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for several years i’ve been operating a

small cassette label out of my kitchen.

well technically it’s the dining room. i

started this for many reasons, not the

least of which is my love of the cassette

format.

in the old days, my friends and i made

these mix tapes that had to be lovingly

recorded one at a time with hand scribbled

covers and so forth. they were a real work

of personal art and i can still vividly

picture some of these tapes my friends and

i made, with the funny titles and what the

brand of tape was and what they contained

{the finest bluegrass punk rock blues avant

weirdo dub}. so what i set out to do with

my little label, was to offer cassettes

that had a homemade vibe to them. again, as

though they were lovingly made for you by a

friend. all on a very small scale of

course. part of my trip is that my art is

ALL the stuff i do, from how i work in my

yard to the music i put out and how i

exercise and what i read, my doodle

drawings and all that. my feeling is that

your art is YOU.

i’ve been so fortunate to have many

great friends in music that do really cool

 

stuff. some of it is completely under the

radar and unheard by others. {i suppose in

a sense that describes my own entire output

depending on how you might look at it har

har}. and it gives me great joy to:

a. release my own weirder music, that a

standard label would likely outright

reject {for very good reasons actually

ha! some of it is total noise}. this way

i can get some of my ideas out in a

small format way, that won’t cost an arm

and a leg, thus getting a bit of a fresh

look at them. it’s very helpful to

document and work through one’s ideas.

and the ideas can be reused later in

larger or other works.

b. put out some of the things my close

friends have done {or people i otherwise

find interesting}, that might not ever

see the light of day otherwise.

 

here’s how we structure the deals.

first off the project is recorded for free,

or in a couple of cases the artist records

the music at home on a four track or

however they would like to do this. i take

the tracks and mix {perhaps i do a “remix”}

and sequence them for cassette, and get

them ready. usually drawing the cover

myself, endeavoring to create the homemade

vibe of a mixtape lovingly made for you by

 

a good friend. we talk about how many

cassettes would make a good tiny run,

usually 50 or 100 or in the case of someone

that plays quite a bit 200. the number

could go as low as 10 or even i suppose 1.

in some cases the artist signs and numbers

the tapes, as they are in their own right,

an objet d’art. we pull off enough tapes to

pay for the duplication, and split the

rest. the artist is free to give them away

or sell them at their shows or on their

site or whatever they want. {the only cost

is the duplication} we also put the music

up on the label site offering it as a

download, as not many folks in the mass

even have a cassette player {however i’d

say almost every one of my close friends

has several working machines}. the end user

can download in whatever format they

choose, audition the music, buy individual

tracks etc.

here is the best part. the artist is

free to take the tracks and re-release them

themselves at their own leisure. why?

because it’s their music! they are the ones

that busted their ass to learn an

instrument, in many cases spent years on

the road sleeping on floors, and wrote all

this stuff. it’s theirs! and they are free

to do what they want with it when they

want.

 

it’s all very small and informal, and

high on art value. the artist in this case

isn’t looking at a market and THEN trying

to make music that will work in an external

environment, but rather is making something

they actually want to have for themselves

and/or a very small group of friends. so

the music turns out pretty special. i call

it the Secret Music. a very tiny world.

i just wanted to put this idea out

there. sometimes these commercial

structures get put into place over the

years whereby the math gets worse and worse

over time for the person making the art.

example: streaming. which sounds a lot like

screaming. the giant monolithic machine, in

order to sell bandwidth and computers, over

time leveraged the deal to bundle in all

music free. the trouble is, the creators

had no say in this and we all got royally

screwed on this... and since the mass got

what they perceived as “free music” it was

all fine and good as far as they were

concerned. which is all great until i try

to buy food. that’s when things get sticky.

nonetheless, i just wanted to

demonstrate that new, equitable, fun,

arrangements are possible, that perhaps

places a high emphasis on the art itself.

the narrative whereby the creators hand

over a folder of their entire life’s work,

to be used to profit a giant external

 

distant machine, all the while receiving no

effective recompense at all, can and should

be broken. maybe i’m the only one that

thinks this way and that’s alright.

if nothing else minner bucket records

has been a fun experiment. we have some new

stuff coming out this year and it’s small

funky and cool.

as a society sometimes we just accept

these awful commercial arrangements in

every aspect of our lives. especially as

the noose tightens only slightly every

year. like the backs of rent car

agreements. but really there are other ways

of looking at things. and i suppose artists

have to be as creative about how they put

things out as they are about making the

stuff in the first place. so this is one of

my responses to this challenge. if only in

a very tiny way.

so, i come up in the cassette time. like when my older brother came home with chuck berry, or skip james records when we was young, or they played a REALLY good country song on the radio, the music would be put on tape to be repeatedly enjoyed later. or if i borrowed a killer banjo record from tom ludwick {this local cat that had a big pile of bluegrass records}, i’d tape it of course.
 
in my later adult life, there were these legendary tapes that were kind of circulating {nationally and/or regionally}. metal ones, joke ones, really strange ones.
{i think the first bad brains was on tape.} sometimes they would be cryptically labeled or something and there would be no information on them other than a title, or maybe a doodle. tapes were cool cuz like with a record you could see how long all the songs were and how many were on a side you can even tell how loud/bassy something is by looking at the groove, but tapes were kinda mysterious. and reusable. and those little reels were spinning around. and if you played it again it was slightly different because it would wow/flutter in a slightly different place and would have shed a minute bit of oxide from previous run.{veil} and if you played it in a different jam box or car, it sounded slightly different. and you could stick them in your pocket. the music i was/am into: dub, bluegrass, punk rock, actual country music, and metal sounds really good on that format. i still like to check mixes by whupping them onto tape. usually kinda hot, high bias.
 
one of the epic tapes from the van days was from my friend steve mannion up in NJ. he made this really strange 4 track masterpiece that is the funniest most amazing punk rock thing ever been made. i don’t think hardly anybody ever heard it but just a few friends. {the bad livers made many a late night drive across thousands of miles of highway while listening to this type stuff ha.} it may have originally appeared as a cdr, but it was quickly taped.
 
so one of my dreams was to put it out on my own weirdo cassette label so, years later i kinda started one, got the tracks and eventually got it put out by him. just the moment of discovery with that thing is unbelievable. the moment when you go through the arc of “this is kinda weird, hey cool….what IS this???? man this is the greatest thing i’ve ever HEARD!!!!” 
 
ah yes the tarot of the old aristotelean catharsis. i’ll take two!
 
in a sense the art that i get into the most is kinda like that. in my system, the music/image should be slightly veiled. especially certain parts of what’s happening. details can only be perfect in one way, but they can be slightly off in millions of ways. i find great interest in this. 
 
 
the experience i’m having right now is that the best stuff has to proceed somehow from zero, or has to have some zero in it. if everything{even the execution} is all wide open, you get burnt out on it due to dataoverload, and things of that nature. therefore, minimalism is mostly a valid statement in an overly/needlessly complex localized being context, because it provides a zero. {that’s kinda of an axiom i’m working off of that i think i made up?} i really like zero in my personal space/physical reality too come to think of it. random events arise out of nothingness. sometimes the coolest stuff comes out of less choices rather than more.
 
steve made all this stuff just himself voicing various characters in the narrative. come to think of it, he’s currently enjoying life as a very talented comic book artist, and perhaps this tape of his was like a comic book, he sort of treated the songs as chapters, or frozen moments or whatever. the way comic book story lines move along one chunk at a time. whatever the deal was, he made it and it was legendary. and if the bad livers woulda thought you was really really really cool, you prolly woulda got a copy of that tape. but prolly not cuz prolly nobody except zippy up in kansas or something would qualify, but he would have already had it trying to give it to you or something. richie from agony column. it was a pretty select list. it still is. 
 
as you can see, it meant a lot to me to put it out. and my little label that i run out of my kitchen, well technically it’s the dining room, became home to a lot of my stranger output, and some of my friends’ kinda weirdo stuff. most of the runs were/are 100 tapes only. 
 
see, one of the many side benefits of releasing cassette material in this current linear time coordinate, is the only folks that will even pick it up are total music freaks. there’s that kinda veil mentioned earlier. the coolest stuff kinda gives a casual listener lots of places to jump off the boat in order to let them go ‘head and get up and split. of course at some point you have to make a sandwich but that’s a whole other can of night crawlers.
 
my sort of early life cortical programming was from the aesthetic of where the platonic ideal form was to drive a ratty truck but have the best motorcycle you can afford. so in some sort of seeming result of that, it would appear there’s quite a few folks that drive older cars/trucks and lots of them have working tape decks and it’s pretty funny to put out music for that. 
 
 
which is not to say any format is better than another or any of that, if the music isn’t interesting, high resolution won’t help it. i’m referring here to being excited about music in a general way, and the type of energy where if you found something you particularly liked, you would subsequently search out the label, producer, musicians, gear, writers, studio and research every lateral aspect that would appear. then work the same process on all those new {to you}recordings you just unearthed. and repeat till the living end. that’s kinda how people find my work. if you know my stuff at all you have to be the kind of person that digs around because there’s no other way to find that type stuff.  

i’m working on this series of concerts and workshops in portland, oregon for the month of february. all on sundays at artichoke music. workshop during the day and concert in the early evening. 

first off it would make sense to say a brief thing about portland itself. as far as the components of a “scene” {more accurately “scenes”}, things are popping pretty good down there. here are some various things that work well there:

  1. lots of good venues of various size.
  2. a community of folk that go hear shows and buy tickets and records.
  3. record stores.
  4. music stores.
  5. left of dial radio.
  6. lots of content creators.
  7. different types of art represented.
  8. public transport.

 

this is just a short list of course. portland has it going on pretty good for art stuff.

 

one of the workshops is called banjo basics. if you got a banjo for a gift and have no idea what to do with it or you’ve been messing with one for a short bit this class is for you. the idea is to build a good musical foundation to work from. the banjo is a little weird in terms of layout and pitch etc. so this is an endeavor to demystify some of that.

 

another workshop is called how to be a good side person. or how to make other people sound good. this subject is a little harder to codify as it deals with abstracts in a sense. it’s one thing to stand up on a stump and blow through your lines and go home, but it’s a little different task-wise to put flattering attention on another person. how do you make someone ELSE sound good? that’s what we’ll be talking about. 

 

another workshop will be on getting a good live sound with acoustic instruments. you know if you get good at a mandolin or banjo or something and you wind up playing somewhere with a PA, that whole thing can be a little wacky. or if you find yourself in a band or something struggling with sound systems, we will work on a bunch of stuff in this regard. we’ll have to look at everything, the room, crowd, PA, pedals, mics, instrument.

 

another workshop will be recording strategies for acoustic musicians. it sure is easy to make records these days. but how do you make good ones? there’s quite a few variables in the equation from format, software, studio vs.home, other players, outside producers/engineers, how much of the process should i learn myself, etc. it’s so easy to cheese off a bunch of dough and not get your goals met, i felt like this would be a really good thing to work on.

 

so those are the workshops. i trust you will find some valuable information therein. 

 

i have several concerts set up in the evenings each week. one is with my friend gideon freudmann. he lives in portland and is a cellist and composer. if you don’t know his music, you’ll be delighted. we both will play some together as well as some solo stuff. gideon is really funny and talented and has a sharp wit and kind heart. he’s one of the people that make portland such a groove. 

 

another concert will be with my friend jon neufeld. jon is likely the finest guitarist in portland. so we will be showcasing his fantastic playing and jamming some together as well. he has a very cool sound on the arch top acoustic guitar.

 

another concert will be with jesse withers. jesse is a great bassist and singer of the bluegrass music down in portland. his mom is the great blues musician mary flowers so he comes by music natural. 

 

i don’t live super close to portland i’ll be driving from ten hours back and forth each day. i look forward to hanging out with all the nice folks and working on this stuff and playing. i greatly appreciate having access to a great place to work like the artichoke venue and the city of portland in general. thanks to everybody for allowing me to do what i do, work on music. 

 

all the specific date/time information:

 

workshops

concerts

 

The Grammy Award nomitated band Wood & Fire just released a new single... it's a remix of one of their songs by none other than Danny Barnes!

that diagram may be a little off ratio-wise but i think that’s generally the deal with that overall correspondence. a couple points appear in considering this. [and of course it seems like if someone is really into music they kind of are from birth, and if they aren’t they just aren’t.] one point is that i think if a person was interested in music, it would be good to fall in love with it. i guess i’m speaking to the fan impetus, which comes before the desire to play an instrument, in my experience.

 

two things that i think help a person to get the idea of possibilities in music:

  1. locate some symphonic/orchestral/composed music they can really dig.
  2. find out what’s going on with poetry as a form, and find you a poet that you can really appreciate.

 

for a. the reason why is, the sense of what the frequencies are doing has been greatly skewed by the whole sub sub-woofer business. the average joe has a 5.1 tv etc., new car stereos are EQ’d like this etc. in order to make an unscrupulous end user think they are REALLY GETTING SOMETHING, an attempt is made to create a bit of an audio spectacle. one way to do this cheaply is to make the sub bins rattle off boatloads of low end, like an action movie in the theater, or a video game with the explosions going to the computer sub speaker. {i think it would be really awesome to put out a record that was nothing but an 80hz sine wave from a bench oscillator for 40 minutes. i also think it would be funny to have a feature film where a guy goes into a scary house and the whole thing is set up really tense and the protagonist says screw it i’m outta here and he leaves and the movie is 12 minutes long.} anyway it would be good to reacquaint oneself with what the frequency range actually is. what does the low end of the orchestra actually sound like? what instruments make up the middle part? what is on the high end of the spectrum? if you listen to 100 hours or so of orchestral stuff at a pleasant volume you can get a good handle on what the frequency ranges are. [hopefully you have full range headphones or regular stereo speakers that don’t have bass boost or any of that hoorah.] try to get a good feel for what an upright bass sounds like recorded very well in a nice room. this will help you because you can develop a mental reference of EQ curves etc. this way you can begin to understand the palette. what does a real piano sound like?

there’s a lot of insight to be gained in relation to what makes recorded music interesting. there’s only so much room dynamically and frequency wise on a piece of recorded medium, so some calculations have to happen to fit it all on there, a bit of robbing peter to pay paul with frequencies and so forth. it’s like watching a good baseball manager they can be brilliant at how resources are allocated.

 

as to b. there’s been a few things that have hurt the collective understanding of poetics and one is there’s been some really awful songs that become huge. and that’s all fine i’m not complaining about that, my point is that people may forget or have forgotten what actual poetry does or sounds like. the syllables have weight and function like a musical note does. so the lines are constructed with small parts, while keeping an eye on the overall whole, like writing for string quartet or making a computer program or a cake or fixing a transmission or whatever. [if i had a student that wanted to learn about writing songs i’d have them study poetry for a long time.] 

 

now of course there are some forms where there’s a type of naiveté ….and some forms that are built to be sort of terrible and fantastic at the same time and that’s all cool of course, so i’m speaking in a very general sense just about ideas towards understanding, and these aren’t absolute terms by any means. 

in taking a look at some of the various smaller music scenes around the country, a possible conclusion to be drawn or point made in regard to outcomes, would be the construction of a somewhat complex formula, describing the interrelation of the componentry. it would appear to be a bit of a “soup” with different elements tossed in or available, and if one aspect is a little shy, compensation can be made by goosing one of the other variables. like a lot of small social constructs, there are a bunch of little factors added together or strung together somehow, that influence the result on the right side of the equation.

 

a + b xc………etc. = the trip
 

example: an interesting scenario to ponder is greenwich village through the 50’s and 60’s. {one of the first transmissions from outer space i got as a young man was the village voice.} not to suggest there weren’t difficulties and flaws and so forth, but there were several phenomena and features that contributed to that being an explosion of great music etc. here’s a rough list:

a. affordable housing

b. high population of master musicians

c. contexts with economic compensation

d. a diverse population

e. public transport or some way of getting around or other logistic ease

f. radio to educate and inform

g. knowledgeable journalists

h. an interested/interesting populace 

i. plenty of regular jobs to get in a pinch

j. availability of academia, museums, etc.

k. easily accessible nearby large cities with vibrant scenes of their own, to work in/with, interface with.

l. record companies looking for art, with the ability to distribute it.

m. non-chain entities.

n. many touring bands coming through. 

 

consequently a person of even limited means could go and see john coltrane and doc watson on the same night in the same neighborhood. and ride a bicycle. {the point in invoking the names of those two icons is a general one not a specific one. they are used as variables herein.}

 

now i’m not saying that time period and/or physical location was perfect or that what we find today/now is bad, or any of that type of reduction. the idea is merely to state that there’s a type of equation of music scenes that produce varying types of results. the variables are interdependent. {and as always, i could be wrong about the whole thing alphonse.}

some of the smaller less influential scenes have [or have had] very similar “builds” in various time frames. right now portland has a bit of a vibe. what are some others? why and why not?

 

perhaps if a person were to find themselves in such an equation/scenario, a good productive response is to do the very best you can and keep working on things because in a sense, when the “scene” does good, “you” do good. 

 

example: if a person was a dj on a local fm radio station, a good healthy response to this is a realization that they have a unique opportunity to make a huge positive impact. what are things to be played for the audience that will challenge them and inform them? what have they not heard? what events are coming up that can be talked about that bring all this together? {example: the punk rock show on a local radio station out of seattle is really good.}
 

let’s say i’m a musician. being a content creator can have a huge impact on this hypothetical equation. how can i get as good as i can possibly get on my instrument or in my writing? where are the smartest people i can find to study with? how can i challenge, uplift and empower my audience? what other art can i talk about that would benefit from some more attention? what local artists can i support and encourage myself? what are some other things outside of my discipline i can do a project with? 

and so forth. what “needs” to be done that others aren’t doing? where are things going? 

 

an audience member also has quite a bit of power here. depending on things, they can have a multiplication factor rather than addition so to speak. what’s the coolest thing i can find that is playing to an empty house? what/where is the pure vision?

 

club owners, sound guys, neighborhoods, weather, all these types of things are accounted for. record store owners. taste makers.

 

in my own job of traveling, i get to witness things like this: a person comes to a show and perhaps mention they are thinking of starting a coffee house, then the next time i came through they started it and their kids work there, then the next time i come through i play there and they are expanding the building and have a poetry night and open mic night. so some things are getting done by smart people that care. at least in the subset of my touring world. i see this energy all over the country thankfully. 
 

it’s not perfect, there are bumps and ebbs and flows of course. i’m not even sure if this kinda stuff makes a difference, if it’s pencilled all the way out. {a certain type of person would say “so what?” to the whole setup.} but it sure makes living in a place a lot cooler. man art is what makes all this life hassle worthwhile! {a conclusion my nine-year-old self came to.}

 

sometimes you play a little place or small event and they just don’t have a way to get the word out yet, or the method they had just went away or something. or perhaps they couldn’t get the day they wanted and now have to go up against another bigger event. the variables in the equation have slightly different values across time. sometimes there are big changes. but overall there are some cool things going on in the music scenes around the country. i’m proud to be a part of that. it takes a lot of work. and sometimes you kinda wonder. but i gotta say i’d prefer to swing the bat rather than try to crowd the plate and get hit by a pitch so to speak. you kinda gotta go look for yourself. i recently played at a small festival and every band i saw was interesting. that was really nice to experience. 

 

the older scenes are always ebbing and flowing, and new scenes are popping up. i’d say the trend is to more de-centralization. {not many new art ideas come out of places a regular person can’t afford to live in.} the four or five scenes that kind of defined american music for the last few decades still have interesting stuff especially if you dig around. it’s weird there’s lots of cool stuff, but you have to dig much harder. what other response can one possibly have other than to dig and to create?

 

 

awright back at it.
 

i’ve heard tell of music festivals and look forward to going to one someday! ha just kidding. i just wanted to write a little thing about
music festivals, it being that time of the year and so forth.

first off, one of the cool things about going to a music festival is you get to just focus on music, for several days at a whack. it’s nice to spend a few days listening to, and making music. from a performer aspect the schedule alternates between clubs and festivals, and the clubs are more of a one nighter trip so there’s travel every day. it’s nice when you get to stay in one place a couple days.

another cool thing is seeing this whole family of musicians that i strangely only see at festivals. considering thirty or forty years of elapsed time you get to see folks’ kids, and see them grow up and all that. they go from being grubby booger-encrusted kids pawing over the backstage catering, to grubby booger-encrusted adults sucking up all the backstage beer. but nonetheless it is interesting to see. haha.

the “secret music.” this is really my favorite part. see, there’s all this stuff that artists jam and play around on when no audience is there. it’s a really cool repertoire. that’s the funnest bit for me the jamming.

another cool feature of the music festival bag is getting to see new things with a soft ticket. in other words you can gamble on music you haven’t seen yet, it doesn’t cost anything extra to go and see an artist’s set on a side stage. i’m always on the lookout for something good music wise. sometimes you can stumble across the coolest stuff. it gives me a chance in my own work to have some folks hear my music without having to commit to a hard ticket until they get ready.

the first festival i ever went to was the glen rose bluegrass festival down in texas. there was so much to learn from all the musicians and bands that came there, a wonderful experience. about 1973-4. i got to see a lot of the great bluegrass bands play there.

as i write this i’m getting ready to go play the san fransico jazz fest next week with my good friend david grisman, then the string summit comes up outside portland, we done been out to delfest and so forth. a buncha cool stuff. anyways, hope to see you out there, it’s nice to get away from the doom. 

i kinda go through these different periods of study where i get on something and read and watch and listen as much as i can. that’s ONE good thing a person can say about all the computer hooraw and so forth. the average working person has access to books and music heretofore unavailable. the database of ALL that exists. {in a sense every guitarist/instrumentalist you see should be a flaming badass because there’s more free lessons available on the ‘net than you can shake a stick at. by the Masters.} therefore, it’s possible to study the best stuff like crazy.

so this one fellow i want to talk about is buck trent. first off, used to, before the bands had drums, they had this as a typical lineup: {country music} non-pedal steel, fiddle, electric guitar, upright bass, and the singer played acoustic guitar. and in dudes like hank snow’s case, some could pick the heck out of a solo on acoustic guitar adding another voice. if you haven’t spent a few years on this groove, i’d get with it. 

buck was the soloist on so much of porter wagoner’s stuff and was his musical sidekick. so many of porter’s hits were built around and/or featured buck trent’s really strange and hep playing. if you don’t know this guy, you best get hep. 

buck was a banjo player and electric guitar player, and he came up with this wacky thing that was built on a banjo frame. he took a sheet of plywood and put that on there in place of yon head. this allowed him to mount pickups in there like a ‘lectric guitar. he had some bending levers installed and scruggs tuners on every string {on the four at the headstock anyway}. he played drenched in reverb and would use either a scruggs tuner or one of the bendy pedal things to access every note he could, rather than just “play” said note. in other words, if he could bend INTO it, he would do that, rather than just pick it. so every line had this twisty snaky weird scene. notes could be mechanically accessed in sort of an arbitrary way. like generated music or something. 

the result was some really far out music. the thing that freaks me out is, this sound was on top ten big country hits, one right after another for many years. imagine a man playing a hybrid instrument that he had invented and built with some friends in a very experimental way and played in a very experimental way, on top ten country records today! 

if you don’t know about country music, you might want to go find some. porter and buck is a real good place to start. they used to come on the tv when i was a little boy, i think it was every day at 5am i would watch before i went to school. these characters were like biblical figures to me and they spoke of a world much happier and awesome than my real life and i adored them. 

my brother and i were discussing that from our birth till the time we was about 10 or 12 years old, pretty much ALL we heard was killer classic country. {it wasn’t classic at the time it was new!} every little farming town had a station that played the finest stuff. every restaurant had it on the jukebox. people went out to hear folks play. it was everywhere. it was kind of a religion. folks bought records. that’s where i got the idea that playing an instrument as good as you could, was a noble effort. and that being a musician was the best job one could have. and that music was really the greatest thing about life. and that these amazing musicians that had come before had made something truly great. this aesthetic i’ve maintained into my 56th year. 

one of the things i appreciate about actual country music is that it came from working folks [poor] and was FOR them. punk rock bluegrass blues gospel, so many of the forms was a bit of a salve or balm to the folks that worked hard. today that voice has all but disappeared. it’s sort of perceived as shameful nowadays when folks have hard times or need some help or fall between the cracks and so forth. the typical person is either rich, pretending to be rich or dying to be rich. this ethos is reflected in video games where you kill other players for resources and what not. {there is a very interesting book called the one-dimensional man by herbert marcuse.}

fortunately i’ve collected much of this stuff, and i was there and i can remember what it was like. i’m not sure if it’s just my frame of reference but that old stuff makes me happy and i suspect it was engineered for this outcome. used to, each network had an orchestra. 

i went and saw buck at branson at his showplace there with my friend mike bub a few years ago and buck sounded killer. 

hank snow has a very interesting solo guitar record and all the buck owens/don rich music is stellar. roger miller. i grew up with that as “mainstream.” a lot of the songs were around two minutes long. perfect little novels. thumbs carllile. 

 

music is good!

 

in the last few weeks i did this run up a section of the north east[dc-boston] then flew back west for three shows in the northwest. lots of ground covered on that. a bit of the old I 95 shuffle.  
it’s pretty fun and challenging to work solo. one of the main things i like is being able to just focus on the set, and hone it in. the whole day can focus on having your set together at exactly the right moment when it’s time to start, getting the songs in the right order and being warmed up and ready to go. having the exact amount of material for the alotted time. getting there in time to warm up. getting sleep and leaving at exactly the right time for the next day’s set. not forgetting anything or making any wrong turns.
on a lot of that stuff, the margin of error is pretty slim. like if that flight doesn’t take off, or if there’s a wreck the show ain’t gonna happen. it’s a little stressfull in that…..it’s all on your shoulders {paperwork says so} and so forth. you set it all up out there in the future and you hope it all goes well. but i gotta say typically i’ve had pretty good fortune.  
i’m thankful for the folks that come to my shows. it seems the small cross section of folks out there in the world that will come to see me work tend to be pretty good folks. readers. interested and interesting folks. i mean, in the past i have played in bands where the average patron just got a tooth knocked out. so i’m thankful that no matter what seems to be happening in the world, there’s still some folks that are trying to make a difference, even if it’s just expressing oneself as a good person. i’ve met some really smart folks, which is encouraging. 
the travel is a little intense. that’s all we need to say about that.
there’s in a sense, three things to be juggled on my solo show. the instrument, the voice, and the emcee work. it must be similar to how a baseball pitcher thinks, there’s the fastball, the curve, and the slider. at any one time, you may not have all three up and going. you may only have two, or sometimes only one that is in that effortless place. on rare occassions, all three {or none!} are in synch. {one of my art loving pals said “man when you just stand there and play that is the most out thing you’ve ever done!”}
it remains kind of a mystery. about the time you start thinking “wow i didn’t eat any food before the show i think things went better” then something goes awry and you abandon that and try ONLY SOUP! in a sense i feel a connection to all those old actors musicians comedians magicians and troubadors of the past. you just have to deal with things, which is to be expected on account of it being a noble endeavor and what not. you spend your whole life making things as a reaction to other things. 
thank you for keeping up with all this stuff.

when i was a kid back in the 60’s, my old man would play records on a record player that looked like a piece of furniture. you had to sit and look at it like you were watching tv. i got the idea from him, and my other family members, that there were these real Masters of music that we were hearing. and they deserved appreciation and study and repeated listening. my sense of them at that young age were that they were larger than life figures almost like bible characters come to life. i suppose that was a bit of Modernism there, the tv and magazines were filled with these images of great, larger than life musicians, actors, writers, architects, poets, politicians and so forth. [i’m of the age where i remember when the beatles had new records out, hendrix and so forth.] so i had a concept of these great Masters pretty early on and i’ve held this sort of...reverence since. [my folks had pretty good taste in music, especially country music.] i remember that live at folsom prison johnny cash record was a new release. when black sabbath was new that was pretty amazing. 
 
when i started collecting music on tape and LP’s and so forth myself [i got my first 45 when i was 5 etta james you got it on chess], my brother and i were always trying to find the best musicians. the perceived economic status of an artist in question had nothing to do with it, in other words, how successful the artist appeared on the outside or whatever. i didn’t think a fellow like slim harpo or skip james or wade ward would be considered particularly wealthy in that sense, nonetheless, they were Masters. and that was enough and in my brain i saw no difference between jimmy reed [who was on jukeboxes] and george benson [jukeboxes, radio and tv], or whatever, they both were Masters. all that mattered was aesthetics. how good was the art? money and popularity really never came up, as a matter of fact, i assumed my classmates at the local farming community high school were not going to be hep to augustus pablo and that was just fine with me. nor flatt and scruggs. nor ornette {even though he was from fort worth just up the road}.
 
in short many of the current, living Masters, were on tv and you could find their records at the library and at record shops and what not. of course they were touring too thank you mr. lightnin hopkins. and they were on the radio to an extent. earl scruggs was on tv and there were only three channels, so the entire tv watching population had a one in three chance of seeing a true Master of music. {i tried to explain this to several folks that are too young to remember, and i reckon it’s not really possible to grasp it except experientially, and perhaps that’s best.} there was a really good blues radio show out of austin my brother and i listened to religiously. and a great gospel station on the am during the day from marlin, texas nearby, which is where the great Master willie johnson was from. 
 
my thinking has been, if you really want to hear the best stuff, a good question to ask is, who are the Masters? both past and present. the True Masters of Music. if you want to learn to really play, you best get with a Master. [i study with a Master].
 
it’s a lifelong process to develop an aesthetic system. one has to keep refining and studying. but in a sense, it’s one of the most important things to work on. an early theory about art was that it was a balm to brutality of life and whatnot. so you’re probably going to need that ha! if a person wants to really learn about music, working on a sort of timeline through the decades, with the Masters of each period, is a very good study. this quest was sort of inculcated in me at a very young age and i’m still working on this. it’s a common sentiment if you study with a Master or if you have friends that are in that league. i’m still learning and finding out about so many musics. this is my main interface here with life this…quest of aesthetics. having a system, refining it and so forth. 
 
music is good!

 

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