What if the Light at the End of the Tunnel is Just the Headlamp of an Oncoming Train?

[l1]A[/l1]fter repeated listenings to Cream’s Born Under a Bad Sign a few years ago I went to my music room to play around on my bass. Rather than trying to copy Jack Bruce’s bass line, I played what it made me feel like.

Speeding it up a little and moving down and back up a few times, all I needed was a brief refrain at the end, a turnaround between verses, and it felt complete.

What if the Light at the End of the Tunnel is Just the Headlamp of an Oncoming Train?

A rockabilly shuffle on the drums is loads of fun, but it’s hard to keep up if you’re not practicing regularly. The drums seem to have survived most of this trip.

When you commit to writing 14 songs in 28 days there’s a bit of a time constraint. When I started recording the springy lead guitar I realised that, though it was recording, it wasn’t coming out of the amp, and it wasn’t coming through the computer to my headphones. I could hear a tinny little noise straight off the strings on my Stratocaster, but even that was muffled by the headphones.

Knowing I could do it over, I soldiered on.

I didn’t do it over. This is what I sound like playing lead guitar when I can’t hear myself. Maybe I should try it more often.

Blues without harmonica seemed wrong. Then the piano started complaining about being left out.

I’ve written a handful of short verses which I might record some day, but if Hoagy Carmichael’s Stardust can survive as an instrumental for more than a decade, this one will be okay.

Winwood Compilation with a Beatles’ Name?

[l1]S[/l1] [az]B003HBM06Q[/az]ince I already own much of what’s on this 4-CD compilation I won’t be buying it (I’ll just get the few Winwood albums I don’t already own) but if you’d like a broad sweeping view of a rare musical wonder, Revolutions is stuffed full of songs you’ve heard forever, or never heard but should have.

It has all of John Barleycorn except Every Mother’s Son; funny to leave off just that one track.

Only a single track from Winwood’s eponymous first solo album (Vacant Chair.) I would have included (also, or instead) Let Me Make Something in Your Life; Steve has this knack for down-to-earth love songs that feel more like real life, and less like ethereal fantasies. (Perhaps I should play this for Best Beloved. Perhaps I should confirm I still have my vinyl copy.)

Over half of Mr. Fantasy shows up; just less than half of Traffic. Hard telling who made the decisions, or why; some fairly obscure stuff is included, some obvious choices like Feelin’ Alright didn’t make it.

Doesn’t really matter, in the end. Just be sure you have as much Winwood around the house as possible, and play it often, and, once in a while, loud.

And, tell your less educated friends. This is a man who has gotten far too little recognition for a stellar body of work.

Blues, Polished, Yet Crunchy: Hollis Brown

[l1]A[/l1][az]B002P31V3U[/az]t the opening guitar riff, I wasn’t sure if this was going to be a good crunchy blues or one of those polished pablum tunes from the radio. Turns out, Hollis Brown’s Show Love is polished and crunchy at the same time. I find myself humming the tune for hours after I’ve heard it, and the musicianship is a nice balance between expected and exceptional. It makes a real difference having a vocalist who sounds like a real person and not an escapee from a boy band.

Neat use of two complementary guitars. Every time the opening riff is repeated it feels more fun. Then the song ends with an inverted version of the riff that seems to die out before it was finished; somebody didn’t feel the need to be overly serious about the whole thing (the word ‘fun’ keeps coming to mind about the whole song.)

There’s a keyboard back there somewhere that only gets a few chances to peek out. I especially like the subtle Beatles ref in the chorus. I defy you not to tap your foot to this one.

Brand New from Old Lost John: Broken

Tomas Thunberg[l1]H[/l1]ave a listen to Old Lost John’s Broken.

Love love love the horn, the saw; the whole arrangement. This sounds like that time I thought I was dreaming, then I thought I woke up, but I wasn’t sure either time.

me, to him: I wish I knew where you got your voice so I could go buy one just like it. Well, maybe not exactly. But close.

Old Lost John’s Railway Car showed up on Handmade & Homespun last year, along with one of my songs, and a dozen others well worth hearing.

Beyond Here Lies Nothin’

[l1]I[/l1][az]B0020JJDKW[/az] just watched the video for Bob Dylan’s wonderful new song Beyond Here Lies Nothin’ and felt compelled to warn you not to make the same mistake. Just listen to the song and don’t spoil it with twisted violent bizarre images. Dylan is often confusing, but I’ve never noticed his lyrics leaning toward gratuitous violence purely for shock effect.

I’ve never understood the music video directorial mandate to create something as far removed as possible from the content and/or spirit of the song. I realize that videos aren’t just a visual representation of the song. But it seems intentionally perverse to take a song with a positive feel, both musically and lyrically (like these opening words)

 Oh well, I love you pretty baby You're the only love I've ever known Just as long as you stay with me The whole world is my throne

and create a video of graphic domestic violence.

It’s not art, it’s just wasted space.

FAWM Over. We Win.

[l1]F[/l1]ebruary Album Writing Month is officially over for 2009. And I officially won.

Which means I wrote or co-wrote at least 14 songs during the 28 days of February. (You’ll see on my FAWM profile that it lists 19; it’s actually only 18 because one is listed twice but I don’t want to lose the comments on my original post.)

This year I discovered the double harmonic scale, which makes everything you play sound all Arabian Night-ish. I wrote two Arabic-sounding songs (my most ambitious musical endeavours to date) and collaborated on another.

I wrote a German drinking song. In German.

I wrote a Mexican dance song. In Spanish.

I played a jazz guitar improvisation, my first guitar improvisation ever.

I did my first FAWM music video.

I also did, as I have every year, some country, some folk, and some swingabilly.

And now, I’m tired.

Like a Mattress Balances on a Bottle of Wine

[l1]I[/l1][az]B00026WU8M&[/az] have managed to go an entire year without writing about Bob Dylan. I managed to go 40 years without hearing Blonde on Blonde, other than the bits played on the radio.

I’ve written about Dylan’s word play in an earlier post. The lyrics of Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat aren’t as disorienting as, for instance, Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again (on the same album, but ooh I love the live version on Hard Rain.) But it’s still Dylan. Not quite nonsense, but certainly not sensible.

I can’t hear the second verse without laughing:

 Well, you look so pretty in it Honey, can I jump on it sometime? Yes, I just wanna see If it's really that expensive kind You know it balances on your head Just like a mattress balances On a bottle of wine Your brand new leopard-skin pill-box hat

[az]B0012GMUP4[/az]A traditional 12-bar blues, it opens with Dylan himself playing a lead of sorts. It reminds me why Robbie Robertson played all the other leads on the song. Kenny Buttrey’s drumming is very non-traditional; cymbal accents in jazzy places a straight blues player might not have thought of, and an almost burlesque kick drum roll at the end of each chorus-less verse. The Wikipedia article talks about the near-agony of getting a final version recorded.

It all finishes up, lyrically, with a poke at her new boyfriend:

 You might think he loves you for your money But I know what he really loves you for It's your brand new leopard-skin pill-box hat

Makes me want one of my very own.

The Grassies

[l1]N[/l1]orthern California now has a music award.

The Grassies are the Northern California Artistic Achievement Award. Named in part for The GrassiesGrass Valley, where the first awards will be presented, and in part for the grassroots artists they honor, The Grassies are an idea long overdue. Originally intended to be a purely musical award, we The Grassie(Co-Founder and Primary Evangelist Andy Gonzales and Know Your Music writer, Grassies Co-Founder and Anamchara Eolais Joel D ‘spinhead’ Canfield) realized it needed to encompass the arts in general to match our vision.

The First Annual Grassies will be the highlight of the Nevada County Music Expo on April 28th, 2007; all the pertinent info is at The Grassies website. While most of the awards are given to artists and others in music-related fields who are still on the rise, the Masters and Mentors Award is a special award for a grassroots artist who has, in some sense, made it. This year’s recipient is The King of Surf Guitar, Mr. Dick Dale.

The Expo will include workshops, live performances, vendor booths of all kinds from local bands, stores, and other artists, food, and more. Admission is free.