yeah, there are what would seem to be simple solutions to some of these problems, but the whole situation is rather complex. and at the points at which i’ve just had to chomp off a big bite of this, i’m not prone to wax on about it much…

suffice to say, there are some rough, adolescent waters ahead for this family.

kill the fire and turn to the sun

 

 

now playing: dan fogelberg, “face the fire”

 

one of my absolute favorite guitar solos, the end of that song…builds perfectly to the end of the song.

at some point, though, i gotta turn this off and brush up on my nik everett a little bit…first full band rehearsal tonight.

anyway, a couple of things today – last night, my buddy blake sent me a link to a blog article that quoted dan’s mother in the peoria journal star, saying that the cancer had spread to his bones, and that he was undergoing experimental treatment at Harvard Medical Center…first with hormone therapy and a nutrition program, then a new form of chemotherapy (“not the kind that tears you up”, his mother said). today, though, dan’s official site refuted much of the article, saying that “the quotes attributed to my elderly mother not only misrepresent the extent of my illness, but also the treatment involved“. (you can read the original peoria journal star article here and another news article referring to it here.)

i wonder how much of this is typical celebrity posturing posing as rumor control, personally…it’s certainly hard, from the outside, to separate truth from fiction, and i find myself torn between wanting to know everything that’s going on out of my own sense of concern for one of my heroes…and maintaining a distance and taking in the news as it becomes available and quelling my curiosity out of respect for his always-guarded privacy. that idiotic “inquiring minds want to know” phrase seems to come to mind…

this whole thing just sucks.

my buddy mitch is clamoring for poco stories…which i’ll probably oblige later today. i need to get out of this room for a while first.

to recapture the innocent age…

 

 

now playing: elton john, “tiny dancer”

 

 

shaping up to be another long night at work – the drives that we ordered for our now long-suffering UNIX machine arrived today, so here i sit, as the Adaptec card writes a brand spankin’ new RAID-10 stripe onto the drives…39% complete…

got an email from someone who i only really correspond with in matters regarding a common hero late this afternoon, and it was not good news

with the words that i have at my disposal, i’m still not sure how i would go about trying to explain how important this guy has been to me…i know that there are those who think of this music as hokey, sentimental crap, and that’s ok. i’m alright with that. to each his own.

see, here’s the thing…

i pretty much missed the whole punk thing. i never got it. still don’t.

when the clash hit, i was blissfully unaware of them, until such time as rock the casbah hit, and by then i was in high school and DJ’ing at one of the radio stations in my hometown – and it was an adult contemporary station. by that point, my tastes were pretty much carved in stone. and i didn’t care for the loud, angry shit at all.

i’ve heard the whole “revolt against the corporate dreck that the music business had become” argument, and it’s a powerful argument. but i never made peace with how you effectively backlash against the status quo by sucking. the mindset was apparently that if there were already all these bands who were commercially successful as a result of writing good songs and playing them well, then the way to start the revolution was to go out and be awful. and a lot of them were.

awful.

i don’t get the clash. i don’t get television. i don’t get lou reed. i don’t get david byrne (then or now. hell, especially now.)

even now, i listen to radio stations like wxpn and i hear one song out of maybe six to ten that i can tolerate. it used to be one in every three or four, but we’ve again come full circle in many ways to those halcyon days in the late seventies when the punk movement made it hip to suck ass.

let’s look at lucinda williams, for instance.

every critic on the planet has had to lunge for their collective thesauruses to find new words to use to shine lucindas’ ass, and i can’t stand her. she can’t sing for shit, first of all…and while she used to write good songs (something about what happens when we talk and sweet old world, for instance), she seems to have given that up in the wake of her critical success.

yet people fawn over her.

don’t get it. nope.

now, i don’t know why i got off on this tangent in the first place, but now that i’ve come down this street, i want to stress that it’s not that i have a bias against anything recorded in the past 20 years, or anything of that nature. i love counting crows, for instance. i love lori mckenna and michael tolcher and train and sarah mclachlan and shane nicholson and…and….

well, you get my point. i’m not an “era snob”.

but some people are, and those are the ones who’ll be shaking their heads when i talk about what a huge influence dan was on my formative years.

everything that i wanted to be, he already was. he wrote amazing songs, and his voice did them justice. he was equal parts composer, musician, and artist, and he gave me the drive to broaden my horizons and listen to other types of music that i wouldn’t have given time to, otherwise (and yeah, i fully realize the irony in that statement, considering the first part of my little stream of consciousness rant…).

as i found out what little there was to know about him at the time, i was even more intrigued…his father was a classically trained musician, and a conductor and teacher by trade. his mother was a trained singer. he spent his adolescent years in peoria, illinois, not really fitting in with the social classes that i believed to exist in every high school, and ended up playing in bands through high school, doing beatles and buffalo springfield songs. as he matured as a musician, he was drawn to songwriting and the acoustic guitar, and gravitated to a favorite spot over the river where he found his feet as a songwriter. left home, struck out for the city with his then-manager, irving azoff, who shopped him around LA, trying to get a deal for him for months before he finally ended up with a deal with columbia, where he cut his gorgeous debut album, home free.

his lyrics were literal poetry…abstract imagery, but literal enough to conjure a common wistfulness or a shared experience, and sung with equal parts conviction and sincerety.

“The places dash and the faces dart
Like fishes in a dream
Hiding ‘neath the murky banks
of long forgotten streams
The lines of life are never long
when seen from end to end
The future’s never coming
and the past has never been…”

(from in the passage)

“…Every time I try to put
This puzzle into place
There always seems to be
A piece that’s missing
And through the eyes of someone else
I look into my face
And can’t believe the sorrow
There I see
I can’t believe this lonely man
Is me…”

(from lost in the sun)

“…Pressed in the pages
Of some aging text
Lies an old lily, crumbling
Marking a moment
Of childish respects
Long since betrayed and forgotten.

Times stills the singing
A child holds so dear
And I’m just beginning to hear
Gone are the pathways
The child followed home
Gone, like the sand and the foam…”

(from the sand and the foam)

 

as an alienated teenager fixated on rock and roll and belonging nowhere in particular, i found something to relate to in what he said, and the enigmatic image he projected…i identified with the reclusive artist persona, as i felt that this was something that we actually had in common. he got me out from behind the drums and lit the fire inside me to learn guitar, to pick up a pencil and write songs, to be willing to make mistakes and learn the craft of songwriting and to find the words inside myself to express what i felt, even if those early efforts struggled just to be worthy of amateur status.

when he came to memphis my senior year in high school, there was no way in hell i wasn’t going. a buddy of mine who was also a fan knew how to get there (i didn’t), so i bought the tickets, he bought the gas, and we went.

i couldn’t believe how his voice seemed to fill the entire auditorium. it was just him, guitar and piano…and one of the first things i noticed was that when he played the songs, his accompaniment was perfect – it was the first glimpse i’d gotten of what the process was – i’d always thought that the songs probably started with a rudimentary chord progression, and all the frills and accents were added on later. what i learned was that songs like make love stay started out with the chord progression and melody completely intact, and that the arrangements on the recording were done to complement the songs as they were written. i noticed that while a lot of his songs did have the traditional folk fingerstyle accompaniment, he mixed fingerpicking with strumming for dynamics, and he wasn’t afraid to snap a bass string with his thumb for good measure, and that he actually tuned his guitar differently to play certain songs…i knew those weren’t the basic chords that he was flying by in some of those songs, like once upon a time and longer and so on…he was just an amazing musician, and that two and a half hours changed my life. it set me on the path to become a better guitarist, to stretch my voice and lose the timid delivery that had been a subconscious barricade for me…

it’s no exaggeration that i wouldn’t be the musician that i am now if it weren’t for him.

i’ve known…forecasted, even…that there’d be a time when the years would force the human side of my heroes to the surface, and i’d have to stand by and watch them start to fall, one by one. last year, we lost warren zevon and just last month one of my heroes whom i’ve been fortunate enough to call a friend as well, george grantham from poco was felled by a stroke onstage, two songs into a show in springfield, mass. (he’s doing much better and has returned to nashville just this past week, although he’s still hospitalized at this point, by the way).

i can see the age in my own eyes when i look in the mirror with some strange mix of regret and anxiety…but as time goes by and the cultural landscape under my feet continues to shift and mutate into something that i fail to recognize sometimes, nothing drives home the passing of the years quite like seeing my heroes age.

if you’re not too cool to do so, say a prayer for dan tonight.

coherent

 

 

now playing: poco, “indian summer”

 

wendy brought home the first season of six feet under last week, and i’m firmly convinced at this point that it’s probably the best show on TV right now. i used to watch it pretty religiously when we still had HBO (before the great purge of the pay channels), and lost interest when it wasn’t around anymore, as i typically do with TV. it’s not terribly often that i’ll allow myself to ignore all the things around me that need my attention and sink into the sofa and indulge myself with tube time…it’s just hard for me to relax if something’s pressing on my “to do” button. and to clarify – it’s not so much an OCD type disorder as it is a matter of tending to basic needs. it’s generally more of a “do i want to watch tv or have clean clothes to wear to work tomorrow?” more than a “how can i waste my time watching tv when i haven’t alphabetized the soup cans in the cupboard yet?” thing.

and yes, i am aware of a person (who happens to sit just to my right, through a wall) who actually does that…alphabetizes his soup cans.

so i got a tip that there’s a relatively cheap pickup truck for sale in ephrata that might fit my (nonexistant) budget, so i think we’ll go have a look after work tonight. good excuse to go to boehringer’s, too, since it’s on the way. i also need to drop off the videos from the weekend as well (one time when i did blow everything else off to sit on my ass and watch movies with my kids was this past week when we all went and rented movies together…)

wendy is heading off for maine and massachusetts for labor day weekend (plus part of the week after), so i’m gonna have large chunks of alone time over the weekend to finish up some household stuff (building dylan’s new bunk beds and getting the garage/workshop in order, as well as helping jayda situate her room the way she wants it), and after all the headway made this past weekend, it’ll be a long stride towards finally making the place feel more like home than storage space.

this has been another of those “time-delayed” attempts at sitting down and writing something…i open up Notepad, and start scribbling, and the phone rings, and then i start scribbling, and someone comes back to the shop with a printer problem, and i resume scribbling and the phone rings again, and i dash off to help someone restart their machine to clear a program error (yeah, it’s true…i have callouses on my palms from the hand-holding that i do on a daily basis)…so i think i’m going to abandon this particular attempt at coherency before it becomes all too obvious that there’s much more of a lack thereof…

vehicular deja-vu

 

 

now playing: the innocence mission, “mercy”

 

well, i batted one out of two for the auditions i had this weekend…i didn’t make the sunday audition, thanks to my van deciding to splinter the alternator belt…i had both the battery and the oxygen sensor lights come on on the dash, and when i parked it, i had coolant going everywhere in the back. what’s worse, when i came back to it to move it, the rear tire on the drivers’ side was flat.

i’ve really, really had it with this thing. obviously, having an ace mechanic isn’t improving the uptime ratio of this thing.

(it should also be noted that my ace mechanic must not be in the shop today, since no one seems to be either answering the phone or returning my calls)

wendy made a good and relevant point as i was silently and inwardly expressing my disgust with this piece of shit – in that i should definitely consider getting another means of transportation if i’m considering taking on a band that’s headquartered two hours from home.

good point.

i’m pretty thoroughly disgusted at this point. tired of not being able to follow through on committments because of shit like this.

anyway, i didn’t have my cell phone with me yesterday, and didn’t have freds’ number with me either…and after dwelling on wendys’ comment for a while, it probably didn’t matter. as much as i’d like to take this on, i just can’t see clear to committing to these guys if i can’t get in my fucking car and somehow, through the miracle of modern transportation, get from point A to point B.

so i guess i’m going to have to accept the reality of being in the market for a new ride…my buddy mitch had told me about a guy he knows in the philadelphia area that would probably be able to do something for me some time back, but after i tripped over my mechanic and he got me back on the road, it seems to have slipped my mind.

guess i gotta refocus.

the nik everett encounter went much better, probably because nik came to me instead of vice versa…and while i didn’t have the songs mastered to the extent that i would’ve liked, it went alright nonetheless. we’re planning on getting together with niks’ rhythm section at the end of this week, which should prove to be a lot more productive…it’s tough to relax and play your best when it’s two people face to face and you’re busy trying to be subtle and stay out of the way of things in that particular environment. he’s already taken a date for his CD release party in october at the point in bryn mawr…which he was laughing about on saturday, saying that having the date in stone would force us to get off our collective asses.

i was glad to hear him say that we’d probably pick up one or two of the old songs as well…one of my favorite nik songs is from his second record, called “love equals blue”…in fact, i go to his site every now and then and refresh it until that song plays under his index page.

anyway, the one good thing that came from having my plans derailed yesterday was that i got enough wind at my back to finish wiring the studio…so now everything is in place and functional. i did do one stupid thing, though…and it didn’t occur to me that i was doing it until everything was already wired and in place.

i have an old 16 in, 16 out patch bay that i’ve had literally since i first began making recordings, back in 1986. my console is a 20 channel RAMSA, and i have 2 ADAT machines that make up my non-hard disk recording environment. since i only use 16 channels at a pop on the console (and generally use the last four as effects returns), i got a 16 channel custom insert snake for the first 16 channels.

so, i figure as i’m agonizing over the layout and such, why not use the old 16 in/out patchbay for the channel inserts? it’s the same number of ins and outs, no confusion, no extra patch points to waste…perfect, right?

well, it seemed thus until last night when i got everything in place and started testing the rig and realized that my old, trusty MTR patchbay that i was using for inserts wasn’t normalled – which means that unless a cable is in place on the channel, the circuit is broken and nary a sound shall ye year until you patch the send into the return.

now, i have a behringer patch panel in there that’s switchable, and that’s where the inserts went before…but being the lazy fuck that i am, i’ll probably leave it the way it is and just get extra cables to leave in the insert patchbay so i don’t have to move shit again.

although there’s an excellent chance that it’ll eventually bother me to the point that i’ll fix it.

it was quite nice, though, at a little before 4am this morning, to hear audio coming from my speakers through the console.

i sure am payin’ for it today, though.