turmoil

 

 

now playing: marty higgins, “california”

 

dylan spent the night last night – he’s getting bogged down with homework, and i’m starting to feel ill-equipped to help him deal with it all. i feel as though i should be able to provide him with a certain amount of guidance, but i find myself having to make assumptions about his instructions, and second-guessing myself with regards to the help i’m giving him. last night, he was pretty lethargic and ended up going to bed early – although he was still awake an hour and a half later. (i had to enforce a lights-out to get him to finally go to sleep.)

the guidance counselor at his school has been operating on the assumption that he’d be out for two weeks – the initial word from the doctor was that he’d probably only be out for a week…it’s starting to look like mr. hoover had it about right. his mom wants him to go back mid-week this week, but i don’t know how this is all going to play out yet. right now, he seems to have his good days and his bad days.

i need to call blake and check in…he went through something of a work crisis recently, a bit of an “agree to disagree” moment with one of the customers he’s responsible for. i don’t know how he does what he does – i mean, i can see where the job fits into his life, in terms of allowing for other things…but i’m not sure how he manages to deal with some of the people he has to deal with. (this spoken from a person who has to deal sporadically with raving lunatics as part of his routine) at any rate, his conflict was apparently refereed by someone higher up in his company – and he seems to be ok with the way things panned out, judging from his outlook when i last spoke to him…but he’s rounding the last turn with his record, and i’m hoping that his decision-making apparatus is intact and that he’s able to fully concentrate on the task at hand.

i have a few opinions about making a record in the midst of personal turmoil…although while i might advise against it, certainly history has proven that some great art comes from said turmoil. i can’t help but imagine that plenty of absolute horseshit has come from the same turmoil…but horseshit generally goes unnoticed by the world at large, so it’s hard to say.

an example of horseshit that hasn’t gone unnoticed would be practically every song written in the aftermath of 9/11… i’ve yet to hear one that hasn’t been a trite collection of rhyming cliches. it’s a subject that really defies the act of committing it to verse, i think. certainly, it defies being committed to verse by anyone whos’ trying at the moment. i wonder if even dylan at his most relevant could’ve done it in a way that didn’t seem blatantly opportunistic…certainly alan jackson never had a shot.  the closest anyone was able to come was springsteen’s my city in ruins.

says a lot about the state of creativity in our times.

and i’m not even gonna get into the whole ashley simpson thing again.

(except to say that i hope her band walks the hell out on her and she has to tour with mannequins – that is, to say, if she even bothers to tour, save for the occasional tv show.)

a brief mastercard moment

 

 

now playing: chicago, “wishing you were here”

 
tab at the save-a-lot on the way home from work: $4.70

bottle of preperatory post-game champagne: $12.40

shouting who’s your daddy now, bitches?!??? at the tv after midnight: priceless

from today’s new york times:

It was actually happening. The nerd was kissing the homecoming queen. Paper was beating scissors; scissors were beating rock. Charlie Brown was kicking the football. The Red Sox were beating the Yankees for the American League pennant.

none of the die-hard fans will admit this out loud, but it almost doesn’t matter if they win the world series now or not. after what they’ve accomplished in this series, they have plenty of reason to be proud of their boys.

polishing the brass

 

 

now playing: steely dan, “FM” 

 

i remember the summer that movie (FM) came out…the soundtrack was all over the radio. that movie came out at around the same timeframe as the awful movie version of sargeant pepper’s lonely hearts club band with george burns, peter frampton, the bee gees…grease with olivia newton john and john travolta, saturday night fever, later xanadu…it was 1978/1979…soundtracks were finding their legs as marketing tools, really. this movie of which i speak, the FM movie, was a huge failure as a cinematic experience, but the soundtrack sold an assload of records. 

i remember buying my first records ever back then…my first 45 was love is like oxygen by sweet, followed by i’m not gonna let it bother me tonight by atlanta rhythm section. my first album was infinity by journey, followed by two albums that i got for christmas, point of no return by kansas and don’t look back by boston. the boston album had a gatefold cover, and had pictures of the band playing live in it, and i remember staring at the pictures, wondering who played what parts on the record and things like that. i remember drawing pictures of bands, pictures of stages, pictures of huge, elaborate drumkits (what i wouldn’t give to have some of those pictures back now, man….). 

a little while ago, the radio station i listen to most days played the theme song from welcome back, kotter and it got me to thinking about this particular time in my life…they seem to be hitting a lot of songs from late elementary/early junior high school today, and i seem to be tuned into that pretty vividly. i don’t know where that comes from, and how it is that i usually don’t really think about that time in my life at all, and then on other days, i’ll hear a song and i can remember little snippets of my life so clearly. i can remember the clock radio i had as a kid that was my lifeline to the outside world, where music was concerned – how whenever we’d go to my grandparents’ house, i’d bring it with me because i couldn’t stand not listening to music until i got home. i had the radio on constantly. after a while, i stopped even trying to reset the clock. later, i took the thing apart and actually melted a hole in the back of it big enough for a 1/4″ jack, and i wired it so that i could plug headphones into it. then later, i had a pair of car speakers that i wired up to plug into the headphone jack when i was home, because they sounded better than the speaker that was in the clock radio itself. 

i built a drum set. out of scraps that were lying around the yard and my grandfathers’ shop. buckets, with the bottoms cut out and plastic lids for heads, nailed to strips of wood and driven like stakes into the ground. old tires that were patently useless from a functional standpoint as a bass drum (later, i’d have two, because all the cool drummers played double bass kits), and whatever i could find that was round and made of metal for cymbals…the best ones i could find were a pair of tub covers for the wringer washer in the basement that i stole to make cymbals from. 

i’m sure my entire family thought i was completely off my rocker. i would sit out in the back of the yard with all this crap set up, stakes driven into the ground with the tires propped up in front and buckets nailed to them, some with big clanging metal disks on top of them, flailing away like a lunatic…making no sense at all at first, but slowly but surely beginning to figure it all out for myself. 

i would stay up and watch the midnight special on friday nights, any live music i could possibly see on tv i wanted to see. i’d watch saturday night live and wait up for the musical guest, no matter who it was. i saw jackson browne my first time on SNL. he played running on empty and then it seemed like hours went by…i remember gilda radner playing a hispanic in one skit, bemoaning the fact that she couldn’t buy gasoline for her low rider because, in her words, i gotttoo drive de big car dat sits low to de ground, and i gottooo have gaaaas! i actually turned the tv off, because i thought he wasn’t coming back on again, but then i couldn’t sleep because i figured i had turned it off too soon, so a few minutes later i turned it back on and he was just beginning to play the pretender. i saw talking heads, james taylor, patti smith, billy joel…and i was always trying to see what the drummer was doing. i remember seeing journey on the midnight special and being heartbroken when i saw that aynsley dunbar wasn’t behind the drumkit and i had no idea who the new guy was and feeling like he had no place in my precious band…. 

sheesh. 

teenagers. 

everything i picked up about playing drums was second and third-hand this way…watching other people play and trying to apply it to that godawful pile of shit in my grandpas’ back yard. over time, it fell into place and i started getting the hang of it. i was completely singular of purpose…i was going to figure this out for myself and then i was going to get into a band and move away and become famous. but, first, i had to get an actual drumkit. 

i couldn’t even play the snare drum in the band because it cost twenty bucks a month to rent a drum and take lessons at school. you can’t begin to imagine how prohibitive that was for my family at that point in time. it may as well have been a million dollars. 

but i had my buckets, man.  i’d make do for the time being. 

eventually, i had one drumkit-like contraption at my grandparents’ house and one at home, on the back porch, away from everyone else in the house so that the hullaballo wouldn’t distract from the rest of the familys’ tv addiction. 

i would literally go out back to the porch when i got home from school, take a break to eat dinner, and go back out there until someone would come and tell me to stop at bedtime. even when i was in school, i’d be gently and inaudibly tapping out rhythms on my desk in class. it was my sole motivation for getting out of bed in the morning. 

later on, in junior high, a good friend of mine sold me a drumset for $40 that was barely an upgrade from what i’d already been playing on, but they were real drums. that was good enough for me. sure, i still had to use some of my homemade stands and such, but i didn’t mind. they were real drums

they were a mish-mash of stuff, really…there was a ludwig bass drum and two tiny toms, mounted on a hoop that was fastened to the bass drum itself, then a floor tom that didn’t actually have any legs (it ended up sitting on a couple of stacks of books), and a tiny (for those days) 13″ snare drum. no cymbals – i ended up getting some really crappy cymbals from my mentor, david phillips, for a time (they were cracked and ridden hard, but they were real cymbals, and that’s all that mattered to me). and i had my first “real” drumkit. (i have a picture of myself as a teenager playing them, but it’s a pretty sorry picture…maybe i’ll scan it and try to clean it up someday.) 

so i held onto that set until i was a couple of years older and ready to start thinking about playing in bands. then, i collected the pieces that weren’t homemade and took them to david phillips’ music store and traded them in for a legitimate drum set, one that you could actually take out and play in front of people without getting the quizzical looks that i used to get from my cousins. i played my first shows in public with that kit. that’s the kit i was playing the first time my grandfather saw me play on, with a country band that was all brothers, plus dad, mom, and me…my first actual band. 

i’m not sure how exactly to explain the sensation that you get from the first time you go from playing by yourself or playing along with records to playing as part of an ensemble that has its own momentum…you’re no longer playing along with the finished product in your headphones, you’re creating a piece of the whole, something that has its own pace – and as a drummer, you’re actually driving that momentum, that pace. 

it’s a rush that you really can’t get anywhere else. i know that sounds corny, but it’s true. 

what led to this diatribe in the first place, you’re probably wondering by now…. 

today, i went to my favorite italian place for lunch (it’s only a few minutes from where i work, and i never go. i don’t know why. the only reason i went today is because i had to go to the bank to begin with, and it’s less than a block from the bank.) 

i was sitting there, at around 2 o’clock, the only non-employee in the place, and one of the kitchen workers was polishing the brass fixtures on the booths where i was sitting with Brasso…and i remembered that smell very vividly from when i was a teenager, polishing my cymbals in the room in the back of the house. 

between that and the music that keeps coming up on the playlist today, i’m finding that i very much feel like i’m fourteen again right now…sitting in that pink-walled room with the christmas lights hung from the ceiling, in a house that’s long since been torn down, trying to figure out exactly how this whole “musician” thing works. 

and before i shut the hell up, i just gotta say…copacabana sure is a goofy-assed song, coming from the same guy who did weekend in new england, man. 

goofy. 

a not-so-sad goodbye

 

 

now playing: the silence that follows the shutoff of the tv

 

today, i cut the cord.

as of this moment, i stand and hold my hand up to you and say, no more.

i am setting myself free of the perpetual heartache, the constant sense of tension brought about by wondering when the shoe will fall…for history has proven to me that it’s not a matter of if, but when.

as of right now, i am a red sox fan no more.

it was so easy, early on…you were easy to fall for. the lovable underdogs, constantly railing against the evil empire – everyone loves a winner, but everyone’s heart breaks for a loser, and i couldn’t help but take up your cause.

the yankees were like the cute cheerleader…the homecoming queen…the most popular girl in school. you, boston, were the really smart, cute band geek that i couldn’t resist being attracted to. i knew that you were something special, but you couldn’t possibly compare to the homecoming queen in the eyes of the rest of the class.

so i allowed myself to be taken in by your rough-around-the-edges charm…and i’ve regretted it ever since.

you wasted no time going from a pleasant pastime to an addiction – a sorry-assed codependent relationship that was completely one-sided. no matter how faithful i was, you always let me down. you’d fuck up, and then you’d be back on my doorstep, saying all the things a spurned lover normally says in those situations….

“look, i’ve changed. i’ve seen that i haven’t been what i should’ve been. look, i even went out and brought in schilling and keith foulke! i even cut nomar’s non-productive ass loose, just to make you happy! it can be better than it was, i promise!”

and i fell for it. again.

you became like a drug to me, impossible to justify to myself, and just as hard to turn my back on.

but, like any addict who eventually beats their disease, i think that tonight you’ve given me the reason i need to say no to you.

tonight was the night you were supposed to make it all right. you were home, you’d taken a beating the first two games, but you were playing against a pitcher whom you’d ravaged in a regular season game that seemed like it was no more than half an hour ago…everything seemed to be in place. things were gonna turn around, i could hear you saying. we’re gonna fix this.

when i turned off the tv in disgust, the score was 19-8.

i will not wait up to see what the final is, for i honestly don’t care anymore.

there will be no more wasted hours in front of the tv watching you set me up to knock me down again, no more planning my evenings to make time to share with you. there are far too many other things that need and deserve my attention, and you’ve proven over and over again that you’re simply not worthy.

i will not piss away my valuable time on a one-sided relationship.

so goodbye, boston red sox. and fuck you.

seriously, Fuck You.

dylan

 

 

now playing: sarah mclachlan, “fallen”

 

so dylan is resting at home – he slept a good chunk of the afternoon after having a pretty shitty night last night in the hospital. he woke up a couple of times feeling as though he was choking, and i think it freaked him out a little bit.

earlier in the night, he was still feeling the effects of his pain medication. the stuff they gave him had vicodin in it…and when they said the word “vicodin”, he grabbed his sheet and pulled it up over his crotch and croaked, “that’s not like viagra, is it?”

then later on that night, the nurse came in to check his temperature with one of those wonderful, high-tech thermometers that fits just inside your earlobe. after she retracted it from his ear once it had emitted its customary three beeps, dylan looked at her and asked, “how much do i weigh?”

when his sister asked him at one point how he was feeling, he said, “that stuff really takes the edge off….”

he’s such a goofball.

i don’t know where he gets such behavior….certainly not from his father, who was pulling latex gloves over his head and blowing them up from the inside.

he seemed much more laconic this morning than yesterday, though – after all the effects of the anesthesia had worn off, he was starting to feel stuff through the pain medication he’d been put on after the fact. he seldom made any attempts to speak this morning, and restricted himself to nods and shakes of the head, with a few exceptions. he was sooo eager, though, after the doctor having said last night that he could have actual food today, to get something to eat when we left the hospital. i took him straight from the hospital to the drive thru window at KFC and got him a large takeout order of their mashed potatoes, which he loves…once we got home and i got him situated on the sofa, he ate a pretty large bowl of them and didn’t complain once about whatever sensation swallowing might’ve given off.

i’m glad i was there….glad i was there yesterday before he went in, and glad i was there today to spend the morning with him after his crappy night, glad i was able to take him home and hang on the sofa with him, watching tv while he drifted in and out of sleep after he ate.

i’m not sure why it is, really…that i’ve come to find parenting to be more rewarding as my kids have gotten older. the only real reason i can point to is my own level of maturity (or more accurately, the lack of such when they were younger). or maybe it was just that i didn’t really have the grasp on it then that i do now. maybe it took their mom and i splitting up to drive the point home for me. i’m feeling like i might’ve talked about this here before, i can’t remember. i just know that while i enjoyed my role in their lives when we were all a ‘unit’, i think that my general unhappiness with my marital situation overshadowed everything else enough that it dampered my appreciation for my overall situation. or, my marriage sucked just enough to keep me from realizing just how special those early years with my kids really were.

i’m glad that i’m in a place where this has changed considerably, and where i can still participate in their lives.

autumn leaves

 

 

now playing: the innocence mission, “tomorrow on the runway”

 

last night barry gave his notice to stone road.

i knew that something was going on, taking into consideration the conversations that had gone down since friday – and barry had made it clear to darryl that he was unhappy, but i didn’t think he was this ready to take a walk.

the odd thing is how indifferent to it i feel.

when we reorganized the band, it’s hard to overstate what a shot in the arm barry was. he sang well, and he had a great range, and it really added to our vocal sound…now in the time since, what with shawn being exiled from the band, our vocal sound has suffered considerably, and with barry taking a walk, i’m not sure that doing songs with vocal harmonies is even within our grasp. donnie sings, and he can sing harmony if pressed, but it’s not something that excites him..or so it would seem – outwardly, at least.

so where does that leave us? we decided initially last night that we’ll attempt to find another bass player, because there were two clubs that wanted to book 2005 dates with us, and they wanted to book them yesterday. the consensus was that we’d go ahead and take the work, and if things didn’t pan out with another bass player, we’d have the option to cancel down the line….and there are always bands looking for work that’d be willing to take the cancelled dates for us.

so that’s where things stand at the moment, regarding the band.

i had known this was going to happen, though…i’m not sure how i knew, but i had even said to people in conversation that i didn’t think the band would last past the end of the year. barry had actually said last night when he came in that he’d hoped that someone else would pull the plug before he had to quit, but that didn’t happen so it fell upon him to bail.

so the question comes down to – will this actually die down to ashes, or do we decide to keep it going?

i’m torn, personally.

i’m not so certain that this will ever really regain its former stature, personally. i think that in order to get the harmonies back to where they used to be, we’d have to hire two players with strong vocals. i did mention to darryl that i felt that we took a serious hit when we lost quin, and he knows how i feel about that. quin was our ace in the hole…the thing that gave us an edge, that made us just a little better than the countless other area bands that had the traditional “beatles lineup” – two guitars, bass and drums – and when we went back to that, i was pretty dejected about it. i mean, even the great “guitar bands” from back in the day – skynyrd, the allman brothers, all these bands that were revered for their guitar playing – had great, a-list keyboard men in the band.

at this point in my life, i just don’t want to be involved with anything mediocre.

nik’s band is a bright spot, and there are a few other things unexplored on the horizon that i haven’t really pushed – including some personal projects that i’d like to work on as time is freed up for them…especially now that the studio is falling together as well as it has. blake’s record is being mixed, with new parts being added here and there, but it sounds great thus far. i’d like to work on more records as the opportunity presents itself, and i’d like to play in a really tight, close-knit band that has its shit together.

whether any of this happens or not, i can’t say. we’ll see what opportunities arise.

i walked outside earlier today to go across the street to the supermarket to root something out for lunch that wasn’t a sandwich with the word “salad” in it – which is what i’d have settled for if i’d hit the machines in the lunchroom (seriously – every day here is an endless parade of egg salad, chicken salad, tuna salad, ham salad, turkey salad, ad infinitum…i’m waiting for them to introduce deer salad, squirrel salad, or quail salad as hunting season approaches)…

it was a typical fall day, for the most part – grey, but comfortable. brisk. i took a couple of deep breaths as i walked across the parking lot and remembered the drive back to work recently when i had gotten lost on the backroads and ended up taking an extended drive on a perfect day that was exactly what the doctor ordered. i thought about just continuing to walk down the road a bit, for no particular reason but to be walking – but today just doesn’t feel as though it would have the same cobweb-clearing effect as the other day did. not that it wasn’t somewhat invigorating to be outside, but my head feels a bit too cluttered today for any time spent in such a manner to have maximum effect.

tomorrow morning, dylan goes in for his surgery at 7:10am. i asked him last night, while we were driving home, if he was having cold feet…typical of dylan, he replied, “no, not really…but my face is a little chilly right now.” he came home with (get a load of this shit…) a copy of gone with the wind. i asked him, “dude…you’re reading that?”

he said, “well, yeah…i gotta do something while i’m sick.”

he must be planning on being sick for a while….either that, or his inner drama queen is gearing up for a very busy week.

he did read the fan man by kotzwinkle recently, though, and got a real kick out of it. he usually doesn’t comprehend books once he’s read them – or at least he hasn’t historically. but he was actually able to talk about scenes from the book, and recalled what he’d read…which was pretty much unprecedented, i thought. i was impressed. i think that maybe i’m finally witnessing the transformation of dylan the begrudging reader to dylan the curious.

maybe. just maybe.

don’t bet any money on this yet. old habits die hard.

is there a sentimentality epidemic brewing?

i wonder, because everywhere i turn lately, i’m confronted with it…lazy breezes of nostalgia blowing in from here and there, wistful remembrances of the past cropping up sporadically. it’s definitely permeating the blogosphere…i’ve read some things of late that just make my heart hurt. this entry at spencer’s journal is a great example:

“Where is she now? I think about her now and then. I can’t remember how she smells but I can remember her face clearly. I can’t remember the way she walked or moved through a room but I can remember the way she danced. She looked like a marionette when she danced alone. And when she danced with me it was like she came alive. The female version of Pinocchio. I can remember what she felt like. The feel of her hands over my eyes when she used to find me in dark bar rooms. Pressing up against my back. I replay her voice like a scratchy, overplayed record in the dusty attic of my brain. I recall the jacket she used to wear. The way it looked on her. When I was near her no other woman mattered. And for a long time after she left my life it was the same. No other woman mattered.”

i mean, that’s just an achingly beautiful sentiment. without putting everyone whos’ written anything remotely wistful on the spot, i’ll just say that this isn’t the only example of this i’ve come across lately. my friend mitch, for instance, surprised me at home on sunday and stopped by – he’d managed, after over 20 years, to track down a couple of his college buddies from ohio, and was justifiably excited about having googled them down to a phone number with a voice on the other end. rachel had an erstwhile visitor who linked to her relatively new blog (still has that “new blog smell”) that’s just laced with heartache and loss.

what is it about this time of year?

for a long time, i thought it was just me.

i still have memories of things like driving down the hill at hay creek on route 10 in october early on a saturday morning, with chris and jake and dylan in the van, and being mesmerized by the swirl of leaves both in the air and on the ground on our way to dylan’s football game. i remember walking along the ridge above the christmas tree farm in mohnton with the kids’ mom before we were even married, feeling the new briskness in the air and enjoying feeling the chill on my cheeks, relieved that i was finished suffering the staggering humidity of that year’s summer. walking from our old house up the street to the school where jayda and dylan both went, to meet them and walk them home afterward. i remember going to a campground with jayda and dylan and chris and jake, raking huge piles of leaves so that they could jump into them and start all over again….hayrides at an orchard…

it’s been a perpetual time of elevated emotional sensitivity and heightened nostalgia, for me. it’s become inescapable, especially as i get older and i see my children rise from infant to toddler to kindergartener, then through to preteen and to their present states – both of my children are tall enough now to look me in the eye standing in front of me. i look in the mirror at the greying hair that has elected to remain on my head, into the tired eyes that have life left in them on some days, on others i stand there and brush my teeth and i’m just not sure if anyone’s in there at all.

but then i go outside in the early afternoon to walk across the street for lunch, and the air is brisk…brisk enough to warrant the sweater that i just pulled out this morning for the first time, and walk across to redner’s with my hands in my pockets…i can hear the kids on the playground at schuylkill valley school in the distance – i can almost see them across the field, but not quite.

i almost want to just keep walking…..

monday

 

 

now playing: tom petty and the heartbreakers, “straight into darkness”

 

i don’t think i spent more than half an hour in front of my computer all weekend, and it felt pretty good. i did some ebaying, looking at new monitors for the studio, but that was about it. i found out during my last session that the ones i’m using at the moment aren’t getting the job done…the mixes i did for todd were a little muddy, probably due to my adding in too much bass in the mix to compensate for an obvious lacking in the bass response of the monitors i’m using now.

unless a real bargain becomes available between now and after the first of the year, though, i’ll probably hold off for now.

collecting thoughts here….

i don’t know what to say about the debates that hasn’t already been said by folks on my link list who would probably say it better than i would…the kids and i went for chinese food and hunkered down in front of the tv in time to watch dubya lose his mindat charlie gibson, entitled little frat boy that he is…i couldn’t believe it. after the debates were over, we flipped over to msnbc for a bit, and jayda got up to leave…she said, “i can’t watch this. it’s like they’re all for bush to win, and they had their minds made up before the debate even started.”

and she went upstairs to her room.

she’s fourteen, mr. matthews…and she has your number.

anyway, let’s see…the things that i actually did this weekend that i’d planned on doing:

* began garage reorganization, threw stuff out with the trash, set up workbenches along common wall and took some of the other stuff up to the garage attic that didn’t belong downstairs.
* opened up the freebie wurlitzer organ in the studio to begin troubleshooting – no real progress made. i had originally thought that it may just need to be cleaned up to get rid of some of the intermittent problems with the keyboard, but it seems to go deeper than that…i may end up putting it on the curb, too, by thursday if i don’t get a clear idea of what’s wrong with it.
* reorganized the laundry room and washed every dirty item of clothing in the house as of sunday morning.
* all dishes in the house as of after dinner last night are clean.
* got dylan’s computer up and running, hung his gigantic “school of rock” poster, and attached a wooden pegboard to his bunkbed for hanging stuff on.
* hung some of the posters, etc, in the studio that i got frames for.

what i didn’t get done:

* assembling the wall unit upstairs in the garage.
* complete rebuild of the studio computer, to include installing the DVD burner that i bought for it months ago, memory upgrade, and new primary hard drives (serial ATA RAID configuration), reinstall XP and recording software.
* take dylan to see “shawn of the dead” (we’re going to go this week before his surgery).
* organize what few medical bills that fall on my side of the desk so that we can submit them to insurance this week.

i think that, all in all, the list leaned in the direction i wanted it to. i’ll probably tackle the medical bills tonight, though…i want to get that stuff in so that we can start evening this situation out a bit. we have an alternative benefits plan at work that i agreed to sock a hefty amount of money into, and it’s looking like i’m not going to come close to getting it all back.

if worse comes to worse, i may have to (gasp!) go to the doctor myself for something. ack!

i extended an offer to fellow poconut dave isaacs to stay over at my place the last weekend of the month, since they’re going to be in town for the poco/pure prairie league show in collingswood that i’m not going to be able to go to. we’ve exchanged emails in the past (he’s a fellow musician) here and there, but i’ve never actually met him – remains to be seen whether that’ll pan out or not. waiting to hear back from him.

i also got a call on friday night from darryl – the drummer from stone road. apparently, he’d just gotten off the phone with barry, our bass player, and he’s not terribly happy with the way things are going in the band right now. i think that, in a sense, that’s probably true of us all – i know that i’ve personally been on autopilot for some time now. but, apparently, the gist of barry’s call revolved around the thinning of the crowds of people who come to see the band, and (this was the part that i found intriguing) the fact that we play the same songs over and over again.

now, it should be pointed out, barry is the guy in charge of the setlist…when we play live, he calls the songs out. we don’t write up set lists in the traditional manner, we work from a master list – which barry has in his possession.  he then calls the audibles out as we go.

so, i guess that in my mind, barry complaining about the set list would be like the cook complaining about what’s for dinner.

but, at any rate, darryl and i talked about all this for over half an hour, and the decision we parted with was that we’d have a meeting on tuesday night to determine whether or not we were going to continue on from here or finish out the dates we have on the books and be done with it all.

should be interesting. i think that a number of minds are already made up, from what we talked about on the phone last week.

anyway – the tempo of this particular day has turned this post into another segmented, impossible-to-concentrate-on-fully diatribe…so i’ll try to collect my thoughts later.

a most excellent quote

 

 

now playing: lynyrd skynyrd, “tuesday’s gone”

 

 

one of my absolute favorite magazines is tape op, a recording enthusiast’s magazine that embodies the indie principle as well as it’s possible to do so, in my opinion.

the last page this month is headlined “why should you vote?

the absolute best quote on the page comes from Sam Coomes of Quasi:

 

“I used to think, since the differences between the two major political parties in the U.S. are, from my perspective, pretty insubstantial, and that neither one of them seemed likely to address most of the deepest problems in this country in a meaningful way, that voting was a pointless exercise. Events have shown, however, that these relatively minor differences can have huge consequences…and the importance of voting has become quite clear.”

 

lissen UP, people.

POCO


WARNING! this is an extremely long post (6500 words). allow time to digest. drink lots of water.

ok, ok, ok…enough with the poco chants on the comments, already…

i give.

uncle.

alright, first of all, some history (for those of you who may be lacking the necessary backstory)…

once upon a time, in the faraway kingdom of california, there was a rock band called buffalo springfield. they were a fine, fine band, with a great deal of talent. too much talent, in fact, to fit neatly within the confines of one band. there was stephen stills, a great guitarist and vocalist, and richie furay, a former bandmate in a new york-based folk group called the au-go-go singers. after their demise, stephen moved west with the intent of forming a band…but not before meeting an intriguing singer and songwriter from canada named neil young. in fact, stephen and neil had discussed working together during their brief acquaintance, but (according to stephen), neil was lured back into folk music when a female acquaintance mistook him for bob dylan…so they had gone their separate ways before stephen left new york for california.

when he arrived, he found putting together a band a bit more daunting than he’d expected to…so he called his pal richie in new york and “invented” an already-formed band in order to lure him west. when richie arrived in california to find that there was no band, you could probably just imagine his surprise.

so, as legend has it, stephen and richie were driving down sunset strip when stephen saw a hearse with ontario plates going in the opposite direction. from his interview in vintage guitar magazine:

 

“I’d met Neil in Thunder Bay, Ontario; I’d been up there working with a Cambridge, Massachusetts folk group. He came through with his band; he had a bass player(the legendary rick james) and a drummer, and was playing folk music on a Gretsch guitar. I heard what he was doing, and said: “That is it,” because the other big influence on my guitar playing had been Chet Atkins. I’d gone to see Chet Atkins doing a demonstration at a guitar store in the late ’50s, and of course, I fell in love with his playing, and I began Travis-picking all over the South.

I arranged for Neil to get into the States on a working visa, but he decided to be “…the Bob Dylan of Toronto,” broke up his band, and started playing acoustic music in small clubs.

After about a year or so, I was in Los Angeles; I’d decided to try to get a band together out there. Richie Furay had been in that Cambridge folk group with me, and I’d hustled him into coming out to L.A. too, but up to that point all there was to our “band” was just him and me, and Richie was about to get disgusted and go home. We’d been searching for musicians all over town. I was on Sunset Boulevard, and I pulled up behind a hearse that had Ontario plates on it; I knew exactly who it was before I even saw who was driving. Neil had another hearse that had died in Thunder Bay, but this one was a Pontiac he’d driven all the way to California, and when I pulled behind him, he was actually looking for 77 Sunset Strip (laughs)! Bruce Palmer was with him; Bruce became the Buffalo Springfield’s bass player.”

and so the buffalo springfield was born out of a chance meeting of acquaintances on the sunset strip…

the band was cemented with the addition of dewey martin, who was coincidentally also from ontario, although he wasn’t to make their acquaintance until he had already been a resident of the US for some time, having come to america to work with country singer faron young. the band was signed on the strength of a series of live shows at the legendary whiskey-a-go-go nightclub, and began their recording career soon after. upon the deportation of bass player palmer, their recording engineer, a bright young fellow named jim messina took his place on bass long enough to finish a handful of shows and their final album, entitled last time around. one of the songs on the album, a richie furay ballad called kind woman, featured a poignant pedal steel part from a player who’d flown out from colorado specifically to play on the album named rusty young. as richie and messina began to read the writing on the wall, they began talking with rusty about an idea they had for blending the instrumentation of country music with the energy of rock and roll…and once it became official that the springfield was no more, poco was born.

half of buffalo springfield ended up in poco, with the other half going on to eventually form crosby, stills, nash, and young. obviously, everyone knows about CSNY, but poco is a lesser known commodity…which is one of the more frustrating aspects of being a fan of a band that virtually defined an entire genre of music. poco took the seeds sown by the buffalo springfield and grew the music we know now as “country-rock” from the early strains of springfield songs such as bluebird and kind woman into a full-fledged, legitimate musical form emanated by such poco devotees as glenn frey of the eagles and gregg allman, who actually auditioned for the band at one point.

furay was poco’s frontman, the focal point of the band, the acknowledged leader. the band of messina, furay and young were rounded out by george grantham on drums, with bass being handled initially by randy meisner (who played on the first record before leaving for the eagles), replaced by timothy b schmit, who would ultimately follow meisner into the eagles.

poco came out of the gates hard, but also set about their long string of bad luck right away as well…first in the form of a lawsuit by cartoonist walt kelly over the use of the name pogo (later shortened to its current form as a result of the litigation). the early departure of messina might’ve been an issue, but he was replaced by a formidable guitarist in paul cotton, who has remained with the band, for the most part, to this day.

poco, however, remains rock and roll’s foremost proponent of murphys’ law. if there was a wrong place to be at the wrong time, they were there. bad decisions regarding management, producers, you name it – they were, after all, the band who opted to play a high school auditorium instead of woodstock.

they hit their high note, musically and critically, with their 1972 album a good feelin’ to know. that same year saw the release of the eponymous debut album by the eagles, who would overshadow them commercially for the rest of their respective careers. when good feelin’ failed to achieve the success that most agree that it deserved, many of the bands’ biggest supporters were fearful that it would end after that record. in fact, around this time, richie furay was being courted by record industry snake david geffen, who felt that he’d be the perfect third man for his new crosby, stills and nash sequel, and caught furay at the height of his disillusionment with the band he’d poured so much of himself into since the demise of the springfield…so richie left, leaving the band a foursome – rusty young, paul cotton, timothy b schmit, and george grantham. they continued on, making some of their best music during this time (in my not-so-humble opinion), including their albums head over heels and indian summer, among others.

this was the version of poco that i discovered as a kid, glued to the radio and soaking in every note of music i could. i was blessed to be able to pick up one of the few remaining maverick stations of the golden age of rock and roll on my cheap clock radio…the old WKIR-FM in jackson, tennessee. they played everything from pure prairie league to king crimson, often from one into the other, and i first heard poco there, just prior to timmy’s leaving the band to follow meisner into the eagles and george’s departure to move to nashville and settle down after the birth of his daughter, grace.

that left paul and rusty…but they weren’t finished yet.

they reassembled new players for the band after beginning work on an album as the cotton/young band that eventually became legend, and would go on to become the biggest commercial success of the bands’ career, yielding two top 40 hits, crazy love and heart of the night. their follow-up, under the gun, would also do well, yielding radio play for the title cut and midnight rain, but their momentum would peak and dwindle after that record, eventually relegating them to their previous status as B-list players. they continued to record and tour, releasing several more albums for several labels, including atlantic and mca, but neither radio nor notoriety would smile on them for some time.

in 1989 (the twentieth anniversary of the bands’ formation), the original members of the band reunited and recorded an album called legacy, which welcomed furay, meisner and messina back into the band, to the exclusion of veteran paul cotton. this embittered a lot of longtime fans of the band (myself included), who felt that paul should have been part of the reunion project, “original members” mindset be damned. it cast a bittersweet shadow over the project, which yielded a hit single in rusty’s call it love and a meisner ballad called nothin’ to hide.

i knew nothing about any of this, initially…i had just gotten back to the states the year before, and was unaware that they were even working on a new record. i was folding my laundry at the kenhorst laundromat, idly watching TV when the video for call it love came on, and i just about flipped right out of my skin. but…as the song progressed, i started picking out members…there was richie, strumming a gretsch 6120, jimmy messina playing the lead breaks on a strat, rusty singing, and – cool! george behind the drums!…ok, randy meisner….but – where’s paul?

i kept looking for him….and looking for him…but he wasn’t there.

so while i was thrilled to see one of my favorite bands of all time back in the spotlight with their video on VH1, it rang hollow because paul wasn’t participating. and, somehow, i knew that this couldn’t have been his idea.

so, paul sat this one out while the rest of the guys hit the road – i saw them on TV at the farmaid show from indianapolis that year, while richie was still with them, but richie left soon after to return to his congregation (he’s a pastor at calvary chapel in boulder, CO – and has been for many years). he was followed soon after, one by one, by everyone else who’d come on board for the reunion…which put rusty in the position of either allowing the band to disintegrate or bringing paul back into the fray. thankfully, he did the latter, and brought in tim smith on drums and richard neville on bass to complete the post-reunion lineup.

this was the band as it stood when i first encountered them, at a show in pittsburgh on a floating stage just off the river there. i wasn’t sure who was in the band, but i was all too eager to jump in my van and make the five hour drive to be a part of it. i actually had called the promoters of the show, and had explained to them that i’d recently recorded an album (the amateurish cassette prelude to our mutual angels that i don’t really count as being part of my recorded output at all) and that i’d recorded one of rusty’s songs on the record, and that i’d like to be able to give him a copy if i drove all the way across the state to see the band, and he told me he’d do his best to make sure that i got to meet the band if i made the trip out. i even brought my legend album with me, in case i could get an autograph.

it was an outdoor show and there were driplets of rain forming on my windshield as i was heading into the pittsburgh area – i thought the show might be cancelled, but i lucked out. i sat down next to another poco fan very close to the front of the stage and waited for the band to come out…

…and there, strapping on his white fender stratocaster with the tortoiseshell pickguard, was paul cotton.

i was thrilled.

they opened with the title track from ghost town, complete with dry ice and drama, and went from that song into legend…when paul started playing the intro riff to that song, i felt myself tear up…i had a lump in my throat. i had resigned myself to the possibility that i’d never get to see this band live, and yet there they were, right in front of me…and with paul cotton! the guy who wrote indian summer, from the album that i used to leave on “repeat” on my stereo overnight while i slept as a teenager…the guy who played that amazing guitar solo in widowmaker, from blue and gray, the guy who played his guitar solo through a leslie speaker on good feelin’ to know, the guy who came up with that great opening guitar part for railroad days…there he was, man!

so after the show, i gave rusty a copy of the first version of made of stone that i’d done, saying that “if i had thought there was ever a chance in hell that you’d actually be getting to hear this, i’d probably have worked on it a little harder…”. rusty and paul were good enough to pose with me for pictures and the album cover they signed for me that night, during our first meeting, is hanging on the wall in my studio.

i didn’t see them again for a few years – until i got wind that a local promoter was booking them at the roxy theatre in northampton. i lobbied hard for the gig and won the opening spot – i knew there wasn’t anyone else in this area who could possibly be a better match on that bill than i would, but the promoter insisted on adding a third band to the bill between me and them (a common trick among the bottom-feeding promoters…get as many bands on the bill as people’s patience will allow to maximize ticket sales among the bands’ individual followings and bring out as many people as they can), but – and i have audiotape evidence – i definitely outshined the other band. the stage manager told me that in twenty years of doing shows, he’d never had an opening act asked to come out for an encore before…but the truth is, i didn’t really care about that. i was there to see one of my favorite bands playing practically in my backyard, and that was all i really cared about. being on the bill with them was a thrill, but so was being able to stand on the side of the stage and take pictures, and hang with the band during soundcheck…

after the show, paul was upset that he’d broken a string during one of his favorite solos, but he came around. jim, the promoter, came over and told me that everyone was going back to the bed and breakfast where the band was staying after the show, and asked us to come along. todd and i were only too happy to comply, so we packed the car and off we went. when we got there, the guys were all down at the bar, and we went in and got something to drink and joined the hang…jim was pretty drunk not long after getting there, and was his usual anebriated, animated self…rusty was pretty tired, so he signed some autographs and went up to bed…tim and rich, the rhythm section, hung out for a bit but soon did the same. so todd and i had paul pretty much all to ourselves for the rest of the night. i got to ask him about the rumor that MCA wanted to sign poco as a country band, but they wanted session musicians to play on the records and paul to do all the vocals (turned out to be true – paul even told me about his meeting label president bruce hinton where the subject came up)…they had vh1 on the tv in the bar, and the video for “fade into me” by mazzy star came on…paul looked up at the tv and said, “look…it’s don henley sittin’ on a car…”

later, though, we were talking guitars and one thing led to another and i ended up going out to the car and bringing the acoustics back into the bar and we all sat there swapping songs until almost 5 in the morning. paul played “bad weather”, and then i played and sang “good feelin’ to know” with paul and todd singing harmony, and on and on…i remember paul remarking specifically about my D-18 being almost weightless because it’s so light, and talking about working in the studio with donald fagen from steely dan on the indian summer album…

that night ranks with the birth of my children as one of the highlights of my life thus far.

imagine idolizing the work of someone whom you consider a master of a talent you share with them, and then collaborating with them on something, even if it’s in a fleeting situation like a jam session…that’s essentially where i was at that moment.

this was prior to the release of my album in 1997 by a bit, and prior to my becoming internet-aware…both had come to pass by the next time i’d cross paths with them. once i was online, i discovered that there was a whole community of poco fans out there who corresponded with each other via a listserver that had been set up, named after one of their albums. one of the folks on the list was grace grantham, daughter of george, the original poco drummer. grace was born with a neurological disorder which i won’t discuss here, because she’s a bright and intelligent girl who has come so far past the circumstances she was born into that it really is irrelevant. among the people i befriended on the list were grace and an illustrator from stamford, connecticut named jon rosenbaum. another was an industry fella named billy gerstein, who worked for a distribution firm. i found that there was a tight-knit group of folks who looked out for one another there, and who cared as much about this band as i did.

my friend jon had become good friends with grace, and as such, had formed a relationship with george grantham as a result…at first via email, and later by phone and in person. george is one of those incredibly geniune people with whom forging a friendship is pretty effortless. i had found that to be true of the other folks in the band when i met them, and i didn’t figure george to be any different, really…but i hadn’t made his acquaintance at all. he had left the band again after the legacy debacle and had moved back to nashville, where he had relatively regular work as a sideman. i didn’t know what the circumstances were surrounding his having left again, and it hadn’t occured to me to ask anyone.

jon and his wife, georgina, were wonderful to me…they invited me into their home, allowed me a place to stay on occasions when i was passing through their area on tour, and we all became great friends.

so, anyway…

i had signed on with new management in the form of matthew asbell – matt was an eternally optimistic music junkie who had managed to create quite a bit of buzz for his first client, michelle nagy, and i had separated from my manager that had carried me through the recording of OMA some time before. matt had brought michelle to the open mike at the grape street pub that i hosted and we’d hit it off during our initial conversation, and after much discussion he decided to take me on. he was a go-getter (a quality that had been somewhat lacking in my previous manager), and he immediately put me to work – i did a lot of double-bills with michelle at various places, and a few trips on my own as well, but we definitely made a lot of music conferences – which were in between the initial era of mistrust and the eventual era of mistrust during those days…

we took one trip – the three of us – that was roughly two weeks or so in duration, and would take us through maryland, kentucky, virginia (where matt and i split bunk beds at the home of the promoter of our show…i remember staying up while matt slept to email my daughter from his laptop to let her know how the tour was going) and ultimately to tennessee, for an NEA conference in nashville and the folk alliance conference in memphis, which were within a few days of one another.

now, nowhere we went were there actual rooms involved…we hobo’ed it the whole time. in memphis at folk alliance, i split a bed with garry lee from june rich, a philly band who were showcasing at the memphis conference (garry was always the ladies’ man back in philly, so i promptly made a homemade bumper sticker for my guitar case that featured an impromptu drawing of the back of garry’s dreadlocked head on a pillow that read “i slept with garry lee”). in nashville, we slept at the home of a friend of matt and michelle’s – they slept on the sofa bed and i ended up sleeping with their friend.

yeah.

(i knew you’d ask, so i just answered the question. ok?)

anyway, not long after arriving in nashville, we went to the NSAI office to check in…NSAI is a songwriter’s organization that exists solely for the benefit of songwriters there, and they opened their doors to us…provided us with telephone and internet access and gave us the run of the guest office there. my own itinerary there included an in-store at Tower Records on thursday of that week, amongst the conference and other goings-on…we had planned on going to the NEA opening night show at the Ryman auditorium featuring Jars of Clay, who i knew nothing about at that point, but that’s another story. (they were brilliant, amazing songs, and they were playing with an orchestra – and matt jerked me outta there because michelle was having a fucking meltdown over having left a ring she’d just bought on the sink in the ladies’ room after washing her hands and had forgotten it there, so i had to leave in mid-show due to her theatric antics. this is but one example of this that i could cite over the course of my professional relationship with matt, there were many more. seriously, many. but i’ve already digressed more than i’d planned.)

anyway, while we were at NSAI, i had been perusing the entertainment listings for the week and saw that rusty young from POCO was playing at the bluebird on saturday night…well after we’d be on our way out of town. i lamented to the receptionist that i was going to miss rusty’s show because we’d be on our way to kentucky by the time saturday rolled around, and that i was bummed about it, and that i’d cut one of poco’s songs on my album and that rusty and i had met a couple of times, etc., etc….

she left the room for a moment – then came back and handed me a scrap of paper that read:

rusty young

615-xxx-xxxx

she said, “i called him and told him you were here and he said to give you his number and to give him a call.”

my colon clenched up so tight that if i’d stood up from the chair at that precise moment, the cushion woulda been sucked up into my shorts…

so, of course, i did just that…i told him that i’d made a new record and had re-done made of stone and that i was playing this thursday in town, doing an in-store at the tower records there in nashville…and he said great…i’m in town, i’ll stop by to catch your set.

so if the cushion wasn’t stuck yet, at this point there was no way they were prying it loose for a minute or two.

rusty young was coming to see me play.

rusty young was coming to see ME play!

i got off the phone and went into the other office and jumped on the internet…i had to let some people know about this.

no sooner had i logged onto the PC and opened up instant messenger on matt’s laptop than i saw jon rosenbaums’ screen name pop up…and he beat me to the punch.

before i could tell jon that rusty was coming to see me play, jon had something he had to tell me…he had talked to george grantham, poco’s original drummer, who lived in nashville now, and had told him that i’d be doing an in-store performance at the tower records in nashville on thursday, and that he really should go check me out.

so george told jon he’d stop by to see my set.

ok, so let’s review…both rusty young AND george grantham are coming to see me play at tower records in nashville on thursday.

just let that sink in for a minute.

two fifths of one of my favorite bands of all time…a band i used to listen to as a kid and marvel at their talent…a band that i had idolized ever since…are going to show up to see my set on thursday.

i had to stand up at this point to avoid any damage to any of the office furniture that might result from involuntary, personally humiliating, reactionary bodily functions.

you have to understand – even at this point in time, i considered myself a pro. i’d been playing in front of people since junior high school, and i really felt that i had the process down at this point….but i was petrified. i hadn’t had stage fright since i was a kid. on occasion, for the right gig, there’d be a bit of adrenalin, but never anything that actually resembled fear.

i was scared to death when thursday rolled around.

also in attendance at the thursday gig were a webcasting crew who were in town covering the conference and a fellow named Tiger, who had played on michelle’s record and was (i found out later), a big buffalo springfield fan and a great guitar player.

adding to my trepidation was the fact that i didn’t really have any insight or background into the details surrounding george’s having left the band the last time…was it on good terms? did he leave amicably, or were there hard feelings involved? worse yet, would rusty be pissed at me when george showed up? i mean, this did have the makings of a bad after-school special in some ways…lure the two feuding bandmates into the same public place without the knowledge or consent of the other….watch the awkward intial sighting turn into a poignant reunion…jesus keeHRIST, man! of course he’s gonna be pissed! this is just some fan who happens to have a record in the stores, trying to play matchmaker to the divorced bandmates!

i just knew, as i was pacing about before my show, that this could only turn out badly. i shoulda swallowed my ego and called rusty and made an attempt to level with him….”listen, here’s the deal…this is what happened, and i hope you’re ok with it…”

but i didn’t.

i’m still not sure why, to this day, but i left things alone and chose to sweat it out…i certainly didn’t feel like i knew rusty well enough to expect him to think i was levelling with him if i had called him, and i figured there’d be some way i could smooth this out if it did turn out to be a bad idea for both of them to be there, somehow.

as it turned out, though, i had no real need to worry about it.

i was onstage, two or three songs into my set, when i saw rusty walk in the front door.

almost simultaneously, i saw george moving up through the classical section towards the stage.

i should tell you that, as i mentioned before, i rarely (never, really) get nervous as a result of a performance, but i was petrified with regard to what was happening here…but in a few seconds, it was obvious that there was no need to have been worried. they greeted each other like old friends, and stood there chatting a few yards from where i was playing.

so, ok, now i’m not nervous about the potential bad blood anymore….but now i’m being sized up by my idols.

it’s a hard thing…playing guitar while your hands are shaking.

i got through the set, though – and after a short interview with one of the most insightful guys i’ve ever talked to before or since, i went over and caught up with rusty and george, who had been chatting with each other through the last part of the show. i gave rusty a copy of the album and he split, and george and i talked for some time and made plans to have lunch at one of george’s favorite mexican food places in town the next day before i was to leave.

i’ve got to say that some of the best food in the country is in nashville, as far as i’m concerned…this past summer, i had dinner with ed king from lynyrd skynyrd at the most amazing barbeque place i think i’ve ever eaten at, and the mexican restaurant george and i went to was just as good.

i got to ask all my questions, and george graciously answered every one of them, to the best of his abilities…one thing he said stuck with me: “when you’ve made as many records as we have, and did it that long ago, it gets real hard to remember who did what. this was just part of our everyday life, no different than getting up and going to work for most folks. a lot of people don’t remember those kinds of details of their lives. hell, there are people on the internet message boards who know more about this band than i do, i think.”

we also talked a little bit about my record, which he’d had a chance to listen to (thanks to jon) and had a lot of nice things to say about…so i sprang the question on him: you think you’d be interested in playing on the next one?

“sure”, he said.

we talked about it a little more and i agreed to send him some of the demos i’d already been working on for the next record…and i said goodbye and we left for kentucky a few hours later. i was literally floating…it had been a great week (aside from the perpetual mental breakdowns that michelle subjected both matt and myself to during the whole tour), and we were on the homeward leg of our trip and i couldn’t wait to get back, to see my kids, and to tell steve wellner (my producer) what had happened during the trip.

but – the fact of the matter (which would remain lost on me for a little while yet) was that neither steve nor longview were terribly enthusiastic about the prospects of embarking on a second album adventure. steve and i continued to meet, and had done sessions for what would have become the second record, but i began to sense that steve’s drive – his sense of optimism and his unwavering belief in what we had done with that first album was eroding, a little at a time.

i think steve had been just as disillusioned about the lack of success of the first record as i’d been…we’d gotten great press, good reviews from insiders in the community and in the industry, but that didn’t translate into anything concrete in terms of contracts or distribution or anything of that nature…and we were both pretty certain that it was only a matter of time before we had AAA radio kneeling before us once this record was done.

we turned out to be wrong…not about the success of the record as a work of art, but about the success of the record in terms of laying the groundwork for something resembling a career. we didn’t sell many, nor did we think we would, but we didn’t get as much attention as we’d hoped, either…

so, without going too deeply down that road, we can suffice to say that the second record – the one that george grantham would have played drums on and that paul cotton had all but agreed to play guitar on in discussions after the fact – never happened….and still hasn’t, as of this writing.

but the good side is that our mutual angels had proven my abilities as a singer, a songwriter, and a musician to some important people, including myself…and it created some opportunities for me that i certainly wouldn’t have gotten without it. it got some great reviews…in performing songwriter and rockpile, as well as in a handful of smaller publications around the country…soundwaves, a connecticut magazine, compared my songs to dan fogelberg’s early work and bruce springsteen’s tunnel of love era, for instance.

and i soldiered on for some time, before starting to make the subconscious transition to my current path.

the best review i ever got, though, came from a stage in the center of Springfield, Massachusetts. i’ll tell you about that shortly.

in the meantime, though, jon and i would try to take in every poco show that came within a reasonable distance of us…one show in particular at the foxwoods casino, where mark was to interview paul for his magazine, poco shared a double bill with pure prairie league – we all went to the show, met paul, along with rich and tim, at the bar and sat around for a long time talking about nashville and the music business in general. paul was making a solo record, called firebird, and i offered my services, should he need someone in the band to cover some of the poco-esque instrumentation…we talked about it seriously for a bit before paul moved on as well…and as jon and i were walking back to the hotel afterward, jon let me in on a secret…
that night was the last night for rich neville and tim smith, where poco was concerned.

george grantham was rejoining the band.

apparently, way back there in nashville, in that tower records store, george and rusty had reconnected for the first time since the legacy split, and had started visiting each other on a regular basis. they both lived in the same town, after all, and they started splitting weekends cooking out at each other’s houses and such, and had had an opportunity to rekindle their friendship…and as such, george ended up rejoining the band. rusty hadn’t said anything to rich and tim yet, but george had told jon about it before we’d come up for the show.

so…what he was saying, in essence, was that my having contacted rusty in nashville, and his having subsequently contacted george about my in-store at tower records had been the direct catalyst that led to george rejoining the band that he’d helped form almost thirty years prior.

of whatever good things that came out of having recorded our mutual angels, that was the biggest, in my opinion.
the next show we went to, with george newly in the fold, was in Springfield.

i drove up to connecticut to jon’s house and the two of us picked up our friend mark gould and drove to springfield to see poco play in the square. jon recorded the show on videotape, and paul cotton actually rode to the show with us in jon’s car.

it was a rainy night, and there was a leak in the cover over the stage, but the show finally got underway…i stood off to paul’s side of the stage so i could watch him play. a few songs into the set, rusty went to the mic and said, “we’ve got a lot of friends in the audience tonight…one of them is a great singer and songwriter named tom hampton….”

“tom recorded one of our songs on his most recent record, and we liked his version so much that we started playing it again…so this one’s for tom.”

they then went into “made of stone”, the song that i’d recorded on OMA…

that was the best review my record ever got.

not many people get a chance to even brush up against their idols…i got the chance to get to know my idols personally, to be a part of their lineage, to influence them in a small way, i think – they went on to go back into the studio and record running horse, their first album of new material in over a decade, with george back in the band on drums and a great bass player and songwriter, jack sundrud, joining rusty and paul to complete this recording incarnation of the band. and they resurrected a song from their past as a result of my having resurrected it first.

if you’re a musician, if you’re an artist of any kind who holds someone else up as a source of inspiration or motivation, then you know how huge this was for me. it justified the effort i had put into honing my craft and striving to achieve even a piece of what they’d managed to do. this is a band that fathered an entire genre of music. how many people can that be said about? bill monroe. chuck berry. b.b. king. hank williams.

and poco.

emerging from the fog of the weekend

now playing: dee carstensen, “beautiful”

man…i do this to myself every week, knowingly, and yet i seem to refuse on the important level to break the cycle.

three hours’ sleep last night…or, more accurately, three hours of less-than-restful napping with an on-again, off-again eye on the clock next to the bed, jarring awake every so often out of a subconscious paranoia that i would oversleep and fail to get those who rely on me to their appointed destinations. this is, of course, followed by a short series of gropes for the snooze button – prepared for in advance by setting the clock to a minimum of half an hour before i need to think about getting out of bed in the first place…because i know myself well enough to know that i don’t budge on the first bell.

and then, as the week progresses, i stay up late pretty much every night of the week (i rarely get to bed before midnight) and by the time the weekend rolls around, the chances of my getting out of bed on a saturday morning before 11am are pretty slim.

i run and run and run until i completely burn myself out, and then i overcompensate for the lost rest on the weekends…and as such, weekends have become a pretty non-productive time for me – what with so much sleeping going on.

there are leaks in the roof in the garage that need my attention, a pipe that angles up from underneath the floor in the ceiling of the basement has a leak that’s dripping into the ceiling tile in the basement, i want to finish weeding around the edge of the house and put down new mulch to settle in before the weather starts to change in earnest, i have shelves to put up in the space above the garage, i have cabinets sitting in the garage waiting for me to assemble them and reorganize, so that i don’t feel the weight of the work needing to be done hanging over my head there…these things – well, some of them, anyway – require that i make use of what’s left of the waning daylight.

i have another weekend to myself this coming weekend – no gigs, no one else in the house but myself…but i already think i know what’ll be consuming most of my time this weekend, now that the studio is fully functional and the drums have returned.

i don’t know if it’s safe to discuss within these bounds (because i don’t know if our victim is a visitor here or not), but a good friend to me and to my music has a birthday coming up soon, and something is in the works to commemorate said birthday, and i can’t think of anything that would make this person happier than to have the first and only existing copy of some new tom hampton music, so i think i’m going to work on that this weekend…but there’s no reason that has to be to the exclusion of other things.

the release party on friday for the new nik everett album was amazing…lemme tell ya – when you get used to ambling over to the corner of the bar to pick up your guitar and nonchalantly start playing for whatever group of drunks have assembled in whatever room you happen to be in, there’s something extremely gratifying in the details…walking out of a dressing room and into a darkened hall to the cheers of an audience who came specifically to hear the songs you’re going to play that night, being properly announced to an appreciate crowd, and being called back for an encore after your set when you’ve played well. this particular club has a great reputation for music in philadelphia, and it lived up to it on friday night.

it’s funny, i’ve played this place maybe half a dozen times with almost as many different artists, and every time i play there it seems that enough time has passed since the last time that i completely forget how small the stage is. i went in there with almost a dozen different instruments – mandolin, hawaiian guitar, dobro, etc – all things that i’d planned on using on different songs, but it was simply not to be. i managed to make do with four guitars and a lap steel, and we just left out the different colors that i’d been planning on bringing to the party. there’ll be other gigs, though…that’s one of the reasons that (i assume) people hire me – for my versatility…as much so as whatever i might bring to the party musically.

i had a great aftershow – blake was there, as well as marc moss from target studios(where both the nik album and the upcoming blake album were/are being mixed) and my buddy marty higgins, and we all went across the street to a bar called “the grog” after the show to hang out and talk…i discovered that i miss being out of the loop sometimes. i enjoyed standing around and discussing gear and talking about the injustices of the music business and about how there are so few musicians who really understand what it means to play for the song and put their egos and their chops (or lack thereof) aside for the greater good. marc had a lot of input about this, since he probably suffers many more instances of this than any of the rest of those of us who were talking about it..what with him being a professional producer/engineer and all…

i remember thinking while we were talking that there’s just no friggin’ way i could run a professional studio and deal with clients whose music i didn’t have a personal interest in…i’d go completely crazy recording crappy bands that i had no emotional connection to. but – if i could do five blake albums or five marty albums every few months, i’d be in good shape.

i did do my first outside session this week – my old buddy todd came over to work on a recording and brought a vocalist and an upright bassist with him. i had a couple of strikes against me out of the gate, namely that i hadn’t gotten the entire studio set up the way i wanted it before we started, and that i didn’t have enough of what i considered to be quality microphones to record an ensemble all at once…but, oddly enough, everything worked out pretty well. we started on thursday night and did about three hours’ worth of work, and then todd came over yesterday afternoon to mix what we had. it was a pretty sparse mix – it was a bluegrass version of an iris dement song, “hotter than mohave“. (yeah, yeah, i know…saying “bluegrass version of an iris dement song” is kinda like saying “country version of a hank williams song” in a way, but there ya go. whatever.) at any rate, we did hit a snag or two during the recording process and the mixing process, but everything that we ran up against worked itself out rather quickly, and everything went quite well.

well enough that i’m actually looking forward to recording some other stuff soon…i’m going to completely redo the PC that sits in my equipment rack, upgrade it and install some new components…and then i’ll be ready to go. i need to start looking at other soundcard solutions as well, something with more inputs and with the ability to import ADAT tracks via the optical interface found on the ADAT machines. i’ve created an unspoken goal for myself to upgrade both the soundcard and to add to my microphone inventory after the first of the year.