Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Little Drummer Boy

video

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Road Goes Ever On and On

Now that I'm off the road as a guitar tech and concentrating on my D'Addario Artist Relations and Guitar.com editor duties full-time, I actually have some weekends off...in fact, I have them all off.


This means I can gig with my wife, Donna Beasley. Her latest album, 'Under The Rushes' has been getting some excellent reviews and we are going on our first real out-of-town run this week. We are opening for our good friends and artists Elizabeth Cook and Tim Carroll in at the Kirk Music Hall in Roanoke, VA on November 20. We are also gigging in Noblesville, IN on the 22nd at Noble Coffee and Tea.

Come on out and give a listen if you can!

Monday, October 18, 2010

You Can't Go Home Again...But You Can Buy it Back for $10.



My day job took me to Arlington, TX this past weekend for a guitar show. For those of you who've never been or ever even heard of such a thing, a guitar show is a convention of dealers, collectors, hobbyists and pro players. All manner of guitars (and their near and distant kindred), amps, effects, memorabilia and literature are sold at discount "show prices". Thousands of folks show up.

I saw Made in China guitars for $100 and a Fender Broadcaster tagged at $90k. An alleged actual Ray Manzarek Fender Rhodes Bass keyboard was priced to move at $25k, complete with stenciled "Doors" flight case. The exact same cheap Silvertone archtop acoustic my brother played in his high school production of "Lilies of the Field" was marked at $450. It might have cost $70 new in 1968.

Some dealers had meticulous displays for vintage pieces, others brought slow-moving stock, some specialized in pawn shop specials - cheap imported guitars that actually sound great. There's been a 10-year old surge of interest in those models and they were everywhere. I first saw a Danelectro in Jimmy Page photos and even then, those of us with gleaming Les Pauls in our eyes considered that brand a starter guitar. Now the originals draw good prices and the reissues remain popular today.

I found my gold in a big plastic bin of '70's to '80's era music instruction materials and Hit Parader magazines. I had recently been in a conversation about the absolute lack of usable instruction on Rock Guitar that was available in 1975. Mel Bay was the King of Printed Guitar Instruction and his Missouri-based empire paid short shrift to Rock music, with only a couple of titles. The one I remember was apparently written by old-ish guys (judging by the photos inside) who listened to a few rock records and figured they'd write a book on it. At least it seemed that way to me...nothing in there sounded like the records I was trying to play along to.

At some point, on a visit to Madison and Ward-Brodt Music or maybe Patti Music on State Street, I bought a book from Green Note Publications called "Improvising Rock Guitar", written by and featuring Pat Thrall. It came with a 331/3 speed Flexi-Disc with two idiomatic songs on it: "Snaker" a I-bVII- IV bluesy romp in the style of Clapton in the Cream era, and "Homage To Hendrix" a modal-vamp jam with a nod to Santana, as well as Jimi.

The young, long-haired, SG-wielding Thrall covered the pentatonic box system of guitar playing very well and I learned a lot from this book. I learned even more from Pat Thrall when he was the co-guitarist in the Pat Travers Band a few years later. I lost the book years ago, or loaned it out. I had not thought about it in years and here was a mint copy, probably NOS (new, old-stock) since the disc was spotless. The original price for it was $5.95, the dealer was asking $10.

I didn't buy it. It couldn't possibly be as good as I remembered, could it?

Well, after I flew back to Nashville, I started thinking about the Thrall book again. I found it on eBay and other sites and someone has even made the out-of-print classic it available as a torrent, including the audio contents of the FlexiDisc. It held up great and was a blast to listen to again...I was right back in my bedroom, trying to get the rising unison bend delineating the pentatonic scale just right. Thanks Mr.Thrall for giving us small-town rural guitar players the real stuff.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Trash Talk

I've discovered a new winner in the consumer satisfaction game, that rare product that "I'll never not own" - the simplehuman garbage can.




You can't see the trash, you can't smell the trash, you can't see a trash bag. You step on a pedal, the lid opens, you step off and it slowly closes.

No more buying crappy trash cans at Target (or the same crappy trash can at Pier 1 for 20% more).

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Why I Am A Musician

A few years ago, my sister-in-law Diane asked my Dad to tell his story of being an amateur musician in the late'40's. Here is his reply:

While still in grade school, I expressed an interest in playing an instrument. I liked the sound of the trumpet, so I asked my Mom if I could get one. She checked with the HS band director and he recommended a Holton professional model cornet (very similar, but smaller, and with a sweeter tone) that was for sale at the local music store. I was in 6th grade, probably 11 or 12. so it was 1939 or '40. That horn cost $90.00 then, which, using the multiplier of 10, would be $900 today. Of course my folks couldn't afford that price, but they made arrangements for time payments and somehow got it done anyway.

I took lessons from the HS band teacher and began to watch closely some of the trumpet virtuosos of that era - ala Harry James, and my all time idol, Bobby Hackett. To shorten the story, I was second chair to a Senior (Dear friend John Steffen) as a Freshman and when he graduated that year, I was promoted to solo (first) chair as a Sophomore. I then was privileged to lead the cornet/trumpet section of the HS marching and concert bands and attended many music festivals and other events.

During that time I was also playing with local dance bands just about every Saturday night - not old enough to even have a beer, but as long as you were in the orchestra, you were permitted. I was a paid member of Local 610, AFM.

Of course I went immediately into the Army after graduation. Left my horn at home and more or less put my music ambition on hold. However, on the ship going overseas to Okinawa, I organized a ships orchestra by soliciting other players and we entertained the 3,000 troops on the ship's deck every few days during the 19 day voyage.

Upon arriving in Korea, after stops at Okinawa and Yokohama, Japan, I was again without any musical connection - until, another soldier named "Andy" Anderson, who was a fantastic piano player, heard I could play and asked me to get a horn from Special Services and join him in performing live music at the base Officer's Club. We did this frequently while I also worked in the base PX and had other assignments - once as a bodyguard for my Company Commander on a trip to Seoul.

Then one day I got a pass to go from the Southern port of Pusan, where I was assigned, to visit a former classmate who was stationed at Taegue, in central S. Korea. While there, the director of the 1st Infantry Regimental Band met me at an Enlisted lounge being run by the Red Cross. He asked me to audition - I remember the sheet music he gave me was the song "Mam'selle", which I had never heard before that. I must have done OK, however, because shortly after I got back to Pusan I got orders transferring me to our Engineer Company in Taegue to be detailed to the 1st Inf. Regt. Band. What a deal! From that point on, all I did was play with the band for ceremonies, concerts and other engagements, all over the Southern half of the peninsula. I remember one concert in particular, at a place called Po Hang Dong, where a USO troupe was performing. After playing a standing solo of the ballad "Laura", one of the girls in the troupe came up to me and said "You sound just like Bobby Hackett!" The ultimate compliment.

When I came home I played with dance bands again, locally, but those events grew less frequent as my jobs took me away to school; marriage, children, etc. I ended up donating my horn to the local parochial school because they were desperate for instruments and had no money. I HAVE regretted that on occasion, but never got another horn. Now my Grandson, Riley, is following in my footsteps. Sandy tells me he is pretty good already and getting praises from his instructors. That's great. I once tried to play HIS horn here, but was a total failure - couldn't make any clear notes. It takes a lot of work and one has to develop an embouchure (sp?) or "lip", as we called it for short. I have thought about renting a cornet from Ward-Brodt - but then again, I am 75 and soon will be 76 - what would be the point?

Well, that is pretty much my "story" Diane. I like to think that both John and Tom inherited their love for music from me. It is, I believe, a worthwhile quality and can add greatly to one's enjoyment of life. Thanks for listening!

Love, Jack


If you knew my Dad, you'd realize that he was undoubtedly professional-grade at playing trumpet, like he is at everything else he attempts. I'm ever grateful for the music gene he obviously passed along to me and my siblings.

Thanks, Dad!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Just That Busy

5 weeks between posts...not much of a blogger, am I? My writing and creative skills (such as they are) are being spread around these days, at D'Addario, Guitar.com and other ventures. I'll do better, I promise!

Friday, May 21, 2010

From The Top

New gear, old, wet gear re-furbed, old gear new to us. It's time to bury the dead and move on. Rehearsals started a couple of days ago in a secure, dry place in Nashville. We've got cardboard everywhere as we unbox shiny new toys/tools and put them to use. We've got a few old favorites still drying out but refusing to give up their place. We've got some killer used gear that is now new gear to us, including an exceptional Martin D-35.

The silver lining in the Nashville flood is the opportunity to make friends with new instruments. After playing the same guitars, basses, mandolins, drums, etc. for years, you get to know them well and their faults and shortcomings are known and unconsciously ignored or adjusted for. New instruments feel foreign initially and have their own faults, which you will discover over time. This keeps things fresh, I guess, and it's been less painful to say so long to old friends than I imagined it would be.

J. Bouvier has provided us with some amazing mandolins, both acoustic and electric. Two Martins have joined the new Gibson J-45 in the vault. All new wireless, racks, workboxes, hand tools, tuners, pedals, everything.

It's kind of fun to start over...but, as is the case in the flooding, once every 500 years or so is often enough.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

After The Flood

It took a few days, but the national media eventually took notice of the record amount of rainfall and 1000-year flood of the Cumberland and Harpeth Rivers. The loss of life and homes is a tragedy that will scar Tennessee for years. My own home was not in danger, other than the accumulation of rain water in my yard that made it to a couple feet from the door.

The personal loss to me will be revealed this weekend, when Soundcheck, the local rehearsal and gear storage facility will finally be re-opened. Soundcheck took as much as 4 feet of water inside the main building, which itself is easily 4-5 feet off street level due to the many docks built in for semis to load gear in and out.

That much water has covered every guitar, amp, keyboard, drum kit, etc. for several days now. Many instruments will be total losses, none will ever be the same., My workbox full of specialized guitar tech tools, accumulated over many years is underwater and probably ruined. I might be able to salvage some of the gear, but the electronic items are most likely toast.

Local luthiers and guitar repairmen are joining together to set up a triage center at Soundcheck in order to quickly dry out and stabilize the guitars as they are recovered from their river-soaked cases.

I'll update this post as the results of their efforts are known.

UPDATE: Here's our gear, all of it was underwater...

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

We All Will Be Received...

Back home from Memphis and a 5-hour Elvis/Graceland experience. It was my fabulous wife's birthday and she wanted to see Graceland. We rented a nice Dodge Nitro from Budget and drove the 3.5 hours to Memphis, checked into the Grand Dame of Memphis Hotels, The Peabody, caught the ducks and planned on hitting the Rendezvous for some famous ribs for dinner.

For whatever reason the Rendezvous was closed, so we walked back across the street and into Texas de Brazil, a Brazilian-style steakhouse. For the uninitiated, that means you pay $43 and get an all-you-can-eat salad bar and your choice of large skewers of meat brought to your table by swarthy men with knives. As long as your supplied hunger button is green side up, they keep stopping by and slicing off chunks of chicken, garlic-encrusted sirloin, bacon-wrapped fillet, rack of lamb, etc. Once you are stuffed, you turn the button red-side up and they leave you alone. Awesome.

Woke up, checked out of the Peabody, saw the ducks and had breakfast at Denny's 'cause breakfast at Denny's is usually pretty good. Not too hungry from the previous night's gorging, but we knew that we'd be spending some time at the Graceland exhibits, so we got the day started out right.

Graceland was a 10-minute drive and after paying $10.00 to park, we walked into the ticket pavilion where, much to our delight, two platinum tickets were waiting, courtesy of a Facebook musician friend who heard about our trip. Excellent. Now we could see the mansion, '68 special exhibit, airplanes, Elvis in Hollywood, Elvis Fashion, and his car collection. Graceland is celebrating what would have been Elvis' 75th birthday this year.

Mansion first, of course. It's smaller than I thought, even though I'd heard it was going to be smaller than I'd think. It was, though. Decorated in mid-'70's hipbilly chic, it's a study in avocado (the kitchen), orange, blue and gold. Tapestries and draperies and shag carpet and push-button TVs. All of it cool, all of it Elvis.

There are horses on the grounds and a Trophy Room and a racquetball court that is now a display room. Golf carts, Cadillacs, motorcycles, tractors, airplanes. Jumpsuits. Lots of jumpsuits. Guitars, movie scripts, posters, many gift shops.

In all, a fantastic experience. Here are some photos:


Living Room


T.V. Room


Jungle Room


Kitchen


Dining Room



Gold Records


'70's Jumpsuits


'68 Comeback Special Leather Suit


Rare Gibson 6-string Bass, 6-string guitar doubleneck

Friday, April 23, 2010

In The Desert, You Can Remember Your Name

Las Vegas, again. It rained here all morning, so when we finally landed at 3:30, it was cool and damp enough to turn your collar to...for Las Vegas, at least.

We're here to play The Joint in the Hard Rock Casino. Never been in that venue before, it could get crazy. Rick Nielsen and Tom Petersson from Cheap Trick are going to be hanging in my world all night. They're a local band for us Wisconsinites, and I had many a good time (and still do) listening to "In Color", "Heaven Tonight" and "The Dream Police". Of course, "Live at Budokan" is as good as any band can get, Leeds and Albert Hall included.

Should be fun.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

L.A. Times

Wow. A month between posts. Might be a new record, I'm not sure. Not that nothing's been going on, though...in fact too busy to blog is more like it. The new Donna Beasley record is done, mastered and getting ready for duplication. Pretty excited about it..it's definitely different than the last one and a step forward for me as a producer/engineer/guitar player/ songwriter/husband.

I'm in Los Angeles at the moment, rehearsing for the upcoming Keith Urban show in Phoenix and the ACM awards. Everything seems to be moving along nicely, the band sounds great and I've got a bunch of new guitars to look after.

My work on behalf of D'Addario is increasing as well. Look for a new and improved Guitar.com website soon. Lots of cool things happening there and more to tell once we launch.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Back At It

Touring season begins again. I'm back out with the Keith Urban outfit for 2010. First show is the Houston Rodeo in Houston, TX on Tuesday. A bit of a dusty, odoriferous spectacle, but a pretty unique experience. The new stage has a big video wall and looks great. It's just the acoustics that remain challenging. Several seconds of delay make the whole affair an exercise in concentration and focus.

















Sunday, February 28, 2010

Friends



Tom "T-Bone" Wolk died early this morning in NYC. His big heart gave out and the world lost a great musician and a lot of people in this business lost a great friend.
I met him when I took a gig teching for Hall and Oates a few years back. The first show we did was in Bermuda at the Atlantis. I had played a few country licks through the guitar rig during sound check and he came right over and struck up a conversation about Country, guitar players, and Nashville and made me feel like I'd been there for years. During his bass solo in the middle of the set that night, he stopped playing his groove, walked up to a mic and said "Tom Spaulding, this is for you". He then played Buck Owens' "Buckaroo" on his bass...behind his head. That was T-Bone.
He could play most any instrument and get something musical and tasteful out of it every time. He loved Vermont cheese and refused to cede any ground when I insisted that all cheese is merely a footnote to Wisconsin cheddar.
I had not been in contact with him since October, when he said in an e-mail that we needed to catch up but he was super busy and very tired. I have a few friends who were very close to T-Bone for many years and my prayers go out to them all. I think anybody who met him felt close to him immediately. He was kind and considerate and listened when you spoke and had the best attitude about what it means to be a musician. Never a harsh word about anyone, and you won't hear any unkind things said about him. A gentleman and a great musician and a beautiful human being.
Thanks, 'Bone. It was an honor and a pleasure to know you.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Master, May I?

Most musicians I know have some kind of recording device at home. Whether it’s GarageBand, Pro Tools, Cubase or hardware digital recorders from the likes of Roland, Tascam and Korg, the modern guitarist usually desires and is expected to have some recording savvy. Even if you’re just cataloging your practice sessions or jamming over a backing track, making recordings is part of the guitar skill set and if you’re not participating, you should consider it.

Some of us are recording our ideas quickly into Garageband, while others are producing full-blown album projects. Both ends of the spectrum have an option that did not exist a few years ago.

With the rise of recording technology and hardware devices came a mini-revolution in mastering, the so-called “final creative endeavor” in a finished track. Mastering was traditionally the difference between a professional recording and a glorified demo. If you could afford to master your project, you were serious. The art of mastering was reserved for the studied and schooled practitioner, who piloted esoteric tools, making subtle adjustments that simply made the record Better.In addition, “another set of ears” taking a turn at listening critically to your project has certainly helped more tracks that it hurt.

We now have access to tools that nearly match those of the average mastering house. In today’s music scene, access to tools is a dicey thing. Dropping a pickup truck full of hardware onto my driveway does not make me a contractor. Nonetheless, we can use these tools to learn more about mixing and mastering.By trying to fix a bad mix in mastering, you can learn why the mix is bad.


Having your project professionally mastered – for most genres of music – must still be the first choice if at all possible. Hopefully it’s in your budget to do so, but it is rarely money poorly spent. Getting a pro involved in your project is a chance to learn from someone else’s experience, which is invaluable. You can certainly master your own work, but as the saying goes, “the lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client”. I have a hard enough time removing myself from biased decisions on songs I wrote, performed, recorded and mixed. Getting fresh ears is worth it all by itself, learning and hearing and being audibly shown the solutions to the problems in your mix is a bonus. I believe creativity is also a learning process, as well as a productive labor.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Gig Love

Just got my Corsair 16GB thumb drive today. New Egg has a mail-in rebate special that brought the price down to $29.99. $2 a gig for a rubber-encased thumb drive. Crazy.

I'm backing up the entire 9.7 GB album on it right now.

Tuition Fruition

Sting's best rhyme and today's topic: Learning Software With Video.

Growing up in a small Wisconsin town of around 2,500 people, I relied on my Guitar Player magazine subscription to keep me informed of the latest in gear, guitar hero interviews and techniques. I read every column and absorbed great ideas and concepts that eventually made up my personal guitar style. There were a few books around, but mostly it was Guitar Player and listening to records.

In today's world, you can get DVD or CD instruction on just about anything from just about anyone. Here's a few of the tutorials I've been checking out lately:


1) IzzyVideo.com. Izzy is a professional videographer who sells online instruction. His FREE download course on Final Cut Express is excellent. A step-by-step tutorial on how to get the basics out of Apple's mid-line video/audio editing program.

2)MacPro Video Cubase 5 Core 101. A start-to-finish primer on Steinberg's digital audio workstation, Cubase 5. Oragnized to be viewed in an as-needed basis, you can start with Video 1 and follow it through to the end, or jump around to learn about specific aspects of this deep and powerful app. Lots of time-saving tip and tricks are included, especially in using key commands.

3) Production, Mixing Mastering with Waves. Waves, makers of industry-standard audio plug-ins, has put together a 4th edition of their hands-on manual on how to use their products to get professional results. Essentially a masterclass in production, the author offers several styles and genres of music and shows how the typical sound of those tracks came to be through tracking and mixing techniques. The multi-tracks are included and you get to actually work on the files as you read the text. A great peak inside modern production styles.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

C'mon Baby, Light My Firewire

FireWire Hierarchy

A handy how-to for those with FW issues.

Monday, February 08, 2010

WHOper Bowl




Congrats to the New Orleans Saints and all their fans. A well-played and well-coached game.

The high point for me, being a Packers fan with no particular dog in the hunt, was the halftime entertainment. Once again, the aging boomers are called upon to perform and once again they deliver. Even with the 50% lifestyle-attrition rate that took Keith Moon and John Entwhistle too soon, the Voice and the Music of The Who still resonate with power. Having Pino Palladino and Zak Starkey as fill-ins helps as well.

After watching - and more importantly, hearing - the recent spate of awards shows that showcase the musical/performing artists of the present day, to watch a couple of guys in their early 60's play live to an audience of 100 million viewers and pull it off was a reminder of where the bar used to be set.

Sure, 40 years will take a bit of exuberance from your throat and your strumming hand, but I'll take real music, performed by real musicians in real time over any tuned (or horribly out of tune) pre-programmed fluff that we've been told is the modern equivalent.

Yes, I'm an old grouch. Yes, it's a generational thing. Yes, yes, yes. But the fact remains that there was a time when the best Pop music was sometimes written by Artists and sung and played by Musicians, not "songwriters" and "entertainers". Pete Townshend aimed higher than sharing his high-school crush diary entries with us. He succeeded.

"Won't Get Fooled Again" is timeless, because we all DO get fooled again...and again. For a few more years at least, we have the chance to occasionally give the catwalk over to the Old Models and marvel at how they cloak themselves in Talent and Originality...and not The Emperor's New Spring Line of Fashion.

'Cause they "know that the hypnotized never lie...do ya?".

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Turn The Page

Today is the 66th birthday of James Patrick Page. Jimmy Page is, in my mind, the greatest of the great Rock guitarists. Not the soloist that Jeff Beck is, lacking a bit of Hendrix' inventiveness, less disciplined than David Gilmour, Page is still the one to beat. Nobody has had such an influence on a genre than he did with Hard Rock. From the Hyper Blues of the debut album, to the riff-rock on the follow up, the acoustic stylings on Led Zeppelin III and the culmination of those branches into the classic Led Zeppelin IV, Page opened doors that guitar players and other musicians are still exploring.

The definitive interview from the Led Zeppelin heyday is Steven Rosen's Guitar Player feature.


Utilizing electric, acoustic, 12-string, banjo, mandolin, pedal steel, and bottleneck slide in standard and various tunings, Page added colors to the guitarist's palette in his beautiful arrangements and set musical showcases... while always leaving room for the virtuoso bass guitar and unmatched drumming of John Paul Jones and John Bonham. Live, he did it all with a single guitar, even if that guitar sometimes had two necks.




Happy Birthday Jimmy!

Friday, January 01, 2010

Pandora's Box Office



James Cameron's "Avatar" reportedly cost $300 million to make and in two weeks has grossed $600 million. Some of that $600M came from my brother and nephew, who have seen it three times each on the 3-D Imax screen. I went with them on their third time a couple of days ago.

I don't care what reviews you may have read or whether or not you think Avatar is your kind of movie. It doesn't really matter what you think before you see it. You just have to see it for yourself first, then you can have an opinion. The usual accounting for taste is not an option when the movie in question does what this one attempts to do. And succeeds in doing.

I suppose someday we'll talk about Avatar fondly... but admonish ourselves over our eagerness to marvel at the CGI effects, at our amazement of the detail on the screen, over the many man-hours it took to create such a work. By then, Avatar will be seen like a Ray Harryhausen special effects film seems to us today...historically significant, but primitive by contemporary standards.


James Cameron

But until that day, whether it's 5 or 10 or 20 years in the future, this movie is a state-of-the-art tour-de-force masterpiece of technology and storytelling. It's the cinematic singularity that was hinted ever more explicitly in Star Wars, Jurassic Park, Lord of the Rings and King Kong. To my eyes, once you accept your role as observer of the events, and not simply assume your normal role as a watcher of a recorded version of the events, the movie never lets you down. Everything looks believable, even the most fantastic creatures, landscape and technology.

I won't be giving anything away, I'm not going to recommend you keep your eyes open for this or that plot point or visual treat. Just go see it. For $15, become part of those to first witness a landmark event in film making that will forever change our expectations of virtual reality depictions. Even if you hate it, you will be enriched by having participated.

Cameron took the technology of his times, married it to his genius as a film maker and offers it for your entertainment. You are certain to be entertained.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Tour Is Over

Finished it up in Brisbane, Australia with two nights at the Brisbane Entertainment Center. The crew band got to play it's final show together, reprising our version of AC/DC's "Whole Lotta Rosie" during the encores. You can see an audience member's video of that here.

It's a 13-hour flight from Brisbane to Los Angeles, then we stood in line at security for over an hour, then a 3.5 hour flight to Nashville. Needless to say, I am jet-lagged.

Got a call from management that they won't be keeping many of us around for next year, so I am on the hunt for a new gig.

Lots of fun with the band and crew in 2009, looking forward to meeting a bunch of new folks in 2010.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

A Season to Remember

With a few exceptions, and some exceptional ones at that, I have come to view the current crop of music stars as a replacement team in a strike year. Not saying they don't have some talent, not saying they didn't pay some kind of dues or at least made a few monthly payments on some dues once, way back when they were ten or something.

I look around and I listen around and I'm pretty sure we can do better. I have not seriously listened to mainstream Pop, Country or Rock radio in years, at least not in the manner that I used to listen to those formats. I keep up with what's out there - to a point - but I really have lost the desire to put in the effort.

Growing up in rural Wisconsin, I had my head glued to a Panasonic clock radio (with the rolodex-like flipping numerals) using a mono earphone from Radio Shack (The Nation-wide Supermarket of Sound) to listen to WLS out of Chicago and Lake Delton's WNNO. My preteen years had Acker Bilk, Frank Sinatra, Perry Como and Buck Owens blasting out of various transistor radios compliments of Juneau County's own WRJC. There's a song I remember hearing a lot that had a choir or chorus singing it using nonsense syllables like "Shobby Shoooba..." in some jazzy mode. I remember "Music To Watch Girls By" and "A Boy Named Sue". Everybody liked Johnny Cash back then - you, your parents, your friends, your older brother, everybody except yucky girls. In high school, some station in the Fox River Valley had a DJ that used "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" as the them music for his album rock show. I had to run a pretty long wire speaker wire as a makeshift antennae to catch that station.

I have an emotional attachment to music that makes me incredibly easy to manipulate. I am an addict for good music. I want to believe. I have a wide open heart and if whatever you're playing moves me, I like it and I buy it. And then I champion it and give it as gifts and talk about it and blog about it and force them to listen to it through my computer speakers and am left to wonder why they aren't blown away by it. I'm more apt to write them off as temporarily tasteless cretins than abandon music I like.

These days the artists that I really enjoy tend to be obscure, under-the-radar types playing Rock, Electronica, Power Pop, and Americana/Roots Rock. Nothing that the majors are selling is appealing to me, and that's a fairly recent and disturbing trend. Not even having the fun of pleading a guilty pleasure lately. So, Team Popular Music, forgive me for not rooting for you, not buying the program, not eating the hot dogs or drinking the Kool-Aid, and not wanting to put your names on the back of the jerseys.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

To the Sea, To the Sea

Eric Woolfson died from cancer on December 2, 2009. He was 64 years old.

Eric Woolfson was the voice on The Alan Parsons Project's "Time" and "Eye in the Sky", and co-wrote nearly everything on all ten of their studio albums.

I like those songs and I like the way he sang them.

Thanks, Eric!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

For Richard Wright

I'm no keyboardist...far from it. I quit taking piano lesson from Mrs. Knudsen when Little League baseball rolled around. Much to my later regret. My Dad plays well, my brother and two sisters also play piano, but I ended up on guitar.

But that doesn't mean I don't have a keyboard or two laying around the studio. I was going through the many presets and sounds of the Virtual String Machine virtual instrument when I found that by layering two patches together, I could get a pretty reasonable Pink Floyd string sound. I added a bit of M-Tron, a virtual Mellotron program, and the DB-33 organ sound from the Pro Tools 8 stock plugins. I put a little David Gilmour-inpired guitar using a Les Paul into the AmpliTube Fender simulation.

I always found the sounds of '70's rock keyboardists to be fascinating, from Rick Wakeman to Gary Wright to Gary Numan to Richard Wright (Pink Floyd).

Richard Wright died from cancer in September of 2008 and this is my humble elegy in his memory:

For Richard Wright.

This download is available for 14 days or 200 downloads. I expect the calendar will win that battle!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Black In Back

Sometimes those guys and gals in black that move around the back of the stage in the dark get a chance to be out front.

Thanks to Keith Urban and his band for letting us roadies have some fun in Buffalo...


Thursday, November 12, 2009

Inspiration's what you are to me. Inspiration...look...see.

Sometimes events have a way of spinning you 180 degrees. As an independent, no-label, too-old for the masses, niche market musician, one might take the recent awards show as a possible sign of the apocalypse....um ....yeah, the sign over the newly-christened Apocalypse City Hall of Apocalypse City, on Apocalypse Street. That sign, they one they unveiled last night may be a harbinger, alright.

But one might expect to have their expectations unexpectedly excepted.

Enter Facebook, deflecting my initial dismay in regards to the - let's face it - whoring of all that I call Holy, the de-legitimization of my entire career path, the raping of my tender Muses by Vandals at the Pools of Inspiration, the televised Charade Semi-Finals at the School of the Blind... into a net positive. After a few posts and much venting, I'm all better today.

Just support your local musicians, in whatever town you live in, in whatever genre they exist.

Just do that....be a Patron of the Arts.

Download an independent artist's album tonight, as penance for watching that TV.

Throw a $5 into the tip jar instead of a $1.

Go see a live show and tell the band they were good, if indeed they were.

What else can you do?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Quandry List

Hmmmm. I've spent dozens if not hundreds of hours reading about and studying about and playing around with Pro Tools. Made some excellent recordings, did a few rough mixes using minimal plug-ins for evaluation purposes. All sounded great. I had my friend and fine engineer Steve Ledet over today to work on getting some drum sounds. The basic PT supplied plugs I had used for the rough mixes gave way to the more characterful and vibey UAD plugins and some of the more latency-heavy plugins from Digi. Once you put the UAD Fairchild or Pultec on something, it's real hard to take it off.

That all sounds great, and it was going along fine...but we could not get a stable mix due to the fact that PT 8 does not automatically account for the latency induced by a plugin, so things quickly get out of line...literally. We tried using the Mellowmuse ATA (Automatic Time Adjuster), but it only worked occasionally. put a few plugs on, it seems OK...add one more and everything freaks out and you can't get back to normal with the undo button.

So, the solution is to take all of the Pro Tools files and import them into Cubase sessions and mix in Cubase 4. Cubase 4 has automatic time adjustment (delay compensation) built-in. There area few plugins I really like that are PT only, including the Massey De-Esser I just bought last week ...but I will have to live without them. I now have to render all of my virtual instruments as well. This takes time.

Oddly enough, Digidesign is having a 50% off sale on PT HD1 systems, which also have ADC. So for a measly $6,000 I can get the pro version of the rig I have now. Hoo boy.

I really like the way Pro Tools records audio and edits audio....but if I can't mix on it, what's the point? Guess I'm gonna have to get a few things together to sell....stay tuned.


UPDATE: Found a used HD1 system with Power Mac G5 for $3500. Hmmmmm.

Monday, October 26, 2009

See Rock City Ad Fallsium

I finally did See Rock City, thanks to my lovely wife who suggested it as a belated anniversary trip. We rented a nice car and drove down to Chattanooga. About that car...we usually get a mid-sized SUV, but they had none. Instead, we opted for a pearl white Cadillac CTS 4. I think they use Beatles music in their ad. One nice thing about getting older is you can rent a Caddy, knowing that in a few more years, you'll be driving one. Unless you find a mint Crown Vic.

Anyways, I did not actually drive the car because I have yet to replace my stolen driver's license, so I could not drive the car without breaking the Avis contract. Which was good, and bad...I guess the car was a blast to drive, and I got a lot of sleep on the way home.

So...Rock City, Ruby Falls, Tennessee Aquarium. We put on our tourist pants and hit all three. "Rock City" was first and it was pretty cool.




Great view from the top of the mountain.






Supposedly you can see seven states from here, but I'll have to say I'll take their word for it. I do know that to get to Chattanooga you have to drive through Georgia for a couple hundred yards, then you're back in Tennessee. So right there, that's two already. One of the other states you're supposed to be able to see is Alabama. I thought I might've caught a glimpse of Jeff Cook's hair a few miles to the West, so maybe you can.

There was a nice little waterfall underneath the lookout point.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Is, Not Was


Don Was, Krish Sharma, Elizabeth Cook

My good friend Elizabeth Cook finished up tracking her new album this evening with producer Don Was at the helm and ace engineer Krish Sharma twiddling the knobs. I caught a few overdubs while I was here, including the legendary Rodney Crowell laying some Everly-style harmony on a track and heard a few rough mixes going down.

This is going to be a great record. I've been listening to EC for years, as well as her husband and guitarist Tim Carroll. All of their records have been good, but this is the first one to feature her live band and it definitely shows. Was' hands off approach and penchant for keeping first or early takes adds an organic urgency and vitality to the tracks. With drummer Marco Giovino and bassist Bones Hillman laying down solid and funky grooves, fiddler Matt Combs, steel guitarist Tony Paoletta, and keyboardist Tim Atwood joined Carroll (on electric guitar) in filling out the songs and sounding like a band instead of a collection of session players. All of the above worked on the demos I helped Tim and Elizabeth with during pre-production, and most of them have played live gigs with her as well. Familiarity breeds content, so to speak.

Was has a great "console-side manner" as EC puts it. He seems to go through your musical closet and find the clothes most becoming of you, occasionally bringing in an outside piece for consideration, but mostly relying on the basics - good songs, good groove, good performances. It was a pleasure to meet him and Krish and to hear their work... even in the early stages it sounds fantastic.

Look for it on 31 Tigers records in late March.

Monday, October 12, 2009

North American Pie

So the North American tour has ended, in Buffalo, with a performance by the crew band, "The Trainwrecks". We did a fairly rousing rendition of "Whole Lotta Rosie". It went over pretty well. You can find some cell phone video on YouTube, but I'm holding out for the professionally shot version from the video crew.

I'm the guy playing the first solo, on a red Fender Strat, into a Category 5 amp with a Route 66 overdrive kicked in, courtesy Chris Rodriguez.

Thanks to Keith Urban, all my co-workers, the fans and new friends we met this year for a fun tour.

Friday, October 02, 2009

In Too Heap

Imogne Heap has a newish album called "Ellipse". You should buy it.

She has an earlier album called "Speak For Yourself". You should already have that, but buy it if you don't. You need to hear the track "Hide and Seek". Immediately.

An artist. Period.