Archive for May, 2011

No Sleep Till……..Beijing?

Monday, May 30th, 2011

We’ve been working on this gig for a few months and I don’t think that any of us thought that it would actually happen. But tomorrow we head off to Beijing for a few days of sightseeing ending with a gig on June 5th as part of  The Kama Love Festival, which takes place in the Olympic Park. How amazingly awesome is that….there are a lot of ups and downs in the life of a working rock band, but occasionally you hit an “up” that just lifts you through the freakin’ roof. Beijing here we come….I’ll of course be blogging about the whole experience, so check back daily.

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Sing In My Meadow, volume 3 – Late Night Radio

Thursday, May 26th, 2011

When we get back from China (if we get back from China)…I plan to get to work mixing this damn thing and then get it in your hands for those Summer road trips that you all have planned….although with the price of gas these days, one can’t just jump in the car and take off for parts unknown, like the good-ole-days, without first sitting down and doing some serious financial planning. In any case perhaps we can just close our eyes, pop on our headphones and pretend to be eating up those miles. I’ve loved the radio since I was a kid, not just music, but talk shows, sports casts and the madmen. I still listen to it all the time (rarely to music stations, mainly to madmen). I especially like it while I’m driving long distances and it just can’t be beat late at night when most of the world is asleep. I love twisting the dial, pushing the buttons, listening to one station fade in while another fades away, it’s never ending and so magical the way it is just out there (so much more romantic and mysterious than the internet and all the protocols needed to connect to it). Here is a rough mix of Late Night Radio, enjoy:

Late Night Radio

Under his pillow whisper low

They creep in through his radio.

That long-distance howling at the moon.

Wille Stargel at the bat.

Some freak singing about his Siamese cat.

“Ask the Pastor” sowing through his dreams.

Hey girl, wanna touch my soul?

Do you listen to late night radio?

Come away with me.

He likes the way it eats the miles,

The way it pulls you, like a child

Holds your hand,

Briefly lifts the veil.

The way the music curls like smoke,

Where the mildly sane and the madmen float,

The hum of night, the freedom in the air.

Hey love, can I reach your soul?

Do you listen to late night radio?

Come away with me.

Under his pillow whisper low

They creep in through his radio.

All that distance filling up the room.

Firmly locked in the long grey middle

He reaches out and starts to fiddle

Just to hear them howling at the moon.

Hey babe, do you doubt my soul?

But I listen to late night radio.

Come away with me.

Other Sing In My Meadow blogs:

Introduction

Hunted

Songwriting Demos

Jeff Bird

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Happy Birthday Bob

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

I spent the summer of 1976 in the extremely remote town of Fort Simpson, Northwest Territories. I was sixteen years old. My job was to fuel the small prop-planes that serviced the tiny communities, unreachable by land, which dotted the banks of the Mackenzie River. It was a true frontier town. I was alone, there was virtually no one my age that I could talk to. When I wasn’t working I spent my time running upon the huge boulders piled along the banks of the Mighty Mackenzie or recklessly speeding along the backroads in the company pickup truck. I was told to always check underneath the truck before I moved it because there was a good chance that there would be someone lying there, drunk. I lived in a converted goat shed and I spent the summer in silence: except for Dylan. There was a beat-up portable turntable in the corner of my room and one album, Desire. By the end of the summer the grooves at the beginning of side one were so worn out that the tone arm would skid halfway across the platter and start playing somewhere in the middle of Mozambique. The bass line at beginning of One More Cup Of Coffee still jangles my innards, Emmylou’s harmonies on Oh Sister still make me swoon; Dominique Cortese’s’s accordion buried itself deep in my subconscious only to re-emerge ten years later when Jaro walked in to our life. Desire locks me in a place and time. Desire was my saviour. Happy Birthday Bob and thanks for this one of many, many fabulous memories.

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Rolling Stones tribute – Paint It Black

Thursday, May 19th, 2011

We were approached over a year ago by our good friend Jim Sampas who was putting together an alt-country tribute to the Rolling Stones. It sounded like a fun project to get involved with, so we went in to our studio and worked up a version of Moonlight Mile and No Expectations. We gave Moonlight Mile to Jim for his project and then the whole thing kind of slipped away. Well, it has resurfaced and it is now available. There are a lot of old friends on the album like Over The Rhine, Lee Harvey Osmond and Mary Gauthier, Howe Gelb and many more. Check out Reimagine Music for more production and purchase details.

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Cookie Crumbs – volume 8

Sunday, May 8th, 2011

Cookie Bob’s latest Cookie Crumbs is now available. Volume 8 is mostly from our Great Barrington gig in 2010. I remember that day clearly. It was a beautiful day which we spent leisurely exploring the streets and shops of Great Barrington, which is a beautiful little town in the South West corner of Massachusetts. Nice weather, good coffee, an excellent second hand book store, friendly town folk, a nice little theater  and an enthusiastic audience are usually a recipe for a good gig. Take a listen and judge for yourself…and buy it if you have the coin….

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Tim Gibbons – Top Hat

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011

Tim’s album is recorded, mixed and mastered and we’re just waiting for some finished artwork. So we’ll have it available for sale in the next month or so. It’s been a real pleasure working with and getting to know his songs. I love working with people whose songs become more intricate and detailed the more one listens. Being in charge of all of the production duties on an album project (producing, engineering and mixing) can be, at times, a very tedious job. One has to listen to each song scores of times as they make the journey from demo to finished master and it’s the rare set of songs that can stand up to that much repeated listening and scrutiny. Tim has such a natural way of writing and singing that he leaves the listener leaning a bit further into the song each time through. One hears a line, deciphers it and then does an auditory equivalent of a double-take as the imagery of the line takes hold.

Here’s a sampling of a couple of verses from some of Tim’s songs; from the weary road song Deal (Had this gal drank Balantines / she would punch me up the head / making love through hangovers / ’till she said I felt dead / Her deal was the regular life / my deal it drove truck / now razorblades won’t bring her back aww thas jes my luck); the impossibly beautiful Medicine Girl (Sad songs on the radio / thinking bout ya baby so far from home / wonder if you’re listening or talking on the phone to another guy / did he leave you dry? like a blister across the sky / the night coming on I’m gonna tell you why / put the weight on me was such a sad song / You’re my medicine girl / I’ll set you free if that’s what you want); and the dark, brooding High Treason (I’ll fly away tonight and skip through all the tanglin’ / I’ll cast away sweet memory / all that’s left inside is the feeling i’m left dangling from some lonesome hanging tree / High treason, a seasons obsession haunting you)

And how about this gem from Top Hat: She leaned back and her face appeared / her cigarette glowed in a dusty mirror / she said all her deeds were still born / leaning on a fire escape waiting on the dawn. Take a listen to the finished song:

Here’s an earlier blog about Tim, in case you missed it:

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Patti Smith/Dave Eggers at LA Book Festival

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011

This is from our friend Ron Wells, our LA “correspondent”…. a very thoughtful piece on the trans-formative power of art.
We know spring is here when the LA Times Book Festival, now in its 16th year, arrives at the end of April. With over 300 authors and 150,000 attendees over a two day day period, it is a wonderful time to get outside and stretch the legs and the mind, while sitting in on panels and readings that can ignite and/or soothe the soul.
The highlight of this year’s festival for me was seeing Patti Smith and Dave Eggers on a panel discussion moderated by Dave Ulin, the LA Times book critic.
A packed Bovard Hall on the University of Southern California campus waited in anxious anticipation for the appearance of two modern day artists who, for some at least, are also heroes.
Dave Ulin introduced them as “role models,” and after a very short introduction, began asking questions that gave both writers the freedom to roam with their answers.
Patti began by talking about how she began to concentrate on prose after “leaving public life in 1979.” She said “Coral Sea” was her personal letter to Robert Mapplethorpe which encapsulated her grief, but that Just Kids was fulfilling her promise to Robert to write their story.
Dave Eggers, extremely humble throughout, began by saying it was “surreal” to be on the same stage as Patti, and then said that A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius was written 10 years after his parents death. He looks at it now and it’s difficult for him to read. “It could have been Improved” greatly. He called it “sloppy” and “painful,” while referring to Patti’s book as “ideal.”
Patti said she began her book after the deaths of her husband and brother, an extremely painful time for her. She kept the book “simple” because “Robert wasn’t much of a reader,” and she wanted him to be able to read her account of their time together.
Dave, speaking of his book, said, “no offense, but I didn’t think anyone would read it.” Thus, not understanding the power within the book, nor how long a work of literature would live on, he put in the real phone numbers of friends and others he knew. This brought laughter from the crowd, as he explained that “we took these out with the second printing.”
One thing that Patti tried to stress was that when she writes, she “treats others as I would like to be treated.” She does not use books as vengeance, and then pointed out the National Enquirer as being the opposite. “Does saying the National Enquirer, date me,” she said laughing. One way or another, her point had been made.
When asked about how she is able to work in so many different artistic forms, as well as about which artists inspired her, she answered, “Oh, there’s so many. William Blake, Michelangelo, Da Vinci,” and her voice trailed off. Then she picked up the thread and said, “ I don’t think anyone asked Michelangelo, ‘Are you a sculptor?”
Eggers than answered a similar question by saying he grew up thinking he’d be a painter. He thought Patti’s book was a victory for people who bounce around between various media. He then went back and commented on Zeitoun and said it was “not fun to write.” He found it  extremely emotionally draining, and so he would find himself late at night reverting to his artistic days and drawing farm animals to release the tension.
Patti then told Ulin that she is a “happy person, basically. This came from my childhood and having books and art to relate to.” Thus, “I have the best job in the world–transforming everything into art.”
To which Eggers responded, “I have guilt. It’s hard work, but I feel incredibly lucky. Sometimes, I’ll work late into the early morning hours because I feel guilty having such a great job. It’s surreal just to be sitting here with my hands poised over the keyboards and realize that this is my job.”
Patti picked up on that and said, “being an artist, you have to work doggedly, but you’re blessed too. I believe it’s a calling.”
Eggers who had been humble and self-effacing throughout, said he is proud of his 826 Organization that is teaching kids all over the country how to write. He mentioned that Patti’s daughter is one of the tutors at one of these centers. And then he emphasized that they teach the students that it can take 30 drafts, or more, to get a work the way they want it. Ultimately, he found great joy in knowing that young people are responding to learning how to write and put their thoughts down in writing.
Ulin then asked Patti to read from Just Kids. She chose the section on meeting Allen Ginsberg because she felt it was humorous. The audience laughed throughtout and then, as she neared the end of the passage where she tells Ginsberg years after their first meeting that “you fed me when I was hungry,” she began to choke up as she recalled the importance of Ginsberg in her life. It was a heartfelt moment that hovered over the quiet audience like a silent prayer.
She changed gears and said everything she’s read or seen has influenced her. “Genet, mysteries, fairy tales. They’ve all been important.”
Finally, after Eggers had criticized “A Staggering Work… “ once again, someone from the audience said, “I loved that book. Am I an idiot?!” The audience roared and Eggers laughed too, then replied, “ No, no. I’m glad you got so much from it. Thank you! It’s just, I want to change so much of that book.” In essence he was saying he’d become a better writer, but he can’t go back and write it over again.”
With that, the hour was up. It went by much too fast.
It is difficult to capture the feeling in that room. As Patti write on her home page, “The miracle is love.” There was so much affection for the writers, and it was returned to the audience, in a back and forth that contained little or no pretentiousness. One left feeling blessed that in a day and age when corporate greed, news media cynicism, and vulgarity of every shape and form dominate our lives, seeing Dave Eggers and Patti Smith was a blessing. For it reminds one, that sometimes our artists break through the muck and mud of everyday life to find reasons to believe. To find hope and joy, even after tragedy has tried to wrestle those away forever.
Walking outside, I realized it was spring again. A time of rebirth. And Patti Smith and Dave Eggers wanted to make sure that their readers never forget the fact that sometimes we need to step back and count our blessings, renew our aspirations, embrace that which is good. Even amidst the pain, to love life and start anew.

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